Saturday, November 21, 2015

Are Those Like Charlie's Angels?

This is one of those weeks where there's barely been time to do anything. As a result, as occasionally happens, I've had to find time to make a few MP3's and am now slapping them up on the site for your perusal and enjoyment. 

I quite enjoy this slice of countrified Preview material, performed by the faceless group "The Sunbeams", who are documented to have turned up on only two such Preview discs. I'm not recognizing the singer on this song, which has the unwieldly title of "I Fell in Love with One of Satan's Angels". Perhaps one or more of you know him by his velvet tones. 


The flip side, "All Because of You", pretty clearly features Rodd Keith on the lead vocal - and just as clearly, Rodd Keith on arrangement, although it is still credited to The Sunbeams. Just a nice mid-'60's pop record. 


Coming next week: A BIG post around Thanksgiving, something I would have in the past saved for WFMU's blog. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ridiculously Short AND... Just Plain Ridiculous

Before I share my Tin Pan Alley find for this week, I wanted to pass along a new posting of both sides of a very nice late-period TPA single, recently purchased and posted to youtube by Sammy Reed. You can find both sides of that record here and here.
And now, for a very special episode of "The Wonderful and the Obscure"!:

Okay, I love this record. I do believe that of all of the song-poems I've heard for the first time this year, this is my favorite. I'm intrigued by the stylings of the singer, Johnny Williams, and now wish to find copies of the other half-dozen or so records he made for Tin Pan Alley in the late '50's and early '60's. I love every one of the record's 164 seconds.
And while two minutes and 44 seconds may sound like the length of a typical song-poem, the missing information is that this is the total length of BOTH sides of this record added together. Aside from the albums released by Star-Crest and George Liberace, both of which tended towards raw demo versions of songs, I can't think of another release I've seen containing two songs of 82 seconds each.
None of that would matter if the contents of these sides weren't outstanding - unique - deeply odd - with performances which are captivating in an decidedly off-kilter way. Let's start with the intriguingly titled "Somebody Fiddle! I'm Burning!" 
From the opening countrified instrumental, you'll know something special is happening. And then Johnny Williams comes in, and any suspicions that you had that he might be a moonlighting professional singer go right out the window. He sounds more like crazy ol' Ed at the Senior Center on talent night. And you're never going to improve on the opening lines:
I believe in Roman Nero
He has always been my hero
If anyone asks me why I collect song-poems, I now have another example to share with them. This is gold.

On the flip side, "Darling, I'm So Blue", is a much more conventional song, but it still has that rollicking sound, and another winning, heartfelt and deeply amateurish vocal from Johnny Williams.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Telling Fables

Of all of the labels I learned about, via my expanding knowledge of song-poems, my favorite long ago became Sandy Stanton's Fable Records. I'm not calling it my favorite song-poem label,.because plenty of its releases, perhaps most of them, were not song-poems. Stanton did go on to start Film City Records and discovered Rodd Keith after winding Fable down, but during the Fable years, it seems to have been a catch-all, with song-poem releases, novelty numbers, vanity records and perhaps some attempts at producing honest-to-goodness hits. 

Because of its multi-hybrid nature, quite a while ago I decided to stop featuring Fable on this site, and instead, put together posts at WFMU featuring multiple Fable tracks. You can find those here and here. Unfortunately, I even stepped away from that project, for a few different reasons. 

Now, with the WFMU blog closed, and no other outlet for these wonderful records, I'm going to throw them into the mix here and there, with the caveat that I know some of them are not song poems, and that I'm not sure about most, if not all of the rest. I hope you enjoy them, regardless of each record's individual provenance.

From the category of "maybe a song-poem record?"... comes a 45 sung by Roberta May, featuring two similarly titled songs by someone named Sidney Whitacker. First up is a bopping, swinging number called "Don't Tell Me That Jive". As do many Fable records of this period (this is from 1957), this features some fairly wonderful rockabilly guitar playing. I've been told a couple of times that the guitarist on these sessions was the highly respected (by a few, and woefully obscure to everyone else) Roy Lanham, who was later a member of the Sons of the Pioneers.


The flip side, with two of the same words as the first song, is "Tell Me", a fairly standard, and fairly bland rock-a-ballad, indistinguishable from a hundred other records from the era, except for some truly awful backup singing near the end...


I got a lot of good feedback from my Fable posts, back in 2010 and 2011, and by all means, please let me know if you'd like to hear more, or not hear more from this label. In fact, please let me know in general what you'd like to hear more and/or less of. I aim to please!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Say No to Dick

I'm not much of a fan of the MSR label, as I've mentioned perhaps too many times. But an exception is their early releases, where the bands were often cooking, and the vocalists - lead and backing - often sound very involved in the lyrics and performances in general. 

Here's an example. The lyrics to "Can't You Say No" are fairly tortured - something about the lyricists complain that the object of the singer's attention has had the audacity to say "no" to the singer, while the singer thinks that his beloved should be saying "no" to everyone else but him. 

In a rarity, I really dig Dick Kent's vocal here. He really sells the lyric and the song. But even better is the backing band , who are playing a track which deserves a better song. and the backing vocalists, who are offering up some wonderful three part harmonies, particularly during the line "say yes to me" which finishes each verse. Good stuff!


I cannot work up the same enthusiasm for the flip side, Dick Kent's performance of "Come Join Us", a story of promoting Christianity to everyone within earshot.


Monday, October 12, 2015

"Lance" the Untrustworthy, Parts One and Two

Today, we're all being "Lanced". Whether we need it or not. "Lance" (always in quotes) appears on a handful of Tin Pan Alley singles, performing in a particularly idiosyncratic style. He often seems to have been given the more offbeat submissions, or maybe TPA simply received more offbeat submissions.

In both of the songs contained on this 45, "Lance" is heard portraying a person who seems to not have the best of intentions towards whoever it is he is addressing. On the second side, he's quite upfront about what is to be done about his untrustworthiness, but on the first song, titled "Conception", I'm honestly befuddled as to what he's on about.

The protagonist of "Conception" is upfront about his unsavory ways, but his motivation is quite mysterious, as is the meaning of the title. Perhaps I'm missing something obvious, or even something hinted at, and by all means, offer up your thoughts regarding this song.

Download: "Lance" - Conception

On the other hand, the lyrics that "Lance" sings over the thud-rock of "Hands Behind My Back" leads one to believe that the protagonist has been, shall we say, grabby with his gal-pal in the past. So he's offering to go parking somewhere remote with, yes, his hands tied behind his back.

Another interpretation, I suppose, is that the object of his affection is a dominatrix, and given the second verse lyrics, indicating that this is not his first time having his arms bound, and that she's been "cruel" to him, that's certainly a possibility. If so, I suspect this would be a first in terms of lyrical subjects for song-poems.

Whatever the meaning, "Lance" certainly gives the lyric his all, especially at the 1:51 point.

Download: "Lance" - Hands Behind My Back

GO CUBS!!!!!!

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