Monday, December 31, 2012

A Little Housekeeping

Shortly after I began this song-poem-of-the-week project - exactly four years ago this week, as a matter of fact - commenters began requesting that rather than share just one song, that I post both sides of any single that I choose, and that I scan and include the labels from both sides. I aim to please, and with very few exceptions, I've done that in all of my posts since early in the project. 

But I didn't do so in my recent WFMU post of ten Christmas song poems (which, in case you missed it, can be found here). So, in a little act of end-of-the-year housekeeping, here are nine of the ten flip sides from the tracks featured in that WFMU post (as mentioned in that post, the tenth record, "Picolo, The Christmas Elf", had a significant, crescent moon shaped crack in it - the flip side was virtually unplayable, and in trying to make it playable, I broke that crescent shape right out of the record. Ah, well...)

Here goes!

I actually believe this record, and one other (below) have been available online at some point, and may circulate among collectors, but I can't find that either of them are currently available, so, in the interest of completeness, I'm including them. The flip side of the Norris Mayhams Christmas single "Jingle Mint Twist", also by Mayhams, and sung by "Singing Sammy Marshall", is "Come Back to Me": 

Download: Singing Sammy Marshall - Come Back to Me

The flip side of Norm Burns' "Christmas With You" is the rather bland "Living Rose":

Download: Norm Burns - Living Rose

"Xmas and You" may have been a bit of sweetness from Eleanor Shaw, but the flip side is anything but sweetness. Have a listen to "Scars On My Broken Heart": 


The high-end song-poem outfit Stylecraft brought us "Christmas in Ireland" in my WFMU post, and on the flip side, the same batch of performers, headed by Lynne Richards, offers up "You've Got to Live to Love":

Download: Lynne Richards with the Bill Lawrence Orchestra - You've Got to Love to Live

Next up, two songs which I really should have included in that WFMU post, because they are both Christmas songs. But I was paying attention to titles, and not having a re-listen before making the files, so I didn't pay any attention to that fact. Here, a week or so late, is the flip side to "Christmas Tree", Sandy and Patty's Fable label rendition of "Oh, Lovely Night": 


And another Christmassy one, here's that other record that I think probably floats around in trading circles, Rod Rogers' flip to "Smile, It's Christmas", in which he expresses a holier thought for the day, "Let's Share a Prayer":

Download: Rod Rogers - Let's Share a Prayer

Eleanor Shaw is back again, with the flip side of "Dear Santa", which is titled "Come Back":

Download: Eleanor Shaw - Come Back

As was often the case on MSR records, labelmates shared a release on MSR 2377. On the reverse of Dick Kent's "Everywhere You Go on Christmas" lives Bobbi Blake's very un-Christmassy "Wicked Woman":

Download: Bobbi Blake - Wicked Woman

Saving the weirdest for last, here is Madelyn Buzzard. At WFMU, I shared her song "Christmas is the Love Within Your Heart". For the flip, we have the mid-winter saga "Chicken House Blues", which pairs deeply strange lyrics with half-assed musical performance, and Madelyn's relentlessly terrible singing for true song-poem trifecta. Enjoy!

Download: Madelyn Buzzard - Chicken House Blues

HAPPY NEW YEAR - It's been a challenging, at times wretched year, for family, friends and neighbors. Aside from a bright spot at the beginning of November, there's not much I would want to relive, and I'll be happy to see a new, hopefully better year come along. Despite all that, I have greatly enjoyed, yet again, sharing all of this wondrous, odd and unique music with you, and one bright spot has been the feedback that I've received here, and at WFMU, and for that I am thankful.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Song Poems

Howdy, folks!

It's Christmas Eve! I'm busy, you're busy, and if you're half as busy as I am, then I'm twice as busy as you are, or vice versa as the case may be.

So I'll just say a few words about today's EP, and then let you listen to the magic of Cara Stewart and her svengali, Lee Hudson. This EP showed up on the Bluemoon label, which seems to have been set up by and dedicated to songs written by someone named Frank Blood. On the b-side of this record are two song-poems which seem perfect for Christmas Eve listening, and here they are.

