Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Things Are Getting Better?

Clarence Carter - And They Say Don't Worry

Roy "C" - We're on the Road to Hell

The social message of soul music made a dramatic change by the end of the '60s and at the dawn of the '70s. Artists began to move away from songs about improvement and empowerment and began instead to present blunt statements about racism, poverty, the war in Vietnam, and other issues. Clarence Carter's "And They Say Don't Worry," from his Sixty Minutes With FAME LP, presents the flip side to the optimism that politicians and the media promulgated during the early '70s over a groove that is similar to that of his FAME hit "I'm the Midnight Special." More pointed, however, is Roy C's Alaga recording "We're on the Road to Hell," whose discussion of the war in Vietnam is, unfortunately, in some respects extremely relevant today. The country soul groove of Roy's Alaga and Mercury sides of the time is used to good effect here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Believers Shall Enjoy!

James Brown - Believers Shall Enjoy (Nonbelievers Shall Suffer)

James Brown's organ-led instrumentals of the '60s are a mixed bag to most soul fans. As stated in the liner notes to the Funky Good Time anthology of sides by the various '70s incarnations of the J.B.'s, Brown didn't always recognize his limitations as an organist. Opinions are split: some people think that James' weird, noodly playing is interesting but others think it ruined the records on which he played. I'm in the former camp. "Believers Shall Enjoy" was the flip to the Christmas-themed "Tit for Tat" and it's a swinging piece of jazzy soul featuring Brown on the organ, doing his thing and making good use of his technique in the stop-time portions of the tune. Incidentally, "Believers Shall Enjoy" was going to be the original title of this blog before "Get on Down ..." was devised!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Country Soul Special!

The new episode of the show is now available as a direct download, via RSS feed or via iTunes. This episode was born out of a project of making two "Country Soul" CDs for a friend. I looked at the playlist and said, "there's a show here!" With some tweaking, I recorded the playlist that I had prepared for the project, holding off on voiceovers until the end. Enjoy!

1. William Bell, "You Don't Miss Your Water"
2. Solomon Burke, "Can't Nobody Love You"
3. Joe Tex, "You Better Get It"
4. Bobby Powell, "Your Cheating Heart"
5. Percy Wiggins, "Book of Memories"
6. Chairmen of the Board, "Patches"
7. Candi Staton, "Stand By Your Man"
8. John R, "Soul Medallion" Ad
9. Jimmy Lewis, "String Bean"
10. Lou Rawls, "Gentle on My Mind"
11. James Carr, "The Dark End of the Street"
12. Johnny Jones, "Tennessee Waltz"
13. Kip Anderson, "Without a Woman"
14. Bettye Swann, "Just Because You Can't Be Mine"
15. Clarence "Frogman" Henry, "That's When I Guessed"
16. Otis Redding, Coca-Cola Ad
17. Joe Simon, "Help Me Make It Through the Night"
18. Doris Duke, "Feet Start Walking"
19. Earl Gaines, "From Warm to Cool to Cold"
20. James Brown, "Nothing Beats a Try (But a Fail)"
21. Benny Gordon, "Crying Man"
22. The Darnells, "Come on Home" (closing theme)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cold Bologna!

The Isley Brothers - Cold Bologna

I really don't think I need to write anything about The Isley Brothers except to say that today's selection is a tasty piece of get down from their Givin' It Back album. Dig the percussion work and guitar strumming.

EDITOR'S NOTE - At some point this weekend I will be posting the new episode of the podcast! Look out for it!

Friday, May 26, 2006

I Used to Worry ...

Eddy "G" Giles - Ain't Gonna Worry No More

Eddy Giles makes a return to this page after a March appearance with this soulful strut that was released on Murco. "Ain't Gonna Worry" is lyrically akin to "Ain't Nobody Home" or "It's Just a Matter of Time" and the engaging horns and Giles' enthusiastic singing bring it on home. I quote John R in saying that "the only thing wrong with this record is it's too short."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don Covay's Southern Soul

Don Covay - Watching the Late Late Show

Don Covay is one of those figures of soul history who never quite "fit in" as well as his contemporaries. Although he had hits of various magnitudes through the '60s and into the '70s, he is known more for the songs he wrote - especially "Chain of Fools," which he also recorded - than for his recordings, which crackle with Covay's eccentric energy. Apparently, although he was known as "Pretty Boy" (and photos from the era do show Covay to be handsome albeit somewhat effete), his limited vocals (overall he sounded like a black Mick Jagger - has Jagger ever publicly acknowledged his vocal debt to Covay?) and alleged poor stage presence (Solomon Burke once said that people would pay for Don to get off the stage!) prevented him from being as big a star as his compadres of the era. Of his recordings, his Atlantic sides of the '60s are arguably the best, ranging from the relaxed groove of "Mercy Mercy" to the Stax soul of "See Saw" to the soul supergroup 45 "Soul Meeting" b/w "That's How It Feels" to the oddball - but actually brilliant - Jefferson Lemon Blues Band sides. In the '70s Covay would record for Janus, Mercury and Philadelphia International, scoring some big hits (especially "I Was Checkin' Out (She Was Checkin' In)") but then fading into soul history by the end of the decade.

Today's selection is my favorite of the Atlantic sides. "Watching the Late Late Show" finds Covay adopting Joe Tex's multi-track harmony effects and country soul groove to good effect before breaking into his more usual style on the bridge. It's a very sweet song with a great story.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Steppin' Up In Class!

Thanks to J.A. Bartlett over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin' an RSS feed for this blog also exists, so you can aggregate away! I'm trying out Feedburner and we'll see if it works. I don't use any blog aggregators so I'll have to trust your feedback to see if it works. Lots of good things are going on here for your ever-lovin' Stepfather!

Get on Down With iTunes!

I have received notification that the "Get on Down ..." podcast has been approved by iTunes to be listed in the podcast directory! I'm not sure exactly when it will appear (the e-mail said "a few hours"), but you can access the show from iTunes Music Store! Please spread the word! Hurray!

King Albert!

Albert King - Crosscut Saw

Albert King (born Albert Nelson) has been featured once on the podcast, and discussed briefly in a post from a couple of weeks ago, but today he gets the "King"-size treatment. King is my favorite blues guitarist, and during a very short period at which I tried to pick up guitar I bent the hell out of my strings to get his mercurial sound, to no avail.

Although King had been recording since the early '50s (initially as a drummer on some Jimmy Reed sessions; King was driving a bulldozer as a day job) for several labels and had a hit with "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" in 1961, it wasn't until he hooked up with Stax Records in 1966 that he became a blues phenomenon. Ably backed on his '60s sides by Booker T. & The MG's, King parlayed his unique sound (due in part to his left-handedness, which resulted in his playing his Gibson Flying V, "Lucy," upside-down) into eight or nine years of soul-flavored blues (such as his first Stax record, "Laundromat Blues"), straight-ahead soul (1972's "I'll Play the Blues For You") and funk ("Cold Feet" and "I Love Lucy"). After Stax's demise he recorded for several labels and toured regularly until his death in 1992.

King's influence in the rock world was immense, influencing everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughn and playing at rock venues such as San Francisco's famous Fillmore Auditorium (he was the first blues act to do so). King also had no problem playing a wide range of material, from straight-ahead blues ("Laundromat Blues") to straight-ahead soul ("I'll Play The Blues For You") to funk ("Cold Feet") to standards ("The Very Thought of You"). Although not as strong a vocalist as his namesake B.B., King had a smoky singing voice and a direct approach (one writer said that his singing sounded like "a man having the last word in an argument") that served him well.

Today's selection is a 1973 (or was it '74?) remake of his 1967 hit "Crosscut Saw." The Bar-Kays replaced Booker T. & The MG's rhumba-oriented groove of the original with a nice stomping Memphis funk. The single version of the song keeps the funk throughout, but the album version (featured here) finds King in the mood to reminisce, so about halfway through they switch to the original groove. Although there are places where it appears the band is in a hurry to get back to the funk, King leisurely works his way along to the extent that it appears that the new groove was simply an envelope for the old one. When the band brings back the funk it's almost enough to make you say "school is out," because King has shown his whole bag of tricks. It's a great recording.

As awesome as King's records were, however, he cut a bold figure as a live act. A physically intimidating figure (6'4", 250 pounds), King would work the stage and the band as if he were on a construction crew, puffing away at his pipe and working it out on the guitar. Here is a video of King, doing "Blues Power." It's good stuff.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Get on Down With Mr. Big Stuff!

Get on Down With Mr. Big Stuff!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Revived and edited on 11/20/07.)

