Funky16Corners Radio v.28 – Rubber Souled Pt1
Billy Preston – Eight Days a Week (Exodus)
Music Company – TheWord (Mirwood)
Bunny Sigler – Yesterday (Parkway)
Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (Tamla)
Vontastics – Day Tripper (St Lawrence)
Chris Clark – Got To Get You Into My Life (Motown)
El Chicano – Eleanor Rigby (Kapp)
Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows (Capitol)
Bill Cosby – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (WB)
Soulful Strings – Within You Without You (Cadet)
Bud Shank – I Am the Walrus (World Pacific)
Soulful Strings – Hello Goodbye (Cadet)
Soulful Strings – The Inner Light (Cadet)
I hope all is well with everyone.
I’ve been hard at work for a couple of weeks, selecting, digi-ma-tizing and mix-o-fying so that I might bring to you an epic in the style of the late, great Cecil B DeMille, featuring a cast of thousands, spanning the globe, crossing the Seven Seas…and…uh….well, not exactly.
But I have been working hard.
What we begin with this edition of Funky16Corners Radio (volume 28 to be exact) is something new, in that it is a podcast composed of three parts, all related, which I will be whipping on you over the next three weeks (my apologies for the less than brilliant title…).
Sometime back, inspirado hit me as a result of two things.
First, Danny over at the mighty Office Naps blog – once again – hepped me to an amazing track that I had never heard before, which oddly enough you will hear in the mix before you. That tune, bluesman Junior Parker’s reading of the Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, as well as a thread over at Soulstrut inquiring about covers of tunes by the Beatles, got me started on a mental inventory of my crates in search of same.
When I actually moved that search into the corporeal world, it proved both daunting and enlightening. I found a bunch of cool stuff that I had either passed over the first time, or forgotten about and became reacquainted with some old favorites.
This vinyl safari proved so fruitful in fact that I decided that the planned edition of Funky16Corners Radio would have to be spread out over two (ultimately, three) podcasts.
I have to take a moment to let you know that during my formative musical years, the music of the Beatles (who had just then dissolved) had a profound effect on me. They were in many ways my first musical “love”, and the records they made played an important part in the way I hear, and appreciate music today.
A cultural phenomenon in a pre-internet age (in a way the world of today can’t even imagine), the Beatles – who’s appearance on the scene coincided with the explosive growth of McLuhan’s ‘Global Village’ – influenced virtually all parts of the musical landscape, with their stylistic innovations, but more importantly with their songs. It’s no coincidence that so many of them have achieved the status of “standard”, still being recorded and re-used (how about those Target commercials with ‘Hello Goodbye’?).
That many of the people hearing these songs are doing so for the first time, and are probably unaware of where they came from is beside the point.
The first Beatles record hit the streets 45 years ago, so a certain generational disconnect is to be expected, but how many artists from the 60’s can boast of having so much of their music (and their images) still such a strong element of the zeitgeist 35 years after their dissolution?
These Funky16Corners Radio podcasts are more of a reflection of the Beatles ubiquity in their own time. The cuts I decided to include– like just about everything else I feature in this space – come from the worlds of soul, funk and jazz, and for the most part (but not exclusively) from a period coinciding with the release of the Beatles originals (give or take a year here and there). The selections are lined up not in their own chronological order, but rather in the order the LPs were released by the Beatles.
The tracks in this first installment come mostly from Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. These mixes are by no means comprehensive and the playlists are based solely on the contents of my crates (and even then I excluded a couple things, mainly to avoid redundancy).
Things get started with a cut from an early Billy Preston LP (on the Exodus label, which I think was a Vee Jay subsidiary). His lively take on “Eight Days a Week” gets things off to a rocking (Hammond, of course) start.
Next up is a cut from the studio group The Music Company, which recorded the LP ‘Rubber Soul Jazz’ for the storied Mirwood label. Composed entirely of LA studio musicians – many of whom were regulrs at Gold Star studios with Phil Spector – the disc pretty much escapes “easy” territory with some very nice soul jazz covers, including ‘The Word’.
The first ballad of the mix comes to you courtesy of Philadelphia’s own Bunny Sigler. His epic reading of ‘Yesterday’ comes from his 1967 Parkway LP which also included the Soulies (and my pal Haim’s) fave ‘Girl Don’t Make Me Wait’. ‘Yesterday’ is probably the Beatles song most often covered, and Sigler does a fantastic job making it his own, giving it just enough soulful flavor (with just a touch of gospel).
Stevie Wonder’s version of ‘We Can Work It Out’ has long been one of my fave singles by the genius. The hard hitting drums, alongside fuzz guitar and keyboards make for a nice bit of proto-funk, not to mention Stevie’s waling harp.
The Vontastics – one of my fave Chitown soul groups, with a couple of smoking 45s to their credit – drop by with their biggest hit, a storming cover of ‘Day Tripper’ (also done with great success by the mighty Otis Redding). I really dig the horn chart here.
The next cut comes courtesy of a recent Funky16Corners visitor, Miss Chris Clark. Hailing from the same LP (‘Soul Sounds’) as ‘Love’s Gone Bad’ is her version of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. Oddly enough, the tune which found the Beatles at their most soulful, ands up heading a little more into pop territory in the hands of the fine folks at Motown. Clark is of course in fine voice.
El Chicano, best known for their 1970 cover of Gerald Wilson’s ‘Viva Tirado’ offer up a very nice rendering of the mournful ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Dig the organ and Latin percussion here, as well as the Wes Montgomery-goes-East LA guitar. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of the ‘Viva Tirado’ LP which features this cut, the title track and a whole lot more.
We head into psychedelic territory here, with the aforementioned Junior Parker cover of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, which in my book goes down as one of the great intersections of artist style and material. The tune appeared on his 1970 LP ‘Outside Man’ (as well as the flip side of his version of ‘Lady Madonna’). Parker strips the song down to its framework, almost chanting the lyrics over a very spare backing. The effect is amazing, and oddly lysergic for a recording almost completely removed from the spychedelic landscape.
If that was a little too dirge-like for you, enter Doctor Cosby to lighten things up a touch. If you stop by here on the reg you know I dig Cosby’s musical efforts, and while this isn’t the funkiest thing he ever did, I still dig it. The LP ‘Bill Cosby Sings Hooray For the Salvation Army Band’ (the title tune of which is the weirdest “cover” of ‘Purple Haze’) also features the excellent ‘Funky North Philly’ and yet another version of ‘Get Out of My Life Woman’.
Another Funky16Corners fave is the great Richard Evans. His group, the Soulful Strings recorded many Beatles covers, often going in interesting directions in both song choice and arrangement. The first example in this mix is a reworking of George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ which features an amazing string arrangement, as well as sitar and tabla (natch), which also appeared as the flip side of the legendary ‘Burning Spear’.
We head back to the West Coast for a cool cover of I Am the Walrus’ by Cali-jazzbo Bud Shank. Shank (who played sax and flute) worked in many styles, recording some of the earliest jazz takes on Brazilian material, as well as moving over into the worlds of pop and rock. This cut comes from his LP ‘Michelle’ which also includes cool covers of ‘Flying’ and ‘Blue Jay Way’.
The Soulful Strings return with another cut from Magical Mystery Tour, that being ‘Hello Goodbye’. The tune starts out hewing pretty closely to the original, before the drums drop in and take things in an entirely new direction (as they so often do in Evans productions). This tune (and the next one) appears on the Soulful Strings LP ‘Another Exposure’.
We close things out with the Soulful Strings taking a second dip in the raga pool with a cover of perhaps the most obscure track in the mix, ‘The Inner Light’. The song, which originally appeared as the b-side to ‘Lady Madonna’ was yet another Harrison side-trip to the subcontinent, and as such includes lots of sitar (electric this time) and droning strings.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix.
I’ll be taking the rest of the week off – time for a little family vacation – and will return next Monday with Part the deuce, in which we survey the landscape from the White Album to Let It Be’.
PS To those of you that just grab the zip file, download the mix and give it a listen.
I think you’ll dig it. – L