The first is "Christmas Is Here Again":

Download: Cara Stewart - Christmas Is Here Again

Following that one is "On Christmas Eve":

Download: Cara Stewart - On Christmas Eve

The flip side of this record, which was actually designated as Side One, features two non-Christmas songs, both of them wistful wishes set to music, portraying one half of a loving couple, writing about and two his far away lover. The first is "Rosewood Cottage on the Hill":

Download: Cara Stewart - Rosewood Cottage on the Hill

And finally, "In a Dream":

Download: Cara Stewart - In a Dream



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sammy Ponders

Before offering up this week's seasonal offering, I wanted to provide a link, for those who may have missed it, to the post I did of TEN Christmas song-poems, at WFMU last Sunday. It can be found here.

For today's feature, we have the ubiquitous Sammy Marshall, showing up this time on the Globe offshoot Roxie label, but sounding as canned as smarmy as a Globe imprint Sammy record can, as he ponders the question "Is It Christmas Everywhere?"

Download: Sammy Marshall - Is It Christmas Everywhere

As I've found is often the case with Christmas song-poems, the better half of this single is found on the flip side - the non-Christmas side - of the release. In this particular case, "better" is a relative term, but I'd certainly rather have a second listen to Sammy and his label-mate Mary Kaye warble "While I'm Still Missing You" than I would to Sammy's Christmas offering.

Download: Sammy Marshall and Mary Kaye - While I'm Still Missing You

Saturday, December 08, 2012

A Very Shelly Christmas

Today, in addition to sharing another Christmas song-poem here, I'm also preparing a whole set of the same, which will appear at WFMU's blog tomorrow. That being the case, time to blather on is virtually non-existent, so I'll just share that the offering for this week features Shelley Stuart, one of the secondary acts at Sterling Records, singing (appropriately, I guess) in a rather girlish voice about "A Ride On Santa Claus' Sleigh": 

Download: Shelley Stuart and the Five Stars - A Ride on Santa Claus' Sleigh

If it weren't for the Christmas theme I'm employing this month, this record's flip side would absolutely have been the first one featured. It is the better of the two songs, it features a personal favorite of mine, Norm Burns, and most of all, it's got a downright weird construction - very rare for a song poem - in that it has an unusual and creative chord progression that shows up at the beginning and the end of the record. It's a little thing, and quite short, but it's sort of startling. And since that progression doesn't appear anywhere in the vocal part of the record, it is in a sense superfluous - the fact that they added it  is evidence of the need to find a creative outlet, even when doing something that is often hackwork. Have a listen to "Let That Little Girl Dance":

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Let That Little Girl Dance

Saturday, December 01, 2012

It's That Time Again!

Now that December is upon us, it's time to again reach into the cornucopia of Christmas song-poems, and pull out the first of at least four holiday-themed 45's that I'll feature here during the weeks leading up to Christmas (and, if I can motivate myself, perhaps another half dozen that I'll put up over at WFMU next weekend).

And what better reason (as if I needed one) could there be to share a record on the ultra-weird and shadowy Noval label. And I think the first song featured from this 45, "A Christmas Stocking", is the only record I've heard on the label not to feature the sort of bland, pitch challenged male singer that seems to pop up on every other Noval release, including the flip side of this 45.

But in this case, the singer is a slightly more effective (emphasis on slightly) female singer, although as always on this label, she's accompanied by a bare bones combo (albeit with the addition of jingle bells ringing on every beat - on the other hand, I'm not sure I hear the vibes, which are usually the nicest part of a Noval record). The song itself is a generic tune, contained in a record which would barely last 80 seconds, if not for the fact that the backing band plays the entire tune through before the singing starts.

Download: Noval Productions - A Christmas Stocking

For the flip side, "Thinking About Christmas", the voice-of-Noval is back, as are the vibes heard on most of Noval's records, and as is the meandering, near-tunelessness which is also a Hallmark of the label's releases. But hey, it's Christmas!

Download: Noval Productions - Thinking About Christmas

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gene Gives Thanks

It's a very busy week and day here at our house, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, so I'll forgo my usual verbosity.

