Monday, June 28, 2010

The Arco Label

Until recently, I had only ever heard one record from the ARCO song-poem label, but it was such a winner, that I made Arco one of the labels I routinely search for. And I finally came up with a record by the same group of artists that made the initial record that I like so much. Making it more difficult is the fact that there have been at least two other labels called "Arco" over the years, both of them unrelated to the song-poem game.

There is little information about the Arco song-poem label at the Song-Poem archives website. Before the site was mothballed, the only information available had indicated that it was associated with the Globe family of labels, no doubt because of one Kris Arden record which had been found on Arco. My new find suggests another link, between Arco and the Sterling label and/or the Preview label, as the name of Lew Tobin, a significant name in both of those labels' histories, shows up on this disk.

First off, today, I'm featuring the record I recently bought, which features the clunky billing of "Joe Noto and His Diplomats with Phyllis Ruby and the Rea Sisters". While it's not quite as good as the first Arco record I heard (which is posted, below), "The Rock and Roll Beat" has a lot to offer, including some genuinely good musicianship - I love the three part harmonies - combined with some iffy lyrical choices, and an interesting match of words about Rock and Roll combined with an arrangement which (outside of the solo section) only seems to be marginally related to rock and roll.

The B-side is a fairly stereotypical 1950's rock-a-ballad, in which Phyllis Ruby is actually allowed to live up to her solo billing. The song-poem website has this song listed as "Be Here, My Heart", but it's actually titled "Believe My Heart":

And now, for a bonus. I've shied away from featuring songs on this blog that I don't actually own on the original records, but having brought up my reasons for wanting to own more Arco records, I thought I should share that first Arco record I heard. Because I don't own this record, I cannot share a JPG of the labels.

This was shared with me, along with many other song-poems from the most offbeat corners of the genre, to my eternal gratitude, by a huge song poem collector in New York, with whom I exchanged MP3's, many years ago. Thank you, again, Michael.

The song in question is "My Lover", again by Joe Noto and Phyllis Ruby. This is first-rate stuff, a great set of words, a creative arrangement for the vocal section, a wonderfully peculiar vocal, and a completely unexpected moment in the middle of the record.

The flip side of this record is another really fun one, "Mr. Dee-Di-Jay", by Nancy Jordan and the Blue Rockets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

That's Very Brosh of You

The Brosh label is a mystery to me. There are only a handful of known releases, almost all of them bearing label numbers ending in "00", and the label's tracks are a mish-mash of songs produced by other song-poem factories, particularly Globe, Halmark and the labels produced by Lee Hudson. There were also some releases that were either legitimate or vanity products.

There are other labels like this - several of them, actually - but in almost every case, by looking at the songwriters of the various releases, you can quickly get the name or names of the person or people behind the label. Not so with Brosh - there are almost as many different songwriters as there are sides to singles.

Aside from a couple of records by Judy Jae, today's offering may be the most notorious Brosh release. It's an EP combining two songs from the Globe song-poem factory with another two songs from the Halmark label.

First up, Sammy Marshall with two fairly nice, peppy, but (in the end) nondescript numbers, first "Edie":

Then its soundalike, the wonderfully named "Fava Beans and Pepperoni":

Now I'm hungry.

The real attraction for me, though, is on the b-side. Both of these songs were also released on a Halmark 45, where they were attributed to the correct singer, the always astonishing Bob Storm. For the Brosh copy, no doubt due to some breakdown in communication, both songs were attributed to "Jerry Dee", whose only other song-poem credit was a listing as the "Musical Director" on many of Halmark's 45's. That would be a dubious credit indeed, since nearly all of Halmark's backing tracks were old tapes purchased, ready-made and already recorded, a system which would rule out the need for a musical director.

I could be wrong, but it appears to me that this side of the EP was mastered directly from a copy of the Halmark 45, such is the low quality of the recording. First up, the plaintive "Her Name is Kathleen":

Finally, the star of our show, a little ditty titled "The Ballad of Johnny Horton", or, as you may notice, looking at the scan of the label, Brosh accidentally re-titled it "The Ballard of Johnny Horton". This song uses the same backing track as did the mind-numbing "Let's Lay It On the Line", a song which could not be less similar, in terms of lyrics. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

50 Years On

My goal for this site has always been to share some of the recordings I love and find fascinating with whoever might share some of my taste. I've rarely used it to share my own songs and recordings, as that wasn't really my intent in starting this site.

Today, though, I'm making an exception. This is my 50th birthday, and I'm taking this opportunity to celebrate myself and some of the music I’ve made in the last 30 years or so. I hope that those of you who regularly listen to the song-poems and other music that I share will have a listen to some or all of these songs. I would love to hear any comments that you’d care to offer.

Since around age 18, I've been writing songs both serious and humorous. I’ll include a handful of each type here. If a few are not really your speed, please try out a few of the others - my songs cover a lot of different genres. Unless otherwise noted, these are one-man-band-and-vocals performances.

