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 DeShannonare 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 actual Brill).
Those writers in turn influenced the ones 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.
For full details see releases/products below.