Posts Tagged ‘Essential’

The Coachmen: Subways of Boston

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Early-60s San Francisco folk revival trio

“The Coachmen” was a popular name in the ‘60s, having been used by garage rock bands from California and Nebraska, but it was also the name of this San Francisco-bred folk trio. The group began when Don Koss and Doug Tanner joined together to play for their City College fraternity. The duo soon became a trio with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Doug Brown, and gigged as the Coachmen in Bay Area venues, including San Francisco’s legendary Purple Onion. Within two years they’d signed a recording contract with the Hi-Fi label and issued their debut, Here Come the Coachmen! The following year they released this second and last album, Subways of Boston; founding member Doug Tanner was subsequently drafted, and the group parted ways.

This sophomore release is built mostly from variations on traditional material, such as the title track’s play on the Kingston Trio’s hit recording of Steiner and Hawes’ “M.T.A.,” itself based on “The Ship That Never Returned” and its variant “Wreck of the Old 97.” The track list draws in Frank Loesser’s WWII-era “Rodger Young,” Blind Willie McTell’s “Delia” (itself a variant of the Delia Green story, more recently told in Johnny Cash’s cover of Blind Blake’s “Delia’s Gone”), Leadbelly’s “Rock Island Line” and “Almost Done (on a Monday),” Oscar Brand’s bawdy “Zulika,” and Harry Loes’ gospel “This Little Light of Mine.” They also pull in folk revival versions of material with international origins, including the British and Irish “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet” and “I Will Never Marry,” and the South African ceremonial “Bayeza.”

The Coachmen sang and played well, though on record they sounded like a regulation issue folk revival group. They had good ears for material, picking up songs from others in the scene, and adding their own variations. If you enjoy the sounds of the 1960s folk revival harmony groups like the Kingston Trio, the Coachman’s two albums are also available as the two-LPs-on-one-CDs Hootenanny and Essential Folk Classics with the non-LP track “Soldier’s Joy.” Like others of Essential Media’s reissues, a few audio artifacts (groove distortions, in this case) suggest the remastering was from vinyl. But this is still quite listenable mono, and given the relative obscurity and rarity of the Coachmen’s records, a nice add to a folk revival collection. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Dick Schory: Re-Percussion

Saturday, May 25th, 2013


Dick Schory was a classically trained percussionist who worked for the Ludwig drum company. He recorded a highly regarded string of panoramic stereo space-age bachelor pad LPs, based on his original concepts for percussion ensembles. Though he started with a base of traditional drums, cymbals, gongs and xylophones, he also employed world percussion, repurposed everyday objects, and large orchestras. This 1957 release, originally on the Concert Disc label, is focused on percussion, along with piano, bass and guitar, and should really be heard in full CD (or analog LP) fidelity for maximum impact; though it’s unclear if Essential’s CDR-on-demand is produced from full-fidelity transfers (which themselves may or may not have been made from original master tapes) or from the parallel MP3 digital downloads. This will still be enjoyable at lower bit rates, but may not stand up to the audiophile quality amplification it deserves. [©2013 hyperbolium dot com]

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Johnny Cole Unlimited: Hang on Sloopy

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

JohnnyColeUnlimited_HangOnSloopyMysterious ‘60s mélange of blues-rock, spy jazz and garage-folk

Originally issued in 1969 on the obscure Condor label out of Burnaby, B.C., this album is quite an enigma. Is there really a Johnny Cole (as he was listed on the original record’s label) or maybe a Jimmy Cole (as he was listed on the original album cover), and what’s with the mélange of spy jazz, pop, blues-rock and Sonny & Cher-styled garage-folk? The dribs-and-drabs of information that can be found suggest this was the product of the Los Angeles-based Johnny Kitchen (nee Jack Millman), and includes vocals from the Millman’s Russian-born then-wife Ludmilla. Most likely this album was assembled from a variety of sessions that Millman leased to Condor, which would account for the lack of musical continuity. The audio quality of this reproduction is all over the place, including a few tracks that sound like they passed through a few generations of cassette copies and others that are surprisingly full fidelity. This has long been a hard-to-find and expensive vinyl-only collectible, but it’s now available to all for digital download. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Donny Most: Donny Most

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

TV’s Ralph Malph steps through the screen and tiptoes onto the record chart

To a large extent, actor Donny Most’s 1976 solo album is the archtypical celebrity cash-in. Though no stranger to music – Most had played in Catskills bands as a teenager – his shot at pop stardom was entirely the product of a staring role on Happy Days and the show’s #1 rating. His label secured performing slots on Dinah, Mike Douglas and American Bandstand, but even Happy Days fever could only push the sugary pop single “All Roads (Lead Back to You)” to #97. After three weeks on the charts, Most’s pop singing career was all but over; and to add insult to injury, Anson Williams’ “Deeply” scored four slots higher, peaking at #93 the following spring. Most was a capable, if not particularly exciting singer, with his voice often doubled to give it heft. The productions are more bubblegum than the rootsy rock ‘n’ roll Ralph Malph might have played in his Happy Days TV band, more Kasnetz-Katz or Gary Lewis than Bill Haley or Chuck Berry. The album mixes originals written or found for Most, alongside covers of Bruce Chanel’s “Hey Baby” and Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie.” The latter provide a lead-in to one of Most’s post-acting sidelines, touring the oldies circuit with the “Doo Wop Rocks” revival show. This is a nice artifact of the spectacular popularity that surrounded Happy Days in the latter half of the ‘70s, and a pleasant, if not particularly memorable musical spin. Essential’s digital reissue may have been remastered from vinyl, as there seems to be an occasional audio artifact – nothing really distracting, however. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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