Saturday, March 29, 2008


The name Marie Celeste probably rings a distant bell...or buoy. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle popularized the legend of the ghost ship that was found drifting, Friday the 13th, December of 1872, cargo intact but the entire crew missing.
His fiction piece was about the "Marie Celeste" rather than the real name, "Mary Celeste," just as Edgar A. Poe's "Mystery of Marie Roget" was a fictionalized account of the death of Mary Rogers. "Marie" just sounds more exotic, doesn't it?
The ship was commanded by Captain Benjamin Briggs, who had a seven-man crew and also his wife and two-year old daughter aboard. The best theory is that something spooked everyone into leaving the ship — quickly. And that they perished in the treacherous waters before making land or returning to the boat.
Fast-forward to 1971, when "And Then Perhaps" album by the group Marie Celeste, featuring a schooner on the album cover, leaning precariously on troubled seas. (Paul Simon's website tracks the song's recording date to 1968). The group, whom critics compared to Oberon, privately pressed (Audio Archives PAM 006) only 200 copies of the record. It has been rescued from obscurity and is now on CD via Hi-Note, who declare you will enjoy hearing all cuts for the "haunting twin female vocals, a unique hallmark of the band. A must for lovers of esoteric underground UK."
The band apparently disbanded long ago, with a new Marie Celeste (vocalist Patrik Gill) making minimal waves in the 80's. Once a band is dead, especially dead and obscure, it seems pretty easy to just grab the name, and so there's now yet another Marie Celeste, a trio from Rotterdam. They haven't come up with anything like this...

I AM A ROCK launched by MARIE CELESTE Listen on line or download. No pop-ups, code words or wait time.

Steve Goodman Laughs at Death, Live

If you're not in Chicago, and not into folk-rock, "Steve Goodman" may not be a familiar name. He's best known for writing "City of New Orleans," which was made popular by most everyone who sang it, except him.
Short-lived (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984), Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia at 21, and the following year he got married and vowed to try and put together a good life and career with the time he had making music and getting paid for it.
He did it despite "the physical pain and time constraints of a fatal disease which he kept at bay, at times, seemingly by willpower alone," his wife recalled. A local phenom, Goodman recorded "Gathering at the Earl of Old Town" in 1971. After opening for Kris Kristofferson, Kris pulled some strings and got Steve signed to Buddah Records. Steve was still not well known when at a bar, a skeptical Arlo Guthrie agreed to allow Steve to perform a song for him in exchange for a beer. The song, "City of New Orleans," not only became a rare hit for Arlo, but became a hit a dozen years later via Willie Nelson's 1984 Grammy-winning version. But by then, Steve Goodman was gone. He got a posthumous Grammy for "Unfinished Business," released in 1988.
Goodman, like the folkies before him such as Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton, worked the clubs and rarely got radio airplay unless somebody else was covering one of his songs. Steve had a penchant for topical tunes that amused audiences but hadn't enough shelf-life to succeed as singles, and a fun-loving sense of humor, which included parodies of country tunes ("You Never Even Call Me By My Name" covered by David Allan Coe) and endless songs about the then-hapless Chicaco Cubs. Some of Goodman's ashes were actually scattered at Wrigley Field. His song "Go Cubs Go" has become a mainstay, heard at most every Cubs game.
Knowing "Cold Hand Leuk" was coming for him (to use his own term for the killer disease), Steve often responded with humor, and here he is, ridiculing death songs during a live performance. He has great fun with "Teen Angel," "Tell Laura I Love Her" and "(Laurie) Strange Things Happen," and his voice soars into the same register as Mark Dinning, Paul Peterson and Dickey Lee...somewhere between heaven and hilarity.
A bunch of rare Steve Goodman live performances were released on the posthumous set "No Big Surprise," and the royalties go to his wife and surviving children, who might like to see a decent check come in once or twice a year (no big surprise to most humans).

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Not a canary in a coal mine, but a parakeet in an echo chamber, Lesley Gore hasn't been given enough credit for one fact: she's distinctive. When you hear Lesley's slightly husky voice, you know it's not a solo Shangri-La, or another Daughter of Sappho, Dusty Springfield. Gore's particular brand of toughness and vulnerability was all her own, made famous on the ominous, bitchy "You Don't Own Me" and the masochistic then sadistic two-part story, "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry."

"Back in the day," nobody knew that Gore and Springfield were lesbians, but today it seems pretty obvious, since both were rather aloof to doing sweet (Petula Clark) or sour (Nancy Sinatra) poses intended for boys to pin up and stare at. Nope, if you stared at Dusty's hooker-esque make-up on an album cover, or Lesley's slightly distant mug shots, any erotic interest was from the beholder, not the babe.
The illfolks download offers Lesley doing what many stars of the day did...phonetically singing songs in foreign languages to increase sales. While the always snotty French will probably complain about her accent, the Germans might just sob into their saurkraut, and the Italians will gesticulate with their sausages, this stuff will sound pretty authentic to English-speakers. Whatever the language, you instantly know it's Lesley Gore, and that's the sign of a very, very distinctive vocalist.
Lesley still takes to the road, singing a varied selection of numbers (as opposed to being strictly an oldies tour item) and she's sometimes sought out for interviews by alternative newspapers and magazines that want to focus on her sexuality. And here, we zero in on Lesley's ability to satisfy our ears even when we don't know what the hell she's singing...and that's the mark of a fine singer, not just a pop star.
"You Don't Own Me" in German and French, "Maybe I Know" in French, and lots more. You get 8 German numbers, 8 French numbers, and 2 songs in Italian...Gore's brand of global warming.
the French, German and Italian LESLEY GORE

STIFFLY WOODWARD: Elton John & Paul Simon

Edward Woodward is probably best known for his role as the stiff, hung-up police inspector in "The Wicker Man." Before that, coming off his stint as star of a British TV crime series, he put his stiff upper and lower lips in front of a microphone and sang some severely sincere versions of pop songs.
A pair of these will more than suffice. "Sound of Silence" is completely baked, but too sincere and too on-key to get tossed into that nasty pile of "golden throats" celeb vocals we all love to laugh about. No, Woodward wants silence, and he gets it. No jokes here!
He also tackled an obscurity, an early Elton John-Bernie Taupin number called "The Tide Will Turn for Rebecca," which is not about that time of month. What it might be about is, typical with Taupin lyrics, not too clear, but read along for yourself:

"Can you hear the floorboards crying in a room on the second floor, that used to be owned by someone who's no one, but he don't live there anymore
"Only Rebecca clasping her head on her knees, trying to work out what is about
And why someone had to leave.
"But dry up your tears, stop counting the years. Don't worry what's coming. Forget all your fears. And the tide will turn for Rebecca. Her life will change, her hopes rearrange into something that might really matter
"She's all alone in a world of her own with a key that fits her lonely world. You won't need a crowd to shout out aloud what she says deserves to be heard."

Mr. Woodward, in "The Wicker Man," suffered enough (including having frightened farm animals pissing on him during a fire scene...something viewers didn't get to see in the finished movie). So without wisecracks, take these two and don't leave a comment in the morning...

Look Ed Wood-ward Angel - SILENCE
Look Ed Wood-ward Angel - REBECCA


Who says this blog isn't super cool and loaded with soul? Most everyone.
However, the blog is noted for giving a second chance to the obscure, and this Baker's dozen features a lot of tracks that were potential hits until they actually reached store shelves. It's proof that being good is not always enough.
Some of this stuff should've been playing on the radio right after a track by Martha Reeves, The Four Tops or The Temptations.
Tracks by: The Ad Libs, Robert Ward, Steve Mancha, Lee Garrett, The San Remo Singers, Olympics, The Incredibles, Larry J. Reynolds, The Manhattans, Edwin Starr, Darrell Banks, The Volcanos (pictured in the photo), Tripps and Performers.
Titles: Human, Never Alone, Whirlpool, Can't Break the Habit, Still Hungry, Secret Agents, Another Dirty Deal, Were You in the Middle, What Should I Do, My Kind of Woman, Looking Into the Eyes of a Fool, False Alarm, Give it Back, Set Me Free.
14 Northern Soul Songs