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.