Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oh, Thank Heaven!!!

As promised, I'm back in a more timely fashion this week, with a very enjoyable little ditty. But first, courtesy of the very adept researcher, Pete, here's yet another song-poem ad, in this case from a 1962 edition of Radio/TV Mirror Magazine:
 
 
By the way, "Nordyke", which had been a significant player in the sheet music version of the song-poem scam, had become, by this point, perhaps the most ridiculous of the song-poem outfits, putting out material on the "Film-Tone" and "Star-Crest" labels which sounded like it was from at least 25-30 years earlier than the years those releases actually came out (the early '60's). Search here and at WFMU for either of those labels and you'll hear what I mean. Much more on Nordyke can be found here.
 
And now....
  

Here's the third entry that I'm sharing from a later-era Tin Pan Alley crew who called themselves (or who Tin Pan Alley called) The Melodiers. The previous two sets of tracks are unfortunately from the time period for which all of my uploads have been lost, but hopefully, someday, I'll make new links for those posts. But this group hasn't let me down yet, having offered up one good side for each of the (now three) 45's. Here they are with yet another winner, a tribute to, of all things, Spaghetti.
 
I thoroughly enjoy this record. The band is still playing in the minimilist style favored for years by the label, but they are much more together than usual, and there's something playing along in the background - so softly that I'm not sure what it is - which compliments the guitar nicely. And the singer is taking the silly lyrics completely seriously, which helps a lot. A minor pleasure, to be sure, but still a pleasure.
 
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I can't quite work up the same enthusiasm - or indeed, any enthusiasm - for the flip side of the record, "Keep in Touch With Heaven", written by the same song-poet. It's a pretty non-descript mid-tempo number which is fairly uninspired on all counts, particularly near the end when the composer of the music seems to have run out of lyrics to go with the music he'd written, and the singer just stops singing, mid phrase, for several beats. 

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Back From an Unexpected Break, Or: What the Hell is He Singing About?

So..... I just took the longest break from posting here that I ever have, and did so immediately after saying that posts were about to become more frequent. So what happened, I might (or might not) hear some of you saying? 

Well, first it was the CUBS. As you may know (and if you don't, please learn this now), baseball is perhaps the best thing on earth. And the CUBS are the real reason Baseball exists. They are nice enough to let the other 29 teams play (and even let them win almost all the time). But without the CUBS, baseball would be a vast wasteland. And glory be, as you might have heard, if you were paying extra close attention, the CUBS rode the train all the way to the World Series, for the first time in my life, and won the dang thing for the first time in the lifetimes of 99.8 percent of humans currently alive. So that kept me busy. And by the way: YAY!!!!

So I was busy glued to my TV set and radio for a few weeks. Then there was the horrific news of November 8th and 9th, which not only left me not wanting to do much of anything, but came in the midst of preparations for a huge event I was hosting on the 12th. So I would have a busy bee anyway that week, and I postponed my "OH MY GOD" thoughts and reactions, which were primarily on hold until the 13th. So after a week of not wanting to do anything I didn't have to do, I'm back now, and fully intend to provide song-poem wonderment (and, at my other site, amazing finds on reel to reel tape) on my regular schedule, going forward, for an undefined, lengthy bit of time. 

First up, another wonderful ad from correspondent Pete, in this case, from TV/Record Mirror Magazine. A handful of acetates have been found on this label, but they were also directly related to the very large (and often wonderful) Sterling label. 


Second, I really want to thank those who have been writing and commenting, both over the years, but particularly lately, when there have been nice comments from frequent readers, including (among others) my pal Stu, Sammy Reed (hey, and Sammy - has your e-mail address changed?), Darryl Bullock, and Michael Goodman

But I've also heard from folks who are new to the site, or at least who haven't commented before (or, perhaps recently), and I appreciate all the great feedback, whether it's asking for something in particular, telling me a link isn't working, or letting me know that you've just discovered the site and love it. I'm going to miss some people, for which I apologize, but recently, this group has included Justin, Poucopelo, Drew F., and Rock Smith. I don't usually comment on the site, having no idea if the writer will ever see it, but if your post links to an e-mail address (or a site with an e-mail address), I will respond by e-mail. 


All that said, I have one of those "What the Hell" moments today. And this one is remarkable for a few reasons. While it's certainly possible that there is a lower numbered record in sequence that I'm not personally aware of, this is the lowest-numbered Sterling record I can document to feature Norm Burns, perhaps my favorite song-poem singer. This may well be his very first record, and it seems to date from the mid '60's at the latest. 

And he and the folks at Sterling certainly don't sound quite in-synch yet here. This is one of the worst vocals from Norm, in terms of handling the lyrics and following the melody and chords effectively, that I've ever heard. I don't think he had the act "down pat" yet. It does have the feel of several other early Sterling records that I adore, such as "Darling, Don't Put Your Hand On Me", which vies sometimes for my favorite song-poem record of all. 

That's all icing on the cake though - just WAIT until you hear this thing. Maybe it's because my head's been foggy with championship followed by tragedy, with severe business mixed into all of that, but I can't make head or tail of what this song-poet was getting at, even after listening to this song nearly a half-dozen times. The song is called "For What Reason", which would seem to beg for a question mark, but none is there. That's okay, my brain created the question marks, larger and larger and more numerous, as I listened to this song. 

If you have figured out what he's singing about, please advise. 

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Not too much I can say that's worth expounding on regarding the rather turgid, cookie cutter religious number, with the clunky title "Keep Your Eyes Stayed on Him": 

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By the way, not that you asked, but the main competition in my heart for the best song-poem ever, to rival "Darling Don't Put Your Hands on Me" is "The Beatle Boys". (And I say that only because I've come to believe that the magnificent and incomparable "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)" is not a song-poem record at all.)

Glad to be back. I won't be gone so long again, if I can help it!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halmark Records Meet the Actual Sounds of the 70's!

Howdy,
 
I apologize for the lack of posting this month. It's been tremendously busy, as I've been preparing for a big event I'm part of, had a bit of computer problems, and put everything on hold in order to take the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet one of my heroes (more on that in a future post).
 
This will be a bare-bones post - the old-time ads will return next week. But I heard the following record for the first time last week, and something about it really caught my ear, and I wanted to share it: 

 
What caught my ear was the first track, "Everybody Wanna Dance!". This submission seems to have forced Halmark into the 1970's. Because none of their tired, MOR flavored, or Muzak flavored backing tracks would have fit this lyric at all - it's quite a different lyric than the flowery, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes ridiculously overblown lyrics they usually got. Even the word "Wanna" seems quite a ways out of their typical audience's wheelhouse. And those lyrics: It's about dancing to the latest beats. Click on the Halmark link (or just listen to the other three tracks here) if you want to hear what they usually produced.
 
No, for this one, they had to actually find someone who could come in and create a backing track that sounded moderately like 1974, complete with a chugging drumbeat, synth effects, guitar parts and live backing vocals. If it weren't for actually seeing the label, I'd have never thought this was a Halmark release. Have a listen!:
 
Play:
 
And that uses up just about all my time. I'll let you discover the joys of the remaining three flaccid numbers on this EP for yourself. Here they are:
 
Play:
 
Play:
 
Play:   
 
 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Perkins. Milford Perkins

First, courtesy of the prolific song-poem-ad-searcher Pete, here are two more fascinating ads related to the song-poem game.

The first is a direct, no frills suggestion from a company in New York. It comes from a 1921 edition of Film Fun Magazine:

Then there is this intriguing ad from a 1960 edition of Modern Screen, which, as Pete says, seems to suggest cutting out the middle man entirely - it's a product of some sort which will help you write the music for your poems, too, from a company in Boston:


Moving on to today's record feature....


Today, we're going to hear from the great Milford Perkins. I'm not sure I've ever featured a record released under the name of Milford Perkins before, but if I did, I didn't put his name in the labels for the post. And I'm not doing so here, either, because Milford Perkins was one of the more common pseudonyms for Rodd Keith. In my experience, many of the records released under this name have a country tinge, which probably explains the country-singer-style name he chose for those releases, but that's not what this record is.

Instead, what we have here is a top-notch pop-rock side, titled "Love Is Like a Diamond", which features an indelible melody, a warm, inviting vocal from Rodd, and, best of all to my ears, some fantastic drumming - seriously, the fills on this record are otherworldly, as they are on many Preview records - I'd love to know who this drummer was. All around, an excellent record.

Download: Milford Perkins (Rodd Keith) - Love is Like a Diamond
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I have far less to say about the flip side, "Come Back Into My Arms Again". Everyone's doing their job, but nothing about this side is particularly inspired, or even interesting. I do like the fact that the good folks at Preview claimed the song was a full minute longer than it actually is, on the label.

Download: Milford Perkins (Rodd Keith) - Come Back Into My Arms
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Love Bug

First, I want to make sure I mention that I've updated last week's post. I had inadvertently linked to versions of the tracks which were running fast (maybe at 50 RPM instead of 45). Two days ago, I replaced those with corrected tracks, so if you have the old versions, you can go back and download/hear the corrected versions.
 
Second, here are still more ads from 1922, via the magazine "Film Fun", and courtesy of Pete. There's a "wonderful proposition" in these ads - I wonder how many people took him up on it.
 
 
"Reaper Block" was an office building on Washington Street, in the heart of downtown Chicago.


 
Pete notes that Mr. Hibberler had multiple addresses, although I will add that the two addresses (on Keystone and on Dickens), would both be literally on the corner of Keystone and Dickens. Still, it's weird, especially since those addresses were, and are, for apartment buildings. Last week's post also featured multiple addresses for the same scammer.
 
And now...:
 

Some eight years or so before The Walt Disney Company released the giant hit film "The Love Bug", someone named Timberman submitted a lyric with the same title to the Tin Pan Alley song-poem factory, where label honcho Jack Covais took a co-writing credit and gave it to singer Jack Verdi, who seems to have been with the company only briefly (perhaps around a year), and who is listed as having appeared on four documented TPA singles.

It certainly can't be for lack of talent. Verdi sells this song quite nicely, and the TPA team give it a nice music bed, and the whole thing lands somewhere between hipster jazz and rat pack cool, albeit with a budget of perhaps 1/100th of what either of those genres would have had to work with, on a legitimate label. Despite that drawback, the team involved here makes this work from start to finish.

Download: Jack Verdi: The Love Bug
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The flip side, "I Can't Sleep a Wink Over You", does not work from start to finish, at least not to my ears. It's overwrought, musically unimaginative and lyrically obvious.

Download: Jack Verdi: I Can't Sleep a Wink Over You
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Monday, September 26, 2016

A Six Song Command Performance


Before getting to todays record, here are two more very early Song-Poem ads, from "Film Fun" magazine, courtesy of reader and correspondent Pete! Note that these two ads seem very much to come from the same company, but that each is listed as being at a slightly different suite in the same building from the other.





And now, for a very special episode of "Six Songs in Ten Minutes":


I've never before featured anything from the Command Performance label, first because I don't have very many records on this label, and second because they tend to be, to my ears, very bland, along the same lines as those recorded on the latter day (post 1974) Cinema and MSR releases. Not a surprise there - all three labels seem to have been using virtually the same core bands and singers. I just don't hear the magic in the music that seems to be guaranteed by the name of the house band at Command Performance. Based on what's been released on song-poem comps and other information I have, I suspect I'm in the minority in this opinion of this troupe and their various labels, and by all means, if you want to hear more from the MSR/Cinema/Command/Etc. gang, let me know - I certainly have piles of it.

But this one stood out mostly because of the text of one of the songs, which we'll get to in a minute. Like similar EP's on Cinema (and others on Command Performance), the folks at the label managed to squeeze six very short songs on the two sides of the 45, then suggested in the timings that the songs were mostly right around two minutes. One is, the rest aren't - and nearly every song is 12-15 seconds shorter than indicated on the label.

I'm pretty sure the singer here is Bobbi Blake, and suspect that I know I'll hear from at least one or two people either confirming this or contradicting me.

I'm pretty much going to just line them up and let you play and/or download them, but I do want you to pay special attention to song two, "Our Society". I will say no more. The six songs are:

Download: The Music Magicians: The Beauty God Created
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Download: The Music Magicians: Our Society
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Download: The Music Magicians: Life of Peace
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Download: The Music Magicians: Little David
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Download: The Music Magicians: I Found a Friend
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Download: The Music Magicians: Ahead of It All
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Oh, I will add that I was hoping that "Little David" was about the behind-the-scenes machinations at George Carlin's record label (which was called Little David), but sadly, that does not appear to be the case.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Clowning Around

Howdy, y'all, 

Well, before I get to this week's feature, I wanted to offer up two more song-poem ads that my correspondent Pete was nice enough to send along. These are truly ancient ads, coming from "Film Fun Magazine. The first one is from 1922, the second is from 1926. The latter makes note of a couple of gigantic then-recent hits allegedly written by amateurs - in neither case does this appear to be provably true, and, in the case of "Dardanella", is demonstrably false.



~~
Second, I want to link you to a new project that Sammy Reed has started. For a long time, I've had a link up to his strange music site, but that has now been shuttered. In its place (and in its place within my links) is a new project, featuring some wonderful oddities, including plenty of song-poems, called Music from the World of the Strange the Bizarre. That can be found in my links, to the right, and also with this link right here

And now, on with the countdown: 


I wish I had more Norm Burns 45's. I wish there WERE more Norm Burns 45's, actually. But more often than not, when I obtain another one, it's worth sharing here.

In this case, the song is "They Call Me the Clown". And actually, for this one, as much as I enjoy Norm, my attention is drawn to the slight extra effort that the folks at Sterling put into this one. The song isn't much - draggy and drippy, to be blunt - but someone had the bright idea of adding a trebly organ to the arrangement, and to have it play that famous circus tune (the name of which I don't know), although would it have been that hard to play the lick from that tune all the way through, rather than screw it up? And then, they actually dropped in some sound effects of people giggling and laughing. That's a nice touch!

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - They Call Me the Clown
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For the b-side, we're in for some real drama, and Norm and the band do a decent impression of a supper club group, and whoever set the words to music and arrangement certainly seem to have had Bacharach and David in mind. The words tell a sad, sad story, and there are some nice turns of phrase, which may get lost when the record goes on and on and on for almost four minutes. But this is an attempt at something stately, and to my ears, it doesn't fail entirely, which, within the song-poem universe, has to be considered a sort of victory.

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - It Wouldn't Last Too Long
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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Michigan "Air-Loom"


The "Air-Loom" label appears to fit the concept of a "tiny, regional" label to a T. Except that it probably didn't exist to promote actual attempts at hits, in the way that normal labels did. This was most likely the project of a few people, perhaps even just the one - Gail Hines - who wrote both sides of today's record.

The AS/PMA page for this label only shows two records on the label, although given that this is record #111, my guess is that at least 11 singles exist on the label. And for this one, at least, Ms. Hines turned to Lee Hudson, who assigned his best singer, Cara Stewart, to the job. As indicated on both sides of the record AND on the sleeve, which also includes Ms. Hines' signature (see below), "Air-Loom" and its related publishing company were based in Lansing, Michigan. So there will be no surprise when you learn that one side of the record features the dulcet tones of Ms. Stewart singing about "Michigan, My Home":

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - Michigan, My Home
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Pretty standard stuff for a Cara/Lee record, but I just eat that stuff up.

The flip side is equally lovely, and it's called "Beyond the Night":

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - Beyond the Night
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Monday, August 29, 2016

A Pair of Period Pieces


I'm featuring the Preview label for the second week in a row, which is unusual for this site, but I realized that it had been far too long since I featured the great Gene Marshall. So here is Gene with a record that, based on its label number, was released in the early '70's, probably 1971, and based on its lyrics, could hardly have been written and recorded at any other time than within a window of three years or so on either side of '71.

On the first side, the writer of "Generation Gap", decries the wide split between her (or, in Gene's rendition, his) children and their peers, and the not-so-old fogie singing the song. While the song starts out like so many complaints of the age did - bemoaning the gap between the generations, then laying on thick all the things that are wrong with the young folk, displaying quite clearly one of the reasons why there was a gap - in this case, the writer/singer turns it around in the end, into something more hopeful.

While all of this is, admittedly, treacle, I remain impressed at the level to which Gene Marshall sings it, with the cry in his voice while expressing the writers frustration, and the catch that sounds like he's about to start crying at a couple of key moments. Masterful.

Download: Gene Marshall - Generation Gap 
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On the flip side, we have the deceptively musically upbeat tale of a Vietnam veteran returning home to his fiance, "Put This Ring Upon Your Finger". Everything is bouncing along quite happily, and continues to do so, even after the lyrics tell a different story.

Download: Gene Marshall - Put This Ring Upon Your Finger
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cleaning and Polishing with His Pledge


Howdy, err-body,

Not a lot of blathering or other great (or lesser thoughts) today. I just wanted to share a nice, solid 45 from Rodd Keith and the Raindrops. First up is "My Pledge", which has a bouncy, driving beat - the drumming here is great - and some keen flute playing, both leading off the track and being heard on a lengthy solo. All that in addition to a typically fine lead vocal from Rodd.

Download: Rodd Keith & the Raindrops - My Pledge
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On the flip side, Rodd again benefits from his background in Gospel music, as he dives right into that preacher-style of vocal, and does a credible job on "He'll Answer You". Again, this track features some nice flute playing, including another nice solo, in addition to being heard behind virtually the entire vocal on this unusually long Preview release (3:38, rather than the 2:35 listed on the label)

Download: Rodd Keith & the Raindrops - He'll Answer You
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Saturday, August 06, 2016

HOOPER DOOPER!!!

Howdy, folks,

Well, first, I have the final vintage song-poem ad from correspondent Pete. This one is from 1958 and says everything it needs to with very few words.


Three Cheers for Pete!!! THANK YOU!!!

