Sunday, January 23, 2022

Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper--Sacred Songs (Harmony HL-7233)--Classic bluegrass gospel!


This morning, the return of ten superb 1949-1953 bluegrass gospel sides by Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.  The original post and file are long-gone, but you'll be hearing a new rip in (you'll never guess) a higher bitrate.

"Country gospel" would also suffice as a label for these sides, though I think they lean very much toward sacred bluegrass.  Wikipedia reports that Wilma and Stoney had much success on the Hickory label in the late 1950s and early 1960s--these are all earlier Columbia sides, and I found no instance of these tracks on CD, so... I consider them cleared for posting.

These gems are classically old-fashioned and "old time" (aka, old timey)--we're in the realm of Carl Story and the Lewis Family.  The standard bluegrass gospel themes are here--a mother song (Mother's Prayer, 1950), preparing-for-Heaven numbers (I'm Taking My Audition. My Lord's Gonna Shake My Hand {1951 and 1952}), crucifixion-related songs (Thirty Pieces of SilverThe Legend of the Dogwood Tree, Walking My Lord up Calvary Hill {1949, 1950 and 1951}, the "are you going to Heaven?" theme (Will the Lord Let You In, 1954), and the requisite what's-the-matter-with-this-world tune, titled (sure enough) What's the Matter With This World.  

Superb stuff, and beautifully remastered in 1960 by Columbia for its Harmony label (it was my great luck to land a mono copy), and if there's better bluegrass gospel out there, I certainly haven't heard it.  My thanks to Josh for reminding me I have this LP.

In the playlist below, I added the original years of issue.  Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD: Sacred Songs--Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper (Harmony HL-7233)

Are You Walking and A-Talking for the Lord (1953)

He Will Save Your Soul (1949)

Will the Lord Let You In (1952)

What's the Matter With This World (1949)

The Legend of the Dogwood Tree (1950)

My Lord's Gonna Shake My Hand (1952)

Mother's Prayer (1950)

Thirty Pieces of Silver (1949)

I'm Taking My Audition (1951)

Walking My Lord up Calvary Hill (1951)

Sacred Songs--Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper (Harmony HL-7233)


Friday, January 21, 2022

Almost-fake hits: Designed for Dancing--Tommy Tucker and Shep Fields (prob. 1952 and 1953)


Keeping with the subject of sublabels and hit parade covers, here are two 10" Lion Records LPs from (best guess) 1952 and 1953.  And you know you've always wanted to hear Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra performing Your Cheating Heart.  You're just kidding yourself to pretend otherwise.

At first glance, these would seem to fit in with the fake hits of the budget/cheapie labels (Parade, Waldorf, Royale), especially with the "Tops in Pops" subtitle on the Fields LP.  And, to an extent, I think they do, despite the fact that these are big band covers vs. sound-alikes--after all, the aim, in both cases, is to exploit the hit parade.  The comparison seems reasonable to me, though maybe I've been doing this for too long.  One problem, though, with the big band hit-parade cover versions: Come about 1955, songs like Tutti Frutti, Don't Be Angry, Speedo, and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On were entering the charts (rock and roll, they called it), none of which would have sounded right with either Fields or Tommy Tucker--or even Frankie Carle and Ralph Flanagan, who were doing hit parade LPs at RCA Victor (or Sammy Kaye, who did at least one hit parade EP for Columbia).  Ralph Marterie or Buddy Morrow, maybe, but none of those guys.  Then again, Sammy Kaye did cover The Great Pretender on Columbia's Today's Top Pops (Columbia CL-2571; 1956).  But the rock and roll of 1957 and 1958?  Get a Job, At the Hop, Great Balls of Fire, Little Darlin', School Days, Short Fat Fannie?  The hit parade was becoming a place for teens.

Anyway, I'm getting a little off topic.  It's just that these two LPs got me to thinking about all the "adult" pop artists who covered hit songs in the 1950s and, especially, the 1960s and 1970s (Billy Vaughn, Ferrante and Teicher, Percy Faith, 101 Strings, David Rose, Roger Williams, etc., etc.)--and about how selective they tended to be, especially when it came to not doing Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, or the Who.  The entry of rock and roll/rock into the charts created interesting issues for the cover-version industry.  Except, of course, for the jobber-rack labels, all of which mimicked whatever happened to be in the charts, regardless of who put it there.

Anyway, despite the de-noising challenges presented by these LPs (a lot of stray clicks and bumps to remove, even after a pass though VinylStudio's filter), I found them highly enjoyable--at times, a real kick.  Besides the aforementioned Lawrence Welk-esque rendition of Your Cheatin' Heart, there's a particularly lively and interesting Jambalaya cover by Tommy Tucker.  And while Welk is the first bandleader I associate with Shep Fields,  I think it's fair to say that Fields engaged in an usual amount of style-hopping--he was like four or five bands in one.  Part Welk, part Carmen Cavallaro, part Freddy Martin, even part Tommy Dorsey.  The musicianship strikes my ears as very solid, and even the accordion-on-extra-caffeine player, whoever he was, seems to have had impressive licks, though he zips through his arpeggios and chromatic runs so swiftly, it's hard to be totally sure.  Fields' failure to settle on a single style makes what would otherwise be ultra-"sweet" band boredom quite an adventure.  Or whatever I just typed.  Anyway, the tracks on Fields' Tops in Pops appear to date from early 1953, so we'll go with that year.

Tommy Tucker's orchestra has much less of an all-over-the-place sound, and his solid covers of 1952 hits like Wish You Were Here, You Belong to Me, Maybe, and I Went to Your Wedding (though I can't get the Spike Jones parody out of my head) make for highly enjoyable background music.  On both collections, the arrangers put loving care into their charts.

The "Designed for Dancing" series was pretty extensive, with at least twenty titles in all, and though it mostly avoided early rock'n'roll, there was a version of Sh-Boom by Henry Jerome that I'd love to have. However, I'm not about to pay the current Discogs price.

To the fun almost-fake hits:

DOWNLOAD: Designed for Dancing--Tommy Tucker Orchestra, Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orch. (1952 and 1953?)


Wish You Were Here

Walkin' My Baby Back Home

You Belong to Me


Somewhere Along the Way


I Went to Your Wedding

Meet Mister Callaghan


Till I Waltz Again With You

Your Cheatin' Heart (Williams)

How Do You Speak to an Angel?


Side by Side

Have Your Heard

You Win Again (Williams)

Congratulations to Someone

Designed for Dancing (Lion E70001/Lion E-70008; 1952 and 1953?)


Friday, January 14, 2022

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Guitar

Get a Job


The Stroll

"7-11" (Mambo No. 5)

Walkin' With Mr Lee

Short Shorts

Slow Walk

Don't Let Go (J. Stone)

Walk On


Friday, January 07, 2022

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


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

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

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

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

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

DOWNLOAD: Christmas for Christ 1972

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

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

Do It Now--Robbie and Arlen Guidroz

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

Narration: The Future Is Now--Kenneth Phillips

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

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

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

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

Narration: Time to Get Together--Kenneth Phillips

Christmas for Christ 1972 (LPS-1003; 1972)


Wednesday, January 05, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Carol of the Little Drummer Boy--another restored link


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

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


Tuesday, January 04, 2022

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


(Repost from 2018--original Zippyfile zip kaput)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, January 03, 2022

A Record Pak and Gateway Records 78 rpm EP Christmas!


Ernie's continued Christmas blogging has inspired me to put up some material that I hadn't had time to include come the 1st of 2022: A four-selection EP on the Record Pak label (78 rpm), and 3/4ths of a four-EP Roy-Cliffs Christmas set on Gateway Records of Cincinnati, Ohio.

For the first time in my blog's history, I have provided a spoken introduction--something I've long though about doing but never did.  Now I can say, with total accuracy, that I've done it.  The intro is a little over seven minutes long, and the synthesizer background is all me at the keyboard, either playing carols from songbooks or plunking out my parallel-second-inversions arrangement of White ChristmasWet Christmas is what we ended up with in this neck of the woods--light rain (very briefly preceded, I believe, by a dusting of snow) on Christmas and heavier rain on January 1st.  Now we're experiencing seasonal weather, and of course it's something of a shock.  Definitely, a shock to the flowers that were starting to bloom in our unnaturally spring-like weather.

Hope you enjoy.  The Gateway 78s are a little bit noisy, but I didn't want to sacrifice any sound to hiss filtering.  Never over-filter.  That's one of my pet rules when it comes to coaxing sound out of shellac.

Some inexplicable image-adding issues had me putting my spoken prologue in a separate folder--I don't know why my media players were messing with me the way they were, but it seemed to help after I'd separated the spoken intro from the music tracks.  Then, and only then, was I able to attach images to each individual mp3.  Please access the prologue folder first--that is, if you want to hear the voice behind the blog.  After all these years, I've finally played DJ.  Or, I suppose, LeeJay.

DOWNLOAD: Record Pak and Gateway Records Christmas

Blue Christmas (Johnson-Hayes)/Auld Lang Syne--Jeri Shannon, Ralph Berger Orch. (Record Pak I-539-A)

I'll Be Home for Xmas (Ram)/Adeste Fidelis--Jerry Smith, Ralph Berger Orch. (Record Pak I-539-B)

The Roy-Cliffs Featuring the Baldwin Orga-Sonic Spinet Organ and the Baldwin piano

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer/White Christmas (Gateway Records 163-A)

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town/Jingle Bells (Gateway Records 163-B)

Adeste Fidelis/Silver Bells (Gateway Records 165-A)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Gateway Records 165-B)

Little Town of Bethlehem/Silent Night (Gateway Records 166-A)

Away in a Manger/The First Noel (Gateway Records 166-B)