As I mentioned in a prior post, Jean Knight's 1971 hit "Mr. Big Stuff" set off a flurry of covers, "answer records" and songs that cribbed the song's sassy message and jaunty beat. I mentioned at that time that I would do a post or mini-set about the "Mr. Big Stuff" records. Thanks to some prodding from a Soul Sides post on the same topic, here's the set!

1. Jean Knight, "Mr. Big Stuff" - No write-up needed; if you don't know this song you must've stumbled upon this blog by using Blogger's "random blog" feature! Just kidding. Read the Soul Sides post above for info about Jean Knight and this classic song. Knight would go back to the well on her next Stax single, "You Think You're Hot Stuff," and the Mr. Big Stuff LP track "You City Slicker," but lightning like "Mr. Big Stuff" only strikes once.

2. Jimmy Hicks, "I'm Mr. Big Stuff" - It's only fitting that another New Orleans musician would bring out an "answer" record to the Knight hit pretty quickly, and Jimmy Hicks' Big Deal 45 may very well have been the first. Over a dirtier and slower groove than the original, Hicks tweaks just enough words to tell Mr. Big Stuff's side of the story in an almost-flat baritone.

3. Vicki Anderson, "I'm Too Tough For Mister Big Stuff (Hot Pants)" - James Brown enters the fray with this one from James Brown Revue member Vicki Anderson. Although the song doesn't use the "Mr. Big Stuff" groove or words, the sass is there, as Vicki puts down all of the guys all over the U.S. who might think they're "Mr. Big Stuff" - even Wilson Pickett, her husband Bobby Byrd, and James Brown himself! The songwriter credit on this one goes to JB guitarist Hearlon "Cheese" Martin, the only such credit I've seen on a JB production.

4. Mighty Sam, "I'm Mr. Big Stuff" - "Mr. Big Stuff" producer Wardell Quezerque revisited his hit for this recording on Mighty Sam, employing a slower and softer groove. There are several great compilations featuring Quezerque's '60s and '70s productions, and all are worth checking out; they show that Allen Toussaint wasn't the only genius in New Orleans during the soul era!

5. Tomorrow's Children, "Sister Big Stuff" - Considering that both "Mr. Big Stuff" and King Floyd's "Groove Me" (recorded at the same recording session in 1970) made use of reggae-tinged grooves, it's only a natural that both songs would later be recorded by reggae artists in Jamaica. Tomorrow's Children reverse the gender of the title character here and create a good group version of the song in the process.

6. Barbara Lynn, "Daddy Hot Stuff" - The singer/guitarist Lynn borrows the lyrical feel, if not the sass or groove, of the Knight recording to provide a nice mid-tempo groover under the production auspices of Huey Meaux, whose contributions to soul deserve more attention than is currently given.

7. The James Young Blues Band, "Funky Booty" - I suppose the JYBB thought they were fooling someone by renaming the song, but "Funky Booty" stands as a great instrumental version of "Mr. Big Stuff." I don't know anything about this group or the recording, but I know the group does a good job with the relaxed groove.

8. Freddie Robinson, "Sister Hot Pants" - Blues singer/guitarist Freddie Robinson was signed to Stax's Enterprise label at the time of Jean Knight's hit and the two albums he recorded are very good (his take on Percy Mayfield's "River's Invitation" is a sampler's delight). "Sister Hot Pants" finds Robinson's sly vocals admitting that he is indeed "Mr. Big Stuff" but challenging the title character to drop the sass and come on to him. It's fun stuff (dig the reading of the line "I got something right here, girl, that can make you come alive"), but the song did not see the light of day until the 1999 issue of the Ace/Stax compilation Stax Funx 2.

9. Lyn Collins, "Mr. Big Stuff" - As mentioned in my prior post, Lyn Collins does her thing over a lighter and faster version of the original, but provides a surprise twist at the end.

10. Everclear, "AM Radio" - This is the first (and probably only) time a rock song (and a contemporary one, to boot) will appear on this blog. Everclear's 2000 homage to '70s music and culture made great use of samples from the Knight recording and caught my attention the first time I heard it on the (FM) radio. Even after thirty-plus years, "Mr. Big Stuff" still can deliver the goods.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

More Big News!

Brian Phillips has identified the mystery tune I posted in March! The name of the record is "Welcome Me" by The Scott Brothers. Brian is one of my two "main soul men" here in Atlanta and I am pleased as punch that he solved the puzzle! Thank you so much! Look out for a shout-out on Episode #8 of the podcast!

Big News!

