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.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Father's Day! What Ought Men Be Doing?

Happy Father's Day!!! - and happy Double-Nickles Day to me yesterday. I'm 11 for the fifth time, or at least that's what it feels like.

Today is all about Men, and in honor of all the men out there, here's one of my favorite singing men, Norm Burns, with a very odd entry into the song-poem archives, "Men Ought to Run Side By Side". As far as I can tell, lyricist Stella Greenhill wrote a series of unrelated verses, some of which seem to have no sense even within their own couplets, and strung them together with a chorus featuring nothing but the title phrase.

"Take all the flowers:
The roses are there.
I choose you now.
Isn't that fair?
Men Ought to Run Side By Side.
Men Ought to Run Side By Side.
Men Ought to Run Side By Side.
Men Ought to Run Side By Side."

Um, yeah. I enjoy this record - it's a nice sound (I generally really like the sound of Sterling 45's from this era), and I love Norm's voice. But really, what the hell is this song about?

As you can see below, I've transitioned over to, at least for the moment. Their interface is either better than I'd remembered or has been improved. Not sure what will happen in the long term, as I still have hundreds of posts to restore.

The flip side is the awkwardly titled "babbling Brooks and Running Rambling Rivers". The lyric doesn't disappoint - it's made up of one mouthful of long, unmusical lyrical choice after another. Norm does his best with it, but it's certainly an uphill attempt, and seems most likely doomed to failure. If Norm and Lew Tobin couldn't do anything with it, I'm not sure who could have.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Favorite Topic: Astronauts!

Divshare continues to misbehave, and if anyone has found a suitable replacement (I'm not fond of the clunky "Box" site), please let me know. Even when Divshare is "working" nowadays, you can only upload one file at a time, which is not a way to reconnect all of the old tracks on this site. Suggestions?

As has been pointed out many times before, the height of the song-poem business coincided with the Space Race, and as a result, there are a lot of songs about various aspects of that international contest.

Here's a label which is new to me, seemingly created for song-poet Jerry Thomas - Jay-Tee Records - no doubt (based on the singers) a product of the Globe song-poem factory, at least on this release.

I'm sort of sad that this astronaut record - "The Tale of John Glenn", as performed by Ken Richards - turns out to mostly feature spoken word verses, because the track is rollicking (and actually sounds like a backing track to a real hit), and the chorus has a dynamite tune and a memorable rhyming couplet:

In the global race from nuclear fission
He put his country in the ace position

It would have been nice for Ken to have pronounced "nuclear" correctly, but he's hardly alone in that. But how good could this have been if the verses were sung, and as catchy, as that chorus?

Ken Richards with Orchestra and Chorus - The Tale of John Glenn

Globe stalwart Kris Arden gets Jerry Thomas' other song, "A Happy Day's Comin'". This one doesn't do it for me the way the flip side does. The song is nothing special and neither the band or the singer seems all that interested in the material.

Kris Arden with Orchestra and Chorus - A Happy Day's Comin'

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Ditto and the Marks"

AAARGH! Divshare is again screwed up. One can upload files, but not share them. So I'm back to a temporary fix. 

Here's an interesting record, at least for those into song-poem minutiae. I'll wait while the rest of you leave. Here we have a previously uncatalogued song-poem label, featuring an previously unknown song-poem performing act, the goofily named band "Ditto and the Marks". Indeed, were it not for the acts on the flip side (song-poem mainstays Cara Stewart and Lee Hudson) I'd have not thought this was a song-poem record, and were both sides not written by the same person, I'd have thought it was a hybrid song-poem/vanity release. What evidence there is, though, points to both sides being true song poems.

The record is not really anything special, and the record is in borderline horrible condition, but it interests me for the reasons alluded to above, AND because the lead singer of the group bears a distinct resemblance to the unknown guy featured on all of those one-man band records from the early days of Cinema's "Real Pros" releases, several of which I love. You can hear a few of those here, here and here. Does anyone else think it might be the same guy? What a tangled song-poem web was woven!

Ditto and the Marks - September Rose

On the flip side is another typical Cara and Lee speciality, fitting in chord-wise, arrangement-wise and vocal-wise with 85% of the other records that they produced, and to me, that's a very good thing. I couldn't listen to eight of these in a row, but hearing one a day would probably take a long, long time to get old. One song-poem mystery I'd love to solve would be: who was Cara Stewart, and where (if anywhere) is she today. She was wonderful.

Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson's Orchestra - Silver Slippers

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Bit of a Mystery

As I've probably mentioned almost every year since starting this project, the middle weeks of May are the busiest of the year at our house, for a variety of reasons. The two graduations just added to that craziness, and I ended up skipping a full week for reasons not related to technical problems for the first time ever. I'm going to try and get back up to speed over the next week and a half with two more posts. But first.....:

Before I get to the mystery mentioned at the top of the page, here's the (much) better of today's two songs, which is offered up by our old pal Norm Burns. It's titled "Shanghai Blues", which is a misnomer for at least a couple of reasons. First, that specific combination of words is never said during the lyric, and second, the music is about as far away from Blues as I can imagine. (A side note - what is the word that Norm sings before the word "Blues" in the chorus?) All that said, I enjoy this bouncy, peppy (if also slight) little number, and hope you will, too.

On the other side, it's a whole different story. As far as I can tell, the artists involved, "Victor & the Trophies", never showed up on any other song-poem release that's documented (in fact, a search for that phrase turns up only one hit - the AS/PMA documentation of this record!).

