Friday, January 29, 2010

Back again!

Hi again, I've been away and forgot to renew my rapidshare-account. I'll try to re-up the most popular posts next week :)

School, hospital visits, travels and what not... it's not easy remembering everything you have to do, but I will soon get this blog going again. After the re-ups there will be two surprises I think you all will like ;D


Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Sorry for not updating more, but you all know how the holiday season can be... anywho, here are the almost complete singles by the Three Degrees, covering almost 16 years, 66 tracks in all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I've been getting quite a few comments over the last week, and I really just wanted to say thank you for all the support! I love music and spend lots of time finding and collecting music, and it's nice to know people appreciate the blog :)

I've been planing quite a few treats for you but it's the end of the month and been busy just staying alive 'til the next pay cheque comes ^^ But come friday, there will be some new posts I think you'll enjoy... some Three Degrees, some early R&B divas, a few more obscure girl groups - and if I have the time, a collection of girl group christmas tunes :)

Hm, I think that's all I wanted to say. Keep visiting the blog and if you like the music, please comment :)


Monday, November 16, 2009


For reasons unknown there haven't been a box set gathering both the A's and B's of their singles, despite being one of the greatest groups in soul ever. Being a bit annoyed by the fact that their first singles and many B-sides never shows up on any compilations I decided to gather them myself. So here you have it, a whooping 58 tracks - the COMPLETE singles, A and B-sides including their first singles billed as The Vells and The Del-Phis respectively with Gloria Williams on lead. Also included is Martha's first solo single released on Motown before she headed for Arista.

Martha & The Vandellas - Complete Singles 1

Martha & The Vandellas - Complete singles 2


You should know how this works by know... 30 songs, what I believe to be all of their singles (except - as for the Crystals - some instrumental B-sides).


I'm not gonna waste my time introducing these girls, most of you know them (and probably love them) already. Responsible for a few of Phil Spectors greatest musical achievements, they are guaranteed a place in the history books.

21 songs here, which I believe to be all sides of all their singles (except for three instrumental flips used by Spector to prevent the flip becoming a hit instead of the intended A side), including all three singles released on United Artists and Michelle Records

The Crystals - Complete Singles


"The Teen Queens were an
American musical group from the 1950s, most remembered for their hit single "Eddie My Love", which reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1956.
The group consisted of
sisters Betty and Rosie Collins, sisters of Aaron Collins, a singer with the doo wop group The Cadets. It was Aaron who wrote their debut song, and the single that became their biggest hit. "Eddie My Love" was released by RPM Records, and following its success, was followed by a string of other releases. These included "Baby Mine", "Billy Boy", "Red Top", "Rock Everybody" and "I Miss You". But none of these achieved the success of their debut song.
Consequently, the group left RPM in 1958 and signed a one
record recording contract with RCA Records, who released "Dear Tommy". This also failed to make much of an impact on the charts. There then followed a later contract with Antler Records and a further two singles, "There Is Nothing on Your Mind" (an answer to "There's Something on Your Mind") and "I Heard Violins". Again, however, these songs enjoyed little success and by 1961, the group decided to call it a day."

Here I compiled most sides they cut RPM, RCA, Arista and Press (incl. I Hear Violines, their best song if you ask me), 24 tracks.

Friday, November 13, 2009



"The Chantels were the second black girl group to have nationwide success in the United States. The group was established in the early 1950s at St. Anthony of Padua school in the Bronx. The group consisted of Arlene Smith (lead), Sonia Goring, Rene Minus, Jackie Landry Jackson and Lois Harris. They got their name from a rival school, St. Frances de Chantal.
They were discovered by Richard Barrett, lead singer of
The Valentines and eventually signed to End Records. Their first single was "He's Gone" (Pop #71) in August 1957. In January 1958 they released their second single, "Maybe" (#15 Billboard Hot 100; #2 R & B chart). Several other singles were released on End, though none as successful as "Maybe."
The group was dropped by End in 1959, and Arlene Smith decided to go
solo. Harris left to pursue a college education. In 1960, Annette Smith (no relation) replaced Arlene Smith, and the group went to Carlton Records, where they had their second huge hit with "Look in My Eyes" (#14 pop, #6 R&B). Several other singles followed and the group switched record labels several times. Personnel changed throughout the 1960s, with their final single released in 1970."

Now this is a real treat! Except for their last single you will find every last A and B-side of all their singles here. Starting with their first singles on End where they found their biggest success, moving on to the 60's singles without Arlene and in my honest opionion MUCH better. Lots of northern soul stompers in the making! I've also included the single that was billed as by The Veneers, the four songs they recorded with Richard Barrett as well as a few solo cuts by Arlene - 45 songs all together! Enjoy, and please comment!


Yet another Cookies post - I can't get enough of these here gals!

This is the most complete collection so far, 36 tracks. Except for all singles by both incarnations of the group (except their last, which seems impossible to find) there's also solo cuts by Margie Hendrix before she left to become a Raelette; the flip to Dorothy Jones' sole single in 1961 and four song each by Darlene and Earl-Jean McCrea. The singles recorded by the later Cookies under other names are included as well.



