Saturday, November 10, 2018

Pretension Overload!



It comes as no surprise that the basic scam of the song-poem company would draw into it's net some people whose writing was a bit, say, prone towards pretentiousness. And there are more than enough examples to fill three months of posts here - "The Human Breakdown of Absurdity", "Life and Myself" and "Virgin Child of the Universe" come to mind. 

I have no doubt my mouth dropped open in wonder upon hearing each of those three - particularly "Life and Myself", which cracks me up to this day. And like that song, today I have another Gene Marshall masterpiece, which also caused me to nearly burst into laughter, all by myself. It's called "Loneliness", and while the opening lines are more than a bit ponderous, the real sign of trouble is when, barely a third of the way through the record, Gene has to speak the writer's words, for nearly a minute. 

That's no surprise, given the presence of several words which would terrifically difficult to set to music, such as "presently", "correlation" and "wherein". And is it just me, or, in this section does Gene Marshall sound like Rod Serling introducing a Twilight Zone episode? 

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The song on the flip side is called "When Young Eyes Meet". The same song-poet as on "Loneliness" provided this lyric, and he does considerably better with a more direct, at times genuinely affecting set of words. The music is too bland, and the quality of those words too uneven to make this anything special, but the lyrics do give more than a bit of insight into a part of the writer's life, things that may have inspired not only this song, but also "Loneliness". 

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

SCARY BAD!!!



What better day than a day dedicated to all things scary to offer up a new find on one of the most consistently, frighteningly awful labels out there, the tiny and mysterious Noval Records label. 

First up is a song with an absolutely quintessential song-poem title, "Thoughts", sung by Noval's resident female - as always, not credited on the label (that's the songwriters' names you see in the scans). There are at least a few other obvious titles that could have been given to this lyric, but no, the song-poet with "Thoughts". 

A lugubrious pace and somnambulistic setting by the combo drag this one down, as they do on about 80% of Noval's releases. The singer - as this singer always does - sounds like a hometown girl performing in an amateur hour at the local church, although I am head over heels for the spectacularly incompetent swooping in her voice at 1:26 - It borders on self-parody, and it's worth the price of admission. 

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The flip side, "Following Around With You", features the same vocalist, but the band, as heard here, is about the peppiest that I've ever heard on a Noval release, and it's sort of led by a plucked guitar, another rarity on this label. The whole thing (except the typically awful vocal) sounds more like a Globe production than the typical Noval output. 

That doesn't make any of it very good at all. Lyrically, it's actually a close relative to "Thoughts" - a woman pining for someone who has likely been untrue - although the specifics are different (the reference to the Army seems to fly in from another song entirely). Musically, despite the peppier beat (it's not actually peppy, but it's a rock and roll stomper compared to most Noval records), nothing of interest happens, aside from a few badly played moments. And is it just me, or does this seem to go on forever.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Peppy, Short and Sweet


Man, I have genuinely lost track of time. I had no idea I hadn't posted in over two weeks. I need to get back into a rhythm.
 
Before I get to today's feature, I want to share that the date for the obnoxiously racist Halmark release featured two weeks ago has been identified as 1969. Please see the comments to my previous post for details; I have updated the post.
 


I have often found the late-era Tin Pan Alley efforts by the band called "New Image" to be half-assed in a usually uninteresting, occasionally entertaining way. But here's one I actually like as a record. It still has that oompah feeling heard on so many TPA records of the '70's and later, but in this case, the loping beat, the stripped down backing and the pleading vocalist fit the lyrics nicely, and.... I dunno, the whole thing "works" for me, even while I recognize that it's got bargain basement lyrics and a garage demo level backing. It's also over in just 106 seconds, so there's barely a welcome to be worn out. It's called "Here I Am Without You", and here it is:

Download: New Image - Here I Am Without You
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But, as I find myself saying quite often, the flip side - I Want to Be the One - does not do it for me, despite being in the sort of '50's setting that would often appeal to me. I find myself tuning out, not caring much about the lyrics or the performance.

Download: New Image - I Want to Be the One
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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Really? REALLY?????


Today's post is really about one song on a four song EP, one awful song that is aggressively ugly in concept and execution. So I'll briefly mention the first, third and fourth tracks on this Halmark masterpiece, and focus on that one song. And then I'll offer up a palate cleanser, a record so ridiculous that it must be heard.

The entire EP is credited to Bob Storm, and that sounds about right based on the vocals here. The first song is "The Higher You Are", set to one of the typically moldy old-style music beds that Halmark recycled with astounding regularly (as well as contempt for their customers).

Download: Bob Storm - The Higher You Are
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Now about that atrocity. It comes up next, and it's called "Old Sambo". I'm mostly going to let you discover the astonishing nature of this lyric for yourself as it plays on your computer, but first, I'm going to wonder - did the folks at Halmark literally have no shame? Was there no lyric that they would reject? When they read the first line of the recitation (yes, it's one of those), didn't anyone suggest that this was beyond the pale? What on earth did the folks who submitted the other three sets of lyrics think, when they played their song, then listened to the rest of the record?

Please remember (or be advised) that the heyday of this label was the early '70's through the late '70's; even though the music here sounds like the record is from the early to mid '50's, it is actually more likely this record came out during Richard Nixon's second administration, or during Gerald Ford's presidency, and it could not have come out before 1967, in any case.

(Addendum: readers far more clever than I am have determined that this record is from 1969. Please see the comments!)

Again, was nothing off limits? Did every single person - even this lyricist, get the come-on responses from Halmark, telling them how wonderful their writing was? Why didn't "Bob Storm" (whoever he really was, not (Bob) storm his way out of the recording studio?

Okay, I've written far too much, again. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... "Old Sambo":

Download: Bob Storm - Old Sambo
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Okay, that's over with. The best thing I can say about "I Can't Think" is that it uses, as it's music bed, my favorite Halmark backing track, the one most memorably used behind "My Hamburger Baby". Not that anything interesting is done with it:

Download: Bob Storm - I Can't Think
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We finish off with another track that features a spoken introduction. The most interesting thing, to me, about "Lisa Maria", is that the title of the song is not featured in the lyrics, as sung - Bob Storm consistently sings about "Lisa Marie", not "Maria":

Download: Bob Storm - Lisa Maria
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Don't miss the bonus track, below the label scan!


As promised, here is a palate cleanser.

I suspect this is actually a vanity recording, but it could be a song-poem, and regardless, there is a lot of overlap here between the two, whichever it is.

It's called "For You". And this is a SPECTACULARLY bad song, with ridiculously simple lyrics, which move quickly into something at least somewhat stalker-esque. I'll assume for the moment that the man credited, Jesse James Hall, is both the writer and the singer here. If not, he's probably the writer, rather than the singer. The label is "Song-makers, Inc. of New York City, and the whole thing smells like a bottom of the barrel production.

Consider these inspired opening lines, the ones that, of course, are meant to catch the listener's ear:

I live for only you, 
Without you I can't live
Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo
I live for only you. 

A short time later, after expressing that he hopes she loves him too, he becomes more insistent:

I'll go on living
As long as you live for me. 

That's a lot to expect from someone, especially if you're currently only hoping she loves you.

As a piece of songwriting, this is a masterpiece of incompetence. And it gets it all done in just 97 seconds.

Download: Jesse James Hall  - For You
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Monday, September 24, 2018

You Want Cloying? I'll Give You Cloying!




So the big news here is that we have a brand new, previously un-catalogued song-poem label, which appears to possibly be a vanity pressing used (created?) by one Margaret A. Rosenberger, and featuring the efforts of both the Film City and Globe song-poem factories, in each case represented on this EP by their respective lead artistes, Rodd Keith (as Rod Rogers, of course) and Sammy Marshall (identified here as two different singers, Sonny Marcell and Sammy Marshall - I have to wonder if even a single person was fooled).

