Posts Tagged ‘United Artists’

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

George Jones: The Complete United Artists Solo Singles

Friday, March 8th, 2013

GeorgeJones_TheCompleteUnitedArtistsSoloSingles

By the time that George Jones left Mercury and signed with United Artists in 1962 for his chart-topping “She Thinks I Still Care,” he’d been steadily minting hits since his 1955 debut, “Why Baby Why.” His two-and-a-half year run on UA produced sixteen singles, which the label managed to stretch over nearly five years of releases. All thirty-two sides – sixteen A’s and their flips – are included here in their original mono. Jones continued to be a steady hit maker (sometimes charting both sides of a single), but he also had his share of misses and obscure B-sides. This set includes favorites like “You Comb Her Hair” and “The Race is On,” but with so many singles over so many years, it’s easy to have lost track of superb A-sides like the rockabilly-tinged “Beacon in the Night,” the murder-suicide “Open Pit Mine,” the up-tempo “Your Heart Turned Left (And I Was on the Right)” and the fiddle-and-twang shuffle “What’s Money.”

During these years, Jones and his producers tried a lot of things to see what would stick, recording honky-tonk, weepers, Westerns, gospel, Christmas songs and novelties, and they gave each one their all. The set features many fine B-sides, including the too-late realizations and broken hearts of “Big Fool of the Year,” “I Saw Me” and “My Tears are Overdue,” each one filled with Jones’ inimitable vocal style. A handful of the flipsides charted, and in the case of the folk-styled “Where Does a Little Tear Come From,” outperformed its plug-side. In addition to the solo work collected here, Jones also recorded memorable duets with Melba Montgomery. A full accounting of this work can be found on Bear Family’s complete United Artists box set, but these singles get to the catalog’s heart, and the inclusion of lesser-known B-sides is a rare treat. The sixteen-page booklet includes photos, ephemera, chart and studio data, and liner note by Holly George-Warren. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

George Jones’ Home Page

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]

Donny Most’s Home Page