ROD McKUEN – Other Kinds of Songs – (RCA) – 1966

Rod McKuen - Other Kinds of Songs - 1966

We probably need a Rod McKuen now more than we ever did.

In what seems to be an increasingly polarised world (at least in the middle class secular west) we need him to show that all men aren’t pricks and that they can be observant, sensitive and attentive to the feelings of others*.

In this way he is no different to Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Albert Hammond, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and those greatest of non-composers Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

They all had the ability to communicate the vicissitudes of personal relationships on a micro level and in a way that seemed they were only singing to you.

They also, all, wore their hearts on their sleeves.

Romantics, lost romantics, emotional empaths.

Rod was the uber romantic.

But, despite having written a memoir, songs that are autobiographical and answered his own blog McKuen was a private man. His songs deal often with love and love lost but not often in a sexual way. He talked about his sexuality and love infrequently and then in atypically McKuen-esque way:

“Am I gay? Let me put it this way, Collectively I spend more hours brushing my teeth than having sex so I refuse to define my life in sexual terms. I've been to bed with women and men and in most cases enjoyed the experience with either sex immensely. Does that make me bi-sexual? Nope. Heterosexual? Not exclusively. Homosexual? Certainly not by my definition.

 I am sexual by nature and I continue to fall in love with people and with any luck human beings of both sexes will now and again be drawn to me. I can't imagine choosing one sex over the other, that's just too limiting. I can't even honestly say I have a preference. I'm attracted to different people for different reasons”.

http://www.rodmckuen.org/flights/280604.htm

I don’t need to examine it any more than he has outlined, and he probably wouldn’t want anyone to.

Perhaps his ability to see things from both sides gave him an edge in singing about emotions honestly (as it did Tennessee Williams in the written word) though that doesn’t explain those other singers, who have the same gift, mentioned above.

No, I think McKuen’s ability to get to the heart of things is based around his ability to listen and observe, and then express what he has heard and seen, frankly, without prejudice, or fear.

To listen and to observe doesn’t require any gender, sexuality, cultural, racial or religious requirements. The skills are available to anyone, and, people who have those skills can be found in all of the groups above.

His songs are heavy on the aforesaid observation and sometimes a little presumptuous about people feelings though he is describing what he sees through his eyes and based on his world experiences (don’t we all?). He pigeonholes some of his subjects, repeats himself occasionally, and everything is overlayed with a melancholy air which is wrapped up in trad pop which can be sensitive or incredibly kitschy.

The beauty though is in the delivery, the mood and the honesty. His frankness, in relation to himself, is everywhere in his music though not always explicit. His attitude is, perhaps, best encapsulated in his song title (on this album), “I'm Strong but I like Roses”.  His singing style is conversational and it seems as if he is talking to you in a bar or a coffee shop, or rather, a European coffee shop where they serve alcohol.

It’s hard not to be moved by the music, especially if you are a middle aged male and half tanked. And yet, women love him also, if the countless blog responses are anything to go by, but, they must, for totally different reasons. Mustn't they?

McKuen, here, in 1966 had not reached the peak of his career but he was an influential bubbling under type of guy.

Within three years Sinatra would record an album of his songs, “A Man Alone & Other Songs Of Rod McKuen” (1969), he would receive two Academy Award nominations as a composer  for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (1969) and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969), his “Lonesome Cities” album of readings would win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording in 1968, he would host a major network TV special (1968), and his books of poems would become best sellers with his books selling over one million copies in 1968 alone apparently.

This album seems to be a collection of recently written (circa 1966) McKuen songs which I assume are all recorded for this album.

All his usual themes are here fully formed and the music is lush without the soft around the edges treacle that would dull the sharp edges of similar trad pop music in the 70s. Don get me wrong there are heavenly backing vocals, strings and all sorts of things here but there is a crispness in the production which is the result of 60s recording techniques. In the 70s, with technological advancement the sounds would become a little duller, and accordingly the music a little blander (perhaps).

Yet he is soft, relaxing and melancholic romantic. If you like quiet words that paint a picture and love a soft, slight raspy voice sung in an almost conversational tone … then this is perfect.

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • The Hurtin' – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – Mort Garson was a Canadian-born songwriter, composer and arranger who worked with a lot of trad pop and easy listening stars. This is a great song that captures one of McKuen's usual themes.
  • You  – (Rod McKuen) – mush, but superior, glorious mush about the narrators love for another.
  • Before The Monkeys Came  – (Rod McKuen – Lincoln Mayorga) – Lincoln Mayorga is an American songwriter, pianist, arranger, and conductor who worked in all sorts of style and recorded with every one from Andy Williams to Frank Zappa. Thematically, this is a weird song that sounds like a theme song to a Hollywood film, where people have dropped acid. It has something (everything) to do with love and sex.
  • The Summertime Of Days – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – a ballad.
  • The Women  – (Rod McKuen – Brel – Louannest) – Jacques Brel was an old friend of McKuen’s who Rod stayed with when living in Paris in the early 1960s. Brel’s French version was called “Les Bitches’. Take from that what you will though McKuen says, on the liner notes, the song is a praise of women not a damnation. It may be an ode to women but it is certainly brutally honest. I'm not sure if you get away with this today in the mainstream music.
  • Zangra  – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – McKuen describes this, in the liner notes, as a "typical Jacques Brel song", and it is. A chanson given a 19th century feel it comes across as an art song or a leftover from a 1930s period musical). Any song that starts like this isn't western mainstream:

                  My name is Zangra and I’m lieutenant

                  At the Belonzio fort overlooking the plain

                  One day the enemy will come and make me a hero

      Side Two

  • Down At Mary's Old Time Bar – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – recorded live apparently, this is a zippy song McKuen says was "conceived as an "art song"". It certainly changes tempo and narrative lines freely. A novelty but a pleasing one.
  • Meantime – McKuen's familiar ballad style. That is, a ballad with a gentle bounce and lots of lyrics about "us". It's always pleasing.
  • Open The Window And See All The Clowns – Rod would like a clown song, of course, but who are the clowns?
  • I'm Strong, But I Like Roses – Rod's statement of who he is.
  • The Statue – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) –  Brel's familiar cynicism as he takes the point of view of a heroic statue. Now, that's putting yourself into someone else's shoes! Of course the statue refers to both the inanimate object and the flesh and blood narrator.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  • Ain't You Glad You're Livin', Joe – McKuen says (in the liner notes) he included this song to show "all my songs aren't about the dead and dying, the loners and the lonely". Beautiful. Fluffy and perfect for a late 60s musical. They should have had him write the songs for "Doctor Dolittle".
  • Loneliness In Crowds – (Rod McKuen – John Addison) – Addison won an Oscar for his score for English film "Tom Jones" (1963) and went to California, as you would. This sounds like a song from a 60s musical film about a man with a mid life crisis. And it works.

And …

One of McKuen's best albums … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

unknown

UK

Sounds

The Hurtin'

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

You 

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

Before The Monkeys Came 

mp3 attached

The Women 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUOK0MPGeAU

Zangra 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFGQ9TFs6yE

Down At Mary's Old Time Bar 

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

Meantime 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSB1GO5sszI

Open The Window And See All The Clowns 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btJU2jCOCDA

I'm Strong, But I Like Roses 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eoEASJvG80

Ain't You Glad You're Livin', Joe 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrTWfsKp7gw

Loneliness In Crowds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gcf7z03AmA

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-l0o3tOXw0

Review

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/rod-mckuen-mn0000243803

a video biography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxsR9X0_iRI

Website

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/68850/rod-mckuen-appears-in-the-desert

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

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

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

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

Website

http://www.rodmckuen.org/

https://www.facebook.com/rodmckuen

Trivia

  • Arranger and conductors are Mort Garson, Anita Kerr, Lincoln Mayorga and Tommy Morgan. Featured instrumentalists are Terry trotter (piano), James Helms (lead guitar), Stephens La Fever (bass).
  • Rod was know for his large collection of records. The liner notes here (1966) indicate  he lives in a big house in Southern California with his 8000 records.

 

* or maybe they are pricks that are but observant, sensitive and attentive to the feelings of others which would make them partial pricks

 

 

RIP: Malcolm Young (1953-2017)

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RACHEL SWEET – Protect the Innocent – (Stiff) – 1980

Rachel Sweet - Protect The Iinnocent

Wow, if you read this blog you know I like Rachel Sweet.

She wasn’t high on my radar in the early 80s but then again I wasn’t listen to much contemporary music.

But, I have since discovered her.

I like discovering new music.

Sweet was yet another American rock n roller who went to England where they groomed her for that market thinking that her American-ness would give her an edge. It had worked before:  P.J. Proby, The Walker Brothers, Suzi Quatro, and The Sparks. And she, clearly, if major success had come her way, would have been the successor to Suzi, and would have been the new wave pop princess.

She gets lumped, mainly because of her associations with the Stiff label (Costello, Nick Lowe) into the New Wave genre, but she is more.

Then people say, somewhat despairingly, that she wasn’t New Wave and really pre-dates that sound with old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll which was made popular again, because of its oldness, and rawness, by the new wave.

But that perhaps, in itself, is the New Wave … the newness was in the difference not just in the clothes and instruments … ie: the new wave just wasn’t bad haircuts and synths.

There was room in the New Wave for everything and everything old had become new again. Rachel fit in well with the other icons of the UK New Wave who also predated it like Graham Parker, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds.

Her music is 60s pop ‘n’ rock, country, and rockabilly filtered through power pop and the New Wave prism.

This album, her second, is an intriguing album. It is almost the prefect in form (for me)… a batch or originals (whether written by her or for her) augmented by covers that indicate the artists tastes. Here the covers are top heavy but Sweet can sing anything and make it sound, if not hers, at least distinctive.

The country, roots and retro rock influences from her debut have been largely sidelined (though not dropped) in favour of more power pop and a fuller ‘new wavish” sound. The band backing her, reputedly, were Scottish new wave band Fingerprintz (who would eventually mutate into The Silencers).

This is punchy rock ‘n’ roll power pop, similar in spirt and tone to the power pop coming out of the US (The Romantics, Cheap Trick, Dirty Looks etc) though with more than the usual power pop influences (like Dwight Twilley she reaches back to the 50s and forward to punk). Rachel is a ballsy singer but she also shows humour, or, the humour in her material, and the fun in rock “n’ roll.

The covers are mainly new wave the only exceptions being The Velvet Underground (though Lou Reed was a big influence on the New Wave), Del Shannon, and Elvis (a largely unacknowledged influence on the New Wave).

Clearly her label were grooming her for the big time and despite the quality of the product sales were poor.

A pity. Sweet is probably the best artist to come out of the Stiff label, and if not she is certainly the most interesting …

… to me.

Anyone who covers Elvis, Del Shannon,  the Velvet Underground and the Damned on one album has got my vote.  

Produced by Martin Rushent and Alan Winstanley who were both audio engineers in the 70s and had just started their producing careers (and they went on to produce a lot of English New Wave)

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • Tonight – (Sweet, Graham Edwards) – a great power popper. Catchy, memorable and up there with the best of power pop of the time.
  • Jealous – (Jo Allen) – first record by Robert Palmer for his album “secrets” (1979). Not too bad like Palmer done by Cheap Trick.
  • I've Got a Reason – (Moon Martin) – from American Moon Martin’s solo debut new wave album “Escape From Domination” (1979). A good version which is both indie and power pop.
  • New Age – (Lou Reed) – from The Velvet Underground’s “Loaded” (1970). Updated and given the big voice treatment. And, it works even if it is like Meatloaf doing Lou Reed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Age_(The_Velvet_Underground_song)
  • Baby, Let's Play House – (Arthur Gunter) – The legendary Elvis Presley single from 1955.Thumping and zippy, this is frantic stuff, and great fun.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Let%27s_Play_House
  • New Rose – (Brian James) – the magnificent single from the magnificent Damned off their debut album “Damned Damned Damned” (1977). This isn't punk but it is still thoroughly convincing in its uncompromising attitude. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Rose
  • I Go to Pieces – (Del Shannon) – Written by Del Shannon this was a hit for Peter & Gordon in 1965 (#9 US Pop, it failed to chart in the UK). Del's version, eventually recorded after Peter & Gordon is even better. This song only appears on the Australian version of this album. The song was added to the US release of her first UK album in 1979, "Fool Around". It was also released as a single but only charted in Australia (#39, 1979), which explains it's inclusion on this album in 1980. It is a wonderful song and this is a wonderful version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Go_to_Pieces

      Side Two

  • Fool's Gold – (Graham Parker) – from Graham Parker And The Rumour  “Heat Treatment” (1976) album. Horn heavy and very Graham Parker (ie: sub Bruce Springsteen circa 1975) so it is quite good.
  • Take Good Care of Me – (Sweet, Steve Everitt) – a bouncy power popper with all the usual power pop themes …love and its difficulties.
  • Spellbound – (Jimme O'Neill) – O’Neill is the lead singer / writer in Fingerprintz. So so with some funky post punk elements creeping in but with a nice guitar break.
  • Lovers' Lane – (Sweet) – Rachel channels Bruce Sprinsgteen here, something she would do more of on here next album " … And Then He Kissed Me) (1981). It's a good tune with the right amount of drama.
  • Foul Play – (Gary Sulsh, Stuart Leathwood) – Sulsh and Leathwood were in English rock bands The March Hare and Harlan County in the 1960s, and put out an album as Gary &  Stu in the early 1970s. I don't think they ever recorded this song. A foot still in the 70s though updated for the new wave. Quite good, and perhaps even memorable.
  • Tonight Ricky – (Sweet) – the flip side to the Everly Brothers "Wake Up Little Susie" perhaps. Here the female narrator contemplates going "all the way" and she is the one deciding where and when. Done is a smoky jazzy style this is a hoot. On the basis of this song it seems Rachel could have cut an album of Peggy Lee type songs if she had wanted to.

And …

A overlooked gem … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1980 #123

England

Singles

Album

Sounds

Tonight

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-kxmq5Rgjg

mp3 attaced

Jealous

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7PnWwsVQZ0

I've Got a Reason

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBa9lSyHUAQ

New Age

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VJggSTK-VA

Baby, Let's Play House

video clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw3d_3IMSyg

live

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

New Rose

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T44iq8UmX1o

Spellbound

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

Tonight Ricky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teI76V7bjgs

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovs4B-ETXlg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT4XHkahBJ8

Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protect_the_Innocent_(Rachel_Sweet_album)

https://www.allmusic.com/album/protect-the-innocent-mw0000542687

https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_album.php?id=8465

http://tralfaz-archives.com/coverart/S/sweet_innocent.html

http://people.com/archive/picks-and-pans-review-protect-the-innocent-vol-13-no-21/

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/rachel-sweet-mn0000861372/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silencers_(band)

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

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

Website

https://www.facebook.com/Rachel-Sweet-119557243757/

https://www.facebook.com/RachelSweetSpot/

http://www.bobbyshred.com/rachelsweet.html

http://rachelsweetspot.tumblr.com/

Trivia

  • apparently the album cover was voted worst album cover of the year in England. Yes, its not very good an not an indication of the contents.
  • The song "I Go to Pieces" only appears on the Australian version of his album. See song above for details.

 

Rachel Sweet - Baby Let's Play House 45          Rachek Sweet - circa 1980

Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JAY & THE AMERICANS – Capture the Moment – (United Artists) – 1970

Jay and the Americans - Capture the Moment

Do you associate 1970 with vocal groups?

Free, The Guess Who, The Move, Deep Purple, Santana, The Beach Boys, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Led Zeppelin, Canned Heat, The Beatles, Chicago, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Who, Eric Burdon & War, The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival were all over the charts, as was a renewed Elvis Presley and a Neil Diamond who had just started topping the charts.

And they dominate our memory.

Rock ‘n’ roll, roots rock and hard rock they are, but The Partridge Family, The Cuff Links, The Hollies, The Archies, Simon & Garfunkel and other sorts of pop were all over the charts also.

And, so were vocal groups.

They may not have been as dominant as they once were but they were there in the charts … groups like The Grass Roots, The 5th Dimension, the Bee Gees, Bread, and emerging trend setters, The Jackson 5.

But, all of those groups had given more space to instrumentation, to augment the vocals.

With Jay and The Americans the vocal harmonies were still front and centre and in this way they were, perhaps, old hat.

Worse still the instrumentation wasn’t contemporary funky like the Jackson 5 or contemporary rustic like The Grass Roots or Bread.

That probably lumped them with the bands of the past.

On the charts they had still had had a recent impact (though two years is a long time in the pop world). A cover of the Drifters hit from 1960, “This Magic Moment", went to #6 in 1968 (and helped propel the album, “Sands Of Time" to #51US) and another cover of a hit, The Ronnettes "Walking in the Rain" from 1964, went to #19 Billboard, #14 Cashbox in 1969 (the associated album "Wax Museum Vol 1" didn’t chart).

It’s great having hits but the fact these covers of hit songs from an earlier era probably, in the public’s mind, fixed Jay and The Americans to that era, even though they were all in their mid to late 20s.

And, that in itself may be okay as long as the records are selling.

And, their singles were, but the albums had slowed and by 1970 the album was becoming the dominant “grown up” format for popular music.

I suspect that Jay and the Americans knew this and so embarked on an album of originals which were largely co-written, and co-produced by them (if they stuck with the rock 'n' roll and waited a year or so they  could have cleaned up with the rock revival that became a trend)

These kids from Queens and Brooklyn, though, were cagy enough to bring in ring-ins to work for their JATA Enterprises production company (which they formed in 1969).

This collaborative and business approach to music had kept them around for ten years, not bad for a pop vocal group.

They had learnt well from their mentors, producers and writers, Leiber & Stoller who had discovered them in the late 50s.

“Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller,” says Sandy, “had a crew of artists, they wrote the songs, and they produced the records. Their names were like God to us … They were in New York in the Brill Building https://maltshopcruise.com/news/a-word-with-sandy-yaguda-of-jay-and-the-americans

The band was, at this stage originals (from 1960), Sandy Deane (real name Yaguda), Howard Kane (real name Kirchembaum), Kenny Vance (real name Rosenberg) and from 1962 on, Marty Sanders (real name Kupersmith) and Jay Black (real name David Blatt).

There are only four of them depicted on the opened up gatefold …. I'm not sure why? I think Howard Kane is missing but can't say for sure.

This is ambitious. They had written some tunes but they normally relied on staff writers or new writer material.  Likewise, though not adverse to production here they did a lot of hard work:

Produced by Yaguda, Vance & Sanders

Capture the Moment

Tricia (Tell Your Daddy)

Thoughts That I've Taken to Bed

Produced by Sandy Yaguda & Bobby Bloom

Sleepy 

She'll Be Young Forever 

Produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye & Sandy Yaguda

I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow 

Pedestal

Learnin' How to Fly

(I'd kill) For The Love of a Lady 

Produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye

Is There a World without You

Produced by Sandy Yaguda

He Loves the Feeling   

Produced by Henry Jerome

No, I Don't Know Her   

Strings & Horns are by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (of later Steely Dan fame) who played backup bass guitar and electric organ in their touring band ( from 1970 – 1971).

The ring-in / staff writers included:

  • Thomas Jefferson Kaye who was a record producer, singer-songwriter and musician who worked with many acts before releasing some solo material in the 70s (check this blog for detail on him). He also conducted and arraned their 1969 "Sands of Time" album;
  • Peter Anders (who was born Peter Andreoli) wrote hits for Phil Spector and recorded with doo wop and pop groups The Videls and The Trade Wind;
  • Bobby Bloom who had been a member of the doo wop group the Imaginations (and co-wrote "Mony Mony" for Tommy James and the Shondells, "Sunshine" for The Archies) and later had a #1 wit Montego Bay (1970);
  • Jeff Barry, a legendary songwriter from the 60s who wrote for Phil Spector and all sorts of people;
  • Richard Reicheg, another NYC songwriter (and actor) who was well known in music circles. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Reicheg

I don’t have anything on B. Wagman or J Piper though there is guitarist Rob Wagman who was in NYC around the same time and who is friends with Jay Black, and J. Piper may be a pseudonym for Marty Sanders.

