Joel Goldenberg: The Ventures and more

Dionne Warwick

We now proceed with the quite short but vivacious V list of favourite songs by artists and groups:

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The Ventures: I'm not a huge fan of guitar-based instrumental groups, but this 1960s group does a great version of the theme music for the TV show Hawaii Five-O. In fact, for a while, I thought they did the original version. I'm not sure if I'll ever delve deeply into this group's catalogue, but they recorded loads of albums.

•••

The Village Stompers: A group straight out of the folk era of the 1960s. Their instrumental hit Washington Square, from 1963, is steeped in folky charm and atmosphere. A tidbit — apparently, one CD release of the song was greatly sped up by mistake.

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Gene Vincent: One has to be impressed if even Elvis Presley's mother thought Be-Bop-A-Lula was an Elvis recording.

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Bobby Vinton: Most of his songs are a bit schmoozy, and are kind of a 1950s pop musical hangover into the 1960s, but Mr. Lonely is an eerie production masterpiece.

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The Vogues: This group had two eras, their somewhat tougher but still pop-oriented hits for the Co and Ce label, and their overproduced covers of standards for the bigger Reprise label. I don't like the latter. From the former category, Five O'Clock World has wonderful lead and backing vocals, and a tough production — some have compared it to Bruce Springsteen's similarly themed songs, but I don't see it. More poppy but still great is You're The One, with one member providing a near operatic backing vocal. Petula Clark did the original version.

Reprise re-released the original Co and Ce songs, which were mostly mono, with string overdubs to transform them into stereo.

Wow, that was fast! Now we move onto the W list.

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Wadsworth Mansion: This one's interesting. Their one hit was the peppy Sweet Mary. However, I first heard this song in what turns out to have been an alternate version in stereo, on a K-Tel various artists album. Later, I heard the hit version, in mono, as part of the Rhino Have A Nice Day series of '70s pop hits. The hit version is more sharply played and much more exciting, but has surface noise. I wonder if the stereo mix is anywhere on CD. 

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The Walker Brothers: As mentioned in the last Retro Roundup, while Frankie Valli released The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore earlier, the bombastic Walker Brothers version was the one that hit big. And for good reason — it had a spectacular Phil Spector-like production, and the now-late Scott Walker's deep, moody vocals suited the song much better. Valli's version sounded tentative in comparison. The Walker Brothers also hit it big with the almost as good Burt Bacharach-Hal David song Make It Easy On Yourself. Scott Walker went on to major success in Europe, especially singing the songs of Jacques Brel, and someday I will listen to that material.

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Dionne Warwick: I saw Warwick at Place des Arts several years ago, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the first of many, many, many hits, Don't Make Me Over, and at the time, I thought the milestone merited a career-and-label-spanning box set for one of the most intimate singers of all time. As far as I can tell, that hasn't materialized, but at least all her classic albums from the 1960s on the Scepter label (produced by Burt Bacharach), and most of her 1970s albums for Warner are available, at least for streaming on Spotify. When it comes to Warwick(e) (the e was added in the 1970s and then withdrawn), I can't single out any one song. You just have to get the All Time Greatest Hits CD put out by Rhino many years ago. It's one of the most perfect greatest hits collections ever released.

Next time: Thomas Wayne and more from the W list.

 

 

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