Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Audrey Landers

Artist: Audrey Landers
LP: 7" single
Song: "Manuel Goodbye"
[ listen ]

Born in Philadelphia in 1956, 1958, 1959, or 1960, Audrey Landers came to the attention of audiences everywhere when she began playing Afton Cooper on the popular late-night television drama "Dallas" in 1981. Audrey's 1984 "Manuel Goodbye" single (not to be confused with the theme song for this 1977 French softcore erotica movie of similar title) was one the biggest hits of her musical career. According to Wikipedia, Audrey and her mother, Ruth Landers, recently created a fashion line called the Landers STAR Collection. Speaking of fashion, I'm launching efforts in my local Seattle neighborhood to revive the popularity of big '80s hair, but for men. Plans are set for the trend to go national by summer of 2013, then on to Europe. If you think you can help, please send me an email.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

La Compagnie Creole

Artist: La Compagnie Creole
LP: Vive Le Douanier Rousseau!
Song: "C'est Bon Pour Le Moral"
[ listen ]

Turntable Treasures and House of Records is the other store I visited on my trip to Tacoma last Friday. They've moved around the corner from where they were the last time I was there about seven or eight years ago, but their new spot is as cluttered and junky as ever, and it feels like they've been stuck there for decades. Unfortunately, the older fellows who run the place evidently got wind of the news that vinyl sales have been on the upswing and that collecting has become popular with hipsters, and they're hoping to get themselves a big slice of the vinyl-sales pie. The first bin of records I thumbed through was filled with beat-up thrift-store staples like this and this and this, all of them marked at $20 apiece. (The friendly fellow behind the counter said to watch their Facebook page for info about featured sales on Sundays, so maybe those records are offered at a 190% discount at the end of every week to compete with the Good Will down the street.) But as is usually the case in stores where battered Huey Lewis records are going (or not going) for $15, you can usually find a few reasonably-priced treasures if you dig deep enough into the dustiest corners of the place. This lively and colorful 1983 LP by La Compagnie Creole is one of the neat things I found stuffed into the "World" section beneath the bins of "Pop and Rock," in the shelves near shoppers' kneecaps. Originally from French Guiana and the French West Indies, La Compagnie Creole are known for their happy-go-lucky music accompanied by joyful themes like rainbows, sunshine, and harmless animals, with a special emphasis on the Parakeet. You can read about them here. And then go here to read about La Compagnie Creole.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Ravens

Artist: The Ravens
LP: The Ravens
Song: "Love Is the Thing"
[ listen ]
Song: "Don't Mention My Name"
[ listen ]
Song: "Come a Little Bit Closer"
[ listen ]

I took the day off work last Friday and drove down to Tacoma where I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Marcia's Silver Spoon Cafe before going to see the incredible HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire In American Portraiture exhibit currently on display at the Tacoma Art Museum. My favorite portrait was the one made of candies ("untitled" by Felix Gonzalez-Torres), but the entire show provides a fascinating historical overview of the lives and works of artists and public figures who challenged gender and sexual norms in American society throughout the 20th century. If you're gonna' be anywhere near Tacoma between now and June 10th, you simply must go. I wasn't about to leave Tacoma without visiting a few record stores first; this collection of recordings from 1952-1954 by The Ravens is one of the wonderful things I found at Hi-Voltage Records. Formed in 1945 (or maybe 1946, it depends) by Harlem waiters Jimmy Ricks and Warren Stuttles, The Ravens had a string of hits in the late '40s and early '50s, starting an avalanche of R&B copycat groups also named after birds, including The Orioles, The Swallows, The Crows, The Swans, and The Wrens. The mellow bass voice of Jimmy Ricks (featured on "Love Is the Thing") and Joe Van Lon's glorious tenor (showcased on "Don't Mention My Name") offer a lovely variety on each of The Ravens' records, with the two lead singers backed here by Jimmy Stewart (not THAT Jimmy Stewart) and Warren Stuttles. I've also included "Come a Little Bit Closer" which has The Ravens bobbing along like a quartet of robins. You can read about The Ravens' National label recordings on the JazzWax website here, and find lots of terrific information about the history and lineup changes of the group on the Vocal Group Hall of Fame website here. The Ravens were inducted there in 1998, and they're my favorite musical discovery so far this year!

[ The Ravens ]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Robin Gibb [1949-2012]

Artist: Robin Gibb
LP: 7" single
Song: "Boys Do Fall In Love"
[ listen ]

Yet another legend of the disco era was taken from the Earth this week, with the death of Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. I'd heard the news that Robin had been in a coma and was not likely to recover, but then just a few weeks ago it was announced on the radio that he had miraculously awakened! I had visions of Robin suddenly springing from his hospital bed and dancing around the room, like Grandpa Joe in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I wistfully hoped he'd be sticking around for at least another decade. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be and now only one Bee Gee remains. Robin's 1984 "Boys Do Fall In Love" single peaked at #37, and was his last top 40 hit in the USA. You can read all about Robin Gibb's life and career on Wikipedia here, and go here to find his obituary in the New York Times.

Robin Gibb
[December 22, 1949 — May 20, 2012]
We will miss you, Robin.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Donna Summer [1948-2012]

Artist: Donna Summer
LP: 7" single
Song: "The Woman In Me"
[ listen ]

It was sad to hear last Thursday that singer Donna Summer had died—and not just because Chaka Khan had lost one of the few black women she could speak German with either. Born in Boston on the last day of 1948 with the name LaDonna Adrian Gaines,  Donna Summer rose to international stardom in the 1970s with disco hits like "Love to Love You Baby," "Last Dance," and "I Feel Love," but she first came into my life with her finger on the trigger. It was 1982, I was 13 years old, and I thought her top-ten hit "Love Is In Control" was just about the neatest thing I'd ever heard. I also loved the "Donna Summer" LP's two follow-up singles, "State of Independence," which went to #41 on the singles charts, and "The Woman In Me," which hit #33, and which I think showcases Donna's strong, beautiful voice particularly well. Summer's moving performance of my favorite Christmas carol, "O Holy Night," on the Solid Gold Christmas Special in 1982 remains one of my fondest teenage holiday memories. You can see it for yourself on YouTube here—Donna comes on about halfway through the clip. You can read all about Donna Summer's life and career here, go here for her discography, and find the New York Times obituary for The Queen of Disco here.

Donna Summer
[December 31, 1948 — May 17, 2012]
We will miss you, Donna.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Will Powers

Artist: Will Powers
LP: 7" single
Song: "Adventures In Success"
[ listen ]

The economy's finally on the upswing (unless you're in Greece), but life continues to be a challenge for millions of Americans who are still hunting for work. This 1983 Will Powers single should help. Read about Will Powers here, and go here for some personal testimonials.

Will Powers on Google Video:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Renato Salani y Su Conjunto

Artist: Renato Salani y Su Conjunto
LP: Una Noche Asi...En El Hipocampo
Song: "In Ginocchio Da Te (De Rodillas Ante Ti)"
[ listen ]

Here's a little something from yet another terrific LP by Renato Salani of Caracas, Venezuela—this time he's backed by his conjunto instead of his cuarteto, and that's his brother Julio Salani again on vocals. I looked up "Hipocampo" to find out where I'd be spending the evening—seems we're hanging with Renato in a swanky '60s Caracas nightclub called "El Hipocampo," or "The Seahorse" in English.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ray Anthony and His Orchestra

Artist: Ray Anthony and His Orchestra
LP: Young Ideas
Song: "Coquette"
[ listen ]

According to the drawing on the back of this 1957 Ray Anthony LP, one young idea—admittedly not a very good one—is to bring your records and a record player with you to the beach and set them on the ground next to your towel so people can kick sand all over them. The album's front cover shows a woman in a bathing suit laying on top of a scantily-clad man who's holding a ukulele. Other "young ideas" are undoubtedly being formulated here, but for the life of me I can't imagine what they are. Ray Anthony, who celebrated his 90th birthday this past January, was at one time married to Mamie Van Doren, who's been giving fellows young ideas for the past 60 years, and who apparently doesn't take very good care of her records either. Van Doren divorced Anthony in 1958, citing cruelty, but the candid photo I've included below reveals what was really going on in the relationship. You can read all about talented trumpeteer extraordinaire Ray Anthony on Wikipedia here.

 [ Mamie & Ray ]

Monday, May 14, 2012


Overheard when: 3:21pm on Sunday, May 13, 2012
Overheard where: SW corner of parking lot at Vashon Thriftway — 9740 SW Bank Road in Vashon, WA [map]
Overheard who: frumpy middle-aged woman in floral print shirt conversing with a dark-haired, pimply-faced youth as they climbed into their mini-van and prepared to drive away.

Overheard what: 
Woman: "Whadda ya mean we're not the mean you don't like helping people?"
Kid: "I like helping people...sometimes." 
Woman: My entire life is dedicated to helping people, in case you haven't figured that out!"
Kid (yelling): "I HAVE FIGURED THAT OUT!!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jonnie Aluani and His Orchestra

Artist: Jonnie Aluani and His Orchestra
LP: Hawaiian Interlude
Song: "Hawaiian Holiday"
[ listen ] 
Song: "Hawaiian Starlight"
[ listen ]

Here's a neat Hawaiian-rockabilly-surf-themed LP I came across in Toledo, Ohio last summer. There's no photo or information about Jonnie Aluani to be found on the web, but that might be because he doesn't really exist. Click here to visit The Atomic Attic blog where you can read about how the songs on this album have been recycled, re-packaged, and re-released by a variety of different "artists" with Hawaiian-sounding names. Even the "Hawaiian Interlude" liner notes avoid mentioning Jonnie Aluani and His Orchestra, rambling on instead about geography, the weather, the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, and the placidity of the Polynesian people. Visit The Steel Guitar Forum here to find more confusion about who's actually playing these songs and to log your own complaint about Jonnie's choppy work on steel guitar. After taking a good hard look at the LP cover, Gerald Ross of Ann Arbor, MI even goes so far as to call that lovely Hawaiian lady's ukulele-playing abilities into question.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

James Herndon and the Herndon Singers

Artist: James Herndon and the Herndon Singers
LP: James Herndon and the Herndon Singers
Song: "No Coward Soldier"
[ listen ]

God don't want no coward singer either, but James Herndon and his crew don't have to worry about that. Herndon joined the famous gospel group The Caravans in 1959 and composed a number of hits for them, including "No Coward Soldier," before leaving in 1967 to pursue a solo career. I'm pretty sure this, his second solo LP, was released by Savoy Records in 1968 or 1969. Herndon was based in Chicago when this record came out, but now he lives, preaches, and performs in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle area of North Carolina. Gospel musician Libra Boyd had a warm conversation (aka. interview) with Rev. James Herndon in September of 2011 that she's posted on her Gospel Music Fever blog here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grupa Wokalna Izabelli

Artist: Grupa Wokalna Izabelli
LP: Zimowe Strofy
Song: "Nad Domem Gwiazda"
[ listen ]

If Grupa Wokalna Izabelli looks familiar, it might be because they're also known as Isabella's Vocal Group, which is also known as The Exotic Trio, which is also known as Tercet Egzotyczny, which I featured here on the blog back at the end of August. I came across that album at Blue Arrow Records in Cleveland during my Ohio road trip last summer, but the group's 1972 "Zimowe Strofy (Winter Stanzas)" LP is one of the things I found at Square Records in Akron a few days later. The lovely and talented Izabella Skrybant continues to perform with her trio today, while enjoying an active life of luxury that includes biking, gardening, yoga, swimming, and hanging out with friends. Izabella wears two false fingers on her right hand—and if I could understand Polish I'd probably be able to find out why—a sledding accident, perhaps? You can read about Izabella Skrybant in Polish here, go here to find some English-language info about her group, and the Polish and English-language LP liner notes are both included below.

[ Izabella Skrybant in 2010 ]