Friday, March 31, 2006

The Funk Brothers!

Earl Van Dyke & The Funk Brothers - The Flick (Pts. 1 & 2)

The excellent 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown finally brought the Funk Brothers, Motown's legendary but unacknowledged house band, to the consciousness of the mainstream, and the reconstituted group made lots of appearances and won some Grammys as a result of the exposure. (I will defer to the History of Rock & Roll website article on the group for pictures and more information.) The Funk Brothers' groove was as identifiable to Motown songs as the southern soul of Booker T. & The M.G.'s on Stax recordings. Although both groups have legitimate gripes about not being completely taken seriously as a recording act by their respective record companies, Stax was much fairer in terms of allowing their house band to be an act of its own (it probably didn't hurt anything that one of Stax's earliest smashes was "Green Onions"). Berry Gordy, violently protective of the Motown sound and of his musicians, kept the Funk Brothers uncredited and, save for a few great 45s, kept them out of the studio as independent recording artists. One of those 45s, "The Flick," was released on Motown's Soul imprint in 1965 and features keyboardist Earl Van Dyke working it out over a nice, typical Motown groove and it really cooks. Also to be noted is James Jamerson's bass solo later in the track.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Soul Brother Number One-and-a-Half

Bobby Byrd - Hot Pants - I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming

Bobby Byrd, like Scottie Pippen, was one of those right-hand men whose glory, although greater than that of many second bananas, was immensely overshadowed by the talent of the people they were associated with. It was Bobby Byrd that befriended the then-Toccoa inmate James Brown in the early-50s. It was Byrd who brought James into his group, the Avons. It was the newly-christened Famous Flames who backed up James' pleading on "Please Please Please" and provided background singing and dancing to the James Brown Revue. And it was Byrd whose call-and-response with JB was featured on hits such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" and "Get Up, Get Into It, and Get Involved." Fortunately, Byrd got to shine as an opening act in the James Brown Revue and on a lot of great recordings bearing the "James Brown Productions" imprimatur for Smash, King and Brownstone from the early sixties through to the mid-seventies. Byrd's biggest hits didn't depart much from JB's funk formula, but Bobby's husky and soulful voice brought something to the recordings that made them stand on their own, and hits such as "I Know You Got Soul," "I Need Help (I Can't Do It Alone)" and today's selection cemented Byrd as a funk force to be reckoned with. (A further note: Byrd's JB connection was further enlarged by the fact that Byrd married the James Brown Revue femme vocalist Vicki Anderson, who name-checked Byrd in "I'm Too Tough (For Mr. Big Stuff)" - "they say Bobby Byrd's got the word.")

Despite its awful title, "Hot Pants - I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming" is a solid slab of funky get-down, featuring a very aggressive groove, great horn charts and Byrd's relentless enthusiasm in his bellowed vocals. "I can't knock it / 'cause I need to rock it," Byrd shouts, and rock it he does!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More Funky Cosby!

Bill Cosby - Hold On I'm A-Comin'

I'll refer you to my earlier post about the funky sides of Bill Cosby for more info about the Cos' musical endeavors of the '60s and '70s. Today's selection also came from the album Hooray for the Salvation Army Band! This slightly-retitled take on the Sam & Dave hit replaces the Stax backbeat with a harder, faster beat and new comic lyrics by the Cos.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chick-a Chick-a Chick-a Chick-a Chick-a Chick-a Chick Chick!

Rufus Thomas - Chicken Scratch

No one could do a novelty soul/funk record like Rufus Thomas. Be it popularizing some kind of dance or rapping nursery rhymes, Thomas's goofy Stax sides always brought on the fun. "Chicken Scratch," the flip to Thomas' first Stax version of "The World Is Round," finds Thomas in the barnyard doing nursery rhymes while the background singers sing the subject line of this post as a refrain. The tune is hot, though, thanks to an effective use of a "Bo Diddley" beat by Booker T. & the M.G.'s and the Mar-Keys.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Get on Down With Albert Collins!

Albert Collins - Do the Sissy

The late blues legend Albert Collins was known as "The Iceman," and for good reason: besides Collins' penchant for titles referring to coldness and ice ("Frosty," "Sno-Cone," etc.), his guitar work was sharp and stinging, jabbing at the listener and withdrawing into bass notes. Although Collins didn't really make his mark until hooking up with Alligator in the late '70s, Collins' '50s and '60s sides for Hall, Imperial and other labels present some awesome blues, soul and funk. I'll defer to Larry Grogan's excellent article on Collins to cover them in more detail. Today's selection is a burbling, syncopated funky 45 that is one of my favorite Collins sides from that era. "Do the Sissy" starts with a bullfighter's fanfare but immediately settles down into a very stripped-down groove over which Collins, like a prize fighter, bobs, weaves and jabs his guitar lines, punctuated by his occasional shouts of "Do the Sissy!" or just "Sissy!" Hot stuff, I tell you.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Get on Down With Gloria Spencer!

Gloria Spencer - I Got It

Gospel singer Gloria Spencer was billed (and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records) as "The World's Heaviest Gospel Singer," weighing in at 615 pounds. Although Spencer herself didn't seem to be too upset at such sideshow billing (her infamous recording of "I'll Fly Away" begins with a macabre monologue about Spencer's larger (628 lbs.) sister's funeral - how she had to be the pattern model for her sister's burial shroud and details regarding the size of the casket, the need for a truck to haul the body, etc.), seeing album covers trumpeting her size are somewhat disturbing in today's more politically-correct climate. Fortunately, Spencer's music is very good despite the carnival surroundings. The early disco groove of "I Got It" made the song popular in the early disco clubs and makes the song a cinch to appear here. Get on down with the gospel!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Both Sides of Joe Tex

Joe Tex:

You Said a Bad Word b/w It Ain't Gonna Work Baby

Soul master Joe Tex had a knack for being goofier than many of his contemporaries (many of his song titles sound like joke punchlines: "Skinny Legs and All," "Take the Fifth Amendment," "That's Your Baby," "Bad Feet," "I Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)," etc.), but he also could preach some serious gospel about life and love, often featuring his little "raps" directed at both men and women about how they should treat one another. Sometimes on a Joe Tex 45 you'd get some of each approach.

Today's selection came from a Dial 45 pulled from Tex's 1972 I Gotcha album. "You Said a Bad Word" clearly is an attempt to revisit Joe's smash hit "I Gotcha." Joe's the giggling menace here, trying to blackmail his little girlie into some action after catching her speaking French. Although it's clearly derivative, the tune has a nice groove, great horn charts, and somewhat more fluid and danceable groove than "I Gotcha." The flip is a killer. "It Ain't Gonna Work Baby" finds Joe discussing the end of a marriage, agreeing to part ways despite his own misgivings. His rap takes up about 2/3 of the recording but then the one and only chorus is fantastic. It's almost a shame that he didn't break up the rap and use the chorus at least once more, because it's some of the best deep soul that 1972 had to offer.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's a Mystery!

Mystery Tune - Does anyone have any ideas re: title and/or artist?

Jimmy Armstrong - Mystery

I started collecting tapes of old R&B airchecks (recordings of radio broadcasts with DJ patter, commercials, etc.) about six years ago and they are a lot of fun to listen to. Not only are they awesome because of the awesome DJ patter (running before, during and in between songs) and vintage commercials, but for the music. R&B was very regional in scope, and a great many songs were popular in certain cities (particularly where they were recorded) but didn't make major waves on a national level. These airchecks invariably put me on the hunt for a song that's played that I hadn't heard of before. Generally I succeed in finding the song, but there's one that has eluded me. Maybe you can help.

The "mystery tune" presented here came from an aircheck of Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson on Baltimore's WSID. It's an up-tempo, doo wop-turning-into-soul thing with a very strong gospel sound. There are portions of the song where Fat Daddy says something but he's low in the mix and talking very quickly, so I don't know if he's naming the artist and/or the song or just reacting to the music (as most DJs of that era did). It sounds like the background singers are saying "welcome me," but at times it also sounds like they're saying "run to me" or "work for me." I've tried searching all over the place for songs called "Welcome Me" but have found nothing. I originally thought it might be Bunker Hill singing, but research on his recordings has negated that theory. I have the feeling, however, that some of you soul fans that check out this blog just might have some ideas; I invite you to give me any info or even theories you may have about this song. I will certainly give the person who cracks the code a shout-out here on the blog and will recognize him or her on the next episode of the podcast. I really really really want to find out about this record so I can try to get it! Thanks in advance for your help.

WLAC's famous disc jockey John R once said "the only thing wrong with that record is it's too short" (yes, I cribbed that line for Episode 4 of the podcast, applying it to Hoagy Lands' "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand"). Today's second selection, keeping with the "mystery tune" theme, falls within that category. "Mystery" clocks in at just under 1:50 and Armstrong's raspy vocal delivers the anguish of lost love over a hurtling Northern Soul groove.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Deep Soul of Jean Knight

Jean Knight - A Little Bit of Something (Is Better Than All of Nothing)

The jaunty, reggae-tinged funk and sassy lyrics of Jean Knight's 1971 smash hit "Mr. Big Stuff" is one of the most-recognized tracks of '70s soul, being interpolated into commercials (I remember the "Oreo Big Stuff" cookies ads from the '80s) and being sampled in Everlast's rock ode to the '70s, "AM Radio" (which is being used in commercials now). Although Knight would never even come close to hitting at that level again, her recorded output of the '60s and '70s contained lots of good soul and funk tracks. Today's selection came from the Mr. Big Stuff LP. "A Little Bit of Something" shows Knight's deep soul side to marvelous effect.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Simon Power!

Joe Simon - Step By Step

By 1971 Joe Simon had established himself as the country soul artist with no peer (well, Joe Tex or Solomon Burke may have disagreed) with his great baritone and great songs such as "The Chokin' Kind," "Nine Pound Steel" and "Further on Down the Road" (his funky 45 masterpiece, "Moon Walk," will have to be covered in a different post). These hits and others had been produced by John Richbourg (WLAC's "John R") and released on Monument's Sound Stage Seven label. At the beginning of the decade, however, the SS7 label had a brief interruption in operations and John R signed Simon to Spring Records and started Joe on a new hitmaking path. The Power of Joe Simon was a smash LP, featuring production work from Gamble & Huff which added a new dimension to Simon's style (to be fair, Richbourg produced some great cuts on the LP as well; Simon's version of "Help Me Make It Through the Night" is my favorite). "Step By Step" was the leadoff track on the LP and it's a hot one. The string and horn intro captures your attention right away, and Simon acquits himself nicely over a mid-tempo groove. Although "Power of Love" and "Drowning in the Sea of Love" would be bigger hits, "Step by Step" has always been a personal favorite.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Southern Soul of Jimmy Lewis

Jimmy Lewis - The Girls From Texas

Soul singer/songwriter Jimmy Lewis' most prolific period as a recording artist came in the last decade or so of his life, with several soul-blues albums on his own Miss Butch label. Although several soul-blues hits came out of those recordings, most notably the double-entendre "No Chicken Wings" ("I'm a breast man, I'm a thigh man," Lewis sings) and the "mama's baby, papa's maybe" tale "That Baby Ain't Black Enough," Lewis' legacy lay in the writer's credits for hits by artists such as Ray Charles (who recorded a whole album of Lewis originals, Doing His Thing, which gave Ray and Jimmy a duet hit with "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck"). As a solo artist, however, his wry, observational lyrics and Sam Cooke-meets-Ray Charles vocals graced some great recordings on Four-J, Tangerine, Minit (for whom he recorded today's selection), Buddah, Volt and Hotlanta (for whom he cut his only album of the classic soul era, 1974's Totally Involved), and two great Kent CDs, Still Wanna Be Black and Give the Poor Man a Break, feature scads of awesome but erstwhile unreleased material.

"The Girls From Texas" was written by Lewis, Jimmy Holiday (who also wrote for Ray Charles and others) and Cliff Chambers, and finds Lewis telling a humorous tale of an inescapable love affair. It's pure country soul, an approach Lewis would later apply to the classic "String Bean" on Buddah.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hard Times!

Gene Chandler - In My Body's House

When Constellation Records folded in 1966 or so the company sold Gene Chandler's contract to Chess Records. Gene Chandler, however, had individually signed to Brunswick. What could have ended up in litigation and acrimony was avoided, however, when the two companies agreed to both record Chandler with Carl Davis producing and alternate single releases. Both Chess (via its Checker label) and Brunswick did well with the arrangement, scoring hits with Chandler solo and, in Brunswick's case, with duets between Chandler and Barbara Acklin.

Today's selection was one of Chandler's last Checker releases before he left both labels to sign with Mercury as an artist and producer. "In My Body's House," a Curtis Mayfield composition, is better known under the title "Hard Times," where it was recorded by Baby Huey & The Babysitters and by Mayfield himself. Although Baby Huey's version, with its heavy beat and intense arrangement, is probably the most popular, Chandler's Chicago soul treatment of the song is also very good. Chandler's high tenor effectively delivers the paranoia of the lyrics and the band turns in a top-notch performance.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pray On!

The Gospel Hummingbirds - Pray On

Today's selection came from the interesting CD Overcome! - Preaching in Rhythm and Funk, a compilation of hard-hitting and sometimes funky gospel music. Today's selection is a driving guitar-driven number featuring very strong singing from the Gospel Hummingbirds (dig the harmony work later in the song). You have to get on down to this!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Eddy G's Soul Feeling!

Eddy "G" Giles - Soul Feeling (Pt. 2)

Eddy Giles is best known to soul fans for this strutting Southern soul classic "Losin' Boy." Giles' other recordings for Murco, Silver Fox and Stax (a one-off remake of "Losin' Boy") are also very good, and a great many of them are included on the excellent Kent anthology of Murco sides, Shreveport Southern Soul, which is a must-buy for any serious soul fan. The two-part funky jam "Soul Feeling" was not included on that anthology, but that situation has been rectified by the inclusion of both parts on the BGP CD Southern Funkin'- Louisiana Funk And Soul 1967-75. Today's selection, like many "Part Two" sides of funky 45s, finds Giles letting go of the limited verse-and-chorus of the A-side and just letting the funk flow as it may from the almost heavy-handed band. From his opening scream onward, you know you're in for a funky good time. I mean, what else can it be, when you have lyrics like "everybody's talking about 'give the drummer some' / my drummer's got so much soul, he just takes what he wants"?

Friday, March 17, 2006

TSOBB (The Sound of B.B.)

B.B. King - Philadelphia

At age 80, blues legend B.B. King is finally starting to slow down a little. He announced that this current world tour will be his last, although he plans to continue doing shows in the U.S. Looking over the span of his amazing career, it is clear that he is truly the King of the Blues, both in terms of his talent but also his longevity. From his somewhat ragged and off-time debut "Miss Martha King" in 1949 to his great duet with Bobby Bland on his new album, 80, singing "Funny How Time Slips Away," King has stayed true to the blues but has not feared reaching into other genres. This willingness to experiment found its full flower as the '60s rolled into the '70s and King adapted his style to stay current at a time when younger black audiences were moving away from the blues. The decision to give "The Thrill Is Gone" a minor-key, "soul with strings" arrangement was met with horror by blues purists in 1969, but the song was a mega-smash (#3 R&B and #10 pop) and it quickly became his signature tune. Hits such as "I Like to Live the Love," the Stevie Wonder-penned "To Know You Is To Love You," and the stomping "Never Make a Move Too Soon" (which King recorded with the Crusaders) found B.B. mixing straight-up soul songs into his repertoire, with good effect.

Today's selection followed in this vein and gave B.B. an R&B hit in 1974. Interestingly, although King is considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, "Philadelphia" was one of very few of his instrumentals to be a hit; his strong, gospel-infused singing was a major draw, especially to black audiences. "Philadelphia" is a four-on-the-floor proto-disco romp, featuring a strong bassline, good horn work, and B.B. presenting a mixed bag of riffs and solos, playing very aggressively in many places (there are portions where he sounds more like his contemporary, Albert King, who was known for a very muscular style) but then in others letting "Lucille" do her thing in his more customary way. I nicknamed this tune "TSOBB" because it is influenced by the MFSB smash "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" (better known as the theme to "Soul Train") and adapts the femme chorus ending for its purposes. To steal a line from "TSOP," let's get it on, it's time to get down ... with B.B. King!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

From the King Pins to the Kelly Brothers

The King Pins - You're Using Me

The Kelly Brothers:
You're That Great Big Feelin'
I'll Be Right There

To close out the series on the Kelly Brothers I present three selections. The King Pins track features T.C. Lee on lead and a the use of Etta James' "oh oh" chorus from "Something's Got a Hold on Me." "You're That Great Big Feelin'" was the B-side to "Falling in Love Again"; this nice up-tempo groover features Robert Kelly's lead and more than a passing reference to Tommy Tucker's hit "Hi-Heeled Sneakers." "I'll Be Right There" is an unissued Excello track that again features Robert on lead. As with "I Just Walk On," I don't know why this didn't get released. The group really does its thing over a strutting groove.

Stay tuned tomorrow for TSOBB!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I'm Going to Walk, Talk, Sing ...

