Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Record I Bought in 2014

Okay, let me say right off the bat that I know it's possible, even likely, that many of you who read this site already have sound files of both sides of today's record. They were part of the song-poem website's downloads, and later were (and probably still are) in a WFMU blog post. 

But this is easily the best record I bought this year, and if I'm going to have a site largely dedicated to song-poems, I don't know how I can overlook having acquired this one. 

Both of those previous postings were also from a cassette copy provided to AS/PMA, and perhaps you'll find the song quality of the first song better here than in the previous recording (the flip side of my copy, alas, is beat to hell). The acetate also apparently left off the word "The" from the first song's title. 

If this is old news to you, well then, maybe consider me to have perhaps taken a week off for the holidays...

Quite simply, this record, "The Beatle Boys", is my choice for the best Rodd Keith record I've ever heard, or ever expect to hear. This is, to my ears, a perfect record. Certainly not technically perfect, but I've always found technical perfection boring. But this record and song are just "right" in just about every way that a song or record can be "right".

Regular readers of this site know that I'm quite partial to the Chamberlin sound, and it's never been used more effectively than here. Right off the bat, the transition from the chord at the nine second mark into it's 7th chord, with that gorgeous little (organ setting) treble figure played over... well, it's only four seconds, but from the first time I heard this record over a decade ago, that just gives me chills. Masterful. The use in this section of what I think are sax settings is just as excellent.

And then, in the chorus he uses the ethereal, otherworldly "ooohs", to equally great effect, before returning to the earlier settings, continuing to add little keyboard fill ins in a most excellent fashion.

The lyrics are funny and sad at the same time, and aside from the weird decision to use the word "mandolins" (perhaps it flowed better than "guitars"), I can absolutely hear this as the real lament of guy whose girl has gone Beatle-crazy. The last line, while I'm sure not original in the mid-'60's, is still really funny. The melody is as indelible as any I can think of - it runs through my mind all the time. The melody in the verse in particular resonates with me about as much as a tune is capable of doing.

And then there's the vocal. Rodd was clearly able to perform lyrics which sounded like he meant every word; to become the voice of the person who wrote the song. There are countless examples. I don't believe any of those other records match the ache, longing and frustration I hear in his voice here (and on a sadly comic song, yet!). The inflection on such lines as "I don't get a chance", "I would shine my shoes, buy a shirt and a cane", "They will sing of love", and several other spots is enough to give me more chills. A vocal performance for the ages.

While perhaps not my favorite song-poem record of all (today, that is perhaps "Darling, Don't Put Your Hands On Me"), it is easily my favorite Rodd Keith record , and even on a day when I am the least interested in it, it would still rank in my top five song-poems. Every moment of it works perfectly on every level. In my imaginary version of the land of media, this would be a record that was well known and treasured by the millions who listen to oldies radio.

Download: Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings - The Beatle Boys

The flip side, "It's Shindig", is certainly no slouch, either. The lyrics are a lot of fun, and there are again a lot of cool things happening in the instrumental track. On the other hand, Rodd seems to have had fairly consistent trouble - on multiple records - staying with this particular backing beat, a go-go beat drum pattern which for some reason hits the turnaround every FIVE measures.

Sometimes that disconnect between that beat and the rest of the song adds to the otherworldliness of an already weird record - that's the case with my second favorite Rodd Keith performance, "The Watusi Whing-Ding Girl" - but here, on a straightforward song with some good, but normal lyrics, I find it a real distraction.

On the other hand, there are some lovely and cool moments here. I enjoy the minimalist solo (especially if I can ignore that the drumming by that point is in another song). But my favorite by far is the little melodic turn (and the vocal that contains it) from 0:27 to 0:32 - five seconds of vocal and tuneful bliss.

Download: Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings - It's Shindig

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2015 is even better! Here's this year holiday greeting card from my family to you: 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No Substitute for Jesus!

For the night before Christmas, here's our old pal Mike Thomas, singing a very direct verse about Jesus. Yes, a verse. This song consists of an introduction, a verse sung by Mike for 30 seconds, an instrumental section which I don't really hear as containing a "solo" per se (just a series of guitar arpeggios), followed by the same verse again.

My favorite part of this record is without doubt the totally out of place and poorly performed bluesy ending.

Download: Mike Thomas - Jesus

As is often the case, I've buried the lead here by featuring the topical song first. The real interest here is on the flip side, "My Substitute". This is a gem of a peppy number, but rather than be specific, I'll just say that the item being used as a substitute does not disappoint, nor does the truly unexpected style of the solo section.. 

Download: Mike Thomas - My Substitute


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Moon

Howdy, Folks!

Well, with five days to go, if you're half as busy as I've been (and continue to be, you can hopefully understand why I'm spinning today's ditties with a minimum of wordage. Today, from the tiny Advance Records song-poem label, we have the previously unknown (and awkwardly named) Bob Lobdell, along with th Don Eagle Trio (that's what it says, "th"), with the somewhat less-than scintillating yuletide number, "Christmas Moon". The surface clicks at around 0:45 of this record appear to be from an imperfection in the vinyl itself - I can't make it better...

