Ernest Tubb- My Pick of the Hits

IMG_4937I like Ernest Tubb. He sings in my range. I.E. I can delude myself into thinking I can sing his songs. I can not do that with Patsy Cline. This was a $1.00. It was in my arms as soon as I saw it before I could check the track listing.

http://countrymusichalloffame.org/artists/artist-detail/ernest-tubb

This album is a collection of songs made famous by other artists done by Tubb and the Texas Troubadours. One of the legends of Country Music, this album digs for some deeper hits than similar concepts. Tubb chooses songs from song writers he admires (at least according to the liner notes) rather than just choosing 10 popular standards. As a result there are many good songs on this album. And it would not be an Ernest Tubb album without calling out to Leon before the solo.

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It was hard to pick a sample song but I am a sucker for “The Wild Side of Life”.

Satisfactory. Well worth the $1.00. If they were originals, probably would have gotten a top rating.

Rupert Sterling and his Steel Band- Steel Band!

IMG_4935$3.00 for this one. I bought it on a whim. Track listing looked descent.

I do not know much about Rupert Sterling or his Steel Band other than what is in the liner notes. It would appear that he did two albums or at least repacked this one a couple times.  I also learned if you search for his image,  you will pull up a lot of fan-made homo-erotic Harry Potter pornography, so be careful.

In terms of Steel Drum albums, I have heard better, but this one has some good tracks . The opening track is good. So is Heart and Soul, and Lazy Man, which is the only track with some vocals. Hell, the songs in all honesty are not bad. Sound quality is pretty low. I cleaned the record a few times and could not improve the sound. I don’t know if it was recorded lo-fi or if the record is just that played. Honestly, it does not look that bad.

IMG_4936After going thru a couple times, I settled on Cantata. It is pretty swinging. Note that there were a couple of songs to choose from.

Meh, Better mixing would warrant more play because the songs are not that bad. Me thinks I will try to clean up the record again to see if the sound can be improved. Probably could have put this in the $1.00 range as is.

Crystal Gayle- We Must Believe in Magic

IMG_4934My parents had this 8-track. This is Crystal Gayle’s biggest album. Half-price books had four copies. Some people might view that as negative on the album but in reality, that just means a lot of people bought this record. I paid $3.00’s for it.

I did not know that Crystal Gayle was Loretta Lynn’s youngest sister. Maybe everybody knew that. Well, I did not. I did not have the Internet as a child. I do know that she is very beautiful and has a lovely voice. She still is. As stated before, this was her biggest album and had her biggest hit, “ Don’t it make my Brown Eyes Blue”. It also produced one of the creepiest Muppet’s segments for what is already a strange song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXnKf4XrRxY

This was a Crossover record. This also came out in 1977, which was a pretty radical year for music. There is very little that is truly country on this album. There are moments, but overall, it is more Jazz-based than not. But there are country elements and there are a lot of good songs including the Title track, “Brown Eyes” and “River Road”. And at the end of the day, it was hugely successful.IMG_4933

I was tempted to be lazy and include one of these hits as a sample, but decided to go for a different track that is slightly more country flavored, despite being a Cole Porter standard- It’s All Right With Me.

I had to give this a Top Rating because it is a good album. I knew what I was getting into when I bought it.

Ramsey Lewis- Wade in the Water

IMG_4930$4.00 for this one. The title track and the Beatles cover hooked me in. I had heard the Graham Bond Organization version of Wade in the Water and since have been looking for more killer versions. Again, at low prices, I can roll the dice.

Ramsey Lewis has made 80 records and won three Grammys. Although mainly a jazz pianist, it would appear he broke from his roots in the 60’s to perform instrumental versions of more popular tunes, this album being the second of which from what I could ascertain. He is still alive and still performing.

http://www.ramseylewis.com/

That being said, perhaps I had higher hopes for this record going in. The GBO version of Wade in the Water is excellent and in my mind, a high standard to live by. Ramsey is a damn good musician and his piano is backed by a good horn section. However, something is missing for me. I imagine when this came out jazz interpretations of pop songs were pretty radical. However, in the 21st century, interpreting music in alternating styles is kind of normal. So the charm this may have had in the sixties is gone. I am trying not be negative on this album and also recognizing Ramsey’s accomplishments in Jazz Piano. It should also be strongly noted that as a single, this version of “Wade in the Water” sold over a million copies. Or maybe, I am just that unappreciative of Jazz. Wow, what a blow to my psyche. Upon a second listening after having my belief system challenged, it is very good jazz piano, if that is your thing.  Unfortunately, it is not mine.

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One of those moments, however, is his rendition of Day Tripper with melodic piano lines and good horns.

