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


Ernie said...

Another beautiful collection, Lee! You're really digging up some rare stuff here. I saw a Bacharach in a weird pace the other day and meant to ask you about it, but now I've forgotten where. Hopefully it turns up again.

Buster said...

Another fantastic collection!

I gather from the images that Burt was the artist only and not the composer on "Rosanne" and "Mama Don't Cry at My Wedding."

I am looking forward especially to what Brenda Lee does with his material. I always liked Little Miss Dynamite.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


You must find that Bacharach. You must. You must! I.... Sorry, just went Burt-crazy for a moment, there. I'm all right now. Well, as all right as I get, anyway. Hope you enjoy the Burt!


Correct--Burt's not the writer on Rosanne, Searching Wind, or Mama. I was sure Mama would turn out to be a cover of Patti Page--it has that sound--but, nope. Joni James. About whom I know nothing, except that Lew Douglas was her musical director for a while. Lew must have been friends with William Indelli, the ex-Tommy Dorsey sideman whose songs ended up on both legit labels--B and F, Fraternity, and Chance--and the "song poem" type. And he wrote a song for ex-Glenn Miller vocalist Buddy Di Vito. Back on topic, I think you'll be impressed by Brenda's handling of the Burt material. For some reason, I thought she'd be a less than ideal match, but I stand corrected!

You're Right said...

Thank you so much my friend.
For Everything.