Archive for the ‘Jerry Ragovoy’ Category

The Olympics / The Young Rascals

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Listen: Good Lovin’ / The Olympics

One of the obscure RnB singles that got Top 40 play on WOLF, the miracle pumping AM radio anomaly transmitting 24/7 in upstate New York from ’64 – ’67. The station is referenced many times on this blog, and introduced endless English bands, as well American RnB acts to it’s teenage listenership. Myself included. Bless whoever was in charge.

‘Good Lovin’ rocked my little red transistor, and always sounded way dirtier being broadcast via a compressed AM signal than off my vinyl pressing at home. The single stalled at #81 nationally, like so many others did when from the wrong side of the tracks. Ironically, these records never seemed to get the BILLBOARD chart moves local airplay implied they should. As a result, The Olympics ‘Good Lovin’ disappeared off the airwaves rather fast and temporarily felt like an anthem never to be.

I picked up my copy in the 39¢ bin at W.T. Grants only weeks after initially hearing it.

Listen: Good Lovin’ / The Young Rascals

Within a year though, the more established Atlantic Records issued The Young Rascals version, a result of band member Gene Cornish allegedly hearing The Olympics’ original and suggesting his band cover it live. Without question, they documented a livelier performance onto vinyl, added some garage rock, and went to #1 on the Hot 100.

Despite The Young Rascals having recorded the wilder, many I say better, version doesn’t take away from The Olympics tempered and understated cool. Both are lifers in this collection, convenient necessities for different occasions.

Carl Hall

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Listen: The Damn Busted / Carl Hall
The Damn Busted / Carl Hall

Wikipedia has this to say about Carl Hall:

Carl Hall was an African-American singer, actor, and musical arranger. A member of Raymond Raspberry’s eponymous gospel group The Raspberry Singers, recording on the US Savoy Records label, he performed in theatre for three decades, beginning with Tambourines To Glory in ’63.

Beyond The Raspberry Singers, he recorded later that decade several singles for Mercury Records and cut the now much sought-after tracks, ‘You Don’t Know Nothing About Love’ / ‘Mean It Baby’ (Loma 2086, ’67) and ‘The Dam Busted’ / ‘I Don’t Want To Be Your Used To Be’ (Loma 2098, ’67) for the Warner Brothers subsidiary label, Loma Records, produced by leading producer Jerry Ragovoy. In ’73, he released a single on Columbia called ‘What About You’ (45813 ). Also appeared on Broadway in the stage production of the musical The Wiz among other shows.

The only thing I can add is his vocal delivery on the first lyric of the very first 45 I ever heard by Carl Hall told me everything I needed to know.

Terry Reid

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Listen: Stay With Me Baby / Terry Reid
Stay With Me Baby / Terry Reid

Other than ‘Better By Far’, a preview to BANG BANG YOU’RE TERRY REID, his first album, no further UK singles were issued from that or the even better followup, TERRY REID. Mickie Most was not only producing, but managing, if you can call it that.

Never got to meet Mickie Most, but had that opportunity occurred, inquiring into the lack of Terry Reid singles would have been the first words spoken. He’d have hated me pretty quickly, because I’m still steaming about it and probably would’ve remained unsatisfied despite his reply. Very obnoxious indeed, given the many terrific records he produced, most of which I own. Truthfully, I certainly would have behaved, shown respect. After all, there’d have been a lot to talk about and who the fuck am I compared to Mickie Most?

In the States, Terry Reid was the opening act for The Cream in ’68, and then The Rolling Stones on their ’69 tour. By that time, said classic second album, TERRY REID, was out. Epic had enough sense to pull a few tracks off the record and press up 7′s, if only to focus the underground disc jockeys, as they were known, toward the more obvious airplay choices.

‘Stay With Me Baby’ could’ve taken off, so give it a 7″ kickstarting chance. Why not? A mid chart hit (#64 in ’66) for Lorraine Ellison, the Jerry Ragovoy song (although wrongly credited on the label copy here to members of Savoy Brown, they too had a then current song titled ‘Stay With Me Baby’) seemed purposely written for Terry Reid’s voice.

Live, it was so powerful, almost frightening, a career moment, a show stopper.

