Thursday, September 5, 2013

Talk About...Pop Music. Bop-Bop Shoo-Wop

I have gotten more mileage from this boxed than just about anything in my collection. I bring this up now, almost 8 years to the day of its first release, because last night I decided to listen to Jules Shear's 2004 covers record "Sayin' Hello To The Folks," a record that seemed to sneak out onto the shelves and just as quietly slink back into oblivion.

Here is Mark Deming's review of the Jules record:

Some singer/songwriters are artists who truly excel as both composers and performers (Richard Thompson and Nick Lowe, for instance), and others are folks who sing primarily to create a vehicle for their own material (Kris Kristofferson being a prime example). Jules Shear tends to fit into the latter category; while he's by no means a bad vocalist, his reedy, heart-worn instrument doesn't have a tremendous amount of range, and it's not unfair to say that if his songwriting skills were on a par with, say, Eddie Money, his recordings would not enjoy the cult following he has today (and his publishing statements wouldn't be much to write home about). So what is Jules Shear doing making an album of other people's tunes? That's the lingering question behind Sayin' Hello to the Folks, in which Shear lends his voice to a dozen of his favorite songs. Shear's tastes are nothing if not eclectic; not many folks would cover Woody Guthrie and Joe Tex on the same album, let alone the Dave Clark Five, Procol Harum, James Brown, and Bob Dylan, and as a top-shelf songwriter he sure knows a great song when he hears one. He does a truly lovely job with Roger Miller's "Husbands and Wives," Brian Wilson's "Guess I'm Dumb," and Todd Rundgren's "Be Nice to Me," and his arrangements are subtle, concise, and effective. But while one doesn't for a moment doubt Shear's fondness for vintage soul, he sounds just a bit silly on "It Ain't Gonna Work" and "Ain't That a Groove" (though his Chris Kenner cover, "Something You Got," is just goofy enough that it works). Sayin' Hello to the Folks is fun, and Shear sounds like he was having a fine time making it, but for the most part it points to his limits as an interpretive vocalist rather than his strengths, which means he'd be best off bringing along a stack of his own songs next time he enters the studio. 

I don't disagree with anything Deming has to say except I love the record and while Jules may sound a bit silly on said Joe Tex number, it works. It's more charming than silly. I highly recommend this collection if you're a fan of Jules Shear and somehow missed this release.  (The original Joe Tex tune is the Song Of The Day, by the way.)

Are you still with me? Or did I lose you with the Ray Stevens post?

One of the songs Jules covers is "Baby, Baby (I Still Love You)" by The Cinderellas, a great piece of pop music, that prior to his cover, I had never heard before. A year later, the "Girl Group Sounds" hat box is released and there it is, The Cinderellas original.  Now, there really isn't one lemon on this 4 CD set. We're talking 119 songs and each of them something to behold. All of them, wonderful examples of how to make a record. But this track just blows my mind, as does the track "I Never Dreamed" by The Cookies, who by the way, are also The Cinderellas.

Are you still with me? (The Cookies also recorded as The Cinderellas, a common practice back then. The Chiffons' "Sweet Talking Guy" and The Four Pennies "When The Boy's Happy?" Both The Chiffons. But I digress.)

What's my point, other than trying to really distract you from Ray Stevens?

Listen to the Cookies and The Cinderellas below and it will be like a musical Silkwood shower from my faux pas of yesterday. And while you're at it, check out the other 117 tunes and the Jules album, as well.


buzzbabyjesus said...

My favorite song on the girl group comp is "Nightmare" by The Whyte Boots.

Shriner said...

There's *one* bad song on that brilliant comp that's the proverbial turd in the punchbowl.

Two words:

"Peanut Duck"

I don't know which person on the team slid that in to the comp, but it must have been on a bet. I remember playing this set for the family and that song came on and *everybody in the room stopped what they were doing* to wonder WTF they were listening to?

(My favorite song: "Nothing But a Heartache" (but it's not an obscurity...)

Maybe "Condition Red" -- that comes close as the greatest song the Shangri-Las never recorded.

Peanut Duck aside -- this is one of my favorite Rhino compilations. Right up there with the first Nuggets box set.

Sal Nunziato said...


Bad "song?" Yes. I think it's a great "record." I love her "yeah yeah, yeah yeahs." One of a kind.

jeff k said...

Yes, I love the girl groups record and I'm a Jules Shear fan, but I think he has a point about his singing. Some great songwriters just don't benefit from their own singing, and while Shear isn't horrible, too often he doesn't do his work justice.

I'm happy to get killed for this but to me the shining example is Robbie Robertson. Can you imagine him singing lead on any of the great Band's songs? Apparently, one of the problems (at least according to Levon) with the first listening of The Last Waltz was when they realized in horror that they had left Robbie's mic on.

Little Steven, another great songwriter, I think, whose songs always sound better (and, pretty often, great) when someone else sings them.

Dr Wu said...

I got into Jules decades ago through my undying crush on Aimee Mann. And I'll always be grateful to her.

Shriner said...


Re: Peanut Duck.

I'll leave this to others to interpret:

The outro is like nails on a chalkboard to me...

buzzbabyjesus said...

Re: Peanut Duck.

You got all the way to the outro?

Anonymous said...

Never heard of "Peanut Duck" before. Thanks for the link, Shriner, I loved it! I'm with Sal, a great performance/production of a ... let's say ... "minor" song. Surely that's what pop-n-roll is all about?

Bombshelter Slim said...

Earl-Jean McCrea (from the Cookies) does a bang-up version of "I'm Into Something Good"... and I can't think of anyone who could sing "Under The Gun" better than Little Steven!

Todd said...

My favorite from the boxset is "Good Night Baby" by the Butterflys. The last song on the set and the source of the boxset title, I believe.

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Anonymous said...

Earl-Jean's "Im Into Something Good" is the original cut by then teens Carole King and Gerry Goffin. You can hear them singing in the background. Everything Carole and Gerry touched was magical. Same for Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who made big, loud, full music with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Think "River Deep, Mountain High...." And with Mr. Spector they created the greatest girl group song (IMHO), if not one of the greatest rock records of all time...The Ronettes "Be My Baby" Glorious. Wha-oh. Wha-uh-uh-oh.


Anonymous said...

Jules Shear "the Great Puzzle" is a great set, especially with the Unplug This bonus where he does his most known songs in an acoustic setting. Fine, fine fine! Don't miss it!