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Ace Label Tunes In “Radio Gold” and Heads to the “Hall of Fame”

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Radio Gold - Bigger in BritainAce Records has another pair of aces (Aces?) up its sleeve with two recent releases, both of which continue ongoing series for the label.  The sixth installment of the long-running Radio Gold series turns the spotlight on those American records which were Bigger in Britain, as it’s subtitled, while the second volume of Hall of Fame takes in 24 rarities (20 previously unreleased) from deep in the heart of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The 24 tracks chosen for Radio Gold: Special Bigger in Britain Edition all hail from the pre-Beatles era (1956-1963) of rock and roll and feature some of that period’s biggest names: Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, Bobby Darin, Bill Haley and His Comets, Roy Orbison, and Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers.  It might come as a surprise that Roy Orbison’s beautiful “Blue Bayou” bested its No. 29 placement with a No. 3 showing in Britain, or that Haley’s rather unknown “Rockin’ Through the Rye” (No. 78) also hit that same lofty perch.  Del Shannon’s “Two Kinds of Teardrops” was an intentional sound-alike to his “Little Town Flirt,” but whereas it stalled at No. 50 in the U.S., Shannon’s constant U.K. touring saw it rise to No. 5 there.  (As for “Flirt,” the No. 12 U.S. hit was No. 4 in the U.K.!)

Compiler Tony Rounce hasn’t limited himself to rock-and-roll chestnuts, though.  You’ll find country artists represented, including Conway Twitty (“Mona Lisa”) and Jim Reeves (“Welcome to My World,” later popularized by Elvis Presley) and crooner Perry Como (the rock-ish “Love Makes the World Go Round (Yeah Yeah)”).  Even more surprising than Perry is an appearance by the Velvet Fog, Mel Torme.  His breezy 1956 live recording of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s 1926 standard “Mountain Greenery” didn’t make waves in the U.S., but accomplished an impressive No. 4 showing on the British chart. Rounce helpfully points out in his detailed track-by-track notes that Mel’s recording was the very first live recording to make a major dent on the U.K. survey.

On the R&B front, there’s a track from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (“I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent”).  Straight from the Brill Building, Bobby Vee offers Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “How Many Tears” (No. 63 U.S., No. 10 U.K., 1961).  Two famous television western themes are also included.  “The Ballad of Paladin” from Have Gun, Will Travel only made it to No. 33 at home, but across the pond, “Paladin” hit No. 10.  The occasionally overwrought pop star Frankie Laine specialized in musical tales of the Old West, and he brought his big pipes to Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington’s “Rawhide” from the program of the same name.  Its September 1958 release in America didn’t chart, but when “Rawhide” was issued in Britain in November 1959, it began an ascent to No. 6.

This entry in the Radio Gold series is accompanied by a thick 22-page booklet with plenty of label scans, photographs and sheet music covers.  Duncan Cowell has remastered all tracks.

Hit the jump for the full track listing and discography for Radio Gold, plus the details on Hall of Fame Volume 2! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 27, 2013 at 10:08

Light in the Attic Gets Funky in the Country with Bobby Darin, Mac Davis, Link Wray, Bobbie Gentry and More

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What the hell is “Country Funk,” you ask?

That’s the question being posed by Light in the Attic on its new compilation, titled (what else?) Country Funk: 1969-1975.  The label goes on to answer, in part, of the “inherently defiant genre”: “the style encompasses the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit.  It is alternately playful and melancholic, slow jammin’ and booty shakin’.  It is both studio slick and barroom raw.”  Well, those definitions certainly work for us, but you can hear for yourself on the recently-released collection featuring 16 songs from a fantastically eclectic group including Dale Hawkins, Mac Davis, Link Wray, Bobby Charles, Tony Joe White, Bobbie Gentry, Bob(by) Darin and more!

The tracks on Country Funk are all drawn from the period between 1969 and 1975, a time of great soul-searching for many American artists.  With the Vietnam War raging on, the Summer of Love in the past and American politics in upheaval, many singers and songwriters looked inward to express the turmoil.  (Some even responded to the social climate by turning even further to pop escapism, though that’s a story for another anthology.)   It was inevitable that there would be much genre-melding.  One of the most chameleonic artists of all time was Bobby Darin, onetime teen idol and Academy Award nominated actor who threw himself into everything from rockabilly to teenybopper pop to brassy Broadway.  Darin immersed himself in the counterculture, increasingly uncomfortable with the trappings of showbiz.  From his 1969 album Commitment comes “Light Blue,” a dark, sad, folk-style composition from Darin’s own pen.

