Lost Tapes: Germany 1958/1959 by Oscar Pettiford

June 28, 2013

Oscar Pettiford has always been one of the “What ifs” of jazz music. He was a bassist/cellist who played with Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach and was considered a pioneer of the Bebop movement.  He helped to establish the bass as a lead solo instrument but his career was tragically cut short on September 8, 1960, when he died of a viral infection that may have been connected to injuries he sustained in an auto accident.

In addition to fronting his own group during the 1950s, he played with some of the leading jazz musicians of the day including Thelonious Monk, Herbie Mann, Art Tatum, Milt Jackson, and Sonny Rollins.

It was his move to Germany during the second half of the 1950s that found him reaching his potential as a musician. Now, 16 tracks recorded in 1958 and 1959 have been gathered together and released under the title Lost Tapes: Germany 1958/1959.

The album is a good example of Pettiford’s bass style and prowess. He not only provides a foundation for the music but steps forward and contributes to the melodies.  In addition, there are some fine examples of him fusing the cello with jazz music. The best ones are “All the Things You Are” and “My Little Cello.” The cello is usually associated with classical music and it provides a unique experience when transferred to a jazz format, especially when he places it out front as a solo instrument.

His bass interaction with trumpet player Dusto Goykovich when trading leads is also ground breaking.

Pettiford was always adept at improvisation and such tunes as Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You,” and a live version of Jerome Kern’s “Blues in the Closet,” are all fine examples of his ability to take flight from the basic melodies of a song. The other live track, a concise version of “All the Things You Are,” provides a rare glimpse of his stage presence just prior to his death.

Oscar Pettiford’s place in jazz music is secure because of his bass innovations and his making the cello a viable jazz instrument. For any fan of jazz and its history, his Lost Tapes: Germany 1958/1959 is a must-have release.

Blaze of Glory by Marshall Chapman

June 28, 2013

Marshall Chapman is now over 40 years into her stellar music career and she has become more prolific with the passage of time. During the past three years she has had a book published (They Came to Nashville), seen her musical Good Ol’ Girls open off Broadway, acted in a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong), and released the well-received album, Big Lonesome. She has now returned with the 13th studio album of her career, Blaze Of Glory.

It is a comfortable release that picks up where her last one left off. She provides the lead vocals and rhythm guitar, supported by lead guitarist Will Kimbrough, drummer Casey Wood, keyboardist Mike Utley, and bassist Jim Mayer.

She has always been able been able to fuse her Americana lyrics with a pop rock sound and Blaze of Glory is no exception. If there is one area in which she has consistently improved, it is as a songwriter. She wrote eight of the 11 tracks and co-wrote one more. She is able to put her thoughts and stories into words and wrap them in memorable melodies.

The album starts out strong with “Love in the Wind,” which has a 1950s rock and roll vibe. She shares the lead vocal with Todd Snider as they explore her inner feelings. She then transitions to the power pop of “I Don’t Want Nobody.” Songs such as “Dreams & Memories,” the title track, and “Not Afraid to Die” reflect the personal side of her songwriting and life as they explore her philosophy and life journey.

The two cover songs were chosen well. Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” is delivered in a laid back style, while the Delmore Brothers’ old country classic, “Blues Stay Away From Me,” is moved over from its bluegrass roots to Chapman’s Americana style.

Marshall Chapman is now in her mid-60s and has carved out an impressive career. Blaze of Glory will add to her legacy as it is an album of mature music by an artist who is confident in her skills.

Runaround 45 by The Feetwoods

June 28, 2013

fleetwoods runaround

The Fleetwoods were a pop vocal group from Olympia, Washington. Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis were alble to unite their voices into wonderful harmonies. They will always be remembered for their two number one hits, “Mr. Blue” and “Come Softly To Me.”

They did have a number of other hits and placed 11 singles on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Hot 100, 1959-1963. “Runaround” was tpical of their light pop sound with the female voices supporting Troxel’s. It peaked at number 23 during its 13 weeks on the chart.

An Ol’ Tin Cup 45 by Lorne Greene

June 24, 2013

an ol' tin cup Lorne Greene

Lorne Greene, 1914-1987, will always be remembered for the role of Ben Cartwright on the long running television series BONANZA. Many people forget his starring role on the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Way back in time, 1940-1943, he was the lead news broadcaster for CBS Radio.

During the mid-1960s, while in his early 50s, he gave it a try as a recording artist. His first single, “Ringo,” made it all the way to number one. “An Ol’ Tin Cup” was representative of his releases. They were half sung and half spoken. He never had another real hit and his career as a recording artist quickly came to a merciful end.

Honeycomb by Jimmie Rodgers

June 22, 2013

Jimmie Rodgers formed the Rhythm Kings while he was serving in the United States Air Force in Korea during the mid-1950s. They played at bases throughout the country and continued to perform when transferred back to the United States. After he was discharged, he was signed to the Roulette label.

“Honeycomb” was first released in 1954 by Georgie Shaw. His version of the song was pure late 1950s pop. It may sound dated today but it was bright, fun, and very catchy. It topped all three BILLBOARD Singles Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 9/30/57 – 2 weeks at number one.
Most Played By Disc Jockeys Chart – 9/23/57 – 4 weeks at numbr one.
Billboard Hot 100 – 10/7/57 – 2 weeks at number one.

During the next four years he would place 18 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and while he would have a number of singles reach the top ten, “Honeycomb” would remain the bigest hit of his career.

Sukiyaki 45 by Kyu Sakamoto

June 21, 2013

A number of American artists and bands have achieved significent success in Japan but very few Japanese musicians have become popular in the United States. In fact, only one Japanese artist has ever had a number one hit in the USA.

Kyu Sakamoto was a popular crooner in his home country. He released “Ue O Muite Aruko,” (English translation: “I Look Up When I Walk”), in 1961 and it became the number one single of the year. English musician Kenny Ball heard the song and recorded it for release in the U.K. He and his record label figured that the original Japanese name would be too difficult to pronounce so they issued the song with the generic title, “Sukiyaki.” Under its new title it reached the top ten.

In the United States Sakamoto’s original version began to receive airplay on the west coast. Capital Records signed him to a recording contract but released the song under its British title. Fifty years ago this week it reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for three weeks. It would go on to become a huge worldwide hit selling over 12 million copies.

It was a mid-tempo pop song that was very catchy and just stayed in your mind despite being sung in a foreign language. A number of singers tried to translate the song into English but none were successful. In 1981, A Taste Of Honey used the original melody but wrote different lyrics and took their version of the song to number three and number one R&B.

He would only have one small hit in the USA but remained a superstar in Japan. He issued eight best-selling albums and charted 15 singles. In addition he starred in a number of films and appeared regularly on television.
His career came to an abrupt end August 12, 1985, when he boarded Japan Airlines Flight 123. In one of the deadliest air accidents in history, he died along with 504 other people when the plane crashed shortly after take-off.

Kyu Sakamoto made history 50 years ago when his “Sukiyaki” topped the American music world.

The German Recordings 1952-1955 by Jutta Hipp

June 20, 2013


Not many jazz musicians learned their craft in Germany during the Second World War. In addition, during the 1940s and 1950s, female jazz musicians were a distinct minority. But so it was for jazz pianist Jutta Hipp on both accounts.

Hipp’s greatest claim to fame came during the mid-1950s. She had immigrated to the United States and signed with the famous Blue Note Records. She quickly released three albums for the label and followed those with a brilliant duet release with Zoot Sims. In 1958 she walked away from the music scene, never to return. She worked as a part-time painter and full-time seamstress for the rest of her life.

While her work for Blue Note was appreciated and remains highly collectable today, her German recordings have received little notice. Those recordings have now been resurrected and released under the title The German Recordings 1952-1955.

Her pre-USA releases have more of a sparse nature to them than her Blue Note material as it finds an artist developing her style and technique. The release combines live and studio recordings from the period when she was fronting her own quintet. There is no original material but rather she interprets jazz standards of the day. She seems more at home with songs from the Great American Songbook. Tunes such as “Gone with the Wind,” “What is This Thing Called Love,” “These Foolish Things,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” and “Lonesome Road” all serve as vehicles for her precise piano runs and improvisation. She has a very light touch and her interpretations put her on the cusp of the bebop and cool jazz movements.

The German Recordings 1952-1955 is a worthwhile trip back in time as it offers a fine picture of an artist whose work has virtually disappeared. Cole Porter may have summed her career best when he stated, “Jutta Hipp had an answer. But she never told anyone.”

That Larry Williams: The Resurrection Of Funk by Larry Williams

June 20, 2013


Larry Williams (1935-80) is best remembered as a 1950s rock and roll pioneer. While he began his career as a pianist for such artists as Lloyd Price, Roy Brown, and Percy Mayfield, it was his two-year stretch with Specialty Records, 1957-58, that cemented his place in rock and roll history. Hits such as “Short Fat Fanny,” “Bony Moronie,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” and “Slow Down” not only sold millions of records for himself but went on to be recorded by dozens of artists.The 1960s found him moving in a different direction. He produced two albums for Little Richard and recorded with Johnny “Guitar” Watson. He also acted in several films. During the 1970s he wrestled with drug addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle.

The year 1978 found him in the studio one last time. The result was That Larry Williams: The Resurrection Of Funk. Two years later he was dead from a bullet to the head. Whether suicide or murder (arguments have been made on either side), it brought to an end the career of Larry Williams. His last release has now been re-issued by Real Gone Music.

The album is one of the great lost releases of the late 1970s. It combines the joy and energy of Sly Stone and the style and rhythms of George Clinton. It demonstrated that Williams had moved far beyond his 1950s rock and roll roots and was exploring territory that was very modern and cutting edge at the time.

He created a full and layered sound. He provided the lead vocals and keyboards and was supported by second keyboardist Rudy Copeland, guitarist Tony Drake, bassist Gary Brown, drummer Joe Brown, and percussionist Antoine Dearborn. He also was supported by a full brass section and a backing vocal group.

“Bony Moronie (Disco Queen)” is re-imagined with a combination of synthesizers and electric piano in addition to some horn accents to create rhythms that are far different from the original. “ATS Express” and “One Thing or the Other” are built upon a deep bass beat, with the brass filling in the gaps. The album’s best track is “The Resurrection of Funk (Funk Comes Alive).” It has a depth to the rhythms as they come at you from several different directions. Very close in quality, and somewhat out of place, is the album’s only ballad, “How Can I Believe (What You Say).” It is a look back to the 1950s when sentimental slow songs were in style, yet it has a timelessness that holds up well.

Williams’ tragic death in 1980 at the age of 44 deprived the music world of an artist who was moving in a creative and exciting direction. That Larry Williams: The Resurrection Of Funk is a good look into the emerging funk scene of the late 1970s and is well worth a listen.

Seventh Son By Johnny Rivers

June 18, 2013

seventh sonJohnny Rivers issued some of the catchiest and best singles of the 1960s and 1970s. He had 29 singles reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100, 1964-1977.

“Seventh Son” was written by blues great Willie Dixon and first recorded by Willie Mabon in 1965 for the Chess label.

Rivers version is pure up-tempo pop and was perfect for AM radio. Released during the summer of 1965, it reached number seven during its 11 weeks on the chart. It remains one of his definitive performances.

Complete Original #1 Hits by Eddy Arnold

June 15, 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 28 songs at the top of Billboard‘s country music 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 of the early country artists and so a number of his releases crossed over to mainstream radio, which enlarged his fan base beyond the country market.

Today it is many times forgotten how commercially dominant he was in the field of country music. During 1947-48, 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 his label, RCA.  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 10 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 overview of his career.

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