Archive for December, 2006

Happy New Year b/w Charlie Rich – Mohair Sam

December 31, 2006

Example

Charlie Rich

Example

Listen – Mohair Sam MP3″

Greetings.
I promised I’d get something else up in this space before New Years Eve, and so here I sit, typing away a sunny (if chilly) Saturday afternoon.
All the conniption that arose out of the untimely and tragic passing of the Godfather of Soul* derailed the scheduled list’o’tunes that I had previously digitized and uploaded for use in yon blogspot. Today’s return to form should get things back on track (at least momentarily) .
This has been a strange week. Losing James Brown was really something of a shock. Certainly not in that he was way too young to pass, nor did he lead a life of church and skim milk (the kind of lifestyle engineered to keep one out of the reach of several – if not all – of the famous deadly sins). It was just that he seemed to be immortal. There’s no question that his power had diminished somewhat over the years, and that time had not been especially kind, but every time JB popped up on TV there was no denying that he carried with him a bright aura** composed of every sweat-soaked split, shimmy, jump and shout that carried him like a rocket through the 60’s and 70’s.
I was also surprised that every single televised obit/retrospective that’s I’ve seen since Christmas seems to have been put together by people that were unaware that JB had a career in the 60’s and 70’s. Most of the performance footage I saw was culled from his later years. Is it that film of James and the Famous Flames (or JB’s) were too powerful for modern, non-tube, cool-running transistorized, micro-chip-a-fied equipment, blowing the engineers hair through his hat in much the same way as the all-powerful vibe put forth once upon a time by the International Silver String Submarine Band (emphasis, in the McFarland stylee placed firmly on the last syllable)? I can’t say for sure, but those of you that don’t know – and if you don’t, you should, really – you need only go as far as YouTube, where there are MANY clips available of the Godfather and his compadres laying it dead on the super heavy funk, and I just know, if you visit here with any regularity, you are certainly strong enough to take whatever heavy-osity that one might encounter in such a situation.
Anyway, in an effort to clear my head, and get back into the groove I took my almost-three-year-old son Miles down to the beach for a walk, which we both dug. I had my coffee, he had his apple juice and together we walked the boards checking out the surfers, fishermen (and women) and had some fun at the all but deserted playground. If you’re suitably bundled, the seashore in wintertime is one of the most beautiful places in the world and there’s no better place to screw your head back onto your shoulders.
That all said, while I was flipping through the list of tunes I had ready, I figured I’d throw you a little bit of a curve-ball and drop a cut by a dude that hardly anyone but the most open minded would expect to see on what is ostensibly a soul and funk blog. But that’s how we swing here at the Funky16Corners, and I expect so do some of you, from the listener-oonis to the collector-inis and all the MacVoutys inbetween (props to Slim Gaillard, natch).
For those of you in and around my age (that would be the early-to-mid 40’s) the name Charlie Rich conjures up images of the mid-70’s country-politan vibe at it’s apex, with the strains of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ wafting through the recesses of your memory. However, if you dig (in either the literal or figurative senses – hopefully both) you’d be hip to the fact that Mr. Rich was one of the OG Sun rockabilly cats, and spent much of the 60’s defying classification, a distinction that kept him away from the charts of much of the time.
Rich was a stone whitey – much like your Dan Penns, Spooner Oldhams and many of the other cats riding the circuit between Memphis and Muscle Shoals – that had his ear attuned to the sounds of rhythm and blues, and managed to record everything from rock’n’roll, to blues, to country to soul (often all mashed together in a unique admixture).
One of the finest examples of this blend, and one of the few times Rich grazed the Top 40, is 1965’s ‘Mohair Sam’ (the flipside of which, ‘I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water’ is also a killer).
‘Mohair Sam’ was written by Dallas Frazier, a Nashville cat who also wrote ‘Elvira’ (later a huge hit for the Oak Ridge Boys), and ‘There Goes My Everything’ which was recorded many times but hit the biggest for Englebert Humperdink.
Strangely enough, the first time I ever heard ‘Mohair Sam’ was via the rendition by the mighty Slim Harpo (for years I assumed that he had originated the tune). It was covered many times, by artists like the Coasters, Tom Jones, Peggy Lee, Mickey Gilley and even UK Freakbeaters the Episode Six.
Anyhoo, our pal Charlie, possessed of a buttery smooth voice and piano chops (I grew up listening to my Pops tickling the ivories and I love me some rocking piano, from Amos Milburn and Little Richard on up through Leon Russell) lays it down into a groove suitable for the dancers (and the hand clappers, head nodders et al) with style and grace and, get ready…soul. That’s right kids. He may have been working on a stylistic island hundreds (thousands?) of miles from Wilson Pickett-land, but the Silver Fox had him some soul and it’s on display in ‘Mohair Sam’.
If you agree, I’d suggest you start looking for some of Rich’s mid-60’s Smash material. It’s pretty cheap and groovy as well. If you don’t dig it, that’s cool too, and there’s always something new coming up on the juke here at Funky16Corners, and I suspect that some of the stuff you’ll be hearing in the coming weeks will satisfy you.
Either way, have a Happy New Year. Stay safe and soulful.
See you in ought-seven….
Peace
Larry

* Thanks to all who had kind words to say about my JB essay, and especially to those that linked us up, boosting the traffic hereabouts to new heights.

 ** When I use the term “aura”, rest assured that it is in the figurative sense only, free of any scented candle new age-ery.

BUY – Feel Like Going Home – the Essential Charlie Rich at Amazon.com

Funky16Corners Radio v.17 – Special Edition – SMASHing Time

December 28, 2006

Example

JB at the B3

Track Listing


1. Jimmy Mack
2. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag Pt1
3. Out of Sight
4. Grits
5. Tempted
6. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
7. 634-5789
8. The King
9. Fat Bag
10. All About My Girl
11. Sumpin’ Else

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

Greetings, all.

Here at the Funky16Corners blog the flag of funk is still flying at half mast in honor of the greatest R&B, Soul and Funk performer in history, Mr. James Brown.
This post is a special edition of Funky16Corners Radio, this time devoted to the Hammond organ* recordings the mighty Godfather of Soul made for the Smash label in the mid-60’s.
Though far from his most popular recordings, these instrumental sides – recorded via a contractual dispute with his longtime recording home King records  – are a great window into James Brown “the musician”.
This little known aspect of his career popped up fairly regularly through his 1960’s recordings (he also recorded a number of organ sides for King, including the stunning ‘Shhhhhhhh (For a Little While) ) , and while light years away from the dynamism of his funk sides, they hold – at least for me – a lasting charm.
Though Brown was not what anyone would call a technically spectacular organist, he clearly loved playing, and his organ recordings are in many ways the perfect intersection of his love for jazz, R&B and soul.
Brown, along with arranger Nat Jones made a series of Lps (and a few non-LP 45s) for the Mercury subsidiary Smash that placed JB’s Hammond work in a big band setting (not that his regular band was much smaller), with a focus on a bigger horn sound. The overall vibe was a little more swinging than his increasingly funky work for King, and while seldom crossing over entirely into the world of jazz, these records spent a lot of time moving in that direction.
The mix I’ve compiled features some covers of well known Brown 45s, as well as a number of tunes he would only record for Smash. There are a few covers of current soul material (Martha and the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett) as well as a few stabs at tunes that had become signature numbers for the most brilliant organists of the day, Jimmy Smith’s version of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ and Jimmy McGriff’s ‘All About My Girl’.

