Archive for August, 2006

Ernie K. Doe – Here Come the Girls

August 30, 2006

 

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Mr. Ernie K. Doe

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NOTE: Soul Jazz Records, who own the rights to ‘Here Come the Girls’ have asked me to take the link down, and to refer you to their site….

Good day to you.

I hope you’re all digging the mix from Monday.

I had a complaint from a reader that he was having some difficulty getting it downloaded, but I’ve tested it a bunch of times, and found no file corruption, so I’m guessing it might be a traffic issue, or problems with an individual user’s ISP. If anyone else is having problems getting ahold of the whole file, drop me a line.

On a related note, those that pay attention to such things may have noticed that the bit rate on the mix is lower than some of the individual tracks I’ve been posting. I tried ripping the mix at a higher rate, and the resulting file size was MASSIVE, so much so that I figured it would cause most listeners a major inconvenience, in addition to taking up a huge chuck of my dwindling storage space.

Here in beautiful NJ – a statement I make by the way without the slightest hint of irony – the weather has been absolutely dreadful. I know that I’ve complained incessantly about the glut of tourists that clog the local roads between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but I didn’t want the summer to end prematurely, in a wet, grey haze with October-esque temperatures.

Despite the long term atmospheric downer, I like to keep the Funky16Corners Blog a place where – in the words of the late, great Slim Harpo – “the music’s hot”, so in furtherance of that cause, and in keeping with the New Orleans vibe, I bring you a tune that I tracked for years, like some deranged big game hunter. The tune I speak of, ‘Here Come the Girls’ is a later, superb effort by the man once described (possibly by himself) as “the Greatest Boy-Child ever conceived at Charity Hospital in New Orleans”, Mr. Mother-In-Law, the late, great Ernie K. Doe.

I should preface this by saying that despite by deep and abiding love for the music of New Orleans, I have been remiss in gathering the recorded works of Mr. Kador (as he was born) – aside from a few of his best Minit 45s. When K. Doe hit the charts in 1961 with ‘Mother In Law’, written, produced and arranged by the mighty Toussaint, with backing vocals by none other than Benny Spellman, he hit them HARD, riding the Top 10 of the R&B and Pop charts for several weeks. ‘Mother In Law’ was one of the biggest records to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s, and is probably the one Crescent City R&B song that everyone, from your sainted white-haired grandma to the snot-nosed kids loitering down at the 7-11 has heard, and in all likelihood, loves. Who can resists attempting to sing Spellman’s bass part when the chorus comes along? Not me.

Anyhoo, K. Doe had a few minor follow up successes (and by minor, I make reference only to their comparative lack of chart success, in no way slighting their musical quality, which was of course considerable) for the Minit/Instant organization, and spent the bulk of the 60’s making 45s for the Duke/Peacock labels. He hooked back up with Allen Toussaint in 1970 to record the amazing LP ‘Ernie K. Doe’ for the Janus label.

I first heard today’s selection – which hails from that LP – some years back when Soul Jazz released the ‘New Orleans Funk’ compilation. It came as something of a shock because I had no idea that K. Doe had done anything in the funk era, let alone anything of such high quality. I searched for years, either for the 45, or the LP, and was consistently stymied, often outbid by those with deeper pockets (or more rabid devotion to the K. Doe vibe). It was only recently that I cornered my prey as a “Buy It Now” item on E-Bay. To be sure, the Lp wasn’t cheap, but my want list these days is relatively short and sweet, I was flush (in relative terms) and decided that to strike while the iron was hot was my only choice. I did so, and let me tell you friends, when I laid that platter on the turntable, and released the beautiful sounds contained therein, I was satisfied that my investment was a wise one.

While ‘Here Come the Girls’ is a stone killer, the rest of the LP is fantastic, moving from soul, to funk to R&B and even pop, with Toussaint writing all but a few songs. It certainly deserves to be reissued. ‘Here Come the Girls’, which starts out deceptively with a march-time beat, rolls on into a funky tune, with a fantastic vocal by K. Doe. Though I’ve heard that the Meters provide the backing on this LP, I’m hard pressed to hear their influence on this track (though I do hear Toussaint on backing vocals). This is not to say that the Meters sound is not detectable elsewhere on the album, just that if they’re working it out here, it’s not at all obvious. The ‘Ernie K. Doe’ LP was not a commercial success, and was for all intents and purposes the last time he would produce wax that would find national distribution. He went through some hard, alcohol soaked times in the coming years, but came out the other side, eventually opening the Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans where he would act as host, as well as performer until his untimely death in 2001. As I said before, I don’t think the LP has been reissued – and if it has, is not currently available. ‘Here Come the Girls’ is still available on the ‘New Orleans Funk’ comp, and much of K. Doe’s earlier material can be found.

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On a different note, I have started receiving promo CDs and such, and while some of the stuff that falls through the Funky16Corners mail slot is not – how shall we say – to my taste, every now and then (as with the recent Dave Lewis comp) something groovy arrives. This time out, it’s the new LP by the mighty Sam Moore, he of course the Sam of “and Dave” fame, a voice, if not a name that should send shivers up and down your spine, cause sweat to break out on your forehead and set your feet to moving and your hands, or course, to clapping. When I first unwrapped the disc, and saw that Randy “Mr. American Idol with alla that Dawg crap” Jackson was manning the board in the studio, you might forgive me for lifting a skeptical eyebrow. However, some things – like Sam Moore’s voice – cannot be messed with, even at the hands of slickmeisters like Jackson.

I’m not going to yank your chain and tell you that ‘Overnight Sensational’ is the second coming of the Stax sound, but I will say that this album of duets is actually quite good. The material is by and large memorable (covers of Anne Peebles, King Curtis, J. Blackfoot, Sam Cooke, Ben E. King) and the duet partners – including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Rodgers and Wynonna Judd who does a great job with Moore on ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ – while generally outclassed by Moore, manage to do OK. My fave track is a funky cover of Tony! Toni! Tone!’s ‘If I Had No Loot’ with Nikka Costa.

The bottom line is that Jackson et al have created a very solid showcase for Moore’s still powerful voice. While the collection of guest artists may get this played at the local Starbucks, it’ll still make it the coolest overpriced coffee house on the block.

Buy – Overnight Sensational – at Amazon

Funky16Corners Radio v.10 – Funky Nawlins Pt2

August 28, 2006

 

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Playlist

Lee Dorsey – Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further (Polydor)

Meters – Dry Spell (Josie)

Lee Bates – Simon Says (Instant)

Curly Moore – We Remember (Sansu)

Fantoms – Mau Mau Pt1 (Big Deal)

Porgy Jones – Catch Joe Potato (Great Southern)

Sonny Jones – Sissy Walk Pt1 (Scram)

Doug Anderson – Hey Mama Here Comes The Preacher (Janus)

Ironing Board Sam – Original Funky Bell Bottoms (Styletone)

Betty Harris – There’s a Break In The Road (SSS Intl)

Lee Dorsey – A Lover Was Born (Amy)

Bobby Williams Group – Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pts 1&2 (Capitol)

Senator Jones – Mini Skirt Dance (Bell)

Robert Parker – Everybody’s Hip Huggin (NOLA)

Eddie Bo – Can You Handle It (Bo Sound)

James Rivers – Tighten Up (Eight Ball)

Warren Lee – Underdog Backstreet (Tou-Sea)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Greetings all.

Here’s hoping you had a decent weekend, and have not yet been beset by the melancholy that comes along whenever Labor Day (and the end of summer) looms in the distance.