Listen: Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace / Terry Reid
Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace / Terry Reid

He never did play near my home in upstate New York when I was a youngster. He seldom played the States at all really. After those initial two albums came out and miraculously underperformed, it was a few years before he ventured back. By then, the crazy teenager in me decided I could wait no more, and hitchhiked to NYC summer ’73, seeing him at Central Park’s Wollman Skating Rink during their yearly Schaefer Music Festival summer concert series. My lord, what a lineup that series had. It’s hard to read quickly, you’ll need to go slow.

Yes, I hitchhiked from Syracuse, along the New York State Thruway. No money in my pocket to speak of, about $30. And nowhere to stay after the show, I hadn’t even thought about that part. Post concert, I made my way down to The Village Oldies. They were open until 2am, stocked up on 25¢ unsleeved promo 45′s, had some pizza, then it was time to head back. Almost can’t believe I did it. My folks were in a true panic. Wow, crazy stuff. I should be dead, instead I was possessed, 45′s under one arm, the other with a thumb out along the West Side Highway.

Terry Reid played all the classics that night. The addicted amongst us were foaming up front, dangerously freaking out, like the messiah had arrived. There were moments, like during ‘Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace’ when I could’ve sworn he had. Terry Reid was that incredible.

Lorraine Ellison

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Stay With Me / Lorraine Ellison

Listen: Stay With Me / Lorraine Ellison LorraineStay.mp3

I was thinking about my previous post (The Exciters) and a whole lot of Bert Burns details kept coming to mind, like one of his reportedly last songs, written with Jerry Ragovoy, being ‘Piece Of My Heart’. After being made super famous by Big Brother & The Holding Company, there really was no point in trying to compete with a re-recordings, although some did. Janis Joplin clearly had a definitive knowledge of the great RnB singers at that time. I remember her being interviewed by Dick Cavett and mentioning her favorite being Tina Turner. Neither he nor the silent audience knew who that was. She dug up and recorded greats by Garnet Mimms, Bobby Womack, Howard Tate and obviously Jerry Ragovoy (who wrote many of the aforementioned); undeniably making them hers.

There’s a cd compilation currently available, TIME IS ON MY SIDE – THE JERRY RAGOVOY STORY 1953-2003. I highly suggest getting a copy. It overviews an impressive array of styles, but mostly pure RnB. One of the songs it includes is ‘Stay With Me’ by Lorraine Ellison. Now oddly enough, I love her version even though I don’t love love love her voice. I like her an awful lot, but prefer a bit more husk. When combining her with Ragovoy’s songs though, it always works.

Now the following is a true story. If someone were to tell it to me, I wouldn’t believe them – it’s so far fetched. About 8 years ago, I went down to the village to meet Kate Hyman for lunch. She was looking at a small, really run down (needed gutting to be exact), brownstone and suggested we meet there (just off Carmine Street), have a look and go eat. I love looking at property and she knew it – so bang, we had a plan. A mutual friend, Glen Schiller, was the agent and he walked us through the then rotting, water damaged debris of a home – now renovated and clearly worth a fortune. I was a little timid about going up the stairs but followed along. There was literally nothing, and I mean nothing, in the building except a perfect, US promo copy of Lorraine Ellison’s ‘Stay With Me’ (the second issue – pictured at the top) propped against a bedroom wall. I know – you think I’m lying. I swear on my Mother’s life – this is true. I couldn’t believe it. There should have been a faint sound of ‘magic’ or ‘angels’ or ‘fairydust’ backgrounding my arm reaching down and chiming when as fingers met the sleeve, just in the movies.

This copy was mint. The sleeve factory fresh. What the fuck was this doing here? I asked Glen – he didn’t have a clue and said “Take it”. Well you only need to say that to me once. I did. So there you go – meant to be.

Miriam Makeba

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

MiriamPata, Miriam Makeba, Jerry Ragovoy, Reprise

Listen: Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba
Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba

A traditional African song by a native artist becoming a US radio and chart hit (#12, 10/67)? Probably a first, definitely a last. Seriously, I can’t remember it ever happening again. Programmers with their false sense of knowing the public taste and dismissive musical arrogance were actually powerful all through the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. Even after the industry coined the sound ‘world music’ and it became chic, off the US airwaves it was kept – maybe Paul Simon’s GRACELAND got some radio attention, but nowhere near matching the sales story. That’s as far as the door opened. And not ever again for a native artist. Did any pop, alternative or more pointedly, urban station play King Sunny Ade & His African Beats or Ladysmith Black Mambazo? Yeah right. So much for a melting pot and honoring heritage.

This, of course, before the gatekeepers lost that power and their stronghold was decimated. But all those years of musical censorship took it’s toll. Just look at the tastes of the average American. Yikes.

Released not long after The Dixie Cups ‘Iko Iko’ became a hit, both hooked me with the rhythm and ambience of drums, sticks, bongos – whatever. It all sounded pretty fascinating. ‘Pata Pata’ never struck me as out of place, or threateningly different, just a great single. I collected all the Reprise 7′s to follow, about 5-6 more. Who realized at the time that Jerry Ragovoy was involved in the Miriam Makeba story, not only as producer, but co-songwriter. True, he was in the studio with her while juggling sessions with Lorraine Ellison. How great is that?

Reprise, and parent company Warner Brothers, had a most seminal and diverse roster, beginning in the 60′s. All you need do is pull out any of the label’s album inner sleeves listing their currents to see. In fact, that diversity and standard continued for decades, all under Mo Ostin’s leadership. His taste in music, and instinct for executives goes a bit unheralded in the history books, but it was there and vastly important to a healthy underground music culture in America.

Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

garnetmimmscry, Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, United Artisits, Jerry Ragovoy
GarnetMimmsUKA, Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, United Artisits

Listen: Cry Baby / Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters GarnetCry.mp3

I’ll admit it. I had not heard this record, nor seeked it out, until Janis Joplin recorded her version of ‘Cry Baby’ in ’71. I’d seen Garnet Mimms’ records mentioned occasionally in the obscure sections of Billboard: like Bubbling Under The Hot 100, or listed as a possible minor hit in the ‘Chart’ section of their Singles Review page (the catagories were ‘Top 20′, ‘Top 60′ and ‘Chart’, in that order). Seemed like an eternity, those eight years between his release and hers. Now it’s just a blink.

Her rendition would make anyone want to seek out the original. She just tore it apart. Certainly Garnet Mimms’ RnB version had to be great too. Taste in black music Janis Joplin certainly had.

Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters’ ‘Cry Baby’ was worth the search. Turns out he’d sang in many gospel groups, as well as with Sam Cooke, before being drafted. Once discharged in ’57, he hit the circuit again before forming The Enchanters in ’62. They cut ‘Cry Baby’, and it went on to sell a million units, peaking in Billboard’s pop charts at #4. Within a year, the group disbanded.

Composed by then struggling Brill Building staff writers Norman Meade and Bert Russell (aka Bert Burns), and produced by Jerry Ragovoy, ‘Cry Baby’ is a now perfect snapshot of New York RnB in it’s heyday.

Roy Redmond

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

royredmondgoodday1, Roy Redmond, Jerry Ragavoy, Warner Brothers, The Beatles

Listen: Good Day Sunshine / Roy Redmond RoyRedmondGoodDay.mp3

royredmondfeeling, Roy Redmond, Jerry Ragavoy, Warner Brothers, The Beatles

Listen: That Old Time Feeling / Roy Redmond RoyRedmanThatOldTime.mp3

Part of the Loma Records roster in the mid 60′s, Roy Redmond’s path crossing with Jerry Ragovoy made perfect sense. He’d produced many acts for the label, almost like a house producer, most notably Lorraine Ellison. Warner Brothers, being the imprint’s parent label, obviously decided not to give them their own UK visibilty. To my knowledge, all those US Loma’s came out on WB over there, as with Roy Redmond’s.

Having recently gotten this as part of Tony King’s collection, it was the B side ‘That Old Time Feeling’ that drew me in based on the Ragovoy production. Plus it was co-written by Donnie Fritts, for years Kris Kristofferson’s keyboardist, having learned his craft at Muscle Shoals and with Rick Hall’s Fame Studios.

Until a few days ago, the A side ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was simply a repellant to my interest, being a most cheesy Beatles composition in an already crowded list. With ‘That Old Time Feeling’ being so good, I felt responsible to give it a spin. Wow. I should have trusted Jerry Ragovoy’s work way more. It’s terrific. Amongst the song’s many qualities – it sounds nothing like The Beatles original.