Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Junior Parker - I Got Money
Junior Parker is definitely no stranger to this blog or the podcast, so I'm simply going to say that today's selection is the B-side to Junior's Blue Rock single "Lover to Friend," which was recently featured here. "I Got Money" - not to be confused with the James Brown song of the same name - features a nice groove and Junior's usual soulful singing.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
King Hannibal - Good Times
It's Hannibal Time at "Get on Down ..." today, and I'll simply refer you to my "Hannibal Conquers Atlanta!" post and note that "Good Times," a '70s Aware cut that was not released at the time but was comped on Kent's Holding the Losing Hand: Hotlanta Soul, Vol. 3, kicks butt from the get-go, with its aggressive guitar lines and surging horn charts. You can't help but groove to this one!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Chicago radio again returns to the spotlight in this installment of the "Soul on the Air" series, this time with Big Bill Hill, R&B jock on the brokered-time WOPA in suburban Oak Park. WOPA's programming ran quite the gamut, ranging from ethnic shows to jazz programs and Hill's daily "Shopping Bag Show." Hill was a blues fan, so his show always featured more blues and harder soul sounds than the fare over at WVON, WBEE and WGRT. Among Hill's various sidelines was hosting (allegedly in a pretty wooden manner) a TV show, "Red Hot and Blues," which aired on WCIU, whose local brodcasting was the stuff of legend in the Chicago area: notable programs included "Kiddie-a-Go-Go," "Svengoolie" and the local run of "Soul Train," which made its debut in 1970 and remained a local daily series for some time after Don Cornelius moved the show to Los Angeles and took it national in 1971 (singer Clinton Ghent hosted the WCIU version). Perhaps the seed for "Soul Train" was sown by Hill's show, which featured kids dancing to R&B hits of day (check out Scott Marks' Emulsion Compulsion reminisces of Hill's show and "Rock of Ages," a gospel show hosted by WVON's Isabel Joseph Johnson).
The aircheck featured today is a "Shopping Bag Show" from August 1967, and it finds Hill playing lots of Stax stuff, some lowdown blues and harder-hitting soul. Hill does all of his own commercials, including plugs for a forthcoming "battle of the blues" between Little Milton and Albert King and a Sunday afternoon concert featuring Otis Clay, Bobby Rush, Otis Rush (incorrectly referred to by Hill as Bobby's brother), Howlin' Wolf, Shakey Jake and others, and a car dealership so intent on selling cars that if the buyer didn't know how to drive it would pay for driving lessons. It's a great aircheck in pretty good fidelity that's worth checking out. Now only if some video of "Red Hot and Blues" could be found!
Friday, April 25, 2008
Slick 'n' the Family Brick - Don't Trust a Woman
The eccentric soul of singer/songwriter/producer/label owner Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg, is always welcomed on this blog, and today's selection comes from the excellent new Kent comp Blame It on the Dogg: The Swamp Dogg Anthology, 1968-1978, which features productions by Swamp on himself and others, ranging from Swamp's usual posse of collaborators (Gary "U.S." Bonds, Charlie Whitehead aka Raw Spitt) to Inez and Charlie Foxx to Ruth Brown. "Don't Trust a Woman" was a 1973 single on the Swamp Dogg Presents label by Slick 'n' the Family Brick, an aggregation made up of Swamp Dogg, Raw Spitt, Gary "U.S." Bonds, Kenny Carter and Johnny Northern. This dancer features fine vocals by the group and, as per usual for Swamp, a dollop of humor in the lyrics. "Don't trust a woman no further than you can throw a brick," the group exhorts. "And if you are a little fellow, no further than you can throw a stick."
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Jimmy Ruffin - I Know How to Love Her
A couple of weeks ago I featured Jimmy Ruffin on this blog, and I'll visit with him again on today's selection, which went unreleased until the first volume of A Cellarful of Motown came out. "I Know How to Love Her" features cheerful, confident singing by Ruffin and the background singers over a swinging groove full of that Motown magic. I can't figure out for the life of me why this didn't get released - it's as solid as a lot of the product coming out on any of Berry Gordy's labels at the time. I suppose it's an ultimate testament to the quality and quantity of work they were doing at Hitsville, U.S.A. for stuff like this to be passed over!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
L. C. Cooke - Put Me Down Easy (alternate take)
Mrs. Stepfather of Soul suggested yesterday evening that we go out to dinner to celebrate my completing my last semester of law school classes, so we decided to head over to Fat Matt's Rib Shack for some barbecue and live music. When we arrived, the band started playing "Put Me Down Easy," which struck me as an interesting choice (the band was a three-piece outfit with a decided rock slant), but a good one all the same! It really set the tone for a celebratory dinner.
I've discussed the song before on this blog, so I'll just say that today's selection is the alternate take from the SAR boxed set that I mentioned in the prior post. The "cha-cha-cha" feel of the SAR 45 is absent here, giving the tune a bit more drive, and Sam Cooke and Roy Crain's background vocals seem to have a bit more of that Soul Stirrers gospel sound to them.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The Acklin Brothers - I Want My Baby
Some time ago I featured the humorous ditty "Junior's Angle" by the Acklin Brothers, which was released on the De'Voice label, an early effort by future Stax prexy Al Bell. Today's feature is the flip of that tune. The ballad "I Want My Baby" is a doo-wop-styled number that features ensemble vocals by the group and sparse, atmospheric backing by the band, led by some nice guitar work.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Louis Jordan - Workin' Man
As quickly as Friday afternoon ended, Monday morning has begun. Is it just me, or do weekends seem to get shorter and shorter?
Louis Jordan and his group, the Tympany Five, ruled the R&B charts in the late '40s with his "jump blues," effectively bridging the gap between big band jazz and the nascent rhythm and blues / rock 'n' roll sound. Classics like "Let the Good Times Roll" and humorous cuts like "Saturday Night Fish Fry," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and "Beans and Cornbread" made Jordan the "King of the Jukebox," but by the mid-'50s, he was swamped by the new sound of rock 'n' roll and, although he stayed active as a performer and recording artist, he never regained his earlier glory and he passed away in 1975. In the '90s, a revival of interest in jump blues and swing dancing brought Jordan back into the pop culture, and the hit musical Five Guys Named Moe provided a great tribute to his music.
In the early '60s, Jordan hooked up with Ray Charles for a handful of releases on Charles' Tangerine label. The horn-heavy "Workin' Man" effectively captures the sentiment of my opening paragraph in its lyrics. "It sure gets late quick on a Saturday night," Jordan laments. "Saturday's my time to play, but it just ain't long enough." Amen to that!
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Cleo Jackson Randle - Life in Heaven Is Free
Cleo Randle makes two appearances on the Hoss Allen TV show The Beat!!!!, lip-syncing her two best-known R&B sides, "Big City Lights" and "Best Man I Ever Had" and joins in the sing-along of "If I Had a Hammer," showcasing her powerful, growling voice. One of her gospel sides, however, is much more impressive. The stark 1967 Checker single "Life in Heaven Is Free" is amazingly simple, and it's equally moving and haunting. Sorry for the scratchiness of the 45, but I couldn't let that prevent me from sharing this fine recording.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Bud Harper - Mr. Soul
Bud Harper is best known for the great soul dancer "Wherever You Were," the Peacock 45 of which is a ways outside of my record-buying ability at present. On "Mr. Soul," Harper's vocals are more along the lines of Duke/Peacock labelmate Bobby Bland, and the carefree lyrics even seem to derive from Bland's "Good Time Charlie." Derivative or no, it's a nice shuffler that - yet again - is further evidence that a Duke/Peacock/Back Beat soul comp is sorely needed!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Albert King - You're Gonna Need Me
Blues legend Albert King is no stranger to this blog or the podcast, so I'll just say that today's selection, the flip of King's Stax 45 "(I Love) Lucy," is a powerful blues ballad featuring great "revenge" lyrics by King and my favorite horn charts of any King recording.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Joseph Johnson & The CBS Trumpeteers - Nobody Knows the Trouble I See
Today I'm going to do a "Monday Gospel Time" post featuring the CBS Trumpeteers, a jubilee-styled gospel group best known for their theme song, the gospel ballad "Milky White Way," which made waves as a 1948 release on Score. (They were known then simply as "The Trumpeteers"; they changed their name in the '50s to include the network on which they broadcasted for some time.) Lead singer Joseph Johnson was not as acrobatic, be it physically or vocally, as his peers in groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds, but Johnson proved to be adept at balladry and uptempo patter songs like "The Mighty Number" and "Right John" (featured in a post some time ago). After Johnson's death in 1984 the group continued performing, although I don't think they are active at this time (anyone have info about the group to clarify?) If you go on YouTube, there are three videos of the group, two from a '60s appearance on "TV Gospel Time" (singing "Milky White Way" and "The Mighty Number") and one of the post-Johnson group doing "Straighten Them Out" in the '80s.
