Monday, September 26, 2016

A Six Song Command Performance

 
Before getting to todays record, here are two more very early Song-Poem ads, from "Film Fun" magazine, courtesy of reader and correspondent Pete! Note that these two ads seem very much to come from the same company, but that each is listed as being at a slightly different suite in the same building from the other.
 



 
And now, for a very special episode of "Six Songs in Ten Minutes":
 

I've never before featured anything from the Command Performance label, first because I don't have very many records on this label, and second because they tend to be, to my ears, very bland, along the same lines as those recorded on the latter day (post 1974) Cinema and MSR releases. Not a surprise there - all three labels seem to have been using virtually the same core bands and singers. I just don't hear the magic in the music that seems to be guaranteed by the name of the house band at Command Performance. Based on what's been released on song-poem comps and other information I have, I suspect I'm in the minority in this opinion of this troupe and their various labels, and by all means, if you want to hear more from the MSR/Cinema/Command/Etc. gang, let me know - I certainly have piles of it.

But this one stood out mostly because of the text of one of the songs, which we'll get to in a minute. Like similar EP's on Cinema (and others on Command Performance), the folks at the label managed to squeeze six very short songs on the two sides of the 45, then suggested in the timings that the songs were mostly right around two minutes. Some are, most aren't - one song labeled as 1:57, is actually nearly 20 seconds shorter.

I believe the singer here is Bobbi Blake, and suspect that I know I'll hear from at least one or two people either confirming this or contradicting me.

I'm pretty much going to just line them up and let you play and/or download them, but I do want you to pay special attention to song two, "Our Society". I will say no more. The six songs are:

Download: The Music Magicians: The Beauty God Created
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Download: The Music Magicians: Our Society
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Download: The Music Magicians: Life of Peace
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Download: The Music Magicians: Little David
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Download: The Music Magicians: I Found a Friend
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Download: The Music Magicians: Ahead of It All
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Oh, I will add that I was hoping that "Little David" was about the behind-the-scenes machinations at George Carlin's record label (which was called Little David), but sadly, that does not appear to be the case.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Clowning Around

Howdy, y'all, 

Well, before I get to this week's feature, I wanted to offer up two more song-poem ads that my correspondent Pete was nice enough to send along. These are truly ancient ads, coming from "Film Fun Magazine. The first one is from 1922, the second is from 1926. The latter makes note of a couple of gigantic then-recent hits allegedly written by amateurs - in neither case does this appear to be provably true, and, in the case of "Dardanella", is demonstrably false.



~~
Second, I want to link you to a new project that Sammy Reed has started. For a long time, I've had a link up to his strange music site, but that has now been shuttered. In its place (and in its place within my links) is a new project, featuring some wonderful oddities, including plenty of song-poems, called Music from the World of the Strange the Bizarre. That can be found in my links, to the right, and also with this link right here

And now, on with the countdown: 


I wish I had more Norm Burns 45's. I wish there WERE more Norm Burns 45's, actually. But more often than not, when I obtain another one, it's worth sharing here.

In this case, the song is "They Call Me the Clown". And actually, for this one, as much as I enjoy Norm, my attention is drawn to the slight extra effort that the folks at Sterling put into this one. The song isn't much - draggy and drippy, to be blunt - but someone had the bright idea of adding a trebly organ to the arrangement, and to have it play that famous circus tune (the name of which I don't know), although would it have been that hard to play the lick from that tune all the way through, rather than screw it up? And then, they actually dropped in some sound effects of people giggling and laughing. That's a nice touch!

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - They Call Me the Clown
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For the b-side, we're in for some real drama, and Norm and the band do a decent impression of a supper club group, and whoever set the words to music and arrangement certainly seem to have had Bacharach and David in mind. The words tell a sad, sad story, and there are some nice turns of phrase, which may get lost when the record goes on and on and on for almost four minutes. But this is an attempt at something stately, and to my ears, it doesn't fail entirely, which, within the song-poem universe, has to be considered a sort of victory.

Download: Norm Burns and the Satellites - It Wouldn't Last Too Long
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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Michigan "Air-Loom"


The "Air-Loom" label appears to fit the concept of a "tiny, regional" label to a T. Except that it probably didn't exist to promote actual attempts at hits, in the way that normal labels did. This was most likely the project of a few people, perhaps even just the one - Gail Hines - who wrote both sides of today's record.

