Mam’selle 78 by Art Lund

January 27, 2012

Art Lund was a big band singer with such groups as Benny Goodman and Harry James. He went solo during 1946 and a year later produced the biggest hit of his career.

“Mam’selle” was a romantic ballad. It topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Singles Chart June 7, 1947, and remained in that position for two weeks.

After the hits ran out during the 1950s he went on to have a successful career on Brroadway.

The Story Of My Life 45 by Marty Robbins

January 27, 2012

Marty Robbins started out as a Rockabilly singer and ended up as a country superstar. His GUNFIGHTER albums during the late 1950s and early 1960s crossed over to the pop charts and were influential in expanding country music beyond its small traditional base.

During the mid-1960s he released a number of what cas best be described as pure pop songs that had success on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

He released “The Story Of My Life” November 11, 1957 and it rose to number 15 on the pop chart. It was also the first Burt Bacharach song to become a hit.

It was a story song that contained a smooth vocal vocal. While his country work would over shadow this ealy hit, it remains one of his best performances.

Inglewood – Live In California by Deep Purple

January 26, 2012

The original Deep Purple line-up included singer Rod Evans, bassist Nicky Simper, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice. This Mark I incarnation of the band was together for three albums before Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.

For years it was thought that no live footage of the early Deep Purple existed. It turned out that one 1968 concert in Inglewood, California, where they opened for Cream, was recorded on a primitive open reel recorder. The tape was lost for years but ended up in the hands of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society. The music was finally issued on CD for the first time during 2002. Inglewood: Live In California contained some of the very few live Mark I recordings that have survived.

The sound leaves a lot to be desired due to the primitive and haphazard recording process. They probably cleaned it up as well as modern technology allowed but the result was average bootleg quality, at best.

Rod Evans was a good vocalist in the studio but on stage he paled next to his future replacement Ian Gillan. Still, it’s nice to hear him interpret the band’s early material. Bassist Nick Simper comes across as an excellent bassist as he and drummer Paice formed a very competent rhythm section. Blackmore was a presence on some of the tunes but it was Jon Lord on the keyboards that provided the dominating instrumental sound.

The set list is very different from every other Deep Purple live recording. Their two early hits “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” are psychedelic rock and hard rock respectively. “Mandrake Root” and “Wring That Neck” enabled Blackmore and particularly Lord to jam together and separately.

They couldn’t translate their brilliant cover of The Beatles’ “Help” from the studio to the stage. They just didn’t get the textures and tempos right. They finished with an almost 10-minute rendition of “River Deep Mountain High” and the old Leaves psychedelic classic “Hey Joe.” The Phil Spector/Ike &Tina Turner tune was turned into a psychedelic/hard rock hybrid. “Hey Joe” was a raw and gritty performance that would look ahead to some of their future work.

This early live material is not for the Deep Purple neophyte. It is for fans who want to explore their history and in that regard it is a valuable addition to their catalogue of music.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Inglewood – Live In California on Blogcritics.

Concerto For group And Orchestra by Deep Purple

January 25, 2012

Deep Purple released Concerto For Group And Orchestra in 1969 and it remains the most unusual album in its long history.Ian Gillan and Roger Glover had just replaced original members Rod Evans and Nick Simper, so Jon Lord and Gillan came up with the idea of recording with an orchestra.

The duo wrote a concerto in three movements and recorded it with theRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Arnold, at Royal Albert Hall on September 24, 1969. The album had limited commercial success in the United States but was a hit in their home country of Great Britain.

This is one release where I advocate tracking down the 2002 two-CD edition. The sound on the original vinyl release was poor and not much better on the first CD reissue of the album. The 2002 CD release has a significantly cleaned up sound. In addition, more music was presented, which included a set by Deep Purple that was not included on the original release.

The actual concert began with a performance by Malcolm Arnold and the orchestra of his own, “Symphony Number 6,” in three movements. The music is available but is oddly out of place within the context of the album.