Meh. Probably going to take up more space in my bin that actual use. I will state that is grossly unfair, however.  The musicianship is good but I just don’t really go for straight Jazz piano.  So not fault to Ramsey. You may want to check out some of the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s more jazz-related albums, or this might be your cup of tea as well.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem- In Concert

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I am into Irish music and the Clancy Brothers. I paid $3.00 for this. I liked that it had a lot of tracks that I have not heard the Clancy’s do. The one track that pushed this purchase was “ Master McGrath” as I really liked the Dubliner’s version of the song.

uk5310 master mc grath

Master McGrath was an Irish Greyhound who won the Waterloo Cup three times in the 1860’s/1870’s. There is more information here:

http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http://www.geocities.com/flyingkiwi_2000/mcgrath.htm&date=2009-10-25+22:16:06

Straight up, I did not like the Clancy’s version of this song. I thought it was crap. It was set in a major key. In contrast, the Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners did this song in a minor key. Furthermore, there is a callousness in Ronnie Drew’s voice that is absent in the Clancy’s version. The Dubliners reflect the fact that no one had any respect for the Master before the race and there is a bitterness reflected. At least that is how I heard it.

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That being said, it is not a bad album. A lot of the songs are ones that I have not heard the Clancy’s perform. I have heard the Dubliners version of “McAlpine’s Fusiliers” many times and appreciate the version on this album. Furthermore, there are other descent songs on here. One of the surprises was “William Bloat”. It borrows the melody of Raglan Road which borrowed from the Dawning of the Day and is quite humorous. The liner notes are also well written.

I included both the offending version of “Master McGrath” and “ William Bloat”

I would put this in the Meh column but you know I am going to listen to it again because I listen to Irish records a lot. However, I could recommend other Clancy Brother albums over this one if someone was looking for one.

Lenny Dee- Most Requested

IMG_4926I paid $3.00 for this one. Seemed reasonable at the time. Quite standard songs and they guy on the cover looked pretty square. Like he played the Organ at the music store in the Paramus Mall.

Lenny Dee did about 50 albums or so and did a lot of live performances. A master at the organ, he sounds like he could play keys for Esquivel and has been called a pioneer of space-pop. Apparently, he had a dog that barked to the music. He died in 1996. Here is a descent bio:

http://www.theatreorgans.com/hammond/keng/kenhtml/lenny%20dee.htm

I am guessing this came out in the mid-sixties, judging by the haircut and the inclusion of the Pink Panther Theme. (Really, how hard is it to put a date on the record album?) The album is not bad. Interesting space pop and organ. He gets some good tones out on this record. As far as technical skill, there is nothing that greatly illustrates any on this album. I mean, its good, but nothing that is knocking it out of the park. At times, he sounds like he should be working a sports event. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The song selection is what pushes the album as they are popular instrumental standards.

IMG_4927After going back and forth on a few songs, I chose “Café Oriental”. It is a catchy tune with a descent drum beat. The Mancini songs and “Java” are also okay as well.

Meh. I could really take or leave this album.   I think I want to like it more than I actually do and would lean more towards playing an Esquivel record given the chance. However, I think I might buy another Lenny Dee album if it was in the dollar range.

Command Records Popular Sampler VOL 15

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Got to love Sampler LP’s. I got this one for a $1.00. For reasons other than being cheap sampler, I got this for the version of Cotton Fields.

Command Records was founded by band leader and recording engineer Enoch Light. If you are familiar with the Avalanches song “Frontier Psychiatrist”, then you have heard Enoch. They sampled his song “My Way of Life” pretty heavily for it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGOgUYIckFI

The label made records for audiophiles and apparently Enoch was a sound junkie. Also, due to the fact that he liked to write lengthy descriptions of his music on the album, he invented or at the very least popularized the gatefold sleeve, according to Wikipedia.

The songs on this album vary in sound and probably could use a better sound system than mine. As you would expect, they have upbeat, swinging arrangements with interweaving parts. The tracks provide a good mix of mostly instrumentals varying in style . The only vocals are on the Ray Charles Singers’ tracks, which incidentally, are more closer to Lawrence Welk than Ray Charles. But overall, good arrangements and interesting music.

IMG_4922Cotton Fields, the reason I bit at it, was ok but it turns out, I prefer the rawness of Leadbelly’s original to any slick produced version. I mean, it is good and all, but you can’t take the rawness out.

At first I was leaning towards A Taste of Honey or King of the Road, both horn and organ driven tunes which are very good. However, I settled on Thunderball by Dick Hyman, born in 1927 and still alive. Still working as well. You can check that out on :

http://www.dickhyman.com/

Besides recording a couple dozen albums or so, including one on a MOOG, he arranged and composed the music for most of Woody Allen’s films.

This record is satisfactory for me. Consequently, I will also probably pick up anther Command Sampler.

Sasha Polinoff- The Fastest Balalaika in the West

IMG_4908This album was $4.00. I spent big on it. I bought it for the song Kalinka which is a Russian Folk Standard. Chances are you have heard it before.

From what I was able to piece together, Sasha was born in 1906 in Manchuria. He came to the US with his Aunt at a very early age, I am guessing during the oppression of the Tsar and before the oppression of communism. He picked up the Balalaika around 13, and shortly joined a troupe of musicians. From there, he started his path as a working musician. He died in 1999. It would appear that he gained a lot of fame in certain circles but not a lot of monetary reward. This album is from 1962. I think it is his second album but I imagine he did a hell of a lot of performing around the world before this point.

I like this album. The Balalaika is such as distinctive instrument it sounds so beautiful when played. It drives the songs on both sides. I am sure others will classify it differently, but to me, it is a cross between a banjo and a mandolin. The title is a bit deceptive as you would think that all the songs would be barn burners. In reality, the songs build up in both texture and pace and there is a good mix between fast and slow. If you like Russian instruments and / or Russian folk music, this delivers on both. One song has a brief chorus, otherwise, no vocals.

IMG_4909I was torn between the opening song Karainskaya, Ukrainskoye Potpourri, Yamschik, and To Nie Vieter, but in the end, I chose Kalinka as this is the reason I bought the record.

I would say this record is satisfactory for me and note that it is on the high end of what I pay for records. That said, it has surpassed its value and I will probably play it more than other satisfactory records.

Jacques Darieux Orchestra- The Music Man and The Mikado

 

IMG_4917This album was $1.00 and I really like both the Music Man and the Mikado. How could this go wrong?

Well, it does. Horribly. I guess I was expecting more horns and more daring arrangements. The songs on this album are bland and uninspiring. The album notes brag a unique interpretation but that is not the case. The first side plays some selections from the Music Man. The vocals on it are awful. Real white-bread stuff. The second side has taken excerpts from the Mikado and rolled them into a few single songs. But again, there is nothing real unique or daring about any of this. And for this reason, this album falls flat.

I do not know much about Jacques Darieux, the band leader. From what I could find on the net, he started music early at age 7, his parents were disappointed with his choice of career, he entered WWII, and spent time in a Russian Prison camp where he organized a twenty piece band in what I can only imagine in a Stalag 17 context. I can only find this and another album that he put out. I did, run across this picture on Sleeveface.com .

http://www.sleeveface.com/?cat=861  

I picked an excerpt from the Mikado side which features “The Sun and I”, which is my favorite song from the Mikado. If you ever get a chance to see the movie “Topsy-Turvy”, about the making of the Mikado, there is a very sad sub-plot regarding the actress Leonora Braham and her struggles with alcoholism and being a single mother in Victorian England. She sings this song at the end and it makes for a touching scene.

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Regardless, I hate this album and will not likely ever play it again. Low rating all the way.

Heart of Hawaii- The Big Sound

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Straight from the $1.00 Bin. I bought it for the version of Hawaiian War Chant. If you are not familiar with this song, it has become somewhat of a standard. It was also the Hawaiian song sung in the Tex Avery Cartoon “The Magical Maestro”, the one where the magician waves his wand at the opera singer and he goes into different songs. There is no information about the band or orchestra on this album, nor is there any information on the director/ conductor. But for $1, I figured it was worth a test drive.

hiw war chat

I am not a great fan of this album now that I have listened to it a few times. It is very slow paced and sounds like a watered down Martin Denny album. Orchestration is pretty heavy. The vocals choruses are nice in some regards. In some cases, Hawaiian instrumentation in the form of steel guitars are used but very sparingly. Overall, it is not bad but it is nothing to write home about. The songs are mostly mellow. Listening thru a better speaker system may lend to a better listening experience perhaps. However, there is not much here for me to take hold of. Most of the album puts me to sleep. The songs could have used a little more bite to them overall.

That being said, the version of Hawaiian War Chant is intriguing. The arrangement differentiates it from standard arrangements and thus, it is not easily recognized at first. The drum beat and the horns really drive it. At times, it moves at a hectic pace, slowing down for string section here and there. The one horn movement reminds me of GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle”. Perhaps, if the album had more driving songs like this, I would like it more. Alternatively, perhaps if I was more familiar with some of the other songs, I may appreciate the album more. This is not likely, since, again, most of the other songs are pretty slow paced.IMG_4907

I would have to say this album is Meh. Worth a buck for War Chant but not anymore than that. Unless you like slow, somewhat bland orchestration. Then this may be right up your alley.