Monday, April 16, 2018
I have a rather unusual release for you today, unusual for a few different reasons.
The record was released on the Inner-Glo label, a label which existed primarily for the purpose of housing songs written by Edith Hopkins. Edith Hopkins may be my favorite writer from the song-poem world, having written more than a half-dozen songs that I really love.
At some point, Ms. Hopkins may a go of it as an actual, prospective writer of hit songs, and a few non-song-poem (although not successful) artists recorded her work on the Carellen label, which seems to (maybe) have been a legit/song-poem hybrid.
At some point, however, she moved on to her own Inner-Glo label. And many, if not most, of the records I've heard and seen on Inner-Glo came from the Globe song-poem factory, with such stalwarts as Sammy Marshall and Kris Arden. And they tend to sound very much like Globe releases, even when they are far above average, as with Sammy's great double-A side "I'll Do It For You" / "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained".
The story behind today's record, though, is not so clear, and I find it kind of fascinating. First, there is the artist credit, to "David, Paul and Carof". I've done some searches just now, and I can't find any reference to "Carof" being a first name. It also appears that this record (from 1964) is the only one ever released bearing this artist credit.
And on top of that, the song's genre is one rarely heard on song-poem records - folk music, very much in the relatively simple vein of Peter, Paul and Mary or the Kingston Trio (although not in the wheelhouse of the more adept and musically excellent groups such as The Weavers, The Limeliters or The Chad Mitchell Trio). I can barely think of another song-poem that sounds quite like this.
The song on this side is by far the better of the two, to my ears, "The Love of a Woman" (although I wish they'd bothered to get all the instruments in tune with each other), and yes, the record really does end like that.
Download: David, Paul and Carof - The Love of a Woman
The flip side is the more musically complex "A Rose Can't Grow", but it's also quite a bit more ponderous, and is the sort of thing that often tries my patience, despite my being a huge fan of the music of the folk revival of this era. It sounds to me like the vocal gymnastics required by the arrangement are a bit beyond these guys.
Download: David, Paul and Carof - A Rose Can't Grow
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
As I've written before, posting songs from the Fable Label poses an interesting dilemma. Most of the songs on the label were probably not song-poems, but a good percentage of them seem to have been vanity releases. And when a likely vanity release is sung by someone other than the song-writer, that seems like at the very least a hybrid vanity/song-poem release.
Such is the case - and I'm guessing here - with today's feature. Lysle Tomerlin had several songs released on Fable, and wrote at least one South-Pacific-Themed song which was recorded and released by an established artist. Aside from that song, though, everything seems to have been on Fable, making me suspect these as vanity records.
Today's 45 - from 1955 - features two Western Swing flavored numbers, featuring a singer identified as "Little Jeannie Greer". She does sound young, although not necessarily like a child. Perhaps she was a teen, or perhaps she was short in stature. I find her singing a bit on the amateur side, but very engaging and sweet, and the backing is just lovely. Here's one side of the single, "Slyly":
Download: Little Jeannie Greer - Slyly
The flip side has the unwieldy title of "Who, What Where, When, How and Why". That title comes out sounding just as clunky and difficult to sing as you'd imagine, and the song is not as well put together as is "Slyly". But the performance is nearly as fun, cute and memorable as the one on the flip side:
Download: Little Jeannie Greer - Who, What Where, When, How and Why
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Today, we have a 1964 single on the tiny Caveman label, featuring two singers I've never featured before. in fact, I've never owned records by them before, and they barely turn up among the documented song-poem releases. First up, and just in time for Easter, is Drake Morgan with "The Christ Story". The most curious thing about this song, to me, is that lyricist Ned Williams (who wrote the words for both sides of this record) seemingly had no issue with lifting the words directly out of the hit song "The Three Bells", and nonsensically suggesting that they were spoken by The Three Wise Men (that'd be a good trick, since those lyrics reference The Lord's Prayer, which wasn't spoken by Jesus until adulthood, to say nothing of the fact that they also refer to the singers of those words as being a "congregation").
The rest of the song is a sort of "The Gospels' Greatest Hits"; quick summaries of a few high points, captured in fairly clunky verse, at least when set to this particular music. One wonders (well I wonder) if the writer of this lyric was of the fundamentalist persuasion, and if so, if he objected to the song's release on a label named after Cavemen, something that such a person would presumably believe never existed.
Download: Drake Morgan - The Christ Story
More fun by far is the flip side, "The Drifter", subtitled "(Western Opera)" and warbled for us by Monty Mathis (perhaps Johnny's less successful brother?). I actually find this one fairly catchy, perhaps because it is, at certain moments, very reminiscent of a very memorable song, "The Last Round-Up", which was originally a hit in 1933. Anyway, this bounces along with a warm, well played western-type backing track, and Monty does what's needed. The lyrics are engaging and the melody sells itself, too. I dig it.
Download: Monty Mathis - The Drifter (Western Opera)
Monday, March 26, 2018
Today, a very special number from our friends at Air Records. Air seems to have been a community war-horse for the song-poem factories. I don't really understand how this worked, but material from multiple companies - including at least four or five of the large ones - ended up being released on Air, as often as not with two different companies' product showing up on the two sides of the single.
On one side of this record, we have Rodd Keith, not just in his Film City guise as Rod Rogers, but in this case as "Rockin' Rod Rogers", which sounds much more exciting. And a lovely example of his work it is, too. The sad saga about Rod's lost love, "Big Jo", lopes along over a thick Chamberlin arrangement, complete with a sweet, if simple, solo.
On the flip side is a song by Nancy Sherman. She pops up here and there on about a half-dozen song-poem singles, all on the smaller labels, aside from Air. I featured her once before, on a much better track than this one. This track "I Believe You", sounds like it might have come from the Globe song-poem factory, but I'm really not sure. It's fairly non-descript, except for the bridges, where it briefly crosses over into torch song territory.
Download: Nancy Sherman - I Believe You
Saturday, March 17, 2018
I first want to thank Sammy Reed for calling my attention to the fact that sometimes, if you click on comments, or post a comment or next page, a spam ad is popping up in a new screen. I was unaware of this, and it seems to be a new problem. I tried three browsers, and it only happened to me when using Internet Explorer.
I apologize for this, but don't know what has changed or how to fix it. If anyone has a suggestion, I'll be happy to hear it and try it.
Can it really be four years (almost to the week!) since I've featured Gary Roberts. I guess it's because I just don't have that many of his records, because those I do have are almost uniformly ridiculous (in myriad ways) to be featured here.
Today we have a poem praising the idea of brotherhood, and suggesting the practice of believe in brotherhood far and wide. The song-poet makes a few key errors in writing a song about brotherhood, starting with the use of snark - as in the line quoted at the top of this post "I"m as good as you think you are" - which is not likely to encourage an outpouring of understanding. That pales in comparison, however, with the big payoff to the chorus, where it becomes clear that we should also treat each others as brothers and as equal, as long as everyone involved is.... Christian. That strikes me as a wee bit hypocritical.
Download: Gary Roberts - Brotherhood
For the flip side, the awkwardly titled "It's Because I Love Just You", the folks at Sterling made a perfect choice. Since the lyrics are so derivative and unimaginative, why not pair them with an unoriginal setting. Hence, they took the chords, tempo and nearly the melody from "Gentle On My Mind" for the first half of each verse, and then changed the rest, perhaps hoping not to get sued.
Download: Gary Roberts - It's Because I Love Just You
Friday, March 09, 2018
Okay, so I'm not going to claim any greatness for today's record, but it is historically important for those of us in song-poem fandom (and I'm definitely in that number) who are fascinated by the story of Singing Jimmy Drake, AKA Nervous Norvus.
And here we have a Jimmy Drake record which is mentioned on the AS/PMA website, but which has not been previously heard by the song-poem faithful. As explained at that site, this record was referenced in an ad, hence its inclusion on (and the very existence of) the Claudra Records page. That it is a song-poem record (since Drake made non-song-poem records as well) was only confirmed by the presence of Roger Smith on the flip side.
So here's the record, "Gambling Fury", in all it's low-fi glory. This record is beat to hell. It sounds like maybe it skips right into the start of the record, but I've tried playing it on a couple of turntables, and manipulating the needle, etc. It seems like it really does start the way that you'll hear it here. There is a skip a few moments later, which I have tried to correct, without success. If I succeed later, I will update the file.
