It's finally December, and you know what that means. Christmas music! This wild and wintry 1950 holiday release from the prolific Mr. Waring and His Pennsylvanians is one of the things I found a few weeks ago at the local Ballard Goodwill. Notes from the back of the record are included below, and you can read all about Fred Waring, his Pennsylvanians, his banjo, and his blender on Wikipedia here. There's even more Fred Waring info and lots of neat photos on the Penn State Alumni Library website here. Can you imagine belonging to a fraternity that hires a group called "Waring's Banjo Orchestra" to entertain at their parties? Now that's MY kind of frat party!
With November coming to an end, the thermometer's mercury has started to drop and my heating costs are going sky high. I put Harvey Scales' "Hot Foot" LP on this morning in order to keep myself from freezing. I ended up ruining a perfectly good pair of shoes, but the flames did keep my small apartment at a cozy temperature for about 45 minutes. Known as Milwaukee's "Godfather of Soul" for his work with The Seven Sounds in the 1960s, Harvey Scales was co-writer of "Disco Lady," the very first platinum single in the history of the USA. Released in 1979, "Hot Foot: A Funque Dizco Opera" was Scales' second album on the Casablanca label, after "Confidential Affair" from the year before. Much to his fans' chagrin, his followup LP didn't appear until 1997. There's more information about Harvey Scales, his career, and his Seven Sounds on Wikipedia here.
I've been weeding records out of the vocalist section of my collection over the past few days and, as usual, I've re-discovered some gems along the way. Marian Montgomery's 1963 debut LP is one of them. A few years after the release of "Swings For Winners and Losers," Marian went to England to perform. She fell in love there with pianist Laurie Holloway, they married, and she never came back. She eventually changed the spelling of her name to "Marion," and she and her ivory-tickling husband became fixtures in the London jazz scene. It was a long road from Marian's birthplace in Natchez, Mississippi to the swinging London of the '60s; you can read about Marian's journey down that road on Wikipedia here. The lovely Ms. Montgomery also talks about her early life and career on the Jazz Professional website here (I especially enjoyed reading that she always used to hang out in record stores), and there's an interview with her on the back of this album that I've included below.
[ Marian Montgomery: November 17, 1934 — July22, 2002 ]
Here's an interesting musical artifact from 1980 that I picked up in the dollar bins a few years ago. It isn't just the men of Ozz's captivating rock 'n roll facial expressions that drew me to this record...
...but also their fabulous, colorful style. Guitarist Gregg Parker simultaneously channels Jimi Hendrix and Lionel Richie, with a hint of Evelyn Champagne King, whereas vocalist Alexis T. Angel draws inspiration from Joan Jett and Axl Rose, with just a touch of the windswept radiance of Cheryl Ladd. There's a "No Prisoners" album review on the Glory Daze Music website here, some more Ozz info on Mountain of Power here, and album notes and lyrics are included below. Best of all is Alexis T. Angel's remarkable music video for "Diamonds," included below. Summary: A handsome (naked) musician dozes off in bed while trying to write a song about diamonds. Slipping into a deep sleep, his mind fills with glitz, glamor, razzle-dazzle, jewelry, and limousines. This causes him to have an intense wet dream. When he awakens, he's magically wearing an expensive bejeweled choker. He then makes a phone call. The end.
Lots of folk music from the 1960s is really upbeat—about people wanting to teach the world to sing, or someone having the whole world in their hands, and stuff like that. The Gaslight Singers have some songs of that sort too, but something I admire about them is that they're brave enough and honest enough to also include a few songs on this 1964 LP that show that they've had it up to here with all the lovey-dovey stuff. They've entered the realm of shadows. In "This Life I'm Living," they accuse an old woman of lying and hope she dies. "Thieving Stranger" explores options for punishment like hanging a man from a tree by a necktie, sticking him in a well, or tying him up in the blazing sunshine til he's burned to a crisp. Now I'm not a violent person, but it's true that one eventually gets fed up with trying to make the world a better place with sunshine and love, and darker options do cross the mind. The Gaslight Singers are simply telling it like it is, whereas most folk groups of the era were living with their heads in the clouds. Martha Velez, the lovely female Gaslight Singer, has an exciting and unusual vibrato that's perfectly suited to folk music of the '60s, though it may have been a tougher sell in the decades that followed. (It's strange to imagine that a particular style of vibrato would go out of style, but it happens. Ask Jeanette MacDonald.) After releasing several solo LPs in the '60s and '70s, Martha went on to appear in film and TV. In fact, she had a primary role in director Miguel Arteta's debut film, STAR MAPS, which was one of the very first movies I watched in theaters after moving to Seattle back in 1997. You can read more about The Gaslight Singers on their website here, and go here to read more about singer and actress Martha Velez. Liner notes and photos from the back of "Turning It On!" are included below.
I found myself in downtown Ballard recently with about an hour to kill, but decided to spend that time shopping for records instead.
Good thing, since I came across this terrific 1966 LP that's Jan-packed with terrific country music. Not exactly a household name today, Jan Howard was honored as Billboard Magazine's Most Promising New Country Female Vocalist of 1960, after which she signed to Decca Records, had a number of country hits in the 1960s and early '70s, sang with Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette, talked back to Patsy Cline, and appeared in a motion picture feature with Faye Dunaway. And she ain't done yet—she's only 83! You can read more about the life and career of Ms. Howard (no relation to this guy) on Wikipedia here, and go here to find Jan's recipes for corn muffins, Coke roast, peanut butter goo goo cluster brownies...and more!
[ Jan Howard celebrates a birthday at Watermark Restaurant in Nashville. ]
Argentinian singer Ricardo Ceratto wore neat shirts (equally stylish in color or black & white) and enjoyed much musical success in his home country as well as in Mexico before he converted to Christianity in the 1980s. As we all know, Christians aren't supposed to be sexy or interesting, and they're not supposed to have hit records, so Ricardo donned some boring duds, started releasing records like this one, and discontinued the distribution of his earlier, non-religious LPs. I liked you better the other way, Ricardo. I hope God gave that cool shirt back to you as a reward when you got up to heaven. You can read about Mr. Ceratto in Spanish here, in English here, and go here to listen to one of his songs about God.
[ Ricardo Ceratto: July 18, 1939 — March 29, 1995 ]