Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cara is Blue, and Sonny Thinks You Want to Cry


The Air label typically released song-poem material produced by other companies - I can't think of one which didn't feature performers associated with one of the song-poem factories, and there are multiple examples of a record on Air Records existing on another label, sometimes in differing sound quality.

There are examples of both duplicated songs and questionable song quality on today's feature. The first song on this EP is a song called "Sugar", sung by Cara Stewart (with Orch). I'm not including it here, because I've already shared the exact same recording (which comes from the Lee Hudson song-poem empire) in a previous post, except that the release I've already featured appeared on the tiny Caveman label. You can find that enjoyable (if poorly written) song here (although, oddly, Orch didn't get the credit they deserved on the Caveman release of this material - perhaps it was a contractual issue).

The other Cara Stewart (with Orch) song on the EP is the equally enjoyable "I'm So Blue". As usual, Lee Hudson provides his dreamy backing, and Cara sings with that irresistible smile in her voice, one that can almost lead you to overlook the sad story she's telling us.



The flip side of the record comes to us from the Globe song-poem consortium, featuring their go-to guy, Sammy Marshall (with Orch). While the two songs on the A-side sound just fine, the songs on the flip sound to me as if they were literally mastered off of another 45. Given that, as I said, many Air 45's feature songs which also appeared on other labels, this is entirely possible. Sadly, the crappy sound on the songs on side two of this EP are far from the only recordings on Air Records which were released in this level of sound quality.

And that's kind of a shame, because the first song on this side has some appeal, with a peppy beat, a warm Sammy Marshall (with Orch) vocal, and some fun instrumental stuff going on in the backing track here and there, especially that opening guitar. I'd never claim this is great stuff, only borderline okay, but I'd still like to have heard it in decent sound quality.



"You Want to Cry", also featuring Sammy Marshall (with Orch), finishes off the disc. The sound quality again sucks, but I'd be hard pressed to work up the energy to care, as I doubt I'd want to hear this one twice even if it was digitally remastered and released in the highest sound quality ever achieved.



It's impressive how different "Orch" sounds from the A-side to the B-side. It's almost as if there were two different bands playing. Oh, wait...


Monday, August 04, 2014

Forget You!


I was tempted to think that today's record, "Oh, I Forgot" by Randy and Sandy, might have been one of those rare Tin Pan Alley sides, all but gone by this point in the late '50's, which might have been intended for the legitimate world of charts and pop hitdom. In it, I hear a strong enough song, with a clever lyrical hook (to me, at least, genuinely funny),  and performed by the sort of male duo which were in vogue at that moment (1958-59).

But then there's that co-writer credit to "DeVito", a person who - whoever he was - turns up on a few dozen TPA records around this time (as frequently as (the overall more common) "Covais" for a short time. It would appear that "DeVito" was, at least for a year or so, part of the composing staff who would set the lyrics to a tune, rather than just happening to be part of more than 18 songwriting teams within a year. The presence of that name on the label, to me, is the killer blow saying that this is just another song-poem record, albeit a very catchy, funny and enjoyable one.



While I said I was tempted to think that "Oh, I Forgot!" was an attempt at a legitimate hit, I'm honestly not tempted to think about the flip side "A Little Bit of Love", at all. Although again credited to Randy and Sandy, it sounds to me that only one of the pair is audible on this side.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Rodd Rivers and the "Big Action Sound"!


I've always been fairly fascinated with the twists and turns of Rodd Keith's song-poem career, from Film City and its off-shoots to Preview and then MSR. What I'm going to offer up here is pure speculation, as I have absolutely no idea the truth of the matter, but I've noticed that with each change, Rodd changed his billing, from Rod Rogers at Film City to Rodd Keith at Preview and then, after a flurry of releases as Rodd Keith at MSR, back to the slightly different Rodd Rogers for his final releases at that label.

 What I wonder is: was this a contractual thing? Was he under contract to Film City, so to get around that, he had to go under a different name at Preview? And did Preview decide it owned the name "Rodd Keith", leading to the slightly changed earlier moniker? And if so, does that explain the further alteration seen on today's feature?

For this record clearly comes from Film City's production studio, based on the Chamberlin and the production sound, and if the stamp on the A-side is to be believed, is from a point in 1971 when Rodd had not been at Film City in quite some time, and was being billed as "Rodd Rogers" over at MSR.  Was he moonlighting at his old stomping grounds, unable to be billed under any of his preferred monikers?

Again, all speculation. If I'm totally off base, I'm sure someone is out there who knows better than I do. Whether you know or not, I'd be interested in other thoughts.

All that said, first up is a superb example of Rodd's abilities as a one man band, on the song "Any Way You Want It (clearly superior to the Journey song of the same title... although.... what isn't...). It comes complete with interactive vocals, Rodd answering Rodd and occasionally harmonizing with himself. All of this is heard over a nifty Chamberlin performance, featuring those soaring faux-choral oohs, an otherworldly sound that I just love. The song itself is no slouch, either - Rodd created a really nice, memorable melody.



On the flip side is the deceptively titled "Sing a Happy Song". A lesser song-poem composer might have ignored the lyric and attached a bouncy, peppy backing track. Rodd's song, on the other hand, is a more contemplative mid-tempo shuffle, appropriate to the lyric, which is about a man trying to overcome his heartbreak, after a romance has ended. Again, we have some nice harmony singing, too!



Monday, July 21, 2014

Baby, You Sure Can Palpitate!


How can one not get at least a little stirred up at the thought of hearing a song-poem titled "Palpitatin' Syncopatin' Baby, sung by Gene Marshall, no less?

The lyrics are suitibly weird ("When I get the beat, I'm always indiscreet; when sex appeals, I kick my heels"), and Gene is certainly up to the task of filling these words with a good measure of feeling, as is the wah-wah guitarist.

On the other hand, the rest of the band seems to be sleepwalking. And whoever decided to pad this record out past three minutes, by adding a 40 second bland solo section, in which the lifeless female backups repeat the title over and over... well, that person was in the wrong job.

Still, the end result is weird enough to make it worth a few spins. I hope you agree:


The flip side is "Love For This Day". With its bland peace and love lyrics, MOR setting and remarkably poor Gene Marshall vocal (missed notes, wavering around the pitch), this one does not strike me as worth a few spins. I do wonder, however, what the writer of this pablum thought when he heard the lyrics that were on the flip side of his creation.




And happy 21st birthday yesterday to my younger daughter, Molly!!! The years have flown by....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Baby, You're So Fine


Here's a record label that tells a tale. At the Sterling page at the AS/PMA website, there is only a single Norm Burns record listed later than this one. And that one record comes quite a few discs later, with the billing to Norman Burns, a billing ("Norman") that hadn't been used about seven years, as of 1974. It seems at least possible that that latter listing was actually an earlier recording, held back for some reason.

Either way, this record is likely among the last, and perhaps the very last, that Norm Burns recorded. As I recall the story (and it's been about 15 years, so maybe I'm not recalling it correctly), Norm was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1974, very late in its progression, and died mere weeks later. This is consistent with the story told by record numbers on the website, where Norm was on virtually every release until, suddenly, he wasn't on any releases.

And he's only on the one side of this record, paired up with a singer (sic) who is otherwise undocumented among the Sterling discography.

The song itself, "Baby, You're So Fine" features a typically strong Norm Burns, with a haunted sounding backing track, featuring some nice bass playing and drums, soulful organ and '60's-ish backing vocalists.



The flip side of Norm's number, titled "Did I Tell You?" features Rick Wilson with the Five Stars. This is complete speculation, but given that there don't appear to be other Rick Wilson records out there on Sterling, is it possible that they just grabbed whoever was available for the other side of this record? I ask, because I can't imagine anyone thought this guy was a worthy singer - his wispy style and difficulty staying on pitch do not make me wish for a second listen. Then again, one could presume that they chose Norm's eventual replacement, the utterly unworthy Gary Roberts, over this guy, and that wouldn't have been a "sterling" choice, either.




Monday, July 07, 2014

Song-Poem Patriotism


Well, I'm a bit late for Independence Day, but better late than never. Not so much for the fourth of July, which is pretty much tied down by its own name to a particular date. But "better late than never" could have been the slogan for Halmark Records, whose material often sounded about 20-25 years out of date.

And today's feature does concern America, specifically, one song-poet's fears that the shrinking numbers of Eagles might portend the same dire fate for America and Americans. The song is simply titled "The Eagle", and before those eagle-eyed readers - those who salivate at the thought of new Bob Storm ridiculousness to enjoy - notice the billing of Bob Storm on both sides of this record label, be assured that the singer on the a-side sounds (at least to me) very little like ol' Bob, although there are a few moments where I think it's possible - perhaps he had an on-off on that over-the-top unctuousness that is absent here. (The b-side singer is quite clearly not Bob Storm.)

This side has the benefit, rare among Halmark sides, of being barely two minutes long.



Brevity is not among the charms of the nearly four minute long flip side, "The Man from Glory". I doubt that the singer here was known as "Bob" to anyone, as you'll hear. Here we have another person summarizing the New Testament Gospels for us, perhaps in case we were unfamiliar with the story. The turgid backing track and annoying histrionics of the singer make this one nearly unlistenable for me.




Monday, June 30, 2014

She Really Likes Those Green Mountains!


Here's an example of a song-poem, the specific likes of which I can't remember seeing before. Both sides are both sides written by the same lyricist - which is admittedly hardly a rarity - but both sides also have nearly identical song titles, but for one changed word. And of the two, the song that lyricist Dorothy Deane would presumably have preferred to have sung by a woman is the one sung by a man. I don't think these songs are particularly good - the second one I actually find extremely dreary - but I thought that the pairing of the songs themselves was interesting.

Bobbi Blake takes the lead first with "My Dear Green Mountain Home". The backing is pretty bland, as I find the majority of late '70's MSR records to be, but the lyrics are at least sweet, and Bobbi Blake provides a warm vocal.



Dick Kent takes over with "My Dear Green Mountain Sweetheart", which is just enough slwer than the flip side to become more and more tedious as it goes on - this is not helped out by the way that whoever wrote the music drags out the words of the chorus. And then there's "Oh, My, She's Just Swell".

By the way, the hum you may detect on both of these sides is right on the record. It starts off after the lead-in groove, and ends before the trail-off groove on each side. You can even here someone speak softly for a split second at the start of Dick Kent's side.