Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Beetle Beat--The Original Liverpool Sound: The Buggs (The Coachmen V; 1964)

It just occurred to me that putting up an LP by "The Buggs" might not be in the best taste, given our current health crisis.  But "The Buggs," of course, is a phony name (you'd never have guessed)--the group's real name was the Coachmen V, and it included Spooky Tooth member Gary (Dream Weaver) Wright.  Info (save for the Spooky Tooth detail) courtesy of Brian McFadden's terrific Rock Rarities for a Song: Budget LPs That Saved the Roots of Rock 'n' Roll.  (I know that it's also at Discogs.) The Coachmen V thought they were getting their big break and were shocked to discover their tracks had been released under different titles, with a fake credit, and without so much as their real group pic on the jacket.  This is what you get for trusting the Coronet label, I guess.  Maybe the weirdest feature of this LP is the inclusion of the Doris Troy/Hollies hit Just One Look, only under the title Soho Mash, believe it or not.  It seems that Aaron (Goldie) Goldmark, the head of Premier Albums Inc.'s publishing wing, had published the song, and so it was up for LP-filler use.  (Coronet was a Premier Albums, Inc. label.)

The tracks are fun and well performed, but I would have thought the Baiao beat in these numbers, a staple of the Invasion sound (a feature straight from Brill Building pop and R&B), might have alerted the group to the actual intentions of Coronet.  That, and the "Yeah, yeah, yeah"s.  Maybe it's only in retrospect that these tracks sound like surrogate Mersey beat items, though.  And a lot of U.S. groups were being pushed toward a Beatles sound on account of the Fab Four's massive fame.  Some groups, like the Buckinghams, were even adopting Brit-sounding names, of course.

Another piece of weirdness: A single from this LP was released on Coral and credited to another nonexistent group, The Pacers.  It featured You Got Me Bugged and Sassy Sue, obviously the real titles of Mersey Mercy and Big Ben Hop.

In my thrifting, this is the fake Beatles LP that shows up most often, but this is the first near-mint copy I've landed, so I just had to post it.  For stereo fans, sorry about the mono, but the stereo quality probably wasn't much to rave about.  All these decades later, I'm feeling bad for the Coachmen V, who must have been beyond bugged over this betrayal, and who certainly didn't deserve to be derailed in this fashion.  (Had to make a terrible pun--sorry.)  I would hope that modern record contracts forbid this kind of name, title, and image hijacking....

To the Coachmen V....

DOWNLOAD:  The Beetle Beat--The Coachman V (The Buggs)--Coronet CX-212 (1964)


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday evening gospel: The Songsmen Quartet--Coming Your Way

Or, The story of why an all-male quartet sounded like a mixed one.

No idea on the year--no Discogs listing for this.  Plus, there's at least one other group by this name--an all-male quartet.

Speaking of all-male quartets, when I was editing these files on MAGIX (to catch any surface noise not silenced by VinylStudio and to space and number the tracks), I thought I was listening to an album by the Brothers Quartet, which is (obviously) four men.  So I couldn't understand why I was hearing two female voices.  I figured the Brothers Q. must have had an amazingly high tenor and lead.  Once I realized my error, I had to do the jacket scanning and photo editing anew, which is time-consuming.  And I was already up too late and starting to doze off--hence, the delay.

This can happen when you're doing two projects at once.  When the files export into MAGIX, they're not labeled, which doesn't help.  No loss, since I was going to put these guys up, anyway.  The liner notes, by Gospel DJ Jerry Tope  (of WLGN Radio in Logan, Ohio) only give first names for the singers--Penny, Janet, Steve and Larry, and I suspect their last name isn't Songsmen.  Going by the song credits (on the back cover), Janet and Steve could be Janet and Steve Peters, and Penny could be Penny Meade, and Larry's last name could be Leach.  But I don't want to assume.  Oddly enough, the "musicians" (i.e., accompanists) get full-name listings.  The quartet was based in Pleasantville, Ohio, which is very close to here, and the recording was made in Cincinnati, which is not nearly as close.  The performances and production are highly professional, especially for such a small label.

Some familiar songs, and four which are very possibly group originals.  The all-time classic On the Jericho Road, given the "P.D." treatment on the jacket, was by Donald S. McCrossan. Year:1928.

I'd place the Songsmen's style between Southern quartet (aka. Southen gospel) and country gospel.  The former took on more and more of a country sound as time went on--which is to say, more of a modern country sound.  The quartets always operated in the realm of country, but initially in the old-time mode of, say, Smith's Sacred Singers.  Some of the earliest recorded quartet music hearkened back to "shape note" (or "shaped note") singing, which is a wonderful tradition going back to the late 1700s, as far as printed music goes.  It's related to solf├Ęge, and other systems were tried, too, including numbering the noteheads and writing out the syllables (do/doh, re, mi, etc.).  I have a Methodist hymnal of the latter type.

Dee Gaskin's Come Morning appears to be from 1979, so that likely places this in the 1980s, which is what the cover photo has me suspecting.

And the rain is starting again.  We absolutely do not need more of the stuff after the recent local flooding....

DOWNLOAD: The Songsmen Quartet: Coming Your Way

First Day in Heaven (Bill Gaither) (Stuart Hamblen)
I'm in This Church (Joel Hemphill)
Beulah Land (Squire Parsons)
I Find Pleasure (Words and Music by Penny Meade)
My Best Friend (Words and Music by Janet Peters)
On the Jericho Road (Donald S. McCrossoan)
He's Still Working one Me (Joel Hemphill)
Consider the Lilies (Joel Hemphill)
He Cares (For a Nothing Like Me) (Words and Music by Steve Peters)
Singing and Shouting (Words and Music by Larry Leach)
Come Morning (Dee Gaskin)
I Want to Be Like My Lord (Jimmy Jones)


Friday, March 20, 2020

Top Six--The Teenager's Choice: Beatlemania (1964)

DOWNLOAD: Beatlemania--Artists Unknown (Top Six TSL 1; 1964)

Fake Beatles tonight.  (That sound like the title of a Broadway comedy.)  Why fake Beatles tonight?  Because fake Beatles are fun, and faked Fab Four records were pretty much an industry unto themselves, so they're a big part of sound recording history.  A big part of the underground thereof, anyway.  And because it's giving me a break from stressing.  Hope it can perform that feat for some of you, too.  This 1964 British LP, titled Beatlemania (no attempt at exploitation there), has its expected bad moments (and bad tracks, like Please Please Me), but considering the rushed nature of the product, it's fairly amazing.  As in, legitimately good overall.  It captures the George Martin production sound with much skill--maybe by accident; I don't know.  But it is by far the best Beatles copy I've yet heard--and it's a whole LPful, which is not a word, but so what.  I read someplace the name of the group that allegedly did these tracks, but of course I've been unable to re-find that info.  It may not even be true.  But I can say without Google confirmation that these guys are good--the lead guitarist, especially.  This very used copy played amazingly well with my entry-audiophile cartridge and stylus at 1.5 grams (which I did not expect), and VinylStudio did superbly on the many clicks.  The sound is bright and full.

The front jacket says (I believe) eleven shillings and one pence, which was a little over half a pound.  That was for twelve hits.  Top Six singles (with six hits, of course) were six shillings and eight pence.  In pure junk-label fashion, there are no liner notes, and the back cover contains only an unpunctuated track listing and an ad for Top Six singles.  My kind of LP!

I wonder what the L in "TSL" stood for.  "Top Six...?"  Lemons?  Laugh riots?  Hm.  Probably "Limited."  At any rate, if you can forgive the absurd moments, I think you'll find it a remarkably good effort.  And, if you don't, I still will.  Note how the mystery studio group messes up a line (actually, two) in the first number.  It's supposed to be, "When I'll say that something: I want to hold your hand."  Even as a kid, I got that, except I thought "I'll" was "I."  As did these guys, too.  Anyway, they sing it, "When I say that someday, I want to hold your hand."  Huh?  The singer is expressing a present desire, not a future one.  "I assure you that someday I'll want to hold your hand.  But only after this pandemic is over."  Anyway, the Beatles were known for doubling words: "something" shows up twice in the first verse.  It's as if these underpaid pros were rushing to junk-label deadline.  Come to think of it....

Money is maybe the finest fake of the bunch, in good part because the lead singer sounds uncannily like John Lennon.  This LP is the definition of fun.  And proof that fake hits sometimes transcended the awful-to-medium curve.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: Apparently, the drummer on this LP was Jimmy Nichol, who subbed for Ringo with the Beatles in an international tour when Ringo had tonsillitis.  Read about it here.  Some info on Top Six, too.  I'd read about this before at various sites but suspected it was an urban legend.  I guess not!


Sunday, March 15, 2020

This Man Called Jesus--The Gospel Bells Quartet (Gloryland Records 750722)

Today's selection, on Gloryland Records, was recorded at Rome Recording Studios in Columbus OH.  When, I don't know, but I'm guessing 1970-ish.  Remarkably, that recording site is still around, only it's now called Rome Recording, and it's moved from Columbus OH to a suburb thereof.  I wonder if it still uses stock images for its front jackets.  If it's still pressing vinyl, that is....

Good, solid group, good selections, and a pressing with issues.  I believe this was sealed when I found it, which would rule out needle wear as the source of the thumps and wobbly channel balance in spots.  Those two things could be caused by a huge stylus and someone leaning into the tonearm, but then the surface would look like a war zone, and this surface looks clean.  Just a mildly defective pressing--nothing too major.  I edited out the thumps, though I couldn't get rid of the swish or the semi-dropouts in the two channels.  The latter are definitely a result of an inadequate pressing.  But we can expect cheap pressings to sound... cheap.  On occasion.

I'd call this country gospel, though it seems nowadays that nearly everything that involves a gospel quartet falls under the heading of Southern gospel.  Which is okay with me, because I believe in erring on the side of inclusiveness and limiting the number of labels we're tossing around.  But when there's an Appalachian, even bluegrass-y sound to the vocals (as there is here), but the background is conventional Southern gospel, I go for country gospel as the label.  And I'm not sure that sentence made sense, but I'm getting tired, so I'll leave it be.  The MAGIX portion of my editing took longer than I expected, given the less than terrific pressing, so this post didn't go nearly as smoothly or swiftly as I expected.  There's a lesson there.  Someplace.  I have no idea what it is, but I'm sure there is one.

I'm always complaining about how gospel LPs never provide a left-to-right identification of the group members, so I'm happy to say this release parts with convention in that regard.  The four folks at the top of the photo are tenor Leonard Preston (who write the title song), alto Louise Bowens, bass Jack Bowens, and lead L.T. Preston.  Kneeling are bass and rhythm guitar player John Fox and piano player Jerry Thornhill.  Drummer Rod Salyers (the newest member) gets his own photo below the main shot.  See how easy that was?  Why don't more of these albums do this?

Very good, very professional sounding country gospel, and I think it makes a nice contrast to the extremely down home material (no less good) that I've been putting up lately.  And I'm right now spot-listening to next week's selection, and it's pure, solid Southern gospel, so I won't have to worry about labels.  To our offering for this Sunday....

DOWNLOAD: The Gospel Bells Quartet--This Man Called Jesus

I Wanna Go There (Spiritual)
I Have Found Somebody (Garrison)
More to Go to Heaven For (Campbell)
I Saw the Man (Adams)
When I Walk on the Streets of Gold (Reeves)
What a Beautiful Day (Wilburn and Cook)
This Man Called Jesus (Leonard Preston)
Ready to Leave (Hemphill)
Hard Working Pilgrim (Unknown)
Look for Me at Jesus' Feet (Squire Parsons)
The Glory Road (Cook)
One Day at a Time (Kris Kristofferson-Mary John Wilkins)

This Man Called Jesus--The Gospel Bells Quartet (Gloryland Records 750722)


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Shellac for 2020, Part 2--Peerless Quartet, Don Richardson, Ted Lewis, Victor Orchestra

I don't know if it's right to post a bunch of 78s while we're in a state of national emergency, but then why not?  Any virus in the zip file--highly unlikely--isn't going to be physical, anyway.  Oops--touched my face.  Gotta stop that.

The reason I'm doing all these shellac restorations right now, including many titles I've previously put up, is because I'm getting new levels of fidelity from these things by manually manipulating the "equalization page" graphic in VinylStudio--something I just started doing.  So I'm going crazy with the 78s.  I wish the VS display was larger, but you can't have everything.  I'm getting detail I wasn't able to get before.  I've read that recording engineers during the horn-recording era, despite the absence of an electrical recording curve, were able to manipulate the playback results--by using dampers, for instance--and so there was nothing close to a standard recording curve.  This makes it okay--and, really, necessary--to custom-sound-shape each file.  And I don't know if I hyphenated that correctly, but let's move on.

I was kind of amused to discover that our first track, Alagazam (To the Music of the Band), shows up on the first volume of the CD series, That Devilin' Tune.  My rip is cleaner, so unless you're a fan of low-frequency hum, mine's the one to go with.  The song is a racist staple--a "colored" group of soldiers and the comedy that results when you gather up same.  Except I seem to recall that African-American soldiers fought with great distinction during WWI.  But this is minstrel stuff, so what can we expect?  Musically, it's very interesting, and there is definitely a jazz feel.  Partly, it's the aggressive syncopation and the up-front percussion, but it's more than those.  Something indefinable.  The flip, which concerns "Old Bill Bailey" (clearly a standard "colored" character) playing the "ukalele," has jazz feel, too, though milder.  Excessively interesting sides.  For David, I'm offering Paul Whiteman's own adaptation, in its 1921 acoustical version, of Song of India, a number taken from a Rimsky-Korsakov aria and known as... Song of India.  Hence, the title.  (I think I'm late for my meds....)  While Whiteman very quickly decided he was not up to writing the arrangements for his orchestra--his goofy 1920 version of Dance of the Hours would seem to support his judgement--he did give us this fascinating take on India.  What gives it its punch is the thumping tonic-note ostinato.  I also love the seven emphatic staccato chords at the end.  With the cymbal crash providing the final quarter note.