"The Chiffons was an all girl group originating from the Bronx area of New York in 1960.

The Chiffons’ sassy flair made them one of the top Girl Groups of the early ’60s. With their trademark tight harmonies, high-stepping confidence and the hit machine of Goffin and King writing songs such as “One Fine Day,” the Chiffons made music that helped define the Girl Group sound of the era.
The group was originally a trio comprising
Judy Craig (lead singer), Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee. They formed at James Monroe High School in The Bronx in 1960. At the suggestion of songwriter Ronnie Mack, Sylvia Peterson was added to the group in 1962. Peterson had previously sung with Little Jimmy & The Tops in 1959 when she was fourteen years old. This group had a local hit with "Puppy Love" (V-Tone). Sylvia shared the lead with Jimmy on the single's B-Side, "Say You Love Me". Peterson would later lend her leads to Chiffons' "Why Am I So Shy", "Strange, Strange Feeling", "The Real Thing" and the pseudonym sides as The Four Pennies, "My Block" and "When The Boy's Happy".
Another group from California also used the name "Chiffons" and recorded three singles, including a version of
the Shirelles' "Tonight's The Night". According to Craig and Bennett, the New York Chiffons have no connection to the other group.
The group hit the number one spot in the
United States with their first single "He's So Fine", written by Ronnie Mack, and released on Laurie. George Harrison's 1970 song "My Sweet Lord" was musically similar, prompting a copyright infringement claim. The Chiffons went on to record "My Sweet Lord" in 1975. A judge later found that Harrison had unintentionally plagiarized the earlier song.
Their first hit was followed by other notable tunes such as
Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "One Fine Day", "Sweet Talkin' Guy" and "I Have A Boyfriend". Their Top 40 single "I Have A Boyfriend" was playing on Dallas station KLIF on November 22, 1963 and was interrupted by the first radio bulletins of the JFK assassination. The group also released two singles in 1963 as The Four Pennies on the Laurie subsidiary, Rust Label."

In this post you have ALL of The Chiffons A-sides as well as most B-sides. I also included the pre-63 singles which may or may not have been recorded by the 'real' Chiffons. You will find both side of Little Jimmy & The Tops' single with Sylvia on background on the A-side and on a duet with Jimmy on the flip - 49 tracks in all!


"The Jelly Beans were a mixed voice quintet (later a quartet) comprised of one man (Charles Thomas) and four women (Alma Brewer, Diane Taylor, Elyse Herbert, Maxine Herbert) who got together while attending high school in Jersey City, NJ. That was where their manager discovered them in 1963, and he brought them to the attention of songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who were starting up a record label, Red Bird, in association with End/Gone Records founder George Goldner.

The group was put into the hands of songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, then near the peak of their output together, who gave them "I Wanna Love Him So Bad." The third single issued by Red Bird, it reached number ten on the Billboard charts. The Jelly Beans' second single, "Baby Be Mine," didn't reach the Top 50, however, and although the Jelly Beans left behind enough songs for an album, none was forthcoming. By 1964, Red Bird had bigger acts to worry about, including The Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups, and the group was gone from the label by the end of that year. A final single release on Eskee failed to chart, and the Jelly Beans had broken up by 1965."

Included here are both Red Bird singles, a few other tracks cut for the label and their final single for Eskee.

The Complete Jelly Beans

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Faye Adams was a R&B singer in the 50's/early 60's, most famous for her 1954 chart topper Shake A Hand. Still in her teens she was chosen to replace Laurie Tate as the singer with Joe Morris' Orchestra. She released one single for Atlantic, That's What Makes My Baby Fat b/w I'm Going To Leave You (billed as Fay Scruggs) which didn't go anywhere, and so she and Joe Morris left for independent NY label Herald (although Atlantic later released to other sides to cash in on the success of Shake A Hand).

Her first single for Herald was the gospeltinged blues ballad Shake A Hand, still one of the defining songs of early R&B. She later recorded a few minor hit singles (eg. I'll Be True, The Hammer etc.). However the hits soon dried up and in 1957 she left for Imperial where she recordes eight songs of which only one managed any chart action, Keeper Of My Heart.

She later cut sides for Lido, Warwick, Savoy and Prestige, none which managed to hit the charts. After her last single in 1962 for Prestige she left the world of secular music and recorded a few gospel albums and never speaking about her R&B years again.

(If anyone has any information about her whereabouts now, please share!)

Here you have ALL of her Atlantic, Herald, Imperial, Lido and Savoy sides incl. several at the time unreleased tracks - many of these have never been released on CD. Unfortunately I haven't been abled to track down her singles or the album she released on Warwick. I have however ordered two gospel albums on vinyl which I hope to recieve early next year, shipping from the States to Europe takes some time apparently. Please enjoy these songs and check back in a few week for more rare Faye Adams!