The flip side of this Advance release clearly comes from Lee Hudson's song-poem emporium, but that's clearly not the case for this side of the record - I'm not sure I have a handle on which company might have produced this record - my best bet is Tin Pan Alley, but I'd welcome other ideas.

Download: Bob Lobdell, Th Don Eagle Trio - Christmas Moon

On the flip side, it's the always welcome Cara Stewart, as usual with Lee Hudson, on the non-Christmas number "Someone to Love". Nothing special here, but I could listen to her every day.

Download: Cara Stewart, Lee Hudson Orchestra - Someone to Love

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Downer

Today, of course, we have another Christmas related song. In this case, it's Gene Marshall with "Raindrops on the Rooftops". But the only thing I found myself thinking while listening to this track was "what was the writer's intention in putting together this lyric?" Because the song is all about how Santa can't go to areas where it's raining and there's no snow. 

Presumably the song wasn't intended for those who are past the Santa age, or who were never there to begin with. I would think most songs about Santa's visit (aside from winking ones like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", and a few I can think of with very adult themes), are directed straight at those who are actually (and anxiously) awaiting his arrival with parcels of toys. 

So, again, why write a song presenting the very real possibility of rain on Christmas Eve, and which states directly that, in that case, Santa simply won't arrive. To play it for the kiddies? And if you do, what if it's raining that night? 

I'm happy to hear a good Christmas novelty track, especially if it's from around a different bend than usual, but this one is built on a weird premise that I can't imagine working at all on its presumed target audience. 

On the other hand, Gene sounds great!

Download: Gene Marshall - Raindrops on the Rooftop

The flip side, "My Time", also sung by Gene Marshall, is about as resolutely average a Preview 45 of the era that you're likely to hear. It's interchangeable, musically, with dozens of other releases. And the lyrics are about that song-poem standard, the good old days (and how bad things are getting today. Specifically, this is about the movement of time, and just how amazingly good things used to be (referring to some point in history where there was only peace and brotherhood - not sure when that was).

Download: Gene Marshall - My Time

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Christmas is Coming! What if Jesus Comes, Too?

By now, some of the more perceptive of you may have picked up on a few subtle hints that Christmas is coming. While the Episcopalian in me wants to point out that this is not actually the Christmas season; that season actually begins on December 25th and runs to January 5th (hence, the 12 days of Christmas...). But that's a battle long lost to Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and Thurl Ravenscroft. And if you have to lose to three people, those aren't bad people to lose to.

So I'll chime right in for the next three weeks and offer up some Christmas related song-poems.

But one thing I do know is that the first Sunday of Advent, in whose week we are still in at this moment (depending on where and when you're reading this) has as part of its focus the preparation for Jesus' second coming. And that's where Bobbi Blake and the folks over at MSR come into the picture. Please excuse the shoddy condition of this 45, which has either been much loved or sadly neglected before it made its way to me, and join with song-poet Billie N. Yates in her wondering about how things would be "Should Jesus Come Today".

Download: Bobbi Blake - Should Jesus Come Today

On the flip side is a little White Gospel, MSR style, with Bobbi Blake again offering up the vocal on "One Day at a Time", another offering from Ms. Yates. For this listener, at least, this song does not replace the John Lennon classic of the same name (one of my favorite JL solo tracks), in my brain.

Download: Bobbi Blake - One Day at a Time

Friday, November 28, 2014

Narratus Interruptus

First: Happy Belated Thanksgiving!!!!

On to today's record. I find this one very curious and fairly fascinating. On the surface, it's another tossed-off sounding Mike Thomas number, with the unwieldy title of "Early One Morn at a Quarter to Ten", but upon listening to its lyrics, it sounds to me as if half the story is missing - almost as if the second page of the lyricist's submission got lost on its way to becoming a song.

Because the first 104 seconds of the story (all we have here) set up the situation: the singer's buddy quit his job five years ago, and that friend tells his reasons, most of which have to working his tail off, only have the government take their allotted share.

And that's it. First, I'm dubious that the lyricist wouldn't have known his "friend" had stopped working for five years (it seems to be offered as a surprising bit of news), but more importantly, where is the punchline? The rest of the story? The explanation of what the friend has been doing instead for five years? What happened to the house?

Maybe there's a part two somewhere?

Download: Mike Thomas - Early One Morn at a Quarter to Ten

On the flip side is a genuinely sweet set of words about the lyricist's son, titled "See Him". I'm not crazy about the setting that the TPA folks attached to this lyric, and I don't think Mike Thomas was anywhere near up to the task of meeting the emotional level of these words, but they don't really ruin it, either, and the results are fairly affecting, despite the flaws.

Download: Mike Thomas - See Him

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Halmark Before Halmark, Part Two

Here, as the promised follow-up to last Sunday's post, are the other two Chapel Recording Company acetates. You can read more information about these records, and see a truly amazing scam letter that came with one of them here.

