TRINI LOPEZ – The Rhythm & Blues Album – (Reprise) – 1965

Trini Lopez - The Rhythm & Blues Album

Trini's ninth album and only three years since his first.

When you are on a good thing milk it.

You have to pay the bills.

Check my other comments out for biographical details of the vastly underrated Trini Lopez.

Trini's go-go guitar sound which was part rock n roll, part pop, and all California was still the rage still in 1965. His audience wanted to dance to songs they knew but with a beat that didn't require them to change their dance moves.

It's all about the beat.

And here he serves up some solid R&B hits from years, but not distant years, past.

A good idea it was as in the immediate preceding two years Trini had served up similar themed albums all cashing in on his go-go beat  … "The Latin Album" (1964), "The Folk Album" and "The Love Album" (both 1965).

The only odd thing is that Trini stays away, largely, from the heavy R&B and plays it safe with the more pop  oriented tracks. There is nothing wrong with that but the thought of Trini tackling heavy R&B and pop-i-fying them is perhaps more interesting than tackling R&B material which already leans to pop.

But as it stands this is an album for parties and would sound great as background at a dinner gathering where any number of Screwdriver cocktails have been consumed whilst nibbling on Spicy Cheese Balls or dipping into a Clam or Guacamole Dip. The sit down menu would start off with a Shrimp Cocktail, followed by Zesty Pork Chops and Pork with Sauerkraut Pinwheels, and then for desert a Strawberry Shortcake Baked Alaska or any fruit in gelatin.

Fuck it … that sound's a lot better than a generic Domino's pizza.

Of course there is every chance that your guests would be dancing … especially if they had enough Screwdrivers.

The album was apparently "recorded live" … maybe it was but I suspect its was recorded in the studio with added on chatter and claps.

Producer Don Costa "discovered" Trini Lopez but is best known for his work with Frank Sinatra (whose label, "Reprise", Trini is on).


  • Wee Wee Hours – (Chuck Berry) – an old Chuck Berry tune dating back to 1955. A favourite one of Chuck's though not often covered.
  • Ooh Poo Pah Doo – (Jessie Hill) –  Hills hit from 1960 (#5 R&B US, #30 Pop)
  • Hurtin' Inside –  (Brook Benton/Cirino Colacrai/Clyde Otis/Teddy Randazzo) – First release by Brook Benton (January 1959) (#23 R&B US, #78 Pop)
  • Double Trouble – (Jack Greenback/Mel Larson/Jerry Marcellino) – perhaps an original?
  • Watermelon Man –  (Herbie Hancock-Hendricks) – Herbie Hancock famous tune from his debut album, "Takin' Off" (1962).Jazz lyricist Jon Hendricks added words to the song and recorded it on "Jon Hendricks Recorded in Person at the Trident" (1963). Manfred Mann also released a well known version on their album "The Five Faces of Manfred Mann"(1965).
  • Don't Let Go –  (Jesse Stone) – The magnificent song by the magnificent Roy Hamilton first done in 1958 (#2R&B, #12 Pop).'t_Let_Go_(Jesse_Stone_song)
  • I Got A Woman –  (Ray Charles) – The great Ray Charles song from 1954. Done by everybody most notably by Elvis on his debut album from 1956, "Elvis Presley" and many times since.
  • So Fine –  (Teddy Randazzo/Bobby Weinstein)  -
  • She's About A Mover –  (Doug Sahm) – The 1965 hit song by Sir Douglas Quintet. (#13 1965 US).'s_About_a_Mover
  • Little Miss Happiness –  (Jack Greenback/Melvin Larson/Jerry Marcellino) –  another original?
  • Let The Four Winds Blow –   (Dave Bartholomew – Fats Domino) – A hit for Fats Domino  (#2R&B, #15 Pop).
  • Shout – (O'Kelly Isley/Ronald Isley/Rudolph Isley)  – "Shout" from 1959 by The Isley Brothers only went to #47 but has been covered by everyone including Johnny O'Keefe in Australia (1959), Dion (1962), The Shangri-Las (1964), The Kingsmen (1965), Tommy James and The Shondells (1967),? and the Mysterians (1967), Joan Jett (1980),Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1986), Garth Brooks (2013).

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Wee Wee Hours – Trini captures the delicate sensuality of this Chuck Blues. Trini would play live with Chuck on the Hullabaloo TV show later in 1965 (Doing Memphis Tennessee)
  • Ooh Poo Pah Doo –  this one moves nicely and has "party" written all over it and has some nice guitar work.
  • Hurtin' Inside – slight and quite 1950s but it moves.
  • Double Trouble –  I think it's an original but it's a throwback to the early 60s but it's quite catchy.
  • Watermelon Man – sly and sexual. Quite a treat  
  • Don't Let Go –  The audience (?) really comes to the front on this one. This song moves. Not as good as Roy Hamilton's original but great nonetheless.
  • I Got A Woman –   Ray Charles great song taken casually
  • So Fine –   a pretty good mid-tempo MOR song. Quite catchy.
  • She's About A Mover –   maybe Trini can relate to Doug Sahm's Texas background. He nails this. Go-go it is but it works.
  • Little Miss Happiness –  shades of a gentler "La Bamba".
  • Let The Four Winds Blow –  hmmmmm, quite good but Fats Domino's original is better.
  • Shout –  Trini does a strictly MOR version of this stomper. It's such a good song but this is pretty clean. I can see people dancing to it, on Sunset Strip circa 1965, though.

And …

Not the best Trini but it's still perfect for parties …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1965 #46





Wee Wee Hours

Ooh Poo Pah Doo

Double Trouble

mp3 attached


Watermelon Man

Don't Let Go

She's About A Mover


live with Jose Feliciano






  • Liner notes by Dean Martin (apparently) – (he was, reportedly, one of Dean Martin's favourite performers)

Dean Frank And Trini 1963Trini Lopez and Chuck Berry 1965

Posted in Pop Rock, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

RACHEL SWEET – … And Then He Kissed Me – (CBS) – 1981

rachel sweet - and then he kissed me

Rachel Sweet was born in Akron in 1962 !


The exclamation mark is there is because this is Rachel's third album and it's from 1981.

Teen stars aren't unusual but Rachel's voice is full and forceful and certainly sounds older than her years.

Allmusic: Rachel "began her singing career at age six, doing everything from singing commercial jingles to touring with Mickey Rooney and opening for Bill Cosby's Las Vegas act. Between 1976 and 1978 she recorded a few failed straight-ahead country singles for the local Derrick label ("Any Port in a Storm," "Paper Airplane," and "The Ballad of Mable Ruth Miller and John Wesley Pritchett") and a handful of demos for songwriter Liam Sternberg, who shopped them to Stiff Records. Stiff signed the young singer and debuted her on The Akron Compilation. She recorded her first album, Fool Around, with backing from the Rumour in 1978. She promoted the album on the Stiff package tour (The Be Stiff Tour) using the Records as her band. The album didn't sell particularly well, but it did receive a fair amount of critical praise…  The attention was short-lived, though, and Protect the Innocent, released through Stiff/Columbia, went virtually ignored the following year. She switched to Columbia in 1981 for …And Then He Kissed Me, an uneven album that nevertheless featured the Top 40 hit "Everlasting Love," a duet with Rex Smith. After one more album, 1982's Blame It on Love, Sweet retired from the music business to pursue an education, returning sporadically, most notably to sing the title track to John Waters' Hairspray, as well as Cry-Baby".

She went on to graduate from Columbia University in French and English Literature in 1988 and has since focused on establishing an acting, writing, and producing career.

Putting aside that there is something decidedly Lolita-esque in her marketing. Well it was the 70s (and early 80s) …. teens were all over the place – from David Hamilton books, to album covers. It was different time and culture, decidedly different.

I'm sure we can judge that era but I'm not sure if we can pass judgement.

Rachel however hasn't been totally sexualized the way The Runaways were or even some of the more recent girl singers are.

Perhaps it's because there was some belief in her abilities beyond exploitation as a female late teen.

She can sing, and sing well.

In reality she is probably no younger than the girl group singers she covers from the 60s.

It is clear that Rachel loves Bruce Springsteen and Phil Spector (though Springsteen himself loves Spector). This album comes across at that strange point where the mainstream hit the new wave where Springsteen, because of his straight ahead rock 'n' roll and Spector because of his life in another time were considered to be new wave. The new wave eschewed prog rock, soft rock and disco and just about everything in favour of classic rock sounds. It was easy to see why those new sounds from the past, which were out of step with current trends, were popular to the new wave.

Given her pedigree it is not surprising that Rachel ended up on England's premier new wave label, Stiff records, for her first two albums.

And that's not surprising also because the English new wave was devouring "retro American sounds" from Velvet Underground, The Stooges, to girl groups and surf music and Rachel with her retro-ish perspective fit into that perfectly.

She became another one of those American's that the English adopted (and made famous)  in the late 70s … Katrina and the Waves (well Katrina anyway), Chrissie Hyne, Stray Cats, Lene Lovich, The Flamin Groovies (made famous again) …

This album was her major debut on Columbia (CBS) and featured tight New York back up session musicians rather than (her previous backup) Stiff bands The Rumour or The Records …she would have been better with them to my ears. There's nothing wrong with the playing (guitarist Rick DiFonzo was in The A's and Greg Scott was in Breakwater whist the others were blooded session musicians) but the band may have put more pressure on the producers,  Rick Chertoff  (on five songs) and Pete Solley (on 4 tracks) to turn in something a little more ragged.

A slick sound that cuts through all the songs.

American Chertoff was a hit maker but very slick, Pete Solley was more sympathetic to retro sounds but his sound was equally slick (though perhaps more tasteful) .

The company should have got Dave Edmunds or Nick Lowe in.

Most of it works though there are hints of the mainstream rock sound that would ruin the mainstream 80s.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Shadows Of The Night – (David Leigh Byron, Rachel Sweet) – D.L. Byron wrote this though it doesn't appear on his only (?) solo album from 1980, "This Day and Age" (which is commented on this blog). He was a above average power popster but this song comes across as very Bruce Springsteen (and a little Jim Steinman). The song is quite good (Rachel added some lyrics) though very "big" in that Bruce Springsteen way prior to "Nebraska".  As I said elsewhere", the song was covered, in 1982 "by Pat Benatar which went on to sell over four million copies and win a Grammy (big wig)" who did a bombastic version which was more Jim Steinman than Bruce Springsteen.
  • Then He Kissed Me / Be My Baby – (Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry) – "Then He Kissed Me" was originally done by the The Crystals (1961) and "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, both in 1963 and both written by the same trio. They are cornerstones of the Spector sound. Rachel suits the song and the band are similarly sympathetic. Not many of the bad 80s sounds had intruded. Everyone has done these songs:
  • Billy And The Gun – (Rachel Sweet) – slow and dramatic – another Bruce Springsteen-ish song. Rachel is slightly whiney on this one.
  • Party Girl – (Rachel Sweet) – more Springsteen though this one works perfectly.
  • Two Hearts Full Of Love – (Eddie Schwartz) – Eddie Schwartz is a Canadian musician and wrote this song for his first solo album, Schwartz (1980). Oddly enough he also wrote "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" which became a hit for Pat Benatar in 1980 (#9US). Full bodied rock.
  • Little Darlin' – (Amanda Blue, Holly Knight) – Spider was an American rock band from New York with a female vocalist, Amanda Blue. This track comes from their first album, Spider (1980). A great track ….and almost as good as the original.
  • Fool's Story – (Rachel Sweet) – a good big beat ballad
  • Everlasting Love (with Rex Smith) – (Buzz Cason, Marc Gayden) – "Everlasting Love" is a song written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden (both prolific in music)for  Robert Knight in 1967 (#13). As wikipedia says " Ultimately "Everlasting Love" was released as an A-side for Knight and reached #13 in 1967. Subsequently the song has reached the U.S. Top 40 three times, most successfully by Carl Carlton, who peaked at #6 in 1974, with more moderate success for remakes by Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet (#32 1981) and Gloria Estefan (#27 1995). Thus, "Everlasting Love" is one of two songs (the other being "The Way You Do the Things You Do") to become a Top 40 hit in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s.and since remade several times". Co-singer Rex Smith was a 20 something teen idol who replaced Andy Gibb as host of (the duff) "Solid Gold"  in 1982 and also starred in the TV series Street Hawk (1985). This is not as bad as the later versions, surprisingly.
  • Streetheart – (Rachel Sweet) – hmmmm, a taste of what would become the mainstream in 80s rock.

And …

Not perfect but certainly above average … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1981  Everlasting Love  The Billboard Hot 100  #32 


1981  …And Then He Kissed Me  The Billboard 200  #124 



1981  Everlasting Love  The Billboard Hot 100  #35 



Then He Kissed Me / Be My Baby

Video clip


Party Girl

Mp3 attached

Everlasting Love


an Elvis cover (a good one)





  • Rachel appeared in the 1992 Seinfeld episode "The Contest" as George Costanza's cousin …Are you 'master of your domain'?
Posted in Punk and New Wave, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

NICK LOWE and his Cowboy Outfit – The Rose of England – (Columbia) – 1985

Nick Lowe - Rose Of England

In my (probably) myopic view of rock 'n' roll Nick Lowe is one of the holy ten of English acts who have practiced that distinctly American idiom over a lengthy time with any conviction.

He knows how to rock out, has a fine sense of musical history, doesn’t seem to want to reinvent the wheel, doesn’t claim he invented anything new and, is respectful of the music's origins and is totally unpretentious.

What he has done is take a distinctly American music medium (without trying to water it down  or make it Anglo-hip like Mumford and Sons do) and played with it to create something contemporary and relevant. He realises that the "sounds" are old but that (discerning) contemporary audiences don't care. His tales of young love are universal and transcend countries and generations. He had incorporated (as he always done) tales of England (here circa 1985) which are beautiful and come across, because of their musical idiom, as songs from American pop  and rock n roll. An American rock 'n' roller would have no problem singing them. In his love of the American music idiom, with an English context, he becomes a relative to Ray Davies, Dave Edmunds, Alan Price, Eric Burdon and perhaps Robert Plant..

Of course Nick is well versed in Americanisms having lived there and been married (from 1979-1990) to June Carter's daughter (Johnny Cash‘s step daughter) Carlene Carter, also a country singer.

Nicholas Drain "Nick" Lowe (born 24 March 1949) and as a teenager he played in a bands, including Three's a Crowd and Sounds 4 Plus 1 with his friend, guitarist Brinsley Schwarz. In 1965, the pair formed the guitar pop band Kippington Lodge, which landed a contract with Parlophone Records the following year. Over the next four years, the group released five singles, none of which received much attention. In 1969, Kippington Lodge evolved into the country-rock band Brinsley Schwarz,

From there his career moved forward in an increasingly influential arc.

Allmusic: "As the leader of the seminal pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz, a producer, and a solo artist, Nick Lowe held considerable influence over the development of punk rock. With the Brinsleys, Lowe began a back-to-basics movement that flowered into punk rock in the late '70s. As the house producer for Stiff, he recorded many seminal records by the likes of the Damned, Elvis Costello, and the Pretenders. His rough, ragged production style earned him the nickname "Basher" and also established the amateurish, D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk. Despite his massive influence on punk rock, Lowe was never really a punk rocker. He was concerned with bringing back the tradition of three-minute pop singles and hard-driving rock & roll, but he subverted his melodic songcraft with a nasty sense of humor. His early solo singles and albums, Jesus of Cool and Labour of Lust, overflowed with hooks, bizarre jokes, and an infectious energy that made them some of the most acclaimed pop records of the new wave era. As new wave began to fade away in the early '80s, Lowe began to explore roots rock, eventually becoming a full-fledged country-rocker in the '90s. While he never had another hit after 1980's "Cruel to Be Kind," his records found a devoted cult audience and were often critically praised".

This was Nick’s 7th solo album and as a 20  year veteran of the music industry (as performer, writer, producer) he knows what he is doing. The 80s (with the discovery of new musical technology) wasn't always good for straight roots music but Nick has made it sound authentic and vibrant. There are also some alt-country, rockabilly and Americana sounds here which, naturally enough, fit in well.

For me, rightly or wrongly, my favourite albums usually contain one quater covers to three quarters originals (whether written by the artist or not). On the originals I find out whether you can write or perform original material but on the covers I see whether you can interpret someone else's song and make it your own.  The latter may seem easier but isn't because you have to suffer comparisons which you don't have to with original material.

Lowe, picks his covers wisely. Great songs, done well with the right amount of Lowe humour.

The album not be as sharp as some of Nick's other works but he has set a high bar for himself and this album doesn't disappoint.

The album is produced by Nick Lowe and Colin Fairley with the exception of I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll) which was produced by Huey Lewis who also plays harmonica on it.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Darlin' Angel Eyes – (Nick Lowe) – excellent roots rock with some nice cheesy organ work. (that sentence is an Australian colloquialist's wet dream).
  • She Don't Love Nobody – (John Hiatt) – John Hiatt wrote it but it seems that Nick was the first to record it. Subsequently it was a hit for the Chris Hillman’s country rock group The Desert Rose Band (#3 US Country 1989). A subtle and beautiful song with a gentle melody and catchy refrain.
  • 7 Nights to Rock – (Henry Glover, Louis Innis, Buck Trail) – Originally recorded by Moon Mullican in 1956. The production is slick but the song's sexual implications "Seven nights or rock, seven nights of roll" with various girls is irresistible.
  • Long Walk Back – (Lowe, Belmont, Carrack, Irwin) – an instrumental which is distinctly, and unashamedly, "old school"
  • The Rose of England – (Nick Lowe) – a excellent song. It seems to be a response to the patriotic English song "Rose of England" by Ivor Novello.  The gentle and catchy melody hides a lyric which is quite biting and cynical.
  • Lucky Dog – (Nick Lowe) – a guitar driven mid tempo rocker.
  • I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock & Roll) – (Nick Lowe) – first popularized by Dave Edmunds (on his 1977 album "Get It"). This is a great song but Edmonds version is best despite some nice organ.
  • Indoor Fireworks – (Elvis Costello) – Lowe’s friend Elvis Costello recorded this on his “King of America” album from 1986. The acoustic verses work, the more produced chorus doesn't.
  • (Hope to God) I'm Right – (Nick Lowe) – some nice world play in the lyric.
  • I Can Be the One You Love – (Nick Lowe) – a country-isy love song with a bounce
  • Everyone – (Leslie Ball, Gary Rue) – first done by Nick though covered by The Brilliant Mistakes in 2005.
  • Bo Bo Ska Diddle Daddle – (Webb Pierce, Wayne Walker) – First released by Wayne Walker (1957), Subsequently done by the The Go Getters (2003). A nice slow groove.

And …

Bring me a beer and my dancing shoes, in that order … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1985 I Knew The Bride  Mainstream Rock #27

1985 I Knew The Bride (When She Use To Rock N Roll)  The Billboard Hot 100 #77


1985 #119





She Don't Love Nobody


Nights to Rock


The Rose of England


mps attached

I Knew the Bride – (When She Used to Rock & Roll)

Video clip

Indoor Fireworks

live with Elvis Costello


with Rockpile


with Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock

doing Elvis (the proper one)

2007 full concert





  • Lowe was also in Little Village (with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt) and Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds)
Posted in Alt Country, Rockabilly and Rock n Roll, Roots Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE ASTRONAUTS – Everything is A-OK! – (RCA) – 1964

Astronauts - Everythings AO K

I have waxed lyrical about The Astronauts on this blog before so refer to those comments for background and philosophical ruminations, if any.

I can't move forward without saying The Astronauts were a working bad.

By that I mean , artistic considerations are important but you have to pay the bills and this band was one of many where music was an occupation as well as (or instead of) a calling.

And, The Astronauts, worked  … both in the studio and on the road.

Their debut album "Surfin' with The Astronauts" made a minor splash (sic) in the US (and around the world) in 1963.

Its sound of Fender reverb tonnage and two rhythm guitars certainly caught the ear of the youth and with its "beach" theme it became an instant classic of "surf rock".

Not bad for a bunch of boys from Boulder, Colorado (which is nowhere near surf for you geographically challenged).

They followed that album with this, recorded live at the Club Baja in Denver (though the liner notes seem to suggest the club is in Boulder).

Live albums from this era I am always suspicious of given that a lot of live albums from the early days of rock  aren't really live but studio jobs with applause between tracks.

Here, I will give them the benefit of a doubt (even though no songs from the first hit album are played live here).

In any event this is more of the same – frenzied hits surfed up. This is killer stuff and the Astronauts know how to rock out. The seeds of their frat rock and garage rock excursions can be heard in these sides but generally this is music for dancing by a band who know what the audience wants.

Much like their other albums The Astronauts do hits of the day, a original (or two) and a few covers from the 50s rock era (not surprisingly given the band can trace it's roots back to 1956).

Sure, if this was a contemporary band and they were doing an original, a few Pearl Jam and U2 covers, a few Mumford and Sons, Radiohead and Coldplay covers I would have nothing good to say about them.

But, I  love the sound of the early 1960s … the music is still fresh, raw and vital. There is no pretensions. The good times are tonight and tonight starts when this record is put on the turntable. This is the soundtrack to a million dances in the midwest 1964 and to a million living rooms(or so I believe). 

To my ears it us glorious …and I still think it would be perfect for parties.

Tracks – Origins

  • Bo Diddley – (Bo Diddley / Ellas McDaniel) – The Bo Diddley song by Bo Diddley from 1955
  • If I Had a Hammer – (Lee Hays / Pete Seeger) – Originally popularised by Pete Seeger, Trini Lopez had a go go version that went to #3 in the US in 1963 which The Astronauts have covered.
  • It's So Easy – (Buddy Holly / Norman Petty) – The original is by Buddy Holly and the Crickets from 1958. As much as the song is identified with him it failed to chart in the US.
  • Dream Lover – (Bobby Darin) – Darin's magnificent 1959 hit
  • Wine, Wine, Wine – (The Astronauts) – an original
  • Money (That's What I Want) – (Janie Bradford / Berry Gordy, Jr.) – Barrett Strong's #2 R&B Hit from 1960 and a staple of second generation rock bands. The song  was later recorded by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen, Richard Wylie and His Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Searchers, The Flying Lizards, The Sonics, Buddy Guy and many others
  • Big Boss Man – (Luther Dixon / Al Smith) – Jimmy Reed's great blues tune. Well covered: The Pretty Things (1964), Charlie Rich (1965) Jerry Lee Lewis (1966),Elvis Presley (1967 – a #38US hit), Bill Cosby (1967), Bobbie Gentry (1968), Grateful Dead (1971), B.B. King (1985), Steve Miller Band (1986), Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 1995), Junior Reid (1999), and The Kentucky Headhunters (2005) and others
  • Stormy Monday – (T-Bone Walker) – Possibly T-Bone walkers most famous song from 1947
  • Shortnin' Bread – (Traditional) – said to be  a traditional though  the song by James Whitcomb Riley from 1900. It has been done by everyone in most genres: old timey, country, rock folk. The Astronauts were probably trying to  draw from the fol explosion at te time.
  • I Need You – (Rick Nelson) – Rick's song from 1963 (#83US).
  • What'd I Say – (Ray Charles) – Ray Charles' song from 1959. It was a hit (#6US, #1 R&B) and became successful , well covered and very influential. The Astronauts would have been well versed with Ray's song but it is worth mentioning that Elvis Presley had a #21US hit with it in 1964 (it was in his film "Viva Las Vegas") and this has more than a passing resemblance to his version. (They were also on the same label as him and in Hollywood (filming songs for a beach film) at the same time as him)

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Bo Diddley – (Bo Diddley / Ellas McDaniel) – Excellent. The band almost beat out Bo. It's not as mean but the emphasis on the beat is irresistible,
  • If I Had a Hammer – (Lee Hays / Pete Seeger) – Lopez's version is definitive but this one really rock and takes the song further into frat rock territory
  • It's So Easy – (Buddy Holly / Norman Petty) – A good version. It's more rockier than Holly's but it's not as good.
  • Dream Lover – (Bobby Darin) – Darin's version was locked in 1959 but The Astronauts have managed to bring it up to 1964. The beat is a little faster and there are some nice musical asides.
  • Wine, Wine, Wine - (The Astronauts) – an original and one with a great sentiment (or sediment, ha …lame).  This one really moves.
  • Money (That's What I Want) – (Janie Bradford / Berry Gordy, Jr.) – another great updating and perhaps one of the best versions of "money". This is nasty with some tuff guitar.
  • Big Boss Man – (Luther Dixon / Al Smith) – A thumping version.
  • Stormy Monday – (T-Bone Walker) – The Astronauts here haven't played with the blues of the song. The sentiment in the song certainly applies to the audiences they were playing to I suspect.
  • Shortnin' Bread – (Traditional) – despite it's up-tempo beat it seems a little out of place here.
  • I Need You – (Rick Nelson) – likewise this is pure pop rock. Clearly the Astronauts were giving their "live" audience all the hits of the day regardless of genre.
  • What'd I Say – (Ray Charles) – a great version, though more guitar based and similar to Elvis's cover of the song also 1964.

And …

Perfect for parties … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1964 #100



Bo Diddley

Dream Lover

Wine, Wine, Wine

Money (That's What I Want)

Mp3 attached

Shortnin' Bread




a typical Astronauts gig:



  • Wikipedia: "Associated acts: For a while, the same band – Fifield, Patterson, McLerran, Bretz and Jenkins – performed in the US under the name SunshineWard, who released one single, "Sally Go Around The Roses", in 1967. Patterson then left the band and music business, and Fifield and McLerran formed a new band, Hardwater, with Tony Murillo and Peter M. Wyant. In 1968, the band released two singles and an album, Hardwater, on Capitol Records, produced by David Axelrod. Fifield also had a role in assisting Axelrod and record engineer David Hassinger, who owned the rights to the group name of The Electric Prunes, to find a new group of musicians to take on that group's name for their record, Mass in F Minor. Fifield contacted fellow Colorado musicians, Richard Whetstone, John Herron and Mark Kincaid, who then agreed to form one of the final line-ups of The Electric Prunes."

ASTRONAUTS - Everything is AOK rear

Posted in Garage, Surf and Frat, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN HARTFORD – Iron Mountain Depot – (RCA) – 1970

John Hartford - Iron Mountain Dept

Country, bluegrass and especially newgrass lovers love John Hartford, and there is much to love.

Generally, though, despite his fame being built on (covers of his songs on) his RCA albums from 1967 – 1970, the country music enthusiasts prefer his post 1970s work with the Warner Brothers or Flying Fish labels.

John Hartford, himself apparently, was slightly embarrassed by his RCA output  because it was generally more produced, filled out , mainstream and well, poppy.

As albums stand his later work is better but I don't have a problem with his earlier work because unlike the country music people I discovered John Hartford by tracking him down from rock and pop sources.

"Iron Mountain Depot" is John Hartford's sixth and final album issued by RCA.

The RCA albums really try to fit Hartford's music in with what was happening at the time. Light pop overtones when pop was in, light psych overtones when psych was in. Here, there are country rock and up-tempo overtones.

They never overpower the songs but there are clear commercial decisions made. By all accounts Hartford didn't have much say in this but he needn't be embarrassed though you can hear that Hartford is perhaps a little tired (or bored) with RCA and was perhaps looking for a change.

And if there was ever any indication that a dramatic change was about to come compare the clean cut Hartford on this LP sleeve with the Hartford on his next album, for Warner Brothers, "Aereo-Plain" from 1971. (see end).

This is a final album and a transitional album in that it hints at some of the sit down and play sessions or country porch music that John embark on in the 70s.

John may have wanted a change but his music, even when he may be tired or bored, is still magnificent. This is well crafted country music with pop and rock influences which is always interesting and occasionally inspired.

Richie Unterberger in allmusic said in relation to this album, "it's still among the goofiest, normal-save-constant-sly-winking country-pop ever made. The singer/songwriter remained seemingly unable to resist coating his attractive, easygoing tunes with dry humor that almost leaves the impression he was trying to self-sabotage any chance he had of selling a lot of records to the mainstream"

When people compare this to his later work it may be lacking because he was a singular talent, always inquisitive and very smart but it should be compared to other albums by other acts of the era.

This album sits well next to any of the country rock of the time. It's less poppy that any of the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition of the time. It's as quirky as Lee Hazlewood. Think, perhaps, The Byrds if they played bluegrass.


Ultimately, the beauty in Hartford's music (to me at least) is that, regardless if the song is an original or a cover, it expresses the nature of Hartford himself. That doesn't always happen in music and a lot of the times when it does happen it's less than inspiring. Not everyone is sufficiently interesting as a musician or a person.

Hartford is.

Or he seems to be, given I've never met him.

He comes across as a guy you would love to meet and have a drink with whilst listening to his stories. His songs are uninhibited expressions of joy, melancholy, occasional regret and sadness all laced with a dry humour at every corner.  So much that there seems to be as much Marx Brothers in his albums as there is Bill Monroe.

So why wouldn't you want to have a drink with him?

Check my other comments from biographical details.

All songs written by John Hartford, except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Like Unto a Mockingbird – a big production number (with shades of "Hey Jude" that relate to the last track on the album – the fiddles become strings. The banjo is irresistible. Hartford did this in a more stripped down version on his first album "Looks at Life" (1967).
  • Meanwhile You Sit by My Banjo –  a beautiful song
  • I Won't Know Why I Went Till After I Get Back – a sly humorous song
  • Maybe – a long groove
  • Go Home Girl – Sublime ..many of the usual country motifs are here. A great song.
  • Natural to Be Gone – Another up-tempo country song which has bee given the big band Billy Vaughn treatment. Hartford did this in a more stripped down version on his first album "The Love Album" (1968).
  • Before They Tow My Car Away – ha, what a great title
  • To Say – a glorious song with some magnificent lines.
  • Frustrated Bird – minor but glorious.
  • Hey Jude – (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – ha, a hilarious instrumental cover. The Marx Brothers annihilate The Beatles tune. Pure anarchy. This is all Hartford …very little Lennon and McCartney.

And …

It isn't one of Hartford's best but it's still miles ahead of other albums…. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action


I Won't Know Why I Went Till After I Get Back

Go Home Girl

Mp3 attached


Natural to Be Gone







John : album sleeves – this and the next.

John Hartford- Comparison look

Posted in Alt Country, Country, Country Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE RASCALS – Search and Nearness – (Atlantic) – 1971


Rascals - Search And Nearness

Where would we be without the internet?

Surely richer, maybe wiser, arguably happier but certainly without "obscure-ish" records like this Rascals one.

I, like many people outside the US (and probably many within the US), know and love The Young Rascals for their blue eyed soul rock and pop hits of the mid to late 1960s. The music was fun, well performed, inspired, and without any pretensions.

In two years (1966-1968) they had nine Top 20 hits in the US including three #1s.

They were big.

wikipedia: "Eddie Brigati (vocals), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums) started the band in Brigati and Danelli's hometown of Garfield, New Jersey. Brigati, Cavaliere and Cornish had previously been members of Joey Dee and the Starliters. Eddie's brother, David Brigati, an original Starliter, helped arrange the vocal harmonies and sang backgrounds on many of the group's recordings (informally earning the designation as the "fifth Rascal"). When Atlantic Records signed them, they discovered that another group, Borrah Minnevitch's and Johnny Puleo's 'Harmonica Rascals', objected to their release of records under the name 'The Rascals'. To avoid conflict, manager Sid Bernstein decided to rename the group 'The Young Rascals'… The Young Rascals' first television performance was on the program Hullabaloo on February 27, 1965, where they performed their debut single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore". The track reached #23 in Canada, and touched the lower reaches of the U.S. charts. This modest success was followed by the U.S./Canada #1 single "Good Lovin'".

Like Vanilla Fudge, Mountain, The Illusion (and the Four Seasons and Dion and the Belmonts before them, and Bon Jovi after them and many others in-between) the nucleus of The Young Rascals were working class Italian-Americans from the greater New York / New Jersey area who were trying to escape their surrounds (economic if not physical).

Their musical background was in the working dance hall bands of the time. These bands made good time music that had to be danced to. People may scoff and the "disposability" of such music but one can't deny the musicianship that goes along with playing halls and venues night after night.

The Young Rascals like any act worth there salt though were not content in just rehashing the same sounds. They eventually dropped the "Young" from their name, wrote more original songs, observed the wider world, and looked beyond their good time rock and soul music.

They incorporated psychedelic rock, funk, gospel, jazz and some Latin and country into their sounds

The hits stopped and the music wasn't as infectious but it was more challenging and ultimately, despite the lack of hits, I'm happy they did this because it keeps their music interesting and ripe for rediscovery.

This album, their seventh, is the last with the original line up (Brigati had left before the album was finished and Cornish left shortly after) is from the "challenging music" period. Two more Rascals albums followed in the same vein.

What I find most interesting on albums like these is the "sound of the streets" feel on the albums. Not in the recording techniques but in the mix of styles : Latin, funk, gospel, rock all intermingle. This album oozes the US urban north-east so much that it could be a soundtrack for any gritty domestic drama about good guys, bad guys and cops and robbers of the time. That's not to say the music is all "mean streets" the Rascals, despite melancholy moments, have always been an upbeat band.

Their glass is always half full.

The early 70s were trouble times ecological issues had become big news, inflation, unemployment, urban crime, inner city decay were everywhere so it's good that they managed to keep their glass half full.

The band relies on a gentle good time funk as well as (the positiveness of) gospel more often than not to punctuate the songs. Cissy Houston (Whitney's mum) and The Sweet Inspirations (who were on the Atlantic label with The Rascals) provide the backing vocal magic which gives the album it's spiritual punch.

As an aside: The Sweet Inspirations were riding on a high. In mid-1969 the group (Cissy had been with the Sweet Inspirations until late 1969 before going out on her own) began recording and touring with Elvis Presley as both background singers and his warm-up act. The association with Elvis was well-publicized as he routinely introduced them on record, film and televised concerts.

It all works though there are no stellar tracks. It is an album of it's time but there is nothing wrong with that especially if  you love the time.
Their lack of  visibility as a great band from the 60s perhaps says something about rock music snobbery. At some stage to be a great rock act you had to be a great albums act. A series of great 45s was not enough. The Rascals like many other acts were never really an album oriented band despite putting out some very ambitious albums. That's not to say they didn't put out good (and occasionally great albums) but their format was the single

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Right On – (Felix Cavaliere) – A nice slab of funk and gospel.
  • I Believe – (Felix Cavaliere) – Pure gospel (with Cissy Houston and Tosha (Tasha?) Thomas on backing vocals) in attitude and music and Felix shows why he was a great white soul singer.
  • Thank You Baby – (Felix Cavaliere) – more gospel soul.
  • You Don't Know - (Gene Cornish) – a straight ahead semi rocker with country overtones.
  • Nama - (Dino Danelli) – a instrumental number that moves into Blood Sweat and Tears territory. Nice, real nice. Danelli (as is often noted) is a great drummer. I'm not sure what "nama" means, though in Croatian it means "us". (how's that for trivia?) know
  • Almost Home - (Felix Cavaliere) – a good ballad (with pastoral overtones) which is quite evocative.
  • The Letter - (Wayne Carson Thompson) – The Box Tops #1 (US) deep soul hit from 1967 is given a deeper soul treatment …in a Vanilla Fudge style. This is how covers should be done – as an individual interpretation that doesn't miss the point of the song. You have to love those keyboards.
  • Ready for Love - (Felix Cavaliere) –   Very breezy and happy. I think this is a great track. There is a great flute solo in there. How many times have you ever said that?
  • Fortunes – (Dino Danelli) – slightly trippy mid tempo song which is quite catchy in its own way.
  • Glory, Glory - (Felix Cavaliere) – a big, big showbiz gospel number with the Sweet Inspirations and Cissy Houston at their best.

And …

Of it's time but endearing and extremely undervalued…. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
1970  Glory Glory  The Billboard Hot 100  #58 

1971  The Billboard 200  #198 



Right On

I Believe

You Don't Know

Ready for Love
Mp3 attached

Rascals – Ready For Love


with Tom Jones

a history




  • I have noi idea what the front and back cover paintings are about. but they are by Wolfgang Huitter, an Austrian painter of the fantastical.
  • wikipedia: Regarding the inner cover photo, "The photo shows Dino Danelli, Gene Cornish, and Felix Cavaliere sitting on a rooftop. There is an empty space with a pair of unoccupied shoes between Danelli and Cornish.[1] Cornish’s right arm is sticking out as if he has his arm around one’s shoulder. In the background, Eddie Brigati is standing in one of the neighboring apartment windows. However, this was an insert photo condensed to fit in the window; Brigati himself is not in the photo, having left the group before the photo shoot (with Cornish's departure shortly thereafter)"...see below.
  • Cavaliere went on to put out solo albums, Cornish and Danelli (also a visual artist) formed the group Bulldog in 1972 (and pout out two albums) before disbanding in 1975. Danelli then joined the Leslie West Band for a short time. In 1978 he and Cornish joined the powerpop group Fotomaker (initially with ex-Raspberries member Wally Bryson). In 1980, Danelli joined Steven Van Zandt as a member of Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul.
  • The Racals reformed in their original line-up for a series of concerts in 2012-2013.

Inner gatefold

The Rascals - Search and Nearness - Inner Gatefold

Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Jazz Rock Fusion, Rock & Pop | Tagged | 1 Comment

TONY BENNETT – Love Story – (Columbia) – 1971

Tony Bennett - Love Story

"Bennett, born 1926, is the last of the great male trad pop singers".

I said that in another comment on Tony Bennett and that is a great way to start any comment.

That, followed by "and he is still recording and touring and is a living legend".

Read my other comments for musical background and impact.

He never entered into the public consciousness as perhaps, Sinatra, Crosby or Martin because he never worked in film extensively but his vocal, phrasing, control and emotion was admired by all trad pop singers.

The guy is truly amazing.

Not every song Bennett does works but he makes a song sound, at the very least, pleasant. He could sing the phone book and it would be good. He is the master craftsman.

But, when he hits on a song that is perfectly in tune with what he wants and believes there is magic and he transcends the music.

His voice is distinctive and familiar. The role he takes on in a song is totally convincing. The broken hearted lover, the friend giving advice, the young man who has found love, the older man who has found love, the parent looking at his child, the beloved relative giving fatherly advice. They are not just arbitrary roles for each song but rather an extension of his personality, at different times in his life. He never wrote a song, but through the selection and his approach to them they become autobiographical.

With that in mind I have never had a problem approaching a Tony Bennett album and I especially like his late 60s and early 70s material though it's not his most well regarded period.

This album is a strange though. Clearly it has been designed to cash in on the big hit film "Love Story"  with Ryan 'Neal and Ali McGraw from 1970 (look at the sleeve – a bad Photoshop before Photoshop was invented), and I assume Andy Williams big hit of the theme song from 1971 but the album could be called "Bennett does Broadway and the Movies".

The 70s tracks are all from recent films or stage productions whilst the rest are lifted from Bennett albums and singles from the 60s.

The recording date breakdown:

12/03/1970  Love Story (Where Do I Begin?)  
01/25/1971 Tea For Two  
01/25/1971  I Want To Be Happy  
01/25/1971  Individual Thing
09/30/1970  I Do Not Know A Day I Did Not Love You 
10/16/1967  They Can't Take That Away From Me 
09/17/1963  When Joanna Loved Me    
11/26/1966  Country Girl
12/28/1965  The Gentle Rain  
03/16/1962  Soon It's Gonna Rain
09/11/1963  A Taste Of Honey
09/30/1970  I'll Begin Again

The album hangs together because the new songs are well done and the older songs are chosen because they were strong but it would have been more successful (as an album) if a few other recent songs had been done at the sessions.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Love Story – (Where Do I Begin?) - (Carl Sigman, Francis Lai) – from the film "Love Story" – the film was a monster hit. A cover of the theme song (which has been covered many times), by Andy Williams which was a hit in 1971 (#9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the easy listening chart for four weeks, in addition to #4 on the UK Singles Chart). I'm not sure if Williams actually recorded (as opposed to released) his version before Bennett but Bennett's version is better. His vocal is control with just the right crack around the edge to give the song emotional power. Sure, everyone can sing, but not everyone is a singer.
  • Tea For Two – (Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar) –   from the often revived musical production and Broadway show "No No Nanette" which dates back to the 1920s. Tony controls the song nicely. It has been often heard and is a bit coy but it works.
  • I Want To Be Happy   - (Otto Harbach, Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar) – another song from "No No Nanette"  ….there was a big Broadway revival of the sho released later in 1971 . Perhaps this is the reason for recording the song. It still it works.
  • Individual Thing  - (Jule Styne, Bob Merrill) –   from the musical production "Prettybell" which was also released in 1971. The musical is very contemporary – its central character is a Southern woman who, after her abusive law officer husband has died, turns to alcohol and sex, allowing herself to be raped and becoming a nymphomaniac prostitute, before becoming institutionalized. A romantic musical comedy it's not.
  • I Do Not Know A Day I Did Not Love You  – (Richard Rodgers, Martin Charnin) –   from the Broadway Musical "Two by Two" released in 1970 with Danny Kaye in the lead. Another contemporary musical about Noah and the great flood but with refences to ecology, the bomb and the generation gap.
  • They Can't Take That Away From Me  - (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) –  The song was first done by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film "Shall We Dance". A beautiful song, more jazzy than the Astaire version.
  • When Joanna Loved Me   - (Robert Wells, Jack Segal) –  This is Bennett's song from 1964. Though not a big, big hit Bennett loved the song so much he named his daughter after it. Scott Walker did  a beautifully Baroque version in 1967. Vocally lush.
  • Country Girl – (Robert Farnon) – Canadian Fardon wrote the song as  a potential for the 1966 Eurovision (for England). Bennett's version comes from the 1967 album "Tony Makes It Happen!"
  • The Gentle Rain  - (Luiz Bonfa, Matt Dubey) –   from mthe (now) obscure film from 1966 starring Christopher George and Lynda Day George about lovers in Rio. Naturally enough the great Brazilian guitarist Bonfa did the music (with Eumir Deodato). This song was originally from Bennett's 1966 album, "The Movie Song Album". Great guitar by Bonfa, very gentle as is the song just like, errrr gentle rain.
  • Soon It's Gonna Rain – (Tom Jones, Harvey Schmidt) – from the 1960 musical comedy "The Fantasticks".
  • A Taste Of Honey   - (Ric Marlow, Bobby Scott) –  A minor hit when released in 1964 the song was originally released on Bennett's 1964 album "The Many Moods of Tony". The song was written for the 1960 Broadway version of the 1958 British play "A Taste of Honey" The song both in vocal and instrumental modes has been covered many times (Including by The Beatles in 1963. Tony's version is sublime.
  • I'll Begin Again - (Leslie Bricusse) –   from the film 1970 film "Scrooge" which was a musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic 1843 story, "A Christmas Carol". Another great cover which is powerful in that Broadway way without being strictly Broadway.

