Friday, April 28, 2017

John Mellencamp released Sad Clowns & Hillbillies

Sad Clowns & Hillbillies

John Mellencamp

Released: April 28, 2017

Peak: 11 US, 78 UK

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: rock/Americana


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)

  1. Mobile Blues IMickey Newbury) [3:02]
  2. Battle of Angels [3:56]
  3. Grandview (with Martina McBride) (Mellencamp, Bobby Clark) [3:52] (2/24/17, --)
  4. Indigo Sunset (with Carlene Carter) (Mellencamp, Carlene Carter) [3:31]
  5. What Kind of Man Am I (with Carlene Carter) [4:06]
  6. All Night Talk Radio [5:08]
  7. Sugar Hill Mountain (with Carlene Carter) [3:05]
  8. You Are Blind [3:18]
  9. Damascus Road (with Carlene Carter) (Carter) [4:13]
  10. Early Bird Café (Lane Tietgen) [4:06]
  11. Sad Clowns [2:40]
  12. My Soul’s Got Wings (with Carlene Carter) (Mellencamp, Woody Guthrie) [2:58]
  13. Easy Target [2:45] (1/19/17, --)

Songs by John Mellencamp unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 46:38

The Players:

  • John Mellencamp (vocals, guitar)
  • Carlene Carter (vocals, background vocals)
  • Andy York (guitar)
  • Mike Wanchic (guitar)
  • John Gunnell (bass)
  • Dane Clark (drums)
  • Miriam Strum (violin)
  • Troye Kinnett (keyboards)


3.313 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)

About the Album:

Sad Clowns & Hillbillies featured Carlene Carter singing on five of the album’s thirteen songs. She was his opening act on his 2015-16 Plain Spoken tour and they worked together on the score for the movie Ithica, directed by Mellencamp’s then-girlfriend Meg Ryan. One of the songs, Sugar Hill Mountain, was included on the Sad Clowns album. Carter said, “We are very like-minded and on musical ground that really feels right.” WK The line “cigarette trees” comes from “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” a song written in 1928 by Harry McClintock and recorded by Burl Ives some 20 years later. WK

Mellencamp and Carter premiered a few of the songs, including Indigo Sunset and My Soul’s Got Wings, while they were on tour. The latter features lyrics from Woody Guthrie. His daughter Nora sent Mellencamp a few of her father’s poems and Mellencamp turned “Wings” into a song.

The former is the only song the pair wrote together. Carter started it, saying, “I didn’t think he was going to like [it] because he doesn’t usually like romantic, warm and fuzzy loving songs.” WK Mellencamp finished the song by changing the title and the hook line WK and it ended up on the album.

At one point, the album was intended to be original gospel tunes. Carter wrote Damascus Road with that in mind. Mellencamp confirmed that as he and Carter became “singing buddies” they toyed with the idea of doing “a old country religious record” but that “it just kept evolving and evolving.” WK While the gospel record was abandoned, this song survived. Carter said, it had “a very, very deep spiritual to sense to it; the whole album does. It was an organic experience that we found it easy to work in the studio together.” WK

A couple of the other songs were first featured in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a musical about two brothers who hate each other. When they are forced together in a haunted cabin, they are visited by ghosts of dead brothers who also hated each other. Mellencamp created the musical with Stephen King and T-Bone Burnett. It debuted in 2012. The songs What Kind of Man Am I and You Are Blind were featured on the soundtrack, sung by Ryan Bingham and Kris Kristofferson respectively.

The song Grandview dates back to the early 1990s. Mellencamp’s cousin, Bobby Clark, was in a band in Indiana. He wrote the song with some help from Mellencamp on the melody and the arrangement. WK Mellencamp recorded the “ode to life in a trailer park” during sessions for his 1993 Human Wheels album. The version from Sad Clowns was recorded in late 1993 for a box set that was scrapped. WK Mellencamp recorded it as a duet with Martina McBride for Sad Clowns and it was released as the second single from the album.

The song All Night Talk Radio was also written much earlier. Mellencamp recorded it originally for his 1996 album Mr. Happy Go Lucky, but it didn’t make the cut. For the Sad Clowns version, eh added some new elements to the song and backing vocals from Carter. WK

The album also includes two covers. Mobile Blue was first recorded by Mickey Newbury in 1971 and Early Bird Café was a cover of a 1970 folk song by Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. Mellencamp saw the latter open for Frank Zappa in the early 1970s and had an affinity for that song ever since. WK He often played it at parties and people assumed he wrote it. WK

