A decade after Jeannie C. Riley topped the country chart with Tom T. Hallâ€™s â€œHarper Valley P.T.A.,â€ the song was made into a feature film starring Barbara Eden. Eden had turned her early training as a singer, and the fame generated by I Dream of Genie, into a 1967 album for Dot and numerous appearances on television variety shows. For the soundtrack of this 1978 film she sang the Tom T. Hall songs â€œMr. Harperâ€ and â€œWidow Jones,â€ the latter released as a single. The album leads off with the stereo version of the title tune, and adds well-known songs by Jerry Lee Lewis (â€œHigh School Confidentialâ€) and Johnny Cash (â€œBallad of a Teenage Queenâ€) to Carol Channingâ€™s cover of â€œWhatever Happened to Charlie Brown.â€ Of more interest to soundtrack collectors will be Nelson Riddleâ€™s instrumental pieces, which include swing, late-night jazz and a classical pastiche. Unfortunately, though listenable, the fidelity of the Riddle tracks doesnâ€™t match that of the rest of the album. Worth getting, but someone should take another look in the vault for better source material. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
Six years before John Denver catapulted to fame with 1971â€™s â€œTake Me Home Country Roads,â€ he was a hard working folkie on the Los Angeles club scene. In 1965, when Chad Mitchell left his eponymous folk trio for a solo career, Denver survived the audition process to assume the groupâ€™s leadership. The new lineup issued a pair of studio albums and a live set on Mercury, and when the last original member, Mike Kobluk, left the group, Denver carried on with recent addition David Boise and the newly added Michael Johnson, as Denver, Boise & Johnson. The latter trio released only one single, Denverâ€™s â€œTake Me to Tomorrow,â€ but recorded additional material, of which three previously unreleased selections are included here.
The Mitchell Trioâ€™s legacy of humor is heard in the 1967 single â€œLike to Deal with Ladies as Sung in the Shower Accompanied by a Twenty-Seven Piece Band,â€ as well as a live performance of â€œHe Was a Friend of Mine.â€ The latter, stretching to nearly eight minutes, finds Denver intertwining smart-aleck stage patter with an audience sing-along and the trioâ€™s superb harmonizing. Denverâ€™s early years found him writing several of his most beloved songs, including â€œLeaving on a Jet Plane,â€ originally self-released in solo form as â€œBabe, I Hate To Go (Leaving On A Jet Plane).â€ The retitled song is offered here in both a poorly conceived, band-backed studio single, as well as a beautifully sung acoustic live performance from 1967.
Denver, Boise & Johnsonâ€™s single â€œTake Me to Tomorrowâ€ is a terrific up-tempo original, while itâ€™s B-side, â€œâ€˜68 Nixon (This Yearâ€™s Model),â€ sung in barbershop harmony, carries on the satirical social criticism of the Mitchell Trio. The set includes three previously unreleased tracks from Denver, Boise and Johnson, including superb vocal arrangements of Joni Mitchellâ€™s â€œBoth Sides Nowâ€ and Tom Paxtonâ€™s â€œVictoria Dines Alone,â€ and a 1968 take on Denverâ€™s â€œYellow Catâ€ thatâ€™s more sedate than the version recorded for Rhymes & Reasons. The disc closes with the unison singing and banjo of â€œIf You Had Me in Shackles,â€ capping a set that highlights the folk roots that preceded Denverâ€™s transformation into a â€œfar out!â€ â€˜70s superstar. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]
You may have never heard country-soul singer-songwriter Jim Ford, but youâ€™ve likely heard his songs, and youâ€™ve certainly heard his fans. Ford co-wrote P.J. Probyâ€™s hit single â€œNiki Hoeky,â€ an album for the Temptations, and songs recorded by Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Bobbie Gentry, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. The latter named Ford as his biggest musical influence, and recorded Fordâ€™s songs with his pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz and as a solo act. This 1969 debut was the only full-length release of Fordâ€™s lifetime, which also included singles, unreleased albums for Capitol and Paramount, and a wealth of session tracks that slowly found their way out of the tape vault.
