Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Is (Derivative) Blues Day!

G. L. Crockett - Every Good Bye Ain't Gone

Some time ago I featured G. L. Crockett's boozy, Jimmy Reed-styled "It's a Man Down There" on this blog. After that tune turned into a surprise hit for the Chicago-based Four Brothers label, Crockett laid down "Every Good Bye Ain't Gone" as a follow up, and it's not surprising that Crockett revisited the laconic Jimmy Reed style for "Every Good Bye Ain't Gone," delivered over a nice loping rhythm. Although these tunes, and Robert Pruter's brief discussion of Crockett in Chicago Soul would make you think that all Crockett could do was ape Jimmy Reed, I've recently acquired another Crockett 45 featuring a more traditional Chicago soul sound and have heard "Watch My 32," on which Crockett addresses both Jr. Walker's "Shotgun" and the Sharpees' "Do the 45." I'll have to feature these another time, but right now, it's blues day, children!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Gospel Time?

The Soul Stirrers - Be With Me, Jesus

I know Sunday Gospel Time was yesterday, but sometimes I'm "feeling" something when I hear some gospel, and today's one of those days. The Soul Stirrers kept "Be With Me, Jesus" alive in its repertoire for many years, and when listening to its thrilling trade-off leads, be they from Sam Cooke and Sam Foster, Martin Wallace and Martin Jacox, or, as is the case in today's feature, Eddie Huffman and Rev. Luther Gamble, it's not hard to see why the song had such currency. Today's selection was a '70s outing by the group, and Huffman and Gamble bring home the goods.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trouble in My Way

The Como Mamas (feat. Mary Moore) - Trouble In My Way

When I was a teenager in rural Kentucky, I used to entertain the fantasy of someday owning a record label, putting out 45s and LPs on myself and other people whose music I liked. One part of my imaginary empire was a gospel label, "Soul Folk Records," which would feature some of the singers and preachers I knew in my community and surrounding areas. These folks were regular, hard-working folks like my family, but they were "celebrities" among the locals. People always wanted to hear Carl and Willie Burr Bradshaw, a pair of eccentric brothers, sing and play, and a sermon by Rev. Donahue Price, whose square head and jowly face belied a gorgeous singing voice, was always better received if followed by a song. Like Mingering Mike, however, the record business remained strictly a fantasy (although I never made cardboard albums and album covers like Mike did). When I heard about the new Daptone CD Como Now, I just about flipped, because I realized that my dream had been realized.

I won't go into the story of how a group of great singers came to Mt. Moriah Church in Como, Mississippi (coincidentally, there was a Mt. Moriah in my area, too!) in the summer of 2006 to record, a capella, some fine gospel songs. I'll defer to the album's press page for that. Simply know that Como Now reflects the "true religion" that I grew up with and that still thrives in rural black communities, where the influences of megachurches and modern gospel music have not taken over. That is not to say that contemporary gospel is bad, but there's a certain honesty about these recordings that leaves the listener spellbound. Go get the CD and you'll see for yourself. "Trouble in My Way" is a chestnut that the Dixie Hummingbirds, among others, recorded. The Como Mamas' rendition of the tune takes me back to those old churches, with their wood stoves, paddle fans and foot patting. The Como Mamas are indeed "Soul Folk"!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Johnnie's Raggedy Ride

Johnnie Taylor - Stop Doggin' Me (live)

As mentioned in an early Wattstax-related post, the August 1972 showcase of Stax artists at the Watts Summer Festival ran over its allocated length, and several acts ended up not gracing the stage. Among those acts whose set was scrapped was Johnnie Taylor, who was quite rankled by this fact, as he was in the middle of a huge string of hits at the time. As Stax and director David Wolper began to develop what would eventually become the concert film Wattstax, it was decided that Johnnie Taylor should be included in the film, and an engagement at the Summit Club in Los Angeles was set up to be filmed. Taylor was paired up with a raggedy backing band, which didn't help his mood any, but a performance of "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" was captured and included in the film. Taylor's entire set was recorded, however, although but for a great stomping version of "Steal Away," the material sat in the can until Concord took over the Stax catalogue and released the Live at the Summit Club CD.

The CD is a treat to listen to, as Taylor's at the peak of his powers and, although the band has a tough go of things, especially early in the set (on "Take Care of Your Homework" they blow the chord changes at the end of the first verse, and Taylor literally chastises the band at points throughout), they do get better as they go along, and Johnnie's strong stage presence overshadows their shortcomings. The Don Davis - Bettye Crutcher composition "Stop Doggin' Me" came later in the set, fortunately, so with the warmed-up band, the warmed-up audience, and Taylor bringing his "A" game, everything "clicks" and the result is fantastic. Taylor was always strongest with blues-styled material, and he really shines here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big O Scratchin'!

Otis Redding - Scratch My Back

Although many people - present company included - often complain that modern R&B and hip-hop "sounds all the same," one thing that must be noted is that when an artist performs a tune, it is highly unlikely that it will be covered. I suppose part of the reason, especially in the case of hip-hop, is that the artists's style makes the song too intertwined with the performer to give another person a chance. This is not to say that classic R&B singers didn't make songs "their own," but the song itself had a bit more currency in those days (maybe it's a statement to the fact that the songs were better, or at least better-crafted?) Whatever the reason, many '60s R&B albums contained covers as a means for "filler" or as an attempt to ride the momentum of a hit.

Some singers were master interpreters of songs and could make any cover version "their own" with ease. Wilson Pickett comes to mind right away ("Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," "Funky Broadway," "Hey Jude," "Hey Joe," "You Keep Me Hanging On," "Sugar Sugar," etc.), but Otis Redding was also one who knew how to work someone else's song. Otis' 1966 LP The Soul Album found Redding doing quite a few covers, and his take on Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back," one of the more "filler"-oriented cuts on the album, shows the process by which Redding could rework a song. The jaunty groove of the original is replaced with a Memphis slow drag sound - Steve Cropper's tremoloed guitar work does, however, capture some of the "swamp" feel of the Harpo record - and Otis uses the spoken lyric as a springboard for lots of improvisation. The best part of the arrangement, however, is the horn chart, which takes the "chicken-scratching" guitar riff from the third verse of the Harpo hit and makes it central to the tune. By the end of the tune, Redding is scatting along with it, and it's clear by then that he has conquered yet another tune!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gotta Catch Up on the "Get Down"!

Hamilton Bohannon - South African Man

Over the weekend the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips pointed out in a phone conversation that my posting frequency has dropped quite a bit lately. I apologize, dear readers, for the dearth of music from your ever-lovin' Stepfather, but several pressures, both professional and personal, have left me somewhat lacking in finding the inspiration to do much writing. I'm going to try to do better, though, because the music certainly lifts my spirits, and it would be criminal not to share it!

Speaking of spirit lifting, today's selection, although not as obscure as many tunes featured here on the blog, is one of those proto-disco things that is so long on the groove that you can get caught up in a trance listening to it. Hamilton Bohannon's Dakar and Mercury recordings of the '70s were definitely aimed at the club dancefloor, which probably prevented him from having more success on the charts. From 1973's Stop and Go through to his full-on disco works, his focus was strictly on the groove, which was bass-heavy and often intricately-layered. The 1974 groover "South African Man" is a great example of Bohannon's style. The tune's two-bar riff quickly burrows into the listener's brain, and over the course of the tune's six minutes the listener is hypnotized by the groove and the spare, cool vocals by Bohannon and a femme chorus.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Soul Men!

Soul Men, the last motion picture Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes appeared in before their deaths (coincidentally, one day apart), is going to open on November 7. Mac and Samuel L. Jackson star as estranged members of a soul group who reunite to participate in a tribute to their old group's leader. Mac and Jackson did their own singing and dancing for the picture, and the soundtrack, which features several Stax tunes, will be released on the revived Stax label. The trailer is now on YouTube, and it looks like the movie will be pretty funny. I'll definitely be seeing it (how could I not see it, especially if they are going to do, of all things, Rufus Thomas' "Boogie Ain't Nuttin (But Gettin' Down)"?) I've embedded the trailer here.

