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Jacqueline Francois was one of the greatest singers and interpreters of French song. There are so many classic recordings, and some of the repertoire is considered cabaret. She exemplified a certain kind of charming, classy diva and was popular from her very first singles, and a global star a few years later. Born Jacqueline Guillemautot in 1922, she had a very long life in singing, recording countless, mostly French-penned, songs. Her voice, a rich alto with a ton of character and a certain smokiness throughout her range, is one of my favorite voices of all time. The feel of her voice on the microphone is something so soothing but commanding, hypnotic but laid-back.

“Mélancolie” (Melancholy) is a haunting, lesser known number which was written by the famous songwriting duo Al. Romans & Pierre Dudan. Recorded in 1951 for French Polydor, it features Jo Boyer and His Orchestra (who also worked with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Django Reinhardt) and Francois’ mesmerizing voice singing the lonesome lyric:                              (English translation is below)

Mélancolie un jour s’achève,
Mélancolie on n’y peut rien.
Chaque jour dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
rêves,
Seul, jusqu’au matin…
Et chaque nuit, ça recommence
Pour torturer le coeur trop lourd,
Le cafard dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, mène la danse
Jusqu’au jour.
Demain y aura d’ l’amour et d’ la lumière,
Peut-être bien, ça m’est égal…
Barman jusqu’au matin, remplis mon verre,
Je veux rêver que j’ai moins mal.
Mélancolie… tu nous enchaînes,
Plus fortement qu’un grand amour,
Un beau soir dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
peines

Melancholy one day ends,
Melancholy can’t be helped.
Every day in smoke and alcohol, we drown our
dreams,
Alone, until the morning…
And every night, it starts again
To torture the heavy heart,
The pointless depression in the smoke and in the alcohol, leads the dance
Until the day is over.
Tomorrow there will be love and light,
Maybe I don’t care…
Bartender till morning, fill my drink,
I want to dream that I have less pain.
Melancholy… you chain us,
Stronger than a great love,
One fine evening in the smoke and in the alcohol, we drown its pains

 

 

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Born Alexandra Nicholas Badran in 1924, in Mersin, Turkey, to Lebanese parents, she changed her name to Nour el Houda (“Light of Guidance”) just as she was becoming a famous actress and singing star. During her long career, which began at ten years old, El Houda recorded a huge chunk of classical, religious and popular Arabic songs and is considered one of the greatest Lebanese singers. For her tone, intonation, power and control, she was hailed as “the Girl with the Golden Voice” and was a cultural sensation for almost 30 years.

“Ala Oum el Manadili” is mostly a big, insistent groove and melody which eventually open up into a slow, bare, and moody bridge section that allows you to really hear her incredible vocal talent, before taking it back to the top for a fierce finale. Besides the lead voice and backing singers, the instruments I hear are the mijwiz (a reed clarinet), tablah, the buzuq (strings, long-fretted neck and a tone like a viola), and handclaps. The arrangement and the sounds are pretty typical for middle 1950s, popular Arabic recordings.

This is a song on two sides, so I edited them together in Logic Pro.

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This is the other side of Tito Rodriguez, “Desert Dance” (on TICO #10-035A) from the last post, and it is a beautiful, medium-burning mambo called “Donde Estabas Tu?”, “where were you?” in Spanish.

 

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This side, “Desert Dance”, written by R. K. Mozian, is a characteristic mover-and-groover from his repertoire that features flawless execution from the horns and rhythm section, particularly the pianist who I can’t seem to identify, and of course Señor Rodriguez’s timbales sound crisp and solidly “in the pocket.” Such a hidden classic.

 

 

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I can’t find any information whatsoever about this duo, Jack and Betty, who seem to be lost to history at this point. And it also seems like this is their only record: TEEN 107A, “Satisfied Mind” and 107B, “This Is My Story”.

From 1955, “Satisfied Mind” made a moderate-sized splash as a popular jukebox rendition of this Red Hayes & Jack Rhodes C+W classic which has been covered many times since it was first recorded that same year. Even Jeff Buckley, the 1990s NYC songbird who tragically died way too young at 30yrs old, did a cover of this tune, which is really amazing, and it is available on the Columbia Records release “Live at Sin-E” (Legacy Edition.) This, however, is my favorite take of this beautiful secular hymn. Jack plays the rhythm guitar and Betty plays the organ, and they sing in harmony virtually the whole time. There is also an unknown electric guitar player plucking some great sounding lead lines, wish I knew who that was… The simplicity of the arrangement, the passion in the playing and the singing, and just one hell of a lyric, make for a powerful, haunting piece of Americana.

 

 

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A legendary side man saxophonist for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Freddie Hubbard, Carl Perkins and Gladys Knights and the Pips, Jimmy Coe already had a previous recording career in the 40s and 50s and got his start playing in Jay McShann’s band sharing seats with the everlasting Charlie “Bird” Parker.

“The Jet,” on the small mid-50s Chicago label States Recording Company, is a great little groovy B3 Hammond organ and saxophone jammy-jam, and a relentless 2-and-a-half-minute flight of fancy. This virtually unknown number makes its way into many of my 78s set out in the wilds of nighttime party gigs and clubs.

Happy New Year 2019!

 

Jimmie Coe - The Jet

Tito Puente is a musical legend whose success and popularity helped bring the music and culture of Puerto Rico, Cuba and Africa to larger mainstream audiences around the world. Very often referred to as the “King of Timbales”, Puente was born in NYC in 1923 to immigrant Puerto Rican parents, and was raised in Spanish Harlem. A naturally talented and artistic child, his career spanned six decades of the 20th century, with many, many international performances, achievements, and awards; and his discography is considered a cultural treasure. A couple of notable examples of his lasting legacy are: his 1958 album Dance Mania is listed in the National Recording Registry, and his song, “Oye Como Va”, which is considered a standard (and which Carlos Santana took to even greater heights when he released his version in 1963.)

Here he is performing his pulsating, hypnotic “Mambo Rama” with his orchestra in 1955; and man do those horns sound amazing. On the New York label TICO.

 

Tito Puente - Mambo Rama

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