PINEY WHO? PINEY WHAT? PINEY WHEN?
Good questions, so here's the short version.
From 1967 into 1971, Ellie Greenwich and Michael Rashkow, wrote and produced a meaningful body of music that never got any more attention than a piece of chewing gum on the sidewalk. In retrospect that doesn't make sense. Working under the name Pineywood Productions, they crafted highly commercial songs and made a lot of good records.
Why Mike and Ellie were working together is a long story, but clearly there was no obvious basis for their partnership. Ellie was a "Queen of The Brill"--a writer with a long list of Top 10 hits; a producer of stars like Neil Diamond; a first call background singer/vocal arranger (think "Chain Of Fools"); and a recognized recording artist, under her own name or in front of studio groups like The Raindrops. Simply put, a major talent! Ellie G. was New York rock and roll personified, with a truckload of accolades and awards to prove it. Along with Carole King and Cynthia Weil, she was clearly a "Leader Of The Pack".
Conversely, Mike Rashkow was, at that time a neophyte, minimally experienced recording engineer with one previously released production credit and one chart record as a songwriter. Mike's experience was essentially in the golf industry, and his strongest qualification was a self-confident attitude that he could make records. Ellie once said she found it intriguing that Mike could sing along with Lambert, Hendricks, Ross. Yes? Well what can we say? He had grown up in the south listening to R&B, Cuban jazz and WLAC on the bounce. He liked blues, Latin, some country and everything on Sun Records. She was all about keeping it simple, hand claps, Brooklyn harmony, puppy-love, bass, drums and guitars.
Oil and water--just made for each other, right?
Somehow these musically polar opposites bumped into each other along Broadway, and as the laws of physics would have it, like magnets they stuck. Maybe they were thinking that hybrid vigor would override reality, allowing their diverse tastes and backgrounds to blend and blossom into a bouquet of bullets in Billboard (see folks, that's your alliteration right there). Well it never happened.
Still, when you listen to the range of what Greenwich and Rashkow created, it's clear that something a little different did happen. Together they could hit to all fields: bubble gum (The Hardy Boys); pop (Steve Tudanger); post-Beatles rock (The Fuzzy Bunnies); NY funk (Frankie Paris and The Daily News); Philly R&B (Billy Harner); studio group pop (The Definitive Rock Chorale); street-corner teen-angst anthems drenched with more strings than quantum theory (The Other Voices); Muscle Shoals blues (Jesse Henderson); even spoken word (Jason Holliday). From today's vantage point, their work is at least interesting and possibly much more. In fact, we think a substantial amount of it is darn good. That's why it's on Darn Good Records.
Pineywood used top arrangers, incl.: Ron Frangipane, Artie Schroek, Hutch Davie, Sammy Lowe, Joe Renzetti, Stanley Schwartz, et al.; and the best vocal talent for studio groups and back-up voices, among them: Ron Dante, Lesley Miller, Melba Moore, Billy Carr, Mikie Harris, Toni Wine, the Thomases (Jean and Tasha), Valerie Simpson, Kenny Karen, with Ellie herself as the guiding force. They booked the best pickers and players into top studios, then built off rhythm sections that included: Bernard Purdie, Herb Lovell, Al Rogers, Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemott, Russell George, Vinny Bell, Eric Gale, Cornell Dupree, Sal DiTroia, Hugh McCracken , Richard Tee, Frank Owens and the rest of the "A-Team". You can hear the work of those great arrangers/musicians/singers and many more on these records.
Why did they miss? Maybe it was their inclination for producing new versions of major hits like: "Ain't That Peculiar", "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "Magic Carpet Ride", shortly after those had charted--and much too soon to get any airplay. It could have been the failure to find and develop complete performing artists instead of taking scatter-shots at singles. Personal issues? Rashkow's less than ideal mixes? The alignment of the planets? You name it. Maybe it was all of those and more.
Still, if they had never created anything other than "Variations On A Theme Called Hanky Panky" or Ellie's full-bore, uptown take on "Ain't That Peculiar", or Hugh McCracken's arrangement of Neil Diamond's "Glory Road", those alone are enough to make this compilation worthwhile.
Listen to the samples, buy the product and if you aren't satisfied return it to Darn Good Records for a full refund. Some restrictions may apply--this is a business you know, we're not just making jokes and having fun.
Soon Vol. 3 will be available (digital download only) that will include: demos, jingles, alternate takes, vocal-free music tracks (look out karaoke fans), and other miscellany from this unique and under-appreciated production company. Trust us, you can hardly wait.
More about these recordings in liner-notes style at: