Wednesday, 27 September 2017

HEAT EXCHANGE "ONE STEP AHEAD" (1979)



Brian Lawrence Bennett was born in Palmers Green, North London, on February 8th, 1940. His interest in music dated from an early age, and as a small child he used to listen to radio broadcasts from the Aeolian Hall. Soon he was hooked on the sounds of Glenn Miller and the other Big Bands of the era.

He became fascinated by drums and percussion and lists Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and, especially, Buddy Rich as his early musical heroes. By 1953, Brian had saved up enough money to purchase a rudimentary drumkit and he practiced constantly. Before long he was performing regularly with his school orchestra and youth club big bands.

He began playing professionally even before he left school, with his own Tony Brian Trio and The Esquires Dance Band. He also began composing music and writing songs from the age of fourteen onwards.

Brian's initial background was in Jazz and Swing, but by 1956 - the year he left school at sixteen to play drums in a Ramsgate skiffle group performing for holiday makers - he was equally adept at playing Rock'n'Roll. «It wasn't originally by choice», recalled Brian, «but there were more and more jobs being offered and I didn't want to turn them down!».

A teenage prodigy, he became the house drummer at the legendary 2i's Cofee Bar - now known as the birthplace of British Rock'n'Roll - in London's Soho, backing artists like Tony Sheridan, Terry Dene, Vince Eager and Vince Taylor, and from there he earned a regular spot on the Jack Good's legendary TV music showcase Oh Boy!.

By 1959, Bennett was regarded as one of the top Rock & Roll drummers in England and one of the most sought-after percussionists around. That year he joined The Wildcats, the backing band of Rock & Roll singer Marty Wilde. He remained with Wilde for two years, also playing outside live gigs with stars such as Tommy Steele, and in 1960 he embarked on the legendary tour featuring Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Marty Wilde.

When Marty embarked upon a career in films and musicals, The Wildcats evolved into The Krew Kats and cut a brace of fine instrumentals, including a stunning version of Chet Atkins' "Trambone". After a brief stint as an orchestral pit drummer, in October of 1961 lightning struck for Bennett's career when Tony Meehan - then regarded as the top drummer in England - quit The Shadows, who were then the top Rock & Roll British band as well as the backing group for Cliff Richard, the top singer in the field.



The opening was one of the most coveted in the country - The Shadows were regularly topping the charts in their own right, and their concerts with Richard were riotous affairs, huge sell-outs in front of hordes of screaming fans across England - Bennett was offered the spot. He accepted and was with the group across a string of hit singles and albums, lasting through their intended official breakup in 1968, on the occasion of the group's tenth anniversary as a professional band.

His drumming talents were but one aspect of his monumental musical contribution to the band. He wrote or co-wrote over 100 tracks for them, as well as over 20 compositions for Cliff Richard... He also earned his first Ivor Novello award for composing the title theme to the movie "Summer Holiday", which starred Richard and the band - he also contributed songs to their subsequent movies, up through "Finders Keepers".

A favourite feature for the audience at any Shadows' concert was always his drum solo, with "Little B" - a must showcase for every Beat-Drummer in the pre-Beatles era - perhaps being the best known and highly regarded piece which has inspired countless drummers over the years and is still performed now by budding young drummers at Shadows' music clubs throughout the U.K.

Many drummers back then considered each new Shadows' record as a drum lesson - learning how to play the fills in classic tunes such as "The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt" and "Foot Tapper".

In 1967 Bennett released his first solo LP exploring Jazz and Easy Listening territories with the aptly entitled "Change of Direction", which was followed in 1969 by "The Illustrated London Noise", a return to Rock and Funky music.

Following the 1968 "farewell" Shadows concert, he participated along with lead guitarist Hank Marvin and bassist John Rostill in the band's brief 1969 reunion for a tour of Japan.

By the early '70s Brian was a highly successful and much sought after session drummer working with a vast array of different artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Olivia Newton-John, Engelbert Humperdinck, Richard Harris, The Walker Brothers and many more.

With The Shadows on extended hiatus, Bennett turned to other areas of music. He'd already developed some insights into the mechanics of music through his work as a songwriter, and he took a correspondence course in arranging and orchestration that, when added to his natural ability as a composer, ended up reshaping his whole career. He'd always provided vocals on the Shadows' own recordings, and now he re-established his performing credentials on the piano as well as the vibraphone.

He became Cliff Richard's musical director and formed The Brian Bennett Orchestra touring the world including the first Western rock concerts performed in Russia. Even more important, amid the string of hit albums with Richard that followed, he also started writing music for movies / television and part of this huge load of work was published on many library records by specialized labels like KPM Music and Bruton Music.


Brian Bennett in his studio, circa late '70s

In 1977 he published his third proper solo album, "Rock Dreams", available here and credited to the Brian Bennett Band, which was followed the next year by "Voyage - A Journey Into Discoid Funk", a Disco/Funk opus that was recently remastered and re-released on vinyl and digital download. 1979 was also a busy year for Bennett, who was commissioned a Disco album by EMI; the result was "One Step Ahead", the subject of this post, credited to the Heat Exchange project.

Later on, Brian developed yet another career composing music for films. During the '80s, he was awarded his second Ivor Novello award (for 25 years services to music) and wrote music for a wide range of programmes including "Dallas", "Knotts Landing", "Pulaski", The Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer (!!!), the "BBC Golf" theme, "The Sweeney", Dennis Hopper's film "The American Way" and Ellen Barkin and David MacCallum's "Terminal Choice". In 1990, he won his third Ivor Novello award for Best Score For a Television Series (The Ruth Rendell Mysteries).

From the 1990s to 2000, he was in demand more than ever and he composed music for the long-running series "The Knock", "Nomads of the Wind", "Global Sunrise", "Living Britain", "Dirty Work", "David Jason In His Element" and Hansjörg Thurn's film "The Arpist".

In 2001 Bennett was the proud recipient of the Gold Badge Award given by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He also won the Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards 2000/2001 for Best Original Title Music for "Murder In Mind". In 2004 he was awarded an OBE and collected his award from The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

In 2009 and 2010 Cliff Richard and The Shadows embarked on a 50th anniversary tour with 36 shows in the U.K., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. More recently, Bennett wrote with his son, Warren, 24 episodes of the award-winning TV series "New Tricks". He also recorded and produced an album with Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

In 2015 he worked on a musical called "Soho" and the music for a production called "Starchild". His latest album, entitled "Shadowing John Barry - New Recordings for Guitar and Orchestra", was released in February 2016... Although he will always be associated with The Shadows, playing drums for them is merely one aspect of a glittering musical career.


"One Step Ahead" contains the following tracks:

01. You're Gonna Love This (7:07)
02. Shake Down (6:55)
03. Love Is the Reason (7:58)
04. One Step Ahead (6:25)
05. Check It Out (5:52)
06. Lost On You (7:04)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl and CD re-issue in September 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.



"One Step Ahead" was released in the U.K. by EMI with cat. number EMC 3306 sometimes in 1977. The album was also released on cassette with cat. number TC-EMC 3306 and spawned a 12" single that featured "Shake Down" b/w "You're Gonna Love This" (12EMI 2988); edited versions of the same tracks were also released as a 7" single (EMI 2988).

In 1994, the album was re-released on CD by See For Miles Records under their C-Five Records inprint. The booklet offers precious information about Bennett and the album. The original notes were compiled by Rob Bradford, the following is a slightly edited and updated version:

«In 1985 Brian Bennett was delighted when he was commissioned to provide the complete score for the film "Terminal Choice". «Basically», he remarks, «I got that job because it was financed and set up in America. To the Americans, I was just another composer and they judged my music purely on its own merits. That was great. No preconceptions, you see? The majority of Americans have never even heard of The Shadows». In conversation it's a theme he returns to over and over again. The dangers of being musically typecast or pigeonholed. He cites many instances where he feels that his music has been dismissed as out of hand. Something along the lines of: "Brian Bennett? Isn't he The Shadows' drummer? We're looking for a musician, a composer - not a drummer!" In actual fact, playing drums for The Shadows for almost thirty years is only one facet of Brian's immense musical talent. His contribution to The Shadows was monumental and he will always, inevitably, be associated with them. However, Brian's other musical ventures have been both numerous and varied and his output of music as a composer has been truly prodigious.

Brian was always much more than just a beat group drummer. He studied the violin and musical theory for many years and successfully completed a course on orchestral arranging. In 1967 he released "Change of Direction", thus making him the first Shad to release a solo album. It was to be the first of many such projects. During the '70s Brian became a top session drummer as well as beginning his prolific output of library, TV and film music.

Heat Exchange was a commission that Brian undertook in 1979. He'd heard that EMI were looking for an album in the style of the then current Funk / Disco craze. «It all sprang from the New York club scene,» recalls Brian, «The Bee Gees struck lucky with "Saturday Night Fever" and then everyone went disco crazy. But one of the true originators was a guy called Sylvester. He was my starting point.» Sylvester James, Jr. was the doyen of disco music singers; his biggest hits were "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)".



