Monday, January 28, 2019

Various singles, Part 3--Shut Up, Rock Around the Clock, Joogie-Boogie Joint, Garbage Can

Despite the significant differences between the singing styles of Elvis Presley and Don Cornell, Don's But Love Me (Love But Me) has a lot in common with Elvis' Love Me.  And Don's record came first.  But I just read at Wikipedia that the Elvis song, penned by Leiber and Stoller, goes back to 1954, so....

I hate it when a bit of data comes in and ruins everything!

Louis Prima, who I'll never forgive for the abominable Sing, Sing, Sing, almost redeemed himself with another one-word-tripled tune (didn't know that was a category, did you?) called Yeah Yeah Yeah, a thinly-disguised twelve-bar blues, done here (in 1951) in a completely rock and roll style by Peggy Lee.  Amazing single--on the Capitol label.  Stomp and Whistle is another tune in the twelve-bar blues form, and Harry James and Buddy Rich use a very simple approach that borders on (you'll never guess) rock and roll, and the year is 1954 this time, and the label Columbia.  Jackie Lee's 1961 Isle of Capri Boogie, meanwhile, is Isle of Capri done boogie style.  You'd never have guessed from the title.  I love the sound of that organ!

Great barbershop harmonies by the Four Preps in the clever 1960 Got a Girl, and a 1962 reminder from the Original Rockets, about whom I know nothing, that young white guys making like African-American bluesmen is not something that started with the Stones, Animals, Beatles, etc.  There were countless pre-Invasion garage bands, of course, including the Kingsmen, and these guys.  Garbage Can informs us that "Life--it ain't nothin' but a gold-plated garbage can, and people are trash," and what's with the "gold-plated"?  Are the lyrics telling us that, behind the fancy facade, the....? Oh, never mind.  Fun side--no need to analyze.  I think the songwriters just sort of tossed the lyrics out.  Tossed the lyrics out.  Get it?

Rumble Boogie strikes me as a Rock Around the Clock steal, and quite a good one, with Don Cherry really getting into it, and Ray Conniff doing his usual great producing job.  Some folks, like me, seem to realize that Conniff' was really a pioneer rock and roll producer (while working for Mitch Miller, no less), while others seem to feel he was just on the edge.  A "proto" type, perhaps.  We'd be using the false definition of "proto" that many journalists employ, wherein "proto" means "almost" or "on the edge."  Actually, it means the first of its type.  As in, prototype.

Lee Andrews and the Hearts could be superb, despite Andrews' tendency to sing sharp.  I'll make enemies, but I consider the group's Long Lonely Nights to be a vocal disaster, but here they're like the all-time masters of street-corner harmonizing, with a strong a cappella sound, despite the piano throughout.  I realize that accompanied a cappella is technically impossible, but why be too formal about it?  For a contrast in singing style to end all contrasts, Lee is followed by Perry Como, my favorite pop singer, whose voice I consider a great natural voice.  By that, I mean Perry likely sounded great from the moment he decided to croon.  I'd have hated to hear his voice after years of formal training--something would have been lost.  There are technically better voices, of course--Steve Lawrence, Johnny Desmond, Vic Damone--but there's a beauty to Como's singing I find nowhere else in the pop field of the time.  Call me nuts.  ("You're nuts.")  Gee, thanks.

Don Howard could hold a tune, and he does so for two sides--Oh Happy Day and You Went Away--and the sound on the former is way better here than on the Essex reissue I featured a couple posts back, and it gives a far more pleasant edge to Don's monotonous crooning.  (With this material, there wasn't a lot of room for stylistic noodling.)  The disc, a 78, is also in the proper key (Eb Major).  John Scott Trotter's 1941 version of Kitten on the Keys is a nice, lightly swinging version of the Confrey classic, and it includes a cornet solo by Paul Whiteman's Bix Beiderbecke replacement, Andy Secrest.  The flip side is a Rube Bloom number in the symphonic jazz vein.  Then two by Alan Dale--a wonderful I'm Late from the Disney Alice in Wonderland, and a lovely ballad, I'll Buy You a Star, not from Disney.

Two 1947 "Wild" Bill Moore sides, with the Swingin' for Pappy verging on rock and roll, and the Savoy 78 it came from no longer in one piece after I stepped on it.  True--I tripped over a stack of 45s, knocking some LPs and 78s forward, my foot coming down on poor Bill.  I so rarely break a record accidentally, it's a shock when I do.  I don't think I've unintentionally broken more than six or seven shellac sides in my decades of collecting, and that includes one that was likely ready to snap, anyway.  This is history in the making.

I put up the Lenny Carson 78 a while back, and I'd found out some interesting things, but I no longer have access to the post.  Something about the sped-up voice on Molasses--it definitely sounds like tape manipulation, and I'm fascinated by any and all pre-Ross Bagdasarian sped-up voices on disc, which include 1954's Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In), which was recorded at 33 and 1/3 for 45 rpm playback.  The flip is a steal of Happy Birthday, which originated as a verse in Good Morning To All of 1893.  I have it in its original form someplace, and without attribution.

More R&B--early rock and roll, really--including Wally Mercer's nothing-to-do-with-Rock-Around-the-Clock Rock Around the Clock.  From an original 78, and no relation to the famous song whose history may be the weirdest in the history of song histories.  You see, Bill Haley wanted his very own Rock the Joint, so he modified a swing-style number called Rock Around the Clock to sound like it (radically altering the intro/verse), but Essex wouldn't let him record it (forgot why), but he got to do it at the end of a 1954 Decca session, his vocals spliced in with the instrumental portions after the fact because the band had drowned him out.  Record went nowhere, but after the song was used in Blackboard Jungle, it became a smash hit in 1955, and just about everyone in the world except me and a few people I know have done a version of it.  And that's how rock was born.

I bought Shut Up (And Make Love to Me) because I saw the title on a 78 list and just had to have a record called Shut Up in my collection.  My other favorite titles along this line include Go To Hell and Huh?  Turns out to be a very good song, and Doris Drew is fabulous.  The lyrics are sexist, but it's 1950.  "Bloom" is in the composer credits, so maybe it's Rube?  But a quick Google search didn't connect Rube Bloom to "Shut Up (And Make Love to Me)," but maybe the song went nowhere, and I'm trying to work in a "shut up" joke, but it's not happening.  So I'll just shut up.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR:  Various Singles, Part 3

But Love Me (Love But Me)--Don Cornell, 1956
Yeah Yeah Yeah (Prima-Kaback)--Peggy Lee w. Orchestra, 1951
Stomp and Whistle--Harry James and his Orch., v: Buddy Rich, 1954
Isle of Capri Boogie--Jackie Lee, 1961
T.D.'s Boogie Woogie--Tommy Dorsey and his Orch., 1950
Got a Girl--The Four Preps, 1960
Garbage Can--The Original Rockets, 1962
Rumble Boogie--Don Cherry w. Ray Conniff and his Orch., 1955
Try the Impossible--Lee Andrews and the Hearts, 1958
With All My Heart and Soul--Perry Como w. Mitchell Ayres Orch., 1951
Oh Happy Day--Don Howard, 1952
You Went Away--Same
Kitten on the Keys (Confrey)--John Scott Trotter and his Orch., Cornet Solo: Andy Secrest, 1941
Sapphire (Rube Bloom)--John Scott Trotter and his Orch., 1941
I'm Late (From "Alice in Wonderland")--Alan Dale w. Percy Faith Orch., 1951
I'll Buy You a Star--Same
Swingin' for Pappy--Bill Moore and his Band--"Wild" Bill Moore, Tenor Sax, 1947
Molasses, Molasses--Lenny Carson and the Whiz Kids, 1950
Ev'rybody Clap Hands--Same
Joogie-Boogie Joint (On a Saturday Night)--Ric Harper and Orchestra, 1951?
I'm a Sixty-Minute Rocket Man--Same
Story Blues--The Four Buddies, 1952
Rock Around the Clock (Mercer)--Wally Mercer, 1952
Shut Up (And Make Love to Me)--Doris Drew, Lew Douglas Orch., 1950


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: Statesmen Q., Carl Story, Toney Brothers, Valley Voices

A tossed-together Sunday Morning Gospel from a CD-R I made in 2007.  Unfortunately, even though I originally entered album and date info, my MAGIX program will only retrieve title and artist info.  It's always been that way.  Rather annoying.

We start with the Statesmen Quartet, from 1962.  The three selections are from the RCA LP, Camp-Meeting Hymns, which appears to not be on CD.  Bluegrass gospel great Carl Story follows, and the tracks are from... wherever.  At least I have the years (I must have added them into the title field).  Sources are noisy.  Then, three by the Toney Brothers, LP unknown, then six a cappella selections by West Virginia's The Valley Voices--this LP I happened to still have.  And could find.  So, we have the scan above.  Enjoy!


There Is Power in the Blood--Statesmen Q. with Hovie Lister, 1962
Old Camp-Meeting Days--Same
I Shall Not Be Moved--Same
Echoes from the Burning Bush--Carl Story. 1955
God Put a Rainbow in the Cloud--Carl Story, 1956
I've Found a Hiding Place--Carl Story, 1947
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Carl Story, 1951
I Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now--Toney Brothers
Born Again--Same
What Will Your Answer Be--The Valley Voices
I Am on the Road--Same
Hard Working Pilgrim--Same
I Know I'll Feel at Home--Same
You Can Take My Place--Same


Friday, January 25, 2019

Steve Lawrence Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford (Camay 3007; 1963)

And here's Steve Lawrence Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford, restored--that is, with the Steve Lawrence tracks included!  You get the entire LP this time--all nearly 30 minutes worth.  Glad that people requested the Lawrence, because the tracks are very good.  Lawrence--who I'm happy to discover is still with us--had a fabulous voice, as you will here hear.  I mean, hear here.  The fidelity on these sides is infinitely better than on the Ford tracks, suggesting they're not from "telescriptions."  Though three of theses titles match 1952 King Records titles recorded by Lawrence, I'm almost sure (not having listened to compare) that these are from a difference source.  Other than King, I mean.  Are they demos?  The same five tracks showed up on Premier and Spinorama, a.k.a. Spin-O-Rama, the latter being a Premier label.  (Nothing makes perfect sense when we're talking budget groups!)  So they had to be tracks that were floating around--five stray tracks, up for sale to whatever budget label wanted to falsely promise the buyer a Steve Lawrence "album" for the price of  barely half of one. At least there were five tracks--the cheapo labels pulled the same stunt with even less material.  I have a Premier label Petula Clark LP with two entire Petula tracks.  You get what you don't pay for.  It should be noted that this LP, despite the conservative playing time and dreadful audio quality on Side B, was a genuine bargain among bargain-priced LPs, so it's one of those accidental dollar-bin gems.

I restored the track order, and, as you can see, I used the undoctored cover image this time for the post.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Steve Lawrence, T.E. Ford (Camay 3007; l963)


Little Girl

Never Leave Me
Hands Across the Table
All My Love Belongs to You
Mine and Mine Alone


Shotgun Boogie
She's My Baby
You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry
Woman Is a Five Letter Word
Kissin' Bug Boogie

Steve Lawrence Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford (Camay 3007; 1963)


Tennessee Ernie Ford Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford (Camay 3007)

The real title of this weird LP is Steve Lawrence Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford, as you can see on the label, but since I'm including only the five Ford tracks, I thought I'd so some fun photoshopping, using Paint and ArcSoft MediaImpression.  Pretty easy--all I had to do was cut and paste and compress and shorten the lettering.  Now, for years I've been wondering where the heck the Tennessee Ernie Ford material on this disc came from--Ford discographies have him starting at Capitol.  No pre-Capitol recordings.  Are these demos?  Practice runs?  Are they unauthorized issues?  The answer to that last one is likely yes.  That great label-history resource, Both Sides Now, is in the process of putting together a Camay Records page.  It does tell us that Camay appeared in 1961 and had vanished "prior to 1964."  Quote:  "In 1963, the label focused on issuing budget albums. I believe the entire LP output was issued that year, most if not all of the material was leased from other labels and not recorded directly by Camay."  Not sure who the "I" is, but it's a page in progress--and very helpful.

Then, a May 30, 1964 Billboard article to the further rescue:

"At press time the trade was buzzing with reports anent the debut of a new budget line, Camay Records, whose initial releases would include albums with sides by Capitol artists Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee and other sides by by Lawrence Welk, and Frankie Carle.  There was considerable speculation as to where the reported masters came from.  Camay's office stated it would provide more details, but none was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, it was learned that Capitol's legal department was looking into the matter--in the event that the Camay product appeared on the market.

It was also learned that Capitol of Canada was studying the situation.

Tradesters were of the opinion that the Camay masters of Cole and Peggty Lee probably were derived from soundtracks used years ago when Louis Snader produced a series of TV film shorts.

An interesting aspect of the speculation was the matter of licensing.  The Snader licenses were synchronizations rather than mechanical; and it was questioned whether performances cleared under a synchronization license could be transferred to disc without authorization."

Louis Snader produced 754 of the film shorts between 1950 and 1952, apparently as television time-fillers.

And... what do you ya know?  This page possibly gives us the answer.  Camay was indeed using the Snader films, or audio from same.  Quote: "One of Camay's specialties was the release--on LP--of audio taken from Snader and Studio telescriptions."  Telescriptions!  Only one of this LP's tracks are cited--Woman is a Five Letter Word--but I'm guessing--just guessing--that all six Ford selections are "telescriptions."  They all feature the same pitifully bad fidelity.  As for the bad splices that occur, your guess is as good as mine.  There's the jump into the barroom piano solo on Stack-o-Lee, and a couple other obvious cuts.

