Friday, February 28, 2014

Early stereo LPs

The holy grail for UK record collectors is probably a stereo first pressing of the Beatles first LP, Please Please Me. It's worth anything up to £5,000 but sadly I haven't come across one yet. Even the second and third stereo pressings are well worth having, but again I have yet to come across one.
It's quite surprising that so few stereo copies come to light, as by 1963 stereo was quite well established. But it's not uncommon for stereo copies of LPs of the early sixties to be worth a lot more than the mono version.
I bought a couple of 1960 stereo LPs yesterday (in superb condition), both of which have quite a premium in value compared to mono copies. One of these was Elvis Is Back which in 1960 became the first Elvis LP to be issued in stereo in the UK. It's worth 50 per cent more than the mono version. The other was Cliff and the Shadows' Me and My Shadows, also from 1960, which, though less valuable, still carries a premium for stereo. Both of these are currently on Ebay if anyone is interested in bidding!
The Rare Record Guide shows that stereo copies of many LPs throughout the early sixties continue to have a greater value than mono copies. So most stereo Tamla Motown LPs are worth a bit more than mono, as are LPs by the likes of Ray Charles, Ben E King, Sam Cooke and Roy Orbison. The difference in value isn't very great and in some cases stereo copies are just as plentiful as mono ones. And of course many rock and roll LPs are not included as most of these were recorded in good old mono. By the late sixties most LPs were being released in stereo only, and although stereo copies of earlier LPs may be worth more, there are many cases where the stereo versions were inferior to mono. And don't get me started on 'stereo enhanced mono', which was an abomination.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More lost souls

A couple more music deaths to report.
Southern soul singer Floyd Taylor, the son of Johnnie Taylor, was just 60 and was pencilled in to
sing at the Porretta Soul festival this year. Floyd followed in his father's footsteps by recording his 2002 Malaco album at Muscle Shoals and later albums No Doubt and You Still Got It were also recorded there. Floyd, one of several sons of Johnnie Taylor, was born in Chicago and raised by his mother Mildred Singletary. He played with many southern soul artists including Marvin Sease, Tyrone Davis and Bobby Rush before making his first recording Legacy, which was well received. Sadly I never got to see him. The Vinyl Word raises a glass.
Another singer to pass away, at the age of 72, is Duffy Power, who was probably best known for his recording of Lennon and McCartney's I Saw Her Standing There on Parlophone with the Graham Bond Organisation in 1963, one of the earliest, and best, Beatles covers. Duffy (real name Raymond Howard) was discovered and renamed by Larry Parnes. After recording unsuccessful cover versions of Dream Lover, Kissin' Time, Starry Eyed and Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On for Fontana he left Parnes in 1961 and became part of the London R and B scene a couple of years later. Other records for Parlophone included a great version of It Ain't Necessarily So and Hey Girl. LPs were released on the GSF and Spark labels in the early 1970s before his career went into decline.
* I was sad to see that the Ponderosa Stomp will not take place this year. It's an awful long time to wait until the next one in autumn 2015. Still, there's the Long Island Doowop festival and Viva Las Vegas to look forward to, and Porretta looks reasonable, with several Muscle Shoals related acts on the bill.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Photos from the Rockin' Race

I'm back from the Rockin' Race in Torremolinos in southern Spain, which had some excellent acts performing. Here are some photos. First, 77 year old Young Jessie, who was great.
Here is the dynamic, rocking Barrence Whitfield, who was backed superbly by Mambo Jambo.
This is the 'Human Jukebox', Sleepy LaBeef.
This is Kim Lenz with the Spanish Jaguars.
 Mike Sanchez.
 American surf guitar band Los Straight Jackets with wrestling masks.
They had an exciting act, which was further enlivened by a burlesque dancer named Eva.
 Shadows-style band The Rapiers, with Colin Pryce-Jones.

 Instrumental band Mambo Jambo really rocked the hall.

 Rollin' Records Southern Sound featured Adam Burney on harmonica and Wayne Hopkins on guitar.

 Portuguese band the Mean Devils.
 The Hi-Tones.

