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Songwriters

Welcome to the other Great American Songbook.

Music publisher Max Dreyfus, the head of Chappell Music and dean of New York City’s allegorical Tin Pan Alley, once said, “Always take care of your writers. Without them you are nothing.” Dreyfus knew a good songwriter when he heard one – Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, to name but three – and we like to think we do too, although we specialise in a more recent era. It takes nothing away from the towering achievements of Rodgers, Gershwin and Porter to acknowledge that the 1950s and 60s produced their own fair share of brilliant songwriters.

Each CD in Ace’s Songwriter series offers an overview of a very specific artistic vision and personality, from the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of Leiber & Stoller to the soul stylings of Van McCoy and the earthy street-grounded rockers of Ernie Maresca. Randy Newman and Burt Bacharach are widely considered the embodiment of the word songwriter, but Neil Diamond and Jackie DeShannon are so firmly embedded in the public consciousness as star performers that many may be momentarily surprised to encounter them as the prolific tunesmiths they actually were. Great songs are all you would expect from a Bacharach set, but perhaps you’ve never stopped to think just how many great songs Bo Diddley wrote. Luckily, Ace have, and now you can enjoy hearing the proof.

The halcyon days of the Brill Building era are represented by the great writing teams of Leiber & Stoller, Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Sedaka & Greenfield and Greenwich & Barry, who so dominated the Hot 100 during that golden age (although not all of them actually operated out of the Brill).

Those writers in turn influenced those who came along in their wake. The Sloan & Barri and Boyce & Hart teams added a folk-rock slant to the mix. Chip Taylor delved into a more country-flavoured sound. Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson & Joshie Armstead borrowed from the church for their soul epics. All of them made tremendous contributions and more than earned the honour of being anthologised in the usual Ace fashion, with accompanying action-packed booklets filled with interviews, essays, rare photos and vintage clippings.

You’ll find big hits, fabulous near-misses, obscure LP cuts, interesting interpretations of hits and rarities, sung by a dazzling array of star performers, living legends, notorious characters, cult favourites and talented also-rans. The real stars here, though, are the songwriters. And, of course, their great songs.

It’s tempting to say that had these writers been the only ones working in the second half of the 20th century, the 50s and 60s would still be considered rock’s golden age. But one thing is certain: it wouldn’t have been a golden age without them.

Selected releases

  • Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson & Joshie Armstead

    Before they became a superstar performing duo, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson penned a series of classic songs for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, more than securing their enshrinement in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Prior to that Motown tenure, the pair cut their musical teeth inNew York City, writing – in partnership with former Ikette Joshie Armstead – a slew of tremendous soul sides. This collection features the cream of the prolific trio’s output performed by a raft of big names including Aretha Franklin, the Shirelles, B.J. Thomas and the Coasters (the original version of ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’, a 1966 smash for Ray Charles) as well as soul stalwarts Maxine Brown, the Diplomats, Betty Everett and Chuck Jackson. Of particular note: the Chiffons’ pulsating version of ‘The Real Thing’, an early soul side from 70s country headliner Ronnie Milsap and the thundering ‘Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby’, a rare post-Spector Crystals track.

  • Burt Bacharach

    A most refreshing look at the career of one of the 20th Century’s musical giants, “Always Something There” delves into the deep corners of Burt Bacharach’s oeuvre, eschewing the obvious classic hits and opening a treasure trove of rarities for the discerning fan. Described on the sleeve as collectors’ pieces and original versions, this set delivers on that promise in spades. Don & Juan’s original take on ‘True Love Never Runs Smooth’ and Del Shannon’s first pass at ‘I Wake Up Crying’ make this set a must-have by themselves. Then there’s ‘Move It On The Backbeat’, with vocal by Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, one of their earliest efforts and painfully obscure until now. Hidden Bacharach songs by a wildly diverse array of artists – Doris Day, Marty Robbins, Della Reese, Frankie Avalon, Brook Benton, Gene Vincent, the Turbans, Jackie DeShannon, Big Al Downing – a truly mind-boggling symposium on the craft of songwriting. Closing the set is Bacharach’s first recorded tune, a 1952 instrumental by a pianist you may have heard of named Nat King Cole. For Bacharach fans, this is the motherlode.

  • Dave Bartholomew

    This collection of songs byNew Orleans’ Dave Bartholomew shows how great songs really do take on a life of their own and very often, unbeknownst to their creators, they’re discovered and interpreted by a wide range of different artists. This is evident on the Johnny Burnette Trio’s rockabilly workout of Fats Domino’s 1955 charter ‘All By Myself’. Similarly, listen how effortlessly Jerry Lee Lewis slides into ‘Hello Josephine’ and how ‘I’m In Love Again’ fits Tom Rush like a well-worn rhythmic glove. Bartholomew was not aware at the time how influential and popular his music was inJamaica. Neville Grant’s take on Chris Kenner’s ‘Sick And Tired’ provides ultimate proof that Dave’s big beat was perfectly adaptable to the reggae style. Then you’ll find ‘The Monkey’, which Elvis Costello memorably reworked some years back. The set opens with ‘The Fat Man’ by Fats Domino and, although the technical limitations of that 1949 session are still obvious, the vibrancy of the performance is undeniable. Another standout is the previously unissued cover by Annie Laurie of ‘3 x 7 = 21’, which Dave originally wrote and produced for Jewel King. The song became a benchmark in the Bartholomew catalogue and was successfully reworked as ‘21’ in 1954 by the Spiders, the group that cut the first version of ‘Witchcraft’, which Elvis Presley turned into a 1963 chart success, also included here.

     

  • Otis Blackwell

    Otis Blackwell was a one-man hit factory whose catalogue includes more classic rock’n’roll songs than any other single songwriter of his time. His compositions for Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis alone would guarantee his entry into everymusic HallofFame. Compiled in the spirit of previous entries in Ace’s songwriter series, the title track is heard in Del Shannon’s stomping 1964 version, while Jimmy Jones is represented with another fine Otis Blackwell song. ‘All Shook Up’ is here by David Hill, whose rare original makes its first legitimate CD appearance. Likewise ‘Don’t Be Cruel’: rather than Elvis you get Jerry Lee Lewis’ uproarious take, while Elvis is represented with ‘Make Me Know It’. The songs featured here cover roughly 1953 to 1963. Later offerings by Solomon Burke and Sam Butera show that, unlike some of his peers, Otis easily adapted to the changes in music as the 1960s unfolded. How durable his compositions were are demonstrated by Derek Martin’s classic 1962 cut of ‘Daddy Rollin’ Stone’, which Otis had recorded as a menacing blues a decade earlier. 

  • Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart

    This set spotlights the duo Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, whose instinctive marriage of folk-rock and pre-bubblegum teen pop created and defined the Monkees sound. Their formative years are represented here with ‘Be My Guest’, written by Boyce for Fats Domino in 1959, ‘Beverly Jean’, one of the handful of Boyce compositions recorded by Curtis Lee, and ‘Too Many Teardrops’, an early Bobby Hart solo single. Teaming up, in 1964 they penned ‘Come A Little Bit Closer’, a Top 3 hit for Jay & the Americans, and reached the peak of their success and creativity in 1966, writing for and producing the Monkees. Three of the Monkees’ best recordings are here, while a further six songs popularised by the group are featured in less-frequently heard versions, including ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ by British fuzz-beat combo the Flies and ‘She', an almost hit for Del Shannon. The collection also features examples of the duo’s work with other co-writers: ‘Never Again’ by the Royalettes and ‘Hurt So Bad’, as defined by Little Anthony & the Imperials, stem from Hart’s spell collaborating with Teddy Randazzo, while ‘Action’ (the theme for TV’s Where The Action Is, here by Paul Revere & the Raiders) and ‘Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day’ by Sir Raleigh & the Cupons represent Boyce’s brief partnership with Steve Venet. The CD kicks off with ‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’, a power-pop precursor from 1967 and the pair’s biggest hit as performers.

     

  • Don Covay

    Don Covay made his recording debut in 1956 as a member of the Rainbows. When record sales proved meagre, he channelled his energy into writing songs. Convinced that financial security would come from writing rather than recording, he signed with a publisher in theBrillBuilding, where he shared a cubicle with his cousin, ace arranger Horace Ott. Before long he’d written ‘Letter Full Of Tears’, ‘Pony Time’, ‘Mercy, Mercy’, ‘See Saw’, ‘Sookie Sookie’, ‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me’ and ‘Chain Of Fools’. Given that his catalogue eventually ran to several hundred songs and his client list as a writer includes Wanda Jackson, Little Richard, Solomon Burke, Gene Vincent, Connie Francis, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Dee Clark, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex, Ben E King, Jerry Butler and dozens more, Don deserves to be a household name, regardless of his great body of work as a recording artist. 

  • Sam Dees

    The greatest endorsement for any songwriter is the calibre of artists who record their compositions. Sam Dees can boast cuts on acts such as the Temptations, Johnnie Taylor, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Millie Jackson, Jackie Wilson and other upper echelon soul stars. Having previously issued two CDs of Sam’s recordings, we felt he was overdue for an entry in our Songwriter series. The CD takes its title from what is probably his most commercially successful song, thanks to Larry Graham’s chart-topping recording from 1980, and covers Sam’s career from the late 1960s through to the mid-80s. The only disappointment for Sam’s fans is his career as a singer has always been somewhat fragmented due to the demand for his songs. As a demonstration of his vocal greatness we have included his 1977 recording of ‘My World’, a song he performs so definitively that it’s hardly surprising to find his is the only version.

  • Jackie DeShannon

    A true renaissance woman, as well as a world-class beauty,Jackie DeShannonhas enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a 50s rockabilly singer, a 60s pop star and a 70s singer-songwriter, even an occasional movie actress. This collection hones in on her songwriting career, and quite a successful one it has been. Starting in 1961, Jackie began turning out hits for Brenda Lee (‘So Deep’) and the Fleetwoods (the haunting ‘He’s The Great Impostor’) and quickly hit her stride with cuts by Thurston Harris, Duane Eddy, Rick Nelson, Irma Thomas and Bobby Vee. She became a British staple and enjoyed great success with the Searchers (‘When You Walk In The Room’) and Marianne Faithfull (‘Come And Stay With Me’, heard on this set in a cover byCher) as well as British pop princess Helen Shapiro and expat Yank P.J. Proby. Jackie helped pioneer the folk-rock sound with the Byrds (‘Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe’) while simultaneously fashioning soulful gems for Dobie Gray and Barbara Lewis. DeShannon buffs will gravitate to the oft-recorded ‘Daydreamin’ Of You’ (heard here by the Fashionettes) and ‘Spendor In The Grass’ by the Boys, but the real paydirt comes at the end of the CD. Not only did DeShannon contribute extensive quotes and insights to the exhaustive liner notes, but she also proffered a demo of herself singing an unrecorded song from 1967, ‘Only You Can Free My Mind’, making this collection aJackie DeShannonfan’s dream come true.

  • Neil Diamond

    Singer-songwriters dominated the late 60s/early 70s music charts, usually with a decided folk slant. Neil Diamond was probably the most pop-oriented and certainly the most successful, compiling a two-decade string of hits and a performing career that finds him still able to fill a large arena today. We meet a young Neil Diamond on this collection, struggling, like countless other New York-born songwriters, to make a name for himself in the crowded corridors of the Brill Building. Early placements with such acts as the Rocky Fellers and Marcie Blane, as well as British teen idols Cliff Richard and Billy Fury, kept him afloat until he scored his first big chart hit, ‘Sunday And Me’, with Jay & the Americans in 1965. Taken under the wing of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Diamond flourished, to put it mildly, scoring hits with the Monkees and Ronnie Dove and beginning his own seemingly endless domination of the charts. Covers of Diamond hits are included here by the Four Tops, Bobby Womack, Lulu and Deep Purple, as well as Tony Tribe’s influential 1968 recording of ‘Red Red Wine’. By the late 60s, Diamond was off and running and, in the words of the Monkees cut that opens this collection, ‘Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)’.

  • Bo Diddley

    So great is Bo Diddley’s fame as one of the architects of rock’n’roll that his name might not be one of the first that springs to mind when you think “songwriter”. Well, it will after you hear this collection of covers of Bo classics and songs he penned for friends and co-stars. The booklet notes explain the convoluted story of Bo’s authorship of ‘Love Is Strange’ (heard here in a great version by the Everly Brothers). Bo was also the author of Jo Ann Campbell’s delightful ‘Mama Can I Go Out Tonight’. His own hits are heard in covers by a raft of artists he influenced, including Buddy Holly, the Zombies, the Shadows Of Knight, Captain Beefheart, the New York Dolls and Delbert McClinton. Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks’ hit version of ‘Who Do You Love’ is here, of course, and Dr Feelgood’s ‘Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut’ is worth the price by itself. Historical value is added with the Animals’ ‘Story Of Bo Diddley’ and ‘Pretty Thing’ by the Pretty Things, who thank Bo for their name. An altogether fascinating, and furiously rocking, look at one of the towering figures on rock’s Mount Rushmore.

  • Bob Dylan

    “How Many Roads” offers 20 examples of how well Bob Dylan’s songs have lent themselves to being interpretation by high profile names in soul music. Black America was very quick to recognise the potential of Dylan compositions and savvy singers started covering them almost as soon as he released them. Early fans included the Staple Singers, who cut no less than three songs from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and can be heard here on a stellar version of ‘Masters Of War’. Sam Cooke was inspired to write his masterpiece ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ after hearing Dylan sing ‘Blowing In The Wind’ and wondering why no black songwriter had come up with anything that spoke so eloquently of the need for racial equality. That song is heard here in a compelling rendition by O.V. Wright. This set includes some of Dylan’s favourite recordings of his songs and comes to you with his blessing and approval. 

  • Serge Gainsbourg

    Serge Gainsbourg was one of the greatest icons of Gallic pop culture. “The image of beauty and the beast, the Rive Gauche provocateur arm-in-arm with the ravishing icon, was a recurring feature of Gainsbourg’s career,” Malcolm McLaren once observed. Spanning his entire canon, our collection ranges from existential chanson to yé-yé and beyond – performed, appropriately, by a stellar all-female cast. In addition to the customary track commentary, the booklet features a fascinating essay by Gainsbourg biographer Alan Clayson and a foreword by featured artist April March. 

  • Gerry Goffin & Carole King

    How deep is the catalogue of Gerry Goffin and Carole King? Well, it’s not until the third of these three discs that you find their famous works ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’, ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’ and ‘The Loco-Motion’ (although not in the versions you might expect). That’s not to say that there aren’t any mega-hits to be found: the Drifters, the Monkees, Gene McDaniels, Maxine Brown, Tony Orlando, the Animals and Aretha Franklin all weigh in with tunes that are now standards. But the real eye-openers are the little-heard gems by the Turtles, Freddie Scott, the Everly Brothers, the Chiffons, Jackie DeShannon and Ben E King. We like our original versions at Ace and a few are included: Bobby Vee recorded ‘Go Away Little Girl’ before Steve Lawrence got his mitts on the song for example, while the Rising Sons (Ry Cooder’s early band) cut ‘Take A Giant Step’ before the Monkees did and stylish jazz diva Nancy Wilson’s reading of ‘No Easy Way Down’ was taped before Carole’s own version was released. Cult favourites Tammy Montgomery, Arlene Smith, Richard “Popcorn” Wylie, Dee Dee Warwick and Bertell Dache rub elbows with boldface names such as the Righteous Brothers, Dusty Springfield and Bobby Rydell. Of particular note are a never-released Satisfactions cut and many new-to-CD songs all bearing the unmistakable Goffin & King sound.

  • Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry

    Of all the great Brill Building writing teams, Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry were the least influenced by Broadway musicals (although their songs eventually became one). Their insanely catchy melodies, stick-in-your-head lyrics and nonsense syllable refrains were aimed straight at the hearts of teenagers, squarely hitting the bulls-eye a lot more often than not. This brace of compendiums of hits and rarities goes a long way toward explaining the special spot the couple will always occupy in so many hearts, especially those of girl group aficionados. Red Bird masterpieces by the Shangri-Las, Dixie Cups, Jelly Beans, Ad Libs and Butterflys are all here, alongside the Ronettes, Crystals, Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans and Darlene Love from the pair’s spectacularly successful spell providing hit songs for Phil Spector’s roster of artists. Collectors will flip for the rarely-heard original version of ‘Hanky Panky’ by the Summits and new-to-CD cuts by the Majors, Karen Verros, the Darlettes and the Fleetwoods, as well as obscure offerings from the Tokens, Bobby Sheen and Andy Kim. Throw in some hits by the Drifters, Lesley Gore, Connie Francis, the Exciters and the Chiffons and it’s easy to see why Greenwich & Barry ruled the Brill Building roost in the mid-60s. 

  • Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

    By the time Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller became rock’n’roll’s first identifiable star songwriters via a torrent of phenomenal hits by Elvis Presley and the Coasters, they had already served a most productive apprenticeship. Beginning their partnership as teenagers in Los Angeles, the pair quickly rose to the top of the nascent R&B scene. Their three Ace CDs chronicle the rise and rise of the brains trust that helped invent rock’n’roll.

    The first volume is a primer on rock’s infancy, featuring blues standard-bearers Charles Brown, Big Mama Thornton, Little Esther and Roy Hawkins. The collector will thrill to Freddie Bell & the Bell Boys’ version of ‘Hound Dog’, the one that inspired Elvis’ cover, and an alternate take of Leiber & Stoller’s first recorded song, ‘That’s What The Good Book Says’ by the Robins. There’s also a brilliant lyric to Lionel Hampton’s signature ‘Flying Home’, sung to perfection by Amos Milburn and Little Willie Littlefield’s original version of ‘Kansas City’.

    Volume 2 covers the years 1956-1962 and finds Leiber & Stoller, having relocated toNew York City, reigning supreme at the Brill Building as writers and producers. Some big hits here and also covers by artists as diverse as Buddy Holly, Lonnie Donegan and Cassius Clay, as well as the original recordings of ‘I’m A Woman’ by Christine Kittrell and ‘Some Other Guy’ by Richie Barrett. Screaming Jay Hawkins’ mind-roasting ‘Alligator Wine’ is a fascinatinghigh point, and who knew that Leiber & Stoller wrote for Johnny Mathis?

    The third volume picks up the story in 1963, by which time Leiber & Stoller had nothing left to prove, yet continued proving it on a regular basis. Another eclectic round-up of artists from the usual suspects such as the Drifters, the Exciters, Freddie Scott and Ben E King to Carmen McRae, the Walker Brothers, Johnny Cash & June Carter, Willie Bobo, Tommy Roe and jazz genius Jimmy Scott tackle the duo’s 60s output. Their fabled Red Bird venture is represented by the Shangri-Las’ rocking ‘Bull Dog’, the Honeyman’s oft-covered original of ‘Brother Bill’ and Alvin Robinson’s ‘Down Home Girl’. Peggy Lee closes the proceedings with the world-weary 1969 smash hit ‘Is That All There Is?’ – their finest moment, some say. 

  • John Lennon & Paul McCartney

    Lennon & McCartney’s songs perhaps did not carry the same degree of social significance for black Americans as those of Bob Dylan, but their knack for words and music inevitably made each new Beatles album a potential source of hits for others. This set features two dozen of their best-known numbers sung by some of the leading soul acts of the 60s and 70s. As with the Dylan set, you’ll find the obvious (Otis Redding’s reconstruction of ‘Day Tripper’ and Aretha’s essay on ‘Let It Be’) rubbing shoulders with the blindingly obscure (Lowell Fulson wondering ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road’ and the Moments’ take on ‘Rocky Raccoon’). Unlike many pop songwriters, Lennon and McCartney reached out to a broad spectrum of black artists; you won’t find too many compilations where Fats Domino and Chubby Checker feature alongside Mary Wells and Al Green, and do so in such a seamless way. 

  • Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil

    Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote the first hit song 1961, two months before their wedding. Over 50 years later, the couple’s 1000-plus catalogue includes chart songs recorded by the Righteous Brothers, Gene Pitney, the Drifters, the Ronettes, Mama Cass, Paul Revere & the Raiders, B.J. Thomas, Bill Medley, the Vogues, the Tokens, Tony Orlando, the Crystals, Johnny Crawford and the Animals, all of whom feature in this cherry-picked pair of compilations. Weil’s intelligent and witty way with a lyric often provided a social document of the times (‘Uptown’, ‘We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ etc). This, together with Mann’s aching melodies and the duo’s ability to move and adapt with the musical times – switching from brash girl group sounds (the Girls’ ‘Chico’s Girl’) to gritty city soul (Arthur Alexander’s ‘Where Have You Been’) and smooth soft pop (Nino Tempo & April Stevens’ ‘The Coldest Night Of The Year’) with consummate ease – always kept Mann and Weil ahead of the game. In addition to the smash hits, watch out for lesser-known gems by the Turtles, Scott Walker, the Chiffons, Donna Loren, Del Shannon, the Sweet Inspirations, the 2 Of Clubs, Bruce & Terry, the Cinderellas, Lou Rawls, Ruby & the Romantics, Dusty Springfield and many others. What a legacy. Sample it here.

  • Ernie Maresca

    No comparisons to Gershwin or Berlin when discussing Ernie Maresca. The Bronx-born Maresca specialised in earthy, rocking street sounds, scoring hits for Dion & the Belmonts (together and separately), Reparata & the Delrons, the Regents and Bernadette Carroll and even visiting the Top 10 himself with 1962’s rowdy party anthem ‘Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)’. Also heard on the two compilations here are the Chiffons, Dean & Jean, HoagyLands, Jimmy Clanton and more Bronx doo woppers than you can shake a stolen hubcap at. Of particular note for the connoisseur is the 1929 Depression’s original version of ‘Child Of Clay’, a hit for Jimmie Rodgers in 1967. Maresca himself collaborated on these discs and generously provided unreleased tracks, including his original demo of ‘The Wanderer’, also heard in an early take by Dion. 

  • Van McCoy

    One listen to this CD provides a tuneful explanation of Van McCoy’s top-echelon status in the pantheon of soul. After apprenticing at Scepter Records where he turned out LP cuts and minor hits for the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson (there’s a great one included here), McCoy hit his stride in the mid-60s when some of the era’s greatest names were lining up to tackle his songs. He particularly excelled at writing for women, and this CD is a virtual diva-fest with high-powered superstar names such as Aretha, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone and Nancy Wilson intermingled with genre favourites Irma Thomas, Esther Phillips, Teri Thornton and Erma Franklin. Male vocalists are represented by heavy hitters Jackie Wilson, Jerry Butler and Donny Hathaway, and there’s Northern soul gold in cuts by the Spellbinders and the Ad Libs. From early hits such as Barbara Lewis’ ‘Baby I’m Yours’ to the original version of ‘When You’re Young And In Love’ by Ruby & the Romantics to McCoy’s 70s work with Melba Moore and Brenda & the Tabulations, his songbook shimmers with silky soul.

  • Phillip Mitchell

    On this unquestionably strong collection of classics written or co-written by soul hero “Prince” Phillip Mitchell, one shouldn’t always expect the obvious version of any song. Instead of hearing Phillip himself sing ‘Free For All’, for example, you will hear Mel & Tim. And instead of Mel & Tim’s ‘Starting All Over Again’, you will hear Johnnie Taylor. John Edwards’ sensational ‘Cold Hearted Woman’ is here, so that we can include Phillip singing ‘Little Things’. Katie Love’s original of ‘It Hurts So Good’ takes precedence over Millie Jackson’s version because, well, it’s the original, and we can then feature Millie’s underrated ‘Leftovers’. The tracks here mostly chose themselves, through their popularity with record buyers or the acclaim afforded them by collectors and dancers on the Northern, modern and crossover scenes. It’s very rare that you will hear so many great songs, one after another, sung by so many great voices. 

  • Randy Newman

    Look up the word quirky in any dictionary and you’ll likely find a picture of Randy Newman. His storied career as a songwriter has led him to regular Academy Award nominations (and a win), and his music is beloved by a couple of generations of kids, and parents, who’ve enjoyed such ubiquitous family films as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Cars. He also managed a successful performing and recording career with hit albums and singles such as the unforgettable ‘Short People’ and ‘I Love L.A.’. These two volumes focus on Randy Newman the songwriter, who began plying his trade in the 60s as a staff writer for Liberty Records in cahoots withJackie DeShannon(who contributes a song to each of these sets), David Gates and Leon Russell. Newman’s songs visited the charts in records by Gene Pitney, Irma Thomas and the Alan Price Set (who can forget ‘Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear’?). As these volumes witness, Newman’s songcraft was quickly identified by such premier vocalists as Dusty Springfield (the definitive rendering of ‘I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’), Ella Fitzgerald, the Everly Brothers, Scott Walker, Fats Domino, Linda Ronstadt, Lou Rawls and, especially, Nilsson, who recorded an entire LP of Newman songs. They’re all present here, along with collector’s treasures such asEricBurdon & the Animals’ original version of ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’, a couple of obscure Fleetwoods beauties and rare tracks by Rick Nelson, Liza Minnelli and Van Dyke Parks. His shelves groaning with Emmies, Grammies and Oscars, these two CDs really give Randy Newman something to be proud of.

     

  • Laura Nyro

    Only New York City, that greatest of melting pots, could have produced Laura Nyro. A distinctive musician, an uncompromising vocalist and a great writer whose songs sold millions, but whose records did not, Nyro the performer was possibly too “out there” for mass consumption. Her lyrics were often obscure, but her glorious melodies meant that, in more mainstream interpretation, other artists enjoyed massive commercial success with her material. The performers contained on this collection reflect Nyro’s devoted fanbase, which pretty much consists of women and gay men, and are drawn from the worlds of soul, pop, gospel, jazz and beyond. The songs are drawn exclusively from her classic first four albums: “More Than A New Discovery”, “Eli And The Thirteenth Confession”, “New York Tendaberry” and “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat”, issued between 1967 and 1970. Key tracks include ‘Sweet Blindness’ by the 5th Dimension, ‘Save The Country’ by Thelma Houston, ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ by Bobbie Gentry and new-to-CD rarities by Melba Moore, the Blossoms and Peggy Lipton. 

  • Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham

    An awe-inspiring masterclass in the art of songwriting, “Sweet Inspiration” won the Mojo award for Best Compilation of the Year in 2011. Superbly annotated, the set contains all the major songs Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote together, mainly in versions (not always the most obvious) recorded in Muscle Shoals or Memphis. Key tracks include ‘Feed The Flame’ spectacularly performed by high tenor Ted Taylor, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles’ spellbinding ‘Dreamer’, Sandy Posey’s emotional ‘Are You Never Coming Home’, Arthur Conley’s ‘In The Same Old Way’ and country thrush Jeanne Newman’s previously unissued recording of ‘It Tears Me Up’, one of Penn and Oldham’s earliest songs. 

    On “A Road Leading Home” the net is cast wider to also include Dan Penn’s other co-writers, namely Darryl Carter, Leroy Daniels, Oscar Franck, Donnie Fritts, David Gonzalez, Marlin Greene, Rick Hall, Roger Hawkins, Quin Ivy, Jimmy Johnson, Bob Killen, Bucky Lindsey, Drew Miller, Chips Moman, Don Nix and Carson Whitsett. Highlights include two of the greatest southern soul ballads ever written: ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’, here in a stunning reading by Brenda Lee, and ‘The Dark End Of The Street’, sung by Roy Hamilton – both penned by Penn with Chips Moman. 

  • Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman

    It’s hard to imagine a more mismatched pair than Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, or a more underrated one, but their place in the Brill Building hierarchy is explained quite definitively on this CD. More than 10 years separated disabled blues shouter Pomus and his teenaged protégé Shuman when they began their collaboration in 1956 with ‘Miss Rip Van Winkle’ by the Tibbs Brothers, one of the more collectable cuts heard here. They delivered career-defining songs for Dion & the Belmonts, the Drifters and the Mystics and provided teen idols Fabian, James Darren and Jimmy Clanton with their finest moments in the sun. Pomus & Shuman eventually became go-to guys for Elvis Presley movies; Elvis’ ‘Double Trouble’ is here, as well as Del Shannon’s original version of ‘His Latest Flame’ and Terry Stafford’s Top 5 cover of ‘Suspicion’. Highlights include hits by Andy Williams and Gary U.S. Bonds, rarities from Barrett Strong, Bobby Darin and Bobby Vee and soul sides courtesy of Irma Thomas and Howard Tate. The booklet notes feature a touching story that makes ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ come to life in a new and meaningful way. Pomus & Shuman are no longer with us, but their music will live forever and this collection captures its essence to perfection.

  • Otis Redding

    Otis wrote a staggering number of songs in a very short period of time. In the few weeks leading up to his death, he cut around 30 new songs, leaving behind enough material for a trio of albums. The quality of many of those posthumously issued compositions was quickly recognised by his peers. Fine versions of several of them – by Buddy Miles, Etta James, Patti Drew, Percy Sledge and others – appear here. As befits one of the greatest purveyors of a soul ballad, many of the best allow their singers to tug at the heartstrings in the way Otis’ own versions still do. A significant number are performed by women, who seemed to gravitate to Otis’ catalogue in the wake of Aretha’s blockbuster success with ‘Respect’. But as well as the ballads there are numerous great examples of Otis’ up-tempo work, exemplified by his protégé Arthur Conley’s romp through ‘Wholesale Love’ and an alternate take of Otis’ own ‘Loving By the Pound’. 

  • Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield

    Juilliard-trained Neil Sedaka and his lyricist buddy Howard Greenfield were the first songwriters to sign with Al Nevins and Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music. ‘Stupid Cupid’, their initial song for the company, was recorded by Connie Francis; it shot up the charts in 1958 and soon Aldon was the most successful music publisher in the USA, with scores of international hits in their catalogue and a retinue that included Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Most of the pair’s best-known compositions were recorded by Sedaka himself, but their numbers were also cut by Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, Bobby Darin and Lesley Gore, all featured here. The CD – which also includes songs penned by Sedaka or Greenfield with Carole King (the Everlys’ ‘Crying In The Rain’), Jack Keller, Roger Atkins, Helen Miller and Carole Bayer – comes with a bumper booklet featuring an exclusive interview with Sedaka. 

  • P.F. Sloan & Steve Barri

    Loaded with hits and personality, this comp perfectly captures its authors. First tasting success with Round Robin’s dance craze workout ‘Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann’, Phil “P.F.” Sloan & Steve Barri spun out records in the current girl group and surf genres, achieving greatness, if not high chart placement, with the irresistible ‘Sh-Down Down Song’ by the Gingersnaps and Bruce & Terry’s ‘Summer Means Fun’. They also recorded themselves under pseudonyms such as Philip & Stephan, the Fantastic Baggies (‘Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’’, a highlight of this or any CD) and the Grass Roots on the brilliant ‘Where Were You When I Needed You’. Highlights include hits the team concocted for Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers, the 5th Dimension and the Turtles, a rare cut by movie goddess Ann-Margret, a ring-a-dinging rendition of ‘Secret Agent Man’ by jazz lounge hero Mel Tormé and the incendiary-for-its-time ‘Eve of Destruction’ by Barry McGuire, which helped ignite the folk-rock craze.

     

  • Chip Taylor

    Chip Taylor has long been a name to be reckoned with among 60s music buffs in the know. His two biggest hits, ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Angel Of The Morning’, have gone on to become standards, and he managed to rack up an impressive array of chart hits with artists such as Barbara Lewis, the Pozo-Seco Singers, Walter Jackson and Reparata & the Delrons, an eclectic cast of characters that shows Taylor equally proficient in the country, pop and soul arenas. This collection contains wonderful rarities, like ‘A Most Unusual Boy’ by teenage diva-in-training Patti Austin, and interpretations of his songs by über-divas Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin, but the holy grail of never-heard treasures has to be the original demo of ‘Storybook Children’ by Billy Vera & Bluebelle Nona Hendryx. Taylor himself can be heard on the final cut, from his own 1973 LP, and he still writes, records and performs on a regular basis.

  • Allen Toussaint

    For more than 50 years, people have been singing the songs of Allen Toussaint. Incredibly modest about his achievements, not only as a writer but also as a musician, producer and performer,New Orleansnative Toussaint has been around music all his life, growing up in a house where his mother encouraged his ambitions as a pianist as soon as he learned to pick out a tune. Spanning over 30 years, this collection features 24 of his best-known compositions, including ‘Here Come The Girls’ (here in its original version by Ernie K-Doe), ‘Ride Your Pony’ (a great take by the Meters from 1970), ‘Working In The Coalmine’ (the Judds, 1985), ‘Yes We Can Can’ (the Pointer Sisters), ‘Fortune Teller’ (Benny Spellman), ‘Holy Cow’ (Lee Dorsey) and ‘Southern Nights’ (a #1 hit for Glen Campbell). All-in-all, undeniable proof that Toussaint is one of the premier songwriters ever to emerge from the Crescent City, or any other city for that matter. 

© Ace records 2012