Unfortunately, this week also marks the one year anniversary of one of the great human tragedies in recent memory, the effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Needless to say – though I’ll say it anyway – the response of our government, was, and is grossly inadequate and as a result much of the storm damage still remains, and the root cause of the problem, a fragile and poorly maintained levee system is still not in the condition it should be.

Many of the city’s poorer residents (and some not so poor) had to make a mass exodus (to cities like Houston, Atlanta and even further away) and most – because their old neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble – have been unable to return. Aside from the lives lost or ruined, and the material damage, the cultural loss is almost incalculable.

As a reminder of the musical aspects of that culture, this installment of Funky16Corners Radio (the tenth, believe it or not*), is a return trip to the funk of the Crescent City, all pulled from vintage vinyl sources, all guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and to serve as a reminder that any town that can crank out music like this is possessed of real power, the kind that can’t be washed away by a mere flood.

 We start things off with a cut from Lee Dorsey’s 1970 ‘Yes We Can’ LP. Like Ernie K Doe’s Janus LP of the same year, it’s a certified (if little known) classic, created with the help of the mighty Allen Toussaint, and ought to be sought out by anyone with even a passing interest in high quality New Orleans soul. ‘Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further’ – backed like much of the LP by the Meters – is a churning bit of funk with some tangy guitar work and a hard charging beat.

Speaking of the Meters, 1969’s ‘Dry Spell’ – the flipside of ‘Little Old Money Maker’ – moves at a slower clip, but still oozes funk. Dig, if you will that wailing Art Neville organ, and the snap of Mr Modeliste’s traps.

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Lee Batessee the excellent piece on Bates over at Red Kelly’s Soul Detective blog (scroll down) – is one of the lesser known, yet consistently excellent vocalists to record for Instant records in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Bearing the influence of Otis Redding, Bates laid down some outstanding funk and soul sides, including a cover of Wilson Pickett’s ‘International Playboy’, and this novel, dance craze entry, ‘Simon Says’. Opening with a tasty break, Lee leads the class through their paces, backed by a pumping bass line and some nice horns.

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Curly Moore recorded some brilliant 45s for Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s Sansu label, my fave being this 1967 entry ‘We Remember’. Much like Warren Lee’s ‘Star Revue’, ‘We Remember’ is a soul roll call, with namechecks for Lee Dorsey, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Moore himself. The tune sports some great piano, backing vocals and one of Moore’s most powerful performances.

The Fantoms recorded for several local New Orleans labels, including Big Deal, Man and Power Funksion. ‘Mau Mau Pt1’ was released on Big Deal, and is one of the most powerful 45s I’ve ever heard, from New Orleans or anywhere else for that matter. Sounding like a marching band on a speed/acid binge, it’s the kind of record that sounds as if the band collapsed immediately after finishing. I don’t know what the hell they’re taking about, but whatever it is, I’m convinced.

Trumpeter Porgy Jones recorded for a few labels, under a few different names throughout the 60’s and 70’s. ‘Catch Joe Potato’ (huh?) was waxed for the Great Southern label. If you can find it, dig up the sides he recorded with Porgy & the Polka Dots for the Frisco label.

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‘Sissy Walk Pt1’ by Sonny Jones is not only a very solid 45, but also a bit of a mystery. Despite the fact that there was a New Orleans performer named Sonny Jones, the voice on this hard hitting slice of funk sounds a lot ( a whole lot) like Mr. Eddie Bo. The tune, credited to Bo and label owner Al Scramuzza, is a burner from note one, with some hard, hard drums, organ and guitar. If anyone has any hard info that this isn’t in fact Bo singing, I’d like to hear it.

Speaking of Eddie Bo, and pseudonymous recordings, here we have the murky, psyche-funk of Doug Anderson’s ‘Hey Mama Here Comes the Preacher’. Bo had a habit of recording under assumed names (and recording anonymously on the b-sides of other performers, as on ‘Live It Up’ by James K Nine. I don’t know if Anderson was a real person – though the other side of this 45 is a ballad, and it almost certainly not Eddie Bo singing. ‘Hey Mama…’ features some wild combo organ soloing, a repeating rhythm guitar riff, and an unfortunate mastering/pressing defect/drop out about halfway through. Cool tune though.

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If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check out Jeff Hannusch’s excellent books on New Orleans music. One of them contains a very enjoyable chapter on the great Ironing Board Sam. ‘Original Funky Bell Bottoms’, a funky tour de force was released on a California label, but make no mistake, Ironing Board Sam was a 100%, crawfish etouffe New Orleansian. The tune, in addition to Sam’s wailing vocals and keyboards, features a grooving horn section. For some reason, this tune was also issued in France. Stranger things have happened.

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When it comes to records that are one hundred percent, consistently excellent, you can do no wrong with the recordings of Betty Harris. Though she was best known for her soul sides on Sansu, she closed out her recording career with a side of absolutely blistering funk. Recorded under the watchful eye of Mr. Toussaint, and driven powerfully by none other that the Meters, ‘There’s a Break In the Road’ is nothing less than explosive. Starting with the guitar feedback at the beginning, through the relentless drumming and right on through to Miss Harris’ brilliant vocals, there’s no mistaking why this 45 is sought out by funk collectors the world over.

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We return to the oeuvre of Mr. Lee Dorsey with 1969’s – also Meters backed – ‘A Lover Was Born’, which features some great lyrics and backing vocals by none other than Allen Toussaint. Dig Leo Nocentelli’s tip of the hat (guitar) to Chuck Berry on the intro.

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I’m pretty sure that the Bobby Williams who recorded ‘Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pts 1&2’ for the Seven B label (later issued on Capitol) was not the same guy that later recorded the 45 ‘Funky Superfly’ (a Florida artist) but rather a New Orleans session drummer of the same name. ‘Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pts 1&2’ – produced by none other than Eddie Bo – is in fact a drumming tour de force, with Part two adding some of that great New Orleans patois into the mix.

Senator Jones was a major producer, songwriter and performer for a large number of local New Orleans labels through the 60’s and 70’s. One of the sides he did under his own name ‘Mini Skirt Dance’ (with the excellent b-side ‘Sweet Thing’) is a funky treat, with a growling vocal from the Senator and some sweet backing vocals. Listen for the namechecks of Bobby Powell, Aretha Franklin, and Robert Parker among others.

Speaking of Robert Parker, who practically made the NOLA label in the mid-to-late 60’s, ‘Everybody’s Hip Huggin’ is one of his funkier efforts for that imprint. Parker’s smooth vocal works will with the chugging beat and laid back horn work.

We come once again to the sounds of Mr. Eddie Bo, this time under his own name, for his own Bo Sound label. ‘Can You Handle It’ is a heavy, James Brown-ish workout with a heavy, heavy horn chart and some tinkling piano from Bo himself. The flipside ‘Don’t Turn Me Loose’ is also worth checking out.

James Rivers was the go-to guy for horn work (sax and flute) in New Orleans in the 60’s and 70’s. He recorded for a number of labels, including Instant, Eightball, and Kon-ti, waxing everything from old school R&B, soul dancers and out and out funk. ‘Tighten Up’ – no relation to the Archie Bell chestnut – is a dancefloor mover, with some excellent sax by Rivers and some cool rhythm guitar.

Warren Lee – see more here – made a string of outstanding 45s, many for Allen Toussaint, starting in the early 60’s (when he recorded under the name Warren Lee Taylor). ‘Underdog Backstreet’, which he recorded for the Tou-Sea label is a not so distant musical cousin to Lowell Fulsom’s ‘Tramp’ franchise. Filled from end to end with funky grunts from the Mighty King Lee, ‘Underdog Backstreet’ (apparently a dance of some kind) grooves slowly but surely. It’s one of Lee’s best, and a great way to close out this mix.

* I already have a Funky Nawlins Pt3 in the can, which will drop sometime in the fall.

Darrell Banks – Our Love Is In the Pocket

August 25, 2006

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Mr. Darrell Banks

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Listen – Our Love Is In the Pocket MP3″

Greetings all.

Friday has finally arrived, and the sweet, sweet smell of one of the last weekends of the summer is upon us. Goodbye tourists! Goodbye traffic! Helloooooo peace and quiet.

I can’t say that I’m any less tired than I was on Wednesday, but knowing that it’s almost Saturday, the promise of extra sleep and being free to engage in slackjawed do-nothing-ness is enough to energize me. That and the extra groovy see-lek-shun that I have lined up for your delectation, which once you open up your ears and let it step on in, will prove once again that some records – possessed of a certain élan and perspicacity – are just made to launch a weekend.

The first time I ever heard ‘Our Love Is in the Pocket’ was sometime in the early 80’s. I had been out, perusing the sunburnt fare at a local flea market and happened upon a copy of the first Amen Corner LP ‘Round Amen Corner’. I grabbed it mainly because I had heard of the band (having seen singer Andy Fairweather-Low perform at the Ronnie Lane ARMS benefit at Madison Square Garden), and I was of course predisposed then – as I am now – to hoover up vinyl like it’s going out of style.

When I got the record home, and gave it a spin, I was at first perplexed (having made the mistaken assumption that Amen Corner were a psychedelic band), then pleased with my purchase. Here was a band that in the midst of all the dandelion, licorice, cotton candy clouds of late 60’s UK psychedelia, were working a decidedly R&B cum soul vibe which I found to say the least, delightful.

The tune that grabbed me right away, and shook me to the soles of my feet was ‘Our Love is In the Pocket’. At the time I had no idea that the song was a cover, let alone a revered part of the Northern Soul canon (hell, I hadn’t even heard of Northern Soul yet). I was put on the right track shortly, as I was singing the praises of the song to one of my Mod/Garage cohorts, who then informed me that the song had originally been recorded by a cat named Darrell Banks.

So, back to the flea market I went, and before long I held in my hands a copy of the original 45. The first time I placed it on the turntable, I knew that no matter how much I liked Amen Corner’s version, there was – as has been said many times, about many things – no substitute for the original. Banks rough, deeply soulful voice provided a magical counterpoint to the sweet melody of the song. In the ensuing years, the credits on the label began to come into focus, in that I found out that the GEO in GEO-SI-MIK was none other than George Clinton, a musician that would soon occupy a place of honor in my record collection, from the days of the Parliaments right on through to Funkadelic (SI-MIK being respectively Sidney Barnes and Mike Terry).

When I began to understand the whole Northern Soul “thing”, I realized why this record (and to an even greater extent the 1969 cover by JJ Barnes – which used the same backing track) was so revered. If there was ever a record that could serve as a blueprint for a particular sound, ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ is it. From the propulsive 4/4 beat, to the ringing vibes, honking baritone sax and bright, sweet hooks, it’s as if it was ordered in the “one item from column A, one from column B” method from the Northern Soul “menu”.

Banks hailed from Buffalo, NY, where he performed locally. He was eventually signed by Solid Hitbound productions (hence the GEO-SI-MIK connection) in Detroit, who borrowed the name of the Buffalo lounge where Banks performed (the Revilot) for a new label, on which Banks debut 45 would be the initial release. Released in 1966, ‘Open Up The Door To Your Heart’ would become a Top 40 pop success, dragging its B-side ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ along for the ride.

Over the next four years, Banks would record 45s for Atco, Cotillion and Volt (as well as LPs for Atco and Volt), before he was tragically shot dead in a confrontation with an off-duty police officer in March of 1970.

As I mentioned before, ‘Our Love Is In the Pocket’ was covered by J.J. Barnes in 1969, with a Parliaments cover ‘All Your Goodies Are Gone’ on the flipside. Barnes version is held by many in the Northern Soul world to be the superior/definitive version. On this point I must respectfully disagree. The only difference between the two records (which as I said employ the same backing track) are the vocals, and while I understand the preference among some for the somewhat silkier quality of Barnes voice, I vote for Banks.

Currently, if you’re looking to score some of that good Darrell Banks sound, his ATCO LP (which included his Revilot sides), ‘Darrell Banks Is Here’ has been reissued. If you prefer to do a little digging, keep your eyes out for the definitive – but sadly out of print – ‘The Lost Soul’ on Goldmine. What I would suggest, is that you get off your duff (if you haven’t already done so) and take yourself a little vinyl safari in an attempt to unearth your very own copy of this 45. I have had at least half a dozen copies make their way into my hands over the years with little or no effort. As I stated before, ‘Open Up the Door To Your Heart’ was a Top 40 hit, so it shouldn’t be too hard to track it down.

BUY – Darrell Banks Is Here – on Amazon

Lorraine Ellison – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)

August 23, 2006

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Miss Lorraine Ellison

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Listen – Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)  MP3″

Hey, y’all…wazzup?

Allow to begin todays entry by stating that I am, in a word, tired.

Remember that “second wind” I was talking about last week?

It blew away….

If I should nod off while writing this, someone poke me with a sharp stick.

Zzzzzzzzzzz….

Ouch!

Thank you.

See?

It’s one of those days where I stagger out of bed and prop myself up against the shower wall, hoping that the water will wake me up just enough so that I don’t tip over and crack my head open on the towel rack.

It was my turn to get up and feed the little guy last night. I was tired when I went to bed, tired-er yet when I got up to get the bottle, and zombie-esque when I “woke up” at 6:30 this morning. For a child that weighs in the neighborhood of 9 pounds, he’s a ravenous beastie, insistent on upping his formula rations on an almost daily basis. I’m starting to believe that it’s going to end up like that old childrens book about the kid who overfeeds his goldfish so much, that the fish ends up the size of a whale and has to be moved to a swimming pool. One night the little guy is going to leap from his bassinet, grab me by my shirt, slam me up against the wall and demand the keys to the car so he can go get a steak, some mashed potatoes and a steaming pot of black coffee.

I know….it’s not so bad. I’ll have plenty of time to sleep… some day.

Enough of my whining (for now).

When I was pulling out records to add to the “to be blogged” pile, I grabbed some funk, a couple of tasty Northern Soul-ish items, an organ burner or two and a couple of records that can only be described as solid, grade-A, vitamin fortified SOUL. The kind of stuff that’ll put a glide in your stride and some pep in your step, even when your eyelids weigh sixteen pounds apiece and you realize that that weird noise you keep hearing is your bones creaking every time you move.

One such record is today’s selection ‘Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)’ by Lorraine Ellison. Ellison was one of the truly great soul singers of the 1960’s. She was also, like the mighty Howard Tate, the beneficiary of the songwriting and production talents of the legendary Jerry Ragavoy. It was Ragavoy who brought her to Mercury Records where she would record the of-covered ‘Stay With Me’ and the anthemic ‘Call Me Anytime You Need Some Loving’ (which recently got a nice write up over at the ‘Number One Songs In Heaven’ blog).

Between 1966 and the early 70’s Ellison would record a bunch of singles (and a few LPs) for Warner Brothers and their Loma subsidiary.

Today’s selection is best remembered – by those that have heard it at all – for the cover version by Janis Joplin from her 1970 LP “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!”. Joplin would revisit the Ragavoy catalogue again (via Garnett Mimms and Howard Tate) with ‘Cry Baby’ and ‘Get It While You Can’ on her final LP ‘Pearl’. While I have expressed my distaste for Joplin’s soul coverage in the past, I have to say that her cover of ‘Try…’ is by far her least offensive effort, and probably the best fit for her style of the three tunes mentioned.

That said, to paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Janis Joplin was no Lorraine Ellison, and a single listen to today’s selection should make that abundantly clear. Ellison had – to say the very least – a powerful set of pipes, and was capable of using that gift skillfully. The great thing is that she starts off ‘Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)’* by sliding into the lyric sensually, winding in and out of the beat and around the backing vocals. Before long, however she’s turning up the heat, leaping into the high end of her range and displaying quite a bit of power. The arrangement, with a subtle but muscular rhythm section, and a tight horn section is fantastic (the side was produced by Ragavoy), and ought to be required listening for an example of state of the art, late 60’s soul perfection.

Ellison left recording after 1973 and returned to her gospel singing roots, where she would remain until her untimely death in 1983. Rhino Records Handmade division, recently put together a limited edition boxed set of Ellison’s Warner Brothers recordings as well as a bunch of rarities. I’d like to get my mitts on a copy, but for now the 45’s I already have will have to suffice.

* Interestingly enough, the song was co-written by Ragavoy and Chip Taylor, who had some notable soul successes with Billy Vera & Judy Clay, as well as Evie Sands

Funky16Corners Radio v.9 – Soul Food Pt2

August 21, 2006

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Playlist

1. Simtec Simmons – Tea Box (Maurci)

2. Johnny Barfield & The Men of S.O.U.L. – Soul Butter (SSS Intl)

3. Ronnie Woods – Sugar Pt2 (Everest)

4. Stan Hunter & Sonny Fortune – Corn Flakes (Prestige)

5. Fabulous Counts – Scrambled Eggs (Moira)

6. Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band – Spreadin Honey (Keymen)

7. Freddie Roach – Brown Sugar (Blue Note)

8. Albert Collins – Sno Cone Pt1 (TCF Hall)

9. Chuck Edwards – Chuck Roast (Rene)

10. Willie Mitchell – Mashed Potatoes (Hi)

11. Booker T & The MGs – Red Beans & Rice (Atlantic)

12. Righteous Brothers Band – Green Onions (Verve)

13. George Semper – Hog Maws & Collard Greens (Imperial)

14. Lee Dorsey – Candy Yam (Amy)

15. Roosevelt Fountain & his Pens of Rhythm – Red Pepper Pt1 (Prince Adams)

16. Bad Boys – Black Olives (Paula)

17. Willie Bobo – Spanish Grease (Verve)

18. American Group – Enchilada Soul (AGP)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Goooooood Morning whereveritis you are?!??!

Hope everyone had a stellar weekend. The fam and I spent our days at the Grogan family reunion, which was a blast. Saw relatives we haven’t seen in a while, all the little kids played together and much good food and music were had. Thanks to my Mom, Dad and sister for putting it all together and hosting. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer weekend.

As promised, the colossus that is Funky16Corners Radio is returning today with a new installment, which in the spirit of an entertainment industry that continues to feed on itself and regurgitate on a regular basis, presents a sequel to the Soul Food mix of this past May. It is entitled – with the least amount of imagination possible – Soul Food Pt2. That way we keep things simple, no one gets confused and you get to stack your Funky16Corners Soul Food mixes in a nice little row, just like on Sesame Street (though if they start dropping music like this on Sesame Street, I’d like to know so I can plant my kids in front of the box).

This time out, in addition to the usual delicious soul food menu, we get breakfast as well. We step off the launch pad with an oddity from mid-60’s Chicago, ‘Tea Box’ by Simtec Simmons. A few years before he hooked up with Wylie Dixon to make some great funky 45s (and an LP), Simtec and a few pals set themselves down with a primitive beat-box and made a couple of 45s in this style (I know there’s at least one other but I have yet to hear it). Years before Timmy Thomas was working the automated drummer angle, Simmons and friends produce a quirky groove with a nice, pulsing bass line.

Track numero dos is a reworking of the Marathons ‘Peanut Butter’ by Johnny Barfield & the Men of S.O.U.L. According to an article on the Georgia Soul web site (hey Brian!), Barfield and band were an Alabama-based unit that originally recorded this single for the Peggy Sue label before it was picked up for national distribution by Shelby Singleton’s SSS Intl label. The record’s got a nice white-boy-fratrock sound to it, not at all out of place in the south of 1960 and seven.

Next up is a disc with a little bit of mystery attached to it. The first copy I ever had of this record is credited to Lonnie Woods & His Trio, is entitled ‘Shakin Sugar pts 1&2’ and is on the Peacock label. Then a few years later, I found this, credited to Ronnie Woods, entitled ‘Sugar’ and on the Everest label. If memory serves, the recordings – which are of the exact same song – are different. I’ve seen some info that lists Woods as an Ohio artist, and Everest was a subsidiary of the Cincinatti-based King label, so maybe that’s the first issue? Anyone…Beuller??? Either way it’s a rocking little banger with that early 60’s (1963) R&B thing going on.

In a soul jazz mood, we bring you organist Stan Hunter and sax man Sonny Fortune with the track ‘Corn Flakes’, a Prestige single from their 1965 collaboration. I don’t know much about Hunter, but Fortune went on to a successful career as a soloist and a sideman and is still playing/recording today.

To fans of the funky 45, the Fabulous Counts should be familiar. Their Moira 45s and LP on the Cotillion label are all fantastic. ‘Scrambled Eggs’ has a powerful, horn-driven groove with some outstanding organ work from Mose Davis. The flip side ‘Dirty Red’ is also a killer.

The Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band, featuring Charles Wright were one of the more consistent producers of funk and soul 45s in the late 60’s, on the local LA Keymen label, as well as their LPs and 45s on Warner Brothers. ‘Spreadin’ Honey’ is a bass heavy groover with some very nice piano work and some extra greasy guitar. This one is relatively cheap and plentiful, and should be one of the cornerstones of any respectable crate.

‘Brown Sugar’ is the 45 edit of the title track from Freddie Roach’s 1964 Blue Note LP. There’s a really nice, danceable R&B groove here, but you also get the hot as hell jazz sax work of the mighty Joe Henderson. I have a couple of other Roach 45s (one on Prestige), but this is my fave.

If the transition to the next cut woke you up, that cool because Albert Collins, the Ice Man, the Master of the Telecaster starts ‘Sno Cone Pt1’ at about 100MPH. Here you get Collins razor sharp guitar, some of the juicy combo organ he managed to slap on his 45s during the 60’s and pounding drums as well. Collins is another one of those great, dreadfully underrated artists who transcended the “blues” label to make some great soul, R&B, funk and rock’n’roll sides. Sadly most of his early 45s are hard to find in reissue, but the originals are fairly affordable and should be picked up whenever located in the field.

‘Chuck Roast’ is a lesser known b-side by the mighty Chuck Edwards, he of ‘Downtown Soulville’ fame. The records a-side ‘Bullfight’ was a local hit in Edwards native Pittsburgh. ‘Chuck Roast’ is a steady R&B groover featuring Edwards’ guitar and repeated declarations of ‘Chuck Roast!’.

What better to serve up next to chuck roast than some hot, tasty ‘Mashed Potatoes’, this time whipped up by the legendary Willie Mitchell. No relation to the Dee Dee Sharp classic, Mitchell’s recipe includes some great organ, crisp drums and soul clapping.

