Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's Promo Day!

Today's post is one I've intended to do for quite some time now. It's a departure from the norm in that I'm featuring newer material for the most part. But this post is overdue, because one of the pleasant (and unexpected) consequences of having this blog is that I have been contacted by several artists, record companies, and record marketing firms about various projects that are out there. Although quite a few of them are outside of the general scope of the blog, a lot of the material is actually very good, and I have wanted to feature some of it for some time. Today I'm featuring four CDs that have come out this year, two featuring vintage material or a more vintage-styled sound, and two which feature newer sounds, one by a well-known neo-soul diva and the other by an eclectic New York newcomer songstress.

Angie Stone (featuring James Ingram) - My People

Angie Stone (no relation to your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul) has been doing her thing in the R&B world for the last decade, and when she was signed to the newly-reactivated Stax label some soul purists decried the decision by Concord Music to record modern R&B on the legendary label. Frankly, I've always felt that such opposition is nonsense. I think the classic Stax recordings will endure forever, as have the Motown classics; Motown has not shied away from cutting new artists, and has had success in the recent decade with soulstress India.Arie. I don't see why Stax should be an amber-enclosed relic, and I think an artist like Angie Stone will not sully the label's name. Her new album, The Art of Love & War, is a nice piece of mellow neo-soul, featuring guest turns by Betty Wright and James Ingram, the latter of whom participates in "My People," a great piece of black pride soul which is my favorite from the CD, hence its feature here. Check out this info page on Stone and the CD for more details. Good luck to Angie and Stax on this new venture!

The Budos Band - His Girl

Daptone Records has been championed on this blog many times for its commitment to the classic funk sound, and The Budos Band II, the second Daptone album by the Afrofunk-inspired Budos Band, continues the label's tradition of excellence. My favorite from this CD is "His Girl," which starts off with a reference to the Motown classic "My Girl" but then slips into a blaxploitation-styled groove. Check out the Daptone Records page about the album for more info.

Shelly Bhushan - Picking Daisies

New York singer/songwriter Shelly Bhushan emailed me some time ago, inviting me to check out her first full-length CD, Picking Daisies (an EP, The Shelly Show, had been a prior release). Bhushan presents an eclectic mix of pop, soul, jazz and even a country-flavored track on Pushing Daisies which shows off her great vocal chops and fine songs. I've picked the title track for this post, as it finds Shelly soulfully working it out over a nice '70s-styled jazzy soul groove. The CD is available on iTunes and via CD Baby (check out the CD Baby info page). It's a good CD.

Mongo Santamaria - You Need Help (snippet)

Finally I turn to the new series of releases involving the classic Latin label Fania Records. You can't say "Latin Soul" without thinking about Fania, whose output of the '60s and '70s gave the world the salsa star Hector Lavoe, had records with Latin soul greats like Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto, and gave the world the Latin soul supergroup the Fania All-Stars. Part of the new Fania project was the CD Fania Live 01: From the Meat Market, on which New York's DJ Rumor mixed a very satisfying set of Latin soul and other Fania sounds. Featured here is the portion of Mongo Santamaria's "You Need Help" that Rumor used in the mix. I have heard this CD and La Voz, a great 2-disc comp of Lavoe's '60s and '70s sides (both with Willie Colon and as a solo act), and I'm excited about what Fania product is forthcoming!

Friday, September 28, 2007

An Article Worth Checking Out

I've covered Bettye LaVette, Daptone Records, Sharon Jones and William "Darondo" Pulliam on this site many times before, so this article from this week's Village Voice and this review of Bettye's new album, Scene of the Crime worth a read.

A Soul Meeting: Motown and New Orleans

Earl King - Three Knocks on My Door

The late singer/guitarist/songwriter Earl King was a powerhouse of New Orleans R&B, having hits like "Trick Bag" and "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights" and having written classics such as Willie Tee's "Teasin' You" and Lee Dorsey's "Do-Re-Mi." King's career as a recording artist, however, was cut off abruptly in 1963 by the initial shuttering of Imperial Records (which would come back later in the decade as a Liberty Records subsidiary), and it would not be until the '80s and '90s that King would reach acclaim as a recording artist with blues albums on Black Top. This almost was not the case, however. After Imperial folded, King and several other New Orleans acts auditioned for Motown, which at the time was still trying out a diverse range of music to release while what would eventually be known as "The Sound of Young America" was still taking shape. King recorded several sides, but none saw the light of day after Berry Gordy was sued by Joe Ruffino, who claimed to have Joe Jones and Johnny Adams (who had joined King on the audition) contracted to his Ric/Ron setup. Fortunately, as always, the CD era resulted in the release of three of King's audition sides on the interesting comp Motown's Blue Evolution. Today's selection is my favorite of the three.

"Three Knocks on My Door" is a very atmospheric minor-key ballad with great horn charts (I like how they keep the mood nice and heavy, and the dramatic lines in the choruses) and an anguished vocal by King. There is no "Detroit" in this record; this is totally a New Orleans thing, and it really works. It makes one wonder what would have happened had Motown been able to make the New Orleans connection. I figure what eventually became the "Motown sound" would still have won out in the end, as it earned Gordy crossover success and lots and lots of money, but it may have allowed for a little more diversity in the Motown catalog. Unfortunately, we will never know.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Do The Sadness Strut!

Jeanne & The Darlings - It's Time To Pay For The Fun (We've Had)

A frequent situation in soul music involves songs that have a relatively sad message but a groove that has an optimism of its own. I discussed this in my post about Sam Baker's "It's All Over" - the groove is just too bright for the resigned lyrics Sam puts over. Today's selection was a Volt release by Jeanne & The Darlings, whose work for the label was unfortunately under-appreciated at the time. Lead singer Jeanne Dolphus didn't care for the message of "It's Time To Pay For The Fun (We've Had)," but she gave it a good reading (it almost sounds like she's performing in a musical, doesn't it?) and the group did their usual thing with spot-on harmony work. The "sad-song-with-happy-groove" kicks in on the choruses, when the groove switches to a strutting groove more akin to the "stacks-of-wax" Stax era than the "finger-snapping" time at which the record was made.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Natural" Soul!

Towanda & The Total Destruction - Wear Your Natural Baby

Today's selection is one of those awesome records whose rarity has pushed its price into the stratosphere (well, at least for lower-tier collectors like me), but which has been made available for us "common folk" by CD compilation. I've seen listings online asserting that the "Towanda" singing lead on this one is Gloria Barnes, who acquired the "Towanda" name for a few releases during her tenure with producer Johnny Brantley. In Dangerous Rhythm's Colin Dilnot has a post on his blog featuring Gloria/Towanda and two posts featuring Johnny Brantley, and has penned the most comprehensive article so far about Brantley and his Vidalia Productions for the current issue (#5) of There's That Beat!, all of which are highly recommended, but this tune appears to be outside of the Brantley umbrella. Colin, or anyone, do you have any ideas?

Anorak info aside, "Wear Your Natural Baby" is, as one would expect, one of the many "black is beautiful"-themed songs focused on the Afro hairstyle, but on the first listen the listener is surprised by the smooth soul sound that comes forth and the very seductive vocals by Towanda. Here, Towanda admires a man's Afro and the strong message he's sending by wearing it. The mixture of politics and sensuality really works and the tune cooks nicely. The Romark 45 goes for a pretty penny or two (or forty-five thousand, considering that I see it offered online from a British seller for around US $450), so it's good that the tune is more easily acquired on the Goldmine CD Essential Mellow Groove!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mable, Sammy & Motown

Mable John & Sammy Ward - I'm Yours, You're Mine

Sometimes a little rough-hewn early soul is just what the doctor ordered for your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, and today's selection has been getting a lot of play in the car and on the iPod lately. It's a great piece of the rougher-edged material that Berry Gordy tried out as he attempted to find his niche in the record business at the dawn of the '60s, and it brings together two of the label's first acts. Mable John started her recording career as the first female artist on Berry Gordy's nascent Tamla label, although her best-known work would come later in the '60s for Stax (where she recorded her lone hit, "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)," which Lou Rawls would take to greater heights later on) and as the leader of the Raelettes for many years. "Singin'" Sammy Ward was bound to be a footnote in the history of the label, but his bluesy, gospel-tinged numbers are some of my favorites from the early Motown catalog, hence his prior appearance on the blog and in an episode of the podcast.

"I'm Yours, You're Mine" was a duet that was left in the can until the CD era, when it made appearances on various comps, including the great Mable John set My Name Is Mable, pictured above. I guess the goal was to get a Brook Benton-Dinah Washington kind of thing going on with the record, but Sammy's undisciplined, soulful shouting certainly undermined such a premise. Instead you get a hot piece of R&B-turning-the-corner-into-soul with a nice beat and Mable providing a nice "cool" sound to counter Ward's intense singing, and it really works. Dig the part in the coda where Ward loses the key of the tune by overdoing his "nothing come between us" ad-lib. That's real soul, folks!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finally Got It!

Willie Hobbs - Action

One thing I enjoy as a record collector is when, while digging for new stuff, I find a "wants list" record that had been somewhat elusive. I first heard of today's selection during an installment of the Atlanta Record Fair (which takes place every other month). I was checking out Kurt Wood's table along with Brian Phillips, and Brian pulled up this 45 on the Soft label and tried it out on the turntable. I was taken by it right away, but Brian certainly wanted to buy it, so I begrudgingly watched him pay for it, take it home and subsequently feature it on The Electrophonic Sound of Brian Phillips. Truth be told, I got over my disappointment enough to not pursue scoring a copy of it right away, but yesterday, at the September edition of the record fair, I was able to get a copy (albeit the re-release of the tune on Mercury) of my own to love and to cherish and to call George ... well, to love and to cherish and to prseent here!

