By Patrick Prince
Besides being a celebrated songwriter (i.e., “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning”), Chip Taylor has performed over the years with an A-list of Americana musicians.
Taylor’s newest album, “A Song I Can Live With” (Train Wreck Records), has the singer-songwriter backed by a band that features multi-instrumentalist Goran Grini, guitarist John Platania and Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar.
“As are most of my songs, all the songs on this album are stream-of-consciousness-based,” explains Taylor. “In other words, I didn’t plan on writing about anything in particular. In each instance, I picked up my guitar and at some point words and music flowed.”
Here are the 10 albums that influenced Taylor’s songwriting style.
Elvis Presley, I Forgot To Remember To Forget
I go back to the time when there were hardly any albums released (usually not until artists had three hits) and singles were the all-important thing. I was born and raised in Yonkers, New York where there was no country music to be heard except on the family Motorola radio. But then in 1955, New York got a weekly Top Ten Country Countdown show and this amazing singer from Tupelo was singing this amazing song, “I Forgot To Remember To Forget” (Sun Records 223). The B-side was “Mystery Train” — probably the greatest two-sided hit in history. “I Forgot…” sent chills up my spine that I never had felt before!
The Penguins, Earth Angel
In 1954, my big love was country music, but I also loved the Race Records (later termed R&B) from the South. I first saw a Race Records chart in a blues magazine which I found under my seat on a bus ride back to Yonkers. None were on the pop charts! But one day in ‘54 that music blasted up to New York in the form of Alan Freed and his evening Moondog show. One of my favorites from that period was “Earth Angel.” This was the “real deal” version. A group called The Crew Cuts gave a version … it was a pretty good version, but (The Penguins) one I liked best.
Lefty Frizzell, The Long Black Veil
I LOVED the sound of Lefty’s voice and this was another one of my all-time favorite chill-producing singles. Later on in the ‘70s when I met John Prine and Steve Goodman, we used to get together on stage every once in a while and this was one of the songs we would play.
The Browns, Jim Edward, Maxine and Bonnie Brown
This was the first album by one of my favorite all-time groups! I love so many songs here, but the song I love most was, “I Guess I’m Crazy.” It had a simple but extraordinarily interesting bridge where the tonal range descended and Jim Ed’s humble but rich voice took over the entire speaker and the low strings on an electric guitar answered the melody Jim Ed sang. I loved singing this song with our band, The Town And Country Brothers. Other great tracks from the album were “I Heard The Bluebird Sing” and “I’ll Hold You In My Heart.”
Kris Kristofferson, Kris Kristofferson
It came at a perfect time for me as I was just breaking away from being a hit songwriter for other artists and starting to concentrate on my singer-songwriter career. Although I was from New York, from an early age I had a strong leaning to country music. And here was this guy doing that in such a simple, beautiful manner … saying what he wanted to say and not what he thought people wanted to hear. And what amazing songs. After hearing that stuff, I felt I could and wanted to fit someplace in there.
John Prine, John Prine
This was John’s first album, and it was amazing! “Sam Stone,” “Paradise” and “Hello In There” (is there a better song?). All this from a former Chicago mailman who realized how good he was by playing at an open mic on a dare from his friends. This was just before I recorded “Gasoline” and “Last Chance” and it was a big shot in the arm for me — listening to such inspired songs.
John Prine, The Missing Years
I had basically given up music for gambling for more than 10 years when this album was released. It started me thinking about coming back to music again. At that time I had been convinced to give up playing horses for a few weeks and go on a cross-country, singer-songwriter tour. This was the album that I played over and over again on the tour and after. “Picture Show,” “Sins of Memphisto,” “You Got Gold,” and the rest. I doubt if I would be playing music now if I hadn’t heard this album.
Guy Clark, Dublin Blues
I remember pulling off the side of the road to listen to Guy’s song, “Dublin Blues.” It was so magic! That listen inspired me to see Guy play a few weeks later where we met for the first time. After the show and a few whiskeys later, Guy was convincing me to accept an invitation to play my first show in years at The Bluebird in Nashville, where he promised to join me on stage. I did and he did! That was the actual start of my return to music. Thanks, Guy! Other gems are “Black Diamond Strings” and “Stuff That Works” (co-written with Rodney Crowell). Great stuff!.
John Prine, Lost Dogs + Mixed Blessings
Certainly one of my favorite songs of all time is “Lake Marie.” It’s far more than just a song. It’s kind of a magical mix of poetry, mystery and love… and it is so John Prine! No one else could have written this! And “Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody” and “Same Thing Happened To Me” are in there too… what an album!
Paal Flaata, Come Tomorrow, Songs Of Townes Van Zandt
Revered Norwegian singer Paal Flaata (and Grammy winner) has recently released the best Townes collection I ever heard. Produced by the brilliant Goran Grini, it is not the typical collection. My favorites include soulful renditions of “Snow Don’t Fall,” “Come Tomorrow” (a duet with his lovely daughter Maia), “Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria,” “Tower Song and Flyin’ Shoes.” This is the third of his songwriters trilogy. I was proud my songs were the focus of the first.