Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hero Worship


Hot off the mailman's truck, and to your ears this week, is a record I was lucky enough to obtain just this week, and for a bargain of a price, given its contents.

What we have here is a tribute worthy of a hero, to that then-hero of the gridiron, O. J. Simpson. And who gets to do the honor but the voice of the label, circa 1973-74 (when this record dates from), Gene Marshall. Writer Thomas Hunter doesn't actually have a lot to say about O.J. - if someone didn't know who the man was, or what he did for a living, nothing in this lyric would give even so much as a clue. The backing track is suitably funky, and the Preview arrangers do a good job of extending a fairly short lyric into a standard 2 1/2 minute pop song.

And of course, the lyricist was 100% correct that (in a very musical phrase indeed) "his popularity is never going down". Of course that's the case - have you seen him on those Naked Gun movies? The guy is a stitch.

Download: Gene Marshall: O. J. Simpson
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The flip side presents a few fascinating areas of inquiry. It's a peppy record, with a sinewy melody and understated backing.

Here's what fascinates me: It features a vocal performance credited to "Dean Curtis", who's shows up on well under a dozen known Preview 45's. Maybe I'm projecting more onto this than is there, but the lyrics, in which the writer "thought was Superfly", seem to come from a writer with an African-American viewpoint. Did Preview have a male Black singer? Dean Curtis's name might certainly have been interpreted as being from such a singer, whether they actually had one or not.

But I have a suspicion that this might actually be Rodd Keith. It's not clear to me if Keith was even at Preview by this point (the records with his name on them cease about 200 label numbers earlier. But boy, that vocal is full of things that sound like his inflections, and has the understated sound of some of the records he made for MSR near the end of his life. And the Dean Curtis records dry up by the time that Rodd died.

Or maybe it's more simple - maybe Rodd, having moved on to MSR, had to appear under a different pseudonym - I have no idea how any of that works.

Or maybe it's not Rodd, but just a guy named Dean Curtis, I'm wrong about the Black angle, and there was no effort to deceive anyone, for any reason. What the hell do I know?

Download: Dean Curtis - I Can't Get No Sweet Lovin'
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Monday, March 04, 2019

An Anti-Vietnam Song-Poem - On Halmark, of All Places

I tend to avoid featuring Halmark too often, usually only going to that well when I find something truly interesting in one way or another. There material is just too dreary and samey to feature more than a few times a year. 

This is one of those times. I've certainly found, over the years, that when song-poets delved into political or social issues, the vast majority of them landed on the conservative side of things - conservative religious themes, anti-drug, pro-flag, gung ho for the military and, when it was a going concern, the war in Vietnam, to name a few examples. There are certainly exceptions, as the entire albums of material praising Jimmy Carter demonstrate, but those are in the minority by a wide percentage. And if anything, those who sent their lyrics to Halmark were on the far end of the spectrum, particularly when it came to religion.

So it was a bit of a stunner to come across a song-poem taking the first person point of view against the war in Vietnam at all, let alone on Halmark. It's the last song on the EP, so let's struggle through the other three first, shall we?


At not coincidentally, we're religion heavy on much of the remainder of the disc. Starting off with a charming, not at all stultifying ditty all about "God's Mercy":

Download: Halmark Production: God's Mercy
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The singer there is most certainly label stalwart Jack Kim, and on the next record, which, if it can believed, is even more boring, Jack is joined by his wife Mary, as he so often was. The way Halmark had them each echo what the other had just sung drives me right up the wall. Please enjoy "Weak and Wise". I insist:

Download: Halmark Production: Weak and Wise
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At least those two songs were relatively brief - the A side times out at barely five minutes. The b-side's two song time out at well over seven minutes total. If learning about "God's Mercy" wasn't enough, now Jack and Mary will tell you all about "The Word of God", over one of Halmark's most particularly ponderous backing tracks.

Download: Halmark Production: The Word of God
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And finally, the track which makes the sharing of this record worthwhile. It's a story called "A Criminal in My Country", the saga of a young man who planned to be a teacher, but absconded to Canada to avoid serving in an unjust, immoral war, and now finds himself trapped there, despite the war having ended (although before too much longer, thanks to the aforementioned Jimmy Carter, he would have been able to return home).

At first, I just noticed the address listing for the song-poet, which as you can, is indeed from someone living in Canada at the time this lyric was submitted to Halmark, and I momentarily thought it was a first-person story. But no, the writer's name is that of a woman, and a quick web search finds there is still such a person living in Alberta to this day. Perhaps this is fiction, or perhaps she was telling the story of a loved one.

Anyway, this is no better, musically, than the other three numbers here, and a talking section in the middle, as heard here, is almost always a drag, to say nothing of the nearly four minute length. But the very existence of this record fascinates me.

Download: Halmark Production: A Criminal in My Country
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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Whiffing and Kissing

Okay, so here's a post I wrote and thought I'd posted, back on Tuesday. But I went to start the new post today, and found this one still sitting in draft. So here's last week's post, and a new one will come through early next week. 


Today's offering is "My Kiss is a Gift" by Gene Marshall. I find this record - or, more specifically, this lyric - downright peculiar. There isn't much to it, as you'll find after a quick listen. The track is fleshed out by repeating the two line chorus over and over again, and the verse lyrics are variations of the same ten words or so, rearranged a bit, each time. This alone is not all that unusual among song-poems, although it's interesting that Gene never actually sings the title of the song - the word "gift" isn't even in the lyric.

But it's that chorus that befuddles me: "To send you just a whiff, a kiss; to send you just a dearly kiss". What the HELL does that mean. Is there anyone out there that has, in describing a kiss, used the word "whiff". I actually find that distinctly unpleasant. And what is a "dearly kiss". If you have any great thoughts therein, by all means let me know.

Download: Gene Marshall - My Kiss is a Gift
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Actually, I was intrigued by this record, before hearing it, by the title of the flip side, "Possessed". And it's not bad - there's some good lyrics here, and Gene endows it with some really good emotion. The band arrangement has, to my ears, a touch of the Rodd Keith sound. If I hadn't heard 50 other midtempo Gene Marshall Preview sides that sounded pretty much just like this, I might find this more compelling. As it is, it's certainly decent enough, but doesn't really stand out.

Download: Gene Marshall - Possessed
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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Sandy Stanton's Gold Record

Certainly one of the dreams of many, and probably most recording acts is to be awarded a gold record, for sales of.... whatever a gold record symbolizes or symbolized at the time of its awarding (the standard is different for singles and albums, and has changed for each multiple times). 

As the owner of a song-poem label (well, a series of them), Sandy Stanton had no hope of achieving this accolade, and probably no interest in it, either. But still, he did occasionally press his records in a few different shades of the rainbow, and for one of his very few vocal performances on his own Film City label) (only two are documented at the song-poem database), he gave himself a gold-colored 45: 


This record is not documented at ASPMA. It comes from very late in the label's existence (the documented label numbers only reach about one hundred digits higher), and it is numbered after the last known Rod Rogers record for the label. That said, it clearly sounds to me like Rodd Keith on the Chamberlin, doing some wonderful work.

And the two songs, both written by the same song-poet, sound extremely similar - they are clearly based on the same Chamberlin settings, playing at the same tempo and nearly the same key. The main difference is that one song bops along breezily in under two minutes, and is bouncily enjoyable throughout, while the other seems cobbled together in places, and goes on for far too long.

The former - my preference of the two, is "What Is the Name of the Game?", and here it is!:

Download: Sandy Stanton with the "Swinging Strings" - What Is the Name of the Game?
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As mentioned, the flip side, "You're Haunting My Dreams" could be mistaken for the same track on its flip side, at first. But this track keeps going and going, far after its worn out its welcome. The words aren't as effective as the flip, either ("I stay here and you stay there - stay there"). Plus, am I the only one who hears a number of fairly poor edits in the Chamberlin track and maybe in the lead vocal track?

Download: Sandy Stanton with the "Swinging Strings" - You're Haunting My Dreams?
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Incidentally, an anonymous poster has recently offered up a few personal memories of Sandy Stanton, with more promised. This post was, in part, inspired by that person, and I thank him or her for the comments. You can find those on this post (which unfortunately, has broken sound file links).

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Two Very Different Sides of Phil Celia


Phil Celia was one of the good ones. Playing back the songs of his which I've posted here (and to WFMU) is one way of compiling a song-poem greatest hits collection. Just a review of those song titles brings a smile to my face: "Moaning and Groaning Twist", "A Fat Man in a Compact Car", "If Butch the Rough Barber Man Shaves Castro", "I'm Sorry I Put On Charlie's Shoes" (admittedly, most of these are in the dead zone of my site, where I still need to go back in and replace the files).

