Wednesday, February 24, 2021

VA - Teen Expo : The Cleopatra Label

Tommy Falcone is not a name usually uttered by folks discussing the visionary record men of the '60s, but perhaps they should. Hailing from Hazlet, New Jersey, Falcone was the songwriter, producer, and mastermind behind Cleopatra, a small label and production company he ran from 1962 to 1970. While Cleopatra never came especially close to a hit, despite licensing a few of their sides to major labels, for close to a decade Falcone tirelessly scouted teenage talent, wrote tunes, and ran sessions that roamed the gamut from moody rock & roll and East Coast surf music to blue-eyed R&B shouting and frantic novelty numbers. Though he never scored the gold record he was chasing, the music Falcone left behind was certainly the product of an agile mind. The archivists at Numero Group have finally given Tommy Falcone his due with Teen Expo: The Cleopatra Label, a 26-track sampler that collects some of the highlights of his musical legacy. Listening to these songs, they seem to have come from some alternate-universe Brill Building, where Falcone and his artists were cranking out records that would have done the Top 40 proud if anyone had bothered to program them. Falcone created this music on a skimpy budget, but you wouldn't guess that to hear it. The melodies are strong, the instrumental work is consistently solid, the arrangements are imaginative, and he wasn't afraid to try unusual studio techniques, such as the broad stereo panning on Bernadette Carroll's "When We're Older" or running Dick Thunder's vocals through a Leslie speaker cabinet for "Gee But I'm Lonesome." "Beach Umbrella World" by the Centuries and "Distant Rain" by the Hallmarks are impressively sophisticated for teen pop, Vickie Van Dyke's "Outcast" is a fuzzy soul-styled number that packs an impressive wallop of bad-girl angst, "Soul Shakin' Psychedelic Sally," another track from the Hallmarks, is a great, echo-laden garage rock stomper, the Centuries' "Outer Limits" is a fine surf instrumental with a sci-fi bent, and "Candy Andy" by ShoeString is a truly odd tale of a dirty old man luring children with sweets. If some of this stuff seems somewhat eccentric, especially from a remove of several decades, it's no weirder than Phil Spector or Shadow Morton's more outre moments from this era, and the level of craft is certainly comparable. Ryan Alan Boyle's liner essay is an exhaustive and loving portrait of a man who devoted his life to music and young people, and if you have a taste for great pop music of the '60s, Teen Expo more than deserves your attention.

1.Bernadette Carroll - Heavenly 01:54
2.The Tabbys - Hong Kong Baby 02:40
3.Dick Thunder - Gee But I'm Lonesome 02:27
4.Vickie & The Van Dykes - Outcast 02:27
5.The Hallmarks - Paper Sky 01:58
6.The Centuries - Beach Umbrella World 02:58
7.The Inmates - It's So Very Hard 02:25
8.Jimmy Davis - Mister Wind 02:17
9.Johnny Silvio - Julie Anne 02:17
10.The Hallmarks - Distant Rain 04:10
11.Bernadette Carroll - When We're Older 02:46
12.The Centuries - Outer Limits 02:18
13.The Hallmarks - Baby We Can Make It Together 03:14
14.The Centuries - Anniversary Hop 02:13
15.The Ovations - Kiss Me Bye Bye 02:20
16.The Inmates - Crystal Ball 02:28
17.Vickie & The Van Dykes - True Love 02:33
18.The Reminiscents - For Your Love 02:03
19.The Hallmarks - Miss Judith Finch 03:39
20.Bernadette Carroll - Care a Little 02:2221.
The Shandillons - Shoop De Hoop Twine 02:4822.
The Inmates - You Tell Lies 02:28
23.The Hallmarks - Soul Shakin' Psychedelic Sally 02:36
24.The Shoestring - Candy Andy 02:50
25.Tommy Manno - Conceited 01:47
26.Eugene Viscione - Parting Kiss 02:47
27.Tommy Falcone & Co. - Ballad of a Recording Company 02:09



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