Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ron Holden - Love You So (1960)


The first time I heard Ron Holden's Top Ten hit "Love You So" I snapped the radio off in disgust. Here, I thought, was a song that embodied everything wrong with '50s music: An overused chord progression, cliched lyrics, and an awkward rhythm.

Even though this was 1989, I kept hearing the song because we had a new AM oldies station in town that specialized in playing forgotten oldies of the '50s and early '60s. As annoyed as I was, I found I couldn't stop thinking about the song.

Before long, I found myself wanting to hear the song. This hate-turns-to-love pattern had happened before with Madonna's "Material Girl," Chris Rea's "Fool (If You Think It's Over)," and Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends," three tunes I absolutely despised when I first heard them, but later became favorites of mine. One night when I heard "Love You So" yet again on my car radio, I immediately swung into a convenience store parking lot to find a phone to call into the station. A helpful DJ told me who the artist was and that it had actually charted in 1960. The next day I cruised to the local oldies record shop and picked up the 45, which I still have.

After all that, the song wound up being something of a musical touchstone for me, sparking an interest in the pre-Beatles '60s (or "The In-Between Years") that hasn't abated yet. Whenever I made someone an oldies mix tape, this song led it off.

Holden released an album in 1960 and it got reissued on CD in the mid-1990s. One reason for the reissue might have been that the song figured prominently in Dave Marsh's history of "Louie Louie" book, which came out in 1993. Glad to know another rock writer was obsessed with this song.

As for the album, I was surprised to learn it was produced by a young Bruce Johnston, best known now as a member of the Beach Boys. Since Johnston was born in '42 he'd have been 18 when he produced this record. Who would have guessed that the guy behind Bruce and Terry, the Rip Chords, and "Disney Girls (1957)" would have also been behind "Love You So?"

Besides "Love You So," the album's highlight is "My Babe," it's B-Side. This is an original, not a cover version of the Little Walter tune that was done by Elvis, Roy Buchanan, and others. Holden's "My Babe" got a second life when it was covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds -- ironic because on Holden's original record he was back by a group called the Thunderbirds. The latter-day Thunderbirds remade the song on their 1982 LP T-Bird Rhythm and later used in the 1987 teen comedy "Summer School" (watch the whole film here -- there's nothing like YouTube to let you relive your long-lost youth!).

Other highlights include the weepy Nat King Cole-styled ballad "Let No One Tell You," the upbeat Roy Hamilton-ish "Seeing Double," and a couple of "Love You So" soundalikes. Why mess with a winning formula, right? There's also Holden's other hit, the country-influenced ballad "Gee, But I'm Lonesome." It wasn't that big a hit, only Bubbling Under at #106 in June, 1960. But, technically speaking, it kept Holden from being a one-hit wonder.

The main problem with the CD release is that "Love You So" is presented in fake stereo with stereo digital reverb added. How do I know? Because when the track sounded odd to me I brought it into the sound editing program Goldwave and removed the center channel. What I heard on each side wasn't pretty -- digital reverb never is in cases such as this.

Remember earlier I said I kept my old 45? Well, it's lucky I did. I appended it here so you all have the record the way it sounded when people originally heard it and it the way it sounded when it drove me to distraction some thirty years later. For the record, the single first came out in 1959 on the makeshift Nite Owl Records but didn't chart until the next year when it was picked up by the bigger Donna label. So, technically speaking, it is a '50s song, like I first thought. Go here for more info on Ron Holden. Or pick up Dave Marsh's book.

Track list:
1. Here I Come
2. Everything's Gonna Be Alright
3. Gee, But I'm Lonesome
4. Susie Jane
5. Let No One Tell You
6. Love You So
7. My Babe
8. True Love Can Be
9. Seeing Double
10. Do I Have the Right
11. Your Line Is Busy
12. Love You So (Original Nite Owl 45 Pressing)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Karen Carpenter - Solo Album Outtakes (1979-80)


By now it should be evident to everyone that the non-release of Karen Carpenter's solo album in its day was a colossal failure by all involved. The "all involved" culprits include her brother/collaborator Richard Carpenter and the executives at her record company, A&M.

I don't want to get into the personal details -- they're best found in books or at the Lead Sister Web site. But I will say this much: There were at least two potential hits on that album, the ballad "Guess I Just Lost My Head" and the disco number "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind."

Go ahead and chortle at the thought of Karen Carpenter doing dance music. I don't find it funny at all. In fact, transitioning from adult contemporary to dance music is exactly what extended the careers of Karen's contemporaries Melissa Manchester, Olivia Newton-John, and Sheena Easton into the 1980s. Manchester's road from "Midnight Blue" to "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" and Newton-John's journey from "Please Mr. Please" to "Physical" isn't all that different from Carpenter's trek from "Close to You" to "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind." You could even argue Carpenter's transition was actually less drastic than Newton-John's, since the latter had also been a regular on the country chart.

Despite her failing health, Karen Carpenter had a pretty clear-eyed view of where pop music was heading in 1980. The music she was making during this period would have given a much-needed makeover to her image and, by extension, the image of her brother (who wasn't exactly brimming with hits after 1978). But, alas, her self-titled solo album was held in the can and didn't come out until 1996, when its impact was substantially diminished.

Along with the twelve songs that eventually got released, Carpenter and producer Phil Ramone recorded a bunch of extra songs that have never officially seen the light of day. Since the actual album now looks like an important lost piece of pop history, these tracks should be available to people who want them. So here they are all in one place, in their original versions (no remixes), with correct titles, and the previously elusive songwriter's credits in the tags.

While none of the tunes scale the heights of her best work, nothing here is an embarrassment either. On top of that, her cover of Martha and the Vandellas' "Jimmy Mack" probably would have been at least a minor hit. How do we know? Because the aforementioned Sheena Easton took it to #85 pop and #30 on the dance chart five years later.

Elsewhere, Carpenter's voice shines on Evie Sands' "Love Making Love to You," and she also turns in a respectable version of the Tarney/Spencer Band's "It's Really You," which had been a very minor hit for that group 1978. Her take on Russell Javors' "Truly You" edges towards Nick Lowe/Phil Seymour power pop, which would have opened up a whole 'nother door for Carpenter stylistically. Another Sands number, "Keep My Lovelight Burning," suffers from a poor mix, with the vocal too emphasized, but rocks pretty convincingly. 

It's a shame none of the suits who held up this album got fired over it. After all, in what other business could you essentially throw away $100,000 of a company's money and expect not to feel some repercussions? In the real world, people get canned over things like making phone calls on company time or stealing $20 office staplers, for crissakes.

Track list:
1. I Do It For Your Love
2. It’s Really You
3. Jimmy Mack
4. Love Making Love To You
5. Truly You
6. Don’t Try To Win Me Back
7. Something’s Missing
8. Keep My Lovelight Burning
9. Midnight (Never Lets You Down)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chris and Peter Allen - Chris And Peter Allen's Album #1 (1968)


I had two choices with this super-rare LP. I could put out the version I have, which is a rather tweezy-sounding rip of the album. Or you could not hear it at all.

My assumption is that everyone would prefer me to go with the second choice. After all, this album hasn't come out on CD, has rarely (if ever) been circulated online, and sells used for a minimum of $50. So where did I come across it? I wish I could remember. I once belonged to an online group where people swapped rips of out-of-print vinyl, so maybe that's how.

This is the first album made by the late Australian singer-songwriter Peter Allen, who performs here with a singer named Chris Bell (not the guy from Big Star). Allen was a formidable talent who is best known for co-writing hit songs like "I Honestly Love You" for Olivia Newton-John and "I Go To Rio," which was covered by many. But he was also responsible for Melissa Manchester's 1978 hit "Don't Cry Out Loud" and a string of solo albums that have a cult following.

Allen also had a hand in writing the chart-topping theme from the 1981 movie "Arthur," and apparently came up with the great line "When you get caught between the moon and New York City." Finally, as a Frank Sinatra fanatic, I have to mention that Allen co-wrote one of the last great songs Ol' Blue Eyes ever debuted, "You and Me (We Wanted It All)," which leads off the second disc on the original vinyl edition of the Trilogy: Past, Present, Future LP.

With those kinds of songwriting credits to his name, it's pretty odd that Allen didn't write a single song on the Chris and Peter Allen LP! Weirder still, this Mercury Records release is billed as being by "Chris and Peter Allen," when the duo were known professionally as "The Allen Brothers." (They weren't brothers, by the way, and neither of their last names was Allen.)

Also, this album doesn't show up in the Wikipedia entries for either Peter Allen or the Allen Brothers. Maybe it's an oversight. Or maybe Allen hated it and the people handling his business have sought to bury it. But the album does exist and it's not half bad. It's sort of a blend of '60s cabaret music and sunshine pop. Allen and Bell both have appealing voices and Jimmy Wisner's arrangements are inventive and interesting.

Its best moment is the non-charting single "Ten Below," co-written by the Brill Building team of Al Kasha and Joel Hirshhorn. That duo not only wrote hits like "Will You Be Staying After Sunday" and "The Morning After" but also penned the stage musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Kasha also produced this LP. The mono single mix of "Ten Below" is punchier than its stereo LP counterpart and since I happened to have it sitting around, I tagged it on to the end here as a bonus track.

(Sidenote: Ever since I first heard "Ten Below," it pops into my head whenever I pass by the discount store Five Below. Now that I've mentioned this, it'll happen to you to, I'll bet.)

Other highlights include the moody "My Silent Symphony" and the wide-eyed "A Baby's Coming," the type of cheery, upbeat song that could only have been written in the 1960s. It's interesting to note that the duo covers the "Wizard of Oz" theme, a song that would come to be associated with the gay cabaret culture that Allan helped define in the '70s. At the time, though, people probably thought it was an attempt to ride the coattails of one-hit wonders the Fifth Estate, who got to #11 in 1967 with a cover of "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead." And who knows? Maybe it was.

This album did not catch on. There was no Chris and Peter Allen's Album #2. And according to what I've read online, no one is quite sure what happened to Chris.

Related posts:
Chad & Jeremy - Yesterday's Gone (Mono Mix, 1964)
Bobby Paris - Let Me Show You The Way (1968)
Tony's Tygers - Little By Little (1968)
The Goggles - The Goggles (1971)

Track list:
1. Ten Below
2. My Silent Symphony
3. Next Plane to London
4. Picture Me
5.  Medley #2 - Wizard Of Oz (We're Off to See the Wizard)/Puff, the Magic Dragon
6.  A Man and a Woman
7. Medley #1 - Come Rain Or Come Shine/The Rain, the Park and Other Things
8. A Baby's Coming
9. Just Friends
10. Waltzing Matilda
11. Ten Below (Mono Single Mix)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Carol Stromme - The Soft Sound Of Carol Stromme (Mono Mix, 1968)


Here's an album I wouldn't have thought to write about, but an astute reader noted that the singer here, Carol Stromme, is also on the New Society album that I reviewed back in December.

Unlike that record, which was a somewhat campy and overdone pseudo-rock effort, this is an album of sincerely-sung, sparsely-performed acoustic folk music. Most people will be familiar with the Beatles song "In My Life." That's remade here in a folkie Judy Collins style; the rest of the album takes its cue from that.

There's also another connection with the New Society. Several of the original songs on here were co-written by Stromme and Lincoln Mayorga, who served as the arranger on that record. The versatile Mayora also arranged and played on countless records ranging from Barbra Streisand to Phil Ochs, but we're getting off-topic.

No one seems quite sure of this album's release date because its listed in various places online as having come out in 1968, 1969, and 1970. But I've tracked it down definitively to 1968, since it was reviewed in the Nov. 2, 1968 issue of Billboard magazine. "Reviewed" might be too generous a word: It got a mention in the "four star" section and they got the title was slightly wrong. Still, that's enough to connote the all-important date on the record and, to loosely paraphrase George Costanza, "chronology is an obsession with me."

This album, which was released on the indie Record By Pete label, hasn't been released on CD yet. So let's enjoy it before the "rediscovery" crowd gets to it and ruins it with pretentious liner notes and New York Times articles by writers who think an understanding of sociology = an understand of songs.

Track list:
1. Living for Today
2. Little Girls and Little Boys
3. In My Life
4. Warm
5. Stay As Long As You Can
6. Something Good Is Going On
7. Universal Love
8. Until It's Time For You To Go
9. Inside Out
10. I Will Wait
11. Loving Carol
 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Various Artists - Northern Soul Girls Rock! Disc 4


You wouldn't know it from this blog, but my favorite genre of music is '60s soul. Specifically, I like the upbeat, poppish '60s style that came to be known as "Northern Soul" in England. I have scads of this stuff, including countless multi-artist collections.

The reason I don't post more of it is that there are several great blogs that have cornered the market, with FunkMySoul being tops in this regard. I don't like to repeat what others have done unless I have something new and worthwhile to contribute.

This is such a time. I've come up with a fourth volume of the Northern Soul Girls Rock! series. I assume most people who found this blog entry have the first three volumes. If you don't, look into getting them.

The Northern Soul Girls Rock! volumes have lots of great, unknown songs, but sort of lack focus. The collections go well beyond soul, veering off into girl group, do-wop, and in one bizarre case, country music (Judy Stone's "Hello Faithless" on the first volume). In that spirit, I made this collection somewhat soft-focused and threw in a few numbers that might push the boundaries of Northern Soul.

I also made it a point not to repeat songs from other compilations; virtually everything here hasn't been anthologized before. In the case that something could be found on an artist's "best of" CD, like the opening Barbara Lewis track, I made sure to include the non-CD mono 45 mix.

A few other notes: Several songs on this collection mirror ones on earlier volumes. There's another version of the ballad "Take Another Look at Me," for example, another version of the uber-catchy "Lookie Lookie (What I Got)," and another early, obscure Patti Austin cut.

The song by the late Karen Small has never been anthologized and marks the last of her four single sides to be compiled. Small was a Pittsburgh singer who was murdered shortly after her single "Boys Are Made to Love" got to #123 on the Bubbling Under chart in June, 1966 (it was also a #37 R&B hit). I consider "Boys Are Made to Love" one of the soul classics of all time. "Hey Love" was its B-Side, and I'd like to think I'm doing my small part to keep her memory alive by putting it out on here.

Speaking of the Bubbling Under chart, the Babies track here got to #122 in July, 1967. Finally, the Toni Basil cut here shows she could sing a lot better than she showed on her #1 hit from 1982, "Mickey." Hard to believe it's the same singer, actually.

Related: Various Artists - Indie Soul of the '60s (2014)

Track list:
1. Barbara Lewis - I Remember the Feeling
2. Sandy Wynns - How Can Something Be So Wrong (And Always Feel So Good)
3. Arlene Smith - Good Girls
4. Beti Webb - I Know (You Could Be Happy)
5. Maureen Evans - Never Let Him Go
6. Mary Saxton - Take My Heart
7. Carol Robinson - Wild Man
8. The Orchids - Love Is What You Make It
9. Mikki Farrow - Could It Be
10. Bonnie Herman - Hush Don't Cry
11. Toni Basil - Breakaway
12. Theresa Lindsey - Wonderful One
13. The Sisters McGee - The Shebang Song
14. The Babies - You Make Me Feel Like Someone
15. Yvonne Daniels - I Got to Get Close to You
16. Shawn Robinson - Find Love Right Now
17. Mary Wells - Use Your Head
18. The Reasons - Window Shopping
19. Dejah Ahres - Real Jive Guy (Vocal Version)
20. The Buttons & Beaus - Never Leave Your Sugar
21. Candy and the Kisses - Lookie Lookie (What I Got)
22. Debbie Stanley - It's Him I Wanna Go With Mama
23. Karen Small - Hey Love
24. Kim Davis - Are You Ready For Love
25. The Glories - Don't Make the Good Girls Go Bad
26. Jill Harris - Oh, Baby
27. The Jelly Beans - I'm Hip to You
28. Patti Austin - He's Good Enough for Me
29. Beverly and The Del Capris - Mama I Think I'm In Love
30. The Chadons - Let's Start All Over Again
31. The Tiffanys - Take Another Look At Me

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eydie & Steve - Cozy (Mono Mix, 1961)


Here is a weird bit of trivia I'm sure no one cares about. The married vocal duo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé were briefly billed as "Eydie & Steve" instead of the better-known Steve & Eydie when they started out.

Even though they used their standard billing on their debut album, We Got Us, (released in early 1960), their next three albums all used the alternate "Eydie and Steve" moniker. That includes this one, which was their fourth LP and came out around April, 1961). Why the switcharoo? Who knows? Maybe Gormé (who died in 2013) was the bigger draw then. Or maybe Lawrence just thought it was a gentlemanly thing to do. Or maybe they decided to be alphabetical for a while.

Whatever the case, this album ranks among the best things they ever did. Boy could they sing. Even a curmudgeon like critic Will Friedwald praises them in his book "Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art" and that's saying something.

Besides the fact that both of these singer pleasing vocal tones, they make great music because they never sound forced or phony. Their give-and-take on songs like "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "She Didn't Say Yes," and "A Fine Romance" is so ingratiating it should draw in even cynical rock fans. Well, this stuff drew me in back when I was a twentysomething rocker, at least.

This is a mono rip of the album, which has never been released on CD. (Addendum: Someone mentioned this has come out on CD. I should have been clearer with the previous sentence. It has come out on CD in stereo, but not in mono. You can sample the stereo mix here.) Anyway...this album is said to be one of the earliest LPs recorded for stereo. I'm not sure how accurate that is because I know Frank Sinatra recorded his Where Are You? album in stereo three years before.

Some of the songs here have become pretty obscure as the years have passed. Songwriter's credits are in the tags. Speaking of which, the title track is said to be penned by one "Hal Dennis," but I discovered that's a pseudonym and included a J-Peg of a screengrab of that info, which I got from the Catalog of Copyright Entries (you can also check out the link here).

Related posts:
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)
The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)

Track list:
1. Cozy
2. Wouldn't It Be Loverly
3. Like In Love
4. It's So Nice To Have A Man Around The House
5. Would You Like To Take A Walk
6. A Fine Romance
7. I Like The Likes Of You
8. Without You I'm Nothing
9. She Didn't Say Yes
10. Blue Room
11. Personality
12. Two Sleepy People

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Norma Tanega - Walkin' My Cat Named Dog (Mono Mix, 1966)


Was Norma Tanega technically a one-hit wonder?

Most oldies fans know she had a Top 100 hit with "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog," which got to #22 in March, 1966 and stayed on the chart for nine weeks. But in May of that year, she her second single, "A Street That Rhymes at 6 A.M." hit the Bubbling Under chart where it got to #129.

So does that make her a one- or two-hit wonder? I say she's a two-hit wonder, because there are artists who only ever hit the Bubbling Under chart and are considered one-hit wonders. One such example is the recently-deceased Marcia Strassman whose only chart entry, "The Flower Children," got to #105 in April, 1967. (For a compilation of all of Strassman's singles, see this previous blog entry.)

While pop historians 'round the globe scratch their heads over that, I'll regurgitate some info on Norma Tanega, even though you probably know the basics if you've come here. She was a California native born in 1939 and a folksinger. She released two albums: This one, which came out on the New Voice label in 1966 and a follow-up five years later on RCA called I Don't Think It Will Hurt If You Smile.

After she had her hit(s), she moved to England where she became involved personally and professionally with Dusty Springfield. I've never been a Springfield fan, so this is where my interest ends. But if you're looking to pursue this further, check out the Laura Nyro biography "Soul Picnic" by the late Michele Kort.

Why would a book on Laura Nyro have information on Norma Tanega? Well, because this album was recorded under the guidance of arranger/conductor Herb Bernstein, who would go on to oversee Laura Nyro's debut LP the next year. Hey! That gives me the chance to hype yet another old blog entry: To hear Nyro's first album in its essential mono mix, go here.

This is a rip of the mono edition of Tanega's debut. The stereo mix has come out on CD, but the mono mix has never been officially issued in any digital form. Although the differences between mono and stereo are not as drastic as with that Nyro album, this mono edition has a punchier sound. The album itself is by turns moody and whimsical (the title track), dreamy and poetic ("A Street That Rhymes..."), and sometimes lyrically confrontational ("You're Dead"). It looks ahead to what the similar sounding Tracy Chapman would do two decades later.

1. You’re Dead
2. Treat Me Right
3. Waves
4. Jubilation
5. Don’t Touch
6. Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog
7. A Street That Rhymes At 6 A.M.
8. I’m Dreamin’ A Dream
9. What Are We Craving?
10. No Stranger Am I
11. Hey Girl
12. I’m the Sky

Monday, March 21, 2016

Nazz - 13th & Pine (1998)


After buying the 2006 expanded editions of all the Nazz CDs, I assumed this bootleg had become irrelevant. But after listening to it again, I realized I assumed wrong.

This disc might not offer the sound quality of the legit releases, but it has a bunch of alternate takes, alternate mixes, then-unreleased tunes, and (what sound like) acetates that those release don't have. Plus, I find this boot more playable and actually prefer it to the reissues for several reasons.

