Tag Archives: 1971

Last call at The Exclusive Company

The sky was crying when I left work earlier today.

It was raining lightly as I headed out to go record digging at The Exclusive Company in Green Bay for the last time. But the sky was the only thing crying.

Today was a day for smiling and celebrating what’s been so great for so long.

It wasn’t so much that everything was 80% off. It was more about spending part of one more afternoon digging through records, savoring the vibe of the place and shooting the breeze with my friend Tom, who’s worked there since 1988 and who richly deserves all the love coming his way in these final days.

Almost empty record bins at The Exclusive Company record store in Green Bay, WI, June 30, 2022

As you’d expect, the bins are pretty well picked over after two months of a liquidation sale. The vinyl is almost gone. There’s one small row of new vinyl, probably fewer than 100 records. When someone grabs an LP off the new release wall — as I did today for the last time — Tom restocks it by grabbing a new LP at random from that small row and putting it up there.

Garland Records Pacific Northwest Pandora's Box LP cover

The last LP I grabbed off the new release wall is “Garland Records: Pacific Northwest Pandora’s Box,” a comp of mostly unreleased rock cuts from 1967 to the mid-’70s on Garland Records, a small label out of Salem, Oregon. Looks like fun, and it’s on royal blue vinyl! Here’s a sample.

As I dug through the CDs, I came across a bunch of familiar sights.

Hey, there’s Neil Diamond’s “Tap Root Manuscript,” one of the first records I ever bought 50 or so years ago. Hey, there’s “100 Days, 100 Nights,” the first new Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings record I ever bought. Hey, there’s one from a California group my friend Derek See played in 10 years ago (and I have that one on red vinyl.)

There are still a bunch of CDs left, but not so many that I can’t look through them all, and I found these.

Neal Francis In Plain Sight LP cover

Neal Francis is a Chicago singer-songwriter and keyboard player. He’s managed by Brendan O’Connell, whom I met a couple of times when he played keyboards and sang and wrote songs for The Right Now, a solid pop-soul group also from Chicago. My friend Bruce Warren at the mighty WXPN radio out of Philadelphia tipped me to this one.

“Can’t Stop The Rain,” Neal Francis, from “In Plain Sight,” 2021. Derek Trucks plays slide guitar on this one.

Inexplicably, there also were a bunch of Tony Joe White CDs. However, I already have a bunch of Tony Joe White records. Except this one.

Tony Joe White That On The Road Look Live LP cover

It’s a scorching, blistering, steaming, smoking live show from 1971, not released until 2010 and not seen by me until today. No one knows for sure where this show was. White thought maybe it was one of their opening gigs for Creedence Clearwater Revival in Europe, maybe at Royal Albert Hall in London. If so, then that was Sept. 27-28, 1971.

“Polk Salad Annie.” Tony Joe White, from “That On The Road Look ‘Live,'” recorded 1971, released 2010.

Yeah, I figured you wanted the 10-minute jam. “I had Mike Utley, Duck Dunn and Sammy Creason with me, and them boys was into it,” White said.

I left the rest of the cool Tony Joe White CDs for someone else to grab at 90% off. There’s still a day and a half left before that Exclusive Company groove runs out.

Exclusive Company record store closing signs, Green Bay, WI, June 30, 2022

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Filed under June 2022, Sounds

Reviews in review: ‘His lush gush’

Records in Review logo, Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 1972

50 years ago yesterday, on Sunday, Jan. 23, 1972, the CloseUp section of the Green Bay Press-Gazette carried record reviews, as it did almost every Sunday.

Some of the records reviewed on that day by free-lance writer David F. Wagner: “I Wrote a Simple Song” by Billy Preston, “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny, “Angel Delight” by Fairport Convention and “From the Witchwood” by Strawbs.

Billy Preston? “He jumped off soul’s deep end, and every cut here is overripe and out of hand.” Sandy Denny solo? “Not exactly stimulating.” Fairport Convention? “Few ideas of consequence.” Strawbs fares best. “The lyrics get a little pretentious at times, but … a pleasant combination of rock and English folk music.”

But I’m burying the lead here, and the lead item in the column was Wagner’s vaguely racist review of “Black Moses” and the “Shaft” soundtrack, both by Isaac Hayes. It’s astonishing that his editors deemed it suitable for print.

“WHAT is obvious to anyone moderately familiar with r&b through the years is that much of the soul of ‘soul music’ is self-indulgence; understandable in a musical format in which ‘form’ consistently overrides content.”

Hm.

“Enter Isaac Hayes … again. Friend or foe? Don’t answer that; after all, he’s the best Black Moses we have.”