The Kelly Brothers - I Just Walk On

I continue the Kelly Brothers series today with this unreleased gem from the Sanctified Southern Soul CD. Sims Records, despite the Kelly Brothers hit "Falling in Love Again," was not financially viable and sold its assets in late 1966 or 1967. The Kellys' contract and masters went to Excello, which recorded the group through 1970 and released an album mixing their Sims sides with some new material. The group did not succeed at Excello, and upon their release returned to gospel some time afterward. Today's selection was an unreleased Excello recording. This strong ballad features my favorite ad-libbed fades of all soul songs. I don't know why this song wasn't released (there's a small band mistake at the end, but I don't think that was the smoking gun), but it's a hot one.

Tomorrow I hope to wrap up this series with some King Pins stuff as well as some up-tempo numbers featuring Robert Kelly on lead. Then on Friday, get ready for some TSOBB (that's a clue!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Kelly Brothers - Up-Tempo Tuesday

The Kelly Brothers:

Time Has Made Me Change

Ouch! Oh Baby

In the Kelly Brothers' pre-Sims recordings, most lead vocals were handled by T.C. Lee or by Offe Reece, but on most of the Sims sides Curtis Kelly sang lead on ballads and Robert Kelly sang lead on up-tempo numbers. These two early Sims depart from that formula somewhat. "Time Has Made Me Change" is an up-tempo song clearly patterned from "It Won't Be This Way (Always)" and features T.C. Lee on lead. "Ouch! Oh Baby" features Curtis leading on an up-tempo number. Dig the group singing on both and the brassy arrangement of "Ouch! Oh Baby."

Monday, March 13, 2006

RIP King Floyd

I have learned this morning that R&B/funk singer King Floyd has passed away. In his honor I post his biggest hit, the funky "Groove Me", which was a #1 R&B and #6 pop hit in 1971. Interestingly, "Groove Me" was recorded at the same session that produced Jean Knight's hit "Mr. Big Stuff." Famed New Orleans arranger/composer/producer Wardell Quezerque rounded up Floyd, Knight, and some other artists and had them come to Jackson. Lightning struck twice at those sessions, with Stax picking up "Mr. Big Stuff" and turning it into a #1 R&B and #2 pop hit.

A further note is that "Groove Me" started the Jackson, Mississippi concern Malaco as a record label - Malaco was a production company and couldn't get "Groove Me" sold to any labels (Stax rejected it in favor of "Mr. Big Stuff"), so the Chimneyville label was formed to release the record.

"Groove Me" is a sentimental favorite of mine because I discovered the song in college when I purchased one of the Rhino "History of Funk" CDs. In those days I would DJ our fraternity parties and I made a point to play "Groove Me" as often as I could. People loved dancing to it (and this was, mind you, in the '90s) and I still love hearing the song now.

I had the pleasure of meeting King Floyd in Chicago in 1997 (where he was appearing for the first time since "Groove Me" was a hit!) and he was a very strong performer and gracious person. May he rest in peace.

Sanctified Southern Soul!

The Kelly Brothers - Falling in Love Again

The Kelly Brothers (Andrew, Curtis and Robert Kelly, Offe Reece and T.C. Lee - the three Kelly brothers are depicted above) were described by Robert Pruter in the liner notes to the CD Sanctified Southern Soul as being the soul group equivalent of Otis Redding or other Southern soulsters, an accurate description. The group's '60s sides for Sims and Excello were cut from that rough-hewn gospel cloth as those more-famous artists. The gospel part of the equation isn't so hard to account for, as the group started out in gospel in the late '40s, recording throughout the following decade for Vee-Jay and Nashboro. By the early '60s the group was recording in Chicago for King Records' Federal label. Inspired by Sam Cooke's success in the secular field, the group began to record R&B as the King Pins, scoring a hit right out of the gate in 1963 with "It Won't Be This Way (Always)." Further success eluded them at Federal and within a couple of years the group, now again using the Kelly Brothers name, began recording for the Nashville-based Sims label. After some great but commercially unsuccessful singles, today's selection gave them their first (and only national) hit on Sims.

"Falling In Love Again" features great gospel harmonizing and an attractive guitar and horn arrangement cooked up by producer Robert Holmes (who, like Ted Jarrett, was a very important figure in the Nashville R&B scene). It's a solid ballad featuring Curtis Kelly's lead.

The strength of this single, and regional success with follow-up recordings, earned the group a TV appearance on the 1966 Hoss Allen-hosted series "The Beat!!!!" The entire run of this show, 26 episodes, has now been reissued on DVD by Bear Family and is a "must-have" for any soul and/or TV history fan. The Kellys' performance of "Falling In Love Again" is a highlight of the show and is well worth seeing.

I will post more Kelly Brothers and even some King Pins material as the week progresses. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How Could I Forget the Kelly Brothers?!?

The Kelly Brothers - Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray

I cannot believe that in the five-and-a-half months I've been doing this blog I have neglected to do anything about the gospel-turned-soul group the Kelly Brothers (aka The King Pins)! I will have to rectify this situation this week. Look for at least a couple of Kelly Brothers posts this week. I'll do more of a write-up then. For today's selection I present one of their gospel recordings, a swaggering version of "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray."

Wow. I can't believe I haven't covered them yet.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday Northern Soul!

The Royal Jokers - Love Game (From A to Z)

I first heard of this song and the Royal Jokers via the documentary "The Strange World of Northern Soul." The Royal Jokers were a Detroit group that, under various names, recorded throughout the '50s and '60s and at the time the documentary was made still performed in the Detroit area. "Love Game" was released on Wingate in 1967 or so and features nice group singing.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Nothing Can Stop Me!

Gene Chandler - Nothing Can Stop Me

In the documentary Only the Strong Survive Jerry Butler, when asked about the "Chicago sound," remarked that there really wasn't a Chicago soul sound a la the Motown sound of Detroit or the southern soul sounds of Stax. Robert Pruter made a similar point in his stellar book Chicago Soul. What I've found, however, is that there are several particular sounds that represent certain Chicago companies or artists at different points in time: there was the swinging lope of Curtis Mayfield's early-'60s stuff, there was the bright, funky sound of the Chess house band, there was the brassy arrangements on Major Lance releases, etc. Once a person listens to enough Chicago soul they can spot these.

Today's selection, a Curtis Mayfield composition, has the swinging lope that graced many of his compositions for the Impressions, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler and others. "Nothing Can Stop Me" is a statement of hurt by a man who's been put down, but also a declaration that he isn't going to take it anymore. The call and response chorus "Please don't go / That's what they'll be saying / Please don't go / But I'm not playing" makes this point clear. It's my favorite Gene Chandler song and one of my favorite Chicago soul recordings.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Low Down From Nashville

Freddie Waters - I Love You, I Love You, I Love You

In a December entry featuring the Avons and in another entry featuring Freddie Waters I discussed the Nashville soul scene and how it is often criminally overlooked in the analysis of classic soul music. Today's selection, another Ted Jarrett production on Waters, was picked up by Curtom on the strength of its flip, the poppy "Singing a New Song." I prefer this side, however, for its low-down blues feel and passionate singing from Waters, who was a master of the slow burn. If anyone has ever been in love with someone who they know is the wrong person for them they will surely understand the dilemma presented in the lyrics.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

TV's Most Famous Theme Song

Quincy Jones - The Streetbeater (Theme to "Sanford and Son")

I really don't think I need to say anything about today's selection, as it is probably one of the best-known theme songs in American television history. The funky jazz theme to "Sanford and Son," with its bass and guitar intro and sax melody, will live on as long as someone, somewhere, broadcasts the reruns of the hit 1972-77 series. This is the full-length version of the tune from the 1973 Quincy Jones LP You've Got It Bad Girl, which is a great album in its own right, not just for "The Streetbeater" and the title track, but for a snazzy jazz number called "Chump Change," which game show buffs recognize as the theme to "Now You See It" (1974-75, 1989) and TV trivia buffs also recognize as the theme to the short-lived 1974 series "The New Bill Cosby Show."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Brother Ray's Funky Booty

The Ray Charles Orchestra - Booty Butt

Ray Charles' instrumentals are generally overlooked in the assessment of his magnificent career, but they are worth checking out. His jazz-oriented recordings for Atlantic, ABC-Impulse and Tangerine are very good and today's selection, which was released on Tangerine in 1969 (or was it 1970?), is one of my favorites. "Booty Butt" is a slinky number with just a touch of funk to keep things moving. The song never breaks too much of a sweat, although the sultry sax solos pick up intensity while Ray and the band play and vocalise a churchy background riff. Eventually Ray breaks out into a pretty nonsensical lyric, but when it's all said and done the guitar lick that starts the song takes it to the close. It's jazz you can feel.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's a Man Down There!

G.L. Crockett - It's a Man Down There

Bluesman G.L. Crockett is known mainly for his Chess rockabilly "Look Out Mabel" and today's selection, a mid-'60s blues hit on the Four Brothers label. "It's a Man Down There" borrowed lyrics from Sonny Boy Williamson's "One Way Out" and aped Jimmy Reed's backporch boogie beat and boozy vocals to create an engaging tune.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Here's #5!

Episode #5 of the show is now here. This episode features '70s music and a considerable number of sister funk and femme soul tracks. Let's get it on!

1. Simtec & Wylie, "Gotta Get Over the Hump"
2. The Sweet Inspirations, "This World"
3. The Undisputed Truth, "Help Yourself"
4. The Spinners, "You Sure Are Nasty"
5. Ike & Tina Turner, "Bold Soul Sister"
6. Bobby Byrd, "Fight Against Drug Abuse" PSA
7. Na Allen, "Thanks for Nothing"
8. Branding Iron, "Born Too Late"
9. Johnny Sayles, "Snake in the Grass"
10. Vera Hamilton, "But I Ain't No More (G.S.T.S.K.D.T.S.)"
11. Ann Bailey, "Sweeping Your Dirt Under My Rug"
12. David Ruffin, "A Day in the Life of a Working Man"
13. Veda Brown, "Short Stopping"
14. Carla Thomas, "Love Means (You Never Have to Say You're Sorry)"
15. James Fountain, "Malnutrition"
16. Curtis Mayfield PSA
17. Howard Tate, "Pride"
18. Annette Snell, "Footprints On My Mind"
19. Fontella Bass, "Hold On This Time"
20. Barbara Acklin, "I'll Bake Me a Man"
21. Chairmen of the Board, "I'm on My Way to a Better Place"
22. J. Hines & The Fellows, "Victory Strut" (closing theme)

I will be out of town for the weekend; will post late Monday.

That Ringing Telephone!

Esther Williams - Last Night Changed It All (I Really Had a Ball)

I first heard today's selection on an online radio show that I think is now defunct called The Koolout. It was part of a larger mix of funk and disco that enthralled my fresh-out-of-college ears. Many funk and soul things that I love I heard for the first time on there. The DJ doing the mix had a lot of fun with the breakbeat intro and the ringing telephone (I think he stretched that section out for almost a minute) that kicks off the track. I was hooked from that point forward.

I don't know much about Esther Williams except that she cut a couple of albums that were well-received among the mid-to-late '70s dance club crowd. "Last Night Changed It All" has been a beat digger's favorite because of the aforementioned funky intro. Despite the somewhat corny "telephone" dialogue segments (which, admittedly, are better than many others I've heard on various tunes), the tune cooks from start to finish, with an infectious riff used by the strings and a flute and a driving groove that keeps me moving whenever I hear it.

Look out for the show tonight!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Get on Down With Al Green! (Again)

Al Green - Get Back Baby

I was unable to get the show online last night, and tonight I have school, so I PROMISE I'll get the show recorded and online on Friday night. So today we have to "Get on Down" with someone else, because The Stepfather of Soul isn't ready yet!

Today's funky thing comes from Al Green's first album for Hi, Green Is Blues. Green and producer Willie Mitchell hadn't worked out the smooth Memphis soul sound that would turn Al into the megastar he would very shortly become. Instead, Al brings a brassy, Otis Redding/Arthur Conley approach to his vocals on many of the album's tracks. "Get Back Baby" is clearly a throwaway jam, but it's mighty good, not so much for Al's disjointed lyrics but for the awesome backing track and its great horn lines. Although it's understandable why Green abandoned this type of performance within a year or so, the early Hi tracks are exciting and enjoyable in their funky, white-hot energy and I enjoy them just as much as his smoother masterpieces.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Friend (In the Midst of Chaos!)

Eddie Kendricks - He's a Friend

Well, so much for getting the show online last night. After a chaotic evening centered around a blocked sewage drain, thus two overflowing toilets and two sewage-filled bathtubs, I didn't get to do the show, although I did complete the playlist. It'll be another '70s show, this time featuring a sister funk groove. Hopefully I'll post it tonight.

In the meantime, today's selection came from former Temptations lead Eddie Kendricks. "He's a Friend" features a gospel message and a nice early disco groove. Kendricks' soaring falsetto and an MFSB-styled accompaniment make this song really work. Unlike my bathrooms lol.