Archive for the ‘Verve’ Category

Carmen McRae & Herbie Mann

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Listen: Cottage For Sale / Carmen McRae & Herbie Mann

During the mid 90′s, I spent a ton of time in Seattle. We nearly bought a place there in fact. They were almost giving away 60′s houses back then. In one way, it might have been a great move. I could have bought even more records, and just left them in the new place. Because let me tell you, they were nearly giving away records then too.

Golden Oldies was the local chain that sold only used vinyl. There were like five stores in the greater Seattle area. And the main one, on NE 45th Street, was my shrine. I spent hours in the place.

Everything was beautifully organized, basically by genre. The jazz singles took the least time to scour. Not because of quantity. No, there were a ton. But they were all 50¢, tops. I bulked out a massive jazz singles library by default. Grabbed everything remotely interesting. Never left a Verve, Prestige, Atlantic or Blue Note single behind. And the jukebox worn copies, loved those too.

Combine that with a seemingly bitchy drug and alcohol abusing dame, doing lounge covers from the 50′s or 60′s, and I’m grabbing a copy. Not that Carmen McRae was necessarily any of those, but I can fantasize and did.

‘Cottage For Sale’, on Atlantic, black vinyl turning white from years in the jukebox of an old man’s bar for 50¢.


The Mothers Of Invention / The GTO’s / Wild Man Fischer

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

WPLJ / The Mothers Of Invention

Listen: WPLJ / The Mothers Of Invention

In the late 60′s and early 70′s, it wasn’t only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones who started their own labels, Frank Zappa did as well. In fact when he left Verve and joined Warner/Reprise, they gave him two imprints: Straight and Bizarre.

I think The Mothers were one of the few west coast, Los Angeles to San Francisco, groups that interested me at the time. I was admittedly loyal to the British bands back then. They looked better. It may have been the beards that put me off the US acts. Admittedly, Blue Cheer and Big Brother & The Holding Company always looked great, and so too did Love and especially The Seeds, all coincidentally beard free. But despite the beards and various repulsive elements, I loved The Mothers Of Invention. They looked menacing, and dirty and just plain seedy. The cover of MOTHERMANIA is a particularly fantastic shot. Musically, give me WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY, and many of the early singles and songs as well like ‘Wowie Zowie’, only being a let down in that it never got issued as a 7″.

Frank Zappa always applauded his self love of doo wop, as is exampled on this track from BURNT WEENY SANDWICH, ‘WPLJ’. The style, dreadfully out of step at the time, made for a terrific single. There must have been a radio station with those call letters somewhere….if only they’d played it, which I’d bet they didn’t.

Frank Zappa was obviously an insomniac. I mean who has more double albums? And then to constantly tour and put together two labels. Amazing. Alice Cooper debuted on Straight, Tim Buckley moved there from Elektra. Even Keith joined the roster post ’98.6′.

Circular Circulation / G.T.O.S

Listen: Circular Circulation / G.T.O.’s

Two of his earliest signings are on singles featured here: The GTO’s and Wild Man Fischer. I always got a kick out of both these tracks, hearing them initially on one of the many $2.00 Warner/Reprise samplers that were everywhere in those days. Both acts had great album sleeves too.

We may want to blame The GTO’s for giving license to a whole slew of twee female singers hiding behind indie rock as an excuse for minimal vocal ability, but ‘Circular Circulation’ is an absolute out of jail free card.

Merry Go Round / Wild Man Fischer

Listen: Merry Go Round / Wild Man Fischer

Wild Man Fischer has a story and a half going on. Google him – I don’t have enough time to write it all…….but ‘Merry Go Round’ is tops. Sounds like David Byrne picked up some vocal tricks from him.

Shirley Scott Trio

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

ShirleyScottShot, Shirley Scott, Prestige, Impulse, Stanley Turrentine

Listen: A Shot In The Dark / Shirley Scott Trio
A Shot In The Dark / Shirley Scott Trio

Why The Shirley Scott Trio didn’t do a James Bond theme escapes me. If ever there was proof of that potential, it’s on this remake of Henry Mancini’s ‘A Shot In The Dark’. Hints of blaxploitation are seeded within this Oliver Nelson arrangement / Bob Thiele production most likely by accident instead of design. From the absolute must have GREAT SCOTT album, the bombastic arrangements almost can’t be topped. Search it out, if only for the fantastic cover shot of Shirley during her classic blond hair dye job gone wrong period of ’64 – ’65.

Married to Stanley Turrentine during the 60′s, they shared recording contract obligations, releasing as many as ten albums between them on a yearly basis at one point. Another born again of the Jimmy Smith church, Shirley switched from piano and trumpet to a big Hammond B3 shortly after seeing him live in her home town of Philadelphia.

ShirleyScottKeepFaith, Shirley Scott, Prestige, Impulse, Stanley Turrentine

Listen: Keep The Faith, Baby / Shirley Scott Trio
Keep The Faith, Baby / Shirley Scott Trio

For my palate, ‘Keep The Faith, Baby’ is the ultimate peak of her vast body of recorded work, certainly the 7″ singles. Not only does it live up to the mod jazz tag often associated with her mid 60′s stuff, but it reminds me of how lucky I was to frequent Seattle in the early 90′s, when the town was bursting with used record stores.

There was a chain, privately owned, specializing in singles, all divided up by genre. I spent hours pawing through those bins. Everything, particularly jazz, was a steal. A good portion of my Shirley Scott singles, around twenty, came from those trips. It was very bizarre to me that nobody, including collectors, was interested in jazz 7′s. God, I drooled over them. Thick vinyl pressings on Impulse, Verve and Blue Note were too much to pass up. And I’m glad now that I didn’t.

‘Keep The Faith, Baby’ was recorded on January 13, 1967 at Capitol Studios in New York, again with Bob Thiele producing. It features the ultimate Shirley Scott Trio lineup with George Duvivier on bass and Mickey Roker, drums.

Tim Hardin

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Listen: Black Sheep Boy / Tim Hardin

Been meaning to post more double siders like this Tim Hardin one. Not official double A’s, but worthy of.

There’s literally not a bad song this guy ever wrote and recorded for Verve. The amount of other artists who have covered his stuff being proof, if plain old listening isn’t enough. Even the live album TIM HARDIN 3 LIVE IN CONCERT, a format I’m generally not fond of, is an exception in his case.

Listen: Misty Roses / Tim Hardin

And when it comes to covers, ‘Misty Roses’ has plenty. Hard to pick a favorite, but in front of a firing squad, I’d opt for Colin Blunstone’s.

Not to say the original isn’t a masterpiece.

Astrud Gilberto / Stan Getz

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Listen: The Girl From Ipanema (Single Edit) / Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz

‘The Girl From Ipanema’ may have created the Space Age Bachelor Pad musical sub genre on it’s very own, quite by accident. What started out as rather lengthy bossa nova jazz rendition by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, with an Astrud Gilberto vocal feature rather far into the song’s album version, was eventually rearranged and edited down to a brilliant worldwide hit.

Seek out the single version, streamed above. It’s concise and in my opinion, far superior to the long full length counterpart. Then there’s the near extinct picture sleeve. Don’t ever pass that up.

Several years back, Astrud Gilberto played a night at SOB’s in NY’s West Village. I’d seen the listing, and lazily intended to attend, until day of. Suddenly, getting home and sinking into the sofa sounded way better. For whatever reason, I thought, just do it already. So last minute, left the Island office and walked across town, only to find the club oversold. Now the juices were flowing. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Two days later, Island’s King Sunny Ade & His African Beats were scheduled. Without shame, I pulled out my Island office ID and forcefully played the guilt card.

She was fantastic.

Marlena Shaw

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Listen: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / Marlena Shaw
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy / Marlena Shaw

Like with Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, I also have a similar penchant for ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’. Basically, never do I pass up a copy, in fact, the loungier the better.

There are plenty of renditions around by everyone from Jaco Pastorius to Nils Lofgren. Not to mention versions buried in jazzy muzak albums that came fast and furious in the late 60′s.

’67 was the year that saw the song hit Billboard’s Top 5 twice, The Buckinghams version with lyrics, and the original instrumental from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet which went to #1, no doubt a surprise to both artist and label. Big fan of both.

Those in the know, like England’s mods, would attest that the grooviest, hands down, is from Marlena Shaw. Here’s a lady that recorded for the who’s who of RnB/Jazz labels during her career: Chess subsidiary Cadet, Blue Note and Verve.

In ’63, after initially deciding to go for the big time, and get into a record company, she auditioned for, but was turned down by Columbia. Several years later, they changed their minds and signed her away from Blue Note after releasing the wonderfully titled WHO IS THIS BITCH, ANYWAY?

Sounds familiar. I got invited in to Columbia for an interview in the late 80′s, never heard another word from them. About ten years later, out of the blue they rang again, this time offering me a job. I figured, give it a try. Lasted twelve years.

The Velvet Underground & Nico

Friday, May 13th, 2011

All Tomorrow's Parties / The Velvet Underground & Nico

Listen: All Tomorrow’s Parties / The Velvet Underground & Nico VelvetAllTomorrows.mp3

Not an easy 7″ to find, thanks Dick Storms for giving it to me years ago as a gift. Dick started The Record Archive, turning it into one of the best record shops of it’s day. From the humble beginnings of two standups (boxes) at a local flea market it grew to a sprawling vinyl hub, including deep catalog, collectables, knowledgeable staff, guest dj’s – even a back room complete with stage/sound/lights. Loads of local bands played, and national acts did those in-store signing things there too. Talk about taste – Dick had it down, not only in music but furniture, art, design and personality. A Rochester legend.

