Archive for October, 2007

Funky16Corners Radio Halloween Spooktacular!?!

October 29, 2007

Example

We Now Return to Blacula Meets Black Dracula!

Funky16Corners Radio Halloween Spooktacular!?!

Playlist

1. Lou Rawls – Season of the Witch (Capitol)
2. Souls Unlimited – The Raving Vampire Pt1 (Wig Wam)
3. Bill Doggett – The Worm (Columbia)
4. Clea Bradford – My Love’s a Monster (Cadet)
5. Fred Wesley & the JB’s – Doin’ It To Death (People)
6. King Coleman – The BooBoo Song Pt1 (King)
7. Roger & the Gypsies – Pass the Hatchet Pt1 (Seven B)
8. Fame Gang – Spooky (Atlantic)

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

 

BOO!!!!
Heh, heh, heh…
I mean…Greetings all.
Halloween is upon us, so I thought it only fitting that we here at Funky16Corners should brew something up for the holiday. In the spirit of Dr. Frankenstein, my monster is also made from recycled parts, as every track in this mix (except for the drops) has appeared here in the past, a couple of them are even single tracks from Halloweens past.
Though there is an underlying spirit of Halloween consolidation, presenting these great songs for people who may have gotten on the Funky16Corners bus a few stops down the line from the rest of you, I have to admit to a certain preoccupation with what some would call “real world moves“. In all honesty, family obligations have taken a step up in the past week and there are some important things that need to be addressed which prevented me from stealing a few hours to exhume, and digi-ma-tize some “new” old stuff for your delectation.
Rest assured that it will not always be thus, and give the mix (not the individual tracks, which I provide as a courtesy, as always) a listen as I’ve tracked down some interesting, seasonal drops that take some of these tunes – barely related to Halloween – and recasts them in a spooky light (you may have to use your imagination a little, but then again that’s what Halloween’s all about). There are appearances by Halloween luminaries such s Count Floyd, Criswell, Gomez & Morticia Addams, The Simpsons, the Kids In the Hall, Monty Python, and of course Casper the Friendly Ghost.
You get Lou Rawls souling up Donovan, funky bloodsuckers from the Carolinas, a rare meeting between Frank Herbert and Bill Doggett, the mighty Clea Bradford with a romantic Frankenstein’s monster of a kind, funky murder from Fred and the JB’s, a shocking turn by King Coleman, the Axe Murderers national anthem, and in closing, a slightly funky reworking of the Classics IV.
So, I hope you dig it and that you have an excellent Halloween.
I’m going to go trick or treating with my wife and sons, and we’re all going to watch ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ three or four times.
Peace
Larry

Example

PS I got a rock…

PSS Head over to Iron Leg for some punk from Question Mark & the Mysterians!

Dave & Ansil Collins – Double Barrel

October 26, 2007

Example

(L-R) Ansil Collins and Dave Barker

Example

Listen – Double Barrel MP3″

Greetings all.

This’ll be a quick one, as I had to pick up the little guy from day care because he wasn’t feeling well.
Today’s selection, ‘Double Barrel’ by Dave & Ansil Collins was one of the very first reggae records I ever heard, which probably had something to do with the fact that it was in fact one of the first reggae sides to get played on US radio (it was a Top 40 hit in the summer of 1971, and a HUGE hit in the UK and Jamaica).
As a result of its popularity, it’s also one of the easiest reggae 45s to find. I’ve had the US issue (on Big Tree) for years (in fact I probably have a few copies), but it was only a few weeks ago, in a unassuming crate full of teen pop and R&B that I happened upon a copy of the original UK pressing (for $2.00!?!?) on Techniques (a Trojan subsidiary). When I pulled it out of the box I wasn’t even sure what it was, only that it appeared (due to the small hole) to be a UK 45. When I saw it was ‘Double Barrell’ I grabbed it immediately.
The interesting thing – aside from the fact that ‘Double Barrel’ is an ass-kicking slice of island soul (I can’t get enough of Barker’s toasting) – is that for years I (and I’m sure almost everyone else without deep reggae crates) assumed that the duo on the record were in fact brothers, i.e. Dave Collins, and Ansil Collins. It was only a few years ago while reading ‘Young Gifted and Black: The Story of Trojan Records’ by Michael De Koningh (a fantastic resource), that I discovered that the dudes on the record were actually Dave Barker (the singer) and Ansil Collins (the organist). Imagine my surprise. Apparently the record also features the initial session of a young drummer named Sly Dunbar (of Sly & Robbie and about a million reggae records).
As I said ‘Double Barrel’ is a funky reggae classic, and as further testament to its goodness (aside from listening to it), my crabby 15-month old pepped right up when I put the record on, so it also has healing powers!
Dave & Ansil Collins went on to have a follow up hit ‘Monkey Spanner’, and if you can get your hands on their LP, it’s well worth tracking down.
So, grab those ones and zeros, fire up a spliff and get your groove on.
As Dave says: Good God, too much, I like it!!

Peace
Larry

PS ‘Double Barrel’ was sampled (heavily) by none other than Biz Markie on ‘Biz Is Goin’ Off’

Buy – The Heavy Heavy Monster Sound of Dave & Ansel Collins – on Amazon.com

F16C Meets IL #2: The Banana Splits – Doin’ the Banana Split

October 24, 2007

Example

Mr. Barry White says, “Come on up to my square.

It’s safe, sexy and I’m serving Banana Splits…”

Example

Example

Listen – Doin’ the Banana Split MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the mid-week finds you well, at least well enough for a king size, cross blogged double dose of the Banana Splits.
That’s right, I said Banana Splits.
If you’re younger than I am, you may not have any idea who (or what) the Banana Splits were, but if you’re my age or older, the name Banana Splits conjures up memories of Saturday Morning fun, tinged with just a touch of psychedelic nostalgia.
The Banana Splits show ran from 1968 to 1970 (and was rerun sporadically afterward) on NBC, and followed the adventures of four characters in plush suits who just happened to live together and also had a band. No doubt conceived as a Monkees-manque for kids a touch too young to have enjoyed that TV show (just two years before*).
What viewers got was humans inside of giant stuffed animal suits (designed by Sid & Marty Krofft) of a dog (Fleegle), gorilla (Bingo), lion (Drooper) and elephant (Snorky), voiced – except for Snorky who was in the tradition of the late, great Marcel Marceau, silent – by some of the greatest voice talent of the day including Paul Winchell, Daws Butler and Allan Melvin.
The shows were filled with slapstick, lots of bright colors engineered to fry the synapses of 6 year olds, plenty of faux-mod trappings, and – the thing that brings up together today – music.
Example
Now, those of you that come by Funky16Corners on the reg are probably sitting there with a question mark floating over your heads (cartoon style, natch..) wondering what the f*ck any of this has to do with funk, and or soul music (though I suspect there may be a wise few out there who already know what I’m up to…).
So, a few months back the Asbury Park 45 Sessions are underway, and the mighty MFasis is rocking the wheels of steel when (as is often the case) he dropped something especially hot and I had to trot on up to (in the words of the mighty Sonny Hopson) “see what’s the title to the label on the Burners table”.
It only took a glance at the spinning, banana-clad label to know what the deal was, but until I took a closer look (and maybe for a little while after that) I still couldn’t believe that what we were all grooving to was a Banana Splits record.
So, in the following weeks I started to troll the interwebs to find a copy of this particular record. I spotted one on Ebay, put in my bid and a few days later I was the proud owner of not one, but two Banana Splits EPs, both of which were originally sold as cereal premiums by the Kelloggs company. A week or so later a package shows up in the mailbox that sent a shiver down my crooked old record collector spine. The seller had “packed” the records in a soft envelope (NOOOOOOOO?!!?!?!?).
Well, as soon as I calmed down a bit, I steeled myself against the likely disappointment that undoubtedly awaited me as I opened the package. Fortunately, the records, though woefully overgraded (shame on you Ebay seller..) were miraculously intact.
I immediately spun the song that MFasis had played (‘Doin’ the Banana Split’) and had my three-year-old dancing in his seat. After I scanned the label, I was shocked….no stunned…no, both shocked and stunned to see that ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ had been written by no less a talent than Barry White?!?!
Holy crap!
As it turns out, White wasn’t the only big name associated with the musical side of the Banana Splits, as Al Kooper and Gene Pitney also contributed to their “oeuvre”. While most of the other songs on the records were lightweight pop (with one exception, which you can hear over at Iron Leg), ‘Doin the Banana Split’ was an absolutely batshit slab of heavy, funky soul. I suppose the crafty thing to do would have been to post the tune “blind”and then spring the Banana Splits angle on you, but since there are probably about five of you out there who have any idea who/what the Banana Splits were, it probably wouldn’t have had the desired impact.
Though I’m not 100% positive, I believe White is actually playing (maybe singing) on ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ which was recorded in between his years working on tracks for the Keen, Mustang and Bronco labels (with Viola Wills, the Versatiles and Felice Taylor among others) and his solo success.
That said, while ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ is an anomaly in both the world of cartoon music and the Barry White discography (I don’t suspect much beautiful love was made while listening to this record), it is without a doubt a killer, and would probably be sought after if the name on the label wasn’t the Banana Splits.
Dig it.
Peace
Larry

*If memory serves, when the Banana Splits were on, the Monkees were being shown in reruns late on Saturday mornings (which is when I first saw them)

Remember to head over to Iron Leg for the fuzzed out side of the Splits!

We’re Back!!

October 22, 2007

 

NOTE: As of 11:00AM we appear to be back online. Let’s hope the dam holds.

If you get a chance, head over to Iron Leg for some great psyche-pop by Southwest F.O.B. 

Larry

The Buena Vistas – Hot Shot

October 22, 2007

Example

The Funk Brothers, Mike Terry on bottom right

Example

Listen – Hot Shot MP3″

Greetings all.

Here we are again, at the beginning of another week, ready to get down, to work, with the music and in general, and what better way to get a head start with said get-down-ery, than a decidedly tasty bit of funky Detroit soul.
I’ve know of the Buena Vistas for many years, having picked up a couple of their Marquee 45s, yet I always filed them away into the vast archive of groups that would remain for all intents and purposes, completely anonymous.
Their brief discography – covering less than a dozen 45s – never made a serious dent in the charts (despite the presence of some excellent grooves); I’ve never been able to find a picture of the group, let alone a list of personnel.
However, during my last serious dig I happened upon a Buena Vista’s 45 that I’d never seen before, and there, on an otherwise nondescript Swan label, was a name that had previously escaped my notice.
That name was Mike Terry*.
Now, it’s unlikely that unless you’re a rare soul maven, with a specific concentration of the sounds of 1960’s Detroit, that the name Mike Terry means anything to you.
However (again), if you dig the soul sounds of the Motor City, and like any self-respecting record fiend to scour labels for information (as I do) you’ve seen Terry’s name on countless labels as arranger (and often composer) and you might also recognize him as one of the storied ‘Funk Brothers’ i.e. the Motown session band.
That last bit is a little too narrow a description, because in addition to the bulk of their work being for Motown and associated labels, the Funk Brothers (thanks in large part to a serious lack of appropriate compensation from Mr. Gordy) played on tons of non-Motown session for just about every Detroit-based (as well as Chicago and even Philadelphia) soul label.
Even a cursory examination of 1960’s Detroit soul (and believe me, I’m no expert) reveals that the sound of the city (as it was) was far more than just Motown, and that a comprehensive “feel” over the entirety of Detroit records is less the passive influence of Motown, and more the result of music created by a core “pool” of musicians and writers influencing each other.
Anyway…when I saw Terry’s name on the Buena Vistas label, it nailed it as a Detroit-based record, and gave me a hook with which I could search a little bit deeper. And search I did, and the more I searched, the more I found, but the more I found, the more confusing things got and I ended up with a slightly better understanding (more like assumptions) about the Buena Vistas, and a shit-load of unanswered questions.
Here are the “facts:….
The Buena Vistas recorded several 45s for four different labels (Swan, Marquee, BB and LaSalle) between 1966 and 1968. Mike Terry’s name is on several of them as arranger.
The songwriting credits on the labels point to the involvement of Tom Shannon, a disc jockey/record man from Buffalo, NY who along with Carl Cisco (another name on the label) relocated to Detroit in the mid-60’s. Shannon and Cisco were both involved in another act on Swan, that being the Rockin’ Rebels, another instrumental act that were a “band” in name only, and probably a revolving cast of musicians, or at least a few different sets of players over the years that the group was issuing 45s (see the AllMusic bio of the group for more info). I suspect that this was also the case with the Buena Vistas, where the “name” was little more than a vehicle for a string of attempted assaults on the charts by the people behind the scenes.
This is a story that was repeated over and over (and OVER) again throughout the golden era of independent record labels and still goes on today where manufactured “acts” fill the dance charts. One need only take a look at pop auteurs like Phil Spector to see examples where the people actually on a record were ultimately less important than the record itself.
Shannon and Cisco were also involved in the Marquee and LaSalle labels (both Detroit imprints). The appearance of the Buena Vistas on the Philadelphia-based Swan imprint, had more to do with the precedence of (a re-release of) Shannon’s other act the Rockin’ Rebels’ biggest hit (originally from 1959) ‘Wild Weekend’ just seven catalog numbers before the Buena Vistas debut, today’s selection, ‘Hot Shot’. It also pays to note that the flip side of ‘Wild Weekend’ (apparently a 1966 recording by a completely different band), ‘Donkey Twine’ is pretty much the same basic song (not the same recording) as ‘Hot Shot’, suggesting once again an instance where the record men were working their “product” in as many ways as they could. In colloquial terms, throwing the spaghetti against the wall to see what might stick.
I have no idea who is actually playing on ‘Hot Shot’, but the presence of Terry, and the general Detroit provenance (as well as the coolness of the record itself) suggest to me that it wouldn’t be out of the question to have a Funk Brother or two (or four) in the mix. While I don’t recognize any specific musicians (they way I might be able to pick out the sound of Earl Van Dyke on the organ), the vibe here is pure mid-60’s Detroit soul, with slamming drums, horns, and piano and a great guitar solo. While I wouldn’t go as far as to label ‘Hot Shot’ as funk, I would say that it’s one of those great records that is certainly a stop on the road from pure soul on the way to funk, and is certainly “funky” in all the good ways.
Either way, no matter who the Buena Vistas ultimately were, this is a smoking record that ought to get the dancers up and moving.
I hope this hasn’t been too confusing.
Peace
Larry