First, the legit releases feature too many Todd Rundgren vocals. At that point in time, Stewkey was actually a better singer than Rundgren. So listening to him makes for more pleasant listening even if a lot of the vocals on these songs were meant to be by Todd. But secondly, those reissues suffer from the same problem that plagues a lot of CD reissues: There is just too much music. You finish the album and you're then faced with a bunch of bonus tracks, taking the running time well past the point of tedium.

A better plan would have been to put all the rare stuff on one CD. That's kids of what this bootleg did.

What's unique here? There are early, Stewkey-sung mixes of "It's Not That Easy" and "Only One Winner, plus the backing track to "Only One Winner," titled here "Only One Winner #1." There are also rough mixes of "Hang On Paul" and "Featherbedding Lover." Best of all is the instrumental track to "A Beautiful Song," which lets you hear how Rundgren put it together instrumentally.

Artwork included. As always, I made sure the songwriting info was in the tags, but can't tell you why the numbers by Stewkey (i.e. Robert Antoni) are instead credited here to "Mary Antoni." She's thanked on the liner for taking photos but Stewket wrote the songs in question. Still, that's what came up when I ripped the CD, so that's the way I left it. Speaking of track tags, they were also written out as "The Nazz"instead of "Nazz," but I left it that way too, just because.

Track list:
1. Under The Ice
2. How Can You Call That Beautiful
3. Sydney's Lunchbox
4. Not Wrong Long
5. It's Not That Easy
6. Some People
7. Sing Me A Song
8. Hang On Paul
9. Featherbedding Lover
10. Only One Winner #1
11. Only One Winner #2
12. It Must Be Everywhere
13. Christopher Columbus
14. Old Time Lovemaking
15. Letters Don't Count
16. A Beautiful Song

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990)


The front cover of the debut album by the R&B quintet Hi-Five features a logo with the names of the towns the group's members came from: Waco, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Within a few years of the album's release, both of those cities would become the sites of two of the biggest tragedies on US. soil.

In a sadly similar vein, Hi-Five itself would become a band beset by tragedies. On their first tour, Roderick "Pooh" Clark ended up partially paralyzed when the band was involved in an auto accident. In 2007, lead singer Tony Thompson was found dead after inhaling a toxic amount of freon. Seven years later, Russell Neal was charged with murder. All of this was documented in an episode of the TV One documentary series "Unsung," which is worth watching whether you're a fan of the group or not. Where they once drew comparisons to Boys II Men in their heyday, they now bring to mind the tragic stories of Badfinger or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

But if you were to go back in time 25 years ago, it would have been hard to believe anything but greatness could have come from this group. They scored one of the year's biggest hits with "I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)," which was one of those #1 hits that deserved to be a #1.

The follow-up, "I Can't Wait Another Minute" wasn't as successful, even though it topped the R&B chart (it only got to #60 on the pop chart). But artistically it was arguably the band's best early song, with the verse-chorus vocal interplay between the lead singers recalling the Temptations at their best.

They also had a third hit from the album with "I Just Can't Handle It," which got into the R&B top ten. The song "Too Young" was used in the landmark film "Boyz N the Hood," and the album itself topped the R&B chart and was certified platinum.

The album remains a great listen and sounds just as good today as it did all those years ago. For one thing, the group had people like Teddy Riley and Eric Foster White writing and producing. But their real draw was Tony Thompson. Thompson, who was 15 at the time of the album's release, was a natural, gifted singer. It's a shame he only found success in the early 1990s. Had he come along in a different time (like ten years later), he might have had the career Usher got.

Related posts:
Homework - Homework (1990)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990)

Track list:
1. I Just Can't Handle It
2. Just Another Girlfriend
3. I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)
4. Rag Doll
5. I Can't Wait Another Minute
6. Too Young
7. Merry-Go-Round
8. The Way You Said Goodbye
9. Sweetheart
10. I Know Love

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Anita Kerr Quartette - For You, For Me, Forevermore (Mono Mix, 1960)


The Little Dippers' "Forever" ranks among my favorite singles of all time. It's one of those records from the pre-Beatles '60s that has an otherworldly sound, as if it was delivered directly from the heavens via spaceship. I first heard this song in the 1980s when I was a teenager and I remember not being able to get that little piano riff out of my head for weeks. (To this day when I go to the piano it's usually the first thing I play.)

For years I assumed "Forever" was a one hit wonder by an unknown group. The reason for this was that the 1990 edition of the Billboard Top Pop Hits book says the Little Dippers were a "Pop quartet organized by producer Buddy Killen: Dolores Dinning, Emily Gilmore, Darrell McCall, and Hurshel Wigintin." Eventually I came to find out the single was actually the Anita Kerr Singers and was even placed on their second album, For You, For Me, Forevermore, where they were billed as the The Anita Kerr Quartette.

To add to the confusion, those four singers listed in the Billboard book aren't the ones listed on the back of this album -- which you can see in the artwork that's included here. It's probably a fool's errand to try to unravel what this was all about. But here goes anyway.

My guess is that the country-oriented Killen and vocal group-oriented Kerr probably wanted to have a pop hit with "Forever" but knew they'd be blown off by Top 40 stations as being "too country" or "mom and dad music" if the put the 45 out under their real names. So they invented an imaginary group and promoted the single that way. Whatever the case, it worked. "Forever" got to #9 and stayed on the pop chart for fourteen weeks, making its debut 1/25/60.

Looking back now, the song was probably a loose rewrite of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," which had gotten to #1 in 1957. The song also got a second life when country pedal steel player Pete Drake took it to #25 in 1964. He also performed it live on TV, allowing it to live forever (ahem) thanks to YouTube.

***

This is a mono rip of the Anita Kerr album on which "Forever" was included. I've heard stereo copies of this album that were either ripped or mastered at the wrong speed and run a bit too slow. This runs at the correct speed -- I know because I referenced it against the Little Dippers' "Forever," which matches up to the pitch on my keyboard.

The album itself is not exactly earthshaking, but it's got its moments. I actually prefer the group's debut album, Voices in Hi-Fi, and might post that someday. Finally, there's some confusion as to whether For You, For Me, Forevermore came out in 1959 or 1960. Since I found a review in the Nov. 14, 1960 issue of Billboard (which can be seen online), I'm going with 1960.

As a bonus, I included both sides of the "Forever" single. The mix of "Forever" is identical, but the mastering is slightly different. The B-Side is a non-LP instrumental. Finally, there are stereo mixes of "Forever" floating around on YouTube. If you love this song, I'd strongly recommend not indulging your curiosity to listen to such a mix. Hearing each element of this record parceled out clearly in discreet stereo will not leave you a better person. Some things are better off sounding like they were phoned in from the heavens.

Related posts:
The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)

Track list:
1. For You, For Me, Forevermore
2. Till The End of Time
3. Forever
4. I'll Always Love You (Querida Mia)
5. Never Leave Me
6. All My Life
7. Why Can't This Night Go On Forever
8. I'll Always Be In Love With You
9. This is Always
10. Always
11. Everyday
12. Twelfth Of Never

Bonus cuts:
13. The Little Dippers - Forever
14. The Little Dippers - Two By Four

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Split Level - The Split Level (1968)


There are some things I don't know about the Split Level -- like what state and town they were from or how they formed. But I do know that despite various sources claiming their only album was released in 1969, it definitely had a 1968 release date. How do I know? Because it was reviewed in the Feb. 24, 1968 issue of Billboard magazine.

But that review and the album's entry at Discogs raise another question. Was this album self-titled or was it called Divided We Stand? Since that title is only printed on the back cover and not on the record label or front cover, I'm going with self-titled. If anyone knows otherwise, let me know.

Now that those basic facts are out of the way, onto more substantial matters. This is a first-rate pop-psychedelic effort that has never come out on CD. It's infused with the kind of madcap theatricality that marked a lot of pop records of the time. Check the songs "Speculator" and "Children are Bored on Sunday" for evidence of that. But there are also some really catchy pop numbers. These include the opening cut, "Hangin' Out (In Someone Else's World)," and the opening cut on side two of the original album, "On the Right Track," which was released as a single but didn't chart.

The group also does a killer version of Margo Guryan's "Think Of Rain," a powerful ballad that was also covered by Astrud Gilberto and Bobby Sherman. If you're unfamiliar with this tune, take a listen to the way the songwriter herself performs it on her debut album Take a Picture.

The Split Level was made up of Michael Lobel, Lenny Roberts, Al Dana, and Liz Seneff and the group recorded for Dot Records. As far as I know, neither the band or its members were heard from again in the music world. But they definitely left their mark with this record, which manages to be both thoughtful and tuneful.

Track list:
1. Hangin' Out (In Someone Else's World)
2. Speculator
3. Think Of Rain
4. Children Are Bored On Sunday
5. You Can't Go
6. Hymn
7. Right Track
8. Rose Garden
9. Equipment
10. Russ
11. Can't Complain
12. Looking At The Rose Through World Colored Glasses
13. Do Not Speak But Sing

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground - Etc. (1979)


This bootleg record was legendary in its day because it was among the first albums to contain unreleased Velvet Underground material. Unfortunately, it's a lot less exciting all these years later, because most of the songs it contains has since been released on CDs and box sets.

But when I was in high school and this record was still new-ish, there were no CDs. Heck, there weren't even any Velvet Underground records in print, except maybe Loaded. To be a fan of this stuff, you had to put in some real effort, like drive to far-off indie record stores and pay top dollar for albums of questionable origin that had poor quality audio.

That's how I came into the possession of this. Specifically, some friends and I cut school to drive down to a Washington, D.C.-area store called Joe's Record Paradise after I'd discovered they had this in stock. We weren't slackers when it came to this stuff. We were serious enough about it to risk getting detention. (Or in my case, having our parents called in for a conference with the vice principal. Sorry, ma!)

I likened the experience to a spiritual journey. And as with most spiritual journeys, non-believers (i.e. most kids in high school) thought I was nuts. Whatever the case, this record was one of the sacraments on my quest to spiritual musical purity...or whatever it was. I knew it was a bunch of non-essential junk, but I still had to have it because...it felt like the right thing to do in some larger sense.

In all, it's not a bad LP. The first side has a handful of frat-rocking pre-Velvet Underground songs by Lou Reed and/or John Cale done in their days as songwriters-for-hire with New York City's Pickwick Records. Elsewhere, there are also two spoken word tracks from "audible mediums" (i.e. a newspaper and a book that came with flexi-discs). Not stuff you'll play every day, but an interesting peephole into the culture of the day. Finally the second side features four then-unreleased Velvets songs. These tracks sound grungier here than when they officially came out in 1985 and 1986, but on the plus side you get them without the digital reverb that was added to the released versions.

What really sold me on this album was the fact that it features two of the best things the band ever did: The soulful "Temptation Inside Your Heart" (titled here as "Inside Your Heart") and the garage punk anthem "Foggy Notion." Why these two brilliant songs were left unreleased in their day is a question for the ages. I was asking it back in 1981 when I bought this record, and I'm still wondering the same thing now.

(Funny addendum. I played a very minor role in the follow-up bootleg to this, which was called The Velvet Underground (And So On). In 1981, I wrote some letters to the people who ran a Velvet Underground fanzine, "What Goes On" -- the people who later put out that bootleg. At the time, I was so obsessed with this band that I'd taken to signing all my letters with "Linger on..." followed by my name instead of "Sincerely." "Linger on" is, of course, a key phrase in the V.U. song "Pale Blue Eyes." I did this to them a few times. When (And So On) came out, the liner notes were signed off with my signature "Linger On..." I wonder if they realized they'd gotten that from me, because they definitely were not addressing their correspondence this way before I wrote to them.)

Related: The Velvet Underground - Squeeze (1973)

1. The Beachnuts - Cycle Annie
2. The Primitives - The Ostrich
3. The Primitives - Sneaky Pete
4. The Roughnecks - You're Driving Me Insane
5. Index Flexi Disc - Conversation
6. The Velvet Underground - Foggy Notion
7. The Velvet Underground - Inside Your Heart
8. The Velvet Underground - I'm Sticking With You
9. The Velvet Underground - Ferryboat Bill
10. East Village Other LP - Noise

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mikey Dread - S.W.A.L.K. (1982)


Hard to find, out-of-print, and critically unappreciated, Mikey Dread's S.W.A.L.K. album is a forgotten record that deserves to be heard.

With this release, the late reggae pioneer (who died of brain cancer almost ten years ago) stepped back from his barrier-breaking dub experiments. Instead he concentrated on more conventional reggae songs and sounds.

Because of this, the album has been dismissed as "lover's rock" in some quarters. The lover's rock designation is understandable because the tenor of the songs is mellow and the title track spells out "Sealed With a Lover's Kiss." Plus, the music here is a far cry from LPs like African Anthem and World War III. But the critical dismissal this LP got is just wrong. This is still Mikey Dread in his prime, after all. The songs are mostly great. And as for being conventional? Hahaha. Dread is a singer who couldn't sound conventional if you offered to pay him millions of dollars to do so (and for all I know, maybe someone did).

It was Dread's eccentric vocal and mixing board styles, after all, that earned him scads of hardcore fans. The most famous of these were the guys in the Clash, who collaborated with him and had him produce several tunes with them. Dread's idea of love songs on this LP is still edgier than that of most other performers. Plus, a lot of his songwriting is stronger since he doesn't have his sonic experiments to fall back on.

The opener, "Rocky Road" is based on Brenton Wood's "Gimme Little Sign" and is one of Dread's most clever reworkings. The epic title track, with its killer horn riffs and definitive vocal performance, stands as one of the best things Dread ever did. The version found here, by the way, is different than the one on the Best Sellers collection. This one runs almost nine-minutes and has a five-minute dub outro edited on in place of the regular fade-out.

More first-rate tunes follow with "Positive Reality" (which would work really well as a folk song should someone decide to cover it that way), the half-joking "Problems," and the affecting closing track, "In Memory (Jacob, Marcus & Marley)," which serves as a history lesson of sorts. In all, this is one of my favorite Dread albums, probably second only to the remixed World War III.

Track list:
1. Rocky Road
2. S.W.A.L.K.
3. Positive Reality
4. Heavy Weight Sound
5. Problems
6. Zodiac Signs
7. Armagiddeon Style
8. In Memory (Jacob, Marcus & Marley)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Steely Dan - Gaucho Outtakes and Demos (1979-80)


Gaucho is far and away my favorite Steely Dan album, probably due to the "novelistic" approach the group took with its lyrics as well as the jazzy (i.e. non-rock) leanings of the music. So I've spend almost the last twenty years gradually accumulating outtakes, alternate takes, and demos from the sessions. I can't get enough of this stuff.

I can, however, understand why people don't like it. It's far removed from the group's rock-oriented debut album. You're not getting any dual lead guitar lines here. But for those who are partial to this album, the seventeen outtakes that have surfaced should be more than enough to keep you intrigued for some time. Despite what detractors of this record say, this was a fertile creative time for band members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. That's evidenced by the plethora of unreleased tracks, some of which are arguably better than the released ones.

To get some kind of logical running order, I sorted these cuts into three categories. The first seven songs offer an alternate version of the released album, with the addition of the cut "The Second Arrangement," which was left off because the tape got damaged.

The next five or so cuts are unreleased songs, and -- in my opinion -- tracks #8-10 are some of the best things this duo ever did. Not just composition-wise, either; the scratchy, bare-bones, late-night quality of these cuts presents Becker and Fagen in a low-fi atmosphere where -- oddly enough -- their music shines. It's as if you're picking them up on some distant late night AM radio station. I also think "I Can't Write Home About You" is actually an early draft of what turned out to be "Hey 19," but I'm willing to concede I could be very wrong about that.

The makeshift album closes with more alternate versions -- alternates to the alternates, you might say. I stuck most of the superfluous stuff at the end so you don't have to feel guilty about shutting it off early.

There are exceptions, though. The reggae-styled demo of "The Second Arrangement" has a lot to offer and the demo of "Gaucho" is far more emotional than its released counterpart. This and a few other cuts make you wonder if the band's legendary obsession with recording studio perfection might have been an unconscious way of obscuring the real emotions behind their music -- something writer Clinton Heylin has said about Bob Dylan, but in his case in regard to his constantly rewriting of lyrics.

Back to this collection: Bitrates and sound quality vary wildly. I used whatever sounded best. And unlike some of the versions on YouTube (ahem), these are closer to the correct speed and don't have the beginnings and/or the endings truncated.

Track list:
1. Babylon Sisters (Demo)
2. Glamour Profession (Outtake)
3. Gaucho (Alternate Mix)
4. Time Out of Mind (Early Version)
5. My Rival (Outtake)
6. Were You Blind That Day (Outtake)
7. The Second Arrangement (Outtake)
8. I Can't Write Home About You (Demo)
9. Kulee Baba (Demo)
10. Talkin' 'Bout My Home (Demo)
11. If You Got The Bear (Outtake)
12. Kind Spirit (Outtake)
13. Babylon Sisters (Outtake)
14. Gaucho (Demo)
15. The Second Arrangement (Demo)
16. Kulee Baba (Outtake - Full Band Version)
17. Gaucho (Backing Track)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Donna Lynn Meets Robin Clark (1961-65)


Donna Lynn and Robin Clark were both really young female singers who had three very minor hits between them in the early 1960s. Lynn was the bigger of the two, since she scored a Top 100 hit with "My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut," which made it to #83. This song should be of interest to Beatle fans since it first charted on Feb. 22, 1964 and was on Capitol Records -- meaning it had to be prepared before the Fab Four ever came to America and was a part of their promotional push.

In May of that year, Lynn got to #129 on the Bubbling Under chart with a vocal version of Al Hirt's "Java" called "Java Jones." She also released an album, all of which is included here. I'd say she was probably around age 16 when these songs hit -- although neither the Billboard books or Wikipedia give any such info.

The other interesting thing about Lynn is that she cut an early rendition of a Jagger-Richards tune. Sort of. "I'd Much Rather Be With the Girls" was actually a composition by Keith Richards and the Stones' manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Maybe Mick was busy that day. Anyway, the song showed up years later in demo form on the Metamorphosis odds and ends collection where it was titled "I'd Much Rather Be With the Boys (Girls)." Lynn's version was released in May, 1965 and didn't chart.

As for Robin Clark, she wasn't even a teenager yet when she had her sole hit, "Daddy Daddy (Gotta Get a Phone in My Room)." This novelty song topped out at #129 and made the Bubbling Under chart for one week: 3/13/61. I read somewhere she was around age eleven when her three singles were recorded. Whatever the case, they show that she was a pretty strong singer. You wonder why she (or her folks) threw in the towel before she was even old enough to drive.

Donna Lynn:
1. Java Jones (Java)
2. Roll Over Beethoven
3. The Things That I Feel
4. I Only Want To Be With You
5. Navy Blue
6. I Had A Dream I Was A Beatle
7. My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut
8. My Bonnie (My Beatles)
9. Our Day Will Come
10. Ronnie
11. That Winter Weekend
12. That's Me - I'm The Brother
13. There Goes The Boy I Love With Mary
14. Silly Girl
15. I'd Much Rather Be With The Girls
16. I'm Sorry, More Than You Know
17. When Your Heart Rings (Don't Hang Up On Love)
18. True Blue
19. Donna Loves Jerry
20. Oh I'm In Love (With George Maharis)

Robin Clark:
21. Daddy, Daddy (Gotta Get a Phone in My Room)
22. Love Has Come My Way
23. For Your Sake
24. It's Love
26. The Butterfly Tree
27. Tellin' Myself
28. I Gotta Be Sure
 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Translator - No Time Like Now (Original Vinyl, 1983)


For their second outing, the San Francisco-by-way-of-Los Angeles rock band Translator again teamed with producer David Kahne, who would soon become famous working with everyone from the Bangles to Paul McCartney. Kahne gave the band more of a pop sheen than they had on their more folkie debut album Heartbeats and Triggers. Here, he uses several production techniques he'd employ later, most notably the a cappella fade-in on "About the Truth," which would show up on the Bangles' popular "Hero Takes a Fall" a year later.

Translator was unhappy with the results of No Time Like Now and considered it too commercially-oriented. However, time has proven that they might have been too self-critical. This is a smart, melodic pop-rock album that never descends into commercial pandering.

The pensive, well-crafted lyrics keep it thoughtful, and the music is so good -- and so well-played -- that it makes the issue of "commerciality" moot altogether. If something is really good, it doesn't matter whether it's geared toward popular acclaim or not. Song-per-song, this is arguably their strongest album with cuts like "Beyond Today," "Everything is Falling," "I Love You," "About the Truth," and the title track being consummate examples of shimmering '80s pop-rock.

And if the sound they got here wasn't what they were about live, well, it's still a first-rate '80s pop sound. You don't second guess David Kahne. Kahne gives Translator's two lead singers a better vocal presence than they had anywhere else here. He also showcases drummer David Scheff's first-rate percussive skills to great effect (listen to his triplet roll coming out of the second bridge on "Beyond Today" for an example of this). And Larry Dekker's melodic skills on bass were never employed to greater effect.

Translator would go on to make two more albums to less and less popular acclaim, then call it quits...a year before their guitar-brethren-in-arms R.E.M. exploded nationally. Oops. Several years later, the folk-inspired, guitar-rock sound that was Translator's calling card came into vogue with groups like the Gin Blossoms and Hootie and the Blowfish. Had the group stuck around, they might have hit paydirt yet. They sure had the songs and the sound. They just needed the breaks.

The album was reissued on CD nearly ten years ago, but the vinyl has a sound so good it's worth seeking out. It's "zingier," with higher highs and lower lows. I bought No Time Like Now when it came out, but I re-bought it a few years ago when I found a mint, unplayed copy. That's what you hear here.

Again, it's hard to see why the band had issues with this record. Most groups of this era would have been lucky to cut a record half this good.

Track list:
1. Un-Alone
2. Beyond Today
3. I Hear You Follow
4. Break Down Barriers
5. L.A., L.A.
6. I Love You
7. No Time Like Now
8. Everything Is Falling
9. Simple Things
10. The End of Their Love
11. About the Truth
12. Circumstance Laughing

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Stephen Monahan - Stephen Monahan (Mono Mix, 1968)


For decades, Stephen Monahan's minor hit "City of Windows" was a mystery to me. I first discovered it while thumbing through the pages of the "Bubbling Under the Billboard Hot 100" book. When YouTube came about, I finally got to hear this tune. Not bad at all.

It probably deserved better than its chart ranking. When I said "minor hit," I wasn't kidding. Because when it comes to "minor," this one really fits that category. The single got to #101 and spent on week on the chart, July 1, 1967.

And that's all she wrote for Stephen Monahan's chart career, although "City of Windows" did get something of a second chance. In 1968, the British group Dukes Nobelmen released it as a single on the Philips label. It didn't chart, but was actually a pretty good effort and some might prefer that upbeat rendition to Monahan's own.

Speaking of which, that can be found on Monahan's sole long-player, a self-titled effort that came out on the Kapp label in 1968. (There is no date on the label, so we'll have to take the word of the people at Discogs that this LP came out in 1968, not 1967 -- although I have my doubts.)

The album is filled with melodic, orchestrated pop in the vein of the Association and the Lovin' Spoonful. Charles Greene and Brian Stone produced.  Lots of thoughtful lyrics and well-written songs, all of which were penned or co-penned by Monahan, who was from Detroit, Michigan. The mix I have is the mono one. This is nowhere to be found on the Web. Neither is the stereo, for that matter.

***

As a sidenote, I'll mention that obscure '60s stuff like this makes for my most popular posts -- by far. The only problem is that most of this stuff is already out there. There are countless blogs already devoted to rare '60s music -- in every style you can imagine. When I come across something that I can't find anywhere else, I'm happy to post it. But I don't like putting out stuff you can find elsewhere no matter how much I like it. What's the point in that?

Track list:
1. Play While She Dances    
2. Long Live The King    
3. Iron Horse    
4. City Of Windows    
5. Newberry Barn Dance    
6. A Sadder Story    
7. Run For Me    
8. Lost People    
9. Why Do I Still Love You    
10. Yesterday Was

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gayle McCormick - Gayle McCormick (1971)


Gayle McCormick: November 26, 1948 – March 1, 2016. "Love walked out the door, it's a crying shame we don't have it no more."

Track list:
1. It's a Cryin' Shame
2. Superstar
3. C'est La Vie
4. Natural Woman
5. You Really Got a Hold On Me
6. Rescue Me
7. If Only You Believe
8. Save Me
9. Everything Has Got To Be Free
10. Gonna Be Alright Now

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)


There's very little information on the '50s vocal quartet that was known as the Four Grads. The following is pretty much all I've been able to dig up.

According to Discogs.com, they released two albums, and this one was the first. I know this much because the second release, Ain't We Got Fun, has a higher numerical serial number in the Liberty Records catalog. According to my ears, the group sang in the style of such popular acts of the day as the Hi-Lo's and the Four Freshman, the latter of which probably inspired their name.

There was one crucial difference between the Freshman/Hi-Lo's and the Four Grads, however. And that was that the Four Grads included a female singer. That singer was none other than Stella Stevens, the actress, model, and sex symbol of the 1960s (see photo at right). Stevens was the kind of woman your dad (or granddad) would have said was a real "dish" or "hot tamale," especially after she appeared in two popular Playboy magazine spreads, one in 1966 and the next in 1968.

The fact that she was a member of this group doesn't seem to be well known. It's not on Stevens' Wikipedia page, for one thing. But it definitely is her. Not only is her name listed on the back of the album jacket, but in case anyone thought it was a different Stella Stevens, a commenter on this YouTube video tribute to her writes the following: "Met her once at a Variety Club Luncheon, so striking! Then found out later that she had been in a singing group with my cousin Gerald Laughlin called the Four Grads. Had I known at the time is would have been an interesting converation." (SIC)

So never let it be said this blog shirks when it came to investigative reporting. As for the music here, it's pretty great -- if you go for this sort of vocal harmony approach. The problem is, few people do anymore. There are only probably about a handful of music fans left who enjoy this somewhat stiff "modern" style harmony singing. But keep in mind that while this group might be obscure, their style was popular at the time and was a big influence on the music of the Beach Boys.

Several songs here will be familiar to fans of Frank Sinatra, such as the title track, "You Make Me Feel So Young," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," and "It Could Happen to You." As for the last mentioned, this group includes a verse that Ol' Blue Eyes left out. When you hear it, you'll realize there's a reason he passed on it.

Still, the harmonies are impressive and there's a good amount of humor included in both the singing (like on "A Young Man's Fancy") and the arrangements, especially on the jaunty "All I Do Is Dream of You." Needless to say, this has never been on CD or reissued in any form. Nor has their aforementioned second album. If anyone has that, give me a shout-out because I've never even seen it for sale and would love to hear it.

Related posts:
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)
Eydie & Steve - Cozy (Mono Mix, 1961)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)

Track list:
1. The Night Is Young and You're So Beautiful
2. It Could Happen To You
3. A Young Man's Fancy
4. You Make Me Feel So Young
5. Exactly Like You
6. Younger Than Springtime
7. Young And Foolish
8. All I Do Is Dream Of You
9. You Do Something To Me
10. Why Do I Love You
11. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
12. From This Moment On

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Artistics - Get My Hands On Some Lovin' (1967)


The Artistics were a '60s R&B vocal quartet from Chicago that scored two national hits on the pop charts. They were: "I'm Gonna Miss You" (which hit #55 and first charted in late 1966) and "Girl I Need You (#69 in early 1967).

Both those songs were recorded for the Brunswick label and included on the group's debut album for that company, I'm Gonna Miss You. That LP is easy enough to find, thanks to various soul music historians.

But what's not so easily found is an album that was released around the same time on the Okeh label, Get My Hands on Some Lovin.' It collected up all the A- and B-Sides of their singles on that label. So here it is.