Bottom line is, the material is highly entertaining, and with a looser feel than the Capitol studio versions--much looser.  Sorry for the quote-heavy essay, but I'm thrilled to have most likely answered the mystery of these things.  And don't miss the amazing guitar solo on Kissin' Bug Boogie, even though the band has lost the beat by that point.  Country musicians were prone to adding and dropping beats, as were many famous blues artists.  I have a theory about that.  Many of the musicians in those genres, no matter how accomplished they became in the formal sense, were from a more or less folk background, and they were playing riff-based forms.  A mistimed riff will throw off the meter, but typically country and blues bands went with the flow.  Dropped beat?  Rushed measure?  (Think Howlin' Wolf.)  Adjust as necessary.  It's a tribute to their talent that they were able to take those things in stride.

Horrible sound, awesome music.  I've listened to patches of the Steve Lawrence side, and there's nothing I want from it.  However, if anyone's dying to hear the Lawrence side, I can rip it....

CLICK HERE TO HEARTennessee Ernie Ford (Camay 3007)

Shotgun Boogie (Ford)
She's My Baby (Ford)
You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry (Bob Merrill)
Woman Is a Five Letter Word
Kissin' Bug Boogie

Steve Lawrence Meets Tennessee Ernie Ford (Camay 3007; 1963)


Monday, January 21, 2019

Various singles, Part 2--Full of Love, Do You Wanna Ride?, Open the Door Polka

Well, it's not every post in which I get to say, "And included in this playlist is a lovely 1957 number from The Monster That Challenged the World."  So I'm saying it now.  I'll never have another chance.  The performance is credited to Bill Fontaine with Orchestra and Chorus, so Bill must be the harmonica player.  Record collector's logic, in action.  I've seen the flick, and it's much better than the title might suggest, with a couple of excellent shock moments where you know the monster is going to show up, but when and where and from what camera angle, you don't know.  I recall that the giant mollusks in the film are not full of love--quite the reverse--so we can assume this is a love theme for humans.  (Record collector's intuition, again.)  That, plus I found this page.  I'll never again get to type anything like, "Here's a lovely number from The Monster That Challenged the World."  And that's too bad.  I might even do this post over again, just so I can relive the moment.  Damn, this feels good.

And we have a cheap but excellent fake version of Johnny Ray's Cry on the Tops label, and I really made the thing sound a lot better than it does.  Not sure how I manged it, but I gave it a nice bottom and good definition in the treble without any tinny effect.  Mimi Martel does a good job, though next to Ray, she sounds like a singer on benzos.  Sherri Lynn's magnificent Tops label cover of I Want You to Be My Baby is better than the Lillian Briggs hit, and how often did Tops top an original?  It's better in every respect, and the fidelity puts the YouTube posting of Briggs' version to shame.  All of this is only my opinion, but I hold my opinion in high regard.

Then Eileen Scott shows up and sounds more like Rosemary Clooney than Rosemary Clooney on Mambo Italiano.  Was Eileen the real Rosemary?  Then the fabulous Open the Door Polka from 1949, with lyrics (I guess you could call them that) which would never go down today.  This is followed by Artie Malvin doing an okay cover of Tony Bennett's Close Your Eyes--not bad at all.  I'm searching for a pun on the title, but with no luck.  Artie again, with a good High Noon, the singer doing a perfectly decent Frankie Laine.  Sunny Gale's Come Go with Me doesn't do it for me, but it's an interesting oddity.  I think it was Prom, but one of the cheapies did a much better copy.  I just listened to another side by Gale, and Come Go with Me just didn't go with her.

Then it's Mitch Miller, with Stan Freeman on the harpsichord, followed by two sides of a Paulette Sisters single.  The 1952 sound on the Paulette sides is gorgeous, and I don't care that Sui Sin Fa is way un-PC today--I like it.  Not crazy about the flip, Glow-Worm, which copies the Mills Brothers' hit version of the same year, but here it is.  It's so synthetic in its jive element, and it fails to swing.  But the public loved it--the Mills version, anyway--so what do I know.  Just read that Johnny Mercer did the revised lyrics.  Very below par for him.

And for the weirdest offering of the bunch--it's 1954, and famed rock and roll hater Mitch Miller permits a (lousy) cover of Oop Shoop on his label, with a creepy and lewd flip made all the moreso by the fact the Hamilton Sisters are clearly not of age.  My God.  Is this record for real?  And Mitch, of all people, choosing such limited vocalists--the lead on Oop Shoop is pathetic.  Mitch usually went for singers with actual pipes.  Oddly enough, I've seen this record listed for serious money.  I would think Mitch would have paid serious money to bribe discographers not to list it.  Not to be missed.  The lyrics of Do You Wanna Ride? make so little effort to hide what they're about, I'm surprised it isn't Do You Wanna Screw?  It makes Sixty Minute Man sound like I Believe.  Anymore, everything we think we knew about Mitch is shown to be myth.  (Myth Miller?)

I dreamed this record.  I had to.  It doesn't exist.  No--just played it again.  It exists.  An alternate universe is overlapping with ours or something.

Tokyo Boogie Woogie, from 1946, is pretty well known to collectors, I think, but it's a great side, and I got nice sound out of it.  It's a 1953 issue on U.S. Columbia.  And a lively Square Dance Polka by Carson Robison, with me doing a last-minute removal of its flip, Promenade Indian Style, on account of a certain viral video of the moment.  The Robison is actually harmless fun, but 1952-style fun, and this is 2019.   Statler was a dance class record label, and I'm guessing the Statler version of Rock Around the Clock is from the early 1970s, when the tune became famous again in its function as the Happy Days opening theme.  Or whatever I just typed.  I remember that time period pretty vividly--early rock and roll was out, and progressive rock was in, with FM the coolest thing in town (they played entire LP sides!), and this is why I grew up with little knowledge of anything pre-Manfred Mann.  I swear I never heard anything beyond snippets by Elvis until I met John and Bev--there was a greatest hits commercial on TV, but that was it.  I don't remember when malt shop nostalgia started, though I remember when the Beach Boys were suddenly in again, with Endless Summer.  People seem to gloss over the whole period of rock disowning its early days, but I sure remember it.  Anyway, you'll notice that the singer on this dance-class Rock Around the Clock disc clearly doesn't know the melody, meaning that, yes, there was a time when the early classics were as ancient to Boomers as Tommy Dorsey's Song of India.  Real rock was serious; none of this silly early stuff.

