Friday, July 31, 2015

A Stormy EP

Before getting to today's song-poem EP, I wanted to announce that I've started another blog! With the demise of WFMU's Beware of the Blog, I wanted to have somewhere to continue posting my reel to reel treasures, oddities and ephemera. So I have begun posting to a site I'm calling "Inches-Per-Second", which you can access through the link you just passed by, while reading this paragraph!
And now, it's time for some Stormy Weather! 

Finding a new (to me) Halmark record is always a potential treat - with the knowledge that it also may turn out to be a stultifying dud. Happily, the first side of this week's EP is anything but a dud, as it features my favorite ridiculously over-the-top baritone, Bob Storm, being ridiculously over the top!

The first song, "The Golden Wedding Ring", actually starts with Storm narrating with a music bed, something I think I've only heard on one or two other song-poem records. Then the song starts, and I actually feel a little twinge of remorse for the writer than they chose the overwrought folks at Halmark, because there are some genuinely affecting moments in the lyrics of this song, about a man losing his wife after many, many years. Someone could have done something decent with this, even if the results still wouldn't have likely been much to my taste. But the generic, tear-jerking background music and Bob Storm's ridiculous performance keep me from being able to take anything about this record seriously in the least. Not that it isn't entertaining - it certainly is! See if you agree:

Download: Bob Storm - The Golden Wedding Ring


But the real news on this EP, at least for me, comes in the second track on this EP. For quite a while, beginning around 15 or 16 years ago, my very favorite song-poem was "Lady Off Pedestal at Notre Dame", a Bob Storm special (although, oddly, the record credited Jack Kim, another Halmark singer who sounds nothing like Storm. You can find that track within the many song poems posted here.

One of the many great things about "Lady Off Pedestal" is its ridiculous marching band backing track. And unlike virtually every other track used on any Halmark record, the "Pedestal" track did not seem to be reused and recycled endlessly, not heard again and again on multiple tracks. In fact, I've been unaware of even a second release featuring that wondrous backing. Until now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Bob Storm with "The Wishing Well". A few things are clear from this track: First, Halmark had the multi-tracks for this (and other) backing tracks - there are elements on "Pedestal" which are not heard here. Second, the Dolly-O release of "Pedestal" featured a track at least a few generations removed from the original performance - the backing track here is much cleaner and sparkly.

And all of this before you listen to Bob Storm's energetic, bouncy vocal and the idiosyncratic lyrics. The lyricist thoughts bounce back and forth between expressing ongoing love for his lost sweetheart, and a few hopes of her return, and expressing thoughts such as those in this curious couplet:

Two wrongs don't make a right,
so I'll fix your clock tonight!

Of all the song-poems I've heard for the first time this year, this is probably my favorite so far!

Download: Bob Storm - The Wishing Well


The flip side of the EP doesn't exactly offer the wonders of the two songs above. First up is Bob Storm in his less throaty mode, on the song "How Lonely is Lonesome?", sounding oddly (to me) more than a bit more like Rodd Keith (on some of Keith's country offerings). This is among the least Halmark-y tracks I can think of from the label, at least to when the chorus and orchestra swell a few times near the end.

Download: Bob Storm - How Lonely is Lonesome?


Finally, it's back to the sound of Halmark, with one of their most frequently used backing track serving for the setting of "Hello Baby". This one contains one great verse, to wit:

"How's that sun and moon?
I'd like to see you soon.
A city is a city
and a town's a town."

Clearly, this meant something to the lyricist, as it repeated twice, but I'm missing the meaning, even in the context of the other lines.

Download: Bob Storm: Hello Baby


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

That Broken Guitar Plays Pretty Well

Hello again,
I had a few comments from Mac users that downloading was the only option that the new system I'm using allowed them. I believe I've rectified this, but may have to tinker with it a bit. There are now two versions of each track - the first which will either play or download for non-Mac users, and the other of which will be an opendrive player, which will only play within the blog post. Please let me know if this is working.
Here we have the truly tiny Fanwood Records label. My guess is that there are at least a few other discs out there on Fanwood, but this is the only one I've ever seen, and the only one documented on the song-poem database website. It features my choice as the best female song-poem singer, Cara Stewart, and her constant musical companion, Lee Hudson, here heard with his fictional String Band. The records Cara and Lee made together are just lovely, and this one, "Broken Guitar", is no exception, although having the backing track dominated by a clearly not-broken-guitar doesn't quite fit the lyric, now does it? Given that this was Lee's style, however, I'm not sure what else he would have done.
From the flip side comes the excessively wordy title, "May the Angels Watch Over You For Me". This one is a bit slower than the flip, but otherwise very much cut from the same cloth. I have almost no doubt that if I'd sent my lyrics in to Lee Hudson, I would have been quite pleased with the results. Relax, stretch out, close your eyes, and let the sound of Cara and Lee wash over you.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Read All About It

Okay, I'm trying something new here, which may be the solution to the increased number of posts I'm going to be making, here and elsewhere, after the WFMU blog shuts down in two weeks. If this works, it will be the format going forward.
And before I explain, a big THANK YOU for all the suggestions you made, via comment and e-mail. I really appreciate it.
I'm using a paid site called "Opendrive", and hoping that the low rate I'm paying will be enough to sustain whatever downloads my site(s) experience. I believe that by clicking on the names of the songs you will have a choice to either listen to or download the material. PLEASE let me know if that's not the case, or if you have any other issues. I really want to make this work. 

Today we have what would sound like a rather hateful man, telling us of his plan to kill his wife - she's a two-timer, ya see, although he seems just as upset that she just doesn't care for him, and wrap her world around him, the same way his mother did. I was at the stage of wondering whether the fine folks at Tin Pan Alley needed to have called the police when I noticed that the writer was a woman. With Gay Marriage happily all in the news these days, I suppose it's possible that Ms. Wilson was writing about a domestic partner, way back in the '60's, but I rather doubt it. Let's hope this was just a fantasy for her, a piece of fiction taking a male bastard's point of view, and not a situation where TPA changed the genders in the song because they only had male singers.

Whatever way you slice it, it sure is a peppy little number, belying the fairly horrible tableau described in the lyrics.

Mike Thomas - Tomorrow I May Make the Headlines

For the flip side, we have a number from the "Urrrrrrgggghhh" file, a slow drag, of the sort which really plays up Mike Thomas' limitations as a vocalist (and the TPA band's general limitations). It carries the unfortunately title of "Cleanse My Body", wherein the lyricist sets out "on a voyage through the ocean of my mind", where he sees all manner of things, including "women, men and lovers" (there's a turn of phrase), but mostly, ecological problems, such as littered Coke cans (again, we are in his mind). On the other hand, it's always good to work the word "paraphernalia" into a lyric.

Mike Thomas - Cleanse My Body

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Just Call Him Rodd Presley

Before I get to this week's songs, I want to ask one last question to anyone who has an answer: have you used Opendrive? I've used Box the last few weeks, but they have extremely limited downloading for free users (it will likely run out well before the end of each month), and their prices are exorbitant for paying users. I do not believe I'll be using them at length.

Divshare was the cheapest by far (and i guess now we know why), but Opendrive seems to be the next cheapest - it was suggested by someone who posted a comment to a previous song-poem posting (thank you very much!). Unfortunately, I can't actually tell if I can share downloadable materials via Opendrive, as their free version does not allow this. And I don't want to start paying for something, only to find that it doesn't meet my needs. So, has anyone used it, and found it an acceptable way to share downloads?

At the same time, I guess I could ask if anyone has another service they'd like to recommend. I don't want to pay a lot of $$ for something that I do for fun, and even the cheapest of the other sites want as much for two months of service as Divshare charged for a year. And for reasons I'll explain in a few weeks, if all goes well, I will be uploading and sharing perhaps two to three times as much material (in terms of file size - and it won't all be song-poems) starting in August, via this and another site, all of which I'm going to have to pay for....

To my ears, this early Preview single, "Great-A Big-A Blue Eyes" sounds like it was cut out of the same cloth as many of Elvis' 1962-64 singles, and I hardly think that's a coincidence. Perhaps song-poet Don Gaydick (!) even asked for it to sound like those Elvis hits. Rodd doesn't really sound like he's doing an Elvis impression, but the rest of the track (featuring "The Go-Getters") does the trick for him. I enjoy this one a bunch.

Here's a switch. I'm not sharing the flip side of this record, because it has not only been released on a compilation album (Saucers in the Sky), which I encourage everyone to buy, if you haven't done so already. You can hear a clip of the song here.

Instead, I grabbed another Rodd Keith Preview 45, one with an exceedingly dull Dan Monday (not Rodd) song on the flip side, and thought I'd share the better of those two sides here. While not as wonderful as the song above, this one is a mid-tempo number reminiscent of any number of mid-'60's Baroque styled hits, if quite a bit more simple on the instrumentation. I really enjoy Rodd's vocal here.

By all means, chime in if you have words of wisdom about what site to use for links.