Chip Taylor is one of the weirdest of all country singers.
He isn’t quite country though country musicians and audiences have warmed up to him.
He was at the forefront of the country meets Americana meets alt country.
A native of Yonkers, New York, Taylor was in love with country music, and the early rock n country of Elvis, but he’d made his name as a (hit making) pop and rock songwriter and a wannabe folkie.
The country, pop, rock and folk all come through on his solo albums though they are all subsumed into the singer-songwriter style.
As the genre requires, these songs are pensive, expressive and revealing. Not that you can’t be with other styles of music but the singer- songwriter stuff (even when not written by you) comes across as confessional statements, little bits of the soul offered up to anyone who will listen.
Taylor’s love of country just means those confessions happen in a bar rather than in a coffee shop or on the psychiatrists couch.
There is a lot of Willie Nelson, Mickey Newbury here and some Guy Clarke and John Prine though run through with some New York sensibility and quirkiness.
Quirkiness qv: For a personal mellow album its title comes from its only cover, the rowdy Johnny Cash tune “Big River”.
Three of the tracks—"Big River," "John Tucker," and "You're Alright, Charlie"—were taken from a live radio show broadcast though they were overdubbed and remixed.
Backing him was his usual band though with overdubs by fiddler Buddy Spiker, famed pedal steel player Pete Drake, and Elvis’ 50s backup vocalists the Jordanaires, and the amazing and quirky jazzy, folk, world music instrumentalist Sandy Bull who added oud to a couple songs.
This is gentle, mellow, laid-back stuff, very laid back like totally horizontal, but the melodies are great, the lyrics catchy (nothing quite like that pop sensibility), and with good vocals.
Chip has had a little of a career revival over the last ten years but his output is much more worthy than a lot of others who are being re-evaluated and rediscovered.
I encourage you to check out my other comments for biographical detail and to find out what he wrote.
Tracks (best in italics)
Same Ol' Story – unusual political territory for country music with its references to the (then-winding-down) Vietnam War and a lot of cynicism. Wonderful with great backing vocals by the Jordanaires.
Holding Me Together – a country wheepie
Gettin' Older, Lookin' Back – a mid tempo song about regrets. Familiar country material but catchy
John Tucker's On The Wagon Again – great lyrics in a slow moving song about an audience member who likes to sit and drink
May God Be With Me – lead acoustic guitarist George Kiriakis and reminiscent, in mood, of "Help Me Make it Through The Night" and "Why Me Lord" in tempo. Maybe Chip was aiming for a song for Elvis to cover. He did a lot of this type of stuff in the mid-70s.
Circle Of Tears – a bouncy country song about lost (or, rather, losing) love.
Sleepy Eyes – similar to "May God be with Me" above. Quite big in drama but not over the top.
I've Been Tied – a 70s thumping country song
You're Alright, Charlie – another song about someone else. Chip loves the observations almost as much as Ray Davies.
"John Tucker", "Big River", "You're Alright, Charlie" taken from a concert for WHNW-FM radio. recorded live and then later overdubbed … that's why you get the applause. There is no post modern meaning there, or maybe there is.
Leon Redbone is a mystery, perhaps not as much as The Residents or writer B. Traven but he is indulging in the same quest for anonymity.
But, he isn’t obscure and he doesn’t avoid exposure.
He tends, rather, to hide in plain sight.
Unlike Rodriguez (“Searching for Sugarman”) who was unknown in his home country, the US, (but, as an aside, very well-known and popular in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – the documentary was quite disingenuous), Leon Redbone has never been unpopular, he just wants to avoid any digging into his past.
And, he has done it well.
Wikipedia reveals that he was born August 26, 1949 in either Ontario, Canada, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Cyprus.
Allmusic reveals: “Because Redbone first emerged as a performer in Toronto during the 1970s, he was believed to be Canadian, though some sources have cited his birthplace as the Greek island of Cyprus or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A Canadian magazine profile in the '80s reported that his birth name was Dickran Gobalian, though Redbone has never confirmed or denied that. Redbone's musical style was a revival of pre-World War II ragtime, jazz, and blues sounds, recalling the work of performers ranging from Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby to blackface star Emmett Miller”. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/leon-redbone-mn0000240503/biography
His website reveals nothing.
What we do know is that he emerged in the 1970s singing American music from the 1920s and 1930s
Redbone’s first exposure came with the 1974 Mariposa Folk Festival in Ontario. Several months later, Dylan spoke about him in a Rolling Stone interview, "Leon interests me," Dylan said. "I've heard he's anywhere from 25 to 60, I've been [a foot and a half from him] and I can't tell, but you gotta see him. He does old Jimmie Rodgers, then turns around and does a Robert Johnson." http://www.allmusic.com/artist/leon-redbone-mn0000240503/biography
He subsequently appeared on Saturday Night Live (in 1976) and became a favourite of Johnny Carson (1987-1992).
The beauty is in eras defined by of arena rock, hard rock, punk, indie alternative, underground, synth, and new wave, Redbone has decided to play music from a time past, a long time past.
He has (from what I’ve heard) obstinately refused to update. His music varies between various levels of sheen and gloss but the music makes little concessions to modernity.
I found his album “ No Regrets” in an op shop in the early 90s and I was hooked … the version of “Are Your Lonesome Tonight” hooked me, straddling Elvis’ well known version and the Al Jolson original from 1928.
Redbone has been doing this all along … bringing songs from the past and offering up them to us as new but without new instrumentation.
There is nothing new here, unless, and this is a big unless, you have never heard it before.
Then, it is all new.
(like I have always say) … if you haven’t heard the music before it is new music, right?
I don’t know how Redbone was exposed to this music and how it became his cause but, like everything, he wasn’t created in a vacuum.
The 1970s was prone to revivals, from the 50s revival at the start of the decade (bands like Sha Na Na, Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids, Showaddywaddy (in the UK), the chart re-entry of Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Elvis (though Elvis had never really left), films like “American Graffiti” and TV shows like “Happy Days) to the 60s revival at the end of the decade (the re-discovery of the Doors, The Velvet Underground and the popularity of power pop skinny tie bands).
In between there was a revival of 1920s and 1930s music.
This was promoted through film primarily, on soundtracks, using sound-alikes, songs in the style of, or original recordings … The Sting (1973) was a box office smash in 1973–74 (as was the Marvin Hamlisch version of Scott Joplin's, 1903 tune "The Entertainer", from the film reached #3 US 1974), Bugsy Malone (1976), The Godfather (1972), Paper Moon (1973), Lucky Lady (1975), Nickelodeon (1976), Bound for Glory (1976), At long last Love (1975) song and dance documentaries That's Entertainment! (1974), That's Entertainment, Part II (1976)
This “nostalgia” was combined, I suspect, with the knowledge that the original singing stars were getting older, retiring or dying off. Some were still performing so it was the last chance to see the originals artists. Concurrently, a new group of entertainers (with varying degrees of success and compromises to contemporary sounds) emerged …
American a cappella, jazz fusion/pop music group The Manhattan Transfer were founded in 1969 in New York City and increased in popularity throughout the 1970s, Joshua Rifkin released the "Scott Joplin: Piano Rags" album in 1970 which sold 100,000 copies in its first year and went to #5 (in 1974) and the follow-up "Volume 2" went to #4 (1974), Marvin Hamlisch version of Scott Joplin's 1903 tune "The Entertainer", for the film, The Sting, reached #3 US 1974, and (then) contemporary artists like Jim Kweskin, Merle Haggard, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, John Hartford, Harry Nilsson dug into the era and released individual albums (or numerous albums) of long forgotten or old songs.
How much of this is pure nostalgia and how much is a reaction to the (then) present music I don’t know and don’t want to think about it here but I suspect there is probably a bit of both.
The tradition has continued through to today (in varying degrees) with Pokey LaFarge, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Cactus Blossoms, The Hackensaw Boys, The Old Crow Medicine Show and others.
This is Leon Redbone’s first album and sets the template for his music … anything from pre-World War 2. He doesn’t just stick to the Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook … he tackles old blues, old jazz, old country, old folk …
And, they are all done in an intimate, low-key way surrounded with instrumentation deliberately recorded to reflect the original era … not so much “lo-fi” as “old-fi”.
