Thursday, January 31, 2008
The South Suburban Electric Strings - (Pisces) Sign of the Zodiac
I've wanted to feature this tune for quite some time now, but the fact that my copy of the 45 was a bit scratchy kept me from doing so. However, after hearing the tune on a recently-acquired aircheck (to be showcased in a future "Soul on the Air" post), I realized that, scratches and all, I want to do the feature sooner rather than later.
"(Pisces) Sign of the Zodiac" was recorded by the South Suburban Electric Strings, a studio group clearly patterned after Cadet Records' successful Richard Evans-led group the Soulful Strings. As far as I know, "(Pisces) Sign of the Zodiac" b/w "Blues for Strings and Things" was their only 45, and it garnered two releases, first on WVON DJ Richard Pegue's Nickel imprint and then on Toddlin' Town at the dawn of the '70s. Involved with the record was Sidney "Pinchback" Lennear, better known among funk fans for his freaky funk reading of Syl Johnson's "Different Strokes" on Twinight and among disco fans as a member of the South Shore Commission, whose "Free Man" was a hit in 1975. The atmospheric "Sign of the Zodiac" features some great trippy guitar work on a blaxploitation-styled groove, with the strings providing the requisite atmosphere.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Am I Wasting My Time (stream only)
She Walks (stream only)
The retro-soul singer/multi-instrumentalist Eli "Paperboy" Reed is no stranger to Get on Down ..., having been featured around this time last year and again after the release of his Q-Dee 45 "The Satisfier" b/w "It's Easier". In both posts I made mention of the forthcoming album Roll With You, and I was happy to learn a couple of weeks ago that the album is now slated for March 2008 release. Thanks to Eli and the kind folks at Q Division Records, I received a review copy of the CD and I'm glad to say that Roll With You will continue to take Eli & The True Loves higher and higher in the music scene. (Speaking of which, click the picture above to see a compendium of press they've received, most notably from Mojo magazine.)
Today's post will cover two tracks from the CD. I featured the group's original recording of "Am I Wasting My Time" in my February 2007 post, but for Roll With You the tune has been re-recorded. The superior production quality on the new version of the song really takes the tune to a new level, and Eli brings a stronger vocal performance. This is a song that I can close my eyes and visualize as an Atlantic soul disc from way back when, with its great horn charts (inspired by Ollie & The Nightingales' "I Got a Sure Thing") and fine harmony vocals. "She Walks" is one of the many other great tunes on the CD (which includes the Q-Dee single, a re-recording of "I'm Gonna Getcha Back" and uptempo groovers like "Stake Your Claim"), and its Van Morrision-tinged sound really caught my attention when I first heard it. It's a powerful ballad that you'll have to play again and again.
Make sure to keep your eyes open for the release of this CD (and I will make sure to note its release on these pages) and do visit Eli's website (see link in my prior posts) for information about the CD and the group's touring in support of it. Eli and the band have really done a great job on this CD, and I hope that they continue to receive great notices!
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Little Royal - (I Want to Be Free) Don't Want Nobody Standing Over Me
Your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul's under the weather today, so some sunny soul is a must. Little Royal, who's graced this blog before, can hopefully come to the rescue with today's selection, another of the great Huey Meaux productions on Tri-Us. "(I Want to Be Free) Don't Want Nobody Standing Over Me" sounds like it would be a political thing, but it's actually just an assertion of independence featuring a nice groove, cheery background singing and Royal's gritty singing. "I don't belong to nobody! And I don't own nobody!" Royal asserts. Right on, Royal!
Monday, January 28, 2008
Maskman & The Agents - Never Would Have Made It
Maskman & The Agents are no stranger to this blog, and my statement in my prior Maskman post about finding more and more "One Eye Open"-inspired tunes continues to develop as I continue to acquire various Harmon Bethea records. The flip of today's selection, "There'll Be Some Changes," joins the answer record "Both Eyes Open" (featured in the last podcast) as further attempts to ride out Maskman's main hit. Did this man know how to milk a groove, or what?
Fortunately, a recent record dig unearthed this little gem, one of my favorite "serious" Maskman records (the other being the Northern Soul classic "I Wouldn't Come Back"). "Never Would Have Made It" finds Bethea adopting a Ray Charles-tinged vocal sound and the group providing fine harmony for the country soul ballad. It's too bad that Musicor/Dynamo chose to plug the flip instead; maybe the change of sound would've done the Maskman good!
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Due to time constraints I will not be releasing a "Get on Down ..." podcast for January. However, watch out for a super soul February, as I will be doing Episode #25 of the podcast as well as making another appearance on Rockin' Radio to join the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips in a two-hour program! I'll have more info on both in a week or so.)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Charles Spurling - That Woman
Today's late post revisits the Vampi Soul King Records comp Crash of Thunder and the singer/songwriter/producer Charles Spruling, both featured in an earlier post. According to the liner notes to King's Northern Soul, Spurling had a very singular sound, the product of his childhood lack of exposure to secular music. That, along with his alleged tough-guy ways, resulted in some particularly dark tunes like "That's My Zone (He's Pickin' On)," "Buddy Boy" and today's selection.
On "That Woman," Spurling relishes the come-uppance he has in mind for his former love: not only is he going to leave her for someone else, he's going to tell her all about it. "She's S-O ... G-double O-D," he boasts, while the minor key groove pushes and pulls along.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Mel & Tim - Yes We Can Can
Most soul acts don't get to have multiple shots at the big time, much less from multiple cities or on multiple labels. Mel Hardin and Tim McPherson, cousins who started singing together as part of the Welcome Travelers gospel group before going into secular music as "Mel & Tim," were an exception to this rule. The cousins were signed by Gene Chandler to his Bamboo label in the late '60s and had a hit right out of the gate with 1969's "Backfield in Motion," on which the duo's fine harmony singing was coupled with a swinging Chicago soul groove. Despite having a further minor hit with "Good Guys Only Win in the Movies" and the release of a total of seven 45s (including a great reading of "Groovy Situation," which Chandler himself would have a major hit with on Mercury) and an LP, by the dawn of the '70s the duo and Chandler had parted ways. They hooked up with Barry Beckett down at Muscle Shoals Sound, and his connections with Stax Records resulted in yet another smash hit, the Phillip Mitchell-penned ballad "Starting All Over Again," in 1972. As in the case with Bamboo, they had a second hit with "I May Not Be What You Want," which was featured in the concert film Wattstax. (The duo did not perform at the festival, although recordings were made in an L.A. nightclub but not used in the film; see my Wattstax-themed post for more details about the oddities regarding the film and Stax's handling of the soundtrack.) After a total of five singles and two LPs, commercial success had faded and Mel and Tim's recording career ground to a halt. Fortunately, both the Bamboo and Stax material has been reissued on CD for us soul fans to enjoy!
Today's selection is Mel and Tim's lesser-known version of the Lee Dorsey classic funker "Yes We Can." Beckett and the boys in Muscle Shoals keep true to the Allen Toussaint/Meters New Orleans groove, and Mel and Tim do a good job with the vocals. Their version of the tune was a track on the Starting All Over Again LP, so it got little notice, and at any rate the Pointer Sisters' cover of the tune, which stripped away the New Orleans groove and turned it in to a slick piece of femme funk, would be that group's first hit in 1973.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Little Milton - Sacrifice
It's been quite awhile since Little Milton has graced this blog (as you can see from my last Little Milton post, which appeared over a year ago; I still need to do a "Soul-Blues Saturday" feature on him), so today I'll dip into a lesser-known piece from his Checker tenure. As I noted in the prior post, after "We're Gonna Make It" hit the top of the charts, the focus of Milton's Checker singles shifted away from his guitar and blues stylings toward a Bobby Bland-inspired Chicago soul sound. "Sacrifice" is a great example of this approach, with Milton's growling vocals at front and center and a swinging, brassy accompaniment that pushing things along.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Today's return to the "Soul on the Air" series features Washington D.C.'s WOOK, which made its debut as the city's first black-format radio station in 1947. During the classic soul era, WOOK battled with WUST (home of future Stax prexy Al Bell) and WOL (home of Bob "Nighthawk" Terry and talk show host Petey Greene) for dominance in the R&B market, and the station further served D.C.'s black community via WOOK-TV, which at its inception in 1963 was the first black-format TV station in the United States. By the '70s both WOOK-AM and WOOK-TV were out of business, partially due to financial and technical problems but also due to fallout from a "numbers game" scandal: a minister was using his program to give out winning lotto numbers, which were encrypted in his Scripture references! It is my understanding that WOOK flipped its call letters to an FM station and continued for some time afterwards, but I don't know anything about that portion of the station's history.
