Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 31, 2020

off to central Louisiana for 10 days of poetry work

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Off soon to a cottage on the Atchafalaya River in South Central Louisiana for ten days of work on my new book-length poetry project, COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES.  I’ll have no internet there, but regular content (already uploaded) will still be appearing here at the KSE blog while I’m gone, so stay tuned. If you need me for anything, text me.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, I’m not making my customary stopover at one of the Louisiana racetracks, Delta Downs or Evangeline Downs, just going straight to my waterfront cottage and working full-time on this new two-section, 40-page open-field poem, inspired by Andy Warhol’s two-panel (diptych) paintings and Gertrude Stein’s spring-loaded incremental repetition.

warhol ileana sonnabend

Since moving back to long-form poems in 2016—-my first two poetry books, TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY (2005) and POINT LOMA PURPLE (2006) were both book-length works)—-I’ve been able to break through on to a new and higher plane and have composed and published a new long-form poetic work each year since. It’s not hard to understand the intoxicating appeal of the room-sized canvas to painters such as Twombly or Hockney or Warhol, or its musical equivalent to composers such as Feldman or LaMonte Young. I remember being in the presence of Warhol’s 25.5 feet wide CAMOUFLAGE LAST SUPPER and feeling that power. Of course, I am a lifelong student of Wordsworth’s THE PRELUDE and THE EXCURSION as well as Melvillle’s CLAREL, to bring our discussion back to poetry, although in the poems from AMONG THE NEWLY FALLEN on, my compositional method and poetic super-structure are more along the lines of a Twombly or a Feldman, which has led to the feeling of self-liberation described above. I’m also playing for much higher stakes….and, to mix metaphors, working without a net at a much higher altitude!

All of these longer poems of mine from 2016 on are still available in attractive perfect-bound paperback editions:







Just click on the link below for direct ordering:

Bill Shute author page at Amazon

tomorrow cover

The new work, COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES, is in some ways a direct extension of the previous book, published a few months ago, TOMORROW WON’T BRING THE RAIN, so you might want to check that out. It was released in May 2020, right at the worst period of the publishing slowdown, when it took 4-6 weeks to get a copy from the publisher….in the periods when they were even accepting orders. That did not help the book’s visibility any in what should have been its ‘launch’. However, if you order it now, you should have it in-hand in 7-10 business days. Click below and it will be winging its way to you soon….

As always, thank you for your support and for your taking the time to read. Some people have been reading my various writings since the early 1980’s. As they say on Southwest Airlines, “we know you have a choice….”

July 28, 2020

Floyd Cramer, “Night Train,” RCA-Camden LP, released 1967

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FLOYD CRAMER, “Night Train,” 1967 RCA-Camden LP

A1   Night Train 3:00
A2   Half As Much 2:47
A3   Theme From A Dream 2:30
A4   Long Walk Home 2:21
A5   Secrets 2:35
B1   Woodchopper’s Ball 2:48
B2   Town Square 1:58
B3   On A Fling Ding 2:00
B4   Shaggy Bop 1:54
B5   Want Me 2:15



Good old-style thrift stores/junk stores have gone the way of real rock’n’roll—-they’re still out there, but harder to find….and when you do find them, they are often corrupted by the commercialism and pretentiousness of the present day and the evil influence of Ebay. If anyone is a thrift store musical artist, it’s pianist Floyd Cramer (although based on my excursions in the last two years, Billy Vaughn wears the crown of most-common thrift store LP artist!).When I was in Central Louisiana a few years ago, catching the horse races at Evangeline Downs, I explored the small towns in the area and stumbled across a junk store that did not have much worthwhile, especially the record section, which was mostly trashed copies of things like SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER or Neil Diamond. The sole good thing I saw was about 20-25 Floyd Cramer albums, all in what could charitably be called VG condition and all for two dollars each! As I was traveling and as I am gradually selling off most non-essential items in my record collection, I decided to pass on them….except for one, an album that I owned back in the 80’s (and got for 99 cents) and had clear memories of, NIGHT TRAIN.

If you are not familiar with country pianist Floyd Cramer, he was one of the two most popular piano instrumentalists (as opposed to pianists who also sang, like Moon Mullican or Charlie Rich or Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Mickey Gilley) in country music, the other being Del Wood, a lady who played in a kind of honky-tonk/ragtime style. Cramer, on the other hand, had an instantly identifiable “slip note” style, which had him playing the melody of a song (and it was all about melody on a Cramer record!) in a relatively straight-forward manner, but with many of the notes he played, particularly at climactic moments, he’d “slip in” a second note a few steps away from the main note maybe a half second after the first note. If you can’t imagine that, just go to You Tube and search for his song “Last Date.” By the end of the first thirty seconds, you’ll know whether you like that style or not. Like many musical artists with a gimmick, Cramer brought that gimmick to MANY albums. If you liked his style, then obviously, you’d LOVE to hear it applied to your favorite country and pop hits. I would guess that during his heyday, from the late 50’s through the late 70’s, he probably recorded 3-4 albums a year, and that’s not counting re-packaged items and budget-label product, such as the album under review today. Much of Cramer’s output would be put in the “easy listening” category, if no one told you that it was considered “country.” Cramer was actually a fine player, a crack session musician (he’d been house pianist at the Louisiana Hayride!), and he appeared on many of Elvis Presley’s best Nashville sessions, but the “slip note” gimmick was what made him famous, and he continued to deliver the goods album after album after album…and many of those albums, at least for the first decade or so, were produced by Chet Atkins, who was doing a similar thing on his guitar instrumental albums.

Camden was RCA’s budget label, and to save on mechanical royalties, their albums usually offered only 10 songs as opposed to 12. Camden was used by RCA to reissue older material that might not sell at full price anymore, but would sell at department stores for 99 cents (mono) or $1.99 (stereo) to the kind of people who did not frequent record stores but enjoyed a new album now and then by a familiar name. It was also used to create albums of material by popular artists who had tracks that fell between the cracks–many of Elvis’ soundtrack songs from movies that did not have enough songs to create a soundtrack album would wind up on Camden LP’s for their initial release (if an EP was not issued), though Camden also issued new material among the re-treads. In perhaps the most outrageous example of that, Elvis’ smash hit Burning Love was first issued on a BUDGET album after its success as a single. It could have become the core of a successful full-price album, but Colonel Parker got a lump sum for each Camden album and was not a man who thought about long-term strategy.

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NIGHT TRAIN would seem to be an album full of tracks that fell between those cracks. Many of the Cramer albums I’ve heard had a theme to them, or at least a consistent sound throughout the album. This one does not. If Discogs is to be trusted (sorry, but I don’t know the Cramer discography intimately, although I’ve probably owned a dozen of his albums over the years and maybe 6 or 7 singles), the majority of the tracks were first released here, with a few tracks coming from a 1965 album and another track being a non-LP b-side, the album closer, WANT ME (see pic).

The album is an odd mixture of various styles. It opens promisingly with a cover of the R&B classic “Night Train”, which is performed in a crime-jazz style, and you could imagine Craig Stevens strutting down a dark alley at 2 a.m. in a PETER GUNN episode while it played. The second track is in the classic Cramer style, its first notes echoing “Last Date,” and it’s a cover of the country classic “Half As Much,” associated with Hank Williams. It’s got the light frosting of strings and ohh-ing and ahh-ing backing vocals that one expects in the “country-politan” style of the day, a sound very much associated with Cramer’s producer and good friend Chet Atkins. The next song, “Theme From A Dream,” sounds like a direct carbon-copy of the Duane Eddy style, but with the plonk of Cramer’s piano substituting for Eddy’s guitar twang. The military drumming and vaguely “western panorama” feel of the piece certainly evoke Eddy, and in case the listener is too pre-occupied with cooking dinner to make the connection, there are a few guitar “twangs” tucked into the mix. The next song, “Long Walk Home,” sounds like it could be the theme song from some TV-movie mystery, circa 1971, starring Gene Barry and Yvette Mimieux–I can see some stylish mansion, with a dead body draped over an ornate writing desk in the plush study, stumbled across by Mimieux at 3 a.m. She pauses, her jaw drops, the film’s title appears on the screen, and the Cramer musical theme starts playing. Etc. Etc.

Every song on the album is atmospheric in one way or another. It’s the perfect piece of thrift store vinyl, (and speaking of Discogs, I see you can STILL get a copy for 99 cents), kind of the music equivalent of the cheapo comic books I often review here. Someone probably enjoyed this dollar album for 20 years, playing it hundreds of times while frying up pork chops, dusting the living room furniture, or balancing the checkbook right before payday. Now YOU can get that copy yourself, and you can let it be the soundtrack to YOUR life activities. I can’t really call this a “lounge” album, but it certainly qualifies as easy listening, and it’s got everything that’s great about thrift-store LP’s. Cramer was born in Shreveport, a great music town, and passed away in 1997. He explained his slip-note style this way: “”The style I use mainly is a whole-tone slur which gives more of a lonesome cowboy sound. You hit a note and slide almost simultaneously to another.” His last chart hit was in 1980, a cover of the theme from the TV show DALLAS, which somehow seems fitting. Getting a thrift-store LP is like seeing a film at the dollar theater….your expectations change and you’re open to a wider variety of expression, finding the valuable in what others look down their noses at. Ahhhh, but it’s their loss. Floyd Cramer’s NIGHT TRAIN LP will be the best 99 cents you’ll ever spend….and if you’re lucky, you might even score the 8-track tape version of it (see pic).

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July 26, 2020

rest in peace PETER GREEN (1946-2020)

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PETER GREEN, 29 October 1946 – 25 July 2020

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Let’s hear from Mr. Peter Green himself before proceeding any further….

Tears are definitely being shed in our home on the passing of blues guitar master PETER GREEN. I consider his recordings with John Mayall and with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac as among the greatest ever made, and I’ve been listening to them for nearly 50 years now.

I do not exaggerate when I say that Peter Green’s music has kept me going for half a century. I can remember times in my life when I had next to nothing and was unsure of what I had to look forward to, but if I had a record player or a cassette player, and Green’s work with Mayall and/or the Mac (pre-1971 Mac, of course) on LP or cassette, I was never alone and life was rich once again.

Even in recent years, once 10-12 years ago, I spent a week in a Louisiana swamp and listened to nothing but the 6-CD Blue Horizon box of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac the entire time….it was sublime.

And just yesterday, I was listening to Green’s UK Decca album in support of the great American bluesman EDDIE BOYD….

Countless times since the 1970’s, I have patiently explained to people that Fleetwood Mac actually WERE a great band for a brief period in the late 1960’s and that they were solely a blues band—-in fact, they were at first basically John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers minus John Mayall (with blues stalwart Bob Brunning in there for a while too, another man who should be celebrated and remembered). They should forget about the horrible later incarnations of the Fleetwood Mac name and go back to the Peter Green period, the REAL Mac, a band I will always champion.

I’m glad that tribute concert that Mick Fleetwood put on a few months ago happened when Peter Green was still around to hear about it and appreciate the sentiment.

Thank you, Mr. Green….

I’ve included links to two classic Peter Green performances below….

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PETER GREEN with JOHN MAYALL’S BLUESBREAKERS, “The Supernatural” released Feb. 1967 (obviously Carlos Santana was a huge fan of this performance!)


Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac ~ ”Have You Ever Loved A Woman” (Live 1968)

July 25, 2020

Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1, July-August 1969 (56 shows)

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Elvis Presley, Las Vegas Residency 1,  31 July- 28 August 1969 (57 shows)

I’m hoping to eventually discuss here on the KSE blog each of Elvis Presley’s  15 residencies in Las Vegas between 1969 and 1976, adding up to 636 performances, every one sold out. Each residency has a unique identity and flavor, and each is worthy of separate investigation, with references to available recordings from each for those who wish to have your own audience with The King in your home. I have multiple shows from throughout each residency, and I keep them separated so it’s easy for me to listen to multiple shows from the same week, or back-to-back shows from the same evening (he did both a dinner show and a midnight show most of the time).

A good place to start is the review I did for Ugly Things magazine of the 11-CD ELVIS LIVE 1969 box set that RCA issued last year, 11 complete concerts, beautifully and respectfully presented, each show like lightning in a bottle. This review was written for a general audience (ie, not for the Elvis community) and is relatively brief. Future writeups will be in more detail and focus on particular shows within the run. Ladies and gentlemen, ELVIS in Las Vegas, Summer 1969.


ELVIS PRESLEY—Live 1969 (RCA) 11-CD box

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Elvis’ 1969 return to Las Vegas (he’d played it with Scotty and Bill back in 1956, but the town wasn’t ready for him, and he wasn’t ready for it), RCA has assembled a box-set of every surviving soundboard recording of a complete show from the Summer 1969 season, 11 shows from the second half of this residency, often with both dinner and midnight shows from the same day. The setlists are 90% the same, and Elvis’ comments to the audience are similar for most shows. Is the box worth $100+? Well, back in the day, fans would save up all year and travel to Vegas, get a cheap room, and see every show for a week straight. This box is the closest thing to that experience today, 50 years later (all we need is a casino buffet and some watery cocktails!).

With hindsight, we can see that in many ways the 1969 Vegas shows were an extension of the exciting “live-in-the-studio” sequences of the 1968 comeback TV special. He wasn’t yet using the 2001 theme as his entrance music, J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet hadn’t yet joined the act (so there are none of the “dive-bomber” low vocal tricks that were a staple of Elvis’ 70’s live show), and Kathy Westmoreland had not yet joined the group with her operatic high-voice harmonies, so these 1969 shows don’t sound like the more familiar 70-76 Vegas shows. Elvis includes songs that were highlights of the TV special such as Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and the Sun blues classic “Tiger Man”, and he provides a comedic version of his career highlights in a monologue in most shows, functioning like the “story” sections of the 68 comeback special

The band blasts out of the box at the start of each show with a blistering version of “Blue Suede Shoes,” and throughout every concert, the guitar of James Burton is upfront and all over. There is a Vegas pit-band behind the core rock and roll group (Burton, John Wilkinson, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Charlie Hodge—Larry Mahoberac is on keyboards, as former Cricket Glen D. Hardin had not yet joined Elvis) and the Sweet Inspirations vocal group (who stayed with Elvis until the end), but the orchestra stays in the background (or maybe they were lessened in this modern remix), fortunately. Some may need only the 2-LP version, with just one concert, which RCA also released recently, but for those ready for that week-long trip to Vegas with two Elvis shows a day, this box will take you there.

(originally published in 2019 in Ugly Things magazine)


I wasn’t able to find an official release video from RCA on this box, but I did find one of those record collector-oriented “unboxing” videos, so here that is for your enjoyment.


If you don’t mind bootleg-quality sound, there is an excellent show from earlier in the run than what’s documented on the 11-cd box set, on the Straight Arrow label’s album STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING, from the August 8, 1969 Midnight Show, which came out a year or two ago and can still be found from online dealers. However, you can listen to it free below:


If you prefer soundboard-quality recordings, here is the Dinner Show from August 10:


These two shows do not appear on the 1969 LIVE box set.

Stay tuned for future discussions of various Elvis residencies in Las Vegas….will try to have another one up within the next two months.

July 23, 2020

selected 9.5 mm films online (1924-1936)

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Most fans of silent film hear about the 9.5 MM format whenever seemingly “lost” silents, particularly shorts, are sometimes “found” because they were made available in the UK on the 9.5 mm format for sale to those with home projectors. Obviously, it’s a better format than 8mm (8 and 16 were the favored formats in the USA), being a bit larger, and many shorts and cut-down features (and cut-down shorts!) were made available in the format for UK home-movie buffs.

With a little time to kill this afternoon, I was watching some 9.5 MM films made available by British collectors on You Tube, and I thought I’d share a few with you.

By the way, if you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands, Princeton University has made hundreds of  “Baby Pathe” shorts available online, in their Pathe Baby collection, many of them French. Over the last few years, I have watched hundreds of them (hey, I’d rather watch that than whatever’s on Netflix or Hulu), and it’s a rabbit hole that is easy to fall down into. Here’s that link:


Here’s a sampling of items including comedies, musicals, cartoons, and two interesting silent condensed features: a mystery, and a political drama. Enjoy! And many thanks to both those who bought the original 9.5 mm shorts for their family’s viewing, those who saved them, and those who collected and restored them….and put them online!

WILL ROGERS in “Don’t Park There” (1924)


AMBROSE AND HIS ORCHESTRA featuring Evelyn Dall in “Soft Lights And Sweet Music” (1936)


“STEVE” (from the UK Comic Strip ‘Come On, Steve’) in “Steve’s Treasure Hunt” (1936 cartoon)


JIMMIE ADAMS in “An Accidental Champion” (1922)


LILLIAN RICH and GASTON GLASS in “The Bickel Affair” aka Exclusive Rights (1926). This is a 30 minute condensed version of a six-reel (approx. 60 min.) feature film.


BENITA HUME in “The Clue of the New Pin” (1929) Benita Hume is best-known to most Americans who know her as the wife of Ronald Colman, and she and Ronald appeared on many episodes of The Jack Benny Program on radio as Jack’s long-suffering neighbors, always trying to avoid him. Ms. Hume had a long background as a dramatic actress, but the Benny show displayed her gift for comedy. This is a 20 minute condensed version of an 80 minute feature film, based on a novel by Edgar Wallace.


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July 22, 2020

Rhythm ‘N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou · Bop Cat Stomp—By The Bayou, Volume 21

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Rhythm ‘N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou · Bop Cat Stomp—By The Bayou, Volume 21

Ace Records UK, released 2019

by the bayou 21

Volume 21 of Ace’s “By The Bayou” series of compilations, dedicated to various genres of late 50’s/early 60’s small-label sounds from Southwest Louisiana and East Texas, returns to R&B, with a strong 28-track collection of obscure and raw material from the vaults of local record-men such as Jay Miller (from Crowley, LA, the producer most associated with swamp blues), Eddie Shuler (from Lake Charles), Sam Montel (Baton Rouge), Floyd Soileau (Ville Platte), and Huey Meaux (Port Arthur, TX). Only 12 of the 28 tracks were issued at the time (though some crept out on obscure LP’s later, sometimes hampered by crude overdubs, thankfully removed here), and it’s safe to say that even those will be new to most ears.

Many of the artists are trying for the appeal of such successful Louisiana recording artists such as Guitar Slim or Earl King, though often with a twist of zydeco influence and less of a New Orleans beat (Route 90, now known as I-10, separates the core area of the album’s music from N.O.). Also, these records were made during the rock and roll era, so while the artists may be rooted in R&B, most wanted to play music that would also appeal to fans of Little Richard…while not alienating older listeners who might prefer T-Bone Walker. That’s certainly a demanding tightrope to walk, and the artists here approach it from many different angles, so there is a lot of variety here, and the album is programmed to highlight the diversity of sounds.

More than half (15 of 28) of the tracks come from Goldband, certainly one of the most raw and downhome of labels in what they released, so you can imagine how primal their unreleased material would be. Musicians taking guitar or sax solos are off-mike, the horn voicings are a bit imprecise, and the chord changes are not always made by everyone at the same time—but that’s the joy of small-label local recordings. They capture living, breathing roots musicians in real-time and in one-take in a way that slicker R&B recordings do not.

The best-known artists here (all represented by rare tracks) are Rockin’ Sidney, Clifton Chenier, Cookie & The Cupcakes, and Big Walter Price, but the lesser-known Lester Robertson or Leroy James or the ‘unknown’ artists all rock the house equally well. Another essential entry in an amazingly deep series.

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Here’s Ace’s promo video for the album


July 21, 2020

The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

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The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners, Volume 2: The Westerns (Classic Flix DVD)

contains the following  three  5-reel feature films




starring JIMMY ROGERS (son of Will Rogers) and NOAH BEERY, JR.

supporting players in the films include Joe Sawyer, Marc Lawrence, Iris Adrian, and many other greats


I loved the first collection of Hal Roach Streamliners, the Joe Sawyer/William Tracy military comedies (just do a search for “Streamliners” here at the KSE blog to read that write-up), and this second set follows up in fine form! Here is a recent online review I did of the set elsewhere….may as well get some more mileage out of it here!


wonderful 45-minute western comedies with the team of Rogers and Beery
This second volume of Hal Roach Streamliners, 40-45 minute mini-features made in the early 1940’s for double-bills, collects three entertaining and funny western comedies featuring Jimmy Rogers (son of Will Rogers) and Noah Beery Jr. (known and loved by millions from playing James Garner’s father in The Rockford Files, a man whose career went back to the early days of the sound era). Rogers is a wonderful presence….lanky and with great slow-reaction comic timing. I could see Jim Varney at his most laid-back in this role. He’s essentially the straight man of the duo. Noah Beery Jr. is “Pidge” (Beery’s real-life nickname), and he has a weakness for “dude ladies,” and each film’s plot begins as the pair of cowpokes ride into a new situation and Beery gets smitten with some lady and tries to attract her, which sets the comic events into motion. I could watch Beery all day. His mugging and physical comedy is first-rate (he could have had his own series of silent-era comedy shorts, if he had been 10-15 years older), and his delivery of the lines is pitch-perfect. He had a great comic persona in films and he steals any scene he is in. Rogers and Beery are a great team, and I’m sorry they only made the three short features together, but each one is a gem….if you like western comedies, that is. Thanks to Classic Flix for releasing these Hal Roach Streamliners in excellent-quality transfers. Rogers and Beery are still able to work their magic on us today. Clearly, the Roach lot was still firing on all cylinders in the early 40’s, after Laurel and Hardy had moved on. “Streamliners” are the perfect length for viewing after a long day’s work. A highly recommended set!



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Here’s the trailer from Classic Flix:

July 20, 2020

RAWHIDE KID #100 (Marvel Comics, June 1972) and the stripped-cover comics phenomenon

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:29 am
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Long before anyone ever made a drug or sex overture to me, and years before I was taken into “the back room” at Independent Records on West Colfax and offered bootleg LP’s for sale, I was first taken “behind the veil” as a comic book-buying elementary school student. Although I bought comic books at a drug store and at other places in the neighborhood, my main comic source was Convenient Food Mart, which had one of those tall circular wire-racks where the comics were on display. The comic section was in the corner of the front of the store, on the opposite end from the entrance, behind an ice-cream freezer and a soda machine. At my present advanced age, I don’t remember now what day of the week the new comic shipment appeared, and I did not have enough money to buy a comic a week anyway, but whenever I did get a quarter from my grandmother or some change from someone else for doing a chore or whatever, I would take it down to Convenient and check out the comic section. You could not “read” the comics without buying them, but you could look them over pretty closely, and I did. It was kind of like looking at 20 coming attractions for different films before deciding which one you would pay to see. It also allowed me to keep up on comics I did not actively buy as you could skim them fairly quickly. I would also stop there on the way home from elementary school and check out comics I could not afford.

I must have been going there for a few years a few times a week to look at comics when the overture was made: “Hi, Son. You come in here a lot–you’re a good customer. I’ve got some special comics in the back room that are cheaper than these ones out front. Only thing is they are missing the cover, or part of the cover. Want to take a look. You will keep this to yourself, right? Also, there’s no sales tax on these.” I was a bit taken aback, but there was the sweet taste of something unknown in his invitation, so I was ready.

What the backroom held was a few boxes of comic books with the top halves of the front cover ripped off….and some with no front cover at all. They were about 1/3 the cost of a proper comic. I don’t remember the specifics of pricing, but let’s say that instead of getting two new comic books for thirty cents, I could get something like six or seven of these “stripped” ones (as they are called in the trade).

Needless to say, I was hooked. I would make a point of stopping by when this particular guy was working, and he’d take me back again and let me thumb through the new offerings. Eventually, he let me go back myself (if there were no customers in the store), put my comics in a bag, and leave the money on the table. When I did it this way, I had to write down which ones I took, and he would check later.

I suppose on some level this practice was similar to cut-out records or remaindered books, but the big difference is that those are legit practices, and comic book stripping is not. The covers were sent back to the distributor so the store would get a credit for unsold copies. It would cost too much to ship all the unsold books back. If you look at the official notarized publication statements in comics of the era with the print runs and the sales and the returns, you see that often 50% of the magazines and comic books were returned unsold. This stripping procedure saved a lot of money on returns, and magazine and comic publishers factored the throwaway copies into the cost of doing business. Sale of stripped copies was an under-the-table practice….although I know that employees at stores which sell such publications often get access to free stripped magazines and newspapers if they want them, before they are discarded. I also remember seeing them at flea markets and junk stores as a child. That’s why you often see some kind of statement on the masthead of a magazine or comic or on the copyright page of a mass-market paperback that “it is a crime to sell this book in a mutilated form” or something similar–letting retailers know this practice is illegal and constitutes theft.

