Posts Tagged ‘Rockabilly’

Flat Duo Jets: Wild Wild Love

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Reissue of untamed debut EP and LP

Many years before guitar-and-drums duos became a template, Chapel Hill’s Flat Duo Jets cut a fresh figure on the college radio scene. Formed in the mid-80s by guitarist/vocalist Dexter Romweber and drummer Chris “Crow” Smith, they added bassist Tony Mayer for their full-length, self-titled debut. Paired here with the earlier cassette-only release (In Stereo) and a second disc of session outtakes, the package revels in the basics of live-to-tape, rockabilly-inflected rock ‘n’ roll. But even that is shorthand; Flat Duo Jets was hardly a rockabilly band, as their influences included classic rock instrumental combos like the Shadows and Ventures, surf bands, contemporaries like the Cramps, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and Los Straightjackets, and in their cover of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” big bands. And all of this was channeled through the rebelliousness and spontaneity of first-generation rock ‘n’ rollers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent.

The band got national exposure with a 1980 television performance of Benny Joy’s “Wild Wild Lover,” with Romweber’s fervor rendering David Letterman’s band mostly superfluous. Their cover of the theme from “Man with the Golden Arm” turns the original’s tense ‘50s jazz into a powerful rock ‘n’ roll grind. The group slows down for the ballad “Baby” and a cover of Elvis’ “Love Me,” but even here Romweber’s rhythm guitar is fiery and Smith’s sticks are heavy. They show off their range with piano and a New Orleans bounce on “Strut My Stuff,” and close the EP with a pair of Buddy Holly covers. The session tracks mix rehearsals and alternate takes, and include guitar-and-drum rave-ups, mid-tempo piano blues and covers of “Penetration,” “Rock Me Baby,” “Harlem Nocturne” and even the Andrews Sisters’ “Apple Blossom Time.” The original album is a terrific invocation of rock ‘n’ roll’s untamed youth, and the bonus material makes the reissue even more dangerous. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Dexter Romweber’s Facebook Page

Recent Vinyl Reissues from Varese Sarabande

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Although vinyl LP sales hit a 28-year high in 2016, tallying $416 million in sales. CD sales, while still much larger, decayed as digital downloads, and then streaming, displaced physical media. Vinyl has spread from independent record stores to major retailers, from independent labels to the majors, and from reissues to new releases. Even novelty picture discs are making a comeback. And whether this is a transitory hipster fad, or a long-lasting inroad into the psyches of digital natives, it provides an interesting intersection between format and material, providing a medium for reanimating not just the music, but the experience of catalog material.

Varese Sarabande, an independent label whose work is split between film scores and pop music reissues, has spanned the LP, CD, MP3 and streaming eras. Tracing its lineage back to the early ‘70s classical label Varese International and a late-70s merger with the Sarabande label, the combined Varese Sarabande, in addition to releasing modern film soundtracks, sources reissue material from a number of catalogs, and is distributed by the Universal Music Group. Each of these recent album reissues is pressed on 180 gram vinyl, with the original, full-size front- and back-cover art, and in a couple of cases, bonus tracks.

Wynn Stewart – The Very Best of Wynn Stewart 1958-1962

Varese’s vinyl reissue of their 2001 CD compilation is unusual, in that it was originally released on CD, making this vinyl reissue really a first pressing. That said, the eighteen tracks provide an excellent introduction to one of the Bakersfield Sound’s primary architects. Alongside Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Stewart shares credit for creating the west coast country sound. Harder hitting than then-contemporary Nashville, and with some sting from electric guitars, Bakersfield planted the seeds for later country-rock marriages and any number of alt.country roots revivals.

Stewart’s sound, especially his singing, had a drama that neither Owens or Haggard matched. From his earliest rockabilly work (represented here by 1958’s “Come On”) to fiddle-and-harmony driven weepers (“How the Other Half Lives” and “Wishful Thinking”), and country pop (“Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)” – a hit for Buck Owens), Stewart ranged over a variety of styles and emotions with incredible ease. His chart success was sporadic, but the brilliance of his recordings was anything but. These tracks were cherry-picked from his years with Jackpot and Challenge, and provide a terrific sampling of his early work.

Dobie Gray – Sings for “In” Crowders That Go “Go Go”

The son of sharecroppers, Dobie Gray launched two iconic singles in a career that spanned more than forty years, and included numerous lesser-charting highlights. This 1965 album for the Charger label was his breakthrough, capitalizing on the minor success he’d generated with 1963’s punchy “Look at Me” by launching Billy Page’s “The ‘In’ Crowd” onto both the pop and R&B charts. The album includes the lower-charting follow-up “See You at the ‘Go-Go’,” but is stocked with superb album sides written by Gray and selected from period songwriters. Jackie DeShannon’s “Blue Ribbons” stands out with its Brill Building feel, as does the autobiographical “In Hollywood,” the country-gospel waltz “That’s How You Treat a Cheater” and the euphoric “Feelin’ in My Heart.” Gray is equally at home with crooned pop, string-lined ballads and up-tempo R&B, lending the album a see-what-will-stick variety. Varese’s reissue augments the album’s original dozen tracks with the soulful non-LP single “Out on the Floor.” This is a sweet treat for lovers of mid-60s pop, soul and R&B.

Aaron Neville – Tell It Like It Is

Aaron Neville’s 1966 album debut is both his most famous and his most obscure. Famous, because the title track remains his most emblematic hit, and obscure because other than a low-profile 1990 reissue and abbreviated collections, Neville’s recordings for Par-Lo have never received the archival treatment they deserve. Varese’s vinyl reissue isn’t the complete Par-Lo recitation one might dream of, but it does return the original eleven tracks (including two swinging George Davis instrumentals) to vinyl with a pair of bonuses: a stereo version of “Tell It Like It Is” and the B-side “Those Three Words.” Neville’s tiny label couldn’t capitalize on the single’s meteoric success, and quickly fell into bankruptcy. Neville recorded a few singles for other labels, but it wasn’t until he united with his brothers in the 1970s, and guested with Linda Ronstadt at the end of the ‘80s that his profile really took off. Those who know Neville for his softer hits of the ‘90s may be surprised by his early New Orleans soul sides. Now who will put together the complete Imperial, Minit, Par-Lo, Bell and Safari collection?

John Phillips – John, The Wolf King of L.A.

Following the 1969 break-up of the Mamas & Papas, Phillips quickly began working on this 1970 solo release with many of the same ace Los Angeles studio musicians who’d backed his group. Though it didn’t gain much traction at the time – in part due to a reported lack of promotion – it’s country-rock sound remained fresh, and the album’s reputation has grown over the years. Though it had been reissued in the UK in 1994, its critical re-evaluation was spurred by Varese’s bonus-laden 2006 edition. Varese’s LP reissue puts the album back on vinyl for the first time in more than forty-five years, with the original ten-track lineup.

For those accustomed to Phillip’s background singing in the Mama & Papas, his voice may be higher than you would have guessed and without the star quality of Cass Elliot or Denny Doherty. Still, he was an evocative singer, and his songs offer up a melancholy in keeping with the post-Altamont transition from the 1960s into the 1970s, and his personal transitions from group leader to solo artist and from husband to singleton. The album’s lone U.S. single, “Mississippi,” charted in the Top 40, but left album dwelling at the bottom of the Top 200. It’s a wonder this didn’t become a freeform radio staple alongside other FM favorites. But it’s not too late, and the full-sized cover gives you a place to clean your pot.

Linda Ronstadt – Silk Purse

Originally released in 1970, Ronstadt’s second solo album was reissued on CD in the mid-90s, and then seemed to have fallen out of print. Varese remedied this with a straight-up CD reissue last year, and now reaches out to vinyl collectors with this LP edition. The album bubbled under the Billboard Top 100, but managed to launch the single “Long, Long Time” into the Top 40. Recorded in Nashville, Ronstadt mixed pop and country material, including Hank Williams’ take on the Tin Pan Alley standard “Lovesick Blues,” Mel Tillis’ “Mental Revenge,” Goffin & King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (which bubbled under the Top 100) and Dillard & Clark’s “She Darked the Sun.” Ronstadt returned to California for her self-titled third album, but this Southern sojourn was an important way-point in her development from a singer in the Stone Poneys to a full-blown solo star. Varese’s 180 gram vinyl reissue includes the album’s original ten tracks, and reproduces the original front and back covers. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

In Memoriam: 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Merle Haggard, 1937-2016

Listen to a selection of these artists on Spotify

January
Tony Lane, art director (Rolling Stone) and album cover designer
Brad Fuller, composer and music director (Atari)
Paul Bley, jazz pianist
Jason Mackenroth, rock drummer (Mother Superior, Rollins Band)
Long John Hunter, blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter
Georgette Twain Seiff, hall-of-fame banjo player
Robert Stigwood, manager and film producer
Nicholas Caldwell, R&B vocalist (The Whispers) and songwriter (“Lady”)
Elizabeth Swados, writer, composer and theater director (“Runaways”)
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, jazz and salsa trumpeter
Pat Harrington Jr., actor and comedy recording artist (Some Like it Hip!)
Kitty Kallen, vocalist (“It’s Been a Long, Long Time”)
Troy Shondell, pop vocalist (“This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)”)
Otis Clay, soul vocalist (“Trying to Live My Life Without You”)
Red Simpson, country vocalist and songwriter
Brett Smiley, glam rock vocalist (“Va Va Va Voom”)
Ed Stewart, radio broadcaster and television presenter (Top of the Pops)
David Bowie, vocalist and songwriter
Joe Moscheo, gospel vocalist (The Imperials) and industry executive
Giorgio Gomelsky, club owner, manager, producer and label owner
Hoyt Scoggins, country and rockabilly vocalist and songwriter
René Angélil, impresario and manager (Celine Dion)
Noreen Corcoran, actress (Bachelor Father) and vocalist (“Love Kitten”)
Pete Huttlinger, guitar virtuoso
Gary Loizzo, pop vocalist and guitarist (The American Breed)
Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, musician, songwriter and producer
Mic Gillette, brass player (Tower of Power)
Dale Griffin, rock drummer (Mott the Hoople)
Ramblin’ Lou Schriver, radio broadcaster, musician and concert promoter
Glenn Frey, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (The Eagles)
Andrew Johnson, album cover artist (The The)
Jimmy Bain, rock bassist (Dio, Rainbow)
Joe Esposito, road manager (Elvis Presley) and Memphis Mafia member
Colin “Black” Vearncombe, vocalist and songwriter (“Wonderful Life”)
William E. Martin, songwriter (Monkees), screenwriter and voice actor
Signe Toly Anderson, vocalist (Jefferson Airplane)
Paul Kantner, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Jefferson Airplane)
Billy Faier, banjo player

February
Maurice White, vocalist, songwriter and producer (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Leslie Bassett, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
Bobby Caldwell, keyboardist (Terry Knight and the Pack)
Joe Dowell, pop vocalist (“Wooden Heart”)
Jimmy Haskell, arranger, composer, producer and bandleader
Ray Colcord, film and television composer, producer and musician
Dan Hicks, vocalist and songwriter
Sam Spence, composer (NFL Films)
Obrey Wilson, soul vocalist (“Hey There Mountain”)
Rick Wright, country guitarist (Connie Smith)
Roy Harris, British folk vocalist
Kim Williams, country songwriter (“Three Wooden Crosses”)
L.C. Ulmer, blues musician
Denise “Vanity” Matthews, vocalist (Vanity 6), actress and evangelist
Joyce Paul, country vocalist (“Phone Call to Mama”)
Ray West, Emmy and Oscar-winning sound engineer (Star Wars)
Paul Gordon, keyboardist and composer
Brendan Healy, actor and musician (Goldie, Lindesfarne)
Vi Subversa, vocalist and guitarist (Poison Girls)
Charlie Tuna, radio broadcaster (KHJ, KROQ, KIIS, KBIG)
Buck Rambo, gospel vocalist
Sonny James, country vocalist and songwriter
Lennie Baker, vocalist and saxophonist (Danny & The Juniors, Sha Na Na)
John Chilton, jazz trumpeter and music historian
Craig Windham, radio broadcaster (NPR)

March
Gayle McCormick, vocalist (Smith ”Baby It’s You”)
Martha Wright, vocalist and actress (South Pacific, The Sound of Music)
Gavin Christopher, R&B vocalist and songwriter
Joey Feek, country vocalist (Joey + Rory)
Chip Hooper, agent (Phish, Dave Matthews Band)
Ireng Maulana, jazz guitarist
Joe Cabot, jazz trumpeter
Bruce Geduldig, synthesist and filmmaker (Tuxedomoon)
Timothy Makaya, jazz guitarist
Ross Hannaford, rock guitarist (Daddy Cool)
Ron Jacobs, radio broadcaster (Boss Radio KHJ, American Top 40)
Sir George Martin, producer
Jon English, musician and actor
Ray Griff, country vocalist
John Morthland, music journalist
Naná Vasconcelos, Latin jazz percussionist
Ernestine Anderson, jazz vocalist
Keith Emerson, progressive rock keyboardist
Gogi Grant, pop vocalist
Ben Bagdikian, educator, journalist and media critic
Ben Edmonds, music journalist
Louis Meyers, promoter (co-founder of SXSW) and manager
Tommy Brown, R&B vocalist (The Griffin Brothers)
Lee Andrews, doo-wop vocalist and father of Questlove
Frank Sinatra Jr., vocalist and actor, son of Frank Sinatra
Steve Young, country vocalist and songwriter (“Seven Bridges Road”)
David Egan, songwriter and pianist
Ned Miller, country vocalist and songwriter
Terry James Johnson, drummer (Bar-Kays) and clinical psychologist
Phife Dawg, rapper (A Tribe Called Quest)
James Jamerson Jr., R&B bassist (Chanson)
Jimmy Riley, reggae musician (The Sensations and the Uniques)
David Baker, symphonic jazz composer, musician and educator
Wally Crouter, Canadian radio legend (CFRB)
Patty Duke, actress and vocalist
Andy Newman, pianist (Thunderclap Newman)
Larry Payton, drummer (Brass Construction)

