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"

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The New Sensation for 68?

Today, we have a record from near the very end of Sandy Stanton's Film City empire. Label numbers for Film City's known releases barely extend another 100 numbers beyond this one's #4032 A/B.
And what an A-side! Over a bouncy Chamberlin track (very likely a Rodd Keith  production, based on its quality), Patty Stanton sings a ridiculous little song called "Beer Can Drag", the wonders of which I'll let you discover on your own, aside from calling your attention to the way Patty manages to pull three syllables out of the word "suppress" (which is such a musical, lyric-worthy word to begin with).
As fun and contagious as that song and performance are, the song poet for the b-side, "Love Me Darling", saw greatness in the future of that song, rather than "Beer Can Drag", going so far as to inscribe the 45 sleeve with the following question and request:
One listen to "Love Me Darling", however, strongly indicates that such a thought was somewhere between wishful thinking and delusion, as "Love Me Darling", sung by Jim Wheeler, is a terrible song, with a melody that would be a challenge for anyone to remember or follow, let alone sing along with. The tune meanders here and there, and there's a stultifying instrumental break, and in a more general sense, the backing and the vocal are turgid.  
My first thought was that the writers of "Love Me Darling" should have heard the flip side and said "well, that's a much better song and performance - why didn't they work that hard on our song?" However, a peek at the label shows that the team that wrote "Love Me Darling", also wrote "Beer Can Drag". Not that either of these songs would have been a "new sensation" in 1968 or any other year, but still...the logical assumption is that they thought "Love Me Darling" was the better, and more commercial of the pairing. Uh, no.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Mooned by Tin Pan Alley

If you've paid attention at all to the song-poems of the late '60's and early '70's, you'll know that one of the common themes that crops up over and over again is Astronauts. Today, I have for you perhaps the weirdest, most ridiculous of these entries, a song simply titled "Moon", and sung by the aggressively terrible singer Eleanor Shaw.

I know that many song-poem records were done, literally, as sight-reading jobs, but to do so, the labels really needed to get people who were competent (or better) at sight reading. And if Eleanor wasn't sight reading, she's even worse than I thought, given her performance about 25 seconds into this 92 second treat.

And what, exactly, is the song about? Clearly, there's a reference to Neil Armstrong, and some other moon-related thoughts, but I'm not really picking up on a story here, or even a coherent line of thought. Perhaps Ms. Shaw's vocals are just that distracting, that I can't concentrate closely enough on what she's saying.

Regardless, I think this one is an all time winner in the so-bad-it's-great school of song-poems, an area in which Tin Pan Alley, during this era, really went above and beyond.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: Moon

The flip side, "Summer Night (Soirs D'ete), does not enchant me much at all. Indeed, it seems to go on forever and ever, although it's actually barely a minute longer than its astonishing flip side. The supper-club style backing band is shown up throughout by their lead guitar player, who seems to have 85% of all the talent involved in both sides of the record. And yet even the band is considerably better than their singer.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: Summer Night (Soirs D'ete)

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Road of Destruction

Hi there!

I don't know what it was about the Sterling label - maybe it was something about the magazines they advertised in, as it seems to have been for Halmark, whose lyricists had the same tendencies - but they got more than their share of high-falutin', cosmically complex and faux-deep-though-laden lyrics at their doorstep. "The Human Breakdown of Absurdity" is the best example, but there are plenty of others.

Today's example is "The Road of Destruction", performed for us by Norm Burns in his usual, outstanding manner, accompanied sympathetically by the Five Stars. This certainly isn't on the same level as "Absurdity", but in this case, some standard-issue verses about bad things that happen are tied together with a chorus which seems to want to be in another, quite different song, one which seems to suggest there's a moral to his story (ethical and/or religious). However, that moral turns out to be nothing more than "don't drive fast", which, among other things, doesn't really track with the instruction not to "die on sea".

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: The Road of Destruction

On the flip side, we have the opposite - bland, standard issue lyrics, almost at a greeting card level, all about "Mama", and sung and played with a degree of sincerity that veers on self-parody.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Mama

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Do It Yourself Song Poem

Hi, everyone,

First, I'd like to ask if anyone is having trouble getting the files. I am having no end of problems with Opendrive, but only at my home computer, which I suspect makes it a computer issue (although it is literally the only website with which I'm having problems, and on multiple browsers, which is weird). I just want a bit of feedback as to whether there are any issues at your respective ends. Thanks in advance!

Today, something a bit different. This is a guest post from frequent commenter, and great friend of the blog (and online friend of mine) Timmy. Rather than offer up my comments, I'll just let him speak for himself.

I never really gave it much thought, but I have two songs that I wrote the lyrics only for, which are in all factuality SONG POEMS. Now, I didn't send these gems into a "song-poem" factory, like the folks did who you document, I went in a somewhat different direction.
Here is the story of these songs...

West Los Angeles, California; Early or mid 1970's - - - I wrote these two songs, lyrics only. With no intent to do anything further with them, stashed them in a folder & a few years later decided that I wanted to get them put to music. I called up an old ex-classmate of mine form school, Severo, because he was now becoming a somewhat well-known local musician on the scene in Hollywood and asked him if he would be willing to help put music to these songs of mine. He agreed. He would play the music but wasn't sure he would be the best choice for composing the music. Also, he said he couldn't sing good enough, as nor could I. So then, I posted a notice on a bulletin board at a "Orange Julius" stand in West Hollywood, where people would do such things, back then, to meet people for a variety of reasons. It was easy as pie. A few days later I was contacted by a guy named Hiroshi Kigori, who was willing to work cheap & compose for us. Then, I got another answer from a dude who said he would sing (cannot remember his name). Right about this time I had purchased a brand new Dokorder R_R tape deck, on which we taped what happened next.
We all got together one Saturday, in my little bachelor apt. in Culver City & got the job done. I was the recording engineer. Everybody gave it a few rehearsals. Hiroshi played keyboards. Severo overdubbed bass lines on top of his lead guitar. (Severo is none other than Severo Jornacion, the famed "Thrilla From Manilla" who later went on to join the great band The Smithereens in the late 90's, becoming their second bass player & still with them to this day).
I looked for the original hand written lyrics in my files, but cannot find them. However, I did find about a hundred other such songs I had long forgotten about. What to do, what to do...
Hope you enjoy ~