Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Beetle Beat--The Original Liverpool Sound: The Buggs (The Coachmen V; 1964)

It just occurred to me that putting up an LP by "The Buggs" might not be in the best taste, given our current health crisis.  But "The Buggs," of course, is a phony name (you'd never have guessed)--the group's real name was the Coachmen V, and it included Spooky Tooth member Gary (Dream Weaver) Wright.  Info (save for the Spooky Tooth detail) courtesy of Brian McFadden's terrific Rock Rarities for a Song: Budget LPs That Saved the Roots of Rock 'n' Roll.  (I know that it's also at Discogs.) The Coachmen V thought they were getting their big break and were shocked to discover their tracks had been released under different titles, with a fake credit, and without so much as their real group pic on the jacket.  This is what you get for trusting the Coronet label, I guess.  Maybe the weirdest feature of this LP is the inclusion of the Doris Troy/Hollies hit Just One Look, only under the title Soho Mash, believe it or not.  It seems that Aaron (Goldie) Goldmark, the head of Premier Albums Inc.'s publishing wing, had published the song, and so it was up for LP-filler use.  (Coronet was a Premier Albums, Inc. label.)

The tracks are fun and well performed, but I would have thought the Baiao beat in these numbers, a staple of the Invasion sound (a feature straight from Brill Building pop and R&B), might have alerted the group to the actual intentions of Coronet.  That, and the "Yeah, yeah, yeah"s.  Maybe it's only in retrospect that these tracks sound like surrogate Mersey beat items, though.  And a lot of U.S. groups were being pushed toward a Beatles sound on account of the Fab Four's massive fame.  Some groups, like the Buckinghams, were even adopting Brit-sounding names, of course.

Another piece of weirdness: A single from this LP was released on Coral and credited to another nonexistent group, The Pacers.  It featured You Got Me Bugged and Sassy Sue, obviously the real titles of Mersey Mercy and Big Ben Hop.

In my thrifting, this is the fake Beatles LP that shows up most often, but this is the first near-mint copy I've landed, so I just had to post it.  For stereo fans, sorry about the mono, but the stereo quality probably wasn't much to rave about.  All these decades later, I'm feeling bad for the Coachmen V, who must have been beyond bugged over this betrayal, and who certainly didn't deserve to be derailed in this fashion.  (Had to make a terrible pun--sorry.)  I would hope that modern record contracts forbid this kind of name, title, and image hijacking....

To the Coachmen V....

DOWNLOAD:  The Beetle Beat--The Coachman V (The Buggs)--Coronet CX-212 (1964)


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday evening gospel: The Songsmen Quartet--Coming Your Way

Or, The story of why an all-male quartet sounded like a mixed one.

No idea on the year--no Discogs listing for this.  Plus, there's at least one other group by this name--an all-male quartet.

Speaking of all-male quartets, when I was editing these files on MAGIX (to catch any surface noise not silenced by VinylStudio and to space and number the tracks), I thought I was listening to an album by the Brothers Quartet, which is (obviously) four men.  So I couldn't understand why I was hearing two female voices.  I figured the Brothers Q. must have had an amazingly high tenor and lead.  Once I realized my error, I had to do the jacket scanning and photo editing anew, which is time-consuming.  And I was already up too late and starting to doze off--hence, the delay.

This can happen when you're doing two projects at once.  When the files export into MAGIX, they're not labeled, which doesn't help.  No loss, since I was going to put these guys up, anyway.  The liner notes, by Gospel DJ Jerry Tope  (of WLGN Radio in Logan, Ohio) only give first names for the singers--Penny, Janet, Steve and Larry, and I suspect their last name isn't Songsmen.  Going by the song credits (on the back cover), Janet and Steve could be Janet and Steve Peters, and Penny could be Penny Meade, and Larry's last name could be Leach.  But I don't want to assume.  Oddly enough, the "musicians" (i.e., accompanists) get full-name listings.  The quartet was based in Pleasantville, Ohio, which is very close to here, and the recording was made in Cincinnati, which is not nearly as close.  The performances and production are highly professional, especially for such a small label.

Some familiar songs, and four which are very possibly group originals.  The all-time classic On the Jericho Road, given the "P.D." treatment on the jacket, was by Donald S. McCrossan. Year:1928.

I'd place the Songsmen's style between Southern quartet (aka. Southen gospel) and country gospel.  The former took on more and more of a country sound as time went on--which is to say, more of a modern country sound.  The quartets always operated in the realm of country, but initially in the old-time mode of, say, Smith's Sacred Singers.  Some of the earliest recorded quartet music hearkened back to "shape note" (or "shaped note") singing, which is a wonderful tradition going back to the late 1700s, as far as printed music goes.  It's related to solfège, and other systems were tried, too, including numbering the noteheads and writing out the syllables (do/doh, re, mi, etc.).  I have a Methodist hymnal of the latter type.

Dee Gaskin's Come Morning appears to be from 1979, so that likely places this in the 1980s, which is what the cover photo has me suspecting.

And the rain is starting again.  We absolutely do not need more of the stuff after the recent local flooding....

DOWNLOAD: The Songsmen Quartet: Coming Your Way

First Day in Heaven (Bill Gaither) (Stuart Hamblen)
I'm in This Church (Joel Hemphill)
Beulah Land (Squire Parsons)
I Find Pleasure (Words and Music by Penny Meade)
My Best Friend (Words and Music by Janet Peters)
On the Jericho Road (Donald S. McCrossoan)
He's Still Working one Me (Joel Hemphill)
Consider the Lilies (Joel Hemphill)
He Cares (For a Nothing Like Me) (Words and Music by Steve Peters)
Singing and Shouting (Words and Music by Larry Leach)
Come Morning (Dee Gaskin)
I Want to Be Like My Lord (Jimmy Jones)


Friday, March 20, 2020

Top Six--The Teenager's Choice: Beatlemania (1964)

DOWNLOAD: Beatlemania--Artists Unknown (Top Six TSL 1; 1964)

Fake Beatles tonight.  (That sound like the title of a Broadway comedy.)  Why fake Beatles tonight?  Because fake Beatles are fun, and faked Fab Four records were pretty much an industry unto themselves, so they're a big part of sound recording history.  A big part of the underground thereof, anyway.  And because it's giving me a break from stressing.  Hope it can perform that feat for some of you, too.  This 1964 British LP, titled Beatlemania (no attempt at exploitation there), has its expected bad moments (and bad tracks, like Please Please Me), but considering the rushed nature of the product, it's fairly amazing.  As in, legitimately good overall.  It captures the George Martin production sound with much skill--maybe by accident; I don't know.  But it is by far the best Beatles copy I've yet heard--and it's a whole LPful, which is not a word, but so what.  I read someplace the name of the group that allegedly did these tracks, but of course I've been unable to re-find that info.  It may not even be true.  But I can say without Google confirmation that these guys are good--the lead guitarist, especially.  This very used copy played amazingly well with my entry-audiophile cartridge and stylus at 1.5 grams (which I did not expect), and VinylStudio did superbly on the many clicks.  The sound is bright and full.

The front jacket says (I believe) eleven shillings and one pence, which was a little over half a pound.  That was for twelve hits.  Top Six singles (with six hits, of course) were six shillings and eight pence.  In pure junk-label fashion, there are no liner notes, and the back cover contains only an unpunctuated track listing and an ad for Top Six singles.  My kind of LP!

I wonder what the L in "TSL" stood for.  "Top Six...?"  Lemons?  Laugh riots?  Hm.  Probably "Limited."  At any rate, if you can forgive the absurd moments, I think you'll find it a remarkably good effort.  And, if you don't, I still will.  Note how the mystery studio group messes up a line (actually, two) in the first number.  It's supposed to be, "When I'll say that something: I want to hold your hand."  Even as a kid, I got that, except I thought "I'll" was "I."  As did these guys, too.  Anyway, they sing it, "When I say that someday, I want to hold your hand."  Huh?  The singer is expressing a present desire, not a future one.  "I assure you that someday I'll want to hold your hand.  But only after this pandemic is over."  Anyway, the Beatles were known for doubling words: "something" shows up twice in the first verse.  It's as if these underpaid pros were rushing to junk-label deadline.  Come to think of it....

Money is maybe the finest fake of the bunch, in good part because the lead singer sounds uncannily like John Lennon.  This LP is the definition of fun.  And proof that fake hits sometimes transcended the awful-to-medium curve.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: Apparently, the drummer on this LP was Jimmy Nichol, who subbed for Ringo with the Beatles in an international tour when Ringo had tonsillitis.  Read about it here.  Some info on Top Six, too.  I'd read about this before at various sites but suspected it was an urban legend.  I guess not!


Sunday, March 15, 2020

This Man Called Jesus--The Gospel Bells Quartet (Gloryland Records 750722)

Today's selection, on Gloryland Records, was recorded at Rome Recording Studios in Columbus OH.  When, I don't know, but I'm guessing 1970-ish.  Remarkably, that recording site is still around, only it's now called Rome Recording, and it's moved from Columbus OH to a suburb thereof.  I wonder if it still uses stock images for its front jackets.  If it's still pressing vinyl, that is....

Good, solid group, good selections, and a pressing with issues.  I believe this was sealed when I found it, which would rule out needle wear as the source of the thumps and wobbly channel balance in spots.  Those two things could be caused by a huge stylus and someone leaning into the tonearm, but then the surface would look like a war zone, and this surface looks clean.  Just a mildly defective pressing--nothing too major.  I edited out the thumps, though I couldn't get rid of the swish or the semi-dropouts in the two channels.  The latter are definitely a result of an inadequate pressing.  But we can expect cheap pressings to sound... cheap.  On occasion.

I'd call this country gospel, though it seems nowadays that nearly everything that involves a gospel quartet falls under the heading of Southern gospel.  Which is okay with me, because I believe in erring on the side of inclusiveness and limiting the number of labels we're tossing around.  But when there's an Appalachian, even bluegrass-y sound to the vocals (as there is here), but the background is conventional Southern gospel, I go for country gospel as the label.  And I'm not sure that sentence made sense, but I'm getting tired, so I'll leave it be.  The MAGIX portion of my editing took longer than I expected, given the less than terrific pressing, so this post didn't go nearly as smoothly or swiftly as I expected.  There's a lesson there.  Someplace.  I have no idea what it is, but I'm sure there is one.

I'm always complaining about how gospel LPs never provide a left-to-right identification of the group members, so I'm happy to say this release parts with convention in that regard.  The four folks at the top of the photo are tenor Leonard Preston (who write the title song), alto Louise Bowens, bass Jack Bowens, and lead L.T. Preston.  Kneeling are bass and rhythm guitar player John Fox and piano player Jerry Thornhill.  Drummer Rod Salyers (the newest member) gets his own photo below the main shot.  See how easy that was?  Why don't more of these albums do this?

Very good, very professional sounding country gospel, and I think it makes a nice contrast to the extremely down home material (no less good) that I've been putting up lately.  And I'm right now spot-listening to next week's selection, and it's pure, solid Southern gospel, so I won't have to worry about labels.  To our offering for this Sunday....

DOWNLOAD: The Gospel Bells Quartet--This Man Called Jesus

I Wanna Go There (Spiritual)
I Have Found Somebody (Garrison)
More to Go to Heaven For (Campbell)
I Saw the Man (Adams)
When I Walk on the Streets of Gold (Reeves)
What a Beautiful Day (Wilburn and Cook)
This Man Called Jesus (Leonard Preston)
Ready to Leave (Hemphill)
Hard Working Pilgrim (Unknown)
Look for Me at Jesus' Feet (Squire Parsons)
The Glory Road (Cook)
One Day at a Time (Kris Kristofferson-Mary John Wilkins)

This Man Called Jesus--The Gospel Bells Quartet (Gloryland Records 750722)


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Shellac for 2020, Part 2--Peerless Quartet, Don Richardson, Ted Lewis, Victor Orchestra

I don't know if it's right to post a bunch of 78s while we're in a state of national emergency, but then why not?  Any virus in the zip file--highly unlikely--isn't going to be physical, anyway.  Oops--touched my face.  Gotta stop that.

The reason I'm doing all these shellac restorations right now, including many titles I've previously put up, is because I'm getting new levels of fidelity from these things by manually manipulating the "equalization page" graphic in VinylStudio--something I just started doing.  So I'm going crazy with the 78s.  I wish the VS display was larger, but you can't have everything.  I'm getting detail I wasn't able to get before.  I've read that recording engineers during the horn-recording era, despite the absence of an electrical recording curve, were able to manipulate the playback results--by using dampers, for instance--and so there was nothing close to a standard recording curve.  This makes it okay--and, really, necessary--to custom-sound-shape each file.  And I don't know if I hyphenated that correctly, but let's move on.

I was kind of amused to discover that our first track, Alagazam (To the Music of the Band), shows up on the first volume of the CD series, That Devilin' Tune.  My rip is cleaner, so unless you're a fan of low-frequency hum, mine's the one to go with.  The song is a racist staple--a "colored" group of soldiers and the comedy that results when you gather up same.  Except I seem to recall that African-American soldiers fought with great distinction during WWI.  But this is minstrel stuff, so what can we expect?  Musically, it's very interesting, and there is definitely a jazz feel.  Partly, it's the aggressive syncopation and the up-front percussion, but it's more than those.  Something indefinable.  The flip, which concerns "Old Bill Bailey" (clearly a standard "colored" character) playing the "ukalele," has jazz feel, too, though milder.  Excessively interesting sides.  For David, I'm offering Paul Whiteman's own adaptation, in its 1921 acoustical version, of Song of India, a number taken from a Rimsky-Korsakov aria and known as... Song of India.  Hence, the title.  (I think I'm late for my meds....)  While Whiteman very quickly decided he was not up to writing the arrangements for his orchestra--his goofy 1920 version of Dance of the Hours would seem to support his judgement--he did give us this fascinating take on India.  What gives it its punch is the thumping tonic-note ostinato.  I also love the seven emphatic staccato chords at the end.  With the cymbal crash providing the final quarter note.

Circus Clowns was apparently composed by the bandleader John Fischer, who was Hungarian-American, I believe.  It's from a light-green Columbia E-series 78 made for the ethnic market, and I never got it to sound 1/10 as good as this rip.  Fabulous side, with magnificent musicianship.  Two sides by the Original Memphis Five--the first on the lousy Regal label, which explains the less than terrific fidelity, and the second on Victor, which explains the vastly superior audio.  This is the only time in my life I'll have the chance to choose between Bee's Knees and Snakes Hips, so I'd better cherish the moment.  I'll go for the latter, a Spencer (Basin Street Blues) Williams classic, and I'll forever wonder if there was supposed be an apostrophe before or after the s in "snakes."  I read on line that "snakes hips" refers to belly dancing, and I have no reason (or desire) to question this.  Why shouldn't it?  And now we come to The Cross Bow.  Lots to say about it--I'll give it a shot.  We'll start with the words, which I lucked out and found on line in an 1892 magazine digitized at Google Books.

A tailor there dwelt near old Sherwood edge, Who was deft with an old crossbow. One day as he sat on his window ledge, Came winging a jet black crow.  He perched near by and to caw began--They heard him anear and far--"It takes nine tailors to make a man, So a ninth of a man, then, you are!"

The tailor grew wroth and exceedingly fierce, Crying "Wife, bring my old crossbow!"  And he shot then a shaft that was aimed to pierce the heart of that jet black crow.  He killed his favorite pig outright--the crow cried and flew afar, "It takes nine tailors to make a man, So a ninth of a man, them, you are!"

Gorgeously sung, no?  The selection is from a late 19th century opera, Robin Hood, by Reginald De Koven.  Growing "wroth," of course, means getting pissed off.  I'm not sure that I would attempt to kill a crow for calling me one ninth of a man, but then I'm not a tailor living back in Robin Hood days--i.e., the 13th century or so.  And I don't have a cross bow.  But the thing is, what does the saying mean--"It takes nine tailors, etc."?  My best guess was that it took nine tailors to work on a suit back in those times, with suits being so complicated that each section required a specialist.  In my interpretation, "a man" meant a suit.  Clothes makes the man, right?  But I stumbled onto an Oxford University blog post devoted to this "proverb," the blogger a famous linguist.  I was in luck!  Except, like me, he doesn't know what it meant.  But he traced it back to the 1500s and discovered that it could be used to both compliment tailors or trash them.  Makes sense.  Any saying that lasts six centuries is going to function in many ways, and in any number of contexts, so....

I thought that would be more interesting than it turned out to be.  But I do love the way that genuine experts, unlike the middlebrow type who sell lots more books, are willing to admit when they don't know something.  As for taunting tailors (my favorite rock group), I understand that, in crow society, this counts as a misdemeanor and can result in up to three weeks in a caw-rectional facility.

College Life March is very advanced stuff for 1909, and I believe Walter B. Rogers was that amazing arranger who wrote for the Victor Military Band.  Billy Murray's voice rings out from the vocal chorus on this one, and the "Rah! Rah!" parts are wonderfully weird and cool.  The side has a drive that I associate with later dance band music, so Rogers is someone to find out more about.  He could have been the Ferde Grofe of his day.  He may have scored the 1911 Alexander's Ragtime Band, too, a side with a delightfully loose, almost swinging feel to its syncopation--and, despite the popular claims to the contrary, the song is ragtime.  It has some ragtime rhythms, anyway.  Ragtime Lite.  And I didn't plan to put two Vincent Youmans classics in a row, and from the same year (1924), but fate made it so.  The first, the Benson Orch.'s version of Tea for Two, is in my shellac Top Ten, and Jan Garber's version of I Want to Be Happy (not my favorite Youmans) is extremely jazzy.  Garber seemed to have given up on jazz after the 1920s.  As for the Ted Lewis Jazz Band, I'm okay with calling his side jazz, though it's very clunky jazz.  Apparently, Lewis inherited Earl Fuller's orchestra (which one, I'm not sure, as Fuller had three or so) when all the members, including Ted, split from Earl.  By contrast, Lewis' 1923 12th Street Rag (dunno what happened on the mp3 tag) is surprisingly effectively jazzy, if I can double my adverbs, despite no "jazz" in the band credit.  I first had 12th Street in a warped edition, so I was thrilled to land (after two tries) a good one.  Lewis had a corny style, and many find his jazz chops highly lacking, but he did his share of good jazz discs.

Don Richardson's extraordinary 1916 recording of Arkansas Traveler predates by six years what Wikipedia calls "the first generally recognised country recording" of 1922--namely, "Eck" Robertson's Sallie Gooden/Arkansaw (sic) Traveler on Victor.  And we Yanks spell it "recognized," so I don't know what's up with that.  Wiki is reluctant to label Don's fiddle sides country, because everyone knows that genuine country musicians can't read, write, or teach music like Don could.  Worse, North Carolinian Don was capable of playing in other styles.  In short, he possessed the skills necessary to make a living from music, which means he can't be called a country musician, which means his sides can't be called country.  So I totally get Wiki's dilemma.  I hope you're following this, because there'll be a quiz.  Seriously, though, questions regarding who was the first "authentic" this or that are too subjective to mean a danged thing, so when you have a 1916 side that sounds like country, the sane person calls it country.

Cool 1926 recording by the peerless Peerless Quartet of Sweet Adeline and In the Evening by the Moonlight, the latter by the "black Stephen Foster," James A. Bland.  I wonder if, in 1926, Adeline enjoyed its present reputation as the Barbershop number.  Dunno.  As for the "darkies" in the Moonlight lyrics, that was nothing compared to the Barbershop staple Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield, which the Imperial Quartet recorded as the flip to The Cross Bow, and which I didn't rip because of language.  And, as far as I can tell, Cornfield is still in use as a Barbershop number--with softened lyrics, I'm sure.  Barbershop clearly came out of minstrel shows, and I mean "out of" in the sense of detaching from.  Minstrel shows were variety shows, and close harmony singing was one feature thereof.  The racism that's all over Barbershop (before Barbershop became anything and everything, song-wise) has too much of a minstrel show flavor not to be a product of minstrelsy.

Two very entertaining 1920 sides by Lanin's Roseland Band, which I assume is Sam Lanin (though I'd better verify), and then a less than well-known Gershwin number, Limehouse Blues, played by the world-famous Columbia Saxophone Sextette.  I haven't read up on the group, but I'm betting it was Columbia's answer to the Six Brown Brothers.  Prior to using the equalizer page method, I was never able to get a decent rip from this 78.

To the shellac....