Circus Clowns was apparently composed by the bandleader John Fischer, who was Hungarian-American, I believe.  It's from a light-green Columbia E-series 78 made for the ethnic market, and I never got it to sound 1/10 as good as this rip.  Fabulous side, with magnificent musicianship.  Two sides by the Original Memphis Five--the first on the lousy Regal label, which explains the less than terrific fidelity, and the second on Victor, which explains the vastly superior audio.  This is the only time in my life I'll have the chance to choose between Bee's Knees and Snakes Hips, so I'd better cherish the moment.  I'll go for the latter, a Spencer (Basin Street Blues) Williams classic, and I'll forever wonder if there was supposed be an apostrophe before or after the s in "snakes."  I read on line that "snakes hips" refers to belly dancing, and I have no reason (or desire) to question this.  Why shouldn't it?  And now we come to The Cross Bow.  Lots to say about it--I'll give it a shot.  We'll start with the words, which I lucked out and found on line in an 1892 magazine digitized at Google Books.

A tailor there dwelt near old Sherwood edge, Who was deft with an old crossbow. One day as he sat on his window ledge, Came winging a jet black crow.  He perched near by and to caw began--They heard him anear and far--"It takes nine tailors to make a man, So a ninth of a man, then, you are!"

The tailor grew wroth and exceedingly fierce, Crying "Wife, bring my old crossbow!"  And he shot then a shaft that was aimed to pierce the heart of that jet black crow.  He killed his favorite pig outright--the crow cried and flew afar, "It takes nine tailors to make a man, So a ninth of a man, them, you are!"

Gorgeously sung, no?  The selection is from a late 19th century opera, Robin Hood, by Reginald De Koven.  Growing "wroth," of course, means getting pissed off.  I'm not sure that I would attempt to kill a crow for calling me one ninth of a man, but then I'm not a tailor living back in Robin Hood days--i.e., the 13th century or so.  And I don't have a cross bow.  But the thing is, what does the saying mean--"It takes nine tailors, etc."?  My best guess was that it took nine tailors to work on a suit back in those times, with suits being so complicated that each section required a specialist.  In my interpretation, "a man" meant a suit.  Clothes makes the man, right?  But I stumbled onto an Oxford University blog post devoted to this "proverb," the blogger a famous linguist.  I was in luck!  Except, like me, he doesn't know what it meant.  But he traced it back to the 1500s and discovered that it could be used to both compliment tailors or trash them.  Makes sense.  Any saying that lasts six centuries is going to function in many ways, and in any number of contexts, so....

I thought that would be more interesting than it turned out to be.  But I do love the way that genuine experts, unlike the middlebrow type who sell lots more books, are willing to admit when they don't know something.  As for taunting tailors (my favorite rock group), I understand that, in crow society, this counts as a misdemeanor and can result in up to three weeks in a caw-rectional facility.

College Life March is very advanced stuff for 1909, and I believe Walter B. Rogers was that amazing arranger who wrote for the Victor Military Band.  Billy Murray's voice rings out from the vocal chorus on this one, and the "Rah! Rah!" parts are wonderfully weird and cool.  The side has a drive that I associate with later dance band music, so Rogers is someone to find out more about.  He could have been the Ferde Grofe of his day.  He may have scored the 1911 Alexander's Ragtime Band, too, a side with a delightfully loose, almost swinging feel to its syncopation--and, despite the popular claims to the contrary, the song is ragtime.  It has some ragtime rhythms, anyway.  Ragtime Lite.  And I didn't plan to put two Vincent Youmans classics in a row, and from the same year (1924), but fate made it so.  The first, the Benson Orch.'s version of Tea for Two, is in my shellac Top Ten, and Jan Garber's version of I Want to Be Happy (not my favorite Youmans) is extremely jazzy.  Garber seemed to have given up on jazz after the 1920s.  As for the Ted Lewis Jazz Band, I'm okay with calling his side jazz, though it's very clunky jazz.  Apparently, Lewis inherited Earl Fuller's orchestra (which one, I'm not sure, as Fuller had three or so) when all the members, including Ted, split from Earl.  By contrast, Lewis' 1923 12th Street Rag (dunno what happened on the mp3 tag) is surprisingly effectively jazzy, if I can double my adverbs, despite no "jazz" in the band credit.  I first had 12th Street in a warped edition, so I was thrilled to land (after two tries) a good one.  Lewis had a corny style, and many find his jazz chops highly lacking, but he did his share of good jazz discs.

Don Richardson's extraordinary 1916 recording of Arkansas Traveler predates by six years what Wikipedia calls "the first generally recognised country recording" of 1922--namely, "Eck" Robertson's Sallie Gooden/Arkansaw (sic) Traveler on Victor.  And we Yanks spell it "recognized," so I don't know what's up with that.  Wiki is reluctant to label Don's fiddle sides country, because everyone knows that genuine country musicians can't read, write, or teach music like Don could.  Worse, North Carolinian Don was capable of playing in other styles.  In short, he possessed the skills necessary to make a living from music, which means he can't be called a country musician, which means his sides can't be called country.  So I totally get Wiki's dilemma.  I hope you're following this, because there'll be a quiz.  Seriously, though, questions regarding who was the first "authentic" this or that are too subjective to mean a danged thing, so when you have a 1916 side that sounds like country, the sane person calls it country.

Cool 1926 recording by the peerless Peerless Quartet of Sweet Adeline and In the Evening by the Moonlight, the latter by the "black Stephen Foster," James A. Bland.  I wonder if, in 1926, Adeline enjoyed its present reputation as the Barbershop number.  Dunno.  As for the "darkies" in the Moonlight lyrics, that was nothing compared to the Barbershop staple Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield, which the Imperial Quartet recorded as the flip to The Cross Bow, and which I didn't rip because of language.  And, as far as I can tell, Cornfield is still in use as a Barbershop number--with softened lyrics, I'm sure.  Barbershop clearly came out of minstrel shows, and I mean "out of" in the sense of detaching from.  Minstrel shows were variety shows, and close harmony singing was one feature thereof.  The racism that's all over Barbershop (before Barbershop became anything and everything, song-wise) has too much of a minstrel show flavor not to be a product of minstrelsy.

Two very entertaining 1920 sides by Lanin's Roseland Band, which I assume is Sam Lanin (though I'd better verify), and then a less than well-known Gershwin number, Limehouse Blues, played by the world-famous Columbia Saxophone Sextette.  I haven't read up on the group, but I'm betting it was Columbia's answer to the Six Brown Brothers.  Prior to using the equalizer page method, I was never able to get a decent rip from this 78.

To the shellac....

DOWNLOAD: Shellac for 2020, Part 2

Alagazam (To the Music of the Band) )Sterling-Harry Von Tilzer)--Peerless Quartet, 1915
Bee's Knees (Lopez-Lewis)--The Original Memphis Five, 1922
Song of India (Adapated by Paul Whiteman)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch., 1921
Circus Clowns (Fischer)--Gallop--John Fischer's Band, 1918
Snakes Hips (Spencer Williams)--The Original Memphis Five, 1923
The Cross Bow--From "Robin Hood" (De Koven)--Imperial Quartet, 1915
When Old Bill Bailey Plays the Ukalele (sic) (McCarron-Vincent)--Peerless Quartet, 1915
College Life March (Frantzen)--Victor Orchestra, c. Walter B. Rogers, w. vocal chorus, 1909
Alexander's Ragtime Band (Berlin)--Victor Military Band, 1911
Over the Waves Waltz (Rosas)--Dance Orchestra (Victor 2881; 1904)
Tea for Two (Irving Caesar-Vincent Youmans)--Benson Orchestra, Dir Don Bestor, 1924
I Want to Be Happy (Youmans)--Jan Garber and His Orchestra, 1924
I Never Care About Tomorrow (La Vine-Lange-Holden)--Same
"O" (OH!) (Intro. "The Vamp") (Gay and Johnson-Gay)--Ted Lewis Jazz Band, v: Jack Kaufmann, 1919
Arkansas Traveler--Don Richardson, Violin Solo, Piano Acc.  (Columbia A2140; 1916)
Sweet Adeline (Gerard-Armstrong)--Peerless Quaret (Victor 20055; 1926)
In the Evening by the Moonlight (James Bland)--Same
Oh! By Jingo (One-step) (Albert Von Tilzer) (Sam) Lanin's Roseland Band, `910
Rose of Chile (Tango) (Bowers)--Same
12th Street Rag (Bowman)--Ted Lewis and His Band, 1923
Limehouse Nights (Gershwin)--Columbia Saxophone Sextette, 1920