Friday, February 29, 2008

BOB DARIN not BOB DYLAN : Commitment & Cassotto

The times were a'changing, and just as the greasy Four Seasons bowed to The Beatles, doo wop and lounge act singers such as Dion Dimucci and Bobby Darin began to pay attention to Bob Dylan. Folk-rock and protest became "the new bag."
Dion would emerge with a hit single, "Abraham Martin and John."
Bobby Darin offered a well-received version of Tim Hardin's "If I were a Carpenter," and made two transition albums containing Hardin tracks and other less than finger-snappin' songs. These can be found via import CD as "If I Were a Carpenter/Inside Out." Ultimately he doffed his hairpiece and put on denims to record on his own label, fittingly titled Directions.
By this time another Kennedy was dead: Robert F. Kennedy, and Darin saluted him with a song called "In Memorium." He also offered a wry tune about the pursuit of money, and a tough one about the world of the chain gang. Ala Phil Ochs, he sang about "Change." He also sang some simple songs of freedom.
His albums were honestly titled "Born Robert Walden Cassotto" and "Commitment."
A few years later, he strapped his hairpiece back on, dusted off his tux, and once again became Bobby Darin, because times had changed again.
You'd think it would be a simple matter to re-issue his two "Bob Darin" albums together. It hasn't happened. Either one album would turn up, with a few mis-matched bonus tracks, or the other would be on a two-fer paired with one of Darin's sillier efforts, and frankly, there's a big difference between Darin singing a novelty like "If I could Talk to the Animals" and the moody "I Can See the Wind."
Nobody's gotten it right. These two albums belong together and finally, they are. At least on this obscure blog where we salute people who don't always do the ordinary, and sometimes take a chance, and sometimes in their efforts to be Phil Ochs, only end up ill folks. That's what happened to Bob Darin...he didn't get respect for these two releases and some felt he was just jumping on the folk-rock bandwagon to cash in. They were wrong. Find out for yourself.
TWO albums on the one download, just as if the two albums were released on one CD, which they haven't.


Moondog? You might know he was some iconic self-created musician with a fetish for Viking gear. Blackstone? The name might conjure up a magician or the name of a finance company.
But as the late 60's festered into the 70's, a group called Blackstone recorded this tribute to Moondog, and stuck it on their debut album. Their record label had high hopes. Quoting the album notes:
"Noise proves nothing," Mark Twain once wrote, "often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid." Blackstone, the young men who make their debut with this album, are destined to make a lot of noise in the music business...after five months of intensive rehearsals in a New Jerey garage, they came to the studio and laid the asteroid contained herein..."
Let's not dwell on "laid the asteroid..." it's just not fair to pick on a band just because it never succeeded. Actually, ONE member definitely did. It wasn't lead vocalist Tom Flynn, but the drummer Max Weinberg. Yes, once he shaved off the walrus mustache, and found another Jersey boy by the name of Springsteen, Max was on his way.
Here's "Moondog," a pretty good ballad from the Blackstone album.
The guys in the band probably knew of Moondog the way most in the tri-state area did; as this blind nutjob in a Viking hat who staked out a piece of Manhattan for "performance art" (before there was a term for it). He earned spare change and, way after this particular tribute song, a lot of respect as some kind of legend.
With moody organ leading the way, and Max offering a cane tap for a beat, the pithy opening lines: "A blind man sees more than I can. He's learned to love and understand." More pith: "He's got a lot of life left in his soul, and that Moondog can learn to rock and roll." With a Ringo chug, Max gets his drum kit in gear and tries to put some backbone into Blackstone (yes, "there will be violins on this track") and his drums help push out some of the overweening sentiment.
Hit the link and get your taste of this bar band with a conscience, as they sing the praises of Moondog...little realizing that he would go on to his own record deal, have Janis Joplin cover one of his songs, and generally do a whole lot better than any band member except Max.

MOONDOG by BLACKSTONE Listen on line or download. No porn ads, pop ups or other patoots.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ill-Ustrated Songs #11 Don't Go To Strangers

Not exactly a torch song, here's a porch song...a woman keeping the light burning in the window while she waits for her dim-bulb boyfriend to finish carousing.

A sad, moody blues, this now-obscure song by a woman usually confused with blues singer Etta James, is a distant cousin to "Don't Explain" by Billie Holiday. These women are pretty resigned to having to deal with a no good man. You can picture Etta, smoking in bed, alone, but instead of smouldering with resentment or getting even, she's telling the guy that real love is more than a one night stand.

Fats Waller sang the male equivalent, "Ain't Misbehavin'" which suggested that waiting around wasn't too much of a sacrifice. Here, Etta says "when you need more than company, don't go to strangers..." like she's, what, dating Kobe Bryant? She's dry eyed about this guy wetting his wick in moist areas that aren't hers. She doesn't care how much he dribbles, if one day she'll catch him on the rebound. A sad song indeed.

Etta Jones is gone now, but Etta James is now singing this number. She figured that since her rival is now dead, she'd just grab the song and make it her own. That's the same logic that led Etta James to meander over to Genya Ravan after a show and tell Genya, "How dare you sing black." Which is sort of like telling Leontyne Price, "How dare you sing white Italian classical music." Over here at the illfolks corner of Obscurity & Forgotten, let's just say that the woman who did it first and best was Etta Jones, and that people of every color can get the blues.