Saturday, February 08, 2020

Words and Music by "Jim" Stross

I know posting around here has been a little sparse in recent months, and particularly in January, but BOY OH BOY do I have a lot to share today, including eight previously unheard song-poems, all from the same disc.

First up, I am happy to announce that I have been invited to be part of yet another podcast, this one focusing on my own personal 25 favorite song-poem and song-poem related records. This has been in the works for over six months, and the podcaster, Brian Kramp, and I finally did the interview late in January. The podcast can be heard here and here, and if you want to see the list of songs, it can be found here (the list is in reverse order, from 25 up, with a section near the top of a handful of song-poem related discs (which are not actually song poems). It's all explained in the show.

Brian was nice enough to include one of the songs from my recently released album of comic songs, and also to include a cover I performed, live, of one of my favorite song-poem related records, at the end of the show.

Looking over the list, there are some others I might have included - and I've been invited to do a second episode. I think there might be a few replacements in the bottom half of the list, so this is not my absolute top 25, but it's close, and the top 10-12 are unshakable. And as I've mentioned here before, my tastes in song-poems does not necessarily match that of the larger (however large it is) song-poem fandom world - there are, for example, no MSR, Sammy Marshall or Gene Marshall tracks in this top 25, it does reflect that my basic taste in music prefers things from before 1965 in a lot of cases, and a LOT of the fringe of this fringe world is represented.

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Brian has also offered up a multitude of song-poem ads that he's found, since our interview, and I'm going to share those with you, much as I shared a similar collection that was sent to me a few years ago. I don't have a lot of details about them. Here's one from Calgary:


Second, as has been the case for the last several months now, I have fixed yet another month worth of postings, in this case, January of 2014. This was a month I tried out a short lived feature in which I shared song-poems about places, a sort of song-poem travelogue. This includes the earliest known "Real Pros" record, featuring a trip to Napoli, a peppy Rodd Keith trip to Wisconsin, an absolutely wonderful pair of polkas from Cara Stewart, and a soulful vocal from Gene Marshall. I remember deciding to go on that little song-poem road trip, and can hardly believe it was over six years ago!

This completes my postings from 2014, with the exception of a massive post I did upon the occasion of the death of Pete Seeger, which I will have to put back together when I have considerably more time. 


To make up for the slow down in postings lately, I thought this would be a good time to share a song poem album. In this case, "album" is a bit of an overstatement, as this is a ten-inch special, containing eight songs and about 24 minutes of music. But it's a unique entry, in that it represents an otherwise unknown label and song-poet. 

The songwriter - who in this case wrote both the words and music, making this a song-poem/vanity hybrid, is identified as "Jim" Stross, just like that, with quotation marks. He employed the Globe song-poem factory and its stable of singers, providing that key link between vanity project and song-poem release. The label is JKS, presumably Mr. Stross' initials, and the label informs us that the record is "Not For Sale". Don't tell anyone that I bought it on eBay. 

The first side contains the following four songs: Just Before Sunset, One Night in Tucson, Sudden Love & Stop Playing With My Heart. The first three are sung by Sammy Marshall, the final one by Kris Arden. They generally have the typical Globe studios sound. I have not separated them out - here is side one: 


Side two starts with my favorite of the eight songs, a Sammy Marshall dance special - which are almost always fun - titled "Dip, Flip, Twist, Stomp". This is followed by My One Ambition (which has a co-writer and is sung by Kris Arden), Autumn Rain (sung by Mary Kaye), and Santa Claus Means Christmas (sung by Kris Arden). Enjoy!


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Today Street?

It is really my goal to post here every week, and have at least posted three times a month. This month, due to illness and a few other issues, I'm only getting to two posts. 

I have updated/fixed four more posts, in this case, those from February of 2014. These include a bouncy number from Sammy Marshall, a Tin Pan Alley track with some ridiculous drumming, a nice number from Rod Rogers on Film City, and a somewhat offbeat lyric (in the second song offered) by Norm Burns

And speaking of Norm Burns: It's always a happy day when I can share a little of his work with the world. Today's offering carries the odd title of "Today Street". It's a bouncy little mid-tempo number which starts with a typical Sterling band sound, and Norm's typically warm vocal. I do wish the lyrics went in a different direction, though, because the track, minus those lyrics, has significant promise, enough to make it share-worthy.

But the title is a metaphor (a fairly ham-fisted one, if you ask me) for everything one might see that was wrong in the world in 1973, and the rest of the lyric promotes the writers solution thereof, which of course is a turn to prayer and religion - specifically, Christianity. Even as a lifelong Christian, which I am, I find this sort of thinking simplistic and fairly ridiculous. Wouldn't a call to action (faith-based or not) be more effective?

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Today Street


The less said about the flip side, "Bring Us Together Again", the better. I just don't think either Sterling or Norm Burns were much good at these slow, love ballad type numbers. The brief guitar solo at 1:57 must have taken hours to work out.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Bring Us Together Again

Saturday, January 11, 2020

It's All About the Lyrics


I have a pair of Gene Marshall records which feature some truly memorable lyrics, but first, there is quite a bit of other news and such to go through.

First up: It was earlier last year that I discovered that a podcast had used one of my most ridiculous songs - titled "A Sailing Milk Moustache" - as the introductory music for their year-end show. I reached out to the person behind the podcast, and, after quite a bit of conversation, ended up doing a lengthy interview with him for one of his episodes, all about my history, in terms of my collecting and, particularly, my humorous songs. I was then invited to be a part of this year's New Year's Eve/New Year's Day special.

Interestingly, the show's general theme is (this is from their website):  "A podcast and Website dedicated to understanding the world in which we live from a Christian worldview perspective", although nothing remotely in that area came up in the two shows I was part of.

My interview can be found here, and the New Year show - which I am only part of sporadically, can be heard here.


Secondly, I have in recent days, had two people reach out to me, one directly, and one via a friend of mine, seeking specific song-poem records, neither of which, sadly, are part of my collection, or I'd have helped them myself. One is probably relatively easy to find, being on Preview, and the other is probably a long-shot. If anyone reading this post has either of these records, please let me know, and I will put you in touch with my correspondents.

The first is:

Preview 1453
Rodd Keith 
A: You Only Want To Hurt Me
B: It's Over-It's Done

And the second is:

Film-Tone 200 (EP)
Ken Starr & Orchestra / Vocal Trio
A: I'm A Funny Little Snowman / True Love (Joseph H. Collins) 
B: Wheel Chair Blues 


Third, I want to thank everyone for the continuing comments to this and my other site. I really enjoy reading what people have to say.

And I'd like to link to a site mentioned in one of those comments, the latest installment of Sammy Reed's "Music of the World of the Strange and the Bizarre". It's a reposting of several earlier shows he did, and can be found here. And it's a little late for this, but he also has a complete song-poem Christmas album posted here.

And in answer to another comment, I will endeavor to share an entire Michael Kasberg album some time soon.


And finally, I have updated and fixed the posts from March of 2014. These include an unusually peppy number on Noval, a typically half-assed number by Gary Roberts and the Sterling gang, a fairly awful offering from Tin Pan Alley, and a Preview entry showing everyone making something out of nothing.

And now...


Speaking of Gene Marshall and Preview, that's who and what we're featuring today. And I'll be up front when I say that neither of today's offerings have much to recommend them from the musical end of things - each of them is badly recorded, shows no creativity in arrangement or performance, and generally reek of the malaise that tends to emanate from late-era Preview records (this appears to be from 1976).

But oh, those lyrics! The song I'm cueing up first has the most to offer in this area, and does so repeatedly, while its flip side just has one amazing line, something that I never expected to hear in a song-poem record.

Up first is the fantastically named "So Many 'Minis'", and as you might just expect with that title, this contains a fairly sexist set of lyrics, and in particular, a few lines which would raise many a red flag in today's "me too" era, and rightly so. Gene, as the avatar for the song-writer, is not particular about the human being wearing the "mini", in fact, they seem interchangeable to him, to the point that he concludes, "I wanna take one to bed tonight". There is no mention of getting to know the person behind the mini.

Please be sure to listen to, and enjoy, Gene's (presumably improvised) riffing on the subject of the song during the fade out. It's the highlight of the record, I think.

Download: Gene Marshall - So Many "Minis"

The flip side might hardly merit much more than a short, one paragraph dismissal, especially in comparison with "So Many 'Minis'". I mean, it is dull, it seems to go on forever, and it's about as cookie-cutter as a mid-'70's Preview can get, and it's musically of a style that leaves me exceptionally cold.

That's the way it would be, were it not for the second line of the song, which made me laugh so hard the first time I heard it that I almost choked. Again, not what I expected to hear Gene Marshall - or any other song-poem warbler - sing.

Download: Gene Marshall - My Lady Most Fair