Great News From FAME!

Jimmy Hughes - It Was Nice

This press release is certainly good news for soul fans! The FAME catalogue is finally going to get legitimate CD release, starting with Jimmy Hughes! Enjoy some scratchy FAME vinyl while you read this!



Fame Records, the original home of The Muscle Shoals Sound, will release its first catalog collection in over thirty years this fall. The label, sister company to the world famous FAME Recording Studios founded by Rick Hall in 1959, plans to release historic reissues, new recordings, and never-before- heard tracks from its extensive archives, via a new arrangement with EMI Distribution Co. The first release from the reinvigorated FAME label 'The Best of Jimmy Hughes,' is an eighteen-track collection from the archetypal soul singer, coming out October 28, 2008.

Rodney Hall, vice-president of FAME Records and son of Rick Hall, said "It's been nearly fifty years since my father built FAME Studios, and the music made here is more influential now than ever. Our mission with FAME Records is to keep the legacy of this essential American music alive, and show the world that Muscle Shoals still thrives as a music mecca today."

'The Best of Jimmy Hughes' is a fitting inaugural release for FAME. Hughes' signature hit, 1964's "Steal Away," was the first song recorded at FAME'S hallowed Avalon Avenue studios location, and the first release on the original FAME label. And though he retired from recording in the mid- 70's, Hughes still lives near Muscle Shoals and sings in church most Sundays.

'The Best of Jimmy Hughes' features all seven of his charting singles, and sixteen of the eighteen tracks on the collection are being made available for the first time in the digital age. Extras include an essay by renowned record producer Rick Hall, and a roundtable discussion with Hughes and Hall, and several legendary Muscle Shoals musicians - Norbert Putnam, Spooner Oldham, Jerry Carrigan, Peanut Montgomery and David Briggs - which fans can access as a bonus MP3 when they purchase the album.

ABOUT FAME: Located at the crossroads of country, rock and soul, FAME was founded in 1959, in Florence, AL (FAME is an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) as a publishing company. In 1960, Rick Hall moved the facility across the Tennessee River, to Muscle Shoals, AL. Since then, FAME has earned worldwide renown as the birthplace of The Muscle Shoals Sound hosting such music titans as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard and many others. The studio remains a destination facility to this day, and last year Bettye Lavette and Heartland released Grammy-nominated albums recorded at FAME. Hall founded FAME Records in 1964 as an outgrowth of the studio and released music by soul legends Candi Staton, Dan Penn, Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, The FAME Gang and many others before mothballing the label in 1976. FAME Publishing has earned multiple Song of Year awards from The Grammys, ASCAP and others, and published songs recorded by country superstars such as Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride and Alabama. Songs recorded or published by FAME have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. FAME Recording Studios, FAME Records, FAME Publishing, House of Fame and Muscle Shoals Records are members of the Muscle Shoals Music Group.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Do a Little Dance, Make a Little Love ... With Brook Benton? (And Tony Joe White?!?)

Brook Benton - Makin' Love Is Good for You

A Friday foray into disco is in order today, so says your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, and today's selection, a 1978 Olde World release, finds Brook Benton crossing paths again with Tony Joe White, who had written Benton's 1970 smash "Rainy Night in Georgia." Despite a fine string of recordings for Cotillion, Stax, All Platinum and Olde World, Benton had not had a hit of that magnatude since, and unfortunately today's selection did not reverse that trend despite the strength of the song. "Makin' Love Is Good for You" finds Benton dispensing the title's advice while a nice groove pushes along and a backing ensemble provides fine support for his cool vocals. "Take care of your body," Brook sings, "make a little love today." Not bad advice at all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Little Milton's a Samplin' Man!

Little Milton - Before the Honeymoon

So much for my January 2008 aspiration to do a "Soul-Blues Saturday" post on Little Milton, who has only appeared on this blog sporadically since a 2006 entry!

As I mentioned in the 2006 post, after Milton left Chess in 1971 he ventured down to Memphis and signed to Stax, where he was allowed to bring his guitar back into the spotlight (on his Checker sides, his guitar work became pretty infrequent once his growling voice took "We're Gonna Make It" to #1 in 1965) and where he settled into the mixed soul-blues bag that he kept throughout the remainder of his career. At Stax he hit right out of the gate with this hybrid style with "That's What Love Will Make You Do," which made it into the R&B Top 10 in 1971. (I really need to feature this tune on the blog soon; readers, if I don't feature it within a reasonable time, remind me!) Although the intense waltz-time blues "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" became his signature tune, Milton shone on 45 with slightly-funky 45s like "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and today's selection.

"Before the Honeymoon" was released in 1972 as the A-side of "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" (the Joe Cobb aircheck I provided a snippet of on Memorial Day included a portion of the tune) but was soon overshadowed its flip, which was featured in the concert film Wattstax and went on to become a blues classic despite the lack of commercial success for the 45. The groove of "Before the Honeymoon" alternates between funky blues and rambling soul as Milton, seeking to convince his woman to abandon her "wait until marriage" position, spins analogies of trying on clothes, test driving cars and the like in order to "sample [her] honey to make sure it's alright before the honeymoon."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul ... on Rockin' Radio!

Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul had the pleasure of joining the Rockin' Radio lineup this month as a fill-in for Lane Quigley, host of the "Memory Lane Show." I thank Rockin' Radio "boss man" (and "RLT Archives Music Magazine" host) Randy Tivens for inviting me to be part of this month's foursome of shows, which coincides with Rockin' Radio's ninth anniversary. Get on over to the Rockin' Radio "Now Playing" page or Rockin' Radio's Live 365 station and check out not only my show but also the rest of the Rockin' Radio lineup, featuring Tivens, my "Stepbrother of Soul" Brian Phillips ("The Electro-Phonic Sound of Brian Phillips") and DJ Blast ("The Oldies Time Traveler" program).

(EDITOR'S NOTE - For copyright and licensing reasons I cannot post this show on the blog as a download or make it available via RSS feed or iTunes, so make sure to check it out before it vanishes in early October! I plan to roll out Episode #30 of "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!" within a week or two.)

Ike's First Mood

Isaac Hayes - You Don't Know Like I Know

The recent passing of Isaac Hayes has been commemorated in many blogs, including this one, but another Hayes feature is never a bad thing, especially when it comes from Hayes' lesser-known album debut, Presenting Isaac Hayes, right?

Although Hayes had recorded as a solo vocalist at the dawn of his career (the 1962 Youngstown single "Laura, We're On Our Last Go-Round " b/w "Sweet Temptation," credited to "Sir Isaac & The Doo-Dads"), and had released an instrumental 45 on Stax under the same billing ("Blue Groove," which is one of the rarer "blue Stax" 45s, as Atlantic did not pick it up for national distribution), until 1968 Hayes was best known at Stax for his songwriting and production partnership with David Porter. Jim Stewart had declined to record Hayes as a singer (Rob Bowman notes in Soulsville, U.S.A. that Stewart thought Hayes' voice was "too pretty"), but Al Bell thought that Hayes had a certain "something" that was marketable, and he cajoled Hayes into getting in the studio to record a solo project. After a party in January 1968, a drunken Hayes, joined by M.G.'s members Duck Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr. - who were also intoxicated - went into the studio and improvised an album's worth of material, both instrumental and vocal, in a piano jazz trio format. The LP, Presenting Isaac Hayes, was the first release on the newly-created Enterprise label, which had been created as a jazz label but would eventually serve as a vehicle for soul, rock and even country releases. Although the set was very strong, as is discussed below, neither the LP nor the single pulled from it fared well commercially. Stung by the failure of the album, Hayes did not record again until he cut Hot Buttered Soul, again at the behest of Al Bell (who was seeking to build an instant Stax LP catalogue in the wake of Atlantic's acquisition of all of the "blue Stax" masters upon the end of its distribution of the label), who gave Hayes full control over the project. (For its part, Atlantic re-released Presenting Isaac Hayes in 1972 as In the Beginning as an attempt to cash in on Hayes' later success.)

In my opinion, the commercial failure of Presenting Isaac Hayes probably lay with the fact that it was released near the end of the Atlantic-Stax distribution arrangement and the fact that Stax was not a "jazz" label (I can't help but think that this album would've fit in nicely with the Cadet jazz catalogue of that time). Hayes, Dunn and Jackson's improvisations are superb, and Hayes' soon-to-be-famous forward thinking toward song arrangements is evident in tunes like "Precious, Precious" (which was edited down to single length from a 19-minute take), the medleys "I Just Want to Make Love to You / Rock Me Baby" and "Going to Chicago Blues / Misty" and today's selection, a reworking of the Hayes-Porter hit on Sam & Dave, "You Don't Know Like I Know." The gospel urgency of the hit version of the song (Hayes based the song on the gospel song of the same name) is replaced with a relaxed swing, and the resulting eight-and-a-half minute piece, which features a great drum solo by Al Jackson, is a fine piece of soul jazz. Fortunately, the LP has been reissued on CD, and the reissue includes the full take of "Precious, Precious." I strongly recommend it for any fan of Isaac Hayes' work or for any soul or jazz fan.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Red Kelly has added an epilogue to the Lattimore Brown story featuring Lattimore's Sound Stage Seven labelmate Sam Baker, who, like Lattimore, was also believed to have died some time ago but is in the land of the living. It's a great story; I've added a link to it in the "Rediscovery of Sir Lattimore Brown" section.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lattimore Brown Update

Red Kelly has been able to talk to Lattimore Brown since Gustav and, unfortunately, the news was not good. Please read Red's account and, if you can, please make a donation to the "Friends of Lattimore" fund that Red has started. I will be putting a link to the donation page on the blog once I get the code from Red I've put a link to the donation page in the "Rediscovery of Sir Lattimore Brown" section of the links sidebar. Please give if you can.

UPDATE (9/5/08) - Now on The B-Side Red Kelly presents the final part of the Lattimore Brown story and provides an update on Lattimore's situation, which has taken an encouraging turn.

Let us continue to pray for Lattimore.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Living in America!

James Brown:

America Is My Home (Pt. 1)

(Pt. 2)

If one were to say that James Brown was not patriotic, they would be drummed out of town, with JB's "Living in America" blasting as they went. Brown viewed himself as the ultimate American success story, and twenty years prior to "Living in America" he released "America Is My Home" as an assertion of American pride. This two-parter is a jazzy swinger in which James does a monologue about how great America is and about his own rise from nothing to success, while throwing in some shout-outs to Gene Allison and The Impressions and, in the second part, name-checking a string of states. Brown comes off in some spots as a hipster poet and in others as a rambling wreck, but the sentiment rings through.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Thinking of Lattimore Brown

Over at The B-Side, Red Kelly reports that Lattimore Brown, who had been a victim of Hurricane Katrina, was evacuated from his Biloxi dwelling in the wake of Hurricane Gustov. If you haven't read the remarkable story of Lattimore at The B-Side, do check it out (links to the first seven installments are at the right). Let's pray that Lattimore is okay.

Going Up, Going Down ...

Len Jewell - The Elevator Song

Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul is back in Georgia after a trip to Chicago for a wedding. The drive back has left me pretty tired, but I just can't let a whole week pass with no posts!

I really don't know anything about Len Jewell and "The Elevator Song" except that it was a single on Pzazz in 1969. The tune is a fine piece of crossover soul, though, featuring Jerry Butler-tinged vocals from Jewell and a solid, sophisticated soul groove. I think the lyrics are outstanding.