Other than the sale of stripped comic books, Convenient Food Mart seemed like a relatively honest convenience store. Independent convenience stores sometimes are a bit shady in some ways….here in Texas, you have the ones which have “8-liner” gambling machines in the back room, but you also have the ones which sell drug paraphernalia, synthetic marijuana, the combination energy drinks-with-alcohol, etc. The sleazier ones are sometimes known to offer known customers so many cents on the dollar in cash for food stamps or other government benefits. Then in some rural areas you have the phenomenon of stores selling used magazines, home-made food items, and other things you would not find in a chain-affiliated convenience store. These kind of stores are an American institution and we rely on them in so many ways, but they are rarely commented on or analyzed, except sometimes on the business page in the newspaper when there is a merger or a change in affiliation. Having worked in a convenience store myself, I can tell you that the employees REALLY know the regular customers. Even the ones who don’t talk about themselves are known to the employees through what they buy and when they buy it–and since we employees have active minds we need to fill with something, we construct scenarios about the customers. Their sex lives, their spending habits, their religious habits, the relative success of their marriages, the family dynamic (who wears the pants, etc.), who’s an alcoholic or potsmoker, who’s a habitual spender even though broke, etc.–all of these can be inferred from their purchases….but that’s a story for another article.

Of what value is a 40+ year old western comic book with a stripped cover to anyone today? It’s not as if the western genre of comic book was ever the most popular. Super-hero fans always looked down their nose at it, and it kind of died out by the 1970’s, although lame attempts were made to revive it by creating the half-baked “weird western” sub-genre. However, those never really took off except among comic-nerds. I assume that the kind of people who read western comics as children graduated to western fiction as adults–although I am an exception to that rule. I grew up on B-Western films and also western comics, but western fiction never really appealed to me. However, it has always been a niche market and continues to be, as anyone who has ever worked at a bookstore (particularly a used bookstore) knows, particularly in the west, the Midwest, and the South.

Holding this 1972 coverless Marvel western comic in my hands, I wonder….who in the world actually cares about something like this. Since it’s coverless, comic collectors would not touch it with a ten-foot pole. Superhero fans and those into comic-nerd culture (the latter being a big market segment nowadays) would not want anything to do with this as it’s a western. Those who follow comic art and comic artists might find it interesting from that angle. Stan Lee had an active hand in Marvel’s western line (and continued to into the 70’s); however, I’m guessing he does not get many questions about that in his comic-con appearances, from the people who pay two-hundred dollars for a 60-second audience with Stan, if they can even get one. Marvel tried at least twice to revive the Rawhide Kid character–through time-travel, he worked with The Avengers, and then later he was revived and revealed to be gay–and I vaguely remember each of those when it happened, but each was to me a ridiculous failure. Checking an online Marvel database, I see that the Rawhide Kid has never been killed off, so Marvel no doubt sees at least the possibility of some future marketability in the character (hey, even killing him off would have no market value nowadays!).

However, Marvel is now a huge entertainment conglomerate. The human element–the days when Marvel readers thought of themselves as a family or when you could send a note to Stan Lee and possibly even get a short answer–that’s long gone. Marvel’s unique “bullpen” provided a sense of identity and camaraderie among readers, and any comics fan of the era remembers fondly the messages from Stan Lee and later Jim Shooter about the product line and the enthusiasm about upcoming projects and story arcs. The enthusiasm shown in the old Bullpens created an enthusiasm in the readers. However, I doubt that much of Marvel’s income today comes from comic books themselves. Merchandizing and movie development deals bring in the money. The comics themselves appeal to a small and insular group. Independent publishers, who come and go, have tried since the 1980’s to create the kind of “family” atmosphere one found in pre-1985 comics, but their publications have never caught fire outside of the hardcore comics community and usually cannot be found outside specialized comic shops, places that normal people would never set foot in.

It’s possible that a 10-year old today in a section of the country where rodeos and “western culture” are still part of what’s everyday and taken for granted could stumble across this and, if he already has a taste for comics, might find it interesting and sense a kinship with it…..the way a youngster today who vaguely associates him/herself with “punk” can have a revelatory experience upon finding a Link Wray 45 on Swan or a Little Richard 45 on Specialty. Frankly, though, even in this issue, it seems as though the series was starting to be running on fumes. The main outlaw in the main story, GUNFIGHT FURY FALLS!, seems more like an over-the-top mutant than a real outlaw, and the story EL SOMBRO–MEXICO’S GHOST OF CHAPEL HILL does actually feature an otherworldly gunfighter. These are signs that the comic’s creators realize that a standard-issue western story can no longer create much interest. Jonah Hex and the full-fledged “weird westerns” were waiting just down the road a-piece–in fact, Jonah Hex made his first appearance around the time this Rawhide Kid comic was originally issued.
I was still relatively young as I watched the western comics genre distort itself while in its death throes and then die off entirely. Different comics industry Dr. Frankensteins have tried to revive the corpse here and there over the years, and some self-conscious and ironic revisionist western comics may well exist now under my radar, but the genre should be allowed to die a natural death and be left undisturbed. Some kid in Wyoming or western Kansas who grows up around horses and the mystique of the Old West may stumble across a MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN in the basement of an old house or at a flea market, and he may get excited about western comics….otherwise, the fair has moved on, 40 years ago, and the Rawhide Kid is fated to spend his final days in a stack of old magazines, in a dusty rack below a broken table at a junk store on a state highway, miles away from the interstate, stuck between old high school yearbooks and old copies of People Magazine featuring cover photos of long-forgotten celebrities. The rare person who wanders into the back section of the junk store is far more likely to notice old empty cans of beer from brands no longer brewed. As for the Rawhide Kid….Nobody knows, nobody sees, nobody cares.

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July 18, 2020

Ray Draper-A TUBA JAZZ (Jubilee Records LP, 1958)

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Ray Draper-A TUBA JAZZ (Jubilee Records LP, 1958)

The tuba has a long history in jazz, though it was missing in action for a few decades in the 1930’s and 1940’s and early 1950’s. In the 1920’s, many jazz bands and “hot dance” bands with a jazz element had a “brass bass,” not a stand up acoustic bass, and that role was played by a tuba. Even a sophisticate like Duke Ellington had a tuba in his 20’s bands. By 1927-28, the tuba was on its way out, and by 1929 bands with a tuba sounded a bit antiquated (it’s the same with banjos, which were widely used in 20’s jazz, they were out by the late 20’s and replaced by guitars).

Tuba virtuoso Ray Draper recorded three albums as a leader in the 1957-1958 period, and two of them featured John Coltrane, which is why they’ve stayed in print (although usually under Coltrane’s name, not Draper’s) ever since. One was for Prestige’s “New Jazz” subsidiary, called THE RAY DRAPER QUINTET FEATURING JOHN COLTRANE. Coltrane played on five of the six tracks on that album, and of course, those tracks later appeared on Prestige albums under Coltrane’s name, such as THE BELIEVER. Draper and Coltrane also recorded an album for Jubilee in 1958, with very much the same line-up (different pianist) as the New Jazz album, which was called A TUBA JAZZ, and that too has been in print in one form or another ever since its issue, due to Coltrane’s presence.

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In the 70’s, when I was a broke teenager, the material from the Jubilee album became part of a two-LP set TRANE TRACKS on the infamous TRIP label (“a division of Springboard International,” the back cover proudly stated). We’ve provided a pic of that album AND the rare 8-track variant of it—if you’ve got that 8-track, congratulations! As I remember that Trip album, which had the two LP’s stuffed into one sleeve, the personnel listing was dodgy. I had no way of knowing back then that some of the material on the album was actually from a group led by Lee Morgan (and supposedly one side of the two-LP set did not even contain Coltrane—typical for Trip Records). I just knew that the tracks with no tuba were not from the Draper sessions. Good old Trip/Springboard Records—who can forget their Hendrix albums of pre-fame R&B jams never intended for release, pre-fame Allman Brothers material from the “Allman Joys” days, the Sonny Boy Williamson with the Yardbirds album, etc.

Many years later, I discovered that the actual original album from which the TRANE TRACKS material came from was a 1958 LP on Jubilee called A TUBA JAZZ, credited to bandleader Ray Draper. It’s very interesting and satisfying as an album, and when placed alongside Coltrane’s Prestige material of the day, it offers quite a contrast. First of all, there are not a lot of jazz tuba players out there. Howard Johnson comes to mind, but few others. And Draper himself did not have a long and prolific career. He made three albums as a leader in the late 1950’s, while still in his late teens, and then made a jazz-rock album for Epic in the late 60’s credited to Red Beans and Rice. He appeared as a sideman on albums by Archie Shepp and Brother Jack McDuff and Sonny Criss and Dr. John, but health and lifestyle issues plagued him, and sadly he was murdered while being robbed in 1982 at the age of 42. Who knows what unique roads he could have explored could he have recorded more and had more opportunities…

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As for this album (and the other one with Coltrane), Draper was only 17 or 18 at the time he recorded it and was viewed as something of a young prodigy. The tuba is not a particularly agile instrument, so when the material is the kind of post-bop or hard-bop (or whatever it’s called) that was the jazz mainstream in 1958, during the statement of the song’s theme at the beginning and end of each piece, Coltrane (on tenor sax throughout) is the one who pretty much handles the melody, while Draper’s tuba offers the kind of blurred smears of sound I associate with New Orleans tailgate trombone players such as Kid Ory at their most primitive and non-mainstream. It’s kind of percussive in its effect and provides counterpoint to the lead instrument. The two Sonny Rollins pieces here, particularly “Oleo,” are very much bebop in their construction, and to hear Draper maneuver his way through the statement of theme on those rapid-fire pieces is like seeing The Incredible Hulk, blindfolded, working his way across a minefield….and succeeding. Coltrane always appreciated a challenge, and during his Prestige period (and while this was not recorded for Prestige, it IS during his Prestige period), he no doubt especially appreciated when he was given a unique situation to work in… that odd session recorded for a 16 rpm release (called BARITONES AND FRENCH HORNS) where he was teamed with two baritone saxophonists, or the sessions with Mal Waldron, with MW’s quirky and unique compositional style (it makes sense that he and Steve Lacy were perfect duet partners) and non-traditional sense of rhythm. So Trane’s playing here is always fascinating in that he’s teamed with a non-traditional player and has to compensate for what his partner can and can’t do. I probably listened to these tracks hundreds of times back then on my cheap Trip-label LP, and I always found new and interesting elements in them. I still do today.

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As Jubilee and Roulette later found themselves both owned by the EMI group of labels (nowadays under the Universal Music banner, I think), these tracks—along with Coltrane tracks from material recorded for Roulette—found themselves on an album called LIKE SONNY, under EMI’s Roulette Jazz subsidiary. Also, an exact reissue of the original Jubilee A TUBA JAZZ album can be found on the Spanish FRESH SOUND label, on both LP and CD. You can score a like-new CD of the LIKE SONNY album for four or five dollars used. You may even find a copy of the old TRANE TRACKS album out there in the wild at some junk store or flea market—it’s not particularly a desirable collectible, but with it you can recreate the joy I had, listening to it late at night as a teenager in the family basement, where the stereo was.

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July 16, 2020

JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY #76 (Prize Comics, July, 1955)

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JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY #76 (Prize Comics, July, 1955)

The 1940’s and 1950’s were a Golden Age of crime comics, and with the many crime-oriented B-movies and later TV shows of the era, it’s clear that crime was in the air…and also in the blood of the comic book audience. I just grabbed this comic book off one of my comics shelves at random—I could have grabbed any one of 50 others—and on the surface, it seems to have all the best qualities of the typical crime comic of the day, and it would have had to, with all the competition out there. The front cover promises action, thrills, and excitement!

According to Comic Book Plus, JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY ran for 92 issues, from 1947 through 1958, which certainly qualifies as a good run. It was issued by PRIZE COMICS, which had a diverse set of offerings, from romance to western to science fiction (TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET) to horror (FRANKENSTEIN) to faux-Archie (DUDLEY) to various anthology publications. Prize was run by comics legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Interestingly, one of the last-gasp publications of Prize’s owner Crestwood Publications was SICK magazine (which was to CRACKED what CRACKED was to MAD), until 1968 when it was sold off.

