CLAUDE KING – Meet Claude King – (Columbia) – 1962

Claude King - Meet Claude King

I know Claude from his 45, “The Comancheros” which I bought because of its John Wayne tie-in novelty value. I loved the film, which is one the earliest John Wayne films I recall seeing, and the song (released after the film) much like Gene Pitney’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, was released after the film was a hit.

Despite being ‘cash ins” after the films they both fit into the large group of dramatic opening credit songs which were popular, especially in westerns in the 1950 and 1960s.

The songs (especially those after the fact), really, just repeat the narrative of the film to music accentuating the emotional highlights or themes.

I digress, but it is relevant as Claude King was very much of the country storyteller ilk with a distinct Hollywood-ness to his music.

King was no different to many other country singers of his day:

"King (1923-2013) was born in Keithville in southern Caddo Parish south of Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. At a young age, he was interested in music but also in athletics and the outdoors. He purchased a guitar at the age of twelve, and although he learned to play, most of his time was devoted to sports. He received a baseball scholarship to the University of Idaho at Moscow, Idaho https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_King

He said he grew up "…about as poor as you can be." His dad was a farmer and back then, it was using a plow and mule. But the farm land did not treat them well for it was red land dirt and did not seem to favor any type of good crop. http://www.hillbilly-music.com/artists/story/index.php?id=11211

"From 1942 to 1945, he served in the United States Navy during World War II … King formed a band with his friends Buddy Attaway and Tillman Franks called the Rainbow Boys …”:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_King

Also Buddy & Claude with The Kentuckians with who he commenced recording g in the late 1940s before releasing solo records from 1950 on

The trio played around Shreveport in their spare time while working an assortment of other jobs. He joined the Louisiana Hayride, a television and radio show produced at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium and broadcast throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom. King was frequently on the same programs with Elvis Presley, Tex Ritter, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Jimmie Davis, Slim Whitman, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Tommy Tomlinson, and Lefty Frizzell … King recorded a few songs for Gotham Records though none were successful. In 1961, he became more serious about a musical career and signed with the Nashville division of Columbia Records. He struck immediately, cutting "Big River, Big Man," both a country top 10 and a small pop crossover success. He soon followed with "The Comancheros" inspired by the John Wayne film of the same name It was a top 10 country hit in late 1961 and crossed over into the popular chart". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_King

And then he had the mammoth hit was “Wolverton Mountain”.

An album to follow was a no-brainer.

Whack on his three hits, throw in some originals and fill it out with covers.

It got to #80 which is respectable given how much effort was put in.

The surprising thing is how this, and others like it, hand so well together.

King had his style down pat, and had been playing for enough years to know his way around a tune so, sound wise the album is always going to sound good.  What I like about his music around this time is its filmic qualities (you can see the narrative unfolding in your head as you listen to the tune) and its subtle crossover appeal.

The music is instantly familiar to a lot of early rockabilly and western rock n roll. The beat of his country led to rockabilly much like the other immortal storyteller Johnny Cash. In attitude and spirt, though, King wasn’t Cash. He was more like (the wonderful) Johnny Horton. King and Horton were contemporaries and (I gather) friends and King recorded an album of Horton songs in 1969 “I Remember Johnny Horton” (Horton was killed in car crash in 1960 at age 35).

Horton was at the time the king of the country storytellers. He had had four crossover hits in 1959-1960, “The Battle of New Orleans” (#1 pop and country), ‘Johnny Reb”, “Sink the Bismark”, “North to Alaska”.

King took over the space that was left open by his death though Johnny Cash starting off with his series of concept albums about America and his history would also occupy some of that space.

King never replicated that success in the charts of the early 60s though he did have a number of Top 10s, 20s and 40s in the country charts before they dried up altogether in the early 70s.

Country music is always a more complicated genre of music than it is given credit for and even when sung straight with crossover pop appeal there is always something in the lyric or the tune which makes it instantly identifiable.

King sings it straight (in his rich voice) and there is the Nashville slickness to the backing vocals and musical edges but I like that because I like the era. I also like the drama and the stories being told.

And, better still, you can sing along.

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One

  • The Comancheros – (T. Franks) – magnificent. A sing a long narrative to the film.
  • You're Breaking My Heart – (H. H. Melka) – an Ernest Tubb song from 1957. The usual familiar country themes.
  • I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail – (R. Carter) – originally by pseudo brother act Karl & Harty from 1934. The song has been covered by everyone in country music. A great tune that resembles a Johnny Cash tune though it predates him in its original form.
  • Give Me Your Love And I'll Give You Mine – (A. P. Carter) – A Carter Family song from the 1930s. Apparently in the 2000s when appearing live on one occasion King sang this song to his wife of over 50 years, Barbara Jean. A very romantic country song.
  • Big River, Big Man – (G. Watson, M. Phillips) –  a good song in the Johnny Horton style
  • Sweet Lovin' – (C. Baum, T. Franks) –subsequently covered by country singer David Houston in 1969.

    Side Two

  • Wolverton Mountain – (C. King, M. Kilgore) – The song is a rewrite of the original version by Merle Kilgore, which was based on a real character named Clifton Clowers who lived on Woolverton Mountain (the mountain's actual name) in Arkansas. It was actually about an uncle of Merle's that lived on the mountain. The song's storyline is about the narrator's desire for Clowers' daughter and his intention to climb the mountain and marry her. The song has been well covered: Jimmie Rodgers (1962), Roy Drusky (1962), Nat King Cole (1962),  Frank Ifield (1963), Hugo Montenegro (1963), The Brothers Four (1963), Connie Francis & Hank Williams Jr (1964), Pat Boone (1965), Jerry Lee Lewis (1965), Bing Crosby (1965), Wayne Newton (1968), Louis Armstrong (1970), Hank Williams, Jr. with The Mike Curb Congregation (1970), Sir Doug & The Texas Tornados (1976), Conway Twitty (1977), Bill Haley & His Comets, Southern Culture on the Skids (2007), Sleepy LaBeef and many others. A great song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverton_Mountain
  • Would You Care? – (A. Cole, T. Franks) – The usual country themes.
  • Pistol Packin' Papa – (J. Rodgers, W. O'Neil) – The Jimmie Rodgers classic from 1930. Very Jimmie Rodgers, so very good!
  • Little Bitty Heart – (C. King) – typical of the Nashville of the time. Sweet lyrics with gril voice backup.
  • I Can't Get Over The Way You Got Over Me – (C. King) – a good country song of a broken relationship with a great title.
  • I Backed Out – (T. Glaser) – very Nashville but quite catchy. A real sing a long song.

And …

Modest but quite wonderful, and definitely enjoyable … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1961 Big River, Big Man  #7 Country, #82 Pop

1961 The Comancheros #7 Country, #71 Pop

1962 Wolverton Mountain #1 Country, #6 Pop 

Album

1962 #80

England

nothing

Sounds

Whole album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-EVrbAXJ6I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWoozm9mCis

The Comancheros

mp3 attached

You're Breaking My Heart

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdHWzjHp2-I

I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJg4_VaQagA

Give Me Your Love and I'll Give You Mine

live recently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJw4e1mC8hk

Big River, Big Man

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lWs4ElfSMY

Sweet Lovin'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td3stkQoBmA

Wolverton Mountain

live recently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69KvTyZn1Js

mp3 attached

Would You Care?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3604C15Nfo

Pistol Packin' Papa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsoxFQD6mRM

Little Bitty Heart

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSjXf-rEWrQ

I Can't Get Over The Way You Got Over Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsiPmE2NCls

I Backed Out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1LsDNy1zmM

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhxfpO4JTlQ

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/meet-claude-king-mw0000862886

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_King

http://www.hillbilly-music.com/artists/story/index.php?id=11211

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1551135/wolverton-mountain-singer-claude-king-dies

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/03/07/country-star-claude-king-dies-at-0.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tillman_Franks

Website

Trivia

  • King was born February 5, 1923 in Keithville, Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA. Died March 7, 2013 in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA.
  • Tillman Franks (1920-2006) wrote or co-wrote a number of songs and also did the same with Johnny Horton.
  • "Wolverton Mountain" spent nine weeks at the top of the country charts and peaked at number six on the pop charts.
  • King acted in a couple of films in the 70s, the backwoods melodrama, “Swamp Girl" (1971) and the non-gore Herschell Gordon Lewis political melodrama “The Year of the Yahoo!” (1972).
Posted in Country | Tagged | Leave a comment

BOBBY VEE – Live! On Tour – (Liberty) – 1965

Bobby Vee - Live On Tour

A live album.

1965!

This would have been the first live rock ‘n’ pop album ever … if it was live.

It wasn’t.

The audience noise is “canned”

"Canned” applause is pre-recorded applause which is usually added to the sound track of something recorded in a studio so that it sounds like it was recorded in front of a live audience (rather than in a studio). And, yes, it would be done in order to suggest that there was an enthusiastic audience listening.

"Canned laughter" is more common. This is the pre-recorded laughter that you often hear in television sit-coms.

As it turns out, the first rock ‘live’ album is generally regarded to be, 'Got Live if You Want It' (1966) by The Rolling Stones.

