Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

B.J. Thomas Gets 2-Disc Scepter Re-Issue Thanks to Real Gone Music

4 Jul

Texas native B. J . Thomas had a great set of pipes — that most of us can agree upon.  He had a tremendously rich voice and a powerful upper range. His career started as a country crooner, reached its zenith via the pop artistry of Bacharach and David, and then returned to country stardom with hits like “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Yet I contend that his collaboration with producer Chips Moman, tunesmith Mark James, and his time spent in the American Recording Studio in Memphis yielded perhaps his most durable platters. All those singles were released on the Scepter label and all are thankfully included in this excellent new collection from Real Gone Music.

Elvis Presley struck vinyl gold at American — so did Neil Diamond. Chips Moman sure had the midas touch … that’s for certain. It helped having a guitar/sitar picker like Reggie Young, songwriters like Mark James and Spooner Oldham, and drummers like the mighty Gene Chrisman. After Thomas enjoyed some regional country success, the James’ composition “The Eyes of a New York Woman” really got the ball rolling for B.J. (charting #28 in 1968). That was soon followed by the classic “Hooked on a Feeling,” a James creation. “It’s Only Love” came next and crested at #45, although it deserved a much better fate. “Pass the Apple Eve” stalled out even further from the top of the charts and it seemed the run was just about over for Thomas.

Just as hope was fading, Burt Bacharach entered the picture and B.J. Thomas’ 1969 recording of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” became a certified worldwide smash.  “Everybody’s Out of Town” (1970) is vintage Bacharach-David and one of my personal favorites. Then came “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” another top ten hit — this one from the pens of the legendary Mann-Weill songwriting team. “Send My Picture to Scranton, PA” (1970) and “Long Ago Tomorrow” (1971) are two more Bacharach contributions not to be overlooked. And I still cannot believe that Mark James’ song “The Mask” did not fare better (it didn’t even chart — madness!).

Sure, some of the B-sides were clunkers. Shoot, some of the A-sides were too. But listening to them is half the fun with collections such as this. You’re not just enjoying a little music. You are listening to a talented artist trying to find his way. Or an singer attempting to live up to the promise of his previous smash. Or a genius producer, top notch session players, and a young vocalist creating a sound that remains branded in our collective mind some 4 decades later.   

From his 1966 recording of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” through his 1972 double-sided hit single “That’s What Friends Are For”/”Happier Than the Morning Sun,” B.J. Thomas enjoyed a string of hits rivaled by few artists of that time. And the fact that he did this on an indie label, Scepter, makes the achievement even more impressive. Various compilations of Thomas’ Scepter sides have come and gone. But Real Gone’s 44-track anthology is the first to offer A- and B-sides of every one of the artists’ Scepter singles, including his 19 hits. Many of the B-sides never appeared on albums. DJ/journalist Michael Ragogna wrote the notes, which feature quotes from Thomas.

Nashville’s Triple Threat Jerry Reed Enjoys New Life Thanks to Real Gone Music

26 May

JERRY REED

The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed

Nashville Underground

OK, folks. Let me begin by stating that this CD does not contain the radio hits “Amos Moses,’ “When You’re Hot You’re Hot,” “Ko-Ko Joe,” or “East Bound and Down.” So does this mean should immediately dismiss the new Jerry Reed release from Real Gone Music? Nope. Check that. Make it “Hell no!” Jerry Reed Hubbard was one talented cat, y’all. Master guitar picker. Cracker Jack sense of humor. Accomplished song writer. Starred in a few movies too (who can forget him as Burt Reynold’s sidekick in “Smokey and the Bandit”?).

Real Gone’s new CD covers 2 early Reed efforts (1967 & 1968) on the RCA label. RCA was riding high during those times – thanks in good measure to the production skills of legendary Chet Atkins and all the talented musicians and tunesmiths who called Nashville’s fabled RCA Studio B home. Reed spent some valuable time in that stable, but it soon became evident that this Georgia native had major star power.

Check out “Guitar Man” — you’ll dig it. Elvis did too. The King recorded it and it became a sizeable hit. Presley also tackled “U.S. Male,” another rockin’ track appearing on the original issue of “The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed.” Sure, a pretty wordy album title. But you must keep in mind that Jerry Reed was not exactly a man of few words. In fact, some of his recordings might even be called “Redneck Rap.” The old boy had a way with the King’s English, that’s for certain.

