Archive for March, 2007

Mongo Santamaria – Lady Marmalade

March 29, 2007

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Mr. Mongo Santamaria

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Listen – Lady Marmalade MP3″

Greetings.

How’s every little thing?
I come to you relatively late in the week (at least as things go hereabouts), both tired (from work and all) and energized, because I’m preparing to throw down some heat this Friday night at the second installment of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions.
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The inaugural session was a fantastic night, well attended and more than well spun, as the resident selectors – your host DJ Prestige, DJ Prime, Connie T. Empress, Jay Boxcar, Jack the Ripper and yours truly – played some of the hottest rare funk and soul, and will be doing so again this Friday. This time out they will be joined by WFMU’s Cool Hands Luke, and Brooklyn’s own Sport Casual, fresh from the decks at the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg.
If you are close enough to make the trip, and dig funk and soul spun exclusively on 45 (and I know you do) you’d be a fool to miss it.
Now, on the matter of the blog, I couldn’t very well finish the week out without some fresh sounds to carry you into the weekend, and so I won’t.
Today’s selection is a later 45 by one of the true kings of Latin soul, the master, Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria.
If all you ever heard by Mongo was his classic version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ then you wouldn’t be doing too badly, because as Latin soul goes, there are few selections as powerful (especially considering how early that particular cut falls on the timeline).
However (and this is a big however), were you to stop there, you would be depriving yourselves of a veritable wellspring of Afro-Cuban, boogaloo-ban, shake-yer-shoe-ban groove grease, and as your physician, I must recommend you not go down that particular road.
Mongo was not only a master conguero, but he also had a good enough ear to stay a few steps ahead of musical trends and the good taste/hippitude to do so with a great deal of flair.
He left Cuba and hit New York in 1950, and over the next 40 years recorded countless albums as a sideman (including many with Cal Tjader), and dozens as a leader. He recorded for Battle and Riverside into the mid-60’s, when he switched to Columbia, and then in 1970 to Atlantic. In the early 70’s he began to record for Vaya records (a subsidiary of the Fania label).
His cover of the Labelle disco/funk classic ‘Lady Marmalade’ hails from his 1975 Vaya LP “Afro Indio’.
The tune was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan*, and originally recorded by Nolan’s group the Eleventh Hour in 1974. Labelle went into the studio with Allen Toussaint and the Meters in 1975 and rerecorded ‘Lady Marmalade’, turning into a Number One hit in the process.
Mongo recorded his cover later that year giving the tune a Latin edge (with a slightly jazzy twist), and while it may not be the fire starter that the Labelle version was, it was still a heater.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, none of Mongo’s Vaya catalogue is currently available in reissue, but as he was one of the bigger crossover successes of Latin music, the vinyl shouldn’t be too hard to find.
So…try to make it out to the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, and if I don’t see you there, I’ll see you on the interwebs.
Peace
Larry

*Nolan, by himself and in tandem with Crewe wrote of a number of best selling pop and disco records, before waxing one of the truly insipid wimp-pop records of all time, ‘I Like Dreaming’, which of course – in an unpleasant twist- went on to be a huge hit. However, having also co written ‘Lady Marmalade’ Nolan is also laughing all the way to the bank.

Funky16Corners Radio v.20 – NOLA Soul Pt2

March 25, 2007

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Mr. Aaron Neville

Track Listing
Diamond Joe – Look Way Back (Deesu)
Wallace Johnson – Something To Remember You By (Sansu)
Mary Jane Hooper – That’s How Strong My Love Is (World Pacific)
Irma Thomas – I Wish Someone Would Care (Imperial)
Eldridge Holmes – If I Were a Carpenter (Deesu)
Rubaiyats – Tomorrow (Sansu)
Eddie Bo – Watcha Gonna Do (Seven B)
Warren Lee – Climb the Ladder (Deesu)
Betty Harris – I Don’t Want To Hear It (Sansu)
Eddie Lang – Something Within Me (Seven B)
Eddie Bo – Let’s Let It Roll (Chess)
Benny Spellman – Sinner Girl (Sansu)
Chris Kenner – Land of 1000 Dances (Instant)
Robert Parker – I Caught You In A Lie (NOLA)
Bobby Marchan – ShakeYour Tambourine (Cameo)
Aaron Neville – Ape Man (Safari)
Diamond Joe – Gossip Gossip (Sansu)

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

Greetings all.
As we close out the weekend and gather to begin yet another week, I figured I’d better stop my foot dragging, lolly gagging, shilly shallying etc, get my shite together and whip a little (more) of that sweet and funky New Orleans soul on you.
The first part of this mix (a dyptich of sorts) was all up in your grill a little over a month ago (a little more than a little….) and I promised that there would indeed be a second part, and, uh….here it is.
I’ll eschew my boilerplate gripe about how unfairly, under-appreciated New Orleans soul is. Suffice to say that the vast majority of these fine artists spent most of their careers laboring in utter obscurity, never getting any love outside of the Crescent City.
There are of course exceptions to the rule. Folks like Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, and (for a brief time in the 60’s) Robert Parker rose to national prominence (though it would be fair to say that Toussaint did so behind the scenes as a writer and producer, managing to remain a relative unknown, “relative” in that you and I know who he is, but Aunt Fannie and the guy handing fries through the drive in window don’t know who he is and probably couldn’t care less).
That said – -and in the same spirit of relative-osity – many of these artists have appeared in this space (and the web zine) before, and will thus be familiar.
The mix opens (and closes, just wait) with one of my all-time fave soul singers, the criminally unknown Diamond Joe Maryland (just Diamond Joe to his friends). ‘Look Way Back’ is one of the stellar sides he recorded during his later period with Deesu (it’s flip, ‘The ABC Song’ is an excellent, unjustly ignored funk side), and is an old fashioned pleading ballad with a little hot sauce (“He says Diamond Joe..Heh heh, that’s ME, Diamond Joe.”) on the side. Anyone with an even serviceable voice would have prospered under the aegis of the mighty Tousan, but Diamond Joe wasn’t just anyone. He had a superb voice, absolutely swimming in drama and his very small discography is marked by several brilliant records.
A great side from the Sansu discography, ‘Something To Remember You By’ by Wallace Johnson is a typical (no pejorative there) Sansu soul disc, in that it features a great singer (dig Johnson’s creamy smooth tenor), and a great song and arrangement (how ’bout that Toussaint!). After his brief time with Sansu, Johnson went on to record a few more 45s, and still performs today.
Mary Jane Hooper (nee Sena Fletcher) recorded (in collaboration with the mighty Eddie Bo) a string of very tasty soul and funk 45 in the late 60’s. ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ – featuring an uncredited duet with Bo – is her only 45 to get national distribution (it was released on World Pacific), and while light years away from the funk of ‘I’ve Got Reasons’ or ‘Harper Valley PTA’, the tune is still a solid bit of danceable soul. It is also – of all her 45s – the easiest to come by.
Irma Thomas is – along with Betty Harris – THE great female singer to record in New Orleans in the 1960s. Her Imperial sides are all excellent, but a few of them (including ‘Breakaway’, and ‘What Are You Trying To Do’) are among the finest soul 45s of the 60’s. ‘I Wish Someone Would Care’ is not only among that select group, but in my opinion one of the finest ballad performances in all of soul. The sound of the record is a mini-epic (dig those Spector-ian chimes), blending pure girl group sounds with a deep soul finish, all delivered in Thomas’s powerful voice.
If you’ve been a regular visitor to the web zine or the blog over the years, you’ll already be aware of my love for the music of Eldridge Holmes. Holmes may have been the greatest vocalist/songwriter to collaborate with Allen Toussaint in the 60’s. He recorded for a variety of labels (Alon, Sansu, Deesu, Atco, Kansu) from the early 60’s into the early 70’s, waxing everything from old school R&B and Northern Soul to relaxed deep soul and heavy funk. His cover of Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ is not only my fave version of that tune, but also my fave Holmes side. The record is a revelation, with an understated, yet powerful vocal and one of Toussaint’s finest arrangements. There was a period in the late 60’s where the master crafted a few amazing sessions in which he layered acoustic guitar leads prominently in the mix (Willie West’s ‘Fairchild’ and Lee Dorsey’s ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky’ are two examples). Weaving in and out of the crisp drumming, the mariachi/Bacharach horn charts and Holmes’ vocal, the guitar lead has a clarity and rhythmic intensity that really takes the record to another level of greatness, taking on an almost trance-like quality in the last seconds of the record. While I said I’d dispense with my standard gripes, one that I absolutely MUST rehash is that we are still without a comprehensive retrospective of this great singers work, and the time is long past due for same. REALLY*.
The next tune may sound familiar because it was included in our recent ballads mix ‘Blues, Tears and Sorrows’. The Rubaiyats – actually Allen Toussaint and Willie Harper – made but one 45 for Sansu (under that name) but it was a killer. The a-side ‘Omar Khayyam’ is one of the finest upbeat soul party tunes of the 60’s, and its flip, ‘Tomorrow’ is an equally fine ballad. While Toussaint and Harper were not similar singers, their voices did have a similar quality, which goes along way to explaining why their duets (as the Rubaiyats, and as Willie & Allen) are so good. ‘Tomorrow’ combines their harmonies with a fine, understated arrangement.
We return to the star of the first NOLA Soul mix, Mr. Eddie Bo, and one of his better sides for the storied Seven B label, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’. Bo is in fine voice here, aided and abetted by a female chorus, and some ringing guitar. This is for me, one of Bo’s best vocals, in that he allowed himself some room to stretch out and work with the relaxed tempo (which gets just a touch heavier – with the addition of a horn section, and sax solo – later on in the mix).
Warren Lee is another singer like Eldridge Holmes, who managed to record in a variety of styles through the 60’s and into the funk era (you may know him best from his Wand side, ‘Funky Belly’), hopping from label to label, yet creating uniformly excellent records. ‘Climb the Ladder’ is one of his mid-60’s efforts for Deesu (along with ‘Star Revue’) and has Lee delivering a casual vocal over ringing piano, chank guitar and a great horn arrangement.
I qualified my earlier statement about Betty Harris because though she made all of her best records in New Orleans, she – unlike Irma Thomas – was not a native of that city. ‘I Don’t Want To Hear It’ is one of her most powerful performances on Sansu, given a real uptown soul sound in one of Allen Toussaint’s most expansive arrangements. This is in that select group of Toussaint-helmed 45s that dispenses almost entirely with a New Orleans “feel”, aiming directly for the Top 40. This is not to say that it’s quality is in any way compromised, but rather that Toussaint was working with a different set of building blocks when he put it together, as if he were reaching beyond New Orleans for something bigger.
Eddie Lang was a fine, raspy voiced singer who recorded a few sides for the Seven B label, including the excellent ballad ‘The Sad One’. ‘Something Within Me’ was the a-side of his first record for the label, and it’s a powerful, uptempo dancer with a great guitar solo, and a memorable horn chart. Lang’s New Orleans drawl manages to peek through his soulful wail now and then, and in the end ‘Something Within Me’ is a record that should have (could have) made a bigger splash.
Eddie Bo returns with one of his excellent Chess sides, ‘Let’s Let It Roll’. If the song sounds familiar it might be because it borrows liberally from the Encyclopaedia Curtisiana. Mayfield may have been working his magic hundreds of miles away n Chitown, but his influence reached into New Orleans. This was the case subtly (i.e. Eldridge Holmes ‘Emperor Jones’ on ALON) and not so subtly as in ‘Let’s Let It Roll’ which sounds like a rough draft of the Impressions ‘It’s Alright’. Certainly Bo takes a completely different vocal approach (for a slice of pure Curtis, head on over to Texas for the Van Dykes), but the tune itself, with it’s gently rolling soul was undoubtedly influenced by the Impressions.
Benny Spellman’s ‘Sinner Girl’ was one half of one of the better two-siders on the Sansu label (flipped with ‘If You Love Her’). Unlike the Betty Harris record, ‘Sinner Girl’ is a perfect example of a record that is New Orleans to its core. Spellman delivers another characteristically excellent vocal, bolstered all the while by Toussaint’s piano rolls, and a meaty horn arrangement.
Next up is one of the truly legendary New Orleans records. Though there are those that would argue that Chris Kenner’s ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ doesn’t really cross over from the realm of pure R&B into soul, the tune itself was so influential (not mention what Wilson Pickett would make of it a few years later), and Kenner such a raw talent, that it would be foolish not to include it. The best part – for me anyway – is the juxtaposition of Kenner’s ragged howl against the background singers with the ‘Oh yeahhhhh’s’ and ‘Oooh Oohhhh’s’, backed by the simplest percussion and piano.
Robert Parker is best known for his huge hit ‘Barefootin’, but he also recorded a number of other excellent sides for the NOLA label (recording more singles than any other artist on the label). ‘You Caught Me In a Lie’ is, considered against the rest of his catalogue, quite a departure. Parker was a master of formulaic dance records, and to hear him take on a slice of mellow, romantic soul is kind of jarring. The cool thing is, that once the shock wears off, ‘You Caught Me In a Lie’ is quite good.
Despite that fact that he is largely unknown outside of soul fans and collectors, Bobby Marchan had a long and productive career, from his days with Huey Piano Smith and the Clowns, through a long string of excellent R&B and soul 45s that started in 1953 and lasted well into the 80’s. During that time he recorded as a solo, with the Clowns and (briefly) leading the Tick Tocks (who went on to record two excellent 45s for Sansu with John Williams in the lead). ‘Shake Your Tambourine’, which was released on Cameo in 1966 is in this writer’s opinion the best thing he ever recorded under his own name. The song is a soul raver, with some excellent guitar, but the highlight of the record is the repeated breakdowns where Marchan chants ‘Shake your moneymaker!’.
Aaron Neville should be a stranger to no one, but I doubt many have heard his one 45 for the Safari label, ‘Ape Man’. Recorded in 1968, in the lean years following ‘Tell It Like It Is’, the tune sounds as if it is being piped in from a few years earlier. Though the framework is disposable “dance craze”, the tune sports an excellent vocal by Neville, as well as some interesting chord changes along the way.
As promised, we close out this edition of Funky16Corners Radio with another side by Diamond Joe. Every once in a while you come across a record that clearly should have been huge, and ‘Gossip Gossip’ is one of those. Opening with Toussaint himself (I think) talking under the mix ‘Man did you hear what’s happening to Joe and his girl?’, Diamond Joe comes in at full blast with the verse, with the finest vocal he ever laid down. The instrumental backing – which for most of the record is a very simple organ/bass/drums pattern – blasts off going into each chorus, with the sax and horns hitting an ascending patter that almost physically lifts the tune to another level. You can say what you want, but I consider ‘Gossip Gossip’ to be one of the best soul records EVER recorded. The fact that it isn’t better known is a damn shame, and a testament to how many fantastic records never really got heard outside of New Orleans. I’ll take a page from my Eldridge Holmes spiel to remind the folks out there that own reissue labels, you NEED to get a comp of Diamond Joe’s recordings (which would all fit nicely on a single disc). I would also like to issue a plea, to anyone that has a copy of the 45 that Diamond Joe recorded for Instant (‘Too Many Pots’), which I’ve never been able to track down, I would love to hear it.
Anyway, I hope you dig the mix (there’s certainly enough material in the crates for more volumes).
Peace
Larry

*Come on Sundazed, let’s do it.

Remember that the second Asbury Park 45 Sessions is coming up this Friday 3/30, and I hear that Sport Casual will be jetting in from Brooklyn to join us on the decks.

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NOTE: DJ Prestige has also entered the blogging game, and his new venture Flea Market Funk has been added to the blogroll…

Little Royal – Another Woman’s Man

March 23, 2007

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Little Royal

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Listen – Another Woman’s Man MP3″

Greetings all.

This’ll be a quick one (I promise).
The end of the week has arrived, and as a result the vast majority of us – apple polishers and brown nosers excepted – can take a moment to rejoice, and attempt to relax…on my count…three, two….ONE.
There!
Now don’t you feel better?
Well, you will (I promise) once five o’clock arrives in your time zone and you get to jump through the rear window of your car (just like Fred Flintstone) and burn rubber out of the parking lot at work, weaving in and out of the traffic so that not a single carbonated bubble is wasted in the frosty beer that awaits you at home.
Today’s selection should do nicely as the soundtrack to said weaving, in that it is a solid, meat and potatoes slice of funk with enough jet power to give you a nice lift after you’ve flushed another five days of your life down the shitter working for THE MAN.
Seriously though…you probably know as much about Little Royal as I do.
I know for a fact that he recorded a great album for the King Records subsidiary Trius (cool logo that) in 1972, from which more than a few singles (peculiarly ubiquitous 35 years hence*) were issued.
For years all I knew of personally was Little Royal and the Swingmasters version of the Huey P. Meaux tune ‘Soul Train’ (previously recorded by Jackie Paine as ‘Go Go Train’ on Jet Stream) , which is a cooker, and will most definitely be featured in this space sometime in the future. There is also the case of his best known track (at least to the funk 45 crowd), that being ‘Razor Blade’, which saw a 45 release as well as appearing on the LP ‘Jealous’.
Today’s selection is another track from that LP, a funky reworking of the early Joe Tex tune ‘Another Woman’s Man’ (I suspect the folks at King/Starday, having a few early Tex tracks in the vaults – including ‘Another Man’s Woman’ – may have suggested, no doubt in an attempt to capitalize on Tex’s popularity, that Little Royal record the track).
Whether or not that is in fact that case, Little Royal and band do a very nice job funking up the tune (which as far as I can tell was first recorded in the late 50’s, and reissued periodically through Tex’s career), including a nice opening break (nothing spectacular, but open drums is open drums…) and a tasty vocal by LR.
No matter how thin you slice it, ‘Another Woman’s Man’ is a good one.
Dig it.
Peace
Larry

* For some reason (I suspect that a limited amount of success led to King/Starday engaging in a wild bit of over-pressing) it’s hard to go digging for vinyl without coming across handful’s (hands full???) of clean, minty, store stock of Little Royal 45s. The LP is usually findable for a bargain price as well. Don’t let the ease in which these recordings can be obtained fool you. Despite the fact that shifty-eyed digger types (some of whom, in a bit of gross oversimplification,  have written off Little Royal as little more than a James Brown imitator) would lead you to believe that these records are too cheap to be good, the stuff is well worth picking up.

PS The new issue of the fantastic soul mag There’s That Beat is out, featuring articles on Pittsburgh soul records, Jimmy Wisner, early Motown sides and a bunch of other cool stuff. Well worth your money, sonny.

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PSS Installment Numero Dos of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions is one short week away. Nuff said…

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Wilbert Harrison – Let’s Work Together Pt1

March 21, 2007

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Mr. Wilbert Harrison

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Listen – Let’s Work Together MP3″

In which Canned Heat is unexpectedly/indirectly thrust upon the readers, who will thank me later…

Hi there kids.
It’s almost Wednesday (the most awkwardly spelled day of the week), which means the work week is almost half over (uh, huh…) which means…well I don’t know that it means anything at all, but let’s use this opportunity to get together and work something out.
Back a week or two ago, when I was selecting 45s to be featured in this space, I pulled out my timeworn copy of Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’, cracked a smile and tossed it on the “to be blogged” pile.
While there’s no argument that Mr. Harrison is worthy of your attention (if only for ‘Kansas City’, and that’s a big one), I knew this tune for years (many…many years) before I had any idea that it was one of his (songs that is..).
If you are of a certain vintage, the tune ‘Let’s Work Together’ brings to mind a specific set of sense memories and images, among them mud, hippies in mud, naked hippies in mud, dancing naked hippies in mud, and a pack of smiling, disheveled record collectors doing the amphetamine boogie on a rickety stage.
Are you with me?
The record collectors I speak of were none other than Bob Hite and Alan Wilson of Canned Heat.
That’s right.
Canned Heat.
You can say that time has not been kind to Canned Heat, but to deny that they loom large in the zeitgeist-geist (I just made that one up, but I think you can see where I’m coming from) that lingers amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the Love Generation.
As demonstrated by the appalling presence of Dennis Hopper in a series of financial planning advertisements, the 60’s are by and large no longer something real that the majority of the world experienced firsthand, but rather a random stew of film clips, song snippets and frayed slogans that are often stapled together to suggest the flavor of an era, then used to sell stuff.
When a documentary starts with a phrase like “The 60’s were a turbulent time!” (cue Homer SimpsonHmmmmmm..turrrrbulent…”) you can be sure that the opening strains of Jimi Hendrix playing ‘All Along the Watchtower’ or the Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’ aren’t far behind. Tunes like that have become a kind of shorthand, meant to conjure up oceans of raised fists, protest signs, shots of helicopters in Vietnam and pictures of Nixon covered in a liars flopsweat.
On the other side of that coin, immortalized by the very same code is the sweaty, hippified ghost of Canned Heat.
If the beginning flute solo of ‘Going Up the Country’, or the drone of ‘On the Road Again’ don’t cause images of psychedelically painted schoolbuses driving past hundred of thousands of blissed out festival-goers, then you need to realign yourself with the mass consciousness brother because you have not been paying attention.
This is both a good and a bad thing.
On the good side, it means that as long as people are alive to do lip service to the world of the 1960’s, Canned Heat will have a kind of immortality.
On the bad side, it means that Canned Heat will have the kind of immortality in which they are reduced to a 10 second audio footnote.
This makes me sad, because – believe it or not – Canned Heat was one of the cooler bands of their era.
Here’s why….
A. The band was led by two hardcore record collectors (the aforementioned Messrs Hite and Wilson) who were part of the wave of blues fanatics that spent a great deal of their otherwise misspent youths canvassing old neighborhoods, attics and junk shops for blues 78s. I’ll understand if you don’t think this qualifies them as cool, but I’d hope you’d understand why I think it does….
B. They played the blues with the evangelical fervor of true fans, but never (thanks to Hite) seemed to take themselves too seriously, other than wanting to get out on stage and whip a little Elmore James on the kids in a tasty, bottleneck stylee
C. They were a truly weird looking bunch, in a (real) way that bands just can’t be (weird looking) anymore
D. Bob Hite was largely (no pun intended) responsible for getting Albert Collins a major label record deal

In 1970, just before Al Wilson died, they went into the studio and laid down one of their finest records, a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s ‘Let’s Work Together’. The cool thing was, that this wasn’t a reworking of a 40 year old blues chestnut, but a cover of tune that Harrison had hit the charts with in 1969!
Featuring a set of lyrics that seem to have been an attempt to tap into the peace, love and brotherhood vibe of the era (and an admirable sentiment in the face of riots, war etc.), Harrison’s recording – which we feature today – had a rough and ready vibe with some truly inspired harmonica abuse, and a great vocal by the man. While Canned Heat may have turned up the electricity a couple of dozen notches, roughing the song up a little – and God bless ‘em for it – they didn’t really deviate from Harrison’s blueprint all that much. That they were speaking the same essential language – constructing a sound from a later iteration of the same building blocks – is undeniable, and comforting.
I’m a huge blues fan, listening to everything from early songsters like Henry Thomas (from whom the Canned Heat boys borrowed the structure for ‘Going Up the Country’), up through Delta giants like Son House (on who’s 1960’s recordings Alan Wilson played) and on into the electric blues of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, but I’ve never had much use for anything crafted after that last decade.
I’m 100% positive that there were lots of great blues musicians, band and records from the early 70’s on, but to me there always seemed to me that something essential was missing. Whether this was in fact true, and blues music as a whole lost something after it was commodified for ingestion by rock audiences – a process that began with the British Invasion and locked in around the time that the audience for the blues became predominantly Caucasian- or I’m just locked inside a sentimental attachment to the “authenticity” of another time (which is entirely possible), when I listen to a band like Canned Heat (and take the step back to hear Wilbert Harrison) there’s a real sense of joy there (not at all ironic in the blues, despite what some folks might tell you) that just doesn’t seem to pop up on the radar later on.
Either way, dig the Wilbert, and if you aren’t hip to the Heat, pop on down to your local CD warehouse and grab the standard 10 dollar Best of Canned Heat (or however it’s being repackaged these days) and dig on that.
Then go play in the mud with a big smile on your face.
Peace
Larry

Buy – Wilbert Harrison ‘Let’s Work Together’ – at Amazon.com

PS I’ve been digging the hell out of the latest Amy Winehouse album, and was going to write something along those lines, but the folks over at the Captains Crate blog did it first, and quite well. Check out the post, and get yourself a copy of the CD.