The Stones, however, have (apparently formally) disowned “Got Live If You Want It” as the band’s first live album because the amount of studio tracks and overdubs featured on the recording make the album barely “live”.

I’m not sure why Bill Haley’s “Twistin’ Knights at the Roundtable” (1962)( recorded at the "Bitter End" club in New York),  Trini Lopez "at PJ's" (1963), "More Trini Lopez at PJ's" (1963), or "Live at Basin St. East" (1964) and Johnny Rivers "at the Whisky à Go Go" (1964), "Here We à Go Go Again!" (1964), "Meanwhile Back at the Whisky à Go Go" (1965), "…And I Know You Wanna Dance" (1966), which are all recorded live, aren’t considered to be firsts.

Perhaps it’s because they were recorded in small venues rather than on tour … or perhaps it’s because they don’t fit in with rock music snobbery.

If Haley, Lopez and Rivers don’t get a mention then neither will Elvis for his “Elvis (NBC TV Special)” album, half of which was live, which was released in December 1968. Presley's informal live jamming in front of a small audience in the special is, however, regarded as a forerunner of the "unplugged" concept, later popularized by MTV.

Given the dismissal of Haley, Lopez and Rivers and the Stones dubs, perhaps, then, the first “true” live rock album was “Live at Kelvin Hall” (1967) by The Kinks or Cream’s “Wheels of Fire’ (1968).

And then there is Ritchie Valens “In Concert at Pacoima Jr. High” (1960) which is partially live and partially canned.

I digress.

There is nothing live on Bobby’s album.

If we didn’t know, the give away would be the fact that all but two songs (his hit, “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” and the medley of two hits Take Good Care of My Baby / Run to Him) are songs that had never been released before on single or album.  Any big pop act with a lot of hits (like Vee) would not be trialling this much new material live. 

So, it is proper to treat this album as a studio album.

With that in mind I don’t know if his hits, mentioned above, are originals with audience applause attached on, or re-records. Likewise I don’t know if the medley is a splice or a re-record as a medley.

By 1965, Vee’s star had waned (though he would have a big bounce back in 1967 with his US #3 "Come Back When You Grow Up") as he hadn’t had a Top 20 since “Charms“(#13 US) in 1963.

His albums, like most rock ‘n’ pop albums of this era weren’t big on the charts but they did sell.

Also, as far as I know, no singles were released from this album (canned applause or otherwise).

With all that, I’m not sure where the logic for this album is, unless this is all earlier unreleased material.

They would have been better to release it as a studio album with advance singles.

If it is new, Vee digs back into his musical memory and does songs he liked (I assume) as a youth, as well as some recent hits.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Every Day I Have to Cry – (Arthur Alexander) – Steve Alaimo’s #45 US hit from 1962. The faux screams works on this as it is the type of song you would expect the teens to scream over. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Every_Day_I_Have_to_Cry_(song)
  • Let the Four Winds Blow – (Dave Bartholomew / Fats Domino) – the first release was by Dave Bartholomew (1955) but it was a #15US hit for Fats Domino in 1961.
  • The Night Has a Thousand Eyes – (Marilyn Garrett / Dorothy Wayne / Ben Weisman) – Bobby's hit (#3US, #3UK) from 1962. A great song live or not.
  • Weekend – (Bill Post / Doree Post) – Eddie Cochran’s 1961 single which didn’t chart in the US but went to #15 in England. Very Eddie Cochran which Bobby pulls off well though Eddie's guitar is missed.
  • You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby – (Johnny Mercer / Harry Warren) –  Johnny Mercer’s song done by everyone which was a #5 for Bobby Darin in 1961. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Must_Have_Been_a_Beautiful_Baby
  • Hey Little Girl – (Otis Blackwell / B.W. Stevenson) –  Dee Clark's #20 Pop, #2 R&B US hit from 1959. Vee is convincing again witha rock beat song ….

           Side Two

  • Sea Cruise – (Huey "Piano" Smith) – Frankie Ford's #14 hit US from 1959. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Cruise
  • Things – (Bobby Darin) – Darin’s #3US and #2 UK hit from 1962. A great pop song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Things_(Bobby_Darin_song)
  • Shop Around – (Berry Gordy, Jr. / Smokey Robinson) – The big hit from the Miracles in 1961 (#2 Pop, #1 R&B US). Very contemporary by Bobby standards and quite good. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shop_Around
  • It'll Be Me – (Jack Clement) – the first recording was by Jerry Lee Lewis (February 1957) as B-side to his hit single "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" (#3Pop, #1R&B US). Brit Cliff Richard and the Shadows released their version as an A-side which went to #2 on the UK Singles Chart. Bobby Vee's version is halfway between Cliff and Jerry Lee …not a bad place to be. He can rock. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27ll_Be_Me_(Jerry_Lee_Lewis_song)
  • Medley – Take Good Care of My Baby – (Gerry Goffin / Carole King) / Run to Him – (Gerry Goffin / Jack Keller) –  Bobby's two hits from 1961, #13US, #3UK on the first part and #2US, #6UK on the second done as a medley. Great songs.

And …

Bobby tackles a number of styles convincingly in this good set … the faux screams are totally unnecessary …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere

Sounds

Hey Little Girl

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjZ8foj1TPk

It'll Be Me

mp3 attached

Run to Him

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUqMNIsYI4w

Take Good Care of My Baby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LKk_wJsnPU

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuJbHYvR7EQ

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6depwnmDyOg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GQAmTznY2o

Review

Bio

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bobby-vee-sixties-pop-idol-dead-at-73-w446448

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/bobby-vee-clean-cut-teen-idol-of-1960s-pop-dies-at-73/2016/10/24/b7baa612-9a07-11e6-b3c9-f662adaa0048_story.html?utm_term=.99e50ef22bad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Vee

http://danhornback.com/bobbyvee/Page2History.htm

Website

http://www.bobbyvee.com/home.html

Trivia

  • The Beach Boys “Party” released in November 1965 was, also, recorded in a music studio. It was presented as an impromptu live recording of a party with informal chatter by friends and family overdubbed later. Though not ‘rock” James Brown's "Showtime" (1964) was also “live” and canned (his James Brown and His Famous Flames Tour the U.S.A. (1962) was a studio album).
  • Folk, classical and, especially, jazz had released live albums prior to this.
Posted in Live, Pop Rock, Rock & Pop | Leave a comment

TOMMY ROE – Phantasy – (ABC Records ) – 1967

Tommy Roe - Phantasy

1967.

The times were a changing … again.

Well, at least the musical times were.

Some people that music can change times but I believe that the times create the music.

That music may have a profound impact on you, the individual, but it doesn't necessarily change times … unless you are a Charles Manson type who listens to The Beatles (allegedly) and then goes out and does what he did.

And, even then, he was a product of his times, perhaps, and his own personality, probably, and the music was the straw that broke the camels back.

That's not to say that musicians can't create history, they have, but that is something different.

I'm straying off the point here and I'm talking about Tommy Roe not Bob Dylan.

No disrespect to Tommy Roe but it is not a discussion that is associated with him.

But, it applies to Dylan as equally as it does to Tommy Roe.

It's only music and it wasn't created in a vacuum.

Like many other pop (and rock) performers Tommy Roe reflected his times. His music is both a reflection of him and his times, as well as the representation of a popular or dominant sound which had, in market driven increments, evolved to that point

ie: subject matter and music both reflect the themes and sounds of the day.

What drives that is commercial considerations or, if you don't like equating modern music with money, then you can use "popularity".

And what is popular becomes the basis of "pop (ular)" music.

The music has to appeal to as many people as possible so changes in style and themes are incorporated into its frame work.

And, that is not a bad thing.

Pop music and the pop singer are often derided but in many ways they accurately reflect their times.

Tommy Roe was a pop singer, and a convincing one.

As the popularity of sunshine and psych pop increased Roe decided to move in that direction. It was a natural move anyway. His 60s pop had all the basics but needed the obscure or questioning lyrics as well as pop instrumentation and arrangements which were a little trippy to fit into 1967 comfortably.

Commercial considerations always dictate you follow the sun

And, here, Roe did follow the sun (shine pop)(sic) and psych sounds of the day.

It's a little jarring hearing Roe singing so gently and sweetly but he had already moved in that direction when he created the "It's Now Winter's Day" album (apparently) earlier in 1967 with vocal arrangements by (sunshine pop legend) Curt Boettcher.

That album got to #159 in the charts.

Not a success commercially.

But they tried again with a similar team team. Detail is thin on the ground but it seems this music may be from the same sessions. The producer, Steve Clark. Is the same, the tracks were recorded at the same place (Gray Paxton's Hollywood) and nearly all the musicians are the same.

Curt doesn't appear here (former band mate Jim Bell does) but future Millenium band member, Sandy Salisbury, provides two songs as well as vocals, as does Lee Mallory who also plays.

These guys are all intertwined and collaborated, performed or sessioned together like on this album which was recorded in Hollywood.

This is part of the "California Sound" and it's a sound I like. It's pleasing to the ears.

It's also era I like …. California in the 60s.

The optimism is palatable (even in criticism) as are the possibilities.

Is there any better place that California in the 60s before Altamont and Manson?

Despite following the in sound the album and the single releases didn't do well … to have a hit involves so much more (or perhaps so little less).

Tommy Roe writes most of the songs which is impressive. Not that writing your own songs is the be all and end all of musical expression (it's not) but I note this because pop singers like him (and Gene Pitney, Bobby Darin, Del Shannon etc) are rarely given credit when it comes to song writing.

I haven't heard the "It's Now Winter's Day" album released in earlier in 1967 )though I have it) but some of have said that album is stronger and it was asking, perhaps, too much for Roe to pump out another album or original material (though some of the material may have been older unrecorded stuff he had written dating back to 1964). If the former is correct, then that is reasonable. He was 24 years old and probably had other things to do.

But, as a capsule of the times the album is great listening.

And, Roe bounced back with the worldwide #1 cabaret psych pop hit, "Dizzy" in 1969.

All songs written by Tommy Roe, unless indicated

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side On

  • Paisley Dreams – a slow , moody song with very familiar themes.
  • Plastic World – as a pejorative comment on the (then) contemporary world, "plastic" was used as a short hand. Think "Plastic Man" (1969) by The Kinks, "Plastic People" (1968) by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, "Plastic Jim" (1968) by Sly And The Family Stone. I quite like this.
  • Melancholy Mood – this is sugar but quite nice.
  • Visions – ripe psych lyrics.
  • Mystic Magic – this one has a foot in both camps… like a gentler version of something Paul Revere and the Raiders were doing.

    Side Two

  • Little Miss Sunshine – this is more like the old Roe. Pop. The psych vibes are in the background. This predates bubblegum by a couple of years.
  • These Are The Children – (S. Salisbury) – the obligatory song about kids … which is normal in sunshine pop. Kids are the future …
  • Goodbye Yesterday –  (S. Salisbury) – another (very) poppy one. All sugar but one you can tap your toe to.
  • The Executive – (T. Roe & B. Bowie) – another cynical one … on the lonely, shallow "executive". A good tune with good conga / bongo (?!) beat. Okay, this is dated but I like it. It reminds me a little of PF Sloan or Bob Lind.
  • The You I Need – a psych pop love song.
  • It's Gonna Hurt Me –  Quite a good song with all sorts of things going on, but what is missing is a killer hook.

And …

A successful (albeit minor) psych pop album. But, what is needed is more of Roe's trademark pop hooks, still … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1967 Little Miss Sunshine #91 Pop US

Album

England

nothing

Sounds

Paisley Dreams 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw7BU1YrW9Q

Plastic World 

mp3 attached

Mystic Magic 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txqEqFYCbTI

Little Miss Sunshine 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbHfMWCASfI

Goodbye Yesterday 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncHxhWWPEKo

It's Gonna Hurt Me 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgcJYX9smRo

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbdtQ99yIUo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_BwauaXAlc

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/phantasy-mw0000496133

http://akashaman.blogspot.com.au/2007/04/tommy-roe-phantasy.html

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Roe

https://sites.google.com/site/tommyroefanclub/

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tommy-roe-mn0000627337/biography

http://www.waybackattack.com/roetommy.html

video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FCvYt577T0

Website

http://www.tommyroe.com/The_Official_Tommy_Roe_Web_Site/Home.html

Trivia

  • Future Elvis Presley regular, Jerry Scheff plays bass on this album.
  • On all things Elvis, the cover art looks, strangely, like the playground scene (where "Confidence" is sung) from Elvis' film "Clambake" (1967).

 

 

RIP David Axelrod (1931 – 2017)

 

 

Posted in Psychedelic, Rock & Pop, Sunshine Pop and Baroque | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE ROLLERS (Bay City Rollers) – Elevator – (Arista) – 1978

Rollers - Elevator

The Rollers were the renamed Bay City Rollers trying to shake off their teen idol past but the only thing they suceeded in shaking off was their popularity.

I don’t remember this incarnation of the Bay City Rollers but I do recall the craze of the three or so years pervious.

At least one of my school friends would come to school in his tartans … and he wasn’t Scottish and we were in Australia at a Catholic Boys School in the inner-west of Brisbane.

The Bay City Rollers were a micro phenomena (the so-called “Rollermania”) but a pheomena nevertheless.

They were, certainly, Scotland's greatest musical phenomena and one of the first boybands, though strictly speaking they were more os a teen band cecause they played their instruments.

The phenomena wasn’t micro but its longevity was. It dissipated pretty quickly and the band was rapidly forgotten by many of their fans.

Worse still, for them, they aren’t revived by kids (well, not many) nowadays or subsequent generations..

The Spice Girls, One Direction, Justin Beiber, David Cassidy … there have been many (teen) manias but only Elvis, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra have maintained their fans and transcended the manias.

But for a few years the Bay City Rollers could do no wrong.

Between 1974 and 1978 they had single hits in England (2 #1s, 8 Top 10s, 2 Top 40s), Australia (1 #1, 6 Top 10s, 3 Top 40s), the US (1 #1, 2 Top 10s, 4 Top 40s), New Zealand (1 Top 10, 8 Top 40s) and elsewhere.

They, also had, perhaps unusually, album hits in England (2 #1s, 2 Top 10s, 1 Top 40), the US (4 Top 40s), Japan (2 No1s, 1 Top 10, 3 Top 40s), New Zealand (3 Top 10s, 3 Top 40s) as well as charting albums in many other countries.

Apparently they sold some 300 million records (I've also read 80 million) and that would have been prior to 1978.

They were also called the next Beatles for a while … a tag that brings certain death to a musical act, much like the "next Dylan".

Allmusic: The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop/rock band of the '70s with a strong following among teenage girls. The origins of the group go back to the formation of the duo the Longmuir Brothers in the late '60s, consisting of drummer Derek Longmuir (b. March 19, 1952, Edinburgh, Scotland) and his bass-playing brother Alan (b. June 20, 1953, Edinburgh). They eventually changed their name to the Saxons, adding singer Nobby Clarke and John Devine. Then they changed their name again by pointing at random to a spot on a map of the United States: Bay City, Michigan. Their first hit was a cover of the Gentrys' "Keep on Dancing," which reached number nine in the U.K. in September 1971. In June 1972, guitarist Eric Faulkner (b. October 21, 1954, Edinburgh) joined. In January 1973, singer Leslie McKeown (b. November 12, 1955, Edinburgh) and guitarist Stuart Wood (b. February 25, 1957, Edinburgh) replaced Clarke and Devine, stabilizing the quintet's lineup … After flopping with three singles, they finally hit the Top Ten again in February 1974 with "Remember." At this point, the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain, with their good looks and tartan knickers, and they scored a series of Top Ten U.K. hits over the next two and a half years: "Shang-a-Lang," "Summerlove Sensation," "All of Me Loves All of You," "Bye Bye Baby" (a cover of Four Seasons hit that went to number one), "Give a Little Love" (another number one), "Money Honey," "Love Me Like I Love You," and "I Only Want to Be with You" (a cover of the Dusty Springfield hit). Their albums Rollin', Once Upon a Star, Wouldn't You Like It, and Dedication were also Top Ten successes, with Rollin' and Once Upon a Star getting to number one. They scored their first U.S. hit with "Saturday Night," which was released in September 1975 and hit number one in January 1976. It was followed by the Top Ten hits "Money Honey" and "You Made Me Believe in Magic." The Rollers also had five straight gold albums in the U.S.: Bay City Rollers, Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter, Dedication, It's a Game, and Greatest Hits.

But by 1978 things were going astray.

At the end of 1978, the band had split with lead singer Les McKeown, then fired their manager. Shortly after they decided to continue in a more new-wave, rock-oriented sound.

They brought in South African-born Duncan Faure (from South African rock band Rabbitt) as new lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter and called themselves The Rollers.

“Elevator” was the first album under the new line up

They aren’t the first band to change their image and their sound.

Their initial fans (lots of young teen girls) may have been a little older but not old enough to appreciate this new-wavish power pop sound which appealed to late teens and 20s somethings and mainly boys I expect.

Check out the other power pop comments on this blog for some history but the term powerpop wasn't really used until around 1978. The Rollers were, rather, playing the melodious pop rock they always had but now with some sharpness, punch, maturity and cynicism (the pill on the elevator on the sleeve is an indication as there are some rock 'n' roll drug references in the songs).

With the new sound they fell into the same groove as Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Romantics, The Cars, The Shoes and others with a smidgen of ELO thrown in, though without the focus of those bands. Power pop and the New Wave do intersect but The Rollers aren't sure which camp they want to be more in.

In any event nobody went for it, though live clips of them at the time show enthusiasm from their female fans.  They lost many of their old fans because that’s what happens with the fickle fans of teen bands, and no music geek was going to fall for a name change or give them a break. 

And it's a pity because they had something, and , continual playing during their successful period would only have honed their musical ability.

With Faure the line-up produced three albums: "Elevator" (1979), "Voxx" (1980), and "Ricochet" (1981).

Following the expiry of the band's Arista contract (and poor sales) they stopped touring in late 1981 (though they have reformed since on a few occasions).

Faure and the classic earlier line-up have since sued the Arista label for unpaid royalties.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • Stoned Houses #1 – (Faulkner, Wood, Faure) – a intro
  • Elevator – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood) – a great punchy power pop song with all the right musical motifs hit.
  • Playing in a Rock and Roll Band – (Faure, Tom Seufurt) – Lead Vocals by Eric Faulkner. A catchy song about a kid in a rock n roll band and without much cynicism.
  • Hello & Welcome Home – (Faulkner, Faure) – quite a pretty song and quite McCartney-esque though a throwback if filtered through the Raspberries.
  • I Was Eleven – (Faure) – more power pop though with a rather full back end sound
  • Stoned Houses #2 – (Faulkner) – a slightly bizarre faux new wave song.

Side Two

  • Turn on the Radio – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood, Alan Longmuir) – a great tune and very Beatles with a John Lennon-esque vocal.
  • Instant Relay – (Faulkner) – more faux new wave with dance / disco overtones much like Blondie in some ways
  • Tomorrow's Just a Day Away – (Faulkner, Wood) – Lead Vocals by Woody Wood. The obligatory ballad that appears on all powerpop albums.
  • Who'll Be My Keeper – (Faure) – a rock 'n' roll lifestyle song.
  • Back on the Road Again – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood, Alan Longmuir) – another rock 'n' roll lifestyle song with a driving rock n roll rhythm.
  • Washington's Birthday – (Wood, Faulkner, Faure) –  nonsensical slightly pretentious lyrics, big production, layered harmonies, silly musical asides. A perfect later Beatles rip off. But it is undeniably catchy.

And …

A mix of new wave and power pop sounds the power pop comes off best and is at times spectacular. Undervalued … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere

Sounds

Elevator

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YRHouO6dcc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BptJU3Sobfc

Hello & Welcome Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rB8U-YA7HAI

Turn on the Radio

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKQBqlpamCY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxfPw1BM5pA

mp3 attached

Back on the Road Again

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fykkeWk-ID0

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpoWrRL1pbs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpErdDRxjQM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUwW108ITzw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRLrZ66bwPQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUwW108ITzw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5u-rYzSSs7U

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/elevator-mw0000494010

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elevator_(Bay_City_Rollers_album) –

https://wimwords.com/2013/06/08/from-the-stacks-the-rollers-elevator/

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_City_Rollers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_City_Rollers_discography

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/bay-city-rollers-mn0000151979/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbitt

http://www.rock.co.za/files/rabbitt_index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFuX47shUIg

Website

https://www.lesmckeown.com/

http://sjwood.miiduu.com/

Trivia

  • wikipedia: They were also extremely popular in Australia. One example of their popularity, was put into the book about Countdown – the Australian TV music show which ran from 1974 – 1987. Their 1976 appearance on Countdown coincided with a total eclipse of the sun. Director Ted Emery recalls '(there)… were thousands of kids done up in tartan pants that didn't reach the top of their shoes, constantly bashing on the plexiglas doors. They would do anything… to get into that television studio. There's 200 kids bashing on the door and a total eclipse of the sun occurred. I'd never seen one. On this day we all stopped in the studio and the Rollers went up on the roof. We stood out there and watched the flowers close up and all the automatic street lighting come on. It was chilling, the most fantastic thing you'd ever see. Downstairs the kids never turned around, staring into the plexiglas waiting to see the Rollers come out of the studio, go down the corridor and into the canteen. (They) never noticed the total eclipse of the sun'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_City_Rollers
  • Bay City Rollers starring Les McKeown are touring Australia in July 2017.
Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

MICKEY NEWBURY – After All These Years – (Mercury) – 1981

Mickey Newbury - After All These Years

The magnificent Mickey Newbury.

One of the greatest of all country singer songwriters.

Check out my other comments for biographical detail on him as well as other ramblings.

The guy on the cover art could be a salesman or perhaps a university professor. He certainly doesn't look like a country music star.

And, that is, perhaps, appropriate.

Newbury was always more about content than image.

He was thoughtful and insightful emotionally.

His songs often deal with relationships, things lost and memories.

No wonder he is a country musician and a country styled singer songwriter.

He is, I think, perhaps too straight looking and sounding for country music and too country sounding for the singer songwriter movement. He is somewhere in-between though he is undeniably both.

In that in-between place he has made himself one of the greatest exponents of the style.

It's his smarts, his skill to get a melody to amplify the lyrics, and his considered vocals that all work together to create music that is emotionally powerful.

I may sound portentous but his music has the ability to impact.

Sure you have to be in the right musical headspace to approach his music (as you do when you are approaching anything more than straight pop) but, just a sit, and a listen, should reveal Newbury's skill.

The tales are both heartbreaking and life affirming with a strong spray of melancholia.

Newbury (a Texan by birth) was 41 years old when he recorded this album but he could have been 70. He is not the first guy to "think old" (or feel old?) but he does it with style.  And perhaps in 1980 when this was recorded 41 was older. Or, perhaps, in today's world of eternal youth where 50 is the new 40 and 60 is the new 50 he just sounds a lot older than his 41.

The album differs to its predecessor. "The Sailor" from 1979 which was a glossy, late night country lounge album (take that Lambchop). But it does return to the his early to mid 70s work with song suites, lush orchestrated melodies and a general deceptive MOR slickness.

It's like a country opera playing at an avant-garde dinner theatre.

I think he was always out of touch a little (his record sales suggest he was) because his music is too thoughtful, emotional and often looking back.

It is, perhaps, a reflection on (by what is unsaid), of the state of the world circa 1981. By looking back he is escaping or some would say retreating but I would say the answers for the future lie in the past.

This was his last album for seven years.

He died in 2002.

All songs written by Mickey Newbury (unless otherwise indicated). The album is produced by musician extraordinaire and Elvis offsider Norbert Putnam.

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One

  • The Sailor – the title of his last album though the song didn't appear on it. The song has less to do with saining and more to do with mortality. It is powerful. This and the next two songs mesh into each other creating a 12 minute 3 song sequence.
  • Song of Sorrow – very melancholy
  • Let's Say Goodbye One More Time – very familiar country themes lyrically. The stings and whistling interlude work … it may be mush to some but I love it.
  • That Was the Way It Was Then – a beautiful looking back song … here looking back to the 1950s.
  • Country Boy Saturday Night – This has to the gentlest "Saturday night" song written The cowboy narrator is all cashed up and ready to go out but he isn't a hollering… wonderful.

    Side Two

  • Truly Blue – MOR country rock pop which is quite unusual by Newbury standards. Not too bad …and it would have been perfect for Elvis.
  • Just as Long as That Someone Is You – a standard country love song though Mickey's voice is special.
  • Over the Mountain –  (Newbury, Joe Henry) – beautiful. Romantic love given expressed in real terms. Interesting, thematically, this resembles the start of Joan Didion's essay "John Wayne: A Love Song" written in 1965 and  from her "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (1968) collection of essays where she quotes John Wayne from his film "War of the Wildcats", where he talks about taking his woman away and building a house "at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow".

                        Over the mountain I will build us a cabin

                        Over the mountain I will build us a home

  • Catchers in the Rye – a great bouncy "rural" type of song.
  • I Still Love You (After All These Years) – a tribute to a wife. Another one Elvis could have done. Sorry for the Elvis references but mid to late 70s Elvis would have covered these tunes in a heartbeat…. as it is Elvis only did one Newbury song, "An American trilogy")

And …

Beautiful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing anywhere

Sounds

That Was the Way It Was Then

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8qU31lVJ9o

Country Boy Saturday Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wedMWdHzkWg

Just as Long as That Someone Is You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id1AlWYbgW8

Over the Mountain

mp3 attached

Catchers in the Rye

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdB13M68_Y

I Still Love You (After All These Years) –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5WjGN6Vj1s

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiTjElq5Xjs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRtGie68GgE

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/after-all-these-years-mw0000870636

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_All_These_Years_(Mickey_Newbury_album)

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Newbury

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mickey-newbury-mn0000525789

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norbert_Putnam

Website

http://www.mickeynewbury.com/

Trivia

  • The album was recorded at producer Norbert Putnam's 1875 mansion, the Bennett House in Franklin, Tennessee. with crack personnel including Mickey Newbury on guitar and vocals, Norbet on guitar, Dave Loggins on guitar and vocals, Buddy Spicer on fiddle, David Hungate on bass, Shane Keister on piano  and Steve Brantley – vocals, Bruce Dees – vocals, Steve Gibson – guitar, Jon Goin – guitar, Sheldon Kurland – strings, Mike Manna – piano, Terry McMillan – harmonica, Weldon Myrick – steel guitar, Bobby Ogdin – piano, Cindy Reynolds – harp, Buddy Spicher – fiddle, James Stroud – drums, Jack Williams – bass
  • An example of the regard other musicians held for Newbury came in 1977 when Waylon Jennings released the #1 country smash "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," (written by Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman) which contains the lines "Between Hank Williams' pain songs, Newbury's train songs…"

 

 

RIP: Chris Cornell 1964-2017

Posted in Alt Country, Country, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

BADFINGER – No Dice – (Apple) – 1970

Badfinger - No Dice

Badfinger where on the way up at the time of release of this album.

This is their first proper album.

Their actual first album, the soundtrack album, "Magic Christian Music", was actually a hodgepodge of tracks. Five songs were recorded specifically for the film "The Magic Christian" and the other seven songs were tracks previously released, in the late 1960s, when the group was known as “The Iveys”.

Badfinger knew where they were going and in had it all. They good all sing and they could all write songs and they were undoubtedly good musicians … and I mean all four of them.

They were like a supergroup without anyone having anyone having been in a band of repute. With Pete Ham they had a focused and sometimes inspired songwriter, and Tom Evans and Mike Gibbins were no slackers either. The recent addition of Joey Molland would provide a songwriter and vocalist perhaps the equal of Hams.

But, they, despite some hits, never really made it.

They should have been much, much bigger.

Such is rock 'n' roll, such is life.

Career missteps, intruding wives and girlfriends, friction between band members, and a suicide were probably to blame.

But, there are many acts who have overcome obstacles to reach the top level.

With Badfinger it was inevitably, possibly all these things, as well as being in the wrong place and the wrong time.

If they were American and, perhaps, ten years later they would have had a successful career in the skinny tie movement and the talent to outlive it. Quite tellingly, despite what patriotic revisionist English rock historians would have you believe, the band have been generally more popular and had more of a post career influence and following in the USA. The charts support that (they placed 4 singles and no albums in the UK charts, whereas in the US they placed 8 singles and 8 albums … albeit most were quite low in the charts) as does the flood of power pop bands indebted to them in the late 70s. It wasn't until, perhaps the Britpop bands of the 90s that Badfinger got some respectability at home (outside of the hardcore Beatles nuts).

Maybe it because they weren't from London? The original band (Gibbins and Ham) were from Swansea in Wales while newer members Evans and Molland were from Liverpool. Outsiders?

They did reform in the early 80s and try their hand at the same but they weren't as young as they once were.

They are usually lumped into the powerpop category along with The Raspberries but like The Raspberries I always found them to be precursors to power pop (and I don't mean in chronological time)

This album, like their others of the time (that I have heard) is a 70s rock 'n' roll album but with an emphasis on catchy melodies, ie: pop. There are songs with swagger, others that rock, ballads, and acoustic numbers. There is a lot of Beatles here but there is also, quite a bit, of The Rolling Stones as well as, perhaps, a little (Ian) Matthews' Southern Comfort.

They are often compared to the Raspberries though a better comparison is Washington DC band Grin (with Nils Lofren) and perhaps Big Star (though its unlikely that anyone would have heard of them at the time).

Either way there are stellar moments here and the best they did with an album (in the charts). After their next album it was all downhill but there were small treasures on the way down.

See my other comments for biographical detail on the band. Check out the links for bios on the band.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • I Can't Take It – (Pete Ham) – vocals : Ham with Evans – Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock N Roll" as if it was done by The Beatles
  • I Don't Mind – (Tom Evans/Joey Molland) – vocals : Evans with Molland – a gentle ballad.
  • Love Me Do – (Molland) – vocals : Molland – ha harr, for a band with such obvious Beatles influences to write a song called "Love me Do" must have been a statement. The songs have nothing but the title in common. This is a straight ahead "old fashioned" rocker.
  • Midnight Caller – (Ham) – vocals : Ham with Evans – a ballad.
  • No Matter What – (Ham) – vocals : Ham – a great song and perfect Paul McCartney and perhaps, even, a little better than McCartney at the time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Matter_What_(Badfinger_song)
  • Without You – (Ham/Evans) – vocals : Ham with Evans and Molland – a magnificent melancholy classic of a song. I like the little snatch from "A Whiter Shade of Pale" at the end. Badfinger do it beautifully, and then Harry Nilsson (with his own beatles connections) covered it and had a #1 US hit with it in 1972. His version is beyond spectacular. A great example of the paucity of supremacy of authorship arguments. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Without_You_(Badfinger_song)

Side Two

  • Blodwyn – (Ham) – vocals : Ham with Evans and Molland – a country flavoured mid tempo song. Catchy.
  • Better Days – (Evans/Molland) – vocals : Molland – another catchy ballad type song.
  • It Had to Be – (Mike Gibbins) – vocals : Ham with Gibbins – a mid tempo ballad with Beatles harmonies.
  • Watford John – (Evans/Gibbins/Ham/Molland) – vocals : Ham and Evans – A mid tempo rocker and very of its time.
  • Believe Me – (Evans) – vocals : Evans with Ham – very similar to The Beatles "Oh Darling" but still good.
  • We're for the Dark – (Ham) – vocals : Ham – a pretty acoustic mid tempo ballad.

And …

Excellent … the best of their albums I have heard thus far. I'm sorry to say I hadn't listened to it earlier (Mitchell was right). I'm keeping it … well actually I'm not as I'm giving it to a mate. Now I have to find another copy.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1970 No Matter What #8

Album

1970 #28

England

Singles

1970 No Matter What #5

Album

Sounds

Full album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwrJR4X-iec

 

No Matter What

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xoke1wUwEXY

mp 3 attached

Without You

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPco24LS31A

Believe Me

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akTMC_jtGh8

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C53QAuOoSgc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XonFZjuyc6E

Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Dice

http://www.classicrockreview.com/2015/05/1970-badfinger-albums/

http://www.allmusic.com/album/no-dice-mw0000270661

http://robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Badfinger

http://www.superseventies.com/badfinger.html

https://badfinge.ipower.com/Badfinger/Badfinger_albums/NoDice.html

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/badfinger-mn0000064303/biography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badfinger

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Ham

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Evans_(musician)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_Molland

http://www.walesartsreview.org/no-matter-what-the-music-of-peter-ham-and-badfinger/

Website

http://badfingerlinks.bravepages.com/index.html

http://peteham.net/

http://www.badfingersite.com/

https://www.facebook.com/OriginalBadfinger

http://www.badfinger-iveys.com/

http://www.badfingerlibrary.com/

http://www.tomevans.info/

Trivia

  • The album emerged difficultly. A version produced by the band with Geoff Emerick and rejected by Apple, then George Harrison produced but didn't finish the album.  It was "overhauled", apparently, by Todd Rundgren. What belongs to who I don't know. The final producers credit goes to Geoff Emerick with the "No Matter What" and "Believe Me" being credited to Mal Evans.

                    Badfinger - No Dice - full          Badfinger - No Dice - gatefold

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

BOBBY RYDELL – Wild (Wood) Days – (Cameo) – 1963

Bobby Rydell - Wildwood Days

Music critics and enthusiasts often refer to the early 60s of rock and pop as the “Bobby era” due to the amount of singers named Bobby: Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee.

The reference is pejorative.

The inference is that the Bobby’s were interchangeable and indistinguishable.

Accordingly the music has not been explored or researched as much as other genres of 60s rock n pop.

And this is a shame.

To be fair the Bobby’s here to have a few things in common. They were:

  • from ethnic migrant families: Italian (Darin and Rydell), Polish (Vinton), Norwegian (Vee);
  • of (largely) working class backgrounds;
  • pop rock singers who also dabbled in trad pop  to varying degrees;
  • singers primarily who did not (largely, though not exclusively) write their own material;
  • of a common squeaky clean image;
  • very successful in the charts.

But, there is nothing bad with any of these things.

Do deny them their place (or not applaud them) in music is more than a little unfair.

If you can listen to Billy Joel, Elton John and any other number of rock n pop singers from the 70s then you can listen to Bobby Rydell from the early 60s.

Granted the early 60s aren’t as hip as the 70s and that may be part of the problem in selling Rydell and his compatriots.

People need cynicism in their music for it to be taken seriously and the early 60s in pop was too bouncy and optimistic (though there are dark undertones that are often overlooked)

That optimism combined with a generally held and assumed belief that nothing existed in music between Elvis going into the army and the Beatles international arrival in 1964 means little discourse on the music of time.

But, as regular readers of this blog may now it is an era of rock (‘n’ pop) I love … I like the optimism and the innocence, and I like the (occasionally) hidden dark undertones that something is not quite right. They resonate more when they are hidden in an upbeat song or amongst upbeat sunny numbers.

I note for completeness sake that those darker tunes were fully manifested in the “teenage death songs” of the era.

Rydell wasn’t likely to sneak in cynicism into his songs. His music is buoyant, sunny pop and it is infectious.

Rydell’s career was in full swing in 1963.

He had three top twenty hits in the preceding year and in April of 1963 the movie version of the stage production “Bye Bye Birdie” featuring Bobby Rydell was released.  The original stage production had no real speaking role for Rydell’s character, but the movie script was rewritten specifically to expand his role.  The film went on to become the 13th highest grossing film of the year (in the US).

In those day you rewarded success with more work. You churned out the product to capitalise, and to ride the wave.

This album, was Rydell’s eighth album in four years and it doesn’t depart from his earlier ones (from what I have heard) … it is poppy rock with a good dose of trad pop … rhythm with a beat but with trad instruments and arrangements.

It is sunny happy, summer holiday pop, all beach balls, water holes, and walks along piers ice cream in hand.

Its charm lies in the music and vocals perfectly putting across despite what was happening in the world.

The Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 was a distant memory, Berlin remains divided, tensions in Vietnam escalate, students riot in Venezuela, members of Ku Klux Klan dynamite a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing 4 young girls, earthquakes in Yugoslavia and Libya, a hurricane in Haiti and a tsunami in Bangladesh kill tens of thousands, Pope John XXIII dies, and President Kennedy is assassinated (in November) …it is hard to remain buoyant in the face of that.

But people were buoyant.

The concerns of the world seem remote and distant and summer is here and everyone can holiday. And, everyone does, this is not exclusively, as you would assume, west coast but makes references to (well I see references to) those summer days on the east coast, in the north, and in the south.

This is a holiday album for the whole of the United States where no one is excluded.

It may not be real but you don’t really need to look in the mirror all the time.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • Wildwood Days – (Appell, Mann) – The Dovells featured the song on the flip side of their “Bristol Stomp” hit single released in the spring of 1963.?The Wildwoods is used as a collective term for the four communities that have "Wildwood" as part of the municipality name in New Jersey. A great bouncy pop tune that evokes the holidays and carefree youth beautifully.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildwood_Days also, http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/news_and_views/the-story-behind-rydell-s-wildwood-days/article_5cbffa33-067b-5d5a-8e50-86a791a64a40.html
  • Summertime Blues – (Cochran, Capehart) – Eddie Cochran had a (magnificent) #8 with it in 1958. This is weird, replacing Cochran's insistent thumping guitar and surly attitude with horns and Bobby's rounded vocals. He doesnt sound like he has the summertime blues.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summertime_Blues
  • Moon Over Miami – (Leslie, Burke) – an old tin pan alley song done by everyone though Bill Haley and His Comets released a rock ‘n’ roll version in 1957. (Ray Charles did it in 1960 and the Platters did it in 1963 just before Bobby). This is full voiced but quite evocative. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Over_Miami_(song)
  • Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer – (Tobias, Carste) – the title to Nat King Cole’s album from 1963 (#14) and a song identified with Nat. The tempo on this popped up a bit but it still works though it not as lazy or hazy.
  • Kissin' Time – (Lowe, Mann) – Bobby’s #11 hit from 1959 … I’m not sure if this is re-recorded or just filler. Later recorded by KISS (1974) (!). A excellent pop rock tune with a hint of Chuck Berry (and his "Sweet Little Sixteen") https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kissin'_Time_(song)
  • Steel Pier – (Appell, Mann) – This was also released as a one sided promo single which was tied in with a concert Bobby gave at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City on August 14, 1963. Very Bobby Darin and there is nothing wrong with that.

Side Two

  • Sea Cruise – (Smith, Vincent) – Frankie Ford (Vincent Francis Guzzo) #14 (#11R&B) New Orleans rocker from1959. Not a flavourful as the Ford song but not too bad. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Cruise
  • Surfin' U.S.A. – (Brian Wilson) – The Beach Boys had a #3 in 1963. Nothing suggests California summer sun like the beach Boys in their early period. You wouldn't think that Rydell would cover The Beach Boys as they seem to be from other musical times with different impulses but they did co-exist at the same. This is pure cheese with keyboards and trad pop stylings, but quite enjoyable. Of course Chuck Berry got a co-write of this later (it was based on his "Sweet Little Sixteen" from 1958). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surfin'_U.S.A._(song)
  • Old Cape Cod – (Rothrock, Yakus) – A Patti Page #7 from 1957. It fits in thematically with the album but it is of another era and not really updated (tyoo much). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Cape_Cod
  • Down By The River Side – (Dazz Jordan) – An old traditional spiritual which was given some new secular lyrics by John Bernie Toorish (Dazz Jordan was a pseudonym). Everyone had done the trad version and the new version was often covered also, most notably by the The Four Lads in 1953 and Sal Mineo in 1958. Very catchy
  • Lovin' Doll – (Lowe, Mann) – a album track from Rydell’s first album "We Got Love " (1959). I don’t know if it is a re-record (it sounds like the original). I'm not sure where the "lovin" comes from as Bobby seems to sing "livin".
  • See You In September – (Edwards, Wayne) –  the Tempos had a #23 1959 (but the biggest hit was for The Happenings #3 1966). Catchy with some chintzy, cheesy keyboard work. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_You_in_September

And …

Give me a coffee shop, with a table on the sidewalk, serve me with a coffee, drench me in afternoon sun and put this on. Let the world pass me by … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1963 Wildwood Days #17

Album

Failed to chart

England

nothing

Sounds

Wildwood Days

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixPvQRQmGVk

live 1980s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2AOt-g7z5A

mp3 attached

Summertime Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-1xIAcsVGw

Moon Over Miami

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfXRYchiXg

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey_pIxbNnos

Kissin' Time

Live 1959

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVb1Qk4hWJ0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ89Cf3q8Do

Steel Pier

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X56rvbzk34

Sea Cruise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-81qrTAg0k

Surfin' U.S.A.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNb-e4fwfY0

Old Cape Cod

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbq8A4msWrA

Down By The River-Side

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZECcYRP7nc

Lovin' Doll

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80krve0d8RA

See You In September

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGXtv80sxSc

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCfgTxcRIdg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hRulR1zPD0

Review

Bio

http://dailydoowop.com/bobby-rydell-autobiography/

http://www.waybackattack.com/rydellbobby.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Rydell

http://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/history/2015/05/23/local-history-cameo-parkway-records-backs-bobby-rydells-wildwood-days/27835521/

Website

http://www.bobbyrydell.com/

Trivia

 

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

DR HOOK – Sloppy Seconds – (CBS) – 1972

Dr Hook - Sloppy Seconds

1972.

"Sloppy Seconds"

All songs written by satirist Shel Silverstein.

I know where this album is going, and, I'm pretty sure it would not be released on a major label today.

Well, not without a lot of controversy.

So, if you are politically correct or easily offended do not read on.

I would like to say that I'm reviewing an album not commenting on the right to free speech as it exists in this day and age but any number of law changes can make both irrevocably intertwined.

In a world where criticising fashion can be discriminatory where fashion is an extension of a person's gender identity. In a world where the use of casual sexual vernacular can lead to harm to a listener eavesdropping is a world where "Sloppy Seconds" won't fit in comfortably.

Of course, the reality is that your tolerance of views, attitudes and persons who think differently to you is the barometer of your belief in free speech.

What was a major raison d'etre of the old left has become a truncheon of the new left.

It is a form of new puritanism dressed up as social justice. And one which is particularly problematic because the test of offensiveness lies with the person who receives the information not community standards.

And "Sloppy Seconds" isn't going to pass many tests.

Where I sit on this doesn't matter but it will affect this album because of all the egg shells out there.

Some people will find offence in this album and the follow on logic is that, well, it is offensive and it should be banned.

Well yes maybe it is offensive to some people but we are talking "Sloppy Seconds" here not "Mein Kamf".

And neither should be banned anyway …just criticised and ridiculed if need be.

Dr Hook are, or rather, Shel Silverstein who wrote all the songs, is someone who likes to take the piss. He see, observes and comments. It is occasionally crude, sometimes funny but always satirical.

It isn't mean spirited and the excesses are balanced by some sensitive and perceptive ballads.

Check out my other comments for bio on the band but as I write in another comment, "Shel Silverstein, was a man of many talents as a satirist, (Playboy) cartoonist, writer of children’s books and as a songwriter. He was a sharp Brill building staff songwriter with an eye for small details which gave his songs lives that people could relate to. Like a more acerbic Ray Stevens his music is humorous but without losing touch of the melody or musical hook (sic) … Dr Hook and Shel Silverstein were a perfect match. The band with their jokey, devil may care, anything goes humour where quite anarchic by mainstream standards which fit in perfectly with Silverstein's sharp humorous satire … This isn't underground  New York avant-garde but mainstream music. But it is quite twisted by mainstream standards. The band, having been a bar band, are tight but they look scrappy, and they exude chaos and down home on the porch, with a jug of whisky (or a joint or two), sing-along sessions. This fits in perfectly with the freewheeling early seventies. There was just enough country sounds in there to have them pick up on some of that market, and just enough soft rock for the mainstream market".

Shel Silverstein wrote most of the first album and it met with some success (a top 10 single, "Sylvia's Mother" with the album reaching #45 in the US, the single went to #1 in Australia and #2 in the UK). It is a no brainer, so accordingly, this second album takes off from where the first left off and amps up the satire. Sure, the majority of the songs are the love songs and ballads, but, double entendres coming out like a hippie counter culture Benny Hill are what will bring notice to this album.

The proof is you would be hard pressed trying to find a review that doesn't mention the lyrical content of the more raucous songs … as I have.

It may be funny to look sat this now as some relic of the past and assume that this music slid through because this was the "dark ages", 1972 (apparently every epoch thinks they are more enlightened than that that preceded them). But, that is unfair. 1972 would not have been a safe space for this album either. The feminist movement was loud and strong, as were the traditionalists against a permissive society as where the intelligentsia pushing for music as art full of meaning with something relevant, and serious, to say.

