Lily Tomlin’s Got the 20th Century Blues

This 45 came into our household as a result of my mom, who worked in the 1970s at a mild-mannered classical music radio station by day that switched over to a hard rock format at the stroke of midnight when it ceased programming for the broadcast day.

Lily Tomlin's 20th Century Blues

This late-night rock station being on the same frequency as its “parent” classical station no doubt resulted in some colorful phone calls when loyal listeners switched on their radios after midnight, only to hear The Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein”  – the original everlasting album version at that.

Tomlin’s 1973 Polydor release is one of those white-label “for DJ use only” promos but with a twist:  rather than the same track on both sides (one in stereo, the other in mono), this record features different selections on the A & B sides.  The A-side is a musical number, while the B-side is a comedy piece where Tomlin does all the voices (including a brief cameo from precocious preschooler, Edith Ann) through the miracle of modern recording technology.

I originally intended to post a recording of the A-side, a pastiche of a 1920’s blues number recorded to sound as if it were a 78 playing on an old Victrola, but I have to admit that the comedy piece on the B-side is more engaging and, surprisingly, seems not to have dated a bit 40 years later:

20th Century Blues – Lily Tomlin

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play Lily Tomlin’s solo ensemble piece,  “20th Century Blues.”]

Connect Neil Diamond’s Dots

I am still stunned that I somehow picked up a connect-the-dots album cover secondhand that had not already been filled in by one of the previous owner’s younger family members:Shilo

Neil Diamond, I have to admit, is pretty easy to find on the Goodwill circuit.  Like many others of my age, I dismissed Neil as a youngster only to discover later in life that his track record as a pop songwriter is undeniable.

Shilo, it turns out, is a compilation of hits Neil recorded for Bang in his fertile 1966-67 period and includes some of his biggies:  “Cherry Cherry”; “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon”; “Red Red Wine”; “Kentucky Woman”; “You Got to Me”; and the title track.  My copy of the Shilo album happens to be on the original Bang label, which features a quaintly violent logo:

Bang Records

Bang Records, by the way, was originally a partnership among Bert Berns (B); Ahmet Ertegun (A); Nesuhi Ertegun (N); and Gerald Wexler (G).

One of my favorite Neil Diamond songs is a nice country pop number that is not on the Shilo album but rather 1974’s Serenade – “Rosemary’s Wine” – a track that was released as the B-side of his “Longfellow Serenade” single:

Math Pays:  Perhaps it’s not too late to join the ShiloConnect-the-Dots Contest” sponsored by the fine folks at ABC Arts in Australia – here’s one of the top entries:

Shilo Contest Winner

Melodica as High Art: “Talkin’ Blues” Dub Style

I confess I am not an Augustus Pablo scholar, but I would bet big money that Pablo’s dub take on Bob Marley’s “Talkin’ Blues” is among the most inspired recordings in his canon.    I only wish I could determine the source of the original Marley vocal and backing track – it’s a stellar version.  Pablo blows great lines with deep feeling from start to finish.  This song strikes me as a dub reggae version of the “high lonesome” sound for which country music is famous:

“Talking Dub”      Pablo & The Wailers

I never tire of listening to this recording – and neither should you.   This track can be found on a French import single-CD double release:  Fe Me Dub + Dubwise Shower Roots Rockers, on the Lagoon label:

.Dubwise Shower

Ernie Maresca Simply Wants to Live “The Good Life”

I first learned of Ernie Maresca through Chris Barrus’s formidable 209-song collection of songs from the year 1962.  Ernie had a big hit that year with “Shout! Shout! Knock Yourself Out!” and somehow I got the mistaken impression that Ernie was kind of a minor figure in pop music.  But then I borrowed a friend’s CD anthology of songs from the legendary Laurie label and quickly learned that Ernie was also a songwriter who wrote hits for friend and labelmate, Dion DiMucci (of Belmonts fame), as well as himself and others.  Maresca later ran Laurie’s publishing arm.

In May 1966 Ernie released a nice little piece of rock ‘n’ soul – “The Good Life”:

I found this cool rockin’ song on Laurie’s 1988 LP compilation, 20 Collector’s Records of the 50’s and 60’s, Volume 13:

Laurie Records # 13Ernie talks a little about “The Good Life” in an interview posted on Spectropop.

Free Educationclick here to browse Laurie’s entire LP catalog.

