Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Less Common Burt, Part 3--1954-1971: Tony Orlando, Peggy Lee, Brenda Lee, Fred X. Brown

This time around, we get some even less less common (less less common?) Burt, with 1) two outstanding Burt solo piano sides from 1957, 2) Burt's first appearance as performer on a record (Mama Don't Cry at My Wedding, as orchestra conductor, 1954), 3) Burt's own orchestra and chorus performing Juanita's Place (from On the Flip Side) and Nikki, and 4) Roger Williams' 1958 version of one of Burt's first hits, Moment Moments, significant as one of the first contemporary "covers" of a Burt-Hal number.  (Jesse Crawford covered it, also--his fine version is coming up next post.)  Nikki, of course, was named after Burt and Angie's daughter, who had Asperger Syndrome, and who tragically died by her own hand in 2007 at the age of 40.  We'll also hear the vocal version of Nikki in an excellent 1967 recording by Ed Ames.  In a different arrangement, Nikki served as the theme music for the ABC Movie of the Week, and I seem to remember it from there.

Jo Stafford had little regard for Underneath the Overpass, citing it in an interview as typical of the worst stuff Mitch Miller had her record at Columbia, though the title pun works for me, and I think the music and lyrics beautifully recall the big band era, the era that gave Jo her start.  Her husband Paul Weston, who directs this recording, often acted as her arranger in those days, so I think the results are quite authentic--very middle-of-the-road swing, 1944 style, only in 1957.  But it's her opinion which counts, since she was the one stuck with it!  Burt's superb piano chops are something to behold on Rosanne and Searching Wind, a single on the Cabot label (also from 1957), and though hearing him in Roger Williams mode might be a little jarring to some,  I was lucky enough to see Burt in concert in Zanesville, Ohio about twelve years ago, so I already know he's a concert-level ivory tickler.

No clunkers in the list, though Rome Will Never Leave You is pretty so-so, however nicely done (and however interesting in its metric quirkiness), and I'm still new to I Cry Alone (Vikki Carr), so I'm not sure yet what I think of it.  The rest are good to superb, starting with the phenomenally effective Accept It, which was somehow not a hit for singer Tony Orlando, who is superb.  Tony's equally good on the flip, To Wait for Love, which I previously knew only in Tom Jones' slightly later version.  I figured Tony's version wouldn't hold a candle to Tom's, but I stand humbly corrected.  British songstress Sheila Southern's superb version of Here I Am was released in the U.S. by the ultra-cheap Synthetic Plastics Co. on its Ambassador label as part of a 1970 reissue of a Marble Arch (U.K.) LP from 1969.  The Buckinghams' 1968 version of Are You There (With Another Girl) was the only version of this excellent number I heard for years, so when I finally got my hands on Dionne Warwick's original, it sounded wrong.  Diana Trask is superb on the lovely Long Ago Last Summer, Jackie deShannon is her usual terrific on A Lifetime of Loneliness (note the title screw-up--A Lifetime of Happiness--on the label scan above!), and the Sandpipers do their usual lovely job on 1970's Where There's a Heartache.  And though Fred X. Brown (Fred who??) isn't especially good on our third helping of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, he does sound something like Gene Pitney--Gene Pitney on a really off day, but with that nasal twinge and semi-breathless sound.  Not one of the best fake versions to come from the Hit Records label.

Bobby Vee is his usual highly entertaining self on Be True to Yourself, and Brenda Lee proves to be an outstanding Burt interpreter with Wishin' and Hopin' and (There's) Always Something Left to Remind Me--I was very pleasantly surprised.  That'll teach me to underestimate Brenda.  I sort of wish she'd done an entire Burt-Hal LP.  Always Something, by the way, shows up in its different versions with the parenthesis either around "Always" alone or "Always Something."  I have no idea what the correct form is.  A great number, however punctuated.  Magic Potion is a very catchy fast tune, perfect for the Searchers and other Invasion groups, though it could have made its status as a follow-up to Love Potion No. 9 less blatantly obvious.  My Rock and Foundation is very catchy, and it's performed by another female big band era vet, Peggy Lee, though here there's no attempt at a swing era feel.  Very black gospel, and I have to wonder if it was rejected by Dionne.  Lee does a fine job, though her style always strikes me as a bit distant.  Barry Frank, former star singer for Sammy Kaye, is anything but distant, pouring his heart into 1954's Mama Don't Cry at My Wedding, a hit for Joni James, and I wonder if Burt F. Bacharach, who conducts the orchestra, also did the charts.

To the less common Burt:

LINK: Less Common Burt, Part 3

All selections by Bacharach-David, unless otherwise noted

Accept It--Tony Orlando, Arr. and Cond. by Garry Sherman, 1964
To Wait for Love--Same
Rosanne (Manning--Osser-Osser)--Burt Bacharach, piano, Orch. Dir. Marion Evans, 1957
Searching Wind (Heyman-Young)--Same
Nikki (Burt Bacharach)--The Burt Bacharach Orch. and Chorus, 1966
Underneath the Overpass--Jo Stafford w. Paul Weston, 1957
Juanita's Place--The Burt Bacharach Orch. and Chorus, 1966
Here I Am--Sheila Southern, Orch. Cond. by Paul Fenhoulet, 1969
Nikki--Ed Ames, Arr. and Cond. by Perry Botkin, Jr., 1967
My Rock and Foundation--Peggy Lee, 1971
Send Me No Flowers--Doris Day, Arr. and Cond. by Mort Garson, 1964
Long Ago Last Summer--Diana Track, Orch. Dir. by Glenn Osser, 1960
I Cry Alone--Vikki Carr, Arr. and Cond. by Bob Florence, 1964
Wishin' and Hopin'--Brenda Lee, Chorus and Acc. Dir. by Owen Bradley, 1965
(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me--Same
Where There's a Heartache--The Sandpipers, 1970
Magic Moments--Roger Williams, 1958
Magic Potion--The Searchers, 1965
A Lifetime of Loneliness--Jackie deShannon, Arr. and Cond. by Burt Bacharach, 1965 (reissue)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--Fred X. Brown (Hit Records 16)
Be True to Yourself--Bobby Vee, Arr. and Cond. by Ernie Freeman, 1963
Mama Don't Cry at My Wedding (Helen Hudgins)--Barry Frank, Burt F. Bacharch and Orch., 1954
Are You There (With Another Girl)--The Buckinghams, 1968
Rome Will Never Leave You--Richard Chamberlain, Orch. Cond. by Perry Botkin, Jr., 1964

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers--Heaven Is My Home (Westwood Record Co. 1016)

Whenever you see R.E. Winsett, Luther G. Presley, and Albert E. Brumley in the composer credits, and titles like Jesus Is Coming Soon, He Bore It All, and I'll Have a New Life, you know you're in for some country and/or bluegrass gospel.  But you have no way of predicting how country and/or bluegrass it's going to be until you lay the needle down.  In the case of the Southern-Aires Gospel Singers, a group the internet gives me no information about, the sounds are as down home as down home gets.  Anything more down home than this, and... I don't know.  It's impossible to imagine.

And it's impossible to imagine worse sound engineering.  If this material wasn't so fascinating, I wouldn't have bothered with it, because the voices are distorted, with an extremely exaggerated treble response.  Then again, we don't know what the engineer was handed in the way of a master tape--the singers could simply have been too close to the microphones during the taping.  At any rate, combining the channels and cutting the treble made for halfway listenable sound.  For significantly less terrible sound, at least.  I'm guessing early 1970s for the recording date--discogs has a very limited discography for the label (Westwood Record Co.), with no LP dates, right here.

You could easily believe these were recorded in 1928 or so--they have the sound of some of the family gospel quartets recorded during the early electrical era, if in somewhat better fidelity.  By "better fidelity," I mean a wider frequency range, though not much of one, considering.  All I know is that I've been astonished, ever since I thrifted this disc a couple decades ago, that a style of singing this old-fashioned would have survived into the 1970s.  I have a few other examples of stuck-in-place quartet singing, but this may be the example.  And, as for why there are five people pictured for a quartet, I believe the shyly smiling blonde is Bonnie Moore, pianist.  The singers are the older folks.  And if this LP has a handed-out-at-personal-appearances look, I'm sure it's because it was.  We usually call such LPs vanity projects, but these records were the bread and butter of these groups, so I don't think that term really applies.  "Very limited production" comes to mind as a phrase.

"The singers are originally from West Virginia," read the liner notes, and my reply is, No kidding!  These highly enjoyable and wonderfully old-fashioned (but not so skillfully recorded) performances make those of outfits like the Blackwood Bros., not to mention some of the smoother quartets of the 1920s, sound slick and urban by comparison, though, as is often the case with gospel, the biggest difference is in the delivery, not the material or even the actual harmonies.  I think it would be a mistake to categorize these performances as folk in any way, as Appalachian as they sound, because the popular gospel music of the 20th century is hugely a product of song books, the singing school tradition, and highly disciplined singing, regardless of the form in which it reaches us--either as a style that sounds fresh from the hills or, say, one that sounds more RFGH (ready for the Gaither Hour).  It's all from the same pool.  Anyway, to our offering.  Bad sound, but music that makes up for it.

LINK: Heaven Is My Home--Southern-Aires Gospel Singers

Heaven's Really Gonna Shine (Brumley)
He Bore It All (Baxter, Jr.-Stamps)
I'll Have a New Life (Presley)
Angels Rock Me to Sleep (Ramsey-Easterling)
Gonna Rise up and Shine (Eugene Wright)
Salvation Has Been Brought Down (Brumley)
Heaven Is My Home (Baxter, Jr.-Swilling)
Jesus Is Coming Soon (Winsett)
Hide Me, Rock of Ages (George)
When I Looked Up and He Looked Down (Brumley)
Echoes from the Burning Bush (Foust-Summar)
Shurley (sic), I Will Lord (Brumley)
Just a Little Talk with Jesus (Derricks)

Southern-Aires Gospel Singers--Heaven Is My Home (Westwood Record Co. 1016)


Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Four Coins (Epic LN-1104; 1955)

I did considerable clean-up on my cover scans, and naturally the shiny silver quality of the four "coins" (the silver areas showing the singers' heads--a little creepy, but effective) shows up as flat gray, but the scan still looks far less beat up than the jacket.  And I had to do a lot of track splicing on My Anxious Heart, where a major tonearm slip happened at some time in the past, back when playing a record meant dooming it.  But, to use collector jargon, this is a tough LP.  If it shows up, be happy.  If you get a great copy, you're in Vinyl Heaven, and you need to check your bank accounts.  You'll find out you are no longer among, to use the Bible term, the quick.

But, hey, you're in Vinyl Heaven!

I'm on oral Prednisone because of bad bronchitis (caught just in time, just as it was turning into pneumonia), so I might be a little weirder than usual this post.  Bear with me, please.  Anyway, the very talented Four Coins of Pittsburgh were of Greek-American heritage and were signed to Columbia (and released on Epic) after first putting out sides on the Corona label--and darned if I can find a single Corona side to listen to on line.  Or for sale.  Of course, there's much, much (I mean, much) more to their amazing history, and I can't begin to improve on the many on-line write-ups, so please take a cyber trip and learn about the Coins.  Nice to see amazing success go with amazing talent, and in the first three tracks of this six (!) track 10-inch LP, you'll hear masterful "pop" covers of R&B/R&R material that, certainly in the case of I Love You Madly, improves on the original (by Charlie and Ray).  Meaning that the Diamonds didn't start the improving-on-the-original-version trend with 1956's (released in 1957) Little Darlin'.  The Four Coins had them beat.

I usually go with the originals in such cases, but I'll happily admit when a "pop" cover does it better.  It did happen.  And there are many instances of doo wop versions improving on standard pop numbers--The Ravens, with Count Every Star, Lee Andrews and the Hearts with Maybe You'll Be There and The Bells of St. Mary's, and the poster child for this trend--the Marcels' Blue Moon.

If the Four Coins' superb handling of R&B/R&R material is surprising at all, it would be because their musical director was Don Costa!

I'm not up on the history of the other two Side One tracks--you try Googling "Maybe" and "Croswell"--but I'm guessing they're white covers, too.  And beautifully done.  The flip is more "conventional" material--you just know We'll Be Married (In the Church in the Wildwood) isn't early rock and roll, but it's very entertaining.  That last track is weird, but good-weird.

This only contains a little over thirteen minutes of music, but, nevertheless, in its day this was a great lesson, to all buyers still confused by the record size vs. speed issue, that you get a lot more on a 10-inch LP than on a 78 rpm single.  One big problem was that people were used to paying a certain price for a certain diameter, and this is where the cheapo labels made a mint--by selling dirt-cheap LPs whose prices seemed reasonable to buyers who made the price-size correlation error.  And I just read on line that 10-inch LPs were on their way out by 1955 (Buster would know much more on that subject), but there were still plenty of folks confused by the size-speed issue by the mid-1950s--I'm sure of it.  You had millions of people raised on 78s, and suddenly (commercially, at least) there are three speeds, three sizes, and EP and EP sets.  There were at least three varieties of "albums" or album sets.  I can understand their confusion.

But we're talking about the Four Coins.  Hello.  Here they are.  They're great!  And let me know if there are any issues with the link.  Box has done one of its sudden changes ("improvements"), and while I do think Box is a great site, its habit of constantly revising things is, to put it frankly, very annoying.  They're trapped in that we're-offering-you-new-ways-to-do-things cliche, and internet users just want to go on line and accomplish things.  I'm happy with a short, functional menu.  I don't lie in bed at night dreaming of new options.

LINK: The Four Coins (Epic LN 1105; 1955)

I Love You Madly (C.Jones) (1954)
Maybe (Croswell) (1954)
My Anxious Heart (Sanford-O. Jones) (1955)
Rio Rita (J. McCarthy-Tierney)
We'll Be Married (In the Church in the Wildwood) (1954)
That's the Way (R. Green-Kane)

The Four Coins (Epic LN-1104; 1955)


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Less Common Burt, Part 2--1955-1976

We--well, I--continue our series of less common Burt Bacharach sides, and included are some less-than-household titles and some well-known Burt numbers--the latter, however, in "alternate," lesser-known versions.  The famous titles include Blue on Blue; The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; The Story of My Life; They Long to Be Close to You; The Windows of the World (Hal's Vietnam protest number); and What's New, Pussycat.  Famous numbers, only the performers are John Preston (who?), Jimmie Rodgers, Frankie Laine, Richard Chamberlain, Merv Griffin, and an unidentified singer (Pussycat).  Some of the lesser known titles are in the bad to mediocre range--Take Me to Your Ladder (terrible even by sex-hungry-women-aliens-on-other-worlds standards), Don't Unless You Love Me (maybe the most blah Burt number of all), Freddie and the Dreamers' I Fell in Love with Your Picture (which I can't picture anyone falling in love with), and Living Together, Growing Together, whose melody is pleasant enough but whose words are just dumb.  I don't know what I think of Little Betty Falling Star (you just know that's not a Hal title), except that I'm pleasantly surprised by the perfectly decent singing voice of George Hamilton (yes, that George Hamilton).

The Night That Heaven Fell is a near-classic, let down by its final section, which has a "Let's get this thing over with" feeling.  Too bad.  Send Me No Flowers, the theme from the Doris Day film, and Boys Were Meant for Girls are extremely pleasant numbers, and I'm not sure if I consider A Girl Like You a classic or something short of one.  It's quite lovely, and I'm assuming the lyricist, credited on the label as Anne Croswell with a single s, is this Anne Pearson Crosswell listed at IMDb.  At any rate, it's cool to see the "Burt Bacharach-Anne Croswell" credit on the label after encountering endless Burt pairings with Hal David, Wilson Stone, Paul Hampton, and Bob (The Coffee Song) Hilliard.  And novel to see Burt's name in first place, since typically the lyricist was listed first.  Such things are exciting to vinyl collectors.  We're weird people.  Oh, and I dig misspellings of Bacharach, though nothing quite matches this Columbia label snafu, in which Hal and Burt, by a typo, are turned into a three-man team:

Yup, H. David, S. Burt, and Bacharach.  This rivals anything I've encountered on the junk labels, so what was Columbia's excuse?

Back to topic, there are two masterpieces among the lesser-knowns, the first being It Seemed so Right Last Night, pretty much a more mature version of the infinitely better-known Carol King-Gerry Goffin Will You Love Me Tomorrow, which it predates by two years.  Same topic, and neither specifically mentions sex, so the earlier tune can't be charged with playing it safe by comparison.  If anything, Hal's words play it less safe--what else can "I loved you more than it was wise" possibly mean?  As much as I love Carole, her 64-bar mega-hit doesn't measure up to this overlooked gem, and Mary Mayo's magnificent performance may have a lot to do with that.  Burt toys with form to a dizzying degree (the lovely introductory chords pop up wherever Burt feels the need to put them), and Hal's words sound like less like rhymed lyrics than a heartbroken woman privately expressing her grief.  Extraordinarily eloquent, and so far ahead of the pop curve--absolutely brilliant, and anyone who can't feel the pain of the singer can't feel anything.

You might gather that It Seemed so Right Last Night is my favorite Burt-Hal.  It very well might be.  But there's also the run-over-by-a-speeding-train The Desperate Hours, featuring a performance by Eileen Rodgers that redefines the word "dynamic," with Eileen backed by a powerful Ray Conniff production and arrangement that rocks the needle off the record without pushing the dynamic level to the max and making everything uniformly LOUD--a practice that ruined many a rock single to come.  Conniff's expert use of echo, for me at least, makes it hard to endure some of the more echo-drowned rock discs of the 1960s.  Ray showed how to produce a rocking record (whether rock, jazz, or country) with artistry.  He showed that there's a lot you can do with sound in the studio without destroying it in the process.  Then came rock and sonic destruction became hip.  Smashing the guitars, amps, etc. was just the next logical step.  (No, I don't hate rock that much.  But it made a virtue out of deafening loudness.)

The very existence of this Eileen Rodgers disc seems to confuse some Burt discographers, because Burt and Wilson Stone apparently also wrote a promotional song, These Desperate Hours, for the 1955 movie The Desperate Hours.  Confused yet?  Mel Torme sang the latter title.  I've tried to piece together the facts behind this mess, but I gave up a while ago.  So where the hell does the Rodgers record fit in?  I have no idea, but I thank (insert deity of choice) for it.

Merv singing The Windows of the World?  Why not?  I suspect he was no fan of the war.  Neither were Mitch Miller or, as mentioned before, Hal David.  The song touches me deeply, and if it's not a favorite of the Burt fans, it's their loss.  I've always considered 1965's What the World Needs Now a rather obvious anti-Vietnam song, and from the year when such songs were coming into vogue (though I hate to use a word like "vogue" in connection with war protest).  In 1965, Mitch Miller and the Gang, then on Decca, recorded the devastating A Ballad from Vietnam (The Rain on the Leaves).  Things that move our soul can come from the least expected sources.

Oh, and Blue Guitar, which I mentioned last time, though it wasn't in the playlist.  I absolutely love it, and it's corny, and Richard Chamberlain's singing is annoying, but the refrain is genius.  And if you didn't know that Richard did the first version (in 1963) of They Long to Be Close to You, you do now.  And the proof is in the playlist.  He doesn't do too badly, and the sluggish tempo can't be blamed on him--the conductor was Burt himself.  And, back to the subject of clunkers, I love the sheer awfulness of the anonymous Modern Sound label version of What's New, Pussycat (the title of which shows up in different punctuation, or none at all, from version to version), which makes me wonder if Modern Sound could actually have been that unable to find someone who sounded remotely like Tom Jones.  It's so bad.  BUT it retains the greatest part of the original single--the smashing glass in the intro.  The version on Jones' Decca Greatest Hits LP is a different version and far inferior to the single.  No smashing glass, for one thing.

Ian and the Zodiacs' garage-y version of This Empty Place doesn't hold a candle to Dionne Warwick's hit, but finding the single (at a long-gone flea market) alerted me to the phenomenon of British Invasion groups doing Burt.  Which is weird, because I'd grown up with Tom Jones' Pussycat and with the Beatles' version of Baby It's You.  It should have been old knowledge.  But I guess, when we forget something, we stop knowing it.  A deep philosophical question for a later post.

LINK: Less Common Burt, Part 2

All titles Bacharach-David, unless otherwise noted

April Fools--Aretha Franklin, 1972
This Empty Place--Ian and the Zodiacs, 1965
Send Me No Flowers--Doris Day, Arr. and Cond. by Mort Garson, 1964
In Times Like These--Gene McDaniels, Orch. Cond. by Felix Slatkin, 1960
Hot Spell--Margaret Whiting, 1960
The Night That Heaven Fell--Tony Bennett w. Ray Ellis and his Orch. and Cho., 1958
Boys Were Made for Girls--Everit Herter w. Orch. and Chorus Cond. by Hub Atwood, 1960
It Seemed so Right Last Night--Mary Mayo w. Ray Wright and his Orch., 1958
Don't Unless You Love Me (Bacharach-Hampton)--Paul Hampton, Orch. Cond. by Burt Bacharach, 1959
A Girl Like You (Bacharach--Anne Crosswell)--Larry Hall, Orch. Dir. by Al Caiola. 1960
Living Together, Growing Together--The 5th Dimension, 1972
Blue on Blue--John Preston (Hit Records 69)
What's New, Pussycat--No artist credited (Modern Sound MS 1012)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--Jimmie Rodgers, 1962
Little Betty Falling Star (Bacharach-Hilliard)--George Hamilton, 1963
The Desperate Hours (Bacharach-Stone)--Eileen Rodgers w. Ray Conniff and his Orch., 1955
Heavenly (Bacharach-Shaw)--Johnny Mathis, Arr. and Cond. by Glenn Osser
Blue Guitar--Richard Chamberlain, Cond. Bill McElhiney, 1963
They Long to Be Close to You--Richard Chamberlain,  Cond. Burt Bacharach, 1963
I Fell in Love with Your Picture--Freddie and the Dreamers. 1965
Faithfully (Bacharach-Shaw)--Johnny Mathis, Arr. and Cond. by Glenn Osser, 1959
The Story of My Life--Frankie Laine w. the Jimmy Bowen Orch. and Chorus. 1969
The Windows of the World--Merv Griffin, Arr. and Cond. by Stephen H. Dorff, 1976
Take Me to Your Ladder (I'll See Your Leader Later) (Bacharach-Hilliard)--Buddy Clinton, 1960


Sunday, March 03, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: Joe Emerson's Hymntime (RCA LSP-2190; 1960)

This is a thrift find from maybe ten years ago.  I'd never heard of Joe Emerson, but the track listing convinced me to plunk down 99 cents, or whatever the sticky label said.  I peeled it off long ago, so lost is the history of what I paid.

Anyway, familiar gospel hymns--Higher Ground, Near the Cross, and Under His Wings--and two pop-sacred numbers, including one I was vaguely familiar with: You Go to Your Church, and I'll Go to Mine.  It was the number that made this a must-have, and Emerson's version is very good.

You Go to Your Church is credited to Seth Parker and Phillips H. Lord, who were actually the same person--Seth was a character Lord played on the radio. The number dates from a period when evangelical Christianity, a.k.a. evangelicalism, was still a much more inclusive and progressive thing than anyone today might imagine unless he or she had studied its history.  The other pop-sacred number, (When They All) Get Together with the Lord, with words by Moe (Collegiate) Jaffee, is less distinguished, though it contains a great line: "Then the right go on livin', the wrong get forgiven, When they all get together with the Lord."  Well, it sounded great the first time around.  Anyway, a more forgiving and ecumenical type of everyday faith on display here.  Things would change.

As a singer, Joe Emerson displays the kind of emotional involvement we'd expect from someone who had his own radio and TV series, plus regular gigs with Billy Graham.  I like the line-up of mostly old standards, but I don't like the omission of author credits--what we get instead are arranging credits for Emerson and music director Lee Erwin.  So I looked up the words-and-music info and provided it below.

RCA's Living Stereo sounds good here, despite some minor disc wear,

LINKJoe Emerson's Hymntime (RCA Victor LSP-2190; 1960)

Closer Still (Beattie-Gabriel)
'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (Stead-Kirkpatrick)
On Jordan's Stormy Banks (Stennett-Durham)
My Jesus, I Love Thee (Featherston-Gordon)
Under His Wings (Cushing-Sankey)
You Go to Your Church, and I'll Go to Mine (Phillips H. Lord)
Near the Cross (Crosby-Bradbury)
Shall We Gather at the River (Lowry)
(When They All) Get Together with the Lord (Moe Jaffe-Bickley Reichner)
Lead Me Savior (Frank M. Davis)
Let Him In (Atchinson-Excell)
Higher Ground (Oatman, Jr.-Gabriel)


Friday, March 01, 2019

Less Common Burt, Part 1: 1952-1968

By request, some (actually, a lot of) less common Burt Bacharach recordings.  I almost typed "Bacharach numbers," but a small number of these are, in fact, little-heard versions of well-known titles.  Familiar titles, renditions you likely never heard.  I'm the man for that kind of thing, if I don't say so myself, he said.

I've included (toward the end of the list) what is, to the best of my knowledge, the first recording of a Burt song--Once in a Blue Moon, as expertly performed on piano by the brilliant Nat "King" Cole in 1952.  I ripped it from my scratched up copy of Cole's Penthouse Serenade EP, and VinylStudio did an extraordinarily good job on the surface noise--I only had to manually remove two or three pops on MAGIX.  VinylStudio is an amazing program whose makers should really consider fixing up--its bugs are a total pain, and an export problem I alerted them to a year ago remains unfixed.  What's up with that?  (Expression of annoyance.)  Oh, if Blue Moon sounds familiar, it's because it's from Rubinstein's Melody in F.

These numbers date from both before and during Burt's household-name period.  It's actually difficult to say exactly when that period started, because Burt and Hal's hugely successful Magic Moments dates all the way back to 1957 (and, therefore, me).  But it wasn't until about 1965 that he started his quick climb to super-stardom as a songwriter in the U.S., though the Brits were already nuts about him--hence, all the Burt tracks recorded by Invasion groups like the Beatles, Manfred Mann, and the Searchers.  And I should note these tracks are all from vinyl in my collection, ripped by me--no CD steals.  My quest for early Burt material started around 2000, a time when much of my thrifting was devoted to finding "wrong" versions of Beatles songs--Burt numbers were popping up along with them on LPs by Engelbert Humperdinck and Petula Clark, and Bacharach titles were showing up in various-artist boxes in a big flea market I visited weekly.  I loved what I was hearing, and I'd already had a group of favorite Burts from back in the day, so I had to find more of these, and I did.  I was completely unaware that I was operating slightly ahead of a trend, so I was slightly stunned, in the midst of my Burt-digging, to find an early-Burt discography on line.  I was thrilled and, to a degree, miffed that this information was easily available, because it took the sport out of my hunting.  But so it goes sometimes.  It took none of the fun out of the music.

About three or four years into this blog, I received a request from a Burt associate for a CD of early titles--for Burt himself!  I gladly ripped one, and I got a lot of cool promo CD sets in return.  Because my memory sucks, I can't tell you the year, but I started this blog in 2005, so it had to be circa 2008.

In terms of song quality, these titles run the gamut from why-didn't-it-become-a-hit? to oh-my-God.  In the former category, there's the magnificent That Kind of Woman, taken from the single (to fulfill David Federman's request), Saturday Sunshine (catchy song, great production), Moon Man (beautifully performed, and a lot more sophisticated than the title suggests), Come and Get Me (a minor chart hit but a great tune, and one of the Burt finds that convinced me to go Burt-crazy), Waiting for Charlie to Come Home (originally recorded by Etta James in 1962), Loving Is a Way of Loiving, and Blue Guitar (yes, it's Richard Chamberlain, and it's a bit corny, but it has that Burt brilliance).  (Oops.  Blue Guitar is in the next playlist. Sorry!) The clunkers hit the deck with the force of a falling bookcase, and for worst-of honors. I'm torn between Take Me to Your Ladder and Joanie's Forever, both of which happen to occur on the same single.  Ladder is coming next post, but we get to endure Joanie this time around.  Keep in mind that the same lyricist, Bob Hilliard, gave us I'm Late (from Alice in Wonderland, and recently featured here in its wonderful Alan Dale version) and Any Day Now, which is to say that he was a gifted person, and only human.  (Maybe he was half asleep here, with the deadline looming.)  Actual lyrics from Joanie's Forever: "My Joanie's forever was less than a week.  She loved me on Friday; by Monday, we didn't even speak."  Joanie's "forever."  Get it?  And the flip is, believe it or don't, far worse.

Other duds: Sad Sack sucks, and not just because Jerry Lewis is singing it, but that doesn't help.  And This Is Mine isn't bad, but Connie Stevens' pitch-straying nearly wrecks it.  Someone Else's Sweetheart is pretty throwaway as a tune, and it's sunk by the over the top production.  I guess we got off fairly easy, this time around, on the really bad sides.

And there are the numbers that rate as perfectly okay--the cute Perry Como single You're Following Me, Alan Dale's I Cry More, which I find simultaneously catchy and annoying, The Morning Mail (which misses its mark but doesn't bomb), and the very clever but too derivative Keep Me in MindKeep Me in Mind is the kind of number that has the critic expecting bigger and better (and more original) things from its writers.  And, in the case of Burt and Hal, that expectation would be majorly rewarded.

Rosemary Clooney's version of One Less Bell to Answer had some chart success, though of course the Fifth Dimension's version two years later was a monster hit.  (I will refrain from using the "hit the right buttons" cliche.)  I remember the latter disc being played almost nonstop on AM radio.  Great song, and Clooney is good, though her voice isn't all there.  This was close to the time of her breakdown, I believe.  I have issues with Let Your Love Come Through, despite my love for the song and Shani Wallis' absurdly over-arranged version.  It's one of my favorite Burt singles, but Burt had to have had Day Tripper playing in the back of his head when he wrote the melody--it's just too close to be a coincidence.  Granted, Burt does tricky things with rhythm throughout the song--that's part of its appeal--and Day Tripper is straight 4/4, but the main hook is still way too close to John Lennon's.  A good argument in Burt's defense, besides the fact that unconscious swipes happen all the time (the brain forgets where it heard a given phrase), is that the riff in question is little more than a a V7 arpeggio.  Personally, I never say "plagiarism" (in this case, accidental, I'm sure) over a single phrase--the similarities have to continue throughout the song, as in My Sweet Lord, for instance.

Anyway, 24 less common tracks by an uncommonly talented songwriter:

LINK: Less Common Burt, 1952-1968

All with lyrics by Hal David, except where noted

That Kind of Woman--Joe Williams, Orch. cond. by Jimmy Jones (Roulette 4185; 1959)
The Morning Mail--The Gallahads w. Billy Mure's Orch., 1956
I Cry More--Alan Dale w. Orch. and Cho. Dir. by Dick Jacobs, 1956
And This Is Mine--Connie Stevens w. Neal Hefti Orch., 1961
Sad Sack--Jerry Lewis w. Chorus and Orch. Dir. Sonny Burke, 1957
You're Telling Our Secrets--Dee Clark, 1961
One Less Bell to Answer--Rosemary Clooney, Arr. and Cond. by Shorty Rogers, 1968
Saturday Sunshine--Johnny Mathis, Arr. and Cond. by Tony Osborne, 1967
Hot Spell (Burt Bacharach-Mack David)--Ernie Felice w. Dennis Farnon Orch. and Cho., 1958
My Heart Is a Ball of String--The Rangoons, 1961
Keep Me in Mind--Patti Page w. Jack Rael and his Orch., 1955
Moon Man--Gloria Lambert, Orch. Cond. by Richard Maltby, 1959
Come and Get Me--Jackie deShannon, Arr. and Cond. by Burt Bacharch, 1966
Waiting for Charlie to Come Home (Bacharach-Hilliard)--Marlena Shaw, 1967
Cryin', Sobbin', Wailin' (Bacharach-Jonas)--Dane Hunter, Acc. by Les Reed, 1965
Loving Is a Way of Living--Steve Lawrence, Arr. and Cond. by Don Costa, 1959
Out of My Continental Mind (Bacharach-Shaw)--Lena Horne w. Anthony Morelli and his Sands Hotel Orch., 1961
Moon Guitar--The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett, 1966
Somebody Else's Sweetheart--The Wanderers, Arr. and Cond. by Teacho Wiltshire, 1961
Once in a Blue Moon (Burt Bacharach; based on Rubenstein's Melody in F)--Nat "King" Cole, Piano, 1952
You're Following Me (Bacharach-Hilliard)--Perry Como w. Ray Charles Singers, Mitch Ayres Orch., 1961
Liberty Valance--No artist credited (Top Tunes 2-33)
Let Your Love Come Through--Shani Wallis, Arr. and Cond. by David Whitaker, 1967

Joanie's Forever (Bacharach-Hilliard)--Buddy Clinton, 1960


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: The Plainsmen Quartet--Little Is Much (1965)

Two posts back, we heard another LP from Heart Warming Records, and I spelled it "Heart Warming," though "Heartwarming" is an alternate spelling, according to discogs.  The label doesn't make it all that clear.  Sure, it looks like two separate words, what with the two hearts between "Heart" and "Warming," but I think I've seen it printed without the space.  Of course, as I search for an example, I can't find one, so maybe I'm having a memory fart.  At any rate, discogs isn't certain on the right way to spell the label, so there must be room for confusion.  And I can't believe I've wasted a decent-sized paragraph on this non-issue.