The 2002 CD release began with a three-song set by Deep Purple which stretched out to about 30 minutes. This was the first recording of the famous Mark II Deep Purple line-up. It is interesting to hear the band perform the pre-Mark II hit “Hush,” as it was a sound the band would quickly leave behind in the years ahead. Ritchie Blackmore was on fire for the 13-minute instrumental version of “Wring That Neck,” and if you are a fan of his style then this track is an essential listening experience. The classic Deep Purple track, “Child In Time,” was unreleased at the time but it served as a vehicle for Gillan’s amazing vocal range, which was at the height of its power back then.

The actual Concerto For Group And Orchestra was really the Jon Lord show. While Gillian did write some lyrics, Lord was responsible for the music, which was the concert’s centerpiece. The band and orchestra tended to trade the spotlight more than they actually played together in a traditional sense. While both seem to jam a little, in reality they do so within the structure of the music. Blackmore’s solo within the first movement and Paice’s thunderous drum solo during the third movement are highlights. The second movement was the least successful as it was more calm and peaceful as it veered toward a Moody Blues sound.

Concerto For Group And Orchestra was a unique stop for Deep Purple. It remains an album of “What ifs” for the band, as it would have been interesting if it had explored this direction a little more.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Concerto For Group And Orchestra on Blogcritics.

Monday Monday 45 by The Mamas & The Papas

January 25, 2012

The Mamas & The Papas are members of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They were a pure pop group with excusite vocal harmonies. John Phillips was one of the better producers who combined the four voices into a virtual choir.

“Monday Monday” was the follow-up release to their first big hit, “California Dreamin.'” Released April 9, 1966, it was their only number one hit as it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for three weeks.

Very early releases of the single came with a rare black and white picture sleeve and a different B side. The sleeve is worth in the $500 neighborhood.

Heartaches by Ted Weems

January 25, 2012

Ted Weems, 1901-1963, was one of the supersrars of the 1920s and 1930s. He and his big band first topped the charts in 1924 with “Somebody Stole My Girl” and again in 1929 with “The Man From The South.” In 1936 he signed Perry Como to be his lead singer. He and his entire band enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942.

Back in 1933 he released “Heartaches” as a single and it quickly disappeared only to be re-discovered 14 years later by a North Carolina Disc Jockey.

“Heatches” became one of the biggest hits of the decade as it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Singles Chart for 12 weeks beginning March 15, 1947.

It was the last big hit of his career and his orchestra dis-banded during 1953. He served as a disc jockey until his death ten years later.

Blood Sweat & Tears by Blood Sweat & Tears

January 24, 2012

Al Kooper had an idea of forming a band where the brass would share center stage with the organ and guitar, and so Blood, Sweat & Tears was born. Their early 1968 debut album, Child Is Father To The Man, was one of the more creative albums of the late 1960s but only moderately successful commercially. Kooper then promptly left the band he created.

Guitarist Steve Katz and drummer Bobby Columby decided to forge ahead and recruited singer David Clayton-Thomas. They also expanded the brass section to five members and made the sound even more dominant than in the past. Their self-titled second album may not have been overall as adventurous or eclectic as their first, but the more mainstream nature of a number of its songs helped it to become one of the more commercially successful albums of the late 1960s and early 1970s, as it reached number one on the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart and sold over four million copies. It won the 1970 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.

Another important addition was James William Guercio, who was brought in to produce the album. His work with the Buckinghams and their use of brass had made him familiar with the Blood, Sweat & Tears type of sound. He would go on to produce 11 albums for Chicago. He also made use of one of the first 16 track tape recorders which allowed him to assemble a very modern and crisp sounding album.

The heart of the album’s popularity was its three hit singles. “You Made Me So Very Happy” was a moderate 1967 hit for soul artist Brenda Holloway. Clayton-Thomas’ smooth vocal and the big brass sound enabled it to become a pop classic. Clayton-Thomas only wrote one track but it was the album’s stand-out. “Spinning Wheel” had a number of tempo changes and a staccato vocal delivery. The most creative track was their interpretation of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die.” The harmonica introduction, the bouncy melody, and then some frenetic vocals moved it far from Nyro’s original intent.