There do not seem to be any ongoing characters in the few copies I own of this magazine, just four 5-8 page stories…and the requisite two pages of prose filler, which in the issues I’ve seen are quirky enough to be interesting.

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“River Rats” deals with a violent protection racket preying on small businesses on the waterfront—it delivers the goods. “Two Old Friends” is something of a surprise….a sentimental story of an old-school cop whose old service horse, Lacey, is getting older and weaker and the department is thinking of re-assigning Lacey to the glue factory, so of course the horse saves the day and is rewarded and valued and kept on the force—I wasn’t really expecting a tear-jerker in a crime comic, but it’s a nice change of pace. “Savvy” repeats the same theme, but with a cop instead of a horse. Detective Brennan may be not as fast as he once was, but he’s got the one thing younger cops have failed to get yet: And he uses that sixth sense to break the Dutch Ankers gang, where no one else on the force can. “Tour of Duty” is one of those day-in-the-life-of-a-cop stories—like a Dragnet episode which would be half devoted to Gannon’s (Harry Morgan) home life and half to the case he’s working with Friday (Jack Webb) on—and Officer Charlie Mitchell, family man and all-around good citizen, even works the night shift! This story has a bit too much speechifying (if that’s a word) in its last page or two, as if it were a public service short subject made by the police union to be broadcast as filler on Sunday morning: “I’m a cop. I work under all conditions. I have a wife and a couple of kids. I value my life, but I value yours too. That’s why you’ll find me making this tour of duty every night….I want to help keep things safe for you and me.” After that, I’m expecting a pitch for a contribution to the Police Officers Benevolent Association or whatever!

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Now that I think about it, after analyzing the different pieces here, this particular issue is not really typical of the crime comics of the day. It is a bit too sentimental and, in the last story, self-serious for what’s usually a grim, violent, sensationalistic approach devoted to fast living, cheap thrills, and violent gun battles and nerve-wracking chases….stories where some brutal punk, who thinks nothing of taking hostages or killing civilians and terrorizes the public for the first 4/5 of the story, gets blown away on the final page and left to die in a pile of rubbish in an alley. That’s what fans of the genre (like me) want. It’s interesting that this comic has the “approved by the Comics Code Authority” seal of approval on its cover (see pic). Many of my favorite crime comics do not. Part of the Code read, “Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.” It’s no wonder the crime comic genre tended to fade away in the years after the Code (which came around in 1954, as a kind of self-policing response by the mainstream comics industry to the attacks of Frederic Wertham and the US Senate hearings on comic book content). Comic books should be full of sensationalism and cheap thrills. If I want a moral lecture, I’ll attend Sunday School….if I want to learn about being a good and productive citizen, I’ll attend a Rotary Club meeting…if I want full and rich characters, I’ll find a copy of BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1954. There’s a reason why when you see some over-the-top made-for-video action film, mainstream critics will attack it as having a ‘comic book” approach. That’s what the strength and the uniqueness of comic books SHOULD BE…and the reason why people like me can still read some 60+ year old hard-boiled crime comic, considered trashy and disposable in its day, and get the same sense of joy from it that a pimple-faced teenager or a comic-reading night watchman got from it when it was hot off the press, purchased with a precious dime at the local neighborhood newsstand or drug-store comics rack. I’ve never viewed comic books as a reflection of life or daily reality or social issues….for me, they are a REPLACEMENT for the tediousness of life and daily reality. I’ve got enough daily reality already, thank you, in the other 22 hours of each day when I’m not reading a comic book or watching an exploitation film or blasting a record by the Trashmen or The Troggs—the comic book adventures of Jungle Jim or Mike Hammer or Lash La Rue or The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves are there to take me out of it, if only for twenty minutes. Reality will still be there, alas, when I put the comic book down and finish my 99 cent tallboy of malt liquor.

I’ll have to check some of the pre-Code issues of JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY to see if they are different from this one, with more cheap thrills and less sentimentality and models of good citizenry. Until then, you can make up your own mind and read this issue and all the earlier ones yourself, for free, at Comic Book Plus. The tallboy of malt liquor, YOU will have to pay for.

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July 14, 2020

MAUREEN EVANS–Like I Do: The Sixties Recordings (RPM, UK), CD

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MAUREEN EVANS–Like I Do: The Sixties Recordings (RPM, UK), CD (released 2017)

































It’s exciting that in 2017 there were still significant bodies of 1960’s recordings from first-rate performers that have not been reissued….or reissued legally, as opposed to on needle-drop Belgian compilations (as valuable as the latter can sometimes be).

Welsh vocalist Maureen Evans began her recording career in 1958 for the budget “Embassy” label doing covers of contemporary hits such as “Stupid Cupid” and “Fever.” She wisely got Embassy to agree to move her up to their flagship label “Oriole” if her Embassy recordings proved a success, and they did, and the label kept their side of the bargain, so in 1960, Maureen Evans moved to Oriole. She recorded regularly and scored a number of hits in the UK and overseas (though not in North America, alas), continuing to record for Oriole and for Columbia (who acquired Oriole) until 1968.

Her complete 1960-1968 post-Embassy recordings are included on this 31-track compilation.

While little here could be called rock’n’roll, her producers wisely always kept a solid beat behind her, so in spite of the strings, the records move and are never cloying. Evans has a fine voice and a natural feel for any number of styles–if you can imagine a Welsh singer who on one record or another shows the best qualities of Brenda Lee (minus the country influence), Lesley Gore, or Petula Clark but who has her own recognizable sound, that’s Maureen Evans. Also, she has a strong voice, so there’s no masking weak vocals behind intrusive backing singers or annoying multiple-tracking to cover vocal deficiencies. Her voice truly carries every song.

Her best-known and best-loved song remains “Like I Do,” a cover of an obscure early Nancy Sinatra single which did not make the American Top 40 but was a hit in various foreign territories. With its nursery rhyme-like melody and its being sung “in character”, the song was perfect for Evans to make her own. While some of her material consisted of covers done for the UK market (The Big Hurt, Paper Roses), most of the material was either written for her or not very well-known and thus “original” to the listening public.

This collection is a treasure trove for fans of Connie Francis or Lesley Gore–the songs are never burdened down by big orchestras and always have room to breathe, and you’ll love getting to know (or re-acquainting yourself with) Maureen Evans–and you’ll feel like you know her too, as the artist herself wrote the fascinating liner notes!

(originally published in slightly different form in 2017 in Ugly Things magazine)



July 12, 2020

THE ISLAND MONSTER (Italy, 1954), starring Boris Karloff

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directed by Roberto Montero

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First of all, THE ISLAND MONSTER is not a horror film. The “monster” of the title is a monster in the broader sense—a narcotics kingpin whose organization is run from an island not far from the Italian coast. This film gets a bad rap, with people pointing out that it’s Boris Karloff’s worst film. Maybe it is. However, attacking a film such as this is like shooting fish in a barrel. Forgetting BK’s presence for a minute, it’s no better or worse than the average early 50’s low-budget crime programmer from Spain or Mexico or France or the UK….it’s kind of like an Italian version of a Lippert crime film. It’s competently photographed, the editing is not lazy, it mixes location shooting with interiors, the musical score is adequate, it has a convincingly seedy atmosphere as you’d want in a crime film about the drug trade, it has nightclub sequences (always a plus in a crime film), and it moves well. If you lived in Italy and this was at your local low-priced neighborhood theater on a double bill, it would be a good way to kill 85 minutes after a long work-week. People who complain about the film have probably not seen the bread-and-butter crime films of the period from low-budget producers in Latin America or Europe.

Then people complain about the dubbing. Yes, the dubbing sounds like a radio drama overdubbed onto an already existing film, which in a sense it is. However, dubbing was still a bit crude in the early 50’s, and again, this is typical of what you got in the period….no better, no worse. Anyone who watched old European B-movies on late night US television in the 60’s and 70’s can deal with the dubbing. For me, it does not get in the way. I’m used to it.

The reason most people have heard of THE ISLAND MONSTER is that Boris Karloff is in it. The reason the producers put the word MONSTER in the title is that Boris Karloff is in it. Undoubtedly, the producers felt that paying Karloff for 10 days work (or whatever) was worth the money in that the film could get overseas play dates it would not otherwise have gotten, and they were probably right, as it did get a US theatrical release on the drive-in circuit in 1957 (three years after its release) and from lobby cards I’ve seen, it was also released in Mexico. One problem of course is that the producers did not keep Mr. Karloff around to dub the English track, which would have added another 3 or 4 days work to his fee. With an actor with such a unique voice, this was a mistake. However, to the dubbers’ credit, they DID have someone do a Karloff imitation, which I suppose is better than a bland and anonymous voice. The ”imitation” is about as good as someone at your workplace doing a Cagney impression at the last office party, but at least you can tell who is being imitated. For someone watching this at 3 a.m. on a small black and white TV in 1965 on a UHF station in Great Falls, Montana, after a can or two of Olympia beer, it probably worked OK.

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Karloff gives a very enthusiastic, PHYSICAL performance in the film, perhaps knowing that he would not be heard. When we first meet him, the kindly older doctor who helps the poor, he’s all charm and warmth, with just a slight something “off.” Then he vanishes for about 25 minutes, and when he’s back, he’s a brutal, child-kidnapping drug lord. The main story follows a police investigator on the case of a drug ring whose trail seems to follow the travels of a certain nightclub singer. His child is kidnapped by the criminals. You’d think that they’d blackmail him, but that angle is left undeveloped after being briefly introduced. Also, the real climactic “work” on breaking the case is done by a dog!

More than anything, THE ISLAND MONSTER reminds me of some of the 1950’s Mexican crime programmers I saw on Spanish language TV in the early 80’s, in the early days of cable when networks had many hours to fill, and cheap older films were the perfect filler. My Spanish was just enough to follow the plot (unless you had a fast-talking character who used a lot of slang!)—it’s not like there is much originality in a crime film, so you weren’t thrown many curves. Those were also competently made, featured the usual character types, had nightclub sequences, and moved with a good pace.

Anyone who loves Boris Karloff’s work would probably enjoy watching THE ISLAND MONSTER, in the same way that Christopher Lee fans can watch the German SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE, in which he’s dubbed by someone else, and still appreciate the master’s presence and whatever good elements the film has (that one had excellent atmosphere—like the German Edgar Wallace adaptations of the period set in a Germanic faux-England). I’d enjoy this film for what it is—an entertaining way to kill 85 minutes—if it did not have Boris Karloff in it because I enjoy low-budget crime programmers, pulp crime stories, crime comics, etc. WITH Karloff in it, it’s just icing on the cake. In an interview, BK stated that he had a great time in the beautiful area where the film was shot. The hard-working Karloff deserved a nice vacation.

The 50’s were not the greatest period in Karloff’s career in terms of movie visibility. He worked primarily in television (though he had a lot of credits there), and his film credits were spotty—the odd SABAKA after this, the low-budget VOODOO ISLAND and FRANKENSTEIN 1970. It wasn’t until the British double-header of THE HAUNTED STRANGLER and CORRIDORS OF BLOOD that he started riding the wave of renewed attention that lasted until his death…and continues today, where he’s still revered as both one of the all-time greats of horror AND a first-rate character actor in non-horror films, even this one.

Oh, one nice touch…for those who make it to the end…is that in the final scene, Karloff is carrying the body of the kidnapped girl, running near the sea, and the scene is clearly a homage to the original 1932 Frankenstein, where the monster carries the girl who trusts him alongside the lake….and then drowns her.

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July 11, 2020

Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time”

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In 2017, Mary Anne and I had the privilege of seeing Chris Hillman with his longtime partners Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson at the Cactus Cafe at UT-Austin. It’s a relatively intimate venue, and I have been following Hillman’s work for nearly 50 years, so the performance was a bit transcendent for me. One of the many highlights of the show (which was riding on the wave of Hillman’s Tom Petty-produced album, the last thing Petty did before his passing) was Hillman’s performance of Gene Clark’s song “She Don’t Care About Time,” which Hillman and Clark of course recorded together as the B-side of the Byrds’ 1966 hit “Turn Turn Turn.” Hillman and Clark had a long history together after the initial run of The Byrds (look for my piece on their early 80’s band FLYTE elsewhere on this blog), and I’m sure there were many tears in the audience’s eyes as Hillman made his comments about Gene and turned in such a deep and thoughtful version of “She Don’t Care About Time.” One reason that Gene Clark’s music has such a connection to listeners is that his best songs feel like a poetic soul is sharing a confidence with you, the listener, in a way that seems beautiful and profound but also conversational, and welcoming, and it often leaves the listener with the feeling that some personal truth of our own has been felt and understood by this poet and shared in confidence between him and us. There’s also an elusive, inscrutable element to his lyrics that allow us to re-visit them for 50+ years and have them seem fresh and new and able to adapt to our own growth and new understandings.

Gene Clark was in a league of his own. So many first-rate singer-songwriters have said, in one way or another, “I think I’m good at what I do, and I’ve written some songs I’m really proud of, but I am definitely not on Gene Clark’s level. Gene was beyond all of us.”

I was happy to find online a performance by Chris Hillman of “She Don’t Care About Time” a few months after the one I saw, with Herb but minus John, and I’d like to share that with you. Hillman’s first recordings were in 1963, with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers for the Crown budget-label in L.A. That is 57 years ago. Thank you, Chris Hillman, for the excellent work pretty much every year since then, never giving up, always moving on, always the professional who cares about giving the public what they paid for while keeping the purity of his art. That’s a hard balance to keep, and few have done it as well as Hillman (and also Roger McGuinn).

The link is right below….enjoy….


CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSEN, “She Don’t Care About Time”…. Fort Collins, Colorado, 5/19/2018 


Here, the master himself re-interprets the song, as he often did, in a version that will stop you in your tracks.

GENE CLARK, “She Don’t Care About Time”… From the live album “Gene Clark & Carla Olson – Silhouetted in Light”.  Recorded in L.A. Feb. 1990.


And here is one of my own most-played covers of the song, from the Flamin’ Groovies at their Byrds-iest.

THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, “She Don’t Care About Time”….from the early 1980’s Goldstar Sessions, which I originally owned on a Skydog 12” EP.


in memory of GENE CLARK (1944-1991)

July 10, 2020

5 Favorite Bob Dylan Covers

As I was listening to Chris Farlowe’s classic 1966 Immediate Records album 14 THINGS TO THINK ABOUT tonight (something I’ve done quite often since scoring an original UK Immediate LP in the early 80’s), I noticed that I always start playing the LP with side two, because side two starts with Farlowe’s phenomenal big-beat showstopping version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, a song that I have played over the decades for many visitors to my home. It’s a stunning re-casting of the Dylan song, and would be included on any “best Dylan covers” album I would compile. Since I’m not compiling one of those right now, alas, the best I can do is to offer you five of my own personal favorite covers of The Master’s compositions (nothing by the Byrds, since you already know that any Dylan cover from any Byrds line-up will be wonderful), each exquisite IMHO, and each really stripping the song to the core and re-assembling it in an original and profound way.

Settle back and enjoy…..(and as always with You Tube, I apologize in advance for the commercials you’ll have to put up with before you get to hear the music)

THE DAILY FLASH, “Queen Jane Approximately” (1966)


CHRIS FARLOWE, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (1966)




ELVIS PRESLEY, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” (1966)


THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, “Absolutely Sweet Marie” (1979)




here’s a little something extra for making it this far, for an ever half-dozen Dylan covers

LEROY VAN DYKE, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (1965), my father met Leroy Van Dyke once in the early 1970’s (at a shopping mall!) and told me he was a very kind man, very appreciative of his fans

July 9, 2020

ADVENTURES OF THE BIG BOY #126 (1967 promotional giveaway comic)

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big boy 1

ADVENTURES OF THE BIG BOY #126 (1967 promotional giveaway comic)

I’ve never lived in an area with Big Boy restaurants, so I can’t tell you much about the persona of their corporate mascot. The first drawing of the Big Boy character came in the late 1930’s, a few years after the burger chain’s founding, although the character as we know it today (and at the time of this comic) dates from the 1950’s. Evidently, the Big Boy burger concept was operated under different names in different parts of the country (and one of these eventually was spun off to become Shoney’s!), and there was even an East Coast Big Boy mascot and a different West Coast one. According to Wikipedia, in 1979 there were 1000 (!!!!) Big Boy restaurants in the US and Canada. You may have seen one of the massive Big Boy statues in front of one of them in your travels, as I have. The California-based Bob’s Big Boy is perhaps the best-known franchise using the Big Boy moniker (Johnny Carson used to joke about it on the Tonight Show, as I remember), but there were dozens of other regional variations, including the Pittsburgh-based EAT’N’PARK which was Big Boy-related from 1949-1974.

big boy 2

This particular comic (regular in size but only 14 pages) belongs to that taken-for-granted part of the comics industry, the giveaway (and one would also assume throwaway) comic given to children or with a kid’s meal. These are still given out today at various restaurants, though often they include a coloring book section and some crayons. I’d guess 95% of them are thrown out within a few days of acquisition….or get food stains on them during the meal and are discarded with the burger wrappings and paper soda cups before the family leaves the restaurant.

big boy logo

This particular issue, dating from 1967 (and one of 466 issues published over decades), hails from the Knoxville, Tennessee area, where I’m guessing Fritch’s was the operator of the Big Boy restaurants, though that’s not stated anywhere on the comic. The only regional identifier on this is a big ad for Channel 10 in Knoxville, which proudly lists its Saturday children’s programming, including Tom and Jerry, the Road Runner, the Lone Ranger, Space Ghost, Underdog, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and Leave it to Beaver! Boy, if that is not a KSE-approved TV lineup, I don’t know what is (all that’s missing is a Bowery Boys film).

big boy short

Besides the comic stories, there are of course word games, puzzles, and the like, as well as letters from juvenile fans of previous issues (or, more likely, their parents).

I think you can imagine what the Big Boy character is like. He’s a grinning, amiable guy, a kind of man-child with an “aw shucks” manner, and I can almost imagine him saying “gee whiz!” and calling to some adult, “hey, mister!”

There are only two multi-page stories in this–one before the word games and puzzles in the middle section, one after. The first one, “Facing The Deadly Monster,” has Big Boy heading to Florida to find his older cousin who has sent a cryptic letter. Turns out Big Boy mis-interpreted the letter, and the cousin is doing just fine, a scientist investigating mosquitoes (I’m not worrying about spoilers here as I doubt any of you will ever read this). In the second one, “The Miraculous Cape,” Big Boy sees someone with a Bat cape and buys it from him….only to discover anyone over a few pounds cannot fly in it. Oh, well!

There’s also a “State Of The Union” section, where Big Boy tells us about different states. This issue features Mississippi (and we’re told the next month’s state will be Rhode Island).

The Big Boy crew also includes his female friend Dolly (who in the last month or so here in 2020 has become the temporary mascot of the chain to promote their new chicken sandwich, meaning perhaps that Big Boy himself is associated primarily with beef…) and the dog Nugget.

I often find giveaway children’s comics from previous decades mixed in with old Archie comics and unwanted yellowed magazines in junk stores and flea markets. This one was slipped in free with some Abbott and Costello comic books I purchased–I’m glad it made it through all these years. One wonders if there were also Big Boy comic paper placemats put under the kid’s meal back in 1967 Tennessee. Now THAT would be a collectible….though for whom, I don’t know.

The most interesting thing about this giveaway comic is that except for some minor aspects of the artwork and some of the wording of the dialogue and the letters section, this could be given out today.

Frankly, when I take my grandsons out somewhere for a kid’s meal, I’m often more interested in the giveaway booklet or comic than they are!

big boy sauce

Silent film fans (which I hope means pretty much everyone reading this) also know that there was a juvenile comedy actor named Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian, who made a number of shorts at Educational Pictures. He was a child who wore over-sized adult clothing (see pic). Grapevine Video issued a collection of these shorts, and one of them also appears on Volume 2 of Ben Model’s excellent ACCIDENTALLY PRESERVED series. Other than the name, however, the restaurant character doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the silent film comedian (or for that matter, with western star and character actor and great Texan, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams).

big boy poster

There are still a number of Big Boy outlets, and on their website, you can even buy items such as their special sauce (pictured above). Next time I’m in an area with Big Boys, I’ll order a kid’s meal and let you know what if any comic booklet I get with it.

big boy phantom

July 8, 2020

RONNIE JONES, “Satisfy My Soul: The Complete Recordings, 1964-1968” (RPM, UK) CD

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ronnie 3

RONNIE JONES–Satisfy My Soul: The Complete Recordings, 1964-1968 (RPM, UK) CD

album issued in 2015

1 Night Time Is The Right Time

2 Let’s Pin A Rose On You

3 I Need Your Loving

4 My Love

5 It’s All Over

6 Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)

7 Nobody But You

8 You’re Lookin’ Good

9 I’m So Clean

10 Satisfy My Soul

11 My Only Souvenir

12 Little Bitty Pretty One

13 Put Your Tears Away

14 In My Love Mind

15 Mama Come On Home

16 Without Love (There Is Nothing)

ronnie 1

Once again, RPM has assembled a first-rate album containing the complete UK 60’s recordings of a valuable artist who was limited to singles and compilation tracks back in the day. Vocalist Ronnie Jones was serving in the US Air Force, stationed in England, and as with many R&B loving African-American servicemen at the time, he gravitated to the Flamingo Club when on leave. Having sung  back home in the US prior to his military service (praised by no less than Sam Cooke), Jones soon became vocalist for Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, and the album leads off with their fine bluesy take on “Night Time Is The Right Time,” featuring a blistering sax solo by Dick Heckstall-Smith.


Jones returned to America after his military service, but was invited back to the UK by fans who remembered his time with Korner’s group, and he then toured the club circuit extensively and recorded a number of singles in a wide variety of styles, the most successful of which are in the purer R&B and soul veins where Jones is a master. He also had the opportunity to work with well-known producers such as Les Reed and Andrew Loog Oldham on what could be described as “big-beat ballads” (which Jones’s labels no doubt saw as possible hit material), the kind of material one might associate with a P. J. Proby, and some tracks also resemble the pop-soul that Clyde McPhatter was recording for Mercury at the time, though (fortunately) less over-produced. While those tracks will not be the favorite of the blues-loving listener, they do prove that Mr. Jones is a singer who can handle any kind of material, from old-school R&B in the Jimmy Witherspoon vein to contemporary soul in the Otis Redding vein. He is a pleasure to listen to in any style.

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After the last of these UK recordings came out in 1968, Jones relocated to Italy, where he has continued to have a successful career as both broadcaster and vocalist. While it’s regrettable that Jones did not record a full album with the Korner band, what we do have here is proof that Ronnie Jones was one of the great R&B voices of 1960’s Britain.


PS, you have not lived until you’ve heard Ronnie Jones’s theme song to the late 60’s Italian mind-fry of a film MICROSCOPIC LIQUID SUBWAY TO OBLIVION (there’s a snippet of another song first….you’ll know when the MLSTO theme song starts!). Jones also does three other songs in the film. This is a film that cries out to be restored–someone like Severin or Arrow or Vinegar Syndrome need to search for the negative or at least a quality 35mm print, rather than this awful pan and scan, chopped-up version from a Greek 80’s videotape, which is the only copy circulating among collectors for the last 30 years (the whole film is on You Tube, if you’re so inclined or a fan of Ewa Aulin or Alex Rebar). I wonder how much psychedelic material he did after the move to Italy? Now there would be another compilation I’d love to hear….Ronnie Jones, the Italian Psychedelic Years.


ronnie 2


July 7, 2020

genre-film adaptations of HAMLET

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It’s always refreshing to be watching some “crime” or “western” or “adventure” or whatever kind of genre film and realize part-way through that it is a re-write of HAMLET, or MACBETH, or RICHARD III, or SISTER CARRIE, or CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, OR GREAT EXPECTATIONS or NATIVE SON or MOBY DICK or SILAS MARNER or some other classic of literature. Not only are the plots and characters time-tested with audiences spanning centuries and multiple cultures, they can provide a kind of template/foundation on which the screenwriters can build their own edifice. I’ve chosen two of my favorite re-writes of Hamlet below and linked to the entire film online. STRANGE ILLUSION never shows its hand–if you did not know Hamlet, you’d never know the film’s reliance upon it. You’d just think it was an excellent mystery with a creepy man who gets involved with someone’s father. JOHNNY HAMLET, on the other hand, even if you saw it under another title (as many did), shows its hand from the first scene, with the Shakespearean acting troupe and the actual lines from Hamlet itself. After that, though, it goes on its merry way re-casting Hamlet as an Italian western….and doing it very well.

