Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

Bobby Hatfield: Stay With Me – The Richard Perry Sessions

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Previously unreleased solo sessions from 1971

As half (and in several cases, all) of the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Hatfield’s tenor was the emotional high-wire that supercharged the blue-eyed soul hits “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Soul Inspiration” and “Unchained Melody.” In 1968 his partner Bill Medley left the act, and by 1971, Hatfield’s pairing with the Knickerbockers’ Jimmy Walker had also broken up. So it was with a solo career on his mind that he engaged with producer Richard Perry, who was hot off successful albums with Barbra Streisand and Nilsson. Initial sessions were held in the legendary Abbey Road studio in December 1971, with musical luminaries Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Al Kooper and Bobby Keys, and produced the single “Oo Wee Baby, I Love You.” Hatfield was loose and ready to create new sounds as Ringo’s drumming drew winningly on the Beatles’ “Get Back,” and a cover of George Harrison’s White Album-era “Sour Milk Sea” found Al Kooper banging away on piano as Hatfield exercised his falsetto.

A second set of sessions convened later in Los Angeles’ legendary Western Studios (home to Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and others), where a single was cut covering Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me.” Perry built the production with a full orchestra and chorus, and Hatfield lit it up with an impassioned vocal that echoes Ellison’s iconic original. The L.A. sessions also produced covers of Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” (a song written for the 1937 film, Rosalie, and not, alas, the Five Satins’ 1956 doo-wop classic) and Billy Fury’s “Run to My Lovin’ Arms.” The former aligns with the Tin Pan Alley-era material that Hatfield recorded earlier in his career, while the latter overclocks the emotional tenor of the chorus similarly to Jay and the Americans’ original.

Also included here is the B-side to both singles, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman” (a blues-rock Hatfield original that sings of life on the road, rather than the Buffalo Springfield’s hit), and covers of Harrison’s “What is Life” and two exploratory approaches to Holland, Dozier & Holland’s “Baby Don’t Do It.” Perry’s growing renowned apparently pulled him away from this project, leaving the two singles as the only commercial output. And though Hatfield recorded Messin’ in Muscle Shoals at the legendary FAME studios, these unfinished sessions demonstrate he had many more ideas than he ever got to release. This is a nice complement to Ace’s Other Brother: Solo Anthology 1965-1970, providing valuable insight into Hatfield’s state at the start of the 1970s, as well as his creative process. A nice get for fans. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

The Munsters: The Munsters

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Surf-styled 1964 novelty returned to mono vinyl

With The Munsters finding fans among a teenage television audience, the concept was ripe for spin-off marketing. Producers Joe Hooven and Hal Winn assembled the Wrecking Crew and a vocal group named the Go Go’s to record a dozen light-surf novelty tunes written by uncredited scribes, and a future collectible was born. None of these songs have the adolescent archness of Mad Magazine’s records, or the scene detail of Gary Usher’s surf ‘n’ drag albums, but there’s entertainment to be found in the bump and grind sax of “Vampire Vamp,” the ersatz Jan & Dean falsetto of “(Here Comes the) Munster’s Coach,” the Shadows-styled guitar of “Eerie Beach,” and the various Munster references. This was reissued on CD and limited edition purple vinyl in 2018, with the latter now getting a second life on ghastly grey mono wax. Not an essential, but interesting for fans of mid-60s pop novelties. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Marshall Crenshaw: Miracle of Science

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Expanded reissue of Crenshaw’s impressive, self-produced 1996 return to the studio

After five albums for Warner Brothers and one for MCA, this 1996 release marked five years since Crenshaw’s previous studio album, and broadened his new relationship with the indie label Razor & Tie. More importantly, the production stripped away the overwrought Steve Lilywhite-helmed sonics of Field Day and the extensive guest lists of Downtown and Good Evening, and centered on the considerable, innate charms of Crenshaw’s songs, voice and guitar. That transformation began to show with the trio playing of 1991’s Life’s Too Short, but with the guitar-rich live album My Truck is My Home, and again with this first self-produced studio effort, Crenshaw washed away the aural sheen of the 1980s, and brought the spotlight back to the richness of his pop craft.

From the hopeful longing of the opening “What Do You Dream Of,” the album offers hummable melodies, warm harmonies, catchy lyrical hooks, and perhaps most thankfully, studio production that supports rather than preens. Crenshaw is able to sing without straining to be heard, returning his voice to its m\wheelhouse. He sounds enthused to be in the studio with a new batch of original, co-written and coover material, and he alternates between mixing it up with guests and pitching in one-man-band-style on guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, percussion and vibraphone. By producing himself, he no longer served as a canvas upon which others cast their own shades, and his aim is as true as Richard Gottehrer’s work on Crenshaw’s 1982 eponymous debut.

