by Phill Marder
I'd just about given up on Santa Claus. Never saw him on my roof. Never saw a flying reindeer. Saw a lot of coal, though, so there was always that doubt that maybe this guy really did exist.
And just when I was about to throw in the towel where he was concerned, the Christmas of 2015 rolled in. And along came three nice surprises. First up was the lost Roy Orbison album, "One of the Lonely Ones," recorded in 1969, but never released. While searching Amazon for that, I stumbled upon a new, yes new, release by Jack Scott, "Way To Survive."
Wow. Releases unheard by two of my favorite singers, both inductees of Goldmine's Hall of Fame, Orbison's recorded in his heyday, Scott's first new recordings in 50 years. Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle.
Well, I've gotta admit. Santa didn't really bring them, Amazon did. And then only since they have control of my VISA, not because of any Christmas spirit.
But Santa did deliver when a third CD landed in my mail box, this from another act missing from the charts for over 50 years...the Pixies Three. Not to be confused with the Pixies of Black Francis, these three young ladies from Pennsylvania graced Billboard's Hot 100 in 1963 with "Birthday Party," which climbed to #40. Two follow-ups hit the charts, but failed to reach the top 40 and the group dissolved before the girls were out of their teens.
ROY ORBISON - "ONE OF THE LONELY ONES"
Somehow, Orbison's MGM albums are relegated to forgettable status, though he produced some of most memorable offerings for that label. From 1965 through 1969, Orbison unleashed six albums that would have been career peaks for most artists, yet they were largely ignored, four not even charting. Much like the Beach Boys' efforts of that time, Orbison's work was ignored by all but true fanatics.
In the midst of that spell, this LP was recorded, but never released. And it fits right into that group of neglected efforts, not his strongest work, but with enough highlights to make it recommended fare. Just his version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" makes it a worthwhile purchase as Orbison cruises into the finish making you wonder if he's even going to attempt the last note, let alone hit it. He does both, of course, as only he can. "Sweet Memories" and "After Tonight" remind us that a voice like Orbison's comes along once in a lifetime, if that.
The track list: (1) You'll Never Walk Alone; (2) Say No More; (3) Leaving Makes The Rain Come Down; (4) Sweet Memories; (5) Laurie; (6) One Of The Lonely Ones; (7) Child Woman, Woman Child; (8) Give Up; (9) The Defector; (10) Little Girl (In The Big City); (11) After Tonight; (12) I Will Always.
JACK SCOTT - "WAY TO SURVIVE"
Now just weeks from his 80th birthday, this native Canadian moved to Michigan while still a youngster, making him, arguably, Detroit's first Rock & Roll star, . He posted nine top 40 hits between 1958 and 1960, four reaching the top 10 while "Leroy," a B-side, just narrowly missed, stopping at #11. While his early hits clearly were Rock, his later successes leaned heavily into Country, though 1960's "What In The World's Come Over You" and "Burning Bridges" hit not only the Hot 100 top 10, but also the R&B top 10.
Scott's new release mixes Rock & Country, the biggest differences being a somewhat more polished sound to his backing and a lack of original material, disappointing since most of his early material was self-penned. He does do a cover of his own "Wiggle On Out" and also contributed "Live Love & Like It." However, the rest of the material is from outside sources, including Gordon Lightfoot's "Ribbon Of Darkness," Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues," Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Trouble" and the title cut written by Hank Cochran and Moneen Carpenter. He also covers the Ral Donner smash, "You Don't Know What You've Got."
The track list: (1) Tennessee Saturday Night; (2) Woman (Sensuous Woman); (3) I Just Came Home To Count The Memories; (4) Ribbon Of Darkness; (5) Wiggle On Out; (6) Trouble; (7) Honky Tonk Blues; (8) Hillbilly Fever; (9) Live Love and Like It; (10) You Don't Know What You've Got; (11) I'll Be Coming Back For More; (12) Way To Survive.
THE PIXIES THREE - "TIMELESS"
This proved the biggest surprise of the three. After all, how many groups are still intact in their original form and still recording after 50 years? And better yet, still sounding good? After its brief flirtation with fame, this trio, consisting of Debby Swisher, Midge Bollinger and Kaye McCool, broke up after graduating from high school. Swisher continued in the business, going on to join The Angels before fronting her own band.
On this release, the girls, just a bit older but still sounding great, tackle 15 well-known hits, ranging from "Teach Me Tonight," so sweet that if you close your eyes you can almost hear the DeJohn Sisters, whose 1954 rendering eventually climbed to #2 on the Billboard charts, through to Champaign's 1981 hit "How 'Bout Us." For the most part, their arrangements remain close to the originals, a Countryfide take on "Landslide" that leans more toward the version by the Dixie Chicks than the original by Stevie Nicks being an exception. Hopefully, we won't have to wait as long for the next offering...next Christmas, maybe?
The track list: (1) We Are Family; (2) How 'Bout Us; (3) Dancing Queen; (4) Ooh Baby Baby; (5) Wedding Bell Blues; (6) The Boy From New York City; (7) Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes); (8) Lady Marmalade; (9) Landslide; (10) Teach Me Tonight; (11) Dancing In The Street; (12) With A Little Help From My Friends; (13) When Will I See You Again; (14) Bring It On Home To Me; (15) Amazing Grace.