Heartaches By The Number by Guy Mitchell

April 29, 2014


Guy Mitchell is an often overlooked star on the 1950s. He placed 26 songs on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 with two reaching number one. His 1956 release of”Singing The Blues” become one of the biggest hits of the decade when it topped the charts for 10 weeks.

His other number one hit came in late 1959 when on December 14, 1959, “Heartaches By The Number” reached number one. It would spend two weeks as the most popular song in the United States.

During the 1950s he also had his own television show and acted in a number of movies. As the 1960s progressed his career became less successful and the hits stopped. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 72 leaving behind two number one hits.

Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Label (CD) by Irma Thomas

April 28, 2014


Irma Thomas, born 1941, is known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” She has always been an underappreciated rhythm & blues singer during the course of her 50 plus year career.

She first entered a recording studio in 1960 and during the first half of the 1960s, placed a number of singles on the pop and rhythm & blues charts. For some reason she was never able to maintain her commercial success and spent the next 50 years recording for a number of major and minor labels. Some validation came in 2007 when her album After The Rain won the 2007 Grammy Award for best Contemporary Blues Album.

During the early 1970s she signed with the Cotillion Label. She recorded 15 tracks during six sessions, 1971-1972. The only two tracks to see the light of day were “Full Time Woman” and “She’s Taken My Part,” which were released as a single in 1971. The other 13 tracks remained in the vaults until now.

Real Gone Music has collected all her material recorded for the label and released them under the title Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album.

What we have is a somewhat disjointed affair as most of the songs were recorded as potential singles. While the individual tracks are fine examples of 1960s soul, they remain independent of each other and should be approached as a collection of singles, even though they were not released.

Why the title track didn’t become a hit remains a mystery. Her voice has a pure soulful quality as it rises above some female backing singers. The simple ballad always keeps the focus upon her voice.

She is an artist who can take songs from different styles and transform them. “Fancy” was a Bobbie Gentry country hit and “Time After Time” is from the Great American Songbook, but she is able to adapt both songs to her unique brand of rhythm & blues. “No Name” and “Adam and Eve” were recorded in Philadelphia and bear the Philly soul imprint.

It’s always interesting to hear tracks that were never released. Irma Thomas’ material probably would not have changed the course of rhythm & blues music and are a little dated today but remain good examples of the soul sound of the early 1970s. Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album is worth a listen for any fan of Thomas or the era in music.

Mississippi Mick by Mick Kolassa

April 24, 2014


Mississippi Mick

Mick Kolassa

CD Baby 2014

Review by David Bowling


Mick Kolassa has been playing the blues all of his life and has finally gotten around to releasing an album. While he was born in Michigan; he has lived in Mississippi for the past 20 years.

His decades of playing the blues shines through as he brings his experiences to a number of cover tunes and original compositions. In support of his vocals and acoustic guitar playing are electric/acoustic guitarist Jeff Jensen, bassist Bill Ruffino, drummer Doug McMinn, and keyboardist Chris Stephenson. They are all veterans of the music scene and form a tight unit.

His Mississippi Mick is a fun trip though the blues. “Reefer Man” and “Burned That Bridge” have amusing stories set to memorable melodies. “Baby’s Got Another Lover” and “Blues Are All Around You” prove that he has a voice that can carry an album. “The Letter,” the 1967 number one pop hit by the Box Tops, is transformed into a smoldering blues classic. The old Jimmie Rodgers tune “Mississippi River Blues” is modernized without losing its patina.

Kolassa sits on the Board of Directors of The Blues Foundation, which is charitable organization. All proceeds from the album will go to the Hart Fund, which provides medical help for musicians and Generation Blues, which awards scholarships to needy young musicians. Kolassa’s donating all the profits to charity is admirable in this day and age.

Mississippi Mick is good music for a good cause which is a tough combination to beat.

Rating: ***

Getting The Holy Ghost Across by Bill Nelson

April 24, 2014


Bill Nelson has always explored the outer edges of rock and roll. His work during the 1970’s with the experimental rock group Be Bop Deluxe was both creative and influential as it expanded the boundaries of the rock idiom.

During the course of his four decade plus career he has released dozens of albums but none so famous and mysterious as Getting The Holy Ghost Across and its accompanying EP Living For The Spangled Moment. The tracks were recorded at his home studio with Nelson playing most of the instruments. The album was released in 1986 in the U.K. but ran into religious censorship problems in the United States. The title was changed to On A Blue Wing, the cover art was replaced, and the album quickly disappeared.

Now the original album and art has been restored and reissued with an array of bonus tracks including the aforementioned EP. The sound has been modernized and a booklet contains a short essay of the album’s history written by Bill Nelson himself.

The music is firmly rooted in the 1980’s electronic world. What makes it stand-out is Nelson’s expertise with the guitar, which tends to move the focus away from the keyboards many times. The music also travels in a number of directions. “Suvasini” has an improvisational flavor, while “Rise Like A Fountain” has an underlying funky foundation.

Despite many protests by the religious right, the main theme of the album is Nelson’s dealing with a romantic affair. Songs such as “Wildest Dreams,” “Lost In Your Mystery,” “The Hidden Flame,” and “Because of You” are centered on the ramifications of love rather than the devil.

The return of the seven song Living In The Spangled Moment EP is a welcome addition. The music has a more flexible nature than the accompanying album. While this may give it a non-cohesive feel; it contains more surprises along the way.

The music of Bill Nelson is not for the faint hearted. It requires a person to leave their perceived notions about rock music behind and be willing to accept new sounds and directions.

Getting The Holy Ghost Across was an adventurous journey over a quarter of a century ago and remains so today. A good investment for any fan of Nelson or who approaches music with an open mind.

Mr. Blue by The Fleetwoods

April 23, 2014


“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin dominated the BILLBOARD Hot 100 during the fall of 1959. It reached the top of the chart on October 5, 1959, and remained in that position for nine of the next ten weeks. The only time it was not number one was the weeks of November 16, when it slipped to number two.

Enter The Fleetwoods, who had a number one hit back in April with “Come Softly To Me.” They and their song “Mr. Blue” managed to spend the week of November 16, 1959 as the number one song in the country before “Mack The Knife” returned to the top position.

Very few groups ever reach the top of the charts; never mind two number ones in the same year. The problem was lead singer Gary Troxel entered the military and so they were unable to tour. They did keep releasing singles but would only have one more top ten hit.

The Fleetwoods split in 1966 but have re-united a number of times down through the years. They left behind two wonderful million selling pop hits.

Sensation: The Story Of Tommy (DVD) By The Who

April 21, 2014


The 1969 release of Tommy by the Who proved to be one of the seminal albums in rock history. A full-fledged opera by a rock group was not only unique and creative but contained some of the better music of its era. It propelled the Who from being a popular and respected British invasion group to one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

It has been 45 years since the release of Tommy. Now the story of that epic album has been released on DVD as Sensation: The Story Of Tommy.

Just about every living important contributor to the project was interviewed including new interviews with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. The reflections of the two band members over four decades after the album’s initial release are particularly interesting. Add in contributions by engineer Bob Pridden, artwork creator Mike McInnerney, plus a number of others and you have as about a complete picture of the album’s creation as one can receive at this particular point in time.  There is even an archival interview with the late John Entwistle.

There is a judicious use of clips interspersed throughout the program. The sound and pictures are high quality and the pacing of the film is excellent. A number of the better known tracks make an appearance including “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “The Acid Queen,” “I’m Free.” “Sensation,”  and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

There are a number of bonus tracks including previously unreleased footage from a 1969 performance at the Beat Club, featuring a number of songs from the album, and a 45 year old interview with Townshend which provides a nice bookend to the newer one.

The only problem with a musical documentary of this type is it begins to lose interest after the first several viewings. Still, for any fans of the Who or the era in music, it will be a worth-while purchase.


David Ruffin/Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here To Stay (CD) by David Ruffin

April 21, 2014


David Ruffin was asked to leave the Temptations in 1972 and he responded to his new-found solo status by releasing two albums within a period of six months. My Whole World Ended and Feelin’ Good may not have been perfect but they were fine introductions to his developing style outside of a group setting.

His next two solo releases, David Ruffin (1972) and Me ‘N Rock ’N Roll Are Here To Stay (1973) find him traveling in a number of directions. In some ways the albums were more about producers Bobby Miller and Norman Whitfield. While there are some good performances hidden among the tracks, both albums have an inconsistency to them.

Bobby Miller was more of a Philadelphia soul producer than one versed in the legacy of Motown. He wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tracks and many take Ruffin away from his Temptations roots. Ruffin’s voice had a wonderful and smooth tone but the material is challenging for him.

“The Rovin’ Kind” moves in a psychedelic soul direction complete with motorcycle sounds, and an odd melody, which doesn’t quite match his vocal style. “Common Man” would have been a better fit in a country setting and the swinging “I’m Just A Mortal Man” moves him away from his comfort zone.

On the positive side, Eddie Kendrick makes an appearance on “I Miss You (Part 1),” which puts him back on solid ground. “Go On With Your Bad Self” is so over the top that it actually works. ”Blood Donors Needed” has a harder edge as he tackles the urban violence of the day.

Me ‘N Rock ‘N Roll Are Here To Stay finds Norman Whitfield in charge and he composes much of the material and tries to fit it into Ruffin’s style. Ruffin voice is best appreciated when it is not over-encumbered but here it meets Whitfield’s excessive production. The prime example of this approach is the seven minute, synthesizer laden opus “I Saw You When You Met Her,” where Ruffin doesn’t appear until the two minute mark.

He gives a wonderful and jazzy performance on the classic “Smiling Faces Sometimes.” He is at his best on a cover of “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” where is explores the gentle soulful side of the song. He also gives soulful performances on the story-songs “No Matter Where” and “City Stars.”

Both albums met with moderate commercial success. Over 40 years after their release, they sound somewhat dated, yet provide a good introduction into the changing music scene of the early 1970’s by one of soul’s better vocalists.

Mack The Knife by Bobby Darin

April 20, 2014


Bobby Darin was on a roll. Beginning in mid-1958, “Splish Splash,” “Queen Of The Hop,” and “Dream Lover” had all reached the top 10 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, with “Dream Lover” peaking at number two. All were catchy pop/rock performances that made Darin a star.

He went in an entirely different direction with “Mack The Knife” from THE THREEPENNY OPERA. It was more of a Broadway Song that a potential rock and roll hit. Darin didn’t want it released as a single but was over ruled by his label. It became one of the biggest hits of the decade. It reached number one on October 5, 1959, and remained in that position for 9 of the next 10 weeks. It would enable Darin to win two GRAMMY Awards.

He would place 41 songs on the BILLBOARD Pop Chart. He also was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film CAPTAIN NEWMAN M. D.

Darin would pass away at the age of 37. As a child he had rheumatic fever, which affected his heart and bothered him all of his life. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990.

Sleepwalk 45 by Santo And Johnny

April 17, 2014

Santo and Johnny Farina were brothers born in Brooklyn, New York. Santo played a steel guitar and Johnny the rhythm guitar. While in school they were regulars on the dance and party circuit. Their big break came when they wrote “Sleepwalk” with their sister Ann. They signed to the brand new label Canadian-American, who released the song as a single.

“Sleepwalk” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on July 27, 1959, and eight weeks later on September 21, 1959, it reached number one where it remained for two weeks. It was the last number one instrumental of the 1950’s.

The song has a plaintive quality that just takes your mind away to different places. The steel guitar is the key to the music.

Santo and Johnny remained active into the mid-1970’s but would never duplicate the success of their greatest hit. Today Santo is semi-retired while Johnny remains active in the music industry. They have left behind one of the most recognizable instrumentals in rock and roll history.

Where’s Your Love Been by Sandra Rhodes

April 16, 2014


One of the better unheard albums of the early 1970s has just been reissued on CD. Where’s Your Love Been by Sandra Rhodes is a slick album of country and soul performances. If there is a music category labeled country-soul, this album would fit it well.

The Rhodes family was local legends in the Memphis area during the 1960’s. They had a regional television show that was broadcast for 27 years. Sandra and her sister were in demand background singers who provided vocals for such artists as Al Green, Isaac Hayes, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, Widespread Panic and dozens of other artists. She and her former husband own a successful publishing company and she has composed songs that have been recorded by such diverse artists as Isaac Hayes, Conway Twitty, and Skeeter Davis.

Despite all her success; becoming a recording star just wasn’t meant to be. Why some albums become hits and others just disappear is never clear but her 1972 Where’s Your Love Been received little attention at the time of its release.

Rhodes has one of those voices that is at home in any number of musical genres. She grew up in a country music family but turned in a soul direction when she settled in Memphis. Both of these styles remained and fused together on her only solo album.

She has always been able to write a song and this was very apparent back in 1972. The best of the six original tunes are “No One Else Could Love You More,” “Never Grow Old,” and “It’s Up To You,” which all have a country feel in their structure and lyrics but are pushed in a different direction by her soulful vocals.

The four cover tunes are led by a scintillating version of the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The energy continues on “Sowed Love And Reaped The Heartache” with backing by the Bar-Kays horn section.

The release contains a booklet that gives a quick biography of Rhodes and the recording process.

Sandra Rhodes proves that you don’t have to be commercially successful to produce quality music.  Where’s Your Love Been was released over four decades ago but the music remains fresh and alive. It is an album that deserves some attention.