The third acetate contains a song called "Hold His Promises to Your Heart". This has considerably better sound on the vocal than did the first two records I shared on Sunday, and the backing track (one I'm not absolutely sure I've heard before) is very clear, compared with the sound of many later Halmark releases.

Download: No Artist Named (Chapel Recording Company) - Hold His Promises to Your Heart

Finally, there is "Fallow Ground". This one is built on one of my favorite Halmark backing tracks (again, sounding nice and clean here) - a big booming, bombastic opening that gives way to what passes for a soulful arrangement in the Halmark universe. They didn't use this track as often as many of their other records, but I'm always glad to here it. And again, the megaphone from Sunday's tracks seems to have been retired for this track, as well.

Download: No Artist Named (Chapel Recording Company) - Fallow Ground

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Halmark Before Halmark, Part One

Several months ago, I bought a batch of song-poem and related items, all of which have song-poet Enza Cooper as the common thread. These items contained four ten-inch Acetates, which, being a different size than most of the records I buy, ended up in a different spot than virtually everything in my collection, and sat, sort of forgotten, for nearly a year. They are all one sided, and came in record sleeves with the name of the songs on each of them.

I came across them while looking for something else, and they are a revelation. While these four records have long been documented on the AS/PMA website, I don't believe they've ever been shared on line or among collectors.

These four records make up more than half of the documented (on AS/PMA) records on the Chapel Recording Company, one of Ted Rosen's song-poem mills before he settled on the Halmark (AKA Hallmark) label in the late 1960's.

What I find most fascinating about these records is that, already by this point, Rosen was employing the same backing tracks that were used ad nauseam during the Halmark years. And while these records suffer the higher level of noise often heard on acetates, it strikes me that the backing tracks actually sound a little cleaner and clearer than on many Halmark releases. Perhaps he hadn't worn out those tapes at this point, and by 1975, had worn them out enough that they were in poorer condition?

On the other hand, what is with the vocals on these records? They sound like they're being sung through a megaphone, particularly in the second track featured.

First up is the clunky-titled "Please Stuff This Envelope (With Kisses)", with a backing track that any Halmark fan will recognize immediately.

Download: No Artist Named (Chapel Recording Company) - Please Stuff This Envelope (With Kisses)

Even more familiar will be the backing track to "Tell me of His Love", with the aforementioned vocal which sounds like it was recorded over a phone receiver. See below the label scan for a fun postscript.

Download: No Artist Named (Chapel Recording Company) - Tell Me of His Love

Along with these records came the following letter, sent to the song-poet, from Ted Rosen himself. This letter is quoted in its entirety at the AS/PMA website, but it's fun to see it, anyway. The person I bought these records from called this a "nice" letter, but in reality it's another play for more $$ from the song-poet. He claims to have added, at his own expense, a chorus of ten singers to her recording session. It's up to her to pay the extra $29.50, of course, but he did spring for them.

Only he didn't. The singers were already there, along with the rest of the track that he'd be using over and over again, for full profit and no further cost, for God knows how many more years.

Part two, featuring the other two records, will follow in a few days.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Sleazy Gene

Is there any question about whether Gene Marshall could rise to just about any occasion, and deliver a vocal which matched the subject matter just about perfectly?

Today's lyric, the very directly titled "Girl, What Are You Saving it For?", required a bit of sleaze, particularly on that very title line, and Gene delivers. I must say, as well, that whoever wrote the music and directed the track did a good job of hitting something a bit darker than the typical Preview record, as well. If only they'd skipped those god-awful white-bread backup singers - they ruin the mood.

Do you suppose this song-poet presented his lovely lady with this record, in the hopes that it would be the final piece of the puzzle, in terms of him getting what she was saving?

Download: Gene Marshall - Girl, What Are You Saving it For?

Upon hearing the opening moments of "Hey! Pretty Girl", one could be forgiven for thinking there's another sexual come-on in this lyric. But that opening guitar gives way to a more standard Preview track, with both the music and vocal sounding like dozens of other Preview discs from this period.

What stands out for me here, actually, is a rare flub from Gene Marshall, between 1:10 and 1:15, where the band modulates up a half-step and Gene holds on to the note he was singing, until well after the chord change is complete. It sticks out both as a moment of bad sounding music and as a truly unusual event in a Gene Marshall performance.

Download: Gene Marshall - Hey! Pretty Girl

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


While working for the Film City label, Rodd Keith found his work released on myriad secondary labels - vanity labels, smaller song-poem labels related to Film City, and others whose providence I can barely guess at. Typically, he shows up as Rod Rogers, but sometimes has a different name. Most of those tiny labels have names which have something to do with the label's primary songwriter (such as Kondas and Lutone), have a catchy name (Action and Planet Earth, for example) or at least interesting and perhaps thought provoking (Inner-Glo is a favorite of mine). 

But what to make of this label, which I've never seen referred to anywhere, and can't find anything about, and which carries the clunky name "B-Atlas". Were they hoping someone would misread it and think it said "Beatles"? I admit that seems unlikely, but it's the best I can come up with. 

