Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hiromi Go

Artist: Hiromi Go . 郷 ひろみ
LP: 7" single
Song: "Hadaka-No Venus (Naked Venus)"
[ listen ]

I figured I'd wrap the year up with my favorite of the singles Aki smuggled out of Japan for me after visiting his family in Nagasaki a few weeks ago. Hiromi Go (whose real name is actually 原武 裕美) released "Naked Venus" during a phase of reckless experimentation with his public image—in this case testing the appeal of combining the razzle-dazzle of disco with generous dashes of Perseus and Peter Pan. Hiromi first began working under the guidance of talent agency/teen idol manufacturers Johnny & Associates until eventually taking his career into his own tender-yet-capable hands. In 1999, Hiromi became known as the Japanese answer to Ricky Martin after covering the closeted Puerto Rican's smash hit "Livin' La Vida Loca"—though Hiromi's version is inexplicably titled "Goldfinger 99." (Well, there may be some explanation, but I'm not looking it up.) You can read more about Hiromi Go on Wikipedia here, and go here to visit his official website. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Jimmy Castor Bunch

Artist: The Jimmy Castor Bunch (feat. The Everything Man)
LP: Butt of Course...
Song: "Bertha Butt Boogie"
[ listen ]
Song: "Let's Party Now"
[ listen ]

This 1974 LP by The Jimmy Castor Bunch is one of the neat things I found at Culture Clash Records in Toledo, Ohio on my road trip last summer. The multi-talented Castor, aka. "The Everything Man," builds here on themes presented in his 1972 top-ten hit "Troglodyte," where a caveman with dancin' in his veins picks up Bertha (one of the voluptuous Butt sisters) at the local lake and they boogie-oogie-oogie on down the beach. (See video clip below for further details.) The fun now continues as Bertha rises from the stump where she's been taking a breather and introduces the "Bertha Butt Boogie," which draws everyone in the neighborhood together and gives Jimmy Castor and his Bunch a #16 hit on the singles charts in the process. The song's storyline has been outlined on the back of the record sleeve in a colorful comic strip conceptualized by John Pruitt (the producer, not the porn star). You can read about funky singer-songwriter-sax player Jimmy Castor on Wikipedia here, and go here to visit his official website, where you'll find an extensive biography, discography, some music clips, and info on upcoming Jimmy Castor appearances.

The Jimmy Castor Bunch on YouTube:
[ "Troglodyte" ]

 [ Jimmy Castor ]

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kenji Sawada

Artist: Kenji Sawada . 沢田 研二
LP: 7" single
Song: "Beautiful Lady"
[ listen ]

Formerly of the '60s Japanese rock band The Tigers, Kenji Sawada was nicknamed "Julie" due to his immense affection for this famous actress and singer. According to Sawada's Wikipedia page here, it was common for Japanese pop idols of the late '60s to adopt nicknames that were, for reasons Wikipedia does not explain, often popular girl names from the English-language. An actor as well as singer, Kenji Sawada appeared in Paul Schrader's MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS (1985) and Miike Takashi's wonderfully bizarre THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS (2001), a project that was likely of particular interest to "Julie" because of its allusions to his favorite actress' most popular and enduring film.

 [ Kenji Sawada . 沢田 研二 ]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Izhar Cohen & the "Alpha-Beta"

Artist: Izhar Cohen & the "Alpha-Beta"
LP: 7" single
Song: "A-Ba-Ni-Bi"
[ listen ]

As many of you probably already know, the Eurovision Song Contest, which began in 1956, awards a country in or around the European continent a prize each year for submitting the pop song that gets stuck in the largest number of heads for the longest amount of time. Israel won the award in 1978 for Izhar Cohen's catchy "A-Ba-Ni-Bi," which was stuck in more than 783,400 peoples' heads for 77 consecutive hours. Israel has taken the top prize only twice since Cohen's victory in '78—with Gali Atari & Milk and Honey's "Hallelujah" in 1979, and again in 1998 with "Diva" by Dana International. You can find a full list of Eurovision Song Contest winners here and go here to read a bit about singer/actor Izhar Cohen and his Alpha-Beta.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honey Cone

Artist: Honey Cone
LP: Love, Peace & Soul
Song: "Ace In the Hole"
[ listen ]

Edna Wright, Shelly Clark, and Carolyn Willis recorded and performed together as Honey Cone from 1966 to 1973. Their "Love, Peace & Soul" LP from 1972 was, unfortunately, their last. Honey Cone had their biggest hit with "Want Ads," which went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1971. You can see the lovely trio performing the song on Soul Train by clicking the link below. "Ace In the Hole" was the third single to be released from "Love, Peace & Soul," but unfortunately it failed to make an appearance on either the pop or R&B charts. I know it's a little late, but I've mailed in the Hot Wax Records feedback postcard I found inside the record sleeve, listing "Ace In the Hole" as my favorite track. I think 2012 could be the ideal year for the single's successful re-release! You can read more about Honey Cone on Wikipedia here and go here to read about Hot Wax Records.

Honey Cone on YouTube:
[ "Want Ads" ]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra

Artist: Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra
LP: Christmas Day With Sammy Kaye
Song: "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"
vocals: Ray Michaels & the Kaydets
[ listen ]
Song: "Christmas Child (Loo, Loo, Loo)"
vocals: Ray Michaels & the Kaye Choir
[ listen ]

This year I'm planning to swing and sway on Christmas day with Sammy Kaye. Hip-hip-hooray! Lead vocals on the two tracks here are by the velvety-voiced Ray Michaels, whom I wasn't able to find any info about on the internet. Backing vocals are provided by Sammy Kaye's Kaydets and the Kaye Choir. You can read about Lakewood, Ohio native Sammy Kaye by clicking here.

[ Sammy Kaye: March 13, 1910 — June 2, 1987 ]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Los Tres Grandes

Artist: Los Tres Grandes
LP: Navidad Con Los Tres Grandes
Song: "Pensamientos de Navidad"
[ listen ]

Here's a little holiday treat from south of the border. Leader Julito Rodríguez was actually born in Puerto Rico, but became famous throughout Mexico and the rest of the world when he signed on as one of the Trio Los Panchos in 1952. Rodríguez left that group in the early '60s and performed as one of Los Tres Grandes (with Tato Díaz and Miguel Alcaide) from 1975 to 1983. You can read more about singer/songwriter/guitarist Julito Rodríguez on Wikipedia here. ¡Felíz Navidad!

[ Julito Rodríguez of Los Tres Grandes ]

Friday, December 23, 2011

James White

Artist: James White
LP: A Christmas Record
Song: "Christmas With Satan"
[ listen ]

There's another cute little elfin man who dresses in red, travels the globe giving people things, and who also keeps track of who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he's never been assigned his own holiday. That's right, I'm talking about Satan, and James White of James White and The Blacks (aka. singer/songwriter/saxophonist James Chance [aka. James Siegfried] of Milwaukee, Wisconsin) invites us to spend a little time with the fellow this holiday season. You can read about James White, who's been a key figure in the New York music scene since the punk/no wave movement of late 1970s, on Wikipedia here, and go here to read about ZE Records, who released this brilliant various-artists holiday variety pack back in 1982.

[ James White / James Chance ]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kurtis Blow

Artist: Kurtis Blow
LP: 12" single
Song: "Christmas Rappin'"
[ listen ]

Christmas just isn't Christmas without eggnog, snow, Christmas lights, and Kurtis Blow. You can read about Kurtis on Wikipedia here, where I've just learned that he was the very first rap artist signed to a major label, and that his name gets mentioned in a passage of formerly indecipherable lyrics to one of my favorite Tom Tom Club songs.

 [ Jolly Ole' St. Blow ]

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gospel Starlets

Artist: Gospel Starlets
LP: The Gospel Soul of Christmas
Song: "Children Go Where I Send Thee"
[ listen ]

Here's a terrific various-artists Gospel Christmas record I came across while digging through my holiday LPs, looking for something to listen to while wrapping presents over the weekend. The cover doesn't look very promising, but things improve right away with the opening track by the Gospel Starlets. There's not much info about the Starlets on the internet, but I did find this discography for Springboard International Records, of which Mistletoe Records was a subsidiary. (The discography says the label was based in Los Angeles, but the back of my record says their offices were in Rahway, New Jersey.) At the Steve Hoffman forums website I learned that LPs on the Springboard and Mistletoe labels had been staples in record departments at drug and grocery stores all across America in the 1970s. You can get your own copy of "The Gospel Soul of Christmas" for about 10€ here or listen to it on Rhapsody here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Artist: Chanels
LP: 7" single
Song: "Runaway"
[ listen ]

I didn't know what to think when I saw this 1980 single by the Chanels that my friend Aki picked up for me in Japan last month. The Chanels probably meant to pay tribute to popular American doo-wop groups of the 1950s with their vintage sound and style, but it's alarming to see someone performing in blackface more than fifty years after the demise of Vaudeville. I have to admit I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to the history of relations between the peoples of Africa and Japan, so I wasn't sure exactly how offended I should be. I tried doing a little research on the web, but all I found was this page at "Yahoo! Answers" where some guy named Brad wonders why there are so many black people in Japan, and then a black guy named Marvin who lived in Osaka for six months chimes in with some theories. Neither Marvin nor others who've left comments on the page suggest that some of the black people Brad's been seeing might actually be Japanese men in heavy makeup.