Surrender 78 by Perry Como

December 31, 2011

“Surrender” by Perry Como, not to be confused with the later hit by the same name by Elvis Presley, was one of the more obscure number one hits of his career.

Well-known today or not, it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for one week beginning August 3, 1946. It was typical of his smooh style that made him one of the top stars of the 1940s and 1950s.

Chuck E’s In Love 45 by Ricki Lee Jones

December 31, 2011

There actally was a Chuck E. He was a mutual friend of Tom Waits and Ricki Lee Jones. One day he called Waits to announce he was in love. When Waits hung up the phone he said to Jones, “Chuck E’s In Love,” and so a hit song was born.

Ricki Lee Jones released “Chuck E’s In Love” and it became the biggest hit ofher career, reaching number four on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. Jones has always had a very jazz oriented vocal sound but this one came close to pop which put into the mainsteam.

There is no word if Chuck E is still in love.

Crying 45 by Jay and The Americans

December 31, 2011

It takes a lot of confidence to cover a Roy Orbison song and especially one of his classics. Jay & The Americans released “Crying” during 1966 and it reched number 25 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Jay Black had a booming and strong voice but without the overall range of Orbison. Still, he produced a credible, if different, cover of this classic song. It is always interesting to compare the two versions.

Shut Down 45 by The Beach Boys

December 29, 2011

“Shut Down” was the Beach Boys song that just kept on ticking. I was a track on their SURFIN USA album. Next it appeared as the B side of the “Surfin’ USA” single. The B side may not have been the big hit but it did reach number 23 on the BILBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in its own right. It reappeared as a track on their LITLE DEUE COUPLE album. It was just warming up however.

The Capital label decided to release an album of hot road and car songs by such artists as the Piltdown Men, The Cheers, the Super Stocks and others, in order to promote their music. Two songs by the Beach Boys were included to promote the album; “409” and “Shut Down.”

“Shut Down” was not quite finished. The song gained in popularity and so the Beach Boys released “Shut Down Volume II.” The album received a Gold Record Award for sales and included such eternal Beach Boys songs as “Fun Fun Fun,” “The Warmth Of The Sun,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”

It may not be the best know Beach Boys car song but it sure has a lot of miles under the hood.

Bad Moon Rising 45 by Creedence Clearwater

December 29, 2011

Creedence Clearwater holds a BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts Record. They had more releases reach number two without ever having a number one hit than any oher artist. An amazing statistic given the high quality of their releases.

“Bad Moon Rsing” was released during 1969 and reached, (you guessed it), number two in the United States. All was not lost however as it was number one in England.

The American issue came with a fairly rare picture sleeve.

Tossin’ & Turnin’ 45 by Bobby Lewis

December 29, 2011

Bobby Lewis was born during 1925 or 1933 depending upon who you ask. His career now spans over a half century. He has had only two top ten pop hits. “One Track Mind” reached number nine on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart but it was his other hit that was one of the biggest of all time.

“Tossin’ & Turnin'” was released during 1961 and on July 10th became the number one single in the United States. It would stay in that position for seven weeks. It was the number one single of the year and one of seven singles during the 1960s to spend at least seven weeks at number one. It would also spend 10 weeks on top of BILLBOARS R&B Charts.

The line; “I Couldn’t Get To Sleep At All Last Night,” was heard millions of times during the summer of 1961.

Sixties Sounds by The Girls From Petticoat Junction

December 28, 2011

Join me gentle readers as we travel back in time to the Shady Rest Hotel, located between the towns of Hooterville and Pixley. Petticoat Junction was a television series, 1963-1970, and ran for 222 episodes. The show included a quirky cast of characters, including the beautiful Bradley Girls. While several actresses played the girls during the show’s existence, the best known, and the subjects of this review, were Linda Key Henning as red haired Betty Jo Bradley, Lori Saunders as brunette Bobbie Joe Bradley, and Meredith MacRae as blonde Billie Joe Bradley.

As a young teenager, the show was a regular on my weekly television viewing schedule. It didn’t even bother me that the three daughters used to skinny-dip in the water tower. It was all good until at about the age of 16, I realized that women like Grace Slick also walked the earth, and so it was a fond goodbye to the Bradley girls. Still, for a few years they occupied my, and millions of American males’ attention.

Many times, singing was incorporated into the show, and it was thought that the three girls might have the potential of becoming a successful singing act. They began performing in night clubs and fairs, and in 1968 signed a recording contract. Several singles were recorded and released, and a few tracks were stored away for future use. The singles received no success and plans for a full album were scrapped. The music has sat in the vaults until now.

The Girls From Petticoat Junction: Sixties Sounds, released this fall through the Real Gone Music reissue label, has resurrected those songs. All six of their singles that were previously issued are present here, as are some previously never released songs. As a bonus, the original theme song of the series, sung by Curt Massey, is also included.

All three women could sing and were able to produce acceptable harmonies. They can best be described as a 1960s girl pop group, one that wisely kept most the material fairly simple and light, except for their rendition of The Beatles’ “Rain.”

Overall, the music was nostalgic, but in no way was it musically essential to the era in which it was recorded. Songs such as “Wheeling West Virginia,” “Up Up & Away,” “Goodbye Love,” and “Thirty Days Hath September” were good and all part of the innocent late 1960s, but came out after the summer of love (1967). As such, and with the series coming to an end, it and the Petticoat Junction girls quickly disappeared into history.

Sixties Sounds is a walk down memory lane for fans of the Petticoat Junction show and era. So climb aboard the Hooterville Cannonball train, relax at the Shady Rest Hotel, and listen to some music from a long gone era.

Article first published as Music Review: Various Artists – The Girls From Petticoat Junction: Sixties Sounds on Blogcritics.

Slaves And Masters by Deep Purple

December 28, 2011

Some people just can’t get along and so it was, is, and probably always shall be for Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame. The fou-year reunion of the classic Mark II line-up of Deep Purple came to an acrimonious end during 1989 when either Gillan was fired by Blackmore or quit on his own, which really didn’t matter as the band was in need of a new lead singer by then.

Enter Joe Lynn Turner and the formation of the Mark V line-up. He had been the lead singer of Blackmore’s solo band Rainbow, 1980-1984. His stint in Deep Purple would be fairly short, 1989-1992, and produced only one studio album. When I rank the singers that have fronted Deep Purple; Turner probably lands on the bottom. He is an excellent singer in his own right but his voice was different from what one was accustomed to hearing from Deep Purple. It is gritty and in some ways more mainstream than the sonic nature of Ian Gillan and David Coverdale.

With Turner hired as the singer, the band went in to the studio and released Slaves And Masters during October of 1990 before setting off on a very successful and lucrative tour schedule during 1991. The album remains an afterthought in the large Deep Purple catalogue. It was a little too slick and polished in places as the band moved in a commercial direction. It ended up sounding like a cross between a Rainbow and a Deep Purple album that did not reflect the best of either.

Oddly I find the best of the album bunched at the beginning as the first three tracks are all pretty good. “King Of Dreams,” “The Cut Runs Deep,” and “Fire In The Basement” all come the closest to Deep Purple’s brand of classic hard rock. Blackmore’s guitar solos and Lord’s keyboard runs harp back to the Deep Purple of old. The instrumentals kept Turner’s vocals under control and if all the tracks could have gone in this direction, the album would have been more representative of the band’s legacy.

The final six tracks are basically generic filler. They even stoop to ripping off some Kiss riffs on a couple of tracks. While in and of themselves they may not be terribly offensive, they are certainly not up to the band’s past standards.

The life of the Mark V line-up would be brief. A surprise new lead singer was coming and stability was in the band’s future. No doubt there are people in the Deep Purple universe who will praise this album, but in the final analysis it is only for fans who want everything Deep Purple.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Slaves And Masters on Blogcritics.

The Gypsy 78 by The Ink Spots

December 27, 2011

“The Gypsy” began its journey in England, where written by Billy Reid, it was recorded by his orchestra with vocalist Dorothy Squires.

A good song is a good song song so it was imported across the Atlantic to the United States. It was recorded by Dinah Shore who reached number 2 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Charts and Sammy Kaye who took it to number four. While these were big hits, none came close to matching the version by The Ink Spots.

The Ink Spots were one of the most successful vocal groups of the 1930s and 1940s. They were a rare back group that was popular with white audiences.

Their recording of “The Gypsy” was the number one single of 1947. It reached nuber one, May 25, 1946, and remained in that position for ten weeks.

It was typical of their style. The tenor would sing the whole song, followed by the bass saying the words, and then the tenor would finish with by singing a few more lines. In this case it was golden.

Wooden Heart 45 by Joe Dowell

December 27, 2011

G.I. Blues was Elvis Presley’s first film after being released from the U.S. Army. It would top the album charts in the United States. Elvis released one of the songs from the soundtrack, “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)” as a single in England. It became a huge hit topping the U.K. charts for six weeks. For some reason, it was not issued as a single in the United States at the time.

Enter Joe Dowell from Bloomington, Indiana. As a 21 year old, he signed a recording contract with Shelby Singleton’s brand new Smash label. His first recording session included a cover of Presley’s “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn).” The song was released June 26, 1961, as the label’s first single.

Exit Bobby Lewis. The summer of 1961 had been very kind to Mr. Lewis as his song “Tossin’ and Turnin’” had spent seven consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart. It was named the number one single of the year. All good things must eventually come to an end, and so it was for “Tossin’ and Turnin’” on August 28, 1961.

Joe Dowell and his label grabbed the brass ring the first time out as their version of “Wooden Heart” reached number one on that date and remained there for one glorious week.

The song was a re-working of an old German folk tune. The lyrics were sung in both English and German. Dowell’s release was a smooth pop/easy listening hit and a little different from Elvis’ film version. Ray Stevens’ organ, which sounded like an accordion, was the main instrumental sound. Dowell’s voice was made for this type of song as he had a laid back style with nice tone.

He would have another couple of lesser hits but would eventually be dropped by the label he helped make successful. He went into advertising and became a spokesman for a bank in addition to performing occasionally. He is currently considering a return to the recording studio.

Elvis finally released his version as the B-side of his 1964 Christmas single, “Blue Christmas,” which made for an odd combination. It was too late because in the United States “Wooden Heart” will always be associated with Joe Dowell.