The AS/PMA page for this label only shows two records on the label, although given that this is record #111, my guess is that at least 11 singles exist on the label. And for this one, at least, Ms. Hines turned to Lee Hudson, who assigned his best singer, Cara Stewart, to the job. As indicated on both sides of the record AND on the sleeve, which also includes Ms. Hines' signature (see below), "Air-Loom" and its related publishing company were based in Lansing, Michigan. So there will be no surprise when you learn that one side of the record features the dulcet tones of Ms. Stewart singing about "Michigan, My Home":

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - Michigan, My Home
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Pretty standard stuff for a Cara/Lee record, but I just eat that stuff up.

The flip side is equally lovely, and it's called "Beyond the Night":

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - Beyond the Night
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Monday, August 29, 2016

A Pair of Period Pieces


I'm featuring the Preview label for the second week in a row, which is unusual for this site, but I realized that it had been far too long since I featured the great Gene Marshall. So here is Gene with a record that, based on its label number, was released in the early '70's, probably 1971, and based on its lyrics, could hardly have been written and recorded at any other time than within a window of three years or so on either side of '71.

On the first side, the writer of "Generation Gap", decries the wide split between her (or, in Gene's rendition, his) children and their peers, and the not-so-old fogie singing the song. While the song starts out like so many complaints of the age did - bemoaning the gap between the generations, then laying on thick all the things that are wrong with the young folk, displaying quite clearly one of the reasons why there was a gap - in this case, the writer/singer turns it around in the end, into something more hopeful.

While all of this is, admittedly, treacle, I remain impressed at the level to which Gene Marshall sings it, with the cry in his voice while expressing the writers frustration, and the catch that sounds like he's about to start crying at a couple of key moments. Masterful.

Download: Gene Marshall - Generation Gap 
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On the flip side, we have the deceptively musically upbeat tale of a Vietnam veteran returning home to his fiance, "Put This Ring Upon Your Finger". Everything is bouncing along quite happily, and continues to do so, even after the lyrics tell a different story.

Download: Gene Marshall - Put This Ring Upon Your Finger
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cleaning and Polishing with His Pledge


Howdy, err-body,

Not a lot of blathering or other great (or lesser thoughts) today. I just wanted to share a nice, solid 45 from Rodd Keith and the Raindrops. First up is "My Pledge", which has a bouncy, driving beat - the drumming here is great - and some keen flute playing, both leading off the track and being heard on a lengthy solo. All that in addition to a typically fine lead vocal from Rodd.

Download: Rodd Keith & the Raindrops - My Pledge
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On the flip side, Rodd again benefits from his background in Gospel music, as he dives right into that preacher-style of vocal, and does a credible job on "He'll Answer You". Again, this track features some nice flute playing, including another nice solo, in addition to being heard behind virtually the entire vocal on this unusually long Preview release (3:38, rather than the 2:35 listed on the label)

Download: Rodd Keith & the Raindrops - He'll Answer You
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Saturday, August 06, 2016

HOOPER DOOPER!!!

Howdy, folks,

Well, first, I have the final vintage song-poem ad from correspondent Pete. This one is from 1958 and says everything it needs to with very few words.


Three Cheers for Pete!!! THANK YOU!!!

Today, I'm going to indulge my love for the early years of Tin Pan Alley, a period in which they were, to my ears, several steps above what many of the later labels would be doing, in that they were turning out records which actually sound like they might have been intended as attempts at earning actual radio airplay, and, not coincidentally, often were constructed with knowledge and insight into the various forms of music which were popular with the kids of the day. I have two records to share today, one of which is clearly a song-poem, and the other seems more likely to have been a vanity release - more on that later.

First up is, by far, my favorite of the four songs involved. This one is sung by the previously unknown (to me, and to the song-poem database) Lori Knight. "I Love My Honey ('Cause He's Sweet)" is something of a relative to the honest-to-goodness hit record  (and one of my favorite records ever) "I Love My Baby", by Jill Corey, which you can hear here. Obviously, the production and overall talent involved are considerably lower, but this is still what I'm reminded of. I truly wonder if this was deliberate, as Jill Corey's record came out in 1957 (that year being a high point, in my opinion, for pop music), and this record likely was made in 1958.

I'm particularly taken (in case the title of this entry didn't give it away) by the song-poet's use of the phrase "Hooper Dooper", in place of "Super Duper", but the whole thing just makes me smile from start to finish. This one has risen to the top of my playlist faster than anything else in recent months.


Download: Lori Knight: I Love My Honey ('Cause He's Sweet)
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Please note that the song-poem was male, meaning that very likely that either he wrote it for a woman to sing about a boyfriend, or that the good folks at Tin Pan Alley turned the gender around to fit the available singer and the style of the music they'd put to his lyric.

