Tuesday, 31 October 2017

DICK JENSEN "THE WRITER" (1979)

Oh me, oh me
I hate the morning after the night before
I know I can't take it anymore
I know I've said it once or twice before
I hate the morning after the night before

These bloodshot eyes now realize
those Mai Tais were the devil in disguise
If I could only find a way to stop this pile-driving pain
I promise that I'd never, ever, do it again
Do it again, do it again

Do it again, do it again
Go ahead, do it again

Oh me, oh me
I hate the morning after the night before
I know I can't take it anymore
I know I've said it once or twice before
I hate the morning after the night before

I feel the crutch of Planter's Punch
Martinis are no substitute for lunch
If I could only find a way to get this pain to leave my brain
I promise that I'd never, ever, do it again
Do it again, do it again
Do it again

Do it again, do it again
C'mon, do it again

Oh me, oh me
I should have just stayed in bed...


[from the lyrics of "I Hate the Morning (After the Night Before)"]



Here we are at last, very close to the end of the loooong series of posts I dedicated to Dick Jensen since October 2011. A lot of visitors of this blog have been requesting "The Writer" so many times, but two facts prevented me from offering it until now.

First of all I had to find a decent copy of the album and that hasn't been an easy task, believe me. This record is usually quite expensive on the second-hand market and most of the copies come with an autograph / dedication on the front or back cover, and the cover itself often suffer from ring wear...

At last, some three years ago I was lucky enough to purchase a sealed and untouched beautiful copy, but another factor delayed the publication of this post: my love/obsession for Chronology. If you're a recurring visitor of this blog I'm sure that you noticed that it is something I really care about and I always try my best to post according to that.

So, my apologies to all who have been requesting this album for so long: if you've been patient until now, I am sure that you will be satisfied with my digitization and remastering of such a precious gem.

Next in line in the following months will be the "Honolulu Girls / On the Beach" 7" single, which was released in the early '80s. I've always thought that it was the last Dick Jensen music release but I was wrong: only a few months ago I discovered with my greatest surprise that in 1985 he also released "True Spirit of Aloha", a religious album which is mentioned on a couple of Hawaiian websites.

Unfortunately I never had a chance to see a copy available for sale and I don't even know how the cover looks like... Since I am not a religious person I must admit that I am not particularly interested into it, but the parasitic completist that lives inside of me will never be satisfied until he's able to buy a copy. If you read these lines and can help him, I'll be glad to forward him your message... (8-)

Ok, enough said, here come the usual biographical notes. If you enjoy this post (...and the album...) don't forget to let me know about it in the comment section, thank you!



Jensen was a live musical performer of the Rhythm and Blues, Soul, and Gospel genres. A native Hawaiian athletic song stylist and a prime mover of nightclub shows inspired by Little Richard, whose "white hot soul" electrified audiences with his belting voice and imposing physical performances.

Jensen earned the sobriquet "The Giant" because of his tall stature, but he had a talent to match that nickname. His signature on-stage style incorporated strenuous dance moves similar to those of Jackie Wilson; he was noted for his glide - a proto-Moonwalk - well before Michael Jackson made it fashionable; just have a look at this clip on YouTube.

Jensen's music career began in 1959 and during the next fifteen years he moved back and forth between the Continental U.S. and Hawaii several times. He soon established himself as a singer in the Islands and in 1965 he got a contract with Loma Records.

During the late '60s / early '70 he often performed at several hotels and casinos and guested on many TV shows. His first album, entitled "White Hot Soul" (...available here...) was released in late 1969.

His potential as a national mainstream recording artist resulted in a contract with Philadelphia International, one of the top Soul music labels of the early 1970s. His "Dick Jensen" album was released in early 1973, but unfortunately sales were low and Jensen's tenure with the legendary label was very short...

For a detailed biography of Dick Jensen covering his career up till the early '70s please have a look at this other post of mine: "Dick Jensen - An Entertainer Without a Hit Record (Part 1, 1942-1972)".


Dick Jensen as he appears on the back cover of "The Writer"

Jensen returned to Honolulu around 1974 or 1975 and quickly re-estabilished himself as a local showroom star with engagements at the Hula Hut and at the Empire Room on the Oceania Floating Restaurant; the latter was jammed night after night for eight years.

Jensen's signature number, a fanciful comic story about the Lone Ranger and Tonto in which he single-handedly created all the voices and sound effects, was always a highlight, and every bit as impressive as his singing, dancing and overall showmanship... You can catch a glimpse of this performance - and much more - in the tribute video available on YouTube.

So, what do you do if you're a first class performer, you've written new songs but you find yourself without a recording contract? For some reason Jensen thought the best option was to self-release his own fresh material on a private label created on purpose, the evocative Record Club of Honolulu.

Produced and arranged by Don Costa for his Don Costa Productions Inc., "Giant of Hawaii" (...available here...) was released sometimes in mid/late 1976. Around the same time, a single containing two cuts from the album, namely a mono version of "Cloudy Mornin'" on Side A and a stereo version of "Love Shack" on the flipside, also appeared. The single, whish was probably aimed at radio promotion and rarely shows up for sale nowadays, is available here.

In 1978 Jensen had a small part in a TV movie entitled "The Islander". I desperately tried to find a copy of this movie or at least more information about it, but all I could come up with is this short synopsis.

During 1979 Jensen worked on a new album with Bartolome 'Bart' Bascone, a veteran Island musician, conductor, composer and arranger best known for his novelty song "Who Is the Lolo (Who Stole My Pakalolo)", which Don Ho recorded and made a radio hit in 1977. On a side note, Bascone also released two albums of his own compositions which are quite worth investigating... But now let's move on to "The Writer".


"The Writer" contains the following tracks:

01. I Hate the Morning (After the Night Before) (3:24)
02. You Keep Turning Me On (3:06)
03. Windward Lady (3:32)
04. Wanna Get in Your Pants (6:12)
05. Our Last Aloha (5:19)
06. Better Slow Down (3:28)
07. Lady Love (3:28)
08. Kong Chiki Kong (3:50)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in October 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

Please have a look at the comments for the download link.



"The Writer" was probably released sometimes in late 1979 on Giant Records, which I strongly suspect was nothing else but another one-off label created by Dick Jensen, just like the previous Record Club of Honolulu. I lean toward the late 1979 release date because on the spine is written "(C) 1979 Giant Records", even if the catalogue number assigned to this album is GRS 1980. My opinion is that the album was printed at the end of 1979 but it was given that catalogue number to make it look more fresh when it was first marketed during the next months.

The record comes in a sober black and white sleeve. Both on the front and back, Jensen is portrayed with an acoustic guitar, wearing comfortable light-coloured clothes and sandals. The image on the front cover gives a sense of calmness and looks like it was printed on a canvas; more probably it is not a photograph, but a sketch based on a photograph or something like that. In the picture on the back cover we notice that Jensen is wearing a medallion. It looks like a lion, but since he was born under the Aries sign it could also be a ram. Whatever it is, I guess it was much important to him since it can be seen in many other pictures that date back to the late '60s, a lucky charm maybe...

The cover is in deep contrast with the one featured three years earlier on the previous LP. Even the choice of the album title looks more meditative. The message that I perceive is that, due to the fact that at the time Jensen was widely acknowledged both as a singer and a performer, he also wanted to be recognised as an author. Of course this is my personal interpretation and I could be completely wrong. As a matter of fact, the album featured almost solely songs that he had written (seven out of eight) and this was happening for the first time in a long career.

Anyway, including a contagious Disco track and a few other lively Soul and Funk numbers, the album is not completely laid-back as the cover would suggest... Just like for the previous "Giant of Hawaii", most of the copies of "The Writer" that are usually put up for sale on eBay or similar websites are signed with a big marker by Jensen himself and often come with dedications. This undoubtedly means that most copies of the album were sold directly to people at his live shows as a souvenir of the performance: Jensen probably took the time to have a word with the audience and sign his records after the show...


Dick Jensen 1969/1979: the medallion is still the same...

Side 1 opens with "I Hate the Morning (After the Night Before)", whose lyrics you can read at the top of the post. It is a simple number but it is probably significant for what concerns Jensen's habits at the time. Almost two decades in the show-business were starting to take their toll and The Giant was caught in between the need to lead a quieter existence and the temptations of nightlife.

"You Keep Turning Me On" is one of the most fascinating tracks on the album, and a work of class for sure. The gentle percussion underlayer keep the rhythm moving, while the string machine creates a compelling atmosphere. The phased female backing vocal are just the icing on the cake and there's not a single note too much in this perfect piece, great!

We keep sailing along with "Windward Lady", another piece that wouldn't have made a poor showing on an album that Jensen could have released on Philadelphia International if they didn't decide to drop him. As I wrote elsewhere, I can only imagine what he could have done if only the label had kept on supporting him. Although Jensen's voice was not deep and smooth as Lou Rawls', his late '70s releases come to mind. Here's the lyrics to this beautiful song which I'm pretty sure Jensen dedicated to his wife at that time:

Windward lady, she's a special lady
and she never lets me down
Windward lady, she's a special lady
with both feet on the ground

We leave two lives so differently
me and my music, her and the family
She keeps them strong, I sing my songs
that lady does no wrong

Windward lady, she's a special lady
and she never lets me down
Windward lady, she's a special lady
with both feet on the ground

Some days we share with family and friends
breaking bread together again
After all it is said and done
she's still number one

Windward lady, she's a special lady
and the world should know
she's the one, she's the only one
and I love her, and I love her so
I love her so, I love her so
I love her so, I love her so

She's a windward lady, she's a special lady
she's a windward lady, she's a special lady


"Wanna Get in Your Pants", the last track on Side 1 seems to have been recorded - or at least mixed - in a completely different manner than the rest of the album. The original mix was almost mono compared to the other tracks and I had to invest a lot of energies and time to come up with a version that is more coherent with them. Maybe a 12" single has been taken in consideration at a certain point, who knows... Anyway, I guess that the title says it all, this is a commercial Disco affair with repetitive and explicit lyrics that also offers long instrumental parts and breaks.



Side 2 starts with "Our Last Aloha", which is the only song included on the album that was not penned by Jensen himself. The music and lyrics for this number were written by Bart Bascone, who also co-produced "The Writer". The song was originally included on Bascone's debut LP entitled "Makapuu", which nowadays has become such a rarity. Luckily enough, South Korean label Big Pink Music has re-issued the album on CD in 2013 and copies can still be found for a decent price. For his version, Jensen has slightly changed some lines and has also added a short rappin' à la Isaac Hayes... Here's the lyrics of this song:

Aloha means 'I love you'
Aloha also means 'Goodbye'

Baby, I lost it a long time ago
that love I had for you
but I found the courage to tell you how I feel
and say what is really real

Maybe I should have left you all by yourself
to settle your mind without me
Too many times I just followed you around
swallowed all the pride I had

Baby, this is our last aloha
this is our last goodbye
this is our last aloha
the feeling has finally died

I treasured everything about you
'cause loving you, loving you, is all I ever knew
But baby, you just kept pushing me away
pushing me, until all I have to say is goodbye

This is our last aloha
this is our last goodbye
this is our last aloha
the feeling has finally died

Aloha
goodbye, goodbye
the feeling has finally died

Oh, this is our last aloha
this is our last goodbye
this is our last aloha
that feeling has finally died

This is our last aloha
this is our last goodbye
this is our last aloha


The album proceeds with "Better Slow Down", a song which is arranged and played in an almost Funky manner, with slapped bass and Clavinet in the background, sort of... I am not sure if I got the lyrics' meaning right - Jensen's voice is not that clear in this piece - but it may be about not running too fast in a new relationship or the need of a breath of air during a sexual intercourse which might end too soon or... who knows!

Once again, with "Lady Love" I can't help but think about the albums that Lou Rawls cut with Philadelphia International during the same period that Jensen self-released "Giant of Hawaii" and "The Writer". There's no justice in this world... Interestingly enough, a song with the same title was recorded by Rawls himself a couple of years earlier, uhm... Could it be that Jensen was somehow inspired by Rawls' original? Who knows... and who cares, because this is another example of perfection and for sure one of my favourites from the album. One of the best songs that The Giant has ever recorded and produced during his career, full stop.

The album closes with "Kong Chiki Kong", a piece which - according to the original liner notes - was inspired by Sammy Davis, Jr. who was befriended by Jensen back in the days of his tenure in Vegas during the late '60s / early '70s. The song is an uptempo number which feature the only electric guitar solo on the album.

To end this post, here's the original credits and personnel list as they're printed on the back cover of "The Writer":

Music and words by Dick Jensen, except "Our Last Aloha" by Bart Bascone.

Musicians include:
Kata Maduli - bass
John Rapoza - guitar
Glenn Goto - keyboards
Mike Kennedy - drums
Vernon Kalama - percussions

(Backing vocals and horn section are uncredited...)

Produced by Dick Jensen.
Co-produced by Bart Bascone.

Thanks to Sammy Davis, Jr. for inspiring "Kong Chiki Kong" and to Don Costa for the thought.

Thanks to my lovely wife, Judy, for giving me my space to do this album.


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!



















More information about Dick Jensen is available here:

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/06/22/news/story02.html

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2006/Jun/22/il/FP606220304.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20150905205717/http://www.oahuislandnews.com/May05/Home.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Jensen

I'm currently compiling a Dick Jensen biography, the first part of this work-in-progress covers the period 1942-1972 and is available here.

I'm also trying to compile a Dick Jensen exhaustive discography, my work-in-progress is available here.

Last but not least, I'm also trying to build a collection of Dick Jensen pictures and memorabilia, my work-in-progress is available here.

All my posts dedicated to Dick Jensen on this blog are available here.



If you have any other useful information about this post, or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

HEAT EXCHANGE "ONE STEP AHEAD" (1979)



Brian Lawrence Bennett was born in Palmers Green, North London, on February 8th, 1940. His interest in music dated from an early age, and as a small child he used to listen to radio broadcasts from the Aeolian Hall. Soon he was hooked on the sounds of Glenn Miller and the other Big Bands of the era.

He became fascinated by drums and percussion and lists Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and, especially, Buddy Rich as his early musical heroes. By 1953, Brian had saved up enough money to purchase a rudimentary drumkit and he practiced constantly. Before long he was performing regularly with his school orchestra and youth club big bands.

He began playing professionally even before he left school, with his own Tony Brian Trio and The Esquires Dance Band. He also began composing music and writing songs from the age of fourteen onwards.

Brian's initial background was in Jazz and Swing, but by 1956 - the year he left school at sixteen to play drums in a Ramsgate skiffle group performing for holiday makers - he was equally adept at playing Rock'n'Roll. «It wasn't originally by choice», recalled Brian, «but there were more and more jobs being offered and I didn't want to turn them down!».

A teenage prodigy, he became the house drummer at the legendary 2i's Cofee Bar - now known as the birthplace of British Rock'n'Roll - in London's Soho, backing artists like Tony Sheridan, Terry Dene, Vince Eager and Vince Taylor, and from there he earned a regular spot on the Jack Good's legendary TV music showcase Oh Boy!.

By 1959, Bennett was regarded as one of the top Rock & Roll drummers in England and one of the most sought-after percussionists around. That year he joined The Wildcats, the backing band of Rock & Roll singer Marty Wilde. He remained with Wilde for two years, also playing outside live gigs with stars such as Tommy Steele, and in 1960 he embarked on the legendary tour featuring Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Marty Wilde.

