Monday, April 15, 2024

Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: “In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album” (2024) CD Review

In 1972, famed trumpeters and vocalists Chet Baker and Jack Sheldon recorded an album together in Orange County. Guitarist and producer Jack Marshall then took the tapes up to Los Angeles to find a suitable label to release the recording. But after Marshall’s sudden death from a heart attack, the tapes were packed away and forgotten. Jack Marshall’s son, Frank Marshall (known for producing films like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Poltergeist, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), found the tapes in the garage, and now the album is finally getting a release, on both CD and vinyl, the latter for Record Store Day. It’s incredible and wonderful that unreleased gems like this are still being found. In addition to Baker, Sheldon and Marshall, these tracks feature Dave Frishberg on piano, Joe Mondragon on bass, and Nick Ceroli on drums. This session comes from an interesting time, particularly as Chet Baker’s comeback happened in 1973. Had this album come out promptly, would his comeback have occurred a year earlier?

The album opens with “This Can’t Be Love,” which begins with a nice introduction on piano. Jack Sheldon sings the first section of the song, and if you’re listening on headphones, you’ll hear him predominantly in your left ear. His emotional delivery is moving. “This can’t be love/I get no dizzy spell/My head ain’t way up in the skies/My heart does not stand still.” Then halfway through, Chet Baker comes in (mainly in your right ear), his voice in great contrast to Sheldon’s, more smooth and relaxed. And for his first several lines, he is supported mainly by the bass, which adds to the contrast with the first section. Two different approaches contained on the same track. What a wonderful start to the album. That’s followed by “Just Friends,” and it’s Chet Baker who sings this one, with some wonderful work on bass backing him. Joe Mondragon had played on some early Chet Baker albums, including Chet Baker And Strings, but is probably most loved for that seriously cool bass work on Peggy Lee’s version of “Fever.” This track also begins with a short introduction on piano, and it features some great stuff on trumpet.

“Too Blue” is a song written by Jack Sheldon, the only original composition on this album. Sheldon sings this one, and that voice is perfect to deliver lines like “You’re driving me insane/You fill my happy heart with pain/You messed up my brain.” And while everything he’s saying is undoubtedly true, this one has a fun vibe.  I love the way it moves. That rhythm is so appealing. There is also plenty of good stuff on trumpet, the two playing together in the second half, and it is that section that is my favorite. Jack Sheldon would include this song on his 1980 LP Singular and on his 1995 album Jack Is Back. They follow that with “But Not For Me.” I’ve said it many times, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. This one also begins with some really nice work on piano, and soon the tone is established. Chet Baker sings this one, skipping the first lines and going right to the chorus. I love his delivery of that first line, “They’re writing songs of love, but not for me,” the way he holds onto the word of “love,” like he wants it, needs it, wishes to dwell within it. This track features some bright and exciting work on trumpet, and some nice work on drums. Nick Ceroni is known for his work with Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass in the 1960s, and he would play drums on Jack Sheldon’s Singular. This isn’t the first time Chet Baker recorded this song. He included it on his 1954 album Chet Baker Sings. On that version he also went right to the chorus, but delivered that first line differently.

Jack Sheldon sings “Historia De Un Amor” in Spanish, delivering a captivating performance. There is a beautiful ache in his voice, a need, a desire, a longing. There is that longing in his trumpet playing too, with Chet Baker’s trumpet sounding more soothing, comforting, which works so well. This track also features some wonderful guitar work. They follow that with a tune composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, “Once I Loved,” which has a good rhythm, and features some nice stuff by Chet Baker on trumpet. Jack Sheldon doesn’t come in until well into the second half of the track, and then the two trumpets engage in an interesting dance, over some delicious percussion work. Then Jack Sheldon seems to be having a great time vocally with “You Fascinate Me,” and the results are delightful. And Chet Baker gets loose on trumpet. This is such an enjoyable rendition. Jack Sheldon gets even more playful as he goes. Listen to his delivery of the song’s final line.

Things get mellow with “When I Fall In Love,” with Chet Baker’s soft, thoughtful and beautiful vocal approach. “In this crazy world we live in, love is over before it’s begun/And too many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun.” This track also contains some pretty work on piano. Then the piano work at the beginning of “I Cried For You” lets us know this rendition is going to be hopping. And indeed it is, the bass and drums keeping everything moving. Jack Sheldon again delivers a somewhat playful vocal performance, and there are moments when both he and Chet Baker are playing trumpet, trading licks in an animated conversation. Jack Sheldon cuts loose vocally near the end: “You made me feel so bad when you came in with grass all over your skirt and your hair messed up and lipstick all over your teeth/Now you’re going to have cry over me.” Wonderful! This is one of the disc’s highlights. It is followed by “I’m Old Fashioned,” with Chet Baker delivering a sweet, cheerful vocal performance. “I’m old-fashioned/But I don’t mind it/That’s how I want to be/As long as you’ll agree/To stay old-fashioned with me.” This track also features some delicious work on trumpet. The album concludes with “Evil Blues,” which begins with some good work on piano before it digs into that rhythm. There is a prominent bass line. Jack Sheldon sings lead on this short, but totally enjoyable rendition.

CD Track List

  1. This Can’t Be Love
  2. Just Friends
  3. Too Blue
  4. But Not For Me
  5. Historia De Un Amor
  6. Once I Loved
  7. You Fascinate Me
  8. When I Fall In Love
  9. I Cried For You
  10. I’m Old Fashioned
  11. Evil Blues

In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album is scheduled to be released on CD on April 26, 2024. It will be released on vinyl on Record Store Day, April 20th.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Celebration Of The Life And Songs Of Paul Lacques

"Ride My Soul"
Friends and family gathered at McCabe’s last night to celebrate the music of Paul Lacques. It was a beautiful, touching and joyous night featuring some of southern California’s best musicians, people that Paul Lacques had played with throughout the years in bands like The Underthings, Rotondi, Earthworm Ensemble, Double Naught Spy Car, and I See Hawks In L.A. And the money raised from the tickets to this sold-out show went to help Victoria Jacobs pay remaining medical bills (same is true of all money made at the merchandise table). This night provided a much-needed opportunity for people to come together to show their love and appreciation for the music, for Paul, and for each other.

Even before the doors were opened, folks were meeting in line outside, greeting each other with hugs,  checking in with one another and sharing fond memories. It was the kind of night where you knew everyone else there, or at least their faces were familiar to you, and so you were comfortable when the tears came. The music began at 8, Victoria Jacobs opening the night with “Clever,” a song she wrote when she and Paul Lacques got engaged. She stopped when there was feedback, a moment that actually lightened the mood for everyone. For this song, she was joined by Paul Marshall on bass and Dave Zirbel on pedal steel. It’s a beautiful song, and its last line, “There’s no end to our love,” was especially moving last night.


Rob Waller said that the celebration would move largely in chronological order, giving a taste of the different music that Paul Lacques gave to the world. One thing that was striking was the wonderful diversity, the great range, of his material. I had first heard Paul in Double Naught Spy Car in the late 1990s, followed quickly by I See Hawks In L.A., two bands that themselves are quite different from each other, and was only vaguely aware of what had come before. But when Richie Lawrence and Katie Thomas took the stage, along with Simeon Pillich and Shawn Nourse, to play a couple of waltzes, it quickly became clear how wide Paul’s musical tastes spread. And those songs – “Leaving You,” from the Rotondi album Preaching + Confessing, and “The Wonderful Waltz” from the Goin’ South Band album Home In My Heart – were absolutely wonderful. Anthony Lacques, Dave Markowitz and Mike Stinson then joined them for the delightfully playful “Corn.” A fun number from Earthworm Ensemble’s self-titled album that had folks smiling and laughing.


"Brand New Mind"
It’s interesting to me how Paul Lacques worked with certain musicians on multiple projects. Richie Lawrence and Simeon Pillich remained on stage as The Underthings, led by Stefanie Naifeh, continued the celebration with a fantastic rendition of “Home In My Heart.” I know my girlfriend will say the last thing I need to do is buy more records and compact discs, but how could I not want to add all this music to my personal collection? They followed “Home In My Heart,” with “Voulez Vous Danser,” a song written in French. Stefanie said that the lyrics translate, in part, to “There is no reason to dance/I will dance.” Wonderful! That seems to be the philosophy of the music right there. Peter Lacques then joined them on harmonica for “Brand New Mind.” By the way, Marcus Watkins of Double Naught Spy Car played guitar on these songs. Then Double Naught Spy Car followed, with Danny McGough on keyboard. They played “Danger High!” (and, yes, the crowd shouted out the song’s title at the end), “Kay Sara Sarah” and “jan-michael vincent,” Marcus Watkins on lap steel for those last two. McCabe’s doesn’t really have enough room for dancing, but those around me were bouncing in their seats.

"Kay Sara Sarah"

Paul Lacques was part of a musical family, and four of his brothers came together last night to perform the I See Hawks In L.A. song “California Country.” They were then joined by the fifth brother, Gabe Lacques, for an energetic rendition of “Hecker Pass,” also an I See Hawks In L.A. song. Anthony Lacques switched from bass to drums for “Teresa,” with Bubba Hernandez (of Brave Combo) joining them on bass and vocals, and Richie Lawrence was on accordion. What a fun song! It raised my spirits tremendously. Bubba Hernandez encouraged people to dance if they wished, and through there wasn’t much room, some people did. This song was on Rotondi’s Play On album, which I need to pick up at some point. Tony Gilkyson and Rick Shea then took the stage to deliver a couple more Hawks numbers. Tony sang lead on a beautiful, slow, touching rendition of “Hope Against Hope,” a song from Grapevine.  Rick sang lead on a pretty rendition of that album’s title track, the audience singing along at the end.

"Hope Against Hope"

I See Hawks In L.A. is one of my favorite bands, and last night Rob Waller, Paul Marshall and Victoria Jacobs were joined by Rick Shea, Tony Gilkyson, Richie Lawrence and Dave Zirbel. They started with one of the band’s more recent songs, “Salvation,” with Paul Marshall on lead vocals. In the introduction, Paul said it was the last song he and Paul Lacques wrote together. It’s an excellent song, and after the show a guy looking at the CDs for sale asked which one had that song on it. Unfortunately, it has not been included on any album, though I know a new album had been planned. They followed that with an energetic rendition of “Humboldt,” with Mike Stinson joining them on vocals. A seriously great jam. They kept the spirits high with “Good And Foolish Times,” with Rick, Tony, Dave and Richie all taking turns at leads. “We certainly had some good and foolish times,” Rob said before they started that song. Indeed. You could feel everyone in the room reflecting on some of those times, remembering and even rejoicing at those memories, and thankful to have experienced them. Then, in introducing “The River Knows,” Rob mentioned writing that song with Paul Lacques one morning while they were staying in Ireland. It was a beautiful and moving rendition. A certain number of songs had been planned, but the Hawks decided to add two more – “Carbon Dated Love,” which Victoria mentioned had not been rehearsed by the folks playing with them, and “I See Hawks In L.A.” The moment Dave Zirbel began that one on pedal steel, everyone in the room recognized it.


The Lacques Brothers, along with their sisters and the other musicians, joined the Hawks for the final song of the night, “Ride My Soul,” a song that was included on the Rotondi album Preaching + Confessing. Everyone in the audience was singing along too. It was a wonderful conclusion to the night. When the music was over, no one was in any particular hurry to leave. Eventually, an announcement was made asking folks to move to the front room so that the chairs could be put away. It was in that room that the merchandise table was set up, with all the money from sales going to help Victoria Jacobs covers the medical bills. I added two Rotondi records to my collection – Preaching + Confessing and Polka Changed My Life Today – as well as a cassette copy of the self-titled release from The Underthings. Obviously, there is a lot more music that I wish to explore, and that makes me happy, knowing that there are other Paul Lacques recordings that I have yet to hear. It’s not the same thing as getting to see him perform, but it is a way to keep that spirit going. His music is going to live on in these recordings, and in all those who continue to listen to the magic.

Set List

  1. Clever
  2. Leaving You
  3. The Wonderful Waltz
  4. Corn
  5. Home In My Heart
  6. Voulez Vous Danser
  7. Brand New Mind
  8. Danger High!
  9. Kay Sara Sarah
  10. jan-michael vincent
  11. California Country
  12. Hecker Pass
  13. Teresa
  14. Hope Against Hope
  15. Grapevine
  16. Salvation
  17. Humboldt
  18. Good And Foolish Times
  19. The River Knows
  20. Carbon Dated Love
  21. I See Hawks In L.A.
  22. Ride My Soul

Here are a few more photos from the night:


"Home In My Heart"
"Danger High!"

"California Country"
"Hecker Pass"




"Good And Foolish Times"

"Ride My Soul"

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Sound Of My Own Tune: An Artists’ Tribute To Patty Booker (2024) CD Review

Patty Booker started out playing a mix of classic country songs and original material with the band The Hired Hands in southern California in the 1980s and early 1990s. She then released her first solo album, I Don’t Need All That, in 1999. In 2003, she and Rick Shea released Our Shangri-La, and in 2007 she released Fire & Brimstone. Since then, Patty Booker has been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. The Sound Of My Own Tune: An Artists’ Tribute To Patty Booker is a wonderful album made by friends of Patty Booker with the aim of both honoring her excellent body of work and helping with her medical expenses. It began as a digital download project in 2022, and has become a full album, produced by John Groover McDuffie and Lisa Finnie, both of whom perform on these tracks. Even if you are not familiar with Patty Booker, you will certainly know many of the artists on this album, including Rick Shea, Jann Browne, James Intveld, Dan Janisch and Rosie Flores. And this release provides a great opportunity to become familiar with her work and to become a fan. And as a bonus, two of her own recordings are included at the end, both being previously unreleased tracks.

The album opens with Jann Browne performing “Personal Life.” You probably know Jann Browne from her solo career, and also from her vocal work as a member of Asleep At The Wheel in the 1980s. This song is absolutely wonderful. It was written by Patty Booker and Jann Browne, and included on Jann Browne’s 2020 album Arrow. Check out these lines, which open the song: “Stay out of my head, stay out of my bed, stay out of my heart/Stay out of my way, stay out of my space, stay out of my car.” This is one of those songs that will conjure the image of a different person or entity for each who hears it. I can imagine many people thinking of the Republican Party and the Supreme Court while hearing it. “I don’t want you here in my personal life.” Gary Brandin delivers some nice work on pedal steel. But it is Jann Browne’s delightful vocal delivery which drives it. Rick Shea then gives us a touching rendition of “The House That We Once Lived In,” a song that he and Patty Booker had included on their Our Shangri-La album. Rick Shea plays both guitar and pedal steel on this track. Skip Edwards is on piano, Keith Rosier is on bass, and Heather Myles provides the harmony vocals. “And who’s to say what might have been/Or what might ever be/Once we were so much in love/Now you say that I should leave.”

James Intveld delivers a lively and cheerful version of “Let’s Talk It Out,” a song from Patty Booker’s album I Don’t Need All That. He plays piano, bass and guitar on this track. Marty Rifkin is on pedal steel. “Now it’s time for both of us to take the risk/Of losing everything we’ve ever dreamed/And falling back in love the way it used to be/Let’s talk it out, get it out in the open.” The energy remains high with Rosie Flores’ take on “Wake Up Little Baby,” a song from Patty Booker’s Fire & Brimstone album. Hearing Rosie Flores always makes me happy. Something about her delivery, her presence, raises my spirits every time. John McDuffie joins her on guitar on this track. John Palmer is on drums. Then Ronnie Mack covers “99,” a song that Patty Booker included on the 1992 compilation A Town South Of Bakersfield Volume 3. (Ronnie Mack also has a song on that compilation, by the way. So does Rick Shea, for that matter.) “Ain’t much use growing up around here/Unless you want to work the fields and drive a John Deere/There’s only one thing that catches my eye/It’s when I’m  looking at the cars rolling down the 99.” Ah yes, a song about being on the road, or at least wanting to be. This song was written by Gary Brandin, who plays steel guitar on this track. Paul Marshall (from I See Hawks In L.A.) plays bass and provides some backing vocal work on this track. Cody Bryant is on banjo, and Candy Girard delivers some nice work on fiddle.

Candy Girard then gives us this album’s title track, “The Sound Of My Own Tune,” a sweet and pretty song. She sings and plays fiddle on this track. Bob Gothar plays acoustic guitar, and John McDuffie is on steel guitar. “There’s no one to blame but me myself/I gave my life to someone else/I may be older now/But my heart still beats.” Patti Shannon plays bass on this track. Then Patti Shannon delivers a really good rendition of “I Didn’t Want To Go,” a song that Patty Booker wrote with Jann Browne. Patti Shannon delivers a strong, passionate vocal performance here. Paul Marshall provides the harmony vocals, and John McDuffie plays both baritone guitar and steel guitar. Dan Janisch gives us “I Know What’s Wrong (But I Just Can’t Get It Right),” a song title that I love. This is a song that Patty Booker and Rick Shea included on Our Shangri-La. It’s one of those wonderful, slow, sad country numbers, and Dan does a phenomenal job with it, delivering a heartfelt performance. “I lost it all before I ever knew/Just how much I needed you/And all the things we used to do/I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t get it right.” John McDuffie plays bass and steel guitar on this track. Laura Jo DeWitt and Lisa Finnie provide the backing vocals.

Walter Clevenger and Wyman Reese (of The Dairy Kings) deliver a cheerful-sounding rendition of “The Hand That Rocked His Cradle,” a song from Fire & Brimstone. This one has a somewhat different tone from Patty Booker’s original, sounding almost like something Jimmy Buffett would do at the start, but it works. By the way, Walter Clevenger also played on Patty Booker’s original version. Zach Silva plays mandolin on this track, and Dave Brock is on fiddle. John Sleeger is on bass, and John Crawford is on drums. Then Laura Jo DeWitt delivers an absolutely wonderful vocal performance on her version of “Please Don’t Lie To Me,” another song from Fire & Brimstone, this one co-written by Jann Browne. “There’s no shame in being human/That’s all we really are/We make mistakes/Sometimes we go too far.” This track also features some cool work by John Palmer on drums, Keith Rosier on bass, and Sarah Kramer on trumpet, and it is one of my personal favorites. I love its vibe. It has more of a jazz flavor than the original, which featured a bluesy electric guitar lead. The intimate spoken word delivery at the end is sexy. “Good boys tell the truth.”

John Groover McDuffie gets things moving and hopping with “The One-Way Hula,” which also comes from Fire & Brimstone. I’ve seen John McDuffie play with several artists over the years, usually on pedal steel or electric guitar, and it’s great to hear him on vocals on this track. “I’m tired of sleeping lonely in this big old double bed/Please come a little closer, you’re too close to the edge/Let’s do the one-way hula like we used to do.”  He also plays electric guitar, bass, cornet and maracas on this track. There is a playfulness to this song that I enjoy. Sarah Kramer plays trumpet on this one too. And I like those backing vocals by Laura Jo DeWitt and Lisa Finnie near the end. That’s followed by a pretty rendition of “River Of Love” by Lisa Finnie, who is backed only by John McDuffie on guitar. This song comes from Patty Booker’s I Don’t Need All That, where it had a full-band sound. I love how the musicians on this disc put their own spin on these songs, as Lisa Finnie does here. Her delivery of a line like “Oh, the river of love has run dry” is particularly moving. This song was written by Gary Brandin.

Renee Brooks gives us a strong rendition of “It’s Been Nice Knowing You,” a song from Fire & Brimstone. This track features a beautiful and passionate vocal performance. Renee is backed by John McDuffie on guitar, Peter Freiberger on bass, Skip Edwards on piano and organ, and Shawn Nourse on drums. Shawn Nourse played drums on Patty Booker’s original recording, and is also known for his work in I See Hawks In L.A., and with Tony Gilkyson, among several other artists. That’s followed by “Hey, Little Darlin’,” a sweet number that is here performed by Bob Gothar, Lisa Finnie, Laura Jo DeWitt, Dan Janisch and Renee Brooks, with John McDuffie on electric guitar and mandolin (just how many different instruments does this guy play?), Skip Edwards on accordion, and Candy Girard on fiddle. Gary Brandin, who wrote the song, plays steel guitar on this track. There is a wonderfully uplifting vibe to this one. “Buy me some flowers and a bottle of wine.” The main section of the album then concludes with an excellent instrumental reprise of “River Of Love,” performed by Gary Brandin on dobro, and Bob Gothar on guitar, bass and mandolin.

As I mentioned, the disc contains two recordings by Patty Booker herself, both previously unreleased, and both featuring Johnny Jake on multiple instruments. The first is “Back Scratch Boogie,” a fun, lively, rockin’ number. Johnny Jake plays guitar, piano, bass, drums and saxophone, and joins Patty on vocals. “It feels so good/It feels so good/Well, it feels so good/Yes it does, it feels so good/It feels so good/Just like I knew it would.” Yes, it certainly does! Funny to think that the delicious jam in the middle is done by just one guy. This song was written by Patty Booker and Johnny Jake. The second is “Blue Wahine Girl,” written by Patty Booker as an adaptation of “Blue Kentucky Girl.” On this one, she plays bass. Johnny Jake plays guitar, piano, mandolin, and drums, and does some whistling. This sweet, slower number features an absolutely wonderful vocal performance. What a great ending to this excellent disc!

CD Track List

  1. Personal Life – Jann Browne
  2. The House That We Once Lived In – Rick Shea
  3. Let’s Talk It Out – James Intveld
  4. Wake Up Little Baby – Rosie Flores
  5. 99 – Ronnie Mack
  6. The Sound Of My Own Tune – Candy Girard
  7. I Didn’t Want To Go – Patti Shannon
  8. I Know What’s Wrong (But I Just Can’t Get It Right) – Dan Janisch
  9. The Hand That Rocked His Cradle – Walter Clevenger & Wyman Reese
  10. Please Don’t Lie To Me – Laura Jo DeWitt
  11. The One-Way Hula – John Groover McDuffie
  12. River Of Live – Lisa Finnie
  13. It’s Been Nice Knowing You – Renee Brooks
  14. Hey Little Darlin’ – Bob Gother, Lisa Finnie, Laura Jo DeWitt, Dan Janisch, Renee Brooks & The Elysian Heights Glee Club
  15. River Of Love (Reprise) – Gary Brandin & Bob Gothar
  16. Black Scratch Boogie – Patty Booker & Johnny Jake
  17. Blue Wahine Girl – Patty Booker

The Sound Of My Own Tune: An Artists’ Tribute To Patty Booker was released through Tres Pescadores Records on February 9, 2024, Patty Booker’s birthday.