Here's a song-poem album I picked up a short time ago. Although I find a lot of song-poem albums (much more so than the singles) to be dreary, dull affairs, with few if any songs worth a second play, I had the feeling that wouldn't be the case with this one, and I was not disappointed.
First, it features the one and only Gene Marshall (aka Gene Merlino), perhaps my choice as the best pure singer of all of the performers who are in the upper echelon of the song-poem world. Second, it dates to the earliest days of the Preview label, one of the best of the song-poem labels - especially at the beginning. They appear to have begun labeling their albums with 100, and this is number 111.
And while there is more than enough dross here, even some of the weaker tracks are lifted up somewhat by The Voice of Gene Marshall. That he even managed to even follow the non-existent melody of "A Tender Touch" (in what was probably a one take attempt) is a tribute to his abilities - I dare anyone to try to sing along with that one, even after a half-dozen listens.
From the simply ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous: On the other end of the spectrum is "I'm On My Way to Success", which manages to remind me of both the patriotic tune "Over There" and of the Edith Piaf number "Milord" - this is easily my pick for the best track on the album.
For fans of the "did you get the license plate number on that car that hit me" variety of song-poems, there's "I Will Never Know", a two minute tune whose lyrics manage to tell a non-story, one which could easily have been told in a sentence or two at most.
But above and beyond all that is the peculiarity of the track titled "Lift Every Voice". For some reason, a Mr. John H. Kelly took the extremely well known "Lift Every Voice and Sing", a song with some of the more stirring music one is likely to hear. Kelly reset most of the lyrics in a new order and meter, and credited both himself and the author of the original lyrics, James Weldon Johnson. As far as I can tell, he then submitted and paid for this reworking to be set to new music, as if a song-poem label was going to be able to improve on the original. Even if you leave out the plagiarism concerns involved (it's unlikely enough people ever heard this recording to make that any issue), the question that comes to my mind is "why would someone do that?"
Please enjoy "Here's Gene Marshall":
1.) Gene Marshall - Keep Talking Baby (MP3)
2.) Gene Marshall - One and Only One (MP3)
3.) Gene Marshall - He Understands and Cares (MP3)
4.) Gene Marshall - Two Hearts One Dream (MP3)
5.) Gene Marshall - Blue Memories (MP3)
6.) Gene Marshall - Love At First Sight (MP3)
7.) Gene Marshall - The Boy in Love (MP3)
8.) Gene Marshall - I’m On My Way to Success (MP3)
9.) Gene Marshall - No Place to Go (MP3)
10.) Gene Marshall - My Beautiful Star (MP3)
11.) Gene Marshall - A Tender Touch (MP3)
12.) Gene Marshall - Give Me Your Heart Today (MP3)
13.) Gene Marshall - I Miss You So (MP3)
14.) Gene Marshall - Let It Be Honey (MP3)
15.) Gene Marshall - Lift Every Voice (MP3)
16.) Gene Marshall - I Make Believe I’m With You (MP3)
17.) Gene Marshall - I Will Never Know (MP3)
18.) Gene Marshall - Where Does a Dream Go? (MP3)
Album Cover (JPG) - Album Label Side A (JPG) - Album Label Side B (JPG)