Monday, April 30, 2007
The King Pins - I Got the Monkey Off My Back
Some time ago I did a week of posts regarding the the Kelly Brothers, whose awesome gospel and R&B sides for Federal, Sims and Excello have been seriously underappreciated over the years. Today's selection is one of their R&B sides for Federal, where they used the "King Pins" name to differentiate their secular material from their earlier gospel work.
"I Got the Monkey Off My Back" was the flip to "You're Using Me," a good up-tempo number that was recently included in the King New Breed R&B comp on Kent. The flip's title is misleading, as it would appear to be another uptempo dance thing; "Monkey," however, is a doo-wop throwback featuring a very nice falsetto lead (maybe Robert Kelly?) and solid harmony by the group. (The group did do a monkey dance record, "The Monkey One More Time"; maybe that's a post for another day.)
(EDITOR'S NOTE - I've done some editing to the links section of the blog to add several blogs and podcasts that I've just learned about. I have to heartily recommend Fufu Stew, The Blush Organisation and Flea Market Funk right away. All three blogs feature some great podcasts and I look forward to enjoying both as part of my regular soul intake!)
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The Caravans - I Won't Be Back
Today's selection is not particularly rare for any one with a decent exposure to gospel music. The Caravans were one of gospel's leading female groups, and for good reason: the group was a veritable "who's who" of gospel, whose lineup included gospel legends Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, Dorothy Norwood, Cassietta George and Shirley Caesar, and a young James Cleveland worked with the group as pianist and arranger! Today's selection was an early '60s single for the Gospel label, and it was one of Shirley Caesar's first signature songs. Please forgive the scratchy record from whence the MP3 came; focus instead on the rushing tempo, Caesar's great lead and the neat arrangement. You won't be able to sit still on this one!
Saturday, April 28, 2007
The Soul Children - Move Over
When Stax Records ended its distribution agreement upon the sale of Atlantic Records in 1968, one of the many changes the label faced (in addition to the shocking loss of its entire pre-1968 catalogue) was the end of Sam & Dave's tenure with the label, as the legendary duo was merely "loaned" to Stax and allowed to have records on the label. For about a year, Atlantic released Sam & Dave records written and/or produced by Isaac Hayes & David Porter on their main imprint. Once that stream dried up Hayes and porter needed a new act for which to focus their creative energies. Deciding not to appear imitative of Sam & Dave by forming a new male duo, the two assembled the Soul Children, a two-man, two-woman group assembled from solo acts, most notably J. Blackfoot, who would have a moderately successful career as a solo in the '80s, and Norm West, who had recorded for Hi prior to joining the group. The group would stay with Stax until the label's latter days, even after Hayes and Porter stopped working with them, scoring a few hits along the way such as the 1971 dancer "Hearsay" (one of the rare Jim Stewart productions on Stax in the post-Atlantic era) and awesome ballads such as "The Sweeter He Is" and "I'll Be The Other Woman." "Move Over" was the flip side of "Give 'Em Love," their first Stax 45. Whereas "Give 'Em Love" was a pretty forgettable uptempo thing, "Move Over" is a nice slab of deep soul on which Blackfoot and West do some great pleading over a stately groove. (The rhythm track and arrangement is very similar to that of "A-B-C-D," a Hayes-Porter production on Ollie & The Nightingales, which is a good record in its own right.)
Friday, April 27, 2007
Billy Young - Too Much
The outstanding Billy Young ballad "Nothing's Too Much (Nothing's Too Good)" knocked me out when I first heard it on the first Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures CD, and it has appeared on a prior episode of the podcast. Later on I got my hands on the Mercury 45, and, boy, what a treat was in store for me on the flip!
