Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-End Wrap-Up

At the beginning of December, this blog turned a year old. And just the other day it closed in on 300,000 hits. For most blogs, that number is a drop in the bucket. But in it's pretty good for this one, when you consider that I've gone out of my way to post music most people have heard.

After all, if too many people started to like the stuff I post, I'd just have to find things that are even more obscure or even less liked by people (i.e. Debbie Gibson B-Sides and demos). So in a weird way, my whole focus on this blog has been to run from Web hits, as opposed to pandering to get them.

Still I was glad when the numbers started to pick up, which is what happened when I made July Surf Music Month. But before July, readers were few and far between. So for a year-end wrap-up I thought I'd offer recaps of ten significant early posts that latecomers might have missed. All of these are unique to the blog and were ripped from vinyl (if they're old LPs) or put together by me (if they're compilations).

Lindy Stevens - Pure Devotion (1972)
Stevens is a singer-songwriter who is best known for the non-charting single "Pennygold," which is on one of the Lost Jukebox sets. Nothing of hers has ever come out (officially) on CD, so I ripped her lone album, added in a bunch of singles I own as bonus tracks, and did a write-up about her very short musical career. If anyone is searching for her on the Web, this blog is pretty much the only source of info.

The New Society - The Barock Sound of the New Society (1966)
This was a very odd pre-fab group put together by Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels. When I came across this eccentric release a dozen or so years ago, I assumed it would find a home on CD sooner or later, since most everything from the '60s gets revived these days. But since it didn't, my rip is the best way to hear it.

Various Artists - 415 Music (1980)
An album featuring first generation California punk rock groups. As loud as you might imagine, but more melodic than you might think. It launched 415 Records, a label that would give Romeo Void, Translator, and others to the world. I bought this on the cheap back in the early '90s when most people wanted nothing to do with LPs. Those were the days. Had I known we were gonna see vinyl revival, I'd have bought in bulk. Wait, I did that, which is why I sit here surrounded by vinyl! Man, I need a bigger place. But I digress.

The Sidekicks - Featuring 'Fifi the Flea' (1966)
An American pop band that had two minor hits and then dropped off the face of the earth. I'm mostly adding this one because I have a funny memory of buying it. It was 2006, before the vinyl revival, and when my ex and I found this and the Move's Looking On in a bookstore that was selling records, they pretty much gave them to us. There were no prices, so the clerk was like "I don't know what these are. Just take 'em." Those were the days...

The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)
I found this LP at a record show about a year ago and didn't know much about it, except the group was an offshoot of the King Family. Which told me nothing because I know little about them, too. Anyway it turns out the album is pretty good. Not great songwise, but it's got an appealing vintage sound. It's also pretty much forgotten -- there isn't even a listing for it on Discogs. But I think it's much better (in my opinion) than the other, more popular King Singers offshoot group the Four King Cousins, who got a CD reissue for their sole album, which was issued around the same time.

The Lonesome Rhodes - Sandy & Donna (1967)
A teenage country-folk duo! On a foreign pressing! On red vinyl! I have no idea how I ever got this rip to sound so clean, but it's probably not coming out on CD anytime soon so I'm glad I did.

Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
A compilation of rock bands from the days when Baltimore was a blue collar city and its working class kids were into prog and metal. Listening to these unknown bands from a long-gone era is like finding really cool never-worn vintage clothes at a flea market. Or something like that.

Silverspring - You Get What You Take (1980)
A DC band with a roots-rock fixation, Silverspring helped define the Americana scene (before such a term existed) and set the stage for Mary Chapin Carpenter, who was from their region. This one has never come out on CD because next to no one remembers this band even existed. The only reason I even know about Silverspring is because I happened to find this album at a DC-area record shop where it was in a discount bin, on the floor, way in the back, buried under the actual record racks. The things we do for music.

Various Artists - Waves of Sunshine (2015)
A collection of '60s music that straddles the line between surf and sunshine pop. I put this together before I even had a blog because I wanted to hear all these cuts in one place when I drove to the beach two summers ago (which I never did do, by the way). What do you call a combination of surf and sunshine pop, anyway? "Slop?"

Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974)
The first solo album by one of the leaders of the female-fronted folk-rock group Joy Of Cooking. It took several tries to find a decent pressing of this and several more tries to get a decent rip. But it all worked out in the end, and I actually play this more than the more popular Joy Of Cooking LPs.

So, that's a wrap for 2016. Come 2017, I don't know how long I'll be doing this blog. For one thing, I'm running out of things to post that fit my criteria of being out-of-print or just plain obscure. A lot of stuff I had prepared to post is now available on streaming sites. Whatever the case, thanks to everyone who reads this blog regularly, and an extra special thanks to all the regular commenters and people who have contributed music.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Various Artists - Hot Rod Hop

Same deal as before: It's out there somewhere, but not @320 with full graphics. This is another Buffalo Bop set, but instead of featuring rockabilly obscurities, it's filled with early rock'n'roll songs about cars -- as should be clear from its title. This collection dates from 1999 and is not to be confused with the 1992 Buffalo Bop release Hot Rod Gang.

There's some crossover here with the surf/drag music I posted earlier in the year -- specifically the cuts by the Shut Downs. If this is your thing, you might want to check out my posts from back in July, when I dedicated an entire month to rare surf and hot rod music.

Related posts:
Various Artists - Date Bait
Various Artists - Rockabilly Xmas
Various Artists - High School Caesar
Various Artists - Teenage Favorites

Track list:
1. Buddy Wayne - The Road Runner
2. Kenneth Hunt - Teenage Tease
3. The Eliminators - Move Out Lotus
4. The Burning Sticks - Hard Drivin' Man
5. Johnny Cates - Thunder
6. The Shut Downs - Four In The Floor
7. Hermy Herman - Hey Hot Rod
8. Sonny Cole - Curfew Cops
9. The Premiers - Daytona
10. Alexanders & The Greats - Hot Dang Mustang
11. The Sandells - Out Front
12. Garrett Williams - Motorcycle Millie
13. Don Pearly - Drag Race
14. Pilt Down Five - '32 Ford
15. Robert A. Irvine - Fastest Short In Town
16. William The Wild One - Willie The Wild One
17. Cookie Roberts - Draggin' The Drive-Inn's
18. The Burning Slicks - Midnight Drag
19. Bruce MacDonald - Drag Race Mama
20. Bill Hayes - Message From James Dean
21. The Manin Brothers - Hot Rod Susie
22. The Sportsmen - Hot Rod Hop
23. Terry Ray Bradley - Highway Robbery
24. Manual & The Renegades - Rev-Up
25. Tommy Payne - Fire Engine Red Bandanna
26. Johnny Redd - Take A Ride With Me
27. The Shut Downs - Beach Buggy
28. Robert Williams - Loud Mufflers
29. Tom Tall - Hot Rod Is Her Name
30. Wayne Cochran - Last Kiss

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Various Artists - Date Bait

Here's another Buffalo Bop set. Like virtually all the others, it collects up rare rockabilly sides from the '50s and early '60s. All of 'em came out on indie labels and none were hits. As with some of the other Buffalo Bop collections here, you can get it elsewhere, but not @ 320 with full graphics in high quality. This one came out in '95. Dig it, man.

Related posts:
Various Artists - Rockabilly Xmas
Various Artists - High School Caesar
Various Artists - Teenage Favorites

Track list:
1. Ron Haydock - 99 Chicks
2. Tennessee Thompson - Slippin & Slidin
3. Little Denny - The Flying Fish
4. Reggie Perkins - Date Bait Baby
5. Rudy Preston - Four Tired Car
6. Thomas Wayne - You're The One That Done It
7. Jack King - Dance Everybody
8. Jimmy Patrick - 20 Dollar Bills
9. Paul Perry - (I've Got a Girl Named) Dee
10. Howard Mayberry - This Just Can't Be Puppy Love
11. Tennessee Thompson - Saturday Ball
12. Henry Henry - Baggie Maggie
13. Don Winters - Pretty Moon
14. Lou Millet - Slip, Slip, Slippin' In
15. Vic Thomas - Rock and Roll Tonight
16. Smokey Armen - Baby What Am I Gonna Do
17. The Variatones - I'll Keep Lovin' You
18. B. Goode - Hokey Pokey Rock
19. Lou Millet - Shorty the Barber
20. Bob Dingus - Step It Up and Go
21. Bobby Smith - Bevy Mae
22. Jerry Clayton - Date Bait
23. Perk & the Flames - Stick Around
24. Tom King - Love You 'Cause I Love You
25. LaVerne Stovall - Left Behind
26. Gar Bacon - There's Gonna Be Rockin' Tonight
27. Bob Davies - Never Anymore
28. Bobby Smith - She's Gone From Me
29. Larry Smith - There's the Blues
30. The Chuck-A-Lucks - Disc Jockey Fever

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Various Artists - A Christmas Record (1981 Edition)

Exactly one year ago today, I posted the CD reissue of the ZE Christmas album -- a record filled with new wave and no wave eccentrics that's considered to be the first alternative holiday album ever. I said in that post that there were three editions of the album and all were out of print so I'd like to post 'em all if possible.

Well, thanks to the help of eagle-eyed reader "deGallo," it became possible. A little over a week ago I posted my own rip of the second edition of the album from 1982. When deGallo saw this, he directed me to a place I could get the super-rare 1981 version. I cleaned up some of the ticks and pops and am presenting it here in MP3 format. (If I ever get off DSL and can do uploads easier, I'll start putting out FLAC and/or WAV files as well. But I do a lot of listening in my car and can only play MP3's there, so I'm not too excited about other formats)

Anyway, the '81 edition of A Christmas Record is so rare that few people have ever seen it and when it does come up for sale it's usually in ratty condition.  But someone who calls themselves "okratejeff" did an excellent rip, so I'm happy to spread it far and wide here.

This version surprised me because I had no idea that the song by Material with Nona Hendryx, "It's A Holiday," was presented in a much longer version at 7:13. It was edited down to 3:19 for both subsequent editions. Beyond that, the 1981 LP has an early version of Cristina's tragicomic "Things Fall Apart," with a different vocal, less guitar and backing vocals, and a closing line that got changed when Christina re-sang the song (both versions share the basic rhythm track, however).

Also unique to this edition is Alan Vega's "No More Christmas Blues," which wasn't on the second edition but made it onto the CD. However it sounds like they added percussive elements to it there. The same goes for Charlélie Couture's "Christmas Fever," where it sounds like sleigh bells were either added or mixed way, way up for the CD.

If you really like this stuff, you have to get all three versions because there are songs unique to each one. The 1981 edition has the early version of "Things Fall Apart," the long version of Material's "It's A Holiday," and Charlélie Couture's "Christmas Fever;" the 1982 version has the Three Courgettes' "Christmas Is Coming;" and the CD has Lisi's "My Silent Night," Miss OD & Gentleman League's "Bells of Christmas," and Lio, Helena Noguerra & Marie France's "Sleigh Ride."

For more on this, check out my old posts. I can only write about the same thing so many times before people start thinking I'm crazy, obsessive, or all of the above.

Related posts:
Various Artists - A Christmas Record (Vinyl Edition, 1982) 
Various Artists - ZE Christmas Record Reloaded (2004)

Track list:
1. Material With Nona Hendryx - It's A Holiday
2. August Darnell - Christmas On Riverside Drive
3. Charlélie Couture - Christmas Fever
4. Suicide - Hey Lord
5. Cristina - Things Fall Apart
6. The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping
7. Was (Not Was) - Christmas Time In The Motor City
8. Alan Vega - No More Christmas Blues
9. Davitt Sigerson - It's A Big Country

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Rock-afire Explosion - Disco Christmas (1982)

The Rock-afire Explosion was an "animatronic" robot band that played in the now-defunct Showbiz Pizza Place chain, which I'm pretty sure was mostly a Midwestern thing. They sure didn't have them on the East Coast, unless I totally missed it.

Anyway, the "group," such as it was, developed a cult following over the years. I happened to have a copy of their Disco Christmas EP and didn't see it anywhere else on the Web, so here it is. This one is definitely meant for kids -- there are silly voices, campy arrangements, etc. But it's entertaining in its own way.

If anyone wants to know more about the Rock-afire explosion, I'd suggest checking out the documentary that was made back in 2008. It takes a close look at both the group and it's fan base and is YouTube -- for the time being, anyway.

Related posts:
The Marty Gold Children's Chorus - Songs From 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' and Other Children's Christmas Songs (1973)
The Kid Stuff Repertory Company - A Disco Christmas (1979)

Track list:
1. Disco Christmas
2. In December
3. If Every Day Were Like Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2016

Various Artists - Yuletide Long Ago - Christmas in the Early 1900s (1904-24)

A few days ago I posted a holiday album for kids. Here's one for the old folks. The very old folks. Actually, not too many people who are around today would be old enough to remember these recordings, some of which pre-date the vinyl era and go all the way back to the days of the phonograph cylinder.

I know little about this era and didn't put this one together. It dates back to 2012 and I came across it somehow, but I don't remember where. If anyone out there wants to claim credit, just write in and I'll amend this post to give you full credit. There's definitely some interesting stuff here. With that in mind, I did contribute a few things, like looking up all the songwriting credits and figuring out which songs exactly were contained in the medleys. I also remade the cover because the original didn't fit in the square slot.

After listening to this music for a while, the feeling you get becomes less about the music and more about technology. These recordings sound ancient, but they're only 100 years old, which is a drop in the bucket when it comes to human evolution. If we've progressed this far in a century, what's in store 100 years from now? Hopefully not more smartphones.

Track list:
1. Ernest Hare - Santa Claus Hides in the Phonograph (Excerpt) (1922)
2. Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra - Parade of the Wooden Soldiers - Foxtrot 1923)
3. The Metropolitan Quartet - Christmas, Christmas, Blessed, Blessed Day (1917)
4. The Venetian Trio - Noel Holy Night (O Holy Night) (1916)
5. The Peerless Quartet - On a Good Old-Time Sleigh Ride (1913)
6. Robert Gayler - Christmas Bells (1919)
7. The Victor Herbert Orch. - Chinese Dance/Dance of the Mirilitons from The Nutcracker (1913)
8. The Edison Concert Band - Bells Of Christmas (1913)
9. Albert Whelan - Scrooge’s Awakening (Excerpt) (1904)
10. The Collegiate Choir - Christmas Carol Medley (1924)
11. Francis J. Lapitino - Christmas Hymns - Selection (1917)
12. The Columbia Quartet - Snow Time (1911)
13. Ernest Hare - Santa Claus Hides in the Phonograph (Excerpt 2) (1922)
14. The Shannon Quartet - Jingle Bells (1925)
15. The Hayden Quartet - Silent Night, Hallowed Night (1909)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hilary Duff - Santa Claus Lane (Revised 2003 Edition)

The short version: This is a surprisingly great album.

The long version: After trying (and failing) to enjoy modern-day seasonal efforts by the likes of Jessica Simpson, Wilson Phillips, and many others, I picked this up on deep discount expecting a fiasco. Boy was I wrong. Not only is this better than those CDs, but I find it more consistently interesting and playable than some holiday albums that received far more critical acclaim.

I know next to nothing about Hilary Duff. I never watched "Lizzie McGuire" or followed the gossip rags that used to always cover her and Lindsay Lohan a decade ago. But I know this much: Duff can definitely sing. And she sings the heck out of the songs here.

On top of that, the arrangements are energetic, and the whole package has a sound and feel that captures the spirit of the season and of being a teenager around Christmas. Sometimes music becomes more than just the sum of vocals, instruments, and production values. When these elements meld together just right, they can paint you a mental picture of a specific time and place. This record, to me, captures the sunny-day-carefree-high-school vibe better than almost anything since the early Beach Boys.

Before I researched this album, I had no idea that it was Hilary Duff's debut release and that it came out when she was just fifteen. I knew her hit "So Yesterday" and always assumed that preceded this. Judging by how assured her singing is on this CD, this doesn't sound like a debut album, which makes it all the more impressive.

So why did I expect a disaster? Because of a poorly-thought out and misleading review by former Creem writer Jaan Uhelzeki. The review is on and is also quoted in this album's Wikipedia entry and would deter most people from listening to this record.

It calls Duff's rendition of traditional songs "sugarcoated, like everything else on this pop-light album" and goes on to say her versions add "little to the holiday music canon." Wrong. That "sugar-coating" is exactly what you want from a holiday record. The holidays are supposed to be about fun and joy, after all. What kind of an album was Uhelzeki expecting? Joy Division To the World? Jolly Old St. Nick Drake?

But beyond that, Duff and her producers do, in fact, bring quite a bit to the holiday music canon. Their version of "Sleigh Ride" adds a jazzy twist to the chord changes and a snappy, syncopated groove to the backbeat. They also wrote a new hook for "Jingle Bell Rock" and this addition makes the old warhorse go from tired to wired. By the way, both that hook and the song's arrangement sound inspired by Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" -- always a good thing.

Best of all, Duff and company turn one of the worst Christmas songs of all time into one of the best covers ever. The song in question is Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christimastime," which I've never thought was very inspired. Here, they revved it up pop-punk style and it suddenly becomes a really catchy tune. Part of the reason for that is that Duff or her producers once again compose a catchy new hook that brings the tune to life. Anyone who can take one of my least favorite songs and get me turning up the volume gets points in my book.

And speaking of volume, one of the main attractions of this record is the way Duff and company aren't afraid to actually rock out, as opposed to making one of those respectable-but-boring Christmas records. Originals like "Santa Claus Lane" and "When the Snow Comes To Tinseltown" might be silly, but they work because they have real enthusiasm which, again, reminds me of the early Beach Boys (i.e. "Drive-In," "No-Go Showboat," etc.).

Conversely, Duff also knows when to lay back and ride out a groove. On "Jingle Bell Rock" and the cover of Wham's "Last Christmas" she sounds like a kid with a good voice who basically sat down to sing some tunes she really liked. In taking this approach, she avoids the pretentious style of over-singing that mars the work of Jessica Simpson, Mariah, and others. Duff's youthful voice also works in her favor. An older performer might have sounded ridiculous singing a batch of Santa-related numbers, but the timbre of Duff's vocals match the tenor of the tunes.

When this album was released in 2002 it was a relative flop and just scraped the bottom of the album charts. They record company definitely expected bigger things, so they revamped it and relaunched it the next year, adding in a new rock-tinged opening number "What Christmas Should Be."

It's this updated version of the album that I've posted here because judging from the reviews, it looks like most people are familiar with the the original 2002 edition. Since you can find both versions selling for less than a dollar, I'm pretty sure it qualifies as being out-of-print.

This is the story of my life: I love an album but the public says "No thanks!" Once again, I don't understand the tastes of the American people. But if I did, then I wouldn't have ever felt the need to let the world know my musical tastes through this blog.

Related posts (sort of):
The Rock-afire Explosion - Disco Christmas (1982)

Track list:
1. What Christmas Should Be
2. Santa Claus Lane
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
4. I Heard Santa On The Radio
5. Jingle Bell Rock
6. When The Snow Comes Down In Tinseltown
7. Sleigh Ride
8. Tell Me A Story (About The Night Before)
9. Last Christmas
10. Same Old Christmas
11. Wonderful Christmastime

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Various Artists - Rockabilly Xmas

Here's the Buffalo Bop collection that brings together a bunch of obscure rockabilly Christmas tunes. Yes, you can get it elsewhere on the Web. But can you get it @320 with the complete cover art in high quality? Didn't think so.

This collection is made up a bunch of '50s and early '60s indie recirds that didn't even come close to being hits or standards but are lots of fun to listen to today. The German folks at Buffalo Bop put 'em together to create one of their many collections. If y'all are good this year, Santa might just bring you more of this stuff after the holidays.

By the way, this is from the year 2000 but I didn't put the date in the headline. That's deliberate. Back in November, I mentioned I wouldn't put dates on compilations of vintage stuff, because I don't want it to look like this is music from the year 2000 and lure in people who are expecting Britney Spears or NSYNC something. How would they ever handle Three Aces & A Joker?!

Related posts:
Various Artists - High School Caesar
Various Artists - Teenage Favorites

Track list:
1. Three Aces & A Joker - Sleigh Bell Rock
2. Tommy Lee & The Orbits - Jingle Rock
3. Chuck Blevins - Sleigh Bell Rock
4. Cordell Jackson - Rock And Roll Christmas
5. Barry & The Highlights - Xmas Bell Rock
6. Mark Anthony And The Elfs - Mama's Twistin' With Santa
7. The Moods - Rockin' Santa Claus
8. Little Joey Farr - Rock 'N' Roll Santa
9. Barry Richards - Baby Sittin' Santa
10. Sonny Cole - Santa To The Moon
11. Joe Poovey - Santa's Helper
12. Ral Donner - Christmas Day
13. Cathy Sharpe - North Pole Rock
14. Vel Mares - Jingle Bells
15. The Outlaws - Run, Rudolph, Run
16. Big Bud - Rock Around The Christmas Tree
17. Charlie Stewart - Santa Claus Won't Come This Year
18. Lilian Briggs - Rock N' Roll Polly Santa Claus
19. Jody Levins - Jingle Bell Boogie
20. Marguerite Trina - The Rocking Tree
21. Johnny Preston - (I Want A) Rock And Roll Guitar
22. The Four Imperials - Santa's Got A Coupe de Ville
23. The Uniques - Rock' 'N' Rudolph
24. Jerry Clayton - Santa Claus
25. Marlene Paul - I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis
26. The Boys Next Door - The Wildest Christmas
27. The Episodes - The Christmas Tree
28. Johnny Preston - New Baby For Christmas
29. The Sportsmen - Reindeer Rock
30. Little Joey Farr - Big White Cadillac

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Kid Stuff Repertory Company - A Disco Christmas (1979)

There is almost no information on the Kid Stuff Repertory Company online, so I don't exactly know the history behind this release. But from what little info I can gather, the musical group was an independent project put together in the '70s to make albums designed for very young children.

In the days before entertainers like Sharon, Lois & Bram and Raffi made singing for kids big business, this group was releasing records on their own Kid Stuff label. What kind of records? Well, they had albums ranging from The Story Of Jack & The Beanstalk ‎to an LP titled My Birthday Record to (get this) a kid-friendly version of Sergeant (SIC) Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

By the end of the '70s they were doing cover versions of albums like Saturday Night Fever, which throws into question why parents just couldn't buy Saturday Night Fever (or Sgt. Pepper, for that matter) for their kids in the first place. Since the group's releases in 1977 and 1978 included the Sound of Christmas and Disco Dance Party, I guess it was only natural they combined the two and did a disco Christmas record the next year.

Never mind that disco had pretty much died that summer. The fabled Disco Demolition Night happened well past the bedtime of this group's core audience.

As disco-fied albums go, this one isn't bad, actually. It sounds like a bunch of acoustic-oriented '70s hippies who simply added a thumping backbeat to their arrangements. A few of the songs don't even qualify as disco: "Jingle Bell Rock" retains its shuffle groove; "Frosty the Snowman" sound country; and "Sleigh Ride" comes off as bouncy lite rock.

If this appeals to you, I suggest seeking out the Salsoul Orchestra's Christmas Jollies from '76 or Mirror Image's Disco Noel from '79, both of which can be found elsewhere online. If you're gonna go disco for Christmas, why go all in?

Track list:
1. Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer
2. Jingle Bells
3. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
4. Frosty The Snowman
5. Sleigh Ride
6. Jingle Bells Rock
7. White Christmas
8. The Twelve Days Of Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2016

Various Artists - The Songs Debbie Gibson Gave Away (1988-92)

Believe it or not, today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Debbie Gibson's first single, "Only In My Dreams." The song first came out Dec. 16, 1986 in its original 12" single format, with the 7" single following in Feb. 1987 and her debut album that summer. It's hard to believe this single is now 30 years old, because I have memories of various Beatle albums turning 20 and that seeming like a long time.

There are two ways to deal with this. 1). I can sit around and lament the passing years, fading youth, and lost opportunities or; 2). I can do something constructive, like put together a collection of rare Gibson songs in celebration of this occasion.

Clever readers might note that doing #2 is actually a way of indulging in the nostalgia inherent in choice #1. But we'll just ignore that conundrum and instead concentrate on the matter at hand, which is this set of eleven songs Debbie Gibson wrote but never officially released (although demo versions of two songs slipped out on her Memory Lane collections ten years ago).

This collection brings these lost Gibson tracks together in the style of an old Beatles-related album I once owned called The Songs Lennon & McCartney Gave Away. Compiling it wasn't easy since a lot of these recordings are seriously obscure. So I want to give a shout-out to fellow Debbie Gibson fan "Scott from Australia," who provided high-quality versions of the rarer cuts.

To start from the top: When Debbie Gibson began her recording career at age 16, she wanted to be more than just a performer. She also hoped to be taken seriously as a composer and have her songs recorded by other artists, a la Lennon-McCartney. According to the autobiographical book she co-wrote in 1989, "Between the Lines," Gibson tried to place "Who Loves Ya Baby" with Olivia Newton-John and "Over the Wall" with Madonna. She didn't have much luck (see book excerpt at right). Both ended up on her Electric Youth album.

Back in the '80s, youth wasn't the asset it is today in the music biz. To an established older artist, performing a song by a teenager looked shallow and silly, because that's how Baby Boomers thought of the teens that came after them. (Of course, once their own kids became teens, then teenagers started to be worshiped as Little Gods, but I digress.)

To take the other side, it's understandable why adults might have passed on Gibson songs, because on some level, they do come off shallow and silly. But as with Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, once you get past the commercially-oriented lyrics, you often find fantastic melodies and arrangements. In any case, what adult singers passed up, teen artists gladly accepted. To a struggling, upstart young singer, receiving a song from a proven hitmaker like Gibson must have seemed like a gift from heaven.

Unfortunately, sometimes heaven isn't so heavenly after all. Some of the song Gibson donated were so-so, and a few are probably embarrassments to Gibson today. Can't win 'em all. For all her songwriting efforts, Gibson never landed a hit song with an outside artist, which is the kind of things that helped make Lennon-McCartney such a brand name. Had she scored a hit as a songwriter, that might have changed the game for her and extended her own run as a Top 40 artist.

Still, some of these cuts are truly great and the best of the batch were performed by teen dance artist Ana on her second album, Body Language, from 1990. "Everytime We Say Goodbye" and "Friendly," both boast first-rate Gibson melodies in the mold of the pop-rock songs on Electric Youth. Better still, Ana (who was one of New Kids on the Block manager-producer Maurice Starr's acts) is a fantastic singer and really puts the songs across.

Gibson produced the Ana tracks herself, and you can even hear her (uncredited) vocals on "Everytime We Say Goodbye" at 1:32 and on "Friendly" starting at 2:30 and again at 3:40 through the end. Also, is it me or is the lyric of "Friendly" an uncharacteristic wish for a one-night stand? Maybe Gibson gave this song away because it didn't fit the squeaky-clean image she had at the time (the Playboy pictorial would come much later).

Obscure Australian singer Jo Beth Taylor also sounds uncannily Gibson-eqeue on a pair of songs that also work really well: The super-catchy shuffle "Worth My Time" and the funky declaration of individuality "Everyone's Not Me." Thematically, the latter is sort of a sister song to "We Could Be Together" from Electric Youth. Gibson also produced these tracks and they come off as well as the Ana tunes.

Two of the other songs done by Taylor, "Have Things Changed" and "The Ways Of Our World," fall into the so-so category. The first is "The Ways Of Our World," a big ballad that has a great chorus but bland verses. It also features Gibson herself on backing vocals if I'm not mistaken. The song is a bit too politically heavy-handed for my tastes, but I do like the way Gibson's sassy lyric trashes the Lotto (?!) and mindless TV watching, two of my own pet peeves.

On a completely different note, Japanese singer Reimy rocks the hell out of the Miami-styled high-NRG dance tune "Speed Of Light." Gibson didn't produce this one, but arranger Trevor Veitch does right by her hyped-up chord changes. This song, by the way, provides an example as to why I like Gibson so much as an artist. Few songwriters can compose convincing club tunes then turn around and pen hook-filled pop-rock in the vein of Billy Joel...especially at age 16.

That said, several of the other tunes don't fare as well, like "Ton Of Bricks," which was done by the Party, a teen group that evolved out of the TV show "The New Mickey Mouse Club." In the liner notes to her demos collection, Memory Lane Volume 2, Gibson wrote that she didn't like the way this song was handled on that album. The Party's albums are actually pretty good, but this song just doesn't work the way they did it. It was much better the way Gibson originally performed it as a sort of pseudo-'50s rocker.

Then there's the forays into rap. As a rule, whenever someone raps in a Gibson song there's trouble ahead. While Gibson could write '80s freestyle dance songs with the best of 'em, she had less luck attempting to emulate the harder hip hop grooves that dominated radio in the early 1990s. That's evident on Chris Cuevas' "Hip Hop" and Jo Beth Taylor's "Snatched Down," both of which are amusing but go nowhere.

"Hip Hop" was produced by mixmaster Jellybean Benitex and co-written by S. Andrew Zulla who went on to mix songs for Kelly Clarkson, Rod Stewart, and others. So you'd think it would have some panache, but no dice. As for "Snatched Down," the implicit sexual innuendo of the title is never realized; the lyric is about the way girls and guys dress not the, um, female body part.

Speaking of female bodies (yes, I went there), the concluding track by Jennifer Love Hewitt, is no great shakes either. Hewitt sings with no feeling and her voice is unpleasant. This cut, by the way, was co-written by Gibson and the album's producer, Bob Etoll. He gets primary credit on the album and, not surprisingly, this sounds very little like a Gibson composition.

So add this to all the other Debbie Gibson rarities collections I've put out on this blog. The eleven tunes here play like a "Great Lost Debbie Gibson" album from the golden era when we were all young and hitting the clubs, and our biggest complain was that the 7-Eleven was out of cherry-flavored Slurpees, but it turned out not to really be a problem because when you went to complain there was a total hottie working the register and you got her phone number, and...

Sorry, I'm digressing into nostalgia again. Track details and release dates are inside. I'll sign off before I become the blogging version of Uncle Rico, obsessing over the long-gone 1980s and what could have been.

Related posts:
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999) 
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991)

Track list:
1. Reimy -Speed Of Light
2. The Party - Ton Of Bricks
3. Ana - Everytime We Say Goodbye
4. Ana - Friendly
5. Jo Beth Taylor - Worth My Time
6. Jo Beth Taylor - Snatched Down
7. Jo Beth Taylor - Have Things Changed
8. Jo Beth Taylor - Everyone's Not Me
9. Jo Beth Taylor - The Ways Of Our World
10. Chris Cuevas - Hip Hop
11. Jennifer Love Hewitt - Bedtime Stories

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sy Mann - Switched On Santa (1969)

Never released on CD, this holiday-oriented early synthesizer album has become a cult favorite since it came out in 1969 on the budget-line Pickwick label. It's been online before, but the old rip was defective: All the songs on the original Side 2 (tracks 7-13) had a "wobble" to them, as if the source record was warped or pressed off-center. To my knowledge, this marks the first time it's being circulated in good quality, with no damage to the songs on Side 2.

At this point a lot of people might be thinking to themselves: "All that's nice. But what the heck is this, anyway?!" Switched On Santa is subtitled  "The Moog Synthesizer Plays the Merriest of Christmas Melodies" and is one of those early Moog synthesizer records like Switched-On Bach, Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog, or George Harrison's Electronic Sound. Back in the old days, these records were made to show how the Moog was more than just a novelty toy.

That's sort of ironic, because listening to them now, the synth sounds like...a novelty toy. That's especially apparent on an LP I posted last year, the Moog Machine's Christmas Becomes Electric. That album is sort of a sister record to this one.

Switched On Santa, however, is a bit more sophisticated. It features performances by studio musician Sy Mann along with arrangements and engineering by French electronic music pioneer Jean Jacques-Perrey (who had a minor hit in 1970 with a cool instrumental titled "Passport to the Future"). According to the liner notes, some Clavinet and Cembalet sounds are heard along with the synths. A note to the grammar fanatics: there is no hypen between the words "switched" and "on" in this title, unlike with "Switched-On Bach." Yes, it's incorrect, but that's their title, so that's how I left it.

One final thing. There's been some confusion as to whether this album came out in 1969 or 1970. Usually the place to go to confirm release dates is Billboard magazine's online archives, but there's no record of this album (heh) there. That's probably because they didn't list budget label LPs as part of their "New Release" listings. However, a four-track single was released in conjunction with the album and according to 45Cat, that came out in Nov. 1969. So I'm calling a 1969 release for this album. For it to be 1970, they'd have had to hold the release up until after Christmas. And that would kind of defeat the whole purpose of recording it to begin with.

Related posts:
The Moog Machine - Christmas Becomes Electric (1969)
The Marty Gold Children's Chorus - Songs From 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' (1973)
Various Artists - Long Lost '60s Christmas (2015)

Track list:
1. Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer
2. Jingle Bells
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
4. Tijuana Christmas
5. My Favorite Things
6. The Little Drummer Boy
7. Christmas Bells
8. White Christmas
9. Joy To The World
10. When Christmas Comes
11. Angels We Have Heard On High
12. Silent Night
13. What Child Is This

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Various Artists - A Christmas Record (Vinyl Edition, 1982)

Last year during the holiday season, I posted the 2004 CD reissue of ZE Records' classic Christmas album (cover image at right). that post, I pointed out that the sound on the CD -- which was retitled ZE Christmas Record Reloaded -- was awful. I  also said that if I got the chance I'd do a rip of the superior vinyl edition, since I own a mint copy of it.

Well, I got the chance. So here is a super-pristine rip of the 1982 version of the album. (There was also a 1981 edition of the LP -- see my original post for full details). If you do a side-by-side comparison between this and the 2004 edition, you'll hear that the sound on the CD reissue was overly compressed and poorly EQ'd. It sounds "squashed." ZE Records did this with a bunch of their reissues, such as the albums by Cristina (not a typo - there is no "h" in her name). So I've been doing rips from the vinyl. Such is life.

However...if you like this album you do, in fact, have to hear that 2004 CD, because it has a bunch of songs that aren't on either vinyl version. One of the things they all have in common, though, is the popular track by the Waitresses,' "Christimas Wrapping," but I can guarantee you it sounds better on vinyl.

Just to recap for the uninitiated: ZE Records was an artsy New York-based "no wave" indie label that spawned a host of eccentric acts, most of whom were ahead of their time (i.e. Cristina was like an early arthouse version of Madonna). In 1981, the label got some of their artists to submit songs for a proposed Christmas album. The Waitresses scored an unexpected breakout seasonal hit with their tune. The label then proceeded to re-release the LP in different forms in '82 and 2004. Again, refer back to my original post for more info.

All versions of the album are now out of print. This includes the original '81 version, which I've never seen in good condition. If someone can locate that one, let me know and then we can get all three on this blog and have good tidings, good cheer, and all that.

Related posts:
Cristina - Cristina (Vinyl Edition, 1980)
Cristina - Sleep It Off (Vinyl Edition, 1984)
Various Artists - ZE Christmas Record Reloaded (2004)

Track list:
1. Cristina - Things Fall Apart (New Improved Lyrics)
2. Suicide - Hey Lord
3. The Three Courgettes - Christmas Is Coming
4. James White - Christmas With Satan
5. The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping
6. August Darnell - Christmas On Riverside Drive
7. Material featuring Nona Hendryx - It's A Holiday
8. Was (Not Was) - Christmas Time In The Motor City
9. Davitt Sigerson - It's A Big Country

Monday, December 12, 2016

Angel Tucciarone - If We Saw Him (1975)

This is a tale of obsession.

But it's not a story about being infatuated with a woman, or with money, or with anything typical like that. As you might expect from this blog, it's about being preoccupied with a song -- specifically, a song from this super-obscure religious album.

This is a Christian album, not a Christmas album. But...since my quest for this album came to an end at Christmas time of the year 2012, I thought telling that story might make for a fun, festive holiday tale -- especially since it ends with a moral. Yes, I'm a regular Charlie Dickens, people. Or is it closer to Charlie Brown? Either way, this is also my official way to ring in the holidays on this blog, where I'll be featuring seasonal sounds on and off for the next week or so.


Angel Tucciarone is a singer-songwriter who who wrote Christian songs that some of the hipper Catholics used to sing in church during the "folk masses" back in the 1970s and '80s. I was raised Catholic and it was through the church that I first came across her songs. But my relationship with her music goes a little deeper than that.

When I was in my early teens, I was drafted to be the resident guitarist at my school's church. It wasn't a hard decision for them to make. They had no music program and I was the only kid who played an instrument.

So I used to play in church every Sunday strumming the accompaniment to songs by Tucciarone as well as other Christian faves, like the St. Louis Jesuits. People who know me are always surprised by this, since there are few people in the world less religious than me. It's not that I'm atheist. It's just that I find anyone who thinks they know "the answer" as stunningly arrogant at best or badly deluded at worst. I've felt this way since I was a kid and started many an argument with my Catholic parents because of it. But that's the way it is.

(True story and major digression: When I was a teenager and nearly died of a lung ailment in a hospital I.C.U., a priest appeared and interrupted the doctors to ask if I wanted a "blessing." Whaaaattt? This infuriated me. I asked him to leave, much to the horror of my parents. I simply could not comprehend why a religious figure would be present at a MEDICAL scene. For "comfort?" I don't think so. If anything, it made me uncomfortable. If you wanna comfort a teenage boy who can't breathe, send in a stunningly hot redhead respiratory therapist who'll run her fingers all over his body, day after day. Wait, they did that! So, there you have it: God really does work in mysterious ways. Anyway, so much for the idea that "everyone" finds God when they're in a metaphorical foxhole. I didn't. But I digress.)

Getting back to reality, the question is: Why did I perform in church if I could care less about religion? Because the rule was that if I wanted to play guitar in my parents' house, then I had to also play in church. Only then would my folks allow me to practice the guitar, since they strongly discouraged my interest in music.

When I say "strongly discouraged," I'm actually understating things. In the classic tradition of suburban parents, my folks were convinced that rock music would lead to my failure in school and eventual failure in life. Too much strumming resulted in my dad stomping up to my room and going into one of his tirades about my lack of a "lifetime plan" -- which I was apparently supposed to have by age 13. (Another sidenote: The phrase "lifetime plan" is used in an annoying Little River Band song. To this day, I will not listen to that song, ever. I hate that song and that band.)

So I needed to a reason to justify playing guitar and "I need to practice for church, dad!" became my refrain when I got "caught" with my Epiphone acoustic the way other kids get caught with heroin. Since most of my efforts went into concealing my rock'n'roll playing from my parents, I barely paid attention to the simple church tunes I'd perform.

This, ironically enough, would prove a problem, when it came to locating this very album. And that's the reason for me writing this long, involved post about growing up. My gig at the Catholic church ended when I went away to college. Pretty soon I'd pretty much forgotten about all that church music.


Until two decades later, in 2005.

This is where the story gets interesting -- or weird as hell, depending on your point-of-view. Sometime in '05, a jaunty little hook from one of the old church songs mysteriously became lodged in my head:

"This bread which is your body/this wine which is your blood..."

I don't know what caused this to happen. By then I had a massive record collection and maybe one of the zillions of songs I knew reminded me of it. I usually have excellent recall when it comes to music, but this time...I couldn't figure out where this song fragment came from!!

I knew I remembered it from church, but didn't know which old song it was from. I'm not in touch with the nuns who used to run the masses (in fact, they barely tolerated me) nor anyone from the old Catholic school (where I barely lasted a year) so ringing up the Ghosts of Churches Past was out of the question. My parents and I now get along (and have even learned to accept and perhaps even enjoy music-related diatribes like this one), so I asked them. But they don't have encyclopedic memories for old songs. Few people do.

And thus began one of the major musical quests of my life.

As time rolled on, I gradually started to recall a few other phrases from the song. So I began Googling them. This went on for a period of years. (OK, OK, so maybe I do have a freakishly unhealthy obsession with music. And maybe there was a reason for all those talks about "lifetime plans." I still hate the Little River Band, though.)

After about four years (yes, four years), one of the phrases I remembered, "Unites Us All Together As One," came up as a song title. Finally! It was mentioned on a Christian music blog called The Ancient Star Song, which had the title listed as part of an album by an artist named Angel Tucciarone. So I'd finally hit paydirt. Time to celebrate, right?

Wrong. I soon came to realize that my search was only beginning. There was very little info about Tucciarone online. It also turned out that the album was long out of print. Furthermore, it was never issued on CD. Worst of all, it wasn't for sale anywhere. I was stuck. End of part one. Fade to black.


A few more years went by. Lots of events happened in my life. My wife and I split up and we sold our old house. I got a job writing for a major network's Web site. I got a book deal. I finished the book. But still I couldn't find this dang album! So I decided to take action. I went back to that blog with the idea that I'd write the blog owner and ask him or her about it. I can't remember whether I did this. But what I do remember is that I noticed someone had commented on the LP at the blog. So I decided to search him out.

There was no way to reach him through the blog, so I started Googling his username. That took me to another Christian blog where he regularly commented. And so -- irony of ironies -- I found myself actually joining a Christian blog just so I could send this guy a message. The teenage me would not have condoned that sort of behavior. But desperate times call for desperate measures and all that.

Yes, all of this was bizarre. Yes, it was strange. But I was after a GREAT song that I really wanted to hear. So that justifies everything. Priorities, people!

(Very) luckily for me, the guy who had commented on this LP didn't get put off by me tracking him down across the Web. It probably helped that I was able to show him some official "music writer" credentials from the aforementioned network and book deal. (The "lifetime plan" had, in fact, worked out in my favor. Sometimes our "flaws" are really our strengths. More on this later.)

And so it came to pass that at Christmas time 2012 he sent me a copy of this album in MP3 form. What made this even more amusing is the fact that he lived in England and sent it from halfway around the globe. For that, I'm eternally grateful. It only took seven years for searching, but a Christmas miracle had finally come my way...even if I was the one who willed the "miracle" into existence in the first place.

But very few things turn out perfectly in life and to my dismay I discovered that the rip I received was dubbed from a cassette and sounded wobbly and dull. Bummer. But not to worry. Over the years I'd developed my skills as a digital audio editor. They've gotten pretty good and I think most people who have heard my clean-sounding LP rips would agree. So I took some time to restore the sound on this album until I felt it was presentable.

And here it is.

For me, this was worth the effort because I think the jaunty, catchy "United Us All Together As One" is an absolutely fantastic tune -- all 1:27 of it. But there are other great songs here as well, especially the pensive "He Is Here Among Us," which we also used to play in church. I also like the title track a lot.

According to and MusicStack, this was the only album Tucciarone ever recorded. Wonder why? At least four of these songs were performed regularly at the folk masses, so people definitely took to her writing. I also think some of the songs here are better than a lot of the other dreary hymns the congregation was forced to endure. There's more info about the artist on the back cover, which is readable thanks to a big scan I grabbed from the aforementioned blog.


And so, this long and winding "Alice's Restaurant"-styled tale will end with a moral. There always has to be a moral, doesn't there? You can take the boy out of the Catholic church, but you can't take the Catholic church out of the boy. Wait, that's not the moral.

One of the lessons of this story might be "persistence pays off." But since I made my living my entire adult life as an arts and entertainment writer I think the real moral should be: "Allow your kids to develop their quirky interests because that just might be their calling in life."

I would also strongly urge everyone -- especially parents -- to read a book by Harvard scholar Steven Pinker called "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature." It's a long book, but worth the effort because he presents a scientific case that who were are is largely determined by our genes, not our environment.

So if you're a parent, quit thinking you can bang square pegs into round holes. No amount of parenting, for example, could have turned George Harrison into George Bush and it's a good thing no one tried that. And don't listen to teachers, nuns, or any of the useless parade of "counselors" (gag) who tell you that you can do such things. You'll just be wasting your time and energy and, worst of all, squandering any good will between you and your kids.

As Pinker writes: "The theory that parents can mold their children like clay has inflicted childrearing regimes on parents that are unnatural and sometimes cruel."

Whatever the lessons to be learned, this album is something none of us would have heard anywhere else had I not indulged my obsession of song that I just could not get out of my head. It's such a happy ending it almost makes you want to end with a line like "God bless us, every one!" Almost.

Track list:
1. Celebrate Life
2. Somethin' Happened Today
3. He Is Here Among Us
4. Prayer To Our Father
5. O Lord
6. Be Aware
7. If We Saw Him
8. Peace To All
9. Promise Of Salvation
10. When We Eat This Bread
11. Hosanna In the Highest
12. When We Eat This Bread

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nina Schultz - Nina Schultz (1982 EP)

This is more or less a quick stopgap post for before I start posting holiday stuff. This eleven-minute EP was never exactly popular, but it's become even more of an obscurity in the past half decade. It's still never been reissued on CD and the old links to it have long since disappeared. So here it is again.

Nina Schultz was a singer from Berlin, German singer who seems to have only ever released one record, which is this one. It's a new wave effort and it's commonly referred to as the "Ice Cold Eyes EP" after its most popular song. But it's actually a self-titled effort.

The record labels credit one G. Meijer as having penned all the songs. I quick look through reveals him to be Gerrit Meijer, who was the guitarist in Schulz's band and then went onto play with the German punk band PVC.

I like this stuff, even if I can't find any information on it. It reminds me a bit of some of the no wave music that came out of New York around the same time period. I'm also partial to women who sing with foreign accents, which probably came out of my growing up hearing a lot of Astrud Gilberto -- an artist I still listen to today.

Track list:
1. Ice Cold Eyes
2. That's Alright By Me
3. Russian Roulette
4. How Do You

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kingfish - Live 'N' Kickin' (1977)

Kingfish has been called a Grateful Dead offshoot band but that's not really the case. The group was started in 1973 by two members of New Riders of the Purple Sage, guitarist and harmonica player Matt Kelly and the late bassist Dave Torbert.

It was only after they'd gotten the band together that they were joined by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. And that's where the story gets interesting.

For their self-titled debut LP, which came out in '76, Weir brought them a song suite that would become a staple of the Dead's live repertoire: "Lazy Lightning/Supplication." These songs were played hundreds of times live. Decades later, when newbie Deadheads went back to figure out where they'd originated, many were befuddled as to why Weir brought them to this obscure band's first album and not a Dead album like Blues For Allah -- which could have used those songs.

In fact, the Dead's studio albums would have been a lot stronger had Weir and Jerry Garcia not consistently put their best songs on side projects and solo records instead of Dead albums. What were they thinking? The tales of internal struggles and solo record deals are too detailed for me to map out here. But if you want to know the full story, I'd recommend buying the book "The Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left To Know About the World's Greatest Jam Band."

As most readers of this blog know, I'm big on pushing this book because the author is the reason for all the out-of-print Dead rarities that have been posted here. This album is another one of those. Most hardcore Deadheads don't even know it exists. Unlike that first Kingfish album, this one has never been released on CD, which is odd because it came out on a bigger label, Jet Records. Kingfish's debut (which got to #50) had been released on the Dead's own Round Records imprint, which folded shortly thereafter.

Live 'N' Kickin' was Kingfish's follow-up to the aforementioned debut. Putting out a live LP as a second album was clearly a way to cash in on the involvement of Weir, who would soon return to the Dead full-time. But even with that it's still a decent album if you enjoy this kind of meat-and-potatoes rock'n'roll. It almost made the Top 100, which is actually not bad considering Weir appears on it even less than he does on that first record.

Here, Weir sings the closing track, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around." That's it. That wasn't even much of a novelty in '77, because the Dead had just released a live version on the 1976 album Steal Your Face. It's even less of a novelty now, since you can go to and hear virtually all of the 418 (yes, 418) performances the Dead did of this song.

But that said, this is otherwise a pretty cool document of a '70s rock band getting down at a live club, in this case the Roxy in Hollywood. They don't make 'em like this anymore. People now play this music self-consciously as "roots music" or "jam band music," or they do it with a touch of irony and perform it revival-style. But this is the real thing and what it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in enthusiasm. (This, by the way, is also the reason I enjoy listen to the rare Pat Travers concert I posted earlier this year.)

The versions of "Mule Skinner Blues" and "I Hear You Knocking" show that these guys knew their roots, while "Juke" showcases Kelly's impressive harmonica skills, which were also heard on such Dead songs as "I Need A Miracle." Also, anyone who likes the Dead's "groove songs" like "Franklin's Tower" or "Help On The Way," should really take to Kelly and Torbert's "Hypnotize," a similar song from the first album that they rock the hell out of here.

Other Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007) 
The Grateful Dead - Days Between: The Final Album That Never Was (1992-95) 

Grateful Dead-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) 
Bobby and the Midnites - Featuring Bob Weir (1981)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)

Track list:
1. Good-Bye Yer Honor
2. Juke
3. Mule Skinner Blues
4. I Hear You Knocking
5. Hypnotize
6. Jump for Joy
7. Overnight Bag
8. Jump Back
9. Shake and Fingerpop
10. Around and Around

Friday, December 9, 2016

Unknown Artists - Four Songs From Two '60s Soul Music Acetates (196?)

Ten years ago this week, my ex-wife and I received a call from one of her cousins while he was visiting his aging parents in Baltimore. They were looking to put their house on the market, but they had a basement full of records they needed to clear out first. Would we be interested in them?

Well, my friends, you know the answer to that one. Was Dennis Wilson interested in a gorgeous California blonde in '66? Was George Harrison interested in a fab new tabla in '67? Our response was an unequivocal "Yes! Please send us that ticket into heaven!" 

The records in question had belonged to one of the brothers in the family named who'd died about fifteen years earlier. Back in the '70s, Larry worked as a disc jockey at several Baltimore-area radio station, so he'd accumulated a lot of music. The cousin who called us was successful TV producer and didn't even want any money for the records. He just wanted them out of the house ASAP. (When we realized the worth of some of these records we did, in fact, give the elderly parents some money, however. More on that in a second.)

My ex and I spent two weekends huddled in that basement, sifting through a seemingly endless stream of promo albums, bootleg LP, and records put out by radio stations where Larry had worked, some of which I've put on this blog. He also had a massive collection of 45s records. Some were insanely rare, like the DJ copy of the Beach Boys' "Surfin'" on Candix and the picture sleeve promo of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light." Others were standard Motown or girl group 45s, but still sounded incredible.
After we brought these singles home and I started to examine each one, I noticed two of them had no actual labels but instead sported the logo of a company called "Audiodisc." And that's why we're here today folks.

It turned out these were acetates. And when I played them, I realized that they were acetates by soul groups (or solo soul artists) from the '60s. As readers of this blog know, that's right up my alley. But even with my knowledge of soul music, I had no idea who the artists on the discs were. They were most likely Baltimore acts who never got signed. I guess they'd dropped off acetates to Larry in hopes that he would play them on the air or give them some words of encouragement..

I'd always thought acetates were one-sided, but these discs had a song on each side. So that made four songs in all. One of them I knew: It was a cover of Jay Wiggins' soul classic "Sad Girl" (also done by the Intruders). The rest were a mystery -- and still are. I was able to come up with likely song titles for the other tunes, which I assume are originals, because I can't find these titles done by any other artist in any of the hundreds of soul collections I have.

That's ironic, because these songs are actually better than a lot of records that did get released and ended up on compilations. "Our Love Will Last," is a male-female duet done in a raucous, high-energy style. The flip of that, "Things Are Looking Up," is in a similar vein stylistically but with only the male singer on the track. These make up the disc that has Audiodisc label in blue print.

Then there was the 45 with the label in red (see right). This is the one that had the cover of "Sad Girl," which means it was made in 1963 or later, since '63 is when Wiggins debuted that song. The other song, "Do You Want Me," is a rumba with a great melody and a rocking drum track. The vibe of both these songs makes me wonder if this wasn't a soul singer fronting a rock band or some combination thereof.

(Update: Reader Alan Mitchell helpfully noted the song I've called "Do You Want Me" is actually "Beg Me," done by Chuck Jackson and others. It was written by Rudy Clark who also penned "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody" and "Got My Mind Set On You." I changed the info below.)

I like being in possession of "mystery acetates," because I'm a fan of several such songs. One is "Father Good's Space Flight," which made it onto one of the Circus Days sets. This was an acetate that had no band name on it. When the owner of it submitted it to Circus Days and learned they required a group name, he simply made one by naming it after his daughter Amelia. That's why the group on Circus Days is called the Amelia Smile. Other mystery tracks include the two songs that close out the excellent Philly Soul Girls Vol. 1 (1963-67), which are by a female singer no one can identify.

So, if any of you out there knows anything about soul music groups from Baltimore in the '60s, give me a holler. Someone, somewhere has to be able to identify these elusive performers.

Related posts:
Various Artists - Indie Soul of the '60s
Various Artists - Northern Soul Girls Rock! Disc 4
Various Artists - Bigtop Soul Cellar
Various Artists - One-Derful, Mar-V-Lus, Northern Soul
Various Artists - Capitol City Soul 
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 1 (1994)
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 2 - The Verve Story (1994) 
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 3 - The MGM Story (1994)
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 4 - Disc 1 (1995) 
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 4 - Disc 2 (1995)

Track list:
1. Unknown Artist #1 (Blue Label) - Our Love Will Last
2. Unknown Artist #1 (Blue Label) - Things Are Looking Up
3. Unknown Artist #2 (Red Label) - Sad Girl
4. Unknown Artist #2 (Red Label) - Beg Me

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Beatles - Making of Across the Long and Winding Road - CD 1 (1968-70)

To mark the anniversary of John Lennon's passing, here's a bootleg that documents the writing and recording of one of his most beloved songs, "Across the Universe." It starts with Lennon's home recordings, moves to Abbey Road studios, treks through Twickenham Studios, and ends up in the hands of Phil Spector.

I'm pretty sure I got this bootleg from the now-defunct Here, There and Everywhere blog, which was dedicated to unreleased Beatles recordings. There is a second disc to this set which documents the recording of "The Long and Winding Road," but since I never could locate it, it won't be presented here.

But as for "Across the Universe," if any of you are serious Beatle fans, maybe you can help me with a question about recording dates of the track..

According to my original 1988 copy of Mark Lewisohn's "The Beatles Recording Sessions," the Fabs began recording "Across the Universe" on Feb. 4, 1968. On the day before, Feb. 3, they were working on "Lady Madonna."

But several other sources say that Feb. 3 was also dedicated to recording "Across the Universe," such as the liner notes to Anthology 2. Does anyone know if Lewisohn revised his original recording dates from that book or if he made a mistake when he wrote those liner notes in the '90s? My own feeling is the liner notes were probably wrong because I think it's unlikely the group would have started recording this song after a whole day recording "Lady Madonna" (the session ran 2:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. with a dinner break). But you never know.

Anyway, this bootleg has a the Feb. 3 date, so I left it. If it's incorrect, well, Lewisohn can be forgiven one tiny mistake considering the wealth of knowledge he's brought to the table about the Fabs.

Update: Helpful commenter Peerke cites John C. Winn's book "Way Beyond Compare: The Beatles’Recorded Legacy, Volume One, 1957–1965" as confirming the Feb. 3 recording date for this song, and this sounds accurate to me. For more details, see the comments section where Peerke quotes the text in detail. Or click here. Thanks, Peerke!

Track list:
1. Home Recording 1 - 1967
2. Home Recording 2 - 1967
3. Take 2 - Monitor Mix - 3 Feb. 1968
4. Take 7 - Acetate Mix - 4 Feb. 1968
5. Get Back Session - 7 Jan. 1969
6. Get Back Session - 7 Jan. 1969
7. Get Back Session - 9 Jan. 1969
8. Get Back Session - 9 Jan. 1969
9. Take 2 - Anthology - 3 Feb. 1968
10. Take 8 - Acetate Bird Version - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968
11. Bird Version - Past Masters - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968
12. Album Version - Phil Spector Mix - 4 & 8 Feb. 1968

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Teardrop Explodes - Piano (1995)

Piano is a collection of rare Teardrop Explodes tracks put out by Griffin Records in the '90s. When I bought this, it was the only place on CD you could get hard-to-find singles sides like "Bouncing Babies" and the early version of "Treason" and "Books." Those cuts have now been added to the various reissues of the group's first album, Kilimanjaro, so they're not quite as obscure (unless the versions here are somehow different -- I don't have the reissues, so I have no way of knowing.)

The final three tracks are still relatively rare. These are three songs that were included on the multi-artist LP To The Shores Of Lake Placid, which was put out in 1982 by Zoo Records, the group's first label.

The songs include "Take A Chance" which was actually titled "Chance;" and "When I Dream," which is heard here in a different version from the one on Kilimanjaro. Both of these tracks were later included as part of the Peel Sessions Plus BBC collection. That leaves the closing track, "Kwalo Klobinsky's Lullaby," which seems to be by members of the group using pseudonyms and recording under the moniker Whopper. That's definitely Julian Cope on vocals. Whatever the case, this hasn't ever come out on CD as far as I know.

This set has been online before, but not in high quality with full artwork. As a collection, it's emblematic of that period in the '90s before the "bonus track" frenzy began and all sorts of "independent" companies stepped in to make little-known tracks available to the general public.

Track list:
1. Sleeping Gas
2. Camera Camera
3. Kirkby Workers Dream Fades
4. Bouncing Babies
5. All I Am Is Loving You
6. Treason
7. Books
8. Take A Chance
9. When I Dream
10. Kwalo Klobinsky's Lullaby

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rick Wes - Possession (1991)

Since I posted Rick Wes' first album, North, South, East, Wes, back in February, I figured I should close the book on him, so to speak, and post his second and final effort, Possession.

For information on who this guy was and why I've never forgotten his music, please see that February post. There's no point in me rewriting it. The short answer, though, is that Rick Wes was sort of the '90s equivalent of Vinnie Monte, the singer from the late '50s and early '60s I wrote about, in my last post. In other words, he was a would-be teen idol.

But unlike Monte, who seemed like a struggling upstart in need of proper management, Wes had some serious music industry power behind him. He was managed and produced by New Kids on the Block Svengali Maurice Starr at their height of Starr's hot streak. But unlike the New Kids, Wes didn't come to dominate the pop charts. Nor did he make music nearly as memorable as the best New Kids hits.

Wes' second album is not as good as first, which at least got by on the quirkiness of Starr's compositions, where he did things like quote Dee Clark oldies. This one was almost entirely composed by Starr and it seems like by 1991 "The General" (as he was known) was losing his touch in writing hit songs. Almost everything here is forgettable.

One exception is the ballad "What Ever (SIC) I Am," which has a lilting melody and attractive chorus hook almost on par with the New Kids' "Please Don't Go Girl." The problem, as I stated in my original post, is that Wes was no Jordan Knight -- or Joey McIntyre, for that mater. You really need to be able to sing to pull of R&B ballads. Say what you want about the New Kids, but most of 'em had great voices. By contrast, Wes sounds here like he's expending all his effort just to stay on pitch. Also, the super-mellow "If I Ruled the World" is pretty good, but suffers from the same vocal shortcomings.

So if a record isn't very good, why post it? Well, for one thing its rare and my goal here is to post music few other people have. But also, like I said in my original Rick Wes post, sometimes failed albums can be interesting in and of themselves. You get to hear what didn't work and why.

In this case, Starr's teen-pop formula had worn thin and he needed better singers to get his songs across. Also, this CD serves as early '90s time capsule for anyone who misses that more innocent era. This was the period of "Beverly Hills 90210" and shopping malls, just before the big alternative wave hit and changed pop music forever.

To a young person now, this music probably sounds about as old-fashioned as the aforementioned Dee Clark did to me back then. It's hard to believe those low-quality synth sounds and rickety-sounding drum machines once passed for state of the art, but that was pop music in the Gulf War era.

More dope early '90s teen pop sounds:
Alisha - Bounce Back (1990)
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990) 
Homework - Homework (1990) 
Ms. Adventures - Ms. Adventures (1990)
The Party - In the Meantime, In Between Time (1991)
Rick Wes - North, South, East, Wes (1990)
The Superiors - Perfect Timing (1990)

Track list:
1. Possession    
2. My Forever    
3. Just One Smile    
4. I Don't Wanna Be Wrong (Again)    
5. Never Knew You (Like This)    
6. It's You    
7. What Ever I Am    
8. Keep On Doin' (What You're Doin')    
9. If I Ruled The World    
10. Angel Boy

Monday, December 5, 2016

Vinnie Monte - Just One Of The Guys (1958-64)

We've all heard of "journeymen rockers" and/or "journeyman soul singers." But what about journeymen teen idols? If there is such a thing, then Vinnie Monte is it. From 1958 to 1964, Monte released around twenty singles on over a half dozen labels, none of which ever made the pop charts.

I use the phrase "around twenty singles" because it's hard to get an exact number. At least one of his 45s is so obscure that it doesn't show up on 45Cat or Discogs, so who is to say there aren't more that fell through the cracks?

Not only was Monte not very popular during his original run as a singer, but the only collection of his material, Just One Of The Guys, has also fallen into obscurity and has gone out-of-print since its 2005 release. It wasn't exactly a high-profile affair to begin with. The compilation came out on an indie label called Frog Hopper and seems to be its only release.

It's impressive, though, that someone took the time to even make this collection. It rounds up most of Monte's 45 sides that would have been otherwise lost to history. Without this collection, the modern world would scarcely know of Monte, because there is very little information about him floating around out there.

But as I was researching these singles so I could put release dates and songwriting credits in the MP3 tags, I uncovered a few tidbits about the singer. And so I now present to you the only written essay about Vinnie Monte on the Web. Don't get too excited, though. There's not that much to tell.

Monte was a singer in the mold of Neil Sedaka, Bobby Rydell, and Paul Anka. In other words, even though he emerged during the rock'n'roll era, he was a pop vocalist all the way. He had a good voice, but like those singers he could be overwrought and (to put it politely) a bit unmasculine. Sometimes this worked; sometimes it didn't.

His real name seems to have been Vincent Montenegro. I came to this conclusion after perusing the songwriting credits on his records. To his credit, Monte wrote some of his own material -- unlike a lot of other teen idols. His early tunes were published as Vinnie Monte, but some of the later ones are credited to Vincent Montenegro (see record label at right).

I also found out he recorded for a whopping eight record labels during his career. These include: Jubilee, Decanter, RCA Victor, Fargo, Harmon, Josie, TCF, and Rust.

The release on Rust from 1964 ("His Girl" b/w "Walk Down the Aisle")  looks like it was his last 45 and is, ironically, his best. But talk about obscurity: This the record I mentioned that's not in any of the online 45 catalog sites. On top of that, it's not for sale anywhere.

The only way I was able to dig up songwriting credits on it was by Googling Monte's name along with the song title of the A-Side, which led me to a retrospective CD by one of the composers, Ritchie Adams. The back of the Adams CD had the label catalog number of the Monte record. From there I did more Googling and was able to get full songwriting credits at the Catalog of Copyright Entries. I did the same with the B-Side "Walk Down the Aisle," but can't guarantee 100 percent that one is accurate.

A handful of Monte's records probably could have been hits if the proverbial stars has aligned. First among them is "One Of The Guys," a cutesy self-penned novelty tune from 1962 where Monte namedrops a bunch of other popular singers of the day into the lyrics the way Bob Luman did in his 1960 hit "Let's Think About Living." Monte's Italian affectations on the ethnic ballad "A Love Of My Own" might have made him into a sort of male version of Connie Francis had it caught on, and the upbear "Naughty Naughty Baby" shows he could rock if he got a good arrangement.

But the aforementioned "His Girl," with its 4 Seasons stylings and bouncy shuffle tempo, gets my vote for his best record. Sadly, it had little chance of being a hit because by the time it came out in late 1964, there were virtually no old-styled teen idols who were making much impact on the pop charts. Its B-Side, "Walk Down the Aisle," is also pretty good and works as a sort of updated do wop number. Granted, it's not exactly the kind of thing that was clicking with the public in the year of the British Invasion, but nice try.

Funny enough, Monte's only other truly great record was released in 1964 as well. It's the believably maudlin ballad "What's The Matter With Marilyn," which I count as a great lost '60s record. This is one of those tunes you just know is going to be great as soon as you hear the opening bars. Monte really wrings the dramatics out of the lyric, which has him wondering why the affections of his love interest have mysteriously evaporated. Laugh at its sappy strings and over-the-top vocalizing if you will, but the song convincingly paints the picture of a situation every guy has found himself in at one time are another.

On the other hand, this collection has a few songs that aren't so hot. And they happen to be the early efforts of the now-legendary songwriting teams of Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. The first pair contributed the goofy "Follow That Girl" to Monte's oeuvre in 1961 and it comes off as annoying as some of the numbers they placed with James Darren during this period, like "Her Royal Majesty" (which inexplicably went Top 10).

Mann and Weil, meanwhile, check in with the erstwhile country of "Painting the Town With Teardrops" and the Gene Pitney imitation track "You Can't Compare With My Baby." Neither are bad per se; just bland and derivative. Monte, by the way, imitates Pitney quite a bit on these songs, for what that's worth. 

As a songwriter, Monte is passable. As mentioned, his "One Of The Guys" is at least amusing. But other than that, his tunes are mostly imitations of other artists. The misspelled "Mashed Potatoe Girl" is ersatz Ernie Maresca, while "Hey, Look At the Winter Snow" is fake Dion. This is why the "journeyman" tag applies. Monte, it seems, worked for over a half decade to forge a style and a find a hook, but never quite reached either goal.

And that's all she wrote about Vinnie Monte. He might not have come close to the big time, but "His Girl" and "What's The Matter With Marilyn" are good enough performances that I sought him out as soon as I heard them. And that counts for something. I'll bet there are at least a handful of other songs here that will perk up the ears of people who normally wouldn't have otherwise encountered the elusive Mr. Monte.

Related posts:
Ron Holden - Love You So (1960)
Janie Grant Meets Diane Ray - 32 Classic Cuts (1961-64)
Donna Lynn Meets Robin Clark (1961-65)
Noreen Corcoran - Complete Singles (1963-64)

Track list:
1. One Of The Guys
2. The Year May Be Over (But The Heartaches Are Just Beginning)
3. These Three Words
4. Follow That Girl
5. Without Your Love
6. Summer Spree
7. I'll Walk You Home
8. A Freshman With A Senior Dream
9. A Love Of My Own
10. Trail Of Teardrops
11. Ask Your Heart
12. Painting The Town With Teardrops
13. I Don't Have The Heart To Tell Her
14. I Walk Alone
15. I Wrote A Poem
16. You Can't Compare With My Baby
17. Mashed Potatoe (SIC) Girl
18. You'll Never Know
19. You Always Hurt The One You Love
20. Joanie Don't Be Angry
21. Take Good Care Of Her
22. Camera
23. Naughty Naughty Baby
24. His Girl
25. Walk Down The Aisle
26. I Believe
27. After Your Gone
28. Your Cute Little Ways
29. Hey Look At The Winter Snow
30. What's The Matter With Marilyn
31. It's The End