Friday, July 30, 2021

"Strings in Stereo" in mono--Stuart Phillips Dir. The Crystal Studio Strings (Colortone 4941; 1959)


I'd prefer the Waldorf Strings in Stereo version of this LP, but this is the one I found--the mono (Strings Strings Strings), on Colortone, directed by Stuart Phillips (not credited on this edition).  Stuart, as Stu Phillips, is of course best known for his Hollyridge Strings LPs on Capitol, which include The Beatles Songbook, The Beach Boys Songbook, and the Christmas Favorites album.  He's also a film and TV composer--Hell's Angels on Wheels, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Switch, Battlestar Gallactica, The Fall Guy, etc.  Here--and I'm assuming he was the arranger--Stu is giving us superb, dreamy easy listening of a type which falls someplace between Percy Faith and Hugo Winterhalter--"Percy Faith on caffeine" is a phrase that came to mind as I was listening one of the bands, though that's kind of silly.  And it occurs to me that the budget labels, come the late 1950s and early 1960s, were providing mood music of an earlier type, all while Andre Kostelanetz, Faith, and other easy listening maestros were going for a more pop-beat-oriented variety, in keeping with the rock and roll and showtune music of that time.  The budgets were the place for older, most languid pop instrumentals.  Which is fine with me.

The 1959 audio is very good, despite the inexpensive, hard-vinyl type of pressing (I don't think Waldorf saved its best vinyl for the Colortone line), and I imagine (though I can't be sure) that the stereo mix is memorable.  Some P.D. concert works tossed in, including the ultimate such chestnut, Liszt's Liebestraum, which Stu refreshingly treats like a Johann Strauss, Jr. waltz (for a literal change of pace), to fun effect.  Interesting to hear the number treated like a waltz for dancing, and on a mood LP, no less.  Nothing soporific about any of these selections--the LP just expertly glides along from first groove to last, and it was nice to have a mostly event-free ripping experience here--someone took very good care of this disc (and the jacket).

"Exquisite and Romantic Mood Music Performed in New Exciting High Fidelity Sound."  The lower-priced labels were so humble about such things...

Here's a pic of the stereo edition, from eBay, where it's on set sale for a not-low price:

DOWNLOAD: Strings Strings Strings--Stuart Phillips and the Crystal Studio Strings, 1959.

Love's Old Sweet Song
All the Things You Are
La Golondrina
Dance of the Hours
Something to Remember You By
The Girl That I Marry
Soft Lights and Sweet Music

Strings Strings Strings--The Crystal Studio Strings, Dir. by Stuart Phillips (Colortone 4941; 1959)


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

County and Western Hits (Diplomat D2398)--The Green Valley Singers (yeah, right)


This turned up on a recent thrift trip, and I was a little dismayed when my Stanton 500 failed to coax good sound from these grooves, even when I employed my wider, 1.5 mil needle.  As a last resort, I tried my light-tracking stylus and cart, and... bingo.  Acceptable audio.  Now, all I had to do was widen the spindle hole so I could properly position the off-center pressing.  (The majority of turntables, unfortunately, fail to employ the genius innovation of those old Dual tables: a removable spindle.)  So, I used one of these:

Very handy tool for widening spindle holes.  It did the trick, and thus the LP was saved from a trip to the Failed Thrift Find File, also known as my bedroom wastebasket.

So, we have to wonder, does Country & Western Hits deliver on the promise of the title?  Well, it depends on how technical we choose to be.  Because, yes, the playlist does contain country hits, but we're only talking four out of the ten tracks--though forty percent isn't bad for SPC, I don't suppose.  The genuine county fakes (genuine fakes?) consist of Wolverton Mountain, a huge 1962 hit for Claude King, Young Love, a big hit for Sonny James and a number of other folks, including (gag!) Donny Osmond in 1973 (Despite that awful 1973 memory, I like the number), Four Walls, a huge hit for Jim Reeves, and always nice to hear in any halfway competent version, plus Heartaches by the Number, a country hit for Ray Price, and a monster pop hit for Guy Mitchell (maybe my favorite Mitchell record).  And... that's it.  Those are the four actual country hits.

The other six?  A very amusing Willie Francis reggae number (!) called I'm Going to Change Everything, which may or may not have been covered by a country artist or two, though I've found no evidence one way or the next.  (Correction: With the slight title change, I'm Gonna Change Everything, this was recorded by Jim Reeves and Dean Martin.  Oops!  Thank you, Anonymous.)  Plus, Cheyenne (aka, Shy Ann) and San Antonio, both of them early-1900s novelty hits by Harry Williams and Egbert Van Alystyne (the former recorded in 1906 by Billy Murray), which are probably here only because of their P.D. status.  Also, a Frankie Avalon number, Don't Throw Away Those Teardrops, which sounds more or less like country in treatment, though the actual title is Don't Throw Away All Those Teardrops.  Then we have J. Fred Coots' (!) Boy in Buckskin , which was a standard SPC/Premier Albums, Inc. budget filler track.  It has a nice Mitch-Miller-chorus feel to it, and composer Coots is the man who gave us Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, so it's kind of nice to have.  Lastly, there is Country Boy, a 1960 hit for Fats Domino that SPC must have tossed in because it has "country" in the title.

So, we get four (correction: five!) fake-hit country sides and six  five fake country numbers.  All part of what SPC calls "the best in recorded entertainment."  Well, it was entitled to its own self-estimation.

A fun budget rip-off, and I'm happy I was able to sound-save it.  As for the Green Valley Singers, there was no such outfit, of course.  Had there been, we might expect them to perform "Good Things in the Garden" (the Jolly Green Giant jingle).  

To the fakes...

DOWNLOAD: Country & Western Hits (Diplomat D2398)

Wolverton Mountain
Young Love
Don't Throw Away Those Teardrops (aka, Don't Throw Away All Those Teardrops)
Boy in Buckskin (J. Fred Coots)
Cheyenne (Williams-Van Alstyne)
I'm Gonna Change Everything
Four Walls
Country Boy
Heartaches By the Number
San Antonio (Williams-Van Alstyne)

Country & Western Hits--The Green Valley Singers (Diplomat D2398; Synthetic Plastics Co.)


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday morning gospel: Billy Grammer--Golden Gospel Favorites (1964)

Okay, so it's Sunday night, not morning, but let's not quibble over technicalities.  I very nearly had this ready for a morning post, but I didn't quite make the deadline, and then I was going to do it as a Sunday afternoon post, but then TCM decided to run the fabulous 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives, and I had to watch it.  (If you've never caught that superb film, please do.)  Next thing I know, the evening news was on, and then I was channel-surfing and I fell asleep.  These things happen, especially when you've "hit the big 6-0."  I have to face it--I'm a senior.  There.  I said it.

Anyway, this 1964 Decca LP is another thrift gift from Diane, and I figured there was no way to miss with a Grade-A country session guitarist performing standard gospel numbers like Mansion Over the Hilltop, When We All Get to Heaven, and A Child of the King, and I was right--these tracks are terrific, and in that unassuming, un-showoff-y way that only ridiculously good musicians can manage in a major label session.  This has "Can't miss" written all over it, and, luckily, it was written in grease pencil, and so it was easily removed with Goo Gone.  Ink would have been a whole different matter.

And, for once, we have clever liner notes--something you don't always encounter on gospel efforts.  Billy's "ex-boss and biggest fan" Connie B. Gray gives us a Grammer bio in the form of reminiscences, with a clever pun tossed in ("good grammar" vs. "good Grammer").  Nothing genius-level, but refreshingly literate.  Decca only provided author/composer credit for five of the numbers (presumably, the non-P.D. ones), and so I looked up that info for you on the mp3 ID tags.  All except for one track, that is--Where We'll Never Grow Old.  That's because this number exists in two versions, both close enough to be the same song.  I refer to James C. Moore's Never Grow Old and the late-19th-century That Beautiful Land, so you get to take your pick.  I suppose logic dictates going with the earlier manifestation of the number, but it's your call.