Regardless of production, the music is the important thing. A good song is a good song and in the days when songwriters reigned supreme, the quality of the songs was substantial. That’s not to say they didn’t have hacks and cash-ins then but the music was built to stand out. Also, the lyrics took a back seat to the music … the melody sold the song and the lyrics had to ride off and accentuate that. A vocalist (and the vocalists that emerged) had to be able to add their own style or persona to a song (after the songwriter has already dictated how the song will appear), and this is not an easy thing to do.
Redbone, makes it even harder (arguably) for himself when he is covering well known tunes … he has to impart himself and be heard as something separate to the well known original. In the more obscure tracks that is, of course, less of an issue.
Leon Redbone on guitar, harmonica and with a drowsy, lazy, matter of fact vocal gets it right more often than not. And, just like the original vocalists, he, the music and the arrangements should, together, create a mood across the aural time and space connecting different generations.
He also plays the "throat tromnet" which I assume is his voice made to sound like instruments. Much like scat singing in vocal jazz, where they use wordless vocables to sing improvised melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium.
This music was the perfect tonic for the hustle and bustle of 1975 and I don't think the hustle and bustle of 2017 is any different … so bring it on.
Tracks (best in italics)
Sweet Mama Hurry Home or I'll Be Gone – (Jack Neville, Jimmie Rodgers) – First release by Jimmie Rodgers (1933). A joy of a start
Ain't Misbehavin' – (Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, Fats Waller) – a Fats Waller song from 1929. Burt Reynolds sang the song in the 1975 comedy film “Lucky Lady” and the following year, Leon Redbone performed the song on Saturday Night Live. A magnificent song which needs to be sung a little ragged as if someone is sitting next to you in a bar. Leon nails it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_Misbehavin%27_(song)
My Walking Stick – (Irving Berlin) – First performance by Ethel Merman & Chorus (1938) or by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (1938). Another good one … I'm sure there is a double meaning in there somewhere.
Lazybones – (Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer) – This tin pan alley pop song was written by the great Johnny Mercer and the equally great Hoagy Carmichael and was first recorded by Paul Robeson in 1933 (or perhaps by Glen Gray and The Casa Loma Orchestra with vocals by Walter Hunt also in 1933) but the Jonathan King version from 1971 was a big hit (#34 US Pop, #23 UK). It has been done by everyone. There are few better, if any, lie back and watch the world roll by songs. Wonderful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazybones_(song)
Marie – (Irving Berlin) – First recording by The Troubadours (1928). It has been done by everyone including Jim Reeves (1958), Bill Haley & His Comets (1959), and Ray Charles (1961). Another winner featuring the "throat tromnet"
Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel) – (Jimmie Rodgers) – First recording by Jimmie Rodgers (1929). Nice, very nice.
Lulu's Back in Town – (Al Dubin, Harry Warren) – First recording by Ted FioRito & His Orchestra or Dick Powell or Fats Waller (all 1935). Leon sounds older than his age here, err, whatever age that may be. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lulu's_Back_In_Town
Some of These Days – (Shelton Brooks) – First release by Sophie Tucker (1911). Its been done by everyone including The Mills Brothers (1934), Bobby Darin (1959), Brenda Lee (1959), Rosemary Clooney (1960), Bobby Vinton (1963), Elkie Brooks (1984), Helen Merrill (1992), Dave van Ronk (2001). A zippy with some fine violin, by Joe Venuti I assume. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Some_of_These_Days
Big Time Woman – (Wilton Crawley) – First release by Wilton Crawley and His Orchestra (1931) with Jelly Roll Morton on piano. This is a jazz, in the tin pan alley tradition.
Haunted House – (Lonnie Johnson) – a recent song! Written and recorded by Lonnie Johnson for his 1960 blues album "Blues & Ballads". Nice and suitably growl-ie.
Polly Wolly Doodle – (Traditional) – Dating back to the 1880s the first release was by Gid Tanner and His Skillet-Lickers with Riley Puckett and Clayton McMichen (1927). The children’s song has been done (or variations on it have been done) by The Carter Family (1939), Alvin and the Chipmunks (1962), and Burl Ives (1964) though Shirley Temple's version from 1935 film "The Littlest Rebel" may be the most well known version. Fun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polly_Wolly_Doodle
Jazz producer Joel Dorn produces with session musicians, jazz heavies and guests assisting. Here, Redbone is aided by fine session men including legendary “old-timers” Milt Hinton (bass), Seldon Powell (sax), and Joe Venuti (violin). Singer Songwriter Don McLean (“American Pie”) also appears on banjo.
Full musician list: Leon Redbone – vocals, guitar, harmonica / Phil Bodner – saxophone / Patti Bown – piano / Garnett Brown – trombone / Jonathan Dorn – tuba / Steve Gadd – drums / Emanuel Green – violin / Milt Hinton – bass guitar / Leo Kahn – violin / Ralph MacDonald – percussion, castanets / Charles Macey – guitar / Don McLean – banjo / Gene Orloff – violin / Seldon Powell – saxophone / Billy Slapin – clarinet / Joe Venuti – violin / Joe Wilder – trumpet, cornet
The back sleeve indicates, "A very special thanks to the late Jelly Roll Morton and the late Jimmie Rodgers for their music".
It also notes "Leon Redbone is not to be confused or associated with the Epic recording artists "Redbone"" …. which is the Native American rock band. Of course audiences today wouldn't know either let alone getting them "confused". Shame on them.
Yes, of course, the title to this album would nowadays be denounced as misogynist or sexist.
“… and His Woman”
Perhaps, even in 1973 the title was a little old fashioned, but then again Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were a little old fashioned.
Did June Carter Cash care?
I don't know but I do know that they don’t make female singers like her anymore.
She may have been a little old fashioned but that doesn’t mean she was a wallflower.
As a companion and a musical collaborator June Carter was able to hold her own against Johnny Cash.
Her position in country music was assured and there has been precious little coming to replace her. The wounded female singer-songwriters in country are everywhere as are the bombastic pop country singers who have nothing to say or tell.
June Carter straddled both those styles and turned them around. Her voice was big, bombastic and forceful but she had something to say and tell about life and the human condition.
She is up front and brassy and a perfect companion to Johnny Cash who can, often, be contemplative or laid back.
The comparator for this album would be the 1967 collaboration between Johnny and his (then) new wife June Carter, “Carryin’ On” which is an ode to fresh love and the excitement of a relationship in its infancy.
By 1973 things with Johnny and June had changed, but, not for the worse. They had progressed. They had a family together (they had a son born in 1970). June Carter was still a forceful musical voice and Johnny still had demons but the music is laid back, comfortable and calming. This may reflect the security of their familial situation but it also reflects the emerging (1973) amalgamation of country rock and soft rock sounds which were aimed at people who wanted to recline and forget about the world.
That’s not to say this is The Eagles or something. It is still a Johnny Cash album (Johnny's vocal is lead on most of the songs) and there are ragged edges which gives the album an off the cuff conversational sound, as if you were catching up with an Aunt or an Uncle over a coffee, where they pass on advice (and wisdom) about life, love, hopes, dreams and things spiritual.
Johnny writes a couple of tunes, has some written for him and picks a few covers. But, as always, Johnny (and June) make a song their own. They don’t always usurp the original or more well-known version but they do make their version sit alongside the original so much so you can’t tell (and don't care) who wrote it. And that, as I repeat so often, is what a good interpreter of songs does.
This was the final album from long time Cash producer Don Law.
Tracks (best in italics)
The Color of Love – (Billy Edd Wheeler) – Country folk singer songwriter Wheeler was a favourite of John and June’s having written "Jackson" which was recorded by them in 1967 and went to #2 (Country). Quite a witty song with the same to and fro between Johnny and June as "Jackson". In fact, thematically, the song is a kind of sequel to "Jackson".
Saturday Night in HickmanCounty – (Johnny Cash) – not perfectly realised but undeniably intriguing with sharp observations and lyrics of small town country America. Sung solo by Johnny..
Allegheny – (Chris Gantry) – Country singer Chris Gantry released this on his "Motor Mouth" album from 1970 and recorded this on the Johnny Cash TV Show in 1971. June is perfectly old school country.
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs – (Margaret Ann Rich) – written by Charlie Rich’s wife, he had a #41 country hit with this in 1969 and the song has since become often identified as a Charlie Rich statement of faith (well Greil Marcus in his book “Mystery Train” identifies it as one). This version is not close to Rich's version but it is still quite good. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life's_Little_Ups_and_Downs
Matthew 24 (Is Knocking at the Door) – (Johnny Cash) – I always bang on about the strife of the early 70s in the US (civil unrest, increase in pollution, widespread drugs, urban decay, the Vietnam war, the ongoing Cold War) and how it effects music. Well, this is Johnny's response to the times. Matthew 24 is the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. In it Jesus foretells the doom of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple and the great calamities that will precede his Second Coming.