Undoubtedly, many screenwriters were literature majors (as I was), and it’s good to see them getting some use out of those courses in Shakespeare or comparative literature or The Novels of Dickens and Eliot and keeping these precious archetypal stories and character types alive and refreshed.




STRANGE ILLUSION (PRC Pictures, 1945), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring James Lydon, Sally Eilers, and Warren William  (genre: mystery-crime)


Johnny Hamlet

JOHNNY HAMLET (aka The Wild and the Dirty, aka Quella sporca storia nel West….Italy 1968), directed by Enzo G. Castellari, starring Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland, and Horst Frank. Genre: Italian Western. In the US release of this, The Wild And The Dirty, which I used to own 20+ years ago, Giordana was billed as “Chip Corman.” That version was shorter than the version here, but it was entirely in English. Certain sections here which are in Italian with subtitles were in English in that version, although the drawback was that the copy of that version in circulation (I had a VHS from Grapevine Video, presumably taken from 16mm….it has not been in their catalogue for 20+ years now) was “stretched” in that it was transferred without using a widescreen lens/proper aspect ratio. It was a great version, but the people were eight feet tall. This European version (linked to below) has scenes not in the American version, and those scenes are visually rich and do add a lot to the experience of the film, however. The American version was trimmed to make it more action-oriented.


July 6, 2020

Oldays (Japan) Reissue #1: THE GANTS, “Road Runner”

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gants oldays

(note: The Japanese label OLDAYS has been doing CD exact reissues (usually with extra tracks) of 1960’s albums in beautiful cardboard mini-LP sleeves for a number of years now, hundreds of them. Some of these, particularly those in the “60’s Garage Rockin” series, are important collections that really fill a gap, so I’m going to be looking at some of these in future weeks. They can be found for as low as $15 or so. As I understand it, Japan has a relatively simple 50-year Public Domain policy regarding recorded works, so technically all of the material on these albums is PD in Japan. The good news is that the sound quality is usually excellent (not always, though), as it should be since these are clearly taken from other CD’s in most cases. If you are expecting a needle-drop of a rare Mono version of a classic album, you’re going to be let down, no matter what the back cover or obi strip says. A few of their releases are actually new creations where no comparable album previously existed, as with the Eddie and The Showmen/Eddie Bertrand album I recently reviewed for Ugly Things. Let’s start with a collection that is wall-to-wall excellence for the 60’s garage-band fan, a 30-tracker from Mississippi’s GANTS….)


Road Runner

Oldays Records, Japan, ODR 6763, cardboard mini-LP sleeve CD

released in January 2019 (probably sourced from other CD’s)

1 Road Runner
2 Stormy Weather
3 Gloria
4 Six Days In May
5 You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
6 The House Of The Rising Sun
7 Bad Boy
8 My Baby Don’t Care
9 Never Go Right
10 Out Of Sight
11 Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
12 I Don’t Want To See Her Again
Bonus Tracks
13 What’s Your Name
14 Another Chance
15 Little Boy Sad
16 (You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings
17 Crackin’ Up
18 Dr. Feelgood
19 I Want Your Lovin’
20 Spoonful Of Sugar
21 I Wonder
22 Rain
23 I’m A Snake
24 You Better Run
25 Somebody Please
26 Oh Yeah
27 Dance Last Night
28 Greener Days
29 Drifter’s Sunrise
30 Just A Good Show

all songs originally released on the Gants’ 3 LP’s (ROAD RUNNER, GANTS AGAIN, and GANTS GALORE) and various singles for Liberty Records, 1965-1967


Here’s a nice newspaper story about the band around the time a public marker was put up in the band’s hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, and it’s NOT hidden behind a paywall, for once….

oldays logo

The Gants were the ultimate example of the 60’s garage-band who put out a record on a local label (their first single, “Road Runner” / “My Baby Don’t Care” on Statue Records) that made noise in the band’s home area, causing it to be picked up by a nationally distributed label—-in this case, Los Angeles-based Liberty Records—-which then led to a string of singles and multiple albums on that larger label, and a good-sized body of excellent work that’s not hard to find today.

Their first album, ROAD RUNNER, was recorded in Nashville with producer Hurshel Wiginton, acclaimed studio vocalist and bass voice in the legendary Nashville Edition, who was featured extensively on the Hee-Haw TV series. Wiginton as a producer totally “got” what 60’s garage-band rock and roll was about, perhaps because he was surrounded by so much basic-format rockabilly as an Alabama native. On the Gants’ 3 LP’s and their singles (except for two, near the end of their run), we basically had the core Gants only—–singer/rhythm guitarist (Sid Herring), lead guitar, bass, drums, and everyone on vocal harmonies (a few tracks had an added keyboard also). They had a twangy sound. The second and third albums, GANTS AGAIN and GANTS GALORE, though produced by Dallas Smith (presumably at Liberty’s home-base in Los Angeles—Smith was best-known for Liberty artists such as Bobby Vee, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the pre-Allman Brothers ‘Hour Glass’), pretty much kept the successful formula: energetic, stripped-down rock and roll by the quartet, with a mix of tempos, covers of a number of songs from various sources mixed with songs Liberty had the publishing to mixed with Herring originals.

The music on those 3 albums has not really dated as it is timeless small-group rock and roll without any pretensions—-well-played, well-sung, cleanly recorded without any studio trickery or layers of overdubbed frosting (which Smith had a tendency to do with some of the other artists he worked with). The band simply delivered the goods. Of course, Sid Herring’s vague resemblance to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits probably did not hurt the band’s teen-female appeal, and Herring was also a man who could sing in a number of styles with ease, which allowed the band to adapt material from British groups, tin pan alley, Bo Diddley, or Liberty songwriters with equal ease. Herring also contributed some classic songs of his own such as “My Baby Don’t Care” and the amazing “(You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings.”

gants pic

The final three songs on this 30-track Oldays collection come from their last two 45’s, from 1967, and show producer Smith and arranger David Gates (pre-Bread) moving the group into a kind of a sunshine pop vein, though from fifty paces they still sound like the Gants. The core identity of The Gants was as a rootsy frat-rock quartet with a twangy rock and roll sound that showed the influence of the British Invasion, but on a rootsy, gutsy Mississippi level, straightforward and without pretensions.

The Gants have been fortunate re-issue wise….during the LP era there was a fine compilation on Bam-Caruso (UK), and then CD’s on RPM and Sundazed that compiled the majority of their output on a single disc. The Gants are a band that benefit from getting 30 straight tracks in a row–you both hear multiple examples of what they are very good at (the Bo Diddley rockers, the covers of others’ hits such as “You Better Run” or “Rain” or “Gloria”) and realize their ability to play in a number of styles while remaining instantly recognizable as The Gants. A popular live band throughout the South, they had to be able to play in various tempos for the dancers, to play their own singles, and to play recognizable hits in order to keep those audiences excited and wanting the band back in a few months—-their records capture that mix perfectly. Considering that you get 30 tracks here in a beautiful heavy cardboard mini-LP sleeve replicating their ROAD RUNNER album, this seems like an essential purchase….the one Gants album you should own, and yes, you should own a Gants album. I’ve had the 3 LP’s since the late 70’s and they  have never been far from my turntable.

gants smoke rings


Gants leader Sid Herring was also in an interesting group in the early 70’s called WATCHPOCKET, who recorded in Memphis for Steve Cropper’s TMI label. I stumbled across this album, noticed Herring’s name, and assumed it was the same man. I’m glad I did. It’s first rate Southern country-soul, most of the material is written or co-written by Herring, he’s reunited with Gants drummer Don Taylor Wood, and Steve Cropper’s guitar is all over the album. There are also two singles under Herring’s name from this period, and I assume they are from a similar pool of musicians. Some label should license all of this material and put it on one CD…the album, the non-lp side of Watchpocket, and the two Sid Herring singles. Ace Records or Grapefruit Records or Real Gone Music would be excellent labels to take on such a project.

You can read about that material here:

gants marker

Public marker honoring THE GANTS in their hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, reads “They were Mississippi’s Beatles”….yes, they were, and Mississippi’s Stones and Mississippi’s Standells and Mississippi’s Paul Revere And The Raiders and Mississippi’s Yardbirds and Mississippi’s Dave Clark Five! Prior to COVID-19, I would get over to Mississippi every few years, so I’ll make a point of visiting Greenwood and checking out this marker and the general vibe of the town. If it produced the Gants, it’s got to be of interest. I’ve been in many a Mississippi town, but not Greenwood.


And as thanks for reading this far, here is the entire WATCHPOCKET album for your listening pleasure!

July 5, 2020

Fossils & Bill Shute album “Florida Nocturne Poems” available for free at Bandcamp!

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fossils florida

Happy to see that the 2017 version of the KSE music-and-poetry album combining the Hamilton, Ontario sound-art collective FOSSILS and my readings of the four FLORIDA NOCTURNE POEMS from 2012….an album that sold out in a few months when it came out…is now available to all via streaming or download at Fossils’s Bandcamp page.

Here is the original write-up on KSE #362:


New interpretations of Bill Shute’s 2012 “Florida Nocturne Poems” with Canada’s free-improv/noise masters FOSSILS



contains the pieces







Daniel Farr and David Payne

Texts and vocal, Bill Shute

Music recorded in HamiltonON

Poetry tracks recorded in AustinTX by Mari Rubio

issued March 2017


Longtime readers will remember the four poetry chapbooks in the FLORIDA NOCTURNE POEMS sequence, composed during my Summer 2012 “writing vacation” in Central Florida. For a number of reasons, I will never forget that sojourn. First, it was very satisfying and covered a lot of territory–and much of my writing happened at dog-tracks. Second, I passed through Sanford, Florida, and it was soon after the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting there. Third, on the last day of that trip, in a Jacksonville (a city with more police presence than I’ve ever seen) motel across the street from a Bob Evans restaurant, I received a call telling me that my mother had passed away.

In 2014, FOSSILS and I created an album mixing their sound sculpture with my 2012 Florida poems, alternating music and poetry. That album was well-received and we were very happy with it. Now, we present a NEW interpretation of the Florida Nocturne Poems with FOSSILS sound sculpture woven into the poems themselves (or is it that the poem texts are woven into the FOSSILS sound fabric–probably both), not presented separately.

As I listen to these tracks, I feel that these poems perfectly capture what I was trying to do….and what I am still doing in my present works. The collage of image and incident is peppered with just the right amount of each element, and the shards are placed into suspension to create the perfect assemblage. If you are not familiar with my work, this would be a good place to start. The themes I dealt with in 2012, alas, are even more relevant today. And when you weave these readings into the rich and deeply-textured FOSSILS sound sculptures—-which are heavily percussive and also include found sounds and conversation—-you have a sensory experience rooted in the heat and humidity of Central Florida in the summer.

Whatever people may think of this product, I can assure you no one else is doing anything remotely like it. Fossils and I have tossed this message in a bottle on to the polluted ocean of 2017 society. Let it wash up on your shore, open the bottle, and give it a try….


Free download or streaming of the album at


I was very happy with the four-chapbook FLORIDA NOCTURNE POEMS sequence, and I don’t think those pieces are included in any in-print collection, and they are not included in the selected poems book (Junk Sculpture From The New Gilded Age) of mine coming out from Moloko Print in Germany, so maybe I’ll look into putting them together as a stand-alone volume….if I ever get around to it.

fossils florida

July 4, 2020

TRAPPED IN TANGIERS (Italy-Spain, 1957), starring Edmund Purdom, directed by Riccardo Freda

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trapped 1

With the first scene taking place on the Tangier docks in the murky evening—-a sports car whose driver’s face is not clearly seen is extracting a gun from the car’s glove compartment—-and with a slow and moody jazz vocal (kind of a cross between Julie London or Anita O’Day at their most languid, trading lines with a mellow and bluesy muted trumpet) on the soundtrack from the start, you know immediately that the makers of AGGUATO A TANGERI (aka TRAPPED IN TANGIERS) understand what a crime film is expected to deliver. Nightclub scenes, rich people having tedious parties where they sit around and drink, Interpol agents looking at maps and discussing strategy, narcotics deals transacted in seedy alleys after midnight, a hero (Edmund Purdom) pretending to be someone else for the majority of the film—in fact, the way Purdom is nursing a drink, smoking cigarettes, and hitting on the ladies, it’s as if he took a page out of Eddie Constantine’s playbook! And there’s no better crime-film playbook than THAT in 1950’s Europe!

