Best Albums Of 2016: Two Views

Two music aficionados, with roughly 120 years of rock and roll fandom under our belts, select the past year's best albums/CDs for the 8th consecutive year. This is the first time we've included links to songs from the selected albums. We hope you enjoy them, and we encourage you to support your favorite artists by purchasing their recordings.

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Jimmy Hollywood's Greatest Hits

Jim Leach played an important part in Michigan rock and roll before he left for California and became a top Hollywood radio reporter, known around the country as ‘James St. James: The Real Jimmy Hollywood’. Because of his contributions to Michigan’s rock and roll legacy, Leach was chosen as an Honorary Inductee to the MRRL Hall of Fame in 2014. He has recently put out a CD titled “Jimmy Hollywood’s Greatest Hits” that features 14 recordings from Michigan bands that he worked with in the 60’s and 70’s and includes several songs that were released as singles on his own Chivalry label. MRRL contacted Leach in California by phone to talk about the artists and songs included in the collection.

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ARP 3 "Ghosts, Rumors, and Remains"

Cynthia awoke in the middle of the night with the record pressing plant on her mind. Had she been dreaming about the building that had once stood near her home? Although she hadn’t thought about the ruined plant in years, she suddenly felt compelled to learn more about it. Cynthia slipped out of bed to grab her laptop and googled ‘record company Owosso Mi’. The results of her online search would lead to not only a surprise but also some amazing discoveries that would inspire a quest to uncover the long lost story of the American Record Pressing company.

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ZZ Top and Bay City's Fake Zombies Scandal

by Daniel Ralston with Gary Johnson*

Chris White shakes his head and laughs when I show him the first photo. At 73, the bassist and songwriter for the reunited British psych-rock band the Zombies looks like a cool grandpa in black pants, blue dress shirt, and polar fleece vest — a sharp contrast from his septuagenarian bandmates who still sport leather jackets and tight pants. He adjusts his glasses and studies the image of the impostors, four flamboyantly dressed young men taken in 1969. We are backstage at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills last October and after this brief intermission, White will join the rest of the band onstage to play the band’s cult classic 1967 album Odessey and Oracle in its entirety.

 

I pull up another grainy photo from 1969 on my laptop: a traditional black and white press photo for the Original “Zombies” (in conspicuous scare quotes), autographed. There are only four guys pictured despite the fact that the Zombies were a five-piece. I inform White that the two young men wearing cowboy hats are Dusty Hill and Frank Beard from the legendary Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top, although the names D. Cruz and Chris Page are scrawled over them. The real Zombies would have never worn cowboy hats. 

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Bobby Rydell - Teen Idol On The Rocks

 Growing up, I was a big fan of Dick Clark and American Bandstand. I’ve always liked Clark’s famous quote: “Music is the soundtrack of your life”. From the start of  8th grade all the way through my senior year at St. Joseph High School, Bobby Rydell was an important part of my soundtrack. During that time period, Rydell charted 28 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, 19 of which were Top 40 hits. Smashes like “We Got Love”, “Wild One”, “Swingin’ School”, “Volare”, “Good Time Baby”, and “Forget Him” were constantly played at school dances, house parties, and on the transistor radios tuned to the local AM radio stations that spun the hits of the day.

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The Michigan Box Pt. 2

This is the second part of the MRRL review of "The Michigan Box: 1950s & 1960s Oddball Labels", the massive 10 CD collection of obscure Michigan recordings that were released on small independent labels from around the state during rock and roll's first two decades. Part 1 dealt with the first five CDs in the set, and Pt. 2 covers the songs, artists, and labels found on CDs 6 through 10. Many of the songs have YouTube links so that you can hear the original recordings.

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The Michigan Box Pt. 1

“The Michigan Box: 1950s & 1960s Oddball Labels” offers a unique look at many of the state’s independent music labels at the dawn of the rock and roll era. The set has over 330 recordings on ten full length CDs containing over 12 hours of music; along with a 200 page hard cover book filled with photos, biographical information, and recording data. You won’t find any Top 40 hits, but you will discover some obscure early recordings by significant Michigan artists such as Tommy James, Andre Williams, Dick Wagner, Nolan Strong & The Diablos, Brian Holland, and The Falcons.

The box set mostly concentrates on lesser known musicians who often recorded their rockabilly, country, R&B songs and instrumentals in primitive one man (or woman) studios often outfitted in the front room, back room, garage, or basement. The 45s and 78s were pressed in Michigan plants and issued in limited numbers on tiny labels found in cities all around the state.

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