The album’s superior material did not stop with the singles. On Traffic’s “Smiling Phases,” the group did a pop interpretation of a psychedelic classic. Steve Katz’s “Sometimes In Winter” was an introspective and moody piece. Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child” had Guercio’s imprint all over it as it was similar to some of his work with the Buckinghams.

While “Blues Pt. II” was a creative jam type track that clocked in at just less than 12 minutes, it was somewhat out of place surrounded by the tight and precise material that surrounded it.

Blood, Sweat & Tears remains a pop classic and a very modern sounding album. While the singles have been released on a number of compilation albums and continue to receive some radio airplay, the entire album is still worth a listen.

Article first published as Music Review: Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears on Blogcritics.

Billy And Sue by B.J. Thomas and The Triumphs

January 23, 2012

Billy Joe Thomas (B.J.) placed 26 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The most successful period of his career occurred while recording for the Scepter label, 1966-1972. Songs such as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Hooked On A Feeling,” and the number one “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” made him a pop superstar.

Like many artists, before he achieved fame he recorded for several other labels.

“Billy And Sue” was receased during 1964 on both the Bragg and WB labels. After he became famous, it was released as a single on the Hickory label. It became a pop hit reaching number 34.

It remains one of his better vocals. The song told a story about Billy and Sue.” It remains a forgotten part of his catalogue and legacy.

Rapture Of The Deep by Deep Purple

January 23, 2012

Deep Purple released Rapture Of The Deep November 1, 2005, and it remains their last studio album to date. The Mark VIII line-up of vocalist Ian Gillan, guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Don Airey returned for this, their second album together, and they continue to play together as of 2012.

It was a solid modern day Deep Purple album. If you want classic Deep Purple, however, then track down Machine Head, Fireball, In Rock and the like because they are different from what the band was producing in the studio during the 1990s and 2000s. The group, on this release, produced more of a straight-forward hard rock sound that has remained the same from recent album to album. It took fewer chances than during the 1970s and 1980s, which meant not as many low points but also fewer high points as well. What remained were songs that ran together not only on individual albums but from album to album. The band also had the experience to produce songs that translated well to the live stage.

Steve Morse emerged as a guitarist of the highest order when he joined the band, and now the instrumental sound revolves around his expertise. Airey had several tours and an album under his belt and has emerged as more of a presence since his first release with DP. Paice and Glover have remained one of the more powerful rhythm sections in rock.

With all that said, it was Ian Gillan who was at the heart of the album. His lyrics were some of the best of his career and while his voice may not have been as strong as in the past and some of the high notes were not reachable anymore, he had adjusted and his voice remained one of the superior instruments on the hard rock music scene.

There are a number of solid songs that add up to 55 minutes of listening enjoyment. “Money Talks” was a heavy blues/rock fusion piece with a thumping bass foundation. “Clearly Quite Absurd” was a gentle ballad and a nice counterpoint to much of their modern day material. “Junkyard Blues” can be best described as a southern hard rocker that had its roots in Morse’s former, and once in a while current, band the Dixie Dregs. “Don’t Let Go” was another southern rock-type song with some honky tonk piano by Airey. “Back To Back” found Airey establishing himself with an excellent synthesizer solo.

Rapture Of The Deep was an intelligent album from a veteran band. It may not have broken any new ground, but it covered the old very well. And at close to 40 years into their career at the time of its release, that was more than enough.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Rapture Of The Deep on Blogcritics.

Flashdance…What A Feeling 45 by Irene Cara

January 22, 2012

Irene Cara was one of the stars of the film FAME and had two big hits from the soundtrack, “Out Here On My Own” (number 19) and the title song (number 4).

Cara did not appear in the movie FLASHDANCE but she co-wrote the title tune and released it as a single. The film became a huge success with over 100 million in ticket sales in the United States. The soundtrack has sold six million copies.

“Flashdance…What A Feeling” was issued April 2, 1983 and spend six weeks on top of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. It sold close to three million copies.

The best was yet to come, howeve, as it won the GOLDEN GLOBE and OSCAR for song of the year.