Stacy Lane – African Twist

March 19, 2007

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Mr. Stacy Lane

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Listen – African Twist MP3″

Howdy.
The weekend is finally over.
It was – as always – brief but – as sometimes – enjoyable, spent with family and friends, celebrating our Irish heritage (by birth, or marriage).
Oddly enough, we managed to do this (and delicious beer was indeed consumed) without anyone ending up face down in the gutter, clad only in an orange, green and white Cat in the Hat chapeau (having been forcibly de-pantsed, de-shirted and de-dignified by strangers) and flecks of our own vomit – as I’m sure was the case outside countless sub-standard chain restaurants with faux Gaelic names across our great land.
As a person of largely Irish extraction (but a few generations removed from the old sod, with the pale complexion to prove it), I can’t help but be a little disgusted by the way so many people choose to spend the feast of St. Patrick engaged in an alcohol-soaked spirit walk through the back alleys of the human experience, utterly besotted, their bellies awash in phony Irish-branded suds (Killians, the Shamrock Shake of beers), “loaded” potato skins and green bagels.
I suppose that their ultimate reward is waking up in a holding cell with (someone’s) green underwear wrapped around their pounding head, wondering how they’re going to explain to their sainted mother why they were arrested for trying to get friendly with a mounted policeman’s horse on the parade route.
In honor of these good folks (though I suspect that they’re too busy clinging to the shag carpeting in their parents basement, in a valid attempt not to fall off the face of the earth to be surfing the interwebs), I present a track so loud, so powerful, that anyone with a hangover would be foolish to get within shouting distance.
That track being ‘African Twist’ by Stacy Lane.
I suppose I should begin by stating that aside from the basic discographical get-down – that being that our friend Stacy laid down two sought after 45s for that pillar of Southern blues and soul, Excello Records – I can provide little or no information about him.
I first came across his brief but delicious catalogue in the very early days of the Funky16Corners web zine. The very first feature article I wrote was about the African/Afro Twist, a little known, but oddly well documented (via records) dance “craze” of the mid-to-late 60’s. I will refer you to the article itself for more detail, but in the spirit of long-story-short-ism, I attempted to tie a number of records (by Jackie Lee, Jerry-O, Lonnie Youngblood et al) celebrating said dance with a rise in Black consciousness around the same time, in which all things African came into vogue. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that many of the artists involved were doing anything more that attempting to get some action on the dance-floors and radio charts, but rather that the records were a pop-cult reflector or sorts, tapping into and (to a smaller extent) driving the zeitgeist.
The thing that grabbed me about Stacy Lane – aside from the obvious high quality soul power of his record – was that his performance therein was a fantastic example of the powerful and far-reaching influence of Mr. Wilson Pickett (with whom we shall visit in the next week or two).
When making a survey of the 1960’s soul/funk landscape, there are several major artists that cast shadows of varying length across same. Though you could make an argument for including many performers (James Brown, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding), among those that left a clear mark, the name Wilson Pickett looms large.
Countless soul singers participated in the melding the strains of sacred and profane that brought the sounds of gospel into the world of rhythm & blues (and vice versa), but in this writers opinion, few did it better – or with as much gusto as Pickett.
That Pickett had an influence on the world of funk and soul (and rock’n’roll as well) is undeniable. The breadth of that influence however is arguable.
I qualify my argument because there are elements of Pickett’s style that clearly did not originate with him. His signature growl – though few were able to approach its raw power – was not without precendent. There are so many performances in 60’s soul that are Pickett-esque, the temptation is to attribute his influence to all of them. However, the degree to which he directly effected the work of others varies wildly.
In the case of Stacy Lane’s ‘African Twist’ – however – the connection couldn’t be clearer.
It’s not just the multiple shout outs to the Funky Broadway (and there are many), or the breakdowns that sound as if they were lifted straight from Pickett’s time in Memphis. It’s the fact that Lane sounds as if his diploma from Soul U wasn’t enough, so he decided to enroll at the Wilson Pickett School of Graduate Soul Studies for an advanced degree in Pickettology, after which he graduated summa cum soulful, having proven that he was capable of performing all thousand dances to the satisfaction of the faculty.
Without listening too closely, one might be forgiven for thinking ‘African Twist’ had originated at a Pickett session, though careful examination reveals that while Lane clearly made a careful study of the Wicked’s patented sound, he lacked a certain razor sharpness in his attack. It’s almost as if Lane was Pickett in his larval form, waiting only for the passage of time in which all that had not formed fully would come into sharp focus.
That said, ‘African Twist’ is a hot little groover, with its lion roars, monkey screams and Lane’s repeated chants of “UNGOWA!” (just enough novelty to make it fun but stopping far short of Dr. Demento territory). Served up to an audience of eager dancers, the fact that it is but imitation Wilson Pickett would be of little consequence, because it’s such a good imitation. When you’re out on the floor mixing it up and the lights are low and the sweat and beer are flowing liberally, all that matters is that the music is soulful, and in this case is it very much so, and that is why – because it only takes one great song – Stacy Lane is entitled to a small corner in the hall of soul immortals.
Peace
Larry

NOTE: the Asbury Park 45 Sessions #2 is coming up fast, less than two short weeks away. You don’t want to miss it. See DJ Prestige’s site for more details..

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Friday Flashback #2 – Funky16Corners Radio v.5 Funky Nawlins Pt1

March 16, 2007

NOTE: This is the second in an occasional (as often as I can manage) series of reposts of older editions of the Funky16Corners Radio podcasts. I’ve had a lot of requests in the last year to make some of the older podcasts available again, and I’m going to try to eventually get them all uploaded into an archive on the server.

Funky16Corners Radio v.5 Funky Nawlins Vol 1 was originally posted on June 19, 2006.

Dig it, and have a great weekend.

Peace

Larry

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

1.The Meters – Cardova (Instant) 2.Chris Kenner – Fumigate Funky Broadway (Instant) 3. Jimmy Hicks – I’m Mr Big Stuff (Big Deal) 4. The Unemployed – Funky Thing Pt1 5. Skip Easterling –Too Weak To Break The Chains (Instant) 6. Lee Dorsey – When the Bill’s Paid (Polydor) 7.Cyril Neville – Tell me What’s On Your Mind (Josie) 8.Danny White – Natural Soul Brother (SSS Intl) 9. David Batiste & The Gladiators – Funky Soul Pts 1&2 (Instant) 10.Wilbert Harrison – Girls On Parade (Buddah) 11. Chuck Carbo – Take Care of You Homework (Canyon) 12. Allen Toussaint – We The People (Bell) 13. Oliver Morgan – Roll Call (Seven B) 14.Deacon John – You Don’t Know How To Turn me On (Bell) 15. Mary Jane Hooper – Harper Valley PTA (Power) 16. Eddie Bo – Don’t Turn Me Loose (Bo Sound)

Greetings all! Here’s hoping that you all had a good weekend. Things here in the Northeast were spectacular and spectacularly hot (at least for this early in the summer). Today we bring you the fifth installment of Funky16Corners Radio, this time taking a trip back down to the Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana for a selection of funk and funky soul. Connoisseurs of the genre will be familiar with some of these burners, but hopefully I’ve included something that’ll be new to everyone, especially some discs that I feel have been under-appreciated. We start things off with a number that resides at the top of many “Best of All Time” funk lists, the Meters mighty ‘Cardova’. By far my favorite number the Meters ever committed to vinyl under their own name – leaving out the many amazing 45s for which they provided anonymous backing – it starts out with George Porter dropping some heavy, heavy bass (so heavy in fact, that when it comes on in the car, I have to restart the tune and crank up the bass boost). As the rest of the gang drop in, Messrs. Neville on the organ, Nocentelli on the guitar and Modeliste snapping the traps, it all comes together into a swampy, hypnotic and undeniably funky mix. The only drag here is that this amazing song never made it out as a 45 (perhaps the tiny brittle confines of a 45 were too fragile to contain such a monster). If you want to spin it, you’re going to have to track down and snare a copy of their first LP (or a reissue thereof).

Chris Kenner is known to all for his early Instant label classics like ‘I Like It Like That’, but you would be wise to see if you can score copies of his late 60’s output for that label. In addition to his Eddie Bo collaborations like ‘All Night Rambler’, he also laid down tasty sides like 1967’s ‘Fumigate Funky Broadway’. Opening with a tasty drum break, Kenner goes off on a wild tear – as he was wont to do – backed by some groovy organ. The lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense, but really, who cares? The b-side ‘Wind the Clock’, despite the new title, is actually a Part 2-ish continuation.

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Jimmy Hicks ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ is of course an ‘answer record’ to Jean Knight’s 1971 ‘Mr. Big Stuff’. One of many outstanding 45s on the Big Deal imprint (along with Anthony Butler & the Invaders, and the Fantoms), ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ takes things at a slightly more relaxed, and funky pace.

The Unemployed made a couple of excellent 45s with Wardell Quezerque. Though they recorded in Mississippi (at Malaco, as many of Quezerque’s productions), they were a NOLA band through and through. ‘Funky Thing’ is a fast moving, featuring group vocals, lots of guitar and solid drumming. Their other Cotillion 45, ‘Funky Rooster’ b/w ‘They Won’t Let Me’ is also excellent.

Though little known outside of New Orleans, Skip Easterling was the town’s greatest “blue-eyed” soul singer. Easterling recorded for a number of New Orleans labels – his ‘Keep The Fire Burning” on ALON is a classic – and his sides for Instant are outstanding. ‘Too Weak To Break the Chains’, from 1971 features some timely psychedelic guitar, a funky, stop-time beat and a smooth vocal by Skip. He recorded five 45s for Instant, one of which ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ was a big local hit. Someone ought to get the lead out and compile his recordings, as he – like many other great NOLA singers – is deserving of wide recognition.

Where do you start with Lee Dorsey? The man could do no wrong. He was responsible for a number of hits, including oldies radio fixtures like ‘Ya Ya’, and was one of New Orleans’ finest R&B/soul singers. ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ hails from his 1971 Polydor LP ‘Yes We Can’. If you’ve heard the album, you already know that it’s packed from end to end with amazing tunes like ‘Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further’, ‘Tears Tears and More Tears’, ‘Gator Tail’ and the title track (later covered by the Pointer Sisters). ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ is one of the lesser known, but excellent tracks from the LP (it never came out on 45). Like the rest of the LP, it bears the mark of the Meters.