1952, Atlantic 985, I'm Going To Leave You b/w That's What Makes My Baby Fat
1952, Atlantic 1007, Watch Out, I Told You b/w Sweet Talk

1953, Herald 416, Shake A Hand b/w I’ve Gotta Leave You
1953, Herald 419, Happiness To My Soul b/w I’ll Be True
1954, Herald 423, Say A Prayer b/w Everyday
1954, Herald 429, Somebody Somewhere b/w Crazy Mixed-Up World
1954, Herald 434, Hurts Me To My Heart b/w Ain’t Gonna Tell
1954, Herald 439, I Owe My Heart To You b/w Love Ain’t Nothin’ To Play With
1955, Herald 444, Anything For A Friend b/w Your Love (Has My Heart Burning)
1955, Herald 450, You Ain’t Been True b/w My Greatest Desire
1955, Herald 457, Angels Tell Me b/w Tag Along
1955, Herald 462, No Way Out b/w Same Old Me
1956, Herald 470, Teenage Heart b/w (Guilty) Witness To The Crime
1956, Herald 480, Takin’ You Back b/w Don’t Forget To Smile
1956, Herald 489, Anytime Anyplace Anywhere b/w The Hammer (Keeps A Knockin’)
+ Welcome Home (unissued, 1955)

1957, Imperial 5443, Keeper Of My Heart b/w So Much
1957, Imperial 5456, Johnny Lee b/w You’re Crazy
1957, Imperial 5471, I Have A Twinkle In My Eye b/w Someone Like You
1958, Imperial 5525, When We Kiss b/w Everything

1960, Lido 603, That’s Alright b/w It Made Me Cry

1961, Savoy 1606, Step Up And Rescue Me b/w Cry You Crazy Heart
+ Sunrise Sunset Or Midnight and It Hurts To Be In Love (unissued, 1961 for Savoy)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THE TASSELS minipost

Early Girls Vol. 4 liner notes:
“The mighty Arista Records? It could be said that they owe it all to a quartet from New Jersey comprising lead singer Rochelle Gaudet, her brother John, Leo Joyce and Joe Intelisano. For prior to Arista there was Bell Records, and before Larry Uttal bought into that label there wer his Mala and Amy imprints. But the logo that started it all was Madison, whose first chart hit was ‘TO A SOLDIER BOY’ by The Tassels, #55 on the Hot 100 in August 1959. The group’s soundalike follow-up, ‘To A Young Lover’, failed to chart, as did a subsequent 45 on Golddisc and a 1966 reissue of ‘To A Soldier Boy’ on the Amy Label, But from little acorns…”

The Tassels
My Guy And I – Teresa – The Boy For Me – To A Soldier Boy – To A Young Lover


"Marjorie Helen Orwig (June 3, 1924, Madera, California – June 14, 2000, Oceanside, California,better known as Margie Rayburn) was an American singer.
Rayburn was born in
Madera, California and sang as a member of The Sunnysiders, who had a Top 40 hit in the United States in 1955 with the song "Hey! Mr. Banjo". Rayburn married Norman Milkin, also a member of the Sunnysiders. She also had a Top Ten hit of her own in 1957 with the song "I'm Available", which was written by Dave Burgess. The single, released on Liberty Records, reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1957."

Margie Rayburn

Bobby Is My Hobby - Every Minute Of The Day - I'm Available - Make Me A Queen Again - Try Me


"Lillian Briggs (b. Lillian Biggs, June 3, 1932 - d. Apr. 11, 1998) was an American rockabilly musician.
Briggs was raised in
Allentown, Pennsylvania. In the early 1950s she worked as a truck driver and played trombone in Joy Cayler's All-Girl Orchestra. In 1952 Alan Freed asked her to appear in his New York City stage shows, and her popularity in these shows led to her signing with Epic Records in 1954. Her first single was 1955's "I Want You to Be My Baby"; the song sold over 1 million copies and hit #18 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following this she appeared on The Tonight Show and The Steve Allen Show, and won a part in the 1961 Jerry Lewis movie The Ladies Man. Later singles, however, were unsuccessful, though she continued to record into the early 1970s."

Can't Stop - Delilah - Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop - I Want You To Be My Baby - I - I'll Be Gone - Rock'n'Roll Y Poly Santa Clause - She Sells Seashells - That's The Way To Live


"Gayla Peevey (born 1943) is perhaps best known for her song, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" (Columbia, 1953). A child star from Ponca City, Oklahoma, she was ten years old when she recorded the novelty song, which had been written by John Rox in 1950.
Oklahoma City Zoo capitalized upon the popularity of the song in 1953 through a fundraising campaign to "buy a hippo for Gayla" in order to bring a hippo to the zoo. (They had no hippopotamus at the time.) The song raised $3,000. A baby hippo, named Matilda, was procured and flown in to Oklahoma City and presented by Peevey to the zoo.[1].
Gayla went on to record other
children's songs for Columbia, such as "Got A Cold In The Node For Christmas" and "Angel in the Christmas Play". She also recorded a duet with Columbia's other child singer Jimmy Boyd (who had the hit recording of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"), entitled "I'm So Glad", and "Kitty in a Basket".
1959, Gayla Peevey adopted the pseudonym Jamie Horton and recorded a series of pop singles for Joy Records. One of them, "My Little Marine," reached a peak position of #84 in 1960 and was song #507 for that year. It was her only song that reached the Charts. Under the pseudonym, she also recorded "Robot Man" which was popular in Australia in 1960, and was later recorded by Connie Francis."

Gayla Peevey: I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas
Jamie Horton: Hearbreakin' Doll - Missin' - My Little Marine -Robot Man - They're Playing Our Song - When It Comes To Love - Where's My Love

BABS TINO minipost

Early Girls Vol 2. liner notes:
“Babs Tino hade the looks and the talent but failed to get the breaks and therefore barely qualifies as a footnote to a footnote in the history books. Having made a solitary single for Cameo Records in 1957, it seems she did not record again until 1961 when she signed with Kapp Records and had six singles released between then and 1963. Owner Dave Kapp was a pillar of New York’s musical establishment, a man with strongly held views on the linear alignment of musical notes in relation to pitch and tempo, and no-one got through the door at Kapp unless they could count bars and sing in tune. The best arrangers/songwriters (including Bacharach and Leiber & Stoller) were assigned to Tino’s sessions but only her third single, ‘Forgive me’, made any sort of impression ‘bubbling’ under the Hot 100 for one week in 1962 and gaining a UK release. Her fifth single, ‘Keep Away From Other Girls’, was successfully covered in the UK by Helen Shapiro.”

Babs Tino

Call Of The Wedding – Dr. Jekyll Or Mr. Hyde – Forgive Me – If Only For Tonight – Keep Away From Other Girls – My Honey Bun – Too Late To Worry – What’s Wrong With You And Me



"Marcie Blane (born Marcia Blank, 21 May 1944, Brooklyn, New York) was a female singer who recorded pop music. The Seville record label issued a demo performed by the high school student as a favor for a friend. The song was "Bobby's Girl", which was followed by "What Does a Girl Do" and several other singles. Recently, a CD was issued of her entire output, although no original album was ever issued.
Released in the fall of 1962, "Bobby's Girl" made No. 2 on the
Cash Box chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was later recorded for the German market in their language. In the United Kingdom the song was covered by Susan Maughan who had the hit. "What Does A Girl Do?", the follow-up single, rose no higher than No. 82 on the Hot 100 list in early 1963, and was Blane's only other appearance on any Billboard chart."

After The Laughter - Bobbie's Girl - She'll Break The String - So Ist Das Leben - Wer Einmal "A" Gesagt - What Does A Girl Do

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Cookies is a well known girl groups to many, but a lot of people don't know there was an earlier line-up of that group. When you think of The Cookies you think of the sixties edition, with Earl-Jean McCrea in it, but in the fifties the group consisted of three other girls fronted by Earl-Jeans big sister, Darlene.

They had a top ten R&B hit in 1956 with In Paradise, but they recorded four other singles which are equally fine in my book. In this collection you can find five sides with The Cookies, four solo songs by Darlene and three songs on which they sing back up for Varetta Dillard.

The Cookies
- Don't Let Go
- Hippy Hippy Daddy
- In Paradise
- King Of Hearts
- Later Later

Darlene McCrea
- Don't Worry Baby
- My Heart's Not In It
- You Made A Fool Out Of Me
- You

Varetta Dillard & The Cookies
- Old Fashioned
- Star Of Fortune
- The Rules Of Love

The Early Cookies


I don't believe there are many girl group aficionados that doesn't count The Toys as one of the all time best! Sadly remembered as a One Hit Wonder with A Lover's Concerto, they actually released some of the best girl group songs ever!

AMG Review:
'The influence of the Toys is evident when one sees the group listed as the first "tribute" on page 49 of the Supremes four-CD box set on Motown. The Supremes' own "I Hear a Symphony," released October 6, 1965, was a tribute to the tribute, if you will. It says a lot about the competition as the Toys hit number two on the charts that very week, pushing the Supremes, Diana Ross, and the production team of Holland/Dozier/Holland to one of their greatest heights. The re-write of Bach, with its boss production, is a sweeping pop sensation. And the album's 14 tracks play like the Ronettes' first and only official release, a magnificent statement of vocal harmony and pretty melodies. The songwriter/production team of Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell for Bob Crewe Productions add that remarkable Four Seasons punch to the music. A little of the boy group sound, classical music, and a refreshing collection of melodies that the airwaves were, somehow, denied. "This Night," "Back Street," solid dance hall/radio hits that never got to reign the way "Lover's Concerto" and, to a lesser degree, "Attack" climbed the Top 40. "Attack" is a brilliant song that sounds like a tribute to Frankie Valli. The Dyno Voice album, re-relased on Sundazed, is augmented by singles "Baby Toys" and "May My Heart Be Cast Into Stone," songs that lead soprano Barbara Harris said were recorded for the second, unreleased Toys disc slated for Dyno Voice. The musical camaraderie on "Baby Toys" is amazing. These voices carry. Both singles are a welcome addition to this album, and they should've been huge. June Montiero's vocal on The Beatles' "Yesterday" bridges the gap between the Vegas and new wave arrangement. Perhaps that marriage of underground rock with middle of the road pop is what makes the girl group genre so perpetually inviting. The first track on the disc, "Can't Get Enough of You Baby," is reminiscent of the Cake, a band that couldn't crack the Billboard Top 40 as the Toys did, but deserved to. "Hallelujah," not the fun Sweathog tune from 1971, but a wonderful song that should've hit, with a delicious lead vocal by Barbara Parritt. The Toys were formidable beyond their two Top 20 hits; "This Night" is a fine example.'

