Lesley Gore epitomized the sound of American pop in the early-to-mid 1960s with hits like “It’s My Party” and its answer/follow-up, “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” For my money, there may never have been a greater one-two punch in pop than that pair, produced by Quincy Jones and arranged by Claus Ogerman. But where was the teen pop queen by the Summer of Love? The U.K.’s Ace label answers that question with the June release of Magic Colors: The Lost Album with Bonus Tracks 1967-1969, unearthing a lost LP and a full complement of bonus tracks.
“It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” were just the start of a remarkable career for the 16-year old from Tenafly, New Jersey, and the Gore/Jones/Ogerman triumvirate continued turning out one smash after another. “You Don’t Own Me” remains a striking anthem today while gems like the sunny “That’s the Way Boys Are” and Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s “Look of Love” and sophisticated “Maybe I Know” are as infectious today as they were in 1964. Gore withstood the British Invasion and appeared in The TAMI Show alongside such leading lights as James Brown, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones . She made a guest appearance on screens big (Ski Party) and small (Batman). Gore was still a chart presence in 1965, when she introduced a song by a young New York musician, arranger and rehearsal pianist named Marvin Hamlisch. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Roses” was co-written by Hamlisch and Howard Liebling, and the upbeat, exultant track became another big hit for Gore and the first of many for Hamlisch, hitting No. 11 on the American charts.
But despite continuing to record impressive material by impressive talent (including Carole Bayer Sager and Toni Wine, Van McCoy, Jack Nitzsche and Russ Titelman), the hits slowed down. Gore teamed with other producers – Shelby Singleton and Nitzsche – for the first time. It took Bob Crewe, though, to restore Lesley’s fortunes with another Marvin Hamlisch song. The evocative “California Nights,” with its widescreen soundscape, hit No. 16 in early 1967, proving Gore’s staying power. But Crewe’s next single for Lesley, the stunningly gorgeous “Summer and Sandy,” stalled at No. 67. Mercury sent producer Steve Douglas (famed for his work as part of the Los Angeles Wrecking Crew) to work with Lesley, and if “Brink of Disaster” thankfully didn’t live up to its name, it only made it as far as No. 82 late in 1967.
But “Brink” was scheduled to be part of one of Gore’s most tantalizing lost projects, an LP scheduled for release as Mercury SR-61148 entitled Magic Colors, after a psychedelic song penned by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. While all ten of the LP’s tracks have been released (four of them premiered on Bear Family’s exhaustive box set It’s My Party! compiling Lesley’s entire Mercury output), Ace brings them together on a single disc for the very first time, together with fifteen bonus tracks, all from 1967-1969. Magic Colors: The Lost Album with Bonus Tracks 1967-1969 features a virtual “Who’s Who” of 1960s American pop music. Consider this: songs by Sedaka and Greenfield, Hamlisch and Liebling, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Allan Gordon and Gary Bonner, Gary Geld and Peter Udell, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Laura Nyro and Thom Bell; productions by Steve Douglas as well as Herb Bernstein and Gamble and Huff.
Finally, Gore fans will be able to hear Magic Colors in its musical splendor as it was originally scheduled for release. Hit the jump for the run-down on its contents plus full track listing with discographical annotation.
Magic Colors kicks off with a memorable song by the renowned New York team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. “It’s A Happening World” found the songwriters perfectly in tune with the California pop scene and was also recorded by The Tokens. It squarely places the album in 1967, and invites listeners to “come along with me, you can be as young as you want to be!” The sparkling track features the best of the Wrecking Crew: Hal Blaine (drums), Lyle Ritz (guitar), Mike Deasy (bass), Larry Knechtel (piano), Ray Pohlman (guitar). The very same October 1967 session yielded an unusual track from Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield’s pen. “Magic Colors” may have been atypical fare for the team, but Sedaka was acutely aware of the changing music marketplace and sought during the period between his RCA years and Rocket comeback to expand his musical horizons. “Magic Colors” is a psych-pop track with a splendid baroque arrangement: “Where are all the magic colors that used to light my way? I must find those rainbows of yesterday.” Gore delivered a strong, confident lead over the dramatic track; both “Magic Colors” and “Happening World” are highlighted by Association-styled backing vocal harmonies that will excite any sunshine pop enthusiast.