Crenshaw had grown artistically in the fourteen years since Marshall Crenshaw, and this album isn’t a repeat of, or even really a throwback to his earlier work; but there is a connection to the nostalgic sounds of his earlier work than hadn’t been captured on the albums in between. The Shadows-styled guitar instrumental “Theme From Flaregun” offers a faux 1960s TV-theme, and Hy Heath’s up-tempo country-rock “Who Stole That Train” includes scorching electric guitar, energetic drumming and dobro from Greg Leisz that add muscle and buzz to the honky-tonk soul of Ray Price’s 1953 rendering. Several of Crenshaw’s originals are laced with bittersweetness as he contemplates the uncertain possibilities of “Only an Hour Ago” and lonely memories of “Laughter,” and the dissolution of Grant Hart’s “Twenty Five Forty One” is buoyed by terrific electric guitar figures.

“There and Back Again” may be the album’s most emotionally powerful moment, as Crenshaw wistfully remembers the joy of romantic discovery through the lens of its eventual end. More fully satisfied is a cover of  “A Wondrous Place,” with vibraphone and a Latin beat expanding upon Jimmy Jones’ and Billy Fury’s 1960 takes. Having gained ownership of his Razor & Tie catalog, Crenshaw is planning to reissue all five of its albums in expanded editions. This first effort includes a reordered track list alongside three bonus tracks that quizically include a backward rendering of “Seven Miles an Hour,” and new recordings of Daniel Wylie’s haunting “Misty Dreamer” and Michael Pagliaro’s 1975 single “What the Hell I Got.” The latter, a memorable song that was a minor hit in Canada, must have beamed across the border to Crenshaw’s native Detroit to make its long-lasting impression.

One might assume that the lack of major label marketing muscle doomed his album to its relative obscurity; but given that neither Warner Brothers nor MCA had much more success in promoting Crenshaw to a wide audience, it was likely the same disconnect between his artistry and the times that had plagued the commercial prospects of his earlier work. Which is a shame, because this album evidences Crenshaw’s talent, charm and vision more plainly than his earlier work. Those who lost track of Crenshaw during his major label run are highly recommended to this album as a place to reengage, and fans who’d already discovered this title will be interested in both the bonus tracks, and the tinkering Crenshaw has performed on “Twenty-Five Forty-One,” “Only an Hour Ago” and “There and Back Again.” A great start to Crenshaw’s reissue project! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Marshall Crenshaw’s Home Page

Big Star: In Space

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Expanded edition of reformulated Big Star’s 2004 return to the studio

After reformulating Big Star with the Posies John Auer and Ken Stringfellow in 1993, Alex Chilton eventually mustered up the interest to record a new album in 2004, and release it the following year. But in ways similar to Big Star’s third album (and to be fair, even the Chilton-led, mostly Bell-free Radio City), one might ask what it means to be a Big Star album. There is material here – largely from Auer, Stringfellow, and original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens – that harkens back to the band’s early-70s British pop inspired beginnings. But there are also strong currents of Alex Chilton’s rag-tag solo work, and his propensity to record cover songs. It’s difficult to hear this as continuous with the band’s earlier work, though there are moments; it’s not an erszatz doo wop band touring under someone else’s name, but it may be more accurate to think of this Big Star moniker as more ancestry than identity.

Despite having acceded to performing as Big Star, Chilton retained an uneasy relationship with the group’s earlier material. The new album was apparently born out of both his boredom with the narrow setlist he was willing to play on stage, and the opportunity to collaborate with bandmates with whom he enjoyed making music. After ten years of sporadic gigs, the group was really solid, rooted in the legacy material they performed, but not beholden to its ghosts. Chilton evidenced little interest is writing material for the new album that echoed his past, leaving it to his bandmates to mine the band’s legacy. Jon Auer and Jody Stephens’ co-writes touch most closely on the band’s earlier work, with both “Best Chance” and “February’s Quiet” offering guitar riffs and melodies that fit comfortably with the band’s first two albums. Stephens’ drumming on the former highlights just how fundamental he was to Big Star’s sound, and the closing chord of the latter song will provoke aural deja vu.