First up, two songs written at age 19, and in both cases, recorded about three years later, in late 1982. The first, “Just One Look”, was recorded live with guitar and voice:

From the same period and recording date, and from the other side of my songwriting, here’s “The Devil Song”, with a couple of piano parts and multi-tracked vocals:

For about two years, I was in a band which went through multiple line-up changes, with the only consistent members being the bass player and me (I played rhythm guitar and did much of the lead singing). Here are two of the songs we recorded, both of them written in 1980 and recorded in 1981. The first, “Don’t Over-Rate Love”, was written by the bass player and me, along with one of my closest friends. This tended to be the favorite of our songs, among those who heard us at the time. The recording quality on this one is a bit dodgy, unfortunately:

The other song by this band is called “Another Friend”, and is a song I brought to the group:

From my mid-20s’, and for the next ten years, most of the songs I wrote were of the humorous variety. This next one requires a bit of explanation:

At the reception following the wedding of one of my two best friends, my other best friend laughed at one point and commented that he had just seen the odd site of three people pouring orange juice at the same moment. I observed that “Three People Pouring Orange Juice” sounded like an early Bee Gees song title. With that inspiration, I soon wrote and recorded that song, trying to make it sound like a late ‘60’s Bee Gees track, as well, complete with a bridge section for my version of Robin Gibb to sing. Here it is:

In 1996, having the opportunity to record using Midi for the first time, in my brother’s home studio, I returned to a song I’d written in 1982, and made what remains one of my favorite recordings out of all that I've made. Despite the title, this song, “Savior”, is not religious in nature:

During that same session at my brother's home, I wrote and arranged an instrumental titled after a fictional Middle Eastern spy movie series that my brother and I would joke about. The lead character in our fantasy is named Bashleo Fatghar, and so naturally, here we have “The ‘Bashleo Fatghar’ Theme”:

Around age 30, I wrote and recorded a song called “Locked Away (The Old School Song)”, and about eight years ago, I made a Midi track for it, and re-recorded it. If I had it to do again (the midi file was lost long ago), I’d have edited out that God-awful Chinese Cymbal that I somehow thought was a good touch here, but otherwise, I like this one a lot:

In my late 30’s, I had a burst of song-writing, and made a concerted effort to record enough material to produce a album length cassette of humorous songs, which was titled “The Many Moods of Bob”. From that set comes the deeply bizarre “The Year of Large Jeans”:

And from the same set, comes another personal favorite, "Eightball":

Those previous two songs both began as dreams, where I heard a key moment of the song as I woke up, and both benefit in their keyboard solo sections, from the then newly recent influence of Rodd Keith's records.

Over the last ten years, I have been trying to fit in recording of the various songs I’ve written, while also trying to be as active a father as possible and work an hour away from home. I’m close to having enough material for another full length set of songs, to be called “A Few More Plans”. From that collection, here is the most recent song completed, “The Swift”:

Finally, a taste of what I often do when I get to perform live - folk music. Recorded in 1990 at my parents’ home, here’s my friend Stu and I, singing the great “Way Out There”. That’s me on the verses (tripping up a few times on the words) and on the high harmony of the wordless chorus:

Thanks to all of you who read this blog, and I hope you enjoyed the music I’ve shared today.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bananas I Have Known

I have a whole pile of singles ready to digitize sitting here, generally stacked in the order in which I plan to share them in this venue. But every now and then, I acquire a new record which immediately goes to the top of the pile - everything else can wait.

I've never felt the need to delay the other records more than I did when I heard today's offering, a Gene Marshall number on the Preview label, which I obtained earlier this month. The title, "Know Your Banana", was great enough, but I have to say I haven't ever heard a Preview record that sounds remotely like this one, or a Gene Marshall vocal similar to this one, either. And the songwriter even submitted his name backwards, as it is listed as Notlim Nohamcm.

It sounds like everyone involved was having a great deal of fun, and if song-poem compilations were still being produced, I'm sure this would be a prime contender. I think that's all I'll say - it's best that the listener experience this one for him or herself.

The flip side is a pretty typical Gene Marshall song and performance, with a lyric that seems intended as a tribute, but to me, seems to portray the "Marlo" of the title as an insufferable tease:

Monday, June 07, 2010

JFK, The Fitness President

Today's offering appears to have been inspired both by John F. Kennedy's promotion of Physical Fitness, and by his tragic death. Song-poet David Fitzgerald supplied the lyrics to both sides of the single, which are dutifully handled by song-poem hero Sammy Marshall. My favorite part of the A-side, "The Ballad of John F. Kennedy", is the part where I believe (it's sort of a muddy recording) the words refer to JFK as "Our Modern Moses"!

The B-side, appropriately more peppy than the maudlin A-side, is "Physical Fitness". I'm happy to hear that even if, during Mr. Fitzgerald's daily five o'clock exersize, his bone "cracks", he won't turn back. Now that's dedication!

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Fable Label

A quick link which might be of interest to song-poem fans of a certain stripe. My most recent post to WFMU features 12 songs (6 45's) from the Fable label. This is one of my favorite labels, and it often released song-poems. As I wrote in the post, a few of those records I posted there might be song-poems, but I'm betting most or all are not.

On the other hand, they are quirky records in the same way that many of the best song poems (especially 1950's song-poems) can be, and you might enjoy them as much as I do.

The post can be found here