The main thing is, our last Heart Warming LP, which featured the Oak Ridge Boys, had a pretty awful cover photo.  Today's cover photo is a monumental step up.  So, clearly, bad jackets are not a given for this label.  This was a recent Goodwill find, and anymore I base my gospel LP buys on how many songs (or songwriters) I recognize--and what I think of them.  This has I Wouldn't Take Nothin' for My Journey Now, They Tore the Old Country Church DownCryin' in the Chapel, and a song by Doris Akers (Sweet Jesus), and so it was a must-buy.  Superb singing, and with a perfect balance between slow, heartfelt ballads and fast, rock-the-grooves numbers.  Many years back, when I first heard of I Wouldn't Take Nothin' for My Journey Now, I knew I was dealing with a country-idiomatic title.  The ambiguity, at least to my NW Ohio brain, is fascinating.  To wit, is the person saying he doesn't intend to take anything with him on his journey to Heaven--for instance, no suitcases, trunks, or rare baseball cards?  Or is he saying that he wouldn't trade anything for his trip to Heaven?  Well, it's the latter, of course, but I still find the title enigmatic in a fun way.  It's a great song--one of the modern classics.  Modern in terms of the whole of gospel song history, that is--to some, praise songs of the 1980s are oldies.  Depends on whether you reference "modern" to your own listening and playing experience or to the long haul of history.

Cryin' in the Chapel is one of those pop numbers that's close enough to a sacred song to sort of/kind of jump from pop to gospel.  It helps that Elvis recorded it in a gospel mode, of course.  Little Richard did a gospel-style rendition, too.  There are lots of almost-sacred numbers that exist on the edge of gospel, including Whispering Hope, You'll Never Walk Alone, Climb Every Mountain, He, and the like.  I hate Climb Every Mountain, by the way, and it may be memories of singing it in eighth grade music class, in which our teacher had us go over the "Follow every rainBOW" phrase about a million times, just to get the accent right on "-bow," which was somehow important.  None of us wanted to sing anything, including numbers from The Sound of Music, but she wasn't interested in what we wanted.   Anyway, many inspirational, almost-sacred, or vaguely religious numbers--or simply movie airs that accompany a scene in the afterlife (like the lovely main theme from Somewhere in Time, which makes its last appearance in the Titanic-imitated scene where Richard Collier reunites after death with Elise McKenna)--end up shuffled into the "inspirational" category, which could be considered sacred easy-listening, maybe.  Clearly, I have no idea what I'm typing, so time to move on to the excellent Plainsmen Quartet, not to be confused with the Plainclothes Quartet.  Hardy, har, har.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Plainsmen Quartet--Little Is More (Heart Warming LPHF 1837; 1965)

Little Is Much
I Wouldn't Take Nothin' for My Journey Now
I'm Poor as a Beggar (Brumley)
You Just Don't Know What Lonesome Is
I am the Man
I'd Rather Live in the Valley
They Tore the Old Country Church Down
So Many Reasons
He Holds My Hand
Sittin' Around the Table of the Lord
Sweet Jesus (Doris Akers)
Cryin' in the Chapel (Artie Glenn)

The Plainsmen Quartet--Little Is Much (Heart Warming LPFH-1837; 1965)


Friday, February 22, 2019

Paul Whiteman, Part Six! 1920-1933

It's past time for another helping of Paul Whiteman 78s--my series went into pause mode in November of last year so I could devote time to my annual Christmas blogging, but we're back.  All of today's twenty sides were ripped and repaired from my overflowing 78 collection by me and VinylStudio and MAGIX.  I still have four parts to go, so... on with the shoe.  And if you don't get that reference, you're what people my age call young.  Our playlist includes three #1 Whiteman hits--1920's magnificent The Japanese Sandman (Whiteman's second release), 1921's Cherie, and 1922's Three O'Clock in the Morning.  The 1925 Halloween classic Ah-Ha! (well, that's how I usually utilize it) features four vocalists, including Billy Murray, but I have no idea who's doing the Snidely Whiplash lead, so I'm leaving it at "vocal refrain," as on the label.  All are 10-inchers, save for the 12-inch I Can't Give You Anything but Love, recorded in 1928 (and featuring a highly creative Ferde Grofe arrangement) and Just Snap Your Fingers at Care--Darling (Medley) of 1920.

The single "hot" side is Doo Wacka Doo, featuring Billy Murray, only up front this time.  And what a voice--a tenor practically designed for the acoustical recording process .  Highly imaginative arranging throughout these numbers.  Disc condition varies, of course, but no moments of noise too awful to bear--nothing close to that.  Just a few bouts of opening wear, and stuff like that.  These are 78's--come on.

One George Gershwin number--an early one, of course.  I Found a Four Leaf Clover, from George White's Scandals of 1922.

To the Whiteman!

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Paul Whiteman, Part 6

I Found a Four Leaf Clover (Gershwin)--1922
Love Bird--Medley--1921
Three O'Clock in the Morning (A: Grofe)--1922
Song of India (A: Whiteman)--1921
Cho-Cho-San (A: Hugo Frey) 
Oh, Joseph! (A: Grofe)--1924
Shanghai Lullaby (Isham Jones)--1923
Ah-Ha!--w. vocal refrain, 1925
Honolulu Eyes (A: Grofe)--1921
My Man (Mon Homme)--1921
I Can't Give You Anything but Love (A: Grofe)--v: Jack Fulton, 1928
Bright Eyes--Medley--1921
The Japanese Sandman (A: Grofe)--1920
When the Sun Bids the Moon Goodnight--v: Jack Fulton, 1933
Doo Wacka Doo--v: Bill Murray, 1924
'Neath the South Sea Moon--1922
Just Snap Your Fingers at Care--Darling (Medley)--1921
Pal of My Cradle Days (A: Grofe)--v: Lewis James, 1925


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday morning gospel--Life Is like a mountain railroad: Sacred shellac (1905-1928)

We start with the Vaughan Quartet's 1928 recording of His Charming Love, with its flip, I Want to Go There, Don't You?  Somewhere, I have the James D. Vaughan songbook containing the first number, with its complex overlaying of voices.  And I used to know something about this group, but I forgot it all, and a quick Google search gave nothing specific.  Suffice it to say the group's mission was to promote Vaughan's songbooks, which it probably did very successfully, given its outstanding musicianship.

Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett's renditions of Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan and Alabama Jubilee are poster children for the "old-timey" country gospel sound--what many would dub bluegrass--and the latter title is often, maybe usually, associated with the Mummers Parade, thanks to the 1955 hit version by the Ferko String Band.  But it goes back at least as far as 1915, and the lyrics are clearing describing an African-American religious meeting, complete with faith-healing.  It's taken at a tempo slower than we're used to.

Even more "old-timey" are Marshall Smith's two Columbia sides from the same year (1926), and darned if I can make out most of the words in Jonah and the Whale.  I did a ton of manual click removal for these, so what you're hearing is much better than what came out of the grooves initially.  While just as down-home-sounding (and from the same year), the Wisdom Sisters (Sitting at the Feet of Jesus; Amazing Grace) offer more precise enunciation, to say the least, though I still have trouble making out many of their words.   Could be an issue of accent or the limited sound technology of 1926, though I'm leaning toward the former. Could be anything--proximity to the mics, lack of experience in the recording studio, my own hearing.  Dunno.

The trio's haunting rendition of Amazing Grace is not the first recording of this number--Wikipedia gives that credit to a group called the Sacred Harp Choir in 1922.  The Grace melody sounded a bit off to me at points, as if the lead (top) voice was staying on the tonic instead of descending, but listening with my portable player, it's clear that I was confusing the lead with the second voice, which overlaps the lead as it descends.  Typically, it's headphone listening that yields the most reliable detail--in this case, it was my player.  I have trouble with the harmonizing of the cadence which closes each stanza, which is pure "folk" in its more or less parallel descent, the problem being the V7 without a root--or maybe it's the glaring augmented fourth in the two lowest voices on the middle chord.  It just sounds wrong, like a passing tone that never finds peace.  It bugs my ear, but there's no right or wrong in music--it's all an issue of what sounds correct to the listener.  At any rate, this is the Amazing Grace melody we know and love.  The text is from 1779, and it's been set to any number of different tunes over the past 240 years, with the present melody (from the early 1800s) finally winning out about, oh, 1900-ish.  That's a safe guess, I think.