*There’s a great article on Mike Terry in a recent issue of the fantastic soul magazine ‘There’s That Beat’

George Jones R.I.P. – Superlatives – ‘I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away’

October 20, 2007

I just got a bit of sad news via a post to the blog (by his son) , that being George Jones of the Superlatives passed away on October 10th. Martez Thomas Jones has set up a Myspace page as a memorial to his late father.

‘I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away’  is an absolutely brilliant record. If you missed it the first time around (back in May), dig it. If you know it then give it another spin in the memory of George Jones.

Peace

Larry

Example

The Superlatives (George Jones on the right)

Example

Listen – I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope everyone has had as excellent a weekend as we did here at the Funky16Corners compound.
The whole shebang got off to an excellent start on Friday when I found out that my work situation was indeed headed for a positive change. Nothing drastic but a whole lot more intellect intensive, as well as a bit more secure than what I was doing, so that’s a load off my mind.
Then, on the recreational tip we got some superior outdoor time in, thanks in large part to that rarity, a better than expected weather report. A good time was had by all.
As a result, I come to this Sunday evening (Monday morning to those of you in the EU and east) well rested and a good deal happier than I’ve been in a while.
I spoke to my man DJ Prestige earlier in the day, and plans are in effect to get down with a podcast/mix collaboration in the very near future. It should be a gas.
One of the most excellent by-products of spinning with the crew at the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, is that I always walk away from these nights with a slightly longer want list. The resident selectors – and the guests of course – consistently bring the heat, and despite my many years of rooting around in dusty basements (not to mention the dark corners of the interwebs), they always spin something that is new to me, which I start digging for as soon as I can.
As a result, since the Sessions got underway, there have been several outstanding additions to the Funky16Corners archive that first found their way into my ears after they dropped from the DJs hands and slipped under the needles at the Asbury Lanes.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be mixing in some of these gems (full credit applied) here on yon blogspot, and with any luck, you’ll not only dig the sounds, but may be suitably inspired to make your way to Asbury Park on July 6th for the next edition of the Sessions.
Back during the March installment, guest DJ Sport Casual was in the midst of a very tasty set of laid back grooves when he brought up the volume on a record that I had never heard before, which promptly knocked me on my ass.
That record was today’s selection ‘I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away’ by the Superlatives. Though I said that I had never heard the record before, as soon as the grooves started to release their magic, it was instantly apparent that almost every one of the other DJs had (heard it), and that they were clearly psyched to hear it again.
I stepped up onto the riser where Sport Casual was spinning, asked what the record was, and as soon as I checked out the label, I vowed that I’d have a copy of my own as soon as humanly possible.
I have to step back a second to tell you that I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of synchronicity, and what followed in the ensuing weeks made me more of a believer than ever.
I was able to track down a nice clean copy of the Superlatives 45 in a matter of a few weeks, after which I recorded and scanned it for the blog, uploaded it to the server (and placed on the iPod) and gave it many, many listens. Not too long after I placed it in the on deck circle, I was flipping through the blogroll, perusing what my fellow soul and funk bloggers were feeling, when I happened upon a post by Odub over at the mighty SoulSides blog, in which he told of hearing ‘I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away’ spun at a DJ night where he was guesting in NYC, and how hearing the song played over a great sound system had reminded him of the records’ greatness (he also posted an MP3).
Not long after that, I saw the record written up, included in mixes or pop up on sale lists several times over the course of the next few weeks.
For some reason, there was a Superlatives “vibe” coursing through the blogosphere. I suppose it might have always been there, and I had just been missing the forest for the trees, but either way, the Superlatives and I suddenly found ourselves on the same wavelength, and I was digging it.
At first, I reconsidered posting the song here at Funky16Corners. Then I listened to it about a dozen more times, and decided that a record this amazing deserved all the exposure I (and anyone else) could give it.
I can’t tell you much about the group, aside from the fact that they hailed from Detroit, recorded a number of 45s for the Dynamics label (from which both sides of this 45 were licensed by Westbound) in the late 60’s.
The record itself is a marvel.
Opening with the isolated sound of an open hi-hat (also used to great effect on the Cooperettes ‘Shingaling’), it is soon joined by ringing vibes as the supertight harmony magic of the Superlatives themselves. The thing that really hits you (almost literally) is the hard, hard drumming providing the pulse of the record. Though the drums, voices and vibes are the most prominent elements, listen closely for some excellent guitar running in and out all through the song, as well as some tasteful horn work deep in the mix.
Though there are so many aspects of ‘I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away’ to recommend it – including placing the parenthetic subtitle in the middle of a title so long it’s practically a work of art on it’s own – that I would normally hesitate to select just one.
However…
There’s a breakdown in the middle of the record in which the arranger comes dangerously close to having his reach exceed his grasp, yet manages to pull off what amounts to a bit of pure magic. The entire band steps back, with the exception of the horns which lay down a little fanfare – trombones in harmony with muted trumpets – after which the lead singer drops a single, extended, soulful ‘BABY!’, that sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. Just beautiful…
So thanks to you Sport Casual for bringing the Superlatives and my ears into the same room for the first time.
Peace
Larry

PS Both outstanding side of this 45 have been comped on the ‘Westbound Sound of Detroit: Sensational Motor City Groups 1969-1975, though should you wish to procure your very own vinyl original, you can probably do so at a relatively affordable cost (especialy considering the greatness of the record).

Funky16Corners Radio v.36 – Philly Soul Pt2: On the Northern Side

October 17, 2007

Example

The Ambassadors

Funky16Corners Radio v.36- Philly Soul Pt2: On the Northern Side

Playlist

Cooperettes – Shingaling (Brunswick)
Chubby Checker – Hey You Little Boogaloo (Cameo)
Intruders – Up and Down the Ladder (Gamble)
Eddie Holman – Stay Mine for Heaven’s Sake (Parkway)
Fantastic Johnny C – New Love (Phil L.A. of Soul)
Preludes – Deeper Than That (Harthon)
Bob Brady & the Con Chords – More More More of Your Love (Chariot)
Candy & the Kisses – The 81 (Cameo)
Bunny Sigler – Girl Don’t Make Me Wait (Parkway)
Ambassadors – (I Got To Find) Happiness (Atlantic)
Intruders – (You’d Better) Check Yourself (Gamble)
Joe Renzetti’s Sound – Reach Out I’ll Be There (Mala)
Mike & Ike – Sax on the Tracks (Arctic)
Show Stoppers – How Can Your Heart Forget Me (Heritage)
Bunny Sigler – Follow Your Heart (Parkway)
Volcanos – It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm (Harthon)
Bernard Williams & the Blue Notes – It’s Needless To Say (Harthon)
Lee Garrett – It’s Needless To Say (Harthon)
Billy Harner – I Struck It Rich (OR)

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

 

Greetings all.
Sorry – once again – for the late start this week, but I have been (as the kids say) up to my ass in alligators, and I feel like I’m still playing catch-up. Time is at a premium, and I’ve been working as fast as I can (maybe a little faster).
The end product of my labors (at least my non-working for a living labors) is before you today, and I think (hope) you’ll be pleased with the results.
When I posted the first volume of Philly Soul, back in April, I already had this mix (of which there will most definitely be a second part, sometime in the next few weeks) pretty much fully formed in my mind. Whereas I approached the first volume with a mellower, sweeter vibe in mind, the next few editions of Funky16Corners Radio have been compiled with the dancers in mind, specifically those with an interest in that ever unfolding Lotus blossom we know as Northern Soul.
I suppose it’s only fitting that I begin with a disclaimer, however minor. While some of the records herein are recognized as classics of the genre, others are not, and may cause train-spotters, anoraks and others of their ilk to raise their collective voices in complaint, i.e. “That particular song does not fall within the boundaries of what I consider to be Northern Soul because (insert reason here)…”.
Well, that may be the case, but as chief cook, bottle-washer and selector at Funky16Corners I get to decide what tunes make the final cut, and as always, the only constraints are my personal tastes and the contents of my crates (as they are). I figure there may be a song or two here that fall outside the boundaries of the canon, but the “set list” of the Northern Soul world has been an ever evolving one, and as such there’s always room for growth.
That said, while the sounds of Northern Soul are first and foremost Detroit-centric, there are countless Philly-based sides in the record boxes of any self respecting Soulie. Aside from the fact that the studios of Philly and the surrounding area were cranking out soul music of the highest quality in the 60’s and 70’s, it’s important to note that many of the hallmarks of Motor City soul were included in and expanded upon in the sound of Philadelphia.
Even a cursory listen to the discographies of powerhouse Philly soul labels like Harthon, Gamble and Arctic will reveal a kings ransom of brilliant, storming dancers chock full of memorable melodies, propulsive four-on-the-floor beats, chiming vibes and honking baritone sax solos. There is no question that Philadelphia had more than its share of talented performers, writers, producers and arrangers, and one need only to download the mix I offer to you today for incontrovertible evidence of that.
Things get started with a personal fave, the Cooperettes ‘Shingaling’. I don’t know much about the Cooperettes, other than the fact that they released a handful of 45s on Brunswick and ABC (some harder to find than others), and that they were (like many other artists in this mix) connected to the Harthon organization. If the song seems familiar it’s because it was re-used for the unreleased (but bootlegged and classic) ‘You Need Love’ by Irma and the Fascinators.
Chubby Checker?!?!” you say as you spit out your beer. Well my friends, if you didn’t already know, you know now. Mr. Evans, in addition to a hundred odd Twist-related novelties recorded some excellent soul sides further down the line for Cameo, including ‘Hey You Little Boogaloo’. Oddly enough, I’ve never turned up a clean US copy of this disc, but have a UK Cameo issue 45 (y’know, with the teensy hole), from which this is ripped.
The Intruders path to success ran almost parallel to that of their writers/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. While they had their greatest success in the late 60’s and early 70’s, their earlier work, like ‘Up and Down the Ladder’ (from 1967) is not to be missed. Featuring great lead vocals by ‘Little’ Sonny Brown, ‘Up and Down the Ladder’ was only the fifth 45 on the fledgling Gamble imprint.
Eddie Holman is another Philly giant who is best known for his later work, like ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’. However, there are those (like myself) who consider his string of 45s for Cameo/Parkway and Bell to be superior. Holman, possessor or one of the finest voices in all of soul music, not only recorded a grip of amazing sides under his own name, but also wrote for other artists like the Volcanos. ‘Stay Mine for Heaven’s Sake’, released in 1966 was his third 45 for Parkway, immediately following his classic ‘Eddie’s My Name’ (which will be included in part two of this mix).
The Fantastic Johnny C is best remembered for his hit ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway’, but my personal fave from his discography is the Northern flavored ‘New Love’ which saw release as a 45, and as a track on his Phil L.A. of Soul LP.
I know nothing of the Preludes, other than that they recorded at least one 45 for Harthon, which included the great harmony tune ‘Deeper Than That’.
The next selection comes by way of a little geographical cheating, in that Bob Brady and the Con Chords were actually from Baltimore. One of the great blue-eyed soul bands of the day, their records featured the “more smokey than Smokey” vocals of Brady, which were never better than on this Smokey Robinson cover, ‘More More More of Your Love’.
Candy and the Kisses recorded three 45s each for Cameo and Scepter between 1964 and 1966, and one last side for Decca in 1968. ‘The 81’ was their debut single, and is by far their best. I have an old Jerry Blavat dance party LP where every track has the appropriate dance listed next to it on the jacket, with ‘The 81’ (the dance not the song) listed next to a few tracks.
Bunny Sigler has had a long career, starting with doowop in the 50’s all the way up through disco and modern soul in the 80’s. ‘Girl Don’t make Me Wait’ – both a 45 and a track on his 1966 LP – is a stone soul classic and a huge fave on UK dancefloors. It was even covered in 1968 on Deram by the UK psyche-pop band Timebox. I love the string section on this one, and the way the drums come storming in.
The Ambassadors – pictured above – are one of the great underrated soul stories of 1960’s Philadelphia. They recorded a number of outstanding 45s for Atlantic, before moving to Arctic for their classic ‘Soul Summit’ LP and a number of great singles. ‘(I Got To Find) Happiness’ was on their first Atlantic 45 in 1967 (and, oddly enough on their second as well). Both sides of the 45 (the flip ‘I’m So Proud of My Baby’ is also a killer) were written by the group, and arranged by Bobby Martin.
We get back to the Intruders with what has to be their most aggressive 45, the hard charging ‘(You’d Better) Check Yourself’ from 1966. There’s definitely a Motown/Temps vibe to the proceedings, with a heavy beat in the verse and a soaring, melodic chorus.
Joe Renzetti started out as a studio guitarist at Cameo records, and went on to be one of the most prolific pop arrangers – in or out of Philadelphia – in the 60’s. His name is on countless soul sides (including some in this mix) , but only appears as the artist on a few 45s, one of which is his cover of the Four Tops ‘Reach Out I’ll be There’. Renzetti went on to win an Oscar in 1979 for his work adapting the score of ‘The Buddy Holly Story’.
I’ve never been able to track much information (aside from the fact that one of the members might have been a musician named Robert Peckman) on who ‘Mike and Ike’ were, but their one 45 for the Arctic label has been a fave for a while. I picked this one up back in the day when I was grabbing anything I could find on Arctic. The tune has a solid beat as well as some great interplay between the saxes and the organ. The flip side is a cover of Lee Dorsey’s ‘Ya Ya’.
The Show Stoppers – renowned for their classic ‘Ain’t Nothing But a House Party’ – recorded a number of fantastic 45s for the Showtime and Heritage labels before moving to the UK. The group – which included two of Solomon Burke’s nephews – tapped into a minor chord, quasi-eastern feel for the storming ‘How Can Your Heart Forget Me’, a record which should have been a much, much bigger success.
We come back to Bunny Sigler with the a-side of his last Parkway 45 (in 1967), ‘Follow Your Heart’. The record has a great horn arrangement, and among the 45s in this collection is perhaps the closest to the Motown blueprint.
I couldn’t very well put together a mix of Northern Soul from Philadelphia without including something from my all-time fave Philly group, the mighty Volcanos. You can catch up on the Volcanos story here, but take the time to check out ‘It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm’, the a-side of one of only two 45s the group recorded for Harthon records. I’ve never been able to definitively place the Harthon sides in the Volcanos discography, though due to the funky nature of some of the material I’d be inclined to say that they overlap the end of the Arctic period, moving into 1967. Years after the original issue there was an instrumental bootleg of this song (backed with a Preludes instrumental) in the UK.
‘It’s Needless To Say’ by Bernard Williams and the Blue Notes is simply an amazing record, with stellar lead vocals by Williams (who was an early member of Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, whose membership intersects with these Blue Notes). It’s another example of a side that in a perfect (or better) world should have been a much bigger success.
Vocalist Lee Garrett recorded one 45 for Harthon, and as might be expected from the co-author of the Spinners’ ‘It’s a Shame’ (with another great, and coincidentally blind vocalist, that being Stevie Wonder) it’s a killer. ‘I Can’t Break the Habit’ features a great beat (check the way that snare snaps) and some tasty piano work, in addition to Garrett’s interplay with the backing vocalists.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out with a great number from one of the great (and largely underappreciated) blue-eyed soul singers, Mr. Billy Harner. Harner, who recorded several classic 45s (and an excellent LP) that are justly revered in the UK, has recently returned to recording and performing, and with any luck ‘I Struck It Rich’ (also recorded by Len Barry) is on his set list.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be following up with Part 2 in the next few weeks.
It’s not likely that I’ll be posting again this week (aside from a post at Iron Leg), unless I’m unexpectedly overtaken by my second wind.
Peace
Larry

PS I’d like to wish my lovely wife a Happy Birthday, and to mention that she’s taking part in a Breast Cancer Walk this weekend. If you feel inclined to donate to such an enterprise, click here.

PSS Head over to Iron Leg when you have a minute!!!

A Rare Monday Repost! – Funky16Corners Radio v.21 – Philly Soul Vol.1

October 15, 2007

Greetings all.
This is a rare Monday repost, brought to you courtesy of  “I’ve had a crazy, exhausting weekend and I’d like to spend some quality time with the wife tonight” productions. I’m actually working on Philly Soul Vol.2, but have been unable to get it finished this weekend, so I figured I get the first volume (originally posted in April) up again and get it done right.
If all goes as planned, the new mix ought to be ready for Wednesday.
If memory serves some folks didn’t quite dig this one the first time around, but it’s still one of my personal favorites.
If you haven’t heard it yet, dig it, if you have, give it another try.
Either way, I’ll be back in mid week with some new (old) sounds.
See you then.
Peace
Larry

Example

The Volcanos

Track Listing
Volcanos – Storm Warning (Arctic)
Agents – You Were Meant For Me (P&L)
Herb Johnson – Two Steps (Ahead of a Woman) (Swan)
Globeliters – The Way You Do (Philtown)
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – Get Out (And Let Me Cry) (Landa)
Butlers – Laugh Laugh Laugh (PHILA)
Common Pleas – I Wanted More (Crimson)
Casinos – If I Told You (Del-Val)
Formations – At the Top of the Stairs (MGM)
Eddie Holman – I’ll Cry 1,000 Tears (Bell)
Ambassadors – I Can’t Believe You Love Me (Arctic)
Intruders – All the Time (Excel)
Patti & The Emblems – Please Don’t Leave Me Baby (Kapp)
Cruisers – Take a Chance (Gamble)
Intrigues – In a Moment (Yew)
Ethics – Look at Me Now (Vent)
Gene Faith – My Baby’s Missing (Virtue)

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

Greetings all.
The weekend is upon us, and as promised – as the Funky16Corners fam is about to hit the road for some well deserved R&R – I have concocted a new mix, a la Funky16Corners Radio pour vous, so that while I am away from the interwebs, and consuming lobster at what might be described as an “alarming rate” , you have some sweet sounds to soothe you.
The very first installment of Funky16Corners Radio was a survey of some of the hotter Philly funk 45s in my crates, and ever since that time I have wanted to revisit Philadelphia, in the soul sense. This in and of itself didn’t present much difficulty, in that the sounds of Philadelphia have been a major obsession of mine for some time, and the crates are, as they say chock full’o’Philly. Where the difficulty comes into play, is deciding what segment of that vast sea of great music to address. With the records I finally picked for the first volume (and there will ultimately be several) the connecting threads (other than the geographical) were actually quite vague.
Though there is a kind of “sweet” vibe to be found here, the records in the mix hail from a fairly wide time span (almost ten years) in which the sounds of soul – not just in Philly, but everywhere else too – underwent a considerable evolution. When I selected the sides for inclusion herein, the basic criteria was “do I like the song”, and in each and every case I do. There are lots of tight harmonies, a couple of superior dancers, a few cuts where the producer/arranger is as important as the performer, and as always, a few of my personal favorites.
The mix opens with one of the better known mid-60’s Philly sides (it actually charted), ‘Storm Warning’ by the legendary Volcanos (read the whole story here). Led by vocalist Gene Faith (nee Eugene Jones), the Volcanos are perhaps the best example of a group that created a grip of consistently excellent singles covering the breadth of the classic soul era (in their case 1965 – 1969), in collaboration with some of the finest songwriters and producers working in Philadelphia. ‘Storm Warning’ was written by Carl Fisher of the Vibrations (who also wrote under the pseudonym ‘Del Shahr’). It is a great example of how all of the elements of the early-70’s ‘Philly Sound’ were brewing half a decade earlier. Faith’s gritty lead is wrapped in the sweet harmonies of the group, all served up on a bed of ringing piano and vibes (the tune is a ‘Dynodynamic’ production, signaling the involvement of the Harthon crew, i.e. Weldon McDougall, Luther Randolph and Johnny Stiles). All of those things, in combination with a solid four on the floor beat have long made ‘Storm Warning’ a fave with the Northern Soulies.
I don’t know much about the Agents (Nat Williams, Kenneth Davis, Jimmy Downs, Norman Bowen and Warren Lundy), other than the fact that their sole 45, ‘You Were Meant for Me’ on the P&L label is a very solid slice of laid back soul harmony. I love the way the spare instrumental backing – little more than guitar and tambourine – works under the street corner-cum-sweet soul falsetto harmonies. This cut was comped a few years back by Philly Archives.
If Herb Johnson is known to you at all, it’s probably from the legendary, ultra-rare, ultra-smoking funk monster ‘Damn Ph’aint’ by the Herb Johnson Settlement on the Toxsan label. Johnson recorded for a number of Philly labels through the 60’s (Len, Arctic, Swan, V-Tone et al) in a variety of styles (his ‘I’m So Glad’ on Brunswick is a killer). ‘Two Steps (Ahead of a Woman)’, from 1964 has all the hallmarks of the early soul, sounding as if it were recorded beside some of Arthur Alexander’s best work. The tune was co-written by Wally Osborne, a major mover and shaker of Philly soul in the 60’s. Johnson began to record again late in life, before his untimely passing in 2004.
The Globeliters are another “mystery” group. Though the flip side of ‘The Way You Do’ was arranged by Leroy Lovett (the Lee in Ben-Lee productions), I don’t recognize any of the other names on the label. ‘The Way You Do’ has a great lead vocal, and the tune itself has a memorable melody. The Philtown label is also one of several in the area to feature a picture of the Liberty Bell.
Sure you all know of the classic recordings of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, but how many of you are aware that they were together as a group as early as the mid-50’s, recording with a number of lead vocalists (including the great Bernard Williams who also recorded for Harthon) for several different labels? The singer on ‘Get Out (and Let Me Cry)’, their sole 45 for the Landa label was John Atkins. The tune, which starts out with a deceptively quiet soliloquy by Atkins, soon erupts into a solid dancer, with some of those wonderful Blue Notes harmonies rolling under Atkins lead. Written and produced by Richard Barrett, ‘Get Out…’ is another one of those records you hear and can’t help but wonder how it didn’t become a big hit.
The Butlers – led by Frankie Beverly – came together in the early 60’s, and recorded some excellent 45s for a number of Philly labels (PHILA, Sassy, Eldorado, Quakertown, CRS) before morphing into Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul, and finally into the group Maze in the early 70’s. ‘Laugh Laugh Laugh’ features great harmonies (I love those WOOO WOOOs in the chorus) and a solid dancers beat.
Despite having had the record for years, and searching high and low I have been able to track down nothing on the Common Pleas. My assumption has always been that they were renamed to go along with the title of the a-side of their sole 45 ‘ The Funky Judge’. The cut featured here is a major fave of mine, ‘I Wanted More’. The tune sports sophisticated melody and lyrics, suggesting to me that the writers had more of the same up their sleeves. Had either side of this 45 hit the charts, there’s no telling what they might have done. I don’t think either side of this 45 has been comped, so I’ll have to include the flip in a future mix.
The Casinos recorded for the storied Del-Val label, along with Gene Woodbury, and Bernie Williams, he of ‘Ever Again’ fame. ‘If I Told You’, a smooth, stylish dancer appeared on the flip of ‘Everybody Can’t Be Pretty’, a Kenny Gamble composition. The record was produced by another local legend, Joe Stevenson, who also worked with funkers The Interpretations.
‘At the Top of the Stairs’ by the Formations (more here) is another longtime fave of mine. The tune has enough forward motion to get the kids out onto the dancefloor, and manages to do so with a memorable melody. The arrangement is one of the finest to come out of Philadelphia during the 60’s – dig those French horns. The rest of their 45s (harder to find, of course) are also excellent.
Eddie Holman, known to most as the singer of ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’ recorded a number of absolutely amazing 45s for Cameo/Parkway and Bell during the mid-60’s. Holman was not only a brilliant singer, but also an accomplished songwriter. ‘I’ll Cry 1000 Tears’ (penned by Holman) features a stunning vocal, Motown-esque arrangement and once again production from the Harthon team. All of Holman’s early 45s (which I consider to be his finest work) are worth picking up, though some might set you back a couple of bucks (like this one for instance…). They’re all worth it.
Following a few excellent 45s for Atlantic, the Ambassadors recorded several more (and an LP) for Jimmy Bishop’s Arctic imprint. They’re funky cover of Tammi Terrell’s ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’ should have been a huge hit. The arrangement takes all kinds of unexpected twists and turns (including a couple of interesting key and tempo changes), and the group vocals are terrific. Though clean copies of the Ambassadors 45s are hard to come by, their LP has been reissued on CD.
If you aren’t already hip to the Intruders, I suggest you back away from the computer and head to the record store, because they not only had several outstanding sweet soul hits (‘Cowboys to Girls’ anyone? How about ‘A Love That’s Real’?), but the rest of their catalog is well worth searching for. ‘All the Time’, a Gamble-Huff composition was one of their very first 45s, recorded for the Excel label before they went on to great success with Gamble. ‘All the Time’ is a stomper with a memorable hook in the chorus.
Patti and the Emblems recorded a bunch of great 45s during the 60’s, including the hit ‘Mixed Up Shook Up Girl’ on Herald. Their later 45s, on Kapp are uniformly excellent, especially their last 45, the rare ‘I’m Gonna Love You a Long Long Time’. ‘Please Don’t Ever Leave Me’ is a great Northern style dancer, written and produced by the Ben-Lee crew. Though this tune is not included, try to pick up the Kent CD ‘Ben-Lee’s Philadelphia Story’, which included a number of outstanding Philly area sides, including stuff by the Persionettes, Kenny Gamble and the certifiably epic (and ironically unreleased) ‘Got No Time’ by Timmy and the Empires.
The Cruisers (Gene Williams, Randy Hamilton, Paul Long, and McKinley Anthony) recorded two 45s for V-Tone records in the very early 60’s, and didn’t enter the studio again until 1967, this time for Gamble. ‘Take a Chance’, written by the group and produced by Gamble-Huff is a lost gem, with sweeping strings juxtaposed against chunky lead guitar, as the Cruisers harmonize on top of it all. Despite the high quality of this release, the record doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent outside of Philly, and precious little inside the city. The Cruisers had one more 45 on Gamble in 1969, before fading into the ether.
The Intrigues ‘In a Moment’ was a Top 40 hit (Top 10 in some markets) in the fall of 1969. The tune had originally been released on the local Bullet label before the group moved to a slightly larger local label, Yew records (also home to the Radars/Radors of ‘Finger Lickin’ Chicken’ fame). They went on to record six 45s for Yew (between 1969 and 1971), and two for Janus (‘71/’72) before disbanding.
The second to last number in the mix is ‘Look at Me Now’ by the Ethics. Released prior to their big local hit ‘Sad Sad Story’, ‘Look at Me Now’ is something of a lost treasure. Sitting right on the cusp of the early-70’s Philly Sound (it was released in early 1969) the tune – produced by Vince Montana, who can be heard adding the vibes in the hook – mixes danceable pop-soul with tight, sweet harmonies, and never gets old no matter how many times I spin it (go ahead, try to listen to it just once…). I’ve seen this described on a UK message board as “cheap as chips”, but if you don’t feel like digging, there is a budget CD release of the Ethics best stuff.
The mix closes with the same voice that opened it, Gene Faith. Following his departure from the Volcanos, Faith recorded a number of excellent 45s for the Virtue label (one of them was even under the Volcanos name). ‘My Baby’s Missing’ is a great showcase for his raspy tenor. Turn it up at the beginning to catch the telephone sound effects.
So…this is pretty much it for the next week (though if I do get some decent wi-fi access on the road I’ll probably try to get a post up late in the week).
See you soon.
Peace
Larry

Example

Big Al Downing – Gimme Good Loving

October 12, 2007

Example

‘Big’ Al Downing

Example

Listen – Gimme Good Lovin’ MP3″

Greetings and a Happy Friday to one and all.

This has been an excellent week – if I say so myself, but then I speak only of the quality of the music posted, any judgment on the accompanying verbiage being yours and yours alone dear reader – and in that spirit, I couldn’t very well close it out with anything but heat.
So it is heat that I bring you.
One night, some months ago I was trolling the interwebs for vinyl, and I happened upon a previously unscoured (by moi) list, and so I scoured.
I picked up a couple of choice items (including another longtime wantlist record that I’ll be posting next week), one of which – today’s selection in fact – I picked up completely on spec, as they say. I saw a familiar name, checked it out, recognized the song and a particularly promising label (with a discography positively riddled with funky goodness), and – as the record was to be had for roughly a ten-spot – I took a chance and grabbed it.
Now, as has been discussed in this space at length, digging for vinyl – whether in person or remotely via sales lists or on the web – without the benefit of an audio test drive, is a not a pursuit for the frugal or otherwise faint of wallet.
The seasoned digger – using all of the strategic weapons in his/her arsenal, usually a delicate balance between hard knowledge and Spidey sense (otherwise known as the “educated guess”) – will sometimes take a chance on a record knowing that the resulting disc will as likely (or more likely) be a piece of garbage than a lost funk gem. Depending on how many times you’ve been burned in a gamble like this, you may or may not wish to proceed (unless, like some of the folks I’ve seen in the field, you are a first class rube and a degenerate gambler who enjoys throwing good money after bad).
That all said, sometimes taking a chance pays off, and you end up not with another candidate for the shit-stack, but a quality 45 that you might even enjoy listening to.
Such was the (happy) case with today’s selection ‘Big’ Al Downing’s cover of the Spencer Davis Group classic “Gimme Some Lovin” (for some reason retitled as ‘Gimme Good Loving’).
A pianist and singer, Downing started out playing and singing rockabilly with the (otherwise all-white) group Bobby Poe and the Poe Kats. The group, which eventually morphed into the Chartbusters* of ‘She’s the One’ fame, recorded a number of 45s with Downing in the lead, as well as touring and recording with the legendary female rockabilly Wanda Jackson. They backed Jackson on her biggest hit ‘Let’s Have a Party’ with Downing on piano. Downing went on to record a number of solo records through the 60’s many of which mixed rock and country sounds.
He spent much of the mid-to-late 60’s touring with a wide variety of artists, before signing with Lelan Rogers’** Silver Fox label in 1969.
He recorded two 45s for Silver Fox, and moved to House of the Fox for today’s selection, his last recording for Rogers.
‘Gimme Good Loving’ (which when I first saw it listed, thought it might be a cover of the Crazy Elephant tune ‘Gimme Gimme Good Loving’) is a happening bit of funky soul, complete with some sharp drums, a great repeated chicken scratch guitar lick and popping horns. The production by Rogers is spot on, and Downing delivers a great soul vocal.
After leaving House of the Fox, Downing popped up four years later for a string of 45s on Janus and Chess, where he had a Top 40 disco hit with ‘I’ll Be Holding On’.
Downing signed with Warner Brothers in 1978 and had a string of Top 40 (and a few Top 20) country hits. He jumped to the Team Entertainment label and continued hitting the country charts into the mid-80’s. I even remember seeing him on the old Nashville Now program with Ralph Emery back in the 80’s.
He recorded only sporadically after 1986, but continued to perform steadily until his death in 2005.
As far as I can tell, none of his mid-period soul material is currently in print on CD, though his rockabilly and country sides are.
Have a great weekend.
Peace
Larry

* The inspiration for the One-Ders in the 1996 film ‘That Thing You Do’

**Producer of the 13th Floor Elevators, and brother of world famous chicken roaster Kenny…

Head over to Iron Leg for a surprising 45 by Glen Campbell

The Jewels – Opportunity

October 10, 2007

Example

The Jewels

Example

Listen – Opportunity MP3″

Greetings all.

How’s it going?
I hope everyone’s digging that Olympics track (though nobody’s saying a word…).
I’m here in Jersey – as always – suffering from the seasonal onslaught of pollen and whatnot, and wondering at the bizarre weather, in which the leaves are turning (and, God help me, falling…) but somehow when I go out back to take out the garbage at 9:00 at night it’s still positively stifling.
What’s up with that?
I’m all set for autumn, with some nice new hoodies, but the atmosphere isn’t cooperating so I’m still wearing shorts every day.
Crazy stuff….
Anyway…today’s selection is an object lesson in how even a seasoned (some might say jaded) collector like myself encounters music in the strangest places.
A while back, on one of those rare Saturday nights when the wife and I weren’t hitting that familiar brick wall that comes at the end of every week with two small children, we were watching the film ‘The Last Days of Disco’ somewhere in the hinterlands of basic cable. I normally wouldn’t have been inclined to sit still for a flick like this, however I had just finished reading Peter Shapiro’s ‘Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco’, and I vaguely remembered enjoying an earlier Whit Stillman film, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. Despite the presence of Chloe Sevigny – an actress who’s charms continue to elude me – I found myself enjoying the film (somewhat).
At one point a group of friends leaves a club that seemed constructed as a fictional Studio 54 proxy, and find their way to a small bar with a jukebox. Not long after they arrived an absolutely fantastic song starts playing, some of them get up and dance and I jetted over to the computer and started a-Googling.
The song – encapsulated in the ones and zeros you are presently pulling down off the interwebs was ‘Opportunity’ by the Jewels.
The name of the group was vaguely familiar (I couldn’t remember why at the time), and I started looking for a copy. I was unable to locate a decent copy at a decent price (at least that night) so I found the track on iTunes and downloaded it, subsequently giving it several listens.
So….flash forward some months (to a few weekends ago, in fact) and DJ’s Prestige and Prime and myself are picking away at a table full of 45s like a pack of hyenas set upon an antelope, and Pres – who’s working the opposite side of the table from me happens to pull a copy of ‘Opportunity’ out of a box and asks me if I know it.
“Hey!” says I, ‘The Jewels ‘Opportunity’! I WANT THAT!!’
I could scarcely believe those word were spilling out of my mouth, and apologized immediately for the horrifying breach in etiquette (digger or otherwise), explaining to Pres that that particular 45 had been on my wantlist for a while. I described the 45 to him, and (very) graciously he let me toss the record on my ‘keeper’ pile (I owe you one pal).
Not long after I got home, I got to work digi-ma-tizing some of the day’s haul, intent on getting the Jewels 45s up onto the blog for your delectation.
That said, the Jewels (originally the Four Jewels) got together in their native Washington, DC in the late 50’s as the Impalas. Via an association with Billy Stewart (cousin of group member Grace Ruffin) they recorded at Bo Diddley’s studio (Bo was living in DC at the time, where he hired Stewart as the pianist in his band) and the results became their first 45 for Checker in 1961.
They went on to record several 45s as the Four Jewels for the Start label, as wel as backing Stewart on his 1962 classic ‘Fat Boy’. They recorded another 45 for Checker before signing with Dimension in 1964 and releasing ‘Opportunity’, their first record as ‘The Jewels’*. The tune was a minor hit that year and the group went on to record a few more 45s for Dimension, as well as a James Brown-produced side for Federal.
In 1965 the Godfather brought the Jewels in as part of the James Brown Revue (which is where I had heard their name before). They recorded a number of sides for Brown, including the ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ “answer” record ‘Papas Left Mama Holdin’ The Bag’.
‘Opportunity’ is a fantastic mix of soulful grit and a girl-group vibe. The arrangement – opening with some deceptively sedate piano chords – combines heavy drums and handclaps for a high level of danceability, and the vocals have an inspired looseness. The record is an explosive invitation for the listener to get out on the floor and sing along.
Props to Whit Stillman (or whoever picked the music for the ‘Last Days of Disco’ soundtrack) because the insertion of the joyous ‘Opportunity’ into the otherwise dry goings on was an inspired choice, momentarily changing the tone of the film drastically (I think deliberately).
Though the tune has been reissued a number of times, I’m not sure where it’s currently available on CD.
Peace
Larry

*Not the same ‘Jewels’ the recorded for Imperial

Head over to Iron Leg for some psych-pop


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