Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Donald Seward

When I started buying records at the dawn of the digital era,  entire generations of collectors were dumping their vinyl for CDs and stores were pricing shit to move.  

It's difficult to adjust to an era where former dollar bin staples like Fleetwood Mac and Eagles go for 20 bucks because the kids need something to play on that Crosley they got for Christmas. Fine, you say, who cares?  Let people overpay for junk, for I am a person of taste!  Cool, well Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen now costs 100 dollars...  Basically, if you don't already own a copy of certain things yet, be happy with the mp3 or hope that those great folks at VinylMePlease make your hidden gem the record of the month for August.

But, all is not lost!  If your record wants haven't been recently used in a Netflix series, mentioned by an influential podcast host, or put on the type of world music compilation record that boutique hotels used to play in their lobby bars during Sunday brunch, you may be in luck.  Although the price of super common garbage records and rare high end stuff has gone up, the price of many mid-range records has gone down.  Some of this is due to technology (if anyone is still sampling drum breaks in 2020, they can do so off an mp3), some of it is just due to record trends (today's GOTTA HAVE IT is tomorrow's MEH), and some because the internet has shown that records previously considered rare or exotic were actually pressed up in considerable quality (just not close to you, dog).  This doesn't explain how discovering there are 100,000 copies of a funky Polish prog record has lowered the cost, but each of the 20 million copies of Rumours is now worth 10 times what it was 10 years ago. Many of the Wall Of Fame records of the early 2000's can now be found for less than the price of a Record Store Day Billy Joel Glass Houses (clear vinyl pressing) reissue. 

I recently got a copy of Donald Seward À L’Orgue for 8 dollars.  This is a record I used to see on the wall of every record store in Montreal for at least 50 bucks, and one that used to sell for upwards of 100 bucks on the Internet.  

This would be an interesting lesson in supply/demand, but I doubt that many of these were ever pressed.  It's on singer Tony Roman's Revolution label, best known for a few experimental albums with FREAK OUT TOTAL written on their back sleeves, and for quite a few leftfield pop/rock 45's with a tinge of psych. 

Although Tony Roman was a young man at the time, he had the mentality of an old school music business huckster and would put out anything for a buck (hence the release of Stéphane Chante Engelbert Humperdinck Et Tom Jones), and this record sort of splits the difference between the two sides of the label.  If you want to hear cocktail lounge organ jazz played by a garage rock band, this is the record for you. And I basically just mean "YOU" because this record is an acquired taste, and hence why it now goes for under 10 bucks.  

For the life of me, I have no idea why anyone would ever pay more than 20 bucks for this record.  Even the coolest song on it, "Studio 'B' Funk" is not actually that funky, it's just a fun garage rock jam. If the entire album were nothing but songs like that, I still wouldn't pay 100 bucks for it.  For a white guy from Quebec, Seward does have a nice feel for funky organ material and I'm sure he was great live, but in a world (and a continent) where Jimmy Smith and Johnny Hammond already exist, he's not breaking any barriers.

There are one or two burners on it where the band gets out their fuzz pedals and fucks shit up, but for every track like that, there's two generic blues shuffle instrumentals.  I feel bad for the band, these were guys too old and seasoned to be making actual current experimental music in 1969, but too young to be making easy listening records.  It reminds me a little bit of the first El Chicano record, in the sense that it's the product of young people who are used to entertaining the tastes of older folks (and El Chicano covers "Cantaloupe Island" and Donald Seward covers "Watermelon Man").

El Chicano basically left the lounge roots of their album behind and went on to play more rock based material and had a successful career.  Donald Seward put out another, slightly funkier, organ instrumental record, bought a bar, and by 1975 was out of the music game and selling insurance. C'est la vie.  If you appreciate 60's instrumental records and like fuzz pedals, I highly recommend this record if you can find it for under 20 bucks (and you can).  You can hear "Studio 'B' Funk" here:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Donald Lautrec

A whole show of Quebecois pop circ. 1970... Claire Lepage, Marc Hamilton and more...  a great time capsule...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Diane Dufresne: "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour"

Last week I was visiting my parents and went to the movies with my mom. We saw a new movie from Quebec called Sarah préfère la course, which had been screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. I didn't think too much of it; it's one of those indie movies where not a lot happens and there are long...    long...   long...    pauses between every line of dialogue and you can't tell if this is because the director thinks this is how people really speak or if they are creating some terrible artifice.

Sarah is a middle distance runner at a high school in Quebec City who wants to continue running at MacGill College, but doesn't have much money. Her co-worker Antoine suggests they get married and move to Montreal together to take advantage of a government program that gives financial aid to young married students.  They do so, with Sarah looking at it purely as an arrangement of convenience and Antoine having other ideas. Somewhat confusingly, Sarah's old high school track rival is from Montreal and is also on the MacGill track team. There is some tension between them that turns very sexual, no more so than in a karaoke scene at a party.