Chilton’s funky “Love Revolution” and “Do You Want to Make It” are more in line with his solo career than earlier Big Star, and the Olympics’ “Mine Exclusively” is just the sort of obscure cover that had long since become a Chilton trademark. Chilton’s post-Big Star penchant for spontaneous, raw performances threads through several tracks, including the rock ‘n’ roll rave-up “A Whole New Thing,” a ploddingly-delivered arrangement of Georg Muffat’s baroque “Aria, Largo,” and the cacophonous closer, “Makeover.” There’s craft to be heard, as on Ken Stringfellow’s Beach Boys’ pastiche “Turn My Back on the Sun,” but it’s not the sort of crystalline sounds the original band recorded in the early 1970s.

The original album is expanded on this 2019 reissue with a half-dozen bonus tracks that include songwriter demos, an a cappella take of Auer’s Beach Boys tribute, a rough mix of “Dony,” and “Hot Thing,” a track originally recorded by Big Star for their own tribute album Big Star, Small World. The demos are particularly interesting as working documents that sketch the initial inspiration and evolving views of the singer-songwriters. Liner notes from Auer, Stringfellow, co-producer/engineer Jeff Powell, assistant engineer Adam Hill, and Rkyo Records exec Jeff Rougvie offer first-person memories and warm anecdotes of what turned out to be a one-off studio effort. In retrospect, this is a nice coda to the Big Star legend, if not exactly a straightforward element of the canon. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Laura Nyro: More Than a New Discovery

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Laura Nyro’s 1967 debut back on vinyl in its original mono mix

Laura Nyro was more than a new discovery on this 1967 debut, she was a wholly new musical entity, bringing together the songcraft of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, blues, jazz and pop. Her lyrical and singing voices melded these strands into something wholly new, and years ahead of other singer-songwriters who’d venture into similar polymusical directions. Even more impressive is that her songs were strong enough to create space for both her authoritative original versions and the iconic hit covers of others. Nyro’s passionate reading of “And When I Die” is wholly satisfying, and uneclipsed by Blood, Sweat & Tears’ iconic cover. The same can be said for “Stoney End” (Barbara Streisand) and “Wedding Bell Blues” (The Fifth Dimension), both of which are equally remarkable as originals and covers. Originally released by Verve/Folkways, the album was reissued by Columbia (under the title The First Songs, with revised running order and cover art) with Nyro’s move to the major. The original formulation has had a few import CD reissues, and is now returned to vinyl in a limited-edition, violet-colored mono LP, with remastering by Vic Anesini from the original master tapes, and a new lacquer cut by Clint Holley. In addition to Nyro’s preferred mono mix, this reissue is also free of the reverb that Columbia added to The First Songs. This is a super souvenir for Nyro’s many fans! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Coven: Blood on the Snow

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Third and final album from misunderstood one-hit wonders

Though now remembered for their remake of the Original Caste’s “One Tin Soldier,” this Chicago-bred band initially gained renown for the controversy that had previously sunk their commercial opportunities. Led by vocalist Jinx Dawson, the Coven was arguably the first rock band to adopt occult symbology, inverted crosses and the hand-thrown sign of the horns, and their 1969 Mercury debut, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, included a thirteen-minute “Satanic Mass.” Ahead of their times, they were tripped up by growing public anxiety about cults, and when an Esquire magazine suggested a false connection between the band and Charles Manson, the group’s fortunes quickly collapsed; albums returned, shows cancelled, and their recording contract dropped. Had their debut (which was reissued digitally by the band in 2015, and more recently on vinyl by Real Gone) been their epitaph, they would have earned an interesting niche in rock ‘n’ roll history. But there was more.

Resettled in Los Angeles, Dawson was tapped to cover the Original Caste’s 1969 anti-war song as the theme for the film Billy Jack. Recorded with studio musicians and an orchestra, but credited to Coven, the single rose to #26 in 1971, and netted Jinx and a newly formed Coven a record deal with MGM. Their eponymous album included a band version of “One Tin Soldier,” which itself charted in 1973 and again in 1974, cementing the group’s popular identity as a one-hit wonder. At the same time, the group had moved from MGM to Buddah where they released this third and final album. By this point, the public connection to their occult beginnings were lost in the sands of time, and neither the controversy that had originally derailed them, nor their one-off movie hit could lift them back into the mainstream.

By the time this album was released in 1974, Coven was playing catch up with the more calculated occult references others had built into heavy metal. Produced by Shel Talmy, the album features a variety of hard rock, glam, and pop that was closer to the mainstream than the blues-rock theatricality of the group’s debut. “This Song’s For All You Children” suggests radio-friendly Todd Rundgren, “Lady-O” has strings and touches of country in the piano and vocal melody, and “Don’t Call Me” resounds with the punk energy of the Dolls. But there are also traces of the band’s early days in the blues rock “Hide Your Daughters,” the progressive “Lost Without a Trace,” and “Easy Evil,” and the closing title title track.

In 1974 Buddah was likely focused on the success of their marquee act, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and reintroducing Coven to AM (which was by then was only lightly speckled with BTO, Bad Company and Grand Funk) would have been difficult. FM had long since forgotten the controversial genesis that might have made the band interesting to the underground, and even an experimental music video couldn’t reignite interest. All of which is a shame, as Dawson remained a powerful vocal talent, and many of the songs are catchy and played with style. Pop music acclaim has always been  a fickle reward based on a supernatural alignment of circumstances, and the stars didn’t align for this third and final album. Reissued with the original album’s gatefold cover, this is a nice souvenir of a band whose momentary fame overshadowed the charms of their catalog. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

The Archies: The Definitive Greatest Hits & More!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Limited edition, blue vinyl reissue of iconic bubblegum music

The origin story for this cartoon band suggests that having lost artistic control of the Monkees, music impresario Don Kirshner happened upon the idea of a purely fictional group – one that could have no artistic aspirations of its own and, to quote Kirshner, “won’t talk back.” And thus was born the musical career of the long-time Archie comic book characters on a series of singles and albums that peaked with the chart-topping “Sugar, Sugar.” Kirshner’s reputation as a publisher with golden ears served the studio musicians who played and voiced the Archies, drawing upon material from Jeff Barry, Andy Kim, Bobby Bloom, Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams. Real Gone’s 14-track vinyl LP features five of the group’s U.S. charting singles (omitting only 1970’s “Together We Two”), and includes material from the group’s first four albums (omitting tracks from 1971’s This is Love).

The Archies’ music may have been designed primarily for pre-teens, but the records were backed by talented songwriters, producers and studio musicians, and fronted by the infectious vocals of Ron Dante. Dante was a jingle singer whose voice perfectly fueled the sunshine vibe and puppy love singalongs that made up much of the Archies’ catalog. The group’s third single, “Sugar Sugar,” is rightly considered the national anthem of bubblegum music, but there are many more gems in the catalog. “Jingle Jangle” and “Get on the Line” show off touches of soul, “Inside Out – Upside Down” plays like a nursery rhyme and “Archies Party” rocks out in an ecstatic, pre-teen way. Though often denigrated for their market calculation, there is real craft in these records, with hooks that remain sharp. Real Gone’s vinyl-only release is a nice throwback to the Calendar and Kirshner originals, and a nice collectible for fans. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ: Turn On, Tune In

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

The latest NRBQ lineup tears it up live in the studio

More than fifty years from its founding, NRBQ is as much an ethos as it is a band. Rebuilt by founding member Terry Adams after a seven-year hiatus, the current lineup carries on the earlier group’s unique blend of rock, pop, rockabilly, boogie-woogie, jazz, blues and other American music forms, both in the studio and, as was the original band’s hallmark, on stage. Performing for SiriusXM in 2015 and New Jersey’s WFMU in 2017, the band’s latest lineup (which added drummer John Perrin in 2015) works through a typically diverse and impromptu set that leans heavily on material penned by Adams. The set list sidesteps classic ‘Q material written by former bassist Joey Spampinato and guitarist Al Anderson, but does reach back to the group’s early days, and stretches out with the sort of brilliantly selected covers the band is known for.

Making up the setlist in the moment has long been Adams’ job, and the nightly change in the band’s live performances has kept NRBQ from devolving into a nostalgic set of charts. The opening cover of Goffin & King’s “Don’t Ever Change” is emblematic of NRBQ’s quirky reach, as they tackle (apparently for the first time in this very performance) an obscure UK hit for the post-Buddy Holly Crickets. Perhaps they keyed off of the Beatles 1963 cover or Brinsley Schwarz’s version a decade later, but its lead harmony and polite drum rolls remain as charming today as they were in 1962. The set’s other covers aren’t as obscure, though they’re just as interesting. The Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” features bassist Casey McDonough reprising the falsetto vocal he sang on Brian Wilson’s fiftieth anniversary tour of Pet Sounds, Johnny & The Hurricanes’ 1959 instrumental hit “Red River Rock” features drummer John Perrin on lead organ, and Jimmie Driftwood’s “The Wilderness Road” includes a harmonica solo that’s as high and lonesome as the song’s lyrics.

Closer to home, the band resurrects favorites and obscurities from friends, family and former members. Guitarist Scott Ligon’s first recorded his older brother Chris’ twee “Florida” in 2005, and Chris recorded the song again in 2011 with his group the Flat Five. The harmony lead vocal is filled with yearning for America’s vacation land and a wordless hook of vocal jazz syllables. Terry Adams’ brother Donn is represented by the bombastic, incredibly rare Dickens’ B-side “Don’t Talk About My Music,” a song whose NRBQ story has to be read to be believed. Reaching back to the band’s early days, Steve Ferguson’s “Step Aside” recalls the group’s 1970 outing with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, Terry Adams’ “Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard” provides a prog-rock tribute to the Three Stooges, a trio of tunes from 1977’s All Hopped Up includes the sweet “It Feels Good,” and the WFMU show closes with Adams’ ode to Southern comfort food, “RC Cola and a Moon Pie.”

More recent releases are represented by material from Adams’ solo albums, and the resurrected group’s albums Keep This Love Goin’ and Brass Tacks. Long-time WFMU DJ Bob Brainen provide liner and song notes, and the CD and LP include a professionally shot DVD of the WFMU performance. Those still lamenting the disbanding of the classic lineup of Adams, Anderson, Ardolino and Spampinato, may find it sacreligious for this new quartet to have adopted the NRBQ name, but they hold the torch high, and carry on the marriage of studied musicianship and musical whimsicality that’s long defined the band. Their new music plays well with the deep catalog entries, and the covers are lovingly selected and deftly executed. There are few bands that have been this fun for this long, and the latest lineup definitely keeps the love goin’. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ’s Home Page

The Strangeloves: I Want Candy

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Red vinyl mono reissue of terrific mid-60s curio

The Strangeloves – Australian sheep-farming brothers Giles, Miles and Niles Strange – were in fact a trio of New York songwriter-producers, searching for hits amid the onslaught of the British Invasion. The thressome – Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer – had written and produced the Angels’ chart topping hit “My Boyfriend’s Back” in 1963, but with the change in musical tide, they began looking for beat groups. Rather than finding a group for which to write and produce, they made one up in the studio and created a fictional backstory. Their first single, “Love, Love (That’s All I Want from You)” bubbled under the Top 100, but their second single, “I Want Candy,” rode its Bo Diddley beat to #11. They’d score two more Top 40 singles with “Cara-Lin” and “Night Time,” and perhaps even more impressively, their original backing track for “Hang on Sloopy” was reused for the McCoy’s chart-topping hit.

The group’s one and only album is reproduced here on candy apple red vinyl, and includes their three hits, alongside several excellent album tracks. The group’s rendition of “Hang On Sloopy” includes the extra verse that was cut from the McCoys’ single, and a cover of Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “New Orleans” infuses Cannibal and the Headhunters’ “Na Na Na Na Na” chant from “Land of 1000 Dances.” The original “(Roll On) Mississippi)” temporarily drops the dominant Bo Diddley beat for a stomping New Orleans rhythm and wild Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano. The proto-bubblegum original “Rhythm of Love” was rewritten into a fetching power-pop tune by the appropriately fictitious Pooh Sticks, and “Just the Way You Are” closes the album with the band’s favored Diddley beat.

Goldstein would go on to discover and produce War’s singles and albums, while Gottehrer would co-found Sire and produce seminal early works by Blondie, Marshall Crenshaw, the Go-Gos, and many others. But years before, they were the Strange brothers, sporting zebra-striped vests and leather pants, and pounding on aboriginal drums while performing their ode to dancer Candy Johnson on Hullabaloo. Real Gone’s 2019 vinyl reissue reproduces the original mono mix, providing a textbook example of mono’s power to deliver the gut punch that’s often dissipated by stereo. The stereo mixes included on the group’s Best Of CD are good to have available, but they don’t deliver the Boss Radio memory of mono. For fans who don’t have an original vinyl issue, this is a great get! [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Cheap Trick: The Epic Archive Vol. 2, 1980-1983

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Second volume of odds ‘n’ sods reissued on CD

Originally released for digital download in 2015 [1 2 3], the three volume Epic Archives series gathers together rarities from the Cheap Trick catalog. Now being reissued on CD, volume two augments the re-release of volume one with 16 more odds ‘n’ sods gathered from singles, B-sides, EPs, live performances, film soundtracks, demos, remixes and edits. All of this is neatly wrapped with liner notes by Ken Sharp and track-by-track commentary from Bun E. Carlos, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson. Fans who got the download will want to re-up for the full-fidelity CD, the liners and the booklet’s rare photos. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Cheap Trick’s Home Page