Shel Silverstein, through Dr Hook, has something serious to say but he can't say it with a straight face and he has surrounded it with a loose, good ol boy drunken country and rock party atmosphere.

And, perhaps, that is why the band get some flack …they put it across so convincingly, and there is some ambiguity in the lyrics, so that you can't tell what is satire and what is a homage to common behaviour.

That's where puritanism or righteousness kicks in.

And this existed in 1972.

My Australian copy of this album from 1972 doesn't include the last song on the album, "Looking for Pussy". The Australian censor, unlike that in the US, was not hampered by constitutional requirements of free speech and, accordingly, had a much broader ability to read the double entendres in a song. Though, what looking for a lost cat has to do with anything I don't know.

As a sidenote, the great Australian band , Skyhooks, found the full force of the Australian censor when they had six tracks on their first album, "Living in The 70s" (1974) banned from radio airplay (and it still went to number one and demolished the former attitudes to censorship). 

Lead Vocals: Dennis : Freakin’ At The Freaker’s Ball / Carry Me, Carrie / The Things I Didn’t Say / Last Mornin’ / I Can’t Touch The Sun / Queen Of The Silver Dollar

Lead Vocals: Ray : If I’d Only Come And Gone / Turn On The World / Cover Of The Rolling Stone

Lead Vocals: Billy / George : Get My Rocks Off

Lead Vocals: Dennis / Ray : Stayin’ Song

All songs by Shel Silverstin, produced by Ron Haffkine (who, apparently, hooked (sic) the band up with Shel Silverstein).

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One

  • Freaker's Ball – originally released by Shel Silverstein on his album, " Freakin' at the Freakers Ball", in 1972. This is a magnificent song with a touch of ragtime (the revival was popular at the time) or tin pan alley though not for the sensitive.

            Blow your whistle, and bang your gong

            Roll up something to take along

            It feels so good, it must be wrong

            We're freakin' at the freaker's ball

            Well all the fags and the dykes they're boogie-in' together

            The leather freaks are dressed in all kinds of leather

            The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too

            Screaming please hit me and I'll hit you

  • If I'd Only Come And Gone – like a drunker and more belligerent Kenny Rogers. Another winner.
  • Carry Me, Carrie – a country rock power ballad
  • The Things I Didn't Say – a sweet ballad with familiar country themes.
  • Get My Rocks Off – total sleaze and not far removed from Frank Zappa.
  • Last Mornin' – a good first person narrative ballad about the music industry

    Side Two

  • I Can't Touch The Sun – a country-ish power ballad.
  • Queen Of The Silver Dollar – a big sound but quite gentle and perceptive
  • Turn On The World – a ballad
  • Stayin' Song – catchy
  • The Cover Of "Rolling Stone" – one of the wittiest and acerbic statements on the music industry ever … and Dr Hook had a few "Everybody's making it Big But Me". "last Mornin (above), and parts of "Millionaire". Excellent. Listen to the lyrics. Stoopid Rolling Stone rag. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cover_of_Rolling_Stone

And …

Wonderful, would be perfect with a six pack … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1972 Carry Me Carrie #71

1972 The Cover of Rolling Stone #6

Album

1972 #41

England

nothing

Australia

Singles

1972 The Cover of Rolling Stone #32

Album

1972 #17

Sounds

Freaker's Ball 

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33DaHQJVkzk

If I'd Only Come And Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33DaHQJVkzk

Carry Me, Carrie 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POQ-WmKgelU

Get My Rocks Off 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aY6PFccu-k

Queen Of The Silver Dollar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV5ztdWx56I

The Cover Of "Rolling Stone" 

Live 1974

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi4ntOkCNYo

Live 1974

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCTRxAkX4aY

Live 1980

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUjcjUF-urU

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TmJw8j2Eos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv_TA2S2z34

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/sloppy-seconds-mw0000200613

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloppy_Seconds_(album)

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dr-hook-mn0000806645

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dr-hook-the-medicine-show-mn0000205575

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr_Hook

http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/music/drhook-78.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shel_Silverstein

Website

https://myspace.com/drhooksmedicineshow/music/songs

https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Hook-and-the-Medicine-Show-55588104361/timeline?ref=page_internal

http://www.raysawyer.com/

http://www.dennislocorriere.com/

http://www.sylviasmother.com/

https://www.facebook.com/DrHookAndTheMedicineShow/

Trivia

  • The album is credited to Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show

 

Dr Hook - Sloppy Seconds - Picture from Back Sleeve

 

 

And remember "breaking news is a bit like breaking wind … sometimes you need to wait to see what the fallout is before announcing anything"  FEN

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

JESSE COLIN YOUNG – The Highway is for Heroes – (Cypress) – 1987

Jesse Colin Young - The Highway is for Heroes

Jesse Colin Young is always welcome on this blog but you have to approach anything released in the mainstream, in the 80s, with trepidation.

Yes, yes, I know I whinge about the 80s mainstream but it was, largely, awful. Everything was smooth and bland (please note that the 80s I'm referring to started in about 1983 and lasted till about 1991). Worse still; older acts from the 50s, 60s, and 70s had to adopt the "new sounds" if they wanted to get their music released on a major. There were a few who stuck to their guns but the vast majority fell into place. The result: instant rubbish. This may be music you loved  but really, put on, today, any mainstream song from the 80s (by an "oldie") and it will be met with a nervous smile, a wince, or a groan. Any jubilation that comes from the music is ironic.

I know there are exceptions, but …

This album was released in 1987 (and recorded at about the same time).

1987 gave us these mainstream 80s hits from "oldies" (a term I hate) reviving their careers: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (Starship), "Here I Go Again" (Whitesnake), "Big Time" (Peter Gabriel), "Is This Love" (Survivor), "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" and "In Too Deep" (Genesis), "The Next Time I Fall" (Peter Cetera and Amy Grant), "Midnight Blue" (Lou Gramm), "Will You Still Love Me?" (Chicago).

And this is what Jesse Colin Young was faced with.

But, he tries …

There is a lot of bad 80s in here …

… Sure the production is squeaky clean but you cant escape that …

… Sure a few of the songs (mainly the ones with sexy sax-o-mo-phones or squeal-y electric guitars) are cringe worthy …

… Sure the definition of acoustic in the mainstream 80s means singer, guitar and erra an electric band playing gently …

but there are moments here when Jesse Colin Young is kicking against it all.

His only other album in the 80s was "Perfect Stranger" from 1982. I haven't listened to that so I can't comment on where he was going, but, perhaps he knew the 80s, musically, was not for him.

This album is, largely, out of step with what is going on in the charts. Perhaps that's why it only got a release on a minor label (no offence Cypress  Records … though I note they were distributed by heavyweight Polygram).

The "largely" I use above is intentional. Bruce Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love" album from 1987  mined a very similar low key acoustic-y path to this album and it was #1 in the US, UK and other parts of the world (#6 here in Australia). The cover art here, also, recalls Springsteen as do some of the thematic concerns of the songs … "The Highway is for Heroes".

And that is not a bad thing.

Young may predate Springsteen recording wise but he is like a laid back, less angst-y, less rock n roll more folk, hippie version of Springsteen. They were both from the US north-east, Springsteen (New Jersey), Young (New York), and both enamoured with the "road" and "America". They also both played the "No Nukes" series of concerts in September 1979.

The album is not all new work. Three songs were new versions of songs he had released before on albums. "Do It Slow," was on "Love On The Wing" (1977), "Before You Came" was on "Songbird" (1975), and T-Bone Walker's "T-Bone Shuffle he had done on "Song For Juli" (1973). One ("When You Dance") was a cover of The Turbans 1955 doo-wop hit (#3 US R&B, #33 Pop) which was also done by Jay and the Americans in 1969 (#70 US pop). Further, two were co-writes, the title track, which Young wrote with (occasional collaborator) Los Angeles singer-songwriter Wendy Waldman, and "The Master," with keyboardist (and member of Bonaroo) Bill Cuomo.

The album was produced by Jesse Colin Young so he was calling the shots … though he had to also "sell" the record to a label.

Check out my other blog comments for biographical detail on Jesse Colin Young and his great band The Youngbloods,

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • The Highway Is for Heroes – (Wendy Waldman / Jesse Colin Young) – the production does this in.  It would work as acoustic singer songwriter song from the 70s but here it is like a song from a 80s movie where the hero, jilted, is sitting on Venice beach watching the sunrise.
  • Erica – slick but very engaging and quite good.
  • Young Girls – a breathy vocal. Maybe it's the subject matter?
  • When You Dance – (Andrew Jones / Jesse Colin Young) – As I said above this was a doo-wop by the Turbans which was popped up in the late 60s by Jay and the Americans. Jesse Colin Young, who could sing the delicate high notes here does some falsetto, ragged but well. Not as good as either earlier version mentioned.
  • The Master – (Bill Cuomo / Jesse Colin Young) – too slick. A song about power relationships.

    Side Two

  • Dreams Take Flight – it's a little dreamy but quite sticky
  • Do It Slow – old school, and I don't mean 1977 when Jesse Colin Young recorded it earlier but with ragtime influences.
  • T-Bone Shuffle – (Aaron Walker) – the great T-Bone Walker song. Gentle and playful.
  • Before You Came – again, over produced but okay.

And …

It's too slick for me but for the sake of completeness )of my Jesse Colin Young collection)… I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

The Highway Is for Heroes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9QTeRHLZIQ

Erica

mp3 attached

T-Bone Shuffle

Live 1989

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM2JWFkt_P0

Others

Live recently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faGP7Hex17I

The Youngbloods

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jnsrpbIvz8

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-highway-is-for-heroes-mw0000663672

http://people.com/archive/picks-and-pans-review-the-highway-is-for-heroes-vol-28-no-12/

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Colin_Young

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jesse-colin-young-mn0000331846/biography

http://www.westcoast.dk/artists/y/jesse-colin-young/

http://thegreatrockbible.com/portfolio-item/jesse-colin-young-biography/

Website

http://www.jessecolinyoung.com/

Trivia

 

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

TOM T. HALL – Song in a Seashell – (Mercury) – 1985

Tom T Hall - Song in a Seashell

I love Tom T. Hall but I approach this album with some trepidation.

1985 was not a good aural year for the mainstream country music industry.

And, Tom T. Hall was a big seller and definitely mainstream.

Between 1969 and 1985 he had 7 country #1s, another 13 country top 10s, and another 17 Top 40s.

That's mainstream

Like many others in country music (Willie Nelson, Billy Swan etc) Hall became a performer through the DJ-ing and song writing route

Hall(born May 25, 1936 in Olive Hill, Kentucky) is the son of a bricklaying minister, who gave his child a guitar at the age of eight. He had already begun to write poetry, so it was a natural progression for him to begin writing songs. Hall began learning music and performing techniques from a local musician, Clayton Delaney. At the age of 11, his mother died. Four years later, his father was shot in a hunting accident, which prevented him from working. In order to support himself and his father, Hall quit school and took a job in a local garment factory. While he was working in the factory, he formed his first band, the Kentucky Travelers. The group played bluegrass and gigged at local schools as well as a radio station in Morehead, Kentucky. The station was sponsored by the Polar Bear Flour Company; Hall wrote a jingle for the company. After the Kentucky Travelers broke up, Hall became a DJ at the radio station … In 1957, Hall enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Germany. While in Germany, he performed at local NCO clubs on the Armed Forces Radio Network, where he sang mostly original material, which usually had a comic bent to it. After four years of service, he was discharged in 1961. Once he returned to the States, he enrolled in Roanoke College as a journalism student; he supported himself by DJ'ing at a radio station in Salem, Virginia … One day a Nashville songwriter was visiting the Salem radio station and he heard Hall's songs. Impressed, the songwriter sent the songs to a publisher named Jimmy Key, who ran New Key Publishing. Key signed Hall as a songwriter, bringing the songs to a variety of recording artists. The first singer to have a hit with one of Hall's songs was Jimmy Newman, who brought "DJ for a Day" to number one on the country charts in 1963. In early 1964, Dave Dudley took "Mad" to the Top Ten. The back-to-back success convinced Hall to move to Nashville, where he planned to continue his career as a professional songwriter. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tom-t-hall-mn0000515628/biography

With some song writing success he was encouraged to record and released a single (1967). And then he wrote "Harper Valley PTA" which was recorded by Jeannie C. Riley and went to #1 is the US Country and Pop charts.  Hall's recording career took off after that and within a year he had one Top 10 Country single (Ballad of Forty Dollars #4, 1968) and a #1 "A Week in the Country Jail, 1969).

His golden period was the 1970s.

His songs were matter of fact, honest and filled with everyday detail. This conversational and casual emotional tone suited country music which loved musical hooks and succinct, complete narratives. And, that is what I loved about his music. The fact it sounds like you are in a pub down the road with some old (er) guy telling you about his day and his woes.

There are no grand statements or universal complaints but often there is some biting satire and observations that hold up a mirror.

By 1985 though still a chart presence Hall's prominence had dissipated.

Worse still mainstream country music had gone decidedly pop and bland.

The 80s were bad for mainstream rock and country was equally affected by the advancements in technologies (and possibly tastes) that required slick, well rounded sounds.

Country has a sense of history so the "old-timers" had a look-in  but the sounds that had made their names were pretty clean. The 70s outlaw edges had been dissipated or worse adopted and formularised and the pop and the rock sounds of the city had been fully integrated. Everyone had a twang but authentic regional accents were dead. The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bellamy Brothers, Alabama, Eddie Rabbit  Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers were all over the charts.

The need to integrate external mainstream sounds into country has always been there from the days of Jim Reeves and the "countrypolitan" singers. But the trad pop brought in by Reeves and co fit. 80s pop didn't. Well, didn't, to my ears.

Worse was to come but the sawdust, old beer smells and BO of more familiar country music surely missed.

Hall didn't adopt the pop but did embrace the clean sounds aesthetic so dominant in the 80s. But,

Hall marched to the beat of his own drum lyric wise but he didn't seem to care much about the instrumentation … whatever was popular at the time worked well. It was the lyric he seemed more interested in, and, that worked well in the 70s when country music still had some sass.

Here, in 1985, it is tinkly fisher price music for backing … well fisher price music with a pedal steel guitar.

The collection is a strange mix of Hall country originals and old non-country trad pop songs … just like the type of thing Jim Reeves did.

Whether it was a shortage of material, a conscious decision or a bit of both but I suspect Hall was trying to emulate the success of Willie Nelson's trad pop albums (and singles), "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (1981, #1 Country #31 Pop) and "Without a Song " (1983, #3 Country, #54 Pop).

It didn't work.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • That Lucky Old Sun – (Haven Gillespie/Beasley Smith) – a trad pop song done by everyone including country (Willie nelson, Johnny Cash),  rock (Brian Wilson), and soul (Aretha Franklin) artists. Made popular with a #1 in 1949 by Frankie Laine. This is a great song and Hall's voice is good for it but nothing is added. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That_Lucky_Old_Sun
  • A Bar with No Beer – (Tom T. Hall) – This is not dissimilar (and not only in melody) to "A Pub With No Beer" by Australian country singer Slim Dusty (the song was a big hit, a #1 in Australia and a #3 in England in the pop charts). The song here is credited to Hall though it has lifted portions of  a "Bar with no Beer" by Texas country singer Benny Barnes (writers credit to Don Williams) which was released in 1960. Barnes' song was the Americanized version of  "A Pub With No Beer". Hall has changed the lyrics considerably but it is essentially the same song. And it's quite good. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Pub_with_No_Beer
  • I Have Friends – (Tom T. Hall) – so-so though familiar country themes are covered
  • A Song in a Seashell – (Tom T. Hall) – fluff but quite nice with nod to Jimmy Buffet and the lazy Florida keys
  • Red Sails in the Sunset – (Jimmy Kennedy/Hugh Williams) – a trad pop song from the 1930s done by everyone though Nat King Cole had a #24 with it in 1951 and Tab Hunter had a #57 in 1957. Another great song and a decent version though the pitter patter of the drums and tinkly back make this sound like a cabaret act. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Sails_in_the_Sunset_(song)

      Side Two

  • Down in the Florida Keys – (Tom T. Hall) – Another (big) nod to Jimmy Buffet who was popular at the time (Florida keys, margarita, sleepy, lazy days, escapism all feature in the song). Perhaps this is a song about Jimmy Buffet. Very catchy
  • Love Letters in the Sand – (Fred Coots/Charles Kenny/Nick Kenny) – another trad pop dating back to the 30s though Pat Boone had a #1 with it in 1957. Done in by the backing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Letters_in_the_Sand
  • This Ain’t Exactly What I Had in Mind – (Tom T. Hall) – not too bad.
  • Gone Fishin’ – (Nick Kenny/Charles Kenny) – a trad pop from the early 50s which didn't have much chart action but was popularised by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong #19 US 1951). So-so though with some good updated lyrics.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_Fishin%27_(song)
  • We’re All Through Dancing – (Tom T. Hall) –  a very familiar country themes summed up in the title. Very Good!

And …

Not one of Hall's best but for completeness … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1985 A Bar with No Beer #40 Country

1985 Down in the Florida Keys #42 Country

1986 Love Letters in the Sand #79 Country

Album

1985 #63 Country

England

nothing

Sounds

That Lucky Old Sun

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHfu6Lcpxlo

A Bar with No Beer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdcQfkWMj6g

A Song in a Seashell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocw2OCKbLKU

Down in the Florida Keys

mp3 attached

Gone Fishin’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N-xtB5LQCA

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr4y2_BqHYg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_btBOifpHs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG5gWk-1m10

Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_in_a_Seashell

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_T._Hall

https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/tom-t-hall

Website

http://www.tomthall.net/

Trivia

  • Arranged by Bergen White (tracks: Strings). Produced by Jerry Kennedy.
Posted in Country | Tagged | Leave a comment