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Sweeter Than Wine: “This Magic Moment” Compiles Brill Building Nuggets

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Brill Building CompToday, 1619 Broadway in the heart of New York City’s theatre district doesn’t particularly stand out. Despite the building’s ornate façade, 1619 appears to be just another office building on a busy thoroughfare populated with every kind of attention-grabbing signage.  But this building – along with its neighbor to the north, 1650 Broadway – is as much a part of rock and roll history as Sun Studios or Abbey Road.  1650 is the one and only Brill Building, incubator to some of the finest songs in the American popular canon.  For a fertile period in the 1950s and 1960s, 1619 and 1650 (and to a lesser extent, 1697 Broadway, as well!) were lined with cubicles in which some of the busiest and best songwriters competed with one another to conquer the charts with their frequently youthful compositions.  The U.K.’s Jasmine label, drawing on public domain recordings made through 1962, has assembled a 2-CD, 64-song, non-chronologically sequenced overview of this remarkable period of creativity.  The appropriately-entitled This Magic Moment: The Sound of the Brill Building is available now.

In his liner notes, Groper Odson describes the “First Team” of the Brill Building as era of consisting of seven duos.  Noted next to their names are some of the songs you’ll hear on this new compilation:

  • Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (“Charlie Brown,” “Stand by Me”)
  • Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Locomotion,” “Chains”)
  • Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (“A Teenager in Love,” “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”)
  • Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield (“Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” “Where the Boys Are”)
  • Burt Bacharach and Hal David (“Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “It’s Love That Really Counts”)
  • Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“Uptown,” “Bless You”)
  • Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (Greenwich’s “Our Love It Grows,” Barry’s “Teenage Sonata” and “Tell Laura I Love Her”)

And while all of those songwriters are represented on This Magic Moment – named for a Pomus and Shuman tune, of course – so are some names that might be more unfamiliar: Jack Keller, Mark Barkan, Tony Powers, Larry Kolber, Ben Raleigh, Hank Hunter, Bob Hilliard, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye and Bill Giant among them.  But even if you don’t know those names, chances are you know many of their songs.  This Magic Moment deftly blends those famous songs that have endured over the course of seven decades with some tracks that were cut from the same cloth but didn’t necessarily have the same staying power.

After the jump: a closer look at This Magic Moment including the full track listing and order links!

The familial air of friendly competition is reinforced on This Magic Moment, which features many collaborations “between teams” like Carole King and Howard Greenfield’s “Crying in the Rain” for The Everly Brothers, or Barry Mann and Greenfield’s “War Paint” and Mann and Gerry Goffin’s “Who Put the Bomp” both performed by Mann himself.  Jack Keller was one Brill Building-era melodist who wrote with Gerry Goffin (Bobby Vee’s “Run to Him”), Howard Greenfield (Connie Francis’ “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” Jimmy Clanton’s “Venus in Blue Jeans”), Hank Hunter (Neil Sedaka’s “One Way Ticket to the Blues”) and Larry Kolber (The Crystals’ “What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen”).

Of course, a survey of the Brill Building scene could never be anywhere near comprehensive on just two CDs, or for that matter, even four CDs as on the 1993 box set The Brill Building Sound.  Furthering hampering This Magic Moment from being a definitive collection is the fact that it doesn’t include any recordings past 1962 (a result of its public domain status).  But Jasmine’s release, compiled by Roger Dopson, does an admirable job displaying the breadth of styles coming out of these song factories.  Almost all of the teams named were aiming for the same youth market – Burt Bacharach and Hal David would become the most glaring exception to the rule as they set the standard for modern adult pop – but each brought a true stamp of individuality to their music.  All of the aforementioned names, whether young (Goffin, King, Mann, Weil) or older (Bacharach, David, Leiber, Stoller), also imbued their writing with a craft inherited from their Tin Pan Alley forebears.

Neil Sedaka brought his classical training to the table, turning out “doobie-doos” and “tra-la-las” with surprising musical sophistication.  Doc Pomus invested his songs with a deep appreciation of the blues. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were the best musical humorists around.  The teams of Goffin and King and Mann and Weil often occupied similar artistic territory, but the husband-and-wife pairs used their intense competition and equally intense friendship to carve out their own individual voices as the decade went on.  (The two teams’ relationship – and indeed, their lives as part of Don Kirshner’s music machine – is dramatized nightly at Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre in the new musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  Mann and Weil are prominent supporting characters.)Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, too, crafted some of 1650 Broadway’s most indelible music especially when they gave voice to Phil Spector’s girl group stable with songs like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.”  This Magic Moment doesn’t feature any Greenwich/Barry co- compositions, but both songwriters are represented via their work with others.  One of the many treats here, too, is an exploration of Bobby Darin the songwriter.  The multi-talented, multi-faceted artist isn’t often thought of in the same breath as the other Brill Building greats mentioned here, but this anthology includes Darin songs such as “Dream Lover” (Dion), “Wear My Ring” (Gene Vincent), “Early in the Morning” (Buddy Holly), “This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’” (Ruth Brown) and “Summertime Symphony” (Jamie Coe).

This Magic Moment makes for a fine companion to other recent Jasmine releases including a series dedicated to the early productions of Phil Spector (the third volume of which, He’s Still a Rebel – Completing the Wall of Sound 1960-1962, is set for arrival on February 14) and the Doc Pomus anthology Singer and Songwriter.  Mention should also be made of the newly-available 3-CD public domain songwriter anthologies from the Not Now label.  These sets dedicated to The Songs of Mann and Weil, The Songs of Pomus and Shuman, The Songs of Leiber and Stoller, The Songs of Carole King and The Songs of Burt Bacharach all offer numerous rarities.

This Magic Moment is available now at Amazon U.S. and is in stock at Amazon U.K. on February 17.  You can order below!

Various Artists, This Magic Moment: The Sound of the Brill Building (Jasmine JASCD 747, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CD 1

  1. Will You Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles (Scepter 1211, 1962)
  2. This Magic Moment – The Drifters (Atlantic 2050, 1960)
  3. Dream Lover – Dion (Laurie LP 2009, 1961)
  4. Crying in the Rain – The Everly Brothers (Warner Bros. 5250, 1962)
  5. Run to Him – Bobby Vee (Liberty 55388, 1961)
  6. Sorry But I’m Gonna Have to Pass – The Coasters (Atco 6126, 1958)
  7. War Paint – Barry Mann (ABC-Paramount 10143, 1960)
  8. Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen – Neil Sedaka (RCA Victor 7957, 1961)
  9. (Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame – Del Shannon (Big Top 1303, 1961)
  10. Bless You – Tony Orlando (Epic 9452, 1961)
  11. Yes – Ben E. King (Atco 6215, 1962)
  12. The Locomotion – Little Eva (Dimension 1000, 1962)
  13. Dawning – Jay and the Americans (United Artists 415, 1962)
  14. Our Love, It Grows – Myrna March (Roulette 4463, 1962)
  15. I Love How You Love Me – The Paris Sisters (Gregmark 6, 1961)
  16. Don’t Ever Change – The Crickets (Liberty 55441, 1962)
  17. Turn Me Loose – Fabian (Chancellor 1033, 1959)
  18. Wear My Ring – Gene Vincent (Capitol 3763, 1957)
  19. Another Sleepless Night – Jimmy Clanton (Ace 585, 1960)
  20. Pretty Little Angel Eyes – Curtis Lee (Dunes 2007, 1961)
  21. Tell Laura I Love Her – Ray Peterson (RCA Victor 7745, 1960)
  22. I Love You Eddie –The Crystals (Philles 106, 1962)
  23. Chains – The Cookies (Dimension 1002, 1962)
  24. Tell Me What She Said – The Playmates (Roulette 4370, 1961)
  25. Painting the Town with Teardrops – Vinnie Monte (Jubilee 5410, 1961)
  26. Teenage Sonata – Sam Cooke (RCA Victor 7701, 1960)
  27. I Can’t Hear a Word You Say – Ruth Brown (Atlantic 2026, 1959)
  28. Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool – Connie Francis (MGM 12899, 1960)
  29. Early in the Morning – Buddy Holly (Coral 62006, 1958)
  30. First Taste of Love – Ben E. King (Atco 6185, 1960)
  31. It Might as Well Rain Until September – Carole King (Dimension 2000, 1962)
  32. Only Love Can Break a Heart – Gene Pitney (Musicor 1022, 1962)

CD 2

  1. Where the Boys Are – Connie Francis (MGM 12971, 1961)
  2. Some Kind of Wonderful – The Drifters (Atlantic 2096, 1961)
  3. Teenager in Love – Dion and the Belmonts (Laurie 3027, 1959)
  4. The Answer to Everything – Del Shannon (Big Top 3083, 1961)
  5. Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) – Barry Mann (ABC-Paramount 10237, 1961)
  6. Charlie Brown – The Coasters (Atco 6132, 1959)
  7. One Way Ticket (To the Blues) – Neil Sedaka (RCA Victor 7595, 1959)
  8. Uptown – The Crystals (Philles 102, 1962)
  9. Take It Like a Man – Gene Pitney (Musicor 1020, 1962)
  10. So Close to Heaven – Ral Donner (Gone 5108, 1961)
  11. This is It – Jay and the Americans (United Artists 479, 1962)
  12. Sharing You – Bobby Vee (Liberty 55451, 1962)
  13. Venus in Blue Jeans – Jimmy Clanton (Ace 8001, 1962)
  14. That’s Old Fashioned – The Everly Brothers (Warner Bros. 5273, 1962)
  15. Halfway to Paradise – Tony Orlando (Epic 9441, 1961)
  16. Two Fools – Frankie Avalon (Chancellor 1040, 1959)
  17. This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’ – Ruth Brown (Atlantic 1197, 1958)
  18. How Come – Birdie Green (End 1117, 1962)
  19. You Bet I Would – The Ronettes (May 114, 1962)
  20. It’s Love That Really Counts – The Shirelles (Scepter 1237, 1962)
  21. Telephone (Won’t You Ring) – Shelley Fabares (Colpix 667. 1962)
  22. What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen – The Crystals (Philles 102, 1962)
  23. It Started All Over Again – Brenda Lee (Decca 31407, 1962)
  24. Summertime Symphony – Jamie Coe (Addison 15001, 1959)
  25. Kissin’ and Twistin’ – Fabian (Chancellor 1061, 1960)
  26. Dickie Went and Do It – The Delicates (Roulette 4360, 1961)
  27. You Mean Everything to Me – Neil Sedaka (RCA Victor 7781, 1960)
  28. Be My Girl – Ray Peterson (Dunes 2002, 1960)
  29. Just Between You and Me – The Chordettes (Cadence 1330, 1957)
  30. Breakin’ in a Brand New Broken Heart – Connie Francis (MGM 12995, 1961)
  31. (Don’t Go) Please Stay – The Drifters (Atlantic 2105, 1961)
  32. Stand by Me – Ben E. King (Atco 6194, 1961)

Written by Joe Marchese

February 3, 2014 at 10:24

6 Responses

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  1. Will probably pick this up, some songs that are needed in the library.

    Jim Regan (@Jbones72)

    February 3, 2014 at 11:05

  2. Just wondering how the sound quality is on this and other “public domain” releases. Where would a company wanting to issue something like this obtain the tapes / masters etc or are they transferred from vinyl copies?


    February 3, 2014 at 11:06

    • Hey Pete, the quality of these European P.D. releases generally varies depending on the label. I’ve found Jasmine, Sepia, Cherry Red’s Él label, Fresh Sound and JSP to be among the best in this regard, usually sourcing their releases from pristine vinyl held by collectors. Many of these labels have issued truly rare material that otherwise would never have seen the light of day on CD, and have also gone the extra mile in packaging and annotation, etc. That said, one’s mileage will vary, and there are obviously heated feelings – on both sides! – about the entire concept of public domain. There are numerous “dodgy” P.D. labels out there, too. Special mention must be made, however, of the (non-P.D.) Ace label, which always seeks out (and compensates) rights-holders and utilizes original masters even when a title is in the public domain. I know many of our readers have had a lot of experience with P.D. labels, as well. I’d love to hear other thoughts here.

      Joe Marchese

      February 3, 2014 at 11:29

      • Fantastic Voyage also has the best sources available on the titles I got from them. Pristine sounds most of the times. And I wouldn’t say Ace is part of this team, exactly for the reasons stated above. They are a reissues label that doesn’t seem interested on PD titles, or am I missing something?

        Ricardo A

        February 3, 2014 at 11:45

      • Indeed. Ace is a non-P.D. label that frequently releases pre-1963 period music (all in the public domain) and always compensates rights holders rather than taking advantage of the P.D. laws that do not require them to do so.

        Joe Marchese

        February 3, 2014 at 12:37

      • Thanks for the info. I know we are already seeing some Beach Boys releases that fall into this category too, but I’ve had no reason to buy them as, largely, they haven’t had any new material.


        February 3, 2014 at 12:15

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