Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dee Dee Sharp: "It's Mashed Potato Time/Do The Bird" (2010) CD Review

This 2010 release contains two complete albums by Dee Dee Sharp that were previously unavailable on CD, and includes "Gravy" and "Be Ever Wonderful."

Collectors' Choice Music is continuing its series of classic Cameo-Parkway releases with four more titles, including this CD by excellent vocalist Dee Dee Sharp.

Dee Dee was born Dione LaRue, and called Dee Dee Sharp because of her penchant for singing in the key of D sharp. She began by singing in her grandfather's church, and then with Willa Ward Moultrie. That led to her getting session work as a backing vocalist for such artists as Bobby Rydell, Lloyd Price, Ray Charles and Jackie Wilson.

At the beginning of 1962, she sang a duet with Chubby Checker and then recorded her first lead vocal part - on the song "Mashed Potato Time."

This CD contains two complete records: It's Mashed Potato Time, which was originally released in 1962, and Do The Bird, which was originally released in 1963.

"Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)"
It's Mashed Potato Time opens with "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)," which was Dee Dee Sharp's follow-up hit to "Mashed Potato Time." It was written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, and is complete with a saxophone section and great backing vocals.

But of course it's Dee Dee's vocals that sell this song. With a gospel background, Dee Dee can certainly belt out a tune, regardless of its style or genre.

"Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" reached #9 on the charts.

"Slow Twistin'"
"Slow Twistin'" is a duet with Chubby Checker. Dee Dee and Chubby had recorded another version together where Chubby had the lead. They switched vocal positions for this rendition. This song has a good groove, and it was written by Jon Sheldon (Kal Mann's pseudonym).


"Gee" is one of those ridiculously fun early 1960s songs. It's so joyous and light, with a catchy rhythm and - of course - a saxophone solo. Listen to the power in Dee Dee's vocals, especially toward the end of the song.

"Gee" was written by William Davis and George Goldner, according to this album's original liner notes. But elsewhere Viola Watkins is also credited as a co-writer. This song was originally a hit for The Crows.

"A Hundred Pounds Of Clay"

"A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" is dedicated to Chubby Checker, whom Dee Dee credits as giving her her start. This song is a very strange combination of a religious theme and a tribute to Chubby Checker. Dee Dee sings "two hundred pounds of clay" rather than "a hundred pounds of clay."

"A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" was written by Bob Elgin, Luther Dixon and Kay Rogers. Gene McDaniels had a #3 hit with this song.

"Mashed Potato Time"

"Mashed Potato Time" was Dee Dee Sharp's first big hit. Before this, she'd been singing backing vocals for other artists. This is a dance song, telling the story of The Mashed Potato, and it has a cool saxophone section. But again, it's her voice that really make this song a hit.

This song contains references to other songs of the period, such as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Please Mr. Postman."

"(Dee Dee) Be My Girl"

"(Dee Dee) Be My Girl" is an odd song lifted from "Duke Of Earl" - but is also a sort of tribute or sequel to that song. Dee Dee sings, "When the Duke of Earl whispers tenderly/Be my baby/My heart starts to whirl when he says to me/Be my girl/And I've gotta love that guy/Because nothing can stop me now/Because he's the Duke of Earl." Weird, right?

"Remember You're Mine"

"Remember You're Mine" is a really cool, slower tune with some nice work on piano, and phenomenal vocals. It written by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, the two founders of Cameo-Parkway, and it's one of the best songs on the CD.

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Be faithful, darlin'/While you're away/For when it's summer a heart can stray/And though I'll miss you/Have a wonderful time/But remember, darlin'/Remember you're mine."

"Let The Sunshine In"
The second album on this CD, Do The Bird, opens with "Let The Sunshine In." This song has an obvious Ray Charles groove. It's a gospel-flavored tune with great work on piano and organ. And Dee Dee Sharp really belts this one out. This is one of the highlights of the CD.

"You Ain't Nothin' But A Nothin'"

The power in Dee Dee's voice is palpable as she sings "You Ain't Nothing But A Nothin'." You can feel it like a slap across your face as she scolds, "You ain't nothin' but a nothin.'" It's wonderful. That's the kind of abuse we could all use and enjoy.

As a side note, this song mentions "Gravy."

"Reet Petite"

"Reet Petite" has a great bass line and some excellent work on drums. The focus, though, is on Dee Dee's vocals, and they really shine on this one. Jackie Wilson had a hit with this song, and interestingly he's one of the artists that Dee Dee Sharp sang backing vocals for before recording these albums. This is a fun song.

"Do The Bird"

"Do The Bird," the album's title track, is a dance song written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell. It's apparently an easy dance, as Dee Dee sings, "You can even do it sitting down." The backing vocals really add a lot to this one. And there is the obligatory sax solo, which is great.

"Be Ever Wonderful"

"Be Ever Wonderful" is an incredible song that really showcases Dee Dee's vocal talent. She sings, "Be ever wonderful/Stay as you are/Be ever heaven's gift/My guiding star/You are the only one/ Who can break my heart." But it's the end of the song when she's really amazing, as she sings, "Be ever mine."

"South Street"

The album concludes with "South Street," a song written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, and which was a huge hit for The Orlons. Dee Dee does a great job with it.

CD Track List

  1. Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)
  2. Slow Twistin'
  3. Gee
  4. Two Loves
  5. A Hundred Pounds Of Clay
  6. Eddie, My Love
  7. Mashed Potato Time
  8. (Dee Dee) Be My Girl
  9. I Sold My Heart To The Junkman
  10. Remember You're Mine
  11. Hurry On Down
  12. Splish Splash
  13. Let The Sunshine In
  14. I Will Follow Him
  15. Rockin' Robin
  16. He's So Fine
  17. You Ain't Nothin' But A Nothin'
  18. Reet Petite
  19. Do The Bird
  20. Be Ever Wonderful
  21. Our Day Will Come
  22. Just To Hold My Hand
  23. Why Don't You Ask Me
  24. South Street

This CD is scheduled to be released November 23, 2010 through Collectors' Choice Music in conjunction with ABKCO Music & Records. Two other selections in the Cameo-Parkway series will be released that same day: The Dovells: For Your Hully Gully Party/You Can't Sit Down; and a compilation titled Cameo-Parkway Holiday Hits (which features a very young Bob Seger). A fourth CD was given a slightly earlier release, on October 26, 2010: John Zacherle: Monster Mash/Scary Tales.

In June of 2010 Collectors' Choice Music released the first set of six classic Cameo-Parkway albums. Those included albums by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell. The Orlons, Clint Eastwood and Terry Knight And The Pack, as well as a compilation titled Remember Me Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups Vol. 1.

(Note: I originally posted this review on November 9, 2010.)

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