Tag Archives: Warner Brothers

Bobby Hatfield: Stay With Me – The Richard Perry Sessions

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]

Vince Guaraldi: The Complete Warner Bros.–Seven Arts Recordings

Guaraldi reconsiders Peanuts, wigs out, and returns to his piano

After a two year fight to break his heavy-handed contract with Fantasy Records, San Francisco pianist Vince Guaraldi was free to follow his muse, and be compensated fairly for doing so. His first outing, the self-released Vince Guaraldi with the San Francisco Boys Choir, failed to gain any traction, and he subsequently signed a deal with Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Omnivore’s 2-CD set collects the albums that Guaraldi recorded for the label in 1968 and 1969, Oh, Good Grief!, The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi and Alma-Ville, and adds four previously unreleased bonus tracks to lead off disc two.

Guaraldi won a 1963 Grammy for “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and was praised for his work with guitarist Bola Sete, but it was the 1965 soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas that catapulted his music from jazz clubs into American households. He returned to the Peanuts canon for his first album with Warner Bros., revisiting eight selections with a quartet that included electric guitar, bass and drums. Guaraldi opens the set with a new recording of his most famous composition, “Linus and Lucy,” and its hurried tempo and electric harpsichord flourishes are more big city bustle than the joyous dance of the original.

The harpsichord steps to the fore to open the waltz-time “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown” falling back to vamp as Guaraldi solos on piano. The piano and harpsichord trade the spotlight throughout the album, with only “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Rain, Rain Go Away” given fully to acoustic piano. The band swings, and the piano and guitar solos add soul, but the electric harpsichord doesn’t provide Guaraldi’s touch the musical colors of the piano, and now sounds more like an anachronistic infatuation than a solid artistic choice. That said, the harpsichord doesn’t dominate to the point of distraction.

By the autumn of 1968, Guaraldi had grown out his hair and started jamming with the likes of Jerry Garcia. The San Francisco rock scene’s influence is heard both overtly and implicitly on his next album, as Guaraldi stretches out in new musical directions. Self-produced, and recorded over several months with a variety of drummers, bassists and guitarists, Guaraldi even included a string section on a few tracks. The opener has a pensive Latin influence, but with arching string lines that suggest grand landscapes, while the longer jams “Lucifer’s Lady” and “Coffee and Doe-Nuts” feature driving, progressive solos.

Stretching even further, a vocal cover of Tim Hardin’s “Black Sheep Boy” brings to mind trumpeter Jack Sheldon, but Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” shows off Guaraldi’s limitations as a singer. The harpsichord on Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” sounds more like a primitive synthesizer than a keyboard, and the strings on the Beatles’ “Yesterday” sound like Muzak. Guaraldi plays thoughtfully on a cover of “It Was a Very Good Year,” and finds some life in his electric harpsichord on a swinging cover of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” The latter is offered here as a bonus track from the original sessions, alongside a alternate take of “The Beat Goes On” whose jamming improves upon than the album cut.

The renowned that Guaraldi had earned back with his first Warner Bros. album dissipated with the lack of response to the second, and the label brought Shorty Rogers on board to produce his third and final effort. Guaraldi also returned to acoustic piano and wrote the bulk of the album’s material, giving the album a coherency the previous effort lacked. Guaraldi warmed up with Rogers in the producers seat with an organ-based instrumental cover of Edwin Hawkins’ “Oh Happy Day” and the speedy original “The Sharecropper’s Daughter.” Neither were used for the the album, and are offered here as bonus tracks.

Alma-ville returns Guaraldi’s piano to the fore, opening with the Latin-tinged theme for Snoopy’s arm-wrestling alter ego, “The Masked Marvel,” and offering thoughtful variations on “Eleanor Rigby.” Colin Bailey’s cymbal work adds just the right push to Guaraldi’s right hand and Herb Ellis’ guitar solo on the original “Detained in San Ysidro,” and the rhythm section swings hard on a then-new arrangement of the title tune. Duke Person’s “Cristo Redntor,” previously recorded in definitive versions by both Pearson and Donald Byrd, is an album highlight, opening in a meditative mood before transitioning to a more lively tempo.

