Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

August 9, 2020

Duke Ellington: four live performances, 1958-1969

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duke

Duke Ellington’s body of recorded work runs from 1924-1974. Ellington music, of all eras, has always been a part of my life, as long as I have been able to choose my listening environment. As I’ve been sharing links to music and film during this Covid lockdown, it seems inevitable that I should offer some Duke Ellington live performances, since so many were recorded and previously uncirculated recordings continue to appear.

Below are four live recordings, dating from 1958 through 1969, to give you hours of Ellington, and there is no better musical friend to have alongside you. I’ve also included likely personnel for each performance.

You can access a very thorough Ellington discography (including known-to-be-recorded but unreleased live recordings) at    http://www.ellingtonia.com/

Enjoy!

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APRIL 29, 1969, THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C.

from You Tube: “April 29, 1969:: President Richard Nixon threw a 70th birthday party for Duke Ellington at the White House, where he awarded the maestro the Medal of Freedom. The Voice of America’s Willis Conover organized the band and performers for the occasion, which included Bill Berry, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Urbie Green, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Hall, Billy Taylor, Hank Jones, Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Milt Hinton, Louie Bellson, Joe Williams and Mary Mayo. Ellington himself performed an original called “Pat,” in honor of the President’s wife. Narrated by Willis Conover.”

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20 APRIL 1964, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA

Cat Anderson, Cootie Williams, Rolf Ericson, Herbie Jones (tp) Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (tb) Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts) Russell Procope (as,cl) Johnny Hodges (as) Paul Gonsalves (ts) Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl) Duke Ellington (p,talking) Major Holley (b) Sam Woodyard (d)

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November 3, 1969. Bergen, Norway

Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Harold “Money” Johnson (t); Lawrence Brown (tb); Chuck Connors (btb); Russell Procope (cl,as); Norris Turney (fl,cl,as,ts); Johnny Hodges (as); Harold Ashby (ts,cl); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Harry Carney (cl,bcl,as,bar); Duke Ellington (p); Wild Bill Davis (o); Victor Gaskin (sb); Rufus Jones (d); Tony Watkins (v)

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February 4, 1958 Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Johnny Hodges – Alto Sax…. Russell Procope – Alto Sax, Clarinet…. Paul Gonsalves – Tenor Sax…. Jimmy Hamilton – Tenor Sax, Clarinet…. Harry Carney – Baritone Sax, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet…. Cat Anderson – Trumpet…. Harold “Shorty” Baker – Trumpet…. Ray Nance – Trumpet, Violin, Vocal…. Clark Terry – Trumpet…. Quentin Jackson – Trombone…. John Sanders – Valve Trombone…. Britt Woodman – Trombone…. Duke Ellington – Piano…. Jimmy Woode – Bass…. Sam Woodyard – Drums…. Ozzie Bailey – Vocal….

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August 3, 2020

64 Volumes of LOST JUKEBOX (approx. 1728 songs from 60’s vinyl 45’s!)

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Longtime fans of MP3 blogs devoted to obscure 60’s music know and love the LOST JUKEBOX series of albums, compiled by the late Jeffrey Glenn, a series that eventually ran to 225 volumes, each with approximately 27 tracks. I downloaded 20 or so volumes and burned them to CDR maybe 10 years ago.

lost jukebox

This series documented a mind-blowingly diverse collection of non-hit 1960’s music on 45 RPM records, all pop music of one kind or another, with some garage bands, some sunshine pop, some lounge-y instrumentals, but mostly studio pop/beat of one kind or another. It’s not unlike the kind of thing collected on the UNCHARTED WATERS series, but with the net cast even wider. Nothing else I’ve ever encountered captures the joy of record hunting in the 1970’s and 1980’s, grabbing unknown things from the dime or quarter racks before there was an internet, when all you had to go on was song titles, producers, songwriters, and the general “look” of a record. Since the rise of the internet and Ebay, everything is “collectible” in one way or another and one cannot go out with a $10 dollar bill and come back with a stack of unknown 60’s 45’s that were not collectible or “in demand”  in any way. I would sometimes make mix cassettes of that kind of thing, but I was just a dabbler compared with Jeff Glenn and his LOST JUKEBOX series.

There are various places online where one can download many of the 200+ volumes from dodgy file sharing services, but I’m happy to say that the first 64 volumes are available for listening, with no need to download, now on You Tube.

The following link presents the music in the order found on the original Lost Jukebox collections, starting with Volume 64 and working backwards–that’s approximately 1728 songs!!! With so many of us working at home, and then the rest of us trying to stay home as much as possible, this kind of random but tastefully assembled collection of (and there’s no crap whatsoever, something that wouldn’t be true after a day of junkstore buying!) 45’s is just what one needs to fire the imagination while the toes are tapping. Enjoy! And thanks for Jeff Glenn for assembling these collections in the first place, from his massive archive….

https://www.youtube.com/c/LostJukebox/playlists

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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

 

floyd

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).

floyd 2

July 25, 2020

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

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ELVIS LIVE 1969

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.

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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)

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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.

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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:

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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 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.

lake charles

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Here’s Ace’s promo video for the album

 

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)

1. LIKE I DO

2. SOMEWHERE THERE’S LOVE

3. NEVER LET HIM GO

4. HE KNOWS I LOVE HIM TOO MUCH

5. IT TAKES A LITTLE TIME

6. POCO SOLE

7. SPEAK SUGAR SPEAK

8. THE BIG HURT

9. MAMA WOULDN’T LIKE IT

10. JOHN JOHN

11. LOVE, KISSES AND HEARTACHES

12. ACAPULCO MEXICO

13. PLEASE UNDERSTAND

14. PAPER ROSES

15. I CAN’T BEGIN TO TELL YOU

16. I’VE OFTEN WONDERED

17. GET AWAY

18. LIKE YOU USED TO DO

19. AS YOU LOVE HER

20. STARLIGHT STARBRIGHT

21. DON’T BELIEVE HIM

22. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MADE

23. TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY

24. SEARCHING FOR HOME

25. OH WHAT A GUY

26. PICK THE PETALS

27. MELANCHOLY ME

28. ALL THE ANGELS SING

29. I LOVE HOW YOU LOVE ME

30. I ALMOST CALLED YOUR NAME

31. WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE

MAUREEN-EVANS-final

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)

evans-maureen-60-01-23

 

July 8, 2020

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

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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)

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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.

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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.

 

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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….)

THE 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

The Gants are SID HERRING, JOHNNY SANDERS, VINCE MONTGOMERY, DON WOOD.

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….

https://www.clarionledger.com/story/life/mslife/2018/04/27/gants-get-their-music-marker/558437002/

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.”

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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.

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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:

http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/WATCHPOCKET.htm

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.

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

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)

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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)

Personnel on THE THIRD HERDMEN BLOW IN PARIS (1954)

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

Personnel on MARTIAL SOLAL ET LES KENTONIANS “ESCALE À PARIS” (1956)

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

A UNIT FROM STAN KENTON’S BAND, DIRECTED BY CARL FONTANA (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.

June 25, 2020

more than six hours of interviews with pioneering jazz trumpeter ARTHUR BRIGGS

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:18 am
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arthur briggs 2

Trumpeter ARTHUR BRIGGS is a legendary name to lovers of pre-WWII jazz….although he is not as well-known as Louis Armstrong or King Oliver or Bix Beiderbecke because he did most of his recording in Europe, and I don’t believe there has ever been a North American compilation of his European recordings. He was a virtuoso player with a wide range (often praised in the European press for hitting those high C’s!), great technical facility, great harmonic invention (he was given an intense classical training), and a rawness and drive to his playing that justifies the Armstrong and Oliver references.

He was the toast of many European capitals in the 1920’s (for many Europeans, he was THE face of Jazz, the man they could see in person, regularly if they wished, a first-rate player and personality who chose to live and work in Europe!) and had a long career as a performer and later as a teacher, interrupted by a few years in a German concentration camp (I wonder if his experience had anything to do with John A. Williams’ novel CLIFFORD’S BLUES, which I have not re-read since it came out in 1997….although a number of the specifics in that book do not match Briggs, I am assuming the Clifford character is a composite with a large dose of fictional invention added).

The experience of jazz musicians (and especially African-American jazz musicians, such as Briggs) who worked primarily overseas as expatriates has always fascinated me, especially those pre-WWII figures like Briggs or Sam Wooding or Danny Polo who recorded extensively overseas. Even figures we don’t think of as expatriates (Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, for instance) spent a good bit of time in Europe and recorded a good amount there. How exciting it must have been to see Arthur Briggs Savoy Syncops Band at some Paris dance-hall in 1925, or Lud Gluskin’s orchestra at some swanky Swiss resort in 1928 (and let’s not forget those farther afield, such as Buck Clayton’s years in Shanghai, China, in the mid-1930’s). What stories these Americans in Europe must have had to tell…. Well, imagine my surprise when I recently stumbled across more than SIX hours of tape-recorded interviews with Briggs posted online at the Rutgers University Institute for Jazz Studies website. This is a man who worked with such legendary Black pre-jazz figures as Will Marion Cook (whom he knew well), who was in the post-James Reese Europe version of the 369th Regiment Marching Band, who describes in detail the playing of Freddie Keppard in the 1919-1921 period not documented on record, who knew and remembered as if it was yesterday legendary-but-obscure African-American music figures such as Cricket Smith, who knew and worked with Sidney Bechet before Bechet ever recorded, and who has a life and work experience more interesting than any movie or book could contain. Fortunately, you can hear him tell his story, in interview with the very knowledgeable James Lincoln Collier (who did a fine book on Duke Ellington, among many other things). It had me on the edge of my chair! Put it on while you are homebound during the quarantine….you’ll have to re-start the player every 45 minutes as each side of the interview cassette-tapes are presented separately. You’ll be a richer human-being after listening to this!

1982 interview in Paris of ARTHUR BRIGGS by Jazz historian James Lincoln Collier, archived by Rutgers University, Institute of Jazz Studies:

https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/56679/

arthur briggs 1

Arthur Briggs And His Savoy Syncop’s Orchestra – I’m Coming Virginia (vocal by Al Bowlly), recorded in Berlin, Germany, 1927 (video incorporates footage from an Austrian 1925 silent film in which Briggs and band appeared, Das Spielzeug von Paris, directed by  Miháli Kertész, the man who later emigrated to the US, changed his name, and became the Michael Curtiz who directed CASABLANCA and JAILHOUSE ROCK):

arthur briggs 4

An amazingly thorough survey of Arthur Briggs career (“correcting” some of the statements he made in the audio interview above–I’ll let this research speak for itself–everyone to some extent fictionalizes their personal narrative to make it more interesting or to fit some personal agenda….he’s not the first or the last), from the Black Music Research Journal, University of Illinois Press:

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/397646

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If you want to see the entire 1925 Austrian silent film Das Spielzeug von Paris, with an English translation of the inter-titles, here it is (Briggs is only in a small section of it, in a club scene, but it’s quite interesting otherwise):

June 22, 2020

SKIP BATTIN, “Skip Battin’s Italian Dream” (Appaloosa Records, Italy, 2-cd set)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:21 am
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skip 1

SKIP BATTIN’S ITALIAN DREAM (Appaloosa Records, Italy, 2-cd set)

Includes Skip’s 2 Italian-only solo LP’s on Appaloosa, NAVIGATOR and DON’T GO CRAZY, and a wonderful Italian live concert with Skip and the man he replaced in the Byrds, John York, previously released only on an obscure CDR (see pic below).

The Skip Battin and John York line-ups of THE BYRDS are much under-rated, and in many ways are my favorite Byrds line-ups: ROGER McGUINN, CLARENCE WHITE, JOHN YORK or SKIP BATTIN, and GENE PARSONS.

skip 2

Skip Battin must be ranked among the most essential of the American musicians who flew the freak-flag of cosmic country-rock for decades, pretty much until his passing. He may not have been a “founder” a la Rick Nelson, Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds, Michael Nesmith, Gram Parsons, etc., but he was there soon after and was a member of three of the greatest bands of the genre: The Byrds, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Skip paid his dues for decades in support of the cosmic-cowboy ethos, and fortunately, in Italy he WAS viewed as an important figure and given the opportunity to tour and record. Which leads us to this special and fascinating 2-CD set. I reviewed this in Ugly Things a few years ago (the album came out in 2017), so here is that review, which I was tempted to dig up after playing both CD’s again tonight, in June 2020 on a hot and humid evening in South Texas….Skip Battin and Kim Fowley and John York are still working their magic through these 80’s recordings, decades later (and thankfully, Mr. York is still with us and making fine music!).

