Tuesday, December 28, 2010
B.B. King - The B.B. Jones
First, some housekeeping: I can't believe that I was remiss in announcing on this blog that your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul and the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips have collaborated for the December edition of The Electro-Phonic Sound of Brian Phillips over at Rockin' Radio. Rush on over there and check out the show (via the "Now Playing" page), in which my Stepbrother of Soul and I lay down that good stuff, while it's still online!
Today I feature one of those records that doesn't even come close to representing the best side an artist has ever committed to wax, but for some reason it catches my interest anyway. "The B.B. Jones" was one of three songs B.B. King contributed to the soundtrack of the 1968 Sidney Poitier move For Love of Ivy, the other two being "You Put It on Me" and the instrumental "Messy But Good." The two vocal tracks were co-written by Quincy Jones, who produced all three tunes, and famous poet Maya Angelou, who also co-wrote "Get Myself Somebody," a groovy dancer that's a personal favorite of mine.
"The B.B. Jones" meets most of the criteria for being a good '60s soul "dance craze" record: it's got a good rhythm section working under the vocals; there's a femme chorus lending strong backup support; the lyrics talk up the new dance, both by declaring that "everybody's doin' it," regardless of whether the dance actually exists (and in this case, I strongly doubt it), and by name-checking at least one contemporary dance purportedly replaced by it (in this case, the African Twist); and said lyrics provide amazingly vague instructions as to how to do the dance ("you let your shoulders get loose like stockings on a line," King declares at one point). The record doesn't quite pull it off, though, for a few reasons: (1) King, who has stated in many interviews that dancing was something he was never good at, doesn't convincingly sell the song; (2) the verses and chorus alternate between 4/4 and a funky 3/4 meter, making the erstwhile dance record somewhat difficult to dance to; and (3) the song's repetitive chorus, based around the phrases "everybody's doin' it" and "the B.B. Jones," almost gives the impression that the record is skipping when combined with the aforementioned 3/4 meter.
Someone at ABC Records believed in the tune, however, or at least in the song's Quincy Jones-Maya Angelou pedigree, as it received two 45 pressings on the BluesWay label, both as the "A" side. Further, someone in radio believed in it as well, as it made #98 on Billboard's pop charts while missing the R&B charts altogether. (The second pressing flipped the song with "You Put It on Me," a blues more up King's alley, that made it to #25 and #82 on the R&B and pop charts, respectively.)
Having stated all of the minuses of the record, I have to admit I like it. I like the groove despite the awkwardness the shifting meter creates, probably because of the song's stripped-down arrangement, and even though B.B. doesn't effectively sell the song, he gives it enough "oomph" to make it interesting for a spin or two.
As I once noted on this blog when discussing Johnnie Taylor's "Don't You Fool With My Soul," oddball recordings like "The B.B. Jones" would probably be better received had someone else done them, but they at least give fans a chance to hear something different than the hits they all know and love.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Episode #38B of the "Get on Down" podcast is now online! This podcast features the usual wide range of material but also pauses to honor Albertina Walker and General Johnson, whose deaths bookended Solomon Burke's. May they rest in peace!
1. Albertina Walker & The Caravans - Certainly Lord
2. Junior Wells - It's All Soul
3. Chairmen of the Board - When Will She Tell Me She Needs Me
4. Tenison Stephens - Love Is Blind
5. James Brown - I'm Shook
6. James Brown - "Take Him to the Man" PSA
7. "Shaft" Radio Ad
8. Little Oscar - (Sing About It, Shout About) Justice
9. Chairmen of the Board - I Can't Find Myself
10. J.J. Barnes - Snow Flakes
11. Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds - Sun Won't Come Out
12. The Salem Travelers - Wade in the Water
13. Luther Ingram Radio Ad
14. Clydie King - Direct Me
15. Robert & Ron - I Ain't Finished Yet
16. Barbara & The Uniques - What's the Use
17. Solomon Burke - I'll Never Stop Loving You (Never Ever Song)
18. General Johnson - Only Time Will Tell
19. Bobby Byrd - "Fight Against Drug Abuse" PSA
20. Richard Barbary - Get Right
21. Simtec & Wylie - Can't Break Away
22. Chairmen of the Board - I'm on My Way to a Better Place
23. The Caravans - Amazing Grace
24. The Music Makers - Spring Fever (Pt. 1)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Episode #38A of the "Get on Down" podcast, a 90-minute special, features the diverse music of the "King of Rock 'n' Soul," Solomon Burke, who passed away on October 10, 2010 at age 70. May he rest in peace!
SEGMENT ONE - Get on Down with Solomon Burke! (Pt. 1)
1. Get Out of My Life, Woman
3. Soul Meeting (The Soul Clan)
4. It's Been a Change
SEGMENT TWO - Soul Alive!
a) Tonight's the Night
b) Beautiful Brown Eyes
c) It's Just a Matter of Time
d) The Women of Today (monologue)
e) Hold What You Got
f) He'll Have to Go
SEGMENT THREE - Get on Down with Solomon Burke! (Pt. 2)
6. Generation of Revelations
7. Ookie Bookie Man
8. Boo Hoo Hoo (Cra-Cra-Craya)
9. Cry to Me
SEGMENT FOUR - Solomon Country!
