Monday, December 29, 2008
Benny Gordon & The Soul Brothers - Give a Damn (About Your Fellow Man)
I hate it when RIP posts start springing up throughout the soul blogosphere, but I have learned from my man Red Kelly that Benny Gordon passed away on Christmas Eve. I'll defer to Red's blog for more info about Gordon and will simply post a tune I'd been intending to feature for awhile anyway. The funk favorite "Give a Dam" is a stone groover from the get-go, with Gordon kicking things off with a James Brown-ish grunt and then pushing through the awesome call-and-response message song, summoning a little Edwin Starr along the way. "War! Stop the war somebody, please ... I ask ya what's it for ... I tell ya it's a shame, when you have to kill a man, Lord, and you don't know his name." Powerful stuff indeed! RIP Benny.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Robert Ward & The Ohio Untouchables - Touch Me Not
Greetings, wonderful people! I hope the holiday season has been good to you! I know that my posting here has been very very sporadic lately. Honestly, the situation discussed in the "DMCA Blues" post almost brought me to the verge of closing down the site, but I think I'll just soldier on for awhile, and I think if push comes to shove, I'll just take the site private. We'll see how that goes. My resolution for 2009, at any rate, is to pick up the frequency of my posting to the level it was at prior to my taking the bar exam, etc. There's too much good soul music to discuss!
This week, the singer/guitarist Robert Ward, whose comeback story resulted in some fine blues albums of the '90s and beyond after an earlier stab at success as the leader of the Ohio Untouchables (who became the Ohio Players some time after he left the group in 1965) and as a session musician, passed away. Ward's watery guitar sound, by way of a Magneto amp, resulted in lots of fine sides in the early '60s for LuPine, including today's selection. "Touch Me Not" is an awesome instrumental which, despite featuring some hot saxophone solos, shows off Ward's guitar work over a groove that leaves the listener with no choice but to "get on down"!
It's fortunate that Ward was rediscovered in the early '90s and got the chance to get the recognition he deserved before his death. His fine talent will be missed.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Langston & French - Tumbling Down (stream only)
Kudos are in order for Georgia Soul's Brian Poust, who is featured in the new issue of Stomp and Stammer in connection with the magazine's feature on the Numero comp Eccentric Soul: The Tragar and Note Labels, which Brian helped put together. The article spotlights Poust's journey in unearthing information and recordings from the Atlanta soul label and some of the musicians who made the rare records featured on the two-disc comp.
Today's selection comes from that comp. Langston George was the "fourth Pip" in the early years of Gladys Knight & The Pips, and he hooked up with Charles French to record the great Southern soul ballad "Tumbling Down," not to be confused with the James Fry record on Hi of the same name. The two men nail the ballad with their solo parts and harmonizing, and their voices remind me somewhat of Nashville soulsters Earl Gaines and Jimmy Church. It's a fine recording, one of the many that earn that distinction on the comp!
Sunday, December 07, 2008
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Several of my fellow soul bloggers have received similar notices fairly recently, which means that the copyright battle about online music has now moved from the world of Napster and file sharing to the blogging world. I had expected for some time that such a notice would cross my path, considering the relatively prolific posting that I do. As an attorney who has taken an intellectual property class or two, I am quite aware of the arguments made by the music industry about digital music sources, and in general I agree with them. It was in consideration of these arguments that I put a disclaimer on this blog some time ago to the effect that all material on this blog is copyrighted, that it is only here for noncommercial use (per the "fair use doctrine") and that if any objections existed that I would remove such offending material. I think it is clear that all music bloggers operate under such good faith attempts to share great music without breaking copyright law, but one man's "good faith" is another man's thievery, and Blogger, understandably, wants to stay out of the fray as much as possible. However, it does sadden me to see that I have to share my passion for great music under the cloud of impersonal legalese from Blogger.
So what to do? I am certainly disinclined to close up shop and file "Get on Down ..." away as a pleasant three-year online adventure, but I don't want Blogger to close down the blog arbitrarily should the IFPI, RIAA or any other organization protest about any content I have here. For the moment, my attempt at a compromise will be to continue the blog here on Blogger but make all posts "stream only" while I search for a different location to host the blog. Can any of my fellow bloggers who use Wordpress offer their opinion as to such matters? I would appreciate it.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The Third Anniversary show is now online and will be on iTunes soon! Enjoy! Here's the playlist:
1. The Holidays - All That Is Required Is You
2. The Artistics - Hard to Carry On
3. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - If You Can Want
4. Ocie Smith - Everybody But Me
5. Rose Batiste - Come Back in a Hurry
6. Garnet Mimms - Stop and Think It Over
7. Terri Bryant - (You'd Better) Straighten Up and Fly Right
8. The Drifters - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
9. Tammi Terrell - All I Do (Is Think About You)
10. The Profiles - Got to Be Your Lover
11. Roy Lee Johnson - Boogaloo #3
12. Herbie Mann - Philly Dog
13. Stu Gardner - Never Gonna Hurt Again
14. Charles Spurling - That Woman
15. Earl Van Dyke - The Whip A Rang
16. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band "Express Yourself" Radio Ad
17. Helene Smith - I Am Controlled by Your Love
18. Maurice & Mac - Lean on Me
19. Phillip Mitchell - Keep on Talking
20. Percy Sledge - Baby, Help Me
21. Dizzy Jones - Just As Sure (As You Play, You Must Pay)
22. G. L. Crockett - Gonna Make You Love Me
23. Diamond Joe - Fair Play
24. Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - Sweet Soul
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Tom Jones - The Hitter (stream only)
Your everlovin' Stepfather of Soul is working on a playlist for a new podcast, but in the meantime, the new CD by Tom Jones, 24 Hours (to be released in the US on Tuesday), has been getting some of my attention since the kind folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy.
Yes, I'm talking about that Tom Jones. The tight slacks-wearing Welshman whose place in the pantheon of cheese sometimes obscures some serious chops and, as I discussed when Luciano Pavarotti died, some serious soul, despite his not being a soul singer, per se. (And, of course, serious soul fans are aware of several Parrot sides of his that meet "soul record" standards. Some of my fellow soul bloggers have covered some of them.)
Anyway, 24 Hours is one of those "autumnal" albums like Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up on Me was: Jones still sounds good at age 68, but time has added something to his voice that makes songs like today's selection particularly poignant. Miami soul queen Betty Wright co-produced Jones' cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter," and in his hands the song's dark story takes on extra weight thanks to an arrangement that turns Springsteen's song into a Southern Soul-flavored thing with its 12/8 rhythm and strong horn charts. Although the lyrics clearly reflect a broken boxer's return home after a fall from the top, Jones' vocals, which at times sound almost as if channeling Burke, capture the world-weariness of the song perfectly. This is strong stuff! Tom Jones has got soul, y'all!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Syl Johnson - Sorry 'Bout Dat!
Last night I fired up the DVR and watched two episodes of the new VH1 Soul series Soul Cities, hosted by Nelson George. The premise of the series is that George visits cities that figure(d) heavily into the soul music scene and explores the music, musicians and culture of said cities. I saw the Philadelphia and Chicago episodes, and ended up disappointed. First of all, the shows are only thirty minutes long, and both cities could have easily yielded an hour's worth of material; as a result, the music history part of the shows is pretty superficial. Second, although I understand that the culture of the cities was to be featured, the segments about Philly cheesesteaks and Chicago deep-dish pizza (in which George went into restaurant kitchens and was shown how these delicacies are prepared) looked more like they belonged on Food Network instead of VH1 Soul, and the time spent on them could've allowed for more music to be featured. Third, I feel like Nelson George was highly under-utilized in the program. George's The Death of Rhythm & Blues was a cornerstone of my education about soul music history, and his writing about newer R&B and hip-hop is equally enlightening, but the overall superficiality of the shows made him appear to me more as a generic travelogue host rather than the insightful music scholar he is.
Now, don't get me wrong - it's highly unlikely that the show was intended for hardcore soul fans, and the need to cover music history, culture, and present music in the cities within a thirty-minute frame means that corners had to be cut. And there were some highlights, such as George's discussion with Gamble and Huff on the Philadelphia show, which included the two doing an impromptu performance of "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," a chat with the newly-reunited Labelle (featuring a quick line or two of "For the Love of Money" which proved that Patti, Sarah and Nona are still on-point vocally), a visit to Val Shively's amazingly overwhelming record store (I'm talking floor to ceiling records here), and, if I saw correctly, a visit to Mr. Peabody's in Chicago, which is one of my favorite record shops.
I'm featuring Chicago soul today as an antidote to all that disappointment, which is needed also because Chicago soul and its musicians were given an even shorter shrift in its episode than Philly soul and its artists were on the other episode. Syl Johnson's funky groovers for Twilight/Twinight are not that uncommon to rare soul fans, but they are always a treat to hear. Johnson's wailing is complimented by hard-hitting bands (the Deacons and Pieces of Peace for the Chicago-recorded stuff and the Hi Rhythm Section on Memphis-recorded sides like "Dresses Too Short"), and the tunes crackle with an energy that was somewhat lost when Johnson moved formally to Hi Records and slipped into the velvet grooves that Willie Mitchell was concocting for labelmates Al Green and Ann Peebles. "Sorry 'Bout Dat!" was the B-side of Johnson's second Twinight single, and while the groove surges along, Johnson's tongue-in-cheek apology for making folks dance so hard is worthy of a chuckle.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Rita Dacosta - Don't Bring Me Down
In the flurry of activity that has surrounded bar exam results and new job adjustments, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul has forgotten to celebrate the third anniversary of this blog! Although this year I have not been able to keep the near-daily pace I kept in 2005, 2006 and 2007, I hope that you, dear readers, are still enjoying my offerings! Hopefully, I'll get an anniversary podcast up here soon!
Today's selection is one of the Northern Soul anthems that truly defines the spirit and magic that drove the NS movement in its heyday. "Don't Bring Me Down" by Rita Dacosta is one of those records that sells for big bank today (the original Mohawk 45 sells for around $500 and Mohawk and Contempo reissues come in at around $30), and for good reason. The mysterious Dacosta (my research yielded an album and a discussion of whether she was married to jazz great Stanley Turrentine) brings a classy reading to this stomper, and the optimistic lyrics and dramatic arrangement ("come on up and let me love you, let me love you; we're gonna fly - you've got to try - we're gonna fly - here is the sky") evokes in my mind images of punters working it out at Wigan and other Northern Soul venues, carried away by the tune's surging magic.
Thanks to R. Soos for this track!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Sam & Dave - Don't Pull Your Love
Sam Moore must be one of the most litigation-minded soul singers out there. On the right side of justice, he's lobbied for better royalties for classic soul artists, but on the other hand he's taken possessory stances about songs like "Soul Man" which are not legally tenable and make him look, in my opinion, somewhat foolish. His newest foray is a lawsuit against the makers of the Bernie Mac-Samuel L. Jackson movie Soul Men, which opens this weekend. He takes umbrage at the title, of course, but also the story, which he claims is based on the Sam & Dave story. Naturally, there are some parallels (two estranged soul singers who were once very close), but a look at the movie's trailer makes that whole argument sound foolish: at most, this movie is probably going to be a "black Blues Brothers" type of thing. Fortunately, we can always turn to Sam & Dave's music, which is awesome regardless of Moore's quixotic courtroom activities.
"Don't Pull Your Love," a cover of the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds hit, was a 1971 Atlantic single for Sam & Dave, whose relationship by that time was strictly personal, as the two were not on speaking terms. The estrangement almost shows in the record, as the two men sound as if they recorded their parts separately: Dave handles all of the verses and the song's bridge, and Sam sings the choruses. The arrangement choice was wise, as the brassy groove of the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds record was replaced by a slower, churchy sound (dig the piano opening). It's a fine recording, certainly better than the record's flip, an answer record to Johnnie Taylor's "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" called "Jody Ryder Got Killed"!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Outside of programming that is pre-recorded, radio disc jockeys, be they from the classic era of Top 40 and R&B radio or in today's corporatized radio world, all know that "the show must go on" is law of the land. So what do you do when a DJ is out of town and his substitute is late due to the freezing cold weather? Well, on the frigid afternoon of January 29, 1966, WVON's Lucky Cordell extended his Saturday program to cover for the "Nassau Daddy," Ed Cook, slated to fill in for E. Rodney Jones, whose car wouldn't start due to Chicago's subzero weather. The result is nearly two-and-one-half hours of aircheck delight, despite horrible fidelity (my apologies in advance)!
Lucky Cordell, "The Baron of Bounce," worked at WGRY in Gary and then at Chicago's WGES/WYNR (hosting his popular "House of Hits" program at both stations) before hooking up with WVON in the early '60s. Cordell's cheery disposition and fondness for reciting poems (he had several soul and gospel 45s throughout the '60s featuring his recitations) made him a favorite to listeners, but he was successful away from the mike as well: by 1965 Cordell was the station's program director, from which position he was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 1968 and to General Manager in 1970. Cordell stayed with the station until the mid-'70s, when changing times (and meddling suits) brought about Cordell's departure from the station. On this aircheck, Cordell's chipperness shines as he plays lots of great stuff, ranging from Gene Chandler to Wilson Pickett (whose "634-5789," by then on its way to being the top R&B record in the country, is WVON's "pick hit") to Slim Harpo to James Brown to Walter Jackson (whose "One Heart Lonely" b/w "Funny (Not Much)" is WVON's "Top and Bottom" feature) to the Manhattans, delivers a corny joke or two, encourages listeners to "set their timepieces" when he delivers the time, and muses as to what mood Ed Cook will be in when he arrives.
Cordell's musings were quite appropriate, as the late Nassau Daddy was 'VON's resident curmudgeon, if this aircheck and reminisces I've read are any indication. Cook, like Pervis Spann, had more of a taste for blues than his fellow "Good Guys," and his complaints about the then-new Dan Ryan Expressway (which he often called the "Damn Ryan") were frequent enough for a drop-in in this aircheck ("Poor Ed, everybody's wrong on the Dan Ryan but him") and an eventual 45, "The Dan Ryan Express." When the "Good Guys" were rather unceremoniously dumped from 'VON in the mid-'70s he moved on to Spann's WXOL, after which I don't have any record of his further radio career.
