Friday, February 27, 2009

Ooh! Aah! Ooh-Aah-Ooh-Aah!

Alvin Cash - Twine Time (funk version)

TGIF, so says your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul, and to ring in the weekend is Chicago's dance master Alvin Cash, who is no stranger to this blog by post or by podcast. By the '70s, Cash floated from label to label, laying down slabs of funk punctuated by his chants and calls, and this release on the Memphis-based XL label was part of that sojourn. His remake of "Twine Time," the record that kicked off his hitmaking career, successfully updated the Chicago soul groove for the funk era, but kept the flavor of the original, even down to the "ooh aah" opening, although Cash punctures it with one of his trademark "oooooooooooooooooowwwweeeee" shouts. "Ooo wee" is right, though, because it's a nice piece of get down. Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In a Mellow Mood ...

Frankie Karl & The Dreams - I'm So Glad

Today I'm needing something mellow instead of a "get down," so some doo-wop flavored soul fits the bill nicely. I'll defer to Colin Dilnot's obituary of Frankie Karl at In Dangerous Rhythm for more details about Frankie Karl and his 1968 throwback hit "Don't Be Afraid (Do As I Say)," recorded with the mixed group The Dreams. "I'm So Glad" is the flip of that 45, and it is similarly smooth and doo-wop tinged. This is the type of song that should close out a DJ set or a podcast, especially in the former case if there are a lot of couples dancing. Maybe someday I'll try that out to see if my theory works!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Is Blues (By Way of Chicago Soul) Day!

B.B. King - Just Can't Please You

The late Jimmy "Preacher" Robins' "I Can't Please You" is one of my favorite Chicago soul records, and I hastily posted it some time ago on the blog when I didn't have time to do a fuller write-up. That's a shame, because at the time I learned that, although Robert Pruter's Chicago Soul made it sound like Robins fell off the end of the world after "I Can't Please You" made noise, the truth is that Robins continued to record and, by the time he died on Christmas Eve 2007, he had established quite a CV in New York as "The King of Harlem Soul," an all-around entertainer (including acting credits), and as a businessman (in addition to musical enterprises, he owned a limousine service).

The neat thing about the classic soul era was that cover versions of lots of tunes abounded, which demonstrate the strength of the songs. B.B. King, no stranger to cutting soul-slanted sides by 1972, did a version of "I Can't Please You" (now entitled "Just Can't Please You") for his Guess Who LP. The bouncy blues feel King gives the tune is light years away from the darker, heavier groove of the original, but King's vocals do the song justice and Lucille gets some tasty licks in there. It's a nice toe tapper that, although not as good as the original, still brings home the goods for the listener.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mixing It Up With Wiley & The Checkmates

Wiley & The Checkmates - Ode to Billie Joe / Hip Hug-Her

Wiley & The Checkmates were featured on the blog last summer, so I'll just discuss today's feature, a track from the group's Rabbit Factory CD We Call It Soul. To mix the pop classic "Ode to Billie Joe" with the Stax classic instro "Hip Hug-Her" was a brilliant choice, and the group really does a good job with it. The Bobbie Gentry hit is already soulful and danceable, but the arrangement takes it to the next level.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Is Blues Day?

Buster Brown - John Henry

Time to break the "only on Wednesday" slump I've been in, and why not do a "Thursday Is Blues Day" to accomplish that?

Blues singer and harmonica player Buster Brown (birth name Wayman Glasco) has been featured on this blog before. "John Henry" was Brown's second Fire single. The band rambles along on this one while Brown sings about the "steel drivin' man" of folklore, breaking after a few verses to do some of his trademark whooping and harmonica playing. It's a nice piece of danceable R&B that, although not enough to make the title of his Fire LP New King of the Blues a fitting moniker, is worth a listen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Get on Down ... on Wednesday, Again

Freda Allyne - Money, And All Your Love

The new Kent CD J & S Harlem Soul, a comp featuring releases on Zell Sanders' J&S and affiliate labels, is getting quite a few plays at the Stepfather's house since it arrived in the mail this weekend. The CD gravitates towards harder-hitting soul and R&B and some of the more obscure Sanders productions, as exemplified by today's selection. Freda Allyne's "Money, And All Your Love" was a 1963 J&S single featuring a piano-driven proto-funk groove punctuated by horn riffs, over which Allyne describes how she has everything going her way save for the title subjects. This is a solid cooker, and I would love to have a vinyl copy of it, that is, if I could overcome the relative scarcity and steep price of the 45!

The arrangement is credited to a Cliff Drivers, who the liner notes state had an instrumental release on the label in 1959. Is this the same person as Cliff Driver, the musical director for Daptone gospel group Naomi Davis and the Gospel Queens?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Soul on the Air #11: Gladys "Gee Gee" Hill, 1970

Upload Music - Free Audio - Gladys "Gee Gee" H...

Today's "Soul on the Air" segment features the late Gladys "Gee Gee" Hill from Houston's KCOH. The station, the first black-oriented radio station in Texas, started in 1953 as a "sunup to sundown" broadcaster and is still on the air today, bringing a mixture of talk, R&B, zydeco, gospel and more from the 1430 spot on the dial, twenty-four hours a day. Hill was one of a handful of female DJs to make a mark in the history of classic R&B radio (Detroit's Martha Jean "The Queen" and Chicago's Merry Dee and Yvonne Daniels are the only ones to spring to mind immediately), and is the only one for whom I have been able to locate any airchecks (it's hard enough to find R&B airchecks, much less those featuring female jocks). I haven't been able to find out much information about Hill, but I do know that she was well-regarded in Houston and is notable for helping break Archie Bell & The Drells' classic "Tighten Up": the tune was initially released on fellow KCOH jock (and co-owner) Skipper Lee Frazier's Ovide label, but Frazier was plugging the flip, "Dog Eat Dog," until Hill convinced him that the other side was the hit. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

This aircheck finds Hill doing her thing in 1970, playing a wide range of blues, jazz and soul, ranging from The Glass House to Albert King to the Merced Blue Notes. Near the twenty-minute mark, there's a sports news break featuring a pinch-hitting Lee Dickerson, whose somewhat stumbling reading of the news finds him correcting a report he'd made earlier and smoothly setting up a Schlitz beer commercial in the middle.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Thanks to blogger Daddy's Girl, who commented on the last Soul on the Air feature. I look forward to her blog, "My Dad, Ed Cook" and hope to communicate with her soon about her dad and WVON!)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

(Gotta Get Over The) Hump Day!

Carla Thomas - (Your Love Is A) Life Saver

Interestingly enough, the last time I did a Carla Thomas post on this blog was a Wednesday, and one that didn't find me in the best of moods, so I suppose it's deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would sasy, that Carla Thomas graces another Wednesday post. Today's feature is a Bettye Crutcher composition that did not see the light of day until Fantasy released the Carla comp Hidden Gems back in the '90s. I really can't see what kept "(Your Love Is A) Life Saver" from getting a "stax-o-wax" 45 release, as it is a solid piece of get-down on which Thomas brings a mix of toughness and vulnerability to her vocal and Booker T. & The M.G.'s lay down a hard-hitting groove featuring some nice guitar and bass interplay and then a great funky breakdown in which Steve Cropper lays down drawling licks to complement Al Jackson's drum work. Get on down, Carla!