Lesley and brother Michael Gore contributed “Where Can I Go” to Magic Colors, and to Steve Douglas’ productions of “Brink of Disaster” and its B-side, “On a Day Like Today,” were slated for inclusion on the LP as well. Teddy Randazzo was tapped for the string-laden Vietnam-era ballad “You Brought Me Silver Bells,” a far cry from the Jay Livingston and Ray Evans holiday song! Jack Nitzsche arranged this track for Douglas along with two more, all recorded at the same August 1967 session at United Recorders, “I’m Fallin’ Down” and “He Won’t See the Light.” Two very familiar covers also made the cut for the would-be LP, “How Can I Be Sure” and “To Sir with Love.”
Ace has expanded the original Magic Colors line-up with fifteen bonus tracks of various vintage, starting with Bob Crewe’s ambitious production of “Summer and Sandy.” These tracks represent virtually every song cut by Gore at Mercury from the “Summer” session of April 1967 through her final July 1969 date with Paul Leka (The Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine”). “Small Talk” is an intoxicating Bonner and Gordon song which was also performed by Claudine Longet with Andy Williams, Harpers Bizarre and Gary Lewis. Sedaka and Greenfield return with “Summer Symphony,” a worthy follow-up to “Magic Colors” that also was criminally unheard at the time of its release. A final visit (at the time, at least) to Marvin Hamlisch’s songbook produced “One by One,” and Gary Geld and Peter Udell (“Sealed with a Kiss,” “Hurting Each Other”) penned “I Can’t Make It Without You,” also recorded by Gene Pitney. There’s also a tantalizing glimpse of a largely-unexplored direction for Gore with the inclusion of three smoothly soulful tracks produced in New York City by Philadelphia’s best. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff produced “Look The Other Way,” “Take Good Care of My Heart” and “I’ll Be Standing By” on Lesley in October 1968, with Thom Bell and Bobby Martin providing the arrangements. Bell, already an accomplished songwriter, co-wrote the first two songs.
Perhaps the most interesting of the bonus tracks is Lesley’s take on Laura Nyro’s “Wedding Bell Blues.” Lesley recalled to writer Dawn Eden, “My brother MichaeI and I were just made for Laura Nyro, and I would continually bring Quincy [Jones] songs of hers that I wanted to record. Finally, I brought in the most benign of all her songs…then the 5th Dimension literally pre-empted us; they must have put their record out two days before we were ready with ours.” Despite a customarily winning vocal from Lesley that evinces her passion for Nyro’s music, the Paul Leka production couldn’t compete with Bones Howe and Bob Alcivar’s work for Marilyn McCoo and company. “Wedding Bell Blues,” backed by Hamlisch and Liebling’s “One by One,” was Lesley Gore’s final single for Mercury.
All told, Lesley Gore amassed 19 hits on the American Top 100 and ranks second only to Brenda Lee among top-selling American female vocalists between 1963 and 1967. Magic Colors is a perfect way to reacquaint yourself with her still-vibrant talent. The album is set for release on the Ace label on June 27 in the U.K. and July 12 on American shores.
- It’s A Happening World (Mercury single 72759-B, 1967)
- Magic Colors (Mercury single 72759-A, 1967)
- Where Can I Go (Mercury single 72842-B, 1968)
- Brink Of Disaster (Mercury single 72726-A, 1967)
- On A Day Like Today (Mercury single 72726-B, 1967)
- I’m Fallin’ Down (Version 2; previous version issued on Mercury single 72683-B, 1967)
- You Sent Me Silver Bells (Mercury single 72892-B, 1969)
- He Won’t See The Light
- How Can I Be Sure
- To Sir With Love
- Summer And Sandy (Mercury single 72683-A, 1967)
- Small Talk (Mercury single 72787-A, 1968)
- Say What You See (Mercury single 72787-B, 1968)
- He Gives Me Love (La La La) (Mercury single 72819-A, 1968)
- Brand New Me (Mercury single 72819-B, 1968)
- I Can’t Make It Without You (Mercury single 72842-A, 1968)
- Look The Other Way (Mercury single 72867-B, 1968)
- Take Good Care (Of My Heart) (Mercury single 72892-A, 1969)
- I’ll Be Standing By (Mercury single 72867-A, 1968)
- Ride A Tall White Horse
- 98.6 / Lazy Day (Mercury single 72931-B, 1969)
- Summer Symphony (Mercury single 72931-A, 1969)
- All Cried Out
- One By One (Mercury single 72969-B, 1969)
- Wedding Bell Blues (Mercury single 72969-A, 1969)
Tracks 1-10 scheduled for Magic Colors, Mercury LP SR 61148, 1967
Tracks 6, 8-10, 20, 23 first appeared on It’s My Party!, Bear Family BCD 15742, 1994