CoEd Records – Great Doo Wop Reissues From Omnivore Recordings

The Crests  – The Best of the Crests Featuring Johnny Mastro (Omnivore)

The Duprees – The Coed Singles (Omnivore)

The Duprees – The Coed Albums (Omnivore)

The Rivieras – The Coed Singles (Omnivore)

Adam Wade – The Coed Albums (Omnivore)

This fantastic music is back in print – sounding better than ever

Doo Wop is hallowed music.  Mostly issued on small, independent record labels, original copies of this genre continue to trade hands for top dollar.  And, enthusiasts are very picky when it comes to reissues.  Never fear, Omnivore Recordings has just signed a deal with one such label, Coed Records out of New York – home to artists like the Crests, Duprees and Rivieras.

Omnivore has built a reputation for doing things right, and this is no exception.  For the Duprees and Adam Wade, there are sets that compile a pair of albums by each, while the Crests set is a straight reissue of a classic, “best of” from back in the day.  And, the sound quality and liner notes are phenomenal.  No matter which one you choose, if you’re a fan of Doo Wop, you’ll be impressed.

Our favorite here is 16 Fabulous Hits from the Crests, who weren’t the first racially integrated group, but they were one of the first to have big success.  Led by Johnny Mastro, of Italian-American descent, he was joined by African American first tenor Talmadge “Tommy” Gough and bass singer J.T. Carterand second tenor Harold “Chico” Torres, who was of Puerto Rican heritage.

Of the 16 tracks, only their cover of the Penguins’ classic “Earth Angel” was not included on one of the groups many Coed singles.  The running order keeps things interesting, interspersing sweet ballads with more upbeat material.  “16 Candles” was certainly their most enduring hit, peaking nationally at #2 on the Billboard charts.  However, “Step By Step” cracked the Top 20 and should be familiar to any oldies fan, while “Six Nights a Week” and “The Angels Listened In” are both considered Doo Wop classics.

But there’s still more to this one.  “Flower of Love” is a great number about a fickle young girl, while “Always You” really shows off Mastro’s vocal prowess (listen how he sings “forever more”).  

Of the other sets, there’s plenty to love too.  One of the original owners of CoEd was George Paxton, who was more of a fan of the big band/standards era that came before rock n’ roll.  So, you get a fair amount of that material mixed in too.  The Duprees’ do a clever reworking of “As Time Goes By,” while the Rivieras (not to be confused with the later group that did “California Sun”), do an interesting cover of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” while Adam Wade’s set is full of standards like “Tenderly” and “Witchcraft,” but man, he had a great voice!

Never one to rest on their laurels, Omnivore enlisted Michael Graves to do the mastering on all the sets and he’s ensured that these treasured tracks sound the best they’ve ever sounded.  Take, for instance, “16 Candles” by the Crests – it’s always had a certain muffled quality to every version out there.  Here, the track is crystal clear.  There’s tape hiss on even Ace’s Golden Age of Rock n’ Roll series versions of “You Belong to Me” and “My Own True Love” from the Duprees.  Here, they’ve managed to isolate that hiss and remove it for even more fidelity.

Word is, there’s more to come from the CoEd vaults, so Doo Wop fans, stay tuned!  —Tony Peters

360 – Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown says he “Ain’t Done Yet”

Savoy Brown, photo by Juan Junco

Savoy Brown, one of the last of the original British blues bands. led by guitarist Kim Simmonds. Formed in 1965, the band has been through numerous lineup changes, with former members going on to be in Fleetwood Mac, UFO, King Crimson, Foghat and others.  The one constant has been Simmonds, who is showing no signs of slowing down. Hot on the heels of the critically-acclaimed album City Night from last year, the band returns with their 41st long player, appropriately titled Ain’t Done Yet.  Full of multi-layered guitars and the blues rock that Simmonds perfected decades ago.

He tells us why he decided to layer up the guitars on this album and the stories behind the songs.  Plus, interesting tidbits on how he chooses which guitar to play on each song and how he puts together demos.  Surprisingly, he also tells us good things that will come of the recent pandemic.

359 – The Kings – Rare Footage of the Heatwave Festival 1980, Bob Ezrin & “Switchin’ to Glide.”