I'll defer to Sir Shambling's profile of Willie Hobbs for Hobbs' bio and discography (and some nice audio files of other recordings). "Action" was released on Soft in 1968 and was re-issued on Le Cam and then Mercury within a year thereafter. The tune features a nice, rushing, piano-based groove, over which Hobbs bemoans his woman's "all talk but no action" stance toward romance. For some reason, I think this song is similar to, or a version of, a song by the same name by the Showmen that I heard years ago. Can anyone confirm this?

(UPDATE, 9/25/07 - Thanks to Cies' comments, the connection is made between the Showmen and Hobbs versions of the song. Thanks for your help!)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Meditations Getting Down!

The Meditation Singers - I've Done Wrong

The Meditation Singers and the "gos-pop" material they laid down for Checker Records have appeared on the blog and on podcasts, so I'll get right into today's selection. "I've Done Wrong" was another funky gospel number featuring that great Chess house band and Laura Lee's fabulous vocals. The lyrics are strictly sanctified, but the groove comes right out of those Pigmeat Markham's funky 45s and the other hot Chicago soul product coming out of the studio at the time.

(Thanks to John Glassburner for this track.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Shall We Perish Unjust ... ?

The Impressions - This Is My Country

Sometimes the sounds of soul covered much more than "do the funky chicken" or "baby, I love you"; instead they painted a picture of the world as it existed for black Americans, and expressed hope for a brighter day. In many respects, the better day did come: legal segregation was abolished as a matter of law, and changing social attitudes curtailed much of the outright racial animosity that was common in the U.S. prior to the Civil Rights Era, especially in the South. Recent events, however, remind us all that there are many miles left to trod before the dream of racial equality is fulfilled. Please take time to visit the Free The Jena 6 website to learn about the events that have taken place in Jena, Louisiana, and the movement for fair judicial treatment of the young black men involved in the situation. To think that in 2007 a "harmless prank" of hanging nooses in a tree (that was a "whites only" hangout spot on a high school campus) could even occur, and that the DA has the nerve to say that race is not a factor in the situation, is disheartening. Fortunately, however, the continued movement for justice, coupled with the successful march in Jena this week, reminds us all that the fire still burns for freedom and justice. Today's selection has appeared on the blog before, but Curtis Mayfield's words still have value today.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just A Little Bit of Lattimore!

Lattimore Brown - Teenie Weenie

Sir Lattimore Brown has appeared a few times on the blog, so I'll dispense with any introductions to jump into today's selection. "Teenie Weenie," Brown's 1961 cover of Roscoe Gordon's "Just a Little Bit," was the first 45 of two Brown would cut for the Duchess label before hooking up with Sound State 7 for the remainder of the decade. There's a nice rawness to this record, as Brown and the band really wail. It's that kind of rawness that makes Brown's records so neat - yes, Brown was not the best singer, technically, but he had soul to spare, and you can't help but feel it when you're listening to his material. I also am fond of the little "Tequila"-based horn vamp in the middle and end of the record. I should also note that the flip side, a cover of "(Night Time Is) The Right Time," is also very enjoyable, as Brown and the band engage in some serious stop-time testifying (I'll have to post it soon).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jesse Anderson!

Jesse Anderson - Let Me Back In

As this blog and those of my fellow bloggers demonstrate on a very regular basis, the world of soul music is full of "footnote" artists who, for some reason or another, just couldn't break through to national fame and success. Chicago soulster Jesse Anderson had to settle for being one of the footnotes in the Curtom Records story, leaving behind some great material on Thomas, including a version of Curtis Mayfield's "Mighty Mighty" and a bluesy record called "I Got a Problem" that made some noise in the Windy City, but not much more. Today's selection, a cover of Tyrone Davis' "Let Me Back In," finds Jesse lending his distinctive vocals to a fantastic rhythm track. The electric piano-driven groove is really the star here, and the end result is a sultry little piece of "get down."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Simply Brook Benton

Brook Benton - Think Twice

The legendary Brook Benton has graced this blog twice, with the focus being on his early '70s recordings for Cotillion ("Let Me Fix It") and Stax ("I Keep Thinking To Myself"), but today's post jumps right into what made Brook a household name to begin with, his fantastic pop-slanted material for Mercury. Benton, who collaborated with Clyde Otis on most of his hits, brought his warm baritone and precise diction to well-orchestrated ballads like "It's Just a Matter of Time," "Endlessly" and today's selection, and Brook could hold his own on more swinging and uptempo stuff like "Kiddio" and "A Rockin' Good Way," a duet with Dinah Washington.

What I like amost about the Mercury sides is Benton's ability to put over the song's message almost conversationally, letting his choice of notes do the "heavy lifting" of the song's emotion. "Think Twice" (not to be confused with the Jackie Wilson - LaVern Baker duet) is very exemplary of this approach. The tune is literally conversational at first, and Brook quietly builds up the intensity as he goes along. It's been getting a lot of plays in my car, and I continue to be thrilled by Benton's masterful singing.

"Think Twice" has taken on extra life on the Internet via YouTube. There are two clips of Washington disc jockey/television personality/black activist Petey Greene on YouTube, one of which is the notorious (and NSFW) "How To Eat Watermelon" bit from an episode of "Petey Greene's Washington". As the segment opens, Benton's singing is heard while the camera focuses on the watermelon that Greene has set on the stage. Greene then recites the opening lyrics and launches into a tirade about how black people should "be themselves" and not be ashamed to eat watermelon. The decidedly unusual (and controversial) clip has received lots of attention, particularly after the release of the Petey Greene biopic Talk To Me, and other YouTubers have even developed parodies of it (one, "How To Drink Iced Tea," includes an unseen girl singing "Think Twice"). It's a very unusal showcase for the Brook Benton classic!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday Is Soul Blues Day!

Jimmy Lewis - Don't Get Mad, Get Even

I know usually I reserve "Tuesday Is Blues Day" for more traditional blues material and "Soul Blues Saturday" for soul blues stuff, but today I'm switching it up a little. Jimmy Lewis is no stranger to the blog (he's probably among the top three subjects), so I'll jump right into this tasty ballad from Jimmy's Miss Butch album Never Met a Woman I Didn't Like. "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" finds Lewis using the "Woman to Woman" "phone call" song structure to discuss an affair between his wife and Mrs. Williams' husband and his novel solution to the problem. This is pure, unadulterated Southern Soul, and Lewis makes the most of it. As I mentioned in my discussion of his "No Chicken Wings" from the same album, I could see Joe Tex doing this, or, come to think of it, Clarence Carter could really make hay with this one!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bobby, Kip, and "Get on Down" #21

Episode #21 of the podcast is now available! As promised, I've featured a fair amount of Bobby Byrd and Kip Anderson tracks to celebrate the legacy of both men, who have passed away since the last show. There were a lot of hard choices to make as to which tunes by each to feature, but as the playlist took shape I decided to take both on a fairly downtempo tack, although some of the better-known uptempo sides by each are included. Enjoy!

1. Bobby Byrd - Keep on Doin' What You're Doin'
2. Shirley Brown - I Ain't Gonna Tell (Nobody)
3. Simtec & Wylie - Put an Extra Plus to Your Love
4. Leroy Randolph - Good to the Last Drop
5. Kip Anderson - A Knife and a Fork
6. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Two Can Have a Party
7. Bobby Byrd - It's I Who Love You (Not Him Anymore)
8. Bobby Byrd - "Fight Against Drug Abuse" PSA
9. Kip Anderson - Without a Woman
10. Jimmy Jones - Yesterday's Mistakes
11. The Epsilons - The Echo
12. Margie Hendrix - Don't Destroy Me
13. Freddie Waters - I Wish For a Miracle
14. Bobby Byrd - Sayin' It and Doin' It Are Two Different Things
15. Shaft Radio Ad
16. Fred Hughes - Baby Boy
17. O.V. Wright - Ace of Spades
18. Hermon Hitson - Yes You Did
19. Kip Anderson - That's All I Can Do
20. Bobby Byrd - I'll Lose My Mind
21. Ike & Tina Turner - Too Many Ties That Bind
22. Kip Anderson - I Went Off and Cried
23. Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - Sweet Soul

Get Down Gospel Time!

Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes - I Won't Let Go

Dorothy Love Coates and her fiery gospel numbers are no stranger to this blog, so I'll simply say that "I Won't Let Go" is a piece of get down that is just as hot on the dancefloor with its insistent rhythm as it is on the church steps. If you can't feel this one, you've got a hole in your soul!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Episode #21 of the podcast is forthcoming!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Keep On Doin' the Do, Byrd!

Bobby Byrd & The J.B.'s - Doin' the Do

The passing of JB associate Bobby Byrd has sent shock waves throughout the realm of funk fandom, and tributes to Bobby are starting to spring up: here's one from Flea Market Funk that includes one of my favorite Bobby Byrd records, and O-Dub at Soul Sides is showing plenty of love. Today's selection is a cut that was previously unissued until the issue of James Brown's Funky People Part Three a few years ago. "Doin' the Do" is a jam session featuring a catchy stepper's intro before Byrd starts working some "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved"-styled lyrics around a simple but engaging funk groove by the Bootsy-era J.B.'s. As the song pushes along, the guitar work builds in intensity, and although the overall result is pretty unfocused (which probably caused the tune to remain in the can in favor of tighter material like "I Know You Got Soul"), it's good for a head-nodding, toe-tapping good time.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I'm going to start putting together the playlist for "Get on Down ..." #21 this weekend, and I plan to feature more Bobby Byrd as part of the tribute to Bobby and Kip Anderson that will make up a portion of the show.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Spreading the Love: Dancing the Blues Away at Souled On!

Over the last two months your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul has been one collaborating mo'fo', having participated in The Hits Just Keep On Comin''s J.A. Bartlett's Vinyl Record Day blogswarm with my story of how vinyl shaped me, having provided a guest mix to This Is Tomorrow as part of that blog's first anniversary, having recorded Episode #20 of the "Get on Down ..." podcast with Brian Phillips of The Electrophonic Sound of Brian Phillips, and having Gregory Rose do a guest post and joining in on a mix featuring the legendary Jr. Walker. It's been a blast, because in the midst of all of these collaborative efforts I have been able to feel the love that all of us bloggers, podcasters, and soul fans have in our hearts for this great music. I'm glad to say that the love continues in today's post.

The Scholar from Souled On has welcomed a series of guest bloggers recently, and I was honored to be included in that fine list. My contribution has been added to the blog, so click the picture below and enjoy my mix of '60s soul dance tunes entitled "Dance the Blues Away!"

Many thanks to the Scholar for inviting me to participate. If any of you, dear readers, have not been checking out what he's doing over at Souled On, make it appointment reading! It's great stuff!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This weekend or on Mondy I will continue to commemorate the life and work of Bobby Byrd, whose recent passing was discussed in yesterday's post.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Death Comes In Threes: RIP Bobby Byrd

I have just learned that Famous Flames founder Bobby Byrd, probably known best in the mainstream for his "get on up" backing vocals on James Brown's "Sex Machine" or the "Whatchoo gonna play now?" question that starts off "Make It Funky," but known among funk fans for his '60s and '70s recordings on Smash, King, BrownStone, Kwanzaa and others, has died. As I mentioned in my March 2006 post featuring Byrd, without Bobby Byrd there may very well have not been a "James Brown" - Byrd and his family took in James, who had at the time been a juvenile inmate in Toccoa prison, and Byrd brought him into his group, the Avons, which in short order became "James Brown and The Famous Flames." Bobby Byrd's husky vocals rode those JB-produced grooves we all love like "I Know You Got Soul," "I Need Help," "Keep On Doin' What You're Doin'," "Hot Pants (I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming)" and others with an urgency that made them crackle. His records were the first "James Brown Productions" vocal records I ever heard outside of James' own records and his influence on me is great. I don't have time nor handy materials to post anything by Bobby right now, but I found this YouTube vid of Byrd performing "Soul Man" in the James Brown Revue (Byrd was Brown's top opening act - "Soul Brother Number One-and-a-Half" - in the '60s and '70s).

Losing Bobby Byrd the day after New Orleans legend Willie Tee and just barely two weeks after the deep soul legend Kip Anderson reminds me of the adage that "death comes in threes." What it also does, however, is remind me that these legends are passing on, and that their legacy must be carried on. I know that many of my fellow bloggers will continue to join me in making sure that this legacy can be viewed by all who come our way. Rest in peace, Bobby Byrd - you surely "had the word."

Picking Up The Pieces With JT!

Johnnie Taylor - Pick Up The Pieces

Back in the spring I did a feature about Johnnie Taylor and the non-"disco" elements of his 1976 Columbia LP Eargasm, which gave the world the RIAA's first platinum single, "Disco Lady." I'll refer you to that post for the story behind the album, and jump right in to yet another gem that came from it.

"Pick Up The Pieces" was by no means a new song by the time JT recorded it for Eargasm. The song had been a hit for Carla Thomas in 1968 and Mavis Staples had recorded a version for one of her Volt LPs a few years later. Co-writer and producer of both prior versions, Don Davis, had been Taylor's producer since 1968 and I suppose he decided that the song should get a third airing on JT's album. For the '76 version of the song, Davis dispensed with the Motown-styled groove of the Thomas and Staples versions and replaced it with a mellow sound that was both bluesy and sophisticated, and Taylor brings his fine stylings to the vocals. Like in the case of "Running Out of Lies," covered in the prior post, Taylor gets a chance to do a little sermonizing as well, and it really works. By the time he's chanting "I need you to help me, I need you to help me, I-I-I need you to help me" at the end, he's got you hooked. When I was growing up my mother played this and "Running Out Of Lies" constantly. Now I understand why!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A 50's Detour: Crowley Meets Cosimo!

Warren Storm - I'm A Little Boy (Looking For Love)

The story of Excello Records is generally always built around its "swamp blues" classics by Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo and others, most of which were recorded at J.D. "Jay" Miller's Crowley, Louisiana studios. Excello's parent, Nashboro Records, however, recorded material in other genres, and in the mid-'50s the label attempted to ride the new rock 'n' roll wave with recordings on Excello, Nasco and Zil. Although lots of interesting material was recorded and released, the only big rock 'n' roll hit the label scored was "Oh Julie," a doo-wop-meets-rockabilly number on Nasco by the Crescendoes. A bulk of the rockin' stuff, however, was recorded by Jay Miller in Crowley, and one of those tracks is today's featured track.

Warren Storm was a session drummer for Miller, and his "Prisoner's Song" is his best-known recording. However, he recorded several Fats Domino-inspired cuts, and "I'm A Little Boy (Looking For Love)," released on Nasco, is my favorite. The groove is so on-point with what Fats was doing that it's as if Miller and Storm had made a quick trip to Cosimo Matassa's studio in N'Awlins and borrowed the sevices of Dave Bartholomew, Lee Allen and the rest of the cats that crafted Domino's sides. Storm even captures Domino's phrasing on the vocals to ride the groove on home. Although it's easy to dismiss the record as an "I'm Walkin'" knockoff, the tune works and I've been giving it a lot of play lately. Hot Slop's Rob Baker introduced me to this fun number some time ago, and it is available, along with lots of other good stuff by Johnny Jano and others, on the Ace comp Hey Baby! The Rockin' South, which features several Jay Miller productions.

A post script: Jay Miller's story has a dark side, however, that is worth noting. Miller, although comfortable with using mixed-race bands on the classic Excello sides, was a segregationist who also owned the Reb Rebel label, home of racist Cajun/country singer Johnny Rebel, whose recordings are revered by hate groups today. Fortunately, white musicians like Warren Storm were not part of that enterprise.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jimmy Hughes!

Jimmy Hughes - Neighbor, Neighbor

Jimmy Hughes' crying tenor is best remembered for his 1964 hit "Steal Away," which would be covered by a great many artists as one of the archetypal "sneaking around" songs. Although Hughes had worked with producer Rick Hall on a prior single, "I'm Qualified," which was released on Jamie and Guyden, "Steal Away" was a major breakthrough for both men, and Hughes would record for the FAME imprint for the next four years before moving on to Volt, where after one minor hit, 1968's "I Like Everything You Do," his career would falter and he would release his final single in 1971. "Neighbor, Neighbor," a 1966 FAME single, is a guitar-driven piece of bluesy soul in which Hughes tells the title character to butt out of his and his woman's affairs. Hughes' vocals are spot-on and the groove really works well.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Message In My Mailbox

The Sims Twins - You've Got To Do The Best You Can (With What You've Got)

It's funny how sometimes in life you need to hear an encouraging message. Yesterday was a bad day, with some unpleasant surprises that left me scrambling to make sure "ends met." Fortunately, I was able to get things back under control, but the day's events left me feeling pretty down. When I got home I saw that a Sims Twins record I had bought via eBay - I bought it on a whim, having never heard it - had arrived. So after talking to my wife awhile, I went down to the den and played the record, and then played it again and again.

I featured the Sims Twins on the blog quite recently, so I'll forego any discussion about their career. "You've Got To Do The Best You Can (With What You've Got)" was the first of two 45s the brothers recorded for A&M's short-lived Omen subsidiary (other notable Omen releases include The Wooden Nickels' "Nobody But You" and James Brown Revue member James Crawford's "Honest I Do"). This is a nice gospel-bent number that takes the "rapping" approach of Joe Tex but uses it to discuss overcoming trials and tribulations instead of the affairs of the heart that Tex usually preached about. No production credits appear on the label, but the flip, "Thankful," is credited to J.W. Alexander, so I figure he produced "Do the Best You Can" also. It's a pretty straightforward song, but its message really moved me yesterday evening.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Message From The "Other Jimmy"

Jimmy Lewis - Goodbye Sorrow

If you've read this blog for any significant amount of time you've probably realized that I have particular admiration for three Jimmys who made strong contributions to soul music (and other genres) as artists, but more notably as songwriters: Jimmy Lewis, Jimmy Holiday and Jimmy McCracklin. Recently I featured Jimmy Holiday's "I Found a New Love," a powerful piece of optimistic soul. My favorite Jimmy of the three, Mr. Lewis, provides a nice companion piece in today's post.

"Goodbye Sorrow," a 1962 Cyclone single, was Lewis' vinyl debut, and it finds Lewis emulating Sam Cooke over a nice pop-slanted beat that could also have worked nicely for the Drifters. I suppose Drifters leader Bill Pinkney considered the same to be true, as Jimmy was recruited to join the group in the following year! (Jimmy would sing lead for the group from 1963-65, which leads me to believe he probably sang lead on the James Brown-produced Drifters sides.)

There's Room In "Soul Heaven" For Opera: RIP Luciano Pavarotti

Back in around 1998 or so I remember sitting in a bar in Chicago with a fellow, and we were feeding the jukebox and playing lots of different music. Eventually some Sinatra came on and we began talking about how although Sinatra was not a "soul singer," the man certainly had "soul." The conversation then stretched into one about how in just about any genre of music you can think of, there are folks who have "soul," that "something" that you can't describe, but you know it when you hear it. Well, in the world of opera, Luciano Pavarotti, who has passed away at age 71, was one seriously soulful man. And if the passion and soulfulness of his singing within his field were not enough for me to make that claim, I was pleased to find these two videos on YouTube of the opera master collaborating with Barry White and with James Brown on "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" and "It's a Man's Man's World," respectively. I suppose Pavarotti can now join those two in "Soul Heaven," and what flavor he will bring to the proceedings!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Feeling Stax-i-fied With William Bell!

William Bell - Never Like This Before

William Bell's recordings for Stax from 1961 through to the label's demise in 1975 are often overlooked among discussions of Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers, but his fine singing and songwriting resulted in lots of great material that is worth seeking out. William Bell told Rob Bowman that up-tempo tunes were never quite his forte at Stax, as the net result was somewhat less "soulful" than ballads like "You Don't Miss Your Water" or "Somebody Mentioned Your Name." Fortunately, as far as I'm concerned, his up-tempo stuff is sufficiently soulful. Today's selection was a 1966 release, which was coupled with the great "Soldier's Goodbye" (featured in an April 2006 post). "Never Like This Before" is a hard-hitting testimony of how love can make one feel. Bell really puts over the lyrics while Booker T. & The M.G.'s and the Mar-Keys do their usual job of laying down a hot stomping groove. It's getting a lot of rotation on my personal playlist these days, and I played it at "Rhythm & Booze" last month. Get on down with William Bell!

The good thing is that Bell is still very active, running his Wilbe Records and touring around the globe. Here's a great video from YouTube showing Bell rehearsing "Never Like This Before" with a band during a trip to the UK.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

And One More Thing ...

I promised to publicize what's going to be a great soul weekender in November, and I forgot to get it up here. To rectify that situation:

The Brothers of Soul and J.J. Barnes are going to be there, which means it's going to be very special! If you have the chance to get out there, do go! I wish I could! (See this info page from the Emerald City Soul Club for details.)

A Jr. Walker Addendum

Gregory Rose asked that I share a better MP3 of Jr. Walker's "I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me" with you, as the one included in the mix from Saturday's post is not of the best fidelity. You can download the tune here. Thanks again to Greg for the great post and for sharing this music with us.

Taking a Raggedy Ride with Barbara Acklin

Barbara Acklin - A Raggedy Ride

It's a shame that the late singer/songwriter Barbara Acklin's legacy came more from her outstanding compositions for others (Jackie Wilson's "Whispers (Gettin' Louder)," "Oh Girl," "Have You Seen Her" and others for the Chi-Lites) than from her own career as an artist, because she had a pleasant voice that graced quite a few fine records for Brunswick in the '60s and '70s, most notably hits like "Love Makes a Woman" and her duets with Gene Chandler. The unlikely story of her rise as Brunswick's top songwriter and of her own (sometimes star-crossed, as in the case of "Am I The Same Girl") recording career can be found at the Brunswick Records website.

One of the more interesting records Acklin made was 1969's "A Raggedy Ride," the flip to "Seven Days of Night." Co-written with Eugene Record and Brunswick exec and producer Carl Davis, "Raggedy Ride" is a quirky piece of light funk with a jaunty groove, and Acklin's sassy vocal puts over the "I'd rather have a raggedy ride than a dressed-up walk" lyric appropriately.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Keeping It Real With Kip Anderson

Kip Anderson - Woman, How Do You Make Me Love You Like I Do

As I mentioned on Friday, deep soul legend Kip Anderson has passed away. Despite a string of fantastic 45s for Vee-Jay, Everlast, Tomorrow, ABC, Checker and Excello, commercial success eluded Kip. Unfortunately, while Anderson's records became highly-prized among deep soul fans and record collectors, Kip's career faded and a heroin addiction resulted in a ten-year stint in prison. Fortunately, Kip was able to get clean and get back into music, releasing some good gospel and soul-blues material as well as leading several gospel choirs and hosting gospel radio shows. Today's post is in honor of Kip, whose awesome records will continue to enthrall soul fans for all time.

"Woman, How Do You Make Me Love You Like I Do" was penned by Kip's frequent collaborator Charles Derrick and recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, and it's a very nice gospel-styled ballad over which Kip wonders about his woman's power over him. A very effective monologue by Kip seals the deal. The 45 was the first of three 45s that were released on Checker (the other two being "Without a Woman" and "A Knife and Fork"), and it made enough noise for Solomon Burke to cover it for his King Solomon album.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Soul Power!

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights

Daptone Records flagship act Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings have appeared on the blog before, and I really dig what they do. I saw Sharon and company in Chicago after their first album, Dap-Dippin', came out and the sure soul power they produced knocked my socks off. Since then they have released another album, Naturally, which is a must-have for anyone who appreciates solid soul music, and a handful of singles. Their third Daptone album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, is going to drop on September 25, and the title track is worth mentioning today.

The entire 100 Days, 100 Nights album is a bit of a departure for Sharon and the group, as they cut back on the funk a little bit to focus on a straight-up soul sound. The title track, however, is an interesting hybrid of the two approaches. After a horn fanfare, "100 Days, 100 Nights" starts off with the group's standard groove, as Sharon lays out the song's premise. But after a little bit of this the band switches gears and over a more churchy, almost Five Royales kind of groove takes over and Sharon does her thing most effectively.

