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 ]

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Millie Small

Artist: Millie Small (The Blue Beat Girl)
LP: My Boy Lollipop
Song: "Sweet William"
[ listen ]
Song: "Don't You Know"
[ listen ]

This past Saturday my friend Elizabeth and I attended a health and safety resource fair for work at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Federal Way, a suburb about 20 miles south of Seattle. Along with resource information for the community, the event featured delicious Mexican food and dancers wearing colorful dresses in the tradition of the Jalisco region of Mexico! I was able to get some neat pictures of the dancers with the camera on my phone.

I'm not sure where or when, but at some point I'd heard about a record store located in a Federal Way strip mall—advertized as "the only record store between Seattle and Tacoma!" After several u-turns, Elizabeth and I found Al's Music (Games & Video) after our outreach event and both of us left the place with musical treasures in our hands. (I had to dig through lots of Cher and Dan Fogelberg albums, but it was worth it.) My best find is probably this 1964 ska-pop record by talented Jamaican youngster Millie Small. Born in Gibraltar, Jamaica on October 8, 1948 (LP liner notes) or on October 6, 1946 (Wikipedia), Millie won a local talent contest when she was 12 years old. She was "discovered" by producer Chris Blackwell who became Millie's manager and legal guardian (!). Chris took Millie to London and, before long, her hit single "My Boy Lollipop" was sailing up the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The song peaked at #2 on the British and the American pop charts, and it's even been featured in relatively recent Hollywood movies like this one and this one. Ms. Small's subsequent singles didn't match the success of "Lollipop," but she continued to record and perform into the early 1970s. Rumor (well, Wikipedia) has it that Millie may be staging a comeback, planning her first performances in over 40 years. I hope it's true. More information about Millie can be found in the liner notes, included below. 

Millie Small on YouTube:
[ "My Boy Lollipop" ]
[ Millie Small — The Blue Beat Girl ]

[ Al's Music, Games, Video — Federal Way, Washington ]

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Artist: Clout
LP: Clout
Song: "Without Love"
[ listen ]

Formed in South Africa in 1977 as an all-girl quintet, Clout took on a couple of fellas before their self-titled LP was released on the Epic label in 1979. (Have you ever seen a group where every single member looks so entirely and completely "1979"?) Clout seems to have been heavily influenced by ABBA (and why not?), though their lyrics don't seem to be quite as catchy. The group's 1977 "Substitute" single went to the top of the charts in ten countries and reached #2 in the UK, but it only climbed to #67 on the Billboard Hot 100 here in the USA. We're a tough nut to crack. Sadly, Clout called it quits just a few years later, in 1981. You can read all about Clout on Wikipedia here and go here to read still more and to watch a performance of "Substitute" that includes original Clout-er Glenda Hyam on keyboards.

  [ Ingi Herbst — drums/vocals ]
[ Sandie Robbie — guitar/vocals ]

[ Lee Tomlinson — bass/vocals ]

[ Bones Brettell — keyboards/vocals ]

[ Jenni Garson — guitar/vocals ]

[ Cindi Alter — lead vocals/guitar ]

[ Clout ]

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hobbits

Artist: The Hobbits
LP: Men and Doors—The Hobbits Communicate
Song: "Men and Doors"
[ listen ]
Song: "The Journey"
[ listen ]
Song: "Feeling"
[ listen ]

My friend Chris and I went on a little road trip getaway to the Olympic Peninsula last weekend. We visited the beautiful and fog-shrouded Olympic Mountains, stopped in quaint little towns like Port Gamble, Port Angeles, Sequim, and Port Townsend, and in the Port of Townsend I even found a nice little record store! Mixed in with a few other shops in a subterranean stone passageway, Quimper Sound has been supplying the peninsula with music since 1974. One of the best things I found there is this highly dramatic psychedelic pop record made by The Hobbits in 1968. It's not easy to find online photos of the band since annoying stuff like this keeps popping up. Fortunately, there's a photo of the group on the back of the LP, along with lots of other stuff that I've included below. You can read more about Jimmy Curtiss and The Hobbits on the allmusic website here.

 [ The Hobbits ]

 [ Quimper Sound — Port Townsend, Washington ]

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jackie Mittoo

Artist: Jackie Mittoo
LP: Let's Put It All Together
Song: "Feel Like Makin' Love"
[ listen ]
Song: "Frangipani"
[ listen ]

The last and final record store I went to on my road trip through Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana was Domino Sound Record Shack in New Orleans—off the beaten path and away from the touristy parts of town. Like most other record shops I visited in the South, this was one of the very best. I picked up so many records at Domino Sound, they had to put them in a cardboard box for me to carry them away. Though it was hard for me to choose which one record to post, I chose this 1975 Jackie Mittoo LP for two reasons: #1.) I've been working on a large jigsaw puzzle at work with my friend Beatrice, who sits at the adjoining desk. I made some exciting progress on Friday since work was slow, and this morning I awoke from a dream in which I was finding and correctly placing tiny pieces into the big jigsaw picture. So with its puzzle-themed cover, Mittoo's LP seemed a perfect fit. #2.) I really like it. Reggae isn't my favorite genre, but when it features solo electric organ it's definitely my cup of tea.

Born in Brown's Town, Jamaica in 1948, Jackie Mittoo's grandmother began teaching him to play the piano when he was just four years old. He was a member of The Skatalites in the 1960s and then emigrated to Toronto, Canada at the end of that decade. He continued to make music and played in lounges in Toronto and, though perhaps not as well known as the only Jamaican reggae musician anyone outside of Jamaica has ever heard of, Jackie Mittoo worked with some of the best in the business until his death from cancer at age 42. By then Mittoo had become known as a master of his craft. You can read about Jackie Mittoo on Wikipedia here and go here to see his complete discography—with photos!

[ Jackie Mittoo: March 3, 1948 — December 16, 1990 ]

[ Domino Sound Record Shack — New Orleans, Louisiana ]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Connie Francis & Hank Williams, Jr.

Artist: Connie Francis & Hank Williams, Jr.
LP: Connie Francis & Hank Williams, Jr. Sing Great Country Favorites
Song: "Wabash Cannonball"
[ listen ]

Before stumbling upon this wonderful 1964 duet LP filled with country standards at a cute little walk-in closet of a store called Skully'z Recordz in the French Quarter of New Orleans, I had no idea that Connie and Hank, Jr. had made a record together—and they've been out driving together too! Like peanut-butter and chocolate, Hank and Connie make a surprisingly delicious combination that truly reflects today's spirit of musical pioneering. Go here to read all about Connie Francis, here to read about Hank Williams, Jr., and there's a bit of information about this record they made together here. Liner notes from the back of the LP are included below. 

 [ Connie Francis & Hank Williams, Jr. ]

[ Skully'z Recordz — New Orleans, Louisiana ]