April
Gato Barbieri, jazz saxophonist
Don Francks, jazz musician and actor
Bill Henderson, jazz vocalist and actor
Carlo Mastrangelo, doo-wop and progressive rock vocalist
Dorothy Schwartz, pop vocalist (The Chordettes)
Leon Haywood, soul and funk vocalist
Dennis Davis, rock drummer (David Bowie)
Merle Haggard, country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Jimmie Van Zant, southern rock musician, cousin of Ronnie Van Zant
Earl Solomon Burroughs, musician and songwriter (“Great Balls of Fire”)
Jim Ridley, editor, critic and journalist (Nashville Scene)
Tony Conrad, experimental musician
Doug Banks, radio broadcaster (KDAY, KFI, KDIA)
Emile Ford, pop musician and sound engineer
David Gest, producer and former husband of Liza Minnelli
Gib Guilbeau, country-rock musician (Nashville West)
Filthy McNasty, nightclub owner
Mariano Mores, Argentine tango composer, pianist and conductor
Phil Sayer, British voice artist (“Mind the Gap”)
Vandy Anderson, radio broadcaster (KULF, KGBC)
Elliot Spitzer, radio executive (WLIR-FM)
Lord Tanamo, ska and mento musician
Richard Lyons, culture jammer (Negativland)
Pete Zorn, multi-instrumentalist (Richard Thompson Band)
Victoria Wood, actress, vocalist and songwriter
Lonnie Mack, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter (“Wham”)
Prince, vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
Billy Paul, R&B vocalist (“Me & Mrs. Jones”)
Remo Belli, jazz drummer and inventor of the synthetic drumhead
Harrison Calloway, musician and bandleader (Muscle Shoals Horns)

May
Candye Kane, blues and swing vocalist and songwriter
John Stabb, punk rock vocalist (Government Issue)
Peter Behrens, drummer (Trio)
Tony Gable, percussionist and graphic designer
Julius La Rosa, pop vocalist
Buster Cooper, jazz trombonist
Bill Backer, jingle writer (“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”)
Tony Barrow, press officer (The Beatles)
Johnny Sea, country vocalist (“Day For Decision”)
Emilio Navaira, tejano and country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Guy Clark, singer and songwriter
John Berry, punk rock guitarist (Beastie Boys)
James King, bluegrass musician
Nick Menza, rock drummer (Megadeth)
Marshall Jones, bassist (Ohio Players)
Floyd Robinson, country vocalist and songwriter (“Makin’ Love”)
Rick Vanaugh, country drummer (The Time Jumpers)

June
Alan Wise, promoter and manager (Factory Records)
Muhammed Ali, boxer and spoken word artist (“I Am the Greatest”)
Mac Cocker, radio broadcaster (Australia’s Double J)
Mark Parenteau, radio broadcaster (WBCN)
Dave Swarbrick, violinist, vocalist and songwriter (Fairport Convention)
Bobby Curtola, Canadian teen idol (“Hand in Hand With You”)
Dan Sorkin, radio broadcaster (WCFL, KFRC, KSFO)
Brian Rading, rock bassist (Five Man Electrical Band)
Christina Grimmie, vocalist and songwriter (The Voice)
Chips Moman, songwriter and producer
Henry McCullough, rock guitarist (Grease Band, Spooky Tooth, Wings)
Charles Thompson, jazz pianist and organist
Attrell Cordes, hip-hop, soul and R&B artist (P.M. Dawn)
Tenor Fly, rapper and ragga vocliast
Bill Ham, manager, producer and songwriter (ZZ Top)
”Dandy” Dan Daniel, radio broadcaster (WMCA, WYNY, WCBS)
Wayne Jackson, R&B trumpeter (Mar-Keys, Memphis Horns)
Freddy Powers, country songwriter and producer
Leo Brennan, Irish musical patriarch
Harry Rabinowitz, conductor (Chariots of Fire) and composer (I, Claudius)
Dr. Ralph Stanley, mountain music banjoist, vocalist and songwriter
Bernie Worrell, keyboardist and composer (Parliament-Funkadelic)
Mack Rice, songwriter (“Mustang Sally” “Respect Yourself”)
Scotty Moore, rock ‘n’ roll guitarist
Rob Wasserman, bassist
Don Friedman, jazz pianist

July
Teddy Rooney, actor, musician and son of Mickey Rooney
Bob Goldstone, music industry executive (Thirty Tigers)
William Hawkins, poet and songwriter
Danny Smythe, rock drummer (The Box Tops)
Vaughn Harper, radio broadcaster (WBLS “The Quiet Storm”)
Carole Switala, vocalist and puppeteer (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)
Steve Young, musician (Colourbox, MARRS) and songwriter
Johnny Craviotto, rock drummer and drum maker
Charles Davis, jazz saxophonist
Bonnie Brown, country vocalist (The Browns)
Alan Vega, vocalist, songwriter (Suicide) and visual artist
Claude Williamson, jazz pianist
Gary S. Paxton, vocalist, songwriter and producer
Fred Tomlinson, vocalist and songwriter (“The Lumberjack Song”)
John Pidgeon, rock music writer and BBC radio executive
Lewie Steinberg, R&B bassist (Booker T. & the M.G.’s)
George Reznik, jazz pianist
Marni Nixon, playback vocalist (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) and actress
Roye Albrighton, vocalist and guitarist (Nektar)
Allan Barnes, jazz saxophonist (The Blackbyrds)
Sandy Pearlman, writer, producer and manager (Blue Oyster Cult)
Lucille Dumont, vocalist, songwriter and television star
Nigel Gray, record producer (The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees)
Penny Lang, folk musician

