Sunday, June 25, 2017

Peggy Hayama w/ Hibari Children's Choir of Leon San Jonet

Artist: Peggy Hayama w/ Hibari Children's Choir of Leon San Jonet
LP: 7" single
Song: "The Lonely Goatherd"
[ listen ]

I couldn't find anything quite so organically endowed with as much gay pride as this 1966 Japanese cover of Rogers & Hammerstein's "The Lonely Goatherd" from the 1965 Julie Andrews musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC. There's even rainbow-colored lettering on the cover. Sadly, Peggy Hayama did not live to see this tribute; she passed away from pneumonia just over two months ago at the age of 83.

[ Peggy Hayama: December 9, 1933 — April 12, 2017 ]

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ricardo Santos and His Orchestra

Artist: Ricardo Santos and His Orchestra
LP: 7" single
Song: "Song of the Pearlfisher"
[ listen ]

It's Gay Pride weekend! In other news, here's a lovely instrumental tango (with ethereal mermaid vocals) that you can let wash over you on this overheated Seattle Saturday afternoon. The track, from 1957, is performed by the prolific and mysterious Ricardo Santos and His Orchestra. There are plenty of Ricardo Santoses on the internet—like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one—but it's impossible to tell which one of them has, or at some point in the past has had, an orchestra. I'm putting my money on this one

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Scandinavy Yah!

Here's a mix made from vinyl I found at record stores in Helsinki, Oslo and Bergen while on vacation in Scandinavia with my sister last month. 

side one:
01. (Walkin' on a) Love Cloud - 5000 Volts

       [7" - Samleren in Oslo, Norway]
02. En Näkemiin Sanoa Voi (Never Can Say Goodbye) - Markku Aro 
       [LP - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland] 

03. Cosmos No. 1 - The Moon Birds
     [7" - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
04. Bublichky - Viktor Klimenko
     [LP - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
05. Black Betty - Ram Jam
       [7" - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]
06. A Rohanás - Skorpio
       [LP - Green Grass Records in Helsinki, Finland]
07. Hello I Love You - Alex
       [LP - The Garden in Oslo, Norway]
08. Pee-aa - Irwin
       [LP - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
09. I See the Moon - Debbie Cameron & Tommy Seebach
       [7" - Rocade Musikk in Bergen, Norway]
10. Jag Kan Spå I Dina Ögon - Anita Lindblom
       [7" - Green Grass Records in Helsinki, Finland]  

11. Woodoo - Seppo Rannikko
       [LP - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]
12. B. - Colin Newman
     [7" - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
13. Take My Time - Sheena Easton
       [LP - The Garden in Oslo, Norway]
14. Maiden's Dreams - Zodiac
       [LP - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]

15. Only Then (And Not a Minute Before) - Harry Douglass and The Deep River Boys
       [7" - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]

16. La Karin, 17 År, Vise Veien - Kristi & Benny
       [LP - Samleren in Bergen, Norway]

[ listen ]

side two:
01. Let's Get Back Together - Promises

       [7" - The Garden in Oslo, Norway]
02. The Land of Make Believe - Bucks Fizz
       [7" - The Garden in Oslo, Norway]
03. Wo Sind Die Clowns - Zarah Leander
       [LP - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
04. Lengt - Stanley Jacobsen
     [LP - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
05. One More Time - Biky
     [LP - Green Grass Records in Helsinki, Finland]
06. Muutu En, Tiedät Sen - Johnny
       [LP - A.H. Records in Helsinki, Finland]
07. Paris, France - Paris France Transit
       [7" - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
08. She's Not a Disco Lady - D.D. Sound Disco Delivery
       [7" - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]
09. Fire On the Water - ORS: Orlando Riva Sound
       [7" - The Garden in Oslo, Norway]
10. Hiljaisuuden Äänet - Ami
       [LP - Green Grass Records in Helsinki, Finland]
11. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want - The Dream Academy
       [7" - Råkk og Rålls in Oslo, Norway]
12. Be Beyond the Fuss of Life - "Rhythm" Group
     [LP - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]
13. Freeze - Moondrops
       [7" - Redhill Records in Helsinki, Finland]
[ listen ]

Sunday, June 11, 2017

George K Band

Artist: George K Band
LP: Let's Move Together
Song: "Lonely Queen"
[ listen ]
Song: "Little Lady"
[ listen ]

My quest for an undiscovered Norwegian version of ABBA finally paid off when I found this 1977 George K Band LP at Samleren, the second and final record store I went to in Bergen (not counting this hipster bar I stepped into long enough to find out they sell new vinyl only). 

A project assembled by lead vocalists George Keller and Anita Skorgan, George K Band creates disco melodies that are nicely set to strings provided by the Filharmonisk Selskaps Orkester of Oslo. It's a terrific album—and let's face it, "Lonely Queen" is basically my theme song from the past ten or eleven years.

[ Samleren — Bergen, Norway ]

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Rolf Berntzen og Johannes Kleppevik

Artist: Rolf Berntzen og Johannes Kleppevik
LP: 7" single
Song: "Torgsangen"
[ listen ]

I hadn't added Rocade Musikk to my list of Bergen record stores, since I'd read that they specialize in country and bluegrass music, and I was looking primarily for Norwegian pop. It was my sister who spotted the store and pointed it out to me as we were ambling down a quaint cobblestone street a few blocks from our hotel. 

When I returned to Rocade to browse the next day, the friendly proprietor asked what kind of music I liked. I was surrounded by bins of country music and it was country that was playing on the store's music system too. I didn't dare say "Boney M" or "Devo" or anything like that. I began by feebly whimpering, "ABBA," then quickly followed up with, "But I like old country music Hank Snow!"...selecting an old country favorite at random.

Little did I know that I had hit the jackpot. The gentleman excitedly pointed out the Hank Snow posters that adorned every wall and then played me a track by a Norwegian country singer (I think it was Bjøro Håland) who had gone to Nashville and recorded in the style of Hank Snow! (Novelty factor = 8; Musical factor = 4.) 

Though I felt kinda bad that I didn't buy any of his country records, I did find some singles I wanted. The amenable clerk repeatedly tried pushing this Rolf Berntzen and Johannes Kleppevik single on me as a souvenir; he had known both men when they were living and the song was recorded in honor of the famous Bergen Fish Market. There were about 35 copies available. I could have bought one for everybody I know! The single ultimately wasn't among my final selections, but he threw in a copy for me anyways for free.

[ Johannes Kleppevik: October 10, 1947 — February 3, 2001 ] 
[ Rolf Berntzen: June 4, 1918 — September 22, 2005 ] 

[ Rocade Musikk — Bergen, Norway ]

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Artist: Alex
LP: Alex
Song: "Flying High (You & I)"
[ listen ]

The Garden is the second and final Oslo record store I was able to make it to—three times—during my visit. The guy working there is super friendly and told me that the used records were in the basement. Down the stairs I went, where I found eight long bins crammed with hundreds of used 7" singles. The trouble is, I was only barely able to slip my visits in at the end of a full day of tourism, and the store closes at 6pm. I simply had to get through all those singles! I found lots of amazing stuff in bin #1, which is all I managed to rummage through on my first visit. I went back the next evening to pick up where I'd left off, but only made it through bins 2-4 before the shop closed. When my sis and I returned to Oslo a week later, I popped in again and managed to flip through bins #5-8 with ten extra minutes to spare! 

Fortunately, ten minutes was plenty of time to unearth a trio of albums by Alex, Norway's reigning queen of '70s disco-rock. This self-titled LP is her 1977 debut—it literally had my name written all over it. 

The sad reality is that there wasn't nearly as much disco-pop being produced in Norway in the 1970s as there had been according to my fantasies. I'd figured that each Scandinavian country probably had their own private version of ABBA, and about two-dozen fairly decent ABBA knock-off bands as well. But actually, Norwegians seem to have been more often listening to music like this and this while ABBA was setting disco balls a-spinning all over the world. 

But then, thank god, there's Alex. Born in Lithuania in 1949 to Polish parents, Alexandra Naumik began singing in Poland, then moved to Norway after marrying film director Haakon Sandøy when she was 21 years old. Seven years later Alex released her first LP, and the rest, as they say, is historical. You can read all this and more on Wikipedia in English or Norwegian

Alex was reportedly so popular in Norway that "Alex hair" became a thing—although when I see her hair it automatically brings to mind untrustworthy rope. Her band certainly is a nifty and incredibly Scandinavian-looking bunch. Bjørn Christiansen already has me working on my own "Bjørn hair"; Svein Gundersen has one of the sexiest moustache/unibrow combos I've ever seen, and Brynjulf Blix not only has one of the greatest names in show business, but he looks like he'd be a fun guy to grab a beer with too. Sadly, drummer Per Ivar Johansen died in a tour bus crash three years after the release of this LP.

[ Alex: August 12, 1949 — September 17, 2013 ]

[ The Garden — Oslo, Norway ]

Saturday, June 3, 2017


Artist: Harpo
LP: Leo the Leopard
Song: "Out In the Jungle"
[ listen ]

Next we flew to Oslo, Norway, but I'm sad to report that I never ended up getting to meet a-ha. I did go to two terrific record stores though. But in order to not miss out on the rest of the city entirely, I was only allowed a limited amount of time on any given day to rummage for vinyl...which means I ended up having to make two trips to Råkk og Rålls, located on Karl Johans gate, the main street in Oslo. It's right across from a lovely park with a fountain in it

I could tell they just recently moved to this new location, because the first time I went there, the remnants of the sign from the store that had been in that spot before were still visible peeking out from behind the record store sign. But when I returned a week later, those letters had been covered up. (There's a "before and after" photo of the front of the store below.)

Råkk og Rålls is a fine place, with a set of escalators just inside the glass front doors that deliver customers downward into a large, clean and well-lit store filled with unusual vinyl treasures. I feel bad complaining, but I must express regret that I missed out on visiting Råkk og Rålls before the move, since the old location was something straight out of a wild, blissful, and utterly fantastical midsummer night's dream of record store paradise! I suppose it was just too good to last.

Nevertheless, I was grateful that this 1974 debut LP by Swedish artist Jan "Harpo" Svensson didn't get lost in the move. You can read about Harpo in Swedish here, and Google Translate helped me come up with this English translation:

Harpo is an artist name for Jan Svensson, born April 5, 1950 in Stockholm, 
a Swedish pop musician who hit 1973 with the song "Honolulu." 
During the 1970s he had several songs on top lists in Sweden and abroad; 
including "Sayonara," "Moviestar" and "Horoscope."

Harpo lives with his wife on a farm outside Halmstad, where he is breeding horses. 
He also devotes much of his time painting paintings. In Sweden, much of 
Harpo is not currently musical, but in Germany he is still popular and appears 
more or less regularly there. It was even where he had the biggest successes.

In August 1980 he was out on a training round with one of his trotting horses. 
For unknown reason, the horse kicked back and the first hit Harpo straight in the face. 
The horse stuck with his left leg in a sick skull and became so scared that it 
continued kicking several times. The damage was so extensive that no one thought 
Harpo would survive. The forehead and nose were depressed and the 
right eye eyes were cut. He lost sight of that eye as well as the sense of smell. 
Nevertheless, he later wrote a tribute to the horse in question. 

You've got to hand it to any guy who writes a tribute to a horse that kicked him square in the face, blinding him in one eye and destroying his sense of smell. But I guess an artist never knows exactly where his inspiration might come from. There's a more recent photo of Harpo here and I don't see any hoof prints, so I think he's going to be fine. Speaking of, and I know I'm stating the obvious, but Harpo is stark raving naked on the front cover of his debut LP. That takes guts. 
[ Råkk og Rålls — Oslo, Norway ]