The Shirelles (1972) S/T (LP) RCA Victor (LSP-4698)

The Shirelles
Shirelles

RCA Victor (LSP-4698)
1972
*** noteworthy

The Shirelles played a huge part in creating the girl group genre and bringing black music to white audiences, but by the time the Beatles covered two of their songs, audiences are opting for new acts. Still, the Shirelles kept at it, releasing singles and albums into the 70s, as this 1972 album shows (which reportedly is better their previous RCA album from 1971).

Their classic songs from the late 50s and early 60s were as much R&B and doo-wop as pop, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this outfit were able to update their sound and fit in with the soul music of the early 70s. This set features Shirley and Micki (who were both there from the beginning) and focuses on soul numbers from 1971.

Not surprisingly, they start the set with a then-recent Carole King number, “Brother, Brother” (not surprising because their relationship with King goes back to the beginning). This version seems to be a mix of King’s 1971 version and The Isley Brother’s version from 1972. Shirelles’ version was also released as a single, with “Sunday Dreaming” as the B-side–the second cut on this album. The first side also includes “It’s Going to Take Some Time” (another number from Carole King’s 1971 Music album) with a solid reading of Bill Withers’ 1971 “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the Bee Gees’ 1971 “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. Al Green’s 1972 version of the Bee Gees’ song might have inspired the version on this album, especially considering this is followed by an Al Green number to conclude the first side.  (Of course, it’s that the Isley Brothers and/or Al Green were inspired by the versions on this album.)

When you cover classics by the great soul singers (Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Joe Simon’s 1971 Gamble/Huff-penned “Drowning in the Sea of Love, Mary Clayton’s 1971 Carole King-penned “Walk On In” and Marvin Gaye’s 1971 “Mercy Mercy/Inner City Blues/What’s Going On” the listener can’t help from recalling the sharp bite of the originals, but if one lets go of all that and enjoys all these girls had offer, this offers plenty to enjoy. The band is uncredited but backs them up well, sounding like different line ups were perhaps used on different cuts, some arrangements by bassist David Van De Pitte (who arranged many Motown classics, including the What’s Going On sessions for Marvin Gaye), others by Wade Marcus (who was just beginning to make a name for himself in the worlds of jazz and soul), the set produced by Randy Irwin.

— winch (author of

 

 

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Elliott Murphy (1976) Night Lights (LP) RCA (APL1-1318)

Elliott Murphy

 Night Lights 

1976

RCA (APL1-1318)

Produced by Steve Katz

*** noteworthy

This third long-player by Murphy is produced by Steve Katz (fresh from producing a string of Reed albums) and features Doug Yule (Velvet Underground), Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers) and Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), and on one cut a 4th-grade chorus.  It sounds very much like the arty side of mid 70s New York–perhaps a bit too much for many listeners–and appears to be heavily influenced by English artists such as Ian Hunter and David Bowie and especially by fellow East Coasters Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed.

Reportedly Murphy’s earlier albums show more of a Dylan influence, but the imprint still remains here, becoming clear on “Lady Stiletto” (which sounds like it must be about Patti Smith). While this album sounds more arty and urban than the following three artists, you can sense a connection with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Waits, and Murphy perhaps helps shed some light on a bridge between Dylan and those three artists.

It’s easy to see why some were looking at Waits, Springsteen or Murphy as sort of the new Dylan. And these three clearly had more than that in common.  Their music was informed by American folk but clearly urban.  Each had released two albums that were praised by critics but ignored by the masses, and by 1976, all three had recently recorded a third album.  It’s also easy to see why Bruce and Tom eventually found much more success.


It’s also easy to see why folks today focus on other music from this specific time and place.

While Murphy picks some great influences, so many others from this setting were focused on creating something new–a brand-new sound rising from the corpses of the past. Most bands looked back to pre-Sgt. Pepper 1960s but also looked to create something all their own. And unlike Murphy, most were not introspective and arty.