Great background gospel here, and if background gospel isn't an official music genre, it should be.  These are relaxing, meditative sounds which work beautifully as such because they're all old friends to the gospel fan.  This LP was preceded by Billy Grammer's Gospel Guitar, with Gospel Guitar cleverly used as the subtitle here.  I don't know why that would be a clever tactic, but it just has a clever feel to it.   And I have no idea what I just typed.

To the good Grammer.  Oh, and Decca wants us to know that "This is a high-fidelity record!"  With an exclamation point.

DOWNLOAD: Golden Gospel Favorites: Billy Grammer (Decca DL 4460; 1964)

When We All Get to Heaven
The Ninety and Nine
Mansion Over the HilltopA Child of the King
I Am Resolved
Where We'll Never Grow Old
I Saw the Light (Hank Williams)
There'll Be Peace in the Valley for Me
A Volunteer for Jesus (Aka, As a Volunteer; Brown-Gabriel)
Beyond the Sunset
Onward Christian Soldiers
(God Be With You) Till We Meet Again

Golden Gospel Favorites--Billy Grammer, Gospel Guitar (Decca DL 4460; 1964)


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

That Peculiar Rag; Pop Goes the Weasel Medley; I Love Me; San; Manyana--78s (1903-1930)

The star of today's post would have to be Hugo Frey, a very busy Robbins Music Corporation arranger of days gone by.  Wikipedia's brief entry describes Frey as an "American pianist, violinist, composer, songwriter, conductor, and arranger.  He was a prolific editor for piano sheet music, the primary audience being the 'living room' pianist, providing simplified arrangements of some of the more difficult pieces."  The... what?  "Living room" pianist?  New one on me.  Anyway, I haven't encountered any of Frey's simplified arrangements of "some of the more difficult pieces," though I believe Wikipedia.  Mostly, I've seen his name on standard SATB songbook arrangements, as well as piano adaptations of Ferde Grofe's orchestral suites, from Broadway at Night to the Aviation Suite.  I wouldn't call his Grofe transcriptions simple or easy--I'd call them better suited to four-hand piano scores, but then nobody asked me.  At any rate, my quick Google check-up on Frey didn't reveal as much as I would have thought--he was clearly a major player in popular dance music as well as popular sheet music, so, really, there should be a chapter on him someplace.

In today's playlist, Frey shows up as the composer of Happy and Uncle Tom, the latter a slightly odd but nice and raggy composition which is very well performed by the Victor Military Band.  Few phrases have quite the negative connotation(s) as "Uncle Tom," but we need to remember that, in the famous novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom was a courageous and heroic character.  The whole point of the novel is that Tom is an infinitely better human being than his oppressors, and, needless to say, that was not a message that went down well with slavery proponents.  At any rate, I doubt Hugo Frey intended any insult or harm--the piece doesn't have a remotely minstrel or burlesque flavor.  And... Hugo directs the The Great White Way Orchestra's chamming 1923 Love Tales.  Did Hugo do the arranging, too?  Very possible, but I've been unable to find much info in that department, even when it comes to Hugo's long stint with Joseph C. Smith's Orchestra, for which he wrote several songs and played fine piano.  I've always assumed Frey was that orchestra's arranger, but apparently that info isn't available.  For example, it's nowhere in the intensely researched liner notes for Archeophone's Joseph C. Smith CD set (highly recommended by this blog), Songs of the Night, so... it's a mystery.  Frankly, I'd be surprised if Frey wasn't the orchestrator for Smith, given his enormous talent, but... maybe the truth is lost to time.

