Wichita Linemen III: The Final Chapter...?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

:: George Morgan - Wichita Lineman ::

:: The Lettermen - Wichita Lineman ::

:: Sammy Davis Jr. - Wichita Lineman ::

And now the last of my Wichita Lineman posts for a while anyway, until I obtain more of 'em anyway. I did in fact save the best for last.

The George Morgan version is nice. George is mainly known for his late 40s hit, "Candy Kisses". By the time he made this album, Sings Like A Bird, his career had lost much of it's sheen, but thankfully George persevered and with the help of musicians like Ben Keith, Pete Drake, D.J. Fontana and a fella named Billy Linneman (?!) he turned in quite a lovely effort indeed.

You can't go wrong with The Lettermen, can you? I kind of liked some of their stuff I heard on the car radio when I was a kid, but now I have to wonder just who bought their records. My guess is it was your grandma. They were such nice looking young men after all, and their music was non-offensive and safe. It's hard for me to imagine any one of those three guys (let alone all three) as the lonely Kansas telephone pole climbing protagonist in our favorite song, but if you close your eyes as you listen, you'll probably fall asleep.

And now for the main event. The one I've been saving all this time. If you find The Lettermen hard to swallow as Linemen, how about Sammy Davis Jr.? Let's take stock for a minute: Glen Campbell? Sure. Tom Jones? Sure, why not? O.C. Smith? Dave Dudley? Tennessee Ernie Ford? Hell yeah! Shit, I'll even believe the chick from Brazil 66 (oh yeah, I made a mistake in a previous post when I said something about female vocalists never attempting this song. I posted that version for God's sake.) before I can see Sammy in that role. I can see Sammy helping a hot chick get high on some fine California weed though.

You might say the arrangement is a little bit funky, however considering this was on Motown Records, it ain't that funky.

Anyway I hope you've heard enough of Wichita Lineman for now. I know I have.


Blast Off With The Marketts!

Friday, February 22, 2008

:: Out of Limits ::

:: Hyper-Space ::

:: Saturn ::

It’s reasonable to say that America went surf crazy in the early sixties, and The Marketts (lit. trans. “Sea-ketts”) were a good part of that madness by charting some instrumental surf-pop. The original band was formed by main songwriter and guitarist Mike Gordon in 1960, who took what became their first hit single, “Surfer’s Stomp,” to producer Joe Sarceno. Sarceno didn’t think they were good enough to record, so he rebuilt the band into a rotating line-up of L.A. studio musicians who continued to record all the way through to 1977 (Gordon, the only mainstay, left in 1966). See an earlier Robot post from their extra-hip Disco period here.

Here be some selections from their fourth LP, which left the beach themes behind and devoted itself entirely to space and sci-fi TV - and spawned their biggest hit, the twangy “Out of Limits.” The arrangements on this record aren’t exactly surf-rock – with all the horns, organs, piano tinkling and even theremin wails, there’s more of a space-age, easy listening lounge vibe going on here. And that’s far out. Blast off, dude!


Rearing Stallions

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

:: Wolfwhistles ::

Two European lads hook up with a female Japanese singer in one of the world's most famous metropolises. That's the story of Blonde Redhead. It's also the story of Agaskodo Teliverek, if you swap Hungary for Italy and London for New York City. We very rarely put up any new music here on the Robot, but every once in a while I just gotta spread the love. I have been listening to this band nonstop for a few weeks. Several desperate searches on Hype Machine turned up very little, so hopefully this will help someone else out.

To me this band sometimes sounds like Deerhoof crossed with The Advantage, other times like someone playing Country Teasers at 78rpm. In any case, there's enough frenetic noodling and unintelligible barks to keep me happy for minutes at a time. This here is the b-side of the Gay Hussar 7", which I obtained from ADAAT Records. They also have a Myspace, of course.


Chinese Children Calling Me Daddy

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

:: Perdonname ::

:: Never Can Say Goodbye ::

:: Chinese Children ::

:: Dance With Me ::

:: I Want To Be A Puppy ::

:: I Wrote A Simple Song ::

Bimshire is what many locals call their island home, Barbados. Lord Radio has been a fixture of its music scene for over 55 years. That's probably the most education I've ever delivered in the opening two sentences of a post.

So this is ostensibly an album of calypso music, with Lord Radio (nee Oliver Brome) and his band delivering a mirthful blend of authentic Bajan charm with songs that the white folk on holiday might recognize. On songs like "Chinese Children" and "I Want To Be A Puppy," you can hear the Bimshire slang and cadence in the singing, and though I really have no idea, I presume this is pretty close to being authentic Barbados music. The covers are hits by Orleans(?!?), Billy Preston, Jackson Five, and Demis Roussos (you really need to hear the original, if you haven't, particularly if you ever dug Aphrodite's Child. Quite jarring the first time!)

This is happy music, and it's delivered very loosely. You can have fun with it. Hell, I've had their colorful take on "Perdonamé" stuck in my head for a week now.


Wichita Linemen, Part Deux

Monday, February 18, 2008

:: The Electronic Concept Orchestra - Wichita Lineman ::

:: The Ray Charles Singers - Wichita Lineman ::

:: Boots Randolph - Wichita Lineman ::

Here's a few more Wichita Linemen for your consideration.

1) The Electronic Concept Orchestra - Tony covered another one of their albums a few years ago. A loose configuration of studio musicians featuring Eddie Higgins on Moog. Sublime.

2) The Ray Charles Singers - Think there could never be another Ray Charles? In fact there always has been. This Ray Charles was never accused of being a genius though. I admit I didn't know about this particular RC until a couple of years ago after I'd posted a song by a young man named Jamie called "50 Nifty United States". The song was written by Ray Charles, so naturally I assumed what most people would assume. Someone told me later it was written by the white, decidedly square Ray Charles. I'm confused. Can't that name be copyrighted or something?

3) Boots Randolph - From an album called Yakety Revisited, Boots put his indelible stamp on Jimmy Webb's masterpiece. I wonder what Benny Hill would have done with this.


Dee's Nuggets

Thursday, February 14, 2008

:: Sing ::

:: Danny's Song ::

:: Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree ::

:: Harbor Lights ::

:: Love Train ::

:: Vincent ::

:: Killing Me Softly With His Song ::

:: Teddy Bear Song ::

:: Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got) ::

:: Everything's Been Changed ::

:: Also Sprach Zarathrustra (2001) ::

What better way to start your Valentines Day than the almost lunatic cheeriness of Lenny Dee tackling the AM hits of the early seventies? This is some relentlessly sunny stuff, and even your grandparents might dig it. Hell, your great grandparents probably could have dug it.

Some of these tunes naturally lend themselves to the chirpy, Welkian treatments they are given here, like Tie A Yellow Ribbon. Some not as much. Love Train turns from pumpernickel to Wonder Bread. I'm not sure quite how to describe what he did to the main theme from 2001, but it's interesting.

You might not really pick up on it from listening to these latter day tracks, but Mr.Dee was an interesting and even experimental artist. I picked up a few other of his LP's, also later period releases, at the same time I got this one, and now I'm kind of excited to hear those.

I was trying to pare down the selections to a manageable amount, but they each have their own merits and hey, how should I know what soft nugget you'd like to hear?


Frank Clarke Kids

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

:: Bassman ::

:: Amalia Rosas ::

:: Rhapsody In Blue ::

Aside from the occasional Sesame Street episode in the seventies, or grooving to DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” at roller skating rinks in the eighties, the steel drum has played a minimal role in my life. Thankfully, that's all changed as I'm now the proud owner of this platter of percussive gold from 1974, featuring Trinidad’s self-proclaimed steelband prodigies, The Frank Clarke Kids.

Trinidad is a land filled with panyards that most kids become acquainted with at a young age, so that “prodigy” label probably gets thrown around quite a bit in those parts- but there's no denying that these young'uns were extraordinarily talented. Frank Clarke was the group's manager and producer. The band was a mix of his sons, step-sons, a daughter, and other boys from their Cipriani Boulevard neighborhood. We can think of Mr. Clarke as perhaps the Trinidadian Joseph Jackson, without, hopefully, the verbal abuse and ass whippings.


Sammy R. Hall

Monday, February 11, 2008

:: Accountability ::

:: Kneepower ::

:: I'm Fired Up For Jesus ::

:: Antiseptic Christian ::

Buying goofy records from the Christian section is always a bit of a gamble. For every ten hilarious covers you see, you should feel lucky (blessed?) if one of them has something chuckle-worthy. I've found that you really increase your chances of amusement if you pick up something that involves Gary S. Paxton. Some of you might remember the Big "A" = The Big "M", a song that will continue bemusing and creeping people out for ages to come.

There are usually two things you can count on with Paxton -- fairly bizarre lyrical approaches to Christian rock, and enough songmanship to keep things interesting. This is the man who wrote Alley Oop, and played an integral part in producing the Monster Mash, after all.

I found this record in the rather dauntingly large Christian section at Cheapo's in Uptown Minneapolis. I really can't remember if I bought it because of the kooky song titles or if I had actually noticed it was on GarPax Records, but I saw enough potential that I was willing to drag this thing home with me on a plane.

When I pulled out the inner sleeve the other day, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gary S. Paxton had written the lion's share of the songs on this LP. This came out in 1978, so the prevelant noises here are Disco noises. It's pretty funny to hear a Disco tune entitled "Accountability," when that's the last thing that scene was about. It's funny to hear someone sing they are fired up for Jesus, especially when it almost seems like they're using pot smoking terminology. I probably don't need to explain what's funny about an entire song suggesting you should get on your knees more often. And, if you are anything like me, hearing someone growl "anta-septic chris-chawn" is enough to set you all atitter. I can already see the face Mike is going to make when he sings along with this.

And what of Sammy R. Hall? Well, they only put one of his original compositions on here, and what do you know? It's actually fairly decent country gospel sort of stuff, but they screwed it up by adding Disco noises. Alley Oop!


Wichita Linemen, Part One

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

:: Tom Jones - Wichita Lineman ::

:: The Heartaches -Wichita Lineman ::

:: Enoch Light & The Brass Menagarie - Wichita Lineman ::

The Record Robot has proven time and time again that you can never post too many versions of Wichita Lineman. The Jimmy Webb composition, originally a huge hit for Glen Campbell in 1968, is one of those songs that simply had to be covered by every recording artist of the day who basically didn't write their own material. So, while the likes of The Beatles and Burt Bacharach no doubt admired the song-craft, their job was to accept the challenge presented by the existence of this song, and try to write something equal or better. For the Jack Joneses and Eddy Arnolds of the world though, the pressure to put their individual stamp on the song was great, but more often than not any given singer found it to be a tough nut to crack.

So, while it was a great challenge for male vocalists (girl singers didn't touch it. What were they supposed to do? "Wichita Lineperson"?), instrumental arrangers had a field day with it.

Tom Jones didn't have a problem with the material. He simply applied liberal doses of female melting bravado, mixed with a somewhat subtle delivery. Overall, the arrangement is not unusual (sorry), and sticks to the Glen Campbell standard.

The Heartaches were Dottie West's backup band, but as soon as they were given the opportunity to make an album of instrumental renditions of their favorite country songs, WL was at the top of their list (and was the inspiration for the title of the album, "Wichita Lineman and Other Country Hits"). You gotta dig that plaintive pedal steel, along with vibes, vibrato guitar, and harpsichord!

Enoch Light treats the material with his usual flair, exploiting nearly all of it's sonic possibilities with a brassy arrangement. Fans of FM "background music" were no doubt thrilled and probably asked themselves, "Isn't this a country song?". Of course the answer is no, but we won't tell them.


Notes From The Paisley Undergound

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

:: Saturday At 3PM ::

:: Now You Can Buy Love Too ::

Supposedly a part of the early 80's Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene, I reckon Darius and the Magnets fit about as well as anyone else did into that loose grouping. To me, I can even hear a little Oingo Boingo and The Truth, so if nothing else, this band sounds like Los Angeles in first part of the eighties.

The A-Side pulses along insistently with a heavy influx of Eastern stuff going on (sitar, tabla-like percussion.) The B-Side kind of confuses my ears, maybe because the drums are so forward in the mix. Altogether, this was 50¢ well spent by my friend Alec, who gave it to me as part of a bizarre haul of birthday vinyl.

If you'd like to catch up with Darius (who's now gone acoustic it seems,) and actually learn a little about his history, he has a MySpace page.


The Command Revolution

Friday, February 01, 2008

:: Beautician Blues ::

:: Wichita Lineman ::

I'm beginning to think it's slightly incriminating to begin posts with sentences like, "I was browsing the Ferrante & Teicher section when...," but I suppose if I didn't type things like that, I wouldn't be doing this in the first place. So, yes, I really was looking through the F&T section at one of my favorite vinyl haunts, with the intent of finding their cover of Wichita Lineman. Truth be told, I don't even know for sure if they ever covered it, but seeing as they covered just about everything else, I'm operating under the assumption that this exists. I could probably look it up, but that's less fun. Anyway, for a few minutes I thought I had found it.

What I had actually found was a label compilation that was either in, or awfully near, the F&T section. No biggie, as I will take any version of Wichita Lineman I can get, and your dang tootin' I wanted to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra's take. I don't know that 25 years after his plane disappeared, Major Miller would have approved of what the Orchestra bearing his name (here led by Buddy DeFranco) was up to, but I will say that this does sound pretty much exactly like Glenn Miller doing Wichita Lineman. Brilliant analysis, I know, but what's true is true. In other words, I don't think Glenn's skeletal fist rose out of the sand on the ocean floor in anger. Although that's a pretty cool visual.

I should mention here that Mike will be doing a series of all Wichita Lineman posts in the very near future. I, for one, cannot wait.

The most pleasant surprise on this little collection was by Mystic Number National Bank, a band I would want to have heard based on name alone. The song is pretty smokin' psychedelic soul. I couldn't find much information on this Kansas City band, but I read on a message board that the guitar player had a stub for his pick hand, and that they often played in a KC venue called The Place that was previously a potato chip factory. Good enough for me!

Finally, I have to comment about this compilation itself. Probe and Command were smaller labels under the ABC imprint. Command was Enoch Light's baby, and was definitely Easy Listening for the nightly cocktail crowd. Probe was short-lived and was intended as an outlet for more Psychedelic endeavors. Combining these two for one compilation makes for quite an uneven listening experience. The quirky Moog offerings of Dick Hyman share space with Doc Severinsen, The Soft Machine, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. I can't imagine anyone having the open-mindedness to actually sit down and enjoy this in its entirety. I mean, couldn't they have had a Probe side and a Command side? Then again, maybe the person in charge of this went on to create the "Jack FM" format.