To all of you reading this today, and anyone who stops by in the future, my thanks to you for stopping by, and for sharing my love of song-poems (and other rare, wonderful and obscure music). For those celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope yours is everything you hope it will be, and for everyone else, I hope you have things of your own to celebrate and give thanks for!

Here's Gene Marshall, with some words of thanks for the day, if you can make them out through the horrendous surface noise, in his rendition of "A Thanksgiving Prayer":

Download: Gene Marshall - A Thanksgiving Prayer

More prayerful offerings are on tap on the flip side, in the song "Oh Lord, Bless Everyone":

Download: Gene Marshall -Oh Lord, Bless Everyone

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thank My Lucky Stars

I hope no one will mind if I take a moment out here, before this week's record, to remind everyone to go and seek out the family and friends and tell each of them how much they mean to you, and to say "I love you" as often as possible, to anyone you love.

I spent this week experiencing and watching the effects of the unexpected death of a 20 year old, a young man who my family had gotten to know well over the past two years. One never knows. With this event close up in the rearview mirror, and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I thought I'd speak up.

And also felt the need to share something upbeat and genuinely fun to listen to, and as I've said before, there are few things in the song-poem world that I like more than the Film City era productions of Rodd Keith. And this one  - "Thank My Lucky Stars" - is especially nice, what with Rodd going all out on something of an Four Aces effect, overdubbing himself four times, by my count, and offering up some really nice, thick harmonies, as well as a first rate, jazzy arrangement, complete with a solo section wherein the vocalists playfully interject parts of the solo melody. This record was "Dedicated to Rachael", and I hope she appreciated how much work went into it.


The flip side, "I'd Rather Dream", is a fairly forgettable lounge-lizard sort of performance, with a lugubrious vocal and a setting which matches that vocal at every turn.


Friday, November 09, 2012

A Special Record

First, let me just take a moment to say:


And another moment to breathe a sigh of relief.

It's been a special couple of days here in the old U.S.A. And what better why to celebrate a special event, than with a special record. And what could be more special than a record on the Special Records label? Well, how about a record on the Special Records label featuring a song called.... wait for it... "SPECIAL"! Here's Sammy Marshall, barely hiding himself under the name Sonny Marcell, to tell us all about that special someone:

Download: Sonny Marcell - Special

The Special label seems to have been a custom label for a customer of the Globe song-poem factory, living in the Virgin Islands, perhaps the writer of these songs. U. A. Milligan. On the flip side, Sammy/Sonny will regale us again with Milligan's song "It's Your First Impression of Me".

Download: Sonny Marcell - It's Your First Impression of Me

So.... what was your first impression of Sammy Marshall?

Friday, November 02, 2012

30 Wonderful Seconds

Here's something you may know, or, if you don't collect them yourself, may not know about song-poems: the vast majority of them are just dull as dirt. Not amazing and outstanding in some unexpected way, not accidentally hilarious, or car-crash awful or deer-in-the-headlights weird. Those are the exceptions, and the ones that get 98% of the attention.

No, most of the song poems I've ever heard - and I've lost count of how many I own in one form or another - are just pedestrian poetry, or bland melodies and arrangements, or going-through-the-motions musicians, or uninspired vocalists, or a combination of any of the above.

Today's feature, "Mother's Day", sung by Gene Marshall, largely fits that category, and because of that, I've sat on it for two months, trying to decide whether it's magical moments are enough to overcome the dullness of the remaining two minutes or so, on top of the fact that the record is fairly beat to hell. Today, unable to get that one amazing section out of my mind, I decided to go for it. I hope you agree with my choice.

Because here we have another heartfelt piece of poetry towards one's parent, sung with appropriate feeling my Gene Marshall, and with a nice enough backing, I suppose, but nothing here is special, unusual or outstanding. And then, about half-way through, something truly stunning happens - there is a 30 second solo, featuring either a flute quartet or a Chamberlin (can that instrument do the bending of the notes heard here - I don't know), with a singularly charming, absolutely gorgeous and downright weird little piece of chamber music, which appears as if plucked from another galaxy.

