Archive for September, 2006

The 5th Dimension – Feelin’ Alright?

September 29, 2006

Example

The 5th Dimension

Example

Listen – Feelin’ Alright MP3″
Good day.
The end of the week is here and it couldn’t have come any sooner.
I’m tired, I miss my family (who thankfully will arrive home this afternoon) and I’m about ready for some R&R (or as Elmer Fudd would say, “west and wewaxation..at wast”).
The skies here in NJ are dark and cloudy, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I expect to spend the weekend catching up with my wife and sons, and doing run of the mill, suburban errand running, laundry doing etcetera. I couldn’t be happier about it.
As I said on Wednesday, I’ve taken advantage of my solitude to stockpile and digitize vinyl (individual tracks as well as future editions of Funky16Corners Radio), so – as unlikely as this sounds – I’ve got the vinyl monkey off my back (however briefly) and can concentrate on regular stuff for the first time in a while. I might even read a page or two if the opportunity presents itself.
Anyway…today’s selection is a prime example of the power of a good song. I can’t imagine that when Dave Mason – sitting around with his pals in Traffic – penned ‘Feelin’ Alright’, he had even the slightest inkling that it would become something of a standard, recorded countless times by rock, soul and pop artists, from Joe Cocker to Grand Funk Railroad, to Lulu, to the Jackson Five to the Supremes. I also doubt he had any idea that not long after he recorded the song in 1968, he would be fired from the group he co-founded. Either way, one would hope that he recovered nicely and smiled as the royalty checks filled his mailbox to capacity.
It was only recently that I accidentally discovered one of the unlikeliest contributors to Mason’s bank account was none other than the 5th Dimension. Now, I know that for a lot of folks (especially soul music fans), the name 5th Dimension doesn’t exactly conjure up images of hard hitting, gritty soul music. There’s a good reason for that, mainly that they were for all intents and purposes a pop group. If I were to find one of their contemporaries to compare them to, I’d probably point to the Mamas & Papas (the 5th Dimension even had one of their first hits with a cover of the Ms&Ps ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’). This is not to say that they were not at times a soulful collective. Though their bread and butter was covering singer/songwriters like Laura Nyro and Jim Webb, they also recorded one of the first covers of Ashford & Simpson’s ‘California Soul’.
When I was a kid, despite the fact that I had piles and piles of jazz and classical music to listen to, I can only remember two contemporary pop albums in the house. One was Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and the other was ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’ by the 5th Dimension. I used to play that album a LOT, and I remember years later, when I finally heard Marlena Shaw, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s versions of ‘California Soul’, and recalling how much I dug that song when I was 6 or 7 years old (not to suggest that I was preternaturally hip, but that sometimes youth and hipness do intersect accidentally).
Anyway (again)….
A few months ago I was going through a pile of garage sale 45s that my father-in-law was kind enough to send my way, and managed to flip by a 5th Dimension 45, which just happened to have its b-side facing my way. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the flipside of ‘One Less Bell to Answer’ (a song that I could be comfortable NEVER hearing again) was a version of ‘Feelin’ Alright?’. Of course I had to give it a spin, and I’m glad I did.
Despite the fact that the voice most people think of when they remember the 5th Dimension is Marilyn McCoo’s buttery smooth contralto (the sultry yin to Karen Carpenters yang), her husband Billy Davis had a fantastic, soulful growl that didn’t make it onto too many of their more popular records.
Davis takes the lead on ‘Feelin’ Alright?’ and his vocal, the groups harmonies and a funky arrangement make for one of the better versions of the song. The overall feel is distinctly un-5th Dimension-ish, which may either be a good or bad thing, depending of course on the appeal to the individual listener of their other material (which I happen to dig).
Interestingly enough, the record was arranged not only by Bob Alcivar and Bones Howe (their regular arranger/producer) but also by Bill Holman. Holman was/is a legendary jazz arranger (he did some great, progressive charts for Stan Kenton and Woody Herman among many others). When I see a name like that on a pop/soul record (as with Ralph Burns work on the Sweet Inspirations album) I wonder how many other jazz cats on that level were actually making the majority of their bread arranging pop sessions.

TV & the Tribesmen – Trip City USA (plus Bonus Track)

September 27, 2006

Example

Example

Example

Listen – TV & the Tribesmen – Trip City USA MP3″

Listen – Jean King – The In Crowd MP3″

Greetings.

I hope everyone is digging the Hammond Funk mix from Monday.
This week has been a mixed affair. My wife and sons are away for the week, visiting with her parents (who live a considerable distance away), and it’s a serious bummer. No matter how much I crab about how little I’m sleeping, to paraphrase the great William Bell, you don’t miss your family until they’ve gone somewhere else.
They’ll be back on Friday, but it’s a drag not having them around.
However, as part of my new campaign to take lemons and make lemonade, I’ve taken advantage of their absence and locked myself in the record room for the week, creating a bunch of new Funky16Corners Radio mixes for the coming months. This kind of work is time consuming, and right now I’ve got nothing but time, so I’m consuming it.

I won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet, but I will say that there are a couple of “themed” mixes in the can, as well as a few loose conglomerations of funky tunes (all of the highest possible quality, as I know you wouldn’t expect any less).
The mixes have proven quite popular, and I enjoy putting them together, so they’ll keep happening as long as I have records to mix (which should be a very, very long time).
Anyway, today’s selection is as close to a mystery record as I’ve posted in this space. I certainly have records in my crates which I haven’t been able to track down even the slightest bit of information on, but the difference between what I’ve been able to find about TV and the Tribesmen and those records is piddling.
They were clearly a Huey P. Meaux-controlled group, as he produced their HBR LP and took writing credit for every song on the record (other than those that were clearly covers). I have little doubt that the “Tribesmen” name is a reference to Meaux’s Tribe label, home to Barbara Lynn and of course the Sir Douglas Quintet (though I should say I haven’t been able to find any evidence that TV & the Tribesmen ever had any records released on any label other than HBR).

Strangely enough, I can’t find any evidence that they had a single on HBR (or any other US label). Even more strangely, a single of their version of Robert Parker’s ‘Barefootin’’ was released in the UK on the Pye label. Go figure.
The album – which I’m guessing, judging by the other records listed on the jacket is of a 1966 vintage – is actually pretty good. Filled with gritty – sometimes funky – soul, the band is tight and the singer (TV, I’ll assume) is excellent. This is just conjecture, but they sound like an actual “band”, i.e. they don’t sound like they just got slapped together in the studio for the purposes of creating this record. I’ve seen one reference to them having backed other Meaux produced artists, so it’s likely they were a local Houston band who worked for Huey on the side, and eventually got the chance to record their own record.
Sadly, the album has no pictures of the group, nor any personnel information.
Either way, ‘Trip City USA’ is a cooker, with a tight horn section, combo organ and a cool lead vocal. If anyone has any more info on the band, whether they ever recorded anything else, or what became of them after their time with Meaux, I’d love to hear from you.
On a related note, I while I was picking out 45s last month, I grabbed another side on the HBR label, and I figured since I had so little info on TV & the Tribesmen, I ought to lay a little something else on you.
Jean King – who was one of the legendary Blossoms, who provided backing on so many Phil Spector productions, AND appeared on Shindig, AND recorded ‘Son-In-Law’ an “answer” record to Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother-In-Law’ – recorded an LP and a few 45s for the HBR label. Her version of Dobie Gray’s ‘The In Crowd’ is a pretty groovy little number. It may lack the out-on-the-floor majesty of the original, but considering how many times this song was covered (often horribly) King comes out looking pretty good – riding a wave located somewhere between Dobie Gray and Ramsey Lewis.
I think you’ll dig it.

