Monday, July 16, 2018
Relatively early in my days of song-poem collecting, I asked song-poem maven Phil Milstein for his insight into what was the most popular song-poem, among those he'd heard from and interacted with. His answer was that it was Gary Robert's magnificently weird and half-assed "Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush". This made sense to me, because not only was it likely the first song-poem most fans heard (at that point, at least, as it was the lead track on both the first vinyl and the first CD song-poem compilations), but it has a lot of the hallmarks (sic) of the best/worst of song-poems - utterly personal lyrics, no sense (by the lyricist) of what will and won't work when set to music - in this case, spectacularly so - minimal effort by the backing band, and a singer who is no great shakes.
Today, I have an example of what happens when a musical genius, his better days behind him, is offered a chance to work with a similarly convoluted, personal set of lyrics, words which have no business being made into a song. And I find the results stunning, sad, astonishing at times. I would not rank the weirdness on a level with "Big Wood and Brush", but this record is deeply odd in its own ways, while sharing that glorious factor of incompetent storytelling in the lyrics.
The genius in question is Rodd Keith, performing on one of the first records released on Sandy Stanton's "Action Records" label, along with the "Big Action Sound", which is simply the Chamberlin. My guess - and it's just that - is that at this point (1972), Rodd was under contract with MSR, and could not appear as either Rod Rogers or Rodd Keith, so he shows up here as "Terry Thomas", perhaps in honor of the great British comic actor.
Anyway, this record is a mess. Rodd's Chamberlin choices, while they do contain some interesting parts, are often shrill and ugly. Vocally I hear a shell of the man who'd offered so many great performances in the 1960's. And the material he was given to work with is... something else - I'll let you discover its charms.
See what you think!
Download: Terry Thomas and the "Big Action Sound" - I'm a Lonely Man
On the flip side is a song for which Rodd - as Terry Thomas - actually took co-writer credit. It's a better song (lyrics by the same person as on "Lonely Man"). Rodd sounds a bit more engaged, and the track is more cohesive, too, but there's nothing there that holds my attention. Your mileage may vary.
Download: Terry Thomas and the "Big Action Sound" - Make Up Your Mind
Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Today, we're going to travel back in time, to the era when America was Mambo crazy, and join with one of my favorite early song-poem purveyors, Teacho Wiltshire (who, in a rare exception to the song-poem rule, went on to a significant "legit" career in music), on one of my favorite labels, Tin Pan Alley, for a little bit of MAMBO-ITIS! Take it, Teacho:
Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra: Mambo-Itis
Having just expressed my undying appreciation for Teacho, I must now backtrack and say that I find very little like about the song on the flip side, "Time is Precious (Don't Waste It)", or his ingratiating, smarmy vocal performance. Perhaps you'll find more to like.
Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra - Time is Precious (Don't Waste It)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
First, thanks to the good folks at Blogger, the problem with pop-up ads has, I'm told, been addressed. Please let me know if that's the case, or, especially, if that's NOT the case.
I was recently lucky enough to acquire four records on the previously unlisted, undocumented "Howden Records" label. They were advertised as song-poems, and I was skeptical at first, but then I noticed that almost half of the eight tracks were by Betty Bond, who was definitely part of the Bob Quimby's Tropical Records outfit, which dealt in song-poems, and which was specifically in the habit of setting up vanity labels for some of the song-poets who sent them material. Such would appear to be the case for "Howden", as all of the songs are written by one HOWard DENnington.
The sides which don't feature Betty Bond feature two singers not previously known to the song-poem world, and today's record - which contains what I find to be among the best of the eight tracks - features Ella Howard. She's not the greatest singer, and both songs sound fairly similar. But like some other Tropical records I've heard (admittedly, not a lot), they have a bit more quality and variety to the composition and arrangement than most song-poems (at least those not involving Rodd Keith).
Here's the first of the songs, "It's the Natural Thing"
Download: Ella Howard - It's the Natural Thing
And the flip side, "Without You".
Download: Ella Howard - Without You
Sunday, June 17, 2018
First and foremost, Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers out there, and to the fathers of everyone reading this!
Here's my solemn promise to everyone out there - when I obtain a Roger Smith 45, I will always post it here very quickly. Or maybe that doesn't mean much to anyone but me, but I sure do love the barely-in-control vocals on many of his records (at least the upbeat ones).
Here we have a very early release on the Ronnie label (the first one documented at AS/PMA), dated to early 1961, via a mention in Billboard within a list of records believed to have "limited sales potential". That assessment was no doubt accurate, but I really enjoy one side of the record, "Margie Now", which features some lyrics about the nicknames of a certain young woman. The words seem to assume we will understand what the changes in names indicate about her, but I admit to being clueless about this. But Roger Smith sure sells it, and the pedal steel sounds nice, too.
There is a some truly awful damage to the record, at the 2:32 point, which is really peculiar, lasting essentially two rotations of the disc, and barely visible at all on the record itself. It plays right through, though.
Download: Roger Smith: Margie Now
I cannot work up much (or any) enthusiasm for the flip side, "Aloha, Miss Hawaii", but it would have been quite topical at the time, given that this record was produced less than 18 months after our 50th state joined the union, and the lyrics are serviceable enough. Like the flip side, this record sounds, to me, very much as if it came from the early days of the Globe song-poem factory.
Download: Roger Smith: Aloha, Miss Hawaii
Thursday, June 07, 2018
Lane Records - apparently the property o f George E. Clements - appears to have been among the tiniest of tiny labels. The AS/PMA website only confirms two releases, numbers 101 and 102, and it seems unlikely that there were many more releases, if any.
The other (known) release on the label appears to have featured the work of singers/song-poem factories associated with several labels, but # 102, which I was lucky enough to acquire a few weeks ago, features Rodd Keith, in his guise of Rod Rogers, and his Film City sound, thanks to the Chamberlin.
On "Such a Love", my choice for the better of the two sides, Rodd chose a frequent favorite of his, a shuffling pop beat, along with some atmospheric flute accompaniments, and the whole concoction bounces along quite nicely - there's a nice, thickly chorded solo, and I'm particularly fond of the flute coda.
Download: Rod Rogers - Such a Love
The flip side, "Gone With Your Goodbye", is more in the ponderous MOR style that Rodd often favored for some of the more introspective or longing lyrics that he was given to work with. It's not a favorite style of mine, but it's nearly always impressive to hear what he was able to do with the Chamberlin, and beyond that, perhaps some of you out there find more to enjoy in it than I do.
Download: Rod Rogers - Gone With Your Good-Bye
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
It's been quite a while since I offered up a slice of Sammy Marshall - four months, it seems. That's understandable, I guess - while I love some of his records, the majority of them are quite "samey" and in a style that doesn't make "Samey" work. But here he is, early in his career (1962, per the song-poem database website), on the tiny Arco label. I know that label is very difficult to read, but here he is operating under the name "Sandy Singer".
In this case, he's doing one of his patented, peppy, early '60's, twist style numbers, in this case, one called "A Little Bit Early".
Download: Sandy Singer (Sammy Marshall) - A Little Bit Early
The flip side has pretty much the same beat and feel, with the addition of some stereotypical Native American drumbeats and sounds, as well as equally stereotypical lyrics referring to the same population. These aspects are pretty standard issue for the era, while and not so acceptable today. It's a story of a love affair between the singer and an Indian beauty, called "Oklahoma City, Okla".
Download: Sandy Singer (Sammy Marshall) - Oklahoma City, Okla
Friday, May 18, 2018
First, I wanted to thank everyone for their recent comments. I would like to point you to Darryl Bullock's suggestion that on the "Carof on the Boys" post from last month, the singer might be Rodd Keith (who did record on that label). I'm not sure I'm hearing it, but I'm not sure I'm not, either. Thanks to Stu Shea for more information about Mando Guitars, too - it seems the group chose its name completely separate from the actual instrument of that name, which didn't exist at the time.
I particularly want to acknowledge Sammy Reed, who has identified the release date and some other information regarding my last few posts. But even more so, I want to point to you Sammy's own site, where he has posted nearly three dozen song-poems, primarily ones from this site which were lost in the Divshare meltdown a few years ago.
I do intend to fix those posts - and maybe this will push me to do so (I took several down about a year ago, intending to fix them) - but in the meantime, and that may be a long meantime, you can find a bunch of them here.
And now, back to the countdown:
From 1975 comes a set of two soul-pop entries, featuring the unmistakable voice of Dick Kent. It is a song-poem truism - to use the phrase of another collector - that for those labels that did try to copy trends in pop music, they always seemed to be 2-4 years behind those trends. So it is with this record, both sides of which feature musical sounds which strike me as being very 1971-72 in nature.
"Springtime Blues" is pressed a little bit off center, giving it a minutely wobbly effect, a fun feature for a song which literally mentions singing out of tune. The song-poet did not provide anywhere near enough lyrics for a 150 second single, so we are treated to a lengthy band instrumental (over 50 of those seconds), featuring electric piano and (buried) wailing guitar, and then a repeat of the first verse!