Tony – (D. C. Powers) – I have little knowledge of D.C Powers but this could have been written by Cash because it is SO in his style. This is a contemporary cowboy song.
The Pine Tree – (Billy Edd Wheeler) – another original by Billy Edd Wheeler. Reminiscent of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter"
We're for Love – (Reba Hancock, M. S. Tubb) – Reba Cash Hancock was Johnny's younger sister. I’m not sure who M. S. Tubb is (though they are probably a relation of family friend and country singer Ernest Tubb). Together they wrote a couple of tunes recorded by Johnny. Reba, also, produced, "Gospel Road: A Story of Jesus” (1973) which Johnny narrated and June Carter appeared in. This is a little goofy like a mid 60s Elvis movie tune (in fact in bears just a smidge (in structure) of "Who Needs Money" from Clambake (1967)).
Godshine – (D. C. Powers) – There is no denying John and June's faith. This is a catchy country song rather than a Christian song though the subject is Jesus. Very catchy.
A forgotten and greatly undervalued album … I'm keeping it.
Personnel: Johnny Cash – vocals, guitar / June Carter Cash – vocals / Bob Wootton, Carl Perkins, David Jones – guitar / Marshall Grant – bass / WS Holland – drums / Bill Walker, Jerry Whitehurst – piano, keyboards.
Between 1980 – 1981 The Radiators had established themselves as one of Australia’s best pub rock bands.
They had released the magnificent mini album (and favourite of every high school boy) “You Have The Right To Remain Silent” (1980) and the long players “Feel The Heat“ (1980) and “Up for Grabs” (1981).
1983 saw the release of their next album, “Scream of the Real”
The straight ahead rock of Cold Chisel, The Angels and Rose Tattoo was alive and well and the soft rock of the Little River Band and Air Supply was (still) successful as was the mainstream pop rock of Mondo Rock, Moving Pictures and others, but, clearly, there was something else going on …
Australia was immersed in new wave stylings …
Icehouse's "Primitive Man" album had gone to #3 (1982), The Models "Local &/or General" went to #30 (1981) whilst "The Pleasure of Your Company" went to #12 (1983), INXS's Shabooh Shoobah went to #5 (1982) and Hunters & Collectors self-titled album went to #21 (1982). New Wave or quirky acts Mi-Sex, The Reels, Mental as Anything and James Freud were popular. Nick Cave was about to embark on a solo career.
With that as a background The Radiators made some concessions to modernity.
There are horses for courses.
And this track does not suit The Radiators.
Enough with the lame metaphors.
The new wave intrusions, here, are minor but it is a slippery slope. Later, the band would adopt more new wave trappings with diminishing returns.
The visual new wave stylings looked inane. These BLOKES do not lend themselves to the gender bending or gender neutral fashions … especially when they hastate to get the mullet or semi mullet cut.
The music on "Scream of the Real", with its new wave nods, also sounded forced and was never wholly convincing. It’s as if someone had session musicians add new wave flourishes to pre-recorded tracks. The production should have been a little more up front and made the sound a little more jagged.
But, despite all of this The Radiators always tried to rock hard and they were always sharper than people gave them credit for.
Of course, bratty and slightly obnoxious they could be but there were some equally sharp observations on Australian cultural mores of the time and a perceptiveness and sensitivity (in understanding if not music) of real people in real situations.
They would probably cringe a little at this statement but the insight is there in their music.
The music and the beat get in the way of what they have to say but the money is in the music and the beat so like Australia’s other great rock n roll social commentators, Skyhooks, you have to listen intently to realise they are sharper than a lot of more heralded musical social commentators.
That they said it at all with a pub rock sound is a testament to their “thinking outside the box”
That it resonated and has the ring of truth is a testament to their smarts, though no one would ever guess.
Tracks (best in italics)
How Does It Feel – (B.Nichol) – some new wave influences creeping in but not enough to dilute the old school Radiators stylings. Quite good though a fraction too long.
Sitting In My Armchair – (B.Nichol) – good lyrics done in by some tinkly synth.
Gravitational Pull – (B. Callinan-F.Parker) – a good pumping beat which would work well live.
Living On A Razor's Edge – (G. Turner-B. Nichol) – old school Radiators could have used a little more oomph in the production and a little less echo.
You – (B.Nichol) – quite melodic, by Radiators standards. It's also a little naff but it is catchy.
No Tragedy – (G. Turner) – the Top 40 hit. A enjoyable song with a Midnight Oil feel and it holds its own.
Comin' Back For More – (G. Turner) – more melodious Radiators and very catchy, but the synth needs to be replaced.
Right Before My Eyes – (F. Parker-B.Nichol) – perhaps one gentle melodious song too far though there are elements of early 80s Kinks (and I love them) and the lyrics are enjoyable.
Don't Call Us – (G. Turner) – a tad to long, or it feels that way.
Getting Closer – (C. Taglioli) – risible lyrics but good natured.
Too Much Too Soon – (G. Turner) – I'm sure a lot of people could relate to the lyrics about quick rush relationships … catchy.
Not perfect but there are a couple of gems and a couple of songs that linger …. I'm keeping it.
The full title of this album (as on the cover) is “Connie Francis sings "Never on Sunday" and Other Title Songs from Motion Pictures”.
Now, this is a treat for me because, as you may know, I love my film theme albums.
They are, perhaps, a thing of the past but for a while, especially in the 1960s, they were quite popular.
As I have said elsewhere on this blog, about the logic of covering film songs, “after all they were songs people had in their collective and individual memory from the films … “
For a competent vocalist to pump out an album of film songs (usually, it seems, without a single because the album was aimed at a different market) was a no-brainer.
Bobby Darin did "Hello Dolly To Goodbye Charlie" (1964), Bobby Vinton did "Drive-In Movie Time: Bobby Vinton Sings Great Motion Picture Themes" (1965), Pat Boone did “Days of Wine and Roses” (1963), Dionne Warwick did "Greatest Motion Picture Hits" (1969), Gene McDaniels did “Sings Movie Memories” (1962), James Darren did “Gidget Goes Hawaiian – James Darren Sings The Movies” (1961), and Frankie Avalon did “Muscle Beach Party And Other Motion Picture Songs” (1962) …
The trad pop acts weighed in heavily as Frank Sinatra did "Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners" (1964), Tony Bennett did "The Movie Song Album" (1966), Matt Monro did "From Hollywood With Love" (1964) and "Born Free (Invitation To The Movies)" (1967), Joni James did "100 Strings & Joni In Hollywood" (1961), Helen Merrill did "Sings Screen Favorites" (1968), Eddie Fisher did "Academy Award Winners" (1955), Andy Williams did "Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes" (1962) and "The Academy Award-Winning "Call Me Irresponsible" and Other Hit Songs from the Movies" (1964), The Four Aces did “Hits from Hollywood” (1958), Sammy Davis Jr did "Sammy Awards” (1959), Ed Ames did “Sings The Hits Of Broadway And Hollywood” (1968), Nat King Cole did “Sings His Songs From Cat Ballou And Other Motion Pictures” (1965) …
Country act Tex Ritter did "Songs from the Western Screen" (1958) and country instrumentalist Chet Atkins did “Chet Atkins in Hollywood” (1961) …
And, then there were the instrumental albums by Los Indios Tabajaras , Henry Mancini, Heal Heft, Nelson Riddle, Frank Pourcel and just about every instrumental act or band leader of the 1960s …
You get the idea.
Albums of film songs were popular.
The great joy on this album is Connie Francis.
I’m a late convert to Connie. I have had her “Greatest Hits” album (or one of them) for a long time but I kept coming across her individual albums in op-shops and second hand stores. I bought them because of individual tracks or covers that appealed to me. But, once I started playing the albums, I realised there was a lot going on, and, the they stood tall alone. Sure, some have more filler than others but what makes them good is Connie.
She can sing.
Perhaps she isn’t as highly regarded as some of the other female stylists of the 60s … probably because she didn’t write her own music and covered a lot of genres (and didn’t sing black soul) but that is what I like about her.
Her recordings show she was talented enough to tackle a lot of music genres: pop, trad pop, rock, country, tin pan alley, pop soul, folk, twist, light jazz, foreign language.