NOTE: Wow! Mystery solved in a few short hours. Reader John Funke writes with the following info on TV & the Tribesmen:

>>I always enjoy viewing your website . Great design, plenty of information and the all important label shots. The latest blog entry concerns the mystery surrounding the identity of TV and the Tribesmen. TV is actually Joe Medwick, journeyman soulsinger and composer of many of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s classic songs. These tunes,( “I Pity the Fool”, “Cry, Cry, Cry”, “Call on Me”, many others) were sold outright to Don Robey and are credited to the nom de disque of Deadric Malone. Medwick also cut singles for Duke, Monument and other labels. I have a single he did under the name of Joe Melvin “My friends in show business” on -Damn I forget the label (I’ll find it when I get home)- that is a Huey Meaux production. There is a CD ” Joe Medwick-I’m an After Hour Man (The Crazy Cajun recordings)” put out by Edsel that includes a number of tracks from the HBR album. The detailed liner notes do a good job of telling Medwick’s story. I hope this information was helpful. Keep on with the keepin’ on.

John Funke <<

Thanks John!!

Funky16Corners Radio v.12 – Hammond Funk #1

September 25, 2006

Example

Track Listing
1. Louis Chachere – The Hen Pt1 (Paula 45)
2. Georgie Fame – Beware of Dog (Epic 45)
3. Billy Larkin – Russell & Williams Sts (World Pacific LP)
4. Willard Burton & The Funky 4 – Funky In Here (Capitol 45)
5. Melvin Sparks (feat Leon Spencer) – Thank You (Prestige 45)
6. Brown Brothers of Soul – Cholo (Specialty 45)
7. Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers – Doin’ What We Wanna (Atlantic 45)
8. Ohio Players – Walt’s First Trip (Westbound 45)
9. Willie Mitchell – My Babe (Hi 45)
10. Joe Chopper & the Swinging 7 Soul band – Soul Pusher (Lanor 45)
11. Mickey & The Soul Generation – Iron Leg (Maxwell 45)
12. Kossie Gardner – Fire (Dot LP)
13. Village Callers – Hector (Rampart 45)
14. Bill Doggett – Honky Tonk (King 45)
15. O’Jah’s – Roadside 75 (Sound Stage 7 45)
16. Toussaint McCall – Sweet Tea (Dore 45)
17. Dave Baby Cortez – I Turned You On (T-Neck 45)
18. Art Butler – Soul Brother (Epic 45)
19. Jimmy McGriff – Fat Cakes (Capitol 45)
20. Lou Garno Trio – Chicken in the Basket (Giovanni 45)

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

Greetings all.
The new week is here, and brings with it a brand new installment of that venerable institution known as the Funky16Corners Radio podcast.
This time out, the emphasis is on funky Hammond sides, and as this is a favorite sub-sub-genre of mine, I can assure that the file you are about to download and stuff into your ears, brings (as the kids say) “the heat”. I can also assure you (an awful lot of assurance for so early in the week…) is that there will be more of the same coming in the future (hence the “#1”) as I have a surplus of such records in storage at the Funky16Corners complex (deep in a Nevada salt mine).
Things start off with a bang, with one of the hottest organ funk 45s ever minted, ‘The Hen Pt1’ by Louis Chachere. Chachere was a Kansas City based organist/producer, and originally recorded ‘The Hen’ for the local MJC label, and it was then re-released by the Forte label, in Kansas City, MO. Forte was owned by Marva Whitney’s husband Ellis Taylor (her Excello 45 ‘Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear’ was originally issued on Forte). ‘The Hen’ was licensed to, and released by Paula records. Chachere was also the producer of the sought after 45 ‘Remember Me’ by the Trinikas.
Not only is Chachere positively ablaze on the organ, but the guitar and drums on this track are amazing. The snare sound alone is hot enough to power a few dozen lesser records.
Next up is a selection by one of my UK faves, Mr. Georgie Fame. ‘Beware of Dog’ is what my compadres over at Soulstrut refer to as “slept on”, in that it is quite funky, yet resides on the flip side of a dreadful novelty tune, and remains quite affordable (like less than a buck at your local Market du Flea). Grab one now so you can impress your friends by spinning it at your next tea and finger sandwich party.
Billy Larkin, though known to collectors of Hammond sides (mostly via his work with the Delegates) was a West Coast player, capable of wringing everything from jazz to blistering R&B out of his Hammond. ‘Russell & Williams Street’ appears on his late 60’s ‘I Got the Feeling’ LP (where he is billed without the Delegates), and is a groover. It starts out kind of slow, but builds up a nice layer of grit. If you get the chance, grab his 45s on Aura and Pacific Jazz (esp. ‘Pigmy’, which is a cooker).
Willard Burton recorded a number of greasy 45s for a variety of labels – including Peacock, Money, and Genie – throughout the 60’s. ‘Funky In Here’, a side of early 70’s vintage, features some wicked, fuzzed out guitar, nice organ leads and soul shouting. Not sure if the crowd noise is real (I suspect that it was added after the fact for flavor) but that whistle they use is ka-ray-zee.
Though the name on the 45 label is guitarist Melvin Sparks, the organist working it out on Sly Stone’s ‘Thank You Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin’ is none other than Leon Spencer. Spencer recorded a number of sessions for Prestige as both a sideman and a leader (his cover of ‘Message from the Meters’ will surely be included in a future mix). His playing here is outstanding, typical of the kind of high quality soul jazz we’ve all come to expect on Prestige 45s of a certain vintage.
The Brown Brothers of Soul were the work of one Rulie Garcia aka Johnny Chingas, an East LA artist who recorded a grip of stuff in the late 60’s and early 70’s. “Cholo” was originally released on the Raza label, before being issued on Specialty in 1972. The drums and organ are kicking on this one, with a solid, Cheech-a-delic, low rider vibe, but it’s worth picking up if only to hear the opening shout of ‘Essaaayyyy Choloooooooo!”.
Someday I’ll have to whip up a mix featuring various and sundry examples of the aftershock of the Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’, a song that was covered/reworked/ripped-off countless times following its release in 1969. One such “tribute” comes to us courtesy of Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers. “Doin What We Wanna” was the title track of their 1970 LP, and features Sonny Burke on the organ (Wheeler played the sax). They start with a close approximation of the ‘It’s Your Thing’ riff, and then kick it into overdrive, with just a touch of jazz.
I’ll bet when you tuned in for some Hammond funk, you never imagined that you’d run into your old pals the Ohio Players, but I’m here to tell you that ‘Walt’s First Trip’, from 1972 is indeed both Hammond-y and funky. The flip-side of ‘Varee is Love’, ‘Walt’s First Trip’ was unknown to me until a few years ago when Atlanta’s Agent45 tipped me off. I’m not sure if it conjures up that patented Ohio Players, centerfold dipped in honey vibe, but it’s certainly a cooker.
The next track is another one from the slept-on pile, a relatively cheap and plentiful side that ought to be revered by funk 45 types the world over for bringing the heat and then some. Though released under bandleader Willie Mitchell’s name, the star here is whoever is hammering the organ. Not sure who it is (the likely suspects being either Charles Hodges or Art Jerry Miller, both of whom worked with Mitchell at Hi), but they’re doing a fine job. This is one of those sides like Toussaint McCall’s ‘Shimmy’, which if it were rarer, people would be stepping over each other to get their hands on a copy.
If you think you’ve heard “Soul Pusher” by Joe Chopper and the Swinging Seven Soul Band before, it’s because it’s a thinly disguised (so thinly as to be not disguised at all) cover of the Gaturs ‘Cold Bear’. I haven’t been able to connect the two groups aside from the fact that they both hailed from Louisiana, but if I were Willie Tee I’d be more pissed off that Chopper and his band took their tune and made a lot funkier, adding some wah-wah guitar and a blaring, overmodulated horn section.
If you’re not sitting down, please do so now, as the following track is likely to knock you on your ass. If you aren’t familiar with the deadly Tex-Mex funk of Mickey and the Soul Generation, you need to get (familiar, that is) because they made some of the tightest deep funk 45s ever. ‘Iron Leg’, one of two M&SG 45s that found national distribution on the Maxwell label is nothing less than brilliant, from the wild fuzz bass feedback opening, to the towering pimp walk chorus, as well as the considerable Hammond organ churn running through the whole record (courtesy of none other than Mickey himself). Originally popularized in the 80’s on the UK Rare Groove scene, ‘Iron Leg’ has become a deep funk classic, sought after by crate diggers the world over.
Kossie Gardner was a Nashville-based organist who recorded a couple of LPs in the late 60’s as well as doing session work. His cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’ hails from his 1969 ‘Pipes of Blue’ LP, and is – of course – a burner. Even the cheesy backing vocals in the chorus can’t drag this one down, and it’s also worth waiting for Kossie to drop in with some wild screams in the middle of the tune.
Returning to the clubs of East LA, we bring you another deep funk side, ‘Hector Pt1’ by the Village Callers. Release on Rampart records (also home to ‘The Panther’ by the East Bay Soul Brass), ‘Hector’ works up a very solid groove, with some live clapping, congas and groovy rhythm guitar. The “Live” lp that this comes from is exceedingly rare. The 45 ain’t too cheap either, but you’re more likely to get your hands on one of those.
Though some may say “Wha? You bring the Doggett but you leave out the ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn?!?”, my response is despite the fact that world famous organist Bill Doggett is listed as the leader on the session, that funk 45 fave is a little light on the actual organ content. As a result, I flip the record over and bring you its much more organ-ized b-side, a 1969 reworking of the tune that put Bill Doggett on the map, ‘Honky Tonk’. The tune is way funky, and Mr. Bill gets to bring the B3 heat. See, this way, if you were hesitating to spend the dough to get yourself a copy of ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’, knowing that this is on the flip just doubled it’s intrinsic value.
I can’t tell you much about the O’Jahs, other than that ‘Roadside 75’ is a killer, and I’m pretty sure it was recorded way before 1975. They apparently hailed from South Carolina, and were also billed as the “Odahs”.
Toussaint McCall would deserve legendary status if he had never done anything but record the mighty “Shimmy” one of the greatest Hammond organ 45s ever. Those in the know will tell you that he was also a talented vocalist (‘Shimmy’ having originated as the b-side of his Top10, Deep Soul ballad ‘Nothing Takes the Place of You’). For years I thought his recordings for the Ronn label were the only thing the Louisiana musician had ever done, but a while back I started turning up sides he did for the LA-based Dore label. One such side, the delicious ‘Sweet Tea’ shows that McCall was still bringing the funk post-Shimmy. The tune mixes Hammond organ and electric piano solos, with the occasional funky grunt and some very tight drums.
Back in the Isley Brothers camp, we visit another phase in the many splendored career of David Clowney, aka Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez. He did time in the late 60’s (along with Truman Thomas, no slouch in the Hammond department) as part of the Isley Brothers “family”. His reworking of the Brothers ‘I Turned You On’ borrows the original backing track, and slaps on a heaping helping of Hammond goodness.
I’ve never been able to track down much info on Art Butler, but his track ‘Soul Brother’ is seriously funky and a longtime fave of mine. There was an “Artie” Butler who wrote and recorded soundtrack music during the same period, but I can’t say positively that this is the same musician. ‘Soul Brother” opens up with a nice drum drop, moving on into a funky bass line before Mr. Butler starts working the keys. The version of “Ode to Billie Joe’ on the flip is also quite good.
I couldn’t very well put together a Hammond funk mix without including a contribution from one of the accepted masters of the Hammond, Mr. Jimmy McGriff. Though he was best known for his early 60’s R&B/soul jazz for the Sue label, he had a renaissance of sorts with the Capitol label in the late 60’s, producing much high quality funk 45, one of which – ‘Fat Cakes’ – we bring you today. The tune moves along nicely with some very funky bass, a biting horn chart, and of course lots of Hammond grease courtesy of Mr. McGriff.
Don’t let the fact that the opening and closing tracks of this mix are both “chicken”-related is anything but a coincidence. We are not in any way subsidized by Colonel Sanders or any other branch of the fried chicken industry. The placement of a rare and deadly tack like the Lou Garno Trio’s “Chicken In the Basket” at the end of the mix is only an indicator that I finally got my hands on a copy of the record after the first draft of the mix was done. I’d been searching for this one for YEARS and only recently had the opportunity to add it to the crates at what turned out to be a pretty decent price (considering its rarity). Believe it or not this burner was recorded in 1972 as a promotional item for an Italian restaurant (the Giovanni’s of the label) in Arizona in 1972. ‘Chicken In the Basket” features some hard-hitting drums, sax and – of course – organ, and the flip side ‘Muy Sabroso’ is also quite good.

