Saturday, November 24, 2007

That's Rock and Roll



I think that sometimes I go on too long about the recordings I'm sharing here, so today, I'll just say that I'm offering up a classic by a lost father (or perhaps brother) of Rock and Roll, Mr. Barry Gordon, and his classic MGM release "Rock Around Mother Goose". Rock Me Another, Barry!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Drama Queen



I'll say right off the bat that today's selection is one which may have many listeners having the sort of negative response which may range anywhere from "no, that's not for me" to violently stopping the sound file with something approaching disgust. And I'll admit that the opening 19 seconds, which contain a dramatic recitative type introduction, are cringworthy, and I encourage you to wait them out and try the rest of the song.

There is simply something about a certain subset of teen girl records from the late '50's and early '60's that makes those records connect with me in a way few other records do. I've already shared the Merigail Moreland recording of "Oo-Lee, Papa", in this blog and elsewhere, and the masterful "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got)".

In this case, the song is "She's Going Steady with You", by Janie Grant, the B-side of a hit song from 1962 called "Triangle". While the A-side visits much the same topic within the same genre of music, the real winner is hiding on the flipside, and should have been the hit.

It helps that the song is, at times, taken almost directly from the song "A Fool Such as I", in terms of chords and melody, and that the overall feel is similar to Elvis' rendition of "Fool" (perhaps my favorite of Elvis' big hits). But there's something more to it, and for me, that's in the singer's performance.

There are at least as many teen girl songs in this genre that I can't stand, the worst of all perhaps being "Bobby's Girl", and that's where I have a hard time explaining what's wonderful and what's horrid. For me the difference tends to be in what I perceive in the performance.

In "Bobby's Girl" and its ilk, I don't sense for a moment that the singer or anyone else on the record believes the lyric - the singer sounds like she's there to do a job. On today's record and others I have shared and might share, I sense that the singer feels the lyric with every inch of her being, perhaps has even lived it, and I also find that the music sounds as if the musicians were trying to make a good record, rather than simply make something that 13 year olds might like for a month.

Have a listen, and let me know what you think:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guessing Game

I have no real clue how many folks are reading the these posts, but I wanted to involve as many people as possible by asking you to guess the recording act heard on this record. Comments are always welcome, and can be shared by clicking on the comment button at the bottom of any post.

Anyway:

The Golden Age of Novelty Records (roughly 1956 through the late 1960's) is, in my opinion, well named. There is a virtually endless list of funny, odd, and downright peculiar records from that era, hits, near hits and obscurities, that were made in order to deliberately make people laugh, become confused and/or collapse into bewilderment.

Certainly a favorite of mine from that era is Rolf Harris' "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". It was a massive hit, one of the bigger hits of any genre in 1963, and like most novelty records, would seem to be the type of thing that wouldn't really work well as a cover record or remake.

Novelty songs as different in style and quality as "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha", "Witch Doctor", "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" are all so unique, and uniquely tied in with their creators that to have made another version, particularly while the song was still a hit, seems ludicrous.

But here we have just such a cover version. I would never have expected this song to be covered, and I never would have expected this recording act to have done such a record. The charm of the original is completely lost in this overblown version, with it's sound effects, unnecessary additional shout outs, such as "in memoriam", and the sheer incompetence shown by the singing of the line "watch me wallaby's feed" as "watch me wallaby's feet".

Anyway, let's play guess who made the record. Here 'tis:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Frantic Pointlessness

I frequently buy used reel to reel tapes, if either the price is right, or the contents look intriguing, or both. I tend to come into possession of tapes quicker than I can find opportunities to listen to them, and so have a backlog of interesting listening at all times.

This week, I listened to a tape made by someone in the Washington, D.C. area, of various public radio programs, one of which was a featuring on early 20th century recordings of ragtime music. It was quite enjoyable, but the first several records simply did not prepare me for the wonders of this recording of a song called "Oh! You La! La!", by Wilbur Sweatman and his group of apparently tireless instrumentalists and perhaps overcaffeinated drummers.

There is more energy in this record than in anything else I can think of at the moment, particularly in the second half of the tune. I suspect that at least a few of these musicians had to lie down when they were done making this recording. I certainly would love to have had the opportunity to hear these fellows live!

(By the way, the host of the show, unfortunately, let the tune play before the turntable was up to speed, leading to the first notes bending upwards as the performance begins.)

Click on the link, and enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Who Knows This Melody?

It suddenly occured to me that maybe, someday, someone will drop by my humble blog abode, someone who knows the name of this melody.

The long story short here is that this unnamed tune was recorded at the tail end of the first reel of tape my family ever owned, a professional reel that otherwise contained studio outtakes by some of the big names of the early '50's. When the reel to reel tape recorder my father ordered in 1952, arrived, this reel was on the machine. I've written about it before, well over a year ago, in this blog.

My brother and I have identified the other five tracks and artists on the tape (even two instrumentals, which was a challange). But we are stumped as to the title of this short tune, which most certainly does not sound like a studio outtake by one of the big names of the early '50's! Does anyone out here recognize the melody?

Here 'tis:




The last note is gone, cut off by years of use.

