Friday, December 31, 2010

Stunning!



Today, to celebrate the end of the year, I have something I consider very special. Truly horrible, mind you, but special nonetheless. Today's first song, a late-era Tin Pan Alley single by the awkwardly named group "The Melodiers", features what may be the most mind-numbingly bad lyrics I've ever heard on a song-poem.

There may be worse individual lines or verses, but this song, "We Like the Kentucky Hills", piles one poorly worded, incomplete, obvious, ridiculous and/or (particularly) inane line after another, for four and a half minutes!

I don't want to give all, or even many of the joys of this song away - there's too much pleasure in hearing this for the first time. But consider a few examples, such as the opening section:

Me and my woman met on a blind date
I can't remember her name
See I live in the hills of Kentucky
and she lives in another state
When I go to see her
I'm allllllll ways late
So weeeee don't haaave
much time to date

And another favorite:

So I went home and told my dad
Just... just what I had done
My dad said..... "son...
you know.... you're right!"

The song contains an abundance of lines which sound as if the writer, having come up with the last line (or word) for a verse, then worked backwards to figure out something - anything - which might rhyme, and built the rest of the verse that way. The subject matter meanders, never really focusing on the title concept for more than a moment, but not really staying on anything else to inspire a better title, either.

A plus for me is that the guitarist, who only has to be able to play three chords, regularly misses the correct fingering or fret, turning what could have at least been a nice do-it-yourselfy sort of backing track into just another layer of incompetence.

I hope you enjoy this record as much as I do!



The slip side, "Don't Shout, Just Get Out", written by the same wordsmith as the A-side, features some of the same on-the-fly lyrics and performance as its flip, but the results, while entertaining to a degree, can't match "Kentucky Hills".






Updates to older, broken links will return with the next post.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas With Sammy

First off, I've fixed a few more of my previous postings. None of these were song-poem entries, because I decided that today would be a good day to fix several Christmas related posts which had broken. They can be found here:

Fun With Decorations
The Family Christmas
Toby Deane
My Favorite Christmas Song This Year
O Holy Night
Christmas Music: The Sublime and the Ridiculous

Thanks also to those of you who made recommendations - I will be making some changes soon, I think, but not until Christmas is over....

Back to the matter at hand:



Silver Records was the record label of the John Koproski family, of Cleveland. Another family member, Mr. Koproski's son, John, Jr., was the writer behind the killer double A side known to song-poem fans everywhere as "Rock And Roll Boogie Beat" & "Twist And Turn", but here, the senior Koproski takes his turn with two more serious, Christmas related tunes. As with his son's record, they are sung by Sammy Marshall, although both Mary Kaye as well as the Party Crashers (heard on "Twist and Turn") took the night off for this recording. Here's "Holy Day":




The flip side, sounding a lot like "Holy Day", is "Manger of Bethlehem". Perhaps the most interesting thing about this record is that the production and arranging credit goes to John Koproski himself, which seems extremely unlikely, as Sammy Marshall recorded for the Nashville-based Globe Records company - this record has all the hallmarks of that company's work, and was likely made many miles from Cleveland, by those behind the Globe song-poem factory.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Christmas Wish

Howdy, everyone,

First, (more than) a bit of housekeeping. I want to thank the many people who wrote with comments and/or solutions to the Mac problem which had been expressed to be by a few readers. I've passed that along, and I really appreciate it.

Second, I am VERY appreciative to a reader named Sammy, who, in attempting to gather all of the older material shared on this site, found upwards of 40 posts (!) where one or more tracks were no longer working, either to play or to download. A few others have alerted me to a track here and there in the past, but I had no idea there were so many failed links. I am very grateful to have this pointed out to me, and have today started a project to replace all of the broken links that I've been told about. Apologies to others who have asked me to repair one or two tracks in the past - this is the first time in months that I've had any sustained time off, and just getting new stuff up has been a challenge at times.

The fact that so many tracks have ended up broken is a great frustration to me. If anyone can direct me to a more effective way to post these tracks for download, one which is just as simple and just as free as Divshare, by all means, please let me know.

In the meantime, here are the posts that I have fixed today:

What Dance Did You Dance?
One Year In
Norris Mayhams: The Early Years
For All You Rodd Fans
It's Norm Time!
A Late One From Rodd
What the Hell?
A Song For Jackie
Mayhams Mayhem
Daddy!

I will update the remaining posts in upcoming days and weeks, and will post links to the repaired posts.

And now....



Today's post is a double offering for Christmas, both songs being courtesy of writer Elvie Rowland, via performer Mike Thomas, of Tin Pan Alley Records. The better of the two is "A Christmas Wish", a record typical of the minimilist style of TPA's records during this period, and a song which flies past us in less than 90 seconds:



The flip side is the far more ponderous "The Nite (sic) My Savior Was Born":



Friday, December 10, 2010

When He Says "Go Out", He Means It!

Before sharing this week's record, I wanted to ask for help. A couple of people have written to me, saying that they cannot see, much less play or save the files, when viewing this site from a Mac. The most recent of these stated that the writer just "sees a lot of flash code".

What I'm wondering is if this problem is familiar to anyone with more knowledge than me about computers, and particularly, if anyone using a Mac does not have a problem viewing, hearing and/or saving these files, and if so, if there's a fix for this. Any answer I receive will be posted when I receive it, and will be added to the "how to save these files" text.

And now, Heeeeeere's Rodd!



Here's a great one from Rodd Keith, masquerading as Rod Rivers and the "Big Action Sound", on the Action label.

This song title "Before I Go Out" isn't all that intriguing, but the lyric is great - when lyricist Valliere Hancock uses the phrase "Go Out", she adds "Like a Light", and the rest of the words make it clear that she's talking about all the things she wants to do and learn before she dies!

Rodd's brilliant use of the Chamberlain, as well as his vocal stylings, only add to the fun. I'd be surprised if this wasn't recorded around the same time as the equally jazzy and atmospheric "Tom Dooley Last Will and Testament" (from the Norris the Troubadour album, and which everyone reading this words should hear, if you haven't already). Like that song, this has a cool, laid back vocal that nonetheless fits the unusual words.



For the B-side, the same writer submitted another song, "The Splendor of Love". She shows none of the spirit that makes the A-side so interesting, going so far as to borrow the opening line from a former #1 song which was heavily identified with that same opening line, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing".

Easily the best thing about this song is the Chamberlain track that Rodd created for it. At times, it reminds me of some of the John Lennon Mellotron experiments which are available on bootlegs (the Mellotron being essentially the same instrument as a Chamberlain). There is a moment in the backing track from about the 1:45 point to the 2:00 point which I find to be nothing short of gorgeous, and which certainly shows off Rodd's keyboard genius.



Saturday, December 04, 2010

Delicksious!

First, I'd like to say that that the world is suddenly a lot less wonderful, following the death on Thursday of Ron Santo. Those we call sports heroes - and he certainly was one of those - are rarely really heroes, and even with that, their time in the spotlight is usually fairly brief. Ron Santo was a true hero, as a person, if for nothing more (and there was so much more) than for maintaining a positive, infectious outlook, and a real joy in living, despite experiencing an often extremely difficult life. Baseball won't ever be quite the same without you, Ronnie.

...

On a separate side note, I appreciate the reader who let me know that a couple of links were broken on this post. They are now fixed.

And now, on with the countdown:



There were few releases on the Delicks label - two 45's and an album that I'm aware of. Everything released on the label was written by Francis E. Delaney, who appears to have been more self-aware than most song-poets, as witnessed by the name of that Delicks album, "The 12 Most Unpopular Songs" (which I'm also lucky enough to own a copy of).

Today, in honor of the holiday season (and the first snowfall we've received today, in my home town), the only songs I'm aware of on Delicks to not be contained on that album. Both are sung by someone identified on the label as "Betty Bond", although I'm sure those of you more familiar than I am with female song-poem singers can tell me who she might be.

And although the "Unpopular Songs" album was done through Lew Tobin's Sterling label, this single was produced through National Guild, a separate song-poem factory, run by Bob Quimby in Florida (although this record sports a suburban Chicago address - go figure).

First up is a rather obvious take off on Rudolph's song, "Blinky, the Blue Nosed Snowdeer":



Apparently someone either really enjoyed this record, or took exceptionally poor care of it - it's beat to hell. Here's the flipside, "Little World of Snow":






I get a kick out of the fact that this record came to me housed in a Stax Records 45 sleeve.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Halmark Thanksgiving



Happy Thanksgiving! In case you were wondering what Thanksgiving is, here are the fine folks at Halmark Records, to offer up their version, one I find nearly completely unlistenable. Actually, this song's lyrics present Ernest V. Krider's interpretation of the answer to the question, "What Is Thanksgiving?". Your own mileage may vary:



The flipside, "Perfect Living", is notable for being sung by someone who doesn't sound (to me, anyway) like either of Halmark's usual male singers (Bob Storm and Jack Kim). Also, Halmark often listed the author's name and address on the label, and this is the first one I've ever seen that wasn't written by someone in the USA, being composed by Ernest L. Martin, a resident of West Germany at the time:



Saturday, November 20, 2010

On a Bender

I'm dreadfully late this week, but I think that not only will today's posting make up for it, but an on-time posting for Thanksgiving, this Thursday, will also be worth making time for.



I had great hopes upon getting this record, and while the original reason for my excitement did not pan out, the actual subject of this record is in no way a let down. I did think that maybe a record called "The Bender Song" would be about binge drinking, and was really interested in hearing what Sammy Marshall would do with that subject.

But it turns out that the song is actually about a famous 19th century family who lived in Labette County, Kansas, and who are known to history as "The Bloody Bender Family", due to their having been serial killers. You can read about them here.

Sammy Marshall and the Sun-Rays (how's that for a mismatch of group name and song subject) sound almost giddy in singing about mass murderers, as you'll now hear:



Good to know that this record was FREE!

What's even more amazing is that this 45 was meant to promote Kansas, on the occasion of the state's Centennial, which is spelled "Centenial" on the label!

The flip side, "Come to Kansas", which was also co-written by the wonderfully named Clavelle Isnard (along with Jimmy Holland), can't possibly live up to the song it is paired with, but it's got a typically strong Kris Arden vocal, and more peppy accompaniment by the Sun-Rays:



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Patriotism - With Gene Marshall



On this national and international day of remembrance and patriotic thoughts and feelings, I thought I'd share a song titled "This is Your Country - This is My Country", sung by the always enjoyable voice of Gene Marhsall:



The flip side, "The Hanging Tree", couldn't be on a more dissimilar subject. I'm most taken here by the way Gene Marshall sounds more or less happy during the first few lines. Perhaps he was sight-reading it, and didn't realize until the third or four lines that he was singing a first person ballad by a man about to be hanged. That ridiculous synth sound doesn't help, either, but I'm not sure if there's ever been a record that that particular sound would improve:



On a side note, regarding the authors of these lyrics, does anyone name their children Bertha or Gertrude anymore?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Country Side of Rodd



Things have been crazy busy the last week at home and work, so I'm a little late with this week's record, plus, I really don't have the time to offer up much comment, aside from pointing out that the Chamberlain backing heard on this early MSR release of Rodd Keith's "The Old Swinging Gate" is not exactly the best accompaniment to what appears to have been an attempt at a countrified vocal performance and setting:



And here's the flip side of the same, "Treasure":



Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh, Happy Day



I'm repeating myself a bit today, but I hope readers will indulge me, as I've just become the proud owner of a copy of one of my favorite records ever. I have posted the A-side of this 45 before, 18 months before I began this "song poem of the week" project, but the MP3 shared at that time was cribbed from an eBay auction, and I never actually owned the record before this week. This means I can now share a higher quality MP3, can offer up the B-side, and can share scans of the record itself.

The record is "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)", and I wrote about it at length in July of 2007, in a posting you can find here. Without repeating much of that post, I will say that my love and admiration for this record continues to grow, and in particular I adore the lead vocal, and the masterful bridge, one of the best I've ever heard, made all that much better by a guitarist who had clearly been listening to "Love is Strange", but whose work here is superior even to that great guitar performance.

There is some question in my mind as to if this is actually a song-poem. Carellen Records was a hybrid of sorts, releasing song-poems, vanity records and maybe even some records which were legitimate bids for hit status. And Edith Hopkins, the author of this song, and my all-time favorite song-poet, also commissioned both song-poems and more legit releases.

I'll say this: If this is a song-poem, it's the best one I've ever heard, by a significant margin. If it's a legitimate late '50's release, it's among my favorite records of that era (and that's saying something, as that is my favorite era for pop music). This is, in my opinion, a perfect record.



The flip side, "Cry Baby Heart", is more of a standard late '50's rock-a-ballad, brought to above-average quality by another singularly great vocal by Betty Jayne, who clearly deserved to be a big star (I say this based on this and other records by her in my collection). My view of the likelihood of this being a song-poem record goes way up, when I hear that another take was not attempted, after the bass singer sang a a truly horrible note, right at the end of this performance.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Our World in Song



One thing I haven't featured much on this site are song-poems from the last three decades. I just don't find the vast majority of what I've heard from perhaps about 1976 or so on to be as compelling, as interesting or as wonderfully weird as what came before.

The two biggest reasons for this are probably: 1.) The music styles which song-poem companies had to work with (to appeal to the most likely taste of their customers), after the mid-70's are not nearly as interesting or appealing as those that came before, and 2.) I think a larger percentage of the customers of these products were probably in on the scam by 1980, leading to a small pool of contributers, and a less interesting group, at that.

An album I just bought, however, "Our World in Song", on the Brea label, contains a few exceptions that just about scream out for attention.

First up, and offered with very little comment, is a song making a linkage between elements of two "real" things that I don't believe I've seem compared in this way before, "Paychecks and Abortions - Both Are Real". I'm sure everyone listening will be singing the insanely catchy chorus by the second time around:



And where to begin in discussing the deep weirdness that lurks within the song "Walking While She's Talking In Her Sleep"? It starts so normally, if you look past the nonsensical line about oysters and pearls. Before long, we come to the multiple repeats of the words "mumbling" and "over", as well as a truly incompetent guitar solo. The mile-a-minute words near the end are an added bonus.



Finally, we have the simply titled "You Know". The painfully awful (and poorly conceived) accent adopted for this song does not hide the fact that the singer is the same Steve Jennings who sang most of the other songs on the album. One wonders what Pedro Graejeda thought of his song being done in a faux ethnic arrangement and vocal. But beyond that, have a close listen to the lyrics! The author describes sums up love as being the act of his lost lover returning to him, and compares her leaving to treason. He bars her from loving anyone else, and insists that she return, because that's what he wants, and after all, "love is like God".




Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gotta Love Tin Pan Alley!



Today, another one of those "stop the presses" moments. I got this record this past week, and wanted to share it right away. Often, when a song-poem song title seems particularly ludicrous, the song itself can be a let down. But not this time, as Tin Pan Alley, circa 1958, offers up Marilyn Fiore with "Come On and Right, Right, Right the Wrong You Done Me, Baby!".

Ms. Fiore - who is otherwise unrepresented in the AS/PMA database - provides just the right sort of vocal for this lyric, and the band has the sound and feel of late 1950's down, too.

Incidentally, the opening moment of this song, in which the original tape appears to be speeding up to the right pitch, is on the record itself, and is not from my turntable or any other source. Enjoy!



The B-side, "Me He Didn't See!", aside from another great title, could be accused of being essentially the same record heard on the A-side, but that's not always a bad thing, is it? Besides, the lyrics here are just as fun as those on the flip, plus, there's a wonderful - if fairly unsuccessful - attempt at a rockabilly guitar solo on this one.

This is what I call a great song-poem 45.



Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sandy Stanton



I haven't given enough attention either Film City, one of my favorite song-poem labels, or its owner, Sandy Stanton. I did do a feature on Stanton's earlier label, Fable, over at WFMU, earlier this year, and will offer up part two of that post at some future point.

But what Stanton brought with him to Film City was the amazing early keyboard, The Chamberlain, and today's offering not only features that instrument, most likely played by Rodd Keith, it also features - like many of Film City records - the Chamberlain being completely unable to keep up with itself. If one didn't know this was a basic synthesiser, one might wonder if there were two different bands working at the same time, or if perhaps the drummer was in another room, particularly at the end of the track. This is what the label describes as "New Sounds From Hollywood". Odd that those new sounds didn't become all the rage.

Not only that, but the song itself - "You Yum" - is fairly ridiculous. For example, the line about vitamins made my younger daughter (who was in the room as I digitized this) to laugh out loud both times. And Stanton's vocal gives some indication as to why he was only occasionally the vocalist on the records his labels produced.



The same writer who gave us "You Yum", is also the writer of the B-side, "Turn Back the Clock". While she clearly wrote the song out of some deeply painful experiences and life lessons, the resulting lyric is unfortunately fairly repetitive and monotonous, and leads to the same qualities in the song.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Watergate Blues



Here, from a late-era Preview 45, is one of my favorite singers, Gene Marshall, offering up the lament of so many Americans of that day, the “Watergate Blues”. Although the lyrics (supplied by Ernestine Gee) are clunky in places, there are some pretty good turns of phrase here and there, and I think maybe someone could have cleaned this up a little and made it into something, if that was the business they'd been in.

Either this one was played to death, or (more likely) it’s just an example of the dreadful pressings produced by Preview near the end of their run. Hopefully, the poor sound won’t impact your enjoyment of the performance.



The flip side, “Nice Day” has even worse sound quality, but what shines through here is the head scratching lyrics. Not only were they apparently so non-musical that Gene Marshall had to go straight to the recitation, just 23 seconds into the performance, but there are a couple of phrases here which are not, as far as I know, part of the English language. I guess “Cheer Lobber” could mean something or someone that throws good cheer to you, but “Picks Up Your Dobber”??? Maybe a listener out there can explain that one to me. Feel free to feel completely bemused:



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Phil 'Er Up!



I haven't offered up nearly enough of Phil Celia's records here. I think they are, in their own way, just as unique and interesting in sound and performance as Rod Rogers Film City records or Norm Burns Sterling label releases.

Here's an ideal example, a song-poem containing the clunky title of "Let Me Baby, Sit With You, Baby Mine". A nice swing combo provides the fast moving backing, while Phil offers up a winning vocal. A nice piano solo follows, then, this being a song poem, there's a nice little error, in which the band and the singer clearly had different ideas about how many times Phil was going to sing the final phrase, with the band heading for the end of the song before he gets there. No second takes in the song-poem world.



I had great hopes for the flip side, given the title "Riding with the Bar 2 Queen". There is some real weirdness here - the lyrics are fairly odd, and have put to a tune in which they simply do not scan. But the actual song and performance turns out a little bit to drony and morose sounding for my tastes. Your mileage, of course, may vary:



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lost In Space



For a second straight week, here's one whose history and link to the song-poem field is more than a bit blurry. As with "Friendly Melvin", this record is certainly worth hearing, and the evidence is that it's a song poem.

The presence of the name "Lee Hudson" caused me to purchase this one, unheard, due to the fact that a certain Lee Hudson was a central figure in the song-poem field in the 1960's. I bought even though that name is far from uncommon, and even though the name "Bob Brown", as a song-poem artist is unknown to me.

The Luster label is not listed in the AS/PMA website, but on the other hand, there are records by a "Bob Brown" (again, hardly a rare name), and not only that, those Bob Brown records appeared on records with a Lee Hudson connection.

That brings us to the record in question, "Space Flight", which certainly has many of the hallmarks of a Hudson production, from the thick string arrangement to massed backing vocals which (mixed low though they are) sound a lot like Cara Stewart (along with some male singer) to me. The song itself is a wonder to hear, a veritable composite of many of the thoughts about space exploration which might have been heard during the 1960's.



The flip side, in a real rarity for a song-poem record, is an instrumental version of the a-side, with piano taking over the melody, in the best Roger Williams style.



Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gotta Hear That Again!



Today, another one of those records - and it's been too long - that I get done listening to and immediately say "I've Gotta Hear That Again Right Now!". And to be honest, I have no idea where in the song-poem/vanity/unexplainable universe this record came from. A little sleuthing on the AS/PMA website shows a definite connection between some of the releases on this label (Meloclass)and other song-poem labels and acts, and the B-side (see below) sounds very much like a song-poem to me. What's more, that b-side involves some of the same people as this A-side, including the fabulously named Tumbleweed Thompson.

But this song - "Friendly Melvin", credited (as is the flip) to The Fuddy Buddies, sounds too thought out, too deliberately weird to be a song poem. Then again, so does "Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Potassium", which is clearly a song poem.

Anyway, this one, which may be the weirdest song-poem listening experience I've had since I found Jim Hall's version of "Hydrogen...", grabs me right from the start, with a startling open five second blast of organ, drums and trumpet, and continues with that wonderfully odd, slightly off kilter backing arrangement, while a trio of slightly drunk sounding guys, with just the slightest of midwest ethnic accents, sing a song "inspired by the Marines' Pal, Melvin Miller".

Anyway, at the moment, I just can't get enough of this silly record...



Really, who among us wouldn't want to have all of our woes punched in the nose?

On to the flip: Despite being credited to the same "Fuddy Buddies", the B-side, "I Dunno What to Tellya", sounds very little like the group on the A-side (although that title sounds like something the boys on side one might say). But in this case, there's a female lead singer, piano replacing the organ. guitar replacing the trumpet and minimal presence of drums. As I said above, this one sounds exactly like a song-poem.

Oddly enough, this second song - with the same label number - was released on the same label, paired with a different flip side, by a different group, a song which had a non-matched label number (1002-B), and THAT other flip side also appeared on yet another 45, paired correctly with the other song labeled 1002-A.



Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Better Songs Make a Better World



Like several other song-poets, Gus Kondas submitted his lyrics to multiple companies, then released the resulting recordings on his own label, in his case, the creatively titled Kondas Records label. He would send his records to radio stations, along with a little note, sometimes attached to the 45 sleeve. A different Kondas record in my collection came with a separate note which read: "Compliments from the Kondas Music Pub. Co. If you like them please give them a play, if you don't, just throw them away, Thanks." Today's EP came in a sleeve bearing this sticker:



This EP contains three songs from the Film City label, and one from the Globe Records factory. The first two songs feature Rodd Keith, as Rod Rogers. I particularly enjoyed the leadoff track, "If I Had a Million Dollars", because it contains not only the relatively rare feature of Rodd harmonizing with himself - a nice sound - but it briefly features three Rodds singing together at once, something I've only heard on a few records. And of course, it's got that great Film City Chamberlain sound, one of my favorite musical sounds in the world.



The second Rod Rogers track, "Sometime Tomorrow", actually features quite a bit more three part singing than the previous song, although the song doesn't draw me in nearly as much as the first one does. Still, it's nice to hear what this amazing one man band could do:



The flip side starts off with a samba type song titled "If I Ever Needed You (I Need You Now)". I have little doubt that that's Rodd playing the Chamberlain, but the identity of the singer is eluding me. He sounds familiar enough that I know I've heard him before, but the name he is given here - Gene Acres - sounds like a joking reference to "Green Acres", and to my knowledge this name has never shown up on another documented song-poem record.



It's a bit jarring to hear the more natural sound of the Globe label, on the final number, a Sammy Marshall special, titled "It Was Just Yesterday":



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sammy's Cowboy Boots



Time is tight this week, so I don't have a lot to add to today's Sammy Marshall feature, aside from to point out two things. First, it might be better, when releasing a Western, Cowboy type song, if the label hadn't named the backing group "The Marsh-Mellows", even if it is a nice pun on the lead singer's name. And second, this side, "O, Give Me Back My Cowboy Boots", puts me in the mind of another, completely unrelated Globe Records-distributed track, "I Don't Want a Bracelet or Diamond (I Just Want Elvis Instead)", which can be heard at the end of this post.



Here's the flip, "Dry Up Those Tears":



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Halmark Special



This Sunday, CBS Presents the first edition of "The Halmark Hal of Fam" for 1976: Richard Widmark starring in "Love Is An Awful Thing", with Joey Heatherton as his long suffering trophy wife, Chloe, Jodie Foster as Jolie, their tomboy daughter and Rodney Allen Rippy as Jolly, the neighbor boy who helps them to overcome their pain. With a classic theme song, sure to be a massive hit, sung by the great Bob Storm, reminiscent of that great hit of yesteryear, "Let's Lay It On the Line". Have a listen, won't you?



(I also notice, in listening to the above, that Halmark clearly had multi-track tapes of their frequently used backing tracks. There are elements in this rendition that I don't hear in the other songs featuring this track, including the aforementioned "Lay it on the Line", nor in "The Ballad of Johnny Horton".

Bob Storm's flip side owes more than a bit of its melody and setting to "The Birth of the Blues". Perhaps not enough for a lawsuit, but there's certainly a similarity. Please also notice the use of "Mrs." on the label, something that would likely key any serious collector (who wasn't aware of song-poems) into wondering just what was going on with this record - seriously, have you ever seen a legit release with a writer credit containing Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss?



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

She's the Wife



Here's one which is a favorite of my long-time friend Stu, one which I just obtained my own copy of, this week. It's a Rodd Keith production, although he takes a back seat on the lead vocal, turning that duty over to Suzie Smith, and providing not only the arrangement, but a nice harmony vocal. The record is credited to Suzie and Rodd, and is titled "I'm the Wife".

This is a really nice set of lyrics, and I was a bit surprised to find that they were from the pen of one of the weirder song-poets, Dolly O. Curran, who, along with her Dolly-O label, I've written about before. Paired with an excellent arrangement, the result is a first class record which, with perhaps a little tightening up of some clunky lyrics, and a few other changes, could have been something, or at least maybe in an alternate universe where song-poems competed with the "real labels" for airplay.

Please enjoy this delightfully peppy song about having a cheating spouse:



And speaking of peppy settings going with downcast lyrics, here's a happy sounding country setting about having a son die in a war. I'm certain that no non-English speaker, hearing this record, would be able to guess the subject matter.



Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Seaman Blues



I've rarely featured one singer or label twice within a month, but when I heard this song for the first time last week, I knew it had to be my next offering, even though the singer - Norm Burns - had been featured just two weeks ago. He is one of my favorite song-poem singers, but in this case - although I do enjoy Norm's early '60's style performance, it's the lyric and arrangement that are the star. Please enjoy "Seaman Blues"!



The flip, "A Moment of Happiness", is about par for the course:



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Filmy Tones of Film-Tone

Before I share this week's EP, I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this blog knows that I posted an entire song-poem album to the WFMU blog over the weekend. That post can be found here.

And now, on with the countdown:



The Film-Tone label is one of the murkier ones in the song-poem world. I posted a single Film-Tone song early on in this project, but today we have a full EP. ASPMA has documented a link between this late '50's label and the 1960's Star-Crest label. There's no suprise there - both feature arrangements which were long out of date, sung in a sort of sterile style.

But Star-Crest tended to feature a soloist singing what were clearly demos, often barely rehearsed, backed by a pianist or at best a minimal combo (I posted a full Star-Crest album here, a few years ago). At Film-Tone, on the other hand, they went in the other direction, featuring a small combo (piano, guitar and sax, here), and almost always (on the records I've owned and/or heard) a mixed trio of voices - usually fairly intricate in arrangement and (almost) well rehearsed, even - as you'll see - when the choice to use this vocal combo clashed with the lyrics.