Mike Sanchez celebrated his 50th birthday with a great solo show at the Buensol Hotel and was joined on stage by Barrence Whitfield and members of Mambo Jambo.
Photos by Nick Cobban.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cracking night at the Rockin' Race

The third evening of the Rockin' Race in Torremolinos was a cracker, with four first rate acts. First on was Kim Lenz, a good looking redhead from the States, who was backed by members of Mambo Jambo. Once again the sound was iffy but she made a good fist of her rockabilly numbers and was enjoyable on her own material including You Made A Hit, Zombie For Your Love, Jump and Fall and Devil On My Shoulder.
Sleepy LaBeef  was next, a big man who does not believe in dragging a song on for two long. In fact he sang over 20 numbers with most of them merging into others, including several Elvis numbers, some blues and some country. Highlights included Boogie Woogie Country Girl, My Girl Josephine, Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger, What Am I Living For, Oh Lonesome Me and Life Turned Her That Way. He finished with Dorsey Burnette's Talk Oak Tree. Highly enjoyable.
Also a delight was Young Jessie, who was backed by Mike Sanchez's band. Looking smart in jacket and tie and a trilby he included 24 Hours A Day, I Smell A Rat, It Don't Happen No More, Mary Lou, Shuffle In The Gravel and Hit Git And Split.  Another  excellent set.
Last but by no means least was Barrence Whitfield, backed by the brilliant Mambo Jambo, who tore the place apart with his high energy rock and roll. Numbers included Bloody Mary, Big Mamou, Georgia Slop, Big Fat Mama, Mad House, King Kong, I Smell A Rat (again) and a final Stop Twisting My Arm. Really exciting rock and roll and although it was another very late night it was definitely a good one.  Photos to come soon.
Nick Cobban.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rockin' Race gets underway

The Rockin' Race rock and roll festival in Torremolinos is a great way of escaping the rain for a few days in the sun. But the Rockin' Race itself is more of a marathon than a sprint, with the final acts coming on stage some time after 3am. The main venue is a circular space age building called the Palacio de Congresos which one person I spoke to said had less atmosphere than the Moon. And poor sound doesn't help. Which is a shame because some of the acts are excellent (although some aren't).
Star of the first evening was Mike Sanchez, whose great voice and keyboard skills overcame the fuzzy sound on a succession of excellent boogie woogie/R and B numbers including Red Hot Mama and I'm Ready. The second evening featured five acts, culminating in Los Straight Jackets who came on stage at 3.15. They are a surf guitar band who perform in smart suits and wrestling masks and are pretty good. Their act featured an Elvis Costello clone called George on twist vocals such as Twist Party and Domino Twist and an attractive stripper named Eva, who certainly woke the audience up. All gimmicks of course but good fun.
Shiny suits were also in evidence for British act the Rapiers, but their Shadows style act was rather milder. The are competent though and ran through cover versions of Please Don't Touch, Move It Baby, Buckleshoe Stomp (originally by The Snobs), Brand New Cadillac, Dr Feelgood, I'm A Hog For You and a few instrumentals including The Breeze And I and FBI. Out dated they may be but I enjoyed them, which is more than I can say about the local Spanish acts featured under the heading of organisers Sleazy Records All Star Artists. I don't know who the various groups are or the numbers they performed but suffice to say they were less than stunning.
Other acts on the night were a lively instrumental act called Mambo Jambo with a convincing Johnny And The Hurricanes sound, and the Rollin' Records Southern Sound,  a sixties style R and B combo featuring a Harmonica player who gave a good impression of Nosferatu as he bent himself double playing his harp. Overall there were probably too many instrumentals and more than enough stand up bass players during the evening but it was quite a good evening, if a long one. There's more tonight, with some rather bigger names. Photos will appear on the blog when I get home.
Nick Cobban.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Marty Wilde at the Half Moon

British rock and rollers of the fifties didn't come any bigger than Marty Wilde (he is six foot four tall after all). Nearly all his big hits, including Endless Sleep, Teenager In Love, Donna and Sea Of Love, were covers of American hits. I dislike covers with a vengeance but his were credible cover versions, not wishy washy imitations. And he bucked the trend by having his self-penned Bad Boy covered by an American (Robin Luke). He was a star of 6.5 Special, Oh Boy and Boy Meets Girls, before his career declined in the early sixties but, as the dad of Kim Wilde, he has been involved in the music business ever since his first Philips 78, Honeycomb, in 1957.
These days Marty appears frequently with his band the Wildcats in theatres around the UK so it was
good to see him in the much more intimate surroundings of the Half Moon in Putney. Marty still looks good and his voice remains strong but this was not so much an night of rock and roll as an evening of nostalgia. The crowd, many of them women of a certain age from Hartlepool apparently, was enthusiastic and sang along throughout, making it more like karaoke at times. But Marty couldn't really be blamed for that: it's what his loyal fans expect.
He stuck to well known numbers, beginning with Promised Land and Runaround Sue and moving on to Danny, his version of Conway Twitty's Lonely Blue Boy, before leaving the stage to the band, led by Neville Martin on guitar, for a few numbers, including Nut Rocker and Runaway. After a good version of Endless Sleep he whipped up the crowd with a couple of cowboy songs - Ghost Riders In The Sky and Rawhide - before finishing the first half with a tribute to his fellow Larry Parnes stablemate Billy Fury, Halfway To Paradise, then his cover of Sea Of Love and a lively Viva Las Vegas with noisy audience participation.
The second half was more of the same, although Roy Orbison's I Drove All Night was a surprise, but with even more of a karaoke feel to it, with a string of oldies including Magic Moments, Wooden Heart, What Do You Want and Living Doll. Highlights were his original Bad Boy, decent stabs at Little Sister, Matchbox and Rock Island Line and three of his biggest hits - Frankie Laine's Jezebel, Donna and Teenager In Love. He finished off with just a hint of rock and roll with Roll Over Beethoven. His final number, the slowish I Was Born To Rock And Roll, really sums up Marty's life. After all these years, and at the age of 74, he's still at his happiest, it seems, performing with his band. It may not be rock and roll, but his fans like it. And why not?
Nick Cobban.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

