I’m In A Lonely Situation 45 by Hermans Hermits

September 30, 2011

Peter Noone was long gone from Hermans Hermits but the band, at least in name, continued on. Varoius members would recruit other musicians and go out on the road and into the studio to capitalize on the name.

One of the last singles released was “I’m In A Lonely Situation.” It was issued during January of 1976 but received no chart action in the United States or the United Kingdom.

It remains a rare record but unfortunately not many people are collecting post Peter Noone Hermans Hermits records.

Sunday Monday Or Always 78 by Bing Crosby

September 29, 2011

“Sunday Monday Or Always” by Bing Crosby was the number one song in the United States for seven weeks beginning September 11, 1943. Frank Sinatra released a similar version but it stalled at number nine.

It was another song recorded in the midst of the mmusicians strike. It was so well done that you really had to listen closely before you realized there was no instrumental backing. The use of backing voices fill in for the missing musicians.

Crosby had his first chart hit with the Paul Whiteman orchestra during 1927 and during the latter half of the 1940s would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest star in the world. His single “White Christmas” was the biggest selling single of all time.

He released 409 singles during the course of his career and this was one of his best.

Whatcha See is Whatcha Get by The Dramatics

September 29, 2011

The Concord Music Group has been reissuing classic albums from the extensive catalogue of the Stax label. Their latest three releases, issued September 13th, are Do The Funky Chicken by Rufus Thomas, Woman To Woman by Shirley Brown, and the subject of this review, Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get by The Dramatics.

Stax was a gritty soul label, originally located in Memphis, Tennessee. It was founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, who used the first two letters of their last names to form the name Stax. It featured funk, blues, and a hardcore rhythm & blues sound. Some of the artists who graced the label were Booker T. & The MG’s, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, and The Dramatics

Stax vice president Al Bell decided to expand the label’s roster and national appeal by bringing in talent from different parts of the country. One of the new additions was Detroit producer Don Davis, who was brought in to work with Carla Thomas and Johnnie Taylor. He brought along the Detroit vocal group, The Dramatics. Several years later, they would release their debut album for the label.

The Dramatics were and are a rhythm & blues vocal group formed during 1962. After releasing several failed singles during the early and mid-1960’s, they grabbed the brass ring when they signed with the Stax label. Their debut album, Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get, was the best and most commercially successful of their career. It also containe their two biggest selling and most popular singles. The title track (which reached number 9 on the pop charts and number 3 on the R&B charts) and “In The Rain” (number five on the pop charts and a number one R&B single) were among the best of the era.

The title song had impeccable and creative arrangements. The group members alternated singing lead on each line. It was an R&B tune, but it looked ahead to the coming disco movement in a good way. A fuzz sound on the lead guitar, plus horns and strings all served to make it memorable. “Get Up And Get Down” was more of the same as the vocal interplay was again different and creative.

Their biggest hit, “In The Rain,” was more atmospheric. The sound of rain falling plus the guitar wizardry of Dennis Coffey in conjunction with the strings all added to the song’s dramatic effect.

The original release contained eight tracks, but this reissue is over twice as long as it adds ten bonus tracks. They consist of singles and some of their better material from follow-up albums. The best track is “Hey You Get Off My Mountain,” which marked Ron Banks debut as lead singer. “Fell For You” marked the first appearance of L. J. Reynolds, who not only shared the vocal lead but would go on to become an important part of the group.

When the Stax label folded, The Dramatics went on to a long and successful career with the ABC and MCA labels.

Unfortunately, time did not treat the members kindly. Original members Ron Banks, William Howard, Elbert Wilkin, and 1973 replacement Lenny Mayes all died of heart problems before the age of 60. Original member Willie Ford and L.J. Reynolds continue to record and tour down to the present day.

Their crowning achievement has now reached its 40th birthday. Watcha See Is Whatcha Get remains one of the better rhythm & blues albums of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and it’s nice to have it back in print in a remastered form.

Lonely Guitar 45 by Annette

September 29, 2011

Annette Funicello became a teen or pre-teen idol during her time with The Mickey Mouse Club during the 1950s. She continued her idol status during the 1960s as the star of the series of BEACH PARTY movies.
In between, 1959-1961, she established a credible singing career, recording a number of albums, plus placing 10 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

“Lonely Guitar” was not her biggst hit as it only reached number 50 during its 11 weeks on the Pop Singles Charts, yet it contained one of her better vocals.

The picture sleeve showed Annette just between being a teenager and a woman. It spoke to millions of late 1950s teenagers who were also growing up at the time.

Martian Hop 45 by The Ran-dells

September 28, 2011

“Martian Hop” was one of those songs that was so dumb, it was actually very good.

The Ran-dells were a vocal group consisting of brothers Steve and Robert Rappaport and their cousin John Spirt. They released “Martion Hop” August 3, 1963 and it reached number 16 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

They were one hit wonders as they never had another chart hit.

Baker Street 45 by Gerry Rafferty

September 27, 2011

If there was ever a song that deserved to be number one on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart, it was “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty. Released April 22, 1978, it spent six weeks in the number two position.

Rafferty was the co-leader of the pop group, Stealers Wheel, before establishing a solo career.

“Baker Street” was just about the perfect single as it was carchy, contained a good vocal, had an excellent sax sound floating above the mix, and made you want to hear the song over and over again.

Despite releasing some quality, if somewhat underappreciated material down through the years, he was never able to match this one brilliant single.

Brown Sugar 45 by The Rolling Stones

September 26, 2011

The last original issue Rolling Stones single in the United States on the London label was the chart topping “Honky Tonk Women.”

If you are going to start your own label, it helps that the first single release on the Rolling Stone Label was one of the best rock songs in music history. “Brown Sugar” was was released May 1, 1971, and would spend two weeks at the top of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

The Rolling Stones were arguably the best rock band of the 1960s and then Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones as the second guitarist and they became one of the best, if not the best, rock band of all time. Taylor and Keith Richard may not have got along, but Taylor pushed Richard to be better.

“Brown Sugar” just rocks from beginning to end. An essential listening experience.

In The Blue Of Evening by Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra

September 26, 2011

Tommy Dorsey, 1905-1956, managed to keep his band commercially successful longer than many of the big band leaders of the era.

The musicians strike lasted almost two years and many of the big bands recorded tracks and salted them away to be released over time. It seems Dorsey had more than many of the other artists of the day.

“In The Blue of Evening” reached the top of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Singles Chart, August 21, 1943. It featured a vocal by Frank Sinatra.

Dorsey would chart 286 singles during the course of his career, with 17 reaching number one during the 1930s and 1940s.

Woman To Woman by Shirley Brown

September 26, 2011

The Concord Music Group has been reissuing original albums from the legendary Stax catalogue. The idea to reissue these rather than compilation albums is sound, as it gives the listener a look into the mind and music of the individual artists at a certain point in time, rather than just an overview of their careers. Shirley Brown’s classic album Woman To Woman is one of the latest releases in the ongoing series.

Brown was discovered at the age of 14 by blues legend Albert King. She would go on to tour with his band for nine years. After beginning her recording career with the small Abet label during 1972, upon King’s recommendation, she was signed to the Stax label during 1974.

The Stax label of 1974 was on the verge of bankruptcy, and it would shortly be gone. Brown’s single, “Woman To Woman” was the last big hit for the label, or to be more correct, for their subsidiary Truth label as it reached the top of the Billboard Magazine Rhythm & Blues Chart and number 22 on their Pop Charts. It sold over one million copies during the first eight weeks of its release.

Woman To Woman was an emotional experience from the first to last track. The title song (and single) remains the centerpiece of the album. There is a spoken word introduction that immediately demands your attention. The song is a conversation from one woman to another about infidelity. It included a sparse rhythm track that kept the focus squarely on the vocal.

The rest of the album’s nine tracks all have something to recommend them. “It Ain’t No Fun” would have been right at home in a smoky blues lounge. “So Glad To Have You” is a song that has just about a perfect groove. “Passion” and “I Need You Tonight” ramped up the album’s emotional level.

In addition to the music undergoing a 24-bit remastering process, it also comes with new liner notes and five bonus tracks. The best of the extra material was a previously unreleased cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” Other bonus tracks included “Yes Sir Bother,” “Ain’t No Way,” “Respect,” and “Rock Steady.”

She surrounded herself with some of the best session musicans that the Stax label had to offer. Drummer Al Jackson Junior, guitarist Bobby Manuel, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, pianist Marvell Thomas, organist Lester Snell, and The Memphis Horns provided the instrumental backing.

Brown remains popular on the southern soul circuit, but her studio album output has been limited to seven during the course of her almost 40-year recording career. The highlight remains Woman To Woman, which was also one of the best R&B albums of its era.

Article first published as Music Review: Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman (Original Recording Remastered) on Blogcritics.

Wrap Around Joy by Carole King

September 26, 2011

Carole King returned with her sixth studio album during September of 1974 with the release of Wrap Around Joy. It was not as diverse or adventurous as her previous release, Fantasy, but it proved to be more popular as it topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart and remains her last number one album to date.

The biggest change from previous releases was her use of lyricist Dave Palmer on all of the tracks. It would signal the beginning of her depending on outside lyricists to a larger extent than in the past. While the album had a cohesiveness that was missing from some of her prior releases, it was not as intimate or personal as the words were not her own. Still, it was a polished rock/pop album that remains an enjoyable listen nearly four decades later.

She used several dozen support musicians, including full horn and string sessions. Included among the background vocalists were daughters Louise and Sherry Goffin. King also expanded her instrument of choice from just the piano, as she also played the synthesizer and guitar.

The album returned her to the musical mainstream as “Jazzman” (#2) and “Nightingale” (#9) both became hit singles and received extensive radio airplay. “Jazzman” was a relaxed and smooth song, notable for Tom Scott’s sax lines. “Nightingale” included forceful piano playing from King.

One of the highlights was the back-to-back songs, “You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine” and “You’re Something New.” The first was a break-up song and the second was a joyous love song.

It would be interesting to have a history of the recording process to learn if Palmer and King wrote together and if not, who wrote first. Whatever the process, there were a number of gentle songs with many exploring the joyous side of love. “You’re Something New,” “You Gentle Me,” “Sweet Adonis,” and “A Night This Side Of Dying” all looked at the relationships as King sings with emotion, even if the words were not her own.

The last track, “The Best Is Yet To Come,” concluded the album on a positive note as she looked toward the future with hope.

Wrap Around Joy is often overlooked in her large catalogue of releases. It may not be her most creative or interesting album but when taken on its own merits it emerges as polished and in some places sophisticated pop. It is perfect for a lazy afternoon listen.

Article first published as Music Review: Carole King – Wrap Around Joy on Blogcritics.