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Archive for April 16th, 2014

Donna Loren’s Complete Capitol Anthology Reveals A Wealth Of Pop Treasures

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Donna Loren“I’m just a little girl, but I feel a woman’s love for you,” Donna Loren sings on the first track of Now Sounds’ delicious new anthology These Are The Good Times: The Complete Capitol Recordings. Those familiar with the teen starlet’s lone Capitol long-player, Beach Blanket Bingo, might be forgiven for thinking this release would be more of the same sand-and-surf fun. But as Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Just a Little Girl” reveals, there’s much more to the music of Donna Loren. The newly discovered tracks on Good Times lyrically hew, in large part, to the teen-pop territory of melancholy and devotion.   But in every respect – not least of all vocally and musically – they’re prime West Coast pop nuggets. Fans of the Los Angeles sound will recognize every name here, all at the top of their game: producers David Axelrod, the outré pop guru, and Steve Douglas, Wrecking Crew saxophonist; arrangers Jack Nitzsche, H.B. Barnum, Gene Page and Billy Strange; musicians Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Lyle Ritz, Ray Pohlman, Tommy Tedesco, Larry Knechtel, Don Randi, Plas Johnson, Julius Wechter, and future headliners Glen Campbell and Leon Russell.

Donna Loren turned eighteen in 1965, when two-thirds of this collection’s 29 songs were cut. She first entered Capitol’s Hollywood studios, one year earlier in 1964, as the winsome “Dr. Pepper girl” and a beach party film ingénue. Fresh off a brief stint at Challenge Records, she recorded a handful of singles with David Axelrod and arranger-conductor H.B. Barnum, and all of these 45s are included on the non-chronologically-sequenced Good Times. “Just a Little Girl” was among the first songs Loren recorded at Capitol, yet it stands out as one of the strongest of her tenure with the label. “Ninety Day Guarantee,” another early single, boasts surf guitar and groovy organ. But a handful of songs that were left in the can from 1964 are more exciting than the released tracks from that year. Bob Montgomery’s sassy “Leave Him to Me” shows Donna cutting loose with a convincing growl in her voice. If she’s positively commanding there, the goofy “Drop the Drip” is light, enjoyable teenage fun (“Just because he doesn’t wear tight pants, combs his hair a kooky way/’Cause he doesn’t like the latest dance, they call him Squaresville, USA!”) from one of America’s sweethearts. “Good Things” has a bit more of an R&B feel.

Loren returned to Capitol’s studios in March 1965 to lay down vocals for her Beach Blanket Bingo album on which she sang all of the songs from the American-International picture – including those performed in the film by Annette Funicello, still recording for Disney and unavailable for the soundtrack. The songs by Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner make for a pleasant if lightweight listen. The pair gave Loren one of her performance staples, “It Only Hurts When I Cry” alongside MOR fare like this volume’s title track “These Are the Good Times.” But Beach Blanket isn’t altogether indicative of Loren’s versatility. One non-LP side emerged from the same March 1965 session, a kooky novelty called “So, Do the Zonk.” Alas, the Zonk dance craze never took off!

When she next entered the Tower, Loren was paired with producer Steve Douglas and arranger Jack Nitzsche for the five songs that form the heart of this compilation. Shockingly, only one of these recordings was originally selected for release by Capitol: Tony Hatch’s oft-recorded “Call Me.” Like so many of the songwriter supreme’s other hits, it was written for Petula Clark. But the U.S. hit of the song went to A&M artist Chris Montez in Herb Alpert’s breezy clap-along arrangement. In 1966, Frank Sinatra and his longtime arranger Nelson Riddle transformed it into a slow yet sizzling swing standard for the Chairman’s Strangers in the Night album. Loren’s version predated both of those renditions, and it’s inexplicable that she didn’t chart with it. Nitzsche inventively ladles on the strings, horns and background vocals over Loren’s coquettish lead, which frequently evokes an expressive cross between Jackie DeShannon and Tammy Grimes. “Call Me” was paired on 45 with a boisterous visit to Ashford, Simpson and Armstead’s “Smokey Joe’s,” proving that Loren was as adept with big beat as with big ballads.

Nitzsche scored another Goffin/King tune for Loren, “They’re Jealous of Me,” which was also recorded by Earl-Jean (“I’m Into Something Good”) and Connie Stevens.   It makes its debut here. The full Wall of Sound treatment was naturally applied to Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector’s “Woman in Love (With You).” The Ronettes’ recording of the song was released in 1975, while The Crystals’ (led by La La Brooks) didn’t receive a commercial release until 2011. This was one unlucky song; Donna’s sublime rendition sat in the vaults until Ace Records unearthed it in 2006 for Hard Workin’ Man, its second Nitzsche compendium. Nitzsche also brought baroque flourishes and Spectorian pomp to Mann and Weil’s sublime “That’s the Boy.” It was first released on Ace’s Glitter and Gold anthology of the duo’s work. The anthemic “Hold Your Head High” from the team of Randy Newman and Jackie DeShannon is another stunningly mature, previously unreleased track from the Loren/Nitzsche/Douglas/Wrecking Crew cadre. Donna’s direct, emotional vocal cuts through the martial beat and big production, and delivers a surprising degree of intimacy.

The rare and never-before-heard music doesn’t stop there. The Beau Brummels backed Donna on the folk-rock of Brummel Ron Elliott’s “It’s Gotta Be,” with Glen Campbell also on guitar, from October ’65. And then there’s “You Can’t Lose Something You Never Had.”   This majestically dramatic song from the pre-fame Al Kooper with his then-regular writing partners Bob Brass and Irwin Levine has been described by Kooper as “admittedly Bacharachian” and “still one of my favorites from the old days.” It’s not hard to see why, as his emotional melody soars in unexpected directions. Kooper once stated that he was only aware of the MGM Records original 45 by Bruce Scott and the demo by Jimmy Radcliffe; one hopes he hears Donna’s recording post haste. The production by Douglas and arrangement by Billy Strange is less overtly Bacharach-esque than on the Scott single, with The Wrecking Crew expertly recalling Pet Sounds in its introduction (which it, of course, predated) and Tony Hatch in its brassy elegance. Loren’s vocal is filled with the requisite urgency; these two-and-a-half minutes alone would be reason enough to take a chance on These Are The Good Times. Strange was also the arranger of “My Way,” which isn’t Frank Sinatra’s defiant anthem but rather a pleasant beat tune. Alas, the identity of its writer(s) has been lost to time.

There’s more Loren after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 16, 2014 at 13:16

Posted in Compilations, Donna Loren, News, Reviews

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Favorite Things: Resonance Celebrates Wes Montgomery, Charles Lloyd For Record Store Day, Plans Lost John Coltrane Concert For Fall

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Wes Montgomery - Montgomery JohnsonResonance Records, known for its deluxe archival packages of recently-discovered recordings from jazz greats including Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery, has a busy 2014 ahead. The label has recently announced plans for two Record Store Day releases with more unheard Montgomery music and one RSD exclusive with never-before-released material from Charles Lloyd.  Then, this fall, the label will premiere a live performance from John Coltrane for the first time on commercially released CD.

Resonance’s Echoes of Indiana Avenue preserved early 1957-1958 recordings from the influential guitarist Wes Montgomery, and as such was the first full collection of unheard Montgomery material in over 25 years. On Record Store Day – Saturday, April 19 – Resonance will issue two rare recordings from even earlier in the late artist’s career, both with the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet (Buddy, Monk and Wes Montgomery plus Alonzo Johnson on saxophone and Robert Johnson on drums).

Wes Montgomery and the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet is a limited edition 10-inch vinyl release produced in cooperation with Sony Music. Culled from a recently-discovered lost recording session for Epic Records, these recordings are amongst the earliest known recordings of Wes Montgomery and his brothers, plus the now-legendary Quincy Jones as a producer. Jones organized the session after knowing the Montgomery brothers through his tenure in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and it predates his 1957 debut album This is How I Feel About Jazz which was produced by Creed Taylor. Resonance has designed this release as it might have appeared in 1955 with vintage art, logos, and the classic period Epic label. Liner notes include highlights of an interview of Quincy Jones conducted by Ashley Kahn in 2013. These five songs (“Love for Sale, “Leila,” “Undecided,” “The Blues” and “Far Wes”) will also be featured on the 2-CD or 3-LP Resonance release Wes Montgomery: In The Beginning, due later this year. The RSD 10-inch vinyl collectible is limited to 2,000 copies.

Wes Montgomery - Turf ClubIt’s joined on RSD by Wes and the Montgomery-Johnson Quintet’s Live at the Turf Club. Sourced from recordings made by 22-year old Butler College student and devoted Montgomery Brothers fan Philip Kahl, Turf Club also makes its first-ever commercial appearance. Kahl had access to the brothers at this period of time, recording them at three different venues. (All three recordings will appear on In the Beginning.) The six tracks here were captured at Indianapolis’ Turf Club in 1956. On “Going Down To Big Mary’s House,” Debbie Andrews of Duke Ellington’s band drops in to supply guest vocals. Resonance first obtained these recordings in 2011 from Buddy Montgomery’s widow Ann, who also provided never-before-published photos taken at The Turf Club. Resonance tracked down the original quarter-inch tape reels, and Bernie Grundman was enlisted to remaster the music for optimal sound.  The RSD release of Live at the Turf Club is limited to 2,000 copies on “whiskey-colored” translucent 10-inch vinyl. The album features “Wes’s Tune”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Six Bridges to Cross”, “Down To Big Mary’s”, “Caravan” and “Django.”

Charles Lloyd - SlugsAlso on Record Store Day, Resonance unveils Live at Slugs from multi-instrumentalist (and to fans of The Beach Boys, “Feel Flows” flautist) Charles Lloyd.  Recorded at the long-gone Manhattan nightspot Slugs Saloon, Live at Slugs features Lloyd’s 1965 all-star quartet with guitarist Gabor Szabo, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Pete LaRoca.  Resonance describes the release:  “Slugs was a staple of the Manhattan Jazz Scene from 1965 to 1972, and was the intersection of music and counterculture. Live at Slugs was recorded by Swedish visionary Bjorn von Schlebrugge, who accompanied Lloyd to his Manhattan gigs. This release features the earliest recording of the Charles Lloyd classic composition “Dream Weaver,” (which would later be recorded with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee, and Jack DeJohnette for Atlantic Records on the album of the same name). The interplay between the musicians is remarkable, especially the musical dialogue between Lloyd and Szabo which goes back to their days together, playing with the late, great, Chico Hamilton. This special limited edition 10-inch record is to commemorate the upcoming Charles Lloyd release Manhattan Stories, out later this year on Resonance Records.”  The RSD-exclusive vinyl pressing at 33-1/3 RPM is limited to 2,000 copies worldwide.

After the jump: what does Resonance have planned from John Coltrane?  Plus: full track listings for all releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 16, 2014 at 09:59