Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Beat The Heat: Thin Covers

Joey Heatherton: God Only Knows
from The Joey Heatherton Album (MGM/Hip-O Select 1972)

Joey Heatherton: It's Not Easy
from The Joey Heatherton Album (MGM/Hip-O Select 1972)

Because this summers unbearably hot (ain't that the inconvenient truth) and since I tend to wilt like a pussy whenever the thermometer jumps past 80 I've decided to throw up a series of songs that are almost guaranteed to help you beat the heat, just don't quote me on that. The first part of the series will be dedicated to cover songs that don't exactly break the mold and these particular ones are taken from Joey Heatherton's first (and only?) album, conveniently titled "The Joey Heatherton Album." Joey Heatherton, 60's sex kitten, is probably known more for her body than her body of musical work but don't let the good looks fool you, the girl has some vocal chops. Her sonorous voice is loud and crystal clear and tends to hit all the right notes, but despite the impressive ability to hold a note her by-the-numbers interpretations of some songs tend to leave you with the unsatisfied feeling of wanting more but knowing you won't get it.

God Only Knows is a good example of this. Aside from her big, brassy voice she doesn't bring much to her cover of the Beach Boys classic. It is a straight interpretation with very little to differentiate it from the original which can be seen as a good thing considering how well constructed it was to begin with. Whereas Carl Wilson's handling of the verses lent the lyrics a subdued romanticism, Joey's voice tends to effect a more melancholy tone on the interpretation and, understandably, gone is the songs multi-layered vocal harmonies here reduced to the closing of the song.

My favorite song from the album and a cover that's actually better and more interesting than the original is her cover of It's Not Easy, originally performed by the Aussie King of Pop Normie Rowe. The song, penned by hit songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was originally intended for the Righteous Brothers and Joey steps up and does justice to the track. Though the song isn't exactly a hit, it has been covered by everyone from Eric Burdon of the Animals, to The Sweet Inspirations to Cissy Houston and supposedly by Dusty Springfield but Joey's version is for me the most endearing. The song seems ready made for her as it starts off softly and quickly builds up to the chorus and Tommy Oliver's orchestration with it's use of the horns at the right time and the always odd mix of the modern Pop and classic Big Band sounds serves to make the song a nice little gem.

If you've got a couple of sawbucks burning a hole in your pocket you'd be wise to pick up the album (don't let my damning with faint praise review make you think otherwise). Joey covers everyone from Gershwin to Meredith Wilson to Patsy Cline and while you might not find every song good enough to write home about, the whole package more than makes up for it which is more than a lot of modern artists can say about their albums.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Return Of The Sweat Hog

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Dreaming
from The Best of OMD (A&M 1988)

Just a quick announcement that I'm back and I plan on posting on a regular basis (knock on wood). I'll make this post short and sweet and include this track from an album that I've been listening to on a regular basis. Besides having the most preposterously pretentious name in recording history Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark also had some nice radio friendly singles, and though I don't own a single album of theirs I admit to having the 7" of If You Leave (can't front, you know they got me open).

Friday, May 12, 2006

Don't Let The Party Die

Image courtesy of

Rudy Ray Moore: Dirty Dozen (Two by Four from Watts)
from House Party: The Dirty Dozens (Cherry Red Records 1971)

Cash Money & Marvelous: A Real Mutha For Ya
from Where's The Party At? (Sleeping Bag 1988)

Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab: Droge CX 9
from Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadellic Dance Party (Motel 1995)

As was mentioned in my prior post, because of some technical difficulties I don't have access to any new material that I was planning on posting except for what's already on my computer so I've decided to continue with the Party theme. Here are three tracks from albums that all have something to do with Party (I just did an iTunes search for any albums that have the word Party in the title).

Dirty Dozen (Two by Four from Watts) is from the Rudy Ray Moore album House Party and features Tut and Two, two blue comedians cappin, cracking, woofin on and playing the dozens in the Rudy Ray Moore style of rhyming their way through a story. This, and most of Rudy Ray Moore's albums are literally party albums, meant for playing during parties and recorded to sound like they were being performed at a party so next time you have a bat mitzvah, birthday party, family gathering or you're just getting together with some friends to smoke or drink up don't forget to play some Rudy Ray Moore albums to keep the party going.

The second track is from the classic album Where's The Party At by Cash Money and Marvelous, probably most famous for the song All The Ugly People Be Quiet. Admittedly I never really got into the album when it was first released but listening to it now and I wonder what the hell I was thinking back then. Filled with Cash Money's dope cuts (he's credited along with Spinbad for creating the Transformer scratch) and Marv's double words/ words double style of rhyming this song screams old school but don't hold that against it.

The song Droge CX 9 is from the break-tastic album Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadellic Dance Party which was just rereleased with some bonus trakcs. Taken from the soundtrack of a 1970 softy featuring Lesbian Vampires (does that make me bilingual?) the soundtrack is an enjoyable piece of electro kitsch and at times sounds a little bit too ambitious for what it's trying to accompany. This track, Droge CX 9, is indicative of the album and is playful and catchy enough to fend off most criticism of it ( labels it as an album that can be used to drive roaches away) but you can decide for yourself.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Where The Party At

Click the image to see The Man dance, not for everybody, only the sexy people

Lyn Collins: We Want To Parrty, Parrty, Parrty Parts 1&2
from James Brown's Original Funky Divas (Polydor 1975: cd released by Polygram 1998)

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: The Birthday Party
from Adventures on the Wheels of Steel (Sugarhill 1981: cd released by Sugarhill 1999)

New Buffalo: No Party
from The Last Beautiful Day (Arts & Crafts 2005)

The other day I was listening to the old iPod when two songs played back to back and both of them had Party (or Parrty) in the title. Nothing unusual about that but when you've got about 2000 songs on it, and less than 20 of them have Party in the title of the song or album I figured I had a good enough reason to post up the songs on the Filthy Choice.

The first song is by the incomparable Lyn Collins. Along with Marva Whitney and Vicki Anderson, Lyn was the female voice that tempered James Brown hard edge funk without lessening it. This version of We Want To Parrty is the longer single including "Parts 1&2" with it's extended horn section and all female choral chants sounding very much like a party in the studio. Towards the end the bassline increases to almost breakneck proportions and not nodding your head to this effectively means your either dead or lack any rhythm.

The Birthday Party by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is a rather odd song. When I first heard it as a kid waaaay back in the early 80's I loved this song and all the others that they recorded with similar musical themes like Freedom and It's Nasty, songs that sounded like they were actually having fun while they were recording it. But as I listen to it now, the charm and appeal has kind of wore thin. While Freedom and It's Nasty still retain the entertainment value that first attracted me to it, listening to The Birthday Party the song with it's kazoos and shout and response sections just comes off as derivative of the other two and the chorus with the line "any time is a happy time for a birthday party" tends to irk me now whereas back then those were parts of the song that I loved (and I really thought I connected with Melle Mel because our birthdays were two days apart according the song).

The third song No Party is a break from the party theme. Taken from the group New Buffalo, the song with it's heart rending lyrics is in no way indicative of a party atmosphere, but the wispy vocals and the airy beauty of the chorus still makes it a fun listen despite the melancholy of the sentiment.

I was actually going to do some other posts about Dusty Springfield, Joey Heatherton and some other new albums I picked up but unfortunately the SuperDrive on my iMac fizzled out on me and the stereo input that I use for converting my vinyl and tapes seems to have been misplaced, so I'll probably continue with this word-themed posts until I get the damn drive fixed or I find the audio adapter.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mbube/Wimoweh/Lion Sleeps Tonight

Solomon Linda (l)

Solomon Linda's Original Evening Birds: Mbube
from Mbube Roots: Zulu Choral Music from South Africa, 1930's-1960's (Rounder 1976)

The Weavers: Wimoweh
from Wasn't That A Time (Vanguard 1993)

The Tokens: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
from The Tokens (Victor 1961)

A grave musical injustice was recently rectified. In 1939 South African musician Solomon Linda recorded, according to journalist and author Rian Malan "the most famous melody to ever emerge from Africa." The song Mbube (pronounced eem-boo-bey) recorded with his vocal group the Evening Birds was filled with deep hypnotic chants, rhythmic wails and improvised melodies all of which caught on with local audiences and became such a hit that the title of the song is used to describe the genre of music it inspired and Solomon's fame among the Zulu migrants in South Africa rivaled that of Elvis in his heyday. As can be seen in the picture above, Solomon and his group were sharply dressed performers who played up the role of superstars and there were challengers to his throne. The group used to perform at local bars out-singing other groups and creating rivalries strong enough that it was said that Solomon died from a curse put on him by a rival group.

The song itself was released in 1939 and the lyrics come from the memory of Solomon's youth as a goat-herder chasing away lions. At the time of the recording in segregated South Africa Solomon received 10 shillings (about a dollar by todays standards) for his song and all subsequent monies including royalties went to the owner of the record company. Solomon Linda would live on until the 60's to hear his song be covered countless times (a fact of which he was proud) but to die in poverty. In the early 50's Pete Seeger heard the record from a friend and transcribed what he thought were the lyrics, turning Uyimbube to Wimoweh. With his controversial folk group they recorded the song as Wimoweh which would become one of their most popular songs. Seegers version is loud, pompous and awkwardly non-folksy with it's big band arrangement but it still managed to capture the rhythm and excitement of the original and faithfully kept the enthralling syncopation of the Zulu chants.

Even after their group broke up, succumbing to blacklisting during the McCarthy era the song still lived on in popularity, enough so that four Brooklyn kids would use it when they successfully auditioned for music producers. By this time, all ties to Solomon Linda were erased as the song was never copyrighted with song-writing credit going to the fictional Paul Campbell, an alias used to collect royalties from songs that the Weavers would take from other artists and public domain tunes. Seeger himself ceded his author royalties to Solomon Linda, but very little of the money went to him or his family. The four teens and their producers took the song and recorded it under the assumption that because it was supposedly based on an African chant that the rights for the song were open to anyone. The producers and a songwriter took credit for the song and had the Tokens record it as The Lion Sleeps Tonight. This song would become their most popular hit and is still widely recorded and played to this day. The song as recorded by the Tokens is bland and milquetoast when listened beside the previous two songs (the wimoweh chant loses all of it's vitality in the Tokens version) and the countermelody as sung by backup vocalist Anita Darian pushes the song towards kitsch. It's saving grace is the use of the unforgettable melody, a melody that Linda improvised and only used at the very end of the song and that the Weavers only played around with.

The song has now made a lot of money for a lot of people and according to Malan's research has earned about $15 million in royalties all of which should have gone to Linda but which none of it did. But recently Linda's surviving daughters (who are also living in poverty) had settled their case against the copyright holder and are to receive a undisclosed settlement from the back payment of royalties. The lion will finally sleep.

For all of the intimate details regarding the history of the song and the artists and producers involved, read Rian Malan's Rolling Stone article that helped open the lid on the injustices heaped upon the Linda family. Also NPR has an audio report on the settlement, a report that led to me posting about the story.