As ever, Brian assembled a talented team of musicians including: Rickie Hitchcock (guitar), Les Hurdle (bass) and Mike Moran (keyboards). The vocalist we are not at liberty to divulge. I can tell you that he was British and has had chart success in his own right... «Guaranteed anonynimity was one of the conditions he insisted upon. He only did it as a one-off, for the money. But, I have to say that he was utterly brilliant. I've a feeling that Cliff Hall was on some tracks as well. For "Shake Down", I got Chris Lawrence to play the bass line. He had a genuine, groovy, pumping funk-disco style. I'm no lyricist. I enlisted a guy called Dave Jordan. He and I were on the staff of ATV music. He was someone I knew from weekly team meetings. I also had a brass section on there. I was thinking of stuff like Earth, Wind & Fire... Isaac Hayes and so on. I'd go over the scores with them... make suggestions... while we were all sitting around with drinks. All very relaxed. I wanted a party atmosphere. Then, they'd just cut it... live in the studio... hit a groove. I was delighted with it. When the whole thing was completed, I took it to Stirling Sound Studios in Manhattan to get it cut and mastered, to achieve that big 'Tuff' sound. Another thing that's worth mentioning is that all the drumming and percussion is yours truly. By that I mean that there are no drum machines, drum boxes, samplers, synth drums or whatever. No effects at all.»

It certainly does sound remarkably authentic. So authentic that it would have surely been chart material if given to a 'name' disco act to cover. This wasn't pastiche, it was Brian composing in a definite style. I asked Brian if he was pleased with the end product, particularly with regard to its authentic Disco style. «I was quite pleased with it. As a composer, you should be able to adapt to any particular style. Very few people realised it was me. It had the words 'Produced by B.L. Bennett' somewhere on the sleeve, in very small print. That was deliberate. The reviews were great in that they said things like... 'A tight set obviously recorded by top New York session men.' Great. It just goes to show that some critics don't know who they're listening to, or what they're talking about!»


"One Step Ahead", original rejected front cover artwork reconstruction


My copy of the album contains some notes - handwritten by the previous owner on the Side 2 center label - about the musicians featured on the recordings. Some of them are confirmed by Bennett himself in the interview that is quoted on the 1994 CD re-release; unfortunately the name of the singer remains a mystery... The picture above is based upon a tiny image included on the booklet of the aforementioned CD album.

Here's the credits and personnel list of "One Step Ahead":

Les Hurdle: bass
Chris Lawrence: bass on "Shake Down"
Rickie Hitchcock: guitar
Mike Moran: keyboards
Cliff Hall: additional keyboards
Dave Lawson: additional keyboards
Frank Ricotti: percussion
Brian Bennett: drums
Vicky Brown: backing vocals

All songs by Brian Bennett, except "Lost On You" written by Brian Bennett and William Bennett.

Lyrics on "Shake Down", "Love Is the Reason" and "Check It Out" by Dave Jordan.

Arranged and produced by Brian Lawrence Bennett.

Mastered at Sterling Sound, New York.


Brian Bennett playing drums


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered album, enjoy!














More information about Brian Bennett is available here:

https://www.discogs.com/artist/516363-Heat-Exchange

https://www.discogs.com/Heat-Exchange-One-Step-Ahead/master/617375

https://www.discogs.com/artist/108870-Brian-Bennett

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/brian_bennett

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Bennett_%28musician%29

http://www.brianbennettmusic.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p671Y__w8U

http://www.mikedolbear.co.uk/story.asp?StoryID=1449

http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Brian_Bennett.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/brian-bennett-mn0000621102

http://www.whosampled.com/Brian-Bennett/sampled/?sp=1


If you have any other useful information about Brian Bennett, Heat Exchange and "One Step Ahead" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

THE OVERTONES "SMOKE RINGS / HAWAIIAN HAZE" (1959) [featuring VINNIE BELL on guitar]



Here comes another chapter in my attempt to reconstruct Vinnie Bell's path in the recorded music industry before his first single and debut album were released in 1960.

The last time I treated you with "Silently b/w Barracuda", a 1958 single by The Gallahads (...still available here), now it's time to dedicate a post to the mysterious - at least for me - The Overtones and their "Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" 7" record released in 1959.

This single features Bell's guitar mastery and also credits him for co-writing one of the two instrumentals on offer.

For a detailed biography of Vinnie Bell, I suggest that you read this other post of mine.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any information about The Overtones... I am sure that some kind and gentle soul will come up with something relevant to fill the gap, thanks for your help as usual!




Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Smoke Rings (2:19)
02. Hawaiian Haze (3:01)

Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in June 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



"Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" was released by ABC-Paramount with catalogue number 45-10053 sometimes in late September / early October 1959. The copy in my possession comes in a plain white sleeve, but at the time of release it was probably offered in a company sleeve similar to the one that I tried to faithfully reconstruct as the opening image of this post.