And …

By it's nature this is patchy but when it's right it's magnificent …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
1964  A Taste Of Honey  The Billboard Hot 100  #94 
1964  When Joanna Loved Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #94 

1971  Love Story  The Billboard 200  #67 




Love Story (Where Do I Begin?)  
Mp3 attached

Tony Bennett – Love Story

Tea For Two

I Want To Be Happy
They Can't Take That Away From Me
Live (with Elvis Costello)
When Joanna Loved Me   
Country Girl

The Gentle Rain

A Taste Of Honey

I'll Begin Again
Others (with Frank Sinatra) (with Dean Martin) (with Dean Martin) (with Andy Williams) (and Willie Nelson) (with Amy Winehouse) (with Lady Gaga))




  • Credits : Arranged By – Dick Hyman (tracks: B4, B5), Marion Evans (tracks: B2), Marty Manning (tracks: A1, B1), Ralph Burns (tracks: A2, A3, A4), Torrie Zito (tracks: A5, A6, B6) , Conductor – Dick Hyman (tracks: B4, B5), Marion Evans (tracks: B2), Marty Manning (tracks: A1, B1), Ralph Burns (tracks: A2, A3, A4), Torrie Zito (tracks: A5, A6, B6) , Guitar – Luis Bonfa* (tracks: B3) , Producer – Ernie Altschuler (tracks: B1, B5), Howard A. Roberts (tracks: A6, B2), Teo Macero
  • Full sessions:  Tony Bennett (ldr), Ralph Burns, Marion Evans, Marty Manning, Peter Matz, Ralph Sharon, Torrie Zito (con, a), Dick Hyman (con, a, or), Johnny Mandel (con), Luiz Bonfa (a, g), Ralph Sharon Trio (acc), Phil Bodner, Pete Fanelli, Romeo Penque, Sol Schlinger, William J. Slapin, Stanley Webb (r), Joe Soldo (r, f), Bobby Tricarico (r, ts), Bert Collins, Mel Davis, Al De Risi, Joe Ferrante, Johnny Frosk, Bernie Glow, Bob Hamilton, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Joe Wilder (t), Robert Alexander, Sy Berger, Warren Covington, William Elton, Paul Faulise, John Gale, Urbie Green, Dick Hixson, John Messner, Jack Rains, Fred Zito (tb), Jim Buffington, Donald Corrado, Joseph De Angelis, Larry Wechler (frh), Vinnie Bell, Gene Bertoncini, Al Caiola, Barry Galbraith (g), George Duvivier, Milt Hinton (b), John Bunch (p), Gloria Agostini, Corky Hale, Margaret Ross (hrp), Jess Levy, Charles McCraken, George Ricci, Lucien Schmidt, Harvey Shapiro, Alan Shulman, Tony Sophos (vc), Joe Cocuzzo, Sol Gubin, Ronnie Zito (d), Phil Kraus, Phil Kraus (per), Lamar Alsop, Julius Brand, Fred Buldrini, Peter Buonconsiglio, Max Cahn, Bernie Eichen, Paul Gershman, Harry Glickman, Larry Goldman, Mannie Green, Harry Katzman, Harold Kohon, Leo Kruczek, Ray Kunicki, Joe Malin, Marvin Morgenstern, David Nadian, Dave Novales, George Ockner, Gene Orloff, John Pintavalle, Matthew Raimondi, John Rublowsky, Tosha Samoroff, Julius Schachter, Gerald Tarack, Paul Winter (vn), Julien Barber, Al Brown, Selwart Clarke, Harold Colletta, Leon Frengut, Theodore Israel, Emanuel Vardi (vl), Tony Bennett (v) Sessionography:
Posted in Popular & Crooners | Tagged | Leave a comment

BOBBY VEE – Sings Hits of the Rockin’ ’50’s – (Liberty) – 1961

Bobby Vee - Sings Hits of the Rockin 50s

Bobby Vee does a covers album.

An odd statement perhaps given that a lot of Bobby Vee's material is made up of covers.

I have commented on quite a few Bobby Vee albums on this blog and touched on his background, but , just to refresh,

Bobby Vee aka  Robert Thomas Velline was, (wikipedia) "Born in Fargo, North Dakota, he had his first single with "Suzie Baby," an original song penned by Vee that nodded towards Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" for the Minneapolis-based Soma Records in 1959; it drew enough attention and chart action to be purchased by Liberty Records, which signed him to their label later that year. His follow-up single, a cover of Adam Faith's UK number 1 "What Do You Want?" charted in the lower reaches of Billboard in early 1960; however, it was his fourth release, a revival of The Clovers' doo-wop ballad "Devil or Angel", that brought him into the big time with U.S. buyers. His next single, "Rubber Ball", was the record that made him an international star".

Bobby here, though revives the great hits of the 1950s …which had ended only two years earlier!

If this isn't one of the first "let's relive the 50s" covers albums I don't know what it.

There is tendency to look down on singers like Bobby Vee especially when doing music like this. Vee though had his roots in the 50s and was a good stylist. He doesn't do the covers faithfully. They are saturated with his musical personality as well as the clean-er sounds of 1961.

The sounds in 1961 were, generally, smoother, cleaner and poppier. The album's title is "Sings Hits of the Rockin' 50s" not "Sings Rock hits of the 50s" and that says a lot.

There certainly was a market for this well into the 60s but a lot of the music is now overlooked.

When John Lennon did an album of 50s covers ("Rock 'n' Roll" in 1975) or when Robert Plant, Bryan Ferry or Dave Edmunds revive 50s tunes the high brow critics wet their pants.

Vee doesn't get the same break and that's a pity because this album is better on the ears than Lennon's similar effort though not as highly individualistic as Lennon's (and producer Phil Spector's) album.  Should an individualistic failure be more highly regarded than a less individualistic success?

Well, the answer is in the listening. And to my ears at least this album holds together better.

The first side tends to the rockier side of the 50s whilst side two has the ballads. I prefer the first side. Vee (though he subsequently did a Buddy Holly covers album) with the exception of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, Vee stays away from the "pillars" of the 50s music scene: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard are not covered.

In any event, the trouble with doing well known "hits" is you are at a disadvantage because those songs are, errr "hits".

I said this in commenting on Bobby Vee's Buddy Holly tribute album "I Remember Buddy Holly" from 1963 and the same applies to this hits of the 50's album, "The trouble with “tribute cover albums” is that, whether it is 1963 or 1983 you are always going to be compared to the original singers versions. The trouble with that, of course, is that because the artist is deemed to warrant a whole album of covers suggests that the artist must have been significant. If he was significant that means he must have put out a body of work that was exceptional. Accordingly, you are really putting yourself by the eight ball by doing an album of covers by an exceptional artist".

Still, Vee nails some of the songs and it's interesting to hear what the songs sound like with 1961 tastes and attitudes.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Do You Want to Dance? - a great song. Just about every version is good, as is this, with some Buddy Holly mannerisms. The dancing here is more innocent rather than raunchy but there is room for that in contemporary society.
  • Lollipop – a poppy doo-wop. A novelty song – quite catchy but it works better with vocal groups, though it seems that Bobby's voice is double tracked here?
  • School Days - The guitar doesn't match Chuck Berry but Vee's vocal is spot on
  • Little Star – OK.
  • Come Go with Me –  a great song and a good version. Extremely catchy
  • Summertime Blues - not as nasty as Eddie's version but a great song and Vee's  vocal again is good.
  • Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – sounds like a ballad from a 50s Elvis film.
  • Lavender Blue – Gentle, perhaps too gentle.
  • Donna – Valen's ballad had balls. Vee gets the longing right but there isnt enough Mexican-American angst.
  • Earth Angel - a great song but quite clean, or cleaner still.
  • Wisdom of a Fool – some great vocals with some Elvis like mannerisms thrown in.
  • Sixteen Candles - very catchy and quite romantic, though you'd end up in jail nowadays if the age gap was substantial between you and the sixteen year old.

Tracks (their origins)

  • Do You Want to Dance? – (Bobby Freeman) – A #5 hit for Bobby Freeman in 1958 in the US. Of course the song was done by everyone including The Beach Boys (#8, 1965), Cliff Richard and the Shadows (#2 England, 1962), Bette Midler (#17 1972), The Four Seasons (1964), Del Shannon, (1964), The Mamas & the Papas (1966), Johnny Rivers (1966), We Five (1966), John Lennon (1975),  Kim Carnes (1971), T. Rex (1975), The Ramones (1977),  Dave Edmunds (1985),  David Lindley and El Rayo-X (1988).
  • Lollipop – (Julius Edward Dixon / Beverly "Ruby" Ross) – Lollipop was first recorded by the duo Ronald & Ruby (co-writer Ross herself was "Ruby") and then covered more successfully by The Chordettes.  The Chordettes went to #2 in the US and #6 in the UK where there was also a cover version by The Mudlarks which made #2.
  • School Days – (Chuck Berry) – Chuck Berry had a #3 US hit  in 1957 and has been covered by everyone including AC/DC (1975), Gary Glitter (1972), Jan and Dean (1964), New Riders of The Purple Sage (1974), The Beach Boys, not to mention live versions by Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and Led Zeppelin.
  • Little Star – (Vito Picone / Arthur Venosa) – A #1 hit for Italo-American doo wop group The Elegants in 1958. Other artists to record this song include Dion (1961) and Johnny Worth (1958)
  • Come Go with Me – (Clarence E. Quick) – A #4 hit for doo-wop group The Del-Vikings in 1957. It has been covered by The Beach Boys, The Fleetwoods, Sha Na Na and many others.
  • Summertime Blues – (Jerry Capehart / Eddie Cochran) – A #8 hit for Eddie Cochran in 1958. It has been covered by many artists including versions by The Beach Boys (19621), The Who (1970), Blue Cheer (1968), Alan Jackson (#1 country, 1980), Dick Dale And His Del-Tones (1965),  T-Rex (1970), Olivia Newton-John (1975), The Flying Lizards (1978), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (LIVE 1978),  The Flaming Lips (1986),  Brian Setzer (1987), Joan Jett (1980),  The Gants (1966), Alex Chilton (1977), The Black Keys (2004), The Dandy Warhols (LIVE 2012), James Taylor (2008), Guitar Wolf (1999), The Ugly’s (2004), Levon Helm (1981).
  • Happy, Happy Birthday Baby – (Gilbert Lopez / Margo Sylvia) – A #5 hit for The Tune Weavers in 1957. It has also been covered by Dolly Parton (1966), Sandy Posey (it #36 country 1971), Ronnie Milsap (#1 country 1986),  Wanda Jackson (1958).,_Happy_Birthday_Baby
  • Lavender Blue – (Traditional) – "Lavender Blue" is an old English folk song that Burl Ives did for the film "So Dear to My Heart" (1948) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Sammy Turner released it in 1959 and it hit # 14 on the US. Other versions include those by The Browns (1960), Gene Vincent (1964), Bobby Vinton (1964), The Merseybeats (1964), Solomon Burke, Leon & Mary Russell (1975), Marillion (1985), and The Wiggles (1991).
  • Donna – (Ritchie Valens) –  A #2 hit in 1958 for Mexican-American rocker Ritchie Valens. Other versions include Los Lobos (1987), Johnny Crawford (1962), Clem Snide (2000), Cliff Richard (1958), Donny Osmond (1972), Misfits (2003), Gary Glitter (1972), Shakin Stevens (1982), Johnny Tillotson (1963).
  • Earth Angel – (Jesse Belvin / Gaynel Hodge / Curtis "Fitz" Williams) – A #8 hit for Afro-American doo-wop group The Penguins in 1955. The white vocal group The crew Cuts had a #8 with it in the same year.  Other versions include Gloria Mann (#18, 1955),  Barry Frank and the Four Bells (1955),  Johnny Tillotson (#57, 1960), Bobby Vinton (1963), The Vogues (1969), New Edition (#21, 1986),  Aaron Neville (2003),  Death Cab for Cutie (2005), and live versions from Blink-182,  The Fleetwoods, The Four Seasons, Green Day and Elvis Presley.
  • Wisdom of a Fool – (Roy Alfred / Abner Silver) – A #35 hit for Afro-American R&B group The Five Keys in 1957. Other versions include Frank Ifield (1963), Norman Wisdom (!)(1957), and B.J. Thomas (1967).
  • Sixteen Candles – (Luther Dixon / Allyson R. Khent) – A  #2 hit for Afro-American doo-wop group The Crests in 1958. Other versions include The Four Seasons (1964), The Jackson 5 (1971), Sha na na (1973), Stray Cats (1984), Jerry Lee Lewis (#  61 country 1986), The Passions (#146, 1963).

And …

Fun for parties …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action

1961 #85 (his first charting album in the US)


1962 #20

Do You Want to Dance? 
Mp3 attached

Bobby Vee – Do You Wanna Dance?





Posted in Pop Rock, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

BREWER AND SHIPLEY – Shake Off The Demon – (Kama Sutra) – 1971

Brewer and Shipley - Shake off the Demon

Google "hippie" and "Brewer & Shipley" and you will find a lot of references to this act as a "hippie duo".

When I was young and when I first got this record (at the great University of Queensland Student Union Record Club sell-off of 1988) I assumed they were, indeed, a hippie act. It doesn't help that their big hit "One Toke over the Line" about smoking pot is something instantly identifiable with the hippie movement of the late 60s and early 70s.

Like wise, Hippie music by it's nature has to be rustic or at least pastoral. The "proper" San Francisco hippies are urban but pastoral in their outlook but then there were a lot of hippies that were rural and commune based and their music reflects that. This type of hippie music is usually rustic country rock or folk rock  but with lyrics that are invested with the hippie escapist, retreatist (?) or perhaps non-confrontationalist "peace and love" themes.

"I never considered myself a hippie," commented Michael. "I was a young, married man paying taxes, working, pursuing a career. I wore the clothes of the time and had long hair — back when I had hair — but I never lived in a commune. I actually bathed and shaved."  

Tom, however, had no problem with the label. "Back in the days when we were officially card-carrying hippies travelling cross-country and living out of our Volkswagen," he says, "I spent some time on a Hopi reservation out in the middle of Arizona. But I did not take acid and go running naked through any of their pueblos. And I bathed."

Well, maybe they were and maybe they weren't.

Worse still allmusic has tagged them as "Contemporary Christian / Folk-Pop / Jesus Rock / AM Pop /  Contemporary Pop/Rock".  Someone there must have been taking one toke over the line. Sure, Jesus makes an appearance in a song here and there, as do wells, cleansing water, messages on high, angels, demons and crucifixion references but this is (despite all that!) hardly "Christian music". Some of the back to the earth, get away from the city themes do overlap with the simple life and a faith in God songs so perhaps that's why they occasionally earn the "Christian rock" tag. Well, that and the fact they mention "sweet Jesus" in "One Toke over the Line".  Likewise, there certainly are pop elements to the music but it is still no where as slick as The Eagles.

This is folk rock with country influences of country rock with folk influences. They are in the same camp as Crosby Stills Nash and Young, or at least Crosby Stills and Nash but with a dash of Arlo Guthire. On some of their other records they do, as their contemporaries did, experiment with sounds and grooves but generally on what I have heard thus far, including this album, they stick to the folk country rock.

Brewer and Shipley were products of the folk boom and then the same folk-rock scene that nurtured bands such as The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. What  they had that some of their contemporaries did not have were the country influences of their Midwest upbringings.

Michael Brewer (born 1944, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and Tom Shipley (born 1941, Mineral Ridge, Ohio)were two Midwestern folkies who met Blind Owl Coffee House in Kent, Ohio in 1964. They were friendly and crossed paths over the next few years on the folk circuit until Shipley drifted in to LA in 1967 and bumped into Brewer (who had just been in folk rock act "Mastin & Brewer) and ended living around the corner from him. They teamed up as songwriters and wrote songs that were recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,  H.P. Lovecraft,  Noel Harrison, Glenn Yarbrough, The Poor, and Bobby Rydell. Their demo tapes sounded so good that they eventually hooked up a s a duo releasing their first album in 1968. They left California during 1969, returning to Kansas City, Missouri, where they made a living playing college towns. 

allmusic: "In 1971, they scored a surprise Top Ten hit with "One Toke Over the Line," in spite of radio bans owing to the song's marijuana-oriented lyrics. Following this success, Brewer and Shipley moved to rural Missouri, but their appeal dwindled, and the partnership was dissolved in 1979". (actually 1980)

All songs Brewer & Shipley except where marked

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Shake Off The Demon - a good start. There is quite a groove going here in a song about turning your back on war and violence. John Cipollina (of Quicksilver Messenger Service) provides electric and slide electric guitars.
  • Merciful Love - quasi spiritual love song which is sounds like Tim Hardin if he was a
  • Message From The Mission (Hold On) – now this is positive stuff and can be called hippy music though it can also be called country rock. Today this could sit well with any of the alt country groups.
  • One By One –  "we pick up the pieces and carry on".
  • When Everybody Comes Home – a familiar theme
  • Working On The Well – a country blues of sort. So so.
  • Rock Me On The Water – (Jackson Browne) – A cover of the Jackson Browne song though Browne had not yet released it. It was on his 1972 debut album and a single also (#48, 1972). Apparently Browne was performing the song as early as autumn 1970 but it didn’t receive a single or album release until 1972. It was also covered by Johnny Rivers (1971), Linda Ronstadt (1972 – her single release predated Jackson Browne's single release by five months – her version reached #85).
  • Natural Child - a song with some no psychedelic cajun thrown in.
  • Back To The Farm - an ode to a return to the country and the simple life away from "heroin heroes" and "cocaine disciples"
  • Sweet Love – "everybody should share the power of love". And the love I suspect isn't visceral.

And …

This is a solid album. The best tunes are well crafted and catchy in the best of the country rock vocal harmony groups and the others are nothing short of listenable …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action

1972 Shake Off The Demon #98


1972 #164



Shake Off The Demon

Brewer & Shipley – Shake off the Demon

Merciful Love

When Everybody Comes Home

Rock Me On The Water




  • Wikipedia: "One Toke Over The Line" was performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented format, by a duo known as "Gail and Dale." At the conclusion of the performance of the song, Welk remarked, without any hint of irony, "There you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale." This caused Michael Brewer to comment:  "The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for".
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CILLA BLACK – Cilla – (Parlophone) – 1965

cilla black - cilla - Australia sleeve

Cilla swings?

Swinging Cilla?

There is a time, perhaps, in everyone's life where they are "hip", "now", "with it", "mod", "happening" and every other trans-generational word for someone who typifies the moment.

1965 was Cilla's year.

Swinging London was in full swing and even this girl from Liverpool could cash in. She was riding on a high with a number of hit singles ("Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "You're My World" both 1964 and both #1 in England), had an association with the hip Beatles, both as friends (from Liverpool days), and professionally (they shared the same label, producer, George Martin and manager, Brian Epstein) , wore great 60s skirts, and mixed with all the pop celebrities of the time, totally unexpected for a hat check girl from Liverpool.

From here there was a steady decline (?) whilst her husband manager made her the all round entertainer: movies, television, situational comedy, cabarets, variety specials and support for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party.

Wikipedia: "Priscilla White was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 27 May 1943 and grew up in the Scotland Road area of the city. Her parents were John Patrick White and Priscilla Blythen. Her grandfather, Joseph Henry Blythen, was from Wales but most of her family were from a Liverpool Irish background.

She attended St. Anthony's School, which was behind St. Anthony's Church in Scotland Road, and Anfield Commercial College.

Determined to become an entertainer, she got a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, best known for its association with the Beatles. Her impromptu performances impressed the Beatles and others. She was encouraged to start singing by a Liverpool promoter, Sam Leach, who gave her her first gig at the Casanova Club, where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla". She became a guest singer with the Merseybeat bands Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and, later, with the Big Three. She was also, in the meantime, a waitress at The Zodiac coffee lounge, where she was to meet her future husband Bobby Willis. She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat; the paper's publisher, Bill Harry, mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than White, and she decided she liked the name, and took it as a stage name".

She then hooked up with Brian Epstein and George Martin.

Following those successful singles there was a lot riding on this, Cilla's first album. She had proven she could sing and could interpret a lyric and make it her own but, the mid 60s were awash with equally capable English female singers: Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, and Helen Shapiro.

Cilla needed to show she could sell albums and distinguish herself vocally … she fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Dusty's soulfulness on one side and Petula's pop balladry on the other.

All of those girls relied on (to varying degrees) interpretations of contemporary pop song hits, mainly on songs from the US (in those earlier days of international communications you could rush out your version of a US hit in your market before the US record got over there). They would throw in a few "oldies", usually oldies that had already been recently revived by someone else, and then, maybe throw in a few songs written for them.

Petula was perhaps the exception to this, having written some of her own material but otherwise they all followed similar patters.

Cilla's ace in the hole though is George Martin.

Martin was a record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician who never looked down on any form of music and was adept at classical, pop, novelty, jazz, stage and rock n roll.

And on this album, knowing that Martin could do all that, Cilla hedges her bets and picks songs in a variety if styles. You could rephrase that to,  on this album Cilla's diverse vocal range is highlighted through an array of jazz, power ballads, pop, and soul standards.

She sings well and Martin keeps all the seemingly disparate styles under the general banner of pop. How much of this you can listen to depends on you tolerance for English mid-60s female vocalists.
Tracks (best in italics)

  • Goin' Out of My Head - (Teddy Randazzo, Robert Weinstein) – Covered by everyone but originally recorded Little Anthony & the Imperials in 1964 (#6 US)whom performer Randazzo wrote it for. ( This is a really good version by Cilla.
  • Every Little Bit Hurts – (Ed Cobb) – "Every Little Bit Hurts" was originally a 1964 hit single for Motown soul singer Brenda Holloway (#13 US). Again, a well covered tune.
  • Baby It's You - (Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Barney Williams) – It was recorded by the Shirelles (#3, 1961) and many others. The highest-charting version of "Baby It's You" was by the band Smith, who took the song to #5 on the US charts in 1969.'s_You. Another good version.
  • Dancing in the Street - (Ivy Jo Hunter, William Stevenson, Marvin Gaye) – Originally done by Martha and the Vandellas (#2US, 1964) and then covered everywhere from the lame to the good. This is a big sound, no longer soul, from Cilla and George and it works.
  • Come to Me – (George Martin, Bobby Willis) – an original written by producer Martin and Cilla’s husband, Willis. A nice power ballad that sounds like something out of a film from the same time.
  • Ol' Man River – (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II) – Done by everyone- immortalised by Paul Robeson (1936), but Judy Garland, one of the few female singers to attempt the song, sang a powerful rendition on her television show in 1963, followed by a studio recording.'_Man_River. Nope, it doesnt work
  • One Little Voice – (Uno Di Voi) –  (Coppola, Isola, Shaper) – First version was in Italian by by Gigliola Cinquetti (1964) . The first English version was this by Cilla. Very dramatic and quite good.
  • I'm Not Alone Anymore – (Clive Westlake, Kenny Lynch) – first recorded by Cilla written by a pair of English writers.
  • Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It – (Doris Troy, Gregory Carroll) – What'cha Gonna Do About It is a 1964 song by American Doris Troy. It made #37 on the UK Singles Chart in 1964. The Hollies did a British Invasion cover version of this for their debut album Stay with The Hollies from early 1964 (recorded in 1963).  Cilla is covering the Hollies here.'cha_Gonna_Do_About_It
  • Love Letters - (Edward Heyman, Victor Young) – Love Letters" is a 1945 popular song with music by Victor Young and lyrics by Edward Heyman. The song appeared, without lyrics, in the movie of the same name, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song for 1945. The song has been performed many times, but the best-known versions were made by: Dick Haymes (in 1945, US #11) needed and Elvis Presley (in 1966, US #19, UK #6). cilla inspiration 0 anyone The Marvelettes (1962), Shelley Fabares (1962), Ketty Lester (#5, 1962), Patti Page (1963), Cliff Richard with The Norrie Paramor Orchestra (1963), Ike & Tina Turner (1963), A great ballad.
  • This Empty Place - (Hal David, Burt Bacharach) – First release by Dionne Warwick (#84 Pop, #26 R&B1963). The Searchers did it in  April 1964. Frantic and captures youthful yearning quite well.
  • You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To – (Cole Porter) – covered by everyone.'d_Be_So_Nice_to_Come_Home_To. Cilla does a jazz standard and belts it out but then the music behind her is belting also.

And …

A few great tracks, some filler and a few that don't work …. I'm taping a couple and selling.
Chart Action


Surprisingly there where no hit singles.
1965 #5

Baby It's You
Mp3 attached

Cilla Black – Baby It's You

This Empty Place
You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To




English sleeve below (Australian sleeve at start)

cilla black - cilla - UK sleeve

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