Update: Buster reminded me that the Boomer period was pretty broad and that Boomers before me experienced early r&r.  I keep forgetting I was born about the middle of the generation span (1957).  The early-rock blackout happened on my watch.  I didn't properly qualify things....

We close with Pat Patterson doing That's All Right, but he's copying Marty Robbins, not Elvis.  Sorry.  I have no idea what's with the very heavy rumble during the piano solo--probably a poorly placed microphone.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR:  Various Singles, Part 2

Cry--Mimi Martel and the Toppers (Tops 317; 1952)
I Want You to Be My Baby--Sherri Lynn w. Nat Charles and His Orch. (Tops)
Mambo Italiano--Eileen Scott w. the Four Jacks and Herbie Layne's Orch. (Gateway Top Tune 1097; 1954)
Open the Door Polka--Larry Fotine and His Orch. (Decca 24647, 1949)
Close Your Eyes--Artie Malvin w. Vincent Lopez Orch. (18 Top Hits 148)
High Noon--Artie Malvin w, the Enoch Light Orch. and Chorus (Waldorf Record Corp. P 111)
Come Go with Me--Sunny Gale w. Orch. Dir. by Sid Bass (Decca 9-30231; 1957)
Full of Love (From "The Monster That Challenged the World")--Bill Fontaine, 1957
Bolero Gaucho--Mitch Miller and His Orch., w. Stan Freeman, harpsichord (Columbia 4-40655, 1956)
Sui Sin Fa--The Paulette Sisters w. Larry Clinton Orch., 1952
The Glow-Worm--The Paulette Sisters and Dick Style w. Larry Clinton Orch.
Tell Your Tale, Nightingale--Toni Arden w. Percy Faith and his Orch., 1952
Oop Shoop--The Hamilton Sisters (Columbia 4-40319; 1954)
Do You Wanna Ride--The Hamilton Sisters (Columbia 40319; 1954)
Maybellene--Jack Daniels w. Herbie Layne's Orch. (Gateway Top Tune 1135; 1955)
Square Dance Polka (Robison)--Carson Robison and his Pleasant Valley Boys, 1952
Tokyo Boogie Woogie--Shizuko Kasagi w. Columbia Tokyo Orch. (1946)
House of Blue Lights--Artie Malvin w. the Light Brigade (Waldorf, 1955)
Rock Around the Clock--Unknown (Statler 933)
That's All Right--Pat Patterson with the Texas Wranglers (Tops R255; 1954)


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: Blackwood Brothers, Taylor Mountain Boys, Singspiration Quartet, The Smith Brothers

Some toe-tappin' gospel singles to start your Sunday morning, or afternoon, or evening.  Doesn't have to be Sunday, of course.  But it helps put one in the mood.  We start with two numbers I put up in 2017, but they're worth the repeat.  Both are by Charles H. Gabriel (four of his numbers grace this list) and are done with gusto by the Lee College (Cleveland, Tennessee) Choir, with Gabriel's once-famous Awakening Chorus taken at a very fast clip.  From a 45 rpm EP made by/for the choir, and one of my favorite singles, in fact.  The excellent Singspiration Quartet gives us Gottschalk's famous Holy Ghost with Light Divine (one of several similar titles given to this tune), the melody adapted from the once-standard parlor music classic The Last Hope.  And I'm not using "parlor music" in the standard sense (fluff)--the original is a lovely light piano work, and it works beautifully as a hymn tune.  Army of the Lord is by the once-household-name Stuart Hamblen, whose material was often corny and folksy in that fabricated '50s fashion, but who possessed a great deal of songwriting ability, so I can just shut my yap.  I do like his stuff, by the way.  I don't run across Word label 45s very often, and the one in this post may be my sole example--the Imperial Quartet singing Rain, Rain, Rain and Someday, Somewhere, both excellent sides.  At the moment, I don't remember the history behind Gloryland Jubilee, featured here in a superb version by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, but it's awfully close to A Wonderful Time Up There, a.k.a. Gospel Boogie.  Occasionally, you'll have two gospel numbers that are so close, it's hard to pry them apart in memory.  There are two resurrection-morning numbers that fall into that category, and I spent years finding songbook versions of both.  Time for a paragraph break.

The Statesmen's killer 1959 Get Thee Behind Me, Satan has to be heard to be believed--it pretty much sets the bar for lively Southern gospel.  My copy sounds slightly distorted, but the music is so fabulous, it doesn't matter.  Looking at the disc right now, I can't see much, if any, groove wear--maybe it needs a cleaning?  Looks clean, though.  I'll clean it and tell you what I discover.  Stay tuned.  The Cathedral Quartet's 1970 Laughing Song (in stereo, no less!) is actually Ticklish Reuben, which Wikipedia tells us is "a folk song written by Cal Stewart in 1900."  Stewart was known for his laughing songs, a tradition which, far as I know, started in England.  Or so I was told, back when I was collecting 78s in Scotland.  Anyway, a folk song, by definition, is a song with no known authorship, so this is just Wikipedia being stupid.  And my guess would a minstrel show origin for the number--so much was stolen from African Americans, and while "Reuben" of course goes hand in hand with the standard slang for mountain/rural folks ("rubes"), there's no reason an entertainment form awash in class stereotypes would shy away from "rube" or "Reuben."

Why a gospel group recorded this, I don't know.  Why did I put it up?  Um....

Deliverance Will Come is also known as Palms of Victory, and was written by the Reverend John B. Matthias in 1836, and, despite the fact that its authorship is known, Wikipedia doesn't term it a folk song.  Consistency, please, Wiki.  It's a gospel masterpiece--one of those unbelievably simple things that shouldn't work so beautifully but does.  As for the two measures that sound like O Susanna, be advised that Foster's song was published twelve years after this, in 1848.  The bluegrass-times-ten version of Amazing Grace, by the Taylor Mountain Boys, was recorded right here--well, sort of.  It's on the Columbus, Ohio B&4 label, and I'm metro Columbus, so....  To my astonishment, a B&4 discography is out there, and so I'm able to inform you that this is from 1966.  Since we're talking tune history, no one knows when the standard Amazing Grace tune was written, or by whom.  (We know all about the words, of course.)  My sitting-at-the-PC-desk memory tells me that there were three tunes floating around the American tunebooks of the 19th century--Harmony Grove and New Britain were two of them.  Over the many decades, the text has been matched to any number of tunes (I stopped counting after I found the 20th), but just when it became glued to this one, I know not.  A fun musical game is to think of all the tunes that the lyrics fit.  There is Antioch, for instance, the standard tune for Joy to the World.  Try it.  It can also be sung to "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle," i.e. the theme to Gilligan's Island.  You can use the tune to Just As I Am.  A friend and I discovered it goes with the OSU fight song.  It's a crazy world, and we humans are the reason.

The Smith Brothers' highly entertaining Working in God's Factory is "literal" Christianity taken to surreal levels....

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Sunday morning gospel 1-20-19

Reapers Are Needed (Gabriel)--A.T. Humphries and Lee College Choir
Awakening Chorus (Gabriel)--Same
Deliverance Will Come (Matthias)--Masters Trio
Get Thee Behind Me, Satan--The Statesmen w. Hovie Lister, 1959
Amazing Grace--The Taylor Mountain Boys (B&4 817B-3999; 1966)
Gloryland Jubilee (Buford Abner), 1953
One Step (Toward the Lord), 1953
I'm Gonna Shout--The Smith Brothers, 1955
Working in God's Factory--Same
When Morning Comes--Masters Trio
Holy Ghost with Light Divine (Gottschalk)--Singspiration Quartet, early 1950s
The World Is Not My Home (Brumley)--Same
I'm Gonna Sail Away--The Smith Brothers w. the Gospel Singers, 1953
Rain, Rain, Rain--Imperial Quartet
Someday, Somewhere--Same
Army of the Lord (Hamblen)--The Prairie Choir w. Darol Rice's Orch., 1955
The Church in the Wildwood--Terry Pillow Singers (Royale EP112)
Jesus, Rose of Sharon (Gabriel)--Tops R1003-49)
Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Ogden-Gabriel)--The Browns, feat. Jim Edward Brown, 1960
Laughing Song--The Cathedral Quartet (Eternal 701108; 1970)


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lawrence Welk, featuring Larry Hooper (Coral 57260; 1959)

One of this LP's previous owners decided Lawrence needed a beard, so he or she drew one.  ArcSoft MediaImpression to the rescue.  Whoever defaced Lawrence decided to leave Larry clean-shaven.  Less work for me....

Twelve very entertaining Lawrence Welk sides featuring basso profondo Larry Hooper, and I guess I'm now officially a Welk and Hooper fan.  Of course, if you tell someone you're a "Welk and Hooper" fan, they're likely to say, "What?"  Or "Was that some old vaudeville act?"

The biggest hit in this collection is almost certainly Hooper's 1953 cover version of Don Howard Koplow's Oh, Happy Day, an unbelievably simple number in the standard doo-wop I-vi-ii-V form, with no bridge.  Koplow's version has a lot of historical significance--you might be as amazed as I initially was to discover that a rock and roll number (and that's all it can be called) hit it big on the charts in 1952 and 1953, and (in Koplow's case) in such a raw version.  Elvis invented rock, huh?  But Rolling Stone-style journalists have evolved an amazing and highly effective strategy when it comes to dodging the truth about pop music history--they simply ignore it.

I've included my copy of Koplow's 1952 Oh Happy Day original (no comma in his case), and it sounds awful.  It wasn't all that well recorded to start with, but my edition/pressing (on Essex, but with a label color I haven't seen elsewhere) has plenty of distortion and almost no high end.  Since my disc, despite the cruddy fidelity, is in near-perfect shape, I have to wonder if it's a bootleg.  It's also a semi-tone below every other posting I've heard.  For a while, I was afraid my turntable was running at the wrong speed, but I did some track-comparing, and my table is fine.  It's my copy that was, for some unknown reason, mastered a half-step too low.  Anyway, Koplow didn't have much of a voice--he makes Hooper sound like Jerome Hines.  The three fake-hit versions I've included are also embarrassingly better, mainly because they're professionally done.  A quick check tells me nothing, but I strongly suspect the Your Hits label went along with Your Hit Parade.  Discogs won't tell me, though.  And when the fidelity on a six-selection Waldorf EP is twenty times better than the disc it's copying... what can be said?

Prior to checking the years for these recordings, I figured that Ball of Fire and Falling Star were Welk-Hooper attempts to cash in on the success of Day, but they're too removed, time-wise.  But who knows?  Hooper's precise diction doesn't quite go with Ball of Fire, imo, but there isn't a lame track in this bunch, and Hooper's naturally fine voice is one I could listen to all day.  Or half a day.  For hours, certainly.  Oddly enough, and this is just my opinion, the Welk-Hooper Oh, Happy Day sounds more rock-and-roll than the original, at least after all these decades.  Yes, there's the Welk orchestra chirping along, but it's a bare-bones arrangement, and Hooper respects the material (what material there is) and does it straight, and since he has an infinitely better voice than Don Howard Koplow, and perhaps because of the way the Welk band emphasizes the triplets, there's a genuine r&r sound to Hooper's disc.  As for the original, shouldn't they have redone the take after Koplow messed up the beat at the beginning?

I didn't intend for this essay to be all about Oh, Happy Day, but it is the stand-out number, if only because of its importance to pop music history--and because Hooper's version is so very good.  Hooper made a good deal out of a song that barely qualifies as one.  Roger Boom is a track I wish I'd discovered years ago--it would have been a regular on my Halloween sleighlist.  I won't try to describe it--just listen.  And keep in mind that the writer, Bob Hilliard, also gave us the words to Dear Hearts and Gentle People, Our Day Will Come, Civilization (Bingo Bango Bongo), In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, plus Any Day Now and Please Stay with Burt Bacharach.

Click here to hear: Lawrence Welk featuring Larry Hooper

Oh, Happy Day (Don H. Koplow), 1953
Minnie the Mermaid, 1953
With a Little Bit of Luck, 1956
Falling Star, 1957
The 4th "R" (Religion), 1956
Saw Your Eyes, 1954
Ball of Fire, 1956
It Was That Kiss, 1957
Roger Boom (Bob Hilliard), 1956
Mutual Admiration Society, 1957
Lola O'Brien the Irish Hawaiian, 1955
Hallelujah! Brother, 1953


Oh Happy Day--Don Howard (Essex 311; 1952)
Oh Happy Day--Honey Dreamers (Your Hits 7015; 78  rpm EP)
Oh Happy Day--Dolph Dixon (Waldorf A 114; 45 rpm EP)
Oh, Happy Day--Ralph Brackett, Neely Plumb's Orch. (Music Masters 2003; 45 rpm EP)


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Various singles--Marais, Miranda, Miller; Don Cornell, Eddie Kirk, Carl Story, Harry James

The slow 1957 rock and roll ballad, A Face in the Crowd, refers to (or is literally from?) the famous  Elia Kazan movie of the same name starring Andy Griffith.  The lyrics are by Budd Schulberg, the film's screenwriter, though they're the usual love ballad with no relationship to the picture (far as I can tell).  I didn't see the entire picture, so I can't be sure it isn't in there, but I doubt it.  The music is by Tom Glazer.

The flip, Mama Guitar, is in the picture, at least briefly.  It's also by Schulberg and Glazer.

