Friday, January 14, 2022

The Blazers: Rock and Roll--Ten Big Hits in Hi-Fidelity (Harmony HL-7103; 1958)


In regard to all the cheap labels I stuck up during Xmas, RobGems68 asked if I've ever given blog space to the major label cheapies like Camden/RCA Camden, Harmony, and (I suppose) Lion--and forgive me if I'm incorrectly paraphrasing you, Rob.  But the answer is, I haven't given them enough of a spotlight, with some exceptions, like this post.  Today's offering should make up for this to some degree--it features the Blazers, which Discogs identifies as "Studio group including American musicians active in France," including lead singer Frankie Tucker. The label is the Columbia budget label Harmony, and, as we might expect, the tracks are very professionally done--maybe too much so.  Which might explain my problem with them--I find them a bit lacking in spirit; a bit boring (Get a Job, in particular, a tune which should practically propel itself).  I guess I'm too used to the superbly arranged, not-quite-rock-and-roll rock and roll covers on Enoch Light's Waldorf labels, as well as the often sloppy but fun SPC fakes (which usually showed up on the Promenade label), not to mention the stuff that showed up on Broadway and Value Hit Parade Tunes (which ran the gamut from fine to pretty bad).  These performances lack a certain edge; they're almost phoned in.  But, of course, that's simply my impression.  It's what's known as a subjective truth, which is a fancy term for an opinion.  Just my take--neither factually right nor wrong.

Just, I guess, to remind the buyer that he or she is getting a budget product, Columbia only included ten tracks--so there.  And, I just can't pinpoint why these tracks miss the mark with me, because on a purely technical level, they're superior, save maybe for some weak vocals.  None of the collision of tempi one hears on SPC cheapies, for example, and overall a sound very much like the originals.  Well, except for the absence of female voices on Short Shorts, which sort of hurts the effect.  Lovers of authentic Short Shorts covers (you know who you are) won't be happy with this one, I don't think.  One track that almost rock a lot: Don't Let Go, a superior Jesse Stone number.  Again, though, something's missing.   The Stroll almost makes it, too.  Maybe it's simply that the genuine cheapies--Promenade, Broadway, 18 Top Hits, etc.--were simply better at being cheap.  Studio musicians assigned to the Harmony label may have wondered what they did to tick off their bosses.  They may not have been giving their best.

Eager to hear feedback on this.  For some, these tracks may work beautifully.  The album might rock the house.  Me, I give this a C+.  I was expecting more drive and excitement, I guess.

In the years to come, Columbia would put out some very fun record club fake-hit collections, including at least one reissue of a U.K. Invasion-era budget gem.

Oh, and cover photographer Fons Ianelli is known for being part of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit during WWII.  Check out his outstanding wartime photos in Google Images.

DOWNLOAD: Rock and Roll by the Blazers (Harmony HL-7103; 1958)

Big Guitar

Get a Job


The Stroll

"7-11" (Mambo No. 5)

Walkin' With Mr Lee

Short Shorts

Slow Walk

Don't Let Go (J. Stone)

Walk On


Friday, January 07, 2022

Christmas for Christ (probably) 1972--"Time to Get Together"


A happy one day after Epiphany!  Meanwhile, thanks to this (and a second) Goodwill-thrifted LP, I now know about the United Pentecostal Church International's home mission fundraising event called Christmas for Christ.  December 17th is the date, and though the inside cover shows money raised for 1973 ($500,000), I'm guessing that this is a projected amount.  I'm going with the front cover, with its photograph depicting a $10,000 check being written to the Home Missions Department--the date: December 17, 1972.  That, plus I have the 1973 CFC LP, and this isn't it.  So, 1972 is my guess.

A glance at the track list reveals that, despite the "Christmas for Christ" theme, the music is not directly related to the holiday--or related at all, for that matter.  This had me puzzled at first.  But the whole idea behind CFC is that the bulk of one's Christmas giving should go to Christ--i.e., to the UPCI--and since Christmas is all (or nearly all) about gifting, the tie-in is logical.  There's also a calendrical logic, since Dec. 17th is close to end of the calendar year, and what better time to talk about future growth ("The Future Is Now")?  So, despite the absence of Nativity-related songs, Christmas for Christ is an ideal Christmas event.  I assume it's still going on in the UPCI.

The songs are very pleasant country gospel--again, with no direct tie-ins to the holiday--and both sides conclude with impassioned, almost frenetic mini-sermons (with music), the second ("The Future Is Now") leaving me lost in its onslaught of metaphors.  That's not a criticism; it's just that I'm not used to this style of preaching.  It's certainly effective.  I can't imagine the preacher putting anyone to sleep.

With its nontraditional Christmas offerings, this LP makes for a neat change of Christmas-posting pace, and I always enjoy learning things about other denominations.  Christmas for Christ was a completely new one on me, as traditions go...

I'm tempted to use "Christmas for Christ" as the label, but it's not really clear if there's a label name at all.  So I simply stuck to the catalog number (LPS-1003).  In the dead wax are the matrices LH-9154 and LH-9155.  The gatefold cover is copyrighted by Unipak, something I noticed as I searched in vain for a label title.

DOWNLOAD: Christmas for Christ 1972

If the Whole World Would Love Him--Murrell Ewing, Bobbie Shoemake, Wanda Phillips    

I Was Born to Die Till Jesus Came--Bobbie Shoemake

Do It Now--Robbie and Arlen Guidroz

Through It All (A. Crouch)--Murrell Ewing, Joan Ewing, Wanda Phillips

Narration: The Future Is Now--Kenneth Phillips

I Need the Prayers of Those I Love--Bobbie Shoemake, Wanda Phillips

I'll Have a New Body (L. Presley)--Murrell Ewing, Bobbie Shoemake, Wanda Phillips

Don't Let Me Stray Too Far From Calvary--Joan Ewing

I Could Never Outlove the Lord--Robbie and Arlen Guidroz

Narration: Time to Get Together--Kenneth Phillips

Christmas for Christ 1972 (LPS-1003; 1972)


Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Not your everyday Christmas audio relic: Billy Four--A Record for Christmas (1948)

(A repost from 2019.  I don't find many home recordings in my thrift searches, and this one is pretty special and, I think, worth a re-up.)

Once upon a time, people used disc-cutting machines to cut their own discs.  Eventually (during the 50s?), people switched to magnetic tape for home recording.  That's the history as I know it--it's probably a bit more complicated than that.  But here's a home-made Christmas disc by a very young man named Billy.  I know this, because on the second side Billy introduces a piano piece (nothing I recognize; sounds like a by-ear number) with the words, "This is Billy, making you a record for Christmas of (in?) 1948."  Thus, I know the recording year.  Of course, Billy could have simply been the engineer, but I suspect he's the ivory tickler, at least on side 2.  He's a decent player for a kid.

I'm designating the piano solo as side 2 because it contains no writing on the label (some random logic for you, there); the flip (above) lists White Christmas and Jingle Bells as the pieces, and what looks like "Billy Four" as the artists.  So I'm assigning it side-1 status.  Problem is, there are only two musicians--tenor (?) sax and piano, so maybe "Four" (or "Lour"?) is Billy's last name.  Will we ever know?

Condition isn't very good (Maybe I should have employed some hiss filtering), but I used the curve marked "AFRS Transcriptions #1" in my VinylStudio program, and it brings the music out loud and clear over the disc noise.  AFRS, of course, is Armed Forces Radio Service, which eventually became Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), or "A-Farts," as we called it in the Navy.  I remember from my days on my first ship (a long-gone Fast Frigate) that AFRTS would send us videos to play over the ship's closed-circuit system.  Typically, these consisted of semi-successful syndicated series from who-knows-where.  (One of them seems to have been made for Australian TV.)  And there were movies, of course.  One night, I was on video duty in the ET compartment, running a program for the crew while watching a tape on another machine.  Meaning to fast-forward the other tape, I accidentally fast-forwarded the AFRTS program.  Knock on the door--a crewmember.  "Could you please reshow the last five minutes or so?" he asked.  Oops.

AFRTS programs always included Navy recruiting spots, and you can imagine the responses they received in our TV lounges.  Anyway, of course this disc has nothing to do with AFRS, but the curve sure matches up beautifully.  Groove to the holiday sounds of the Billy Four.

To Billy and the Billy Four: A Record for Christmas of 1948


Carol of the Little Drummer Boy--another restored link


I discovered yet another 2020 (actually, early 2021) Xmas post that Workupload somehow lost.  I've restored the link for my "Carol of the Little Drummer Boy" entry, which you can read here.  I tell the rather disgusting story of how Katherine K. Davis was successfully ripped off when her 1941 Carol of the Drum was suddenly reborn (minus her permission) as The Little Drummer Boy in 1958.  She managed to regain partial credit for her own work, but partial credit only.  Ah, the music publishing biz.

The post features four versions of Carol of the Drum which predate the famous 1958 Harry Simeone hit, plus a fake-hit version on SPC in both a mono and (true) stereo edition.  We can assume the fake-hit SPC version (which is surprisingly excellent) is contemporaneous with Simeone's recording.


Tuesday, January 04, 2022

New rip: Singing Strings Herald Christmas--The Stradivarius String Society and the Cologne Symphony Orch. c. by Fritz Munch


(Repost from 2018--original Zippyfile zip kaput)

This was only a buck from the Discogs Marketplace. And I'm now seeing one possible reason I got it so cheap--it has the kind of jacket you can't get the record back into. I hate that. Anyway, I learned of this LP from Ronald Sauer when he left a note at my Jeri Mann Singers post (a post since axed after the Zippyfile link died). The "Jeri Mann Singers" were totally made up, as I had suspected. Here's Ron's wonderful comment: 

These songs were on albums issued by Parade, Spin-o-rama, Custom, Yuletide, and other budget labels. I first heard them in the late fifties or early sixties on "Al Goodman and his Orchestra play a Christmas Symphony" on Parade Records. In addition, those same songs were credited on other records to George Jenkins, the Sound of 1000 Strings, and others. I finally tracked them back to what I believe is the original source: The Stradivarius String Society and the Cologne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Munch "Singing Strings Herald Christmas" on Lester Records L1002. It was one of my favorites as a youth. It only took me about 50 years of searching for the source. 


So, I rushed to Discogs, where this LP is listed, but with exactly no information on the Lester label. Could Lester have been a one-off sublabel? No year is kown, either. The categories picked by somebody for Singing Strings Herald Christmas are Classical, Folk, World, and... Country?? "World" is an inane category whenever and wherever it's used, and "Folk" is halfway justified, since there are carols in this set, though most of these are hymns with known authorship. But Country?? Fritz Much and the Cologne Symphony Orch. conducting country songs? 

Anyway, a buck from the Discogs Marketplace (I mean, to them). Given that the six Sutton label "Jeri Mann" tracks from this LP are in true stereo, I wonder if the Lester label also issued a stereo version of Singing Strings Herald Christmas? Nice cover, though the shortened song titles on back leave no doubt this is a budget affair, despite the lovely music and nice sound. "We 3 Kings"? Please. 

Great detective work by Ron. I greatly appreciate his sharing his findings, and for turning me on to this LP, which may be the all-time best budget Christmas effort.  And here it is, back at the blog in a new rip and (of course) a higher bitrate.

TO THE SOUNDS: Singing Strings Herald Christmas (Lester L1002) 

 Silent Night
Come All Ye Faithful 
Hark the Herald Angels Sing 
White Christmas 
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 
Little Town of Bethlehem 
Deck the Halls 
Joy to the World 
First Noel 
Good King Wenceslaus 
O Holy Night 
We 3 Kings 

Singing Strings Herald Christmas, Feat. the Stradivarius String Society and the Cologne Symphony Orchestra c. by Fritz Munch (Lester L1002)