Hugo is the only constant, if there is one, in today's hodgepodge of a shellac-athon, which includes 1903 and 1906 virtuoso (and then some) banjo work by Vess Ossman and the 1904 Pop Goes the Weasel Medley by studio fiddler Charles D'Almaine, plus two comic, Vaudeville-style 1923 sides--Georgie Price's Barney Google and Billy Murray's I Love MeAnd some outrageously elaborate (and rapid) ragtime piano playing by Mike Bernard.  If you didn't know that race-through-the-piece ragtime dates back to 1912, you do now.  Bernard was one of those syncopated soloists who sounded like two people at the bench.  And we'll have to assume that the composer of That Peculiar Rag had a reason to insert all those references to Alexander's Ragtime Band

The rest is acoutical-era dance band music, with only two of the dance titles--Beyond the Blue Horizon and Sweet Virginia--hailing from the electrical era.  Those two had me improvising the response curve, since the Perfect label was apparently anything-goes in that department.  I can't remember what I used as the bass turnover freq., but the tuba on Horizon is highly up-front, and I think it would have been, regardless of what curve I used.  Any less "body" in the audio, and things would have sounded acoustically flat.

The 1920 Prince's Dance Orchestra sides are interesting in that they sound just fine as dance numbers, despite the fact that the musicians were likely marching band vets.  They sound like an unusually accomplished version of Earl Fuller's Columbia orchestra.  The Waldorf-Astoria Dance Orch., conducted by Joseph Knecht, was kind of a looser version of Joseph C. Smith's Orch., and it recorded a number of terrific sides for both Victor and Columbia--sides of an old-fashioned type that more jazz-oriented 78 collectors might find too corny for words.  But today we'll be hearing the outfit perform medleys by Jerome Kern and Sigmund Romberg, so it's hard to miss with those--and I just tried to type "medleys" as "medlies."  My spell checker did not approve.

Some challenged fidelity from the cheapo, pre-CBS Okeh label, but very nice sides--Julius Lenzberg's Harmonists with Say It With Kisses and Joseph Samuels' Jazz Band sounding adequately jazzy with jazz pianist Edythe Baker's Dreaming Blues.  Julius Lenzberg is a new one on me, but he gets two and a half pages in Brian Rust's dance band discography, so he was clearly somewhat popular.

And... three gems from the Benson Orchestra of Chicago, starting with the classic Somebody's Wrong, as directed by Don Bestor in 1923.  The other two Bensons, from 1921, are directed by Paul Whiteman's Roy Bargy, and they consist of an atypical but fun version of San, plus the Rudy Wiedoeft Native American Indian novelty, Na-Jo.  I suppose it's possible to go wrong with the Benson Orchestra of Chicago, though I haven't yet.

I'd meant to note that the 1904 Pop Goes the Weasel Medley is a standard country-style fiddle medley of reels and such, including (of course) the title number.  Forgive the less than perfect condition, especially when it comes to the noise at the start--it's worth enduring for the expert playing of Charles D'Almaine, who, even though he was a studio pro (a "legit" musician, iow), could easily pass nowadays for an "authentic" fiddler.  That'll happen when there are 117 years between the making and posting of a 78.  And I referred to Vess L. Ossman's banjo picking as "virtuosic."  Let me amend that to "astoundingly virtuosic."  I mean, I can almost hear the guy playing banjo transcriptions of Chopin Etudes.

These 78s are all from my own collection, all ripped and restored by me.  (There's a certain symmetry, there.)  I did my now-usual bit of using a 300 Hz bass turnover for the acousticals, and I think it works rather well.

To the shellac!  I ripped these last month, which is why the folder is titled, "78s June 2021."  And there are a couple of alternate label scans (or scans of alternate labels, or something like that).

DOWNLOAD: 78s from June 2021

Somebody's Wrong--The Benson Orch. of Chicago, Dir. Don Bestor, 1923
Love Tales--The Great White Way Orch., Dir. Hugo Frey, 1923
Beyond the Blue Horizon--Elliott Jacoby and His Orch., V: William Robyn, 1930
Sweet Virginia--Same; V: Allan Daley, 1930
Keep Off the Grass--Vess L. Ossman, Banjo Solo, 1903
Silver Heels (Moret)--Same, 1906
Stolen Kisses--E. Coleman and His Orchestra, 1921
Happy--Medley One-Step (Frey)--Prince's Dance Orchestra, 1920
Manyana (Fier)--Same
San--The Benson Orch. of Chicago, Dir. Roy Bargy, 1921.
Na-Jo (Wiedoeft-Holliday)--Same
Pop Goes the Weasel Medley--Charles D'Almaine, Violin Solo, 1904
That Peculiar Rag--Mike Bernard, Piano Solo, 1912
Medley of Ted Snyder's Hits--Same
Barney Google (Rose-Conrad)--Georgie Price, 1923
I Love Me--Billy Murray, 1923
Say It With Kisses (If You Love Me)--Julius Lenzberg's Harmonists, 1922
O Lady! Lady! (Kern)--Waldorf Astoria Dance Orch., Dir. Joseph Knecht (Victor, 1918)Sinbad--Medley (Jolson-Romberg)--Same
Dreaming Blues (Edythe Baker)--Joseph Samuels' Jazz Band, 1920
Uncle Tom--One-Step (Frey)--Victor Military Band, 1916.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sing Along With Waldorf: That Old Gang of Mine--Brigadier Quartet, The Cruisers, and Suzy Lockwood (1957)

Interestingly, this late-1957 Waldorf LP beat the first Sing Along With Mitch LP to the racks by at least a month, though I suspect Mitch Miller's LP got a lot more exposure.  (Something just tells me...)  Had Waldrof used larger male choruses and tons of echo, it may have achieved a sound just like Mitch's--as it stands, though, these can't compete with Mitch in the fullness-of-fidelity department.  The spirit is there, however, and I really love the banjo choruses where they appear.  Of course, as Mitch himself admitted, the sing-along idea was anything but new in the late 1950s--Milton Berle had done it on radio, and Art Mooney's postwar faux-1920s records (including the big-selling 1947 I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover) were pure sing-along, and folks like Frankie Carle and Beatrice Kay (and a lot more people I can't think of at the moment) were doing ragtime-era revival material about the same time, with Joe "Fingers" Carr (Lou Busch), Del Wood, and Pee Wee Hunt soon to follow.  The whole "old songs" concept goes to the late 19th century, at least as far as song collections are concerned, which only goes to show that that "old" is a concept subject to constant revision.

This jacket, with its Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)-inspired cover, suggests the "Gay 90s," but in fact only two of the numbers fit that bill--The Band Played On (1895) and Tell Me Pretty Maiden (1899).  The rest span the years 1900 (She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage) to 1929 (Happy Days Are Here Again).  This sort of time-period mixing is standard procedure: I have at least two song folios, both allegedly devoted to songs of the 1890s, which feature numbers dating as far back as 1840 (Kathleen Mavourneen), 1871 (Reuben and Rachel), and 1884 (While Strolling Through the Park One Day), and as far forward as 1921's California, Here I Come.  But what's an 80-plus-year window or two?  I mean, who's keeping track?

Anyway, this LP sticks to a 34-year span, so maybe that helps in the authenticity department, though none of these performances sound like the vintage disc or cylinder renditions of these tunes.  Well, not that we'd expect them to, but...  I do think it helps that Waldorf lacked the budget for a Mitch Miller-level production--minus the ultra-reverb and somewhat robotic Männerchor sound of Mitch's sing-alongs, these renditions have a more natural and "live" effect.  Sometimes cheaper is better.

So, get ready for "songs of smiles and of happy days...of tender whispers and tight embraces...of pretty maidens and breathtaking waltzes."  Prepare yourself for "melodies of a bright and buoyant age, of a time when ladies and gentlemen bared and shared their feelings together in song and in dance...when a feeling of real togetherness permeated their music and their very lives."  And here we have the real definition of "nostalgia" as it pertains to era: namely, no period in particular.  A time when... something.  That great era of... whatever.  Right now, I'm picturing someone in the 15th century complaining, "Whatever happened to the good old street songs?"

