Sunday, February 19, 2023

Instrumental Performances of the Same Exciting Vocal Versions--Johnny Arthey Orch. (Mercury SR 60996; 1965)

Hard to believe that Instrumental Performances of the Same Exciting Vocal Versions wasn't the result of a contest to find the dumbest album title yet released.  Maybe it was.  I mean, for sheer awkwardness, it's impossible to top.  I can see someone using it as a working title, to be replaced by a more graceful version.  Maybe that was the plan, and it never happened.  Who knows?

("You're calling my album what??"--Johnny Arthey)

Luckily, the music is way better.  Johnny Arthey was the real deal: An arranger for Petula Clark, Mary Hopkin, Jonathan King, Julie Rogers, Engelbert Humperdinck, and others.  Hence, these instrumental performances (of the same, blah blah blah) sound authentic.  Expert arrangements all--they occupy a fascinating place between easy listening and Top 40 rock and roll.  Typical instrumental pop of the period, but without any blunting of the r&r effect.  I Feel Fine is just one example of an excellent rocker that loses none of its edge when arranged for orchestra.  A miracle of an LP, really.

However, I have to say that during the editing process, these tracks lost much of their appeal.  Something to do with working with sections of selections--much of the impact is lost.  On the other hand, now you don't have to listen to the occasional surface glitches.  These sound way better without them.  But the editing part can get tedious, even when the material is fine, as here.

Proof that there's "no free lunch."  No, wait--that doesn't apply here.  Sorry.

Just an outstanding selection of top "English" hits of 1964: Wishin' and Hopin' (Bacharach-David), Time Is on My Side (N. Meade), You Really Got Me (Ray Davies), Bits and Pieces (Clark-Smith), and the "McCartney-Lennon" World Without Love, From a Window, and the "Lennon-McCartney" I Feel Fine.  I'm guessing that the name order is correct on the John and Paul numbers, since the first two (for Peter and Gordon and Billy J. Kramer) sound like McCartney numbers, while I Feel Fine is very Lennon-esque.  Or maybe someone in the credits department screwed up.  Anyway, as much as I love I Feel Fine, my favorite of the John/Paul numbers is probably the incredibly charming From a Window, which of course is one of the songs the Beatles "gave away."  Meanwhile, How Do You Do It was initially favored by George Martin for the Beatles' first single release, but I forgot why it wasn't.  (Love Me Do won out.)  And How Do You Do It became a hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers, of course.  

Decent liner notes, for once: "The music speaks for itself in an effervescent and exacting way."  I'll buy that.  Fine Mercury stereo, to boot.  I'd still like to know who approved that album title, and why.

DOWNLOAD: Johnny Arthey Orch.--Instrumental Performances, etc., 1965

Wishin' and Hopin'

My Boy Lollipop

The Wedding

Time Is on My Side

You Really Got Me

Bits and Pieces

World Without Love

How Do You Do It

From a Window

Do Wah Diddy Diddy

Needles and Pins

I Feel Fine

Mercury SR-60996, 1965


Thursday, February 09, 2023

R.I.P., Burt Bacharach (1928-2023). Loving links to my Burt Bacharach offerings...


Less Common Burt Series

For Parts 1-6, please copy and paste link below (or highlight and right-click on "Go To"):

Sheila Southern

Longines Symphonette

DOWNLOAD: Close to You--The Longines Symphonette and the Symphonette Choraliers (1972)


Friday, February 03, 2023

It jumps! It's hip! It swings! It's bright! It's cool! It's danceable! It's polyunsaturated! "Ray Ellis Plays the Top 20" (RCA LSP-2400; 1961)

Halfway through my sound-editing, I thought to myself, "Wait--wasn't I supposed to put up Johnny Arthey?"  Oops.  Well, Johnny will have to wait.  Meanwhile, I present this highly entertaining, mostly very energetic collection of hits from the 1961 Top 20.  All of the tracks (save a couple) rock very nicely, and they straddle the fence between instrumental pop (easy listening) and "fake" hits.  Reason being, song lyrics show up, on and off--thus, a few tracks sound like unusually well-produced budget fakes.  Except, they're not budget, this being RCA Living Stereo.

And I found the surface noise--as in, the sound of the needle tracking the vinyl--to be a little too much, and so I filtered it out.  I don't know if Living Stereo LPs are typically noisy in that manner, or if the vinyl has aged poorly, hardening with age.

This collection made for a nice, quick pop music tutorial for me, because I'm not as acquainted with the just-before-the-Beatles period as I want to be.  And my own Top 40 memories don't start until 1962 or 1963.  Clearly, 1961 was a fun year for the Top 20, and we have rockin' mostly-instrumental takes on Ral Donner's You Don't Know What You've Got; Gary (U.S.) Bonds' School Is Out, the wonderful Carole King-Gerry Goffin Take Good Care of My Baby, the superb doo wop number One Summer Night (the Daneleers), and Ben E. King's classic Amor.  And, of course, more.  Twenty in all.

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor is, needless to say, a cover of Lonnie Donegan's 1959 recording, which hit the U.S. charts in 1961.  Why Wikipedia gives composer credit to Donegan when, in fact, the song originated in 1924 (or 1923?) as Does Your Spearmint Lose Its Flavor (Billy Rose-Ernest Breuer-Marty Bloom), I can't say, but we all know what a joke copyright credits can be, and often are.  Wikipedia claims that the skiffle style dates back to the first half of the 20th century, and I'll have to take its word, since that's news to me.  Strange that I've been collecting 78s for more than half a century without encountering vintage skiffle.  I had assumed it was a mercifully short-lived UK craze--a sendup of 1920s novelty records as historically invalid as Art Mooney's post-WWII hits.  Though Mooney's sides, while inauthentic, were fun.

The liner notes expand on what musicman1979 has already reported: The Clovers, Ruth Brown, The Drifters, and Ivory Joe Hunter can be added to the list of artists and acts Ellis collaborated with.  No wonder these tracks sound very much like the real thing, as opposed to reinterpreted rock and roll.  In fact, this LP is unusual in that regard, making it (as I suggested earlier) a semi-"fake"-hits collection.  Which has me wondering to what extent instrumental pop of the 1960s might have sold to younger buyers?  After all, we can't simply assume that young listeners, as a whole, only settled for the originals.  I can imagine young r&r fans going for something like this.  In 1961, rock/rock and roll had yet to be mythologized as the sound of rebellion.

Seems a shame that things have to start off with the ultra-mellow Michael, since it's so out of phase with the rest of the track list.  Maybe it was an executive decision...

DOWNLOAD: Ray Ellis Plays the Top 20 (RCA Victor LSP-2400; 1961)


You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lose It)

As If I Didn't Know

School Is Out

Pretty Little Angel Eyes

Little Sister

Let the Four Winds Blow

One Summer Night

I Just Don't Understand 

Last Night

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)

Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)

Wooden Heart


Take Good Care of My Baby

Without You


The Mountain's High

Don't Bet Money, Honey