DOWNLOAD: Shellac for 2020, Part 2

Alagazam (To the Music of the Band) )Sterling-Harry Von Tilzer)--Peerless Quartet, 1915
Bee's Knees (Lopez-Lewis)--The Original Memphis Five, 1922
Song of India (Adapated by Paul Whiteman)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch., 1921
Circus Clowns (Fischer)--Gallop--John Fischer's Band, 1918
Snakes Hips (Spencer Williams)--The Original Memphis Five, 1923
The Cross Bow--From "Robin Hood" (De Koven)--Imperial Quartet, 1915
When Old Bill Bailey Plays the Ukalele (sic) (McCarron-Vincent)--Peerless Quartet, 1915
College Life March (Frantzen)--Victor Orchestra, c. Walter B. Rogers, w. vocal chorus, 1909
Alexander's Ragtime Band (Berlin)--Victor Military Band, 1911
Over the Waves Waltz (Rosas)--Dance Orchestra (Victor 2881; 1904)
Tea for Two (Irving Caesar-Vincent Youmans)--Benson Orchestra, Dir Don Bestor, 1924
I Want to Be Happy (Youmans)--Jan Garber and His Orchestra, 1924
I Never Care About Tomorrow (La Vine-Lange-Holden)--Same
"O" (OH!) (Intro. "The Vamp") (Gay and Johnson-Gay)--Ted Lewis Jazz Band, v: Jack Kaufmann, 1919
Arkansas Traveler--Don Richardson, Violin Solo, Piano Acc.  (Columbia A2140; 1916)
Sweet Adeline (Gerard-Armstrong)--Peerless Quaret (Victor 20055; 1926)
In the Evening by the Moonlight (James Bland)--Same
Oh! By Jingo (One-step) (Albert Von Tilzer) (Sam) Lanin's Roseland Band, `910
Rose of Chile (Tango) (Bowers)--Same
12th Street Rag (Bowman)--Ted Lewis and His Band, 1923
Limehouse Nights (Gershwin)--Columbia Saxophone Sextette, 1920


Sunday, March 08, 2020

Jesus Use Me, by the Gospel Enlightness (Cabut Recording Co. CA-1003; probably 1969)

I 'm not sure exactly what, but there's just something about this cover photo which suggests a lot of down-home sounds in the vinyl.  And, sure enough, there are.  Way down-home sounds.  Now, I wish more gospel covers would have a left-to-right group identification in the notes--so very few do; and this one is no exception.  The thing here is that the man on the right, who holds Andy's guitar (see "ANDY" on the body), almost can't be Andy, since this record was made in approximately 1969.  I have to say "approximately," because this is a Rite Records pressing, and the dates on the online Rite Records matrix guide are only approximate prior to 1975.  So, if the man on the far left is Andy, then he was born in 1940, and he'd have been about 29 when this was taken.  He certainly doesn't look 29, so I'm assuming he's Cecil Honeycutt, with Cecil's wife, Amy, the lady in the center.  This could have been a hastily posed photo.  Grab instrument, smile.

So, this was recorded and produced by the Cabut Recording Co. of Shelby, Ohio, with "studio in Lima, Ohio."  Huh?  Well, whatever.  Cecil and Amy, the older couple, are from Kentucky, having settled in Indiana in 1955.  And this is a gift from Diane in Indiana, so--thanks, Diane!

Great sounds, and I've had no time to check out the composer credits or anything, since I'm preparing two other posts as we speak.  Just the way things timed out--though God's Old Clock is apparently by Hal Kennedy, words and music.  (I just had to look that one up.)  This LP is pure bluegrass gospel, and I love it, but someone did a less than exemplary job capturing the performances.  Apologizes to Jim Horn, who's listed as producer, but if you're going to 1) turn on the tape machine too late or 2) turn it off too early, then at least splice out the thumping noises.  Luckily, I took the time to do this for you.  No thumps, but you'll be hearing some clipped beginnings and abrupt endings.  These were in the record--I didn't do 'em.  Anyway, MAGIX makes precise sound file editing easy with its unlimited magnification feature, perhaps in anticipation of challenges like these.

I suppose the careless tape machine operation adds to the charm of the disc--but only once the thumping sounds have been eliminated.  The thumps remind me of the two-cent productions from the Eli Oberstein labels (Royale, et al.), where, on many releases, the same recorder-turning-off noises adorn the space between the tracks.  But I only paid a buck.  And I really do love that cover photo. And the music.  And the warm, friendly feeling.  It's impossible to look at that photo and listen to these folks and not like them.  To not want them over to your house for a visit.  But I don't know, if given a chance, I'd ask them to explain their group name--The Gospel Enlightness.  "Enlightness," after all, isn't a word, though it is a character in the Game of Warcraft.  I might, if I had them over, find some gentle way, some polite opening via which to say, "So, um... how did you decide on your, um, name?  Oh, I think the microwave just went off.  Be right back."

Another mystery: The phone number in the lower r.h. corner of the back jacket.  Whose number is it?  The studio's?  The group's?  The Game of Warcraft's?  Maybe it's a service which explains how an LP can be recorded in Shelby, Ohio when the studio is in Lima.  I just checked, and the distance between Shelby and Lima is 84 miles.  Maybe a lot of rushing back and forth was involved here.  That could explain Cecil ending up with Andy's guitar.  But, seriously, excellent bluegrass gospel.  Diane thrifted a winner with this one.

DOWNLOAD: Jesus Use Me--The Gospel Enlightness


No Vacancy--Cecil Honeycutt
Satan Is Real--Cecil and Amy Honeycutt
I Saw the Light--Instrumental by Ellis Lenceford, lead guitarist
Born Again--Andy Hurt and Cecil Honeycutt
I'm Going Home--Cecil and Patricia Honeycutt
I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone--Cecil and Amy Honeycutt
Harp with Golden Strings--Patricia Honeycutt
Away Upon the Mountain--Cecil and Amy Honeycutt
God's Old Clock (Hal Kennedy)--No credit, though probably Amy
What a Happy Day--Patricia Honeycutt
How Many Different Ways--Cecil and Amy Honeycutt
Jesus Use Me--Cecil and Patricia Honeycutt

Jesus Use Me, by the Gospel Enlightness (Cabut Recording Co. CA-1003; about 1969)


Thursday, March 05, 2020

Andre Kostelanetz: Cambodian Suite, Mosquito Dance, more!

I received a request to feature side 2 of Andre Kostelanetz's 1955 recording of Hudson River Suite, and I'm glad, because the music is quite lovely, beginning with the Cambodian Suite, composed by "His Royal Highness," Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.  It's tempting to wonder if John Lennon cribbed the opening bars for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds--I doubt it, but the similarity is striking.  And, in case it needs to be noted, despite the countless recordings credited to Andre Kostelanetz "and His Orchestra," including this one, Kosty didn't have an orchestra in the Paul Whiteman, Glen Miller, or Art Mooney sense--he had the cream of the Columbia label studio pros, including Mitch Miller on some occasions (Miller, of course, was a world-class oboist).  Is his autobiography, which I used to own, Andre pointed this out, adding that, in the sense that many of the same studio guys played pretty regularly for him, there was sort of/kind of an Andre Kostelanetz orchestra.  All I know is that the musicianship on his tracks gives me goosebumps.  It's ridiculously good.

And the Prince's Cambodian Suite is first-rate, too, setting its moods with great skill and imagination.  I love Grofe's Hudson River, but it's one of Ferde's most understated pieces (took me many listens to grow to love it), whereas Cambodian speaks its piece in swift, no-nonsense fashion, following a languid, dreamy, but captivating movement (actually, two movements, say the notes) with a wake-up-and-listen uptempo portion.  This is someone with Ferde's flair for light concert fare (flair for fare?), and such composers don't grow on trees.  Terrific piece, even if my ears conflated the first and second movements.  Hey, Columbia didn't include a score....

Manuel de Falla's Spanish Dance is nice, but the composer spoiled me for life with his life-altering Ritual of Fire (from the same opera, La Vida Breve).  He's one of those composers who people compare to himself.  With Grofe, it's "I was expecting the Grand Canyon Suite."  With de Falla, it's The Fire Dance.  And with Gustav Holst, it's The Planets, of course.  Sometimes, composers with hugely popular works are insulted by reviewers as "one-hit" composers, which makes me want to reply, "How many huge hits do you have, smarty-pants?"  This is a family blog, so I'm staying in mild-invective mode.

I'm having a tough time Googling info about composer Paul White (1895-1973; Mosquito Dance), partly because there's a British Paul White (born in 1954) who keeps coming up.  White's brief Mosquito Dance is as short and to the point as light works come.  Lots of totally appropriate dissonance, and an ending that had me laughing out loud.  Ingenious.  I won't give it away, except to say it's a, um, arm-slapper.

Any orchestral version of La Bamba de Vera Cruz works for me, and this one, by Argentine composer Terig Tucci (1897-1973), is maybe the most fabulous setting of them all.  One of Kosty's "most popular encores," the notes tell us.  I'd be wanting at least two repeats.  Some sources list Tucci as the composer, but I'm pretty sure the music is of folk origin, to use the fancy phrase.  I'm betting that any number of internet pages credit the composition to Richie Valens, which shows us the negative side of cyberspace--the part that promotes and perpetuates misinformation.  The part that credits House of the Rising Sun to Eric Burdon or Josh White.  Burdon did make the song his, in a way, but....

Back to topic, Heshey Kay's Saturday Night, from his Western Symphony, leaves me cold.  Maybe it's because I'd rather listen to genuine country and square dance music than a "Pops" version thereof.  It seems unnecessarily pretentious.  Keep in mind I don't care for Copland's brand of Americana, either, so....  Off the top of my bald head, Morton Gould is the only person, imo, who did a memorable job in this symphonic genre.  This is too "PBS at the Pops," however expertly orchestrated and organized.  Many in the art music world would classify this work as a treatment of folk themes, but this is because pop and folk used to get confused on a regular basis.  Country, including fiddle tunes and barn dance, fall into the popular, not folk, realm.  But no one did light orchestral fare better than Andre, so we have that, at least.  Kay fans, feel free to voice your complaints.

Thanks to Eric for his flip-side request.  I would probably have never gotten around to listening to it.

