Ace Records. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.You produce compilations which I have hankered after for years without even knowing it. You include upon them many fine tracks, ones which are familiar favourites and ones which I have never heard before and which are very often fantastic and thus become new favourites. You seek out only the finest of master tapes and use technology with wisdom and care to provide the best listening experience that money can buy. You do this over and over again. And here's another one.
The Death Disc was a historically specific phenomenon, which I suppose reached its prime during the late 50s and early 60s, though of course there are significant examples from outside that era which are rightfully collected here. A typical classic era death disc takes the intense emotional solemnity of your soppy teenage ballad and pushes it to the extreme, where love transcends even death. Here teenagers die in car crashes, or drown, or just generally wish they were dead, parents object to their daughters choice of boyfriend, boys can't drive very well if there is some sort of distraction going on (rain/overexcited girlfriend) or the bereaved protagonist can't bear being separated from their deceased partner and so takes active steps to join them.
I personally find the mix of sentimentality, melodrama, morbidity and absurdity (unintentional in some cases) of the classic death disc utterly irresistible. DJ Kenny Everett once upon a time compiled an lps worth of the World's Worst Records (based on a hugely popular feature of his radio show), many of which fell into the death disc category; unsurprisingly 2 songs from that lp turn up here (I Want My Baby Back and The Drunken Driver). Others too could easily have been included on Everett's record. However not all the selections are as crass and idiotic. Who could argue with the sheer pop brilliance of Johnny Remember Me, Terry, Give Us Your Blessings, Last Kiss amongst others. Naïve and silly yes, but also heartfelt and strangely affecting. Roll on volume Two.
It's about time these teen tragedies were exhumed from the late 50s/early 60s. If you're a fan of morbid musical melodramas you'll know that volume 1 of this compilation series cherry picks many of the highs and cringeworthy lows of this much maligned sub-genre.
Many of these singles were originally banned by the BBC due to their unhealthy preoccupation with death and traffic accidents. Nowadays, though, you need a heart of stone not to listen to these heartfelt songs of loss without laughing.
A superb collection of classic death discs, the only one around. Until volume 2.
Death is fascinating, which is why most of us love murder mysteries and are appallingly fascinated by natural disasters and why magazines depicting sick and bizarre demises are on the shelves. Death sells as well. A rock star dies and their sales go through the roof, something which has always puzzled me. If you are a fan of said person surely you already own their music, DVD's whatever already? So it's no great surprise that this compilation of songs about death has appeared like a body in the shrubbery.
I must own up here. I normally loathe spurious compilations based on flimsy concepts. Music to garden to. Hoover up to , music from chick flicks , music from adverts, music from albums released on the third Monday of the month, music to have diarrhoea to....you get the picture, bit this is actually quite interesting because not only does the central theme hold up ,but the track list from the 50,s and 60,s is eclectic and contains some quaint obscurities.
It opens with Twinkles "Terry" her biggest hit and one which was astonishingly banned by the beeb and has a superb sassy swinging arrangement which belies its morbidity. The Shangri - Las are more famous for "Leader Of The Pack", but here they put their dulcet harmonious tones to "Give Us Your Blessing" The more notorious fare on offer here include Jody Reynolds "Endless Sleep" with its twanging instrumentation recalling Duane Eddy, the lush melodrama of Ray Petersons "Tell Laura I Love Her" and the brilliantly eerie "Johnny Remember Me" by John Leyton. Other highlights, if you can use that term, are the jazz flecked doo wop of Donald Woods and the Vel-Aires" with some highly amusing fake anguish, the Technicolor pop of The Goodees "Condition Red", the beach boy .isms of Jan & Deans "Dead Mans Curve", Think with "Once You Understand" which is like The Polyphonic Spree recording over an episode of neighbours and the Chicago soul strains of Walter Jackson and "The Bed". Incidentally not be confused with the Lou Reed song of the same name.
Some of the stuff on here though is risible. Ferlin Husky "The Drunken Driver" is so pathetically maudlin it must be a joke while Dickey Lee,s "Patches " is so glutinous it make Bobby Goldsboro sound like Motorhead"."The Dream" by the Fox is just creepy and weird. "The Death Of A Surfer" is a pointless instrumental while the good old boy strains of "Psycho" are just pointless. Apart from the line: "You think I'm psycho don't ya momma?" which is very funny for the po-faced way it's delivered. The Everley Brothers "Ebony Eyes" has always been a tad too mawkish and sugary like in its mellifluousness.
Still all in all it's an enjoyable listen. It may be in bad taste to say so of course but then you could make that accusation about the whole concept. And the chance to hear over the top schmaltz like "Requiem (For A Girl Born In The Wrong Time)" and the wonderfully titled "Mother Mother (I Feel Sick)" make it even more admirable. It ends with the fantastic hip popping "Lets Think About Living" by Bob Luman. He, s right of course, we should be thinking about living, but this walk on the dark side is, in places, dead good.
There's things here which really flog the idea-an instrumental for Godssakes! And Bob Luman's hit-which is nothing to do with death discs but one of the titles he mentions IS-that's Patti Page's One of us. So much needed to be permanently sent to the bottom of the vaults and not inflicted on collectors who never asked for it. Such as that nonsense by some person called The Fox However Betty Barnes' Requiem----makes up for it. Its a death disc because the narrator is already dead so this is her inner self speaking like an "out of body" experience whatever and its a pretty moving narration which could bring a tear to the eye.She's in her coffin and sees her parents weeping and she admits she caused them grief in life when she lived on the wrong side of the tracks The trouble with this collection is there's so much stuff out there in the same genre which is vastly superior eg Neil Scott's Bobby,Jim Reeves' The Blizzard and endless Johnny Cash songs There is no need to include things which are clearly not death discs-like Jody Reynold's Endless sleep