August
Ricci Martin, musician, entertainer and son of Dean Martin
Patrice Munsel, coloratura soprano
Richard Fagan, songwriter (“Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)”)
Pete Fountain, jazz clarinetist
B.E. Taylor, pop vocalist and songwriter (“Vitamin L”)
Ruby Winters, soul vocalist (“Make Love to Me” “I Don’t Want to Cry”)
Padraig Duggan, folk musician (Clannad, The Duggans)
Glenn Yarbrough, vocalist and songwriter
David Enthoven, manager and record label executive
Ruby Wilson, blues vocalist
Connie Crothers, jazz pianist
Bobby Hutcherson, jazz vibraphonist
Preston Hubbard, bassist (Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds)
Lou Pearlman, producer and manager (Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC)
Irving Fields, pianist, composer and bandleader (Bagles and Bongos)
Matt Roberts, rock guitarist (3 Doors Down)
Tom Searle, guitarist (The Architects)
Louis Stewart, jazz guitarist
Headley Bennett, reggae saxophonist
Derek Smith, jazz pianist
Gilli Smythe, vocalist (Gong)
Toots Thielemans, harmonica player, guitarist and whistler
Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer (Bluenote)
Monty Lee Wilkes, sound engineer (The Replacements, Nirvana)
Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester, country and bluegrass fiddler

September
Fred Hellerman, folk singer, songwriter and guitarist (The Weavers)
Kacey Jones, singer, songwriter and humorist
Jerry Heller, agent, promoter and manager (N.W.A.)
Bud Isaacs, steel guitarist
Lewis Merenstein, producer (Van Morrison, Gladys Knight, John Cale)
Clifford Curry, R&B vocalist (“She Shot a Hole in My Soul”)
Prince Buster, ska singer-songwriter and producer (“One Step Beyond”)
”Crazy” Eddie Antar, electronics retailer
Chris Stone, studio owner (The Record Plant)
Leonard Haze, rock drummer (Y&T)
Don Buchla, pioneering synthesizer designer
Jerry Corbetta, vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter (Sugarloaf)
Trisco Pearson, R&B vocalist (Force M.D.’s)
Charmian Carr, actress and vocalist (The Sound of Music)
Micki Marlo, vocalist (“What You’ve Done To Me” “Little By Little”)
John D. Loudermilk, songwriter and vocalist (“Tobacco Road”)
Richard D. Trentlage, jingle writer (Oscar Mayer, McDonald’s)
Rob Meurer, vocalist and songwriter (Christopher Cross)
Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural Jr, zydeco accordionist
Kashif, R&B vocalist, instrumentalist, producer and songwriter
Jean Shepard, country vocalist and songwriter
Joe Clay, rockabilly vocalist and guitarist
Royal Torrence, soul vocalist (Little Royal and the Swingmasters)
Nora Dean, reggae and gospel vocalist (“Barbwire”)
Oscar Brand, folk vocalist and songwriter, radio host (WNYC)
Michael Casswell, session guitarist (Brian May)

October
Joan Marie Johnson, pop vocalist (The Dixie Cups)
Caroline Crawley, vocalist (Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil)
Rod Temperton, keyboardist and songwriter (“Thriller” “Off the Wall”)
Peter Allen, radio broadcaster (Metropolitan Opera)
Don Ciccone, pop vocalist (The Critters) and songwriter
Leo Beranek, acoustic engineer and co-founder of BB&N
Robert Bateman, songwriter (“Please Mr. Postman”), vocalist (Satintones)
Sonny Sanders, songwriter, arranger and vocalist (Satintones)
Robert Edwards, R&B vocalist (The Intruders)
Ted V. Mikels, filmmaker and record label owner
Phil Chess, producer and record company executive
Chris Porter, americana vocalist, songwriter and guitarist
Mitchell Vandenburg, americana bassist and songwriter
Dave Cash, radio broadcaster (Radio London, BBC Radio 1)
Herb “The Cool Gent” Kent, radio broadcaster (WVON, WJJD and V103)
Pete Burns, vocalist and songwriter (Dead or Alive)
Bobby Vee, pop vocalist
Hazel Shermet, actress and singer (New Zoo Revue’s Henrietta Hippo)
John Zacherle, TV host, recording artist and radio broadcaster
Ron Grant, film and television composer (Knot’s Landing)
Tammy Grimes, actress and vocalist (The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Curly Putman, country songwriter (“Green, Green Grass of Home”)

