Friday, April 30, 2010

David Naughton

Artist: David Naughton
LP: 7" single
Song: "Makin' It"
[ listen ]

Here's something to help get the weekend started off on the right foot. In the flop 1979 TV series "Makin' It," which was evidently modeled after SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, David Naughton plays Billy Manucci, a disco king at the local dance club by night who works at the Tasty Treats ice cream parlor during the day. When his show got canceled after just 8 episodes, Naughton went on to appear in numerous other TV shows and in lots of movies too, including HOT DOG...THE MOVIE in 1984 and the captivating sci-fi rape-revenge fantasy thriller STEEL AND LACE, released in 1991. Naughton is probably best known, however, for his star turn in the 1981 horror cult classic, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Orchids

Artist: The Orchids
LP: The Orchids
Song: "When Does Love Turn Out Right"
[ listen ]

If the music on this 1980 LP by The Orchids had half the pizzaz as the ladies' outfits on the cover, this record would be dynamite. Unfortunately, the songs are rather limp and tend to shift gears just when they start building momentum. Still, there are highlights, such as the album's single, "When Does Love Turn Out Right," during which one of the Lauries decides to expand her dating circle to include members of the band's male fan base. On their MySpace page here, The Orchids call themselves "Rock's Charlie's Angels," and that makes a lot of sense. From left to right: Kelly, Jill, Sabrina, Julie, and that's Kris down in front. Tiffany, not pictured, plays tambourine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Katrina and the Waves

Artist: Katrina and the Waves
LP: 7" single
Song: "Que Te Quiero"
[ listen ]

In the USA, Katrina and the Waves are mainly known for their 1985 hit "Walking on Sunshine." But after listening to "Que Te Quiero," which only made it to #71 on the Billboard singles chart later that same year, you'll realize that the "one-hit-wonder" label the group got stuck with wasn't caused by any deficiency on their part, but was actually due to the dreadful musical tastes of that large and idiotic group known as the American public. You can read about Katrina and the Waves here and here, and see the chart history of all their US singles here. "Que Te Quiero" is an infectious love song about a young "captain's daughter" who, despite everyone's warnings, travels "south of the border" and ends up falling in love with a boy down in Mexico. For some reason I always imagine the song to be the personal story of first love as sung by Vicki Stubing from "The Love Boat."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Del Huff

Artist: Del Huff
LP: Del Huff on the Cordovox
Song: "All That Thrills My Soul"
[ listen ]
Song: "New Life In Jesus/Power In the Blood"
[ listen ]

According to the liner notes on the back of this 1977 Del Huff LP, when someone asks you "What is a Cordovox? Is it an accordion? Is it an organ?", you should answer with an enigmatic "Yes!" so that they still won't know what a Cordovox is. In order to understand the Cordovox, we must take a closer look.

And if we're going to unravel the mysteries of the Cordovox, it's essential we take a close and careful look at the sort of man who would play such an instrument. 

My early morning web search turned up this page, where you can click on the "Cordovox" organ stop to read about the instrument's history and uses and see pictures of various models of the Cordovox (none of which looks much like the Cordovox above). There's even more information on the Cordovox on Google Answers here. Unfortunately, nobody on the internet seems willing to discuss what transpired once people like Del Huff began using the Cordovox for religious purposes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Friends of Distinction

Artist: The Friends of Distinction
LP: Grazin'
Song: "Grazing In the Grass"
[ listen ]
Song: "Eli's Comin'"
[ listen ]

This 1969 Friends of Distinction LP is one of the neat things I found at the little shop in Grants Pass, Oregon while passing through a few weeks ago. The store didn't have a listening station, but the LP cover alone was worth the $3 I paid. One of the best tracks on the record is "Grazing In the Grass," a catchy number that was the group's first top ten hit, and which brings to mind one of my favorite Pizzicato Five songs. Another favorite here is "Eli's Comin'," a cover of a Laura Nyro song. A few years ago I bought a disappointing Laura Nyro tribute CD on which 14 popular female singers each transformed one of Nyro's songs into a bowl of cold, adult-contemporary oatmeal. But the Friends of Distinction don't let Nyro down, actually building upon the musical energy and excitement of her song. You can read more about The Friends of Distinction (Floyd Butler, Harry Elston, Jessica Cleaves, Barbara Love) on Wikipedia here, with liner notes, a list of musicians contributing to the LP and a photo of the group grazing in the grass included below.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ethel Ennis