Rock doo-wop was back in the charts by way of nostalgia in the early to mid-70s but Jay and the Americans, despite having roots in that and a style that incorporated 60s pop opera and blue eyed soul decided to go serious and do an album of meaningful songs.

The album was their last chance.

The single “Capture the Moment" made the lower end of the charts but the album sank.

It's a pity as the music is lush and very (1970) contemporary. There are touches of psych pop and uber produced folk pop. The production is pristine (there are many layers) and (naturally enough) accentuates the voices.

One single would follow, "There Goes My Baby" in 1971 and the group would split in 1973.

See my other comments for biographical detail.

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • Capture the Moment – (R. Reicheg / Kenny Vance  / Marty Joe Kupersmith) – lush with a hint of "Mr Bojangles".
  • Tricia (Tell Your Daddy) – (Jeff Barry / Marty Joe Kupersmith) – quite an emotive song as you would expect from a time that gave us "My Boy", "Don't Cry Daddy" etc. Very good though.
  • Sleepy – (Marty Joe Kupersmith / Bobby Bloom) – very, very slick.
  • I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye / B. Wagman) – shades of the baroque pop that had been popular a year or so earlier. Very good.
  • Pedestal – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye / Marty Joe Kupersmith) – so so
  • Is There a World Without You – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye / B. Wagman / J.A. Black / Sandy Yaguda) – soaring vocals backed by horns.

Side Two

  • Learning How to Fly – (Thomas Jefferson Kaye / Kenny Vance / J. Piper / Sandy Yaguda) – covered by NYC sunshine pop group in , “The Changing Scene” in 1971 and by co-author Kaye on his 1973 solo album. Very catchy and very slick.
  • He Loves the Feeling – (Peter Andreoli / Marty Joe Kupersmith) – Songwriter Peter Andreoli wrote the title song, “Harem Holiday”  to Elvis’ film “Harum Scarum in 1965. Quite interesting with layer over layer of sound.
  • (I'd Kill) For the Love of a Lady – (J.A. Black / Thomas Jefferson Kaye  / Sandy Yaguda) – some country guitar pickin' but otherwise a pure urban song. A bit naff.
  • No, I Don't Know Her – (J.A. Black / Mark D. Sanders) – fluffy and bouncy.
  • She'll Be Young Forever – (Bobby Bloom / Marty Joe Kupersmith) – a wonderful song about an old lost love. It is suitably emotional and other worldly.
  • Thoughts That I've Taken to Bed – (Marty Joe Kupersmith / Peter Andreoli) –  not a "sexy" song but a song about the innocence in youthful daydreaming. Very mushy and then it takes a dark turn (with a Vietnam war reference) which is still mush, just darker mush. But it is oddly compelling.

And …

Different to other Jay and the Americans albums (that I've heard) and not as consistently good as their best, but it is strangely haunting … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1970 "Capture the Moment" #57 Billboard, #45 Cashbox

Album

England

nothing

Sounds

Capture The Moment   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR35W_FlhBQ

Tricia (Tell Your Daddy)   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j082AZV9VYI

Sleepy   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4fgtQDkinU

I'll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW9KtDL8D50

Pedestal   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1brQsxndtI0

Is There A World Without You 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiL8st5tT9M

Learnin' How To Fly  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqMmMX3gVQY

He Loves The Feeling   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeaRSuNXM9k

(I'd Kill) For The Love Of A Lady   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12PMluhwMsU

No, I Don't Know Her   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFjypV6HrIE

She'll Be Young Forever 

mp3 attached

Thoughts That I've Taken To Bed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbFl6fP1_5M

Others

From the film “Wild Wild Winter (1966)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KfCD24ksR8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOnNLc7ugoE

Review

Bio

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.vintagevinylnews.com/2016/03/passings-peter-anders-of-trade-winds.html

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

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

Website

http://www.jayandtheamericans.net/

Trivia

  • Marty Joe Kupersmith (Marty Sanders) from JATA eventually put out a solo album in 1996, " It'll Come To You " which was co-produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, he co-wrote "Bad Reputation" with Joan Jett.
  • There is a lot going on the sleeve and the shadows and eyes over he half a body is a bit spooky.

 

Jay and the Americans - Capture the Moment - gatefold          Jay and the Americans - Capture the Moment - gatefold - inside

Posted in Pop Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

TRINI LOPEZ – Live at the Basin St. East – (Reprise) – 1964

TRINI LOPEZ - Live at the Basin St. East

Trini was on a roll …

His albums were doing well, he had songs in the charts, and his shows were well attended.

The albums that broke him, especially his earlier live albums from 1963 “Trini Lopez at PJ's’ and “More Trini Lopez at PJ's” featured his rock-y go-go sound and had charted well.

You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

This was his fourth album, a live album and featured more rock a go-go music.

For a change, though, Trini took his sound from the west-coast (PJs) to the east-coast (Basin St).

That is, assuming this is live and there is no reason to think it isn’t. There was a tendency to release studio albums as "live" albums with audience noise between the songs, in the 1960s. This has, though, a roughness as well as tinkling glasses and background chatter which suggest live. Trini's listeners, also, expected him "live".

According to "That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor To Hollywood Actor" by Trini's drummer, Mickey Jones, Trini and the band were opening for Smothers brothers and it was probably the most important gig of Trini's career to that time.

NYC, then, could make or break you.

Basin Street East was a well-known (circa 1964) venue nightclub in New York City. Several live albums were recorded there, including Peggy Lee's “Basin Street East Proudly Presents Miss Peggy Lee” (1961), Billy Eckstine's “At Basin St. East” (1961), Ray Bryant’s “Live at Basin Street East” (1964) and others though Trini’s was, perhaps, the first rock ‘n’ roll album recorded there (though his rock was aimed at a slightly older 20 something crowd).

Not surprisingly for a working musician Trini’s live repertoire is large. His first two albums had different live at PJs material and here he doubles up on only three songs “La Bamba”, “If I Had A Hammer” (which was a big single hit, #3 1963) and “What'd I Say” all from the “Trini Lopez at PJ's” (1963) album, though "La Bamba" and "If I Had A Hammer" are new arrangements.

Perhaps, because he had gone to “sophisticated” NYC, he also fills out his sound a little. His first two albums at PJs were done with his small trio (bass and drums added to Trini's guitar) but here he adds an additional percussionist and a seven-piece brass section that includes jazz stars Thad Jones, Snooky Young, and Clark Terry.

Both of his earlier live albums had his go-go beat though the first lent to electric folk whereas the second was more pop. This album doesn’t stray from the rocky go-go sound but takes material from all over the shop including rock, soul, folk, pop and Tin Pan Alley.

Trini doesn’t include any of his own compositions but sticks with the familiar. What makes the songs distinctive, apart from the musicianship, are the arrangements which are broadened to incorporate the added brass.

This is not as sweaty or danceable as his earlier albums but it is perfect for sitting, toe tapping, tapas and wine at a dinner club ….

Check out my earlier comments for biographical detail on Trini.

Arranged and produced by the great Don Costa.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • La Bamba – (Trini Lopez) – Ritchie Valen’s immortal #22 hit from 1958 and one forever associated with rockers whose ancestry lies south of the border. Perfect for Trini … and he knows it. A great performance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Bamba_(song)
  • Alright Okay You Win – (Sid Wyche – Mayme Watts) – A trad pop standard first recorded by Ella Johnson (1955) but done by all the dinner club acts, including Peggy Lee (1958), Bobby Darin (1960), Louis Prima (1961), Vic Damone (1961), Billy Eckstine (1962).
  • Stagger Lee – (Lloyd Price – Harold Logan) – the iconic blues folk song done by everyone though Lloyd Price had a #1(US) with it in 1959. Trini gets everyone to do a sing-a-long. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagger_Lee
  • Be Careful It's My Heart – (Irving Berlin) – from the film “Holiday Inn” (1942). Pat Boone October 1957. A pretty little song.
  • Jezebel – (Wayne Shanklin) – In 1956, Gene Vincent, In 1962, The Everly Brothers 1962. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel_(song)
  • Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home – (Hughie Cannon – Claude Sharpe) – A regular song on the dinner club concert circuit. This, again, was done by everyone including Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin, Al Hirt, Della Reese and others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Won%27t_You_Come_Home_Bill_Bailey

Side Two

  • Hello Dolly – (Jerry Herman) – from the popular musical of the same name and done by everyone but for ever associated with Louis Armstrong (#1US, 1964). Trini sings it in Spanish ("Hola Chica", cool) as well as English … and it swings.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello,_Dolly!_(song)
  • You Need Hands – (Roy Irwin) – a old trad pop song which was a #3UK hit for Max Bygraves in 1958. Not too bad.
  • Hallelujah I Love Her So – (Ray Charles) – Ray Charles' debut single and #5 US R&B hit from 1956. Eddie Cochran had a guitar based version from 1959 which went to #22 in the UK in 1959.It has been often covered. Trini sings this well and he gets some twangy guitar in though horns dominate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallelujah_I_Love_Her_So
  • Personality – (Lloyd Price – Harold Logan) – Co-writer Lloyd Price had a #2US hit with this in 1959 (#9 UK 1959). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_(Lloyd_Price_song)
  • If I Had A Hammer – (Lee Hayes – Pete Seeger) – One of the most well-known of all folk songs. It was a #10 US hit for Peter, Paul and Mary (1962) and then #3 US for Trini in 1963 but The Weavers had popularised the song in folk circles after its single release by them in 1950. Trini always does this well and it's theme could also apply to Hispanics as well as Afro-Americans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_I_Had_a_Hammer
  • What'd I Say – (Ray Charles) – One of the greatest of all early R&B (and eventually soul) songs also became a great rock ‘n’ roll song. Writer Ray Charles had a 1959 hit with it (#1 US R&B, #6 US Billboard Hot 100). It was subsequently recorded by everyone including Jerry Lee Lewis (who had a #30 1961) with it and Elvis Presley who used the song in his 1964 film "Viva Las Vegas"  and released it as a single. This has a lot of drive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27d_I_Say