And not to take away from the niftiness of all that, but Rod Rogers' features are among the most cloying, infantile songs and performances that I've ever heard on a song-poem, reaching the level of some of Dora Hall's worst kiddie offerings. That the quality of the songs and lyrics take the focus away from some pretty creative Chamberlin arrangements is even more frustrating; there's some nice stuff going on instrumentally here, but in combination with these lyrics, they just strike me as over-the-top cutesy-ness to go with the lyrics.

First up is "Kitty Cat"

Download: Rod Rogers - Kitty Cat
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And Ms. Rosenberger couldn't give all of her attention to her dear, beloved kitty, so she also provided us with a song about her two dogs, "Skip and Mitzi".

Download: Rod Rogers - Skip and Mitzi
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~~

Turning the record over, we find "Sonny Marcell" with the only non-animal-related track on the EP, and the dullest of the four (to these ears, anyway), to boot, "A Spanish Town". At least the music sort of matches the feel of the lyrics, in a stereotypical way. The sudden double tracking, on the other hand, doesn't work at all:

Download: Sonny Marcell - A Spanish Town
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As mentioned above, Sonny changes his last name to "Marshall" in time to present one of his patented early '60's-styled rockers. Despite the presence of Rodd Keith on the flip side, this is easily my favorite of the four songs, but I am a sucker for that twist beat, and Sonny/Sammy's way with this sort of material.

Download: Sonny Marshall - A Little Bird
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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Come Back to Norm


It's Norm Time here at Song-Poem central. I wish it was Norm Time almost as often as it was Rodd Time, but I just don't have as many Norm Burns records. Today's feature is not one of Norm's (or Sterling's) outstanding efforts, but I think it's solid in all areas but one. The band plays a nice pop-rock backing, with what I consider some particularly stellar drumming. Norm projects real feeling and sells the song well. The only thing that keeps this from being an all around winner are some truly cookie-cutter, seventh grade romance level lyrics. There is not a single original or interesting thing said in this words, is there?

Ah, well, you can't have it all. At least not always.

Download: Norm Burns: Come Back, My Darling
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The dichotomy between that side and its flip side "Out in the World" is pretty stark, to these ears. Maybe it's just me, but here I find a band which sounds like its going through the motions, and a singer who doesn't sound engaged with the lyrics or the song. The stodgy beat, meandering melody and mediocre, often non-musical lyrics don't help, but as the flip demonstrated, at least poor lyrics can be overcome somewhat if the rest of the record is decent. Then again, the flip didn't go on for almost three and a half dull minutes.

Download: Norm Burns: Out in the World
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

His Mammy and His Mammy-In-Law


Today, I have a downright peculiar sets of lyrics from the pen of one Jay Andrews, set to music by the Globe song-poem factory, assigned to Sammy Marshall (identified here as "Sonny Marshall"), and licensed out (or however that worked) to the Air label.

On the better of the two sides we have "In-Law Blues", which contains the phrase I've alluded to above, "My mammy and my mammy-in-law", or parts thereof, several times. Really. Has anyone else ever expressed that relationship in that way...ever? "My mammy-in-law." Plus, it just rolls off the tongue, particularly when set to music.

The story the song tells is prosaic, but the way it's expressed, lyrically and musically (this band should not be in the same state as a record identified as a "blues") make it stand out for me. I think my mouth dropped open while listening to this record for the first time.

And is it just me, or does this 165 second number seem to go on forever.

Download: Sonny Marshall - In-Law Blues
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On the flip side is the primarily stultifying "Naughty Lady". Mr. Andrews lyrics suggest that he was going for suave sophistication, and Sammy (er, Sonny) and the band certainly treat it like that was the intent, although they are not remotely successful in doing so.

Lyrics like "can one so blasé feel such a thrill" and "Lady.... please", certainly don't help. I will admit that when he sang "Naughty lady, I'm on to you", I was hoping for the next line to be "Lady.... let's screw". That would have pepped things up. Alas, no.