Today's selection comes from the latter half of the '70s. The Trumpeteers recorded one LP, The Mighty Number, for HSE after a long tenure with Nashboro. The group's version of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" was the flip of the title track 45. After a nice spoken introduction, the group and Johnson really sell the song. Unfortunately, my 45 is a bit scratchy, but it's too good a tune for me to not feature it.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Bobby "Blue" Bland - That's the Way Love Is (live)
Thank God it's Friday!
Today I'm in the mood for some blues, and Bobby Bland rides to the rescue with this live version of "That's the Way Love Is," his 1963 hit, from the Live on Beale Street CD. I've heard quite a few live versions of this song, on recordings and in person, and the punchiness that Bland and the band gives the song makes all of the live versions better, in my opinion, than the record. (I heard one live version of the song on a blues radio station a few years ago, and it's eluded me thus far. It features Bland interacting with a late-arriving audience member. If anyone has this version and would share it with me, I'd appreciate it!)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Jimmy Ruffin - Our Favorite Melody
Some years ago I responded to an online survey that asked respondents to name their favorite Motown songs. I forget what I listed as my top five or top ten, but I do remember my pick for #1, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted" by Jimmy Ruffin. That atmospheric ballad is, of course, the hit for which Jimmy (older brother of David) is remembered, although he had a few other hits in the '60s, '70s and early '80s, including one with David, and made noise in the UK with "Tell Me What You Want" in the '70s. Outside of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted," today's selection is my favorite Jimmy Ruffin record. The long introduction of "Our Favorite Melody" effectively establishes the song's sing-along hook, so when Ruffin comes in to tell the story it all makes sense. (If you don't believe the "sing-along" part, wait until I post an aircheck in a future "Soul on the Air" installment of Mr. V on WGRT, singing along on the air! Besides, you might find that the hook is stuck in your head and you'll sing it yourself!)
