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Category Archives: Gruesome

Gruesome Twosome: I Want My MPB Edition

Johnny Alf: “Canto Prá Pai Corvo”
LP: Ele E Johnny Alf, 1971 | BUY

Marcos Valle: “Casamento, Filhos E Convenções”
LP: Marcos Valle, 1974 | BUY

We’re going Brazilian today — specifically, Musica Popular Brasileira (or MPB). MPB is a catch-all term for the wide variety of ’70s Brazilian music styles that evolved from the Bossa Nova and Tropicalia movements. As these two songs prove, even veteran performers like Johnny Alf and Marcos Valle weren’t immune from the need to change with the times and incorporate elements of pop music in their work. Alf’s cut is a breezy bit of Bacharachy sunniness, while the legendary singer-songwriter Valle channels an engaging soul/funk vibe on this mid-’70s cut. I just love this stuff. More on Alf and Valle can be found at the invaluable site.

Gruesome Twosome: Kids Are All Right Edition

The Brady Bunch: “Everything I Do”
LP: The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album, 1973 | BUY

Rodney Allen Rippy: “Eenie-Meenie-Minee-Moe”
LP: Take Life a Little Easier, 1974

On today’s menu: kiddie music, funky style. The Brady’s recordings consisted of frenzied shoutalongs and/or inappropriate covers of the day’s hits (such as “Baby I’m a Want You”), but “Everything I Do” from their final album proves there’s an exception to everything. Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick sing their parts beautifully, and the bridge’s gorgous harmonies (by some unknown, yet talented, backup singers) are breathtaking. Pint-sized Rodney Allen Rippy became a playground sensation when he sung “Take Life a Little Easier” in a Jack in the Box commercial. Sensing an opportunity to reach fans of childrens’ music and processed meat, Bell Records subsequently cut an entire LP of Rippy’s off-key warbling. The Jackson 5-lite “Eenie-Meenie-Minee-Moe” is noteworthy for the contrast between Rippy’s wobbly singing and the slickness of his backing musicians. Special thanks to Ion for both of these tunes.

Gruesome Twosome: Poet, Fool, Bum Edition

Lee Hazlewood: “What’s More I Don’t Need Her”
LP: Cowboy In Sweden, 1970 | BUY

Honey LTD.: “Louie, Louie”
LHI Records single, 1968

For today’s aural delights, I turn to the enigmatic Lee Hazlewood. Richie Unterberger nicely sums up Hazlewood’s appeal in his book Unknown Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll: “How can you judge a man who sounds like Johnny Cash might after gargling razor blades? Who can’t seem to decide whether to be a Nashville cornball or a brooding desert Leonard Cohen? Who experienced immense commercial success producing pop stars like Nancy Sinatra and Duane Eddy, but regularly churned out oddball solo albums that could only have appealed to the most narrow of audiences? Who invested a great deal of time and effort in the sessions he produced for others, but seemed to make many of his own records as if he were in a race with the studio clock?”

I can’t elaborate much on that, except to say that Lee’s two songs here are a testament to doing your own, quirky thing. The Cowboy In Sweden track layers Hazlewood’s laconic speak-singing atop a lovely David Whitaker string arrangement. Honey LTD was a quartet of groovy looking ladies signed to Hazelwood’s own LHI Records label. Hazlewood infused their swinging remake of “Louie Louie” with simultaneous Girl Group and hippie sensibilities, even contributing a spoken intro (in which he sounds bizarrely like George W. Bush).

Gruesome Twosome: J’aime Françoise Edition

Françoise Hardy: “Je Ne Suis Là Pour Personne”
Vogue Records [France] single, 1966 | BUY

Air featuring Françoise Hardy: “Jeanne”
CD: Pop Romantique: French Pop Classics, 1999 | BUY

Today I’m turning the spotlight on one of my fave singers ever, Françoise Hardy. When Ms. Hardy entered the music scene in the early ’60s, she bust open the “girl singer” stereotype with aplomb. She wrote her own songs, professed an indifference to the music industry, and presented herself as a chic folk singer (minus the passivitiy). Folk trappings aside, many of her songs truly rocked — check the guitar solo on “Je Ne Suis Là Pour Personne” for proof. Three decades on, she still oozed the blasé as only the French can on her collaboration with Air (which first appeared on their “Sexy Boy” single in ’98). Cool, baby.

By the way, if anybody has an opinion about this stuff whatsoever, please please leave a comment. I’m new at this mp3 blogging thing want to know how this stuff is going over. Good or bad, let me know!

Gruesome Twosome: Nick and Val, Sittin’ in a Tree Edition

Diana Ross: “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You”
LP: Surrender, 1971

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: “Won’t It Be So Wonderful”
LP: Natural Resources, 1970 | BUY

On the menu today, a couple of later Motown efforts written and produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Nick and Val made for Diana Ross’ most sympathetic collaborators. The dramatic “Can’t Give Back The Love” (previously a failed single for Syreeta Wright) gave the DUI Diva one of her best performances, with Diana’s seductive speaking voice and shrieks matching the thrilling ebb and flow of the production. Martha Reeves’ joyous vocal on “Won’t It Be So Wonderful” is an undiscovered gem which was buried on one of the last Vandellas albums. Ashford and Simpson’s perky melodies were all about the optimism of love, even when the lyrics conveyed the opposite. Solid, solid as a rock, you might say.

Gruesome Twosome: Bad Santa Edition

Lenny Dee: “Mister Santa”
LP: Happy Holi-Dee, c.1961

Gisele MacKenzie: “Too Fat for the Chimney”
LP: Christmas with Gisele, 1957

These two frisky odes to Santa Claus came from a compilation I received five years ago from Vern Stoltz, author of the late thrifting ‘zine Cannot Become Obsolete. Organist Lenny Dee’s “Mr. Sandman” rewrite is utterly charming with a sparkling, Countrypolitain-style production (with The Anita Kerr singers on backup!). Frequent Jack Benny Show guest Gisele MacKenzie digs at Santa’s weight issues with the hilarious, hand-clappy “Too Fat for the Chimney”. Tunes like these make me want to head for the nearest Goodwill record bin, hoping to unearth a seasonal treasure (instead of the umpteenth beat-up copy of Firestone Wishes You A Merry Christmas). Basic Hip Digital Oddio has the entire Lenny Dee album available as an audio stream.