Ronnie Deauville Smoke Dreams LP (Era, 1957)
Had this album turned out to be a dud, I would have been satisfied with staring at the record cover. What a fantastic sleeve! Then there are the tunes: slow and smokey, boozy and torched, they sound like what the are: music from another time and place. There are pretty good odds that most of the people involved in making this record are dead. And to top it off, Ronnie Deauville has a great back story. He had a short singing career and then was the victim of a car crash and polio, was paralyzed from the neck down and had to relearn how to sing. And then he made this record. As the people at Ill Folks write "A combination of factors...limited breathing ability, the difficulty of attracting female fans to a handicapped male singer, the physical problems of getting around to clubs or TV dates...led Ronnie to move behind the scenes, doing song-dubbing for less talented movie stars. He eventually retired to Florida with his wife and children, and passed away from cancer on Christmas Eve, 1990."
Bernard Herrmann Sisters OST LP (Entracte, 1975)
Like Ennio Morricone, Mikos Theodorakis, or Nino Rota, Bernard Herrmann is one of those names, that if attached to a film soundtrack, you have to pay attention. Though all of these composers have made some crummy soundtracks, their hit/miss ratio is way more than acceptable and when they hit, man, I challenge you to find better music. Herrmann is most famous for his soundtrack to Psycho, something you probably already know. He also scored a ton of other movies. His sound ranges from subdued to frightening and he relies a lot on strings to carry the mood. His work on Brian De Palma's 1973 film, Sisters - a very twisted tale which is mandatory viewing if you like your viewing a bit warped - is a bit more varied than his other scores. Most of the variation has to do with Herrmann increasing his instrumental palette. Rather than just rely on strings and booming percussion, he throws in bells, vibraphone and other sounds not typical of his work. The textures are also many. However, you aren't going to get much of a taste of Herrmann's variety here! The three cuts I chose for you are the film's main title and two others which incorporate the main theme, a fucked up version of a playground chant. While I dig the whole record, I am pretty taken by the theme.
The Robert Cobert Orchestra Dark Shadows OST LP (Philips, 1969)
I dropped my stack of the morning's haul next to my girlfriend's ottoman and sat on the couch. She starts flipping through the records, stops and exclaims "DARK SHADOWS! I used to watch that when I was a kid and it scared the Hell out of me." What was it? "A soap opera about vampires and monsters. It was pretty cool. I had a crush on Barnabas." Hmmm...I should know about this but for some reason I didn't.
Perhaps you don't either. Dark Shadows was exactly what my girlfriend said, a soap opera about vampires, monsters, and the spirit world. It aired on American TV from 1966 to 1971 and was pretty popular. Today, it has a pretty significant cult following. Important to this blog is that it also had a great soundtrack, one which in the day was considered groundbreaking.
Robert Cobert's music for the series is pretty startling once you consider that it was for a TV show. Rather than dumb down the sounds, Cobert seemed to approach Dark Shadows as if it was a film. While some of this would sound right for a late Sixties horror film - from Theramin to obligatory rock & roll instrumental - it is better than most TV soundtracks I've heard. The record was a best seller, so finding a copy should be pretty easy and cheap. I got mine for $3. If I held out for one in better condition, I would have been set back a fiver.
Muvva Hubbard & the Stompers Congo Mombo 45 (ABC-Paramount, 1956)
If you've followed this blog, you know that I am a sucker for this kind of record. First off the musician Muvva Hubbard is pretty damn obscure. Though he released a couple other singles around the same time as "Congo Mombo", there is no information on him that I can find. Second, the music is one of those attempts at trying to capitalize on duel trends. In this case, the Latin music craze of the mid-1950s and the instrumental, rock & roll, guitar twang inspired by Duane Eddy, one of my first rock & roll loves. Third, what the hell is a Congo Mombo? Are the bongo drums supposed to be African (Congo) or Latin (Mombo)? And mombo? Why because mambo doesn't rhyme with congo? So lame, but so good. Four, sure this record is kinda kitschy but it is really fucking killer, too. Ultimately, it is the killer that makes it worthy to throw up here. Hope you enjoy it.
Los Muecas Que Ironia LP (Caytronics, 1972)
Of course, when you pick up a record with a cover like this, your secret wish is that it contains some wicked Latin psych or wild garage stomp. Most of the time, that is not the case and this is one of those times. No reason to get down: When brooding organ comes in and the songs have that uber-dramatic vocals that only the Mexicans, Italians, and French can pull off all is fine in the world. I am not sure what this genre of music is called but it is some form of Mexican pop, a sound equally influenced by Euro pop of the 1960s and American rock & roll of the late 1950s through the 1960s. It still has a Latin sound to it, something kind of Tex-Mex, but it is modernized. Whatever it is, I heard a lot of it in the 1970s and 1980s, almost exclusively in Mexican restaurants. Into the 90s, the Mex joints that went yuppie either tried to go authentic with music and went full Mariachi or segged into mall salsa. Mexican restaurants that were truely authentic opted for Norteno or whatever Mexican pop was playing on Spanish language stations. No more stuff like Los Muecas. Too bad. Or maybe not. If the taco shop around the corner was playing stuff like this, I'd dine there everyday and wind up lugging around 300 pounds of man boob and sag ass.
I don't know anything about Los Muecas other than they must have been pretty popular in Mexico and among Mexican Americans. There are multiple "best of..."s and "greatest hits" CD listed on the interweb. Unfortunately that is the extent of the information I could find.
Ronnie Prophet s/t LP (Art, 196?)
Ronnie Prophet has been around a long time. After starting his career in his native Canada, he trucked around upstate New York, Florida, and the Bahamas, working up a country music/guitar instrumental/comedy lounge act. He took it to Nashville and played a year at Boots Randolph's club, and then bought the place and held court for 16 years. His exposure to Nashville's music heavies lead to touring gigs backing George Jones, Kenny Rogers, and others. After Nashville he moved back up to Canada where he became a television staple, hosting a series of country music shows, ending with his "Ronnie Prophet Show", a mix of country and comedy. In the late '90s, he moved to Bramson, Missouri, a country music tourist destination - kinda a cross between Nashville, a State Fair, and a sanitized Reno. He opened up a theater with his wife Glory-Anne and has been tremendously successful. Among the country music hardcore he is known, among Canadian country music fans he is legend, but outside those worlds he isn't very well known. Too bad, though his comedy is a bit schmaltzy and his stage show is pretty slick, he is a hell of a guitarist. Influenced by Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Joe Maphis, he has a sound which alternates between blistering finger picking and full reverbed ballads. This record is his first, made when Prophet was a young man bopping between Florida and the Bahamas. Recorded at the Jolly Roger Hotel in Ft Lauderdale and the Jack Tar Grand Bahama Hotel, this is Prophet a little rawer than in his later years. The record has all the markings of one sold at his appearences and nowhere else. It is a combo of instrumentals, popular songs and ethnic joke tunes. Here are three songs off the album, two instumentals and a vocal number. Some of the guitar playing is exceptional and in "Malaguena" there are times in which the lickage is near heavy metal. Enjoy.