Thursday, March 29, 2007

Welfare Cheese!

Emanuel Laskey - Welfare Cheese

Detroit soulster Emanuel Laskey's long but unfortunately unheralded career is covered at length at Soulful Detroit, and he is featured in the new edition of There's That Beat fanzine. I'll defer to both of those fine resources for all the bio and discographical information about Laskey (also spelled "Lasky" in some places). Laskey's voice was slightly unusual, but when it was coupled with the awesome Detroit grooves that graced his 45s for Thelma, Westbound, Wild Deuce and other labels, Northern Soul magic was made.

Today's selection was his first record, which garnered 1963 release on Thelma, Don Davis' first label concern (Davis would, of course, go on to be part of Solid Hitbound Productions and its labels and then would make magic with Johnnie Taylor and others at Stax). "Welfare Cheese" is a nice groovy blues-based number which gave Laskey his first taste of success, albeit only regionally. It's noted at Soulful Detroit that the JFK assassination later in the year hurt the record due to its references to the late president, but it was certainly a strong start to Laskey's career and a great early Northern Soul record.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Get on Down With Johnny Williams!

Johnny Williams - The Breaking Point

Today's post is the last of the Twinight posts for the week. Johnny Williams' 1971 Philadelphia International hit "Slow Motion (Pt. 1)" was his only hit, but before he hooked up with Gamble and Huff in Philly he had knocked around Chicago and scored releases on Twinight that went nowhere. "Breaking Point" is a nice funky thing with great horn charts and a nice guitar riff in the verses. Get on down with it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pure, Granulated Soul!

Renaldo Domino - Not Too Cool To Cry

The soulful figure gracing the cover of Twinight's Lunar Rotation is Renaldo Domino (born Renaldo Jones and renamed because his voice was as sweet as Domino sugar), who, had Twinight put more effort into promotion side of things, may have been a major success at the dawn of the '70s. After unsuccessful prior records on Blue Rock in the late '60s, Domino came to Twinight via WVON jock Richard Pegue, who dabbled in production and promotion as a sideline to his radio gig. Although Domino cut several great 45s, including the notorious funk classic "Let Me Come Within," his soulful falsetto failed to make the big time and he eventually faded into obscurity. "Not Too Cool To Cry" is one of those "it's not eccentric, it's awesome" records that always grab me by the lapel when I listen to the Eccentric Soul comps. The atmospheric ballad finds Domino wailing most effectively while the awesome strings and even more awesome chorus work their magic around him. This is "sho' 'nuff" soul right here, and it is worth the price of the compilation all by itself.

A postscript - yesterday I mentioned that Kent had put out a single-disc Twinight comp over a decade ago. It is true that the Numero set includes most of the tracks from the Kent disc excepting the Syl Johnson tracks and a couple of others (see the Numero page for a full track listing and samples), the Numero set is worth buying, not only for the extra tracks but for the liner notes, which leave the scant (by usual Kent standards) liner notes from Twinight's Chicago Soul Heaven in the dust.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Steppin' With Twinight

Annette Poindexter & Pieces of Peace - Mama

The Numero Group has done it again with the newest installment in their Eccentric Soul series! Twinight's Lunar Rotation is a long-awaited comp of recordings from the Chicago label - Kent did a one-disc set, Twinight's Chicago Soul Heaven, back in the '90s, promising a second volume in the liner notes but never delivering - and it meets the high standard we've come to expect from Numero. The excellent liner notes tell the story of how Howard Bedno and Peter Wright ran Twinight (originally called Twilight) as a sideline to their record distributing and promotion business, choosing to buy finished masters of recordings rather than mount up any serious A&R on their own, although Syl Johnson - the label's only true moneymaker - stepped up and produced quite a few records. Johnson does not appear on the comp except as an integral part of the story told by the liner notes and as producer of some of the tracks -which is not a bad thing, as there are plenty of Syl Johnson comps out there - so more room exists for awesome rarities. The first three posts of this week will cover some of those awesome records featured on this must-have compilation.

