Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - the blue Pye International label

Pye International issued some great R and B, American pop and early soul records during the late fifties and early sixties, including recordings from the likes of Chess and Excello. But its atrocious dark blue and gold label design for the first 130 releases or so rendered the labels virtually unreadable at times. Hardly surprising that this design was replaced in 1961 with a red and yellow label. Never mind - it's the music that counts, and here are ten vinyl obscurities from Pye International's blue period, with Youtube links.
1. Arlene Fontana - I'm In Love/ Easy. Mint value - £10.
Who was Arlene Fontana? I've no idea and information seems scarce. But judging by her photo she was a young Connie Francis clone. This light poppy effort was recorded for the US Paris label.
2. The Edsels - Rama Lama Ding Dong/ Bells. Mint value - £120.
Recorded originally for the Twin label in 1957, this is one of the all time great doowop records and the title phrase was later picked up Barry Mann (Who Put The Bomp) and Showaddywaddy, among others. Named after Ford's least successful model (not a propitious start) the band started out as the Essos. This was their finest hour.
3. The Skyliners - The Door Is Still Open/ I'll Close My Eyes. Mint value - £20.
Another doowop group, fronted by Jimmy Beaumont, whose best known record and biggest hit was Since I Don't Have You, released this soft double sider which failed to make it. The Door Is Still Open - ostensibly the B side - was written by Chuck Willis.
4. The Belmonts - Tell Me Why/ Smoke From Your Cigarette. Mint value £40.
Another great piece of doowop which showed that there was still life in the Belmonts after Dion went solo. Carlo Mastrangelo sang lead for this Sabrina recording which reached number 18 in the US charts.
5. The Sensations - Let me In/ Oh Yes I'll Be True. Mint value £30.
Some more doowop from Yvonne Baker and the Sensations who had a big hit in the US with this catchy girl group style record, the follow up to their other significant hit Music Music Music. Formed in 1954 as The Cavaliers, the group signed to Chess subsidiary Argo for this one. Yvonne, who was backed by three male singers, later went solo with some success.
6. Shep and the Limelites - Ready For Your Love/ You'll Be Sorry. Mint value £100.
This was part of probably the longest running saga in doowop history. It started with lead singer James 'Shep' Shephard's hit with the Heartbeats, A Thousand Miles Away, and continued with Daddy's Home, What Did Daddy Do, Three Steps From The Altar and Our Anniversary - all part of a continuing story. Surpirisingly I couldn't find Ready For Your Love on Youtube so here's Daddy's Home instead.
7. Johnny Rivers - That Someone Should Be Me/ Blue Skies. Mint value £10.
Three years before Johnny Rivers began to make it big with a string of rock and roll, disco a go-go covers he recorded this one for the Chancellor label. Sounding remarkably like Johnny Burnette, this is quite a good soft rock and roll record.
8. Jimmy Breedlove - You're Following Me/ Fabulous. Min value £30.
Jimmy was originally an R and B and rock and roll singer, a member of The Cues, who released some collectable rock and roll singles on Capitol and RCA and who also served as a vocal backing group for Atlantic. This early Burt Bacharach song is in a very different style - soft and quite soulful.  Jimmy recorded for a variety of labels, including Okeh, Jubilee and Roulette but never quite made it big.
9. The Marcels - My Melancholy Baby/ Really Need Your Love. Mint value £15.
The Marcels were just about the last hurrah of original doowop with their smash Blue Moon selling millions (I'd love to hear City fans attempting their version). They followed it up with a series of doowop versions of other oldies - Summertime, You Are My Sunshine, Heartaches and this one, My Melancholy Baby, in which they diss their big hit before breaking into the melody. Worth a listen.
10. James Ray - If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody/ It's Been A Drag. Mint value £22.
The story of James Ray is rather a sad one. This excellent record was ripped off by Freddie and the Dreamers while his Got My Mind Set On You became a big hit for George Harrison. According to the not-always reliable Wikipedia: "Ray stood just 5' tall and first recorded as Little Jimmy Ray, releasing "Make Her Mine" on the Galliant label in 1959. It was unsuccessful and by 1961 he was destitute and living on a rooftop, though still performing in clubs. Songwriter Rudy Clark befriended him, and persuaded Gerry Granahan of Caprice Records to sign him. Ray died from a drug overdose soon after his chart success, possibly as early as 1962."


At 6:05 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nick
Yes the Blue Pye labels are attrocious; you can see really great copies, vinyl wise, with really faded gold writing on the labels. Nice selection too; I will have a look through my collection over the next couple of days and see what I have by way of comparison. I certainly don't have too many (perhaps the crap labels have put me off!). I definitely have the johnny Rivers 45 which is a great number, along with the James Ray classic. 99% sure I have the Dale Wright 'That's Showbiz' on the label, just need to check.
John S

At 9:15 pm , Blogger Nick said...

I don't have the Dale Wright Pye Int release - very collectable! But I do have his She's A Winner on the US Boone label, which is pretty good.

At 10:36 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that one; but big fan of 'she's neat' on fraternity / London. great record.
john S


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