Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jr. Walker's 1974 Deep Soul

Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - I Ain't That Easy to Lose

My second ballad post of the week is a 1974 outing by Jr. Walker. By the mid-'70s, Jr. was by no means a big hitmaker, but he continued to adapt his sound to the changing times and stayed with Motown until 1979, when he moved on to record for Norman Whitfield (Motown also pulled the plug on its Soul subsidiary around that time; Walker would re-up with the label for a spell in the '80s). "I Ain't That Easy to Lose" was the flip of "Dancin' Like They Do On Soul Train," and it finds Jr. declaring that his woman is going to have to work extremely hard to get rid of him, because his love is so strong. Although the backing track and background vocals are pretty darn polished, Jr.'s singing brings out the desperation of the lyrics. "I ain't that easy ... no, no, no!" Jr. wails in the choruses with throat-shredding intensity. This is sho' 'nuff deep soul, 1974 style, and Jr. really shines.

(Thanks to Gregory Rose for this track.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Get on Down With The Frogman!

Clarence "Frogman" Henry - Come On And Dance

New Orleans singer/pianist Clarence "Frogman" Henry's place in rock 'n' roll history is cemented by the novelty classic "Ain't Got No Home" (from which his nickname derived) and the more stylish pop sound of "But I Do" and "You Always Hurt The One You Love." Henry's Fats Domino-styled sound gave him quite a few big records for Argo in the '50s and early '60s, but the latter decade wore on, Henry's sound became somewhat outmoded and his commercial successes waned despite fine records for Parrot and Dial (his Dial record "That's When I Guessed" is a favorite of mine and is featured in Episode #8 of the podcast). Henry kept performing, however, and remains a fixture in New Orleans to the present day. Check out the Frogman's website for more info.

Hot Slop's Rob Baker turned me on to "Come On And Dance," a 1962 Argo single by the Frogman, and I think it's worth featuring today. This groover finds Henry slinging the dance lyrics about with joyous abandon while pumping the keys in his usual rockin' style while a chirping girl chorus and blasting horns keep the groove moving. I dare you to sit still on this one!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sweet Spring Soul

Leroy Randolph - (I Have Fallen Into) The Tender Trap

Back when your ever-lovin' Stepfather was still an informal record collector (by way of Skaggs' junk store in Jamestown, Kentucky; see my Vinyl Record Day post, which discusses this store and its important role in my life), this record popped up in a Saturday trawl. The only thing I knew about the record was that it was on Spring, whose Joe Simon and Millie Jackson platters I had heard, and that the A-side title, "Good To The Last Drop," sounded catchy. I took it home and indeed found a catchy dancer. The flip was just as good, and it's worth a feature today. Today I know as much about Leroy Randolph as I did when I bought the record (zero), but "(I Have Fallen Into) The Tender Trap" is a very atmospheric ballad that I enjoyed then and, when I finally got another copy of the 45 a few weeks ago, I still enjoy today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Gospel Godspeed

The Highway Q.C.'s - Do You Love Him

Tomorrow your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is heading out of town for a few days for his college reunion, so today's post will be the last for the week; Monday's post will kick off the countdown to this blog's second anniversary (wow - it seems like only yesterday I was celebrating the first anniversary)! Since I won't get to do "Sunday Gospel Time" at its usual time I thought I'd do it today.

The Highway Q.C.'s were formed in Chicago in 1945 and have continued to perform into the twenty-first century. For the first dozen or so years of the group's existence the Q.C.'s were literally a "farm team" for some of the bigger names of the time: Lou Rawls left the group to go to L.A., where he worked with both the Chosen Gospel Singers and the Pilgrim Travelers before breaking out as a solo superstar; Sam Cooke absconded from the group at the behest of the Soul Stirrers' S.R. Crain to start his ascent to pop fame with that group; and Johnnie Taylor replaced Sam in the Q.C.'s lineup and then replaced Sam in the Soul Stirrers' lineup before breaking out on his own. In 1956, Spencer Taylor (no relation to Johnnie) joined the group, and for the remainder of the century he led the group on fine recordings for Vee-Jay, Peacock and others. "Do You Love Him" was an early-'60s Vee-Jay release, and the group shows that they can work well with a bit of a beat, as they also do on the excellent "Lord, I'll Go" from the same era, which I must post at another time. After a couple of choruses, Taylor launches into a little testimony and some call-and-response with the group that works very well. I'm also particularly fond of the tune's fake-out ending. It's a solid piece of gospel group singing, and with it I'll wish you all Godspeed until next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Walking In The Rain With Joe Tex!

Joe Tex:

Rain Go Away

Baby It's Rainin'

It is easy to be tempted to think that Joe Tex's 1970s output for Dial and Epic can be summarized by the titles "I Gotcha" and "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)"; to be fair, Joe and producer Buddy Killen went back to the well of both of those tracks quite a few times - "You Said a Bad Word" and "Cat's Got Her Tongue" kept the "I Gotcha" groove going, and "Rub Down" chronicled other aches and pains Tex picked up at the disco where the "Big Fat Woman" danced. The fact of the matter is, however, that Joe Tex presented a nice bag of sounds that, although not as innovative or as commercially successful as his classic '60s material, showed that Tex was still a master of his craft. Today's selections present two varied sounds tied by the theme of rain.

"Rain Go Away" was a 1973 Dial single that was included on the Spills The Beans LP. After a dramatic intro, Joe settles into a Nashville-meets-Miami groove and does a great job with his anti-"I Wish It Would Rain" lyrics. It's a nice mid-tempo thing that was slept upon when released. A sensous Joe Tex comes forth in 1975's "Baby It's Rainin'." This is straight-up Southern soul, and Joe's reading of the sexy lyrics is outstanding. The dialogue in the middle shows that Joe is no Barry White when it comes to seductive raps, but his earnest delivery (I love his line about not knowing what perfume his lady is wearing) really brings home the feeling he's trying to convey. It's a solid sender!

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's The Real Thing!

James Brown - Peewee's Groove In D

James Brown's fifteen-year tenure with King Records, in which time JB went from being the scorched-earth balladeer of "Please Please Please" to the development of funk, nearly came to an early end in 1964, when JB breached his contract with the Cincinnati label to sign to Mercury's Smash imprint after one of his regular conflicts with prexy Sid Nathan. When Nathan asserted his contract rights to force Smash to withdraw "Out of Sight," Mercury must've countered with something pretty sweet, or threatened King Records in some way, because a deal was brokered to allow Brown to record for both labels, with the caveat being that Brown could only record instrumentals (his productions on Bobby Byrd, Anna King and other James Brown Revue acts excepted) for Smash. JB rolled out several LPs for Smash over the next three years or so, including 1967's James Brown Plays The Real Thing, from which today's compilation comes, before he returned to King before switching to Polydor in 1971.

Although most of Real Thing is comprised of covers of various tunes of the day (the lead-off track is a jazzy cover of "Jimmy Mack"), the original "Peewee's Groove In D" finds JB and the band doing a slinky funk number. After the "Mr. Pitiful"-inspired opening, JB does his usual organ noodling over a groove that Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis cooked up for him. It's a nice jam that is a good way to kick off this week.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Gospel According to Bobby Bland

Bobby Bland - Ain't God Something

In the liner notes to one of the three great Bobby Bland Duke recordings anthologies, the author sadly surmised that the world was a poorer place for not having a "Bobby Bland Sings Gospel" LP. That's a position I agree with. Both Bland and B.B. King brought a strong dose of gospel style to their blues classics, and King even recorded some gospel material during his tenure with the Biharis in the '50s, which has been reissued. A Bobby Bland gospel album would've worked even better than the gospel records King made, considering Bland's masterful singing style and his C.L. Franklin-inspired "squall." Fortunately, we have today's selection to show that Bland could handle gospel material.

"Ain't God Something" was the flip of "Come Fly With Me" (Bland's last 45 for ABC before the label was folded into MCA) and, to be fair, it fits more alongside the "Mighty High"-era stuff that the Mighty Clouds of Joy was doing at the time than more straight-ahead gospel records of the '70s; if you weren't paying careful attention, you could miss that Bland was singing about God and religious stuff. That being said, however, Bland provides a solid - albeit very restrained - performance to the ballad.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Fun With Swamp Dogg!

Swamp Dogg - Ebony and Jet

Swamp Dogg (Jerry Williams, Jr.) and his idiosyncratic records of the '70s were given little attention by R&B radio (his only R&B hit as Swamp Dogg was the comic blues "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe"), but the corpus of Swamp's works is a very interesting lot, ranging from the country soul of "Sam Stone" through to political rants like "God Bless America For What" to downright silliness, like today's selection, which was the flip of his 1973 Brut single "Buzzard Luck" (featured in a 2006 post). Here's Swamp ponders why, despite his alleged success, he hasn't received recognition by Ebony and Jet magazines, both of which remain dominant figures in the black press. Well, Swamp, perhaps it didn't help you much that your plea is backed by a countrified band, replete with banjo picking! (Of course, I'm sure his plea was strictly tongue-in-cheek!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Somewhat Scratchy Wednesday!

The Sims Twins - Thankful

A while ago I posted the Sims Twins' "You've Got To Do The Best You Can (With What You've Got)" as a "message in my mailbox". Today I'm featuring the flip. "Thankful" has the J.W. Alexander "SAR Records" sound all over it, which of course is a good thing, and the Sims brothers do the gospel-tinged ballad justice with their usual good singing. I apologize for the scratchiness of this side, but those are the perils of vinyl!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Thanks to Ben the Balladeer for cleaning up the MP3 for me; it's not as scratchy now!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sharon Jones Video at "Put The Needle On The Record"!

Over at Put The Needle On The Record, SoulBrutha has some great video of Sharon Jones, Lee Fields and The Dap-Kings, working it out with a James Brown medley (Jones and Fields) and two performances by Jones and the band in support of the new album. It's hot stuff! Check it out!

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Get on Down " #22!

The new episode of "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!" is now online! Here's the playlist:

1. Monk Higgins - Who Dun It
2. The Supremes - The Nitty Gritty
3. Barry White - All In The Run Of A Day
4. Bobby Bland - Sad Feeling
5. Mitty Collier - I'm Satisfied
6. Tommy Youngblood - Back In The Saddle
7. Lattimore Brown - Yak-A-Poo
8. Don Covay & The Jefferson Lemon Blues Band - Ice Cream Man (The Gimme Game)
9. Booker T. & The M.G's "McLemore Avenue" Radio Ad
10. Gloria Walker - Walking With My New Love
11. Joe Tex - Take The Fifth Amendment
12. Bettye LaVette - I'm Holding On
13. The Philly Four - The Elephant (Pt. 1)
14. Lou Donaldson - Who's Making Love
15. Inez & Charlie Foxx & Their Mockin' Band - Speed Ticket
16. Thelma Jones - The House That Jack Built
17. Aretha Franklin Coca-Cola Radio Ad
18. Hank Ballard Along With The Dapps - You're So Sexy
19. Bernie Hayes - Tribute To A Black Woman (Pt. 1)
20. The Impressions - Choice Of Colors
21. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About To End)
22. Jackie Moore - Dear John
23. The Messiahs Of Glory - Please Lord
24. King Curtis & The King Pins - This Is Soul

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More Barbara Acklin!

Barbara Acklin - Just Ain't No Love

Barbara Acklin has been featured on the blog recently, so I'll just say that "Just Ain't No Love" is loping Chicago soul at its best. Acklin's soprano rides the trademark Brunswick groove nicely and the background singers provide great support.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I'm going to try to get a new podcast up this weekend!)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Solomon's Southern Soul

Solomon Burke - Uptight Good Woman

After Solomon Burke's tenure with Atlantic ended in 1968, the "King of Rock 'n' Soul" moved on to Bell Records, where he would record for a couple of years before beginning a nomadic '70s stretch where his records would come out on MGM, ABC, Chess, Amherst and Infinity. The Bell material, although not as commercially successful as his prior work, was very good, as Solomon explored his rootsier side, where his very first Atlantic sides had come before Bert Berns polished him up somewhat. Today's selection was the male counterpart to Laura Lee's "Uptight Good Man" (the follow up to "Dirty Man"), and Burke works his usual magic with the Penn-Oldham tune. Speaking of the two writers, if you are members of the Yahoo! group "southernsoul" (and if not, you need to do so right away), you should check out the MP3 that FAME Studios' Rodney Hall provided of Dann Penn and Spooner Oldham doing a demo of the song. It's pretty powerful stuff!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Sho' 'Nuff Blues

Mel Brown - Seven Forty-Seven (Airport Blues)

Eclectic instrumentalist Mel Brown is best known for his blues/jazz/funk LPs for ABC's Impulse label (1968-1973), where his guitar work was featured on fine tracks like "Chicken Fat," "Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins" (a very interesting jazz/funk thing that I have to post another time) and "W-2 Withholding." His career as a sideman, however, links together everyone from Johnny Otis to T-Bone Walker to Bobby Bland, and his return to the spotlight in the late-'90s has resulted in lots of accolades in the blues field. Today's selection came from his LP Mel Brown's Fifth, and it features his father, John Henry "Bubba" Brown, laying down the blues with authority. I know Thursday is not "blues day" around here, but this groovy thing will hit the spot, I guarantee!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Honey? Honey!? I Think There's Something Funny!

The Acklin Brothers - Junior's Angle

The Electrophonic Brian Phillips introduced me to today's selection, which at the time I had only seen referenced in Rob Bowman's history of Stax, Soulsville, U.S.A. The Acklin Brothers released "Junior's Angle" b/w "I Want My Baby" on De'Voice, an Arkansas-based label co-owned by Alvertis Isbell, aka Al Bell, who would go on to figure greatly in the Stax story. If I recall Bowman's note about the label correctly, this was only one of two 45s on the label, if not the sole release.

Outside of the Stax connection mentioned above, however, my knowledge about the group is nonexistent; I have to share the sentiment expressed on the website Bob's Scratchy Records, which I found while researching this record - "I dont know s--- about this one but I like it a lot!" I liked it enough to buy a copy for myself. Both sides of the record reveal a doo wop sound that hinted at the soul sounds to come. "Junior's Angle," the uptempo side, is a rock 'n' roller, in which a "Kingfish"-sounding dad wonders why his teenaged son is suddenly being so helpful around the house. It's an off-the-wall record that's just fun to listen to; how can you not enjoy lyrics like "He done mopped the kitchen, he done fed the chickens, he ain't played no records, he ain't called no people; I wonder if he has that rock 'n' roll fever?"

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gone the Last Mile!

The Sensational Nightingales - The Last Mile of the Way

Today has been yet another busy busy day for your ever-lovin' Stepfather, but we closed the transaction, so all is well. It's only appropriate that this gospel classic, as breezily performed by the Charles Johnson-led Sensational Nightingales, is today's feature.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Have No Fear, The Dog Is Here (Again)!

Rufus Thomas - Stop Kicking My Dog Around

Long before James Brown created a mini-industry out of his "Popcorn" records, Rufus Thomas had a string of records centered around the raunchy R&B dance the Dog: the first, "The Dog," did well, but then "Walkin' the Dog" was a smash hit in 1963. Rufus and Stax knew a good thing when they had it, so two more "Dog" records came out within a year, "Can Your Monkey Do The Dog" (my favorite of the series) and "Somebody Stole My Dog." The release of the comp Can't Get Away From This Dog in the '90s revealed two more "Dog" records which had been recorded but left in the can, probably wisely since the franchise was fairly diluted by that point and Thomas had hit with his first non-Dog hit, "Jump Back," in early '64 (it should be noted, however, that the Mar-Keys' 1966 hit "Philly Dog" was going to be a revival of the series, but Rufus couldn't get any lyrics together, so the instrumental groove was toyed with until the hit record took shape - Thomas was given songwriter credit). Although the CD's title track is appealing, with its "Get Down With It"-styled spoken opening and use of the "ooh-ahh" line from "Twine Time," "Stop Kicking My Dog Around" (which, according to the liner notes, was cooked up partially by Sam Cooke!) is a breezy pop-slanted thing which finds Rufus crooning his request while the Drapels provide nice backup. Although Rufus is crooning, don't think he's playing: "too bad, too sad, if you fool around and make me mad ... I can't hold my temper long," he sings. The entire comp is worth getting a hold of, as it includes other fun stuff, such as the driving "44 Long," his and Carla's version of "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" and an alternate version of "Jump Back."

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Rush Continues ...

Spencer Wiggins - Old Friend (You Ask If I Miss Her)

Time will not permit a long post today, but as usual, I can pause to feature something. If you do a search for "Spencer Wiggins" on here you'll find a few posts I've done on him. Today's selection is one of my favorite of his Goldwax ballads.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thursday Is Blues Day?

Bobby "Blue" Bland - Cold Day In Hell

Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul has been an ever-busy employee this week, but you, dear readers, are never forgotten about. Enjoy this nice piece of soulful blues by THE MAN, Bobby Bland.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Robert Meets Otis, and Sharon Jones News

Robert Parker - Mr. Pitiful

Robert Parker's good-timing dance records for NOLA are long-time favorites of mine. Although Parker was a fairly limited vocalist, and his fine saxophone playing is not featured on the NOLA material, there's just something about "Barefootin'," "The Scratch," and others that make me want to smile and "get down" when I hear them. I'm by no means an expert about Parker's career, so I'll focus your attention to this great Funky16Corners profile for more information. Today's selection was released on Parker's Barefootin' LP. Like most R&B LPs of the time, Parker threw in some covers to fill out the album. His version of "In the Midnight Hour" is remarkable in that it removes the Stax backbeat and replaces it with a bouncy New Orleans beat. His version of "Mr. Pitiful," featured today, is not as impressive, although that beat is there. Wardell Quezerque's arrangement dispenses with the tune's signature horn charts and Parker brings less grit to the Cropper-Redding tune. Although it is not as strong as "Midnight Hour," that happy beat is still there, and so it's quite enjoyable.

On a totally unrelated tip, as I mentioned in early September, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings have a new album, 100 Days, 100 Nights. The album's release date is today - make sure to get your copy. From the funk-turns-into-R&B title cut to the after-hours R&B of "Let Them Knock" to the reggae-bent "When The Other Foot Drops, Uncle" to the gospel funk of "Answer Me," Sharon and the band have really "done the do" with this one. Get yours today! Also check out this MTV News segment featuring Sharon and the band and, from Entertainment Weekly, this bonus track.