Monday, June 30, 2008

"This Ain't Nothin' But God!"

Lattimore Brown - I'm Not Through Loving You

Today is a truly humbling day for your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul. Today, while resting at home on a sick day, I received an e-mail from my friend, fellow soul blogger and fellow Guardian honoree Red Kelly (from The B-Side, Soul Detective and other fine blogs) that has brightened my day and allows me to unveil a secret I'd been sitting on for nearly a year.

Last October I received an email from a nurse in Biloxi, Mississippi, seeking information about Lattimore Brown, as she had a 76-year-old patient of the same name. His condition was very poor (he was delirious and confused, she noted) but he said he was a singer. She searched for him on Google and found my blog.

Now, conventional wisdom had it (and quite a few reputable sources stated) that Lattimore Brown was believed to have died in Arkansas in the 1980s, so I sent her a picture of Brown, and she replied that she had taken the picture to his room and he immediately wrote something on it that looked like song lyrics!

Having heard the extraordinary story of how Howard Tate was rediscovered after his rumored demise, I knew that this was big news. Around the time of these events, Red Kelly had been running a series at Soul Detective about Detroit pianist-turned-Sound Stage Seven producer Bob Wilson, who had worked with Lattimore Brown. After getting permission from the nurse to send her email on to Red, I did so and Red got in touch with Bob. Shortly thereafter, Red informed me with confirmation from Bob that this mystery patient was indeed "Sir" Lattimore Brown. At that point, Red and Bob set in motion a quest to find Lattimore, one that was full of challenges but was ultimately successful. During all of this, Red and I decided that we would keep this news to ourselves until we could determine what shape Brown was in, etc.

Well, the secret is no more. "Sir" Lattimore Brown is alive, and Red, Bob and a documentary filmmaker have chronicled his rediscovery. It was a journey that took them from Biloxi to Memphis, and Red has posted the first installment of the story over at The B-Side. Do check this amazing story out, and look out for more from Red and me as the story continues to develop!

Red writes in his article:

As folks told us down there in Mississippi again and again: "This ain't nothin' but God!". You know what? They were right.

I was taught as a small child that God uses people to accomplish things, and that even insignifcant acts can be part of a much larger scheme of events. I am so proud of the fact that this little blog set in motion these events. May God bless Lattimore Brown, Red Kelly, Bob Wilson and, most importantly, that anonymous nurse who decided to find out something about her patient and to contact me.

Today's selection, Brown's best-known recording, seems so appropriate. Lattimore Brown is not through! Amen.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Hi" School?

Eric Tigg - Treat Her Right

Kiddie soul is always an exercise in "grin and bear it," because often the little soulsters' singing is, well, not equivalent to the enthusiasm they bring to it. The bigger players in the soul game as it existed in the '60s and '70s did not succumb all-out to the temptation to look for their own Michael Jackson at the expense of finding good singers, so it's surprising to hear Eric Tigg's take on the Roy Head classic "Treat Her Right" for Hi Records. It's doubly surprising that, after hearing Tigg's unsuccessful singing effort, you want to play it again, because the Hi Rhythm Section and Memphis Horns are truly on-point. The arrangement strips away the Texas stomp of Head's original and replaces it with the customary mid-tempo Hi groove, which really works well. Unfortunately, they didn't give this song to Syl Johnson or Otis Clay instead of little Master Tigg, but at least one of the more unusual records in the Hi catalog came out of the deal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not-so-Funky Broadway!

Hank Ballard & The Midnighters - Broadway

I was exposed to today's selection by Tim Lawrence at recent "Rhythm & Booze" and "Down in the Basement" appearances. In 1962, before Dyke made Broadway funky, Hank Ballard backed his "Do You Know How to Twist" (one of several "Twist" records Hank made in response to Chubby Checker's smash remake of Hank's 1958 version of "The Twist") with the slab of low-down-get-down "Broadway." It's mostly a swaggering instrumental (Hank gives the song a spoken intro and he and the band chant "Broadway!" throughout the song), and it's a lot of fun. Thanks, Tim, for hipping me to this goodie!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Get on Down With Skip Easterling!

Skip Easterling - Ooh Poo Pah Do

Blue-eyed New Orleans soul man Skip Easterling has been featured on this blog before, although some time ago, and I'll refer you to that post for a link to a great interview with the man. Easterling's updated take on Jessie Hill's classic "Ooh Poo Pah Do" was the flip of his 1971 funk version of "Hoochie Coochie Man," and although it doesn't pack the punch of the A-side, Easterling brings a fine reading of the vocals to complement the warm, electric piano-based groove, so the whole thing works nicely.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Gotta Lump!

Curtis Griffin - I Gotta Lump

Today I return to my "Down in the Basement" playlist for a feature. I had never heard of blues singer and guitarist Curtis Griffin (his bio can be found here) when I picked up a copy of "I Gotta Lump" at a recent record fair solely on the basis that the record was a Fats Washington production on Jewel. The hunch paid off, as I ended up with a great mid-tempo piece of New Orleans-styled soul. While the groove bounces along and the horns keep busy, Griffin spins his tale of woe.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Promo Day II!

"Promo Day II" Podcast

As I promised yesterday, it's "Promo Day" here on the "Get on Down ..." blog. As I mentioned in the original "Promo Day" post from last fall, I receive lots of promotional material from artists, record companies and promotions companies, and since lots of it falls outside of the scope of this blog, I don't feature it right away. A lot of the stuff is very good, though, so "Promo Day" allows me to go ahead and feature some of the stuff. Today's "Promo Day" feature covers quite a bit of ground, including some things I didn't get promos of but are newer releases worth featuring, so I decided to create a podcast for it! The tracklist for this very diverse set - familiar names jostle for space with relative unknowns and retro soul and funk, neo-soul, pop, Latin, hip hop and jazz and hip hop remixes are presented side by side. The playlist is as follows:

1. Wiley & The Checkmates - I Want Your Love in My Life
2. Solomon Burke - Ain't That Something
3. Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens - What Have You Done?
4. Duffy - Warwick Avenue
5. Plant Life - Rollerskate Jam
6. Van Hunt - The Lowest 1 of My Desires
7. Myself - God Is So Funky / Goddess So Funky
8. Sergio Mendes (feat. & Siedah Garrett) - Funky Bahia
9. Sarah Vaughn - Tea for Two (Chris Shaw Remix)
10. Lewis Taylor - Positively Beautiful
11. Rahsaan Patterson - Delirium (Comes and Goes)
12. Big Pimp Jones - Pimp Stroll
13. The Dap-Kings - Nervous Like Me
14. James Hunter - The Hard Way
15. Bing Ji Ling - June Degrees in December
16. Raheem DeVaughn - Butterflies
17. Omer Saar - Feels Like Summer (interlude)

A few notes:

Two older-school soul voices start off this set. The Oxford, Mississippi-based soul group Wiley & The Checkmates have released their second CD, We Call It Soul, on Rabbit Factory. Herbert Wiley formed his original Checkmates in the '60s, but by the '70s all parties involved had left music for their day jobs, but fortuitous circumstances resulted in his forming a new band and making quite a mark in live performance and on record in the new millennium. "I Want Your Love in My Life" is a swaggering piece of Southern soul featuring fine duet vocals. Soul legend Solomon Burke has released yet another fine album, Like a Fire, continuing his interpretation of songs by top-of-the-marquee artists (this time Eric Clapton, Keb' Mo' and others, including ace drummer Steve Jordan, who also produced the album). "Ain't That Something" features a rootsy groove that is redolent of Memphis soul.

Daptone Records is represented twice here, as Naomi Shelton - known for her Desco and Daptone funk sides under the name Naomi Davis - and The Gospel Queens give up the Holy Ghost funk on "What Have You Done," the first single from their forthcoming album, and the ever-busy Dap-Kings' Kay-Dee single "Nervous Like Me" is included in the comp Daptone 7-Inch Singles Collection, Vol. 2. Daptone, however, is not the only player in the retro-soul game: Philly hip/hop funk band Big Pimp Jones (aka K.R.O., Nosotros Pimpanos and Clarence Foster & The Internal Revenue Service, to name a few aliases) has been laying down the groove for more than a decade, and their forthcoming "Pimp Stroll" captures the blaxploitation implications of the title. British singer/songwriter/guitarist James Hunter, whose last album, People Gonna Talk, earned a Grammy nomination, has returned with The Hard Way, a hot collection of '50s and '60s-style R&B groovers. Although "Don't Do Me No Favours" is getting a lot of attention among those in the know, the gentle pop-slanted title track is a fave of mine these days.