Although the record was reviewed in the October 5, 1959, issue of Billboard - and also mentioned in an ABC-Paramount ad on the same magazine a few weeks later - I never happened to see any actual copy of the officially released version, just promotional items like the one I'm offering here... Chances are that this release is extremely rare, or that it never passed the promotional stage.



On Side A we find Vinnie Bell performing the lead part - on what sounds almost unmistakably like a steel guitar - in the smooth "Smoke Rings", a song written in 1932 by Jazz musician Gene Gifford and lyricist Ned Washington. In 1937 the tune became the radio theme song for the Casa Loma Orchestra, a popular American dance band; you can listen to this version here. Strangely enough, the Billboard ad points to «an unusual electronic harmonica solo» which is nowhere to be found...

Side B offers "Hawaiian Haze", a song written by Vinnie Bell (as Vincent Gambella, his birth name) and one Johnny Brown, which was copyrighted on "21 September 1959". In my opinion the flipside is as interesting as the main piece, with Bell probably overdubbing himself on various parts, including the mandolinlike main melody. Nowadays, the term "Hawaiian Haze" indicates a popular strain of Marijuana, I can't help to wonder if it had the same meaning back in the days when this instrumental was recorded...


Vinnie Bell in the early '60s


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered single, enjoy!






More information about "Smoke Rings b/w Hawaiian Haze" and Vinnie Bell is available here:

https://www.discogs.com/Overtones-Smoke-Rings-Hawaiian-Haze/release/6884010

http://www.vinniebell.com/

http://www.spaceagepop.com/bell.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinnie_Bell

http://www.danguitars.com/VINCENT_BELL.html

https://www.discogs.com/artist/353572-Vinnie-Bell


If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Monday, 3 July 2017

RITA CHAO (凌雲) "HANKY PANKY" (1967)



Rita Chao, best known to her Mandarin-speaking fans as 凌雲 (…Ling Yun, Ling Ying or Seow Mei-Mei, depending on your preferred source of information…), was born in Singapore, probably sometimes in 1949 or early 1950; she grew up there, where she received her education.

Anyway, according to some reports, her family originated from the city of Hangzhou (杭州), which is located in the Zhejiang Province (浙江省) in Eastern China, not so far from Shanghai (上海).

Rita, the youngest of six children with three brothers and two sisters, started singing at the tender age of 8 and was already working as a singer and actress at 14. At school she was not very interested in her academic studies, instead she excelled with performance arts: singing and acting.

Luckily enough, she was born in a family of artists: her grandmother, Zhao Yongchun (趙永春), was a known Chinese Opera singer, and her mother Jing Yu Xian (荊玉仙) was a Chinese Opera singer too. Growing up in this environment allowed her to be familiar with life in the entertainment business, and helped to mentor her future career.

Her parents and relatives saw her potential as an artist quite soon, and decided to pull Rita out of school to follow the Opera troupe on their performances. Rita was given chances to perform Chinese Opera on stage and her performances were very good.

It is unclear when and where Rita embraced Pop music... However, at the end of 1965 - when she was just 15 - while touring Malaysia with her former group, she joined a band called Super XX.

In the meantime Zhao Yongchun, determined to turn her beloved granddaughter into a star, increased her vocal training, became her manager and successfully arranged for her to perform in various nightclubs in Singapore.

Rita was discovered on the local entertainment scene by Su Yin (舒雲), a.k.a. Henry Foo, a Singaporean singer, songwriter and lyricist, who at the time was also the A&R manager for the Chinese section at Columbia / EMI.

In 1966 she was signed by the label and released her very first 7" EP. On this record, she was paired with the top guitar band from Singapore, The Quests. The EP sold over 50.000 copies, and for Rita it was instant stardom.

During those days Rita met Sakura Teng (櫻花). As the story goes, Sakura was already a star singing at various Cabarets throughout South East Asia. On one occasion before going on stage, Sakura and Rita were backstage talking; they instantly clicked and started singing together. Sakura thought they had a very distinctive sound and that night she decided to add a segment to the show in which they would sing a duet. Obviously, they received a stunning reaction from the public and decided to join forces...

Well, probably that is just the romantic version of the story...: since both singers were doing quite well, it is an easy guess that EMI felt that pairing them would give both their careers a boost. In 1967 Rita and Sakura began performing as a double act and constantly toured Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, building a fan base at each port of call.



During her heyday Rita Chao recorded many great Mandarin covers of popular English songs and she was part of the pioneers who launched the Rock Movement in Singapore. Along with Sakura, they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties"; in those days, they used to perform at the now defunct New World Amusement Park and they both lived in Jalan Besar.

