Devil Or Angel 45 by Bobby Vee

March 30, 2013

devilor angel bobby vee

Bobby Vee gained fame as a teenager when he filled in for Buddy Holly after his death. He had two lower chart singles, 1959 and 1960, but by the summer of 1960 he was poised to have his break through hit.

“Devil Or Angel” was originally a rhythm & blues hit for the Clovers in 1956 when it reach number three of the BILLBOARD R&B Chart. Vee provided a very smooth vocal and moved to over to straight pop. Released during the summer, it became the first top ten single of his career, peaking at number six on the BILLOARD Hot 100.

His career is now past the fifty year mark but the the most successful part was 1059-1970, when he placed 38 singles on the Hot 100.

Living In The 20th Century by The Steve Miller Band

March 29, 2013

After his 1984 debacle, Italian X-Rays, Steve Miller made a fine comeback two years later with Living in the 20th Century. Dedicated to Jimmy Reed, it was his first blues album in over 15 years.

Miller took complete control of the recording process again. Unlike his last effort where his band members wrote the majority of the material, now he wrote five of the tracks himself. Three Jimmy Reed covers plus several other blues songs made it one of the better efforts of the second half of his career.

The album has a cohesive flow to it. It begins with four original Miller compositions before transitioning to his interpretations of six blues songs, finally finishing with another original.

There is a lot of good music on the album. The best of his originals is “Behind the Barn” as both James Cotton and Norton Buffalo contributed with some harp play, and Les Dudek added a country sound with his dobro. “Slinky” is an often overlooked gem in his vast catalogue of music. It is an instrumental that contains one of the better guitar performances of his career. It finds Miller laid back and relaxed and makes one wish he would record more guitar-oriented songs. “I Want the World to Turn Around” settles into a nice groove with saxophone player Kenny G.

The Jimmy Reed covers were a labor of love. “I Wanna be Loved (But Only by You)” and “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” are given modernized interpretations. “Caress Me Baby” served as a jumping off point for some more of Miller’s guitar improvisation that would have made Reed proud. Add in such tunes as “My Babe” and “Big Boss Man” and you have a nice grouping of classic blues interpretations.

Living in the 20th Century is an album that often floats under the Steve Miller radar. It is a fine album that deserves more attention as it found Miller in a place he had not visited in quite a while. If you ever want to explore the Steve Miller Band outside of his better known releases, then this is the place to start.

Alive On Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim by Steve Forbert

March 29, 2013

The 1970s were coming to an end and such disparate artists as The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, and even Steve Martin were selling millions of records. Into this maelstrom of sounds and styles, Steve Forbert released his first two albums. Alive On Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim are now being re-released as a two-for-one package complete with a dozen bonus tracks.

During the early part of his career, he was touted as a new Bob Dylan. Now 14 studio and nine live albums later, he may not have completely lived up to that accolade but he has crafted a fine body of work.

Alive On Arrival was released during 1978 and was an auspicious debut. He had traveled from his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi to New York City, playing in small clubs and in front of any open mic that was available. His first release reflects those learning experiences as the music and lyrics have a raw and gritty feel despite the gentle nature of his approach.

His early songs explored pain, humor, regret, his philosophy of life, and the world around him. “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” is a catchy folk tune that remains in your mind long after the song ends. “Big City Cat” is an emotional ride through his life at the time. “Goin’ Down to Laurel” remains a fine introduction to his music.

As good as his first album was, his second was a little better. He was more secure as a songwriter and singer and that comes across. Songs such as “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” “Make it All So Real,” and “Baby” are all excellent. “Romeo’s Tune” remains his best known song but the classic is “Wait,” which is a spiritual journey of longing.

The 12 bonus tracks fill in some gaps in his music but do not really expand his vision. The most interesting are a live version of “Romeo’s Tune” from a 1979 performance at New York City’s Palladium and an alternate version of “Make It All So Real.”

The music from Alive On Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim has held up well. It’s nice to have these albums back in circulation, as they represent not only some of the best music of his career but of their era as well. A must release for any fan of Steve Forbert or anyone who appreciates good music.

Don’t Forbid Me 45 by Pat Boone

March 28, 2013

Pat Boone was one of the stars of the 1950s and early 1960s. He placed 58 singles on the BILLBOATD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Charts, 1955-1964, with six reaching number one.

By 1957 Pat Boone’s career was in full swing. He had already had two number one hits and five more reach the top ten when he released “Don’t Forbid Me” during early December of 1956. It quickly became the third number one of his career. While it stopped at number three on the Best Sellers In Stores Chart and number tow on The Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart; it spent one week on top of the Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart (2/23/57) and the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (2/9/57).

Pat Boone was the exact opposite of the image Elvis Presley projected. When the Beatles arrived in America, he became a relic of his era. Despite the loss of huge commercial success, he has remained active for the past half-century.

Our Day Will Come by Ruby And The Romantics

March 28, 2013


First tenor Eric Roberts, second tenor George Lee, bass Leroy Fann, and baritone Ronald Mosley were all part of the same high school choir. After graduation from high school they formed a vocal group and performed in small clubs and released a few unsuccessful singles for some small labels. They performed under the name, The Supremes, which would become one of the most famous group names of the 1960s but unfortunately not for them.

Their fortunes changed when Fann happened to hear Ruby Nash sing and invited her to join the group. She quickly became the vocal center and the group changed their name to Ruby and The Romantics, which enabled them to secure a recording contract with the Kapp label.

The group was in need of a song and songwriters Bob Hilliard and Mort Garson had one. Unfortunately they wanted Kapp artist Jack Jones to record the song. It took a lot of convincing but they finally allowed the unknown group to record their composition. It was a wise decision as “Our Day Will Come” entered the Billboard Hot 100 February 9, 1963, and fifty years ago this week reached number one, selling over one-million copies along the way. It also topped the Rhythm & Blues Chart.

Ruby had a clear voice and the Romantics were well-suited to being a backing group as their tight harmonies formed a foundation for the lead vocal. “Our Day Will Come” may have been simple but it was a smooth performance with a melody that stayed in your mind long after the music ended.

While they would never reach the top ten again, they did place seven more singles on the Hot 100, 1963-1965, before disbanding in 1971. Ruby had become disenchanted with life on the road and wanted to concentrate on raising a family. She settled in Akron and worked for AT&T.

There will be no reunions as all four male members of the group are deceased and Ruby is retired. While they may not have changed music history, they did have one shining moment 50 years ago when they topped the American music world for one week.

Turquiose by Devon Allman

March 27, 2013

When you release an album and your last name is Allman, people will pay attention. This brings us to Devon Allman and his solo debut album, Turquoise.

Devon is the son of Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers. His parents divorced while he was an infant and thus he had little contact with his famous father until he was a teenager. Allman was originally influenced by hard rock bands such as Kiss, but he has since then settled into a rock/blues fusion sound that is associated with his father/The Allman Brothers.

He formed the band Honeytribe in 1999 that is now on hiatus, as most of his attention and energy has been directed toward his involvement with his new band/supergroup, Royal Southern Brotherhood and a solo project (the main subject of this review). Other members of his Royal Southern Brotherhood include vocalist/percussionist Cyril Neville, guitarist Mike Zito, bassist Charlie Wooten, and drummer Yonrico Scott.

Turquoise is Devon’s first solo release. It was recorded as a basic power trio with RSB band mate Scott and bassist Myles Weeks, with a few guests scattered among the 11 tracks.

Most of this Allman’s solo music falls into a southern rock and electric blues groove. He is an impeccable guitarist who is a credit to his last name. His lyrics may need some honing here and there but the music is catchy and gritty. Devon is fully able to carry the sound with his guitar runs and vocals.

“When I Left Home” is his best lyrical creation, as it contains wonderful imagery. It also contains some slide guitar play by Luther Dickinson, which fills in the sound and is the perfect foil for Devon. This autobiographical song leaves you wanting more of the same. “Yadira’s Lullaby” moves in a different direction and it features some smooth acoustic guitar play.

“Time Machine” moves in a subtle jazz direction. The only non-original song is a cover of the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks tune, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Samantha Fish duets on the vocals in a track that is very different from what surrounds it.

At this point in his career, Devon Allman is still a work in progress. Turquoise is a good beginning for this second generation Allman musician

Article first published as Music Review: Devon Allman – Turquoise on Blogcritics.

Dancing bear 45 by The Mamas And The Papas

March 26, 2013

dancingbear mamas

The Mamas & The Papas were a pure pop vocal group that caught the fancy of the flower power and hippie generation of the mid to late 1960s. John Phillips was a talented producer who had the ability to transform their four voices into a virtual choir.

They placed 11 singles on the BILLBOPARD MAGAZINE Hot 100 during 1966-1967, four more in 1968, and a fianl reunion hit in 1972. Five of their singles reached the top five. “California Dreamin'” and “Monday Monday” are songs that helped define the era.

Their last single of 1967 was “Dancing Bear.” Ir was their usual brand of smooth pop with impecabble vocals. By this time however, their career was on the down side. “Dancing Bear” stalled at number 51 on the Hot 100.

Today, all members of the group are deceased except for Michelle Phillips.

Big Big World 45 by Johnny Burnette

March 25, 2013

big wide world johnny burnette

Johnny Burnette, his brother Dorsey, and Paul Burlison formed the Rock and Roll Trio, 1953-1957. Johnny went solo and in 1960 and had two big hits with “Dreamin'” and “You’re Sixteen.” He placed five songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100, 1960-1961, with four entering the top 20.

“Big Big World” was typical of his sound as it was smooth pre-Beatles pop that bordered on rock and roll. It was his only chart entry not to become a big hit as it stalled at number 58 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.

Burnette would have no more hits after 1961 and would die in a boating accident August 1, 1964.

Aloha From Hawaii (Legacy Edition) by Elvis Presley

March 23, 2013

And now ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Honolulu, Hawaii via satellite, it’s Elvis Presley again, 40 years later.

Over one billion people worldwide tuned in to view Elvis’ historic January 14, 1973 concert at the Honolulu International Center Arena. The show didn’t air in the United States until April 4 of that year, but it was one of the most watched television programs of the year. The RCA label released the album, Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite in February (of ’73) and it topped both the Billboard Pop and Country charts. It has sold in the neighborhood of five million copies.

Elvis also recorded what was called a full dress rehearsal concert just in case there were problems with the broadcast. It was finally released in 1988 as The Alternate Aloha. Finally, at about 3:00 a.m. after the audience had left, Elvis and his band recorded five additional songs. Four were from his Blue Hawaii album plus a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.”

Now all the material from the concerts is being released together for the first time as Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite: Legacy Edition [2-CD set]. The official release date is March 19. The music is as clear as the original tapes will allow. There are also new liner notes and pictures.

His Hawaiian concerts were in many ways the apex of the second half of Elvis’ career. He had gotten himself in shape and showed none of the deterioration that would begin to plague him in the years ahead. He also seemed involved and committed, which would also become an issue as the years passed. It all added up to a memorable event and album. When I want to listen to a live Elvis album, this is usually the one I turn to.

In retrospect it was a good combination of material as they combined some of his well-known hits with some, at the time, rarely performed live songs. They also were trying not to duplicate very much of the material used on his Live At Madison Square Garden concerts of June, 1972. Classic hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Love Me,” “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” share space with some of his newer hits: “Suspicious Minds,” “Burning Love,” and “Steamroller Blues.” Add in such cover songs as “My Way,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Fever,” and “Welcome to My World” and you have a varied, interesting, energetic, passionate, and always entertaining concert.

Most Elvis fans will have the material but having all of it in one place as well as having been subjected to the cleaning process of modern technology is a plus. If you are not familiar with this concert, then this new release is a must.

Article first published as Music Review: Elvis Presley – Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite: Legacy Edition on Blogcritics.

Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys (Dutch Release)

March 22, 2013

BB barbara ann dutch

Many singles by the Beach Boys were issued in various countries with different picture sleeves.

“Barbara Ann” was first issued by The Regents during 1961 and it reached number 13 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The Beach Boys version spent two weeks at number two duringng early 1966. The odd thing about the release was that Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean provided the lead vocal.

The Beach Boys PARTY album was supposed to have been recorded live at a Beach Boys get together. Brian Wilson could not help but tinker with it in the studio. Still, “Barbara Ann” has a live feel to it.

The Beach Boys had four number one hits but “Babrara Ann” was their only number two making it the fifth biggest single hit of their career. The Dutch picture sleeve shows a very young group just about to enter the most creative period of their career.