She is a great interpretative singer and also a personal one. She makes any song fit her style but never loses sight of what the song is trying to get across.
All this from (yet another) Italian-American singer …
Wikipedia: "Connie Francis (born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, December 12, 1938) … was born in the Italian Down Neck, or Ironbound, neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, the first child of George Franconero, Sr., and Ida Franconero (née Ferrari-di Vito), spending her first years in a Brooklyn neighborhood on Utica Avenue/St. Marks Avenue before the family moved to New Jersey"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connie_Francis
Allmusic: "Francis started her music career at three, playing an accordion bought for her by her contractor father, George. Her father's dream was not for his daughter to become a star, but for Francis to become independent of men as an adult with her own accordion school of music. At age ten, she was accepted on Startime, a New York City television show that featured talented child singers and performers. The show had no one else who played an accordion. Its host, legendary TV talent scout Arthur Godfrey, had difficulty pronouncing her name and suggested something "easy and Irish," which turned into Francis. After three weeks on Startime, the show's producer and Francis' would-be manager advised her to dump the accordion and concentrate on singing. Francis performed weekly on Startime for four years … After being turned down by almost every record label she approached, 16-year-old Francis signed a record contract with MGM, only because one of the songs on her demo, "Freddy," also happened to be the name of the president's son. "Freddy" was released in June 1955 as the singer's first single. After a series of flop singles, on October 2, 1957 she undertook what was to be her last session for MGM. Francis had recently accepted a pre-med scholarship to New YorkUniversity and was contemplating the end of her career as a singer. Having recorded two songs, she thanked the technicians and musicians, hoping not to have to record the third song her father had in mind, an old tune from 1923. After a false start, she sang it in one take. When Dick Clark played "Who's Sorry Now?" on American Bandstand, he told the show's eight million viewers that Connie Francis was "a new girl singer that is heading straight for the number one spot." … "Who's Sorry Now?" was the first of Francis' long string of worldwide hits". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/connie-francis-mn0000117064/biography
By 1967, she had sold 35 million worldwide, with 35 U.S. Top 40 hits including 3 #1s and 13 Top 10s.
As Allmusic says, unequivocally, “Connie Francis is the prototype for the female pop singer of today. At the height of her chart popularity in the late '50s and early '60s, Francis was unique as a female recording artist, amassing record sales equal to or surpassing those of many of her male contemporaries. Ultimately, she branched into other styles of music — big band, country, ethnic, and more. She still challenges Madonna as the biggest-selling female recording artist of all time”.
Connie was riding high in 1961 (with a #1 in 1960, “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own “and a featured roll in a (successful) film released in December “Where the Boys Are”) when she was asked to sing at The 33rd Annual Academy Awards (on 17 April 1961) and she chose the underdog tune "Never On Sunday" from the Greek/American film of the same name. The song won the Oscar. As an aside the song was up against one of my favourite tunes “The Green Leaves of Summer” from the film, “The Alamo”, as sung by The Brothers Four). For whatever reason Connie did not release the single but this album soon followed.
The album was, apparently, recorded over two days in August 1961 at Owen Bradley studio in Nashville. It was arranged and conducted by Cliff Parman. The backing vocals are by the Jordanaires.
Connie's voice is at its peak and she takes the lyrics to heart. She plays with the songs also making them suit her musical temperament. Granted, this leans to (heavily) mainstream trad pop but people who dismiss Connie Francis as a fluffy pop singer should still listen to her here. She sings with gusto.
From music its she branched into films, light and frothy perhaps but, which perfectly capture their era … and they were successful. Madonna can’t say the same.
Where are the tributes?
Okay, she is still well know, well known to anyone with a small knowledge of music history, but the details of her musical career are largely unknown and have not been subject to any re-evaluation.
Perhaps it was the era she came to fame in. The early 1960s (pre the rise of the Beatles and after Elvis’ 50s peak) are, still, generally ignored by music enthusiasts, but, as I have said before, it is an era of music that I love. It was, perhaps, the last truly romantic, un-cynical era of music where innocence and optimism were commonplace.
Of course the world wasn’t necessarily like that, but if you close your eyes and listen to this music, it could have been.
And if music isn’t there to send you to another place then what is the use of it?
Tracks (best in Italics)
Never on Sunday – (Manos Hadjidakis, Billy Towne) – Connie extends here foreign linguistics here by doing a few lines in Greek. A great song though, admittedly, it is more than a little Latin in nature (as was popular at the time).
Young at Heart – (Johnny Richards, Carolyn Leigh) – Well sung, though I think it, perhaps, suits a male singer more.
Around the World – (Harold Adamson, Victor Young) – Nice but a song that has never really grabbed me.
High Noon – (Dimitri Tiomkin, Ned Washington) – She takes a schmaltzy (and very masculine) "High Noon" and turns it into believable drama at its best with a spoken intro.
April Love – (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster) – exceptionally well sung and a little ethereal … and, she hasn't changed the gender. She is singing / giving advice to a male.
Where Is Your Heart (Song from Moulin Rouge) – (Georges Auric, William Engvick) – a pretty song
Three Coins in the Fountain – (Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn) – ultra romantic and other worldly.
Tammy – (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans) – A girls song if there ever was one though Debbie Reynolds version remains difinitive.
Anna – (Roman Vatro, William Engvick) – a Spanish vocal on this (as on the original) which is a wonderful. The music defines international tastes circa 1961.
Moonglow and Picnic – (Harry Warren, Jack Brooks) – nice, but straight.
Love Me Tender – (George R. Poulton, Ken Darby, Elvis Presley) – not as good as Elvis but one of the best female versions I've heard.
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing – (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster) – another otherworldly song and exceptionally well done.
From the films:
"Never on Sunday" from the 1960 film “Never on Sunday”. ”An orchestral version recorded by Don Costa reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, then returned to the Billboard Top 40 when reissued in 1961. His version also peaked at #27 in the UK Singles Chart. Following the success of the orchestral version as well as the Oscar win, an English language version of the song was commissioned to be written especially to match the title of the film. The lyrics to the English version of the song were written by Billy Towne. A vocal of the song by The Chordettes reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1961”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Never_on_Sunday_(song)
"Moonglow" and "Picnic", a medley of the pop standard "Moonglow" and the theme from the 1955 movie “Picnic”. “In the 1950s a medley of the song and George Duning's "Theme from Picnic," orchestrated by Johnny Warrington became popular, especially in instrumental recordings by Morris Stoloff, conductor of the film version by the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. Duning wrote the film's theme to counterpoint "Moonglow." Stoloff's recording spent three weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard, "Hot 100," and became a gold record”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonglow_(song)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme_from_Picnic
Many years ago I got an album "Hobos, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns" in 1986 on a sale and I loved it, well, not all of it, but a lot of it.
I bought it because it was from the 1970s (1973), was recorded in the South and looked interesting enough. It was also a gatefold and a US pressing which always felt heavy and substantial compared to our thin sleeves here in Australia.
The highlights of that album were "Black Cat Moan”, and “When I Lay My Burden Down” with Furry Lewis’ spoken intro which was magnificent and it was enough to interest me in Southern rock n roll, n funk, n gospel, n soul, n country, n blues.
1970s Southern rock though not necessarily traditional in its look but it was the inevitable descendant of 1950s Southern American rock n roll, the music that started it all. It contains all those elements above, doesn't look for new forms of experimentation and is quite backward looking, always referring to memories and times and people passed.
The music is visceral, emotional and rarely intellectual.
That's not to say it is smart but it is not designed to act on that part of the brain that makes you think (analytically) if music ever should.
I was familiar with the Southern rock style as Elvis Presley was playing a similar music though he was more mainstream (naturally enough) and he peppered his Southern rock albums, with ballads, MOR and other sort of Elvisania.
That's what Elvis does.
But Don Nix was something altogether different and cut from the same cloth.
His music is the descendant of 1954 Memphis if it hadn't gone to the movies, visited the big towns, travelled internationally or, otherwise, incorporated foreign sounds.
I had no idea who Don Nix was and in those pre-internet days and only the smallest of information would come up. He was from Memphis, he was in Memphis band the Mar-Keys, and he backed people at Alabama's famed Muscle Shoals studio.
I must adit when I bought the "Hobos" album it was mainly because "Memphis" was mentioned on the back.
William Donald Nix was Born in Memphis in 1941 and "attended Messick High School with Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper of the famed Stax house band Booker T. & the MG's. After graduation, Nix spent a short stint in the Army before returning to Memphis, where he joined Dunn and Cropper, along with Wayne Jackson, Packy Axton, Terry Johnson, and Smoochy Smith, as a saxophonist in the Mar-Keys … The group scored a smash hit with the instrumental "Last Night" on the Satellite label (later Stax/Volt), and Nix went on the road with the group, while a house band from Memphis attempted to recorded follow-up hits under the Mar-Keys' name … After the success of "Last Night" fizzled, Nix returned to Memphis and spent the next several years as a horn for hire, occasionally playing gigs with a re-formed version of the Mar-Keys or backing Stax stars such as William Bell and Carla Thomas … In the mid-'60s, Nix began making trips to L.A. to visit Leon Russell and Carle Radle, friends he'd met through touring. The friendship with Russell, a big producer at the time, landed Nix a position in Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars backing one of Russell's acts, Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Their friendship also provided Nix the opportunity to see how a session was put together, and he began engineering and producing at studios around Memphis such as Stax and Ardent … Nix spent the next several years writing and producing for artists such as Freddie King, Albert King, Sid Selvidge, and Charlie Musselwhite. In 1970, he signed a recording deal with Shelter Records (co-owned by his old friend Leon Russell) and released a solo album, In God We Trust and followed it a year later with Living by the Days. Neither album sold very well, and after a few more attempts, Nix returned to recording other artists, producing records for John Mayall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section”. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/don-nix-mn0000155572/biography
"Living by the Days" is his second album (his first album "In God We Trust" also came out in 1971) and it is a product of its time and, importantly, its place. Delaney and Bonnie (Nix produced their 1969 album "Home"), The Band and Leon Russell were, also, all doing the same fusions of rock, blues, gospel, and soul and introducing personal observations, and subtle societal commentary into the music, though one that never got in the way of the sound.
The music was everywhere for a while The Allman Brothers Band, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Lonnie Mack, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, Tony Joe White, Derek and the Dominos, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Jerry Reed, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Hank Williams Jr, traced sideways to The Rolling Stones, Ian Matthews Band, and Led Zeppelin, but it never really disappeared, and has continued to be revived in one form or another down through Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Georgia Satellites, The Black Crowes, The Immortal lee County Killers, North Mississippi Allstars and The Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, Hank III and others
This album captures that place and time and could sit comfortably to a revival band. The musicianship, as you'd expect from experienced musicians steeped in this culture and music, is superb. The album compares favourable with The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" from 1971, and, I don't know for sure which album came first, or whether it was accidental or not but there are similar sounds .. having said that, both albums were recorded at Muscle Shoals studios, Alabama.
The only curious thing that remains to be answered is why is he wearing a Civil War northern states Union uniform on the front and back sleeve?
All songs by Nix unless indicated
Tracks (best in italics)
The Shape I'm In – a church type organ opens this Leon Russell type song (naturally enough as Nix played with Russell … and not the Robbie Robertson song of the same name) which starts off slow but soon works its magic (did Mick Jagger hear this?).
Olena – a good, Southern rock song
I Saw the Light – (Hank Williams) – In your face gospel which is great with a magnificent intro by Furry Lewis but it's not Hank.
She Don't Want a Lover – Lynyrd Skynyrd have been listening I suspect.
Living by the Days – surprising relaxed for the title song.
Going Back to Iuka – a rock shouter. All up front instruments – keyboards, bass and southern rock guitar. Fictional band Blueshammer (and many real bands) would later destroy something like this.
Three Angels – (Lonnie Mack / Don Nix) – very heavy gospel and quite persuasive. CO-writer Lonnie Mack also released the cong on his 1971 album "The Hills of Indiana".
Mary Louise – (Marlin Greene / Don Nix) – a hoot of a song. Thumping and pumping with a hint of Jerry Reed.
My Train's Done Come and Gone – very like something the Band would do and it hold its own.
Anyone have an Adult Cherry Limeade? I want to kick back and listen to this again and again …. I'm keeping it.
Backing came from guitarists Jimmy Johnson, Tippy Armstrong, Gimmer Nicholson and Wayne Perkins, keyboardists Barry Beckett and Chris Stainton, bassists David Hood and Donald Duck Dunn, and drummer Roger Hawkins (Johnson, Beckett, Hood and Hawkins being the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section).
Produced and arranged by Don Nix.
There is a "very special thanks" to late Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips on the back sleeve.
You have to love album art … the front picture is a felt inlay.
There is very little information on this band out there.
They seem to be one of the many power pop bands signed during the New Wave rush of the late1970s.
The Now were:
Jeff Lennon – (Geoff "Lip" Danielik)
Bobby Ore – (Bobby Orefiece)
They were from NYC.
“Hailing from New York City, Jeff Lennon (Geoff "Lip" Danielik), Mamie Francis, Robin Dee and Bobby Ore were The Now. They were playing the Max's Kansas City scene when they signed to RCA distributed Midsong International Records and hooked up with producer Bobby Orlando. An album was "produced, arranged, engineered and concieved" by Mr. Orlando and sold about 200,000 records – enough to warrant a second LP which the band started to record. Then the label literally disappeared from their New York City offices. The band never received a dime and that was the end of The Now. The band splintered off into various bands but none achieved any level of success. A live disc recorded in 1979 was released on CD. Check also the Japanese import from Wizzard In Vinyl that unearths a retrospective from Geoff "Lip" Danielik who during 1978-1981 had 4 bands (Alter Ego, Peroxide, T.K.O and The Now) all which did the major label flirting thing but never quite getting to where they all had hoped. Danielik`s closest call was with The Now, which power poppers from this time period will recall”.https://www.israbox.life/3137504540-the-now-bobby-orlando-presents-the-now-2013-remastered.html
“Hey, I was in "The Now" … there was a live recording (unofficially released) and what's not mentioned is that we did record a complete second album in just one evening "Bad Publicity Is Better Than No Publicity", we were going to mix the record a couple of weeks later when the record company strangely disappeared basically overnight. So it goes in the music world! Oh, and that's correct – none of the band members made a penny – Go”.http://lostbands.blogspot.com.au/2007/04/now.html
Bobby had been into (and in ?) a number of glitter and New York Dolls type bands in the 70s and, seemingly, The Now was his last hurrah for rock n roll and, perhaps, his vision.
All songs were written (or co-written) by him, he also sings lead vocals and the album was "produced, arranged, engineered and conceived" by him.
The album seems to cover almost all the New Wave stylistic motifs … there is ( a lot of) power pop, there are retro 60s sounds, there is punkish new wave, there is garage, there is some Jamaican sounds, there is some pure pop.
The covering of every musical base reeks of New Wave opportunism …
It works because the songs are so genuinely catchy and there is a real sense of fun going on. There is no danger in the music just good times. There is, also, a vivid sense of the past which was always there in the New Wave but with a punch, and directness, as you would expect. It is a bit like what Elvis Costello was doing in England though with a wider musical palette (Costello’s palette expanded later). To that end this album is ambitious and a little ahead of the curve but, importantly, it doesn’t sound too disjointed.
It should have been much bigger because it is much better than a lot of similar albums coming out at the same time.
And, the cover art is superb.
This is great fun and a very good album..
All songs by Bobby Orlando unless noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
Can You Fix Me Up With Her – a 60s flavoured tune.
He's Takin' You To The Movies – some jingle jangle being introduced here over a theme which is very 60s and very power pop.
T.V. Private Eye – (Orlando, Diliece, Orifice) – some reggae-ish sounds creeping in here. Luckily it's short.
You Are The One – more 60s influences with some Ramones light sounds … fun
Reaction – another 60s flavoured winner
What's Her Name – more power pop. I am a sucker for this.
I Wanna Go Steady With You – another fun power pop with more 60s vibes.
Baby I'm Bad – cartoonish punk which sounds like from England circa 1977
Flex Your Muscle – a punk imitation and very punchy.
Christine – (Mamie Danielik) – more punk with creeping keyboard (?) in the background. Better on re-listens. Quite good, though it reminds me on something else I can't put my finger on.
This album is great fun and vastly underrated … I'm keeping it.
