Friday, July 28, 2006

Writer's Block Friday

Hank Ballard Along With the Dapps - You're So Sexy

For some reason this morning I couldn't settle on a selection for today. I listened to Leon Huff's "I Ain't Jivin, I'm Jammin'," thought about following up on yesterday's Carla Thomas post with "The Honeydripper" by the Van-Dells (another record that Steve Cropper stole with his guitar work), and even considered risking my credibility by posting Shirley Ellis' "The Name Game" (which, although viewed as a novelty record and a staple of mainstream "oldies" radio, is a damn good Northern Soul record), but still was unsatisfied. Finally I settled on today's selection. Of course, it's a top-notch recording also, so it was last but definitely not least.

As I alluded in a prior post, when James Brown started out at King Records in 1956, Hank Ballard and The Midnighters were major hitmakers for the label with their raunchy "Annie" records ("Work With Me Annie," "Annie Had a Baby," "Annie's Aunt Fanny") and other great R&B gems (the original version of "The Twist" would come out two years later, and "Finger Poppin' Time" was still five years away). By the end of the '60s, however, Ballard's fame had waned significantly and, like Bill Doggett, James Brown had stepped in to help out. "You're So Sexy" is a hard-hitting piece of rock-oriented funk, with Ballard fronting the white band The Dapps, whose guitarist, "Fat Eddie" Setser (who was the subject of a James Brown-produced record by James Crawford and who is the "look at Fat Eddie, he's 300 pounds" reference in Charles Spurling's "Let Me Be (A Steppin' Soul)"), drives this record along with a strong rhythm. Ballard is exhibiting the wild looseness that sometimes put him on the wrong side of being in tune (this was particularly evident on the awesome "Butter Your Popcorn"), but it works for this number. The whole thing cooks like nobody's business, but I am particularly fond of the coda, where Hank and the band take the volume down and Hank starts chanting over a "chug-a-lug" groove that Fat Eddie lays down. Great stuff.

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