I assume Rodd Keith was behind this - I've not heard anything remotely like this on a song-poem record that he wasn't part of. I simply can't get enough of it, and hope you enjoy it, too.

Download: Gene Marshall - Mother's Day

On the flip side, the heartbreaking story of the loss no parent should endure, the loss of a child. Again, I don't think the music or arrangement are much to write home about here, but there's no arguing with the lyric in "The Lord Has Drafted My Son".

Download: Gene Marshall - The Lord Has Drafted My Son

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Mystery Girl

Today's record is downright peculiar, in many ways. Released on the tiny Dial label, a small and rather unusual label which seems to have released the works of a variety of song-poem factories (it's unclear to me whether they produced any material of their own). While most of these "third party" labels seem to have something which ties them together - a common lyricist or group of writers, one performer, etc. - nothing seems to tie this label together, as far as I can tell.

And this may be the oddest of the Dial records I've heard (although that vote may have to go to "Our Hearts Were Meant to Beat As One" by Bob Lloyd, a record which bears a similar setting and style to this record). It's credited to "The Mystery Girl", and although the title is sung in Spanish (and well enough so), the title, as printed on the label (admittedly very difficult to read), renders that Spanish title into gobbledegook.

The correct phrase would be "Las praderas me están llamando", which is then translated, on the label and in the song, as "The Meadows are Calling Me". Someone, presumably at Dial Records, decided to throw in some spaces, rendering the title as Las Prade Ras Me Están Llaman Do, which translates as "The Ras Prade Are Knock I Do". While that phrase coincidentally has a goofy little in joke for me (as anyone who has corresponded with me would recognize), and while I'd LOVE to hear a song poem with that lyric, I don't think that it actually means anything.

So who is this Mystery Girl? Damned if I know - I certainly don't recognize her from any other song-poem, or anyone else. I wouldn't be surprised if that's the same pianist, and slightly out of tune piano, on that legendary Bob Lloyd record, and the whole thing seems just a little bit off - I particularly like the splice, edit or whatever it is at the 1:34 point, and the little flubbed piano flourish at 1:57.

Download: The Mystery Girl - Las Prade Ras Me Están Llaman Do

The flip side of this record is no slouch either, but from a completely different perspective - it's another wonderful offering from Cara Stewart, with music, of course, from Lee Hudson. There's a religious point of view this time, and it's the same old sound, but I sure do adore that sound of theirs. Here's "Dream a Dream of Heaven":

Download: Cara Stewart - Dream a Dream of Heaven

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Insurmountable Task

I've probably made it at least somewhat clear that I'm not much of a fan of MSR records, particularly not in the post-Rodd Keith era (a point that appears to begin about the time that MSR's record numbers mysteriously jumped from around 900 to 2100). And I rarely enjoy Dick Kent as much as I do many of his contemporaries in the field. Most of those MSR records I do enjoy are of the car crash variety, and this is one.

Seriously, listen to this thing. It's called Love Divine. I'm not sure if the problem lies with the construction of the lyrics - maybe they were just too hard to shoehorn into something melodic and singable - or in the job done by whoever wrote and arranged the music, but no one, not even the greatest singers on earth, could have gotten through this meandering melody line and this avalanche of non-melodious lyrics without at least a stumble.

The real meat is after about the 1:20 point - I particularly like the clunky line "we will overcome the rugged times" and then comes the final line, where Dick decides to offer up some particularly awful melisma on the word "arms", sort of stumbling over to the final notes, then completing missing the tune on the final repetition of the title, "love divine", as the pianist hits several completely random arpeggios, suggesting perhaps that the take has been ruined. But no, they went with it.

Download: Dick Kent - Love Divine

I wish I could offer up words of encouragement for those listening to the flip side, "I Just Keep Praying For You", but it's just dull, dull, dull. And when he sings "the roses have withered away" and "our green lawn is turning to hay", it seems like "I just keep praying" should lead to the near-rhyme (and natural response to dying grass and flowers) of "for rain", but no, the rhyme scheme disappears and the title "for you" appears instead.

