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Rope Burns » OJ Sikes-Current Reviews

OJ Sikes-Current Reviews


CD Review


Ghost Riders in the Sky                          

  -Burl Ives, Stan Jones, Vaughn Monroe and others JASMCD 2651 

oj SIKES-ghost riders sky          

                  “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” aka “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” composed by Stan Jones, is probably the most recorded song in the Western music genre. For this new CD, the Jasmine label has collected 30 recordings of this famous song, including the composer’s original recording for the Mercury label, and  Columbia’s recording by Burl Ives, which was on its way to becoming a hit before it was eclipsed by Vaughn Monroe’s record for RCA Victor, which is also here.

                 Jones, a Park Ranger in Death Valley, liked to play his compositions for visitors. He introduced this song to a movie crew who were in the park for the filming of  a Randolph Scott movie, The Walking Hills. Scott was especially impressed with “Riders in the Sky,” and encouraged Jones to look for a publisher. Jones played his songs on a little 4-string Martin guitar, and unless my ear deceives me, you can hear that little guitar on his recording of “Riders in the Sky.” When Burl Ives recorded the song in February, 1949, he used the same kind of arrangement he had heard on Stan’s demo record. But in March, when big bandleader Vaughn Monroe recorded “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend),” with a slightly different title and a much more elaborate arrangement, it was rushed into production/circulation and made the Billboard charts by mid-April. It stayed there for 22 weeks, reaching the No. 1 position!

               Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Frankie Laine and others recorded it later, and many of them had hit versions of the song. Those are among the tracks you’ll hear on this CD, half of which are instrumentals, the other half vocals by these and other artists. Interestingly, neither Gene Autry’s nor The Sons of the Pioneers’ recordings are included, but they are easier to find than most of those on this CD. Widely available. [Michael K. Ward has written an excellent book on the life of Stan Jones, GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY, available from RioNuevo.Com in Tucson]


CD Review 

Shame on You: Singles Collection 1945-1952 Spade Cooley                                                                                                Jasmine JASMCD 3704 

oj sikes-spade cooley      If you are familiar with Western Swing on the West coast, you know the name Spade Cooley well. He called himself the “King of Western Swing.” Not everyone agreed with his assessment, especially as the music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys spread across the West. But Cooley did have a large, loyal following, and all of his single records for Okeh, Columbia, RCA Victor and Decca, including all of his hits, are represented on this CD of 28 tracks recorded between 1945 and ’52.

    Many different versions of Spade’s story have been told. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about his history to say what’s accurate in every instance, but you may find some discrepancies in the liner notes that accompany this CD. Still, the music is solid and some tracks are rare. For example, the two sides the Sons of the Pioneers recorded with Cooley in 1950, “Wagon Wheels” and “The Last Roundup,” are superbly done. The title track features vocalist Tex Williams and a number of outstanding musicians like legendary steel guitarist Joaquin Murphey, who would leave Spade in 1946 and follow Tex when he formed his own successful band.

   Cooley’s hits fizzled out after the last of the recordings on this disc were made, but in this collection, you’ll be hearing his most popular work. Widely available.


Bonanza-   David Rose & his Orch. Plus the Bonanza TV cast

                                                                                                JASMCD 3719


OJ-bonanza      BONANZA began its 14 season run on NBC-TV in 1959. It can still be seen on television around the world. In his liner notes for this CD, Roger Dopson points out that the show was so popular that even some of the actors’ horses received fan mail! While it was not a musical Western series, the show’s theme is instantly recognizable, even today. So it seemed logical to issue a composite album remembering the show, its theme and its cast.     

      This CD contains 2 LPs, both of which were big sellers when they came out, “Ponderosa Party Time,” a cast recording released in 1962, and “Bonanza, Original Television Soundtrack” by David Rose, the orchestra leader who composed incidental music for the show (the theme was written by Livingston & Evans), and whose orchestra played the theme on the soundtrack. The short, TV version of the famous theme is here, as is a full-length version by the same orchestra.

      The cast album includes vocals by all of your favorites, Dan Blocker (who sings Bob Nolan’s “Skyball Paint” and “The Hangin’ Blues”), Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and  Pernell Roberts, while the Rose album is all instrumental. The 6 bonus tracks include hit versions of the theme by Johnny Cash and Al Caiola. A “must” for any fan of the show. Widely available.


Away Out on the Mountain – Eddie Kirk, Vol. 2

          Eddie Kirk                                                              BACM CD D 602

oj-eddie kirk      The photo on the back of this new release may be more interesting to movie fans than the front cover! It’s a still from the 1946 Charles Starrett/Durango Kid film, Landrush. Eddie Kirk is pictured with Starrett, Smiley Burnette and others appearing in the movie.

       His name may not be familiar to many fans today, but he recorded for Capitol Records as a solo artist in the late 1940s and early 50s, the period reflected on this new CD. He also worked on the Town Hall Party in the 1950s.

     The bulk of the 28 recordings on this CD are of country songs, but there are two western songs on the disc and one of them, the title song from 1950, showcases Kirk’s yodeling ability. The other, from 1951, is the better-known “Driftin’ Sand,” a Buster Coward composition. This CD may be of particular interest if you remember the California country & western scene from the late 40s and early 50s. Contact or phone (678) 232- 0268.