Zoey, Sarah's rival, is called to sing. She replies she will, but there's only one song she'll sing. Her friends groan, either because they are sick of hearing that song or because it's the type of tune that will bring down the party. She then gets up and sings "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour" by Diane Dufrense.

I will admit, despite my friend Simon featuring the song in a post on his blog, I did not recognize it.  I had to wait until the end of the movie and read the credits to try to figure out which song it was out of the 20 or so in the movie (not to pat myself on the back too hard, but when I saw the name Francois Cousineau listed, I knew that had to be the song). Anyways, Zoey sings this great romantic 60's ballad and it basically gives Sarah a panic attack, because I am guessing that is the moment she realizes she might be a lesbian. This scene was by far the best in the movie, and not just because the song is so good.

It's an interesting choice for the scene, because the song is not a huge classic. This is not Scarlet Johansson singing "Brass In Pocket" to Bill Murray.  If Zoey's peers at the party know this song, it is because it's her personal favorite. Although Diane Dufresne became a big star in Quebec in the early 70's, she was relatively unknown when she recorded this track in 1969. I believe it was her first released vocal; she did not have tracks released under her own name until a year or two later.

In fact, the song is from the soundtrack for a softcore porn movie called L'initiation. Here's a (dubbed) PG rated clip to give you an idea.  There was also a 45 released, as the picture at the top of the page shows.  Judging from current price and availability, the 45 sold more than the soundtrack LP.  I wish I could find some old radio charts to see exactly how big the song was back in the day. There is some great footage on Dailymotion of Dufresne performing the song in 1970, and it certainly gets some applause of recognition.

I am actually more curious how the song found its way into this movie. Perhaps there was a hip musical supervisor working, perhaps it was the director's mother's favorite song, or perhaps they saw it on Simon's blog? Who knows?  In any case, it's exciting to see great old songs being featured so prominently in new movies. At least one of the Youtube comments on the video of "Un Jour Il Viendra Mon Amour" mentions they were listening to the song because of Sarah préfère la course. You know what? Me too.

The song itself is one of those great orchestrated mid-tempo 60's ballads that just sounds better in French. People like Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield, or even the Walker Brothers have material that has that Continental vibe, but it somehow is missing something. Want proof? Check out the English version, "Here and Now":

Somehow it's not nearly as cool, sultry, or sophisticated in English... 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 3- Les Mersey's

In the the 1999 book, Ego Trip's Book Of  Rap Lists, there is a list of "A Few Of Biz Markie's Favorite Things," meaning things he owns. In between the mundane (his collection of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots) and the mythical (his 12" copy of "Take Me To Mardi Gras" by Bob James that has no bells on the drum intro), he lists "my collection of every version of 'Get Out My Life, Woman.'"

"Get Out Of My Life, Woman" was written by Allen Toussaint and originally recorded by Lee Dorsey in 1966. It starts out with a monster drum break. The drum break seems so important to the feel of the song, you can't really cover the song effectively without it. So, someone buying records for breakbeats would probably buy every version of "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" they could get their hands on, from Iron Butterfly to Bill Cosby.

However, I am going to bet that Biz didn't have Les Mersey's version back in 1999. I have never heard anyone else talk about it, and since there is no indication by its French title as to what song it is, it would most likely evade a label reading beat digger back in the day.

The career arc of Les Mersey's is very representative of that of Quebecois beat groups as a whole. They formed in 1964, having previously played together in a band called The Blue Men (who I am guessing were an instrumental combo based on The Shadows or the Ventures, though this is purely conjecture on my part). They added a vocalist in 1964 and started playing R&B and British Invasion covers (the name "Les Mersey's" being derived from the Mersey River in Liverpool, and term "Mersey beat," usually applied to the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and other Liverpudlian bands). They ended their career around 1970, with their last LP coming out in 1969. It consists mostly of a mix of bubblegum pop covers and originals. However, the last track on the album, "Freakout," is aptly named and you can hear the drummer get his:

I don't own this record, having never come across it cheaply. It sort of pains me to blow up my own spot and post about it before it lies in my hot little hands, but the game is sometimes meant to be told, not sold.


Since this post is about giving the drummer some, might as well shine a light on the drummer giving it to us. In this case, it's Richard Tate, who went on to have a long career, playing and recording with Les Sinners, Boule Noire, Michel Pagliaro, Nanette Workman, Johnny Hallyday, and many more.  He also recorded a few records as band leader. The first Tate a tete has more of a rock feel, though there are a wide variety of tracks on the album. I've put two of my favorite tracks from this record "Ce N'est Jamais Mon Tour" and "J'Viens De M'Reveiller" at the bottom of the page.

The 2nd, Richard Tate, is more of a funk record, and was recorded using Muscle Shoals sidemen like Roger Hawkins and David Hood. In fact, Tate doesn't even play drums on it, focusing instead on singing, writing, and arranging. It still has some moments.

Comment Peux-Tu Me Quitter- Les Mersey's (Get Out Of My Life, Woman)

Ce N'est Jamais Mon Tour- Richard Tate

  J'Viens De M'Reveiller- Richard Tate

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sheila: L'Agent Secret (pt 2)

I realize I have not updated in a long time. I haven't had a chance to go to Montreal in a while, so I don't have that many new French records to write about. But, rather than use that as an excuse, I'll try to take advantage of the huge amount of French and Quebecois videos that are on Youtube that weren't when I started this blog!

The song above, "L'Agent Secret" is by Sheila and was one of the first songs I posted about way back in 2007. It is still really awesome. However, the video clip is about 100 times better.

First of all, Sheila looks like a stone fox in that black jumpsuit. The fact that she is also sporting those long pigtails gives both the S&M contingent and schoolgirl fetishists something to enjoy.

As for the video itself, there is literally nothing "modsier" in the world than a girl frugging while doing karate kicks with James Bond cut-outs in the background. And all while lip-synching.

At about two minutes in, there is an extended choreographed fight sequence that even involves someone getting hit over the head with a chair. Jackie Chan would be proud. This is all done to the beat of a fuzz guitar solo/freakout section that is NOT in the version I have on 7" EP. Naturally, this set off a spree of frantic googling to find out if this longer alternative version was on an LP. Turns out it wasn't, but it is available as a CD bonus track. In fact, there are four different versions of "L'Agent Secret" on the bonus CD, including two labeled as TV versions. I curious as to what the other TV version is, as the one in this video sounds the same to me (it is cool to see the fight sequence is the same as well!).

Of course, none of Sheila's versions can hold a candle to the immortal Rene, a man who seems to have a Youtube channel dedicated to him singing along and dancing to Sheila's records in his lavishly modsy apartment.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 2- Les Lutins

The only thing worse than buying a bad album solely for its drum break is buying a good album solely for its drum break. It's like buying a Mercedes just so you can wear the hood ornament around your neck. And while Les Lutins' second LP, "En Orbite", is not nearly as good as their first, it's still a great album.

It's not as much a garage record as their first. It is both poppier and more psych influenced. The only duff track on the record is the goofy pop tune "Monsieur Le Robot," (yes it has a silly robot voice in it) which, frustratingly enough, was the main single off the record and turns up everywhere. The track with the break, "La Junglomanie" is sort of a mock R&B record, in almost the same way that "The Gift" by the Velvet Underground is a mock Booker T and the MG's record, although this one has no story recited on top of it, just jungle noises. Gotta dig the fuzz bass, too.

I believe this record was known to beat diggers from back in the day just for it's drum break. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it was the international psych mafia who coveted it? It did, after all, make an appearance on the Trap Door psych mix CD.

My favorite tune on the record is probably "Girl", a nice raunchy psych rave-up, with a few odd starts and stops.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Drum Breaks: Quebec Style pt 1- Marc Hamilton

Do people even care about collecting records with drum breaks anymore? With the decline of sample based hip hop, the ability to rock doubles of any mp3 on Serato, and a large of chunk people simply, well, growing out of that sort of thing, the answer is probably no.

Which is not really a bad thing. Owning a terrible record just because it has a drum break is one of the stupidest things of all time. I have definitely done my share of "burning and dumping" the past few years, which is to say recording the one good song (or just the break) of a 40 minute LP and then getting rid of my physical copy. Even worse than bad records that were collected just for the drum breaks are the decent records that had their prices artificially inflated by beat digging locusts. Mountains of decent rock records suddenly became expensive "wall pieces" in many a record shop because of a 10 second bit of open drums (the Power of Zeus LP jumps immediately to mind).


I certainly won't go so far as to group Marc Hamilton's first LP in that "only good for 10 seconds" category, but it definitely isn't a classic LP all the way through. The main hit on the record, "Comme J'ai toujours envie d'aimer," is some "AM gold" business for sure.

But, for all his sub-Demis Roussos-type sensitive guy strumming n crooning, Hamilton actually has some roots in real rock n roll. Like, say, Les Monstres.
Yes, this flower child was once a member of a trashy garage rock band that dressed up as horror movie monsters. As far as I can tell their schtick was sort of half Screaming Lord Sutch and half the Munsters, which is NOT A BAD THING!
Anyways, after Les Monstres, Hamilton went solo, although with many ex-Monstres in his band.  The aforementioned "Comme J'ai toujours envie d'aimer" was the monster (ahem) hit that made the album possible, but Hamilton didn't let himself get reined in by the burden of his million selling crooning tune and let his freak flag fly. "Magic Tapis" is very much the song that makes the LP cover have context, as it is a faux Indian pysch tune with some happening electric sitar work:


Admittedly, the rest of the album is not that hot, except for the last tune on side 2, yunno the one with THE DRUM BREAK... To be fair, the track would still be hot as hell with out the drum break. Basically it's a Hendrix influenced tune with some really nice guitar and bass work that breaks down to a drum solo into a drum break (for those keeping score)...