Georgia soul guru Brian Poust is right in saying that Billy Young's '60s records, produced by mentor Otis Redding, really didn't stand a chance in the marketplace, considering that Otis himself was having hits doing essentially the same sort of thing. (Young would go on to record less-derivative material on his own Joyja label and for other concerns in the following decade. See Brian's great post about Young from his Georgia Soul blog.) But I suppose one can never be too upset at having more of the "Otis Redding sound" to enjoy, can they? "Too Much" is a nice dancer featuring Otis' signature horn charts and a spirited performance by Young, whose lighter voice still captures the grit and gusto of his mentor's style.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Betty Everett - The Real Thing
Had Betty Everett's only recording been the 1964 pop and R&B smash "It's In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)" she would be forever anchored in pop culture history, but fortunately for us soul fans she recorded a wide range of material that truly showcased her varied soulful styles, be they deep bluesy soul like "Your Love Is Important to Me" on One-Derful! or tunes like today's selection on Vee-Jay (where she also hit with several duets with Jerry Butler), the smoother but awesome early '70s stuff she did for Uni and Fantasy ("Ain't Nothing Gonna Change Me" is a personal fave of her Fantasy sides), or funky disco things like "Hey Lucinda" (one of the final Sound Stage Seven 45s, which I need to feature one of thes days). By the time of her death in 2001 she had long been out of the spotlight, but she had a body of work that is worthy of investigation, especially for those who only know her for "Shoop Shoop!"
"The Real Thing" is probably better-known among Northern Soul fans as sung by Tina Britt, who covered the tune on Veep. Admittedly, Britt's version added a lot more pep and dancefloor groove than Everett's 1965 original, but there's a pop-soul magic to Everett's version that makes the original appealing to me. The Ashford-Simpson-Armstead-penned tune bops along with little harp flourishes and cheerful horn charts while Betty and the background singers really sell the song.
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Due to time constraints I will not be recording a podcast for April; I will, however, begin a two-week break from school on Tuesday of next week, so I plan to roll out Episode #17 in the beginning of May; look out for it!)
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
B.B. King - Get Myself Somebody
Although now viewed as the senior statesman of blues music, B.B. King spent the '60s at the top of his game as an R&B hitmaker, scoring hits with new recordings on ABC and its BluesWay imprint and with old recordings he had recorded for Kent years before (King had switched to ABC in 1961 but Kent would release B.B. King 45s and LPs through 1972, most notoriously in the case of the mid-'60s LP The Jungle, the cover art of which featured a shot of singer Johnny Adams - not to be confused with the "Tan Canary" of the same name - holding a guitar, but in rearview). Part of what kept King on the charts were groovy numbers like today's selection. "Get Myself Somebody," a BluesWay 45, features some unusual support in the songwriting department - the renowned poet Maya Angelou wrote the lyrics - and a fantastic arrangement. King doesn't do any guitar playing on this one; instead he lets the dancefloor groove push his gospelly reading of Maya's lyrics along while the horn charts set up nice turnarounds. From log rollers to ditch diggers, from beggars to presidents, everybody should dig this record if they got a little sense!
Monday, April 23, 2007
Lee Moses - Time and Place
I was exposed to today's selection by Oliver Wang (DJ O-Dub)'s excellent Soul Sides comp (if you haven't already, go to the links section and check out the Soul Sides blog, which is a fantastic, well-written music blog featuring lots of soul and its offshoots). Lee Moses' "Time and Place" is a nice piece of Miami-sounding soul with a push-and-pull funk groove that really cooks. The "slippin' around" lyrics are right in Clarence Carter country and are well-delivered by Lee. The 45 got a release on Front Page, which was one of the many labels Stax did short distribution deals for in the late '60s and early '70s. A subsequent album of the same title, which came out on a different label, is an extremely rare find.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Clarence Carter - The Court Room
Your everlovin' Stepfather of Soul was somewhat indisposed yesterday, due to a law school mock trial that he had to try, which trial he and his partner unfortunately did not win. But those are the breaks - someone has to win and someone has to lose in every lawsuit, right? At any rate, today's selection will supplant the usual "Sunday Gospel Time" feature as a result.
Thinking about the mock trial brought me to today's selection. "The Court Room," released in 1971, was one of Clarence Carter's last hits on Atlantic before he moved on to FAME. The very atmospheric yet groovy arrangement provides a great backdrop for Carter to spin a tale of the trial of Rev. Joe Henry, whose propriety toward a certain young lass is in question. The string work on this record to me is the icing on the cake, cutting through Carter's proto-rap narrative and underscoring the dramatic moments. Unfortunately I didn't have that kind of drama in my trial, but if I did, I would've wanted this groove in the courtroom with me!
Friday, April 20, 2007
Johnny Daye - Stay Baby Stay
Within the course of the past week I received two very interesting emails in connection with blue-eyed soul legend Johnny Daye. The first came from Bonedog Records, whose CD by Robert Peckman, Stirrin' Up Bees, includes the song "Let's Talk It Over," featuring Johnny on the vocals for his first release in over 30 years. Johnny's still sounding great and you can hear a sample of the song on the site. Yesterday, Daye himself emailed me, having found the blog when searching online for info about the Peckman CD. I was pleasantly surprised to see kind words from him about the blog and the entry I did some time ago about him. He noted that "Stay Baby Stay," his final 45, was his favorite recording and agreed that it is an exquisite ballad.
After reading his email I went back and realized that I was very negligent in not fulfilling my promise in that earlier post to feature "Stay Baby Stay" at a later time, so today I make up for it. How much can I gush about the song's outstanding arrangement? The strings are nothing short of fabulous, the backup singers provide great support and Daye brings a smoldering energy to his vocals. There's no whooping or hollering here, just soul to the nth degree in this meditative recording. Dig the slight modulation near the end. It really works. Viva Johnny Daye!
(PS: Yoni Neeman's Soul of the Web site has a page featuring Daye's discography and has some audio clips of several recordings. Check them out!)
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Lamp Sisters - I Thought It Was All Over
The Lamp Sisters were the siblings of Detroit soulster Buddy Lamp (of Wheelsville fame), and they released four 45s on Duke. I don't much else about them but that their "No Cure For The Blues" received some action in Northern Soul circles. Today's selection was the flip to the brassy, swinging "A Woman With The Blues." "I Thought It Was All Over" is a great Southern-styled ballad that really works. The lead vocal is very strong - she also does a nice spoken interlude - and the background vocals are very nicely done. The Peacock/Duke catalogue is full of so many great unheralded soul sides like this one - it's unfortunate that it hasn't been mined for reissue as well as it should.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Willie West - Hello Mama
I first heard of New Orleans soulster Willie West via Mr. Fine Wine's "Downtown Soulville" show, on an occasion when he played the brooding, funky "Fair Child" (Josie), which I really need to get a 45 copy of, although I never see it on eBay. I first heard today's selection on one of Larry Grogan's "Funky 16 Corners" mixes, and as soon as I heard it I immediately went on eBay and bought a copy of the Deesu 45. "Hello Mama" has a groove that I can't quite describe: it's a little funky, but it's also got this slow and sexy "Get Low Down" New Orleans thing going on. Whatever the groove is, it's a solid cooker, with West asserting that he's got a "brand new style" on the dance floor. His lyrics, though, are fairly insignificant in light of the tune's awesome groove, particularly later in the recording when Allen Toussaint starts tossing in some nice hard piano chords to funk it up. Right here, baby, is where it's at!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Lattimore Brown - Bag of Tricks
Although I had heard of Sir Lattimore Brown before ever seeing any episodes of the 1966 R&B TV series The Beat!!!!, to see the wiry Brown strut his stuff lip-syncing his Sound Stage Seven recordings and tearing through covers of other songs of the day reminds me what was so magical about the classic soul era - a lot of artists who never broke into the big time (for just or unjust reasons) were out there, working the boards, absolutely full of soul. Today's selection shows why Lattimore Brown clearly fit that category.
The liner notes to Charly's Sound Stage Seven Story note that SS7 producer John Richbourg (WLAC's "John R") had problems with Brown because he had a hard time staying in tune when he sang. There's some truth to this, as Brown sang with so much soul that he bordered on reckless abandon, although more restrained performances like "I'm Not Through Loving You" are Southern soul gems that deserved more commercial action than they received.
"Bag of Tricks," today's selection, features a nice arrangement - I love the strings in the opening - and Brown's exploration of the song's lyrics, which fall within the "you-do-me-wrong-but-I-can't-leave" bag. Brown tries to play it straight at first, but by the end he's shouting and screaming, but it really works! Get on down, "Sir"!
(EDITOR'S SECOND NOTE - YouTube has pulled the plug on the user who shared these clips ... bummer!)
Monday, April 16, 2007
The Dynamics - Ain't No Sun
In an earlier post I discussed the Detroit-meets-Memphis soul of The Dynamics and the forthcoming Hacktone reissue of their First Landing LP. Here's another example of their great style, "Ain't No Sun". After a great intro, the group does its thing in a manner that strikes me as being sort of "Southern Temptations."
Saturday, April 14, 2007
George McGregor & The Bronzettes - Temptation Is Hard To Fight
Today's post returns to the Numero Eccentric Soul comp Twinight's Lunar Rotation and yet another powerful ballad. George McGregor & The Bronzettes' "Temptation Is Hard to Fight" is a stately thing with an atmospheric intro (the guitar line cleverly interpolates the chorus of the Knight Brothers' similarly-themed "Temptation 'Bout To Get Me"), nice plaintive vocals from George, and good background work by the hastily-assembled Bronzettes (George's girlfriend and a few other singers). Although, like most Twinight product, this one fell through the cracks when released, it's an awesome record.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Dyke & The Blazers - Funky Bull
I couldn't help myself but to do a follow-up to the Dyke & The Blazers post from yesterday. I included both parts of "Funky Bull" on Episode #10 of the podcast, but this extended version from the new BGP comp is just too hot for me to pass up. "Funky Bull" is my favorite Dyke record, with its chunky early groove that gives way to a great "bullfighting" vamp and Dyke shouting out dance instructions as if his life depended on it. Just get on down with this one - it's a cooker!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Dyke & The Blazers - Swamp Walk
Phoenix's Dyke & The Blazers were spared from being a footnote in the Wilson Pickett discography in that the group was able to go beyond the Wicked Pickett's overwhelmingly successful cover of their "Funky Broadway" to have a few hits of their own before Dyke's (born Arlester Christian) violent death in 1970. The great folks at Ace Records had released a comp of Dyke sides some years ago, but a new trawl through the vaults of Original Sound Records has resulted in the excellent two-disc BGP comp We Got More Soul, which features all of the classic sides by the group (some, like "Funky Bull," getting their first full-length release) and lots of unissued material, including today's selection.
"Swamp Walk" has a nice easygoing groove that is funky but not overpoweringly so. As it strolls along, Dyke and the fellows talk about the new thing, the Swamp Walk (which I assume either was a band invention or a dance that never really caught on). This really should've been released - everyone would've been bobbing along, singing the catch "swamp, swamp, swamp, swamp, swamp" refrain (or maybe that's just what I do?) All that aside, this is a fun, funky and fantastic tune for which, along with the others on this comp, I give Ace Records full kudos.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Leroy Lloyd & The Swinging Dukes - The Worm Song
For today's post I return to the Soul Resurrection CD (which, contrary to what I said last week, is available for purchase from Dusty Groove America and other retailers of fine soul and funk CDs) to present some funk from the Playground Studio. I originally intended just to mention this track in a post of another track, but I was listening to it yesterday and decided that such funky foolishness just had to be shared.
Leroy Lloyd and the Swinging Dukes' "Worm Song" is one of those records like Bo Diddley's "Say Man," featuring ridiculous dialogue while a nice groove rolls along. Here, a great funky groove is there to keep your feet tapping, but the rap over the top runs the gamut from being disgusting (ostensibly, the song is about having tapeworms!) to being full of sexual innuendos (lots of jokes about the size of various people's "worm" abound) to referencing to the Ohio Players (it's claimed that one person got a worm from "messing with an old, old person" - the granny from the hit "Funky Worm," maybe?) and "Shout Bamalama" singer Mickey Murray. It's clear why this never saw the light of day, but it's funky tomfoolery to the nth degree.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Howard Tate - Pride
I guess lately I've been thinking a lot about Howard Tate. Not too long ago I did two posts covering Howard Tate's amazing 2001 comeback and his 1972 eponymous LP for Atlantic. Today's selection has previously appeared in Episode #5 of the podcast, but while listening to it in my car yesterday, I decided I should do a post about it because it's just that good.
"Pride" was a 1976 release on Tate's own HT label, and as awesome as it is, it's clear why it did not reverse the downward momentum his career had taken. On a pure business level, the single was due to fail due to the collapse of the independent R&B record business at the time (to put it in perspective, the mighty Stax Records had closed its doors at the beginning of the year). Further, "Pride" was an anachronism in the era of Philly soul and disco with its deep soul style and DIY production values. Although commercial success was all but foreclosed by the above, "Pride" stands as a great deep soul record. Over a very naked accompaniment, Tate starts out playing some nice bluesy guitar and conversationally extols his woman's greatness. After meandering through a verse or so Tate trails his vocal off and plays an equally-meandering solo before slipping back into the coda as if he were picking up his conversation where it left off (he literally repeats the "fire in my bones" lyric that ended the second verse). As the coda picks up steam, a very raggedy (and to my ears, slightly out-of-tune) horn section emerges to lay down some heavy-handed support to carry it all home. This is clearly not the best Howard Tate record ever made, but it is a personal favorite. This is real soul music, unfortunately released about ten years too late!
Monday, April 09, 2007
Jimmy Lewis - I'm Steppin' Out
Jimmy Lewis is no stranger to this blog, so I'll skip ahead in today's post to feature this muscular piece of get down that was released on Tangerine. "I'm Steppin' Out" features a great groove and horn charts, and Lewis tells his tale of country boy made good with a strutting authority that really makes the whole thing cook. Get on down, Jimmy!
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Madame Edna Gallmon Cooke - The Hammer Rings
Today's selection is one of my favorite Easter-themed gospel recordings. Madame Cooke takes the listener to the foot of the cross and mournfully tells the story of the Crucifixion. Her melismatic delivery worries almost every single note of the song, and the background singers add to the atmosphere of the song. It's powerful stuff.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Larry O'Williams - That's My Girl
As I've often told people, when I go to "Rhythm & Booze" it's like going to church and school - "church" in the sense that it's very uplifting and "school" in the sense that Tim and the other DJs always expose me to great soul records I'd never heard of. Kurt Wood, with whom I shared DJ duties on St. Patrick's Day, exposed me to this curiosity from the folk-oriented Arhoolie label. "Soul? On ARHOOLIE?!?" I pondered in amazement. But 'tis true!
I haven't been able to find anything out about Larry O'Williams, but "That's My Girl" appears to be his only 45 for the company. Over a nice rhythm section O'Williams really sells the song with his somewhat unusual voice.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
The Dynamics - Murder in the First Degree
The Dynamics hit the charts with a splash with their Cotillion record "The Ice Cream Song," but then faded away. The Detroit group's Cotillion records were recorded in Memphis at American Sound, and the Detroit-meets-Memphis style the group exhibited resulted in great recordings that were unfortunately overlooked, leaving "Ice Cream Song," which is actually one of their weaker recordings, to represent their legacy. Fortunately, the folks at the eclectic reissue label Hacktone Records have a CD release of First Landing, one of the group's two LPs, in the making, so the Dynamics can get their long-overdue reappraisal.
Today's selection showcases the group's sound nicely. "Murder in the First Degree" is a nice midtempo thing with great lyrics of the "baby please don't go" variety ("I know it must be a bill that's overdue," the lead singer says about his woman's ticket to ride) over an easygoing groove. It's my favorite track on the album. Watch out for the CD release of First Landing and get it when it comes out. You'll be glad you did. In the meantime, also check out the Ear Fuzz post about the LP/CD, where more audio files can be found.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Jimmy Gresham - Chasin' a Rainbow
Today we go back to the new Soul Resurrection comp for some more soul from the Playground Studios. Although yesterday's post pointed in a completely different direction than what you would think would be the product of a southern soul studio, Playground produced lots of nice, deep-fried southern soul, even at a time when tracks like the Reuben Howell recording from yesterday's post had better chances of success. Today's selection is a great example of Playground's southern side.
Jimmy Gresham's gruff delivery is very reminiscent of O.C. Tolbert, and on the rocking "Chasin' a Rainbow" he channels a little Otis Redding also. Gresham's passionate delivery of the song's two verses (which are sung twice) nicely captures the desperation of the lyrics, including the somewhat wordy "please don't let me just be chasing a rainbow" phrase that closes out the second and fourth verse and provides the song's coda.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Reuben Howell - Bad Habit Baby
Last week I received a surprise parcel from my man John Ciba (who gave us the great Birmingham Sound comp from last year) containing a couple of Rabbit Factory-related products. The first was a reissue 45 on Ralph "Soul" Jackson which I will feature later this week, and the second was a CD that Rabbit Factory will distribute entitled Soul Resurrection, Vol. 1: The Playground Series. Southern soul fans know from the Yahoo! "southernsoul" group that Finley Duncan's Playground Studios, from whence the Minaret label existed and quite a few great soul records on SSS and other Shelby Singleton labels were recorded, has been fairly recently acquired and the new owner has set about reissuing lots of material from the label's vaults. The Soul Resurrection CD contains twenty fantastic pieces of rare and unissued '70s southern soul that makes it a great companion piece to the Birmingham Sound CD. I plan to feature a few tracks this week and will provide information re: the CD's release when I get it from John. Anyway, on to the music.
Reuben Howell should've been one of the greatest blue-eyed soulsters of the '70s, but his biggest success came from some Motown material that came out at the end of the decade (as Motown began to decline in industry dominance they looked southward and put out some great but really underpromoted stuff like Bettye LaVette's "In the Middle of Falling in Love"). Today's selection is one of several Howell tracks that grace the comp. "Bad Habit Baby" leads off the CD with its very uptown groove and a great vocal by Howell. The record doesn't sound very southern at all - when I hear it I think of Chicago records like Ben Monroe's "Broken Home" or some of Lou Rawls' Philly International stuff (truthfully, I think Lou could've turned this song into a solid hit) - but it's very engaging and a great way to start the CD.
NOTE - Red Kelly from "The A-Side", "The B-Side," "Soul Detective," et al. and Dan Phillips of "Home of the Groove" have informed me (see the comments below) that the Reuben Howell tracks are actually mis-labeled Johnny Adams SSS International tracks. (I figure that was an honest mistake; I certainly wouldn't have known!) At any rate, I hope that people will still buy and enjoy Soul Resurrection, as the music is top-notch, regardless of who exactly is doing the singing!
Monday, April 02, 2007
The Singing Southern Echos of Memphis, Tennessee - He Will Make a Way Somehow
Lots of things have prevented me from posting recently, but fortunately I've survived the storms. It's only appropriate, then, that I have some "Monday Gospel Time" in response! Today's selection came from the Singing Southern Echos [sic] of Memphis, Tennessee, whose Designer LP Somebody Touched Me is a highlight of the early discography of the legendary DIY gospel record label. This is a reworking of the gospel standard "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow" that really hits the spot today. I'm glad to be back in the saddle!
(Thanks to John Glassburner for today's selection.)