Artist: Ethel Ennis
LP: This Is Ethel Ennis
Song: "The Moon Was Yellow (And the Night Was Young)"
[ listen ]
Song: "Night Club"
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Song: "Love, Don't Turn Away"
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I already had a few Ethel Ennis records in my colletion when I found this 1964 LP by the Baltimore native on my trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. Those others are great stuff, but I have to say that, with its sultry beatnik vibe, this one really takes the cake. Ethel's throaty voice makes me dream, laugh, tingle! You might even say it lifts me up and sends me flying. You can read about Ethel Ennis here and here and the LP liner notes and pictures are included here:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alberta Hunter

Artist: Alberta Hunter
LP: Remember My Name
Song: "You Reap Just What You Sow"
[ listen ]
Song: "Remember My Name"
[ listen ]

This weekend they're doing an Alan Rudolph retrospective at SIFF Cinema, showing two of his films each night as double-features. I was excited to see that they were screening a film of his from 1978 called REMEMBER MY NAME, which has never been released on video or DVD. In fact, I'd never even heard of it. The film stars Geraldine Chaplin and Anthony Perkins, two actors I like quite a bit, and includes early performances by Jeff Goldblum and Alfre Woodard. I rounded up some cinema buddies from the new book group I joined a few months ago and off we went to the movies.

We were doubly excited to discover that Alan Rudolph was actually in Seattle and would be introducing REMEMBER MY NAME as well as sticking around afterward to talk about the film and answer questions from the audience. We learned that this was Rudolph's second film (after WELCOME TO L.A. in 1976—he evidently doesn't count his two previous horror films, PREMONITION [1972] and THE BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD [1974]) and that shooting on the film was begun even before he and producer Robert Altman had scraped together the funds to finish it. Columbia Pictures showed interest while the production was underway and bought the film rights, sight unseen. Once they watched the finished product, however, they realized it wasn't really their sort of thing and they scrapped all plans for the film's release. Some small company offered to show the film in theaters, but they could only afford one city a year—so REMEMBER MY NAME ended up being screened in approximately seven U.S. cities over the course of five years. It reportedly had a successful debut on television on one of the early cable channels in Los Angeles and was an arthouse hit over in France, but otherwise REMEMBER MY NAME has pretty much dropped off the radar. 

That's a real shame, since it's a brilliant, funny little film that features an incredible central performance by Geraldine Chaplin; it's one of her best. She plays Emily—a nutty, beautiful, unbalanced-but-intelligent woman who's just done time in prison on a murder charge. Now free, she gives herself a makeover, takes a job at a rinky-dink drug store and begins stalking her ex-husband (Anthony Perkins) and his new wife, making their lives miserable and perhaps even putting them in danger. Songs by 83-year-old blues singer Alberta Hunter (who you can read all about here) are used to terrific effect throughout the film, and when I saw in the closing credits that the soundtrack had once been available, I remarked to my friend that it would be a great thing to find on LP. Only then did I suddenly recall that I'd found a film soundtrack at a used record store here in Seattle about a year ago that featured lots of blues tracks by an elderly female singer. I'd never heard of the film, but I liked the cast and thought the music was neat, so I added it to my collection. So I went home last night and checked my shelf and, sure enough, I was delighted to discover that I already owned the soundtrack to REMEMBER MY NAME. Up above are a couple songs from the film, and here are the pictures and notes from the back of the LP:

[ Alberta Hunter ]

[ Geraldine Chaplin ]

 [ Anthony Perkins & Geraldine Chaplin ]

 [ Anthony Perkins ]

 [ Alberta Hunter: April 1, 1895 — October 17, 1984 ]

Friday, April 23, 2010

Five Letters

Artist: Five Letters
LP: 7" single
Song: "Ma Keen Dawn" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Have a Good Day America" 
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About eight years ago I stumbled upon a collection of over 50 early '80s European 7" singles  (mostly from France) that someone had dumped at a record store in Seattle's University District neighborhood. They were just .25¢ each, so I bought them all. This 1980 French single by Five Fingers (duo Claude Vallois and Denis Desrouvres) was one of the bunch. I've included the b-side here too, since Animal from The Muppet Band seems to be handling lead vocals on that one. Have a good day, America!
and ps: Happy 55th birthday to Judy Davis!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