The flip side, "Laugh Again" is a pretty standard 6/8 ballad - what Billboard would have called a "rock-a-ballad" at the time. For those who like such things, it's listenable, without being terribly good or interesting. It does play up some of the weaknesses of the singer and band, which were masked by the enthusiasm and energy of the flip side.

Download: Lori Knight - Laugh Again
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And now for something subtly different:


As mentioned above, I believe this to be a vanity record. It comes from TPA's earliest days, which you can read about here. The number on this record comes just before the first documented appearance of Phil Celia, who was the first clear "song-poem singer" on the label - prior to this, there were bands and/or featured group-leaders, including some who were, or became, well known. The biggest clue here, though, is that both songs on the record were written by a team of three people, the same three people on both sides, and that one of those writers had the same last name as the performers.

Nonetheless, it is a TPA record, and as I've been away from this site for almost two weeks, I thought I'd throw in a bonus, so here it is. Of the two exclamation-pointed songs on this record, I much prefer "Those Cheating Eyes!", which manages to make something moderately original, even while repeatedly using the tune of "Row Row Your Boat" and here it is:

Download: Larry and Nora Lee - Those Cheating Eyes!
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That's not to say that the flip-side, "I Guess I'm Lucky!" doesn't have its charms. It swings along happily, with sweet, glad-to-be-in-love lyrics, and sounds (as does the flip side) more than a bit like something that might have come out on my beloved Fable label.

Download: Larry and Nora Lee - I Guess I'm Lucky!
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Monday, July 25, 2016

A National Songwriters Guild Acetate

First up, yet another song-poem related ad, many thanks to Pete! This one a generic, straight to the point for lyrics and songs, from way back in 1935:
 
 
And now, here's something a bit unusual:  
 

Here we have an acetate from the National Songwriters Guild organization. This label was associated with the much larger Tropical label, and the more often fairly interesting Carellen label. Read all about it here (with more information on the Tropical page, to which that page links). many of the known National Songwriters Guild records are unnumbered acetates.

And I zoomed out a bit on the label scan of this one so that you can see the decrepit condition of this record, which will be confirmed when you hear it, particularly the other side of the record. There are no artists listed here, just the lyricist (same person on both sides), and I'm particularly amused by the incompetence displayed on "There is No Ending".

There is a sing-songy nature to the rhyme scheme, where the easiest and most obvious rhyme is grabbed 90% of the time - you can guess what word is coming next. The exception is my favorite word use, in which that lyricist, having discovered that "ending" rhymes with "pending", uses that word, one that does not occur often in song lyrics, and which (to my ears) keeps on drawing attention to its use, and the lazy quality of the lyric writing that causes it to be there. That's how I reacted, anyway.

Download: No Artist Named - There is No Ending
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On the flip side is the upbeat "I Gambled with Love and Won", sung by a different singer than "Ending". This one, as mentioned, is beat to hell, but the fun, bouncy organ playing drives the song for all of its 100 or so seconds, and the jolly singer (and surface noise) keeps me from focusing quite as much on the equally obvious lyric work.

Download: No Artist Named - I Gambled With Love and Won
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

He Don't Wanna Be Right



Here's everyone's favorite Norm, Norm Burns, this week masquerading as "Norman Burns and Singers", with a bouncy, peppy little number, titled "Is It Wrong?". This features the lovely, sterling work of the Sterling combo on piano, guitar, bass and some wonderfully brushed drums. The words are pretty durn simplistic and direct, but I sure love the sound of that little combo, and I'm always up for Norm on an upbeat groover like this one.

Download: Norman Burns and Singers - Is It Wrong?
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I'm not, however, always up for Norm in mid-tempo mode, singing ponderous, earnest lyrics set to a dull tune. That's my description of the song "Friendship". It does have a weird solo on harmonium (or something...), which is quite unusual for a Sterling disc, but that's as far as my interest goes. My guess is that there are others who will like both songs equally, or like this one better, or not like either of them. Such are the ways of song-poem love.

Download: Norman Burns and Singers - Friendship
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sammy's Tears

First up, here is yet another vintage song-poem ad. This one is from 1948. Unlike the others, this one has a clear and direct link to some of the music I've shared here. It's from Five Star Music Masters, which has its own AS/PMA page here, and which seems to have been either a predecessor to or otherwise intimately linked to the later (and fabulous) Sterling label, home of my all time favorite song-poem singer, Norm Burns. Amazingly, this company seems to have continued to operate (to some degree at least) well into the cassette era of the '90's.


Thanks, yet again, to Pete, for these wonderful ads!

And now, here's this week's feature!



It's everyone's favorite, weepy ol' Sammy Marshall, singing with his copyrighted pained voice on the country tinged "The Next Tear That Falls". This has some nice guitar, too buried in the mix for my taste, and a swinging beat that seems a bit too peppy for the lyric. As you can see, this appeared on the tiny Globe-related Pledge label, whose known output seems to have been limited to 1962-63.

Sing it, Singin' Sammy!

Download: Sammy Marshall - The Next Tear That Falls
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More weepage is featured on the flip side, the much more morose "Tears and Champagne". This has the requisite ugly (at times obnoxious) sax playing, small chorus singing many of the lines with Sammy, and the lead vocal mixed WAY TOO HIGH above the backing track. Enjoy!

Download: Sammy Marshall - Tears and Champagne
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Subject Rarely Heard About in Song-Poems, Plus, a Full Album!

I know posts have been sparse around here lately, due to other pressing matters in my life, as well as a vacation, so to make up for the lack of four posts a month for the past few months, today, I'm offering up an entire song-poem album. And not just one of those 10 song Film City jobs, but a 20 song, nearly one-hour-long album from the folks at Hollywood Artists! Like nearly all of their albums, this is titled "Music of America", and it is label number HAR-81 in that series, putting it nearer to the end of their run than the beginning.

The entire album is below, but I wanted to offer up a couple of choice items from the album, the choicest of which is this offering from singer Steve Day. I can see without doubt that I've never heard a song-poem written on this particular subject before, and I bet you haven't either. That's all I'll say. It's called "Dark Love":

Download: Steve Day - Dark Love
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Next up is a song from a favorite, and prolific, song-poem lyricist, whose name some of you might recognize, James Wilson, Jr. While this song "We Love the Kingdom", sung by Stephanie Allen, doesn't approach the award winning level of weirdness in the form of lyrical poetry that Mr. Wilson displayed in some of his greatest hits (such as "Isotopic-Spatial Series" and  "Liblanders Cahoot"), there are still some interesting turns of phrase here.

Download: Stephanie Allen - We Love the Kingdom
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And finally, the song that leads off the album, "Don't Leave Me, My Clara", spoken and sung by Carlton St. John. Mr. St. John chooses to talk many of the lyrics (I don't think this really qualifies as "rapping"), but when he does sing, you can tell why the choice was made to have him speak the rest of the words - the lyrics are aggressively unmusical in places, and the good folks at Hollywood Artists did a terrible job of trying to set them to a melody and beat. I'm particularly fond of the section that goes "although we're not married", with the accent on the last syllable of "married".

Download: Carlton St. John - Don't Leave Me, My Clara
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And here are both sides of the album, including the songs excerpted, above. A few people wrote to me some time ago about song-poem instrumentals, and I'm happy to say that there is one here, the second track on the A-side, titled "Sky Light". Titles for all of the songs can be seen in the scans of the labels, below.

Download: Hollywood Artists - Music of America (HAR-81), Side One
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Download: Hollywood Artists - Music of America (HAR-81), Side Two
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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Decaying Dick

First, here is another in the series of ads that correspondent Pete has generously contributed to this blog, this one from 1948, and again from the "Cinema Song Company". Get out your pen, paper and checkbook!


Today, it's our old friend Dick Kent, appearing on an early release from MSR records, with a lyric decrying the state of "This Decaying World" and showing some realy mastery, by singing lyrics which simply do not scan in any way with the music that they've been attached to (and certainly, some of them might not have scanned with any melodies). Sing, Dick!

Play: 


I can't work up anything worth saying about the somnambulist flip side, "My Dear Mary, besides "ecch".

Play: 


Monday, May 30, 2016

Freedom Boys

Howdy, everyone, 

As promised, here is yet another vintage song-poem ad, dug up, rescued and sent my way by a reader named Pete. This one is from 1948. THANKS!


 And now for something completely different:



I'm not going to blather on much about this week's feature. Suffice it to say that it is a Vietnam era Tin Pan Alley release, with some truly meaningful thoughts about those who have given their lives for freedom, mixed in with some equally misguided thoughts about the need for our soldiers to have been in Vietnam in the first place, all set to a plodding pace and a rote reading. I'll also throw in that, at nearly four minutes, it's unusually long for a song-poem.

Download: Mike Thomas - Freedom Boys
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On the flip side is a tremendously peppy number, titled "Too Young". I think the lyrics here are about wishing to pursue the girl of his dreams at age 17, but not having the will to do what he thinks it takes, although there's enough vagueness here that I realize I may be missing something.

Download: Mike Thomas - Too Young
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