I also don't know anything about WOOK disc jockey Johnny Lloyd, but on this June 1966 aircheck he serves up some great music, including Robert Parker's "Barefootin'" (at the time the top tune on the station's hit list and most likely one of the top R&B songs in the country), the Bobbettes' "I've Got to Face the World" and Tammi Terrell's "Come on and See Me," interspersed with plugs for WOOK-TV programming, ads for Waxie Maxie's, the legendary DC record store, and notices of a forthcoming Otis Redding concert.
(EDITOR'S NOTE - The limitations of AM radio and aircheck tape trading come through here, as the sound quality fluctuates somewhat. Fortunately, the soul still rings through!)
Monday, January 21, 2008
Solomon Burke - I Have a Dream
On this King Day, I pause to commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. It's particularly of interest to me today, considering that as the election cycle has started to determine who the next President of the United States will be, the two strongest Democratic contenders are an African-American and a woman, a sign that change is still in the air and that progress is still ongoing.
Today's "I Have a Dream redux" selection was the title track for Solomon Burke's 1974 Dunhill LP. According to Burke, he wrote the song while he was an MGM act with Donny Osmond in mind
(CORRECTION - Thanks to Candy for putting me on the right track on this; Donny Osmond did record "I Have a Dream." The Burke interview I had read made it seem like Osmond hadn't recorded it.)
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Mrs. Odell Knox & The Famous South Land Singers - I Have a Dream
Tomorrow is the observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (his actual birthdate was last week), and I will follow the advice of The Black Gospel Blog's Bob Marovich and feature one of the many gospel tributes to Dr. King that was recorded after King's assassination in 1968.
Today's selection came out on the Memphis DIY gospel label Designer Records, whose output ranged from great acts that the label promoted (The Shaw Singers) to acts who merely paid fees to get records made (and who ranged from good to bad to awful). Mrs. Odell Knox is one of the many unknowns who made their way to Designer and her MLK tribute "The Faith of Martin Luther King" b/w "I Have a Dream," a two-part sermonette about King and his message, is a stately and moving record. I've chosen to feature "I Have a Dream" today, my favorite of the two sides. While the Famous South Land Singers (who also recorded for Designer, both as a standalone act and as backup for several others - awhile back I featured them supporting "Little Willie" Patterson on two sides) merge lines from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" and his "mountain top" speech in their refrain, Mrs. Knox relates King's dream and challenges the listener to take up the cause of justice and freedom, a challenge which resonates still today. "So many of us say that we love God, whom we haven't never never seen, but yet we live our daily lives with hate and malice in our hearts," she preaches. "Oh I wonder, I wonder, Lord, I wonder, how many of us [have] taken heed to what this man was teaching?"
(Many thanks to John Glassburner for this track.)
Friday, January 18, 2008
Larry Birdsong - Digging Your Potatoes
The late Larry Birdsong was yet another member of the criminally-overlooked Nashville soul circuit despite a pretty decent run of singles released over the span of a decade and a half or so for labels including Excello, Champion, Vee-Jay, Sur-Speed and Ref-O-Ree. Birdsong's unusual, quivering vocal style struck me as sort of unnerving at first, but repeated listens to stuff like "Somebody Somewhere" and "Every Night in the Week" (both the '50s R&B version and the oh-so-funky '60s version - on Sur-Speed - that I featured in Episode #16 of the podcast) and today's selection brought me to the realization that Birdsong was a cat with plenty of soul, and had the breaks gone the right way he may have been more successful. (And what a break he missed out on - when Vee-Jay Records wanted to sign him, Ted Jarrett - is there any Nashville soul act that he was not involved with at one time or another? - insisted they take Gene Allison as well; Vee Jay agreed, and Allison struck paydirt with "You Can Make It If You Try"!)
Larry's 1969 Ref-O-Ree single "Digging Your Potatoes" was his second-to-last soul 45 (he would record one gospel single and a gospel album before his death in 1983), and it's a sho' 'nuff groover. The song clearly is cut from the Johnnie Taylor "Who's Making Love" / "Take Care of Your Homework" mold, but Birdsong's unique vocal style, coupled with a great Nashville funk groove, makes the song stand nicely on its own. "You better dig your own potatoes, keep that other man out of your patch," Birdsong warns. "He might do a better job than you, and I know you wouldn't like that." Good advice, Larry!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Ike & Tina Turner - I Better Get Ta Steppin'
As you all know, Ike Turner passed away last month, and my memorial post and its comments covered how Ike's legacy was tarnished by his alleged abuse of Tina Turner during their artistic and marital relationship. I ended the post on a positive note, saying that Ike was able to reclaim some of his name in his latter years, so to read this week that the coroner has ruled that Ike died of a cocaine overdose was pretty disappointing.
To counter such bad news I'll stick to the good thing about Ike, and that was he knew how to make good music. "I Better Get Ta Steppin'" was one of those chunky funk things that Ike & Tina were pretty good at in the late '60s and early '70s, and as usual, the great groove, plus great vocals by Tina and the Ikettes make for an enjoyable slab of "get down."
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The Green Brothers - Can't Give You Up
As I mentioned in my biographical Vinyl Record Day post from August 2007, back when I was a teenaged record collector, buying my 45s mainly from Skaggs' junk store and other similar places, I would discard (sometimes by breaking) records that I didn't really care for. Looking back at that practice has lead me to realize that a great many discarded discs had value, artistically if not financially, that I ignorantly missed at the time. One of the records that received a kiss-off from me was the Green Brothers' 1975 Truth Records single "Dy-No-Mite (Did You Say My Love)." I bought the record because I knew that Truth was a Stax subsidiary, but the reggae-funk groove and the goofy proto-rap lyrics just didn't "click" with me. I don't think I broke the record (like I foolishly did with the O.B. McClinton 45s I bought at the same time), but I know that the record ended up in the garbage can. Years later, when I acquired The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 3: 1972-1975, I was able to revisit "Dy-No-Mite" (written by Duck Dunn and Mack Rice as an attempt to cash in on Jimmie "J.J." Walker's "Good Times" catchphrase) and, hearing it with a more learned ear and a better appreciation of its lyrics, I found it to be a pretty good tune. A return to the 45 this year, however, made the folly of my original discard much, much greater.
"Can't Give You Up" is the flip of "Dy-No-Mite," and I really don't know how I missed it at the time. (Too many years have passed for me to remember whether or not the copy of "Dy-No-Mite" I had bought was a DJ copy, but I'm going to say that it was so that I can have a reasonable excuse for missing it!) This song really should've been the A-side instead of "Dy-No-Mite": the Green Brothers' vocals (both in harmony and in interplay with each other) are outstanding - dig the falsetto in the first verse and the following turnaround - and the stepping Southern soul groove is great. It appears that the song has only been comped once, on Deep Dip Into Memphis Soul, but the 45 can be had for a reasonable price. Don't make my teenage mistake; get on down with this one!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The Vibrations - Expressway to Your Heart
The Vibrations' career ran the gamut from the doo-wop era, when they cut the doo wop classic "Stranded in the Jungle" as the Jayhawks and "Peanut Butter" as the Marathons, to the funky '70s, when they gave the world the fabulous "Ain't No Greens in Harlem" (the latter being featured on Episode #3 of the podcast). I'll defer to Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks profile of the group for further info on the group.
By the time the Vibrations signed to Gamble & Huff's Chess-distributed Neptune concern in 1969, the writing-production duo had made quite a name for themselves with records on Jerry Butler, the Sweet Inspirations and the Soul Survivors, a blue-eyed act that had taken "Expressway to Your Heart" into the upper reaches of the pop and R&B charts (and into the annals of oldies radio) in 1967. One of the group's three singles on Neptune was a remake of "Expressway." Their version's dramatic departure from the original hit's arrangement probably doomed the single right away, airplay and sales-wise, but it's a very strong record in its own right. The groove is slower, the horn charts are very dramatic and the vocals are spot-on. In many ways the record is clearly a part of the sonic foundation on which Gamble & Huff would build their '70s soul empire, the sounds of which would prove to form an expressway as well - to Gamble & Huff's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Johnny Jones - I Find No Fault (In My Baby's Love)
One of the most thrilling voices in gospel was that of Johnny Jones, whose falsetto whoops and intense singing style fit nicely alongside Rev. Reuben Willingham's in the Swanee Quintet ("New Walk" shows both men providing great leads, and "Lowly Jesus" and "Try Me Father" showcase Jones to great effect). Like a great many gospel leads, the question of "how would they sound on a soul record" comes to mind when hearing Jones' vocals. Fortunately, that question was answered, although only one time!
New York record man Bobby Robinson was able to nab Jones to do two sides for his Fury label. I've featured "Tennessee Waltz" on Episode #8 of the podcast, and Jones' take on the country classic is nothing short of breathtaking. Today's feature is the flip to that tune. "I Find No Fault," despite a very gospel-bent title, is much less intense than "Tennessee Waltz," but Jones certainly doesn't "phone it in" with his performance. While the song's swinging groove moves along, Jones adroitly works the lyrics and manages to leap into some of those falsetto trills that Jones was known for.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Robert Parker - Happy Feet
TGIF! I wanted to put something cheerful up to reflect my good mood today, and not surprisingly, Robert Parker had just what the doctor ordered (he seems to always have that effect, as a prior post shows). It's clear that "Happy Feet" was an attempt to cash in on Parker's 1966 NOLA smash "Barefootin'" (the dance is mentioned and, as in "Tip Toe," there's a podiatric theme in the title and lyrics), but the cheerful New Orleans groove is enough to make such derivation forgivable!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Luther Ingram - Since You Don't Want Me (1972 version)
Southern soul man Luther Ingram passed away last year, right at the time that his work was finally beginning to receive serious reissue treatment via Ace Records' new series on Kent of his Ko Ko recordings. (I will refer you to Red Kelly's outstanding The B-Side feature of Ingram and to Ace's Pity for the Lonely product info page for more info about Ingram and the reissues.)
On Episode 24 of the podcast I featured the jaunty "Since You Don't Want Me," a 1969 Ingram single on Ko Ko. Once Ko Ko principal Johnny Baylor hooked up with Stax Records at the dawn of the '70s, he was able to bring his label and his star artist to Memphis and start up a hitmaking streak, the pinnacle being "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," a smash hit in 1972. Just prior to that monumental achievement, however, the Ko Ko LP I've Been Here All The Time had been released to showcase Ingram's early '70s sides, and today's feature was a notable track. Ingram's reworking of "Since You Don't Want Me" pulls it out of dance territory and makes it instead a nice country-flavored ballad featuring some nice harmony work on the choruses. It's a very effective re-arrangement of the tune, making both versions of the tune a real treat to hear.
Q1 - artist subject of another song: The Commodores' "Night Shift" was primarily about Marvin Gaye, and Jackie Wilson, who had also died recently, is given a verse.
Q2 - artist author of another song: Otis Redding wrote "Respect," and Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire was the co-author of "Best of My Love" by the Emotions.
Q3 - cover versions: Aretha covered Otis' "Respect"; Ike & Tina Turner covered Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary"; The Undisputed Truth had the first release of The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" - I'll concede that this answer could be a subject of debate, considering Motown's practice of recording the same song on multiple artists; and "Midnight Train to Georgia" was Gladys Knight & The Pips' cover of a Cissy Houston record.
Q4 - Stax artists: Sam & Dave (Stax), Otis Redding (Volt), The Emotions (Volt) and Earth, Wind & Fire (an early version of the group were the musicians on Melvin Peebles' soundtrack to Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which was released on Stax).