Sadly, despite Alma-ville’s focussed song list and deep artistry, its predecessor had sacrificed the label’s goodwill, and the album went unpromoted, leaving Guaraldi’s tenure at Warner Bros. to live in the shadow of his earlier work for Fantasy. Of his three albums for Warners, only the commercially successful Oh, Good Grief! remained in steady circulation, making this complete set the first widely-available retelling of Guaraldi’s quirky, but fruitful last recording tenure. A must-have for Guaraldi’s fans, and a welcome second chapter for those who’ve worn out their copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

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Arthur Alexander: Arthur Alexander

A quiet 1972 gem from a country-soul legend

Arthur Alexander’s music career was as heartbreaking as were his songs. A writer of indelible sorrow, he sang with a depth that seemed to flow directly out of his aching soul. He reached the Top 40 with “You Better Move On” and the R&B Top 10 with “Anna,” but his songs quickly became better known for other artist’s covers – the Stones, Beatles, Steve Alaimo, Gary Lewis & The Playboys and Bob Luman in the ‘60s – than for his own performances. The covers kept coming, as Mink DeVille, Chris Spedding, Marshall Crenshaw, Pearl Jam and others discovered Alexander’s songs, but various revivals of his own recording career never reached the commercial heights his artistry deserved.

Dropped by Dot in 1965, Alexander recorded a handful of singles for Sound Stage 7 and Monument (collected here), and in 1971 was signed by Warner Brothers to record this album. Alexander wrote five of the twelve titles, serving up heartbreak tinged with the difficult loyalty of “Go On Home Girl” and the painful memories of “In the Middle of It All.” Amid the sadness he surprises with resilience, haunted by failure but not knocked out in “Love Is Where Life Begins,” and resolutely focused on the prize in Dan Penn and Donnie Fitts’ troubled “Rainbow Road.” He aches with quiet desire on “It Hurts to Want It So Band,” and offers up an early version of Dennis Linde’s “Burning Love,” but without the fire of Elvis’ subsequent hit.

Released in 1972, the album and its singles garnered little interest from radio and no commercial results to speak of. A pair of follow-on singles, included here as bonus tracks, fared no better commercially. “Mr. John” has the sleek feel of Bill Withers, and the follow-up cover of “Lover Please” has a bouncy New Orleans roll. Two more tracks, the yearning “I Don’t Want Nobody” and optimistic “Simple Song of Love” were recorded for Warner Brothers but left unreleased until now. Alexander resurfaced a few years later with a charting cover of his own “Every Day I Have to Cry Some,” as well as the Elvis tribute, “Hound Dog Man’s Gone Home,” but unable to sustain this success, he left the business.

Two decades later he bubbled up again with the superb Lonely Just Like Me, finally receiving the attention and accolades he deserved. Sadly, and perhaps in keeping with the melancholy of his best work, Alexander passed away just months after the album’s release. Omnivore’s reissue of Arthur Alexander reproduces the original 12-song running order, adds six additional tracks waxed for Warner and original cover art. The 12-page booklet includes full-panel photos, label reproductions, and original and new liner notes by Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen. Although his time with Warner Brothers was short, it was artistically triumphant, and adds a valuable chapter to his small but influential catalog. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Donna Fargo: That Was Yesterday

donnafargo_thatwasyesterdayDonna Fargo’s late-70s return to the charts

Top 40 listeners will remember Donna Fargo for her pair of 1972 crossover hits, “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face,” but country fans will also recall the decade-long tail of her career. After her commercial fortunes began to fade in 1975, Fargo moved from Dot to Warner Brothers, and reignited her chart success with “Mr. Doodles.” That song provides the launching point for this collection of Fargo’s Warner Brothers-era sides, running through 1981’s non-LP “Lonestar Cowboy” and “Jacamo.” There are a few singles missing (1979’s “Walk on By” and a pair of low-charting sides from 1980’s Fargo), but what’s here covers the core of her commercial success at Warner Brothers, including six Top 10 hits, and the chart topping title track “That Was Yesterday.” Unusually for the times, Fargo wrote most her own material, only turning to others for hits (including “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “Shame on Me,” “Do I Love You (Yes in Every Way),” “Ragamuffin Man,” and “Another Goodbye”) in the late ‘70s. For her earlier material on Dot, check out Varese’s Best Of collection, but to fill out the second half of her hit-making years, this is the set to get. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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Conway Twitty: The Complete Warner Bros. and Elektra Chart Singles

ConwayTwitty_CompeteWarnerBrosTwitty’s early ‘80s hits for Elektra and Warner

After successful tenures at MGM, Decca and MCA, Conway Twitty moved to Elektra in 1981, and subsequently the label’s parent, Warner Brothers. Though he returned to MCA in 1987, the Warner years saw continued success on the country singles and album charts. Varese’s collection pulls together all sixteen of Twitty’s A-sides for Elektra and Warner Brothers, half of which topped the country chart, and all but two (“The Legend and the Man” and “You’ll Never Know How Much I Needed You Today,” which reached #19 and #26, respctively) made the top ten.