James Booker Re-Classified

It's good to see a revival of interest in one of the greatest of New Orleans pianists James Booker. Radio 4 broadcast a programme about him today, with contributions from two other New Orleans piano legends Allen Toussaint and Dr John, and his last studio album Classified, recorded in 1982, a year before his death, has been reissued. There's also a documentary film about him called the Bayou Maharaja: The Tragic Genius of James Booker.
New Orleans has a tradition of brilliant piano players (one of the main things that attracted me to the place), including Jelly Roll Morton, Archibald, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, Huey 'Piano' Smith and Art Neville, as well as Dr John and Allen Toussaint, but Booker was probably the most gifted of them all. He could play anything from blues and boogie woogie to classical and his playing is so intricate that it seems at times as though more than one person is playing.
But like so many of the New Orleans greats, his life was cut tragically short as a result of drug and alcohol abuse and he died aged just 43. He began playing as a young child and by 12 was able to hold his own with other more experienced piano players in the city. He first recorded for Imperial in 1954 under the name of Little Booker and his biggest solo
success record-wise was Gonzo, recorded for the Peacock label in 1960. He served time for drug possession in Angola prison and later played with Dr John, who memorably described him as  "the best black, gay, one-eyed, junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced." Other nicknames included the Black Liberace - one he coined himself.
Booker played on records by many other artists, including Ringo Starr, John Mayall and Jerry Garcia, and enjoyed great success when he toured Europe in 1977 and 1978, but back in New Orleans he found himself playing to a handful of people each night at the Maple Leaf bar. The Classified album, produced by Scott Billington of Rounder records and released in the UK on Demon, shows off his keyboard brilliance but the end was near, as drugs and mental illness took hold. He died at New Orleans' Charity Hospital (where he was born) while waiting for medical attention for renal failure.
There's an interesting article in today's Daily Telegraph:

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Anna Gordy and others

A few more deaths to report I'm afraid.
Anna Gordy, who has died aged 92, never made a record but was a big influence in the early years of Motown. The sister of Berry Gordy, she gave her name to the first of the Tamla Motown stable of labels in 1958 which produced its first big hit - Barrett Strong's Money. Anna married Marvin Gaye, 17 years her junior, and they had a stormy marriage, eventually divorcing in 1977. Anna wrote two songs for his What's Going On album and co-wrote a couple more with Marvin for The Originals. His 1978 album Here My Dear gave Marvin's jaundiced view of the marriage and the royalties from the album became part of their divorce settlement.
The Mighty Hannibal (real name James Shaw) has died aged 74. Starting out as a doowop singer, Hannibal met up with Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson and assumed his stage name in
1959, (originally as just Hannibal) recording some soul/R and B records for Pan World and King, including Baby Please Don't Change Your Mind which was successful. In the late sixties he adopted an anti Vietnam war stance and had his biggest successes with the deep soul song Hymn No 5 and the anti-drug song The Truth Shall Set You Free. He appeared at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2008 (see photo).
Another death is that of Kentucky-born bluegrass and rockabilly singer Rusty York, aged 78, who recorded for King in Cincinnati and enjoyed success with Sugaree, written by Marty Robbins. His one UK release on Parlophone in 1958 was a cover of Peggy Sue, but it was only issued as a demo and is worth a cool £1500 if you can find one (I haven't!). After that brief success he returned to bluegrass and country music and concentrated on running the Jewel recording studio in Cincinnati. Nice video this one: