Wednesday, June 06, 2007

He Said, She Said!

The Soul Children - Hearsay

The Soul Children made their debut on this blog awhile back ago, and I'll refer you to my prior post about them for the group's history. The strutting 1972 record "Hearsay" was a #5 R&B chart hit (and was just outside of the Pop Top 40 at #44) that was written by Norman West and John Colbert (aka "J. Blackfoot"), the group's two male vocalists, and it's one of my favorites by the group and one of my favorite "finger-snappin'" era Stax 45s.

"Hearsay" is one of those tunes where everything just fits together the right way. The vocals are outstanding: Blackfoot really lays down the lyrics; the group provides very strong vocals at the ends of the verses and with the "he said, she said you did it" riff in the tune's midsection and coda; and Blackfoot and one of the female singers (which one I forget) do a good spoken interlude in the middle of the record. The groove is so "in the pocket" that you would think it was a record from the label's "stax-o-wax" era. Of course, it didn't hurt matters that Stax founder Jim Stewart, along with Al Jackson, produced the cut (Stewart had pretty much removed himself from producing at Stax by '72, tending instead to the numerous business details the then-burgeoning label had), and having Donald "Duck" Dunn playing bass on the record shaped that groove as well. (Rob Bowman notes that Colbert and West wrote the song to be faster, but Duck couldn't play his part the way they envisioned it, so the compromise was a more relaxed groove.) This is good ol' Southern soul get down, no doubt about it!

It should be noted that Bowman also writes that live performances of the song were also very good, as Norman West would get involved in the little skit, playing an instigator. He's right - check out the version of the tune the group does on the Wattstax soundtrack: the tempo is quicker but also hard-hitting; the vocals are very good, of course; and the skit is great ("I don't give a damn what Shirley has to say")!

1 comment:

Preston said...

this 45 label bears a subtle but significant change-- the brown snapping fingers. African-American marketing guru Larry Shaw had joined Stax about a year prior to this release. He'd become skilled at marketing black products for black consumers. I think he was also crucial to the Wattstax festival in LA in summer '72.
Shaw died in Memphis in 2003. Blackfoot still lives in the area and performs here pretty regularly. West is the music director for the Rev. Al Green. I don't think the gals fared so well, tho-- they have straight jobs!
Nice article and good point about Stewart's production.