Archive for February, 2007

Mandrill – Fencewalk / Hagalo

February 26, 2007

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Mandrill

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Listen – Fencewalk / Hagalo MP3″

The weekend is finally at an end – an especially bitter pill for me to swallow since I had most of last week off. Nothing sucks worse than the last day of a vacation, whether it’s summer vacation when you’re a kid, or a few hard earned days off when you’re an adult. It was a productive couple of days off, including a trip with the family, and the inaugural Asbury Park 45 Sessions which was a blast, and an honor to be a part of.
This may sound corny to some of you, but there’s something amazing about spinning cool music for people to dance to. When it comes to DJ-ing, I tend to keep it pretty simple, running song into song, trying to create (and sustain) a vibe by programming sounds that – first an foremost – I dig, and that I think the people in the audience will dig, at least enough to start dancing (or bobbing their heads happily if cutting a rug isn’t their style).
Though there’s definitely an element of that in what I do here at the Funky16Corners Blog, doing it for a room full of people can be a positively transcendental experience.
I get off just hearing a song like ‘Iron Leg’ or ‘Jerkin the Dog’ over a super powerful sound system, but when I drop a side like ‘Lover and a Friend’ or ‘Hey Joyce’ and the crowd starts to get into it, there’s a kind of magical connection there, as if by spinning that particular record a room full of people is turned onto Lou Courtney or Eddie Bo for a few minutes, enough for the groove to grab them and take them out of the troubles of the real world for a moment.
A record like ‘Hey Joyce’, with its chant-like chorus, propulsive funk vibe and heavy, heavy breakbeats has the power to energize a roomful of people out to have a good time. That’s what I (and a lot of the DJ types I know) carry in my record bag. Not just thousands of dollars in fragile vinyl, with the totemic value for the fanatic collector (though that’s there too) but hours and hours of really powerful music. That power is why I sought it out in the first place (if it doesn’t move me there’s no way I’m going to whip it onto a room full of groovers) and why on the rare occasions I get to select and play these records for other people, I jump at the chance to do so.
It’s all about bringing soul to the people, and if you were lucky enough to be in the room on Friday night, you got to hear eight people who care about it passionately do just that.
In the continuation of that spirit, it’s time to get back on the MP3 horse and bring you something hot to start your (and my) week off with a bang. I’ve been wanting to drop something funky, and taking a look in the ole Funky16Corners trick bag, I see that I have just the thing at hand, a banger (and then some) from Mandrill.
To me, for the longest time, Mandrill was basically just a cool name and a series of wild album covers that I happened upon while digging for vinyl. I knew nothing about the group and as a result never grabbed any of their records.
However, over the years, as I started to orbit in a musical asteroid belt of sorts that included beat diggers, DJs and such I began to hear things of a positive nature about the group, mainly about a particular song, that being ‘Fencewalk’.
Mandrill – a group that I had long assumed (due to their sound) to be assembled from a variety of foreign sources – was actually formed in Brooklyn in the late 60’s. The three Wilson brothers – Ric, Lou and Carlos – had been born in Panama, but grew up in Bed-Stuy, which is where Mandrill was formed. They released their first LP in 1970 and continued to record and release music (including the soundtrack to ‘The Warriors’) into the 1980’s.
‘Fencewalk’ and ‘Hagalo’ – a medley of sorts by virtue of non-existant gap between the tracks – hail from their 1973 LP ‘Composite Truth’ and the pairing of their disparate styles is a good look at the overall Mandrill “vibe”.
‘Fencewalk’, which was their most successful single is a hard charging slice of funk. It opens with a wild horn blast that sounds like some kind of dissonant combination halftime show/elephant stampede, and almost immediately breaks down into a bit of Meters-esque, clavinetted funk, with snapping drums, wah-wah guitar and soulful group vocals. The groove never lets up, getting hotter through every one of its five-plus minutes, propelled by a long, Santana-esque guitar solo.
The really cool thing is, that around the five minute thirty second mark, the whole juggernaut stops short and is replaced by some undeniably Latin piano action, transforming from heavy funky into some of that sweet clave, including timbale, vibes and the whole nueve yards. It is truly a beautiful thing, up to and including a blazing salsa trombone solo. I mean, how can you not dig a great big slice of funk, with some of that spicy salsa to finish it off?
While today, this kind of musical diversity might seem a touch schizo, the fact of the matter is that the kind of blend that Mandrill were offering up to their listeners in the early 70’s wasn’t all that unusual. One of the better side effects of the 1960’s is that bands felt free to mix and match rock, soul, funk, Latin, African and other sounds, not out of some kind of pretentious progressivism but because those were the sounds coming out of many urban neighborhoods, and because it felt and sounded good to do so. Not everyone was able to mix it up as tastily as Santana, or Mandrill (or Fela, or Manu Dibango, or Osibisa or any number of artists) but you certainly can’t fault them for trying.
Fortunately much of their catalogue is available in reissue, as individual LPs, and in a very nice compilation of their best sides entitled (not surprisingly) ‘Fencewalk’.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all in a couple of days with some more goodness.
Peace
Larry

Asbury 45 Sessions Recap / Photos

February 24, 2007

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Yours truly with DJ Prestige

Funky16Corners Set List – Asbury 45 Sessions 2/23

Dramatics – Get Up and Get Down (Volt)
Roger & the Gypsies – Pass the Hatchet Pt1 (Seven B)
Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers – I Gotta Go Now (Up On the Floor) (Like)
Lou Courtney – Rubber Neckin (Chick Check’n) (Verve)
Mickey & the Soul Generation – Iron Leg (Maxwell)
Lou Garno Trio – Chicken In the Basket (Giovanni)
Chuck Carbo – Can I Be Your Squeeze (Canyon)
James K Nine – Live It Up (Federal)
Village Callers – Hector (Rampart)
Mighty Hannibal – Jerkin’ The Dog (Shurfine)
Chuck Edwards – Downtown Soulville (Soul City)
King Coleman – The Boo Boo Song Pt1 (King)
Syl Johnson – Dresses Too Short (Twinight)
Don Covay – Sookie Sookie (Atlantic)
David Batiste & the Gladiators – Funky Soul Pt1 (Instant)
Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham – Lover And a Friend (Capitol)
Danny White – Natural Soul Brother (SSS Intl)
Louis Chachere – The Hen Pt1 (Paula)
Manu Dibango – Weya (Fiesta)
Lou Courtney – Hey Joyce (Popside)
Rodge Martin – Lovin’ Machine (Bragg)

If I get anyone elses set list I’ll make sure to post it up.

Greetings and salutations!
Just a note to say that the Asbury 45 Sessions last night was absolutely amazing, with some of the best DJs in the area – spinning n a wide variety of styles no less – kicking ass in a big way.
Major thanks go out to DJ Prestige who put the whole thing together (it looks like it’ll be a monthly party as well, so don’t sleep).
The spinning order was as follows:

Example

DJ Jack the Ripper (Tales From the Vault)
DJ Jack the Ripper Playlist
Gene Burkes “Monkey Man” (Arock)
James Brown – “Shhhhhh (For A Little While) (King)
Jimmy Robbins – “I Can’t Please You” (Jerhart)
Ray Johnson – “Soul City” (Infinity)
Grand Prees – “Jungle Fever” (Groove)
Ideals – “The Gorilla” (Cortland)
Prince Valient – “Back Yard” (St. Clair)
Yvonne Craig – “Say Yeah Yeah” (Dade)
Pancho Villa – “Aint That Bad” (Symbol)
Marie Adams – “Get On Up” (Command Performance)
Entertainers – “Fuddy Duddy Walk” (Catch)
Sunny Lane – “Trollin” (HBR)
Mohawks – “The Champ” (Cotillion)
Tommy Bush – “Skin It Back” (Cal-State)
Willie Wilcher – “Hoopy Doo” (Mary Jane)

