Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shane Martin-Columbia & Epic Singles (1967-1969)

Here is another installment in the Columbia Singles series which has taken me down some previously unexplored musical pathways.  This release proves to be no exception as it covers two brief, but intriguing years of a musician who has been on a lifetime voyage of discovery.  Shane Martin (aka Neale Lundgren) was from New Orleans and naturally drawn to soul music’s “range of emotion.”  Lundgren started out in the Crescent City garage scene as a singer for bands like the Twilights and an early version of the legendary Gaunga Dyns. 
The Gaunga Dyns '66
(L to R: Beau Bremer, Brian Collins, Steve Staples, Ricky Hall, Bobby Carter, Neale Lundgren, and Mike King)
His ship came in and he was signed as a solo artist to Columbia/Epic.  He certainly had a smooth and strong delivery, but not enough distinction in his voice to take him to the first class. Songs like “Don’t Take Tomorrow Away” had him leaning more towards Gene Pitney than Steve Marriott, but there is certainly the presence of soul (and sometimes a slight sneer) in his voice.  From around a corner, the propulsive horns on "You're So Young" and "I Need You"sound like the building brass section from "MacArthur Park" which makes sense because these two Northern Soul classics and the epic "MacArthur Park" were all composed by Jimmy Webb.  He connects "Black is Black" by Los Bravos and ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" and it works because the stock material both share that "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" bass line. Interestingly, these singles were produced by Jason Darrow who previously wrote songs for ? and the Mysterians like "Hanging on a String." Also included is Martin's convincing "side-buckle shoes" interpretation of Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart." However, some of the singles like "I Keep it Hid" get a little too swanky and schmaltzy for their own good and enter B.J. Thomas-ville.  

He competently covers the Association’s soaring "Goodbye Columbus"-the theme of The Graduate-ish movie based on Philip Roth’s novella  The landing gear is activated and the album descends on Mark Eric territory with the wistful, sparkling and sweeping bossa-pop of "Something Beautiful is Gone." In the late ‘70s, Lundgren entered a Benedictine monastery and immersed himself in the sacred tradition of Gregorian chant, the mystical poets and Bach. These Columbia & Epic Singles provide the impetus to trace Lundgren's unexpected path both forward and back while focusing on this particular slice of time.  After all, it's part of an era that keeps offering a seemingly infinite supply of remarkable singles and stories.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Debbie Lori Kaye-Columbia Singles

Debbie Lori Kaye had the unique distinction of being of Portuguese heritage, growing up Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and being signed to Columbia Records as a teen.  It appears that she was possibly being groomed by CBS to be a consummate crossover artist.  She certainly straddled mid-sixties styles ranging from big production Nashville country through multiple branches of CanCon pop.   In other words, you could place her records somewhere between early Dolly Parton, Skeeter Davis and Lesley Gore.  This album starts with “Picking Up My Hat,” which was a #1 record in Canada for 9 weeks in 1965, and is undeniably catchy skip-a-long pop.  Her most recognized single “The Iron Cross” was arranged by Bergan White and later covered by the Untamed Youth. On this record released in July 1966, the lyrics defend her own donning of her boyfriend’s iron cross against the protests of her mother. Besides Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels some surfers, sidewalk surfers, gremmies, kooks and hodads wore these mass produced medals, most featuring a surfer on a board in the middle of the cross, as fashion accessories before the masses later clasped puka shell necklaces. The protagonist arguably claims the pendant is a symbol of her boyfriend’s love and the larger cross pattée shape no longer represents the horrific things it once did. She even slips in the fact that "some of our boys are dying over there," while many remained ineffectually fixated on a vending machine item. Then again, the younger generation was playing inconsiderately with a form of fire. What would Roland Barthes think? The B-side is the delightful “Baby What I Mean” which the Drifters would later convert into a R&B hit in late 1966 and then again covered by Spiral Starecase in 1969. However, her most compelling moment might be “The Playground” as it is laced with some monster fuzz guitar over subterranean lyrics, lavish strings and acoustic latticework.  Her one and only album from 1966, Hey Little One!, smartly included this track. This Columbia singles collection serves as a rectifying reintroduction to a singer previously resigned to one topical song, The expanded view presents a somewhat underrated musician who overlapped both national and musical borders.