Don’t Just Stand There/Patty and Sings Songs From Valley Of The Dolls/Sings Folk Songs by Patty Duke

August 14, 2013

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Patty Duke is remembered by an aging generation of males as a mid-1960s teen idol for her starring roles on The Patty Duke Show, in which she played the dual look-a-like characters of Patty Lane and her cousin Cathy Lane. Movie fans will remember her for winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing the role of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker at the age of 16. After the series ended, she played the very adult role of Neely O’Hara in the movie Valley Of The Dolls.

Like many actors and actresses, before and since, she decided to try her hand at singing. On the strength of her television show, she released two commercially success albums: Don’t Just Stand There (1965) and Patty (1966), which spawned two hit singles, “Say Something Funny” and “Don’t Just Stand There.” In 1967, she released an album of songs from the film she starred in, Valley Of The Dolls. The last album of her career, Sings Folk Songs (1968), which contains traditional and popular songs of the day, was never issued – and the Valley album was never released on CD. Real Gone Music has now released all four albums, complete with a few bonus tracks, as two-for-one CDs. Not counting two compilation albums and two songs on the Billie soundtrack, these releases represent just about all of her studio tracks at the time.

Duke has what can be called an acceptable voice. It was probably better than Hayley Mills and Shelley Fabares and about equal in quality to Annette. She basically sang lightweight pop and her vocals could carry the songs, although they seem very dated today and in many ways would have fit better in the pre-Beatles era.

Don’t Just Stand There/Patty was very typical of many pop albums of her day. Take a couple of singles and surround them with a number of cover songs. Let’s face it. Songs such as “Yesterday,” “Downtown,” “A World Without Love,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “Save Your Heart for Me,” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” were all covered dozens of times and much better most of those times, and that’s not taking the originals into consideration. Her two hits are by far the best tracks, as they are catchy pieces of pop. All in all, these are albums definitely rooted in the 1960s but there are a lot of people who still remember her, and the young woman on the CD cover is still appealing.

Sings Songs From Valley Of The Dolls/Sings Folk Songs contains the last two albums of her singing career.  They are more obscure than her commercially successful pop material but are also more interesting. Her role in Valley Of The Dolls, for better or worse, was her first attempt to leave her youth behind. The albums reflect a new maturity, at least in the selection of material.

She owed United Artists a couple of albums and so to capitalize on her movie performance in Valley of the Dolls, she covered a number of songs from it. Dionne Warwick had a huge hit with the title song in 1968, and while Duke’s performance does not reach those heights, she gives it a good try. “Valley Of The Dolls,” “It’s Impossible,” and “Come Live with Me” may be a bit subdued but she is in control and they are credible performances.

The second side of the original vinyl release was made up of cover songs that attempted to appeal to an adult audience. “Roses Are Red” and “Half-Hearted Kisses” were competent adult-contemporary performances. The film’s soundtrack and Warwick’s own Valley of the Dolls album sold well but hers quickly disappeared.

The real gem for Patty Duke fans is her previously unreleased album of folk songs. Her label made the decision to not release it and so the music sat in the vaults for over 40 years. It is certainly dated today but it is overall her strongest album. The material fit her voice better than the pop material. The simple versions of “The Bells of Rhymney,” “The Cruel War,” “The Housewife’s Lament,” and “Colors” may have been a little out of place in the late 1960s but they are a nice visit to a simpler time.

Real Gone music has done a good job with the packaging, as the booklets give a comprehensive history of the albums and Patty Duke. There are also a number of classic photos of her as well.

In the last analysis, these releases will probably only appeal to her fans or fans of the era. If you fall into either of those categories, then these long out-of-print albums are for you.


The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Singles 1967-1976 by Various Artists

August 14, 2013

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Thousands of music labels have been established in the United States and most have faded into obscurity because of a lack of commercial success. Despite the failures, there was a lot of good music produced and issued by many of these long gone and forgotten labels. One such label was Minaret Records, established in 1962 as a Nashville country and rock and roll label. It was purchased by Finley Duncan in the mid-1960s, who took it in a soul direction and had it distributed by Shelby Singleton’s SSS International Records.

Artists such as Big John Hamilton, Willie Cobbs, Genie Brooks, Doris Allen, Willie Gable, Johnny Dynamite, and Leroy Lloyd and The Dukes may not be household names or even recognizable to most music fans, but rhythm & blues aficionados consider some of their singles to be the Holy Grail of collecting. Now all 20 A and B-sides of the Minaret soul singles, released 1967-1976, have been released under the appropriate title, The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976, as a two-disc CD.

Big John Hamilton is the center of the CD as he appears on half the tracks, which include four duets with Doris Allen. He has a sweet soul voice that is perfect for everything from blues to gospel. He learned his trade during a stint with Hank Ballad & The Midnighters and Etta James’ backing band. “Big Bad John” (not the Jimmy Dean hit) could have been released by Stax. It has a funky horn section and a stinging guitar that serve as the underpinning for his vocal. “I Had No One” is a nice ballad featuring his silky voice, while “How Much Can a Man Take” is another ballad in the James Brown tradition. “Big Fanny” has pulsating rhythms to support the tale of the 300-pound chanteuse. His duet on “Let a Little Love In” with Doris Allen is a breezy and soulful redo of a country song. Their best collaboration is a soaring and rocking version of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes.”

Genie Brooks was one of those local artists that many people couldn’t quite figure out why he didn’t make it in a big way. He had a flexible voice that could run up and down the scales. “South Side of Soul Street” is a typical late 1960s dance track but the other side of the original single, “Helping Hand,” is a passionate and socially conscious tale of prison and loss.

Perhaps the best track is the instrumental “Soulful Strut” by Leroy Lloyd and The Dukes. It has some bluesy guitar licks, but it is the brass that dominates the track.

The quality of the music makes one wonder why it didn’t sell well at the time of its release. One reason was small labels had limited funds for promotion and secondly, the larger labels, such as Motown and Stax, were releasing equally good and some times better music and more of it.

The major problem may have been the lack of a consistent sound. The album is a collection of very individual tracks and while many are excellent representations of late 1960s and early 1970s soul and provide a historical presentation of what was being issued by smaller labels, there is an inconsistency to the music.

In the final analysis, The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 is a valuable release in that it resurrects a number of hard to find tracks that are still a worthwhile listening experience.


Bangla-Desh 45 by George Harrison

August 12, 2013

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George Harrison spent the 1960s as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. Every once in awhile, one of his songs would be included on an album. “Something” was a rare tune of his released as a single by the band.

When the Beatles disbanded, he released one of the classic albums in rock and roll history, ALL THINGS MUST PASS, proving that he was a major talent. He followed this with his famous CONCERT FOR BANGLA-DESH. He was always interested in humanitarian causes and the concert and subsequent album benefited the starving in Bangla-Desh.

The single was released during the summer of 1971 and peaked at number 23 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. It may not have been one of his best songs but it was one of his most important.


Road To Forever by Don Felder

August 11, 2013

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Don Felder returned last year, which may be a little unfair as he really never went anywhere. He is best remembered for his two stints as a member of the Eagles during the periods of 1974-1980 and 1994-2001. As such, he was a part of such classic albums as On The Border, One Of These Nights, Hotel California, and The Long Run. While he has remained active in the music industry, this is his first full studio album since 1983’s Airborne.

I wasn’t sure what to expect after all these years, but the quality of the music was beyond my expectations. It is an album of excellent and straight forward rock and roll, plus the songs have a personal touch as he brings elements of his life to the lyrics.

His guitar sound is distinctive and still has elements of the Eagles in it. The music, however, has a much harder edge than that of his former band. While the music has sophistication, it remains at its foundation, a guitar centered album. Songs such as “Wash Away” and “You Don’t Have Me” have solos that quickly prove just how good a guitarist Felder can be.

He may not have the strongest voice but it is more than adequate to carry the album. Again it has an Eagles quality to it and one can see how it was an important part of their harmonies. Whether it is slower tunes or high energy fueled rockers, it is more than acceptable and satisfactory.

He calls in some favors from some well-known names. David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash bring their voices to “Fall From The Grace Of Love.” Likewise, Tommy Shaw of Styx lends a hand on “Heal Me” and “Wash Away.” Throw in David Paich and Steve Porcaro of Toto, Randy Jackson, and Steve Vai and you have a number of friends who provide support for his music.

Maybe Road To Forever will begin to put the Eagles in his rear view mirror, especially since he was not invited to participate in their latest tour. It confirms that he is still an extremely talented musician and is well worth a listen.


At The Hop by Danny & The Juniors

August 9, 2013

 

The first number one single of 1958 was also the number one single of the year as “AT The Hop” by Danny & The Juniors topped all three BILLBOARD Magazine Singles Charts.

Best Sellers In Stores Chart – 1/6/58 – 5 Weeks At Number One.

Most Played By DJ’s Chart – 1/27/58 – 3 Weeks At Number One.

Billboard Top 100 – 1/6/58 – 7 Weeks At Number One.

Danny Rapp, lead singer, and Dave White, Frank Maffei, and Joe Terranova began singing together on street corners while in high school. White co-wrote a song called “Do The Bop” and while Dick Clark liked the tune, he suggested they change the title since the bop was on the way out. It was good advice as “At The Hop” soared to the top of the charts.

They placed nine singles on the charts, 1958-1963, but their only other major hit was “Rock n Roll Is Here To Stay,” which was in response to the criticism that rock and roll had been enduring.

The group split shortly after their hits ran out. Rapp took his own life in 1983. The other three original members with new lead singer Bill Carlucci reformed the group in 1971 and continue to tour together.


Good Vibrations Tour DVD by The Beach Boys

August 7, 2013

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The Beach Boys celebrated their 50th anniversary last year with the release of a new studio album and a series of commercially successful and artistically brilliant concerts. A DVD and CD of those concerts have recently been released. Who knows what will soon follow? Now, to capitalize on the renewed interest in the band, Eagle Rock Entertainment has climbed aboard the time machine to issue the DVD, Good Vibrations Tour.

The Beach Boys were promoting their latest revival back in 1976. They had just released 15 Big Ones, but more importantly Brian Wilson had become active again. To capitalize on the then-renewed interest in The Beach Boys, the cameras were rolling during a concert in Anaheim. That concert material was combined with some studio tracks, interviews, and skits to create a television special. That program has now been resurrected, which is good news and bad news.

The concert features the original Beach Boys, consisting of the three Wilson brothers, Al Jardine, and Mike Love. The show is basically a greatest hits affair. Songs such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “California Girls” and the like have been sung thousands of times live by the Beach Boys and the performances here are workmanlike. They are fine but there is nothing to separate them from what has gone before or has been released since.

One major issue is Brian looks completely lost. He is rarely the focus of attention and contributes little. On the other hand, Dennis Wilson is very animated and a center of attention. He shows why he was always the cool Beach Boy and is far different than his zombie-like appearance several years later, chronicled on the 1980 Live At Knebworth DVD. It is also a poignant look at Carl Wilson, whose voice and stage presence makes one realize just how important he was to the band.

One important fact to remember is this was a television program. There are a number non-concert sequences included among the concert tracks. There is a spectacular performance of the group performing “That Same Song,” supported only by a Baptist Church Choir and a piano. At the other end of the spectrum is Carl, Dennis, and Brian gathered around the piano performing a goofy version of “I’m Bugged at My Ol’ Man.”

There are a number of skits, for want of a better word. Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live was involved in the project and here we have John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, dressed as policemen, arresting Brian Wilson for violations of the surf code. I probably could do without Dennis Wilson judging a beauty pageant and Carl flying a plane, but it’s all harmless fun.

The major problem is the video quality. It was recorded during the 1970s and still looks like the 1970s. I don’t think there was any effort to clean it up using modern technology.

The Good Vibrations Tour DVD basically is a look at the Beach Boys at a specific time in their career. In many ways it is a nice counterpoint to what is being released from their 2012 tour. It is not a necessary release, but a pleasant one. It should fill in some gaps for their large fan base.


The Mason Williams Phograph Record by Mason Williams

August 7, 2013

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Like millions of American teenagers, once upon a time I had grand aspirations of becoming the next great guitarist. It was not Eric Clapton effortlessly playing “Sunshine of Your Love” or Jimi Hendrix picking the strings with his teeth that made me realize I would never have the talent to reach those heights. No, it was Mason Williams’ version of “Classical Gas” that set the standard I knew I would never reach.

While Mason Williams is best remembered today for that singular hit, he has consistently written for various television programs, published a number of literary/art books, and released over 20 albums.

During the late-1960s, he was penning sketches for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It was through Tommy Smothers that he received a recording contract with Warner Brothers. His first release, The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, propelled by “Classical Gas,” was a commercial success. That album has now been reissued by Real Gone Music.

Even by today’s standards, it is an eclectic album. Serious and amusing songs share space with complex instrumentals. Anyone expecting an album full of “Classical Gas” clones will be disappointed. While many of the songs have a free-form nature, especially the very short epigrams “Dylan Thomas” and “Life Song,” it is the instrumentals that best stand the test of time. “Classical Gas” is a guitar player’s delight, plus it has some orchestration in support. Williams won two 1968 Grammy Awards, including Best Instrumental Performance. It is a track on which he plays both the six and 12-string guitar in unison by splicing them together in the recording studio.

“Sunflower” travels a different instrumental direction as it is a beautiful but technical composition that has a sweeping sound that soars in places. There are also a number of harmony pieces. “She’s Gone Away” is a straight pop song while “Here I Am” is a tad more adventurous. Some of the material, such as the spoken word “The Price’s Panties” and the short connector songs, sounds dated today but they are part of the experimental nature of the album.

The Mason Williams Phonograph Album was somewhat of an oddity in 1968 and remains so today. The combination of pop and some just plain weird material make it a somewhat disjointed affair, which probably comes close to his musical vision and take on life.