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 â€œRosebudâ€ has remained surprisingly obscure. Henske had come up through the coffee houses and folk revival of the early â€˜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 Lovinâ€™ Spoonful) released the eclectic Farewell Aldebaran on Frank Zappaâ€™s Straight label, and two years later Henske and Yester teamed with Craig Doerge, David Vaught and John Seiter for this short-lived groupâ€™s one and only album.
Rosebud retains the musical eclecticism of Farewell Aldebaran, though not its sonic experimentation. The album is highlighted by the groupâ€™s tight execution of Yesterâ€™s superb vocal charts, and though Henskeâ€™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 â€˜70s Southern California, with touches of country rock and 1960s San Francisco. â€œRoll Home Cheyanneâ€ is redolent with the atmosphere of big sky country, and â€œRenoâ€ (included here in both its album and single versions) would have fit easily into the Jefferson Airplaneâ€™s set. The harmonies take a baroque turn for the harpsichord-lined â€œLullabye IIâ€ and to gospel rock with â€œSalvation.â€
Josh Whiteâ€™s 1956 folk-blues classic returns to vinyl in grand fashion
By the time Josh White began recording for Elektra in 1955, heâ€™d reached heights that few other African-American entertainers had attained. Heâ€™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 heâ€™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 Henryâ€¦ 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 Whiteâ€™s career and boosted Elektraâ€™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 Whiteâ€™s hands. The material ranges from the sacred (â€œJesus Gonna Make Up My Dyinâ€™ Bedâ€ â€œJoshua Fit the Battle of Jerichoâ€) to the profane (â€œSt. James Infirmaryâ€ â€œJelly Jelly!â€), with several humorous stops in between.
Twittyâ€™s early â€˜80s hits for Elektra and Warner
After successful tenures at MGM, Decca and MCA, Conway Twitty moved to Elektra in 1981, and subsequently the labelâ€™s parent, Warner Brothers. Though he returned to MCA in 1987, the Warner years saw continued success on the country singles and album charts. Vareseâ€™s collection pulls together all sixteen of Twittyâ€™s A-sides for Elektra and Warner Brothers, half of which topped the country chart, and all but two (â€œThe Legend and the Manâ€ and â€œYouâ€™ll Never Know How Much I Needed You Today,â€ which reached #19 and #26, respctively) made the top ten.
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 yearâ€™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 bandâ€™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 bandâ€™s early aesthetic is heard most fully in the Black Vinyl Shoes version of â€œOkay,â€ while the other early song, â€œTomorrow Nightâ€ is taken from 1979â€™s Present Tense, rather than the more primitive 1978 Bomp A-side. Still, those two songs are a roadmap to everything thatâ€™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 groupâ€™s three albums for Elektra, including the power-pop gems â€œToo Late,â€ â€œIn My Arms Again,â€ â€œCuriosityâ€ and â€œThe Summer Rain.â€ 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.
A ferocious rock â€˜nâ€™ soul â€˜nâ€™ 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. Itâ€™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 Mackâ€™s breathtaking, reverb-powered, tremelo-bar bent guitar playing. The album opens with Mackâ€™s original â€œWham!,â€ 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. Mackâ€™s take on Dale Hawkinsâ€™ â€œSusie-Qâ€ is just as deft, as he alternates between rhythm and lead, masterfully picking long twangy phrases that circle back to the root riff.