Doc Krieger’s 50 Fave Colorado/Colorado Place Themed Songs

One of my area’s of music collection is songs that mention either Colorado or places in Colorado.  I have amassed nearly 1500 individual performances in that genre – a good many of which, sadly, are pretty awful.  For some reason the state I live in seems to inspire insipid odes to living the simple live in the mountains or whiny country songs about losing your love from/in/to Colorado. Quality be damned, artists keep pumping them out (even more so in a rap style now that marijuana is legal here) and I keep adding them (don’t EVER start collecting something as you never get to the end till you stop respirating).  This list is an attempt to list some of my favorite songs that either mention the state of Colorado or some place within the state (sorry, that leaves out Jan & Dean as while the little old lady from Pasadena is the terror of Colorado Boulevard, it’s in California – also Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” never mentions our state and the mountain range extends to many states).  There are a great number of covers predictably of songs by John Denver or of classic old songs like “The Colorado Trail” so will only list one version.  Frankly there are certain artists who are practically advertisements for the state and it was hard to only pick one of their songs (J Denver, J Collins, J Salestrom, J Chandler, CW McCall and C Pyle all come to mind), but there is a wealth of great songs to choose from.  Where a youtube link is available, I’ll try to include it howeverit appears you will have to cut and paste each one into youtube – sorry.  Feel free to chime in with your thoughts as well.

1.Denver – Steve Alaimo – written by the same folks who wrote “Cry Like A Baby” for the Box Tops.  Steve Alaimo never had huge national hits, but always recorded from great material.  This song was a huge hit on Denver’s KIMN radio in the 60s but barely bubbled under nationally.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv_EznR9ce4

2.Denver – The New Christy Minstrels – according to the writer of this song, Randy Sparks, a copy of the sheet music on the wall of his office inspired a name change from Deutschendorf  to the simpler title name for performance on stage as John Denver as he wouldn’t have to change the initials on his luggage!  A great hoot night folk song though the overdubbed crowd noise at the beginning is annoying on LP (In Person) so the single is a better buy.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIjjBazyPGA

3.Wolf Creek Pass – C W McCall – in the grand story teller tradition of his hit “Convoy” is this great song about sliding into Pagosa Springs with a load of chickens – prepare to laugh out loud.  Bill Fries in real life was an adman who found his calling here and as mayor of Ouray.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfNoCTozOuo

4.Get Out Of Denver – Bob Seger – a crazed rocker from his album Seven about driving at excessive speed out of this fair state while making the acquaintance of a state trooper.  Dave Edmunds does a great version on his Get It album as well.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR2IAKc2f5s

5.Colorado Christmas – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – every so often someone writes a new Christmas song that stands out from the banal rest.  This one by the late Steve Goodman fits perfectly with Ibby’s warm country voice and is a tradition around our house every December 25th.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=452uszvh9XA

6.Colorado – Up With People – freshly scrubbed kids singing about coming to the state where a man can walk a mile high.  Local group the Warming Trend did a find version too, but you can’t be the original 60s version to feel uplifted and joyful.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rB8hQXpK10

7.Colorado Bluebird Sky – String Cheese Incident – when Bill and Jillian Nershi played this out the initial Colorado Music Hall event in Boulder a few years back, your’s truly perked up and hoped they would record it.  Finally it appeared in 2014 on the LP A Song In My Head – great clapalong countryish jams.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw8NCoZq0N8

8.Mile High City – Hudson Ford – from the third solo album (Worlds Collide) by ex-Strawbs men who put on a superb concert at the old Ebbets Field on 14th and Curtis in Denver back in the 70s. At times progressive but great vocals and nice loud guitar sound.  This link has 2 songs so forward to 4:49.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUpaeXWZzi8

9.40 Miles From Denver – Yonder Mountain String Band – another jam band song about Colorado with some fine mandolin and dobro.  While the version on the album Elevation is probably the best for listening, here is their performance from the 2008 DNC convention held at Mile High. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD-eY8qRf9s

10.Rocky Mountain High – John Denver – seeing this man perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver’s foothills was the way to best hear his music but sadly that won’t happen again except in tribute (and there are some fine performers keeping his music alive).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLWD2WIvRQk

11.Denver, City In The Sky – Mike Crowley – a wonderful tune wedded to tourism bureau friendly lyrics with an admittedly dated 70s synth break by former Back Porch Majority member Crowley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK_2amcoQc0