Today's Rod Rogers songs are typical of the Rod Rogers, Film City sound. Neither one stands out to my ears - I'm sharing these at least as much because this label seems to be completely unknown to the song-poem world - but as I'm a fan of his mechanical, Chamberlin driven tracks from that era and label, I find these very enjoyable. 

First up is "My Honey Bee", a mid-tempo, yet peppy and danceable number. I do notice that there are some lines which do not scan well with the music Rod(d) chose, and he clearly finds those lines a challenge to sing effectively.  

Download: Rod Rogers - My Honey Bee

From the same general sound style comes the flip side, the awkwardly titled "Lou, I'm in Love With You". Note that a typo on the label leads to an indication that the song is only 75 seconds long - 40 seconds under its actual length.

Download: Rod Rogers - Lou, I'm in Love With You

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Brosh-Tastic EP

It's four for the price of two today, here at song-poem central, and what's more, today's EP, on the tiny Brosh label, features four different singers, all but one from the Globe song-poem empire.

First up is frequently used Globe female vocalist Kris Arden, with a song not written by Smokey Robinson, nor sung by Mary Wells, yet still titled "My Guy". The backing track is Globe 101 - if not for the lyrics, I'm sure Sammy Marshall would have been singing this. But just listen to these lyrics - her guy sounds like a dreamboat; he's swell.

Download: Kris Arden - My Guy

Speaking of Sammy Marshall, he's up next, with a number titled "Just a Few". This is also paint-by-numbers Globe stuff, and Sammy sounds (to me, anyway) pretty darned wistful, as if he believes the songwriter doesn't expect to win the girl. The ache in his voice here doesn't match the promise of the lyrics.

By the way, I'm going to make another file of this record tonight and see if it gets rid of some of the harshness of the sax portions (I didn't notice at the time of making this file that there was so much distortion, and the other tracks seem to be fine, so it might just be the track).

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keynoters - Just a Few

Best of the batch by a wide margin is "Makes My Heart Start Flopping Around", sung by everyone's favorite, The Mystery Girl. Here we have a swingin' little track, with a winning vocal, a nice band sound, and a lyric that, with a few improvements, could have sounded like someone's attempt at a hit record, at least during the late '50's (although I'm pretty sure this record is not from the late '50's). I could do without the honking sax, but that's a minor complaint - this is a fun song and record.

Download: The Mystery Girl - Makes My Heart Start Flopping Around

The final track, on the other hand, is as vapid as they come. It's called "I Love 'Em So", and it does NOT sound like it comes from the Globe world (so to speak). The lyrics here are literally as stupid as I've ever heard on a song-poem 45, and there are so few of them that some sections have to be repeated three times (almost everything is sung at least twice) in the 110 seconds it takes for the record to mercifully end. The bridge is especially inspired:

Nothing but girls
Lots of girls
Nothing but girls
I'm in a whirl

I don't believe I've come across the song stylings of Ronnie May before, and I'm not sure what casa-de-song-poems put this masterpiece together, but I'm sort of interested in hearing more.

Download: Ronnie May - I Love 'Em So

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Music of Crusty America

Although I've never featured it on this site before, the Star-Crest song-poem label holds a special fascination for me. Their albums (and it's almost always an album - I've only ever heard of four 45's on the label, and have only ever seen one of those) are unlike the products of any other label, except for perhaps Film-Tone, a label which they are reported to have had some sort of connection to.

Star- Crest releases are extra chintzy, often described on the label as featuring an orchestra, although rarely actually featuring more than four instruments, and often fewer than that. Their singers are either hopelessly incompetent, or at best are not very good at sight-reading - it certainly sounds to me like these singers have never seen the material before. That was rarely a problem for the likes of Gene Marshall, but the Star-Crest vocalists seem to trip over the melodies quite a bit more than was the average for song-poem vocalists.

The songs are also over in a flash. This album contains 22 songs in barely 40 minutes, many of them under 100 seconds long. Like many Star-Crest albums, it also contains a genuine hit song from the past, in this case WAY past (hello, public domain), "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean".

Then there is the material that Star-Crest received, or at least those lyrics they accepted. Much of their clientele seems to have been stuck in that period of the '30's where exceptionally corny novelties and sickly sweet sentimental clap-trap ruled the day. Those writers whose lyrics were in some way more contemporary (again, see the second track, below) were simply out of luck. Because to nearly all of these lyrics were paired arrangements that simply exist out of time entirely. There is no period in American music that I'm aware of when hit music (or potential hit music) was released which featured vocalists paired with piano, guitar and clarinet (or sax). True demo records are not typically this elaborate - and actual releases on real record labels not anywhere near this sparse.

The first example today is the song "The Little Grey Rabbit", as sung by Mary Martell. Here's a lyric which is clearly leading up to a moral, and when it arrives, it's more sudden and perhaps a bit harsher than one might have expected.

Download: Mary Martell - The Little Grey Rabbit

From the other end of the spectrum comes a hapless attempt at Rock and Roll, sung by label stalwart Tony Rogers, titled "Rock N' Roll Rocker". This contains one of the weirdest couplets I have heard in a song-poem (or any song) in quite some time:

"Grandma may be dead and weak,
but her get her in her rocker and she's a freak."