When Marty embarked upon a career in films and musicals, The Wildcats evolved into The Krew Kats and cut a brace of fine instrumentals, including a stunning version of Chet Atkins' "Trambone". After a brief stint as an orchestral pit drummer, in October of 1961 lightning struck for Bennett's career when Tony Meehan - then regarded as the top drummer in England - quit The Shadows, who were then the top Rock & Roll British band as well as the backing group for Cliff Richard, the top singer in the field.



The opening was one of the most coveted in the country - The Shadows were regularly topping the charts in their own right, and their concerts with Richard were riotous affairs, huge sell-outs in front of hordes of screaming fans across England - Bennett was offered the spot. He accepted and was with the group across a string of hit singles and albums, lasting through their intended official breakup in 1968, on the occasion of the group's tenth anniversary as a professional band.

His drumming talents were but one aspect of his monumental musical contribution to the band. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 tracks for them, as well as over 20 compositions for Cliff Richard... He also earned his first Ivor Novello award for composing the title theme to the movie "Summer Holiday", which starred Richard and the band - he also contributed songs to their subsequent movies, up through "Finders Keepers".

A favourite feature for the audience at any Shadows' concert was always his drum solo, with "Little B" - a must showcase for every Beat-Drummer in the pre-Beatles era - perhaps being the best known and highly regarded piece which has inspired countless drummers over the years and is still performed now by budding young drummers at Shadows' music clubs throughout the U.K.

Many drummers back then considered each new Shadows' record as a drum lesson - learning how to play the fills in classic tunes such as "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt" and "Foot Tapper".

In 1967 Bennett released his first solo LP exploring Jazz and Easy Listening territories with the aptly entitled "Change of Direction", which was followed in 1969 by "The Illustrated London Noise", a return to Rock and Funky music.

Following the 1968 "farewell" Shadows concert, he participated along with lead guitarist Hank Marvin and bassist John Rostill in the band's brief 1969 reunion for a tour of Japan.

By the early '70s Brian was a highly successful and much sought after session drummer working with a vast array of different artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Olivia Newton-John, Engelbert Humperdinck, Richard Harris, The Walker Brothers and many more.

With The Shadows on extended hiatus, Bennett turned to other areas of music. He'd already developed some insights into the mechanics of music through his work as a songwriter, and he took a correspondence course in arranging and orchestration that, when added to his natural ability as a composer, ended up reshaping his whole career. He'd always provided vocals on the Shadows' own recordings, and now he re-established his performing credentials on the piano as well as the vibraphone.

He became Cliff Richard's musical director and formed The Brian Bennett Orchestra touring the world including the first Western rock concerts performed in Russia. Even more important, amid the string of hit albums with Richard that followed, he also started writing music for movies / television and part of this huge load of work was published on many library records by specialized labels like KPM Music and Bruton Music.


Brian Bennett in his studio, circa late '70s

In 1977 he published his third proper solo album, "Rock Dreams", available here and credited to the Brian Bennett Band, which was followed the next year by "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", a Disco/Funk opus that was recently remastered and re-released on vinyl and digital download. 1979 was also a busy year for Bennett, who was commissioned a Disco album by EMI; the result was "One Step Ahead", the subject of this post, credited to the Heat Exchange project.

Later on, Brian developed yet another career composing music for films. During the '80s, he was awarded his second Ivor Novello award (for 25 years services to music) and wrote music for a wide range of programmes including "Dallas", "Knotts Landing", "Pulaski", The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer (!!!), the "BBC Golf" theme, "The Sweeney", Dennis Hopper's film "The American Way" and Ellen Barkin and David MacCallum's "Terminal Choice". In 1990, he won his third Ivor Novello award for Best Score For a Television Series (The Ruth Rendell Mysteries).

From the 1990s to 2000, he was in demand more than ever and he composed music for the long-running series "The Knock", "Nomads of the Wind", "Global Sunrise", "Living Britain", "Dirty Work", "David Jason In His Element" and Hansjörg Thurn's film "The Arpist".

In 2001 Bennett was the proud recipient of the Gold Badge Award given by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He also won the Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards 2000/2001 for Best Original Title Music for "Murder In Mind". In 2004 he was awarded an OBE and collected his award from The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

In 2009 and 2010 Cliff Richard and The Shadows embarked on a 50th anniversary tour with 36 shows in the U.K., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. More recently, Bennett wrote with his son, Warren, 24 episodes of the award-winning TV series "New Tricks". He also recorded and produced an album with Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

In 2015 he worked on a musical called "Soho" and the music for a production called "Starchild". His latest album, entitled "Shadowing John Barry - New Recordings for Guitar and Orchestra", was released in February 2016... Although he will always be associated with The Shadows, playing drums for them is merely one aspect of a glittering musical career.


"One Step Ahead" contains the following tracks:

01. You're Gonna Love This (7:07)
02. Shake Down (6:55)
03. Love Is the Reason (7:58)
04. One Step Ahead (6:25)
05. Check It Out (5:52)
06. Lost On You (7:04)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl and CD re-issue in September 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.



"One Step Ahead" was released in the U.K. by EMI with cat. number EMC 3306 sometimes in 1977. The album was also released on cassette with cat. number TC-EMC 3306 and spawned a 12" single that featured "Shake Down" b/w "You're Gonna Love This" (12EMI 2988); edited versions of the same tracks were also released as a 7" single (EMI 2988).

