Funky16Corners Radio v.31 – Soul Satisfaction
Otis Redding – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Volt)
Wynder K Frog – Jumping Jack Flash (UA)
Baby Lloyd – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Smash)
Soulful Strings – Paint It Black (Cadet)
George Semper – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Imperial)
Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter (Ode)
Curtis Knight with Jimi Hendrix – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (MPE)
Gabor Szabo – Paint It Black (Impulse)
Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (WB)
Thelma Houston – Jumping Jack Flash (Dunhill)
Mongo Santamaria – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Columbia)
Sam Butera & the Witnesses – Symphony for the Devil (Pr1ma)
I just stepped in from the deck, having made a feeble attempt to take in the scheduled meteor shower (we get a fair amount of light pollution, and I was in the middle of a delicious ice pop), and it was just one of those nights where the exit of the sun seems to have done nothing to cut the humidity.
This has been an excellent weekend hereabouts; with a big family gathering to celebrate the late July/early August birthday cluster (which included my little guy Sean turning one-year-old) and today we took the kids to the circus.
I only mention the visit to the big top (where it had to be about 110 degrees), because as the elephants marched out, what should come over the PA system but a taste of some old school New Jersey funk, that being ‘Jungle Boogie’ by Kool & the Gang. It wasn’t the highlight of the show (that was when I realized that a member of the Chinese acrobatic troupe the AcroStars, was the same guy that ushered us to our seats, multi-tasking at its finest), but it made the wonderful experience of watching two little boys dig the circus all the sweeter.
A couple of weeks back, during the Rubber Souled podstravaganza, one of the commenters (Holland Oates) asked if I was planning a Stones covers podcast (I wasn’t), and specifically mentioned Merry Clayton’s powerhouse version of ‘Gimme Shelter’, which I blogged in the space a looong time ago.
The idea did appeal to me, and when I started rolling it around in my brain, several excellent records came to mind.
Though in many ways their roots were largely different, one thing the Rolling Stones shared with the Beatles was a love for US R&B and soul music. Both groups covered Arthur Alexander, and the Stones paid homage to Solomon Burke, Irma Thomas, Rufus Thomas, the Valentinos, and Alvin Robinson among others. While they’re best known for their devotion to Chicago blues, they definitely had a taste for soul.
When I hit the crates and started to dig, my suspicions that the Stones weren’t as widely covered as the Fabs were confirmed (sort of). While there weren’t as many different Rolling Stones songs that got covered, it became immediately apparent that almost everyone – at one time or another – covered ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
Of course this did nothing to stop me, so what you’re getting here is no less than six ‘Satisfactions’, along with two ‘Jumping Jack Flashes’, two ‘Paint It Blacks’, the aforementioned ‘Gimme Shelter’, and one of the oddest covers of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ that you’re ever likely to hear.
Things get started with perhaps my favorite soul verson of ‘Satisfaction’ by the mighty Otis Redding. Suitably shamed for excluding Otis’s ‘Day Tripper’ from the ‘Rubber Souled’ mixes (I had to have the Vontastics), I decided to lead off with his take on the Stones. Otis was the king, and his revved up version of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ is one of his best covers.
Wynder K Frog (aka Mick Weaver) spent a lot of time playing on other people’s records, but his own sides feature some of the hottest Hammond action of the late-60’s. Fortunately for US diggers, most of his stuff also saw release on this side of the Atlantic, courtesy of the United Artists label. The Frog’s take on ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ sports some wailing organ and a tight horn chart.
‘Baby’ Lloyd Stallworth was for a time one of the Famous Flames, who made his way to the front of the stage a couple times in the 60’s via a couple of 45s and this performance from the 1967 ‘James Brown Show’ LP on Smash. Lloyd was a solid vocalist, though this version of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ owes a big debt to Redding’s arrangement.
The Soulful Strings were well represented in the ‘Rubber Souled’ mixes, and they return with a great latin-ized version of ‘Paint It Black’. You already know that I think Richard Evans (mastermind/arranger behind the Soulful Strings) was a genius. The arrangement here may seem minimalist, but taking a song as distinct as ‘Paint It Black’ and recasting it with a whole new vibe certainly earns points for originality.
Organist George Semper is well known to Hammond aficionados for his excellent ‘Making Waves’ LP on Imperial, as well as his funky 45 with the George Semper Rhythm Committee. His stylish version of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ is a great showcase for his Hammond stylings.
Merry Clayton has a unique distinction among the artists in this mix, in that she appeared on the original recording of the tune she covers here, that being ‘Gimme Shelter’. After an early stint as a Raelette, Clayton went on to sing backup for a veritable Who’s Who of late 60’s/early 70’s music, including Neil Young, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, and Allen Toussaint before recording her debut album in 1970. Clayton’s reading of ‘Gimme Shelter’ in many ways meets and exceeds the power of the Stones original. I really dig when the guitar gets all wah-wahed out near the end.
Next up is yet another Curtis Knight recording featuring the assistance of Jimi Hendrix. As is the case with many of these collaborations, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ is of confusing provenance, not to mention truly weird mixing that allows the volume to surge here and there. However, Knight lays into the tune with some heavy soul shouting, so he gets in the mix while Herbie Mann remains on the cutting room floor.
You’d never know it, but the drummer behind Gabor Szabo is none other than funkmeister Bernard Purdie. His playing here is somewhat restrained, but that’s cool to because you get to hear Szabo double his own guitar with sitar. Things start out the tiniest bit unhinged, but fall into a groove before long. All of Szabo’s Impulse LPs are worth picking up. The LP that this track comes from ‘Jazz Raga’ has a wild cover, one side featuring a Szabo playing his sitar for a mod bird while sitting on a Lambretta, and the other an odd abstract painting by the guitarist.
The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band version of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ starts off with some wild shouting from Charles Wright and keeps things pretty simple aside from the addition of horns. Wright and band started out providing the instrumental backing for the vocal “adventures” of one Bill Cosby before striking out on their own to lay down some heavy soul and funk, including the legendary ‘Express Yourself’. This tune is pulled from the LP ‘Together’.
One of my favorite tracks in this mix is the tour de force version of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ by Thelma Houston. Originally appearing on her 1969 ‘Sunshower’ LP her take on the tune is every bit as heavy as the original and sports some cool, vaguely baroque touches courtesy of the albums producer/arranger, none other than Jimmy Webb. It would be another eight years before she would top the charts with another cover, that being Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’.
I’ll assume you all know who Mongo Santamaria was. He recorded a string of party records for Columbia in the mid-to-late 60’s, which are all pretty easy to find and most certainly worth picking up. Oddly enough, his placing ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ in a Latin bag ends up working quite well, with some nice percussive breakdowns through the song.
Saving the wildest for last, I bring you a cut from an LP I bagged at a record show years ago. Louis Prima (who doesn’t appear on this track, unless he’s shaking a tambourine or some such) was a dynamic performer who worked in jazz and pop from the 20’s all the way into the late 70’s. His band, led by saxophonist/vocalist Sam Butera (who I actually got to see years ago playing the Caesars lounge in Atlantic City) was a legendary unit renowned for heating up Prima’s Vegas shows for years. By the late 60’s, the band included young organist Richie Varola (nee Varhola) who verily set fire to the Hammond (he recorded a smoking LP for Verve in the late 60’s). Originally appearing on the LP “The Prima Generation ‘72’ (which is autographed by Prima and Butera and appears to have been pressed for sale at the band’s shows. The LP closes with a “suite” of sorts, based around the main theme of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, though it takes an ironic detour into ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ along the way and then goes of into something entirely different. Either way, it’s worth it to hear Varola (who died young) in his prime.
So, I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be back later in the week with some funk.
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