Thursday, February 8, 2018

Joy Of Cooking - Rarities (1971-73)

Titles can be deceiving. Despite its name, the 2006 CD set The Complete Joy Of Cooking doesn't contain all the recordings released by this innovative, female-fronted '70s folk-rock group. The collection features the group's three albums, but leaves off the odds and ends that came out after its split in 1973.

These rarities also didn't show up on double CD Back To Your Heart, which was self-released by bandleaders Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite around ten years ago. So I decided to make a collection of all of the rare tracks, which come from several sources. Back in the early '70s, Joy Of Cooking didn't really get its due, so consider this a small way to pay tribute to this excellent group.

The first rarity is actually the 45 version of the group's most popular song: Their jaunty cover of bluesman Furry Lewis' "Brownsville Blues." Under the title "Brownsville," it became the group's only chart hit, hitting #68 in the spring of 1971. When the group put this on its self-titled first album, it was the first part of a six-minute medley that also included their original musical version of the old "Mockingbird" nursery rhyme. As such, it was titled "Brownsville/Mockingbird" on the LP.

But the single version chops the song down to two-and-a-half minutes by removing the "Mockingbird" segment and because of that the title was abridged too (see label at left). It's a shame that this song ended up becoming Joy Of Cooking's calling card, because they better original songs put out as 45s that should have been more successful. But the pop charts can be a crapshoot, and the big winner for Joy Of Cooking turned out to be a cover song that wasn't really indicative of the group's style. That's life.

After that first LP, the group came out two more, Closer To The Ground in 1971 and Castles in 1972. Both had songs mostly written by keyboardist Toni Brown mostly sung by guitarist Terry Garthwaite. The tension between the sweetness of Brown's melodies and the grittiness of Garthwaite's singing gave the band a unique edge. When the duo harmonized (like on "Let Love Carry You Along") the results could be blissful.

Around 1973 Brown left the group because she was tired of touring. Garthwaite carried on and recorded a fourth Joy Of Cooking album titled Same Old Song And Dance that went unreleased. Sort of. In interviews, she said the album was released to airline companies and flyers got to hear it. Brown said in an interview it came out in Canada. I can't find evidence of it ever being released anywhere, but I could be wrong.

Whatever the case, three tracks finally came out in 1992 on a compilation CD called American Originals (right). They make up tracks 2-4 here. First and foremost among these songs is an excellent introspective Brown composition called "Such Days Are Made For Walkin.'" This somewhat melancholy song has jazzy overtones and speaks obliquely about family life, so it presages her second solo album from 1979, where several of the tunes had those same characteristics.

The second tune was penned by San Francisco-based traditional Dixieland banjo player Dick Oxtot, who led a group called the Golden Age Jazz Band that Garthwaite, with whom Garthwaite later performed. Oxtot's "Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me" is an old-timey number that -- ironically -- signaled a new direction for Joy Of Cooking.

The third track is a cover of jazz singer-songwriter Alberta Hunter's "You Gotta Reap Just What You Sow," that adds a rocking edge to the tune. Hunter must have been an influence on Garthwaite since some of her songs for Joy Of Cooking are in the same vein as this one.

There's another rare song that mysteriously got released and it might or might not be from that elusive fourth Joy LP. It's a cover of Ma Rainey's "Walking Blues" that made it onto a 1990 cassette-only release called The Best Of Joy Of Cooking (below). The cassette was part of a series called "Retro Rock," which I know little about, except there was another one by the group Goose Creek Symphony. Anyway, I bought this cassette when it came out and it was the first I'd ever heard of Joy Of Cooking. It was an inexpensive and convenient way to be exposed to new music and it definitely made me a fan.

However, the question remains as to why an unreleased track made it onto a "best of" cassette. Maybe the record company was trying to entice would-be buyers who already had the group's three albums? If that was the case, they should have also put the collection out on CD or vinyl, so everyone could hear the track in better quality. The version you hear here is dubbed from my old cassette and it's the best I could do with that iffy format.

By the way, "Walking Blues" (which was spelled out as "Walkin' Blues on the cassette), is not same song as Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" from the 1930s, which was covered by Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and many others. Rainey's song came out on a 78 disc in 1923 and has a touch of jazz in its arrangement. For the Joy version, Garthwaite included some jazz instrumentation, but gave the song a solid rock beat and included some of her signature slide guitar playing. It's a nice blend of genres and it's a shame this track got lost along the way. (Which is also a good justification for writing three paragraphs about it here.)

All of the above tunes made for only five cuts, which is pretty paltry. So I also included two tracks from Terry Garthwaite's self-titled 1975 debut solo album that were penned by Toni Brown. Had Brown stayed with Joy Of Cooking, these songs would probably have been on the group's fourth album. And it's a shame she didn't because the first one, "Angel Of Love" is one of the best things she ever wrote: A soulful rocker about a woman's alienation in navigating the urban singles scene.

"Angel Of Love"  also has to be one of the first rock songs to directly deal with the issue of sexual harassment. Brown's second verse about having to change seats in a movie theater because of "strange hands" on her thighs was way, way ahead of its time and I wonder if her or Garthwaite have flashed back on this verse as the #MeToo Movement has made sexual harassment a nightly news topic over the past few months.

Brown herself does a version of "Angel Of Love" on her second solo album, which has never come out on CD (and which I blogged about previously). But Garthwaite's rip-roaring rendition brings an added dimension to Brown's thoughtful observations -- and also exemplifies the yin-yang between the two women that made Joy Of Cooking so compelling. Garthwaite also performs a second Brown tune on her debut solo album, "Changing Colors," which is a swirling jazz number that creeps up on you.

For more about his group, check out this article from the online music mag Perfect Sound Forever, which contains the quotes I referenced above. There are also links below to posts I wrote about other Joy-related albums that are out-of-print.

Related posts:
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974) 
The Joy - Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (1977)
Toni Brown - Toni Brown (1979)

Track list:
1. Brownsville [Single Edit]
2. Such Days Are Made For Walkin'
3. Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me
4. You Gotta Reap Just What You Sow
5. Walkin' Blues
Bonus tracks:
6. Terry Garthwaite - Angel Of Love
7. Terry Garthwaite - Changing Colors

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bear - Greetings, Children Of Paradise (1968)


Never released on CD, Bear's only album, Greetings, Children Of Paradise, is a '60s release that has gained a cult following over the years. There are vinyl rips in circulation -- like the one that's on YouTube -- but they have pops and scratches and are at a low bit rate.

This is a brand new rip I made that's scratch-free and has a high bitrate.

Greetings, Children Of Paradise could be best characterized as post-Sgt. Pepper rock. It's overly eclectic, has lots of horns and keyboards, and features songs about eccentric subjects. It's been criticized as "diffuse" in various places, but I'd say that's part of its charm.

Its wide-ranging styles are due to the group having three different songwriters: Steven Soles, Eric Kaz, and the late Artie Traum. Each one brings a different style to the table. Soles' songs (co-written with his brother Michael) are the most pop-focused of the bunch ("So Loose and So Slow;" "Like Cats"). Kaz -- who later joined the Blues Magoos and went on to write songs for Michael Bolton and others -- chimes in with the most pensive compositions, like "Don't You Ever Stop To Think About Them?"

Artie Traum, who died around ten years ago, was well-known in folk circles. As you might expect, he contributes the most earthy material, such as the atmospheric "The Hungry Dogs Of New Mexico." This tune was featured in a different version on the 1969 LP Traum made with his brother, fellow folkie Happy Traum.

The LP was produced by John Boylan, who has a long track record of music industry successes, including managing Linda Ronstadt and co-producing the first Boston album. In fact, it seems everyone involved in this project went on to something bigger.

Maybe that's the reason used copies this album now sells for high prices on eBay and Amazon. Back in the summer of 1985, though, I bought the copy you hear here for...$1. Yes, it cost me a dollar. A long-defunct Maryland record store called RecordWorks was clearing its stock and put a bunch of old records on deep discount. That same day, I also bought a mint copy of Roy Wood's Super Active Wizzo which I still own.

Although this is a stereo album, the opening track "Greetings!" is in mono. I'm guessing that's because it was mixed into mono when it was used as the theme song for the 1968 Brian DePalma drama of the same name. The film was about young men trying to avoid the draft, and starred an upstart Robert DeNiro. (I've seen it and was unimpressed, but then I'm not a big fan of movies or Hollywood in general.) Kaz must have hit it off with both the director and actor because he also composed the theme song to the 1970 DePalma/DeNiro movie "Hi, Mom!"

Track list:
1. Greetings!
2. So Loose And So Slow
3. Like Cats
4. Happy Days
5. What Difference
6. It's Getting Very Cold Outside
7. I Won't Be Hangin' 'Round
8. Don't Say A Word
9. Don't You Ever Want To Think About Them?
10. The Hungry Dogs Of New Mexico

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Frank Sinatra - Original Takes From 'The Voice' Box Set (1986)

This is going to be a pretty esoteric post. And a potentially confusing one too. So pay attention if you care about Ol' Blue Eyes.

This is a collection I put together that features eight original recordings that Frank Sinatra did for Columbia Records that have become pretty rare. They were originally released as 78 records, and then were put on the 1986 box set The Voice: The Columbia Years 1943-1952, which brought them to a whole new generation of listeners, including me.

But in 1993, Columbia Records released a more definitive box set called The Columbia Years 1943–1952: The Complete Recordings, and it made The Voice obsolete. Or so we thought.

Turns out, the 1993 box set contained alternate takes of these eight songs instead of the versions that were originally released. See the track listing below for the titles. In the case of two of the songs, "Nancy (With The Laughing Face)" and "Poinciana," the '93 box set contained two alternate takes of each, neither of which were the originals featured on The Voice. (How do I know for sure? I lined them each up side-by-side in a WAV file editing program and compared them. They're definitely different.)

Not a lot of people have The Voice box set anymore, but I kept MP3s of these rare tracks, so here they are. Over at the Sinatra Family Forum, producer and archivist Chuck Granata says these original takes weren't included in the 1993 box set because they were "unusable" and better recordings were found. He also wrote in a post that the differences between the recordings are "negligible."

I'll agree with that. But I have two points to make. First, even if the sound was substandard, I think these original recordings should have been put somewhere on the 1993 set because they're part of history. People who buy music recorded in the 1940s don't expect state-of-the-art quality anyway.

And second, maybe casual listeners can't tell different takes apart from one another, but obsessive listeners can. And when you become really familiar with a specific recording, differences do become apparent. I played the version of "It Never Entered My Mind" from the '86 box set so much that I could easily differentiate it from the one that appeared in '93. The earlier one has a much more legato vocal and creates a sadder, more mellow mood, which I prefer. I still play it to this day.

All that said, the Sinatra people have done an excellent job keeping his material before the public eye, so if they're reading this, it isn't a slam about their decisions. It's just a way to get some now-obscure takes back in circulation for the people who like this stuff.

The bad news is that I ripped these tracks almost twenty years ago @128 kbps from a CD box set I no longer own. Back then I had limited digital storage, so I kept bitrates low. Funny enough, I kept the vinyl box set, but not the CDs. Still, I don't feel like doing vinyl rips of this, so if anyone has these MP3s from The Voice @320, feel free to get in touch. Update: These files are now @320, thanks to a generous reader of this blog, imwalrus, who shared his high-quality copies. Much appreciated, imwalrus.

Finally, there's a ninth track here: "Someone To Watch Over Me." Both box sets contain the exact same take, but the newer one has some digital distortion starting at around 1:27, so I included the cleaner, older one here.

Related posts:
The De Castro Sisters - Teach Me Tonight (1954-58; 1999 Collection)
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)
The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)
Eydie & Steve - Cozy (Mono Mix, 1961)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)
Rosemary Clooney - Girl Singer (1992)

Track list:
1. Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
2. Try A Little Tenderness
3. Poinciana (titled "Poinciana (Song Of The Tree)" on the 1993 box set)
4. Mean To Me
5. I've Got A Crush On You
6. It Never Entered My Mind
7. Body And Soul
8. Why Was I Born?
9. Someone To Watch Over Me

Monday, December 18, 2017

Clay Allison - King Kong Club, College Park, MD (5-14-1984)

Here is the third and final post of rare Kendra Smith music, which I'm doing as a way to celebrate her return to the music world after a two-decade absence in the wilderness. I mean that literally. According to various online reports, Smith left civilization as we know it following the release of her second and final solo album, the presciently titled Five Ways of Disappearing from 1995.

But just over a decade before that release, Smith had started her professional career with the psychedelic revival band the Dream Syndicate. It was with that group that she recently re-united in the studio and on stage. Her original stint with them, however, was over by late 1983. That's when she joined up with Rain Parade guitarist David Roback to form the dream pop band Clay Allison. Soon after, they changed the band's name to Opal, then Mazzy Star, and the rest is history.

This is a recording of a Clay Allison gig from the spring of 1984. At the time, I was actually attending college about twenty minutes away from where it happened. Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about Clay Allison or Kendra Smith. Yet.

That summer, I first heard Smith's voice as part of Rainy Day, an album that featured members of Los Angeles' Paisley Underground scene performing covers of old '60s and '70s tunes. Specifically, it was her vocal on the version of the Buffalo Springfield's "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong." Hearing this song on my local alternative radio station was one of the defining moments of my musical youth. I still remember what I was doing (delivering pizzas!) and which road I was traveling on (northbound Route 29). This was in the days before pay phones, and I remember getting home that night and calling the disc jockey and asking "What in the world was THAT?!" Come fall, I was able to track down a copy of the Rainy Day album and became a lifelong fan of Kendra Smith and psychedelic music, among other things.

Speaking of all things nostalgic, the restaurant/concert space where Clay Allison played still stands. It's actually a Chinese restaurant that used to host live music. You can see it in the photo above, which I got from Google's "Street View" feature.

I was hoping I could find some press on this group. No such luck. All I could locate was a small blurb in the digital archives of the University of Maryland College Park's student newspaper, The Diamondback (see below, right). The blurb is in the second paragraph; the one above it is the final 'graph of a review on DC-area '80s sensations The Slickee Boys. For more info on Smith, Clay Allison, and Opal, see my links below.

Related posts:
Clay Allison - Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop (3-16-1984)
Clay Allison - Live At The Electric Banana (5-22-1984) 
Opal - Early Recordings Vol. 2 (1984-87) 

Track list:
1. Grains Of Sand
2. Lisa's Funeral 
3. My Only Friend
4. Hear The Wind Blow
5. Freight Train
6. Fell From The Sun
7. Cherry Jam
8. Lullabye
9. All Souls
10. Ballad Of A Crystal Man
11. This Town

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Clay Allison - Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop (3-16-1984)

To celebrate Kendra Smith's return to the concert stage after a two-decade absence, I'm putting out some rare bootleg concerts of one of her old bands, Clay Allison. The group was named after an obscure 19th century cattle rancher and gunfighter.

Her and collaborator Dave Roback must have realized that a name related to the Old West didn't quite fit the spaced-out mood of their music, so they changed it to Opal, and then to Mazzy Star. For more info, see my links below.

Related posts:
Clay Allison - Live At The Electric Banana (5-22-1984) 
Opal - Early Recordings Vol. 2 (1984-87)

Track list:
1. Grains Of Sand
2. All Souls
3. This Town
4. Lullabye
5. Fell From The Sun
6. My Only Friend
7. Freight Train

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Clay Allison - Live At The Electric Banana (5-22-1984)

Here's some good news on the musical front: Kendra Smith has emerged from the wilderness. I mean that literally. Smith was a founding musician of Los Angeles' Paisley Underground scene in the mid-1980s, but about ten years after than, she left music (and society) behind to live in the woods somewhere in rural California.

However, the elusive singer-bassist-songwriter recently appeared on the reunion album of one of her old groups, the Dream Syndicate. Then a few days ago, the Dream Syndicate announced on its Facebook page that Smith will be joining the group on stage at the Historic El Rey Theater in Los Angeles (December 15) and the The Independent in San Francisco (December 16).

To mark this occasion, I've posted a rare live bootleg featuring music by another one of Kendra Smith's groups from the 1980s, Clay Allison. This recording is from a live gig at the Electric Banana, which was a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania punk rock club. 

Clay Allison was the group that Smith formed with Rain Parade guitarist Dave Roback after leaving the Dream Syndicate. Both were pioneers in the aforementioned Paisley Underground scene, which helped launch the psychedelic music revival of the '80s and '90s and were a big influence on Prince (who named his record label Paisley Park Records and signed L.A.'s Three O'Clock). Smith and Roback also helped invent dream pop as we know it, since Clay Allison morphed into Opal, which morphed into Mazzy Star.

The performance featured on this recording shows that Smith and Roback had their ideas focused even at this early a stage. Their formula was a recipe of spaced-out rhythms mixed with swirling slide guitar and topped with Smith's other-worldly singing. It's an intoxicating mixture that picks up where Nico and The Doors left off, but also points towards Beach House and Lana Del Rey. 

This is a subject I've written about before. So if you want more history, check my post linked below on Opal.

I can't remember where I got this bootleg from. But for the uninitiated, I tried to annotate it as much as possible, putting in songwriting credits (when they're known) and other notes. I'm pretty sure about one thing, though. Their song "No Easy Way Down" is an original and not a cover of the Gerry Goffin-Carole King classic (famously sung by Dusty Springfield on Dusty in Memphis). Also, I credited good old Syd Barrett on "Cherry Jam," since both the versions by Clay Allison and Opal interpolate the riff of his "Astronomy Domine."

Related posts: 
Opal - Early Recordings Vol. 2 (1984-87)
Nico - The Peel Sessions (1988; Recorded 1971)

Track list:
1. Grains Of Sand
2. Lisa's Funeral
3. Lullabye
4. Hear The Wind Blow
5. Freight Train
6. Fell From The Sun
7. Cherry Jam
8. No Easy Way Down
9. Indian Summer

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The De Castro Sisters - Teach Me Tonight (1954-58; 1999 Collection)

I listen to a lot of online radio, and one of my favorite places to hear vintage sounds is Oldies Radio 1620, an independently-run station based in Pennsylvania. It features a crazily eclectic blend of music and the sound quality recalls the old AM dial. Back in July, I included the station as part of my playlist of Internet Radio Stations, which a lot of people seem to like, since the post is pretty popular.

One of the songs Oldies Radio 1620 took to playing this past summer was a tune by the De Castro Sisters called "The Things I Tell My Pillow." After hearing it a couple of times, I found I couldn't get the melody out of my head. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the title. I hate it when that happens. Thankfully they played it a third time and I was able to figure out what it was.

I had never paid the De Castro Sister much mind, since I've never been a big fan of any of the "sister acts" that were big before your mother was born (the Lennon Sisters, the Andrews Sisters, etc.). But this tune got me researching the group, and I was surprised to learn that "The Things I Tell My Pillow" was not a hit for them, but a B-Side to a flop single.

Specifically, it was the flip to "Teach Me Tonight Cha Cha," which got to #76 in early 1959, according to my Billboard chart book. The song was a syncopated remake of the De Castro Sisters' signature hit, "Teach Me Tonight," which made it to #2 in 1954.

How the people at Oldies Radio 1620 dug up "The Things I Tell My Pillow" I'll never know. But I'm glad they did because it led me down the path of discovering the De Castro Sisters. Turns out they're pretty good, even if you don't take to this style of music.

They were also way ahead of their time in the style department, as the cover of this CD makes explicitly clear. The sexy bustiers they poured themselves into were actually less modest than one Madonna wore in her infamously racy 1986 video to "Open Your Heart." Funny how a simple old photograph can recast a modern artist like Madonna from innovator to imitator.

But that's not why we're here today. This isn't a fashion blog. This is a music blog and there's a lot of De Castro Sisters sounds -- in high quality -- to be had. Ironically, the fab "The Things I Tell My Pillow" wasn't included on this "best of" CD. So I found the old 45 and did one of my clean-up jobs. It's now a bonus track. As for the rest of this music, judge for yourself. Their story is also told in the liner notes, which are very comprehensive. And if you don't like any of that, well, there's some great pics too.

