Sunday, June 28, 2009

Get on Down With the Stepbrothers of Soul!

After quite a hiatus, the "Get on Down ..." podcast is back, and joining the Stepfather of Soul is the Electro-Phonic Brian Phillips. The show was fun to do, despite having to address the recent passing of Koko Taylor and Michael Jackson. Here is the playlist:

1. Eloise Laws - You Made Me an Offer I Can't Refuse
2. Jimmy Hughes - Which Side of the Door
3. Mitty Collier - I Can't Lose
4. Tender Joe Richardson - The Choo Choo
5. Sir Arthur - Louie, Louie
6. Carla Thomas - Sweet Sensation
7. Darrow Fletcher - My Young Misery
8. Vernon & Jewell - Just To Hold My Hand
9. Koko Taylor - Egg or the Hen
10. Top Hat & Little Jeff - Mississippi Bump
11. The O'Jays - That's Alright
12. The Olympics - Girl, You're My Kind of People
13. Jean Battle - When a Woman Loves a Man
14. The Ovations - Mr. River
15. Little Johnny Taylor & Ted Taylor - Cry It Out Baby
16. Theron & Darrell - I Was Made To Love Her
17. Ricky Allen - Can I Come Back Home
18. Van Preston & The Night Rockers - Who Done It
19. Otis Redding - Scratch My Back
20. The Jackson 5 - Big Boy

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

The Jacksons - Enjoy Yourself

Wow ... where does one begin in writing a post eulogizing the King of Pop, Michael Jackson? I suppose I should take a page from my James Brown posts from a couple of years ago. With that in mind, let me talk a moment about MJ and then I'll talk about the first Michael Jackson-related record I ever heard.

As a child of the '70s and '80s, Michael Jackson was iconic. We had a copy of Thriller, and the title track was such a favorite that my brother and I would "perform" the song, with my brother singing and me doing the Vincent Price part at the end. (I was dared at a work social to do it, but I can't remember all of it now.) So many of his songs were favorites of mine, and to watch him perform was completely electrifying. Of course, like everyone else I was aware of all the scandal that surrounded him, and joined many "Lord help that man" conversations that put more emphasis on his man-child eccentricities than his talent. But to say I was shocked to hear that Michael was dead is an understatement. As soon as I heard the news I called my wife, and I told her that his passing was our generation's version of Elvis' passing (my mother can tell you exactly where she was and who she was with when she learned that Presley was dead). I know the blogosphere will have plenty of memorials to Jackson in due time, and they will all be truly deserved.

Now, on to some music. My mother's copy of the 45 of "Enjoy Yourself" by The Jacksons got a lot of spins when I was growing up. The funky groover from 1976 kicked off the post-Motown era for Michael and his family members (the Jackson Five had left Motown - and brother Jermaine, who was married to Berry Gordy's daughter - in the middle of the '70s, and Gordy retained the rights to the group's name; they added a few of the younger siblings and kept on going). "Enjoy Yourself" was a Gamble-Huff composition and production that was released on a joint Epic/Philadelphia International label, and it rocketed up the charts upon release. It's easy to see why, because from the funky guitar intro to the bumping groove to Michael's invitation to the girl "sitting over there, staring into space" to get up and boogie, it's a solid record. Of course, Michael would stay with Epic for nearly two decades, and would turn the music world upside down in the '80s. What a way to start, though!

RIP Michael Jackson. Although the last two decades weren't the kindest to you, your singing, dancing, music videos and overall talent will forever enshrine you as part of the legacy of total entertainers like Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Brown. Thank you for making the world a better place with your music.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Motown Moment With Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson - Pet Names

Chuck Jackson's legacy in the annals of R&B history are linked to his great records for Wand, where uptown arrangements and Chuck's fiery baritone made for fine alchemy. When Jackson and Wand boss Florence Greenberg fell out by the end of the '60s, he moved over to Motown and recorded for a few years. Although Chuck's recordings on Motown and then V.I.P. (can you say, "demotion"?) are not bad at all, the Motown sound just didn't create the same kind of magic that he'd enjoyed earlier. Today's selection was Jackson's final V.I.P. 45 from 1971. Smokey Robinson wrote and produced "Pet Names," which joined Jackson's string of non-hits for the label. Probably the song was too sweet and maybe even somewhat corny at a time when the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were laying down substantially heavier material (maybe this would've been a better Jackson Five side). There's something about it, though, that I do like, so I invite you to listen and to judge for yourself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

We're Not Through With Sir Lattimore Brown!

The excitement behind the Sir Lattimore Brown story never seems to abate. Film maker Chase Thompson, whose Roy C Forever, featuring "Sex & Soul" artist Roy C. Hammond, is forthcoming, has also begun the task of documenting the rediscovery and triumphant New Orleans stage return of Sir Lattimore Brown in I'm Not Through, a Soul Detective production from my main man, Red Kelly. Here's the fantastic trailer!

We're not through with Sir Lattimore Brown!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Soul Commitment From Ireland!

Laura Izibor - From My Heart to Yours

A few weeks ago I was introduced to the new R&B singer Laura Izibor, whose "From My Heart to Yours," today's selection, is making quite a bit of news in R&B circles. This past Friday I had the pleasure of attending a concert by Izibor in Atlanta in anticipation of her album, Let the Truth Be Told (Atlantic), which will be released this Tuesday. Vintage soul fans, look out - Laura's got the goods to join Mmes. Winehouse, Duffy, and Stone in the pantheon of newer singers who appreciate the sounds of classic R&B and bring refreshment to the wrecked shoals of contemporary R&B - no Autotune here!

Izibor is a native of Ireland, a fact that she joked about at the show ("Do you guys know where I'm from? Did you know there are black people in Ireland?" she playfully asked), and I'm glad to say that not only "The Commitments" bring the sounds of soul from the Emerald Isle. Laura, backed by a top-notch band, ran through her album, which in parts summons forth the sounds of '70s soul and funk with just a few touches to give it a modern R&B flavor. I've pre-ordered the album and I'm already deeming it a classic. (It doesn't hurt matters that the album art is redolent of the Atlantic LPs of the '60s!) If you'd like to sample the album, you can go to VH-1's website, where the whole thing is steamable! Check this out right away!

"From My Heart to Yours" features a nice bouncy groove and Izibor's fine vocals and piano playing. When she performed it in Atlanta the crowd ate it up, and I think you will too. There are tunes on the album that I think will please the discerning soul fan even more. I recommend it heartily! Get on down, Laura!

(EDITOR'S NOTE - I'm hoping to get a new podcast up one of these days; please bear with me!)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

RIP Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor - That's Why I'm Crying

I have learned that the "Queen of the Blues," Cora "Koko" Taylor, has passed away at the age of 80. Throughout her long career, Taylor was a fixture in Chicago, recording for Checker and Alligator and at one point owning a blues club. It was at this club, the Celebrity Lounge, that I had the pleasure of meeting Taylor back in 1999. My wife and I dropped in one Saturday night to see Roy Hytower perform. While Hytower put on his goodtimey show, Taylor came in donning a glittering jacket and sat quietly at the bar. When Hytower finished singing he announced her presence and she received a hearty round of applause from the crowd. When my wife and I got up to go home later in the evening, Taylor took our hands and sincerely thanked us for coming to the club. I will never forget the warmth and kindness she showed us that night.

Although I'm partial to Taylor's Checker sides, especially sock soul-slanted tunes like "Fire" and "Separate or Integrate," her Alligator material is of high quality and today's selection comes from her first Alligator LP. "That's Why I'm Crying" finds Taylor toning down the shouting style from some of my favorite Checker sides, instead laying down some smoldering vocals while the band, featuring Mighty Joe Young on guitar, lays down a slinky minor-key blues.

RIP Koko. There is no one who will be able to "pitch a wang dang doodle" like you.