First Choice

Artist: First Choice
LP: The Player
Song: "Guess What Mary Jones Did" 
[ listen ]

Things ain't been the same since Mary Jones came to town. It didn't take me long to see what she was putting down. She only came into my house when she knew damn well I wasn't home. Asking for flour, she stayed for an hour and soon my man was gone! If you want to know more, go here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sande & Greene Fun-Time Band

Artist: The Sande & Greene Fun-Time Band
LP: The Ol' Calliope Man at the Fair
Song: "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" 
[ listen ]

Here's a delightful little something to bring you the cheery pleasures of the county fair—even though it's the wrong time of year and even though it might be gloomy and raining today in your city too and even though you might be stuck in a European airport because of Icelandic ashes in the sky. I've always thought that a "surrey with the fringe on top" was some sort of sugary, foo-foo lemon dessert, but now I realize it's actually one of these. Here's a picture of a calliope, here's one option if I decide I never want to hear this record again, and below you'll find the liner notes from this 1961 Sande & Greene Fun-Time Band LP, which have me wondering: do homemade pies and jams give off a different kind of smell when they're competing for a prize?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dottie West

Artist: Dottie West
LP: Dottie West Sings
Song: "You're the Only World I Know"
[ listen ]

Born into a poor family in McMinnville, Tennessee in 1932, Dottie West (aka. Dorothy Marie Marsh) was physically and sexually abused by her father for many years before she finally got him sent to prison when she was just 17 years old. Dottie's interest in music led to work with The Cookskins and The Kay-Dots before she finally launched her solo career in the early 1960s. West was an inspiration to singers like Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, as she was the first female country singer to win a Grammy—for her hit single "Here Comes My Baby" in 1964. Dottie's popularity began to wane in the early 1970s, but Kenny Rogers helped change that with a series of duets they took to the top of the charts together toward the end of the decade. West's career was further transformed in the late '70s and early '80s when she suddenly turned into the Nashville version of Ann-Margret. The incredible  life and career of Dottie West, which you can read about here, came to a sudden and tragic end in 1991 with an incident that reminds us once and for all that you should never, ever, encourage an octogenarian to drive 30mph over the speed limit.

 [ Dottie West: October 11, 1932 — September 4, 1991 ]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Elvis Presley

Artist: Elvis Presley
LP: Elvis Sings Flaming Star
Song: "Flaming Star"
[ listen ]
Song: "All I Needed Was the Rain"
[ listen ]

What could I possibly say about Elvis Presley that 500 million screaming fans don't already know?—aside from mentioning that Elvis and I both ate at this restaurant in the small town of Kalama, WA—he way back in 1962 and I way back in March. I usually pass over the vast bin of Elvis Presley records found at every used record store, figuring there's not much there for me to discover. I'm wrong, of course, since he's got lots of great songs I've never heard before... like these two here. According to notes on the back of this 1969 LP, it had been previously released on Camden Records, and this pressing was made from the RCA Corporation's masters. If you have a few dozen hours to kill, you can click here to read all about the life and career of Elvis Presley, arguably the most popular entertainer in the history of planet Earth.

 [ Elvis Presley: January 8, 1935 — August 16, 1977 ]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hank Snow

Artist: Hank Snow
LP: Spanish Fire Ball and Other Great Hank Snow Stylings
Song: "'Cross the Brazos at Waco"
[ listen ]

Born in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1914, Hank Snow ran away from home and an abusive stepfather at age 12, taking up work as a cabin boy on a fishing boat. After ordering a $6 guitar from Eaton's Department Store, he began singing and strumming (and yodeling) and eventually made his way to the stages of Canada's largest cities—and then finally, to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. You can read all about the life and career of Hank Snow, see his entire discography and learn how he helped launch the career of a young Elvis Presley on Wikipedia here. The liner notes (and some drawings of Spanish Fireballs) from Hank's 1967 Latin-influenced LP are included here:

[ Hank Snow: May 9, 1914 — December 20, 1999 ]