There is pure magic to be experienced, at least when you're in luck. Here's how it starts: Turn on the reel to reel tape recorder. Take the tape out of the box. Put the empty reel on the right spindle, and the full reel on the left spindle. Wind the tape through the mechanisms - including the pinch rollers, the capstan and the rest. The tape is pressed against the heads and moves at a certain number of inches per second. Start the machine. And sometimes... if you're lucky... magic comes spilling out of the speakers.
For over five years (of my total of 7 1/2 years of posting here), I have been sharing treasures, finds, weirdness and the indescribable from my basement reel to reel catacombs, under a series going by that title. It began in March of 2010 with this post, and ends (for this blog), with the 67th entry, which is today's post. This blog is closing in a matter of days, and there will, at that point, be no further posts, changes or ability to comment.
Before getting to today's post, which is a true favorite of mine, I want to say that it is my intention to continue this series, perhaps on a even more frequent basis, at a new site which I have started up this week, a blog I'm calling "Inches Per Second". That site can be found here, and I have already started posting with an initial post titled "A Gaggle of Giggling Twelve Year Olds". Please stop by, if you're of a mind to, and let me know whether or not the audience is there for me to continue sharing this particular area of collecting.
As mentioned last week, I also hope to expand my current blog, "The Wonderful and the Obscure", beyond its current focus on song-poems, and bring in some of the other, non reel wonders from my collection.
And now, on with the countdown:
Several times, over the years, both in the 365 days project and in my own posts, I've mentioned the wondrous, late and lamented ALS Mammoth Music Mart, which ran in Skokie, IL, for 25 years, every fall. The most magical tapes I found at that sale are the ones featuring Merigail Moreland, You can read about the ALS sale and some initial information about Merigail in this post, and read the rest of the Merigail story in this post.
But the second most wonderful find I made at the ALS sale is one I've rarely mentioned to anyone, and for which I've only shared the actual recordings with two people that I recall. For these tapes contain the sessions for an album by everyone's favorite Vanity Singer, Dora Hall, sessions that, as far as I can tell, were never released. And that's a shame because, for once, she was backed by a small combo of crack musicians, and, for one session, an big jazz band. Here's what I saw on one of the tapes I bought:
The man behind these sessions was Chicago jazzman Larry Taylor. I have previously featured multiple posts featuring Mr. Taylor, and those tapes were also found at the ALS sale - clearly someone in his family dumped all of his tapes on the good people at the ALS fundraiser, because at the same time that I found those tapes, I also found close to a dozen tapes labeled "Dora Hall Session" and "Dora - Memphis" and "D.H" Session", and "Instrumental Takes - Dora". I gave them a spin, and heard.... magic, just as described at the start of this post.
These were the session tapes - with dates on them from the Fall of 1961 - at the studio speed of 15 inches per second (a few were 7 1/2 safety copies) and featuring multiple takes of many songs (many more repeated songs by the band on the instrumental tapes than there were on the tapes where Dora overdubbed vocals, but just in general a lot of material). The band was made up of crack jazz musicians, with much of the material having a Dixieland feel. I own a ton of Dora Hall's albums and singles, and most of it has been captured online over the years, as well. If this material was ever released, I haven't found it. And it's better than anything else I've heard from her.
First, before we get to Dora's vocals, here is one of the instrumental tracks from the Larry Taylor group that show just how good this band could be. Sadly, this one wasn't chosen for use under a Dora Hall vocal overdub, because I adore this track. It's my favorite from the tapes, actually, over any of the vocal tracks. It is just a backing track, but I love the back and forth between the "rock and roll" (twist) verses and the swinging bridge. But most of all, the trumpet solo - which sounds like it could have come from Clifford Brown - just kills me. It's sexy as hell, smooth and full of just amazing little melodic ideas. The last two bars of that solo are otherworldly. I also can't get enough of the little hi-hat and snare shot at the 2:19 point. I'm blathering, but these are the last thing I'll be posting to Beware of the Blog, and this particular track is one of my favorite things I've ever heard roll off of a reel of tape.
And now, a few samples from Dora's vocal sessions - I wouldn't be opposed to putting all of this out in some manner, and if anyone out there has the means to do so, in a larger venue than a blog, feel free to contact me at the e-mail address below. But for the time being, here are a few wonderful samples. The first three tracks are with the jazz combo (the first being over a different, swing take of "18th and 19th), and the fourth is from what's labeled as the "United Session", whatever that means - the tracks on those tapes feature Dora with a full jazz ensemble. To my ears, these tapes show Dora to have considerably more talent than her subsequent covers of pop hits (or later, less well made covers of these standards) demonstrate. Or maybe it's just the first-rate quality of the band(s) involved.
Why wasn't this material ever released? Who knows? - most of those involved have been gone for decades. it is curious to me that Dora Hall released mediocre and just plain lousy material for more than a decade, while this material languished somewhere in Larry Taylor's home.
Thanks to everyone who read, liked and/or commented on my posts for the past several years. Having the chance to be a part of this blog has been one of the best things to have happened in my life.