Rita's career lasted about ten years. In 1975, when her last solo album was released, she declared in an interview that she was about to make a movie in Hong Kong and that she was tired of singing all the time... In 1980-81 she briefly returned on the scene releasing two albums with Sakura, just before disappearing completely.

For more than three decades there has been no news about her in the media, only during recent years unconfirmed information appeared on the Internet that she may have been suffering from a psychiatric illness that required long-term treatment.

In early February 2015 the news about her death spreaded: Rita's 90-years-old mother confirmed that the former singer passed away in July 2014; she has been suffering from colon cancer for about three years when she died at the Singapore General Hospital surrounded by her mother, brothers and sisters. Her ashes were scattered at sea after a short wake and funeral attended by family and friends. The family did not inform show business friends as they wanted the past to be forgotten...

Most of the information included in this post was translated by our best friend Brian (...thank you!!!) from a rare article found in the May 19, 1970 edition of "Hong Kong TV Magazine" available in this post on the great macaenese5354 blog.

I am also in debt with Joseph C. Pereira, whose books "Apache Over Singapore" and "Beyond the Tea Dance" are a constant and invaluable source of information and inspiration, thanks!!!


Here's the track list for this 7" EP:

01. Hanky Panky (3:11)
02. 薄情郎 (He's Untrue) (3:24)
03. 去年今天 (Lonely Heart) (3:36)
04. 媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy) (2:07)

All tracks were remastered from vinyl in June 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



"Hanky Panky" was released by EMI /Columbia in Singapore sometimes during 1967. It is one of the most sought after Rita Chao EPs, and therefore one of the most expensive. As far as I know, two different editions of this record exist: the main difference between them is the background colour of the front cover, which is available in blue (here) and purple (the copy on offer in this post); the back cover also uses some different colours for the lettering and the label's logo. Once again, the backing band duties are performed by The Quests and all numbers were also included on Rita's debut album. Now let's have a closer look at each track.

Side 1 opens with the title track "Hanky Panky", a song written in 1963 by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. It was famously remade by rock group Tommy James and the Shondells, who took it to No. 1 in the United States in 1966. On this version, The Quests add their trademark guitar sound and wild drumming, turning Rita's performance in a Garage classic. Here's a link to The Raindrops' original version.

I wasn't able to find any information about "薄情郎 (He's Untrue)", I would believe that it is an original composition, but the presence of a Mandarin + English title seems to prove the contrary... Maybe some reader of this blog can shed some light on the subject? Anyway, this track features Reggie Vergese in top form offering a great performance on acoustic guitar, including a mandolin-style solo.



Side 2 starts with "去年今天 (Lonely Heart)", a Mandarin cover of The Thunderbirds' "My Lonely Heart", one of the most popular original compositions in the history of Singapore Pop Music, which was written in 1966 by Harvey Fitzgerald - the band's lead singer - and Gerry Pasqual, their manager. The magic of the original version is reinforced by Rita's memorable performance and the evocative Mandarin lyrics would send shivers down the spine of the coldest human on Earth. This is a M-A-S-T-E-R-P-I-E-C-E!!!

"媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy)", the last track on the EP, is a cover of a song written by Cliff Richard and Bruce Welch. Originally performed by Cliff Richard with musical accompaniment by The Shadows in 1963, it was also included on the successful movie "Summer Holidays".


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered EP, enjoy!










More information about Rita Chao is available here:

http://www.discogs.com/artist/385494-Rita-Chao

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/rita_chao_and_sakura

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25610568.html

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25707290.html

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/rita-chao-%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2/

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/sakura-rita-duet-%E6%AB%BB%E8%8A%B1-%E6%B7%A9%E9%9B%B2/

http://illfolks.blogspot.com/2014/04/rita-chao-chaod-mary-proud-mary-in.html

http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/2008/07/rita-chao.html

http://www.tofu-magazine.net/newVersion/pages/gogo.html

http://www.smartshanghai.com/articles/nightlife/music-tuesday-far-out-east-2

http://singapore60smusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/rita-chao-pop-go-go-for-william-dad.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Singapore

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dk_gilbert/sets/72157625310673913

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.chao.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.lp.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/sakura.rita.chao.html

http://women.asiaone.com/women/people/agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/a-go-go-queen-rita-chao-dies-of-colon-cancer

http://www.lollipop.sg/content/partner-shocked-news-agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago



I'm still struggling to find somebody who can help me with translations:

if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com
or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

JIMI TENOR AND HIS SHAMANS "FIGHT / CRISIS" (1989)



Jimi Tenor was born in 1965 as Lassi O. T. Lehto in Lahti, Finland. The resemblance to the youngest member of The Osmonds, Little Jimmy Osmond, earned him his nickname of Jimi in the early '70s.

Just like his older brother Marko, Jimi had a passion for music. He studied for many years at a music institute and can play flute, piano and saxophone; his skills were further implemented by his work experience as the saxophone player for various bands.

At 16 he was the youngest member of Pallosalama (Thunderball), an orchestra which used to tour Finland with a sort of Saturday night dance shows for older people. This act was very popular then and also appeared on the Syksyn Sävel (Melody of Autumn), a song contest on Finnish Television.

Later on he was part of the Pop-Rock group Himo (Lust) as a saxophone and keyboards player. In 1986 the band gained some success in the Finnish Rock Championships and released a self-titled album along with a few singles on the Amulet and Cityboy labels. Tenor was also responsible for the music and lyrics of a couple of the band's songs.

Other groups in which Jimi was involved in the mid-80s include The Cherry Pickers, Iloinen Poika Milloin (Happy Boy When) - a band founded by his brother - and... Shaman!



Jimi Tenor and His Shamans were founded during 1986; this new project was an experimental evolution of the more ordinary Rock band Shaman. At the time, Tenor had recently discovered the Industrial sound of Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept., and - as a twist of fate - had accepted a new job in a mayonnaise factory.

The group consisted of Ilkka Mattila (guitar), Toni Kuusisto (bass) Niklas Häggblom (trumpet), and Enver Hoxha (real name Hannu Mäkelä, atonal alt bass), with Tero Kling playing drums as an added member. Jimi was the lead singer, played tenor saxophone and - just like all the other members of the band - banged on empty oil barrels, a trademark of their sound both in studio and live.

Matti Knaapi, a graphic designer and inventor, allowed the band to embrace a more experimental sound helping Jimi to create special equipment in the form of self-built musical instruments bearing names like Vera (an automatic trombone), Sirkka (a man-sized mechanical drum machine), Melukone (a noise machine) and The Liberace (a peculiar-looking stainless steel object which is hard to describe).

In late 1987, after a series of concerts in Finland, Jimi Tenor and His Shamans debuted with their first single. "X-Rays / Still In Love" was released by the band on their own JTS / Shamans label with catalogue number JTS 2001, probably a reference to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odissey" since the catalogue numbers of the other releases of their label hint at various science fiction movies and books.


Jimi Tenor performing live with the Shamans, 1988

As the band's popularity grew, their second single "Closer / Some Fun" was published in early 1988 by Euros Records, which - according to the relevant Discogs entry - was a Finnish label specialised in Rock music active from 1983 until the early '90s.

In early 1988 Euros also released "Total Capacity of 216,5 Litres", the band's debut album. Entitled after the peculiar characteristic of the beloved barrels which most of the band members used to play both live and in the studio, the record offered eleven tracks that showcased the Shamans' ability at combining Industrial paraphernalia with more accessible elements, and included a few numbers that wouldn't have made a poor showing in one of the albums that Jimi Tenor released at the beginning of his solo career during the mid '90s.

The following year Sonic Records expressed their interest about releasing a Shamans single, but something went wrong along the way and "Fight / Crisis" - the subject of this post - ended up being self-produced by the group sometime in 1989.


Jimi Tenor, circa 1989


Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Fight (3:48)
02. Crisis (3:46)

Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in May 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



As already mentioned, this single was originally planned as a Sonic Records release, but it looks like the band disagreed with the label about the publishing schedule at the time the record was supposed to be pressed, so they decided to self-release it. Despite the 'JTS 2010' catalogue number on the cover, the engraving 'Sonic-4' survived among the end grooves of the record itself.

Some copies of the single - including the one that is offered in this post - came in a transparent plastic sleeve with simple black and white photocopied cover/insert, other copies didn't have any kind of artwork except the center labels. Despite the title "Crisis" comes first on the cover, the actual Side A is identified as "Fight" by the catalogue number 'Sonic-4-A' in the end grooves. By the way, there's no actual mention of Jimi Tenor on the cover, only the word 'Shamans'...



"Fight" is a fast song with a circular and obsessive structure, where assorted percussion and simple bass lines keep on repeating the same patterns. Vocals are delivered in a mantric style, urging the listener to 'fight for survival'... All instruments are played in a percussive way, except the horns which provide melodic lines and also offer short bridges in the completely instrumental second part.

"Crisis" is a slower number with a more complex and balanced arrangement. The instrumental build-up in the first section in a fine example of perfection and Ilkka Mattila's reverbered guitar short solo deserves a special mention. This is a love song and the lyrics express the need to split up when a relation goes wrong, but also the fear of the uncertainty that's coming next...