Enjoy.

Funkadelic – Super Stupid

September 22, 2006

Example

FUNKADELIC

Example

Listen – Super Stupid MP3″

Greetings.


It’s Friday, which means it’s almost – practically – Saturday, which means despite the fact that I have to work all day, I have my eyes on the prize and no one – noBODY – is going to make me like it.
I guess I’m back to wrestling with the absurdity of working for a living, coupled with/compounded by irritation inherent in my job, nailed to the insanity of the “Protestant work ethic”-worship that’s been stinking up this country for the last 300 years, scotch-taped to the fact that my life is consumed by a pastime that has little or no remuneration associated with it (spiritual riches never having been enough to put food on the table or coal in the furnace, a flaw that’s never far from my mind).
Damn….
In the spirit of kicking a figurative hole in the sheetrock, I decided that today was the day where I was going to whip something on you that’ll make your face look like the test pilot guy on the rocket sled, i.e. eyelids peeled back, cheeks flapping in the wind, teeth and gums exposed to the world. While this might seem sadistic in the hands of lesser mortals, I do this because it has purgative effects, clearing the slate as it were and allowing the addled mind to regroup (defrag for my fellow IT folk) so that it might return to some semblance of normalcy (whatever that is).
So, grab something to cleanse your palate, hold on tight, and get ready for Funkadelic.
I remember very clearly the first time I heard today’s selection. Not too long after grabbing the first Funkadelic album, and having my mind blown by it, I returned – much to the consternation of my wallet – to the local record store and got my hands on the next two, i.e. ‘Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow’ and ‘Maggot Brain’.
As I worked my way through these albums, soaking up the soulful psychedelia therein, I thought to myself – “How could I have missed the boat on this band for so long?”.
I was certainly aware of the Parliament-Funkadelic “thang”, with the space ships, crazy tin-foil suits, platform boots, star-shaped guitars and all that, and I had a couple of Parliaments 45s, with the group harmony, conks, and the Northern soul and that whole bag, but I had never explored the dark area in between those two extremes.
It would be a mistake (or at least a foolish simplification) to describe the Funkadelic era (1969 – 1973) as transitional – which it kind of was – because that would suggest that there was some kind of logical progression – a bridge as it were – between ‘I Can Feel the Ice Melting’ and ‘Flashlight’. There might be one in theory, but when I finally settled down to feed my head from those first three Funkadelic albums, I had no idea how much of a stylistic left turn George Clinton and his merry band of maniacs had in mind.
When the Parliaments shed their matching suits, turned on and fuzzed out, they created something that was simultaneously too tripped out for the soul fans and too “black” for the rock fans. While there were elements of post-Experience Hendrix, and Family Stone-isms in orbit around Funkadelic, their sound was something else entirely.
I’m not going to go into the complexities of the “Black Rock” sub-genre here (with the mid-period Bar-Kays, Fugi, Chambers Brothers et al) but I will say that while Funkadelic were certainly on the vanguard of that particular mini-revolution, they were also taking their thing much further. They were light years ahead of their time, and like most “real” innovators, Funkadelic were far beyond the sounds of those first three LPs, and into a whole new bag, before anyone noticed.
The track I unleash upon you today, ‘Super Stupid’ quite literally shocked me the first time I heard it. When the opening fanfare started, my first thought was “Oh, this should be interesting.”. Then the song started – things getting interesting-er with every passing second, and then…and then….the verse started, producing an effect not unlike those films you see of a post-atomic blast shockwave, where everything gets sucked in one direction, only to be suddenly rocketed in the other.
WHOMP!
Eddie Hazel’s lead guitar opens up with a riff, over Bernie Worrell’s organ, and then all of a sudden the singing and the drums (courtesy of Mr. Tiki Fulwood) come in, and HOLY SHIT!
Those drums….
It’s like John Bonham and Clyde Stubblefield had a baby and the little bastard turned out to be a hard-hitting motherfucker.
I had to plug in the headphones, restart the song and crank up the volume to a level that I knew would leave my ears ringing.
In a period where I had just sold my Led Zeppelin CDs*, any regrets I might have had were no longer an issue because I was now hearing the heaviest music my ears had ever savored, and those drums – especially the bass drum which was hitting like some kind of syncopated locomotive – were freaking me out (they still do).
The next time some greasy haired, poorly tattooed hesher sidles up next to you and wants to hep you to something “heavy” (if he’s hip, Sabbath, if he’s sniffing glue, Slayer), take out the copy of ‘Maggot Brain’ you keep ready for just such an occasion and whip a little ‘Super Stupid’ on him. When it’s done, he will either have knocked you on your ass and jacked you for your CD, or will be laying in the gutter, sucking his thumb and crying for his mama.
Your basic win/win situation.

* Back in the early 90’s I was listening to a LOT of delta blues of 20’s/30’s vintage. As time wore on I began to realize just how much of the Zep catalog had been out and out stolen from long gone bluesmen incapable of taking those slackjawed, Crowley-worshippers to court and shaking every last sixpence from their embroidered jeans (though it must be noted that the mighty Willie Dixon was still around and just happened to have his attorney’s phone number handy, much to the consternation of Messrs Page and Plant). It was years before I could/would listen to Led Zeppelin again.

NOTE: The scan above, and the vinyl rip of this tune are from a 1977 ‘Best of the Early Years’ LP.

NOTE NOTE: Thanks to the folks at Soulstrut for inspiring me to post this one…

Clea Bradford – My Love’s a Monster

September 20, 2006

Example

A teeny tiny pic

of Clea Bradford

Example

A somewhat larger picture of her record

Listen – My Love’s a Monster MP3″

Good morning all (and I mean it this time).

I’ve arrived at the juicy, cream filled center of the week in a much better mood, attitude suitably adjusted.

Without going into too much detail, I work in a job that requires the patience of the Dalai Lama, something which I do not (and likely will never) have, and as a result I spend much of my time in an Edgar Kennedy/Moe Howard “slow burn”, rolling my eyes so much I’m apt to sprain them. Most days things quiet down to a dull rumble, or – more likely – I manage to zone out a lot of the static. Unfortunately, some days (like Monday) I am unable to do this, and that, in combination with an assortment of outside irritants makes it difficult to process even remotely complex thoughts.

So, now that we’ve go that out of the way, on to the music.

The record you’ll be hearing today was requested by one of our regular readers about a month ago. While the Funky16Corners blog isn’t a jukebox, I am not averse to taking (and honoring, when possible) requests for specific tunes. As long as I have a copy of said tune taking up space in my crates (and I remember where it is) I have no problem working it into the rotation. As I said on Monday, I’m usually selecting tunes to post sometimes a month in advance (husband and father type duties requiring that I condense my record-related work into short, intense periods of activity), so if someone makes a request, it may end up taking a little while to end up on yon blogspot, but it will get there.

The performer of today’s selection, Clea Bradford, is one I haven’t been able to find out much about. As far as I can tell she may have begun her career based out of St. Louis, Mo, where she often worked with the Quartette Tres Bien. She went on to record LPs for Prestige, Mainstream and Cadet through the 60’s, as well as 45s for the Tru-Sound and Hi-Q labels. The song I bring you today, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ was recorded for Cadet in 1968 and appeared on the LP ‘Her Point of View’.

The song is (much like Clea’s love) a monster. This is due in large part to the fact that it was co-written, arranged and produced by the legendary Richard Evans. During the 60’s and early 70’s, Evans – who started his career as a jazz bassist – produced and arranged a wide range of truly amazing records for the Cadet label. Like Charles Stepney (with whom he sometimes collaborated) Evans was one of the true “auteurs” of the Cadet sound, masterminding the Soulful Strings, and creating legendary recordings with the likes of Dorothy Ashby, Terry Callier, Marlena Shaw and Ramsey Lewis among others (for a deeper look at Richard Evans, follow this link to an article I wrote about him at the Funky16Corners web zine).

His recordings with Marlena Shaw – including crate digger classics like ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ and ‘California Soul’ – are an important reference point to ‘My Love’s a Monster’. Bradford – like Shaw – was essentially a jazz vocalist recording in a soul/funk frame of reference. Evans was a master of blurring the lines between jazz and funk, creating records that contained elements of both, often mixing big band brass with funky bass lines and breakbeats (not to mention unusual elements like kalimba and harp).

While the end result may be a little to polished for aficionados of the gritty funk 45, if you are a listener possessed of a certain taste and perspicacity, you are likely to find that once sampled, you are driven to seek out more of the same.

Opening with a brass flourish, followed by the rhythm section laying down a funky groove, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is in all aspects a BIG record. Bradford’s vocal is strong and assured, and the brilliant production manages to keep her voice out front, even while the instrumental track is absolutely booming. I love Bradford’s near-scatting in the breakdowns leading into the chorus remind me of Solomon Burke’s similar performance in 1966’s “Keep Looking”.

While I can’t say with any certainty who’s playing on this 45, I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s the usual suspects, i.e. the Chess/Cadet house band, and as always, they do an amazing job. The lead guitar is outstanding – dig how it keeps popping up in the mix – and the drums are hard as hell.

As far as I can tell ‘My Love’s a Monster’ has not been comped, which is at least to me, incomprehensible. This is sister funk of the first order, a party starter, floor filler etc, and for a record like this to be overlooked is nothing short of criminal. One group of people who haven’t overlooked it is DJ-types, which might explain why it’s not a cheap 45, but not overly expensive either ($25 – $35 bucks seems to be the going rate). The LP (which I’ve heard may have a different mix of this tune) is also find-able in a similar price range. Hopefully someone out there with the wherewithal will put together a comp of Richard Evans productions, and include this track. In any event, as I just gave myself the idea, I’ll make sure to put together an episode of Funky16Corners radio highlighting that material. Look for it this Fall.

PS Johnny Sayles has a tune called ‘My Love’s a Monster’ (which I’ve never heard), but since it came out in 1965 (on the Chi-Town label) , and the Clea Bradford record was co-written by Bradford and Richard Evans, I’m guessing it’s a different song. If anyone knows different, please let me know.

Solomon Burke – Proud Mary

September 18, 2006

Example

Solomon Burke

Example

Listen – Proud Mary MP3″

Morning…

That’s it.

Not “good morning”, or “top o’ the morning” or any of the other sunny have-a-nice-day-isms that we keep pocketed for just such an occasion. I’m not in the mood. So far (and I’m only accounting for the last 98 or so minutes) this has not been a good day. This is not to say that anything serious has gone wrong, but rather that since I left the house this morning I have encountered one irritating, pestiferous obstacle after another.

It’s almost as if I had been besieged by a cloud of gnats, organized by some mysterious, higher gnat-telligence for the sole purpose of making my every turn a wrong one, every step a misstep, a tack on every seat, a paper cut in every sheaf…you know the drill.

I’m at the stage where I think I need to go to the top of the mountain, find the wise man with the long white beard, and sock him in the nose, if only to send him rolling down the slope, so I can take his spot, whipped in the chill wind, and gather my thoughts, if only for a moment*.

On that sour note, I will attempt to turn things around, using only the power of music (“only”, heh…).

Once a month or so, I hunker down in the old Funky16Corners “library” (that would be the monument to clutter I call a record room) and pull out ten to fifteen selections to fill yon blogspot for the coming weeks. Some of these are thematically coordinated, in that they can be grouped in one way or another (like ‘New Orleans Week’ etc.), while others are pulled completely at random, just because they grabbed me. I try to maintain a balance, mixing in equal quantities of funk and soul, and all of the permutations thereof, that call my crates home.

When I decide what I want to post up on a particular day, unless I’m bound by a previously advertised “theme”, I take an organic approach and upload whatever feels good. Today’s selection is one that I had waiting in the wings for a day such as this. Something so potent, so filled with authentic, Grade A, soul that it would take the storm tossed seas of my psyche and turn them once again into a smooth, glassy pool in the midst of the forest primeval, disturbed only by a gentle breeze and the rays of the sun.

Feeling like I do this morning, this is a tall order, but certainly nothing a little bit of Solomon Burke can’t take care of.

I’ve gone on before about the essential, deep soul that to this day rolls of the tongue of the mighty King Solomon. He’s one of the last living giants of 60’s soul, with a powerful voice capable of delivering soul, gospel, even country tunes with equal conviction. Back in nineteen and sixty nine Burke left the big city and headed down to Alabama to work his magic through the lens of Muscle Shoals. The resulting album, ‘Proud Mary’ (with liner notes by no less an authority than John Fogerty) is a classic, taking Burke’s sophisticated sound and applying a slightly rougher edge. His take on the title cut starts off with the chug (choogle) of the original – which of course was one of the finest bits of Southern-iana ever cranked out by a gang of denim and flannel clad San Fran-sisky-ans – and ladles on helping after helping of a mystical brew, composed of butter beans, old bibles, Spanish moss, red clay and (oddly enough) an electric sitar. The end result is one in which hints of all the ingredients are present, but are almost impossible to get a handle on because they have combined into something far more powerful than its components.

Now, this had certainly been done by many others, often successfully (see – Goldwax Label, recordings of, Carr, James et al), but weaving a glorious cloak out of these fibers and draping across the massive back of Solomon Burke is another thing entirely. It’s almost like taking an ox-cart, and swapping out your livestock for a Sherman tank. Of course, as with any such outsized exchange, the possibility – nay likelihood – of overkill is present, but miraculously enough the overall effect here is one of subtlety.

Burke never really has the chance to soar, but its not really not that kind of record, and doesn’t have to be. Where Ike and Tina took “Proud Mary” and produced a mushroom cloud (which despite the enjoyment I get out of their performance, is in reflection a somewhat inappropriate interpretation of the source material), Burke looks at the CCR version and sees it as a place to anchor a slightly “realer” story (listen to his preamble at the beginning of the record).

If you get a chance, grab the Sundazed reissue ‘Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions’ which collects the entire ‘Proud Mary’ LP as well as a number of 45-only tacks from the same sessions. If all you know of Solomon Burke is his earlier work for Atlantic, I think you’ll be pleased by where the big man was taking it in 1969.

Buy – Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions – at Amazon.Com

*It’s like in the film ‘Office Space’ where the impossibly cheery office drone peeks into the protagonists cubicle and says “It looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!”, and he gets a look on his face that is a perfect combination of dismay, disgust and barely controlled rage.

David Rockingham Trio – Soulful Chant

September 15, 2006

Example

Example

Listen – Soulful Chant MP3″

Greetings and salutations.

Friday – at long last – is upon us, and with it comes the promise of the weekend. Those two precious days we bust our asses all week to get a hold on are here, the summer is slipping away and once again (this should come as no surprise) I am beyond tired.

It was my turn to get up and feed Sean last night, and unfortunately, his bottle did not sit well and he was soon spewing gas and howling like a bear in a steel trap. I took him back out into the living room and rocked him until it was time to “get up” for work. Don’t get me wrong. I love to spend time with the little fella. I just wish that he could be convinced that allowing Mommy and Daddy to sleep every now and then is in the interest of the entire Grogan family enterprise.

On the sunny side of things, when I got up to feed him PBS was broadcasting an hour long biography of Larry Harlow, aka ‘El Judio Maravilloso’, one of the movers and shakers in 60’s boogaloo and 70’s salsa. Harlow, a Brooklyn-born Jew (hence the nickname) became a prominent Latin bandleader, recording several landmark LP’s for the Fania label with Orchestra Harlow, and was also one of the leading lights of the Fania All Stars. Some of his late 60’s 45s for Fania are outstanding examples of Latin Soul, and should be grabbed when encountered in the wild. Rest assured that I will be blogging something by him in the near future. If you get a chance to see the documentary do so, as it contains some amazing live footage of Cuban and Puerto Rican/Nuyorican artists, including clips from the early 70’s Yankee Stadium concert by the Fania All Stars which included a guest spot by Manu Dibango performing ‘Soul Makossa’ with the band.

Earlier in the evening there was an episode of the series Voces that dealt with Latino music culture from the South Bronx (I don’t know if any PBS stations outside of the New York area broadcast any of these shows), which included some amazing footage of Latino b-boys during the early days of hip hop. Very cool.

Anyhoo, today’s selection is neither Latino, nor hip hop, but I think you’ll dig it anyway. Back in the early days of my Hammond obsession, I was picking up organ instrumental sides wherever I could get my hands on them. I forget where I first encountered the sounds of the David Rockingham Trio, but I’m certainly happy I did. I’m sorry to say that I can’t tell you much about Rockingham, which is surprising because the Rockingham Trio actually had a Top 40 hit in 1963 with the tune ‘Dawn’ on the Josie label.

They recorded a total of three 45s for Josie (some of which were also released on the Dee Dee label), and at least one other 45 for an independent label – “Pig Foots Pts 1&2” – that I’ve never been able to put my hands on. A few months ago I was doing one of my Hammond-related Ebay searches when I happened upon a French EP by the David Rockingham Trio, with a picture sleeve. While the sleeve didn’t have any pictures of the band (drat!) it did feature a nice picture of a marquee in what appears to be either Reno or Las Vegas, Nevada, advertising a performance by the group (see above). I already had the songs, but I had to have me that picture sleeve. Fortunately it came in at a reasonable price, and before long it jetted into my mailbox all the way from France, redolent of snails, gauloises and New Wave Cinema.

Anyway, while the Trio recorded some nice, greazzzyyy Hammond sides, the hottest, greasiest, snapping-est, twisting-est side of all is today’s selection, the aptly titled ‘Soulful Chant’. Now, when I rate a Hammond 45 (on my personal, ever changing, “I’ll know it when I hear it” scale) I listen for a record that sounds like the group was in overdrive, pinning the meters in the studio, sweating all over their instruments and preferably with a glint of wild abandon in their eyes. ‘Soulful Chant’ is just such a record. From the first snare hit the record takes off in high gear, with the guitar and drums pumping along as Rockingham solos over the top (literally and figuratively). Before long he launches into the organists equivalent of hyperspace, sounding as if he’s rolled up his sleeves and is running his elbows up and down the keyboard. There’s certainly an early-60’s “do the twist” tempo buried in there somewhere, but it sounds as if the Rockingham Trio saw that for what it was, decided to leave it to the Chubby Checkers of the world and shoot off in another direction entirely.

It’s just the kind of invigorating side that I need this morning.

God bless them for it….

The Spinners – Sweet Thing (plus Bonus Track)

September 13, 2006

Example

The Spinners

Example

Listen – Sweet Thing MP3″

Howdy.

I hope everyone is still digging Monday’s mix. I’ve gotten some nice feedback, and rest assured there are more mixes ready to go in the weeks to come, as well as some excellent funk and soul groovers to keep you awake at your desk, tapping your foot and lusting for the warm sound of vinyl.

Today’s selection brings with it another chapter in the continuing saga, of how I found my way into the soul crates via our friends from the UK. Back in the day (maybe I should come up with some kind of gremlin, or other shorthand to replace that oft used phrase), when I was running with the Mod/Garage crowd, my good friend Bill Luther (now the music editor over at the Uppers site) was the first to hep me to the sounds of one Clive Powell, better known to all of us as Georgie Fame.

Though Fame never had a huge amount of success in the US (he did hit the top 40 a couple of times in 1965 and 1966), he was a major star in the UK. His popularity with the early 80’s Mod revival crowd (mirroring his enduring popularity with the original Mods) was an important link – at least for me – to the artists that Fame covered on his records. A look at his early-to-mid 60’s recordings reveals that Fame and his band the Blue Fames were working with a pretty diverse palette, filling their repertoire with ska, US R&B (Fats Domino and Mose Allison being particularly big influences on Fame), jazz and especially soul. On his first two US LPs, ‘Yeh Yeh’ and ‘Getaway’, Fame interpreted tracks by the Mar-Keys, Mongo Santamaria, Major Lance, Lee Dorsey, Joe Hinton, Billy Stewart and Don Covay among others, many of which led me back to the original artists.

One song – which appeared on the 1966 LP ‘Getaway’ – that for many years I had no idea was a cover, was the Spinners’ ‘Sweet Thing’. The Spinners – known in the UK as the Detroit or Motown Spinners, due to a UK folk group that already had the “Spinners” name – formed in Detroit in the late 50’s. They made their first recordings for the Tri-Phi label, and when the label was absorbed by Motown, so were the Spinners. Though their 1970 track ‘It’s a Shame’ (their first major chart hit) has long been a fave of mine, and most soul fans are aware of the string of hits for Atlantic in the 70’s – I had no idea how good their mid-60’s Motown/VIP singles were, especially ‘Sweet Thing’. Though the tune was also recorded by Marvin Gaye and the Supremes, the Spinners version was the first.

The tune is a great slice of sophisticated, melodic and danceable soul and features a memorable lead vocal by Bobby Smith. Written by Ivy Joe Hunter and Mickey Stevenson, ‘Sweet Thing’ sports one of my favorite Motown melodies, and it should have been a hit. I’ve read some accounts that suggest that when the Spinners first came to Motown, they weren’t getting the kind of attention they deserved (at least not in regard to promotion), so perhaps that had something to do with it. ‘Sweet Thing’ can be found on numerous reissues, including the phantasmagorically amazing ‘Complete Motown Singles: 1964” collection, perhaps the finest soul-related boxed set I’ve ever seen/owned. These volumes are expensive (over $100.00) but worth it in every sense. I plan on grabbing the 1965 set as soon as I can find it.

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Listen – Tonight’s the Night – MP3

On that note, I also bring you today’s bonus selection, which I heard for the first time in the 1964 set, and grabbed a vinyl copy of soon after. According to the liner notes, little is known about the Headliners, other than that they were a white group from the Detroit area with an R&B sound. ‘Tonight’s the Night’ was the a-side of their sole VIP release, and as blue-eyed soul efforts go, it’s excellent. This has a lot to do with the fact that the Motown session players, especially Earl Van Dyke (who co-wrote the tune) give the session a great instrumental kick. The vocalists may not have been keeping the Temptations up at night worrying, but overall it’s a nice little dancer with some great guitar and organ work that has a certain Mitch Ryder-crossed with the Four Seasons-vibe.

NOTE: The scan of the Spinners 45 above comes from a 1970 UK 45, where ‘Sweet Thing’ was issued as the b-side of ‘It’s a Shame’. Original US copies of the ‘Sweet Thing’ 45 are both in demand, and costly.

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In other news, I recently received a couple of New Orleans related CDs that you ought to check out. The first is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band reworking of Marvin Gaye’s landmark ‘What’s Going On’ LP, which features guest spots from Chuck D and Bettye Lavette among others, with some of the proceeds from it’s sale going to the Tipitina’s Foundation in New Orleans. I dig the disc, but for a taste you should head over to the essential and indispensable Home of the Groove blog for an excellent overview of the disc, as well as an interview Dan Phillips did with Roger Lewis of the DDBB.

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Example

Rhino has released the DVD version of From the Big Apple To the Big Easy: Madison Square Garden Concert, which I watched on pay-per-view last September, not long after Katrina devastated New Orleans. Though the 2-disc set includes performances by Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel and Bette Midler (who delivers a verbal kick in the nuts to the Bush administration), the NOLA-specific content is amazing, Cyril Neville leading a wild performance of Fess’s ‘Big Chief’, the Meters/Neville Brothers, Jimmy Buffet laying down an excellent cover of ‘Fortune Teller’ as well as numbers by Elvis Costello, the DDBB, Irma Thomas, the Dixie Cups and others.

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Example

My recent flood of birthday loot included – courtesy of my wonderful parents – the new collaboration between Elvis Costello and the mighty Allen Toussaint. The River In Reverse features Costello working it out (with help from AT) on a number of Toussaint classics (no less that four Lee Dorsey covers) and some new tunes as well. Even if you’re not a fan of Costello (which I am) you will dig this album, which like most Toussaint-related product, I recommend most highly.

Funky16Corners Radio v.11 – Chitown Hustlers

September 11, 2006

 

Example

Tom (right) and Jerrio (left)

 

Playlist

Etta James – Payback (Argo) 

Five Du Tones – Shake A Tail Feather (One-Der-Ful) 

Marvelows – I Do (ABC)

Dukays – The Jerk  (Jerry-O)

C.O.D.’s – Michael (the Lover) (Kellmac)

Tom & Jerrio – Come On & Love Me (ABC/Paramount)

Billy Stewart – Once Again (Chess)

Fascinations – Girls Are Out To Get You (Mayfield)

Jamo Thomas – I Spy (For the FBI) (Thomas)

Shells – When I’m Blue (Conlo)

Tommy & Cleve – Boogaloo Baby (Checker)

Mamie Galore – Special Agent 34-24-38 (St Lawrence)

Fred Hughes – Oowee Baby I Love You (VeeJay)

Major Lance – Too Hot To Hold (Okeh)

Maurice & the Radiants – Baby You’ve Got It (Chess)

Vontastics – Never Let Your Love Grow Cold (St Lawrence)

Billy Butler – I’ll Bet You (Brunswick)

Soulful Strings – The Stepper (Cadet) 

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

Greetings all.

Here’s hoping everyone had a great weekend, and are rested and ready for some delicious, high quality soul music, because that – my friends – is what we have lined up in this, the 11th chapter in the ongoing saga that is Funky16Corners Radio.

 A while back, I was spinning some 45s and it struck me that a couple of my very favorite soul sides hailed from the Windy City, aka Chicago. This of course should come as no surprise, not because I have impeccable taste (which I may, but it’s really not for me to say), but because Chicago was – without a scrap of doubt – one of the most consistent producers of Grade A soul records in the 1960’s. With a vibrant and productive soul scene, led, at least figuratively by Curtis Mayfield (I can’t think of any single artist – outside of Allen Toussaint – who influenced the sound of an entire city the way Curtis did) Chicago was a constant presence on the charts through the 60’s and early 70’s.

When I decided that I wanted to get together a Chicago mix, I was initially worried that I wouldn’t have enough great stuff. Well, as soon as I broke out the Chicago crates and started flipping through the 45s it was immediately evident that not only did I have enough for one mix, but would probably (and will) have to create a second volume at some point to cover all the bases. The contents of this installment of Funky16Corners Radio run from 1963 to 1968 (with a completely coincidental concentration in 1965 and 1966) and include both homegrown artists, as well as performers who either recorded regularly for Chicago based labels, or who made the city their adopted home.

We start things out with an upbeat side from the legendary Miss Etta James. Though she started her career on the West Coast, between 1960 and 1976 James recorded exclusively for Chicago powerhouse Chess/Argo/Cadet records. ‘Payback’, from 1963, is a great early soul side, and a showcase for James’ powerful growl. There’s also an excellent horn chart.