"Couldn't Be True is not, perhaps, at that level, but it's still a fun, night-clubby style record with a lounge-lizard lead vocal, and a fine addition to the Phil Celia collection.

Download: Phil Celia - Couldn't Be True
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Then, on the other hand, there is "She Kissed Me in a Dream", which is certainly the most ponderous, deadly track I remember hearing from dear ol' Phil. Rarely, apart from Halmark and Noval releases, has three minutes seemed to stretch out so long. (In fact, this sort of sounds like a Noval track to me.) And I'm a big fan of over-the-top echo when it's in the service of something raucous or ridiculous, but in this setting, he just sounds like he's singing in a sewer pipe, and the slow setting plays up some of his vocal limitations.

Download: Phil Celia - She Kissed Me in a Dream
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Song Poems For the Cotillion



Today we have a single on the Preview label by Suzie Smith, who was also heard a few times in the duo "Suzie and Rodd", and all in all, on a dozen or so Preview releases from the mid 1960's. And Rodd Keith sounds like he's all over this one, too - both tracks, particularly the first one I'm sharing, have the unmistakable sound of Rodd. And what's more, they both sound - to my ears, at least - like something I'd expect to hear from a cool, laid back, but oh so chic combo at a fancy affair/coming out party/ cotillion, etc., particularly the second song I'll be sharing.

"Why Did We Meet Too Late?", I think, is the stronger of the two. I would bet a few nickels that the very direct and heartfelt (if also amateurish) lyrics came from the song-poet's own life. The smooth, soft pop backing has quite a few little things to recommend it, particularly the tasty little piano fills, and Suzie Smith's singing is engaging enough to make this listener (given that I am one who is not particularly drawn to most of the female song-poem singers - Cara Stewart being the exception) wish she was on a lot more Preview releases.

Download: Suzie Smith - Why Did We Meet Too Late?
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On the flip side, we have the extremely Country-Club-sounding "My Dreams". This one starts out strongly, an appealing waltz with a lilting melody introducing the verse, somewhat-more-than-usually effective lyrics, and another really nice vocal. But then it goes on. And on. And on. More of that lilting melody gives way to a lengthy (and boring) piano solo on the baritone keys, and by the time it's done, the solos have stretched for over a minute, and the record drags on for nearly four minutes total. A good edit would have helped this one a lot.

Download: Suzie Smith - My Dreams
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Friday, January 18, 2019

"I'll Be Her Man-Daddy"


For today's post, let's stumble our way back to circa 1962, and the early days in the career of the man known most often as Sammy Marshall, but here identified as his second most often used aka, Sonny Marcell, heard here with the most excellent backing of the crack back up band, The Teenettes.

This record is on the tiny "Dub Records" label of Nashville, and dates to a point before the Globe song-poem factory developed the bland sheen that infects most of their product from at least the late '60's on, making a good percentage of those records indistinguishable from each other.

In this case, the song "Next Thing to a Living Doll", despite it's incredibly clunky song title, bops right along, and is the sort of record that serves Sammy's talents well. I must admit, though, that I'm taken right out of the mood the song has set so nicely when the lyrics quoted above come out of his mouth: "I'll Be Her Man-Daddy". Oh, will you now!?

Download: Sonny Marcell and the Teenettes: Next Thing to a Living Doll
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The flip side of the single, "Idol of My Dreams" is such a smarmy teener that it fairly drips with Clearasil. A few of the lyrics are as weird, in their own way, as the one I quoted from "Living Doll". "Don't be like a graven image"??? Sheesh. I'll stick with Gene Pitney's absolutely wonderful record of "Mecca" if I want to go down the road of this particular metaphor.

Download: Sonny Marcell and the Teenettes: Idol of My Dreams
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Incidentally, for anyone who might be interested, there is a copy of this record that has been put up for auction, repeatedly, on eBay, and it is available right now.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Gettin' Cozy with Bobby Barton




 
I've got a really nice pair of songs and performances for the first post of the new year, on a label which is new to me, and by a performer who might be new to me. The label is Cozy Records, and while I have no proof that this is a song-poem label, there is a record of the same song-poet writing another song for a known song-poem label. Plus, I think it's at likely that the singer, "Bobby Barton", is the same singer who usually went by the name "Rod Barton", and who made plenty of song-poem records in his day (and who is the only person from the song-poem world that I've ever been lucky enough to talk to).
 
