Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warren Barker and His Orchestra

 Artist: Warren Barker and His Orchestra
LP: William Holden Presents a Musical Touch of Far Away Places
Song: "Junk City Hong Kong"
[ listen ]

Here are some exotic sounds from the Orient, courtesy of orchestra leader Warren Barker, actor William Holden, and producer Bill Stewart. The song "Junk City Hong Kong" should conjure up images of a city filled with this kind of junk, of course, rather than this kind or even this kind, and it features lots of unusual instruments that were dragged up out of Bill Holden's basement. He found some of them while making the film LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING, which features Holden as a war correspondent stationed in China who falls in love with a beautiful-but-practical "Eurasian" nurse, played by Jennifer Jones. Incidentally, I just watched the film last week, and it's a real four-hankie sudser—sort of an ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS set in Hong Kong. As for Warren Barker, he was born in Oakland, California in 1923, studied at UCLA, then worked in film and television for many years. He's the genius behind that little tinkling xylophone sound whenever Samantha wiggles her nose to work some magical mischief on "Bewitched," and he also wrote the "I'm a Little Bit Country, I'm a Little Bit Rock-n-Roll" theme song for "The Donny & Marie Show." You can read more about Warren Barker on the Space Age Pop website here, and read William Holden's notes for Barker's 1959 "Far Away Places" LP below. And speaking of far away places, I'll be galavanting around Ohio for the next few weeks, visiting a bunch of charmingly rusty old cities while gathering up the Buckeye State's most thrilling, unusual, and reasonably-priced records along the way. I'll be back in mid-August to share all the wonderful things I've found.

[ Warren Barker: April 16, 1923 — August 3, 2006 ]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Duke Jordan

Artist: Duke Jordan
LP: Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Song: "Jazz Vendor"
[ listen ]

Before there was this movie adaptation, this one, and of course this one too, French filmmaker Roger Vadim scandalized all of France (not an easy thing to do) with his 1959 film version of the shocking 1782 novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos. According to Wikipedia,  "it is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals (and ex-lovers) who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games. According to the liner notes on the back of this LP, it seems there may have been some confusion as to who actually wrote the music for Vadim's film, with jazz pianist Duke Jordan receiving due credit in 1962, three years after the movie was released. You can read more about Duke Jordan on Wikipedia here, and find the informative notes from his 1960 "Flight to Jordan" LP on the Hard Bop website here.

[ Irving Sidney "Duke" Jordan: April 1, 1922 — August 8, 2006 ]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Morino Reiko

Artist: Morino Reiko
LP: I Remember Japan
Song: "Kiyora Ni Sakeru"
[ listen ]

In this lovely ballad taken from a hit Japanese radio drama, Morino Reiko remembers Japan in ¾ time. "I Remember Japan" must have been a bittersweet phrase in the years after the USA obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atom bombs at the end of WWII. Sadly, the phrase can be recycled to use again this year after Mother Nature obliterated several more Japanese cities with her earthquakes and tsunamis on March 11th. You can go here to see the full track list for this various artists LP that I'm guessing is from the mid-to-late 1950s.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Percy Dixon and His Merry Boys

Artist: Percy Dixon and His Merry Boys
LP: Scandal In Montego Bay
Song: "Kinsey Report"
[ listen ]

Here's an old Jamaican calypso ditty from 1964 about Alfred Kinsey and his revolutionary indoor-sports reports, "Sexual Behavior In the Human Male" (1948) and "Sexual Behavior In the Human Dame" (1953). The famed biologist is also known for creating the Kinsey Scale, where a rating of 0 means a person is exclusively heterosexual and a rating of 6 mans they're exclusively homosexual, with many people rating somewhere in between. The gentleman on the cover of this album, for example, is a Kinsey 5. Notes and photos from the back of the LP are included below.

[ Percy Dixon and His Merry Boys ]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

G.C. Cameron

Artist: G.C. Cameron
LP: Love Songs & Other Tragedies
Song: "If You Don't Love Me"
[ listen ]

G.C. Cameron was born in Jackson, Mississippi on September 21, 1945, the day my father celebrated his 3rd birthday. After serving with the Marines in the Vietnam War, Cameron joined Motown act The Spinners as lead singer before going on to a solo career in 1971. Known as the man with "six different voices," G.C. had the ability to sound like a variety of popular artists of the day—like Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, and even Carol Burnett. You can read more about the life and career of G.C. Cameron here, where you'll learn what other well-known group the talented and handsome singer hooked up with in 2003. The opening track on his 1974 "Love Songs & Other Tragedies" LP, "If You Don't Love Me" was produced and arranged by Stevie Wonder.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Girls

Artist: The Girls
LP: Girl Talk
Song: "S-E-S-E-X"
[ listen ]
Song: "Women and Men"
[ listen ]
Song: "Girl Talk"
[ listen ]

Prince had Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, and Rick James had his Mary Jane Girls, so why shouldn't André Cymone get in on the action too? Released in 1984, The Girls' terrific "Girl Talk" LP was produced by Cymone, who also wrote all of the songs. The three Girls take turns on lead vocals, so I've included tracks that showcase each of them: Germain Brooks sings on "S-E-S-E-X" (not sure what that means exactly—it kinda' sounds like this). That's Sheila Rankin relaying the story of "Women and Men," and Doris Ann Rhodes handles lead vocals on the LP's title track. You can read about André Cymone here, where you'll also find another neat photo of The Girls and you can listen to an unreleased version of their song "Don't Waste My Time." Germain Brooks even chimes in with a comment! Ah-ha, also just found this page dedicated to The Girls, with more info on the group's history from Germain Brooks.

 [ The Girls: Germain Brooks, Doris Ann Rhodes, Sheila Rankin ]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Anestos Athounasiou and His Ensemble

Artist: Anestos Athounasiou and His Ensemble
LP: Music For Belly Dancing: Instrumental Music of the Near East
Song: "Arapines (Arabian Girl)"
[ listen ]

The weekend is here, so I imagine everyone will be heading out to engage in the Middle Eastern form of dancing popularly referred to as "belly dancing." Here's a little song to help you practice. There's not much info on Anestos on the web, but I do know he's got a couple of debonaire fellas in his ensemble named Georgos and Visilios, and the lovely lady featured on the cover is British Jewish belly dancer Sultana Noga. You can listen to more of Anestos Athounasiou's fabulous oud playing here, and buy your own copy of his "Music For Belly Dancing" LP on vinyl here or on CD here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Les Baxter

Artist: Les Baxter
LP: Moog Rock: Greatest Classical Hits
Song: "Chopin: Etude in E"
[ listen ]

Listed on the LP as "Chopin: Prelude in E," this popular piece by the famous Polish composer is actually one of his etudes. I was looking forward to hearing how Les would handle the song's difficult middle section on the Moog—but he had no problem with it at all. He just skipped it entirely! Les Baxter is one of my favorite musicians, not only for his wonderful music, but also because he's one of those artists who, just when you think you've surely seen all of his LPs in various dollar bins and at thrift stores, you suddenly come across a dozen more! As Les himself once said about his career, "I never turn anything down." You can read more about Les Baxter and see his discography here, and find the liner notes from his 1968 "Moog Rock" LP here:

 [ Les Baxter: March 14, 1922 — January 15, 1996 ]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Overheard when: 10:18pm on Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Overheard where: Madison Pub at 1315 East Madison Street in Seattle, WA [map]
Overheard who: three moderately handsome, late 20s/early 30s gay male caricatures, complete with granny-voice and fluttery hands, sitting next to me while I played Buzztime Trivia.

Overheard what: 
Gay Guy #1: "Have you ever thought about having children?"
Gay Guy #2: "I want to have kids, and I know I could adopt, but I really want to have one of my own. I want my kids to have my genes."
Gay Guy #3: "I know! I'd like to have at least one of my own. When I look at him, I want to see myself."
Gay Guy #2: "When I look into his eyes, I want to see MY eyes!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Buzz Martin

Artist: Buzz Martin
LP: Where There Walks a Logger, There Walks a Man
Song: "There Walks a Man"
[ listen ]
Song: "Fire Danger"
[ listen ]

This 1968 album from "The Singing Logger" of the Pacific Northwest is another one of the things I found in Mount Vernon on my way up to Bellingham last weekend. Born in a tent near Coon Holler, Oregon in 1928, Buzz was temporarily stuck blind as a child. He later regained his sight again and went on to become the "poet laureate of the timber industry" with his songs about the joys, the wonders, and the heartaches of the hard-living American logger. You can read more about the life and career of Buzz Martin here, buy "Where There Walks a Logger..." together with "A Logger's Reward" on CD here, and find the LP liner notes by Dick Bond of radio KGAY (!) below.

[ Buzz Martin: September 15, 1928 — August 1, 1983 ]

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Hondells

Artist: The Hondells
LP: Go Little Honda
Song: "A Guy Without Wheels"
[ listen ]
Song: "Rip's Bike"
[ listen ]

My friend Refugio and I had a great time up in Bellingham this past weekend, and I'm pleased to say I didn't buy a single record there! Actually, I told Refugio to keep me away from the city's record stores, since I'd already given the small town of Mount Vernon an economic stimulus package in the form of a record-buying binge on our way up to Bellingham—but not before we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Mount Vernon Cafe & Lounge, of course. One of the things I picked up was this awesome 1964 surf-music LP by The Hondells, featuring songs with vocals, as well as some without. The group didn't actually exist when the song "Little Honda" began gaining popularity, so producer Gary Usher quickly threw one together with Ritchie Burns, one of the "Little Honda" backing vocalists, in the lead. Burns recruited a few friends, who had nothing at all to do with the record, to pose as fellow members of The Hondells on the LP sleeve, and the album was released in time to cash in on southern California's Honda motorbike craze of the early 1960s. You can read about all of this here and here, see The Hondells perform their bouncy top ten hit "Little Honda" on "Shindig" with the link below, and find the LP notes and photos after that.

The Hondells on YouTube: