Ace Records History Part 8
As time goes by, so more friends die. This year saw the deaths of two people very close to Ace - not just on a professional level but even more on a personal one.
Ray Topping died in January, after a long and cruel illness. His emotional connection to vernacular American music could spill over and make him difficult, but his engagement could never be denied. Rarely has anyone pursued a passion with such singularity. That passion was indelibly stamped on Ace Records, running through the company like lettering through a stick of rock. It was Ray who introduced us to the vast wealth of the Modern catalogue and compiled it in depth across LP and CD, a body of work that is his enduring legacy. But he also worked on Starday, Ace US, Combo, Specialty, Duke / Peacock. He put together two fabulous albums of “Jump Blues” from US Decca, one of Old Town blues sides, an Atlantic set that rocked from top to bottom and so, so many others. He had a keen ear for music, matching enthusiasm and boundless interest in his subject to which he brought a great intelligence. Bless him.
Lux Interior died in February and that was a shock - unexpected, to say the least. It would be hard to find someone more full of life than Lux. He was capable of the most dangerous acts of daring-do on stage, flying off it - sometimes literally. Yet, in person, he was the sweetest man you could hope to meet. That the Cramps died with him made it all the more tragic, knowing we could never again thrill to that onslaught that they conjured up night after night from the cauldron of rock’n’roll history, something they were so much part of and understood so completely. With the death of Lux Interior the music arguably did die - at least, that part of it which tested how far could too far go. Rock’n’roll will never be quite itself again.
After the onslaught of new deals and ideas in 2008, things had to slow down a little. We were movin’ way too fast. Although the total number of items issued was only slightly fewer than the previous year, box sets were not involved. Overall, it was a year of entrenchment with further volumes of the songwriters and other longer-running series. Across the labels, we made our way through the various catalogues. The second “Theme Time Radio Hour” collection also came out.
There were a few new approaches, though. The London American label was the holy grail of American music in the UK from the early 50s to the late 60s. We decided to chart it, by starting in the middle and working out in both directions - not out of perversity but to get the jump on companies trading on the 1960 copyrights expiring in 2010. As much as possible, we avoided using tracks that had already appeared on our other long-running series — yet still manage to represent London American’s year. Tony Rounce was largely successful on both counts, demonstrating the diversity of the label that in many ways lies deep within Ace’s own foundations.
One man who knew all too well the importance of London American in the U.K. school of rock’n’roll was Charlie Gillett, author, broadcaster and very astute pundit. From 1972 to 1978, he broadcast Honky Tonk at lunchtime every Sunday on BBC Radio London. It was essential listening - regardless of the Saturday night before. He played a mix of new, mainly American, releases that did not necessarily make it to the charts, along with oldies that were then not so old back then. It was an education and entertainment that has rarely been matched on radio, certainly in the UK. More than 30 years had elapsed since the last “Honky Tonk”. So it was time for a trip back in time to remind our contemporaries of happy days and maybe persuade some young ‘uns of just how good this music was when it was either new or not so old.
One of the later generation who was convinced already was writer and musician Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne. He compiled an imaginary jukebox in a very real Soho drinking den, The Dog & Duck. Ranging across three decades up to 1978, there was some crossover between this and Charlie Gillett’s compilation and it was certainly a diverse and entertaining listen. As a rule we kept compiling in-house, but since “Theme Time Radio Hour” we had seen the benefit of getting people outside the Harlesden bubble to compile more eclectically.
We started a gallop through the complete Goldwax 45s, one of those rare labels where you could be complete and not embarrass yourself.
“Land Of 1000 Dances” returned but without adding to the Dance count as it was an all Twistin’ edition and we had already counted a Twist. So, still have another 917 dances to find. To assuage our disappointment, we did learn how to do the Spanish, Lone, Monster and Kissin’ twists, not mention The Twist To End All Twists — though that one did require a very good chiropractor to unknot the legs.
Brenda Holloway’s 1964 Tamla debut ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ was her first hit but not her first recording. Mick Patrick put together 22 tracks covering the two years before she signed with Berry Gordy’s empire. The collection included an earlier version of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ cut for Del-Fi Records and first issued by Ace in 1999. This was a terrific taster for the later release of her Motown sides. For the Ace crew, there was the added bonus of dinner with Brenda. What a pleasure it was to meet her, still bubbling with enthusiasm — as indeed were we.
We took a trip back to our own origins this time on a “Jet Black Leather Machine” driven by the wildest of rock’n’roll’s wild men, Vince Taylor. David Bowie cited him as the inspiration for Ziggy Stardust and described him as “out of his gourd”, a judgment hard to challenge. He was the Monster From The Black Leather Lagoon. The second ever record on Chiswick was a re-release of his ‘Brand New Cadillac’, the recorded equivalent of a switchblade. Vince later found fame and notoriety in France through the 60s, still making classic rock’n’roll recordings as if his life depended on them. Maybe it did. The one-off to end all one-offs.
Little Richard had a massive impact on music both here and in the US. Male and female singers alike took inspiration from his singing style — real wild and as if channelled through the church of rock’n’roll. Though none could match him, many crazed records were cut in the attempt and Tony and Simon White put together a bunch of those – Holy Mackerel indeed.
To round off the ‘wild’ theme we have going here, the collection of songs by Chip “Wild Thing” Taylor. The Troggs’ leery reading of the fairly basic title tune shouldn’t detract from the great narrative songs that made up the rest of the CD.
Kent was maintaining the various series and the needs of the Northern fraternity, but still found time for an explosive release of all of Sugar Pie DeSanto’s Chess 45s. It really did have a lot of “Go Go Power”. In her ‘Soulful Dress And Slip-In Mules’ Sugar Pie was ready to take on the world, writing, singing and - as the photos in the CD book confirmed - strutting it out on stage. A long overdue selection.
The received wisdom is that Columbia got Aretha Franklin all wrong. On “Just A Matter Of Time” we showed that, with judicious-cherry picking from the catalogue, a soulful Aretha was in there from the start.
The real significance behind putting out Jimmy Hughes’s “Steal Away” album, recorded for and at Fame in Muscle Shoals, was that at last we had cut a deal with a label we had been trying to work with for a decade or more. Rick Hall was a hard man to convince and to convince him took some effort. It was probably the “Take Me To The River” box set and the easy-to-keep promise of a matching Fame Studio triple that finally did it. The deal launched us into a dreamland of soul music and the last great vault to be uncovered, not to mention the privilege of meeting Rick Hall. There were a small number of studios in the Southern states of the USA that had magic in the air plus the musicians, engineers and producers who could distil that into pure gold soul. One thing they all had in common was a benign case of colour blindness. White and black musicians worked with black and white singers, pulled and kept together by a mutual understanding that soul was a human condition rather than one determined by skin pigmentation. The Fame magic did not dissipate or get tied up and tangled and destroyed by financial grief. It stayed true through many changes. While others have passed into history, Fame is still there.
BGP was getting on with getting on the funky side of things, too, with the “Super Funk” Soul Sisters and Brothers, as well as reassembling the Acid Jazz catalogue Dean had worked at first time around. Terry Callier had been very much a part of that scene. So it was “About Time” we told the story from Terry’s folk beginnings through his Chess / Cadet and Elektra years to his 1982 comeback that just didn’t go away. When Acid Jazz re-issued 1982’s ‘I Don’t Want To See Myself (Without You)’ in 1990, it was the first record Dean worked on after leaving college. Ace’s 1995 issue of “The New Folk Sound” was the first legitimate reissue of that album.
Subsequently, Terry toured comprehensively, made new records and collaborated with Massive Attack, Beth Orton and Paul Weller. We managed to pull all the licensing together for “About Time”, its title made even more poignant by his untimely death three years later, in 2010. Anyone who saw his early performances at London’s Jazz Café will treasure them forever.
We finally bought the rights to Jeep Holland’s A-Square catalogue and Alec compiled the complete Rationals 1965-68. During that period this blue-eyed soul and garage band were the main attraction in the Ann Arbor area, even scoring a minor hit with a cover of ‘Respect’ that came out on Cameo Records. Our compilation paid full respect, with a huge amount of memorabilia and, of course, a comprehensive history lesson from Mr Palao.
