Fred Shannon & The Clubmen – Coconut Grove Bank – Private Press

Posted in Gold with tags , , , on October 19, 2017 by xxx
As always, the download is located at the bottom of the page…

This post deals with more than just music. It’s about a time and place as told through the rise and fall of a beautiful building. It’s a story that takes place in my backyard, in the historic pioneer settlement, turned bohemian sailing community, turned condo-row called Coconut Grove. It’s also a story about a very rare record, found in the overflow boxes of my local record shop. I’ve held off on writing this post for over a year, but faced with the daily onslaught of sounds coming from the demolition of the Historic Coconut Grove Bank Building, it seems that putting this post together is the best way for me to cope.

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Miami is a strange, yet rewarding city, and it gets stranger and more rewarding the more you pour into it. Unlike cities whose roots run deeper, Miami’s cultural mythology is still being developed. For those of us who prefer to look to the past for a deeper sense of meaning, I feel that some of the greatest cultural totems of our city are still out there in the dusty bins, bookshelfs and filing cabinets, lying in wait for some lucky soul to uncover them. It’s on us to get out there, find them, preserve them and share them.

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I chanced upon such a find one afternoon while thumbing through the overflow boxes of the Easy Listening section in Yesterday and Today Records. After some quick sifting, I noticed a record with a lushly illustrated cover of a tuxedoed, mid-century styled man and woman dancing to a brass band on a painted pastel background. At the top of the cover, there’s a small illustration of a modernist building that caught my eye. On the back cover in text, “Let’s Dance” by Fred Shannon and the Clubmen Orchestra, “Limited Edition — Not For Sale”, further down, “The Grove’s Golden Era”, down in the corner “Coconut Grove Bank, South Bayshore Drive & 27th Avenue, Coconut Grove, Florida”. Basically my home address. Best of all, the price tag: $4.99.

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As I sit to write this, the beautiful Grove Bank building is being torn down. After a few weeks of demolition, all that remains is a blown out corner and some beautiful baby blue, navy and white mosaic tile shades, that made up the main feature of the building’s facade. The Robert Law Weed designed bank building was a crown jewel of the neighborhood and a key example of Miami-Modern (MiMo) architecture. It will be replaced with one of three massive towers of the Park Grove condominium development. A few years back, the City of Miami historic preservation folks determined that the building didn’t qualify for historic designation, due to some spurious claim that it was designed by one of Weed’s understudies and was not actually his work. It all reeked of your classic Miami backroom deal and just like that, we knew the building’s days were numbered.

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When I took the record home, I read the liner notes and found that the album was privately pressed by the bank to commemorate the unveiling of their beautiful new headquarters building. As it turns out, the Vice President of the bank in those days, one Fred Shannon, was “the world’s only banker-dance band maestro”. That’s right, the recordings herein are of the then Vice President of Coconut Grove Bank’s hobby big band, The Clubmen Orchestra. The Orchestra works through all the popular dance hits including Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Fools Rush In, My Blue Heaven, Green Dolphin Street and I Could Write A Book. The recording is absolutely beautiful, if Mr. Shannon was as good at banking as he was at band-leading, I’d imagine the Coconut Grove Bank did fairly well under his vice-presidency.

This is a great mid-century big-band record with a nice mix of classics and contemporary popular songs. I particularly like the way the medleys work together. In a live setting I could see a nice medley being an older iteration of the smoothly executed DJ mix. I’d suggest listening to it when setting the dinner table with someone you love or when your favorite demolished building.

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Liner notes:

Turn down the lights, turn up the record player, roll back the carpet… and let’s dance! 

This album is for lovers of the “big band” sound in dance music. The kind of music those of us who were teenagers in the 30’s and 40’s sometimes smugly, and often nostalgically, refer to as “our kind of music.” We may be reconciled to the fact taht times, tastes, and tunes change, but we still get a charge out of hearing a band that can play this kind of music “the way it really was”.

That’s what this album is all about. A kind of magic carpet tour back into the golden era of dance music. A rare distillation of the best of the big-band sounds. In this album are tunes plucked note-for-note from the years that joined the Great Depression and World War II — the years of Edward’s abdication, nickel cigars, Amelia Earheart’s disappearance in the Pacific, Munich, wrong-way Corrigan, FDR, Pearl Harbor, and the start of pay-as-you-go income taxes. You can’t help recalling some of these when you hear such songs as “The Man I Love,” “I Could Write a Book,” and “Only Make Believe.”

Mixed in with these time-proved standards are some delightfully imaginative renditions of today’s more danceable melodies — but played, of course, in the golden-era style to which we big-band addicts are accustomed. You’ll get the happy message when you and your partner step out to “This is All I Ask,” “Till There Was You,” and “What Kind of Fool Am I?”

This is an album full of surprises, but probably the most surprising thing about it is the man behind the music. You’d expect Fred Shannon Smith to be an exponent of the big-band sound, and he is. He’s put together a numer of bands through the years, and has himself played with many of the greats.

But today Fred Smith dabbles in the world of music only as a hobby. His full time job is in the world of money — as Vice President of the Coconut Grove Bank, here in South Florida. As far as we can tell, he’s the world’s only banker-dance band maestro.

As this album eloquently attests, Fred demands perfection in his band. He chooses musicians diligently. He’s a slave driver in rehearsals. In the photos below, you see the band as it was actually making this album. A hard working, dedicated, shirtsleeved group with just one goal in mind: crisp, flawless execution… a sound that’s big, balanced, and — well, just beautiful. 

Orchestral arrangements were made by three outstanding musicians: Frederic Ashe, Don Muller , and Cliff Keller. Ashe is a professor of music at the University of Miami. Muller and Keller are former students of his. Fred Smith’s close relationship with the University dates back to his student days there, and his remarkable band is an outgrowth of those days. It’s no wonder that the clubmen are in demand whenever “special” music is wanted in the South Florida area. The band plays countless national and state conventions, country club affairs, charity balls, high school and collefge proms — you name it.

This very special band probably won’t change the trend of today’s teenage music — and whos to say we’d really want it to? Perhaps it’s best that we keep this heady big-band stuff around just for special occassions. At our age, we probably couldn’t stand the shock of hearing these great sounds every day. Still — wouldn’t it be fun if we could?

–HOWARD C. PETERSON, JR.

The sidebar:

Coconut Grove carries as its heritage a reflection of courage, determination, and vision.

The early 1800’s brought the settlement of this new land on the shores of Biscayne Bay. The late 1800’s brough the railroad, and caused this settlement to become one of Florida’s most famous areas.

Coconut Grove, with its outstanding beauty and tropic charm, has drawn many a visitor away from northern climes, to take up permanent residence within its village limits. 

In 1926 the Coconut Grove Bank opened its doors to this community. It has been doing business here ever since. It survived the Great Depression, it perservered through the lean World War II years and the tumultuous post-war era.

Coconut Grove has always retained the warm, friendly atmostphere of a small independent, yet quite cosmopolitan town. 

The atmostphere of Coconut Grove Bank has always mirrored the community itself.

Recorded at Dukoff Studios, Miami, Florida.

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T. Misago & His Tokyo Cuban Boys – La Macarena – Denon PCM

Posted in Uncategorized on May 17, 2017 by xxx

IMG_9460Once in a blue moon I’ll find something that is so perfectly up my alley that I’ll say to myself, “this really shouldn’t exist”. Tadaaki Misago and his Tokyo Cuban Boys is one of those things that shouldn’t exist, but thank the music gods it does. There’s very little information out there about this all-Japanese Latin Jazz big band, but the very brief jist of it is as follows: in post-war Japan, the Latin music that was exploding into the mainstream in the USA reached Japanese ears. Some very talented musicians led by one Tadaaki Misago formed a band and learned the latin jazz form. They became popular enough to release some 200 albums over the years, most of which are undocumented on the internet and presumably very difficult to find. From what is available on the internet (youtube, spotify, etc.)  the majority of their work is pretty straight forward latin jazz in the vein of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat and so on. They broke up in the 80s and under the leadership of Misago’s son, the band was resurrected in 2005. There are some wonderful videos of the new Tokyo Cuban Boys on YouTube: here and here. You’re welcome.

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A Japanese Latin band called the Tokyo Cuban boys, is magical and all, but it’s just not enough to warrant a post that serves to resurrect this website after a 4 year hiatus. There’s something very special about this record. This particular record by the Misago and his Tokyo Cuban Boys is an aberration from the band’s available material. Instead of straight forward big band latin jazz, the cuts on this record are laced with a late-70s/80s dose of psychedelic funk fusion. It’s all Latin standards done through a really grooving 70s blacksploitation film soundtrack lens. The album starts out with a version of Angelitos Negros that would make Quentin Tarantino go hard. If Kill Bill was set in Miami this album would be the soundtrack.

Every cut is more marvelous than the last and what really makes this Garbage and Gold material is that this record barely has any presence on the internet. It’s very unlikely that you’ll hear these cuts elsewhere and certainly not at this quality. Here it is for your listening pleasure. From the over-packed shelves of Yesterday and Today records in Miami, FL… T. Misago and his Tokyo Cuban Boys… like you’ve never heard them before.

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Orquesta Aragon – The Heart of Havana – Cariño Records

Posted in Gold on September 4, 2013 by xxx
As always the download link is located at the bottom of the post.

This one is for the kids…

When a friend of mine asked me for some recommendations for retro Latin music I knew I had just the record for her. My friend Aurora is a school teacher, this week her class is focusing on Latin music. Aurora, previously a critic of Garbage and Gold, knew just the right place to find some quality Latin American tunes. This one is for her and her students. It is my hope that these quality sounds plant seeds in their heads that shall one day grow into some classy musical flowers.

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The record I knew I had to provide to these children is The Heart of Havana by Orquesta Aragon. A classic record of Cuban songs originally released in 1957 on RCA Victor. My copy is a reissue put out by Carino Records. These recordings are absolutely beautiful. The Afro-Cuban jazz beats move along at a danceable tempo and are never monotonous or uninteresting. The vocals, oh the vocals… they have that angelic quality that often characterizes old recordings. Vocal harmonies blend into one ethereal singing voice. Then comes the flute, oh that blessed flute and it’s fluttering like harmonies. All the pieces of the Orquesta Aragon come together to leave us with some highly memorable tunes.

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I could imagine children hearing these songs and just enjoying them for the funny lyrical sounds. The opening song “Tilín”, for example, feautures the Orquestra singing “Tilín Tilín” repeatedly followed by the flute matching the melody of the vocals. It’s fun in an innocent way and is almost reminiscent of a Walt Disney film score. There’s plenty of other songs that feature “Cha Cha Cha’s” or “Pa-Ran-Pa-Ran” that are understood by people of all ages and tongues. I know that the kids will love this music. The teacher might even want to inform them that this music was created perhaps even before Mommy and Daddy were born. That oughta get the little buggers thinking!

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There is an added level of enjoyment from a more mature and perhaps bi-lingual listener. The songs are clever, comedic and range from songs about beautiful women, island life and taking it easy, to songs about rice and steak and even a song about radioactivity. So there you have it!  A record of 1950s Cuban songs that can be enjoyed by children and adults all the same. So no matter who you are or where you are in your life throw this record on and travel back to a pre-Castro Cuba filled with fine tobacco, rum and tropicalia.

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Delroy Wilson – The Best Of – Coxsone Original Twelve

Posted in Gold with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2013 by xxx
As always the download link is located at the bottom of the post.

Feel the spirit down in your soul…

What does reggae music mean to you? Does it represent the heart and soul of the Jamaican people? Can you feel the catharsis deep in the song? 500 years of slavery and suffering could not keep down love and culture.  Or does reggae music mean Bob Marley, sand, sun and sea? Cold Corona’s on a boat somewhere? Does it bring images to mind? Hammocks on the beach? Marcus Garvey’s determined mug silkscreened in red and black? Red-eyed white kids practicing nihilism in their pot-smoke fumigated dorm rooms? 

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Reggae music has been pervaded by it’s misinterpretation and abuse in recent decades. Still all it takes is for one of the classic Burning Spear songs to come through your speakers and everything else melts away. All that negativity is gone. You feel the emotion in the Spear’s voice. It cuts into you. The rhythm swallows you up and heals you. That’s reggae.

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Before there was reggae, there was rocksteady. Compared to reggae, rocksteady is more upbeat, deals with more traditional pop-song topics (love, happiness, etc.)  than the spiritual/religious/political issues dealt with in reggae music. I’m no professional, but I think most of the songs on this record lean more towards rocksteady than they do reggae.


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Delroy Wilson started off recording ska tracks for Coxsone Dodd and quickly became a mainstay of the rocksteady vocalists. This record is an original Coxsone label compilation of Delroy’s best rocksteady songs. There are many classics on here. It’s a very enjoyable listen. The songs are all very cheery and smooth. The tight rhythms and horn melodies provide subtle backup and relief from Wilson’s confident vocals. His delivery is tasteful, it balances on the line between understated and gaudy. The result is a collection of songs that I could listen to on repeat all day. It’s real music and it’s really good.

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Happy Independence Day – Carmen Dragon – Stephen Foster Melodies – Capitol

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2013 by xxx

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I’m doing this one from the road, so I apologize for the lack of quality images or thoughtful writing. Here’s some good old-time music for the holiday. Carmen Dragon and his Orchestra perform Stephen Foster’s most famous compositions. These are beautiful versions of these songs, I much prefer them to the choral versions that you typically find. Perfect for driving through some southern landscapes or sitting in the comfort of your own home and reflecting on this great nation.

Tracklist:

1. De Camptown Races

2. My Old Kentucky Home

3. Old Black Joe

4. Old Dog Tray

5. Massa’s In the Cold, Cold Ground

6. Oh! Susanna

7. Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair

8. Old Folds at Home

9. Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming

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Smokey Robinson – Dr. Steve’s Selections, Vol. 1 – Mixtape

Posted in Gold with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2013 by xxx
As always the download link is located at the bottom of the post.

“You see you’re just like me, I hope you’re satisfied.”

My dad (Steve) loves music as much as anyone I know. His tastes aren’t that diverse, but he knows what he likes and that works for him. His favorite songwriters are Smokey Robinson and Bob Dylan. He loves to say that Bob Dylan once called Smokey “America’s greatest living poet”. It’s true, a quote like that is pretty heavy, coming from someone widely regarded as one of the greatest wordsmiths in American history, love it or hate it. At first glance, it might seem strange that his two favorite musicians were operating in very different genres. My dad likes to point out how many of their songs share similar lyrics, themes, titles…etc. I think that point only really applies to Dylan’s love songs, because every love song ends up sharing a bit with every other love song. But what I think isn’t  important. My dad created this connection between two artists of his admiration and if it’s true to him, it’s true. That’s his interpretation and maybe he’s right… after all, Dylan was a fan of ol’ Smoke.

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My memories of childhood, and all the years since, are colored heavily with the sounds of Motown. We had this big jukebox filled with my dad’s 45s that used to run almost all the time. Later on it was turned on only during parties and pool games and things like that, but the library never changed. The thing is a fixture of my childhood. I used to watch the bubbles float up in front of the color changing pinwheel decorative things. My first psychedelic experiences were probably at a very young age sitting at the foot of the jukebox. I’d sit there taking in these songs usually misunderstanding the lyrics in the way that a 4-year old might. A classic lyrical mix-up for me was with the song “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” off of Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album. I always thought the song was about a conflicted “Jewish Priest”. Smokey’s songs were less cryptic and probably more soothing to a young boy.

I’ve got to thank my dad for having such passion for music and for sharing it with me. I never experienced any sort of repulsion towards my parent’s music. Their music was always “super rad”. My dad has always been pleasantly surprised to be reassured that I think that his music is cool. It is. Smokey Robinson is an unbelievable songwriter and an equally talented vocalist/musician. I think his work is timeless and I can’t imagine anyone finding most of his work tacky or unenjoyable. If you have felt emotion, you will like Smokey. It’s emotional music through and through, but not in the hitting you over the head way. It’s pleasant. It’s sweet. It’s hypnotic. Only one person can make music like this. Smokey Robinson.

A couple months ago my dad gave me a couple old cassette tapes and asked me if I could digitize them for him. I’ve been lazy about getting around to it, but I’ve finally done it and god damn am I impressed. This cassette is a curated greatest hits album of my dad’s favorite Smokey cuts. Sure, you could download most of these songs in a high quality CD form (well not all; there’s some alternate versions on here). But you’d be missing the point. There’s charm to these transfers. Almost everyone starts with a cassette tape sound of tape speeding up, each song has a little warble to it. This is a 15-20 year old cassette that was listened to heavily.  There are some surprises hidden in the mix. Track 6 is my personal favorite, it starts with the opening line of “Whose Gonna Take the Blame” and then cuts into some other jingle for a bar and then cuts again into “Different Strokes for Different Folks”. To some it is just the result of bad tape cueing; sloppy mix-tape making. To others, and I hope that’s all of us here, it’s a beautiful accident, the sort that not even the best DJ could emulate. This mix-tape is just begging to be sampled.

So on this Father’s Day, I’m not only going to share his digitized tape with him, but with all of you too. I hope you all enjoy it this summer. It’s perfect for playing during a nice evening with your closest friend(s) by candlelight.

Steve and Nona

I want to thank my dad for instilling such good taste in music in me from a young age. I know that he secretly wishes he had become a musician. He gave up guitar lessons as a boy. Well Dad… don’t worry, I’ve got that locked down for the both of us. Just sit back and enjoy this music. I’ll take care of the rest.

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Tracklist

1. I Want to Be Your Love

2.We’ve Saved the Best for Last

3. If You Can Want

4. Here I Go Again

5. Baby, Baby Don’t Cry

6. Who’s Gonna Take the Blame/Satisfaction (medley)

7. We’ve Come too Far to End it Now/I’ll Try Something New

8. I’ll Try Something New (Alternate Version)

9. You Cannot Laugh Alone (Deep in My Soul)

10. Jasmin

11. Easy 

12. Just to See Her

13. Keep Me

14. One Heartbeat

Carnaval 87 – Sambas De Enredo – RCA

Posted in Gold with tags , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by xxx
As always the download link is located at the bottom of the post.

Travel to Rio for Sex, Sand, Sun and Sambas!

Sambas De Enredo (Pronounced EN-HEH-DO) is a series of live recordings from Carnival 1987. There are plenty of resources out there to learn about Samba Enredo (start here and here). Basically it is a particular type of Samba that is performed during annually Carnival in Rio de Jainero, Brazil. These Sambas are performed by large masses of performes grouped into “schools”. The schools sing play their songs as a sort of performance as part of the Carnival festivities. Samba-enredo is one of the main forms of Samba associated with Carnival.

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The recordings presented here are massive. Choruses of vocalists create a harmonized group-voice that creates beautiful vocal melodies over the pounding multi-rhythmic percussion that is the backbone of Samba. The rhythm has so many different layers to it that it can sound like caucaphony to the unaccustomed ear. I assure you that this is anything but sloppy. This is a very meticulous and calculated song form. These schools apparently Here’s a good video showing the many layers that construct a typical Samba-enredo beat:

I procrastinated releasing this album on G&G for months while I waited for the right person to translate the lyrics for me. After several months my drive to post to the blog completely disappeared. I am ashamed to admit it but in the end it was simply out of laziness and lack of drive. I am back now and plan on posting at least one post a day for the next week or two. In embracing this new sense of drive, I’ve decided that knowing the lyrics aren’t important. I’ve written a short poem about the album instead. I hope that you enjoy the songs.

The masses exclaim in melody

Like the song of the waves crashing

On different shorelines

In different countries, for different ears

Who understand vastly different tongues

Yet the song is the same 

And understood by all.

This record comes from Phil Elverum’s personal collection. I bought it from an online sale he had of some of his records. Also, if anyone wants to try and translate these songs or song titles for the rest of us that would be great. Just message me.

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Download Here