Saturday, August 08, 2009
A Real Rarity
No doubt all song-poem records are "rare", given that none of them was likely produced in numbers to match even the smallest of Billboard Hot 100 chart hits or near hits. On the other hand, there are certain records which turn up much more frequently than others on auction sites and in other places, particularly certain Preview 45's.
But here's one I've never seen referred to anywhere but in the one eBay auction at which I bought it, and on a label which isn't referenced anywhere that I can find. Indeed, this may be the only record ever released on the "Princess" song-poem label, although the record number (13) may indicate that there were a few others. Out of the thousands of 45's in my collection, this disk also holds the distinction of being the 45 for which I paid the most money (although, technically, this is an EP).
This record puts a lot of questions in my mind: Who is "Dorothy Mann - Queen of the West"? She's not the author of any of the songs. Why is this speciality label EP divided between two songwriters? And do the songs on the B-Side really date from 1966, at which point the singer involved was a decade removed from his most active period, and probably well along the way of what was likely a long, slow decline?
Immediately upon hearing the first tune on the record - every time - I am smiling. This is clearly a Film City production, with Rodd Keith (as Rod Rogers) playing the Chamberlain. That's a sound I simply never get tired of, and all but the most maudlin of Chamberlain records (aside from most Richard Chamberlain records) make me happy, just from the sound of that ridiculous machine. Rod himself sings the first track, "Kisses":
And then Rod steps back to the Chamberlain and lets Film City regular Frank Perry (another vocalist I enjoy) take over the lead on "I Can't Go".
I want a Chamberlain.
I suspect the real draw to that auction, though, was the fact that the two songs on the flip side are by "Singing Jimmy Drake", better know as Nervous Norvis. His story has been told, in great fashion, elsewhere, and the CD of much of his material, put together masterfully by Phil Milstein, is a must-buy for fans of song-poems, of the offbeat, or just for those looking for something a little different.
Anyway, on this EP, Drake takes over the second side, with two atmospheric songs, accompanied as usual by his top-notch baritone ukulele playing. The first song is "Beneath Our Sweetgum Tree":
And the similar, yet subtly different second song is "When the Roundup Days are Over":
Again, these last two tracks really make me wonder - Drake died of Cirrhosis of the Liver in 1968. Was he still recording pieces like this in 1966? Perhaps, but I suspect we'll never know.