Today, I'm going to indulge my love for the early years of Tin Pan Alley, a period in which they were, to my ears, several steps above what many of the later labels would be doing, in that they were turning out records which actually sound like they might have been intended as attempts at earning actual radio airplay, and, not coincidentally, often were constructed with knowledge and insight into the various forms of music which were popular with the kids of the day. I have two records to share today, one of which is clearly a song-poem, and the other seems more likely to have been a vanity release - more on that later.

First up is, by far, my favorite of the four songs involved. This one is sung by the previously unknown (to me, and to the song-poem database) Lori Knight. "I Love My Honey ('Cause He's Sweet)" is something of a relative to the honest-to-goodness hit record  (and one of my favorite records ever) "I Love My Baby", by Jill Corey, which you can hear here. Obviously, the production and overall talent involved are considerably lower, but this is still what I'm reminded of. I truly wonder if this was deliberate, as Jill Corey's record came out in 1957 (that year being a high point, in my opinion, for pop music), and this record likely was made in 1958.

I'm particularly taken (in case the title of this entry didn't give it away) by the song-poet's use of the phrase "Hooper Dooper", in place of "Super Duper", but the whole thing just makes me smile from start to finish. This one has risen to the top of my playlist faster than anything else in recent months.


Download: Lori Knight: I Love My Honey ('Cause He's Sweet)
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Please note that the song-poem was male, meaning that very likely that either he wrote it for a woman to sing about a boyfriend, or that the good folks at Tin Pan Alley turned the gender around to fit the available singer and the style of the music they'd put to his lyric.

The flip side, "Laugh Again" is a pretty standard 6/8 ballad - what Billboard would have called a "rock-a-ballad" at the time. For those who like such things, it's listenable, without being terribly good or interesting. It does play up some of the weaknesses of the singer and band, which were masked by the enthusiasm and energy of the flip side.

Download: Lori Knight - Laugh Again
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And now for something subtly different:


As mentioned above, I believe this to be a vanity record. It comes from TPA's earliest days, which you can read about here. The number on this record comes just before the first documented appearance of Phil Celia, who was the first clear "song-poem singer" on the label - prior to this, there were bands and/or featured group-leaders, including some who were, or became, well known. The biggest clue here, though, is that both songs on the record were written by a team of three people, the same three people on both sides, and that one of those writers had the same last name as the performers.

Nonetheless, it is a TPA record, and as I've been away from this site for almost two weeks, I thought I'd throw in a bonus, so here it is. Of the two exclamation-pointed songs on this record, I much prefer "Those Cheating Eyes!", which manages to make something moderately original, even while repeatedly using the tune of "Row Row Your Boat" and here it is:

Download: Larry and Nora Lee - Those Cheating Eyes!
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That's not to say that the flip-side, "I Guess I'm Lucky!" doesn't have its charms. It swings along happily, with sweet, glad-to-be-in-love lyrics, and sounds (as does the flip side) more than a bit like something that might have come out on my beloved Fable label.

Download: Larry and Nora Lee - I Guess I'm Lucky!
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Monday, July 25, 2016

A National Songwriters Guild Acetate

First up, yet another song-poem related ad, many thanks to Pete! This one a generic, straight to the point for lyrics and songs, from way back in 1935:
 
 
And now, here's something a bit unusual:  
 

Here we have an acetate from the National Songwriters Guild organization. This label was associated with the much larger Tropical label, and the more often fairly interesting Carellen label. Read all about it here (with more information on the Tropical page, to which that page links). many of the known National Songwriters Guild records are unnumbered acetates.

And I zoomed out a bit on the label scan of this one so that you can see the decrepit condition of this record, which will be confirmed when you hear it, particularly the other side of the record. There are no artists listed here, just the lyricist (same person on both sides), and I'm particularly amused by the incompetence displayed on "There is No Ending".

There is a sing-songy nature to the rhyme scheme, where the easiest and most obvious rhyme is grabbed 90% of the time - you can guess what word is coming next. The exception is my favorite word use, in which that lyricist, having discovered that "ending" rhymes with "pending", uses that word, one that does not occur often in song lyrics, and which (to my ears) keeps on drawing attention to its use, and the lazy quality of the lyric writing that causes it to be there. That's how I reacted, anyway.

Download: No Artist Named - There is No Ending
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On the flip side is the upbeat "I Gambled with Love and Won", sung by a different singer than "Ending". This one, as mentioned, is beat to hell, but the fun, bouncy organ playing drives the song for all of its 100 or so seconds, and the jolly singer (and surface noise) keeps me from focusing quite as much on the equally obvious lyric work.

Download: No Artist Named - I Gambled With Love and Won
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