DOWNLOAD: Cambodian Suite, more

Cambodian Suite (H.M. King Norodom of Cambodia)
Spanish Dance (Manuel de Falla, from "La Vida Breve")
Mosquito Dance (Paul White, from "Five Miniatures")
La Bamba de Vera Cruz (Terig Tucci)
Saturday Night (Hershey Kay, from "Western Symphony")

Ferde Grofe: Hudson River Suite--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (Columbia CL-763; 1955)


Monday, March 02, 2020

Grofe on Shellac--Queen of Egypt, Stop Your Kiddin'/Kidding, March for Americans, Wonderful One

This kind of post takes forever to put together!  I had to dig out all the 78s, then check discographical details, and... whew!  Lots of busy work.  And I had to make these things sound good, which I hopefully accomplished.  The too-bright sound on the Original Memphis Five's Stop Your Kiddin' was unavoidable--Regal was a low-quality label, and any amount of freeing the sound from the surface noise resulted in over-resonance.  Oddly enough, this moderately worn disc sounded better with my traditional 2.7 mil 78 stylus than when played with the 3.5 mil.  With worn discs, it's a toss-up, as the wider stylus sometimes only makes thing worse.  Sound restoration isn't a job for sissies.  Which would suggest that people who do sound restoration aren't sissies.  But it's a saying similar to "aging isn't for sissies."  Yet sissies do age.  Something to think about while I type gibberish.  Good grief.  It's only late afternoon.  I shouldn't be this zoned yet.

Grofe--yes.  I forgot we were talking about Grofe.  Well, I'll just go down the playlist and offer words of wisdom, support, and weird humor.  Despite the 1933 recording date, Count Your Blessings is from the 1934 Palooka, starring Jimmy Durante, and I've never seen it.  Which doesn't change the fact that it's from that movie.  For years, I thought Grofe had done the soundtrack for the film, though it turns out he only did this single, very pleasant song whose memory has been erased by the later, way more famous Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep), by that most American of Siberian-born songwriters, Irving Berlin.  It doesn't help, either, that there's a famous Sunday School Count Your Blessings (Edwin O. Excell, 1897).  Bad title choice on Ferde's part.

All I know about Conrad Thibault is from this Wikipedia entry. A popular radio singer, he definitely sounds like the Juilliard graduate and student of Emilio de Gogorza that he was.  His treatment of Short'nin' Bread is a classic period example of a spiritual given concert treatment, and Grofe provides the orchestra backing on both Thibault selections.  I'm assuming, but can't be sure, that Grofe arranged, too.  Sure sounds that way.

Clap Yo' Hands is fascinating.  It would have been merely a reasonably "hot" version of the Gershwin number, save for the musical quotations from Grofe's Mississippi Suite!  The quotations come from Father of Waters, the movement missing in Whiteman's recording of the piece.  This side is one of many relics from the 1920s that suggest Mississippi was quite a big hit, including in England.  I think Grand Canyon kind of took over as Grofe's signature work, though this wouldn't have happened right away.  I won't resort to the pun that Father of Waters must have made quite a splash in its day.  Oops.  I just did.

And we have another recording of Grofe and Peter DeRose's "Oriental Fox-Trot Romance" Suez--a good one, by Mark Markel's Orchestra on Okeh.  Then the trebly Original Memphis Five recording of the jazzy Stop Your Kiddin' (another Grofe-co-written number), which had its missing g restored in Frank Westphal's version, also recorded in 1922 but apparently released in 1923.  What's surprising is that both versions have an ODJB sound.  We'd expect that from the Original Memphis Five, but not from a dance band (though Paul Whiteman frequently ended his sides with a Dixieland-style chorus).  Westphal's polyphonic approach is more conservative than the OMF's, but it's still recognizably Dixie.  Westphal had a small discography on Columbia, which is too bad, since his sides were always interesting.

Wonderful One is a very nice waltz written by Whiteman and Grofe.  A huge hit in its day, it became a standard, so I have no idea why it took so much searching in my collection to find a single performance of it (besides Whiteman's own, which I skipped).  Here, the Columbia Dance Orchestra does a nice job with it, and in he year it first took dancers by storm--1923.  A gentle, quiet storm.  Nuthin' But (aka, Nothing But) is a jazzy number by Ferde, Whiteman's star trumpeter Henry Busse, and someone named Sam Ward, who isn't listed in Brian Rust's dance band discography, and so I don't know who he was.  This is the Whiteman version, and only because I lost my Georgians version in my 78 rows someplace.  It's reasonably "hot," though a little repetitious.   César Cui's Orientale was turned into a Fox Trot by Grofe and Whiteman, and we have the Whiteman recording, and I'd have featured the superior electrical-era redo if I had it.  Still, a fascinating example of a light Classic transformed into a dance number--a rather unlikely choice, too.  Queen of Egypt (Grofe and DeRose, again) features some classic Grofe chords, and I wonder if he arranged this.  Abe Lyman, 1923, and you should have seen the label before I Photo-shopped it.

Wang-Wang Blues is almost certainly a Grofe arrangement, and despite a draggy middle section, it's a magnificent example of "tamed" jazz.  It just needed a trumpet player with more imaginative ad-libbing skills.  Whiteman has been derided for the past century for his crime of arranging jazz, despite the fact that the man was simply anticipating the big bands to come, and despite the fact that reading, notating, and arranging are three skills required to function as a jazz musician nowadays, and have been for some time.  I keep hoping the idiot take on Whiteman will be revised, but it's carried on mindlessly and dutifully, as if discounted myths warranted respect simply because they're part of a critical tradition.

