Tijuana Christmas - Dance To Your Favourite Carols With The Wonderful 'Sound of Brass'

Label / Cat. No: Music For Pleasure MFP 1266 
First Released: 1968 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Christmas is the most joyful festival of the Christian year, when we celebrate at the same time the turning point of the winter and the new hope that was brought to men with the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we make up for the bleakness of the weather outside with the warmth of our spirits, and it is no coincidence that the songs which have come to be particularly associated with Christmas should be carols, which have always been the most cheerful and often the most secular of Christian songs.

On this record you find your favourite carols in an unfamiliar guise--we've called the album 'Tijuana Christmas', but you will find the mariachi sound taking on a richer and more varied flavour as the Toreo Band bring out the charms of our most beautiful carol tunes in imaginative brand new arrangements. 'The Holly and the Ivy' sets the pace with a bright, sparkling beat that even adds to the gaiety of one of our oldest and liveliest carols; 'Silent Night' a much more recent and a more devout carol, is given a quite contrasting treatment, slow and tender. 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' sets off again at a brisk, bouncy pace--and if you feel like dancing, why not? It may come as a surprise to you that our oldest carols used to be dances, and that the word itself described a form of circular dance.

In the preface to the Oxford book of carols you will find carols described as songs with a religious impulse that are simple, joyful, popular and modern. You'll never have heard them sounding more joyful, popular or modern than they do on this exciting and original L.P.

BLASE MACHIN


What I Say

Christmas is a time for miracles, so they say, and the discovery of this album is another little miracle which may just find it's place in the canon of Christmas Tales. You see, I was all ready to review a completely different album. Last January I picked up a copy of Mitch Miller's 'Holiday - Sing Along With Mitch' which had a cover that both intrigued and terrified me. Look, surely that man must be Satan. There can be no other explanation. The picture on that album cover (here, go, go look at it again) can only be a coded message. Mitch is wearing a 'Santa' hat. Santa is a well-known anagram of Satan. I think I've made my point.

Anyway, the point is that while researching a bit about Mitch, I realised that although he's pretty much unknown in the UK, his profile in other parts of the world is significantly higher, and people might actually catch me out in the rubbish that I write here.

So it was a strange quirk of fate when last week I happened to be in a charity store, looking for something to put my TV on, when I noticed this album, Tijuana Christmas, staring at me from the record shelf. I can only assume that some enterprising shop-hand had tried to do a touch of seasonal promotion and put this on prominent display. Well, there was no choice, I had to buy it. Wouldn't you? 

But that's not the miraculous part. Oh no!

When I got it home, and proudly showed it off to my wife, The Very Lovely Mrs. McDingo, she was delighted to inform me that this very album had been a significant part of her childhood. It seems that, when growing up, it was her family's tradition on Christmas Eve to go out to the local woodland, find a tree, hack it down, take it home, and decorate it to the delightful strains of this album. Christmas Eve's soundtrack in her childhood was this set of tunes.

It would therefore be churlish of me to be anything but lavish in my praise of this masterpiece of Mexican Musicala, surely? Hmmm.... well, as it's the season of goodwill, I'm prepared to overlook the fact that the chances are that The Torero Band (whose name doesn't even appear on the front of the album - it's in smallish print on the back) have probably never been further south than Croydon. MFP, the label, boasts of it's offices in Amsterdam, Brussels, Johannesburg, Cologne, London, Paris and Sydney. It has no offices, it would seem, anywhere on the American continent. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that 'The Torero Band' is really a front for a bunch of session musicians from Welwyn Garden City, but I think you'd have a hard time proving me wrong.

And then, just this morning I was reading Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent when I found this pertinent comment:-

It had never once occurred to me in thirty-six years of living that anyone listened to Mexican music for pleasure... there would be another song. Or rather, it would be the same song again, as far as I could tell. That is the unfortunate thing about Mexican musicians. They only seem to know one tune.

Which just about sums up the album. There is a clear formula to the songs - introduction, featuring the key melody line (or occasionally a variation thereupon), which lasts for four bars. Then the main tune comes in hitting with full Mariachi orchestration, playing the song with a strong swing beat with that distinctive raspy brass, sweep you along for 2 minutes, then start with the next song.

I've complained time and time again about the homogenisation of music on albums like this, but in this case it's the overarching style that is the reason for the samey feel - of course the tunes all sound the same. That's the whole point. It took me a while to understand that, but I think I'm there now!

But the real acid test came when I put this album on this morning to listen to it again. It was early - certainly before 7:30. I and two bleary eyed boys aged 6 and 4 were looking to start the day. The moment I put this album on, both the boys started dancing. Really grooving to the tunes, and of course, I couldn't help but join them. So for once I followed the instructions on the front. And it was ace.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Tracks

Side 1

1. The Holly And The Ivy
2. Silent Night
3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
4. While Shepherds Watched
5. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
6. Good King Wenceslas 

Side 2

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
2. Away In A Manger
3. The First Nowell
4. Christians Awake
5. Once In Royal David's City
6. O, Come All Ye Faithful 

 

And let joy be unconfined, this gem is now on Spotify - find the album here
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Fred Jordan - Songs Of A Shropshire Farm Worker

Label / Cat. No: Topic 12T150 
First Released: 1966 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Fred Jordan was born on January 5, 1922, at Ludlow, Shropshire. He is a farm labourer, living in the village of Aston Munslow, about seven miles from Ludlow. His house has a view of Corve Dale and the distant Clee Hills.

In 1952 Peter Kennedy, then working for the British Broadcasting Corporation, visited the area, and being told by the local blacksmith that Fred Jordan was a good singer, he recorded him for the BBC's folk song archive. In the autumn of 1959, Fred attracted the attention of participants in the folk song revival when he appeared at the English Folk Dance and Song society's festival wearing his everyday clothes - heavy boots, leggings and weather-defying hat. His singing drew immediate acclaim. Since then he has appeared with increasing regularity at concerts and clubs, with other country singers and also with revival performances. He enjoys concert and club work, where he sings with the straightforward 'professionalism' and unselfconsciousness common to most country singers.

As a folk singer he may be classed with the best - and that best includes Harry Cox, George Maynard and Phil Tanner. Though he is still a young man he has the essential style of this older generation. His musical sense is very highly developed; his ability to make small rhythmical changes to suit the words of songs is marked and his use of melodic ornament is subtle and skilful. the quality of his voice may seem strange at first hearing, but it is not unique, and there is nothing here of an old man's quaver, for Fred Jordan is in his prime.

In performance, he inclines to let his personality retire behind the song, in the true manner of traditional singers. He sings without change of facial expression, without physical mannerism. He performs Barbara Allen and The Old Armchair in precisely the same manner, in the straight-faced almost deadpan way that amateur singers still adopt in town pubs where they stand up to give out with I'll Take You home Again, Kathleen.

Fred Jordan acknowledges three main sources for his songs: first his parents (his mother came from Warwickshire, his father comes from Leeds); second the travellers and gypsies who frequent the district; last, his acquaintances in the countryside. In his own mind he distinguishes between what he now calls 'proper folk songs', music-hall songs, and the arranged versions of folk songs that he learned at school.

All the songs on this record are found up and down the country in one version or another. Many are to be found in the classic folk song collections. Others, of known authorship, the pops of yesteryear, have taken their place alongside traditional songs in the folk singers' repertoire on their merits of narrative and melody. Some of these are American in origin. The music-hall and touring show all played their part in widening the popular repertoire, and radio and gramophone records have also had their effect. This record shows the mixture of song types in the repertoire of a country singer in the 1960's.


What I Say

Some of you will have seen 'The Green Green Grass', the spin-off series from 'Only Fools & Horses'. If you have caught this show, then you have my deepest sympathy. Really. The premise, for those of you who haven't seen it, is that Boycie, a second-hand car salesman from Peckham in South London, moves to the Shropshire countryside to avoid some shady underworld types, and what follows is a fish-out-of-water "comedy". For anyone who lives within 100 miles of Shropshire, the biggest mystery is why do all the Shropshire characters dress like they live in the 1930s and speak with yokel Somerset accents. I mean, just look...

...and listen

Sorry to have to put you through that, but it just isn't Shropshire. But Fred Jordan, now he's the real deal...

What an unexpected gem we have here. I chose this album from my pending pile because I have spent the last week working on a farm not 10 miles from the Shropshire border - barn building, labouring and general jobbing. I believe this makes me supremely qualified to look at an album by a fellow man of the soil. Well, to be fair, I didn't get that close to any actual soil, but still, Fred Jordan must be singing the songs that speak to my heart, mustn't he?

Well, yes and no.... the title is a touch misleading - these aren't songs about Shropshire farm workers, or even songs that Shropshire farm workers in general would sing. Instead, it's a collection of songs sung by one Shropshire farm worker, namely Mr Jordan. I won't go into details of Fred's life here, because there are some excellent biographies around - try here for starters if you want to know more about the Fredster.

The songs aren't even all about farming or the bucolic life. At least two of them are nautical in flavour, and Shropshire's pretty far from the sea at the best of times.

But that's of not matter. I can honestly say that this is unique in all the albums I've listened to - what we have is Fred Jordan. Nothing more, nothing less. No musicians, no backing singers, no accompaniment whatsoever. This album stands or falls on Fred Jordan's voice, and it stands.

It stands as a period piece, it stands as a collection of English folk tunes sung by someone steeped in the folk tradition, and it stands as a collection of tunes by an accomplished singer. True, there are some vocal mannerisms which sound curious to our pop-soaked ears, and the starkness of hearing a single voice cut the silence takes some getting used to. But that also summarises the character of this album. It is raw, stripped back, nothing but the singer and the song, and to my jaded ears it made a very refreshing change. I can't say that this is going to be a recurrent favourite on my playlists, but unlike a lot of what I plough through (see what I did there?), I'm more than happy to give this a second listen. Maybe even a third.

In looking for details of this album on this wonderful internet of ours, I was amazed to find that the Topic record label not only still exists, but is a beacon of independent labels, having been releasing albums now for 69 years. Go and have a look at their site to find out more, but any label that boasted John Peel as a fan must have something going for it.

Lovely jubbly.

Sorry.

 

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. We Shepherds Are The Best of Men
2. The ship That Never Returned
3. Down the Road
4. We're All Jolly Fellows that Follow The Plough
5. The Watery Grave
6. The Dark-Eyed Sailor
7. Three Old Crows

Side 2

1. John Barleycorn
2. The Banks Of Sweet Primroses
3. The Bonny Boy
4. Polly's Father Lived In Lincolnshire
5. The Royal Albert
6. Down The Green Groves
7. The Farmer's Boy 

 

2017 Edit - Full album available on Spotify - click here

 

And on YouTube

Final Score

8 out of 10

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Dance To Beatles Hits In The Glenn Miller Sound with The Big Band Beat Of The Hiltonaires

Label / Cat. No: Stereo Gold Award MER 336 
First Released: 1971 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Here's a dance party with two favourite ingredients - the great, nostalgic sounds of Glenn Miller and hit songs by The Beatles.

These sweet and swinging arrangements were written by Bill Holcombe (an old T. Dorsey sideman), who has taken these British bred hits and written the inimitable Glenn Miller style around them.

The Hiltonaires under the baton of Stan Reynolds are joined by the vocal stylings (a la Modernaires) of Tony Mansell and his group.

Here's big band at its best - with familiar hit songs.


What I Say

I apologise for going highbrow for a moment, but Samuel Johnson once wrote of women preachers, "Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." If the great Dr. Johnson were alive today, I am convinced that he would have felt the same way about this album. Well, maybe 'convinced' is putting it a bit strongly, but I can understand this attitude entirely when applied to 'the big band beat of the Hiltonaires'.

Come with me for a moment into the future. The year is 2013, and someone decides to release an album of Coldplay songs performed in the Mel & Kim style. There'd be uproar, rioting in the streets and possibly the end of civilization as we know it. But back in 1971 this kind of evil alchemy was not just thinkable, it was actually happening.

It's of little surprise then that this was released on the 'Stereo Gold Award' label. To be fair, I was as much drawn to this album by the very fact that it was a Stereo Gold Award offering as I was by the fine bevy of 1970s lovelies on the cover. You may recall that Stereo Gold Award have already given us Big Dave who I exposed as a fraud and a charlatan. It seems that the label was owned by a chancer who just made cheap, cash-in rubbish, and this album certainly fits into that category.

There's just so much wrong with this album it's difficult to know where to begin. Well, for a start I'm confused as to why they actually included some Glenn Miller / Big Band tunes. After all, the album's called 'Dance to the Beatles Hits...) Does that mean you have to stop dancing when Moonlight Serenade comes on? It's preposterous I tell you. Is this a Beatles album? Is this a Glenn Miller album? Frankly I'm confused, and I suspect it shows.

And then there's the fact that these are two entirely different genres of music that simply do not fuse well together. I accept wholeheartedly the fact that the Beatles, and in particular Lennon & McCartney wrote classic, timeless songs which can withstand reinterpretation and have been covered, reasonably successfully many thousands of times. Which then begs the question how did they make these Beatles songs sound so crap.

I think the answer lies in the fact that the Hiltonaires (or at least Bill Holcombe's arrangements) concentrate on the style rather than the substance of the song. There is no sensitivity to the mood or the lyrics of the Beatles numbers, it seems to have been rattled off a checklist of Big Band stylistic hooks regardless of the order or original speed of the songs.

The very worst culprit (if you can get past 'Hey Jude' without waves of nausea welling up) is the butchering of 'Let It Be'. Not only does this start with the most awful Barbershop Quartet style prologue, but is the possessor of possibly the worst guitar solo ever, both in tone and tune. Really, it's that bad. Just listen. See? There's 20 seconds you're never having back.

I didn't expect to enjoy this album, and I wasn't disappointed. In the past I've commented that the brevity of an album often makes up for its awfulness. Not in this case. It may only be 24 minutes long, but you try sticking cocktail sticks in your thighs for 24 minutes, and believe me, it will seem like an eternity. This is the aural equivalent.

The good news however is that this isn't the last Stereo Gold Award album in my collection. Let joy be unconfined!

 

Sound Clips

Tracks

Side 1

1. Moonlight Serenade
2. Something
3. I Want To Hold Your Hand
4. Michelle
5. Bird Cage Walk
6. Londonderry Air 

Side 2

1. Hey Jude
2. Let It Be
3. Yesterday
4. Diamond Rock
5. A Hard Day's Night 




Final score:

1 out of 10 - for using the term 'vocal stylings' unselfconsciously.

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Norma Zimmer & Jim Roberts - His Name Is Wonderful

Label / Cat. No: Sacred SAC 5061 
First Released: 1972 

What The Album Blurb Says...

For a number of years now Jim Roberts and Norma Zimmer have provided moments of unusual enjoyment for millions of Americans. In the world of pure entertainment, longevity is synonymous with popular response. Norma and Jim have been premier performers for many years now courtesy of us, the American people, and Lawrence Welk. Mr. Welk ultimately decides who the performers will be; we feel his choice is just right!

This is the third album by Norma and Jim. Their style of singing seems perfectly matched - it's as comfortable as a pair of gloves. they blend beautifully singing some of the most popular gospel songs of the day - and some songs that are ageless. HIS NAME IS WONDERFUL is a favourite and is performed by mass choirs around the world. thank you Audrey Mieir, for the inspiration with which you've graced the world! I wonder how often BEYOND THE SUNSET has been sung, played, whistled, and used as a source of comfort since Virgil Brock first penned the lovely lyric some years ago. You will enjoy having this recording in your home.

The performances of hymns on TV by Jim and Norma have opened a door that has given many additional thousands an opportunity to hear them in person; in hymn festivals, in concerts, as solo performers in Billy Graham Crusades, and in churches everywhere.

the creative arrangements on this album are by Buryl Red. Mr. Red is gifted in many areas of music, one of which is the art of arranging. you will also hear his lovely song entitled HIS GENTLE LOOK.

KURT KAISER


What I Say

I know, I know. When I bought this album I had a tiny sliver of hope that this was going to actually be about somebody called 'Wonderful'. You know, in the same vein as 'A boy named Sue'. I mean, there are some unusual names about. I once knew someone called Zachariah Puddlechuck, and that would make a great name for an album - 'His Name Is Zachariah Puddlechuck'. But no, with crushing inevitability, this turned out to be an album of Christian songs, extolling the virtue of some chap name of Jesus. Or Wonderful. I'm still not sure which.

The sleeve notes warrant a bit of a further look. Firstly, longevity is apparently synonymous with popular response, apparently. Well look at Cliff Richard for a start. He's been around since the Pilgrim Fathers, and who wants to listen to his records? Oh yes, my Mother-in-Law. Alright then, maybe Jonathan King would be a better example. There's a man who is pretty much universally unpopular but who won't stop making his bloody songs.

Also, who is the Lawrence Welk character who stands head and shoulders above the American People then? Well, you can see for yourself, but seeing as this was released by London label, and I've managed to go 37 years without ever hearing his name even casually mentioned before, I'm prepared to stick my neck out and say that that's going to be pretty meaningless to a lot of Brits. Apologies of course to all those people better informed and educated than I...

However, I am most concerned by the line 'You will enjoy having this recording in your home'. Is it me, or does that sound more like a command than a recommendation. Maybe it's the Teutonic tone of Kurt Kaiser's comment that scare the living bewonderful out me, but I'm scared. I'm scared because I have that album in my home, and I didn't (and don't) enjoy it. Will Mr. Kaiser come round in the dead of night, drag me off, and leave me bound and gagged and listening to his sacred music compositions. I sincerely hope not.

The music sounds like a grown-up Elaine & Derek - a collection of sweet Christian tunes which all merge into one. I've always found that Christian music tends to err on the side of dull. Actually, there's a challenge for you - are there any Christian music albums that won't bore me to tears? A prize for anyone who can find one. Anyway, as I was saying, this album features 9 samey songs.

Ah, but I hear you cry, "but there are 10 songs on this album, surely". Well, yes there are. Just as you think you can't take any more sweetness, side two starts with 'Sweet, Sweet Spirit'. This song has A COUNTRY TWANG. Not enough to be exciting or offensive, of course, but just enough to lift the tedium. It was at this point that I thought that this might yet have some saving grace - a sub-Carpenters kitsch that might just make this album worth something to me.

But it wasn't to be.

All too quickly it sank back into the banal. I mean, yes, their voices are fine, the arrangements are a bit saccharine for my tastes and seem to my untrained ears to be somewhere between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Disney soundtracks. But it's all soooooo bland.

There is however one very positive point about this album. It clocks in at just under 28 minutes. I tell you, I'll never have that half hour back again, but I was far more in the mood after it to thank Wonderful, if only for not having made the album a double.

 

Sound Clips

Tracks

Side 1

1. His Name Is Wonderful
2. Every Moment Of Every Day
3. He Lifted Me
4. When I Kneel Down To Pray
5. I Would Be Like Jesus 

Side 2

1. Sweet, Sweet Spirit
2. His Gentle Look
3. Take Up Thy Cross
4. He Touched Me
5. Beyond The Sunset


Final score:

2 out of 10

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Enjoy Your Slimming with Eileen Fowler

Label / Cat. No: BBC Records & Tapes REC 284 
First Released: 1977 

What The Album Blurb Says...

I say "enjoy your slimming" because it is much more successful if you do. It is a bore to be forever worrying about strict diets and complicated calorie counting. It can be just a simple "way of life". Regular exercise and sensible eating will keep your weight where you want it. It works for both men and women, as my husband could tell you. Cut down on fats, starches and sugars, exercise regularly and you are on the way. To help you to select the non-fattening foods there are two lists. Plan your meals around the first and try to avoid the second. Don't deny yourself all the foods you really like even if they are on the fattening list because this way leads to tension and you won't enjoy your slimming. Just reduce the quantities and include small amounts in a balanced eating programme.

For a really spectacular loss of weight, say six to seven stone, then I would suggest group therapy - Silhouette Slimming Club have wonderful results, which I have seen for myself, that is why I sought their advice with this album for those of us who wish to lose a lesser amount and to stay slim throughout our lives.

Don't forget the bathroom scales, these play a major part in our slimming plan. Decide on a reasonably weight for you height and work for that. I find at 5ft 2 1/2ins, eight and a half stone is about right and easy to hold, but bone structure can make a difference of several pounds. Weigh yourself once a week minus clothes and look for a gradual but steady weight loss - 2lbs a week adds up to nearly four stone in six months. Don't be disappointed if after losing weight at first - nothing happens for a time. This is quite normal while the body adjust to its new exercise and sensible eating pattern. But watch that fattening list! My own personal best hints are these: BUY THE RIGHT FOODS. If you have got them in the house you will eat them. If you haven't you will eat what is there, and they may be on the wrong list!

Finally, get out and walk. Carry nothing but yourself but carry yourself well - and don't worry. If you slip up today, there is always tomorrow.

Best Wishes,

Eileen Fowler

SLIMMING FROM THE MAN'S POINT OF VIEW

In a man's world a light-hearted approach to slimming is more likely to be successful than serious denial, as sensible eating and exercise are not usually his favourite subjects. he will joke about being overweight while fully realising the importance of keeping it down. Long hours spent sitting in an office chair or other sedentary occupations tend to tire the brain and exhaust the body, leaving him disinclined to take kindly to anything but the food and drink he likes in order to relax.

The pace of life today with its attendant stresses and strains can have a lasting effect on the way we look and feel and it's essential to counteract this in the best way we can. If overweight and the ensuing lack of vitality and energy is a problem , what better way than to Enjoy Your Slimming. Near starvation and tiring work-outs are out of date, and the more relaxed and healthy way to combat spreading and tension is in. It's a question of application. When eating out, study the menu carefully and choose as far as possible according to the suggestions given on List 1. If you really want Ma's apple pie, have it - not too much and not too often, and you won't feel deprived. of course you will want a drink, but the odd tomato juice can be useful. Drink, if and when you need it - or the occasion demands.

Figurewise - take a look at these diagrams and cut this exercise bogey down to size. concentrate on two areas - chest/shoulders and back for good posture, and you will never walk head first, but stay straight and tall. Work on the tummy muscles for control and you will look and feel better. try the following three exercises - Side 1. The Wall Game, Hairpin Bend and Arm Circling, Touch Toe. With a bit of help from the family regarding food, you will be slimmer and fitter and it's quite painless.


What I Say

I have this indistinct memory of seeing black and white footage from the early 50s of pert young girls in pointy bras and gym knickers doing healthy, wholesome exercises - presumably to keep them sound of morals and fit for whichever young buck they might marry, settle down with and make a home for. Assuming that this isn't just some figment of my fevered imagination, the work presented here by Eileen Fowler would be the perfect soundtrack to such a film.

Eileen is a no-nonsense woman. Oh, she seems friendly enough with her occasional chuckles and chummy manner, but the authority in her voice commands you to follow her instructions immediately and to the letter. There's a schoolma'am quality that marks her out for an ideal P.E. teacher in Malory Towers.

It turns out though that Eileen was a very sensible woman who spent her life crusading to get people fitter and eating more healthily. Perhaps it is this campaigning zest which fires the authority I mentioned. Yet that is forgiveable when you realise that what she's trying to do is improve people's lives. If there had been more people spreading Eileen's message a bit earlier, we might not be facing the supposed 'obesity crisis'. What's more important is that we might have been spared endless fitness DVDs of pneumatic 'lovelies' in lycra.

This album clearly focuses on the exercises - simple things that you can do at home. No equipment is needed, just a willingness to obey Eileen's commands at a moments notice. She whizzes through the exercises, and leaves it a bit late with the instructions. I have to admit, I haven't actually tried any of the exercises, not least because I know that a combination of my unco-ordinatedness and her late instructions would lead to an unsightly tangle. However, this isn't just about exercise. We are handily presented with two lists in the sleeve notes - food to eat lots of and food to avoid where possible. Unsurprisingly, the former is full of fruit, vegetables, fish and Ryvita whole-grain (OK, that last bit's a lie, but you get the picture), and the latter list seems to be a foretelling of my diet - chocolate, fried foods, biscuits, alcohol, and really anything that makes life worth living.

I would have assumed that this was common knowledge, even in 1977, but I really don't know. But that's the main feature of this record - it seems anachronistic, even for such unenlightened times as the late seventies. If this album had been produced in 1954 it would seem perfectly natural, but to think that it was produced in my lifetime makes it seem alien. To be fair, this record was a tie-in with Eileen's series of the same name on Radio 4's "Today" programme. I suspect that those listening to Radio 4 in 1977 thought it was still 1954.

As with that Peter Powell exercise album, it's hard to pick out any individual tracks, so instead I've compiled just a few of my favourite soundclips. I'm very pleased to know how to avoid a 'Dowager's Hump' thanks to Eileen's sound advice. Now, can anyone tell me what a Dowager's Hump actually is?

 


Sound Clips

Tracks

Side 1

1. The "Wall Game" For A Slimming Stretch 
2. "Hairpin Bend" For Tummy Muscles
3. "Circle Touch Toe" For Arms, Chest, Shoulders and Back.
4. Sequence - Repeat all three exercises linking them together 

Side 2

1. See Saw Stretch For Waistline And Knees
2. "Roll And Reach" For Tummy, Seat And Hips
3. "Rolling Pin Roll" To Fine Down Your Figure (sic)
4. Sequence - Repeat all three exercises linking them together and improvising to the extra music

Final score:

1954 out of 10

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The Vast Majority - Move It!

Label / Cat. No: D&M Sound DML 1 
First Released: 1976 

What The Album Blurb Says...

As one Disc Jockey Said - "The Vast Majority is not just wall to wall sound; it is city block to city block sound - and babe, it's all disco heat and color!"

That's where T.V.M. is at! Sixty of the greatest players and down home singers that ever hit a speaker system. They start by working out driving funky rhythm charts and tracks - add strings, brass, reeds and then finally their great blues and salsa vocalists. You name it! From funky blues to symphonic jazz - sensuous salsas to hard rock. The vast majority has it covered.


What I Say

I believe that there is a transatlantic and generational gap in understanding of the word 'Disco'. Clearly for our American cousins in the 70s, Disco was an exciting, energetic movement. It was a scene, with its own rules, its own dress code, its own moves and its own drugs of choice. It was cutting edge, it was, frankly, funky.

For me, hitting my teens in the early 80s, the word 'Disco' means a school organised event once a term, where teenage boys fuelled on Mars Bars and Coca-Cola would act like pillocks on the dance floor until the slow set started, when they suddenly became stuck to the walls.

American 70s Disco had Studio 54, Tavares and Shep Pettibone. English 80's Disco had middle-class white guys called Tim who'd play a selection from that weeks Top 40, plus 'The Birdy Song' and 'The Can Can'.

I can still clearly remember my first Disco, in the main hall of Causton Junior School, Felixstowe in July 1982. It was still light outside, and all the P.E. equipment had been moved to the side of the hall to make room for a dance floor. I even recall that two of the songs that were played were 'Green Door' by Shakin' Stevens (who, I'm sure I needn't remind you, was dubbed 'The Welsh Elvis'.... hah!), and 'The Hucklebuck' by 'Coast to Coast'. A happening scene, it was not.

And all this background flavour is only to point out that I am the last person who should try to review a Disco album. I am thoroughly unqualified to make any assessment as to what's good and what's not. To be fair, I know that's never stopped me before in my reviews.

I've spent some time trying to find out if this is a proper, genuine Disco album, or some cheap cash-in. I started with the assumption that it was probably the latter, not least because it has the words 'Disco Dynamite!' plastered across the back of the sleeve. I thought that a genuine part of the Disco movement wouldn't need to state it so boldly. I then discovered that the scores were by Colin Fretcher and Roy Budd. Now, Roy Budd may be a respected film score arranger, but he's also from South Norwood, which is just round the corner from where I was born, and most definitely not Disco Central. The other chap, Colin Fretcher, is credited as producer on this album which is hardly going to do his credibility any good.

But the producers, Dave Miller and Marty Wilson seem to have a good enough reputation, and know what they're doing. The catalog number of DML 1 made me think this might be some fly-by-night outfit, but D & M records were set up in 1975, just in time to get in on the early days of Disco, and according to some sources, they invented the concept of the 12" single. Yikes!

So, I'm prepared to accept that this is the genuine article - an album from the early days of Disco. But is it any good? Well.... I enjoyed it well enough. It didn't make me want to get up and dance, though very little does these days. You know, what with my ageing bones and everything. But what really struck me was the unpolished nature of the songs. They seemed slightly plodding, pedestrian almost. None of the high polish and perfect production that marks the later Disco sound. I suppose for me that that's what gives this its authenticity. It's a snapshot during the development of Disco. It's not the finished article, but a work in progress. All the elements are there, but it would take a while for this professional shine to be applied.

And that's about it. It's OK. Actually, it's quite good. But of course, Disco gave rise to Disco Dancing, which was always a challenge. Until now....

And those tracks from my first school Disco...

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1


1. Love For Sale
2. Move It!
3. Pain Dealin' Woman

 

Side 2


1. Muddy Sneakers
2. Salsa Woman
3. Take It!
4. Oceans Apart

 

Final Score


6.5 out of 10

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Carl Gibson - Chapter One

Label / Cat. No: Ebony Records - ERC1 
First Released: 1978 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Carl Gibson, being of Cherokee Indian descent, is one of the most fiercely independent men I know, (this being a typical Indian trait). He created this record almost entirely alone and unaided. It has been my privilege to witness a great talent at work. His "Sessions" in the studio would make good writing for a "Best Seller" alone. His moods during the recording, the anguish when he fell short of his aims, his great elation when "things" went right. He is voted by Opinion Poll as one of the World's leading "Country Fingerstyle Guitarists", to me, after watching him, this is an understatement!!! His Vocal Range is second to none. To see him "LIVE" is sensational, but it's impossible to appreciate his great talent by just one or even two performances. He created this Album with just his voice, one electric guitar, one acoustic guitar, bass and a tambourine, and his deep determination to 'achieve'. Well, he certainly has achieved, in this case, a more beautiful portrayal of Vocal and Instrumental talent than I've ever heard in this field before. His outstanding arrangements of 'Ghost Riders' and 'Skip-a-Rope" are, I'm sure, going to be among the biggest hits in the field of Country, since they were first written two decades ago. I may add at this stage, that he puts great store by his choice of sound engineer Des Bennett, the only other person to work with Carl on the Album. He acknowledges Des to be certainly one of the best in Britain today...

Carl has just one particular life-long friend who has recently become his co-producer and adviser, Jeff Purnell. In General Production, Research, Publicity Promotions and the fiercely competitive field of Marketing, Jeff has no equal! He handles all of these with a quiet but extremely powerful driving force, as well as being an influence on Carl, which proves a steadying effect. Every decade carries a provincial "Star Maker". I believe Jeff Purnell to be in this category.

"Chapter One" can only pave the way to Chapter Two, Chapter Th.....

WATCH FOR THEM....

PATTI NOBLE


What I Say

I would have thought it a pretty basic requirement that the person writing your sleeve notes should probably like you. It can only help to sell your record if you get a kind word or two extolling your virtues, and saying what a great singer / musician / human being you are. At first glance, it seems that Patti Noble is doing a fantastic job at selling Carl Gibson - if you take the gushing prose at face value, you'd think that here was a talent unparalleled in the Country Music field, that Patti had discovered a new Dylan or McCartney.

But look a bit closer. He's described variously as 'fiercely independent' (read: stubborn, awkward and impossible to work with), has only one life-long friend (is anti-social), and needs a 'steadying effect' (is difficult to manage). Underneath the high praise, I think that Patti's had just about all she can of Carl's artistic temperament, and this is her chance to let the world know what he's really like. She'd have been more honest if she'd just scrawled 'I think this man is an absolute shit' across the back of the album.

Oh well, I can't vouch for his character, but I hardly think it's surprising that a Cherokee might harbour a tendency towards fierce independence. You can hardly blame them.

Of course, talk about Native American musicians, and thoughts turn immediately to Jimmy Carl Black. What do you mean who? Jimmy Carl Black was a member of Frank Zappa's original 'Mother's of Invention' which in my eyes elevates him to hero status without question. Oops - I've given to much away. Anyway, my mate Shaun, through a series of 'too complicated to go into now circumstances' once let Jimmy sleep in his bed. Jimmy duly thanked Shaun by autographing his toilet door. When Shaun then moved house from Haringey to Lewes, the door moved with them. Some poor sod bought a nice house in London without a toilet door all because of Frank Zappa's drummer.

Well, it's not much of an anecdote, but at least it's 100% true. And besides, it's curious to notice that Carl and Jimmy share a moustache. Well, I don't mean they have one between them, but they both wear the same style. I am ignorant of Indian ways, so I can't venture an opinion as to whether it's part of their cultural heritage, but personally I think it's probably just a coincidence.

Anyway, back to the album. I think it was a brave assertion of Patti Noble's that this 'Chapter One' would pave the way for future Chapters. I have to say, I've scoured the internet, and I can't find any mention of Carl, let alone of Chapter's Two, Three or beyond. I assume it's safe to say that this was pretty much it, and that it failed to live up to the high ambitions that Carl held. It also strikes me that this being record catalog number ERC1 that this was probably something of a vanity project, and that Ebony Records didn't survive (in this incarnation at least) very much after this album was released.

I mean, Carl has an OK voice - he can hold a tune which is more than I can. He seems to have quite a range, demonstrated in 'Ghost Riders' and 'Rose Marie' where the high notes are frankly scary. His guitar picking is fine. What more can I say? It's fine. 

But this album doesn't make any kind of statement. It's a competent musician playing it safe with a pile of standards. There's no individuality, nothing to make this stand out against the other countless covers of 'Ruby' (Don't Take Your Love To Town) or 'Rose Marie'. I'm not searching for endless novelty, and there's no point in change for the sake of it, but I think it goes some way to explaining why Carl Gibson isn't remembered as an outstanding international artist. There is no character or personality in this album. It's just those same old songs. Again.

If there is anything that marks this album out, it's that Carl has a tendency to sound anguished. Yes, he does anguished very well. The cries of 'Johnny , remember me' closing the song of the same name takes that 60s schlock to a whole new level. But this anguish is best demonstrated on 'Scarborough Fair', my favourite track from this album. The 'remember me to one who lives there' no longer sounds like a request to send your best wishes, but an animal response to being forgotten by your true love. It actually made me stop in my tracks and listen, which was a nice contrast to the rest of the album.

If only he hadn't followed it by an overly jangly and jolly version of 'Ring of Fire'. The fool.

No Carl Gibson, I'm afraid, so here's the original JCB instead...

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. Ghost Riders
2. Okie From Muskogee
3. Fight'n Side Of Me
4. Scarborough Fair
5. Ring of Fire
6. Johnny Remember Me
7. Bobbie Magee

Side 2

1. Skip-a-Rope
2. There'll Never Be
3. Rose Marie
4. Ruby
5. Lonesome Me
6. Spanish Eyes
7. Phoenix Arizona

Final score:

3 out of 10, (2 points for Scarborough Fair, 1 for Johnny Remember Me)

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The Ethel Merman Disco Album

Label / Cat. No: A&M Records SP-4775 
First Released: 1979 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Special thanks to Kip for having such a good idea; to Kip and Herb for bringing me into it; to Juliea for all the help along the way; to everyone at A&M for keeping it such a good place to work/play; and a very special thanks to Ms. Merman. If it weren't for her great talent, dedication to "the work to be done," sense of humor, love of life, generosity and the ability to give of herself...well then, most of us wouldn't want to do another hundred records, T.V. shows, state fairs, etc... with her.

Thanks, Ethel, for the continuing reminders of what it's all about...

Love, Peter Matz

"For decades Ethel Merman has been the heart and soul of the American Musical Theatre. Hearing this album, I'm convinced that this Disco Diva may be taking a whole new career! Not only are these songs among the world's favorites, but the sheer joy of Merman's voice makes me want to get up and dance. Bless you for boogeying, Ethel, you're hot as a pistol!"

Paul Jabara

"P.S. When are you going to sing one of my tunes?!"


What I Say

Back in the late 80s I was a big fan of Whose Line Is It Anyway, the 'comedy' improvisation show. (I put 'comedy' in speech marks because, seeing it again recently on re-runs, I realised just how pedestrian it really was). Often the show would end with a game called 'Party Quirks' - one of the ensemble would play the part of a party host, and his guests all had idiosyncrasies which the host had to guess. The guests of course couldn't just walk in and say 'I'm a Mexican Astronaut' because that would just be too easy, and not make for very interesting television. Despite having been quite a big fan, the only thing I remember is one round of party quirks where someone had to demonstrate that they communicated with the dead. At one point he sang 'I hear voices and there's no-one there', to which the host (on that occasion Tony Slattery) replied, "Oh! He thinks he's Ethel Merman".

Stealth edit: - As LJ user huskyteer pointed out, Tony Slattery was in fact quoting from Airplane!, which makes sense.

And that, gentle reader, was the sum total of my knowledge of Ethel Merman until now. Or at least, I thought it was. Having listened to this album, I realise that although I may never have seen or heard Ethel directly (see, we're on first name terms already), I have heard her parodied a thousand times. On all those American sit-coms when somebody 'amusingly' bursts into song, or takes on a big dramatic number, the voice that they're impersonating is Ethel's. You don't believe me? Just listen to the how she pronounces 'know' in 'like no-business I know', and you will have an instant pang of recognition.

It seems that our Ethel is a comedic cliché, the distinctive voice of American Musical Theatre, a vocal shorthand to all that is glamorous and over-the-top in Broadway. I'd say she was the American Elaine Paige but that seems unfair. At least Ethel seems to have some charisma...

But if Ethel herself is a cliché, then what can I say about this album? In 1979 when Disco still seemed newish and exciting, this may have been a truly revolutionary album. When worlds collide. The old and the new. But now it just seems like a bunch of old standards with an uninspired disco backing added on afterwards. It's kind of telling that Ethel came into the studio and did her normal renditions of the songs in a single take. There's no integration or fusion here, and the two layers seem to operate independently of each other. You have some lively old songs, and some non-descript Disco instrumentals, but the total is substantially less than the sum of its parts.

Ethel's voice sounds... strong for a 71 year old, but I can't say it's exactly to my tastes. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this album, other than it should never have been made. Ethel worked in Musical Theatre, not Studio 54, and it just seems to tarnish what was otherwise a pretty heady career. I say shame on the producers who clearly wanted to make a fast buck on the back of the Disco phenomena by trying to appeal to two separate markets to try and double their profits. The cads.

It's worth reading the 'About This Video' section on this YouTube offering to give another insight into opinions of this album. Unapologetic. Shocking. But honest about this album's place in the Disco pantheon. (2017 edit - sorry, this no longer exists, and I can't remember for the life of me what was sound, but it seems intriguing, doesn't it!!??)

As a final point, I should probably point out that this barely falls into the category of 'Forgotten Albums'. After all, this was rereleased as a CD, and apparently has quite a cult following. It even has its own Wikipedia Page. So, can I call it a Forgotten Album? Well, it was in a cardboard box, under a table, in a corner of a charity shop sited in a Livestock Market in Hereford. I'd therefore say pretty much, Yes. I also think, having forced myself to listen to the whole bloody thing that it really should have stayed forgotten.

Doing it right:-

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. There's No Business Like Show Business

2. Everything's Coming Up Roses

3. I Get A Kick Out Of You

 

Side 2

 

1. Something For The Boys

2. Some People

3. Alexander's Ragtime Band

4. I Got Rhythm

 

Final score:

 

2 out of 10

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The Best of Robert Wilson

Label / Cat. No: Starline SRS 5134 
First Released: Unknown - possibly early 70s, but recorded from at least 1943

What The Album Blurb Says...

Robert Wilson was born in a Glasgow suburb in 1909 and from a very early age had the burning ambition to become a singer.

He first broke into the entertainment world when he bacame a memeber of a concert party at Rothsay, on the Isle of Bute. While savouring the applause that these rather small beginnings brought him, he had the good sense to realise that he needed years of study and hard work to reach the top of his chosen profession. To this end he joined and stayed with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company for several years, touring America, Canada and Great Britiain, and from this he gained vast experience which was most valuable to his future career. In 1939 he decided that the time had come for him to enter the Variety scene as a solo artist - and how right his judgement proved to be. What with his magnificent voice, charming personality and superb stage presentation his success was almost immediate, and he soon became 'top of the bill' wherever he appeared. Not only was he starred in every medium of the entertainment world, but he was particularly acclaimed by exiled Scots both near and far who, like those in the Homeland, saw in his grand voice and fine physique the very embodiment of a true son of Scotland. No one wore the Kilt more proudly or better than he.

Much to the regret of all who heard him, Bob Wilson, as he was affectionately known to his many friends, died in 1964, but there remains a wealth of those great Scottish songs which he recorded during his lifetime and for which we have received many requests. The fourteen songs presented in this album illustrate why his was generally acclaimed to be "The voice of Scotland". 

T.D.
What I Say

There's one thing that the Scots are very good at. Actually, before I get myself into trouble, I should point out that I'm sure that there are lots of things that Scots are good at. Lots and lots. Really. But one area in which they excel is being Scottish. I mean proper, professionally Scottish. How many 'professional' Welsh or Irish people can you think of? Max Boyce, Daniel O'Donnel, Terry Wogan maybe... People for whom one of their distinguishing features is their nationality. OK, now think of professional English people. I'll give you Steven Fry, and I'll accept David Niven, even though he's dead. Any more...? No, see. And yet without putting any real effort into it, the Scots can proudly boast The Proclaimers, Billy Connolly, Moira Anderson, Harry Lauder, Sean Connery, Carol Smillie, and of course, the Krankies. OK, that may be stretching the definition of 'proudly boast', but I hope you get my point.

 

They say that the most Scottish part of Scotland is just over the border from England, where the difference between countries is clearly marked. Tartan and Saltires everywhere. It seems that the Scots have a very clear cultural identity, and the business nous to translate that into profitable entertainment. Our Robert Wilson (or Bob, as we must call him) falls strictly into this 'Professionally Scottish' category. You only have to look at the album cover to know what you're getting. A burly man in a skirt, sorry, a kilt, his face red from the harsh highland wind rolling off the moors and the whisky he has on his porridge. His pose is also extremely Scottish, though I can't quite figure out why. I assume it's meant to reflect Bob about to launch into a Highland Fling - right hand tucked in his belt, left knee slightly raised. Tunic and tie making him look like a policeman about to knee some poor suspect in the knackers. Delightful.

 

And the songs don't disappoint. Well, they do if you don't like maudlin songs about your wet, dour homeland, but let's assume for a moment that they're the very reason you bought this album. The choice of songs is absolutely perfect. It's 'The Greatest Scottish Songs In The Whole World Ever' for our parent's generation. Some of the arrangements however are... well, on the camp side of traditional, shall we say. When I first listened to 'Scotland The Brave' (which you'd expect to be the standout track here), I was transported back to a Saturday evening in the 70s, with the Two Ronnies about to do their musical number dressed as a pair of Highland Infantrymen making suggestive songs about Gay Gordons. The arrangement is pure Ronnie Hazlehurst. Actually, it is the standout track on the album, because it's the only one that sounds vaguely happy or interesting. The rest conjure up a wet Wednesday in Aberdeen with incredibly clarity.

 

The problem is that I don't think Bob sings very well. His voice, described elsewhere on this internet of ours as a 'rich baritone' sounds to my uneducated ears as a thin, weedy and reedy baritone. That doesn't even always hold the tune particularly well. This album was released after he'd died. I have to wonder if it was also recorded then too....

 

This man was called 'The Voice Of Scotland' which is a bit worrying. I could accept 'The Voice of Arbroath' which would allow for bigger and better voices to represent the nation. So don't judge the Scots too harshly. Though I do wonder who's the 'Ears of Scotland'. 

 

However, I do have one small niggle. From 1997 to 1999 I lived in Galway, and I'm sure, absolutely positive that it was on the West Coast of Ireland, and not in Scotland. It seems therefore that this song is an IMPOSTER, and should be removed immediately. Unless they're playing the Celtic card, in which case of course, everything is fair game.

 

 

By the way, our Bob Wilson, is not this Bob Wilson, one time goalie for Arsenal...

Nor is he this Bob Wilson, who's an English Lecturer, and posessor of one of the finest hair confections known to man...

And this is the Krankies. I think the Scottish Government should apologise immediately.

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. Westering Home
2. Scotland The Brave
4. Down In The Glen
5. Bonnie Mary Of Argyle
6. Marchin' Thru' The Glen
7. The Black Watch

 

Side 2

 

1. The Gay Gordons
2. The Road To The Isles
3. Hills O' The Clyde
4. Galway Bay
5. My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose
6. The Gathering Of The Clans
7. My Scottish Homeland.

 

Final Score


4 out of 10

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Bob Blaine And The Aloha Hawaiians - Hawaiian Honeymoon

Label / Cat. No: Hallmark CHM 624

First Released: 1969 

 

What The Album Blurb Says...

 

For those of you who are as yet unacquainted with the happy looking gentleman on the right, permit us to introduce you to Mr. Bob Blaine

 

Early biographical details can be found on the sleeve of his previous album 'BOB BLAINE SINGS COUNTRY MUSIC FOR BEDTIME' - Hallmark HM. 581. Suffice it therefore for us to say that he hails from Liverpool, has had years of experience with many name bands, and, as you will discover, he is a very fine singer.

Bob is considered by many people in the music business to be a walking encyclopeadia on standard songs and for this album he has personally selected the best, and most romantic of the songs of the Islands and just for good measure has thrown in three brand new ones that he wrote himself, including the title song 'HAWAIIAN HONEYMOON.'

 

So if you want to escape the weather, the tax man, or anything else that bothers you, may we suggest you get the album, go home, slice a pineapple, light a sunlamp, turn on the record player, sit in your favourite chair, play the record, close your eyes and you're off to Hawaii - Bon Voyage.

 

DON TODD

 

What I Say

 

Last time I admitted my ignorance regarding national musical exports, I managed to (quite understandably) ruffle a few Canadian feathers. As I pointed out at the time, any nation that gives us Celine Dion should surely face international sanctions. Anyway, I confess an equal lack of knowledge on the musical history of Hawaii, and shan't compound my ignorance with ill-informed commentary.....

 

Oh, who am I kidding. That's my stock-in-trade - ill informed opinion based on incomplete facts and minimal research. So, what do I know about Hawaiian music? Well, there's the Ukelele, which isn't what George Formby played (that was a hybrid between a ukelele and a banjo, and was quite seriously known as a banjolele. See, I do know some things....) Beyond that, I get stuck, although I did like that Israel Kamakawiwo'ole song they used in that advert.

 

And, er.... that's about it I think. Except to say, I really don't think that what we're presented here bears much relation to real Hawaiian music. Not least because it's been recorded by some Scouser who's probably never been further west than Llandudno. To my uneducated ears, it sounds like a series of slow tempo Country Music songs with a bit of ukelele and slide guitar stuck in the mix for good measure. I'm prepared to accept that this might be the genuine Hawaiian sound, but I seriously doubt it.

 

The songs really do all sound the same - same tempo, same arrangements, more or less the same melody, with just a couple of exceptions. "Black Is The Colour Of My True Loves Hair", despite sounding like a Donovan lyric is quite a dark, moody piece, clearly showing the harder side of our Scally Bob. 

 

The second slightly odd song on an album called Hawaiian Honeymoon is 'Flower of Tahiti'. I had to go and check on Google Earth, but I'm right. Tahiti really isn't anywhere near Hawaii. But hey, those South Sea Islands are all the same, aren't they....?

 

In 1969 Merseyside, Hawaii, and indeed Tahiti, must've seemed endlessly exotic, and they were therefore prepared to accept any old tat with a Hawaiian tag just to get themselves a taste of the islands. But knowledge of other cultures was a little more.... basic than perhaps it is today (anybody for My Boomerang Won't Come Back?Anybody....). I'm sure the English record buying public were prepared to believe that this light country froth really was the sound of the islands.

 

And clearly Hawaii is synonymous with romance, lust and dusky maidens if the cover's anything to go buy. Despite the title track being about the romance and special nature of taking your new bride to Hawaii, the cover depicts a new bride in a revealing negligee, clutching a book called 'Honeymoon Hints', looking shocked because her husband has lured four Hawaiian beauties to the boudoir using only his Ronco Slide Guitar. Looking shocked and mildly put out is probably the best reaction he could have hoped for - I'm pretty sure if I'd lured four dusky maidens to the bedchamber on my honeymoon I wouldn't be a father of three now...

 

All in all this is a bit of a wallpaper album. It's so gentle it just washes over you so that you almost don't notice, like a warm breeze in Waikiki. Not that I've been to Waikiki, but I have been to Llandudno.  But I've never been to me.

 

 

And this is how to do it right:-

And this is a bit of banjolele for you good people.

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. Hawaiian Honeymoon

2. Hawaiian Wedding Song

3. Song Of The Islands

4. South Sea Island Magic

5. Blue Shadows And White Gardenias

6. Beautiful Dreamer

 

Side 2

 

1. Aloha Oe

2. Hawaiian Memories

3. Moon Of Manakoora

4. Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair

5. Flower Of Tahiti

 

Final score:

5.5 out of 10

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Maralene Powell - Just For You

Label / Cat. No: Cambrian MCT 219 

First Released: 1972 

 

What The Album Blurb Says...

 

Maralene Powell made her first record as a solo artiste. Her second recording was in comapny with Gareth Edwards who for a brief moment exchanged the rugby field for the sound studio.

 

In this, her first album, Maralene presents a collection of songs which are as varied in subject as they are melodic in nature.

 

Family music at the fireside has been usurped in past decades by radio and television, but these technical wonders are now commonplace and making one's own music is becoming a rediscovered pleasure. This is indeed a talented family for in this record Maralene is joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John. The quiet mid Wales valley of Pantydwr must often echo to their songs.

 

"Amazing Grace" cannot be too frequently recorded for each singer brings something new to the listener. The Gentlemen Songsters who join Maralene in this version with such effect are too well known to need introduction. "Morning has Broken" is an old melody which lingers in the mind long after the echoes have died away.

 

This is a collection of ballads and folk songs, some old and some new. "Love is Teasing" is from the distant past while "Deportee" underlines how cheaply human life is sometimes held in the modern world.

 

Together they are a collection without a theme - unless what ordinary people feel and experience is thematic. Maralene is already well known on record and in concert, but this is the first recording of the Four P's and it must widen even further their circle of admirers.

 

What I Say

 

In light of the fact that the Taffs had a lucky victory on Saturday, I thought it only right we should look at one of their countryfolk for today's outing. And so we have the lovely Maralene Powell, a farmer's daughter from Pantydwr in Radnorshire. I'm not sure Radnorshire even exists any more, though there is a pub just a stone's throw from here called the Radnorshire Arms. See, a little background colour for you there.

 

Although it's ostensibly a Maralene album, the full title is Just For You - Maralene Powell and the Four P's sing a selection of folk and country songs for your pleasure. And I thought Script For A Jester's Tear was enough of a mouthful. These 'Four P's' confuse me though. There's a picture of them on the front, matching Salmon pink tops, flares armed and dangerous, and rolling Welsh landscape behind. And I think Maralene is one of the Four Ps. It certainly looks like her, and the sleeve notes refer to how Maralene is "joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John". That makes three other people, Maralene being the fourth. So why is it Maralene AND the Four Ps. Surely it's either 'The Four Ps' or 'Maralene and the Three Ps'. Surely Maralene is being counted twice. I shouldn't let it bother me, but this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

 

I've just noticed that on the back of the album it says it's called 'Maralene Powell with the Four "P's" and the Gentlemen Songsters present a selection of Folk and Country songs for your pleasure. Seems like everybody's getting in on the credits. Good job they didn't put that on the cover of the album, or there wouldn't have been enough room for that lovely picture of Maralene looking foxy.

 

The songs are a bit of an odd mix. Understandably, given the nature of the Welsh, there are a few religious songs on here - 'Tramp On The Street' stood out for likening the treatment of Jesus to the death of an unloved Tramp. On The Street. A strange comparison to make, but at least I remembered it! Amazing Grace is handled well, and the Male Voice Choir, sorry, the 'Gentlemen Songsters' make sure you know this is a Welsh record. But the version of Morning Has Broken struck me as a little... off. The pianist and the guitarist seemed hesitant, and not quite sure when to come in to best compliment the vocals. It leads me to believe (though I may be completely wrong) that the song was recorded 'live' in the studio.

 

I do have a few concerns though with the choice of songs. Firstly, there is a tendency on this side of the Atlantic to believe that Country songs hold some meaning for us. They don't. Really. It's nice to listen to, and I've learned over the last few years to love Country music, but there is something so very wrong about a singer from North Wales telling me about her Louisiana home, and how the cotton crop has done this year. I'm not saying you have to stick to what you know and sing about daffodils and leeks, but there is only a certain degree of credulity I can muster, and it stops short of believing you're a prairie flower.

 

What causes me more of a worry are the two songs that start side two - 'Love Is Teasing' and 'I Will Never Marry' - they both carry the same message, which is that men are feckless bastards who will get what they want from you, then cast you aside. You can't trust them, so don't waste your time on them. I shant comment further, only to suggest that maybe Maralene had one or two boyfriend issues at the time....? Mere speculation....

 

We also have a rendition of 'Nobody's Child', a song last seen on Tony Best - By Request, and of such awful sludgy sentimentality that it makes me nauseous just to think about it. It's a song about how the narrator goes to an orphanage and finds a blind boy who nobody wants (because he's blind, obviously), and how said blind orphan believes he'd be better off dead because at least in Heaven he'd be able to see. This really is the most unpleasant song I think I've heard since No Charge. Yes, it's really that bad.

 

The record is released on Cambrian Recordings, a label I hadn't come across at all before, and one that has a strong Welsh pedigree, boasting Max Boyce and Mary Hopkin as signed artists.

Maralene's voice is rather lovely. It has that pure, clean tone that was so favoured in folk circles in the 60s and 70s. That may however have been her downfall in that while the voice is technically good, it doesn't ( to my ears at least) stand out above the other recording artists of the time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it lacks that distinctive edge that could elevate it into wider public recognition.

 

Equally, the album doesn't have a focus - had it been an album of religious songs or an album of standards, it might have fared better, but it seems to lack identity as one or the other, and so ends up a bit of a hodge podge. That's not to say I won't be listening to it again. But you can be sure I'll be skipping Nobody's sodding Child.

 

 

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

(This is, by the way, the first album that I have ever seen that listed it's tracks a, b, c.)

 

(a) Amazing Grace

(b) Morning Has Broken

(c) See That Little Boy

(d) Deportee

(e) There But For Fortune

(f) Tramp On The Street

 

Side 2

 

(a) Love Is Teasing

(b) I Never Will Marry

(c) Nine Hundred Miles

(d) Country Girl

(e) Cotton Fields

(f) Nobody's Child

 

Final score:

 

6.75 out of 10

2017 Bonus - More album art of Maralene looking even foxier.  Wowsers.

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(A Golden Hour Of) Sounds Orchestral - The Earth, The Sea & The Sky

Label / Cat. No: Golden Hour (Pye) GH511 
First Released: This Compilation 1970 

What The Album Blurb Says...

John Schroeder, the brilliant young producer and creator of Sounds Orchestral has come a long way since 1962, the year that first saw him thinking about a musical concept that sprang to triumphant fruition three years later when "Cast your fate to the wind" sets Sounds on the international chart trail.

But while the years since have been filled with hit sounds for a multitude of artists, Sounds Orchestral continues to occupy a very special place in John's affections. For time and again, in the company of those other Sounds Orchestral veterans, Johnny Pearson and engineer Ray Prickett, John Schroeder returns to the studios to make fresh albums, yet albums that still retain the ingredients that keeps Sounds Orchestral a best-seller all over the world. 

This, his latest contribution to the Sounds success story starts, appropriately enough with the Vince Guaraldi classic that began it all. But complementing it are a string of familiar and enduring melodies that have found their way into many hit parades and into the affections of millions of people. Johnny Pearson has arranged them with the brand of perfection that has become his trademark and because the musical performances that graces them maintains the Sounds Orchestral formula, the result is sheer enjoyment for anyone who loves good music.

Arranged, Conducted by, and featuring the Piano of, Johnny Pearson
Produced by John Schroeder
Engineer: Ray Prickett


What I Say

When I was a sweet young thing of 13, I recorded a copy of 'Waiting' by Fun Boy Three from one of my sisters friends. Shhh, yes, I know, home taping is killing music. It's a great album, and one I still own. But my over-riding memory is that it managed to fit on one side of a C60 tape, all except for the last word of the last song ('that' of 'well fancy that'). If I'd bothered, I probably could have edited out the silence with judicial use of the pause button and made up those few precious moments to allow the final song in its entirety to fit on the tape. As it was, I didn't bother, and I quite liked the way the album just hung in the air, not quite resolved.

The point in all this reminiscing is that clearly the album, if it could fit on one side of a C60 only really lasted about 30 minutes. Pretty short for albums which in those days, you'd reckon to get on one side of a C90. 45 minutes was pretty much the norm until CDs came along and stretched things out. So to have an album with a guaranteed 'Golden Hour' of music would've been quite a bargain. Mind you, you're not getting any more than that. This album runs to 1 hour, 1 minute and 13 seconds. That's about as close as you can get, though I wouldn't set your watch by it. Well, I might set your watch by it, but not mine.

I have to tackle the cover. I can understand that with the butterflies, the fish and the logs / rocks you're getting a pretty literal depiction of 'The Earth, The Sea & The Sky', but whoever thought it would be a winning formula to stick a dead fish on the front of an album cover really needs to go back to marketing school. I grew up believing that album art was something to treasure. That in some cases, the cover was as important as the contents, that together they produced the whole experience intended by the artist. That may be because I listened to a lot of Prog Rock (I know, I know...) and they tended to go for the overblown, pompous, album cover.

But it was all part of the experience, listening to the album, poring over the cover art, looking for clues, for details, for messages. An hour spent looking at a picture of a couple of dead fish might push some people over the edge, however great the music is.

And the music isn't great. It's competent. It's nicely arranged, but it does nothing new. It falls between two stools like so many of its contemporaries - It won't radically change the arrangements of the music because the target market need nice, recognisable tunes that they can tap their toes to. So the arrangements aren't particularly bold or exciting. But equally, they don't have the full Orchestral sweep that would put them firmly into that realm. In fact, I wonder who on earth came up with the name 'Sounds Orchestral'. It sounds like a jazz trio plus a violin or two when the budget allowed. That it took John Schroeder three years from having the idea to making 'Sounds Orchestral' a reality makes you think that he spent that time building the foundations of something special. I suspect he didn't leave himself enough time to come up with that winning idea. That, or he just got distracted for a couple of years building a scale model of York Minster out of matchsticks and Jaffa Cake packets.

I'm afraid that this is all fairly generic stuff. Nothing in particular stands out (except for the drummer - he must've been sleeping with the Engineer to have got placed so high in the mix. That is of course a joke, and I'm not implying anything of the sort.....) Anyway, where was I... Oh yes. I don't expect innovation on every album I listen to, but if I could just find a spark of something interesting, something new or different then I would look far more kindly on this kind of album. But I really can't here, no matter how I try.

The saving grace however is that it does have a copy of 'Good Morning Starshine' on it. I don't think you can ever top the Original Cast sound recording of that particular song, but it's always good to hear any version of a song that has the following lyrics:-

Gliddy glub gloopy
Nibby nabby noopy
La la la lo lo
Sabba sibby sabba
Nooby abba nabba
Le le lo lo
Tooby ooby walla
Nooby abba naba
Early morning singing song


Can't go wrong there now, can you?!

 

Sound Clips (& Bonus full version of 'San Jose' thanks to Uncle Leo!)

 

Tracks

 

Side 1

 

1. Cast Your Fate To The Wind

2. What A Wonderful World

3. Moon River

4. Stranger On The Shore

5. Guantanamera

6. Nocturne (Chopin)

7. Petite Fleur

8. Moonglow

9. Carnival

10. Many Moons Ago

 

Side 2

 

1. Good Morning Starshine

2. Do You Know The Way To San Jose

3. The Poor People Of Paris

4. Canadian Sunset

5. Romance On The North Sea

6. Starglow

7. Red Roses For A Blue Lady

8. Pretty Flamingo

9. Waltz Of The Flowers (Valse Des Fleurs)

10. Exodus

 

Lots more information about 'Sounds Orchestral' can be found here

 

Final score:

4 out of 10

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Man of Brass - The Best Of Harry Mortimer O.B.E.

Label / Cat. No: EMI DUO130 
First Released: This Compilation 1981 

What the Album Blurb says is here - Be warned, it's very, very long!

 

What I Say

I think we need to talk about the blurb for a bit. Did you read all of it? No? I'm not surprised. Bit much really. I think it's fair to say that the author, Jack Oliver was given a brief to fill out the inner sleeve of a gatefold album, and he has done so. However, apart from the tedious repetition of how great Harry was and how fantastic the EMI recordings of his work are, one thing becomes painfully obvious. As we go on and on, the grammar becomes more and more tortured. Allow me to give you an example from the final quarter of the blurb:-

It was featured in a notable series of EMI records and a taste of the superb quality of the band is provided by their performance of the suite KENILWORTH by Sir Arthur Bliss, one of the classics of brass band literature, recorded in 1960 which appears on side 2 of the second record of this album.

I suspect that the deadline came round a bit quick for Mr Oliver, and he found himself the night before, hunched over his typewriter, desperate to fill the blank page before him. It started well enough, but as the night wore on, and our Jack started to tire, the language got more and more tortured.

But, bless him, he managed it, and he even used the UNEXPECTED CAPITALS trick that I'm so fond of. It works particularly well when confronted with things like "ALL-STAR BRASS", making it seem exotic, exciting and mysterious...!

But we can easily sum up this massive amount of blurb in the following way.

Harry Mortimer played the cornet. He started playing in his Dad's band, and continued to play in his Dad's band in an example of crass nepotism. He could hold a tune, better than most, and played in both brass bands and orchestras. He kept busy, had a job with the BBC for a while, and helped to popularise brass band music in the post war years. He organised the odd extravaganza like "MEN O'BRASS" where his maxim was clearly more is more, and he chucked together all the bands he worked with so that there was a big crowd of blokes playing brass instruments instead of a small crowd. Here are some recordings. They were made by EMI. Enjoy. Oh, and he also did a bit of conducting on the side.

See. That wasn't too hard was it. But no, instead we had to have Jack Bloody Oliver going on and on about 'Harry Mortimer' always bloody 'Harry Mortimer', never just Harry, or Mr Mortimer, or even Hazza. No. I shan't let it get to me. But really...

So, where was I? Oh yes, Brass Band music. It seems, as it goes, Harry Mortimer was a bit of a fan, and that's fair enough. But I'm not. I'm afraid I was put off by my next door neighbour, James Hearn. When we were children, he would practise his bloody trumpet every Saturday morning, without fail, starting at 9 o'clock and going on for a couple of hours. Yes, exactly. Prime Tiswas time, ruined by a trumpet. To be fair, it wasn't his fault, and he was very good at it (or at least, he became very good at it, though not as good as Hazza, of course...), but that put me off brass as a whole. 

Therefore, I'm not really in a very good position to tell you whether this is a good brass album or not. It certainly seems very... professional. There's lots of brass, a few tunes we know, and plenty we don't. So I'm going to have to take the middle ground here and just say it's OK.

And what have we learnt?

Well..... firstly, that Brass Bands all appear to have double entendre names like 'Black Dyke' and 'Fairey'.

Secondly, there is (or at least was) a whole thriving brass band community, one that probably was damaged irrevocably by the closure of the mines in the 80s. Which reminds me - if anyone out there hasn't seen Brassed Off, they probably should.

Thirdly, there was a composer called 'Granville Bantock'. I wish I'd called my child Granville Bantock. I promise that if I ever get a dog, that's what I shall call it. And he was a fine looking fellow too. Proper beard - the works...

Fourthly, you can go a long way if your Dad's leader of the band.

And finally, Harry Mortimer, the 'Man Of Brass' himself does indeed look like a cleaned up version of Father Jack Hackett...

Edited to add - Thanks to Gareth for pointing out that Harry Mortimer also looks like Rowley Birkin QC....

Oh, and of course, I couldn't leave an entry on Brass Bands without this now, could I....?

Sound Clips

Tracks

Side 1

1. Overture: ZAMPA

2. MAC AND MORT

3. RICHMOND HILL

4. Polka Brillante: SHYLOCK

5. ALPINE ECHOES

6. IL BACIO

7. CHAMPION MEDLEY MARCH No. 3

Side 2

1. TRUMPET CONCERTO IN E FLAT

2. ZELDA

3. HAILSTORM

4. THE SWALLOWS SERENADE

5. A HUNTING MEDLEY

Side 3

1. OPENING FANFARE

2. THE THREE TRUMPETERS

3. Suite: KENILWORTH

4. JENNY WREN

5. THE SHEPHERD'S SONG

6. THE LOST CHORD

7. RADETSKY MARCH

Side 4

1. BLAZON

2. RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES

3. TO A WILD ROSE

4. Overture: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE

5. SPRING (Elegiac Melody No. 2)

6. JESU, JOY OF MAN'S DESIRING (from Cantata No. 147)

7. GALOP AND FINALE (from the William Tell Overture)

Final score:

5 out of 10

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Hits For A Truck Driving Man

Label / Cat. No: Stereo Gold Award MER408 
First Released: 1976 

What The Album Blurb Says...

The truck driving man is about as individual and as special a breed of man as you're ever likely to meet. He's a man used to long silences broken only by the soft hum of wheels that burn up the miles between lonely townships. He has his own set of driving rules, his own language and his own songs. They're songs that truly reflect the nomadic life that he leads and the situations that lie around each bend in the road, songs with titles like "Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves", "Burning Rubber" and "Bumper to Bumper". The truck driving man may sing, hum or whistle them as he drives along that long black ribbon of tarmac towards his destination. Now you can share these songs of the road, as Big Dave and the Tennessee Tailgaters play and sing the tunes that have their own special message for each truck driving man... wherever he may be.


What I Say

I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, but I'm as sure as I can be that this album is a cheap and nasty record cynically trying to cash in on the 1970's trucker / Convoy fad. Yes, shocking I know, but I'm willing to bet there there is no such person as 'BIG DAVE', let alone the Tennessee Tailgaters. 

Let's look at the evidence shall we? Firstly, there's the fact that BIG DAVE isn't being used to push this album. The biggest text on the album sleeve is 'Truck Driving Man'. Poor BIG DAVE is relegated to a small corner of the tarmac, and his Tennessee Tailgaters get an even smaller point size. If you go looking for BIG DAVE on the internet (along with the TTs, of course), the only reference you'll find is to this album. Hmmmm.... sounds mighty fishy to me.

Secondly, Big Dave manages to sound like a very convincing woman on 'Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves', probably because it is sung by a woman. So unless BIG DAVE is either a) an hermaphrodite with an ability to switch voices at will, b) a very good impressionist or c) has an incredible range, then I don't think he alone tackles the vocals. Fair enough, it may be one of his Tennessee Tailgaters, but as there are sadly very few details on the record sleeve, it's hard to tell.

But the most damning evidence for how nastily this album has been thrown together to hang on to the 'Convoy' fad of '76 is all connected to that particular song.

Exhibit A - the big splash across the young ladies nether regions saying 'including CONVOY'. Clearly the makers of this album are using that song as the attention grabber. After all, why else paste those words across her mimsy. However..... there is a further implication by placing the splash there. It's suggesting censorship, that the young lady leaning suggestively on the cab of the truck may be showing more than she should.

But look! Thanks to the internet, I found a copy of the original, American version of this album, and LOOK! No splash, no 'including CONVOY', and no flesh needing to be censored....

Exhibit B - some simple maths. On the front cover it lists 7 songs, and says '& 4 Others'

By my reckoning that makes 11 songs. But look at the track listing.... six songs on each side. That always made 12 when I was at school, which means they've stuck an extra song on there. I'm betting it's Convoy.

Exhibit C - The vocalist on CONVOY does not sound at all like BIG DAVE. In fact, he sounds completely different to BIG DAVE, to the degree whereby I would argue with some confidence that it's not BIG DAVE at all, but some completely other person.

Exhibit D - The credits on the album label are all intact for every other song. Every single one. Except Convoy. Why would that be, unless it was a last minute addition to the album.

Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but I reckon that this album, originally released in America, had a version of Convoy stuck on for the British market becuase the timing meant that Convoy was fresh in the mind of the British music buyer, and this was a dirty, nasty, cynical way of selling their grubby little record. BIG DAVE? Big FRAUD, I say.

Which means I haven't spoken about the music (mostly Country with a couple of Bluegrass instrumentals), the inability for the culture to translate (American Knights of the Road on the wide open plains vs. a bloke from Dudley in overalls sitting on the A14 to catch the night ferry to Zeebrugge) or how this music is inappropriate (instrumentals telling of the life of the truck drivin' man? How does that work. Oh, and that 'Diesel Smoke Sally' seems to be about a woman who'll sleep with any trucker who passes through her cafe. Charming).

But you don't need to know about all that, when it's all been built on such flimsy foundations. You know, I never thought I'd have to turn detective, but I'm glad that I've saved you from this charlatan. You may thank me at your leisure.

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

1. Truck Driving Man 

2. Gimme Forty Acres

3. Soft Shoulders and Dangerous Curves 

4. Burnin' Rubber

5. King Of The Road 

6. T-Town Tailgaitin'

Side 2

 

1. Convoy 

2. Six Days On The Road

3. Giddy Up-Go

4. Diesel Smoke Sally 

5. Bumper To Bumper

6. Girl On The Billboard

Final score:

1 out of 10

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Tony Monopoly - Tony Monopoly

Label / Cat. No: BUK BULP 2000 
First Released: 1976 

What The Album Blurb Says...

None. Once I again, I feel cheated. And so should you.


What I Say

These are the things that you need to know about Tony Monopoly.

1. He looks like my mate Brian.
2. He used to be a monk (Tony, that is. Not Brian. He's never been a monk).
3. He's the only person to be named after a board game to release an album named after another one.

4. Monopoly isn't even his real name.  His real name is 'Monopoli'.  I might be being a bit picky here.
5. He lost his virginity to a Go-Go Dancer called 'Big Pretzel'
6. He's dead.

I find Number 6 the most surprising in many ways. You see, I was kind of aware of Tony Monopoly, in that I knew the name from my childhood. Actually, that was it. I knew the name. But it's one of those timeless names that's going to play the club circuits forever. And it turns out he died in 1995. That's 13 years I've been going round quite happily still thinking I might get a chance to see him live in concert, whereas in fact I've been kidding myself. Damn.

Having said that, if he hadn't died, I wouldn't have been able to find out facts number 2 and 4. Tom Lehrer once said that the obituary of Alma Mahler was the most exciting he'd ever read. For me, that honour most definitely goes to Tony Monopoly's. Allow me to quote you the first paragraph:-

Tony Monopoly was a former Carmelite monk who abandoned the contemplative life and went on to win six consecutive editions of Opportunity Knocks. Famous for his white suit, medallion and luxuriant chest hair, he was frequently compared with Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck. Monopoly was the youngest and least successful of this awesome triumvirate, but the only one with a sound grasp of the teachings of Saint Teresa of Avila.


Genius. 

The second reason I chose this album is because it's been touched by the hand of Tony. Look.... an autograph. Not one of your insignificant squiggles - Tony takes the effort to write his name in full, legibly, but with a definite flamboyance. 

And just look how he signs himself... "Sincerely...." I can feel the sincerity oozing out of every pen stroke, and every groove on the vinyl.

To be honest, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy this album - a bunch of fairly obvious cover versions by a talent show winner - not the kind of thing I'd normally go for. But I found myself singing along during the first song, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is fairly corny, and that sincerity oozes and drips in every phrase Tony sings, but if you want to be entertained by someone who can belt out a tune, you could do a lot worse than let Mr. Monopoly into your life.

The arrangements are a bit odd though - it must be difficult for an artist to make a song his own, and a surefire shortcut is to make an unusual or different version of a song. But really... 'I Believe' with a proto-disco backbeat. I'm not sure I approve. And our Tony (see, I'm getting ever more familiar...) also has a number of voices to help differentiate the songs. In 'You've Got A Friend' we have intimate, gentle, quiet Tony. 'I've Got A Name' sees bombastic Tony, and 'I Believe' gives us the real crooner that Tony was trying to release.

In later years fortunes don't appear to have been too good.... long stints on cruise liners seem to have been the norm, and there was a brief re-flowering of Tony's career when he got the lead in Cameron Mackintosh's musical version of Moby Dick (sadly, no. I'm not joking...). Oddly enough, it got scathing reviews. I can't think why....

Oh yes, hang on. It's because it was crap. YouTube has again been my friend, and I offer you Tony Monopoly as Captain Ahab. Please don't let this be his legacy. Remember him as the hairy chested eye-candy for ladies of a certain age that he was.

And finally, a 2017 edit - at last YouTube has come up with the goods, and here's Tony giving it his unrivalled all, with a bit of Bernard Manning thrown in for bad measure.  Ladies and Gentlemen, sit back and enjoy, Mr. Tony Monopoly.

 

Sound Clips

Tracks

 

Side 1

1. I've Got A Name

2. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

3, I Have To Say I Love You In A Song

4, Macarthur Park

5. I Believe

6. Walk On By

Side 2

1. Bless You
2. Every Time I Sing A Love Song
3. You've Got A Friend
4. One More Mile (And Darling I'll Be Home)
5. My Foolish Heart
6. Rock 'N' Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life)


Final score:

8 out of 10

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Elaine and Derek

Label / Cat. No: Parlophone PMC 1160 
First Released: 1961 

What The Album Blurb Says...

Fairly bursting with confidence and talent are Elaine and Derek Thompson, the thirteen-year-old twins from Belfast, who have been busy lately making a name for themselves with their records and television appearances.

Born on October 23, 1948, Derek is ten minutes older than Elaine - "and very proud of the fact," says his mother. They both attend Belfast Modern School where everyone is very excited about their popularity and success: it appears that the only two calm people in the school are Elaine and Derek themselves!

"We've been singing since we were six years old," says Elaine, who always takes charge of the situation, "at socials, parties and charity concerts, so I think this is why we don't feel nervous about singing before large audiences and in recording studios. It's Mum and Dad who suffer for us while we just get very excited. We don't sing rock 'n' roll, but we enjoy listening to it - it amuses us. Gene Vincent is one of our favourite performers; we like the way he flings himself around the microphone on stage!"

At school the twins' favourite subjects are French and algebra. They are not madly keen on sport, and all their spare time is taken up with singing. In fact they allow themselves little or no time to enjoy the hobbies and amusements that children usually like.

The twins were introduced to promoter Phil Raymond by a friend, when they were singing at a party one evening,. Raymond liked their voices and within a short time he booked them to appear at the Belfast Opera House with Gene Vincent and Emile Ford.

Recording manager Norman Newell was told about tht twins and flew to Belfast to hear them, with the result that they travelled to London and the E.M.I. studios to record their first disc for Parlophone Records - One Little Robin and Brahms' Lullaby (45-R4783). This proved so popular that before long they returned to cut another single - Bluebird, coupled with Wooden Heart (45-R4829) - and this delightful LP of twelve children's hymns, to the sensitive accompaniment of Michael Collins and his Orchestra.


What I Say


Hmmmm.... this album is rather like an onion. It has so many layers, and there's something new to discover underneath, but all the layers are really the same, and it makes me cry when you cut it up, and it makes a delicious base for most savoury meals. OK, so I didn't think out my metaphor very well before I started, but this album holds a few surprises, which aren't at first apparent.

For example, as is my practice, I chose the album on the qualities of its cover alone. Although first released in 1961, the influence of the 50s is still clear to see, from the typeface used on their names, to the formal outfits and hairdos of the twins. Dereks frilly fronted shirt and hand-made slacks (see, always the slacks) provide a formal accompaniment to his sisters frilly, fussy party dress with faux-pearl buttons and sewn on corsage.

What I didn't know when I picked up the album is that this is full of Children's hymns. Twelve songs that are supposed to uplift and convince children of the glory of god. But is it really aimed for children? I have a sneaking suspicion that the market for this kind of album is the grannies of this world. I have a clear image of a grey haired granny settling down in her favourite armchair to listen to 'those wonderful Irish children' sing about Jesus. And it must've been a comfort, for in 1961 when this record was released, rock 'n' roll was shaking the foundations, but just so long as teenagers were singing about Jesus and not girls and cars, then there was hope for the future.

And this album has been well loved. Unlike most of the records that I pick up which are in pristine condition, this is worn and scratched, with jumps, pops and hisses all over it. Someone has played this album over and over again. Either that, or they hated it so much they've used it as a dinner plate.... but I'm sticking with my doting Granny theory.

I'm also surprised at how happy they both seem to be. If you'd asked me at thirteen to stand next to my sister to have my photo taken, let alone smile, or - horror of horrors - touch her, I would have sulked and made the most unattractive of photographs. But here we have true professionals. They both look happy, relaxed, almost like they like each other. That's not normal in a teenager, is it?

Now, I know in my review of The Kaye Family that I suggested that there was something weird about families playing together, (although I did qualify that about it being weird across the generations), but there is one clear benefit of families singing together. I've heard it suggested that the reason why the Beach Boys, the Proclaimers and the Bee Gees do harmony so well, is because that they have similar physical vocal structures, as well as similar accents and similar tonality to their voices. Because they've grown up in the same environment, their voices sound very similar, and you end up with harmony not just of notes, but also of tone. (I am of course bluffing here, but don't tell anyone...) The same applies here - the songs sound sweet because the two voices compliment each other very well.

That's another thing. In a world where we are so used to our child stars being brash to the point of obnoxious, precocious and schmaltzy, the gentle sweetness of these two is quite refreshing. It's not my kind of music at all, either in subject matter or musical style, but there is something very calming and gentle about the way they sing together which is unexpectedly lovely.

Derek tends to sing the lower parts (unsurprisingly) with a fairly linear melody, while Elaine tackles the more complex melody lines. It's a traditional arrangement, but it works here. The songs I've picked for the clips are all much of a much - I just chose the ones I knew - there isn't a great amount of variety in this album, it must be said.

I wonder how annoyed Derek was though, that although he is chronologically and alphabetically first, that his name came second in the billing. That must've hurt, though it does say clearly on the sleeve notes that Elaine is in charge. I wonder if she made that business decision.

But who's laughing now, eh? For while Elaine has subsided into obscurity (I say that like I know - for all I know, Elaine could be a major star under another name....) Derek, the mighty Derek of Elaine and Derek grew up to be one of England's favourite TV stars.

Yes, this was the biggest surprise that this album yielded for me. When I started doing my 'research' (assuming a bit of googling can be counted as research) for this album, I discovered that this album's Derek is......
.....
Charlie Fairhead 'off of' Casualty. It really is. Look.... proof and everything.

HOW FANTASTIC IS THAT??

Tracks

 

Side 1

1. There's A Friend For Little Children
2. O What Can Little Hands Do
3. When Mother Of Salem
4. How Great Thou Art
5. Standing Somewhere In Life's Shadows
6. Jesus Loves Me


Side 2

1. Gentle Jesus Meek And Mild
2. Stranger Of Galilee
3. I Am So Glad That Jesus Loves Me
4. Who Is He In Yonder Stall
5. Jesus Tender Shepherd
6. Nearer My God To Thee


Final score:

7 out of 10

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The Kaye Family - Live!!

Label / Cat. No: Hirra HLS 207831 
First Released: 1974 

What The Album Blurb Says...

The Kaye Family must surely rank as unique among musical entertainers. Mother, Father, Daughter and Son, whilst each projecting strong individual qualities in their respective talents, merge into a blendship of melodic unity, which is smoothly maintained throughout a warm and appealing performance.

Audience attention is commanded by supreme musicianship, smack on timing that would do justice to a space shot and a superb arranging ability. Deeply insighted into people's requirement in entertainment, they have the happy gift of presenting the very best material covering a spectrum from light to popular music.

This intimate family unit, small as it is, nevertheless produces the big sound.

The skillful change of immaculate gowns, by the ladies who supply the vocals, compliments their splendid harmony.

There is nothing magical in their success, just hard unrelenting work, dedication to their art and that impelling desire in all true professionals to bring and give only of the best to the people.

Ringing the curtain down on The Kaye Family is a difficult task, the clamour is always for more.

Call your own family together, set the turntable to 33 1/3 r.p.m. and be assured that you too will spin this disc many times.

DICK DOYLE
Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen
South Wales


What I Say

Can I get this out of the way first. Musical family groups are creepy. From the Von Trapp singers to The Jackson Five, there is something just so.... wrong about large members of the same family performing together. I think the optimum level is two brothers - just look at OasisSpacehog or The Black Crowes. Two brothers bring the necessary friction, the dynamic which pushes both to outperform and out achieve the other.

But just look at the Kaye Family. You know behind the bearded face at the keyboard lies a tartar. A man who has marshalled his wife and children into his dreams of stardom. "Sharon darling, we need another baby. We don't have a drummer. Brace yourself...".

And this is the result.... I'm saying nothing.

To be fair, the family are all talented musicians (in their own way), but how many teenagers would a) voluntarily practice their musical instruments, b) want to spend large amounts of their free time rehearsing with their parents, and c) appearing in public, not only with your parents, but wearing the same clothes as them. I can only imagine the number would be very small, which means that either the Kaye Family are one in a million, or Old Man Kaye beats his children in time to the 'Rumba' setting on his organ.

Of course he doesn't. I think legally I need to make it clear that I do not believe that Mr Kaye in any way mistreats his family. Though of course, he does mistreat the audience with his organ led arrangements. The Rumba is his favourite setting (NOT for beating his family, NOT for beating his family - I can't stress that enough), as everything has that very 1970s latin arrangement to try and make them sound exotic and mysterious. I'm not sure how exotic and mysterious the Canton Liberal Club, Cardiff on a June night in 1974 really was, but I'm sure the Kaye Family helped the atmosphere along enormously.

These are clearly a band who've done the club circuit. They belt out the numbers double fast, not giving the audience the chance to catch their breath, throw missiles or shout insults. Just listen to the introduction and see how long it takes them to launch into the fastest version of 'Cabaret' that you will ever, ever hear. And 'Aquarius' gets the same treatment. Be still my racing heart, it's all that I can do to keep my breath.

I've often found that if you listen carefully to a lot of these old albums I find, you can often find one of the musicians, there in the background, just itching to be allowed a chance to break free and really show what he can do. You don't have to look too hard on this album to find that member of the group. The son (let's call him Jim. I have no idea what his name is, but Jim seems as good as any) clearly toes the party line on the drums. His father's arrangements are strictly adhered to. But there seems to be a pay off. Maybe Jim's got something on his old man... some indiscretion maybe, or knowledge of a dark family secret. But clearly there is a deal been struck here. Jim plays his old man's parts to the letter, but he's allowed to let rip at the end of the songs. And by Jove does this boy let rip! Think Animal from The Muppets on steroids. Jim is up for some serious thrashing of those skins. So the gentle folk rhythms of 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone' end with Jim rockin' the house. And good on him I say.

Dad demands his moment in the spotlight, and gets a solo spot with his 'Short Selection of Famous Overtures', which I will just say is possibly the most tedious thing I have ever had to listen to. Although Jim livens it up a bit at the end in his own inimitable style. And then Jim gets to lead on 'Midnight In Moscow', and things start to go crazy. Seven Russian Themed songs in a medley with drums as lead instrument all the way. Magic in a tin it is, magic in a tin.

Ultimately, I can't blame them for the way they look, because it was 1974 so this was what was expected (even the silver capes, I suspect). I can't blame them for providing populist entertainment because they're doing the club circuit, and that's what's needed. I can't even blame them for being slightly creepy because they're a family, and unlike a lot of families, at least they're spending a lot of time together and doing something creative.

What I can blame them for is getting Dick Doyle to write their album blurb, and for using a word as obscene as 'blendship'. Eurghhh. What were they thinking?

Oh, and it turns out his name's not Jim. It's Adrian. I should have guessed. He looks like an Adrian.

 

Sound Clips

 

Tracks

 

Side 1

Cabaret
Put On A Happy Face
Something's Going To Happen Tonight
Love Me With All Your Heart
Quando Quando
Never Ending Song Of Love
Everybody Loves A Lover
High On A Hill
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
Too Young

Side 2

Granada
White Rose Of Athens
A Short Selection Of Famous Overtures
Aquarius
Midnight In Moscow
Volga Boat Song
Gopak
Black Eyes
From Russia With Love
Kalinka


Final score:

6.5 out of 10 but only because I'm strangely drawn to their bass playing daughter...

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McDingo's Miracle

So, I finally got around to reading my copy of 'Merla's Miracle' which some lovely person on Amazon sold to me for a ridiculously cheap price. With all the sense of moment that I could muster, I opened the cover (featuring the grisly, gruesome and graphic photo of Merla's mangled mitt), and found this...

Isn't that the most wonderful thing you've seen today? OK, probably not actually, but look. There. A proper, signed by the author autograph. Merla has touched this book. She has written in it (with her good hand, of course...) and now it's mine, all mine.

Am I the luckiest man alive?

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Platinum Blonde - Alien Shores

Label / Cat. No: Columbia PCC-80105

First Released: 1985

 

What The Album Blurb Says...


None. Boo! But, but.... when reading through the lyric sheet, I came across this gem...

"Are we alone? Erich Von Daniken asked us to believe the temples and pyramids are proof that earth was visited in its embryonic stage by an ancient intelligence.

In writing the lyrics for the interconnecting songs on 'Alien Shores', I was inspired by the thoughts of unexplained mysteries of our past, which may never be answered. But 
Hungry Eyes will perpetually seek the truth.



What I Say

This album has purged me of my guilt. You see, in 1993 I bought a pair of slacks from a gentlemen's outfitters in Albert Road, Morecambe. I believe the colour was described as 'stone', and I wore those stone slacks. Often.

With hindsight, I had tortured myself in the knowledge that they were the worst pair of trousers I had ever bought, and probably the worst pair of trousers in the world ever. Yes, they reall were that bad. But then, oh happy day, I slipped the inner sleeve out of this album, and what did I find? This...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those really are the worst slacks ever to have been created. And not just one pair of bad slacks, but FOUR! That's a 100% hit rate for the Platinum Blondes. Combined with those four nasty white jackets, we have the perfect snapshot of 1985. I believe this photo should be kept in an archive somewhere as an important historical document. And of course to serve as a warning to future generations. 


And try as I might, I can't not speak about the hair. Back-combed, sprayed, bleached, coiffed, and... wonder of wonders, the bloke on the right has one of the best expressions of the mullet that I have ever seen. This is a man at the top of his hair game, and yet he looks the most uncomfortable of the four. Somehow his face just wasn't made for those times. Oh..... and is there a hint of black eye-liner there.... Marvellous.

As far as I can tell, with no research whatsoever, Canada has produced only 3 notable musical talents that have become known outside their country. And considering that two of those are Bryan Adams and Celine Dion, you'd think they'd learn to keep their music to themselves. (For information, the third is Barenaked Ladies, for whom I maintain a soft spot). But in the mid-eighties, it seems that Canada was at the forefront of pop music. Platinum Blonde have got everything needed to be a pop sensation in 1985. They've got the clothes and the hair, they have the ability to pose and to brood under their floppy fringes. They even have perfectly competent 80s style pop songs, so why oh why weren't they massive.

Well, they were. Really. This album went quintuple platinum in Canada. For a brief, glorious moment, Platinum Blonde were major stars on the Canadian scene. Which illustrates again how subjective I am in choosing these albums. I would consider this record to be obscure and unknown, but that's just in my experience. Given a different time and place, this was monstrously successful. Only goes to show how much I have to learn....

But the other reason I believe they weren't more successful outside of Canada lies in a description given to the band of 'The Canadian Duran Duran'. On reading this I'd assumed that it was because of the look, and maybe the style, but no. Most of the songs on this album could easily have been written by the Durannies. The blokes voice (I really can't be bothered now to go and check his name. Oh, that's a bit rude isn't it. Hold on.... It's Mark Holmes) even sounds like Simon Le Bon. And there's the rub. Did the world really need two Duran Durans? I think not. So outside of Canada (where I assume their homegrown status helped enormously), they were pretty much redundant.

It seems that they keep plodding on, and there are interesting photos showing the band playing on a small stage outside the Hard Rock Cafe in Ottawa to about 12 people and a dog in 1999. And not a mullet in sight.

Oh, and I forgot Alanis Morissette, though I think that probably only adds to my argument.

 

Sound Clips

2017 Edit - And here's the 80s in a four-and-a-half minute nutshell.

2017 Edit 2 - Shhhhhh..... Don't tell anyone, but.....

Tracks

 

Side 1


1. Situation Critical
2. Crying Over You
3. Red Light
4. It Ain't Love Anyway
5. Somebody Somewhere

Side 2

1. Lost In Space
2. Temple Of the New Born
3. Holy Water
4. Animal
5. Hungry Eyes


Final score:

5 out of 10 - not bad, not good, not original, not my cup of tea

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Various Artists - IMPACT

Label / Cat. No: Columbia - STWO 2 
First Released: 1968 

What The Album Blurb Says...

THE BREAKTHROUGH TO THE EXCITING WORLD OF STEREO SOUND.

A further selection of tracks from the spectacular and exciting Studio Two catalogue.... each one chosen to highlight the variety of repertoire and stereo sound quality; together forming a highly entertaining album that will be appreciated by all listeners....

What I Say

I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong. And I'm wrong. You see, I had always assumed that these albums that were released to demonstrate the exciting new world of Stereo Sound would use the new technology in a clumsy and naive way. I had got it into my head that we would be working with extremes of stereo, like 'Now I'm Here' by Queen, the sound engineer throwing the balance left then right then back again, so it felt to the listener like he was being assaulted on all sides.

And I was wrong. 'Impact', or IMPACT to give it its correct title (you should've learned by now, I'm a sucker for capitalised words), is a far more subtle and entertaining beast. The stereo mix is in no way extreme and is in fact rather delicate.

I love the impression you get that every artiste had their own Orchestra, or at the least, a group of musicians to do their bidding. There's a big difference between Cliff Richard and The Shadows, and Ron Goodwin and His Orchestra. Every man (for they are indeed men) on this album has his own back up set of musicians, except for poor Jack Emblow, who, tagged on at the end even has to have his instrument noted by his name. Is he such a poor accordion player that we need to be told which instrument it is that he's mangling? How much further would Jack Emblow's career gone if he'd had an Orchestra of his own? We shall never know now.

And what names to conjure with. Why wasn't I named 'Norrie Paramor', 'Pepe Jaramillo' or even 'Basil Henriques'? You just don't get names like that any more. Or if you do, they don't seem to be showing up on my radar.... which is hardly surprising seeing as I'm based in a small market town near the border with Wales.... but I digress. These are SERIOUS names. Names to reckon with. And, as if Acker Bilk wasn't in itself a name to rise above the average, he then insists on being addressed as Mr. Acker Bilk. How cool is that? Sir, I salute you.

The music on the album is also top notch - mind you, with that many orchestras in attendance, you'd bloody hope so. But when an album starts with the slide trombone of 'The Stripper', you're in for a real treat. There are no duds here, though I'm not entirely sold on the cover of 'The Fool On The Hill'. Too soon I think, chaps. Furthermore, when you listen to 'Legend of the Glass Mountain', you just know it's a film soundtrack in the good old tradition. There was no need to add "(Theme from film)" after the title. It screams movie at you from each and every honey-draped string.

But the very greatest treat on this record is the tune 'Wheels', performed here by Joe Loss And His Orchestra. I will wager that most of you will look at that and think 'Wheels? I don't know that one'. Listen to it. You know it, oh yes, you know it well.

 

Sound Clips

Bonus:-

Alternate version of 'Wheels by 'The String-A-Longs'. 

Extra Double Bonus for people who remember the 80s in Britain...

Tracks

Side 1


1. The Stripper - David Rose & His Orchestra
2. Soul Coaxing - Norrie Paramor & His Strings
3. Stranger On The Shore - Mr. Acker Bilk & The Stan Tracey Big Brass
4. Sucu Sucu - Pepe Jaramillo & His Latin-American Rhythm
5. Love Is Blue - Franck Pourcel & His Orchestra
6. Legend of The Glass Mountain (Theme from film) - Ron Goodwin & His Orchestra

Side 2

1. Wheels - Joe Loss & His Orchestra
2. Live For Life (from the film) - The Norman Newell Orchestra
3. Can't Take My Eyes Off You - Basil Henriques & The Waikiki Islanders
4. The Fool On The Hill - Ralph Dollimore & His Orchestra
5. A Man And A Woman (from the film - Manuel & The Music Of The Mountains
6. Ritual Fire Dance - Jack Emblow (Accordian)

Final score:

9 out of 10 - the highest so far.

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