Sunday, September 22, 2019

Norridge, Rodd and Tom Dooley

Ya know, I love my hobbies, especially those that let me share parts of my collection here and on my other blog. And I love my work. If anything, it's gotten richer with a promotion a few years ago, and a more recent redefinition. But it became clear this month that, under that redefinition, Septembers are going to ridiculously busy for me. I'm going to try to prepare in advance for my blogging sites in the future, but this year, I really haven't had the time to dedicate to much posting. 

So I tried to catch up today, the first time I digitized anything in weeks. First, as I have been doing recently, I re-upped a set of old broken posts, in this case, five from December of 2014. You can find those here - the first four feature Christmas and religious song-poems of varying quality, while the last one... well, that's the one featuring "The Beatle Boys", which is one of my two favorite song-poems ever. 

And I will also acknowledge that today's offering may not be a new one to some percentage of the readership. Two decades ago, when the song-poem audience was reaching whatever zenith it reached, a CD reissue of a remarkable album was issued. That was Norridge Mayhams' "Our Centennial Album", credited to "Norris the Troubadour, Seaboard Coastliners". This album collected 29 songs that Mayhams had written, all of which he had paid various song-poem factories (and the like) to record for him. Most, if not all of these tracks had previously been released on 45's on Mayhams' label(s), and as they came from various companies, they actually featured a number of different vocalists and bands, all appearing under the name of one or more of his nom-de-plumes. 

Anyway, I say all this to offer a bit of history, but also to acknowledge that a certain, unknowable size number of those of you reading this may well have already heard these two songs, or even own them on a copy of that CD. But for those who don't, I really can't pass up sharing this 45, as the first song I'm putting up is among my top 20 favorite song-poems ever - it's my favorite from the album (there is one song on the album that I love much more - a version of "Mary Ann McCarthy" - but the version of that record that I love is not the one on the album. I find the one on the album to be fairly terrible). 

Anyway, here it is: 

On the Centennial Album, this is identified as "Tom Dooley Last Will and Testament", which is in keeping with the lyrics, but this title, "Tom Dooley Testament", works just as well. Norridge Mayhams clearly paid for the folks at Film City to produce this track, and Rodd Keith - no doubt thinking it would be released under the name Rod Rogers - provides one of his finest creations ever. And he didn't even get his preferred name on it - just "Seaboard Coastliner"

This is just damn cool. I don't have another, better word for it. The lyrics are interesting, Rod almost never did anything more slinky and sexy with the usually very clunky chamberlain - every voicing and musical choice is fantastic - and his vocal performance is loose, sly, soulful and understated all at the same time.

Many, maybe even most, of Mayhams' releases have fairly poor sound. My speculation is that he received the acetate or actual 45 from the company involved - in this case, Film City - and then mastered his 45 directly from the vinyl he received. I have no proof of this, but that's sure what it sounds like. In most cases, it is the detriment of the material, but in this case, it gives the proceedings a suitably spooky, even otherworldly feel. I'm not any other record I've ever heard sounds quite like this.

If you've not heard this before, I'd love to hear what you think.

Download: Seaboard Coastliner - Tom Dooley Testament

On the flip side, there is a positively schizophrenic Christian Revival-style song, :"Jesus Will Be Coming Soon", a song which starts with a bouncy, Spiritual setting, then into a 1950's organ driven inspirational number, and back into the Spiritual, all in less than 105 seconds, complete with a truly terrible edits near the start. For this one, Mayhams' company of choice was the Globe song-poem factory, with Sammy Marshall taking the lead, again billed as "Seaboard Coastliner".

I really have to wonder what the average record hound thinks, when coming across this record, with the billing the same on both sides, two totally unrelated subjects (a murderer's reflections / the second coming), sung and played but are what are clearly two different singers and bands.

Download: Seaboard Coastliner - Jesus Will Be Coming Soon

I should be able to get to more frequent postings now.


Stu Shea said...

"Tom Dooley" is an amazing record. Thank you for posting it. Among the many other nutty things going on here, why does NM have "different" writing credits on each side?

Stu Shea said...

Oh, and the revival flip side is amazing, too.