Mr. Jimmy Castor
“Listen – Southern Fried Frijoles MP3″
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.
* 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
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.