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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

NOT What He Had in Mind!

Given the title of this record, and the current hype here in the U.S. over all things basketball, I felt a strong pull to name this post after a catchphrase frequently uttered by sportscaster Marv Alpert. It seems appropriate.

However, I was also tempted to name this post "Thank God for Gary Roberts" or "The Inimitable Gary Roberts". For every time I get to hear a Gary Roberts record, I feel that, in a way, my day is complete, but in another way, I feel cheated - there are so FEW of them! Why can't there be as many Gary Roberts records as there are Mike Thomas records.

For as many of you know, Gary Roberts was singularly unable to look at a piece of music and sight-read it effectively, while simultaneously sounding like he knows the song AND sounding like he's the least bit involved with what he's singing - all of which are key talents for a song-poem vocalist. He is, in a sense, the anti-Gene Marshall. His greatest moment has to be "Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush" (I'd throw a few votes towards "Keep Those Hopes Us" for second place). But today's feature is no slouch either.

Part of the credit goes to the fairly awful lyrical content here. Really, who'd want to have this set of words directed towards him or her. It certainly sounds like the writer plans on staying with the beloved to whom the words are directed, but those words are largely ones of complaint and dismissiveness, aren't they? And don't phrases like "a challenging disappointment" just slip freely over this midtempo shuffle beat?

But just wait - this may be the most obnoxious set of song-poem lyrics (or any other lyrics) you've heard in some time:

I know I am the kind of man
that I good woman wants and needs,
and feels obligated to,
And knows, in return,
I can understand her shortcomings,
and say "I love you".
But you're not who I had in mind.

It's hard to make those words worse than they are, but Gary Roberts' hesitating, soulless and flat delivery do the job.

The flip side, "The Old Good Book", is little more than a schoolmarm-ish lecture set to music, although I do wonder what "My tender God care" means - perhaps I'm hearing that wrong.

Gary's reading of this song again convinces me that the studio could hardly have done worse if they'd pulled in the first person walking by outside and asked him or her to sing.

Happy CUBS Season, Everyone!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One Hell of an Argument!

Noval song-poems are often an offbeat treat. The one's I typically enjoy feature half-assed musical  performances of lyrics which are badly suited to the backing provided, sung by a guy who has problems staying on pitch. Today's feature, however, has a decent, if journeyman-like bluesy jazz backing, and the singing is considerably better than I'd have expected.

In this case, it's the lyric that makes me grin, every time I hear it. I won't spoil the source of the argument thta's central to that lyric - you should get to discover that yourself - but I will say that I cannot anyone imagine a major argument ("for most an hour"), over the disagreement described here (especially given that the singer states he will "do anything for you")

At 100 seconds or so, this is one of the shorter song-poems you'll hear. Also please note that the entire song has only eight lines of lyrics, some of which are repeats of earlier lines.

The flip side, "You" is about as creative and interesting as is its title. Again, there are minimal lines to this song, stretched out at a snail's pace, again across about 100 seconds of music:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Wild Irish Roses

Here's another attempt on my part to stay relevant with what's on the calendar, by posting a song appropriate for St. Patrick's day tomorrow! In this case, it's a circa 1965 record from Tin Pan Alley, "Two Little Irish Roses", sung by someone named Nick Fontaine.

Mr. Fontaine's name appears on only two documented Tin Pan Alley discs, and only on one side of this one.  His vocal is artless and struggles with varying success to stay on pitch throughout, but as this latter point is true of many who recorded for TPA after about 1963, there must be some other reason for his brief tenure with the label.

Note that although the record is nearly three minutes long, there really aren't even two full verses here, and the record is padded by about 1/3 of its total length by one of the dullest instrumental passages imaginable.

I wanted to make the post a tie-in to the holiday, and have done that, but the real meat on this disc is to be found on the non-Irish side, provided by our old pal "Lance" (as he was always credited), and a rollicking number titled "Darling Teenager".

The surf-styled drum intro and doo-wop chords leading into the vocal tell you immediately that you're in for something fun, and the rest of the record doesn't let you down! Something about the pianist's style leads me to strongly believe this is a jazz guy slumming in the song-poem trenches - his chording, soloing and other licks just don't fit this style at all, which just adds to the sort of wonderful weirdness of the track.

"Lance" isn't really up to the task (and rarely, if ever was, on his TPA sides), but at least he has something resembling a style. On the other hand, his shouted encouragements seemed canned - the one at 1:45 sounds exceptionally fake and cracks me up every time. In addition, this is another song where a couple of verses have been stretched out to the standard 150 seconds by an extended instrumental solo, although at least in this case, it has some energy. All in all, a very entertainingly weird track.

Saturday, March 08, 2014


I'm frequently impressed by the energy, style and talent with which the Preview house band, and in particular, singer Gene Marshall, addressed material which was bland at best, potentially tedious at worst. It's certainly not always the case, but sometimes I come across a song which features better performances - even very attention worthy performances - than the song deserves.

Today's offering is a prime example. The song, titled "Really", is not likely to set anyone aflame. Yet the the drummer and bass player seem to think they're backing up a top of the line Motown session, with a deeply soulful offering on the part of each. Whoever is working those Chamberlin strings isn't doing too shabbily, either. Saving the best for last, Gene Marshall gives it his all, with a warm, inviting vocal - I love the sound of his voice.

By the way, the glitch beginning at 0:23 is right on the record - the sound muddies, and there is a tape glitch sound a second later. I'm guessing this was an imperfection in the reel tape used for the master, and presumably not caught (because, you know, who really cared?).

The less said about "Life is Like a Rose", the better. It has none of the features of "Really". On the contrary, I find it to be badly recorded, with lackluster performances all around, particularly from the drummer, who doesn't always seem to be playing the same song as the rest of the band.