Here I also included five bonus tracks: Let Me Down Easy, Sealed With A Kiss, Silver Spoon, Try To Get You Out Of My Heart and You Got It Baby.

Please let me know what you think!

THE BLOSSOMS 1954-1969

The Blossoms is one of the most famous vocal groups ever, despite constantly changing line-ups and unstable record contracts. Despite a few minor hits and years of exposure as the back up singers of Shindig there has never been a Blossoms compilation for some reason, so here I have collected 33 tracks covering the period between 1954 to 1969. Included are the pre-Darlene Love years as The Dreamers Coeds, Rollettes and Echoes. Loads of rarities here!

I haven't included their sole LP from 1972 as it is readily available elsewhere (can't remeber where exactly, but I think it's the Classic & Rare Soul Sisters blog you can find in the links to the right)

The Chronological Blossoms, 54-69

Monday, October 12, 2009


Another one of the classic blues divas takes on the empress, Bessie Smith. This time it's LaVern Baker turn to interpret some classic blues. Released the same years as Dinah Washington's outing as well... and to be honest, while I usually hold Dinah in higher esteem, LaVern wins this battle!

AMG Review:
'This is an album that should not have worked. LaVern Baker (a fine R&B singer) was joined by all-stars from mainstream jazz (including trumpeter Buck Clayton, trombonist Vic Dickenson, tenor-saxophonist Paul Quinichette and pianist Nat Pierce) for twelve songs associated with the great '20s blues singer Bessie Smith. Despite the potentially conflicting styles, this project is quite successful and often exciting. The arrangements by Phil Moore, Nat Pierce, and Ernie Wilkins do not attempt to re-create the original recordings; Baker sings in her own style (rather than trying to emulate Bessie Smith), and the hot solos work well with her vocals. '


Frankie Gearing is one of the unheralded greats of soul. Maybe best known, if at all, for her years in the group Quiet Elegance (with Mildred Scott and Lois Reeves) in the seventies, she actually began recording in 1966 with The Steinways, releasing two singles. She then moved on to The Glories and recorder a number of records, before going on to Quiet Elegance. After the group disbanded she released a solo album which is much sought after today and seemingly impossible to find.

While the complete output of Quiet Elegance is available elsewhere, I thought I could gather a few of her other releases. Included in this post is two Steinways tracks, eight with The Glories and one track from her solo album. Enjoy, and please comment!

Frankie Gearing minipost


AMG Review:
'The original notes to the Seven Letters album indicate that it is the most diverse album of material that Ben E. King had ever recorded, and they're right. The range of material here, cut over a period of more than two years, included some impassioned soul music — "River of Tears," "I'm Standing By," "It's All Over," "In the Middle of the Night," and the title track — as well as some very personal pop ("Jamaica") and novelty ("Si Senor") tunes, and towering performances throughout. The requisite string-laden orchestral backings are present, courtesy of producers Leiber & Stoller, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegun, and the various arrangers, but there are also some nicely stripped down, more basic soul numbers. Interestingly, "Jamaica" was written by King in the wake of his 1961 tour of the island (soon to be island-nation), an event that helped spark a boom in local ska and reggae performers who were inspired by the presence of American soul stars like King on tour — the song practically chronicles the spawning of the seed that led to the ska and reggae booms (which Atlantic would grab a piece of, not only by signing Byron Lee and securing a distribution agreement with him for the Cayman Islands, but also through Eric Clapton's efforts on Bob Marley's behalf less than a decade later). The album has not a single weak spot, and boasts some strong contributions by several outside songwriters including Carole King and Gerry Goffin, whose gorgeous "Down Home" provided the vehicle for King's best singing on the entire record. Not that it did much for him at the time of its release — it had no weak spots, but also no major hits (even "I'm Standing By" was a failed follow-up to "Stand By Me," and this was the last of four Ben E. King albums issued by Atlantic in the United States. Like two of its predecessors, it disappeared without reaching any but King's hardcore audience, thus making it a choice collector's item. It lacked the hook of a massive hit single like a "Stand By Me" or a "Spanish Harlem" for a wider audience to grab onto. '