Dead and weak?

That's the "best" line, but the whole thing is amazing, in a car-crash sort of way.

Download: Tony Rogers - Rock N' Roll Rocker

Finally, as an example of what some of the other material on the album sounds like - the stuff that isn't hit-over-the-head moralistic or hopelessly misguided, here's an attempt at whimsy, titled "Just a Little Tugboat", sung again by Mary Martell.

Download: Mary Martell - Just a Little Tugboat

A full Star-Crest album which I posted several years ago to WFMU can be found here.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, Love Me!!!

Well, it seems like every time I get a head of steam lately, something else delays me. My plan was to speed up the posts until I was back on an every Monday or Tuesday schedule, but various issues keep interfering. This week it was a minor emergency involving a family member, now largely resolved.

The good news is that I've figured out the sound problem with my turntable, and have uploaded improved sound files to last week's post (the Bob Storm record). That post, with improved sound, can be found here. I'll continue to fix the previous three or four posts as soon as I have time.

And now....

The same family issue mentioned above has left me with little time to offer comments on today's record, "Love Me, Love Me, Love", by Norm Burns and the Satellites. I will say that I rather enjoy the sound of this record, due to the efforts of the spare backing band (dig one of the simplest guitar solos in history) and Norm's unique stylings, but the lyrics are about as basic, repetitive and uninspired as they come. 

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - Love Me, Love Me, Love Me

I can say nothing good about the flip side, "Oh! The Precious Blood". I'm not automatically opposed to religious records, but the words here are stultifying and the music is awful. I hope the sound file here worked correctly - I couldn't bring myself to listen to all four and a half minutes of this tedium a second time.

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - Oh! The Precious Blood

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's Bob Storm Time!

On those rare occasions when a new Bob Storm record makes itself available to me, I make every effort to be first in line to buy it. My hope against hope is that the resulting record will not only actually feature Bob Storm (and Halmark - or in this case "Hallmark" - records bearing that name aren't always actually Bob Storm records - some are even women!), but that it will also feature Mr. Storm in his ultra-unctuous singing mode.

After listening to tons of Bob Storm records, and debating those that seem questionable with other collectors, it seems likely to me that ol' BS had at least two or three styles he could switch on and off, ranging from Standard Big Band Belter to that otherworldly, Robert Goulet on steroids voice I love so much.

So, even though I might not have said so in the past, I do think that the Big Band style vocalist on "My Teen Age Queen" is Bob Storm. That leads to a bit of disappointment, but this is more than made up for by the fact that here we have a vocalist who sounds at least 40 years old paying tribute to his teen sweetheart. That, to me, would have benefited from the more over-the-top Storm vocal style, but this one will do.

It's also worth mentioning that although this backing track is right in Halmark's wheelhouse, I don't remember hearing it on any of their records.

Download: Bob Storm - My Teen Age Queen

On the flip side, "Only Because I Love You", we have a more intermediate step in the Bob Storm stairway to Unctuosity. He never quite steps into the abyss of that wonderful ridiculousness, but it's still fun to hear him emote over the canned music behind him.

On a side note, it's interesting to me that these two songs barely reach 4 1/2 minutes together, a real rarity for Hallmark/Halmark records, which tend to reach or pass the 3 minute mark on most sides.

Download: Bob Storm - Only Because I Love You

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Sea and The Mountain

Howdy, Y'all,

First, I want to address a question I got from an anonymous poster last week, who asked where I get my replacement phonograph needles. I get mine from I had to enter the brand name and item number of my turntable, I think - it's been awhile since I used them for the first time.

And now, on with the countdown:

Much more often than not, when I've shared a mid-period Tin Pan Alley record - whoever the singer, but often Mike Thomas - my comments have been dismissive or satiric. And I think in having a listen to the attached songs, many would find those comments well deserved.

But here we have one with many of the drawbacks of other TPA records of the era - limited lyrics, limited instrumentation, somewhat limited musicianship, perhaps not the best choice of musical setting for the lyrics - and yet, I kind of dig it. The DIY sound here works a bit better than usual, Mike Thomas stays on pitch and seems more suited for this particular material than I can remember on any of his other discs.

I do think a more dramatic setting might have worked better about a song which pays tribute to those who died at sea, and also serves as a warning to those who feel "The Call of the Sea", and yet.... this is sort of enjoyable...

Download: Mike Thomas - The Call of the Sea

The flip side, "High on the Mountain" strikes me as pretty much a throwaway - it's 87 seconds long! It has some of the same qualities of "Sea", but nothing to distinguish it, or to make me want to hear it again.

Download: Mike Thomas - High On the Mountain

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Everyone Wants More Dick

Well, so much for the plan to fill up the site with posts every five days until I was caught up. Days after making the sound files for the last two posts, my needle gave up the ghost, and as I order new ones online these days, I had to wait a week for a new one.

But I think I've got something to make up for that delay, in one of the weirdest song-poem pairings you're likely to come across. 

I first saw these titles several years ago on the AS/PMA Preview page, but never thought I'd actually get a chance to hear them. Glory be, though, a copy came up for sale in a Buy It Now on eBay, and I snapped it up! Here we have someone named Alain Peron, offering up some thoroughly misguided (and limited) lyrics supporting the GOP ticket of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

On both sides of the record, the limited lyrics are padded out to nearly four minutes by lengthy instrumental sections. Note that the singing on side one ("We Want Dick, We Want Dick, We Want Dick") doesn't start until 70 seconds into the record, and ends (aside from some chanting) more than two minutes before the record ends. And doesn't the crowd at 2:20 sound enthused? That's all I'll say, I think - I'll let you discover the wonders of this record on your own.

Download: Gene Marshall - We Want Dick, We Want Dick, We Want Dick

The Preview page has some contradictory information regarding when various records appear to have been released, but based on this label number, it appears much more likely that this record was put together for the 1972 campaign, rather than the 1968 campaign.

The flip side of this masterpiece - "We Want Dick and Spiro, We Want Dick and Spiro, We Want Dick and Spiro" - opens with music unlike anything ever heard on another Preview disc. It starts with a moment of polka-esque music, before moving into some Austrian-styled oompah music. The vocals here wait until the 75 second mark, and clearly are from a different recording - you can hear the source tape ramping up to speed on the first word. At least on this one, the vocals carry on for the remainder of the song.

Again, the lyrics here are the main show, and I encourage you to discover them on your own, with one exception that I will share, because it just makes me laugh out loud - has anyone actually ever referred to politicians in this way: "a Repub instead of a Demo?"

Download: Gene Marshall - We Want Dick and Spiro, We Want Dick and Spiro, We Want Dick and Spiro

Monday, September 01, 2014

Sadd Rodd

Today's feature is shared more for an interesting side note about it than for any particularly high quality in terms of song, arrangement or performance. I actually find the song dull, the pressing of the vinyl abysmal, and the arrangement and performance absolutely pedestrian.

But that's sort of the point. Those reading this site are probably at least vaguely aware of Rodd Keith's decline during 1973-74, as detailed in booklets to various CD releases, ending in his death shortly before the end of 1974. It looks very much to me as if this record was one of the final releases that came out under any of Rodd's myriad names during his lifetime.

Admittedly, some of this is conjecture. But while the song-poem website is woefully incomplete, it does appear that there were VERY few records by Rodd Rogers (the name he used at the label at that time) after release number 784, heard below, "Leaving Chicago Today". And aside from one or two later releases, the others seem to be "vault" releases, if MSR did such a thing, one being a song pulled from the "Variety Songs for 1969" album, apparently well after that album's release, and one being released at least two years after Rodd's death.

I'm guessing I'm right, but whatever the cause, "Leaving Chicago Today" is just about the most lackluster performance I've ever heard from Rod/Rodd Keith/Rogers, and a cookie cutter arrangement which is just about the antithesis of what he had typically offered up, with none of the hallmarks of his style or abilities. my thought is that if you played some of Rodd's mid-'60's highlights from Film City and Preview for a neophyte, then played this one, the listener would likely say "what the hell happened to the guy?".

Download: Rodd Rogers - Leaving Chicago Today

About the flip side, "I'm Talking to Myself", I could easily say most of the same things. This record sounds to me like someone's truly bad attempt to tap into a sound and style which was popular on the charts around the early '70's - attempts which fail miserably, in part at least because of what sounds like the disinterest of everyone involved.

Download: Rodd Rogers - I'm Talking To Myself

If anyone out there has more insight into Rodd's life and times, and the likely release date of this record, by all means, let me know, and if I'm offbase, I'll update accordingly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back in Business!!!

I was effectively out of town the weekend before last, and knew I'd be a bit late updating the site as a result. What I didn't know was that, within about 24 hours of returning home, I'd lose my internet connection for the better part of a week. I was (and am) online at work, but that wasn't going to help, if you know what I mean.

So I've had one of those rare periods where I've been unable to post for two weeks. And I don't like it. I'm going to try and post every four or five days until I'm back on schedule in a few weeks. For this week, I don't have much time to blather on about it. Suffice it to say that it's a very late period Film City masterwork (okay, that's a bit of an overstatement - it's a work), featuring Jim Wheeler. Note that Wheeler gets co-writing credit on both sides.

The better of the songs, by a wide margin, is on the b-side. "Old Grey Mule" is no great shakes, and the sound quality is awful, but there is a home-spun charm about the lyrics, at least if you don't mind hearing about the singer getting beaten up by.... well, I'll let you hear it... and as always, the otherworldly sound of the Chamberlin.  

Download: Jim Wheeler and the "Swinging Strings" - Old Grey Mule

The flip side of this record, "The Lawman's Creed" is a genuinely tedious (four and a half minutes!!!) telling of an Old West tale, with an ironic ending straight out of six dozen other songs and stories of this type. I swear this song seems ready to stop entirely at a few points along the way, and the story could be summarized in a half-minute at most.