And …

Not as good as the other live albums but still, groovy! … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1964

#19 Cashbox charts

England

nothing

Sounds

La Bamba

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjAvQ22_05I

Alright Okay You Win

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdJKxRCl0S4

Stagger Lee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJNOhqbM9g0

Be Careful It's My Heart

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

Jezebel

live

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

Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA5-9Pl8nuE

Hello Dolly

mp3 attached

You Need Hands

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-h3DYixpNY

Hallelujah I Love Her So

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

Personality

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KReXQz3fUO8

If I Had a Hammer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Gusq4eiV3M

What'd I Say

live 1965

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHlRG_k2N5E

Others

A full concert with orchestra from 1968

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owD1VwQ7oak

with The Everly brothers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04i-4_WgCII

Review

Bio

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

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

Website

http://www.trinilopez.com

Trivia

  • According to "That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor To Hollywood Actor" by drummer, Mickey Jones opening night (which isn't this show, I don't think) had a young Elliot Gould, Barbara Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr and Quincy Jones and other celebrities in the audience. The show was a success, by the third songs people were dancing on the seats and the band did three encores including a 15 minute version of "What'd I Say".
  • Trini's brother, Jesse, is on conga.
  • “The club was located in the Shelton Towers Hotel (now called The New York Marriott East Side), and replaced a previous club in the hotel called Casa Cugat”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basin_Street_East
  • Trini's bass player was the cool Dave Shriver who backed Eddie Cochran in The Kelly Four (http://davidshriver.webs.com/), and on drums was Mikey Jones who left in 1964 (to back the similar Johnny Rivers before backing Bob Dylan and playing with The First Edition and others (before taking up acting) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Jones). Gene Riggio replaced Mickey Jones and may have played on the Basin Street album (Lopez went to tour Europe after ending a two-year engagement at P.J.’s. Gene Riggio replaced Mickey at some stage around the Basin St appearances. He also backed Eddie Cochran in The Kelly Four

 

RIP: Fats Domino 1928 – 2017

 

 

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

CLAIRE HAMILL – Stage Door Jonnies – (Konk) – 1974

CLAIRE HAMILL - Stage Door Jonnies 

This is exciting for me.

And, not because of Claire (no disrespect intended), but because it was produced by Ray Davies of the Kinks, who I love.

In 1973 Ray decided to get into production utilising his new studio (and label) Konk in London and was fishing around for acts he liked. Claire was found and he produced this and her next album, “Abracadabra” (1975).

Oddly, despite the fact that Claire has been in the music industry continually since her debut, there is little in the way of decent biography about her. Everything is piecemeal.

(Apparently) Precocious and talented, Josephine Claire Hamill (born 4 August 1954 in Port Clarence, County Durham, in northern England) into an Irish Catholic family.

(Apparently) She sat in her room and played her guitar and also played coffee shops before successfully auditioning for Chris Blackwell, founder of Island records. She immediately went to London and began work on her first album, “One House Left Standing” (1972).

(Clearly) Island records were looking for the next Joni Mitchell or perhaps Melanie. She had more in common with Mitchell, who she cited as an influence, and she even covered her “Urge for Going” on her debut album.

Money was thrown at the album, which featured contributions from John Martyn, Free, Terry Reid and David Lindley (who was in the UK playing for Terry Reid). She and the album were given the build-up and she was labelled the “British Melanie” probably because of her youth.

She followed it up with the album “October” (1973), again on Island records, and again with some money thrown at it. It was recorded by Cat Stevens maestro Paul Samwell Smith with Pat Donaldson of Fotheringay, Jean Roussel and Gerald Conway (Cat Stevens regulars), Alan White from Yes, and American Muscle Shoals guitarist Wayne Perkins

She toured (opened for) with Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, King Crimson in the Britain, the United States and Canada.

Critical success came but no commercial sales.

She signed with Ray Davies, which increased her profile but didn’t increase her sales.

Claire never became a big star, or even an enduring cult on the level of Martyn, Reid or Island records label mate Nick Drake, instead she has a solid reputation as a seventies singer-songwriter (with detours into musical hall, rootsy Americana, jazz, pre-rock theatrical styles, New Age) with some influence: Eva Cassidy and Kate Bush have name checked her.

“Stagedoor Johnnies” was her third album and she was 20 years old. The album was heavy on covers (for a singer-songwriter). Perhaps she was short on material (her first two albums were mainly self-penned), or perhaps they were trying to broaden on her appeal.

The attraction was her voice. Her writing ability and precociousness were ancillary benefits.

This, I think, Ray saw in her.

She says about Ray Davies. “I was in awe of him,” says Claire, “but also frustrated because he was very hard to get hold of. I wanted to get a band together to tour but he wouldn’t put up the money and I didn’t know how to get things for myself at that stage as I had been looked after for so long by managers, I didn’t know what I should do on my own”. Those difficulties aside, both albums frame Claire’s writing within a slightly more conventional folk-rock setting, with some tracks, such as ‘Forbidden Fruit’ from Abracadabra, evincing qualities of Maria Muldaur. Konk also gave Claire the freedom to co-produce. “By the time Abracadabra was made, I had toured the USA twice and was really into being a rock diva. I was hanging out with Yes, pushing my voice to its limits, smoking a lot of pot and drinking. You can hear the rock edges and graininess in my voice on that album. What a little madam I was! I was barely 21. I thought I knew it all. How wrong can you be?” …Wrong indeed. because Claire’s solo career was about to go into a hiatus. “Sales weren’t terribly good. Of course, I wanted to be at the top of my profession but Konk wanted me to record a cover song, a single. They were not about to fund another album and I was very disappointed. Ray didn’t want me to leave, so I just didn’t do anything for some time. Then punk happened and it was looking tricky for me”. http://www.charlesdonovan.com/2015/07/02/claire-hamillrock-n-roll-survivor/

This album is interesting though fairly derivative … England’s Joni Mitchell was still, clearly, a goal.

The argument that people matured earlier in those days, is, perhaps, valid, but there is danger (in strained seriousness) in a lyric for a 20 year old singer-songwriter into Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Claire has subsequently said (I suspect, specifically, about the first two albums) that she was young and that her boyfriend (a young aspiring poet Mike Coles) wrote many of the lyrics for her.

On this album there was more rock “n’ roll in the mix as well as some quirky asides (and, no doubt, this was encouraged by Ray Davies, who was quite quirky himself). Claire has said that her lack of success throughout her career has allowed her to experiment with music as she always wanted to, and here, where a mainstream career was still a possibility, she already embarks down that path.

All songs by Claire unless otherwise noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • We Gotta Get Out Of This Place – (Mann, Weil) – the Animals worldwide hit from 1965 (UK #2, US #13, #2 Canada). Nothing can top that but this is suitably agrressive and angry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Gotta_Get_out_of_This_Place
  • Oh Daddy (Blues) (You Don't Have No Mamma At All) – (Herbert, Russell) – First recording by Ethel Waters, Cordy Williams' Jazz Masters (1921)  but associated with  Bessie Smith (Clarence Williams at the Piano) from 1923. It has been done by a lot of folk blues jazz types in both instrumental and vocal versions. This is a good version and not dissimilar to what Ray was doing on some tracks of the Kinks "Muswell Hillbillies" (1971) album.
  • All The Cakes She Baked Him – very Joni Mitchell but very good.
  • Trying To Work It Out – more Joni …
  • Geronimo's Cadillac – (C. Quarto, M. Murphy) – Co-written and recorded by American country singer Michael Martin Murphey in 1972 (also the title cut of his 1972 debut album) the song went to #37 in the US pop charts. The song has been often covered. Here, it sounds like a sister piece (in mood) to The Kinks' circa 1971. Very good.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geronimo%27s_Cadillac_(Michael_Martin_Murphey_song)

      Side Two

  • Something To Believe In – (S. Miller) – An album track from "The Joker" (1973) by The Steve Miller Band. Pleasant and laid back.
  • You Know How Ladies Are – quite beautiful with a touch of Ray Davies.
  • You Take My Breath Away – Melanie being channelled here.
  • Go Now – (L. Banks, M. Bennett) – An American R&B song by Bessie Banks (1964) but associated with the Moody Blues who had a hit with it in 1965 (#1 UK, #10US, #2 Canada, #4 Ireland, #10 Netherlands). Dull-ish but then ther original was dull-ish. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_Now
  • Luck Of The Draw – very good with some nice up front twangy guitar and some hard lyrics.
  • Stage Door Johnnies – Ray would love this … and so do I. Stage Door Johnnies was a English theatre reference to wealthy gentlemen who would wait outside the stage door hoping to escort chorus girls hem to dinner. The attract for the girls was (hopefully) marriage into the upper class, society and nobility.

And …

Not perfect but some good tunes and I do like its time, place and pedigree … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere.

