Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)

Another day, another interesting collection of Baltimore obscurities. This post marks the second installment of Vintage Baltimore Music Week.

Before we get to the subject at hand, I want to talk about speed. No, not the drug, but the rotations per minute that a record plays. I've heard a few songs from this record online and noticed that they run at too fast a speed. The tracks I ripped from this album are at the correct speed and I don't want people who heard the online versions to think it's my turntable's speed that's the problem. My Technics turntable is accurate. As with all of my rips, what you hear here is what you get on the record.

Now onto the topic at hand. Yesterday we presented a 1978 collection of mostly hard rock music from the ever-popular Baltimore radio station 98 Rock. Today brings another collection from '78, but this one is from a long-defunct station, WKTK. The selection on this record is a bit more eclectic, which is surprising since the two albums share a song (Kashmir's "Texas City") and have three other bands in common (Climbadonkey, Basement Floor, and Springwind).

For whatever reason, the artists on this LP come off as more quirky than on the 98 Rock album. Maybe it's the old school synthesizers they use. Or maybe the radio station that put this out went for groups that were more Top 40-oriented, so the musicians adjusted their sound accordingly and turned up the keyboards. Either way, hearing these songs now makes for pretty amusing listening. You can find cover groups playing hard rock any night of the week, but nothing sounds like this album anymore.

As I mentioned last post, the Baltimore scene was not nearly as nationally-renowned back then as it is today. Bands had their local fans but that's usually as far as it went. So the music here should be totally unfamiliar to almost everyone. Also, Baltimore was a city that didn't much take to edgy genres at the time. So despite it being from 1978, what you get here is more classic rock than punk rock.

For instance, dig those groovy "Grand Illusion" synthesizer leads on the opener, "Traveler" by Taurus, a band totally unfamiliar to me. Anyone know anything about these guys? Similar synth sounds turn up on the second cut, Basement Floor's "Hideaway," which recalls the pop-prog that Kansas used to play.

Springwind's "The Land" is a sort of magnum opus about ecology and builds to an impressive climax. Oho's philosophical "Seldom Bought" recalls the arrangements of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. All of these songs are pretty catchy and both exemplify the wide range of styles on this LP.

Another ear-grabber is Climbadonkey's "Golden Throat," which has the kind of bawdy, double entendre humor you just don't hear in mainstream rock anymore. I guess this type of humor is now considered politically incorrect and probably would no longer go over with women. And speaking of women, the fact that there don't seem to be any at all on these past two collections shows how much our culture has changed. Can you imagine a set of regional rock tunes being released today without any female performers on it?

The only bum note here is Kashmir's "Texas City." That's not necessarily because of the song itself (although their journeyman hard rock isn't my cup of Nugent), but because the tune also appeared on the 98 Rock collection. I wish they'd submitted a different song. I wonder if they got ribbed for being like that group in Ron Howard's "Cotton Candy," which only ever played one song.

Yes, that previous sentence was an excuse to mention that obscure 1978 movie, which tells of the travails of a nerdy high school rock band trying to be popular and has become a cult favorite. But if you want to get a feel for what that year was like, I'd suggest you follow that link and check out the film. And then listen to this record.

Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)

Track list:
1. Taurus - Traveler
2. Basement Floor - Hideaway
3. Both Worlds - Fish Bait
4. Kashmir - Texas City
5. Danon Wright - Down and Out
6. Appaloosa - All Night My Friend
7. Hollins Ferry - Turn Your Back
8. Oho - Seldom Bought
9. Springwood - For the Land
10. John Seay/Alan Dawson - One Way Ticket
11. Climbadonkey - Golden Throat

Monday, May 30, 2016

Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)

Last week was "Big City Soul" week on this blog, where I posted nothing but that series of vintage soul collections. This week I'm designating as "Vintage Baltimore Music Week" and I'll be posting out-of-print Baltimore music. I came of age in the area and have accumulated a good number of forgotten records. I may also throw in a little-known vintage treasure from nearby Washington D.C. when the week is done.

Now onto the main topic. This is the first of several collections of local music put out by a hard rock station in Baltimore known as 98 Rock. For decades, "98," as it's colloquially called, has been an institution among the town's rock fans. They've supported regional favorites like Kix and Crack the Sky and helped break countless national rock and metal acts locally.

When I happened upon a mint copy of this album, it piqued my interest for obvious historical reasons. Baltimore's become a popular indie music town since around the year 2000, but this album offers a look into the local scene back when it got virtually no national attention.

One reason for that is that most of the groups tended to copy sounds from the mainstream and didn't go in for boundary-breaking new genres of music. Although this LP came out in '78, there is nary a trace of punk rock or new wave on it, even though both of those musical styles were what was happening in more, er, happening towns like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.

Remember those Rhino Records "D.I.Y." collections from the 1990s that looked back at what each city was doing when punk rock broke? Well, there could never have been sets for Charm City like there were for Boston (Mass Ave.) or Los Angeles (We're Desperate). Baltimore's punk scene just wasn't big enough to warrant one.

This probably has to do with Baltimore's roots as a blue collar town. When you're in a working class environment, playing music that has little chance of making you much money from local gigs seems frivolous. Why play weird stuff to twenty fanatics at the VFW when you can kick out the jams and fill up clubs and bring home some real money?

This isn't a criticism; just an analysis of why Baltimore's music scene developed the way it did. I'll also note than when the steel worker jobs faded and Baltimore became both more Yuppie-oriented and more of an African-American town, the music changed as well. Soon after, groups like Wye Oak, Dan Deacon, and others took a more artsy, indie approach for a new artsy, indie audience.

The blue collar aesthetic that held sway throughout the '70s and '80s is also probably the reason Baltimore got so little national attention. Music magazines like Trouser Press and Creem tended to focus on trendy groups, not ones who were doing what Led Zeppelin or Styx had already done -- even if those bands were beloved by people who came out every weekend to see them. Meanwhile Rolling Stone generally only covered big-time acts. So Baltimore didn't get much love, nationally speaking.

OK, end of history lesson. Beyond all that, most of this music still sounds pretty good. Granted, some of the songs on the first side of this album (tracks 1-6) are derivative of rock acts that were popular at the time. Heck, the band names like Kashmir and Fly By Night show where these groups were coming from. But several songs on the second side show some originality and real songwriting craft.

Tony Sciuto was a singer-songwriter who was -- for some reason -- primarily big in Japan. His Steely Dan-like "Captain Wonderful" makes you wonder why he didn't catch on in the U.S. A band I'd never heard of before called Springwind checks in with a breezy acoustic number called "Look at the Stranger" that also sounds like it had hit potential.

Orange Wedge, Apricot Brandy, and Appaloosa are names that anyone who grew up in Charm City should know because they performed a lot around the region. Orange Wedge ended up becoming something of a cult band when people in Europe discovered their earlier prog albums decades later (go here for an interview), but their number here sounds (to me, anyway) like journeyman '70s rock.

Apricot Brandy contributes a cool prog track, "Reach for the Sky," which would be better if the quality of the tape they submitted had been better. And Appaloosa reminds me of Boston or Foreigner (or a band like that) with "Hold Me," which I think is pretty damned catchy even if it's not the type of music I really took to back in the day.

Needless to say, this album hasn't come out on CD. I can't even find it listed on the Discogs Web site, although the follow up albums from years later are on there. If anyone knows anything about some of the more obscure groups featured, like Basement Floor, Jack of Diamonds, or the Jim Sellers Band, feel free to drop some knowledge into the comments section.

Several musicians who still play in the area are on here, including Kyf Brewer, Glenn Workman, and Jim Ball. The album includes info on each group on the back cover which I've made easy to read by doing high-quality scans. The music, of course, is also ripped at high quality (320/48) like all my other rips. And like all the rest, I made no alterations whatsoever to the sound. What you hear here is what was on the record. Period.

