Monday, July 17, 2017

A Mid-Summer Treat - A Full MSR Album from 1971!

I thought I'd send out something extra special today, especially in light of the fact that I've been sharing more like three "song poems of the week" each month instead of four for most of the year.

So.... here's a FULL album from MSR, titled "New Songs for '71", featuring Dick Kent and the Lancelots on most of the tracks, and Bobbi Boyle (Bobbi Blake, I do believe) and the MSR singers on the remainder.

Just a few notes:
     - I believe that "Hot Pants and Leather Boots That Shine" has traveled the song-poem collector  circuit, although I'm not sure. I just know that I'd heard it before getting this album.
      - Even though that's the case, it is not, by far, in my estimation, the most interesting track here. The next to last song on side, for example, "Do Right", stood out to me for it's ridiculously simplistic sloganeering, and the final track on side one, "California City" is a marvel, in the way it seems to be wanting to tell a story, but simply repeats the same incomprehensible and pointless anecdote twice.
      - The most amazing track here, by far, is on side two, and is called "Forty Going North". I was actually inspired to get up and make sure I still had the same album on the turntable, so different was this from anything else on the album, and indeed, from anything else MSR was doing around this time. Truly an amazing track.

I have not separated out the tracks - they are linked here simply as side one and side two.


Download: Dick Kent and the Lancelots and Bobbi Boyle and the MSR Singers - New Songs for '71, Side One

Download: Dick Kent and the Lancelots and Bobbi Boyle and the MSR Singers - New Songs for '71, Side Two

Friday, July 07, 2017

First, I Will Serve My Country

Well, here we are, with a patriotic tune, appropriate for the week, just a few days late for Independence Day. And it's an early effort by Norm Burns and the folks at Sterling records, from that brief period when they were making a few wonderful, early-'60's sounding rock and roll records. The release comes just a few label numbers after the unimpeachable "Darling, Don't Put Your Hand On Me", which may well be my favorite song-poem record, and which you can hear here.

"Twenty-Three" isn't the equal to that masterpiece - and what is? - but it's a solid record in the same genre, clearly cut from the same cloth, with another unique Norm Burns vocal, and a lyric that tells its story effectively enough. Interesting enough, the lyricist here is female, but wrote a song from the point of view of a young man who has been drafted.

Download: Lew Tobin's Orchestra, Vocal, Norman Burns - Twenty-Three

On the flip side is a straightforward, sad ballad titled "Lost in Hopes of You". The singer's been gone for awhile, and has learned that, in his absence,  his sweetheart has found another. Since this has the same lyricist as "Twenty-Three", it seems at least possible that writer Mary Genco saw this song as being from the perspective of the same person who was portrayed on the flip side, a few months later.

Download: Lew Tobin's Orchestra, Vocal, Norman Burns - Lost in Hopes of You

Friday, June 30, 2017

My Heart Has a Flat

I love many of the 1960's Preview label releases. But as the early '70's move into the mid '70's, I tend to find fewer and fewer of the recordings on this label to be of interest, as more and more of them feel like poorly arranged, tossed off, forgettable nothings.

So I didn't have a lot of hope for this record, which seems to date from around 1974. But I was pleasantly surprised - delighted, actually, to find a funny, pun-filled record. "A Check Up With Love" is certainly not the first - or even close to the best - record to use car metaphors to describe a relationship, but it's a well done example of that concept, with several genuinely unusual, dryly humorous lyrics (although someone should have told the song-poets that no one has ever called it a "window-shield".

Gene Marshall does a solid job singing it, although it's not up to his standards. He was probably sight reading (as was usually the case) and he sounds a bit unsure here and there, tripping over the unexpected turns of phrase (I do love the little "yeh" at 1:33). The band sounds good, particular the excellent drumming.

Download: Gene Marshall - A Check Up With Love

On the flip side, a more typical recording of the era, built around the phrase "Why Waste Time, Time Does Not Waste On Us", a trite thought which somehow puts me in the Yakov Smirnoff. The song is heard in a suitably blandly professional performance.

Download: Gene Marshall - Time Does Not Waste On Us

Friday, June 23, 2017

My Minutes with Demento

In July of 1975, I was a month beyond my 15th birthday. I was hooked on buying all things Beatles, watching (and recording) episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus every Sunday night on our local PBS station, and cutting a bunch of lawns for money.