I have finally figured out how to write a WORKING RSS feed for the podcast! is the URL for it. I have made the most recent episode (#7) the "premiere" for the purposes of the feed; if anyone wants an earlier episode to be the feed let me know and I'll set up a feed for it so you can download it.

I have also submitted the feed to iTunes; here's hoping it will be accepted!

Sunday Gospel From HSE

J.J. Farley & The Original Soul Stirrers - The Last Mile of the Way

The Soul Stirrers are best known for their 1950s classics with Sam Cooke at the lead, and for good reason. Their pre-Sam work featuring R.H. Harris is lesser known, but even lesser known is the excellent material they recorded for SAR, Checker, and other labels from the '60s onward. Today's selection came from a later '70s release on HSE. J.J. Farley, bass singer and long-time manager of the group, gets top billing, but the harsh second lead (whose name I do not know) steals the show on this one.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday Blues!

Buster Brown - Fannie Mae

When Buster Brown ended up with a #1 R&B and Top 40 pop hit in 1959 with "Fannie Mae," he became one of the oldest artists to have a #1 R&B hit (he was near 50 years of age; only Rufus Thomas would hit #1 at an older age, when at age 53 he would hit with "(Do The) Push and Pull" in 1971), and he did so with his first commercial recording (prior to "Fannie Mae" Brown's only recordings had been done for the Library of Congress in 1943). "Fannie Mae," a rocking blues with strong sax and harmonica work (maybe the horn line inspired the "sha na na" chants from the Silhouette's "Get a Job"?) and Brown's Sonny Terry-styled whooping vocals, was released on Bobby Robinson's Fire label and would go on to become a blues standard. Further success did not follow and Brown would fade into obscurity after a Chess session in 1964. I recall reading in a record guide somewhere that "Fannie Mae" was the last R&B #1 hit to also have a 78 RPM record release, so there may be some value to any 78s that can be found of the record!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Johnny Daye Needs Somebody

Johnnie Daye - I Need Somebody

Blue-eyed soul singer Johnnie Daye was introduced to Stax Records by Otis Redding, who was at that time mentoring the singer (as he also did with Arthur Conley and Billy Young). Two excellent 45s were released, one in the waning days of the "blue" Stax era and one in the early days of the "snapping fingers" era. "I Need Somebody" was the flip to "What I'll Do For Satisfaction" (which Janet Jackson covered in the '90s) and features a nice beat, strong singing by Daye, and great horn charts. All of Daye's recordings for Stax, Jomada and Cameo-Parkway are worth checking out, most notably Daye's final single for the label, the exquisite ballad "Stay Baby Stay," which I might have to post one of these days soon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lord, It's You and Me

Little Richard - In the Middle of the Night

Little Richard's soul sides were touched upon in a post from a couple of weeks ago. Today's selection came out on the tiny Greene Mountain label in 1973 following his relatively successful stint at Reprise. The Jimmy Holiday-penned "In the Middle of the Night" was Richard's last Billboard R&B chart record and is mistakenly listed in Joel Whitburn's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles 1942-2004 as a gospel song. The mistake is understandable, though, as Richard and the background singers do "go to church" on this, a heartbroken conversation of a lonely man needing someone to love.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Go Ahead and Burn!

Bobby Moore's Rhythm Aces Featuring Chico - Go Ahead And Burn

In the latter half of the sixties Chess Records hooked up with the legendary Muscle Shoals producer Rick Hall and his FAME studio to bring some fresh blood to the Chess soul catalogue. Bobby Moore and his group, the Rhythm Aces, was the first act to record in Muscle Shoals for Chess and they hit the first time out with the classic "Searching For My Love." The 1966 smash, anchored by an attractive mid-tempo groove and vocalist Chico Jenkins' aching lead, prompted Chess to give Rick Hall more business, most notably in the form of Etta James, whose "Tell Mama" gave her a hit after a lull in her career. Moore and the group would hit again with the derivative follow-up single "Try My Love Again" (for which the band's name was listed as shown above to give Chico star billing), and Chess would release two more singles and an album on the group with diminishing returns before cutting Moore loose in 1970.

Today's selection was the flip to "Try My Love Again". "Go Ahead And Burn" shows off the group's jazz and R&B roots with a great rhythm, fun group-chanted lyrics, and hot sax solos, presumably from Moore.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Get on Down With Ironing Board Sam!

