Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Various Artists: Land of 1,000 Dances – The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Landmark catalog of the West Coast Eastside Sound

Like many regional music scenes, the West Coast Eastside Sound was a one-of-a-kind confluence of artists, managers, record labels, entrepreneurs, nightclubs, radio DJs, and commercial and social circumstances. As detailed in this set’s introductory liner notes and  label history, a key  sociological spark that informed the Eastside’s musical development was race restrictions in Los Angeles clubs that led African-American artists to gig on the Eastside. This seeded the area’s Mexican and Chicano musicians with an R&B foundation to which they added flavors of Rancheras, Nortenos, and Salsas, and jacked up with the energy of doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. Local labels, including Del-Fi, Chattahoochie, Whittier, Faro, Linda, Boomerang, Prospect, Valhalla, Gordo and Rampart built a recording scene, and it’s the latter’s catalog of singles that is featured here.

Eddie Davis, Rampart’s founder, first entered the music industry as a child member of the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, appearing in a 1941 documentary (Forty Boys and a Song) and backing Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way. He joined the Navy in World War II, studied music at the College of the Pacific, owned a succession of restaurants, and returned to a quickly aborted singing career before founding his first label, Faro, in 1958. Faro led to the founding of Rampart in 1961 with the debut of Phil & Harv’s romantic ballad “Darling (Please Bring Your Love)” and its joyous New Orleans-tinged flipside cover of Cole Porter’s  “Friendship.”

Davis initially employed the mixed-race, Oxnard-based Mixtures as a backing band, but also pulled in A-listers from Los Angeles. A third label, Linda, was established in 1962, the same year that Davis branched into the promotion of teen dances. As with the Los Angeles club laws that incentivized bands to book shows on the Eastside, the city’s prohibition of for-profit teen dances led Davis to promote shows in Pomona’s Rainbow Gardens, outside the reach of the big city’s restrictions. And as with the club shows, the teen dances exposed the Eastside’s Mexican-American audiences, and more importantly,  its local musicians, to the cream of Los Angeles’ R&B acts.

Rampart’s early years included a Ray Charles-styled cover of “Home on the Range,” hot guitar and sax-led instrumentals, and with the Atlantics’ B-side “Beaver Shot,” the introduction of a horn section. The label hit its commercial apex with Cannibal & The Headhunters’ 1965 cover of Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” memorably built on the incantory “Na, Na Na Na Na” improvisation, and on its original, uncut version, a revival-styled intro. Both the original and edited-for-radio single are included here. The single’s success led Cannibal and the Headhunters to television appearances and an opening slot on the Beatles 1965 U.S. tour – including shows at Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl – yet the group was unable to extend their commercial breakthrough. Three follow-up singles, including the “1000 Dances” knockoff “Nau Ninny,” and the sunny, King Curtis-backed “Follow the Music,” failed to click, and the band moved on from Rampart to Date.

Rampart continued its releases  the 1960s with singles by the Atlantics, Souljers, Summits, and Four Tempos. There were Sam & Dave-styled duets, boogaloo workouts, uptempo soul, beseeching ballads, and even the socially-conscious philosophy of Pvt. Randy Thomas’ “The Great Crusade.” In 1968 the Village Callers released the oft-sampled (and recently “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” soundtrack featured) “Hector” with a sophisticated soul organ lead backed by a powerful rhythm track and horn chart. The soul turned swampier on the B-side “Mississippi Delta,” and the East Bay Soul Brass worked out with sax, trumpet and organ on “The Cat Walk.” The label continued to imaginatively mix 50s-styled  throwback ballads, airier mid-tempo late ‘60s soul, and foreground Latin flavors, pulling in both original and cover material for an evolving slate of artists.

A four year break from 1972 to 1976 found the label returning with the Eastside Connection’s update on the traditional “La Cucaracha,” and kicked off a short string of disco singles. The label’s sporadic subsequent releases included rock, new wave, uptempo Spanish-language synth dance numbers, but without the earthy soul of the earlier years essayed on the set’s first three discs. In addition to the introductory notes from Luis Luis J. Rodriquez and label history from Don Waller, the 102-page book includes a photo essay of Cannibal and the Headhunters on the road in shows promoted by Murray the K, Dick Clark and Motown, opening for the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in 1965, and performing on television’s Hullabaloo and It’s What’s Happening.

