Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Latest In Rock 'N' Roll: The Earliest in Counterfeit Music

It's not always easy to tell a counterfeit. But sometimes you come across something that just screams it's fake. Even if you have to turn it around for it to start making noise. And this album's gonna get loud. Oh, it's a real record, and there's real music on it...just not the exact music '50s kids were clamoring for. And as you'll find out later, the music's not all that's loud on this album - one of the earliest from a genre I call "rocksploitation."

You've probably seen it on TV innumerable times: Now That's What I Call Music has done over 50 albums of repackaged hits. K-Tel, Ronco and Adam-VII used to do the same thing. They were pretty top-tier since they were all from the "Original Hits, Original Artists" school. Lesser labels like QMO and Pickwick had in-house bands to re-record popular songs, and occasionally rewrite a few lyrics to avoid having to pay royalties.

Then you had the bottom of the barrel: the strictly no-name bands on strictly no-name labels trying their damnedest to cash in on whatever was popular at the time, artistic integrity or even ethics  notwithstanding.

OK, let's dissect all this:

That's the first clue you've got something a little bit special. They're bragging that you get to hear 100% of every song!  They recorded every note. In fairness, I point out that that didn't always happen with albums like these.

"OK, uh...Let's Go? The crystal ball lady said that won't be a hit for a few years yet. Round Robin? I don't remember the words exactly, but that doesn't sound right. Low Man? Stampede? Blazing Home? Well, now it sounds like I bought a country-and-western album! What's going on here? And I've never heard Moon Dream and Sky Rocket on my transistor radio before. I must have the wrong station on. Where are those 'top hits and current favorites' I thought I was getting?"

I know I didn't ask for any of these songs, but yes, I guess you can dance to them, so technically they may have been honest about that.

And speaking of "technically:" I cleaned this record before I dubbed the two tracks you're about to hear. These budget labels were not well known for sound quality, despite what some of them would have you believe. I've even heard of some labels recycling their vinyl, melting it down to be pressed into other records. I can't help but wonder if this happened here...or whether people who bought this record wished they could do.

Here's that little-known gem, Jump The Gun. How many defenseless sax reeds had to die for this one?

I think someone deserves a Time Out:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Album Of Aquarius

You might not be 36 Today, you might not remember 1969, and you might not even be an Aquarius. But since I am (and we're almost on the cusp of Pisces), I thought I'd post a little about this astrological album.

Really, there's not a lot going on here but easy-listening covers, so the music's actually not real important this time. What steals the show is the concept: a famous astrologer explains each sign of the zodiac with music in a 12-volume series. And even then, it'd already been half-done: Moog maven Mort Garson did something similar for A&M about the same time, sans the astrologer. And the music was much more interesting.

Carroll Righter, astrologer to the "stars," literally and figuratively, was sort of the Jean Dixon of his day (yes, like Carroll O'Connor and Carroll Shelby, Righter was a man). One claim to fame was warning Marlene Dietrich of impending trouble on a movie set. She ignored him...and broke her ankle. Since then, he'd consulted with practically every star in Hollywood...and he still had time for this series...and possibly a second cup of coffee. (He never had time for a second cup of my coffee...)

Inside each album (I have 4 of them) was a book by Righter, telling you more than you ever knew about yourself. Gotta tell you, he was pretty spot on with my description. Among the revelations (yuk yuk ): "This man has a genuine flare [sic] for a deep and lasting friendship, but finding one is a rare occurrence because he is so seldom understood."

"Aquarius is an emotionally wracked sign and the native Aquarian is not allowed the daily life of happiness in common things. His sight is aimed on the high and the flawless and his energies are geared to their attainment."

In other words, we're neurotic loners.

There's more surprisingly accurate babble like this in the notes to each of the songs on this record. I'll spare you that, but I'm obligated to present the most obvious songs.

First...yeah. I know. But why not?

And second...but this time you get to hear the whole song on its own! Minus the words, of course.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Are You 36 Today?

Or perhaps a little younger or older? Is it even your birthday? Well, I just had a birthday (not my 36th), and if I got this album for a present I'm not sure how I'd react.

36? She doesn't look a day over 29.
 This is a collection of 36 great songs...that somehow turned maybe a little less great through a Columbia Records house band, trying to get "The 'Now' Sound Of Young Music" to appeal simultaneously to the "now" set and people with "then" musical sensibilities. As you'll hear, their efforts met with varying success.

On the other hand, maybe the band should've stopped at 29.
It's likely that the group you hear here is called The Copycats. I discovered an album of theirs recently, also on Columbia. Ray Conniff and Percy Faith did enough of this type of work that The Copycats weren't really necessary, but here you go.

And in answer to Jimmy Ruffin's question, this is what becomes of the brokenhearted:

As for The Yardbirds...I wonder whatever became of them:

What kind of song is this? Columbia always got little digs in at their own acts on these records. Respectable? Not really: