VA- Taken From The Top

Here is another pricey record I picked up for $6.  Look at the people and songs on this and you can see why I could not pass this up.  This record is a compilation of live performances by such luminaries as Al Hirt, Lena Horne, Ann Margret, Freddy Jones, and Louis Armstrong among others.

Although it would seem easy, blogging on compilation albums like this can be tough as there are so many highlights.  I mean so many highlights.  This album was released by RCA Victor and the songs come from mostly from previously released live albums. (oddly enough the Al Hirt tune is from the album I posted earlier this week). This compilation came out in 1962. Really good stuff.

Well I tried my best to pare down my choices and overwhelming came up with this number which combines two of my favorite posts from the last two months: Louis Prima with Keely Smith doing their version of “Five Foot Two”.  Also , since I know my mom reads this, here is an excellent version of Della Reese singing “You Came A Long Way From St Louis.” Reese passed away last year at age 86. It should also be noted that Smith, who was also Prima’s fourth wife, passed last year at age 89 as well.  Man, did I do a lousy job keeping up with obituaries at the end of 2017.

Della Reese.

Really good album. Any of these songs were good enough to sample. Satisfactory.

Vic Damone- The Liveliest

This was $4 and contained a lot of songs that I really like.  The last part of last year, I lamented at the fact that I had done most of this blog’s posts ahead of time and was therefore unable to keep content timely (or perhaps more accurately, unable to incorporate more current events into blog posts).  Part of my was looking forward to breaking this trend in 2018.  However, as of today, I have written all of January’s posts during the New Years Eve weekend.  Also, this year’s posts have been rather short and too the point .  I mean how much more simple can I put it  than an album being good? Well, I am mixed on both these fronts , but then I remember the point of this blog was to let the music do the talking.  Maybe as the year progresses, I can find a happy medium.

So here is this, a live album from crooner Vic Damone.  Damone, born in Brooklyn in 1928, was a multi-faceted entertainer in the same vein of Frank Sinatra.  He transitioned from bug band crooning to pop singing to TV to Vegas.  A stroke in 2002 led to his retirement from the stage, but he reappeared in 2011, mainly because his grandkids had never see their grandpa perform.  Damone is still alive today.

This record, recorded live at Basin Street East, was released by Capitol Records i 1963.  Basin Street East was a popular venue in New York that produced live recordings from Peggy Lee, Herbie Mann, Dave Brubeck, and Trini Lopez among others.  Pretty decent little album which combines popular numbers with on stage banter.  Highlights include ” What Kind Of Fool Am I”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and everybody’s crooner classic, ” I Left My Heart In San Francisco”.

But I bought this record for one of my favorite numbers, which was a #4 hit for Damone; from My Fair Lady , ” The Street Where You Live”.  For the record, Damone does an excellent version.

Satisfactory.

Bay City Rollers- ST

I was originally going to post this on Saturday despite the fact that this really is not the hard rock I have been using over the weekends.  However, I realized this is the first year of the blog that I did not have something for Robbie Burns Day.  Well, despite being Scottish, this may not exactly fill that void, but I guess it is better than nothing.

I bought this for a dollar.  Coincidentally, I received two more copies for free from my friends’collections.

The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish band from Edinburgh.  They formed in 1966 and had thee first hit in the UK in 1971.  By 1976, they had become worldwide stars, most notably with the song “Saturday Night”.

This record, released in the North America in 1975, was compiled from the bands first three UK releases with the addition of one brand new song.  It would go #1 in Canada and #20 in the US.

For a sample, I went with “Shang-a-Lang”.

Satisfactory.  Happy Burns Supper.

Four Tops- Reach Out

So why wouldn’t you buy this album? Seriously?  It was only $4.  Well this is my last post from Amsterdam, despite being written in Houston weeks earlier.  Hopefully, I will get home by the next post.  More about this vacation in January.

Truth be told, this is not the original record I had planned for this month.  I originally had an early Aretha Franklin album picked.  However, when I pulled out the record and found out it was not Franklin, my heart dropped.  This was the second such incident this month as I went thru the same thing with Doris Day’s movie version of The Pajama Game. Next month, I plan to dedicate a week to these mis-labeled records.

Well, if I had to get a replacement, this would be a mighty fine substitute from the vocal quartet from Detroit.  Released in 1967, this was I believe their most successful album going #11 in the US and #6 in the UK. It also spawned six Top 20 singles including the #1 title track.  It was the last Four Tops record to feature Motown’s production/song writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  On top of their contributions, the album also features (2) songs from the Monkees as well as one from The Association.

For a sample, I went with “Walk Away Renee” as was suggested by my neighbor. This was a tough call as I also really liked “7 Rooms Of Gloom” as well as about the rest of this album.

Great record. And in decent condition as well.  Top Rated.

Louis Prima- A Tribute to Louis Prima

This record was $2.00 with discount.  Why not?  Louis Prima was a stud, in many ways.  Still trying to finish out to month and year.  With it technically still being November while I am writing this, I should point out that despite being in the American League, we are still proud of our local baseball team, the Houston Astros for winning the World Series.  Although I am still not happy about them moving out of the National League, there is not a better group of guys in sports than our Astros.  They held the parade a few weeks ago downtown. The rumor I heard in my apartment elevator was that 700,000 people were in attendance.  Either way, it made it tough for me getting home from work with all roads by my apartment jammed.

As noted above, Louis Prima was a stud.  Born in New Orleans in 1911, Prima mixed his Italian roots with New Orleans’ jazz to form something new and original.  His own musical styles also evolved over time, starting with a New Orleans-style jazz band in the 1920’s, a swing combo in the 1930’s, a big band in the 40’s, a jump blues band in the 50’s, and finally a Las Vegas lounge act in the 60’s. Unlike other artists such as Frank Sinatra, Prima openly embraced the new rock and roll which was rising in the 1950’s.  Prima was also married five times, inlcuding a stint to singer Keely Smith, with whom Prima had a successful act.  Prima died of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1978.  He was 67.

This record was a collection of some of his biggest hits, both solo and with Smith, including, “Just A Gigalo”, “Sing, Sing, Sing” and :Felicia No Capricia”.  Pretty good album.,  Really jumping.

For a sample, I had various options but decided to go with the “Bourbon Street Blues” as well as “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” which features the talents of Keely Smith.

Top rated album.

Judy Collins- Wildflower

Hey, hey, it is another Saturday, the day that I like to keep these brief.  Here is this effort from frequent blog guest Judy Collins.  It was , am I reading this right, $1?  Too cheap.

This 1967 effort was Collins’ seventh and highest charting record, going to #5 on the US Pop chart.  A lot of that was based on the strength of her single, the Joni Mitchell penned “Both Sides Now”, which went to #8.  The album also featured songs by the now dead Leonard Cohen and Jaques Brel along with a 14th century piece by Francesco Landini.  It also featured for the first time on record, three of Collin’s own pieces.

By the time this came out, Collins’ folk career was over and she had moved more into a pop vein.  On this subject, I am mixed as I absolutely adore her folk work. But I understand, you have to evolve  as well as make money so although this is not among my favorite of Collins’ work, I must acknowledge that this is a very good album.  And despite note being folk, Collins would still be able to present a diverse group of work  on it as evidence by the songwriters above (something she did on earlier albums) . Besides, the record would eventually go Gold in 1969.

For a sample, I went with the Brel piece, “La Chanson Des Vieus Amants”.

Great little piece which was the commercial high point of Collins’ career.  Satisfactory.

Melanie- Candles In The Rain

This gem of a record was only $1.  One freaking dollar.  Are you crazy people?  Anyway, looking at the cover and listening to this, I had a hard time believing this came out in 1970 (and was in great part, a product of the 60’s).  It looks and sounds like a much more modern record.

But this did come out in 1970 and was Melanie’s third album.  With the lead single “Lay It On Down (Candles In The Rain)” based on her experience performing at Woodstock (in which a bunch of spectators light up candles while see played).  I probably mentioned this on the last post I wrote on her, but you really do not hear much about Melanie’s performance at Woodstock which is probably a shame.  Anyway, this record and that single in particular, brought the artist her first Top Ten hit in the US.  “Ruby Tuesday” as well as “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma” were also hits.  The album sold well in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Overall, I think this is an excellent album and really showcases Melanie’s talent. With the exception of “Ruby Tuesday”, the rest of the songs are written by the artist.  She is also backed up vocally in places by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

For a sample, I decided to go with “Left Over Wine” which was one of the songs I picked from the live album I posted last year or so but did not use. I think because it skipped.

Great little record.  Satisfactory.

Dick Hyman- Provocative Piano

Welcome to another month of the good ol’ Donkey Show.  After half a month of Ocktoberfest music and a full month of showtunes, I decided to go back to posting good (or at least interesting) records.  So what a better way to start than with a selection from Command Records and their Provocative series.  This was $4.00. I buy pretty much any Command record I come across at a decent price. I realize this is on the high end.  Also, although I wanted to cut down on the number of gatefold albums this month, I still choose this one to start the month rolling.  Command Records being known for their love of gatefold, perhaps I should have reconsidered.