November
Bap Kennedy, vocalist and songwriter
Bob Cranshaw, jazz bassist
Kay Starr, pop and jazz vocalist
Jean-Jacques Perrey, electronic music producer
Laurent Pardo, bassist (Elliott Murphy’s Normandy All-Stars)
Sir Jimmy Young, radio host (BBC Radio 1 and 2) and vocalist
Al Caiola, guitarist, composer and arranger
Leonard Cohen, vocalist, songwriter, poet and novelist
Raynoma Gordy Singleton, songwriter and second wife of Barry Gordy Jr.
Billy Miller, magazine publisher (Kicks) and record label owner (Norton)
Leon Russell, vocalist, pianist and songwriter
Holly Dunn, country vocalist and songwriter
David Mancuso, disc jockey and private party host (The Loft)
Mose Allison, jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter
Cliff Barrows, musical director (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
Milt Okun, producer, arranger, conductor and publisher
Don Waller, music journalist and vocalist
Mentor Williams, songwriter (“Drift Away”), producer and engineer
Sharon Jones, soul vocalist (The Dap Kings)
Al Batten, bluegrass banjo player and band leader
Hod O’Brien, jazz pianist
Craig Gill, rock drummer (Inspiral Carpets)
Al Broadax, television and film producer (The Beatles, Yellow Submarine)
Florence Henderson, actress and vocalist
Pauline Oliveros, composer, educator and accordionist
Tony Martell, record industry executive (CBS Records) and philanthropist
Ray Columbus, vocalist, songwriter, manager and television host
Carlton Kitto, jazz guitarist

December
Mickey Fitz, punk rock vocalist (The Business)
Mark Gray, country vocalist and songwriter (“Take Me Down”)
Herbert Hardesty, saxophonist (Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew)
Wayne Duncan, bassist and vocalist (Daddy Cool)
Mohamed Tahar Fergani, Algerian vocalist, violinist and composer
Greg Lake, vocalist, bassist and songwriter (King Crimson, EL&P)
Palani Vaughan, Hawaiian vocalist and songwriter
George Mantalis, pop vocalist (The Four Coins)
Valerie Gell, rock ‘n’ roll vocalist and guitarist (The Liverbirds)
Bob Krasnow, record executive and co-founder of the R’n’R Hall of Fame
Joe Ligon, gospel vocalist (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
Barrelhouse Chuck, blues vocalist, songwriter and pianist
Jim Lowe, songwriter (“The Green Door”) and radio broadcaster
Ahuva Ozeri, Israeli singer-songwriter
Betsy Pecanins, blues singer and songwriter
Päivi Paunu, vocalist and Eurovision contestant (“Muistathan”)
Bunny Walters, Maori pop vocalist (“Brandy” “Take the Money and Run”)
Fran Jeffries, vocalist, dancer and actress (The Pink Panther)
John Chelew, producer and concert promoter (McCabe’s Guitar Shop)
Bob Coburn, radio broadcaster (“Rockline,” KLOS)
Léo Marjane, French vocalist (“Seule ce soir”)
Gustavo Quintero, Columbian singer-songwriter
Gordie Tapp, radio broadcaster and television performer (Hee Haw)
Andrew Dorff, country songwriter (“My Eyes” “Somebody’s Heartbreak”)
Dick Latessa, actor and Tony winner (Hairspray)
Sam Leach, concert promoter (The Beatles)
Betty Loo Taylor, jazz pianist
Frank Murray, manager (The Pogues) and tour manager
Mick Zane, rock guitarist (Malice)
Rick Parfitt, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Status Quo)
George Michael, pop vocalist and songwriter
George S. Irving, musical theater and voice actor
Alphonse Mouzan, jazz drummer
Pierre Barouh, lyricist (A Man and a Woman), composer and actor
Debbie Reynolds, actress and vocalist
Billie Joe Burnette, country vocalist and songwriter (“Teddy Bear”)
Rich Conaty, radio broadcaster (WFUV’s The Big Broadcast)
Allan Williams, booking agent and manager (The Beatles)
Johnny Canton, radio broadcaster (WDGY, WCCO)
David Meltzer, poet and jazz guitarist

Various Artist: Big City Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

various_bigcitychristmasBear Family’s Christmas present to the label’s fans

There are few reissue labels with Bear Family’s long, consistent history of knowledge, taste and quality, and all three are part of the package for this 2016 Christmas collection. The 30 tracks, totalling more than 70 minutes of music, mostly sidestep the oldies chestnuts, though Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” and Dean Martin’s “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” will be very familiar to American holiday shoppers. More surprising are the lesser-known recordings from well-known artists, including Frankie Valli and the Four Lovers’ hopped up “White Christmas” (an alternate take to the commercial single, no less!), Brenda Lee’s Cajun-influenced B-side “Papa Noel” and Dean Martin’s 1953 single “The Christmas Blues.”

Chestnuts are also spruced up, as Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” is sung by a very jolly Teresa Brewer, and “Jingle Bells” is given a jazzy read by Ricky Nelson and turned jivey by Pat Boone. The former also provides a warm version of “The Christmas Song” and the latter returns to MOR form with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The Cadillacs lay some R&B on “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Eartha Kitt gives a year-later update to “Santa Baby,” and Irving Berlin’s “Snow,” featured as a group number in 1954’s White Christmas, is sung solo by Rosemary Clooney. Chuck Berry’s B-side cover of “Merry Christmas Baby” is backed by Johnnie Johnson’s inimitable piano stylings and Berry’s riff on “White Christmas.”

But what really animates Bear Family releases, aside from the encyclopedic length of their box sets and booklets, are the obscure singles and unreleased vault finds they bring back to life. By digging through the label’s catalog of compilations and box sets, the producers have assembled a wealth of Christmas-themed pop, rock, rockabilly, blues and R&B rarities. Highlights include Charlie Starr’s homage to Chubby Checker, “Christmas Twist,” Cathy Sharpe’s rockabilly “North Pole Rock,” the Moods’ original B-side “Rockin’ Santa Claus,” and novelties from the Holly Twins (“I Want Elvis for Christmas”), Patty Surbey (“I Want a Beatle for Christmas”) and Sheb Wooley (“Santa Claus Meets the Purple Eater”).

Doris Day is delightful as she sings “Ol’ Saint Nicholas,” Frankie Lymon’s beautiful soprano is both bold and solemn on “Silent Night,” and the collection closes with Jo-Ann Campbell’s year-end “Happy New Year, Baby.” Reissue producers Nico Feuerbach and Marc Mittelacher (the latter of whom also provides short song notes) have beautifully sequenced recordings from the ‘40, ‘50s and ‘60s into an incredibly compelling program, and Tom Meyer’s mastering blends it together aurally. All mono, except 4, 15, 16 and 23, but you’ll hardly notice, as the fidelity is crisp throughout. In the annual avalanche of recycled holiday oldies, Bear Family’s terrific collection tops the tree. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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Various Artists: Feel Like Going Home – The Songs of Charlie Rich

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

various_feellikegoinghomeA tribute to Charlie Rich’s Sun-era songwriting

Though Charlie Rich found his greatest fame as a Nashville country crooner for Epic, the soul of his music was born in Memphis. Rich’s smooth countrypolitan ballads topped the charts in the mid-70s, but it was in fact a departure from the jazz, blues, rockabilly, gospel and soul flavors of his earlier work. And it’s those earlier flavors that are revisited here, as thirteen artists – including Charlie Rich, Jr. – perform songs written and performed by Rich during his years as an artist, sideman and songwriter for Sun and Phillips International.

In addition to the well-known “Lonely Weekends” (given a bluesy treatment by Jim Lauderdale) and “Who Will the Next Fool Be” (sung with sultry southern soul by Holli Mosley), the set includes non-charting singles and B-sides. Highlights include the Malpass Brothers’ crooned “Caught in the Middle,” Juliet Simmons Dinallo’s hot rockabilly “Whirlwind,” Johnny Hoy’s wailing “Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave,” Keith Sykes’ snakebit “Everything I Do Is Wrong,” and Kevin Connolly’s heartfelt closing title song.

The sessions were held primarily in the same post-Sun Sam Phillips Recording studio that hosted Rich for the originals, and the collection has been released on the same Phillips International label. You can find Rich’s original sides on the single disc The Complete Singles Plus: The Sun Years 1958-1963, or the deeper box sets Lonely Weekends: The Sun Years, 1958-1962 and The Complete Sun Masters, but these new takes are a treat, as Rich’s early work informs new generations of musicians with his unique blend of country, blues, rock, soul, gospel and jazz. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Kingbees: The Big Rock

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Kingbees_TheBigRockRockabilly revivalists’ 1981 sophomore outing w/bonus tracks

Omnivore’s bonus-laden reissue of the Kingbees debut album is now matched by a reissue of the band’s lesser-known follow-up. Originally released in 1981, the album stalled amid label problems and the band’s breakup. Lead bee Jamie James recorded four more tracks with a new rhythm section, and they’re included here as bonuses along with fresh liner notes, photos and a period press release. As on their debut, the band remained grounded in rockabilly, but never allowed themselves to become enslaved by retro fashion. Their goal was to make “short, snappy and punchy rock ‘n’ roll songs,” and though James, bassist Michael Rummans and drummer Rex Roberts took inspiration from the stand-up style of rockabilly, they weren’t limited by it.

What’s especially impressive is how the group recorded rump-shaking rockabilly with a crisp ‘80s studio sound, without surrendering to the era’s sterility. James’ original songs thread seamlessly with covers of Charlie Rich, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. The bonus tracks, three originals and a cover of the Burnettes’ “Tear it Up,” were recorded the following year with bassist Lloyd Stout and drummer Jeff Donovan, and appeared briefly as singles on James’ indie label. The extras expand a great album that was saddled with lousy timing. This is an essential companion to the band’s debut, and well worth the shelf (or disk) space of rockabilly connoisseurs. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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Banditos: Banditos

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Banditos_BanditosNashville-resident Alabamians surge with boogie, country and soul

No doubt Mary Beth Richardson’s heard enough Janis Joplin comparisons to last a lifetime. But her Joplin-like fervor is arresting, and only one of the ingredients that makes up this Alabama band’s insurgent stew. The flavors are Southern – boogie, country, rockabilly, blues, R&B and soul – but they’re blended loosely rather than mashed together, and each gets a turn in the spotlight with one of the group’s three lead vocalists. The band shows off their instrumental talents and stylistic diversity, but never wanders too far from the gritty, stage-ready drama that is their calling card. The vocals beseech, the guitars buzz, and the band barrels down the track with a load tightened up in a hundred second sets. This is a powerful debut that surely plays well on the road. Make sure to buy the singer a drink and request “Still Sober (After All These Beers).” [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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The Kingbees: The Kingbees

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Kingbees_KingbeesThe Kingbees’ debut still has its sting thirty-five years later

It’s hard to believe that at thirty-five, this album is nearly a decade older than was rockabilly itself in 1980. The Kingbees emerged in the late ‘70s, alongside the Blasters, Stray Cats, Pole Cats and others, and though primarily known for only this one album (their follow-up, The Big Rock, was stranded by their label’s bankruptcy), it’s among the very best of the 1980s rockabilly revival. The Kingbees laid down a solid backbeat, but weren’t afraid to move beyond the sound of vintage microphones, standup bass and slapback echo. Even better, they had great songs, guitar riffs that crossed classic tone with modern recording sonics, a fiery rhythm section (check out the bass and drum solos on “Everybody’s Gone”) and a terrific vocalist in lead bee, Jamie James.

Produced in the group’s native Los Angeles, the album initially failed to stir commercial interest, but in a page from the book of 1950s record promotion, the band gained a second wind through the regional airplay on Detroit’s WWWW and WRIF. “My Mistake” and “Shake Bop” both charted, and the band’s club performances led some to think they were local. The group’s second album garnered a cameo in The Idolmaker and an appearance on American Bandstand, but that was basically it. The group and their label both disbaned, leaving behind a small but impressive collection of recordings. The albums have been reissued as a twofer, but this remastered anniversary reissue sweetens the debut’s ten tracks with the demos that landed the band a contract, live tracks from a 1980 Detroit show, and a 12-page booklet featuring period photos and new liner notes from Jamie James.

The demos show how fully realized the band’s sound was before they signed with a label; even more impressively, the subsequent studio versions of “My Mistake,” “Man Made for Love” and “Ting a Ling” take the performances up another notch. The latter, a cover of the Clovers’ 1952 doo-wop hit, pairs with an inspired reworking of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Sweet Girl to Me” to show just how thoroughly the group knew what it had to offer. The latter kicks off the album, hotting up Warren Smith’s Sun-era cover in the same way Smith transformed Gibson’s original into rock ‘n’ roll. The live tracks show the trio to be a tight unit with plenty of spark, and the band’s simple, percussive covers of “Not Fade Away” and “Bo Diddley” speak to James’ roots rock inspirations; the former shines with the sheer joy of singing a Buddy Holly song, the latter gives all three players a chance to really lean on the Bo Diddley beat.

James’ originals are superb and sound fresh as he sings about girls, lust, romance, broken hearts and rock ‘n’ roll. “No Respect” builds from a slinky bass line and snappy snare drum to James’ lead guitar, and after a short verse, a sharp solo; Rex Roberts really grabs your attention with his drumming on both “My Mistake” and “Shake-Bop.” There’s a pop-punk edge to the faster numbers, but the rockabilly beat and James’ glorious ‘57 Fender Strat absorb, rather than fetishize the ‘50s roots. Cross-pollinated with the energy of ‘80s power-pop and new wave, the Kingbees forged a rock ‘n’ roll sound that’s proven quite timeless. Omnivore’s reissue features a master by Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen, and includes a 12-page booklet highlighted by period photos and liner notes from Jamie James. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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Hypercast #5: The Fool Anthology

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

“The Fool” was written by Lee Hazlewood (though credited to his nom de spouse, Naomi Ford, and with a guitar riff borrowed from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’“), and first waxed by Sanford Clark in 1956. Since then, the song’s been recorded dozens of times across a surprising range of genres. Here, for your irritainment*, are twenty-eight different recordings, clocking it at over ninety-six oddly hypnotic minutes.

* Thanks to artist Gordon Monahan and his Exotic Trilogy series for inspiration.

The Crags: Long Shadow Day

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Crags_LongShadowDayIntoxicating combination of country, punk, rockabilly and surf

When last heard from, this Durango, Colorado band was sporting a charming lo-fi sound. Three years later, their production is richer, their arrangements more polished and their musical scope widened. Tracy Ford sounds like Patti Smith backed by a rockabilly band on the opening “It Can’t Be So Hard,” and just as you’re settling into the two-step groove, Tim Lillyquist lays staccato surf picking into “Walida.” The band’s punk-rock, country, psychobilly, doo-wop and surf sounds are surprisingly sympathetic to one another, with Lillyquist’s guitar and Ford’s varied vocal moods tying it all together. There’s chicken-picking (“Tokyo”), ‘50s styled balladry (“Where Can I Go”) and even drippy neo-psych guitars (“In the Breeze”), and the distance between them all is shorter than you might imagine. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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