Cyril Neville’s solo debut was the 1970 45 ‘Gossip’ b/w ‘Tell Me What’s On Your Mind’. Also backed by the Meters, and Toussaint-produced it was funky on both sides – though funk 45 diggers are usually after the harder-hitting ‘Gossip’. ‘Tell Me What’s ON Your Mind’ is clearly no slouch in the funk department, with snapping drums, chunky organ and a tight, tight horn section.

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Prepare yourself for the pure, unbridled soul power of Danny White’s ‘Natural Soul Brother’. White recorded a number of ballads and soul dancers through the 60’s for labels like Frisco. ‘Natural Soul Brother’ was his sole 45 for SSS Intl, and it is a stone killer. I first heard this tune years ago on a comp, and just about went nuts trying to track down a copy. For a track on a relatively common and well distributed label it proved extremely hard to find. I was foiled more than once when I thought I finally tracked on down – one disappeared en route from the UK – before I finally scored a copy for a single US dollar in an otherwise uninspiring lot on E-Bay. I suspect that after you hear the song, you’ll want one of your own as well.

I underwent a similarly frantic search for David Batiste & the Gladiators ‘Funky Soul Pts 1&2’ on Instant. Not only is this track hard to find, but when you do it is EXPENSIVE. I lucked out and got it for a reduced price, but only because it looked a lot worse than it played. I would rank ‘Funky Soul’ as one of the four or five best funk sides to emerge from New Orleans (and that’s saying a lot). Released in 1971, it was issued later on the Soulin label. I have seen sales listings that infer that the Soulin issue is the first, but looking at the vintage of other releases on that label, I have my doubts. I have included both Parts One and Two here.

The next track is by a non-New Orleans artist, but it was recorded there. ‘Girls on Parade’ hails from Wilbert Harrison’s self-titled 1971 Buddah LP. Produced by Marshall Sehorn, with horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint, the LP is unremarkable, save for the funky ‘Girls On Parade’. Harrison, best known for the classic “Kansas City” and the 1969 ‘Let’s Get Together’ (covered by Canned Heat) wails a series of girls names (and not much else) over the modified Bo Diddley beat.

Chuck Carbo’s ‘Take Care of Your Homework’ was the flip side of his funky, Eddie Bo penned/produced masterpiece ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’. ‘ Take Care of Your Homework’ never reaches the frantic levels of ‘…Squeeze’ but is still quite funky, with a melodic chorus. Carbo had recorded a number of 45s in the 50’s and 60’s, including several as a member of the Spiders with his brother Chick.

If you follow the doings in this space, you already know that I think very highly of the great Allen Toussaint. The man was responsible for the lions share of great R&B and soul sides to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s as a songwriter, producer and arranger. He worked closely with singers like Eldridge Holmes and Betty Harris, and lesser known (but also excellent) artists like Wallace Johnson. Toussaint also had his own performing career, first as Al Tousan, then as a member of the Stokes and finally under his own name. 1969’s ‘We the People’ was his final single for the Bell label. Moving along with a loping beat, lots of piano and Toussaint’s vocals, ‘We the People’ (which was flipped with a cover of ‘Tequila’) may not be the funkiest thing he ever recorded, but is nonetheless a fine – forgotten – chapter in his solo discography.

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Oliver Morgan recorded a bunch of classics, including ‘Who Shot the La La’, and, not surprisingly ‘La La Man’. The latter was one of his three collaborations with Eddie Bo on the Seven B label. The first record the recorded together was ‘Roll Call’, which features some tight James Black drums, backing vocals from Mr. Bo and a wailing lead from Morgan. The b-side, ‘Sure Is Nice’ is a groovy, upbeat soul tune.

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Deacon John Moore is best known for his work as a popular New Orleans session guitarist on countless classic 60’s records. His 1971 (or ’72, I’m not 100% sure) 45 ‘You Don’t Know How (To Turn Me On)” is a funky vocal with some excellent guitar (no surprise there). I know this was comped somewhere (but can’t recall where). The flip side is a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers To Cross’.

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Eddie Bo produced and wrote for many singers, and many of his best remembered sides were with Mary Jane Hooper. For years, the rumor was that Hooper (real name Sena Fletcher) was the same person as ‘Inez Cheatham’, who recorded the duet ‘Lover and a Friend’ with Bo for Seven B and Capitol. This has been disputed – by no less an authority than Bo himself – but their voices are EERILY similar. ‘Harper Valley PTA’ was released on the local Power label, backed with another issue of ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’, which had been issued earlier on World Pacific.

Speaking of Eddie Bo, we close this mix out with the b-side of his 1971 Bo-Sound funker ‘Can You Handle It’. ‘Don’t Turn Me Loose’ is a more relaxed, but no less satisfying number, featuring a great horn chart and some nice female backing vocals (not to mention a stellar vocal by Mr. Bo himself).

Young-Holt Unlimited – California Montage

March 15, 2007

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Young Holt Unlimited

(Eldee Young, bottom right)

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Listen – California Montage MP3″

Greetings, and good mid-week to you all.
This won’t be too lengthy a post, as my ass (and brain) is dragging, and the hour is late.
Today’s selection is yet another trip into the strange and wonderful world of Northern Soul, and sadly an obituary as well.
It was a few weeks ago that I happened upon the news that Eldee Young, bassist for the mighty Young-Holt Unlimited (born, with drummer Redd Holt out of the ashes and inspiration of the Ramsey Lewis Trio) had passed on in early February at the age of 71.
We’ve touched upon the work of the Young-Holt organization here a couple of times over the years, and I was definitely planning on writing about them a few times more. I just wish it didn’t have to be in conjunction with the death of one of the group’s members.
Young-Holt (along with pianists Hysear Don Walker and Ken Chaney, not sure exactly who’s playing on this track) recorded a number of excellent LPs for Brunswick, Cotillion and Paula between 1965 and 1973. Though their earliest work was pretty much a stylistic continuation of their work with Ramsey Lewis, they did move on to record some stylish and funky records (sometimes both at the same time), including their 1968 mega hit ‘Soulful Strut’ (aka the instrumental bed from Barbara Acklin’s ‘Am I the Same Girl’) which is probably – along with ‘Green Onions’ – one of the best known soul instrumentals (hell, soul records) ever.
Over the years, I’ve rarely passed up a Young-Holt 45 or LP when I found it, because they are of a consistently high quality, plentiful, and cheap.
Today’s selection, ‘California Montage’ is probably the only Young-Holt disc that I ever went out of my way to obtain a copy.
While I am in no way an authority on Northern Soul, I am a big fan, and some years ago I read of an obscure Young-Holt side called ‘California Montage’ that was something of a favorite on the Northern Scene (‘California Montage’ was for a time a traditional closing record of sessions at the storied Blackpool Mecca). My interest was piqued – as it often is – and I made an effort to grab a copy of the disc. I can’t remember offhand whether I picked it up in the field or via Ebay, but I do recall that at the time it was not an expensive record (under $10).
I also recall that the first time I played it, I found it to be kind of a strange record (though I’ve come to like it quite a bit)
The tune itself was written by Dave Grusin as part of the soundtrack to the 1969 Paul Newman film about racing ‘Indy’ cars, ‘Winning’. How Young-Holt happened to record a piece of obscure film music is unknown to me. That they did is to their lasting credit, because although it has something of a smooth (bordering on slick) veneer, ‘California Montage’ is a prime example of late 60’s Chitown soul.
The record was arranged by Sonny Sanders, who helped create some of the finest Chicago soul records of the 60’s for both the Brunswick and Okeh labels, including many sides by Jackie Wilson, Gene Chandler, the Artistics and of course Young Holt Unlimited. The main tangent that I’m inclined to draw would go directly from ‘California Montage’ to just about anything by the legendary Soulful Strings. Though Richard Evans sound with the Soulful Strings was – in my opinion – much more sophisticated, edgy and inventive overall (which could be said of the entire Cadet oeuvre), there are elements of Sanders arrangement that suggest that Evans and the Soulful Strings weren’t far from his mind. The song has a strong four on the floor backbeat for the dancers (which along with the string section and sweet, poppy touches go along way to explaining the record’s popularity with the Northern Soulies), and the interplay between the vibes and the strings is sublime.

As far as I can tell, aside from the 45, ‘California Montage’ only ever appeared on the Young-Holt Greatest Hits LP (though it has been included on several Northern Soul comps).
I know that after ‘Funky, Yeah’ on Monday, ‘California Montage’ is kind of a rapid downshift (think of it as a palate cleansing sherbet course), but I think if you give it a few listens, you’ll dig it too (and I promise that the next tune in the lineup will be something with a little more grease, and groove).
So give ‘California Montage’ a couple of “spins”, and remember Eldee Young.
Peace
Larry

Curley Moore & The Kool Ones – Funky, Yeah

March 12, 2007

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Mr. Edwin Bocage aka Eddie Bo

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Listen – Funky, Yeah MP3″

Curley Moore & the Kool Ones – Funky, Yeah, aka the Other “Black” Sabbath, aka the Return O’ Mr. Bo….

I have returned once again, refueled by a weekend spent doing anything but actually working – though I may have “worked”, my labor was wholly at my own disposal and that of my family as opposed to that which I do for my regular (regular of course being a very flexible word) employer – and giving a lot of thought to how I was going to lay it down tonight (in the written sense, but as it’s only about 9:00PM anything is possible…).
When I said I had a bunch of groovy gravy set aside for dissemination in this very space, I was not talking smack, Jack, nor was I blowing smoke, or any other euphemism for hot air scented with dishonesty.
The cool thing is that I could hardly claim to bring some heat without at least a touch of that Eddie Bo majesty you’ve come to know and love. Mr. Bo, he of New Orleans, is nothing less that one of the great makers and movers of black music (and I use an all encompassing term like that because he has crafted works of genius in R&B, soul, and funk for nigh on fifty years), in his capacity as performer, writer, arranger and producer. Along with the mighty Toussaint, and Wardell Quezerque, Bo forms a mystical triangle of musical wonder (so mystical in fact to have inspired an informal cult of sorts, of which I consider myself a charter member, fez, secret oaths and all) that not even a cataclysmic hurricane/deluge could wash away.
If you’ve been a regular visitor either to the Funky16Corners web zine or the blog, you will already be aware that I hold Mr. Bo and his musical creations in the highest possible esteem, and have made this clear by rattling on about same, over and over again, and will probably continue to do so until I’ve run out of records about which to rap (though at that point I fully expect to begin a process of reappraisal/deconstruction/reconstruction and reevaluation that will being the cycle anew, on and on until I expire clutching a worn copy of ‘Hook and Sling’ which I will have taken to wearing about the neck as a totem).
He’s that heavy.
But you probably already know that.
Well, brother, if you do, get ready, because the heavy is about to undergo an alchemical transformation and get even heavier.
I begin by taking a brief detour to the New York Times obituary page (a place I stop practically every day as it is the last stop for a wide and wonderful variety of people) where I read the other day of the passing of one Brad Delp, he the lead singer of the band Boston.
Why do I mention this?
Bear with me and all will become clear(er).
Back in the day, when I was a lad of 14 or 15, I had my Dad make a special trip to the local Two Guys (a long defunct department store chain) where took the few dollars I had to my name, headed over to the record department (yes kids, they used to sell records in department stores) and dropped said money on a couple of 45s, one of which was Boston’s ‘More Than a Feeling’. (Feel free to take a moment for a Borscht Belt spit take..).
At the time, fresh off of a major Beatles infatuation, I was starting to sidle up to the musical bumper crop of the 1970’s, hard rock. My friends had already started to fill my head with Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, but while all that seemed undeniably heavy, and cool, there was something about it that suggested to me the record collection of my next door neighbor’s older sisters, and their slightly dangerous dirtbag friends that bedeviled my old man by hot rodding up and down the block. While I dug the music, it nagged at me with a certain second-handedness.
Then Boston came along.
They were new, and their music was to my 14 year old ears a serious blast. Loud (very), vaguely poppy and polished to a high, chrome-like gloss that the budding wannabe rock musician in me found eerily seductive.
This was an age when my pals and I would sit around marveling at Tom Scholz and his seeming ability to use all 611 tracks in his super secret, high tech pleasure dome/studio where he, his transistors, oscillators and thousands of miles of magnetic tape would come together to make musical magic (POOF!).
I took that Boston 45 home, placed it on the turntable of the huge Montgomery Ward console stereo that seemed to take up about half of my bedroom and played it over and over again, much as I had my copy of Frampton Comes Alive. I often look back in wonder that my parents weren’t to kick in my door and beat me half to death because of the noise (especially after I got a drum set).
But the reason I am spinning this half-assed version of the ‘Wonder Years’ is that at the time, and for a few years afterward, the kind of blaring guitar rock that Boston and bands of their ilk were creating was what I craved. There were of course exceptions to the rule (those being the Beatles, and my first encounter with Otis Redding which happened not too long after this), but when I heard a song like ‘More Than a Feeling’ (or long forgotten attempted anthems like Billy Thorpe’s ‘Children of the Sun’) my head instantly filled with images of huge wall of amplifiers, laser beams, massive 98-piece drum sets and an overpowering need for chest-rattling volume.
Imagine my surprise a few short years later when the whole thing was blown to smithereens by my high speed collision with reality, in this case embodied by punk rock (60’s and 70’s), and soul music.
In a relatively brief period, my entire musical worldview was mangled and reconstituted. I left behind the world of arena concerts for a decade spent witnessing the kind of music that could only be heard in bars and nightclubs.
That I was embarrassed by my mid-teen musical tastes was partially the result of moving in an entirely different world in which the artifice of the commercial rock juggernaut and all of its trappings were anathema (the kind of circles where an “ironic” appreciation of Led Zeppelin had not yet become fashionable, though even that was but a few years off), but also because in my heart of hearts I realized that a lot of what I – and my friends – had been listening to paled in comparison to the sounds I had now surrounded myself with.
Strangely enough the kinds of things I treasured in hard rock (aside from the surface elements) were pretty much what I dug in “alternative” sounds (the big A word being used in it’s general sense, not yet having been appropriated by major label America), i.e. raw power, emotion and attitude, though a different species of attitude entirely.
In the five or so years between the purchase of that 45, and when I first started collecting soul and garage punk 45s in earnest, my need for “heavy” in my music was undimmed, while my definition of what actually constituted heavy-osity changed drastically. Where I once craved power chords and rock anthems I now needed Wilson Pickett, fuzz guitar and once my constitution was strong enough to handle it, the foot stomping boogie of John Lee Hooker.
As the years marched on, and my record collection and knowledge of other musics expanded, the deeper I dug and the wider I opened my ears, the more I began to realize that I had only ever seen the tip of the tip of the iceberg, and that the music I once considered heavy was by and large the lightweight blathering of a group of musicians who oddly enough started out worshipping the same people I was now worshipping, and at some point took a tragically wrong turn, inverting the lemons-into-lemonade formula, crafting instead, a ripe toxic sludge.
So…time marched on, and I’ve never stopped looking for new things to listen to, and each new sound (new to me that is) informed, or were informed by, the sounds that were already part of my experience. Today, despite all of the music I’ve listened to in 44 years, I remain convinced that somewhere out there, something even more amazing is yet to be heard.
Even though the search continues, there are countless pieces of music that have registered as benchmarks of a sort against which all new sounds are measured. The kind of music that hits both the heart and the mind – though not always in equal measure – and stays with me, filed away so that I may return and experience them again and again as needed (the basic explanation for any record collection).
It was in that search for deep sounds that I first encountered the work of Eddie Bo, eight or nine years ago. His wasn’t the first deep funk that I heard, or loved, but it hit me in a serious way, which got more serious as I discovered the breadth of his catalogue. Exploring the works of Eddie Bo, from his early R&B days, through the soul era and on into the years of heavy funk, the listener is treated not only to a microcosm of New Orleans music (as you would investigating the aforementioned Messrs. Toussaint or Quezerque), but of the black musical experience in general.
Bo recorded pure rhythm and blues, pop soul, dance craze, sweet soul, funky soul, out and out funk and then, for a brief period in the early 70’s he whipped on the world a couple of absolutely deadly slabs of funky black rock that would redefine – once again – my definition of what was truly heavy.
Black rock, which has become something of a defined subgenre amongst the crate diggers, collectors and obscurantists of the funk and soul world was, in a period that lasted roughly from 1968 to 1974 (keep in mind that I’m placing those temporal parentheses in place somewhat randomly, being positive that someone applying a certain level of diligence would be able to find examples both before and after) the intersection of funk and soul with psychedelia and hard rock. Though there have been some comps of note exploring this genre (most notably ‘Chains and Black Exhaust’), the best way for someone unfamiliar with these sounds to start investigating is to begin with late-period Hendrix (Band of Gypsys et al) and work your way down the ladder of fame, stopping along the way at Funkadelic (first three Lps especially), with detours into the world of Norman Whitfield, Sly and the Chambers Brothers on down through Fugi, checking out every heavy brother with a ruffled shirt and lysergic tendencies on the way.
The movement – as it was – has it’s roots in bluesmen like Buddy Guy, Freddy King and Albert Collins, all of whom had flirted with rock styles, but never really came to fruition until Hendrix blew things wide open. Though for years he has been considered first and foremost a rocker, Hendrix’s music always had a soulful edge, getting even moreso as he left the Experience behind. His influence on a certain strata of the black music community was profound, allowing cats like George Clinton, himself but a year or so out of a high, processed conk, to let their freak flag fly high and wide. Beginning with some of the later Parliaments 45s (especially ‘A New Day Begins’) and on through the first few Funkadelic LPs, culminating with the blinding power of ‘Super Stupid’ on ‘Maggot Brain’, Clinton and company took the baton from Hendrix and ran like crazy.
Down in New Orleans, Eddie Bo, already having tasted a level of nationwide fame with the brilliant ‘Hook and Sling’ in 1969, continued to create funky sounds, but was also allowing fuzz and volume to make appearances on his palette.
Oddly enough, the two finest examples thereof were both recorded under other people’s names.
One of these, ‘Hey Mama Here Comes the Preacher’ by Doug Anderson on the Janus label. I’ve never been able to ascertain whether there ever was a “real” Doug Anderson, but the man responsible for “Hey Mama…” was none other than Eddie Bo, and the record is a heavy, heavy, piece of murky, psychedelic funk.
The other one – the one we’re here to talk about today – is a little killer called ‘Funky, Yeah’ by Curley Moore and the Kool Ones (also this time, Eddie Bo).
Though I’ve tried – yes I have brothers and sisters – I’ve never gotten the whole story on this record.
If you look at the label, it is evident that someone named Shelley Pope appears to have “collaborated” with Mr. Bo in the creation of the record (as is the case on the flip side “Shelleys Rubber Band”* as well as the Doug Anderson 45). In fact, Shelley Pope was a New Orleans DJ, who had little or nothing to do with the music on those records.
Now, some years ago I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Bo about the presence of the name Curly Moore on the label, and he (Eddie) said that Curley was basically hanging around in the studio and was similarly vestigial in the actual creation of the sounds on the disc. This was some time before I had heard anything by Curly Moore, and in the ensuing years I have come to the conclusion that although he didn’t have much to do with the record, I believe that the voice at the beginning of ‘Shelleys Rubber Band’ is in fact Curley Moore and not Eddie Bo. I may be wrong, but I have a hunch I’m right.
Anyway, the side of the record we concern ourselves with is the other (side that is), that being ‘Funky, Yeah’ (gotta love that comma and all it brings).
That record is one of those life changers, redefiners, and more importantly ass-kickers that come along rarely.
Opening with a brutally pounding snare roll, joined by a distorted rhythm guitar (and a bed created, I think, by an organ), the song literally explodes upon the entry of the lead guitar. This is a lead guitar** that combines a gumbo-delic mixture of southern chicken lickin’ guitar spanking, acid-drenched fuzz and lobe smashing volume that leaps through the mix like some kind of synaesthetic slap to the face that leaves the listener alternately stunned and hypnotized, all the while marveling that it all manages to be utterly freaky yet undeniably funky.
‘Funk, Yeah’ – like all great examples of black rock – is lashed to the mast of soul, all the while passing through a thundering wall of rock. It is rock, once (and future) severed from it’s black roots (profoundly so some years later by the likes of Boston), proudly reclaimed.
Ironically, this was a reclamation that a deeply stoned America was by and large oblivious to, tuning into the lysergic vibe while ignoring the funk within. Hundreds of thousands found themselves on the rockfest circuit soaking this all in as if on a film negative (i.e. Rare Earth, Vanilla Fudge and any number of other white rockers with pretentions (at widely varying levels of success) of soulfulness.
Thirty-five years on – as it was largely ignored at the time of its creation – ‘Funky, Yeah’ is for most people a stunning wake up call to what might have been (or actually was on a very small scale). The cool thing is, that despite its powerful dose of unfuckwithableness, ‘Funky, Yeah’ – and it’s excellent A-side, are fairly easy to come by at an affordable price. Though you have it in ones and zeros once you’ve completed the download, I can’t imagine not being seized by an overpowering urge to leave the house in search of a ‘hard’ copy (in convenient 45 form).
As always, you’re welcome.
Peace
Larry

