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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 3, 2014 at 10:24

Just The Tracks, Ma’am: Ace Collects “Criminal Records” On New Compilation

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Long before CSI, there was Dragnet.  The granddaddy of the television procedural drama, Dragnet actually began on radio in 1949, moving to television in 1951, where it has remained a staple ever since in both repeats and revivals.  So it’s appropriate that the ominous theme to Dragnet both opens and closes Ace’s rip-roaring new compilation, Criminal Records, subtitled “Law, Disorder and the Pursuit of Vinyl Justice.”  Between Ray Anthony’s treatment of that famous theme and Stan Freberg’s delicious parody of the program, you’ll find 22 other wild vignettes of cops, robbers, private dicks and prisoners.  Along the way you’ll meet “Dick Tracy,” “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon” and “Bad Dan McGoon” and travel all the way from Folsom Prison to Birmingham Jail.  And be careful when you approach that riot in Cell Block No. 9!

Avoiding such staples as The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law,” Criminal Records instead concentrates on lesser-known songs, or familiar songs in rare versions.  Most tracks date from the 1950s and early sixties, but make no mistake: this is raucous music, not well-scrubbed pop from handsome guys named Bobby!  Among those lesser-known interpretations of classic tunes, you’ll find a hyper-charged, distorted “Jailhouse Rock” from Dean Carter.  So aggressive is this 1967 track that you might classify it as proto-punk!  In a similar vein, it’s Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, not Johnny Cash, heard with “Folsom Prison Blues.”   Though Gene doesn’t jump quite as much as Dean Carter, his “Folsom” also ups the tempo from the familiar original.

Famous fictional characters appear throughout Criminal Records, too.  The Chants immortalized Chester Gould’s famed detective in the 1961 “Dick Tracy,” and the detective would doubtless agree with the group that “crime doesn’t never pay!”  Even more oddball is Bob Luman’s catchy “Private Eye,” a 1961 curio from the Warner Bros. label.  Luman, a Rockabilly Hall of Famer, name-checks Edd “Kookie” Byrnes of Warner Bros.’ television show 77 Sunset Strip and TV detective Peter Gunn in his wacky song written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (“All I Have to Do is Dream”).  Of the real-life characters heard here, one would certainly be Scatman Crothers.  The actor and voiceover artist perhaps best known for his role in Chico and the Man actually had an accomplished musical career, and offers this collection’s earliest track, asking the musical question behind 1949’s “Have You Got the Gumption?”

There’s more gumption and woe after the jump, plus the full track listing with discography and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 6, 2012 at 10:49