Over the course of a few weeks, I heard from two different friends about a radio show they knew I'd love, The Dr. Demento show, heard Sunday nights over WSDM, 97.9 (SDM = "Smack Dab in the Middle" of your dial). On July 20th, I gave it a listen.

I was hooked from the very first song, "The Q5 Piano Tune" by Spike Milligan, an amazing feat of nonsense wrapped up in a hooky, noisy and extremely well produced package (not surprising, as it was produced by George Martin). As the show went on, I heard several more excellent records that I'd had no idea existed, in styles and genres I barely had known about, as well as a few that I'd grown up knowing, such as "Three Little Fishies" and "The Purple People Eater".

I was getting very into this new show, but then, near the end of the episode, came "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" by Charlie Drake, and I was over the moon. The record is a masterpiece of production (and, again, by George Martin!), has funny lyrics, great harmonies and an absolutely indelible tune. I have no doubt it was the record I listened to the most over the next two or three months, and remains one of my very favorite records.

For that treat alone, I made sure to listen the next week, and the next, and the next, in the hope of hearing something else that I would love. I was usually rewarded with something else wonderful. I was hooked on Dr. Demento's show. And like most things I fall headlong into, I have continued to be into Dr. Demento, full bore, ever since. His show changed stations a few times in those early years, but it eventually landed on WLUP (curiously, the station which took over the frequency of WSDM), and stayed there for more than 30 years, before the show itself moved to an online-only presence.

Over the course of those years, I recorded nearly every episode on reel to reel, copying onto cassette tape after cassette tape all of the material that I loved, and there was far too much of that loved material to mention here, although I will point out that his show was the source of my introduction to Thurl Ravenscroft, whose career I celebrated here.

Being a major record collector myself, Dr. Demento (AKA Barry Hansen) became a hero to me, for his collection, his knowledge and his desire to/excellent ability at sharing his collection with the world.

I even got a song on his show. After I completed a self-produced, privately distributed cassette tape of funny songs, I sent off a copy of a few of them to the good Doctor, and was rewarded a few months later when my song "Bad TV Acting" (a parody of "Sweet Soul Music") got a spin on the show (later, the entire cassette album was posted online, here).

Flash forward a few more years, and an episode of the show was done which paid tribute to Elvis, 25 years after his death. I wrote a very favorable post about it in the Dr. Demento Usenet Newsgroup (remember those), and someone in his camp forwarded it to Dr. Demento himself. Thus began an occasional correspondence between us. This was more than I would ever have dreamed of, but over the last couple of years the correspondence has became more frequent, starting with my making suggestions for the show, and offering up items from my own collection. Soon, he and I were going off on tangents and writing to each other about our lives, our collecting, etc.

Hearing that Dr. Demento and I would someday become friends would have probably put the 16 year old, or 26 year old me into shock. And yet, that's what had happened. I had, by this point, started recording my own material again, and I began sending some of these songs to him, as well. Since early last year, he's played four of these, and has featured several additional items from my collection, several of them song-poems.

When I learned last fall that Dr. Demento would be appearing live in a theatre about an hour from my home, around Halloween, I quickly bought a ticket, and inquired with him whether he thought there'd be a chance for us to meet before the show. The answer was yes, and so, last October, prior to what was a wonderful presentation, I got to spend about 20 minutes with the Good Doctor, in the theatre's "green room".

What did we talk about? Lots of things, including, of course, being a collector and ways of having a collection. But does it really matter? Someone I considered a hero, someone who built an amazing career out of something I've done as a life-long hobby, is now a friend. And we had a really nice conversation, and that's what matters. Since then, our conversation continued, via e-mail. So have my submissions of records from my collection for the show: Just last week, he played "The 23rd Channel", a ridiculous Noval label song-poem, during a segment on television.

Thank you, Dr. Demento - Barry Hansen - for more than 40 years of entertainment, for the myriad beloved songs and other recordings you've introduced me to, and for welcoming me into friendship with you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An All Time Favorite

Today is my 57th birthday, although I prefer to look at it as being 19 for the third time. Regardless of all that, I'm going to give a gift to you - a record which I've owned for a long time as part of a shared tape exchanged from long, long ago, but only acquired on vinyl in the last few days. And it is, as indicated in the title, an all-time favorite of mine. I was actually amazed (in searching, prior to making this post) that it never seems to have been shared by anyone before.

It's Rodd Keith, in his Rod Rogers mode, in a recording clearly made at the Film City song-poem factory, but released by a vanity label run by Roy "Curly" Rivers and Evelyn Sheets, who wrote songs together, and who combined their last names to form the Shevers label.

What's so special about this one? Well, there are several records made by Rodd Keith in a country vein wherein he sounds like he's less than serious about the genre, and seems to have his tongue in his cheek to varying degrees. For this song, however - the aptly named "Poverty" - his complete contempt for the material and the style fairly drips off of the grooves. The addition of a few added sounds tied into the lyrics is a nice touch. (The awful edit at 1:01, on the other hand, might be another indication of the level of seriousness with which he took this particular recording.)

Perhaps his intentions wouldn't be as clear if we didn't have Rodd's other records to compare this to - if all we knew was that this record sounded if it was made by an idiotic backwoods hick. But we know what he could do when he was serious, or even doing something lighthearted that he respected. This is just a complete deconstruction of a genre.

The couple behind the scenes at Shevers seem to have not been bothered by this - or perhaps it's what they asked for - as this is actually a single lifted from an entire album of songs that they commissioned, one which goes for a whole bunch of dollars, on the rare occasions that it turns up for auction.


Download: Rod Rogers - Poverty

On the flip side - and also from the "Singing in the Country" album, is a much more typical Rodd Keith Film City era record, titled "Luella". This track has a swinging Chamberlin track, with some creative soloing and voicing choices. The song has an interesting lyric, and Rodd sounds fully engaged with this one, with good reason, I'd say.

Download: Rod Rogers - Luella

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Don't Make Love On a Merry-Go-Round!

Before getting to this week's offering, I want to write about a new project, a massive undertaking being made by a wonderful (and not at all obscure) person who has been my closest friend for what is now approaching 40 years, Stu Shea. Stu is also a frequent commenter here, and I've already commented on several of his new posts.
Stu is now featuring "A Song a Day" on his site, and not just the song, but typically, extensive background information, thoughts on the performer and song, and other information. In over a month of posts, he's featured music from a wide variety of time periods, genres and performers. It's already an impressive project, and it can be found here. I'll also link to it on the right.

Air Records doesn't seem to have been in the business of creating song-poem recordings, as least as far as I can tell. Instead, by some process and for some reason, they released the work of various song-poem factories, and as often as not, more than one production house would be represented on a single 45 or EP. In the case of today's feature, we have three songs from the Globe factory, two of which feature Sammy Marshall under one of his slightly adjusted names, as well as a very nice entry, from the almost always very nice Lee Hudson outfit.

First up is a song which will be of interest, if it's not already known, to the Vietnam War Song Project, as it's "A Soldier's Prayer" by "Sonny Marshall". This is a particularly treacle-laden number, complete with a lengthy spoken word section in which the soldier speaks directly to God.

A side note - I always look to see if the songs I'm considering have been posted anywhere before, in the hopes to avoid duplicating someone else's work (last week notwithstanding). The only reference I found to this record was in a book about "Music of the Vietnam War", in which the author dedicates a paragraph to the song, not knowing it was a song-poem (or, most likely, what a song-poem is), and expressing a certain level of confusion as to the type of songs which were paired on the EP, with this deeply religious, serious song. That page can be found here.

Download: Sonny Marshall: A Soldier's Prayer

My favorite of the four tracks also comes from the Globe stable, with label stalwart (who I have not featured here before) Joan Auborn, with the bouncy and silly "Dizzy Love" from which comes the title of this post. The typically, fairly sterile Globe band backing doesn't do the material any favors, but the sweet, lighthearted lyrics, and especially the warm lead vocal make up for the lack of energy by the band.

Download: Joan Auborn - Dizzy Love

Flipping the record over, we're again greeted with Sammy/Sonny Marshall, and an even more canned sounding track backing him up on the song "Talk, Talk, Talk". The way that the folks at Globe fit that title into a rapid-fire melody didn't do the lyrics, or Sammy/Sonny any favors - it's remarkably clumsy sounding. And this is a remarkably bouncy setting for a song in which the singer complains that no one likes him, that everyone talks crap about him, and, based on one set of lyrics, he's apparently about to die.

Download: Sonny Marshall: Talk, Talk, Talk

Finally, we have the track submitted by the great Lee Hudson company, featuring his standard male singers, Jeff Reynolds on the song "My Valentine". It has elements of the features which make many of the Hudson records stand out from the typical song-poem release, but doesn't have as much varied instrumentation or energy as most of the company's best work.

Download: Jeff Reynolds - My Valentine

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Hard Sell

I have always tried to avoid posting records which have also been posted on other blogs or elsewhere, but today, I'm making an exception, first because this is such an extraordinary one-sided record (a copy of which I only recently obtained - and I couldn't be more pleased!) and second, because the download at the only other posting is no longer available, due to the same divshare meltdown that too most of my earlier posts. The poster was Darryl Bullock, he of the masterful "World's Worst Records" blog, which is linked, to the right, and the post in question, which you can find here, has far more detail than I could hope to have put together. The post is there, the track is not.

For those who didn't just click on that link, this is a holy grail for lovers of the Halmark label. For here we have the sales pitch, complete with a performance by Bob Storm over what may well be a canned backing track, for the lugubrious product that Ted Rosen at Halmark. The sales pitch is remarkable in its ridiculousness, and goes a long way to explaining how anyone would have been satisfied in the typical overwrought, often unbearably unctuous performances that came out of Halmark - they were submitted by people who thought this record was good.

Download: Bob Storm - In That Mood Again (with Sales Pitch)

And I really encourage you to read the much more detailed and researched post by Darryl Bullock, linked above.

And hey, look - the owner really loved and played this record - it's got one of those plastic doo-hickeys in it to fit it to the spindle!:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hall Last Night

I have very recently picked up two records - the first two in my collection - by song-poem singer Joe Hall. His name dominates the earliest known releases on the Sterling label - a favorite of mine - and then disappears, never to appear again, around the time that Norm Burns shows up, with barely a dozen known releases to his name. So I thought I'd share this previously rather unknown warbler with all of you. To me, he sounds more than a bit like the latter day Film City singer, Jimmie Jones.
But there I go, burying the lead, all for the chance to put a joking reference in the title of my post. Because the real news here is that we have yet another "song-poet" who made minor changes to an existing song, and presented the results as his own. Granted, this is not the wholesale theft of "Nobody's Child", which was submitted to a song-poem company without one word changed, or even "Watching Scotty Grow", which was submitted to another company with the name of the child changed. (Those examples will be able to be found elsewhere in this blog if I ever find the time to fix the older posts.)
Because there are lyrical changes here. But a simple reading of the words to "Old Black Joe", and a listen to Floyd Davis' "Old Miner Joe" will show those changes to be largely cosmetic. I really have to wonder if Mr. Davis proudly played this record for his friends and said "listen to the song I wrote!", and if so, if anyone pointed out that Stephen Foster wrote nearly the same song more than a century earlier.
Have a listen!
The flip side, featuring the truly unwieldy title "In the Garden of Home Sweet Home", is as clunky a song as its title suggests it will be. Not much here to make the song entertaining...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kitchen Table Boogie

Howdy, everyone!

Well, problems getting Opendrive to accept my uploads, and some truly busy job and home requirements have  left me nearly a week behind. Hopefully, today's offering makes up for the delay.

As I've documented several times, Prior to mid-1972, the Cinema label's releases (always labeled as having been performed by "The Real Pros") usually featured a  one-man-band operation, and then, during 1972, the label slowly transitioned over to the MSR gang (which would soon take over the label's product almost entirely).  And I've also probably made it clear that my tastes run to the former over the latter by a wide margin. So it is that I have another one of those early Cinema releases today, albeit one with a significant difference from the others I've shared.

On the side of the record featuring the remarkable and ridiculous "Kitchen Table Boogie", we have the early Cinema label vocalist I've come to know and love, and he's got a doozy for us. Here we have another lyricist who seemingly grabbed any word that rhymed with the end of the previous line, then created a line that could end with that rhyming word. Man, Combine that with a wah-wah styled keyboard setting, a swinging beat, and some wild soloing at the end, and it's a complete packing. In Fact, That's Country Style!

Download: The Real Pros - Kitchen Table Boogie

The difference comes up with the rather bland flip side, a song with the clunky title "Wondering Memories". Here we still have the same home-organ console, played very likely by the same person who is on most or all of the other Real Pros records from this period. But the singer in this case is a woman, a vocalist I don't recognize, and who does not have much vocal personality (or talent). Perhaps I've heard others from this label/era with this or another female vocalist (perhaps I've even shared one), but if so, I don't remember it. The song is very forgettable, the only thing that stands out me being this exceptionally poorly written couplet: "More Heartbreak Could Be Fatal / Especially For Me".

Download: The Real Pros - Wondering Memories

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mary Maddox' Greatest Hit

Here's a neat record from our friends at the Preview label, featuring a singer who is not documented to have been credited on any other song-poem record, on Preview or any other label. She is listed as Mary Maddox. I am absolutely not the expert in the voices of the female singers from the Preview/MSR/Cinema world, so perhaps this voice is quite recognizable to some of you, but I certainly don't recognize her.

The song is called "So I Can Hold You", and the Preview band do a nice job, turning in a jangly, atmospheric mid-'60's pop hit sound. Ms. Maddox has the most vibrato this side of Ronnie Spector, and there is a nice pleading quality to her voice. All in all, it's a winner in my book.

Download: Mary Maddox - So I Can Hold You

On the flip side is, unless I'm very much mistaken, the singer most commonly billed as Dick Kent (although, like Gene Marshall, he showed up under many other names). There are little more than a dozen records on Preview by "Freddie Flagg", and as this is the only one of them I own, I don't know if that name always meant Dick Kent was the singer. Before I got this record, I didn't realize he'd recorded for Preview at all.

The song is "The Church Bells Ring", and no one involved appears to have been very inspired by the prosaic lyrics, to turn in anything but an equally workmanlike performance.

Download: Freddie Flagg (Dick Kent) - The Church Bells Ring

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Now They Think That He Is Stupid

I am amazed to find out that, in the long history of this project, only once have I featured the aggressive incompetence known as Billy Grey. I've always loved the statement made about Billy Grey on the American Song-Poem Music Archives Website, which was: One can only conclude, upon listening to his unique treatments, that he was hired strictly to make fun of the customers' lyrics.

In the case of the first song shared today, Billy Grey is paired with a lyricist of similarly limited talent, who submitted a poem containing the key line "They Don't Call It Love Any More", but which the author for some reason thought would work better under the confusing title "Love Any More".

This has all the hallmarks, to my ear, of someone who wanted to use a line (or a word), then tried to think up something which rhymed, and forced that other word into the rhyming line, regardless of its musicality or other appropriateness. Thus we get lines such as the one with which I titled this post, and, even more memorably:

Don't cha think it sounds pathetic
When they say it's genetic

This is, of course, an excellent way to write songs. I believe it was the first thing Cole Porter suggested, when he was asked.

Seriously, I have no idea what the above couplet means, nor do I understand the point the entire lyric is trying to make. Who stopped calling it love? And what do they call it now?

The band's performance is also worth the price of admission. The drummer's showy fills suggest that he thought he was in another, perhaps better, recording session.

All in all, a rewarding concoction.

Download: Billy Grey - Love Any More

The b-side of this effort is "Foggy Morning", a sad, mournful tale of how everything was peachy yesterday, but today, she has not only stopped loving him, but has left him entirely. There's not much here for me to comment on - this is like at least 80% of the song-poems I listen to - bad, perhaps even incompetently so, but not entertainingly so, at least not to me.

Download: Billy Grey - Foggy Morning

Monday, April 10, 2017

If It's Circle D, It's Good!

The "Circle 'D'" label, out of Speedwell, Tennessee, seems to have been a teeny-tiny project. And based on the one site I can find that has captured some information on the label, found here, it's connection to the song-poem world seems quite tenuous. The other known releases on the label are largely religious in nature, and the one other label scan found does not feature the same song-writers as are seen on this record (a hallmark of these teeny labels is that often, all songs on the label are written by the same person or people).
However, at some point in the mid 1960's, someone named Ruth Ellen White teamed up with two different co-writers (and perhaps composers) to put together songs, and then bought the talents of two very disparate song-poem outfits, Sandy Stanton's Film City factory and the gigantic Globe song-poem operation. Remarkably, they produced records which - despite completely different instrumentation and singers, have the same tempo, general (rolling) beat and key.
From Film City, we have chief label star, and one-man-band, Rodd Keith (as Rod Rogers, of course), with a lovely midtempo ditty titled "Out Where the Coyotes Howl". This is not one of Rodd's greatest vocals or Chamberlin efforts, but the thick production has some appeal to me, as do the howls that he helpfully added to the mix.
On the flip side, we have Sammy Marshall, or Sonny Marcell, to be specific. True to its title, "Strumming the Old Guitar" is accompanied by guitar, although it does precious little strumming, and a lot more picking, behind a fairly dreary song.
But wait, maybe it's better than I think it is, because, as the label says, "If Its (sic) Circle D Its (sic) Good"