Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bill Wyman

Artist: Bill Wyman
LP: 7" single
Song: "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star"
[ listen ]

Here's something I found while going singles shopping last weekend at Jive Time Records in Fremont. (I wasn't going to stop there unless there was parking right in front—and there was! There is never parking in front of Jive Time.) I had pretty low expectations as I put this single by Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (si si, Bill suis un rock star) on the listening station turntable. Bill reportedly recorded the song as a demo for Ian Dury, but Ian and others thought Bill should release it himself. Performed in what Wyman calls a "Cockney French" accent, "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star" is actually pretty terrific and went to #14 on the UK singles charts in 1981. My copy is the US release, but I can't find any evidence that the song ever made its way onto the singles charts on this side of the pond. What I did find, however, is some startling evidence that Bill Wyman and Lily Tomlin may have been the exact same person at several points in time throughout the mid-to-late 1970s.
 
[ Bill Wyman or Lily Tomlin—who can be sure? ]
 
You can read more about the life and career of Bill Wyman, who celebrates his 78th birthday next week, on Wikipedia here. There's even a page here dedicated entirely to "Je Suis un Rock Star." Si Si!
 
[ Bill Wyman—then and now ]

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Turuttaret Trio

Artist: The Turuttaret Trio
LP: From Finland With Love: Folk Songs and Dance Music
Song: "Tammerkoski" 
[ listen ]
Song: "El Porompompero" 
[ listen ]

The Turuttaret Trio performed on Finnish television and in leading hotels and nightclubs (the ones with high ceilings that could accommodate Hannele's hair) throughout Finland before releasing this collection of native folk songs and dances in 1974. The Turuttarets even completed a tour of the USA! (Does anyone remember if they performed in Seattle? Maybe even in Ballard?) You can read a little more about The Turuttaret Trio on Wikipedia here—and no offense, Finland, but I definitely prefer your dance music to your folk songs.

 [ Amelita Tammela ]

[ Hannele Lehtonen ]
 
 [ Maire Tammenlaakso ]

 [ The Turuttaret Trio ]

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Love Machine

Artist: The Love Machine
LP: The Love Machine
Song: "Sex-O-Sonic" 
[ listen ]

My brother sent me a message on Facebook earlier this summer to let me know that Off the Record was closing. It's the last remaining record store in Yakima, our hometown. Off the Record opened in 1985, when I was in my junior year of high school, just one year before I landed my dream job at Budget Tapes & Records, our town's premiere record store at the time. (Yuppies bought Budget Tapes & Records in 1987, painted it pink and blue and quickly drove it into the ground.) A collector of 7" singles, it was at Off the Record that I purchased my first full-length LP in 1986. The store has supplied Yakimanians with good music (and bad music too, I'm sure) over the past 29 years, but now the owner is retiring so the place is going to close. I rounded up a few friends one weekend in August and we took a day trip to Yakima to pay Off the Record one last visit.

 [ Me and my records at Off the Record ]

One of the friends I went with picked out this 1978 album by The Love Machine and carried it around Off the Record in his hot little hands for nearly an hour while I tried to shield the fact that I was turning green with envy. When he finally began to sort through his pile of LPs in order to make his final selection, he slowly stuck this one back on the shelf. I had to use all my self-control to keep from throwing myself on top of the record to claim it as my own. I was scared he might change his mind! With carefully measured casualness I suggested, "Hmm...I think that one looks kinda' interesting. I might go ahead and get it since you don't want it." I still can't fathom how anyone could possibly pass on an LP that features a song called "Sex-O-Sonic." Anyway, in the future I really need to remember not to invite friends to go record-hunting with me unless they're strictly into christian rock and zydeco.

The seven lovely gears in The Love Machine are Kathy Bradley, Sheila Dean, Renee Gentry, Bernice Gibbons, Paulette Gibson, Mary Hopkins, and Sandra Sully. "Sex-O-Sonic" features Kathy Bradley on vocals; in the photo on the back of the cover, I think she's the one in the center with her leg up in the air. You may recognize her from the movie FRIDAY or maybe from the daytime television game show "The Price Is Right."

[ Off the Record — Yakima, Washington ]

Monday, September 29, 2014

Jennifer

Artist: Jennifer
LP: I Can Remember Everything
Song: "Sunny Day Blue"
[ listen ]

A few weekends ago I helped a friend move from Ballard to Kirkland, and afterwards I figured I'd stop by the Half-Price Books store located in nearby Bellevue. As I was looking up the address on my phone, a new and surprising blip appeared on my radar—a record store in Kirkland! I figured it would probably be one of those poorly-stocked suburban record stores that have way too many overpriced copies of old Richard Marx LPs, but I was wrong. Vortex Music & Movies is stuffed to the gills with so much interesting stock it's impossible to rummage through everything in a single visit. Owner Daren Compton (who was there when I stopped by—very friendly guy) has been collecting records for decades and had always dreamed of owning a record store...so, voila! You can read more about Daren and his Vortex on the Kirkland Reporter website here

This mysterious hippie record by Jennifer is one of the things I found in Kirkland on that fateful summer day. A bit of amateur online sleuthing this evening led to a cascade of startling revelations: This LP is the 1968 debut of Jennifer Warnes, the same lady who sang "Up Where We Belong," the love theme from AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, which I performed with Jessica at the West Valley Junior High talent show in 1983! Not only that, but Jennifer was born right here in Seattle, and she's best friends with Leonard Cohen! Further shocking revelations about the artist formerly known as "Jennifer" can be found on Wikipedia right here.

 
[ Jennifer Warnes, nowadays-ish ]

[ Vortex Music & Movies — Kirkland, Washington ]

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Polly Bergen [1930-2014]

Artist: Polly Bergen
LP: Four Seasons of Love
Song: "September In the Rain"
[ listen ]

On my weekly Wednesday evening visit to Scarecrow Video (it's 2-for-1 day) I passed by their R.I.P section and saw the collected works of recently-deceased actors like Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Joan Rivers...but I was surprised and saddened to see actress, singer, and all-around lovely lady Polly Bergen included too! She had passed away the Saturday before. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1930, Polly appeared uncredited as a singer in several films in the late '40s and early '50s, including THE MEN, starring Marlon Brando. She went on to appear in numerous movies and television shows over the following six decades. I especially like Bergen's film work in the early 1960s, when she and husband Gregory Peck are tormented by the ruthless Robert Mitchum in CAPE FEAR (1962), and when she's tormented by head nurse Joan Crawford in an insane asylum in THE CARETAKERS (1963). She's also terrific in MOVE OVER, DARLING (1963) as James Garner's randy and persistent new wife who is tormented by her husband's refusal to consummate their marriage. Garner has been stalling, you see, since his first wife, Doris Day, who he thought was lost at sea, suddenly reappears on the scene just after the wedding! This of course causes hilarious complications that involve both Don Knotts and a convertible in a car wash. Bergen's attractively packaged "Four Seasons of Love" LP was released in 1960. You can read all about her life and career on Wikipedia here and go here to read a nice obituary for Polly Bergen in the Los Angeles Times.

Polly Bergen
[ July 14, 1930 — September 20, 2014 ]
We will miss you, Polly.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alessi

Artist: Alessi
LP: Driftin'
Song: "I Don't Wanna Lose You"
[ listen ]
Song: "Space"
[ listen ]

My friend Trevor and I went to Easy Street Records & Cafe in West Seattle for breakfast yesterday, and while we were waiting for our table I rummaged through some bins and found the Alessi Brothers' third LP! The identical twin heartthrobs invited some other famous and talented musicians to join them this time around, including Seals & Crofts, Lee Ritenour, Melvin "Wah Wah" Watson....and even Paul Stanley stopped by to contribute guitars and backing vocals to one of the songs. Gene Page arranged strings on both "I Don't Wanna Lose You" and "Space," and that's the late Richie Havens contributing the non-Alessi-sounding voices on the latter. 

So does anyone else think it's odd that even though Bobby & Billy are identical twins, one has a sorta' hairy chest and the other one doesn't? I mean men weren't shaving their chests yet in 1978, were they?

[ The Alessi chests: not identical. ]
 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Violinaires

Artist: The Violinaires
LP: Live the Right Way
Song: "The Ninth Hour"
[ listen ]
Song: "When I Come"
[ listen ]

Here's a little Sunday church music for you. If they featured stuff like The Violinaires at LDS church services, I'd probably still be Mormon! The group, ofttimes officially called "Fantastic," recorded this 1968 LP six years before they made the only other Violinaires record I've found so far. "Live the Right Way" is one of the things I picked up at Domino Sound in New Orleans a few months ago (the cover seems to have taken a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina). Though nothing on the LP explicitly says so, The Violinaires' songs on this one are pretty darn fantastic. According to the notes on the back of the sleeve, the group's 1968 lineup includes tenors Robert Blair, James McCurdy, Robert Wilson and Isaiah Jones, along with baritone James Byers. That's only five, and there are six fellows shown on the cover, so I'm not sure who got shafted in the notes and why. I have, however, found two Facebook pages (here and here) and two websites for The Violinaires (one where they're fantastic, another where they're not), so I'm guessing that there may have been some drama. My hunch is that this could be one of those situations where a rift in the group caused certain members to split off to form their own alternate group, both of them claiming to be the authentic Violinaires, thereby causing much confusion and consternation. I'd probably be able to sort the whole thing out if only I could read German

(A few minutes later) - I just found some English-language info on the group here. It seems like maybe everyone's been getting along after all, which is fantastic!

[ The Fantastic Violinaires, nowadays ]