Recorded in Los Angeles with support from James Burton, Dr. John, Jim Keltner and Pat and Lolly Vegas, Ford laid down an unusual mix of funk, soul, country and swamp pop. Burtonâ€™s guitar figures combine with soulful backing vocals, horns and strings, to create an album that sounds as if it could have just as easily been recorded in Memphis as in Southern California. The title track looks back at the poverty and back breaking work from which Ford ran away as a teenager. The songâ€™s breakdowns into hymn contrast with full throated pleas for relief, as Ford recounts the sort of living that wears a man down by his early twenties. His early years inform his recording of Delaney & Bonnieâ€™s â€œLong Road Ahead,â€ and his move from New Orleans to California is essayed in the autobiographical â€œWorking My Way To LA.â€
Oddly, for an album by a songwriter, half the selections are covers, including Stevie Wonderâ€™s â€œI Wanna Make Her Love Me,â€ a swamp-boogie take on Willie Dixonâ€™s â€œSpoonful,â€ and a vocally strained rendition of Alex Harveyâ€™s â€œTo Make My Life Beautiful.â€ Fordâ€™s originals include the broken hearted road metaphors of â€œUnder Construction,â€ the emotionally satisfied â€œLove on My Brainâ€ and the not-too-subtle drug references of â€œDr. Handyâ€™s Dandy Candy.â€ None of this made an impression on radio programmers or record buyers, and the album quickly disappeared. Ford eventually made his way to England where sessions with Brinsley Schwarz and the Grease Band failed to generate releases, and additional masters recorded for Paramount were shelved.
Ford drifted into partying and out of the music industry, eventually ending up in Northern Californiaâ€™s Mendocino County, where he passed away in 2007. Bill Dahlâ€™s liner notes tell the story of Fordâ€™s career leading up to, through and following this album, and the booklet reproduces the albumâ€™s front and back cover art. The original ten tracks have been reissued several times on vinyl and CD, including a 2014 release by Varese, and an expanded 2013 edition by Bear Family. Additional volumes [1 2 3 4] of previously unreleased material have also been issued, but if youâ€™re new to Ford as a performer, this 1969 debut is the place to start. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]
With Warner Archivesâ€™ Express Yourself no longer in print on CD, Varsese fills the vacancy with this sixteen track set. Included are the Los Angeles groupâ€™s three crossover hits (â€œDo Your Thing,â€ â€œLove Landâ€ and â€œExpress Yourselfâ€), an additional selection of period material, and two new tracks (â€œHappinessâ€ and â€œRemember That Thingâ€) that anticipate an upcoming album. The Mississippi-born Wright moved to Los Angeles as a pre-teen, where he performed in a number of doo-wop bands before founding and growing what would become the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. Wright was equally at home with hypnotic James Brown-styled riffing as with soul vocals, and the interlocking rhythm section of bassist Melvin Dunlop, drummer James Gadson and guitarist Al McKay, was equally adept with percussive funk riffs as they were with melodic tunes.
In addition to the crossover hits, the set includes three singles that charted R&B – â€œTill You Get Enough,â€ â€œMust Be Your Thingâ€ and â€œYour Love (Means Everything to Me).â€ Those who already own the Warner Archives release will find four more vintage titles here, including the funky â€œI Got Love,â€ but six from the previous volume, including the instrumentals “The Joker (On a Trip Through the Jungle)” and “65 Bars and a Taste of Soul” are dropped. Also note that â€œSpreadinâ€™ Honeyâ€ seems to have a shorter drum intro here than on the previously anthologized recording. Fans will want to track down the expanded reissues of the original albums (and look forward to the new album), but those just looking for a taste of this bandâ€™s funk and soul will find this a good place to start. [Â©2018 Hyperbolium]
This late-60s, multiethnic, multinational soul ensemble is best known to U.S. audiences for its two Top 40 singles, â€œBaby, Now That Iâ€™ve Found Youâ€ and â€œBuild Me Up Buttercup.â€ Both hits, and a good deal of their other material, were co-written by producer Tony Macaulay, often with his regular writing partner John MacLeod. The band had two more hits in the UK (â€œBack on My Feet Againâ€ and â€œIn the Bad Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)â€), as well as a number of minor chart entries, but after only four years, and numerous personnel changes, they packed it in. Various members toured and recorded under variations of â€œThe Foundationsâ€ name throughout the 1970s, but itâ€™s the original material from 1967-1970 thatâ€™s featured here. Varese has included all of the groupâ€™s A-sides for Pye (UK) and Uni (US), including the UK-only â€œBaby, I Couldnâ€™t Seeâ€ and US-only â€œMy Little Chickadee,â€ a handful of B-sides and a pair of tracks from the bandâ€™s final album, Digging the Foundations.