Huh?

“Hayes’ recordings have been superfantastic sellers, presumably in the black community. True, he goes over extremely well in concert before the blacks and is a sex symbol for many sisters. But I suspect a good many honkies are buying his lush gush, too.”

GOOD LORD.

Here is an ill-informed white guy, 31 years old, writing for a white audience his age and older, at best trying to be edgy and at worst fancying himself a music critic on par with those in Rolling Stone.

“What he does is done well — except for the slight consideration that he can’t sing at all. It’s just that he is the epitome of corniness, black or white. He reads beautifully, but his narrations (better known as raps) are embarrassingly banal.”

Isaac Hayes, damned with faint praise. For what it’s worth, the Rolling Stone review of “Black Moses” — out the same week — had many of the same objections to Hayes’ vocal style.

Save for the most adventurous of them, Press-Gazette readers likely never heard anything by Isaac Hayes beyond “Theme from Shaft.” Wagner declared the “Shaft” soundtrack “the preferable product” because “it is mostly instrumental, so there are no raps and only a minority of bad singing.”

Anyone else feel like they need a shower? Let’s let Isaac Hayes wash over us for the next 19 minutes instead.

“Do Your Thing,” Isaac Hayes, from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971.

For those wondering, Mr. Wagner — by all accounts a good man who had a bad week in January 1972 — is no longer with us.

Here’s the review in its entirety, for those who wish to read more.

Green Bay Press-Gazette review of Isaac Hayes' "Black Moses" and "Shaft" soundtrack, Jan. 24, 1972

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Filed under January 2022, Sounds

Remembering the big man

On this New Year’s Day, here’s something that’ll make those of us of a certain age share a wistful smile at the memory.

The actor Victor Buono died 40 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1982.

The big man specialized in playing bad guys with big personalities. King Tut on “Batman,” a role he loved because he could overact and get away with it. Mr. Schubert on “Man From Atlantis.” Count Manzeppi on “The Wild Wild West.” Twice a murderer on “Perry Mason.” No, not Wo Fat but the thief Eric Damien on “Hawaii Five-O.”

But there was another side to Victor Buono.

On talk shows, he was a gifted storyteller who often recited his comic poems. The proof: 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” 14 appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” 10 appearances on “The Mike Douglas Show,” eight appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Here’s Victor Buono making one such appearance on “The Tonight Show” from 47 years ago today, New Year’s Day 1975. He shares some New Year’s resolutions, then riffs on a news story while sitting next to Johnny Carson.

(Oh, that clip going around with Betty White and Johnny Carson as Jane and Tarzan? Victor Buono was a guest on that show, too. It aired Aug. 14, 1981. It was his second-to-last talk show appearance and his last with Johnny.)

It’s been at least a decade since I found Victor Buono’s LP of comic poems.

Victor Buono "Heavy" LP

Here’s a wonderful cut from that.

“Fat Man’s Prayer,” Victor Buono, from “Heavy!” 1971. (Sharing a video here because my copy skips at one of the many good lines.)

Victor Buono always played and seemed older than he really was, perhaps because of his size. When this LP was released in 1971 — many of his most memorable TV and film performances already behind him — he was just 33. He was just 43 when he died of a heart attack at his California home.

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Filed under January 2022, Sounds

3 timeless Christmas wishes

The first wish

Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967.

In 1965, Charles Schulz started drawing Snoopy as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. But “it reached a point where war just didn’t seem funny,” he told biographer Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Even so, Snoopy and the Red Baron inspired this novelty Christmas song with explosions, gunfire and a solid message of hope that came as the Vietnam War escalated.

The second wish

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

"Someday at Christmas" LP by Stevie Wonder, 1967.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

My friend Derek reminded me of this one on Christmas Eve morning a couple of years ago. When Stevie sings of “men” throughout this one, songwriter Ron Miller clearly means everyone, of any age.

I have this cut on “A Motown Christmas” from 1973, a comp I’ve had since I was in college in the late ’70s. Back then, “A Festival Of Carols In Brass” by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble from 1967 was the only other Christmas record I had. Probably the next one was “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album” from 1968 — here’s some of that.

The third wish

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. I’d always had it on “Shaved Fish,” the 1975 compilation LP from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, until I found the single.

War is over, if you want it

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2021, Sounds

Satchmo, Irma and Christmas Eve

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day now more than 50 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. That LP is long out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971. Satchmo, gone 50 years now.

And now, we’re fulfilling another Christmas wish.

Fourteen years ago, when this blog was not even a year old, our new friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is, and Rob has long since become an old friend, so we cue up this one for Rob every Christmas Eve.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2021, Sounds