In 1976, the Ramones released their first album, the Dictators had done that the year before, the Talking Heads were getting ready for 1977, Patti Smith was spitting about a “Piss Factory,” Blondie were doing their thing, and bands such as Suicide were clearly taking the past and making something new.
Of course, there was much more.
Finally in 1976, the parts of the world interested in the underground got a taste of what was going down on the east Coast when both the CBGB and At the Rat compilations were released. While the bands from these albums have been mostly ignored, many were clearly creating a sound that would influence every aspect of punk/independent/underground music.  And that music influenced everything else.


On the other hand, one can’t help but focus more at what was going down elsewhere on the east coast at this time, but his album by Murphy certainly has its moments, even if those moments often sound stolen.  You have to appreciate that he doesn’t hide his influences, with for example, vocal elements on “Lookin’ For A Hero” clearly coming from Velvet Underground (who had borrowed those elements themselves).
Likely folks will find this set fairly enjoyable or fairly annoying.

— winch: author of

 

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The Wedding Present (1989) Bizarro (LP) RCA 2173-1-R

The Wedding Present

Bizarro 

1989

RCA 2173-1-R

**** recommended


For this second set, guitarist/ vocalist David Gedge and his ever-changing line up go with a major label but continue with the three-chord rhythm-guitar rock, fast without losing the underground pop-rock rhythm, moving along like a commuter train, ringing like a warning bell by the tracks, looking back to England glory days of a decade earlier when some of the punks kept the energy while losing some (but not all) of the anger.

The set moves along like a roller coaster, mixing romance with bitterness, the safe with hints of scary, focusing on the fast but slowing down to pull you in, mostly fun but hints of menace to keep it interesting.  While it’s easy to hear influences, it’s even easier to hear how this likely influenced bands in the decades that followed.

— winch

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Perez Prado (1958) Dilo (Ugh!) LP (RCA LPM-1883)

Perez Prado

Dilo (Ugh!)

1958

(RCA LPM-1883)

**** (recommended)

Instead of just using a bunch of rushed filler to release an album to house the big hit “Patricia,” Prado and the band use the hit to introduce new listeners to a solid set while showing old fans that hot singles weren’t going to spoil the fun.


Along with the horns, percussion, organ, and ugh!, a guitar helps cut a groove through on several cuts.


While jazz fans were looking elsewhere for their Cuban fix in 1958, mainstream middle class just needed heavy doses of this cat.  This album clearly shows why.

— winch (author of

 

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The Breaks (1983) S/T (LP) RCA 4675

The Breaks

The Breaks

1983

RCA 4675

produced by Vini Poncia

***

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This one’s only for fans with a huge penchant for 80s pop-rock fronted by female vocalists, but if that’s your bag, this set is worth a listen, features an LA new-wave sound with the band’s Tennessee roots showing–especially in Susanne’s vocals. This Memphis outfit was fronted by the Taylor siblings, Susanne Jerome the cutie on vocals (and made into a new wave southern belle sexpot on the “She Wants You” video.)

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While she has her right hand firmly planted in the pocket of her cute 80s skirt on the album sleeve, she appears to be flipping the bird. That about says it all, LA trying to make her into a 80s pop tart, but this Memphis girl showing her roots with that twang and attitude in her voice, that grin on her face and that middle finger firmly planted in her pocket.

 

 

Most of the songs are written by the Taylor siblings, the set produced by Vini Poncia (Ringo’s songwriting partner through most of the 70s).  Apparently the rest of the band is made up of siblings, Rob and Russ Caudill providing the rhythm section, and keyboardist Tom Ward showing up on song credits with a D. Ward.  The first side stays upbeat and fairly cute and enjoyable with an 80s power-pop sound, and then after the opener “Wishy Washy,” Side Two–for better or worse depending on the listener–sticks with the ballads and sounds like the party’s over.  And likely the party was over because this is apparently the only album by this outfit.

— winch (author of

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Henry Mancini (1965) The Latin Sound of Henry Mancini (LP) RCA 3356

Henry Mancini

The Latin Sound of Henry Mancini

1965

RCA 3356

*** noteworthy

While Hank is of course the man (“Peter Gunn,” “Pink Panther,” “Moon River”….), unless you’re a huge fan of commercial orchestra music, you might as well leave most of his albums in the bin at the thrift store where you found them, but if you’re a fan of Latin lounge, this one is worth grabbing.