Complete Original #1 Hits by Eddy Arnold

May 30, 2013

Eddy Arnold, 1918-2008, dominated the American country music scene from the end of World War II until the advent of the rock and roll era in 1955. He made a huge comeback during the mid-1960s and continued to record and tour into his early 80s. All in all he placed 27 songs on top of the Billboard Magazine Country Chart and they have all been gathered together into one set by Real Gone Music and issued under the title Complete Original #1 Hits. It is the word original that is important as Arnold re-recorded many of his hits during the course of his life but all the tracks here are the original single releases.
Arnold had more of a smooth sound than many early country artists and so a number of his releases crossed over to main stream radio, which enlarged his fan based beyond the country market.

Today, it is many times forgotten how commercially dominant he was in the field of country music. During 1947-1948, he had the number one record on the Billboard Country Chart for 60 consecutive weeks. In 1948 he sold more records than every pop artist signed to the RCA Label, for whom he recorded. Some of these early hits were “I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms),” “Anytime,” “Bouquet of Roses,” “Texarkana Baby,” and “Just A Little Lovin’ (Will Go a Long Long Way).”

As the 1950s progressed, he moved more toward a pop sound. Gone were the fiddles and pedal steel guitars and in their place were acoustic guitars and a backing male vocal group. His theme song, “Cattle Call,” was recorded with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra.

His commercial appeal declined during the early rock and roll years but he returned in 1965 with the number one “What’s He Doing in My World. Five more number ones would follow including “Make The World Go Away,” which was a top ten pop hit, “Turn The World Around,” and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye.

The sound has been cleaned up as well as the original masters will allow. There is also a nice booklet, which gives a good over view of his career.

Complete Original #1 Hits is a treasure trove for any fan of Arnold or of early country music. It is a nice journey through the career of an early American music superstar.

CloseTo You 45 by The Carpenters

May 30, 2013

close to you

“(They Long To Be) Close To You” first appeared as the flip side of Richard Chamberlain’s 1963 hit “Blue Guitar.” Who knew at the time that an obscure B side would become one of the biggest selling singles of 1970.

The Carpenters first reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 with a cover of The Beatles “Ticket To Ride,” when it reached number 54. They decided to follow it with their version of “Close To You.” It proved to be a huge hit during the sunmer of 1970 when it topped the Hot 100 for four weeks. It also reached number one on the Adult Contemporary Chart. It made the Carpenters stars.

They would go on to place 29 songs on the pop chart during the next 11 years with three reaching number one and five reaching number two. Their popularity started with “Close To You,” which remains the biggest hit of their career.

Love Letters In The Sand by Pat Boone

May 16, 2013

Elvis Presley was the most commercialy successful artist of the 1950s. Pat Boone was number two.

Many of his biggest hits were covers of rhythm & blues songs. Many radio stations would not play music by black artists so Boone would record their hits, which would then get airplay. Many of the artists would collect royalties but his success left him open for a lot of criticism. The biggest hit of his career, however, was originally recorded in 1931 and had been covered by the likes of Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby.

Boone had signed to star in the movie Bernadine. There were originally no songs in the film but the producers decided to find a few songs so he could sing. One of the songs chosen was “Love Letter In The Sand.” It was not Boone’s favorite hit but it ws the biggest of his career as it topped all three BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Singles Charts for multiple weeks.

Beat Seller In Stores Chart – 6/3/57 – 5 weeks at number one.

Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 6/10/57 – 7 weeks at nuber one.

Billboard Top 100 Chart – 6/10/57 – 5 weeks at nuber one.

During the last half of the 1950’s be would place 39 singles on the Hot 100 Chart but none bigger than “Love Letters In The Sand.”

Living By The Days by Don Nix

May 15, 2013

Don Nix, born 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of those people who has spent nearly all of his adult life in the music industry yet is not a household name. This is due to the fact that his time as a producer, arranger, session musician, and songwriter has overshadowed his releases as a recording artist.

Nix began his career as a member of the studio band, The Mar-Keys, along with Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. He played the sax parts on their 1961 top three hit single, “Last Night.”

His career has had an eclectic nature to it. The Mar-Keys were hired as a house band for the Stax label in the 1960s. He has worked with such artists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, Jeff Beck, Freddie King, and Albert King. He coordinated and sang in the choir for Ravi Shankar and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, and the next year released a version of an oft-covered blues standard that he first produced and wrote for the band Moloch in the late ’60s, “Goin’ Down.”.

Also during 1971, he signed with the Elektra label and recorded his second solo album, Living by the Days. That album has now been reissued by Real Gone Music.

It was an album that did not change the course of American music but one that fused blues, gospel, and soul into one creative mix. It was very close to the sound Delaney and Bonnie were producing at the time.

Nix was an accomplished songwriter and here he penned eight of the nine tracks. “Olena” is a demonstration of his soulful approach. “Going Back to Iuka” is a straight electric blues tune with a nice solo to connect the parts. “Three Angels” is New Orleans barrel roll blues-meets-southern gospel. He even manages a bluesy take on the Hank Williams tune, “I Saw the Light.”

The accompanying booklet contains the lyrics and a nice overview of his career. The sound has been remastered and comes across as clean and clear.

Living by the Days is a nice trip back to the early 1970s as Don Nix’s mix of musical styles and sounds is finally resurrected. It contains some good music from the era and is definitely worth a listen.a2


Article first published as <a href=’’>Music Review: Don Nix – <i>Living by the Days</i> [Remastered]</a> on Blogcritics.

The Bright Spots by Randall Bramblett

May 15, 2013

Randall Bramblett has had three distinct periods to his career. During the early 1970s he began his career as a session musician before issuing two solo albums. By the end of the decade he was a member of Sea Level and then would go on to play with artists such as Robbie Robertson, Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood, Elvin Bishop, and Greg Allman. He also had a short stint as a part of the reformed Traffic. The last phase of his career began in 1998 with the release of the solo album See Through Me for Capricorn Records. He has continued to front his own band for the past 15 years and will release his seventh album since going solo, The Bright Spots, on May 14.

Despite being born in Jesup, Georgia, and his association with the classic Capricorn Records and a number of artists who came out of the southern rock vein, he is more of a soul singer than rocker. Sax and keyboards were his early instruments of choice, but now he has added guitar to his repertoire.

He has always been able to craft a song and his lyrics can be incisive, reflective, beautiful in places, and even tell a story. “John the Baptist,” with its pulsating rhythms, and “Shine,” which has a church choir feel, both fall within the Southern Gospel tradition. “Whatever That Is” flirts with the blues and allows him to show off as an instrumentalist. “’Til the Party’s All Gone” has some smooth funky rhythms while “Detox Bracelet” is a meditative and keyboard-driven ballad.

Bramblett is a mature musician who has a lot of miles and songs under his belt. As such, he knows how to create and put together an album. He does not try to overextend himself but rather remains true to what he does best and that is to create soulful music from a Southern perspective. The Bright Spots finds him in his comfort zone, which is a treat for anyone willing to give his latest album a listen.

Article first published as Music Review: Randall Bramblett – The Bright Spots on Blogcritics.

Butterfly by Charlie Gracie

May 13, 2013

Very few songs reach number one twice but “Butterfly” managed that feat within the same month. Andy Williams had taken the song to number one during March of 1957 and now it was Charlie Gracie’s turn.

Gracie was born in 1936 in Philadelphia and began playing the guitar as a teeneager. He was a regular on American Bandstand before Dick Clark became the host. While he would only place three songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100, one of them would reach the top.

His version of “Butterfly” topped the Most Played In Jukeboxes Chart April 13, 1957 and remained at the top for two weeks. It was followed by Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up,” after which BILLBOARD ended that particular chart. Since it did not top any of the other singles charts at the time, its timing was perfect.

Gracie is now in his late 70s but continues to perform, especially in Europe where he has retained his popularity.

Born 2B Blue by Steve Miller

May 12, 2013

Born 2B Blue was a unique stop for Steve Miller in that it remains the only album attributed just to him alone and not to the Steve Miller Band. Did this fact make a difference? The answer to that question may not be answerable but it was one of the weaker efforts of his career. It may have been a solo album but he used some familiar faces as supporting musicians including bassist Billy Peterson, keyboardist Ben Sidran, saxophonist Bob Malach, keyboardist Ricky Peterson, and drummer Gordy Knutson.

Miller had produced some of the finest psychedelic rock and pop/rock albums of his era, selling tens of millions of copies along the way. Born 2B Blue was neither as it crossed over into the easy listening/jazz medium with some homogenized pop thrown in for good measure.

The choice of songs was far removed from what one would expect from Miller and the results were varied but none came close to equaling his best work. He did seem to have had a vision when choosing the material as the songs sort of fit together. Unfortunately they did not fit him very well.

The best of the lot is a subtle interpretation of the Billie Holiday blues standard, “God Bless the Child” and a jazz laden vocal on “Willow Weep for Me.” He also provides an acceptable vocal of Ray Charles’ “Mary Ann” and Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” but neither have the energy and passion of the originals.

On the other hand his covers of “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” “Born to Be Blue,” and “When Sunny Gets Blue” are at best bland and at worst find an artist just going through the motions.