The kind folks over at World's Fair sent me a review copy of the album this week, and I tell you it is one of the most solid total albums I've heard since John Ciba's Sound of Birmingham comp from last year. Daptone Records has outdone itself this time!

If you are interested in the album, I encourage you to go over to World's Fair's Sharon Jones page to learn more about Sharon and the album and to stream two other cuts from the album ("Let Them Knock" is my absolute favorite from the album, and I'm sure it will be one of yours also), and then go to Daptone Records' website for release details and for the other great music from the label.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Get on Down With Jr. Walker's Biggest Fan!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Some time ago Gregory Rose emailed me after seeing my post featuring Jr. Walker & The All-Stars' version of "These Eyes". In corresponding with him I came to learn that Greg is a serious fan of Jr. and the All-Stars, having acquired not only copies of Jr.'s recordings ("if Jr. blew it, I got it," he told me) but also quite a bit of memorabilia, including one of the Motown legend's saxophones. I asked him if he would like to write a bit about Jr. and help put together a mix of Jr.'s music for "Get on Down ..." and he was very happy to oblige, sending pictures and audio files to flesh things out nicely. So I present at this time the first guest blogger ever on "Get on Down ...", Gregory Rose, in his own words. Read his words, listen to the great mix that he and I put together, and just feel the love that Greg has for the man and his music, the kind of love that "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!" is all about. The playlist for the mix appears at the end of the post.)

One can log onto just about any historical music website, and find biographical information about Junior Walker & The All-Stars, or of Junior himself: Motown recording star; several gold records; a Grammy; appearances on "SNL," "Midnight Special," "Soul Train," and David Letterman; and even a performance at Bill Clintons' Inaugural Party in 1993. But my appreciation and admiration of this great saxman started back around 1966, learning to do the "Shotgun," a dance routine my brother did.

Nobody was blowing the sax back in the era of electric guitars, and even Motown itself was not known for instrument playing stars, just the polished and well-groomed stage acts and great voices of the main Motown groups. Junior was very much his own man. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, was always forbidding anyone from "messing" with Junior. His rough vocals, more fitting of the Stax label of Memphis, really did fit well with Motown. And although Junior had several hits in the 60's and 70's, his stage personna was not about records or recording studio sessions - it was always about the show, the performance, the stage.

I grew to love this man's music, and through the years, bought every album and 8-track released. I finally got to see him live in 1985, then again in 1988 and 1989, long after his big hits. But that didn't matter.

I had my license plate personalized with his name, JRWALKR, and I used to get lots of looks. In 1989, he came to a club in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I bought tickets to both shows. I went to the show with a photo of my car, showing my tag with his name. I thought, "if I can get someone to give him this photo, maybe I can meet him." Sure enough, a member of his party took my photo, and told me to wait and they would come get me. During intermission, I was led backstage, and there he sat, towel wrapped around his neck, resting with the band. When he saw the photo, he smiled, walked up to me with his hand out, and said, "man, that's all right - I don't even have that on my car!" And there you have it, a man that was not stuck on himself. As one of his sons told me soon after his death, his dad would often stop on the road and help some stranger who was having car trouble. After helping them, he would turn down offers of pay, say you're welcome to the person, and drive off - all the while, the stranded motorist didn't even know who had helped them.

When Junior died in 1995, I sent flowers to the funeral, along with my license plate, not for any purpose other than to let the family know how much Junior was admired and respected. I was soon contacted by one of his sons, and ever since then we have kept in touch, sharing photos, videos, music, and information. Earlier this year, I was able to purchase my most prized possession, a sax that Junior owned. Through the years, I've located rare recordings, photos, posters and other memorabilia about him. I have also visited his home in Battle Creek.

Junior's recordings not only spanned several decades, they also spanned differing styles. His early hits like "Shotgun" and "(I'm A) Roadrunner" were of the old-style R&B hits of the day. Later, more strings and orchestration were added for songs like "These Eyes" and "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling," two of my favorites, along with "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)." Later, when Motown tried to resurrect his sound in the disco era, the songwriting was not as good, but even so, Junior maintained that trademark sax sound. Junior did not have a trained voice, but it's hard to imagine any other voice melding with that sax sound. They went so well together. I truly do miss him.

Gregory Rose
Lawrenceville, Georgia


1. (I'm A) Roadrunner
2. Do The Boomerang
3. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
4. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
5. These Eyes
6. Gotta Hold On To This Feeling
7. Do You See My Love (For Your Growing)
8. These Things Will Keep Me Loving You
9. Walk In The Night
10. Moody Junior
11. Still Water
12. Way Back Home
13. Dancin' Like They Do On Soul Train
14. I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me (radio edit)

(Special thanks to Gregory Rose for sharing the love with me and all of you. Long live the music of Jr. Walker!)