By Warren Kurtz
In many major U.S. radio markets, 1970 marked the final year of rock music being confined to only AM Top 40 singles. The following year saw the boom of FM album rock stations playing long album cuts including “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” from The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, the title song from The Doors’ L.A. Woman, and a song that has been on every classic rock all-time Top 10 list for decades, “Stairway to Heaven” from Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. 1970 was the year The Beatles broke up and John Lennon declared that “we all shine on” on his gold single “Instant Karma.” That phrase is also the title of the new compilation We All Shine On, produced by John Borack, a gathering of 22 independent acts paying tribute to a year that exploded with a hit filled variety on AM radio, before we turned our dials to FM.
Some of the songs are taken up a notch from their sound a half-century ago, including the catchy “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” by The Test Pressings and sparkle*jets uk’s version of “Sunshine,” originally performed by The Archies, the studio group led by Ron Dante who told Goldmine, “This is a very cool version of Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom’s composition. This group did it with tougher guitars and a little harder edge which worked perfectly. I really like the way they handled the vocals. They have a great lead singer with terrific background vocals. I like the tempo and key they used. It seems that they wanted to use my lead phrasing all through the song. ‘Sunshine’ shows the quality of songwriting that went into The Archies’ music. We had very top studio musicians on every session playing their hearts out for producer Jeff Barry.”
When the vocals and production match the original hits, those are amazing moments, especially on Darian Sahanaja’s version of “Arizona” and the electric guitar and Michael Simmons’ opening vocal on “Share the Land” by Popdudes. Andy Reed’s electric guitar on The Legal Matters version of “What is Life” and Chris Price’s organ on “Fresh as a Daisy” are nice touches. The anthemic quality of “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” is soothing on Marc Johnson’s new version of this iconic Melanie song.
There is a pair of songs paying tribute to people we have lost in recent years who we have included in our Goldmine In Memoriam series. In 2019, we lost Dean Ford of Scotland’s Marmalade whose biggest hit was “Reflections of My Life,” covered here with warm guitars and vocal harmonies by Starbelly. In January of this year, we lost Canadian singer-songwriter R. Dean Taylor whose biggest hit was “Indiana Wants Me,” performed here by Bobby Sutliff who just passed away in late August. Sutliff’s version also includes siren sounds like the original recording and we will have more on Bobby Sutliff in our next monthly Goldmine In Memoriam article in early October.
The collection is a fun reflection on songs from our past and perhaps the most fun delivery is The Armoires’ take on “Yellow River,” with Larysa Bulbenko’s viola adding a lively accent recalling Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen.”