Perfect for parties. 

DOWNLOAD: That Old Gang of Mine--V.A. (Waldorf Music Hall, 1957)

1. Smile, Smile, Smile (Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag And)--The Brigadiers Quartet
2. Peg O' My Heart--The Pilot Quartet
3. Happy Days Are Here Again--The Cruisers Quartet
4. She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage--The Cruisers Quartet
5. Waltz Me Around Again, Willie--Suzy Lockwood and the Cruisers
6. The Band Played On--Suzy Lockwood
7. Whispering--The Pilot Quartet
8. Smiles--The Cruisers Quartet with Suzy Lockwood
9. Put Your Arms Around Me Honey--The Brigadiers Quartet
10. Tell Me Pretty Maiden--Suzy Lockwood and the Pilot Quartet
11. I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid--The Cruisers Quartet

Happy Days Are Here Again--V.A. (Waldrof Music Hall MHK 33-1240; 1957)

1-1915; 2-1913; 3-1929; 4-1900; 5-1906; 6-1895; 7-1920; 8-1917; 9-1910; 10-1899; 11-1909


Sunday, July 11, 2021

Up Tempo--The Florida Boys (Canaan CA-4631; 1967)


Save for one track (Who Am I), the Florida Boys' 1967 gem Up Tempo lives up to its title--these tracks are all (save for that thoughtful and soulful track) fast-moving, inspiring, and great fun.  This superbly professional group consists (well, consisted) of Tommy Atwood (first tenor), Lee Beasley (lead), Glen Allred (baritone), and Billy Todd (bass).  The pianist is Derrell Stewart, and everyone save Tommy (who had just joined) is described in the notes as a veteran in the Florida Boys, which may seem kind of tautological (sort of like calling Mick Jagger a "veteran" of the Rolling Stones), but Southern quartets, very much like the R&B vocal groups of early rock and roll, switched personnel pretty routinely, so it makes sense to talk about the "veterans" of a given quartet.  I suppose they could even be called the "survivors."  "Stalwarts," maybe.  No, that's not quite right.  But, anyway...

The accompanists, besides pianist Derrell Stewart, are Pete Drake (talking guitar), Buddy Harmon (drums), Bob Moore (bass), and Harold Bradley (guitar).  Now you know.  "We feel sure you will agree with us that this is the GREATEST YET by the Florida Boys," proclaim the notes.  Hm.  I thought it was called Up Tempo.

Luckily, today's disc isn't nearly as worn as the front cover--I don't know what happened there.   I can only guess that this LP sat in a big stack for, oh, twenty years or more.  I did some touch-up, so the mid-jacket wear is mostly filled in, but you can still see the big ring caused by the exterior of the disc.  But, when I spotted this in Goodwill, my attention was on the song listing--and when I see The Fire Song, Count Your Blessings, Palms of Victory, and Higher Ground all on the same LP, I know I'm looking at a must-have collection.  Well, unless the vinyl would happen to be trashed (or the wrong record  enclosed), but neither was the case here.  I was in business.  I knew instantly that buying this LP was my Goodwill-visit destiny.  My purpose for being there.  Fate--it's not just a magazine.

Palms of Victory, aka several other titles (including Deliverance Will Come), dates from 1836, and what it would be like to have had recording technology back then--imagine hearing field recordings of early-19th-century camp meetings.  The Florida Boys do this classic proud, and they do the same with Charles Gabriel's Higher Ground, Edwin Excell's Count Your Blessings, and the forever-associated-with-the-Carter-Family The Fire Song.  Logically speaking, Fire Song should be associated with Woody Guthrie, who used its melody for This Land Is Your Land, that patriotic anthem which was actually intended as sardonic commentary (so it goes, sometimes).  I'm convinced, by the way, that Guthrie's original recording of This Land was made just after he'd heard the original Carter version, because it's at the same tempo, in the same key, and features the same accompaniment.  These three things don't happen by accident, especially with simple numbers.

