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 ]