Thursday, June 30, 2022

In Living Stereo: biggest hits of '59 vol. 2--RCA Camden Rockers (RCA Camden CAS 552; 1959)


And here it is--biggest hits of '59 vol. 2, in living stereo!  Sorry for the delay, but I spent the past six days struggling with a mild but persistent bug (I suspect light stomach flu) that had me a bit too queasy to sit long at the PC.  I took a Covid test yesterday (just to be sure), and it was negative.  As I expected.

Now that I'm almost well, here is/are the utterly fictitious "RCA Camden Rockers" presenting ten (!) entire sound-alikes which also appeared on the Prom label, except these are in stereo.  Well, except (ironically) for the opening track, which for some reason features only one channel.  Kind of a novel way to start out a "Living Stereo" LP--in mono!  

By the way, this is yet another thrift gift from Diane, so... thanks, Diane!

Anyway, all of these were co-released on Prom.  But here's the horrifying part--these recordings also appeared on Eli Oberstein's bottom-of-the-barrel Ultraphonic (Record Distributors of New Jersey) label!  I do not kid.  In short, tracks which passed the nonexistent quality test for Eli's labels were deemed good enough for RCA Camden.  My brain is still reeling from this discovery (unless it's my virus at work).  Ultraphonic, Prom, and RCA Camden!!  I did direct comparison-listens to Mack the Knife, Red River Rock, and the especially awful Put Your Head on My Shoulder, and... perfect Ultraphonic matches.  Apparently, come the late 1950s, budget labels were sharing their sound-alikes as never before.  Think of it as a budget-label conspiracy.

Did I say awful?  Well, Shoulder definitely qualifies in that department (it makes the young Paul Anka sound like Vic Damone), though the rest are reasonably competent--and, most importantly, the stereo sound (save for Bells) and the decent RCA Camden vinyl quality has these cuts sounding far better than they play on the junk SPC and Eli Oberstein pressings.  It's amazing how much a performance can benefit from a decent presentation.  

I'm not sure I care much for the cover art--it looks like a bunch of people holding a sqaure dance in a phone booth.  And there's at least one spot in the composition that makes no sense at all.  

Look at the couple on the left--someone seems to be sporting a double face.  Then, there's the guy and gal to their right--is the guy wearing a mask, or...?  Of course, I expect the ultimate in jacket illustration when it comes to the RCA Camden Rockers.  Anyway, rock on! 

LINK: biggest hits of '59 vol. 2--RCA Camden Rockers (RCA Camden CAS 552; 1959)

The Three Bells

I'm Gonna Get Married


I Ain't Never

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

Mack the Knife

('Til) I Kissed You

Primrose Lane

Red River Rock

Just Ask Your Heart


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Hits of the Month--1958 sound-alikes by unknown artists ("Jazz-O!!")


And things don't end with "unknown artists": Also unknown is the company which produced this, plus the label name, though we are informed that these tracks are "Real Cool!" and "Jazz-O!!"  And who hasn't found him or herself exclaiming "Jazz-O!!" when the music is really rockin'?  Come on, admit it...

I saw an edition of this cardboard record with "Grants" stamped on the label, meaning that that copy was used as a promo (probably a freebie) for W.T. Grant.  No company or store is named on my copy, however, so maybe this was a promo item waiting (in vain) for some company stamp.  No way to be sure.  At any rate, these four titles were 1958 hits for, respectively, the Kalin Twins, LaVern Baker, Janice Harper, and Jimmie Rodgers.  This anonymous group manages to make When sound almost exactly like Dix-A-Billy, which isn't that hard to do, since both use the same I-vi-ii-V chord scheme.  Still, they could have varied the arrangements a little...

I'm surprised by the audio quality, though the restoration required summing the channels, doing a bit of track splicing, and laying on some noise-sample filtering.  The sound coming from my cartridge wasn't very pretty, but I've improved things from "Yikes!" to pretty good.

Sorry about my time away from the blog--I'm finishing up a 78-ripping project which was triggered by my discovery of the 800N-12 series of acoustic playback curves.  I also have Biggest Hits of '59, Part 2 scheduled--in Living Stereo, no less.  And, once again, the tracks originated with the Prom label.

In fact, why don't I imbed my YouTube posting of this EP?  Enjoy!


Sunday, June 12, 2022

The King's Witness Quartet--I'll Meet You in the Morning (Diadem DLP 202; 1965)


Initial impressions can be deceiving--on my first listen, I heard what sounded like a northern edition of the Chuck Wagon Gang.  Certainly, they have the same two-men/two-women SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) texture, but, listening again to the King's Witness Quartet, there's no hint of the CWG's lighter than air sound.  Of course, I had my window A/C running when I did my first round of edits, so maybe the noise was blocking out some of the lower end.  Background noise can filter out portions of the dynamic range when we're using phones.