One thing surprised me about this album: the liner notes, which read like something off of a custom-pressed effort:  For example: "The true ringing voice of (Tommy Atwood) has added a definite spark of 'excitement' to the overall sound of one of the Nation's most outstanding singing groups, The Florida Boys."  Unless the writer meant "excitement" to be taken ironically, the quotes are out of place, and of course "Nation" is not a proper noun--unless, for example, we're talking the magazine  So it shouldn't be capitalized.  But I'm being a killjoy.  This is a first-class gospel LP, so who cares what I think about the notes?  And who reads them, anyway?  (Er, but I hope you read my essays.)  Time to say, "Enjoy the gospel."

Enjoy the gospel!

DOWNLOAD: Up Tempo--The Florida Boys (Canaan CA-4631; 1967)

Old Fashioned Love (P.D.)
The Fire Song (Trad.)
Let God Abide (P.D.)
So Many Reasons (Reece)
I'm Building a Bridge (Abernathy)
Count Your Blessings (Oatman-Excell)
Palms of Victory (Matthias)
I Wanta Know (Johnson)
He Cares For You (Burnett-Polk)
Who Am I (Goodman)
Higher Ground (Oatman-Gabriel)
The Master Locksmith (Abernathy)

Up Tempo--The Florida Boys (Canaan CA-4631; 1967)


Friday, July 09, 2021

Hits a Poppin' (SPC 216)--Another Synthetic Plastics Co. fake-hits classic!


Don't ask me to explain SPC's numbering system--last time, we had ten 1961 tracks on SPC 116, and now we have ten 1960 tracks on SPC 216.  I suspect two different catalog series, but no way to be sure.  Just like the previous LP, this one has no actual label name (the LP's title seems to be serving as such), but the tracks are credited to "The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus," so I guess this can be regarded as a Promenade release.  The folks behind Promenade were, of course, the Synthetic Plastics Co. of Newark NJ, and this time we have a better pressing, which meant an easier rip.  Surface-wise, just some small stray ticks (the uppity term for "clicks") and a pop or two--post-VinylStudio, that is.  This showed up at the same Goodwill as the previous LP, so we can assume the same person owned it?  Not that it matters, but...

The line-drawn cover is campy fun, even if it's not what one would call an expert illustration.  Better than I could do, anyway.  The same art shows up on at least two of Promenade's Top 12 Hits EP sets, and this one (from my collection) features the tracks we heard last post, plus two more.  Except, they're offered in abridged form on the EPs.  Promenade EP versions were always edited down, simply so SPC could cram six selections per side.  We have to wonder if the guy in the picture is a little apprehensive about the big dog...  Notice the sloppily arranged lettering.

Today's LP had a corresponding EP set.  It featured different (and equally uninspiring) art, plus the two extra (but abridged) tracks.  Image swiped from eBay:

The eBay dealer wants $20, but I think I'll pass.  Maybe if it was part of an artist-signed set or something...

So, hits are "a poppin'" all over the place, and I just picked up the fifth one.  I had to place a song folio over the LP to keep the hits contained, and... like the previous SPC offering, this disc offers some surprisingly excellent fakes.  We have someone (let's call her "Anonna Miss") singing Brenda Lee's Emotions (with less of a little-girl feel to her voice), a competent outfit singing the Miracles' Shop Around, an expert "fake" orchestra performing the Lawrence Welk smash hit Calcutta (I've always loved this one), a good counterfeit helping of Jerry Butler's He Will Break Your Heart, and a Corrina, Corrina fake that (imo) improves on the Ray Peterson version.  Not to upset any Peterson fans, but the original track (which I accessed through YouTube) doesn't have me very impressed, vocal-wise.

That was Side A.  Side B commences with a fake of Johnny Tillotson's Jimmy's Girl, which is pleasant enough, followed by a very good cover of The Shells' Baby Oh Baby (it's a bit more in tune than the original), followed by an imitation of The Ramrods' (Ghost) Riders in the Sky (earlier, in 1949, a huge hit for Vaughn Monroe, of course), hopping ahead to Bobby Vee's Rubber Ball, and closing with the every-song-he-wrote-sounded-the-same Neil Sedaka's Calendar Girl.  I hate to pick on Neil Sedaka, especially since he was such a huge influence on Carole King, but he just gets annoying to me really fast--even in a faked version thereof.  Hyper-talented guy, but...  

In other news, the vague possibility just occurred to me that "Poppin'" (as in Hits a Poppin') might refer to the pop charts.  It might be a pun on "pop."  Or not.  To the fake hits...

DOWNLOAD: Hits a Poppin' (SPC 216)

Shop Around
He Will Break Your Heart
Corrina, Corrina
Jimmy's Girl
Baby Oh Baby
(Ghost) Riders in the Sky
Rubber Ball
Calendar Girl

Hits a Poppin'--The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus (SPC 216; 1960?)


Sunday, July 04, 2021

Fakes for the Fourth--Top Hits (Synthetic Plastics Co. 116)

I couldn't remember what I was going to call this post--"Firework of Fakes," maybe?  Or "Fireworks of Fakes"?  Then it came back to me--"Fakes for the Fourth."  So simple, so efficient.  And so easy to space out.

So, we have an actual couple (i.e., real people) on the cover, as opposed to the usual amateurish line drawing of a couple, which is nice.  And we know for sure this is an SPC (Synthetic Plastics Co.) product.  We have three major clues: 1) The terrible pressing, 2) The "Promenade Orchestra and Chorus" credit, and 3) The words "Manufactured by Synthetic Plastics Co." on the back cover.  That third one is the clincher.  Technically, this doesn't even have a label name, unless "Top Hits" is meant to function as both the LP and label titles.  I wouldn't put that past SPC.

Despite all this, the fakes are unusually good this time around--I enjoyed every track, including the weirdly sung Will You Love Me Tomorrow, that Carole King and Gerry Goffin classic for The Shirelles.  Here, the lead singer sounds too old (too old to be having a "Did I go too far?" self-session, at least), and she enunciates the words oddly.  But the track only cost a dime, originally, and it only cost me a nickel (half-off day at Goodwill on the 3rd), so I can't complain.  I'm simply observing.

Thanks to the miracles of digital sound editing (plus, two copies of the LP, so I could swap tracks when necessary), I was able to get the audio up to near-legit levels.  Getting these crackly (even when mint) SPC wonders to sound like anything but crap is the challenge, and I met it well, I think.  Really, most of the credit goes to the two programs I use, but I prefer to give myself the glory, for reasons of ego.  For scanning, I chose the cleaner of the two jackets, though it was cut way off center on both sides.  Three photo programs to the rescue, and I got things level by creating new white margins.

Normally, I'd have checked the Promenade EP versions of these tracks to find the (fake) artist credits, but by this time, SPC had stopped concocting amusing pseudonyms--its EPs were employing the same lame catch-all as this LP ("The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus").  So it goes.

Fakes for the Fourth! "Nifty Knockoffs" might do it, too.  In all probability, this came out in 1961.  I was four, and I don't think I was yet aware of the Top 40, let alone the fake Top 40...

Fakes for the Fourth.  Ten nifty knockoffs. 

DOWNLOAD: Tops Hits (SPC 116; probably 1961)


Pepe (Originally Duane Eddy and The Rebels)
Your Other Love (Originally The Flamingos)
There She Goes (Originally Jerry Wallace)
Wings of a Dove (Originally Ferlin Husky)
Many Tears Ago (Originally Connie Francis)
The Story of My Love (Originally Paul Anka)
A Thousand Stars (Originally Kathy Young)
Will You Love Me Tomorrow (King-Goffin) (Originally The Shirelles)
Angel Baby (Originally Rosie and the Originals)
I Count the Tears (Originally The Drifters)
The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus (SPC 116; probably 1961)

Top Hits: The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus (SPC 116)