Ironing Board Sam - Non Support (That's What the Judge Say)

I first heard of Ironing Board Sam (born Sam Moore - no relation to the Stax soul legend) via a videotape of the obscure Nashville R&B TV show "Night Train." On the two episodes Sam performs a rocking blues called "Song of Joy" and covers Ray Charles' "Sticks and Stones." He's a singular presence on the show, with his lantern jaw, dark shades and greasy pompadour, playing his electric piano with its ironing board legs, but he oozes soul and both are great performances. This Blues Access article tells his story and I'll defer to it for details about this very unique artist.

Ironing Board Sam's 45s are pretty darn hard to find, and only a few tunes have been comped at present, mainly the funky "Man of the Street" and "Original Funky Bell Bottoms." Today's selection was originally released on the tiny Lamga label in Los Angeles but was picked up for national release by Atlantic. "Non Support" is a great piece of funky blues featuring a muscular rhythm and good singing by Sam.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Down Home Girl!

The Coasters - Down Home Girl

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, the Coasters' 1967 single "Soul Pad" b/w "Down Home Girl" brought the group's sly comedy stylings into the funk era. When Alvin Robinson originally waxed "Down Home Girl" for Lieber and Stoller's Red Bird/Blue Cat/Tiger setup, it was a joyous New Orleans number, with Alvin teasing the subject about her country origins (the first verse was reprised in today's selection) but only so far, as the rest of the song finds Robinson expressing his admiration and desire (he's talking about pushing her in the river so he can the water roll "down [her] velvet skin"). Perhaps such lyrics were too "serious" for a comedy-oriented group like the Coasters, so the '67 version stuck with the teasing and replaced the New Orleans beat with a stripped-down funk groove to create a beat lover's classic. Like "Soul Pad," the song had a second release during Lieber & Stoller's tenure as owners of King Records.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Rev. C. L. Franklin - I Will Trust In The Lord

Although nowadays known primarily for being Aretha's father, Rev. C. L. Franklin was the T. D. Jakes of his day, known as the man with the "Million Dollar Voice." Franklin's sermons, singing and flashiness made him a household word both in black Detroit, where he pastored the New Bethel Baptist Church, and throughout the country through personal appearances, radio broadcasts and a successful series of LPs for Chess Records, who paid Franklin $3,000 a sermon to record for them. Franklin's Chess LPs, with their strong titles (some which immediately come to mind are "Nothing Shall Separate Me From the Love of God" and "The Eagle Stirreth In Her Nest"), depicted black church at its finest: side one of the LP would find Franklin intelligently explicating the scripture and building upon the sermon's theme; side two would find Franklin shouting and exhorting, and invariably, the records would either end with Franklin singing or would fade out with Franklin still hollering (and various women shouting), or some mixture of both! Today's selection clearly came from the end of a sermon, and you find Fraklin extending an invitation to discipleship and interrupting the song to preach a little, with the ever-present shouting sisters getting the spirit in the background.

Although Rev. Franklin (known by friends as "Frank") was not a clergyman without controversy (Nick Salvatore has an excellent book about Franklin that goes into his friendliness with the secular world and its vices), all in all his influence on black preaching and the concept of minister as celebrity extends to the present day.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Little Taste of Smokey

The Miracles - Who's Lovin' You

In 1969, little Michael Jackson stepped up to a mike and, with a "wheeeyeeah-eh-he-eh-en I ..." took Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You" and showed the world that there was something immensely different about the little boy from Gary and his brothers. Michael's reading of the song was incendiary and set the stage for any other versions of the song. Today, however, I'd like to go back to the original recording, as rendered by Smokey & The Miracles. There's a fragility to Smokey's reading of the song that is equally as effective as the testifying Michael did. It's a great song.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Get Down Begins Behind the Green Door!

Wynder K. Frog - Green Door

Today I am happy to say that I have survived Year #2 of law school!!!!! I'm in the mood to celebrate, and here at my desk I'm going to be getting down like nobody's business! I'll defer to John Stapleton's excellent article at Funky 16 Corners about the pseudonymous Frog (Mick Weaver) for all the info. This mod/Northern classic is a nice slab of organ-led soul and it's good for kicking off a great day!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dave, Baby!

Dave "Baby" Cortez - Unaddressed Letter

Dave "Baby" Cortez (birth name David Clowney) made his mark in R&B mainly as an organist, scoring hits in the late '50s and early '60s with perky instrumentals such as "The Happy Organ" and "Rinky Dink" and recording great tunes like "Belly Rub (Pts. 1 & 2)" (this slinky striptease blues almost replaced Lafayette Leake's "After Hours" as the closing theme of the last podcast but consistency won out) and the '70s funk workout "Funky Robot" (which I need to post at a later time!) as well as the rare groove classic LP Baby Cortez The Isley Brothers Way. His vocal work, although very competent, is not as well-known, although I've heard vocal records by Cortez stretching back to the early '60s. Today's selection was released on Sylvia and Joe Robinson's All Platinum label as the flip to "Funky Robot (Pt. 1)." "Unaddressed Letter" is a very dramatic ballad, featuring heavy organ work by Dave and the string section and a mournful recitation by Dave. To me, there's something very haunting about the end of this record and it always puts a lump in my throat. Strange, but true.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Swamp Dogg's a Mighty Handy Critter

Swamp Dogg - Wifesitter

I posted earlier about Jerry Williams, Jr. aka Swamp Dogg, so I'll dispense with any write-up, except to say that today's selection is a great piece of Miami-inflected soul with Swamp stepping into the shoes of the metaphorical Jody with his usual sense of humor intact ("Don't worry about your kids, I'll treat 'em kind - after all, half of them are mine").

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Get on Down With B.B. King & Bobby Bland!

B.B. King & Bobby Bland - (Medley) The Thrill Is Gone / I Ain't Gonna Be the First to Cry

As I noted in a prior post, once Duke Records became part of the ABC family of labels, it was only a natural that Bobby Bland, now recording for ABC's Dunhill label, would be paired up with B.B. King (who had been on ABC since 1961) to record. Their two live LPs, although not the blockbusters you would expect them to be, are both very entertaining and feature some good performances. Today's selection comes from the second LP, "Together Again ... Live." After an exchange between Bobby and B.B. about whether "The Thrill Is Gone" should appear on the album (B.B. appears to be hesitant, perhaps because a live version of the song had already appared on his Live at Cook County Jail album?), Bobby forces the issue and that famous groove starts up. Although the song is King's trademark number, Bland actually handles quite a few of the vocals and interpolates his "I Ain't Gonna Be the First to Cry" (not too much of a stretch, because "I Ain't Gonna Be ..." is clearly patterned after "Thrill Is Gone"). Bland then gets the audience involved and begins doing his lady killer stage routine with a Viola Jackson, who actually proves to be a pretty good singer. Bland sticks with her for a good portion of the album track, declaring that ABC ought to sign her on the spot. (I don't know exactly what happened in regards to Viola Jackson, but I do know that a Viola Jackson did background vocals on King's "King Size" album a short time later. Any information would be welcome.) Between King, Bland, Jackson and the band (which is really on point, pulling out some great horn charts almost as if by improvisation), the medley is probably one of the strongest points on the LP.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Northern Soul Jackpot

Frankie Beverly & The Butlers - Because of My Heart

This week I have two law school exams on top of my usual workload, so my posts this week will be short. Today's selection is a Northern Soul classic from the pre-Maze Frankie Beverly. A few years ago I purchased a 99-cent 45 from an eBay seller. He also had this 45 for auction, and let's just say he got a lot more than 99 cents for it: if I recall, the closing bid was around $5,400. Too bad I don't find diamonds like these when I'm out trawling for records!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Madame Melissma

Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke - You've Got to Love Everybody

Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke (the "Madame" an honorific bestowed upon Cooke by the Church of God in Christ) brought strong songwriting and impressive melissma to her Republic and Nashboro sides of the '50s and '60s. Many of her songs featured sermonettes (one of her most famous recordings, "Stop Gambler," took T. Texas Tyler's "Deck of Cards," stripped it of its original story and went straight to the cross of Calvary to discuss Christ's crucifixion) and she mainly used a male background group to provide support (almost like a gospel Gladys Knight & The Pips setup). "You've Got to Love Everybody" has a bluesy lope and Cooke and group handle it well.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Funky Philly Saturday!

Cliff Nobles & Co. - The Camel

Sometimes the breaks go the wrong way. Singer Cliff Nobles cut a hot single called "Love Is All Right" for the Philly soul label Phil.-L.A. of Soul, then hot with hits like the Fantastic Johnny C's "Boogaloo Down Broadway." Either because of a lack of material or cost-cutting measures, the single came out with only the instrumental track on the flip. DJs and fans, however, liked the groove better than Nobles' shouted vocals, and the B-side, "The Horse," went on to be a smash hit and a staple for oldies radio and high-school marching bands. Although Nobles would appear as a vocalist for further singles on Phil.-L.A. of Soul and other labels, "Cliff Nobles & Co." was an instrumental act of its own for a few years, and today's single is my favorite of the several "Horse" follow-ups released by the label. "The Camel" is a fast and furious, "take no prisoners" romp with great horn and guitar work.

PS: The first Phil.-L.A. of Soul 45 I ever heard was my parents' copy of "Boogaloo Down Broadway," and the distinctive label logo caught my eye as well (hence the picture attached to this entry; yes, I know it's not the label for "The Camel"). I have learned a little bitty bit about the label, mainly in terms of learning some of the acts that recorded for the label and some of the hits they had (Fantastic Johnny C, People's Choice, The Soul Brother Six, etc.) I've looked online but haven't seen a good write-up of the label. Does anyone know of a good website/article/etc. that tells the story of the label? I'd be glad to read it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Albert and the Wolf

Albert King - Killing Floor

On Tuesday I did a post about Chess Records' attempts to record soul and funk material on Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, with a focus on the latter. Although Wolf was pretty unsuccessful with his attempts (save for the minor hit "Evil"), I actually think he was more suitable for the experiment than Muddy was, because Wolf's vocals had more of a "rock and roll" feel and his '60s blues sides had a more contemporary sound to them than Muddy's. Wolf's 1963 self-penned classic "Killing Floor" is the best example, featuring fantastic guitar work by Hubert Sumlin that almost has a proto-funk feel.

Albert King's cover of "Killing Floor" shows how Chess should have attempted to give Wolf a soul sound. King, ably supported by Booker T. & The M.G.'s (Steve Cropper handles the Hubert Sumlin part), lays down a muscular reading of the song, complete with his usual pile-driving guitar work. At some point I need to do a post about Albert King's fantastic Stax sides, at which time I'll write more about the late guitar master, but for now enjoy this piece of funky blues.

It should also be noted that "Killing Floor" would pop up again at Stax, when the Mar-Keys used the guitar lick as the basis for the horn charts on Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' version of "Tramp." Ol' Hubert really came up with something good that day in 1963!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

She Knows Just What to Do!

Lee Austin - Tutti Frutti

Rufus Thomas - Tutti Frutti

"A wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!" is probably one of the most famous nonsense lines in the history of American pop music. The smash hit "Tutti Frutti" tossed that phrase and some bowdlerized lyrics (the original lyrics as Richard conceived them were just too hot for Specialty to release in 1955) over a hot New Orleans band and made Little Richard a household name (and, unfortunately, gave Pat Boone a hit with a milquetoast reading that was the norm for 1950s anti-rock pop music). Most folks let Richard's version of the song be the definitive one, and for good reason, but here are two funky '70s covers of the song that are worth checking out.

James Brown Revue member Lee Austin was profiled in an earlier post about the awesome "I'm a Man." Austin's version of "Tutti Frutti" is really more a showcase for the JB's than anything, as the band lays down a killer up-tempo groove and Fred Wesley takes some great solos. Lee rushes through the lyrics, choosing instead to focus on ad-libs about the girl named Sue and the girl named Daisy. When he shouts "Get on down!" toward the fade, it's not an instruction, because you should be getting down already!

I've done several posts featuring Rufus Thomas, so his funny funky 45s and album cuts should be familiar to you. His version of "Tutti Frutti" came from his LP Crown Prince of Dance. Rufus and the band take the tempo down a bit and give it a laid-back "party" feel. Like Lee Austin's version, the original lyrics are given short shrift: Rufus instead spouts new lyrics in each verse ("I'm five foot seven and I'm built for speed," he boasts in the second verse) and gets a lot of mileage out of the "wop-bop-a-loo-bop ..." scatting. Also worth noting is a good fuzzed-out guitar solo by (I believe) Bobby Manuel.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lucky Number Seven!

Here's Episode #7! Enjoy!

1. Albert Collins, "Cookin' Catfish"
2. O.V. Wright, "What Did You Tell This Girl of Mine"
3. Oscar Wright, "Fell In Love"
4. The Charmels, "Loving Material"
5. Roscoe Shelton, "Easy Going Fellow"
6. Charlie Whitehead, "The Story of Mr. Pitiful"
7. John R, "Soul Medallion" Ad
8. Eddie Floyd, "Good Love, Bad Love"
9. Slim Harpo, "My Baby She's Got It"
10. Wallace Johnson, "If You Leave Me"
11. Gene Allison, "If I Ever Needed Your Love"
12. Cody Black, "Keep On Keeping On"
13. The Mad Lads, "No Time Is Better Than Right Now"
14. Gwen & Rae, "Build Your House on a Strong Foundation"
15. Lucille Mathis, "I'm Not Your Regular Woman"
16. Lee Brackett, "Save a Foolish Man"
17. Kool Cigarettes Ad
18. The Emotions, "Somebody New"
19. The Epsilons, "Mind in a Bind"
20. Lee "Shot" Williams, "I Hurt Myself"
21. Les Watson, "I'm Gonna Cry"
22. Billy Guy & The Odds 'n' Ends, "Lookin' Like a Nut Nut"
23. Maxine Brown & Chuck Jackson, "Hold On I'm Coming"
24. The Lafayette Leake Trio, "After Hours" (closing theme)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tuesday Is Blues Day: Do the Funky Wolf!

Howlin' Wolf - I Smell a Rat

In the late '60s Chess Records engaged in what at the time was considered blasphemy and what nowadays is slowly starting to be viewed as adventurous and, dare I say, even worthwhile: they tried to bring their aging blues stars, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, into both the psychedelic rock scene and the soul biz. The two LPs most indicative of that approach was Muddy's Electric Mud and Wolf's This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album, both released on Cadet Concept, the label created by Leonard Chess' son Marshall to relase progressive rock. Both albums were critically panned, and Wolf himself called his album "dogshit" (or "birdshit," depending on what you read; of course, Cadet Concept knew Wolf's feelings about the record before its release, and noted on the stark album cover "This is Howlin' Wolf's new album. He doesn't like it"). Although upon listening in 2006 it's clear that Muddy's album was the better of the two, Wolf actually eked out a minor R&B hit from his LP with a psyched-out remake of "Evil."

Wolf had already been given the soul treatment by the time his album came out. "Pop It To Me" (which appears on Episode #1 of the "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul" podcast) found Wolf covering Syl Johnson's "Come On Sock It To Me." Although there is some truth to Michael Haralambos' statement in his book Right On that Wolf's style was too singular to make the record sound contemporary, the tune is a pretty good funky 45 and is one of my favorite funky blues records. Today's selection was pulled as a single from Wolf's 1971 LP Message To The Young, a second, but thankfully less-extreme, attempt to modernize the Howlin' Wolf sound. Over a slightly funky but very busy groove Wolf cautions his woman about sneaking around, and does his howlin' over a wah-wah guitar solo. As one author noted, Message To The Young went unappreciated by all ages, but "I Smell a Rat" is another interesting example of the Chess blues experiments of the psychedelic era.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Later today or tonight I hope to put Episode #7 of the podcast online. Watch out for it!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sam Cooke Rocks The House!

Sam Cooke - Bring It On Home To Me (live)

Last week my bosses gave me a copy of Peter Guralnick's Dream Boogie, a biography of Sam Cooke and, when I have not been preparing / writing exams I have been reading portions of it. Guralnick's high-quality writing, evidenced earlier in Sweet Soul Music and other books, presents a great picture of the music legend and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in music history or in Sam's life and career.

With Sam on my mind I present today's selection, taken from the Live at the Harlem Square Club album. The discovery of this album some years ago was a heralded event because it presented a snapshot of Sam performing live for a black audience (the more pop-slanted Live at the Copa was the erstwhile only live album). As I mentioned in a post in November on Gene Chandler's "Rainbow '65", Arthur Kempner, in his book, Boogaloo, accurately discusses how this live album isn't as hot as you would think it would be. Yes, Sam's in front of a black audience and therefore there is more of a R&B-gospel flavor in his sound than usually shown in his recordings, but most of the album finds Sam almost on auto-pilot, slinging pretty stale stage patter and doing his hits. With "Bring It On Home" he literally brings it on home, with a great gospelly introduction and then a strong reading of the song. Kempner accurately points out that it's still somewhat less soulful than you'd think it would be (Sam keeps doing this fake-sounding laugh, and the when he goes into a "let me hear you say yeah" call-and-response with the crowd, the audience shouts rather than sings), but the magic of Sam's performance still shines through. Sam on auto-pilot was better than many performers' singing for their lives, so it's a worthy listen.