The King's Witness Quartet (Thanks, Diane!) was headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana, though the record label, Diadem, was located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The group consists of soprano Jeanne Kauffman, alto Marilyn Wolber, tenor John Wolber, and bass Ledger Kauffman, plus accompanist Ralph Colburn.  Now, even if this group doesn't sound all that much like the CWG, the voice distribution sounds the same, arrangement-wise.  Meanwhile, the Gang, despite being a mixed group, is typically referred to as a close harmony quartet.  With same-sex close harmony (think Barbershop), we have it easy: the voices are designated TTBB (first tenor, second tenor, baritone, bass), regardless of sex.  Seriously.  The Chordettes consisted of first tenor, second tenor, baritone, and bass.  Except, of course, they were singing an octave higher than an all-male quartet.  I was discussing some of this with Josh, and I noted that an alto can function as a second tenor, or "lead."  This is the case in Barbershop, at least.  Don't ask me why.

So, there are websites which insist that four-singer SATB close harmony is possible, though I honestly can't see how.  Because unless a melody's range is highly restricted in the manner of, say, Jesus Loves Me, you're going to have instances in which the soprano has a high note, the alto harmonizes below, and the tenor is in the next clef down (bass clef).  For a I chord, that's a span of eleven notes (not counting the bass).  The most permissive definition of close harmony allows for a span of an octave or less in the upper three voices (the bass can do as it pleases).  So, eleven notes?  No.  But this is my problem, not yours.  Sorry for obsessing.

We have today a gospel album which doesn't show up anywhere online, which is kind of a cool thing (I should put this on Discogs, though the process isn't simple), and whose back jacket and labels give no composer credits.  I didn't feel like tracking down the composers and authors, so I just went with the info provided. 

Expert singing, a fine song selection, and an interesting arrangement of Amazing Grace.  The most CWG-style songs in the list would be 's I'll Meet You in the Morning (Albert E. Brumley), Just a Closer Walk, and maybe It Was for You and Me, though I'm sure the Gang would have done beautifully with any or all of these numbers.  

The RCA Custom pressing number is SR4M-2822, which means 1965.  Cool cover.  Link follows...

DOWNLOAD: The King's Witness Quartet--I'll Meet You in the Morning (Diadem DLP 202; 1965)

Heaven Came Down

I'll Never Be Lonely

Just a Closer Walk

All of This and Heaven Too

Love Held Him to the Cross

Nothing at All

Amazing Grace

I'll Live for Jesus

What a Precious Friend

It Was for You and Me

How Long Has It Been

Without Him

I Can See Jesus

I'll Meet You in the Morning


Friday, June 10, 2022

Let's have a Waldorf Rock 'N Roll Jamboree! Approximately 51 exciting minutes of track portions.


So, my fervent hope is that I ripped and labeled these things properly, because each EP has eight titles per side (!), and because I ripped them out of order, thus necessitating the moving of MAGIX project tracks.  This is always a risky process, which is why I made a backup, just in case things went wrong.  It was then I discovered that I'd tagged sides BU-3AA and BU-3BB in reverse.  Had to fix that.  This stuff gets complicated.

So, the Waldrof Record Corp'.s Rock 'N Roll Jamboree (with the lone apostrophe preceding the N, this time) was, as far as I can speculate, a let's-get-the-most-out-of-our-catalog-before-the-buyout gimmick, the set apparently issued in four discs on at least two series.  Mine is the series which starts with "BU-," and I have discs 2-4.  Meanwhile, at Discogs, there's a CA- series.  As we say in the "Brand X" collecting community, don't look for logic--it's not there.  And, if we don't say it, we should.

I can't believe Enoch Light would have put his stamp of approval on a project this tacky, and since I tend to believe (without sufficient evidence) that, come sometime in 1957, Enoch was basically done with Waldorf ("Do whatever you like, guys"), I'll not blame Enoch for this sloppily engineered series, which offers sometimes comically truncated sound-alikes.  There are blatant engineering glitches--mistimed edits, and even (on side 4AA) a pitch dip.  Yet, for all the snarky things I could say about this set, it's incredibly entertaining.  I mean, it's like a fast-forward through the world of Waldorf sound-alikes, from the days when the outfit's rock and roll covers sounded like big band relics, to the days (starting in 1957) when there was far greater pop chart verisimilitude, if I'm using that word correctly.  By the time Waldorf's r&r tracks were actually sounding like r&r, Enoch was packing up to leave.  Not to suggest that the Light-style r&r sound-alikes were anything but beautifully done and charming, but for most of its existence, Waldorf's r&r fakes were fakes in every sense of the word.

But, as I said, this is a very fun playlist, and I reckon that the sloppy editing only adds to the fun.  We have no fewer than 48 tracks clocking in at about 51 minutes, so hold on to your seat!  Not surprisingly, my copies, though they look fine, have their share of surface distortion.  I don't think the crammed-together grooves helped in the graceful-aging department.  So, expect some minor surface issues.  Your ears will quickly adjust.  I opted not to kill the treble, because I hate doing that.