Annette Poindexter was Syl Johnson's erstwhile girlfriend when she cut two 45s for the label. She was backed by Syl's touring band, the Pieces of Peace, who had also shown significant prowess in the recording studios of Chicago, playing on several hit Chicago soul records. "Mama" is a nice stepping groover redolent of "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean," with nice string charts and Poindexter's strong vocals making it work.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Get On Down With The Stepfather Of Soul - Episode 16!

Episode #16 is now available for download in stereo or mono! (You can LISTEN to the mono program right here, thanks to Hipcast!) The playlist is the two sets I did at "Rhythm & Booze" on March 17, 2007, so this is a special extended episode! Enjoy! The playlist is as follows:

Set One:

1. Aretha Franklin, "Soulville"
2. B.B. King, "I'm Gonna Sit In Till You Give In"
3. Andre Williams, "Rib Tips (Pt. 1)"
4. Bo Diddley, "Do The Frog"
5. Slim Harpo, "Tip On In (Pt. 1)"
6. Gene "Bowlegs" Miller, "Frankenstein Walk"
7. The Fantastic Johnny C, "Hitch It To The Horse"
8. Rodge Martin, "Lovin' Machine"
9. Tiny Watkins, "Way Across Town"
10. The Stingers, "I Refuse To Be Lonely"
11. Koko Taylor, "Fire"
12. Roscoe Robinson, "How Much Pressure (Do You Think I Can Stand)"
13. Ironing Board Sam, "Non Support (That's What The Judge Said)"
14. Harold Burrage, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be (Since You've Been Gone)"
15. Otis Redding, "Hard To Handle"
16. Howard Tate, "That's What Happens"
17. Marva Whitney, "Things Got To Get Better (Get Together)"
18. Lowell Fulsom, "Make A Little Love"
19. The Olympics, "Baby Do The Philly Dog"
20. Robert Parker, "Barefootin'"
21. Pigmeat Markham, "The Hip Judge"
22. Maskman & The Agents, "One Eye Open"

INTERMISSION - John R, "Soul Medallion" Ad

Set Two:

1. Polka Dot Slim, "A Thing You Gotta Face"
2. Willie Mabon, "Just Got Some"
3. Candy Phillips, "Timber (Pt. 1)"
4. Warren Lee, "Climb The Ladder"
5. Solomon Burke, "Maggie's Farm"
6. Tom & Jerrio, "Boo-Ga-Loo"
7. Diamond Joe, "Hurry Back To Me"
8. Larry Birdsong, "Every Night In The Week"
9. The Mad Lads, "No Time Is Better Than Right Now"
10. The Meditation Singers, "Don't You Want To Go (Pt. 1)"
11. Jackie Moore, "Here I Am"

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Abraham & The Casanovas - Kangaroo (Pt. 2)

I plan to record and upload the new podcast today, but to tide you over for now, and to allow me to play with Hipcast some more, I present today's selection.

Abraham Ester and his wife, Marion, were part of the Murco Records roster in Shreveport, Louisiana. Dee Marais' Murco concern never was a major success but it enjoyed regional hits like Eddy Giles' "Losing Boy." The Kent CD Shreveport Southern Soul is a great anthology of the label and is worth checking out. Abraham's solo record "Kangaroo" was a two-part 45 on the Murco subsidiary Peermont, which unfortunately was not included on the comp. Part One's vocal is pretty good, but the instrumental Part Two is really where it's at, as Abe calls for solos and the groove really cooks. I need to get a cleaner copy of this 45, because it's just so good.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A New Approach!

Jock Mitchell - Not a Chance in a Million

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Today I managed to get some free time so I decided to check out I'm on their 7-day trial right now, so I'll be doing a lot of experimenting to see how this works - bear with me if I make mistakes. Give me your feedback about having the preview browser, etc.)

Well, it's been a very busy week for your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, hence the lack of posts and link refreshing the last few days. In order to make up for the delay I've decided to make the links for Monday and Tuesday's posts valid until Wednesday of next week. Due to time issues I haven't prepared anything in honor of Luther Ingram, so instead I'll encourage you to check out Red Kelly's B-Side post, which contains a great bio and, as always, a nice piece of soul music to meditate over. The plan for this blog, should things go to plan today and tomorrow, is for the "Rhythm & Booze"-inspired Episode #16 of the podcast to go up either tonight or tomorrow and for some posts from next week to focus on the Numero Group's latest and greatest Eccentric Soul release, Twinight's Lunar Rotation, and to include some stuff by Emanuel Laskey, who is featured in the newest edition of There's That Beat.

For today's selection I present with no further ado the Northern Soul classic "Not a Chance in a Million" by Jock Mitchell, an Impact release from the mid-60s. It's uptown, but Mitchell's reading creeps into Jimmy Robins "preacher" mode by the end. I love it. (Check out the Dec. 2006 issue of There's That Beat for the Impact/Inferno Records story.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

RIP Luther Ingram

I have just read that Luther Ingram has passed away at age 69. Ingram, whose "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want To Be Right)" was one of the biggest R&B hits of 1972 and perhaps one of the definitive "cheating" songs of all time, had been in poor health for quite a few years, requiring a kidney transplant in 2001 (the performance footage of Rufus and Carla Thomas in the film Only The Strong Survive comes from a benefit held for Luther in Memphis). I will do an Ingram post at some point this week. As Stax begins to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Luther's passing reminds me of just how important the label's legacy is and how the links to it continue to fade.

Get on Down With Albert Collins Again!

Albert Collins - Ain't Got Time

I'll defer to an earlier post I did about Albert Collins for information about the late blues master and his tasty guitar workouts of the '60s. Today's selection came from Collins' Imperial LP Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even In A Guitar), which is chock full of these type of goodies. This is a serious hipshaker featuring the usual stinging guitar from Collins and nice horn charts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Queen of Soulville!

Aretha Franklin - Soulville

First of all, I must thank Tim Lawrence for giving me another go behind the "wheels of steel" at "Rhythm & Booze" this past Saturday. It was a rush to spin some great records for a nice-sized, enthusiastic crowd that was ready to party on St. Pat's! I will record Episode #16 of the podcast this week, which will consist of the tunes I played over two sets that evening. Today's selection was the lead-off of the first set.

In 1960, Aretha Franklin, with her father's blessings, signed to Columbia Records under the auspices of John Hammond, and she recorded for the label until 1967, when she moved to Atlantic and proceeded to earn the "Queen of Soul" mantle (an honorific legendary WVON disc jockey Purvis Spann claims to have given her) right out of the gate with "I Never Loved a Man." As a result of her immense success with Atlantic, her Columbia recordings have been greatly ignored or, at best, presented as a poor fit for a newcomer artist. Although it is fair to say that Jerry Wexler and company at Atlantic capitalized best on her talents at a time when Columbia, with Mitch Miller at A&R and with an attitude common to most major labels of the time, chose to attempt to break Aretha more as a pop (not rock-n-roll) singer than as an R&B singer, her Columbia output is very good and it deserves more praise. "Soulville" was one of the few R&B hits Franklin had while on Columbia, and you know it's going to be good from the opening piano notes through Aretha and the backup group's workout of the lyrics and the great uptempo groove. The Queen of Soulville had arrived!

(Postscript - Titus Turner, co-writer of the tune, also recorded a nice version of the tune that sports a more New Orleans-flavored groove and a singing style that makes it fit almost as a perfect bookend to Mr. Fine Wine's classic theme song, "Downtown Soulville" by Chuck Edwards.)

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I have decided for the time being to stick with's Online File Folder for the downloads for this blog. Although I liked the preview feature and the fact that I didn't have to update links every 100 downloads, the fact that there were pop-up ads and issues with Firefox compatability for readers who use that browser have convinced me to, at least for now, stick with what I've been doing. I have looked into using Hipcast, which would allow me to put a preview pane inside of the blog - thus no pop-up ads, etc. - but at $9.99 a month I would be increasing the costs of doing the blog instead of having money to buy records with!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Memphis Soul of Revilot?

Terry Felton - You're Welcome Back

Most of the material that was released on the Solid Hitbound Productions labels including Revilot was in-house material produced by Don Davis, LeBaron Taylor or George Clinton, but there were lease-in deals. On Revilot those were the Little Sonny recordings and today's selection, a single produced by Memphis session musician/producer/vocalist Charles Chalmers, whose story (including his unlikely rise to popularity as a backup singer vis-a-vis his singing, with the Rhodes sisters, on Al Green records) can be read here. "You're Welcome Back" was a Chalmers production on Terry Felton, about whom I know nothing. There's a nice Memphis mid-tempo groove on this one (it sounds to me like it may have been recorded at Hi). Felton's singing is a little cloying, but she moves the song along nicely. It's a nice groover to end the week with.

(A postscript - The flip of the 45, "I Don't Want to Have to Wait," was also a production by Chalmers on Barbara & The Browns, which was leased to Chess, for whom Chalmers cut an instrumental LP, Sax and the Single Girl.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Deep Soul Devastation, Gospel Style

Rev. Julius Cheeks - Just Crying

I know that usually gospel tunes don't appear on the blog during the week, but I was listening to today's selection on the way to work and knew that it was today's pick. Gospel music didn't necessarily always deal with salvation, blessings or warnings to the unchurched. Sometimes gospel songs dipped into pretty dark territory, telling sad stories that even soul singers usually didn't touch, and not necessarily offering much religious content. Most of such songs involved death and the sadness it brings, despite religious belief in a positive afterlife. Songs like "Children In The Fire" by The C Lord C's (Su-Ann) touched on the tragedies of sudden death and a great many songs addressed the sorrow of the passing of "dear old Mother." Julius Cheeks' 1970 Peacock recording "Just Crying" finds the gospel legend describing his happenstance attendance at a child's funeral. After his opening, which has a "Crying in the Chapel" motif, Cheeks settles into his customary practice of narrating songs and letting the background singers do most of the work. (As I mentioned in a prior post, Cheeks' voice was ravaged after a career fronting the Sensational Nightingales.) But when Cheeks opens up in the choruses, the pain and anguish in his voice hits like a hammer. I can see how gospel audiences ate this up when it came out, but it's equally as strong a deep soul record as anything that came out in those days.

"Just Crying" was included on the Julius Cheeks Sings LP on Peacock, which was comped along with the Swan Silvertones' I Found The Answer and the Sunset Travelers' On Jesus Program over a decade years ago on Raisin' The Roof, a great boxed set on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. The whole set is worth hearing, especially the Cheeks material and the Sunset Travelers LP, on which a young O.V. Wright shows off how good a gospel singer he was before he switched to R&B and Peacock's Back Beat label. The two-disc set has long been out of print, for which I despaired when I loaned out my set and never got it back, but my good friend John Glassburner was so kind to make this track his "Gospel Pick of the Day" on the Yahoo! Southern Soul group and share it with me.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - The feedback about ZShare has been more negative than positive, particularly in technological aspects, and unless I hear strongly otherwise, I'm going to go back to GoDaddy next week.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Groovin' on St. Pat's!

Freddie Scott - Am I Grooving You

On Saturday night, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul will be a guest DJ at "Rhythm & Booze," and I'm tickled pink to get my third night behind the "wheels of steel" - among the funky 45s I'll be messing with will be this tasty Shout 45 from Freddie Scott. If you live in the area or will be visiting, get your St. Patrick's Day drink on at El Myr and "Get on Down"!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More "Blues Day" Nashville Music!