The Kings blasted out of Ontario in 1980 with the one-two punch of “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide,” which became a weekend anthem for a large part of both Canada & the US.  The parent album, The Kings Are Here, came out on Elektra and was produced by the great Bob Ezrin, who helmed classic records by Alice Cooper, Kiss and Pink Floyd. 

Right as all of that was happening in the States, the Kings played to one of their largest crowds back in their native Canada at the Heatwave Festival.  Known as the Punk and New Wave Woodstock, the outdoor concert boasted a crowd at around 100,000 people, and featured a bulletproof lineup of Talking Heads, B-52’s, the Pretenders, Rockpile, Elvis Costello and – the Kings, who closed the night at around midnight. 

40 years later, this historic performance is finally being made available through the band’s Youtube channel, thekingsarehere. We talk with singer/bassist David Diamond and guitarist Mr. Zero from the Mercedes!

They talk about the painstaking process that went in to the restoration of this historic video. Plus, they tell the stories of how they got hooked up with producer Ezrin and how “This Beat Goes On” / “Switchin’ to Glide” became a surprise hit.

358 – Talking Doo Wop and Little Richard with Cheryl of Omnivore Recordings

Cheryl Pawelski is one of the founders of Omnivore Recordings – since 2010 they’ve issued over 400 releases, including archival albums from the Beach Boys, Big Star, Gene Clark, Lone Justice, Jellyfish, the Raspberries, Buck Owens, the Knack, the Staple Singers and NRBQ, just to name a few.  From their website description, the label says that their releases contribute to “the ongoing conversation between artists and their audiences.” 

Cheryl won a Grammy for Best Historical Album in 2014 for Hank Williams – The Garden Spot Programs, 1950, and has been nominated for several others.  Omnivore has just signed a deal for the rights to reissue music from CoEd Records, one of the legendary labels of the doo wop era, featuring The Duprees, The Crests, The Rivieras, Adam Wade and others.

Cheryl provided much of the original artwork of these classic releases from her personal collection. We chat how her label acquired the rights to this hallowed material. Besides doo wop, we also chat upcoming releases from Little Richard and NRBQ.

Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky – Please Leave Your Light On (review)

Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky – Please Leave Your Light On (Gawdaggie/Cooking Vinyl)

Forever restless, the underrated Aussie songwriter teams with a piano great for an inviting walk through his extensive catalog

The first word that comes to mind when I hear Paul Kelly is warmth.  There’s something real, honest, and inviting to his music.  With chaos surrounding us, we could all use a little of those traits to soothe our souls.  

The Australian songwriter has been on a hot streak for several years now, releasing a string of fine albums – everything from an electric soul album, to a record where he put music to the poetry of Shakespeare – all of that conveys an artist that is always searching for his next muse.

Throughout his long career, Kelly has mainly used the guitar as the instrument to embody his songs.  With his latest release, Please Leave Your Light On, he joins pianist Paul Grabowsky for a journey through his catalog, with just Kelly’s voice and Grabowsky’s piano.  The pianist has often been compared to the great Bill Evans, who was known for his innate melodicism.  He truly is the perfect companion to breathe new life into Kelly’s songs.

The album opens with “True to You,” the only Kelly composition not to appear on a previous record;  its chord progression and gentle pace harken back to the Great American Songbook.  That’s followed by a reworking of “Petrichor” from 2017’s Life is Fine – while the original has a yearning quality with its steel guitar accompaniment, this new rendition seems less tethered to the ground, giving it an ethereal essence not present in the original.

Ditto for “When a Woman Loves a Man,” a fantastic track off of 2012’s Spring and Fall.  In Grabowski’s hands, he composes this gorgeous intro that just sets up the lyrics perfectly – comparing the two, the new one just gives me chills.

“Sonnet 138,” originally from his 2016 project pairing his melodies with the words of Shakespeare, the song goes from an acoustic blues number to one resembling a Tin Pan Alley tune. 

“Young Lovers” becomes gentle, playful fun, while “You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed” is another track that just gets elevated by the gorgeous playing of Grabowski.  “Winter Coat” is one of the few songs that originally had a piano on it, but in this stripped-down setting, the lyrics are pushed to the forefront. 

In addition to all of these original Kelly compositions, he does tackle “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” the old Cole Porter song, which has been done from everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Carly Simon.  

For those wanting even more Paul Kelly – he’s also just issued Forty Days, a collection of stripped numbers done with just voice and guitar while in quarantine.

Paul Kelly has been making music for over four decades – yet he never seems happy to rest on his laurels or past successes.  Please Leave Your Light On is another example of the artist stretching out and delivering a fantastic album.  In a time of great turmoil, this collection of songs offer not only comfort, but hope that we’ll all get out of this in one piece.  —Tony Peters

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (50th anniversary) (review)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (Craft Recordings)

CCR’s best album celebrates 50

1969 had been a whirlwind year for Creedence Clearwater Revival.  The band issued an amazing three studio albums in just twelve months, yielding four Top Five singles, all the while touring the country (including a historic performance at the Woodstock Festival in August of that year).  No one would’ve faulted them for taking some time off.  Yet, the best was yet to come.

Cosmo’s Factory, the band’s fifth album, is also their best-selling, being certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.  Craft Recordings has just issued a half speed mastered version of the original LP on vinyl, as well as providing a remastered digital version to streaming services.

By the time this album came out in July of 1970, four of the eleven tracks had already been issued as double-sided singles: the furious but brief “Travelin’ Band” backed with the ode to soggy Woodstock “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and one of their best rockers “Up Around the Bend” backed with the spooky, Vietnam anthem “Run Through the Jungle.”  The album would go onto yield another big hit in the good timey “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” backed with the soulfully twangy ballad “Long as I Can See the Light.”

On the surface, Cosmo’s Factory looks like an album filled with…er, filler.  Four of the eleven tracks were covers – one being the longest studio track the band ever put to tape, an acid rock swamp romp through Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which clocked in at just over eleven minutes!  Add in the album’s psychedelic but sprawling opener, “Ramble Tamble,” and you might think they were just stalling.

Yet, all the cover songs work – Roy Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby,” Elvis’ “My Baby Left Me,” and Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” are all faithful, yet spirited covers, while “Grapevine,” although certainly too long, is still an interesting reworking of the song.  While the band attempted long jams on many of their albums, “Ramble Tamble” builds in a way to keep things interesting throughout.

You could say Cosmo’s Factory showed off the versatility of the group.  Two minute hits rubbing shoulders with 11-minute freakouts, hard rockers, country sing a longs, acid-induced eerie tracks, all present in this fantastic album which featured arguably the finest collection of John Fogerty originals on one album.  CCR would never again soar to these heights.  —Tony Peters

Soul singer Eddie Floyd’s new autobiography is a real page-turner

Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood – My Life in Soul – Eddie Floyd with Tony Fletcher (BMG Books)

One of the most interesting music biographies I’ve read in a very long time

Eddie Floyd is best known for his 1966 soul hit “Knock on Wood,” which also got covered by Amii Stewart in a disco version in 1979.  But, as we find out from Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood, his new autobiography, he’s had a front-seat view of soul music, from its humble beginnings to its present day revival.

Floyd was signed to the legendary Stax Records and had success both as a solo artist with songs like “Raise Your Hand,” “I’ve Never Found a Girl,” “Big Bird,” and the aforementioned “Knock on Wood,” and as a songwriter, penning Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789,” and “99 1/2 Won’t Do,” as well as countless others.  

The thing I really like about Floyd is that this book is about the music.  He was at the center of one of the most successful R&B labels of all time, yet doesn’t dwell on the negatives.  Sure, we still get glimpses of just how crazy Wilson Pickett or how eccentric Isaac Hayes really were, but he tends to give the information and let the reader make their own inference.  

Interacting with Hayes, Pickett, along with Otis Redding, Booker T & the MG’s, Carla & Rufus Thomas, William Bell and the Staple Singers would certainly lend Floyd enough credibility for a book’s worth of material.  But there’s so much more to his story.  His early misadventures and subsequent time in reform school are painted not with regret, but with gratitude for the opportunity to start over, and to introduce him to performing.  

Once released, Floyd had a desire to do music, moving to Detroit, and hooking up with his uncle, Robert West.  Oh, one of his uncle’s good friends just happened to be Berry Gordy, Jr – this gave Floyd the opportunity to witness the birth of Motown.  Floyd was also a member of one of the first racially-integrated doo wop groups, the Falcons, who had the classic “You’re So Fine.” That combo also saw the arrival of Pickett, who showed up cocky and never let down his entire career.

After the demise of the Falcons, Floyd went solo and was able to share the stage with the likes of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and James Brown.  There’s also a great story about how he met Carla Thomas, while both were living in Washington, DC, before they both relocated to Memphis.

His account of the ups and downs of Stax Records are worth the price alone.  How the label got totally screwed by the bigger and more legal savvy Atlantic Records is truly one of the ugliest tales in all of music.  The fact that Stax survived and managed to soar to even bigger heights for several years after that is a testament to the spirit of the artists involved, including Floyd.  

Another highlight is Floyd’s stories of the Blues Brothers Band, which helped reignite interest in classic soul.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how conversational the text is.  Floyd really tells his story in a way a friend sitting on the backporch with a glass of your favorite beverage might.  He’s done a great deal with his long musical career, yet he always seems humble and thankful for the people surrounding him that helped make it all possible.

Those looking for a tell-all book full of scintillating gossip are going to be disappointed.  What Eddie Floyd gives us is a glimpse of what it’s been like living a long life as an acclaimed songwriter and performer of one of America’s greatest art forms – soul.  If you’re a fan of soul, this book is a must.  —Tony Peters

357 – Doug “Cosmo” Clifford – CCR Drummer Discovers Lost Solo Album

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was the drummer for the legendary band, Creedence Clearwater Revival – recording seven studio albums, and charting 12 songs in the Top 40, many like “Proud Mary” and “Fortunate Son,” woven into the fabric of our American culture.  He helped keep that music alive in the concert scene with bassist Stu Cook in Creedence Clearwater Revisited – a band that just hung up their shoes last year. 

With a little extra time on his hands, Clifford did some spring cleaning and came across a stack of tapes that he’d forgotten about – among them a solo album that he recorded back in 1985, but never released called Magic Window.  Now, 35 years later, that record is finally getting its release.

We chat about the early beginnings of CCR, what a crazy year 1969 was for the band (3 albums and a historic performance at Woodstock), and how some of his musical buddies have been holding up during this pandemic.

Allman Brothers’ Formative Years Explored on 4 Reissues From ABB Records

When the Allman Brothers Band’s debut album arrived in 1969, it sounded like nothing else – an amalgamation of southern blues, hippie rock and jazz improvisation.  But brothers Duane and Gregg had been honing their craft for years before, perfecting this blend of disparate styles.  Four albums from Allman Brothers Band Records reveal their road to greatness – through experimentation and detours.  Each is making their digital debut.

Allman Joys – Early Allman

This is the brothers’ earliest recordings, dating back to 1966, when Duane and Gregg were fresh out of high school.  “Gotta Get Away” is an excellent slice of driving, garage rock, with Duane on distorted guitar, but Gregg is so young, you can’t even tell it’s him.  “Oh John,” another original, is kind odd with its strange chord changes and keyboard sounds.  It was actually recorded at the legendary Bradley’s Barn!  “Street Singer” a Roy Acuff composition, is slow but interesting.  “You’ll Learn Someday” a Gregg original, has a decent chorus.  But, why “Ol Man River”? 

Way before “Bell Bottom Blues,” Gregg wrote “Bell Bottom Britches,” a so-so original. Their cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful” is really good and actually got some radio play.  Although the track sounds out of phase.  All of a sudden, on “Doctor Fone Bone,” Gregg actually sounds like himself. These tracks were all released in 1973, but have been out of print ever since.

Hourglass – 1967  

This early Allman band featured Gregg on organ and vocals and brother Duane on guitar (although you can barely tell he’s there quite often).  Also of note is Johnny Sandlin on drums, a frequent collaborator of the Allmans over the years.  

The album leads off with “Out of the Night,” not even 2 minutes in length, it’s a decent slice of horn-driven blue-eyed soul – but no Duane on this track at all.  “Nothing But Tears” does feature some soloing from Duane, but he sounds handcuffed.  “Love Makes the World Go Round” is a decent take on the Deon Jackson song, but the background vocals are kinda cheesy and this cover doesn’t really add anything to the original.  

Also on the record is a very early Jackson Browne composition called “Cast Off All My Fears” – Duane has a pretty cool fuzz guitar here.  This sounds more like the Beau Brummels or something like that, then real soul.  They do Curtis Mayfield’s “I’ve Been Trying” but Gregg is struggling to sound older, and the track sounds forced. “Heartbeat” is tepid, just not passionate.  The production is watery and no punch.  

Not surprising, the most rockin’ thing on here is a Gregg Allman original, another version of “Gotta Get Away,” this time featuring some searing Duane guitar, a juiced up, and a pounding beat; it’s the best thing on the record.  Unfortunately, it’s still not as good as the original cut as the Allman Joys.  

Any momentum is soon lost by the banjo-led Del Shannon cover “Silently” – ugh.  Then comes “Bells,” with a spoken piece and fazed out guitar  – this is just dreadful.  What the band lacked was a real solid direction.

Hourglass – Power of Love

We have producer Dallas Smith to blame for the atrocity that was Hourglass’ debut.  He was brought back for the followup, Power of Love, but he seems to have given more creative control to the band this time around.  The album cover featured testimonials from Neil Young and Stephen 

Stills, who were both in Buffalo Springfield at the time.

Things have gelled better in the year since their debut. Gregg’s singing is more assured, the band sounds more confident, and everything appears more together.  “Power of Love” is actually decent song.  It’s not a direct soul rip off, but something different, and Duane is allowed to add some tasty fills.  It was penned by the Muscle Shoals’ gods Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.  But most of the record is written by Gregg.  “To Things Before” has the same chord progression that would be used to better effect on the Allman’s “Melissa” and has echoey background effects which are unnecessary.  

A lot of these songs are just not memorable, Gregg was still finding his way.  “Changing of the Guard” is so so, and an okay chorus saves “I’m Not Afraid.”  “I Can’t Stand Alone” is better, maybe a little too poppy a chorus, but it’s progress, and how bout that fuzz guitar from Duane!  The horns are mostly gone and so are the cheesy background vocals – also a marked improvement over their debut.  Eddie Hinton’s “Down in Texas” is much closer to the blues rock of the Allmans.  “I Still Want Your Love” is an atypical Gregg song, it’s actually bouncy – but it does feature a gritty vocal.  

Their cover of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” got the exposure on the Allman Brothers box set years ago.  This jazzy interpretation is just instrumental, and features Duane on sitar

Duane and Gregg 

These tracks feature future Allman drummer Butch Trucks and were done as demos for the band 31st of February.  “Morning Dew” features some electrifying guitar from Duane.  The sessions were helmed by former teen idol Steve Alaimo. “Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out” sounds like a garage recording.  “Down in Texas” is a better version of the Eddie Hinton song that they cut with Hourglass.  

Most importantly, this is the first appearance of the Allman Brother classic “Melissa.” Gregg’s voice is a little tentative here, but the Duane fills are very nice.  The arrangement is delicate and the chords are slightly different in the middle section.  The very next track, “I’ll Change For You” sounds like a variation on Melissa, with similar chords and feel.  In fact, much of this material is gentle in nature.  “Back Down Home With You” is better, more soulful.  

The tapes for this record are in pretty bad shape, with drop outs and loss of sound in channels, definitely apparent when you listen in earbuds. The driving  “Well I Know” is the closest to something that the Allmans would become, Duane does a pretty nice solo.  

All in all, there’s at least a couple of revealing tracks on all four releases.  If you’re a dedicated Allman fan, these are definitely worth adding to your collection.  —Tony Peters

356 – Lisa Mills – The Triangle – Recorded in 3 Soul Meccas

Lisa Mills – photo by Scott Clarke

Lisa Mills is a soul/blues singer who belts out her music in a raw, melodic and soulfully-honest way with blues, gospel and soul influences.  Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, she now lives in Alabama.  We first talked with Lisa back with her I’m Changing album in 2014. 

Her latest project, you might call a soul/blues tour de force – The Triangle.  With the guidance of producer Fred Mollin, the idea was to travel, in one week’s time, to three different musical hotbeds – Memphis, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and record there.  But, they took this idea a step further – only recording songs that were originally recorded in each of those cities.  The result is easily the finest, most passionate set of songs Lisa has ever put together.

We chat with Lisa from her temporary home in Germany about picking all the great soul covers on the album, plus how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the album’s promotion.

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