I wasn’t aware at the time that this single was actually a different take from the album version. I’d always assumed it was simply an edit. How could this not have been a hit one asks. Nico could sing any song and make it Nico. Andy Warhol was a decent A&R guy it turns out.

The Righteous Brothers

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Listen: Justine / The Righteous Brothers
Dear Delilah / The Righteous Brothers

Seems in the 60′s, with singles deals being the prevalent form of partnership between record company and artist, an act could basically be on two labels at once. Not an uncommon occurrence, particularly with the RnB and Soul acts. Therefore, the usual result being one label would have success, with the other forever limping behind, trying to trade off it’s back.

In the world of The Righteous Brothers, such seemed the case with Moonglow, an Atlantic imprint, and Phil Spector’s Philles Records. But in reality, they were signed to Moonglow proper from ’63 to ’66. During that time, Moonglow would also license their services to Spector. His releases were typical Wall Of Sound productions and the much bigger hits, whereas their more homegrown, raw RnB came out through Moonglow, consistently charting low as with ‘Justine’.

That single only reached #85 during July ’65, but got played into the ground on the Syracuse Top 40′s. It’s wild, Little Richard delivery a perfect showcase for the pair’s distinctive baritone grounded vs. tenor off the chain duets.

Listen: Now I’ve Got A Witness / The Rolling Stones
Now I've Got A Witness / The Rolling Stones

It’s well documented that The Rolling Stones were indeed extremely knowledgable American blues and RnB record collectors. What’s fun is to occasionally stumble on an obscure single with some uncanny resemblance toward an original song the band recorded, all the while fantasizing they picked up that very record during one of their excursions through the Mom and Pop stores of Harlem or East LA. I like to think ‘Justine’ was one such record, at least when listening to their ‘Now I’ve Got A Witness’ from the ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS album.

Listen: (You’re My) Soul & Inspiration / The Righteous Brothers
(You're My) Soul & Inspiration / The Righteous Brothers

The first single with new label Verve, after leaving both Moonglow and Philles in early ’66 was classic in more than one way. Clearly, Bill Medley (one half of The Righteous Brothers), paid close attention during his time in the studio with Phil Spector, thereby lifting every last technique off the master, and applying them to his very own production of their #1, ‘(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration’.

Yes, I loved the record at the time, but so wished they had their image down like The Walker Brothers for instance, who were coincidentally doing the exact same style of music but looked about one trillion times better.

The Modern Jazz Quartet

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Listen: Summertime / The Modern Jazz Quartet MJQSummertime.mp3

The Modern Jazz Quartet’s run with Atlantic Records was a superior one, every new album as superb as the last. Their vibes/piano/bass/drums template perfectly proceeded to calm my nerves. When it comes to jazz, gentle and sparse wins over harsh and busy any day of the week.

In the early 90′s, many a company trip to Seattle became my norm. Corinne and I loved it there, and near moved into one of the endless 50′s ranch houses seemingly round every corner. The junking was superb and the vinyl shops were as close as you can come to dying and going to heaven in the US.

It’s where my fetish for jazz 7″s began. There was a chain of used vinyl only stores, all sectioned within by genre. Nobody seemed even slightly interested in the jazz singles. Albums yes, singles no. If virtually no competition wasn’t enough, the $1 price tag was the straw. Basically anything on Verve, Blue Note, Prestige and Atlantic were no brainers. In only a few visits, my jazz collection went from zilch to very complete. Plus they fed the jukebox perfectly.

‘Summertime’ looked radiant sitting there in The Modern Jazz Quartet’s bin. Shiny Atlantic label (on plastic as opposed to vinyl) + original stock sleeve + unplayed pressing + can’t-lose song delivered via their signature approach + $1 price tag = jackpot.

When I finally got home, ‘Summertime’ went directly onto the Seeburg. It still resides there today, having weathered, I would guess, hundreds of spins hence it’s lovingly played condition. Their version turned out to be better than I could ever have expected.

Cal Tjader

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

CalTjader, Cal Tjader, Verve, Creed Taylor

Listen: Soul Sauce / Cal Tjader CalTjaderSoulSauce.mp3

Latin lounge, mambo, exotica, acid jazz. He was labelled all of them and more over the years. But it was this single, a cover of the Dizzy Gillespie song, that defined his heyday during the mid 60′s. Master of the vibraphone, which became the default instrument for the 90′s cocktail-lounge revival, put he and a good portion of his Creed Taylor produced Verve output back on the map. Another one for the jukebox. You’d think the device was invented for this single once you hear it through a set of Seeburg speakers.

Janis Ian

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

janisianfriends, Janis Ian, MGM, Verve Forcast, Verve, Joan Armatrading

Listen: Friends Again / Janis Ian JanisIanFriends.mp3

I also find it hard to believe I love this record, given my dislike for the female singer/songwriter, should have never quit nursing school types. When I did A&R at Columbia in the early 90′s, with acts like Jewel and Sheryl Crow gaining huge success stories, there were an endless stream of wannabe-light versions coming by to play their demo – or worse yet – perform for you in the office, while manager and occasional friend/sister/brother tapped their toes and smiled along with the music. I got smart fast and soon, before they’d even start, I’d say “Are you as good as Joan Armatrading?”. Of course they would consistently wither out a “no” – so I’d politely say let’s not bother. Made it easier for everyone.

Still, I do play ‘Friends Again’ often. It wasn’t a hit, never even graced the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart. Expecting more political songwriting risk post her ‘Society’s Child’ smash, I suppose this just seemed like fluff. But it’s a happy song about friends, and everyone wants them, so what’s the problem? At least my local Top 40 played it a few times (see chart below). That’s how I heard it. And at 1:42, it never wears out it’s welcome.

wndr9_13_68, WNDR, Janis Ian

Ruben & The Jets

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Jelly Roll Gum Drop / Ruben & The Jets

Listen: Jelly Roll Gum Drop (Mono) / Ruben & The Jets

Proof positive that those mono mixes back in the 60′s were approached very differently than their stereo counterparts. Word has it the importance of the 7″ single, and early indifference towards albums, many times resulted in leaving the stereo mix to one of the studio engineers, while the band and producer focused only on mono. Might explain the radical difference in mono/stereo versions of The Pink Floyd’s PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN and A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS. Not to mention The Pretty Things S. F. SORROW or The Small Faces OGDEN’S NUT GONE FLAKE. If you’re lucky enough to have both versions, a/b them sometime. You’ll hear different vocal takes and even additional instruments throughout.

No exception is this mono version of ‘Jelly Roll Gum Drop’. Like other early mono releases by The Mothers Of Invention, who were one in the same with Ruben & The Jets, this too is radically different, and therefore much desirable in it’s mono 7″ issue.

Les Mc Cann, Ltd.

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

But Not Really / Les Mc Cann, Ltd.

Listen: But Not Really / Les Mc Cann, Ltd. LesMcCannButNotReally.mp3

Jack V. Schwartz / Les Mc Cann, Ltd.

Listen: Jack V. Schwartz / Les Mc Cann, Ltd. LesMcCannJack.mp3

Fill a 1958 Seeburg 222 with mid 60′s jazz singles and you can literally transport yourself back in time. To a jazz affectionado, this might be sacrilegious. Most jazz fans double as audiophiles, collecting deep groove Blue Note pressings at premium prices. This is great news actually. They’ve all ignored the disposable 7″ format for that genre, thereby making the acquisition of thousands of jazz singles a very easy accomplishment, and usually never at a price above a dollar or two. Thus it has been an ongoing process for me during the past twenty years. I love ‘em all, especially the small combo, brass free ones. Actually, I hate brass, but still happily own many Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etc. etc. 7′s nonetheless.

Les Mc Cann released loads of jukebox friendly singles. I particularly love his, well any, releases on Mercury’s jazz imprint Limelight. A mid 60′s subsidiary, the label and sleeve design perfectly captured the feel and color of the era, with real verve (no pun intended).

Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

The Girl From Ipanema / Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto

Listen: The Girl From Ipanema / Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto AstrudGilbertoIpanema.mp3

Why? Why is he posting this ubiquitous single? That’s totally what you’re thinking. At least I hope it is. A few reasons: a) it’s seminal b) where the fuck do you hear it these days and c) if and when you do – is it ever this single edit? NO. All those oldies stations with their digitally remastered, stereo perfect versions of ‘Homeward Bound’ or ‘Good Vibrations’. Come on. First of all, who needs someone to program these songs to us EVER again? We’ve been inundated with them for decades already, so much so that one simply needs to think about the track, and it plays in your head. Even worse, those lame stations don’t have a clue how to recreate that magical moment. AM hits, in mono, heard through transistors radios, accompanied by that beautiful crackle and treble-y eq – that’s what it was about. These bozos have it all wrong. Music through the laptop speakers actually works better for oldies than passe car FM. It’s one of the reasons listenership has plummeted.

So here it is, the mono, edited ‘Girl From Ipanema’, from my lovingly played 7″ vinyl, just as you remember it, no perfectly remastered stereo, no long jazz intro. Straight to the vocal and the hook.

Go see Astrud live. I did. She still has those bangs.