Monday, November 28, 2011

Society's Clever Games, With Gene Marshall

Today's High-School-Social-Studies-Lecture-via-Song-Poem comes from Gene Marshall, telling us (and saying it "One More Time") that "Society Plays a Clever Game on the Black Man". Aside from apologizing for the poor condition that I found this record in, I think I'll let Gene, and song-poet Otis Jake, Jr., expound on the title subject themselves:

If you thought that side was beat up, you ain't heard nothin'. The flip side, "Pledging My Love" was so damaged that I gave up, mid-attempt, in trying to clean up the sound. There were just too many scratches. And quite frankly, the song didn't deserve the effort:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stay At Home Mom

Before I get to this week's record, a few links that I've been planning to share for ages, and keep forgetting/delaying.

First, occasional correspondent "KL from NYC" has hepped me to a record blog which has occasionally featured song-poems. You should go to this site anyway, as much of what's being offered there is just amazing. Here are the song-poems I've found (or KL linked me to) from the last several months, which I've just searched:

And second, here is a link to Darryl Bullock's marvelous blog, "The World's Worst Records":

Darryl knows a LOT about song-poems and their history, and has shared a lot of information and music with me, over the years. He frequently features song-poems, and as of this moment, his newest feature is a Norm Burns special. His definition of "worst" doesn't always match up - in fact, I love that Norm Burns number - but his featured material is almost always great.

And now, on with the countdown:

Today's title was actually going to be "Stay At Home, Mom", but I thought I'd prolong the facts of this record for readers a few more moments by removing the comma. The previously unknown (by me) Lillian Mars gives a sassy shout-out to a woman whose "child lives in the gutter", and who apparently really needs to get back home. It's a toe-tapper for sure!

On the flip side, we get some painfully poor lyrics about a meetup, which led to the singer's loving relationship, all accompanied by the slightest of piano-bass-drums trio backing:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rock... Rocking.... ALL THE TIME

Today, I am extremely happy to offer up the online debut of a song-poem which really should have been widely known before today. I hope you enjoy this record as much as I do.

I don't normally post the same label or artist the same week (or even the same month), and didn't expect to be doing so this week. And even last Sunday, when I learned I had a lead on a copy of one of my all time favorite song-poems, I still didn't think I'd be sharing it, because I was sure it was already in common circulation.

But a few days of research has convinced me that this record - one of my top ten favorite song-poems - has NEVER been shared online. I will therefore say that I don't know of a better song-poem that has not yet been heard by the general collecting song-poem public. And I must rush to rectify this situation.

Most song-poem collectors - whether seekers of records or of MP3's and CD's, will know the flip side to this Noval release, which is "The 23rd Channel", and which is fabulous in its own right. It appeared on the third volume of the "MSR Madness" CD series, and was remade by Gene Merlino (Gene Marshall) for the film "Off the Charts".

But here's what I don't understand - with all of the well-deserved attention given to this song, no one has ever shared its flip side, which is even better. . I would even name it as one of the strangest records I've ever heard, and yet one which encapsulates the song-poem experience in many ways - the odd lyrics, the off-the-cuff performance, the poor match of lyrics to music, the mystery of it all, and on and on....

I first heard this song on a tape, supplied to me by Phil Milstein (thank you, Phil!), well over a decade ago, and it moved to the top of my heap immediately.

It's called "Rock, Rocking All the Time", and I hardly know where to begin in describing it. Perhaps with the lyrics, which beg us to not "blame" the singer for wanting to rock all the time, but then allows that this desire to rock all the time is how "everybody feels" (so why would we blame him?). "Oh La La, Oh, La, La, There They Go", is pretty good, too.

Or there is the fact that the tune is set to a beat that is far from "rocking", being more suited to one of the slower numbers from the Swing Era. And of course, one of the instruments driving the piece is that most rocking of instruments, the Vibraphone.

The vocalist really can't sing, which is not always a problem in real rock and roll, but his minimal ability is more in the area of "bad lounge singing", so even that doesn't fit. The whole thing adds up to a truly amazing performance, and it's capped off (hilariously, and incredulously, if you ask me), with a musical coda in which the band finally decides that they really are at a swing session, and go to town, with a big two bar solo for the vibraphone.

It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love this record. I even love the fact that you can hear the end of the count-off at the start. If there were an Abbey Road of song-poems, this would be on it. I hope you find as much to love in this deeply peculiar record:

For completeness sake, and for those who may not have it, here is the almost-as-deeply-magical flip side, "The 23rd Channel", heard here off of my new copy, not from the CD. You can also hear the end of a count-off on this side, and that's not heard on the CD release.

This has to be in the running for the best Double A-sided song-poem release ever. I can only think of a couple of competitors, both of which featured songs by Edith Hopkins, who was not really your typical song-poet. So maybe I consider this the Hey Jude/Revolution of Song-Poem singles.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Hooray for Noval Day!

It's always a happy day 'round my place when I become the owner of a previously unknown Noval record. Their records are among the most obscure, and tend to be fairly odd, even within the song poem world. That's above and beyond the fact that they never named a performer on the label, and credited their arrangements to one of a handful of single named men (in this case, "Jay").

"The Capitol of My Heart" is peppier and far less logubrious than the typical Noval release, with a quick beat and a happy sax solo, going along with some downright weird lyrics - my favorite has to be "You're the County Seat of My Love", and the whole thing raps up in just 90 seconds. Here you go!:

The flip side, "A Waltz For You", is much less interesting to me, aside from the genuinely poor lead vocal:

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Take Him Back

Time is tight this week - hence the late posting - but I wanted to include some relevant links, before sharing a nice Sammy Marshall feature.

First - and this may be old news to some - there is a new Rodd Keith compilation LP (Vinyl!) on the market, titled "My Pipe Yellow Dream", on the Roaratorio label. It can be found here, and is well worth the money. It even has liner notes from Dick Kent!

And Second, I've recently posted two Film City records to the WFMU blog. Neither of them is a song-poem - they're both vanity pressings as far as I know - but as I believe almost all of the Film City records had Chamberlin playing by Rodd Keith, they might be of interest to some of you (even if, as explained in the second post, I have some doubts about Rodd's involvement in one of them). The records are "Scotch Tape" by Lana Johnidas, and "Portland Rose Song" by Bert Lowry.

And now, here's Sammy Marshall himself, singing in a vocal style that will never be mistaken for anything from Tennessee, with a musical backing to match that non-Tennesseean feel, on the song "Take Me Back to Tennessee".

By the way, this record was released on the tiny Sherwood label, but the above song also was released, presumably in the same version, on the even tinier Fun label, with a different flip side.

Here's the flip side, "Open Your Heart":