The 1980s found Twitty singing ballads (“The Clown” “We Did But Now You Don’t”), waltzes (“Lost in the Feeling”) and lots of covers (“Slow Hand” “The Rose” “Heartache Tonight” “Three Times a Lady” “Ain’t She Somethin’ Else”). The productions have the gloss of 1980s Nashville, but Twitty’s voice retains its soulful edge. “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy” strikes up some Waylon-styled orneriness, and “Between Blue Eyes and Jeans” rustles up some two-stepping fiddle and twang. These aren’t the iconic hits Twitty recorded for MGM and MCA, but they’re an interesting later chapter in his career. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Margo Smith: The Very Best Of

MargoSmith_TheVeryBestOfCountry singer’s ‘70s and ‘80s Warner Brothers hits

Margo Smith was a country singer whose career began with a self-titled 1975 album on 20th Century Fox, and the top ten single “There I Said It.” Varese picks up her story the following year, when the closing of 20th Century Fox’s Nashville division precipitated a move to Warner Brothers. She debuted on Warner with a cover of the Brotherhood of Man’s chirpy Eurovision Song Contest winner, “Save Your Kisses For Me.” Her singles see-sawed between country and pop, with “Take My Breath Away” employing steel, fiddle and a forlorn vocal that showed off Smith’s talent for blue notes and hair-raising yodels. The follow-on, “Love’s Explosion,” had double-tracked vocals and soaring strings that were closer to bubblegum than country.

The doubled vocals on Smith’s first #1, “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You,” echo Connie Francis’ 1962 original, and her follow-up chart-topper, “It Only Hurts For a Little While,” was also a cover, this time of the Ames Brothers’ 1956 hit. After a third hit cover (Kitty Kallen and Joni James’ “Little Things Mean a Lot”), Smith took a bold turn in 1979 with her original co-write, “Still a Woman,” and its thirty-something’s declaration of sexual desire. She recorded a pair of duets with Rex Allen Jr. and the homesick “The Shuffle Song,” and concluded her tenure on Warner with a cover of Mary Wells’ “My Guy.” The set’s eight-page booklet includes photos and discographical data, wrapping up a nice package for Smith’s many fans. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

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Nicolette Larson: Lotta Love – The Very Best Of

NicoletteLarson_LottaLoveTheVeryBestOfSolid overview of Larson’s pop years

Nicolette Larson’s first and biggest hit, 1978’s “Lotta Love,” is surprisingly unrevealing of her bona fides. Produced by Ted Templeman, it’s smooth, contemporary pop that evidences none of the roots music that had been Larson’s metier as a backing and duet vocalist. Her work with Commander Cody, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Billy Joe Shaver and Neil Young didn’t portend the horns, strings and flute of “Lotta Love.” Most pop radio listeners probably didn’t even realize that the single had been written by Young (and released on Comes a Time), or were aware of Larson’s earthier contributions to other artists’ records.

The album’s second single, Jesse Winchester’s “Rhumba Girl,” added a touch of funk, with crisp drums and horns, electric piano and flavorful percussion, but the third single, “Give a Little,” veered again to the middle of the road. The album held some deeper charms, including a stellar cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “Angels Rejoice” and a sweet, if somewhat sedate take on Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.” Her second album, In the Nick of Time, leaned almost completely on the crystalline production sounds of the late ‘70s, highlighted by a duet with Michael McDonald on “Let Me Go, Love,” the upbeat “Dancin’ Jones,” and the mid-tempo Karla Bonoff-penned “Isn’t It Always Love.”

And so went her next two albums, with synthesizers added to the title track of 1981’s Radioland, Linda Ronstadt adding harmonies on Annie McLoone’s “Ooo-eee,” and Larson finding a deep groove on Allen Toussaint’s “Tears, Tears and More Tears.” 1982’s All Dressed Up & No Place to Go capped Larson’s pop career (as well as her time with Warner Brothers), after which she shifted to contemporary country music. Backed in large part by Andrew Gold (as was Linda Ronstadt on several of her most iconic works), Larson’s cover of “I Only Want to Be With You” gained some radio play (charting at #53), and Lowell George’s “Two Trains” gave her another funky pocket in which to sing.

