Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just a Great Little Record

After I first heard this record a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, "well, that'd be great for the site, but I'm sure a record this good has already been online somewhere", thinking of the various files that used to be at the AS/PMA website and have since been hosted at WFMU.

When the first search turned up nothing, I searched again. And again.

So, I'm now convinced that this absolutely lovely little treat, "Day Dreaming" by Rodd Keith and the Raindrops has not been widely dispersed to the song-poem faithful. And it's time that that changed.

I love this record! Rodd fills the verses with the sort of '60's pop that gets a bad name, with the piano triplets and cheery unison singing, which I typically am indifferent to, but which I can really enjoy, when done right, as it is here. And then he adds a soulful keyboard solo halfway through to increase the likability of the track.

Finally, there's that bridge. It comes in twice, and what's that I hear? Is that Blue Beat flavoring? Would Rodd have known about Blue Beat? There's no way the bridge would have sounded like this if he didn't. Just another surprise from Rodd Keith's gigantic bag of musical tricks!

Download: Rodd Keith and the Raindrops - Day Dreaming

On the flip side, we have The Raindrops, for some reason billed without Rodd Keith, who is clearly singing here just as on "Day Dreaming". While I appreciate the close harmonies Rodd designed here, particularly that final sixth chord at the end, the song is performed in a style that does extremely little for me, and Rodd uses his smarmiest, most ingratiating vocal style here, a style which I rarely find interesting, unless the song/performance sink into self parody, which doesn't happen here.

Download: The Raindrops - Red Grow the Roses

Monday, September 21, 2015

John R. Taylor's Greatest Hit

For much of their last two decades at the forefront of the song-poem world, Tin Pan Alley seems to go through a variety of wispy, wimpy-voiced vocalists interspersed with backing musicians who didn't seem to know what they were doing.
So it was a pleasure, and yet also frustrating to find this outlier, a record performed by the otherwise completely unknown John R. Taylor. Aside from the resolutely awful vinyl pressing, I genuinely like this record - the band is cooking, especially a hyperactive drummer and very involved lead guitarist. And John R. Taylor is a bit over-the-top, but not in a Bob Storm way - just an intense, all-in performance of a lyric which benefits from such a reading.
While it's a far cry from great, I actually believe this singer singing these words (well, aside from the disconnect between the very adult singer singing about "another boy". I truly wish he'd recorded more material for Tin Pan Alley, and hope he's not the same John Taylor who went on to help form Duran Duran.
The flip side is "When the Day Kissed the Night", and it shows to me that even a singer of this style who sounds good singing forceful, upbeat material will start resembling the unctuousness of a Bob Storm when handed ballad material, although in Taylor's case, he just sounds a little pretentious, rather than ridiculous. I don't find any aspect of this record appealing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Unusual Reasons to Leave This Town

Sometimes, I feel like saying too much - or much of anything - will ruin and pleasure and surprise of listening to a song-poem which has pleasures too good to spoil. So it is with "Pussycat", by Gene Marshall. Aside from the reference in the name of this post, I'm just going to let you enjoy it as the song unfolds on your computer. I highly doubt that you'll be disappointed.

Download: Gene Marshall - Pussycat

The flip side, "Now I Lay Me Down" seems to be about a soldier in Vietnam wishing he was back home. That's a good topic, and I wish I could drum up some enthusiasm for it, but I find the product that the folks at Preview came up with deadly dull. You?

Download: Gene Marshall - Now I Lay Me Down

Monday, August 31, 2015

Under the Influence

So I came across an auction of a record by perhaps my favorite Song-Poem singer, Norm Burns, singing a song with a title that has to rank up there with "You Insulted Me" (which was sung by Sammy Marshall), as the songs with the most stereotypical song-poem-perfect titles. There was no way I wasn't going to go for a song called "Don't Influence Me", especially with Norm as the singer.

And while this isn't an all time winner (the ones with the great titles rarely are), it's a solid Norm performance of a suitably ridiculous lyric and song. It's great to hear Norm sing lines such as "lead me by the nose", and the decidedly unmusical title phrase.

Here 'tis:

Download: Norm Burns - Don't Influence Me

Flipping the record over, we find "Hello My Sweet" a peppy, upbeat song, complete with Norm (or someone) whistling, and an extended piano break, perhaps disguising there having been too few lyrics to sustain a three minute pop song. The lyrics seem to be a dismissal of a wayward lover, but in the final line, it sounds like he's welcomed her back, so I'm confused... Norm shines, as he almost always did.

Download: Norm Burns: Hello My Sweet

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rod Rogers Sings More Military Melodies!!

Last April, we all enjoyed a few rousing patriotic songs courtesy of the famous team of lyricist Clarence M. Boness and composer/man-about-town Rodd Keith (as Rod Rogers), on Film City release # 1067, which you can hear here. An earlier posting of a later Boness/Rogers team-up, linked within that post, is currently not working. I hope to restore the old posts soon.

But Mr. Boness was hardly just a four-song wonder. Today, we get to hear yet another two amazing patriotic/military numbers. First up is a tribute to everyone's favorite defense command personnel, the Air Defense Command, or, for convenience sake, The A.D.C. Rodd gives it all, with a stirring march sound and an appropriate and stirring (well, to the degree that the Chamberlin could muster it) solo. Dig the Roddtastick harmonies at the end!

Download: Rod Rogers with the Film City Orchestra: The A. D. C.

On the flip side is Mr. Boness tribute to The Six Ninety First, starting with a quote from the song "Old Folks At Home". I can't say I'm familiar with the specific base he's referring to here, but it clearly is another aspect of Air Defense, based on the lyrics. I love the Mandolin-esque solo, and the general pep and verve of the entire enterprise.

Download: Rod Rogers with the Film City Orchestra - The Six Ninety First

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Vicki Doesn't Need a Makeover

A few frantic weeks and I ended up missing my posting for last week entirely, without even realizing it. Well, I'll try to get back on schedule early next week!

For the second week in a row, here's a previously unknown singer (sic), in this case on a teeny tiny label - the only record I've ever seen on this particular label, Hit Records International.

The singer is only identified as "Vicki", and perhaps that's in order to save her some embarrassment, as she clearly had no business being in a recording studio - I'm reminded of the beautiful but tone-deaf singer who Keith Partridge went crazy over in an episode of The Partridge Family - as long as he was looking at her, he couldn't hear her awful singing, which sounded very much like this anonymous "Vicki". The song, "You Can't Make Me Over", is not likely to make anyone forget Dionne Warwick's much more forcefully worded "Don't Make Me Over".

Download: Vicki - You Can't Make Me Over

Now that you've seen the title of the flip side, "The One I Love", I hate to burst your bubbles, but this is not an early version of the R.E.M. hit, although I'd love to hear "Vicki" take a crack at that one. No, this one is a bland love ballad with completely predictable lyrics and another interesting vocal interpretation.

Download: Vicki - The One I Love

Friday, August 07, 2015

Rockin' Hard with Rusty Ray and Phil Carroll!

As I've written before, Phil Carroll is something of a song-poem lyricist superstar, having been the wordsmith behind such songs as "Yippee Hippee", "Watch Johnny Carson", "I Take a Fancy to Nancy", and my personal favorite by a wide margin, "Dreams of Love". Most of these can be found online or on the previously released song-poem compilations. MSR records even seems to have had a separate set of label numbers just for Phil Carroll's songs!

But here's a double dose of Phil Carroll, seemingly from a few years down the line from those MSR releases. Appearing on the "Action" label, which seems to have been a small off-brand label for some of Sandy Stanton's releases (perhaps after the demise of Film City?), and notable for some truly horrible sounding pressings (this record included) - I understand from Phil Milstein that Stich Stampfel, whose vanity pressings on Action have label numbers just before this one, complained a lot about the pressings of his records. 

So I apologize for the sound quality of these files, but they come by them honestly. 

The singer here is one "Rusty Ray", who I don't recognize at all - anyone else out there want to hazard a guess as to whether he's one of the song-poem stalwarts or a one-time interloper? The first song I'm offering up, "Magic Touch", strikes me as an attempt to make a early-70's hard-rock record on a Chamberlin, a ridiculous concept if there ever was one. If there's any doubt, please enjoy the direct rip from a well known example of the genre near the ending. I hope you laugh as much as I did.

Download: Rusty Ray and the "Swinging Strings" - Magic Touch

The flip side, "A One and A Two", seems to be an attempt at a mid-'60's dance number, complete with instructions making up much of the lyric, although the suggestions of what to do for each couplet are different enough that I suspect anyone trying them as they are called out would likely sprain something. And again, the Chamberlin is probably not the right instrument for an interactive dance track.

I have to wonder if, after getting such wonderful results from MSR (largely from Rodd Keith) if Phil Carroll was satisfied with the work done by Sandy Stanton's crew. The answer is probably yes, as he submitted another two-fer, including the song "When They All Go to Chicago", sung by Dick Kent (as "Dick Lee"), which I hope you'll again be able to hear here, when I get the old posts back up and running (the files are currently dead). I'm hoping to have the old posts repaired soon.

Download: Rusty Ray and the "Swinging Strings" - A One and A Two

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Stormy EP

Before getting to today's song-poem EP, I wanted to announce that I've started another blog! With the demise of WFMU's Beware of the Blog, I wanted to have somewhere to continue posting my reel to reel treasures, oddities and ephemera. So I have begun posting to a site I'm calling "Inches-Per-Second", which you can access through the link you just passed by, while reading this paragraph!
And now, it's time for some Stormy Weather! 

Finding a new (to me) Halmark record is always a potential treat - with the knowledge that it also may turn out to be a stultifying dud. Happily, the first side of this week's EP is anything but a dud, as it features my favorite ridiculously over-the-top baritone, Bob Storm, being ridiculously over the top!

The first song, "The Golden Wedding Ring", actually starts with Storm narrating with a music bed, something I think I've only heard on one or two other song-poem records. Then the song starts, and I actually feel a little twinge of remorse for the writer than they chose the overwrought folks at Halmark, because there are some genuinely affecting moments in the lyrics of this song, about a man losing his wife after many, many years. Someone could have done something decent with this, even if the results still wouldn't have likely been much to my taste. But the generic, tear-jerking background music and Bob Storm's ridiculous performance keep me from being able to take anything about this record seriously in the least. Not that it isn't entertaining - it certainly is! See if you agree:

Download: Bob Storm - The Golden Wedding Ring


But the real news on this EP, at least for me, comes in the second track on this EP. For quite a while, beginning around 15 or 16 years ago, my very favorite song-poem was "Lady Off Pedestal at Notre Dame", a Bob Storm special (although, oddly, the record credited Jack Kim, another Halmark singer who sounds nothing like Storm. You can find that track within the many song poems posted here.

One of the many great things about "Lady Off Pedestal" is its ridiculous marching band backing track. And unlike virtually every other track used on any Halmark record, the "Pedestal" track did not seem to be reused and recycled endlessly, not heard again and again on multiple tracks. In fact, I've been unaware of even a second release featuring that wondrous backing. Until now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Bob Storm with "The Wishing Well". A few things are clear from this track: First, Halmark had the multi-tracks for this (and other) backing tracks - there are elements on "Pedestal" which are not heard here. Second, the Dolly-O release of "Pedestal" featured a track at least a few generations removed from the original performance - the backing track here is much cleaner and sparkly.

And all of this before you listen to Bob Storm's energetic, bouncy vocal and the idiosyncratic lyrics. The lyricist thoughts bounce back and forth between expressing ongoing love for his lost sweetheart, and a few hopes of her return, and expressing thoughts such as those in this curious couplet:

Two wrongs don't make a right,
so I'll fix your clock tonight!

Of all the song-poems I've heard for the first time this year, this is probably my favorite so far!

Download: Bob Storm - The Wishing Well


The flip side of the EP doesn't exactly offer the wonders of the two songs above. First up is Bob Storm in his less throaty mode, on the song "How Lonely is Lonesome?", sounding oddly (to me) more than a bit more like Rodd Keith (on some of Keith's country offerings). This is among the least Halmark-y tracks I can think of from the label, at least to when the chorus and orchestra swell a few times near the end.

Download: Bob Storm - How Lonely is Lonesome?


Finally, it's back to the sound of Halmark, with one of their most frequently used backing track serving for the setting of "Hello Baby". This one contains one great verse, to wit:

"How's that sun and moon?
I'd like to see you soon.
A city is a city
and a town's a town."

Clearly, this meant something to the lyricist, as it repeated twice, but I'm missing the meaning, even in the context of the other lines.

Download: Bob Storm: Hello Baby


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

That Broken Guitar Plays Pretty Well

Hello again,
I had a few comments from Mac users that downloading was the only option that the new system I'm using allowed them. I believe I've rectified this, but may have to tinker with it a bit. There are now two versions of each track - the first which will either play or download for non-Mac users, and the other of which will be an opendrive player, which will only play within the blog post. Please let me know if this is working.
Here we have the truly tiny Fanwood Records label. My guess is that there are at least a few other discs out there on Fanwood, but this is the only one I've ever seen, and the only one documented on the song-poem database website. It features my choice as the best female song-poem singer, Cara Stewart, and her constant musical companion, Lee Hudson, here heard with his fictional String Band. The records Cara and Lee made together are just lovely, and this one, "Broken Guitar", is no exception, although having the backing track dominated by a clearly not-broken-guitar doesn't quite fit the lyric, now does it? Given that this was Lee's style, however, I'm not sure what else he would have done.
From the flip side comes the excessively wordy title, "May the Angels Watch Over You For Me". This one is a bit slower than the flip, but otherwise very much cut from the same cloth. I have almost no doubt that if I'd sent my lyrics in to Lee Hudson, I would have been quite pleased with the results. Relax, stretch out, close your eyes, and let the sound of Cara and Lee wash over you.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Read All About It

Okay, I'm trying something new here, which may be the solution to the increased number of posts I'm going to be making, here and elsewhere, after the WFMU blog shuts down in two weeks. If this works, it will be the format going forward.
And before I explain, a big THANK YOU for all the suggestions you made, via comment and e-mail. I really appreciate it.
I'm using a paid site called "Opendrive", and hoping that the low rate I'm paying will be enough to sustain whatever downloads my site(s) experience. I believe that by clicking on the names of the songs you will have a choice to either listen to or download the material. PLEASE let me know if that's not the case, or if you have any other issues. I really want to make this work. 

Today we have what would sound like a rather hateful man, telling us of his plan to kill his wife - she's a two-timer, ya see, although he seems just as upset that she just doesn't care for him, and wrap her world around him, the same way his mother did. I was at the stage of wondering whether the fine folks at Tin Pan Alley needed to have called the police when I noticed that the writer was a woman. With Gay Marriage happily all in the news these days, I suppose it's possible that Ms. Wilson was writing about a domestic partner, way back in the '60's, but I rather doubt it. Let's hope this was just a fantasy for her, a piece of fiction taking a male bastard's point of view, and not a situation where TPA changed the genders in the song because they only had male singers.

Whatever way you slice it, it sure is a peppy little number, belying the fairly horrible tableau described in the lyrics.

Mike Thomas - Tomorrow I May Make the Headlines

For the flip side, we have a number from the "Urrrrrrgggghhh" file, a slow drag, of the sort which really plays up Mike Thomas' limitations as a vocalist (and the TPA band's general limitations). It carries the unfortunately title of "Cleanse My Body", wherein the lyricist sets out "on a voyage through the ocean of my mind", where he sees all manner of things, including "women, men and lovers" (there's a turn of phrase), but mostly, ecological problems, such as littered Coke cans (again, we are in his mind). On the other hand, it's always good to work the word "paraphernalia" into a lyric.

Mike Thomas - Cleanse My Body

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Just Call Him Rodd Presley

Before I get to this week's songs, I want to ask one last question to anyone who has an answer: have you used Opendrive? I've used Box the last few weeks, but they have extremely limited downloading for free users (it will likely run out well before the end of each month), and their prices are exorbitant for paying users. I do not believe I'll be using them at length.

Divshare was the cheapest by far (and i guess now we know why), but Opendrive seems to be the next cheapest - it was suggested by someone who posted a comment to a previous song-poem posting (thank you very much!). Unfortunately, I can't actually tell if I can share downloadable materials via Opendrive, as their free version does not allow this. And I don't want to start paying for something, only to find that it doesn't meet my needs. So, has anyone used it, and found it an acceptable way to share downloads?

At the same time, I guess I could ask if anyone has another service they'd like to recommend. I don't want to pay a lot of $$ for something that I do for fun, and even the cheapest of the other sites want as much for two months of service as Divshare charged for a year. And for reasons I'll explain in a few weeks, if all goes well, I will be uploading and sharing perhaps two to three times as much material (in terms of file size - and it won't all be song-poems) starting in August, via this and another site, all of which I'm going to have to pay for....

To my ears, this early Preview single, "Great-A Big-A Blue Eyes" sounds like it was cut out of the same cloth as many of Elvis' 1962-64 singles, and I hardly think that's a coincidence. Perhaps song-poet Don Gaydick (!) even asked for it to sound like those Elvis hits. Rodd doesn't really sound like he's doing an Elvis impression, but the rest of the track (featuring "The Go-Getters") does the trick for him. I enjoy this one a bunch.

Here's a switch. I'm not sharing the flip side of this record, because it has not only been released on a compilation album (Saucers in the Sky), which I encourage everyone to buy, if you haven't done so already. You can hear a clip of the song here.

Instead, I grabbed another Rodd Keith Preview 45, one with an exceedingly dull Dan Monday (not Rodd) song on the flip side, and thought I'd share the better of those two sides here. While not as wonderful as the song above, this one is a mid-tempo number reminiscent of any number of mid-'60's Baroque styled hits, if quite a bit more simple on the instrumentation. I really enjoy Rodd's vocal here.

By all means, chime in if you have words of wisdom about what site to use for links. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Big Disco City, A Self-Absorbed Man, and a Muslim Prayer

Recently, I was lucky enough to acquire another honest-to-goodness Preview Label album!!! While this one largely features Barbara Foster and Gene Marshall, it also boasts two songs performed by the mysterious Ace Mona. Whether this is the same Ace Mona as any of those who turn up in a Google search, including one who has an album for sale on Amazon, is unclear to me, but Ace does get to sing one of the more ridiculous song-poems I've heard in some time, on the "Singin' With Style" album.

It's called "Poplar Bluff Missouri is a Big Disco City", and it's just has half baked as that title suggests. For me, the first sign that something very weird is going on is the fact that on lyricist Claud Griffin's list of attractions that make Poplar Bluff (population about 17,000 in 1980) worth visiting (and, presumably, make it a Big Disco City), second on that list is the fact that it has a "New McDonalds"! It also has an Ace Hardware ("disco, disco"), some brand of food store, a 7-11 ("disco, disco") and "an Osco Drug store with disco". Based on the businesses in town, it would appear that any town with more than 10,000 people could probably qualify as a Big Disco City.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.

Also on side one (track two, in fact), is a Gene Marshall performance of a song blandly titled "Suddenly". That title does nothing to betray the (most likely unwitting) way the lyricist displayed the clueless nature of his complaint. You see, he and the Mrs. have had a lovely life up until now, but now she's ready to move on, and won't wait another moment. My point is this: the songwriter's conviction and self-assurances that he has never done a single thing wrong in any way ("so how can I be wrong???")... well, that might just indicate something about Mr. Perfect that might make him more than a little hard to live with...

And now, as a bonus, my favorite song from the "Singin' With Style" album, and the only song-poem I've ever heard that takes the form of a Muslim prayer. It's called "Insha Allah (God Willing)", and it's again sung by Gene Marshall, who gives the lyric exactly what it needs - this immediately becomes one of my favorite Gene Marshall vocals. The arranger did a nice job with the limited tools available to him or her, and the whole track is catchy, driving and appropriate intense. I'd actually like to hear this song done up with more than ten minutes of preparation.