Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Chicago Soul!

Barbara Acklin - After You

I've featured Chicago soulstress Barbara Acklin several times on this blog, so I'll refer you to a post from last September for more info. "After You" is Chicago soul at its finest, with its swinging groove and Acklin's fine vocals (I love the soprano trills in the song's chorus). It's a cool breezin' way to roll into a weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Get on (and Lay It) Down With Al Green! (Woo Wee!)

Al Green - Too Much (stream only)

Lay It Down, the new Al Green album I crowed about a couple of months ago, hit the streets on Tuesday and woo wee! It's all I had hoped for in that post and more. Time does not permit me to rave enough about the CD, but, fortunately, Thom Jurek at The Allmusic Blog does a great job of raving that I agree whole-heartedly with. The Rev. Al is at the top of his game, and the CD is a "must buy" for any fan of Al Green or good soul music. Don't let the fact that ?uestlove (from hip-hop group The Roots) is involved fool you; this is as pure a soul album as it gets. If you don't want to take Thom's and my word for it, check out "Too Much," one of those "baby-making" ballads that Al is a master of. Take a listen - you'll be saying "woo wee!" also!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Get on Down #27!

The long-overdue Episode #27 of the podcast is now online! Here's the (diverse, somewhat early-'70s-heavy) playlist:

1. The Four Tops - Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me
2. Jerry Butler - Can't Forget About You Baby
3. The Devonnes - (You'd Better) Straighten Up and Fly Right
4. Reggie Soul - I Got Jody
5. Ray Charles & Aretha Franklin - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
6. The Epsilons - The Echo
7. Hank Ballard - Slip Away
8. Clarence Reid - Winter Man
9. Judy Green - Come On Out of the Crowd
10. Moses Dillard & His Tex-Town Display - You Can't Laugh It Off
11. Luther Ingram - "My Honey and Me" Radio Ad
12. Sam & Dave - Knock It Out of the Park
13. Jimmy "Bo" Horne - Clean Up Man
14. Big Al Downing - Gimme Some Lovin'
15. Emanuel Laskey - Remember Me Always (Pt. 1)
16. Jimmy Hughes - Did You Forget
17. Booker T. & The MG's - McLemore Avenue Radio Ad
18. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - What Can You Bring Me
19. The National Soul Review - Get Me Back on Time, Engine Number 9
20. Tommy Hunt - I Need a Woman of My Own
21. Luther Ingram - Looking for a New Love
22. Booker T. & The MG's - Steve's Stroll

Monday, May 26, 2008

Soul on the Air #8: Joe Cobb, 1972

Share Music - Audio Hosting - Joe Cobb, WVON Aircheck, May...

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday of dual purpose: designed to commemorate soldiers who have died in service to their country, it also serves as the unofficial start of the summer season, so patriotic displays, memorials and barbecues end up sharing the three-day weekend. I thought it would only be appropriate to do a new "Soul on the Air" installment, this time featuring Joe "Youngblood" Cobb, doing his thing on WVON in the early morning of Memorial Day 1972. I don't know a whole lot about Cobb except that he was a WVON "Good Guy" from the mid-'60s into the '70s, that he cut the funky 45 classic "It's LB Time" for Ex-SPECT-More in 1972, and that he was one of the announcers on "Soul Train" (it was Cobb who did the famous "Sooooooooooooooooooooul Train!" shout, which he created while reading ad copy for a radio spot for the then-local "Soul Train" show). I was tickled pink to acquire this aircheck awhile ago, and although it's way too short, it provides a great snapshot of Cobb's style.

The aircheck is partially scoped - that is, most of the music has been cut out, leaving only portions of Cobb's patter and some commercials. I'm going to give you the whole thing, the best portion of which is unscoped, though there's some fun in the scoped part (especially in Millie Jackson's "Ask Me What You Want," when Joe throws out a sample question about barbecue!) In the unscoped segment, after a "happy holiday" jingle, Cobb starts playing Luther Ingram's "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right." After grousing about being on the air on a holiday ("I need to be at home getting my ribs together," he complains), he really gets into the song, tossing in interjections all the way through. "If loving you is a sin this morning, woman," he bellows, "I want [WVON gospel director and early-morning gospel DJ] Doc Lee to pray for me, 'cause I'm sho' 'nuff gonna sin!" It's just too much fun!

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Wrong Number" Redux

Howard Tate - Sorry Wrong Number (live)

I've featured Howard Tate, the story of his remarkable comeback, and today's selection in a post from last year, and I'll refer you to it. Today's take on "Sorry Wrong Number" comes from the fine CD Howard Tate Live, which is truly worth checking out. Enjoy!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I will be out of town this weekend, but intend to get the much-delayed Episode 27 of the podcast recorded and online by Monday or Tuesday.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Revisiting the Queen

Carla Thomas - Good Good Lovin'

Last summer I featured Carla Thomas on the blog and reiterated my regular declaration, "Carla Thomas is my favorite female soul singer (period)." Nothing's changed since then, and today's selection actually buttresses my opinion. "Good Good Lovin'" is one of those lost gems that appeared on the comp 3000 Volts of Stax. After a very tasteful guitar opening, Carla sweetly lays out her ballad while the band provides fine support. Long live the Queen!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walkin' on the Moon!