"In late 1983 and early 1984, Chris and Neil recorded thirteen of their early songs in New York City with their first producer, Bobby Orlando, better known in the music world as Bobby 'O'. A songwriter and recording artist in his own right as well as producer, Bobby 'O' was the man primarily responsible for (among many other things) the 1982 cult dance classic "Passion" by The Flirts, which proved a major influence on the early style of the Pet Shop Boys".http://www.geowayne.com/newDesign/lists/bobbyo.htm
His voice and guitar are distinctive and even iconic.
He, though, unfairly gets stereotyped as a loud good ol’ boy singer mainly because his big hits (Amos Moses, When You’re Hot You’re Hot etc), were, errr, loud good ol’ boy hits and he reinforced that with the same image on television appearances and in many film roles.
But, Reed was more than that. He was a sensitive soul, not that he would admit it, who would frequently turn to contemplative songs – he put out many covers of gentle folk songs (at a time when folk had waned) and even an album of Jim Croce songs (another gentle giant who tripped between bravado and sensitive in his music).
Likewise he wasn’t afraid of mixing up musical styles. Just about everything was open to his musical palette. He started out in the late 50s in country rockabilly before moving to Nashville and becoming a top sessionman and songwriter before going solo again. Whilst there he dug into his musical memory and stuck his toes in all sorts of country styles (Progressive Country, Traditional Country, Countrypolitan, Cajun) as well as jazz, light blues, folk, rock and popular.
Also, across his music he injects a good dose of humour, and not subtle humour either, but humour which is the equivalent of the broadest slapstick. Despite the fact that country music is littered with humorous songs (probably as a counterweight to the tragic material which is the norm to country music) the overabundance of humorous songs doesn’t endear Reed to contemporary tastemakers who would rather have thematically consistent albums, or a group of songs that reflects a point of view, and, usually, cynical, dour or negative points of view.
So Reed’s eclectic and quirky nature works against him.
The allmusic review of this album sums up that, “A largely eclectic and overproduced work, Ko-Ko Joe isn't a great Jerry Reed album. From the loose Creedence Clearwater Revival meets the Charlie Daniels Band boogie of the title cut, to the countrified Tom Jones-like quality of the more pop-oriented "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "A Stranger to Me," the set lacks consistency. A four-minute mock anti-smoking dialogue, which appears to be more of a comedy piece than anything, is followed by a dead-serious cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain." Anthemic pop songs, straight country, and more blues-oriented songs are also included, making this a rather confusing and difficult listen”http://www.allmusic.com/album/ko-ko-joe-mw0000888189
But, what the allmusic reviewer sees as a fault I see as a strength. The mix of material may just be a bunch of songs randomly selected but they do seem to sum up life with all its changes in emotion, its ups, downs, its humour and sadness.
There is a lot going on and ultimately this hodgepodge isn’t that different to other Jerry Reed albums.
I love my Jerry a little ragged but this album is quite slick (cello, viola, violin, bongos all make appearances) being caught in the wake of Nashville before the rise of outlaw country.
And if you like Jerry Reed there are some treasures here … and it fits all moods. And that works on me, the listener.
Check out my other comments on Reed for biographical details.
The album was produced by Chet Atkins. Jerry Hubbard and jerry reed Hubbard are aliases for Jerry Reed.
Another Puff – (Earl Jarrett, Jerry Hubbard) – Casual humour with a bite. Jerry died in 2008 of complications from emphysema but I have no idea if he was a regular smoker. The "Chester B." referred to in the song is Chester Burton Atkins aka Chet Atkins.
Early Morning Rain – (Gordon Lightfoot) – This is a great version of the song even with the strings. There is something convincing about Southerner singing about being "long ways from home". Bob Dylan recorded Early Morning Rain on his 1970 album "Self Portrait", Elvis Presley released it twice, first on "Elvis Now" (1972) and later on the live album "Elvis in Concert" (1977). It was a small hit for Peter Paul and Mary in 1965 (#91US), George Hamilton IV took it to #9 on the US Country chart in 1966. It even scraped into the UK Top 40 in the last spot, for Paul Weller in 2005. It was also recorded, in 1965, by fellow Canadian husband and wife duo Ian & Sylvia as well as Grateful Dead in the same year. Judy Collins, Chad & Jeremy, Jerry Reed and Jerry Lee Lewis have also recorded the song – Neil Young recorded it on his recent album, "A Letter Home"(2014). Lightfoot recorded the song in 1964 but it didn’t appear by till his self-titled solo album in 1966 (he re-recorded it for "Gord’s Gold") (1975)).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Morning_Rain
A Brand New Day – (John Ragsdale) – it seems to have been first recorded by Jerry. A big mid tempo power ballad, country style with some quirky delay on the guitar.
Not As A Sweetheart (But Just As A Friend) – (Cindy Walker) – this country weepie was written by the magnificent Cindy Walker. This may be the first recording of the song, though Jim Ed Brown (of The Browns) also recorded a version on his album “She’s Leavin” which also came out in 1971 and was also on RCA.
You'll Never Walk Alone – (Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein) – This has been done by everyone but I like to think he got his inspiration from the Elvis Presley version from 1968 (perhaps given weigh by the fact the song was included as the title song on an the Elvis gospel compilation album, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” released in 1971 on RCA) though Reed doubles the pace on the song (and no one has done that before as far as I know). It's unusual hearing it at this pace but it is such a good song it still works. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27ll_Never_Walk_Alone
(Love Is) A Stranger To Me – (Jerry Reed Hubbard) – There is big production on this song which is very catchy.
Country Boy's Dream – (Ernie Newton) – first recorded by The Browns in 1967 on their RCA album “Browns Sing the Big Ones from Country” and on which Jerry played guitar on. Another up tempo number in the good ol boy style with some great electric guitar.
Seasons Of My Mind – (Sonja Bird Yancey) – Young songwriter, Sonja Bird Yancey, was 13 when Jerry recorded this which is odd given the sensitive adult themes in the song. Well, they were worldly early in the South, perhaps. It was the first recording of the song.
Framed – (J. Leiber-M. Stoller) – The first recording was by The Robins (1954) and Ritchie Valens also recorded it in 1958. A fun version which again fits in the good ol boy style.
Call me old fashioned. Better still, mix me a Old Fashioned … I'm keeping it.
On Sonja Bird Yancey who wrote “Seasons Of My Mind” … "Her career began at the age of 12 when she met musician Vernis Pratt at a Merle Haggard concert in Hazard in 1970. “I ran down and told him I wrote songs. He and his wife came over and listened to my music and took me straight to WKIC and made a tape. We all knocked on doors – you could do that then,” she said. At a restaurant in Nashville, Miss Yancey talked to “a man in a funny fishing hat.” It was singer Jerry Reed. “I didn’t know who he was but I told him I was a songwriter. He asked me to come to his office the next morning and he published seven of my songs and signed me as an exclusive songwriter with his company, Vector Music,” said Yancey". https://www.facebook.com/180785432011304/photos/a.180837378672776.42395.180785432011304/1105502769539561/?type=3&theate
This was Trini’s last album during his hit making period or the first album of his non-hit making period.
Trini released more albums on a variety of (minor) labels between 1972 and today but his time as a force on the charts in the US was over.
Check out my other comments for biographical detail on Trini.
Career wise, Lopez started out on the King label released upbeat rock ‘n’ roll 45s, but he made his name with go go beat driven rock n pop in the 60s when he signed with reprise. All his subsequent albums, and there was something like twenty original albums in seven years, apart from this one, were on the Reprise label.
I’m not sure why he left Reprise but I would think he was not a bankable star by 1969 when he released his last album there.
A couple of year’s later Capitol records took a chance on him to release this album.
A Spanish language album.
Though, perhaps, it isn’t a great risk. Lopez always had a big following in Spanish speaking markets and had released a couple of Spanish (and semi Spanish) language albums on Reprise. It was viable and bankable.
I have a basic understanding of Spanish so I have never avoided the music. Though, the argument that you can’t understand the words if they are in a non-English language is a redundant one …
You can’t understand the words in most operas (assuming you don’t speak Italian).
Music can move you without the necessity of you being able to understand the lyric. The vocal performance or the musical virtuosity may excite you. The passion may stimulate the senses. Or, sometimes, just the melody and vibe will keep your toes tapping.
And all that applies to Trini on his Spanish language records. That’s not to say that they are all great but that an understanding of Spanish isn’t needed to enjoy the albums.
It would help but it isn’t required.
The 60s was a big time for foreign language albums, especially in the US. Sure, there are many migrants and their offspring in the US, which probably accounted for most of the target sales, but I suspect some people were buying just because of the vocalist or because of the sound.