Both of these sides are bouncy, rockin' fun. My favorite of the two, by a hair, is the slightly oddly titled "I've Got My Baby On the String" (shouldn't that be "on a string"?). For just under two minutes, the band swings, the guitarist provides tasty flavoring, and Bobby gives the lyric the attitude it deserves.
 
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Interestingly, both of these songs seem to very much have a male perspective built into the lyrics, yet both were written by a woman.
 
The flip side, "You Gotta Quit Whistlin' At My Baby", is almost as fun. It's just a touch slower than the other song, still swinging, but with more of a bump-and-grind feel, particularly in the drums. The singer - whatever his real name - again delivers just the right attitude demanded by the lyrics.
 
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Please be sure to note the Ultra-Sonic High Fidelity of both of these tracks.

 
 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Two Heaping Mouthfuls from Rodd Keith

HOWDY!!!

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone. It is my hope, in the new year, to re-connect the songs lost in the divshare meltdown of early 2015, AND to return to posting more than three times a month. There's no telling what the new year will bring in terms of busy times and other complications, but it is my plan to do both of those things. 


It has been a surprising three months since I last featured any Rodd Keith material, surely the longest time between such posts in the history of this blog. And so I found a late-era (for him) Preview release featuring a fairly interesting song on the b-side (not so much the flip, I don't think), and also one which features not one but two ridiculously long titles. In fact, in the "Rodd Keith" folder of my computer - which you might imagine is chock full and several screens long - these are the two longest song titles of the entire collection.

Of the two, I much prefer "Now I Can See Where I Made My Mistake", a tune with a driving sound, pushed along by pulsating keyboards and steady drumming. To my ears, Rodd sounds like he's shooting for the sound of some of the blue-eyed soul belters who came to prominence in the late '60's and early '70's. I'm actually reminded, a little bit, of the beat and feel of "Suspicious Minds" (a record I really can't stand, by the way - I like this a lot more). While not an out-and-out winner, it's an interesting entry, and I like a lot of what's going on among the many elements of the track.

Download: Rodd Keith - Now I Can See Where I Made My Mistake
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On the flip side is "Take Your Time Before You Fall in Love", by the same song-poet, who clearly liked to make his entire point via his song titles. This one is a slow drag - a bit too upbeat to be a ballad, but not nearly peppy enough to be a mover of any sort. For a too-long three and a quarter minutes, Rodd sings the writers story, which isn't a bad one, but which isn't told very well, musically or lyrically. Like so many other song-poems of this ilk, I lost interest halfway through, and had to go back to listen again to actually hear how we got to the point mentioned in the song title.

Download: Rodd Keith - Take Your Time Before You Fall in Love
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SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

When a Baby is Born

First of all, let me wish all of you a happy Christmas, and/or joyful whatever else you're having. I appreciate every visitor and every visit to this site, and I hope you find it worth your while every time you stop by.



When I found I had a recent acquisition containing the song title "When a Baby is Born", I felt that was a natural for a Christmas Day post. However, the song, named in this week's post title, is by far the lesser of the two songs on this 45, so I'll share it in the runner-up position.

And it's no surprise that the flip side is better, as it is yet another winner from Cara Stewart, in this case titled "Each Passing Day". I suppose nothing really sets this one aside from other Cara efforts, just another wonderfully winning vocal and more arrangement magic from Lee Hudson.

Download: Cara Stewart and Orchestra - Each Passing Day
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Actually the most interesting aspects of this record are probably the ones found on the label. When I shared the only other "Princess" label 45, in a post here (the links in that post no longer work), I speculated that the record in question was one of very few on the Princess label, a label not documented anywhere else at that time. Clearly, there were more, as this record, from three years later (1969), is number 19, a whole six records after the 1966 issue linked above. Clearly these are rarities - it took me eight years to acquire a second Princess release.

I didn't mention it in that previous post, but what is the deal with the copyright of "Dorothy Mann, Queen of the West"? That's got me thinking. And then of course, there is the matter of how and why did this come into the position of a Sergeant in the Women's Army Corps, as seen on the sticker. These are the things that would keep me up at night, if I was the sort to be kept up at night, which I'm not.



Anyway, the flip side, "When a Baby is Born", may make for a good title to use on a post for Christmas Day, but as a song - even a song-poem, it's fairly awful. This slow, dull record doesn't even give me much of a clue as to what song-poem factory it may have come from. Thoughts on that? The record claims the singer is someone named "Frank Cherry", but a quick listen shows that this is very unlikely to be the case. At least, I'm not familiar with "Frank" being a unisex name, but maybe I'm just out of the loop.

Download: (Labeled As) Frank Cherry and Orchestra - When a Baby is Born
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And finally, here is the Christmas card my family and I sent out to family and friends this year. We have a history of offbeat Christmas cards, and my older daughter, who is an artist, had perhaps the best idea we've ever had for a card. My wife and I are in the front row (I'm actually bald - that's a wig), and our daughters are in the back, on either side of the boyfriend of my my younger daughter (who is on the left).




Monday, December 17, 2018

A Double Shot of Tin Pan Alley

I know it's been a nearly unprecedented 17 days since I last posted here, and to make up for it, I'm going to offer up a two-fer, TWO Tin Pan Alley records, from several years apart, each of which contains a remarkable, entertaining and unique song on one side of the record.

First up, a record by Mike Thomas with the minimalist house combo that accompanied so many of the tunes he warbled. As I so often do, I really must allow you to enjoy the bizarre charms of "We're Having a Baby", without giving away too much of what goes on in its 98 seconds of existence. Suffice it to say that the weird lines come nearly back to back to back, throughout the ultra-short song. And the bouncy musical bed is just icing on the cake. The fact that this record was pressed just a tiny bit off center just adds to the wooziness that the words create.

I really wonder if the people in the Tin Pan Alley studio just completely lost it, cracking up, after finishing some of these records.

Download: Mike Thomas - We're Having a Baby
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The flip side, written by the same song-poet, is pressed even more off center. In this case, the song is of little interest to me, and the off-center effect is nothing but further annoyance. The song, "Planets of Love", is a stultifying slow 6/8 thing, of a type that Tin Pan Alley specialized in. It's genuinely difficult for me to remain focused on the lyrics long enough to care what he's singing about. Something about a marriage proposal underneath the moonlight, I think, but what's with the lyrics about all the evil things we do?

Download: Mike Thomas - Planets of Love
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And now, let's jump ahead several years, and enjoy a few minutes with everyone's favorite genre, the TV-Character-Tribute-Song-Poem:


"Dallas" was certainly a smash hit, and a TV phenomenon. Lead character J. R. Ewing inspired a few novelty records, including one that made Billboard's Hot 100. So it's little surprise that at least one song-poet decided to pen a tribute to the dastardly man. And again, it ended up with our friends at Tin Pan Alley. At this point, the house band was called "The Melodiers", although they sound to me like the same band, with Mike Thomas still on lead vocal.

They put together a peppy, power pop like track, with a melody sung rapidly enough that I can't make out everything that's being sung, but it's catchy and fun (and would be even more so if not for the truly crappy condition of this record...).

Download: The Melodiers - J. R.
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The flip side is "Gold Plate", and one could be forgiven for thinking it's a remake of "Planets of Love" (above) at first. It has that same, thuddish 6/8 beat, and in this case, I really have no idea what the writer is on about. The singer (Mike Thomas or whoever), seems to have some insight, as he puts far more feeling into the last few lines than I could imagine someone directing at this song, after three minutes of boredom.

Download: The Melodiers - Gold Plate
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Friday, November 30, 2018

Gospel Norm


Time seems to be fleeting again, and I really want to get another set of song-poems out there before the month ends in three hours or so. I had one post ready to go, then found out that the song in question was readily available on youtube. So I've grabbed a record by one of my favorite singers, Norm Burns, and am offering it up instead. It's Sterling Records' attempt at a Gospel feel, not terribly successful, I'd say, but I almost always find Norm worth hearing. Here's "I Am Going Home With Him".

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - I Am Going Home With Him
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I won't be surprised if the flip side is the preferred one for many listeners. "My Broken Heart Will Heal Someday", is a fairly bland, midtempo thing, but there's some stellar drumming going on, and the little fill in melodies (and the song melody itself) are not too shabby, at least in places. In other places, particularly at the section starting at 1:48, the construction is laughably bad. But honestly, mostly I just really dig the drumming.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - My Broken Heart Will Heal Someday. 
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