The McCravy Brother's terrific Jacob's Ladder has an issue date of 1945, but it's a continuation of an old catalog series for the label, Gennett, and it sounds exactly like the McCravy's 1920s material, so I suspect it's from 1927 or thereabouts.  It just had to wait a couple decades to hit the shelves.  Charles H. Gabriel's Glory Song was one of the hugest gospel song hits of all time, and this 1905 version by the Haydn Quartet was one of my best-ever Goodwill finds, even if the disc was cracked.  I figured I could realign the disc and Scotch-tape the reverse to make it playable, and I was correct--worked like a charm.  Another Gabriel number follows, this time rendered by Scottish evangelist William McEwan (a.k.a. MacEwan)--a fun anthem called All Hail, Immanuel, which makes a great solo number on the organ.  I used it as such several weeks back, and the congregation loved it.  The chorus is a workout, at least in standard four-part arrangement.  The two Tietge Sisters sides are lovely, and the trio harmonies are more "correct" than the Wisdom Sisters', but, when you come down to it, "correct" is whatever sounds correct.  Maybe conventional is the better word.  Master, the Tempest Is Raging has always been one of my favorite gospel songs, and it hails from the late 19th century.

Then we're back to old-timey quartet sounds, with two groups that make the Vaughan Quartet sound like city folk--Smith's Sacred Singers and the McMillan Quartet.  The former is from Georgia--not sure about the second.  1927 sides from both, and all superb.  We Shall Rise might be my favorite Smith's side of them all, and I spent years hunting it down in old songbooks, partly because it's very close to another Resurrection Morning song, and I wanted to confirm that they were, indeed, two separate songs.  I was right--there are.  I prefer this one.  If I had the music handy, I'd give the year of composition, but I don't.  1911, I think.

I trimmed this 23-song playlist to 20, removing a few numbers that sounded a little out of character due to their more sentimental style.  Nothing wrong with a sentimental approach, but it just doesn't gel with the overall tone of this set.  The exuberant Jacob's Ladder doesn't, either, but I thought that it made for a nice halfway-point jolt, so I kept it in.  A nice "Aren't we having fun?" side before returning to the no-nonsense gospel of The Glory Song and Master the Tempest Is Raging.  I do put some degree of planning into these things.

Oh, yeah--and another once-super-famous gospel number, Life's Railway to Heaven.  Under "metaphor" in the dictionary, they ought to put "Hear Life's Railway to Heaven."

All 78s from my collection and curve-corrected and filtered by me.  I was without info on the Gennett curve, so I went by ear.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR:  Sacred Shellac

His Charming Love--Vaughan Quartet (Victor V-40045; 1928)
I Want to Go There, Don't You?--Same
Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan--Gid Tanner and His Skillet-Lickers w. Riley Puckett (Columbia 15104-D; 1926)
Alabama Jubilee--Same
Home in the Rock--Marshall Smith (Columbia 15080-D; 1926)
Jonah and the Whale--Marshall Smith and John Marlor (Same)
Sitting at the Feet of Jesus--The Wisdom Sisters (Columbia 15093-D; 1926)
Amazing Grace--Same
Jacob's Ladder--McCravy Brothers (Gennett 3503; 1945--probably reissue)
Glory Song (O, That will be Glory--Chas. H. Gabriel)--Haydn Quartet, 1905 (Victor 4398; 1905)
All Hail, Immanuel (Chas. H. Gabriel)--William McEwan (Columbia A1365; 1913)
Master the Tempest Is Raging (Palmer)--Tietge Sisters (Victor 20515; 1926)
The Name of Jesus (Martin-Lorenz)--Same
We Shall Rise--Smith's Sacred Singers (Columbia 15230-D; 1927)
I Want to Go to Heaven--Same
City of Gold--Smith's Sacred Singers (Columbia 15195-D; 1927)
Climbing up the Golden Stairs--Same
No Stranger Yonder--McMillan Quartet (Columbia 15194-D; 1927)
Glory Is Coming--Same
Life's Railway to Heaven (Abbey-Tillman)--Charles Harrison-Clifford Cairns (Victor 18925; 1922)


Friday, February 15, 2019

Various singles, Part 5--"Two Hearts"-athon, June Valli, Gayle Lark, The Doodlers

Yes, a four-selection Two Hearts, Two Kisses (Make One Love)--athon, featuring four versions of the 1955 hit for Otis Williams and the Charms, famously covered by Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.  I'm giving you one real-label cover version (the outstanding Doodlers, on RCA Victor), and three fake hits--Bob Vance on Big 4 Hits, Rudy Weldon on Prom, and Gayle Lark on Tops.  I did a big search through my platters for the Gayle Lark Tops version, certain that I had it.  Looked and looked, and turns out it was a few feet away in a small row of 78s.  Plus, I'd already ripped it.  Oops.  Clearly, I need a staff.  The cats are no help in this department.  They just get hair all over things.

Then, the lovely instrumental Candlelight, by Mantovani and his Orch.,1956, and this may be my favorite Monty track of them all.  Artie Malvin follows with Eleventh Hour Melody, which is not the ideal number to follow Candlelight with, since both are slow numbers.  Then again, they're following the Two Hearts-athon, so maybe two slow numbers fit the bill.  (These decisions are complicated.)  I just now noticed how dull Malvin's rendering is--the thing needs some dramatic punch.  It usually has a sort of spooky effect.  Luckily, waiting for us on the Tops label is an excellent Rags to Riches by Bud Roman, with especially nice sound for 1953, considering it's an early Tops 45.  (They don't always sound this good.)  The Halley Sisters follow with a good Rock Love, though it clearly copies one of the pop covers of the title, as opposed to the Lula Reed originalDon't Shake the Tree is the flip side of the Doodler's Two Hearts, and the lyrics don't play games, even if they describe someone who does.  And Steve Lawrence tries his hand at two rock and roll numbers, and he does very well, though you just know that Steve Lawrence doing two rock and roll numbers is enough to have the rock critics screaming "Blasphemy!"  Or laughing uncontrollably.  Which means Steve was doing something right.

I'm assuming As the World Turns has nothing to do with the soap opera.  I do know (thanks to Wikipedia) that singer Ginny Gibson was actually Virginia Nelson, and that she sang on the Chiquita Banana TV commercial, among many other TV ad spots.  Now we know.  Sally Sweetland's Jambalaya is pretty good, and her voice is even more of a contralto than Jo Stafford's, unless maybe the Waldorf label slowed this down a little for the pressing.  It does sound a little draggy.  Needless to say, Sally is not imitating Hank Williams.  Chuck Lovett's Short Fat Fannie is a cover pretty close to the original--the label is Gateway Top Tune (1957).  Looking up "Chuck Lovett," I got a bunch of Manson "family" matches, since there was a Chuck Lovett in that group.  Charming.  Two June Valli sides follow, the first--From the Wrong Side of Town--featuring Valli's usual Elvis-style over-selling, though the theme is interesting, since it would become a cliche in rock and roll.  It was written by country songwriter Harlan Howard.  The second, a nice Leiber-Stoller number, has Valli in a far more subtle mode, and she should have tried this more often.  She's double-tracked on the bridge and twice on the hook.  No, three times.  Whatever.  She fooled me at the end.  This predates Spanish Harlem, of course.

We continue with two 1951 very pleasant easy listening sides (I guess they wouldn't be easy listening if they weren't pleasant) on the Rexford label, which I never heard of before finding this or since, and they're by Norman Greene, a big band trombonist who played with Louis Armstrong.  Bob Sharples, aka "Lightnin" Bob, gives us the Hurricane Boogie, complete with prerecorded sound effects.  We end with three cheap-label covers, the most interesting being the Bell label Little Darlin', which either by accident or intention sounds more like the Gladiolas original than the Diamonds cover.  It's a gem.  Come to think of it, I don't think I've heard a bad fake-label version of Little Darlin', though all fall into the cover-of-a-cover category.  Except this one.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Various singles, Part 5

Two Hearts--Bob Vance (Big 4 Hits 140; 1955)
Two Hearts, Two Kisses--Rudy Weldon w. the Prom Orch. and the Argyles (Prom 1114)
Two Hearts (Two Kisses)--Gayle Lark w. Nat Charles Orch. (Tops R256)
Two Hearts--The Doodlers (RCA Victor 47-6074; 1955)
Two Hearts--Loren Becker and the Brigadiers (18 Top Hits 151)
Candlelight--Mantovani and his Orch.  (1956)
Eleventh Hour Melody--Artie Malvin w. Enoch Light Orch. (18 Top Hits 174)
Rags to Riches--Bud Roman w. Lew Raymond Orch. (Tops 380; 1953)
Rock Love--Halley Sisters w. the Prom Orch. (Prom 1108; 1955)
Don't Shake the Tree--The Doodlers (RCA Victor 47-6074; 1955)
The Chicken and the Hawk (Leiber-Stoller)--Steve Lawrence w. Dick Jaccbs Orch., 1955
As the World Turns--Ginny Gibson (Virginia Nelson) w. Dick Wess Orch. (Charles ZTSP 85276; 1962)
Jambalaya--Sally Sweetland w. the Enoch Light Chorus and Orch. (Waldorf Record Corp. P111)
Short Fat Fannie--Chuck Lovett w. Herbie Layne's Orch. (Gateway Top Tune 1220; 1957)
From the Wrong Side of Town--June Valli w. Joe Reisman's Orch. and Cho., 1956
Will You Love Me Still (Leiber-Stoller)--June Valli w. Joe Reisman's Orch., 1957
Black Magic--The Norman Greene Orchestra (Rexford 103; 1951)
Little White Lies--Same
Hurricane Boogie--Bob Sharples and his Music, featuring "Lightnin" Bob (1956)
Without a Song--The Checkers (King 4675; 1953)
White Cliffs of Dover--Same
Don't Be Angry--The Four Jacks w. Herbie Layne's Orch. (Gateway Top Tune 1121; 1955)
Pledging My Love--Mona Grey w. the Prom Orch. (Prom 1110; 1955)
Little Darlin'--Bob Miller w. Michael Stewart Quartet (Bell 35; 1957)


Monday, February 11, 2019

A less recent version of "Deliverance Will Come" ("Palms of Victory") and 1914 John McCormack

On Sunday, I shared the terrific Oak Ridge Boys version of Palms of Victory, a.k.a. Deliverance Will Come (and vice versa), an 1836 song they wished they'd recorded first. Here's the 1928 version by Smith's Sacred Singers, which the Singers take at about 1/10 the tempo.

My copy is quite worn, but I sicced MAGIX's DeNoiser on it, and it hasn't sounded the same since.  Why the group whispers the final repeat of the chorus, I know not.  The volume dip actually helped my cause--it showed me precisely where it was necessary to cut and boost to maximize detail.  Thank you, quiet last chorus repeat.

I've also uploaded my restoration of John McCormack's 1914 recording of the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria, featuring Fritz Kreisler on violin and Vincent O'Brien on piano.  You'll hear the surface noise taking over at the end!  But I think I got a nice file out of it.  Found a copy on eBay (or was it discogs?)--I always wanted the 78 to see what I could do with it.  The 1958 RCA Camden transfer, while likely superb for its day, doesn't sound quite as good in 2019.  I don't know why pianist Vincent O'Brien speeds up a bit during the piano intro.  I never noticed this until I made my own rip.

Update: I redid the Ave Maria rip a bit--see additional link below.  I think I'd left in a little too much hiss in my effort to bring out all the musical detail.  My copy is fine shape, but it' a noisy side!
Update 2: I also redid Deliverance Will Come, this time with the normal 78 rpm stylus width (2.7 mil).  I think the results are a lot better.  I posted the new file below.  For individual, non-zip files, the Box download button is in the upper r.h. corner, or you can listen at the site!

To the sides:

Deliverance Will Come--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1928

Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)--John McCormack, w. Fritz Kreisler and Vincent O'Brien, 1914

Revised McCormack file:

Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod) 2--John McCormack, w. Fritz Kresiler and Vincent O'Brien, 1914

Revised Smith's Sacred Singers file:

Deliverance Will Come 2--Smith's Sacred Singers, 1928

Third time's a charm:

Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod) 3--John McCormack w. Fritz Kreister and Vincent O'Brien, 1914.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: The Oak Ridge Boys--Songs We Wished We'd Recorded First (1966)

The title and the back jacket notes (included in the zip file) tell it all.  Looking at the jacket right now, I'm astonished it gave me such a hassle on the image-editing end--it doesn't look all that rough, but scanners bring out every last detail you didn't know was there.  And I obsessively clone-clean everything, and my wrists are practically falling off as I type this.  I know that jackets can be cleaned to an extent--carefully, of course.  Cleaned in real life, I mean,  with water and paper towel (or a coffee filter), though I've never had tons of luck going that route.  A YouTube video shows a guy using Clorox wipes with much success, but for me they were no improvement over water and paper towels.  I don't think these jackets were made to be cleaned.  Anyway....

"Producing a record album is a very complex affair," says the liner essay.  It lists all the tasks involved, including producing a photograph.  And, no offense to the Heart Warming label, but it looks like they saved money in that department.  Put the group in a dark room, have them say "cheese," snap shutter, print whatever shows up--not a big bite out of the budget, I'm guessing.  But do we buy these for brilliantly designed jackets?  No.  Btw, for some reason, in the track labeling, I typed the label as "Heartwarming." No biggie, but....  I see I at least got the "HWS" part right.  I was afraid I'd mistyped it as "HMS."  You know, recorded at Harvard Medical School.  I am not fully with it tonight.

The Oak Ridge Boys, luckily, are fully with it on these 1966 tracks.  I bought this 99-cent Goodwill special because of Palms of Victory (also known as Deliverance Will Come), and I just knew the Oak Ridge Boys would do a memorable version of that number, of my all-time favorites.  And I was correct--this version is terrific.  The song is from 1836, and the musical phrase that sounds like Oh! Susanna was no steal--it predates Foster's tune by twelve years.  And I'm getting major deju vu here--I must have featured this song in a recent post and made the same comment.  Anyway, kind of weird to put an 1836 number on an LP of songs the Oak Ridge Boys wished they'd recorded first.  Smith's Sacred Singers recorded it in 1928, but that's a mite bit ahead of the ORB, which was founded in the 1940s, says Wikipedia.  But I ask too many questions.  We're hear to listen to some excellent gospel quartet sides.

Faith Unlocks the Door was a favorite of the pastor and her husband at my previous church, and they sang it as a duet.  I think I accompanied them--not sure.  But I must have, because I have a photocopy of the music, and it could only have come from them.  1955 was the year of composition.

Great to see a Doris Akers number on here (Sweet Jesus).   I was going to upload to Box, but forgot, so sorry about the return to Zippy. 

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: The Oak Ridge Boys--Songs We Wish We'd Recorded First (1966)

Wonderful Time up There (Abernathy)
Where No One Stands Alone (Lister)
My God Is Real (Morris)
Glory, Glory Clear the Road
How About Your Heart (Triplett)
Palms of Victory (Matthias; Arr: Benson)
Without Him (LeFevre)
Sweeter as the Days Go by (Smith)
Faith Unlocks the Door (Scott-Sande)
The Man Upstairs (Stanley-Anson-Morgan)
What a Day That Will Be (Hill)
Sweet Jesus (Akers)

Songs We Wished We'd Recorded First--The Oak Ridge Boys (Heart Warming HWS-1901; 1966)


Thursday, February 07, 2019

Various singles, part 4--Bazoom! Gee, What'd He Say?, The Valley of a Hundred Hills

Zippy has twice removed (or lost?) parts 2 and 3 of "Various singles," so I've switched to  I received no message from Zippy, so I suspect it's a site glitch.  No way to tell.  Anyway, this is going to, as well, and please ignore the "We're sorry, this file type is not currently supported" message.  The file will download, anyway.  My best guess is that, because Box can't generate a player for a zip file, it tells us it's not "supported."  Whatever.  The file is fine.

Great stuff today, though I forgot to look in advance for the recording years on the sides pressed by RITE Records--I'll have to do that as I list them.  I keep forgetting about the discographies at the wonderful RITE Records site.  Anyway, the fabulous 1957 RCA re-version of Little Joe from Chicago by Andy Kirk starts things out.  Not surprisingly, Kirk's 1938 version didn't rock like this one, so I suspect the track's near-rock and roll sound owes everything to the fact that, by the time of the re-do, rock and roll had arrived.  Lots of people point to boogie-woogie as the primary source for rock and roll, and it's very tempting to go along with that.  Two problems: most boogie-woogie lacked the strong, jazzy four-beat pulse of r&r (some of it sounded like a sister to ragtime).  And much of the earliest rock and roll wasn't in the twelve-bar blues form.  That's the point I make whenever the "rock=country plus blues" cliche is repeated.  Assuming we even know what that means in real life, a good half of early rock sides sound nothing like country combined with blues.  You can't assert a universal definition for something unless it accounts for at least most of the examples.  Preferably, it would cover all.  So, I say nonsense to that idea.   Rolling Stone can sue me.

Good Tops label version of Hambone, and they're clearly covering the Frankie Laine-Jo Stafford cover of Red Saunders' recording (the old cover of a cover bit), though the Laine-Stafford recording was amazingly country in sound.  I say "amazingly," because it was a Mitch Miller production.  As I keep saying, people think they know Miller, but they don't.  Next, the highly obscure, 1949-ish country cover of Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee on Western Magic Hit Parade Tunes, a label title that screams "obscure."  Country guys covering an R&B hit, so it sounds like rock and roll, right?  No, it sounds like country guys covering an R&B hit.  Sorry.  Fun side, though, and despite the awful background singing.  They play much better than they sing.  Got this from eBay, and it took a lot of cleaning up, because someone played it to death.  But it merited the effort.

Bazoom! (I Need Your Lovin') made its way around the cheapo labels, but usually under the parenthetical I Need Your Lovin'.  Not sure why--Bazoom! makes a great title.  And it saves on ink, which the cheapies usually made a point of doing.  Here it's on a real label, Columbia, and by Les Elgart and his Orchestra!  And it's done quite well.  Original was the Cheers on Capitol.

Two cover versions of the early rock hit, Gee--The Four Jacks on Top Tunes, and June Hutton on Capitol.  The Four Jacks' version is very close to the original; June's version, predictably, isn't!  But it works for me.  I gave the wrong credit for Shake Rattle and Roll--it's Bill St. Claire.  So says discogs.  (Maybe my copy had a typo?)  What's interesting is that it's a cover of the Big Joe Turner original, and not a cover of the Bill Haley cover.  Our next number, I Forgot to Remember to Forget, is also a direct copy--this time, of Elvis.  It was Elvis' first huge hit, and it is in all probability the first Elvis performance to receive the fake-hit treatment.  That's All Right showed up on the cheapo labels, but as copies of Marty Robbin's version, which was a big hit.  Elvis' version had no national impact.

"Jack Daniels" (yeah, right) doesn't do a very good Elvis, but Jimmy Lane does a killer imitation on the 18 Top Hits (Waldorf) version of Wear My Ring Around Your Neck.  A total change of tone with Lillian Brooks' gorgeous Peyton Place on MGM.  Any connection to the novel?  Dunno.  The TV show didn't happen until 1964.  I remember little about that show except that my brother and I made fun of it.

Stop (Let Me off of This Bus) is Snooky Lanson and (I assume) Billy Vaughn doing a Rock Around the Clock copy, and it's pretty good, as those things go.  What makes it amazing is the vocal interlude that sounds like it was lifted from Elvis' version of Hound Dog.  Except Elvis' record was still a year away.  The Platters' 1955 Bark, Battle and Ball is one Shake, Rattle and Roll rip that makes no attempt at all to hide the fact.  Fun to hear the Platters so far off-key throughout.  I gave up long ago trying to figure out the lyrics.  Fun record, anyway.  Then, from Waldorf, we have an astonishingly accurate copy of the Bacharach-David hit for Marty Robbins, 1957's The Story of My Life.  I think someone (Mitch Miller?) must have instructed Burt and Hal to do something in a White Sport Coat mode, and they certainly came through.  Rock 'Round the Old Corral by the household-name House Brothers Quartet (with the Keeklickers), year unknown, has a great guitar solo but is otherwise ridiculously lame.  It almost sounds like a joke.

Next, two 1952 ngems by Hugo Winterhalter, including maybe my favorite Hugo side, Hesitation, written by him.  The flip is Lou Singer's Tic-Tac-Toe, which is an amazing piece of musicianship from the orchestra.  Maybe a tad close to Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter, (minus the typewriter), but it's so well written and scored, I'm not complaining.

I'm sure no one will agree, but I consider June Valli the RCA label's pre-Elvis Elvis.  I swear.  I can totally picture RCA playing some of her torchier tracks for him and Elvis going, "I like that."  She has a similar type of exaggeration in her style--his emotionalism, minus the echo chamber.  The writer of this bluesy torch side?  The same guy who gave us Sparrow in the Tree Top and That Doggie in the Window--Bob Merrill.  Then we have the incredibly charming The Valley of a Hundred Hills, with words by Hal David.  Frankie Laine's singing is perfection, and my copy is a stereo 7-inch 33 1/3!  See scan above, complete with sleeve.  Sometimes a pop gem will go nowhere.  And... two more Hugo Winterhalter winners, 1953 this time.  Terry's Theme (the theme from Limelight) is of course by Charlie Chaplin, who couldn't read a note of music but who came up with some fine melodies.  Note: If you're a Chaplin fan and unfamiliar with the type of person he was, don't read any of the expose pieces on him.

What'd He Say? is supposed to funny, I guess, but even things done for the sake of silliness need to have a point.  And to not be so overdone.  Totally stupid, but it does feature a sped-up voice in the Ross Bagdasarian fashion, and from the same year as Ross' Witch Doctor--1958.  Then it's Merv Griffin, from his days as Freddy Martin's star vocalist, with piano by Murray Arnold and fabulous playing by this extremely underrated orchestra.  Following Merv is a second go-round for Artie Malvin's excellent High Noon Frankie Laine copy, only with fuller sound and a different orchestra credit.  This from a Promenade LP; the other was a Waldorf EP.  How Enoch Light became Bruce Cabot, I don't know.  Kaw-Liga is another excellent Malvin side, and he does a great Hank Williams.  Fun, over the top arrangement, too.  From the same LP, we have the spooky, lovely Billy Vaughn hit,  The Shifting, Whispering Sands, credited here to The Texans.  I have a seven-inch 78 single of the performance which credits the narrator, but I don't have it handy.  No "Texans" credit on that label.  The original was a two-sider, so we only get half the narration here, but I like the way it moves more quickly into the terrific choral section.  As a pop number, it's an oddity, but a highly effective one.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR:  Various singles, Part 4

Little Joe from Chicago--Andy Kirk and His Orch., 1957
Hambone--Bud Roman and Mimi Martel, the Hal Lomen Orch.
Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (McGhee)--Western Playboys, vocal by Les Guthrie, 1949?
Bazoom! (I Need Your Lovin')--Les Elgart and his Orch., 1954
Gee--The Four Jacks, 1954
Gee-June Hutton and Axel Stordahl with the Boys Next Door, 1954
Shake Rattle and Roll--Bill St. Claire, 1954
I Forgot to Remember to Forget--Jack Daniels w. The Country All-Stars
Wear my Ring Around Your Neck--Jimmy Lane
Peyton Place--Lillian Brooks, 1958
Stop (Let Me Off of This Bus)--Snooky Lanson, 1955
Back, Battle and Ball--The Platters, 1955
The Story of My Life (Bacharach-David)--Jim Richards, prob. 1957
Rock 'Round the Old Corral--House Brothers Quartet with the Keellickers
Tic-Tac-Toe (Lou Singer)--Hugo Winterhalter and his Orch., 1952
Hesitation (Winterhalter)--Same
Tell Me, Tell Me (Bob Merrill)--June Valli, w. Henri Rene's Orch. and Cho., 1954
The Valley of a Hundred Hills--Frankie Laine, 1959.
The Terry Theme (Chaplin)--Hugo Winterhalter and his Orch., 1953
Symphony of a Starry Night--Same
What'd He Say?--Joe Reisman Orch. and Cho., 1958
Down Yonder--Merv Griffin and the Band, w. Freddy Martin Orch., Piano: Murray Arnold, 1951
High Noon--Artie Malvin w.Bruce Cabot and his Orch.
Kaw-Liga--Artie Malvin w. Bruce Cabot and his Orch.
The Shifting, Whispering Sands--The Texans w. Bruce Cabot and his Orch.