Director Riccardo Freda was a master in many genres, including classics of sword and sandal/historical adventure, Eurospy, Eurowestern, and Euro-horror (I VAMPIRI, and Barbara Steele’s THE GHOST, the sequel to HORRIBLE DR. HITCHCOCK). He does an excellent job here of channeling the best elements of 1950’s B&W French and British crime films into the visual style, and the film moves as quickly as the better Columbia B-crime programmers of the late 40’s and early 50’s.

trapped 2

Star Edmund Purdom was at the beginning of his long and successful European career at this point, after his short Hollywood starring phase. He is mostly known nowadays by MGM completists and fans of Euro genre and exploitation films. Originally a British stage actor with a Shakespeare background (he’d been in Lawrence Olivier’s Shakespeare troupe!), he came to Hollywood right as the old-school star-making system was coming to an end. His first two major roles in American films were as replacements for other actors, Mario Lanza and Marlon Brando. Obviously, stepping in unwanted for someone else who is loved by the audience is not the best way to start one’s career push. Then he was in two big-budget historical spectacles (THE PRODIGAL and THE EGYPTIAN) that did not do as well as expected because the wave of widescreen historical films coming out after THE ROBE was winding down. He was excellent in his next film, THE KING’S THIEF (with David Niven, George Sanders, and Roger Moore), which allowed him to turn on his natural charm and show his gift for swashbuckling with a light comedic touch, but by then Hollywood had moved on, and his final Hollywood film was done at Allied Artists (MGM to Allied Artists! Wow!), the bizarre STRANGE INTRUDER, where he plays a character dealing with what would nowadays be called PTSD, put into an over-the-top melodramatic plot. He was chilling in the role, but the film was not exactly commercial—-after all, a film where an emotionally scarred veteran is on the verge of killing the children of his old war buddy is not exactly a date movie! In fact, with the Warner Archive having reissued a lot of Allied Artists’ output, it’s telling that they have not yet reissued STRANGE INTRUDER on DVD….even today it still keeps its power to alienate! Purdom left Hollywood for good at that point, and started working in Europe immediately after—and he never came back. He was a natural for the historical spectacles being made in Italy in the late 50’s and early 60’s—-he’d starred in REAL Hollywood epics, and he had the Shakespearean background, so if you needed someone to play King Herod or whoever, he was the man. He was also VERY active as an English language voice artist working in Rome on the export versions of Italian films. Dozens of times I have been watching some dubbed film and suddenly, the rich, British stage-actor tones of Edmund Purdom start coming out of someone else’s mouth.

trapped 3

TRAPPED IN TANGIERS was Purdom’s first film after STRANGE INTRUDER, and it was eventually released in the US in a dubbed version, a few years after its making, although I’ve never seen that English language version offered on the grey market or shown on cable TV or UHF. I have an Italian-language copy taped off European Cable TV in the middle of the night. Purdom is excellent and exudes star quality, whether grinning on the beach trying to seduce a young lady of affluent background, or maneuvering his way through the dark backstreets of the Tangiers waterfront, gun in hand. We’re not sure exactly who his character is until the film is 2/3 of the way through, but at that point, everything that’s happened earlier falls into place. This also features one of my favorite set-ups in a crime film, which has been done so often, I’ve come to expect it when someone is working undercover and posing as a criminal to get “inside” the organization: the inevitable scene where to show his allegiance to the mob, he is asked to kill the person who is ALSO an undercover agent and has been outed and caught. TRAPPED IN TANGIERS, though probably written off in its day as a formula crime film, was an excellent vehicle for Purdom to show other sides of himself that were not an display in his Hollywood work. I’ve seen him in dozens of European films and will probably review some more here eventually (don’t forget that he was the headmaster of the school in the early 80’s Spanish slasher film PIECES). People often write him off as either hammy and over-the-top, or wooden and unconvincing (how could you be BOTH of those things?), but I beg to differ.

With the exciting drug smuggling plot, mysterious waterfront setting, jazz score, crisp B&W photography, car chases, back-stabbing and double-crosses, and the cool and magnetic presence of Mr. Purdom, TRAPPED IN TANGIERS delivers the goods that I want in a 50’s European crime melodrama. The fact that it’s in Italian and not dubbed English just adds to the atmosphere, and this is a film with atmosphere to burn!

trapped 4

July 3, 2020

Elvis Presley, “Almost In Love” (Camden, originally released in 1970)

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elvis almost


“ALMOST IN LOVE”   Camden Records (RCA’s budget subsidiary), originally issued in 1970

I own a 1985 cassette (pictured above), on the Camden label but licensed to “Special Music Company,” a major player in the 80’s/90’s budget-label world, especially with cassette tapes.

special music

You could find stacks of their releases, usually for $1.99 or so, at gas stations, convenience stores, supermarkets, etc. I picked this one up in the dollar bin at a used record store in Roanoke, Virginia, in the mid-to-late 1980’s. The great thing about the Elvis budget LP’s on Camden is that they often have a wide variety of then-uncommon deep-cuts from Elvis’ large catalogue of songs, an odd mix of movie songs from films that did not have soundtrack LP’s (some actually getting their first release anyplace on these budget albums), B-sides of singles, and oddball combinations of things going back to the Sun era. These albums certainly showed off Elvis’ versatility as an artist, and to isolated fans in the hinterlands (as I was at varying times), they were even more interesting and satisfying than the better-known, mainstream albums. Let’s be honest….some of Elvis’s 1970’s studio and live albums were not great, and with Camden budget albums selling for half of what a full-price new album on RCA would, it’s not hard to see why these albums full of lesser-known material sold so well, often better than the “new” releases.

These Camden budget albums also had incredible staying power. Discogs lists 48 (!!!!) release variations since 1970 on LP/cassette/8-track/CD, and the album has never been out of print. You can still buy it on CD today, RCA keeps it in print, and I have seen that budget CD at gas station convenience stores here in Texas in the last ten years. Prior to the license with Special Music, ALMOST IN LOVE was sub-licensed to Pickwick in the 1970’s, and who knows how many tens of thousands of copies that cassette sold at the K-Marts of the South and Midwest. For you 8-track fans out there, I’ve put a scan of the Canadian Pickwick 8-track release at the bottom of this post (and as often happens with that format, the songs are in a different running order than on any other format’s version of the album).

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The music on ALMOST IN LOVE is an amazing assemblage of what was probably considered throwaway filler at the time, but as the Elvis Information Network has observed, it  “looks far stronger now than it did when it came out.” I can’t imagine anyone with an unbiased set of ears listening to this album and not concluding that, at minimum, Elvis Presley was a versatile artist capable of an amazingly eclectic set of performances…and most of this material came from within a 2-3 year period.

Let’s take a look at what’s on here:

1 Almost In Love, from LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE, Elvis’s oddest feature film, this is a bossa nova ballad, co-composed by Luis Bonfa, and is Elvis at his most lounge-iest ever.

2 Long Legged Girl (With The Short Dress On) , from DOUBLE TROUBLE, is a furious rocker that starts off in high-gear and features a sizzling fuzz-tone guitar dueling it out with Elvis….it’s also one of his shortest-ever singles, clocking in at 1:29. It reached #63 on the charts and sold 250,000+ copies. Yes, it’s a tossed-off throw-together with lyrics like a laundry list, but it rocks, it sizzles, and it’s over before you know it. Most people’s reaction, when the single was over, would be to ask, “what the heck was that?” I saw Double Trouble at a cheapo theater on a triple Elvis bill circa 1969, and I LOVED this song. Its presentation in the film makes it even more surreal.

elvis long legged
3 Edge Of Reality, also from LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE, was Elvis’s only foray into psychedelia (well, lounge-psychedelia), and in the film it actually appears in a freak-out sequence!
4 My Little Friend was the B-side of Elvis’s hit single “Kentucky Rain” and NOT a film song. No less than Julian Cope rhapsodized about the song, so let me turn this over to him: “The country-soul flavoured ‘My Little Friend’ is an overlooked gem from the prolific 1969 Memphis sessions which produced the albums ‘From Elvis In Memphis’ and ‘Back In Memphis’ as well as classic singles such as ‘Suspicious Minds’ and ‘Kentucky Rain’. It appeared on the b-side of the latter, with which it shares a pained vocal style and an incisive arrangement. The piano player and backing singers are content to take a backseat for the most part, giving maximum impact to their strategically-placed contributions. Elvis’s tone of voice is perfectly complemented by the string and horn sections which lurk unnervingly in the left channel, waiting for gaps in the vocal which they fill with bursts of spiky melodicism. It’s a genuinely inspired piece of work which proves that the King didn’t surround himself with mere hacks. And what an amazing opening line: ‘My warped and worried mind resorts to wandering off to ponder things I never talk about.”
5 A Little Less Conversation
6 Rubberneckin’
7 Clean Up Your Own Back Yard
8 U.S. Male  Tracks 5-8 present Elvis at his re-energized country-funk best circa 1968, and getting all these first-rate tracks from obscure 45’s on one album, and a budget album at that, was undoubtedly an exciting experience for the many who bought this album. Of course, tracks 5 & 6 became huge posthumous hits for The King in remixed versions, and may well be among the best-known Elvis songs for those under 30 today. These four tracks are the same Elvis who appeared in the black leather suit in the 1968 comeback TV special, and that period was certainly one of this best-ever periods, when he pulled it all together after too many years in the Hollywood film-soundtrack world.

9 Charro  The title song from Elvis’s 1968 film, an Americanized faux-Spaghetti Western a la Hang Em High, was the only song in the film. It’s a rich western ballad and started the film off on a good foot. The film Charro has never been a critics’ favorite, though I remember it playing for a year or more on the drive-in circuit, surfacing as a second feature with other National General releases and on Elvis multi-film bills. It was an auteur film for Charles Marquis Warren (originally a protege of F. Scott Fitzgerald, believe it or not, during FSF’s “Pat Hobby” period), who’d done a number of films for Lippert Pictures 15 years earlier. Many Italian Westerns started off with a moody “loner ballad” to set the tone of the film (I can hear about a dozen of them in my head as I’m typing this), and Charro did that very well and was a true prize on this album.

10 Stay Away  is not the song “Stay Away Joe” (my choice for Elvis’s worst film), although some early pressings of the album DID include that performance. No, this is a rewrite of the melody of “Greensleeves” which appeared as the B-side to U.S. Male. It’s a jaunty song that’s also quite moody and it’s powered along by acoustic guitars and strings and emphatic, fast-paced percussion and later shimmering piano that give it a unique flavor.

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One critic, in a book called THE SOUNDTRACK ALBUM: LISTENING TO MEDIA, in a very perceptive section devoted to Elvis’s Camden albums (which I just stumbled across as I was finishing up writing this piece), describes them as “a kind of proto-rarities compilation, a genre of album taken up by labels to head off bootleggers….not unlike the bootleg, the Elvis budget albums present an alternative view of the central image crafted and re-adjusted by RCA and Elvis’s management.”

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Of course, the Camden albums got Colonel Parker a 50/50 cut with Elvis from RCA, much higher than his usual cut on RCA royalties, so the Colonel was motivated to create a number of these albums. A quick advance payment of a few hundred-thousand dollars for each album was nothing to sneeze at, and Elvis didn’t have to DO anything he hadn’t already done for one of these albums to enter the marketplace. Also, they appeared at retailers (usually NOT at record stores, but other kind of stores, getting even wider traction than a “normal” release) across the nation at affordable prices ($1.98 or $2.98), so they were essentially keeping the “brand” alive and visible.

