Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Son of RE-RE-RE-UPPED: Otis Blackwell: Volume 2 with 20 more classic tunes

5/11/14: The download file is newly re-re-upped on It lives again AGAIN!

Hi, gang! Well, here's a second volume of songs written or co-written by the great OTIS BLACKWELL! Many songs I'm looking for are elusive, so this set has a mere 20 tunes on it.
I had to settle for a couple of less-than-stellar renditions here. When Pat Boone and Mahalia Jackson record the same tune, and the only version I could find is Pat's, well, er, it's bound to suffer in comparison. You can find videos of Mahalia Jackson singing FOR MY GOOD FORTUNE on YouTube. The recording itself seems very hard to find, although it was issued as a single by Columbia Records, and seemed to do fairly well. The search goes on...

Among the highlights are Barbara Lynn's imaginative update on DON'T BE CRUEL, in a 1963 performance that rivals Elvis' own in soulful intensity and playfulness; two bouncy R&B tunes by Thurston Harris, best-known for LITTLE BITTY PRETTY ONE; four fine pieces by Jimmy Jones, highlighted by PARDON ME, a Brill Building-style beat-ballad with an awkward social scenario (imagine SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME where the nice guy doesn't win!); an alternate take of PRISCILLA by Blackwell's songwriting partner Eddie Cooley, with some studio chit-chat; Jerry Lee Lewis' rollicking take of LIVIN' LOVIN' WRECK and Charlie Gracie's smooth rockabilly pop on COOL BABY.
I find the vocal mannerisms of Frankie Valli annoying on APPLE OF MY EYE. I like that Otis Blackwell wrote the song in the studio bathroom in 15 minutes, according to legend.
Otis turns in fine performances of two songs--MUSIC AND FIRE (a natural title track for this set!) and a reworking of ALL SHOOK UP that differs substantially from Elvis' classic 1957 version.
Th' King checks in with two early '60s efforts--the overlooked ONE BROKEN HEART FOR SALE and '61's RETURN TO SENDER, a quintessential Blackwell souffle of romantic rejection and toe-tapping melody.
Download the album and artwork HERE--and enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

RE-RE-UPPED 5/11/14! Brace Yourself: Here are 29 Great Songs Written by OTIS BLACKWELL! LINKS WORKING AGAIN!

Back again, for as long as it lasts, is my first 29-song compilation of songs penned or co-penned by the legendary OTIS BLACKWELL. In light of Ace Records' typically lack-luster compilation of Blackwell material, this remains the best single collection on the songwriter you could want.

Blackwell is perhaps best known for the songs he wrote for Elvis Presley-- "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up," "Return To Sender," et al-- and for two Jerry Lee Lewis hits, "Breathless" and "Great Balls of Fire." Without a doubt, his best-known song, written under a pen-name, is "Fever," the moody ballad first recorded by R&B singer Little Willie John, but made most popular via Peggy Lee's later version (which includes added-after-the-fact lyrics).

This collection of mine blends various rockabilly, pop and rhythm and blues renditions of Blackwell's infectious, jaunty songs. From toe-tapping fluffy pop to soul-searing R&B ballads, Blackwell's work covers quite a broad expanse of emotional territory.

Some of the ballads were collaborations. On his own, Blackwell tended to write bouncy, saucy, seemingly simple ditties that are (a) ear-worms magnifique and (b) contain more impact than might appear on first listening.

Here are the hastily-designed "covers" for this compilation. These images are included in the zip file too.

This is stitched together from several CDs and mp3 files. There's a lotta Varetta Dillard, the cult R&B singer who recorded at least six Blackwell songs in the 1950s and '60s. By far, my favorite is her "Whole Lot Of Lip," a classic Blackwell confection that shoulda been a hit.

Other faves on this set include "Let's Talk About Us," performed with threatening intensity by Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty's "Comfy 'n' Cozy," Fats Domino's moody "Heartbreak Hil," the superb "No Regrets" by Little Willie John, and the lovely beat-ballad "You're Just The One To Do It," recorded by the UK superstars, Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

But, heck, every single song has something to recommend it.

HERE is the link to the music 'n' pix. Enjoy! And brace yourself for the new year to come...