12.Colorado – The Flying Burrito Brothers – when Rick Roberts joined the Burritos he brought a wonderful tenor voice and this great ballad that has later covered by Linda Ronstadt.  It’s hard to say if this or his later Firefall hits are his best work but I’m glad I got to meet him and thank him for his music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPpnvNlywP8

13.Someday Soon – Judy Collins – Ms. Collins simply has the most beautiful voice to go with her piercing blue eyes.  Starting in Boulder as a folk singer, she has had a remarkable career singing every style imaginable including this country ballad by Ian Tyson.  One of the nicest performers I have met as well.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jn90y9H9S4

14.Denver Rain – Michael Stanley – one of the highlights of the shortlived Denver label Tumbleweed.  A gorgeous flute driven ballad with a killer sounding acoustic guitar (would love to know how they got such depth of sound).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwbH7oePilM

15.A Good Feeling To Know – Poco – at once one of the highlights of Poco’s career and the song that broke Richie Furay’s musical will at the time.  To this day he can’t (and fans can’t) fathom how this great crowd favorite 70s sing-along wasn’t able to find a place on the charts.  Charts be damned, however, it is still a classic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF_erAKnpro

16.Man Of Constant Sorrow – Rod Stewart – this song dates from at least the early 1900s and has been recorded countless times.  This might be the definitive version from the first solo album (The Rod Stewart Album). Still perhaps his best period for old fans like me was the Jeff Beck Group to the end of the Faces.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y3GzgWsy1A

17.Telluride – Tim McGraw – a fine song from his Set This Circus Down album which is pretty loud and driving for country. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N05-8QWDH2o

18.I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado – Mary Travers – boy is it hard to pick the best version of this fine gentle ballad.  Fat City wrote it and did a great version as did John Denver, but Mary on hiatus from Peter & Paul applies the right veneer of beauty to it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_f3_N75bOU

19.Colorado – Danny Holien – perhaps this song deserves to be higher on the list as it really is beautiful and the Tumbleweed label packaging sumptuous, but decided to dock it a few places due to lazy chorus – by bu bu by bu bu by – hmmm. Still when it kicks in at 1:57 with flute and strings it can’t be beat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjWmZ_RHM3k

20.My Crime – Canned Heat – a bit of a left turn here but a hot blues from the Boogie With… album about their actual bust at the hands of Denver cops while playing the short-lived lamented Family Dog out on Evans (now a strip club I think). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwh2tIfNNfE

21.Boulder To Birmingham – The Hollies – purists will scream that the Emmylou Harris original about the loss of her man Gram Parsons is the definitive version, but the vocal harmonies of the Hollies can still thrill even on this later day album (A Crazy Steal).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpIihwaQ5XM

22.Colorado – Bill & Gloria Gaither – a real guilty pleasure here with a  new millenium update of the old freshly scrubbed formula established by acts like Up With People.  This Christian music outfit frankly put a chill down the spine however with this song about how Colorado is on the way to Heaven. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mIdLGoXedU

23.Colorado Calling Me – Jim & Jesse – fine bluegrass tribute to our state https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obNrANH7ZvM

24.The Spanish Peaks – Jon Chandler – possessing one of the most soothing radio-friendly basic baritones and thankfully in love with making music about Colorado and environs.  If you get a chance, go see him in concert and pick up his best of CD Sepia Soul. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO0n7V_bhRY

25.Crystal Colorado – Alpha Rev – the Austin alternative rockers included this driving minor key rocker on their 2011 ep City Farm: Roots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7D281zV4hw

26.Colorado – Chuck Pyle – another artist worth seeking out in concert is the Zen cowboy (best appreciated with Gordon Burt on fiddle). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GaMBE7XEEo

27.Leaving Colorado – Hillbilly Hellcats – gotta love the energy of rockabilly.  Get out the poodle skirts and ducktails. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXipYRKbEQc

28.The Colorado Trail – Don Edwards – the old classic has never sounded better.  Edwards has been plugging away playing cowboy music  in the tradition of people like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.  This was co-produced by Michael Martin Murphey on the Songs Of The Trail LP. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay-fz6SJBVk