Download: Dick Kent - I Just Keep Praying For You

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Inimitable Bob Storm

Virtually every record I have shared on this site has been from my own collection - the exceptions number less than a half dozen, and are among the most remarkable and wonderful of those things shared with me by other collectors. Today, I offer up a guest posting, a pair of songs sent to me a few months ago, which I sadly did not listen to until this week - I say sadly because I can't believe I did without this record for even the two months during which I could have known it intimately.

The lucky owner of this record is Darryl Bullock, whose tremendous blog about The World's Worst Records should be required reading and listening throughout the English speaking world. That he has allowed me to share this astonishingly bad record here and not on his own site is a gift for which I will long owe him.

And award winningly bad this one is. Darryl and I share a deep love for the awfulness that is found in many, if not most records by Bob Storm. He is most often identified with Halmark Records, and I assume that this performance also came from that song-poem factory, but the results actually turned up on RCI, which appears to be a vanity label - the type set up by a few dedicated songwriters for their own products, which are then taken from whichever song-poem company was employed, each time around. Other records on RCI come from the Globe and Tropical song-poem factories.

I'll start with the a-side here, because I revel a bit more in it's preposterousness than I do the flip side. "Your Love" displays the typical unctuous qualities that I know and love from Bob Storm. Not only does this sound more like prose set to music than poetry - it sounds like a love letter, and a prosaic one at that - but the real magic comes at the 2:15, when Storm starts narrating his love letter. At this point, I am reminded of the over-the-top bits that David Letterman's announcer, Alan Kalter, will often do, except that I assume that Storm was trying to sound sincere, rather than insanely pompous, which is the actual result. I have to say, those 20 seconds or so are among my favorite song-poem moments that I've heard this year. The dramatic mid-'50's backing sounds just add to the weirdness.

Download: Bob Storm - Your Love

An interesting side note to this record is that although it fairly clearly comes from Halmark, I'm certain I've not heard either of these backing tracks before, on any other Halmark record, even though they were known to recycle their backing tracks, over and over again.

ADDENDUM, 7/11/20 - The backing track on "Your Love" has since become very familiar to me from various Halmark releases, however, I still don't recall hearing the "Song of Love" backing track on any record except this one. 

On the flip side, there is "Song of Love", four minutes of Bob Storm bleating more obvious love blather, over a track that starts with supper club combo jazz, then devolves into more dramatic string blandness. The magic moment here is that Storm AGAIN narrates part of his performance, with insincerity equal to that on the first side. How I would love to know more about this guy.

Thanks again, Darryl!

Download: Bob Storm - Song of Love

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Two Sides of Tin Pan Alley

The Tin Pan Alley label went through more different styles of music than most song-poem labels. Partly this was because it existed for a long period, a period during which musical styles changed quickly and with wild differences. But they also appear to have made an effort to keep up with the styles of the day more aggressively than many labels.

A Sterling record may sound like something from 5-10 years earlier, and a Halmark record may sound (if it sounds like anything ever released) like something from 30 years earlier. But a Tin Pan Alley record is likely to sound in the neighborhood of what might be on legitimate releases from the same year it was released, although often the quality of the music and lyrics would be several steps below those legitimate records, particularly on the records from beyond about 1962. Today, two records from perhaps eight years apart, which share nothing in common except for the label on which they appeared.

First up, someone named Tony Miller, with what may be his only appearance on a Tin Pan Alley record, or any song-poem record, and it's a really good, fun one, too. "That's the Way It Goes" appears to date from about 1958, and it bounces along in the pop-rock-rockabilly hybrid feel of more than a few 1957-58 records, with a trebly guitar leading the way, and a doo-wop bass singing what sometimes seem to be almost random oom-boppa's, and a rhythm section that wouldn't have been out of place on dozens of records I can
think of. I like this a whole bunch - maybe you will, too:

Download: Tony Miller - That's the Way It Goes

"Don't Say Goodbye" is on the flip, and this one begs for a doo-wop arrangement that never shows up. Although this is clearly the same band as on the other side, and they do their jobs well enough, I don't think this one is nearly as inspired as its partner in vinyl.

Download: Tony Miller - Don't Say Goodbye

Let's flash forward eight years, now, to roughly 1966:

By 1966, and going forward for the next few years, Tin Pan Alley had morphed into a low-fi, lower budget house of garage rock and, for lack of a better term, garage pop. Many of these records are ridiculously minimalist, are often poorly played, and feature amateurish singing - I've shared more than a few of them. They don't sound like most of the biggest hits of the mid '60's, but they do share something with the more homemade sounding of the hits of the era, particularly the records I've posted by Mike Thomas

"Dreamy Eyes" by Cathy Mills, barely qualifies for the above description, and some listeners may disagree that it has any overlap with the pop of the era at all. But in it, I do here some of the simple-as-a-garage-band quality, and to my ears, it also has some of the Vo-De-Oh-Do feel that can be heard in some of Herman's Hermit's hits, and which was just coming into vogue in early 1966. Not to say that it's very good - it's fairly ridiculous, but at least in a fun sort of way. And like several other TPA records from this period, whoever was playing the bass seems to have only picked up the instrument for the first time a few hours earlier.

Download: Cathy Mills - Dreamy Eyes

"Come Home to Me" is the sort of pleading ballad that could have been released at any point from the mid '50's, well into the '60's. But this record is remarkable for containing a fairly early reference to missing a soldier who is in Viet Nam. The number on this record fairly well places it as being from late '65 or early '66, well before most pop records (Barry Sadler's hit being the big exception), or indeed any other song-poem I've heard, were making lyrical reference to that conflict.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Lutone Record... Maybe the Only Lutone Record

Like several of the larger song-poem companies, Film City would allow its products to be "released" on vanity labels, most of which tended to be tied to the individual song-poets whose materials would show up on those labels. Here we have one of the tiniest - Lutone Records, named for the writer of the songs, Luton Stinson, who interestingly, is listed as writing both the words and music of both songs, the latter being a real rarity in this world, where the tunes and arrangements were the responsibility of the song-poem companies' staff members. 

It would appear that this may be the only record to come out on the Lutone label. It's the only one listed at AS/PMA, and I can't find any reference to any record on this label, aside from this one. I'd certainly correct myself, though, if anyone knows otherwise.

Assuming that Luton Stinson did write the words and music here, he (or she - I'm not actually familiar with this name) did a decent job on the song on the b-side, "I've Been Missing Someone", and then turned it over to the right company, who gave it to the right man, Rodd Keith (aka Rod Rogers), and his one man band work on the Chamberlin.

This is a nice, slinky little number, with a sinewy tune, sung with an appropriately atmospheric tone. Rodd could easily be singing this number at a nightclub - this song would certainly pull me in, in such a setting. And the Chamberlin work here doesn't draw attention to itself here - sometimes, that's the fun in Rodd's Film City records, but on a nice song like this, its better that the backing just does it's job without becoming odd or goofy.

Sorry about the beat-to-hell sound of parts ot his record. I thought it was nice enough to share despite its condition.

Download: Rod Rogers - I've Been Missing Someone

The flip side, "I Had a Dream", features Rodd at his most lugubrious and unctuous - not quite to Robert Goulet levels, but certainly on that spectrum. It's not a side of him (or anyone) that I enjoy much, except from an ironic standpoint, but your mileage my vary.

Download: Rod Rogers - I Had a Dream

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Run That By Me Again???

Before beginning today's post, I wanted to share that I have offered up (at WFMU), an essay I wrote some time ago that I'm very pleased with, about some of the reasons behind my collecting passion. Those interested can find it here.

Today, let's hear it for The Real Pros, that anonymous gathering of song-poem professionals pulled from whoever happened to be available for the sessions that week. And this week's feature actually pairs up two very different sides of the "group". On the A-side, we have that earliest of Cinema/Real Pros sound, the one-man-band with the home studio, play-it-yourself rhythm and chord organ, on a number called "Roses of Love".

