“Mississippi”: Pickwick Would Never Try to Mislead the Public

I remember as a kid learning the hard way about albums disguised as hits collections that were, in fact, faithful renderings by some shadow studio group.  Soundalike LPs, if you will.  Case in point:  18 Golden Hits of 1970.  The singers and musicians who did their best to mimic the year’s big hits are not named here (Discogs.com indicates the album’s author to be “Unknown Artist”).  Not surprisingly, the end result is extremely unsatisfying.

18 Golden Hits of 1970 LP

With Sounds of the Woodstock Age, Pickwick is in no way trying to deceive music lovers into believing these recordings are the original songs, original artists.  To Pickwick’s credit, on the front cover below the names of the 18 “heavy hits” it says, “played and sung by” followed by the name of the artist – Tribes – in boldface upper case letters.

Tribes LP

Tribes do a surprisingly credible version of John Phillips’ top 40 hit from his debut solo album – and in spite of the low-budget crowd sounds added by Pickwick to simulate Woodstock  (listen, too, for the small flub by the drummer in the intro before the vocal):

Mississippi (‘live’) – Tribes

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear ”Mississippi” simulated live by Tribes.]

Amusing to see in Wikipedia’s entry for Pickwick Records that Lou Reed, who once worked as a staff songwriter for Pickwick Records, is a figure of note in the label’s history of copycat records:

“Several of Pickwick’s soundalike albums from 1964 to 1965 feature Reed as an uncredited session musician.  Two of his songs, “Cycle Annie” (credited to The Beachnuts) and “You’re Driving Me Insane” (as The Roughnecks), both appeared on the Soundsville! compilation in 1965.  “The Ostrich” and “Sneaky Pete”, two earlier songs by Reed, united him with John Cale, leading to their founding the Velvet Underground.”

John Phillips All-Stars

Check out the musician credits for the original 1970 LP, John Phillips (also known as, John, Wolf King of L.A.):

  • John Phillips – vocals, guitar, harmonica
  • Buddy Emmons – pedal steel
  • Red Rhodes – steel guitar
  • James Burton – guitar, dobro
  • Dr. Eric Hord – guitar
  • David Cohen – guitar
  • Gordon Terry – fiddle, violin
  • Darlene Love – vocals
  • Fanita James – vocals
  • Jean King – vocals
  • Joe Osborn – bass
  • Hal Blaine – drums
  • Larry Knechtel – keyboards

“The Ostrich”: Lou Reed’s Patented Dance Step

By now you have no doubt heard that Lou Reed has left us.  My favorite Lou Reed moment that I feel compelled to pass along is his dance send-up from 1964 entitled “The Ostrich” – from a time when he was a songwriting hack for Pickwick Records and part of a beat group called The Primitives:

Bizarrely, all of the strings of his guitar on this song are tuned to D – a tuning subsequently known as Ostrich Guitar.  For the life of me, I cannot imagine what induced Lou to release a single completely bereft of any commercial potential, unless it was to make others laugh, which it does for me every time.  If doesn’t for you, well, might I humbly suggest that you try harder.

“Bye Bye Birdie”: Groovy Guitar & Organ Instrumental

Chet Atkins’s guitar sounds mighty and majestic when propelled by the infectious, burbling rhythms of an unnamed organist in this treatment of “Bye Bye Birdie” from Chet’s 1963 album, Teen Scene — dig that groovy roller rink organ sound.

Note the original album cover:Teen Scene I cover

Check out the new and improved cover for the 1975 reissue on Pickwick Camden:Teen Scene II cover-x

Cincinnati: Hard Rock Capital of the World?

I have an album of repackaged material from the Buddah label – a compilation entitled Heavy Mix – that is one of the odder releases from everyone’s favorite reissue label, Pickwick.   I love that the cover art has a cement theme:

Heavy Mix - Pickwick

Even more intriguing than the kitschy cover concept is the cryptic bit of text at the bottom of the label of “Heavy Mix” cement:Hard Rock Cement Co

First is an unattributed quote that proclaims in classic 1969-speak, “Gettting It Together,” followed by the name of a fictitious business – Hard Rock Cement Co. – that is allegedly located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Not sure I follow, but okay, why not.   Now, it is true that The Sacred Mushroom came from Cincinnati, and it would be fair to call them “hard rock” – as this track from 1969 would clearly indicate.  Or perhaps Pickwick was making reference to the Ludlow Garage – Cincinnati’s closest approximation to Bill Graham’s famous Fillmore rock venues – whose proprietor in 1969 was Jim Tarbell, the one responsible for bringing in such “hard rock” acts as Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, and The Grateful Dead (and who would later become a Cincinnati City Council Member and hold the title – by mayoral proclamation – “Mr. Cincinnati” for life).

My favorite track on this motley mix is a surprisingly supple cover of the theme from the 1969 Oscar-winning film (Film; Director; Adapted Screenplay) – “Midnight Cowboy” – by John & Yoko’s one-time backing band, Elephant’s Memory:

Midnight Cowboy – Elephant’s Memory

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “Midnight Cowboy” by Elephant’s Memory.]

There’s a nice little drum break starting around the 1:18 mark where the drumming alternates between speakers – consider using this track in the event you need to test the stereo directionality of your computer’s speakers.