Tag Archives: Elektra

Rosebud: Rosebud

Bonus-laden reissue of 1971 one-off w/Judy Henske and Jerry Yester

Although Henske and Yester are both well-known, this one-off collaboration under the group name “Rosebud” has remained surprisingly obscure. Henske had come up through the coffee houses and folk revival of the early ‘60s, notching a pair of albums for the Elektra label in 1963-4. Yester had likewise played the folk clubs, with his brother Jim and as a member of the New Christy Minstrels and Modern Folk Quartet, before finding even greater commercial success as a producer. Henske, Yester and Zal Yanovsky (whom Yester had replaced in the Lovin’ Spoonful) released the eclectic Farewell Aldebaran on Frank Zappa’s Straight label, and two years later Henske and Yester teamed with Craig Doerge, David Vaught and John Seiter for this short-lived group’s one and only album.

Rosebud retains the musical eclecticism of Farewell Aldebaran, though not its sonic experimentation. The album is highlighted by the group’s tight execution of Yester’s superb vocal charts, and though Henske’s extraordinary voice is prominently featured, Yester, Doerge and Seiter all get leads. The songs, written by various groupings of Henske, Yester and Doerge, fit the singer-songwriter vibe of early ‘70s Southern California, with touches of country rock and 1960s San Francisco. “Roll Home Cheyanne” is redolent with the atmosphere of big sky country, and “Reno” (included here in both its album and single versions) would have fit easily into the Jefferson Airplane’s set. The harmonies take a baroque turn for the harpsichord-lined “Lullabye II” and to gospel rock with “Salvation.”

The album’s emotional high point comes in the chorus of “Western Wisconsin” as the group’s harmony singing vanquishes any hint of treacle in the lyrics’ sentiment. The legendary steel player Buddy Emmons is heard on “Yum Yum Man,” and again on the bonus track “Easy On Me, Easy.” Though justly proud of their album, the group split after only a few live performances, amid Henske’s separation from Yester, and before the group gained any traction. Most listeners will be surprised by the group’s mere existence, but those already familiar with the album will be shocked by the quality of the material that was left in the vault. Omnivore doubles the album’s original ten tracks with singles and seven previously unreleased recordings, along with new liners by Barry Alfonso. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Craig Doerge’s Home Page
Judy Henske’s Home Page
Jerry Yester’s Home Page

Josh White: Josh at Midnight

JoshWhite_JoshAtMidnightJosh White’s 1956 folk-blues classic returns to vinyl in grand fashion

By the time Josh White began recording for Elektra in 1955, he’d reached heights that few other African-American entertainers had attained. He’d become a recording, concert and radio star, a civil rights activist and confident of FDR, and appeared in mainstream and avant garde films. But he’d also run afoul of both the left and the right by voluntarily testifying in front of the HUAC, ending up blacklisted (officially by the right, unofficially by the left) and unable to make a living in the US. But Jac Holzman bucked both sides of the political spectrum and offered White an opportunity to record for his fledgling Elektra label, releasing The Story of John Henry… A Musical Narrative as a double 10-inch album and 12-inch LP.

The following year saw the release of Josh at Midnight, an album that helped restore White’s career and boosted Elektra’s commercial fortunes. Recorded in mono with a single mic (a classic Telefunken U-47), the sound is spontaneous, lively and crisp. White is backed by bassist Al Hall and baritone vocalist Sam Gary as he works through material drawn largely from the public domain. Many of these songs were, or became, favorites of the folk revival, but even the most well-known are fresh in White’s hands. The material ranges from the sacred (“Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed” “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”) to the profane (“St. James Infirmary” “Jelly Jelly!”), with several humorous stops in between.

Ramseur’s reissue was supervised by Jac Holzman, prepared by Bruce Botnick and mastered by Bernie Grundman. The front cover reproduces the original, but with Ramseur’s logo slotted in place of Elektra’s. The back cover includes new liner notes by Holzman and song notes by Kenneth S. Goldstein, and the record labels mimic the look and color of Elektra’s. It’s a shame this vinyl-only release leaves those in the digital world with inferior MP3s, or a CD or two-fer of unknown provenance, but LP, MP3 or CD, this is an absolute classic, and a must-have for anyone whose original (or thrift-store) copy has been worn out from repeated play. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Ramseur Records’ Home Page

Conway Twitty: The Complete Warner Bros. and Elektra Chart Singles

ConwayTwitty_CompeteWarnerBrosTwitty’s early ‘80s hits for Elektra and Warner

After successful tenures at MGM, Decca and MCA, Conway Twitty moved to Elektra in 1981, and subsequently the label’s parent, Warner Brothers. Though he returned to MCA in 1987, the Warner years saw continued success on the country singles and album charts. Varese’s collection pulls together all sixteen of Twitty’s A-sides for Elektra and Warner Brothers, half of which topped the country chart, and all but two (“The Legend and the Man” and “You’ll Never Know How Much I Needed You Today,” which reached #19 and #26, respctively) made the top ten.

The 1980s found Twitty singing ballads (“The Clown” “We Did But Now You Don’t”), waltzes (“Lost in the Feeling”) and lots of covers (“Slow Hand” “The Rose” “Heartache Tonight” “Three Times a Lady” “Ain’t She Somethin’ Else”). The productions have the gloss of 1980s Nashville, but Twitty’s voice retains its soulful edge. “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy” strikes up some Waylon-styled orneriness, and “Between Blue Eyes and Jeans” rustles up some two-stepping fiddle and twang. These aren’t the iconic hits Twitty recorded for MGM and MCA, but they’re an interesting later chapter in his career. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Shoes: 35 Years – The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012

Thirty-five years of exquisitely crafted pop

For those who lucked into following Shoes from their earliest self-produced living room recordings though their major label stint on Elektra and back to self-production (including this year’s superb hiatus-breaking Ignition), this collection provides a pleasant, albeit non-chronological, whirlwind through numerous catalog highlights. For those who latched onto Shoes during their major label days, the band’s DIY origin will remain murky, as the set includes only one track from the seminal Black Vinyl Shoes, neither side of their single for Bomp, and none of their earlier self-distributed work.

That band’s early aesthetic is heard most fully in the Black Vinyl Shoes version of “Okay,” while the other early song, “Tomorrow Night” is taken from 1979’s Present Tense, rather than the more primitive 1978 Bomp A-side. Still, those two songs are a roadmap to everything that’s great about the band: winsome lyrics, hummable melodies, tight harmonies and deftly constructed layers of guitars, bass and drums. Half the collection focuses on the group’s three albums for Elektra, including the power-pop gems “Too Late,” “In My Arms Again,” “Curiosity” and “The Summer Rain.” Selections from their later albums for Instant, New Rose and their own Black Vinyl label show that the spark of their living room recordings was amplified by ever-improving home studio technology.

Given the length of the group’s career, it’s a reasonable compromise to omit most of their formative material, along with the odds and sods that have dribbled out over the years. As a record of the band, this is a good overview for less ardent fans. But one might still wish they’d saved the adjective “Definitive” for an all-encompassing box set that gathers their compilation appearances, non-LP singles, live appearances, demos, outtakes and sundry special projects. Perhaps they’re saving “Complete” for that one. In the meantime, you can pick up many of the obscurities in the band’s store, and start your pitiable, unknowing friends with this anthology of the group’s core commercial releases. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Shoes’ Home Page

Lonnie Mack: For Collector’s Only

A ferocious rock ‘n’ soul ‘n’ blues guitar classic from 1963

This reissue of The Wham of That Memphis Man is the way that many listeners first met the savagely powerful guitar playing of Lonnie Mack. Originally released in 1963 on the Fraternity label, the album was re-sequenced and reissued with two extra tracks by Elektra in 1970. It’s since been reissue on CD, both in this stereo lineup, and in the original mono. The latter is more brutally powerful for its center-channel punch, but either configuration will astound you with Mack’s breathtaking, reverb-powered, tremelo-bar bent guitar playing. The album opens with Mack’s original “Wham!,” quickly gaining momentum until the song becomes an unstoppable locomotive. Mack picks wildly as the bass and drums stoke the beat and the rest of the band hangs on for dear life. Mack’s take on Dale Hawkins’ “Susie-Q” is just as deft, as he alternates between rhythm and lead, masterfully picking long twangy phrases that circle back to the root riff.

Mack’s first solo recording for Fraternity, an improvised cover of “Memphis,” is perhaps his most impressive, as he double-picks and ranges up and down the length of the fret board. No doubt Chuck Berry must have been impressed; Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others certainly were, as they taught themselves from these performances. Beyond Mack’s virtuosity as a guitarist, he was also a soulful vocalist who drew on the blues for Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What’s Wrong,” on gospel for the testimony of “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” and on both for the pained “Why.” For Collector’s Only adds two mono bonuses to the original Wham’s eleven tracks, the blues classic “Farther On Up the Road” and the flaming, original instrumental “Chicken Pickin’.”  Mono or stereo, original line-up or expanded, this is a true classic from 1963. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]