It's been a bit slow until recently on the "why did I pick this LP up, again?" front. But here's some random stuff that's filtered in over the past month or so that will probably be filtering back out -- with the possible exception of Trini Lopez.
The Gentle Rain; big, brassy takes on standards like "Blues in the Night" and "After Hours;" and, oddball jazzed-up arrangements of then-current pop hits "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "What's New Pussycat." It's an interesting artifact of '60s hipness, but not exactly essential listening. Along with touring, arrangement and production work, this was Q's 15th disc as a bandleader in less than a decade, and he would record one more before taking a break from album projects for a few years to work mostly on film scores. After returning to making "solo" discs at the end of the 1960s, Jones has remained a chart presence under his own name ever since. (Mercury, 1965)
Aaron Collins: Calypso U.S.A.
Aaron Collins was a member of doo-woppers The Cadets, best known for "Stranded in the Jungle" -- and to discographers as concurrently recording as The Jacks. In the Los Angeles doo-wop merry-go-round, Collins and other Cadets/Jacks bandmates were also in The Flairs later on. Collins also cut the cash-in Calypso U.S.A. LP as a solo for Modern/RPM's budget LP line Crown, a disc which today has a high price guide value but is seemingly not much in demand. That's probably because it's not really calypso and not really doo-wop, but just enough different from either to turn off genre diehards. For those keeping score, it does include one previous Modern single credited to Aaron Collins and the Cadets -- supposedly really anonymous studio singers, though "Pretty Evey" is a decent sound-alike job. It's not an awful album by any means, but many of these songs had already been done much better by Harry Belafonte. (Crown, 1957)
Mel Tillis: Something Special
Well, it might be more special for fans of countrypolitan. That production style just about sucks the life out of this '60s outing by Tillis, which only picks up the tempo beyond mid-slow once or twice. It does contain some good, unfamiliar songs, though atypically Tillis' originals here are mostly not among them; rather, the winners are penned by Dolly Parton, Joyce Alsup and Red Hayes. This album is near the beginning of a long string of hit singles by Tillis which didn't end until the late '80s. (Kapp, 1968)
Jim Reeves: Young and Country
Elvis was far from the first recording artist to be celebrated (and/or defamed, depending on your outlook) by a slew of posthumous "new" material following his death. Fellow RCA Victor labelmate Jim Reeves continued a nearly unbroken string of country hits on both the single and album charts for an unbelievable two decades after the 1964 plane crash that killed both himself and pianist Dean Manuel -- far longer than Elvis' regular chart action continued from beyond the veil. Young and Country is one of those many posthumous Reeves LPs, but a rare instance that didn't hit the charts, possibly due to it being a part of RCA's Camden budget line. The recordings here are all songs written by Reeves, which is pretty interesting in itself, and consist of demos dating back to his Abbott years. That's the good news. The bad news is that the tracks have been overdubbed with '70s instrumentation. Since some of the source material featured a full band, the additions at times clash very badly with the original recordings, and they would have been better left undubbed. I'm not familiar enough with all of Reeves' albums to know if any of these songs show up as official recordings anywhere else, but I don't immediately recognize any of them from his original '50s output. (RCA Camden, 1971).
Trini Lopez: On the Move
Trini Lopez was a consistent hitmaker for a few years in the mid-'60s, after bursting into the Billboard Top 10 seemingly out of nowhere with a cover of "If I Had a Hammer," along with some bestselling albums recorded live at PJs in Los Angeles. He had actually been recording for quite a few years by that point, including some pretty good rockers for King. A few of those singles were about all I'd heard by him prior to saving a nice copy of On the Move from a box of records out on the curb for the trashman last week. (Well, other than his disappointing collaboration with Boyce and Hart, The Whole Enchilada.) This is a fun album, featuring rocked-up versions of folk and pop songs, along with a few '50s rock 'n roll covers. If I had to bet, this one's probably not actually live (and it doesn't state that on the cover) -- though there's crowd noise throughout, it mostly sounds overdubbed. The approach -- stripped down trio rocking a club crowd -- is essentially the same as what Johnny Rivers, another previously ignored '50s rocker, finally rode to fame a bit less than a year after Lopez did, and fans of Rivers' Whisky a Go Go discs should check out Lopez PJs discs. I will be. (Reprise, 1964)
Roger McGuinn: Thunderbyrd
I love, love love the original Byrds. I tend to be lukewarm on most material past Sweetheart of the Rodeo, though there's great stuff on nearly all the Byrds albums after that. The '70s post-Byrds efforts by original members are all similarly over the map; Gene Clark is usually really good; Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke and David Crosby all went on to good albums with later bands. Roger McGuinn's solo albums, though, tend to remind me of the later Byrds period -- great songs here and there, a lot of other pleasant songs that make no impact, and a wish that the other singers of the Byrds were there to break up a whole disc of McGuinn lead vocals. The later '70s rock/country moves of Thunderbyrd essentially met my perception. McGuinn's recognition of up-and-coming Byrdevotee Tom Petty via a shufflin' cover of "American Girl" is a canny nod to his influence on other musicians, but unfortunately just sort of sits there. As always, there's nothing wrong with his distinctive guitar playing, though ... and I do really like album closer "Russian Hill," which has a bit of the old Rickenbacker jangle. I get the impression that if I spent more time with the songs, McGuinn's solo work would probably appeal to me more, but so far his '70s discs haven't grabbed me enough to put in the spins. Spotted in the album credits: Former Buckingham Marty Grebb on keyboards. (Columbia, 1977)