Friday, February 03, 2023

It jumps! It's hip! It swings! It's bright! It's cool! It's danceable! It's polyunsaturated! "Ray Ellis Plays the Top 20" (RCA LSP-2400; 1961)

Halfway through my sound-editing, I thought to myself, "Wait--wasn't I supposed to put up Johnny Arthey?"  Oops.  Well, Johnny will have to wait.  Meanwhile, I present this highly entertaining, mostly very energetic collection of hits from the 1961 Top 20.  All of the tracks (save a couple) rock very nicely, and they straddle the fence between instrumental pop (easy listening) and "fake" hits.  Reason being, song lyrics show up, on and off--thus, a few tracks sound like unusually well-produced budget fakes.  Except, they're not budget, this being RCA Living Stereo.

And I found the surface noise--as in, the sound of the needle tracking the vinyl--to be a little too much, and so I filtered it out.  I don't know if Living Stereo LPs are typically noisy in that manner, or if the vinyl has aged poorly, hardening with age.

This collection made for a nice, quick pop music tutorial for me, because I'm not as acquainted with the just-before-the-Beatles period as I want to be.  And my own Top 40 memories don't start until 1962 or 1963.  Clearly, 1961 was a fun year for the Top 20, and we have rockin' mostly-instrumental takes on Ral Donner's You Don't Know What You've Got; Gary (U.S.) Bonds' School Is Out, the wonderful Carole King-Gerry Goffin Take Good Care of My Baby, the superb doo wop number One Summer Night (the Daneleers), and Ben E. King's classic Amor.  And, of course, more.  Twenty in all.

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor is, needless to say, a cover of Lonnie Donegan's 1959 recording, which hit the U.S. charts in 1961.  Why Wikipedia gives composer credit to Donegan when, in fact, the song originated in 1924 (or 1923?) as Does Your Spearmint Lose Its Flavor (Billy Rose-Ernest Breuer-Marty Bloom), I can't say, but we all know what a joke copyright credits can be, and often are.  Wikipedia claims that the skiffle style dates back to the first half of the 20th century, and I'll have to take its word, since that's news to me.  Strange that I've been collecting 78s for more than half a century without encountering vintage skiffle.  I had assumed it was a mercifully short-lived UK craze--a sendup of 1920s novelty records as historically invalid as Art Mooney's post-WWII hits.  Though Mooney's sides, while inauthentic, were fun.

The liner notes expand on what musicman1979 has already reported: The Clovers, Ruth Brown, The Drifters, and Ivory Joe Hunter can be added to the list of artists and acts Ellis collaborated with.  No wonder these tracks sound very much like the real thing, as opposed to reinterpreted rock and roll.  In fact, this LP is unusual in that regard, making it (as I suggested earlier) a semi-"fake"-hits collection.  Which has me wondering to what extent instrumental pop of the 1960s might have sold to younger buyers?  After all, we can't simply assume that young listeners, as a whole, only settled for the originals.  I can imagine young r&r fans going for something like this.  In 1961, rock/rock and roll had yet to be mythologized as the sound of rebellion.

Seems a shame that things have to start off with the ultra-mellow Michael, since it's so out of phase with the rest of the track list.  Maybe it was an executive decision...

DOWNLOAD: Ray Ellis Plays the Top 20 (RCA Victor LSP-2400; 1961)


You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)

As If I Didn't Know

School Is Out

Pretty Little Angel Eyes

Little Sister

Let the Four Winds Blow

One Summer Night

I Just Don't Understand 

Last Night

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)

Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)

Wooden Heart


Take Good Care of My Baby

Without You


The Mountain's High

Don't Bet Money, Honey



Sunday, January 29, 2023

Ray Ellis: Big Hits for Swingers (Atco 33-187; 1966). Or, When radio station stickers obliterate the liner notes.


