Thursday, December 25, 2008

Al Kealoha Perry - Ke Kali Nei Au/Hawaiian Moon

Fans of lounge music praise the golden age LP's of Yma Sumac, Martin Denny, Les Baxter and the like. The Ultra Lounge series, releasing primarily the lounge music from the Capitol vaults was taken by many as "Exotica 101"; pure text book. The cool thing about them is they highlighted the more obscure, but, most definately talented performers in the genre; such as Dean Elliott, Chuy Reyes, Walter Schumann, Alvino Rey, Tak Shindo, etc. Everything has origins however, and so, I will be highlighting from time to time on this blog the pioneer records that influenced the genre. Les Baxter was once Leslie Baxter. Art Van Damme released an 78 rpm album entitled "Cocktail Songs" during the big band era.

Exotica and lounge music from the pre-1950's, the 78 rpm era is sorely overlooked, and I hope to cure this. This is real Hawaiian music, recorded in Honolulu by Al Kealoha Perry. This is an early solo recording on the first label he recorded under his own name, the short lived, self-produced "Aloha" label. The label art is amazing, and I'll have to scan it when I get the chance. You'll notice right away when listening to this, the rawness, as opposed to the clean hi-fidelity studio productions Perry did later with Webley Edwards. Ke Kali Nei Au is a beautiful melody that is sung in traditional Hawaiian. The chorus of men is inturrupted by Helen Johnson singing the verses. Hawaiian Moon is an equally as beautiful song sung by a trio in English. Is it just me, or does it sound like a rewrite of Moonlight Bay?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jim Reeves - Bimbo/Gypsy Heart

Gentleman Jim Reeves was perhaps the biggest male star to emerge from the Nashville sound. He became known as a crooner because of his warm, velvety voice. From 1955 through 1969, Reeves was consistently in the country and pop charts — an amazing fact in light of his untimely death in an airplane accident in 1964. His big success was on RCA, but he started with several number one hits on the Abbott label in the early 1950's. He began his career as a disc jockey and newscaster at KGRI, moving to KWKH in Shreveport, LA, in November of 1952, becoming host of the popular Louisiana Hayride. The story goes that either Sleepy La Beef, or Hank Williams couldn't appear on Louisiana Hayrideand desperate for someone to fill in at last minute notice, Jim Reeves performed. His performance was enthusiastically received, and Abbott Records immediately signed him to a record contract. "Mexican Joe" was Reeves' debut single for Abbott, and it quickly climbed to number one in the spring of 1953, spending nine weeks at the top of the charts. "Bimbo" followed, prooving Reeves wasn't a one-hit wonder and established him as a full-time member of the Louisiana Hayride. I found the original Rod Morris Capitol 78 at Amoeba records in Hollywood once, I wished I bought it. Damn...

Here's a performance of Jim Reeves performing Bimbo in Norway three months before his fatal plane crash:

Jim Reeves
Abbott #148
01. Bimbo
02. Gypsy Heart

Homemade 78 RPM Records

It's 1939... there's nothing to do. Sit with your pipe and listen to Jack Benny? Bah, we do that every Friday. Say! That new Capra movie is playing, and if we get there early enough they're raffling a new ice box! Sounds, all right, but I'm down to my last five dollars.... So then what? Oh I KNOW!!! Mr. and Mrs. Jones down the block just got a new Wilcox-Gay home audio recorder, let's visit them and see how it works.

In the 1930's and 1940's, many people jumped on the bandwagon of purchasing home recording machines that, in the days before magnetic tape for home use, recorded onto a blank record. Machines were made by a variety of companies, but the Wilcox-Gay Recordio machines were by far the most popular, and can still be found on eBay from time to time. These homemade 78 rpm records replaced the early 1900 Cylinder reproducing machines, which were harder to keep, crude in recording sound, and were primarily used as dictaphones in offices. These homemade records were known as acetates.

Acetates are records, usually recorded at 78 RPM, usually 10 inches in size, recorded on primitive home disc recorders, which were on the market during the 1940's. They have an aluminum metal base, coated with black lacquer, which the recording stylus etches (cuts) the groove into while recording. Most recorders had a constant-pitch feedscrew which moved the arm containing the recording-stylus across the record at a constant rate.

Since the 1930s, most blank acetate discs have been manufactured with a base, usually aluminum (although glass was used during the war years and cardboard for inexpensive home recordings), that was coated with nitrocellulose lacquer plasticized with castor oil. Because of the lacquer's inherent properties, acetate discs are the least stable type of sound recording.

The quality of home recordings (of the 1940s-1960s) is usually horrendous, as the machines themselves had many sonic limitations, and people usually had limited experience using them.

Acetate records for amateur home recording have blank labels, which are there for people to mark the title, artist (or "recorder"), date, speed, and whether the disc plays "outside in" or "inside out". "Outside In" means you put the needle on the outside like most records (and the needle works its way to the center while it plays -- the groove moves the needle along). "Inside Out", or "Center-Start", means you must put the needle on the innermost groove, and the groove will push the needle toward the outside while it plays. "Inside Out" records are quite rare, I have one back in Los Angeles, and when I get it back, I'll post it here.

Acetates are interesting to collect, however, since you never know what you're gonna get it can be a big gamble buying them. I once turned down buying five acetates of someones home recording of "Heartbreak Hotel" because they wanted $10 each and wanted to sell them all in one lot. They rarely have identifiable information written on the labels, and are usually impossible to identify the source -- who recorded them, whose voice(s) is (are) recorded on them.

I offer three home made discs today. If you're a fan of the music in the movie Crumb, you'll really enjoy these. They're very ragtime-parloresque music. The first two are instrumental, and came from a $100 lot I bought from a customer at work, and the third one was sent to me from my friend Jackie for my birthday and included as a bonus. The first two are piano instrumentals, and the final one is a band recording on a single-sided 78 cardboard record. The sound is crude on all three and the final recording being vocal was a little hard to make out, but after some work, I found out it was a cover of a Peggy Lee song, "I Don't Know Enough About You" recorded in 1946.

Here's the lyrics, see if you can make them out on the record:

I know a little bit
About a lot of things
But I don't know enough about you
Just when I think you're mine
You try a different line and
Baby, what can I do?

I read the latest news
No buttons on my shoes
Baby, I'm confused about you
You've got me in a spin and
What a spin I'm in
Cause I don't know enough about you

Jack-of-all-trades, master of none
And isn't it a shame
I'm so sure that you'd be good for me
If you'd only play my game

You know I went to school and
I'm nobody's fool
That is to say until I met you
You've got me in a spin and
What a spin I'm in
Cause I don't know enough about you

I know a bit about biology
A little more about psychology
I'm a little gem in geology
But I don't know enough about you.

The records are as follows:
1. First Dance
2. Second Dance
-recorded by a woman named Mrs. Tennyson on April 2, 1950

1. Naughty Angeline
2. Ragtime Cowboy Joe
-Also recorded by Mrs. Tennyson, but with no date. I can only assume recorded the same year. Both of these are popular songs from the ragtime era.

1. I Don't know Enough About You
-I have no clue who recorded this but its fantastic! I had another record recorded by the same mysterious person, but it was destroyed by our cat. The song was recorded originally in 1946, and the record that was destroyed was a rendition of "The Gypsy" on accordion. "The Gypsy" was made famous in 1946, which leads me to believe that this record is circa. 1946-47

Download these primitive crackly home recordings here

and now you have something do on your Friday night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Virgo Rising: The Once and Futue Woman (1973)

Virgo Rising The Once and Future Woman
Thunderbird #7037

At times this record can be a little hokey, but for the most part, there are some great gems here. This comes out of the folk scene, and is an inevitable out come of the woman's movement of the 60's. The highlight of this album is "No Hole In My Head" written and performed by Malvina Reynolds who wrote the Pete Seeger hit "Little Boxes":

The album was produced, engineered, written and sung all by women. The liner notes state: "songs to diaper babies by, songs to rivet or sculpt by, to drink or type or draw up the terms of your divorce by, mow the lawn or fix the door by... songs of sisterhood." The performers range from 17 (Kit Miller) to 72 (Malvina Reynolds).

Burn your bra here!

01. Janet Smith - Freedom Ladies March (c) 1972
The last line of this track sums up the modern woman's triumph.

02. Malvina Reynolds - No Hole In My Head (c) 1965
The best known of the singers on this album, Malvina Reynolds is a provocative and prolific songwriter. Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte and the Kingston Trio have all sung the songs she's written on a host of different caring subjects, like "Turn Around." Here's a clip of her performing it on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest:

03. Charley's Aunts - Housewives' Lament
Kate Butler, Helen Tucker, Rebecca Mills are sisters from Bay Area in California.

04. Janet Smith - Talking Want Ad (c) 1972
Janet Smith is an accomplished guitar player as well as a songwriter of depth and humor as is demonstarted here.

05. Nancy Raven - Crazie Ruthie (c) 1971
Nancy Raven has sung professionally since 1963. Her best known albums are "Wee songs for Wee People" and "Lullabyes and Other Childrens Songs" recorded for Pacific Cascade Records.

06. Janet Smith - New Country Rock
Smith owned and ran a folk club in Rome, Italy while performing and teaching high school throughout the late 60's. She could definately be looked at as a rennaisance woman. She plays acoustic on this only instrumental track on the album.

07. Charley's Aunts - Union Maid
A trio of enormous energy and high spirits, Charley's Aunts have composed and played their own songs for years, but rarely together. This LP marks their first performance on album.

08. Janet Smith - Mama's Peaches (c) 1971
Janet Smith appears through courtesey of Takoma Records.

09. Malvina Reynolds - No Room (c) 1971
No Room is a magic atonal. A nod to Alice In Wonderland and is an allegory for overpopulation. Malvina Reynolds was born in 1900 and died five years after this album's release.

10. Kit Miller - There Was A Young Woman Who Swallowed A Fly (c) 1970
Kit Miller was recorded on location at the Foresta Institute in the Sierra Nevada Mountains under the giant Jeffrey Pines.

11. Charley's Aunts - Cut And Dried (c) 1973

12. Malvina Reynolds - We Don't Need The Men (c) 1956
A song written in the fifties and only for people with humor. She also contributed several songs in the 70's to Sesame Street and appeared on it as "Kate"

13. Nancy Raven - Welfare Blues (c) 1971
Nancy sings of the concern women have traditionally felt (or been credited with) for the poor, the neglected, the children of the world in Welfare Blues, a song she wrote in 1971 for the film Welfare: Exploding Myths.

14. Charley's Aunts - Sister! (c) 1973
Sister! Written by Fanchon Lewis, began as a poem, "after I have suffered four years from writer's block," she said. "The love and support of my sisters helped me to break through and Sister! was the first result. The power and energy of sisterhood is contagious. The song starts 'You are all right, Sister. 'You can do it, Sister.' We do what we dare. We dare when we are together."

You can find interviews and in-detail info on the album here

Arthur Lyman - Call of the Midnight Sun

Exotica and Island music have always been one of my foremost musical interests. I can't help but imagine a dapper group of suburbanites throwing a tiki bbq party in their backyard in 1956. Grass skirts, Mai Tais, coconut bras, pinaple rings, tiki torches and statues, and of course a variety of exotica records. Arthur Lyman has always been a personal favorite of mine. Unlike most popular exotica musician, Lyman actually is Hawaiian. He also mastered mallet instraments by learning a variety of Benny Goodman songs on a toy marimba as a child.

Lyman got his start playing vibes for Martin Denny a the Shell Bar at famed hotel "the Hawaiian Village". Denny had traveled the world picking up different exotic instraments to add to that signature sound, but it was Lyman who coined the famous bird call, that's become a staple in island music. In 1957 Denny was signed for Quiet Village, and Lyman stayed loyal to the Shell Bar, and they became "friendly" rivals for 30 years! In 1990 they made amends and recorded one last album together.

Call of the Midnight sun is one of my favorite Arthur Lyman albums. The version of "Hello, Dolly" is possibly the best I've ever heard, considering I was never terribly fond of it to begin with. Unfortunately on the second track "a maile lei your hair" seemed to record much softer than the rest. It's a bit on the low side, but it's not one of the album's best. It also includes "the Girl from Ipanema", another favorite of mine! The title track is, Midnight Sun, is the hilight of the album though. Perfect for sipping cocktails while cooking dinner! Enjoy!

1. Hello, Dolly
2. a Maile Lei your Hair
3. Midnight Sun
4. Room Without Windows
5. 500 Miles
6. People
7. Black Orchid
8. Hamabe No Uta
9. the Girl from Ipanema
10. Day and Night
11. Black is the Color of my True Love's Hair
12. Get me to Church on Time

the Midnight Sun is Calling...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the Philharmonica Trio - Harmonica Holiday

Yet another accidental finding. Recently during one of our bi-monthly trips to the Olde Town Antique Mall, we came across this gem. It caught Benway's eye because of the large, odd looking bass harmonica one of the guys on the cover was holding up to his mouth. Something about it reminded me of the Three Suns, so I was interested too. It ended up being a more than worthy $2 gamble.

The Philharmonica Trio includes three of the worlds greatest Harmonica players. Joe and Charles Pitello, and Harry Halicki. The three were formally in a larger Harmonica groups simply called "the Philharmonicas", who apparently had grown to have a bit more sucess. Once the rest of the members moved on, they seemed to fade into obscurity, as this is their only album.

Unfortunately, we don't have a scanner ast the moment, and could not find any pictures of this album! However I did find a few references to the Philharmonicas, including this amazing clip on youtube...

If that doesn't sell you on this group, nothing will!!

Get your Harmonica MADNESS here!

1. the Carioca
2. Czardas
3. Lady of Spain
4. Two O'clock Boogie
5. Lullaby of Broadway
6. Sleepy Time Gal
7. Charmaine
8. Adios

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dance Tunes For Little Folks - Clarinet Polka/Helena Polka

This is the reason the Schmaltz Factory exists: Schmaltz. Here's a 5" 78rpm record we sandwiched into the sleeve of an LP we bought at the rescue mission. It's a powder blue children record on a label called Spear. Nothing came up when I googled it. It was released in Bridgeport, Conn. No artist is listed either. Ah well, can't win 'em all. The A-side is pretty standard, the B-side is phenomenal. It has a really great laughter along the song from one of the musicians with some really good instrumental mimicry of laughter as well, making this a really fun little novelty ditty in the days of one-take recordings.

Dance Tunes For Little Folks
Spear #122

01. Clarinet Polka
02. Helena Polka