AMG Review:
'After parting ways with the Drifters in 1960, Ben E. King wasted no time establishing himself as a solo star with chart-toppers like "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me," in which he made the most of his strong and expressive vocal style. Having scored on the R&B and pop charts, King's third album for Atco, Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers, plays like a bid to cross over to more mature listeners after scoring big with the teens, much in the manner of Sam Cooke; the album is dominated by songs already made famous by other artists, featuring a blend of soulful chestnuts and classic standards, and the production and arrangements are polished and classy while still retaining the influence of the "rhythm & blues with strings" style that had become his hallmark. While "He Will Break Your Heart," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," and "It's All in the Game" seem tailor-made for King, some of the other cuts are a bit of a creative stretch, especially "Moon River" and "On the Street Where You Live," both of which sound rather clumsy in this context despite the struggle to make them swing. But King never gives less than his level best on these sessions, no matter what the material happens to be, and he effortlessly walks a line between supper-club polish and passionate sweet soul. If Ben E. King didn't become a regular in Las Vegas or at the Copacabana like Sam Cooke or Lou Rawls, it's certainly not because he lacked the style or the chops, and if the song selection sometimes lets him down on Sings for Soulful Lovers, his voice and his phrasing are spot-on on all 12 tracks. '

Ben E. King - Sings For Soulful Lovers


AMG Review:
'Ben E. King's third album is a little short in running time but very high in quality, in terms of the dozen songs here. The title track was the selling point, but couldn't help but be seduced by the exquisite production of "Ecstasy" and "On the Horizon," the latter making about as fine use of harps and an ethereal chorus as one imagines possible — and when the strings come in, violins and cellos alternately, the sheer beauty of the track just overflows. "Show Me the Way to Your Heart" isn't too far behind, and then "Stand by Me" shores up the opening of the second side — not that anything here needed shoring up, but it's good that they got the single onto a long-player so it didn't go to waste. Even the lesser material, like "Here Comes the Night" and "First Taste of Love" (the latter a Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector song that bears an uncanny resemblance to Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On"), is interesting to hear for the lively production. This album, like its predecessors, dates from a period in which producers and engineers were figuring out what one could do with soul and R&B in terms of engineering, and the sound separation and textures are nothing if not vibrant and alluring in their own right, separate from the music. '


AMG Review:
'A close look at this album reveals just how ambitious Atlantic Records could be in the early 1960s, in generating LPs. Technically speaking, Ben E. King's debut long-player is a concept album — or, at least, a thematic album. Put together in the wake of his first solo hit, "Spanish Harlem," a Latin flavor and beat run all the way through this 12-song platter, which, at times, is really more of a pop record than a soul record. The dense, busy string section that characterized most of King's work of this era is present, and a lot of his singing may recall more the work of Sammy Davis, Jr. than that of any R&B artist one might think of from this period. And apart from the Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector co-authored title hit, most of what is here dates from a decade or more (sometimes several) earlier — "Frenesi," "Besame Mucho," and "Perfidia" were standards during the big-band era, and most of the rest is of similar or even older vintage. All of which doesn't mean that it is bad — King's version of "Besame Mucho" is a very successful reinterpretation in a Latin soul vein, and "Perfidia" never sounded better than it does in his hands, even if it and a lot of the rest is a long way from what most of us define as "soul." And for better or worse, the production is first-rate within the context of King's established sound, with a phenomenal string section and a percussion section to die for. '

Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem

Marie Knight & friends

While I'm trying to compile some of sister Marie Knight's solo material, here are the songs she recorded with Sisters Rosetta Tharpe (Up Above My Head and the definitive reading of Didn't It Rain amongst others), a few sides from the fifties recorded with The Millionaires and a 1959 single with Rex Marvin.


In August this year the world lost legend in soul, R&B and gospel music, madame/sister Marie Knight as she was variously known during her six decade long career in music. She became famous when recording with gospel pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and since 1946 she never quit singing. Her career is a long and eclectic one, and not always spiritual, she hit the charts more than once with secular material. For some reason, there isn't yet a Best Of released and her solo recordings are poorly documented - but I'm gonna try to put together a homemade compilation after I've done my research. In the meanwhile, here is her last album made just two years ago and released to rave reviews!

AMG Review:
'Marie Knight began singing at the Oakwood Baptist Church in Newark, NJ and made some early gospel singles for Brunswick and Mercury. Starting in 1952 she gained international fame as the duet partner of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She continued recording gospel and secular music in the '60s, '70s and '80s. In 2003, MC Records recruited her to sing on A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Shout Sister Shout. Her performance was so powerful, the label offered her a contract, and this album, her first full-length in 20 years, is the happy result. Reverend Gary Davis was discovered by folkies in the '60s and celebrated as one of the last living links between ragtime, blues and gospel music. His syncopated picking style made him an acoustic guitar legend and several of his compositions, including "Samson and Delilah" and "I'll Fly Away," became folk "hits." Davis died in 1972 and is today largely unknown, even in folk circles. Hopefully, this album will bring his music back into the spotlight. Knight, not unexpectedly, concentrates on Davis' gospel tunes, and infuses them with a sanctified power. She's lost a bit of her high end over the years, but her fervent delivery remains undiminished, polished by the experience she brings to her renditions. Super picker Larry Campbell produces and backs Knight with a credible version of Davis' syncopated and highly rhythmic style of guitar picking. "When I Die," a celebration of eternal salvation, bounces brightly along with Campbell's chiming guitar and Lincoln Schleifer's bass adding to Knight's blazing rendition. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" gets a swampy blues drenched reading with Campbell playing Pops Staples-style electric guitar and Kim Wilson blowing some fine harp. Knight shines throughout, bringing the spirit of Davis to life with performances full of her ardent, funky, playful soul.'