Here's the credits and personnel list for these recordings as elaborated from the photocopied insert included with the record:

Jimi Tenor (Lassi Lehto) - saxophone, voice
Enver Hoxna (Hannu Mäkelä) - atonal alt bass
Toni Kuusisto - bass
Tero Kling - drums, barrels, voice
Ilkka Mattila - guitar
Niklas Häggblom - trumpet, voice


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered single, enjoy!






More information about Jimi Tenor is available here:

http://www.jimitenor.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimi_Tenor

http://www.discogs.com/artist/952-Jimi-Tenor

http://www.discogs.com/artist/136250-Jimi-Tenor-And-His-Shamans

http://www.phinnweb.org/tenor/history.html

http://www.phinnweb.org/tenor/discography/shamans.html

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/jimi_tenor_and_his_shamans

http://creativegames.org.uk/modules/Art_Technology/Futurism/Tenorvision_gear.htm


If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

THE APOLLO "HONG KONG FASCINATION - APOLLO 12 GUITAR MUSIC" (太陽神樂隊 "美麗的香港", 1969)



It's with great excitement and renovated interest that, after a long break, I return to feature an instrumental Hong Kong album on this blog. I promise it won't take so long next time...

So, today here we have another nice LP by The Apollo (太陽神樂隊), released at the end of the '60s by New Wave Record Co. (新風), whose complete title is "Hong Kong Fascination - Apollo 12 Guitar Music (美麗的香港)".

As with most of the label's output, the exact release date for this album catalogued as NWLP 12 is not written anywhere on the cover. Anyway, other releases bearing a later catalogue number are proven to have been published in 1969, so I guess that this LP was released around the same time or slightly earlier.

Recently I discovered that some of the albums released in Hong Kong by New Wave Record Co. (新風) were also released by well-known Malaysian label Life Records (麗風) with the same covers, but with different catalogue numbers. This strengthened my theory that New Wave was probably a Life sublabel or that, at least, they licensed selected albums for the Hong Kong market... Well, that was until I discovered that New Wave also released albums originally produced by Fung Hang Records Co. - another renowned Hong Kong label - with slightly-adjusted covers...

At this point I'm quite confused about the nature and role of New Wave, and the only other option that comes to mind is that sometimes it acted as a budget label, but I have no proof about it... I'm still hoping that some reader of this blog can shed some light on the subject, thank you!



The Apollo (太陽神樂隊) were an Hong Kong prolific studio band that reached a cult status in the region during the late 60s / early 70s. Their name has probably been borrowed from the Teisco / Kawai manufactured Apollo model guitar from that time period.

They recorded a lot of instrumental albums, a few of them for New Wave Record Co. (新風) and most of them for Life Records (麗風). They were also featured as a backing band on countless releases by popular singers like Teresa Teng (鄧麗君), Pancy Lau (劉鳳屏), Frances Yip (葉麗儀), Stella Chee (奚秀蘭), etc. It should be noted that in the early days of the label, they were the only available band at Life headquarters, so this comes as no surprise...

Their own instrumental records, often arranged by band leader Oscar Young (楊道火), a key-figure in the Hong Kong / Singapore music scene of the late 60s / early 70, usually feature a prominent guitar sound that has spawned a lot of imitators.

Labeled as a guitar music album on the cover, "Hong Kong Fascination" mainly features the electric guitar as solo instrument but, as usual in the Far-East instrumental albums of this period, the organ plays an important role in the arrangements, aptly providing accompaniment and counterpoint. On this release we can also hear a few traditional Chinese instruments, mostly mallet and assorted percussions, flutes, etc. A couple of tracks also include brief saxophone solos.

For the English translation of the song titles I used on-line tools. The results are not perfect - to say the least - but they give more than a rough idea.

By the way, I would be really grateful if someone could help me with this release: I need a correct translation of the songs titles. If you can help and share your knowledge please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!


"Hong Kong Fascination - Apollo 12 Guitar Music" (美麗的香港) contains the following tracks:

01. 今天不回家 [Not Coming Home Today] (2:45)
02. 新桃花江 [The Return of the Peach Blossom River] (2:56)
03. 美麗的香港 [Beautiful Hong Kong] (2:16)
04. 萍水相逢 [Chance Meeting of Strangers] (3:03)
05. 上山崗 [On the Hillock] (2:19)
06. 淚的小花 [Flower of Tears] (2:49)
07. 像霧又像花 [Like Fog and Like a Flower] (2:29)
08. 戀愛的季節 [The Season of Love] (2:20)
09. 姑娘十八一朵花 [A Girl at 18 Is Like a Flower] (2:43)
10. 天上人間 [Heaven On Earth] (2:34)
11. 痴情恨 [Beloved Unfaithful] (3:43)
12. 你幾時回家 [When Will You Come Home?] (2:08)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in April/May 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



Here's what I discovered searching information about the music included on this release.