The bandâ€™s 1967 introduction attached them to the backside of the British Invasion, and their association with Macauley gave their hits a pop breeziness. But their innate sound was more in line with Motown, Stax and American horn bands. Given the chance to record original material, the group showed off grittier soul, jazz and blues influences on the B-side â€œNew Directionâ€ and the late A-Side â€œIâ€™m Gonna Be a Rich Man.â€ That said, they could also write bubblegum, such as the B-side â€œSolomon Grundy,â€ and they picked up sunshine pop tunes that include â€œBaby, I Couldnâ€™t Seeâ€ and â€œTake a Girl Like You.â€ Vareseâ€™s sixteen track set (including mono single mixes on 1, 4-6, 11, 13 and 15) provides a good overview of the groupâ€™s charms, and the CDâ€™s screening with the rainbow swirl Uni label is a nice touch. For a more complete rendering of the groupâ€™s story, look for the out-of-print Build Me Up Buttercup – The Complete Pye Collection, but for most this is a good place to start. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
Smokey and the Bandit was originally developed by stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham as a cheap B-movie with singer-actor Jerry Reed as the star. But with the signing of box office dynamo Burt Reynolds, Reed was demoted to second banana, Universal quintupled the budget, and the film went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide. The soundtrack was scored by Nashville legend Bill Justis, and includes three vocal titles by Jerry Reed. The latterâ€™s â€œEast Bound and Downâ€ became a signature song, and is included here in a second variation titled â€œWest Bound and Down.â€ Reed also detailed the Banditâ€™s earlier adventures in â€œThe Legendâ€ and sings Dick Fellerâ€™s ballad, â€œThe Bandit.â€ Justis mixes original country instrumentals with covers of chestnuts, including Ervin T. Rouseâ€™s â€œOrange Blossom Specialâ€ and Jerry Wallaceâ€™s 1972 hit, â€œIf You Leave Me Tonight Iâ€™ll Cry, with uncredited fiddle and steel players who are excellent throughout the album.
The 1980 sequel, Smokey and the Bandit II, didnâ€™t have the box office power of the original, but its soundtrack spun off a number of hits, including Jerry Reedâ€™s â€œTexas Bound and Flyinâ€™,â€ the Statler Brothersâ€™ â€œCharlotteâ€™s Webâ€ and Tanya Tuckerâ€™s â€œPecos Promenade.â€ The Snuff Garrett-supervised soundtrack album also includes performances by Don Williams, Mel Tillis, Brenda Lee, Roy Rogers with the Sons of the Pioneers and Burt Reynolds, the latter of whom scraped onto the country chart with â€œLet’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial.â€ The albumâ€™s two instrumentals, performed by the Bandit Band, included a mashup of â€œDueling Banjosâ€ and â€œWildwood Flowerâ€ titled â€œDeliverance of the Wildwood Flower,â€ and an original co-written by Garrett and Nashville legend Jerry Kennedy titled â€œPickinâ€™ Lone Star Style.â€ Both of these soundtracks are good spins, though the sequelâ€™s collection of vocal material will likely be more memorable for country music fans. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
The last album released during Chuck Berryâ€™s lifetime, Rockit also marked a rare deviation from his tenure at Chess. Released in 1979, it would be Berryâ€™s last release until the posthumous Chuck earlier this year. Berryâ€™s voice, guitar and lyrical ability were intact, as was Johnnie Johnsonâ€™s inimitable piano playing, and the rhythm section – Berryâ€™s longtime bassist, Jim Marsala, Nashville studio drummer Kenny Buttrey, and Muscle Shoals bassist Bob Wray – is tight. The production hasnâ€™t the grit of Berryâ€™s Chess years, but his roots shine through the too-tidy studio sound. â€œMove Itâ€ and â€œIf I Wereâ€ show off Berryâ€™s guitar licks and his lyrical dexterity. He borrows from his own â€œBack in the USAâ€ for the joyous â€œOh What a Thrill,â€ but unsuccessfully rearranges â€œHavana Moonâ€ with an odd meter and distracting backing vocal. Much better is the biting rewrite of â€œIt Wasnâ€™t Meâ€ as â€œWudenâ€™t Me,â€ the love letter â€œCaliforniaâ€ and the atmospheric blues â€œPass Away.â€ The latter is particularly interesting for its spoken storytelling and a looser vibe that evades the rest of the album. This may not measure up to Berryâ€™s landmark Chess records, but itâ€™s vital, clever and satisfying. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
Though John Sebastian returned to the top of the charts with the 1976 theme song to â€œWelcome Back Kotter,â€ his solo career never gained the commercial traction of his earlier work with the Lovinâ€™ Spoonful. Which isnâ€™t to suggest there wasnâ€™t artistic growth or musical riches in his solo years – there was plenty of both – but other than the single â€œWelcome Backâ€ and his self-titled solo debut album, his releases failed to crack the Top 40. Vareseâ€™s sixteen track collection cherrypicks material from Sebastianâ€™s five albums for Reprise, including the rare live album Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. The selections include his first solo single, â€œSheâ€™s a Lady,â€ the ambitious sixteen-minute â€œThe Four of Us,â€ the soulful â€œGive Us a Break,â€ a thoughtful cover of Jimmy Cliffâ€™s â€œSitting in Limbo,â€ the country-tinged â€œStories We Could Tellâ€ (famously recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1972), a modernized remake of â€œDidnâ€™t Wanna Have to Do It,â€ and a quartet of live Lovinâ€™ Spoonful covers. All four studio albums (John B. Sebastian, Four of Us, Tarzana Kid, Welcome Back) are available for digital download and in a grey-market 2-CD set, but Vareseâ€™s 16-track set offers those new to Sebastianâ€™s solo years a well-curated single-disc introduction. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
Peter Cetera is best known as a founding bassist and vocalist of Chicago Transit Authority. He was the lead vocalist on the breakthrough â€œ25 or 6 to 4,â€ as well as the groupâ€™s first chart-topper, â€œIf You Leave Me Now.â€ His earliest solo work, a self-titled 1981 album and the single â€œOn the Line,â€ was overshadowed by continued success with with the band; but by mid-decade, his vocals on Chicagoâ€™s hits, and his presence in the bandâ€™s videos provided enough personal notoriety to relaunch his solo career. 1986â€™s Solitude/Solitaire scored back-to-back #1s with Karate Kid IIâ€™s â€œGlory of Loveâ€ and the Amy Grant duet, â€œThe Next Time I Fall.â€ He scored again with 1988â€™s â€œOne Good Woman,â€ and continued to find success in adult contemporary throughout the â€˜90s. Vareseâ€™s fourteen track collection runs through 1992â€™s World Falling Down, highlighted by a handful of original single versions. Ceteraâ€™s solo work, tinged by the production sound of the â€˜80s, isnâ€™t as timeless as his early sides with Chicago, but his tenor is fetching among the synthesized keyboards and big drums, and his power ballads are well crafted. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
San Franciscoâ€™s Beau Brummels cast a long shadow with a surprisingly short chart resume. Their run in the Top 40 lasted two years, and amounted to only three hit singles, â€œLaugh, Laugh,â€ â€œJust a Littleâ€ and â€œYou Tell Me Why.â€ From there, the singles dwindled down the chart, and ended with 1966â€™s â€œOne Too Many Mornings.â€ But their sound – particularly their harmony arrangements – was unique, and their albums and non-album singles have retained an artistic currency beyond their commercial success. All six albums are on CD, along with best of and rarities collections, and a pair of deep vault explorations. Varese adds to the catalog a sixteen-track set that collects the groupâ€™s twelve original mono A-sides, a trio of Sal Valentino singles and the groupâ€™s 1975 reworking of â€œYou Tell Me Why.â€ The 45-minute disc is accompanied by a twelve-page booklet of photos, liner notes by noted West Coast music historian Alec Palao, and song notes that Palao gathered from band members Ron Elliott, Sal Valentino, John Peterson, Ron Meagher and Don Irving, lyricist Bob Durand and producer Lenny Waronker. Those new to the groupâ€™s catalog may find a greatest hits collection to be a better overall introduction, but fans will really enjoy the original mono A-sides (and long for the Bâ€™s!). [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]