In the final analysis there is a sameness to the music and when this unites with the overly mellow nature of the music, you have one of the more forgettable albums of Miller’s career. Miller has a huge fan base and no doubt there are some who appreciate this album but it is only for the hardcore Miller aficionado.

Article first published as Music Review: Steve Miller – Born 2B Blue on Blogcritics.

Elvis Club by The Del-Lords

May 12, 2013

Del Lord (1894-1970) was a director of over 200 films—features and shorts. His lasting claim to fame was as the director of over three dozen Three Stooges’ shorts, 1935-48. He could not have imagined that his name would be appropriated by one of the more promising American rock bands of the 1980s.

The Del-Lords released four albums between 1984 and 1990 of creative, energetic rock and roll. They received more critical acclaim than they did commercial success and, by the early ’90s, the band members had gone their separate ways.

The lights went back on for The Del-Lords during 2010 when they reunited to play a series of selected dates. Recently, original members Scott Kempner (lead vocals and guitar), Eric Ambel (lead guitar and vocals), Frank Funaro (drums and harmony vocals), have been joined by new addition Michael DuClos (bass and harmony vocals) to create their first studio album in over 20 years. Elvis Club will be released in the U.S. on May 14, 2013.

Kempner has always been an accomplished and adventurous songwriter. Here he has written eight of the tracks and assisted on two more. The only cover song on the album is a rocking version of Neil Young’s “Southern Pacific.”

For the most part songs such as “When the Drugs Kick In,” “All of My Life,” “Chicks Man,” and “Letter (Unmailed)” are instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the band. They are a fusion of a gritty garage band sound and British rock of the ’60s and ’70s. The new music has a more definitive guitar sound and it rocks a little harder, but all in all it remains similar to their distinctive style and sound of the ’80s. This is especially true when the harmonies kick in.

Elvis Club finds a band that is older, wiser, and seems a lot more relaxed. They have matured as musicians and have picked up quickly from where they left off, but without repeating themselves. Hopefully The Del-Lords will continue to fine-tune their sound and produce more original and imaginative rock and roll.

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) 45 by The Walker Brothers

May 12, 2013

the sun ain't gonna shine anymore

The Walker Brothers were a pop trio from Los Angeles, none of whom were really named Walker. The band was made up of Scott Engel, Gary Leeds, and John Maus. They were also a rare American band that was more popular in England than the United States. They charted ten singles in the U.K. but only three in their home country.

Their biggest hit reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100 Chart April 16, 1966. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” peaked at number 13 during its nine weeks on the chart. It reached number one in the U.K.

They quickly fell apart but reunited briefly during the 1970s. All three remained active in the music industry.

The Wheel Of Hurt by Margaret Whiting

May 9, 2013

Margaret Whiting (1924-2011) was a major star during the pre-rock and roll era of the 1940s and early 1950s when she had close to 50 hit singles. Her commercial success waned with the advent of the rock era, but she made a comeback during the mid-’60s. She continued to perform until a year before her death.

She came from a music-oriented family as her father was one of the leading songwriters of his era, penning such classics as “Hooray for Hollywood,” “Ain’t We Got Fun,” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” Her father had a professional relationship with Johnny Mercer. When Mercer co-founded Capital Records during the early 1940s, she was one of the first artists he signed to the label.

After a number of years out of the limelight, she revitalized her career in 1966 with London Records. Her single “The Wheel of Hurt” reached number one on Billboard magazine’s Easy Listening chart and the album of the same name was the most successful of her career. That album has now been reissued by Real Gone Music. In addition to the original release, 13 bonus tracks have been added. There are 11 of her singles for the label, which include all of her easy listening hits, plus German versions of “The Wheel of Hurt,” and “Nothing Lasts Forever.”

Margaret Whiting was a pure pop singer in the same vein as Patti Page and Peggy Lee. The Wheel Of Hurt, with its combination of country songs and 1960s pop covers, is an excellent vehicle for her vocals. She had an ability to interpret just about any material set before her. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Winchester Cathedral,” “Time After Time,” and “Show Me a Man” all come across as slick and well-crafted 1960s pop.

This is one of those rare occasions where the bonus tracks are probably better than the album they support. Hits such as “Where Was I,” “Faithfully,” “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” and “Life Goes On” are really an array of her greatest hits and they have a wonderful flow. The two German songs may be a little out of place but as they are the last two tracks, they do not detract from the overall feel of the album.

Margaret Whiting’s nearly 60-year career survived a number of musical style changes. While she remained popular on the club circuit, The Wheel Of Hurt was her final commercial hurrah. It catches her at her best as her voice and style is mature, having been honed by years of practice.