jueves, 18 de marzo de 2010

Lorraine Ellison: Sister Love - The Warner Bros. Recordings (1966-1972) ... plus

Lorraine Ellison is almost a perfect cult soul singer: she was blessed with a unique, powerful voice, she had two stone-cold classics to her name -1966's 'Stay with Me' and 'Try (Just a Little Bit Harder),' which was later popularized by Janis Joplin - which is enough success to get her remembered by aficionados but not enough to make her a star. It's also enough to suggest that Ellison deserved to be a star, that she had the talent and the material that deserved a wider audience, but like a lot of artists with a cult following, she's a great talent that may be an acquired taste for most listeners. This exhaustive three-disc set, which was originally released in a limited run of 5000 copies, certainly suggests as much. For Ellison devotees, this is pretty much the Holy Grail, since it represents the first time all of her prime material has been released on CD. It has her first three LPs - the 1966 debut Introducing Miss Lorraine Ellison b/w Heart & Soul and 1969's Stay with Me, both produced by Jerry Ragovoy, and the Ted Templeton-produced 1974 album Lorraine Ellison - plus various singles and sessions from the early '70s, a bunch of rarities and a whole disc of unreleased demos from 1972. This certainly fills the need that devoted Ellison fans have and in some ways exceeds their expectations, since it contains some wonderful rarities, just like the slow-burning 'Haven't I Been Good to You,' recorded in 1967; the loose, funky, gospel-inflected 'Woman, Loose My Man' from 1970; the Al Kooper written and produced 'Let Me Love You,' a 1970 session which is paired with 'Doin' Me Dirty,' taken from the same sessions and originally released on the Ichiban compilation I have already posted in my other blog; 'Dear John,' recorded at Muscle Shoals in 1970; a version of Carole King's 'You've Got a Friend' from 1971; and three outtakes from the Templeton album, 'When You Count the Ones You Love,' 'Sister Love,' 'Sweet Years' . It also includes the rarities that showed up on previous comps, the disc of stark piano-and-voice demos and three songs I added as bonus tracks at the end of disc 1: both sides of the 1966 single 'I Dig You Baby' b/w 'Don't Let It Go to Your Head' & the Northern Soul stomper 'Call Me (Anytime You Need Some Lovin')'. Certainly Sister Love not only will satisfy Ellison's cult, but will also convert some of the curious, since it does illustrate that she was an artist with a broad range and specific gifts as a writer and a singer. http://www.allmusic.com/

lunes, 15 de marzo de 2010

Lurlean Hunter: Night Life (1956) / Stepping Out (1958)

Singer Lurlean Hunter made five albums on her own during the second half of the '50s, starting out as a Lonesome Gal on RCA and winding up still feeling Blue & Sentimental for Atlantic. She was discovered in Chicago where she had been singing in many clubs, including a collaboration with drummer Red Saunders that held forth at the Club DeLisa. Hunter's move to New York City in 1955 was prompted by RCA's interest in recording her. The singer's recording career actually began before she left the Windy City at the behest of indie jazz labels, some of them quite short-lived — such as Seymour, with a catalog topping out at four releases. The press described Hunter as a "blues thrush" in announcing her interpretations of three numbers actually written by the label's owner, producer and record store owner Seymour Schwartz. The latter promotional blurb inevitably told some truth about Hunter's stylistic traits, if not her relation to winged fauna. Her recordings were more about rhythm & blues and pop than jazz, yet were done in an era when such sessions often involved fine mainstream jazz players in the accompaniment. This album, Night Life (1956), for example, featured pianist Hank Jones and tenor saxophonist Al Cohn. It is actually one of the classiest records from Lurlean, much richer and more jazz-based than the sometimes-bluesy cover images she was given, a quality that sounds especially great here amidst fuller backings from Manny Albam, an arranger who really helps Hunter cross over strongly for the set. The record is beautifully done, poised, but still filled with soul and feeling, and other players on the date include Joe Newman on trumpet, and Barry Galbraith on guitar. There are great interpretations of some lesser-known numbers like 'Moondrift' and 'Night Life' - plus 'Gentleman Friend', 'What a Difference a Day Makes', 'Have You Met Miss Jones', and 'Sunday'. Lurlean's mellow smooth sound can be also fully appreciated on her second release for RCA/Vik, 'Stepping Out' (1958). This album has got a nice jazzy feel too (thanks mostly to an eight-piece jazz group who provide backing in four of the tracks), and despite the occasional presence of strings courtesy of Phil Moore and His Orchestra, these are neither sleepy nor intrusive and the result is really top notch overall. It includes some stunning renditions of standards like 'Old Devil Moon', 'Blues in the Night', 'You Do Something to Me' and 'Under a Blanket of Blue', amongst others.Hunter's final recordings were done in 1964, at which point she was still well under 40 years old. She is known to have died young, although details of this tragedy are murky. In one version of the story she was knocked off by a mobster lover, yet whether anybody was really that mean to Lurlean cannot be completely confirmed. http://www.allmusic.com/

jueves, 25 de febrero de 2010

Lynne Randell: Dynamic Lynne Randell - Ciao Baby (1965-1967)

During the mid-'60s, singer Lynne Randell reigned as Australia's first teen pop star. Dubbed "Little Miss Mod" for her trendy fashions and hair, her brief stay in the limelight was derailed by a lifelong addiction to diet pills. Born in Liverpool in 1950, Randell was five years old when her family emigrated to Murrumbeena, Australia. By 14, she was apprenticing in a local styling salon, and was often called upon to sing while on the job. In time client Carol West, who managed a number of Melbourne-area bands (most notably the Spinning Wheels), hired Randell to sing at a party. Radio personality Stan Rofe was sufficiently impressed to request a demo, and the resulting recording was enough to earn a contract with EMI. Randell issued her debut single, 'I'll Come Running Over,' in early 1965, soon after becoming a regular on the Australian television pop showcase The Go!! Show. The singles 'A Love Like You' and 'Be Sure' followed, and in early 1966 Randell signed to CBS Records to issue 'That's What Love Is Made Of.' During the singer's CBS tenure, her music adopted a Motown-inspired ebullience that would later make singles like 'Going Out of My Head' and flip side 'Take the Bitter with the Sweet' a favorite on Britiain's Northern soul club circuit. At home, 1967's 'Ciao Baby' vaulted Randell to national superstardom, and she spent the summer on tour with the Monkees, sharing bills with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, and the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. However, the demands of life on the road played havoc with Randell's health, and prior to a television appearance, manager West criticized her weight. In response, she secured some diet pills from a friend, beginning a struggle with methamphetamine abuse that spanned decades. After scoring a minor Australian hit with 'That's a Hoedown,' Randell relocated to Los Angeles in 1969, issuing the Capitol single 'I Love My Dog' before retiring from performing, marrying Atlantic Records executive Abe Hoch and writing for the Aussie music magazine Go-Set. With Hoch she moved to London in 1976, but her addiction spiraled further out of control and the marriage ultimately dissolved. In 1980, Randell returned to Melbourne, spending six years as the personal assistant for music journalist and TV presenter Molly Meldrum. During the mid-'80s, she also worked for a time under Sire Records head Seymour Stein. In 2004, Randell went public with her amphetamine addiction, but it was too late. The damage inflicted on her brain, nervous system, and adrenal glands was extensive, and she died May 8, 2007, at the age of 57. http://www.answers.com/

A clip of Lynda Randell's hit from 1967, 'Ciao Baby':

Lynne performing Flatt & Scruggs' 'It Won't Be Long':

jueves, 11 de febrero de 2010

Nancy Holloway: Bye Bye ... plus / Hello Dolly (1964-1969)

America's loss is France's gain. Nancy Holloway migrated to France primarily because of a sour, premature marriage and has remained a resident for more than 40 years, enjoying success as a recording artist and actress. Holloway's fame hasn't extended far past French borders, where she continues to record, sing, and appear in plush jazz nightspots. Though born and raised in America, she's virtually unknown in the United States. Born Nancy Brown in the '40s, and raised in Cleveland, OH, she was the only sister among three brothers: Walter, a retired Cleveland police officer; Joe, a retired career military man; and the youngest, Charles (aka Chuckie), who worked for a railroad in California. Holloway's half sister, Mary Holt, was Cleveland's first African-American female radio personality, popular in the '50s and '60s. The Browns lived at 7300 Wagner Avenue; Holloway attended Rawlings Junior High and East Technical High. She married a man with the surname of Holloway, who was controlling and abusive, after high school; Nancy Holloway left Cleveland to get away, first to New York, then Paris. In France she became popular recording French versions of pop and soul hits in the '60s; an Lp from this period, Bye Bye, depicts a young, beautiful Holloway on the cover. I included here a '90s reissue of that album which contains several bonus tracks (I added a few more myself). The selections include 'My Guy,' 'Sealed With a Kiss,' 'That's How Heartaches Are Made,' 'Don't Make Me Over,' the Contours' 'Do You Love Me', 'Désappointé' and the Charles Aznavour composition 'Prends Garde à Toi'. There are terrific takes on Marvin Gaye’s 'You're a Wonderful One' ('Le Plus Bel Amour') and Tammi Terrell’s pre-Motown 'If I Would Marry You' ('Je Suis Yé-Yé'). She pays homage to the Beatles too with 'Elle T'Aime' ('She Loves Me'), and 'Je Veux Prendre Ta Main' ('I Want to Hold Your Hand'). The songs included on Bye Bye represent Nancy Holloway's pop/soul side. They lose nothing in the translation thanks to Holloway and the arrangements. Marking her move away from pop, her final album of the decade, issued in 1969, was a collection largely of American show tunes and some soul hits. 'Hello Dolly' became the title track, and it also included 'Mame', 'Hurts So Bad', 'As Long As He Needs Me', 'Light My Fire' and great version of Betty Everett's hit 'You're No Good'. Although there were plenty of homegrown yé-yé girls singing French versions of US hits, Nancy represented the real thing – an American singing American songs in a highly American accent. http://www.readysteadygirls.eu/, http://www.allmusic.com/.
'Dum Dum Twist' perfomed by a young Nancy Holloway:

