Posts Tagged ‘Girlgroup’

The Heaters: American Dream – The Portastudio Recordings

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Heaters_AmericanDreamLos Angeles new wave band turns to girl group sounds in 1983

“The Heaters” is a popular band name. There was a Danish garage rock band, a Seattle quartet (who shortened their name to the Heats), a UK power pop band, a punk band, a reggae group, a funk band, a Los Angeles new wave band that recorded for Ariola and Columbia, and more recently, a trio from Grand Rapids. This Heaters is the Los Angeles group, one that felt their studio albums never really captured their sound. In frustration, they recorded themselves on a 4-track TASCAM Portastudio – home multitrack technology that’s commonplace today, but not so in 1983 – and doubled down on the nostalgic elements of their earlier works. In particular, the core creative trio of Mercy, Maggy and Missie wrote and recorded original, 60s-influenced girl group music.

The tapes were offered to Rhino, but the label heard them as demos rather than finished product, and the group declined to re-record. Released more than 30 years later, you can hear both the label and group’s points of view. Wary of their previous experience with record companies, studios and producers, the group chose to protect the fidelity of their art. What the label likely heard was a tension between the group’s ideas of grandly imagined pop and the realities of producing yourself for the first time on a 4-track cassette. What Rhino failed to hear, or perhaps wasn’t interested in, was the group’s tuneful fusion of a DIY aesthetic with a deep appreciation for 1960s craft. Others (e.g., Denny Ward) had successfully explored this pairing on indie releases, leaving one to wonder why the Heaters didn’t do the same.

What’s comes through loud and clear on these tapes is the siren’s call of the Blossoms, Crystals, Ronettes, Shirelles, Shangri-Las, Marvelettes and others. Several of the songs, including the beautifully crooned “Every Living Day,” could pass for vintage if their 1980s origins weren’t tipped by the guitars. The album’s centerpiece, “10,000 Roses,” borrows the iconic drumbeat of “Be My Baby,” and though its melody, lyric and vocal would have made the Brill Building proud, it’s slightly ragged mix is probably what Rhino thought could be tweaked. Still, even with the “oom-mow-mow” backing vocal popping out of the pocket, you can’t help but be charmed by the song and its Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar solo.

Many of the songs would have been at home in the early-60s, but the theme gets modern with “Sandy.” The song’s baion beat and stagey vocal might suggest inspiration from West Side Story or Grease, but the gender confusion at the lyric’s heart would have raised eyebrows in 1963. The girl group focus slips a bit more as “Rock This Place” moves into the 1970s, and elsewhere there’s a muscular rock sound akin to Robin Lane and Ellen Foley. These steps outside the narrow lane of the 1960s propels the album beyond an exercise in nostalgia, and fills out the group’s reach. This may not have been right for Rhino, but Bomp should have picked it up. Thirty-three years is too long to have waited to hear this, but better late than never. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Heaters’ Home Page

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes: Charlie Faye & The Fayettes

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

CharlieFayeAndTheFayettes_STAustin singer-songwriter dives into early ‘60s girl-group sound

If the 1960s Playtone label wasn’t a fictional construct of That Thing You Do, the label’s A&R rep would surely have signed Charlie Faye. Her spin on soul-tinged girl-group pop echoes the pastiches of Diane Dane and the Chantrellines, and in turn tips a hat to the sources from which the film drew. Faye’s soulful roots can be heard in 2013’s You Were Fine, You Weren’t Even Lonely, but the complicated, contemporary posture of that outing is shed as she and the Fayettes explore the romantic travails of the early ‘60s. Faye’s traded her solo spotlight and singer-songwriter stool for vintage party dresses and harmony singers.

A New York native, there’s Bacharach-like sophistication in the melody of “Carelessly,” but her adopted Austin surfaces in the twang of “Loving Names.” The soul sound moves further south with the fluid bass line and Memphis-styled guitar of “Sweet Little Messages.” Faye’s songs are filled with the sort of elemental heartbreak that made the Brill Building famous and its songs so memorable. On the surface, this might seem pedestrian compared to the complex emotions of You Were Fine, but writing 100 universally affecting words is often more difficult than writing 1,000 that are more specific and personal.

Faye’s struck a rich vein of new love, broken hearts and second chances – the sort whose first discovery feels like the end of the world, and whose repetition turns out to be the harder lesson. “Coming Round the Bend” borrows the signature riff and optimistic flash of “Then He Kissed Me,” and the bouncy “Delayed Reaction” nods to Jackie DeShannon’s “Breakaway.” The album stretches beyond the coy boundaries of ‘60s girl groups with the opener “Green Light,” and though “Eastside” could usher dancers down a Soul Train line, its Stax-styled groove and horn chart service a serious look at social gentrification.

Faye’s previous albums didn’t exactly draw a line to this retro set, but the surprise is more in the landing spot than the journey. Faye’s repeatedly proved herself an adventurous artist who is committed to her muse. Her 2009 debut, Wilson Street, honored the Austin community into which she’d knit herself, and 2011’s Travels With Charlie was recorded over ten months of collaboration with artists in ten different cities. She follows her artistic desire, and when that led to the girl-group sound, she banded together with BettySoo and Akina Adderley, wrote a terrific batch of 60s-tinged originals, drew up some choreography, and dove in head first. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Charlie Faye and the Fayettes’ Home Page

Queen of Jeans: EP

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

This Philadelphia quartet’s first two tracks (“Dance (Get Off Your Ass)” and “Rollerdyke“) are now expanded with four additions into a eponymous EP, streamable below, downloadable from Bandcamp, and buyable as a vinyl 12″ from Third Uncle. The new songs are just as mesmerizing in their nods to 1960s girl groups and lush 1990s alternatives run through a dreamy DIY psych aesthetic. Great stuff!

And while you’re here, check out their live set for WXPN:

Queen of Jeans: Rollerdyke

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

This Philadelphia quartet’s first single sounded like something you’d have heard on Girls in the Garage or perhaps from the Pussywillows, or the Bangs before they became the Bangles. The group’s second single moves from the garage to the ballroom with a flowing neo-psych sound and a driving beat. Their debut EP is slated for January 22!

Queen of Jeans’ Facebook Page

Queen of Jeans: Dance (Get Off Your Ass)

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

The song title wouldn’t lead you to guess this Philadelphia quartet creates DIY guitar, bass and drums pop-rock with modern girl group harmonies. The guitar tone would fit perfectly on Pebbles, Vol. 4, and the slow-motion drum fills are particularly fetching.

Queen of Jeans’ Facebook Page

Holly Golightly: Slowtown Now!

Monday, October 5th, 2015

HollyGolightly_FastTrackToSlowtownHolly Golightly returns to her retro UK roots

Though it’s been more than a decade since she waxed an album with a rock ‘n’ roll band, Holly Golightly has been active with her clanking, ramshackle country blues duo Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs. Her new LP reunites her with her UK mates – Ed Deegan, Bradley Burgess, Matt Radford and Bruce Brand – and picks up where they left off, with kittenish jazz (“Frozen in Time” and “Empty Space”), sultry rock ‘n’ roll (“Seven Wonders” and “As You Go Down”) and a terrific cover of Barbara Acklin’s “Fool Fool Fool (Look in the Mirror).” Throughout the album, the guitars buzz and snake, the double bass adds deep tone, and Golightly multiples herself into a one-woman girl group.

The band finds its deepest grooves on mid-tempo struts like “What You See,” with Golightly exhibiting a simmering indifference that’s mesmerizing. You’ll catch a hint of the Shangri-Las’ on “As You Go Down,” with Golightly’s monotone providing a cool contrast to the band’s “Sophisticated Boom Boom” groove. Everyone is so fully locked in, that it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since 2005’s My First Holly Golightly Album. The guitar leads are broken in, yet fresh (with a nice nod to the Shadows’ “Apache” on “Forevermore”) , and the rhythm section is casually tight. Fans will love this return to previous influences, and those who arrived via the Brokeoffs will enjoy Golightly’s other roots. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Holly Golightly’s Home Page

Whitney Rose: Hearbreaker of the Year

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

WhitneyRose_HeartbreakerOfTheYearSinger-songwriter dreams 50s twang and 60s pop with Raul Malo

Canadian singer-songwriter Whitney Rose found a kindred spirit in the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. Malo produced, added vocals, and brought along several of his bandmates to give Rose’s sophomore effort an eclectic pop-country feel. Rose shades more to the female vocalists of the 1960s than Malo’s operatic balladeering, but the slow-motion twang of the guitars works just as well on Rose’s originals as it does with the Mavericks. Her self-titled debut hinted at retro proclivities, but Malo and guitarist Nichol Robertson really lay on the atmosphere, and Rose blossoms amid tempos and backing vocals that amplify the romance of her material.

Even the upbeat numbers provide room for Rose to warble, and she tips a primary influence with a cover of the Ronettes “Be My Baby.” Interpreting one of the greatest pop singles of all time is a tricky proposition, but Rose and Malo make the song their own with a slower tempo that emphasizes the song’s ache over its iconic beat, and a duet arrangement that has Malo moving between lead, harmony, backing and counterpoint. Similarly, Rose’s cover of Hank Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer” is turned from forlorn barroom misery to a wistful memory that won’t go away. Burke Carroll’s steel guitar provides a wonderful, somnolent coda to the latter, echoing Rose’s spellbound vocal.

The opening “Little Piece of You” is both a love song and a statement of musical purpose as Rose sings of crossing lines and open minds, and the arrangement uses rhythm and vocal nuances that echo country’s Nashville Sound. She writes cleverly, leaving the listener to decide if “My First Rodeo” is about a relationship, sex or a breakup. The same is true for “The Last Party,” whose forlorn emotion could be the result of a breakup or a more permanent end. The vocal waver and rising melody of “Only Just a Dream” reveals uncertainty, but Rose finally gives in with “Lasso,” turning her doubts into commitment.

Recorded in only four days, there was clearly a mind meld between Rose, Malo and the players, as the arrangements are deeply tied to the songs’ moods. There’s a bit of funk on “The Devil Borrowed My Boots Last Night” that recalls Jennie C. Riley’s “Back Side of Dallas” and Dolly Parton’s “Getting Happy.” The title track’s bass line and finger-snapping assurance suggest Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” but the song is actually a kiss-off, rather than an amatory celebration, and Drew Jurecka’s lush strings cradle Rose and Malo’s duet “Ain’t It Wise.” Released in Canada last April, this is getting a well-deserved worldwide push and some welcome stateside tour dates. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Whitney Rose’s Home Page

Hypercast #4: In Memoriam 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

A collection of music from some of the artists who passed away in 2014.

Arthur Smith Guitar Boogie
The Everly Brothers (Phil Everly) Made to Love
Lois Johnson Come on in and Let Me Love You
Weldon Myrick Once a Day
Johnny Winter Dallas
Little Jimmy Scott Everybody Needs Somebody
Jimmy Ruffin What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Jay and the Americans (Jay Traynor) She Cried
Bob Crewe Music to Watch Girls By
The Orlons (Rosetta Hightower) The Wah-Watusi
Cream (Jack Bruce) I Feel Free
Joe Cocker Feelin’ Alright
Jerry Vale You Don’t Know Me
Deon Jackson Love Makes the World Go ‘Round
Acker Bilk Stranger on the Shore
Jeanne Black He’ll Have to Stay
George Hamilton IV Abilene
Sadina (Priscilla Mitchell) It Comes and Goes
Velva Darnell Not Me
The Bobbettes (Reather Dixon Turner) Mr. Lee
Jimmy C. Newman Artificial Rose
Jesse Winchester Do It
Bobby Womack What You Gonna Do (When Your Love is Gone)

In Memoriam: 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

January
Jay Traynor, vocalist (Jay & The Americans)
Phil Everly, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Saul Zaentz, record company and film executive
Reather Dixon Turner, vocalist (The Bobbettes)
Dave Madden, actor and manager (Partridge Family)
Steven Fromholz, vocalist and songwriter
Pete Seeger, vocalist, songwriter and banjo player
Anna Gordy Gaye, record company executive and songwriter

February
Shirley Temple, vocalist, actress, dancer and diplomat
Sid Caesar, comedian, saxophonist and clarinetist
Bob Casale, guitarist and keyboardist (Devo)
Maria Franziska von Trapp, vocalist (Trapp Family Singers)
Chip Damiani, drummer (The Remains)
Franny Beecher, guitarist (Bill Haley and His Comets)
Peter Callander, songwriter and producer

March
Scott Asheton, drummer (The Stooges)
Joe Lala, percussionist and actor
Frankie Knuckles, DJ and producer

April
Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, string player and songwriter
Wayne Henderson, trombonist (The Jazz Crusaders)
Mickey Rooney, actor, singer and entertainer
Leee Black Childers, photographer, writer and manager
Jesse Winchester, singer, guitarist and songwriter
Deon Jackson, vocalist
Kevin Sharp, vocalist

May
Bobby Gregg, drummer (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel)
Dave Diamond, disk jockey
Andre Popp, composer and keyboardist
Cubie Burke, vocalist (The Five Stairsteps) and dancer
Jerry Vale, vocalist

June
Weldon Myrick, steel guitarist
Little Jimmy Scott, vocalist
Casey Kasem, disc jockey
Horace Silver, pianist and composer
Johnny Mann, arranger, composer and vocalist
Gerry Goffin, songwriter
Jimmy C. Newman, vocalist
Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, guitarist and songwriter
Bobby Womack, vocalist and guitarist
Paul Horn, flautist

July
Lois Johnson, vocalist
Tommy Ramone, drummer and producer
Charlie Haden, bassist
Johnny Winter, guitarist and vocalist
Elaine Stritch, vocalist and actress
Don Lanier, songwriter, guitarist and A&R executive
George Riddle, guitarist and songwriter
Idris Muhammad, drummer
Dick Wagner, guitarist
Velma Smith, guitarist

August
Rod de’Ath, drummer (Rory Gallagher)
Rosetta Hightower, vocalist (The Orlons)
Velva Darnell, vocalist

September
Bob Crewe, producer and songwriter
Cosimo Matassa, studio owner (J&M Recording) and engineer
Joe Sample, keyboardist
Tom Skeeter, studio owner (Sound City)
George Hamilton IV, vocalist and guitarist
Priscilla Mitchell, vocalist (a.k.a. Sadina)
Mark Loomis, guitarist (The Chocolate Watchband)

October
Paul Revere, band leader and keyboardist (Paul Revere and the Raiders)
Jan Hooks, comedienne and vocalist (The Sweeney Sisters)
Lou Whitney, bassist, producer and engineer
Tim Hauser, vocalist (The Manhattan Transfer)
Paul Craft, songwriter
Raphael Ravenscroft, saxophonist
Jeanne Black, vocalist
Jack Bruce, bassist, vocalist and songwriter (Cream)

November
Acker Bilk, clarinetist
Rick Rosas, bassist (Joe Walsh, Neil Young)
Jimmy Ruffin, vocalist
Dave Appell, band leader, arranger, producer and songwriter
Clive Palmer, banjoist (Incredible String Band)

December
Bobby Keys, saxophonist
Ian McLagan, keyboardist
Graeme Goodall, engineer and record company executive
Bob Montgomery, songwriter and vocalist
Dawn Sears, vocalist
Rock Scully, band manager (Grateful Dead)
John Fry, producer, engineer, record label and studio executive (Ardent)
Larry Henley, songwriter and vocalist
Chip Young, guitarist and producer
Joe Cocker, vocalist
Buddy DeFranco, clarinetist

Patty Duke: The United Artists Albums

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

PattyDuke_DontJustStandTherePattyDon’t Just Stand There / Patty
The world’s most popular teenager’s first two albums

Actors crossing over to the recording arts and sciences have had a long and spotty history. For a precious few, recording was a return to an earlier music career that was subsequently given a boost by their acting fame. For many others – think William Shatner or the cast of Bonanza – records were a quick cash-in that provided new marketing opportunities and gave fans an unusual musical memento. Capitalizing on her childhood stardom in film, theater and television, United Artists launched Patty Duke into the music world with four albums and a short string of hit singles. Though Duke wasn’t as vocally refined as her chart contemporaries, her theatrical talent, confidence and professionalism proved to be valuable assets in the recording studio.

Duke’s debut was titled after the album’s first and biggest hit, “Don’t Just Stand There.” The Top 10 single is a brooding piece of orchestrated pop whose mood and double-tracked vocals closely resemble Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t OwnMe.” Duke didn’t have the vocal depth of Gore, but as an actress she imbued the lyrics with intrigue and emotion. The album’s second hit, “Say Something Funny,” is a nicely wrought song of concealed heartbreak, written by the same team (Bernice Ross and Lor Crane) that had penned “Don’t Just Stand There,” and once again providing Duke an opportunity to create pathos from the song’s emotional storyline. Ross and Crane also contributed the waltz time “Ribbons & Roses,” whose dramatic arrangement and folk-tinged melody are a good fit for Duke.

The breezy “Everything But Love,” Gary Lewis’ “Save Your Heart for Me” and Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World” lend Duke the charm of earlier girl singers like Annette Funicello and Shelley Fabares. Less successful is an unsteady remake of Nat King Cole’s early ’50s ballad “Too Young,” and covers of then-contemporary pop hits, “Downtown,” “Danke Schoen,” “A World Without Love” and “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Stacking these covers against the originals of Petula Clark, Wayne Newton, Peter & Gordon and Jackie DeShannon, Duke’s versions sound more like novelties than artistic reconsiderations. A pair of bonuses from the film Billie includes the sweet Top 100 single “Funny Little Butterflies” and a stagier flip that reused the melody of the A-side.

Duke’s self-titled second album was released in 1966, the year after her debut, and followed a similar template of combining new material (including the minor hit “Whenever She Holds You”) that suggests earlier girl vocalists, with covers of recent pop songs. The latter, particularly the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” play well to Duke’s dramatic abilities, but aren’t always well-served by her limited vocal accuracy. Double-tracked vocals are used to agreeably sweeten several tracks, such as covers of Gary Lewis’ “Sure Gonna Miss Him” and the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do is Dream.”

PattyDuke_ValleyOfTheDollsSingsFolkSongsValley of the Dolls / Sings Folk Songs
Third pop album and a resonant folk set

Patty Duke’s first album had yielded the Top 10 hit “Don’ t Just Stand There,” but subsequent singles charted lower and lower. By the time she released her third album, Songs From Valley of the Dolls, Duke’s television program had ended, and her acting turn in the title film had left her wholesome teenage image behind. The material for her third album reflects this transition, having moved on from teen-themed love songs to more sophisticated and theatrical compositions by Dory and Andre Previn, including the film theme from Valley of the Dolls. As on her earlier albums, Duke shined more brightly as a dramatist than a vocalist, though by this point she (or more likely, her producers) felt comfortable enough to often leave her voice undoubled, exposing some pitch problems but letting her expressiveness and emotion shine.

Unlike he crooning of her teen hits, Duke sings the Previns’ material in the muscular style of a Broadway show, and it suits her well. The wear in her delivery gives the film’s title theme a wholly different feel than Dionne Warwick’s hit (which, incredibly, reached #2 as the B-side of “I Say a Little Prayer”), one that’s clearly emblematic of Neely O’Hara’s condition at the end of the film. The second half of the album departs from the Previns’ material and returns to lighter fare produced in the pop vein of Duke’s earlier albums, including the empowered “My Own Little Place” and the fuzz-guitar, bass and horn-driven “A Million Things to Do.” In addition to the album’s eleven tracks, the previously unreleased contemporary pop “I Want Your Love” is included.

Duke’s last album for United Artists is a collection of surprisingly compelling covers of contemporary and classic folk songs. The album was left in the vault at the time of its 1968 recording, though a single of “And We Were Strangers” backed with “Dona, Dona” was released with little fanfare. The expressiveness of Duke’s voice is better served by these gentler backing arrangements, and relieved of the need to belt out teen-oriented material, she really shines. Her recitation of “The Bells of Rhymney” is a memorably original approach to a song whose association with the Byrds is nearly unseverable. United Artists apparently didn’t think the record buying public would gravitate to a post-teen TV star’s interpretations of folks songs, which is a shame, because this is Duke’s most musically satisfying of her four albums for UA.

Those who remember Duke’s singing career most likely remember her earlier records, particularly the single “Don’t Just Stand There.” Her first two albums will generate a stronger element of nostalgia, but this second pair is actually the superior musical experience. All four albums provide charming memories of Duke’s years as the world’s most famous teenager, and the immediate years thereafter. Each two-fer CD is delivered with a sixteen-page booklet that includes full-panel cover reproductions and detailed liner notes. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Patty Duke’s Home Page