This is a rich document of a label born at the confluence of social circumstances, musical influences and commercial opportunity. Having the B-sides is particularly gratifying, as the label rarely shortchanged the flips – the Atlantics’ novelty “Sonny & Cher” B-side notwithstanding. To gain a full picture of the Eastside Sound, listeners will need to track down material from sister labels Faro and Donna, and key releases from Thee Midniters, The Romancers and other Eastside icons, but you could hardly find a better place to start enjoying and appreciating this unique moment in musical history than with this incredible set. Issued in a limited run of 1000, pick this one up before it becomes a collectors item alongside the original vinyl singles! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Los Straitjackets: Complete Christmas Songbook

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

A brightly wrapped gift of guitar-driven Christmas classics

Yep Roc’s twenty-seven track anthology compiles all of the Christmas-related titles that Los Straitjackets have released across 2002’s Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets, 2009’s Yuletide Beat, 2011’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” single, and Yep Roc’s 2007 collection Oh Santa!, and adds a bonus live version of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus & Lucy” recorded on the band’s 2015 tour with Nick Lowe. The playlist is dominated by ‘60s-styled guitar-driven instrumental versions of Christmas classics, often cleverly augmented by motifs borrowed from “La Bamba,” “Pipeline,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “Misirlou,” “I Fought the Law,” “Buckaroo,” “Sing, Sing, Sing” and other iconic tunes. There are playful Latin beats on  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “O Tannenbaum,” Memphis soul on “Joy to the World” and power-pop on “Groovy Old Saint Nick.” The band’s three originals include two instrumentals, “Christmas in Las Vegas” and “Christmas Weekend,” and the album’s only vocal, “Holiday Twist.” This is a creative collection of Christmas tunes that will spruce up your holidays. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Los Straitjackets’ Home Page

Lloyd Green & Jay Dee Maness: Journey to the Beginning – A Steel Guitar Tribute to the Byrds

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Sweetheart of the Rodeo’s steel players reflect and pay tribute

The Byrds’ 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo wasn’t their first dance with country music, but it was their most full throated. The addition of Gram Parsons to the band’s lineup magnified the country music that had threaded through the Byrd’s earlier albums, and with Nashville ace Lloyd Green and Los Angeles player Jay Dee Maness contributing their steel guitar prowess, the group made its most powerful roots music statement. Now, on the album’s fiftieth anniversary, the steel wizards salute both the Byrds’ invention and their contribution to it by recreating the entire album as steel and fiddle-led instrumentals. And as a bonus, a reprise of the opening track, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” is offered with superb, heartfelt vocals by Jim Lauderdale, Jeff Hanna, Richie Furay and Herb Pedersen. Recorded at Nashville’s Cinderella Sound (the oldest independent studio in town), the new arrangements largely stay true to the original melodies, but with steel guitars and fiddle taking lead, the mood is more languorous, and the twang pushes the songs of Charlie Louvin, Cindy Walker, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons even further into the country domain. This isn’t meant to replace the iconic original album, but as a reflection on the turn it helped to usher in, and a musical conversation in steel between two of the original players, it’s a wonderful echo. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ: NRBQ

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The 1969 debut of a polyglot music legend

Originally released in 1969, this debut outlined the wide musical grasp and irreverent sensibility that would grow the band’s legend over the next 49 years. 49 years in which this initial explosion of creativity sat in the vault unreissued. 49 years in which either the group’s continuing activity diverted their attention from a reissue, or in which lawyers intermittently haggled over muddy contractual rights. Either way, Omnivore has finally liberated the album from its resting place and reissued the fourteen songs in a tri-fold slipcase with original front and back cover art, Donn Adams period liner notes, and contemporary notes by Jay Berman. Berman characterizes the band’s repertoire, even at this early point in their career, as including “nearly anything,” and the eclectic mix of covers and originals bears that out.

This first studio lineup included long-time members Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato (the latter then credited as Jody St. Nicholas), along with vocalist Frank Gadler, guitarist Steve Ferguson and drummer Tom Staley. The group stakes out the audacious corners of their musical omniverance with covers of Eddie Cochran’s rockabilly “C’mon Everybody,” Sun Ra’s avant garde jazz “Rocket Number 9,” Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s folk blues “C’mon If You’re Comin’” (which the group revisited on 1972’s Workshop), and a country soul arrangement of Bruce Channel’s 1962 chart topper, “Hey! Baby.” Few bands at the time would have even known this range of material, let alone find a way to make it fit together on an album.

The original material from Adams, Spaminato and Ferguson is equally ambitious. Adams mashes up trad jazz and rock ‘n’ roll for “Kentucky Slop,” boogies hard on “Mama Get Down Those Rock And Roll Shoes,” captures the melancholy of Carla Bley’s 1964 jazz instrumental “Ida Lupino” with original lyrics, and closes the album with the piano-led “Stay With Me.” Ferguson’s trio of originals include the pop and soul influences of “I Didn’t Know Myself,” the gospel rocker “Stomp” and the country, folk and gospel flavored “Fergie’s Prayer.” Spampinato offers the album’s most ebullient moment with “You Can’t Hide,” a title the band would revisit ten years later on Tiddlywinks.

The album’s collection of first takes (including the previously unreleased first take of “Stomp” substituting for the re-recorded version that appeared on the original vinyl) provides a snapshot of the band as they played live. The set list reflects the confluence of musical interests, knowledge and talent the band members brought to the group, and the performances have an all-in quality that made second takes superfluous. Whether or not the renditions were note-perfect (and they pretty much are), they were perfect expressions of the musical ethos that sustains the band to this day. It’s a shame that the originally released second take of “Stomp” wasn’t included as part of this reissue, but that’s a nit, given the historical and artistic riches that have been sprung from the vault. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ’s Home Page