29.Colorado – Merle Haggard (or) Golden West Wranglers – okay, this is a dodge, but can’t decide on the version.  The classic Dave Kirby song about God spending time in Colorado has been done umpteen times and Haggard’s version is the best studio recording – however, the best way to appreciate this song is with some bbq and a plate of beans and tater salad at a chuckwagon ranch hence the version from a 1983 LP by the long forgotten Wranglers from up at now forgotten Heritage Square in Golden.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEoNEX-BBE8

30.Colorado Country Morning – Tennessee Ernie Ford – another song with great multiple versions (Pat Boone et al).  The ole peapicker his-self wraps his bass around the song with a crying steel, banjo and profundo strings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkpJnoUkWnI

31.My Colorado Home – Jim Salestrom – a musical descendent keeping the John Denver spirit alive.  This is a fine mid-tempo acoustic song about coming home to the mountains.  Very little Salestrom is on youtube so here is a link to his store where you click on a sample of the song.  http://www.jimsalestrom.com/shoppingcart/Digital-Downloads/My-Colorado-Home/

32.The Colorado Sky – The F.A.B. Company – Ralph Achilles has recorded his chill inducing narrative  as told to his son in several forms over the years but the definitive version was from the Take Time album – which I would love to give a musical link to but it doesn’t exist.  Here is a link to their page anyway.  http://www.f-a-b-company.com/html/albums.html

33.Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead – Warren Zevon – the late king of wry did this on his 1991 Mr. Bad Example album and it became a movie title track.  It drives and confuses at the same time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfSQOgu0ZJg&list=RDvfSQOgu0ZJg

34.Colorado Girl – The High Rollers – local Durango, Colorado country band that manage to get an agreeable chugging drum sound with fine fiddling.  Sort of a modern country answer to the Beach Boys “California Girls”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_nBtFnzvsQ

35.Denver – Jonathan Kelly – an obscure 1969 UK import single that thanks to youtube you can now enjoy.  fine chorus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ifp0tDYntI

36.From Denver To L.A. – Elton John(s) – another obscure by an artist who had some success from what I hear (though the ‘s’ at the end of his name must have been a mistake on the single, right? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3yq2zZSRXo

37.Colorado Jones – Jerry Corbetta/Sugarloaf – from the Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You LP comes this fine guitar rocker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wze2lj6KTBQ

38.A Mile High In Denver – Jimmy Buffett – before he was a parrothead.  A fine 70s acoustic folk-pop song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a75qek02-c

39.Run Colorado – Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich (Dave Dee Group) – frothy UK import pop single that builds to a nice harmony singout. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKe5XLqbi5Y

40.Colorado Moon – Tim Malchak – lovely 198os country ballad with an agreeable vocal harmony on the chorus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhv2Vup0TUI

41.Colorado Call – Shad O’Shea & The 18 Wheelers – a silly “Convoy” take-off – semi-salacious, but get ready for the big surprize ending! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek0bihJskG8

42.Out In Colorado – Dion & The Timberlines – very different from “Runaround Sue”, this early single sound like a 50s movie tune for sure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-NiVxLajUE

43.Colorado Love Call (from Little Mary Sunshine) – Captn. Jim & Little Mary – campy and silly, you have to love it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQWOqtXUxkw

44.Come On Up To Tincup – Pete Smythe – gosh, sure wish this was on the net so will post his obit instead.  Mr. Colorado back in the 50s on KOA/KLZ.  Found on his Bottom Ten Of The Barbed Wire Network album, this was an ode to his fictional town (based on a real Colorado ghosttown and later his own amusement park). http://extras.denverpost.com/news/news0509k.htm

45.Colorado – Jack Kastle – this was a fixture on Hal Moore’s Friday salute to Colorado on 630 KHOW.  The creaky synth sounds dated, but the sentiment holds up.  Not on youtube so here is a link to one of the great Colorado music sites put together by Lisa Wheeler. http://www.northofpueblo.com/2013/01/the-kastles.html

46.Goin’ Back To Colorado – Timothy P. Irvin – from his After The War album when he had a big hat and alot of hair.  Now he rocks the oldies without a beard in Flash Cadillac.  No link exists.

47.Colorado State Song – Grubstake – one of the great musical curmudgeons was the late U. Utah Phillips who wrote this somewhat dated, but still relevant rant that can be applied to any tourist state, frankly.  (“…bring your money, bring your friends…but don’t forget to leave when you get through”).  Here is a short clip sung by Jack Stanesco along with Harry Tuft and Steve Abbott with Dick Weissman and Mary Flower (Withers). http://www.harrytuft.com/audio/ColoStateSongClip.mp3

48.Denver Twist & Freeze – Orlie & The Saints – Denver label Bandbox tried the same trick with this song that Tommy Facenda did with “High School U.S.A.” – record a different version for many U.S. cities and hope to sell more that way (18 versions in my collection). The Denver version has to be the definitive one since the label was based here, but only other cities’ versions are on youtube so here is a link to another fine Colorado music site run by Craig Swank. https://kimsloans.wordpress.com/band-box-records/band-box-discography-l-z/orlie-the-saints/

49.Wild In Colorado – Runaway Express – Jim & Salli Ratts have lead this band forever it seems and put out some great music.  This song is from the Nature album.  No link exists.

50.Shot Down In Denver – Sha Na Na – a very different sound for these purveyors of oldies, this is a very 70s sounding pop song o their self-titled album.  Sadly I can’t find a link anywhere but here is a version by Chalice that is similar with a weaker lead vocal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEq8Jc3aU9k

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2015 Album Review Potpourri 2 (Dave Kerzner, etc.)

Dave Kerzner – New World (deluxe edition)

If you are a fan of mid-period Pink Floyd (Dark Side… but the David Gilmour/Rick Wright axis), then this 2 CD set will be manna from heaven for you as it was for me.  Kerzner has had a pretty active sideman career thus far including playing keys in Sound Of Contact (great prog band with Phil Collins sound-a-like Simon Collins – yes, his son).  Late in 2014 he released a single disc version of this his first solo album which was great, but this over two hour version is simply amazing.  Most of the songs feature the core of Kerzner on vocals and keys with Nick D’Virgilio on drums and Fernando Perdomo on guitar + bass.  Their work is great on it’s own, but some songs also feature cameos from prog royalty the likes of Steve Hackett or Francis Dunnery on guitar, Keith Emerson on moog, Billy Sherwood on bass, Simon Phillips or Nick Mason (via programming) on drums.  That Kerzner doesn’t need anyone else, however, is evident on my fave song from the album “Under Control” on which he handles all the instruments himself.  The lengthy opener “Stranded (part 1-5)” is pure Dark Side… right down to the wailing female vocals with some added help via Jason Scheff of Chicago and a great growling Steve Hackett solo.  Some of the additions to the deluxe version are merely sonic landscape intros like “Reflection” or longer versions of songs truncated to fit on a single disc, but there are also some excellent new songs like “Premonition Suite” or “Realign”.  There simply has not been a better album release so far in 2015.  To get the full 2 CD set with packaging you must go to davekerzner.com which will give a link for the purchase (it’s not cheap, but it’s worth it), but otherwise a cheaper digital download is available on itunes. The single CD version can be had on Amazon if you must but however you get it you won’t be sorry.

Steve Hackett – Wolflight Lonely Robot – Please Come Home

These two albums by progressive rock guitar slingers have a very similar production sound to them – sorta bombastic – in-you-face.  Hackett throws in some very nice acoustic guitar and lute which Lonely Robot does not, but both albums feature the guitar side of prog rock.  Hackett is of course the former Genesis string-wiz who has done a great job of staying true to progressive music for over 40 years while Lonely Robot is really John Mitchell from Arena and It Bites.  Both albums a worthy of purchase, but I’ll give the edge to Lonely Robot.  Hackett isn’t a bad singer, but he really needs a stronger singer to pull off the harder-edged songs while Mitchell has a vaguely Peter Gabrielish voice more suited to progressive bombast.  The opening pairing of “Out Of The Body” which goes right in to “Wolflight” is one of the best bits on Hackett’s album as is “Airlock” opener for Lonely Robot.   The only guest of note for Hackett is Chris Squire on bass for “Love Song To A Vampire” while Mitchell uses folks like Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and Nik Kershaw though where isn’t spelled out anywhere.  Perhaps the Lonely Robot album is the most in need of editing with too many so-so songs, but it also has the most memorable songs in “Oubliette” and “Are We Copies” – both outstanding.   “Black Thunder” and “Corycian Fire” stand out on the Hackett album for me, but the closing medley of “Dust & Dreams” and “Heart Song” are my faves overall.  Between these and the Dave Kerzner album, 2015 has been great for prog fans.

The Gentle Storm – The Diary

Back in the halcyon days of my youth, one could buy an album strictly because the cover was great and you figured the music had to be good.  Any more it seems that every cover I like turns out to be some growly voiced metal band so it was great that a nice cover went with an equally nice album.  This is a strange one, but alot of fun – a 2 CD set with the same songs on each however the first CD has “gentle” versions (more acoustic) while disc 2 is the louder blustery “storm” versions.  At first I figured I would generally prefer the quieter ones, but surprisingly the louder ones win out at least half the time for me.  If you have $60 or so, the CD version is an import in a great hardback book basically – or you can save over 2/3 the cost and download it.  The project is fronted by Dutch progressive metal guitarist Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One, etc.) with vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen from the Gathering.   The story involves a man sailing away in the 1600’s from his wife and soon the be born son.  The quieter disc really sounds alot like a great lost Renaissance/Annie Haslam album while the louder disc seems like Transiberian Orchestra or even Jethro Tull with a female lead.  The MVP of the whole thing is Ben Mathot on violin whose playing really dominates (his playing on “Brightest Light” for instance is very classical).  It’s interesting to play a song like “Eyes Of Michiel” in both versions and here the almost baroque-ness of one version versus the much heavier arena-friendly louder version.  There really isn’t a bad song on the album – my fave is probably the classical jig in the gentle version of “Heart Of Amsterdam”.

Ringo Starr – Postcards From Paradise

Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure (deluxe)

New CDs from members of two of the biggest “B” bands of all-time in the Beatles and the Beach Boys.  By now, you don’t expect anyone to buy an album by either of these 70-somethings that isn’t a devoted fan.  Let’s face it, Ringo will never do another “It Don’t Come Easy” and Brian will never do another “Good Vibrations” so either you live with their past music or you try to keep up with where they take you in the 2000’s.  In Ringo’s case, where he takes you is in a pleasant stroll into his past with a tribute to his first starring band Rory Storm & The Hurricanes or into the title track which is just that – a string of Beatles titles made into a song with the help of Todd Rundgren.  A nice fun idea that was done first by Barclay James Harvest on their 1975 song “Titles”.  These two songs might be enough to pull in a fan (it really is nice to do a “spot-the-title search” with lyrics like “I know that we can work it out, there ain’t no need to twist and shout”), but there are a few other goodies here as well like my fave “Touch And Go” which features a Sir Douglas Quintet feel thanks to Benmont Tench’s keys work.  While Ringo’s tunes aren’t very adventurous, at least he tries to rock which is something sorely lacking from Brian Wilson.  His music is pleasant and tunefully wistful, but with ex-Beach Boys Al Jardine (my fave vocalist in that band), David Marks and Blondie Chaplin you would hope they would have at least attempted one rocker (hey Brian, how’s about next album doing a covers set of your fave oldies in a return to 15 Big Ones?).  At any rate of these two albums Wilson gets the edge simply because the harmonies always win out (and vocally he sounds great – autotuned or not).  If the disco version of “Here Comes The Night” is the worst Beach Boys related song ever, then surely #2 has to be “Runaway Dancer” featuring some dude named Sebu.  “On The Island” featuring the twee vocals of “She & Him is icky lounge music followed closely by the next song “Half Moon Bay” with new ager Mark Isham playing horns – pleasant but dull.  Take these three off and add the three bonus tracks and it becomes a decent album.  The 2 songs with Jardine and Marks “Whatever Happened” and “The Right Time” are nice ballads while “Sail Away” with Chaplin and Jardine has a nice “Sloop John B” feel.  The best song on the record is “Guess You Had To Be There” featuring Kacey Musgraves which is a bit more lively and fun.  Speaking of fun, Nate Ruess of that band sings on “Saturday Night”.  “The Last Song” seems to be a lament for something lost and that something may be the Beach Boys (“don’t be sad there was a time and place for what we had, if there was just another chance for me to sing to you … there’s never more time for the ones that you love”).  It’s hard to know if one needs to thank or blame co-writer and producer Joe Thomas as he seems to be leading on the whole thing which doesn’t have the spark you hoped for, but then you always have to add the addendum that considering where Brian was musically and emotionally for so many lost years it truly is amazing how well his solo career has turned out.  That being said, why don’t you call up Jeff Lynne next time and let him produce and rock and roll album?