Reed’s nimble fingers get a 1:59 workout on his signature instrumental piece, “The Claw.” “Love Man” spotlight’s his undeniable Dixie-fried bravado, while a few Nashville Underground tracks like “A Thing Called Love” showcase Jerry’s softer side and actually tug at the heartstrings. Reed’s voice tended to take on a deeper tone when delivering this type of sentimental material. The song’s a keeper … as are cuts like “Fine on my Mind” and the raucous “Tupelo Mississippi Flash.” The latter tune is a fine example of Jerry Reed’s trademark sense of humor and gift of gab. Have a listen to this disc, hoss. We think it will, as Jerry used to say, “knock your hat in the creek.”

Two classic, late-‘60s albums from Jerry Reed, both of them never on CD before! The titles to these two records (his first two) really tell the tale; Jerry was an unbelievable guitarist and singer, and you can add songwriter to the list—at least Elvis thought so, as he covered both “Guitar Man” and “U.S. Male” from Unbelievable (and hired Jerry to play guitar on both)! Jerry returned the favor by writing an Elvis tribute song (“Tupelo Mississippi Flash”) on 1968’s Nashville Underground, which lives up to its title by presenting a revelatory blend of country, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, blue-eyed soul and even progressive pop.

Though Reed was a protégé of Chet Atkins, his eclectic taste and irrepressible personality—later on full display in the Smokey and the Bandit films—ensured that this record busted out of the countrypolitan mold that held sway in Nashville at the time. Both of these albums are must-listens for any alt-country and roots music fan, and Chris Morris contributes notes that place these two albums in context of Jerry’s incredible (and, to this day, underappreciated) career.

Featured Songs:

It Don’t Work That Way

Guitar Man

You’re Young and You’ll Forget

Woman Shy

I Feel for You

Take a Walk

Love Man

If I Promise

U.S. Male

Long Gone

If It Comes to That

The Claw

Remembering

A Thing Called Love

You Wouldn’t Know a Good Thing

Save Your Dreams

Almost Crazy

You’ve Been Cryin’ Again

Fine on My Mind

Tupelo Mississippi Flash

Wabash Cannonball

Hallelujah, I Love Her So

John Henry

Available May 29, 2012 Pre-Order Now!

Classic B.J. Thomas Re-Issues on Collector’s Choice

6 Jan

A grand total of 8 (count ‘em … eight!) BJ Thomas LPs have recently been re-issued on CD by the folks at Collector’s Choice. The recordings chronicle Billy Joe’s rise to fame during the 1960s and 1970s. Casual music fans surely remember Thomas as the Texas singer behind the original hits “Hooked on a Feeling” and, most importantly “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” The latter was a certified worldwide smash hit that was featured prominently in the classic film, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” However, fans digging a little deeper into BJ’s vault of recordings will be rewarded with several hidden gems. Of the 8 recent re-issues, the first 2 and the last two are perhaps the least inspired. The middle 4 LPs feature timeless pop and some of Thomas’ greatest performances on wax.  

The Sceptor LPs Young and In Love, On My Way, Raindrops, and Everybody’s Out of Town are lifted above the rest thanks to solid songwriting and tasteful instrumental backing. The bulk of the tunes are penned by masters like Burt Bacharach/Hal David and Mark James (writer of Suspicious Minds for Elvis Presley). Other contributors include the legendary Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Webb, and Joe South. Most of these tunes were recorded by producer Chips Moman at American Studios in Memphis — the setting for many famous hit recordings by the likes of Elvis, Neil Diamond, and countless others.  Sceptor LP SPS 582 “Everybody’s Out of Town” is the best of the lot with standout tracks like Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil’s “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” Mark James’ “The Mask,” Wayne Carson’s “Sandman,” and the Bacharach/David title cut. Frankly, there is not a weak track on the entire album. That was a rarity in a decade when LP’s were stuffed with quickly tossed together “filler.” This CD is essential for music buffs with an affinity for great singing & songsmiths at the top of their game.

B.J. Thomas (born Billy Joe Thomas) straddled the line between pop/rock and country, achieving success in both genres in the late ’60s and ’70s. At the beginning of his career, he leaned more heavily on rock & roll, but by the mid-’70s, he had turned to country music, becoming one of the most successful country-pop stars of the decade.