Every Film-Tone record I'm aware of is a 45 EP, and although some actually have a name of the orchestra on them (plus "vocal trio"), the three I own do not, reading just "vocal trio". There are a couple of winners here, if you're willing to wade through two others which are quite tepid. The final track, in particular, should prove very entertaining.

The first one, "I Don't Think I Could", does feature some heartfelt, painful lyrics, but the performance is fairly soulless, and it's perhaps my least favorite of the four:



With "The Moonlight, The Prairie, And You", things take a definite step up, in my opinion. Maybe I'm just a sucker for this sort of thing, but this actually sounds like something one might hear on a nostalgic album of "songs from long ago". That it was actually written in the late '50's, commissioned, song-poem style, adds a level of weirdness that I enjoy.



Herve LaPlume's "Send Me Away with a Smile" is notable mostly for the melody, which seems to have been constructed almost entirely from random notes, and I'm amazed that the trio gets through it with as few errors as they do. I don't think I could have sung it:



The award winner here, though, has to be "Steppin' On the Gas". First of all, am I wrong, or do these lyrics make no sense, particularly the line after he's been stopped by an officer: "I had to do some speeding or pay a fine, you see"? Also, what is the line after "the car sped down the highway"?

Those specifics aside, these lyrics are an endless source of pleasure to me, as is the peculiar decision (alluded to above) to use the mixed trio - with the two women on lead for most of the performance - to sing a song which is written from the view of a man.





Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Soulful Norm Burns



This week's posting is quite late, due to a brief vacation and some computer problems. I'll get back on schedule with another post within three days, and will be posting a full Song-Poem album to WFMU soon.

Today, a record which caught me off guard, "Since You Came Into My Life" by Norm Burns and the Five Stars. I would describe this as Norm Burns (completely failed) attempt to provide the customer with some early '70's soul music. I definitely hear elements of that Philly Soul (one of my least favorite genres, to be honest) here, as well as other soulful sounds of the era. The results, particularly Norm's painfully uncomfortable vocal - possibly the worst I've ever heard from him - are fairly bizarre, and not what I expected to hear on a Sterling record. See what you think:




The flip side, "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am?", is a much more typical example of the run-of-the-mill bland side of the Norm Burns experience, nowhere near the highs of his best ("Darling, Don't Put Your Hands On Me" and "The Human Breakdown of Absurdity" come to mind) or his most amazingly bad (see above). Oddly, this side is attributed to Norm, not with the Five Stars of the flip, but with Sterling's other identified band, "The Satellites". Since I suspect these were both the same band, I find the differing billing sort of interesting:



Monday, July 12, 2010

In Loving Tribute



The song-poem format seems just about perfectly designed for the tribute song, particularly the bad tribute song. And indeed, there are countless song-poems out there which are written by wives about husbands, or husbands about wives, about parents or children. And of course, there were many entire albums released in the wake of Elvis' sudden, unexpected death. There were even entire song-poem albums about Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as well as at least one 45 apiece (that I know of) dedicated to Clark Gable and E.T. (In fact, doesn't "Heartlight" seem like it could have been a song-poem?)

None of that knowledge prepared me for what I encountered when I first put the needle down to enjoy the Halmark release, "A Friend To All", in which the writer, "in her declining years", offers up three minutes of tribute to, yes, Arthur Godfrey.

This song was presumably written not long after Godfrey ended his regular broadcasting career in 1972, and no doubt some time before it became more generally known what a unpleasant man he tended to be.



The opening moments of the flip side, "A Walk on a Lonely Road", gave me great hopes. For one thing, I don't think I'm familiar with this backing track, a rarity at this point, with Halmark records, and I was greatly taken with the drum intro, and to a lesser degree with the music bed for the first minute or so. I think something interesting could have been done with this.

In the end though, (Mr.? Mrs.? Miss?) Egle Bigatti's trite lyrics, the increasingly bombastic arrangment, and the typical over-the-top vocal performance sink this one, as does the nearly four minute length.