We get the acoustical and electrical recordings of By the Waters of Minnetonka, giving us a great chance to hear what the same score sounds like in both recording modes.  Putting them side by side makes for a fun effect, I think.  Grofe's typically amazing score is jazz only in the dated jazzing-the-Classics sense, and what's most fun is the ingenious opening, which anticipates the Indian-attack section of Mississippi Suite.

Gershwin's The Yankee Doodle Blues (1922) gets semi-ODJB treatment by Paul Whiteman's sub-group the Virginians, and the Williams College collection credits Grofe with an arrangement of this song--most likely, it's this one.  This is another worn disc that sounded better with my regular 2.7 mil stylus.  The whole-tone coda makes it about 100 percent certain Grofe scored this.

Then two more Grofe dance arrangements from the jazzing-the-Classics tradition, and they're beautifully done.  They are Rimsky-Kosakow (sic)'s Hymn to the Sun and Fritz Kreisler's Caprice Viennois, because nothing back then said "class" like using French in your titles.  The Whiteman/Grofe tradition of turning concert pieces into dance music was huge during the big band era, but because of the Whiteman-wasn't-jazz attitude, efforts like these are viewed as oddities rather than precursors or prototypes.

Whispering and The Japanese Sandman are two gorgeous 1928 Grofe re-arrangements of the two huge Whiteman hits of 1920, probably intended to show how far their music had evolved.  I'd call it a successful attempt.  Then we leap forward to 1941 for a rip that took some work to bring to life--Grofe's March for Americans, recorded in 1941 by Meredith Willson, from Willson's Modern American Music 12-inch 78 set, which I used to own in full.  Repeated attempts yielded a quiet rip with body and punch--hard to achieve when the pressing is noisy and slightly warped.  Best rip of the playlist, I think.  On CD, I have Whiteman doing the march on a radio broadcast.  Lightweight but pleasing, this march zips by so fast and with so much conviction, it can be forgiven all faults (such as a modulation that, after umpteen listens, still sounds wrong).  There's something irresistible about this march--completely without pretension, and penned by someone who loved and respected the march form.  And Willson's orchestra is pretty astounding on it.

A complete turnover in mood with Grofe's gorgeous arrangement of Edward MacDowell's timelessly beautiful To a Wild Rose, once such a standard light piece that it almost became a joke.  Too much popularity isn't always a good thing.  Nowadays, we can appreciate it as a masterful mood piece, and boy, does Grofe get the point.  Chester Hazlett's sub-toned clarinet is perfect for the minimal score, and the minimal score is perfect for Hazlett's clarinet.  Sound quality is astounding for 1929.  MacDowell, Grofe, and Hazlett are the winners on this side.  And the listener, to use the corny ad line.

Took work and time to get this together, and I wouldn't have done it for anyone but Ferde.  And you guys.  A typo on the Clap Yo' Hands file--"Columbia 802" should be "Columbia 802D."  Oops.

DOWNLOAD: Grofe on Shellac 

Count Your Blessings (From "Joe Palooka," Guest-Caesar-Grofe)--Will Osborne and His Orch., v: Osborne (Oriole 2807, 1933)

The Last Round-Up (Billy Hill)--Conrad Thibualt, Baritone, w. Ferde Grofe Orch. (Victor 24404, 1933)
Short'nin' Bread (Wood-Wolfe)--Same
Clap Yo' Hands (Gershwin-Gershwin)--Fred Rich and His Hotel Astor Orch.. v
 The Crooners (Columbia 802D; 1926)

Suez (F. Grofe-P. DeRose)--(Mike) Markel's Orchestra (Okeh 4614, 1922)
Stop Your Kiddin' (Mills-Grofe-McHugh)--The Original Memphis Five (Regal 9395, 1922)
Wonderful One--Waltz (Whiteman and Grofe)--Columbia Dance Orch. (Columbia A3859, 1923)
Nuthin' But (Busse-Ward-Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 19073, 1923)
Oriental (Cui's "Orientale," Arr. Whiteman and Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 18940, 1922)
Queen of Egypt (Grofe-De Rose)--(Abe) Lyman's California Ambassador Orch. (Brunswick 2481, 1923)
Wang-Wang Blues (Mueller-Johnson-Busse, Arr. Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 18694, 1920)
By the Waters of Minnetonka (Thurlow Lieurance, Arr. Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 19391, 1924)
By the Waters of Minnetonka (Thurlow Lieurance, Arr. Grofe--Same (Victor 21796, 1928)
Stop Your Kidding (Mills-Grofe-McHugh)--Frank Westphal and His Orch. (Columbia A3786, 1923)
The Yankee Doodle Blues (Gershwin, Arr. Grofe)--The Virginians, Dir. Ross Gorman (Victor 18913, 1922)
Hymn to the Sun (Rimsky-Korsakow, Arr. Grofe)--Paul Whiteman and His Orch. (Victor 19862, 1925)
Caprice Viennois--Waltz (Fritz Kreisler, Arr. Grofe)--Same
Whispering (John Schonberger, Arr. Grofe)--Same (Victor 21731, 1928)
The Japanese Sandman (Egan-Whiting, Arr. Grofe)--Same
March for Americans (Grofe)--Meredith Willson and His Concert Orchestra (Decca 29104, 1941)
To a Wild Rose (Edward MacDowell, Arr. Grofe)--Chester H. Hazlett of the Paul Whiteman Orch., Sub-tone Clarinet (Columbia 1844-D, 1929)