Thomas began singing while he was a child, performing in church. In his teens, he joined the Houston-based band the Triumphs, who released a number of independent singles that failed to gain any attention. For the group’s last single, Thomas and fellow Triumph member Mark Charron wrote “Billy and Sue,” which was another flop. After “Billy and Sue,” Thomas began a solo career, recording a version of Hank Williams’ standard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with producer Huey P. Meaux. Released by Scepter Records in early 1966, the single became an immediate hit, catapulting to number eight on the pop charts. Although he had a series of moderate follow-up hits, including a re-release of “Billy and Sue,” Thomas failed to reenter the Top Ten until 1968, when “Hooked on a Feeling” became a number-five, gold single. The following year, he scored his biggest hit with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” taken from the hit film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was followed by a string of soft rock hits in the next two years, including “Everybody’s Out of Town,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “No Love at All,” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” which featured guitarist Duane Eddy and the vocal group the Blossoms.

After “Rock and Roll Lullaby,” Scepter Records went out of business and B.J. Thomas headed to Paramount Records. At Paramount, Thomas had no hits, prompting the singer to pursue a new country-pop direction at ABC Records. “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” his first single for ABC, became his second number-one record on the pop charts, as well as establishing a country career for the vocalist. For the next decade, he continued to have hits on the country charts, with a couple of songs — most notably “Don’t Worry Baby” — crossing over into the pop charts. During this period, he switched record companies at a rapid pace, but it did nothing to slow the pace of his hits. Thomas hit his country peak in 1983 and 1984, when he had the number-one hits “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” and “New Looks From an Old Lover,” as well as the Top Ten hits “The Whole World’s in Love When You’re Lonely” and “Two Car Garage.” Throughout the ’80s, B.J. Thomas recorded a number of hit gospel records for Myrrh concurrently with his country hits.

At the end of the ’80s, the hits began to dry up for Thomas, but he continued to tour, and put out the occasional country and gospel record in the ’90s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Poll Names Queen of Soul Top Rock Belter

12 Nov

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Interesting poll results — can’t argue with Aretha leading the charge.

Ray Charles and Elvis Presley round out a solid Top 3.

Some will argue about Dylan cracking the Top 10.

Others may scratch their heads a bit at Lennon (a shouter) eclipsing McCartney (a crooner). Well, maybe I just answered that one for you. Let’s just say both were great in their own way and neither would have made it as big without the other’s competition. A review of their solo works (Paul gets the nod in my book) confirms that statement.  

Thoughts? Comments? Opinions?

I can’t wait to see the complete list.

Aretha Franklin greatest singer in rock era: Poll

She’s already the Queen of Soul, but now Aretha Franklin has been named the greatest singer of the rock era in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone magazine.

Franklin, 66, came in ahead of Ray Charles at No. 2, Elvis Presley at No. 3, Sam Cooke at No. 4 and John Lennon at No. 5, according to the magazine’s survey of 179 musicians, producers, Rolling Stone editors, and other music-industry insiders. The 100-strong list will be published on Friday, when Rolling Stone hits the newsstands with four different covers.

Aretha belts the Otis Redding tune, “Respect,” which Franklin made her own

The issue includes testimonials from musicians. R&B singer Mary J. Blige, for example, writes that Franklin is “the reason why women want to sing.” Former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, who was No. 15 on the list, describes Presley’s voice as “confident, insinuating and taking no prisoners.”

Besides Franklin, the only other living people in the top 10 were Bob Dylan at No. 7 and Stevie Wonder at No. 9. Marvin Gaye was No. 6, Otis Redding No. 8, and James Brown No. 10.

Other notables included Paul McCartney at No. 11, one place ahead of his idol, Little Richard; and Mick Jagger at No. 16, also one ahead of a key influence, Tina Turner. Among the top 25, 50-year-old Michael Jackson was the youngest, coming in at No. 25.

Voters included Metallica frontman James Hetfield, folk singers David Crosby and Yusuf Islam, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, punk rock veteran Iggy Pop and English pop star James Blunt. They each submitted their top 20 choices, and an accounting firm tabulated the results.

Elvis Performs Charlie Rich’s “I’m Coming Home”

23 Oct

This is a fun early 60′s track featuring some great Nashville musicians.

The interplay between Hank Garland’s guitar & the drumming is cool.

The montage features some rare pix of the King & his coiffed pompadour.

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