Monday, June 23, 2014

Real Pros Bonanza

Before offering up today's super-deluxe posting, I need to offer a giant thank you and an acknowledgement.

First off, thanks go to a man named George Galvas, who wrote me out of the blue last year to offer me this record essentially free, only suggesting that I post it if I felt it lived up to his billing, which it most certainly does. Thanks, George - I can only apologize for the more than half-a-year it took for me to post the record, which has nothing to do with the quality of the material, which is, in a couple of cases, just amazing.

Then, in the meantime, between getting the offer from George and actually receiving the record, something else happened, which is that the fine folks at Roaratorio Records released their newest Rodd Keith collection, which not only includes the song that George thought made this record so special (I would argue that there are actually two special cuts here), but actually made that track - Black Phoenix Blues - the title track of that compilation, which can be found here and elsewhere. Quite a weird coincidence! Take a trip over to Roaratoria and look around - they have some interesting things to offer.

So I called this a bonanza, and it certainly is - SIX song poems on one 45. You probably know that, after a brief period releasing records by a one-man-band, Cinema turned the "Real Pros" name over to the same group of freelance musicians that were appearing on all the larger name song-poem outfits in the Los Angeles of the day.

And so we find the first two songs, both rather pedestrian to my ears, sung by a vocalist I'm pretty sure is Bobbi Blake. First up is "The Dancer". While the line "fall in love and your heart gets bent" shows some promise, much of the lyric is just not that musical: you know that the singer and the producers have thrown in the towel when they have the singer start talking the lyrics half-way through, as happens here:

The same singer returns for track two, a number called "Liberated Woman", an uninspired lyrical put down of one of the many women who would have fit that description in 1973 (and since):

The real (pro) fun, for me, begins with track three, "Lady Lady", with its repeated references to the title lady being "dressed in plastic" and how she has a "plastic mind", all set to an oh-so-sensitive backing and with vocal stylings to match. This one really grabs me - it's pleasingly ridiculous. But speaking of the vocals, this singer is on three of the four remaining tracks. I'm assuming that the folks at Roaratoria believe this to be Rodd Keith.

Maybe my ol' song-poem ears are playing tricks on me, but I can't tell WHO this is - some of the inflections sound like a thicker-throated Dick Kent, other lines have the timbre and phrasing of Gene Marshall, and at moments, I could believe this is Rodd Keith. But in general, the singer doesn't sound like ANY of them to me - Gene Marshall is the closest, to my ears. What say y'all?

Moving on to side two, we're back to Bobbi Blake, with another song which is no match for her abilities, the stilted, obvious lyrics of "Come Back". The only thing that catches my ear here is the poorly chosen line "we built our love on concrete blocks...". I'm sorry, but when I think of concrete blocks, I think of a broken down car outside of someone's garage propped up by blocks (I probably got this from Archie comics) - this is certainly not the image the writer was going for.

For the fifth track, we're back to the Gene Marshall-esque singer from track three, heard here singing the requisite "you done me wrong" songs which certainly seem to crop up at least once among any random sampling of six song-poems. In this case, it has the prosaic title "Girl, You Hurt Me So". This is about as stereotypical in lyric and sound as a song-poem can get.

None of the above will have effectively prepared you for the final track, "Black Phoenix Blues". Here we have the same singer as the previous track - and please, feel free to tell me who you think this is - in a nightclubby blues sort of setting, singing words that I'll not quote - you should be allowed to experience them for yourself. I would love to know what this lyricist was rambling about. Here it goes!:


Anonymous said...

A bonanza indeed! Thanks George and Bob!

I agree that it sounds like Gene Marshall, singing higher than usual. Doesn't sound like Rodd at all (on vocal).

I'll have to listen again, but I think the "Black Phoenix Blues" on the Rodd album is not this song! Maybe the lyrics are the same, but I don't remember hearing Gene Marshall singing on that album!

Thanks again, Bob! (and George!)

Roaratorio said...

A clarification :

This version of "Black Phoenix Blues" is not the same one as on the Rodd Keith collection of the same name. In fact, I had no idea this earlier version existed until now! Rodd is most certainly not the vocalist on this rendition, or on any of the other cuts on this Real Pros ep (except for his somewhat prominent backup vocals on "The Dancer.")

Stu Shea said...

Well, "Black Phoenix Blues" certainly enters that hallowed territory inhabited by Thomas Guygax and James Wilson, Jr.

But I don't think any of the lead singers are Rodd.