What's more this sounds NOTHING like any other Sterling record I've ever heard. It sounds to me far more like the stuff that the MSR crew were turning out in Los Angeles for both the MSR label (under their own (or assumed names) and Cinema (under the name "The Real Pros). There is none of the crisp guitar, minimalist band arrangements or any of the known Sterling singers on this record. Instead, it has the muddy, half-assed sound (in my opinion, anyway) sound that the MSR folks produced more and more as the '70's wore on.

On the other hand, I don't recognize any of the vocalists here as sounding like an MSR regular, it seems unlikely that a label in Boston which did things in house would team up with an LA crew, and the devolving of the MSR/Cinema sound I'm referring to really started to devolve after Rodd Keith's death in 1974, and this record is from 1971. So maybe it's just a vanity record that ended up pressed onto a Sterling disc, written and recorded by some local band. I really have no idea.

It is, however, deadly dull, interminable (nearly SIX minutes long), badly produced and unimaginatively performed.

Thoughts? Anyone?

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Songs for Mother and Daddy

 Time is exceptionally short this weekend. As of this moment, I am the father of no (0) college graduates, yet in less than 48 hours, I will be the father of two (2) college graduates, with my younger daughter taking part in her graduation tomorrow, and her older sister doing the same on Monday.

So, rather than blather on about what I have to share for Mother's Day, I'll just say that here's a perfect song for anyone out there who is a mother, or who has a mother. It's our Tin Pan Alley friends, the band "New Image", with a song simply titled "Mother".

And on the flip side, here's the same song-poet, the same band and the same label, offering up a tribute to that other parent, "A Friend is Daddy".

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Okay... Seriously... What the Hell?

Divshare was down for another full week, at least in terms of being able to upload anything, immediately after the date of my last post. Sheesh. Anyway, that's why today's post was delayed. And if you've come this far, I encourage you to listen, because "My Doll Jane" is a doozy.

And I'm not going to say much about today's featured side, except that it's by the otherwise unknown Terri Wells, who is not confirmed to have appeared on even one other Preview side, and that it's lyrical content is several kilometers past completely bizarre.

I won't write a word more about the story Ms. Wells is going to relate to you, but if it makes more sense to you than it does to me, or if you just want to chime in with your own "what the hell", feel free to comment. I'd love to hear what others think of this one.

The flip side is a performance of "Helen Goodnight", sung by Gene Marshall. The lyric was written by someone named Helen - perhaps she wrote that which she was wishing her lover would say to her? This is a pretty forgettable record, to my ears, notable only for a really nice opening nine seconds, much of which would probably sample-able, and, even more notable, a rare complete flub from Gene Marshall, who comes in after a key change away from and back to the original key change, at 1;47, and is, for a moment, nowhere near in the same key as the backing. It would be jarring with anyone, but to hear Gene completely lose is startling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And Mike Thomas As the "Young Girl"!

The setting: A drab office outside a tiny recording studio, some time in the late '60's or early '70's:
Charlie: So, uh, we got this thing here called "Lonely Girl's Prayer". Who are we gonna get to sing it? We don't have any girls to sing it.
Bill: Right now, we don't have anyone but Mike Thomas to sing anything!
Charlie: Well, Mike sort of sounds like a girl when he sings... sometimes. I guess that'll be okay. But whose name do we put on the label?
Bill: Mike Thomas. Duh. Really...who is going to care? The writer? She'll just be happy to get a little piece of plastic with her song on it.
Charlie: Ya know, this lyric is full of concerns and worries, and the whole thing is sort of a prayer for the country. Are you sure this bouncy backing Joey wrote for it fits?
Bill: Who is going to care? The writer? She'll just be happy to get a little piece of plastic with her song on it.
Bill: Oh, okay, I'll tell Joey and the band to add a drum and bass player add an intro that quotes from some patriotic tune.
Charlie: Um, this thing's tune is all over the place - I don't know how Mike does it sometimes - I wouldn't pay for this. And the damn thing is barely 100 seconds long.
Bill: Charlie, maybe you're in the wrong business. All the writer is going to care about is getting a little piece of plastic with her song on it. But if you want, I'll have them write that the song is over three minutes long.
Bill: Hey, does "Girls" have an apostrophe or not?

Okay, here's more divshare problems. After four tries, "Young Girl's Prayer" uploaded. After twenty tries, the flip side would not, nor would anything else. Then Divshare stopped linking to the upload page. So I've linked the flip side via another site.

Anyway, I am not familiar enough with the book of Corinthians to know what the hell Mike Thomas and his writer are going on about in this otherwise rather bland offering. If anyone cares to enlighten the rest of us, please do.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rod Rogers: American

It's a mixed blessing today, as Divshare is back, but please see the announcement below and to the right, as there are major problems which will probably take weeks or months to resolve.

Nearly four years ago, in this post, I offered up both sides of a Film City 45 written by Clarence Boness, both songs featuring patriotic themes. Today, two equally patriotic numbers, from a subsequent Film City release, again featuring Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra, although the label in this case also credits "and chorus". If anyone out there can hear the chorus, please let me know, as they don't appear to exist. But then again, neither does the orchestra. Mr. Boness actually co wrote this one with Art-Cain, and Rod declined to take a writing credit, although he did so on the flip side. This is a bouncy, marching song, complete with faux glockenspiel solo!

On the flip side is Mr. Boness' offering up in that most stereotypical subjects of song-poems, and indeed, in the world of popular song for the last 50 years, the NORAD system. While this can't compete with such classics as "Crystal Blue NORAD", "The Ballad of John and NORAD",  "NORAD Got to Be Free" or "I Think I Love NORAD", it's surely still in the top ten NORAD hits of the '60's and '70's. And I think that maybe last note is among the highest I've ever heard Rod Rogers/Rodd Keith sing.