Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Gifts to You, Part One

These last four days have been pretty wonderful, as I hoped and thought they would be. On Saturday, I saw one of my two oldest friends, and spent a nice amount of time with her - this was only the second time we'd been together in about 28 years, so that was really special. Then yesterday, the 21st, was my daughter Wendy's 21st Birthday! And today? Well, today, my wife and I celebrate our 24th Anniversary.

So to honor and reflect these happy times, I wanted to give a gift to all of you who like to look around in here from week to week or time to time. So I'm casting aside one of my rules for this site and throwing my collection wide open for the next two weeks, in a way I have usually avoided.

You see, I've deliberately made this site almost exclusively about records of which I physically own a copy. However, this has always meant that there is a large number of song-poems which I own only on tape or as files, which I've obtained in trade or otherwise, from other generous collectors, over the past 16 years of collecting and sharing. And a smaller number of those are truly great, and not generally known in the song-poem world. While it's likely that some of the tracks I'll be sharing this week and next do float around in collectors' circles, I'm guessing that many of you who visit here have never heard (or even heard of) most or all of them, and I want to rectify that, because these are really great records.

Due to the fact that these were all shared with me from other collectors, I have to go with the sound quality in which I received them, and I don't have scans of any record labels for these two weeks of posts.

First up, my choice for the quintessential Cara Stewart record. While I'd give a close second to the marvelous "Song of the Burmese Land", for my money, Cara and her svengali Lee Hudson never topped Iris Tipton's "I Spent My Last Three Dollars on an Irish Sweepstake Ticket". It's got everything I want in a Cara record: clever lyrics, Lee's masterful arranging - the string section and accordion flourishes are particularly nice - the fun, bouncy feel, and the inviting, warm smile in Cara's voice. Plus, there's a really amazing instrumental section - it's been suggested that what sounds like insanely closely miked pizzicato strings is actually a Chamberlin - if so, this might be the best work I've ever heard from that magical instrument. Barring anyone who can tell me that a Chamberlin could have produced that wondrous sound, I'm going to assume there really was a violin section on this record. Regardless, this whole record - from the Iris label - is pure magic, and certainly among my top 25 song-poem records:



Next up is a record from an otherwise unknown artist, working within the Film City family, in this case on the Endeavor label. The song is "My Point of View", and it opens with a flourish which may well be my favorite 8 second blast of Chamberlin work ever. It doesn't quite live up to that insanely forceful opening, but how could it? The singer, Gus Hewstan (with the ever present Film City Orchestra) has a perfect amount of smarm for the pleading lyrics, and he really sells them (I LOVE the way he sings "one that's been both'rin' me"), even when it's hard to tell exactly what they mean (is that "there's romance on my hands"?). The Chamberlin track is hotter than most of those I've heard, with a hellishly busy (and wonderful) rhythm track. This is another one I'd probably put in that top 25.



And finally, here are both sides of a single that appeared on the Cowtown label back in 1960, credited to Anne and Bill Calhoun. The AS/PMA website is non-committal as to whether this particular record is a song-poem, while saying that the label itself released song-poems and vanity pressings. The quality of the song writing and performing here could lend itself to either conclusion - the A-side sounding to me more like a vanity release and the b-side sounding more song-poemy, but what do I know. I enjoy both of these songs quite a bit, if admittedly not nearly as much as the first two offerings, above, and I think they both deserve a wider audience.

On the A-side, Anne and Bill perform the song "Navajo". This was probably meant as sincere tribute at the time, but comes across today as more than a bit condescending. I do love the typical late '50's pop song chord changes that make up the chorus of this song:



And the flip side, which is called "Apple Dumpling", and which has a sound I associate with the Globe song-poem factory:



Special thanks to Michael and Phil for this week's offerings!

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