The lyrics here strike me as staggeringly unmusical and stupifyingly non-sensensical at times. Is there a way to fit "If I'm only a poet, every poem I compose will be from your name" into a melody, ANY melody, and make it work? Also notice that the statements are "if I'm only a king" and "if I'm only a poet", and not "if I was...", which would be the correct opening, given that the writer is contrasting these things with what he is, which is, wait for it "only me".

And here's where it really falls apart for me, because being 'only him', he is telling his love that the only thing he can offer is something free, which he then identifies as.... Roses? I've bought Roses - I even once worked in a flower store. And I know this: Roses aren't free. And I haven't even gotten to the moment when the singer - who sort of reminds me of Dick Kent, although that's not who it is - starts talking, something that's usually the sign of lyrics that were too clunky to fit to music at all.

Download: The Real Pros - Roses of Love

Curiously, the flip side, "Broken Hearted" clearly features a different song-poem factory sound, that of the Preview label, specifically the Preview of Rodd Keith. This is a VERY late-era Rodd offering, dated 1973, and as my friend Stu has pointed out, it seems likely that Rodd took some of his Preview backing tracks with him, as he would certainly have been at MSR by this point.

This is Rodd in his C and W guise, with the hick edge to his voice, and certainly the better of the two songs and performances.

Download: The Real Pros - Broken Hearted

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Halmark Record Like Few Others

My inclination was actually to title today's presentation "A Halmark Record Like No Other", but since I haven't seen every Halmark record, I'm not going to make that assumption. But I know I haven't seen another one like this. What we have hear is clearly a vanity recording of a gentleman singing his own song, accompanied (very likely doing it himself) by a single guitar.

To hear any "real live musician" on a Halmark track - Halmark being the home of the canned, discarded backing track over which the house singers would sing the lyricists' offering - is startling. It's also jolly fun to see this solo performance carry the credit "High Fidelity Vocal and Orchestra directed by Ted Rosen".

As to the fun to be had listening to Daniel L. Johnson singing and playing his song "Backing Up in Boston", well, that fun is certainly there to be had, but I'll leave the discovery thereof to the listener!

Download: Daniel Johnson - Backing Up in Boston

For the flip side, it's back to the Halmark salt mines, for a tried and true backing track, one I've heard on at least a dozen of the label's releases, over which we have the typically shrill stylings of house tenor Jack Kim. I will admit that I have listened to "Time That I Take Out" three times today, and while I recognize that the lyricist (the wonderfully named Preston Prescott) is expressing his reasons for leaving his relationship, his wordy expressiveness leaves me gasping at times, unable to quite figure out the specific meaning of some of his phrases, including the one in the title.

Oh, and technically speaking, Ted Rosen didn't direct the High Fidelity Orchestra heard on this side, either.

Download: Jack Kim - Time That I Take Out

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Space Age Babes I Have Known

Some days, it must have been downright fun to be working at a song-poem company. Imagine Gene Merlino (AKA Marshall) picking up the music for today's offering, and seeing the title, "Minnie the Space Age Babe". Listening to the arrangement and performance, it's clear to me that this was a title that inspired the creative people behind the scenes to do something worthy of that title. The composition and arrangement here fairly scream out "Rodd Keith" to me, and everyone involved sounds happy to be there.

Download: Gene Marshall - Minnie the Space Age Babe

I can say exactly none of the same things I just wrote about "Minnie" with regard to the flip side, "What is a Man?", one of those painfully earnest, ridiculously ponderous lyrics, and one which got the setting and performance that those lyrics required. The results are, in my opinion, just deadly.

Download: Gene Marshall - What Is a Man?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red Hot Mama

Okay, right off the bat, let me acknowledge that today's record is beat to hell, and that you'll have to listen past some righteously awful surface noise. But c'mon, it's Norm! With a couple of winning tracks, ones I find quite worthy of suffering through the crackle and pop of an either over-loved or criminally mistreated and neglected 45.

First up, "Red Hot Mama". This one has slow, soulful beat, some really nice piano, and a typically wonderful vocal from Norm. There's even an actual guitar solo, something I don't remember hearing on many Sterling records. And another thing that makes this one unusual: I would also argue that this is the rare Sterling song-poem where the music reflects then-current (1971 or so) trends in music - elements of the backing track here reminds me of more than a few soul-pop records of the 1970-71 period. Stick around for the ridiculous repeating lyrics at the end of the record.

