Saturday, May 29, 2010

POPS FOR TOTS - cheap novelty tune COVER VERSIONS

Over at musicyouwont.blogspot, where obscure budget-label cover versions are a specialty (along with a whole lotta Grofe, Griffin and Gospel), Lee Hartsfeld mentioned scoring a copy of "Pops for Tots," sans cover. Well, here's the cover. And what the hell, the music, too. (PS, the back cover is just reproductions of 12 other Audition budget albums that were being sold at the time..."Beautiful Echoes from the South Seas," "The Ink Spots," Honky Tonk Piano," etc. etc.)

The album was a rarity for its time…a 33 1/3 aimed at kiddies who, if they had a "victrola" at all, only had 45's to play on it, like a scratchy copy of Patti Page's "How Much is that Doggie in the Window" or yellow vinyl RCA Victors starring Howdy Doody or Kukla Fran and Ollie. Maybe the kids still had 78's, such as Groucho Marx's "The Funniest Song in the World," which was on the Young People's label and issued in both 78 and 45 rpm format.

An album? Gosh. Bigger than a child's head! But by the time "Pops for Tots" arrived, budget albums had a list price of $1.98, which was a bargain considering you got 10 or 12 songs. And thanks Lee; I'm using your 128 kbps version because its very clean, and mine comes from much scratchier vinyl that would've taken a long time to try and de-pop and de-click. Hell, even the album cover was beaten up (you'll note the yellowing strip of cellophane tape from one side to the other, caused by a rip...fortunately while the record was on the turntable).

The download features very adequate versions of "Purple People Eater" and "Witch Doctor" (budget constraints mean there's no speeded up vocals for the creatures…just somebody singing in mild falsetto). Back then, most songs were pretty childish even if they weren't aimed at kids, and that includes "Lollipop" and "Gingerbread" as well as "Short Shorts," "Splish Splash" and "Western Movies." The only entry that doesn't quite fit is "Poor Little Fool," which isn't something any little boy back then knew about, since the only Mary Janes he was eating out were made of peanut candy. The compilation also includes two instrumentals, the goose-like organ piece "Patricia," and a nice take on "Rebel Rouser," which could've been a child's first intro to the world of the twangy guitar (although the "magic twanger" may have already been experienced, by Froggy the Gremlin fans.)

Here's nostalgia. Here's POPS FOR TOTS, and thanks again Lee! Check his blog for lots more 50's and 60's budget cover versions of rock hits.
POPS FOR TOTS Shared rapidly.

Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. Some songs have been re-upped individually via a better service:

"SPLISH SPLASH" -anonymous guy trying to be Bobby Darin
some guy doing PURPLE PEOPLE EATER
POPS FOR TOTS cheap cover version of WITCH DOCTOR

Download or listen on line. No pop-ups, porn ads or use of sleazy companies that pay a percentage to bloggers for their "hard work." The hard work was done not by upping files, but by the original writers and performers.


This is a rare entry on the blog.

For the first time the categories that fit include both "Death, Funny" and "Death, Unfunny."

Carla Zilbersmith, who died on May 17th at the age of 47, was handed a death sentence with the diagnosis of ALS…but was determined to make the most of the time she had left, and to laugh in the Grim Reaper's face. Like Warren Zevon, she became the subject of a documentary intended to chronicle the way an artist confronts death and turns the struggle into an art form. Warren lived long enough to see his grandchild and his last album hit the charts. Carla lived long enough to present comedy sketches about death on stage, make some music, and see her documentary completed.

For a long time, she didn't let ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease) destroy her sense of humor the way it did her body. She often mentioned how much she hated having Lou Gherig's Disease because…she didn't like baseball. She wished there was a basketball version instead. Like "Wilt Chamberlain's Disease…you have sex 20,000 times and then you die."

In 2008 she put together a production at the College of Marin's Studio Theater where she worked in the drama department for over a dozen years. "This'll be my last show," she declared. "Then I'm outta here. Literally." A beat. "Just a little death humor. Relax, it won't kill you." Another show was titled "Leave Them Laughing." The flame-haired actress loved to put together skits and improv evenings, and was part of a troupe called "We're Redheads." She also had a deep love of music, and she was a finalist at a Lilith Fair and released several indie CDs. To quote the CD Baby website, would be "Recommended if you like Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin."

Things remained fairly funny, at least at times, for Carla, who blogged back on February 1, 2010 about writing a book called "What to Expect When You're Expiring," subtitled: "How I survived an incurable, fatal illness…then died."

Her blog entries became a lot more grim after that, because "Fuck. I'm not just faking this. I really am dying." Her blog is, which you can also reach via: Among her fascinating entries is the long February 4th essay on what it's like to have ALS. In part: "You lose sleep...You lie awake, wondering about death, loss and when and how it will all happen. Later, you lose sleep because your blanket falls off you and you aren’t strong enough to lift it back up or you swallow too much air with your breathing machine and get nauseous and burpy. Or maybe you accidentally roll on your back and you can’t roll back to your side. It’s too hard to breathe when you’re lying on your back.
You’re tired a lot. This seems like the cruelest loss of all. Each nap represents hours that can’t be returned. Hours that you’re running out of…You get tired eating. Chewing is an effort and swallowing has to be done with full and complete attention on the task. Choking might kill you…You are 100% dependent on other people. You begin needing a helper first thing in the morning for dressing and showers and last thing in the evening for the reverse. Then you need someone to cook for you, to do your make-up, and pretty soon you can’t cook or serve food. When you can no longer use the toilet by yourself or bring your hand to your mouth to eat or lift a glass of water to drink you need full-time care. This is not only challenging to your privacy, but it’s impossible to afford on a long-term basis. With caregiver bills and other related expenses in the 12,000-15,000 a month area you face the sad fact that there is an up-side to the fact that you are dying, which is that you can’t really afford to live much longer anyway. You are never alone except when you are in bed and a feeling of dread comes over you when you wonder what will happen if you get trapped under the covers and can’t reach the bell for help…"

Some bloggers giggle as they post their five fresh 320 bit and FLAC albums a day, doing it only to get a "nice" comment and pretend to be in show business, as if it takes any skill to throw old Jethro Tull albums on Rapidshare that you could find in a dollar bin if you really cared. On Carla's Blogspot site she was giving what bloggers should be giving...originality, emotional honesty, and insights that serve others as much as they might serve themselves. One blog entry helped her through an unglamorous night:

"It’s somehow coming to the conclusion that the only way to make this night tolerable is write a blog (maybe the first ever) while on the toilet unable to shit….It’s feeling a fist sized shit rip your asshole open and not being able to bear down or catch a breath. It’s that you have this feeling not once but twice in one day even though you cut out morphine and had a prune smoothie. It’s 21 drugs and counting and wondering when you will be dubbed the fucking Baskin Robbins of pill poppers...
It’s paying a heavy price for every fun day…It’s running out of words but still not passing this fucking ball of shit. It’s realizing that life is a no good rotten man who beats on you and cheats on you….It’s knowing that someone is going to commiserate with you by saying, “Girl, I know what you mean. I was constipated once” and you are going to have to bite your tongue and not say, “Unless you have ALS, you do NOT know how I feel unless you’ve rubbed a cheese grater across your asshole for a good 10 minutes at least.”

On March 23rd, she scheduled "A Night of Gratitude. A Special Evening with Carla Zilbersmith." She was trying to communicate, to create art, and to keep on living, despite an illness that was hell bent on grinding her to a halt and keeping her in purgatory before releasing her to oblivion. And so there was the documentary, and there was the satisfaction in her album "Songs ABout Love, Death and Wings." Some of the tunes were grim and others philosophical and touched with wistfulness. A few were written as loving farewells. Perhaps they mix with something she said a few years ago, as the disease began to progress: " "I have a more Buddhist view these days, that life is mostly suffering, that the peace we seek must be found within ourselves."

Your sample is "Don't Save Me."

This blog wants you to read Carla's blog, and get to know Carla's music. Carla blogged this line: "You want people to see how easy it would be for them to wake up one morning and decide to give up their self-inflicted pain and enjoy their wonderful life. How easy it is to have a great day when you can make and eat you own toast, throw on your own clothes, go out into the world and do whatever you damn well feel like. You want people to live all the life you’re going to miss."

CARLA ZILBERSMITH - DON'T SAVE ME Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, pop-unders, porn ads or wait time.

JANN ARDEN - "I Would Die For You" LIVE

The title's intentionally confusing, because so is Jann Arden. She titled her "greatest hits" album "Greatest Hurts," and sings in a pained nasal voice that sounds like a whinge and a prayer. Yet she has a great sense of humor and her live shows are liberally sprinkled with witty bits between the laments.

The Canadian artist seemed to ardently take up where Janis Ian left off…with chilly ballads like "Insensitive," sung directly to an offending oaf with acid articulation and an unflinching sense of righteous martyrdom. It was on her breakthrough 1994 release "Living Under June," which included the title ballad…a tense rant at the slut upstairs, rendered slightly seriocomic by a list of Arden's frustrations that includes her cat dying "and that's not all." Jann's bank account profited from LeeAnne Rimes covering "Insensitive" in 1998.

"I Would Die For You" appeared on her stunning debut disc "Time for Mercy." It was hard for her to follow such a potent one-two punch as those two albums were, but in 1995 she offered "If It Be Your Will" on the Leonard Cohen tribute album "Tower of Song," and gave fans a worthy new album via 1997's wryly titled "Happy?" which had a cover shot of the weighty diva sucking her thumb.

Her best songs from that era had a bit of the "stepped on cat" sound to them, even when they were sweet and positive…thanks to those annoyed adenoids of hers that always seem to add a little caustic twang to a lyric line.

Just how brilliant her tortured tonsils were, can be heard on this live track which is on an obscure DVD featuring various Canadian artists performing at a patriotic annual gala ("Canada Day"). Jann emerges from the shadows (actually the lighting director's mistake) to sing to an audience of war veterans, "I would die for you…" and ram it home with a series of agonized "yeah…yeah…yeah's."

Fortunately, in a way, Jann's lightened up. Literally. She's gone from brunette to blonde. Fans enjoyed her relaxed presence at "Live 8 Toronto" (which also featured the return of craggy Gordon Lightfoot and was part of the worldwide July weekend "Live 8" concert series). In 2006 the former Jann Arden Richards shed 50 pounds, which may have been a little too much. In 2007 she was hospitalized for heart problems. The same year she issued an album of cover versions, and last year, back to brunette, released her 10th album, which perhaps acknowledging the way most people were going to get it via the Internet, was named "Free." She's enough of a cult cutie to not only remain hugely popular in the land of Juno Awards (she owns 19 of those Canadian baubles) but to enjoy sold-out shows when she chooses to tour the States.

Here's early, deliciously sweet and sour Jann Arden offering both a pop-sugar refrain ("I would die for you") and those edgy, chilling "yeah yeah yeah's" that tell you she's SO not kidding around. "Living Under June" would be your next step, an album that may have more .99 copies available on eBay than any other on the site.
I would DIE for you, LIVE on "Canada Day" Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, pop-unders, wait time or porn ads.

DEAN JONES : Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb and John Hartford

You've got to admit that Dean Jones had taste. When it came time for him to join the ranks of TV stars making record albums, he chose some good material, including obscure tunes from two rising talents, Jim Webb ("The Name of My Sorrow") and John Hartford ("I Didn't Know the World Would Last This Long." Your download's those two songs plus Dean's articulate rendition of Paul Simon's "Sounds of Silence."

His album was on the Dot label, and it's certainly a speck of nostalgia today. Come to think of it, so is his Valiant album (that's the name of the label) the debut he issued a year earlier ("Introducing Dean Jones") not to mention the nine singles he issued for MGM in the late 50's including "Tennessee Rock 'n' Roll," "Ballad of Gunsight Ridge," "There Goes My Heart" and "Fall Guy." There was also one single for Liberty called "The Proud Don't Cry."

There are probably several different types of Dean Jones fans. Most would remember him as a slightly befuddled Disney hero, star of various "Herbie the Love Bug" movies, as well as "That Darn Cat," "Blackbeard's Ghost" and "The Shaggy D.A."

Others know him as a capable actor with a sinister streak. In the film "Two on a Guillotine," and in episodes of such TV fare as "Burke's Law," it was hard to tell if he was going to turn out to be the hero or the villain. He was somewhat of a straight-man as the star of the sitcom "Ensign O'Toole," which some Baby Boomers still remember with fondness. Broadway buffs know that he was the youthful star of "Under the Yum-Yum Tree," and that he was the honest actor who felt he wasn't right for Sondheim's "Company" and negotiated to leave the show early in it's run.

In the 80's the Born-again Christian toured in a one-man show called "St. John in Exile," and in the 90's appeared in Danny DeVito's "Other Peoples' Money" among others. The semi-retired actor's latest film roles are "Mandie and the Secret Tunnel" and "God Provides," and he provided quite a bit for the charity he founded in 1998, "The Christian Rescue Committee."

He recalls, ""I was doing Show Boat at the Kennedy Center when a Jewish friend came backstage and said, 'We Jews couldn't have gotten our people out of the Soviet Union without the help of the Christian church. How come you Christians aren't helping the 200 million of your brothers and sisters who are being persecuted?' "The next week I was told that 15 Christians were imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for having a prayer meeting. We sent an advocate and with the help of two U.S. Senators, three weeks later the Christians were on a plane leaving Saudi. I've been working with the committee ever since to help get people who are seriously persecuted for their faith escape to safer living conditions."

Too bad Dean's album isn't providing safer living conditions for record store owners, but it was never destined to be a $50 wall item. His Broadway sensibilities may not have been quite right for folk-rock (you can understand every line of the lyrics) but any fan of Dean Jones will be happy to download these samples…and most everyone's had a reason to be a fan of Dean Jones for something or other during his long, varied and impressive 50 year career on stage, screen and television.

Update November 2011: Rapidshare deletes files if they aren't uploaded often enough to suit them. The title track has been re-upped individually via a better service:


CZECH'D OUT: PETR MUK dead at 45

It's a sad day when an artist dies, and an even sadder one when anyone stoops to a pun on the word "czech." Petr Muk (February 4, 1965 - May 24, 2010) sang music that really doesn't need translation. After all, music is the universal language, and if we love instrumentals in which a guitar or a piano covers the notes, why not the human voice, regardless of what language it's speaking? Petr was found dead at home, a suicide. He was known to have had problems over the years with depression.

Ironically his death comes just as his first album in five years arrived. The past five years have included a variety of ups and downs including the birth of his youngest (of three daughters) Naomi and the 2007 death of composer Karel Svoboda which deeply affected him). Last year Muk enjoyed great success with a live concert in Prague (or Praha as it's known to the natives). The new album is of "V Bludisti Dnu," which loosely translates as "The Maze Days." The latest was filled with other-wordly, spiritual and contemplative concerns (translated titles include "Under the Black Sun," "House in the Clouds," "Seeking Heaven," "Remember" and "Wind In My Face.")

Muk first achieved success as a member of Ocean (they had several platinum albums in Europe between 1985 and 1992 and was sometimes compared to The Cure and Depeche Mode). Then he led Shalom (the mid 90's and more platinum). Shalom, as the name implies, had Jewish roots, and Muk wore a yarmulka on stage, though he wasn't a Jew. He attended the study group Bejt Simcha, run by Sylvie Wittmann. Sylvie always welcomed Gentiles to the "havurah": "There are people who identify themselves with Jews through the chimneys of Asuchwitz. Some of them have ancestors who suffered in the Holocaust. then there are people who feel like outsiders within local society They are oversensitive, intellectual, and so on. Somehow, somewhere they find a Jewish ancestor. That qualifies their 'otherness.' There are a lot of people like this. There are people who do not have a Jewish ancestor, and are not searching for a Jewish ancestor, but for whom it is interesting to be connected with mysticism, something spiritual that is not necessarily Christianity…" but since Judaism is the root of Christianity…well, there is plenty in Prague (where Petr Muk died) when it comes to Jewish historical sites and study. The area's skinheads were, and are, bent on reviving antisemitism and hatred, and sometimes attended Shalom concerts just to heckle the band. Czechoslovakia was certainly one of the many countries that did very little to save their Jewish citizens during World War II. Over 50,000 Slovak Jews were sent to Nazi death camps in 1942 alone, and during the Communist years that followed, 70,000 names of slaughtered Jews were removed from the walls of Prague's Pinkas Synagogue to pretend the atrocities didn't happen.

Petr emerged as a solo artist in 1996 and in his long-haired mode, had a huge hit with the ballad "Stin Katedral," which has a slight R.E.M. feel to it in its beauty and monotony (and the Czech back-up girls go "ahhhh, ahhhh, ahhhhh.) You get a live version of it below. Other hits for him include Bon Soir, Mademoiselle Paris, Ted zastav cams and Rachel 2007.

His first four releases (Petr Muk, 1997, Scars of Love, 2000, Touch the Dream, 2002 and The Fate of the Palms, 2005) all went either gold or platinum. His tours in the Czech Republic were legend, and DVDs of his performances were also in high demand. His latest is probably going to be a huge seller as well.