“Caravan”: Ferlin Husky’s Band Cuts Loose

Reissue label Razor & Tie did a public service in 1999 when they rescued a wonderful instrumental that had remained unissued for over 30 years – just sitting on a master tape of a 1965 Nashville recording session by country singer, Ferlin Husky.  Very little is known about the musicians who did this blazing hillbilly jazz version of “Caravan” except that the steel player is almost certainly Curly Chalker.  Surprisingly tight arrangement and crisp ending for something that was simply considered a between-song “jam”:

This previously unissued recording courtesy of Swing West – Volume 2:  Guitar Slingers.

Musical Roll Call – Special Trucker’s Edition: “There Ain’t No Easy Run”

Dave Dudley and Tom T. Hall collaborated on a musical roll call that cleverly pays tribute to the rich tapestry of American trucking firms that happened to be in existence as of December 1967 when this song was recorded and subsequently released on Dudley’s 1968 Mercury album, Thanks for All the Miles:

There Ain’t No Easy Run – Dave Dudley

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “There Ain’t No Easy Run” by Dave Dudley.]

“There Ain’t No Easy Run” was a Top 10 country hit, while the album made the Top 40 on the country charts.

Dave Dudley - Thanks for All the Miles

Musician and recording credits for this album – although isn’t that Jimmy Colvard (“Six Days on the Road”) playing his distinctive brand of percussive lead guitar?

Jerry Kennedy - guitar/dobro
Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, Jerry Shook, Chip Young - guitar
Pete Drake - steel
Bob Moore - bass
Buddy Harman - drums
Hargus Pig Robbins - piano
Recorded:
December 1967 - Columbia Recording Studio - Nashville

Sir Christopher Scott: Synthesizer Magician

During the 1970s when progressive rock, pop and soul were at their peak, a number of wizard keyboardists enjoyed superstar status:  Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Stevie Wonder, Jan Hammer, Billy Preston, Jon Lord, Bernie Worrell.

And Sir Christopher Scott.

I learned this when I picked up Sir Scott’s 1970 Decca LP, More Switched on Bacharach :

“Here’s a second helping of great music untouched by human hands.  More of the really magical songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David are played electronically by that genius of the Moog synthesizer, that wonder of the switches and plugs, Sir Christopher Scott.”

Secret for success?   Magic + music = Sir Christopher Scott:

“And that’s the secret of Sir Christopher Scott and his patch cords, plugs, electronic gear, and mind full of ideas:  what he does is magic, but it’s always music.”

Sir Christopher Scott II

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head- Sir Christopher Scott

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by Sir Christopher Scott]

Glamour Camp: Case Study in Pop Progeny

The mid-to-late 80s was an interesting time in popular music in that the children of the “classic rock” generation were just starting to come in their own.  Ziggy Marley and Julian Lennon come prominently to mind, both having enjoyed hits with “Tomorrow People” and “Valotte,” respectively.

In 1985 my college roommate was a music writer for the school newspaper, and as a consequence of his work covering the contemporary music scene, I and a percussion student from the university were allowed to tag along on a recording session with a musical duo just in case they needed the services of a bass guitarist (which they didn’t) and a drummer (which they did, on one track).   The two principal artists were Alex, a classically-trained keyboardist who did a lot of the compositional and arrangement work, and Chris, the vocalist, lyricist & guitarist.  Chris, as it turned out, was Chris Otcasek – son of Ric, frontman for The Cars – who was attending art school at that time.  The name of this musical duo was Glamour Camp.

I got to watch Alex and Chris work on several tracks that one could describe favorably as “dance synth pop,” which was big at the time on the college music scene.  This was my first time getting to witness how the new digital synthesizers were being “programmed” and “sequenced” – terms that had not previously been applied to popular music.

Here is one of the songs Alex and Chris worked on that day – “Number 3”:

Number 3 – Glamour Camp

The opening vocals, as I later learned from Alex, are a native Chinese speaker – as instructed – speaking random Chinese words, phrases, and idioms.