There's no way I was going to type out all 48 titles, so please refer to the label scans below (and, of course, my mp3 ID tags).  Somehow, I was able to cram all of the titles and artists on those tags, though I abbreviated when necessary.  Link follows:

DONWLOAD: Rock 'N Roll Jamboree (Waldorf Record Corp. BU-2, 3, 4; poss. 1957)


Thursday, June 02, 2022

Bobby Powers and His "Hits-A-Poppin" Orchestra (six-selection 78), and four extra tracks (1955)


I figured I could toss this post together in no time, but such was not to be.  First off, the ten-inch hard-vinyl EP, while in much better condition than my previous copy, is still about a VG- (with many pressing defects), and I still lack an original sleeve for this release.  However, I do have a "blank" sleeve from the same series--"blank," because someone forgot to include the track listings.  So, the sleeve for this "Bobby Powers" EP would look like this, only with the titles on display (and with a label number in the upper r.h. corner):

All six tracks on the EP--Ko Ko Mo, How Important Can It Be, Earth Angel, Tweedle Dee, Darlin (sic), and Unsuspecting Heart--were also issued individually as Prom (SPC) label singles, both in 45 and 78 rpm form.  The relationship between Parade and Prom is mysterious, because even though I've always assumed Parade was a Synthetic Plastics Co. sublabel, there was, in fact, a Parade Record Company, located first in New York NY, then in New Jersey, and it seems to have been a completely separate operation.  Maybe the two entities were simply trading tapes, as different budget label groups so often did.  At any rate, it doesn't pay to ponder these budget-label mysteries too deeply.

Since there are only six EP selections, I augmented the playlist with four more Prom singles from the same year (1955).  Getting the fidelity to an acceptable level was the main challenge (as was finding a surrogate sleeve image for the LP-style EP), since Parade/SPC used hyper-cheap vinyl that was fraught with surface glitches.  By now, though, I'm an old hand at restoring "rack-jobber" vinyl and shellac.  Too bad it's not a marketable skill...

Today's selections have to be understood in terms of what was happening in the pop charts around 1953-1955 regarding R&B and rock and roll hits; I refer, of course, to the pop cover versions which typically outsold the original versions, partly because the pop covers enjoyed better, wider distribution, and possibly because many listeners weren't quite ready for the "full" sound of the new music.  Hence, we're hearing "The Rockets" imitating the white quartet, The Crew-Cuts instead of Gene and Eunice, and Wanda Storm imitating Georgia Gibbs instead of Lavern Baker.  Of course, this situation pretty quickly changed as rock and roll originals began to dominate the pop charts; in short order, SPC, Tops, Broadway, and other budgets were giving the sound-alike treatment to the real deal.  Namely, come 1956 and 1957.

Not to suggest that these performances are lacking; in fact, I find the Prom/Parade Ko Ko Mo quite effective, with a kind of rough quality not present in the ultra-smooth Crew-Cuts cover (a decent enough version in its own right).  And Wanda Storm does a fine Gibbs impression, performing with a level of enthusiasm and energy often missing from these generic knockoffs.  Meanwhile, Rudy Weldon expertly imitates Pat Boone's hit version of Otis Williams and the Charms' Two Hearts, Two Kisses.  And, listening right now to Pat's version, I must break ranks with the "Pat Boone sucked" record-collecting consensus and pronounce Pat's version more than adequate.  And Rudy made it even more of a rocker, so, really, we're talking about a Grade-A early Parade/Prom r&r sound-alike.

Oop Shoop (originally Shirley Gunter and the Queens) is a cover of the Crew-Cuts' hit, and in this instance, the Prom single is quite entertaining in the sheer Whiteness of its sound (well, to my ears, anyway).  It's amusingly wrong in tone.  Today's ten selections document that "moment" in the pop charts when rock and roll had nearly come into its own.  Just not quite yet.  Meanwhile, the straight pop numbers in the list--How Important Can It Be (orig. Joni James) and Unsuspecting Heart (orig. Terri Stevens?) are nice and very expertly done.  However, I can find nothing online regarding Darlin, even when I plug in the composers (and/or add the missing apostrophe)--I'm simply taken right back to today's offering.  Maybe Parade misspelled a name or two.  Anyway, some fun and interesting early sound-alikes, rescued from less than the best vinyl.  (Odd that Sythetic Plastics Co. was so bad at, well, plastic.)

Hopefully, the track numbering came out correctly--I renumbered the mp3 files after exporting them into my PC's Music folder.  But my Media Players are quirky, to say the least, so I hope everything came out in the proper order.

DOWNLOAD: Bobby Powers and His "Hits-A-Poppin" Orchestra

Parade of Hits A' Poppin'--6 Tops Hits (Parade 7808; 78 rpm EP, 1955)

Ko Ko Mo

How Important Can It Be

Earth Angel

Tweedle Dee

Darlin (sic)

Unsuspecting Heart

--Bobby Powers and His "Hits-A-Poppin" Orchestra

Bonus tracks

Two Hearts, Two Kisses--Rudy Weldon, Vocal, PROM Orch. and Argyles

Rock Love--Halley Sisters, The Prom Orchestra, 1955

Hearts of Stone--The Mullen Sisters and The Rockets, Prom Orchestra, 1955

Oop-Shoop--The Rockets, The Prom Orchestra, 1954 or 1955