Friday, February 16, 2018

"Okay, That Was Good - Now, Once More, Just a Bit More Obnoxiously"


So I just heard this record for the first time this week, and even though it's a Christmas song-poem, I didn't want to wait ten months to share it with you. It's our old friend Cathy Mills, occasional star of the Tin Pan Alley label, doing (what was apparently) her best to sound cutesy. Perhaps the results are exactly what the song-poet was looking for. I certainly hope so, but what I hear is an entire performing ensemble being as cloying and obnoxious as I would think was possible. It's certainly not impossible that this was on purpose - I've heard enough song-poems to know that sometimes the musicians had a bit of mean-spirited fun with the material.

Whatever its backstory, I find "Just Like" to be sort of wonderfully awful. See what you think.

Download: Cathy Mills - Just Like
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One listen to Cathy Mills' flip side, "Hey, Hey" makes clear that her real singing voice sounds nothing like the kiddie voice on "Just Like". Here we have a tribute to the various instruments that make up a combo who are playing a rockin' number. And all is fine with that - there's a trumpet, a sax, a mellow organ. Cool. But then, in a phrase I'm not sure has ever been uttered or written, outside of this song, "Don't forget the bass cello groan". Yep. That old groaning "bass cello".

(And yes, I understand that the writers were surely referring to a double bass, but still... "The bass cello groan"?)

Download: Cathy Mills - Hey, Hey
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Friday, February 09, 2018

A Quintessential Song-Poem Song Title



This week, it was my great pleasure to receive an e-mail from perhaps the highest profile correspondent that I've ever heard from, throughout my blogging career. More about that, perhaps, later, but the subject of the e-mail was his love and particular fascination with Rodd Keith's work with the Chamberlin, at Film City records. And so, even though i just recently featured another of Rodd's records from this period, I thought I'd share another one, in response to that writer, his e-mail, and our upcoming phone conversation. 

What's more, this record has what may be one of the quintessential titles for a song-poem record - a phrase which captures a frequent thing thought or said about a relationship or an incident, and which is behind a good number of song-poems, yet rarely actually chosen as a title, partly because those phrases are not particularly musical or poetic. My pal Stu's favorite in this "quintessential title" category is "You Insulted Me", as sung by Sammy Marshall (under the name "Ben Tate"). 

So here's another one. As sung by Rodd Keith (as always for Film City, under the name "Rod Rogers", with his one man band Chamberlin act represented here as "The Film City Orchestra and Chorus", with "I Am Deeply Hurt". It's a shuffle of a beat, with Rodd singing in a supper-club baritone, a pleasant enough diversion, if nowhere near what he was capable, until the truly fabulous last note, which is worth the price of admission. 

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And speaking of clunky song-titles, on the flip side, we encounter "Please Come Back to Me, Sweetheart", a pretty darn bland number. It's a competent performance, but one with few, if any, of the minor charms of "Deeply Hurt", at least to these ears. 

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Doggone That Sammy!


So here's a fairly wonderful record that I digitized nearly a year ago, no doubt with plans of using it on this site. But as far as I can tell, for whatever reason, I never did so (I'm sure someone will let me know if I did already post it, but I can't find such a post).

It's a couple of unusually great efforts from the one and only Sammy Marshall, along with the Keynoters, on the rarely seen Star-X label, both tunes focusing on canine subjects.
The better of the two, to my ears, is the peppy, fun and endearing song "The Crazy Dog Dance", which comes complete with barks. Woof, woof, my darling!

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keynoters - The Crazy Dog Dance
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The flip side is no slouch, either, although it's closer to the stereotypical Sammy Marshall twist records of the era. It's got a mouthful of a title, "Who Stole the Bone (From Mother Hubbard's Cupboard)?" But like the first song, it's energetic, fun and creatively silly, AND, it does answer the titular question, too. Enjoy!

Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keynoters - Who Stole the Bone (From Mother Hubbard's Cupboard)?
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bubbly Bubbly Mike Thomas


Today's feature covers that favorite topic of pop songwriters everywhere, Root Beer. I know this subject has been done to death, in such classics as "(I Can't Get No) Sarsaparilla", "My Heart Belongs to Dad's", "Lucy in the Mug with Root Beer", "Oh, Black Cow, Bambalam" "The A & W(inding) Road" and "I Want to Take You Hires". But despite that familiarity, give this one a chance.

It's called "Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer", and it's from everyone's favorite Tin Pan Alley warbler, Mike Thomas. It's got all of the hallmark's of the era's TPA releases - the three piece band, the off-the-cuff sounding performance by everyone involved, and the idiosyncratic lyrics of yet another wishful thinker. Hoist a glass and have a listen!

Download: Mike Thomas - Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer
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On the flip side, we have a ponderous piece of navel-gazing, titled "Questions of Flight". What starts as (and spends much of its time as) a series of open ended questions about the flight of various birds, eventually ends up at its real point, which is that the singer doesn't understand why his beloved chooses to "fly" away from him. If nothing else, this record is worth it for the awful note that Mike Thomas misses at 2:55, during the fade out.

Download: Mike Thomas - Questions of Flight
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

His Horn Went "Beep Beep Beep"


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

What better way to welcome the new year, song-poem style, than with Rodd Keith, here in his Chamberlin assisted persona of "Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra", with a tribute to an iconic, if little praised, car of the 1950's and 1960's, the Rambler. The song-poets (and Rodd) clearly had "In My Merry Oldsmobile" in mind for at least the opening lines of this song. See if your toes don't start tapping and you don't start singing along with "Ramblers Dream":

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Ramblers Dream
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(And yes, regarding the title of this post, I do know that by the 1960's, when this was recorded, it was no longer the "Nash Rambler" that the Tokens sang about, but it was too good a reference to pass up.)

Fred Zak, co-poet of "Ramblers Dream" teamed up with a different partner for the flip side, "Western Ghost Trail". This is a rather tuneless, meandering record with very little to recommend it. Not only that, but somehow, the pressing of this record manages slow down and drop a half step or so, during the last half minute (that's not a problem with my turntable - I played it on two players with the same result).

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Western Ghost Trail
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

COOL THAT MOTOR DOWN!



I'm ending the year with a fairly wonderful release on the Fable label (a label which had a much higher percentage of wonderful to other-than-wonderful releases than virtually any other song-poem label). And the A-side of this one gives me pause, in describing it as a song poem, because a.) it's so strong a song, arrangement and performance and b.) not all of Fable's releases were song-poems, although a good majority of them were song-poems or vanity releases.

But a little digging found that the author of the song, one Jack Jaquay, had a minimal background as a writer, at least based on the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Add that to the dismal quality of the material on the B-side, and I'm pretty sure this is either a song-poem or a vanity release.

The inspiration for 1959's "Cool Cool That Motor Down" (sung by the previously unknown Mickey Frey) is likely the songs "Hot Rod Race" and its sequel, "Hot Rod Lincoln", at least in the arrangement and structure of the song, and its automotive subject (for the first two verses, anyway), if not the specifics of the story told.

And to these ears, it sounds mighty good, complete with sound effects, peppy guitar and drums, and an effective lead vocal. See if you don't end up singing the chorus after the record's over.

Download: Mickey Frey with Sandy Stanton's Panics - Cool Cool That Motor Down
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As alluded to above, the overall quality of the flip side, "Just For You", leaves little doubt in my mind that this side, at least, is a song-poem. No effort appears to have gone into making this into a good record. The pianist makes multiple errors, the singer sounds like he's seeing the words for the first time, and the entire band sounds like they are on autopilot. Then there are the words, which suggest a first attempt at writing a love poem. Well, at least it's sort of bouncy.

Download: Mickey Frey with Sandy Stanton's Panics - Just For You
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Going Back to New Orleans


Just in time for Christmas, I purchased a Christmas Song-Poem. This one appears on the tiny "Cenla Records" label of Alexandria Louisiana, and the songs are copyrighted in 1961, per a little bit of internet research.

Cenla Records is barely represented within the vast reaches of the internet, mostly just references to this record, and a rockabilly record from 1959 (which has sold for over $150), which can be heard here. They do seem to at least possibly be the same "Cenla Records" - the label numbers both start with "CR", although on the other hand, why wouldn't they, given the name of the label(s)? The 1959 release does not sound like a song-poem record.

This one, however, does. The side I'm featuring first, "The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Watching", by the previously unknown Susan Young, seems like a stereotypical early offering from the Globe song-poem factory. Careful listening will demonstrate that the song only has one verse, and even with that verse sung twice, a guitar solo, and a coda, the record still only lasts 93 seconds.

Download: Susan Young - The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Watching
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On the flip side (and written by the same song-poet), is a real treat, at least in my book, and further proof that this is a song-poem record. Yes, it's the ridiculously over-the-top Roger Smith, here treating to his rendition of "I'm Going Back to New Orleans".

As with the flip side, there is only one verse, repeated twice and separated by a nice solo section, and this time, they manage to fill up a full 95 seconds. The band here is fairly wonderful, and the note(s) that Roger Smith sings at 0:59 should be in the hall of fame. Which Hall of Fame, I'm not sure, but it deserves enshrinement. '

Download: Roger Smith: I'm Going Back to New Orleans
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone - I'm so glad that I've been able to feature song poems, usually once a week (or at least three times a month) for nine full years now, and plan to start the tenth year in a week or two. Thank you so much for reading and listening.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Northeast of HELL!

First, I want to send a message to David S, who wrote to me recently about a Fable record I'd posted. He indicated that he wanted to share more information, but in e-mail. I'd rather not post my e-mail here, because I've found that leads to massive amounts of spam, but if you go to this post from a project I was involved in, in 2003, you'll find my e-mail address there, at the end.

(Also, thanks to Dan for a recent comment containing a strange sidelight to the Tin Pan Alley story!)

~~




Every now and then, I find a song-poem listing - in recent years, usually on eBay, but in many places, over the years - which has a title that I just can't refuse (providing the price is right). The sort of title that draws me in even if the performer or label or era is one that I don't normally collect. Such would be the case with a 1976 Real Pros single on Cinema. The chances that a record from that troupe (whoever was singing), in that time period, would appeal to me are roughly one in fifty. Maybe less.

But then came "Northeast of Hell". I decided I really wanted to hear a song-poem called "Northeast of Hell", and the price came down just enough to make it a worthy risk.

So here it is, and in this case, The Real Pros are fronted by Dick Kent. And I will not make the argument that it's a world wide winner - for one thing, it has the typical, soulless, going through the motions band sound of 90% of the song poems I've heard from after about 1974 (from this and every other label), with that awful early synthesizer sound, to boot.

But it does have a remarkable lyric - a plaintive cry of a lyric from a soldier who is deeply regretting having joined the U.S. army, due mostly to where Uncle Sam has decided to have him live. He is so disillusioned he even advises others to.... well, I'll let you hear for yourself, but it is a truly startling line.

Download: The Real Pros - Northeast of Hell
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If there's a pleasure to be found in the flip side, "My Last Care", it's escaping me. Perhaps those of you who enjoy the style of music being aped here will like it more than I do. Dick Kent injects some feel into the lyrics, I guess, but I have no use for this sound whatsoever.

Download: The Real Pros - My Last Care
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Monday, December 04, 2017

Crazy Bargain Baby!

 
 
So how did your Black Friday shopping go? And since then, have you found any crazy bargains? At the store where my wife works, today is the big sale for the season. Get there now!
 
Anyway, for your dining and dancing pleasure, here's the great Gene Marshall, accompanied by a loose sounding, first rate band (I especially love the drumming), singing up a swingin' storm, all about a subject just perfect for the shopping season, a "Crazy Bargain Baby". Just one caveat, though - she won't let him pet!
 
Sing it, Gene!
 
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The flip side is a moldy piece of MOR balladry called "Goldie". Perhaps you'll enjoy this more than I do, and can work up some words of which it is worthy. I cannot.
 
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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers


As promised, here's a little musical turkey to go along with your leftover turkey sandwiches, two days after Thanksgiving. When you talk about song-poems and musical turkeys together, it's hard not to arrive at the Noval label, sooner rather than later. I have often wondered if Noval's customers were, by and large, happy with the results of their submissions, and also, how much they paid relative to other customers of other labels. There aren't enough Noval releases around to get a sense of whether they had repeat customers, as some of the larger labels did.

Beyond that, I'll let these fairly ridiculous records speak for themselves. As arranged by Fred, here's "Rocking Bronco", performed, as always, by an unnamed singer and band.

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Rocking Bronco
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And here's the same team, with the expertly, and creatively titled ditty, "Love":

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Love
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I hope that everyone (or at least those who celebrate it) had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you all have an even better Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

He Still Loves That Girl




Here's a nice, solid little pop ditty from Rodd Keith, from the earliest days of the Preview label. It's called "I Still Love That Girl (Can You See?) (although the lyric is, consistently, "can't you see?"), and it's got a keen shuffle beat, which peps up into a modified twist thing on the verses. It all sounds dandy to me. Everybody's having fun but him.

Download: Rodd Keith - I Still Love That Girl (Can You See?)
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The flip side, "Sheridan" comes from a side of Rodd Keith that doesn't really grab me, the ballad singer, with the setting bordering on the ponderous. I do enjoy hearing his triple-tracked harmonies, but even those don't save this particular track.

Oddly, both sides of this record indicate a length of 2:20, but the A-side is actually more than 20 seconds shorter than that, while this side is more than 20 seconds longer than what is listed.

Download: Rodd Keith - Sheridan
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HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE - I hope to be back over the weekend with a bit of leftover turkey!

Monday, November 13, 2017

MOVIN' WITH PAPA!!!



 
I could have this chronology quite mixed up, but it appears to me that, near the end of his time running the Film City empire, Sandy Stanton began releasing a good number of his factories productions on the newer, Action Records label. Most of the known Action releases seem to have been released after the end of the last few known Film City releases, and essentially feature the same cast of characters, plus and minus a few, frequently accompanied by the ubiquitous Chamberlin.
 
Today's feature, 'Move with Papa", sung by the occasional Film City/Action warbler known as Frank Perry, is notable for some fun, silly lyrics, and, particularly, the atrocious work done with the Chamberlin: whoever made this track provided a second track of chording which is just slightly - and aggravatingly - out of tune with the rest of the track. The final chord over the rest of the track is a particular howler.
 
Oh, and while I'd love to think that the co-writer of these tracks was the great English comic actor Terry-Thomas, that seems unlikely.
 
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I can't actually work up much to say about the flip side, "Like An Angel So Sweet", which is a fairly typical non-entity from the genre and from this label.
 

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By the way, I do have a plan to try and keep up to a once-a-week posting schedule again, starting this week. Here's hoping!