10. That's How I Got to Memphis
11. Sit This One Out
12. Can't Nobody Love You
13. Just Out of Reach
14. The Electronic Magnetism (That's Heavy Baby)
SEGMENT FIVE - Music to Make Love By
15. Let Me Wrap My Arms Around You
16. Over and Over (Kissing and Hugging)
17. You and Your Baby Blues
SEGMENT SIX - 21st Century Solomon!
19. Send for Me
20. Nothing's Impossible
21. Don't Give Up on Me
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Episode #38B, a "normal" episode of the podcast, will be posted later this week, if time permits.)
Monday, October 11, 2010
Harrison Kennedy - Closet Queen
In addition to today being Columbus Day, today is also National Coming Out Day, a day designed to promote equal treatment of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people by encouraging them and their straight allies to "come out" in favor of the cause. I stand today as an ally to the cause because in America in 2010 there's no reason to stand idly by while rampant discrimination exists on a daily basis.
Now, I'm sure some of you will say, "how can you do 'Sunday Gospel Time' posts on this blog but support gay rights?" My answer is simple: no matter what your religious beliefs are, it's impossible to condone the bullying of gay youth (even to the extent that these kids commit suicide), or to deny a gay person from making decisions regarding their partner's health care in a time of medical crisis, or to support the denial of marriage licenses to gay people when any fool can go to a courthouse or Las Vegas and get married, or even to have groups like the Westboro church showing up at military funerals to spout hatred while hiding behind their First Amendment rights. I believe that even if my religious heritage does not endorse homosexuality, I am certainly unqualified to judge others; Lord knows I've got my own problems!
Back in 2007 I featured Harrison Kennedy's "Closet Queen" on this blog, and today I'm going to "re-up" the song. To take such a pro-gay stance on a soul record in 1972 was pretty heavy, and it ensured that the song would remain strictly an album cut on Kennedy's Hypnotic Music LP. (In today's world of hip-hop braggadocio I'm sure such a message would still receive limited airplay.) The message of the song still rings true today, however, so I dedicate it to all who are participating in National Coming Out Day. Kennedy's question from the song still makes sense: "Is it the different ways we love that hurts? Or the different ways we hate?"
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The "King of Rock 'n' Soul," Solomon Burke, has passed away. Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is saddened to wake up to this news, as Burke is one of my favorite soul artists. From his country-soul early hits to his late-life successes with Don't Give Up on Me and following albums, his amazing talent, his wit and his larger-than-life story and storytelling will forever be remembered. The King is dead! Long live the King!
I plan to do some features on Burke and point out posts I'm sure will come from my fellow soul bloggers, and hopefully do a Burke tribute podcast soon.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Wilson Pickett - Only I Can Sing This Song
On Thursday I received an announcement on Facebook that the Auburn Avenue Research Library is hosting "25 at the Top," an exhibit about Wilson Pickett and his career that will run until mid-October. After making a few calendar adjustments, I made it to the Library for the exhibit's kickoff reception.
The exhibit has been put together by the Library in conjunction with the Pickett family. At the reception, after some soulful renditions of several Pickett songs by local entertainers, Max Pickett and his wife, Pickett's brother and sister-in-law, made a few remarks and took a few questions. (Several other Pickett family members were present, along with one of Pickett's long-time lady friends. In many ways, the event was truly a family affair!) After the Q&A session, the exhibit hall opened.
The exhibit features lots of great stuff, including the red velvet suit Pickett wore for the cover art of Mr. Magic Man, several gold records and BMI citations, tons of press clippings - both covering his successes, including one album review for Don't Knock My Love that asserts that James Brown should relinquish his "Soul Brother No. 1" title to Pickett, and his personal problems (the moderator of the earlier discussion cheekily said that some elements of Pickett's life were "T.I.-ish"), and some A/V materials. A popular exhibit was Pickett's Stutz sportscar which, although not the spectacle Isaac Hayes's Caddy at the Stax Museum was, quite a sight on its own.
I decided I needed to post "Only I Can Sing This Song" again (a rare "re-up") when I saw a framed lead sheet for it in the exhibit. Please see my original post about the song for that discussion.
I told Max Pickett that I wanted to publicize the exhibit on my blog, and he asked that I invite all of you, first to visit the official Wilson Pickett website, second to come to the Library to see the exhibit, and third, to come see "In the Midnight Hour: The Music of Wilson Pickett", a musical featuring Jennifer Holliday and Ann Nesby, which will be performed at the International Chapel at Morehouse College on October 9. I heartily recommend all of you who live in Atlanta or will be visiting to check out the exhibit and/or the musical!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves - Help Me
For at least six years now I've been following the career of Eli "Paperboy" Reed and his band, the True Loves, and I've featured several of their recordings here. Last week was the U.S. release of Come and Get It, the group's album for Capitol Records. The album was released in Europe on Parlaphone in the spring to great notices, and the group toured the continent, receiving lots of press attention and getting radio play as well. Having followed Eli since he was a student/church musician in Chicago, it's my hope that American audiences get exposed to his talent and that the album is a success. (It appears that things are on the upswing already: the album has made Billboard's Heatseekers chart and is among iTunes' Pop Album Chart Top 30; he's been featured on CNN, and the album's title track has managed to sneak into the Billboard Hot 100. I wish I could say the same about the R&B charts, but that's a discussion for another day.)
Come and Get It was produced by Mike Elizondo, and the production is top-notch. I have to laugh as I recall the lower-fi nature of his first recordings (and how he bragged about such "sound"); the tracks here are as bright and shiny as a new dime. Although there's been some grumbles among hidebound soul fans about the album being too slickly-produced, I'm fine with it: I mean, first of all, all of us who've known Eli know that he's the "real deal" when it comes to the sounds of soul we all love; secondly, a label like Capitol is not going to accept anything less; and lastly, I want him to reach as many people as possible, and not just those of us whose tastes venture into the esoteric!
Choosing which tune to feature was a bit challenging, as Eli and the band successfully capture several different styles of soul on the album: the title track is a piece of sunny pop-slanted soul with a slight reference to Bob Kuban's "The Cheater" at the end of the first chorus; "Time Will Tell" is a Southern soul ballad; "Young Girl" has a '60s Philly vibe to it, in my opinion; "Explosion" is a bombastic dancer; "Tell Me What I Wanna Hear" has a '60s Motown lope; and "You Can Run On" is another gospel adaptation along the lines of "Take My Love With You" from Roll With You, his last album. I decided to go with "Help Me," which has grown on me over repeated plays.
"Help Me," a nice mid-tempo tune with a Southern soul feel, finds Reed seeking his woman's assistance in keeping him on the straight and narrow of fidelity while out on the road. Over a nice guitar and bass heartbeat Reed makes his plea while a femme chorus and nice horn charts provide nice support. Reed's vocals stay at a relative simmer for the most part, letting the rhythm of the tune convey the song's urgency. When he finally opens up for the coda, the band settles into a nice strut that allows him to take it all home.
Come and Get It is a great album to introduce Reed to newcomers to his sound, and represents the logical "next step" in the progression for those of us who've been following him over the years. You need to have this album! (For you vinyl fans, there's an LP as well!)
POST SCRIPT - The True Loves are in top form on this album, both with respect to instrumental backing and background vocals (their harmonies on "You Can Run On" completely capture the flavor of those great gospel quartets, from bass to falsetto, while Reed seems to channel a Valentinos-era Bobby Womack). They also have a record out. Their single, "Crack Symphony" b/w "Plan B / D.T.M.W.I.S.," is available for listening and purchase from Q-Dee Records (on which Roll With You was released). Check it out!
Friday, August 13, 2010
Wilson Pickett - Love Will Keep Us Together
As I write this post I am saddened to realize that it's been nearly five years since Wilson Pickett ascended to "soul heaven." May he continue to rest in piece!
As I noted at the end of a series of tributes to Pickett I did back then, one of his strengths was that he could take just about any song and make it his own. Today's feature is another example. Although I must agree that Pickett's 1976 take on Neil Sedaka's "Love Will Keep Us Together" (a smash hit for The Captain & Tennille in '75) is not a highlight of his catalogue, I think that it has been unfairly dismissed by many, as is the case with most of his post-Atlantic recordings. The single was released on Wicked, a short-lived, T.K.-distributed label set up by the singer after he left RCA, and it managed to make it to #69 on the R&B charts. Pickett even performed the song on "Soul Train," so clearly it wasn't the disaster it is often described as in retrospectives of Pickett's career!
Here, Pickett and producer Brad Shapiro wisely avoided the cheerful bounce of the Captain & Tennille record, choosing instead to use a slower, Miami-flavored groove. With a little support from a femme chorus - whose vocals were less cloying than those on the hit - Pickett sells the song nicely. Again, I wouldn't call it a highlight of Pickett's career, nor would I call it a highlight of his '70s post-Atlantic recordings - his ballads on RCA like "Only I Can Sing This Song" or "I Sho' Love You" would vie for that title - but it's worth a listen.
(By the way, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul must disclaim that though terms like "cheerful bounce" and "cloying" were used in this post to differentiate Pickett's version of the song from that of The Captain and Tennille, whenever their version comes on oldies radio I love hearing it. It's a textbook example of the quirky nature of '70s pop.)
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Episode 37 of the "Get on Down" podcast is now coming your way with an assortment of soulful goodies! Here's the playlist:
1. Spencer Wiggins - Love Machine
2. Melvin Carter - One Too Many
3. Wilbur Bascomb & The Zodiac - Just a Groove in "G"
4. Bettye LaVette - Ticket to the Moon
5. Irene Scott - Everyday Worries
6. Carla Thomas - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
7. Brooks & Jerry - I Got What It Takes, Pts. 1 & 2 & 3 (If We Have Time)
8. Homer Banks - A Lot of Love
9. Sam Dees - Lonely for You Baby
10. Freddie & The Kinfolk - Mashed Potato Pop Corn
11. Ruby Andrews - You Made a Believer out of Me
12. Big Bill Collins - City BBQ Radio Ad
13. John KaSandra - Down Home Ups / Good Whiskey & Bad Women
14. Howard Tate - Girl from the North Country
15. Little Lois Barber - Thank You Baby
16. Lynn Williams - How Can You Call Love Fascination
17. Little Milton - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
18. Ike Lovely - Fool's Hall of Fame
19. The Superlatives - Don't Let True Love Die
20. The Notations - A New Day
21. Booker T. & The M.G's - Steve's Stroll
Friday, July 09, 2010
Jo Ann Garrett - I'm a Now Girl (Do It Now)
Sheryl Swope - Are You Gonna Do Right This Time
The Love Column Featuring John Sibley - You Made Me So Very Happy
It's no secret to any readers of this blog that your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is a serious fan of Chicago soul records. There were so many labels in the Windy City putting out fine soul sounds, and Duo, a lesser-known label run by Chicago record distributors Jack White and Seymour Greenspan, was no exception. Sixteen singles were released on Duo between 1967 and 1971, none of which attained significant national success despite the veritable "Who's Who" of Chicago and Detroit soul involved with most of the releases on the writing and producing end: Andre Williams, The Brothers of Soul (Bridges-Knight-Eaton), Mike Terry, Billy Butler, Leo Graham and Deke Atkins, to name a few, are named on many of the sides. (This sort of Chicago-Detroit hybridization was fairly common at the time; for example, Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" was recorded in Chicago with Carl Davis producing and the Funk Brothers playing!) Fortunately, several of the label's top-notch sides have been championed by rare soul and funk aficionados: "One Woman" by Jo Ann Garrett is a favorite of many, as is the funk monster "The Sad Chicken" by Leroy & The Drivers. Today's selections are a "trio of Duos" - a "triple-double," if you will - that I have been digging these days.
Jo Ann Garrett has appeared in three episodes of the Get on Down podcast - her Duo 45 "That Little Brown Letter" is part of Episode 36 - and her sides for Chess, Duo and other labels comprise a nice body of work that just didn't get the broader audience it deserved. Garrett worked frequently with Andre Williams, who produced and co-wrote the sassy and funky "I'm a Now Girl (Do It Now)" from 1968. Jo Ann's vocals are framed nicely by a strutting groove and some tasty guitar work.
Sheryl Swope crossed paths with B-K-E through a mutual acquaintance, and the Brothers of Soul's usual magic is present on "Are You Gonna Do Right This Time," which was released in 1969. Amidst another strutting groove and some very atmospheric background vocals, Swope expresses cautious optimism in taking back her man. "You were a wanderer, it's true, that's why I strayed away from you," she states. "But if I'll be a little kind, will you promise you'll be mine?" It's good stuff.
I don't know anything about The Love Column or the featured male vocalist, John Sibley, but the group's sole Duo 45 from 1970 was produced by Leo Graham, better known for producing Tyrone Davis's '70s hits, and Floyd Smith. The A-side, a Chicago soul take on the Brenda Holloway / Blood, Sweat & Tears classic "You Made Me So Very Happy" (which was also given a fine soul reading by Lou Rawls, incidentally) shows how the song can really work as a male-female duet, as Sibley and an uncredited female vocalist put over the right chemistry as they switch off lines. The arrangement plays it pretty safe for most of the song, adding some female cooing and (yes, I'm saying it again) some strut to the rhythm and string tracks, but then some chugging background vocals drop in with a neat "can't you love me just one more time" refrain near the end to make the end result pretty unique.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Bigg Robb - The Bigg Woman Song
Da Problem Solvas - Running Out of Lies Medley (some adult themes; listener discretion advised)
It's been quite awhile since any soul-blues has graced the blog, so today's feature is a soul-blues double play. Bigg Robb (born Ohio Robert Smith) has made quite a name for himself during this decade among the soul-blues crowd with his "grown folks music" CDs, but he has been involved with show biz since the age of 11(!), when he began broadcasting on Cincinnati's WAIF as the "Sugar Daddy from Cincinnati." After his preteen and teenage radio years, he hooked up with Roger Troutman and toured with Zapp before making his own music, both as a solo act and as part of a trio named Da Problem Solvas.
Robb's music is marketed as "Southern soul," a term which makes old-school soul fans like me somewhat uneasy, being that that term is generally used by our ilk to mean Otis Redding, James Carr, Candi Staton, etc. to the exclusion of the synth-heavy moden soul-blues sound. The reality of the issue is, however, that his soul-blues sound is mostly popular with Southern black folks, and his songs have particular appeal to the ladies in that audience, who seem to appreciate his pro-woman lyrics. Marketing labels aside, however, he does have some appealing tracks, like the two featured today.
"The Bigg Woman Song" is Robb's paean to the full-figured woman, and though it's synth-heavy arrangement is probably not for everyone's tastes, in my opinion, it's just a nice slab of fun. The tune starts off with some deejay patter praising big women, after which a swaggering Zapp-flavored groove kicks in and Robb takes his time encouraging said women to be proud of who they are and explaining what he likes about them.
"Running Out of Lies" immediately captured my attention, as it totally appropriates the sensuous, almost-sinister groove of the Johnnie Taylor classic. To refer to the song as a "medley" is inaccurate, as Da Problem Solvas discard the original lyrics and instead issue a warning to the male listeners that "ladies are getting tired" of being mistreated and neglected. It's clearly the stronger of the two tracks here today, but listener discretion is advised: this is truly "grown folks music," with some frank discussion of where men are going wrong and how to correct the problem!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Bettye LaVette - Hey Love
Bettye LaVette's newest album is entitled Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook and, in keeping with Bettye's track record over the last few years, the soul veteran continues to make converts out of her listeners. It is insufficient to say that Bettye covers songs; her very personal style turns others' songs into her own (Ray Charles' similar skill comes to mind right away). Her version of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" from her "comeback" album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, her duet with John Bon Jovi at the Obama pre-inaugural concert on Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and her thrilling version of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" from the new project exemplify LaVette's skill.
Take note, though, that Bettye's been showing off her ability to masterfully interpret songs for many years. Although Bettye's take on the Kenny Rogers classic "What Condition My Condition Was In" is often presented as one of her classic '60s covers by rare soul fans, I am very partial to her version of Stevie Wonder's "Hey Love." I consider "Hey Love" to be one of my favorite '60s sides of Stevie's, in part because to my ears the song sounds more like a Chicago soul floater than a Motown record. Ollie McLaughlin produced the LaVette record and released it on Karen in 1969. The "blue light" groove of the original is augmented by a nice strutting groove over which LaVette's intense vocals really shine.
Friday, June 18, 2010
The Esquires - Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Baba-Daba-Dop)
I had intended to include today's selection in Episode 35 and then in Episode 36 of the podcast, but in the former case the playlist veered from a good fit, and I simply forgot about it last weekend. I heard the song in my car yesterday, however, and I knew that it had to grace the blog today!
The Esquires, a Chicago soul group based in Milwaukee, hooked up with Bill "Bunky" Sheppard in the mid-'60s and found themselves enjoying a smash hit with "Get on Up." The group stayed with Sheppard for the rest of the '60s and into the '70s, picking up hits along the way but never reaching those lofty heights again. That, as always, is not to say that they didn't make good records, as evidenced here. "Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Baba-Daba-Dop)" was the flip to their early-'70s hit "Girls in the City," and although I find "Girls" to be a beautiful piece of laid-back Chicago soul, the bright, cheerful groove and vocals captured here really are the bee's knees for me. It hit the spot for Lauryn Hill, too, as she interpolated some of the song in her '90s smash "Doo Wop (That Thing)."
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The new podcast is now online and available at iTunes! Here's the playlist:
1. Jesse James - Don't Nobody Want to Get Married (Pt. 1)
2. Jimmy "Bo" Horne - Hey There Jim
3. The Isley Brothers - Cold Bologna
4. Stacy Lane - No Ending
5. Bethea the Maskman & The Agents - Get Away Dreams
6. Rufus Thomas - "Pink Pussycat Wine" Radio Ad
7. Susan King - I Got a Good Thing
8. The Festivals - Checkin' Out
9. Tony Clarke - (No Conception) No Sense of Direction
10. The Profiles - You Don't Care About Me
11. Martha & The Vandellas - Bless You
12. Sly & The Family Stone - Advice
13. John R - "Soul Medallion" Radio Ad
14. Jimmy "Soul" Clark - If I Only Knew Then (What I Know Now)
15. Jo Ann Garrett - That Little Brown Letter
16. King Hannibal - Good Times
17. Marva Whitney - This Girl's in Love with You
18. Gloria Barnes - I'll Call You Back Later
19. Kool Cigarettes Radio Ad
20. George & Teddy - It's a Heartache
21. Barbara Randolph - Can I Get a Witness
22. Emanuel Laskey - Never My Love
23. Bobbe Norris - Thank You Love
24. Little Milton - More and More
25. The Jazz Crusaders - Way Back Home
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Leela James - Let It Roll
When the Concord Group bought Fantasy Records and the panoply of label catalogues it owned, Concord announced plans to revive the Stax label. On the Internet, various soul fans worried about possible damage to the Stax legacy, particularly should the "new" Stax feature music not aligned with the label's legend. (Previously, a rumor that Justin Timberlake planned to revive Stax had set off a similar spate of handwringing.) Honestlly, I dismissed such fears. Motown has kept an active artist roster from its founding to the present day, and although some of its artists veer far from the legendary '60s and '70s classics, its "aura" has not been diminished. Why should Stax, whose history did not reach the ascendant heights of Motown's, be locked into a 1959-1975 timeline (conveniently omitting Fantasy's revival of the label for a couple of years in the late '70s and an attempt to revive Volt in the '90s) when its legendary recordings have stood the test of time and continue to do so?
As a fan of neo-soul, I have been pleased with the direction Concord has taken with the revived Stax label, mixing new releases by both newcomers/non-Stax artists and Stax veterans with repackaged reissues and first-time issues of vintage material, such as the Live at the Bohemian Caverns and Live at the Summit Club sets on Carla Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, respectively, and I am extra happy to see that two projects from the label featuring new material have done particularly well. Angie Stone's Art of Love and War did well, with the single "Baby" giving Stax it's first Billboard chart hit since the late '70s. Now Leela James, neo-soul songstress (some of you may remember her excellent version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" from a few years back) and BET's My Black Is Beautiful co-host, has come out with My Soul, whose lead-off single, "Tell Me You Love Me," has helped the album make it into the top ten of Billboard's R&B Album Chart and into the top thirty of the Top 200 Album Chart. Stax is back on the scene!
The good folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy of the album, and I must say that though several of the tracks on My Soul won't meet with approval from the Stax purists, there are several tunes that make James' statement in the liner notes that it's appropriate to have a home at a "real soul" label like Stax quite valid. "Let It Roll" is one of the more retro-sounding tracks, full of swagger and energy. I would recommend the CD heartily to readers of this blog who do have a thing for neo-soul, because James is in great form throughout.
Friday, June 11, 2010
The "Soul on the Air" feature returns to "Get on Down ..." with Hoyt Locke aka Dr. Bop from WAWA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I don't know much about Dr. Bop except that he was a popular R&B jock who passed away in 1976. The good Doctor is in good form in this 30-minute aircheck from November 1973. After a boisterous series of boasts made while Jr. Walker's "Way Back Home" plays in the background, he lays down some solid soul sounds, including James Brown's "Stone to the Bone," two of Al Green's hits, "Show and Tell" by Al Wilson, and the Patterson Twins' exquisite "Back in Love Again." WAWA's AM frequency signed off at sundown, and at the end of the aircheck, we're told to switch over to the FM band to keep on jamming. Oh, if I only could! This is a fun aircheck that's just too short!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Soul Brothers Six - Don't Neglect Your Baby
Willie John Ellison and his group, the Soul Brothers Six, have graced this blog and the podcast previously, so I'll simply present today's selection, one of the group's first singles. "Don't Neglect Your Baby," a 1966 Lyndell 45, finds Ellison spending over half of the song's length preaching about how men need to get out of the street and take care of their homework over a slow, churchy groove and the groups' moaning background vocals. After explaining how such behavior results in good women going bad, he exhorts, "You'd better wake up before it's too late! Don't be like me! See, I overslept, so I ain't got nobody." After the message is thusly delivered, Ellison launches into song to carry the record home.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Ramsey Lewis Trio - Hello, Cello!
Please indulge your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul today to lay a little jazz on you here at "Get on Down ," because I've been looking for this tune for the longest time and am delighted to finally have it!
Ramsey Lewis, Eldee Young, and Redd Holt are no strangers to soul fans thanks to their awesome '60s and '70s soul jazz recordings as the Ramsey Lewis Trio, the Young-Holt Trio, Young-Holt Unlimited, etc., etc. But before there was "The In Crowd," "Wade in the Water, "Wack Wack," "Soulful Strut" and other fine sides, the Messrs. Lewis, Young and Holt were laying down very nice straight-ahead jazz on the Argo (later Cadet) label.
Today's selection was a 1961 Argo single that was also part of the LP More Music from the Soil, from which I heard the tune. (Thanks to the Adair County Public Library, from whom I learned a lot about jazz, thanks to their possession of records like this and the series of jazz anthologies from New World Records that Gunther Schuller worked on.) "Hello, Cello!" is a swinging little thing on which Eldee Young trades his bass for a cello and steps to the front to pluck out a cheerful melody and to work it out over some breaks.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
After waaaaaaay too long an absence, Episode #35 of the "Get on Down ..." podcast is now online and available on iTunes! The playlist, for the most part, is '70s-slanted and is bookended with some disco sounds, but it's got a lot of groove going on! Enjoy!
1. Spanky Wilson - Non-Stop Flight
2. Joe Tex - Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk
3. The Crowns - Jerking the Dog
4. Mack Rice - Coal Man
5. Little Rose Little - Tennessee Waltz
6. "Three Tough Guys" Radio Ad
7. The Whispers - Cracker Jack
8. Jack & The Mods - It's Your Thing
9. Samson & Delilah - Will You Be Ready?
10. Big Maybelle - It's Been Raining
11. Maxine Brown - In My Entire Life
12. Sidney Barnes - Ember Furniture Song
13. Deniece Chandler & Lee Sain - Hey Baby
14. Maurice & Mac - Use That Good Thing
15. Clay Tyson - Moon Man
16. Johnnie Taylor - Love Depression
17. Robert Kelly - My Time To Win
18. Detroit Emeralds Radio Ad
19. Jackie Ross - Don't Change Your Mind
20. Jimmy Ruffin - Tell Me What You Want
21. Eddie Kendricks - He's a Friend
22. Betty Everett - Hey Lucinda
23. Isaac Hayes - Shaft's Cab Ride
Friday, April 23, 2010
The Forevers - What Goes Around (Comes Around)
I don't know about you this Friday morning, but your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is standing in the need of some serious "get on down" music today to make it through!
The Forevers' "Soul Town," a 45 on the Chicago-based, Stax-distributed Weis label, is a rare funk favorite, and for good reason. In my opinion, however, the record's B-side, featured today, is the superior side. "What Goes Around" is an uptempo groover with serious gusto. From the confident lead vocals to the background singers to the nice horn work and vibe accents, the tune has a crackling energy that makes me sit up, pay attention and then play it again and again.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Jr. Walker - I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)
Jr. Walker entered the '70s at the top of his game with hits like "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," but as the decade rolled along, Jr.'s hits began to dry up despite his adapting to changing sounds and making great records. Motown did not lose faith in the sax master, though, releasing records on him until he moved on to Norman Whitfield's eponymous label at the end of decade. Today's selection was a cut from his last LP for Motown's Soul subsidiary, Whopper Bopper Show Stopper from 1978.
The Temptations topped the R&B charts in 1968 with "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)," the last hit by the group to feature David Ruffin's lead. Walker's version opens with a churchy opening but then dispenses with the galloping groove of the Temps' record in favor of a fast funky beat over which Walker shouts the lyrics and works it out with his sax while a chorus lends support. Get on down, Jr.!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Rufus Thomas - Fine and Mellow
It's been quite a spell since the last "Tuesday Is Blues Day" feature, so today some Rufus Thomas, who is definitely no stranger to this blog, is in order. Quite a few of Rufus' "Blue Stax" 45s allowed Rufus to stretch out with some blues, and "Fine and Mellow" was one of the B-sides to his 1963 smash "Walking the Dog" (most copies of the 45 have "You Said" as the flip). For the most part, Thomas keeps his singing on the mellow side (as would be expected from the title), and the Stax regulars provide fine accompaniment, especially Steve Cropper with his guitar responses.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Jimmy Hughes - You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy (You Really Know How to Make Him Cry)
It's been over a year now since material from the FAME Records catalog has finally seen official CD reissue, and although at this time the CD output has been centered on Jimmy Hughes, with the US "Best Of" collection and Kent's coverage of Hughes' entire FAME output, that's not a bad place to start, to say the least! I am excited to see what else will follow! (I am aware that a Dan Penn project is in the making, but I'm pining for a great various artists comp or even a box set.)
Today's selection is one of my favorite Jimmy Hughes FAME sides. The Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham penned "You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy" is a nice mid-tempo piece with great atmosphere and strong vocals by Hughes which capture the longing yet suffering the song's subject brings about. "It don't bother you in the least," Hughes muses, "that you're breaking me up piece by piece." I've been a fan of this tune since I first heard it on a Yoni Neeman "Soul of the Net" show (I can't call it a "podcast," as such a term didn't exist then) back in the '90s, and I'm glad to present the song in cleaner form than the fairly scratchy FAME 45 from my collection.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Maskman & The Agents - Put on Your Shoes and Walk
During the unfortuante period in which this blog was inactive, R&B's "Maskman," Harmon Bethea, passed away at the age of 86. Bethea was no stranger to this blog, and various recordings of his under his name or "Maskman & The Agents" appeared in features or in podcasts. Bethea's '60s and '70s soul and funk records generally took on a humorous slant, as best demonstrated by his hit "One Eye Open" and a slew of follow-ups, but he could also deliver the goods on more serious material.
Today's selection is an example of a non-comic side. "Put on Your Shoes and Walk," as recorded by Clarence Carter in 1973, was featured in the earliest days of this blog, but I have since learned that Maskman & The Agents recorded the song in 1970. Although the stepping groove of the Carter record makes it a slight favorite of mine between the two, I do think that Maskman and company handle the song's lyrics better, and the tune's funky groove is appealing.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Joe Simon - Music in My Bones
It's not uncommon for an artist to follow a big hit with a soundalike. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but when the artist brings a certain artistry to the follow-up or something about it "just clicks," the former is more likely to occur.
Joe Simon earned his third Billboard R&B #1 in 1975 with the disco-tinged "Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor)," and today's selection was the follow-up. To be honest, it sounds like "Music in My Bones" is really just extra material from the "Get Down" master tape (a la "My Part - Make It Funky, Pts. 3 and 4" by James Brown), as the groove is virtually the same, Joe seems to be carrying on the ad-libbing he was doing at the end of "Get Down," and the backing vocalist's use of a "music in my bones and I can't sit down" refrain provides the only substantive variation. To my ears, however, the tune still works, because the groove was so good and Joe's really getting into the "let's have a ball" flavor of the lyrics. Joe's fans agreed, and the song made it to #9 on the R&B chart.
I've read the In the Basement feature from 2008 on Bishop Simon, who left R&B behind for the ministry in the 1980s, and he mentions several times that at the time he was recording his hits he actually hated R&B. Although I respect his stated views and would by no means say that he is being insincere, the fun sound of "Music in My Bones" seems to belie such a sentiment!
Friday, April 09, 2010
Howlin' Wolf - She's Looking Good
TGIF, so says your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, and I am glad to bring another groove your way to take into the weekend!
Chess Records' attempts to "modernize" the sounds of (and increase record sales on) Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters have been discussed on this blog previously, and today's selection comes from the second "modern" Howlin' Wolf album Message to the Young. Alongside the interesting but somewhat corny title track, in which Wolf encourages the love crowd to be themselves ("if you wanna wear your hair long, wear your hair long ... you girls, if you wanna wear your dresses short ... I'll appeciate it if don't nobody else will") but also to "love your mother and father," acid rock-tinged stuff like "Miss Jane" and funky tracks like "I Smell a Rat" is Wolf's cover of Rodger Collins' "She's Looking Good." With assistance from the hot track laid down by the Chess house band, especially Gene Barge's horn charts, Wolf actually pulls off a great reading of the song and even manages to get some of his trademark howlin' in there.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Mel & Tim - Good Guys Only Win in the Movies
The Chicago- and Southern-soul duo Mel & Tim have been featured on the blog before, so I'll dispense with biographical details. Today's selection was a Bamboo 45 by the duo and also the title track of their sole Bamboo LP. "Good Guys Only Win in the Movies" opens with the archetypal, laconic guitar riff from western movies and some horse sound effects but then slides into a nice Chicago soul groove, over which the two really deliver the song's sad-sack story. About mid-song, the "cowboy" riff comes back, but this time as the basis for a great breakdown. Get on down with this one!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Ella Washington - You're Gonna Cry, Cry, Cry
Ella Washington's tenure with Monument's Sound Stage Seven label only resulted in one chart hit, "He Called Me Baby," which would go on to become a Southern soul standard covered by Candi Staton and others. I've always been partial to her up-tempo stuff, though, and today's selection, the flip of "He Called Me Baby," is only second to "Sweeter and Sweeter (Ray, Ray, Ray)" as my favorite of her SS7 sides. Here, Washington spins her revenge story over a nice strutting groove with lots of good horn work to push her vocals, which to me are redolent of Bettye Swann in places, along.
The Stepfather is back in stride!
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Today's post features the notorious Jackie Shane, who has featured in a prior post. Since I wrote that post over two years ago, a CBC radio documentary, I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane, has given Shane's story the treatment it has long deserved. Since the program aired, soul fans have been digging, and rumors that Shane was murdered years ago have now been debunked, as it has been revealed that Shane is alive and well and living in Nashville, Tennessee, his hometown.
Fortunately for those of us who did not have the chance to see Shane do his thing, there are two resources available. In 1965 or '66 Jackie appeared on the seminal Nashville TV show Night Train (a YouTube video of the appearance is in the prior blog post), video from which is believed to be the only film footage of him. For a better record, though, there's the LP Jackie Shane Live, which presents a Toronto nightclub show in which Jackie performs his 1963 hit "Any Other Way" and covers of soul hits of the day. Jackie's colorful stage performance style is showcased throughout the album, particularly in extended monologues in "Money (That's What I Want)" and others, in which he presents himself as being proud of who he is - quite a statement to make at that time - because, as he put it, "I got mine."
His take on James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" from the album, like his version of "Walking the Dog" on the Night Train clip, has a touch of sass but nothing short of a metric ton of soul. His version joins Otis Redding's in my list of the best James Brown covers ever made. Get on down, Jackie!
Monday, April 05, 2010
Joe Tex - Get It
Lately your ever-lovin' Stepfather has been on a serious Joe Tex kick, listening to everything from his '50s sides through his disco-era stuff. Of course, I've been a Joe Tex fan for years and he is no stranger to this blog, but sometimes it's good to go back to the old favorites, you know?
Today's selection comes from Joe's Epic LP Rub Down, which has accurately been described by some music critics as seeming to consist of leftover material from the Bumps and Bruises sessions from which "Ain't Gonna Bump No More With No Big Fat Woman" emerged as a hit (the title track, for instance, borrows the structure of "Bump"). As I noted in an earlier post featuring "Leaving You Dinner" from Bumps and Bruises, Tex didn't just do the disco thang on the two LPs, though, and "Get It," an album cut from Rub Down, provides an example of a nice Southern-tinged groove that's good for a "get down" or two.