Also included is a scan of an "insert" -- a sheet of paper that was one of those iron-on t-shirt thingies. Iron it on and you get a 98 Rock t-shirt. Hey, I have an iron. Wonder if it'll still work all these years later?

Related posts:
Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Various Artists - Music Monthly Music Vol. 1 (1999)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)
Growing Up Different - A+B=C (1985)
Red Tape - Red Tape (1986)

Track list:
1. Kashmir - Texas City
2. Climbadonkey - Don't Blame Me
3. Basement Floor - Sexy Woman
4. Fly By Night - Wrecked My Room
5. Apricot Brandy - Reach for the Sky
6. Appaloosa - Hold Me
7. Tony Sciuto - Captain Wonderful
8. Jack of Diamonds - Come Sweet Darlin'
9. The Jim Sellers Band - Sixty Miles Southwest
10. Springwind - Look at the Stranger
11. Orange Wedge - Bye Bye Baby

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 4 - Disc 2 (1995)

The Big City Soul series wraps up with disco two of the fourth and final volume. As mentioned, this set is subtitled "From the Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Musicor, Dynamo and Subsidiaries" so it concentrates on lesser-known titles from that handful of smaller labels.

I've already droned on too much about this stuff, so I'll just list a few of my favorite titles: Nella Dodds' "Honey Boy," the Platters' "Fear of Losing You," the Diplomats' "There's Still A Tomorrow," and Billy T. Soul's "The Way to a Woman's Heart."

One more thing: Fans of Frank Sinatra should take note that Big Maybelle (aka Mabel Smith) does a nice version of "If I Had You," a breezy little number that's mostly remembered for its inclusion on Ol' Blue Eyes' 1957 album A Swingin' Affair album. Well, it matters to me anyway.

Related posts:
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) 

Track list:
1. Candy And The Kisses - Tonight's The Night
2. The Anglos - Since You've Been Gone   
3. Melba Moore - The Magic Touch
4. Ray Crossen - Try Some Soul   
5. The Shirelles - You Could Be My Remedy
6. Inez And Charlie Foxx - No Stranger To Love   
7. Curtis Blandon - In The Long Run   
8. J.B. Troy - Live On   
9. The Wand Orchestra - Hand It Over   
10. Jerry Fisher And The Nightbeats - I've Got To Find Someone To Love   
11. Nella Dodds- Honey Boy   
12. Jimmy Radcliffe - There Goes A Forgotten Man   
13. Marie Knight - That's No Way To Treat A Girl
14. The Platters - Fear Of Losing You
15. J.J. Barnes - Just One More Time
16. Chuck Jackson - The Silencer   
17. The Diplomats - There's Still A Tomorrow   
18. Candy And The Kisses - Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby
19. Tommy Hunt - Words Can Never Tell It   
20. The Charts - Nobody Made You Love Me
21. Porgy And The Monarchs - Keep A Hold On Me   
22. The Platters - Doesn't It Ring A Bell   
23. Billy T. Soul - The Way To A Woman's Heart   
24. The Chancellors - All The Way From Heaven
25. Maurice Williams - Nobody Knows   
26. Maxine Brown - Anything You Do Is Right
27. The Shirelles - No Doubt About It
28. Judy Clay - Your Kind Of Lovin'
29. Glen Watts - My Little Plaything
30. Big Maybelle - If I Had You

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 4 - Disc 1 (1995)

And still they come. If you're not into '60s soul, maybe this wasn't the week for you to tune into this blog because that's all there is.

Chapter four in the Big City Soul story is subtitled "From the Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Musicor, Dynamo and Subsidiaries." From those vaults come some great obscurities spread out over the course of two discs. This is the first.

Favorites of mine include Ernestine Eady's "The Change," an R&B shuffle with a beat wound so tight that you can hear how American R&B songs like this helped give birth to ska when Jamaicans heard the music. (Great lyric in this one, too. Why are there so many early '60s songs about girls being at parties and having a bad time?) I'm also wild about Porgy & the Monarchs' "Hey Girl," which is a completely different song than the Freddie Scott hit, despite sharing a title with it. This one is a Philly soul-styled midtempo ballad in the style of the early Intruders. The group was actually from the Big Apple, though.

Dean Parrish's "Bricks, Broken Bottles and Sticks" borrows the Drifters musical style to muse on the dissolution of an old neighborhood. This theme would become prevalent in the 1980s with songs like the Pretenders' "My City Was Gone" and Jonathan Richman's "Corner Store." Parrish went on to become a popular figure in the UK Northern Soul scene. And the Honeybees' "Never in a Million Years" has long been one of my favorite girl groups records.

That's it for now. Do you really need me to drone on and on about my favorite soul songs? I'm getting like the guy in the bar who can't shut up when the Four Tops come on the jukebox.

Related posts:
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)

Track list:
1. The Charts - Fell In Love With You Baby
2. The Shirelles - Wait Til' I Give The Sign
3. Ronnie Milsap - When It Comes To My Baby
4. The Platters - Not My Girl   
5. Shirley And Jessie - You Can't Fight
6. Billy T. Soul - Call On Billy  
7. Alan Bruce -  I Feel Better   
8. Nella Dodds - To Get Your Love Back
9. Dean Parrish - Bricks, Broken Bottles And Sticks    
10. The Honeybees - Never In A Million Years
11. Harold Hopkins - Glamour Girl
12. Roscoe Robinson - How Much Pressure    
13. Candy And The Kisses - Mr. Creator
14. Earnestine Eady - The Change       
15. Porgy & the Monarchs   - Think Twice Before You Walk Away
16. Inez & Charlie Foxx - Never Love A Robin       
17. Freddie Hughes - Tonight I'm Gonna See My Baby
18. Chuck Jackson - I've Got To Be Strong     
19. Audrey Freeman - Three Rooms
20. The Diplomats - Jerkin' Time         
21. J.B. Troy - Ain't That The Truth     
22. Barbara And Brenda - If I'm Hurt You'll Feel The Pain       
23. Marie Knight - You Lie So Well
24. The Intruders - I've Got Love For You                  
25. Nella Dodds - First Date               
26. The Esquires - Woman
27. Porgy And The Monarchs   - Hey Girl                   
28. Donny Wells - You've Got My Love
29. Judy Clay - Upset My Heart (Got Me Upset)                    
30. Tommy Hunt - Lover         

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 3 - The MGM Story (1994)

More urban soul by lesser-known '60s artists. This time the music comes from MGM Records, a label which was mostly known back then for being home to Herman's Hermits, Connie Francis, and the Animals.

This set might be my favorite in the series, and a big reason for that is the tracks by the late Lou Roberts (not to be confused with Lou Johnson, whose tracks are on the Bigtop Soul Cellar collection I previously posted). Roberts' "You Fooled Me" has one of the most convincing pleading lead vocals this side of David Ruffin and his "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Love" is like a Burt Bacharach song without the highfalutin time signature changes.

The Formations' "At the Top Of the Stairs" was a minor hit that probably deserved to be bigger (although its lyrical slant was probably to quirky for that) and the Broadway's "You Just Don't Know" is so good it's easy to see why the original 45 became an expensive collectors item.

Related posts:
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 1 (1994)
Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 2 - The Verve Story (1994) 

Track list:
1. Spyder Turner - I'm Alive With The Love Feeling
2. The Tymes - Street Talk
3. Tony Middleton - To The Ends Of The Earth
4. The Velours  - I'm Gonna Change
5. Dean Courtney - (Love) You Just Can't Walk Away
6. Spyder Turner - I Can't Make It Anymore
7. The Charades - The Key To My Happiness
8. Kim Weston - I Got What You Need          
9. Millie Jackson - My Heart Took A Licking
10. Lou Roberts - Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Love
11. Marlina Mars - I'm Gonna Hold On (To Your Love)
12. The Superiors - Can't Make It Without You
13. The Formations - At the Top Of the Stairs
14. The Embers - Watch Out Girl
15. Lou Roberts And The Marks - You Fooled Me
16. Kim Weston - You're Just The Kind Of Guy
17. The Jewels - We Got Togetherness
18. The Tymes - What Would I Do
19. Dottie Cambridge - Cry Your Eyes Out
20. April Stevens - Wanting You
21. The Broadways - You Just Don't Know
22. The Charades - Weeping Cup
23. Dean Courtney - Betcha' Can't Change My Mind
24. Johnny Nash - You Never Know
25. The Solitaires - Fool That I Am
26. Roy Hamilton - You Can Count On Me
27. Roy Hamilton - The Panic Is On

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 2 - The Verve Story (1994)

More urban soul from the '60s. As its title suggests, this set follows the last one posted, but this one concentrates on the Verve Records label. Verve was started as a jazz label in 1956, but in 1961 it was acquired by MGM Records and moved into rock and soul music. The Velvet Underground, the Mothers of Invention, and the Righteous Brothers were some of the famous acts on the label. Here are some of the lesser-known artists, most of whom only issued singles.

Some of the highlights include the late Nikolas Ashford (billed here as Nick Ashford) singing the original version of his and Valerie Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor," a song made famous by Ray Charles and Humble Pie. The collection takes a gospel turn with Robert Banks' standout track "A Mighty Good Way" and Little Eva steps away from her usual dance sounds with the stomping "Take A Step In My Direction."

Also noteworthy is Dianne Brooks' mellow take on "Picture Me Gone," a tune mostly known for its upbeat interpretations by Evie Sands and Madeline Bell. In fact, I think the ballads here might just be the best tunes, especially the High Keys' "Let's Take A Chance," which has a regal-sounding intro that reminds me, oddly enough, of the Chocolate Watchband's popsike classic "Requiem."

Related: Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 1 (1994)

Track list:
1. Garnet Mimms - Stop And Think It Over
2. The Ambers - I Love You Baby
3. The Four Hi's - Pretty Little Face
4. Youngblood Smith - You Can Split
5. The Superiors - What Would I Do
6. The High Keys - Living A Lie
7. The Shalimars - Stop And Take A Look At Yourself
8. Little Eva - Take A Step In My Direction
9. Dejah Ahres - Real Jive Guy
10. The Triumphs - Walkin' The Duck
11. Bessie Banks - I Can't Make It (Without You Baby)
12. Jerry Gainey - Just A Fool
13. Howard Guyton - I Watched You Slowly Slip Away
14. Robert Banks - A Mighty Good Way
15. Clara Ward - The Right Direction
16. Wilson Pickett - My Heart Belongs To You
17. Billy Woods - I Don't Want To Lose Your Love
18. Louise Murray - The Love I Give
19. Terri Bryant - (You'd Better) Straighten Up And Fly Right
20. Prince Harold - Born To Please
21. Howard Tate - Baby I Love You
22. Don Gardner - I'm A Practical Guy
23. The Poindexter Brothers - (Get Your) Backfield In Motion
24. Nick Ashford - I Don't Need No Doctor
25. Pal Rakes And The Prophets - Can't Deny The Hurt
26. Dianne Brooks - Picture Me Gone
27. The High Keys - Let's Take A Chance
28. Wilson Pickett - Let Me Be Your Boy

Monday, May 23, 2016

Various Artists - Big City Soul Vol. 1 (1994)

Hard to believe this series of urban '60s soul music is now over two decades old. These collections are also out-of-print and consigned to virtual online cut-out bins. Once upon a time it was a lot of fun to browse through cut-out bins when you could go to an actual record store, like Kemp Mill Records or Waxie Maxie's (anyone remember them?), but that's not the topic at hand.

This set is subtitled "A Collection of Rare '60s Soul from United Artists, Liberty & Minit," so you're getting major label stuff here. (Even though Minit started out as an indie, this collection concentrates on the years 1965 and 1966, by which point the indie Minit had been acquired by Liberty.) The music won't be as obscure as the tunes on some of the indie soul anthologies I posted but then this stuff didn't exactly burn up the pop charts either, so it's not like most of it will be familiar to the general public.

There are some fantastic records featured in this set. I say "records" instead of "songs" because while a lot of the songs are great, their presentation as a record per se makes them even better. 1965-66 was a unique period for record production because it was in a time where multi-tracking allowed producers to be very creative, yet things weren't so advanced that everything sounded too slick. Speaking of dates, I took the time to put the dates of each of these 45 in the track tags.

Shawn Robinson's "My Dear Heart" is an obvious soul classic, as is the Jive Five's "Then Came Heart Break" (they spelled "heartbreak" on the label as two words), and all of the early cuts here by the O'Jays. One of the Gene McDaniels tracks, "Strange Neighborhood," wasn't even put out in its day, but later saw release on a CD of his from the '90s.

I prefer multi-artist sets to full CDs when it comes to this genre because it feels like you're retrieving a signal from a long-lost radio station out of the past. Kind of like the old man in that "Twilight Zone" episode "Static" except you don't get to go back in time and be young again. Or maybe you do. Take a listen and let me know what happens.

PS: Is it throwing people off that I'm listing these collections of '60s music by their release dates instead of the dates the actual music was recorded? I put all release dates in parenthesis, but wonder if in cases like this it makes it look like the music is from the 1990s? If it makes things clearer, I could alter such blog headlines to read something like Big City Soul Vol. 1 (1963-66).
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

Track list:
1. Garnet Mimms - Looking For You   
2. Sam E. Solo - Love Is Not A Game   
3. Shawn Robinson - My Dear Heart   
4. Rose St. John & The Wonderettes - Mend My Broken Heart   
5. The O'Jays - Hold On   
6. Jimmy Holiday & Clydie King - Ready Willing And Able   
7. Homer Banks - A Lot Of Love   
8. Homer Banks - Hooked By Love   
9. Danny Wagner & The Kindred Soul - I Lost A True Love   
10. The Jive Five - Then Came Heart Break   
11. Gene McDaniels - Strange Neighborhood   
12. Estelle Brown - Stick Close   
13. Betty Turner - Be Careful Girl   
14. The O'Jays - I'll Never Forget You   
15. June Jackson - It's What's Underneath That Counts   
16. The O'Jays - Working On Your Case   
17. Alder Ray - My Heart Is In Danger   
18. The Diplomats - Honest To Goodness   
19. The Crystals - Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby   
20. The Steve Karmen Big Band - Breakaway (Part 1)   
21. Dee Irwin - I Only Get This Feeling   
22. Jay & The Americans - Living Above Your Head   
23. Marva Josie - Don't   
24. Ray Pollard - It's A Sad Thing   
25. Gene McDaniels - Walk With A Winner   
26. Ray Pollard - The Drifter   
27. Timi Yuro - It'll Never Be Over For Me

Friday, May 20, 2016

Beach House - Rarities (2008-2010)

My favorite years to listen to the Baltimore indie group Beach House were 2008 through 2010. I think the band peaked with its second album, Devotion, which is one of my favorite modern records. But even if you have Devotion and its follow-up, Teen Dream, you don't have all the songs the band released during this time frame. There were several non-CD single sides and a download from the group's Web site.

Here's a rundown of their rare cuts from this period:

  • "Used to Be" (Single Version)/"Apple Orchard" -- These two songs were from the limited edition 7-inch "Used to Be" single. It was released Oct. 21, 2008 on Carpark Records (CAK 46). The A-Side was recorded in Baltimore July 2008 and is an early recording of the same song that later appeared on the Teen Dream CD. Side B was recorded in Baltimore July 2005 and is a demo of a song from the first Beach House CD.
  • "Zebra (UK Radio Edit)"/"The Arrangement"/"Baby"/"10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix)" -- Four tracks that make up the limited edition blue vinyl 12-inch "Zebra" EP. It came out April 17, 2010 on Bella Union Records (BELLAV238). "The Arrangement" and "Baby" were new songs that never ended up on a Beach House album. This EP was a Record Store Day exclusive. Also, in my humble opinion, "The Arrangement" is one of the best things group ever did.
  • "I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun" -- Released Dec. 16, 2010 as a free download on the band's Web site, this was a holiday recording by the band for its fans.

Track list:
1. Used to Be (Single Version)
2. Apple Orchard
3. Zebra (UK Radio Edit)
4. The Arrangement
5. Baby
6. 10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix)
7. I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Winstons - Color Him Father (1969)

I was going to wait until Father's Day to post this one. But since this is unofficially "soul week" at this blog and since I'm running out of original things to post, here it is. As I keep saying, my lack of soul material has less to do with my collection (which is big) and more to do with the fact that lots of people have already posted about this stuff. I see no point in re-doing what someone else already did first.

All that said, the lone LP by this Washington, D.C.-based soul act is something of a disappointment. Yes, its titled after one of a really great single. And that single sounds great here in stereo. But the rest of the album is less inspired.

Since "Color Him Father" is something of a Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions soundalike and since its composer and singer, Richard Spencer, once played sax with the Impressions, I expected this to be like an Impressions album -- filled with hidden gems.

Actually, it is like an Impressions album. Only that album is One By One, an uncharacteristic LP that's mostly cover tunes. Color Him Father also has lots of cover songs. But it's questionable whether most of 'em needed covering.

Such songs include Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," Joe Simon's "The Chokin' Kind," and the Classics IV's "Traces." Oddly enough, the remake of the standard "I've Gotta Be Me" (made famous by Sammy Davis, Jr.) is one of the best because it's interesting to hear it done up in a soul-pop style. A less inspired cover is their treatment of Bobby Vinton's ode to infertility (!) "The Days of Sand and Shovels."

Producer Don Carroll chimes in with one song, "A Handful of Friends," and it's at least a solid tune that works in a then-contemporary vein. Ditto the take on Allen Toussaint's "The Greatest Love." Spencer wrote the title track but that's his lone songwriting credit here.

All of this makes you ask: What could have been up with this group and, specifically, with Richard Spencer?

According to Wikipedia, Spencer left the music business after this album, earned a Ph.D. and became a teacher and a minister. So, I guess, he either had loftier goals than churning out pop songs or someone, somewhere decided that this album needed to have a lot of non-originals. You never know when it comes to the music industry.

Whatever the case, it's a shame we didn't get more songs from Spencer. Not only was "Color Him Father" a major hit (#7 pop; #2 R&B) it also won the Grammy Award for best R&B song. On top of that, the song, in my opinion, is a genuinely a great work of art -- a heartfelt tale of a man who takes a widow and her kids in and gives them a better life. It's political without being preachy, inspiring without getting sappy, and musically so catchy that you don't even need to listen to the lyrics to love it. In all, this is as perfect a pop song as you're going to find.

Oh well. Spencer might not have written anything else here, but he's an impassioned lead singer and the album is always at least pleasant with him on the mic.

And speaking of the Impressions, as we did earlier, this album includes an extrapolation of their version of "Amen," titled "Amen, Brother." Pop aficionados should know that this is one of the most sampled songs of all time: It's drum break made it into countless R&B, pop, and rap tunes starting around 1988 or so. So that makes it a worthwhile listen, as do some of the bonus tracks, like their take on "Love Of the Common People," first done by the Four Preps and later a major British hit (and minor U.S. one) for Paul Young in 1983.

Related posts (sort of):
The Artistics - Get My Hands On Some Lovin' (1967)
Chris and Peter Allen - Chris And Peter Allen's Album #1 (1968)
Hi-Five - Hi-Five (1990)

Track list:
1. Color Him Father
2. I've Gotta Be Me
3. The Chokin' Kind
4. The Greatest Love
5. A Handful of Friends
6. Everyday People
7. The Days of Sand and Shovels
8. Birds of a Feather
9. Only the Strong Survive
10. Traces
11. Amen, Brother

Bonus tracks:
12. Love of the Common People
13. Wheel of Fortune
14. Say Goodbye to Daddy
15. Mama's Song

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Various Artists - Capitol City Soul (2007)

This set definitely fits my criteria for being hard to find. Not only is it not for sale anywhere, but I can only find one reference to it on the Web. I also have no idea where I found it to begin with. I do know a bit about it, however.

The collection is a labor of love put together by Dennis Brennan, a veteran musician who was part of the 1960s soul scene of Harrisburg, which is the capitol city of Pennsylvania (hence the title). Brennan was a member of a group from the region called the Intentions, and the one song they put out (track #6) is included here along with two other tunes they left unreleased in their day.

Let's talk about Harrisburg for a second. Besides being mentioned in a Clash song (anyone else remember which one?), this city is not exactly known for its place in pop music history. And when it comes to being known for soul sounds, this region of the Keystone State isn't exactly the City of Brotherly Love or the Windy City.

But that's what makes this collection so fascinating. There were a lot of really great records put out by little-known acts on local labels, and Brennan has dug up some of the best. If you're looking for obscure indie soul you'd never get a chance to hear otherwise, well, you can't do much better than this. Not only is this collection excellent in its own right, it's one that can sit proudly alongside the other first-rate "city soul" sets, like Crescent City Soul Patrol, Chicago South Side Soul Survey, and Fabulous New York - 24 Northern Soul Tracks.

Brennan also wrote up some notes, and they offer a good look at the scene when it was in its heyday in the late '60s. I took the liberty of adding release dates and songwriting credits to the MP3 tags. It wasn't easy. Some of these labels were really small, so is info is hard to come by and sometimes required going to the Catalog of Copyright Entries for details.

As for the songs themselves, they'll mostly be unfamiliar, save for the Soul Exotics' cover of "Sad Girl," a song Jay Wiggins took to #116 in 1963 and was later covered by the Intruders. There's also a versopm of "Monkey Time" here by the group Peter and the Wolfs, but it doesn't sound like that song at all to me, or it's a very, very loose interpretation.

The hallmark of this collection, though, is its energy. As with punk rock, there's a lot of kinetic intensity with indie soul records that would have gotten smoothed out had a major label been involved. You can hear that right off the bat with the opening cut by the Shan-Dells. But it also comes through on tracks by the Soulville All-Stars, the Soul Clinic, and even on the ballad by the Soulsations. The Soulsations, by the way, were a group that had only one release on a label (Ste-Al) that had only one release. It doesn't get much cooler than that...in my world, anyway.

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

Track list:
1. The Shan-Dells - I've Got to Love Her
2. The Del-Cords - Just a Little Misunderstanding
3. Soul Clinic - No One Loves Me Anymore
4. Emperors Soul '69 - Sad Girl
5. The Soul Exotics - Baby, It's True
6. The Intentions - Don't Forget That I Love You
7. The Del-Cords - Won't You Let Me Know
8. Emperors Soul '69 - Bring Out Yourself
9. The Soul Exotics - Darlin'
10. The Soulsations - Here Comes the Pain
11. The Soulville All-Stars - Nobody To Blame (But Myself)
12. The Del-Chontays - Baby I Need You
13. Peter and the Wolfs - Monkey Time
14. The Soulville All-Stars - Won't You Please Be My Girl
15. The Soulville All-Stars - Nothing In This World Matters (To Me But You)
16. The Soulville All-Stars - I'm Gonna Get To You
17. The Soul Clinic - So Sharp
18. George Wilson - Here Stands A Man Who Needs You
19. George Wilson - Everything Will Be Fine
20. G.L. (George) Wilson & the Vesters - If She's Your Girl
21. The Intentions - Honest I Do
22. The Intentions - It's Got To Be Love
23. The Tranells - Blessed With A Love

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Various Artists - One-Derful, Mar-V-Lus, Northern Soul (1998)

As I keep mentioning, it's difficult for me to do '60s soul music posts because of the rules I've established for this blog. First, the material has to be out-of-print in some format. Second, it can't be actively available on any other music blog. Since '60s soul is eternally being rediscovered, it's not easy to meet this criteria.

This 1998 collection fits the bill, however. It's no longer available as a new product or as MP3s and no one else has it posted. So here goes.

This collection is subtitled "30 Rare Dancers From 60's Chicago" and it contains just that. There are lots of terrific, upbeat Windy City soul numbers from the indie One-Derful and Mar-V-Lus labels. Best of all, most of 'em really are pretty rare. In fact, the tracks by the late "tough soul" vocalist Johnny Sayles weren't even issued in their day.

But there are also three cuts that will probably be well-known to soul aficionados, since they hit the American charts. These include Alvin Cash & the Crawlers' "Twine Time" (#14, 1/65); the Sharpees' "Do the 45" (#114, 7/65); and the Accents' "New Girl" (#128, 8/64).

That Accents tune raises another issue: Several of the tracks here were titled incorrectly. Their song is called "New Girl" on the record label and in the Billboard books. For some reason, this collection titles it "(Spring Song) New Girl." I've also seen it titled this way elsewhere on the Web. Anyone know the story behind this? I assume it has something to do with the British Northern Soul crowd that revived it.

There were also a few other errors on the CD art, such as Willie Parker's "I've Got to Fight It" mistakenly being called "Don't Fight It." I took the liberty of not only correcting this error and others, but adding in release dates to the MP3 tags.

And I'm not knocking the compilers for the errors, either. I've put together collections myself and it ain't easy to get everything right. There's no knocking the music either. So turn it up already! 

Related posts:
Various Artists - Indie Soul of the '60s
Various Artists - Northern Soul Girls Rock! Disc 4
Various Artists - Bigtop Soul Cellar

Track list:
1. The Ringleaders - Baby What Has Happened To Our Love
2. The Du-Ettes - Every Beat Of My Heart
3. The Sharpees - Tired Of Being Alone
4. Joseph Moore - I Still Can't Get You
5. The Accents - New Girl
6. Otis Clay - I Don't Know What I'd Do
7. The Admirations - Don't Leave Me
8. Josephine Taylor - Ain't Gonna Cry No More
9. The Blenders - Your Love Has Got Me Down
10. Lucky Laws - Who Is She
11. Harold Burrage - More Power To You
12. Willie Parker - I've Got to Fight It
13. The Accents - Who Are You Gonna Love?
14. Johnny Sayles - I'm Satisfied
15. Joe & Mack - Don't You Worry
16. The Young Folk - Lonely Girl
17. The Sharpees - Do The 45
18. The Admirations - Wait Til I Get To Know You
19. Otis Clay - Show Place
20. The Du-Ettes - Please Forgive Me
21. Willie Parker - Don't Hurt The One You Love
22. The Blenders - Love Is A Good Thing Goin'
23. The Accents - You Better Think Again
24. Johnny Sayles - Tell Me Where I Stand
25. The Ultimations - Would I Do It Over
26. Alvin Cash & the Crawlers - Twine Time
27. Betty Everette - Please Love Me
28. Miss Madeline - Behave Yourself
29. Harold Burrage - Master Key
30. Beverley Shaffer - Where Will You Be Boy?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dee Dee Sharp - The Atco Years and More (1966-70)

Before you go and consult Discog.com, there is no CD called The Atco Years and More. I put it together. As with the Orlons collection Soulful Sides and Brenton Wood's Rarities, I felt someone needed to do this, so I elected myself. Plus, it gives me the chance to post something from my favorite genre of music -- 1960s soul -- which I don't usually get to do because others have cornered the market on it.

This collection came into being when I realized that there were five non-LP singles (i.e. ten songs) floating around from when Sharp was on the Atco label in the late '60s. No one has ever put out a Dee Dee Sharp Atco collection; if you think you saw one it was probably the Dee Dee Warwick set you remember. Ten songs runs a bit short, but not if you also add in the non-LP singles Sharp cut for the Gamble label immediately following this time period. Which is what I did here.

So how did Sharp end up at Atco? Like the Orlons, she parted ways with Cameo-Parkway after her singles stopped charting.

Sharp is primarily known for her early '60s dance-craze hits on the Cameo label like "Mashed Potato Time" and "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)." But by the mid-1960s, she was cutting some of the greatest soul records ever, like the Philly soul classic "I Really Love You," the gospel-influenced "Rock Me in the Cradle of Love," and the Impressions/Major Lance-styled dance ballad "(That's What) My Mama Said."

Unfortunately, impressive art does not always equal impressive sales. Not many people bought these records. When Sharp moved to Atco, her downward sales trend continued. That doesn't mean the music she was making was bad, though. She just changed her style and became less pop-focused.

This is one of the more interesting aspects Sharp's work at Atco: She moved away from her uptempo Philadelphia soul roots and took on a more bluesy, Southern sound. Some of the ballads here, like "A Woman Will Do No Wrong," wouldn't be out of place on a Percy Sledge album. And if "Help Me Find My Groove" and "This Love Won't Run Out" sound more like Muscle Shoals or Stax than Philly, well, that's because they were. Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote the former and Isaac Hayes and David Porter penned the latter.

Sharp's lyrical slant matured as well. It's hard to imagine her singing about wanting her "best friend's man" over at Cameo -- where her songs were usually either romantic or dance-oriented. But that subject was the topic of her first single at Atco. "Help Me Find My Groove" has a heavy sexual subtext that never would have flown at Cameo, while the title of her final Gamble Records single "The Bottle or Me," speaks for itself.

One tradition Sharp continued from her Cameo days was her duets. There, she did a bunch with Chubby Checker. On Atco, one of her singles, "We Got A Thing Going On" b/w "What'Cha Gonna Do About It," paired her with Ben E. King and the two soul greats play off one another in the tradition of Otis and Carla and Marvin and Tammy. The A-Side of this 45 was the closest Sharp came to a hit on Atco. It stalled out at #126 on the Bubbling Under chart in March, 1968.

After leaving that record company, Sharp put out two 45s on the short-lived Gamble label. She probably didn't have too hard a time getting a contract. The label was founded by writer-producer Kenny Gamble, with whom Sharp was romantically involved and would later marry. Gamble had also written several songs for Sharp and, of course, would soon go onto found the legendary Philadelphia International Records with Leon Huff.

Sharp's two Gamble singles only featured three songs: "What Kind of Lady," "You're Gonna Miss Me (When I'm Gone)," and "The Bottle and Me." Why just three? Because "You're Gonna Miss Me (When I'm Gone) was used as the B-Side for both 45s.

These tunes show Sharp progressing even further musically. By this point, she was moving into an early '70s funk groove. She was also flexing her artistic muscle as a songwriter. She's the "D. Gamble" credited on "The Bottle and Me" since she'd married Kenny Gamble by then. She would also release records under the name Dee Dee Sharp Gamble. By this point, Sharp was also more powerful than ever as a singer. But still, she wasn't making the charts.

This is all that's covered in this collection -- which features more info inside. After this time period, Sharp went on to have some success in the 1970s, notably with an R&B cover of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love." But like her Cameo work, that material can be found on albums, virtually all of which have been reissued on CD. Pretty much none of the stuff here can. So enjoy these rare cuts from Dee Dee Sharp's "in-between years." She's a performer who deserved to be known for more than songs about dances named after food.

Related posts:
The Orlons - Soulful Sides (1963-67)
Brenton Wood - Rarities (1963-70)
Astrud Gilberto - Rarities (1966-72)

Track list:
1. My Best Friend's Man
2. Bye Bye Baby
3. What Am I Gonna Do
4. (Heart and Soul) Baby I Love You
5. We Got A Thing Going On*
6. What'Cha Gonna Do About It*
7. A Woman Will Do Wrong**
8. You're Just A Fool In Love **
9. Help Me Find My Groove
10. This Love Won't Run Out
11. What Kind Of Lady
12. You're Gonna Miss Me (When I'm Gone)
13. The Bottle Or Me

* With Ben E. King
** Credited on the label as Dee Dee Sharpe

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bobby Paris - Let Me Show You The Way (1968)

This is definitely one of the stranger blue-eyed soul albums of the '60s. And one of the more obscure, since it's been out of print since before most of us were born and has never come out on CD.

Bobby Paris is mostly known to Americans for his (very) minor hit "Per-so-nal-ly" which made it to #129 on the Bubbling Under Chart in 1968. That song might have been a bigger hit had Paris not set up a chorus where it sounded like he was saying the word "damn"...but not really. Radio was pretty conservative then. But -- as always -- I digress.

Or maybe I'm not digressing. Maybe that's the point. From that song's eccentric lyric and title spelling, you might just guess that Paris wasn't your everyday performer and was likely to throw some flies into the proverbial ointment if he made an LP. And if you did guess that, you'd be half right.

The first side of this album -- his lone LP release -- is very soulful. There are lots of horn driven numbers that are a really good showcase for Paris' throaty vocal stylings. But on the second side, things get weird. Psychedelia was still in the air in 1968. And from the sound of things, it seems like Paris might have been listening to music like the Seeds' 1967 garage-psych opus Future or Rod McCuen's spoken-word-easy-listening poetry pieces from albums like 1966's The Loner And 13 Other Rod McKuen Songs Of Love And Loneliness.

Side two is a song cycle in which Paris interpolates (and blends) spoken word segments with string-laden renditions of rock-era pop standards like "Please, Mr. Sun" and "Tragedy." Paris' scattered monologues add up to a story of a love affair gone wrong, starting with its hopeful beginnings and ending at its rather depressing break-up. Weird as it is, it sort of works -- albeit in a campy Richard Harris sort of way.

In all, this isn't a bad album. You wonder why the reissue crowd hasn't picked up on it, since Paris seems to be just waiting to be rediscovered. For one thing, he's got one of the most prestigious credits in '60s pop to his name, having co-produced Bobbie Gentry’s chart-topping country-pop classic "Ode to Billie Joe."  Besides that, several of his 45 records, like "Night Owl" and "I Walked Away" have become classic Northern Soul records in England. Plus, this album's really a trip.

Related (sort of):
The Seeds - Future (Mono Mix, 1967)
Chris and Peter Allen - Chris And Peter Allen's Album #1 (1968)

Track list:
1. Out Of Key
2. I’m So Lonely
3. Per-so-nal-ly
4. No No No Girl
5. I’m That Kind Of Man
6. Going Out The Way I Came In
7. The Cycle I: Interlude “The Beginning"/"Let Me Show You The Way”
8. The Cycle II: Interlude “The Love"/"You”
9. The Cycle III: Interlude “The End"/"Please, Mr. Sun”
10. The Cycle IV: Interlude “The Hurt"/"Tragedy”
11. The Cycle V: Interlude “The Realization"/"Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”
12. The Cycle VI: Interlude “The New Beginning"/"Bye Bye Blackbird”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Color Me Gone - Color Me Gone (1984)

Back in December, I posted a rip of Marti Jones' Unsophisticated Time, her debut solo album, which launched her career as a critically-acclaimed pop-rock songstress. But before that album came out, Jones was known as the lead singer for the Ohio quartet Color Me Gone, which released one six-song extended play record in 1984. (Ignore the sources that claim this was an '83 release -- it says "1984" is right there on the record label.)

It's hard to say what kind of music Color Me Gone did. It sounds to me like they were trying to imitate the sound R.E.M. had at that point, which consisted of laid-back melodies laid upon arpeggiated electric guitar riffs. But that's not exactly a genre, is it? Back then we called it "alternative" which came to mean something else ten years later. We also called it "college rock." Maybe this is post-punk or post-new wave.

The E.P. has never come out on CD and a new copy will cost you over $100. But for anyone who wanted to know what it sounds like, well, here it is. That said, I have to agree with the Trouser Press review, which calls the songs "unmemorable," save for one tune, "Hurtin' You."

That song -- which bears traces of Smokey Robinson's style (always a good thing) -- turned out to be written by someone outside the band, Chuck Keith, who was a member of another Ohio band, the Hi-Fi's. This answers the question as to why Color Me Gone got more publicity than airplay: They just didn't have the songwriting chops. By the time Jones went solo, she knew enough to get material from top-flight composers in order to fill out her albums.

Still, this E.P. sounds nice enough as a remembrance of that now long-gone early '80s guitar rock sound. Play it when you're feeling nostalgic for the days of Rank and File, Green on Red, Guadalcanal Diary, and others of that ilk.

Related posts:
Marti Jones: Unsophisticated Time (1985)
Marshall Crenshaw - U.S. Remix (1984)
Tommy Keene - Places That Are Gone (1984)

Track list:
1. Lose Control
2. Calm Before A Storm
3. Hideaway
4. Almost Heaven
5. Hurtin' You
6. July/December

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lucy Simon - Stolen Time (1977)

"They picked the wrong song for the single."

If there's one line that could serve as a description for why the albums I post didn't click with the public, this one is it. And boy does it ever apply to the second album by Lucy Simon, the older sister of rock star Carly Simon.

The third song on side one of this LP is a blissful slice of dance-pop titled "Please Say Yes." It's one of those songs that you know is going to be great as soon as the intro starts up. The rest of the tune does not disappoint. It's got a perfectly-formed melody (composed by Simon), a convincingly funky beat (perfect for its era), and the type of lyrics that might not be profound but sing really well (courtesy of Carol Bayer-Sager).

And speaking of singing, Simon sings the hell out of it. For this number, she casts aside her typical highfalutin "trained" vocals and moves convincingly into the R&B arena, coming off like a cross between her more famous sister and Dionne Warwick. Speaking of Warwick, "Please Say Yes" is a bit reminiscent of that singer's 1974 #1 hit with the Spinners, "Then Came You."

I'm trying not to drone on about one song for too long (he said as he went into paragraph three about the tune). But I'll go out on a limb here and say that not only do I think "Please Say Yes" could have been a massive hit, I personally like it better than any Carly Simon song. 

Why this piece of pop perfection was left to languish in obscurity on this album is a mystery. Instead, the people at Simon's label, RCA Records, chose the song "If You Ever Did Believe" for the single. That song, by the way, was written by the outside team of Andrew Goldmark and Elizabeth Dasheff, who wrote songs for Andy Williams and Mary McGregor. Since this is the only song on the LP Simon didn't have a hand in writing, I guess RCA felt they needed to bring in outsiders to make hits. Their plan didn't work; the single went nowhere.
Virtually all the rest of the songs on this album are well-written and catchy, even if they don't sound like they have as much hit potential as "Please Say Yes." "Father to Son," which features Carly and her then-husband James Taylor, is a perfect example of what makes Lucy Simon's music so compelling. It's a pensive sentimental story-song about divorce that could have been overly sentimental. But its economic lyrical structure and Simon's stiff-upper-lip reading give it just enough pathos to avoid sappiness.

The lack of a hit single was what probably drove the elder Simon out of the pop world after this release. Her first album, which I wrote about previously, also didn't produce any hits, so I guess after two albums she and RCA parted company. Lucy Simon's only chart entry came as part of the Simon Sisters, a duo featuring her and Carly. They got to #73 with the children's song "Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod" in 1964.

A little over a decade after this release, Simon was able to forge a successful career composing theatrical musicals. As I mentioned in the previous post, her most famous is the award-winning Broadway hit "The Secret Garden." But had "Just Say Yes" been the single, you wonder if things might have turned out different.

Related post: Lucy Simon - Lucy Simon (1975)

Track list:
1. If You Ever Believed
2. Father to Son
3. Just Say Yes
4. Safe in My Arms
5. Summer Storm
6. I've Been There Before
7. We're Over
8. Partners in Crime
9. The Early Heroes in Our Lives
10. I Want You Back Again

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lucy Simon - Lucy Simon (1975)

Never released on CD (my favorite opening line!), this is the debut album by Lucy Simon. Lucy is, of course, best known as the older sister of pop singer Carly Simon. The elder Simon released two albums in the '70s. Neither caught on. But that doesn't mean there wasn't great music on 'em. Both are first-rate records.

Simon is a talent in her own right and definitely didn't get a recording contract just because she was Carly Simon's sister. In fact, she performed with a pre-fame Carly as part of the folk duo the Simon Sisters. They had a minor hit in 1964 with "Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod," which was Lucy's musical adaptation of the Eugene Field poem. After her short-lived pop career, Lucy Simon went on to score several successful theatrical shows, most notably the multi-Tony Award-winning 1991 Broadway hit "The Secret Garden."

But in the pop world, she just never got the breaks. The main reason for that was probably her singing. She has a great voice, but her vocal style has its roots in theatrical music and early '60s folk, not commercial pop. Ironically, her high-pitched warble sounds hipper now than it probably did back then, because it foreshadowed the style of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Regina Spektor and others.

Still, Simon's vocal approach works for her material, which is artful and literary. For example, the track that bookends the album, "From Time to Time to Time," showcases her storytelling abilities by conjuring an entire era out of the past in just a few verses.

Before we go any further, I want to say a word or two about the actual sound of this album. Some of the songs lack treble and come off as a bit muffled, especially when you listen with headphones. This is the way the actual record sounds, not the way I did the rip.  I didn't "roll off" the high end or overdo noise reduction or alter the sound in any manner.

My guess is that they overused (or misused) the Dolby noise reduction system in recording or mixing down this album. I've read about this happening in studios. Either that or Simon and producer Joel Dorn did this purposely to create a warm, cozy living-room-with-rug soundscape.

Getting back to the music, virtually every cut is tuneful, although Simon veers far off the pop reservation with the 19th century classical piece by Gabriel Fauré that closes side one (track #5 here). "Sally Go Round the Sun" shows that she knows her pop history well, though. She uses the old children's nursery rhyme as a jumping off point for a bittersweet McCartney-esque story-song that's musically underscored by references to both the psychedelic-era Beatles and the old Jaynetts hit "Sally Go Round the Roses." Very clever.

However, the entire presentation is more art school than pop charts. Not to keep comparing Lucy to Carly, but it's easy to see why this didn't click with the general public. Carly Simon's music and lyrics have a plainspoken, everyday quality Lucy's lacks. But if you prefer the artsy to the everyday, then odds are you'll prefer this LP to No Secrets or any of Carly's work.

And speaking of Carly, the bathing suit photo of Lucy featured on this album's inner sleeve brings to mind Carly's notoriously sexy LP covers of the early '70s. You wonder if this wasn't an example of the sibling rivalry referenced in a recent New York Times story about the sisters. After all, you didn't see Carole King or Laura Nyro trying to one-up each other with hot album graphics, did you?* Anyway, I have no answers to such questions, but will be sure to study all the photos to come up with one real soon...

Related posts:
Laura Nyro - More Than a New Discovery (Mono Mix, 1967)
Lindy Stevens - Pure Devotion (1972)
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974)
Harriet Schock - Hollywood Town (1974)
Gretchen Cryer and Co. - I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road (1979)

Track list:
1. From Time to Time to Time (Version 1)
2. All I Have to Do Is Dream
3. Sally Go Round the Sun
4. Harbour
5. Pavane
6. Silence Is Salvation
7. I Heard You Say Come Back
8. The Closest Friends
9. My Father Died
10. Interlude
11. From Time to Time to Time (Version 2)

* Note to prudes and feminists (although those groups tend to overlap more and more these days): Me mentioning this photo is no more inappropriate or ridiculous than Simon having put it there in the first place.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Nighthawks - The Nighthawks (1980)

Never released on CD, the Nighthawks' seventh album got some radio play on FM stations in its day, before the band seemingly disappeared from the pop scene. While they released more albums after this one, their blues-rock thunder was stolen a few years later by the newer Fabulous Thunderbirds. Even their occasional penchant towards '50s rock (and wearing lots of tattoos) was popularized by another group that came along after them, the Stray Cats.

But the Washington DC-area Nighhawks had been around almost a decade before the T-Birds or Stray Cats started and their mastery of hard-hitting, electric Chicago blues show in this album. It's almost all cover songs, but they rock the hell out of them and the interplay between Mark Wenner's amplified harmonica and Jimmy Thackery's lead guitar can't be beat.

They were also on the mark when it came to picking songs. A year after they re-did Elvis Presley's "Little Sister," Rockpile and Robert Plant were all over radio and MTV with their remake of the tune, which was on the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea album put together by Paul McCartney. Marshall Crenshaw redid the song the next year and put it on his "U.S. Remix" EP. But the Nighthawks revived it first. This is a new rip of the LP @320 with scans. Turn it up!

Track list:
1. Mainline
2. Upside Your Head
3. Every Night and Every Day
4. Back To The City
5. One Nite Stand
6. Pretty Girls and Cadillacs
7. Brand New Man
8. Little Sister
9. Don't Go No Further
10. Teen-age Letter
11. I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Valerie Carter - Just A Stone's Throw Away (1977)

This is the first Valerie Carter album, which came out a year before her second, Wild Child. I wrote about that one several months ago, mentioning it was a favorite of mine. A Stone's Throw Away isn't quite as blissful, but it's a good record overall. If there's a problem with it, it's because of its pacing. There are just too many slow songs, and they're often grouped together.

Once you get used to the fact that this is a really mellow album, though, it works as a set of jazzy, late night ballads. Still, the few fast songs are so good you wish there were more. My favorites in this respect are the lilting "Ringing Doorbells In The Rain" and the funky shuffle "So, So, Happy" (yes, that's the way they placed the commas in the song title). Keep in mind that even the faster-paced songs here are pretty laid back. As I said, it's pretty mellow. For more on Carter and her background, see my previous write-up on her.

Related: Valerie Carter - Wild Child (1978) 

Track list:
1. Ooh Child
2. Ringing Doorbells In The Rain
3. Heartache
4. Face of Appalachia
5. So, So, Happy
6. A Stone's Throw Away
7. Cowboy Angel
8. City Lights
9. Back To Blue Some More

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fortune - Fortune (1978)

First time online in high quality! I was all set to write "First time ever on the Web!" for my rip of this album, but I found that it's available elsewhere. Someone beat me to it. However, that rip is low-quality and full of surface noise and scratches, so I guess I can lay claim to the first listenable rip of this album.

That said, I mean no offense to anyone. Doing good rips can be an arduous process. I may do a post detailing how to do one properly and remove surface noise, ticks, pops, and the like.

And with that out of the way, I have very little to say about this group. Because I know almost nothing about them. They're not listed in either of the early Rolling Stone Record Guides and their only entry in the Billboard books is for a song called "Stacy" that got to #80 (yes, #80) in late 1985. That's long after the release of this album, which is their debut. According to Wikipedia, the 1985 release was by a "regrouped" version of this band with a different lead singer.

Anyway, I picked this album up because of the cover. I saw it at a record show and wondered what the deal was with that photo. It looks like your classic '70s Alpha Dude surrounded by his mini-harem. Hey, maybe things really were cooler in the '70s. Take me back to Studio 54, even though I never went there in the first place. But I digress.

This record is mostly album-oriented rock (AOR) with a lot of R&B rhythms thrown in. These two influences are especially apparent on their cover of the Undisputed Truth's "Squeeze Me, Tease Me," which they hammer out in a hard rock style similar to Humble Pie's take on Betty Wright's "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker" (a song that I'm sure no one knows, but what the hell).

But this group's identity isn't that cut-and-dried. There are also some nice Fleetwood Mac-styled pop tunes here, notably "Certain Kind of Feeling" and "Country Love," which are sung, respectively, by Maureen Thornton and Colleen Fortune. Fortune co-wrote most of the record with Richard Fortune. According to Wikipedia, they were a husband-and-wife musical team, but she left the group at some point, which I assume detracted from both the music and the cover art.

In all, it's an uneven record but it's got its moments. I'm especially fond of "Heavy Love," which sounds to me like it would have been a better choice for a single than "Squeeze Me, Tease Me," which is what they picked. I'll open the floor at this point to anyone who knows anything about this group since this is pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

Track list:
1. Saddle the Wind
2. Squeeze Me, Tease Me
3. Certain Kind of Feeling
4. Bein' Real With the Feelin'
5. Forget About Tomorrow
6. Country Love
7. Heavy Love
8. Swinging From the Stars
9. Rainy Day Woman

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Bluebells - The Bluebells (Specially Priced 5-Cut Mini Album, 1983)

As I mentioned in my last post, back in the early '80s the record industry in the United States would try to popularize new acts by putting out mini-albums or EPs (extended play records). These discs were inexpensive and therefore didn't tax the budgets of potential young listeners looking to sample new sounds. It might be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when you couldn't just hear music with a few mouse clicks. You actually had to go to the store and buy the disc.

Anyway, when new groups were from England, their U.S. EPs usually consisted of a bunch of singles from their homeland. So listeners in America got releases like seven-song Introducing the Style Council and this "Specially Priced 5-Cut Mini Album" that made the Scottish indie rock band the Bluebells known to rock fans in the U.S.

And what an introduction it was. At the time, the lead-off cut "Cath" was all over college radio, as was the twangy "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" (an original, not a Connie Francis cover). Heck they even got some airplay out of their version of "Patriots Game," the Irish anti-war song upon which Bob Dylan based "With God On Our Side." (The correct title is "The Patriot Game," but its titled on this release as "Patriots Game" so that's what I'm calling it here.)

Although this record came out in late 1983, it caught on in the U.S. around March or April of 1984. But pretty soon after that, you didn't hear much about the Bluebells. They came out with a full-length album that was disappointing because it included a vastly inferior remake of the blissful "Cath." Unfortunately, this remake has now because the standard. To add insult to injury, the group also re-recorded "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and it was none the better either. Bad move.

In ripping this album from the original vinyl, I listened closely to these songs and realized that the band probably wanted them redone because the recordings are somewhat amateurish. They rerecorded them with synths and higher production values. But more expensive recordings do not = better recordings, as anyone who has ever heard '60s soul artists re-record their old hits knows. Remakes often lose the spirit of the original, which is what the Bluebells did in this case.

But for a brief moment in time, this record was blaring from the turntables of college students everywhere. And it was the perfect soundtrack for that spring.

More early '80s EPs and Mini-Albums:
The Style Council - Introducing: The Style Council (1983) 
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)
Marshall Crenshaw - U.S. Remix (1984)
No Trend - Teen Love (12" EP, 1984) 
Color Me Gone - Color Me Gone (1984)
Tommy Keene - Places That Are Gone (1984)

Track list:
1. Cath
2. Everybody's Somebody's Fool
3. Patriots Game (aka "The Patriot Game")
4. Sugar Bridge
5. Aim in Life

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tommy Keene - Places That Are Gone (1984)

When I came of age in the Washington, D.C. area in the early '80s, we were lucky enough to have a progressive rock station, WHFS-FM, that played new music that almost no other station played. Heck, they even showcased older artists no one else was played then either (John Prine, NRBQ, John Fahey), plus the DJs would spin cutting-edge New York dance records Saturday nights and obscure reggae and dub cuts every Sunday evening.

If you're only familiar with WHFS as the alternative rock powerhouse it became in the 1990s, you should know that ten years earlier, it was a different beast. Back then, it had a small-ish audience of geeky college new wave kids (ahem) and aging hippies. Moreover, WHFS in the Reagan Era still had a local focus. It went out of its way to support area artists whose music fit its focus.

Sometimes you'd hear an artist so much you'd think he or she was a national sensation, but you'd find out the artist was only living a few towns away and happened to be a WHFS favorite. Such was the case with Tommy Keene. If there was ever a local star on WHFS it was Keene and if there was ever any one release that could be considered a "WHFS record," it was his mini-album Places That Are Gone.

Keene was a D.C.-area musician who originally gained local fame with his group the Razz. His appeal widened with the release of his first solo album, Strange Alliance, in 1981. By the time he came out with this record, he had hit his stride as both a writer and performer and his local following was growing.

As such, literally every song on this six-track release received airplay on WHFS. I know people overuse the word "literally," but in this case, it's accurate. EVERY song received airplay -- and regular airplay at that.

This wasn't because Keene was friends with the DJs or some other bulls*it political reason. It was because every song on the record was great. All of it is first-rate, jangly power pop. All of it's catchy as hell. All of it's sung and played well. And all the lyrics not only have depth, but they work well within the melodies when Keene sings them (this isn't always the case when people write meaningful lyrics).

Even today, I can reel off the titles like a roll call. There's the wistful title track; the rocking-yet-melodic "Nothing Happened Yesterday;" the melancholy ballad "Baby Face;" the moody, mysterious "Back to Zero Now;" the '60s-meets-new wave "When Truth Is Found;" and the pounding Alex Chilton cover "Hey! Little Child." Not one weak song in the bunch. A letter-perfect lineup if there ever was one.

Keene went on to sign with a major label, Geffen Records, where he cut a less magical version of "Places That Are Gone" for his 1986 debut LP, Songs From the Film. Even though he was paired with legendary engineer/producer Geoff Emerick, the album was a disappointment. The AllMusic guide says the release "rounded off the edges" of Keene's sound and I couldn't have put it better.

Places That Are Gone, meanwhile, has become something of a minor collector's item, with used copies going for reasonably high prices. Well, at least I consider the prices high since I bought it for about $4 way back when. From the looks of things, it's never come out on CD, but I might be wrong (you never know if a bootleg or foreign copy made it onto the market but not onto Discogs.com).

Some of these songs ended up on various collections. But they're best heard all together, in their original track order, and sounding exactly like they did on vinyl with no extra compression or altered EQ settings. Which is why I decided to finally do a rip of it, replete with high-quality scans.

As a funny aside, I'll mention that I'm pretty sure I bought this record from the guy who co-produced it and played bass on it, Ted Niceley, a former member of the Razz. He worked at the time at an indie record store in Rockville called Yesterday and Today Records, which served as a hub for the much of the local music scene. This is where I bought Places That Are Gone one night in the fall of 1984. I still see the Yesterday and Today crowd on occasion at record shows in the Baltimore area, so I'll have to ask about this.

Related posts:
Andy Adams & Egg Cream - Egg Cream (1977)
The Attractions - Mad About the Wrong Boy (1980) 
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Get Happy!! (US Vinyl Pressing, 1980)
Various Artists - Sharp Cuts (1980)
Color Me Gone - Color Me Gone (1984)
Marshall Crenshaw - U.S. Remix (1984)

Track list:
1. Places That Are Gone
2. Nothing Happened Yesterday
3. Baby Face
4. Back to Zero Now
5. When Truth Is Found
6. Hey! Little Child