* Part of a string of NOLA “Rubber Band” records that included the Meters ‘Stretch Your Rubber Band’ (on Josie) and Eddie Bo and the Soul Finders very own ‘Rubber Band’ (on Knight)

 ** The brilliant guitarists name, sadly lost to the ages

WEEKEND BONUS FLASHBACK- Funky16Corners Radio v.4 – S.O.S. Heart In Distress

March 9, 2007

Example

Track listing

Velvelettes – Lonely Lonely Girl Am I (VIP)

Betty Harris – I Don’t Want To Hear It (Sansu)

Irma Thomas – What Are You Trying To Do (Imperial)

Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache (Deram)

Cooperettes – Shingaling (Brunswick)

Barbara West – You’re No Good (Ronn)

Kim Weston – Helpless (Gordy)

Betty Everett – Getting Mighty Crowded (VeeJay)

Shirley Ellis – Soul Time (Columbia)

Christine Cooper – S.O.S. (Heart In Distress) (Parkway)

Persianettes – It Happens Every Day (OR)

Marvelettes – I’ll Keep On Holding On (Tamla)

Thelma Jones – Stronger (Barry)

Bonnie & Lee – The Way I Feel About You (Fairmount)

Martha & The Vandellas – In My Lonely Room (Gordy)

Linda Jones – I Can’t Help Loving My Baby (Loma)

Liberty Belles – Shingaling Time (Shout)

Jean Wells – With My Love and What You’ve Got (Calla)

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

Top o’ the morning/afternoon to ye….
Today brings us to the fourth installment of Funky16Corners Radio, this time bearing the title ‘S.O.S. Heart In Distress’, borrowing its name from the record of the same name, representing a storming collection of mid-60’s, danceable, female-driven soul sides.

As with all previous Funky16Corners mixes, this one is a distillation of a personal mix I’ve been rocking for a few years, playing and replaying until it was boiled down to it’s essence. Composed of 18 of my faves, almost all compelling the listener to get up and dance (or at least nod one’s head vigorously).
If you’re a cardholder in the world of hardcore soulies (or a regular reader of this blog), some of these tracks will be familiar, but hopefully many will be fresh and new (to you) and you will dig them accordingly.

Example

Disinterested in wasting time, we kick in the door (as it were) with what I consider to be one of the finest records to have been produced in Detroit during the 1960’s. ‘Lonely Lonely Girl Am I’ by the Velvelettes , is an example of the early brilliance of Norman Whitfield. Cowritten by Whitfield, Eddie Holland and Eddie Kendricks, the tune is just over two minutes of dancefloor soul brilliance. Sporting a classy arrangement and a fantastic vocal by Carolyn Gill, it’s the finest of many excellent 45s by the Velvelettes.

Not willing to let up one iota, the next tune, ‘I Don’t Want To Hear It’ is one of Betty Harris’s best. Harris, who recorded ballads, upbeat soul and funk under the aegis of the brilliant Allen Toussaint between 1965 and 1970 (and is back performing today, having recently won back the rights to her catalogue) wails like a woman scorned. I’d love to know how Toussaint got that deep bass sound at the beginning of the record.

 

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Speaking of the Soul Queens of New Orleans, the only woman that can give Betty Harris a run for her money in competition for that title is the legendary Irma Thomas. Thomas recorded a series of brilliant 45s for the Imperial label in the mid-60’s. Though many of these were recorded in California, the best of them (including this track) were recorded in her home base of New Orleans with Allen Toussaint. ‘What Are You Trying to Do’ is one of those brilliant Toussaint productions/arrangements that seem to transcend a “New Orleans” feel, skyrocketing into the pop/soul stratosphere. Thomas’s soaring vocal is complemented by a propulsive beat and elegant strings. It took me a long time to find a copy of this one, but boy was it ever worth it.
The Flirtations ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ is a mindblower. I first found this record years ago, purchasing it unheard, mainly because it was a Deram 45 that I’d never encountered before. As soon as I got it home I realized what a find I had (keeping in mind that this was back in the day when this was a cheap record). The Flirtations recorded their first 45s in the US for the Josie label, but it wasn’t until they relocated to the UK and recorded for Parrot and then Deram that they really broke out. The recorded a series of tunes written by UK pop songsmiths Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington who had done time in Pete Best’s band and went on to write a number of pop hits. ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ grabs you from the opening piano chords, and seemingly manages to pack the power of ten records into this one recording. The tune was recently recorded by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes.

 

Example

I don’t know much about the Cooperettes aside from the fact that they hailed from Philadelphia and they recorded a number of excellent 45s. The best of them is the Northern Soul classic ‘Shingaling’. Recording for the Harthon organization, the backing track for ‘Shingaling’ was recycled for Irma and the Fascinators brilliant, unreleased but often comped ‘You Need Love’. Opening with casual high-hat hits that build into a powerful drum roll, the tune is a storming dancer with some amazing production.

Example

Changing things up a bit, with a moody feel is Barbara West’s version of ‘You’re No Good’. Written by Clint Ballard (who also wrote the Mindbenders ‘Game of Love’ and ‘I’m Alive’ for the Hollies), the tune is perhaps best known in versions by Betty Everett and Linda Ronstandt. I dig West’s gritty, pained take on the number. When she’s shouting ‘You’re no good!” in the chorus, she sounds like she means it. West recorded four 45s for the Ronn label.

‘Helpless’ by Kim Weston is a fine example of Holland/Dozier /Holland goodness. Weston, who recorded a number of duets with Marvin Gaye, also recorded a grip of winners as a solo, most notable this gem from 1966. After leaving Motown she went on to record for MGM, Volt and People among other labels.

 

Example

Speaking of Betty Everett, she may best be known as the singer of one of the most overplayed oldies ever, i.e. ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’ but she was certainly no slouch. She recorded a number of killer sides for the VeeJay label, including the classic ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’. Written by Van McCoy, the tune was later covered by Alan Price, and even later by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.

Shirley Ellis is another great singer who’s finest work is often overlooked because of her big hits (in her case ‘The Name Game’). Ellis recorded a number of excellent sides for the Congress label (including ‘Nitty Grity’) before jumping to Columbia in 1966. ‘Soul Time’ (taken from the LP of the same name) is one of her best sides

Christine Cooper recorded three outstanding 45s for the Cameo/Parkway label, the rarest of which ‘Heartaches Away My Boy’ trades for hundreds of dollars. 1965’s ‘S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)’ may be more affordable, but it’s no less a killer. Featuring a bright, poppy arrangement, and a “morse code” riff in the chorus (predating the Five Americans), ‘S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)’ is simply a great record.

Example

The Persianettes/Persionettes were another Phildelphia group, part of the Ben-Lee stable that included artists like Patti & The Emblems, Timmy & the Empires, Cindy Scott and Kenny Gamble. ‘It Happens Every Day’ which was released on Open Records, was one half of a brilliant two-sided 45 (with ‘Call On Me’ on the flip). The Persianettes recorded sides for Swan, Olympia, Guyden and Open/Or, as well as singing backup on other Ben-Lee productions.

Example

The Marvelettes ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’ is one of the greatest Motown sides of the 60’s, as well as a beloved Mod/Northern Soul classic. Covered in the mid-60’s by UK Mod gods the Action (which is where I first heard it) ‘I’ll keep On Holding On’ is nothing less than an anthem. It has a pounding arrangement, memorable lead and backing vocals (gotta love those Oooooweeoooo’s) and builds to a sing-a-long chorus that you never want to end.

Thelma Jones recorded a string of great 45s for the Barry label between 1966 and 1968, including the original (and superior) version of ‘The House That Jack Built’. ‘Stronger’ was the b-side of her first single for Barry in 1966.

Example

Years ago I picked up a beat up copy of ‘The Way That I Feel About You’ by Bonnie & Lee for a buck at a record fair, and fell in love with it instantly. Fortunately I was able to mint up a few years later at a similarly low price. It’s an amazing record (released in 65 or 66 on Philly’s Fairmount label), and why it remains undiscovered is a mystery to me. Though this is a duet – and doesn’t adhere strictly to the format of this mix – Bonnie’s vocals are so good I couldn’t hold it back.

Example

Another song I heard by the Action before the original recording is 1964’s ‘In My Lonely Room’ by Martha and the Vandellas. Opening with jangly rhythm guitar and vibes, the drums soon kick in and take this record to another level entirely. By the time Martha and the girls drop is things are moving at a brisk pace, making this one of my favorite Motown dancers. The way the rhythm builds up, with the guitar, drums, tambourine and handclaps one on top of another, along with Martha Reeves powerful lead vocal is amazing.

Linda Jones recorded a bunch of great 45s for Loma in the mid 60’s. Her biggest hit was 1967’s ‘Hypnotized’, but I’m here to hep you to it’s energetic flip side ‘I Can’t Stop Loving My Baby’. Featuring a very solid vocal by Jones, and a tight, danceable arrangement, this one ought to get your feet moving.

I know nothing about the Liberty Belles, aside from the fact that ‘Shingaling Time’ is a killer. Dig that ‘Ha Ha!’ at the beginning and the pounding drums. The tune was also released in the UK on JayBoy.

Example

The mix closes out with another personal favorite and is probably the latest tune in this batch, hailing from 1968. Jean Wells recorded excellent 45s for a number of labels (including Quaker Town, Sunshine, ABC and Calla) through the 60’s, and ‘With My Love and What You’ve Got (We Could Turn The World Around)’ is by far the finest. An absolute stunner with an arrangement that builds to a powerful chorus (which continues to build on itself right into the run off groove) this record never lets up. The record has sophisticated production with an eye turned to the pop market, and Wells vocal, especially in the last 30 seconds of the record is incredible.

A.A.B.B. – Pick Up the Pieces One By One

March 8, 2007

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JB’s AKA A.A.B.B.

Example

Listen – Pick Up the Pieces One By One MP3″

Greetings.

Here we are again, at the mid-point in the work week, and things hereabouts are going well.
As I mentioned in the last post, I recently finished digitizing a bunch of new stuff (not “new” in the sense that it’s just been created, but new in the sense that I have yet to blog-ify it), and I think over the next month or so, as it gets doled out a track at a time, you will indeed be pleased.
My recent appearance with the Asbury Park 45 Sessions crew caused me to get down into my crates and pull out some of that good, good funk and soul that we all love so much, and as a result, I not only selected a grip of fine 45s for spinning, but a bunch of cool stuff for the blog as well.

Example

On a related note, the Asbury Park 45 Sessions was so successful an event the first time around that it is becoming a monthly party, with the next installment coming up on the 30th of this month (that being March for those of you tuning in from an alternate dimension, or some such). The resident crew will be returning, that being the host with the most DJ Prestige, Connie T. Empress, Jay Boxcar, Jack the Ripper, DJ Prime and of course, yours truly. The collections represented by these fine folks are some of the heaviest around, and if AP45 Mk1 was any indicator, heat will be brought, rugs cut and minds blown. If solid funk and soul on 45 is your bag and you are within a few days driving distance, you NEED to be there brothers and sisters.
Speaking of 45s that might pique your interest, I bring you one such biscuit this evening, that being ‘Pick Up the Pieces One By One’ by A.A.B.B..
Though you’d never know it from looking at the 45 label, which bears almost no pertinent information, the full name of the group was the Above Average Black Band, and the record was a James Brown production.
I-Dentify is probably the least known of all JB-related labels, with only about a half dozen 45s ever seeing the light of day on the imprint.
The band, despite the oddball name was in fact the JB’s, and the tune itself a loose reworking of their own ‘Hot Pants Road’.
The story goes – and there may be an element of apocrypha here, though I’m inclined to believe it – that the Godfather was so pissed off by the “appropriation” of JB-styled funk by Scotland’s own Average White Band (more specifically the bass line from ‘Hot Pants Road’), that he issued this “answer record” of sorts as a cry of indignation.
The irony is, of course that 32 years hence, the AWB’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ – which I believe to be quite a solid funk record by the way – is a well remembered Top 10 hit, and the Above Average Black Band is a footnote to a footnote, known only to funk 45 diggers and Brown aficionados.
This is of course a shame, since ‘Pick Up the Pieces One By One’ is a tight, atmospheric bit of funk-on-the-way-to-disco (THERE…I said it, the dreaded D word!) built on a solid JB frame. The added gloss of the string section, the rolling clavinet and the Dorothy Ashby-cum-Norman Whitfield harp embellishments (which I love) ought to have propelled ‘Pick Up the Pieces One By One’ onto the radios and into the discos of a grateful nation, yet cruelly, this was not to be. Either way, even if almost nobody felt the dancefloor heat in 1975, you can dig it today, and that’s a good thing, right? The tune was reissued as part of the ‘James Brown’s Funky People Vol. 3′, along with a grip of other excellent records.
In an interesting footnote, to a footnote, to a footnote (as it were) the group Osaka Monaurail recorded a tribute 45/decon/reconstruction of the whole affair as a 45 with ‘Pick Up the Pieces One By One’ on one side and ‘Hot Pants Road’ on the other (sly move that). It is of course quite groovy.
That all said, I’ll try to get something else up for y’all before the end of the week (though over the weekend seems more likely at this point), and the second part of the New Orleans soul podcast should be arriving soon.

Peace

Larry

Buy – James Brown’s Funky People Pt 3 – on Amazon.com


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