Alec started the trend towards the International scene with Australian and Japanese garage and rock collections. Mick Patrick picked up on the theme, while Sheila Burgel compiled far-eastern girl singers on the visually stunning and irresistibly titled “Japanese Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova 1966-1970”, which came out first on CD then, eventually, on LP with alternative cover art - and we do mean Art. The pleasure of the LP in this modern age is surely as much visual as aural.
As downloads had become more part of the business, CDs were getting a little bit harder to sell. Some of what we issue will never sell as a download but to make it available on CD we had to charge a premium - not to make an excessive profit but to stand a chance of making any profit. So with the Royaltones’ “Detroit Rock ‘n’ Roll Began Here”, we kicked off our CDLUX series of high-priced releases. This was the first sign that CD was returning to being luxury goods while mp3 downloads became the downmarket option. Given the vastly superior audio and packaging on a CD, we didn’t have a problem with this. It just remained to be seen whether the market accepted that argument.
‘Three great 45 sides in one year’ of the year: Little Ann – ‘Lean Lanky Daddy’, Little Willie John – ‘I’m Shakin’’ and finally on 45 without breaking the bank, Mike Pedicin – ‘Burnt Toast & Black Coffee’. Budding DJs start here.
The BGP label’s rich diversity was flagged up by the contrast between the aptly titled “Mod Classics” of Georgie Fame and “A Loud Minority: Deep Spiritual Jazz From Mainstream Records 1970-73”.
Bob Shad was active in the record business from the late 40s, recording jazz on Mainstream, blues and R&B for his Sittin’ In With imprint. He went on to work at Mercury, started Time Records, had pop hits, discovered Janis Joplin, put out great soul records (cf Alice Clark) and finally, in the early 70s, returned to his first love, jazz. Bob captured on record the moment when the black American community’s spiritual and political awareness was starting to emerge in the music.
Georgie Fame picked up on the contemporary 60s soul sounds of James Brown, Sam Cooke and Booker T & the MGs, then mixed them with the earlier cool jazz styles of Oscar Brown Jr and Mose Allison. For many, Georgie was the only artist playing at the Flamingo who delivered the music to the standard of the originals.
Around 32 years had elapsed since we issued the first two compilations of blues, R&B and rock’n’roll sides that laid the foundations of Ace. Both were collections of sides from the Mississippi label whose name we usurped. For the probably overdue upgrade to CD, we retained the cover images we used across the five volumes on LP: the original Ace US logo cropped in various ways. The 120 tracks across the CDs showed the depth and quality of our namesake label: Huey Smith, Mac Rebennack, Earl King, Joe Tex and Bobby Marchan were all well versed in the art of turning R&B into pop.
Alan Govenar’s definitive account of “The Life And Blues” of Sam ‘Lightning’ Hopkins was the best blues read in a long time. As Alan was also an old friend, we went with the CD tie-in. Amoeba Records of Hollywood had a good yard and a half of Lightnin’ Hopkins CDs so we did wonder if would wise to be adding another quarter inch to that pile. However, what was missing was a definitive overview of all aspects of his career, from the early Gold Star and Aladdin sides to his last recordings for Arhoolie, spanning four decades and 34 labels. Alan and Roger put the compilation together. People agreed with their choices and were rewarded with a great read and a matching listen.
Another book tie-in was with Max Decharné’s “A Rocket In My Pocket: The Soundtrack To The Hipster’s Guide To Rockabilly”. Max, who appeared on Ace as a member of the Flaming Stars, compiled the CD with Ted and Roger. The result was the closest you’ll get to the definitive rockabilly compilation. Its sonic attack was enhanced by magnificent mastering. Even the man with all the great rockabillies ever bootlegged would still need this one.