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Jay Boxcar (Garden State Soul)
Jay Boxcar Set List
1. Mr. machine- The Chefs (funk 45)
2. Hard to handle-The Latin Breed (funk45)
3. I can’t stand it-Brenda George (BGP)
4. Different Strokes- Syl Johnson (Twilight)
5. Let do it together- Fantastic Johnny C (Kama Sutra)
6. Let a woman be a woman- Dyke & The Blazers (Original Sound)
7. Blind Alley- The Emotions (Volt)
8. Back Door santa- Clarence Carter (Atlantic)
9. Tramp-Lowell Fulsom (Kent)
10.You made a believer out of me-Ruby Andrews (Zodiac)
11. Hip Drop- Explosions (VampSoul)
12. Hikki Burr- Bill Cosby (Uni)
13. Pepsi-The Mohawks (Sir J.J)
14. Aw’ Mercy- Booker T. & The MG’s (Stax)
15. Cold Feet- Albert King (Stax)
16. Soul Food, that’s what I like-Lonnie Youngblood (Fairmount)
17.Hitch it to the horse- Fantastic Johhny C (Phil-la of soul)
18.There was a time- Jerry O (White Whale )
19.Funky 4 corner- Jerry O (Boogaloo)
20.Poppin Popcorn-Alvin cash (Toodlin Town)
21.Give everybody some-The Barkays (Volt)
22.Sock it to ‘em J.B-Rex Garvin & The Mighty cravers (Like Records)
23.Song called soul- Gene Chandler (Constellation records)
24. The Duck- Jackie lee (Mirwood)

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Connie T. Empress (Empire State Soul Club)

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Funky16Corners (here…)

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DJ Prestige (Fleamarket Funk)
DJ Prestige Set List
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglodye RCA
The New Birth – You Are What I’m All About RCA
Ripple – I Don’t Know What It Is GRC
Isley Brothers – Between the Sheets Instrumental
Eddie Senay – Ain’t No Sunshine SUSSEX
Tony Newman – Soul Thing PARROT
Southside Movement – I’ve Been Watching You WAND
Dorothy Moore – Here It Is MALACO
Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love FAST TRACK
Hot – Just Cause I’m Guilty BIG TREE
James and Bobby Purify – I’m You’re Puppet BELL
Larry Carlton – Son of a Preacher Man UNI
The Flaming Ember – Filet de Soul HOT WAX
Ray Charles Orchestra – The Booty Butt TANGERINE
Billy Cobham – Crosswind ATLANTIC
The Delegates – Funky Butt MAINSTREAM
Willie Hobbs – My Goodness Yes SILVER FOX
Betty Davis – If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up JUST SUNSHINE
The Nite Liters – Tanga Boo Gonk – RCA
The Kay Gees – Who’s the Man?GANG
Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Penguin Part 1 STAX
Jackie Moore – Singing Funky Music Turns Me On KAVETTE
Dennis Coffey – Theme from Enter the Dragon – SUSSEX
ZZ Hill – I Think I’d Do It MANKIND
Wet Willie – Soul Jones CAPRICORN
Ike & Tina Turner – Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter LIBERTY
Eddie Harris – Get On Down ATLANTIC
Oliver Sain – Bus Stop ABET
Soul Searchers – Think SUSSEX
Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa ATLANTIC
Blue Mitchell – Collision in Black BLUE NOTE
Cold Blood – You Got Me Hummin SAN FRANCISCO
Wilmer Alexander Jr. & the Dukes – Get It APHRODISIAC
The Ambers – Soul in the Room #401 JEAN ALITHIA mixing in Dave & Ansil Collins – Double Barrel BIG TREE
Mighty Groove Makers – Let’s Dance Some Mo (Part 1) PEANUT COUNTRY
Theme from 2001 done Fuuuuuuuunkay..HOCTOR
Charlie Daniels – Funky Junky KAMA SUTRA

Example

DJ Prime (Prime Cuts Ltd)
DJ Prime Set List
new seekers – it’s the real thing (coke)
pretty purdie – soul clappin’ (date)
funkadelic – i wanna know if it’s good to you? (westbound)
average white band – school boy crush (atlantic)
5 stairsteps -ooh child (buddah)
franklin ajaye – don’t smoke dope fry your hair (little david)
rufus breakdown – the breakdown (pt. 2) (stax)
little sister – stanga (stone flower)
brothers johnson – strawberry letter 23 (a&m)
lloyd price – they get down (gsf)
chuck womack & the sweet souls – ham hocks & beans (disjoint)
dorothy ashby – soul vibrations (cadet)
jimmy bo horne – let me be your lover (sunshine sound)
bronx river parkway – la valla (truth & soul)
mark ronson – just instrumental (bbe)
el michels affair – c.r.e.a.m. (truth & soul)
peoples choice – big ladies man (phil l.a.)
undisputed truth – california soul (gordy)
bar-kays – holy ghost (stax)
kool & the gang – who’s gonna take the weight (de-lite)
james brown – get on the good foot (polydor)
lefties soul connection – organ donor (mpm)
willie henderson & the soul explosion – funky chicken (brunswick)
dyke & the blazers – funky walk pt. 2 (original sound)
the expressions – money is king (truth & soul)
alvin cash & the registers – philly freeze (mar-v-lus)
bob & earl – harlem shuffle (era)
willie mitchell – 30-60-90 (hi)
ballin jack – found a child (columbia)
king curtis – memphis soul stew (atco)
lee fields – she’s a love maker (london)
incredible bongo band – bongolia (pride)
black blood – marie – therese (mainstream)
breakout – planet rock (mpm)

Example

MFasis
DJ M.FASIS Playlist
1.comment- les mccann (atlantic)
2. mr. cool- rasputin’s stash (cotillion)
3. jungle strut- ramsey lewis (columbia)
4. too tough for mr. big stuff- vicki anderson (brownstone)
5. funk to the folks- soul searchers (sussex)
6. lovin lies- third guitar (rojac)
7. party hearty- oliver sain (abet)
8. i’ll take the hurt- shade of soul (sunburst)
9. wild child- dennis coffey (westbound)
10. can’t break away- simtec & willie (shama)
11. can you feel it? – voices of east harlem (just sunshine)
12. right place wrong time- dr. john (atco)
13. detroit- paul humphrey & cool aid chemists ( lizard)
14. ooh ooh the dragon- marvin holmes (uni)
15. bongolia- incredible bongo band (mgm)
16. scorpio- dennis coffey (sussex)
17. itch & scratch- rufus thomas (stax)
18. listen- chicago transit authority (columbia)
19. it’s a sad thing- ollie nightingale (memphis)
20. you- shirley scott- (atlantic)

Example

DJ Bluewater
DJ Bluewater’s set list
Kenny Smith & The Loveliters – Go For Yourself Pt. 1 (Flo-Roe)
Ann Sexton – You’re Losing Me – (Seventy-Seven)
Union – Strike (Mesa)
Robert Moore – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Saadia/Jazzman Reissue)
Inell Young – What Do You See In Her – (Libra)
Pearl Dowell – Good Things (Saadia/Jazzman Reissue)
Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There Be Love (Bump Shop)
Sir Guy – Let Home Cross Your Mind (D.P.G.)
Inell Young – The Next Ball Game (Big-9)
Beau Dollar – Who Knows (King)
Ron Buford – Deep Soul Pt. 2 (Camelot)
Inez & Charlie Foxx – Speed Ticket (Dynamo)
Betty Barney – Momma, Momma (GWP)
Helene Smith – You Got To Be A Man (Phil LA)
Frank William’s Rocketeers – You Got To Be a Man (Phil LA)
Bumps Jackson – Funky In Jamaica Pt. 2 Miles Re-Edit (Alatac)
Dave Hamilton – Cracklin Bread (TCB)

Example

The whole crew (minus Connie)

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DJ Prestige and NY Radio legend Bob Shannon (who just happens to be married to Connie T. Empress)

All pictures courtesy of my lovely wife Jenny.

There was all manner of superheavy funk, soul (Northern, Southern and othern), lowdown R&B, beats/breaks etc., from straight record-to-record fade/segue to all out scratching, beat-matching deconstruction, and the crowd never stopped dancing (or bowling). I definitely look forward to doing again soon.

Peace

Larry

The Asbury Park 45 Sessions – This Friday 2/23

February 23, 2007

The Asbury Park 45 Sessions

Example

This’ll be a quick one as the fam and I are taking a bit of R&R on the road, and the wi-fi in this hotel leaves a lot to be desired.

NOTE: The wi-fi left so much to be desired that right after I had this typed up and saved as a draft, I was unable to access the interwebs and get it posted, so I’m actually posting this from home after sitting in like 3 hours of traffic…

Last call brothers and sisters.

The Asbury Park 45 Sessions are this Friday 2/23, and I spent some quality time yesterday pulling heat from the Funky16Corners crates for my set. These include lots of alternate selections as some of the finest funk and soul heads in the tri-state area will also be spinning and the chances that tastes and selection might intersect/overlap are good. Either way, I can promise you that a grip of excellent funk, soul and reggae 45s will be hitting the decks, creating an atmosphere ripe for all manner of head nodding, rug cutting and free-form spasmodic musical reaction (in which dervishes will whirl, etc, etc ad infinitum).

In honor of this event, and to give you a taste of the kind of stuff I’ve packed, I’m reposting the MP3 mix of Funky16Corners Radio v.14.5, the Special 2nd Anniversary Mix which was featured here back in November. Unfortunately I could not locate the zip file, so it’s only the mixed MP3 (sorry..).

NOTE (AGAIN..) Zip file located by our pal Muddy (Thanks man!), Link added below….

Either way, if you missed it the first time, I hope you dig it.

Peace

Larry

Track Listing
1. King Coleman – The Boo Boo Song (King)
2. Lou Courtney – Rubber Neckin’ (Chick Check’n) (Verve)
3. Warm Excursion – Hang Up Pt1 (Pzazz)
4. Joe Haywood – (Play Me a) Cornbread Song (Kent)
5. Johnny Otis Show – The Watts Breakaway (Epic)
6. Chairmen of the Board – Since the Days of Pigtails (and Fairy Tales) (Invictus)
7. Clea Bradford – My Love’s a Monster (Cadet)
8. JB’s – The Grunt (King)
9. Apostles – Six Pack (Kapp)
10. Laura Lee – Crumbs off the Table (Hot Wax)
11. Cyril Neville – Gossip (Josie)
12. Syl Johnson – Dresses Too Short (Twinight)
13. Preston Love – Cool Ade (Kent)
14. Sammy Gordon & The Hiphuggers – Upstairs on Boston Road (Archives)
15. Dramatics – Get Up and Get Down (Volt)
16. Interpretations – Jason Pew Mosso (Jubilee)*
17. Jeanne & the Darlings – Soul Girl (Volt)
18. Electrostats – 21st Century Kenya (Three Oaks

Jimmy Castor – Southern Fried Frijoles

February 19, 2007

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Mr. Jimmy Castor

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Listen – Southern Fried Frijoles MP3″

Howdy.

I hope everyone had a good weekend, and that the sudden appearance of the new banner atop yon blog wasn’t too jarring an experience. Just found out that I could upload a banner, so I, uh…did. I may change it from time to time, especially if I get some quality time set aside to fiddle around with the graphics. I just think it gives things a little more flavor. Let me know if your eyes start burning from looking at it or anything.
Today’s selection is something I came across recently, that I thought you might dig.
I’ll assume that most of you (funk and soul types that you are) may already be familiar with the name Jimmy Castor, whether through his early Smash sides – one of which ‘Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You’ was a pretty sizable hit in 1966 – or from his later funk stuff like ‘Troglodyte’ (a record which I remember getting a real kick out of as an 11 year old), or the heavily sampled ‘It’s Just Begun’*.
I’ve been digging on Castor’s mid-60’s Latin soul stuff for a long time, but only recently got my hands on a copy of the ‘Hey Leroy’ LP.
Castor has had a very long and interesting career, starting out in New York in the 50’s singing doowop and writing tunes for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, moving on to front his own band on vocals and sax. By the mid-60’s he was mixing soul and boogaloo, recording hits for Smash, as well as being one of the few artists (along with Eldridge Holmes) who had records released on the Washington DC based Jet Set label (though I’ve never had the opportunity to hear those recordings).
Oddly enough, though Castor’s Smash recordings are working the boogaloo vibe in a serious way, he has been quoted as saying that he arrived at that sound by mixing R&B and calypso. No matter what path he ultimately took, it seems to have terminated somewhere in Spanish Harlem, because the best stuff on the ‘Hey Leroy’ LP can stand proudly alongside some of the best Latin soul of the day.
In addition to ‘Hey Leroy…’ and ‘Ham Hocks Espanol’, Castor and his band laid down covers of Joe Cuba’s ‘Bang Bang’ as well as a (very) thinly disguised cover of Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Yeh Yeh’, re-titled ‘Oh Yeh’ and credited for some reason to Jimmy Sabater**. For the “incredibly strange music” fans there are also ill-advised covers of ‘ Winchester Cathedral’ and ‘Ol’ Man River’.
Today’s selection was, of all the tunes on the LP that I hadn’t heard before, my fave. ‘Southern Fried Frijoles’ is a very tasty bit of piano-led soul jazz with just enough Latin flavor for the dance floor. Written by Castor and Jimmy Pruitt, the tune is a showcase for pianist Ken Mills and – of course – includes a sax solo from Mr. Castor. As a piece of piano-based Latin soul, I’d rate it with Fred Ramirez’ version of ‘Hold On I’m Coming’, which I’ll have to digitize and post some time soon on account of it’s a smoker.
The LP is excellent, though it bears mentioning that most of its best tunes are available on cheap and plentiful 45s (though when you can find it the LP isn’t all that expensive either). It has also been reissued on CD with a couple of bonus tracks.
Peace
Larry

* Eric B & Rakim, Ice T, MARRS etc.

** Yeh Yeh, later made famous by Georgie Fame was actually written by Mongo’s pianist Rodgers Grant, and later given lyrics by Jon Hendricks of Lambert Hendricks and Ross

The Asbury 45 Sessions

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Just a(nother) reminder, the Asbury 45 Sessions are on the way, dropping this Friday at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ. I just spoke with the mighty DJ Prestige and some serious 45 heads have been confirmed to spin. It promises to be a very solid evening of funk, soul and reggae.

Sugar Billy – Super Duper Love Pts 1&2

February 16, 2007

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Listen – Super Duper Love Pt1 MP3″

Listen - Super Duper Love Pt2 MP3″

Greetings all.

It’s Thursday night, the end of the week is nigh and I feel like crashing out and snoring for an hour or eight (or nine, or twelve).
I hope you’ve all been digging the Nola Soul mix, especially since Mardi Gras is right around the corner and all that and we can all send our good vibes down that way for a city and its people that’ll be on the mend for some time.
Today’s selection(s) is both halves of a very fine 45, that if you’re a real soulie may be an old fave, and if not may still be vaguely familiar. If you fall into the latter group, you probably first heard the song (but not the record) a few years back, being delivered by the young Joss Stone.
In 2003, Stone, then a 16 year old UK born “prodigy” dropped on the scene with an LP composed largely of soul gold, in which she was aided and abetted by a who’s who of Florida soul, including Little Beaver, Betty Wright and Timmy Thomas. Despite a large helping of PR jive that would have had you believe that Stone had erupted fully formed like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, sui generis, all bare feet, patchwork jeans and dewy sex appeal, what the listener basically ended up with was Mandy Moore with a slightly better class of mix tape.
Though I hesitate to lay the blame for this entirely at Stone’s feet (she was after all only 16), it’s hard not to see her “launch” as anything more than another crass reach for the wallets (and maybe ears) of the “hipsters” (a major pejorative if ever there was one) of the world, especially in light of the fact that she seems to have dropped the ‘vintage soul’ thang like a bad habit in the few years since her debut.
The consumers – led around largely by a suggestibility born out of a chronic inability to know better – were fed another product, not all that different from the assembly line pap that regularly jams up the pop charts, except that this time out the provenance – obscure, but classic soul – was supposed to elevate it. Unfortunately what we ended up with was soul music from a machine in which the ne plus ultra was programmed in not as say Gladys Knight, or Aretha Franklin, but rather Dusty Springfield, i.e. soul music delivered via a system in which the real thing is felt to be too strong a brew, and the listener is then asked to bypass soul, for that which is merely soul-ful.
The truly insidious aspect of it all is that Stone’s LP was put together with just enough of an eye toward “cred” that all of the rockcrit types to whom names like Laura Lee, Betty Wright and maybe (just maybe) Little Beaver and Timmy Thomas might be familiar would be taken aback by this wunderkind and her surprisingly mature taste in soul would then feel compelled to let the world in on their “find”. Those that didn’t have enough background to appreciate the obscurities were provided with yet another bit of hipster-bait, that being the White Stripes cover, removed from its frantic origins and miscast as a nu-soul groover.
So, what does this all have to do with anything?
Well, reflecting on Stone ties into my recent, slow, painful and ongoing reappraisal of Janis Joplin, especially as an interpreter of soul.
I have said some unkind things about Joplin over the years, mainly due to my own purists anger at a success built on covers of classic soul that I felt (and generally still do feel) were by and large inferior to the source material.
However – and this is a big however – while digging out a selection of Howard Tate *covers (those being tunes originally recorded by Tate, all written by Jerry Ragavoy) I found myself listening to Janis Joplin’s studio and live recordings of ‘Get It While You Can’, and I found myself digging her approach to the song very much.
I think the problem is that for years, especially after discovering singers that Joplin had covered, like Erma Franklin and Howard Tate, I resented being fed rocked up “soul” wailing when the real thing was so readily accessible. I grew up enveloped in the “classic rock” (before that term was coined) hegemony, which by its very nature insisted in a way that source material (especially by black artists) be considered somehow archaic and could only be listed to, nay appreciated when redone by rock singers. This was the case in 1964 when the Beatles were selling us/US Arthur Alexander, in 1968 when Joplin was covering Tate and in the early 70’s when the J. Geils Band were digging up/digging on the Marvelows**.
By the time I was a young adult, and becoming aware of – and falling in love with – the original versions of so many of these songs, I experienced a type of internal backlash in which my personal tastes underwent a kind of divestiture, in which rock versions of R&B/soul material were immediately and angrily cast aside in favor of the originals (which in virtually all cases were superior). That I wore this as kind of a badge of pride is a testament not only to my deep and abiding love for soul music, but I now have to admit also somewhat to my own immaturity.
Though I may have taken my Led Zeppelin CDs to the resale counter lo those many years ago, so that I might be alone to meditate upon Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters discs, I know now almost 20 years hence that although I was probably correct in drawing a qualitative line between raw originality and regurgitation, I was ignorant of the fact that that regurgitation is not only the natural way of the world, but a necessary part of the continuum. This is not to say that Jimmy Page ought to have been ripping whole chunks out of Robert Johnson songs and building upon them as if they were his own (the musical equivalent of copying your term paper from the encyclopedia), but rather that borrowing and reinterpretation – in moderation – were going on in the Misissippi Delta in 1935 as much as they were in the UK in 1970, and I probably oughtn’t let myself be so bothered by it all. I’m still in a place where I draw a firm line between the real thing and the imitation, but I’m now able to listen (most of the time anyway) to both.
Which brings us back to Janis.
The main reason that I’ve started to find my way around to Janis Joplin is that over time I’ve been able to do two things. First and foremost, I’ve been able to separate Joplin from the hype that surrounds all dead rock legends, but especially her. Listening to the three LPs that form the core of her discography – divorced from the Mardi Gras beads, ostrich feathers and booze that have been stapled to them for the past three and a half decades – is, if not a revelation, a decidedly new experience. Second, I’ve stopped trying to judge Joplin as a soul singer (which she was not).
Joplin traveled from Port Arthur, Texas to San Francisco in the early days of the freak flag, a folk blues singer. When she got to SanFran, and fell in with Big Brother, the juxtaposition of her wail against that of Sam Andrew’s guitar created one of the signature sounds of the age. Her need to channel Big Mama Thornton collided with the acid zeitgeist, and while the end result may have been impossibly sloppy/chaotic by current standards, it was also a good deal more real than what we are accustomed to.
While Joplin may have been fed material by a variety of sources, she was, by virtue of the willingness, or blindness of the record industry able to bounce wildly between vibes, combining raw freaky rock with blues and yes, even soul. The end result was that over a very short career, in which she was rarely able to keep it together, Joplin managed to combine raw emotion with a powerful and difficult to control instrument, and when these elements intersected she made music with real soul (if not entirely real soul music, if you get what I mean). This is not to say that her discography isn’t rife with screamy overkill – which Joplin’s audience seemed to want from her and she was more than willing to provide – but that I’ve come to the point where I realize that it clearly isn’t all that way.
Listening to Janis Joplin work it out on ‘Get It While You Can’, you hear not a crass attempt to cash in on authenticity, but rather an honest attempt to bring something new to a great song. The bottom line is, that as an interpreter of soul material Joplin was real, and Joss Stone is not.
Where all this rumination leads us is to both sides of Sugar Billy’s 1974 original recording of ‘Super Duper Love’. A supremely funky slice of soul, sounding a few years earlier (or rawer) than the 1974 copyright would suggest. Not much is known about Sugar Billy/Willie Garner other than he seems to have hailed from Detroit, where he laid down a couple of funky scorchers for Dave Hamilton on the New Day label in 1971. He recorded an entire albums worth of material for the FastTrack label in 1974, and then promptly disappeared.
I love the groove on this tune, and I felt it necessary to include both parts if only to get a little more of that sweet guitar playing (anyone know who that is??).
Either way, it’s a fantastic record, gritty, soulful and unlike the cover, entirely too strong a quaff for college girls to vibe on while tagging potential suitors with body glitter.
Have a great weekend.
Peace
Larry

* I’m especially digging versions of ‘Stop’ by the James Gang and Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills 

**Though in most of these cases, as with the cast majority of the UK R&Beat bands that introduced the sounds of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker to a white audience that was largely ignorant of those artists, the covering was done out of reverence, not calculation.

Funky16Corners Radio v.19 – NOLA Soul Pt1

February 12, 2007

Example

Mr. Robert Parker

Track Listing

1. Marie Boubarere – I’m Going Home (Nola)
2. Eddie Bo – You’re Going To Be Somebody’s Fool Too (Nola)
3. Barbara George – Satisfied With Your Love (Seven B)
4. Art Neville – Hook Line and Sinker (Instant)
5. Eddie Bo – Just Like a Monkey (Cinderella)
6. Warren Lee Taylor- Every Day Every Hour (Nola)
7. Diamond Joe – Fair Play (Minit)
8. Eldridge Holmes – Gone Gone Gone (Jet Set)
9. Wallace Johnson – I’m Grown (Sansu)
10. Aaron Neville – Why Worry (Parlo)
11. Robert Parker – In the Midnight Hour (Nola)
12. Benny Spellman- If You Love Here (Sansu)
13. John Williams & the Tick Tocks – A LittleTighter (Sansu)
14. Irma Thomas – Breakaway (Imperial)
15. Eldridge Holmes – No Substitute (Deesu)
16. Eddie Bo – A Solid Foundation (Seven B)
17. Willie West – Hello Mama (Deesu)