In 1994, the album was re-released on CD by See For Miles Records under their C-Five Records inprint. The booklet offers precious information about Bennett and the album. The original notes were compiled by Rob Bradford, the following is a slightly edited and updated version:

«In 1985 Brian Bennett was delighted when he was commissioned to provide the complete score for the film "Terminal Choice". «Basically», he remarks, «I got that job because it was financed and set up in America. To the Americans, I was just another composer and they judged my music purely on its own merits. That was great. No preconceptions, you see? The majority of Americans have never even heard of The Shadows». In conversation it's a theme he returns to over and over again. The dangers of being musically typecast or pigeonholed. He cites many instances where he feels that his music has been dismissed as out of hand. Something along the lines of: "Brian Bennett? Isn't he The Shadows' drummer? We're looking for a musician, a composer - not a drummer!" In actual fact, playing drums for The Shadows for almost thirty years is only one facet of Brian's immense musical talent. His contribution to The Shadows was monumental and he will always, inevitably, be associated with them. However, Brian's other musical ventures have been both numerous and varied and his output of music as a composer has been truly prodigious.

Brian was always much more than just a beat group drummer. He studied the violin and musical theory for many years and successfully completed a course on orchestral arranging. In 1967 he released "Change of Direction", thus making him the first Shad to release a solo album. It was to be the first of many such projects. During the '70s Brian became a top session drummer as well as beginning his prolific output of library, TV and film music.

Heat Exchange was a commission that Brian undertook in 1979. He'd heard that EMI were looking for an album in the style of the then current Funk / Disco craze. «It all sprang from the New York club scene,» recalls Brian, «The Bee Gees struck lucky with "Saturday Night Fever" and then everyone went disco crazy. But one of the true originators was a guy called Sylvester. He was my starting point.» Sylvester James, Jr. was the doyen of disco music singers; his biggest hits were "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)".



As ever, Brian assembled a talented team of musicians including: Rickie Hitchcock (guitar), Les Hurdle (bass) and Mike Moran (keyboards). The vocalist we are not at liberty to divulge. I can tell you that he was British and has had chart success in his own right... «Guaranteed anonynimity was one of the conditions he insisted upon. He only did it as a one-off, for the money. But, I have to say that he was utterly brilliant. I've a feeling that Cliff Hall was on some tracks as well. For "Shake Down", I got Chris Lawrence to play the bass line. He had a genuine, groovy, pumping funk-disco style. I'm no lyricist. I enlisted a guy called Dave Jordan. He and I were on the staff of ATV music. He was someone I knew from weekly team meetings. I also had a brass section on there. I was thinking of stuff like Earth, Wind & Fire... Isaac Hayes and so on. I'd go over the scores with them... make suggestions... while we were all sitting around with drinks. All very relaxed. I wanted a party atmosphere. Then, they'd just cut it... live in the studio... hit a groove. I was delighted with it. When the whole thing was completed, I took it to Stirling Sound Studios in Manhattan to get it cut and mastered, to achieve that big 'Tuff' sound. Another thing that's worth mentioning is that all the drumming and percussion is yours truly. By that I mean that there are no drum machines, drum boxes, samplers, synth drums or whatever. No effects at all.»

It certainly does sound remarkably authentic. So authentic that it would have surely been chart material if given to a 'name' disco act to cover. This wasn't pastiche, it was Brian composing in a definite style. I asked Brian if he was pleased with the end product, particularly with regard to its authentic Disco style. «I was quite pleased with it. As a composer, you should be able to adapt to any particular style. Very few people realised it was me. It had the words 'Produced by B.L. Bennett' somewhere on the sleeve, in very small print. That was deliberate. The reviews were great in that they said things like... 'A tight set obviously recorded by top New York session men.' Great. It just goes to show that some critics don't know who they're listening to, or what they're talking about!»


"One Step Ahead", original rejected front cover artwork reconstruction


My copy of the album contains some notes - handwritten by the previous owner on the Side 2 center label - about the musicians featured on the recordings. Some of them are confirmed by Bennett himself in the interview that is quoted on the 1994 CD re-release; unfortunately the name of the singer remains a mystery... The picture above is based upon a tiny image included on the booklet of the aforementioned CD album.

Here's the credits and personnel list of "One Step Ahead":

Les Hurdle: bass
Chris Lawrence: bass on "Shake Down"
Rickie Hitchcock: guitar
Mike Moran: keyboards
Cliff Hall: additional keyboards
Dave Lawson: additional keyboards
Frank Ricotti: percussion
Brian Bennett: drums
Vicky Brown: backing vocals

All songs by Brian Bennett, except "Lost On You" written by Brian Bennett and William Bennett.

Lyrics on "Shake Down", "Love Is the Reason" and "Check It Out" by Dave Jordan.

Arranged and produced by Brian Lawrence Bennett.

Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York.


Brian Bennett playing drums


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!














More information about Brian Bennett is available here:

https://www.discogs.com/artist/516363-Heat-Exchange

https://www.discogs.com/Heat-Exchange-One-Step-Ahead/master/617375

https://www.discogs.com/artist/108870-Brian-Bennett

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/brian_bennett

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Bennett_%28musician%29

http://www.brianbennettmusic.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p671Y__w8U

http://www.mikedolbear.co.uk/story.asp?StoryID=1449

http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Brian_Bennett.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/brian-bennett-mn0000621102

http://www.whosampled.com/Brian-Bennett/sampled/?sp=1


If you have any other useful information about Brian Bennett, Heat Exchange and "One Step Ahead" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

THE OVERTONES "SMOKE RINGS / HAWAIIAN HAZE" (1959) [featuring VINNIE BELL on guitar]



Here comes another chapter in my attempt to reconstruct Vinnie Bell's path in the recorded music industry before his first single and debut album were released in 1960.

The last time I treated you with "Silently b/w Barracuda", a 1958 single by The Gallahads (...still available here), now it's time to dedicate a post to the mysterious - at least for me - The Overtones and their "Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" 7" record released in 1959.

This single features Bell's guitar mastery and also credits him for co-writing one of the two instrumentals on offer.

For a detailed biography of Vinnie Bell, I suggest that you read this other post of mine.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any information about The Overtones... I am sure that some kind and gentle soul will come up with something relevant to fill the gap, thanks for your help as usual!




Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Smoke Rings (2:19)
02. Hawaiian Haze (3:01)

Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in June 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



"Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" was released by ABC-Paramount with catalogue number 45-10053 sometimes in late September / early October 1959. The copy in my possession comes in a plain white sleeve, but at the time of release it was probably offered in a company sleeve similar to the one that I tried to faithfully reconstruct as the opening image of this post.

Although the record was reviewed in the October 5, 1959, issue of Billboard - and also mentioned in an ABC-Paramount ad on the same magazine a few weeks later - I never happened to see any actual copy of the officially released version, just promotional items like the one I'm offering here... Chances are that this release is extremely rare, or that it never passed the promotional stage.



On Side A we find Vinnie Bell performing the lead part - on what sounds almost unmistakably like a steel guitar - in the smooth "Smoke Rings", a song written in 1932 by Jazz musician Gene Gifford and lyricist Ned Washington. In 1937 the tune became the radio theme song for the Casa Loma Orchestra, a popular American dance band; you can listen to this version here. Strangely enough, the Billboard ad points to «an unusual electronic harmonica solo» which is nowhere to be found...

Side B offers "Hawaiian Haze", a song written by Vinnie Bell (as Vincent Gambella, his birth name) and one Johnny Brown, which was copyrighted on "21 September 1959". In my opinion the flipside is as interesting as the main piece, with Bell probably overdubbing himself on various parts, including the mandolinlike main melody. Nowadays, the term "Hawaiian Haze" indicates a popular strain of Marijuana, I can't help to wonder if it had the same meaning back in the days when this instrumental was recorded...


Vinnie Bell in the early '60s


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered single, enjoy!






More information about "Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" and Vinnie Bell is available here:

https://www.discogs.com/Overtones-Smoke-Rings-Hawaiian-Haze/release/6884010

http://www.vinniebell.com/

http://www.spaceagepop.com/bell.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinnie_Bell

http://www.danguitars.com/VINCENT_BELL.html

https://www.discogs.com/artist/353572-Vinnie-Bell


If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Monday, 3 July 2017

RITA CHAO (凌雲) "HANKY PANKY" (1967)



Rita Chao, best known to her Mandarin-speaking fans as 凌雲 (…Ling Yun, Ling Ying or Seow Mei-Mei, depending on your preferred source of information…), was born in Singapore, probably sometimes in 1949 or early 1950; she grew up there, where she received her education.

Anyway, according to some reports, her family originated from the city of Hangzhou (杭州), which is located in the Zhejiang Province (浙江省) in Eastern China, not so far from Shanghai (上海).

Rita, the youngest of six children with three brothers and two sisters, started singing at the tender age of 8 and was already working as a singer and actress at 14. At school she was not very interested in her academic studies, instead she excelled with performance arts: singing and acting.

Luckily enough, she was born in a family of artists: her grandmother, Zhao Yongchun (趙永春), was a known Chinese Opera singer, and her mother Jing Yu Xian (荊玉仙) was a Chinese Opera singer too. Growing up in this environment allowed her to be familiar with life in the entertainment business, and helped to mentor her future career.

Her parents and relatives saw her potential as an artist quite soon, and decided to pull Rita out of school to follow the Opera troupe on their performances. Rita was given chances to perform Chinese Opera on stage and her performances were very good.

It is unclear when and where Rita embraced Pop music... However, at the end of 1965 - when she was just 15 - while touring Malaysia with her former group, she joined a band called Super XX.

In the meantime Zhao Yongchun, determined to turn her beloved granddaughter into a star, increased her vocal training, became her manager and successfully arranged for her to perform in various nightclubs in Singapore.

Rita was discovered on the local entertainment scene by Su Yin (舒雲), a.k.a. Henry Foo, a Singaporean singer, songwriter and lyricist, who at the time was also the A&R manager for the Chinese section at Columbia / EMI.

In 1966 she was signed by the label and released her very first 7" EP. On this record, she was paired with the top guitar band from Singapore, The Quests. The EP sold over 50.000 copies, and for Rita it was instant stardom.

During those days Rita met Sakura Teng (櫻花). As the story goes, Sakura was already a star singing at various Cabarets throughout South East Asia. On one occasion before going on stage, Sakura and Rita were backstage talking; they instantly clicked and started singing together. Sakura thought they had a very distinctive sound and that night she decided to add a segment to the show in which they would sing a duet. Obviously, they received a stunning reaction from the public and decided to join forces...

Well, probably that is just the romantic version of the story...: since both singers were doing quite well, it is an easy guess that EMI felt that pairing them would give both their careers a boost. In 1967 Rita and Sakura began performing as a double act and constantly toured Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, building a fan base at each port of call.



During her heyday Rita Chao recorded many great Mandarin covers of popular English songs and she was part of the pioneers who launched the Rock Movement in Singapore. Along with Sakura, they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties"; in those days, they used to perform at the now defunct New World Amusement Park and they both lived in Jalan Besar.

Rita's career lasted about ten years. In 1975, when her last solo album was released, she declared in an interview that she was about to make a movie in Hong Kong and that she was tired of singing all the time... In 1980-81 she briefly returned on the scene releasing two albums with Sakura, just before disappearing completely.

For more than three decades there has been no news about her in the media, only during recent years unconfirmed information appeared on the Internet that she may have been suffering from a psychiatric illness that required long-term treatment.

In early February 2015 the news about her death spreaded: Rita's 90-years-old mother confirmed that the former singer passed away in July 2014; she has been suffering from colon cancer for about three years when she died at the Singapore General Hospital surrounded by her mother, brothers and sisters. Her ashes were scattered at sea after a short wake and funeral attended by family and friends. The family did not inform show business friends as they wanted the past to be forgotten...

Most of the information included in this post was translated by our best friend Brian (...thank you!!!) from a rare article found in the May 19, 1970 edition of "Hong Kong TV Magazine" available in this post on the great macaenese5354 blog.

I am also in debt with Joseph C. Pereira, whose books "Apache Over Singapore" and "Beyond the Tea Dance" are a constant and invaluable source of information and inspiration, thanks!!!


Here's the track list for this 7" EP:

01. Hanky Panky (3:11)
02. 薄情郎 (He's Untrue) (3:24)
03. 去年今天 (Lonely Heart) (3:36)
04. 媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy) (2:07)

All tracks were remastered from vinyl in June 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



"Hanky Panky" was released by EMI /Columbia in Singapore sometimes during 1967. It is one of the most sought after Rita Chao EPs, and therefore one of the most expensive. As far as I know, two different editions of this record exist: the main difference between them is the background colour of the front cover, which is available in blue (here) and purple (the copy on offer in this post); the back cover also uses some different colours for the lettering and the label's logo. Once again, the backing band duties are performed by The Quests and all numbers were also included on Rita's debut album. Now let's have a closer look at each track.

Side 1 opens with the title track "Hanky Panky", a song written in 1963 by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. It was famously remade by rock group Tommy James and the Shondells, who took it to No. 1 in the United States in 1966. On this version, The Quests add their trademark guitar sound and wild drumming, turning Rita's performance in a Garage classic. Here's a link to The Raindrops' original version.

I wasn't able to find any information about "薄情郎 (He's Untrue)", I would believe that it is an original composition, but the presence of a Mandarin + English title seems to prove the contrary... Maybe some reader of this blog can shed some light on the subject? Anyway, this track features Reggie Vergese in top form offering a great performance on acoustic guitar, including a mandolin-style solo.



Side 2 starts with "去年今天 (Lonely Heart)", a Mandarin cover of The Thunderbirds' "My Lonely Heart", one of the most popular original compositions in the history of Singapore Pop Music, which was written in 1966 by Harvey Fitzgerald - the band's lead singer - and Gerry Pasqual, their manager. The magic of the original version is reinforced by Rita's memorable performance and the evocative Mandarin lyrics would send shivers down the spine of the coldest human on Earth. This is a M-A-S-T-E-R-P-I-E-C-E!!!

"媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy)", the last track on the EP, is a cover of a song written by Cliff Richard and Bruce Welch. Originally performed by Cliff Richard with musical accompaniment by The Shadows in 1963, it was also included on the successful movie "Summer Holidays".


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered EP, enjoy!










More information about Rita Chao is available here:

http://www.discogs.com/artist/385494-Rita-Chao

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/rita_chao_and_sakura

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25610568.html

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25707290.html

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/rita-chao-%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2/

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/sakura-rita-duet-%E6%AB%BB%E8%8A%B1-%E6%B7%A9%E9%9B%B2/

http://illfolks.blogspot.com/2014/04/rita-chao-chaod-mary-proud-mary-in.html

http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/2008/07/rita-chao.html

http://www.tofu-magazine.net/newVersion/pages/gogo.html

http://www.smartshanghai.com/articles/nightlife/music-tuesday-far-out-east-2

http://singapore60smusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/rita-chao-pop-go-go-for-william-dad.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Singapore

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dk_gilbert/sets/72157625310673913

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.chao.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.lp.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/sakura.rita.chao.html

http://women.asiaone.com/women/people/agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/a-go-go-queen-rita-chao-dies-of-colon-cancer

http://www.lollipop.sg/content/partner-shocked-news-agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago



I'm still struggling to find somebody who can help me with translations:

if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com
or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

JIMI TENOR AND HIS SHAMANS "FIGHT / CRISIS" (1989)



Jimi Tenor was born in 1965 as Lassi O. T. Lehto in Lahti, Finland. The resemblance to the youngest member of The Osmonds, Little Jimmy Osmond, earned him his nickname of Jimi in the early '70s.

Just like his older brother Marko, Jimi had a passion for music. He studied for many years at a music institute and can play flute, piano and saxophone; his skills were further implemented by his work experience as the saxophone player for various bands.

At 16 he was the youngest member of Pallosalama (Thunderball), an orchestra which used to tour Finland with a sort of Saturday night dance shows for older people. This act was very popular then and also appeared on the Syksyn Sävel (Melody of Autumn), a song contest on Finnish Television.

Later on he was part of the Pop-Rock group Himo (Lust) as a saxophone and keyboards player. In 1986 the band gained some success in the Finnish Rock Championships and released a self-titled album along with a few singles on the Amulet and Cityboy labels. Tenor was also responsible for the music and lyrics of a couple of the band's songs.

Other groups in which Jimi was involved in the mid-80s include The Cherry Pickers, Iloinen Poika Milloin (Happy Boy When) - a band founded by his brother - and... Shaman!



Jimi Tenor and His Shamans were founded during 1986; this new project was an experimental evolution of the more ordinary Rock band Shaman. At the time, Tenor had recently discovered the Industrial sound of Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept., and - as a twist of fate - had accepted a new job in a mayonnaise factory.

The group consisted of Ilkka Mattila (guitar), Toni Kuusisto (bass) Niklas Häggblom (trumpet), and Enver Hoxha (real name Hannu Mäkelä, atonal alt bass), with Tero Kling playing drums as an added member. Jimi was the lead singer, played tenor saxophone and - just like all the other members of the band - banged on empty oil barrels, a trademark of their sound both in studio and live.

Matti Knaapi, a graphic designer and inventor, allowed the band to embrace a more experimental sound helping Jimi to create special equipment in the form of self-built musical instruments bearing names like Vera (an automatic trombone), Sirkka (a man-sized mechanical drum machine), Melukone (a noise machine) and The Liberace (a peculiar-looking stainless steel object which is hard to describe).

In late 1987, after a series of concerts in Finland, Jimi Tenor and His Shamans debuted with their first single. "X-Rays / Still In Love" was released by the band on their own JTS / Shamans label with catalogue number JTS 2001, probably a reference to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odissey" since the catalogue numbers of the other releases of their label hint at various science fiction movies and books.


Jimi Tenor performing live with the Shamans, 1988

As the band's popularity grew, their second single "Closer / Some Fun" was published in early 1988 by Euros Records, which - according to the relevant Discogs entry - was a Finnish label specialised in Rock music active from 1983 until the early '90s.

In early 1988 Euros also released "Total Capacity of 216,5 Litres", the band's debut album. Entitled after the peculiar characteristic of the beloved barrels which most of the band members used to play both live and in the studio, the record offered eleven tracks that showcased the Shamans' ability at combining Industrial paraphernalia with more accessible elements, and included a few numbers that wouldn't have made a poor showing in one of the albums that Jimi Tenor released at the beginning of his solo career during the mid '90s.

The following year Sonic Records expressed their interest about releasing a Shamans single, but something went wrong along the way and "Fight / Crisis" - the subject of this post - ended up being self-produced by the group sometime in 1989.


Jimi Tenor, circa 1989


Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Fight (3:48)
02. Crisis (3:46)

Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in May 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



As already mentioned, this single was originally planned as a Sonic Records release, but it looks like the band disagreed with the label about the publishing schedule at the time the record was supposed to be pressed, so they decided to self-release it. Despite the 'JTS 2010' catalogue number on the cover, the engraving 'Sonic-4' survived among the end grooves of the record itself.

Some copies of the single - including the one that is offered in this post - came in a transparent plastic sleeve with simple black and white photocopied cover/insert, other copies didn't have any kind of artwork except the center labels. Despite the title "Crisis" comes first on the cover, the actual Side A is identified as "Fight" by the catalogue number 'Sonic-4-A' in the end grooves. By the way, there's no actual mention of Jimi Tenor on the cover, only the word 'Shamans'...



"Fight" is a fast song with a circular and obsessive structure, where assorted percussion and simple bass lines keep on repeating the same patterns. Vocals are delivered in a mantric style, urging the listener to 'fight for survival'... All instruments are played in a percussive way, except the horns which provide melodic lines and also offer short bridges in the completely instrumental second part.

"Crisis" is a slower number with a more complex and balanced arrangement. The instrumental build-up in the first section in a fine example of perfection and Ilkka Mattila's reverbered guitar short solo deserves a special mention. This is a love song and the lyrics express the need to split up when a relation goes wrong, but also the fear of the uncertainty that's coming next...

Here's the credits and personnel list for these recordings as elaborated from the photocopied insert included with the record:

Jimi Tenor (Lassi Lehto) - saxophone, voice
Enver Hoxna (Hannu Mäkelä) - atonal alt bass
Toni Kuusisto - bass
Tero Kling - drums, barrels, voice
Ilkka Mattila - guitar
Niklas Häggblom - trumpet, voice


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered single, enjoy!






More information about Jimi Tenor is available here:

http://www.jimitenor.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimi_Tenor

http://www.discogs.com/artist/952-Jimi-Tenor

http://www.discogs.com/artist/136250-Jimi-Tenor-And-His-Shamans

http://www.phinnweb.org/tenor/history.html

http://www.phinnweb.org/tenor/discography/shamans.html

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/jimi_tenor_and_his_shamans

http://creativegames.org.uk/modules/Art_Technology/Futurism/Tenorvision_gear.htm


If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

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