The Cook aircheck is often sold on eBay and is probably one of the better-circulated R&B airchecks out there, and for good reason. If Ed was a cranky sort anyway, the fact that his car wouldn't start in subzero weather guaranteed that his on-air performance was really going to be special. It didn't help matters that, right off the bat, the wrong record was played. The intro to the Beatles' "Day Tripper" follows the WVON jingle, and Cook is having none of it. "Hold it, man!" he bellows, as the record is quickly switched to Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bring It on Home." "Shoot - messing up already ... look out, Jim [Maloney, WVON's newscaster], I ain't in a good mood today ... I feel like Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou!" For the remainder of the aircheck, Cook holds court, playing some of the same tunes Cordell played but getting some B.B. King in there among other things (he mentions that King used to be a DJ, and remarks that King was smart to quit and become a musician) and railing about the weather ("Why would anybody want to move to Chicago?" he complains, although he is amused that Tupelo, Mississippi and other Southern cities are snowed in), thanking the lady who drove him to the radio station, encouraging listeners to go see Cat Ballou, and making come-ons like "you just stand there like a rich man's porch and let me admire you!" It's a classic, and it's always good for a laugh as well as a "get on down."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)
The recent passing of Dee Dee Warwick, sister of Dionne, has been covered in the news and on music blogs lately, and I rue the fact that I had to wait until today to have something to post. But better late than never, considering how many RIPs have been presented here lately!
Dee Dee, like most siblings of more-famous artists, failed to reach her sister's fame. Neither her singing style nor the material she recorded was as pop-friendly as the Bacharach-David concoctions that made Dionne a household name, but in this soul fan's opinion, her recordings are much more interesting. (Now, that's not to say that I don't like Dionne; it's just a point I'm trying to make.)
I decided to do a Dee Dee Double Feature today, first with her biggest hit, "She Didn't Know (She Kept on Talking)," a Southern soul ballad on Atco with which Warwick broke into the R&B Top 10. I don't have my reference books handy, but Raeford Godfrey (aka Ray Gerald) did a great version of the tune for Spring Records as well. This is one of those tunes that hits deep.
My favorite Dee Dee Warwick side is her version of Elvis Presley's 1969 hit "Suspicious Minds," and I'll make it the second half of today's feature. Warwick's version came out a couple of years after Presley's, and everything about this record works to make it a fine soul record: the Dixie Flyers replace the slightly-countrified groove of Presley's record with a bumping R&B groove, the Sweet Inspirations (who, interesting, did the backgrounds on Elvis's version as well) provide fine support, and Dee Dee brings a declarative but soulful vocal performance.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
James Brown - Maybe I'll Understand (Pt. 1)
Your ever-lovin' Stepfather's got the blues today, because since the last post, comedian Rudy Ray Moore and singer Dee Dee Warwick have passsed away, and I don't have anything on hand for a Warwick post (like the great version of "Suspicious Minds" she put down on Atco). So, for a "Wednesday Is Blues Day" type of thing, I pull this James Brown blues number, which was released as a Colgate Power Pack promo single and in two parts on his 1968 King LP Got the Feelin' (also on the album was a blues instrumental, "Maybe Good, Maybe Bad," which was also released as a two-part King single). It's clearly just an improvised thing, but it nicely showcases Brown's crooning, which is often overlooked amidst his funky things.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Earl Gaines - Turn On Your Love Light
It's been a little over a year since Earl Gaines has been featured on the blog. Being that Gaines sounded a lot like Bobby Bland, it's probably not surprising that at some point he would cover a Bland record, as he did in the case of "Turn On Your Love Light," which saw release as a Seventy-Seven single. (It's worth noting that Gaines also did a version of "Little Boy Blue" while recording for Starday-King's Hollywood and DeLuxe outfits that is included on the Lovin' Blues comp mentioned in the prior post.) The arrangement is given a '70s flavor, and Gaines' vocals don't fall into mere imitation of Bland. The end result is a pleasant little groover.
Friday, October 17, 2008
The Four Tops - Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me
I have just learned from Colin Dilnot that Levi Stubbs, longtime lead singer of the Four Tops, has died at age 70. Today's selection is the only MP3 of the group I have here at work, but it's a cooking groover that kicked off a recent podcast. The song had been recorded previously by both Jimmy Ruffin and (with switched genders, of course) Gladys Knight & The Pips, but Stubbs' shouted lead, fine support by the Tops and a nice funky groove makes this 1969 version my favorite.
The Four Tops headlined the Homecoming gala at my college my freshman year, and after the show my friend Norman and I slipped through the back hallways of our college's arts center and ran into the Tops, in their street clothes, heading out of their dressing room. Obie Benson had already headed out the door, so Norman and I got to talk briefly with Stubbs, Duke Fakir and Lawrence Payton. I remember telling Duke in response to a comment he'd made onstage about a song maybe being from some people's "crib days" that my mom played their records all the time when I was a kid. "Your mama's hip," he replied. I got autographs of the three men and then I watched them get into their limo and depart. I went back to my dorm feeling like a million bucks because I had met THE FOUR TOPS in person. Now with Levi's passing, only Duke Fakir remains as a living member of the group's classic lineup. I'll have to pull that program out of my souvenirs file this evening and consider that. RIP Levi.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Bobby Comstock - Let's Stomp
Today finds your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul invigorated and full of optimism and ready to "get on down"!
I don't know anything about today's selection or its artist except that I first heard it on a Fat Daddy WSID aircheck. This is one of those early '60s R&B stompers that was always good for a "get down" as the genre began to take shape as "soul" music. The drumbeat kicks things off, followed by handclaps, and then a fast blast of R&B shouting by Comstock, who encourages the listener to get on the dance floor and stomp away. It works for me!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The O.V. Wright Memorial Fund was established some time ago by a team of soul fans who realized that the legendary soul man's grave in Memphis went unmarked. My man Red Kelly has been actively involved with the Fund in addition to his work with the rediscovery of Lattimore Brown, and he has asked that I make notice of "O.V. Wright Night," which we be held at the Ground Zero Blues Club in Memphis on Saturday, November 15. Otis Clay is the featured guest, and he'll be performing with the legendary Hi Rhythm Section. I've provided a link below which you can use to purchase tickets, which are $25 each (there is also a $2 Paypal fee). Prior to the show, ticketholders will also be able to take a special after-hours tour of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music at a reduced price (see the Fund website for more details). On Sunday, November 16, the reveal of O.V. Wright's memorial marker will take place. If you are able to attend this event, I would strongly recommend it. If you are not able to attend, like me (unfortunately), please visit the Fund's website and make a donation.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The new podcast is online, and it's a '70s soul spectacular, with an odd '69 record slipping in!
1. Soul Brothers Six - You Gotta Come a Little Closer
2. Bobby Powell - Question '71
3. Labi Siffre - Sadie and the Devil
4. Parliament - Little Ole Country Boy
5. "Dusk 'Til Dawn Drive-In Movie Marathon" Radio Ad
6. The Detroit Emeralds - You Want It, You Got It
7. Valerie Simpson - Drink the Wine
8. The Green Brothers - Can't Give You Up
9. The Rollers - Knockin' at the Wrong Door
10. Clarence Carter - Scratch My Back (Mumble in My Ear)
11. Ollie Nightingale - Sweet Surrender
12. Willie Henderson - Loose Booty
13. Luther Ingram - Ghetto Train
14. Detroit Emeralds Radio Ad
15. Wales Wallace - Forever and a Day
16. Dorothy, Oma & Zelpha - Gonna Put It on Your Mind
17. Sugar Pie DeSanto - Straighten It Out With Your Man
18. Wilson Pickett - Bumble Bee (Sting Me)
19. Louis King - Our Love Will Overcome Everything
20. Jackie Moore With the Dixie Flyers - Wonderful, Marvelous
21. Oliver Sain - Going Back to Memphis
Dan Penn - Just As I Am
The contributions of Dan Penn and his frequent collaborator Spooner Oldham to the world of soul music are well-known soul fans, whether or not they have read the songwriter credits for the many soul classics they composed. The recordings by the two men are known only by serious soul fans, but are definitely worth seeking out. Guitarist Dan Penn was the more frequenly recorded of the two, and today's selection, better known as a Solomon Burke recording for Atlantic, was a FAME single that shows off Penn's countrified blue-eyed soul sound. The earnesty Penn brings to "Just As I Am" grabs the listener and make the tune worth profiling today.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Alton Ellis - I'm Still In Love With You
I've just read that reggae singer Alton Ellis, whose "Girl I've Got a Date" was featured on a recent podcast, has died of cancer in London. It was only recently that I became aware of Ellis and his music, but his soulful singing and fine recordings deserve a memorial feature here. A remake of today's selection, not to be mistaken for the Al Green song of the same name (not to be mistaken for the Rufus Thomas song of the same name) was recorded by dancehall star Sean Paul and made quite some noise, but the Ellis side is worth a listen today.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Jimmy Lewis - Don't Tell Me What a Man Won't Do for a Woman
For today's "Tuesday Is Blues Day" I'll dip once again into the vast catalogue of Jimmy Lewis' latter recordings for his own Miss Butch concern. I've featured Lewis sides, both '60s and '70s soul and soul-blues, multiple times, so I'll leave you to those posts for any info. Despite the synth-heavy arrangement, "Don't Tell Me What a Man Won't Do for a Woman" is 100% Southern soul of the variety only Lewis could craft. It's a statement of the song's quality that no less than Solomon Burke recorded it for one of his Rounder albums. As good a performance as Burke gave, however, only the "barber shop philosopher" talk-sing style of Lewis does the song justice. I mean, only Lewis can turn a lyric like "a home is not a home if there's no hairpins and rollers up in there."
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Today's selection is dedicated to my wife, Jadda, with whom I am celebrating today eight years of marriage. Don't you tell me what I won't do for her! I love you, Jadda!)
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Menahan Street Band - Tired of Fighting (stream only)
The last couple of years have been huge for the retro soul and funk label Daptone and its artists, and one of the newest beneficiaries of all of this fame is the Menahan Street Band, an aggregation of Daptone musicians organized by multi-instrumentalist Thomas Brenneck (erstwhile guitarist for the Dap-Kings), who has started the Dunham label for his own productions on the band and Charles Bradley, recorded at his home studio. Whether or not people were aware, the MSB's "Make the Road By Walking" became part of the mainstream consciousness thanks to it being sampled for Jay-Z's mega hit "Roc Boys." The band's debut album, Make the Road By Walking, will be released on October 14. The kind folks at World's Fair sent me a review copy and I have to say that Brenneck and his gang have put down a solid set of instrumentals that evoke '70s film scores and really cooks. When I say "'70s film scores" I want to emphasize that I don't mean pastiches of blaxploitations movie soundtracks; each of the ten tracks are highly atmospheric and there's a level of sophistication that really thrills the listener.
I'll invite you to take a look at the World's Fair press page for the band for more info and for a download link for "Make the Road By Walking." Today's feature is "Tired of Fighting," which has also been released as the B-side of Charles Bradley's new Dunham single, "The Telephone Song." Soak in the atmosphere of this tune. This is powerful stuff.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Tito Puente - Mambo Con Puente
As I discussed in my 2007 Vinyl Record Day post, I've been a fan of Latin music, particularly mambo, since I found an old Machito LP during one of my forays as a teenaged "junkstore cratedigger. " Today I'll take a stylistic departure to dip my toe into the fantastic sounds by one of the real Mambo Kings, the late Tito Puente. I have discussed on this blog before how I feel that there are many artists who, although they are not "soul" artists per se, have soul to spare. All you have to do is look at a video of Tito Puente performing, even late in life, and see him standing there, drumming away, with that giddy smile of his, and you know you're in the presence of soul. His lengthy career resulted in scads of records, but recently Fania has gone back to Puente's first sides as a bandleader, made for George Goldner's Tico concern. The Complete 78s consists of four two-disc sets. The first volume came out in August, and the second is scheduled for November release. The kind folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy (see this press release for more info about the series and for a good bio of Puente) of the first volume, and from it I pull today's selection.
I think one reason why I like mambo music is because, like a good piece of funk, the tunes often were built from the groove up, and as the layers come together the power of the tune is electrifying. On "Mambo Con Puente," the piano sets the groove right away, daring the listener to move their body, and by the time the vocals come in and then the horns start blaring, it's soul time! Get on Down With the Mambo King!
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Hop Wilson - My Woman Has a Black Cat Bone
First it's gospel on Monday, and now it's blues on Wednesday. Has your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul gone crazy? No, I just plays 'em as I feel 'em, and today some lap steel blues is just what the doctor ordered.
Harding "Hop" Wilson's blues sides of the late '50s and early '60s were distinguished by their unique guitar solos, which were the result of Wilson's playing a table steel guitar rather than a regular axe. That instrument gave his solos a wild, watery sound that stood out from that of his peers, even those who played with a slide. Hop was based in Houston, and his dislike of touring caused Wilson's fame to be limited mostly to his home city, where he worked until his death in 1975. Wilson's recordings were similarly limited, as the full extent of Wilson's recorded output were some sides for Goldband made in 1957 and some others for Trey and Ivory from 1960 and 1961, all of which have been comped on CDs such as Ace's Steel Guitar Flash! and Bullseye Blues's Houston Ghetto Blues, from which today's selection comes. "My Woman Has a Black Cat Bone" was one of Wilson's signature tunes, and Wilson lays down the shuffler with dry vocals that are punctuated by his unique guitar sound. Although Wilson's national fame was virtually non-existent, his influence in Houston is reflected by the fact that Texas bluesmen Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland and Robert Cray recorded "Black Cat Bone" for their Showdown! album, taking a moment to honor Wilson in the song's spoken intro.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
G. L. Crockett - Every Good Bye Ain't Gone
Some time ago I featured G. L. Crockett's boozy, Jimmy Reed-styled "It's a Man Down There" on this blog. After that tune turned into a surprise hit for the Chicago-based Four Brothers label, Crockett laid down "Every Good Bye Ain't Gone" as a follow up, and it's not surprising that Crockett revisited the laconic Jimmy Reed style for "Every Good Bye Ain't Gone," delivered over a nice loping rhythm. Although these tunes, and Robert Pruter's brief discussion of Crockett in Chicago Soul would make you think that all Crockett could do was ape Jimmy Reed, I've recently acquired another Crockett 45 featuring a more traditional Chicago soul sound and have heard "Watch My 32," on which Crockett addresses both Jr. Walker's "Shotgun" and the Sharpees' "Do the 45." I'll have to feature these another time, but right now, it's blues day, children!
Monday, September 29, 2008
The Soul Stirrers - Be With Me, Jesus
I know Sunday Gospel Time was yesterday, but sometimes I'm "feeling" something when I hear some gospel, and today's one of those days. The Soul Stirrers kept "Be With Me, Jesus" alive in its repertoire for many years, and when listening to its thrilling trade-off leads, be they from Sam Cooke and Sam Foster, Martin Wallace and Martin Jacox, or, as is the case in today's feature, Eddie Huffman and Rev. Luther Gamble, it's not hard to see why the song had such currency. Today's selection was a '70s outing by the group, and Huffman and Gamble bring home the goods.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Como Mamas (feat. Mary Moore) - Trouble In My Way
When I was a teenager in rural Kentucky, I used to entertain the fantasy of someday owning a record label, putting out 45s and LPs on myself and other people whose music I liked. One part of my imaginary empire was a gospel label, "Soul Folk Records," which would feature some of the singers and preachers I knew in my community and surrounding areas. These folks were regular, hard-working folks like my family, but they were "celebrities" among the locals. People always wanted to hear Carl and Willie Burr Bradshaw, a pair of eccentric brothers, sing and play, and a sermon by Rev. Donahue Price, whose square head and jowly face belied a gorgeous singing voice, was always better received if followed by a song. Like Mingering Mike, however, the record business remained strictly a fantasy (although I never made cardboard albums and album covers like Mike did). When I heard about the new Daptone CD Como Now, I just about flipped, because I realized that my dream had been realized.