Originating from the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, the original version of "今天不回家" (Not Coming Home Today) was a huge success for 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong) in 1969. Later on the song was also covered by other popular singers like 櫻花 (Sakura, available here) and 张露 (Chang Loo, available here).

I am not sure if "新桃花江" (The Return of the Peach Blossom River) is a traditional piece or an original track, anyway it was successfully recorded in 1968 by 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng, available here) and 凌雲 / 櫻花 (Rita Chao and Sakura, available here).

The title track, "美麗的香港" (Beautiful Hong Kong), is also one of the best cuts on the album. I was inclined to think that this was an instrumental rendition of the same song recorded by 潘迪華 (Rebecca Pan) in 1969, but I can't notice much resemblance... Do you?

"萍水相逢"(Chance Meeting of Strangers) is a song originally performed in 1960 by 吳鶯音 (Wu Yingyin), one of the Seven Great Singing Stars. Through the years the song has been covered many times, you can listen to the original version here.

I wasn't able to discover the exact origin of "上山崗" (On the Hillock)... It seems that during the late '60s this song was recorded by many singers - among them 吳剛 (Wu Kang) - and also by a few bands as an instrumental piece, including The Stylers (...available here...) and The Saints (...here).

Between 1969 and 1970 "淚的小花" (Flower of Tears) was recorded by so many artists, and I really couldn't find out who is the very first performer... I suppose that the originator could be 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong, available here) or 陳芬蘭 (Chen Fern Lan, here) - but who knows... Even The Quests recorded their own instrumental version in 1970.



At the end of the '60s, "像霧又像花"(Like Fog and Like a Flower) was another huge hit for 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong), you can listen to the original version here. The song was later covered by many other singers, including a young 徐小鳳 (Paula Tsui), available here, and 黃鸝 (Wong Li), available here.

"戀愛的季節" (The Season of Love) is the Mandarin version of a famous late '60s Japanese song. Among others, it was performed - once again - by 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong), 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng, available here), 孔蘭薰 (Kong Lan Xun, here), and 劉鳳屏 (Pancy Lau, here).


"姑娘十八一朵花"(A Girl at 18 Is Like a Flower) is a 1966 movie starring 陳寶珠 (Connie Chan), 呂奇 (Lui Kei) and 薛家燕 (Nancy Sit). The original theme song was covered, among others, by 刘韵 (Yun Liu, available here) and 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng, here),

The original version of "天上人間" (Heaven On Earth), was probably recorded first by actress and singer 李麗華 (Li Li-Hua) sometimes during the '40s / '50s; here's a link to her performance. The song resurfaced during the late '60s, and both Maurice Patton & The Melodians and 楊小萍 (Yang Xiao Ping) recorded their versions in 1968.

I really have no idea about who performed the original version of "痴情恨" (Beloved Unfaithful), but in the late '60s and early '70s many of the usual suspects recorded it, among them we remember 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong, available here) and 黃鸝 (Wong Li, here).

The album closes with "你幾時回家" (When Will You Come Home?). I wasn't able to find much information about this song... I speculate that the original was performed by 劉鳳屏 (Pancy Lau, available here), but 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong) and 周玲寶 (Chow Ling Po) also recorded it around the same time...


Here's some of my favourite tracks taken from "Hong Kong Fascination", please enjoy "今天不回家", "美麗的香港", "萍水相逢", "上山崗", "戀愛的季節", "姑娘十八一朵花" and "你幾時回家"!
















If you enjoyed this post, I'd like to remind you that I already dedicated to the New Wave Record Co. (新風) a few entries.

A few more information about The Apollo (太陽神樂隊) and New Wave Record Co. (新風) is available here:

http://blog.roodo.com/muzikland/archives/2512021.html

http://www.discogs.com/artist/1638765-Apollo-The-2

http://rateyourmusic.com/artist/%E5%A4%AA%E9%99%BD%E7%A5%9E%E6%A8%82%E9%9A%8A

http://www.freewebs.com/ritachao/apollothe.htm

http://radiodiffusion.wordpress.com/category/hong-kong/

http://www.radiodiffusion.net/extra/Apollo_Guitar_Ad.jpg

http://rateyourmusic.com/label/new_wave_record_co_



I'm still struggling to find somebody who can help me with translations:

if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com
or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!

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