Considering how easily this blog offends the "English as a second language" bunch, tributes to foreign-language performers who have died are now restricted to a maximum of one or two puns. The first one was used up on "Czech" in the header, leaving you to Muk up another one on your own.

PETR MUK - Stin Katedral Instant download or listen on line.

Late ART LINKLETTER "We Love You, Call Collect"

Incredibly, Art Linkletter (July 17, 1912 – May 26, 2010) was still around until a few days ago. He died at 97, and was long retired from his career as an affable daytime talk show host. Think Jerry Springer without the white trash. Like Springer, Linkletter tended to let his guests do the talking and simply react with mild amusement. The titles of Art's shows tell the story: "People are Funny," "House Party" and "Kids Say the Darndest Things." When Bill Cosby tried to revive the latter, in 1998, he often had Linkletter make cameo appearances. This was pretty much the last the general public saw of the affable old timer.

Born Gordon Arthur Kelly, but abandoned by his parents (who already had two kids), he was adopted by the Linkletters, took their name, and grew up in San Diego where he found work on local radio after graduating from San Diego State Teachers College. He and producer John Guedel (who later produced "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx) started up "People are Funny" on radio. There was a movie version in 1946, and a TV version that had just about the same success as Groucho's show between 1954 and 1961. Art went on to host more shows and become a familiar All-American figure with strong white Republican values on display.

In the late 60's and early 70's, Linkletter's views, and his demographic as an elderly old-fashioned TV host led to a decline in popularity, punctuated by his family-values single "We Love You, Call Collect," and his speaking out against drugs. Linkletter linked the window-jump suicide of his college-student daughter Diane to LSD. When toxicology reports failed to find LSD in her system, he insisted it must've been a "flashback" that caused her death. Art's son Jack Linkletter was a minor radio and TV talk show host…who died three years ago. Art had another son, Robert, who died in a car accident in 1980. He's survived by two daughters and his wife of 74 years, Lois.

Fans of "outsider" music, kitsch and camp would probably have no problem using an obit as a perfect time to snicker over Linkletter's faults, and make R. Crumb slobbery-tongued faces over how great LSD is, but in his time, Art Linkletter was just a pleasant "people person" who, without the comical insults his colleague Groucho favored, shared a mutual fascination with the ordinary housewives, kids and every day citizens who were getting it done every day. Not handsome, not talented, and possessing a distinctively high-nasal voice, all Linkletter really had going for him was a kind personality. His sincerity and love of people gave him a long, long career and thousands of fans...most of whom died a long time before he did.

ART & DIANE LINKLETTER Instant download or listen on line. No pop-ups, pop-unders or porn ads.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ROSA RIO - Organ Failure at age 107

The legendary Hammond organist Rosa Rio has died. Her fanfares, flourishes and freaky spine-chilling runs up and down the keyboard were featured on dozens of famous NBC radio shows over three decades. She also played on live TV soap operas such as "As The World Turns."

She was featured in organ concerts at Town Hall and other venues around the country and played live accompaniment for endless revivals of silent films (most notably The Tampa Theater near her Florida home). She also recorded soundtracks for silent movies re-issued through Video Yesteryear and had the time to make a few record albums, too. She was the "Woman of the Wurlitzer" and "Queen of the Hammond" in her illustrious career.

Rosa Rio (born Elizabeth Raub, June 2, 1902 – May 13, 2010) was from New Orleans. She attended schools in Ohio and then in Rochester, New York where she studied music and eventually got a job in a silent movie theater in Syracuse re-running her score for the same movie six times a day. She later played the giant Wurlitzer at the Brooklyn Fox theater

She also tried to master the Hammond…her husband John Hammond. Was it possible that she heard one too many Hammond organ jokes? Her marriage to John Hammond didn't last, but she performed yeoman duties for her second husband, Bill Yeoman, whom she wed in 1947. Now 90, he survives her. He was also her manager, and put together tours for her "Trio Hammond Organ Concerts" with Ashley Miller and Bill Dalton.

By the time of their marriage, Rosa had starred in her own radio show "Rosa Rio Rhythms," adopted "Everything's Coming up Roses" as her theme, and was one of the busiest keyboard players in the world, performing on stage, coaching vocalists and adding musical themes and stings to the era's funniest comedies and spookiest suspense thrillers. Nothing could stop her, including announcer Dorian St. George, who once unbuttoned the back of her dress and unhooked her bra while she was performing live in front of a studio audience. Later, when St. George stood in front of the microphone, script in hand, to deliver a commercial message, Rosa snuck behind him and pulled down his pants.

The lively organist recorded show tunes and standards for Vox, and when the need for live organ music vanished in the 60's, she moved to Shelton, Connecticut to work as a piano teacher and voice coach. (Her credits as a voice coach included work with Mary Martin on Broadway.) Not too far from Shelton was the office for David J. Goldin's Video Yesteryear/Radiola company, and in the 70's when home VCR's became popular, he hired her to score hundreds of silent films, from "Farmer Gray" Terrytoons shorts to the classics of Lon Chaney and Buster Keaton. In 1993 Rosa moved to Florida but never retired. She performed live at the classic Tampa Theatre, which screened the classic silent films for an audience that probably included ex-silent film stars.

Rosa Rio, at 107, still came to the theater to accompany a classic silent film, her fingers expertly finding every note and nuance. She broke her hip three months ago, and an infection set in. Despite the setbacks, she still practiced at home on her grand piano, and it was only within the last two weeks that she was unable to play her favorite music. She died in her sleep. She had given the world music professionally for over 80 years, and had only recently given up her true age. Up until a birthday party in 2007, her answer to that question was: "Age is just a number, and mine's unlisted." She also guarded her real name, which her husband only revealed once the obituary writers came calling.

She never forgot the first time she heard an organist play in a silent film theater: "I stayed for the second show just to hear it again. And when I walked out on the street, I looked up at the sky as if to say a prayer. I said thanks. I now know what I want to be in my life. I laugh and say, 'As long as I can play, lift me on the bench, I'll play.' "

Your download is a seven minute medley of "stings," radio themes and a cute version of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," all from a Golden Age of Radio interview/broadcast in 1971. You'll even hear a few words from the grand Rosa Rio herself.


HANK JONES has died. "I REMEMBER YOU" & Marilyn too

He knew the blue notes, and he was also a footnote.

Hank Jones (July 31, 1918-May 16, 2010) was a prolific pianist who recorded hundreds of sides both solo and as a session man. He toured with Ella Fitzgerald for many years, and backed the ubiquitous Diana Krall when she paid tribute to Ella and covered "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Footnote: he was at the piano on the night of John F. Kennedy's birthday party, May 19th 1962, backing up all the big-name guest singers. The musical highlight, though, was Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "Happy Birthday," which didn't need Hank at all.

In his youth, Jones absorbed the influences of his era's most ebullient jazz pianists…Fats Waller and Art Tatum. In the 40's, he began to bop, recording with Charlie Parker. He was also adept at providing some ivory cool behind mainstream singers such as Billy Eckstine, Nancy Wilson and Frank Sinatra. Hank spent the 60's and half the 70's as a staff pianist at CBS, which meant he expertly handled the tempo and/or key changes of nervous vocalists on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

He remained both a busy side man and a solo artist through the 80's and 90's, and was still recording for a variety of labels in the 21st century…releasing albums of standards ("Porgy and Bess" and "Satin Doll") for the Japanese labels Toshiba and Absord (2003, 2004), signing with Sony for a pair of albums ("My Funny Valentine" and "Round Midnight" in 2005 and 2006) and offering "West of 5th" for the small but hip Chesky label.

Hank's shelf included a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement, which arrived in the nick of time last year, and he was Grammy-nominated for "I Remember You," which most of you don't remember. But that's ok. It's your download. The 1977 album on the French "Black and Blue" label is one of his trio recordings; Hank on piano, with George Duvivier on bass and Oliver Jackson on drums. Melodic and accessible, with plenty of intricate Tatum-tasty work from Hank, below is a foursome of: Young No More, You Took Advantage of Me, It's the Talk of the Town and I'll be Around.

Let's remember Hank Jones Original Rapidshare link expired, re-upped via Box. No capcha codes, requests to be a paying member, or pop-ups.


It's been a long time since the great Iva Zanicchi graced the illfolks blog. 2007, in fact. Her "comeback" here reflects her renewed activity…as a politician! Just a few weeks ago, she appeared at the European Parliament to discuss the importance of funding sports even during these desperate financial times.

Exactly two years ago, May of 2008, Iva became a member of the European Parliament, representing Forza, Italy. She had lost an election bid in 2004, but finally made it when she took over for a departing musically-named MP by the name of Mantovani.

Quoth Iva a few weeks ago: "I believe that the EP and the EU should continue to promote sports. Sport has a key-role today when it comes to fighting social problems such as racism. Sport also teaches respect for rules, respect for teammates and especially respect for opponents… Sport is often a vehicle for peace!” Not sure if she said this while wearing eye-catching lingerie or her "I've got my eye on you" shirt.

The election marked the third distinct career for Iva. She was first known as a singer, winning the San Remo festival in 1967, 1969 and 1974. Somewhere in there, she recorded the download medley of Burt Bacharach tunes. In 1987 she turned quiz show host for "The Price is Right," known in Italy as "Ok, il prezzo e Giusto!" There are versions of the show all over the world, but none hosted by a woman except for Iva's 13 year run. A few years later she ran for election and lost, but now her political dream's been realized.

Here's some Iva for your iPod…a vintage recording of Zanicchi (from the same album that yielded the previous item on this blog). She's meddling with maestro Bacharach this time, via a medley of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Don't Make Me Over," "What The World Needs Now" and "Anyone Who Had a Heart." All are sung in Italian except for "Don't Make Me Over," the lyrics she apparently refused to make over.

Politician, Price is Right Host and Prima Diva IVA ZANICCHI sings BACHARACH No pop-ups, porn-ads or wait-time.

LENA HORNE does The Beatles, Elton and more

Illfolks is the "blog of less renown," focusing on the under-appreciated and unusual, so there would seem no reason to dwell on the passing of legendary Lena Horne, the Brooklyn-born singer who was given worldwide tributes throughout the past week. Except she was under-appreciated due to racism in the 40's, and denied some film roles that would've been spectacular.

Just last night, Dr. William H. Cosby Jr. appeared on Leno's show and devoted most of his couch time to talking about Lena. He played some clips of her appearance on his sitcom. But how could he articulate the pain of knowing that in her prime, in the 1940's and 1950's, when she was at the peak of her beauty, she was denied so many film opportunities? "She could've played Cleopatra…." he said. "It was just a terrible time…I don't know how you pay that back." Lena Horne lost many opportunities in those days, and we're all poorer for it. Her legacy doesn't include all that it could. Cosby succinctly ended his tribute with this carefully enunciated words: "Somebody this gorgeous, this wonderful, this talented — racism, Jay, is a waste of time."

You're invited to spend your time on the Internet checking out the various tributes and biographies for Lena Horne (June 30, 1917-May 9, 2010). Here? Just a personal note. I never spoke to Lena Horne, but I did meet her in person. She was grocery shopping in a small, very fancy upscale shop where she was no doubt comfortably assured of not being bothered. And I wasn't going to pull an "I Love Lucy" and ask her to sign a grapefruit. But I instantly recognized her and couldn't help but keep glancing now and then. She was a presence, even in her 70's.

So I wrote her a letter expressing my thoughts about her, and mentioned one of her later albums, which included "Maybe I'm Amazed." I liked the way that she, like Ella (who once put out a record covering Smokey Robinson and Randy Newman) was willing to take on new challenges and remain open to contemporary music. I also mentioned my tongue-tied glimpse of her and that I would've liked to have gotten her autograph. I was very grateful and touched by Miss Horne's response a few weeks later.

By way of tribute, and since you most probably have "Stormy Weather" and the other early classics, is a download of Lena swinging her cool and elegant way through McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," Elton's "Your Song," Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'", George Harrison's "Something," and Lennon-McCartney's "In My Life." Lena Horne in your life. What a privilege.
5 From LENA HORNE Should download rapidly.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

HENRY COOPER "Knock Me Down With a Feather"

Well knock me down with a feather: happy recent birthday to Henry Cooper!

The British heavyweight was born May 3, 1934. And the anniversary of his most famous fight comes up on June 18th.

A legend in the U.K., Henry is known worldwide for giving a young Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay at the time) a "pretty good scrap" in their first fight. It was June 18th, 1963. Rising contender 21 year-old Cassius Clay was up against 29 year-old Cooper. Clay opened a terrible cut above Cooper's eye in the third, and seemed ready to fulfill his prediction of a fifth round stoppage. But in the fourth, Henry landed a left hook. The flash knockdown happened with just seconds left in the round. Between rounds, an extra five seconds were taken to examine a minor hole in Clay's glove, which was not replaced. In the fifth, Clay stopped Cooper on cuts. 'Ammerin 'Enery wasn't done; in his next fight he wowed the crowed by stopping Brian London.

The re-match against the re-named Muhammad Ali happened on May 21, 1966 but it wasn't much of a contest, a TKO in the 6th round sending the bloodied Brit to defeat. Cooper's next match saw him lose via KO to ex-champ Floyd Patterson, but for U.K. fans, Henry remained a courageous hero, and he's become "Sir Henry," knighted in the year 2000.

Henry's novelty single ""Knock Me Down With a Feather" came out in 1976 (the B-side's "Knocked Out On Your Love). It spawned an entire album, "Knockout Party."

In the tradition of many non-singers who were famous enough to get behind a microphone (Ringo Starr the most obvious example), Cooper, with a little help from a chorus that probably had a few pints too many, sings in an amiable British Music Hall-type style. Wiv a little bit o' luck it coulda been a contenda.

If you remember how John Lennon's father sang (his two songs are here on the blog), then you might consider Henry Cooper sounding the way one might've expected Ringo Starr's father to sound if he also chose to cash in on his son's fame. (There's even a "yeah yeah yeah" buried in the chorus).
KNOCK ME OUT WITH HENRY COOPER No pop-ups, pop-unders, porn-ads or wait time.

DOROTHY PROVINE: "Pinky" Has Left the Planet

For baby boomers of a certain vintage, saying the name "Dorothy Provine" sounds like a breath of fresh air. And not because in later years she did a TV commercial for a feminine hygiene spray. It's because, circa 1960 (and in re-runs thereafter) she was "Pinky Pinkham," the sweet, comfy and sexy "flapper" and bar owner who offered cheerful and cheeky tunes on "The Roaring Twenties" TV series.

An eyeful for Dad, but definitely cute enough to stir the tween boys watching, tuneful "Pinky" (January 20, 1935 – April 25, 2010) was pretty much the only reason to tune into the show, which co-starred Rex Reason. Rugged Mr. Reason handled the derring, but Dorothy did the do's, with her blonde hair-do and her adorable costumes. The South Dakota sweetie was clearly the star of the show, having ascended very quickly via the film "The Bonnie Parker Story" in 1958, a co-starring gig as the lead in the one and only Lou Costello solo film "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock" in 1959, and her previous series, "The Alaskans" co-starring Roger Moore (1959-1960).

"The Roaring Twenties" flamed out fast (1960-1962) but in those few years, Dorothy issued two solo albums of old-time music medleys. Her show was apparently more popular in Great Britain than in America; she never made the Top 40 Billboard charts stateside, but in the U.K. she scored hit singles with"Don't Bring Lulu" (1961) and the original vo-dee-oh-do song "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune" (1962).

The sweet blonde with the luscious red lips seemed for a while to take mild comedy roles that Doris Day may have rejected. Her movies included "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," (who could believe she was Ethel Merman's daughter!) "Good Neighbor Sam," "The Great Race" (another chance for her to sing) and "Who's Minding the Mint." She retired from acting when she married (her surviving husband) Robert Day in 1968. She lived to be 75, and could've survived to see the "roaring 20's of the 21st century, but a thing called emphysema prevented it. She leaves behind Mr. Day, lots of friends, and piles of unanswered fan-mail from those who loved her and those TV re-runs and 60's films she made…and yes, the albums, too.

She signed a photo for me. For you, here's delicious Dorothy singing a medley that starts off with "I Don't Care," which was originally a hit for the tangy Eva Tanguay, and was memorably covered on the last episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" by Mary Tyler Moore. Listen to the underrated perky Provine; she had a unique voice…sweet and sassy at the same time.

DOROTHY PROVINE No pop-ups, pop-unders, porn-ads or wait time.


I know, the same sounds like Pugsley's masochistic brother, but "Owsley," no first name, was 44 year-old Will Owsley's chosen identity for 16 somewhat obscure years in Amy Grant's touring band, plus session work, and several critically praised indie solo albums. A victim of depression, not even the steady Amy Grant gig, his parents, his wife or his two kids was enough to keep him grounded, and he was pronounced dead at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin Tennessee, high noon April 30th, a suicide.

If there's anything more tedious than repeating "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," it's repeating "he was strongly influenced by Paul McCartney." But both must be written about Will Owsley.

Born in Alabama, Owsley gigged at local clubs in Calhoun County and in Jacksonville, Florida. He wasn't getting lucky, but he later recalled, "There ain't no luck involved. I practiced till my freaking fingers bled, and begged to play for free." Between the world of "pay for play" gigs and the fierce competition among studio musicians in Nashville where he migrated, Owsley's outstanding talent managed to be recognized. He worked with Judson Spence, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Vince Gill and Charlotte Church. His band The Semantics toured with Ben Folds Five and were signed to Geffen, but to no avail; their 1996 release Powerbill was available only as a Japanese import.

Owsley made a solo album which got a 1999 release via the indie Giant Records label. He created it in his self-built studio back home in Anniston, Alabama, and got a Grammy Award nomination, not for the music, but the engineering. With CD sales in a state of disaster, and touring with Amy Grant taking up so much of his time, Will wasn't inspired to complete a second album until 2004. The McCartneyesque "The Hard Way" was issued on the indie label Lakeview. Will tried to promote it via UMe Digital as a download, but he found out that few people actually buy digital music when it can be gotten free, and that the "final solution" of everyone tossing their music onto MySpace or cheap-shit eMusic didn't even the playing field, just crater it.

In 2005 Will managed a digital-download single, "Psycho/Upside Down," and that was it; he considered himself more of a session musician and a producer. He produced albums for other obscure solo artists (Chris Sligh and Kevin Max) and brought in some bucks backing musicians for tours and TV appearances: "It's what guys like me do, studio rats. I'm 43. They're not going pay me to shake my ass on MTV." Unfortunately the reality of music today, is that creating music in a studio doesn't pay; it's only by performing live night after night that a band can make any money. Owsley knew it, but he was too old for that type of rock and roll: "I would tell young bands to get their live shows together. That's the one thing they can't take from them. That's the only thing left."

Reality was continuing to spoil Owsley's dreams. What happens when your music is being stolen by the "we like free" brigade" and you don't get the satisfaction of a decent royalty check? What happens when indie artists can't afford to hire you as a producer to be the George Martin or Rick Rubin they need? What happens when hanging on for a a month of touring with Amy Grant no longer makes it for you? When fewer and fewer TV shows have the budget to hire extra musicians to back up a singer's guest spot? Owsley said last year, "This is a commitment I made at 10 years old. This dream is going to go on, whether I'm producing, singing, writing, playing or engineering. I'm going to be creative somehow." He stopped for a moment. Then he said, "Maybe I'll be a teacher or something. Maybe I'll start the school of rock." Maybe not. Even though he had his own "school of rock" at home (his kids, aged 7 and 11) he admitted, "It's hard to feed kids," and maintain a music career.

He specifically mentioned the depressing state of a music industry crippled by illegal downloading, a business no longer friendly or viable to older or non-touring musicians. In fact, the music industry has become downright cold and hostile to anyone with a dream of creating magic in a studio and having someone buy it. These dreamers are told, "get a day job," and "tour and sell MERCH at your GIG" or just give it all away for the "fame" involved. Well, Owsley had some fame. "How many kids can say their dad played with the Jonas Brothers?" he asked. But sporadic session work didn't pay the rent or give him satisfaction, and so he left his two kids behind. And his wife. And his parents.

“We are all reeling today from the news of Will Owsley’s death,” Amy Grant posted on her website. “So many of us in Nashville worked with Will, lived with him on the road, celebrated his talents and knew his anguish. Please join us in praying for his family and children.” Donations in honor and memory of Will Owsley can be made to: The Will Owsley Family Fund c/o Christ Community Church 1215 Hillsboro Road Franklin, TN 37069 MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO CHRIST COMMUNITY CHURCH. He left behind two young sons and every dollar donated will be greatly appreciated by his grieving family.

Your sample is four songs from The Semantics ("Future For You," "Jenny Won't Play Fair," "Don't Say Goodbye," "Life Goes On") and four songs from "The Hard Way;" the title track, plus "Undone," and the last track "Rainy Day People which, after about ten seconds, leads to the bonus track, a cover version of "Band on the Run."

MYLENE FARMER "A quoi je sers" Stade de France

Your download is a live number from the new Mylene Farmer "Stade de France" DVD, a classic song titled "A quoi je sers," which first saw life as a 1989 single. Despite the pretty melody, the words are grim (as are so many of Mylene's lyrics…she writes the words while Laurent Boutonnat supplies the music).

A quoi je sers

Poussière vivante, je cherche en vain ma voie lactée
Dans ma tourmente, je n'ai trouvé qu'un mausolée
Et je divague. J'ai peur du vide
Je tourne des pages. Mais… des pages vides

Poussière errante, je n'ai pas su me diriger
Chaque heure demande pour qui, pour quoi, se redresser
Et je divague. J'ai peur du vide
Pourquoi ces larmes. Dis… à quoi bon vivre...

Mais mon Dieu de quoi j'ai l'air
Je sers à rien du tout
Et qui peut dire dans cet enfer
Ce qu'on attend de nous, j'avoue
Ne plus savoir à quoi je sers
Sans doute à rien du tout
A présent je peux ma taire
Si tout devient dégout

Poussière brûlante, la fièvre a eu raison de moi
Je ris sans rire, je vis, je fais n'importe quoi
Et je divague.J'ai peur du vide
Je tourne des pages. Mais… des pages vides

Mais mon Dieu de quoi j'ai l'air
Je sers à rien du tout
Et qui peut dire dans cet enfer
Ce qu'on attend de nous, j'avoue
Ne plus savoir à quoi je sers
Sans doute à rien du tout
A présent je peux ma taire
Si tout devient dégout

Literal translation can render Mylene's words even more Dylanesque than they usually are. For example, the last lines of the song can be translated literally as: Now I can quiet myself if everything becomes disgusting." But in her context, she's saying that she's learned how to calm herself down when faced with anything overwhelming, or stressful (or repulsive). The title literally translates as "what I 'm used for" but the colloquial English is: "what good am I?" or "what am I good for?" "Mais mon Dieu de quoi j'ai l'air" is literally "But my God how I look," but we know she's most likely wondering how she looks to others, or wondering how others perceive her.

When translating, one must be both poetic in the new language and true to the spirit of the original's language. When done properly, a Kafka, Camus or Dostoyevsky comes to life in English, or an Edgar Poe becomes an icon in France. It's a difficult thing, especially when the artist is challenging, or indulges in stream of conscious and wordplay. How would a Frenchman translate Dylan's line, "the sun's not yellow it's chicken"? How different it would be if someone in France translated Dylan's song title not as "Blowin' in the Wind" but "flowin''" or "sailin'" or "dancin'" in the wind.

The opening line here says "I search in vain my Milky Way," but I think it would be a mistake to take this too literally. Analyzing the line would suggest she's looking for her place in the Cosmos, her Nirvana, her peace as one with the Universe.

In the song's opening lines, she describes the angst of being unable to find peace with religion or a spiritual one-ness with the Milky Way and the heaven behind it, and remains obsessed with death, and of ceasing to exist while the world keeps turning. The protagonist here also finds no comfort in relationships or work. Her alienation and doubt leads her to acknowledge (for better or worse) that at best she's learned to stay calm or ignore her inner demons when faced with existential stress. Quite a symbolic image she conjures…going through the time she has left in a tranquilized fog, like turning pages that are blank.


What Good Am I

Living dust, I search in vain for my Milky Way
In my turmoil, I found a mausoleum
My thoughts haunt me:
I'm afraid of the void
I turn the pages
But they are empty

Wandering dust, I can't find my way
Every hour asks, for whom, for what should one rise up?
And I wander, afraid of the void
What are my tears for?
Tell me.. what's the use of living

But my God, how do others view me?
I can't function
And who can say in this hell
What we are expected to do. I confess
I don't know anymore, what good I am
Without a doubt, for nothing
Now I can make myself numb
when things become overwhelming.

Burning dust, the fever has overtaken me
I laugh without laughing, I live, doing whatever
And I wander
I'm afraid of the void
I turn the pages
But... they are empty

It's worth noting, in regard to this song, a recent remark from Mylene. Her birthday, September 12th, happened to be the same date as the premiere concert. Just before the show she told an interviewer, loosely translated: "I like a line by Samuel Beckett very much: “My birth was my loss." I've been thinking about that for several years now ...time is not my friend. When it’s too long, I’m bored. When it’s too short, I get anxious..."

At the opening of Mylene's new concert film, a giant stadium full of Farmer fanatics wave their hands in a frenzy. These Frenchies are fried; their string-potato arms waving in the air like a soggy sea of wheat. This robot skeleton army of fans is greeted with actual skull images from the stage, and then Mylene and her fanciers appear, wearing body suits that mimic skinned corpses showing muscles and veins. But soon enough, Mylene's wearing all kinds of costumes over her body, and like Poe's masque, she tends to favor red and black. While she begins the show exposing the body as nothing but arteries and flesh, and so many of her songs dwell in aspects of death and loss, there is the saving sexuality; Mylene changes into sensual costumes and her presence radiates life.

This may be the best Mylene concert yet, since she's actually in an upbeat mood with a lot of smiles and confidence. She doesn't even choke up on "Rever," which would strike even the most ardent fan as being over-acting at this point. When she does get to an emotional line, she contents herself with simply not singing it and allowing the audience to karaoke it for her.

Yes, the director suffers from ADD and insists on changing camera angles literally every two seconds, which wearies the eye and prevents the real Farmer fan from constant visual worship of the idol, but at least the audience shots aren't as distracting as in previous shows. Thankfully, this time the front rows are stocked with some decent looking female fans, and couples, and not extremely ugly gays posturing and swooning. And while Abe Laboriel Jr. is a great drummer, his unsightly presence is not missed this time around, which also helps keep the stage visuals erotic most of them time...if not downright kinky, as with songs that offer back-up male dancers in tu-tu's or women in what seem to be jockstraps. And of course there's usual religious game-playing (back-up singers in habits, guitarists in priest collars) and Mylene sporting a thorny crown of crucifixes in her bloody red hair.

Sometimes explained as "the French version of Madonna," Mylene has always tended to ignore the aerobic aspect of concertizing. Madonna's shows are much more athletic, and frankly Mylene is not that much of a gymnast. At one point she and her dancers do a stoop-shouldered, fists to the ground move that recalls what Stephanie Birkett did on David Letterman's show, to show how ridiculously her ex-boyfriend (not "Joe" Halderman?) looked on the disco floor. Physically, Mylene's really too cool for either Madonna's sweatiness or Kate Bush's affected eccentricity. Lyrically, Mylene's songs are deeper and more intellectual than Madonna and the only similarity is that quite often both women like to "shock" on religious and sexual issues with both words and visuals.

It's bizarre that Mylene Farmer is almost unknown in America or Great Britain, but she seems very comfortable with this. She was happy to escape France for a while and hang out in L.A. where nobody recognized her. Canada-born, she could easily supply official English translations for her songs, or sing a few numbers in English. The closest she's gotten is "Fuck Them All" (ok, most of it is in French, but we get the chorus) and a duet with the American dweeb Moby and the over-achieving Seal.

The DVD concert once again proves that even if her CD sales aren't as big as before (whose is?) Mylene is still fascinatingly gorgeous and is so HUGE she can sell out night after night in big stadiums, putting on very expensive shows with carefully chosen images on the giant screens that involve a lot of time, costumes and choreography. The result is as spectacular as a midnight mass or Easter service at Notre Dame or St. Patrick's Cathedral, and for many, the aspects of idolization of a religious leader, lust of sex and questions about death and the beyond are magnified best via worship at the church of Mylene Farmer.

MYLENE FARMER "A quoi je sers" No pop-ups, pop-unders, porn-ads or wait time.