Next, the you-haven't-lived-until-you-heard-it selection of the playlist, the Mitch Miller-produced version of Josef Marais' The Zulu Warrior.  This is followed by the Waldorf fake-hit version of At the Hop, which I made longer with editing, since it was so short.  All Nite Long is an alternate title for the Jimmy Forrest classic, Night Train--this 1959 45 by Billy Vaughn rocks to a surprising degree, and it's in stereo, which couldn't have been typical of 1959 45s.  Eddie Kirk's Freight Train Breakdown, which showed up for me in a box of thrift store LPs many years ago, is one of my favorite singles ever--jazzy country, and it's a pre-Chuck Berry version of Ida Red.  Skipping ahead a little, we have "T" Texas Tyler's 1948 version of Red, using the actual title, and Tyler's version is also very country-jazzy.  Meanwhile, Ray Anthony's Brother Fats of 1951 is close enough to rock and roll to be rock and roll, imo.

Richard Hayes' version of Come On-a My House will not remind you of Rosemary Clooney's hit, and not just because it's a gender-switch version, but because it has a long verse and a considerably more elaborate arrangement.  The two versions are night and day.  Then, a gorgeous version of Richard Rodger's March of Siamese Children from The King and I, followed by a cheap but effective Tops label fake version of The Little White Cloud That Cried.  And... an incredible prepared piano version of Caravan by Ferrante and Teicher from 1952; the Ray Conniff composition (and arrangement of?) Easy, superbly performed by Harry James and his Orch. (and ripped from my 78 copy); Tony Bennett's rocking Close Your Eyes, from 1955, and the charming Music Box Tango, courtesy of Morton Gould conducting the Rochester "Pops" Orch., 1953.  From a Columbia Entre 45.

The Canadian band Illustration gives us Upon the Earth, from 1969, and it's interesting to hear something this Christian-fundamentalist coming from a progressive rock band--shows how times have changed.  Things end (no pun intended) with Percy Faith performing his very own Goin' Home Train.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR: Various Singles 1


A Face in the Crowd (Schulberg-Glazer)--Don Cornell, Orch. Dick Jacobs, 1957
Mama Guitar--Same
The Zulu Warrior--Marais, Miranda, Miller, 1952
Shot Gun Boggie (E. Ford)--Rosemary Clooney w. Orch. Dir. by Mitch Miller, 1951
At the Hop--Hal Willis and the Woodchuckers, 1957 (18 Top Hits; Waldorf)
All Nite Long--Billy Vaughn and his Orch., 1959
Freight Train Breakdown--Eddie Kirk, 1951
Brother Fats--Ray Anthony and his Orch., v: Gloria Craig and the Skyliners, 1951
Come On-a My House--Richard Hayes w, vocal group, Orch. c. George Bassman, 1951
The March of Siamese Children (Rodgers)--Norman Leyden Child's World Orch., 1959
The Little White Cloud That Cried--Nancy Brookes and the Toppers (Tops 312, 1952)
Caravan--Ferrante and Teicher, Two-pianos, 1952
Easy (Conniff-James)--Harry James and His Orch., 1946
Close Your Eyes--Tony Bennett, 1955
Music Box Tango--Morton Gould, c. the Rochester "Pops," 1953
Ida Red--"T" Texas Tyler and his Oklahoma Melody Boys, 1948
Tamboo (Cavez)--American Symphonic Band of the Air, 1955
Mocking Banjo--Carl Story and His Rambling Mountaineers, 1957
Upon the Earth--Illustration (1969)
Goin' Home Train (Faith)--Percy Faith and His Orch., 1959


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Monarchs of Melody--All My Love (Waldorf Music-Hall 33-194; 1958)

Oddly enough, despite the intensity of the Christmas posting, I have two or three projects going, and almost ready to put up.  Weird.  Anyway, this is the kind of LP--10-incher in this case--that you just have to buy because of the cover.  Doesn't matter what the music sounds like--the cover is just classic.  And I almost didn't bother with the music.  I set the needle down, and this ultra-slow quartet stuff started, and I thought to myself, "No.  No way."  But there was something nice about the sound, and it quickly became apparent these were expert musicians, and, once I got used to the movement-of-the-minute-hand pace of the tracks, I started to like them.  And their version of  Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me is absolutely perfect. because... um....  Well, I'm not sure why.  It just captures the essence of that tune, which is nothing more than the Heart and Soul chords that 90 percent of the slow early rock and roll ballads consisted of.  Find keyboard.  In root positions, play C Major, A minor, D minor, G7 in second position, lather, rinse, repeat.  And the melody is so amazingly simple that it works for that reason, not despite it.  It's perfection in song form.

Sound quality is very good, and the only condition issues are in the last track--ironically, the one track that moves.  I took most of the noise out that track, but some residue remains.  No matter.  Give this one a chance.  Let it pull you along.  It's slower than a sleep-walking turtle, but somehow the effect is not soporific.  Not on me, anyway.  You quickly realize these are musicians who like slow tempos, and perhaps the main point is that playing fast isn't the only way to play things well or right.  Best of all, it relays its era in a you-are-there sort of way, and I love records like that.  Glad I got this one, even if it was mostly for the cover.  The tracks are like an added benefit.

There's a 12-inch edition of this (with extra tracks, of course), and I'm going with the year for the 12-incher: 1958.

To the Monarchs of Melody: All My Love--The Monarchs of Melody

I Surrender Dear
I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You
Hold Me, Thrill me, Kiss Me
Ill Wind
All My Love

All My Love--The Monarchs of Melody (Waldorf Music-Hall 33-194, 1958)  Discogs identifies the musicians as: Accordion--Dominic Cortese and Nick Periro; Bass--Sandy Block; Guitar--Don Amone, and Hammond Ogran--Richard Lawrence.


Monday, January 07, 2019

The Chuck Wagon Gang, 1936-1940

So, last week I got up early and drove to Columbus, Ohio.  My first stop was the huge Goodwill on the east side.  Tons of LPs, and all stacked, but I'm fine with that, because in a previous visit, the LPs had been crammed into the shelves in long rows--rows almost impossible to move, because the shelves aren't tall enough.  So, stacks were fine.  I quickly figured out a method whereby I cleared room as I moved LPs.  This 78 album (see above) was to the side, and I saw that it contained Chuck Wagon Gang 78s, none of them in great shape, but they were only $2.99.  So I grabbed everything (a big armful of LPs, plus the 78 set) and walked all the way to the carts to deposit my finds.  Logic would have dictated leaving the records where they were and bringing the cart over, but do I listen to logic?

Anyway, I was able to restore all but two of the CWGs--the two had been ruined by bad needles and/or too many plays--and I discovered that one of the 78s is by the Masters Family.  I tossed in the Maddow Bros. and Rose version of He Will Set Your Fields on Fire, and now we have a gospel set I'd wanted to post yesterday but didn't have ready to go.  Keep in mind these are pretty chewed up, but I think I got decent sound.  And I guess I hadn't known that the CWG went back to the 1930s--two of the tracks here are from 1936.  I thought they had their start in the 1940s.  Shows you the hazards of thinking.

I'm a little nervous about posting a thirteen-selection set (cue Halloween theremin), but I think we'll be okay.  (CLUNK!  CRASH!)  Wh...what was that?  By the way, these are fabulous sides.  I forgot to mention that.  My late foster parents introduced me to this group, which I loved from the start.

Click here to hear: Chuck Wagon Gang

A Beautiful Life--The Chuck Wagon Gang (Okeh 03432; 1940)
Will You Meet Me Over Yonder?--Same
He Will Set Your Fields on Fire--Maddox Brothers and Rose, year unknown
I'll Be Going to Heaven Sometime--The Masters Family (Columbia 20785; 1950)
Let the Spirit Descend--Same
We Are Climbing--The Chuck Wagon Gang (Columbia 37450; 1940)
After the Sunrise--Same
Shall We Gather at the River?--CWG  (Columbia 20969; 1949)
Come Unto Me--CWG (Columbia 20969; 1950)
Kneel at the Cross--CWG (Columbia 20269; 1936)
The Son Hath Make Me Free--Same
He's Coming Again--CWG (Columbia 20460; 1941)
Jesus Hold My Hand--Same


Saturday, January 05, 2019

The Singing Angels go to Japan

I forgot I had this.  I spotted it a couple days ago on top of one of my record crates, and I said, "I forgot I had that."  It's a seven-inch Japanese Christmas EP I bought while serving in Yokosuka, Japan, so it must be 1983-ish.  No year given--none I can read, anyway--and I can't read the logographic Chinese characters called Kanji, so let's just call this The Singing Angels in Japan.  It's the worst I can do on short notice.  An on-line translator tells me that "Singing Angels" is "Utau tenshi-tachi" in Japense.

This runs at 33 1/3, so there's about 18 minutes of music.  I can identify all but the last two titles.  If anyone recognizes one or both, please leave a comment.

The arrangements are very good, the stereo sound is nice, and did I mention that I'd forgotten I had this?  Oh, and though this is stereo, we almost got it in mono.  I did a dumb thing and downloaded the update for my VinylStudio software (made by AlpineSoft), and of course it has glitches, one of which is to check the "Mix down to mono" box for me.  I'm not doing it, so it must be the software.  Luckily, I caught it this time before I exported the tracks (another glitch has made exporting an issue, too), so we have stereo.  I prefer my stereo in stereo, anyway.

To the Utau Tenshi-Tachi:  Japanese Christmas EP

Jingle Bells
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Silent Night
Joy to the World

Victor KVC-213

Second sackful of singles!

Well, Not all of these are singles.  Actually, only four singles were played in the production of this playlist.  When I'm ripping individual tracks from LPs, I call them "singles," as in single selections, I guess.  I don't know how my mind works.  Anyway....

The Trapp Family Singers, of course, were the subject of the apparently highly fictionalized The Sound of Music.  These TFS selections are from what I deem to be a reissue of their 1953 LP, Christmas with the Trapp Family Singers (Decca DL 9553).  Carol of the Drum, as ever, is the 1941 Katherine K. Davis song stolen in the late 1950s and retitled The Little Drummer Boy--as far as I know, this was the first-ever recording.  It really zips along, and it's the only arrangement I've heard which features three parts instead of two for the female voices.  I've ripped four other selections from this wonderful album, all superb.

Next, and from an actual single, we have Jim (Green Door) Lowe performing two of his own compositions, Santa Claus Rides a Strawberry Roan and Prince of Peace.  Then Carol of the Drum returns, this time by St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, and from a an actual single.  (I don't tolerate fakes.)  The single and LP came out in 1959, according to every source I've found, but the label says 1958, and I put 1957 on the 45 sleeve, meaning I may have discovered recording-year info at one time that places it at 1957.  If I did, I didn't make notes.  So 1959 it is, with the label telling 1958.  I hope that's clear as crystal.  Two more singles--Larry Kinnamon singing The Miracle of Christmas and Ho-Ho, the latter by Larry himself.  I found no year for this 45 on line, though I found listings for other singles on the same label (Audan), including titles by the Gaylads and Lavinia Lee.  Our single looks to be from about 1961.  You would think, as I did, that Ho-Ho, being the flip side of The Miracle of Christmas, would be about Santa Claus, or at least about the holiday.  Nope.

No year for the Dalton label single featuring Buell Thomas (My Christmas Star) and Jean Doran (Shepherds and Kings), though I'm guessing 1960-ish.  I really like Shepherds and Kings, despite some awkward lyrics, and you'll notice the label was signed by Jean Doran herself.  I like Jean's voice, too, which is very good, though with a slightly weird edge.  But weird is good.  Everyone doesn't have to sound the same.  If we all sounded the same, then we'd... we'd all sound the same.  So there.

One more actual single to come, but first, selections from the superb 1957 Word LP, The Moody Chorale, which feaures... the Moody Chorale.  Coincidence?  The chorale gives us our third Carol of the Drum version, and, like the Trapp Family's, this is pre-1958, and therefore pre-theft.  The best of the three Moody tracks, though, is Handel's And the Glory of the Lord, from (you guessed it) Messiah.  Then three album tracks, the Urania label's 1957-ish Silent Night, featuring Barron Smith at the John Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia.  Specifically, "the mammoth Wanamaker organ installed in the beautiful and specious Grand Court of the John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia"--Back jacket notes.  Fidelity is superb, and we have our yearly repeat of Ferde Grofe's charming 1934 Christmas Eve.  Here's the Christmas Eve run-down, scanned from the jacket:

Christmas Eve shows up on Youtube, and the poster gives this LP a year of 1956.  Highly possible.

The St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir returns with Carol of the Bells, and the sackful of singles and single selections runs out with Ryan Parrish's Crickett's Christmas.  Crickett is a hound who runs the reindeer--makes them go.  I don't know enough about dogs to know exactly what that means, but I always thought Santa's team was as motivated as any team could be, especially with Rudolph in the lead.  Why is Crickett needed?  And this could get into an ugly chain-of-causation deal, with another character required to get Crickett going, and a character required to get it going, and so on.  "Roll, roll, roll 'em on, Cricket, over the pines and the fields and the swamps and the thickets; Lots of toys for the good little girls and boys; Roll 'em on."  I'm sure Rudolph sometimes wishes he'd never been added to the Santa Claus narrative--new characters are showing up in town every week, itching to outdraw Rudy.  What on earth am I talking about?  To the music....