Welsh pop singer Duffy has hit big in the U.S. with the single "Mercy" from her Rockferry album, and the Amy Winehouse comparisons have run rampant. But several other songs from the album like "Warwick Avenue" really get to me, and I think the soulful tune will get to you, too.

Although I usually use the term "eccentric soul" in connection with the Numero Group's fantastic series of CDs (which, come Tuesday, will include a new volume, a two-disc set chronicling the Tragar and Note labels from Atlanta; Georgia Soul guru Brian Poust contributed to it, and I'm thrilled that his work will be available for the world to enjoy), but there's quite a bit of stuff going on in the R&B and hip hop worlds, unbeknownst to the mainstream. Plant Life and Van Hunt both channel Prince in their sides: "Rollerskate Jam," from Time Traveller, has a '70s disco groove and vocals that are also redolent of the rap group Outkast, with whom Plant Life principal Jack Splash has worked, and Van Hunt's "Lowest 1 of My Desires" (intended to be part of the album Popular, which was unfortunately shelved by Blue Note before its spring 2008 release) delves into the realm of the erotic and conjures up the late Rick James somewhat toward the end. (Some of the lyrics on the Van Hunt side are NSFW. Be forewarned.) Politically-conscious rapper Myself comes forth with Protest in Disguise, and the highly-danceable "God Is So Funky / Goddess So Funky" pays tribute to past legends and shows that Myself is working on a different plane than many of his peers. The now-retired British cult pop/soul singer Lewis Taylor's album Stoned as well as the surprisingly good, '70s rock-tinged Lost Album have received US release on Hacktone Records, and "Positively Beautiful" is a gem from the former album. Finally, the highly-eccentric Bing Ji Ling brings some serious cool breezin' with the title track of his new CD, June Degrees in December. As I always say, it's not eccentric; it's awesome!

The neo-soul world is always a great source for neat new stuff, and singer/songwriters Rashaan Patterson and Raheem DeVaughn bring the goods with "Delirium" and "Butterflies," respectively, from their new albums. Patterson, who has written hits for several mainstream R&B acts, veers very close to the "eccentric soul" category himself on his cut, and DeVaughn, whose "Woman" earned him an R&B Grammy nomination, serves up the beautiful "Butterflies."

The South American sound is represented here by "Funky Bahia" from Sergio Mendes' new CD Encanto, which finds the Brasil '66/'78 bandleader joining forces with the Black Eyed Peas' (who produced part of the album and who appears on "Funky Bahia" with Siedah Garrett and brings his bandmate Fergie along for one track) and others to bring on the groove as he knows best. Get on down!

Although I have only once featured a remix on this blog, I am a big fan of remixes adn mashups, and two recent projects are truly worth listening to. The fourth volume of the Verve Remixed series has dropped, and a crew of fine DJs work their magic on everything from James Brown (using his Soul on Top version of "There Was a Time") to Nina Simone to Sarah Vaughn, whose "Tea for Two" is given a great treatment by Chris Shaw. Omer Saar's The Green Album is a mashup-lover's delight, setting hip hop sides to the Hi Records grooves of Al Green. I encourage you to go to Omer's website and get the free download of the album. Also stop to contribute to the "Stay True Philadelphia" charity that Omer is supporting with the album. I chose "Feels Like Summer (Interlude)," which does not feature any rap stars, but rather a loop from Green's "Feels Like Summer' (from The Belle Album and some fine bass playing by T. Money Green. On this, the second day of summer, I felt that it was a good way to end the set.

Whew, what a post! I need to do "Promo Day" more often!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get on Down in the Basement!

The Hueys - You Ain't No Hippie

Last night's guest DJ spot with Tim Lawrence at "Down in the Basement" was a blast, and I thank Tim for inviting me to spin. The crowd was small, but there were some very enthusiastic dancers who made the night a lot of fun. Today's selection was one of the 45s I played while they strutted their stuff on the spacious dance floor at the Highland Inn Ballroom & Lounge.

On the new "Stepbrothers of Soul" episode of the podcast (#28) I played the great soul shuffler "Coo-Coo Over You" by the Hueys, a latter '60s group fronted by New Orleans R&B legend Huey "Piano" Smith. "You Ain't No Hippie" is the flip of that 45. There's some interesting textures on this record: while Huey shouts his lyrics over a stomping drumbeat, the tune's catchy bassline twangs along with a slight swing that plays nicely against the beat.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Last September I did a "Promo Day" post where I featured stuff that fell outside of the scope of this blog but had been sent to me by artists, record companies, and marketing concerns, and another installment is long-overdue. I will be doing another "Promo Day" post tomorrow, featuring some great retro-soul/funk, modern R&B, and hip hop.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Boy, This Song's Lyrics Are Really Out-of-Date!

Joe Tex - A Woman's Hands

Today's selection popped into my head this morning while I was getting ready to go to work. Joe Tex's "A Woman's Hands" has been a favorite song of mine ever since I heard it as a kid - overdubbed applause and all - on my mom's copy of Joe's Live and Lively LP.

As I was thinking about the song, though, I said to myself, "boy, this song's lyrics are really out-of-date!" Although I appreciate Joe's monologue and great gospel-bent singing on this, and I really like the arrangement (whose use of strings and Tex's standard multitracking on choruses belie the "live" nature of the overdubbed LP version), the song's description of what a woman's hands (and mind) are made for jars the listener of 2008 (truthfully, the message was already heading out of style by the time Joe cut the song in 1968). I still like the tune, though, and I present it here, free of ersatz applause.

POST SCRIPT - Tonight, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul will be a guest DJ for "Down in the Basement," the new weekly Friday night R&B/soul/garage/etc. event hosted by Tim Lawrence, who runs the monthly "Rhythm & Booze" soul night. "Down in the Basement" is held at the Highland Inn Ballroom & Lounge, starting at 11:00 PM, and it's going to be a ball, y'all!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RIP Lee Austin

Lee Austin - I'm a Man

I have just read that James Brown bodyguard/hairdresser/Revue singer Leon "Lee" Austin has died. Austin's high tenor graced a number of James Brown productions, and although he didn't reach the level of fame among soul fans as Brown's female vocalists or the late Bobby Byrd, he laid down some good sounds for his good friend JB. I featured "I'm a Man" way back in the early days of the blog, and I'll revive it here in honor of the "Burner." Rest in peace!

Back to the Well!

Wes Wells & The Steelers - From the Top of My Heart

Derivative follow-ups to big hits aren't unusual in the realm of classic soul, so it's not too crazy to think that Chicago soul group The Steelers would be averse to reworking their 1969 hit "Get It From the Bottom" for the Torrid label in 1974 as "From the Top of My Heart." Although the tune has a few lyrical switches, including a reference to the old hit, and an arrangement that has a touch of disco in it, Wes Wells' Curtis Mayfield-styled lead vocals and the overall feel of the song stay true to the earlier record, which, I must note, is not a bad thing!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Kelly Brothers' Cool Breeze

The Kelly Brothers - Crystal Blue Persuasion

The gospel-filled vocal stylings of the Kelly Brothers, aka the Kingpins, were featured in a week of posts back in March 2006, and have made a few other appearances on the blog and podcast since then. Today's selection, one of the group's last singles for Excello before they returned to their gospel career, was quite a departure from the group's usual sound. Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" in the hands of the Kelly Brothers is a cool breezin' piece of Nashville soul featuring group vocals and a nice groove. The harmonies are on-point here, but it's not surprising that the record did not do well upon release because it's so different.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Is Blues Day!

Koko Taylor - Egg or the Hen

Chicago blues queen Koko Taylor is no stranger to this blog or the podcast, thanks to the great sides she put out on Checker in the '60s, many of which had a soul slant to them. Today's selection is no exception. "Egg or the Hen" borrows the catchy guitar riff from Taylor's signature "Wang Dang Doodle" and puts a nice dance groove under it. As in "Wang Dang Doodle," "Fire," and "Good Advice," Willie Dixon lustily joins Taylor on the song's choruses, and she tears through the lyrics with her usual fire.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Get on Down With the Stepbrothers of Soul (Again)!

For Episode #28 of the Get on Down ... podcast, Rockin' Radio's Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips and the Stepfather of Soul join forces to sock soul power and to pay tribute to Bo Diddley, who passed away earlier this month. Get on down!

1. Johnny Pate - That Ain't Too Cool (clip)
2. Bo Diddley - You, Bo Diddley
3. The Sims Twins - Shake It On Up
4. The First Gear - Get Happy
5. Tina Britt - Who Was That
6. Billy Guy - If You Want to Get Ahead, Shake a Leg
7. The Graduates - If Ever I Get Out Of This Mess I'm In
8. Junior Wells - It's All Soul
9. The Interpretations - Soul Affection
10. Rufus Wood - Before 2001
11. Harold Burrage - You KO'd Me
12. The Isley Brothers - Wild Little Tiger
13. The Hueys - Coo-Coo Over You
14. The Marquees - Hey Little Schoolgirl
15. Ray Charles - I'm Satisfied
16. Bobby Rush - Mary Jane
17. Ray Agee - Your Precious Love
18. Gloria Walker & The Chevelles - Need of You
19. The Naturals - Young Generation
20. Maskman & The Agents - Ratty Ratty
21. The Combinations - What Cha Gonna Do
22. Pauline & Bobby - No Messin' Around
23. Bo Diddley - Bo's Bounce

Friday, June 13, 2008

Get on Down With Jimmy Church!

Jimmy Church - Faith in You

The Nashville sound once again makes an appearance on this blog, this time from Jimmy Church, the dynamic '60s soulster who, like so many from that fine city, just didn't break into the upper echelon of fame. This is despite the fact that Church recorded pretty prolifically for quite a few labels (OKeh, Sound Stage 7, Rich and Peachtree come to mind right away). His strong stage presence can be seen in the two episodes of Night Train that circulate in the tape-trading scene and in the DVD reissue of The Beat!!!! series, in which Church not only sings but also serves as the conga player for the house band (on one show, emcee Hoss Allen calls him "bongo boy" or something to that effect).

"Faith in You" was a single on Rich, and it finds Church working it out over a great groove and strong horns. This selection is included on the great SPV/Blue Label CD The Rich Records Story, which was featured on this blog some time ago and is definitely worth checking out (as are all of the Nashville R&B reissues from that label).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Messin' Around with Pauline & Bobby!

Pauline & Bobby - No Messin' Around

Today's selection is a pleasant slab of Chicago soul from the Expo (later Opex) label, one of the many smaller players in that city's soul record scene. "No Messin' Around" pairs Expo's two biggest "stars," Pauline Chivers and Bobby Jones (not to be mistaken for the gospel music TV legend). Chivers had actually had a big hit some years earlier on Vee Jay with her husband, Sidney, with the song "Spring," billed to "Birdlegs and Pauline." Jones, despite having a fine voice, never had significant success on wax, although he was a fixture on the Chicago club scene for many years (I saw him in 1999 at a Syl Johnson show). On "No Messin' Around" the duo trade lines in a Brook Benton - Dinah Washington style while the conga-driven groove keeps things interesting on the dancefloor side.

Monday, June 09, 2008

All Aboard Luther Ingram's Ghetto Train!

Luther Ingram - Ghetto Train

One of the great things about the CD era is that there have been so many great soul comps, and even when the comps feature an act who's not terminally obscure, they often allow the listener to re-evaluate the artist. Such is the case with Kent's two great Luther Ingram comps, Pity for the Lonely: The Ko Ko Singles, Vol. 1 and I Don't Want to Be Right: The Ko Ko Singles, Vol. 2. Although Ingram is obviously best known for the 1972 smash "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," he put out a fantastic series of Southern soul sides on Johnny Baylor's Ko Ko label from 1968 to 1978. I've featured quite a few Ingram cuts on the blog and podcasts lately, I know, but - and to borrow one of his Ko Ko titles - "I Can't Stop" featuring his fine music.

"Ghetto Train" was a 1971 single, and the Southern soul-meets-Shaft soundtrack groove stomps along nicely while Ingram paints fine word pictures of life in the 'hood, from the workday commute (and its frequent delays) to the partying and penance of the weekend. You can't sit still on this cheerful-sounding side!

Friday, June 06, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons ...

Percy Mayfield - I Made It Just the Same

Percy Mayfield and his one-off Brunswick LP Walking on a Tightrope have been discussed on the blog before, so I'll jump right into today's selection. "I Made It Just the Same" features a groove that's borderline Northern Soul, and Percy's humorous lyrics about his horrible car are coolly delivered.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Get on Down with Don Covay!

Don Covay - Yo Yo (Pt. 1)

Today is one of those days where a funky funky good time is in order, and Don Covay's rootsy "Yo Yo" fits the bill just nicely. The title track of a terminally obscure 1977 Versatile LP, "Yo Yo" sounds like it was recorded probably a good decade earlier. A tight funky groove keeps things cooking while Covay pushes through some "See Saw"-styled lyrics and then engages the background singers in some tomfoolery. "Hey, girl ... you with the big legs ... c'mere, let's do the African Twist," Covay calls out to one of the singers. "Wait a minute ... I didn't say do the Horse, I said do the African Twist," he corrects, calling on one of the other singers to join him. "Come on up close to me, like Joe Tex says, with your greasy-mouthed self." It's too much fun, and oh-so-funky! Get on down, Don!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley - Black Soul

Unfortunately, the parade of musicians leaving this planet continues unabated, and Bo Diddley, one of the architects of rock'n'roll, has joined, having passed on Monday at age 79. Bo's "hambone" rhythm and unique sense of style made him a hot figure in the '50s with hits on Checker and, although his hits cooled significantly as the '60s emerged, Diddley kept busy, putting out fine records for the Chess labels until 1974. Today's selection comes from his 1970 LP The Black Gladiator, which was an attempt by the now-GRT-owned Chess Records to bring Bo full-on into the funk era. "Black Soul" is a mostly-instrumental jam in which Bo shares the spotlight with a hot organist while a female chorus chants the title. Although the album was commercially and critically unsuccessful, like the other attempts by Chess to "update" their aging blues stars' sounds, Diddley was more comfortable with the funk, and the entire album is worth a listen. RIP Bo; you were indeed the baddest "Gunslinger" out there.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Country Soul of Ivory Joe

Ivory Joe Hunter - Ivory Tower

Avuncular singer and pianist Ivory Joe Hunter is best known for the velvet-smooth mid-'50s R&B ballads "Since I Met You Baby" and "I Almost Lost My Mind," which made Hunter an unlikely rock'n'roll star despite the fact that he'd been recording commercially since 1944 and had recorded a wax cylinder for the Library of Congress in 1933! From 1944 to 1973 Hunter waxed for a wide range of labels, including King, Atlantic, MGM and his own Ivory and Pacific imprints. By the early '60s, however, his smooth stylings were out of place in the pop and R&B marketplace (in the latter case, even 45s for Stax - the great "Can't Explain How It Happened" - and Goldwax failed to make any impression). Although he never reached his '50s heights, Hunter stayed busy, and his embrace of country stylings in his work made him popular in the country music world also, such that the Grand Old Opry hosted a benefit for him prior to his 1974 death.

"Ivory Tower," a 1968 Sound Stage 7 single, shows off Hunter's countrified R&B sound to good effect. Over a gentle rhythm, Hunter woos his erstwhile unavailable love with support at the end from a Nashville chorus. Although the flip, "I'll Give You All Night to Stop," features a country funk groove more suited for 1968 (such groove doesn't really work with Hunter's vocals), "Ivory Tower" is - in all its anachronistic glory - the better side.