Nancy singing live 'It's Over' in 1964:

And, finally 'A Quoi Ca Sert Les Pleurs':

sábado, 6 de febrero de 2010

Marion Williams: The New Message / Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go (1969/1971)

Generally considered one of the most influential Gospel singers of all time, Marion Williams sung with a full-body growl so intense that anyone who wants to dispute her right to the title had better bring along a megaphone and some throat lozenges. The other side of her style, soul-shattering falsettos and anointed, exclamatory whoops, had a direct effect on Little Richard, for one, as well as countless others in both Gospel and secular music circles. From 1948 to 1958 she was the central figure in the ever-touring Ward Singers, stunning audiences with the high-test stage-show/revival meeting and a larger-than-life presence that has made her a legend. A stint with the short-lived Stars of Faith followed, and in 1965 she launched a solo career that was marked by comeback after comeback until her death in 1994. Her recordings, as group member and soloist, are legendary, especially Prayer Changes Things, Gospel Now and The New Message, although it is generally agreed that they don't do justice to the emotional force or dazzling imagination that characterized her live performances. Regardless of where she was on the charts or in her personal life, Williams' singing was never less than spectacular and her commitment to Christ was downright inflammatory. I have included here a pair of of the late gospel diva's finest moments: New Message and Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go, both originally issued on Atlantic in 1969 and 1971, respectively. Several traditional gospel hymns are interspersed with reflective hits of the times including 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother,' 'My Sweet Lord,' 'People Got to Be Free' and three from the pen of Bob Dylan, 'I Shall Be Released,' 'Wicked Messenger,' and 'I Pity the Poor Immigrant.' Along with the majestic background vocals of the Sweet Inspirations and the Dixie Hummingbirds, several stellar jazz musicians are present including Keith Jarrett, Hank Jones, Ray Bryant, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Junior Mance and Joe Zawinul, making these thoughtful and passionate sessions highly recommended.
A historic event: probably the first black gospel concert ever in the Netherlands, 1962. Marion Williams sings 'Mean Old World':

Marion singing 'Live the Life I Sing About in My Song' from her heart and soul:

An inspiring performance of 'Packin' Up', with Billie Preston on the Hammond Organ:

miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2010

Mary Hopkin: The Apple Years (1968-71) ... plus

It was the British supermodel Twiggy who alerted Paul McCartney to the Welsh singer Mary Hopkin when Apple Records was looking for talent in 1968. The waifish soprano scored a huge, worldwide smash with her first Apple single, the melancholy but rabble-rousing ballad 'Those Were the Days,' in late 1968; it actually knocked the Beatles' own 'Hey Jude' out of the number one position in the U.K. Paul McCartney lent Hopkin a further hand by producing her first album and writing her second single, 'Goodbye,' which was also a hit. Besides 'Days', the highlights on Post Card, her debut Lp, are Donovan's 'Lord of the Reedy River' and 'The Honeymoon Song,' which McCartney himself had sung with the Beatles way back in 1963 on the BBC. Also on board is a rather nice composition, 'The Game,' by Beatles producer George Martin, who contributed some piano and orchestra conducting to the album. The reissue included here contains George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin's 'Someone to Watch Over Me', as well as 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and versions of 'Those Were the Days' that Hopkin sang in Italian and Spanish. More folk-oriented than her first effort, on her beautiful second album Earth Song, Ocean Song, Mary Hopkin's lilting voice soothes the listener like hot tea with honey. Included in this set, which was produced by Tony Visconti, are her interpretations of Ralph McTell's 'Streets of London,' Cat Stevens' 'The Wind,' and Gallagher & Lyle's 'International.' In my opinion this one is undoubtedly her best album ever. Ms Hopkin is allowed to do what she does best and to perform material that's far better suited to her. It's a beautifully simple and acoustic affair - guitars, strings, harmonium, flutes, etc. - which comes over in the emotion and love that's clear in her voice. Also here is Caneuon Cynnar, a collection of ten songs Mary recorded circa 1965, when she was just fifteen. Although all sung in Welsh, you will recognise some of the tunes, as they are covers of songs already made famous by others. With Mary's distinctive high soprano and sparse musical backing, they sound different from usual, but fresh. The English titles of the songs covered include 'Turn Turn Turn', 'Tammy', 'Morning of My Life', 'Something Stupid' and 'Can't Help Falling in Love'. There are also covers of 'Plaisir d'Amour' and 'Guantanamera', so it's not only English language songs that were translated into Welsh for Mary to sing. Finally, I added a Bonus Tracks folder which is, more or less, the 1995 Those Were the Days compilation (without the duplicated files and with some more I added). It contains many of Mary's best known songs, precisely those which weren't originally included in her two Apple albums, such as 'Temma Harbour', 'Goodbye', 'Think About Your Children', 'Knock Knock, Who's There', 'Jefferson', 'The Fields of St. Etienne', 'Que Sera Sera', 'Heritage', 'For All My Days' and 'Sparrow'. All in all, you got here 57 Mary Hopkin's songs to enjoy!! http://www.amazon.co.uk/, http://www.allmusic.com/ BTW: you'll find all the cover arts you need here.
The single Goodbye, released on 28 March 1969; it reached #2 in the UK singles chart:

'Knock Knock, Who's There', written by John Carter & Geoff Stephens. Good Eurovision performance from Mary in 1970:

lunes, 1 de febrero de 2010

About the playlist.

This is just to let you know, once and for all, that if you want the music from the playlist on this page to stop - to be able to listen to the sample songs on each post, for instance -, all you need to do is PRESSING THE PAUSE BUTTON ON THE iPod!! It is quite easy, isn't it? I want the playlist on autoplay simply because I like it like that, especially when it is possible for you to stop it any time you want to. That's the way it is going to stay; so, PLEASE, don't bother asking me to change that... ;-)

sábado, 30 de enero de 2010

Madeline Bell: Madeline Bell (1971)

Wonderful work from Madeline Bell, a great singer with a sound that's equal parts American soul and British '60s female pop. The recordings here are from Madeline's last solo Lp for Philips Records. Simply titled Madeline Bell, it was released in 1971, more or less at the same time she was achieving greater fame on crossover rock recordings with Blue Mink. As a matter of fact, the band's single 'The Banner Man' on Regal Zonophone was released in the spring of that same year, and reached #3 in the UK chart. The sound of Madeline's record is wonderful, a bit more R&B oriented than her two previous efforts for Philips. The album, which has got Doris Troy on backing vocals, includes some great funk tracks, like the single 'If You Didn't Hear Me the First Time', and 'Get Off Your Back-Sides', but it also has its moments of soft pop/soul like 'You Walked Away', 'Make It with You' and 'Ordinary People'. This is definitely Madeline's hardest LP to track down. As it has never been released on cd, it is still well in demand, selling for around £50,00 now. Enjoy!

Madeline Bell, with her band Blue Mink, performing 'Our World' in 1970:

miércoles, 27 de enero de 2010

Lesley Gore: It's My Party (5-CD Box Set) (1963-1969)

The popular appraisal of Lesley Gore is that she sang teen soap opera songs that never pulled their substance much above puppy love, and while a cursory listen to songs like 'It's My Party' and 'Judy's Turn to Cry' would appear to support that view, there's more going on beneath the surface than meets the ear. For starters, Gore had a jazz background, and her vocal phrasing, even in her most generic releases, was always sharp and clear. Add to that the production of Quincy Jones, who worked with Gore during her peak Mercury years, and the end result is a series of recordings that continue to sound fresh and effective even into the 21st century. In retrospect, it would appear Gore's theme was always the struggle for personal identity (which also happens to be a pretty good definition of what goes on during the teen years), culminating in the powerful 'You Don't Own Me,' a feminist anthem a decade before the term even began to take hold. Even 'That's the Way Boys Are,' which could be read as a shallow song of blind acceptance, is sung by Gore with a sly sense of dismissal that turns the song on its own heels, while later-era tracks like 'Small Talk,' which illustrates the desperate ennui that can enter and undermine a relationship, demonstrates that in matters of love — even puppy love — personal identity is always at stake. This gargantuan five-CD set contains absolutely all those great tracks Lesley cut for Mercury Records between 1963 and 1969. Whether covering standards, helping put neophyte songwriter Marvin Hamlisch on the map, or adding to Carole King and Gerry Goffin's string of successes, Gore and her producers put a special stamp on everything they recorded. It's difficult to pick high points from Disc One and Two, the prime of Gore's career, when she was starting to sound like a woman rather than a girl. Disc Three shows her doing more mature songs with a very different, more assertive sound, courtesy of producer Jack Nitzsche. All of the Nitzsche sessions have a peculiarly soulful feel that was new to Gore's output; he worked some magic on 'No Matter What You Do' and 'Baby That's Me', a song The Cake also recorded. The Shelby Singleton sessions make up most of the second half of the disc. Alas, Gore did no recording at all in 1966, partly due to her desire to complete her education, and the lapse shows in this set — when she re-emerged in 1967, she lost a little bit of immediacy, as well as lots of relevance. The material from Disc Four covers this tail end of Gore's commercial career, including her last big hit, 'California Nights,' as well as a handful of unreleased tracks from the never-issued Magic Colors album. The opening of Disc Five shows Gore moving into a more sophisticated pop-rock mode, close to what Carole King would succeed with a couple of years later. Unfortunately, nobody was listening to Gore by this time, and her performing career came to a halt with the end of the '60s. The major part of this last disc is given over to Gore's foreign-language recordings of her own hits. http://www.allmusic.com/
Wicked live footage of Leslie Gore telling it like it should be, early '60s:
A performance of 'Hello Young Lovers' and 'Didn't We' on Playboy After Dark, late '60s:
And, finally, Lesley on the Donna Reed Show, in 1966:

domingo, 24 de enero de 2010

Pat Thomas: Jazz Patterns (1961) / Desafinado (1963) ... plus

Jazz Patterns, de debut album from obscure Chicagoan jazz singer Patricia "Pat" Thomas, is a pretty hip collection of jazz vocal numbers released on the Strand label in 1961. The record is a bit like Lorez Alexandria's work from the same time, solid all the way through vocally, but with a deeper sense of soul than most other singers of her generation. Pat's vocals are always strong and extremely captivating, giving the impression that, like Sarah Vaughan, she can sing anything. The emphasis here is on ballads and standards, with Thomas putting plenty of feeling into such numbers as 'Mean to Me', 'Almost Like Being in Love', 'There Will Never Be Another You', 'My One and Only Love' and 'Stella By Starlight'. Pat's second album Desafinado (1963), released on MGM, is a bossa-styled classic set thanks to her working with Lalo Schifrin as conductor/arranger, and musicians Paul Horn, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy Clark, and Mel Lewis (the song 'Desafinado' was even made into a Scopitone!). Lalo's using a fair bit of strings on the set, but he also keeps things lean too - a bit in the mode of his own bossa work for Verve during the time, although with Pat's vocals in the lead this time around. Thomas has a strong undercurrent of soul in her work, which is one of the things that really sets this album apart. Schifrin really seems to get this quality of Pat's, and he brings in a good sense of timing in rhythms to present Thomas at her best. Titles include 'Recardo Bossa Nova', 'Carnival', 'To Welcome the Day', 'Could Be', 'Samba De Orfeu', and 'Once Again'. I added two extra tracks, issued as singles at the time, for MGM and Verve respectively. 'Where There's Love There's Hope' (1963) is a classic girl group oldies song written by Ben Raleigh. Pat's vocals are stellar as they fly into ranges you might not think are possible over impeccable arrangements by Claus Ogerman. 'Where There's Love There's Hope' was released as the b-side for 'Home in the Meadow', from John Ford's How the West was Won; a song with a Western theme, so it's nice that this girl group gem was found in such a strange place. The second bonus is an impeccable version of Jerry Ragovoy's classic 'I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face'. Co-written with Chip Taylor, the tune was originally recorded by Baby Washington and would gain several more covers, including by Aretha Franklin and another Ragovoy collaborator, Dusty Springfield; but personally, I'm most partial to this 1964 version by Pat Thomas, with Ragovoy arranging.