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SKIP BATTIN—Skip Battin’s Italian Dream (Appaloosa, Italy) 2-cd

     Skip Battin was the oldest member of the Byrds, the only Byrd to have had a significant hit prior to his becoming a Byrd (with Skip and Flip, Gary Paxton being Flip, from 1959), and the only Byrd to issue a solo album while still a member of the band (his 1972 SKIP album on Signpost Records). During his period as a Byrd, the band became a powerful and popular live unit, and people still talk with awe about the 20 minute live versions of “Eight Miles High” with a long duo section between bassist Skip and drummer Gene Parsons. Skip’s songwriting partnership with Kim Fowley found its way onto the final three Byrds albums and certainly brought a new angle to the late-Byrds sound and attitude.

     Post-Byrds, Skip played in the New Riders Of The Purple Sage (check out their Brujo album) and the Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as the later Byrds-related bands that included a grab bag of people involved in various Byrds line-ups.

     In the 1980’s, Skip found a new career for himself in Italy, playing in various bands that included a sampling of American country-rock pioneers (Sneaky Pete Kleinow, John York, Chris Darrow, etc.), learning Italian, and working extensively with Italian steel guitarist and guitarist Ricky Mantoan. The late-Byrds/Burritos/New Riders sound never lost its audience in Italy, and Skip was highly valued with his impressive pedigree in great bands. This led to two original Italian-only albums on the Appaloosa label, which never got much exposure in North America at the time (I remember seeing the blues LP’s on Appaloosa, but not the Battins).

     The two albums, “Navigator” (1981) and “Don’t Go Crazy” (1984), are included on the first disc of this package, and the second disc features a complete Skip Battin/John York concert, live in Bolzano, Italy, in 1988. The two studio albums were recorded in Los Angeles, feature a small group including Sneaky Pete, and offer many Fowley-Battin compositions, some new, some new versions of Byrds and solo Skip recordings (“Citizen Kane” sounds much better without the faux-Dixieland horns on the Byrds version). They sound a lot like modest demos, but Skip’s enthusiasm and the always-interesting material (Fowley lyrics are full of entertaining wordplay) help make the albums a joy to hear. Side two of the second album includes some songs partly in Italian (those are NOT Fowley co-writes!) and the second album has more of a country orientation. Anyone who enjoyed Skip’s 1972 solo album or his featured material with the Byrds (or the New Riders) should welcome these sides.

     However, the real surprise here is the complete Skip Battin/John York Italian concert (with Ricky Mantoan, as “Family Tree”). Playing for a small crowd (surely under 100, if not under 50), these two Byrds (ironically, Skip replaced John York, so they were never Byrds together!) sound completely relaxed and at home, doing a wide variety of Byrds/Burritos/Dylan material along with 50’s and country tunes. We should be thankful to Italian country-rock fans for caring enough to bring these two great artists to Italy and just letting them be themselves. Battin and York were probably not having people break down their doors in 1987 clamoring for duo concerts, so this beautiful show is quite special. York has always been fine in any band (his 2010 duo album with Kim Fowley “West Coast Confidential” is a masterpiece, among the best-ever work of either artist) or solo, and the two blend wonderfully. It must have been satisfying to be at that show.

     Those of us who value the late-period Byrds will treasure this two-CD set. Skip was a unique talent with a long and diverse career. Other than the Evergreen Blueshoes album on Amos, his post Skip and Flip, pre-Byrds career is not very well known (there were a number of still records issued on small labels). Let’s hope this Italian set is just the first step in a thorough Skip Battin reassessment. He deserves it.

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L-R, Gene Vincent, Kim Fowley, Rodney Bingenheimer, Skip Battin

The only photo of Skip and Kim together I could find online, and what a wonderful photo it is, taken during the sessions for Gene’s Fowley-produced LP for the Dandelion label, I’M BACK AND I’M PROUD, on which Skip played. This would have been immediately before Skip joined the Byrds, I’m guessing….

June 19, 2020

Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra’s Online Music Festival Livestream, Tonight at 6 pm Central Time!

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:46 am
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peacherine

Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra’s Online Music Festival Livestream Tonight!

FRIDAY 19 JUNE 2020, 6 PM Central Time

Just a quick reminder that tonight, June 19th at 7:00 PM EDT is Peacherine’s 2nd Online Music Festival, featuring performers from all over the United States!

This 90 minute music spectacular, hosted by PRSO’s director Andrew Greene, includes virtual performances by Dalton Ridenhour, Dan Levinson, Molly Ryan, Matt Tolentino, Martin Spitznagel, and of course, the Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra! You’ll hear everything from ragtime to jazz standards, stride piano favorites, blues tunes, and even Disney classics!

This free concert will be streaming concurrently on Facebook and Youtube:
Link to Youtube stream: https://youtu.be/RLXk085Hi4U
Link To Facebook stream: https://www.facebook.com/peacherineragtime/live/
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/581862752446094/

Don’t worry if you miss the stream, they’ll be left online afterwards for you to view anytime!

Nothing gets the listener revived and animated and provides a tonic for the spirit like ragtime music and music from the ragtime era. Peacherine’s first online festival a month or so ago was a wonderful event, with ragtimers from all over performing from their homes, sharing that infectious and toe-tapping syncopated music. Be sure to check out this 2nd online event….either live or later, as the You Tube stream will continue to be available anytime.

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You can visit Peacherine at  https://peacherineragtime.com/

June 16, 2020

Dean Reed in “Buckaroo: The Winchester Does Not Forgive” (Italy, 1967)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:36 am
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BUCKAROO: THE WINCHESTER DOES NOT FORGIVE (Italy, 1967)

starring DEAN REED with Livio Lorenzon

directed by Adelchi Bianchi (his last film, of only 4 directorial efforts, the previous being LOST SOULS from 1959, with Jacques Sernas and Virna Lisa, which did get a US release)

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BUCKAROO was Dean Reed’s first European film and his first Euro-western (right before GOD MADE THEM, I KILL THEM! and a few years before ADIOS SABATA, the only one of his Euro-westerns to get a US theatrical release), and the role of Hal/Buckaroo was a great breakout role for him in European genre films. He enters the film gradually as the main plot gets locked into gear (although his bravado performance of the theme song during the credits certainly makes it clear whose film this is!) and gradually takes control, with Reed never losing his inimitable laid-back charm. The villain is played with gusto by Livio Lorenzon, well-known from many roles in sword and sandal and costumed-adventure films earlier in the 60’s (some of which have been reviewed here), there’s a secondary villain working for his own purposes, the sheriff is corrupt, and near the end of the film an ironic twist from the past is divulged, to add even more satisfaction to the climax.

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I had not seen any of the four films directed by Adelchi Bianchi prior to this, but he’s quite impressive, keeps the camera moving, frames shots in a way to imply more than what’s being depicted on-screen (one wonders if he has any background in still photography, with his gift for framing), and gives Reed a good bit of space as a performer.

Also, the film is set in the world of mining (as is the great 1968 THE RUTHLESS FOUR, with Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland, George Hilton, and Klaus Kinski, one of my top-five Eurowesterns), which gives it a distinctive feel.

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The film builds tension masterfully, and it’s easy to see why Reed went on to star in a number of westerns while in Europe (though not as many as I would have liked) after making such a strong introduction here. Undoubtedly, films such as this also played well in Latin America, where he had a large fan base.

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We need to remember that for all intents and purposes this was Dean Reed’s first starring role of any significance….from what I’ve seen of his two Latin American features made in 1965, he’s not having to carry the film. In BUCKAROO, from his early scenes, when he decides to stay and help a down-on-his-luck miner and then stands down the corrupt sheriff who suggests he leave the area, it’s clear that Reed was remembering the advice of his acting coach and mentor Paton Price, back in Hollywood six or seven years previously, who’d emphasized how film acting was about totally being present in the moment in the scene, losing oneself in that filmic moment and bringing everything one had to it….Reed understood that this was his one chance to establish himself as an actor and film personality on a new continent, and you can feel that self-discovery here in BUCKAROO.

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Presently, there are NO reviews of Buckaroo on the IMDB! It’s nice to know that in 2020 one can still discover gems such as this….and in a first-rate print.

If you’re not already a fan of Reed, I’d hope you would be after watching BUCKAROO, and there is a link to the film below. It runs 88 minutes, so settle back and let it take you away….

For more reading, here are two reviews on the KSE blog of other Dean Reed films:

my review of Reed’s 1969 film DEATH KNOCKS TWICE

my review of Reed’s 1970 film THE CORSAIRS

In the coming months, I hope to have a write-up on his 1968 turn as Zorro (!!!!) in a Franco & Ciccio vehicle, though I’m watching it in untranslated Italian, so I’m taking my time and watching it more than once….VERY entertaining, and Reed is a great Zorro, though this blond from Colorado does not look the way one usually expects Zorro to.

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single from 1976 on the East German “Amiga” label

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Dean Reed’s 1959 Capitol single “I Ain’t Got You” (b-side of A Summer Romance):

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Dean Reed guest stars on a 1961 episode of the BACHELOR FATHER  TV show….and sings….in fact, he sings the same song four times (!!!) and introduces the competitors at a majorette competition! Between the second and third time he sings the song, there is a lounge-y version of the soundtrack from the man who did the show’s music, John(ny) Williams—-that’s right, film composer John Williams, back in his TV days. A shame that “Twirly, Twirly” is not one of Dean Reed’s better Capitol records, but it fits the plot, which is no doubt why he was brought in to sing it.

Note: start watching at about 17:50 for Dean, singing “his latest hit” (as it’s announced)… otherwise, the show has not dated well and I’d not recommend watching it….although John Forsythe is a joy to watch in anything, and you might want to catch him in either of his two films for Alfred Hitchcock, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY or TOPAZ, neither of which are typical Hitchcock.

 

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Dean Reed sings “Wandering Girl” in the 1965 Argentinian film “Mi Primera Novia” 

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Hear Dean Reed sing the theme song from BUCKAROO, in Italian, from a 1970 Soviet TV broadcast:

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Watch the classic 1967 Dean Reed Euro-western, in a beautiful print:

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And for a little context on who Dean Reed was, here is the acclaimed documentary AMERICAN REBEL: THE DEAN REED story. Reed grew up in the 1950’s just a few miles down the road in Colorado from where I grew up  many years later….

June 12, 2020

The Great Metropolitan Steam Band (Decca Records LP, 1969)

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great metropolitan steam band

THE GREAT  METROPOLITAN STEAM BAND

Decca Records LP, released 1969

A1 Blues Ain’t Nothin’
A2 Keep Your Hands Off Her
A3 Doctor Jazz
A4 Cocaine Blues
A5 Spare Change Rag
A6 It’s Tight Like That
B1 I Want A Big Butter And Egg Man
B2 Jackass Blues
B3 How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field
B4 Cold In Hand
B5 Basin Street Blues

As the other bands who had albums released on Decca Records in the 1967-70 period can surely attest, Decca was not the hippest label to be signed to. They were a large company (part of the huge MCA conglomerate) and had excellent distribution and clout within the industry, but beyond  The Who and (for a much different audience) Rick Nelson, their releases of new bands tended to sink in the marketplace….great albums by bands such as THE NOVA LOCAL and THE FORUM QUORUM should have gotten much more attention than they did back in the day.

Undoubtedly, the same thing happened with THE GREAT METROPOLITAN STEAM BAND album, although I can imagine it getting a good review in, say, a college newspaper in a city in the Northeast where they might have played, and it is certainly a pleasant and to some degree timeless album. Basically, the band is in the old-timey tradition of the revival jug bands who were popular in the early-to-mid 60’s, though there is no jug here (some of the few online mentions of the album drop terms like “ragtime” and “vaudeville,” which are not really that accurate, but do help you anticipate the overall flavor of the album—-one nice element about the band is that they blend a number of styles together so that it’s difficult to put any label on them, other than “acoustic” and “old-timey”).