Another “early” soul classic, and a perennial favorite on dance floors (which is remembered by an entire generation for Ray Charles’ version in the Blues Brothers movie), also from 1963 is the Five Du Tones ‘Shake a Tail Feather’. It’s one of the truly great dance sides of the 60’s and has a great, raw sound (dig those drums).

Back in May, I posted another track by the Marvelows, ‘I’m So Confused’. As cool as that track was, it’s hardly their best known song. That honor would fall to their 1965 Top 10 hit, ‘I Do’ (popularized years later by the J. Geils Band). A fantastic mix of upbeat dance floor soul with a heavy dose of R&B group harmony, “I Do” is one of the most infectious soul record to come out of Chicago, and features a certifiably manic drum roll about halfway through the record.

Starting out as a doowop group featuring the vocals of Gene Chandler, the Dukays (‘Duke of Earl’ was for all intents and purposes their record) carried on after Chandler’s departure, eventually landing in the hands of one Jerry Murray, aka Jerrio/Jerry-O. ‘The Jerk’ , a post-Larks (1964) attempt to cash in on the ‘Jerk’ dance craze is a Jerry-O, composition, production, and appears on Jerry-O Records, but like many of the tracks on this mix bears the influence of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. The high falsetto lead, the rich harmonies and the swinging tempo were all patented Chicago-style Mayfield-isms.

The next track, ‘Michael (the Lover), by the C.O.D.’s is one of the bigger national hits in this list, having made the Top5 in 1965 (it was also later covered by Geno Washington, the Mad Lads and the Jackson 5). It’s a hand-clapping killer that also – no surprise, I’m sure – bears the influence of the Impressions. The group – Larry Brownlee, Robert Lewis and Carl Washington, went on to record several sides for the Kellmac label, and Brownlee went on to record with the Lost Generation.

Tom & Jerrio, aka Robert Tharp (who went on to record as Tommy Dark) and Jerry Murray had their biggest hit with ‘Boogaloo’ for ABC/Paramount in 1965. Though most of the records they made as a duo follow that same dance craze blueprint, ‘Come On and Love Me’ (the flip side of ‘Great Goo-Ga-Moo-Ga’) is a wholly uncharacteristic – but excellent – bit of sweet soul (thanks to Matt ‘Mr Fine Wine’ Weingarden for hepping me to this one way back when). Jerry-O of course went on to record a grip of excellent soul and funk sides for Boogaloo, Jerry-O, Shout, White Whale, Wand and Westbound as a featured artist, composer and producer before passing away sometime in the mid-70’s. Tommy Dark went on to record the excellent funk 45 ‘Wobble Legs’ for the Sugar label.

Billy Stewart is one of those artists that came from elsewhere – in his case Washington D.C. – but made his mark in Chicago. Discovered (and hired as a pianist) by none other than Bo Diddley, Stewart went on to record a couple of tunes that are certified Mod/soul anthems, i.e. ‘Summertime’ and ‘Sitting In the Park’ (later covered by Georgie Fame). The flipside of the latter ‘Once Again’ is a bit of a neglected/lost classic. The tune features Stewart’s patented machine-gun delivery, as well as a powerful horn chart.

The Fascinations, featuring the lead vocals of Bernadine Smith started out in Detroit, but ended up in Chicago where they were managed, written for and produced by Curtis Mayfield, and had their biggest hit, 1967’s ‘Girls Are Out to Get You’ released on his Mayfield label. Packed with great singing and a propulsive dancers beat (that made it a fave with the Northern Soulies), ‘Girls Are Out to Get You’ is a killer. Ironically, for all of Mayfield’s involvement, the record sounds less like a Chitown product and more like something from the Motor City (dig the vibes and the baritone sax solo).

Jamo Thomas wins the prize for the artist to come the longest distance to make records in Chicago, having started out in the Bahamas. ‘I Spy (for the FBI)’ was one of the better records to cash in on the mid-60’s spy craze. Recorded for Eddie Thomas’s Thomas label in 1966 (Thomas went on to be the ‘TOM’ in CURTOM), and produced by Monk Higgins and Burgess Gardener, the tune is a soul stomper with a great falsetto lead by Jamo. He went on to record the extra-groovy ‘Shake What You Brought With You’ as ‘Mr. Jamo’ for SSS Intl.

The next side is one half of probably my all time favorite Chicago soul record. ‘When I’m Blue’ (the flip of ‘Whiplash’) by the Shells is a great example of a painfully obscure record that ought to be much better known. Produced by none other than Jerry Butler and Eddie Thomas, 1965’s ‘When I’m Blue’ is a moody side with some heavy guitar and haunting vocals. The group – brothers Charles and James Calvin,Willie Exon, and Billy Harper – recorded one other 45, as the Four Shells for the Volt label in 1966, soon after fading away unjustly into obscurity. I’ve only heard of two other records on the Conlo label, one by Jamo Thomas and another by Arlene Bailey, though the label on one of the two copies I have of the Shells record indicates that they were nationally distributed by Cameo/Parkway.

 Tommy & Cleve (Tommy Bullock and Cleveland Horne) recorded ‘Boogaloo Baby’ for Checker in 1966. The record is a hard charger, with great back and forth between the two vocalists and a great arrangement. The duo appear to have recorded at least two other 45s for Checker.

Mamie Galore’s ‘Special Agent 34-24-38’, another entry into the spy craze (this time from 1965). Co written by Monk Higgins and local DJ E. Rodney Jones, and recorded for one of the finer local imprints ‘St Lawrence’ records, the tune whips in a little bit of ‘Peter Gunn’ flavor, along with a memorable vocal from Miss Galore (the former Mamie Davis).

The next number is a tune that I was unaware of until it was posted over at the great Number One Songs In Heaven blog. Fred Hughes was an LA based artist that was signed by VeeJay’s West Coast office, and went on to record almost exclusively for Chicago labels like Chess and Brunswick. ‘Oowee Baby I Love You’ was a #3 R&B hit in 1965. It has a great atmospheric, slow-burn, with ringing piano and female backing vocals, as well as a great vocal by Hughes.

Major Lance was one of the most successful Chicago soul artists, recording a number of hits (including ‘The Monkey Time’ and Umm Umm Umm Umm Umm’) for the Okeh label in the 60’s, often under the aegis of Curtis Mayfield. ‘Too Hot To Hold’ was a Top 40 hit in 1965, and is as fine a slice of sophisticated urban soul as you’re likely to come across. What I really dig, is that under the sophisticated veneer, there are these little, slightly “out of control” elements, like the ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’s in the beginning.

‘Baby You’ve Got It’, a 1966 entry by Maurice & The Radiants is definitely in my personal Top 5 soul records of the 60’s. Known to me initially by the cover version by UK Mods the Action, ‘Baby You’ve Got It’ is a perfect combination of great song, super slick arrangement, and amazing vocals (with lead by Maurice McAllister, and backing by James Jameson and Wallace Sampson). The tempo builds gradually as the layers are added, finally coming together in a perfect combination.

Another classic on the St. Lawrence label is also another personal fave of mine, 1966’s ‘Never Let Your Love Grow Cold’ by the Vontastics. The group were signed to record after winning a talent contest sponsored by local soul radio powerhouse WVON (Voice of the Negro), which became the VON in Vontastics. Composed of singers Bobby Newsome (who also wrote much of their material), Jose Holmes, Raymond Penn and Kenneth Gholer, the Vontastics made several hot sides for St .Lawrence, including a great soul cover of the Beatles ‘Day Tripper’.

Billy Butler (brother of Jerry Butler) started out recording with his group the Enchanters (later just the Chanters), and recorded the Northern Soul classic ‘Right Track’. In 1968, he was also recorded one of the first versions (pre-dating the recording by Funkadelic) of George Clinton, Sidney Barnes and Theresa Lindsey’s ‘I’ll Bet You’. The tune was also recorded by Jean Carter (on Sunflower), Theresa Lindsey (on Golden World, probably the first version) and the Jackson 5 (on Motown). Butler manages to give the songs a soul groove while adding the slightest soupcon of funkiness. While the version on the first Funkadelic LP will always be my fave, this comes in a close second.

We close out this installment of Funky16Corners radio with a side by one of my favorite Chicago groups, the Soulful Strings. Basically a studio concoction put together to highlight the arranging/producing skills of the brilliant Richard Evans, the Soulful Strings recorded several outstanding LPs of soulful mood music in the late 60’s and early 70’s. ‘The Stepper’ ( a tune that takes it’s name from a Chicago-centric dance scene) is a classy, mid-tempo effort that features – as do all the Soulful Strings records – the cream of the Chess/Cadet studio band.

* The ZIP file is larger this time because the individual tracks are recorded at a higher bit rate than the mix.

James Brown – Get On the Good Foot Pt1

September 8, 2006

 

Example

The Creator

Example

Listen – Get On the Good Foot Pt1 MP3″

Hey….guess what?

It’s Friday and the weekend is upon us.

My brain and my bones are weary, but my typing fingers – let me tell you – are ready to go.

It’s been a short week – due to the Labor Day holiday – but it has also been, in the figurative sense a very, very long one too.

Sometimes, when you’re overwhelmed by essential tasks (work, child care e.g.), and driven to continue non-essential ones (like blogging, loading the new iPod etc.), time seems to compress. With little downtime of any kind (aside from those few blessed hours of sleep), things don’t necessarily seem to move faster, but at the end of the week, time does seem to have slipped away, unnoticed. You arrive on Saturday wondering how the preceding five days disintegrated, leaving little in their wake aside from an all encompassing feeling of exhaustion, a brief sense of relief that the weekend has arrived and some form of rest and recreation is at hand, and lastly, a feeling of impending doom as you realize that often, leisure time slips away even faster.

When I was a kid, and school was a part of my life, I used to believe that the weekend lasted from late Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning. The rest of Sunday was devoted to alternately lamenting that Saturday was gone, and dreading the approach of Monday morning. Today, with school but a distant memory, I realize that approaching the weekend that way was non only counterproductive, but also evidence of the kind of neurosis that Woody Allen was once able to translate into laughs, but the rest of us only find unpleasant.

Anyway, I know that has little to do with funk and/or soul (or maybe it does, I’m sure there are plenty of sorrowful tunes about working too hard and watching life pass you by), but I suppose it’s the very nature of “le blog” to weave a certain amount of “personal” content into the mix, the human warp intersecting with the musical weft.

That said, here comes the music.

In the world of soul and funk, there is no artist more basic and essential than the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Please Please Please, Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, or as he’s billed on the label of today’s selection “the Creator”, Mr. James Brown.

Now, those of us that give the matter any thought at all, can delve into the roots of funk and like those of any mighty oak, they splay off into a thousand different directions, touching on the sounds that arrived in American in the mouths and hands of African slaves, and all of the mutations/developments of those sounds that followed in the next few hundred years, from New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and all points in between. You can wander off aimlessly, digressing into discussions of “funk” as a term that alternately is/isn’t explicitly musical, and how all of the meanings therein kind of end up in the same general vicinity, but in the end, if we’re being honest (and I hope we are) it is nigh impossible to escape from the conclusion that the sound of funk (at least in the way it is discussed here) is absolutely unthinkable without the existence and contributions of James Brown.

I’ve certainly known of, and heard the music of James Brown since I was a kid. Even if I didn’t own any of his records it was impossible to grow up in America in the late 60’s and early 70’s, not knowing who James Brown was, and hearing his music. However, as a white kid in the suburbs, it was also almost impossible not to take him for granted. I grew up in a home where the music of black Americans was heard often, but the vast majority of that music was jazz, and not the freaky, outside, tenor skronk of the Albert Aylers of the world, but more likely sophisticated Ellington-isms, the harsh whisper of Miles Davis and the joyful shout of Louis Armstrong.

As a teenager I grew to love soul music, both the contemporary sounds I heard on the radio and the sound of the 60’s as well. A while back – I can’t remember exactly where – I recounted my first awakening to the sounds of classic soul to the moment when I flipped over the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Monterey Pop, and heard Otis Redding for the first time. In the years that followed, I made a concerted effort to locate, and ingest similar sounds as often as possible. Strangely enough, the first James Brown record I ever purchase contained not funk, but rather a collection of his earlier hits like ‘Prisoner of Love’. ‘Please Please Please’ and the like. It wasn’t until the early 80’s, that one of my Mod/Garage cohorts passed me a cassette (remember those?), the b-side of which was a compilation of Brown’s later, funkier sounds. It was on that comp that I was struck down and lifted up again by the groove contained in the song I bring you today.

Let me begin discussion of this song by referring you to a piece I wrote about the greatness of James Brown a few years ago for the Funky16Corners web zine. That essay really gets to the heart about how I see the inner working of the James Brown groove.

I’ll provide a capsule comment here, turning on the premise that the groove we speak of works on three basic levels.

Level 1: The part that gets inside you, travels through your heart and mind bringing on an involuntary reaction to the beat that in most sane people results in movement, generally dance (or a close approximation thereof).

Level 2: This stage is less obvious, reached only by those who feel inclined to dissect the beat. These would be musicians/music hounds (me), pot smoking navel gazers (often also members of the same group, and once upon a time, me also) and rarely, gifted musical empaths who’s very nature is to fall inside and become one with the music. At this level it is possible to grasp the mechanical nature of the James Brown sound, in which the groove is broken down into its clockwork elements (Jabo, on top of Maceo, on top of Fred with JB as the counterweight turning the gears). Paying too much attention to this aspect of the sound strips it of its heart, soul and meaning, and ultimately misses the forest for the trees.

Level 3: This is the stage where you realize that pulling apart a James Brown groove like a cuckoo clock is insane and pointless, and instead of complaining that you can see the man behind the curtain you should just sit back and move your ass to the Wizard of Oz (or the New Minister of the Super Heavy Funk as he is known in these parts).

When you’re discussing prime examples of the James Brown groove, you can hardly do better than ‘Get On the Good Foot’. Here we have the Godfather dropping science about hitting a party and working it out on the dancefloor, over a high-precision horn chart, repeated guitar figure and super funky bass and drum work. The chorus also has some pumping JB organ in the background (not unlike that running under Lyn Collins ‘Think’).

The tune starts out with James deciding that he’s:

Going down to the crib Let all hang out

Where soulful people knows what it’s about

Said crib is a place,

Where people do the sign and take your hands

And dancin’ to the music James Brown band

And then he drops perhaps my favorite couplet in the JB oeuvre:

Said the long-hair hippies and the afro blacks

They all get together across the tracks

And they PARTY Ho!

On the good foot

I mean seriously, it’s all about the unity of the dance, what’s better than a song about dancing that is also eminently danceable? It just doesn’t get any better. As a record, ‘Get On the Good Foot’ is a masterpiece of the controlled explosion, in which the power of the band is overwhelming yet securely under the direction of the Groovemaster General.

Brown wields his band like a mighty weapon, unsheathed in the service of soul, bringing down the walls of each and every listener’s (and dancer’s) inner-Jericho.

Powerful indeed.

This is not to say that Brown was always capable of moderating the groove. Without the proper amount of zen, even the most finely tune power plant can melt down. There’s a mid-70’s recording of Brown and band at Studio 54, where ‘Get On the Good Foot’ is taken at 150mph. The band still has it together, but the acceleration of the tempo strips the groove of its subtle beauty, conjuring images of runaway trains and little puffs of cocaine coming out of your speakers. It’s unworthy of his catalogue, and the sort of thing you can imagine a room full of toxically inebriated revelers barely noticing as they crept ever closer to the edge of the cliff.

Suffice to say, the original is plentiful, easy to find (and reissued frequently), so a taste of the real thing – the kind of thing that’ll set your soul afire when you’re dragging your ass around like a sack of dirty laundry – is never far away.


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