Saturday, March 22, 2008

Machucambos: Part 2 Discography

London LPs

        All the London albums seem to have had a near simultaneous or preceding release in England or France under the Decca label albeit in different lighter weight sleeves, and with differing graphics and photos at times.

Folklore Of The South
SW 99002 (1961)
Side 1:
1. La Bamba*, 2. Poncho De 4 Colores,
3. La Bahuala, 4. Soy Tolimense,
5. Quireme
Side 2:
1. Duerme Negrito, 2. El Aventurero,
3. El Pobrecito, 4. Macongo,
5. La Leyenda De Los Volcanes

Notes: La Bamba is a different recording from Percussive Latin Trio, perhaps earlier and a bit wilder.

Percussive Latin Trio
SP 44012 (1962)
Side 1:
1. La Cucaracha, 2. La Palomita,
3. Amor Amor, 4. Pajaro Campana,
5. Otorino Laringolo, 6. Granada
Side 2:
1. La Bamba, 2. Pepito,
3. Perfidia, 4. Cascada,
5. Subo Subo, 6. Adios

Note: Released in U.K. as "In Phase 4" PFS 34006

Dansez Avec Los Machucambos (No.2)
MLP 10028 (1962)
Side 1:
1. Non Monsieur, 2. El Silbido de ese tren,
3. Samba de Minha Terra, 4. El Choclo,
5. Cuando Calienta el Sol, 6. Samba de Perroquet
Side 2:
1. Dona Rosa, 2. Purito,
3. Fabulosa, 4. Espéranza,
5. El Proffesor, 6. Samba Torto

Note: Stereo edition exists, SLP 20028

Los Machucambos
MLP 10039 (1963)
Side 1:
1. La Lune, 2. Professor Bach,
3. Mira Mirame, 4. La Bamba de Colas,
5. La Chinqua, 6. La Mamma
Side 2:
1. Quand je Danse avec, 2. Marie Elena,
3. Ciel de Lit, 4. El Watusi,
5. Melinda, 6. El Pescador

Notes: Different version of Maria Elena from Mucho Machucambos.Stereo edition exists, SLP 20039

Mucho Machucambos
SP 44055 (1964)
Side 1:
1. Cachita, 2. Adios Irene,
3. Misionera, 4. Maria Elena,
5. El Tren, 6. Naranjita
Side 2:
1. El Rancho Grande, 2. Yo Vendo Unos Ojos Negros,
3. Ojos Verdes, 4. Valsecito,
5. Reservista, 6. Adios Pampa Mia

Note: Decca U.K. is PFS 4056

SP 44084 (1967)
Side 1:
1. El Cumbanchero, 2. El Manicero,
3. La Parranda, 4. Concierto En La Llanura,
5. El Caiman, 6. Brazil
Side 2:
1. Alma Llanera, 2. Tico-Tico,
3. Cielito Lindo, 4. La Playa Colorada,
5. Manana, 6. Garota De Ipanema

Note: Decca U.K. is PFS 4089

Mucho Gusto
SP 44117 (1969)
Side 1:
1. Mas Que Nada, 2. Mahna De Carnaval,
3. Maracaibo, 4. Corcovado,
5. Puerto De Barranquilla, 6. Babalu
Side 2:
1. A Man And A Woman, 2. Baia,
3. Paraguajita, 4. Taripai Cha Cucharata,
5. How Insensitive, 6. Carnavalito Humahuaqueno

Note: Decca U.K. is PFS 4155

Friday, March 21, 2008

Machuambos: Part 1

Southern Native Americans made an instrument called a charango from the skin of an animal known in Latin America as a machucambo. Together, Rafael Gayoso, Mathias Romano Zanotti and Julia Cortes are the Machucambos.

Rafael Gayoso had been studying at a music conservatory and travelled in Cuba and Mexico. In Paris he was one third of the Trio Acapulco; they would perform at a bar called L'Scale. With Rafael in this group was Peruvian Milton Zapata and a Mexican man, name unknown. One day the Mexican man could not make it to the show and Costa-Rican singer Julia Cortes, who was also a performer at the bar, was asked to fill in. She put on a female charro suit (typical folkloric Mexican dress) and they started to perform. The crowd loved them and they were such a success that the trio was born. The original Machucambos founded by Rafael, Milton, and Julia, recorded a couple of records together, and had won the 1959 Grand Prix du Disque de l'Academie du Disques Francais, but after that Romano Zanotti replaced Milton Zapata for unknown reasons. Zanotti had toured for three years with a musical group called the "Guaranis" before joining Los Machucambos. Before this he studied at the College of Fine Arts in Rome followed by a study tour of Central America. The Macucambos' recording of Pepito with Zanotti in the group was a hit all around the world, selling six million copies.

With a wealth of instrumental and song material from Central and South America, and Mexico, Los Machucambos became international stars for their high quality live performance. Transcending cultural and language barriers they played both the Albert Hall in London and The Olympia in Paris; from Europe to the Middle East to all the Americas, the Machucambos were in demand. Their recording career coincided with the viability of stereophonic reproduction, and those with new stereo hi-fis needed stereophonic discs to play on them. Along with RCA, Capitol/EMI and Columbia, one of the major releasers of quality early stereo records was London/Decca. One of their most reissued albums has to be 1961's Percussive Latin Trio, still usually the first Los Machucambos item most people come across. This landmark album, while it's stereo effects are somewhat more crudely produced than their next subsequent Phase 4 titles, continues to captivate listeners through the sheer exhuberance and dazzle of the three main Machucambos. Accompanied by two tracks spotlighting Paraguayan harpist Ignacio Alderette, almost every one of the ten other tracks is the best of it's kind. The familiar "Adios" composed by Madriguera evokes horse travel through twilight ranges. "Subo Subo", an Aztec lament with a modern Machucambos arrangement and powerful three voice harmony is simply unforgettable. Another standard of the day, covered by everyone from Chet Atkins to The Ventures and The Shadows, "Perfidia" is also given new arrangements. "Pepito" among it's many other attributes is also a classic of the cow-bell; no wonder people couldn't get enough of it! "La Bamba" as arranged by Los Machucambos is possibly the definitive recording musicians still refer back to alongside Ricardo "Ritchie" Valensuela's rock guitar masterpiece. "Granada" soars upward like the green mountains of it's title only to bring you back with earthy rthyms and lush harmonies. Then a new, now a durable cha-cha, "Otorino Laringolo", shows off all three vocalists intricately. "Amor Amor", a delicate romantic classic has Romano Zanotti in the lead giving Mel Torme or Dean Martin some competition. The galloping "La Palomita" shows off the famed charango in a new Machucambo arrangement. And lastly, but first on the LP, "La Cucaracha", if any tune south of the Rio Grande is worn out then this is it, but even this sounds good when done in a percussive based way by Los Machucambos.

The subsequent ten and then twenty channel stereo recordings all have a wealth of acoustic marvels of their own, and even some original compositions from Zanotti and Gayoso. In 1971 their live performances of "Songs and Dances of Latin America" continued for two months at Paris' Olympia theater. Due to health problems making travel a hardship, Julia Cortes unfortunately had to retire from the touring group but did continue to record sporadically. It would take two voices to try to fill Julia's shoes; Mariana "Anna" Venegas-Montalvo and Maria Licata. While corporate backed semi anonymous "disco" steamrolled a continent, back in Europe the Machucambos had hits with Bossanova and Salsa compositions. Marchinha Pra Angela Davis was particularly popular. In 1978, the group won the Grand Prix d'Interpretation at Tokyo's World Song Festival and toured Japan. In Recent years Los Machucambos CDs have begun appearing, including a reunion of the original three great Machucambos! New fans of the group are still being made because they simply knock people out with their fantastic, powerful vocals and tight complex instrumentation!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Biography: Pussycat and Tony Willé

Mississipi is the one Pussycat song most North Americans have any knowledge of. Released in 1975 and written by Werner A. Theunissen, Mississippi made an impression in many places. With lead vocal by Tony Willé (nee Kowalczyk) and joined by older sisters Betty and Marjan, and husband Lou Willé, John Thuenissen, Theo Coumans, and Theo Wetzels, the song is evocative of that wide rolling river. The lyrics end 'if ever I should go away, I'll be longing for that day, when I will be in Greenville again'. It was the first single, backed with Do It which also appeared on the debut album by Pussycat, based in Holland. As with all her future albums Tony sang in English, but also (like the Beatles in the early days) recorded German versions which were popular in that market.

Georgie was the next single taken from the album 'First Of All' and also found a highly receptive audience in Europe but did not seem to reach America. Neither did stand out album tracks Mexicali Lane and Help Me Living On. Pussycat was contemporary with such other international groups as Abba and Fleetwood Mac (Buckingham & Nicks incarnation), but also showed a country twang (Nothing To Hide written by Eddy Hilberts) and sometimes some organ work (such as on I Long To Hear Your Footsteps), and a bit of the harmonies of the Everly Brothers. The next album 'Souvenirs' was if anything better than the first with the singles Smile and My Broken Souvenirs topping the charts in 1976 and 1977. The Souvenir album also included other stand outs with Tony and sisters up front, I'll Be Your Woman, The Easy Way, Get It Higher, Home, and You Don't Know (What It's Like To Be Near). Also offered was Someday, an interesting honkytonk country ballad with Lou Willé vocals. All but one song were written by Werner Theunissen.

Above are Betty, Marjan and Tony, and the men are guitarist John Theunissen, Lou Willé, Theo Wetzels, and drummer Theo Coumans.

In 1978 the single and album Wet Day In September were released and the album offered other hits with If You Ever Come To Amsterdam, and the country style Hey Joe (no connection to the late '60s Hendricks staple), Another Day, To Lovin', I Must Get You and Love In September (written by Eddy Hilberts). Already various 'Best Of' albums were being issued to meet the European demand. The next album included the upbeat hit Doin' La Bamba, Let Freedom Range (a very stirring tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. with Tony at full strength), Stranger In Town, Alleghenny, and On The Corner Of My Life (a title taken from a line of an earlier song).

The next album, 'Blue Lights', featured a closeup of a kitten instead of the band, but you can see them reflected in the cat's eyes. Thuenissen's And Then The Music Stopped and Teenage Queenie charted as singles, as did Une Chambre Pour La Nuit. The title song is also notable. Following this, the band was reduced to the sisters and Lou Willé due to costs of touring. The single Take A Look At Me was released by Pussycat as a foursome in 1982. The last Pussycat album, 'After All', was a thinner assemblage, and only one single from it charted, which was Lovers Of A Kind. Meanwhile 'Best Of' albums continued to appear and sell, and two new singles appeared following 'After All'; Roll On Mississippi, and Light Of A Gipsy.

Following that last Pussycat single's release in 1984 Tony's sisters had had their fill and Pussycat dissolved. Tony went solo the same year, covering songs by Chris Rea and Anne Murray among others on her first album. Two more solo albums appeared to some success in the next few years, a light pop ballad approach was taken with some country and sometimes a bit of Spanish influence.

The original family name of the sisters was Kowalczyk and they came to Holland from Poland. The sisters performed as The Beat Girls or The BGs From Holland as well as recording as Sweet Reaction, and Tony alone as Sally Lane (with the single Let Me Live Again). Lou Willié was part of a skiffle type rock band as Ricky Rendall and His Centuries, while Theo Coumans, John Theunnisen and Theo Wetzels made up a more R&B styled group called Scum in the 1960s.

The magic of 'Mississippi' and 'Souvenirs' is in the past now, linked to the late seventies. Yet the recordings of Pussycat are still lush and fresh to the ear today, well produced by Eddy Hilberts and with the subtle and original stylings of Werner Theunissen and Tony. A two record set titled Gold released in 1985 summed up the band's and Thuenissen's career.

All the individual Pussycat albums have been released on CD in 2001 by EMI with bonus tracks added.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Biography: Cass Elliot

Note: This will be the start of my transferring material previously posted on Geocities to my blog.

Cass Elliot was reportedly born September 19th, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. From The Big Three, through the Mugwumps, and The Mamas & the Papas, to her solo recordings and collaboration with Dave Mason; Cass presented one of the great voices in music and is still an inspiration as a singer and as a human being today. She would sing with unique artistry and style everything from the blues to a lullaby, from a classic tin-pan alley tune to a chart topping folk-pop, and in the end leave her many diverse fans wanting still more and wondering about what might have been.

Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, one story has it that her restauranteer father gave her the nickname 'Cass' after the Trojan princess Cassandra, another story is that she simply chose it for herself feeling Naomi didn't suit her personality. The name Elliot was later adopted in memory of a friend who had died. Three years after younger sister Leah was born, the Cohen family moved in 1951 to Alexandria, Virginia. While going to school in Washington D.C., Cass found her way to the stage playing a part in the play 'The Boyfriend'. She loved performing, and after leaving school and moving to New York City she appeared in 'The Music Man', and was in competition with Barbra Streisand for the Miss Marmelstein part in 'I Can Get It for You Wholesale' in 1962. Sometimes she sang with a women's gospel-folk trio based in Chicago called The Ofays of Faith.

