Posts Tagged ‘Atco’

Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer: Two of a Kind

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Swinging 1961 session reissued in 2017 with bonuses

From “Splish Splash” to “Mack the Knife” to “Simple Song of Freedom,” Bobby Darin showed off a restless artistic soul. In 1961 Darin teamed with songwriter (and Capitol Records co-founder) Johnny Mercer for a swinging set of Tin Pan Alley standards, arranged and executed with brassy sizzle by Billy May. The album’s joie de vivre is undeniable, sparked both by the principals’ chemistry and the band’s relentless push. Darin and Mercer seem to be unreeling these classics extemporaneously, with each inserting playful ad libs as the other sings. Imagine if Martin and Lewis, or Hope and Crosby, had both been vocalists first, rather than vocalist-comedian pairs, and you’ll get a sense of this duo’s playful power. Their 27-year age difference evaporates as they express their shared love of these songs, including a few of Mercer’s own titles.

The recordings, engineered by Bill Putnam, are crisp, fanning the orchestra out in stereo and leaving center stage for the vocalists. Omnivore’s reissue augments the album’s original thirteen tracks with seven bonuses, including five alternate takes and two songs that didn’t make the cut. The newly released songs are Dreyer and Herman’s mid-1920s “Cecilla” and Leslie Stuart’s late nineteenth-century British music hall tune “Lily of Laguna.” The latter had been shorn of its racial lyrics in the early-1940s, and it’s this swinging rewrite that Darin and Mercer tackle here. The CD release includes an eight-page booklet that features original cover art, Stanley Green’s original liners, and new notes by Cheryl Pawelski. Originally issued by ATCO, and reissued in 1990, this title’s been a hard-to-find gem in Darin’s catalog. Now, with bonuses, it has even more sparkle. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

King Curtis: The Complete Atco Singles

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

KingCurtis_TheCompleteAtcoSinglesSuper collection of King Curtis’ Atco singles – A’s and B’s

King Curtis’ saxophone may have been better known to record buyers than King Curtis himself. In an extensive career as a session musician, his horn provided iconic hooks and solos on singles by the Coasters (“Yakety Yak” “Charlie Brown”), Buddy Holly (“Reminiscing”) and LaVern Baker (“I Cried a Tear”). Curtis’ “Hot Potato,” originally released by the Rinkydinks in 1963, reissued as “Soul Train” by the Ramrods in 1972, and re-recorded by the Rimshots, was used as the original opening theme of Soul Train. But Curtis was also a songwriter and bandleader who produced dozens of singles under his own name, most notably “Soul Twist,” which he waxed for Enjoy, “Soul Serenade” for Capitol, and a number of hits for Atco, including “Memphis Soul Stew” and covers of “Ode to Billy Joe” and “Spanish Harlem.”

While at Atco from 1958 to 1959, and again from 1966 to 1971, Curtis released a broad range of singles that crossed the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts. His sax could be tough, tender, muscular, smooth, lyrical and humorous, and his material included originals, covers of R&B and soul tunes, contemporaneous pop and country hits, film themes and even Tin Pan Alley classics. He recorded with various lineup of his own Kingpins (though perhaps never a better one than with Jerry Jemmott, Bernard Purdie and Cornell Dupree), but also with the players of the Fame and American Sound studio. He teamed with Duane Allman for the Instant Groove album, kicking out a Grammy-winning cover of Joe South’s “Games People Play,” and recorded “Teasin’” with Eric Clapton.

King Curtis’ singles catalog was filled with interesting selections, including superb covers of Big Jay McNeely’s “Something on Your Mind,” Rufus Thomas’ “Jump Back,” Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” and a warm take on Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” that was lifted from Atco’s Soul Christmas. Curtis’ originals were just as good, including the twangy “Restless Guitar,” the go-go “Pots and Pans,” the manifesto “This is Soul,” the funky “Makin Hey,” and the frantic “Pop Corn Willy.” Of particular interest to collectors are the many singles that didn’t appear on original King Curtis albums, including eight of the first ten tracks on this set. Other non-LP singles include the guitar-centered “Blue Nocturne,” an early rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “Valdez in the Country” titled “Patty Cake,” and the yakety-sax oldies medley “Rocky Roll.” Of paramount interest is Curtis’ previously unreleased final Atco single, “Ridin’ Thumb,” which closes disc three and includes a rare King Curtis vocal.

With more than a third of these tracks having been originally released only as singles, this set will fill a lot of gaps, even for fans who’ve collected Curtis’ albums. The quad-panel digipack includes a 16-page booklet with liner notes by Randy Poe, photos, label reproductions and discographical detail. It would been great to get detailed session data, particularly on the bands and session players (and particularly the excellent guitarists), but such note taking wasn’t always on a producer’s mind in the 1960s. Curtis’ sides for Enjoy and Capitol are essential elements of his catalog, as are his early dates as a sideman; those new to his catalog might start with a multi-label best-of, but once you’re hooked, this collection of Atco singles (in pristine mono!) is a must-have. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Dr. John: The Atco/Atlantic Singles 1968-1974

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

DrJohn_TheAtcoAtlanticSinglesThe singles that led to Dr. John’s brief mainstream fame

As an artist primarily known for albums and live performance, it’s hard to imagine anyone but the most ardent Dr. John record collectors being able to name more than two or three of his singles. “Right Place Wrong Time” comes easily to the mind of anyone who was around for its original run up the chart to #9. But other than that, what? Well, it turns out that several of Dr. John’s iconic album tracks – “Iko Iko” from 1972’s Gumbo and “Such a Night” from 1973’s In the Right Place – were also released as singles, though neither had the chart success of “Right Place Wrong Time.” So that’s three. And yet, during Dr. John’s stay on Atco and Atlantic, he actually released a half-dozen more singles, all of which are collected here – A’s, B’s and alternate flips, along with several UK- and promo-only sides.

One has to wonder who Atlantic thought was going to play these singles; particularly since they didn’t often differ greatly from the album cuts prefered by FM. “Iko Iko” was trimmed by a minute, “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” was trimmed and split into two parts, and “Wang Dang Doodle” was excised from the Mar Y Sol concert album, but the rest seem closely aligned with the albums. Of interest to collectors will be a few rarities offered here, highlighted by “The Patriotic Flag Waver.” On this 1968 single, presented in the long mono promo cut, Dr. John manages to combine a children’s chorus, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful,” social commentary and New Orleans funk. Even more rare is Dr. John’s guest appearance, alongside Eric Clapton, on the original 1972 single version of labelmate Buddy Guy’s “A Man of Many Words.

The collection pulls together Dr. John’s singles, EP and promo-only sides, and both B sides of “Oh, What a Night,” which featured “Cold Cold Cold in the U.S. and “Life” in the U.K. Presented in roughly (though not strictly) chronological order, the singles tell the story of Dr. John’s early years as the Night Tripper, his ex-pat Los Angeles edition of New Orleans soul, and his brief intersection with mainstream fame. It’s an unusual lens to place on the career of an artist better known for albums and live performances, but as a quick look at his seven years on Atco, it’s surprisingly good. The albums are out there to be had, but hearing the years compressed into a generous 71 minutes is a worthwhile trip. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Dr. John’s Home Page

Vanilla Fudge: The Complete Atco Singles

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

VanillaFudge_TheCompleteAtcoSinglesHeavy ’60s covers of pop, soul and folk hits in original mono

This Long Island quartet grew from a blue-eyed soul act into one of the progenitors of what would eventually be labeled “heavy metal.” The group’s soul background is evident in their selection of cover material, but their mid-to-late 60s prime was also heavily influenced by the psychedelic era. Combining the two, Vanilla Fudge turned out a series of singles that relied heavily on slowed-down arrangements of then-contemporary covers, enlarged to nearly operatic size by producer Shadow Morton.

The band’s debut cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” stalled on the charts in 1967, but reissued in 1968, it climbed into the Top 10. The arrangement, supported by Mark Stein’s organ, the heavy rhythm section of Tim Bogart and Carmine Appice and unison backing vocals was a template for what was to come. The single’s original B-side, a cover of Evie Sands’ “Take Me for a Little While,” was also re-released as an A-side in ’68, and charted in the Top 40, sounding like a heavy version of the Rascals, and showing off the quartet’s instrumental talent in Bogart’s bass solo.

The band landed a few more singles in the Top 100, including the original title “Where in My Mind” and a two-part cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” that was generously carved from the lengthy album track. They softened their sound into a soul croon for Bacharach and David’s “Look of Love,” but this was unusual for a single. More typical is their hard-rocking cover of “Shotgun,” with its wailing guitar and full-kit drum fills, and the strutting B-side original “Good Good Lovin’.” Perhaps the band’s most miraculous single was their cover of Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning,” which somehow managed to cram 7’34 onto a seven-inch, 45 RPM record. A three-minute DJ promo edit is included in this set as a bonus.

After their initial success on the singles chart, the band continued to score with albums and on the concert stage. Their later singles featured a greater helping of original material, but failed to score commercially. These eighteen tracks represent all ten of the band’s commercially released singles for Atco; all that’s missing is a DJ-only promo single of “Eleanor Rigby” and “Ticket to Ride.” As the band became an album attraction, it’s interesting to hear how they were still represented in the singles market with punchy mono mixes (all but 1984’s synth-laced reunion single “Mystery” b/w “The Strangler”) that really should have gotten more radio love. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Vanilla Fudge’s Home Page

Soul Clan: Soul Clan

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Legendary soul men cut one strong single as a quintet

Soul Clan – Solomon Burke, Arthur Conley, Don Covay, Ben E. King and Joe Tex – turned out to be more of a concept than a working concern. They waxed only one single as a group, pairing the Southern-styled “Soul Meeting” with the gospel-influenced “That’s How it Feels,” leaving their 1969 album to be filled out with two solo sides apiece. It’s a great set, highlighted by Conley’s transcendent “Sweet Soul Music,” but the two collaborative sides leave you wondering what might have been, if Atco could have coordinated more sessions together. Those with deep collections of the individual performers can now snag the two Soul Clan collaborations as individual digital downloads. Collector’s note: despite the stereo cover art, Rhino’s digital reissue is mono. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]