Varese’s sixteen track set samples all four of Larson’s Warner Brothers albums, including charting singles and well-selected album tracks. Also featured are duets with Emmylou Harris (an absolutely stellar version of the Carter Family’s “Hello Stranger” from Harris’ Luxury Liner) and Steve Goodman (“The One That Got Away” from his High and Outside), and Larson’s contribution to the Arthur soundtrack. “Fool Me Again.” It’s a fair sample of Larson’s pop career, but necessarily missing some strong album tracks, particularly from her debut, and reputation-minting contributions to other artist’s albums. This is a good introduction, but new fans should follow-up with Nicolette and Neil Young’s Comes a Time. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Malo: Malo

Malo_Malo1972 debut of a Latin rock and soul powerhouse

Coming in the wake of Santana’s 1969 breakthrough debut, and led by Carlos Santana’s guitar-slinging brother, Jorge, there’s no getting away from comparing this group to their Latin-soul brethren. Malo trawled a similar groove of rock, soul, funk and Latin jams, though with a larger aggregation of musicians, a heftier dose of percussion and a tight horn section. This 1972 debut, the only album recorded by the group’s early lineup, includes their lone chart hit, “Suavecito” (presented here in its original six-minute album mix and its three-minute single edit). This is a hard-driving album that’s a great deal more energetic than the summertime vibe of the single. The album has been available part of Rhino Handmade’s limited edition Celebracion box set; fans can now get Malo’s debut as a standalone with a four-panel booklet that includes liner notes by A. Scott Galloway. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Ashley Monroe: Like a Rose

AshleyMonroe_LikeARoseThe Pistol Annies’ Ashley Monroe’s shines brightly in the solo spotlight

As part of the Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe’s star power was obscured by the outsized shine of her bandmate, Miranda Lambert. Though the Annies share lead vocals, they present themselves as a trio, with only Lambert’s fame standing out individually. But stepping out for her second solo album, Monroe’s singing talent is front and center. She sings in a voice that’s both innocent and world-wise, tipped with the sweetness of Dolly Parton, and with a sense of faith unshaken by life’s bumpy road. The title track, co-written with Guy Clark, is a showcase for this balance, laying out a path of endless forks that forges onward with hope and optimism. Monroe keeps the vocal intimate, even a bit shell-shocked, busting out in hints of wonder and pride only in the chorus. You can sense Monroe’s grit, another trait she shares with Parton, but also humbleness as she mirrors the song’s story in her vocal tone.

Producers Vince Gill and Justin Niebank serve Monroe perfectly with old-school productions of keening steel, crying fiddles and slip-note piano, but modern studio sonics that keep the album from sounding retro. It’s a much better setting for Monroe than her 2006 debut, Satisfied, fitting the delicate parts of her voice more supportively and pushing her toward traditional country phrasing. You can hear the difference in her remake of “Used,” sung here with a grace that escaped the earlier version. Monroe’s material balances blue-tinged autobiographical ballads with honky-tonk humor, the latter heard in the call-to-marital-duty “Weed Instead of Roses” and a sassy duet with Blake Shelton, “You Ain’t Dolly.” At only nine tracks (and under thirty minutes), this album ends too quickly, but with the Annie’s 2011 breakthrough advancing Monroe’s profile, her second shot at solo stardom is sure to be a success. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

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Sanford & Townsend: Smoke from a Distant Fire / Nail Me to the Wall

First and third albums from soulful mid-70s one-hit wonders

Ed Sanford and John Townsend first worked together in their native South, but it wasn’t until they moved toLos Angelesthat their music garnered any commercial impact. The duo initially signed on as staff writers, but their aspirations to perform was achieved via songwriting demos and a contract with Warner Brothers. Their self-titled 1976 debut was produced by Jerry Wexler at Muscle Shoals, but even with all that going for it, it didn’t make a commercial impression at first. It wasn’t until the single “Smoke from a Distant Fire” climbed the chart and the album was reissued under the single’s title that the duo gained traction, including opening slots for major ‘70s hit makers. But as hot as the single became, climbing to #9, the duo was never able to chart again, and was dropped by their label after their third album.

Like many one-hit wonders, Sanford & Townsend made good music both before and after their brush with fame, and their albums have something to offer beyond the single. Johnny Townshend sings in an arresting tenor reminiscent of Daryl Hall, and the Muscle Shoals sound, supervised by keyboardist Barry Beckett, is solid and soulful. The duo’s songwriting is full of hooks that should have grabbed more radio time alongside Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Orleansand Hall & Oates. Recorded in their home state of Alabama, the duo’s lyrical milieu was often cautionary tales of Southern Caifornia, to which they added carefully crafted moments of country, blues and Doobie Brothers-styled funk. The group’s third album, 1979’s Nail Me to the Wall, doesn’t fully measure up to the debut with which it’s paired, but both provide worthwhile listening beyond the well-known single. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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