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)



Buster said...

Thanks, Lee - I don't have this one. I do possess the much more common "Four Coins in Shangri-La" LP. Surprisingly, it isn't an expansion of the 10-incher, although "Maybe" appears on both. I think "Shangri-La" was the Coins' biggest hit. (I remember hearing it on the radio.)

The 10-inch LP was indeed on its way out in 1955. Classical material had always tended to end up on the longer format. Soundtracks, too. And when jazz musicians started stretching out and boring us with aimless noodling, they required a longer format as well. Also, I think the varied formats you mention - 78s, 45s, EPs, 10-inchers, 12-inchers, EP sets, 45 sets and 78 sets - required some rationalization. I can't imagine the record companies, distributors and retailers wanted to produce and stock the same item in several formats.

Also, turning 10-inch LPs into 12-inch LPs allowed record companies to repackage and resell the same material to dummies like me. I will shortly post "The Wild One" soundtrack in 10-inch, 12-inch and EP format, for example.

After its death in the US, the 10-inch format did soldier on for a while elsewhere. I have stereo 10-inchers from Europe.

Ernie said...

Cool! Don't think I've seen this before, or even heard of these guys. Better the Four Coins than the Four Skins!

Martooni said...

Wow, thanks for the effort and the comments. Noticed this was under the direction of the Don Costa.

Ernie said...

I found a 45 by The Four Coins this weekend. I need to compare and see if it's tracks other than these. :) One never knows when something interesting will turn up.