choice

COLLECTORS’ CHOICE TO REISSUE ABKCO’S CAMEO-PARKWAY CLASSICS

On June 22, 2010, Collectors’ Choice Music in conjunction with ABKCO Music & Records will begin a rollout of six reissues and compilations from the legendary Cameo and Parkway Records masters. The initial six CDs, including four twofers, are Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites, Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones/Rydell at the Copa, Chubby Checker’s It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again, The Orlons’ The Wah-Watusi/South Street, Terry Knight And The Pack/Reflections plus the compilation Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1 which features The Lydells, The Dovells, The Tymes, Lee Andrews, Billy And The Essentials and more.

For some time ABKCO had been looking for the right team with whom to delve into its vaults to create an ongoing Cameo Parkway reissue program.  ABKCO found the right mix in Collectors’ Choice Music and have entered into an exclusive arrangement, ensuring that a flow of reissues and compilations will be available over the next few years. All releases will be curated by Teri Landi, ABKCO’s resident engineer and catalog archivist, and annotated by respected music journalists.

Jody Klein, CEO of ABKCO Music & Records commented, “We are delighted to have Collectors’ Choice Music onboard for these releases of great historical relevance. Their expertise in this area will ensure that the music that made Cameo-Parkway such a cultural touchstone will be enjoyed by music fans who have long awaited these collections.”

Much of the material has not been available since its original release on vinyl some 45-50 years ago. Both companies have approached these reissues with careful A&R, annotation, package design and sound engineering. Said Gordon Anderson, Sr. VP of Collectors’ Choice, “The opportunity for our company to release this material represents the culmination of a career-long dream for me, and a fervently-held dream for thousands of our Collectors’ Choice Music customers.”

Founded by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann in December 1956, Philadelphia-based Cameo-Parkway was one of the great American indie labels during the late ’50s and ’60s.  It was home to big pop-rock and R&B stars like Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and The Orlons, as well as to all manner of styles and artists both famous and obscure. It also represents the last great, largely untapped repository of vintage pop music from the rock ’n’ roll era.

It has been argued that popular culture was forever changed by the impact of Cameo-Parkway hits. Cameo-Parkway was one of America’s leading independent labels during the era that preceded the British invasion, offering a breathtaking range of pop, soul, rock, novelty and dance records that have continued to resonate with fans over the past five decades.  The label’s biggest claim to fame is the string of dance craze hits that followed in the wake of “The Twist.”  These included “Mashed Potato Time,” “The Wah-Watusi,” “Bristol Stomp,” “Do the Bird,” “Hully Gully Baby,” “Pony Time,” “The 81,” “Limbo Rock” and, of course, “Let’s Twist Again.”

Beyond the dance songs — most of which originated in Philadelphia — Cameo-Parkway issued garage rock classics from the Midwest including ? And The Mysterians’ “96 Tears” as well as early tracks by Detroit’s Bob Seger, The Rationals and Terry Knight And The Pack. The label even embraced the British invasion, releasing sides by The Kinks and Screaming Lord Sutch. Soul played a significant role with singles by The Tymes, Patti LaBelle And Her Bluebells, Frankie Beverly And The Butlers, The Five Stairsteps, and Bunny Sigler. Beyond those, Cameo was the label home of Bobby Rydell, who transformed from “swingin’ pop idol” to a mature vocalist and was accepted by both teen and adult audiences with such hits as “Wild One,” “Kissin’ Time” and more adult fare such as “Volare” and “Sway.”  

Collectors’ Choice’s initial rollout of six CDs includes the following:

• Bobby Rydell — Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones/Rydell at the Copa. These two 1961 albums — presented here in their original stereo mixes — represented an effort by Rydell to move beyond the limitations of his teen idol persona. The title of Rydell’s Cameo LP, Bobby Rydell Salutes The Great Ones, works on two levels.  It is an early tribute to the performers the young singer admired all his life, as indicated by the little caricatures of Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the upper corner of the LP’s cover, and the “great ones” in the title refers to songs from the Great American Songbook such as “Mammy,” “That Old Black Magic” and “All of You.”  By recording a live album at the Copa, Rydell was following a well-trodden trail left by other pop male vocalists like Bobby Darin and Paul Anka.  Jim Ritz contributed liner notes.