Example

The mix opens with a loose but energetic take on ‘Jimmy Mack’ with a tight horn chart (would he have had it any other way?) and lots of crowd noise supplied by the band.
Next up is ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ taken at a slightly more relaxed pace than the vocal version and some nice back-and-forth between JB’s organ and the tenor sax (‘zat you Maceo?). This is pulled from the LP “James Brown Plays Yesterday and Today’, but I believe that this also saw release on 45.

Example

The version of ‘Out of Sight’ is from the same LP, and oddly enough takes the tempo of the original and kicks it up just a little. I love the way JB rides a single note, mimicking his own vocal track (the part with ‘Youuuuuuuuuuuu’ve got a sweet disposition!’).

Example

‘Grits’, from the ‘Grits and Soul’ LP is a slow blues with Brown working it out. The blues were clearly his string suit on the organ, with Brown sounding better (at least technically) than on many of the mor soul-oriented tracks. There’s also a very nice guitar solo on this one.
Another track from the ‘G&S’ LP, ‘Tempted’ is also bluesy, but sees JB swinging things up a little with a great “call and response” section between the organ and the horns.
If nothing else, the inspired lunacy of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ shows that while James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, he also had the biggest set of balls. Attempting to cover the same ground that Jimmy Smith had already blazed (and I do mean BLAZED) took a tremendous amount of nerve, and while his version suffers in comparison to Smiths tour de force**, there’s no denying that Brown and band do the song a certain low-fi justice, filling any gaps in technique with energy and serious helping of groove grease.

Example

Brown’s version of Wilson Pickett’s ‘634-5789’ (from the LP ‘Handful of Soul’) sports the addition of a female backing chorus, slightly brighter production and a propulsive beat. ‘The King’ – from the same LP – is a slow burning vamp that sounds like it’s drifting from the alley door of a strip club. The organ starts off in the background with lots of room for the tenor sax, before coming in for an extended solo.

Example

‘Fat Bag’ – from ‘James Brown Plays New Breed’ is a swinging slice of mid-60’s discothèque au-go-go, that sounds like it dropped off of the soundtrack of a Blake Edwards movie. The band is killing it here, with JB weaving in and out of the repeated horn figure.
Why Brown chose to cover Jimmy McGriff’s ‘All About My Girl’ (and then take credit for writing it) is anybody’s guess. McGriff’s original (on Sue) is about as unfuckwithable piece of R&B organ as has ever been recorded. Though his take on the tune lacks much of the punch of the original, the arrangement is tight and Brown doesn’t overextend himself.
The final track in this installment of Funky16Corners Radio is another slow, greasy killer from ‘..Plays New Breed’ called ‘Sumpin’ Else’. James lays the blues again, with another great guitar solo and punchy horn chart to help move him on his way.

All that said, I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll be back before New Years with more of the good stuff.

Peace

Larry

*Yeah, I know…it’s starting to look like Hammond Headquarters here, but it’s just the way things worked out. I was planning on making the JB/B3 mix before the great one passed on unexpectedly, and I figured that since continued tribute to Mr. Brown was most definitely in order, there was no time like the present. I promise there’s more great non-organ funk and soul to come, I swear.

**If you ever get the chance, check out the positively incendiary version of this tune by Little Richie Varola on the Verve label. Varola was the teenaged organist in Louis Prima’s show band Sam Butera and the Witnesses (who play on Varola’s LP), and his take on the tune is an ass-kicking display of technical fireworks.

James Brown – 1933 – 2006 – RIP

December 26, 2006

Example

The Creator

Listen – Get On The Good Foot MP3″

Listen – Funky16Corners Radio v.14 – Butter Your Popcorn 39MB MP3″

Listen – Funky16Corners Radio v.14 – Butter Your Popcorn 39MB Zip File”

James Brown is dead….
The following is an essay I wrote for the Funky16Corners web zine a few years ago. It pretty much says all I have to say about the greatness of James Brown, who shuffled off this mortal coil earlier today.

So sad…

Click on the links above (some high quality JB and related action that I fortunately still had on the server) and read.

The Genius of James Brown

“Pop culture has so drained any real meaning from the word ‘genius’, or the understanding of ‘art’ that to refer to James Brown – the mighty Godfather of Soul – as a genius or artist sends that proclamation into the shredded ears and abused minds of the same people that think of Michael Jackson as those things.
It doesn’t help that on the other end of the spectrum, i.e. academia, it is almost inconceivable to think of genius as actually existing in pop culture at all.

There is also the problem, that like Bob Dylan, James Brown has experienced a sharp decline in artistic production late in life, so younger listeners are handed the concept of both of these performers as geniuses, without much in the way of current work to back it up. They might as well be stone monuments on a lawn somewhere.
But (to borrow a phrase from the man himself) ‘There Was A Time’, when James Brown and his band cast a shadow on the landscape that was all encompassing. A time when they were the driving force behind a musical change as profound and far reaching as the Be Bop revolution 20 years before – as radically different as the sound of John Lee Hooker’s boogie only a few years after that. It was a sound that harnessed the rhythmic sprawl of modern jazz, the visceral thrust of rock and roll and the entire history of rhythm & blues and saw these seemingly disparate elements distilled through the imagination of one man.
And what an imagination…
Before 1964, James Brown was already a significant force in R&B and soul. He was a trendsetter and taste-maker, one of the most dynamic performers and bandleaders in all of music. But it was in 1964 with a series of 45’s that he and the Famous Flames bore down hard and gave birth to the funk. ‘Out of Sight’, which wasn’t even a hit, was the first. Just a year after the hard driving R&B of ‘Night Train’ and the top ten cover of Perry Como’s (among others) ‘Prisoner of Love’, ‘Out Of Sight’ was a revelation. It was as if JB was struck down on the road to Cincinnati (on the way to see Syd Nathan) and arose from his knees, filled with the funky spirit. The more likely scenario, is that JB – along with the mighty Famous Flames – developed ‘the groove’ during a rehearsal (was it Jabo, Clyde…or more likely JB conducting the band with a drop of the hip, a flick of the wrist and a twist of his right foot?).
Certainly, the funk of ‘Out Of Sight’ was not the same degree of funk that infused ‘Licking Stick’, but it was an indication of something new. It was a sign that the sound of the James Brown organization had taken a change of direction and was headed into unknown territory.
In fact, it’s probably more accurate to describe the feeling of ‘Out Of Sight’ as the ‘groove’ that provided the first rung on the ladder that would stretch to 1967, when ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘There Was A Time’ would herald the arrival of the new, heavy, heavy funk.
There was little direct precedent for these sounds. Rock, soul and R&B drummers had been locked into variations on the same old 4/4 beat since day one. The kind of free-wheeling rhythmic explosions that John ‘Jabo’ Starks and Clyde Stubblefield would eventually lay down were as radical as those that Kenny Clarke and Max Roach had laid down at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem 20 years before. From the subtle rhythmic shift of ‘Out of Sight’, to the tightening up of ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’, the refined groove of ‘Let Yourself Go’ and the thunderclap of ‘Cold Sweat’ – James Brown and the Famous Flames came on like scientists in the lab; refining, synthesizing, breaking down, in search of the root and then building back up again until they found the groove they were looking for. It was evolution, and revolution. If ‘Out Of Sight’ was the first shot at Lexington and Concord, ‘Cold Sweat’ was the Declaration of Independence.
It was in ‘Cold Sweat’ that James Brown, after three years of work, decided to ‘give the drummer some’, and things were never the same. With that record, he gathered together all of his innovations since ‘Out Of Sight’ – along with all the other musicians that he had inspired in the ensuing three years – and broke through yet another wall. ‘Cold Sweat’ is the ‘groove’, expanded upon, then further refined so as to concentrate its’ power. The beat is more experimental, the song structure now reduced to it’s essence (as if the ‘groove’, at one time adjacent to the song, had now become the song). This is never more apparent than in Pt2, where the aforementioned ‘drummer’, gets the also aforementioned ‘some’ – and blows soul music out of the water.
The drum break on side two of ‘Cold Sweat’ is a remarkable testament to exactly how far ahead his peers James Brown had gone.
In the sound of funk, there is no more important component than the drummer(s). Without the drummer, the groove has no foundation. Certainly a groovy bass line can get you moving side to side, but without the forward propulsion of the drummer, you aren’t really going anywhere. The most important element of the drummers importance to funk, is that it is through him (or her as the case may be) that funk received it’s most radical elements. These elements are the rhythms of Afro-Cuban music, and most importantly modern jazz. Anyone familiar with Elvin Jones, Max Roach or Art Blakey will hear their echoes in the beats of funk. These are the sounds of percussionists that got inside the rhythm and stretched it into all kinds of new shapes, designed to grab the body at it’s core and move it, i.e. make it dance. The BeBoppers and the modern jazzers provided an obsession with open spaces and explosive punctuation. They brought rhythm up out of the viscera, through the heart and into the head. This ‘intellectualism of the beat’, in combination with the polyrhythmic fire of congueros like Chano Pozo and Mongo Santamaria (later quite the funkster himself) timbaleros like Tito Puente, and the freedom of the New Orleans ‘Second Line’ drummers (Earl Palmer, June Gardner, Smokey Johnson and James Black) – which in turn has it’s parallels in the samba drummers of the Brazilian carnival – all contributed to the funky stew. This is not to say that Clyde Stubblefield had his ears turned to New Orleans, Rio or even the Village Gate – directly (he may well have), but that all of those sounds were swirling around in the mid-60’s, and all found their way into the sound of the funky drummer.
The break in Cold Sweat Pt2 is presaged, at about 45 seconds with six pleas (commands?) to

‘Give the drummer some”

before turning to Stubblefield with

‘You got it drummer!’.

The Flames drop away as Stubblefied works the kit, keeping time on the ride cymbal, booming on the toms and popping the beat on the bass drum. Ten seconds later JB brings in Bernard Odum on bass, and for almost ¾ of a minute he and Clyde break it on down. At 1:59 the horns come back in and ride all the way to the end. At nearly a full minute, Stubblefield’s ‘break’ is hovering dangerously close to the land of the drum solo, yet the energetic self indulgence of a Ginger Baker, Keith Moon (or even Buddy Rich) is absent, and has been replaced by a deeply funky vibe. This is a drum solo you can dance to. It is devoid of pyrotechnics yet full of ideas – subtle yet consistently explosive. It’s no mistake that Stubblefield is the man who’s work found it’s way into dozens of samples. The man who inspired JB to chant ‘The Funky Drummer!’, over and over again.

It was only a month later that the band laid down one of the most powerful sides in the JB canon, ‘There Was A Time’. It was as if James got together with the band and they decided that hitting Number One wasn’t enough. That the public wasn’t getting the point and something drastic had to be done. That something was ‘There Was a Time’. As the song starts, the Flames come in with their guns blazing. JB comes in early with what sounds like a false start, and then starts the verse. The lyrics sound like just another dance party, but the overall sound is much more serious. JB takes the words and sculpts (shouts/screams) them into a statement of purpose. A recognition that the release of the dance – at least driven by a band as godawmighty tight as the Famous Flames – is serious business. The band lays down a heavy groove, with extremely hot, over-modulated sound that betrays the fact that the tune was recorded not in a studio, but on the stage of the empty Apollo Theater in NYC. The intensity builds from verse to verse – rising at the end of each verse into horn blasts – and right there at the very end, when you hear:

“There was a time.
Sometimes I dance.
Sometimes I clown.
But you can bet,
You haven’t seen nothin’ yet.
Until you see me do
The JAMES BROWN!”

if there was anyone that wasn’t paying attention, they were certainly listening now. In a country who’s cities were racked by riots, James Brown had harnessed the power of his band, and his own immense power as an entertainer and brought it’s full weight to bear on the idea of the dance as freedom (no bullshit…it’s there…just listen).
Another part of the JB genius was also evident in ‘There Was A Time’. Almost 20 years before anyone was talking about samples and loops as “building blocks of the groove”, JB was doing it. Aside from the obvious groove components like the drum beats, JB had members of the band playing small repetitive lines over and over again. It really was a severe break with accepted song structure. In place of the time honored verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula of popular song, JB built the groove from the ground up, often with two or more drummers complementing each other’s beats (listen as one of the drummers drops back to tap the rim of his drums while the other continues to keep the beat) , a bassist with his ear turned to the drummers and more often than not two separate guitarists playing intertwining lines. Taken separately, these elements would seem monotonous. However, when juxtaposed they blend into a new, complex whole. It was like nothing else heard before (unless you count similarly structured indigenous music from Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean). The trance-like nature of the tune, putting the emphasis on the funky grooves moved the main focus from the head to the feet – from the detached listener to the active/participating dancer. It also freed JB from his role as ‘singer’ and saw him move into position as a kind of shamanistic figure. This may sound a little bit off – considering what a trite (and misinformed) label that became when leveled at Jim Morrison – but it the case of James Brown it really fits.

The ‘straight’ lyrical recitation is broken down into a series of grunts (each “UNHHH!” worth a thousand words), screams and shout outs to the Flames to a point where JB is more punctuating than purely singing. As Harry Weinger and Alan Leeds note in the booklet for the “James Brown – Foundations of Funk” set, JB is actually conducting the band, bringing up the horn section (as in the beginning of ‘Licking Stick’), calling out solos by Maceo Parker, or any number of drummers, setting the tempo, and most famously, taking the band ‘to the bridge’. In these instances, he takes one of the most rigorously rehearsed bands in all of music (often fined for missing cues) and almost improvises their performance from his central position.

In the next year, the groove of James Brown and the Famous Flames would become more concentrated. The power of the band was never put to better use, than in singles like ‘I Got The Feelin Pts 1&2″, the awesome ‘Licking Stick Pts 1&2’ and the minimalist brilliance of ‘Give It Or Turnit A Loose’. The rumbling groove of ‘Give It Up…”, with it’s rhythmic switch-backs is all muscle. Listening to the 68’-69’ records is hearing a performing unit at the peak of their powers. It is as if they were paddling out from 64’-67’, caught the crest of a wave with ‘Cold Sweat’ and were now riding an awe-inspiring wave of funk that would extend into the mid-70’s).

In 1969 they would release the trend-setting series of ‘Popcorn’ records (i.e. ‘The Popcorn’, ‘Mother Popcorn’, ‘Lowdown Popcorn’, ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’ and ‘Popcorn With A Feeling’), and would start the new decade in 1970 with the legendary ‘Funky Drummer Pts 1&2’ (one of the most frequently sampled recordings of any genre).

There would be several more years of incredible music. The King Records era would extend into 1971, and would give way to the formation of People Records (the most important of JB’s custom labels, featuring the man himself, The JB’s, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Marva Whitney, Maceo & The Macks and others), and their Polydor releases. The late 70’s would see JB dabbling with disco, and the 80’s would see a precipitous drop in popularity and record sales (with the exception of the Dan Hartman-penned ‘Living In America’), as well as an extended period of personal misfortune.

Unfortunately, to many people, James Brown is more remembered as the gun-wielding, drug-addled psycho. than as the prolific musical genius, successful businessman and socially influential figure of almost two decades. Despite a colossal amount of lip-service that the music press has given James Brown, to the vast majority of people he is little more than a bundle of tics repeated ad infinitum by a bunch of third-rate impressionists and second-rate imitators like the dreadfully over-hyped and drastically derivative (at least of JB) Prince.

The time is ripe for a serious re-examination of the work, and deep influence of the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Please Please Please, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, the Man With The Power, Mr. James Brown.”

More later this week.

Peace

Larry

A Funky16Corners Christmas

December 22, 2006

Example

Clarence Carter

Example

Example

Listen – Clarence Carter – Back Door Santa ”

Listen – George Conedy – El Nino del Tambor”

Greetings all (and Ho Ho Ho).
It’s time for the second annual* Funky16Corners Christmas post.
As I’ve gone over a few different times, I’ve never been a big collector of (any) holiday themed funk and soul. I may pick up a piece here and there – when it turns up – but I don’t generally seek it out. This is the main reason it may take a decade or so before you see me post a Christmas edition of Funky16Corners Radio. I just don’t have the raw material at my disposal.
That is not to say that I would ever let the time of year go by unnoticed, and this time out I have a couple of excellent funky yule logs for ye, one you may have heard, and another that you almost certainly haven’t.
The former may very well be my all time favorite funk/soul Christmas record, by one of the truly great voices of 60’s and 70’s soul. The singer, Mr. Clarence Carter, the song, ‘Back Door Santa’.
First off, I suspect that someone, somewhere in the funky blog-o-sphere will be dropping this chestnut, and I don’t care, on account of I love this record, and you should too, and much like spinach and yams, more than one serving will only serve to improve your overall well being.
That said, Clarence rips it up here, whipping every last bit of funk they had hidden at Fame studios on you (as well as jingle bells and egg nog), with all the good Santa-related double (hardly) entendres money can buy. Get this on thy-Pod post haste, so that over the weekend, when some wet blanket tries to throw ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer’ (or, God forbid that thing where the dogs bark out ‘Jingle Bells’) on at the Christmas gathering, you can parry (and thrust) with this big, jangling set of Christmas balls and really get the party started.
I mean, seriously…how can your ears suck up this groovy gravy, and your butt fail to respond– in the words of the great Lee Dorsey (without whom everything you do can’t be funky) – with the make-a-shake-a-make-a-hula, or however it is you likes to shake it (but don’t break it).
By the way, if some youngster starts tugging on your scarf when this starts playing, it’s because he heard this songs very essence sampled by none other than Run DMC (It’s Christmas in Hollis Queens! Etc etc).
On the flippity flop, I bring you the result of a happy accident (referring not to the recording of the record, but rather the circumstances by which it landed in my Crate du Hammonde).
The record in question popped up a while back on the sale list of a pal of mine, who’s taste in music I hold in very high regard (howdy Agent 45…).
So, on this list I see a record with the brief (but wholly sufficient description of “funky Hammond version”), directly adjacent to a very reasonable price, which was at the end of a line that began with a Spanish song title (which I didn’t bother to translate). So, I pay my money, some time elapses and the record in question pops through the mail slot at Funky16Corners headquarters. I whipped it on the turntable, and in a few short seconds (about as long as I suspect it will take you) it became apparent that the title was in fact ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ en Espanol.
I have to say that even as a tike, when they still showed the animated special of the same title, this was far from my favorite Christmas tune, certainly not the kind of thing I thought capable of funk-a-fi-zation. Little did I know that sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s an organist named George Conedy laid down an LP of Christmas tunes for the gospel subsidiary of the Kent label, which I am assuming was the source of the music on this very 45**.

All I have to say is that George took an overly solemn carol and turned it into a slow, funky jam that sounds like it dropped out of the long lost (so long lost as to never have existed..) Santa-sploitation classic “Superfly Santa the Hard Way” aka “Hell Up in the North Pole”, in which our hero, Saint Nicky, wearing a red (of course) velvet suit, and driving a red and white Caddy brings Christmas joy to all the poor kids (and a few of the better looking women) on his route.
I’ve gone a-Googling, and as far as I can tell Mr. Conedy has vanished into the ether.
Well, wherever you be I say Huzzah! And Merry Christmas to you George!

And the same to all of you readers.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, go out and suck up some of that Christmas cheer. It’s good for the soul.
I may not post until the middle of next week (days off, visiting with the family and all that) but I promise you some excellent pre-New Years grooves.

*Though this is the blogs third Christmas, for some reason I didn’t do a holiday post in 2004

**For some strange reason the flip side of the Conedy 45 is a recording of Billie Holiday singing ‘God Bless the Child’. I get the thematic connection, just not why thelong deceased BH ended up on the b-side of a George Conedy 45.

Funky16Corners Radio v.16 – Hammond Funk Vol. 2 – The Longplayers

December 18, 2006

Example

Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers

Track Listing

1. Sonny Phillips – Make It Plain (Prestige)
2. Lonnie Smith – See Saw (Blue Note)
3. Leon Spencer – Message From the Meters (Prestige)
4. Charles Earland – Here Comes Charlie (Prestige)
5. Houston Person feat. Sonny Phillips – Cissy Strut (Prestige)
6. Shirley Scott – You (Atlantic)
7. Brother Jack McDuff – The Natural Thing (Cadet)*
8. Jimmy McGriff – A Thing to Come By Pts 1&2 (Solid State)
9. Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers feat. Sonny Burke – The Mighty Burner (Atlantic)

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

Greetings, Happy Chanukah, all joy of the approaching Christmas, happy Monday and all of that rot.
Here’s hoping that everyone has a had a ice weekend, free of all the insane traffic and commercial lunacy that come with the holiday season, in much the same way a swollen tick “comes with” the family dog.
So, I completed the first week of my new “assignment”, and I have to say that while it is not the kind of soul killing, mind numbing grind that some poor folk have to submit to, neither was it the kind of atmosphere to which I have become accustomed, i.e. one in which the brain is allowed to breathe (and grow) freely, thereby keeping the soul reasonably well pleased to the point where ones disposition is not in constant conflict with the requirements of the job (how’s that for an award winning run on sentence, herein made parenthetically that much longer, hmmmmm???). In short, I don’t hate it, but it cannot be said that I love it, nor do expect to come to love it. In fact, I suspect that the shred of self respect that still burns within me will force me at some point to look for a position (elsewhere, of course) where my talents are better used, and rewarded.
I have no idea how long such a placement may take (I have after all been at the same company for 22 years), but if I get any unhappier with the current state of affairs it’s not going to be any fun to be around me.
Fortunately, when I arrive home from work (now at 8:30 PM, as opposed to my previous arrival time of long standing, that being 4:30), my passage through the front door allows me entry into a world where how much I hate my job is irrelevant, and I have the love and support of my family. A few minutes in the company of my wife and sons is enough to remind me of what’s really important.
That said, it’s been a while since the doors have been open at Funky16Corners Radio, so I thought it only fair that I get one of the installments I have waiting up onto the interweb for your enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of Hammond, or rare groove in general, then I have a treat in store for you (if you’re not – a fan that is – then hold on tight because the new year will bring with it new mixes of all kinds).
Today’s installment of Funky16Corners Radio concerns itself exclusively with album tracks, all in excess of five minutes in length, a few approaching the ten-minute mark. The end result is a mix (over an hour long)  in which there aren’t that many tracks, but the ones we have for you are long and satisfying (like a Kurosawa film), funky and fine.
While it is not secret to regular visitors to this space that I worship often at the altar of the almighty Hammond 45, as a jazz fan (and former bong rattler) I have come to hep you to the intrinsic value of the longer track, heretofore known as longplayers. We have assembled here a selection of some of the finest Hammond heroes getting down and sinking their teeth (fingers?) into slightly more adventurous outings, in which they – and their many fine bandmates – get to stretch out a little. Nobody’s going so far as to tread in the mysterious land of self-indulgent skronk (or screech), but they all manage to find a groove and settle in for a little while. I think you’ll find their efforts as satisfying as I do.
Things get going with a number from the super cool Sonny Phillips. Phillips spent most of the 60’s sitting in on recordings by Gene Ammons, Rusty Bryant, Eddie Harris and Boogaloo Joe Jones (among others) before making his first solo sides in 1969. The track that opens this set ‘Make it Plain’ hails from his 1969 Prestige date ‘Black Magic’. The groove is relaxed, but heavy, and Phillips gets a chance to solo at length, ably assisted by none other than Melvin Sparks on guitar. It’s important to note, not only the consistently high quality of Prestige sessions of the late 60’s and early 70’s (especially in regard to Hammond related dates), but also the crossover in personnel that helped make that a reality. Four of the cuts in this mix come from four different Prestige dates (with four different leaders), all from 1970 and 1971, and there are players in common from LP to LP, many of who reside securely atop the rare groove Olympus.
The sole Blue Note cut in the mix comes to us courtesy of the mighty Dr. Lonnie Smith. His cover of Don Covays’ “See Saw’ comes from his 1969 ‘Turning Point’ lp, and features an all star group that includes no less than Lee Morgan, Benny Maupin and a pre Idris Muhammad-ized Leo Morris on drums. If after listening to this one, your head isn’t nodding and your feet aren’t tapping, you need to check for a pulse. Smith was responsible for some of the finest Blue Note organ sessions of the period, and this is one of the finest examples thereof.
Leon Spencer recorded four Lps under his own name for Prestige in the early 70’s, though he also has substantial credits as a sideman. Spencer grew up and spent most of he pre-Prestige time working as a solo and backing touring artists in Houston, Texas. He signed with Prestige in 1969, and recorded ‘Sneak Preview’ the LP that produced his cover of ‘Message From the Meters’ in 1970. Joined by a pre-mush Grover Washington Jr. on sax, Spencer lays down a very tasty groove (aided also my Mr. Muhammad). It’s kind of cool to hear a lesser-covered Meters cut in an extended setting. I suspect that the Crescent City boys would approve.
Though this mix is filled to the brim with great organists, few approach the mastery of my personal favorite Charles Earland. This son of Philadelphia, Hammond master and commander recorded a grip of excellent indie label 45s before signing on with Prestige in the late 60’s where he worked extensively as both a leader and a sideman. His style is immediately identifiable, with a muscular swing that while very jazzy, stays anchored in the groove. When I was putting this mix together, I had a hard time picking a track from his monumental 1970 session ‘Black Talk’. I was going to go with either of the swinging covers that compose side two of the LP (‘Aquarius’ or ‘More Today Than Yesterday’), but decided instead to go with the meat and potatoes groove of ‘Here Comes Charlie’. Earland kills it here, and I love Melvin Sparks guitar work (Sparks appears on no less than four of the nine tracks here). If you haven’t got a copy of this LP, it’s not too hard to find in its original form, and it has also been put out as a budget reissue. It is absolutely essential.
If the influence of the Meters wasn’t already apparent, check out the version of ‘Cissy Strut’, offered here by sax man Houston Person, ably assisted by none other than Sonny Phillips on the Hammond. Person peps up the tempo a shade, stripping the tune of some of its New Orleans grit, but the band here is funky (dig the wah wah guitar by Billy Butler), and Mr. Phillips gets to wail right around the 6-minute mark. The track comes from Person’s 1970 LP ‘Truth’, which as far as I know has not been reissued in whole.
Miss Shirley Scott had a long and serious career on the keyboard, recording a string of ‘traditional’ organ jazz sessions through the 60’s (alone and with her husband Stanley Turrentine) and some very groovy dates later on. One such session was 1969’s ‘Shirley Scott and the Soul Saxes’ which saw the organist playing with King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman. The sax on her cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘You’ is played by Newman. The LP is filled with funky numbers not the least of which is her outstanding cover of the Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’ which was also released as a 45. ‘You’ features some smoking organ work by Miss Scott, piano by Richard Tee and drums by the mighty Bernard Purdie. For a slightly more far out vibe, track down her excellent 1971 Cadet session, ‘Mystical Lady’.
One of the great journeyman organists of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Brother Jack McDuff recorded for a wide variety of labels, in a number of settings, and never once left the groove behind. The title track from his 1968 Cadet LP ‘The Natural Thing’ is a mover, with the finer members of the Cadet house band (including arrangements by none other than Richard Evans) backing him up, and Brother Jack wailing on the Hammond. The entire LP is excellent and should be sought out by connoisseurs of organ grooves.
Speaking of major, major organ talents, without whom the Hammond would not have progressed, there are few the equal of the great Jimmy McGriff. McGriff, whose ‘I Got a Woman’ on Sue is one of the cornerstones of Hammond 45-dom, recorded a mountain of classic Hammond work from the 50’s right on up into the 21st Century. ‘A Thing to Come By Pts 1&2’ is the title track(s) from his 1968 Solid State LP. While his Solid State years can be uneven (some of the LPs from this period, particularly the big band dates are booooring), ‘A Thing to Come By’ features some very solid grooves. The two halves of this song actually open and close the LP, and feature McGriff on both Hammond and piano. It’s important to take a moment to note that McGriff (along with Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott and Charles Earland) hailed from the Philadelphia, PA area, a veritable hothouse for Hammond organists in the 50’s and 60’s.
We close out the mix with a hot, hot track from Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers, featuring Sonny Burke on the organ. The tune is a cover of one of the major tracks on Charles Earlands ‘Black Talk’ LP, his tribute to Philly radio legend Sonny Hopson, ‘The Mighty Burner’.The band is firing on all cylinders here, doing justice to Earlands original
(and then some). If you can, track down the LP this track comes from,’The Love I’ve Been Looking For’ which also features the killer ‘Broasted or Fried’.
So, dig this, and I’ll be back later in the week with a couple of Christmas goodies.
Peace
Larry

*NOTE: This track is incorrectly tagged and is in fact the Brother Jack Mcduff tune (which I didn’t discover until after I uploaded the zip file)

The Miracles – Going to a Go Go

December 13, 2006

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The Miracles

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Listen – Going to a Go Go MP3″

Greetings.
Here were are, it’s not quite the middle of the week and I’m back.
It is of course much later than I’m accustomed to posting, but my wife was gracious enough to put Miles to bed tonight, so I have a little free interweb-based time to burn. I figured that I could do a lot worse than getting a blog post up.
First, let me say thanks to those of you that have left encouraging messages. It helps to know that some of you are getting out of the blog precisely what I intended to put in, i.e. a brief, thrice (now maybe less) weekly message about the liberating power of soul.
My new position (as it is) is OK, but something of a drag compared to what I was doing. The only saving grace in the situation being that I can still listen to music in my “work area” (albeit more quietly than before). I’m just a few days into the new enterprise but the change is starting to sink in, and I find that I’m somewhat less pleased with it all than I first thought. No amount of “Hey man, they were CRAZY to let you go!” messages from coworkers are enough to erase the fact that they did (let me go), and I’m not going back any time soon.
The part of me that read, and re-read the Tao Te Ching wants to bend like a reed in the wind, but the other part of me (the part Dr. Freud concentrated on) feels like snapping and falling in the mud. I suppose that I’m likely to find some kind of middle ground (teetering on the axis of the proverbial “lose/lose” situation), but I know that when I get there, this new – albeit dissatisfying – plateau will register as a new status quo, and the pain will begin to fade.
I can say, however that working on the blog you see before you does a lot for my overall sanity quotient.
On that note, and in the spirit of brevity (who visits me now, Jacob Marley-like, draped in the clanking chains of “Better get this done before the baby realizes he’s hungry and wakes up!”) I bring you a tune that in the annals of the Funky16Corners Blog rates unusually high on the popularity scale (as compared to most of the tracks that make it here).
Though today’s selection may have been a big hit, and makes more than it’s share of appearances on oldies radio, it is still – at least in my opinion – one of the greatest records to have been produced in that great Motor City hit factory, and as we all know that is saying a lot.
In the two years that I’ve been doing this blog I haven’t really taken the time to sing the praises of Smokey Robinson. This probably has something to do with the anoraks need (and love) for obscurities, something with which an artist of Mr. Robinson’s success has but a passing acquaintance. That said, every once in a while even a jaded cat like myself has to take a step back from the dusty crates (in my record room and in my mind) and raise a salute to a record that while popular, is undeniable in its greatness.
‘Going to a Go Go’ by the Miracles is just such a record.
In the brief time this evening when I was trying to figure out what to post up tonight, I took into consideration little more than which of the songs I had prepared last week would raise my spirits the quickest. ‘Going to a Go Go’ was the obvious first choice.
From the opening tom-tom beats, through the rhythm guitar, hand claps and the Miracles repeating the title, ‘Going to a Go Go’ has one of the most exciting openings in all of 60’s soul.

When Smokey drops in things start to build even more until a point in the middle of the song where all of the previous elements – with the addition of a sax solo, Smokey with the Nah nah nahs, and the Miracles with the Ooo Ooo Ooos – come together in an absolutely perfect moment in which dancers the world over were forced to switch into high gear, and were launched into some kind of iconic, Jerk dancing, strobe lit, sweat-soaked, ear-ringing frenzy that those of us listening 40 years hence can only dream of.

The world is not capable of producing sounds like this anymore. This isn’t to say that it never will again, but I for one am not holding my breath.
I suggest..no I DEMAND (as captain of this blog I have granted myself special powers during this time of emergency) that you play this song LOUD. Whether it’s via your headphones, your car stereo – probably the best place to crank it up – in your house or (better yet) at a party – where liquor and lust are more likely to result in combustion – you absolutely MUST play back this song at window rattling volume.
Go. Do it.
I’ll see you when I see you.

PS Thanks Smokey.

Buy – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – The Ultimate Collection – at Amazon.com

Problems b/w King Curtis – Blue Nocturne

December 11, 2006

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King Curtis

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Listen – Blue Nocturne MP3″

Greetings all.
I wish I could say that this post brings with it happy news but I am afraid that it is not so.
I walked into work on Friday, and for the first half of the day, al was as they say, hunky dory.
Shortly after noon, it was no longer so.
A slow and steady parade of people (which would shortly include your truly) were called into the boss’s office and informed (a week before Chanukah, and two weeks before Christmas – we celebrate both in the Grogan house) that we were to be “redeployed”, as of Monday.
I suppose that this is a somewhat softer blow than being told that we would be laid off, but as it turns out (at least from my own point of view) not all that much.
A full 30% of my department was told that we had to pack up and go elsewhere in the organization. I – unlike a few of my coworkers – will still be doing something at least remotely related to my current job (very remotely…it’s not that far off from what I was doing ten years ago). Some of them are being packed off into areas where their existing (and at least until Friday afternoon – valued) skills are by and large useless.
I was relatively lucky. My salary won’t be cut, and the folks I’ll be working with are cool (some of whom I’ve known for almost my entire 22 year run with the company). However – and this is a big however – the kind of autonomy that I’ve experienced for the last 10 or so years will be no more. My access to the interwebs (during working hours) will dwindle to a point where it will be all but non-existent.
The bottom line being, though the Funky16Corners Blog will not cease to be, the frequency with which it is updated with new music and information is going to decrease markedly.
I’ll still be posting – at least once a week, more if I can swing it – but it’s going to be rough going for a while. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was the only post that I get up this week. My family and I have to get used to the fact that my hours are changing (yet another, unpleasant kick in the ass), and I’ll be training (re-training…no doubt being refitted for 21st century usefulness) all week long.
The sad thing is (completely above and beyond any personal pain) is that this kind of crap is going on all over the country, as the corporate greedheads, propelled by concerns over “stockholder value”* make drastic cuts to their workforce (and in the end the quality of their product, though in my case we’re dealing with the kind of people to whom that kind of thing is utterly meaningless). At least the kind of place I work can’t be shipped overseas and outsourced (I should watch my mouth, there’s probably some eager young up and comer down at corporate working on just such a “solution”). Though in my case, the insult will probably end up stinging worse than the injury.
So, today I bring you another delightful taste of the music we know as soul, and tomorrow I walk through the front door where I work, into a whole new bag as it were. I’ve heard all the clichés about taking lemons and making lemonade (or more appropriately taking chicken shit and making chicken salad – I’d much prefer the lemonade solution), and though my conscious mind is trying to work in that direction, my subconscious keeps poking it with a sharp, pessimistic stick. I’m pretty sure things will work out in the end. If there is in fact a silver lining to this particularly ominous cloud, it is that I’ll probably be trading in an often intolerable level of stress for a decidedly more manageable one. We’ll just have to wait and see how long it takes for the bruises to fade from my ego.
Thankfully the holidays are fast approaching, and I have a three year old at home for whom lighting the menorah and plugging in the Christmas tree hold a great deal of joy (the same kind of joy my wife and I get surrounding both of those symbols with presents for him and his four month old brother). The next few weeks – and all the visits and good cheer within them – should do much to alleviate any bad feelings that I’m having now.
That all said…the tune I bring you today is one that I stockpiled/digitized before I had any idea that anything like this was going to happen. It’s a long, longtime favorite of mine, a tune I discovered over 20 years ago on the flipside of a much better known King Curtis tune (‘Memphis Soul Stew’). The tune in question, ‘Blue Nocturne’ is one I’ve never been able to get a firm handle on. My suspicion (educated guess?) is that is a track from his early days at Atlantic (yeas before he recorded ‘Memphis Soul Stew’) that was pulled from the vaults for b-side use. This of course may be incorrect, but the fact that it doesn’t appear to have been included on any of his Atlantic LPs (and has been compiled with other early work) suggests to me that it is of an earlier vintage.
‘Blue Nocturne’ is an absolutely heartbreaking instrumental ballad, redolent of very late nights and a certain loss of hope. The guitar (I wish I knew who was playing) is perfect, and the organ humming in the background gives it a slightly churchy edge that I dig. Either way, it’s a record that I have long loved, and listening to it (wallowing in it?) several times while writing this has massaged my soul somewhat.
So, in the words of Bob and Ray, write if you get work, and hang by your thumbs. I have lots of cool stuff ready to go, as well as a couple of mixes in the old digital storage bin, so despair not (at least not as much as I am), because though the mighty ship Funky16Corners may be have temporarily run aground, she will soon be righted and sailing the seven seas once again.
Wish me well, and I’ll see you next week.
Peace
Larry

*Oh, and uh… FUCK a stockholder….

Buy – King Curtis – Didn’t He Play – on Amazon.com

Friday Double Feature – The Equals – Soul Groovin’ b/w Police On My Back

December 8, 2006

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The Equals

Example

Listen – Soul Groovin’ MP3″

Listen - Police On My Back  MP3″

Greetings, all.
The weekend is here at long last, and as usual I’ve been ready for it since Monday morning. This has been one of those weeks where I get the feeling that the old poster from the 60’s should be revised to read:

“Working for a living is not healthy for children and other living things.”

If you’re one of those lucky Gen-whatevers who has a job that is neither tedious nor soul destroying (and have the good taste not to gloat about it to your enslaved friends) then ‘good on you’ as the kangaroo jockeys are wont to say, but the way I see it (looking at the faces of those around me, and observing the tendency folks have to let it rip on the weekends) my situation is hardly unique.
It certainly doesn’t help that it got even colder since my last post, with the legendary Cold Miser yanking my chain even worse than before.
But enough of my griping. I think it’s safe to assume that nobody’s loitering around this streetcorner to hear anything but music, so I shall dispense with the drollery and roll right on into some sounds of a most excellent nature.
Have you heard of the Equals?
No?
Well, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale (etc etc etc…)
No, really. If the sounds of the Equals have never slid past your lobes and on into your brain then you are in for a rare treat my friends, because if the Equals don’t already have a cult, they will when we’re done with them.
Yet another product of the English end of the West Indian diaspora (that brought you much of the great ska of the 1960’s, as well as later bands like Cymande – more on them soon) via the groups founding member (and native of British Guyana) Eddy Grant (uh huh, THAT Eddy Grant), the Equals were formed in 1966 in London. Grant, joined by the Gordon brothers (Lincoln and Derv), Pat Lloyd and John Hall, came together as one of the finest – yet doggedly unclassifiable – bands of the post British Invasion years.
Though they had one US hit, 1968’s ‘Baby Come Back’, they are barely remembered by anyone stateside (aside from aficionados of the Mod/Psyche side of the street). They were far more successful in the UK and Europe where they charted a series of hits from the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s.
When I say that the Equals were unclassifiable, it is not only a statement of fact (pick up the 1968 ‘Baby Come Back’ album and you will hear bits of pop, soul, and novelty numbers and hardcore Freakbeat cum Psyche and the occasional nod to the West Indies– but also as a compliment. A product of an era when so many bands were jumping from genre to genre in a mixture of genuine experimentation and grasping at relevancy, the Equals were always combining their influences into a satisfying and unique brew.
How much of the variety in their sound was due to the fact that they were a multi-racial band is up for argument, if only because the bands main songwriters (Grant and Derv Gordon) were both black. It’s probably better to assume that Grant and Gordon were less R&B artists working in a rock context (like say, the Chambers Brothers) , than they were products of a truly hybrid vision (much like Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone). The end products of their collaboration show that they had and extraordinary facility creating records that were first and foremost “pop”, and then taking those sounds in whatever direction they saw fit, from pure novelty like ‘Laurel and Hardy’ to lysergic excursions like ‘The Skies Above’ and ‘The Guy Who Made Her a Star’.
The two tunes we bring you today show two distinct sides of the band. The first, ‘Soul Groovin’ displays their affection for contemporary soul, with only the pop production betraying their broader palate. Derv Gordon’s lead vocals, with interjections from his brother and Grant are excellent, and the band works up a nice head of steam. I dig how they take the opportunity to kind of rap amongst themselves during the breakdown.
The second number ‘Police on My Back’ may be familiar to listeners via the cover by none other than the Clash. Here the Equals rock side is on display, with a psychedelic edge to the production, but a hard edge overall. The subject matter shows the influence of Jamaican Rude Boy culture (and the countless records that dealt with it) and the vocals – Grant, backed by Gordon (I think…)– are outstanding.
The Equals sound continued to evolve, getting heavier as they entered the 70’s, resulting in quality 45s like ‘Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys’ which actually got a US release on the Shout label*.
The band was broken up by the mid-70’s and Eddy Grant went on to fame and fortune with ‘Electric Avenue’ in 1983**.
Though they haven’t been heard much in the US – outside of a rare appearance on tightly formatted Oldies radio – the Equals are remembered through covers of their songs by US artists. The first time I ever heard Equals songs (years before I had any idea who the Equals were) was via covers by the Clash (‘Police On My Back’ in 1980) and the Plimsouls (who covered probably my favorite Equals tune, the super heavy ‘My Life Ain’t Easy in 1983). There were also covers by Bonnie Raitt (‘Baby Come Back’ in 1982) and Brownsville Station (“I Get So Excited’ in 1974).
The bands 45s aren’t that hard to get ahold of at a decent price, and the RCA ‘Baby Come Back’ LP (HIGHLY recommended) turns up now again as well. As far as CD reissues go. Follow the link to the disc below, which is the only truly comprehensive compilation available.

Buy – The Equals – First Among Equals – on Amazon.com

*While the vast majority of Equals sides overseas were released on the President label, in the US their records could be found on President, RCA, Bang and Shout.

** There’s apparently a Grant-less version of the Equals playing the oldies circuit in the EU

Tammi Lynn – Mojo Hannah

December 6, 2006

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Miss Tammi Lynn

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Listen – Mojo Hannah MP3″

Hey hey hey, it’s Wed-n-es-day….
How’s it going?
Despite the fact that I’m freezing my ass off, I cannot in good conscience complain because though I may lose an ass, those poor slobs up in Minnesota, Finland and similar locations in close proximity to the Arctic circle are freezing EVERYTHING off. This of course falls into the “everything is relative” file. One mans bitter cold is another mans trip to Miami Beach. All I know is that I must make a concerted effort to locate not only my gloves, but my ice scraper. Failure to do so could result in anything from frostbite to a head-on collision (and we wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we??).
In an effort to stave off the oncoming permafrost, I present to you today a selection from the Sister Funk files, with a tangential connection to the New Orleans Funk files, all of course stored in the Excellent Records wing of the high security Funky16Corners underground storage bunker (where all such things are kept).
The record I speak of is Tammi (Tami/Tamiya) Lynn’s 1972 version of the much covered ‘Mojo Hannah’.
I have to start things off by saying that this song and I have a long and pleasant history. Back in the day – the mid-80’s to be exact – when I was travelling amongst the long-haired, Beatle-booted garage and beat revivalists, before the arrival of the CD, I was doing my uneducated best to increase my knowledge of the music we here know as soul. In furtherance of this, I had picked up a few volumes of a Rhino records reissue series called ‘Soul Shots’, which contained a mixture of the obscure and the (even then) painfully obvious. A perfect example of the former was ‘Two For the Price of One’ by Larry Williams and Johnny Watson.
Now, I knew both of these artists a little bit, Williams being the man that brought you ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ and ‘Bad Boy’ (both covered by the Beatles) and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson laid down ‘Gangster of Love’ (years before its appropriation by Space Cowboys etc). I had no idea that the two had teamed up in the mid-60’s to lay down an album that was not only packed to the rafters with high quality soul (the title cut being the finest example) but also had the coolest album cover EVER (in which Messrs Williams and Watson are riding two Cadillacs in a Ben Hur stylee).
My newfound affection for ‘Two For the Price of One’ led me into the LP bins, looking for similar sounds by these two cats. One fine day, at a little hole-in-the-wall record store in NYC (the name of which has long been erased by the sands of time) I found a reissue of the LP ‘ The Larry Williams Show, featuring Johnny Guitar Watson’. Naturally I grabbed it and dragged it home where it was placed with loving care on the old turntable, and the needle applied accordingly. It was a set with an odd pedigree, recorded live in the UK (maybe a year before their Okeh LP) with Williams and Watson backed by a British band called the Stormsville Shakers. The set list was a mix of rock, R&B and soul, including covers of Williams’ ‘Slow Down’ (another one covered by the Fabs) and ‘Hootchy Koo’, and a cool (if somewhat shambolic) cover of the Yardbirds ‘For Your Love’. My favorite track however, was a rollicking tune called ‘Louisiana Hannah’.
Flash ahead six or seven years, and I’m digging yet another Rhino comp, this time the ‘Roots of Funk’ volume of their ‘In Yo Face’ series. I get towards the end of the disc, and all of a sudden a tune comes on and I’m all like “Hey! I know this song!”.
The recording that I heard that day is today’s selection, ‘Mojo Hannah’ by Tammi Lynn. In the years since that day, I discovered that ‘Mojo Hannah’ was the original title of the song (not sure why Larry & Johnny felt the need to change the title).
The tune was written by Clarence Paul and Andre Williams, and originally recorded in 1962 by Henry Lumpkin (on Motown). It was redone by the legendary Betty Harris (her last Jubilee 45), Aaron Neville, the Intrigues, and Esther Phillips among others. Strangely enough, one of the earliest covers was a version (recorded in New Orleans with the AFO Executives) by Tami Lynn herself.
Lynn (real name Gloria Brown) grew up singing gospel in New Orleans, and was discovered in the early 60’s by bandleader Red Tyler, who brought her in to record for the AFO label. She went on to record a single for ATCO in 1965, and sing backup on LPs by King Floyd.
By the early 70’s, Lynn ended up recording an LP for the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion. According to the always knowledgeable Dan Phillips over at the Home of the Groove, the Cotillion LP was a mish mash of three separate sessions (with different producers in different locations), and ‘Mojo Hannah’ was recorded in Miami under the aegis of Atlantic records poobah Jerry Wexler.
Lynn’s 1972 version of the tune is a funky killer, opening with some tasty organ and bass work, before Tammi drops in to testify. The lyrics (thanks Andre!) have a Dr, John Gris-Gris by way of the Detroit Chuckle Hut vibe, with all manner of voodoo, hoodoo, alligators and swamp water running through the song. Tammi whips the whole bag up into a tasty stew, taking the tune out of its R&B roots and placing it firmly into a funky context. The production is a nice mix of big city slick and Memphis grit, and Tammi is of course in fine voice.
Her Cotillion LP is available as a CD reissue, and while the 45 isn’t particularly cheap, nor is it crazy-go-nuts expensive, so if you really dig the song and wish to whip it on the crowd at your next funk night, you should be able to do so without breaking the bank.

Buy – Tammi Lynn – Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone – on Amazon.com

The Mirettes – Take Me for a Little While

December 4, 2006

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The Mirettes

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Listen – Take Me for a Little While MP3″

Greetings.
I had an excellent weekend, and I hope you all did too.
It’s finally cold (or cold-ish) here at the Jersey Shore, and I’m digging it. I’m no fan of the schizophrenic late fall/early winter weather (it was in the high 30’s on my way in to work this morning, it was 70 last Thursday…), and while I can guarantee that I’ll be griping about the cold in a few months, right now it’s a refreshing slap in the face.
I’ve lived in this area for roughly 40 of my 44 years, and I have always had a special affection for the shore in winter. My first apartment – lo these many years ago – was a (short) block from the ocean, and I’m here to tell you that there is great therapeutic value in the stillness of a beach devoid of tourists. It’s like one huge, picturesque watercolor, except you get the synesthetic addition of sound, smell and temperature. It’s beautiful.
My wife and I too our sons for a walk on the boardwalk on Saturday, and aside from the fact that I soon regretted not bringing gloves with me, it was a great experience. In all honesty I have to say that it was hard to complain when faced with the sight of several surfers bobbing in the waves. That – I explained to my three year old – is what is known as hardcore.
That said, I couldn’t be less enthusiastic about returning to work. I didn’t get my full allotment of sleep last night and the prospect of dealing with another dose of the Monday Morning Numbskull Onslaught is not an appealing one. I’ll get through it (I always do) but I’m not going to like it.
What better way to alleviate such a short term malaise than the power of an excellent soul 45 (which I will listen to several times while composing this post).
Today’s selection comes to us courtesy of a group that you may not know, but have certainly heard (in one form or another), the Mirettes.
Featuring Vanetta Fields, Robbie Montgomery and Jessie Smith, the Mirettes had all done time (and I use that phrase deliberately) as Ikettes, and struck out on their own in 1966, recording several 45s over the next four years for Mirwood, Minit, Revue and UNI (as well as an LP apiece for the last two labels).
They also – along with fellow ex-Ikettes like Clydie King, sang backup on countless records in the 60’s and 70’s. I remember knowing the names Clydie King and Vanetta Fields from LPs by cats like Leon Russell and groups like Humble Pie years before I ever encountered them in a “soul” context.
Today’s selection appeared both as a 45 and as a track on the Mirettes 1968 LP ‘In the Midnight Hour’. ‘Take Me For a Little While’ is of course a reworking of the tune originally recorded in 1965 by Evie Sands (and covered in this blog just about a year ago). Sands version is one of the all time great girl group/blue-eyed soul 45s of the 60’s. It’s a slow motion explosion of yearning that is the equal of anything the Ronettes ever laid down under the iron fist of Phil Spector.
The Mirettes kick the tempo up a few notches, taking the tune from its New York City roots into a more Detroit direction. This is not to say that ‘Take Me for a Little While’ is in any way a conventional, Motown-ish production. The tune does have a couple of incongruous, poppy touches (which don’t bother me a whole lot, but I can imagine a couple of your more devoted soulies getting their feathers ruffled). The ringing (and slightly out of tune) piano that opens the tune, as well as the odd, theremin-esque electronic keyboard that solos throughout the record, while not in any way out of place in the Top 40, aren’t exactly hallmarks of classic soul. The vocals are of course excellent (though I couldn’t tell you who’s singing lead). The Mirettes driven approach strips the song of some of its heartbreak and angst, but Sands original performance is so unique that any attempt to tread directly in her footsteps would have been ill-advised.
I’ll tell you one thing, if I were spinning a soul dance and needed to get the crowd moving, despite my deep and abiding love for the Evie Sands side, the Mirettes version of the tune is the one I’d reach for.


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