Download: Jim Wheeler and the "Swinging Strings" - The Lawman's Creed

More this weekend!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cara is Blue, and Sonny Thinks You Want to Cry

The Air label typically released song-poem material produced by other companies - I can't think of one which didn't feature performers associated with one of the song-poem factories, and there are multiple examples of a record on Air Records existing on another label, sometimes in differing sound quality.

There are examples of both duplicated songs and questionable song quality on today's feature. The first song on this EP is a song called "Sugar", sung by Cara Stewart (with Orch). I'm not including it here, because I've already shared the exact same recording (which comes from the Lee Hudson song-poem empire) in a previous post, except that the release I've already featured appeared on the tiny Caveman label. You can find that enjoyable (if poorly written) song here (although, oddly, Orch didn't get the credit they deserved on the Caveman release of this material - perhaps it was a contractual issue).

The other Cara Stewart (with Orch) song on the EP is the equally enjoyable "I'm So Blue". As usual, Lee Hudson provides his dreamy backing, and Cara sings with that irresistible smile in her voice, one that can almost lead you to overlook the sad story she's telling us.

Download: Cara Stewart With Orch - I'm So Blue

The flip side of the record comes to us from the Globe song-poem consortium, featuring their go-to guy, Sammy Marshall (with Orch). While the two songs on the A-side sound just fine, the songs on the flip sound to me as if they were literally mastered off of another 45. Given that, as I said, many Air 45's feature songs which also appeared on other labels, this is entirely possible. Sadly, the crappy sound on the songs on side two of this EP are far from the only recordings on Air Records which were released in this level of sound quality.

And that's kind of a shame, because the first song on this side has some appeal, with a peppy beat, a warm Sammy Marshall (with Orch) vocal, and some fun instrumental stuff going on in the backing track here and there, especially that opening guitar. I'd never claim this is great stuff, only borderline okay, but I'd still like to have heard it in decent sound quality.

Download: Sonny Marshall with Orch - I'll Always Love You

"You Want to Cry", also featuring Sammy Marshall (with Orch), finishes off the disc. The sound quality again sucks, but I'd be hard pressed to work up the energy to care, as I doubt I'd want to hear this one twice even if it was digitally remastered and released in the highest sound quality ever achieved.

Download: Sonny Marshall with Orch - You Want to Cry

It's impressive how different "Orch" sounds from the A-side to the B-side. It's almost as if there were two different bands playing. Oh, wait...

Monday, August 04, 2014

Forget You!

I was tempted to think that today's record, "Oh, I Forgot" by Randy and Sandy, might have been one of those rare Tin Pan Alley sides, all but gone by this point in the late '50's, which might have been intended for the legitimate world of charts and pop hitdom. In it, I hear a strong enough song, with a clever lyrical hook (to me, at least, genuinely funny),  and performed by the sort of male duo which were in vogue at that moment (1958-59).

But then there's that co-writer credit to "DeVito", a person who - whoever he was - turns up on a few dozen TPA records around this time (as frequently as (the overall more common) "Covais" for a short time. It would appear that "DeVito" was, at least for a year or so, part of the composing staff who would set the lyrics to a tune, rather than just happening to be part of more than 18 songwriting teams within a year. The presence of that name on the label, to me, is the killer blow saying that this is just another song-poem record, albeit a very catchy, funny and enjoyable one.

Download: Randy and Sandy - Oh, I Forgot!

While I said I was tempted to think that "Oh, I Forgot!" was an attempt at a legitimate hit, I'm honestly not tempted to think about the flip side "A Little Bit of Love", at all. Although again credited to Randy and Sandy, it sounds to me that only one of the pair is audible on this side.

Download: Randy and Sandy - A Little Bit of Love

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rodd Rivers and the "Big Action Sound"!

I've always been fairly fascinated with the twists and turns of Rodd Keith's song-poem career, from Film City and its off-shoots to Preview and then MSR. What I'm going to offer up here is pure speculation, as I have absolutely no idea the truth of the matter, but I've noticed that with each change, Rodd changed his billing, from Rod Rogers at Film City to Rodd Keith at Preview and then, after a flurry of releases as Rodd Keith at MSR, back to the slightly different Rodd Rogers for his final releases at that label.

 What I wonder is: was this a contractual thing? Was he under contract to Film City, so to get around that, he had to go under a different name at Preview? And did Preview decide it owned the name "Rodd Keith", leading to the slightly changed earlier moniker? And if so, does that explain the further alteration seen on today's feature?

For this record clearly comes from Film City's production studio, based on the Chamberlin and the production sound, and if the stamp on the A-side is to be believed, is from a point in 1971 when Rodd had not been at Film City in quite some time, and was being billed as "Rodd Rogers" over at MSR.  Was he moonlighting at his old stomping grounds, unable to be billed under any of his preferred monikers?

Again, all speculation. If I'm totally off base, I'm sure someone is out there who knows better than I do. Whether you know or not, I'd be interested in other thoughts.

All that said, first up is a superb example of Rodd's abilities as a one man band, on the song "Any Way You Want It (clearly superior to the Journey song of the same title... although.... what isn't...). It comes complete with interactive vocals, Rodd answering Rodd and occasionally harmonizing with himself. All of this is heard over a nifty Chamberlin performance, featuring those soaring faux-choral oohs, an otherworldly sound that I just love. The song itself is no slouch, either - Rodd created a really nice, memorable melody.

Download: Rodd Rivers and the "Big Action Sound" - Any Way You Want It

On the flip side is the deceptively titled "Sing a Happy Song". A lesser song-poem composer might have ignored the lyric and attached a bouncy, peppy backing track. Rodd's song, on the other hand, is a more contemplative mid-tempo shuffle, appropriate to the lyric, which is about a man trying to overcome his heartbreak, after a romance has ended. Again, we have some nice harmony singing, too!

Download: Rodd Rivers and the "Big Action Sound" - Sing a Happy Song

Monday, July 21, 2014

Baby, You Sure Can Palpitate!

How can one not get at least a little stirred up at the thought of hearing a song-poem titled "Palpitatin' Syncopatin' Baby", sung by Gene Marshall, no less?

The lyrics are suitibly weird ("When I get the beat, I'm always indiscreet; when sex appeals, I kick my heels"), and Gene is certainly up to the task of filling these words with a good measure of feeling, as is the wah-wah guitarist.

On the other hand, the rest of the band seems to be sleepwalking. And whoever decided to pad this record out past three minutes, by adding a 40 second bland solo section, in which the lifeless female backups repeat the title over and over... well, that person was in the wrong job.

Still, the end result is weird enough to make it worth a few spins. I hope you agree:

Download: Gene Marshall - Palpitatin' Syncopatin' Baby

The flip side is "Love For This Day". With its bland peace and love lyrics, MOR setting and remarkably poor Gene Marshall vocal (missed notes, wavering around the pitch), this one does not strike me as worth a few spins. I do wonder, however, what the writer of this pablum thought when he heard the lyrics that were on the flip side of his creation.

Download: Gene Marshall - Love For This Day

And happy 21st birthday yesterday to my younger daughter, Molly!!! The years have flown by....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baby, You're So Fine

Here's a record label that tells a tale. At the Sterling page at the AS/PMA website, there is only a single Norm Burns record listed later than this one. And that one record comes quite a few discs later, with the billing to Norman Burns, a billing ("Norman") that hadn't been used about seven years, as of 1974. It seems at least possible that that latter listing was actually an earlier recording, held back for some reason.

Either way, this record is likely among the last, and perhaps the very last, that Norm Burns recorded. As I recall the story (and it's been about 15 years, so maybe I'm not recalling it correctly), Norm was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1974, very late in its progression, and died mere weeks later. This is consistent with the story told by record numbers on the website, where Norm was on virtually every release until, suddenly, he wasn't on any releases.

And he's only on the one side of this record, paired up with a singer (sic) who is otherwise undocumented among the Sterling discography.

The song itself, "Baby, You're So Fine" features a typically strong Norm Burns, with a haunted sounding backing track, featuring some nice bass playing and drums, soulful organ and '60's-ish backing vocalists.

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - Baby, You're So Fine

The flip side of Norm's number, titled "Did I Tell You?" features Rick Wilson with the Five Stars. This is complete speculation, but given that there don't appear to be other Rick Wilson records out there on Sterling, is it possible that they just grabbed whoever was available for the other side of this record? I ask, because I can't imagine anyone thought this guy was a worthy singer - his wispy style and difficulty staying on pitch do not make me wish for a second listen. Then again, one could presume that they chose Norm's eventual replacement, the utterly unworthy Gary Roberts, over this guy, and that wouldn't have been a "sterling" choice, either.

Download: Rick Wilson and the Five Stars - Did I Tell You?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Song-Poem Patriotism

Well, I'm a bit late for Independence Day, but better late than never. Not so much for the fourth of July, which is pretty much tied down by its own name to a particular date. But "better late than never" could have been the slogan for Halmark Records, whose material often sounded about 20-25 years out of date.

And today's feature does concern America, specifically, one song-poet's fears that the shrinking numbers of Eagles might portend the same dire fate for America and Americans. The song is simply titled "The Eagle", and before those eagle-eyed readers - those who salivate at the thought of new Bob Storm ridiculousness to enjoy - notice the billing of Bob Storm on both sides of this record label, be assured that the singer on the a-side sounds (at least to me) very little like ol' Bob, although there are a few moments where I think it's possible - perhaps he had an on-off on that over-the-top unctuousness that is absent here. (The b-side singer is quite clearly not Bob Storm.)

This side has the benefit, rare among Halmark sides, of being barely two minutes long.

Download: Labeled as Bob Storm - The Eagle

Brevity is not among the charms of the nearly four minute long flip side, "The Man from Glory". I doubt that the singer here was known as "Bob" to anyone, as you'll hear. Here we have another person summarizing the New Testament Gospels for us, perhaps in case we were unfamiliar with the story. The turgid backing track and annoying histrionics of the singer make this one nearly unlistenable for me.

Download: Labeled as Bob Storm - The Man From Glory