I won't go into the story of how a group of great singers came to Mt. Moriah Church in Como, Mississippi (coincidentally, there was a Mt. Moriah in my area, too!) in the summer of 2006 to record, a capella, some fine gospel songs. I'll defer to the album's press page for that. Simply know that Como Now reflects the "true religion" that I grew up with and that still thrives in rural black communities, where the influences of megachurches and modern gospel music have not taken over. That is not to say that contemporary gospel is bad, but there's a certain honesty about these recordings that leaves the listener spellbound. Go get the CD and you'll see for yourself. "Trouble in My Way" is a chestnut that the Dixie Hummingbirds, among others, recorded. The Como Mamas' rendition of the tune takes me back to those old churches, with their wood stoves, paddle fans and foot patting. The Como Mamas are indeed "Soul Folk"!
Friday, September 26, 2008
Johnnie Taylor - Stop Doggin' Me (live)
As mentioned in an early Wattstax-related post, the August 1972 showcase of Stax artists at the Watts Summer Festival ran over its allocated length, and several acts ended up not gracing the stage. Among those acts whose set was scrapped was Johnnie Taylor, who was quite rankled by this fact, as he was in the middle of a huge string of hits at the time. As Stax and director David Wolper began to develop what would eventually become the concert film Wattstax, it was decided that Johnnie Taylor should be included in the film, and an engagement at the Summit Club in Los Angeles was set up to be filmed. Taylor was paired up with a raggedy backing band, which didn't help his mood any, but a performance of "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" was captured and included in the film. Taylor's entire set was recorded, however, although but for a great stomping version of "Steal Away," the material sat in the can until Concord took over the Stax catalogue and released the Live at the Summit Club CD.
The CD is a treat to listen to, as Taylor's at the peak of his powers and, although the band has a tough go of things, especially early in the set (on "Take Care of Your Homework" they blow the chord changes at the end of the first verse, and Taylor literally chastises the band at points throughout), they do get better as they go along, and Johnnie's strong stage presence overshadows their shortcomings. The Don Davis - Bettye Crutcher composition "Stop Doggin' Me" came later in the set, fortunately, so with the warmed-up band, the warmed-up audience, and Taylor bringing his "A" game, everything "clicks" and the result is fantastic. Taylor was always strongest with blues-styled material, and he really shines here.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Otis Redding - Scratch My Back
Although many people - present company included - often complain that modern R&B and hip-hop "sounds all the same," one thing that must be noted is that when an artist performs a tune, it is highly unlikely that it will be covered. I suppose part of the reason, especially in the case of hip-hop, is that the artists's style makes the song too intertwined with the performer to give another person a chance. This is not to say that classic R&B singers didn't make songs "their own," but the song itself had a bit more currency in those days (maybe it's a statement to the fact that the songs were better, or at least better-crafted?) Whatever the reason, many '60s R&B albums contained covers as a means for "filler" or as an attempt to ride the momentum of a hit.
Some singers were master interpreters of songs and could make any cover version "their own" with ease. Wilson Pickett comes to mind right away ("Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," "Funky Broadway," "Hey Jude," "Hey Joe," "You Keep Me Hanging On," "Sugar Sugar," etc.), but Otis Redding was also one who knew how to work someone else's song. Otis' 1966 LP The Soul Album found Redding doing quite a few covers, and his take on Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back," one of the more "filler"-oriented cuts on the album, shows the process by which Redding could rework a song. The jaunty groove of the original is replaced with a Memphis slow drag sound - Steve Cropper's tremoloed guitar work does, however, capture some of the "swamp" feel of the Harpo record - and Otis uses the spoken lyric as a springboard for lots of improvisation. The best part of the arrangement, however, is the horn chart, which takes the "chicken-scratching" guitar riff from the third verse of the Harpo hit and makes it central to the tune. By the end of the tune, Redding is scatting along with it, and it's clear by then that he has conquered yet another tune!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Hamilton Bohannon - South African Man
Over the weekend the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips pointed out in a phone conversation that my posting frequency has dropped quite a bit lately. I apologize, dear readers, for the dearth of music from your ever-lovin' Stepfather, but several pressures, both professional and personal, have left me somewhat lacking in finding the inspiration to do much writing. I'm going to try to do better, though, because the music certainly lifts my spirits, and it would be criminal not to share it!
Speaking of spirit lifting, today's selection, although not as obscure as many tunes featured here on the blog, is one of those proto-disco things that is so long on the groove that you can get caught up in a trance listening to it. Hamilton Bohannon's Dakar and Mercury recordings of the '70s were definitely aimed at the club dancefloor, which probably prevented him from having more success on the charts. From 1973's Stop and Go through to his full-on disco works, his focus was strictly on the groove, which was bass-heavy and often intricately-layered. The 1974 groover "South African Man" is a great example of Bohannon's style. The tune's two-bar riff quickly burrows into the listener's brain, and over the course of the tune's six minutes the listener is hypnotized by the groove and the spare, cool vocals by Bohannon and a femme chorus.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Jimmy Hughes - It Was Nice
This press release is certainly good news for soul fans! The FAME catalogue is finally going to get legitimate CD release, starting with Jimmy Hughes! Enjoy some scratchy FAME vinyl while you read this!
FAME RECORDS, HOME OF THE ORIGINAL MUSCLE SHOALS SOUND, TO RELAUNCH WITH HISTORIC REISSUES, NEW RELEASES AND NEVER BEFORE HEARD TRACKS FROM THE VAULT, VIA EMI DISTRIBUTION
FIRST RELEASE 'THE BEST OF JIMMY HUGHES' DUE OUT OCTOBER 28, INCLUDES MANY TRACKS AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Fame Records, the original home of The Muscle Shoals Sound, will release its first catalog collection in over thirty years this fall. The label, sister company to the world famous FAME Recording Studios founded by Rick Hall in 1959, plans to release historic reissues, new recordings, and never-before- heard tracks from its extensive archives, via a new arrangement with EMI Distribution Co. The first release from the reinvigorated FAME label 'The Best of Jimmy Hughes,' is an eighteen-track collection from the archetypal soul singer, coming out October 28, 2008.
Rodney Hall, vice-president of FAME Records and son of Rick Hall, said "It's been nearly fifty years since my father built FAME Studios, and the music made here is more influential now than ever. Our mission with FAME Records is to keep the legacy of this essential American music alive, and show the world that Muscle Shoals still thrives as a music mecca today."
'The Best of Jimmy Hughes' is a fitting inaugural release for FAME. Hughes' signature hit, 1964's "Steal Away," was the first song recorded at FAME'S hallowed Avalon Avenue studios location, and the first release on the original FAME label. And though he retired from recording in the mid- 70's, Hughes still lives near Muscle Shoals and sings in church most Sundays.
'The Best of Jimmy Hughes' features all seven of his charting singles, and sixteen of the eighteen tracks on the collection are being made available for the first time in the digital age. Extras include an essay by renowned record producer Rick Hall, and a roundtable discussion with Hughes and Hall, and several legendary Muscle Shoals musicians - Norbert Putnam, Spooner Oldham, Jerry Carrigan, Peanut Montgomery and David Briggs - which fans can access as a bonus MP3 when they purchase the album.
ABOUT FAME: Located at the crossroads of country, rock and soul, FAME was founded in 1959, in Florence, AL (FAME is an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) as a publishing company. In 1960, Rick Hall moved the facility across the Tennessee River, to Muscle Shoals, AL. Since then, FAME has earned worldwide renown as the birthplace of The Muscle Shoals Sound hosting such music titans as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard and many others. The studio remains a destination facility to this day, and last year Bettye Lavette and Heartland released Grammy-nominated albums recorded at FAME. Hall founded FAME Records in 1964 as an outgrowth of the studio and released music by soul legends Candi Staton, Dan Penn, Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, The FAME Gang and many others before mothballing the label in 1976. FAME Publishing has earned multiple Song of Year awards from The Grammys, ASCAP and others, and published songs recorded by country superstars such as Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride and Alabama. Songs recorded or published by FAME have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. FAME Recording Studios, FAME Records, FAME Publishing, House of Fame and Muscle Shoals Records are members of the Muscle Shoals Music Group.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Brook Benton - Makin' Love Is Good for You
A Friday foray into disco is in order today, so says your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, and today's selection, a 1978 Olde World release, finds Brook Benton crossing paths again with Tony Joe White, who had written Benton's 1970 smash "Rainy Night in Georgia." Despite a fine string of recordings for Cotillion, Stax, All Platinum and Olde World, Benton had not had a hit of that magnatude since, and unfortunately today's selection did not reverse that trend despite the strength of the song. "Makin' Love Is Good for You" finds Benton dispensing the title's advice while a nice groove pushes along and a backing ensemble provides fine support for his cool vocals. "Take care of your body," Brook sings, "make a little love today." Not bad advice at all!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Little Milton - Before the Honeymoon
So much for my January 2008 aspiration to do a "Soul-Blues Saturday" post on Little Milton, who has only appeared on this blog sporadically since a 2006 entry!
As I mentioned in the 2006 post, after Milton left Chess in 1971 he ventured down to Memphis and signed to Stax, where he was allowed to bring his guitar back into the spotlight (on his Checker sides, his guitar work became pretty infrequent once his growling voice took "We're Gonna Make It" to #1 in 1965) and where he settled into the mixed soul-blues bag that he kept throughout the remainder of his career. At Stax he hit right out of the gate with this hybrid style with "That's What Love Will Make You Do," which made it into the R&B Top 10 in 1971. (I really need to feature this tune on the blog soon; readers, if I don't feature it within a reasonable time, remind me!) Although the intense waltz-time blues "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" became his signature tune, Milton shone on 45 with slightly-funky 45s like "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and today's selection.
"Before the Honeymoon" was released in 1972 as the A-side of "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" (the Joe Cobb aircheck I provided a snippet of on Memorial Day included a portion of the tune) but was soon overshadowed its flip, which was featured in the concert film Wattstax and went on to become a blues classic despite the lack of commercial success for the 45. The groove of "Before the Honeymoon" alternates between funky blues and rambling soul as Milton, seeking to convince his woman to abandon her "wait until marriage" position, spins analogies of trying on clothes, test driving cars and the like in order to "sample [her] honey to make sure it's alright before the honeymoon."
Monday, September 08, 2008
(EDITOR'S NOTE - For copyright and licensing reasons I cannot post this show on the blog as a download or make it available via RSS feed or iTunes, so make sure to check it out before it vanishes in early October! I plan to roll out Episode #30 of "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!" within a week or two.)
Isaac Hayes - You Don't Know Like I Know
The recent passing of Isaac Hayes has been commemorated in many blogs, including this one, but another Hayes feature is never a bad thing, especially when it comes from Hayes' lesser-known album debut, Presenting Isaac Hayes, right?
Although Hayes had recorded as a solo vocalist at the dawn of his career (the 1962 Youngstown single "Laura, We're On Our Last Go-Round " b/w "Sweet Temptation," credited to "Sir Isaac & The Doo-Dads"), and had released an instrumental 45 on Stax under the same billing ("Blue Groove," which is one of the rarer "blue Stax" 45s, as Atlantic did not pick it up for national distribution), until 1968 Hayes was best known at Stax for his songwriting and production partnership with David Porter. Jim Stewart had declined to record Hayes as a singer (Rob Bowman notes in Soulsville, U.S.A. that Stewart thought Hayes' voice was "too pretty"), but Al Bell thought that Hayes had a certain "something" that was marketable, and he cajoled Hayes into getting in the studio to record a solo project. After a party in January 1968, a drunken Hayes, joined by M.G.'s members Duck Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. - who were also intoxicated - went into the studio and improvised an album's worth of material, both instrumental and vocal, in a piano jazz trio format. The LP, Presenting Isaac Hayes, was the first release on the newly-created Enterprise label, which had been created as a jazz label but would eventually serve as a vehicle for soul, rock and even country releases. Although the set was very strong, as is discussed below, neither the LP nor the single pulled from it fared well commercially. Stung by the failure of the album, Hayes did not record again until he cut Hot Buttered Soul, again at the behest of Al Bell (who was seeking to build an instant Stax LP catalogue in the wake of Atlantic's acquisition of all of the "blue Stax" masters upon the end of its distribution of the label), who gave Hayes full control over the project. (For its part, Atlantic re-released Presenting Isaac Hayes in 1972 as In the Beginning as an attempt to cash in on Hayes' later success.)
In my opinion, the commercial failure of Presenting Isaac Hayes probably lay with the fact that it was released near the end of the Atlantic-Stax distribution arrangement and the fact that Stax was not a "jazz" label (I can't help but think that this album would've fit in nicely with the Cadet jazz catalogue of that time). Hayes, Dunn and Jackson's improvisations are superb, and Hayes' soon-to-be-famous forward thinking toward song arrangements is evident in tunes like "Precious, Precious" (which was edited down to single length from a 19-minute take), the medleys "I Just Want to Make Love to You / Rock Me Baby" and "Going to Chicago Blues / Misty" and today's selection, a reworking of the Hayes-Porter hit on Sam & Dave, "You Don't Know Like I Know." The gospel urgency of the hit version of the song (Hayes based the song on the gospel song of the same name) is replaced with a relaxed swing, and the resulting eight-and-a-half minute piece, which features a great drum solo by Al Jackson, is a fine piece of soul jazz. Fortunately, the LP has been reissued on CD, and the reissue includes the full take of "Precious, Precious." I strongly recommend it for any fan of Isaac Hayes' work or for any soul or jazz fan.
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Red Kelly has added an epilogue to the Lattimore Brown story featuring Lattimore's Sound Stage Seven labelmate Sam Baker, who, like Lattimore, was also believed to have died some time ago but is in the land of the living. It's a great story; I've added a link to it in the "Rediscovery of Sir Lattimore Brown" section.)
Thursday, September 04, 2008
UPDATE (9/5/08) - Now on The B-Side Red Kelly presents the final part of the Lattimore Brown story and provides an update on Lattimore's situation, which has taken an encouraging turn.
Let us continue to pray for Lattimore.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
America Is My Home (Pt. 1)
If one were to say that James Brown was not patriotic, they would be drummed out of town, with JB's "Living in America" blasting as they went. Brown viewed himself as the ultimate American success story, and twenty years prior to "Living in America" he released "America Is My Home" as an assertion of American pride. This two-parter is a jazzy swinger in which James does a monologue about how great America is and about his own rise from nothing to success, while throwing in some shout-outs to Gene Allison and The Impressions and, in the second part, name-checking a string of states. Brown comes off in some spots as a hipster poet and in others as a rambling wreck, but the sentiment rings through.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Len Jewell - The Elevator Song
Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is back in Georgia after a trip to Chicago for a wedding. The drive back has left me pretty tired, but I just can't let a whole week pass with no posts!
I really don't know anything about Len Jewell and "The Elevator Song" except that it was a single on Pzazz in 1969. The tune is a fine piece of crossover soul, though, featuring Jerry Butler-tinged vocals from Jewell and a solid, sophisticated soul groove. I think the lyrics are outstanding.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Dave Hamilton - Late Freight
Today's selection is one of this blog's rare forays into soul jazz, and it fits nicely in the "Tuesday Is Blues Day" theme as well. I featured multi-instrumentalist/producer/record label owner Dave Hamilton in a week's worth of posts some time ago. Today I turn to his early work with Motown. Hamilton played guitar and vibes on quite a few early recordings for Berry Gordy before he stepped out on his own to run labels and provide occasional session work elsewhere. While with Motown, however, Hamilton was one of a handful of musicians who recorded for the short-lived Workshop Jazz label. Berry Gordy had set up the label to give his musicians, many of whom were serious jazz cats (in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Joe Hunter strongly emphasized that the Funk Brothers were playing jazz in clubs when they weren't down in the "Snake Pit"), incentive to work with him - sort of a "play some R&B for me, and I'll let you do what you really like" thing. Within a very short time, however, Gordy was able to shutter the label, so among the early Motown material the Workshop Jazz stuff is pretty rare. Interestingly enough, when the Four Tops first signed to Motown, they recorded a set for Workshop Jazz, which went unreleased until Hip-O Select put it out on CD a year or two ago!
"Late Freight" was part of Hamilton's Blue Vibrations LP, and the tune also garnered single release. After the band sets the "train" theme in the tune's aggressive intro, the groove settles into a blues shuffle and Hamilton, on vibes, does his thing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
John KaSandra - Down Home Ups (monologue) / Good Whiskey and Bad Women
John KaSandra, Stax Records' funky philosopher, was featured on this blog a couple of years ago for his black consciousness funky 45 "(What's Under) The Natural Do." Today's feature was the lead-off track to KaSandra's 1972 Respect LP The True Genius. "Down Home Ups" is a fun monologue about why KaSandra had to leave the farm. After explaining that it "wasn't the downs that made me leave, it was the ups," he explains the grueling life of having to get up, feed up, hitch up, giddyup, etc. All of this nonsense is rapped over a nicely-orchestrated piece of relaxed funk. As KaSandra segues into the song, the instrumentation gets even better, and a femme chorus gives him fine support. One cannot help but think that this is the type of tune that Joe Tex would've gone to town with (KaSandra channels Tex's country soul twang here and there in the song), with its character depictions and jovial tone!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Supremes - The Day Will Come Between Sunday and Monday
First of all, I must say that we're losing too many of our soul legends this year!
I unfortunately have to bring another, albeit belated, RIP note to this blog: Pervis Jackson, bass singer for the Spinners, died earlier this week. Jackson was with the group from its inception until ill health forced him to stop touring in June of this year. Unfortunately I don't have "Games People Play," the song for which Jackson is best known due to his solo parts, available here at work in order to feature it today, but I'm sure many of you have the song or have at least heard it. RIP "Mr. 12:45." Your sound will live on forever through those great Motown, VIP and Atlantic sides.
Now on to today's selection. Motown's practice of recording the same song on multiple artists usually had the beneficial side effect of providing lots of released versions (albeit sometimes only on LP) that allow the strength of the song itself to shine, as regardless of which version is played, the song's lyrics, melody or instrumentation will pop out at the listener. "The Day Will Come Between Sunday and Monday" was a 1970 single from British singer Kiki Dee's Tamla LP Great Expectations. Neither the single nor the album, produced by Frank Wilson, succeeded commercially, so Ms. Dee had to wait until her hit duet with Elton John, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," put her at the top of the charts in the U.S. However, the Jean Terrell-led Supremes recorded a version of the tune that languished in Motown's vaults until the CD era, and as I noted above, hearing multiple versions of the song shows how good it was despite its commercial failure. Jean, Mary and Cindy really sell the sharp lyrics of this Pam Sawyer-Joe Hinton song, which is strongly augmented by a very dramatic arrangement.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Carl Hall - You Don't Know Nothing About Love
Well, after writing yesterday's post about Carl Hall, I realized that I couldn't just go on with this blog unless I featured Hall's Loma classic "You Don't Know Nothing About Love." This slab of serious soul finds Hall pouring his all into the Jerry Ragovoy tune, and the combination of the backing track, with its alternating periods of calm and storm, and Hall's vocals - don't tell me that his shrieking at the end doesn't raise a hair or two - makes for a killer record. Howard Tate would cover the tune on his 1972 eponymous LP for Atlantic, but as awesome as that recording is, the intensity of Hall's record wins out every time.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Carl Hall - You're So Qualified
Rather than do a "Tuesday Is Blues Day" thing this week, I'll make one of my rarer forays into Northern Soul with this great thing by Carl Hall. Hall started out singing gospel with the Raymond Raspberry Singers and then branched out into secular work, both as a soul singer and as a theatrical performer (he was in the stage production of The Wiz). Although he only had a handful of singles, mostly on Capitol and Loma, they were of top-notch quality. Hall's raspy, high voice was emotion-filled, as demonstrated on the deep soul classic "You Don't Know Nothing About Love" and the funky "The Dam Busted" (both penned by Jerry Ragovoy, who also produced the tunes for Loma). Today's selection was a Mercury single that has proven quite popular among the Northern Soul crowd and fetches prices commensurate with its success. Over a brassy groove, Hall wails his baby's praises with ample support from the background chorus.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Cortez Greer - Testify
Back in 2006, I heaped praise on Rabbit Factory's excellent comp The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill, Vol. 1, and I'll defer to that post for some background info on Hemphill and about Rabbit Factory's John Ciba. Since that disc was released, Rabbit Factory's profile has grown in soul circles, in no small part due to the Rabbit Factory soul revues that have been put on in New York, in Chicago and at the Ponderosa Stomp, to name a few locales, in which Roscoe Robinson, Ralph "Soul" Jackson, Hermon Hitson, Wiley & The Checkmates and others sock soul power before appreciative audiences. Now the second volume of The Birmingham Sound is out, and I'm glad to say that I hold it in the same high esteem as the first. The CD carries over the '70s Southern soul vibe of the first, and the liner notes manage to provide more insight into Hemphill's life and work - dig a reminisce by Hemphill's daughter about her short foray as a recording artist - and profile the artists, some of whom also appeared on the first set. This CD is a "must-buy" for serious soul fans, and I encourage you to get it from Dusty Groove America or any other retailer of rare soul CDs.
Today's selection features the late Cortez Greer, who is described in the liner notes as a Delta baggage handler by day and as a knockout nightclub performer at night. Greer has an appealing gruff baritone, and it's put to good use on the rocking "Testify," which includes good background support by a femme chorus and a churchy coda.
POSTSCRIPT - Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is honored to have received an acknowledgment in the liner notes of this fine CD. Thanks to John and Rabbit Factory for putting out such great material!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Tommy Tate - Revelations
Tommy Tate is yet another one of those immensely-talented artists who was never able to catapault into the big time despite having immense talent and fine recordings for OKeh, Stax (as the lead singer of the post-Ollie Hoskins Nightingales) and for Ko Ko. His tenure for the latter label in the '70s resulted in a handful of singles, all of which, along with other tracks, have fortunately been anthologized, first by P-Vine and, most recently, by Kent.
"Revelations" finds Tate tackling environmental woes with that raspy voice of his over a stepping Southern soul groove that sounds a bit more like 1972 than its 1976 release year. "He's burning fumes from gasoline; he knows too much, you can't tell him anything," Tate laments about mankind. "Tell me why he can't tell me how high is the sky?" Powerful stuff.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wiley & The Checkmates - All-the-Way Wrong
Today's post features an act that appeared in my "Promo Day" podcast of a few months back. Wiley & The Checkmates and their label, Rabbit Factory, were profiled by my man Red Kelly over at The A-Side for Vinyl Record Day, and I'll defer to that feature for more about Herbert Wiley, The Checkmates and Rabbit Factory. (Editor's note - I will be featuring material from the new second volume of Rabbit Factory's "Birmingham Sound" series very soon; it's a great CD!)
"All-the-Way Wrong" is one of those songs whose atmosphere makes all the difference. The moody ballad features a very world-weary vocal by Wiley that seems to summon the spirit of Solomon Burke at times. Even in the most emotional passages of the song, Wiley keeps his vocals at a simmer, letting the horns do the shouting for him instead. It's a great deep soul mover. Trust me - it's all-the-way right!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Never Be True
Today is one of those days that just didn't start on the right foot: I didn't sleep well last night, I have a lot on my mind, and an accident on the highway forced me to sit in traffic for nearly ninety minutes on my way to work. One good thing came out of the latter, however, as it gave me an opportunity to listen to Live at the Bohemian Caverns by Carla Thomas, which was released for the first time by Concord/Stax last year, in its entirety, and listening to Carla Thomas is always a fine way to brighten up a day, right?
The Bohemian Caverns album was recorded on May 25, 1967, the second night of a five-night engagement Thomas had at the legendary Washington, D.C. jazz club. It was a particularly auspicious occasion, as Stax prexy Jim Stewart, Al Bell, Rufus Thomas (who performed a short set afterwards) and Carla's brother Marvell had come up from Memphis to show support (Otis Redding was also to attend, but he was delayed). Carla, backed by a fine ensemble featuring her Howard University classmate Donny Hathaway on piano, performed a great set of jazz, standards, her hits "Gee Whiz" and "B-A-B-Y" and the Donny Hathaway-Leroy Hutson composition "Never Be True." Although the concert recording was assigned a Stax album number, it ended up being shelved. Although the strength of the set leads one to wonder whose head was full of rocks to not release the album, the fact that the Otis and Carla LP King and Queen, featuring the smash hit "Tramp," was hitting the streets that year and that the Bohemian Caverns set was jazz-bent probably factored into the decision. It's fortunate for us soul fans that the album has seen the light of day now, because it would be criminal for it to have been lost to history!
The latter two tunes mentioned above are the focus of today's post. The passing of Isaac Hayes this weekend makes the inclusion of the Hayes-Porter tune "B-A-B-Y," a big hit for Carla in 1966, that much more significant. In keeping with the jazz leanings of the entire set, the band provides a Ramsey Lewis-esque groove to the tune, which Carla rides to glory, replete with some great ad libs later in the tune. Carla closed the set with "Never Be True," which she notes is a Hathaway composition, prophetically stating "I think we're going to hear a lot of things by this young man." Carla then proceeds to sing the mess out of the song, and I dare you to not be moved by her performance of it.
All I know is that maybe I should get stuck in traffic more often!
Monday, August 11, 2008
Last year I discussed how vinyl played a fundamental role in my evolution into the Stepfather of Soul. This year I've decided to dive into a particular segment of my collection that doesn't get coverage on the blog. The "party record" has a pretty long history, stretching well into the 78 RPM era, and such albums, which featured blue humor and often suggestive cover art, thrived well into the '70s and perhaps even the '80s. The party record was so named because it would often be played at adult social gatherings. Usually they were sold under the counter at record stores or by mail order. One of the best known and most notorious party record labels was Laff Records, who recorded everyone from Joe Ross from Car 54, Where Are You? to a young Richard Pryor to LaWanda Page ("Aunt Esther" from Sanford and Son) to Richard & Willie (a foul-mouthed take on the Willie Tyler & Lester ventriloquist act), but a great many others, mostly low-budget affairs, also recorded material. A Laff discography is available here (warning - this page includes nude cover art and is, accordingly, not suitable for viewing at work or by minors or those who would be offended). I think that changing mores by the '80s did in the party record, in part because the humor contained in those grooves just didn't seem so dirty in light of mainstream success by Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Andrey "Dice" Clay and others. Some of the jokes are downright tame to a 2008 listener.
I've decided to feature material from two party albums for my Vinyl Record Day feature. Although party records were not limited to black comics (one of the most famous party record artists was Rusty Warren, whose "bodacious broad" routines graced albums like Knockers Up!), in keeping with the blog's usual subject matter, two well-known and one lesser-known black comics' works are featured. I will reiterate my earlier warning, as some of this material is indeed not safe for work and not suitable for minors or those who don't appreciate blue humor.
The late comic and actor Nipsey Russell is probably better known today as "the poet laureate of television" due to his frequent game show and talk show appearances, on which he was regularly called upon to recite comic couplets - a well-known one was "the opposite of 'pro' is 'con' / this fact is plainly seen / if 'progress' means 'move forward' / then what does 'Congress' mean?" - and as the Tin Man in the film version of The Wiz than he was for his comedy, but Russell was an important figure in African-American comedy, as his more intellectual approach to his material - including sharp monologues about race - set the stage for comics like Dick Gregory and Bill Cosby. In the '50s and early '60s Russell cut several party records, mostly for the Humorsonic label, but as he became a TV fixture he dropped blue material from his act. I present here four selections from his The Birds and the Bees and All That Jazz album. "A Day at the Races" finds Russell joking about a bad time at the track (remarking about a slow horse he had bet upon, "you've heard of a photo finish? They could make an oil painting of that rascal") before settling into a re-telling of Redd Foxx's famous "The Race Track" routine. On "Radio Roundup" Russell drops lots of bad puns in a fake radio news report. "My Friend Luigi" allows Russell to do a little humor in an exaggerated Italian accent, and on "School Days" Nipsey dips into "little Johnny"-styled jokes. It's not clear from the album notes whether this album was recorded at a nightclub, and I sort of doubt it, because the audience laughs just a little too hard at some jokes, but it's a good album nonetheless.
Redd Foxx was a star long before "Sanford and Son" catapaulted him into "household name" status thanks to prolific album output on Dooto, Loma, Warner Brothers, King and Foxx's own MF stretching back to the 1956 Dooto LP Laff of the Party. Foxx was easily the "King of the Party Record," and his stuff is more widely available on CD than many of his contemporaries. At Home was recorded at Foxx's Los Angeles comedy club (it was in business from 1967 or so until 1971, when it burned down), and over the course of the album, Foxx tells lots of blue jokes, gets some jabs in at some audience members, and even makes reference to the fact there's a recording being made ("sit in the back - you gonna mess my record up with an 'ooooh'," Foxx says). You can check it out here in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2).
Happy Vinyl Record Day! Keep laffin'!