Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Can Only Imagine.....

Every now and then I listen to a particularly bizarre song-poem and get to wondering: If this particular record had arrived at a radio station or record store, and was played by someone who thought his or her usual job (to choose whether to promote the record or not) applied, what would that person's response have been to this record.

Here we have a perfect example: a record so incompetent that, upon hearing it, I could feel my mouth dropping open in astonishment. And I KNOW what it is. What would my fictional record store or radio manager think?

And again, this record is on that most mysterious of song-poem labels, Noval.

Noval, with their bizarre credits - listing only the arranger, by first name (in this case, Jay), and the lyricist. The latter habit no doubt would make most people who pick one of these up think that Irene Edwards sang today's first offering (until they heard the male voice, anyway).

And Noval, with their typical combo of piano, guitar, drums and, right up front, a vibraphone. And I LOVE vibraphones more than almost any instrument except for the marimba. I even love vibraphones on Noval records. But the end result is nothing short of bewildering - even more so because the singer clearly has not seen the material before singing it (and does a terrifically bad job of sight-reading).

Beyond that, the meandering melody results in a song which sounds more like someone struggling to make up a song, and repeatedly starting over, than it does like a finished product. I defy any of the musicians out there listening to this to find the patterns of structure, chording or melody that one usually finds in a pop song, anywhere in this record. Please enjoy my very temporary favorite newly heard song-poem, "Special Delivery":

The flip side, written by Mrs. Ella Brusch, is titled "I Made Excuses", and although it is not as stunningly weird as the other side of the record, it's still a winner:

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Every once in a long while, during my song-poem collecting life, there comes the opportunity to buy a record I never thought I'd see a copy of, let alone own. This happened this week, when I stumbled across a copy of a record on the Novart label for sale. Not only that, but there's an oddity about the record's credits, as well.

During my first few years of collecting, I did a lot of tape exchanges with song-poem guru Phil Milstein. At one point, he sent me a cassette with a selection of particularly odd examples of song-poems, and named the tape after one of the oddest of the tracks, "Goodness Gracious It's Contagious (Dwee Ree Dwee Ree Dwa)" by Jack Allyn, Vocalist with the Rhythmateers.

According to the song-poem website, this song has been found on what I suspect was a 78 release (since it was dated 1948), and on an undated album. This version is on a 45, but it's the same version I'd previous heard (although in somewhat better quality).

Anyway, this is an all time favorite of mine, and being able to own a copy of this one is the sort of thing that makes collecting as fun as it is. I love the insane amount of echo here, the 1920's sound permeating the disc, and the completely ridiculous lyrics. Although, again, these would have fit in, and perhaps with a little tweaking, have even been a hit, in the 1920's - 30 years earlier!

Here's the weirdest thing, though. Nearly every song listed on the Novart page at the song-poem website shows the songs to have been written by George Franciosa, Sr. Both songs on this 45, however, are credited to the utterly fantastically named "Friskee Novart"!

Here's the A side:

The B-side, by the same clunkily named ensemble, is not nearly as interesting to me, but still, worth a listen. It's called "How Can I Make You Care For Me?:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Bit of MSR

As I think I've mentioned here before, I'm not really a fan of the MSR label. There are records on the label (mostly from their early years) that I just love, but generally, I find them far less interesting than the records their competitors were making at the time. Oddly enough, MSR was a sister label to Preview, whose records from much the same era I often just love. I do find it odd that the compilation CD series was titled "MSR madness" - they wouldn't be the label I would focus on.

I do, however, know that I'm in the minority with this, so I thought I should make the effort from time to time to share a sample of the many MSR 45's in my collection. Here's one featuring Bobbi Boyle and Dick Kent.

First up is Bobbi Boyle with "Seeking":

And here's Dick Kent, on the flip side, with the clunkily titled "Oh, Juanita, My Sweet Senorita":

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Confusing Label

I get a big kick out of the label of the record I've put above this text. It's the only Tin Pan Alley record in my collection without an artist name (I'm fairly sure the singer is Mike Thomas). More to the point, what is listed seems to indicate that the song has the bulky, clunky title "What Do You Say Baby Beautiful Joyce", which also has the added benefit of sounding at best like a run-on sentence.

Perhaps it's meant to indicate a medley - this seems like the most likely explanation, as the singer doesn't get to the "Beautiful Joyce" part until the last 45 seconds or so. The only problem with that idea is that the performance sounds to me very much like a single song. It is, admittedly, not the most interesting of songs, but it has that Tin Pan Alley incompetence - missed guitar notes, a wobbly vocal, and some truly cringworthy lyrics ("what do you say, baby/to the picture I've painted/do you think it's quite okay?/hey, hey, hey"). Please enjoy:

And just in time for the Fourth of July, here's the flip side, "The Prisoner of War Song". This is a Viet Nam era song, which starts as a father directing the lyric in honor of a son who is serving his country, and is being held as a Prisoner of War. In the second verse, the lyric takes the first person voice of the prisoner himself. Simple and heartfelt, and the limited abilities of those involved actually seem to enhance the directness of the song and the message here:

Upcoming Song-Poem Event in Chicago

I've received a couple of messages in the past week regarding an upcoming song-poem event in Chicago. I'll actually be out of town that weekend, but it seems like something those who read my posts might be interested in.

Specifically, this is a new musical called "Song-Poems Wanted!", to be presented August 22 & 23 at Theatre Building Chicago. It's the brainchild of (among others) Larry Carpenter and Arthur Kaufmann (of Magic Key Records), who was featured in the Song-Poem documentary "Off the Charts". It features a number of song-poems as well as original material.

More information can be found here: