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Just The Tracks, Ma’am: Ace Collects “Criminal Records” On New Compilation

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Long before CSI, there was Dragnet.  The granddaddy of the television procedural drama, Dragnet actually began on radio in 1949, moving to television in 1951, where it has remained a staple ever since in both repeats and revivals.  So it’s appropriate that the ominous theme to Dragnet both opens and closes Ace’s rip-roaring new compilation, Criminal Records, subtitled “Law, Disorder and the Pursuit of Vinyl Justice.”  Between Ray Anthony’s treatment of that famous theme and Stan Freberg’s delicious parody of the program, you’ll find 22 other wild vignettes of cops, robbers, private dicks and prisoners.  Along the way you’ll meet “Dick Tracy,” “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon” and “Bad Dan McGoon” and travel all the way from Folsom Prison to Birmingham Jail.  And be careful when you approach that riot in Cell Block No. 9!

Avoiding such staples as The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law,” Criminal Records instead concentrates on lesser-known songs, or familiar songs in rare versions.  Most tracks date from the 1950s and early sixties, but make no mistake: this is raucous music, not well-scrubbed pop from handsome guys named Bobby!  Among those lesser-known interpretations of classic tunes, you’ll find a hyper-charged, distorted “Jailhouse Rock” from Dean Carter.  So aggressive is this 1967 track that you might classify it as proto-punk!  In a similar vein, it’s Jumpin’ Gene Simmons, not Johnny Cash, heard with “Folsom Prison Blues.”   Though Gene doesn’t jump quite as much as Dean Carter, his “Folsom” also ups the tempo from the familiar original.

Famous fictional characters appear throughout Criminal Records, too.  The Chants immortalized Chester Gould’s famed detective in the 1961 “Dick Tracy,” and the detective would doubtless agree with the group that “crime doesn’t never pay!”  Even more oddball is Bob Luman’s catchy “Private Eye,” a 1961 curio from the Warner Bros. label.  Luman, a Rockabilly Hall of Famer, name-checks Edd “Kookie” Byrnes of Warner Bros.’ television show 77 Sunset Strip and TV detective Peter Gunn in his wacky song written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant (“All I Have to Do is Dream”).  Of the real-life characters heard here, one would certainly be Scatman Crothers.  The actor and voiceover artist perhaps best known for his role in Chico and the Man actually had an accomplished musical career, and offers this collection’s earliest track, asking the musical question behind 1949’s “Have You Got the Gumption?”

There’s more gumption and woe after the jump, plus the full track listing with discography and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 6, 2012 at 10:49

Presidents’ Day Special Feature: Stan Freberg, “The United States of America”

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Here’s one for Watson: “This actor, comedian, voice artist, singer, songwriter and advertising guru coined the name ‘Grammy’ for the annual awards bestowed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).” The correct answer? “Who is Stan Freberg?” To list Freberg’s credits in the fields of cinema, radio, television, animation and music would take up the entirety of this column, but readers unfamiliar with those accomplishments are advised to stop reading now, order a copy of Rhino’s multi-disc box set Tip of the Freberg, and then return here. For anyone with a funny bone ready to be tickled will take delight in “Green Chri$tma$,” “John and Marsha,” and Freberg’s indelibly hysterical versions of “Heartbreak Hotel” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” But you might be asking yourself, “What the heck does Stan Freberg have to do with Presidents’ Day?”

In 1961, Freberg released his most ambitious project yet. Released on Capitol Records and featuring the participation of his merry troupe of voice talents including June Foray and Paul Frees, The United States of America Vol. 1: The Early Years gave musical voice to George Washington (Freberg) and Thomas Jefferson (Byron Kane), while Vol. 2: The Middle Years, released some 35 years later on the Rhino label, added James Madison (Lorenzo Music, otherwise known as the voice of Carlton the Doorman and Garfield!), Abraham Lincoln (Freberg again!) and Ulysses S. Grant (David Ogden Stiers) to Freberg’s presidential lexicon. For Vol. 2, Jesse White, Peter Leeds, and Foray all returned to the voice cast alongside “newcomers” John Goodman, Sherman Hemsley, Tyne Daly and Harry Shearer.

Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America has been described by Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen as either the best comedy album in history, or the best history album in comedy. Which is it? Hit the jump and you decide as we celebrate Presidents’ Day here at The Second Disc! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 21, 2011 at 13:32

Posted in Features, Reissues, Stan Freberg

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