• Chubby Checker — It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again: This twofer includes two albums from the height of the Chubby Checker twist phenomenon that he and Cameo-Parkway had spawned, virtually ruling the music charts in 1960 and 1961. The first album’s title track, “Pony Time,” went to #1, his only chart-topper besides “The Twist,” while Let’s Twist Again, his fourth album, hit #11, shortly followed by three Top 10 albums in a row. Also featured here are “We Like Birdland,” “The Watusi,” The Hully Gully,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Let’s Twist Again” and more.  Jim Ritz penned the liner notes.

The Orlons — The Wah-Watusi/South Street. Discovered by high school classmate and future Cameo labelmate Len Barry, The Orlons (Shirley Brickley, Marlena Davis, Rosetta Hightower and Stephen Caldwell) were one of Cameo-Parkway’s most popular vocal groups and certainly the label’s top girl group. This twofer presents their only two charting albums from 1962 and ’63 respectively, and both featuring Top 5 title tracks. Heard here in their original pristine mono with notes by Gene Sculatti that contain quotes from Caldwell (he of the ultra-low “frog” voice), this reissue contains the title hits plus “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Tonight,” “Cement Mixer” and more.

• Terry Knight And The Pack — Terry Knight And The Pack/Reflections. Although Cameo-Parkway was best known for rock ’n’ roll, pop and R&B, these albums (originally released on Cameo’s Lucky Eleven imprint) illustrate the label’s embrace of Midwestern rock. Flint, Michigan’s Knight And The Pack were a garage band with many regional hits that never broke nationally; they might have become stars but for the fact that band members Mark Farner and Don Brewer left to form Grand Funk Railroad, with Knight producing. In his liner notes, Jeff Tamarkin tells the story of their 1966-67 fuzz-laced sounds featured in “Numbers,” “You’re a Better Man Than I,” “The Lovin’ Kind,” “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” “Dimestore Debutante” and others.

Clint Eastwood — Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites: Oscar-winning actor Clint Eastwood has demonstrated a musical streak throughout his acting and directing career, and this 1963 album catches him at the beginning. Fresh from his success on the TV series Rawhide, he croons (and quite convincingly so) a collection of cowboy favorites. The set includes the 1962 single “Rowdy” b/w “Cowboy Wedding Song,” as well as “San Antonio Rose,” Bouquet of Roses,” “Along the Santa Fe Trail,” “The Last Roundup,” “Sierra, Nevada” and more.  Jim Ritz contributed liner notes.

Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1: There are collectors and there are doo-wop collectors, which is why Collectors’ Choice devoted its very first compilation in the series to the vocal groups whose recordings defined Cameo-Parkway during its earliest years. Heard here are The Gainors’ “You Must Be An Angel,” Billy And The Essentials’ “Remember Me Baby,” and never before released tracks by The Dovells and The Tymes, “Short On Bread” and “Did You Ever Get My Letter?,” respectively.  Also featured are rare tracks from The Anglos, The Defenders, The Exceptions, The Expressions, The Gleems, Pookie Hudson And The Spaniels, The Impacs, The Rays, Rick And The Masters, The Sequins, The Skyliners and The Turbans — 24 tracks in all. Annotated by Ed Osborne.

Collectors' Choice introduces CCM Live label: J. WInter, Hot Tuna, Poco. J. Denver

Collectors’ Choice Music, the label that’s come to be known for compelling and often unexpected CD reissues, has announced the launch of Collectors’ Choice Music Live, a new label devoted to releasing great live performances, most of which have never previously been commercially available.

The series will launch April 20 with the release of four CDs: Johnny Winter And’s Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70; Poco’s Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71; Hot Tuna’s Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969; and John Denver’s Live at Cedar Rapids, 12/10/87.