Roscoe Shelton - Strain On My Heart

The late Roscoe Shelton's relative lack of chart success is not so unusual considering that Shelton was part of the generally overlooked Nashville soul scene. Shelton had made his start with the Fairfield Four, a gospel group whose long career is worthy of attention in its own right, and his tenure with them and the spinoff group, The Skylarks, provided well over a decade of experience to the singer by the time he started recording R&B in the early '60s. He would eventually make stops at quite a few Nashville concerns, most notably Excello, Sims and Sound Stage Seven, before getting out of the business at the dawn of the '70s. After nearly 25 years away, he hooked up with Nashville soul man Fred James and recorded and toured as a solo and as part of the Excello All-Stars until his death in 2002. In a perfect world, Shelton's bluesy soul sound would've made him a superstar, but at least soul fans can enjoy his magic both on CD and through his appearances on The Beat!!!!, which are now available on DVD. Today's selection, one of his only two hits (the other being "Easy Going Fellow," which has appeared on an earlier episode of the podcast), was a 1965 Sims release, and it shows off his style very well. This is a basic slow blues, but Roscoe really puts it over with his exciting singing, good backup vocals from a femme chorus, and a nice spoken interlude.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I'm starting to get more feedback about using ZShare, both good and bad. I will try the service for the rest of the week and then I will make a final decision as to whether to stick with it. Keep sending feedback!)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Get on Down With Tony Joe White!

Tony Joe White - Scratch My Back

Today's post is inspired by the great post at Funky 16 Corners about the great Tony Joe White, whose '60s recordings for Monument are a great amalgam of swamp pop and blue-eyed soul. I'll defer to Larry's post for details about White, but I'll jump in with today's selection, which he mentioned in the post but didn't provide a link for. Quite a few artists covered Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back," ranging from Clifton Chenier's zydeco take ("Just Keep On Scratching," featured in Brainfreeze) to Oliver Sain's early '70s funk version for A-Bet. White's version of the tune ups the swamp quotient and is, in my opinion, the best of the covers. As the wah-wah infused groove pushes along White grunts and groans in a manner to eliminate any doubt that may existed from Harpo's record as to what "back scratching" entails.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Thanks to the sole commenter on Saturday regarding the use of ZShare for file preview and download. I would like to hear from more of you as to whether you like the change or not - the fact that there have been over 300 downloads in the last three days seems to suggest it's going well!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

This Is a Test!

Gary Toms Empire - 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (Blow Your Whistle)

Today's post will be brief, as its main purpose is to try out ZShare. As noted in a recent Soul Sides post, it is annoying to have to download a tune before hearing it. One of my dear readers referred me to that post, and so I'm going to try it out to see how it works. Although I do have an annual account with GoDaddy with the online file folder, I'm not afraid to try new stuff. Let me know what you think of this service. Also, if anyone uses Hipcast, which I've seen on a few blogs lately, let me know about it (I like it better because it puts a player on the blog instead of directing you to another webpage). Today's selection follows up on the "blow your whistle" theme I started on Monday.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Final Revilot

The Parliaments - A New Day Begins

Today's selection was the last 45 on the Revilot label, although it had a reprise as an Atco single. "A New Day Begins" features a nice groove and George Clinton's quirky style. Upon the demise of Revilot (and the affiliated Groovesville and Solid Hit concerns) the label's principals and assets moved in varied directions, with Don Davis (a label principal) going to Memphis to start a lucrative tenure at Stax, label principal LeBaron Taylor moving on to Columbia Records (and eventually becomeing an executive at Sony Music), and George Clinton turned the Parliaments into the Parliament/Funkadelic empire. It was a new day for all involved!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Guess Who? Junior Walker, That's Who!

Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - These Eyes

Although Jr. Walker (born Autry Dewalt, Jr.) scored quite a few hits on Motown's Soul imprint, Walker was certainly not a "Motown man." He lacked the sophistication of Marvin Gaye or any other beneficiary of the label's in-house charm school (a veteran performer by the time he and his group hooked up with Motown, he was never even enrolled!) and his band was too raggedy to grace the company's "Snake Pit" studios (the Funk Brothers actually played on the records; the All-Stars were strictly Jr.'s road band). Until 1969, most of Walker's records stuck with Walker's awesome saxophone playing or with Walker providing shouted, rough-hewn vocals for dance records (think "Shotgun," "Do the Boomerang," and "Shake and Fingerpop"), but when Motown reluctantly released the beautiful "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" and struck pop and R&B paydirt with it, Jr. Walker the crooner emerged on subsequent records. Walker's next hit, a cover of The Guess Who's "These Eyes," is featured today. Walker's vocals were not as expressive as those on the Guess Who's original, to be sure, but they were charming in a country-funk kind of way and his sax was definitely a nice addition to the great song. The record proved that "What Does It Take" was no fluke, as it was a #3 R&B and #16 pop hit in '69.

A postscript: I saw a 1971 episode of "Soul Train" some years ago that featured Jr. and the band performing live. (In the early years of the show quite a few artists were allowed to appear live; James Brown's appearances were especially noteworthy and have appeared on a few bootleg compilations.) As I mentioned, the All-Stars only backed Jr. on the road, so to hear Walker do his hits, especially "These Eyes" (which he said he got "lots of requests's for"), with such a stripped-down, rough-hewn group was great.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Let Me Hear It - Blow Your Whistle!

K.C. & The Sunshine Band - Blow Your Whistle

It truly stinks to know that on a beautiful sunny Atlanta day I'm sick as a dog with a head cold, but maybe today's selection will bring some sunshine indoors. "Blow Your Whistle" was one of the first K.C. & The Sunshine Band 45s, and although it made it into the R&B Top 30 in 1974, the group's rise to disco superstardom was still a couple of years away. "Blow Your Whistle" is a nice mixture of funk and Latin sounds featuring a very nice groove, fun party chanting and an attractive bass-and-guitar "stop-and-go" vamp. At some point someone says "'Blow Your Whistle' is a baaad record"; whoever it is, they are right! Dance records with whistles would populate the '70s landscape, with Gary Toms' "7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (Blow Your Whistle)" being one of my favorites. Maybe this was the first.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday Is Nashville Blues Day!

Shy Guy Douglas - Long Gone

Among the many unheralded figures of the Nashville black music scene was the bluesman Thomas "Shy Guy" Douglas, whose long career is evidenced by a dozen singles spanning from 1949 to the early '70s on almost all Nashville labels. "Long Gone" was one of Douglas' four Excello singles, and its easygoing groove makes it a favorite of mine. This one appears on quite a few Excello and Nashville R&B comps, which are worth checking out if you are a fan of swamp blues, Nashville soul or Southern rockabilly.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Get on Down With Steve Cropper!

Steve Cropper - Funky Broadway

Steve Cropper's contributions to American music are pretty awesome: he wrote or co-wrote many hits for Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett and others; he made up one-fourth of the legendary soul instro group Booker T. & The M.G.'s; he appeared as a sideman on numerous soul and rock records; and his guitar skills have taken him to the top of the list of great guitarists. Most of his fame, of course, came from his tenure at Stax Records, where he was involved with the label as a de facto A&R man, session musician, songwriter, producer and artist from the beginning of the '60s until he left the label in 1970 as a victim of the changing attitudes and work methods of the label as the "snapping fingers" era began and Stax began to move away from its Southern soul roots.

Although he was such a valuable figure at Stax, it was either by neglect, a desire not to deemphasize the Booker T. & The M.G.'s act, and/or his own low-key nature (both personally and as a musician) that Cropper only appeared on two LPs as a solo artist, both near the end of his time at the label: the interesting Stax album Jammed Together, on which he joined Pops Staples and Albert King (one of the two 45s pulled from that album features Cropper singing "Water"), and his debut as a leader, the Volt LP With a Little Help From My Friends. Again, for any of the three reasons named earlier, and perhaps a fourth, that the Cropper LP was maybe part of the massive LP release Al Bell engineered to build an instant post-Atlantic Stax album catalogue (can someone confirm this, as I don't have my materials handy?), Cropper's album was not well-promoted, no singles were pulled from it, and the great record vanished with little fanfare. As usual, we soul fans are so fortunate that the CD era has given so many great recordings, including the Cropper LP, a new lease on life. "Funky Broadway," today's selection, finds Cropper working it out on the early funk classic. Cropper's version is a bit closer to Wilson Pickett's than it is to Dyke & The Blazers' original, but Cropper gives the tune a great Stax groove. From the stomping introduction to Cropper's guitar work to the neat breakdown to the soaring finale, said Stax groove is everywhere and the tune really cooks.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday Gospel Time!

Mahalia Jackson - In the Upper Room

As I battle a cold I pause to post and to update links from earlier days. I don't think anyone who reads this blog needs an introduction to the Queenof Gospel singers, so I'll just say this is my favorite of her Columbia recordings. Enjoy!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Eccentric? Awesome? You Decide.

Linda Jones - Stay With Me Forever

Linda Jones' untimely death in 1972 at age 28 robbed soul music of one of its most unique voices. Her recordings for Atco, Blue Cat, Loma, Warner Brothers, Neptune and Turbo show a singer with the most expressive use of melisma (more on that later) of any of her peers and total soul energy that made her recordings, be they Northern Soul groovers like "Hit Me Like TNT" or "Last Minute Miracle" or ballads like "For Your Precious Love," exciting and interesting. She started songs the way most singers would end them - Bill Pollak wrote that her performance of "Not On The Outside" "[made] Tina Turner sound like Judy Collins" - and her latter recordings featured more of that intensity than her better-known recordings, like the 1967 Top 10 R&B hit "Hypnotized" and the follow-up "What've I Done (To Make You Mad)" (which appears on Episode #6 of the podcast). A biography of Jones can be found here, and I'll defer to it for more details about her life and career.

Today's selection was her first 45 for All Plantinum's Turbo label, and what a song it turned out to be. "Stay With Me Forever" in other hands would be a stately, soulful song that would be perfect for wedding singers to perform. Linda Jones, however, turned the song into an emotion-charged (and emotion-draining) tour-de-force. Her melisma is all over the map on this record - check out her reading of the line "summer, fall, winter and spring" at the end of the first verse and how she leads into the second - and by the time she rolls into the final chorus she's singing so strongly that the phrase "stay with me forever" sounds almost more desperate than romantic. My wife dislikes the song, finding it to be just too over-the-top. I think it's great. Listen and decide for yourself what you think.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Get on Down With Sally and Loral!

Eddie Jefferson - Psychedelic Sally

Today's post is dedicated to Loral, a Canadian whom I - by means I have long forgotten - had an online correspondence with back in the late nineties. My first attempts at podcasting (although not called such at the time) was a Real Audio show called "Soul Serenade," and Loral and I would do a supplemental weekly four-song show called "The Sunflower Dance Set" in which I would send her a list of funky tunes (which she hadn't heard, and which I was technologically too unsophisticated to send to her), from which she'd pick four and then I'd record a little show. (She occasionally would record voice over tracks that I would dub into the show, with neat results - she'd use flange and other effects to add a little psychedelia into the presentation). After about six months of these shows I ended up going without a computer for a spell and our correspondence ended. I need to look her up to see what she's up to. At any rate, today's selection was one of her favorites.

Eddie Jefferson was the founder of the "vocalese" movement in jazz singing. Vocalese differs from scat singing in that instead of singing nonsense syllables to imitate instruments, the singer instead sets lyrics to instrumentals (either in total or in imitation of solos). The most famous proponents of vocalese was Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and groups like the Manhattan Transfer would have '70s pop success in that style. Jefferson's 1968 version of Horace Silver's "Psychedelic Sally" is a sho' 'nuff piece of get down, as Eddie spins a tale of longing after the song's subject, from whose bohemian lifestyle he wishes to rescue. There's a great groove on this one, and Jefferson gives the great James Moody a great sax solo. This tune reminds me that I really need to put more soul jazz on here - there are so many great tunes!