Mellencamp debuted Easy Target on January 19, 2017 – the eve of the Presidential inauguration. He said, “I didn’t even want to write the song. I know this sounds crazy, but it happens a lot, I think, to songwriters – you can't tell it by looking, but I was working out and all of a sudden I just started singing ‘easy targets’ and I thought, ‘oh no, now I’ve got to stop what I’m doing’ and it took know, somebody just sent it to me and I just wrote it down. The melody came [intact], the fast as I could write is how long it took me to write the whole song.” WK

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 2/3/2022.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

50 years ago: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” released for first time

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Writer(s): Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson (see lyrics here)

Released: April 20, 1967

First Charted: May 13, 1967

Peak: 19 US, 22 CB, 18 GR, 19 HR, 3 RB, 55 UK, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 131.1 video, 1049.49 streaming

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Diana Ross

Released: July 16, 1970

First Charted: August 8, 1970

Peak: 13 US, 11 CB, 12 GR, 11 HR, 6 AC, 11 RB, 6 UK, 7 CN, 25 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 28.5 video, 65.29 streaming

Awards (Gaye/Terrell):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Ross):

About the Song:

The songwriting duo of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who would later find success as recording artists as well, met in 1962 at a church in New York. They wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in 1966. Ashford was wandering homeless through Central Park. The buildings around the edges of the parks looked like mountains and he was inspired to write “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with its “huge, world-conquering chorus” about not giving up. SG

They’d written songs for Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield was interested in recording “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” They thought it might be good enough to get Motown’s attention, though – and they were right. Tammi Terrell recorded the song, but Motown chief Berry Gordy thought it might work better as a duet so she was paired with Marvin Gaye SG for the first of what would become seven top-40 hits for the duo.

Motown had a habit of recycling songs. Gaye achieved the biggest hit of his career with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in 1968; Gladys Knight & the Pips had a hit with it the year before. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was another example of a Motown song that got even bigger with a future release. The original duet features an “arrangement [that] turns stormy and orchestra, where everything explodes.” SG In 1969, the Supremes and the Temptations recorded a version which “is faster and more nervous, built around the swirl of all those voices coming together.” SG

When Diana Ross went solo in 1970, Ashford & Simpson were tapped to produce her first album. They were inspired by artists such as Isaac Hayes who were “finding success with long, expansive soul symphonies” SG so they decided to give “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” a completely new arrangement. SG First, they saved the chorus for the end. Simpson said, “We thought it added drama and suspense.” FB It “becomes a gospel-force eruption of pent-up feelings, a declaration of need as much as one of love.” SG “It’s not just a love song. It’s a woman letting an ex know that things aren’t really over, that there’s always time to get things started again.” SG

They also decided to add spoken-word parts. As Simpson said, “We thought Diana had such an interesting speaking voice. We thought it was very sexy and wanted to incorporate that into the production.” FB “Ross, still about two years away from movie stardom, flexes her acting chops and subtly gets across the idea of the song.” SG Gordy didn’t like the spoken-word part or the length, but agreed to release it as a single after trimming it to under four minutes. DJs, however, ended up playing the full six-minute version. SG


  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 281.
  • SG Stereogum (1/11/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

Related Links:

First posted 11/5/2022; last updated 7/25/2023.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Kendrick Lamar released Damn.


Kendrick Lamar

Released: April 14, 2017

Peak: 14 US, 110 RB, 2 UK, 13 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.45 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: rap


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Blood (5/6/17, 54 US, 31 RB, 56 UK, 41 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  2. DNA (5/6/17, 63 US, 3 RB, 18 UK, 3 CN, 16 AU, sales: 3 million US)
  3. Yah (5/6/17, 32 US, 18 RB, 45 UK, 27 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  4. Element (5/6/17, 16 US, 9 RB, 33 UK, 16 CN, sales: 1.0 million US)
  5. Feel (5/6/17, 35 US, 21 RB, 46 UK, 30 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  6. Loyalty (with Rihanna, 5/6/17, 14 US, 27 US, 12 CN, 20 AU, sales: 2.2 million worldwide)
  7. Pride (5/6/17, 37 US, 22 RB, 49 UK, 32 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  8. Humble (3/30/17, 11 US, 11 RB, 6 UK, 2 CN, 2 AU, sales: 8.51 million worldwide)
  9. Lust (5/6/17, 42 US, 25 RB, 52 UK, 35 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  10. Love (with Zacari, 5/6/17, 11 US, 1a5 RB, 39 UK, 22 CN, 29 AU, sales: 4.36 million worldwide)
  11. XXX (with U2, 5/6/17, 33 US, 50 UK, 36 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  12. Fear (5/6/17, 50 US, 29 RB, 68 UK, 43 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  13. God (5/6/17, 58 US, 33 RB, 81 UK, 50 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)
  14. Duckworth (5/6/17, 63 US, 36 RB, 80 UK, 52 CN, sales: 0.5 million US)

Total Running Time: 54:54


4.485 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)

Quotable: “The work of a supremely confident artist at the top of his game.” – Alex Petridis, The Guardian

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Damn. “is less grandiose and novelistic than 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly but it’s still a Kendrick Lamar album, which means that it’s packed with lyrically dense meditations on death, God, fame, responsibility, and the African-American condition.” SL His fourth studio effort finds him “going for the jugular in the most aggressive, banger-based album of his career.” RS’20 If he “felt pressure to continue living up to his previous output,” AMG “there’s no evidence.” AMG

“After being exalted on previous albums for his fearlessness and social conscience,” BB he told The New York Times that Damn. “wouldn’t pack its predecessor’s heavy political themes.” NME “Lamar gathers all the outward fury he summoned on To Pimp a Butterfly and bends it inward” AV for “an autobiographical work of epic proportions.” PF He takes “a more microscopic look at the everyday human experience” CS’19 as he traces “the spectrum of his mental states” AMG and examines “most of the seven deadly sins.” AMG “He plays tug-of-war between good and evil, illustrating how futile morality is when you grow up in a place like Compton, where racialized oppression and violence is commonplace.” PF He’d “touched on these themes in his earlier works” PF but here he “dove even deeper into his own head while expanding his sonic palette even further.” TM Lamar said, “It came out exactly how I heard it in my head,” he explained at the time. “It’s all pieces of me.” RS’20>/sup>

This is “a snapshot of an artist at the peak of his powers.” TM “It contains some of Lamar’s best writing and performances, revealing his evolving complexity and versatility as a soul-baring lyricist and dynamic rapper.” AMG He “raps as though he doesn’t need oxygen” IT on “his most unabashed rap banger, rocking hard from start to finish.” RS’19 In Rolling Stone, Christopher R. Weingarten called it “a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next level.” WK Entertainment Weekly’s Eric Renner Brown said the album yieled some of Lamar’s “most emotionally resonant music yet.” WK and The Guardian’s Alex Petridis said “it sounds like the work of a supremely confident artist at the top of his game.” WK Slant said it is his “third consecutive masterpiece,” SL “at once accessible and demanding, a work of literary complexity with a mixtape-gritty presentation.” SL


“There’s relative concision in the track titles and material, and a greater emphasis on commercial sounds – such as Mike Will’s lean and piano-laced trap beat for the strong-arming Humble.” AMG Will originally developed the beat for Gucci Mane, but then he showed it to Lamar. Then it was going to be released on Will’s debut album, but Lamar was convinced to keep it for himself. WK The result was his first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist.


That song and “the critic-aimed DNATM “are among his most club-ready bangers to date.” SL The latter finds Lamar “raving about ‘the feelin’ of an apocalypse happenin’.’” RS’20 on another song “with a beat Will had already prepared. Lamar rapped the second verse a cappella and asked Will to build the beat around the rap. Will did so, intending to make it “sound like he’s battling the beat.” WK “The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #4, making it Lamar’s second-highest charting song as a solo artist.

“Love” / “Loyalty”

Other official singles included Love and “the woozy Loyalty,” TM both of which were top 20 pop hits in the U.S. featuring guest turns by Zacari and Rihanna respectively. The latter, a top-10 hit which garnered 2 million sales, “fits right in with R&B radio while also expanding the genre’s thematic and emotional palate.” SL The former was a #1 R&B airplay hit, top-10 pop hit, and was certified by the RIAA for more than 4 million units.

“Fear” / “Feel”

Lamar’s “voice is at its most affecting in its many untreated forms. Take Fear, in which he switches between echoing hot-blooded parental threats to enumerating, with a 40-acre stare, various death scenarios.” AMG The song “showcases the Compton lyricist's biggest worries from ages 7, 17, and 27.” BB “On Feel, Kendrick is a wounded soul looking for reassurance from his loved ones.” BB “As Lamar's paintbrush casts countless different emotional hues over DAMN.'s canvas, he articulates his wins and losses thrillingly.” BB


“His storytelling hits an astonishing new high on Duckworth, the album’s finale. Over ethereal funk sewn by 9th Wonder, Lamar details a potentially tragic encounter between his father and future Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith – and the conditions leading to it.” AMG “Kendrick frames the story as proof of his ‘chosen one’ status, a fateful sign that he’d go on to become the greatest rapper in the world. Whether or not you believe in divine intervention, it’s hard to argue that he didn’t fulfill that prophecy.” PF

It earned Lamar a Grammy for Best Rap Album and a nomination for Album of the Year. It was named album of the year by several publications, including Billboard, Q magazine, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Even more impressive, though, is that it won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, the first non-jazz or classical work to score such an honor. WK “The committee said the album had ‘vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism’ that captured ‘the complexity of modern African American life.’” ST

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 3/2/2019; last updated 4/23/2022.