On that note, I guess this is a good time as any to announce the administrative change to this blog. Starting this month, I am setting my upper spent limit to $8.00.  This is quite a jump from the previous $5 but I am finding that record prices have increased slightly over the last year and in order to get in decent stuff, the increase had to be made.  I have mixed feelings about it but the decision has been made and I am prepared to move on from it.  Please note though that the preference will still be on the $1 albums.

Dick Hyman, jazz pianist of renown, has been on this site before.  I would think his association with Enoch Light’s Command Records would speak for itself and put him in an upper echelon of musicians of the period.  Besides his work in jazz, Hyman did some very important work in electronic music as well as soundtrack work for movies and TV.

This year, Hyman will be named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.  That is if it has not happened already or if the program’s budget has not been slashed yet.

Dick’s Space Age Pop Page

Anyway, this record, produced by Light, came out in 1960 and features Hyman’s piano pretty prominently.  A good mix of songs from “Canadian Sunset”, Autumn Leaves”, and “Miserlou” as well as works from Chopin and Tchaikovsky. As with most Command Records, I enjoyed it.

For a sample, I decided to play favorites and go with both “Polonaise” and Miserlou”.

 

Satisfactory.

Jo Stafford- Sings American Folk Songs

This was all of $1.  When I bought it, there was some tie in or something notable about the record, but whatever that was escapes me now.  It does have a bunch of good folk tunes on it.  Today, as I write this, the Great 2017 eclipse happened, which by now must seem like a distant memory to most.

Truly a historical day in Houston if one likes looking a clouds.

Well anyway, here is this by singer Jo Stafford (1917-2008).  Born in what is not a dirty word, Coalinga, California, Stafford was a singer who started in a group with her sisters before joining the Pied Pipers and then parlaying this into singing with Tommy Dorsey. She went solo in 1944 and her biggest hit was 1952’s “You Belong To Me”.  She retired in the mid-60’s with a few pop ups here and there until her death of heart failure at age 90.

During her solo career, many of Stafford’s works were backed by the Paul Weston Orchestra. Stafford and Weston would marry in 1952 and remain in union until Weston’s death in 1996.  The two did perform in a comedy routine, at first for friends and then for a bigger audience.  As two incompetent lounge performers Johnny and Darlene Edwards, the duo released five records.

This record was a 1962 re-release of an earlier record by Stafford.  The original released came out tin 1948, making it one of her earlier solo recordings.  Two years later a second version came out adding two songs.  Then in 1962, this came out with an additional 4, bringing the total to 12. With these songs conducted and arranged by her hubby, Weston, it should be noted that although these are conventional songs, none of these are conventional arrangements.  And I think that is what gives the album its charm.  Consequently, Judy Collins lists this album as highly influential in terms of her getting into folk music.

Lot of good choices on this album.  I really liked “Cripple Creek”, “Single Girl” ,and my perennial favorite, “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”.  However, I decided to go with “Sourwood Mountain”.

Good record.  Satisfactory.

The Four Freshmen- Voices In Latin

This was $3.  I got it for my favorite song “Brazil” which undoubtedly will be posted here.  If you have been reading this blog and did not expect that, I worry for you.

The Four Freshmen were and still are a vocal group who had hits in the 1950s. Formed in 1948 from other vocal groups in Indiana, they were discovered by Monday’s post subject, Stan Kenton. The group put out around 30+ records.  The last original member retired in 1993, but an incarnation still exists and tours.

Current Incarnation Web Page

This album, released by Capitol Records in 1958, features original members Bob Flanigan, Ross and Don Barbour along with Ken Albers.  As the title would suggest, this is a collection of latin flavored songs.  Arranged and conducted by Kenton associate Pete Rugolo, this is a pretty decent collection of songs.  The vocals are good but the music is pretty swinging as well, at least for a vocal group.  This record also features the flute of Herbie Mann.

Lot of choices to chose from. I liked “Frenesi”,  “Tangerine”, “Granada”, and “Chelsea Bridge”.  But ultimately I went with “The Breeze and I”.  Of course as mentioned above, I am also posting “Brazil” which is one of the few vocal versions I have put up on this site.  It is interesting to note that both songs feature trombone solos from vocalist Flanigan. Flanigan would pass on in 2011.

Pretty decent album.  It kind of grew on me so satisfactory.