A Pile of Hot (or maybe warm) Wax
Well, it isn't even noon and it is close to 100. Yesterday, it hit 105. Today it will top that. I spent the last two days digging for records at the annual public radio record sale, so today it is lock myself in doors and go through stacks of records. I figure I might as well do a rundown of them while I am at it.
Jimmie King L-O-V-E b/w Pretty Little Baby 45 (Ark)
Great old-style country tear-jerker with some nice slide guitar and fiddle playing. The A side is the ace here, with some great lyrics.
The Tingles Rain, Rain b/w Tell Me Now 45 (Era)
"Rain, Rain" is decent 60s folk pop. "Tell Me Now" is a folk rocker with some weird reverb effect going on in the background. Both songs marred by sappy group vocals.
Ray Allen & the Upbeats La Bamba b/w Peggy Sue 45 (Blast)
A 1962 tribute single to the rockers who found their end in a corn field. "La Bamba" is pretty true to the Richie Valens original. "Peggy Sue" is slowed down and mournful, creating a nice tension and showing how a great song can be molded any which way when it is truly a great song.
Cyd & Cheri Lonesome for You b/w I'm A-Lookin' for Blue Eyes 45 (Lute)
Girl group. Miserable slow one and an okay peppy number. Sounds like someone tried to mold the Andrews Sisters as a girl group, but wouldn't quite commit. So you lose the charm of both.
Johnny Cymbal Bachelor Man b/w Growing Up with You 45 (Kelden)
I guess Johnny Guitar was taken so we get Johnny Cymbal. A-side is early rock & roll with Pah-Pah-Mau-Mau style backing vox and a fresh faced lead who occasionally hiccups and squeals. Backing track is raw enough to be a keeper. Flip is a ballad typical of the time. Good single but not particularly notable.
Odell Brown & the Organ-zers Mellow Yellow b/w Quiet Village 45 (Cadet)
You wouldn't know it now, but start digging for records and you realize how damn influential Jimmy Smith was. Take him and King Curtis and you have hundreds of R&B instrumental singles by pretenders and better, all with some kinda Hammond organ and sax take on popular tunes of the day, as well as originals in a soul-jazz mode. Here Odell Brown does a same-same version of Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" and a funky version of Martin Denny's "Quiet Village." Of course, it is the Denny tune that stands out. The rendering is much more Latin jazz - think Cal Tjader as he was sliding into slickness - than lounge exotica. Good stuff.
Sound Experience You Don't Know What You're Doing b/w Don't Fight the Feeling 45 (Soulville)
I say yes to: 1. Delfonics-influenced sweet soul, 2. Lyrics of the "Girl, I am gonna tell you how it is" variety, and 3. Awkward talk-overs...and the A side has all three. The flip is Simtec & Wylie-style dance floor funk.
Carl Henderson Please Stop Laughing at Me b/w Sharing You 45 (Omen)
Sam Cooke/Jackie Wilson stamp on this single. "Please Stop Laughing" is uptempo, with a great odd intro and a better (and longer) than average guitar break. Excellent! "Sharing You" is a great R&B ballad with good vocals and more great guitar.
Jimmy Barnes No Regrets b/w Keep Your Love Handy 45 (Gibraltar)
"No Regrets" is an Otis Blackwell song that was a minor hit for Barnes (1959) and a bigger hit for the great Little Willie John (1960), and it is as good as a soul ballad got. "Keep Your Love" is a good early rock & roll tune, made about the time that the powers-that-be re-segregated the music market and once again started calling rock & roll by Black artists "race records."
Albatross Rock 'n Roll Boogie Man b/w Witchy Witchy Lady 45 (Mooncrest)
Great boogie-glam with jaunty piano and a cool fiddle. Just enough hick sound to give it flavor and a nice fuzz guitar. At times it reminds me of early ELO, which is always a good thing. I am pretty sure Robin Wills posted the A side on purepop. The B-side has that semi-Latin/semi-funk/semi-rock sound you get with some Santana, Ides of March, Doobie Brothers, etc. Not bad, not memorable.
Barry Mann Amy b/w Talk to Me Baby 45 (Red Bird)
Yup, Barry Mann of the famous Brill Building Mann/Weil writing team, the one that turned out great songs for the Red Bird label and the Shangra-La's and many many others. And that is the most interesting thing about this single. "Amy" is a pap. "Talk to Me Baby" sounds like the Goff/King classic "I'm into Something Good", also from 1964.
Four of a Kind Prance Around b/w Chippies Playground 45 (Laurie)
Somewhat faceless R&B from 1965. For some reason this single brought to mind Huey Smith's "Sea Cruise." Make of that what you will.
Tutti Frutti Don't You Just Know It b/w Honeysuckle Workout 45 (Reprise)
And by some stroke of magic here is a version of Huey Smith's "Don't You Just Know It" done a bit slick and funky. Surprise surprise, Richard Perry is behind this, which might account for the Tina Turner sounding lead lady in the A side, as he produced Turner in the 70s (and Capt Beefheart in the '60s). The B-side is a very good instrumental.
Bobby Sansom & the Maus Marks Don't Leave b/w Hows About It Baby 45 (Sublime)
Oh shit! This is what makes going through piles of records worth it. Fantastic sweet soul, the kind that you hear for the first time and melt. So many things great about "Don't Leave" you just have to listen to it. "Hows About It Baby" is a great Bo Diddley-style raver. Double A-side Paradise!
Five by Five Hang Up b/w Fire 45 (Paula)
Sixties psych punker of the Seeds/Love variety coupled with a swell organ-driven cover of Hendrix. Future Crud material, without a doubt.
Resolution 717 The Old Man b/w Pretty Girl Why 45 (GM)
Wheezy organ + wheezy lyrics ("Tears trickled down his wrinkled cheek") = wheezy song. Now if dude would have been singing about purple hot dogs or psychedelic ponies and not a dying old man, this would be a outsider classic. The flip is a Stephen Stills song. What saves this single is the wheezy organ. It sounds out of place and the organist throws in weird bits. It is those weird bits that keeps this thing around.
The Don Scarletta Trio York's Sauna Pt 1 & 2 45 (Capitol)
Good jazz jam of the Brubeck school with a very cool drum break on the B-side. Not much more to say about this one.
Shawn Gorden Stop! b/w The Time has Come 45 (Gigantic)
Curiously catchy country pop from the 60s. Musically it reminds me (fast and slow) of Roy Orbison, though a bit out of whack. Gorden's vocals are not anything like Orbison, instead he has a lounge singer goes country style. The more I spin this record, the odder it sounds.
The Victorians Lovin' b/w Move a Little Closer 45 (Arnold J.)
"Lovin" is a total Grassroots pop but without the dramatic builds. It is good but "Move In...." is great Pet Sounds pop via Gary Zekeley. Great 60s pop.
Bobby McDowell I'm Coming Home b/w Keep Her Out of Sight 45 (Amy)
Rick Hall of Muscle Shoals fame produced this but that matters not. What makes this is that it is a Vietnam War talkover. Bibles and bullets, the price we pay for ______ - no one says. This has a vaguely apolitical Support the Troops sentiment to it. Unfortunately, that also means that there is very little verve in McDowell's "statement." The flip is an average country jerker.
Freeport, Grand Bahamas
Prince Charles & his Royal Cats Freeport, Grand Bahamas: More of... LP (Elite, 196?)
I was late in coming to reggae. My younger brother got to it earlier than I did and with his infatuation with the genre came an evangelical zeal. He was determined that I was to like reggae and relentlessly tried to convert me. Of course, I wasn't going to be converted and instead took on a Meatmen-sort of reaction to the music. "Blow me Jah," I echoed. It didn't help that everyone I knew that dug reggae were potheads, something I wasn't.
Then one day I was thrifting and found a copy of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires 1968 self-titled record on JAD. I had no idea who Byron Lee was and bought it only because it was an "and the..." band and, on the back cover, the band was posing on a hotel pool's diving boards, with their instruments. That looked cool, I bought it. Didn't take to the record, except a great version of William Bell's "Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday." That song slew me. Slowly the rest of the album sunk in. I wasn't quite yet a reggae fan, but I was now on the hunt for "tourist albums" from the Caribbean. You see, because Lee and band were posing on those diving boards, I assumed that JAD was some branch of Jamaican Airlines or some "Come to Jamaica" outfit. And while I was wrong about JAD being a tourism label, I was right in snatching up Caribbean tourist records.
Over the years, I've picked up a few hundred such albums. They range from steel drum to island soul to calypso to ska to pop ballads. Maybe a dozen of them are 100% keepers. A couple dozen more are very good records. And a few dozen have one good song on them. The rest are crap. As far as keep:discard ratio, Caribbean tourist albums offer pathetic returns. Off the top of my head, only White Christian music records and Christmas albums are a worse bet. However, when the tourist album hits, it is worth the all the crappy ones. It is how I got into calypso and lead me to some real gems like this Emile Volel album I posted some time ago. It is also why I picked up this one by Prince Charles and his Royal Cats.
I don't know anything about the Prince or his cats other than what the liner notes tell me: They were one of the first bands to make a scene in Freeport and are "now" an institution. They sing a lot about Freeport. The record is on the Elite label out of Nassau, a label that turned out a lot of tourist albums, a few of them damn good. This one is a damn good one. All the songs are good, a few of them are great or near great. When I first put it on, I didn't think much - good island soul - and then the second vocals on "Freeport" came in and I was sold. The songs posted today range from island soul to novelty ska to ska soul to some funky island jam. None of this fits into one genre, which is why it is safe to call it tourist music. The singing is good, and I love the guitar. Best of all is that the two guitar, conga, maracas, steel drum instrumentation keeps the sound stripped down and a bit rough at the edges. It is also good summer music.
El Clod Gringo b/w Tijuana Watusi? 45 (Vee Jay, 1964)
Who says racism sells? Okay, I am sure it does, but try telling that to one Marty Cooper AKA El Clod, creator of this novelty notoriety, as well as one other of the same ilk ("Tijuana Border"). Cooper had his first hit in 1961, writing "Peanut Butter" with H.B. Barnum, a song which became a classic when done by the Marathons. A year latter, adopting the nom de putz El Clod, he started trading in Latino stereotypes with his parody "Tijuana Border." It stiffed. A couple years later, he tried to ride on Loren Greene's "Ringo". That is what we have here. It also stiffed. A later notible songwriting credit "A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock n' Roll" somehow became a hit for the duo that won't die Donnie & Marie Osmund. What dubious distinction followed that, I don't know.
Goin' Too Far
The Fifth Order Goin' Too Far b/w Walkin' Away 45 (Diamond, 1966)
Here is a garage punker worth putting up with the surface noise. Kinda a mish-mash of the Outsiders and Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Fifth Order's first single was a big hit in hometown Columbus, Ohio. I'm not gonna tell you their story because someone else already did. I am just gonna shut up and let you listen to this gem.
All I Want is You
Underground Sunshine All I Want is You 45 (Intrepid, 1969)
The great thing about the rock & roll seven inch record is that there is an endless stream of little known gems out there, whether they be from the Fifties and Sixties or the Eighties and Nineties or in between or now. There's thousands of worthy one-off lurking in record bins, thrift stores, attics, garages, and basements just waiting to be found. Many of them are like this Underground Sunshine single, a great, compact rocker, done by an obscure band who had a minor hit. In this case, Montello, Wisconsin's finest hit with a tepid version of the Beatles' "Birthday" and backed it with the punk snarl presented here. I read that they did an album and three more singles and then faded away. As far as the label goes, I've found a few things on Intrepid and they don't adhere to any formula. There also is no regional focus on any of their artists. Just another small label of the time and worth checking out.