Q5 - Motown artists: The Isley Brothers (Tamla), Temptations (Gordy), Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul), Marvin Gaye (Tamla) and the Commodores (Motown)
TIEBREAKER - Link between Otis Redding and "Ain't No Sunshine" and "This Will Be": What I had in mind for the former (and all of the winners got it) was that Booker T. Jones (from "Booker T. & The M.G.'s," Stax's '60s rhythm section, who backed Otis on his records) produced "Ain't No Sunshine"; in the latter case, what I had in mind was that "This Will Be" was co-written by Chuck Jackson (not to be confused with the singer), who worked with Jerry Butler (via Butler's songwriter's workshop of the early '70s), who co-wrote "I've Been Loving You Too Long" with Otis Redding. Two of the winners made mention a link to Aretha Franklin in the latter case, which I had not thought of when I wrote the question. Good job guys!
Congratulations again to our winners!
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Mel Brown - Cheap at Half the Price
The funk/blues/jazz sound of guitarist Mel Brown has been featured in a prior post, so I'll just say that "Cheap at Half the Price," also from the Impulse LP Mel Brown's Fifth is one of those mellow slow (but funky) blues jams that finds Brown laying down some serious fuzz guitar over a Jimmy Reed / "Sesame Street Theme" groove.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
In connection with the 50th anniversary of the Grammys, The Recording Academy has paired up with Shout! Factory to release The Ultimate Grammy Collection, seven CDs featuring past winners in the Pop, Country, R&B and Rock categories. Two of the CDs (featuring Contemporary Pop and Contemporary R&B) have already been released; the remaining CDs will be released today. Visit the Ultimate Grammy Collection site at the link above and you can hear audio samples from the CDs. (I know that most readers of this blog are probably more than familiar with the tracks on the "Classic R&B" disc, but it's good to revisit those sometimes!) The kind folks at Miles High Productions have offered to give away three copies of the "Classic R&B" volume of the series to Get on Down ... readers, and I thought it would be fun to do a trivia contest to determine who will receive them. So let's get started with the contest:
The track list for the "Classic R&B" disc is as follows:
1. Aretha Franklin “Respect”
2. Sam & Dave “Soul Man”
3. Otis Redding “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”
4. The Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing”
5. Ike & Tina Turner “Proud Mary”
6. Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine”
7. Billy Paul “Me And Mrs. Jones”
8. The Temptations “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” (Single Version)
9. Gladys Knight & The Pips “Midnight Train To Georgia ”
10. Natalie Cole “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”
11. The Emotions “Best Of My Love”
12. Donna Summer “Last Dance”
13. Earth, Wind & Fire “After The Love Has Gone”
14. Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing”
15. Rufus and Chaka Khan “Ain’t Nobody”
16. Commodores “Nightshift” (Album Version)
The following questions have to do with the artists and/or the songs listed above. Note that some questions will have more than one answer, so although there are only five questions (not including the tie-breaker), there are a total of 16 answers. And now the questions:
Q1: Which of the artists on the CD is the subject of another song on the CD?
Q2: Which of the artists on the CD is the author of another song on the CD?
Q3: Which songs on the CD are cover versions of previously-recorded songs?
Q4: Which of the artists on the CD had records released at one point or another on Stax, Volt, or Enterprise? (Make sure that you consider songs outside of those listed above, and consider that one artist was not given the main artist billing on records released on them.)
Q5: Which of the artists on the CD had records released at one point or another on Motown, Tamla, Gordy or Soul?
TIE-BREAKER: Otis Redding and Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" are linked by one person, and Otis is linked to Natalie Cole's "This Will Be" by two people. Name the three people.
Submit your answers to the five questions and the tie-breaker via e-mail to email@example.com by 8:30 AM Eastern Standard Time (US) tomorrow (January 9), and the three responders with the most correct answers out of the five questions will win a copy of the CD. The tie-breaker question will be used to break ties, and if more than three people answer the tie-breaker correctly, the three winners will be selected at random. I will notify the winners via return e-mail and arrange for the folks at Miles High to send out the CDs.
To end this post in the soulful spirit and in the Grammy spirit, here's a YouTube clip of Joe Tex at the 1978 Grammys, joined by a bevy of dancers for the famous "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)."
Monday, January 07, 2008
Leah Dawson with Choker Campbell's Orchestra - Strange Things Happen
First of all, I'd like to welcome those of you who have come to my blog via its mention in Friday's issue of The Guardian. I certainly hope that I can continue to bring the good stuff that Chris Salmon attributed to me!
Now on to today's feature. It's always great to finally get my mitts on a record that I've been longing after for quite awhile. I first heard Leah Dawson's Northern Soul stomper "My Mechanical Man" on Mr. Fine Wine's Downtown Soulville program and immediately searched for the a copy of record, only to find that it was priced well out of my reach. Finally a copy popped up on eBay in my price range, and I snapped it right up. As is often the case when listening to a 45 that I've craved, the B-side, featured today, was a treat in its own right.
I don't know anything about Leah Dawson, but on this Magic City 45 she's backed up by Choker Campbell's Orchestra, a unit whose name is no stranger to serious soul fans. Walter "Choker" Campbell was a saxophone player who had a wealth of experience as an artist and a bandleader when he hooked up with Motown in the early '60s. Although Campbell and his group did some studio recording for Motown, both as a solo act and as backing musicians, the Choker Campbell Orchestra's main gig for the company was as the house band for the Motortown Revues. By the mid-60s, Choker and his band had moved on to other labels and projects like the Leah Dawson record. Although the "Motown sound" permeates "My Mechanical Man" (which also manages to take a swipe at the Marvelettes' "Don't Mess With Bill" and Edwin Starr's "Agent Double-O-Soul"), "Strange Things Happen" is a nice change of course, as it is a great bluesy ballad that finds Dawson lamenting her man's shabby treatment after she had built him up while Campbell's group provide fine accompaniment.
Friday, January 04, 2008
The Voices of East Harlem - Oh Yeah!
Don't it make you feel alright?
In today's issue of The Guardian the "Get on Down ..." blog was named as one of the best online sources for free music. I am very honored and flattered to have this little blog featured in such a publication, and I thank all of you for your support and feedback, which has made this blog a pleasure to do over the last two years and a bit. I am also very happy to note that Red Kelly's The B-Side was also named in the article. Congratulations, Red!
Such good news, coupled with an Obama victory last night, makes me want to shout! Today's selection, a short yet powerful praise cheer by the Voices of East Harlem, fits the bill nicely!
Thursday, January 03, 2008
The Magicians - Why Must You Cry (I Deeply Love You)
I love it when a good song knocks me off my feet due to strong lyrics, great vocals and/or an outstanding arrangement. I have recently been introduced to today's selection, which clearly fits within this category, by means of the great new Kent compilation Hitsville West, which focuses on the sounds of San Francisco soul, most notably from Fantasy's Galaxy label and affiliates and the tiny Villa label.
The Magicians' "Why Must You Cry" is a Villa recording which features a throwback sound that brings the Five Royales or, as one reviewer noted, the early Miracles to mind. While the group provides solid support with their "I love you madly" refrain, the lead singer puts over the lyrics with intensity of feeling (wink wink Brian Phillips) and the whole thing leaves me breathless. It's magic!
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Nick Ashford - I Don't Need No Doctor
Happy New Year!
Singer/songwriter/producer/actor Nick Ashford's name is almost invariably always followed by that of this equally-talented wife, Valerie Simpson, and the duo's place and pop and R&B history is secured by 1980s hits like "Solid." Most music fans know, of course, that this couple's mighty songwriting (in and out of collaboration with Jo Armstead) resulted in a great many hits for other artists. Less known are the fine recordings that they made separately and together in the '60s and '70s.
Today's selection is one of those recordings. "I Don't Need No Doctor" was a hit for Ray Charles, but Nick recorded a version of the Ashford-Simpson-Armstead tune for Verve. Nick's version has a nice Motown feel to it (not a strange thing, considering that he and Simpson were writing for the label at the time) and, although Ray's version is much stronger, the Ashford record is engaging in its own right.