Download: The Real Pros - Springtime Blues
On the flipside is another midtempo shuffle, one which even more strongly sounds like 1971 to me, especially in the drumming and piano playing. This side is generally put together better than "Springtime Blues", and the lyrics certainly have more meat. If it wasn't for the ultra-cheesy synths, I could absolutely believe someone could find this record, and believe it was a failed attempt to make a hit record in the early '70's. Not a very good one, but it does have that sound, which is not really something I find myself saying, all that often.
Download: The Real Pros - Don't You Know I Love You
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
As I've alluded to, perhaps a bit too often, actually, I've not exactly been providing a song-poem record "a week", more like a song-poem record every ten days. As a bit of an apology for that, and a reward for sticking with me, today I have an entire song-poem album for you. This was produced by Iris Tipton, a prolific song-poet, using 12 song-poems she commissioned from two song-poem factories, and titled, most catchily, "Let's Go Country with Iris Tipton, et al" (or, "Country Style" if you prefer what's on the record label itself), released on her own Iris label.
Iris Tipton wrote the all-time classic song-poems "I Spent My Last Three Dollars On an Irish Sweepstake Ticket, and "In God We Trust", both of them high up on my list of favorite records (song-poem or otherwise) and the latter of which was the song with which I kicked off the "song-poem of the week project, way back when. On this album, she co-wrote all the songs on side one with another prolific song-poet, John W. Stephenson (who also had his own label, Cowtown).
Sorry about the crappy sound in advance - it doesn't appear to be my turntable/needle, as I tried a few times on two of them to get it to play better. I think it's just the pressing, but if I can get it to play better, I will replace the files.
As I have done before with full albums, I have not separated out the tracks, but rather, have side one and side two for you dining and dancing pleasure. The performers on side one are the rarely documented Johnny Gatlin (who I'm guessing, from the sound of him, was working with the Globe song-poem factory) and the quite well known Cara Stewart (with, of course, the Lee Hudson sound). One may discern a sameness about the melodies of some of the Johnny Gatlin songs. I don't know about you, but it is with great relief and great enjoyment that the final song, featuring the incomparable voice of Cara Stewart, breaks the tedium, even if "physique" is hardly a song that belongs in a sultry love song. The credits listed for the six short songs (the whole side is 13 minutes long) can be viewed from the label, below the links.
Download: Various Artists - Iris Tipton's Let's Go Country", Side One
Side two continues with Cara Stewart, happily heard on four of the six, slightly longer tunes (this is a 16 minute side), and joined for the first two, by the previously unknown Gary Williams, who clearly was also from the Lee Hudson song-poem outfit. The subject matter and lyrics to "I Selected Your Picture" make that one a standout. Even with that, I can't help but smile, again, when Cara returns, although her first song on side two, "I Want To Lock You Up Inside My Heart", has some of the most insipid lyrics I've ever heard.
Download: Various Artists - Iris Tipton's Let's Go Country", Side Two
Here's that back cover:
And here's the address on that back cover, 4709 Beethoven Street in Los Angeles
Monday, April 30, 2018
As I wrote on my other blog, and reiterate today, time is simply getting away from me this month. So just a relative few words about this week's posting (very few about the second side), and then they can speak for themselves.
I bought this record last week, and wanted to get it right up here because it's so unusual. For one thing, neither artist seems to show up on any other song-poem 45. For another thing, one side is an instrumental, something you rarely see on a song-poem. It's certainly possible that "Carment Y Laura Waltz" by The Mandoguitars is a vanity release - a completed recording which someone paid Tin Pan Alley to release. But (and I may be missing something) I'm not aware of TPA doing vanity releases. But there are a handful of other records from this era of the label (1958-59) which also feature otherwise unknown names, so it's possible. But regardless of its parenthood, it's an interesting listen, and something that seems to be virtually unique among TPA releases.
Download: The Mandoguitars - Carmen Y Laura Waltz
Okay, raise your hands, how many of you even knew a Mando-Guitar was a thing. I didn't.
The flip side, featuring the equally otherwise unknown Frank Villani with "My Little Valentine" couldn't more clearly be a song-poem - and a fairly awful one at that, if it came stamped with "I am a song-poem" on the label.
Download: Frank Villani: My Little Valentine
Monday, April 16, 2018
I have a rather unusual release for you today, unusual for a few different reasons.
The record was released on the Inner-Glo label, a label which existed primarily for the purpose of housing songs written by Edith Hopkins. Edith Hopkins may be my favorite writer from the song-poem world, having written more than a half-dozen songs that I really love.
At some point, Ms. Hopkins may a go of it as an actual, prospective writer of hit songs, and a few non-song-poem (although not successful) artists recorded her work on the Carellen label, which seems to (maybe) have been a legit/song-poem hybrid.
At some point, however, she moved on to her own Inner-Glo label. And many, if not most, of the records I've heard and seen on Inner-Glo came from the Globe song-poem factory, with such stalwarts as Sammy Marshall and Kris Arden. And they tend to sound very much like Globe releases, even when they are far above average, as with Sammy's great double-A side "I'll Do It For You" / "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained".
The story behind today's record, though, is not so clear, and I find it kind of fascinating. First, there is the artist credit, to "David, Paul and Carof". I've done some searches just now, and I can't find any reference to "Carof" being a first name. It also appears that this record (from 1964) is the only one ever released bearing this artist credit.
And on top of that, the song's genre is one rarely heard on song-poem records - folk music, very much in the relatively simple vein of Peter, Paul and Mary or the Kingston Trio (although not in the wheelhouse of the more adept and musically excellent groups such as The Weavers, The Limeliters or The Chad Mitchell Trio). I can barely think of another song-poem that sounds quite like this.
The song on this side is by far the better of the two, to my ears, "The Love of a Woman" (although I wish they'd bothered to get all the instruments in tune with each other), and yes, the record really does end like that.
Download: David, Paul and Carof - The Love of a Woman
The flip side is the more musically complex "A Rose Can't Grow", but it's also quite a bit more ponderous, and is the sort of thing that often tries my patience, despite my being a huge fan of the music of the folk revival of this era. It sounds to me like the vocal gymnastics required by the arrangement are a bit beyond these guys.
Download: David, Paul and Carof - A Rose Can't Grow
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
As I've written before, posting songs from the Fable Label poses an interesting dilemma. Most of the songs on the label were probably not song-poems, but a good percentage of them seem to have been vanity releases. And when a likely vanity release is sung by someone other than the song-writer, that seems like at the very least a hybrid vanity/song-poem release.
Such is the case - and I'm guessing here - with today's feature. Lysle Tomerlin had several songs released on Fable, and wrote at least one South-Pacific-Themed song which was recorded and released by an established artist. Aside from that song, though, everything seems to have been on Fable, making me suspect these as vanity records.
Today's 45 - from 1955 - features two Western Swing flavored numbers, featuring a singer identified as "Little Jeannie Greer". She does sound young, although not necessarily like a child. Perhaps she was a teen, or perhaps she was short in stature. I find her singing a bit on the amateur side, but very engaging and sweet, and the backing is just lovely. Here's one side of the single, "Slyly":
Download: Little Jeannie Greer - Slyly
The flip side has the unwieldy title of "Who, What Where, When, How and Why". That title comes out sounding just as clunky and difficult to sing as you'd imagine, and the song is not as well put together as is "Slyly". But the performance is nearly as fun, cute and memorable as the one on the flip side:
Download: Little Jeannie Greer - Who, What Where, When, How and Why
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Today, we have a 1964 single on the tiny Caveman label, featuring two singers I've never featured before. in fact, I've never owned records by them before, and they barely turn up among the documented song-poem releases. First up, and just in time for Easter, is Drake Morgan with "The Christ Story". The most curious thing about this song, to me, is that lyricist Ned Williams (who wrote the words for both sides of this record) seemingly had no issue with lifting the words directly out of the hit song "The Three Bells", and nonsensically suggesting that they were spoken by The Three Wise Men (that'd be a good trick, since those lyrics reference The Lord's Prayer, which wasn't spoken by Jesus until adulthood, to say nothing of the fact that they also refer to the singers of those words as being a "congregation").
The rest of the song is a sort of "The Gospels' Greatest Hits"; quick summaries of a few high points, captured in fairly clunky verse, at least when set to this particular music. One wonders (well I wonder) if the writer of this lyric was of the fundamentalist persuasion, and if so, if he objected to the song's release on a label named after Cavemen, something that such a person would presumably believe never existed.
Download: Drake Morgan - The Christ Story
More fun by far is the flip side, "The Drifter", subtitled "(Western Opera)" and warbled for us by Monty Mathis (perhaps Johnny's less successful brother?). I actually find this one fairly catchy, perhaps because it is, at certain moments, very reminiscent of a very memorable song, "The Last Round-Up", which was originally a hit in 1933. Anyway, this bounces along with a warm, well played western-type backing track, and Monty does what's needed. The lyrics are engaging and the melody sells itself, too. I dig it.
Download: Monty Mathis - The Drifter (Western Opera)