Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Real Pro

While every record I've ever seen on the Cinema label features a generic group called "The Real Pros", most of these records actually feature the usual suspects from the Los Angeles song-poem world - Rodd Keith, Dick Kent, Bobbi Blake and the rest. Actual, REAL pros.

But it's the earliest Cinema releases that fascinate me. While containing that same group name, these actually feature what appears to be a one-man-band, or at least a single keyboardist and a singer. The keyboard is one of those ubiquitous early '70's models that the family down the street always had in their living room. They had pre-programmed drum tracks, and if you pushed down a couple of keys at the left end, you had a chord background for your song. More talented pianists could actually use the drumbeats and play an entire left-and-right handed song.

For a moment, anyway, these keyboards seem to have been acceptable for use on major label record releases - at least if the sparkling review that Billboard gave to Robin Gibb's embarrassingly amateur first album (which has this sort of keyboard all over it), in 1970, can be believed. I've even noted what I believe to be one of these keyboards on a Leonard Cohen album or two.

Whoever played on these early Cinema releases knew how to get the most out of the limited machinery, as evidenced by the uniquely weird "Deep Freeze Mama", and the downright wonderful "I'm Having My First Heartbreak". But my real question is: who was the singer on these records? It appears to be the same guy on all of them, or at least a few guys with the same vocal qualities. I don't think I've ever heard it on any other label's song poems. Despite his sort of loungy qualities, I tend to enjoy this singer.

All that is a long set up to yet another Astronaut record, "Handful of Moon Dust", one whose lyrics are unusual in that they are from the point of view of a homesick Astronaut, who is glad to be back on Mother Earth.

The opening to the flip side "Until You Change Your Ways" sounds particularly like a few tracks on that Robin Gibb record I referenced. I don't have much more to say about this offering, aside from noting that both of these sides bear a production credit to "Quimby, Jr.", which I don't think I've noticed on Cinema records before, although I now see that it's on at least a few other early records from the label. Does this mean that the label was initially linked to the legendary Tropical label, run by Robert Quimby? There's nothing on the song-poem website to suggest this, but still, ooh, it makes me wonder....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rod Rogers: Ladies Man

Today, another marvelous pairing on the Film City label, from the pen of Walter York, and the genuis of Rodd Keith, as Rod Rogers. The better of the two is "Sixteen Sweethearts Later", in which we hear of a love affair interrupted by not one fling, not a few flings, but SIXTEEN relationships, certainly more than most people can claim in a lifetime. This performance contains a wonderful Chamberlin solo which is pretty much a perfect example of the typical Rodd Keith keyboard solo, particularly the musical figure at about the 1:09 point, which crops up again and again and again on his records.

The flip side, featuring a nice Rod/Rodd duet vocal, as well as more wonderful Chamberlinning, is "Instant Love". I sure do love this sound!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Does He Sound Angry?

Linford Haughton was angry. Yes, despite having one of the all time cool names - one which would absolutely keep me from getting angry, just by thinking about - he was angry. He put his thoughts to paper, named them "Darling, You Make Me Angry", and sent them in to the Sterling house of Song Poems. But I ask you, did Norm Burns - whose singing I adore, but still - express anything approaching anger in his reading of Mr. Haughton's outburst? I think not:

On the flip side, we have the sad tale of a man who has been left "Always Alone":

Sunday, October 02, 2011


Computer problems have delayed today's feature long enough, so I'm not going to type a lot and add to the delay. Suffice it to say that it's another great, winning Tin Pan Alley entry from Phil Celia, with that early rock and roll sound that he was not really all that suited for, singing about a girl nicknamed "Dimples"!

From the flip side, here's a more middle-of-the-road offering, "The Prairie Wind":