It was a win-win situation for artist, manager, label, and the Elvis fans who bought the albums because they were getting wonderful collections of obscure material, most of a high quality and especially a wide variety of music on each one, even though they usually ran 25 minutes or so, containing only 10 tracks. The Camden albums are an important part of Elvis’s recorded legacy, and even though all this material has since been compiled into meaningful compilations with exhaustive liner notes and finally properly contextualized, the randomness of the Camden albums is one of their strengths. It’s like dipping  your ladle into a pot of gumbo, where you have no idea what ingredients its maker put into it, and getting both a big surprise and an amazing and satisfying meal. And of course, as with an 8-track, it’s always better on cassette tape. I’m glad I still own and listen to mine….50 years after the album’s initial release!

elvis almost 8track


July 2, 2020

Wanted: Sabata (Italy 1970), starring Brad Harris

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WANTED: SABATA (Italy 1970)

starring Brad Harris and Vassili Karis

directed by Roberto Mauri

note: I recently acquired the “sequel” to this film, DURANGO IS COMING: PAY OR DIE!, which is a sequel in the sense that it’s from the same production company, Three Stars Films, and also stars Brad Harris. I hope to write about it some time in the future (I’ve watched it twice and it’s quite entertaining and also quite different in tone from its predecessor), but until then, here is a review of WANTED: SABATA I published elsewhere online a year or two ago….hope you find it interesting and worthwhile!

wanted sabata 1

Originally from Sicily, director Roberto Mauri was involved with many worthwhile sword and sandal films and westerns in the 1960’s……and he continued on, doing whatever genre of film was in fashion at the time. 1968-69 alone saw him doing the great western with Tab Hunter SHOTGUN, the beyond-belief KING OF KONG ISLAND, and one of the late-period Kommissar X films, THREE GOLDEN SERPENTS aka Island of Lost Girls, the latter two starring BRAD HARRIS, an American who was quite successful as a sword and sandal star (his FURY OF HERCULES and SAMSON sold tens of thousands of copies each in the early days of VHS) then Eurospy star then Eurowestern star. Harris was also a stunt director who had a background working with second-unit (action) work and as an athlete himself did a fine job of fight choreography. As a lead actor, he had a strong presence and the gravitas needed to play Hercules/Maciste, but he also could radiate a real charm, and in his Kommissar X films with Tony Kendall he had a great sense of humor. Having worked with Mauri before, he was a natural choice for leading man for this low-budget formula Eurowestern made in 1970.

One thing the viewer notices in 1970-71 lower-rung Eurowesterns is how they were no longer being shot in Almeria, Spain—-no more of those endless, expansive stretches of barren imitation US Southwest/Northern Mexico. Instead, they were shot within driving distance of Rome in wooded areas where they could be found (and they weren’t that large when they were found), so the films had a very different look, and with the landscape being a huge presence in the earlier films, with a sense of dread and foreboding and bleakness, the later films had a different FEEL.

wanted sabata 2

Also, there seems to be by 1970 fewer of the operatic, Gothic touches one would have seen in films from 1966-1968. Individual directors would still have their own unique styles (Gianfranco Parolini, aka Frank Kramer, who’d worked a lot with Brad Harris in the early-to-mid 60’s, for instance, played by his own rulebook in the early 70’s), but there were a number of relatively straight-forward, bread and butter westerns that moved from Point A to Point B relatively simply, with the kind of matter-of-fact approach one would see in the series B-Westerns of the 1930’s and 1940’s—westerns that were made because there was an audience wanting to see them and which were ground out  quickly by people who had an intuitive feel for the genre. By 1970, the Eurowestern had its core audience both in Europe and abroad, people who would pay to see anything that resembled what they were expecting, and modest-budgeted films (no expensive location shooting in Spain!) that had few pretensions but delivered the goods had a niche market.

WANTED: SABATA is one of those. The plot could be written on a napkin in magic marker. It could be from a 1930’s Bob Steele western (one where the plot DID NOT involve Bob on the revenge path because his father was killed). Sabata (played by Brad Harris), a simple rancher who’d had some trouble earlier in his life and is trying to rebuild things for himself, is tagged for destruction by someone who sold Sabata some land and wants it back (or something like that….my Italian is not good and the subtitles are minimal, and based on what I do know, not always accurate). This character (Jim Sparrow) is played by Greek actor Vassili Karis, and to say he’s over the top is an understatement. In a 30’s western, the character would probably be played by Wheeler Oakman (as in THE MAN FROM GUNTOWN, with Tim McCoy), at his leering, twitchy best. Just in case you weren’t sure HOW bad a person he is, in the first three minutes of the film, when Sparrow’s brother takes him to task for being so maniacal in his hatred of Sabata, who has done nothing wrong, Sparrow blows his brother away….and then pins the murder on Sabata. Sabata is captured, escapes, flees, and hides out in the hills while plotting his strategy and eventually gets justice. Well, kind of…..a Roy Rogers kind of justice that might seem unsatisfying to Eurowestern fans who grew up on those immortal lines from the trailer of DEATH RIDES A HORSE, “when you’ve been searching fifteen years for a man, it’s a shame you can only kill him once!”

wanted sabata 3

Brad Harris does not get good notices from the few who have written about this film, but he and the director have clearly decided for him to under-play the part, a la Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott. I feel that Harris is a strong enough presence to pull the viewer in, in the way a Randolph Scott or a Charles Bronson could, but you the viewer can decide for yourself.

Not sure that this was ever given an English dub. I watched it on You Tube in Italian with minimal English subtitles. You’ll have no problem following it. I first watched it last summer, when I was in El Paso, and my wife was busy with her Mom running some errands…..I borrowed her tablet and watched it on that while the ladies were out for the afternoon. I’ve now watched it a second time, and I do think that people who enjoy a straightforward Spaghetti Western that is full of action and suspense, has a decent musical score, and moves quickly will find this to be 90 minutes of their life not wasted. Also, Brad Harris has many fans (Mr. Harris just passed away in 2017), and his westerns are not as well known as his sword and sandal and his Eurospy films. Considering this is up for free on You Tube in an OK quality widescreen copy, what are you waiting for?

Oh, this character has zero to do with the Sabata of Lee Van Cleef (or the Sabata through dubbing after the fact of Yul Brynner). Like the many cut-rate Django ripoffs and Sartana ripoffs—or the many Italian “Maciste” films which became Hercules films when dubbed into English–they just took the name and hoped it brought a few more patrons into the theater. For me, that just adds to the charm.

wanted sabata 4

July 1, 2020

The Herdsmen & The Kentonians: Paris Sessions, 1954-56

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 11:55 am
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The Herdsmen & The Kentonians: Paris Sessions, 1954-56

(Fresh Sound Records, Spain, 2-cd set, released 2017)


Total time: 131:06 min.

CD 1
01. Pot Luck (Johnny Mandel) 7:26
02. So What Could Be New? (Tiny Kahn) 6:44
03. Palm Café (Henri Renaud) 5:45
04. Just 40 bars (Henri Renaud) 4:16
05. The Gypsy (Billy Reid) 3:55
06. Thanks for You (Tim Whitton) 3:44
07. Embarkation (Jerry Coker) 4:56
08. Wet Back on the Left Bank (Ralph Burns) 7:14
09. Ballad Medley: 9:22
-These Foolish Things (Strachey-Maschwitz)
-You Go to My Head (Coots-Gillespie)
-Darn That Dream (Van Heusen-DeLange)
-I Cover the Waterfront (Green-Heyman)

CD 2
01. Why Not? (Neal Hefti) 7:07
02. Steeplechase (Charlie Parker) 6:42
03. I Remember You (Schertzinger-Mercer) 5:09
04. Blues Martial (Martial Solal) 7:42
05. The Way You Look Tonight (Kern-Fields) 11:11
06. They Say that Falling in Love Is Wonderful (Irving Berlin) 5:50
07. Jive at Five (Basie-Edison) 7:10
08. Daniel’s Blues (Henri Renaud) 11:42
09. Scrapple from the Apple (Charlie Parker) 6:52
10. Buhaina (Horace Silver) 7:55

Sources CD 1:
Tracks #1,2,5 & 6, from the 10-inch album
“The Third Herdmen Blow in Paris, Vol. 1” (Vogue LD.204)
Tracks #3,4,7 & 8, from the 10-inch album
“The Third Herdmen Blow in Paris, Vol. 2” (Vogue LD.205)
Track #9, from the album “A Unit from Stan Kenton’s band, directed by Carl Fontana”
(Club des Amateurs de Disque CAD3003)

Sources CD 2:
Tracks #1-7, from the 12-inch album
“Martial Solal et les Kentonians – Escale à Paris” (Swing LDM 30.044)
Tracks #8-10, from the album
“A Unit from Stan Kenton’s band, directed by Carl Fontana”
(Club des Amateurs de Disque CAD3003)


Tracks #1-4: Dick Collins, trumpet; Cy Touff, bass trumpet; Bill Perkins, Dick Hafer, tenor saxes; Henri Renaud, piano; Red Kelly, bass; Jean-Louis Viale, drums.
Recorded in Paris, April, 23, 1954

Tracks #5-8: Cy Touff, bass trumpet; Jerry Coker, tenor sax; Ralph Burns, piano; Jimmy Gourley, guitar; Jean-Marie Ingrand, bass; Chuck Flores, drums.
Recorded in Paris, May 5, 1954

Same personnel, location and date as #8-10 on CD-2


Tracks #1-7: Vinnie Tano, trumpet; Carl Fontana, trombone; Don Rendell, tenor sax; Martial Solal, piano; Curtis Counce, bass; Mel Lewis, drums.
Recorded in Paris, May 3 & 4, 1956


Tracks #8-10: Dick Mills, trumpet; Carl Fontana, trombone; Don Rendell, tenor sax; Henri Renaud, piano; Curtis Counce, bass; Wes Ilcken, drums.
Recorded in Paris, May 4, 1956

Original recordings produced by Charles Delaunay and Daniel Filipacchi
Produced for CD release by Jordi Pujol

American jazz musicians have been making records for European labels since the 1920’s, both while on tour…and for those who choose to reside in Europe for a chunk of time or permanently, as part of their new European life. As I was growing up, some of my favorite musicians were recording regularly in Europe–Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Mal Waldron, Paul Bley, Chet Baker, etc. And often, I tend to prefer the European recordings of such artists to their American recordings. Commercial considerations are usually not as much of an issue in Europe; styles not presently in favor in the US are still respected and nurtured there; and as the sessions are usually done inexpensively for specialist labels, they often let the musicians stretch out and/or do things they were chomping at the bit to do because not much planning or organizing would be needed.

There are also the European sessions done by sidemen in famous big-bands or smaller jazz units, who now got a chance to be featured on their own sessions. Ellingtonians and Basie-ites were always welcome, of course. Then there was Lionel Hampton, who refused to allow his band members to make outside recordings while on European tour, so they had to do it on the sly, without Hamp’s (or Gladys’s) knowledge. You would also find combinations of musicians on European sessions you’d NEVER see on American sessions, as the various “schools” or camps meant little outside of the US, and also the influence of American producers and A&R men who would assemble sessions was not felt.

The big bands of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman were known for always being forward-thinking and for featuring great soloists. These men always wanted strong and individual players, feeling that it would elevate the music, and they both gave them a LOT of space and features within the nightly programs. Other than CITY OF GLASS, I don’t listen to many Kenton studio albums that much, but I do have a number of Kenton airchecks, featuring the likes of Art Pepper and Lee Konitz, and they are amazingly fresh and fit well among those artists’ most interesting performances. As for Herman, I’m not crying out to hear “Your Father’s Moustache” anytime soon (and I have a feeling that Herman’s heart was in the jazz side of things), but think of the various “brothers” in his units, and the amazing players he had out on the road at various times: Stan Getz, Flip Phillips, Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli, Billy Bauer, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff, Al Cohn, Lou Levy, Shelley Manne, etc.

In the case of both Pepper and Konitz, the time with Kenton gave them an international audience, kept them playing challenging music nightly on the road, and helped them spin off to their own solo careers.

We should be thankful that European producers got a number of Herman and Kenton sidemen into the studio in France to record four albums–two 12″ and two 10″–worth of material, the Herman band members in 1954, the Kenton bandmembers in 1956.

paris-sessions-1954-1956-2-cd (1)

As might be expected, these are largely players who have one foot in the late-period progressive swing era and another foot in bop and a third foot in west coast jazz, and those are the elements mixed together here.

However, with the mixture of West Coast and East Coast and British and French musicians, the resulting recordings are both fresh and unpredictable. French pianists such as Henri Renaud (a deep Ellingtonian who later worked on some wonderful deep catalog reissues of lesser-known Ducal works) and Martial Solal provide ever-shifting, flexible foundations for the soloists….and what soloists.

paris-sessions-1954-1956-2-cd (2)

If you are looking for fresh and largely unheard 50’s small-group jazz from first-rate players with great imaginations, able to break free from their band leaders for once and lay down some of what they were longing to play while they were on the bandstand each night, this over-stuffed two-cd set from Fresh Sound will become a favorite. I’ve played my copy a dozen times or more in the six months or so I’ve owned it. It’s like being able to sit in on some dream version of a weekday jam session with members of the most progressive of 50’s big bands (Kenton and Herman) at a Left Bank basement jazz club, and who wouldn’t want that! Another home-run from Spain’s wonderful FRESH SOUND label.

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