According to Collectors’ Choice Music GM Gordon Anderson, “After some 15 years of reissuing albums and compiling artists, we’re convinced that some of the biggest remaining veins of gold in the vaults are the live shows that a lot of labels recorded of their artists in their prime, particularly those who made their reputation with improvisational prowess and/or ever-changing set lists. These first four releases on our new Collectors’ Choice Music Live label certainly fit that description.”

Johnny Winter And — Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70: To commemorate the release of his Johnny Winter And album, Texas blues guitarist/singer Johnny Winter played some shows at New York’s Fillmore East, some of which were compiled on 1971’s Live Johnny Winter And, a classic live album of the era to which this release makes a nice bookend. He had just formed a new band consisting of former member of the McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) including Rick Derringer on guitar, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Zehringer. Although the McCoys were none too familiar with Winter’s work, they proved quick studies and entered the studio to make the album Johnny Winter And within three weeks. The New York Times reviewed the Fillmore show, citing “a considerable improvement over Winter’s previous band. Winter and [Derringer] played solos back at each other, simultaneously and in alternation.” The live album contains the Winter hit “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo” and his take on Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61” alongside  blues classics “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “It’s My Own Fault” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

•Poco —Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, 9/30/71: In the fall of ’71, Poco was arguably the most popular of the first generation country-rock bands. By then, their album Deliverin’ had cracked the Top 30 and Poco thanked its label, Epic Records, with a private showcase at the CBS Records’ Hollywood studio.  “We just set up as we would have for a small club,” recalls frontman Richie Furay, whose bandmates included guitarist/singer Paul Cotton (from the Illinois Speed Press), bassist Tim Schmidt (later of the Eagles), pedal steel player Rusty Young and drummer/vocalist George Grantham. By this time, Poco was evolving from country-rock towards an edgier rock sound. Says Furay, “Though we were innovators of the L.A. ‘country-rock’ sound, we weren’t going top be pigeonholed into being a one-sound band.” The 14 songs they performed for label employees that day were a solid cross-section of tunes that had appeared on its first four albums including the medley “Hard Luck Child/Child’s Claim to Fame/Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” plus “I Guess You Made It,” “A Man Like Me,” “Ol’ Forgiver,” “Heart That Music,” “Hurry Up,” “You Are the One” and more — an hour of music in all.

Hot Tuna: Live at the New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA September 1969: Hot Tuna was, of course, the blues band-within-a-band side project of Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady that outlasted the parent band and continues to this day. Interestingly, the duo’s first commercial album, which made it to #30 on the Billboard pop album chart, was recorded live at Berkeley’s New Orleans House, but a lot more material was taped than was released. Much of it is issued for the first time on this 68-minute CD, which consists entirely of previously unreleased recordings. Explaining why they recorded their debut album was recorded live, Kaukoken says, “We tend to go places . . . and you lose a bit of that when you work in the studio. And it was cheaper too!” Of the 13 songs on this CD, six — “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “Uncle Sam Blues,” “I Know You Rider,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here” and “How Long Blues” — were included on the first Hot Tuna album, though the versions here are selected from different performances than the ones used on that LP.  Other songs include Blind Boy Fuller’s “Keep On Truckin’,” Rev. Gary Davis’ “Keep Our Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and “Candy Man,” and Blind Blake’s “That’ll Never Happen No More.”

John Denver: Live at Cedar Rapids, December 10, 1987: What is the sound of an audience eating out of the palm of a performer’s hand? Utter silence. And that’s what was heard during the two-hour-plus Iowa concert that comprises this two-CD set.  By 1987, Denver’s days as a Top 40 hitmaker were a decade in the past, but he remained a solid concert draw as a beloved, thoroughly American artist with a permanent place in the history of pop. It says much about Denver’s songwriting that, with the exception of half a dozen songs on which he’s accompanied by string quartet, he delivers two hours of solo music just his voice and 12-string guitar. The hits are here but so are new songs, some early-repertoire nuggets and a well-chosen cover or two.  Included are “Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning,” ”Take Me Home Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” “Love Is the Master,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” “Blow Up Your TV (Spanish Pipe Dream),” “Shanghai Breezes,” “Ohio” and more.

Del-Lords' first three albums reissued on American Beat/Collectors' Choice

In New York in the mid-‘80s, four veteran New York musicians united to form the Del-Lords: Scott Kempner from the Dictators, Eric Ambel from Joan Jett’s Blackhearts, future Cracker drummer Frank Funaro and thundering bassist Manny Caiati. Key songwriter Kempner said his vision “was to create a band that would feature four singers performing my songs — an East Coast Beach Boys if you will.” But rather than singing about girls and cars, the Del-Lords sang about things that mattered to them: the everyday grind of life and how it affected the band and those around them.

The Del-Lords recorded three albums that broke no sales records but helped start an American rock ’n’ roll rebirth — and helped sire the Americana movement as well. And now, after a long absence from the marketplace, the first three long-players — Frontier Days, Johnny Comes Marching Home and Based on a True Story — will be reissued on CD by American Beat Records through Collectors’ Choice Music, on May 26, 2009. Their last two albums, Lovers Who Wander and Howlin’ at the Halloween Moon, will come out later this year.

• Frontier Days: The band’s 1984 debut album showed the Del-Lords could rock as hard as the meanest punk bands of the day but also kept an ear toward the melody of the songs. Rolling Stone awarded the album four stars and Robert Christgau in the Village Voice graded it A–, his only complaint that production by Lou Whitney (Skeletons, Morells) wasn’t commercial enough to get radio airplay. And Trouser Press exclaimed, “The Del-Lords embrace rock’s basic components with such skill and verve that they outshine everyone else on the scene.” A promising start. Songs include “Burning in the Flame of Love,” ”Get Tough” and six others from the original LP, plus five never-before-heard bonus tracks and new liner notes from Kempner. First time on CD!

• Johnny Comes Marching Home: For their second album, the band switched to an unlikely producer with a proven track record for rock radio hits, Neil Geraldo (Pat Benatar’s guitarist/producer/husband.) The gamble paid off. Johnny retains the drive and grit of the first album yet the sound is brighter and more engaging. Also aiding the cause was two years of road miles under their belts when they went into the studio. The signature Link Wray echo and rockabilly swagger is still there, kicked into a new gear. Included are the songs “Heaven,” “Love Lies Dying,” “Saint Jake.” “No Waitress No More” and six others. In addition, five previously unreleased tracks are included. Another CD debut!

• Based on a True Story: This 1988 album marked the first time in the band’s career that they went into the studio with a full team in place, Geraldo returning to the producer’s chair, in a pedal-to-the-metal, show-me-what-you-got affair. This time the band had help from a few guest vocalists — Syd Straw, Mojo Nixon, Kim Shattuck (The Pandoras) and, yes, Pat Benatar. True to their guns, the band turned down a lucrative beer company sponsorship, preferring to remain a no-nonsense working man’s rock ’n’ roll band at its peak. This album was released on CD, but due to a label shakeup not many copies found their way into stores. The album contains their biggest hit, “Judas Kiss,” as well as “The Cool and the Crazy,” “Crawl in Bed,” “Cheyenne” and six others, plus, you guessed it, five previously unreleased bonus tracks. Kempner again wrote liner notes for the reissue.

Looking back a quarter of a century to the band formation, Kempner explains: “The Del-Lords were conceived as Holy Sacrament: two guitars, bass & drums, four lead singers, just the way we figured El Hombre Grande wanted it. F--- not with what is essentially perfect! However, the reverence ended there and we were more in tune with John Lennon's assessment: ‘the blues ain't a painting to look at and admire, it's a chair to sit in and use.’ They called it ‘roots-rock’ or ‘cowpunk,’ we called it rock 'n' roll. The good kind. It was firmly rooted in the great artists who came before but, we were burdened in soul and of mind with a very bad attitude. We stomped all over the blues, country, rock 'n' roll, of all kinds and twisted it into something uniquely of us. I mean, I'm a Jew from the South F---n' Bronx! Who am I kidding?

“Now, 25 years after the fact the landscape is grim once again,” he adds. “Just like 1984. Rock 'n' roll where art thou? It seems to me it's the same folks playin’ it now that was playin’ it then. Blessed are the faithful. These records we made back then sound awful good to me right now. A mighty noise. They sound necessary again. Rock'n'roll gives what it gets. Remember that! It's not a painting, it's a f---in' chair!”

COLLECTORS' CHOICE REISSUES THE MUGWUMPS' ONLY ALBUM

- for the Grateful Web

The Mugwumps are best known as the band immortalized in autobiographical song by the Mamas & the Papas. Many know of them, but few have heard their one 1967 album for Warner Bros. Records. Until now, that is, as Collectors' Choice Music prepares its June 5 reissue of The Mugwumps' self-titled album.

"This was the first folk-rock group ever," Cass Elliot boasted to Johnny Carson about The Mugwumps. In a sense it's true. Born of the late Greenwich Village folk scene just as many of its proponents prepared to colonize Laurel Canyon, the band consisted of Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty (later of the Mamas & the Papas), Zalman Yanovsky (future guitarist for the Lovin' Spoonful) and Jim Hendricks. A small amount of cross-pollination occurred in the group's formation: Cass and her erstwhile husband Jim had been in Cass Elliot & the Big Three, a progressive folk outfit. Canadians Denny and Zal hailed from The Haliax Three, a more traditional folk trio. In early '64, Zal and Denny launched a rock alter ego called The Noise. Also in '64, Cass introduced Zal to John Sebastian by claiming Ringo Starr was with her. A historic connection was made as Zal and John went off to form the Lovin' Spoonful, while Cass and Denny joined John & Michelle Phillips to form the Mamas & the Papas, who pioneered rock's "California Dreamin'" era.

The Mugwumps' name was given to them by producer Erik Jacobsen, who heard them at the skid row flophouse known as the Hotel Albert in Greenwich Village, where the members made their home. A mugwump is a fence-sitter who can't make up his mind – mug on one side, wump on the other side.

The Washington Post noted the group was "attempting a new sound."  Another review described Cass as a "large young gal dressed in a leopard-skin muu muu."  The description continued of the guys: "One wore his hair combed forward over his brow à la a Beatle. Another looked like you or me except for sideburns which grew at least half way to his chin.  Another looked like Paul of Peter, Paul & Mary fame."  As they played, the critic noted, "the men plucked glistening electric guitars with great vehemence and the one with the Beatle mop moved his head back and forth like a Dupont Circle pigeon spying a crust of bread."

Cited in the reissue's liner notes by Richard Barton Campbell, Denny Doherty was quoted as saying: "Picture this group: Zalman Yanovksy, free lance Jew; me from Halifax, the weird Irishman playing bass; this 300 pound Cass; we've got Art Stokes, black kid on drums; Jim Hendricks on guitar, John Sebastian sometimes sitting on a stool playing harmonica, and we called ourselves The Mugwumps! We went electric a year before Dylan. Everybody went, 'What!? Get out of here!'"

Unfortunately, the Mugwumps era lasted only from July through November 1964, their one album recorded August 13 & 14, 1964, produced by Alan Lorber, who'd gone to see them at the behest of managers Roy Silver and Bob Covello.

In November 1964, they played their swan song performance at the Peppermint Lounge in New York.

Recalled Cass: "We were doing very sophisticated folksy stuff, but obviously 1964 wasn't the year for it. . . It was in a time warp. Just too much before its time."

Perhaps we can better understand the Mugwumps muse 43 years later, in 2007. At any rate, thanks to Collectors' Choice, we'll have the opportunity to try.