Download: Sonny Marshall - Naughty Lady
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

In Memory of Elvis on 8/16/18

It's been 41 years since the King of Rock and Roll last saw the inside of an earthly bathroom, and in honor of this death anniversary, I want to offer up a full song-poem album, one on the Royal Master label, featuring three singers - Matt Vincent, Jaye Pauley and Jim Ward - not heard on this site before. In all, nearly 45 minutes of song-poems.
 
(I hoped to have more to say about the album, the anniversary and the individual tracks, and set aside a couple of hours to do so, but car problems last night (now resolved) ate up that time, and a third hour as well, and in order to get this up today, I'm just going to share the tracks. I haven't even had a chance to make sure there are no glitches in the MP3's. Please let me know if there are any issues.)

So herewith, the front cover of this masterpiece:


And the record label for side one, containing all the song titles and lyricists:


And here are the two sides of the album:

Download: Various Artists - A Tribute to the King, Side One
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Download: Various Artists - A Tribute to the King, Side Two
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Here is the back cover: 

 
Here is the label for side two:
 
 
And a close-up of the back cover, showing the performers of each song:
 


Monday, August 06, 2018

The King is Gone, and So Are Some Squirrels


It's been ages - oddly enough, exactly a year, actually - since I featured a Halmark single here. There's a good reason for that. While there are some fabulous releases on Halmark - virtually all of those being fabulous because of their entertaining level of awfulness - there are many more releases on Halmark which are simply awful, without the benefit of being funny, endearing or otherworldly.

I seem to have nearly exhausted my pre-arranged stack of worthy Halmark releases, so I am only now sharing them when I newly come across which is worth hearing. And I hadn't had that experience in many a month. Until last week.

And actually, I find the first three tracks here to be also unsuitably stultifying. But that last one makes it all worth while. But there may be some of you, who perhaps are particularly fond of that all-too-common item, the dead Elvis song-poem, who may enjoy the first of our four part saga here. It's called "An August Day", it's set to a track we now know to have been originally created to back up the song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", and is true more often than not on Halmark, the singer is not named.

Download: Halmark Productions - An August Day
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The less said about the next two, ponderous, Christian numbers, the better. The first is "In Gratitude", and what appears to be a slightly off center pressing makes me even more woozy than the performance itself. 

Download: Halmark Productions - In Gratitude
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A favorite, dramatically awful Halmark backing track is the only thing which holds appeal to me in "He's Coming Back to Stay", and it's been used to much greater effect elsewhere. I wonder if the writer minded that the singer speaks, rather than sings, the majority of her lyrics. Then again, with non-musical phrases like "available time" and "people who haven't accepted the Lord", what other choice did they have?

Download: Halmark Productions - He's Coming Back to Stay
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But the reason for sharing this record is the track called "Hunting Country". The lyrics here are all over the map, and gloriously stupid. But I'll let you experience the joys of this ridiculous track without spoiling them.

Download: Halmark Productions - Hunting Country
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cut-Rate, Dime-Store Zeppelin



 
I'll write it again: "Cut-Rate, Dime-Store Zeppelin". That's exactly what I thought upon listening to "Hard Times" on the Tin Pan Alley label, as sung by Mike Thomas with a trio of musicians behind him. If there's a third adjective to further modify the crumminess of this performance, it applies, too.
 
And I honestly do wonder if someone at TPA told the band and the singer, "Hey, go listen to this Led Zeppelin stuff - it's really popular - see if you can work up something like that".
 
Whether that happened or not, the results fit the description, at least to these ears, particularly after the 1:30 point. The slow, bluesy backing, the guitarist wailing his solo around those chords in a certain way, the drawling high pitched singer, the drum fills near the end. Not that I think any of this is done competently, of course. It's not. But I can't imagine that they stumbled onto this genre by accident. Even if the results are sort of a car crash.
 
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On the flip side, we have an earnest performance - and a very typical one at that - of an equally earnest, religious lyric, in a song titled "Lord of the Sky", also by Mike Thomas. Nothing much stands out here - this could be the quintessential TPA release of this era.
 
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Monday, July 16, 2018

A Jaw-Dropping Rodd Keith Record


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
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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
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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

MAMBO-ITIS!!!


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
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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)
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