Despite being an obvious cash-in effort, it holds together well as an album. The group could really sing, and virtually all the songs are good, if not great. The closest they came to a national hit with any of the songs here was their entries on the Bubbling Under chart. The Marvin Gaye-penned title track got to #119 in September, 1964. It also hit #45 on the R&B chart. "This Heart of Mine," which was written by another Motown stalwart Barrett Strong, topped out at #115 in December, 1965 and got to #25 R&B. 

Track list:
1. Get My Hands On Some Lovin'
2. I'll Leave It Up To You
3. Patty Cake
4. So Much Love in My Heart
5. I'll Come Running
6. This Heart of Mine
7. What'll I Do
8. Loveland
9. I Need Your Love
10. In Another Man's Arms

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Love Seed Mama Jump - Seven Stories High (1997)


The third album by the Delaware-based alternative (?) rock band has become so obscure that it's not even listed in their AllMusic discography. While this group is known for being the premiere cover band in its region, this album is filled with original songs. They won't make you forget your favorite classic rock tunes, but they will evoke the sound of the 1990s like almost nothing else.

Track list:
1. Satellite Freaky
2. Blink
3. Last Goodbye
4. Charades
5. Parader
6. I Know I'll Miss You
7. Always Love You
8. Paint Pellet Privateer
9. Live In Me
10. Messin'

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)


Grateful Dead week wraps up with a somewhat forgotten, out-of-print effort by one of drummer Mickey Hart's side projects, the Diga Rhythm Band. As you might expect, it features lots of percussion. On top of that, almost all of the songs are instrumental, so it's not for everyone. But one song that might be of interest to Deadheads is "Happiness Is Drumming," which became the basis for the song "Fire On the Mountain," which the Dead premiered in concert in March 1977, around a year after this album came out.

Just so Deadheads have this all in one place: The last five entries were all Dead-related, and this blog also has items on the Keith & Donna album, Brent Mydland's solo album, and the album Anthem of the Sun. To get a list of all the Dead stuff, just pop the words "Grateful Dead" in the search box at the top, left hand side of this page.

Related posts:
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980)

Track list:
1. Sweet Sixteen
2. Magnificent Sevens
3. Happiness Is Drumming
4. Razooli
5. Tal Mala

Friday, March 4, 2016

Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980)


It's still Grateful Dead week on this blog, so here is some more rare Grateful Dead-related music. This is an out-of-print rarity by the band's resident lyricist Robert Hunter. In his day, Hunter never received as much critical acclaim as writers like Robbie Robertson or Bob Dylan, but time has proven him to be one of rock's best -- and most perceptive -- lyricists. Not only is the catalog of songs he wrote with Jerry Garcia ever-enduring, but he had the ability to coin phrases like no other ("What a long, strange trip" being one of many examples -- others can be found in this book).

The little-known Jack O'Roses album is an essential listen since it includes Hunter’s own version of "Terrapin Station" (here simply titled "Terrapin"). "Terrapin Station" was, of course, the title track of the Grateful Dead's ninth studio album, released in 1977. The a multi-part song suite, which was co-written by Garcia and Hunter, contains some Garcia's most gorgeous passages of music.

Hunter's version here includes some sections left out of the Dead’s version. The album also features his unplugged renderings of “Box of Rain,” “Friend of the Devil,” and “Ruben and Cherise,” here titled “Ruben and Cerise.” To add to the obscurity factor, this LP not only out-of-print, but it was never even officially released in the U.S., so a lot of people didn't even know it existed.

Related posts:
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)

Track list:
1. Box of Rain
2. Reuben and Cerise
3. Talkin' Money Tree
4. Friend of the Devil
5. Delia DeLyon and Stagger Lee
6. Lady of Carlisle
7. Book of Daniel
8. Terrapin
    a. Lady With a Fan
    b. Terrapin Station
    c. Ivory Wheels/Rosewood Track
    d. Jack O'Roses
9. Prodigal Town

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007)


Grateful Dead week continues with another rarity, one that was originally part of the Live at the Cow Palace a multi-disc package from 2007.

It's easy enough to find the three-CD set, which contains the Dead's entire 1976 New Year's Eve show. What's not so easy to locate is the bonus fourth disc that came with the first copies of the set. This is it.

Now out of print, this elusive disc sometimes sells for over $100 on eBay. It contains recordings of some first-rate live Dead performances from throughout the good ol' Bicentennial year. 

1. The Music Never Stopped – Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA 6/9/76
2. Crazy Fingers – Boston Music Hall, Boston, MA 6/9/76
3. Let It Grow – Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, OH 10/2/76
4. Might As Well – Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, OH 10/2/76
5. Playing in the Band>
6. Supplication>
7. Playing in the Band – College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 9/24/76
8. Scarlet Begonias – Mershon Auditorium, Columbus, OH 9/30/76

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)


Well, it looks like it going to be Grateful Dead week on this blog. This CD represents another helping of obscure Dead-related music. In this case, it's like the Dead's version of the program "Before They Were Stars." This recording -- which was made in 1964 but not released until 1999 -- presents the unplugged jugband that featured three members of the Dead before they decided to plug in and become the Dead.

Dead members featured here include Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. They romp through a bunch of traditional tunes, plus some rock and blues. A couple of songs like "Beat It On Down the Line" and "Monkey and the Engineer" ended up in the Dead's repertoire.

This CD is long out-of-print and has actually become pretty rare, selling for very high prices online. For further details about the circumstances behind this recording and its eventual release, I'll again direct you to a comprehensive book of Dead history -- like I did with the last two posts.

Track list:
1. Overseas Stomp
2. Ain't It Crazy (The Rub)
3. Boo Break
4. Yes She Do, No She Don't
5. Memphis
6. Boodle Am Shake
7. Big Fat Woman
8. Borneo
9. My Gal
10. Shake That Thing
11. Beat It on Down the Line
12. Cocaine Habit Blues
13. Beedle Um Bum
14. On the Road Again
15. The Monkey and the Engineer
16. In the Jailhouse Now
17. Crazy Words, Crazy Tune
18. Band Interview

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)


Grateful Dreams is a solo album by Tom Constanten, a classically-trained keyboardist who was a member of the Grateful Dead from 1968 to 1970. The album is a new age effort that features piano- and synthesizer-fueled versions of Grateful Dead classics and other evergreens.

As with the last post, there is no point in me regurgitating information on Constanten when that's best found elsewhere. And just as with the last post, I'll again direct you to a link to the book "Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History," which has a full chapter on Constanten called "Dark Star: What Place Did Tom Constanten Have in the Dead's Music?" It's the only general interest book on the Dead to compile a large amount of information on this shadowy figure in Dead history.

Related posts:
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)
Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982) 

Track list:
1. Let It Be
2. Friend Of The Devil/Boris The Spider
3. Flight Of The Bumble Bee
4. Morning Dew
5. Embryonic Journey
6. I've Just Seen A Face
7. La Leggierezza
8. People Get Ready
9. Cold Rain And Snow
10. Intro (Pig Pen)
11. Season Of The Witch
12. The Fat Angel
13. Mountains Of The Moon
14. Romanze, Op.118 #5
15. Dark Star/Ritual Fire Dance/Lovelite