Friday, August 31, 2007

The JB Family Party

Lee Austin - I'm In Love

I started the week with James Brown, and I guess it's only appropriate to end the week the same way. JB revue member (and sometimes bodyguard) Lee Austin has been featured several times on the blog, so I'll jump right into discussing today's selection. Lee's cover of the Bobby Womack-penned "I'm In Love" starts off with some sexual moans and groans that don't fit with anything in the song (I know JB's productions at that time were marked by lots of experimenting with sound effects and all, but this makes no sense at all) and JB's longtime emcee Johnny Ray saying "listen to the story." Once that nonsense is out of the way, a nice mid-tempo groove starts and Austin begins a monologue about a quiet evening at home (the line "me and my woman - talkin' about a real woman" made in reference to his cover of Clarence Reid's "Real Woman," which had been released) that turns into a party as James Brown Revue members arrive, one by one. (Austin basically name-checks the entire James Brown Productions roster while the groove warms up.) Once he proclaims that JB has arrived, Lee can get into the song, and his reading of the soul chestnut really works. Like the rest of Austin's output in the '70s, the record didn't take off commercially, but it's one of the better second-tier JB productions out there.

Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted: RIP Kip Anderson

I have learned this morning that deep soul legend Kip Anderson has passed away. Anderson was the subject of a blog post some time ago, and I'll refer you to it not so much for my writings there but for the two links I provided therein which provide information about Kip, his life, his soul career, and then his personal redemption story. Anderson's "Without a Woman," "I Went Off and Cried," "Letter for My Darling" and "You'll Lose A Good Thing" are four of my favorite southern soul sides. This weekend or next week I will have to post some Anderson stuff to commemorate his fantastic, although at the time unheralded, recordings. Rest in peace, Kip.

(UPDATE - Link corrected on 9/3/07; my apologies!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Uplifting Clarence Smith!

Clarence Smith - I'll Just Keep On Trying

I will refer you today to my June 2006 post about Clarence Smith and his 1973 Gospel Truth LP Whatever Happened To Love for details about this fine album and Stax's gospel output on the label. Recently I gave the LP a spin and I realized that I had overlooked this number. "I'll Just Keep On Trying" is by no means flashy; it's just a very uplifting, soulful tune. It's clear from listening to the whole album that Smith's vocals are not the most dynamic, but there's a sincerity in his singing that really makes the songs work, and this tune is evidence of that effect. There's also a nice groove on this one, and the background singers do a great job.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Soulful Soul Stirrers!

J.J. Farley & The Original Soul Stirrers - Steal Away

Over the last few years my appreciation for the Soul Stirrers has increased dramatically, particularly in connection with the material they recorded after Sam left the group to seek his pop fortune in the late '50s. The group's SAR sides (which found Sam writing and producing the group) featuring Jimmy Outler and Paul Foster on leads, and then the later material for Checker, HSE and others in the '60s and '70s which found the group trying out more soul-flavored arrangements, continue to thrill me with the fine harmony and intensity of feeling (winking at Brian Phillips re: that phrase) shown by latter leads Martin Wallace, Eddie Hoffman, Willie Rogers and Martin Jacox. "Steal Away" was an HSE release by the group, billed at the time as "J.J. Farley and the Original Soul Stirrers" (Farley was the group's bass singer and manager, by that time the only original member left of the classic lineup). Eddie Hoffman's lead vocals have a touch of Sam Cooke to them, but to my ears he sounds a lot more like Bobby Womack. Although Martin Jacox doesn't bring his throat-shredding scream on any lead vocals, you can hear him every now and then in the background, as you can also hear J.J. Farley, whose intonations of the title at the beginning of each chorus strike me as being a wee bit flat. That quibble aside, it's a moving record along the lines of my fave from the Checker era, "Slow Train," and I couldn't wait until "Sunday Gospel Time" to showcase it here.

(Thanks to John Glassburner for this track.)

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Later this week or during the weekend this blog will have its first guest post. Gregory Rose, loyal friend of this blog and major Jr. Walker & The All-Stars aficionado, will share a few words, several pictures, and lots of music related to the Motown sax legend.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Betty's Dozen

Betty Harris - 12 Red Roses

Betty Harris' great soul records have graced a couple of episodes of the podcast (my favorite, "Mean Man," appeared in the premiere episode), but today marks her first appearance on the blog. I must refer you to the Larry Grogan's Funky 16 Corners profile for some biographical and recording history details, as it is solidly-written, and to Dean Farrell's Soul Express pages, which include an article from the Hartford Advocate about Betty's return to the stage in the last few years. There is also a MySpace fan page that you should check out!

Today's selection is one of the most "New Orleans"-sounding of the sides she recorded with Allen Toussaint for his Sansu label. As Larry appropriately notes in his profile, "'12 Red Roses' shows the hallmarks of Toussaint's crack studio band ... The sound is unmistakably that of the band that brought life to so many Lee Dorsey classics, as well as the records of Sansu label-mates like Eldridge Holmes and Curly Moore." The groove bounces along on this one and Betty works the "counting" lyric for all it's worth. The backup vocals are right out of the "Lee Dorsey record" school and are very effective in the bridge that follows the final verse, where they almost get into Impressions territory. It's a nice piece of "get on down" that has been getting a lot of play in my car lately.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hey! Hey! I Feel Alright!

James Brown - The Little Groovemaker Me (Pts. 1 & 2)

Yesterday, my wife was channel surfing and we lucked into seeing on VH1 Soul two installments of the highly-praised BBC documentary Soul Deep, which covers the story of black popular music from the gospel era to the present. (Fortunatelty they ran the whole series later in the evening, and I taped it; it needs to be released on DVD!) The first installment I saw (the fifth in the series) covered funk and of course James Brown was a central subject, which inspired today's post.

JB's "The Little Groovemaker Me" was an audience-participation portion of the 1968 LP Live At The Apollo, Vol. 2, where it was billed as "I Feel Alright." The band cooks along with a vamp from "There Was a Time" and Brown has some fun with the audience with the chant "Hey! Hey! I feel alright - UNGH!" After the bit started receiving radio airplay (I have a George Vennette aircheck from New Orleans' WYLD which includes the routine), the segment was scheduled three times for a 1969 single release as King 6235. But such a 45 didn't come to pass: the first two slated releases (one featuring the whole thing as a two-part 45 and the other backing Part One with "Any Day Now") were never pressed and the third release, which backed Part One with "I'm Shook," was withdrawn. (Did any copies of this sneak out, like the fuzz rock original take on "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing"?) The tune finally found a home, albeit on another LP, 1969's It's a Mother.

Whatever the format, however, "Groovemaker" is a treat. The Apollo audience (which was somewhat subdued for the venue, considering the theater's notoriety for rowdy audiences) gets into the spirit of things as JB switches up the game ("two times ... three times ... four times ... well I'll be!") and he chides one of the musicians for some mistake ("he's got something else on his mind ... he wants me to hurry up and get off the stage so he can go home ... c'mon now, brother, stay with me, don't leave me here ... don't take all this groove away"). Knowing JB's reputation as a strict taskmaster, I'm sure what appears on record as a joking moment probably resulted in harsher words and a fine when the show ended!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Gospel Time: A Vinyl Record Day Straggler

The Bethlehem Gospel Singers - Just Another Day

When I did my Vinyl Record Day post two weeks ago I included several tracks from the Bethlehem Gospel Singers LP My Bible Is Right, but I had prepared this one for upload but forgot about it. "Just Another Day" is a pleasant upbeat number by the Bethlehems, in which the story of Jonah is related over a simple groove.

(Speaking of Vinyl Record Day, if you haven't checked out the post, do take a moment to do so, because I am going to remove the audio files on Tuesday.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Redd, Ray and Andre's Prayer

Ray Scott - The Prayer

Today's selection continues the "something different" theme from yesterday's post. Redd Foxx had a comedy routine called "The Prayer" which found Foxx taking on the tones of a black preacher to wish a litany of disasters upon Alabama governor George Wallace, then one of most prominent faces of segregationism (he of "segregation now, segregation forever" infamy). Legendary singer/songwriter/producer/"Black Godfather" Andre Williams hooked up with comedian/singer Ray Scott to record a version of the routine, in which Scott put all of his fervor into the presentation with appropriate church organ accompaniment and background vocalists adding a "church" feel. The result had a 1970 release as a Checker 45 (backed with the countrified novelty "Lily White Mama, Jet Black Dad"), which led to an LP the following year. I can understand the LP being released - Chess had a strong series of party records featuring Pigmeat Markham, Moms Mabley and others - but a 45 release strikes me as slightly unusual, as I'm sure radio airplay for "The Prayer" was non-existent, for reasons discussed below.

"The Prayer" is pretty startling despite its humorous tack, as Scott's pleading includes requests that "the Governor" (as Wallace is referred to on the record) have an auto accident (involving a gasoline truck) and end up in the hospital being operated on by "a junkie with a gorilla on his back and an orangutan in his room ... [with] a rusty scalpel in his hand," among other things. I'm sure "church folks" found the whole thing sacriligious, although the lyrics must've struck a nerve among its listeners. (I heard several party albums from the '70s which made it clear that, at least in some circles, the shooting of Wallace in 1972, which left the governor-turned-presidential candidate partially paralyzed, was seen by some as an act of justice; in the later '70s Wallace would experience a religous conversion and disavow his previous stance.) A record like "The Prayer" probably couldn't get released today, in light of the Dixie Chicks' travails following a criticism of the President at a concert, making it even more of an oddity today.

Friday, August 24, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Jimmy Reed - State Street Boogie

Chicago bluesman Jimmy Reed has appeared on this blog before, but only in featuring some '70s funky sides that have been comped on CDs like Yo Yo. However, Reed's fame, as I noted in those earlier posts, rested on his hit records for Vee-Jay and Exodus (the short-lived attempt by Vee-Jay to put out records in its bankruptcy) between 1953 and 1966. Some years ago I bought a copy of The Vee-Jay Years, a 6-CD boxed set from Charly that covered Reed's entire Vee-Jay output, and from there I first heard today's selection. Truth be told, I didn't care much for the boxed set. Don't get me wrong - I love Jimmy Reed, but considering that his style was pretty formulaic, after awhile songs seemed to meld together. So at the end of the day I ripped the tunes I liked (both classics and oddities) and then sold the set on eBay. I must recommend the set, though, to anyone who's a more serious fan than I, because the liner notes present a great biography and discography of the man and his work.

In listening to the set, three of the oddest tunes in Reed's Vee-Jay discography jumped out at me. In 1958, Reed recorded some instrumentals with violinist Remo Biondi of the Chicago Symphony. Two of them, the eerie "Odds and Ends" and the boogie-oriented "Ends and Odds," were released as consecutive B-sides that year. The third, "State Street Boogie," proved to be my favorite, and it's featured here today. On "State Street Boogie" Reed is doing his usual thing on guitar and harmonica (with Eddie Taylor's usual excellent anchoring guitar groove driving the tune along) and Biondi's violin swings and sways along on lead and support. My favorite moment comes about one minute in, however, when a fairly tepid guitar solo by Reed is followed by a stomping drum solo that really nails the groove. It's a fun piece of get down, and a nice standout on the Vee-Jay set.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lots of Links, and Sam Baker, Too!

Sam Baker - It's All Over

Today's post goes out to Red Kelly, whose prolific blog activity has brought about four noteworthy blogs, all of which are highly-recommended and which can be found in the "MP3 Blogs" links section at right: The B-Side; its companion, The A-Side; the highly-informative Soul Detective; and Holy Ghost, a fine gospel blog. Occasionally Red will spread a particular subject of interest across one or more of his blogs. Most recently, Red has been discussing the careers of singer/songwriter/producer/label owner Allen Orange and pianist/producer Bob Wilson, and the two stories have overlapped, as both men spent some time in the latter half of the '60s at Sound Stage Seven. If you haven't been following these stories, I recommend you follow the ongoing Allen Orange story at Soul Detective and then dig the Bob Wilson story at both The B-Side (in these four posts) and The A-Side (two posts). In the Allen Orange story at Soul Detective, Sam Baker's name came up, which inspired me to do today's post.

Sam Baker was one of the immense parade of Nashville soul acts that just didn't get the fame they deserved, and Baker was probably the most deserving. His emotive tenor was amazingly effective, and records like "Something Tells Me" are goosebump-inducing in their beauty. I'll refer you to the great Sam Baker profile John Ridley has at the Sir Shambling site for more details about Baker and his career, as well as some further audio files of Baker's material (including pre-SS7 stuff). John Richbourg ("John R") knew how strong a talent Baker was, and he released more Sam Baker singles on Sound Stage Seven than any artist other than Joe Simon. Unfortunately, conflicts between the two men over Baker's erratic behavior, coupled with poor record sales, resulted in Baker leaving the label in 1968 to do a one-off 45 for Hollywood and then vanishing. SS7 released two more Baker singles, and today's selection was the last. It's pretty uncanny that "It's All Over" would be the last 45, but it is a solid recording. Over a very polished and lightly-funky groove, Sam really sells the song's lyrics. Although the song is clearly about the breakup of a love affair, it almost sounds like Sam's giving John R his resignation notice: "there is nothing more for me to say; it's all said and done, I need to go away," Sam sings. The sadness of the lyrics, however, is undercut by the song's great groove, so by the end of the record there one almost senses a tinge of hope. Although such hope would be futile for Baker, it's a strong record and it provides a nice final chapter to Baker's recording legacy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Look Out!

Lou Johnson - Frisco Here I Come

Northern Soul legend Lou Johnson is best known for his recordings of Bacharach-David songs and for the classic Big Top 45 "Unsatisfied." Unfortunately, save for the minor hit "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" (yes, the original version of that song), commercial success eluded Johnson. (See this YouTube video of Johnson performing "Unsatisfied" in The Strange World of Northern Soul and read more about Johnson there.)

"Frisco Here I Come" was pulled from Lou's 1971 Volt LP With You In Mind for single release. Although none other than Allen Toussaint was involved on the production end of things, this catchy piece of get down didn't go anywhere, and for contractual reasons it could not be included in the appropriate volume of The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles. It's a pity, because over the stepping groove, great background singers and swirling strings, Johnson captures the desperation behind the song's lyrics. "I don't need a computer to tell me something's wrong," Johnson laments. Great stuff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Here Comes Hannibal!

The Mighty Hannibal - All Nite Long

James Shaw, aka The Mighty Hannibal, has graced this blog and several "Get on Down ..." podcasts, so I'll refer you to an earlier post and jump right into today's selection. "All Nite Long" was the flip of Hannibal's 1964 Sharob single "Not a Friend," but the tune certainly does not have a 1964 sound. The bass drum and clapping intro is slightly reminiscent of Fats Domino's "I'm Walking" and the call-and-response between Hannibal and his backup singers has a "What'd I Say" kind of feel. This is not merely a pastiche, however, as it's a fun dancer featuring fine vocals by Hannibal. Get on down!

(EDITOR'S NOTE: For my Vinyl Record Day post I provided a set of audio files, both in the post itself and in prior posts included within it. I will keep these files available for one further week, so enjoy!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Soul Feeling!" At This Is Tomorrow

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to submit a special mix to commemorate the first anniversary of the This Is Tomorrow blog. The mix has now been posted at the site, and if you click the picture below you will be able to get it. Thanks again, Mike, for inviting me to participate!

Get On Down With The Stepbrothers Of Soul!

I am excited to present Episode 20 of the podcast! When Rockin' Radio's Brian Phillips ("The Electrophonic Sound of Brian Phillips") invited me to record the new podcast at his home (and to avail myself of his superior recording software and hardware), I knew I wanted to collaborate with him, so in recording the show we had a great time playing records and having lots of discussions and laughs along the way.

The show deviates from the usual format, as Brian and I discuss the records as we play them, so to quote Bill Cosby, "be careful - you might learn something." The playlist is as follows:

1. Bill Moss - Sock It To 'Em, Soul Brother (instrumental) (clip)
2. Billy Preston - What About You?
3. Judy Green - I Can't Get Along Without You
4. Tony Mason - Scram
5. Larry O'Williams - That's My Girl
6. Wilmer & The Dukes - Give Me One More Chance
7. Carla Thomas - Separation
8. Jean Wells - Try Me And See
9. Little Sonny - The Creeper
10. Alvin Robinson - Fever
11. The Scott Brothers - Welcome Me
12. Leon Gardner - Who Are You?
13. Diamond Joe - Don't Set Me Back
14. Stevie Wonder - No Sono Un Angelo
15. The Ramada Singers - Stand Still Jordan
16. Mighty Sam - Good Humor Man
17. Jesse James - Thank You Darlin'
18. Ted Taylor - I Don't Care
19. Johnnie Morisette - I Know It Was Your Love
20. Sunny & The Sunliners - Hip Huggin' Mini
21. The Avons - Tell Me Baby (Who Would I Be)

Again, special thanks are in order to Brian for graciously inviting me to record at his home. If you haven't been listening to his show at Rockin' Radio (to get directly to it, click "Now Playing" on the site's main page and you can play the show from your web browser), make sure to get over there and check it out - it's outstanding!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Unfulfilled Potential

Ollie & The Nightingales - Don't Do What I Did

I've wanted to do some posts about the Stax group Ollie & The Nightingales for quite some time, but unfortunately I let their stuff slip onto the back burner, then out of the back door of the kitchen, and out of the back yard! Although I included "You're Leaving Me" in a recent podcast, I haven't featured them on the blog since a feature of their gospel single "The Assassination" (recorded for Chalice under their prior name, the Dixie Nightingales). Let me start to rectify that situation with today's post!

I honestly believe that somewhere down the line Stax just didn't champion these guys as strongly as they should have after "I Got a Sure Thing" made some noise in 1968. All the pieces of mega-success were in place: Ollie Haskins's wailing tenor had soul fire and an appealing sound, the group had outstanding harmony that retained some of the gospel flavor from the Dixie Nightingales days, and, as demonstrated by the range of songs that graced their eponymous LP, they were working with great material. Ollie grew impatient with how things were going at Stax and left the group in 1970 to begin a solo career that peaked during the soul-blues era. Tommy Tate was brought in to lead the group, at least on vinyl (it appears in personal appearances other singers fronted the group), but the group's fortunes continued to wane and the last single by the erstwhile-billed "The Nightingales" was released in 1972. Some of the group's members hooked up with Louis Williams's '70s incarnation of The Ovations and scored a minor hit with "Having a Party" on MGM's Sounds of Memphis label, but after awhile all of them but Ollie were out of secular music.

Fortunately, the Ollie & The Nightingales LP along with the post-Ollie Stax material has been comped on CD so soul fans can at least see the potential the group showed. "Don't Do What I Did" was the B-side of the swinging "Mellow Way You Treat Your Man," and it's a nice groover. The tune starts off with a fanfare that has a Detroit kind of feel to it before the guitar line kicks in and takes things back to Memphis. As the groove muscles along, Ollie tells his cautionary tale with gusto and the group provides solid support.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Soulful Reminder

This is going to be a stone gas, y'all!

Swing Along With Etta James!

Etta James - The Same Rope

As Robert Pruter accurately describes her in Chicago Soul, Etta James successfully represented both sides of Chess Records' soul music spectrum, hitting big with lush ballads like "At Last" and with more rocking material, like "Something's Got a Hold of Me" and "In the Basement" (the latter a duet with Sugar Pie DeSanto, who could hold her own in the hard soul department), but by 1967 the momentum of those Argo and Cadet sides had dissipated. Label prexy Leonard Chess decided that Rick Hall and his FAME outfit, which had delivered Chess a couple of hits with the Alabama-based Bobby Moore and His Rhythm Aces the year before, were just what the doctor ordered to get Etta back on the charts. Rick Hall has interviewed that when Leonard first sought him out he told Chess that he didn't have any material for her, to which the ever-brusque Chess retorted with something along the lines of "get off your ass and get some." Chess's pep talk worked, because by the time Etta James walked into Hall's Muscle Shoals studio there was material in abundance, and the album Tell Mama and singles pulled from it (the title track - a reworking of Clarence Carter's "Tell Daddy" - remains a fan favorite, although Etta has interviewed that it's far from her favorite recording) and other sessions gave Etta's career a shot in the arm for nearly the remainder of the decade. Etta's FAME sessions have been compiled on the great CD reissue of Tell Mama, which is highly recommended.

The Tell Mama LP got a lot of turntable action at my parents' house when I was growing up, and today's selection, the lead-off single of the B-side of the LP, was always a favorite of mine. "The Same Rope" ventures into the "revenge" lyrical terrain that I discussed yesterday - yes, women cut some great "revenge" songs in those days, too - but the swinging organ groove, nice bass line and chipper background singers makes the whole thing more fun than fearsome; like in Big Maybelle's version of "96 Tears," you get the impression that the downfall of the song's subject is more of a joke to the singer than anything else.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served on Soul 45!

Buddy Ace - Screaming Please

The male "revenge" soul song is one of the lost arts of R&B (along with 12/8 ballads and male duet singing), but from songs like Brook Benton's "It's Just a Matter of Time" and Bobby Bland's "Farther Up The Road" from the late '50s to Howard Tate and then B.B. King's "Ain't Nobody Home" in the '60s and '70s, quite a few haughty women were promised their come-uppance. Today's selection is part of that litany.

I don't know much about Buddy Ace, having initially heard of him back in the late '80s or early '90s via the WGN "Blues Goin' On" specials (where the silver-maned Ace thrilled the enthusiastic soul-blues studio audience with "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" and was the object of a hilarious "come on" by Katie Webster in song). I know that he recorded for Duke (where he picked up the "Buddy Ace" moniker in memory of the tragic Johnny Ace) and later for Jewel, but that's about all I know. Any help from anyone?

"Screaming Please" is a 1962 Duke recording that really sounds like it should've been recorded by Bobby Bland. Ace, however, tries his best to get into his labelmate's territory, making good work of the "Fever"-styled melody and good dance beat. Ace brings a "slow burn" to the reading of the song which really works, although I can't help but think about how Bland may have put his "squall" on it to take it to that next level.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesday Is "Blue" Day

Bobby Bland - I Ain't Gonna Be The First To Cry

Bobby "Blue" Bland is no stranger to this blog, so I'll jump right to the music. "I Ain't Gonna Be The First To Cry" came from Bobby's ABC LP Dreamer. The arrangement borrows a bit from B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," as is evidenced on the joint Bland-King LP Together Again ... Live, in which Bland interpolates the song into a live version of "Thrill Is Gone" to good effect (as discussed in this prior post). Bland's relatively cool reading of the tune on the studio version fits well with the great rhythm track and strings, making it one of my favorite Bland ABC recordings.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Stepfather of Soul Wasn't Born a Stepfather; Vinyl Made Him

Vinyl Record Day is here, and I have spent the last two days thinking about what I was going to write as my contribution to the blogswarm that J.A. set in motion over a month ago. I didn't think I would be the last person to write, so I've found myself thinking and rethinking my post as I have read the posts from all of the other blog participants. I have admired the stories of those who are older than me, those who came of age when vinyl was king; I have admired the stories of those whose record collections make mine seem like only a couple of discs laying about (and envy their collections, obviously); and I have enjoyed seeing that in all cases, records and the music contained in their grooves have been (and will continue to be, in one way or another) an important part of their life. With all of their good work in mind, here is my contribution to the blogswarm. (Please note that I reference some older "Get on Down ..." posts here; the audio links for each have been renewed. Also note, for reasons discussed in "Chapter Three" below and otherwise, not all MP3s presented here are ripped from vinyl.)

CHAPTER ONE - My love of music started with my parents' vinyl.

My parents had a decent-sized vinyl collection when I was a kid. They were no audiophile record collectors, to be sure: all of the 45s were unsleeved, as were most of the albums. The record collection was actually pretty static: because my parents were heavily into 8-track tapes, most of the records had been purchased by either or both of my parents before they got married (1972) or before I was born (1974); as a result, I didn't grow up hearing the hits of the late '70s or '80s on vinyl, but instead via 8-track or on the radio. At any rate, the records that they did own were played fairly frequently (by my mother, mostly, who was a stay-at-home mother), and I always enjoyed hearing them and watching them spin around and around.

From those records I got my very first taste of several genres of music. The first blues record I ever heard was Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back" b/w "I'm Going to Miss You (Like the Devil)," a blue-label Excello repressing. The sexual overtones of "Scratch My Back" went right over my head, of course, but the tune remains a favorite, even to the present day. The first tastes of funk came, naturally, from James Brown and, less naturally, from the Village Soul Choir, by way of "Hot Pants" and "The Cat Walk" b/w "The Country Walk," respectively. Johnnie Taylor's "Love Depression" was the first B-side to totally capture my interest, thanks to my mom's favoritism toward it. Pigmeat Markham's Chess LP The Trial was the first comedy record, and by the time I was ten years old I knew every routine on the record cold, be it the "Here Comes the Judge" routine that comprised almost all of the first side of the album or the "My Wife, I Ain't Seen Her" bit that kicked off side two.

For some reason, Atlantic Records was a bigger presence in my home than Motown, although we had a fair share of the latter product also ("I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" by the Temptations was my favorite from Detroit at the time). I listed five of the most influential Atlantic recordings in my Ahmet Ertegun tribute post from last year, and I'll defer to it rather than go into details. We had one Atlantic LP, though, which was literally an encyclopedia of soul for me to absorb, an album called The Super Hits. Super Hits was an "Atlantic Group" LP which featured tracks released on Atlantic, Dial and Stax (although at the time I didn't understand anything about Atlantic's distribution structure, and how important Stax was as a label in its own right), and from there I learned so many seminal recordings: "In the Midnight Hour," "Knock On Wood," "B-A-B-Y," "Philly Dog," "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song)," "Baby, I'm Yours," "Skinny Legs and All," "Hold On, I'm Coming," etc. It was probably the most important LP I heard growing up.

And then there was gospel. My first gospel stuff came from three LPs my parents owned. The first was My Bible Is Right by the Bethlehem Gospel Singers. The Bethlehems recorded for HSE, the Hoyt Sullivan label which I have discussed in several posts. (When I interviewed Larry Blackwell, who now owns the HSE catalogue, he told me that the Bethlehems were strong sellers for the label despite their technical limitations - Blackwell recalled being seated next to Shirley Caesar at a gospel dinner and having Caesar tell him that she thought My Bible Is Right was an awful album but that she was amazed by its success; I suppose that's what you can do when you have WLAC and Hoss Allen plugging your records!) We played that scratchy album to death in our home in those days, and we knew every last song on the album. My brother and I actually had a little "bit" where we would alternate singing lead and backup on various songs. I would tackle Part One of the title track and he'd do Part Two; he'd lead "Jesus Is Mine" and I would do "God's Word" and "Let's Talk About Jesus." My mother's favorite was "Give Me a Little Bit Longer," and she actually sang it at church once. My grandpa always wanted my brother and me to sing "My Bible Is Right" at church, but we never did. These tunes, and a few others from the LP, are presented here:

1. My Bible Is Right (Pt. 1)
2. My Bible Is Right (Pt. 2)
3. The 23rd Psalm
4. Jesus Is Mine
5. I'm Depending On Jesus
6. Give Me a Little Bit Longer
7. God's Word
8. Let's Talk About Jesus

In addition to My Bible Is Right there was a Peacock compilation whose title I don't recall, but from there I heard the Pilgrim Jubilees sing "Steal Away" and the Jackson Southernaires do "Too Late," which I covered in a fairly recent post. And then, to cap it all off, there was the sermonology and singing of Rev. W. Leo Daniels (known best for his sermon "What In Hell Do You Want?"), on the Jewel LP Build Your Own Fire. It was powerful stuff.

With all of this music around me, from the age of nine or so to the present day, I enjoyed the vintage soul/blues/funk/gospel sound more than any contemporary stuff. So the foundation was set!

CHAPTER TWO - Get on Down With the Teenaged Record Collector of Soul (And More)!

Right off of the town square in Jamestown, Kentucky, my mom's hometown, is a little thrift store owned by a gentleman of the surname Skaggs. I can't recall the name of the store, but Skaggs's is open every Saturday and Monday, and when I was a teenager it was the place to go to get records. He had this old wooden display case that was chock-full of 45s and LPs. He would sell the 45s for ten cents each or three for a quarter, and would sell the LPs for a quarter, if I recall correctly. Like most thrift stores, most of the records were of the '50s easy listening variety (I always joke that Salvation Army stores are where Andy Williams and Liberace albums go to die), but from some undisclosed place Skaggs would get stacks upon stacks of '60s and '70s rock, soul, funk and disco records, and as a high schooler and then as a college student, there were days when I would literally go in the store, spend about $6 to $10 and leave with as many as 100 records, ranging from stuff like Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights (whose cover art is iconic enough to appear in one of the other Vinyl Record Day posts) to P-Funk to Mozart to B.B. King to MFSB, represented here by "Something For Nothing", the flip to "TSOP." I would then go to my grandmother's house and play them, keeping the ones I liked and throwing away those I didn't. More often than not, I'd keep more than I bought, as I had found a system: I would always buy stuff if it was on Hi, Stax, Atlantic, Motown, Philadelphia International, etc.; I would always buy blues stuff; I would always buy stuff that had a name I recognized in the songwriter or production credits; and I would always buy stuff if it looked interesting. Sometimes I'd really hit the jackpot, like the time I bought about 15 James Brown and JB-produced singles (giving me my first exposure to Bobby Byrd, the J.B.'s and tunes like "I'm a Greedy Man"), and then there were days I'd find records that I considered so wretched that I would break them before I threw them away (a habit I wish I hadn't have developed, as I broke and threw away a copy of "Oh, Julie" by the Crescendoes and a couple of 45s by the black country singer O.B. McClinton).

Of course, Skaggs's store wasn't the only game in town, as I hit other thrift stores, junk stores and yard sales at the time. From these other sources I was introduced to Redd Foxx 8-tracks and to two albums which turned me on to Latin music. Machito's Mambo Holiday (I think that was the title) was an unsleeved Harmony LP (Harmony was a budget imprint of Columbia) whose hot mambos brought something different to my old bedroom stereo. "Carambola," "Bee-Ree-Bee-Kym-
(sang by Machito's femme vocalist, Graciela) and "Bongo Fiesta" were my favorites from the LP and are still three of my favorite Latin tunes today. I also acquired from some place Bossa Nova: The New Sound in Jazz from South America by The Brasileros. The Bossa Nova LP was on Diplomat, a budget label not unlike a great many that flooded supermarket record racks in the '50s and '60s, and the LP holds the honor of being one of the records I've owned the longest (more on that below), as I still own it - and play it - today. The Brasileros, probably some group thrown together for a studio date, do their Stan Getz impersonations proud, and I still enjoy listening to "Desafinado" and "One Note Samba". (Not long ago I found a Diplomat discography that revealed that the Brasileros had two LP's on the label, and I learned that the Bossa Nova LP is a collectable worth about $30 if in mint condition.) Also, thrift shop digs in my college days exposed me to the fact that Stax Records (unsuccessfully) tried its hand at recording rock, and records like the Hot Dogs's "Another Smile" (Ardent)and Skin Alley's "Bad Words and Evil People" (Stax) have remained '70s rock favorites of mine despite their lack of commercial success when released.

CHAPTER THREE - CDs and MP3s: A Vinyl Hiatus

During my college days the era of CD reissues of classic blues, soul and jazz came into full bloom, and my knowledge of vintage music exploded with exposure to MCA/Universal's Original Chess Masters series, the three Complete Stax-Volt Singles boxed sets and Fantasy's aggressive reissue of the post-1968 Stax catalogue, and the Ace/Kent reissues. After college I moved to Chicago, where plenty of vinyl abounded (and where I did buy some material), but I bought loads of CDs and relatively few records between 1997 and 2005.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century I got into file sharing and MP3s, and I did an act that is so inconsistent with Vinyl Record Day: I threw away about 90% of my record collection. As one can imagine, the records I bought at Skaggs's store and at yard sales were not sleeved, and I had acquired most of the material in digital format. Why listen to scratched up 45s when you can have clear, digital-quality recordings, right? So they got the old heave-ho, save for some rarer stuff. Fortunately, some new friends would set me on the right path.

CHAPTER FOUR: Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!

When I moved to Georgia in 2005 I was introduced to Brian Poust, Georgia Soul guru, and in October of that year I went to "Rhythm & Booze" for the first time. To see Tim Lawrence and Brian spinning killer soul 45s stirred something up inside, first to start this very blog, and then to get back to collecting records (instigated in part by an invitation by Tim to spin sometimes, which I couldn't accept because I didn't have any records!) Thanks to eBay and the occasional record fair, I have a relatively small (a couple of hundred 45s) but growing collection of records, all sleeved and in great playing condition (I quickly learned the Goldmine standards: I think record collecting is one of the few areas where something that is "very good" is not really that hot). Although I am not wealthy enough to buy as many records as I would like (or to spend more than $30 on average for any record), vinyl has reclaimed its rightful spot in my heart, and I am glad to be able to share it with the world via the internet.


Vinyl Record Day is very special to me, because vinyl played such an important part in the furtherance of one of my biggest passions, the enjoyment of music. I was fortunate to have heard so much great stuff on my parents' turntable as a child, and to have appreciated what I was hearing. I'm thankful that the music stuck with me as I grew older, and that as my knowledge grew about the music vinyl was always part of the equation. Now that "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul" is read throughout the world and I communicate with so many wonderful people, I am glad to know that the vinyl I acquire today serves as a key to the community. Thank you, Mr. Bartlett, for making this blogswarm happen. Happy Vinyl Record Day to all!

Holding Up The Rear on Vinyl Record Day

I am now in the process of writing my post for Vinyl Record Day and preparing audio to include with it. It is indeed the fact that I am the last participant in the blogswarm to write up a post, but I hope to do Vinyl Record Day proud with my post. In the meantime, however, here are those who beat me to the finish line last night:

*At Retro-Remixes, the love of the remix came about in 1985, with a readily-recognizable star leading the way;

*Charlie talks about Nipper, the dog on the RCA logo, and how A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra started him on his quest to enjoy music; and

*Colin Dilnot was inspired to post three random records in addition to his earlier post at In Dangerous Rhythm, and then to post three more.

Bear with me, folks - I'm working away at mine!

Although I saw this after I completed my VRD post, I thought this article, although not directly related to VRD, was of merit: here's a piece from WFMU Blog on LiveJournal about the HBR label (Hanna-Barbera's music arm), which I discussed briefly in my post about Earl Gaines a few weeks ago.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Vinyl Record Day Coverage!

The dispatches keep on coming in - mine (which seems to be one of the last to go up in the blogswarm) will be here tomorrow!

*Red Kelly covers The Numero Group's reissues of Twinight 45s in his The B-Side feature on Renaldo Domino (thanks, Red, for the shout-out);

*Kevin showcases album cover art at Got The Fever (warning - some of the album covers are NSFW);

*John at You Must Be From Away discusses the joys of acquiring records and the records themselves, with MP3s scattered throughout to demonstrate not only the music, but the sounds of scratchy records;

*Brian M. from It's Great Shakes shares how he received "the call of the 45" as a hospitalized child;

*At Jefitoblog, the memories of vinyl remain, although the "digital Rubicon" has been crossed;

*Meanwhile, over at Fufu Stew, Vincent's "Ode to the Vinyl Record" yields forth another great Fufu Stew mix, "Dateline 1973: Part Deux," as well as links to the story of his first introduction to records and to more musical goodness at his sister site, The Snack Bar;

*Ickmusic presents another ode to vinyl, which indeed fits within Vinyl Record Day's mandate to preserve the past (he covers his first LP) and to promote the future (he discusses his new USB turntable);

*John talks about shopping for records (I really want to go to Amoeba LA!) and features Garrett Morris' heretofore unknown to me LP, Saturday Night Suite, at Lost In The '80s;

*Memory Lane for Doug at the Underground Vault of Records, Music and All Kinds of Stuff begins with the theme to the "Batman" TV series;

*For Colin Dilnot at In Dangerous Rhythm, Memory Lane led to Skeleton Records, where he purchased many a record;

*Dave admits that he likes LPs as well as 45s when it comes to jazz over at Three-Sixty-Five45s; and

*At AM, Then FM, adventures with albums include those of love, loaned albums, album art, Mary Jane and octogenarians.

Although I'll do so more loquaciously tomorrow, I must pause and praise J.A. from The Hits Just Keep On Comin' for organizing this blogswarm. I have been entertained, educated, and certainly touched by the outpouring of love that all of these bloggers have brought forth so far. I can only hope that tomorrow I can contribute something worthy to the occasion.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Vinyl Record Day Coverage Begins!

Yesterday I announced that I would be joining other music and radio bloggers in the blogswarm organized by J.A. Bartlett from The Hits Just Keep On Comin' to commemorate Vinyl Record Day. (See Bartlett's own contribution to the blogswarm , in which he conjures up memories of automatic record changers.) Quite a few of the bloggers participating in this event have already come forth with their posts, so do check out these great early dispatches:

*Davewillieradio's declaration of his vinyl affliction also includes a podcast;

*Whiteray chronicles his milestone vinyl acquisitions (and includes MP3s ripped from the vinyl itself, pops and all) (I can only aspire to have 2,906 records someday!) at Echoes In The Wind;

*DJ Prestige tells his story of a wacky record digging trip at Flea Market Funk;

*Further along memory lane is Larry Grogan's story of his employment as a teenaged flea market record seller at Funky 16 Corners;

*Homercat discusses what makes vinyl special to him (and what about vinyl does not appeal to him) and includes some MP3s at Good Rockin' Tonight;

*Py Korry sallies forth with six quite diverse selections of material from various LPs; and

*Todd at It's Great Shakes presents another great podcast.

Can't you feel the love of vinyl that's going on here? I'm excited to see other posts (and to write my own)!

Standing Tall With Jackie Shane!

Jackie Shane - Stand Up Straight and Tall

The history of American music is heavily-studded with the stories and recordings of pretty eccentric characters. In the black music world there was certainly no shortage of such figures. One area where quite a few eccentrics existed was in gender and/or sexual ambiguity: Little Richard springs immediately to mind, but also one must consider Esquerita (aka Eskew Reeder or S.Q. Reeder), whom some consider to be Richard's inspiration; Wilmer "Little Axe" Broadnax led the Spirit of Memphis, among other male gospel groups, but it was not revealed until Little Axe's death that Broadnax was a woman performing under her brother's name; and Sylvester ("You Make Me Feel Mighty Real") ruled the disco world in the late '70s. The R&B singer Jackie Shane fits within this pantheon with his androgynous performances, but unfortunately his story is not as well-known as some of the others.

I haven't been able to find out much about the Toronto-based Shane, except that he had only one R&B hit, "Any Other Way," released in 1963 on Sue. This page from Queer Music Heritage sheds a little more light on the story, but not much. What I do know, though, is that Jackie Shane's music had soul to spare, and "Stand Up Straight and Tall," a loosey-goosey, blues-oriented groover (dig the slight Latin groove underneath this one) reflects this fact. Fortunately for us all, there is performance footage of Shane on YouTube, appearing on WLAC-TV's "Night Train," doing "Walking The Dog." The appearance probably came from 1964 or 1965. Johnny Jones & The King Casuals ("Soul Poppin'") are the backing band and I think that's the Hytones on background vocals and choreography. Check out this soulful performance!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


1. Home Of The Groove Is Now Streaming!

I am very tickled to add to the links section of this blog the all-new Home Of The Groove Internet Radio site! The original Home of the Groove blog has been a fave of mine since I first started reading it two years ago, and I certainly commend Dan Phillips for the outstanding work he's done in showcasing the sounds of New Orleans. Kudos to Dan for getting the webcast going and I wish him luck with it!

2. Vinyl Record Day Cometh!

Sunday, August 12 is Vinyl Record Day, advocated by a nonprofit organization of the same name. The group's mission is to: "[preserve] the cultural influence, the recordings and the cover art of the vinyl record ... [to celebrate] our fondest music with friends and family ... [to promote] the future of vinyl ... [and to] nationally establish August 12, the date Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, as Vinyl Record Day." I certainly wish the organization the best in achieving these objectives.

Over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin' - a great music and radio blog helmed by J.A. Bartlett, a man whose love for both put him behind the mic for quite a few years and keeps him writing great material today - a blogswarm has been started in order to commemorate Vinyl Record Day. (See this post at the blog about the occasion to see the current list of participants, including yours truly, and if you haven't seen Bartlett's blog before, take time out to read it - it's great.) It is my plan to do my commemorative piece on Sunday but to feature other Vinyl Record Day posts from the blogswarm each day until everyone's accounted for. I am excited to be part of this event!

3. A "Get on Down ..." Special Is In The Works!

A while ago, Brian Phillips, whose "Electrophonic Sound" show can be heard at the Rockin' Radio webcast site (see links section), invited me to do an episode of the "Get on Down ..." podcast at his home, where I can avail myself of some better technologies. As we discussed this, we decided that we plan to do a jointly-hosted program where we can both share some great music. If all goes to plan the show will be recorded in a week or so. It's going to be a stone gas, honey, so look out for it!

4. It's Almost Time For "Rhythm & Booze"!

On Saturday, August 18, I'll be one of the guest DJs putting down the sounds at "Rhythm & Booze" at El Myr Burrito Lounge in Atlanta. This will be my fourth time spinning with Tim Lawrence and friends, and if I have as much fun as I did the last time (St. Patrick's Day 2007; the playlist made up Episode #16 of the podcast) I will truly be having a ball. I'll post more about "R&B" next week!

Dr. M.G.!

Marvin Gaye - Take This Heart of Mine

Today's short-but-sweet post features Marvin Gaye, who simply needs no introduction to you, dear readers. Today's selection is a nice dancer from 1966 that I first heard on an aircheck from WOOK, Washington, D.C. It's clear from Marvin's friendly delivery of the great lyrics that, nearly 20 years before he would take "Sexual Healing" to the top of the charts, he already knew how good lovin' can cure one's ills. Tell 'em about it, Doctor Gaye!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wednesday Is Blues Day?

Lonesome Sundown - I'm a Samplin' Man

Wednesday is blues day here at "Get on Down ...," as your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul has a touch of the blues today. Fortunately, there are always "happy blues" out there to enjoy when one is having that "sad feeling," and a trip down to swamp blues country is just what the doctor ordered!

Lonesome Sundown (real name Cornelius Green) recorded for Excello at the famed Crowley studios of J.D. Miller, although his overall sound wasn't as swampy as labelmates Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim and Lazy Lester (jeez, the names that came out of Crowley in those days). His best known record was "My Home Is a Prison" (available on quite a few comps of Excello material), but "I'm a Samplin' Man" is a personal fave of mine. This loosey-goosey piece of good-timing finds Sundown crowing about his prowess with the ladies while the band lays down a rambling, rhumba-tinged groove. His brayed "I'm a samplin' man" from the choruses actually was the first portion of the tune I ever heard, as, if I recall correctly, the line was sampled for use in the follow-up to Brainfreeze, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's Product Placement.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Iceman In Philly

Jerry Butler - Moody Woman

All the talk I did yesterday regarding "icemen" make Jerry Butler an appropriate choice for today's post. By the time Butler recorded "Moody Woman" for Mercury he had established himself as one of Chicago's finest soul singers with a string of hits on Vee-Jay, many of which involved his former Impressions bandmate Curtis Mayfield. When Vee-Jay folded in '66 Butler made his way to Mercury and in short order hooked up with Gamble and Huff, who were just starting to make their name known for their productions on a wide range of labels. The Butler-Gamble-Huff team struck paydirt right away with records like "Hey Western Union Man" and "Only The Strong Survive" rushing straight to the top of the charts. Butler would work with Gamble and Huff until the dawn of the '70s, when he would set up Fountain Productions in Chicago and start a songwriter's co-op from which to draw material.

"Moody Woman" features the sparkling sound that Gamble and Huff excelled at in those days, and Butler's cool vocals effectively handle the song's two tempos and dramatic chorus. Contrast Butler's smoothness, even in emotional sections, to Chuck Jackson's in yesterday's post and you'll see why I differentiated the two men in that post.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Icy Hot Chuck Jackson!

Chuck Jackson - Hand It Over

Oftentimes I see descriptions of Chuck Jackson in various media refer to Jackson as being an "iceman" soul singer, a la Jerry Butler, and I really don't know if that description is accurate. It is true that a great deal of Jackson's hits for Wand in the '60s were more "uptown" or pop-oriented than those of many of his contemporaries, but Chuck's husky vocals had this roughness - and, to me, sometimes a type of madness - about them that really put over the soul of the songs.

"Hand It Over" finds Jackson taking on a very sweet lyric and giving it some pretty serious "heat." If it were sung by a softer vocalist "Hand It Over" could be a nice wedding song, but Jackson gets a growl going in his delivery that makes the song more of a demand than a plea! Kudos must also be given to the instrumental track, whose strolling rhythm was deemed good enough to cause the instrumental to be released.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Eli's Fabulous Flip!

Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves - It's Easier

I've discussed Eli Reed & The True Loves in prior posts (this being the main feature I did on them), and I continue to encourage you to visit his website (a link is in the original post) and to support this fine group as they continue to build their sound and their reputation. All reports from the Rabbit Factory showcases in Chicago and New York have been highly complimentary of the group, and now they have a new 45, "The Satisfier" b/w "It's Easier," which I have championed in various posts since it's arrival was announced. This past week I purchased a copy of the 45 from Q Division Records (which released the single on its Q-dee imprint), and I encourage you all to do the same. For $5, I got the record, pressed on nice heavy vinyl, along with a CD single and, for nostalgia's sake I suppose, a 45 spindle adapter. I sat down to play the record, mainly to see how the funky dancer "The Satisfier" would sound alongside some of my other 45s, but when I flipped it over and listened to "It's Easier," and then proceeded to listen to it about four or five more times in a row, I realized that in mentioning the single in passing elsewhere on the blog, I had seriously overlooked the better side.

For some reason, "It's Easier" reminds me of some of the Birmingham soul along the lines of the material that John Ciba has put out with the Birmingham Sound comp and the Ralph "Soul" Jackson reissue 45. Reed wrote "It's Easier" and does a great job with the tune's fine lyrics and melody. The band is also really on point, and, as I mentioned in my discussion of "Take My Love With You" in my earlier post, the improvement both of their skills and the technical quality of the recording really makes this a top-notch record that will burrow itself into your soul. I eagerly await an album release from the group on Q-Dee. Keep up the good work!

Happy Anniversary to "This Is Tomorrow!"

I am honored and flattered that Mike from This Is Tomorrow asked me if I would join a list of fine soul music bloggers in providing a guest mix in connection with his blog's first anniversary, and I have sent to him a half-hour mix called "Soul Feeling!" as my contribution. I don't know exactly when Mike will be posting it on his blog, but here's the playlist for the set:

1. Eddy Giles - Soul Feeling (Pt. 2)
2. Rodger Collins - Soulful Train
3. Hayes Ware - You Got Me Mama
4. Rufus Thomas - 44 Long
5. Robert Parker - The Scratch
6. Bobby Marchan - (Ain't No Reason) For Girls To Be Lonely (Pt. 1)
7. Carla Thomas - Coca-Cola Ad
8. Lee Austin - Respect
9. Percy Mayfield - Walking On A Tightrope
10. Eldridge Holmes - Pop Popcorn Children
11. Ronnie Mitchell - Soul Meeting
12. J. Hines & The Fellows - Victory Strut

When Mike puts my mix on his blog I'll make the picture above a link to the mix. In the meantime, do go to This Is Tomorrow, where mixes from Larry and Vincent (from Funky 16 Corners and Fufu Stew, respectively) are already available.

Happy Anniversary to This Is Tomorrow!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Soul Galore!

Jackie Wilson - Soul Galore

Considering how much knowledge the readers of this blog possess, I think I can safely choose to present no biographical data about the great Jackie Wilson. (I recommend that you buy a copy of the first issue of "There's That Beat!" magazine - see the links section - for a great feature on him that provides a great biography and discography.) So, with no further ado, here's today's selection. "Soul Galore" is a Northern Soul killer that Wilson recorded a year or two before Carl Davis took over the prodcution reins to take Jackie back to the top of the R&B charts with "Whispers" and "Higher and Higher." Wilson's vocals are fantastic as always, and the surging orchestral track and background singing really makes this one captivating.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Back To The Well With Bethea The Maskman!

Harmon Bethea - It Could Happen To You

I've done a few posts about eccentric funkster Harmon Bethea and his "Maskman" persona (and the varying permutations of his name, the word "Maskman" and the name of his group, the Agents; a quick search under any of those names should generate a list of posts and podcasts on which other Bethea records appear), and as I continue to dig deeper into his recordings I realize that Bethea was determined to get as much life as possible out of the groove and style of "One Eye Open," his main hit: he followed up "One Eye Open" with "My Wife, My Dog, My Cat" (the second of his two hits) and then later released today's selection, only to revisit the groove in the '70s for "Talking About The Boss and I," which was featured here awhile ago. The Musicor single "It Could Happen To You," which found Bethea getting solo billing as "Harmon Bethea" (although the Agents are clearly on the record), was the flip of "She's My Meat" and it finds Bethea revisiting the good-timey groove of his hits, this time with a "mama's baby, daddy's maybe" lyrical theme.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ryan Shaw, Cover Songs and Two Coincidences (Pt. 2)

Ryan Shaw - I Found a Love

The Silver Harps of Detroit, MI - I Found The Lord

After a very busy morning, I serve up Part Two of this feature. (Please refer to yesterday's post for Part One.) I think that Ryan Shaw's vocal amalgam of old-school soul and contemporary R&B styling serves "I Found a Love" very well, despite the apparent presence of a drum machine. Although I have some quibbles about the album, it's great to know, though, that there are young artists out there who are interested in the sounds of vintage soul, and that in Shaw's case, a major label was willing to step up and take a gamble on an album. I have a feeling that seeing Shaw live would be a real treat, especially if he performs with a full band of the calibre, say, of the Dap-Kings. Keep on pushin', Ryan!

The Silver Harps of Detroit's gospel take, "I Found The Lord," wins my popularity contest due to its eccentricity. The only accompaniment on the tune is from a lone drummer, who lays down a rock-solid beat for the group to do their thing over. And their "thing" is very tight: like is the case with so many gospel groups, strong harmony is the order of the day, and their harmony work shines over such a sparse backing. Although I think Harps overdo the use of "dip-dip" as a rhythm and harmony syllable, the tune is great.

(Special thanks to John Glassburner for the Silver Harps track.)