On a whole other tip, we accessed the Cameo / Parkway labels, via its current owners, New York-based ABKCO. Among the tracks the deal gave us access to was John Zacherle’s ‘Dinner With Drac’, a notable absentee on our first Halloween compilation. Now we were able to include it on our second horror fest, “Mostly Ghostly”. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed Zacherle had, in fact, made a previous appearance on Ace — introducing the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East in 1970, on “Dick’s Picks Vol 4”.
For “Listen To The Voices: Sly Stone In The Studio 1965-1970”, Alec Palao went way above and beyond the call of duty in his research. When he found out Sly was living in a motel near LAX, he moved in. Pretty soon, he was spending hours with the ever-articulate legend — who spent most of his time behind a keyboard. We had acquired rights to recordings Sly had made when he was working at Golden State Recorders. With these tracks as a base, we built a second volume of Sly’s pre-Family Stone incarnation as a producer of everything from soul to rock. Many of these tracks had been issued on poorly packaged discs with ropey sound. So it was good to hear them straight off the masters. Stand-outs include Little Sister’s ‘Stanga’ and the completely off-the-wall ‘Danse A La Musique’ by the mysterious French Fries.
In a twist to our song writer theme, we gathered together “How Many Roads”, a collection of Bob Dylan covers by black American performers — with the total approval of Bob’s management. The mix of songs was eclectic. It is not difficult to imagine soul covers of ‘Lay Lady Lay’, ‘I Shall Be Released’, ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’. But there were also real surprises: ‘Maggie’s Farm’ by Solomon Burke, Patti LaBelle’s take on ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine’ and dig that crazy intro to Nina Simone’s sublime ‘Just Like A Woman’.
“French Girl Singers Of The 1960s” were by definition chic. To reiterate the point Mick called this first cross-Manche foray into yé-yé girl territory “C’est Chic”. The stunning line-up included Brigitte Bardot,Françoise Hardy,FranceGall and the less well-known Jacqueline Taïeb - whose ‘7 A.M.’ appeared on the follow-up collection, “Tres Chic”. ‘7 Heures Du Matin’, the original French language version of Taïeb’s song was on the second “Theme Time Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan” collection. For a record as charming as that, we aim to provide the full service.
Gary Paxton had been licensing his catalogue to us since 2002 and now we were finally able to purchase his mix of Hollywood pop and country rock. To think that the guy behind the absurd ‘Alley-Oop’ also recorded the sublime sounds of the Gosdin Brothers..... Only in America.
“Incomparable Soul Vocalist” is an apt way to describe Lou Johnson. Due to licensing and audio sourcing problems, our collection of his Big Top recordings was some time in the making. Mostly recorded in top New York locations, it featured prime New York songs such as Bacharach/David’s ‘A Message To Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)’ and ‘(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me’. Even when venturing down to New Orleans to work with Alan Toussaint, Lou took a Bacharach/David song with him - ‘Walk On By’ which he turned into a massive soul ballad. We were even able to include ‘No Other Guy’, which only ever appeared on the test-pressing of Lou’s unissued Big Top LP. So just as well Trevor had one of the only known copies. All in all, the kind of record that makes the effort all worthwhile.
We started a run of some of the more arcane Motown artists with the Satintones. This was the second in our high-priced CDLUX series - though future Motown issues came out in the slightly cheaper CDTOP price category. This was an indication of the way the market was going. The big boys were already making these kinds of acts only available online, if at all. But we stuck with the CD - the fantastic sound of these records deserved it.
Pre-empting the so-called vinyl explosion and the return of the Long Player, we tentatively moved forward from the 45 to the Extended Play with eight of these delightful four-trackers, mostly by the Zombies - though the first of our soul-focused “The Stars of…” (the Goldwax label, in this case) also appeared. Well, we did start out with an EP.
We had covered Lee Hazlewood the performer with two releases. Now we gave him his other due: a “Songs of ….” treatment. The gamut was well and truly covered: B.B. King’s rendering of ‘Don’t Look Now, But I’ve Got The Blues’, Don Coles’s rockabilly shaker ‘Snake Eyed Mama’ and Sanford Clark’s ‘The Fool’, one of those pop records that could almost be country - or vice versa. There was also a duet with Suzi Jane Hokom, of whom Lee said, “Miss Hokom has produced with the International Submarine Band the first sounds of contemporary country music.” Hard to argue with that.