For all my swingin' blog visitors: Big Hits for Swingers by Ray Ellis, a fun 1966 LP which managed to make its way from the music library of WTVN, 610 AM, Columbus OH, to my local St. Vincent de Paul thrift.  WTVN began operation in 1922 and is now known as "News Radio 610 WTVN."  And WTVN must have been playing adult-pop LP tracks in 1966.  And a monaural promo LP was the sensible type to send to an AM station.

I could classify this as easy listening, since a few tracks definitely qualify as such, but I'm going to put this in the category of big band-ized rock and roll.  I regard "big band-ized" r&r as an actual genre, and one which lasted for a good five or more years, and often in the realm of record-club boxed sets.  Imo, it deserves to be regarded as a movement unto itself, and of course it was all about presenting current pop and r&r songs in a style (or styles) familiar to those who grew up with Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Freddy Martin.  There is a Boomer tendency to make fun of any r&r presented outside of its original context, but not only do I see no harm in that sort of thing, I regard it as a tribute to 1960s r&r songwriting--to the adaptability of the songs.  But it has to be said, and the sooner the better, that I Got You Babe is an epic misfire, at least here.  Had it been arranged for comic effect (with its labored, thudding phrases), that would be another story, but  maybe Sonny Bono's song simply can't function outside of its original presentation.  And I'm tempted to not put Bono on a par with Leiber-Stoller, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, or John and Paul.  Not that Sonny would have cared about my opinion, but...

Meanwhile, what on earth is Wait Till We're Sixty-Five doing here?  I mean, the Stones, the Beatles, Roger Miller, the McCoys, and...On a Clear Day You Can See Forever??  I guess there's logic in that thread--if one is hopelessly stoned.

One of WTVN's DJs (see writing on back jacket) gave I Feel Fine a double "No," crossing out the title, to boot (to emphasize the two "No"s).  Whereas I think the track works surprisingly well in Ellis' treatment.  Unlike Babe, it swings.  The other written notes are a little mysterious: "Med Down (Builds)," for example.  Medium downtempo would be my guess, with a gradual tempo buildup, maybe.  "Med," "Down," "Med Down."  Oh, and "Med Up."  I wonder what this DJ didn't like about I Feel Fine?  The song itself?  The treatment?  We'll never know.

Maybe another DJ felt rebellious and played the track, anyway.

A little inconsistent in style, but I think this collection mostly fits very nicely into the big band-ized r&r category, and, as I said before, I think that counts as a real-life pop genre, though a genre likely regarded as too trivial to merit a heading.  Hey, it's part of the history of 1960s popular music, so it deserves to be documented.  Back in February, 2021, I described a group of '60s big band-ized r&r songs as "discotheque selections in the style of Enoch Light on Command and Si Zentner on RCA."  I guess I had yet to come up with "big band-ized."  Something tells me my label won't catch on, though it works for me.  

Don't forget to swing to these.  Or at least listen to these in a swinging mode.  In the long run, swinging is more attitude than action.  

DOWNLOAD: Big Hits for Swingers--Ray Ellis (Atco 33-187; 1966)

King of the Road


Hang on Sloopy

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

I Feel Fine

Ferry Cross the Mersey

I'll Never Be Lonely Again

Flight to Mexico

Portrait of Jan


I Got You Babe

Wait Till We're Sixty-Five


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Sunday evening gospel: The King's Heralds Quartet and Del Delker--Old Hymns of Faith (Chapel Records LP 1220; 1953)


I'd hoped to get this up earlier--as in, this morning.  However, though this 10-inch, clear-red-vinyl thrift gift from Diane (Thanks, Diane!) is in quite good shape for a 10-inch gospel LP from 1953, there were a number of minor clicks which escaped VinylStudio's declicker software (because of its bass-protection feature).  And so they had to be manually removed in MAGIX.  Slightly time-consuming, but worth the time when the music is this good.

The King's Heralds Quartet (aka The King's Heralds) is a superlative singing group which I wrote about last Sunday.  This time, the quartet is augmented by contralto soloist Del Delker.  As far as five-member quartets are concerned, I've always regarded five-part harmony (such as a four-part song or hymn with a descant) as simply an instance of augmented four-part harmony.  The essential texture is the same.  "Four-part harmony with an extra voice" is how I regard vocal quintets, so I don't find any problem with gospel quartets which, for whatever reason, boast five members.  A fifth part is just icing on the four-part cake.  You wanted to know all of that, I'm sure.

And the group manages to present fourteen titles in the space of a 10-inch LP, which is impressive, no matter how it's managed.  And, as before, the singing is radio-quality quartet vocalizing--in other words, the best possible.  Conservative song choice, conservative presentation, but in gospel terms, that's the best of all possible worlds.  (Well, except for modern "praise" music--the less said, the better.)  I was a bit surprised to discover that Help to Carry the Good News by Lewis Edgar Jones (not to be confused with Lewis Ellis Jones of There Is Power in the Blood fame) is from 1911, since it sounded more modern to my ears.  "Modern," as in, the 1940s or 1950s.  Then again, it's consistent in style with gospel numbers of the 1910s by Charles H. Gabriel and Alfred H. Ackley, so...

The quartet is the same as last time: Bob Edwards, first tenor; Bob Seamount, second tenor; Wayne Hooper, baritone; and Jerry Dill, bass.  Plus, Del Delker, contralto soloist.  Masterful performances and excellent early-1950s fidelity, though I would have preferred a greater variety of keys.  But that's a tiny complaint, really...

And great to have a recording of Ira Sankey's 1885 Let Him In, and in such a fine rendition--one of my favorite gospel numbers.  In all, this collection presents a nice balance between "standard" and "gospel" numbers (the latter of the type which used to show up in Sunday School hymnals).  Examples of gospel hymns: Let Him In, I Do Believe, My Name in Mother's Prayer.  Standard hymns: This Is my Father's World, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Lord of the Sabbath (And Its Light).

DOWNLOAD: Old Hymns of Faith--The King's Herald's Quartet And Del Delker (Chapel Records LP 1220; 1953)

Let Him In

Christ Receiveth Sinful Men

My Faith Looks up to Thee

On the Cross

This Is My Father's World

Faith Is the Victory

Just as I Am

When I survey the Wondrous Cross

Help to Carry the Good News

Lord of the Sabbath

Come, Holy Spirit

I Do Believe

Lift Him Up

My Name in Mother's Prayer


Thursday, January 19, 2023

J. Lawrence Cook--Piano-Roll Rock "N Roll (Mercury SR 60083; 1959)


                                                                                              Photo from the Made In Chicago Museum website.

Today we have J. Lawrence Cook (1899-1976), an incredibly prolific maker of piano rolls (the most prolific, says Wikipedia), accompanied by Tony Mottola on guitar, George Duvivier and Milton Hinton on bass, and Osie Johnson on drums.  Personnel info courtesy of Doctor Jazz.

A very fun album, though its brand of binaural stereo is a bit annoying to my ears--the sound is strictly left/right channel, with no sense of depth.  I was almost tempted to sum the channels, but I didn't.  Oddly enough, some Cook originals in the mix, along with Sheldon Harnick and Jery Bock's Oh Yeah, a minor success for Steve Lawrence, whereas "John" (Johnny) Mercer's Bernadine was a number one hit for Pat Boone.  I probably have his version, though my collection is too big at the moment to be sure.

The highlight has to be Rock Around the Clock, which has two things going for it: 1) It's a fine version, and 2) it's an example of the song as originally written, prior to its reinvention by Bill Haley.  Haley completely changed the introductory verse (which initially sounded a bit like The Syncopated Clock in minor mode, as it does here) and used a broken A Major triad in root position (A, C#, E) instead of the as-written A-B-C# in the chorus.  Actually, the original sheet music is in the key of F, but there's no rule which dictates staying in the lead sheet key.

And, if you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I regard Rock Around the Clock as performed by Haley (vs. the tune as written), as a sure indication that Haley was eager to find his "own" Rock the Joint.  Haley revamped RATC with Joint in mind.  (That came out weird.)

Anyway, a number of RATC recordings presented the song as written, or nearly as written, including Artie Malvin's Waldorf fake hit, which has its virtues but can't hold a candle to the "Gabe Drake" version on SPC, which appeared all over the budget-label world.

Cook was a veteran of the jazz age of the 1920s, having been buddies with Eubie Blake, so you might think he'd have had a little trouble with rock and roll (aka, in this case, rock 'n roll), but clearly this was no problem for him.  The 60-year-old J. Lawrence beautifully mixes the player-piano tradition/sound with the feel of rock and roll, and if a couple of the results are amusing (to me, at least)--such as All Shook Up and Hound Dog--it's just the novelty of hearing these numbers in perforated-piano-roll fashion.  And I wonder if anyone else in cyberspace has ever typed "perforated-piano-roll fashion."  And... nope!  A Google check says no.  Not surprisingly.

"This is a true stereophonic disc record," says the back jacket, but binaural isn't really stereo as we know (or expect) it.  I'd have loved the middle-channel stereo experience on this one, but the music is beautifully arranged and rendered, so I can't complain too much.

Oh, and this is one of the "Wacker Series" Mercury releases.  At least, it has "Wacker Series" rubber-stamped on the back.  Discogs lists 24 examples of same.  I have no idea what it means, save for Discogs' speculation that "Wacker" was derived from the address of Mercury's headquarters.  It almost sounds like the designation for a novelty series.

DOWNLOAD: Piano-Roll Rock 'N Roll--J. Lawrence Cook (Mercury SR 60083; 1959)

Rock Around the Clock


All Shook Up

Searching and Dreaming

Why Do Fools Fall in Love

My Ship

Hound Dog

Oh Yeah

Wake up Little Susie

The Swingin' Shepherd Blues

The Walk

Nice Little Girl

J. Lawrence Cook, piano roll; Tony Mottola, guitar; George Duvivier and Milton Hinton on bass, and Osie Johnson on drums


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday morning gospel: Garden of Prayer--King's Heralds Quartet (Chapel LP 1211; 1953)


Superb, and superbly professional, gospel quartet singing from 1953.  At the time, the King's Heralds Quartet (credited as "The Kings Heralds" on the front jacket--no "Quartet" or apostrophe) consisted of Robert Edwards, first tenor; Robert Seamount, second tenor; Wayne Hopper, baritone; and Jerry Dill, bass.  This ten-inch Chapel Records LP, pressed on clear red vinyl, is another Diane thrift-gift (Thanks, Diane!), and I somehow guessed that the singing would be of the top-caliber radio quartet type, a la The Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet.  And I was correct!

The quartet started in 1927 in Keene TX, and proceeded to become (you guessed it) a radio quartet for the Voice of Prophecy.  You can read more about them at Wikipedia, whose entry I was initially unable to find, because I was Googling "King's Heralds Quartet," whereas the Wikipedia entry is "King's Heralds."  Sometimes, using quotation marks is an advantage, because it brings up exact matches, though in this case I should have simply typed the three words, minus quotes.  Oh, well...

The selections can't be beat--Ira Sankey's terrific There'll Be No Dark Valley is always a joy to hear, and I'm always pleased whenever Whispering Hope shows up on a sacred album.  Written in 1868 by Septimus (Listen to the Mockingbird) Winner (aka, Alice Hawthorne), Whispering Hope is an early instance of an ordinary popular song becoming a sacred favorite--a near-hymn, you might call it.  It seems destined to never become a "standard" hymn--hence, it doesn't show up all that often in gospel songbooks and hymnals (at least in my experience), but it is nevertheless one of the classic "old songs."  Or, at least, was.  Come 2023, who knows?

To the King's Heralds...

DOWNLOAD: Garden of Prayer--The King's Heralds (Chapel Records LP 1211; 1953)

The Beautiful Garden of Prayer

The Old Rugged Cross/When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Medley)

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

The Lord's Prayer

Still, Still With Thee

I Need the Prayers

There'll Be No Dark Valley

Whispering Hope

Praise to the Lord