Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Playground Soul!

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!


Red Kelly said...

Jason -

You don't have to approve this comment, but the Brits on the SS group were all over Jim Lancaster after he released the Playground CD, telling him that 2 of the Reuben Howell tracks (this one and 'How Can I Prove') were actually sung by Johnny Adams, and had indeed been released on vinyl before (Ithink on SSS Int'l). Just wanted to give ya the heads up... like you said, Howell would be THE greatest blue eyed soul singer ever if he could sing like the 'Tan Canary', no?

Great CD, all around, though. I'm with ya on that!

Dan Phillips said...

I'll have to give the nod to Red, here. That IS Johnny Adams, no matter what the CD listings may tell you. 'Bad Habit' appeared on SSS Internation #870; and 'How Can I Prove' on #873, which were the last 45s he did for the label. That later stuff was recorded in Florida. So, chalk it up to compiler error - a failry serious one. How could he hear that voice and NOT know it is Adams? Anyway, thank for posting the track. I've never heard it. Keep up the good work.

cherrypie said...

I'm Reuben's daughter, and I told Jim those two songs weren't my daddy singing before it went to final production. He wouldn't believe me. I'm almost 40, so I think I know my dad's voice when I hear it, but oh well. In my opinion, daddy is the better singer, but you know how daughters are! :) (smile) By the way, he died on January 5, 2004 of a massive heart attack at the age of 59. I gues that hard living got to him. He sure is missed.