Across town at Stax, Booker T & The MGs chime in with a plateful of ‘Red Beans and Rice’. Though the crowd noise at the beginning of the track sounds phony, the playing – especially Steve Croppers guitar – has a very “live” sound, and Booker T is in rare form. Not sure if this is the version that appeared on the Stax/Volt Revue ‘Live In Europe’ LP, as I lifted this off of an old ‘Best of’ LP.

The next selection is the flip side of a one-off 45 release by the Righteous Brothers Band on the Verve label. The a-side ‘ Rat Race’ was actually popular with the Northern Soul crowd (there’s also a version by Sam Butera). This cut, a brassy remake of Booker T’s ‘Green Onions’ has a real kick to it.

George Semper was a west coast based Hammond wrangler who recorded some 45s and an LP for Imperial (costly, but worth tracking down) and at least one 45 (a cover of the Isley’s ‘It’s Your Thing’) under the name George Semper Rhythm Committee. ‘Hog Maws and Collar Greens’ – another tune from the same LP ‘Collard Greens’ appeared on Soul Food Pt1, I guess George liked him some greens – in addition to Sempers organ has a cool horn chart and some reverb-y guitar.

Lee Dorsey, one of the most consistent New Orleans artists drops by with ‘Candy Yam’, the flipside of the sitar-funk killer ‘Give It Up’ (on which he was joined by the Meters). I don’t think it’s the Meters on this side, but it’s definitely a Toussaint arrangement/production (compare the horn chart to the one on Eldridge Holmes ‘If I Were a Carpenter’). I must shamefully admit that I had this 45 for a few years before I flipped it over to hear this wonderful tune.

I can’t tell you much about Roosevelt Fountain (or his Pens of Rhythm, snappy name, that) but their ‘Red Pepper Pt1’ is a groover with some twangy guitar and sax-a-mo-phone.

What little I’ve been able to find out about the Bad Boys is that they were probably a white garage band, and that this exceptionally nasty but of R&B was produced by none other than Charlie Daniels (making this the last worthwhile thing he ever did). The guitar has a wild overmodulated sound and the organ wails as well. The thumping drum beat makes this a distant cousin of the Turtles ‘Buzz Saw’.

With a wild change in vibe and tempo we bring you a selection by one of the masters of Latin soul and boogaloo, the great Willie Bobo. ‘Spanish Grease’ (later to provide the source material for Santana’s ‘No One To Depend On’) has a slow but sinister groove. Santana would rocket to fame covering Bobo’s ‘Evil Ways’ and also re-did ‘Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries’.

The American Group was a studio concoction (I have another 45 of them covering the theme from ‘Room 222’), and the production is by Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. AGP was the Memphis-based label they founded (along with Bobby Emmons) to release some of their work coming out of their studio. ‘Enchilada Soul’ was also covered by the Packers (another Memphis connection).

Dave Lewis – Mmm Mmm Mmm

August 18, 2006

Example

Mr. Dave Lewis

Example

Listen – Mmm Mmm Mmm MP3″

Good day.

We arrive here at the end of the week, ready – and channeling Foghorn Leghorn, ‘I DO MEAN READY, Son!’ – for the weekend.

This was my first week back at work since the new baby arrived and I have to say that while I’m sure the early-20’s version of my self was temperamentally ill-suited to handle a newborn and a toddler at the same time, on the physical side of things I would have done better than I’m doing now.

Ahh, the “old days” when staying up all night and going right back out the next day seemed not only sane, but run of the mill. Those days are gone my friends. I now guard my precious sleepy time like a wolverine hovering over a warm tasty bunny, and with each passing night, the bunny slips away a little bit more.

This isn’t to say that I’m not having a lot of fun with the baby, just that I wish the drones that program the 200 or so channels on our cable system would put something (anything) on at 3AM besides infomercials and re-runs of right-wing news chat shows. The other night I watched an episode of ‘Band of Brothers’ on the History Channel as I fed the baby, but I ended up wondering if he’d end up in therapy later in life with weird, vestigial memories of Nazis getting blown up by hand grenades and the steady rat-a-tat of machine gun fire.

The good thing (I think) is that I seem to be floating on some kind of ongoing, but fragile, second wind. My brain seems like it’s working OK (for whatever that’s worth), but I’m haunted by the nagging feeling that it’s all going to come crashing down, and my boss will end up having to wake me up at my desk. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far.

Anyway…

Today’s selection was not on the agenda until the latest in a trickle of promo items found its way through yon mail slot. This time, it was a compilation of the work of one of my long time fave Hammond players, the late, great Dave Lewis. For the skinny on Mr. Lewis, I refer you to the long form piece I did on him in the Funky16Corners web zine a few years back.

The shorter version, is that Lewis was responsible for a grip of fantastic Hammond 45s (and a few LPs) in early to mid 60’s Seattle, that were a big influence on the Pacific Northwest rock scene of the day (i.e. Kingsmen, Sonics, Don & The Goodtimes etc), and also stand quite well on their own merits. Lewis recorded for a number of labels, but the bulk of his best stuff was made for Jerden and associated labels, and much of it has just been reissued on the new comp ‘Dave Lewis: The Godfather of Northwest Rock & The King of Seattle R&B’ (Jerden).

The disc contains many of his finest 45 sides, LP cuts, some live action and a couple of what appear to be unreleased obscurities (I can’t say for sure because the track annotation is practically non-existent).

On first glance, I was disappointed to see my fave Lewis track ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm’, which initially appeared on his Panorama LP ‘High Heel Sneakers’ (and was also released on a Picadilly 45), appeared to have been omitted. Then I played the CD, and when the track ‘Daves Fifth Avenue’ (which was a 1966 Jerden 45) came on, I realized that this was in fact ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm’ with the vocals stripped off. While ‘Daves Fifth Avenue’ is not without its charms, I think when you hear ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm’, which I’ve posted as todays selection, you’ll agree that it’s a much groovier affair with the vocals intact.

Either way, since Lewis’s original vinyl is pretty hard to come by, I’d say that picking up the new CD would be a wise investment for those that dig the groovy organ sound. Also, if you dig the Northwest sound in general, Jerden is also issuing new, CD versions of ‘The History of Northwest Rock’ series. I can’t say for sure if they mirror the late 70’s GNW label comps exactly (which is where I heard Dave Lewis in the first place), but they seem to contain much of the same material.

Oh, one more thing…..

I know it hasn’t got much to do with funk or soul, but I just wrote an appreciation of Arthur Lee of the band Love over at the Uppers site. If the subject interests you, please check it out.

Dyna-Might – Borracho

August 16, 2006

Example

Dyna-Might

Example

Listen – Borracho MP3″

NOTE: File removed because some jagoff on Ebay decided to steal the text of this post and link to my MP3 to sell his record….

In the words of the great Herschel Krustovsky…

“HEY! HEY! HEY!”

Here we gather, once again, to celebrate the middle of another week (as it is).

I mentioned on Monday that I had stockpiled some great stuff for the upcoming weeks, and surprisingly enough the stockpile just got a little bigger. In fact, the recent addition (which we will visit on Friday) just turned this week into an unofficial all-organ week. I hadn’t planned it as such, but sometimes shit (and Hammonds) happen, and after all, who am I to stand in the way of progress?

Today’s selection was – as the kids say – quite a mover a few years back, in that it was hard to find, funky as hell and as a result in demand among those of us who collect (and play) things in those categories. I had certainly heard the track, but sadly had been unable to obtain my very own copy to snuggle up with, mainly due to its high price (then hovering around the $100 mark, it seems to have recently settled in around $60).

Then, thanks to my buddy Haim (extraordinary dealer of extraordinary records) , things took a decided turn for the better when he happened upon a stash of said 45s, and out of the goodness of his heart let me have one at what can only be described as a steep discount.

Huzzah!

In no time the record in question was resting upon my turntable, tracking beneath the stylus and revealing the wonders held in the grooves to all present (usually just me, but whatever…). That record is ‘Borracho’ by Dyna-Might.

A while back, I got an e-mail from Mike Aversa, who was the leader and guitarist of Dyna-Might as well as the composer of ‘Borracho’. He had found the record in a DJ playlist I had posted on-line, and decided to drop me a line. I love when this kind of thing happens, especially when it involves contact from a member of a band that I had been unable to discover anything about (like Dyna-Might).

Dyna-Might had its roots in an LA surf/instro combo called Mickey and the Invaders, who later morphed into the Mike James Quintet. In 1969, the band was discovered by KHJ Boss Jocks “Humble Harv” Miller (who can be heard as the MC on the Seeds ‘Raw and Alive’ LP) and Charlie O’Donnell and changed their name to Dyna-Might. 

They recorded one single for the Congress label before signing with Uni and recording ‘Borracho’ (that’s Humble Harv saying “Booooorrrachooo!” – Spanish for “drunk” – throughout the tune). The tune, a hard hitting slice of Latin funk, is also a Hammond groover of the first order. In his e-mail to me, Aversa described the sound of the record as follows:

“We were playing clubs in the E. Los Angeles area at the time, and El Chicano’s Viva Tirado was released. We were trying to ride the tide of the latin instrumental wave.”

Unfortunately that wave didn’t last very long, and despite it’s high quality, ‘Borracho’ did not end up setting the charts on fire. Dyna-Might recorded one more 45 for Uni, and continued to play clubs in the US and Canada until 1977.

As far as I can tell ‘Borracho’ was comped once on a UK bootleg, but has yet to see official re-release.

Aversa continues to play and teach music on California. Check out his website for more band history/photos.

 Dyna-Might Discography

You Got Me Groovin’ b/w ??? (Congress 6014)

Borracho b/w Need You (Uni 55256)

Sunshine Goddess b/w Message To My Brother (Uni 55292)

Sly – Buttermilk Pt1

August 14, 2006

Example

Sly Stone

Example

Listen – Buttermilk Pt1 MP3″

Greetings all.

My all too brief sojourn with my recently expanded family has sadly come to an end, and I have returned to my perch on the earning tree. I can’t say as I’m happy about this. As much as I like my job, I like hanging out with my wife and kids a lot ( a whole lot) more, and if I were to have my druthers, it’s with them that I’d be.

However….

Birds got to fly, fish got to swim and people with mortgages and electric bills got to work for a living, so here I am.

I took advantage of a miraculously synchronized napping schedule this weekend to stockpile some gems for the upcoming weeks of blogging. I think that once you get an earful of what’s to come, you will realize that sleep deprivation and additional fatherly responsibilities have done little to dull my edge (as it is…).

In the next few weeks you can also expect a couple of new installments of Funky16Corners Radio.

Today’s selection is a bit of what the desert-booted scooterists in the room might consider “mod” soul, if only because of it’s vintage and it’s vibe. Though there’s a healthy dose of organ, I wouldn’t say that it rises to the level of “organ groove” (in line with recently issued Federal Organ Groove guidelines, the presence of “mouth organ” on the track cannot be counted, just like adding sawdust to meat loaf might make it heavier, but certainly no more nutritious). That said, these considerations mean little to the non-Anoraks in the crowd, but being the kind of cat that I am, I have to take you down that road or it just wouldn’t feel right. Anyway…the nugget I present today comes courtesy of the early works of one Sly, aka Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone (of the famous Family). I can’t imagine that there’s anyone perusing the Funky16Corners Blog who isn’t already familiar with works of the mighty Mr. Stone, especially ‘Dance to the Music’ and beyond, but I do believe that his earlier work may have escaped your attention.

Sly was born in Texas, and his family (his actual family, not the band, yet) moved to the Bay Area in the 1950’s. There he recorded gospel with the Stewart Four, pop with the Stewart Brothers, the Viscaynes, Joey Piazza & The Continentals, and under the names Danny Stewart, Sly Stewart and just Sly.

He started working with San Francisco’s Autumn Records in 1964, where in addition to recording his own records, he worked as a kind of house producer for Autumn acts like Bobby Freeman and the Beau Brummels. He also worked with Billy Preston on his Capitol LP ‘The Wildest Organ In Town’. Stone recorded all kinds of rock, pop, R&B and soul (a mixture that would be evidenced in his recordings with the Family Stone), for the Autumn and Loadstone labels before Sly and the Family Stone were signed to Epic in 1966.

One of the sides he recorded as Sly for Autumn in 1965, is today’s selection, ‘Buttermilk Pt1’. Now, I have to preface this by saying that I don’t know much about buttermilk the food, except for that my Grandpa used to drink it, and whenever anyone brings that subject up all anyone can do is wince, so I’m guessing it’s not too appetizing. There’s also a famous roadside hot dog stand in Buttzville, NJ (that’s a real town, I swear) called Hot Dog Johnny’s that offers chilled buttermilk as a beverage. In the times I’ve been there I’ve never seen anyone brave enough to order it. Buttermilk is also an important ingredient in country biscuits, which are the starchy cornerstone of the soul food menu, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that when Sly starts off the record by saying that he’s going to have a glass of buttermilk, he intends on pouring it into a mixing bowl with some flour.

Either way, it’s a groovy little number, with a nice pulsing bass line, organ work by Sly, the occasional vocal interjection re:buttermilk, and a free-form harmonica solo. It’s got enough soul for anyone in the room, enough of a beat for the dancers, and enough buttermilk for anyone who’s been in the desert for weeks with abosolutely nothing to drink. Part the second is basically more of the same. Sly of course went on to bigger and better things, creating a bunch of amazing music (though this would be – as far as I can tell – his only tribute to the dairy industry ), and laying down, along with James Brown, George Clinton and others the foundations of funk. ‘Buttermilk Pt 1’ along with a bunch of other early sides is available in reissue on the CD “Precious Stone: In the Studio with Sly Stone 1963 – 1965”.

Buy  – Precious Stone: In the Studio with Sly Stone 1963 – 1965 – on Amazon

Funky16Corners Radio v.8 – Hammond Internationale

August 11, 2006

Example

The Nilsmen

Playlist

Keith Mansfield Orchestra – Boogaloo (Epic / UK)

New London Rhythm & Blues band – Soul Stream (Vocalion / UK)

Jackie Mittoo – Hip Hug (Coxsone / Jamaica)

Les Charlots – Pas de Probleme (Vogue / France)

Roger Coulam – Let’s Put Out The Lights (and Go To Bed) (Contour/UK/France)

 Georgie Fame – El Bandido (Imperial / UK)

The Nilsmen – Le Winston (RJR / Sweden)

Federalmen – Soul Serenade (Steady / Jamaica)

Andre Brasseur – Special 230 (Palette / Belgium)

Walter Wanderley – Kee Ka Roo (Verve / Brazil)

Wynder K Frog – Oh Mary (UA/UK)

Tony Newman – Soul Thing (Parrot / UK)

Winston Wright – Heads or Tails (Green Door / Jamaica)

The Mohawks – The Champ (Philips / UK)

Andre Brasseur – The Duck (Palette / Belgium)

Alan Price Set – Iechyd Da (Decca / UK)

Brian Auger Trinity – In and Out (Atco / UK)

Keith Mansfield Orchestra – Soul Confusion (Epic / UK)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Top O’the evening to ye, one and all.

I’ve decided to break my previously stated embargo on hard work, in re “le blog”, as I need to get my brain involved in something besides diapers, poop, baby formula and wondering if I’ll ever sleep late again (Magic Eightball says “not bloody likely”…).

Anyhoo, in the spirit of the Sweet Inspirations post, I’ve decided to go back and plunder the depths of the underutilized, but no less deadly stockpile of blog-ready material that I had waiting, and this time, it’s no mere track, but a huge, lumbering mix, towering above individual tracks like a mighty colossus, casting a long shadow, and blocking out the sun. Well, that may be a wild detour into the hyperbolic. But it is a mix.

I present Funky16Corners Radio v.8, Hammond Internationale. Those of you that are familiar with the Funky16Corners web zine, the repository from which my entry into the blogosphere was launched, will know that I am a huge fan of that rare species of 7-inch killer known as the Hammond Groove.

I suppose it’s kind of unfair to use such a narrow term because if you were to flip through my Hammond crates, you would discover that “Hammond Groove” describes a very wide variety of records, running the gamut from jazz, to R&B, soul, funk, soul jazz, soulful pop, pop-ful soul etc etc etc, on and on ad infinitum, the only true piece of connective tissue being the electric organ (which in the spirit of full disclosure is not always a Hammond B3, but as I am not here to – as they say – split hairs, we will not stand on ceremony and will overlook the occasional combo organ, B2, console or as the kids say, whatever).

The ‘Hammond Groove’ was a regular feature of the web zine, and I also did some full length features on great organists like Odell Brown, Charles Earland, Dave Lewis and Truman Thomas. Some years back, I started to widen my focus from the smoky bars of the USA to include organ killers from overseas. By and large, these were more often than not “foreign” in name only due to the fact that so many organists in the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia (and everywhere else) leaned heavily on American organists for inspiration. Occasionally, local flavor would find its way into the grooves (especially in Jamaica) but it rarely took the sound into completely alien directions.

The bottom line is that no matter where these burners hailed from, the roots of the sound go directly back to the Jimmy Smiths, Jimmy McGriffs and Jack McDuffs who first took the electric organ in a truly groovy direction. That said, in the spirit of “themed” mixes, months ago I pulled all manner of international organ sides out of the crates and bolted them together in the mix we present today*.

We open things with one of my faves, courtesy of the dynamic UK Library Music duo, Keith Mansfield and Alan Hawkshaw (who appears on this mix on a few different records, but never under his own name). ‘Boogaloo’ – I also close the mix with it’s B-side ‘Soul Confusion’ hails from a 1968 Epic 45, and is an absolutely smashing slice of discotheque au gogo.

 I can’t tell you much about the New London Rhythm & Blues Band, other than that I suspect they are a UK studio concoction, and that I have my own suspicions (unconfirmed) that Mr. Hawkshaw may also be involved here. ‘Soul Stream’ is the lead off track from their Vocalion LP (late 60’s??), and is a killer. Dig that Jeff Beck-ish axe work, and the bright production. If anyone has the lowdown on exactly who’s playing here, I’d love to hear from you.

The next track actually appeared in this space a little while back, during the Jamaican Trip series. What you need to know is that Jackie Mittoo is one of the greats of Jamaican music, and that ‘Hip Hug’ – a VERY thinly disguised take on Booker T & The MGs ‘Hip Hug Her’ – doesn’t do much to betray the Jamaican roots of the organist (so plainly visible elsewhere on the ‘Evening Time’ LP). I really dig Mittoo’s grooving, slightly psychedelicized take on the Memphis nugget.

What little I’ve been able to dig up on Les Charlots (aside from their obvious French-ness) is that they were a band of long standing with a taste for comedy. ‘Pas De Probleme’ is a swinging bit of mod-ish groove with a bright horn section and some smoking keyboard work.

Roger Coulam was an in-demand studio keyboardist who released a number of LPs of quasi-loungey (but often quite grooving) organ work. He was also the organist on some of Serge Gainsbourg’s finest records, including ‘Je T’aime…’ and the ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ LP. ‘Let’s Turn Out the Lights (and Go To Sleep)’ is one of the better tracks from ‘Blows Hot, Blows Cool’ (later reissued as ‘Hammond Stereo Sounds to Spoil You’). Coulam has a nice touch on the Hammond, and there’s enough heat, and some nice drums to transcend the lounge lizard vibe.

The next track is one of my all-time faves by the great Georgie Fame. Known best as a vocalist, Fame was also a shit-hot organist with a taste for American soul. ‘El Bandido’ appeared on his ‘Get Away’ LP (and also on an easy to find Imperial 45) and is a burner of the first order. I can imagine a roomful of pilled up scooter hounds sweating up the dancefloor to this’n. I’m not sure who’s laying down the guitar on this one, but they are doing a fine job, as is the horn section. Dig Georgie’s faux-Espanol.

‘Le Winston’ is for all intents and purposes the grooviest cigarette ad ever. Appearing on the top-side of The Nilsmen’s RJR 45 (backed with the funky ‘Sand Step’), it is another hot as hell, mod-centric tribute to the glory of the Hammond organ. If you can get past the picture of the band on the sleeve, bedecked in hideous peasant shirts (all smoking fine RJR products) you will find yourself ears-deep in groove.

I know nothing about the Federalmen, other than they hailed from Jamaica, had their record released on the US Steady label (also home to one release of the Gaylettes ‘Son of a Preacherman’), and recorded my favorite version of King Curtis’s ‘Soul Serenade’. I don’t know if the King ever imagined his sweetly soulful classic rendered as rock steady, but I can’t imagine he would have complained. A tip of the hat to Atlanta’s Agent45 for hepping me to this one.

I have another great DJ to thank (indirectly) for leading me to the records of Belgian Andre Brasseur. Years back my buddy Haim lent me a mix by the legendary DJ Soulpusher, aka Frank Roth. That mix included a number of amazing tunes, but the Brasseur track that grabbed my ears – and appears later on this very mix – was the breakbeat feast ‘The Duck’. ‘Special 230’ –which like ‘The Duck’ hails from a Palette 45 –is a from a few years before that track. It’s a sound-effects laden tribute to a sports car, and while it rocks, rolls etc., it does have a slightly Euro ’64-ish vibe to it, like a bit of a lost ‘Fun In The Alps’ soundtrack or something.

Walter Wanderley is best known to those that know him at all as the man behind the super-mellow, right on the brink of easy listening radio hit ‘Summer Samba’. I remember very clearly hearing the sweet sounds of that track dripping from our car radio back when I was a kid. ‘Kee Ka Roo’ is a much, much groovier example of his wares, dressed up in some of his hometown Brazilian flavor. The tune sounds like it was the backing for a mid-60’s discotheque scene in a foreign film.

Wynder K. Frog, aka Mick Weaver was he subject of a John Stapleton feature a few years back in the Funky16Corners webzine. Weaver was another big-time studio gun for hire. Leaning more into the rock/pop world, he recorded a couple of smoking LPs and 45s in the UK on the Island label (many of which saw release I the US on United Artists). ‘Oh Mary’ is one of those UA 45s, and burns like a house on fire.

‘Soul Thing’ by Tony Newman is a cover of another tune from Keith Mansfield’s ‘All You Need Is…’ LP. Newman was a big time UK drummer who started out with Sounds Incorporated, only to move on to much heavier things with Three Man Army and May Blitz. While Mansfield’s original version is a piano showcase, Newman’s take features some smoking Hammond and his own kick-ass drumming. This tune was redone vocally in a number of versions by the group the Establishment, James Royal and even Paul Raven (aka Gary Glitter).

Winston Wright was a major studio keyboardist on countless rock steady and reggae records in the 60’s and 70’s. His dark, smoky version of Booker T & The MGs ‘Head or Tails’ has been a fave since I first heard it on a Trojan Records comp some years ago. The reggae flavor is in full effect here, and I really dig the deep, deep reverb on the organ.

The Mohawks were yet another studio concoction, once again the work of the mighty Alan Hawkshaw. ‘Champ’, a barely disguised version of Lowell Fulsom’s ‘Tramp’ is a legendary breakbeat/sample fave, and like the group’s ‘Baby Hold On’ saw release not only on a number of international labels, but in the US as well on Cotillion. If you can find an original copy of the Mohawks LP, you can use it to make the down payment on a summer home.

We now come to the aforementioned Andre Brasseur heater ‘The Duck’. Brasseur had a (very) minor hit with ‘The Kid’, a record that was released in the US on Congress and retains a certain amount of popularity with the Northern Soulies. ‘The Duck’ is by far his funkiest outing, loaded to the gills with heavy breakbeats, crazy sound effects and the backing of a rather enthusiastic audience.

Alan Price is best remembered as the original organist with the Animals and the man who took credit for writing ‘House of the Rising Sun’ (for shame Alan…). Post-Animals, he had his own combo, the Alan Price Set, who laid down our next selection ‘Iechyd da’ (which is a Welsh toast to good health). The tune has a slightly Blue Beat-ish shuffle, and while the beginning sounds a touch corny, Price and his magic organ deliver the goods. I’m not sure if this saw issue in the US, or if it ever appeared on an LP (this is pulled from a Decca 45).

You can’t drop a mix with a grip of UK organists without including a contribution by the great Brian Auger. Auger, who hit the UK charts in the 60’s with Julie Driscoll, and later went on to record a bunch of hot jazz fusion LPs, keeps it close to his R&B roots with a great cover of Wes Montgomery’s ‘In and Out’. Auger does Naptown’s finest proud here, as he would again later on his cover of ‘Bumpin’ On Sunset’.

As I promised earlier, we close things out with Keith Mansfield’s ‘Soul Confusion’. Slightly darker, but no less swinging than ‘Boogaloo’, ‘Soul Confusion’ features some searing, fuzzed-out lead guitar and a great horn arrangement.

*If reaction is good, expect some funky/soulful hammond mixes in the future…

The Sweet Inspirations – Sweet Inspiration

August 8, 2006

Example

The Sweet Inspirations

Example

Listen – Sweet Inspiration MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the beginning of a new week finds you all well.

The arrival of the new Grogan went pretty smoothly, and mother and baby are doing fine, as we all adjust to a return to the “new baby” schedule (and all of the sleep deprivation therein). That’s not to say that it isn’t an absolute joy, which it is, and I would recommend it (parenthood, that is) to anyone that is suitably prepared to make the leap.

There’s absolutely nothing like it.

I didn’t expect to be doing any new posts until next week, but I’ve managed – via some creative distribution of man/woman power on the child care front – to put aside some time to get a new post and track up for your perusal.

Rest assured, that although the Funky16Corners blog is currently running on an abbreviated schedule, I have some truly excellent tracks – and some very cool new installments of Funky16Corners Radio – ready to go in the upcoming weeks. I hope that getting your hopes up for what is yet to come doesn’t damn today’s selection, because it’s a longtime fave of mine, which I think you’ll dig. It just happens to be something that I selected and recorded weeks ago, and in the excitement of the impending birth of my son it got pushed (unfairly) to the sidelines. I bring it to you this evening, firm in the belief that age (as it is) has only rendered it all the sweeter.

If the name of the Sweet Inspirations doesn’t ring a bell, their voices certainly ought to. Rooted in the late 50’s Gospel group the Drinkard Singers – which in it’s early history included Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Judy Clay and Doris Troy among its members – the Sweet Inspirations recorded backing vocals for countless R&B and soul records before being signed to Atlantic and recording under their own name.

By 1968, the group was led by Cissy Houston*, aunt of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Sylvia Shemwell (sister of Judy Clay), Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown, all then based in the New York area. Though their roots were in Gospel, they were taking that sound and moving in a decidedly secular direction.

Their self-titled debut LP included covers of tunes by Eddie Floyd, the Ikettes (another great backing group that produced some great records and great soloists), Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin (with whom they would work extensively). The only direct link to their Gospel past was a version of the Staple Singers “Why Am I Treated So Bad”, which to be fair, was also covered by a number of non-Gospel artists, including Cannonball Adderly, Brian Auger, Henry Cain, the Three Sounds and reggae singer Lyn Taitt.

 Jerry Wexler recognized the depth of talent in the group, and put them in the studio with the legendary Tom Dowd, as well as Southern Soul heavy hitters like Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman.

Today’s selection, the eponymous ‘Sweet Inspiration’ was their biggest hit, making it into the R&B Top Ten and the Pop Top 20. I first heard the song – never having heard of the group – more than 20 years ago, when I picked up a 1969 Atlantic Records compilation LP. When ‘Sweet Inspiration’ came under the stylus, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The tune starts off with laid back – but decidedly southern-fried – guitar and bass riff, augmented strangely enough by marimbas. As soon as the vocals come in, it was immediately evident to me then (without knowledge of the personnel) – as it should be to anyone hearing the track for the first time – that this was a group with Gospel roots. The harmonies are tight, and the solo flights are pulled right out of the Amen Corner. Much like a track I featured recently – the Van Dykes ‘No Man Is An Island’ – ‘Sweet Inspiration’ sounds like one of those songs that with the tiniest bit of tweaking would be suitable for performance in a sanctified environment. As it is, the Sweet Inspirations take the earthy “love” lyric (written by Wallace Pennington and Spooner Oldham) and imbue it with all of the mighty power of the choir loft, so much so that if you weren’t paying close enough attention, it might be understandably mistaken for pure Gospel music.

The tune swings along soulfully, until out of the blue, the grits and gravy are pushed aside for an otherworldly string breakdown that takes the record to another level entirely. The warm guitar is gone, replaced by a swelling wall of violins (and understated brass) over which Houston sails into the stratosphere. These strings are perhaps the most interesting part of a decidedly interesting record. Arranged by the legendary (and recently deceased) Arif Mardin, and the lesser-known (but no less brilliant) jazz arranger Ralph Burns (who penned innovative charts for the Woody Herman band, among others), the icy bite of the strings stands in direct contrast to the rest of the record, but is so brilliantly presented, that it ends up making perfect sense. It’s the kind of dramatic departure that may have crippled a lesser record (created by lesser hands), but in this instance becomes the focal point. It’s like the rest of the record was created to serve as a kind of platform from which this interlude might be launched.

It makes ‘Sweet Inspiration’ one of the truly great soul records of the late 60’s, and a monument to the countless records of amazing quality that despite their chart position, remain largely forgotten by “oldies” radio. Not long after the success of ‘Sweet Inspiration’, none other than Elvis Presley decided that he needed to add the sound of the Sweet Inspirations to his show. They became his opening act and his backing vocalists, a position they would maintain for years (long after Cissy Houston left the group).

* This being the closest you will ever get to hearing about Whitney Houston – Cissy being her Mother – in this space. .


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