Sunday, October 11, 2009


The Queen paying tribute to the Empress - the legendary Dinah Washington sings songs made famous by the equally legendary Bessie Smith.

AMG Review:
'Gifted with a strong, beautiful voice and very precise phrasing, Dinah Washington translated Bessie Smith's irrepressible spirit and flair even better than Billie Holiday, Smith's most famous devotee. For her tribute album, Washington avoided Smith's best-known songs ("'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"). Instead, she wisely concentrated on the more defiant standards from "The Empress of the Blues," including "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," "Jailhouse Blues," and "You've Been a Good Ole Wagon." Washington sounds simply glorious, focused on alternating Smith's phrasing to emphasize her own gospel roots. The accompaniment, by Eddie Chamblee and His Orchestra, emphasizes the vaudeville and Dixieland sound of early-century blues, heavy on the slide trombone, growling trumpet, and skeletal, rickety percussion. Reissued several times (occasionally under the title The Bessie Smith Songbook), Dinah Washington Sings Bessie Smith charts a perfect balance between tribute and genuine artistic statement.'

Just for fun, I threw in eight Bessie Smith originals for comparison. It's amazing how when Dinah sings the songs, they are immediately recognizable for every fan of Bessie, and you forget how Dinah actually makes the songs her own until you compare with Bessie. Their vocal styles could hardly be more different, but both sisters sure had soul! Enjoy!

...and please comment!

Dinah Washington - Sings Bessie Smith


Since it's sunday now, I thought this album would be a great way to start the day. A really inspirational album from the first lady of country! One of her forgotten gems is here, We Buried Her Beneath The Willows - it always brings a tear to my eye!

AMG Review:
'Dust on the Bible is a moving set of country gospel performed with affection and honest by Kitty Wells. The material on the album ranges from standards to contemporary classics like "The Great Speckled Bird," and not a single cut on the record fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. In the late '50s, country gospel albums didn't come much finer than Dust on the Bible. '


AMG Review:
'If this is blues, it's blues in the Billie Holiday sense, not the Muddy Waters one. This is one of Nina Simone's more subdued mid-'60s LPs, putting the emphasis on her piano rather than band arrangements. It's rather slanted toward torch-blues ballads like "Strange Fruit," "Trouble In Mind," Billie Holiday's own composition "Tell Me More and More and Then Some," and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Simone's then-husband, Andy Stroud, wrote "Be My Husband," an effective adaptation of a traditional blues chant. By far the most impressive track is her frantic ten-minute rendition of the traditional "Sinnerman," an explosive tour de force that dwarfs everything else on the album'

Nina Simone - Pastel Blues

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Now it's time for some world music, and again it's one of my absolute favs!

AMG Review:
'The glorious Café Atlantico finds Césaria Évora venturing into more Latin American musical landscapes, as opposed to Portuguese, which dominated her previous albums. Évora draws from traditional Cuban and Brazilian music to mesmerizing effect. The album is also a tribute to her home town of Mindelo, on the Cape Verdean island of Sao Vicente, which was once a busy port with sailors cruising between South America, the Caribbean, and Portugal. Therefore, the music is heartbreaking and nostalgic, warm and tragic all at once. The masterful "Carnaval de São Vicente" is one of the most joyous, bittersweet party songs ever put on wax (and was even issued as a maxi-single with fantastic remixes). "Roma Criola" is tragic, lonely, destitute, and always interesting, making for an undiscovered masterpiece of a ballad, and her rendition of the Spanish language standard "Maria Elena" is absolutely heartbreaking. The album evokes a moody elegance rarely found in modern music, from the sweeping opener "Flôr Di Nha Esperança" to the summery "Amor Di Mundo," and the picture she paints of this café at the end of the world is a gorgeous, multi-colored, and emotion-stirring palate. This album is nothing short of world class and will be enjoyed by generations to come. '


From 1971 Tandoori Chicken/Try Some, Buy Some (and unreleased Lovely La-De Day from the same sessions with George Harrison) to her duet with The Atomic Swings in 1995. Includes Say Goodbye To Hollywood, Take Me Home Tonight, It's A Heartache and more. Also included is her sister Estelle's optimistic In The Year 2000, very rare!

Ronnie Spector - 1971-1995

'Ronnie Spector, she of Ronettes/"Be My Baby" fame, is here again lookin' for a new "baby", baby. If all that sounds like another Hollywood summer remake, it's not too far off. Ronnie's done the 1971 reunion with all four broken-up Beatles, the 1976 Billy Joel/Bruce Springsteen treatment, something with Eddie Money, and even a Joey Ramone-guesting 1999 EP on Kill Rock Stars. It never gets even half as good as the great old days, depending of course on your feelings re: Eddie Money.
One cash-in celebritython leads to another. The Last of the Rock Stars carts in Keith Richards, Patti Smith and (again) the late Ramone, backing Spector on a reheated run-through of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arms Round a Memory", which was also on the 1999 EP. What's new includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner on jitter-by-numbers rocker "Hey Sah Lo Ney", the Raveonettes helping out on "Ode to L.A." (which, yeah, also appears-- with Ronnie-- on the Ravers' '05 Pretty in Black), and Ronnie and Keith do campy lover's chit-chat on Ike Turner's "Work Out Fine" ("You do the work, baby!" Keith hams). Just in case you were wondering what Spector has in mind, Loretta Lynn's career-resuscitating backers the Greenhornes are featured on a pair of tracks, one of which appeared with Holly Golightly in the Ronnie role on the 'Hornes' own 2005 Sewed Soles.
If The Last of the Rock Stars shows anything other than that the former Mrs. Spector has a laughably high opinion of herself, it's that she remains primarily a singles artist. The one you want is the Amy Rigby-penned "All I Want", a bouncy, believable grown-up teenage symphony about just wanting "something to show me that you care/ Whether I live or die". Opener "Never Gonna Be Your Baby" at least boasts a big, self-referential hook, even if the wannabe-tough-guy guitars and lifelong-smoker-voiced "wet thoughts of you" mature pr0n come-ons diminish what suits call "replay value".
Despite all the guests, The Last of the Rock Stars also suffers from a weird confusion about where ex-hubby Phil's "Wall of Sound" meets the here/now. Listeners who can't get past Morrissey's sessionmen should hear the stiff "Girl From the Ghetto", which also shares some of that miserabilist's caustic venom: "I hope your cell is filled with magazines/ And on every one is a picture of me," Spector expectorates. Any question who that gun is pointed at? '


Amazon user review:
'I've never submitted a review previously and seldom do I rave. So take a leap of faith and trust me when I say that this brief CD provides fifteen minutes (5 songs)of multiple, aural orgasms so intense as to be only comparable to the greatest sex. Musical magic is achieved here by matching perhaps the finest diva of the 60's girl-group with the most exhuberantly romantic songs of early Marshall Crenshaw, a modern master of Rock and Roll classical forms, with an uncanny ability to "channel" the spirit of the greatest mid-60's tunes without slipping into cheap pastiche. These recordings are so joyful, so transporting, as to achieve the very same heights as the Ronettes' best songs. The backing musicians consist of Crenshaw himself on guitar, his brother Robert on drums and the virtuosic bassist, Graham Maby (See early Joe Jackson) and they rock like hell. The explanation why these outstanding 1989 recordings were not released until 2001 is a complicated and tragic tale involving a record label bankruptcy and the seizing of the master tapes as assets of the various creditors. Not knowing this history when I bought this CD, I was cynical about whether it would be any good, however, my curiosity got the better of my common sense and so I set aside my skepticism. I'm now jubilant I did so. From the opening bars of the first track, "Something's Gonna Happen" I was simply overwhelmed with the sublime nature of this CD. Don't let the brevity of the CD deter you from purchasing it. What wouldn't you be willing to pay to hear five lost classics of the Beatles, Beach Boys or Who, if they existed? '

Ronnie Spector - Something's Gonna Happen


AMG Review:
'This EP was originally issued by Creation Records in the U.K. With that in mind, though it's a little weird to hear the original teenager singing her songs through a Jesus and Mary Chain-style wall of sound filter, it works like a charm. The Joey Ramone-penned "She Talks to Rainbows" and the "Be My Baby"-ish "Bye-Bye Baby," a duet with Ramone, is perfect for the pair. What a a thrill to hear Spector sing the Brian Wilson song she inspired, "Don't Worry Baby." This one might just be the version of Johnny Thunders' "You Can't Put Your Arm Around A Memory" that his fans have hoped would materialize. Daniel Rey uses the same heavy hand he used on the Ramones and White Zombie but original tough chick Spector can handle it. "I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine," recorded for English television tops-off this extraordinary "comeback." '

Ronnie Spector - She Talks To Rainbows


Here we go, the last of the true rockstars ;)

In this album, "Unfinished Business" she has a sexy duet with country singer Eddie Money, Desmond Child and Diane Warren wrote the haunting "Love On A Rooftop" for her; Desmond Child produced. There's also a very nice "When We Danced," on which Paul Shaffer collaborated. "Dangerous" is where the Go-Go's should've gone to reinvent themselves, and that Spector tips her hat to the new gals on the block is impressive, being backed by Bangle Susanna Hoffs.Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love" is put to a dance beat, and it works. What's important about this cover is that it takes Spector away from the elements producers and fans had locked her into.

UPCOMING: Ronnie Spector MEGAPOST ;)

Two full albums, two EPs and fourteen other tracks - singles, unreleased songs, duets, soundtracks + One side of her sister Estelle Bennetts only single!

Stay tuned!