Sha Na Na- The Golden Age of Rock and Roll

 

DSCN0976As a child, I watched Sha Na Na’s syndicated TV variety show. In a lot of ways, they were a whitebread/ wholesome version of KISS. This was in the Dollar pile. It was originally a double album, but there was only one here when I bought it. Furthermore, the gatefold sleeve was torn out.

Sha Na Na formed from an a cappella group in 1969. Their EIGHTH live performance was Woodstock. This blows my mind. Think about it. They were second to last, playing in the a.m. before Hendrix after playing seven shows. According to the drummer, they were paid $350. And to think, they had to at least split that 12 ways. A wise person once told me the ideal size for a band is three members for this reason alone. Back closer to the point, their performance was referenced in the Simpsons when Grandpa Simpson went to Woodstock. However, his sign is totally inaccurate. John “Bowzer” Bauman joined the band about a year later. It should be noted that there is no mention of Bowzer or his involvement in the band on the current Sha Na Na website.bowser_for_prez

On a side note, Bowzer, I understand, was instrumental in the passage of the Truth in Music Act which guarantees that a touring act has at least one original member. So when you see the Coasters, you can rest assured that there is at least one original member. Which is odd, since Bowzer is not an original member of Sha Na Na. Both Bowzer and Sha Na Na still separately gig here and there. bowzer1large

http://www.shanana.com/index.html

 

This album originally started life with one studio side and 3 live sides. I think it was released 1973. I can not verify when it was recorded. I got the one studio side and side D of the live sides.DSCN0977

The first few times I listened to this, in all honesty, I was a little disappointed with this purchase. If you Youtube the band and watch some of their performances (Woodstock for example), you can tell they are a highly visual band. I am not saying this is bad music, but I definitely feel like I am missing something by listening to the record. There is a more vibrant energy to the live tracks as compared to the studio ones. But still, without the three gold suits, the rest of the band in greaser suits, and the choreography, I can’t shake the feeling that I am getting shorted something. Some of the hostility went away after a few listens but again, missing the visual aspect of it. Check out the video below done about the same time as the album.  Don’t ask about the spitting.  I do not understand it myself.

For a sample, I choose a studio and a live song. For the Studio song, I chose “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” as it is upbeat and showcases the different vocals in the band. For the Live Track, I chose “Rock N Roll is here to Stay”. I always thought there was some brutal honesty in such a radical statement in the original version. When Johnny Cash sings for the beaten and broken down, you believe him. When Dylan says he ain’t going to work on Maggie’s Farm no more, you know believe him. When Wesley Willis tells you to go lick a reindeer’s smelly ass, you know he means it. Likewise, I believe that Danny and the Juniors are sincere when they state that they don’t care what people say, Rock and Roll is here to stay. Or maybe I am just too impressionable and listen to anybody. Anyway, this version has great intro, bleeped out for censorship ( which was the custom at the time).

All things considered, I give this record a satisfactory rating, although I would prefer to watch the Youtube videos.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass- !!Going Places!!

IMG_4951 (280x280)Hey it’s Friday and I am one week old. Yay me. Thanks for the support so far. One such supporter requested some Herb Alpert. This was in the $1 bin. Let it be known that I will look for things people ask me to look for.

Say what you want about the A in A&M Records and his music, the guy had 14 platinum records, nine Grammy’s, and five Number 1 albums to his credit. This album was one such Number 1, nestled four weeks on the charts between The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Sgt Saddler’s Ballad of the Green Berets. He still plays shows around the globe with his wife and has his own Jazz Club/Resturant in Los Angeles. Frank Stallone is playing there in May. That is about as much exposition as I can to do with this today. Did I mention it is Friday?

https://herbalpertpresents.com/

This album contains some of his better known songs. “Tijuana Taxi” was used as the theme to The Dating Game . “Spanish Flea” has been used on countless commercials, TV shows, and other mediums. “The Third Man Theme” and “Zorba the Greek” were singles as well. The rest of the songs deliver the trademark Herb Alpert sound. The pace of the songs alternate and overall, the album leans on the side of lounge rather than elevator music more times than not. On a contrary note, if you think, Herb’s music is cheesy to begin with, this album will not change that opinion.IMG_4952

I wanted to stay away from the popular, better known numbers and focus on the Brass’s version of “Walk Don’t Run”, a modern instrumental standard in its own right. A very good version indeed.

This is a satisfactory record for me as I find myself playing Herb Alpert more often than not.

 

Mrs Miller- Mrs Miller’s Greatest Hits

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I bought this for $1.00 and purely for its kitsch value. I was well aware of Mrs Miller when I bought this. Apparently, it is out of print.

Where to start? Mrs Miller was a novelty act that under the “So bad, it’s good” style. This style led to THREE records for Capital Records. An amateur singer who performed in her choir, she was discovered when she was recording a vanity 45 for her friends. This album was her first, despite being titled “Greatest Hits”. In later interviews, she would claim that Capital Record execs deliberately conducted her off-tempo, off-key, and used the worst takes. Can you imagine what she would have sounded like if she had the proper conducting? Kind of like wondering what Busom Buddies would have been like if they casted Tom Hanks for Henry instead of Kip. We can only imagine. (*see disclaimer below).

http://www.mrsmillersworld.com/whois_bin/WhoIs.html

According to the net, Mrs Miller was unaware that she was being lampooned at first. However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, she embraced the joke and went with it. This lead to appearances of Carson, Sullivan, Laugh-in, Linkletter, the Hollywood Palace with Jimmy Durante, and a performance in Vietnam for the troops with Bob Hope. However, wanting to take a different direction as so far as wanting to sing songs right, she was dropped by her label. She recorded a few more records, including this hippie inspired album below. Apparently, she was unaware of the numerous drug references in both the songs and the album cover at the time.Mrs__Miller_-_Does_her_thing

Shortly after this and few unsuccessful releases, she faded into obscurity until her death in 1996.

What to say about this album other than that I actually listened to it. That is all I have to say. I listened to it.  IMG_4950

When I went to rip a track, I had the player set to 45 rpm. This improved it a bit plus made it go by quicker.

In picking a song, this was tough. At first, I was going to take the easy way out and choose “Downtown” which reached #82 in Billboard. But I decided to go with her second single “A Lover’s Concerto” , which charted at #95, because of the vocal bridge. “Hard Day’s Night”, “Let’s Hang On” and “These Boots are Made for Walking” are all equally good/bad as well. It helps if you know the original enough to contrast versions. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” was given serious consideration but I have too much respect for the original (Burt gets deep and dark on it) and I felt that Mrs Miller did nothing to this version. After, I few more listens, I feel I made the right choice. At the 1:20 mark, you will hear why.

I give it a satisfactory as a purchase. It is bad music no doubt. I do not know if I fear or look forward to a time where I would play this again. However, the kitsch value will keep it around for the time being.

 

** I somewhat stole this joke from Tom Hanks off an appearance on Conan O’Brien 15 years ago. I could have easily switched the analogy but I found it very funny and admired Hanks for poking fun at his own career. Besides, no one watched Conan back then and I would hate to see this joke go to waste.

Boots Randolph- The Yakin’ Sax Man

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If you have every watched Benny Hill, you know this next artist. This was in the $1.00 bin.

There is a sub-genre of music which is a guilty pleasure of mine. I call it White Boy Sax (or possibly Sax by Numbers if you do not like the racial connotation). I characterize it as using standard (mostly major) scales and notes within as well as strict adherence to timing and playing on or within the beat. Most of the lines played are simple rehashes of the melody or chorus in time with the beat. Though it is a little more complex than normal White Boy Sax, “Yakety Sax”, Boot’s signature tune, falls in this genre. It does not help your cause either when Benny Hill picks your music for his theme, either. Gary Larson did a Far Side cartoon with Charlie Parker in Hell being made to listen to new age. He may have just as well been sentenced to White Boy Sax or “Yakety Sax”.d3838aa327798becba14e7145dc1e827

Is this fair to Boots? Probably not. To his credit, he released 16 or so records, played on Elvis’s records, as well as served as a member of Nashville’s A-Team, a group of accomplished session musicians in the 50’s, 60’s, and the 70’s. During this time, he helped define the Nashville Sound. He died in 2007 at age 80. Check out his playing on “Reconsider Baby”, by Elvis. It makes it sound like 1950’s stripper music.

This was Boot’s solo first album from what I can tell. Some of the songs have vocal parts such as “Big Daddy” and “Bongo Band”. Some are technically driven such as “After Your Gone” and “Sleep Walk” . Then there is the White Boy Sax, exemplified by “Yakety Sax” and “The Battle of New Orleans”. The vocal songs are a bit to hokey for my liking. The technical songs are good. I mean they are not Bird-esque by any stretch but they showcase good skills. The other, the White Boy Sax, again, I prefer it blander but it does the job.IMG_4946

It is a bit unfair to Boots that I do not include one of the technically better songs as a sample, but instead choose “The Battle of New Orleans” . If you have never heard “Yakety Sax”, try chasing around a girl inappropriately. Any bystander will hum it while you do.

This gets a Meh, but a high Meh. I will play it more than other Meh albums. There are better technical sax players and there are better examples of White Boy Sax.

BONUS:, For context: I included what I consider a good example of what I call White Boy Sax. It is “Jennie Lee” from Jan and Arnie, precursor to Jan and Dean ( and “Bucket-T” for that matter). I was going to rip a copy of my 45 but it was pretty darn scratchy so I just pulled an MP3 off the net for better sound. Sorry for briefly forgoing my principles with this.

King Richard’s Fluegel Knights- Cabaret

IMG_4943 (640x640)$3.00 and a decent track list. Plus I am a sucker for girls on the cover.

Dick Behrke arranged five albums under the “Fluegel Knights” moniker. He worked with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennnet, Sammy Davis Jr, among others. He also went on to do commercial work and won seven Cleo’s. However, it is his work with his high school chum, Bobby Darin, that his bio’s seem to stress. Apparently, Dick was his best man at Bobby’s wedding and was there at the end to comfort Bobby during his final hours. There is a recent interview with Dick here. It was shortly after the death of his wife.

http://www.bobbydarin.net/bdarticle-behrke2014.html

I am guessing this came out in 1967. Mostly elevator music but there are some good moment’s. Besides the horn, Dick employs good usage and arrangement of different instruments. As far as his interpretation, I am mixed. Once you hear James Brown’s version of Night Train from Live at the Apollo, it is damn impossible to hear anything else. To a lesser extent, the same is true with Dick Dale’s Miserlou, although there are more good covers of this song. In the case of Miserlou, the version on the album is slowed down and reflects more of its Middle Eastern roots. I do not mind it. On the other hand, I hate this version of Night Train. Hate it I say.  But that aside, there are some decent songs on here, more so on the second side. The songs are short, averaging about 2 and half minutes. So it has that going for it as well.

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The previous owner of this record marked “Everybody Loves my Baby” on the back cover along with a few other songs. This reached # 11 in 1967 on the easy listening charts. I like the drums and guitar parts. Thus, I present it as the sample MP3.

Meh. My utter disgust of Night Train is balanced by my regard for Everybody Loves my Baby, and the rest of the album, I could take it or leave it. I may play this every once in a while. I would definitely try out another Fluegel King’s record if the price was in the $2 range or below.

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.