Though Darin was Bronx-born, many of the figures on Country Funk have deep Southern roots: Louisiana’s Tony Joe White, Dale Hawkins, Johnny Adams and Bobby Charles, Texas’ Mac Davis, Kentucky’s Jim Ford, Mississippi’s Bobbie Gentry.  White, Charles and Hawkins all brought the culture of the swamp to their recordings, touching on blues and boogie with songs like “Studspider,” “Street People” and “L.A. Memphis Tyler Texas,” respectively.  Another Louisiana native, Mac Rebennack a.k.a. Dr. John, supplied “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” for blues guitarist Johnny Jenkins.  Jim Ford reinvented Stevie Wonder’s “I Wanna Make Her Love Me” for his classic 1969 album Harlan County, bringing the country funk to the Motown sound.  Like White and Charles, Mac Davis had his greatest successes as a songwriter rather than as a performer; Elvis Presley made standards out of “In the Ghetto” and “Memories.”  (Tony Joe White also benefited from The King’s patronage when he adopted “Polk Salad Annie” as his own.)  Johnny Adams, whose recordings typically touched on blues, jazz and gospel absorbed in New Orleans, offers “Georgia Morning Dew” from 1970.  Davis is heard here as a singer with 1974’s “Lucas Was a Redneck” and a songwriter on John Randolph Marr’s “Hello, L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham” from 1970, co-written with Delaney Bramlett of Delaney and Bonnie.  Bobbie Gentry proves that she was much more than just “Ode to Billie Joe” with the earthy (and funky!) “He Made a Woman Out of Me.”   And those artists tell just some of the story on Country Funk!

You’ll find more after the jump, including the full track listing with discography and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 3, 2012 at 10:13

Presley’s Jukebox: Bob Dylan, Bobby Darin, Rick Nelson, Jerry Butler Shine on “Elvis Heard Them Here First”

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Though Elvis Presley rose through the ranks of Sun Records alongside artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins (his fellow members of the “Million Dollar Quartet,” if you will), Elvis and Jerry Lee differed from Johnny and Carl in that they primarily leaned upon the songs of others.  Cash and Perkins predated the pop-rock singer/songwriter revolution of the next decade, and in fact, harkened back to an older tradition in country and blues of performing your own material.

Yet by the time the King of Rock and Roll came out of the army, returned from Hollywood and reinvented himself on the concert stage, much had changed.  Armed with their guitars, Bob Dylan and The Beatles had proved that singers didn’t need a cadre of professional writers to craft their songs, whether from New York’s Brill Building or Nashville’s Music Row.  Soon, “singer/songwriter” would enter the lexicon, upping the emotional ante for these “confessional” writers.  “Covers” of existing hits were largely the province of adult-aimed “MOR” singers like Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis.  Where did this leave Elvis Presley?  Ace Records makes a compelling case with the new compilation Elvis Heard Them Here First that Presley simply continued to do what he had done all along: synthesize strains from a wide range of genres and songs into material that was always uniquely “Elvis.”

The 24-track compilation is based on Ace’s You Heard It Here First series, which presents original versions of songs made famous by other interpretive singers.  Producer Tony Rounce acknowledges in his introductory essay that the playing field was rather wide.  Even during those early Sun years, all but three of Elvis’ recordings on the label were of previously-performed songs.  Rather than limiting himself to one era, Rounce collects songs recorded by Elvis between his 1959 return from the Army and his death in 1977.  The disc avoids the overly familiar (Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” etc.) and offers up a fascinating journey through the records that just might have inspired Elvis to turn in some of his best vocals.

What songs will you hear?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 24, 2012 at 15:12

Come Fly With Me: Bobby, Peggy, Ella, Buddy Take Off With “Pan Am” Soundtrack

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Following in the footsteps of Matthew Weiner’s 1960s drama Mad Men, Jack Orman’s Pan Am takes to the airwaves each week on ABC with a period-perfect recreation of the days when “the world’s most experienced airline” ruled the skies.  Now, the show’s impeccably-selected music can be yours to keep – and perhaps used as the soundtrack to your very own swinging cocktail party! – on Verve’s Pan Am: Music From and Inspired by the Original Series, due to arrive on January 17.  How appropriate that one of the most recognizable labels of the Jet Age will release the soundtrack to the series that celebrates the period’s glamour, sex appeal and style.

The CD’s fourteen tracks are a pleasing mix of the familiar and the uncommon, and the classic line-up has been bolstered by two new performances.  Grace Potter, of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, offers a new take on Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” while Nikki Jean puts her own spin on John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Do You Want to Know a Secret.”  Nikki Jean certainly knows her way around a great song, having collaborated with Burt Bacharach, Thom Bell, Jimmy Webb, Carole King, Paul Williams, Lamont Dozier and even Bob Dylan on her 2011 debut (and future classic!) Pennies in a Jar.

Buddy Greco’s fizzy version of Victor Young and Harold Adamson’s “Around the World” featured prominently in the Pan Am pilot, and it’s of course heard here.  From Verve’s own catalogue comes Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbook recording of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Shirley Horn’s interpretation of Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s optimistic “The Best Is Yet To Come,” and the original Stan Getz recording of the bossa nova anthem “The Girl from Ipanema.”  The era-defining bossa nova sound is also heard on Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66’s “Mas Que Nada.”  Peggy Lee offers “New York City Blues,” co-written by the chanteuse with Quincy Jones, and the travel theme continues with Dinah Washington’s “Destination Moon” and Connie Francis’ Italian take of “Quando Quando Quando” (recorded years before Engelbert Humperdinck popularized the song in English).

Hit the jump for more, including the full track listing with discographical annotation! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 5, 2012 at 10:04

Rhino Unleashes “Original Album Series” in Europe

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Ever feel like all the fancy bonus content and packaging on some reissues totally overshadows the music? Rhino’s European division must’ve felt so, too: they released a handful of Original Album Series boxes a few weeks ago, featuring a lot of music with a minimum of frills and a relatively low price.

The titles – five albums by one artist, housed in mini-LP cardboard sleeves and put into a box – are the ideal quick, easy discography builder for new fans or collectors with a few notable gaps on their shelves. A myriad of artists, from the obvious (CHIC, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers) to the overlooked (Sérgio Mendes, The Young Rascals, Tim Buckley), are represented here. While some of these titles are available in expanded form, a few of these are hard to find on their own on CD. With a price tag that hovers around the £10 mark, it’s certainly something to consider.

All of the titles, with the albums they contain, are after the jump, along with links from Amazon’s U.K. pages.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where The Hits Are: Sedaka and Greenfield Profiled in “Songwriters” Series

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Doo doo doo down doo be do down down/Come a come a down doo be do down down…

One year before “Da Doo Ron Ron,” eleven before “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” and eighteen before “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield taught the world that “Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do” with their immortal wordless refrain.  Sedaka went on to become the king of the “Tra-la-las” and “shoo-be-doos” with his early rock-and-roll records, and the Juilliard-trained musician was one of the relatively rare few rockers of his generation equally adept at both performing and songwriting.  As active members of Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music stable (which could also claim Carole King and Gerry Goffin as well as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil!), Sedaka and his frequent lyricist Howard Greenfield turned out one tune after another for a great number of famous artists.  Following in the footsteps of its compilations devoted to other Brill Building greats like Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Goffin and King and Mann and Weil, Ace devotes the latest installment of its Songwriters and Producers series to the team of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield.  Where the Boys Are will be available on September 6 in the U.K. and features 25 tracks, 17 of which were written by the team and a further eight penned by one member with an outside collaborator.

Where the Boys Are spans a remarkably prolific 15-year period from 1956 until 1971, at which time Sedaka began in earnest to rekindle his solo career.  (1974’s Sedaka’s Back sealed the deal.)  His last hit in the U.S. had come in 1965, and he’d tried to make it over the next few years almost exclusively as a songwriter in an era when the Brill Building was waning and singer/songwriters were becoming the norm.  (It was lost on many that Sedaka had been writing his own material since he was a teenager.)  He had a great amount of success even after RCA Victor dumped his recording contract in 1966, and his songs, with and without Greenfield, were recorded by The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, The Cyrkle, Frankie Valli and more.  Ace’s, well, ace producers Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce tell that story from its very beginning.

Hit the jump for a look into the Brill Building hits of Sedaka and Greenfield! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2011 at 09:18

A Compilation to Leave You Speechless

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Here at The Second Disc, it’s always about the music. The team at Eric Records takes this mission seriously, too: its newest release provides three discs of nothing but music, with nary a lyric to be found.

Complete Pop Instrumental Hits of the Sixties, Volume 1 collates, for the first time on three CDs, every instrumental track that hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. Some of them are chartbusters that we all know and love – Percy Faith’s “Theme from ‘A Summer Place’,” The Ventures’ “Walk – Don’t Run” – while others are rarities by artists relegated to the annals of history, from Duane Eddy and Bill Haley and His Comets to Bobby Darin and Santo and Johnny.

All 81 tracks are remastered from the original source material and, wherever possible, presented in stereo. (This led to at least one track, “Kommotion” by Duane Eddy and The Rebels, presented in stereo on CD for the first time anywhere; another 15 tracks also make their debut on the format.) There are also a few bonus tracks, including some songs that charted in 1960 but were released the year before, and both mono and stereo versions of the theme to the long-running series 77 Sunset Strip. The set is augmented by a 28-page booklet featuring biographical info on each artist and track-by-track release information.

All in all, this looks like it could be a really fun set – and hopefully the first in a series! Order the set here (the set’s out June 21, but those who order it from the label will see their orders shipping around Monday) and look at the track list after the jump.

Various Artists, Complete Pop Instrumental Hits of the Sixties, Volume 1: 1960 (Eric Records 11960, 2011)

Disc 1

  1. Smokie (Part 2) – Bill Black’s Combo
  2. Smokie (Part 2) – Bill Doggett
  3. Bonnie Came Back – Duane Eddy and The Rebels *
  4. Skokiaan (South African Song) – Bill Haley and His Comets *
  5. Teenage Hayride – Tender Slim
  6. Harlem Nocturne – The Viscounts
  7. One Mint Julep – Chet Atkins *
  8. Amapola – Jacky Noguez and His Orchestra
  9. Tracy’s Theme – Spencer Ross *
  10. Theme from “A Summer Place” – Percy Faith and His Orchestra *
  11. On the Beach – Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra *
  12. Bulldog – The Fireballs
  13. Too Much Tequila – The Champs
  14. Teensville – Chet Atkins *
  15. Werewolf – The Frantics
  16. A Closer Walk – Pete Fountain *
  17. Whatcha’ Gonna Do – Nat “King” Cole *
  18. Beatnik Fly – Johnny and The Hurricanes *
  19. Summer Set – Monty Kelly and His Orchestra * +
  20. Chattanooga Choo Choo – Ernie Fields Orchestra
  21. Caravan – Santo and Johnny *
  22. Shazam! – Duane Eddy and The Rebels *
  23. White Silver Sands – Bill Black’s Combo
  24. Mr. Lucky – Henry Mancini and His Orchestra *
  25. The Madison Time (Part 1) – Ray Bryant Combo *
  26. Beautiful Obsession – Sir Chauncey and His Exciting Strings *
  27. Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Part 2) – Jessie Hill
  28. National City – Joiner, Arkansas Junior High School Band

Disc 2

  1. La Montana (If She Should Come to You) – Frank DeVol *
  2. La Montana (If She Should Come to You) – Roger Williams *
  3. Theme for Young Lovers – Percy Faith and His Orchestra *
  4. Theme from “The Unforgiven” (The Need for Love) – Don Costa and His Orchestra *
  5. Because They’re Young – Duane Eddy and The Rebels *
  6. Down Yonder – Johnny and The Hurricanes
  7. Josephine – Bill Black’s Combo +
  8. Look for a Star – Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra *
  9. Theme from “Adventures in Paradise” – Jerry Byrd *
  10. Night Train – The Viscounts +
  11. Bongo Bongo Bongo – Preston Epps *
  12. Walk – Don’t Run – The Ventures *
  13. Kommotion – Duane Eddy and The Rebels **
  14. Revival – Johnny and The Hurricanes
  15. Vaquero (Cowboy) – The Fireballs *
  16. Theme from “The Apartment” – Ferrante and Teicher *
  17. Beachcomber – Bobby Darin *
  18. Brontosaurus Stomp – The Piltdown Men
  19. Rocking Goose – Johnny and The Hurricanes
  20. Never on Sunday – Don Costa and His Orchestra *
  21. Temptation – Roger Williams *
  22. Theme from “The Sundowners” – Felix Slatkin Orchestra *
  23. Midnight Lace – David Carroll and His Orchestra +
  24. Midnight Lace – Ray Ellis and His Orchestra +
  25. Midnight Lace (Part 1) – Ray Conniff and His Orchestra *
  26. Don’t Be Cruel – Bill Black’s Combo ++

Disc 3

  1. The Sundowners – Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra *
  2. (Theme from) The Sundowners – Mantovani and His Orchestra * +
  3. Peter Gunn – Duane Eddy and The Rebels *
  4. Theme from “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” – Ernie Freeman *
  5. Night Theme – The Mark II
  6. Last Date – Floyd Cramer *
  7. Ruby Duby Du – Tobin Matthews & Co.
  8. Ruby Duby Du (from “Key Witness”)  – Charles Wolcott and The MGM Studio Orchestra +
  9. Stranger from Durango – Richie Allen +
  10. Gonzo – James Booker
  11. You Are My Sunshine – Johnny and The Hurricanes *
  12. Last Date – Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra *
  13. Blue Tango – Bill Black’s Combo +
  14. Ramblin’ – The Ramblers +
  15. Perfidia – The Ventures *
  16. Twistin’ Bells – Santo and Johnny
  17. (Let’s Do) The Hully Gully Twist – Bill Doggett +
  18. The Clouds – The Spacemen
  19. In the Mood – Ernie Fields Orchestra
  20. Reveille Rock – Johnny and The Hurricanes *
  21. Tear Drop – Santo and Johnny
  22. (Theme from) “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” – Chet Atkins *
  23. Forever – The Little Dippers *
  24. The Madison – Al Brown ++
  25. 77 Sunset Strip – Don Ralke
  26. 77 Sunset Strip (Alternate Stereo Version) – Don Ralke * +
  27. Red River Rock – Johnny and The Hurricanes

* denotes stereo track. + denotes track debuting on CD. ** denotes stereo track debuting on CD. ++ denotes track debuting on CD in the U.S.

Written by Mike Duquette

June 1, 2011 at 15:43

Reissue Theory: Bobby Darin, Compiled: “The Motown Years”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on great albums and the reissues they could someday see. At the time of his untimely death in 1973, Bobby Darin was signed to Motown Records, where he recorded one solo LP and enough material for a posthumous second LP. Despite their high quality, Darin’s Motown recordings have long been unavailable. Today’s Reissue Theory takes us back to 1970 and the final chapter in the life of the great Bobby Darin.

Bobby Darin was so much more than just “Mack the Knife.” Stricken with rheumatic fever as a child and left fighting a heart condition throughout his 37 years, Darin never stopped reinventing himself in a race against the clock. After struggling at Decca, the man born Walden Robert Cassotto made his first splash at Atco – “Splish, Splash” actually – as a young, brash rock-and-roller, while operating behind-the-scenes as a deft songwriter, shrewd producer and keen businessman. Sensing that this rock-and-roll thing might just be a flash in the pan, he dared to take on the territory of Frank Sinatra with a successful series of adult pop albums and of course, “Mack the Knife” just a year after “Splish Splash.” As longtime friend Dion DiMucci said, “[Even in his youth] Darin had more on his wish list than being a teen idol.” When Sinatra exited Capitol to form the Reprise label in 1962, Capitol even lured Darin from Atco, symbolically replacing the Voice himself.

While it’s unknown if Sinatra really said that Darin was fit to play his prom dates, he undoubtedly took notice of this young, talented upstart. As the 1960s rolled onward, Darin felt compelled to embrace his youth. While already Hollywood royalty (with a high-profile marriage to Sandra Dee and an Academy Award nomination for 1963’s Captain Newman, M.D.), he could no longer ignore the tumult around him. Devastated by the assassination of his friend Robert F. Kennedy, the singer traded his tuxedo for denim and became “Bob Darin,” content to gently strum folk and protest songs, including his own powerful “A Simple Song of Freedom.” Yet when 1970 arrived, this restless musical wanderer found the inner strength to embrace his many facets. Just weeks after taking out ads denouncing the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, and speaking publicly at anti-war demonstrations, Darin returned to his one-time stomping ground of Las Vegas, reinstated the brassy “Mack” to his set, and co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show. The final stage of what would be Darin’s last reinvention was signed, sealed and delivered with the singer’s contract to Motown Records.

Motown was in the midst of great changes itself, relocating to Los Angeles and establishing a broad roster of artists over many genres. (Another great all-around entertainer, Sammy Davis, Jr. , released his first Motown single roughly a month before Darin’s.) Darin remained with Motown between 1970 and his death in 1973, and yet his catalogue for the label is curiously absent from CD. Collector’s Choice comprehensively reissued much of Darin’s Atco career, a variety of labels have taken on his Capitol output, and Edsel mined both his post-Capitol return to Atlantic and the work on his own label, Direction. But Darin’s eponymous Motown studio debut remains unreleased on CD, a posthumous studio album is long-deleted and only Live at the Desert Inn (itself shelved for 17 years) remains in print. So let’s raise the curtain and hit the jump for today’s Reissue Theory, looking at Bobby Darin (1972) and Darin 1936-1973 (1974), or The Motown Years. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 16, 2011 at 14:36