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Samson & Delilah - Keep Me In Mind
Today's selection is one of those tunes that falls into the "I don't really know anything about it, but I like it" category. The ABC single "Keep Me In Mind" is a strutting piece of funky soul featuring strong vocals by Samson & Delilah, a mixed duo I know nothing about other than that they had at least one other ABC single ("Woman"). (As always, any other info that you, dear reader, may have is welcomed.) At any rate, it's a nice piece of "get on down" that has brightened up my morning!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Clarence Reid - No Way Out
It's time to rev up something a little funky to move through what is turning into a slow Tuesday, and this gem from the Numero comp Outskirts of Deep City fits the bill nicely. I've discussed this comp in a prior post, so I'll just focus on "No Way Out" by Clarence Reid, the singer/songwriter/producer/"Blowfly" alter ego whose contributions to the Miami soul scene resulted in hits for himself and others, including Betty Wright and Gwen McRae. This funky thing would have been a Deep City 45 had it been released, but fortunately the Numero guys were able to find the track in the box of tapes that gave rise to the comp - which is doubly fortunate, because they had possession of an acetate of the tune that was too scratchy for use; to know that such a great tune was out there but unreleasable would've been criminal! Dig the Steve Cropper-styled guitar work at the end of each verse on this one.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Hoss Allen - He Went to the Mountain Top
In the midst of the two series I ran last week, I failed to pause to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which was on Friday, April 4. To rectify this I turn to The Rogana Story once again to feature "He Went to the Mountain Top," a narration by Hoss Allen set to a gospel accompaniment. Allen's closing strikes me as particularly powerful today, after a weekend of news stories and documentaries celebrating King's legacy, because the message he gives still remains true. "His death may hinder or help [the civil rights] cause, perhaps both," the Hossman states. "But all of us owe him the honor of not letting ourselves distort, becloud or belittle the cause he brought to such noble purity of expression." Amen.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Jimmy Jones & The Sensationals - I Don't Need
As I mentioned yesterday, since I've been doing thematic posts all week, I'll close out the "Basso Profundo" series with gospel's greatest bass singer, Jimmy Jones. As mentioned in a prior post, Jones went beyond the "boom-de-boom" that most basses employed (Willie Bobo of the Dixie Hummingbirds being the best at that style) to become quite an effective lead singer. After he made his mark in the Harmonizing Four he formed his own group, the Sensationals. Their recording "I Don't Need" features cheerful lyrics, but the minor-key arrangement and Jones' vocal (sounding almost like it's coming from some ethereal source) give the tune an ominous feel. It's a little eerie, but it's effective.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
The Temptations - I Truly, Truly Believe
I guess this week is just a week of thematic posts, because I'm following yesterday's "Basso Profundo" post with another post featuring a bass lead. (I suppose I should pick a Jimmy Jones gospel number tomorrow, to round out the whole week!) The late Melvin Franklin was the one constant of the Temptations, whose personnel changed quite often from the late '60s through the '90s. Melvin's bass added a lot to the Temptations' sound, and interjections on songs like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "I Can't Get Next to You" and others helped make those songs classics. Today's selection was the B-side of "I Wish It Would Rain" and it found Franklin leading the group quite effectively.
Friday, April 04, 2008
The Esquires - The Feeling's Gone
The Milwaukee-based group The Esquires were known for their Chicago soul records of the '60s and early '70s, most notably for their biggest hit, "Get on Up." The group's fine falsetto stylings, counterbalanced by Mill Edwards' bass (the "get on up" refrain in the aforementioned song was his), linked doo-wop harmonies with soul singing. In addition to dancers like "Get on Up," its follow-up, "And Get Away," and "Reach Out" were fine floaters like "Girls in the City" and today's selection. On "The Feeling's Gone," Edwards is given the lead vocal and he puts the lyrics over nicely while the group provides fine support.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
We'll see how things shake out tomorrow afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed!
Joe Hinton - Funny (How Time Slips Away)
The Spinners - Funny How Time Slips Away
B.B. King & Bobby Bland - Funny How Time Slips Away
Today's post concludes the "Funny" series, and it spans 40-plus years of R&B treatments to the Willie Nelson classic. Accordingly, I am featuring a '60s version, an '80s version, and one from the present decade.
I thought it would only be fitting to feature what I think was the first (and definitely the most successful) R&B version of the song, as performed by Joe Hinton. Way back in the earliest days of this blog I featured the Spirit of Memphis Quartet's "Lost in Sin," on which Hinton sang lead. Peacock prexy Don Robey convinced Hinton to try his hand at R&B, and in 1964 "Funny" was a hit. Hinton's version featured a big band backing, and Hinton's confident reading of the song, replete with a strained falsetto ending, really worked. "Funny" would end up being the biggest hit for Hinton, who died in 1968.
By the time the Spinners recorded "Funny" for their 1982 LP Grand Slam, the group's fantastic run of hits on Atlantic that stretched back to 1972 was coming to an end. Although John Edwards had replaced Phillippe Wynne in 1977 (Wynne started an ill-fated solo career and also did some work with the Parliament-Funkadelic crew, like Funkadelic's "Uncle Jam"), the group continued to have hits, especially with the disco medleys "Working My Way Back to You / Forgive Me Girl" and "Cupid / I've Loved You for a Long Time." Although neither Grand Slam nor any singles pulled from it did very well commercially, Edwards' vocal on "Funny" was thrilling. The arrangement of the Spinners record was a contemporary take on the Hinton original, and Edwards also closed the song with a thrilling falsetto.
I knew that I had to close out this series with B.B. King and Bobby Bland's reading of "Funny" from the B.B.'s duets LP 80, which was recorded a couple of years ago in commemoration of the bluesman's reaching octogenarian status. King and Bland, who by the time they recorded the song had over 50 years of history together, provide a warm, autumnal vocal over a country arrangement. Lyrically, they had to stretch a bit, since the "you're my old flame" narrative wouldn't work for a male duet, but they pulled it off, turning the song into a conversation between old friends in which Bland gently chided King for having a new woman ("that's the same thing that you told her, in time you're gonna pay," Bland sings in the second verse). To my ears, B.B.'s vocals sound very tired, but that weariness actually adds to the ambiance of the song, and the way he and Bobby close the song always makes me smile.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Reuben Howell - Funny How Time Slips Away
Dorothy Moore - Funny How Time Slips Away
Today's installment of the "Funny" series features two '70s Southern soul takes on the song, albeit that one of them was a Motown record. Blue-eyed soul man Reuben Howell was featured on this blog before, although erroneously (Howell was erroneously credited with Johnny Adams' "Bad Habit Baby" on Soul Resurrection, which I had featured). Howell cut two albums and a few singles for Motown (some of which were released on VIP), none of which were successful. His first LP, Reuben Howell, was produced by former Fame Gang musician Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford and featured quite a few of the Muscle Shoals and Memphis soul scene regulars as instrumentalists and background singers. Ivey and Woodford chose to take strip the tune of its country flavor, choosing instead to have Howell sing the song over a stripped-down rhythm with nice piano and string accents. Howell brought the goods with his performance, alternating between a conversational style and fuller belting. It's a shame that Howell's Motown stuff got lost in the shuffle, because it was quite good.
Dorothy Moore had a smash hit - and kept the then-struggling Malaco concern from going out of business - in 1976 with the deep soul ballad "Misty Blue," the song for which she is best known. In that same year, however, she also raced up the pop and R&B charts with her version of "Funny." The arrangement on this version has more of a Southern soul feel than the Howell record, featuring a fine piano (both electric and acoustic) and guitar-based groove (dig the accompaniment in the last verse) and strong vocals by Moore.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Joe Tex - Funny How Time Slips Away
Danny Woods - Funny How Time Slips Away
Joe Tex needs no introduction to the readers of this blog, so the second installment of the "Funny" series will feature his great reading of the song from the Soul Country album. It's no surprise that Joe was very comfortable with country music, and it didn't hurt things that he worked with Nashville music impresario Buddy Killen. Joe's warm reading of the song fit nicely with the relaxed, stop-time groove the rhythm section put down, and the heavy horns provide a nice shading to the track.
Danny Woods is a member of the Chairmen of the Board, the Detroit soul act put together by Holland-Dozier-Holland after they left Motown to start their Invictus/Hot Wax concern. (I say "is" rather than "was" because in the '90s Woods and General Johnson re-formed the group, and they are quite popular in the Carolina shag music scene.) Although General Johnson's lead vocals are given most of the praise (in part because of his brilliant job on the smash hit "Give Me Just a Little More time"), Woods' gospel-rich voice fronted quite a few hits by the group, including "Pay to the Piper," "Tricked and Trapped" and others. In 1972, H-D-H decided to record each member of the group on a solo project alongside the group's Bittersweet LP. Unfortunately, all four projects were not big successes, but they all included some great music. Danny's album, Aries, included this great version of "Funny." Woods set up the song with a nice monologue (which includes the line "I walked into this barbecue joint - I mean steak house," which never ceases to make me smile) and then did a fine job with the song.