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

Greetings all.
As promised we return at last with the long overdue (and possibly long awaited) new installment of that monolith of the interweb airwaves, Funky16Corners Radio, its 19th incarnation.
This time out (and, coincidentally next time too) we will be exploring the world of New Orleans-based soul, running roughly from 1964 to 1969. I’ve been working on these mixes (this being part 1, with Part 2 to follow in about a month, as well as a possible Part 3 somewhere down the road) for a while, and actually had them completed and planned for launch some time ago, but the untimely passing of James Brown and my need to get together a ballads mix jumped into the middle of the road and derailed their scheduled appearances for a few months. I mainly needed the time go back and re-record the intros to the mixes (with 17 & 18 now being 19 & 20), as well as prep the individual MP3 tracks for the zip files. I finally got down to work and blocked out some time this weekend to take care of that nuts and bolts stuff, and now I find myself here on Saturday night actually writing about it.
I’ve always found the subject of when “soul” records actually started happening a little problematic, and this is especially so in New Orleans.
So many of the basic building blocks of soul and funk got their start in the Crescent City, but the records on which they were delivered to the rest of the world were for such a long time (some running well into the late 60’s) so steeped in local flavor that they defied easy categorization.
This is certainly not due in any way to the vocals because in that case, they were soulful in the South (especially NOLA) way before almost anywhere else. I’ve always thought that this had to do with a few specific factors, not the least of which was the predominance of acoustic (i.e. regular old) piano. There’s hardly a city in America that can boast of a piano tradition more important than that of New Orleans, which was absolutely bursting at the seams with your Professor Longhairs, James Bookers, Fats Dominos, Eddie Bos, Doctor Johns and the mighty Allen Toussaint. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of New Orleans music in general is the big (and funky, in all senses of the word) piano sound. While the rest of the recording world was under the ever growing shadow of the electric guitar, the folks down in New Orleans kept right on tickling those ivories.
Another reason – at least to my ears – is that most of the records that I would consider New Orleans soul kept a decidedly storefront / lo-fi recording technique (and technology) in the fore in an era when innovations in recording technology were already taken for granted in the urban centers of the North (like, say Detroit…). I suspect that this was largely a matter of economy – both monetary and aesthetic – because there are certainly examples of full blown audio extravaganzas, especially in the Toussaint catalogue, one example being Irma Thomas’s ‘What Are You Trying To Do’ on Imperial. Unlike much of her Imperial discography, ‘What Are You Trying To Do’ was not only recorded in New Orleans, but with Allen Toussaint at the board. It is as polished and bombastic as any Detroit, New York or LA disc of the era, but is also – when juxtaposed with many of the other 45s that Toussaint was creating for Sansu and Deesu – a stylistic anomaly.
Don’t get me wrong though. In this mix you will hear some records that will blow your mind, not because they sound like a doorway to the space age, but because they were written, performed, arranged and produced by some of the most talented musicians (some – like Toussaint practically visionary) in the world.
The first five tunes in the mix are Eddie Bo or Eddie Bo-related. This may seem top-heavy, but Bo was nothing if not prolific. He worked successfully as a songwriter, pianist, singer, producer and arranger on more 45s than almost any of his contemporaries, including Allen Toussaint and Wardell Quezerque.
The opening track, ‘I’m Going Home’ is performed by Marie Boubarere, a singer on which I’ve never been able to find any information. The song was written by Bo and had previously been recorded on the Nola label by another little known singer named Betty Taylor. This is a perfect example of a record that seems somehow out of date, with a 1962 vibe and a firm 1967 release date. Boubarere had a powerful voice and the record has a nice “live” vibe (applause and all).
Next up is the man himself, with a tune from his one and only 45 for the Nola label ‘You’re Going to Be Somebody’s Fool Too’ (kind of an awkward title, that). While the backing vocals sound as if they were provided by the New Orleans Opera Society, Bo is right on the spot. This sounds like a number that could have been delivered with some serious power by a female singer. I love the line about how “I recall the days, when we were close as two to three”. Oddly enough, both of these NOLA sides were produced by Wardell Quezerque (not that odd, since WQ was a co-owner of NOLA, but bear with me..) which goes to show that even though he was capable of putting the whole show together, Bo was also considered viable solely as a performer, which is kind of cool too.
Barbara George who was already an early 60’s hitmaker with ‘I Know’ did some of her last work for the Seven B label and Eddie Bo was there producing and arranging. Her 1967 45 for that label featured a cover of Chris Kenner’s ‘Something You Got’, and its flip was the deadly ‘Satisfied With Your Love’. I consider this to be one of the great lost soul sides of the 60’s, with a sexy vocal by George and a very sophisticated arrangement by Bo. Though the elements are on their own pretty rudimentary (especially the drums) the complete package is a little bit of perfection. I don’t know if this has been comped, but I would suggest trying to track down your own copy. I’m not sure if it’s because Barbara George had had a big hit in the past, but I’ve seen copies of this gem pop up in some odd places (I’ve also seen the price going up, so get off the pot).
Art Neville’s driving dancer ‘Hook Line and Sinker’ is one of the first Bo-related 45s I ever tracked down. Recorded in 1966 with Bo writing and producing, it features future Meter Neville with an outstanding vocal, as well as a great pounding arrangement.
‘Just Like a Monkey’ is the best of two 45s that Bo recorded for the short-lived Cinderella label. It is clearly an attempt to glom onto the success of ‘Mickeys Monkey’ by the Miracles, and despite the fact that the arrangement isn’t one of the masters best, I really dig the energy as well as the increasingly bizarre lyrics, especially about the “cripple fella” who “dropped his umbrella” and “scratched, just like a monkey”. I also have to admire the horn players that played that riff over, and over, and OVER again.
Warren Lee Taylor is none other than the man you all know as Warren Lee, he of ‘Star Revue’ on Deesu, ‘Underdog Backstreet’ on Tou-Sea and the legendary ‘Funky Belly’ on Wand. He recorded two 45s for NOLA, the second of which was 1964’s ‘Every Day Every Hour’. Written by “The Mighty King Lee” (as he was wont to bill himself) , the tune is a rousing dancer with a slight Latin feel and blaring horns. Dig that rolling piano underneath everything. All in all an outstanding record.
Now, I know that Diamond Joe’s ‘Fair Play’ was in the last mix (as a ballad), but the fact that it’s also a great “New Orleans” record as well as one of my all time faves by anyone, anywhere, anytime, I decided to include it again. It is an absolute masterpiece from the mind of Toussaint. Written by Earl King and Allen Orange, the record (produced and arranged by Toussaint) is a haunting work of genius. Diamond Joe’s vocal is amazing, and the inclusion of autoharp (?!?!?) is positively inspired. While I’m not 100% positive my best guess would put this record in and around 1963. Loop this one and find yourself getting hyp-mo-tized. It’s that good.
Another longtime fave of mine – and one of Toussaints great protégé/collaborators – was he late, and most decidedly great Eldridge Holmes. Though ‘Gone Gone Gone’ was released in 1965 by the Washington DC based Jet Set label, the tune (like both sides of the two 45s that Holmes would have on Jet Set) was recorded in New Orleans. Co-written by Holmes and Toussaint, ‘Gone Gone Gone’ is another one of those New Orleans records that seems to be reaching for a wider audience. The horns and chimes give this a slightly Northern flavor, and Holmes pleading vocal (with backing and piano from Toussaint) is one of his best.
Moving back to Toussaint’s “home field” we have the under-appreciated Wallace Johnson. Johnson recorded for Sansu and a few other labels between 1965 and the early 70’s and is still performing in the New Orleans area today. The flip side of the equally excellent ‘Baby Go Head’, ‘I’m Grown’ features Johnsons’s buttery tenor as well as some outstanding guitar work. Johnson is another in a long line of singers in the Toussaint-ography that should have had a much bigger career than he did.
Aaron Neville didn’t record nearly enough in the 60’s, but when he did he was right on the money, honey. ‘Why Worry’ was – aside from the mighty ‘Tell It Like It Is’ – the highlight of his recordings for the Parlo label. It’s got a suave, sophisticated feel with some smooth Chicago-style backing vocals, a great dance beat and of course a fine vocal from Mr. Neville. This ought to be a much better known record.
Robert Parker recorded more sides for the NOLA label than anyone else, up to and including the only long player to come out on that label. His cover of Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’ is one of those examples where though it may not hold a candle to the original, it outshine many, many of the other cover versions. It’s also nice to hear a soul version of this classic that manages to break with the Memphis feel of the original and still come across quite soulfully.
The next two numbers also hail from the Sansu label. The first, ‘If You Love Her’ by Benny Spellman (another great singer) has a grooving dance beat and a very cool cascading horn line. If its many fine aspects weren’t enough to recommend it to you, be aware that it is the flipside of the mighty ‘Sinner Girl’.
The second record is ‘A Little Tighter’ by John Williams and the Tick Tocks. I don’t know much about Williams, other than that he was a dynamite singer and that Allen Toussaint appeared to be saving some of his best tunes for him (he also recorded the blistering ‘Do Me Like You Do Me’. ‘A Little Tighter’ has a driving rhythm section and some unusually ornate horns for a Toussaint production. Sadly, Williams was murdered in the early 70’s.
Irma Thomas is one of the finest singers ever produced by New Orleans. She made some of her best records in Los Angeles (with other Nola expats) for the Imperial label. One of these was the mighty ‘Breakaway’. Written (and originally recorded) by Jackie DeShannon, ‘Breakaway’ is a big fave with the Northern crowd and it’s not hard to see why. It has a relentlessly upbeat tempo, and all the finest aspects of the “girl group” genre. Oddly enough this was rerecorded by Tracey Ullman in the 80’s and she had a hit with it in the UK.
We return to the mighty Eldridge Holmes with 1969’s ‘No Subsitute’. A great, bluesy performance, ‘No Substitute’ actually appeared as the b-side to two of Holmes later Deesu 45s ‘The Book’ and ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ (which will appear in Part 2 of this mix). The tune — which I believe features the Meters – has that vibe of a non-funk record being played by a funk band (i.e. some of that grease can’t help but bleed through). I know I say this every time that the subject of Holmes comes up, but someone needs to get together a legitimate, well annotated compilation of his work. He was a truly great vocalist and songwriter.
Eddie Bo’s ‘A Solid Foundation’ hails from 1967 and was the flip side of the proto-funk ‘S.G.B.’. One of his better two siders for the Seven B imprint, it features a great vocal and arrangement by Bo, including some very nice piano.
The tune that closes out this mix is one of Willie West’s (he of the mighty ‘Fairchild’ on Josie) great Deesu sides. I love the overall old-school feel of this one, especially the rolling Toussaint piano.
I hope you dig the sounds here, and like I said, I’ll be back with another helping of this good stuff next month.
Peace
Larry

Ain’t No Sunshine Times Two (Featuring Rahsaan Roland Kirk & Eddy Senay)

February 10, 2007

Example

Mr. Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Example

Example

Mr. Eddy Senay

Example

Listen – Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine MP3″

Listen – Eddy Senay – Ain’t No Sunshine MP3″

Greetings.

Sorry for the lateness of the end-of-the-week post, but as I said the last time, I was illin, which fortunately I no longer am (my kidneys aren’t stoned, but sadly neither is any of the rest of me either), and after returning to work today, and dealing with the rest of my normal life responsibilities, this had to wait until now.
Normally I would consider this a drag, on account of I like to think that the rest of you poor working stiffs (like me) appreciated a little musical kick from the interwebs when they pretend to work in their cubicles. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that these gems may well be better savored – at least once a week – in yer jammies, with a mug of delicious (and leaded) coffee. Whether you decide to augment the experience with a raspberry scone, or an eggamuffin, is entirely up to you. Vis a vis, whipping a post up onto the blog on a Friday night ought to see it arriving just in time for a breakfast nosh in the EU.
The selections that I’ve see-lected for this outing actually started off as a single record (the Eddy Senay) and then in the time since I originally digitized that one, I found myself rapping to someone about the second (RR Kirk) and figured it couldn’t hurt (might even help) to get them up – all juxtaposed like – for your audio perusal.
The song in question, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was of course originated by the mighty Bill Withers (who as far as I’m concerned waxed the definitive version of the tune). It was of course a huge hit, and spawned enough covers, across so many genres that I think it would be safe to say that it has become a standard.
There are more than a few reggae covers (Horace Andy and Ken Boothe among others), renditions by soulful divas (Betty Wright, Lyn Collins), soulful white crooners like Scott Walker and Tom Jones as well as poppers like David Cassidy and Crystal Gayle (which I think cements the “standard” label).
I first encountered the Eddy Senay version early in my funk 45 career, when I picked it up on the strength of the Sussex label. I figured that the a-side ‘Hot Thang’ would be my fave but that appraisal changed the second I dropped the needle of the flip, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Though it wouldn’t be fair to say that Senay had ripped the tune from its balladic roots, it is as supremely funky a reading as might be delivered without leaving that neighborhood entirely.
Senay’s guitar style had a really earthy, gutbucket edge to it, and the backing, with the jangling rhythm guitar, pumping organ and drums sounds like a rocksteady band trying to work themselves into a stateside urban trance. The production is barely polished, the guitar sound largely untreated, resulting in a very tough sounding disc.
Other than the fact that Senay hailed from Detroit, and that he managed to lay down two LPs for Sussex (Hot Thang and Step By Step, both from 1972), there’s not much I’ve been able to find. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did session work as well, but I have no hard evidence from which to draw that conclusion.
I said that Bill Wither’s original of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was the definitive version of the song, but among cover versions, especially instrumentals, none comes even remotely close to the mind-blowingness of that by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Now, if you don’t know who Rahsaan Roland Kirk was, you need to bookmark this page, get down to your local record store (online or off) and grab some of his records, because, and I wouldn’t steer you wrong – Kirk was a genius, and a very, very DEEP cat.
You should also grab the biography Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’ by John Kruth, a very through and excellent read, which I believe – if not still in print – should be readily available from a number of sources.
Kirk was a master saxophonist who included obscure instruments like the stritch and the manzello in his arsenal with more “traditional” saxes, often playing as many as three of them at the same time (along with all kinds of crazy whistles, and other sound effects), and managed to do all of this while profoundly sightless (aka blind). He was capable of working in a wide range of genres, from traditional jazz, to bop, modal, free/out and soul, all with a mastery that plenty of single-instrumentalists with two good eyes could never approach.
Another one of Kirks big guns (and my fave) was the flute. As a kid who grew up in the 70’s digging on Ian Anderson in Jethro Tull, imagine my surprise/dismay the first time I heard Kirk play the flute*. It was one of those head-slapping moments of revelation where the road behind you all but disappears as the space ahead of you opens up to unimaginably wide vistas.
Kirk’s recordings are as continually unpredictable as they are consistently satisfying. The album that his version of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ came from, ‘Blacknuss’ sees that tune and a medley of ‘What’s Going On/Mercy Mercy Me’ alongside a version of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’. Not many folks out there that could pull that off, brother.
Kirk’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ features a wild ride through his flute style, complete with overblowing (if you think Ian Anderson is the only one “borrowing” from Kirk, grab yourself some Jeremy Steig LPs…), up to and including Kirk singing through the mouthpiece of his flute. The string backing, along with some subtle electric piano makes for a nice early-70’s uptown vibe that frames the virtuoso performance perfectly.
Give both of these versions repeated plays and let the vibes sink in. They get better every time.
Have a great weekend.
Peace
Larry

*It was years later, when I got my hands on one of the earliest 60’s era, blueswailing Tull LPs that I realized that they had actually covered an RR Kirk tune, ‘Serenade to a Cuckoo’.

PS I’m working on a new installment of Funky16Corners radio. If I get enough time blocked out you may be downloading it early in the week.

PSS Don’t forget, yours truly, as well as DJ Prestige, Sport Casual and a host of others will be rocking the house on February 23rd at the Asbury 45 Sessions, at the Asbury Lanes in (where else) Asbury Park NJ.

Ricardo Ray – Sookie Sookie

February 7, 2007

Example

Mr. Ricardo Ray

Example

Listen – Sookie Sookie MP3″

How’s it hanging?

I’m home sick today, after spending the better part of last night passing a kidney stone.
SUMMMA-MA-BITCH!?!?
I’ve endured that unpleasant experience many, many times over the past 9 or so years, and I can say with certainty that it never gets better (if you’ve never been unfortunate enough to experience the kidney stone thang first-hand, I would suggest you avoid it at all costs).
That said, I’m feeling a little better. I’m still running a fever, but the feeling that someone is trying to remove my kidney with a rusty screwdriver has passed – for now.
Today’s selection is another one of those “digitized it months ago but only just got around to writing about it now” deals that have become so common around here that they ought to have their own logo, like “Soul Procrastination #?”.
As I’ve said before, I didn’t set out to drag my heels, but sometimes I just kind of have to feel a particular tune on a particular day, and the spirit (as it is) has to grab me.
Well grabbed me it has and I think you’ll be pleased.
In the annals of funky soul tunes, one cannot go wrong with any and all versions of Don Covay’s ‘Sookie Sookie’. While I would say that the original is still the best (one of the grittiest slices of hardcore soul ever committed to wax), I would also say that there have been numerous groovy covers, with your Tina Britt (on Veep), Roy Thompson (on Okeh) and Steppenwolf (on sale for 25 cents at your local flea market*).
I came upon the cover I bring you today via another smoking cover version by the same artist.
I can’t recall exactly when I picked up the 45 of Ricardo Ray’s boogaloo monster version of ‘Nitty Gritty’, but ever since that day it has been a fave of mine. So much of fave that when the opportunity came to grab myself a copy of the LP from which that recording hailed, I took it (the opportunity and the LP). That album 1968’s ‘Let’s Get Down to the Real Nitty Gritty’, while reeking of boogaloo-era cash-in, manages to transcend that label by in actuality being quite excellent. I won’t yank your chain and try to convince you that anyone needs to hear a boogaloo version of ‘California Sun’, but that there are in fact some other hot numbers therein.
One of those, delivered mas caliente is Mr. Ray’s version of ‘Sookie Sookie’. On first listen (though this could be said of more than a few cuts in the LP, it is immediately obvious that though Ricardo may be reaching for an even bigger slice of the record buying public (most of his previous efforts having been restricted to the salsa-esque**), he was doing so with an energy and power that some of his contemporaries – engaged in the same kind of efforts to cross over – were either incapable, or unwilling to deliver.
Ray takes the tune at a much faster tempo than was customary (Covay, his Goodtimers, and most others pounding the tune out to a heavy, slightly modified Jerk beat), which in this case is a good thing, mixing well with the crazed vocals and a blaring horn chart.
Strangely enough, in the mid-70s Ray (first, soon to be followed by partner Bobby Cruz) converted to evangelical Christianity and started making Christian salsa records, both eventually becoming ministers.
I for one am thankful that they got this stuff out of their system – and onto vinyl – first.
Peace
Larry

PS Sookie Sookie following Nuki Suki is no more than a bizarre coincidence…

* Nothing pejorative meant here, as I am referring to the common-ness of the Steppenwolf version, not it’s inherent power as it is quite the heavy bit of machinery, in a late 60’s, stoner, lightning smoking kind of way…

** Though the titles of his two previous LPs ‘Jala Jala y Boogaloo’ Pts 1&2 suggest otherwise, previous to this LP Ray and Cruz hadn’t come anywhere close to this level of Latin soul

Little Richard – Nuki Suki

February 4, 2007

Example

A WOMP BOMP A LU BOP A LOP BAM BOOM…

Example

Listen – Nuki Suki MP3″

Howdy

I hope everyone has had a nice relaxing weekend, filled with west and wewaxation.

Whether you spent a day in your smoking jacket, reclined on the settee with a good book and a snifter of brandy, or the night out, sweating up your best tee-shirt with an icy bottle of beer in your claws, I’m guessing you certainly deserved it – as do we all. This, opposed to the lot of the neckties of the world, who spent their weekend poring over spreadsheets and such, concocting new ways to endear themselves to the uber-bosses by thinking of methods to keep the rest of us down. This I suspect – whether they know it or not – will provide them with a lifetime of regrets, which they will savor in some cold, substandard “care facility” long after their children have forgotten them.
That’s what the weekend is all about. Avoiding that kind of future. The kind where all you have is regrets. I mean, when I’m 65 (or 70, or 90 if I’m really lucky) I’ll have lots of wonderful, non-spreadsheet related memories to keep me warm, as well as my wife, kids and (one hopes someday) grandkids, to whom I will bequeath the contents of my bookshelves and crates, which by that time will be seen by most as little more than arcana and the ephemera of a bygone age.
However, when the vast majority of the teenagers of the future (which by the way would make a wonderful band name and/or title for a 1950’s drive in flick) are doing the NuRobot to the strains of Zontar 2100 (or whatever they’re showing on Venusian MTV), my progeny will be the keepers of a wellspring of valuable cultural knowledge. Whether they use this knowledge for good or evil (I suspect that somewhere in the roots of my family tree yet to be there lurks the leader of some kind of soul 45-based mystery cult) is yet to be revealed. I am however sure of one thing…though they may walk the earth clad in tinfoil suits and six-foot platform boots, they will know who Little Richard was. I’ll make sure of that my friends. Oh yes, I will.
Why?
Well I’d hope that if you were a regular visitor to the Funky16Corners blog you’d already know the answer to that particular question, but then again, maybe not.
Maybe you’re one of those people that can’t abide by the sounds of anything before a certain cut-off date and you see Little Richard as little more than a relic of bygone age, or even worse as that comical old queen in the bad wig yelling at Alf on the Hollywood Squares.
If that’s what you’re thinking my friend, well…you have another think coming.
Because…well…pay attention on account of I’m about to start testifying.
The 1950’s were the very heart of the atom age and while that usually brings to mind images of mushroom clouds aglow over the Nevada desert, it reminds me of another explosion entirely, that being the equally jarring arrival of a young Georgia dishwasher named Richard Penniman on the American scene.
I have often (usually every time I see a film clip of Little Richard) given much thought to what it must have been like to see him for the first time. How must it have felt to be a 13-year-old kid in ultra-white bread Republican middle America, the very heart of staid I-Like-Ike-ism, turning on the radio and hearing a record like ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’. A 45 that carried with it (aside from all manner of earth shattering cultural implications) a 50-megaton payload of ear bending, bone rattling, dare I say it LIFE CHANGING music, the likes of which – if not entirely unprecedented – had probably never been heard by most of the growing suburban world.
Imagine the kind of psychological/aesthetic tattoo hammered into countless listeners via the piano keys exploding under the flying fingers of Little Richard.
And then there’s that voice.
The history of rock’n’roll is littered with screamers of all types, but rarely (and I do mean rarely) has anyone taken the power of an honest to god scream, and endowed it with a controlled musicality the way Little Richard did, though I’m certain that the Moms and Dads of America didn’t see it that way. What they saw (when he finally flew into view on some TV variety show or other) was a creature so alien, so seemingly built from a grab bag of offensive elements (running the gamut from his blackness, aggression, sexual thrust and/or orientation, though more likely a combination of all of the above) that he quite literally blew their minds. It was as if some mad scientist had created in his mountaintop lair, with the assistance of lightning and a rogue atom or two – this was after all the 50’s – a monster engineered to cut a wide swath of offense through the white middle class status quo, creating in the process an army of zombie teens, each and every one overflowing with a newly fired libido, a bottle of fortified wine in one hand and a love letter to Chairman Mao in the other.
Popular culture of the 50’s and 60’s is rife with images of adult authority figures, eyes rolling back in their heads as they drop to the floor in a faint at the mere sight, sound or suggestion of rock’n’roll, but the only artist capable of causing those kinds of reactions (until his onetime employee and disciple Jimi Hendrix more than a decade later) was Little Richard.
That these people missed the irony of the situation shouldn’t be surprising. Mid-50’s America was like the idea of the boom-town played out on an unimaginably huge scale. This was a country bursting at the seams with both a surplus of ready cash, and an equally huge stockpile of repressed sexuality (buried under a foul smelling cloak of puritanical hypocrisy and denial that seems to have made an unwelcome return in our own lives and times) both of which they wasted no time in using. This was the age of gigantic, almost-priapic automobiles, and the explosion of Madison Avenue controlled electronic media. Everything in the culture, from the new consumerism right on through to nuclear paranoia was outsized and out of control. How anyone could have been surprised that an age with this much electric current running through it could spawn a being as awe inspiring as Little Richard is a testament to the equally strong current of denial and racial ugliness that existed in the background.
While the American cultural underground was filled to the brim with the products of cutting edge creativity and innovation, the Kerouacs, Coltranes, Monks, Warhols et al, that are often cited as the undercurrent that gave birth to the changes of the 1960’s, the art created by these people, in its time existed largely in the margins, as did those that were aware of these words and sounds.
Little Richard on the other hand was on the radio, TV, and in the movies and he wasn’t pulling any punches. He wasn’t “foreshadowing” anything. He WAS the 1960s ten years ahead of time. He was explosive and flamboyant (in all senses of the word) in a way that was still cutting edge when the 60’s became, in one of the great nostalgic clichés of our age – “a turbulent time”.
The world was filled with Pat Boone-y types, and here came Little Richard, with his conk piled high, his eyes blazing, teeth flashing, pencil thin moustache in stark contrast to a thick layer of pancake makeup, hammering away at his piano, screeching/preaching about a girl who “sure liked to ball” (how did they miss that???) and slamming up against the inside of Americas TV sets. His image grabbed the parents of the world by the collar and shook them violently, all the while screaming

 “Wake the fuck up Momma and Daddy ‘cuz I’m coming for your kids! WAAA-OOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! (Shut up!)”

It pays to stop for a second and take into consideration the jet propulsion that was present on so many of his best records. If you listen to a track like ‘Long Tall Sally’ or ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ it is immediately obvious that these slabs of wax acted as transmitters, taking the energy that Little Richard expended recording them and entering the listeners (not unlike the holy spirit of legend) causing all manner of ecstatic convulsions. They are still capable of doing the same thing 50 years hence.
How many poor kids got grounded and were forbidden to listen to (nay, think about listening to) Little Richard after their unsuspecting parents encountered him on TV? Probably the exact same number who were driven to defy such edicts, raid the liquor cabinet and slip their hands under their best girls sweater (or allow the boundaries of their sweaters to be breached). These were the kids that left home to go to college years later and ended up throwing bricks (real and symbolic) through the windows of the establishment.
Look at a band like the MC5 and it’s not hard to see that there is a direct line running from their sounds back to those of Little Richard despite the differences – real and imagined – between the two, I’m here to tell you that they were most certainly working the same side of the street, selling the same kind of salvation. As many times as I’ve listened to ‘Kick Out the Jams’, I’ve always wanted to believe that Rob Tyner, Brother Wayne Kramer and the rest of the Five were working their Mailer-esque “white negro” schtick (which would not have existed for them without John Sinclair and his White Panther-isms) with wholehearted sincerity, because they transmit an energy on that album that is redolent of a love of real rock’n’roll (especially Little Richard) that is 100% pure. The boys from Michigan may have been serving up their Tutti Frutti with a side of hand grenades and trans-love energy, but maybe that’s what was needed in 1968. I can’t really fault them for taking the implicit politics of the Little Richard sound and translating them into explicit connections to the un-realpolitik of the moment because the end result was so exciting. I’m not sure if Little Richard approved (or even knew who the MC5 were) but I’ve seen film of them on stage and they certainly seemed like his kind of people.
As it is, the spirit of Little Richard, a fiery cornerstone of rock’n’roll, didn’t get a whole lot of play in the days of the MC5, or in any time since.
The tragedy is that Little Richard (the man and the legend) fell victim less to the vagaries of the marketplace than to a veritable tidal wave of religious guilt that alternately fueled and doused his fire through the years. The devil on his left shoulder kept pushing him to break new ground (of all kinds, read his biography) while the tight-assed angel on the right repeatedly dragged him back, forcing him to throw his jewels overboard and thump a bible instead of a piano.
He spent much of the 60’s running back and forth from the sacred to the profane, stopping along the way to create some above average soul 45s (for Okeh, Brunswick and Reprise*) and watching his musical descendants become an unstoppable juggernaut. When you see the man on TV raving about how he “invented the Beatles” it pays to remember that he’s not too far off the mark.
By the early 70’s, the godfathers of rock’n’roll were prowling the stages of the world once again at the behest of their followers. I can hardly think of one of the greats, the Chuck Berrys, Bo Diddleys, Fats Dominos or Little Richards (even cats like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker) , that didn’t make an effort – to wildly varying levels of artistic success – to remain relevant.
Little Richard re-entered the studio in 1972 with a hand-picked crew of his old NOLA compadres (Earl Palmer, Bumps Blackwell, Lee Allen, George Davis) and some newer cats (Bill Hemmons – who wrote ‘Nuki Suki’ - and believe it or not the recently departed Sneaky Pete Kleinow) to make some music. The album that he made, ‘The Second Coming’ may not have been perfect, but it is evidence that Little Richard knew which side his bread was buttered on, and while clearly eager for 1972 style success, he didn’t screw with the basic elements of his sound too much.
That is with the marked exception of the lascivious – and funky – ‘Nuki Suki’. That’s Richard on the clavinet – and the shrieking, moaning and yelping (of course), on a record that in his 1950’s heyday would probably have changed hands only under the counter in a plain brown wrapper. By current standards it couldn’t be more harmless, and even in 1972, as America, in a haze, staggered along in their fringe vests, unaware of how bad a hangover was ahead, it wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow. And you can be sure, that he meant every word – all five or six of them – with a deep conviction that can only come in the mid-life of the man that Leon Russell once celebrated as the “Undiluted Queen of Rock’n’roll”.
As it is, it’s probably just a footnote in the history of Little Richard, but a funky footnote nonetheless (the kind of footnote we specialize in around here), with no discernable impact in comparison to a monster like ‘Long Tall Sally’, yet strangely reassuring when you see the man, in a star-spangled pant suit yukking it up on a game show panel. Dig it.

Peace
Larry

* ‘Nuki Suki’ was released as the b-side of a Reprise 45, but I don’t imagine all 5+ minutes made it onto the disc.

PS Another piece of evidence that I’m slowly losing my mind, as I rapped to you at the end of my last post about the Asbury 45 Sessions, I neglected to mention where this event would be held, which is the Asbury Lanes, in Asbury Park NJ, but a stones throw from the boards where Bruce Springsteen once donned the cap and bells (or leather jacket and sneakers) and walked beneath the Proscenium Arch (aka the boardwalk).

The Isley Brothers – Nobody But Me

February 2, 2007

Example

The Isley Brothers

Example

Listen – Nobody But Me MP3″

Good day

Here we gather once again in the middle end of the work week, and if you’re anything like me you’ve already had just about enough of this ‘working for a living’ jive. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (the unbroken kind being the only variety that we customarily feature in this space), I generally reach this point some time in the middle of Monday morning, just around the time the magical powers of my coffee start to wear off.
It was not always thus.
It used to be worse.
This is not to say that things aren’t bad. On a sliding scale that begins with banal and tops out at soul-destroying, I find myself running at an uncomfortable (but bearable) “consistently unpleasant”. Very recent developments on the work scene are moving ever so slightly in a direction that signals improvement, but I’m reserving judgment until I get a better idea of where this is all leading.
This is all meant to give you some idea of my general state of mind, which at this moment seems to be on the upswing.
Either way, winter seems to have finally decided to unpack and stick around for a while, which is not entirely a bad thing. It’s all ugly and salty out but the cold – as long as it doesn’t stray into strange, previously unseen, wholly absurd Arctic levels – is bracing and clears the head nicely. Last Friday the weather jockeys on the local news were all atwitter about how this was the coldest day in two years, which served only to put into perspective how warm it’s really been.
In the spirit of warming things up a bit, I bring you one of the heaters that I keep stored in my crates to keep the other 45s from shivering.
I should preface this by hepping you to the wholly embarrassing fact that I hadn’t even heard today’s selection until a few years ago. Sure, I knew the song via the extremely cool garage/soul cover by the Human Beinz (a hit in its day and one of the few staples of oldies radio that I never tire of hearing), and I knew that it was originally created by the Isley Brothers. However – and this is a big however – I think I loved the Human Beinz version so much (I can often be seen driving around singing the 100 or so NO-NO’s in the song at the top of my lungs) I never felt the need to track down the original. This was of course a rube move on my part, and considering my curiosity about all things musical – especially the original versions of songs – entirely uncharacteristic.
Just another example of how nobody (even me, heh, heh…) bats 1000 all the time.
So, one day a few years ago my wife and I are out motoring in the countryside, pretty much just wandering (something we used to do a lot before the kiddies rolled along) and we happened upon a roadside flea market. The day was sunny and we had all the time in the world to waste so we pulled over, hopped out of the car and started checking out the scene.
Situations like this generally worked like this: we both wandered around looking at stuff for “the house”, until one of us located a stash of records, at which time all bets (as they say) were off. My wife continued to wander, and I started to dig. The record stash that day just happened to be my favorite kind, i.e. row upon row of sleeved 45s, with no one else around to get in the way. I dove in with gusto but my spirits were almost immediately dampened after the first 100 or so discs which contained an inordinately large proportion of Connie Francis, Fabian and 4 Seasons 45s. Most of the time I wouldn’t necessarily be depressed about such a selection, mainly because the general time period of these discs suggested to me that there might also be some prime early soul and or cool rock (I’m always game for a Del Shannon or Freddie Cannon disc) in the bins. This time out a look around the stall, with its framed Elvis-abilia and such did not bode well.
Fortunately I didn’t give up, because in the next row I dug out a couple of cool R&B sides, a psych 45 (nothing too rare but a cool song) and joy of joys, a nice clean copy of the Isley Brothers ‘Nobody But Me’.
I guess is that in the end I dropped less that $20.00 there, but ended up going home with a couple of cool records, so all in all it turned out to be a satisfying little safari.
So, I get home and the first record I decide to spin is the Isleys 45, and the feeling that came over me was a unique combination of shame, regret and an almost uncontrollable need to kick myself in the ass.
It’s not like the Isleys didn’t have a stellar track record lasting well over 20 years, but I don’t think I was prepared for what a little stick of dynamite I had just dropped the needle on. I should have known, but I did not. On this point I will go no further, other than to say that since that dark day, I’ve tried not to repeat such a mistake. You know…the kind of deal where you willingly pass on a record, book or movie that all of your instincts and the available evidence suggests is a killer, but your ego keeps you from taking that extra step to check it out. I discovered that all kind of behavior ever got me was an extra helping of regret, served with a side of “I could have been grooving to this record for years if I’d only been paying attention.”
That all said, the Isleys come off of the starting line going about 200 miles per hour, like a bat out of hell with a belly full of sugary breakfast cereal and a rocket up it’s ass. The NO-NOs are here, and if you can believe it they are delivered with even more conviction that those by the Human Beinz. Where the HB’s sound like the local hotshot delivering an idle boast from the window of his ‘66 Mustang, the Isleys sound like they couldn’t be more convinced of their terpsichorean superiority as they are dragged away in a custom made three-man straightjacket.
Sure, the earlier vintage of the original omits the mighty Boogaloo, but where the HB’s may have excelled at that step, the Isleys are working it out on the Popeye, the Shout (slyly self-referential), and the Mashed Potato, and their drummer (whoever he be) is beating his kit like it owes him money.
In the end, while I still love the Human Beinz (who also laid down a nice version of the Isley’s ‘Respectable’), I now know that nobody – NO-NO-NO-NO-NOBODY – beats the Isley Brothers at their own game. Let this post be my apology….
Peace
Larry

PS This will likely be the last post this week as I have some personal bid-ness to take care of on Friday. More grooves to come next week.

PSS More detail on this later, but if you’re in the Asbury Park, NJ area on 2/23, I will be taking part in an event – and I do mean EVENT – called the Asbury 45 Sessions, thanks to an invite from the always cool DJ Prestige (see link in sidebar). Pres has managed to gather some of the heaviest members of the digging/collecting world in the NYC metro area (reps from the Empire State Soul Club, Garden State Soul et al) for a night of soul and funk 45 action. If you’re within driving (or flying) distance, it promises to be a killer.


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