There is actually more to this mystery than I've shared here, but I'll save that for another day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shame On the Man Who Tattooed Her!

TATTOOED LADY by Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees

I just got this record, which I REALLY wanted for quite a while now. I found part of it on a tape of a radio show several months ago, and it's been rattling around in my head ever since. I'm getting to like Rudy Vallee more and more, just about every time I hear another one of his early records.

There is much to love here, from the weird inflections he chooses at various points of the lyric, to the lyric itself, to the almost out of control little tag by the band after all but the first singing of the chorus. I love that 6th chord at the end, with the fifth-note wavering on top.

I'm usually more verbose about what I post, but I think in this case I'll just let you hear for yourself. Tell me what you think!



Incidentally, you may have heard the "laughing" version of "Tavern in the Town", but in case you haven't, maybe I'll put that up here, too some time. That's a record I've wanted to own for at least 35 years, and it's on the flip side of this one, complete with a joke label replacing the regular RCA label!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Merigail Circa 1980

As promised at both the 365 days project and in my previous post here, I am presenting a short tape sent to me by one of Merigail Moreland's relatives, featuring five songs she recorded around 1979 or 1980, when she was have been in her mid to late 30's. For me, her performances here lack the spark, verve and pure joy of life that radiates from the earlier recordings. In addition, I don't really find the songs or the backing arrangements to be very interesting (with a few exceptions). However, in order to complete the picture, to honor the requests made, and also because others may enjoy these as much as the earlier tracks, I am including these tracks here.

The best two songs, in my opinion, are versions of "Both Sides Now":



And "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You":



Also on the tape were versions of a song called "The Joker":



And a song previously recorded by Barbra Streisand, "Why Did I Choose You?":



The tape actually begins with this song, but as I find it the weakest, in recording quality, performance as well as a song, I've included it last. It is called "With Pen in Hand":




Perhaps there are yet more recordings to be heard, and if so, I'll be happy to share them here!

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Merigail

After my recent post, to the 365 project, of a bunch of Merigail Moreland material, there were several requests that I post the rest of what I own of this wonderful singer. I'm going to do this in two posts, each containing multiple tracks.

(By the way, perhaps this was known to everyone but me, but clicking on the word "divshare" allows you to go to the track itself and download it.)

First up are three tracks that I skipped in submitting to the 365 days project, because I was unsure that they actually are Merigail. However, the more I listen to them, the more convinced I am, due to the little flip in her voice near the end of two of these three tracks. These are, however, the least of the tracks I am offering up today, in terms of quality, and I would guess that they predate the "Reputation" tapes from 1953 by at least some months, if not more, based on the (lack of) quality of her singing.

First, she sings a song called "Why", a song her father appears to have been trying to turn into a hit (based on the number of versions of it that turn up on these tapes), presumably with her father, and perhaps the woman who joins in later is her mother:



Next, she sings the previously heard (at 365 days) "Mommy Daddy Bye Bye" with the same man:



Then she sings "Why", again, this time with an unidentified woman, probably the same woman as in the earlier version:



Next up is a third version of "Head Cheese", which I left out of the 365 days post because it seemed sort of redundant. This is from the same recording session as the second of the two versions posted to 365:



The main focus for today, however, is the other 1953 versions of Reputation, which I left out of my post because there were just so many of them. Here we have the first recorded version with the guitarist, who appears to be still learning his part:



Next up, another take, one which followed the "you were sharp" version that I've already shared:



Here is a tiniest fragment of a take, included for completests:



And here is a version actually recorded after the "final 1953 version", but apparently rejected in favor of the better version done just before this one:



After ten years, these recordings can still make me tear up more than just a bit. Her voice connects with me on some very basic level, the joy of a child combined, at times, with the abilities of a great singer in training. I love every minute of these tapes.

Tonights project is to digitize the circa 1980 tapes of Merigail which I was sent recently, and I hope to have those posted tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I Won't Always Love a Cake of Ice

Listening to a new 45 aquisition this evening with a friend, I was reminded of a somewhat similar 45 from the same era, a bubbly b-side obscurity from 1954 by the trio of Don, Dick and Jimmy, called "You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too".

There's a lot to like in this goofy little number. The close, perfectly executed harmonies, and the swingin' backing, especially as it really kicks in at the start of the second verse.

But I actually get the biggest kick, as is often the case, out of one of the smallest moments. Each time the three part harmony returns, during a verse, with the word "listen", there is something irresistable about the voice of the guy with the top harmony. He doesn't sound quite like this anywhere else in the song, either in vocal tone or the way he says the words, and it really catches my ear every time.

Quite a fun little record!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

You Know How Soft It Can Be

I may be virtually alone in this preference, but "The Ballad of John and Yoko" has been on my list of the best half-dozen Beatles songs for as long as I've been listening to the Beatles. At times, I've listed it as my favorite of the entire Beatles canon.

So how could I possibly fail to share with the assembled multitude this first rate cover version of this wonderful tune, performed, of course, by The Percy Faith Strings.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Who Was He?

Several years ago, I went through a short period of time during which I came across a bunch of Scandanavian related 45's and 78's that I really really liked. These were all dance records, in most cases made by American descendants or perhaps immigrants. My favorite of these, "The Norway Rhinelander" has already been posted here, well over a year ago.

But a close second would be a recording with a more roundabout story. At some point during that phase, I found a 45 with a curious title. It read "Johan Pa Snippen". That wasn't the curious part. The subtitle, presumably a translation, read "The Jazz Farmer". (That was the curious part.)

It was quite enjoyable, and I played it a bunch of times, put in o a mix tape, and moved on to whatever came next. Around that time, I came across an estate sale-sized batch of reel to reel tapes recorded by a reel/real pack-rat, someone who recorded just about anything and everything off the radio and kept detailed notes of every last recording, sometimes dozens of separate recordings on one reel.

I was listening to one of these, which featured the sound from about 10 minutes of a local Chicago TV show called "International Cafe". Coming out of applause for one performance, I heard a familiar melody, followed by some fairly hyperactive singing in Swedish. Near the end of the performance, I realized that it was "Johan Pa Snippen", and was rewarded for my close attention when the announcer indicated that I was correct.

As far as I can tell, he identifies the singer as "Siggy Furst", but I could be wrong on the spelling and prounouciation of both names. Regardless, this is a recording that I find completely infectious, more than 15 years after I first heard it. The energy in the singer's performance is wonderful, and, well, I love this sort of instrumental performance anyway.

Who was Siggy Furst? Darned if I know. What is he singing about? A Jazz Farmer? What is a Jazz Farmer? Anyone who can translate this is certainly more than welcome to offer up the translation!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HE'S CUT-UP GOOD!!!

Inspired by the recent posting, on my good friend Stu's blog, of one of his montages of sound, I thought I'd put up a few of my "Cut-Up" tapes. Stu's can be found at:

stuartshea.blogspot.com

It's sort of funny, but back when I had to do these "cut-ups" with the pause button on a cassette recorder (along with another cassette player, a record player and a reel to reel), I made these tapes all the time - hours of them. Since having access to computers and programs which might make this sort of thing easier, I've made about a dozen mash-ups and a total of two of these sorts of cut-ups.

Today, I'm putting up a link to one cut-up of Harry Belafonte's masterful "Jamaica Farewell", that I particularly like, and another one of "King of the Road" by Roger Miller, which is almost as good. I typically only sliced up records I really like, not having the stomach for learning to know records I don't like well enough to effectively cut them up. My style was the random word replacing the perfectly normal lyrics of the original song. Some of these inserts may be familiar to you, others are from private recordings in my collection.

Each of these reconfigurations of popular songs were done over 25 years ago. I hope you enjoy them.




Saturday, July 28, 2007

My New Favorite Record

I first heard this song about four months ago, and since then, it's sometimes seemed like it's the only thing I've been listening to ever since. It's called "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got?) and it's by Betty Jayne.


This is a song-poem record, as far as I can tell, but it's unlike just about any I've ever heard. The amount of arrangement and planning that must have gone into this record amazes me, as do a lot of other features of the recording.


Where to begin? The insane amount of echo? The sparse instrumentation, featuring a guitarist who clearly has spend hours on end listening to "Love is Strange"? The key change in the middle? The complex (for a song-poem) backing vocals, sometimes singing oohs and aahs, in three part harmony in spots, sometimes singing the lyrics to the song in harmony with the lead? The violin (!!) that pops out of nowhere to lead into the first bridge?


Those are all great. In fact, there's not a moment of this record that I don't adore, even after dozens of listens. But a few things stand out. First are the lyrics. I expected a song with this title to be a whine, or at least something of a pouty compaint. But instead, they contain an indignant challange, not just about the singer's qualities in comparison with the current girl, but also the good points of countless other girls over the current girl:


"Her hair is blonde, with natural curls, but so is mine, and a lot of other girls'"


In other words, 'this girl you're with, she's okay and all, but there are PLENTY of other girls you'd like better, not just me'.


(I know it's not a good thing that all of the comparisons made are with regard to looks and kissing ability, but such was the era...)


The writer was Edith Hopkins, who went on to establish her own song-poem label, using many of the best known (today) names in the field, and I have yet to hear one of her songs that hasn't been far above average for this genre. In fact, my guess is she wrote the words and music to her songs, and used the song-poem teams as hired help for her demos.


In this case, she got a perfect singer for the job, and that's perhaps the biggest reason I can't do without this record. Betty Jayne, whoever she was, sells this song like every word of it rings true to her. She's got me sold! If I was around, back then, and she was singing this to me, I'd probably think twice about her challange, and then another six or eight times. Her inflection for the line "Sugar Sweet and Pepper Hot" is unbelievably sexy.


Saving the best for last, there is a moment in this song that transcends just about everything else, where all of the above adds up to 15 seconds of music I never want to be without again. It's the first bridge, starting at about the 33 second point, with that violin mentioned above. The backing vocals kick in, just short of sounding out of control, Betty ups the challange with an irrisistable vocal, and the guitarist goes to town. I find this segment of music as intoxicating as anything I've ever heard.


Hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I do, and perhaps quite a bit more!