Members included vocalist Bonnie Bagley, guitarist Eliot Kenin, and also Peter “Sy” Simmonds and Rocky Rockwood. Bagley reminds me somewhat of Bluesville Records-period Tracy Nelson if she went more in a Tin Pan Alley direction, though I suppose listeners at the time might have thought of Janis Joplin. I also hear a bit of the brassy, stagy side of someone like Cass Elliot (I mean that as a compliment!). When the Steam Band broke up, she joined legendary New England trad-jazz unit The Black Eagle Jazz Band, which makes perfect sense as the Steam Band is very much in that general tradition, which would have been more clear if the band had horns in it. I’m assuming the guitar and mandolin work is from Eliot Kenin, a man who worked in folk music for decades and is a jaunty and inventive player here. The instrumentation, always understated, varies from track to track, but includes tuba and mandolin and harmonica and banjo.

According to online sources, the band originated in the Boston area circa 1968, which makes sense when one thinks of  Jim Kweskin’s longtime residency in that area and with Boston always having a folk and old-time music audience and club scene (some of the bluegrass revival bands of the early 60’s had a foot in Boston). I would imagine they were a fine live band who could keep an audience entertained and with a smile on their faces, but they were more than a “good-timey” band as they took on one of Ed Sanders’ adaptations of William Blake (the arrangement here would appeal to Carter Family fans!) and also their soulful and languid six-minute take on “Basin Street Blues” hints at some interesting possibilities not heard on the rest of the album.

Somewhere along the way, they hooked up with producer and music entrepreneur David Blume, co-composer of “Turn Down Day” and husband of folk great Carolyn Hester, then going through a fascinating period with her psychedelic outfit THE CAROLYN HESTER COALITION. Blume signed them to his Red River Productions (which also included Hester’s Coalition and jazz-fusion band Osmosis (with Charlie Mariano, a former Bostonian)) and co-produced this album, which was released in 1969. Blume also worked at Paramount Records (another great label for little-known, poorly-promoted LP’s  from the early 70’s) and had many interesting and diverse credits over the decades.

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A single was released from the album, and the album itself was also issued in both Germany and the UK (and there is a mega-rare UK mono pressing too).

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Despite the front cover, there’s nothing remotely psychedelic about the album—-the back cover, with band members in a straw hat and a stovepipe hat and holding a tuba and a string bass, gives a much better depiction of what the band sounded like.

I could find nothing online about their time as a working band in Boston. Perhaps some Boston music historian has gig flyers, club listings, etc. There is always an audience for this kind of music among specialists, and it also usually goes over well with large audiences (outdoor city festivals, 4th of July celebrations, etc.) in a superficial way because of its spirit of fun and its timelessness. Also, everyone from 5 to 85 can appreciate it and finds themselves tapping their toes.

A second album going more in the direction of the “deeper” side found in “Basin Street Blues” would have been nice, but evidently the album was not a big seller and the band broke up (I wonder how Decca could have marketed it?).

Like so many obscure “roots” albums of the late 60’s and early 70’s, this was reissued on CD by the Korean “Big Pink” label, but that import CD would probably cost you a  lot more than a used copy of the actual LP—-50 copies are for sale at Discogs, starting at $2.00. Should you find this for a few dollars at a used record store and you enjoy, say, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (Mary Anne and I just saw a Kweskin livestream from his living room a few weeks ago, and the master is still in great form!), you’ll probably enjoy it. I listened to it three times in a row earlier this morning, which is what prompted me to write about it. If you have a taste for this kind of old-timey, acoustic 1920’s-based sound as interpreted by young musicians from the late 1960’s, you’ll enjoy owning this, and tip your hat to the musicians, wherever they may be, for making this largely forgotten album. I would love to have heard them in some neighborhood watering hole in Cambridge in 1968, being cheered on by their local fanbase….

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March 11, 2020

MICKIE MOST AND THE PLAYBOYS, “Hear The Most, The Best Of…” (Rock-In-Beat CD, Germany)

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One good-sized body of work from the original rock and roll era that’s never been reissued legitimately is the material MICKIE MOST—-the legendary producer of The Animals, Donovan, Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds, and many others—-recorded in South Africa in the 1960-62 period. Most (real name Michael Peter Hayes) was of course a Brit, but he was married to a South African lady, Christina, and returned with her there to test the waters, sensing that there might be a shortage of wannabe Elvises and Buddy Hollys and Cliff Richards. It turned out there was, and Most assembled a band, The Playboys (with varying personnel, according to the few online sources dealing with the subject), and beginning in late 1959, he was referred to as “The Human Dynamo” in Johannesburg and throughout South Africa and Rhodesia.

Most and crew recorded 30+ sides there, featured on three albums (HEAR THE MOST, MICKIE MOST, and BIG BEAT BALL), some EP’s,  compilation appearances, and many hit singles. 25 of those South African sides were made available on this grey-market CD on the Rock-In-Beat label from Germany in 1998. Despite Most’s huge influence on the UK music scene (he was viewed as a kind of starmaker and master-producer, and he appeared extensively on British TV in the 70’s in the role of a sage about all-things-pop), he never sought to re-release any of his early recordings (which he could have done easily on his successful early 70’s RAK label) and generally laughed off this period of his career in a self-deprecating way, once referring to these recordings as “awful” but admitting their chart success in Southern Africa and his drawing power and fan base as a live performer. Tracks 1-25 (see below) document this period, and I must say I’m quite excited by this material.

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1              Doesn’t Matter Any More             2:22

2              Johnny B. Goode              2:25

3              I Dig You Baby   1:36

4              That’s What You Do To Me           2:24

5              Think It Over      2:23

6              Paralyzed            2:38

7              You’ve Got Love                2:15

8              Boney Marony  1:58

9              Reeling And Rocking       2:22

10           Tom Dooley        2:56

11           Shake Rattle And Roll      1:58

12           Rave On               2:22

13           Pick A Bale Of Cotton     2:29

14           Sweet Little Sixteen        1:48

15           Greenback Dollar             1:50

16           Down By The Riverside  2:40

17           Heart Beat          2:18

18           Corrine Corrina 2:25

19           What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For           1:58

20           I Shall Not Be Moved      2:15

21           Guitar Boogie Shuffle     1:44

22           The Twist             1:39

23           Whole Lotta Twisting      1:53

24           Blue Moon          2:56

25           Green Corn         2:02

26           The Feminine Look          2:25

27           Money Honey   2:18

28           That’s Alright      2:07

29           Sea Cruise           2:25

30           It’s A Little Bit Hot            1:45

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The S.A. recordings are all cover versions, and while they are taken from a wide variety of sources (R&R, folk, R&B, gospel), there is a consistent sound to the records. Most’s main-man is clearly Buddy Holly, and his band-model the Crickets (including the post-Holly Crickets), and he does about a half-dozen songs related to the Holly/Crickets axis. Most’s own voice is in the same range as Holly’s and he does a similar vocal hiccup on some of the tracks. However, there is none of the Tex-Mex tinge of The Crickets, which is not surprising with Most being a Brit who is working in South Africa, and the musicians do not resemble (and to their credit, do not attempt to imitate) Jerry Allison’s drumming or Holly’s guitar work (only on “Heartbeat” do we hear the signature Holly gtr phrases). One strong element in these recordings is that unlike much of the pre-Beatles rock and roll coming from the UK, these Most sides ARE NOT at all slick, and there are no studio musicians or pizzicato strings or cloying backing vocalists in sight. What you get is a small rocking quartet—-singer/2nd guitarist, lead guitarist, bassist, and drummer—-plowing through the material in what must have been a fairly close approximation of their live act. They also do not attempt carbon copies of the original recordings–the arrangements are changed up and the guitar solos do not ape the solos on the records.

rock-from-the-other-side-vol1-ab-s

When I first heard these sessions, I was reminded of the late 50’s/early 60’s New Zealand R&R sides included on the ROCK FROM THE OTHER SIDE compilation LP”s (there were five) issued in the 1980’s on the Dutch Collector-White Label’s “Down South” subsidiary. I owned volume 1 (see pic) back in the day and played the grooves off of it. These were raw and rocking sides, but they were a bit “off” compared with American or even British R&R. However, after a few plays, I began to appreciate the novelty and freshness of the bands’ approaches to the music and could feel the excitement that the New Zealand audiences must have experienced with their homegrown R&R groups. They were locals, they were approachable, and you could see them at your local club and buy their records on local labels. And they really did not sound like their American models.

bobby vee early

Mickie Most and His Playboys also reminded me of the pre-Liberty recordings of Bobby Vee and The Shadows, especially the Suzie Baby-era sides recorded at Kay-Bank Studios in Minneapolis. Most’s band has the same treble-heavy sound, twangy and reverbed guitar, and dynamic vocals free of any direct blues/R&B influence (the boys being from the Upper Midwest) heard on Vee’s early local recordings. Of course, there is not the rich, deep, bank-vault reverb of Kay-Bank that’s so thick you can slice it….a sound echoed (no pun intended) in other Upper Midwest recordings, such as the records made by James Kirchstein at Cuca Records in Wisconsin. If I did not know what these Most recordings were (and you deleted the local references to the Transvaal and the Free State), I might well place the sessions as coming from the US Midwest, and speculate that the singer had been an exchange student in the UK for a year or two and picked up an accent on some words.

mickie 3

If you like pre-Beatles local rock and roll bands doing a repertoire of cover versions and want to hear 25 tracks of spontaneous, exciting rockers with enthusiastic vocals and twangy guitar, delivered with a warts-and-all honesty, that’s what you get here. If you are the kind of person who enjoys small-label rockers from the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles era and look forward to the hundredth cover of a Chuck Berry standard (after all, that’s how a band proves themselves—-didn’t Greg Shaw once say that he could never accept a band who could not do a decent version of “Louie Louie”?), I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t enjoy these Mickie Most South African recordings.

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Wait, you may ask…..aren’t there 30 tracks on this CD? Yes, the final five are sides Most made in the UK after his return, circa 1963-64 (see pic of “The Feminine Look”). All of them are first-rate British Beat records which would fit well on a BEATFREAK compilation. “Money Honey” and “Sea Cruise” could easily have been part of Most’s 1959-62 South African repertoire (maybe they were), and hearing the 63-64 UK beat recordings of the songs immediately after 25 of the earlier records, it becomes crystal clear what elements were added to basic post-Elvis rock and roll to turn it into 63-64 era Beat. You can hear this transformation also by listening to the Beatles’ Hamburg recordings, both studio and live, and then their EMI sessions. Most’s vocals on the British recordings are much more carefully recorded than on the S.A. sessions, where you are basically getting a live-in-the-studio experience, and it’s clear the man could have had a revived career as a singer/frontman in Britain had he not had such success as a producer. However, as the producer who found “House Of The Rising Sun” for The Animals and who became a virtual industry in 60’s British pop music, he surely recognized he could make a much bigger impact behind the microphone instead of in front of it, which he did.

feminine look

Going back to the 20’s and 30’s, there were a number of artists who found success as producers/publishers/A&R people and left the performing aspect behind, people such as Irving Mills and Ed Kirkeby (even Clarence Williams), and then in the 50’s and 60’s, people such as Ray Rush, Felton Jarvis, and Ray Ruff (or even Ozzie Nelson’s pivotal role in his son Rick’s early musical career). Who better to prepare and give advice to young up-and-coming performers than someone who has been there themselves.

mickie 5

Some of Most’s South African sides can be found on You Tube, and there is also another CD on the French “LCD” label (home of the Nowhere Men UK beat compilations) that includes 20+ tracks (though fewer than on this one).

mickie 6

If you want to see Mickie Most at the height of his production fame, circa 1968, acting like the rock star he clearly enjoyed being (those teenagers in Johannesburg gave him a taste of something he did not want to lose) and opining about all aspects of record-making, take 40 minutes to watch this BBC documentary (link below). It will give you a very clear picture of Most’s larger-than-life persona. It’s a shame there is no film footage (that I know of) of Most performing in Southern Africa circa 1959-62. He could have been worked into a club scene in a film the way that Bill Haley was in Mexico or Dean Reed was in Argentina. Oh well….just look at the picture at the top of this post of Most posing in front of a huge poster advertising his band and their upcoming live shows, play one of his rockers (I’ll post a You Tube link at the bottom here), and it’s not hard to imagine him on stage. First, though, here is Mickie in 1968, pop-production guru:

It’s a shame that with his power and connections Most never chose to acquire the tapes of his South African recordings, remaster them, and put out a selection on his RAK label. Britain has always had a dedicated roots-rock and 60’s beat following after the end of that era–they still do today–and surely that audience would have loved these sessions. Maybe he was embarrassed by them, feeling that in an age of sophistication they were sloppy and primitive; maybe he did not want to deal with the fallout from having worked in Apartheid-era South Africa. In any event, they ARE out there for you to hear…with a little searching.

