Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford

November 30, 2012

Sixteen tons and what do you get? Well, if you were Tennessee Ernie Ford, one of the biggest hits of the 1950s. “Sixteen Tons” would have been one of the biggest hits of the year but part of its run at the top extended into 1956.

Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1919-1991, was a country singer who reached the peak of his popularity during the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. He had his own television variety show, 1955-1965. “Sixteen Tons” would be his signature song as it topped all of the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 11/26/55 – Seven weeks at number one.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 11/26/55 – Six weeks at number one.
Moat Played In Jukeboxes Chart – 12/3/55 – Eight weeks at number one.
Billboard Top 100 Chart – 12/3/55 – Six weeks at number one.

Ford would continue to perform until near the end of his life. Bless his little pea-pickin’ heart.

Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye) 45 The Four Seasons

November 29, 2012

By early 1965 The Four Seasons had their formula down pat. Catchy melodies with Frankie Valli’s falsetto voice layered on top of tight harmonies.

“Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye)” sometimes slips under the radar. It may be because it was very good smooth pop but not one of their memorable performances. It first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart January 16, 1965 and peaked at number 12.

The Four Seasons were one of the few American bands to thrive during the British Invasion era of the 1960s. “Bye Bye Baby” may not have been one of their biggest hits but it was sill very good.

White Christmas 45 by Walter Brennan

November 29, 2012

Walter Brennan, 1894-1974, is primarily remembered as a television character actor. If you are a little older you may remember him as a three time Oscar winner in the Best Supporting Actor category. He also had an unlikely recording career as his first chart single came at the age of 66. He ultimately had four singles make the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Just about everybody, it seems, released a version of “White Christmas.” Brennan’s recordings were always folksy in style and sometimes more spoken than sung. He released his “White Christmas in the early 1960s and it did not chart. Still, not bad for an older guy.

Beep Beep 45 by The Playmates

November 28, 2012

The Playmates were one of those group that could only have existed during the 1950’s. Donny Conn, Morey Carr, and Chic Hetti formed the comedy group, The Nitwits, at the University of Connecticut in the early 1950’s. By 1955 they had become The Playmates and between 1958 and 1962 placed ten singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

Their best known hit, and one that is still recognizible today, came during late 1958. “Beep Beep” had comedy elements to it and sold over one million copies. It reached number four on the BILLBOARD Pop Singles Chart.

The Playmates split in 1965 leaving behind one of the classic songs of the mid-1950s.

Brave New World by The Steve Miller Band

November 27, 2012

Change was in the air for The Steve Miller Band as keyboardist Jim Peterman and guitarist Boz Scaggs had departed. Keyboardist Ben Sidran was selected to join holdovers Miller, bassist Lonnie Turner, and drummer Tim Davis. Sidran was a good addition as he would co-write four of the nine tracks with Miller. Producer Glyns Johns filled in on guitar and provided some backing vocals. As an example of the band’s burgeoning popularity, Nicky Hopkins and Paul McCartney each appeared on one track.

Despite the changes, they released their third excellent album in a row. Brave New World was very representative of the late 1960s. It had a summer of love and anti-war vibe. It was a fine fit for the growing hippie culture of the day as it explored peace as the Vietnam War was expanding.

From the opening crescendo of the title track, the music was a call to the young people of the country to unite. Both “Brave New World” and “Celebration Song” are up-beat explorations that found Miller fusing the psychedelic music of his present with the pop leanings of his future.

The center of the album contains a trio of songs that are equal to any Miller would produce. “Kow Kow (Calqulator)” is an anti-war or peace song that features some of Miller’s better guitar work plus pianist Hopkins filling in the gaps. The production is also impeccable as the sound has a layered feel. “Seasons” is a gentle acoustic ballad that contains a nice echo sound. “Space Cowboy” is the quintessential Miller song that was cool in 1969 and remains cool today.

The last track, “My Dark Hour,” features Paul McCartney (billed as Paul Ramon) on bass, drums, and backing vocals. His bass work is actually very creative on this track and would have fit in nicely on Fly Like An Eagle.

Brave New World is very cohesive as the songs fit together well. The music may not have been as creative or surprising as their first two albums but it was an easier listen. It remains an album worth revisiting.

Article first published as Music Review: Steve Miller Band – Brave New World on Blogcritics.

Inner Voices by KC & The Storytellers

November 27, 2012

KG & The Storytellers have released an auspicious debut album. They have a unique sound that combines elements of pop, jazz, and funk. It is the way the instruments come together that is unique as the saxophone, guitars, and keyboards make surprise appearances as they flit in and out of the overall sound. Through it all the bass and drums lay down a solid foundation. It is all helped by the impeccable production that allows each element of their music to be heard individually and collectively.

They are a big, sprawling band consisting of percussionist Rufus Brothers, bassist Steve Johnson, saxophonist Frankie Moniz, saxophonist/guitarist Cameron Brennan, vibraphonist/glockenspiel player Ryan Kowal, violinist Yanna Kiriacopoulos, pianist Dennis Hughes, vocalists Brittany Thompson & Kassie Lufkin, lead guitarist Robert Hanna, and songwriter/vocalist Kevin Main. It all adds up to a calliope of sound that contains surprises around every bend.

It is the saxophones that define the sound and tie it all together. They are at heart improvisational jazz that serves as a counterpoint to the underlying rhythms. Kevin Main’s voice is more pop than jazz but has a good quality to it. The female voices, on the other hand, have a jazz flavor to them.

“Enlightened One (The Buddha Song)” is the album’s lead track and presents their sound in microcosm. It is an easy flowing piece that focuses on Main’s vocal, until the saxophone accentuates the jazzy side of their music. “Voices Of Reason” blends the voices of Main with Brittany Thompson and Kassie Lufkin. I am not sure which female voice is which, but it is a clear and powerful instrument that one wishes would have been highlighted more often on the album. “Walking Aound” is quieter and has a poignant feel to it. The title song has an odd psychedelic quality to it, while “Phenomena” feels like it emerged from a smoky New Orleans lounge late at night.

KG & The Storytellers have created a memorable fusion of sounds. The music has a depth with textures that can be explored through repeated listenings. The sum is a very different but excellent album.

Article first published as Music Review: KG & The Storytellers – Inner Voices on Blogcritics.

Past, Present And Future by The Shangri-Las

November 27, 2012

The Shangri-Las consisted of two sets of sisters, Mary and Betty Weiss, and twins Mary Ann and Marge Ganser. They had a series of hits for the Red Bird label, 1964-1966. They are probably best remembered for thier number one hit, “Leader Of The Pack.”

“Past, Present And Future” was the last of their chart singles. Released during June of 1966, it peaked at number 59 on the BLILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. They would continue to record for several years and have a couple of reunions but their commercial success had come to an end.

They made their mark as one of the original tough girl groups of rock and roll.

Autumn Leaves by Roger Williams

November 27, 2012

“Autumn Leaves” by Roger Williams was the first instrumental song to reach number one during the rock and roll era. There were four BILLBOARD MAGAZINE pop singles charts in operation during late 1955 but Williams big hit only topped The Best Sellers In Stores Chart. It reached the top of the chart on October 29, 1955, and remained there for four weeks. The amazing thing is that it did not top any of the other charts as the single sold over two million copies.

Williams sound was anything but rock and roll but he managed to sell tens of millions of albums and singles in a career that would last until his death in 2011.

“Autum Leaves” remains the biggest selling piano tune of all time.

Ruby Baby 45 by Dion

November 25, 2012

Dion is best remembered for his series of hit songs for the Lauire label, 1958-1962. “The Wanderer,” “A Teenager In Love,” “Lovers Who Wander,” and the number one “Runaround Sue” were some of the catchiest and biggest hits of the early 1960s. He he returned to the label several years later and had a far different sound. He had another hit with the folk type song, “Abraham, Martin, And John.”

Right in the middle of these two periods of his career, he was signed to the Columbia label. His material for the label moved away from this early doo-wop sound and toward a rocp/rock style.

His material during this period of his career is often over looked but late in 1962 he released a cover of a 1956 rhythm & blues hit for The Drifters, “Ruby Baby.” It was a smooth pop rendition and peaked at number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. His material for the Columbia label may not be as well known but it is well-worth seeking out.

Since You Been Gone 45 by Cherie and Marie Currie

November 23, 2012

Cherie Currie will always be remembered as the lead singer of the all-girl band, The Runways from 1975-1977. After leaving the band she released a solo album plus the album, MESSIN’ WITH THE BOYS with her twin sister Marie.

Their sound was a straight forward rock approach and was more polished than her time with the Runaways although such backing musicians as Steve Lukather, Waddy Wachtel, Jeff Porcaro and others had a lot to do with it. The single, “Since You Been Gone” probably deserved more commercial success than it received, which was virtually none as it peaked at number 95 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during October of 1979.

Currie has been back in the studio lately and has spent the last three decades as a sculpter and actress.