Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spun Dreams

Before Twice Upon a Rhyme, there were Spun Dreams by Paul Levinson - demos (studio, home, rough, and refined) that Paul for the most part wrote with Stu Nitekman, and recorded as part of the folk-rock-pop group The New Outlook, consisting of Paul, Stu, and Ira Margolis.   For many years - from the time these songs first were recorded on a home tape recorder or in a studio (A&R Studios in Manhattan) during 1966-1968, and then moved from tape to acetate for easier playing - these demos languished in dusty closets.   Paul brought them into the Walsh Digital Lab at Fordham University in early 2006, and converted them and other demos and master releases into MP3s.   Spun Dreams, available now for the first time on iTunes, is one of the results.

  1. Sunshine's Mine (Levinson-Nitekman),  studio demo,  Paul lead, 1966
  2. Evening's Evergreen Morning (Levinson-Nitekman)  unreleased master, Stu lead, 1968
  3. Two Minus One (Levinson-Nitekman), home demo,  Stu lead, 1966
  4. Murray the K's Back in Town  (Levinson) Paul Levinson, studio demo, 1972
  5. Please Don't Cry Little Dove (Levinson-Nitekman)  studio demo,  Paul and Stu lead, 1966
  6. Just That Kind (Levinson-Nitekman), studio demo,  Stu  lead, 1967
  7. Yesterday's Rain (Levinson-Nitekman),  studio demo, Stu lead, 1967
  8. Happy Goodbye Baby (Levinson-Nitekman), home demo, Stu lead, 1966
  9. Water Proof (Levinson), home demo,  Paul lead, 1966
  10. Precious and Golden (Levinson-Nitekman), home demo, Stu lead, 1966 
  11. Keep Off the Grass (Levinson-Nitekman), home demo, Stu lead, 1966
  12. The Flavor of Spring (Levinson), home demo,  Stu lead, 1966 
  13. Don't Blame It On Love (Levinson-Nitekman), home demo,  Stu lead, 1966 
  14. If Leaves Fall Tomorrow (Levinson-Nitekman), studio demo, Stu lead, 1967
  15. Alpha Centauri (Levinson - Rosenthal) Paul Levinson, home demo, 2000/2010

Songwriting credits:

Levinson-Nitekman = words by Paul Levinson, music by Stu Nitekman
Levinson = words and music by Paul Levinson
Levinson-Rosenthal = words by Paul Levinson, music by Peter Rosenthal

Artist (singer) credits:

Unless otherwise indicated, the songs were performed by The New Outlook, with either Paul or Stu singing lead, and some combination of Paul, Stu, and Ira singing harmony.    Paul Levinson sings lead and harmony in "Murray the K's Back in Town".   Paul Levinson sang "Alpha Centauri" in 2010 to music recorded by Peter Rosenthal in 2000 (the words and music were written in 2000).

Album cover designed by Joel Iskowitz.

Liner Notes:

The New Outlook began to come into being in the summer of 1963, when Paul Levinson got his first job, making sundaes and ice cream sodas, at Krum’s on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.  Ira Margolis also worked there, and the two soon started talking music, and singing.  Stu Nitekman was Ira’s friend.  The three soon formed The Transits, maybe the last doo-wap group in the Bronx, with several of Paul’s friends from junior high school and earlier.   When the Transits disbanded in 1965, Paul, Stu, and Ira became The New Outlook.  And whereas The Transits covered early Four Seasons and Beachboy songs, Paul and Stu wrote their own songs for The New Outlook.

They sang in the “alcoves” of City College - the entry halls behind the cafeterias of CCNY, where they were students - both between and during many of their classes.  They recorded demos in Stu’s home. Stu sang most of the leads, Paul a few.  Paul sang falsetto and tenor harmony with Ira, who sang baritone.  Stu played acoustic guitar, Paul played a little keyboard he had purchased at Woolworth’s, Ira had a tambourine in hand.   “Two Minus One,” “Happy Goodbye Baby,” “Keep Off the Grass,” “Don’t Blame It On Love,” “The Flavor of Spring,” and “Precious and Golden” were written by Paul (lyrics) and Stu (music).  “Water Proof” was written just by Paul.  All were recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder in Stu’s living room in 1966.

Paul and Stu brought their demos around to every publisher and producer in the Brill Building and nearby they could find. The late great Tash Howard brought the New Outlook into a studio to record a demo of “Please Don’t Cry Little Dove,” which was the group’s first professionally recorded song.   A little later, the group went into a studio under their own steam, and recorded “Sunshine's Mine,” written by Paul and Stu, with Paul doing lead vocal.

On a sunny spring Sunday in 1967, The New Outlook were singing in Central Park in New York City. Ellie Greenwich (another legend who died too soon) and Mike Rashkow happened by, liked what they heard, and brought the group into a studio to perform a few of their songs.  These are represented on this album by “Just that Kind,” “If Leaves Fall Tomorrow,” and “Yesterday’s Rain” (which is about half the size of its true length, due to a little glitch during the recording).

Elli and Mike changed the name of the group to The Other Voices and signed them to Atlantic Records, where the group had two single releases.  Paul co-wrote the b-side to both singles, “Hung Up on Love,” with Mikie Harris.  The recording was included in Rhino-Handmade’s compilation album, “Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets,” in 2004 (compiled by Andrew Sandoval).

The group left Ellie and Mike and Atlantic Records in late 1968. They went into the studio on their own, and recorded a master of what would be their last song together, “Evening’s Evergreen Morning”.  Stu sang lead, Paul his customary falsetto, and Ira the baritone harmony.   Peter Rosenthal - who would go on to play guitars on every cut of Twice Upon a Rhyme (the album Paul later recorded with Ed Fox, Peter, and other artists) - played guitars on “Evening’s Evergreen Morning”.

In 1972, Paul wrote an article in The Village Voice about Murray the K’s return to New York as a disk jockey.   Murray hired Paul to help produce Murray’s show on WNBC Radio, and a few months later Paul wrote and recorded a studio demo of “Murray the K’s Back in Town,” with Pete on guitar.

Rounding out Spun Dreams is “Alpha Centauri,” a song Paul (lyrics) and Pete (music) wrote in 2000, after being out of touch more than 25 years.   Paul’s singing the vocal and Pete played all of the instruments.  Its science fiction theme is a sign of things to come.

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