Click here to hear:  Second sackful of singles

Carol of the Drum (Davis)--The Trapp Family Singers
Shepherds Come a-Running (Polish Carol)--Same
Deck the Hall--Same
A La Nanita Nana (Spanish Carol)--Same
Born Is Jesus, the Infant King (French Carol)
Santa Claus Rides a Strawberry Roan (Lowe-Arbogast)--Jim Lowe and the Dream Dusters, 1956
Prince of Peace (Lowe)--Jim Lowe and Jack Halloran Singers, 1956
Carol of the Drum (K.K. Davis)--St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, 1959
Miracle of Christmas--Larry Kinnamon w. the Andy Charlton Singers
Ho-Ho (Kinnamon) Larry Kinnamon w. the Andy Charlton Singers
My Christmas Star--Buell Thomas w. Chapman College Madrigal Singers
Shepherds and Kings--Jean Doran, Soprano, w. Chapman College Madrigal Singers
And the Glory of the Lord (Handel)--The Moody Chorale, Don Hustad, Dir.
Carol of the Drum (Davis)--Same
Hallelujah Chorus (Handel)--Same
O Tannenbaum--Barron Smith, John Wanamaker Organ, Philadelphia
March of the Three Kings (Grieg)--Same
Christmas Eve (Grofe)--Same
Carol of the Bells--St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, 1959
Crickett's Christmas--Ryan Parrish, 1990


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Thank you

I couldn't believe it, and almost still can't, but I'm very grateful.  My pastor called and said a number of blog readers and Facebook people have contacted her expressing concern about me.  About my mental state.  I've been talking suicide with at least one person--about lying down in the woods and not coming back out.  Anxiety has been torturing me even worse than usual for the past week--the holidays are always rough for me.  For anyone with Major Depressive Disorder, really.  And I'm alone this time around.

I thought I was pissing in the wind, more or less.  What could anyone do for me?  And then people take the time to find out who my pastor is and to contact her.  Thank you.  Thank you.

I didn't know people cared that much.  I'm so very grateful for your kindness and your concern.  And your friendship.  It means a lot.


Rat Pack

On line, where questions pop up when you do a search for something--those questions the almighty Google wants (or expects?) us to ask--there's "How old was the Rat Pack when they died?"  My major wasn't in English, but "How old were the Rat Pack members when they died?" sounds better to me.  After all, they didn't all die at the same age, unless they had a suicide pact going.  I'm not aware that they did.

"How old was the Rat Pack when they died?"  Let me see--three?  Maybe four.  Yeah, I'll go with four.

Ohhhhhh, wait.  Their physical age.  My bad.  Got it.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

finally it's Christmas with the Singing Angels (1977)

finally it's Christmas with the Singing Angels was someone's idea of clever, and that's all that matters.  Don't capitalize anything but the proper nouns--what an artistic touch.  And, heck, why capitalize those?  Why no finally it's christmas with the singing angels?  They didn't have the guts, I guess.

And what's with "finally it's..."?  Finally what?  Christmas?  Or Christmas with the Singing Angels?  It could be either or both.

Fear not--the notes explain "finally": "Your friendly, neighborhood Professional Florist, a Member of The Florists Association of Greater Cleveland, Inc., suggests that, it's about time the Singing Angels made a Christmas Album...and here it is, a fabulous collection of beautiful music forever yours."  And maybe it's, about time, our friendly, neighborhood Professional, Florist, learned to, write.  Or at, least, punctuate.  And why are florists always friendly?  Are they, in fact?  There must be unfriendly florists.  Fawlty Florists.

Anyway, this LP wasn't forever the owner's, else it wouldn't have ended up in a Columbus Goodwill for me to finally get my mitts on.  Such a promising start--what is virtually guaranteed to be a fun version of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, and it's obliterated by clueless arranging.  I was never a fan of the trumpet whinny at the end, but it makes PBS "Pops" audiences happy ("Trumpet sounds like horse.  Ha, ha"), so what the heck.  And it works when played as intended--namely, trumpet whinny, tonic chord with whip crack.  The end.  Corny but ingenious.  There's no other way it can be done, but here the hotshot arranger has the singers slow down just before a rushed rendering of the trumpet effect, and then the kids do a LOUD unison, pitch-drop "WHOOOOOOOOOAAAA!!!!!" that belongs in a Twilight Zone episode, not a Kitschmas concert.  Maybe this was the moment the previous owner decided this was not to be forever his or hers, and into the "To go to Goodwill" bag it dropped.

Do things get worse?  No, but only because worst has already been reached with that "WHOOOOOOOOOAAAA!!!!!" ending.  Not that the arrangers are in a hurry to atone for their sins.  In the followup track, Coventry Carol, the harmonies are wrong, and I don't know how that's possible.  How to mess them up, I mean.  I'm not simply talking about the usual choral-style dressing up--the progressions of the first four bars are flattened out in a way that would embarrass the least adept, non-music-reading doo wop group of 1953 trying to do Stardust.  The writing is so bad, there's no conceivable excuse.  At least it doesn't end with a "Bye bye, lully, lul-LAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!"  Not sure how they missed that opportunity.

The rest is tolerable, and the arrangement of Let There Be Peace on Earth manages to not ruin this moving standard. Someone must have shamed the staff into erring on the side of respect for the material.  Meanwhile, Winter Wonderland is Barbershop a cappella, and you know I was never in a singing group, despite literally everyone's insistence I have a great voice (my ears don't detect it), because Barbershop always sounds to me like singers drifting on and off pitch.  Just use a dang piano and keep the vocalists on key.  Singers and singing groups always act like they, and they alone, understand how music works, and I'm like, here's the piano and a book of Chopin Etudes--give it your best shot, all-knowing sorts.  Show me how it's done, because I don't know music.  Meanwhile, my respect for Les Brown has dropped 40 elevator floors now that I know he's responsible for the slice of tripe known as We Wish You the Merriest, whose lyrics were hopefully penned by one of his grandchildren, which is the only possible excuse that comes to mind.  The words, to use the term loosely, are the stupidest, the stupidest, the stupidest.  Yes, the stupidest.  I imagine it all started with someone, maybe Les, realizing that "Yule cheer" rhymes with "New Year."  Except that it doesn't.  "Yule cheer"--"New Year."  These jazz folks trashed rock and roll for its idiotic lyrics and repetition.  Okay for them, not for the young kids entering the charts--their charts, thank you.  What's with these younger artists daring to have hits?  We'll sic Stan Freberg on them.  Shame them out of the business.

No, I'm not auditioning for the Grinch's spot this Yuletide....

DOWNLOAD: finally it's Christmas

Sleigh Ride
Coventry Carol
We Need a Little Christmas
Merry Christmas, Darling
White Christmas
Let There Be Peace on Earth
Christmas Was Meant for Children
Winter Wonderland
Caroleer Medley
We Wish You the Merriest
finally it's over

finally it's Christmas with the Singing Angels (SRS 1000; 1977)