Clay Tyson - Moon Man

Comedian Clay Tyson is a footnote in the history of African-American stand-up comedy, despite having a fair number of record releases and despite his serving a stint as part of the James Brown Revue. I've heard one of his stand-up LPs and his two James Brown-produced singles, which I'll discuss below, and I can see that he was indeed a lesser talent among the many "party record" comedians that were plying their trade at the time. (I'm apparently not alone on this - one Internet review of a "Playboy After Dark" TV appearance by JB and his group refers to Tyson's comedy as "lame," and a news story from Stars & Stripes covering a 1968 JB concert for the troops in Korea noted that Tyson's stand-up routine was axed by the AFKN, who was broadcasting the show live, in favor of a musical interlude!)

As I mentioned earlier, Tyson recorded two 45s with James Brown during his tenure with the Revue. The first, "You Don't Know What I Want" b/w "Man on the Moon," was a King 45 from 1968 in which Tyson, working over the "I Can't Stand Myself" riff, tells a blue fairy tale and comments on race and the space program. The second 45, "Moon Man" b/w "If You See a Ring Around The Bathtub (Baby You Know I Left You Clean)," was a 1972 release on I-Dentify. Despite the different titles on the 45, Tyson's doing the same two routines from the King 45, albeit with different music. "Moon Man" actually works a bit better than "Man on the Moon," as it features an attractive chug-a-lug groove over which Tyson talks about how white people hadn't invited any black people to go on any moon missions ("they ain't gonna take us," he asserts), but then suggests that black people should build a rocket (suggesting that James Brown hold a benefit concert to raise the money) and then go not to the moon, but to the sun (flying at night, of course, because the sun would be too hot during the day). It's pure nonsense, but Tyson and JB trade lines and the band does its thing, so the end result is a groovy funky 45.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Dancefloor Gospel According to King Coleman!

Carlton (King) Coleman - Rock Gospel Mash

The Rev. Carlton "King" Coleman is one of the last of the great true showmen of the classic soul era, having played drums, emceed, designed his own stage outfits and, of most importance to us soul fans, recorded slabs of raw, good-timing R&B, soul and funk for a wide range of labels. Do check out this great Miami New Times profile of Coleman for an exhaustive view of the man and his career.

Coleman made a few records with James Brown in the '60s, first with "(Do The) Mashed Potatoes" (the article referenced above discusses the circumstances behind that record, as well as the interesting story of his first meeting with Brown) on Dade and then two other record releases on King, the two-part, Rufus Thomas-styled dancer "The Boo Boo Song" (1967) and today's feature, "Rock Gospel Mash" (1971). The latter was released as a promo single in a picture sleeve (man, I want one of those!) but was paired with a reissue of "The Boo Boo Song, Pt. 1" upon commercial release. "Rock Gospel Mash" features a very swinging, brassy groove, over which Coleman promotes his dance as a way to make the world a better place. "Rock Gospel Mash brings salvation," Coleman sings with lip-smacking relish, "to mash out racism, drug addiction and discrimination" - no small feat for a soul dance record! This tune sounds decidedly more like 1967 than 1971, which would make sense considering that Coleman retired from showbiz around that time to become a minister, but it is a killer all the same.

After the release of "Rock Gospel Time," Coleman recorded a gospel-funk album for Brunswick, Rock Gospel Time/The Rock Ministry, released under the name "Rev. C. Coleman" (another record I want to get a copy of!) Nowadays Coleman is still doing his thing, occasionally performing with rock outfit The Creepy T's. Does anyone know if he still has his gospel show in Miami?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Good Monday Moanin'!

Maurice & Mac - Ain't No Harm to Moan

The Chicago soul duo Maurice & Mac have been recently featured on this blog, so I'll cut right to the chase with today's selection. "Ain't No Harm to Moan" was the B-side of the duo's final single, released on the Brown Sugar label. The fine Chicago soul groove, coupled with the hum-along chorus and Maurice MacAllister's mid-song monologue, make for a fine record that was easily overlooked upon its 1972 release but certainly worth a second look.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Not Eccentric ... Well, Yes It Is ...

The Rising Sun - Do What You're Doin'

For today's Friday feature I return to Numero's Outskirts of Deep City edition of the Eccentric Soul series. Usually I use the title "It's Not Eccentric; It's Awesome" for strong ballads from that series, but today's selection stays closer to the "Eccentric" end of the equation. The Miami band The Rising Sun backed Perk Badger on the lesser-known version of his "Do Your Stuff" that appeared on the comp (featured earlier on the blog), and "Do What You're Doin'" features the vocal talents of the group. It's clear that these guys had been listening to "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" more than a few times before they went to record this, as the song's refrain and overall feel apes the Temptations' hit.

Borrowing aside, this is a song that has a lot of nice parts: the rhythm bed is great, the lead singer has a lot of soul and the backing vocals are on-point. Despite these fine parts, though, the whole is somewhat mystifying. The bass singer is rhythmically laying down the phrase "keep on doin' what you're doin'," the background singers are repeating the line "they say that gettin' it's kinda cool now, so just keep on doin' it" (or something like that) and the lead singer is improvising around those two phrases. What are they trying to get over with the song? Probably something sensuous, but it's just not clear. My wife complains that this sounds like two or three radios are playing different stations at the same time, but I disagree. It might not make sense, but to me it sounds good! Keep on doin' ... whatever it is!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Country Soul Return of the Stepfather (Esquire?) of Soul!

Barbara Brown - Things Have Gone to Pieces (demo)

My, it's been a long time since we were together last! I survived the torrent of exams, a paper, family and law school graduation without a scratch, and now am glad to get back in the saddle with some fine soul music! (If anyone is interested in the aforementioned torrent, I've put together a quick-and-dirty photo website documenting the graduation, and those of you who are on MySpace can see those pics and more at my page there.)

It's a great thing that the CD era has brought from obscurity so many overlooked but awesome acts of the classic soul era, including Southern soul singer Barbara Brown and her family group, The Browns, featured on Kent's awesome 2007 anthology Can't Find Happiness, which presents the lion's share of the group's work and is a "must-buy" for any serious Southern soul fan. Rather than go into the group's story I encourage you to check out Sir Shambling's profile of the group for information and additional audio (check out his whole site, if you haven't already). Although their Stax single "Big Party" is my personal favorite of the group's recordings, this demo version of Barbara's solo-billed 1968 Tower single "Things Have Gone to Pieces" (from the Kent CD) is getting serious play on my iPod. The stripped-down demo (the single included backing vocals and strings) allows the country soul of the song to shine, and Brown's gospelly vocal really drives the song's lyrics home.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Gettin' Discofied!

Fern Kinney - Groove Me

Today's post is a rare foray into late-'70s disco, but this stone groover is worth such a trip. Jackson, Mississippi native Fern Kinney started out as a member of the Poppies, whose "Lullaby of Love," recorded before she joined the group, was a minor hit in 1966. After an unsuccessful solo release on Atlantic in 1968, Kinney turned to studio background work over at Malaco Studios, and her backing vocals graced hits such as King Floyd's "Groove Me," Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff," and former Poppies singer Dorothy Moore's "Misty Blue." Over a decade after the failed Atlantic single, Fern attempted another grab at the brass ring and found it with her sultry disco version of "Groove Me." After the Malaco single began to gather some steam, it was picked up by TK for a 12-inch release, and from there it rocketed to #6 on Billboard's Club Play chart in 1979. A second disco release, "Together We Are Beautiful," didn't do so well stateside but hit #1 in the U.K. Further international success was not forthcoming, however, and after a couple of more minor hits Kinney returned to session work as the disco era ended.

Today's feature is the single edit of "Groove Me." The catchy bassline and some of the horn lines from the King Floyd original are adapted into the updated groove, but Fern's seductive cooing and the dance beat really take the song to a different place than Wardell Quezerque's 1971 arrangement. It really works, though, and it shows that there were indeed some fine disco records being made at the beginning of the end of the disco era.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This week is going to be quite a busy one, with exams, a paper, family arrivals and my graduation, so today's post will be the last until next week. Look out for a new edition of the podcast in a week or two, brought to you by the newly-minted "Esquire of Soul"!)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Do the Robot!

The Malibus - The Robot

Tomorrow your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is going to be participating in a fashion show for the firm's Staff Appreciation Week. In rehearsal this morning, as I walked the runway to a version of the Manu Dibango classic "Soul Makossa," I threw in the Robot just for kicks, which inspired me to do today's post.

The exact origins of the Robot dance aren't exactly clear, although the L.A. dance crew the Lockers helped give it an initial push, followed by Michael Jackson, whose use of the dance in the Jackson Five's performances of "Dancing Machine" was electrifying. As far as I know, none of the "Robot" records which came out in connection with the dance were hits, but quite a few great records were indeed made, including Rufus Thomas' "Funky Robot," Dave "Baby" Cortez's sing-song "Funky Robot" ("robot, robot, do the funky robot - here ... we ... GO!") and today's selection.

I don't know anything about the Malibus, but I believe that their Duke 45 "The Robot," from approximately 1970, may be one of the first "Robot" records to be made. If anyone knows otherwise, please let me know. The song really doesn't address how the dance is done (but none of the three I mentioned really do), but there's a nice groove at play and the group brings a cheerful vocal, replete with some "robot" sound effects in the song's breakdown. I must give a shout-out to the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips, who introduced me to this fine groover at a "Rhythm & Booze" last year!