The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver Lifeboat LP (Island, 1973)
I picked this one up because it was a 99 cents, not having heard it or of it or even of the band. Apparently this is the second issue of Lifeboat. The first one was under the name of the Sutherland Brothers, an English duo. With the backing of Quiver (featuring alumni from David Bowie's band), the bros has moderate success. One song that was issued as a single with the expectation that it would hit was "Sailing," an odd piece of pop, but one which is fairly typical of the era. Remember this was released about the same time as David Essex's darkly cynical "Rock On," when Bowie was charting with songs like "Starman," and Vigrass & Osbourne released singles like "Ballerina." In that company, "Sailing" eerie sound and dream-like pace really fits. Unfortunately for the band, the single stiffed. It did get a second life as a hit for Rod Stewart a few years later so the song isn't totally obscure.
The Fugitive Kind
I've written about how movie soundtracks often have very cool songs buried in them. Usually the stand out songs are anomalies - the "weird" number to set the scene of an acid trip, the tense minimalist backing of a murder, or a fake rock number to help illustrate wild teenage action. On the soundtrack to the Sidney Lumet film of the Tennesse Wiliams' play The Fugitive Kind, Kenyon Hopkins creates one hell of an anomaly in the song "Let Me Out." Creepy, creeping blues, "Let Me Out" is as proto-Cramps as any creepy, creeping song of the late 50s/early 60s. This is the song of today. I've tacked on "Get Crazy" for the hell of it. It's a good rock & roll instro.
Need All The Help I Can Get
Suzi Jane Hokom Need All The Help I Can Get b/w Home 45 (MGM, 1966)
It is very nice to hear a Lee Hazelwood production that doesn't sound like Lee Hazelwood. Not that I don't like Hazelwood. I love him, which is why it is good to hear him outside of the smokey pop sound he is known for. Suzi Jane Hokom - rumored to be his girlfriend at the time, with what I would guess is a put-on name - fronts one garage rocker and one pop number with the classic Hazelwood sound. The rocker, "Need All The Help I Can Get," has a little bit of Duane Eddy production style and a little bit of "Boots", and a really nice swing. "Home," the flip, clearly shows how lucky Nancy Sinatra was that Lee had another lady singer to work out his ideas with. Suzi Jane is a good singer and "Home" is a fine song, but Nancy handles Hazelwood's songs and production much, much better.
Jun Mayuzumi Black Room 45 (Capitol, 1968)
I would be shocked if a tune as swinging as this hasn't made its way into some blog somewhere. And why not? This is a great song, from the writing to production to execution. I've only heard a smattering of Mayuzumi songs, but from what I have heard, this is her best. Jun's big years were in the last part of the 1960s. She had some success later on but not with songs you wanna hear. Instead of big fab beats, by 1971 she's shipped off into saccharineland.
Blue Snow Night
The Gurus Blue Snow Night b/w Come Girl 45 (United Artist, 1966)
When stumbled on this gem in a stack of killer 60s garage and northern soul 45, I had no idea what it was. However, something told me that this was the first of the find to drop needle on. Man o man, I am glad I did. Not paying attention to A or B side, I hit "Come Girl" and with a yell and a thunderous Bo Diddley style beat, I was in Heaven. The thrill furthered when the guitar started playing what sounded like Middle Eastern runs and then comes a solo that sounded much more like Hendrix than your average garage band. I flipped the record and was treated to another great tune, with shimmering guitar and more Middle Eastern style runs, plus a Byrds-y kinda chorus. And on top of it all a singer that loved to singer, the best 60s yowler I'd heard since feasting my ears on the Blues Men, quite a few years back. So this sent me off searching: Who are these Gurus and why did I not know about them.
The story goes that the Gurus were the creation of two New York City businessmen who thought that pairing rock & roll with Middle Eastern music would be a good idea. After all, the Beatles were getting good play with use of the sitar and belly dance music was all the rage: A Middle East rock fusion might grab ears bent toward the exotic. So the pair scoured Greenwich Village for musicians and came up with five guys and gave them a set of songs to play. They demo'd some tunes and were able to secure a contract with United Artists for the band. They handed the band some fancy togs and an Oud (one of the "guitar" sounds you hear). They also handed them a huge contract which pretty much relegated the band to hired-gun status, with little creative input and even littler money. The Gurus cut a 45 (this one here) and then another. Both got a some spins, enough to warrant recording a LP. Album in the can, it was presented to UA...who shelved it. (Nearly 40 years later the fine folks at Sundazed finally released it on CD...with the story of the band, cribbed here for your education.) Soon after, the guys in the Gurus said "Fuck it" and rambled on to the rest of their lives. A sad story told far too often, but one that makes me wonder how many great records are sitting in the vaults of record companies, never for the public's ear to hear.