Gene Pitney put out an album of songs in Italian and another in Spanish, Connie Francis went a couple better and put our albums in (or partially in) Italian, Jewish, Spanish and German. Hell, even Elvis released songs in the American market in Italian, German and Spanish (check his soundtracks).
For Trini, a American of Latin ancestry, this was no brainer … and he had success before with his Spanish language songs.
Spanish seemed to be the preferred foreign language music of the US. Of course it helped that one quarter of the US was Latin / Hispanic or of Latin ancestry and that much of its south-west had been under Mexico 100 or so years earlier.
Trini, Jose Feliciano, Trio Los Panchos, El Chicano all did well in the 60s and early 70s with Spanish language music.
And it was used in every second western film and TV show.
And it was the street talk and native language in many parts of the US.
Spanish music wasn’t unfamiliar to Caucasian ears.
Trini, here, adds another strand to the music, making it even more relatable to non-Spanish speakers, by singing Spanish language versions of some well-known English language pop hits. As a listener, if you don’t speak Spanish, the melody will be familiar to you so you can tap along to that whilst getting the meaning from the song in the familiar English lyric which has been translated in your head.
Trini’s style was specifically 60s and it is interesting hearing the 70s sounds incorporated. He taps into the jazz, funk, Latino (Chicano) and the general MOR sounds of the early 70s and doesn’t sound like the Trini of old, though he manages to squeeze in some of his trademark oooohii squawks in.
Perhaps, Trini’s time had come and gone but Trini's force of musical personality keeps this more than listenable. This type of Spanish language pop rock would eventually become quite plastic with synths providing the bloodless backing. Here it is still all organic with instruments (and arrangements) up front playing off the singer.
The album didn’t sell nationally.
The cover art is crap.
Tracks (best in italics)
Vive La Vida Hoy – (Nino Frias) – Spanish rumba duo "Los Amaya Y Su Combo Gitano" released a version in 1971 and salsa man "Frankie Dante & Orquesta Flamboyan Con Larry Harlow" released a version in 1972. Translated this is "Live Life today" … and it is a bouncy toe tapping hoot!
Y Volvere – (A. Barrier, G. De La Fuente, R.Lopez) – Co-written by Germaín de la Fuente of Chilean pop band “Los Angeles Negros” the song was released on their second album in 1969 and was a big Latin American hit. It is a cover version of "Emporte-moi" by Alain Barrière with new lyrics by De la Fuente. Emotive and effective.
Tu Amigo Fiel – (You've Got A Friend) – (C. King, B.M. McCluskey) – It was first recorded by Carole King on her album, Tapestry (1971), though James Taylor had the hit with it in 1971 (#1US, #4UK). Well sung. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27ve_Got_a_Friend
Montana Rubi – (Ruby Mountain) – (Kenny Young) – Songwriter, musician, record producer (and environmentalist) Young recorded and released this as a single in 1970 as "Shine On Ruby Mountain" as did the Hondells. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition also released it as an album track in 1970. A good bass line beat keeps this pumping along.
Viva! – (Viva Tirado) – (Gerald Wilson, Norman Gimbel) – The song Viva Tirado was written by Norman Gimbel and was first released by The 5th Dimension in 1971. It was adapted from the instrumental Viva Tirado recorded by The Gerald Wilson Band in 1962. Catchy.
Sol De Mi Vida – (Bring Back My Sunshine) – (Jim Weatherly) – Written by country singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly. He eventually released it on his self-titled album in 1973. This is an early version of the song. It could be a Trini first. Really, quite good.
Jesus Cristo – (Carlos, Carlos, Singleton) – released by “Al De Lory and Mandango” and by “Alan Shelly With Equator” in 1971 in the same year. A quite funky song about Jesus Christ.
Siempre Le Sigo – (All That Keeps Me Going) – (Jim Weatherly) – Another one by country singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly. He eventually released it on his album "Weatherly" in 1972.It could be a Trini first. MOR country Spanish style.
Mi Mami Blue – (Mammy Blue) – (Hubert Giraud-Phil Trim) – a French song released in 1970, which was given English lyrics in 1971 and was a hit for the Pop-Tops (US#57, Japan#2), Joël Daydé and Roger Whittaker (UK#31). Very catchy though it always reminds me of The Benny Hill Show where it was used on some skits (at least I think it was ..
I’ve always liked Fabian as a result of watching films he made in the 1960s. Not just the teen films but his two films with Jimmy Stewart, “Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation” (1962) and Dear Brigitte (1965), as well as his bit in The Longest Day” (1962). But my favourite, and I can’t count how many times I have seen it, is “North to Alaska” (1960) with John Wayne and Stewart Granger.
I love that movie.
He sang in some of those films, albeit briefly, so it was natural I would search out his vinyl. He was also from a period of music I quite like, the early 60s before the rise of The Beatles.
Fabian started off as a singer but his career as a singer (or at least as a hitmaker) was quite short (two years) whilst his film career (though never spectacular) kept him busy for 20 years or so.
Today’s audience when they think of him, if they think of him, think of him primarily as a singer, and part of the wave of clean urban rock pop (Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton) that replaced the rough, ragged and regional rock of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, et al.
He was cast to a mould at the time …
As he says himself: “We were plastic, these plastic . . . things–not even people … They laughed at us. They wouldn't take us seriously as artists. They didn't think we could sing or perform or anything. To them, we were this low form of life. You can't laugh that off. Everybody craves respect. If people are looking down on you, all the money in the world doesn't really make you feel any better about it."http://articles.latimes.com/1985-05-13/entertainment/ca-10079_1_fabian
An aside: every cloud has a silver lining as Fabian goes on to say: "Don't get me wrong. It wasn't all bad. For a teen-age boy, you can imagine what it was like having all those girls drooling over you. That was heaven. Sometimes I was on top of the world. Me, this dumb kid from South Philly, got to be a star. I couldn't believe it."http://articles.latimes.com/1985-05-13/entertainment/ca-10079_1_fabian
It’s easy to say that this late 50s pop mould was a result of the threat of rock 'n' roll, which had become too much for parents. The music was cleaner, softer, pop-ier and less threatening.
And if you like (ridiculous) conspiracy theories it was a good time to make the move to something gentler: first generation rock had been silenced : Elvis was in the army, Jerry Lee was banned, Chuck was in jail, Buddy was dead, Gene Vincent had retreated to England, Eddie Cochran would be dead, Little Richard had turned to God …
But all of these rock n rollers being off the scene doesn’t really explain anything.
The new rock ‘n’ posters had to tread carefully. Elvis and his peers had opened a floodgate which threatened to (and did) change the world. That sounds dramatic but they did change the world and make it uncomfortable or unsettling for some … they also, certainly, changed the noise level on music.
So, perhaps this newfound softly softly was a natural societal reaction to the wild men of yesterday.
There is some truth to that, and, their lack of presence certainly meant the softer music options could come forward but, by the same token, Elvis himself liked his pop (and alternated it with his rock ‘n’ roll) and Pat Boone, always the softer option, had been a consistent hit maker since 1955.
Contrary to popular music history the wild men of rock still existed in the late 50s / early 60s – Link Wray, Bobby Fuller, all the frat rockers all over the States. They didn’t dominate the charts but they were there.
Fabian, and his crew (Frankie Avalon, James Darren, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton) weren’t anything new in rock 'n' roll terms. They were an extension of the Pat Boone logic … play it softer and try to appeal to the biggest audience.
And, savvy music producers and record labels pushed the logic and moulded or created the artists to pass it on to the public.
Despite that, and unlike Pat Boone and his posters, Fabian and his teen idol friends were brought up on the rhythm and rock of the early first generation rock ‘n’ rollers like Elvis. Also, Fabian and friends heard the sounds of the streets of the urban north … the black doo wop, the street corner singing, and the Italian (there were a lot of Italians amongst this crew) ballads of their households.
So there was rhythm and beat in there as well as the various sounds of their environment and ethnic backgrounds.
That was something new but to purists it was a sell-out of old school rock ‘n’ roll to record music by pretty boys who couldn’t sing
Okay, there was some truth in that as some of them couldn’t sing as well as the rockers or Pat Boone and the smooth popsters.
And, Fabian was tarnished with that brush.
Fabian had an Elvis-type face, including hair style and eye shadow but he couldn’t sing all that well. He could sing in key but without much range or vibrato, which is why he rarely holds a note. He didn't so much sing as speak in tune, or speak to the melody or talk with the rhythm. At the time he was criticised for it but it became the norm with Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and even John Lennon (perhaps) and today it is everywhere, though, there is usually a more complicated backing to hide the fact.
In Fabian's case songs were arranged to hide his shortcomings.
The rest he sold on attitude and looks.
But, that, combined with his light entertainment and B-film movie career, has done nothing to preserve or enhance his reputation with the music archaeologist or pop culture historians.
Criticism like “cookie cutter creation”, “puppet” or “cast from a mould” are used but it doesn’t matter because …
I like Fabian,
Though limited, I think he was quite underrated as a musician (and as a film star) because he has a nice voice and an appealing musical personality. Admittedly, saying Fabian is underrated is not saying much because any interest in Fabian is “up” from where he sits at the moment on the cultural capital pole.
Allmusic’s entire entry is, “Thanks to a series of performances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, Fabian rocketed to stardom in the late '50s. With his stylish good looks and mild rock & roll, he became one of the top teen idols of the era; luckily, he had the support of the legendary songwriting team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, who provided him with "Turn Me Loose," "Hound Dog Man," and "I'm a Man," among other songs. Fabian's fame peaked in 1959 with the million-selling "Tiger" single; after that, he valiantly tried to become a movie star. When Congress fingered him as one of the performers who benefited from payola, his already-ailing career was given a nearly fatal blow; under questioning, Fabian explained that his records featured a substantial amount of electronic doctoring in order to improve his voice. After the hearings, he starred in some more movies in the '60s, without regaining the audience of his peak years”.
But what he was, was a well-rounded entertainer. His star only really shone for about two years in music and five years in film but the period he was working in (both in film and music) is a generally forgotten period between the wild days of 50s rock and the experimentation of 60s rock.
A period of innocence.
It’s easy to criticise those artists, or to forget them, but they were working with some exceptional songwriters and musicians (generally) and if you like the sound of that era, as I do, they made some beautiful music.
But, a lot of their material was second rate or rushed. A lot was not newly written. There was a tendency to go back to Tin Pan Alley and update an old tune … perhaps this was an easy way to fill an album, perhaps it was about royalties, perhaps the labels liked the tunes because there is the potential for the song to reach older listeners as well as the kids, or perhaps they didn’t have access to all the best new songs.
I mention that because Elvis rarely did Tin Pan Alley – songs like “Blue Hawaii” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” being exceptions – Elvis, a non-writer, would dig back into his extensive memory music bag or would be able to pick songs from the hundreds or thousands sent to him to choose from.
Every writer wanted Elvis to record their songs – that’s money in the bank. So, I assume that acts like Fabian etc didn’t get as much new material from the songwriters. The songs tended to be ones Elvis didn’t want to do (“Turn Me Loose” here) as Pomus-Shuman and Leiber-Stoller have indicated.
As a side note: it wasn’t all one way traffic between the old and the new because it wouldn’t be long before Sinatra and other trad pop crooners were doing versions of rocks songs.
WIKIPEDIA: “Fabian Forte (born 1943) is the son of Josephine and Dominic Forte; his father was a Philadelphia police officer. He is the oldest of three brothers … Forte was discovered in 1957 by Bob Marcucci and Peter DeAngelis, owners of Chancellor Records. At the time record producers were looking to the South Philadelphia neighborhoods in search of teenage talents with good looks … Marcucci was a friend of Fabian's next door neighbour. One day Fabian's father had a heart attack, and while he was being taken away in an ambulance, Marcucci spotted Fabian. Fabian later recalled: He kept staring at me and looking at me. I had a crew cut, but this was the day of Rick Nelson and Elvis. He comes up and says to me, 'So if you're ever interested in the rock and roll business…' and hands me his card. I looked at the guy like he was fucking out of his mind. I told him, 'leave me alone. I'm worried about my dad.'" … However when Fabian's father returned from hospital he was unable to work, so when Marcucci persisted, Fabian and his family were amenable and he agreed to record a single … Frankie Avalon, also of South Philadelphia, suggested Forte as a possibility … "They gave me a pompadour and some clothes and those goddamned white bucks," recalled Fabian, "and out I went." "He was the right look and right for what we were going for," wrote Marcucci later”
This was Fabian’s first album and the mould was set … some newly written songs and some Tin Pan Alley songs (and one Elvis song) all sung in an Elvis type style and with some Elvis attitude, designed to make the girls scream and swoon … just quieter.
Fabian’s voice is a little thin, the backup singers are Jordanaires wannabees, and his band is a little all over the place …but … this album is fun and chockfull of Elvis Presley knockoffs making it quite endearing.
Eventually, Fabian became a more accomplished actor than a singer though he wasn’t highly regarded there either.
It’s a pity, because, ultimately, this pop rock is perfectly evocative of time and place and charming on its own level.
Tracks (best in italics)
Tiger Rag – (Harry DaCosta )- This song has been done by everyone going back to 1917. Take your pick as to why Fabian did it. There was a trend towards rock guys doing big band trad stuff (Darin, Boone) so maybe why that’s why they dug deep? This is sung in harmony by Fabian and his backing vocalists. It is also one of two tiger themed songs (I assume because he had a big hit with another tiger song, "Tiger" in 1959 (#3)). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Rag
Hold Me (In Your Arms) – (Ricciuti, Ricci, Aquilino, Damato) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian. A lovely little ballad the chicks would have loved.
Ooh, What You Do! – (Ed Marshall)- An original written for or chosen for Fabian. A mid tempo rocker. Pleasant.
Please Don't Stop – (Gordon Galbraith) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian. A totally enjoyable rocker, err mid-tempo rocker.
Lovesick – (Ballard, Hunter) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian. Again, fun.
Gonna Get You – (Gordon Galbraith) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian. Quite a hoot.
Love Me, Love My Tiger – (Roy Straigis) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian.
Don't You Think It's Time? – (Wayne-Raney) – This is a cover of the Elvis hit (Doncha' Think It's Time) from 1958 (#15). It also must have been the result of one those strange 50s song writing credits with pseudonyms, co-writer sell off or something. The song here is credited to Wayne and Raney, most contemporary credits to the Elvis song credit Brook Benton, and Clyde Otis, whilst old Elvis vinyl credits it to Otis and Dixon (Luther not Willie and sometimes written). But, it is all the same song. Maybe someone got a credit for correcting the slang, harrr. Fabian does the song well but the difference in singing styles between Elvis and Fabian is accentuated.
Just One More Time – (DeAngelis, Marcucci) – An original written for or chosen for Fabian and another good one with some Scotty Moore type guitar.
Cuddle Up A Little Closer – (C. Hoschna, O. Harbach) – This one dates to 1908 and sounds like it.
Fabian remembers the day he met his doppelganger. “My road manager told me that Elvis was on the phone and that he wanted to meet me. I asked him, ‘Why?’ He came up to my hotel room, which I couldn’t believe. I opened up the door, and there he was”. Fabian said that both of them appeared awkward at first; Elvis was said to be terribly insecure and felt threatened by others who could steal the spotlight. “We started laughing and joking around, and Elvis told me that he was learning karate. I had four other guys in the room with me. Elvis said, ‘Have your four guys surround me. I want to practice my karate.’ He wanted to do it, and he did it, and he got around them and knocked them all on their ass. He ripped his pants, by the way. I gave him a pair of my pants to wear home. That’s how I met Elvis Presley.” http://www.goldminemag.com/article/a-tale-of-two-idols-fabian-and-neil-sedaka
On his films from his blog; “Fabian's early films rocketed him to stardom. He made his screen debut in 1959 in "Hound Dog Man", directed by Don Segal. He traveled iout of the country to make "Five Weeks In A Balloon" and "The Longest Day". He worked with two of our great screen giants in "North To Alaska" with John Wayne and "High Time" with Bing Crosby. Fabian was fortunate to have worked with the incomparable and gracious James Stewart in two films in his career, "Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation" and "Dear Brigette." He learned to surf with Tab Hunter in "Ride The Wild Surf" which has become a cult classic. More recent work includes being interviewed by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1996, Jon Avnet directed film, "Up Close & Personal" … Fabian's role as a homicidal maniac in the TV production titled "A Lion Walks Among Us" directed by Robert Altman solidly established him as a versatile and powerful actor. This history making production was the first television show to run an hour without commercials”.