While working as a hat-check girl at The Showplace in Greenwich Village, Cass would double as a singer. Word spread of her powerful voice, yet Cass returned to Washington D.C. to attend American University. Her musical career would not be ended so soon however; it was at this time that she met banjo player and singer Tim Rose, and Chicago singer John Brown, and the three began singing together as The Triumvirate. In Omaha, Nebraska, in 1963, the multi-talented James Hendricks joined them replacing Brown, and they were soon re-christened as The Big Three by producer Roy Silver.

The Big Three

The earliest Cass Elliot recording was made with the Big Three; Winken' Blinken' And Nod on FM Records, which was released late in 1963. Cass was twenty three that fall. The music was folk, a style popular at the time and taken up and popularized by groups like The Kingston Trio, The Four Freshmen, and The Journeymen. Cass was quietly married to Big Three singer James Hendricks (shown in the photo above, with Tim Rose on banjo on the left) in order to safeguard him from the draft board. Another of the group's early hits, and among their better recordings is Nora's Dove which they also performed on television, appearing on The Danny Kaye Show and Talent Scouts. A self-titled Big Three album was also released near the end of 1963, followed by a second the following year on the Roulette Records label. Come Away Melinda, a tradional post-Civil War ballad on the album is lovingly performed, as is the coal-mining dirge Dark As a Dungeon. Perhaps the most powerful vocal performances of The Three can be heard on Silkie, Driver and You May Be Right.

The Big Three often played at a club called The Shadows in Washington D.C., and this is where John Sebastian first met Cass. Tim Rose left the trio in 1964 to go it solo. With the end of The Big Three, Cass and Jim Hendricks joined with Zalman Yanovsky and Denny Doherty of the Halifax Three Plus One to form The Mugwumps (all four shown below).

The Mugwumps

John Sebastian (previously recorded with The Even Dozen Jug Band and accompanying many Elektra label folk singers) would often sit in although reportedly producer Roy Silver refused to include him in the recording sessions. After only eight months, however, The Mugwumps group also dissolved leaving behind one Warner Brothers single and a handful of unreleased tracks. The Beatles had arrived and cute boy groups were in demand, so anything else was not an easy sell. The lone single released at the time by Warner Brothers was I'll Remember Tonight. Other recordings such as Here It Is Another Day (written by Hendricks and Cass), and You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover would find release only after The Mamas And The Papas had repeatedly hit gold. Some additional recordings from 1964 were released on 'The Magic Circle' compilation. Cass sings a rock version of Tim Rose's arrangement of Oh Suzanna with Yanovsky, Hendricks and Jerry Yester. Various fusions of pop, folk and rock were explored by the Mugwumps well in advance of California Dreaming, approximately a year before Dylan went electric, and the year The Byrds had started to flock together on the west coast to record demos. Cass performed as a solo act for awhile after the ending of The Mugwumps and was staying with Hendricks in Los Angeles. Meanwhile Zal Yanovsky and John Sebastian were forming The Lovin' Spoonful in New York with drummer Joe Butler and bassist Steve Boone.

Denny Doherty went on to join The New Journeymen with John Phillips and his wife Michelle Phillips (nee Gilliam, whom he had met in the Fall of 1963 on the Hootenany U.S.A. tour). Denny kept telling the couple they needed Cass but John was certain her appearance would hold the group back commercially. Cass finally joined The Mamas & The Papas officially while they all vacationed together in the Virgin Islands in mid 1965. Upon returning to New York and hearing of the success of friends like Barry McGuire in California, the three New Journeymen decided to relocate to Los Angeles while Cass who was there already got busy making arrangements for the new group to sing for whoever would hear them. Renamed as The Magic Circle they were signed to a recording contract by Dunhill Records after singing for Lou Adler trying out as back up for Barry McGuire. California Dreamin' was initially recorded by McGuire with him singing lead and The Magic Circle in the background, and it was slated to be his next single. Adler however decided to re-record the lead with Denny up front, and the group was renamed yet again before long; this time by manager Bobby Roberts, perhaps having Cass' days the Big Three's Big Mama in the back of his mind. Some of Cass' stand-out performances with The Mamas & the Papas are; I Call Your Name from their first album, Words of Love from the second (a song John wrote and apparently had to talk her into recording), and Midnight Voyage and Dream A Little Dream Of Me from the fourth. The latter song, attributed to 'Mama Cass' on the single rather than the group, became the hit that launched Cass' solo career having had enough of the volatile personal relationships and substance problems of the other three Mamas & Papas members. She would record many popular solo albums, including now classic songs of the time Make Your Own Kind Of Music, It's Getting Better and New World Coming, all three written by the team of Mann and Weil. Another pop gem is found in A Song That Never Comes, while Ain't Nobody Else Like You beautifully continued Cass' interest in older material. California Earthquake is equally memorable while being topical and a brilliant perfomance as well. Cass collaborated on a Blue Thumb released album with former Traffic founder Dave Mason, and also co-wrote two of the songs on that album, including the cosmic Here We Go Again. They toured and made tv appearances to promote this now classic album. Cass also appeared in the 'Pufnstuf' children's film as a witch and sang a number Different, now a highly collectible vinyl 45 and anthem for many in the gay community. She performed as a Las Vegas nightclub act at Caesar's Palace (although beset with what performers have come to call 'desert throat') and was such a major personality of the day that she worked as a guest host of The Tonight Show and also appeared on shows with Julie Andrews, Andy Williams, Mike Douglas, Johnny Cash, Red Skelton, Tom Jones, Scooby Doo and Carol Burnett. The F.B.I. even kept a file on her! In 1971 she married Baron Donald von Wiedenman having divorced from Jim Hendricks by 1969.

In early 1972 a self-titled album for RCA marked a decided shift toward an older audience featuring such stand-outs as Cherries Jubliee, When It Doesn't Work Out (written by Leah Kunkel) and I'll Be There. The 'Mama' suffix had finally been dropped for good. Later in the year The Road Is No Place For A Lady was released to positive reviews and is still considered by many a high point of early '70s pop.

Cass at Mister Kelly's with cane, 1973

Cass also had two of her own tv specials air between 1969 and 1973. The 1973 special 'Dont Call Me Mama' had to be delayed while she recovered from an operation to repair the knee she had injured, she had to appear with a cane for her performances at Mister Kelly's in Chicago. That show is documented on the album Don't Call Me Mama Anymore and features impressive performances on The Night Before, I Like What I Like (harkening back to a soul-gospel Cass), and the sadly ironic I'm Coming To The Best Part Of My Life. A studio single, I Think A Lot About You b/w Listen To The World was released by RCA in late 1973. Cass collapsed in early 1974 at The Tonight Show studio where she had been scheduled to host and was taken to hospital on a stetcher. She had reportedly fainted at least twice before this, in the studio in the late '60s when John Phillips had kept her doing takes overly long, and also in 1968 in Las Vegas after months of dieting. On the daytime Mike Douglas show shortly after the Tonight Show collapse Cass made light of her health problems and continued her demanding schedual of appearances and work.

In mid 1974 Cass travelled to England where she completed two weeks headlining at the London Palladium and where she received a standing ovation. Shockingly just two days later Cass Elliot died of a heart attack in her room at singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson's London apartment on July 29, 1974. She had been partying non-stop by all accounts beginning after her last Paladium show. A bottle of a narcotic in liquid form is said to have been in the bedroom (the same would also be found at the site of Elvis' death, both performers seem to have turned to it as a sleep aide), but some media picked up on an untouched sandwich someplace in the vicinity and made up lurid headlines from it. Those stories would be a major thorn to Cass' family, friends and fans, and unfortunately are still circulated today. She left behind a young daughter who had helped to inspire her to achieve so much.

Travel, her workload, lack of sleep, pharmacueticals and dieting have all been cited as having been harmful to Cass Elliot's health. A photo of her heart was reputedly circulated at one time to help people become more aware about the serious stress problems that come with excess weight.

Cass' younger sister Leah Kunkel has followed in her footsteps; she has recorded as one third of the Coyote Sisters as well as solo (her self-titled 1978 album is well worth seeking out). You can also hear her singing back-up on James Taylor's '70s hit Handy Man as well as on some of Cass' recordings. She helped raise Cass' daughter; Owen Vanessa (born in April of 1967 and the meaning behind the third Mamas and Papas album title 'Deliver'). Cass has left behind many beautifully performed songs and a sense of her optimistic if self-effacing personality. Artists as diverse as Peter, Paul and Mary to Sean Connery have declared their admiration. She was able to be herself and encourage others to be themselves in doing so, even when it was not always easy to do so. She was an inspiration as well as a catalyst for many musicians (having had a hand in the meetings of Crosby, Stills and Nash).