Sunday, April 30, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-George Benson and Jill Scott

Artist:George Benson and Jill Scott
Album:Society of Singers Presents Great Voices Great Songs

So this is a one time only pairing of two musical greats. George Benson and Jill Scott recorded the Gershwin classic Summertime for a benefit album and a benefit concert. Benson first recorded Summertime on his 1966 album It's Uptown and then he recorded it with Kenny G on the 1999 album Classics in the Key of Kenny G. The idea to bring Benson together with Jill Scott was part of a concert series called Broadway's Best. Composer Frank Wildhorn thought it would be interesting to see what pop singers could do with Broadway classics. The show was taped for Bravo at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City and it aired on Bravo in Mar. 2002. It is not available on DVD. It was a benefit for a children's hospital charity. Those appearing on the TV show were Darius Rucker, George Benson and Jill Scott and then Benson solo, Bacon Brothers, Joan Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Loudon Wainwright III. That brings me to the CD which was released in 2004 to benefit Society of Singers (SOS). They were founded in 1984 by Henry Mancini's widow Ginny Mancini to offer medical expense support to singers who of course don't have a union. Apparently Ella Fitzgerald was an early supporter of SOS. Their funding comes from private donations mostly from famous singers. This CD was released in 2004 by Shout Factory and proceeds went to SOS. Except for the Benson and Scott recording of Summertime, there are no original recordings on this CD. The oldest recording is Frank Sinatra's 1950 recording of Sweet Lorraine. Others appearing include Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Diana Krall and many others. The CD is available but I don't think the charity exists anymore. I went to their website and the domain name is for sale. So I don't know where the money goes if you buy the CD. And this is likely the only time George Benson and Jill Scott will record together. Here's George Benson and Jill Scott performing Summertime on the 2002 Bravo TV show Broadway's Best.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-The Strumbellas

Artist:The Strumbellas

The Strumbellas have had success in their native Canada. With the 2016 album Hope and the single Spirits and a move to a larger label, they are on the verge of a big international breakthrough. The Strumbellas will remind you of Mumford and Sons. They were formed in Toronto in 2008. But most of the members are from Lindsay, ON which is near Peterborough. Simon Ward is lead singer and guitarist, Jon Hembrey is lead guitarist, Darryl James is on bass and Jeremy Drury is on drums. When they moved to Toronto, they placed an ad on Craigslist and added David Ritter on vocals and keyboards and Isabel Ritchie on violin. They released an EP in 2009 and this led to a regular gig at Toronto's Cameron House. They were getting a lot of local attention and they released the 2012 album My Father and the Hunter on Fontana North. It got them a Juno nomination. Then the Strumbellas signed with Six Shooter Records and released the 2013 album We Still Move on Dance Floors produced by The Lumineers producer Ryan Hadlock. This time they won a Juno for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. At this point, Six Shooter owner Shauna de Cartier knew that The Strumbellas were getting too big for her to handle. She sold their contract to Glassnote Records with Universal distribution. Mumford and Sons is also on Glassnote. The album Hope was released Apr. 2016 and the single Spirits was an international hit especially in Europe. The Strumbellas performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and they played during the intermission of the NHL Heritage Classic in Winnipeg. They also won some awards including a MuchMusic Video Award. The Strumbellas are currently on a world tour. When that ends, I expect them to record a new album. And if Glassnote plays things right, the Strumbellas have the potential be as big as Mumford and Sons. Here's the video for Spirits by The Strumbellas.

Friday, April 28, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Jimmie Rodgers

Artist:Jimmie Rodgers
Song:Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
Album:The Best Of Jimmie Rodgers

Let's get rid of the confusion right now. There was a country music music pioneer named Jimmie Rodgers known as The Singing Brakeman. This Jimmie Rodgers was a folksinger who had a couple of big pop hits in the late 50s. He was born Sept. 18, 1933 in Camus, WA. His mother taught him to play guitar and piano. He was in a band called the Melodies and he served in the US Air Force in Korea. Like many singers of the 50s, Rodgers got his big break appearing on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. As I have said before, today's fans have no idea how important Godfrey was in those days. He was spotted by the production team of Hugo & Luigi (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore) who had just bought into Morris Levy's Roulette label. Rodgers was mainly a folksinger. But as they went on to do with Sam Cooke, Hugo & Luigi added strings and a chorus to turn a folksinger into a pop singer. Rodgers scored three big hits. Honeycomb topped the charts in 1957. The second single Kisses Sweeter Than Wine reached #3. And the third single Uh Oh I'm Falling In Love reached #7. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine was recorded by The Weavers in 1950. It's based on a song Leadbelly recorded in the 30s. Pete Seeger liked the song but he and Lee Hays of The Weavers wrote new lyrics. So for a short time, Rodgers was a big star. But then Hugo & Luigi left Roulette for RCA. And that was the end for Rodgers. He left Roulette in 1961 for Dot and later A&M. But he was never able to recapture the glory years with Hugo & Luigi. He suffered a head injury in 1967 that may have been the result of a Los Angeles Police Department beating. He recovered but he was never able to resume touring. Tommy James claimed that Roulette Records owner Morris Levy arranged the beating. Levy had mob connections. Rodgers performed occasionally but he could have made good money as a nostalgia touring act. You can get all of Rodgers' hits on this Rhino budget comp. Here's Jimmie Rodgers performing Kisses Sweeter Than Wine on The Giselle McKenzie Show 1958.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Herb Ellis and the All-Stars

Artist:Herb Ellis and the All-Stars
Song:Old Folks
Album:The Midnight Roll

Of course guitarist Herb Ellis is best known for his days with Oscar Peterson and the Verve Records house band in the 50s. I have also looked at his Concord recordings of the 70s. This 1962 album is unusual for Ellis as he normally records in small groups. On this album, a larger band was put together. After Ellis left the Peterson band in 1962, he worked mainly as a session musician for most of the 60s. But legendary Columbia Records producer John Hammond signed Ellis. Ellis recorded four albums for Columbia. The Midnight Roll was his first album in 1962. He has a larger band than usual with Roy Eldridge and Frank Assunto of The Dukes of Dixieland in trumpet, Buddy Tate on tenor sax, Ray Bryant on piano, veteran sidemen Israel Crosby (Albert Ammons, Teddy Wilson) and Jimmy Rowser from Maynard Ferguson's band on bass and drummer Gus Johnson from Count Basie's Orchestra. Old Folks is recorded with just the rhythm section. It's a jazz standard written by Willard Robison and Dedette Lee Hill and first recorded by Larry Clinton in 1938. It's been recorded by many jazz musicians including Ben Webster and Jack Teagarden. The Midnight Roll has been released as a budget CD by the reissue label Wounded Bird. Ellis recorded on Columbia with Stuff Smith, Andre Previn, Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Charlie Byrd. He left Columbia in 1965 and after one album for Dot, he mainly worked as a session musician until he signed with Concord in 1974. Here's a video for Old Folks by Herb Ellis and the All Stars.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Adriana Caselotti

Artist:Adriana Caselotti
Song:Whistle While You Work
Album:Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Adriana Caselotti was the voice of Snow White in Walt Disney's landmark 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She did other things but this is her claim to fame. She was born May 6, 1916 in Bridgeport, CT. Her father was a music teacher and her mother sang in The Royal Opera Theater of Rome and she continued to perform in operas in New York. Her older sister gave voice lessons to famed opera singer Maria Callas. Adriana moved with her family to Los Angeles in 1935. And after a brief stint as an MGM chorus girl, she was hired by Walt Disney to play Snow White. The story is Disney was searching for the right voice. A casting agent asked Adriana's dad if he could recommend one of his students. And of course he suggested his daughter. She beat out, among others, Deanna Durbin. So you might think Snow White made Adriana famous and she made a lot of money. But she was only paid $20 a day and at the time Adriana didn't know Disney was making a full length feature film. And she was under exclusive contract to Disney. When Jack Benny wanted to use Adriana on his radio show, Disney told him he didn't want the illusion of Snow White to be spoiled. Adriana's voice did appear in the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz during If I Only Had A Heart and she had a small role as a singer in the 1946 film It's A Wonderful Life. She also performed in operas like her mom. But mostly Adriana made promotional appearances for Disney. In 1994, she was named a Disney Legend. Adriana died on Jan. 18, 1997 at age 80. Here's Adriana Caselotti performing Whistle While You Work from the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Chick Corea Akoustic Band

Artist:Chick Corea Akoustic Band
Song:My One And Only Love
Album:Chick Corea Akoustic Band

Of course pianist Chick Corea is one of the all time jazz greats. He is mainly known for jazz fusion like Return To Forever. But he has played acoustic piano at the same time. I guess those recordings don't get as much credit. The 1989 album Chick Corea Akoustic Band was an attempt to balance that. In 1985, Corea signed with GRP Records and formed Chick Corea Elektric Band. The band was Corea on electric keyboards, John Patitucci on bass and Dave Weckl on drums with either Scott Henderson or Carlos Rios on guitar. The band recorded three very successful albums from 1986-88. On the 1988 album Eye Of The Beholder, Corea seemed to prefer playing acoustic piano. Sax player Eric Marienthal was added along with new guitarist Frank Gambale. So Corea formed the offshoot band Chick Corea Akoustic Band with Patitucci and Weckl. Though the 1989 album got mixed reviews, it sold well and Corea won a Grammy. He took this band on tour and it recorded three albums. Corea also continued to record and tour with the Elektric Band. On the 1989 album Chick Corea Akoustic Band, Corea records a mix of originals and standards. My One And Only Love is a jazz standard that has been a part of Corea's repertoire since he recorded it on the 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. The song was written by Guy Wood and Robert Mellin. Though Frank Sinatra was the first to record it, sax player Charlie Ventura popularized it in 1953 and it's been a jazz standard ever since. The best known version of My One And Only Love was recorded by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman in 1963. The Chick Corea Akoustic Band recorded three albums. Corea ended both bands when he left GRP in 1992 to start his own label Stretch Records in 1992. He reunited the band for the retrospective CD and DVD Rendezvous In New York which was recorded at the Blue Note in New York in 2003. It's a DVD box set with reunions of all of Corea's bands. It seems to be out of print. Here's Chick Corea Akoustic Band performing My One And Only Love at the Blue Note in New York Apr. 2003 from the Rendezvous In New York DVD.

Monday, April 24, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-New Kids On The Block

Artist:New Kids On The Block
Song:Step By Step
Album:Greatest Hits

As typically happens with boy bands, New Kids On The Block (NKOTB) had brief success at the top of the charts. When their teen girl fanbase grew up, they faded and split up. Step By Step was probably their biggest hit. The genesis of the band was with producer Maurice Starr. He had success with New Edition. When he cut ties with them, he decided to form a white version of the group. He held auditions in Boston and Starr really liked 15 year old Donnie Wahlberg who was multi talented. Wahlberg helped recruit the other members including his brother Mark Wahlberg and his friend Danny Wood. He also brought in schoolmate Jordan Knight who was probably the best singer in NKOTB and he brought in his brother Jonathan Knight. They began rehearsing and when Mark Wahlberg quit, Starr found 12 year old Joey McIntyre to replace him. At this point they were called Nynuk. When Starr signed them to Columbia, they demanded a name change and he came up with New Kids On The Block. Their debut album didn't do that well when it was released in 1986. But Starr convinced Columbia to let him record a second album. When the first single from the 1988 album Hangin' Tough stiffed, Columbia was going to drop them. But that single Please Don't Go Girl started getting airplay, Columbia decided to promote it and it reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. And NKOTB continued to have success with number one hits like I'll Be Loving You (Forever) and Hangin' Tough. Starr hired a touring band led by Greg McPherson and sent them on tour. NKOTB recorded a Christmas album. Columbia released a video collection. So when the 1990 album Step By Step was released, the title track and first single topped the charts. Unfortunately for them, that was their final big hit. You can get all their hits on this budget comp that was first released in 1999 but then reissued in 2008 with a new cover and bonus tracks. At this point, things started to go south. After McPherson was replaced by David Dyson in 1991, he claimed that NKOTB's vocals were lip synced and Starr was the actual singer. McPherson eventually recanted because it wasn't true but the damage was done. NKOTB split with Starr and they wrote and produced the 1994 album NKOTB. It didn't sell and they split up in 1995. Of course Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre have all recorded solo with varied success. They reunited in 2008 with a new album and tour. And they still tour. They even recorded and toured with Backstreet Boys. They are probably a nostalgia act at this point but NKOTB are releasing a new EP and will begin touring on May 12. Here's the video for Step By Step by New Kids On The Block.