Related posts:
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955; 1998 UK Remaster)
Anna Maria Alberghetti - I Can't Resist You (1957)
The Four Grads - From This Moment On (1956)
Eydie & Steve - Cozy (Mono Mix, 1961)
The King Sisters - The Answer Is Love (1969)
Rosemary Clooney - Girl Singer (1992)

Track list:
1. It's Love
2. Boom Boom Boomerang
3. To Say You're Mine
4. The Wedding Song
5. If I Ever Fall In Love
6. I'm Bewildered
7. Teach Me Tonight
8. Give Me Time
9. Too Late Now
10. Cry Baby Blues
11. Let Your Love Walk In
12. Cuckoo In The Clock
13. Cuban Love Song
14. I Can't Escape From You
15. Rockin' And Rollin' In Hawaii
16. No One To Blame But You
17. Cowboys Don't Cry
18. It's Yours
19. I Never Meant To Hurt You
20. I Hear A Melody
21. Don't Call Me Sweetie
22. Flowers On The Hillside
23. I Know Plenty
24. Blue And Broken-Hearted
25. Where Have You Been My Love
26. That Little Word Called Love
27. Old Timer's Tune
28. Biddle-Dee Bop
29. What A Relief (Hoop Ah Hoop Ah, Bah Dah Dah)
30. You Take Care Of Me (I'll Take Care Of You)
31. My Sweetheart Left Me Behind
32. The Things I Tell My Pillow [Bonus Track]

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jenson Publications - Marching Band '85 Summer Edition (1985)

And now for something that's really, truly, and completely different: A CD-length sampler of school marching band arrangements from the Reagan Era. It was put together to give music teachers an idea of hip, new arrangements they could use.

That makes it somewhat ironic to listen to, since it's sure to summon nothing but nostalgic feeling for anyone who came of age back then. Nothing brings back the feeling of high school better than hearing old favorites like Madonna's "Into The Groove" and "Angel" done up with trumpets, tubas, and xylophones. If only John Hughes were around to hear this...but I digress.

These arrangements actually remind me a bit of the music on Frank Zappa's Orchestral Favorites album, which made me realize that those high school band experience he often talked about really were an influence on his music. And why not? Music teachers, for all the ribbing they get, are usually pretty cool and sometimes very influential to students who were willing to listen.

On another note (heh) you also have to give credit to one of the arrangers here, Paul Lavender, sicne he picked up on the tune "Macarena" more than ten years before it became a dance craze. Of course, the actual song here isn't the hit "Macarena" we'd all come to know and get tired of in the 1990s. It's either an original or a traditional melody. But still.

The tracks here are listed according to who arranged them. Composer credits weren't included, but I looked all that up and included info in the tags. The only issue I have with this CD is that most cuts are just snippets of songs and I wish they were longer. But since it runs a generous hour and twenty minutes, it looks like they crammed in as much as they could onto it.

One final thing. The song titled "Strutt" (an arrangement of a Sheena Easton hit) is actually spelled "Strut." I left in the misspelling for accuracy's sake, but if this were a high school spelling test, I'd have graded them down for that. Guess the school band teachers didn't consult with the English teachers before going to press with this one.

Track list:
1. Amadeus
2. Fanfare From E.T.
3. I.O.U.
4. Rerun Mania
5. Crazy For You
6. Here We Come A 'Caroling
7. Freedom Forever (A Patriotic Color Celebration)
8. I, Don Quixote (From "Man of La Mancha")
9. Those Were The Days
10. Can Can
11. The Way We Were
12. Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers
13. The Arkansas Traveler
14. Espirit Cadence Set No. 2
15. The Goonies 'R' Good Enough
16. Smooth Operator
17. Walking On Sunshine
18. Things Can Only Get Better
19. Raspberry Beret
20. Into The Groove
21. Sussudio
22. All She Wants To Do Is Dance
23. The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)
24. High On You
25. The Goonies 'R' Good Enough
26. Angel
27. When The Saints Go Marchin' In
28. Strutt
29. Dallas
30. Macarena
31. Material Girl
32. Battle Hymn Of The Republic
33. High School Cadets