Barrence Whitfield And The Savages’ eponymous debut stood out among the 50s stylists of the 80s as having the verve and pizzazz of the original recordings. Twenty-six years after its first appearance, it still buzzed with excitement. So we put it out again.
The sad news of the year was the sudden and totally unexpected death of Charlie Gillett, a man who had never indulged in the rock’n’roll lifestyle and, to all intents and purposes, was fit and healthy for any age. Roger was talking to him about a second volume of “Honky Tonk”. Then Charlie had a stroke. In the final weeks of his life, he sent Roger around suggestions for a second volume, about 100 of them — which were eventually trimmed down and put together into what had unfortunately become a memorial release.
Most unlikely release of the year – Clint Eastwood “Cowboy Favourites”.
A year in which the all-too-often unsung were given an airing on Ace.
Trini Lopez was best known for a string of light folk-tinged pop hits on Reprise in the 60s. Before that, though, he had recorded for King and the west coast-based DRA, later acquired by Modern. ‘Sinner Not A Saint’, the title track of our release, first went Belgian Popcorn (a Northern Soul spin off) then picked up the feet of the New Breed crew. Hence aKent45 also of this popular dancer. Funny old World.
Charlie Rich started his career in the late 50s in the company of Sam Phillips and his Phillips International label, scoring with ‘Lonely Weekend’, an upbeat tune to a downbeat life. After a brief but less-than-successful spell on the RCA Groove subsidiary, he followed fellow Sun Records alumni Jerry Lee Lewis to Smash. ‘Mohair Sam’ gave Charlie his second hit, but that slightly goofy piece doesn’t represent the rest of this tough, blue-eyed soul selection. Charlie finally found deserved success with ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’ on Epic in 1973.
In 1963 Lesley Gore declared that she would cry if she wanted to. Just months later, she turned the tables, making the devastating ‘You Don’t Own Me’ for Mercury, a record that transcended its teen pop intention — but then it was a Quincy Jones production. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Lesley stayed with her label throughout the 60s yet moved with the times. Several tracks escaped on 45 from what would have been the 1968 album “Magic Colors”, which Ace was proud to finally make available, with bonus tracks.
Brother and sister duo Nino Tempo & April Stevens took old songs, pre-rock’n’roll lullabies, and turned them into hit records, which didn’t sound like anyone else’s. They scored a #1 with their third Atco 45 ‘Deep Purple’, though the dry run ‘Sweet & Lovely’ was just that. Just as well they got in before everything got a little homogenised around the scream fest of the British Invasion in the US. They didn’t chart after March 1964, though. Nino’s day job was session saxophone player; he worked with Phil Spector, among others. He wrote ‘All Strung Out’ for the Righteous Brothers but he and April had the hit instead, on White Whale. Unlikely though it may seem, a strangely magical and affecting compilation.
Even before he picked for Ricky (Nelson, that is) and nailed the iconic guitar lines on ‘Susie-Q’, James Burton appeared on a rare 1956 Carol Williams recording for the RAM label, based in his hometown ofShreveport,La.It was on “The Early Years 1956-69” alongside James’s work with a mixture of the obscure and the famous, including Buffalo Springfield.
Johnny Otis just kept making records. And, in the black tradition he so strongly identified with, he kept moving with the sounds of the times. Across two volumes, we charted 30 years of a great drummer, DJ, band leader and all-round motivator on the Los Angeles music scene. From the sublime to the verging-on-the-obscene, we have represented the Johnny Otis Show across many compilations.
“Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney” followed on from the Bob Dylan version of the same concept. Opening with Chubby Checker’s enthusiastic ‘Back In The USSR’, it included Little Richard’s ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, Al Green’s remarkable reading of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and a wonderful alternative take (4) of Otis tearing up ‘Day Tripper’. The whole thing just oozed affection for a great bunch of songs.
