Sunday, September 15, 2019

Favorite gospel tracks, Part 5--Echoes from the Burning Bush

A number of bluegrass gospel standards today, plus one of the earliest best-selling gospel records, the Stamps Quartet's 1927 Give the World a Smile, which Wikipedia describes as "probably the first Southern gospel song to become a 'gold record.'"  Dwight M. Brock's ragtime-style piano on this track may come as a surprise to anyone who associates syncopated gospel piano with a later era--but it was an established thing even this early.  I know, because (to my astonishment at the time) I heard a similar piano backing for a vocal solo on a c.-1903 cylinder (a CD dub, to be precise).  Even the Stamps' note/chord trade-offs, with the staccato harmonies punctuating the melody line, is a tradition dating back at least as far as the 1880s, as proved by gospel songbooks of the late 19th century.  Sacred quartet singing, like Barbershop, is at least as old as sound recordings, but, while much Barbershop was recorded, gospel quartets didn't find their market until about the mid-1920s.  It's quite a shame, considering what could have been, but wasn't, recorded.  Same is true of the earliest country music--I'd give anything to hear a turn of the century outfit, though there were some barn dance imitations that found their way into early-1900s pop music.

The strange, scat-style singing at the end of the Stamps Quartet disc never caught on, I don't think, and it's kind of a jolt--but a quite cool one.  And we get to hear the Blackwood Brothers' outstanding 1959 recreation of this number, which the Blackwoods do at a much faster tempo.  Show-offs.

The country/bluegrass gospel standards in our playlist bring us a little closer to the present: four versions of Echoes from the Burning Bush (written in 1943), four versions of Jesus Is Coming Soon (written in 1942), and two rounds of I'll Have a New Life (written in 1940).  Tramp on the Street (two versions today) is another mandolin and fiddle standard, though it's from the period discussed above--the late 19th century, when it was known as Only a Tramp.  It's the ultimate social-gospel gospel number, and a genuinely brilliant work, its lyrical simplicity just one aspect of that brilliance.

I've always been fascinated by the old-fashioned sound of so many of the gospel numbers written during and just after the Depression.   They have the sound of music that has passed through many generations of rural folks miles removed from the nearest city of any size, yet they're actually professionally written numbers popularized on radio and records by major-label country and bluegrass acts, starting with groups like, of course, the Carter Family.  Also fascinating, and funny, is the number of "songs from the hills" that were actually written in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Northern states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Moving a little closer to the present, we have two numbers by the brilliant John W. Peterson--the marvelous gospel waltz numbers Jesus Is Coming Again (not to be confused with Soon), and Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul.  (Actually, these numbers are in 6/4 and 6/8, respectively, but I call them waltzes.)  Peterson was the Charles H. Gabriel of the latter 20th century--a musician with far greater formal training than Gabriel but the same genius for simple, unforgettable melodies.

And we get a second helping of Phillip H. Lord's 1930 classic You Go to Your Church, and I'll Go to Mine, performed this time by one-time radio and TV singer Joe Emerson, who injects great feeling into the already-moving words.  Heaven's Avenue was written by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stamps.  Frank H. Stamps led this group, a new version of what had once been two separate Stamps quartets--one led by Frank, and the other by Virgil.  Now you know.

The 1928 Vaughan Quartet restoration (His Charming Love) is my own, whereas the two late-'20s Stamps sides are from an RCA Camden LP, whose fake stereo I managed to turn into decent mono.  The sound drop-outs on Carl Story's Tramp on the Street were on the LP.  Maybe the label was working from a damaged master tape.


DOWNLOAD: Favorite gospel tracks, Part 5

Echoes from the Burning Bush (Summar-Foust)--The Chuck Wagon Gang, 1949
Same--Carl Story and His Rambling Mountaineers, 1955
Same--Harmony Four (from LP Footsteps of Eternity)
Same--The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers (from LP Heaven Is My Home)
Saved (Smith-Hickman)--George Zinn, Lyric Tenor (from LP Sermons in Song)
Jesus Is Coming Soon (R.E. Winsett)--Oak Ridge Boys, 1971?
Same--The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers (from LP Heaven Is My Home)
Same--The Toney Brothers Quartet (from LP Gospel Singing Time with...)
Same--The Evangelaires (from LP I Should Have Been Crucified)
Tramp on the Street--Carl Story, 1961
Tramp on the Street--The Miller Brothers, 1972
Pearly White City (Arthur Forrest Ingler)--Radio Bible Class Quartet (from LP Singspiration Sampler)
He Keeps Me Singing (Luther B. Bridgers)--Philip Kerr Harmony Chorus (Same)
Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul (John W. Peterson)--The Billy Graham London Crusade Choir, 1967
Heaven Came Down (Peterson)--The Wilds, Dir. by Frank Garlock (from LP Songs of the Wilds)
And Can It Be That I Should Gain (Charles Wesley-Thomas Campbell)--The Radio Bible Class, 1971
You Go to Your Church, and I'll Go To Mine (Phillips H. Lord)--Joe Emerson, 1960
Give the World a Smile (Deaton-Yandell)--The Stamps Quartet, 1927
Give the World a Smile (Deaton-Yandell)--Blackwood Brothers, 1959
His Charming Love (O.A. Parris)--Vaughan Quartet, 1928
Jesus Is Coming Again (John W. Peterson)--The Billy Graham Crusade Choir, 1962
Jesus Is Coming Again (Peterson)--The Radio Bible Class, 1971
Heaven's Avenue (Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stamps)--The Stamps Quartet, 1955
I'll Have a New Life (Luther G. Presley)--The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers (from LP Heaven Is My Home)
I'll Have a New Life (Presley)--Prairie Grove Gospel Messengers (from LP Meeting in the Air)


Friday, September 13, 2019

The Hit Parader, or, Top Hits--Al Garry and His Orch. (Spin-O-Rama 105)

We'll be hearing ten "Top Hit Favorites" from The Hit Parader.  Or, if you prefer the label title, from Top Hits.  Spin-O-Rama couldn't make up its mind, I guess.  The blame for these tracks (actually, they're pretty good) goes to Al Garry and His Orch.  Discogs lists Spin-O-Rama as one of the labels belonging to Premier Albums, Inc., but this is clearly SPC (Synthetic Plastics Co.), as revealed by the back-jacket logo, "Fine records needn't be expensive."  (Then why didn't SPC ever make any?)  I didn't scan the back jacket, as it's pretty marked up and not worth the photo-shopping hassle--it's just a list of other releases.

We've heard a number of these before, including Stagger Lee, Manhattan Spiritual, Good-Bye Baby, and My Happiness on the Plymouth (Canada) LP 8 Top Hits, but... here they are again.  And that LP failed to make the trek from my old hard drive to this new one, and the link has expired, so I'll have to re-rip it.  Meanwhile, we have this 12-incher from a recent Goodwill trip.  These are showing up less and less frequently at the thrifts, so I was thrilled to encounter this.  And what a weird cover.  Did the photographer tell the two models, "Okay, make weird faces"?

The Little Drummer Boy, that big Harry Simeone hit stolen from Katherine K. Davis' Carol of the Drum, is a little out of season, but this is an extremely good fake--so good, it doesn't even seem like a junk label effort.  The Chipmunk Song is very professionally done, too, which means that it's quite close to the original, which means that it's highly annoying.  All American Boy is a cut on rock and roll that became a rock and roll hit, which only goes to show... um....  I don't know.  That old-time rock and roll fans had a sense of humor, perhaps.

Meanwhile this Hit Records LP is back up and running: Current Hits, Vol. No. 11

Enjoy!  UPDATE: I neglected to mention the singers credited on the jacket: Jan Newley, Bill Evans, and the Blazers.  Or is it "Bill Evans and the Blazers"?  This is why the Oxford Comma is important.  Fake names, all, I'm sure (though there are people with those names, I'm sure.  In case there's a Jan Newley reading this....).