Download: Singing Jimmy Drake - Gambling Fury
As mentioned, the flip side features Roger Smith. And, for the very first time, I am underwhelmed by a Roger Smith performance. The song, "Golden Yellow Moon" (which seems a redundant phrase to me, by the way) doesn't help. It's pretty uninspired ("Every year has June, that's just for a while" - really?), and the midtempo, vaguely western setting is equally bland - the sax solo seems totally out of place, too. I much prefer my Roger Smith singing in an unhinged fashion, over careening music.
Download: Roger Smith - Golden Yellow Moon
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
First, I want to thank stalwart reader and frequent offer of comments Sammy Reed, who made sure to alert me to a sale for a well known song-poem earlier today. I actually saw it before I saw his note, and gobbled it up, but I am much appreciative. Speaking of Sammy, he has moved his "Music from the World of the Strange and Bizarre" to a new address. I have changed the link (to the right and down a bit). There's not much there yet, but I'm sure it will be rockin' and rollin' soon.
And now, on with the countdown.
And speaking thereof, WE HAVE A WINNER!!!
This is my favorite new-to-me record that I've heard in I-Don't-Know-How-Long - at least six months, maybe more than nine.
And I'm not surprised at all. When I saw Johnny Williams' name on the auction for this record, I knew I had to go all out to get it, as the only other Johnny Williams song-poem I've ever heard is one of my favorites of all time, "Somebody Fiddle, I'm Burning" / "Darling, I'm So Blue", which you can hear here.
Today's record is equally ridiculous, in an entirely different way, but it has the added feature of having some truly wonderful lyrics, a truly lovely, if offbeat, set of words celebrating being the parent of a young child - 3 years old, from what is said in those lyrics.
The child is nicknamed "Chinkerincky" by the parent, and that is the name of the song. The setting, as you'll hear, is quite idiosyncratic, and pretty out-there for a 1960 song poem (that's the year the lyric was copyrighted). I have to wonder if the song-poet approved of the percussion heavy arrangement, but it sure works for me. And the lyrics are nothing short of adorable. They make me very nostalgic for the days when my girls were that age. This is a wonderful record.
Download:: Johnny Williams - Chinkerincky
On the flip side, we have the evidence that was quite clear from Johnny Williams' three upbeat songs - he wasn't really much of a singer. While his enthusiasm got him through the three songs I've mentioned so far, "That Hula-Hula", required style and finesse, neither of which appear to have been in his wheelhouse.
It's not much of a song, either, and by the end of the record, the guitars are noticeably - ridiculously - out of tune with each other. Ah, well, rare indeed is the song-poem record containing two winners.
Download: Johnny Williams - That Hula-Hula
Friday, February 16, 2018
So I just heard this record for the first time this week, and even though it's a Christmas song-poem, I didn't want to wait ten months to share it with you. It's our old friend Cathy Mills, occasional star of the Tin Pan Alley label, doing (what was apparently) her best to sound cutesy. Perhaps the results are exactly what the song-poet was looking for. I certainly hope so, but what I hear is an entire performing ensemble being as cloying and obnoxious as I would think was possible. It's certainly not impossible that this was on purpose - I've heard enough song-poems to know that sometimes the musicians had a bit of mean-spirited fun with the material.
Whatever its backstory, I find "Just Like" to be sort of wonderfully awful. See what you think.
Download: Cathy Mills - Just Like
One listen to Cathy Mills' flip side, "Hey, Hey" makes clear that her real singing voice sounds nothing like the kiddie voice on "Just Like". Here we have a tribute to the various instruments that make up a combo who are playing a rockin' number. And all is fine with that - there's a trumpet, a sax, a mellow organ. Cool. But then, in a phrase I'm not sure has ever been uttered or written, outside of this song, "Don't forget the bass cello groan". Yep. That old groaning "bass cello".
(And yes, I understand that the writers were surely referring to a double bass, but still... "The bass cello groan"?)
Download: Cathy Mills - Hey, Hey
Friday, February 09, 2018
This week, it was my great pleasure to receive an e-mail from perhaps the highest profile correspondent that I've ever heard from, throughout my blogging career. More about that, perhaps, later, but the subject of the e-mail was his love and particular fascination with Rodd Keith's work with the Chamberlin, at Film City records. And so, even though i just recently featured another of Rodd's records from this period, I thought I'd share another one, in response to that writer, his e-mail, and our upcoming phone conversation.
What's more, this record has what may be one of the quintessential titles for a song-poem record - a phrase which captures a frequent thing thought or said about a relationship or an incident, and which is behind a good number of song-poems, yet rarely actually chosen as a title, partly because those phrases are not particularly musical or poetic. My pal Stu's favorite in this "quintessential title" category is "You Insulted Me", as sung by Sammy Marshall (under the name "Ben Tate").
So here's another one. As sung by Rodd Keith (as always for Film City, under the name "Rod Rogers", with his one man band Chamberlin act represented here as "The Film City Orchestra and Chorus", with "I Am Deeply Hurt". It's a shuffle of a beat, with Rodd singing in a supper-club baritone, a pleasant enough diversion, if nowhere near what he was capable, until the truly fabulous last note, which is worth the price of admission.
And speaking of clunky song-titles, on the flip side, we encounter "Please Come Back to Me, Sweetheart", a pretty darn bland number. It's a competent performance, but one with few, if any, of the minor charms of "Deeply Hurt", at least to these ears.
Monday, January 29, 2018
So here's a fairly wonderful record that I digitized nearly a year ago, no doubt with plans of using it on this site. But as far as I can tell, for whatever reason, I never did so (I'm sure someone will let me know if I did already post it, but I can't find such a post).
It's a couple of unusually great efforts from the one and only Sammy Marshall, along with the Keynoters, on the rarely seen Star-X label, both tunes focusing on canine subjects.
The better of the two, to my ears, is the peppy, fun and endearing song "The Crazy Dog Dance", which comes complete with barks. Woof, woof, my darling!
Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keynoters - The Crazy Dog Dance
The flip side is no slouch, either, although it's closer to the stereotypical Sammy Marshall twist records of the era. It's got a mouthful of a title, "Who Stole the Bone (From Mother Hubbard's Cupboard)?" But like the first song, it's energetic, fun and creatively silly, AND, it does answer the titular question, too. Enjoy!
Download: Sammy Marshall and the Keynoters - Who Stole the Bone (From Mother Hubbard's Cupboard)?
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Today's feature covers that favorite topic of pop songwriters everywhere, Root Beer. I know this subject has been done to death, in such classics as "(I Can't Get No) Sarsaparilla", "My Heart Belongs to Dad's", "Lucy in the Mug with Root Beer", "Oh, Black Cow, Bambalam" "The A & W(inding) Road" and "I Want to Take You Hires". But despite that familiarity, give this one a chance.
It's called "Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer", and it's from everyone's favorite Tin Pan Alley warbler, Mike Thomas. It's got all of the hallmark's of the era's TPA releases - the three piece band, the off-the-cuff sounding performance by everyone involved, and the idiosyncratic lyrics of yet another wishful thinker. Hoist a glass and have a listen!
Download: Mike Thomas - Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer
On the flip side, we have a ponderous piece of navel-gazing, titled "Questions of Flight". What starts as (and spends much of its time as) a series of open ended questions about the flight of various birds, eventually ends up at its real point, which is that the singer doesn't understand why his beloved chooses to "fly" away from him. If nothing else, this record is worth it for the awful note that Mike Thomas misses at 2:55, during the fade out.
Download: Mike Thomas - Questions of Flight
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
What better way to welcome the new year, song-poem style, than with Rodd Keith, here in his Chamberlin assisted persona of "Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra", with a tribute to an iconic, if little praised, car of the 1950's and 1960's, the Rambler. The song-poets (and Rodd) clearly had "In My Merry Oldsmobile" in mind for at least the opening lines of this song. See if your toes don't start tapping and you don't start singing along with "Ramblers Dream":
Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Ramblers Dream
(And yes, regarding the title of this post, I do know that by the 1960's, when this was recorded, it was no longer the "Nash Rambler" that the Tokens sang about, but it was too good a reference to pass up.)
Fred Zak, co-poet of "Ramblers Dream" teamed up with a different partner for the flip side, "Western Ghost Trail". This is a rather tuneless, meandering record with very little to recommend it. Not only that, but somehow, the pressing of this record manages slow down and drop a half step or so, during the last half minute (that's not a problem with my turntable - I played it on two players with the same result).
Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Western Ghost Trail