Sounds

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kibS2JBkOg0

Oh Daddy (Blues) (You Don't Have No Mamma At All)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqBepgGJfD4

Something To Believe In

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKjok6mYdAY

You Know How Ladies Are

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

You Take My Breath Away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCcpW3NBr08

Stage Door Johnnies

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX67eVvDLZo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_rwInm4sUo

Review

Bio

http://www.charlesdonovan.com/2015/07/02/claire-hamillrock-n-roll-survivor/

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Hamill-Claire.htm

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/claire-hamill-mn0000137660/biography

Interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KN3uMFjn4A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8xd9YUNx_U

the story of Claire and Ray:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdAb0PaCezI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9FBpsrwh2s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmOc0f2qPB4

Konk Studios

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konk_(recording_studio)

Website

https://www.clairehamill.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/josephineclairehamill

Trivia

  • Personnel: Arranged By [Strings] – Lou Warburton / Bass – Nick South, Paul Westwood, Phil Chen / Drums – Clem Cattini, Jim Franks, Neil McBane / Flute – Alan Holmes / Guitar – Claire Hamill, Diz Disley (tracks: A2), Roy Neve / Guitar [Electric Lead] – Phil Palmer  / Keyboards – Dave Roweberry, Tim Hinkley (tracks: B6) / Trumpet – Laurie Brown / Producer – Raymond Douglas Davies. Mick Avory )of the Kinks) drums on "Trying to Work it Out", Ray Davies plays some keyboards and guitar. Recorded at Konk West Studios, London, 1974.
  • Claire sang vocals with English rock band Wishbone Ash, 1981-82.

               CLAIRE HAMILL - Stage Door Jonnies - gatefold               CLAIRE HAMILL - Stage Door Jonnies - back

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

PETER AND GORDON – In London for Tea – (Capitol) – 1967

PETER AND GORDON - In London for Tea

I am partial to Peter & Gordon,

I have always been partial to tea,

I can take or leave London*

*(though if I were to take it I would take North London where I stayed with friends in my salad days).

Peter and Gordon are strange cats.

Though distinctly English they seem to have had more success in the USA. Anything in the US Top 10 is worth, in returns, as much as a #1 in the UK as the market is so much bigger and, as a result, it is so much harder to get a Top 10 (especially a #1 … that’s why one hit wonders are revered as wonders, perhaps). And, Peter and Gordon had three Top 10 hits and a #1 in the US (they had another five Top 20 songs). If that's not enough they had more chart longevity in the US … charting through to 1968 (their last chart success in the UK was in 1966).

Their non-threatening appearance and clear desire to cover American tunes from both the rock and pre-rock era, as well as their sympathetic ear for country music, probably gave them access to that part of (middle) America that didn’t care for the long hairs from across the pond.

Check out my other entries for biographical detail on Peter and Gordon.

Peter and Gordon were perhaps best known for their big hits from mid-60s and their Beatles link, two of those hits being written by Paul McCartney (“A World Without Love”, “Nobody I Know”) and the fact that McCartney dated Peter Asher’s sister, Jane, at the time.

Like a lot of British Invasion bands their popularity waned quite quickly and, today, they are occasionally mixed up with Chad & Jeremy, and, David & Jonathan (and, as an aside, Peter Asher is sometimes mistaken for Austen Powers (and that’s not a bad thing perhaps)).

They never became as identifiable as other male duo’s of the time like the Righteous Brothers (who had a distinctive soulfully implacable sound) and Simon & Garfunkel (who were influential in folk rock), Jan & Dean (who were wedded and iconic in their surf sound) or the Everly Brothers (the most distinctive rock 'n' pop duo stylists of them all) though they shared elements of them all.

They also brought something to that pop duo table, and that is a knack for mixing pure pop, trad pop and Tin Pan Alley without fear.

These songs are British beat based, safe and aimed at mainstream radio but, whether it be the times, or the personalities of Peter and Gordon, there is usually a bit going on that gives the music an edge over other pop. It may be the decision to experiment (but not in an avant garde way) with the new sounds of the day or the song selection which is from all over the musical spectrum but there is something interesting going on.

Their three late 60s’ albums never saw an English release. ‘Lady Godiva’ was an EMI export (import) only, whilst the other two (including this album their second last) only had US releases, as the duo’s popularity was still quite high in the States. That's not to say they didn't have a following in England – they were obviously popular enough to be used for the title song to a reasonably major English film like "The Jokers".

But, their big hits had dried up and I suspect they didn’t know they were on the way out because, when you are living it, you don’t always assume that the pop music world would be that quickly fickle.

Well, with hits you would think that you had more than four years.

It also probably didn't help (though it wasn’t unusual) that the album releases weren't matching up with when the hit singles were on the charts. The LPs were lagging at least a couple months after the singles had fallen off the charts, an eternity in a pop market that was still singles-driven.

And they had other problems which took away from the “fun”:

As a duo, they were at a disadvantage on concert tours” … Gordon Waller: "We didn't have a regular backup group. So on tour we had to make do, and it was frustrating because we didn't even have a keyboard player in those days. That would have made a lot of difference in the way we carried on. If we'd had a proper band, we probably would have lasted longer." "Echoes of the Sixties" (www.editpros.com/echoes_ebook.html).

Q – You stopped having hit records in 1967. Would that be accurate?

A – '67, '68, something like that. Yeah.

Q – Why would that have been? What was the problem there?

A – 'Cause we weren't making records. In the end it all comes down to enjoying it and making money. The actual artistic side of it got to the stage where it wasn't worthwhile financially going out, in other words sometimes we went out on tours where we actually lost money. So, it was purely a promotional tour. That really shouldn't have been us taking the burden of that. That should've been down to the record company.

https://www.classicrockforums.com/threads/peter-gordon-official-thread.7637/

But here they sound optimistic and committed. There is more of a “Swinging London" sound overlayed on a mixed bag of American and English tunes. The guitar is aggressive and some soul-ish horns give it the big MOR feel that was popular at the time with pop acts (Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Cilla Black etc).

They had stepped back from the slick big orchestrations on their preceding albums.

This is nothing less than pleasing and a lot less grating than similar big pop of the time.

Recorded in England, Mike Leander arranged and conducted the musical accompaniment, and John Burgess produced.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • London at Night – (Cat Stevens) – This was a "lost" (never recorded by its composer) Cat Steven's song, It was written about searching for love in London at night. I would have thought that would be dangerous. It is quite good, the song that is.
  • The Jokers – (Mike Leander-Charles Mills) – A very good pop song. From the Michael Winner film starring Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford. Mike Leander and Charles Mills, who also wrote two of the duo's preceding hits, "Lady Godiva" and "Knight in Rusty Armour."
  • I'm Your Puppet – (Oldham-Penn) – In soulful dramatic style this is not something you often associate with Peter and Gordon but it works. A US #6 pop, #5 R&B hit for James & Bobby Purify in 1966. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Your_Puppet
  • Here Comes That Hurt Again – (Allen Toussaint) – First released by Lee Dorsey (1966) on his “Ride Your Pony – Get Out Of My Life Woman" album.  This comes off as a big beat Manfred Mann type song
  • You've Got Your Troubles – (Greenaway-Cook) – Often covered, the song became a #2 UK hit for The Fortunes in the UK in 1965. A reasonable version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27ve_Got_Your_Troubles
  • Sally Go 'Round the Roses – (Sanders-Stevens) – Often covered this was a US #2 Pop hit in 1963 by female vocal group The Jaynetts. The original version was unusual compared to other pop songs of the day, with a spooky, ominous, musical ambience with obscure and opaque lyrics. This is quite good with British Beat influences overlaid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Go_%27Round_the_Roses

      Side Two

  • Sunday for Tea – (Carter-Lewis) – written for Peter & Gordon by English songwriters Ken Lewis and John Carter (formerly of “Carter-Lewis and the Southerners" and "The Ivy league"). A good tea song with a ye olde mixed with light psych influences.  This evokes another time beautifully. There have been many great tea songs, “Tea for Two” (Doris Day – 1950), “Tea for the Tillermann” (Cat Stevens – 1970), ‘Everything Stops for Tea” (Long John Baldry – 1972), "Afternoon Tea" (The Kinks – 1967) and the magnificent “Have a Cuppa Tea” (also by The Kinks – 1971). And another good example of something with a distinctly English theme charting in the US (#31 pop) and not at home.
  • Red, Cream and Velvet – (Gordon Waller) – an original. Very good with a Dylan goes British Beat feel.
  • Stop, Look and Listen – (Breedlove-Brown) – First release by Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders in 1964 (#37UK). Big pop.
  • Please Help Me, I'm Falling – (Don Robertson-Hal Blair) –  Peter and Gordon loved the drama in American country music and this has a lot of drama. The first recording was by country singer Hank Locklin who had a big crossover hit with it in 1960 (US #1Country, #8 Pop). Peter and Gordon were one of the first “big” acts to cover it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Please_Help_Me,_I%27m_Falling
  • Goodbye My Love – (Swearingen-Simington-Mosely) – Originally recorded by the co-writer Robert Mosley in 1963, though identified with R&B singer Jimmy Hughes, who released a version in 1964. The Searchers then had a beat hit with it (UK #4, US#52) in 1965. Quite good but not distinctive.

And …

Not the best Peter and Gordon album but there is nothing wrong with it. It is quite pleasant … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1967 Sunday for Tea #31 Pop

1967 The Jokers #97 Pop

Album

England

nothing

Sounds

London at Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkqOn3RkMBw

The Jokers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxM_u4Rohhs

I'm Your Puppet

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

Here Comes That Hurt Again

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

You've Got Your Troubles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPDmL74ZvjM

Sally Go 'Round the Roses

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1XJ3kySfsY

Sunday for Tea

mp3 attached

Red, Cream and Velvet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jga4KoevRKA

Stop, Look and Listen

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

Please Help Me, I'm Falling

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSE-XjUg3gE

Goodbye My Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DSMgYk20vA

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdx6lLvvRyg

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdDr-0cWQ7M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB6l4i-zA_Q

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/in-london-for-tea-mw0000851865

Bio

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

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/peter-gordon-mn0000264860/biography

http://popcultureclassics.com/peter_asher.html

Website

http://www.peterandgordon.net/

Trivia

Posted in British Invasion, Pop Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE MATCH – A New Light – (RCA) – 1969

The Match - A New Light

I know very little about this band.

No, less than “very little”…

… next to nothing

Google reveals that "next to nothing" whilst books I have reveal nothing (or is that, don't reveal anything).

The group consisted of four vocalists and a drummer, (their last names unknown bar one) Richard (bass voice), Bjorn (baritone), Marshall (high tenor), Pat Valentino (vocal arrangements-second tenor) and Tony (drummer).

There are some Pat Valentino’s in music and the likely one is Pat Valentino is this one (but I could be wrong) …

“ … is Mr. Pat Valentino, who’s been around the entertainment industry his whole life, having come from a long line of show business personalities. After winning the Hollywood bowl award at the age of ten, Valentino joined the famous Mitchell Boys Choir in 1955. For the next three years, he performed for movies, television, radio, and concerts in the United States and Europe. Valentino then attended Hollywood Professional School, where he won the Bank of America fine arts award in 1962. Upon graduation, he taught music at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music – the youngest person ever to do so … Valentino has worked as musical director, conductor, pianist, and arranger ever since for such artists as Englebert Humperdink, Flip Wilson, Vicki Carr, Don Costa, Pat and Debbie Boone, The Lettermen, Frank Sinatra, Jr., and over one hundred television shows throughout the world. Valentino has recorded for Capitol records, RCA, A&M Records, as well as Bonneville Broadcasting Company, writing over three hundred orchestrations within a 28 month period. Also to his credit are his guest appearances as conductor with the symphonies of Edmonton, Canada; Manchester, England; Anchorage, Alaska; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Jackson, Tennessee”. http://www.geocities.ws/ezartists/valentino.html

What leads me to believe that this is the right Pat Valentino apart from the right timeframe is that the one on this album did the vocal arrangements and most of these tunes are film songs (as well as new contemporary songs by new songwriters).

The liner notes written by Henry Mancini, proclaim, "Something new, or is it something old, is happening to popular music".

And Henry hits the nail on the head.

The Match have taken (1969) recent trad pop sounds and psyched them up for the late 1960s. They lent to familiar songs from films as well as a number of tunes by upcoming songwriters like David Gates, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Paul Simon, Roger Nichols.

The album straddles both the traditional and the new as was popular at the time much like The Sandpipers, The Association, The Free Design, The Skyliners, Small Circle Of Friends, and Harpers Bizarre who had a #13US with Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" in 1967 and some other minor hits.

I said this in a comment about Harpers Bizarre elsewhere on this blog and much of it applies here, “They started off as AM Pop … and then incorporated more eclectic sounds into the mix including baroque pop, sunshine pop and 1920s and 1930s era tin pan alley pop which enjoyed only a brief vogue, roughly from late 1966 to 1968, probably on the back of the mammoth success of the film “Bonnie & Clyde” … This album is a mix of AM pop and a vocal group playing jazzy pop music with dribs and drabs of the aforementioned sunshine pop and baroque pop”.

Allmusic, dwelling on the respectable bands, define "sunshine pop" as, "Naturally created in California, sunshine pop was a mid-'60s mainstream pop style typified by rich harmony vocals, lush orchestrations, and relentless good cheer. It was often mildly influenced by psychedelia, but it usually didn't aim to evoke any sort of drug-induced mind expansion; it simply drew from the warm and whimsical sides of psychedelic pop, incorporating production innovations of the time (especially those of Phil Spector and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson). Sunshine pop often resembled the more elaborate and melancholy baroque pop style, though it could also cross into folk-pop or Brill Building pop. The stars of sunshine pop included the Beach Boys (circa Pet Sounds), the Turtles, the Association, and the Mamas & the Papas; other groups to score hits in the style were the Buckinghams, the Grass Roots, and the Left Banke, while certain others — Sagittarius, the Yellow Balloon, the Millennium — became cult favourites years after the fact". https://www.allmusic.com/style/sunshine-pop-ma0000012028

The Match are probably a little more "traditional groovy” with lovely vocal harmony arrangements backed by some beautiful string arrangements but it is all very slick as you would expect from the trad pop world. The result is a breezy vocal harmony album full of sunshine pop that would have made Brian Wilson chuckle.

It is the type of music you hear on TV specials, commercials and some films of the time.

Clearly the band are trying to match (sic) the success of Harpers Bizarre and The Association but they owe a big debt to Jimmy Webb and the multi layered vocal arrangements and music he was doing with the 5th Dimension.

And just like listening to the 5th Dimension of this period, the fun is in losing yourself in the music and the vocals where the voices are instruments in themselves. The music here demands less, both in message and in sound, than the 5th Dimension, but nevertheless, it is perfect for a sunshine day.

This was their only album.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Don't Take Your Time – (Tony Asher- Roger Nichols) – first released by 60s soft rock band Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends on their self-titled album from 1968. Sammy Davis Jr. released a version on his "Lonely Is The Name" (1968) album. This version is so light it floats but it is very pleasant.
  • A Time For Us (Love Theme From "Romeo And Juliet") – (Larry Kusik-Eddie Snyder-Nino Rota) – from the film "Romeo And Juliet". Henry Mancini had a #1 Pop hit with it in 1969. Different lyrics have been done for the song. The ones used here have also been recorded by Johnny Mathis (1969 – on his “Love Theme From "Romeo And Juliet" (A Time For Us)” album) and Andy Williams (1969 – on his “Get Together With Andy Williams” album). There may be a time for protagonists but it is dipped in a cup of foreboding. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Theme_from_Romeo_and_Juliet
  • Free And Easy – (Addrisi-Addrisi) – written by the Addrisi brothers whilst they were still songwriters with a few singles under their belts. Fluffy and not a standout.
  • Through Spray Colored Glasses – (Gates-Phillips) – written by David Gates (at about the time he started the band Bread) and film composer Stu Phillips for the surfing documentary film “Follow Me” (1969) and first performed by Dino, Desi & Billy on that LPs soundtrack. Very 5th Dimension.
  • Mornin' I'll Be Movin' On – (Nichols-Williams) – Paul Williams co-wrote this and released a version on his debut album from 1970 “Someday Man”. Gentle horns accentuate the good times

     Side Two

  • Where Do I Go? – (Rado-Ragni-MacDermot) – from the Broadway show “Hair” (1968). Nice hearing the song with out the bombast.
  • Alfie – (David-Bacharach) – from the film “Alfie”. This has been done by everyone but was a hit for Cilla Black (#9UK 1966), Cher (#32 US 1966) and Dionne Warwick (#15US 1967). A largely acapella version and nicely done. Gets the existential sad loneliness through. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfie_(song)
  • Need You – (Simmons) – fluff and very 5th Dimension.
  • Scarborough Fair/Canticle – (Simon-Garfunkel) – a traditional tune adapted by Paul Simon for the Simon & Garfunkel “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” (1966) album. The song was released as a single after being featured on the soundtrack to The Graduate in 1968 (#11US, #9UK 1968). It was then covered often by trad pop and soft pop acts. It is lovely, pastoral and well realised. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair_(ballad)
  • Love Years Coming – (Jimmy Webb) – written by Jimmy Webb and first recorded by Strawberry Children in 1967. Well, very 5th dimension but this one is by Jimmy Webb.
  • The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (If You Needed Me) – (Peggy Lee- Dave Grusin) – an instrumental version is in the film “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (1968). Peggy Lee added lyrics and recorded the same for her “Let’s Love” album from 1974. Quite delicate and beautiful, as you would expect given the subject matter of the film (and book by Carson McCullers).

And …

Not the best of the gene but still with more good moments than bad and a perfect time capsule without it being overfamiliar … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere … if it had done well they would have done another album

Sounds

Whole album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WKCI351ieE&t=714s

Don't Take Your Time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9i73YYQbIs

A Time For Us (Love Theme From "Romeo And Juliet")  

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

Through Spray Colored Glasses

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHVSnZAB3wY

Mornin' I'll Be Movin' On

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nMgwT6gXGE

Scarborough Fair/Canticle

mp3 attached

Others

Review

http://allmusic-wingsofdream.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/the-match-new-light-1969_79.html]

Bio

Website

Trivia

  • Credits: Vocal arrangements – Pat Valentino, Conductor – Jules Chaikin (lead trumpet with the big bands of Stan Kenton and Les Brown, studio musician (Kris Kristofferson, Paul Anka, Chicago, the Turtles, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Kenny Rogers, Manhattan Transfer, Nina Simone, Johnny Mathis etc), music contractor and contributor to film scores, Produced and Arranged By – Jack Pleis (a jazz pianist and prolific film and TV composer), Recorded At – RCA's Music Center Of The World, Hollywood, California.
  • There is a Pat Valentino that has released solo jazz instrumentals and records with Pat Valentino & His orchestra … I assume he is the same one.

 

 

The Match - A New Light - back

 

RIP: Tom Petty 1950 – 2017

Posted in Sunshine Pop and Baroque | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – Wild Night – (United Artists) – 1976

Johnny Rivers - Wild Night

This is an interesting album. This is Johnny's last album for United Artists which he had been with since 1964  (well, the United Artists banner – he was on Liberty and imperial as well,  see trivia at end) and, it was issued three years after leaving the label.

Johnny is an American phenomena. Apart from some sparse chart placings in England , Australia and Europe most of his hits were in the US and in Canada.

He had a fabulously successful chart career in the mid-1960s with a number one "Poor Side Of Town" and batch of Top 40s in the US as well as chart placings for all his albums. Then in 1968 the hits started to dry up (he was 25 years old) and it stayed that way for about three years. He had some minor charting songs but nothing like the mid-60s. His album sales dried up also.

For Johnny Rivers and the money-men at United Artists Records, this was a worrying time.

In 1972 his luck changed when he released "Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" which reached #6 in the US and #3 in Canada.

On the back of the single Johnny Rivers’ went into the studio to record the “L.A. Reggae” album which reached #78, a respectable placing, and his highest chart placing since "Realization" in 1968. He enjoyed a minor hit with his cover of “Blue Suede Shoes” in 1973 (#38) but the accompanying album and the one that followed failed to make the Top 200. He signed to Atlantic Records and released the album "The Road" (1974). It also failed to chart. He was dropped, or left, Atlantic and ended up at Epic records where he would release the "New Lovers and Old Friends" album in 1975 (called "Help Me Rhonda" in the UK after the single). That single, a cover of the Beach Boys classic was a hit, #22 US, #35 Canada; #34 New Zealand, #52 Australia (it didn’t chart in the UK). The album reached #147 in the US. As a result his old label United Artists raided their vaults (specifically the recording sessions for his “Home Grown” (1971), “L.A. Reggae” (1972) and “Blue Suede Shoes” (1973) albums) for any unreleased Johnny Rivers material and put together an album, "Wild Night".

The lack of the singer’s involvement probably explains the poor cover art for the album but the music itself, is quite good and hangs together well.

The tracks all seem to be recorded over that period from the early 70s, though, the liner notes say the songs were recorded between 1973 – 1975.

Session guitarist Dean Parks plays guitar on most with Joe Osborn on bass, Jim Gordon on drums and Larry Knetchel on piano with all sorts of other well played sessionmen dropping in.

Rivers sound is consistent and all his influences are apparent, old school rock ‘n’ roll, soul, deep south blue eyed balladry, a touch of reggae (which he had discovered in the 70s) all through the prism of his funky 70s retro rock ‘n’ roll which was going through a revival of sorts in the early to mid-70s … 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).

Rivers wasn’t one of the 50s idols being remembered by the revival but he was a 60s singer who owed his rock sensibility to the 50s so it was natural to hop onto this sound which sits between his neo hippie introspective material in the late 60s and his slicker straight rock and pop of the late-70s (he subsequently return to 50s and 60s straight rock).

The album tanked but as an album of what Johnny Rivers was thinking about in the early 70s it is worthwhile. He stays true to the spirit of the originals, which are a mixture of hook-laden, up-tempo tracks and beautiful ballads with a bit of country rock and southern boogie thrown it to contemporise them.

Rivers went to to have another hit in the late-70s before disappearing from the charts. He is still playing today and still releasing albums.

Check out my other entries for biographical detail.     

Tracks (best in italics)

           Side One

  • Wild Night – (Van Morrison) – from Van Morrison's influential album "Tupelo Honey" (1971) and a hit single (#28US 1971). John Mellencamp later had a #3 (1984) with it in a duet with Meshell Ndegeocello. Rivers' version is suitably melodically rockin' with just the right amount of soulfullness. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Night
  • Something You Got – (Chris Kenner) – Rivers was digging into his background when he covered New Orleans R&B singer Chris Kenner. The song sold few copies outside out of New Orleans, but was widely covered (by Wilson Pickett, Alvin Robinson, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Chuck Jackson, Earl Grant, Maxine Brown, Bobby Womack, The Moody Blues, the American Breed, Fairport Convention, Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix and others). Another rockin tune that has a joy for times past.
  • Brown Eyed Handsome Man – (Chuck Berry) – Chuck Berry's classic rocker done by everyone (Chuck had a #5 US R&B hit with it in 1956). Rivers covered the song on his first album, "At the Whisky à Go Go" (1964). Here he has slowed the song down and, surprisingly, it works. It is now more of a rumination and quite ":groovy". Hal Blaine polays drums and James Burton plays guitar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Eyed_Handsome_Man
  • Rain Song – (Ada Richter) – Ada Richter was a prolific writer of piano music and a piano teacher. A pretty little song
  • Georgia Peach – (Bernie Leadon – Michael Georgiades) –  Country rock Georgiades played session, live and co-wrote songs with Rivers in the 70s (and subsequently) before forming the short lived "Bernie Leadon-Michael Georgiades Band" with Leadon of the Flying Burrito brothers. This a country rock stomper.

      Side Two

  • Get It up for Love – (Ned Doheny) – Written by soft rock singer-songwriter Ned Doheny who released it on his second solo album, "Hard Candy" (1976) it has been covered a bit. There is still a bit of boogie here but the boogie has a distinct NYC disco-ish feel as opposed to the rural boogie of the other Rivers songs.
  • Dear Friends – (Herb Pedersen – Nikki Pedersen) – Herb Pedersen is another west coast country rocker who played and wrote for Johnny in the 70s as is Nikki. The type of soulful ballad Rivers had hits with.
  • Lightning Special – (Johnny Rivers – Nikki Pedersen) – another country rocker with southern boogie elements …and, naturally, a train song.
  • Louisiana Man – (Doug Kershaw) – Rivers digging into his Louisiana roots again. Kershaw’s Louisiana Cajun country rock classic. It went to #10 US Country when recorded by Kershaw and his brothers as Rusty and Doug. Often covered. Johnny nails it … well, he is a Louisiana man (bred in Louisiana, born in NYC). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Man
  • Reggae Walk – (Johnny Rivers) – a instrumental with no reggae sounds. It sounds like a song that needs a vocal track.

And …

Very solid and certainly no worse from similar albums. It should be more well known. .. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

nothing nowhere

Sounds

Wild Night

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltfG5sRMx5Q

Something You Got

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6kb18AwciI

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

mp3 attached

Rain Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bECeM713j5I

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyv5ZDUhTRs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uix3LbpqEg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoRksqAL9Og

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/wild-night-mw0000845847

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/johnny-rivers-mn0000203639/biography

Excellent Glenn A Baker bio on Rivers

https://www.whiskyagogo.com/articles/609999.html

Website

http://www.johnnyrivers.com/jr/

Trivia

  • Produced by Johnny Rivers
  • Songs recorded by year (according to liner notes): 1973 – S1S3, S1S4, S1S5, S2S2 / 1974 – S1S2, S2S1, S2S3, S2S4 / 1975 – S1S1, S2S5
  • Up till 1973 Rivers was on the imperial, Liberty and United Artists labels. Imperial was formed in 1946, sold to Liberty Records in 1964, which, in turn, was purchased by United Artists in 1968 (UA was bought by EMI in 1979. The catalogue and name are now owned by Universal Music Group).
Posted in Rock & Pop, Southern and Boogie Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

DANNY O’KEEFE – O’Keefe – (Signpost) – 1972

Danny O'Keefe - O'Keefe

Okay, this isn’t actually a new find as I have had it awhile and had already graduated to the “keep” side of the ledger but I’m an O’Keefe kick … and, this is a cleaner copy than the one I had.

Check out other posts on this blog for detail on Danny O’Keefe. The guy is underappreciated bordering on criminality.

Well, when I say underappreciated, not quite. Musicians and those willing to do some digging appreciate him.

As is stated on his website, “Danny's songs have been recorded by a Who's Who of artists over the last thirty plus years: Elvis Presley, Cab Calloway, Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Earl Klugh, Chris Hillman, Conway Twitty, Leon Russell, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Lee Lewis and Milt Hinton. But that's just who recorded "Good Time Charlie." Other credits include Alison Krauss ("Never Got Off The Ground"), Jimmy Buffett ("Souvenirs"), Nickel Creek ("When You Come Back Down"), Judy Collins ("Angel Spread Your Wings"), Donny Hathaway ("Magdalena"), John Denver ("Along for the Ride"), Gary Stewart ("Quits"), Sheena Easton ("Next to You"), Jesse Colin Young ("Night School"), Chris Smither ("Steel Guitar "), Ute Lemper ("You Look Just Like A Girl Again") and Alan Jackson ("Anywhere on Earth You Are"). "Well, Well, Well," which Danny wrote with Bob Dylan, has been recorded by Ben Harper, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley”. http://www.dannyokeefe.com/

There is no big noting going on here just an example of the high regard his songs are held in.

I can wax lyrical over Danny O’Keefe but the joy is in the music.

And he was a round at the right time.

Despite having the majority of his work in the 1970s he is a product of the 1960s, that golden decade in rock music when all musical styles collided and anything was possible.

Folky singer-songwriter Americana with country, blues, jazz, and blue eyed soul overtones O’Keefe crosses over many American traditions, and, not for posturing reasons, but because they suit his music best. He can best express his ideas and stories in those forms of American music. At his best these narratives are complemented by music which evokes the emotions of his protagonists as well as the environment that surrounds them. (that sounds a little academic but I mean, the music, creates the mood).

This is not an easy, especially when you are trying to wrap everything up in a catchy tune.

O'Keefe in his observational Americana is the (upper) west coast spiritual cousin to Kris Kristofferson (the south), Jim Croce (the north), Paul Simon (the east) and many other troubadours of the road.

This was O’Keefe’s breakthrough album riding on the back of the hit single “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues”. The chart breakthrough was never followed up. The album and the single, were his only dents on the charts but the royalties from covers (especial of “Charlie”) and a small devoted following have kept him in the music business.

Here he has the backing of magnificent session musicians made up of southerners (mainly Memphis American Sound Studio's House Band) supplemented by some New Yorkers (which look to be Atlantic records alumni … Signpost records was a subsidiary of Atlantic) slumming it on background vocals.

The music is evocative and sums up a place and time beautifully. It is personal music but it, also, anticipates the 70s with all its troubles, change and political “isms”. It's tales are still relevant today.

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues – the song first appeared on O’Keefe’s 1971 self-titled debut album, and then he recorded another version for this album. There are many great versions of this song but I’ve always been partial to Elvis’ version from 1974 (which is, actually, the first version I ever heard). This is, perhaps, one of the greatest of all singer-songwriter songs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Time_Charlie%27s_Got_the_Blues http://www.songfacts.com/blog/playingmysong/danny_o_keefe_-_good_time_charlie_s_got_the_blues_/
  • Shooting Star – pure observation with some great lines, "the morning is waiting for electra but electra is mourning for the night".
  • The Question (Obviously) – A bouncy jaunt and a country-ish brag. As if Jim Croce had gone rural. And, not dissimilar from The Kinks on their magnificent, "Muswell Hillbillies". Great fun.
  • Honky Tonkin'  – (Hank Williams) – Hank’s #14 country hit from 1948 and as bona fide classic. The version here doesn't match the original (I mean how could it) but it is a good , suitably twangy version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honky_Tonkin%27
  • The Road – Jackson Browne would later cover on his best-selling album “Running on Empty” (1977). Quite a beautiful song, and quite haunting.
  • Grease It – another country rock blues stomper, though a gentle stomper with a touch of Jerry Lee Lewis vocals.

Side Two

  • An American Dream – a electric and quite heavy singer-songwriter song with psych overtones about the war and "an American dream".
  • Louie The Hook Vs. The Preacher –   a less exuberant variation on a Jerry Reed song. Fun.
  • The Valentine Pieces – a art piece as if 70s era Tom Waits was crossed with soft rock. 
  • I'm Sober Now –   According to the liner notes, the song was "inspired by Clarence (Pinetop) Smith" who was an American boogie-woogie style blues pianist who died in 1929, aged 24. Quite good and catchy.
  • Roseland Taxi Dancer – a song about a "granny" who was a taxi dancer in times past. A taxi dancer is a paid dance partner in a partner dance. Something Redbone or Jim Kweskin would do though here, the "old" sounds ar not front and centre.  
  • I Know You Really Love Me –  a short ragtime-ish tune. Excellent

And …

Wonderful … a minor masterpiece. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1972 Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues #9 Hot 100

1972 Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues #5 Adult Contemporary

1972 Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues #63 Country

Album

1972 #87

England

nothing

Sounds

Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkuB40qF1PI

live recently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FALsYK6ONTs

mp3 attached

Shooting Star

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5ZMYLJOflA

The Question (Obviously) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2UxfqqYS6k

Honky Tonkin' 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0r651OMVUw

The Road

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuwvMyPaUe0

live recently

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

An American Dream 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugj9vkTOoM4

Louie The Hook Vs. The Preacher 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcKNJexq5LQ

The Valentine Pieces 

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

I'm Sober Now

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gwomy_Xz1S4

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwdIjObuZ0U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDSX0alNMCc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaHw0pZNIHk

 Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O%27Keefe_(album)

http://www.allmusic.com/album/okeefe-mw0000402613

https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Danny+O%27Keefe

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_O%27Keefe

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/danny-okeefe-mn0000955484/biography

http://nodepression.com/article/danny-okeefe-jeff-beck-bob-dylan-and-nra

Website

http://www.dannyokeefe.com/

Trivia

  • Personnel : Danny O'Keefe – vocals, guitar / Hayword Bishop – drums, percussion / David Brigati (The Rascals) – background vocals / Eddie Brigati (The Young Rascals) – background vocals / Gene Chrisman – drums / Johnny Christopher (He co-wrote "Always on My Mind" with Mark James) – guitar / Bobby Emmons – organ / Shane Keister – piano / Bobby Wood – piano, electric piano / Reggie Young – guitar (legend https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggie_Young) / Leo LeBlanc – steel guitar / Mike Leech – bass / Irwin "Marky" Markowitz – trumpet / Howard McNatt – violin / Phil Olivella – clarinet / Ahmet Ertegün – producer.
  • The liner notes note, "All guitar solos are by Danny O'Keefe except on "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues", The Question(Obviously), and the middle section of An American Dream which are by Reggie Young".
  • The album was recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis with additional recording at Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City.

Back sleeve picture:

 

Danny O'Keefe - O'Keefe - back picture

Posted in Americana, Country Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

HELEN MERRILL – American Country Songs – (Atco) – 1959

Helen Merrill - American Country Songs

Helen Merrill is a great vocalist.

She could sing anything.

And she has proved it time and again …  over 60+ years of professional recording.

She does country tunes here but she has done smooth jazz, swing, pop, trad pop, an album of Beatles tunes, Broadway numbers, film songs, Tin Pan Alley and even Croatian folk songs.

That’s not to say she doesn’t have her style.

She does.

This I find infinitely more interesting and superior to a vocalist who hops from style to style without taking their musical personality along with them.

She is an effortless note bender who emphasises a lyric to extract complete meaning and emotion from it whilst singing in harmony with her accompaniment.

Her voice is so evocative that even if she wasn’t using words the mood and the meaning of the song would be clear.

I’m not sure of the logic of this “country” album apart from Helen proving she can do country but I welcome it nevertheless.

There may have been commercial considerations. This was Helen’s seventh album and she hadn’t achieved the crossover mainstream popularity of Peggy Lee of Julie London in her previous albums, as good as they were (and they were / are good). So, perhaps, it was time for a change. Country music was on an upswing at the time, there were many country musicians with jazz leanings incorporating some of the same in their music, jazz legend Sonny Rollins released his “Way Out West” album to critical acclaim in 1957, so, perhaps, it seemed a good idea.

And it was.

But, at the time, it may have alienated her traditional listeners. Certainly today, jazz vocalist aficionados, when commenting on this album, usually mention they “have no time for country music”, so, I suspect, that prejudice is the same one that affected the albums potential sales in 1959.

But, a good vocalist should be able to tackle all material and a great vocalist should be able to do it successfully.

And here I am full circle … Helen Merrill is a great vocalist.

She sticks within the jazz vocalist medium but isn’t afraid of introducing any other sound into the mix and if that isn't jazz, what is?

Some songs make work better than others but everything she records is worthy.

Despite the big city in her, Helen has a beautiful, slightly smoky voice that is ideally suited to country songs (as well as urban songs).

Country music is about hard times, love, lost love, getting drunk, your wife leaving you, your husband leaving you, infidelity, chasteness, sex. Basically, the lives of everyday people.

The liner notes refer to the same, "Many country songs are considered "earthy", inasmuch as their lyrics deal with life's realities. This is a true appraisal; however, a listener to this record will surely note another quality of the great county song – the liberal use of poetic language and imagery".

Helen’s voice captures the various emotions of those in love and her phrasing and tone is both sexual and full of understanding. This may not be a pure country record but she nails these songs.

There are five Hank Williams tunes, three Eddy Arnold songs, some standards and, interestingly (but not inappropriately), a couple of Everly Brothers songs.

An interesting aside is that Helen, with this album, was both part of a trend and ahead of the curve.

Trad pop singer Patti Page had successfully incorporated country sounds into her music in the 50s (as had Frankie Laine and Guy Mitchell) and jazz pop vocalists like Bing Crosby, and Hoagy Carmichael had done the same going back to the 30s whilst Tony Bennett had done the same in the early 50s but it was unusual for a pure jazz vocalist like Helen to do a whole album of the same.

This is referred to in the liner notes (by Paul Ackerman of Billboard), where he says: "The recording art has its adventurous moments. This album is one of them, for it strikes out in new directions. it does this by presenting a dozen of the greatest country songs in arrangements which are quite new to the genre … It is known that several record producers have been grappling with the same idea – that is, to invest the country song with a new dimension through sophisticated arrangements and scoring. This is the first album to come to our attention which has actually done the trick – and it points the way towards future treatment of this music, much of which derives from the heartland of America."

Later, in the 1960s, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Julie London dipped their toes in the country pool whilst Kay Starr (and trad pop singers like Dean Martin and soul singer like Ray Charles) would record whole albums of country songs.

The world was all about, and comfortable with, fusion but here it was novel.

It's tempting to say the music here is not country, not jazz, but trad pop with country and jazz overtones, but, "Nashville sound" countrypolitan country music star Jim Reeves was riding the same range (sic) though with less (jazz) quirkiness. And, perhaps, that's the market Helen was aiming for.

I don’t have jazz chart details but even with a major label release (Atlantic records) the album did not sell well enough to crossover to the mainstream charts.

Check out my other comments for biographical detail on Ms Merrill.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • Maybe Tomorrow – (Don & Phil Everly) – originally by the Everly Brothers from their 1958 debut album. Gentle and dreamy.
  • I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry – (Hank Williams) – recorded by Hank in 1949. Covered by everyone else (I love the Elvis version from 1973). Very quirky with a snappy back beat at odds with the traditional interpreted tempo, but it works. Helen nails the song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_So_Lonesome_I_Could_Cry
  • You Don't Know Me – (Cindy Walker-Eddy Arnold) – the liner notes refer to Eddy who had a #10 country hit with this in 1956 but trad pop singer Jerry Vale had a #14 in 1956 also. This is quite beautiful with a jazz guitar gently punctuating the proceedings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Don%27t_Know_Me_(Eddy_Arnold_song)
  • Condemned Without Trial – (Hal Blair-Don Robertson) – an Eddy Arnold song from 1952. Lots of strings and things and well sung.
  • You Win Again – (Hank Williams) – a Hank Williams song from 1952. Sweet strings are added. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Win_Again_(Hank_Williams_song)
  • I'm Here to Get My Baby out of Jail – (Karl Davis – Harty Taylor) – Originally by Davis & Taylor in 1934 but recorded by the Everly Brothers for their 1958 album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us”. A wonderful song though with a great country whistling accompaniment. The song is quite existential and haunting.

Side Two

And …

An individual quirky joy. Everything Helen does is a pleasant revelation. This album is no different. This is wonderful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere.

Sounds

Maybe Tomorrow

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIcUAkam124

I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry

mp3 attached

Condemned Without Trial

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf5Aonytff0

Cold, Cold Heart

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbl-BCh7z3s

Devoted to You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHI4GmpQbH4

Half as Much

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

Others

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

Review

http://frankstyles.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/lilac-wine-helen-merrill-part-one.html

Bio

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=23366

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

Website

http://www.helenmerrill.com/

http://www.myspace.com/helenmerrill

Trivia

  • Personnel: Bernie Leighton (piano) / Mundell Lowe (guitar) / Bill Suyker (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Bobby Rosengarden (drums). Arranged and conducted by Chuck Sagle. Recorded in New York, May 25, 1959
  • "The Nashville sound originated during the mid 1950s as a subgenre of American country music, replacing the chart dominance of the rough honky tonk music which was most popular in the 1940s and 1950s with "smooth strings and choruses", "sophisticated background vocals" and "smooth tempos"". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nashville_sound also see http://www.allmusic.com/subgenre/nashville-sound-countrypolitan-ma0000002739

 

 

Helen Merrill - American Country Songs - back sleeve

 

RIP: Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017)

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