Dan Penn told us that he couldn’t make sense of the Beatles when he first heard them - and there is, at the very least, a thesis in there. Dan has always been a hero around Ace. One of those guys who tended to stay in the background, he quietly wrote great songs, often alongside Spooner Oldham. The artists on “Sweet Inspiration” were a Who’s Who of soul singers, some blue-eyed, some not. The songs were often familiar ones - ‘Cry Like A Baby’, ‘I’m Your Puppet’, ‘It Tears Me Up’ - but not the performances, which were all great. Which goes to show how strong the songs were in the first place. The album won Mojo magazine’s Reissue Of The Year award.
The magnum opus of the year was the epic and mighty “Fame Studios Story” set that hopefully matched the enormous personality of Fame owner Rick Hall. Anyone who has seen the 2013 Muscle Shoals documentary will know exactly what we mean. Across the three CDs were 75 tracks of solid gold soul, 13 of them debuts, including Arthur Alexander performing a Dan Penn-Donnie Fritts tune, ‘I Hope They Get Their Eyes Full’. Once more, the value of tape research at source showed its worth. It is tempting to list all the tracks but suffice to say that ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)’, Aretha Franklin’s first Atlantic hit is on there, as is Etta James’ coruscating ‘Tell Mama’ and Wilson Pickett’s impossible take on ‘Hey Jude’, with scintillating slide guitar by Duane Allman.
For Kent this was the year where the girls were. We rolled out five great anthologies by five fantastic female vocalists.
Putting together the Jackie Day compilation was quite an effort for Ady, who had to draw together recordings from the various labels. A lot of sleuthing, the purchase of Music City, the discovery of more unissued sides than even we thought might exist, plus OJ Simpson’s lawyer’s father: all were involved. Eventually, though, an idea that had been around since the 80s finally came to fruition. A little-known singer finally - and deservedly - became a lot better known.
Like her sister Brenda, Patrice Holloway was a Motown artist, albeit one who spent more time on backing vocals than fronting her own records. However, diligent research turned up a bunch of previously unissued sides, including a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Beach Stomp’ (as ‘Surf Stomp’). Patrice’s only Motown release, which came out on the V.I.P. subsidiary, was called ‘Stevie’. According to big sister Brenda, Patrice and Stevie were an item. The CD was completed with Patrice’s Capitol 45s.
We had, of course, thoroughly explored Etta James’s Modern recordings. So now for Chess. Later we got round to her lesser-known Chess albums, but for now we put out “Who’s Blue?”, a collection of rare recordings spanning her Chess career and including one previously unissued side, ‘Can’t Shake It’. There was always more to a great artist like Etta than even the most ardent fan might imagine.
When Doris Troy was in London doing her Mama I Want To Sing musical, Ady got in touch and she agreed to do a Sunday Soul show at the 100 Club. He ended up having fish & chips with Doris and friends, including Stevie Wonder, but that’s another story.Dorismust have thought the Hollies had it in for her when they had the hits with two of her Atlantic sides, ‘What’cha Gonna Do About It’ and ‘Just One Look’ - but at least she wrote them. That other beat group musician, George Harrison, was a big fan. In 1970, he produced an album with her, for Apple. There were two tracks from it on “I’ll Do Anything; The Doris Troy Anthology 1960-96”.
Candi Staton’s four years at Fame from 1969 produced 48 top quality tracks, showing what a great working relationship she had with producer Rick Hall. The core of our compilation was songs written for her by George Jackson, one of the finest soul writers of all time. Covers of note include ‘Stand By Your Man’, ‘In The Ghetto’. Unissued sides included her takes on ‘Do Right Woman’ and ‘Jolene’.
On the subject of George Jackson, we issued his Sounds of Memphis recordings in 2009. We now started on an epic trawl through the huge amount of material he cut for Fame. As well as Candi Staton, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Otis Clay, Z.Z. Hill and Bettye Swann benefitted from the pen of George Jackson. He was also a very affecting singer who did wonderful interpretations of songs of by Dan Greer, O.B. McClinton and Dan & Spooner. Sadly, he died, in 2013, just before the release of our third and final volume of Fame recordings — for which he deserved a lot more fame in his lifetime.
Ady spilled the beans on “Northern Soul’s Guilty Secrets”, taking us on a magic carpet ride, bumpin’, stompin’ and pushin’ too hard, all in search of the elusive beat that could be found in the most unexpected places. But Babe Ruth from 1975?
The Doré album is a real trip up Sunset Strip back in the days when guys like Lew Bedell were hustling for a hit among the teenage wannabes and putting together studio confections with the local session players. Producers Herb Alpert, Shel Talmy and Mike Curb hustled the hustlers with their demos. Bobby Fry, who featured on a couple of hot and hard-to-get instrumentals, later washed up in London and played with Vince Taylor. There was a wonky blues side by Kid Guitar Thompson & the Scooters and just check ‘Hideout’ by John (Maus, later a Walker Brother) and Judy - a great slice of teen. “The Doré Story: Postcards From Los Angeles 1958-64”. Innocent Pop: guilty as charged.
A whole other side of Los Angeles, way across the other side of town, was represented on “The Flash Records Story”. Street level R&B and doo wop from the neighbourhood. ‘Mambo For Dancers’ by B. Brown & His McVouts just about falls out of the groove as it staggers along in its ragged and right way - but missed the charts by a distance. In its four short years Flash managed a couple of hits. Gus Jenkins (as label misprint Jinkins) scored with the novelty instrumental ‘Tricky’ and, though the Jayhawks’ original ‘Stranded In The Jungle’ was gazumped by the Cadets’ opportunist cover on Modern, it did still chart R&B and op. There were also great gritty sides from the Jenkins man-and-wife team, Mamie and Gus, Sheryl Crowley’s sassy ‘It Ain’t To Play’, the Arrows, the Cubans, the Hornets finding their echo and the Poets terminal ‘Dead’. Flash Records wrapped up in one handsome package.
Alec got to work on the Music City catalogue and came up with a 3 CD set which, though far from the last word on the label, certainly made for a great opening gambit. It spanned three decades, was packed full of super-rare, bank-busting doo wop, nearly half of which was previously unissued. There were rare recordings from Little Willie Littlefield and Jimmy Nelson (familiar to Ace through their Modern releases), an early appearance from Sugar Pie DeSanto and a Lou Rawls track turned up in the tape research. Though original owner Ray Dobard was undoubtedly a hustler, he only managed to hustle up one R&B hit, Johnny Heartsman’s ‘House Party’ - though The 4 Deuces’s ‘W-P-L-J’ was a permanent turntable hit, later covered by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Also on the set was Darondo, a Bay Area musician who cut an album for Ray Dobard, thought to be long lost. The one issued 45 (Music City 894) was so good it made that loss even more frustrating. But a rummage through the tape vaults turned up a lot more sides. Our vinyl release of “Listen To My Song” approximates the record that should have come out in 1974 - the CD included a further four cuts. All in all, some Super Heavy Funkin’ streaming big on mobiles everywhere.
From left field came “Shattered Dreams - Funky Blues 1967-1978”, which was very well received. Compiled by Dean Rudland, it offered a whole different take on blues, concentrating on the late 60s and into the 70s, a period in which most older blues aficionados thought it was all over - including the shouting. Maybe this fresh view from the funky side gave them second thoughts.
Takeshi Terauchi was a guitarist extraordinaire whose impeccably recorded oeuvre we made available on both the incongruously shorter Long Player and spacious Compact Disc. The respective front cover photographs summed up Terauchi and his band’s music: a hybrid of folk style Minyo tunes played with some whammy on electric guitars. On the ultra-modern CD the band are dressed in snazzy Western-style red suits. On the more traditional LP they are wearing traditional Japanese garb. With a hint of the Ventures and Mosrite guitars to the fore, they became Japan’s most popular group, creating what was known as the Eleki boom. Now there’s a name for a band.
Gig of the year: the Fugs at Meltdown. Ray Davies put this one together and admitted that when the Kinks opened for Ed, Tuli and co in the 60s they were terrified by them.