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Category Archives: Gruesome

Gruesome Twosome: Baroque’n Records Edition

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The Cake: “Medieval Love”
LP: The Cake, 1967

The Left Banke: “Barterers and Their Wives”
LP: Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina, 1967

For reasons unknown, the mid ’60s rock music scene underwent a collective fascination with the old (or should I say “olde”). The precious sounds of harpsichords, violins and mandolins made certain artists sound like wandering troupes of Renaissance Faire musicians, as these two selections demonstrate. The Cake was an overlooked girl trio who filled their debut album with pseudo-Ronettes ditties, R&B covers, and oddly progressive psychedelic odes such as the soothing “Medieval Love”. “Barterers and Their Wives” is another lovely nugget from criminally short-lived New Yorkers The Left Banke. Thanks to Patrick for The Cake.

Gruesome Twosome: Looks 10, Musical Ability 3 Edition

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Alyssa Milano: “One Last Dance”
CD: Do You See Me?, 1992

Audrey Landers: “Playa Blanca”
LP: Wo Der Südwind Weht, 1984 | BUY

Tell Lindsay and Paris the news: back in the ’80s and early ’90s, sexy celebs ventured overseas to sing so Americans wouldn’t have the, uh, pleasure of hearing them. Dallas siren Audrey Landers enjoyed a successful recording career in Germany, predating fellow thespian David Hasselhoff by a few years. “Playa Blanca” satisfied the uniquely German appetite for queasy, synthetic dance music with tropical beats. If the personnel involved sounded as if they had too many banana daiquiries, that’s okay. Later on, Alyssa Milano spent a time supplementing her Who’s the Boss? checks by being the Japanese Debbie Gibson. “One Last Dance” is a wimpy ballad that owes its melody to Natalie Cole’s “Miss You Like Crazy”, but Alyssa’s voice has a certain clunky appeal. Do You See Me?, unfortunately, marks her last singing effort to date. C’mon, Alyssa, we need you back in the recording studio!

Gruesome Twosome: Let Me Make Love Edition

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The Esso Trinidad Steel Band: “If You Let Me Make Love To You, Then Why Can’t I Touch You”
LP: The Esso Trinidad Steel Band, 1971 | BUY

Ronnie Dyson: “(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You?”
LP: If You Let Me Make Love To You, Then Why Can’t I Touch You?, 1970 | BUY

Happy Fourth of July. I have a couple of versions of the song “If You Let Me Make Love To You, Then Why Can’t I Touch You” to share here. Although the title indicates otherwise, this is not a country tune but a silky, soulful ode to the frustrations of not connecting on a personal level — the old “the sex is great, but he’s dumb as a rock” saw. Ronnie Dyson’s original lit up the charts in 1970 due to its warm, Latin-esque arrangement, which complemented Dyson’s beautiful and oddly feminine voice well. Unique outfit The Esso Trinidad Steel Band included “Let Me Make Love” among the repertoire on its self-titled 1971 LP (produced by Van Dyke Parks!). The band removes the tension in Dyson’s version and comes up with a summery instrumental perfectly suited to Mai Tais on the Carribbean sands. A cool NPR story on Esso’s unlikely tour with Liberace can be heard here.

Gruesome Twosome: Back Door Brill Edition

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Eydie Gorme: “Don’t Try to Fight It Baby”
Columbia Records single, 1963

Andy Williams: “Wrong For Each Other”
Columbia Records single, 1964 | BUY

Wanna know about the brilliance of the Brill Building Era? Even the relatively obscure songs from that special time and place serve as gems of melody and rhythm. These two singles were written for performers normally associated with more adult-oriented material, namely Eydie Gorme and Andy Williams. Carole King and Jack Keller’s sprightly “Don’t Try to Fight It, Baby” gave Gorme another appealing samba-ish hit in the “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” mold. Doc Pomus and Mort Schuman composed “Wrong for Each Other” for Williams in an attempt to recapture the success of their “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, but the song’s dark lyrics and oddly shifting time signatures ensured only a modest chart showing in 1964. Personally, I think it’s pretty cool — who knew that Andy Williams of all people could sound so suicidal?

Gruesome Twosome: Avocado Funk Edition

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Tony Hatch: “Return to the Stars”
Pye Records UK single, 1976 | BUY

Alan Hawkshaw: “Mile High Swinger”
LP: Themes: Synthesizer and Percussion, 1974

I’m getting my groove together and takin’ it on the road with these two mildly funky instrumentals from the U.K. “Return to the Stars” finds Tony Hatch mixing synths and strings with a breezy soulfulness would soon manifest itself as Disco — kinda cheesy but really great. Alan Hawkshaw’s effort comes from the library music compilation Cinemaphonic: Soul Punch, another sophisticated groove totally evocative of the ’70s … stick your blowout comb in your back pocket and go.

Gruesome Twosome: Sunshine Girls Edition

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Vicky Leandros: “Sunshine Boy”
LP: A Taste of … Vicky, 1967

Miss DD Phillips: “The World of Thursday Morning”
LP: Miss DD Phillips, c.1969

Warming temperatures have prompted me to share a couple of nice ‘n perky ’60s female vocals — songs that will have you gaily skipping through the park, multicolored balloons in hand. Greek singer Vicky Leandros might be better known to European audiences, but her gender-switched version of The Parade’s “Sunshine Girl” proved that she was just as comfortable with a more American, AM radio friendly sound. This odd choice of cover material unexpectedly became an excellent showcase for her versatile singing voice. “The World of Thursday Morning” by the mysterious Miss DD Phillips bursts through with sassy verve; I could almost picture Miss DD belting this from a Broadway stage. Thanks to my buddy Ion for both of these sunny cuts.