Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Ink Spots

Artist: The Ink Spots
LP: The Ink Spots - Vol. 2
Song: "Paper Doll" 
[ listen ]

This old Ink Spots LP is one of the ones that survived The Great Ballard Apartment Flood of 2003. Fortunately, the album cover features a bunch of unsightly ink splotches all over it, so a little water damage just blends right in. The Ink Spots had a string of wonderful hits throughout the 1940s, like "Address Unknown" (actually 1939), "Maybe" (1940), "Do I Worry?" (1941) and "The Gypsy" (1946). But unfortunately, they're one of those bands where, when they split up in the mid-1950s, the two groups that splintered off started fighting and both called themselves The Ink Spots. Then things got really confusing. Both of those groups each told two friends, and then all of those groups told two friends, and so on and so forth. Anyway, over the past 60 years there have been over 100 different groups that have named themselves The Ink Spots. In 1967, a judge finally threw up his hands and declared The Ink Spots group name to be 'public domain,' meaning anyone could then use it without legal penalty. Why, now even YOU could start a group called The Ink Spots. You can read more about the groovy original hit-makers known as The Ink Spots and their many lineup changes on Wikipedia here. There's a nifty early music video of the group performing their very first hit, "If I Didn't Care" from 1939, at the link below.

The Ink Spots on YouTube:

[ The Ink Spots ]

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #1

Artist: Melba Moore
LP: 7" single
Song: "Read My Lips" 
[ listen ]

Photographed in the same Sears studio she rented for Kashif the following year, Melba maneuvers herself into Vanity mode with a touch of sexy adult policewoman Halloween costume for the cover of "Read My Lips." This release once again fell short of entering the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #104 in the "bubbling under" section of that chart in 1985. But on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart the song went all the way to #12. Read my lips: n-u-m-b-e-r t-w-e-l-v-e. 

You can find lots of info about Melba Moore on Wikipedia here, go here to peruse her Billboard R&B singles chart history, and visit the official website for the talented and incredibly stylistically diverse Melba Moore here. To purchase a Melba Moore t-shirt or sweatshirt featuring "Read My Lips" artwork, just visit her website and click 'Online Store.'

[ Melba Moore ]

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #2

Artist: Melba Moore
LP: 7" single
Song: "Love Me Right" 
[ listen ]

Melba More deserves some right kind of loving, especially when she's in Nancy "The Facts of Life" McKeon mode, with a dose of Sheena "Sugar Walls" Easton and a dash of mid-'80s Melissa Manchester on the side. "Love Me Right" made it to #15 on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart in the summer of 1984.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #3

Artist: Melba Moore & Kashif
LP: 7" single
Song: "Love the One I'm With (A Lot of Love)" 
[ listen ]

In Von Trapp Family Singers mode, we find Melba modeling an outfit that has obviously been crafted from a set of heavy living room drapes. "Love the One I'm With (A Lot of Love)," which went to #5 on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart in 1986, brings this movie to mind when I stare at its cover. Melba certainly hasn't shown Kashif "A Lot of Love" here...and he's not even the one she's with! I don't understand why Melba didn't invite Kashif to join her at the more lavish photo-shoot with the fancy backdrop. It looks like his picture was taken at Sears.

[ Kashif: Boy on the Side ]

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #4

Artist: Melba Moore
LP: 7" single
Song: "Livin' For Your Love" 
[ listen ]

Melba does not seem to be in the best of modes here—meekly modeling a sort of Prince/Michael Jackson mishmash, with shoulder pads stolen from Mildred Pierce. Peaking at #108, "Livin' For Your Love" didn't quite crack into the Billboard Hot 100, but the song did provide Ms. Moore with her second top ten hit on the Billboard Hot R&B singles charts, sailing all the way up to #6 in the spring of 1984.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #5

Artist: Melba Moore
LP: 7" single
Song: "I'm Not Gonna Let You Go" 
[ listen ]

Melba operates smoothly in Sade mode for the sleeve of her "I'm Not Gonna Let You Go" single, which spent 10 weeks on the Billboard R&B singles charts in the summer of 1987, peaking at #26. But the longer I look at the cover the more I'm seeing shades of Sheila E. It could be the eyeliner, perhaps the dangling diamond earring, or maybe it's the glove and silky sleeve, or the set of drums peeking out from the shadows in the background. In any case, Sade + Sheila E. basically equals '80s Lady R&B Frankenstein, if you ask me. And I mean that as a good thing.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Many Modes of Melba Moore #6

Artist: Melba Moore
LP: 7" single
Song: "Keepin' My Lover Satisfied" 
[ listen ]

Here we find Melba in early-'80s Hall & Oates mode, with a few dashes of a dykier, more corporate-minded morning-person Martha Davis tossed in for good measure. "Keepin' My Lover Satisfied" peaked at #14 on the Billboard R&B singles charts in 1983, though the song failed to register on the Billboard Hot 100.

[ Melba Moore. She sees your every move. ]

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mouth & MacNeal

Artist: Mouth & MacNeal
LP: Mouth & MacNeal II
Song: "Hello-A" 
[ listen ]

Ever since I found their "How Do You Do" 45 at Omega Music in Dayton, Ohio back in 2011, I've been on the lookout for more vinyl by dynamic Dutch duo Mouth & MacNeal. This 1972 LP (not their second, as one might suppose) is one I came across at Golden Oldies here in Seattle a few weeks ago. I stuck "Hello-A" on the track list I compiled for my good friend Carrie's 40th birthday party last night and the song was a hit. Admittedly, "Hello-A," with its hand-claps and "ooh-aah, ooh-aah, ooh-aah" chorus is probably a little more me than it is she, but who doesn't love hand-claps? Read more about Big Mouth and Maggie MacNeal on Wikipedia here.

[ MacNeal & Mouth ]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cyndi Lauper

Artist: Cyndi Lauper
LP: 7" single
Song: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" 
[ listen ]

This posting may not seem very original or exciting, since every mid-'80s drill-team captain probably owned a copy of this single at some point in their career. But I bet they didn't have the picture sleeve! I'm not sure why Portrait Records bothered putting together such a snazzy sleeve for the U.S. "demonstration" version of Cyndi Lauper's first single, since they went on to release it to the public with a generic plain white sleeve instead (it still went to #2 on the pop charts). I'd never even seen a picture sleeve for the U.S. release of this song until I happened upon this one at Bop Street Records here in Ballard about a year ago—and I paid a pretty penny for it, let me tell you. A pretty penny, indeed. There wasn't even a record in it! 

Anyway, I had this song stuck in my head this afternoon as I was walking over to the taco truck by Safeway. I was thinking about Darla Helen O'Connor. I want her to be the one to walk in the sun! After she's born, I mean. 

Cyndi Lauper had "one-hit-wonder" written all over her when this zany ditty first hit radio airwaves back in 1983. But she ended up being, like, a ten-hit wonder. Good for her! You can read about this terrific and talented lassie here and go here to see a more recent picture of her.

[ Cyndi Lauper ]

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Lovin' Spoonful

Artist: The Lovin' Spoonful
LP: Daydream
Song: "Warm Baby"
[ listen ]
Song: "Jug Band Music" 
[ listen ]

Here's a big lovin' spoonful for ya directly from Seattle. Fill the spoon with whatever you want! I can't help but think that jug band music might well be the answer to curing the world of all its ills. Terrorism? Hateful murderous lunacy? Fanatical despotism? Institutionalized racism and discrimination? Apply a few bars of playful jug band music and get some rest; the symptoms should dissipate momentarily. 

Over the past few years The Lovin' Spoonful has emerged as my #1 favorite American pop band of the mid-to-late 1960s. They've got talent, an enviable wardrobe, a sort-of zip-a-dee-doo-dah/laissez-faire about them, and, rarest of all, they've got a sense of humor. You can read about The Lovin' Spoonful here and go here to visit their website. Best-ever LP liner notes are included below.

[ The Lovin' Spoonful ]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Flirts

Artist: The Flirts
LP: 7" single
Song: "Dancin' Madly Backwards" 
[ listen ]

I've been watching lots of movies lately, but one of the best I've seen is THE FITS, directed by Anna Rose Holmer and starring an 11-year-old powerhouse named Royalty Hightower. (I sure hope she becomes famous, but somehow without being destroyed.) The film is unusual, creative, powerful, tender, brilliant, and basically just astoundingly good. Outside The Uptown after the screening I snapped a photo of the poster to prove that THE FITS had been shown in Seattle, even if for only one week. The famous Seattle Space Needle has gotten caught in Royalty's hair. 

This 1985 single by The Flirts is something I picked up at a record store in Munich when I was 16. If you just remove the 'l' and the 'r,' you get THE FITS! Anyway, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine has this to say about the film:

Remember the name Anna Rose Holmer, who makes her feature directing debut with this unique and unforgettable mesmerizer. And while you're at it, keep an eye on Royalty Hightower, the 11-year-old dynamo doing a radiant star-is-born turn as the quietly observant protagonist of THE FITS. Holmer, who wrote the screenplay with the film's co-producer Lisa Kjefulff, and its editor Saela Davis, isn't much for exposition and there's hardly any talk in the film's fleet 72 minutes. Hightower plays Toni, an Ohio kid who hangs around a recreational center in Cincinnati where she works out at the boxing club with her older brother, Jermaine (Da'Sean Minor). For Toni, doing sit-ups becomes an act of asserting independence. 

Things change when Toni's eye hits on a girl dance troupe that bills itself as the Lionesses, played by the real-life members of a dance team called the Q-Kidz. Dishing about boys and smearing on lip gloss, the Lionesses rep everything tomboy Toni can't articulate in terms of beauty, power, gender, coordination, confidence and body image. She joins up, becomes pals with another newbie, Beezy (Alexis Neblett), and slowly comes home to a world she never knew before. 

In a conventional movie, which THE FITS most assuredly is not, we'd be in for an uplifting journey into self-awareness. Holmer's not having it. She and her gifted cinematographer Paul Yee simply ask us to watch, to catch their rhythms, to let the film play like a ballad that ranges from lyrical to startling. The girls start having seizures, fits that leave their bodies shaking and convulsing for reasons unknown. The score by Stenfert Charles (Last Days in the Desert) provides just the right jangling notes to keep us all on edge. The real world offers lame explanations, everything from contaminated water to sexual hysteria and demonic possession. But this movie won't squeeze itself into easy categories. Watching the girls defy gravity as they whirl into scary, seductive, hallucinatory patterns, you realize THE FITS is more than a transporting film experience. It's cinema poetry in motion.

[ The Flirts ]

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Larry Page Orchestra

Artist: Larry Page Orchestra
LP: Erotic Soul
Song: "Erotic Soul"
[ listen ]
Song: "Do It In Slow Motion" 
[ listen ]

Not to be confused with billionaire Google CEO Larry Page, who probably doesn't have his own orchestra but could easily buy himself one if he wanted, the "Erotic Soul" Larry Page worked as manager for The Kinks and The Troggs in the 1960s while producing instrumental 'easy-listening' records under his own name-plus-orchestra all the way up through the 1980s. This 1977 release is certainly easy to listen to, yet it probably isn't something you'd ever have heard in the elevator as Sears. Read about Larry Page and his Orchestra at AllMusic here. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling the need for some sexy, good-lovin' music after this grueling week in which way too many people have been needlessly killed in our so-called United States of America.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Human League

Artist: The Human League
LP: 7" single
Song: "Being Boiled" 
[ listen ]

Just got back from watching the documentary TICKLED with my friend Carrie. I've decided to pose as a straight 23-year-old jock to see if I can get myself cast in a competitive tickling video produced by Jane O'Brien Media in L.A. If this works out for me, I stand to earn $2,000 and maybe get a new cassette player for my car. Plus I'll be relentlessly tickled by a gang of awkward and handsome young athletes! I'm way beyond humiliation at this point, so if the videos begin appearing online under my real name and my family starts getting nasty Christmas cards, that's fine. 

Anyway, here's an early single from The Human League. We certainly are an interesting league of humans.

[ The Human League, circa 1978 ]

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Confidential Club Orchestra feat. Jonathan Kemp

Artist: The Confidential Club Orchestra feat. Jonathan Kemp
LP: Goombay Carnival
Song: "Pretty Boy"
[ listen ]
Song: "Drums"
[ listen ]
Song: "Hard Times (Fish Man)" 
[ listen ]

Here's something to play at your 4th of July fireworks party tonight instead of fucking Lee Greenwood for god's sake. The notes on the back of the record say it was recorded in the British West Indies (BWI), but The Bahamas gained their independence from Britain, an event commonly referred to at the time as "the Bahexit," in 1973. They've been an independent nation ever since. 

There's not a lot of information about The Confidential Club Orchestra and vocalist Jonathan Kemp on the web, but I did find this June 24, 1957 article from the St. Petersburg Times which indicates that the group would be playing calypso for one final week in the Flamingo Room at St. Petersburg's Robert James Hotel. The hotel doesn't seem to be operating today, but my research did unearth an interesting artifact—the Spring 1956 edition of The Negro Travelers' Green Book

The Green Book was a sort of printed Yelp guide for African-Americans who enjoyed traveling the USA during the Jim Crow era, providing tips on which hotels and restaurants served black people. The Robert James Hotel, for example, is listed as a viable option for African-Americans in search of lodging in St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the forward section of the guide, The Green Book helped 'The Negro Traveler' steer clear of 'embarrassing situations' and provided 'ASSURED PROTECTION,' which I think we can assume means the guide helped its readers avoid lynchings and murder.

The negro traveler in Washington state was evidently on their own if they decided to venture anywhere outside Everett, Tacoma or Seattle. And only in Tacoma could they be sure to avoid embarrassment when ordering a meal!

Anyway, Happy Independence Day. We've sure come a long way...and yet somehow it feels like we're still not even halfway there. LP liner notes are included below.

[ The Confidential Club Orchestra feat. Jonathan Kemp (w/ arrow) in 1957 ]