Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bigg Robb's "Southern" Soul-Blues

Bigg Robb - The Bigg Woman Song

Da Problem Solvas - Running Out of Lies Medley (some adult themes; listener discretion advised)

It's been quite awhile since any soul-blues has graced the blog, so today's feature is a soul-blues double play. Bigg Robb (born Ohio Robert Smith) has made quite a name for himself during this decade among the soul-blues crowd with his "grown folks music" CDs, but he has been involved with show biz since the age of 11(!), when he began broadcasting on Cincinnati's WAIF as the "Sugar Daddy from Cincinnati." After his preteen and teenage radio years, he hooked up with Roger Troutman and toured with Zapp before making his own music, both as a solo act and as part of a trio named Da Problem Solvas.

Robb's music is marketed as "Southern soul," a term which makes old-school soul fans like me somewhat uneasy, being that that term is generally used by our ilk to mean Otis Redding, James Carr, Candi Staton, etc. to the exclusion of the synth-heavy moden soul-blues sound. The reality of the issue is, however, that his soul-blues sound is mostly popular with Southern black folks, and his songs have particular appeal to the ladies in that audience, who seem to appreciate his pro-woman lyrics. Marketing labels aside, however, he does have some appealing tracks, like the two featured today.

"The Bigg Woman Song" is Robb's paean to the full-figured woman, and though it's synth-heavy arrangement is probably not for everyone's tastes, in my opinion, it's just a nice slab of fun. The tune starts off with some deejay patter praising big women, after which a swaggering Zapp-flavored groove kicks in and Robb takes his time encouraging said women to be proud of who they are and explaining what he likes about them.

"Running Out of Lies" immediately captured my attention, as it totally appropriates the sensuous, almost-sinister groove of the Johnnie Taylor classic. To refer to the song as a "medley" is inaccurate, as Da Problem Solvas discard the original lyrics and instead issue a warning to the male listeners that "ladies are getting tired" of being mistreated and neglected. It's clearly the stronger of the two tracks here today, but listener discretion is advised: this is truly "grown folks music," with some frank discussion of where men are going wrong and how to correct the problem!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bettye LaVette's 1969 Interpretation!

Bettye LaVette - Hey Love

Bettye LaVette's newest album is entitled Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook and, in keeping with Bettye's track record over the last few years, the soul veteran continues to make converts out of her listeners. It is insufficient to say that Bettye covers songs; her very personal style turns others' songs into her own (Ray Charles' similar skill comes to mind right away). Her version of Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" from her "comeback" album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, her duet with John Bon Jovi at the Obama pre-inaugural concert on Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and her thrilling version of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" from the new project exemplify LaVette's skill.

Take note, though, that Bettye's been showing off her ability to masterfully interpret songs for many years. Although Bettye's take on the Kenny Rogers classic "What Condition My Condition Was In" is often presented as one of her classic '60s covers by rare soul fans, I am very partial to her version of Stevie Wonder's "Hey Love." I consider "Hey Love" to be one of my favorite '60s sides of Stevie's, in part because to my ears the song sounds more like a Chicago soul floater than a Motown record. Ollie McLaughlin produced the LaVette record and released it on Karen in 1969. The "blue light" groove of the original is augmented by a nice strutting groove over which LaVette's intense vocals really shine.

Friday, June 18, 2010

That Thing (That Thing, That Thi-i-i-ing) The Esquires Did!

The Esquires - Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Baba-Daba-Dop)

I had intended to include today's selection in Episode 35 and then in Episode 36 of the podcast, but in the former case the playlist veered from a good fit, and I simply forgot about it last weekend. I heard the song in my car yesterday, however, and I knew that it had to grace the blog today!

The Esquires, a Chicago soul group based in Milwaukee, hooked up with Bill "Bunky" Sheppard in the mid-'60s and found themselves enjoying a smash hit with "Get on Up." The group stayed with Sheppard for the rest of the '60s and into the '70s, picking up hits along the way but never reaching those lofty heights again. That, as always, is not to say that they didn't make good records, as evidenced here. "Ain't Gonna Give It Up (Baba-Daba-Dop)" was the flip to their early-'70s hit "Girls in the City," and although I find "Girls" to be a beautiful piece of laid-back Chicago soul, the bright, cheerful groove and vocals captured here really are the bee's knees for me. It hit the spot for Lauryn Hill, too, as she interpolated some of the song in her '90s smash "Doo Wop (That Thing)."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Get on Down" Episode 36 Is Now Available!

The new podcast is now online and available at iTunes! Here's the playlist:

1. Jesse James - Don't Nobody Want to Get Married (Pt. 1)
2. Jimmy "Bo" Horne - Hey There Jim
3. The Isley Brothers - Cold Bologna
4. Stacy Lane - No Ending
5. Bethea the Maskman & The Agents - Get Away Dreams
6. Rufus Thomas - "Pink Pussycat Wine" Radio Ad
7. Susan King - I Got a Good Thing
8. The Festivals - Checkin' Out
9. Tony Clarke - (No Conception) No Sense of Direction
10. The Profiles - You Don't Care About Me
11. Martha & The Vandellas - Bless You
12. Sly & The Family Stone - Advice
13. John R - "Soul Medallion" Radio Ad
14. Jimmy "Soul" Clark - If I Only Knew Then (What I Know Now)
15. Jo Ann Garrett - That Little Brown Letter
16. King Hannibal - Good Times
17. Marva Whitney - This Girl's in Love with You
18. Gloria Barnes - I'll Call You Back Later
19. Kool Cigarettes Radio Ad
20. George & Teddy - It's a Heartache
21. Barbara Randolph - Can I Get a Witness
22. Emanuel Laskey - Never My Love
23. Bobbe Norris - Thank You Love
24. Little Milton - More and More
25. The Jazz Crusaders - Way Back Home

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's a Promo Day: Stax Is Back on the Scene!

Leela James - Let It Roll

When the Concord Group bought Fantasy Records and the panoply of label catalogues it owned, Concord announced plans to revive the Stax label. On the Internet, various soul fans worried about possible damage to the Stax legacy, particularly should the "new" Stax feature music not aligned with the label's legend. (Previously, a rumor that Justin Timberlake planned to revive Stax had set off a similar spate of handwringing.) Honestlly, I dismissed such fears. Motown has kept an active artist roster from its founding to the present day, and although some of its artists veer far from the legendary '60s and '70s classics, its "aura" has not been diminished. Why should Stax, whose history did not reach the ascendant heights of Motown's, be locked into a 1959-1975 timeline (conveniently omitting Fantasy's revival of the label for a couple of years in the late '70s and an attempt to revive Volt in the '90s) when its legendary recordings have stood the test of time and continue to do so?

As a fan of neo-soul, I have been pleased with the direction Concord has taken with the revived Stax label, mixing new releases by both newcomers/non-Stax artists and Stax veterans with repackaged reissues and first-time issues of vintage material, such as the Live at the Bohemian Caverns and Live at the Summit Club sets on Carla Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, respectively, and I am extra happy to see that two projects from the label featuring new material have done particularly well. Angie Stone's Art of Love and War did well, with the single "Baby" giving Stax it's first Billboard chart hit since the late '70s. Now Leela James, neo-soul songstress (some of you may remember her excellent version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" from a few years back) and BET's My Black Is Beautiful co-host, has come out with My Soul, whose lead-off single, "Tell Me You Love Me," has helped the album make it into the top ten of Billboard's R&B Album Chart and into the top thirty of the Top 200 Album Chart. Stax is back on the scene!

The good folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy of the album, and I must say that though several of the tracks on My Soul won't meet with approval from the Stax purists, there are several tunes that make James' statement in the liner notes that it's appropriate to have a home at a "real soul" label like Stax quite valid. "Let It Roll" is one of the more retro-sounding tracks, full of swagger and energy. I would recommend the CD heartily to readers of this blog who do have a thing for neo-soul, because James is in great form throughout.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Soul on the Air #15 - Dr. Bop, 1973

Upload Music Files - Audio Hosting - Dr. Bop - WAWA Aircheck, Nov...

The "Soul on the Air" feature returns to "Get on Down ..." with Hoyt Locke aka Dr. Bop from WAWA, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I don't know much about Dr. Bop except that he was a popular R&B jock who passed away in 1976. The good Doctor is in good form in this 30-minute aircheck from November 1973. After a boisterous series of boasts made while Jr. Walker's "Way Back Home" plays in the background, he lays down some solid soul sounds, including James Brown's "Stone to the Bone," two of Al Green's hits, "Show and Tell" by Al Wilson, and the Patterson Twins' exquisite "Back in Love Again." WAWA's AM frequency signed off at sundown, and at the end of the aircheck, we're told to switch over to the FM band to keep on jamming. Oh, if I only could! This is a fun aircheck that's just too short!