DOWNLOAD: Al Garry and His Orch.--Top Hits

My Happiness
Good-Bye Baby
Beep Beep
Stagger Lee
The Little Drummer Boy
The Chipmunk Song
Manhattan Spiritual
All American Boy
May You Always

The Hit Parader/Top Hits--Al Garry and His Orch. (Spin-O-Rama 105)


Monday, September 09, 2019

Favorite gospel tracks, Part 4--Send the Fire

I meant to get this up yesterday, but various irl stuff interfered (how dare it??), plus there's "something" going around, and of course I have it.  I've been through bronchitis twice this summer, and I really don't want a third round.  I mean, thanks, germs, but go bug someone else.  (Ha, ha!  Bug someone else!)  But I hope to get this up and going in a jiffy.  Or a skippy.  (Dated peanut butter references, there....)  And always avoid dated peanut butter.  Won't kill you, but it has little flavor.

Send the Fire, the seventeenth track on today's playlist, was a happy find, as I had the music in a 1940 songbook, but no recording.  I was delighted to get it on vinyl.  Unfortunately, singer Paul McNutt renders the number in a manner that can only be described as overly overwrought.  But, besides being a cool tune, it has historical importance, since its 1894 words are by no less than the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, and its tune was provided Frederick Booth-Tucker (or, Frederick St. George de Lautour Booth-Tucker, thank you), the son-in-law of William.  As someone with no middle name and a single-syllable given name, I kind of envy Fred.  Or maybe not.  Anyway, great to have a version of this tune (see sheet music above--also hard to find, in my experience), and you certainly can't fault it for lack of enthusiasm.

Two -athons today: four versions of Charles H. Gabriel's monster 1900 hit (said to have sold around 20 million copies in print--and I believe it) O That Will Be Glory, and another four-pack (also by Gabriel), 1922's Jesus, Rose of Sharon, with lyrics by Ida A. Guirey.  My favorite Sharon is the Bill Carle version, with its superb arrangement that brings out the genius of the melody, but tenor Russell Newport is the best singer of the bunch.  As for Glory, it shows up on LP and 78 labels as O, That Will Be Glory; Oh, That Will Be Glory for MeThat Will Be Glory; or The Glory Song.  I'm not aware of any Halloween parody titled That Will Be Gory, but you never know.  Hard to pick a favorite version, though I might go with the Haydn Quartet's 1906 take, since it's the closest to the year of the original, and because it showed up in Goodwill years back with an overlapping crack. (Accidental rhyme, there.)  "No way I can save this," I said to myself.  Wrong--I saved it.  The memory of rescuing this precious disc makes it an especially precious version.  Or whatever I just typed.

Jerome Hines, the Metropolitan Opera bass who made religious LPs for Word and London, did the all-time, this-is-how-you-do-it version of the gospel classic How Great Thou Art, whose history is too complicated to even go into.  Ages back, I was thrift-searching for a version of How Great Thou Art and found Hine's 1965 Great Moments of Sacred Music at Salvation Army.  It had the track, and I remember thinking, "I wonder if this guy's any good?"  Had no idea who he was, and I guess I didn't read the back jacket.  Took it home, cleaned it, put the needle on the record, then picked myself up off the floor.  Yeah, the man could sing.  Dear God.

It is the version of How Great Thou Art.  George Beverly Shea had much to do with popularizing the number, and all praise to George, but Jerome owned it. By the way, it was an unforgivable insult to the born-again Hines, who gave free Salvation Army concerts in NYC (my foster mother Bev saw him at one), to have little to nothing about his faith mentioned in the press when he passed in 2003.  "Secularism" was all the rage at the time, and so journalistic integrity went down the gutter--with one major exception, and I wish I remembered the name of the magazine or paper--it was a beautiful piece by a close friend of Hines.  Look, I don't care if, as a rule, journalists are seculars, Fundies, none of the above, members of the diners club, or closet ping-pong enthusiasts--when you write an artist's OBIT, you don't omit a major aspect of someone's life.  Period.  The Fourth Estate likes to demand respect.  I remind the Fourth Estate that respect is something earned.

Back to topic, Reapers Are Needed and Awakening Chorus are two more Charles Gabriel goodies (he's all over my favorite-gospel posts--you'd think I was fond of him) I've featured before, but they're worth a repeat, and then some.  I love the way the choir speeds through the latter anthem, which is meant to be more stately, but am I complaining?  The faster tempo works terrifically.  Finding a decent recording of the Chorus has proven about impossible--two substandard choir versions (one all-female, the other all-male), and some organist who sounds like he had four lessons and slept through three of them (on the Word label, where the quality is usually way higher than that).  This race-through version is by far the best I've found.

A Meeting in the Air--or, The Meeting....  A or The, it's the same song, and the choirs here are top-notch, with the Wilds (I thought maybe that was a family name) actually a Christian camp for young folks.  The LP notes aren't clear on exactly who's doing the singing--staff members are mentioned but so are camp members.  Dunno.  I just know they're very, very good, and the stereo sound is very natural and pleasing--no gimmickry.  Meeting works surprisingly well with Beyond the Sunset.  I'm almost sure the arrangement is by the talented Frank Garlock, who also did the fine arrangement of Higher Ground (Gabriel, who else?) for the Southside Baptist Church Choir of Greenville SC.  The stirring Wonderful Grace of Jesus, performed by the you-just-know-they're-all-top-studio-pros Revivaltime Choir, is a 1918 gem which, like Meeting, was not by Charles Gabriel.  Just to note that I don't focus fully on Chuck.

Back to Gabriel, we have the superb Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet's incomparable recording of Chuck's sophisticated and eloquent (he did the words, too) I Will Not Forget Thee, composed in 1889, a year before Gabriel hit the big time in a big way with Send the Light.  Gabriel was sometimes a near-match for the greatest popular hymnist, Fanny Crosby--dig these: "When at the golden portals I am standing, All my tribulations, all my sorrows past; How sweet to hear the blessed proclamation, 'Enter, faithful servant, welcome home at last.'"  Do we get exceptionally distinguished gospel lyrics like this today?  Not too often, it doesn't seem.

Tramp on the Street uses less elegant language, but it's message is complex and powerful--I remember the first time I heard this, and the emotional wallop of the tramp on the street becoming Jesus Christ.  I used to know more about this song's history, and I have an early version of it in print.  From the 1880s, I believe, and originally titled Only a Tramp.  For people who don't think country/bluegrass gospel ever gets deep.

I could have summed up my essay more simply: Fabulous songs put across by highly gifted musicians.

DOWNLOAD: Favorite gospel tracks, Part 4

How Great Thou Art--Jerome Hines, Arr, and Cond. by Kurt Kaiser, 1965
Palms of Victory (Matthias)--The Blue Ridge Quartet, 1966
Life's Railway to Heaven (Abbey-Tillman)--Blackwood Brothers, 1959
Glory Song (Oh, That Will Be Glory for Me--Gabriel)--Criterion Quartet (Victor 35014; 1908)
Glory Song (O, That Will Be Glory)-Haydn Quartet (Victor 3498; 1906)
O That Will Be Glory--The Rice Family Singers, 1969
That Will Be Glory--Marshall Vaughn
A Meeting in the Air/Beyond the Sunset--The Wilds, Dir. by Frank Garlock
The Meeting in the Air (Isaiah G. Martin)--Christian Choristers
Reapers Are Needed (Gabriel)--A.T. Humphries and Lee College Choir
Awakening Chorus (Gabriel)--Same
Shall We Meet Beyond the River (Hastings-Rice)--Harry Macdonough-Percy Hemus (Victor 17356; 1913)
I Will Not Forget Thee (Gabriel)--Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet, 1968
Wonderful Grace of Jesus (Lillenas)--Revivaltime Choir, 1969
Higher Ground (Oatman, Jr.-Gabriel)--The Southside Baptist Church Choir (Greenville SC)
Only a Beam of Sunshine (Fanny Crosby-John Sweney)--Macdonough and Bieling (Victor 16288; 1908)
Send the Fire! (William Booth-Frederick Booth-Tucker)--Paul McNutt
Tramp on the Street--Sego Bros. and Naomi, 1966
Tell It To-Day (Chas. H. Gabriel, Jr.)--Homer Rodeheaver (Victor 18373; 1917)
More Like the Master (Gabriel)--Unknown choir on Word Records
Jesus, Rose of Sharon (Guirey-Gabriel)--Russell Newport, Tenor, 1965
Same--Bill Carle, w. Kurt Kaiser Orch., 1960
Same--Family Altar Quartet (Tops R1003X45-49; 1954)
Same--Homer Rodeheaver, w. pipe organ (Victor 20087; 1925)
The Way of the Cross Leads Home (Gabriel)--Unknown choir on Word Records


Saturday, September 07, 2019

Bigfoot, Nessie, alien abductions, and... a fine Modern Sound LP??

Is it possible?  Is is true?  A perfectly good Modern Sound/Hit Records collection?  Yes, and it's what I have for you today.  Quite a nice surprise after the last ordeal--er, the last offering.  Today's fake hits range from competent to memorable, with especially good versions of Rainy Day Women #12 and 35, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Where Did Our Love Go Up Tight is perfectly fine, too, though I'd have preferred a little more... soul?  Pep?  But it's quite decent.  Decent, too, is the lone Hit Records original (or, fake fake hit), Up Town Down Town, penned by Bobby Russell and appearing in its single form as Uptown Downtown.  It's fun and catchy--it has earworm potential.  More work than usual required in the de-clicking department this time, but since the tracks are so good, I didn't mind.  Luckily, I had the Hit Records Where Did Our Love Go on another LP (like all cheapies, these guys reused material), so I swapped it for the badly-off band on this disc ("band" in the old-fashioned sense of an LP track).  I can't believe I'm saying this (well, typing it), but this one's a winner.  I'll have to save my sarcasm for a future Modern Sound post.

Download and enjoy.  And they even give the artist credits (whether real or made-up) on the jacket.  I feel like I'm dreaming....

DOWNLOAD: Leaning on the Lamp Post (Modern Sound MS 1031)

Leaning on the Lamp Post--The Chords
How Does That Grab You Darlin--Betty Richards
White on White--Fred York
Where Did Our Love Go--The Houstons
What Will My Mary Say--Tony Christopher
When a Man Loves a Woman--Leroy Jones
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35--Bobby Brooks
Washington Square--Music City Five Plus Ten
Up Town Down Town (Bobby Russell)--Fred York
Up Tight--Richie Brown

(Modern Sound MS 1031)


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Terrible covers of hits, plus originals by Dorothy and William Beasley, Bobby Russell, and Bergen White

A very interesting Modern Sound (Hit Records) LP, in that the majority of selections were penned specifically for Hit Records by Hit Records people--producer William Beasley (as K. Richards) and one Dorothy J. Beasley (as J. Norris), and, under their real names, Bobby Russell and Bergen White.  I'd almost assumed that I Want Candy was a Hit Records original, too, since it's so blatantly unoriginal, but it's a cover of an actual hit for the Strangeloves, whose strange story is told here.  The other actual fakes (I never pictured myself using such a phrase) include the Bacharach-David What's New Pussycat (a wonderfully atrocious copy of Tom Jones), and a really, really bad imitation of Billy Joe Royal's Down in the Boondocks. which I remember from its endless play as an oldie on AM radio.  Meanwhile, I Like It Like That is about as anemic a copy of the high-energy Dave Clark Five as anyone can imagine--the Jalopy Five (who concocted that name?) sounds like a half-asleep Kingsmen (Louie Louie) ordered into the studio after two tours in a single day and five minutes of sleep.  I almost expect the musicians to pass out, dropping their instruments as they fall.  Would have made for a much more memorable track.  And Down in the Boondocks can't be that hard to competently cover--good grief.  But too hard, apparently, for the Hit Records/Modern Sound folks.  Were they just bent on not even trying on these?  And I just realized I already mentioned Boondocks and how bad it is, but it rates two mentions--it's that much of a boondoggle (he wrote, stretching for a pun).

Five funny-lousy hit covers, with What's New Pussycat an all-time fake-hit misfire (and therefore worth the price of the 99-cent purchase many times over), but the originals, by producer William Beasley and wife (?) Dorothy J. Beasley, plus Bobby (Little Green Apples) Russel and Bergen (For Women Only) White, are pleasant and fairly fun.  I didn't say memorable--just worth a listen.  They start with the well produced and halfway decent (but, for me, impossible to keep in memory) You Were Gone, not to be confused with the infinitely better Buckinghams B-side called You Are GoneTower Suite is the weirdest of the bunch, being a halfway cool instrumental concocted to serve, in its 45 rpm form, as the flip of Theme from Peyton Place.  To me, the title had the sound of something real--maybe a forgotten 1965 instrumental.  Maybe a lost portion of Gordon Jenkins' Manhattan Tower.  So I expected to find a "real" Tower Suite, but nope--just this one.  A pleasant instrumental that's cool because it's missing any point, so I dig it.  Big Windy City is a fairly good White-Russell original with a blatantly Roy Orbison sound (its slow, broken melody and melancholy lyrics)--though Roy would have been presented with more layers of echo and louder tympani, and things would have ended on a dramatic high note.  The singer sounds like he's about to start laughing at one point, and he could have been excused.  Expert hack work--I like it.  Bergen White's You Make the Decisions has a "We need a song--quick!  We've only got ten minutes" type of sound, and I feel sorry for the guy so hooked on his love that he doesn't dare assert his own will, lest she leave him.  Dude, she's not worth it.  I wonder if this was tongue-in-cheek to an extent.  It's certainly a rush job, but of course competent.  Bobby Russell's Anything does nothing for me, however, and I wonder if Joanne Kay (Sorry, I mean Key--can't read my own writing) was really named Joanne Key.  She gets two credits at Discogs, so we'll never know.  Broken Hearted, Sad and Blue can be forgiven its omission of the Oxford comma because it's catchy, it really moves, and it has very nice stereo separation.  The Buddy Holly hiccups are incredibly out of place, but I don't mind--I could handle an entire LP of rocking country stuff like this.  The single credits J. Norris (Dorothy J. Beasley) alone as composer, but the Library of Congress (thanks, cyberspace) credits both Beasleys--producer William and sister? wife? Dorothy J. (If anyone knows the relationship, please let me know.)  In the same Copyright Entries book, this title is listed two places above Eric Siday's Bromo Seltzer Theme.

Er, enjoy.  And I forgot to include the scans in the zip file, so I'm redoing that now.  If you didn't get them, please re-download.  Apologies.

DOWNLOAD:  Down in the Boondocks (Modern Sound MS 1012)

(Performer credits taken from single issues)

Down in the Boondocks (Billy Joe Royal cover)--Ed Hardin
I Like It Like That (Dave Clark Five cover)--Jalopy Five
You Were Gone (Bobby Russell)--John Preston
Tower Suite (J. Norris-K. Richards, aka Dorothy J. Beasley-William Beasley)--William Randolph and the Music City Orch. and Chorus
Big Windy City (Bergen White-Bobby Russell)--Fred Hess
What's New Pussycat (Burt Bacharach-Hal David)--Bobby Brooks
I Want Candy (Strangeloves cover)--The Roamers
You Make the Decisions (Bergen White)--The Chellows
Anything (Bobby Russell)--Joanne Key
Broken Hearted, Sad and Blue (J. Norris, aka Dorothy J. Beasley)--Ed Hardin