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February 23, 2020

FADING YELLOW, Volume 17 (Flower Machine CD, Sweden)

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FADING YELLOW, VOLUME 17: 20 TIMELESS GEMS OF U.S. POP-PSYCH & OTHER DELIGHTS (CD, Flower Machine Records, Sweden, released December 2019)

1              –The Avant-Garde*        Yellow Beads

2              –Alan Lorber      Congress Alley

3              –The Poppy Family          I’ll See You There

4              –J.C. Cole*          I Found Me Today

5              –The Rooftop Singers     Kites

6              –A Small World                 I See You

7              –Space                  Radio Song

8              –James, John & Francois                Carolina

9              –The Fifth Estate              Love Is All A Game

10           –The Celtics        Looking For You

11           –The Hobbits     Artificial Face

12           –The Surprise Package   The Other Me

13           –The Magpies                    The Ballad Of Samuel Oscar Beasley

14           –The Looking Glass          Love Is Not Everything

15           –The Marshmellow Highway       I Don’t Wanna Live This Way

16           –Bucky Wilkin    I Wanna Be Free

17           –Sound Carnival                I Wish I Could Tell You

18           –The Swiss Movement                   Inside Of Me

19           –The In-Keepers               The Cobwebs Thread Of Autumn

20           –Salt And Pepper             In The Morning

falling 2

I was not aware that Volume 17 of FADING YELLOW had been released until Mike Stax sent out his Excel spreadsheet of who was reviewing what for the next issue of UGLY THINGS, and I saw that someone else was reviewing FY 17 (I reviewed FY 16 for UT in late 2018). Thankfully, Suzy Shaw at Bomp Records was stocking it, and I’ve been playing my newly acquired copy multiple times over the last week. If you’re not familiar with the series, let me quote from the first paragraph of my UT review of FY 16:

  Curating compilations is truly a complex art–a quality compiler with a consistent aesthetic and a knowledge of deep tracks that others have overlooked can create a masterwork from songs that, taken individually, might not blow anyone away. Through sixteen volumes, the Fading Yellow (the name taken from a Mike Batt song on the first volume) series has staked out a unique territory–not really psychedelic, though with some trippy elements; not really sunshine pop, though with some elements from that genre too. There tends to be a moody, melancholy feel to the best tracks on these albums, and even when the series moves too far into the 1970’s and some of the pieces sound like groups such as America or England Dan & John Ford Coley, those tracks tend to complement the overall atmosphere of the album and provide a change of pace among the trippier tracks that helps create a varied mosaic of sound that’s instantly recognizable as a Fading Yellow comp. The albums can transport you to a place where you are looking upon a field of flowers illuminated by moonlight at 2 a.m., with a mellow wine buzz….assuming that’s what you want!

fading 3

Fortunately, Volume 17 DOES NOT veer into the 70’s soft-rock mentioned above–it’s a solid collection of little-known also-ran pop-sike sides from both major labels and small local labels, nicely programmed into a seamless set that will satisify any lover of the SOFT SOUNDS FOR GENTLE PEOPLE compilation series or any listener to Steve Stanley’s NOW SOUNDS internet radio show. Each collector who curates these kind of compilations has a slightly different focus and slightly different taste, so FADING YELLOW is not the same as SOFT SOUNDS. There is less of the kitschy material found on SOFT SOUNDS (though the Alan Lorber track here on FY 17 certainly qualifies), but SOFT SOUNDS would never present some of the 70’s material FY does (for which I’m glad). It’s a trade-up and neither is “better” than the other–best to enjoy both, as so many of the records will be unfamiliar to the majority of listeners. Very little of what’s on FY 17 has been reissued….the amazing snarling 60’s bubble-punk anthem “Artificial Face” from the second LP by Jimmy Curtiss’ THE HOBBITS (the only album track here, I’m the proud owner of a mono copy of the LP, everything else is from 45’s) was re-issued on a Spanish comp named after it, ARTIFICIAL FACES, a number of years ago, but most everything else is not on reissues I own. From the flowers-in-her-hair and yellow love beads San Francisco-from-a-distance as seen by a sensitive-folkie vibe of “Yellow Beads” by The Avant-Garde (of Naturally Stoned fame), featuring Chuck Woolery (of game show and reality show fame), to a single from San Antonio’s THE SWISS MOVEMENT that could give the late 1967 Hollies a run for their money, the album has 20 diverse songs that will evoke patchouli incense, nehru jackets, images of fields of poppies in a psychedlic-tinged 1968 deodorant commercial, and the kind of hippies found in a Dragnet episode or an Up With People rally. The Turtles or the post-Peter Tork Monkees would be proud to claim the majority of the tracks here, unless Orpheus or The Association would be a better fit.

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I love these compilations, both as a collector myself (great tracks I’ve never heard) and as someone who enjoys the unique atmosphere these records create. In fact, ATMOSPHERE is the operative word for any FY comp. Each track is atmospheric, and placed alongside 19 other selections, it’s a beautiful juxtaposition of images and moods to take you back to a 1968 or 1970 that never existed, but was a beautiful dream/fantasy for but a brief moment in time. All for the cost of a CD.

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If you’re in the US, try Bomp Records mailorder. If you’re in Europe, try some of the local Ebay sites. This is a Swedish release, so finding it in Europe should not be much of a problem. These are limited to 500 copies, so don’t delay….most of the earlier volumes are out of print. Can’t wait for Volume 18. Hope it does not take another two years….

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January 30, 2020

SPIRITUAL JAZZ 10: PRESTIGE (Jazzman UK, CD)

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SPIRITUAL JAZZ, VOLUME 10: MODAL, ESOTERIC AND DEEP JAZZ FROM PRESTIGE RECORDS (Jazzman Records, UK, CD….released 29 November 2019)

  • 1. Ahmed Abdul-Malik – Song Of Delilah
  • 2. Roy Haynes – Dorian
  • 3. Latin Jazz Quintet – Rip A Dip
  • 4. Roy Haynes – Modette
  • 5. Walt Dickerson – Death & Taxes
  • 6. Yusef Lateef – Love Theme From Spartacus
  • 7. Moondog – Organ Rounds
  • 8. Ahmed Abdul-Malik – Summertime
  • 9. Mal Waldron – Warm Canto
  • 10. Idris Muhammad – Peace
  • 11. Gary Bartz – I’ve Known Rivers

 

I haven’t taken the plunge with any of Jazzman’s previous 9 volumes of “Spiritual Jazz”—-they’ve been on my “wait for the price to go down on these” list—-but as a fan of Prestige Records since my boyhood days of finding Prestige LP’s at used record stores in the early 70’s, I had to grab this one immediately, and I’m glad I did. Now I’m going to more aggressively search for the previous volumes….

Most of us probably associate the term SPIRITUAL JAZZ with labels such as Black Jazz or Strata East, and it’s a relatively broad term, which could refer to overtly spiritual music in the vein of Alice Coltrane, to more primal works such as those of Pharaoh Sanders, to anything with an Afro-Centric or Eastern vibe. The Art Ensemble of Chicago could be called by the term, and even some of the grungy, small-label funk 45’s from the 68-73 period (the kind of thing collected on old “Soul Patrol” albums….after all, some of those had the subtitle “the undisputed Black Mind Power”) could be put into that arena, although not “jazz” by the usual standard. In hindsight, that was a significant movement, allowing the 60’s-inspired cultural exploration of African roots and the Black aesthetic to flower in new and exciting ways that were often rooted in community activism, multi-cultural education, etc. (although we tend to think of Afro-centric things as Spiritual Jazz, the Jazzman series wisely includes volumes from European and Japanese artists too, showing the movement can take root and inspire people anywhere, and also, if something like PAUL HORN IN INDIA can’t be included as Spiritual Jazz, what can?).

Prestige certainly released a number of albums in that vein, and tracks from two of them end this album, one by drummer IDRIS MUHAMMAD, and one by saxophonist GARY BARTZ’s NTU TROOP (I remember both of those artists getting a good amount of airplay when I was involved in jazz radio in the mid-to-late 70’s). However, what makes this album quite special and unique is that the other 8 tracks are all earlier material, mostly from the 1950’s. In a way, it could be called ROOTS OF SPIRITUAL JAZZ, and the way it surveys “exotic” tracks from the 1950’s, moves into the early 60’s with MAL WALDRON (always a man who followed his own unique aesthetic that did not fit into any established category), and then fully blossoms in the early 70’s with MUHAMMAD and BARTZ truly shows the evolution of this kind of “deep” jazz.

Before I start dropping the term “modal” around, perhaps I should provide a link to a short tutorial about the modal approach:

 

Basically, this collection goes back to the 1950’s and looks at artists such as Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Yusef Lateef who were early exponents of Middle Eastern/African/Islamic elements in jazz (and at the time, I’d imagine people would have viewed this kind of jazz as a cousin to Exotica) as well as folks like drummer Roy Haynes (always ahead of the curve) or vibist Walt Dickerson or pianist-composer Mal Waldron who anticipate modal jazz, throw in a few left-field entries that foreshadow later movements in jazz, and wind up in the early 70’s with what most of us would think of as “Spiritual Jazz.” It’s a wonderful trip full of not-too-common tracks from Prestige, and I highly recommend this volume….in fact, come payday, I think I’ll be picking up a few of the other volumes in this series.

I also have to compliment the wonderfully insightful liner notes of Francis Gooding (Jazzman Records has always set a high standard for the depth and diversity of their compilations as well as first-rate documentation/notes). As someone who prefers Prestige Records to Blue Note (not that I don’t love Blue Note), I appreciate Gooding making that case better than I could. Prestige was a low-budget, spontaneous, jam-oriented label, and in that was its uniqueness and greatness. When I started the KSE label, Prestige’s Bob Weinstock was a hero and model to me (although I do not have his skills in options trading and investments….if only I did!).

If this review makes the album sound at all appealing to you, then you should probably find a copy ASAP. It has a wonderful flow, the sound quality is sparkling, and notes are informative and get you making valuable connections, and any collection that champions PRESTIGE RECORDS is something I want to get behind.

January 20, 2020

The Song, Not The Singer, in the 1920’s

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In the popular music world pre-Bing Crosby (and still true to some extent until the rise of Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s), people bought records to get the songs they enjoyed so they could hear them when they wanted to in the comfort and privacy of their homes. The singer of the song was not that important unless the record buyer was buying the disc because  they were a fan of the singer—-in which case, they’d enjoy that singer performing anything. In most cases, though, it was the song that was being sold, and any competent vocalist could sing it, and with the bewildering array of pseudonyms on records in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, particularly on budget labels, who could ever know the actual performers anyway. Also, with budget labels, or the budget and dime-store subsidiaries of major labels (such as Columbia’s “Harmony” label, the source of 3 tracks found on the album discussed here), the people in department stores (not music stores) picking up a record of a favorite song for 30 or 35 cents with leftover change from some other purchase would not especially care who was singing it, if it was competently performed. This led to an odd occurrence I’ve heard a few dozen times over the years on 20’s Dance Band records….the phenomenon of songs written for a female singer performed by a male singer who did not bother to change to pronoun, singing it as originally written. Although some might have gotten a laugh out of the irony of that back in the day, I’d bet 95% of listeners wouldn’t have cared. After all, records were not an outlet for singers doing autobiographical baring-of-the-soul on disc; in a way, they were like someone in a music store doing a “demonstration” of a song so someone would buy the sheet music of it. Would they change the pronoun? Of course not, it’s a product they are selling. They are not expressing their true feelings in song.

fred rich

I’ve commented on this phenomenon to family and friends before, and they’ve gotten a laugh out of some of the songs, but I mention it today because as I am pulling out of my flu and trying to get caught up with the backlog of work my job requires before I return  tomorrow, I thought I’d put on a CD of snappy 1920’s Dance Band 78’s, so I dug out this 25 year old collection of 1929-1930 sessions under the baton of Columbia head of recording Fred Rich, many of which feature vocals by that great Texan SMITH BALLEW (1902-1984). He and his brother had both been involved, in differing degrees, with the seminal 1920’s Texas jazz group JIMMIE’S  JOYS (there is a fine Jazz Oracle CD documenting their body of work, circa 1923-1928–see pic at bottom). Also, Mary Anne will be a happy to learn that Ballew was a UT man!

smith-ballew-2f025c69-821b-456d-9d1f-46fb29198cc-resize-750

So you get to hear the male vocal group The Rollickers sing about how “He’s So Unusual” (their man, that is) and Smith Ballew croon the Gershwin classic “I Got Rhythm” with its original woman wanting “my man” lyrics. Ballew does a tidy, swinging and satisfying version of the tune, and I wouldn’t have noticed it myself except that I’d wanted to comment on this phenomenon at some point, and hearing two (I think there was even a third on this album!) examples at once set me off.

I’m surprised no one has done a collection of this kind of thing–all you’d need is a dozen or so examples and it would make an entertaining compilation that many would enjoy, albeit on a campy level.

And since I’ve been including You Tube links in so many of my recent posts, why not another….. here’s that hot version of “I Got Rhythm,” sung by Smith Ballew, and featuring such great jazz players in the band as Joe Venuti (amazing here!), Eddie Lang, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, and Tony Parenti! Recorded 29 October 1930.

#############

smith 2

Smith Ballew eventually moved into films and has 18 credits as an actor on the IMDB. He was also in the unreleased 1930’s footage that was eventually cobbled together with other old and new footage into the 1949 mind-bending patchwork film GUN CARGO (in which he sings a song!).

He eventually retired to his home state and passed away here in Texas in 1984. I always enjoy his work on record and on the screen. He should be better remembered today, but alas, the 1920’s, when he first made his mark, are now 100 years distant.

jimmie

January 7, 2020

something missing on the CONTRACT ON CHERRY STREET soundtrack album

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I watched the 1977 made-for-TV crime film CONTRACT ON CHERRY STREET again recently, thinking I would review it for Blog To Comm (which I still plan to do). In case you have forgotten, this was the “comeback” film for Frank Sinatra, whose last feature film was the 1970 western comedy DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE, which I saw theatrically on the bottom of a bill a year or two after its release, and which was not a classic. Sinatra waited 7 years to make another film, a project developed by his own company, based on a crime novel that was supposedly a book his mother really liked and recommended to him. The film was eventually made for television and was treated as an “event,” spread over two nights (like a “mini-series”!) and given a lot of promotion. It’s a solid 70’s urban crime film, and you can read about it in my review later in 2020.

contract cd

(see Henry Silva on far left)

The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is excellent, going for a more moody, brooding, downbeat feel than many 70’s crime scores which have an uptempo and hyperbolic “cop show funk” angle. Considering that Frank Sinatra was an older man by the time this film was made, having a more mature and brooding soundtrack was fitting, and it also helped create an atmosphere that emphasized the grueling, depressing day-by-day checking out leads and footwork of the cop on the beat. I managed to find a cheap copy of the obscure soundtrack CD recently, on a Belgian specialist label, fully licensed and from the original tapes. It sounds majestic and takes me back to those dirty NYC 70’s streets where the film was shot as well as making me feel as if I’m walking in the shoes of the Henry Silva and Martin Balsam characters in the film.

One odd thing about the soundtrack, though. While it lists the credits, and the liner notes discuss Sinatra’s character and his production company’s role in making the film, there is not one picture of Sinatra anywhere in it. When I first saw the cover, with Henry Silva looking downcast at a police funeral, I figured that was a good image to capture the feel of the film and the soundtrack and did not think about it. When I read the booklet after getting the album, I did not think about it….I was interested in learning about Goldsmith’s approach to scoring the film.

Today, though, listening to the album while working, and then perusing the liner notes, it dawned on me…..SIX different pictures from the film (one used twice), and not one contains Sinatra anywhere in it. Not even in the background. Lots of Henry Silva and Martin Balsam and Harry Guardino, which is great, but none of Frank. My guess is that licensing the music from Columbia Pictures Television (as they did) did not include the rights to Sinatra’s image. That probably commanded its own fee. This is a small specialist label and the album is a limited 2000 copy pressing. They probably spent every last penny on having the tapes gotten from the vaults, getting them transferred, and paying the license fee. Well, I’m glad that the great Henry Silva didn’t ask for a fee for his image (and let’s hope they sent him a copy!). The album came out in 1999, the year after Sinatra’s death. Maybe things would be viewed differently today, with a consideration of Sinatra’s film legacy….maybe not.

In any event, it is a beautiful, moody, and atmospheric soundtrack and I see you can get a copy for around $7 on Discogs….

Contract on Cherry Ad

January 6, 2020

“This Is Mainstream” (We Want Sounds CD, France)

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mainstream 1

‘THIS IS MAINSTREAM’ (We Want Sounds, France, CD or 2-LP set)

from the back cover: ULTIMATE BREAKS & BEATS FROM MAINSTREAM RECORDS, THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD, FUNKY TURNTABLE CLASSICS & HIGHLY SOUGHT-AFTER RARITIES!

French compilation CD of material recorded for Bob Shad’s MAINSTREAM label between 1971-1975, all taken from the master tapes.

  1. Saundra Phillips – Miss Fatback  3.09
  2. Afrique – Kissing My Love  3.08
  3. Hal Galper – This Moment  11.50
  4. December’s Children – Livin’ (Way Too Fast)  3.38
  5. Blue Mitchell – Blue’s Blues  7.08
  6. Maxine Weldon – Make It With You  2.56
  7. Reggie Moore – Mother McCree  2.57 LP2
  8. Jay Berliner – Papa Was A Rolling Stone  5.30
  9. Dave Hubbard – T.B.’s Delight  3.54
  10. Almeta Lattimore – These Memories  3.31
  11. Buddy Terry – Lean On Me (Lean On Him)  5.55
  12. Pete Yellin – Bird And The Ouija Board  12.35
  13. Sarah Vaughan – Just A Little Lovin’  3.10

mainstream 2

I reviewed a collection of soul material (on the UK Ace/Kent label) from Mainstream Records, circa early 70’s, a few years back, and it reminded me how much material was recorded by BOB SHAD for his little-label-that-could during its final push in the 1970’s. By the time I had a foot in jazz radio circa 1976-1977, Mainstream had already stopped releasing new jazz product, though we did have some of their albums in the station’s record library, and I remember playing tracks by some of my personal favorite Mainstream artists such as Blue Mitchell or Hadley Caliman or Charles Kynard when I was on-air after midnight.

There was a standard design to most Mainstream LP’s, and as someone who ran a small label myself for a number of years, I understand the advantages of that—-it keeps costs down, it allows you to focus on the music and the promotion instead of the design, and it gives your product an instantly recognizable look in the marketplace. I used to buy records in the early 70’s at a junk store on the north side (the side toward Boulder) of Golden, Colorado, where I would stop after high school in the afternoon. They had lots of radio station promos from Boulder and Denver radio stations, with the station name and date rec’d scribbled in magic marker on the front. I got many of the releases on the US branch of Blue Horizon there (and those changed my life), and I also got some Mainstream jazz albums there. I saw many 45’s on Mainstream too, but one only has so much money, and most of the artists I had either not heard of or were not people I was actively searching for.

It was very clear that Bob Shad was aiming the 70’s Mainstream label at a primarily African-American audience, and much of the label’s output was rooted (particularly in the rhythm section) in funk and soul. The playing on top of the beat might be quite free and “spiritual” in the Pharaoh Sanders sense, but there was a funky and even African undercurrent to the records…and this was true even when the artist (say Hal Galper) was not Black. Of course, it was the jazz side of the Mainstream catalog that was mostly of interest to me back then, and that’s still true today.

I always assumed Mainstream had a problem competing with both the major labels (in distribution) and the more focused labels specializing in Black music such as Stax or Brunswick (which I assumed had better contacts in the small radio-station community). Also, the funky nature of much of the jazz output was not the kind of thing that generated five-star reviews at Downbeat magazine! It did not surprise me when Mainstream went under–it’s hard to run a small label and compete with the big boys (and yes, they were pretty much male). I was happy to see when in the 80’s and 90’s the Mainstream catalog became very collectible because of hip-hop sampling and crate-digging DJ’s.

I’m also happy to see a new round of quality Mainstream reissues, from the master tapes and tastefully presented, from the French “We Want Sounds” label. Evidently, Mainstream itself was revived as a company (I remember seeing various reissues prior to that coming out which were related to Tamara Shad, Bob’s daughter) in 2017 by Bob Shad’s grandchildren, Mia and Judd Apatow, children of Tamara Shad. While there are a number of Mainstream reissues on We Want Sounds, if you want a one-volume distillation of everything that was great about the early 70’s Mainstream sound, the new THIS IS MAINSTREAM comp is a dream come true.

blue

As you listen to younger vocalists such as Saundra Phillips and Almeta Latimore, 70’s soul artists who had little to do with the “older people’s music” of 60’s soul, and then to long trippy but funk-rooted jazz instrumentals from the likes of Hal Galper and Blue Mitchell, to leisurely studio-jazz covers of pop and soul songs by Jay Berliner and Buddy Terry, to old-school vocalists such as Maxine Weldon and Sarah Vaughan doing 70’s “uptown” soul covers of the compositions of Mann-Weil and David Gates, all mixed together and programmed for maximum variety, it becomes clear (as it was to me, in a vague and undefined way, back in the 70’s seeing and hearing the Mainstream discs that I did) that to Bob Shad, this was all one music. Obviously, he understood the marketplace and knew that marketing jazz albums and soul 45’s were totally different activities with different contact persons in radio and promotion, but Shad seemed to have a kind of visionary quality, a man with a vision of the unity of African-American music styles (no matter what the ethnicity or cultural background of the musicians playing on the records, all of whom shared the vision) in the early 70’s. As you play this album, and you’ll want to put it on “repeat” as it’s such a wonderful mixture that’s expertly programmed, like the deepest DJ set, your jaw will drop at what a beautiful set it is.

I will definitely be getting some more of these We Want Sounds reissues of the Mainstream catalog (I see they are on LP too, for those so inclined). Here is a list of some I see for sale online:

JACK WILKINS, windows

BUDDY TERRY, awareness

HAROLD LAND, a new shade of blue

ALICE CLARK, alice clark

and some compilations including

INNER PEACE: RARE SPIRITUAL FUNK AND JAZZ GEMS, THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD

FEELING GOOD: FUNK, SOUL, AND DEEP JAZZ GEMS, THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD

kynard

As a lifelong blues fan I’m well aware of Shad’s late 40’s/early 50’s work with SITTIN’ IN WITH (SIW) records and as a lifelong jazz fan I’m well aware of his work at EmArcy later in the 50’s. And every fan of 60’s psychedelia knows the many great albums released on Mainstream. I know that the 70’s Mainstream output is not to the taste of many reading the KSE blog–hey, the “uptown” 73-75 soul is not to my taste either–but it’s great to see the jazz especially be given a second life, and unfortunately, some of these albums may be getting wider exposure now than they did in their original 70’s release. I know that some I stumbled across in used records stores in the 80’s and 90’s I NEVER saw a physical copy of in the racks in the 70’s.

Let me end this piece by reprinting my review of the Mainstream SUPER-DUPER LOVE compilation on Ace-Kent, which I published in Ugly Things a few years ago. It provides a capsule history of Bob Shad. Also, before that, here is a mention of the revival of Mainstream from producer/broadcaster Bob Porter, a man whose name is synonymous with Soul Jazz and who was a colleague (working for other labels, of course) of Shad for many years. I’m glad to hear that Shad had a good life after leaving the record business behind and moving to California. I always wondered what happened to him in the post-Mainstream, pre-internet age!

Bob Porter: https://www.wbgo.org/post/judd-apatow-revives-mainstream-bob-shads-independent-record-label#stream/0

============================================

V.A.–Super Duper Love: Mainstream Hits and Rarities, 1973-76 (Kent, UK), CD

Bob Shad produced jazz/blues greats such as Charlie Parker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Big Bill Broonzy, and later he was the first to bring national attention to Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, Gary S. Paxton, The Amboy Dukes, and Skip Battin. He began in the mid-40s working for Savoy and National, and then started his own label, Sittin’ In With (SIW), which was largely blues-oriented, then worked A&R for Mercury in the 50’s  and ran their acclaimed jazz subsidiary Emarcy, then went independent again with Time and Brent Records in the late 50’s, finally emerging with his best-remembered label in the mid-1960’s, the legendary Mainstream.

Shad’s Brent label began issuing soul 45’s in the mid-60’s (collected previously on Kent’s excellent CD “Brent–Superb 60’s Soul Sounds”). By the early 70’s, much of Mainstream’s LP output was soul-jazz (a genre they stood by longer than other labels), but most of their 1970’s 45’s were aimed at the soul charts and Black radio stations. Super Duper Love focuses on the last few years of Shad’s soul releases on Mainstream and on related labels such as Brown Dog, Fast Track, and IX Chains. Most of this material has never been reissued.

The good news is that this is a well-programmed archival dig through 24 obscure singles most of us have never heard…although 9 of them made the R&B charts back in the day. The not-so-good news is that, unlike some productions coming out of the South at the time, these recordings might be a bit “uptown” for the Ugly Things reader. The performers range from well-known artists in between labels and trying to stay current such as Little Richard and Lenny Welch, to many strong lesser-known female vocalists, a number of whom are in the then-popular “sister to sister” talk-singing style, to a number of vocal groups such as The Dramatics and The Steptones. Soul music was evolving during this period, and that evolution is made clear as we proceed from 1973 through 1976 here.

However, faulting these recordings because they don’t sound like something from a small label in Jackson, Mississippi, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is not really fair. This was a New York label, and it also licensed material from major cities such as Detroit and Washington, DC. Urban Black radio of the day in Northern cities wanted sophisticated records, something that sounded modern and “classy,” and Mainstream’s soul 45’s from the final years of the label certainly delivered that very well. Performers such as Doris Duke and Sandra Phillips and Darlene Jackson and Calvin Arnold are as deep and soulful as the best artists from that period. Just imagine you are tuning into a 1974-75 soul radio station in Philadelphia or Baltimore. It’s a tribute to Bob Shad that a man who began his career in the 1940’s could still be issuing fresh and modern sounds that competed quite well on the playlists of Black radio stations of the mid-1970’s–and this is a masterful compilation of first-rate material, if 1973-76 uptown soul is to your taste. Bob Shad has left us a quality and diverse soul legacy!

Bill Shute, Ugly Things Magazine

November 7, 2019

now an even dozen releases in the SOUL DIAMONDS series

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ABC Soul Diamonds

For a decade or more, the SOUL DIAMONDS series of CDR compilation albums, on the “Buried Treasures” label from France, has been issuing exciting, overstuffed collections of obscure soul 45’s (with an album track here and there) from the 1960’s and early 1970’s, and they’ve taken the route of doing label-based surveys, since so many nationally-distributed labels of the period released significant numbers of soul 45’s, both in-house label-produced and licensed-in from regional producers or picked up from small labels. The quality has been very high on these comps, and unlike many of the other series of CDR “collector” soul comps (which I also buy here and there as I can afford them and when they include a high percentage of tracks I don’t own already), these have intelligent liner notes clearly written by someone who knows obscure soul music inside out.

Two new volumes arrived in my mailbox today (VERVE and ROULETTE), and I hope to write about each one of those separately in the near future, but now I wanted to alert you to what’s in the series so far (I’ve also reviewed a number of them here on the KSE blog….just go to the search box and type in SOUL DIAMONDS). I think that most if not all of them are still in print. A number of sellers in Asia offer them as well as some specialized soul dealers in Europe. Here in the US, if you go to Ebay and type in the name SOUL DIAMONDS within “Music,” you should find the American seller from whom I’ve gotten mine (who offers fine service and low prices, by the way). So here are the twelve labels which have been covered in the series as of today. I have other suggestions for label surveys, but I have a feeling they will be gotten to eventually. Thanks to whatever Europeans are compiling and issuing these–it’s clearly a labor of love.

TCD 1001, DECCA SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1002, MERCURY SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1003, EPIC SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1004, ABC SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1005, ATLANTIC SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1006, COLUMBIA SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1007, RCA SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1008, ATCO SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1009, COTILLION SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1010, POLYDOR SOUL DIAMONDS

TCD 1011, VERVE SOUL DIAMONDS (new!)

TCD 1012, ROULETTE SOUL DIAMONDS (new!)

mercury soul diamonds

September 29, 2019

Malcolm Yelvington, “Rockin’ With My Baby” (Sun-Charly UK, CD)

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malcolm 1

MALCOLM YELVINGTON, “Rockin’ With My Baby”

Charly/Sun/Complete Rock’n’Roll CD, 26 tracks, released 2010

original recordings made at Sun Studios, Memphis, 1954-1957

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1
Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee

2
Just Rollin’ Along

3
Yakety Yak (Alt.2)

4
I’ve Got The Blues (Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes) (Alt.2)

5
Gonna Have Myself A Ball

6
Rockin’ With My Baby

7
It’s Me, Baby

8
First And Last Love

9
Mr. Blues (Alt.1)

10
I Ask You To Stay (Alt.1)

11
Trumpet (Alt.3)

12
Goodbye Marie (Alt.2)

13
Goin’To The Sea (Ocean)

14
Let The Moon Say Goodbye

15
Yakety Yak (Alt.1)

16
I’ve Got The Blues (Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes) (Alt.1)

17
Rockin’ With My Baby (Alt.1)

18
It’s Me Baby (Alt.1)

19
Mr. Blues (Alt.2)

20
I Ask You To Stay (Alt.2)

21
Trumpet (Alt.1)

22
Goodbye Marie (Alt.1)

23
Rockin’ With My Baby (Alt.2)

24
Trumpet (Alt.2)

25
It’s Me Baby (Home Demo)

26
Rockin’ With My Baby (Home Demo)

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Malcolm Yelvington was a bit older than the typical Sun artist, in his 30’s when he recorded the first of his two released Sun singles, and he had a rich background, playing the mid-South area for at least a decade prior to this recording and having his own radio show. Write-ups on him mention his early musical heroes as being Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb, and that’s quite clear when you think about it, although he certainly transformed those influences into something unique. Like Wills, he’s got the jive-talk patter, floating over the beat, down cold, and his work always swings; like Tubb, he can reach down inside himself for a cavernous baritone when he needs to. He knows from his years of experience with small-town audiences the appeal of a good novelty song, a catchy-tagline, and a kind of self-deprecating ‘aw, shucks’ tone to his vocals. Strangely, the person he reminds me of most is western sidekick Guy Wilkerson, who played Panhandle Perkins (see B&W pic)

guy

in a series of PRC “Texas Rangers” westerns, starring James Newill (in the earlier ones), Dave O’Brien (in all of them), and Tex Ritter (replacing, Newill in the final 8). Something about the stance and the timing evokes “Panhandle Perkins,” although Wilkerson did not sing. There’s also a bit of Smiley Burnette in Yelvington, which is no surprise since the 40’s and 50’s, Yelvington’s prime period of live performance in the Mid South, was the period of country “entertainers,” when comedy was part of the show (it even was in Elvis’ early days) and you had to entertain everyone, from five to seventy-five, and also Yelvington got his start playing at a movie theater in between shows. As with Bill Haley, it’s likely that a lot of those shows were westerns, and with Columbia’s Durango Kid (Charles Starrett) westerns, featuring the novelty songs and comedic antics of Smiley Burnette, dominating the marketplace in the late 40’s, Malcolm and crew may well have been the supporting act to Smiley and Durango more than once. There is a certain humorous quality bubbling under the surface on most of Yelvington’s material that sets him apart from most of the Sun roster and gives his records a special sound that would surely have been appealing to record buyers, though they might not have been able to define what that mysterious but appealing quality was. Yelvington’s vocals are always entertaining and have the kind of “country hepcat” authenticity that can’t be faked. Again, he was a unique presence at Sun, but in the larger marketplace such distinctive and multi-talented, but older, artists such as Yelvington (or Onie Wheeler) could not compete with an Elvis or even a Carl Perkins or a Johnny Cash. Fortunately, a good body of work survives on Mr. Yelvington….14 songs, and with alternate takes and the like, enough for a 26 (Charly) or 28 (Bear Family) CD.

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Yelvington’s STAR RHYTHM BOYS are the perfect example of how a small Western Swing-based unit, with strong honky tonk and country boogie roots, can effortlessly put one foot into the rock and roll world without ever leaving behind the fact that they are first and foremost a country band.

As with the CD collections of Sun artists such as Barbara Pittman and Jack Earls, when there is only a dozen or so “songs” surviving, the albums are extended to CD length by alternate versions, and at Sun those usually differed from each other significantly. The albums mentioned above, along with this one, present all the songs once before any alternate versions are introduced, and that’s probably the best approach for the general audience. I myself enjoy albums where the alternate versions are presented one next to the other so we can compare the differences and similarities more clearly, but I know (based on the reaction of family and friends when I play such albums) that not everyone prefers that approach. Whoever compiled this CD did front-load the album with the “best” versions of the songs, the most rocking and with the most confident and character-filled vocals, and it’s a nice touch to finish off the album with the two home demos, with a band but probably recorded in the artist’s living room. I’d had Yelvington’s album on Collector-White Label of later recordings, but somehow this album  of prime Sun material (which has been out for 9 years) flew under my radar until I saw a sealed copy for $4.99 at the Half-Price Books in San Marcos, Texas, and my life is richer now because of it. Malcolm Yelvington’s recordings, the two original singles issued at the time, and the many other tracks and alternates, ALL have the rich, downhome, echoed Memphis sound that Sun did better than anyone (M.Y. also recorded for Meteor under a pseudonym, though that got even less exposure than the Sun singles). There’s not a weak or even average track here. If you are into Sun Records but don’t have this collection, you need it (and it’s cheap….I saw it on Discogs for $4.50, and there were a few sealed copies at Half-Price Books, so I’m guessing that the album has hit the netherworld of remaindered/cut-price distribution, which we used to call cut-outs).

Listen to MALCOLM YELVINGTON here:  https://youtu.be/1WpqlYs5CMk

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On a personal note, I was once in the same room with Malcolm Yelvington. Mary Anne and I made a trip to Memphis in 1996, and of course we stopped at Sun Studios. After we bought tickets for the tour, we sipped a soda in the waiting area/gift shop, and a lanky  older man came up to speak with the manager of the Sun operation….and that voice was instantly recognizable, even 40 years after his Sun records and while talking, not singing.  He did not say his name, but he talked about what days he’d be working there in the coming week and asked about some items he had for sale on consignment, and somehow I knew, turning to Mary Anne and excitedly whispering in her ear, “that’s Malcolm Yelvington!” I didn’t want to bother him, and he went on his way a few minutes later, but I asked the manager if it was actually M.Y., and he said it was and mentioned that he appeared from time to time to chat and reminisce with Sun fans and what a kind and jovial fellow he was. By the way, when my son was recently passing through Memphis and asked me if Graceland was worth seeing (it certainly is), knowing what an Elvis fan I am, I told him yes it was, BUT if he had time to visit only one thing in Memphis, it should be Sun Studios, not Graceland. I would still say that to anyone reading this.

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1987 Japanese “P-Vine Special” LP of Yelvington tracks backed with material from Sun drummer Johnny Bernero

malcolm bear

the Bear Family (Germany) compilation of Yelvington’s complete Sun recordings predates the Charly by a few years and contains a few more alternate versions, but lacks the home demos found at the end of the Charly CD reviewed here

September 22, 2019

Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow, THE COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT (Lejazzetal, UK, CD)

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MORTON PROJECT

THE COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT

ANDREW OLIVER – PIANO
DAVID HORNIBLOW – CLARINET, BASS SAX, BASS CLARINET, ALTO

CD, issued 2019, Lejazzetal Records (UK)

you can order a copy at  https://lejazzetal.com/shop/the-complete-morton-project/

morton back

Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) is one of those figures in the American culture of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s whose name is still well-known, and to some extent his accomplishments are also known, but who is not given the credit that he is due as an innovator…and a person who was laying the foundation for what came later. In the world of cinema, someone like Mack Sennett might be a comparable figure. The jazz music of the 1920’s (the roots of which go back to the 1910’s and even before) is not celebrated that much today—-even figures who began in the 1920’s, such as Duke Ellington or Benny Goodman, are not usually lauded for their 1920’s work except by specialist jazz historians or musicians. Few bands doing an Ellington tribute would have a brass bass (tuba) instead of a string bass or a banjo instead of guitar, yet those are the defining characteristics of pre-1929 jazz. Even bandleaders as sophisticated as Ellington or Fletcher Henderson had them in their bands. Similarly, Jelly Roll Morton, often considered the first jazz arranger (whose “Jelly Roll Blues” was published in 1915, and who had been doing similar things for years prior to that), created an entire musical world within what would later be called the “jazz ensemble” prior to, say, Don Redman with Fletcher Henderson, or to the Ellington “Jungle Band” of the late 1920’s. It’s regrettable that Morton did not record in the 1910’s. His first known recordings date from Chicago in 1923, though he claims to have recorded on the West Coast in the 1910’s. There is documentation for his activities during the West Coast years, documentation which (except for actual surviving recordings) to a large extent backs up Morton’s claims (which were often laughed at back in the day), and fortunately, there is a large body of recordings from 1923 until Morton’s passing, in a number of diverse settings with a wide variety of musicians (and vocalists). Here is a link to a fine Morton discography, so you can start building your Morton collection, and discovering the joyous and pioneering work of this larger-than-life pianist-composer:

Jelly Roll Morton discography from Doctor Jazz (UK)

Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow (see pic below) spent 2018 recording all of Jelly Roll Morton’s compositions, and each week posted two new tunes to their Youtube channel, which you can access here:  Morton Project You Tube channel

For this new 2019 album, these gentlemen cherry-picked 15 pieces from Morton’s large body of work, both familiar and very obscure (including some pieces newly discovered in recent decades), and did high-quality studio recordings of them (the You Tube sessions are of a documentary nature, not intended to be the highest fidelity to be played on high-end equipment) for CD and digital release. And what an album it is! This duo brings virtuoso instrumental skills and a knowledge, based on decades of playing this repertoire, of what Morton himself would have thought to be interesting interpretations of the works in a duo format. Morton’s work, like much of pre-1926 jazz, sometimes strikes modern ears as “ragtime” rather than “jazz”, but the boundary between the two musics is a fluid one and the transition is gradual. When listening to a late 1910’s recording by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band or a 1940’s performance by Bunk Johnson, who originally developed in the late 1900’s and through the 1910’s, you can here musicians whose feet are clearly in ragtime as they reach for the stars. And ragtime itself is a genre capable of infinite variety within its parameters. Is ragtime REALLY any more rigid of a form than the music of Bach or of Philip Glass or Steve Reich? I think not, when you consider all the variety found within the music of those composers (and their disciples).

Morton’s music never gets old. I remember hearing one of (San Antonio’s own) Jim Cullum’s radio shows where he had on Dick Hyman, a man who has digested the entire jazz tradition, and Hyman explained the Morton style by playing a section of some piece, then played it as Morton would have played it, then explained what aspects of what he’d just played were uniquely Morton-esque, by replaying various phrases. It was a revelation. Morton’s concept of the “Spanish Tinge” is not easy to define, but you know it when you hear it.

This new album is one of the most exciting new releases of the year. The performances are fresh, spontaneous, and full of spirit. In particular, Mr. Horniblow’s use of the bass saxophone, an instrument not often used (Adrian Rollini showed how versatile it could be in his 20’s and 30’s recordings), is a revelation–I’m reminded of the old slogan of the 1960’s avant-garde label ESP-Disk, “You never heard such sounds in your life.” I had to remind myself that it was a bass sax producing the wide variety of pure sound engaged in a kind of dance with the pianist in some of these pieces.

We should be thankful that musicians such as the late Jim Cullum, and Dick Hyman, and Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow have dedicated their lives and working careers to keeping the rich tradition of jazz history current and relevant and ever-developing.

I can’t recommend this new COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT highly enough. Even if you have no recordings from Morton himself (and basically EVERYTHING he ever recorded should be public domain, so it’s out there for you to discover whenever you are ready), this new album is a fine entry point into Morton’s body of work and does a great job of establishing his significance. Whatever kind of music you are into, I can’t imagine you NOT getting into the spirit of Morton’s music and the passion of these performances.

morton

 

MORTON PROJECT

September 2, 2019

“Beating The Petrillo Ban: The Late December 1947 ‘Modern’ Sessions” (2-cd, Ace, UK)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:39 pm
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BEATING THE PETRILLO BAN: THE LATE DECEMBER 1947 ‘MODERN’ SESSIONS

2-CD set, 49 tracks, recorded in L.A. for Modern Records in December 1947

CD issued in the UK in 2013, compiled and annotated by Tony Rounce

petrillo 1

What the UK “ACE” label has done with the vast catalog of the Los Angeles-based Modern/RPM/Flair/Kent/Crown family of labels since purchasing the material from the Bihari family a few decades ago has been a wonder, and a model for other reissue labels to follow in terms of mining the veins of classic small labels of the past that they either own or have access to the vaults of. When a major label winds up with the rights to such a small label (think Chess, for instance), they usually do not do a lot with deep catalog excavations–they view it as potential “accounts receivable” through licensing or film/television use or publishing. An independent label such as Ace, though, paid a significant amount for this label (I’d guess they had to take a loan), but they viewed it as a long term investment and no doubt saw hundreds of possible CD releases coming out in a variety of genres: blues, R&B, soul, rock and roll, vocal groups, jazz, even country. Most importantly, they loved and cared about the music (having worked with the Bihari family on reissues prior to acquiring the labels themselves) and wanted to make as much of this great music available as possible, for people around the world to enjoy. While the plum of the collection was probably the massive amount of BB King material, from his greatest period (be sure to get all the volumes in the 11 CD “Crown” collection of King masters, each reissuing a Crown budget album and also stuffed full of related period from the period, and each expertly curated….the Crown Collection is surely THE body of King work to own), the archivists at Ace knew the thousands of quality masters in the catalog, and they’ve treated it with respect and care and enthusiasm. For the R&B/jump blues side of things,  you could start with their five volumes in the MELLOW CATS & KITTENS series, the casts a wide net of Los Angeles recordings from the late 40’s and early 50’s. The collections of JIMMY WITHERSPOON and ETTA JAMES and PEE WEE CRAYTON and GENE PHILLIPS and HADDA BROOKS should follow soon after. There are six compilations of random vocal groups, a few volumes of female R&B vocalists, and dozens of soul compilations from Kent’s 60’s/70’s period. And many unexpected delights….Chris Hillman’s pre-Byrds teenage bluegrass band THE SCOTTSVILLE SQUIRREL BARKERS recorded a quickie album for the Crown budget label, and Chet Baker also issued an album on Crown of Pacific Jazz outtakes…and both of those are available on CD for your listening pleasure.

Beyond the artist-based compilations, or compilations devoted to a style of music or to  performers working in a particular sub-genre, Ace has taken an interesting approach on a few compilations which focus on a short period of time (in this case, less than two weeks!) and do a deep archival dig into that period. One such comp dealt with the first releases on Modern from its beginning in 1945 (see pic at bottom of post). The set under discussion today is another, and it should be in the collection of every lover of late 40’s/early 50’s jump blues/R&B/post-Swing small combos, etc.

CD One:
THE EBONAIRES: Waterboy -1/ I’ll Never Do It Again 4/ The Old Folks At Home -1;
HADDA BROOKS: Poor Butterfly 1/ Old Fashioned Love -3/ Take Me -1/ The Best Things In Life Are Free -1/ This Will Make You Laugh -3; A Sailboat In The Moonlight -10/ Why Was I Born -1/ Mary Lou -1/ Moonlight On the Ganges -1;
AL ‘CAKE’ WICHARD: Gravels In My Pillow -1/ His Majesty’s Boogie -1/ Cake Jumps -2/ T.B. Blues -2;
GENE PHILLIPS: Snuff Dipping Mama -1/ Gene’s Guitar Blues -2/ Broke And Disgusted -1/ Royal Boogie -1;
ART SHACKELFORD: The Glory Of Love -2/ Play Fiddle Play -2/ The Jazz Me Blues -4/ Beatin’ The Ban-1

petrillo 2

HADDA  BROOKS  (be still, my heart….)

CD Two:
AL ‘CAKE’ WICHARD: Connie Lee Blues -2/ Big Fine Girl -1/ That’s Your Red Wagon -3/ Sweet Lovin’ Baby -1/ Grandma Grandpa -1/ Geneva Blues -1/ Piece Of Cake -2/ Boogie Woogie Baby -2;
HADDA BROOKS: Anna Lucasta -3/ I Can’t Get Started -5/ I’ll Get By -2;
LITTLE WILLIE JACKSON: Little Willie’s Boogie -1/ Shasta -1/ Baby -1/ Someday, Somehow, Somewhere -2;
BUTCH STONE: My Feet’s Too Big -2/ Put Your Brake On Mama -5/ Little Girl -1/ Baby Face -4;
MADAM IRA MAE LITTLEJOHN: Lonesome Road Blues -1/ He’ll Make The Way -2/ What More Can Jesus Do -1/ Go Devil, Go -1/ See Jesus -1/ My Record Will Be There –

Followers of 1940’s music know of the two recording bans, known as Petrillo bans, named after American Federation of Musicians president James C. Petrillo, which prohibited union musicians from participating in most recording sessions until more favorable terms were negotiated with record labels. The first ran from 1942-1944, although some labels began cutting deals with the AFM in late 1943. The “V-DISCS” (the only “official” instrumental recordings with union musicians made during the heart of the strike, before the first labels made deals with the AFM) from this era were recordings made specially for American troops overseas, through a special agreement between the military and the AFM, so they could have new music to listen to. The V-DISCS of artists such as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington are priceless documents, capturing a period not available on commercial discs. It was the longest such strike in the history of American entertainment, and it affected the music scene in a negative (IMHO) way in that it brought pop vocalists to the fore (they weren’t AFM members) because they could be recorded without big bands behind them (with a vocal group). The result was that instead of having big-band records where the singer got merely one chorus, a “vocal refrain” as it was called, the records were then built around the vocalists. When the strike ended, that change in emphasis became permanent. Also, the earliest days of be-bop were not as adequately documented as they would have been without a strike. The strike was resolved fully in 1944, though in late 1947, a second recording ban was implemented by the AFM/Petrillo in response to the Taft-Hartley Act. This strike would begin at midnight on January 1, 1948.

In response to the oncoming recording ban, many labels began to stockpile material in the later months of 1947–that way, they’d have enough material to issue while the strike was on. Modern was particularly aggressive with this approach, and what the geniuses at Ace have done with this 2-CD set is to take material from the two weeks before the ban, rescued from the original session acetates, and make you, the listener, a fly on the wall during this hectic period of stockpiling. The material is in the order of recording, and only FIVE of the 49 tracks here were originally issued as Modern 78 rpm records, with a few more appearing on other ACE cd’s. The rest are different takes or in some cases entirely new songs. As usual for material coming direct from Modern acetates as restored and remastered by Ace, the sound is loud, clear, and full, sounding like you are in the room with the musicians. This album has been a joy for me to listen to since it came out in 2013. Let’s take a look at the contents:

THE EBONAIRES are a vocal group whom you could put on the same shelf as Steve Gibson’s FIVE RED CAPS or a secular version of the GOLDEN GATE QUARTET, one of those pre-Orioles vocal groups that came after the Ink Spots.

HADDA BROOKS was the first lady of Modern, and well-represented on ACE CD’s, as she ought to be. The classically-trained Brooks was the prototype for the many African-American female pianist-vocalists who specialized in both sultry torch songs and boogie woogie instrumentals, often based on classical themes (Camille Howard, who recorded for Specialty, is another fine artist in that vein, featured on a few Billy Vera-curated compilation albums). Brooks was really something special, and I really can’t imagine anyone into any kind of music not enjoying her work. It really transcends genre. Her phrasing as a singer is exquisite, her understated approach and subtle shading, and of course her combination of sexiness and “class” still work their magic today. Her 13 tracks here, though many are alternates, are a joy. Even a random take that was not issued of a standard such as “I Can’t Get Started” or “I’ll Get By” is a gem. I wish I’d had a chance to see Ms. Brooks live….she had a late-period career revival and was still in excellent form…and tell her how much pleasure I’ve gotten over the decades from her work. Fortunately, many others did get that chance, and I’m glad that when Brooks passed away, she was widely revered and the subject of many articles and tributes. There’s also a nice compilation of her post-Modern early 50’s recordings for OKEH on US Columbia called JUMP BACK HONEY: THE COMPLETE OKEH SESSIONS, which I see is going for as low as $2.50 on Discogs!

AL “CAKE” WICHARD was a drummer and bandleader who ran sessions for Modern and also recorded under his own name. In interviews, Jimmy Witherspoon has mentioned how Wichard contracted his own Modern sessions. His 12 tracks here, many featuring Witherspoon (or Duke Henderson), are  prime west coast R&B. His Ace CD (see pic below) is a must—-in fact, if you bought only one Ace CD of Modern’s family of labels and it was not by BB King, Jimmy Witherspoon, or Hadda Brooks, I’d say go for the Al Cake Wichard compilation–it’s one first-rate jump blues classic after another and it’s got a lot of Jimmy Witherspoon.

GENE PHILLIPS (see pic below) was a fine guitarist (with a unique tone and technique, who bent notes in the style of Andy Kirk’s guitarist Floyd Smith) and singer-songwriter who wrote catchy, earthy, witty songs about big-legged women, fish, and drinking that must have gone over very well in the clubs of Central Avenue and certainly always put a smile on my face at home or in the car. Ace offers two other CD’s of Phillips material, and they are highly recommended.

LITTLE WILLIE JACKSON was the alto saxophonist with Joe Liggins (The Honeydripper) band, and since Liggins was under contract elsewhere, Modern got him for some sessions and he brought much of the Liggins band with him. ACE issued a CD of Jackson material, which I have, and enjoy, and fans of Liggins will enjoy this material. He’s got a somewhat rubbery tone not unlike Louis Jordan, and his 3 tracks (all first takes of songs on the Jackson CD in later, issued takes) all swing…on slower material he has the rich sound of an Earl Bostic.

The ART SHACKLEFORD SEXTETTE, one of the two white artists included here, reminded me of some of Spade Cooley’s more swinging small groups, which lacked the cloying string sections Cooley loved and featured what Spade might have called “take-off solos” and a footing in post-swing jazz. The west coast was a hotbed of this kind of thing, and it’s no surprise Modern wanted a piece of it. A little online research showed me that Shackleford’s records were marketed to the Western Swing crowd, and those who favored the SWING over the western side of that enjoy these Shackleford sides as much as I do.

BUTCH STONE & HIS ORCHESTRA…. Stone was a regular with the Les Brown Band (best known to people of my age group as Bob Hope’s bandleader for decades), so his music is rooted in the Swing era, though here is doing R&B material, or should I say material in an R&B tinged vein. If you can imagine a pared-down version of, say, Bob Crosby’s band working in the late 40’s doing material with a Johnny Mercer-style vocalist who enjoyed Fats Waller, you should have no problem with this material. Is it pure R&B? No, of course not, but it does swing and only a purist could object to it. Some reviewers did not care for this material being on this album–I can understand where they are coming from, but it certainly fits into the mosaic of what Modern was recording in late 1947…and you can always skip it. Though Stone is not channeling Louis Prima here, Prima fans will dig these tracks. I’d guess Stone was a good nightclub performer, as he can take an overdone standard like “Baby Face” and do a jive version of it that brings a smile to one’s face.

MADAM IRA MAE LITTLEJOHN is a Gospel singer, and six of her recordings appear here, closing the album. The liner notes don’t identify if she is on piano or guitar, but she’ll remind many of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with her raw and sanctified vocals. The blues-drenched guitar and piano accompaniment frames her delivery perfectly, and these tracks are the perfect way to end what is in many ways a perfect album, a wonderful way to spend two hours. Madam Littlejohn is also featured on the excellent Ace CD compilation GET ON BOARD LITTLE CHILDREN: THE ‘MODERN’ GOSPEL RECORDINGS.

petrillo 3

GENE  PHILLIPS

 

Ace has not been issuing as much material from the Modern/Kent/Flair/RPM/Crown vaults as they used to. Of course, much of the prime material has been issued, but one wonders if this kind of material does not sell as well as the soul and 60’s rock and roll reissues that Ace continues to put out. I can think of a lot of material not  yet issued by Ace, some of which as come out on Japanese “P-Vine” collections devoted to the labels. I guess this gives me something to look forward to in future years.

Until then, this 2-CD collection is a brilliant way to mine the rich vein that was Modern Records, run by the great Bihari Brothers, in late 1947. If they want to go back a few more weeks and cover sessions from October and November 1947, right before these sessions, and handle it in the same way they handled these, I’ll certainly buy a copy!

petrillo 4

AL “CAKE” WICHARD‘s band, see below for the Ace CD devoted to Wichard… Cake is the drummer and was a contractor/leader of many Modern sessions

wichard

modern

September 1, 2019

Vintage Psychedelia From The Music City (SPV-Yellow CD, Germany)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 5:31 pm
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various artists, “Vintage Psychedelia From The Music City”

cd, SPV-Yellow Records, Germany….circa 2008

compiled by Fred James and Paul Urbahns

vintage psych front

For about 15 years, in the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, wonderful 50s/60s  compilations of tracks from the small labels of Nashville appeared on a number of reissue labels in Europe, mostly Holland and Germany, licensed from the archives of Bluesland Productions, run by the superb bluesman Fred James, who is well-known for his exciting collaborations/productions with veteran blues and R&B artists such as Frank Frost, Homesick James, and the “Excello R&B Legends,” Clifford Curry, Earl Gaines, and Roscoe Shelton. Any album James recorded with these men is worth getting, and the Gaines and Shelton discs have rarely been far from my turntable/cd-player over the years. However, Mr. James is also an archivist and controls the rights to the material found on a number of Nashville-based small labels, with material spanning a number of genres: blues, R&B, rocknroll, pop, country, bluegrass, rockabilly, country-rock, jump blues, etc. We can look at those other genres in other posts (and I hope we will, it’s a large and stunning body of work that’s little commented on), but now I’d like to discuss an odd but fascinating album that crept out in Germany eleven years back and has received little attention.

boys

The focus here is on Nashville’s SPAR label. Best known for its soundalike budget covers of various hits (most record collectors have stumbled across a number of Spar 45’s over the years, particularly if you are in or close to The South), Spar also recorded original material, and there is a mixture of both on this 20-track album. The core of the album, and the finest material on it, is singles by three bands, The Network (whose single was produced by the great George Motola, of Jesse Belvin fame, who’d moved to Nashville and brought his A-game to this session), Charley Romans Seventh Plane, and The Mad Tea Party, groups about which little is known, but the little that is known is covered well in James’ liner notes. They are first rate, trippy soft-psych material that would fit well on a FADING YELLOW or SOFT SOUNDS FOR GENTLE PEOPLE comp.  In fact, I’m sure at least one of the songs is on one of those comps, as I’ve heard TWO of these songs but I’ve never owned the actual singles. They are intelligent songs, well-performed and well-arranged, but with that wonderful small-label ambiance that makes all the difference. And the album’s programmers were smart to put these as tracks 1 and 2 (great lead-off makes one favorable toward the album), tracks 5 and 6, and tracks 9 and 10. With that much excellent material in the first half of the album, the many entertaining but thin soundalike covers by The Electric Screwdriver are easier to swallow. Of course, being quickie recordings, they really DO NOT sound “alike” to the originals, and from our perspective today, it’s the differences that make listening worthwhile. I particularly like the “bubblepunk” vocal on “Instant Karma,” which makes it sound like something from the Kasenetz-Katz stable. The covers of Hush, Come Together, Born To Be Wild, and Crimson and Clover are all well done and capture the essence of the originals while sounding different enough to be of interest to today’s collectors. The covers of “Love Is Blue” and Jose Feliciano’s version of “Light My Fire” are not really psych by any definition, or even rocknroll, but as they are mixed among other quality material, they are quite tasty….and have that unique, off-kilter flavor one finds with budget-label cover versions, which I have actively collected and enjoyed for decades. For instance, the version of Paul Mauriat’s elevator music classic “Love Is Blue” is arranged to feature fewer musicians than the original (which makes economic sense on a quickie cover), so a solo classical guitar is featured throughout and there is no orchestra. The guitarist’s playing—maybe someone who played on a Nashville country session across town the same day—is beautiful, and I’d love to hear a full album of him/her playing the hits of the day. You take fine artistry wherever you find it.

bliss

Southern psychedelia sounds nothing like psychedelia from other parts of the USA—-I was reminded of that fact again recently while reading about LITTLE PHIL AND THE NIGHTSHADOWS in UGLY THINGS #51…. only a band from the South could produce an album like their totally original with a debt to no other band THE SQUARE ROOT OF TWO…. or something like THE ELECTRIC TOILET‘s album IN THE HANDS OF KARMA (a favorite of mine since the 70’s)… or the various bands who recorded for Shelby Singleton’s family of labels (Charly did a fine sampling of that material on a 2-cd set a few years back called ALICE IN WONDERLAND: THE GREAT SOUTHERN POP-SIKE TRIP). Maybe it’s the fact that so many Southern bands have deep roots in soul/gospel and in R&B flavored frat-rock—-you decide. Even the Spar cover of “Magic Carpet Ride”, credited to THE ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER, reflects that unique approach to psych South of the Mason-Dixon Line.

I should state for the record that if you buy this album thinking you are going to get psychedelic material, you’ll be disappointed. There are three fine trippy singles (six songs), mixed in with excellent sound-alike covers of psych-tinged classics (Magic Carpet Ride, Crimson and Clover, etc.), mixed in with other Spar Records covers from the era (Love In Blue, Games People Play, etc.). I should also mention the fine cover of fellow Tennesseans THE BOX TOPS’ hit SWEET CREAM LADIES, by a Spar studio group called THE CHORDS (on some other records spelled THE CORDS), which was originally on the B-side of a cover of “Build Me Up Buttercup” credited to The Fantastics. Perhaps the best way to appreciate this album is to imagine you are listening to some low-wattage Nashville radio station in an alternate universe circa 1969 in a dream  you don’t want to end, in a world where all the windows are crooked, the milk is watery, and all the newspapers are printed off-center. Or maybe you hit a junk store outside Nashville circa 1972 with a large haul of random Spar Records-related material, and you’re playing it in no particular order. However you view it, fans who can go from pop-sike to budget-label covers of “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Instant Karma” without missing a beat will be as excited about this album as I’ve been for the last eleven years. You’re unlikely to find a copy of either ELECTRIC SCREWDRIVER album in the wild easily (I’ve never owned them, though I’ve owned maybe 20 Spar singles at one time or another over the years), so here’s your chance to hear the cream of that material….and some first-rate original pop-sike singles from Music City USA….and I see copies of this CD on Discogs and Ebay going for FOUR DOLLARS. You can’t afford NOT to own a copy.

working

….

electric

………

spar8track-01

8-track cover from Bluesland Productions (owner of the rights to this material) website

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