Monday, January 31, 2011

Bobby Mitchell - Try Rock And Roll - Imperial, 1956

You know I love New Orleans R&B, and today we've got some from Bobby Mitchell.
Bobby was born in Algiers, LA in 1935, the second child of a fisherman's family of 17 (!?).  When he was 10 yrs old, his first "shows" were singing for nickles outside the local liquor store. After a stint in his high school chorus, Bobby formed The Toppers at the tender age of 17. In May of '53 they released thier first single on Imperial, "I'm Crying". This group was held back by the fact most of the members were still in high scool and couldn't take time to tour.  Even if they could, they were too young to play in clubs! The group finally split when members got drafted in '54.  This allowed Bobby to seek a career on his own, and he began releasing solo single on Imperial.

Today's 45, capitalizing on the then new Rock fad, made it to #14 on the national R&B charts.  He had another hit in '57 with "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday" (later covered by Fats Domino).  Imperial dropped most of it's New Orleans roster in '58, and after that Bobby had more difficulty but still managed to put out new material on several smaller labels and continued touring through the early 60s.
At WWOZ in the 80s
A heart attack stopped the touring, but he remained active in New Orleans until his death in '89.
And of course, the clip!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Digital Wins Reason #27: Amateur Audio Restoration

One of the things I enjoy about converting my vinyl to digital is that it allows me the opportunity to make my music sound as good as possible.
After ripping my vinyl (at 24 bit / 48k), these are some of the options I have:
1) Maximizing The Gain - my tool of choice is Peak from Bias.  Been using it for years, and a scaled down verision is available on the cheap! The "Change Gain" feature, when used with the "Clipguard" option, is an easy way to maximize the gain of your song. It will analyze the audio and automatically set the proposed gain at the maximum possible level to avoid clipping.  Tip: get rid of loud clicks and pops first as these will prevent you from getting the highest overall gain possible.
2) Removing Pops - I use a couple of different methods for removing clicks or pops.  For a very short pop, you may be able to zoom way down and simply cut out the offending audio. Of course in some sections of audio this may be noticable, so technique number two is to highlight the offending pop, and use the "Change Gain" tool to bring the gain down as low as you can without it sounding odd.
3) Removing Hiss - this one's a bit trickier to remove.  You can try to use an EQ or low pass filter to remove this hiss, which usually resides in the high-end frequencies.  Be careful though - a heavy hand with the EQ can really kill a song.  In most cases, the best you can hope for is minimizing the noise, not removing it completely.
4) Rejoining Splits - Ever had a 45 where a long song was split between the sides as "Part 1" and "Part 2".  Well, with a little bit of effort you can rejoin them into one continuous song!  This is simply a matter of pasting the side two audio at the end of the side one audio.  Of course, you'll need to do some trimming at the end of side one and the beginning of side two before the two songs mesh properly - that's the time-consuming part. Well worth the time to extend a good jam a few more minutes!
5) Advanced Cut N' Paste Repair - there may be sections of audio which require more attention than a quick snip or EQ.  For these areas, one solution may be to cut a similar section from elsewhere in the song and paste it over the offending part.  Of course, there's a limited amount of issues that can be resolved this way, dependant on the particular song.  But if that pop or scratch is destroying one drum or a repeating riff, you may be in luck. Using this technique it is also possibe to make one great sounding version of a tune using the good bits from two or more mediocre copies of a record. Don't forget, if the problem is only on one channel of the audio, you can paste a section from the other channel!
Here's a small example, showing how a little bit of trimming, cutting, and gain control can help a scratched record. The patient is Johnny Adams' "Closer To You". The result isn't perfect, but much more listenable I think. Got more tips? Send 'em!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ike & Tina Turner - I Wish It Would Rain - Minit, 1969

Today's 45 is a hot slab of soul from Ike & Tina Turner.  What can really be said about the Queen of Rock and Roll that hasn't been said?  This woman born to a family of modest means in Tennessee was occasionally performing with Ike by the time she was 18.

A lucky break allowed her to sing on 1960's "A Fool In Love" which became huge hit. Anna Mae Bullock married Ike in Tijuana and "Tina Turner" was born.  Ike Turner was involved in the music business forever.  He was helping the DJ at WROX in Clarksdale Mississippi at the tender age of 8. The first recording he was ever involved in, "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston, is considered by many to be one of the first "Rock" songs ever.  Through the 60s and into the mid-70's, Ike and Tina were untouchable.
One of the best album covers ever!
But in '76 Tina split with accusations of abuse, and Ike's career floundered while Tina's slowed before a massive comeback in the early 80's with hits like "Private Dancer" and "What's Love Got To Do With It".  She was even nominated for an award for her acting in "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome".
Two legs enter, no men leave..
I don't believe today's single on Minit was a big hit, rather just another solid tune in a long career of wonderful music.  Tina's voice is what makes it, elevating anything it graces.  Have a listen:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Where Y'at?!

Time again for my monthly at The Charleston! Spicy R&B and Rock all night provided by yours truly, and just steps away from the Bedford L stop. Let the good times roll!
$3 wells/drafts all night, but you've got to RSVP for the deal. "Attend" the Facebook Invite or email me at djmikecrash@gmail at least 2 hours before the event, and I'll make sure the cheap booze flows.

The First Edition - Just Dropped In - Reprise, 1968

Many of you know this fine tune from the Cohen brothers' "Big Lebowski".  But what many don't know is that it's Kenny Rogers on vocal duties.  "Wait, that's The Gambler?" You betcha.

Kenny's long career in music started in the late 50's with a doo-wop group called The Scholars.  After some minor success with them Kenny tried to go on his own, and later joined a jazz trio, "The Bobby Doyle Trio", before moving on to the folky New Christy Minstrels.  But real success didn't happen until the formation of The First Edition in 1967.

Their second offering on Reprise is today's 45.  Apparently this tune was first recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis in '67 but rejected.  I'd love to hear that! The song is meant to be a warning about using LSD, written by well-known Nashville songwriter Mickey Newbury.
"I got up so tight I couldn't unwind,
I saw so much I broke my mind"
Kenny's smooth voice and the song's non-traditional feel and psychedelic flourishes sent it to #5 on the charts, and sent The First Edition on a long and successful career.  They finally split in 1975 but not before many more hits and even a television show, "Rollin' On the River".  Kenny went on to massive Pop Country hits, a fast-food chicken franchise, inspiring goofy websites, and even being spoofed on Mad TV.  Kenny Rogers is a bona fide cultural phenomena.
And now, the clip!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crash Bash at Motor City Bar!

Come celebrate my birthday with a night of music provided! Friday the 14th!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ruth Brown - "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'" - Atlantic, 1958

Ruth Brown was born in 1928 in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Her father directed a local church choir, giving her an early taste of song.  Inspired to pursue a career in music by then-popular artists Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, Ruth ran away from home with trumpeter Jimmy Brown in 1945.  Oh to be 17 and ready to rock!  After an introduction to the folks at Atlantic Records in 1948, Ruth had her first hit in '49 with "So Long". She had a string of hits after that, spending plenty of time on the charts.

From Wikipedia:
In all, she was on the R&B charts for 149 weeks from 1949 to 1955, with 16 top 10 blues records including 5 number ones, and became Atlantic's most popular artist, earning Atlantic records the proper name of "The House that Ruth Built".
Today's single dropped in 1958, and made it to #24 on Billboard's pop chart. Written by Bobby Darin and Mann Curtis, it seems like an attempt to get a piece of the exploding Rock market.  Ruth's pop sensibilities keep the song from rocking out too hard, but the result is defintely a fun tune.  How to define the genre is tough - Rockabilly from the Pop R&B perspective? Give it a listen and tell me what you think.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Carl Perkins - "Boppin' The Blues" - Sun Records, 1956

Carl Perkins was born in 1932 in rural Tennesee. The son of sharecroppers, he was exposed to hillbilly, blues and gospel music growing up. His interest in the guitar started early, but since his family couldn't afford one he started with a "guitar" his father fashioned from a cigar box and a broomstick. Later he was able to purchase a proper, but used and abused, guitar from a neighbor. He also picked up a thing or two from fellow field worker John Westbrook. Some advice from 'Uncle John' on playing the guitar:
"Get down close to it. You can feel it travel down the strangs, come through your head and down to your soul where you live. You can feel it. Let it vib-a-rate."
Feel the Vibrations, Carl!
After years of solid playing, first part-time in local taverns and slowing moving to full-time regional hitmaker on Sun Records, Carl's big break was with "Blue Suede Shoes" in 1956. From Wikipedia: "Released on January 1, 1956, "Blue Suede Shoes" was a massive chart success. In the United States, it scored No. 1 on Billboard magazine's country music charts (the only No. 1 success he would have) and No. 2 on Billboard's Best Sellers popular music chart. On March 17, Perkins became the first country artist to score No. 3 on the rhythm & blues charts." - Rockabilly had arrived!
"Boppin' the Blues", released later that year, reached no. 47 on the Cash Box pop singles chart, no. 9 on the Billboard country and western chart, and no. 70 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.
After a very long and succssful career, Perkins died on January 19, 1998 at the age of 65 at Jackson-Madison County Hospital in Jackson, Tennessee from throat cancer after suffering several strokes.
Started by Sam Phillips in Memphis in 1952, Sun Records' important place in the history of Rock 'N' Roll music is undisputed. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash - just a few of the folks who got their start at Sun.
Sam working on his latest phat beat
The evolving Rockabilly sound with it's fusion of Hillbilly/Country music and blues influences was certainly cemented at the Sun studio. Did you know Sun mostly put out RnB music early on? Wish I had some of those singles! Sun Records is still around, but it's just a vehicle for merchandising options on material from the glory days of the 50's - all your Sun Records golf balls and coffee mug needs are covered. I don't think they've released any new music since the early/mid 60s, but perhaps I'm mistaken.
And now, the clip!