A couple years later, while working as a schoolteacher, I went down to the local record store and was a little surprised to see that Glamour Camp had got signed to a major label (Capitol/EMI).  However, to my disappointment their debut album used none of the material from the demo tape that I had heard, nor came close to capturing the dance-synth-pop vibe that struck me as the essence of their initial sound.  Maybe their sound had, indeed, changed by that point, but my sense was that Capitol decided to emphasize Chris (and his connection to rock royalty) at the expense of the original musical partnership.  Keyboards, for instance, which had been such a big part of the group’s sound, seemed much more buried in the mix on their Capitol debut.  At least, that was my youthful, reactionary view at the time:  anger at the major label for their heavy-handedness and contemptible need to alter the sound of every artist in their employ simply because they could.   I was such a hothead about it, that I actually got rid of my cassette – which I now regret.

Capitol did shell out some dough for a video though:

Pop Art Experiment:  Discover your inner art student by playing both Glamour Camp songs simultaneously – the video for “She Did It” and the demo for “Number 3.”

“Western Limited Boogie”: Boogie Woogie Western-Style

Found a hot Texas swing instrumental called “Western Limited Boogie” on a Starday cassette about which little to no information exists.  The front cover indicates this is part of a series called “Best of the Instrumentals,” and the volume that I own is called Texas Style Instruments. The featured artist on this blazing instrumental cannot be the twin vocalists, Pee Wee King & Redd Stewart (as it says on the label) but rather Pee Wee’s ace ensemble, The Golden West Cowboys:

Western Limited Boogie – Pee Wee King & Golden West Cowboys

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “Western Limited Boogie” by Pee Wee King & The Golden West Cowboys.]

I am reading a fascinating history of the storied Starday label – The Starday Story:  The House That Country Built – by Nathan Gibson in collaboration with one of Starday’s founders, Don Pierce.  The book includes a selected discography of Starday recordings, and I had hoped that I would find out something about this obscure instrumental by the Golden West Cowboys so that I could say, “See kids – it still pays to read books!”   But alas, the book simply states that Pee Wee King was “among the new crop of country music legends to appear on Starday LPs in the mid-sixties.”Texas-Style Instruments - Starday

To find a live western swing recording, especially of this high fidelity, on a 1960s Starday compilation is a bit unusual.   I would love to know if other instrumentals by The Golden West Cowboys are in the Starday vaults somewhere or have enjoyed release on other vinyl/tape offerings.

Postscript:

As Starday historian, Nathan Gibson, points out, not only was it not unusual for Starday to release live recordings, Starday was, in fact, “one of the pioneering country labels releasing live recordings (from the Big D Jamboree, from K.C. benefit shows, from the Nashville Disc Jockey convention Starday shows, as well as many in-studio live albums). They are fun to find and hear, though due to their success, Starday in later years began issuing a lot of ‘live’ albums with studio tracks and added applause. Be wary of some of those. The only way to know, though, is to buy it and find out.”

It would appear I have a gaping hole in my Starday record collection.

Also important to point out that this cassette was released sometime in the 1970s/80s after the Starday-King catalog had been sold to Moe Lytle’s Gusto Records.  Lytle and his team would be the ones who could help identify the source of this live recording by Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys.

Starday-King’s Shared History

King Records [upon Syd Nathan’s death] was sold in October, 1968, to Starday Records. The Starday-King catalog was almost immediately sold to Lin Broadcasting in Nashville, who ran the company without changing much.  In July, 1971, Lin sold James Brown’s contract to Polydor, then sold the label to a company that [famed songwriting duo] Lieber and Stoller had set up called Tennessee Recording and Publishing.  From 1971 to 1974, not much happened at King except the designs of the labels changed. Very few albums were being released and even fewer hits emerged. In one move, the sale of James Brown’s contract, the label went from a chart force to a shell of its former self.   In 1975, Tennessee Recording and Publishing, still running under the Starday-King name, sold the masters to another Nashville concern, GML, Inc., [owned by Moe Lytle] who operated the Gusto label.”              The King/Federal/DeLuxe Story by David Edwards & Mike Callahan

“South American Getaway”: Sunshine Pop’s Case of the Blahs

This track sounds like a collaboration between Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson – only it isn’t.  Although it wants to be:

Just like The 5th Dimension’s “Dimension 5ive,” this is technically a vocal tune yet one without lyrics.  It also has that sunny Southern California vibe – at first – but by song’s end, I would have to describe the overriding emotion as closer to melancholy.  Sunshine pop contemplating its navel … orange.

I found this Burt Bacharach composition on the soundtrack to the film, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid – released 1969, roughly the same time period as “Dimension 5ive.”  These two songs together might comprise sunshine pop’s “progressive peak.”   But are there other songs that merit inclusion in such an elite group?