Wednesday, April 30, 2014

She's a Big Mama

Here's a nice example of MSR's earliest days, when their material resembled much of what Preview was doing, rather than the horrid pressing quality and disco stylings they moved into some time later. Bobbi Blake (identified here as Bobbi Boyle) has a song, "Big Mama" that's right in her wheelhouse, and she does a great job with it.

The song starts with a nice a cappella trio before settling into a swinging groove, with a bopping bass and supportive synth strings. The lyrics give self-praise to the writer - a "big, big mama" - and what she needs in a man. The whole thing wraps up in 105 fun seconds.

Download: Bobbi Boyle - Big Mama

Over on the flip side, we get another label stalwart, Dick Kent, singing a lullaby, "Sleepy Head". I don't hear anything special here, musically, but the lyrics are appropriately sweet, and Dick Kent does a first-rate job with the vocal.

Download: Dick Kent - Sleepy Head

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Man and his Wives; A Man and his Lawyer

Before I get to today's feature, I have a few important links regarding fellow song-poem travelers.

First, I'm very pleased to report that Darryl Bullock, proprietor of the fabulous "World's Worst Records" blog, has come out with a book of the same title, which can be perused and purchased here. I have been devouring this book, and I highly recommend it! I'm touched to have been mentioned in the acknowledgements, and was quite amazed and pleased to find myself actually quoted within the text of the chapter on song-poems.

And second, there are several new episodes of Sammy Reed's Strange and Bizarre program available, the most recent of which are from his "no top teeth" series. All of them feature multiple song-poems, as well as other amazing and wonderful stuff. You can find the most recent show, and a link to the other ones, here.

And now, back to the countdown:

Today's two songs appear to be part of the same story, as they were both written by the same song-poet, and both feature him dealing with legal tribulations. Both are sung with great verve and élan by Norm Burns, who was just the man for the job.

In song one, writer Chester Meyer gives us his perspective on his divorce, primarily that the judge based his alimony and other rulings on how Chester's ex-wife looked in her short skirt (too bad Chester didn't have a short skirt, too, he observes). He then goes on to complain about this for a time, before letting us know that it all worked out in the end, when he found wife # 2.

Download: Norm Burns - Married

On side two, Chester (with Norm's help, of course) tells us all about his relationship with his lawyer, who helped him with a gal who "made a fool out of me", most likely the one we just heard about, no? But the focus of this song is Chester's desire to develop a friendship with this attorney. My guess is that this is the only song ever written about a wish to become closer friends with one's lawyer. And not only that, it gives us the chance to hear Norm Burns to some speak-singing over "stop-chords", which may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Don't miss it!

Download: Norm Burns - A Helping Hand

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cashing In on a Craze

Today, it's back to our road trip, at least...sort of. But it's really a trip inside the fascinating mind of Norridge Mayhams. For today's record is one which appeared on the "Mayhams" Little Shirley Records label (got that?), but which has key differences from the one record on the same label listed at the song-poem database site. On that site, the one record identified, from 1962, has a different label number, the same song on one side, but a different song on the other side. That song is listed as "Zoomba High Kicka Zoomba", which is a familiar Mayhams title, appearing on at least three different Mayhams releases that I know of.

The funny thing is, the song listed on this record, identified with the unwieldy titles of "The Pennsylvania TWIST and the California TWIRL", IS, in fact, "Zoomba High Kicka Zoomba", perhaps the very performance heard on that other "Little Shirley" release. The only difference seems to be that a prelude has been attached to it, telling us to do the dance steps referenced in the new title. Oh, and the singer, Miss J. M. Abreau, offers up a few shouts of encouragement to dance during the song, as well.

Unless I miss my guess - and it's quite possible, of course, because it's only a guess - Mayhams took the original track, and added a brief reference to the suddenly repopularized TWIST, and tried to hop on the bandwagon by making it appear that the same old Zoomba song was really supposed to be a TWIST number. Given the crappy sound quality, it seems at least possible that Miss Abreau added her new intro (and voiceovers), as well as the guitar intro, to a tape into which the existing record was being played, rather than to the master tape. See what you think!

Download: Miss J. M. Abreau - The Pennsylvania TWIST and the California TWIRL

Whatever else that is, it's a ridiculous record. Is there a line in there says "Zoomba Zoomba Commander in Chief"? That's what I hear....

Miss Abreau also shows up (as Julia Abreau) on a exceptionally rare acetate of two Mayhams songs, which I posted a few years ago here.

On the flip side, Miss J. M. Abreau offers up some of Norridge Mayhams hard-won dating and romance tips, in "Play it Smart - Play it Hard". I really wonder who ol' J. M. (or Julia) was, because her vocal stylings are uniquely weird and and somehow both hypnotizing and unappealing at the same time.

Download: Miss J. M. Abreau - Play It Smart - Play It Hard

Monday, April 07, 2014

Where There's No Such Thing as Sin

Last week, I bemoaned the dearth of Gary Roberts records out there. This week, I have the same sad complaint about the limited number of records made by Jeff Reynolds, who worked in the same song-poem stable - the one run by Lee Hudson - as did the great Cara Stewart.

Today's Jeff Reynolds masterpiece comes to us from the Lutone label ("True Tone is on Lutone"), which was the outlet for the creativity of one Luton Stinson. Stinson utilized multiple song-poem companies to fill up the sides of his Lutone 45's. For example, today's song, "Black Bottom Inn" appeared on a different Lutone release, performed by The Surftones, in a production from Bob Quimby's Tropical Records factory. You can hear that version here.

And that Surftone performance is an appealing enough version, with a straightforward rock beat and some nice harmonies. And your mileage may vary as far as which you prefer. But for my money, like so many of Lee Hudson's better records, the Jeff Reynolds version is otherworldly, sounding like nothing except for other Hudson records, and maybe, just a bit, like the incomparable records Les Paul had made a decade or so earlier.

It helps (for both versions) that the lyrics and melody to this song are pretty dang memorable. They work better, I think, set to the slow shuffle, thick echo and sexy guitar licks of this version, and Jeff Reynolds has just the right voice for it, too.

Download: Jeff Reynolds - Black Bottom Inn

The flip side of this one, "I'll Do Everything With You" is also by Jeff Reynolds. The backing is, again, quite well done, and provides a dreamy setting. If anything, this sounds even more like a Les Paul track than do most of Hudson's recordings. And the guitar part after the line "wedding bells ring on" is cutely clever. But...well, I just find it sort of dull. They can't all be winners.

Download: Jeff Reynolds - I'll Do Everything With You