Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rare Musical Gems is coming back!!

Thank you to everyone who messaged me asking why this blog faded away. As I posted a while back, I was the victim of hacking, during which I lost my hosting, so the songs went offline. However, I have continued to update the YouTube channel. I was a bit disheartened by the situation, but music will always win out! Sometime in August, Rare Musical Gems will be back with more great songs and the stories of the artists behind them! Stay tuned!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Technical Difficulties...Please Stand By!

I'm so sorry that there haven't been any updates in such a long time! The email I use to manage this blog was hacked, as was the account where I store the files. Getting it fixed has been a nightmare, but things should be back up and running by July 15th. Thank you all for checking out the blog...lots of rare goodies to come!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Walter Jackson

Click above to hear "Not You."

With a voice reminiscent of (but so much warmer than) the great Barry White, Walter Jackson had all the makings of a superstar. His voice dripped with honey-drenched longing and resilience. It was a voice that vividly betrayed his difficult life, and earned him a modest but devoted stable of fans that continue to keep his memory alive.

"Not You" wasn't a Walter Jackson original, but of the many recorded versions, his may be the most heartfelt. Jackson's powerful, bombastic delivery (which builds as the song rolls along) heartbreakingly conveys his desperate, confused reaction to be being betrayed by the woman he loves.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


(Click above to hear "One More Hurt.")

There's not a lot I can say here, other than, if you only ever listen to one song on this blog, "One More Hurt" should be the one! Marjorie Black seems to have vanished into the mysts of time, and from everything I've been able to uncover, this is her one and only known recording. That sad fact is a true tragedy. This woman can SING! Her voice is bigger than Big Mama Thornton's, and with such warmth and soul and grit. This is a song no one should go their entire life without hearing at least once.

And if anyone can shed some light on who Marjorie Black was, and what became of her, I'm all ears! This song is probably one of my top ten of all time. It's just THAT good!


(l to r: Christina Amphlett, Mark McEntee)
(Click above to hear "I'm On Your Side.")

It's amazing to me that a band that is so hugely popular overseas, and especially in their native Australia, is pretty much forgotten in the US, save their massive hit "I Touch Myself." Christina Amphlett and Mark McEntee created countless pop masterpieces, many of which flew under the radar in the US. "I'm On Your Side" is one of the best. It's a soft, melodic, longing ballad about a love affair growing cold. Brilliant stuff.

diVinyls formed in 1980, and after a dizzying array of personnel changes, were left as a duo. They went from success to success in Australia, enticing Chrysalis records to begin


Patti Austin

(Click above to hear "Someone's Gonna Cry.")

Patti Austin is a true phenomenon. She made her debut on the Apollo stage at the tender age of FOUR. That's right, four-years-old! By the age of five, she had a recording contract with RCA records. She recorded dozens of sides before her enormous breakthrough in the late 1970s, early 1980s.

Her enormous impact on the music charts later on has meant so much of her early work has become rather obscure. A prime example is her 1966 single (on Coral Records),


Peter, Paul and Mary
(l to r: Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, Mary Travers)
(Click above to hear "Power.")

From their days as folkies playing at The Bitter End, joining the March on Washington, to being arrested for Civil Disobedience while protesting Apartheid, Peter, Paul and Mary have never been afraid to make a statement. "Power" was recorded live, in protest of nuclear proliferation, asking the listener to remember a simpler time and that Mother Nature gives us everything we need. While never mentioning war explicitly, the warning undercurrent of the song calls into the question the motives of those who push so hard for nuclear power.


The Crystals

(Click above to hear "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)"

People tend to think of the girl-group era as being rife with frothy dance songs and cooing love balads, and for the most part that is correct. The Crystals recorded their share of upbeat pop tunes ("Da Doo Ron Ron," and "Then He Kissed Me" chief among them,) so many people are surprised to hear this haunting tune, which has attained cult status, was recorded by the same squeaky-clean group of young ladies.

The song, written by husband and wife writing team Carole King and Gerry Goffin was inspired by a true story. Little Eva (of "The Loco-Motion" fame) worked for the Goffins as a


(l tor: Jungle DJ Towa Tei, Super DJ Dmitry and
The Lady Miss Keir Kirby)
Click above to hear "I.F.O."

Unfairly relegated to the one-hit wonder scrapheap, Deee-Lite is rarely given their due as the innovative musicians that they were. While their immortal "Groove is in the Heart" is well served on numerous compilation albums, the rest of their catalogue is collecting dust, which is a travesty.

Formed in New York City in the late 1980s, Lady Miss Keir Kirby, DJ Dimitry and DJ Towa Tei had attained iconic status in the dance music world long before committing a single note to record. Their house blend of quirkiness, irreverence and a complete disregard for genre conventions keeps their cult following hopping to this day. "I.F.O." is a distillation of all that made them so special, and more of their vast catalogue will be featured in subsequent blogs. While their first album, "World Clique" was about fun and frivolity, their follow-up, "Infinity Within" was far more overtly political. This won't be the last you hear of Deee-Lite on this blog!

While Deee-Lite may have disbanded, no one has come along to snatch away their standing as true originals of the NYC dance scene. Groove really IS in the heart.


Pam Grier

(Click above to hear "Long Time Woman.")

Recorded for the Jack Hill film The Big Doll House, the future Queen of Blaxploitation films made her one and only foray into the recording studio. It's a soulful and gritty track, proving that was more to the 1970s than disco clubs and bell bottoms. The song's lyrics tell the story of a female inmate trying to get by, tough-as-nails, ready to do what it takes to survive.


Dolly Parton

Click above to hear "The Bridge."

I've always felt it was unfortunate that so many people are unwilling, or unable, to look past the big hair and the big, know, to acknowledge Dolly Parton as the talented and prolific songwriter that she is. With more than 3,000 songs bearing her name as composer, Dolly has never been shy about taking risks when it comes to her music, and "The Bridge" is a perfect example of this.

The song garnered its share of controversy when it was released. It's a sad tale of young love, unexpected pregnancy, and ultimately suicide, told in a frank, to-the-point fashion, which was quite daring for the time. Parton's musical mentor, Porter Waggoner, warned her against such edgy material, but Parton followed her heart, and "The Bridge" has


Linda Clifford

(Click above to hear "All the Man I Need.")

While this song is best known as a huge hit for Whitney Houston in late 1990, "All the Man I Need" had a long life before it hit the top of the charts. Originally written in 1981, it was recorded by soul/dance chanteuse Linda Clifford, and released as a single. For reasons I'll never be able to figure out, it didn't chart. A cover by Sister Sledge not long after only floated at the lower regions of the pop charts, and the song would remain in obscurity until Houston's chart-topping cover a number of years later.

Clifford's version differs from Houston's in several key ways. For one, it has a sincerity completely missing from the hit version. Clifford's voice is warm, and she uses her instrument to wrap the listener in the gorgeous lyrics, while Houston's version (like so many of her songs) seems more of an exercise in "look what I can do!" To this listener, Linda Clifford's recording remains the definitive version.


The Supremes
(l to r: Cindy Birdsong, Mary Wilson, Scherrie Payne.)

Click above to hear "Where Do I Go From Here.")

People tend to forget that The Supremes didn't simply vansish when Diana Ross went skiving off to pursue her own interests. In fact, The Supremes' first post-Ross single managed to beat the tar out of Ross' in the charts. While a steady succesion of members made the group a tad hard to follow, their output remained strong. In fact, I'd say some of the strongest material in the Supremes canon was recorded after Ross went her own way.

"Where Do I Go From Here" is a real groover from The Supremes' mid-70s catalogue. It was the first single released after Scherrie Payne (sister of Freda) came on board as lead singer, replacing the departing Jean Terrell. On the surface, you can hear the move into disco, but it contains just enough soul and funk to make the track decidedly supreme.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Alice Clark

Click above to hear "I Keep It Hid."

I knew this article would be difficult to write, as there is just simply no information out there on this lovely lady of soul. Alice Clark's lone LP is an absolute classic among soul listeners, but where Clark came from, and where she's been since are a complete mystery. Her recording of Jimmy Webb's "I Keep It Hid" (also recorded by the post-Ross Supremes, and later by Linda Ronstadt) is a soaring piece of melancholy. Clark's vocals show both strength and vunerabilty.


The Contessas
(l to r) Alyce Wheaton, Suzy Horton,
Suzanne Weir and Sharon Johnson
(All photos in this entry courtesy of Suzanne Southam Kennard.)

Click above to hear "I Keep On Keepin' On."

While The Contessas might seem different than other groups who recorded at Motown, make no mistake, these ladies had soul!

Their lone LP consisted of songs written, arranged and produced by the legendary Jimmy Webb, many of which would later became bona fide classics. "I Keep On Keepin' On" is an absolute foot stomper of a tune. Suzanne Weir's soaring soprano lead, ably backed by Sharon Johnson, Suzy Horton and Alyce Wheaton, takes the classic girl group sound and infuses the track with their own unique style.


Barbara Jean English

Click above to hear "I'm Sorry."

If you were to ask anyone, "what song would make an outstanding soul cover?" few would suggest the plaintive Brenda Lee hit "I'm Sorry." However, leave it to an amazing performer like Barbara Jean English to take the song to a whole new level! Her vocals soar across the spoken intro, and into the soulful and heartfelt verses. Prepare to be blown away by the chorus!

Barbara Jean English was no stranger to the recording studio when she released her album "So Many Ways..." in 1972. She began her career as a member of the Gospelettes, The Bouquests, The Ding Dongs (an unfortunate name, to be sure), and the Avalons. She then fronted The Fashions, and was a member of the popular group The Clickettes. Her style is inimitable, with a flair for making the most ordinary of songs pure soul classics.


Clydie King

Click above to hear "The Thrill is Gone."

Right off the bat, I'd like to note, this is a completely different song than the famous BB King track. This sublime slice of soulful melancholy is an absolute masterpiece. Clydie King's rich vocals are perfection, a true soul original.

Clydie King is probably best known as one of the most prolific session singers in history. She's worked for everyone from Ray Charles (she was part of his backing group, the Raelettes for three years) to Bob Dylan.


The Three Degrees
(l to r: Valerie Holiday, Fayette Pinkney, Sheila Ferguson)
(Special thanks to my friend Jeremy Levinson, without whom this entry would not be possible.)

Click above to hear "Get Your Love Back."

The Three Degrees are one of the few musical acts in history to tackle (and conquer) nearly every genre imaginable: doo-wop, soul, pop, rhythm and blues, disco - the lot. They had an uncanny knack of sounding just as brilliant live than on vinyl. No studio trickery, they didn't need it, these women could sing. "Get Your Love Back" is a fun and funky dance single, that displays the range of these talented ladies from Pennsylvania.


Toni Basil in the film "Breakaway."

Click above to hear "Breakaway."

Unless you are a devotee of experimental film of the 1960s, you may not be familiar with this sublime side of Northern Soul. Recorded in 1966 for Bruce Conner's seminal film "Breakaway," this track will be quite a pleasant surprise to those who thought of Basil simply as "that Mickey girl."

Basil's early career couldn't be more different than the New Wave Experimental Pop image she adopted in the early 1980s. In the 1960s, Basil ran with Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson, and some of the most respected performers and filmmakers of the 1960s beatnik scene. "Breakaway" is an essential recording of that period, not the least because of the innovative Bruce Conner film in which it is featured.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Three of the four members of The Shangri-Las...
and a bad boy.

"Past, Present and Future"

 "I Can Never Go Home Anymore"

"Past, Present and Future" isn't so much a song, than it is a monologue over music. It's a haunting, bare bones production follows the story of a young woman, considering the plea of a suitor. She consents, adding plainly: "But don't try to touch me. 'Cause that will never happen again." While the narrative doesn't tell us what has happened in the woman's past, it's obvious that it is far more sinister than just a previous broken heart. The song is almost frightening in its bleakness and simplicity.

"I Can Never Go Home Anymore" is the quintessential tearjerker in the Shangri-Las' special brand of tragi-pop. Mary Weiss' mostly spoken verses, along with the able backing of her sister Betty (not pictured above), and twins Margie and Mary Ann Ganser, build to a sumptuously overwrought climax in this tale of good girl gone bad, and regretting the choices she has made.


Little Eva

Click above to hear "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"

The Gerry Goffin/Carole King classic "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" has been covered by just about anyone who has ever held a microphone. It was a massive hit for The Shirelles (and quite controversial at the time) and was also recorded by King herself on her album Tapestry.

This version, performed by tiny vocal powerhouse Little Eva, has fallen through the cracks, despite being one of the more effective recordings of the song. Little Eva's rich, soulful tone, mixed with her naïve look (which is surprising, considering her hardscrabble life) and youthful phrasing makes the song all-the-more poignant.


The Hep Stars

Click above to hear "She Will Love You."

They were dubbed by the musical press as "The Swedish Beatles," and while they certainly had the hair, their musical output was closer to Buddy Holly than the Fab Four. The group formed in 1963 with Svenne Hedlund (lead vocals), Janne Frisk (guitar), the late Christer Pettersson (drums), Lelle Hegland (bass) and Hans Östlund on keyboards. Following the release of their first single, Östlund left the band and was replaced by future ABBA maestro Benny Andersson.

While little known outside of Scandinavia, the popularity of The Hep Stars at home should not be underestimated. Flocks of screaming girls followed the band from venue to venue, creating a scene reminiscent of Beatlemania in the UK. While their (mostly) English lyrics were a bit clumsy at times (Andersson later admitted that he simply translated the Swedish word-for-word from a dictionary), musically the band was quite accomplished.


Anni-Frid Lyngstad

Click above to hear "Där du går lämnar kärleken spår."

If "Där du går lämnar kärleken spår" sounds at all familiar, that's because it's a Swedish version of Edison Lighthouse's kitschy favorite, "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes." Frida's warm mezza-soprano takes it to another place entirely, taking out the kitsch and making it a fun, danceable pop song - a toe tapper.

To call Anni-Frid Lyngstad's career "diverse" would be a huge understatement. She was fronting a jazz band by the age of 13, recording pop and schlager tunes in 1960s Sweden before hitting her second decade, and becoming a world-wide sensation in ABBA by the mid 1970s. As the 1980s rolled around, she had morphed into a spiky-haired New Wave rock goddess, and in the 1990s made a tremendous comeback with the smooth and sophisticated album "Djupa andetag." Yes, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, better known as simply Frida, is a woman of many talents. Her life reads like a storybook, from rags to, quite literally, royalty.