Monday, November 28, 2011

Tony Orlando

One of those guys you love to hate. Seriously. How many people had murderous thoughts every time they heard Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree, (for me it was Knock Three Times).

But Tony Orlando had a life before Dawn. In ’69 he was the lead vocalist of a one-shot studio-only group called Wind (Make Believe). And almost a decade before that, when he was still a teenager, he had a couple of more-than-respectable teen idol hits, which may have been, in their own way, better than anything he did in his more famous years.

Tony Orlando:

Bless You - The lyrics veer between sweet and over-the-top, but the tune (the song is by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill) never moves from glorious, the arrangement - female chipmunk chorus, matinee strings, Mahlerian tympani - is perfect teenage drama, and you can hear exactly where Phil Spector got so many of his ideas. Wonderful bobby sox artistry. From the fall of 1961.
Halfway To Paradise – When I was in school, we had a word (well, two words) for the type of girl he is singing about. But adolescence is such a confusing time. It gets so much easier in middle age. Oh wait, it doesn’t? From the summer of 1961. A hit in England for Billy Fury.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Regents

Another doo-wop group, late-blooming, after-the-fact, and short-lived, a group whose biggest hit is better known by someone else. What a fate.

The Regents:

Barbara Ann – I have it on good authority that women named “Barbara” are not the most reliable in the world. The good authority of which I speak is only that which is relevant at 9:50 on this Sunday morning. Be that as it may, the song here, which is the real point, is naught but a great excuse for singing along and dancing. The “ba ba ba” refrain is, of course, legendary. A hit in the summer of 1961 and much better known by The Beach Boys, who propelled the song almost to number 1 in the fall of 1965. It was also covered by Jan & Dean and The Who.
Runaround – As indignant as doo-wop gets. For my money this is as good as, maybe better than, their bigger song, to which this was the follow-up, less successful hit. Also from the summer of 1961, but later.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eddie Harris

Eddie Harris was one of those jazz dudes who pop up with such regularity in my collection, who do one song then split – except that in the case of Harris, the song was a hit. Harris’ career really took after after the one hit, as a jazz artist, not a top 100 guy, though he did have three more songs on the charts; that was later, 1968 – 1970.

Eddie Harris:

Exodus – Written by Ernest Gold, from the movie directed by Otto Preminger, based on the book by Leon Uris. The book may have been the most popular piece of propaganda claptrap of the 20th century. I never saw the movie. But the theme song had a life of its own. It won the Oscar, and it won a Grammy. It was the ultimate musical melodrama, what Gustav Mahler would have sounded like had he written TV commercials. Three competing hit version were on the charts at the same time: the string laden afternoon matinee version by Mantovani, the piano drama version by Ferrante & Teicher, and this one, which omits the drama altogether, and replaces it with some super-cool swing. If you really want to know what the theme from Exodus sounds like, listen to one of the others; but when you want to hear what good music it really is, this is the place to start. From the summer of 1961.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Billy Fury

Billy Fury It’s taken me a long time to write this post, longer than any post so far. That’s because when I started it I only had one track: Halfway To Paradise. But for some reason I got ambitious and I downloaded every song the Billy Fury had on the UK top 100. So that’s what took so long, finding, downloading, and listening to, each one of these songs. Now I have this entire collection.

Not bad, eh?

Billy Fury:

Maybe Tomorrow – He sets the style here: loon-call sax, angelic female chorus, barely discernable lyrics, wistful to the point of non-existence. Makes Frankie Avalon sound like heavy metal. Not the Jim Croce song, not the Jackson Five song. From the spring of 1959.
Margo – A slight (very slight) country feel on this not quite top 20 hit from 1959.
Colette – Slightly reminiscent of Claudette by Roy Orbison / The Everly Brothers, but the resemblance is not to be taken as qualitative. From The winter of 1960.
That’s Love – Near-genuine rockabilly, Eddie Cochran style. From the summer of 1960.
Wonderous Place – Here’s where he could have been a contender. The producers put so much echo on his voice that he actually sounds tough enough to live up to his name, and the arrangement is understated and effective. Figures that this song didn’t quite reach the top 20. Who knows what it’s about. From 1960.
A Thousand Stars – A cover of the Kathy Young & The Innocents hit and perfectly suitable. From 1960.
Halfway To Paradise – Maybe his best remembered record and the only track that’s been in my collection forever. A familiar tale of being stuck in “friend-zone.” A hit in the US for Tony Orlando. From the spring of 1961.
Jealousy – Billy takes on Frankie Laine and loses. From the fall of 1961.
I’d Never Find Another You – Not to be confused with I’ll Never Find Another You (though every single YouTube entry gets the title wrong), which is a much better song than this. From the winter of 61 / 62.
Letter Full Of Tears – The Marvelettes had this theme wrapped up with Please Mr. Postman, but this song was a strong contender in the original version by Gladys Knight & The Pips. Billy makes a noble effort. From the winter of 1962.
Last Night Was Made For Love – A once in a lifetime opportunity, down the tubes. Ah well, perhaps tonight will be made for beer. From the spring of 1962.
Once Upon A Dream – It’s always better in one’s head than in real life, not so? From the summer of 1962.
Because Of Love – As Elvis-like as he got. From the fall of 1962.
Like I’ve Never Been Gone – The Beatles swept the floor with all this competition when they All My Lovin’. From the winter of 1963.
When Will You Say I Love You – Romantic whining. From the spring of 1962.
In Summer – All the summer clichés except the music. From the summer of 1963.
Somebody Else’s Girl – Finding out that things aren’t what you think they are, when you thought they were good, is never good. From the autumn of 1963.
Do You Really Love Me Too (Fool’s Errand) – The Beatle influence is starting to show here (well ok, but compared to his stuff up to now…) From winter, 1964.
I Will – From the spring of 1964. Dean Martin covered it a year later.
It’s Only Make Believe – Billy takes on Conway Twitty. From the summer of 1964. I think The Hollies did a cover of this as well, and Glen Campbell put it back on the chart in 1970.
I’m Lost Without You – A profound air of tragedy hangs over this one, slightly reminiscent of I (Who Have Nothing). From the winter of 1965.
In Thoughts Of You – While his music wasn’t exactly hip, and didn’t give the great British Invasion bands anything to worry about, you can hear the progression here, and how his producers were doing their darndest to keep him up-to-date. A decent mid ’65 time capsule, from the summer of that great year.
Run To My Lovin’ Arms – Wasn’t there another song with this title? Maybe, but this isn’t it. Oh no, wait, it is! The Walker Brothers, I believe. From 1965.
I’ll Never Quite Get Over You – Billy was definitely coming of age here. From 1966.
Give Me Your Word – Another one from 1966, and he was sounding more like The Walker Brothers with each release.
Love Or Money – Fast forward to 1982, Fury finds himself back on the chart after a 17 year absence. He’s a bit louder, but otherwise pretty much the same as before.
Devil Or Angel – A slightly updated remake of the Bobby Vee remake of The Clovers hit. From 1982.
Forget Him – The orchestral arrangement works surprisingly well, and the electric piano isn’t as cloying as one would expect, and when the drums show up it’s a good reminder that this was, after all, the 80s, so it’s not a bad effort, just that Billy oversings it, just slightly, and the original Bobby Rydell recording was such a masterpiece that there’s no way anyway that this could be anything more than a distant second at best. Released posthumously in 1983, at 59 it was Billy’s lowest placing chart single.
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