On to side two, "Love Ya Honey". After a catchy, off-kilter instrumental introduction, we are treated to another superb vocal from Norm (who is probably one of my two favorite song-poem singers, along with Cara Stewart). Here, he makes magic with a really corny and repetitive lyric, and the arrangement also works wonders with what could have easily (in the hands of lesser companies by a stale performers) been rote and dull - I'm especially fond of the section from 1:50  to 2:05, where it sure sounds like there's been an extra beat or two thrown in, yet a careful counting shows that it never goes out of 4/4 time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sonny and the Stones

Ah, yes, "It's All Over Now". Is there a better record from the Stones' earliest period? Keith's guitar break - well, I guess you some love it and some hate it, but Charlie's drumming is propulsive and the whole band just cooks. And Sonny Marcell's lead vocal is.... wait, Sonny Marcell? One of the many names of song-poem Zelig Sammy Marshall? Are we talking about the same song? The same band? Er... I guess not. This "It's All Over Now" is another early '60's Globe factory special, in this case a performance that wouldn't sound out of place on the stage of a Holiday Inn lounge, released on the tiny Jabar imprint. Let's listen in!

And what do you have left when "It's All Over"? Well, leftovers, and to sing the excessively goopy song, "Left Over Love", again we have Sammy "Sonny Marcell" Marshall:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In the Garage with Tin Pan Alley

First, I want to mention that I recently wrote a post at WFMU's blog about a record which appears to have some song-poem connections, although it may or may not be a song-poem. It can be found here. And now, on with the countdown!

How do YOU spell the words that make up the first line of a classic children's rhyme, the ones which come before "catch a tiger by the toe"? A quick web search finds only a few minor disagreements - Virtually everyone agrees on a combination of some of the following "Eeny/Eenie, Meeny/Meenie, Miny/Miney/Minie, Mo/Moe". For Joyce and Lawrence Herren, however (and virtually no one else in the world, as far as Yahoo and Google appear to be concerned), the phrase is spelled "Enny Minnie Mighty Moe". Fascinatingly, at one point Joyce recorded the song herself, and it has shown up on at least one compilation, and in a posting on youtube.

The song isn't much, but that's a winning performance in my book. For some reason, the authors then handed off their composition to Mike Thomas, of Tin Pan Alley, who recorded it with the same collection of Garage Rock wannabes that show up on many of his records. The results were as predictable as every other TPA record of the era - minimalist backing and a lightweight vocal from Mike, which gives way to a barely competent (or perhaps you favor the phrase "borderline incompetent" garage style solo section.

The question remains - is this a song-poem as strictly defined or a vanity recording. Did the Herren's write this song, words and music, and then commission Tin Pan Alley to record it, or did Tin Pan Alley put music to their words, and only then, perhaps not satisfied with TPA's performance, Joyce recorded it herself. I would like to think that's more likely than them not liking Joyce's own inspired rendition, and seeking to improve it via TPA...

On the flip side, we have a tragic story. It's of a young person who seemingly threw away everything in life, and took a plane to San Francisco, on the hopes on connecting with the sweetheart who lived there. As you'll hear, if you can stomach the rather tuneless song that long (and get through lines like "I dreamed that waiting at airport"), it didn't quite work out as planned. Stick around after he tells his story for more Guitar God in training moments.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Rodd Keith - Country Bumpkin

I always get a kick out of Rodd Keith trying to sound like a hick, on the most countrified of his releases. And here's a prime example, a rather wonderful piece of ridiculous backwoods-speak set to music, titled "Rope Me a Good Looker". 

I always wonder what the writer would think, upon hearing Rodd in hayseed mode, then putting on the other side, and hearing what was clearly the same singer (and billed as such) demonstrating, via a straightforward MOR performance, that his singing on the country number was less than honest. Such would probably have been the case here, as the flip side is the completely mainstream (and desperately dull) "It Only Takes a Moment to Fall in Love", with Rodd in unctuous, lounge-singer mode: