Archive for September, 2008

Mary Lou Williams – The Credo

September 30, 2008

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Miss Mary Lou Williams

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Listen – Mary Lou Williams – The Credo – MP3″

Greetings all.

I come to you in mid-week with something unusual.
If you’ve done any reading about the classic years of American jazz*, you probably came across the name Mary Lou Williams.
Williams was – in addition to her skills as a pianist, there are those that rank her among the best – a composer, and teacher who counted none other than Thelonious Monk among her students.
Williams, born in Atlanta in 1910, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, where she became something of a jazz piano prodigy, playing professionally at the age of 14. As her career progressed, she joined Andy Kirk’s Cloud of Joy (mainly as a composer and arranger). It was with Kirk that she ended up in Kansas City during that city’s prime jazz years.
She made her first recordings in the early 30s, and spent much of the next two decades writing and arranging for a number of bands (including Duke Ellington’s) and playing in nightclubs and on the radio in New York City. It was in New York that she crossed paths with many of the movers and shakers of BeBop. Including Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.
Williams spent much of the 50s and 60s composing, arranging and playing jazz with religious themes, much of which was released on her own Mary Records.
‘The Credo’ – I’m not sure if this directly corresponds with the movement of the same title in ‘Mary Lou’s Mass’ – is a great slice of laid back, funky piano, with a throbbing bass, and soulful keyboard work by Williams. ‘The Credo’ sounds to me like it comes from the period of 1970 – 1974 when Williams was releasing ‘Mary Lou’s Mass’, ‘Music For Peace’ and ‘Zoning’ (all sought after by fans of jazzy grooves).
Williams passed away in 1981.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you all on Friday.

Peace
Larry

*Or, if you grew up in my house, where my Dad gave me a serious education on jazz, up to and including female pianists (like Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland) he admired

PS Remember, the Asbury Park 45 Sessions returns this Friday October 3rd with the AP45 Crew and guest selectors TBA. Come on down to the World Famous Asbury Lanes.

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PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well (just updated).

James Brown – Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’ (Rock Version)

September 28, 2008

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The Godfather

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Listen – James Brown – Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’ – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the commencement of a new week finds you all well, or at least well enough for some funk (which when you take into consideration the restorative nature of funk 45s, you probably wouldn’t have to be well at all. In fact, were the listener in too good a condition, the addition of a sufficient enough dose of the funk might be too much).
The tune I bring you today is one of those odd little departures that record collector geeks like to obsess over. Most large discographies have their back alleys, and the James Brown catalog is no exception. Brown was nothing if not prolific, in his own work, as well as with those for whom he wrote and produced.
Today’s selection is one of the Godfather’s own.
Though ‘Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’ was a hit upon it’s release in 1972 (on Polydor), the tune goes back two years earlier. Though it never got a full commercial release – it appears to have been slated for release in 1970 and 1971 without being issued – there was a promo 45 in 1970, which once you pull down the ones and zeros, you will be hearing today.
The interesting thing – aside from the trainspotting aspect – is that the version that actually made it onto vinyl in 1970 (on the King label) is an entirely different one from what became a hit two years later.
During 1970, James Brown was working in the studio with arranger Dave Matthews (no, not the jam band guy) on what would become the album ‘Sho Is Funky Down Here’. The original version of ‘Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothin’ was recorded during these sessions.
Amongst the collectorati, this iteration of the song has become known as the “rock version”. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call anything JB was working on during this period “rock”, there is a slightly ragged finish to things that came closer to Funkadelic than the JBs.
The tune opens with a distorted guitar, and JBs challenge “How do you like me now?”, before the band comes in with a sound that is freer and much less polished than you’d expect to hear coming out of a James Brown 45. The overall feel is a little looser than his other work at the time, playing down the prominence of the groove. ‘Talkin’ Loud’…’ is structurally no looser than ‘Ain’t It Funky Now’ from the same period, yet the prominence of the guitar and organ in the mix give the record a distinct flavor.
Ultimately, it appears that Brown didn’t see the “rock version” as a big part of his musical future, since it never saw a full release, and aside from ‘Sho Is Funky Down Here’ there’s not much like it in his catalog before or since.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back later in the week.

Peace
Larry

PS The Asbury Park 45 Sessions returns this Friday October 3rd with the AP45 Crew and guest selectors TBA. Come on down to the World Famous Asbury Lanes. What the hell else have you got going on?

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PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Billy Sha Rae – Let’s Do It Again

September 24, 2008

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Billy Sha Rae

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Listen – Billy Sha Rae – Let’s Do It Again – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope you’ve all had an excellent week and are ready to pull down the ones and zeros for a tune that should set you on the path to an even excellent-er weekend.
The tune I bring you today found its way into my crates via my record nerd’s completist instincts. I features Billy Sha Rae’s best known cut (and one of the great, cheap funk 45s) ‘Do It’ a while back in Funky16Corners Radio v.40, and the instrumental reworking of the tune by Johnny Griffiths (also titled “Do It’) back in May. Sometime earlier this year, while browsing the interwebs I saw a listing for the record I bring you today, Billy Sha Rae’s ‘Let’s Do It Again’.
As I mentioned before, my record nerd instincts – manifested in the need to find all sequals, ‘answer’ records, and instrumental dubs of a given record – kicked in. Even though I knew that the likelihood of ‘Let’s Do It Again’ being anything more than an uninspired retread of the original were not high, I NEEDED to buy the record to find out the truth (and to be able to say that I had all the iterations of the ‘Do It’ phenom, no matter how minor).
The record was not expensive, so I grabbed it.
Good thing too, because instead of the expected (dreaded) lameness, what Mr. Sha Rae and his band the Soul Congress delivered was instead a huge helping of funk-driven ass-kickery, so staggering that it all but eclipsed the original.
I haven’t been able to find out much about Billy Sha Rae, but what I have found is intriguing. He got his start in the Pittsburgh area, and unlikely but very real hotbed of soul music (see Edwards, Chuck) and the white fans thereof, with a thirst for soul music and R&B that seems almost like a less rabid version of the same phenom in the North of England). Though he tore it up in Pittsburgh, Sha Rae, and his band the Soul Congress*, which reportedly included ex-members of Pittsburgh surf/instro/garage punkers the Arondies (“69”), packed up their funky luggage, hopped into their soulful cars and beat a path to Detroit. It was there that they hooked up with Funk Brother Jack Ashford and recorded ‘Do It’ for the Spectrum label (also released on Hour Glass). Sha Rae and the Soul Congress also backed Eddie Parker on ‘Love You Baby’ on the Jack Ashford label (as well as – reportedly – doing sessions for the O’Jays).
‘Let’s Do It Again’ – issued on Triple B, the same label as the Johnny Griffiths 45** – is a funky wonder, with a tight, tight horn section. The tune has a wild guitar line (which reminds me of the Apostle’s ‘Six Pack’), as well as an outstanding vocal by Sha Rae. I don’t think I’d be out of line to suggest that in the end it is a far superior record than the side that inspired it.
Sha Rae also recorded the storming ‘I’m Gone’ for Spectrum.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Monday.

Peace
Larry

* I’m not sure if this is the same Soul Congress that recorded ‘The Black House’ for the Bang label
**Both 45s feature the same song (if a different version) on their flip, ‘I Want Some Satisfaction’

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well (just updated).

Funky16Corners Radio v.57 – Easy Reader’s Soul Party

September 21, 2008

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Funky16Corners Radio v.56 – Solar Heat

Playlist

Little Richard – Land of 1000 Dances (Okeh)
OV Wright – I Love the Way You Love (Backbeat)
Ovations – Dance Party (Goldwax)
Five Dutones – Shake a Tailfeather (One-Derful!)
Benny Spellman – I Feel Good (Atlantic)
Performers – I Can’t Stop You (Mirwood)
Aretha Franklin – See Saw (Atlantic)
Willie Mitchell – That Driving Beat (Hi)
Benny Gordon & the Soul Brothers – In the Midnight Hour (RCA)
Ikettes – Don’t Feel Sorry For Me (Modern)
Chubby Checker – Karate Monkey (Parkway)
Solomon Burke – Keep Looking (Atlantic)
Billy Vera & Judy Clay – Really Together (Atlantic)
Howard Tate – Glad I Knew Better (Verve)
Georgie Fame – Monkeying Around (Imperial)
Chet ‘Poison’ Ivey – Soul Is My Game (Bee Cee)
Little Richard – I Don’t Want To Discuss It (Okeh)

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

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end, and that your weekend was restful, restorative and worth the five day slog.
The mix I bring you today, is like a few others in the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive, a reconstruction of sorts of an old ‘personal’ mix. Back in the day, before I started the ole podcasting thing, and was generally mixing tunes for my own edification and that of a very select few (i.e. those I felt like burning CDs for), I used to – much like I do for the interwebs – stack up a nice tasty pile of 45s and compress them into a CD which I would, as the kids say, rock in the whip, or on the CD-Rom drive of my work computer (so as to keep my sanity on the job).
Then, back in two thousand and ought four, following almost four years of the Funky16Corners web zine, on which I occasionally posted a song snippet or two in RealAudio (the creation of which was a serious pain in the ass), I decided to take the leap into the realm of MP3 blogging, the results of which (four years on) you see before you. It was another two years before the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast was born.
In the two years since then, the mixes, which started out as a pretty straightforward affair, have gotten a little more interesting, with the themes, and the drops, and the “station IDs” and what not.
It’s been a while since I dropped a non-themed mix of old-school soul, so as an old David Allen Grier character used to say: “Want to hear it? Here it is!”
I won’t go into my customary level of detail with this mix for a few reasons.
First – and foremost – several of these tracks have been featured individually in this space over the years. Others have appeared in previous mixes, and almost all of the artists have been covered here before.
My excuse for the repeat appearances is (aside from the usual inexcusable level of laziness) that I wanted to keep the feel of the original mix. This is – of course – meaningless to anyone that never heard that particular CD before (and that would be just about everyone), but you’ll have to humor me on this one.
The “framing device”, the snippets of Easy Reader have little or nothing do with the tunes in the mix (I’ve done that before), but they’re so cool I had to use them*.
There are a few of tracks here from the earliest days of my soul 45 jones (O.V. Wright, Five Dutones) and some that I happened upon first in versions from the British Invasion; ‘See Saw’ via Georgie Fame (who appears late in the mix), ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Keep Looking’ via the Artwoods. A couple of others are the result of my Mod pals (Willie Mitchell, Chubby Checker) and a few longtime personal favorites like the Billy Vera/Judy Clay number and the Performers track.
The whole thing is engineered to provide the soundtrack for your next ripple and potato chip party, in which rugs should be cut, beer should be spilled and, as our friends from Chicago have suggested, tailfeathers shaken.
I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be back at the end of the week with the track I was supposed to post last Friday, and then said I’d post today (it’s worth the wait, I promise).
Until then…
Peace
Larry

*For those of you who grew up outside the US (and outside the 70s) Easy Reader was a character (played by Morgan Freeman) on the very groovy children’s TV program The Electric Company.

PS Make sure to stop by Iron Leg for hot mix of rockabilly, guitar reverb and stripper-type sounds…

PSS Check out Paperback Rider as well

Norman Whitfield RIP

September 17, 2008

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The Soulful Genius: Norman Whitfield

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Greetings all.

The sad news came through today that one of the greatest producers (and composers) in the history of modern music, Mr. Norman Whitfield passed away at the age of 67.

I’ve gone on at length in this space about my respect for Whitfield, who was as close to a visionary as you’re likely to find in the history of soul music. Whitfield was making important records for Motown (specifically his work with the Velvelettes) in it’s early days, but he is best remembered for dragging the label into the psychedelic era, producing brilliant soundscapes that also reverberated on a topical level, introducing a level of relevance that was sorely needed into the label’s catalog.

That he was also a major composer is evidenced by a short list of some of the songs he wrote or cowrote:

Too Many Fish In the Sea
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Needle In a Haystack
I Know I’m Losing You
Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
Ain’t No Sun Since You Been Gone
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
Smiling Faces Sometimes

And on, and on, and on…
Up to and including a record that I have long considered to be one of the greatest ever made, in any genre, ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’.
A few years back I posted two versions of the song; the Temptations nearly 12-minute epic (I’ve posted the seamless edit of the tune), and a shorter, but very interesting reggae version by the Pioneers.
I figure that in tribute to the passing of this giant, I’d republish that post, one of my favorites.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back on Monday with the funk 45 with which I had originally planned to close out the week.

Peace

Larry

ORIGINALLY POSTED 7/12/2006

Listen – The Temptations – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – MP3

Listen – The Pioneers – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – MP3

Good day to you, sir(s).Here’s hoping that the morning finds you well, and ready to embark on some serious listening.

Though – as I stated yesterday – this is a theme week of sorts, devoted to soul music by Jamaican artists (all being cover versions of US soul records), I’ve decided that today’s selection simply cannot appear without also including the original version as well. “Why”, you ask, rolling your eyes and clenching your fists in frustration “would I do such a thing?”

Easy now….

I include the earlier recording of said song because it is, in the opinion of this writer one of the five or ten best records of any kind made in the last 40 years, and to rhapsodize about another artists version of this song without also doing so about the original would amount to a colossal sin of omission, from which my reputation (as it is) might never recover.

Or not…

Either way, I think that hearing these records side by side enhances them both.

That said…

I first heard the Temptations ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ when it was released in 1972. I was but a lad of ten, but even then, absent a mature understanding of the lyrics of the song or music in general, I knew an amazing record when I heard it. I’m not even sure that I knew any other songs by the Temptations, and I certainly had no idea who Norman Whitfield was. I was just another kid with a transistor radio glued to my ear, beginning a love affair with music that would still be coming to fruition 34 four years hence (Oh, how it pains me to do that bit of math…).

Of course, with brilliant records like ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ (which as a Number One hit was unavoidable); I was also exposed to all kinds of crap. There are those of a similar vintage who embrace said crap nostalgically, as 70’s music, and will assault you with the likes of Paper Lace, First Class etc etc. However, a look at a survey from December of 1972 (from WABC in New York, the station I was listening to), the Top 20 was dominated, not by crap, but rather by the likes of Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Stylistics, Al Green, and Stevie Wonder. Sure, you also have stuff like Helen Reddy and Gilbert O’Sullivan, but looking at the law of averages, and taking into consideration that good taste has never been universal, taking a few bad songs in rotation with a bunch of good ones was hardly a high price to pay (especially in the universe of Top 40 AM radio).

I will assume that the vast majority of people reading this blog will hardly need an introduction to the Temptations. They were one of mightiest weapons in the Motown arsenal, and despite the brutal overplaying of some of their golden oldies (I can hardly listen to ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’ or ‘My Girl’ without turning the dial), they were possessed of an embarrassment of riches as far as vocal talent is concerned (c’mon, David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks in the same group?!?) and by 1972, they were firmly in the grasp of the label’s reigning mastermind Norman Whitfield.

It was not always thus. Despite the fact that Whitfield was always a genius (listen to some of the brilliant records he made with the Velvelettes in the mid-60’s), he was not always considered a “guiding light” at Motown. Even when he started to craft the “psychedelic soul” that would bring the Temptations back to prominence in the late 60’s (as well as groups like the Undisputed Truth, who recorded ‘Papa…’ first), it wasn’t until the hits started to roll in (being with money talking and bullshit walking, etc.) that he got the respect that he deserved – at least as an auteur of sorts, as he was already a very successful songwriter.

Starting in 1969, with the ‘Cloud Nine’ lp (by this point Ruffin had made his exit, replaced by Dennis Edwards, formerly of the Contours), Whitfield and the Temps made a string of amazing records that redefined funk and soul. By 1972, when they recorded ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’, Eddie Kendricks – who initially fought Whitfield on the group’s new direction – left to go solo and was replaced by Damon Harris.

So…it’s 1972, I’m ten years old, it’s way after bedtime and I’m huddle up with my radio and the DJ drops the needle on ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’. From the opening bass notes, through the ticking of the high-hat, into the strings, the wah-wah guitar and then – really setting the scene – the echoing trumpet, it is immediately obvious that what Whitfield has created here is more than just a record. It’s almost as if he took an aural snapshot of the ghetto and managed to transport a piece of that world onto two sides of a 7-inch record. Though ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ is in the most basic sense a “story song”, as a record, its reach is positively cinematic. When this record comes on, I can close my eyes and the story comes to life. It’s as if you’re in a bar, and you’re overhearing the Temps in the booth behind you telling the story.

Whitfield builds the record, layer upon layer, with each of the instrumental elements – from the gritty guitar to the sublime addition of elements that might otherwise seem incongruous, like harp and strings – as well as the different vocal sounds, Edwards’ growl, Harris’ falsetto and Melvin Franklin’s bass (and the group together in harmony) inhabiting separate strata, while blending together seamlessly.

Taking the record (as it appeared on the LP ‘All Directions’) as a connected 11:45 whole, with it’s almost five minute instrumental prelude, it’s nothing less than an epic. It’s the greatest of the Whitfield/Temps collaborations, and one of the greatest records of any kind ever committed to vinyl, standing as a testament to the skill of the Funk Brothers as musicians, the Temps as vocalists but more importantly as a showcase for Whitfield as arranger/producer, or dare I say conceptualist. It’s that amazing/important a record. In the midst of an era where records in excess of ten minutes were becoming more common (though usually the bloated purvey of pretentious art rockers), Whitfield took that concept and ran away with it. You always hear talk about producers/arrangers crafting the prefect “three minute” pop record, yet here, Whitfield carries it out to almost twelve minutes and I defy you to find a single, solitary second of wasted sound.

When the Pioneers decided to cover ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ in 1973, they wisely eschew any attempt to mount an epic version of the song, instead choosing to boil it down to its essence. They focus on applying their harmonies to delivering the story within the song. The backing, while at times a distant mirror of the Temps original, is much sparer, the brisk reggae rhythm driven by the rhythm guitar and minimal percussion. Their only concession to the scope of the Temps version is some atmospheric electric piano and organ.

Coming together in 1962 in Jamaica, the Pioneers has two big ska hits with ‘Longshot’ in 1967 and it’s sequel, ‘Longshot (Kick De Bucket)’ in 1969. ‘Longshot (Kick De Bucket)’ (both songs were about a famous racehorse) was a big hit in the UK, and the Pioneers relocated there in 1970. They recorded for Trojan and associated labels through the late 70’s as the Pioneers, the Reggae Boys, the Rebels and Sidney, George and Jackie. They specialized in covers (reggae, soul and pop); with their biggest hit being a reworking of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Let Your Yeah Be Yeah’ in 1971.

Though they broke up for good in 1989, they remain one of the more popular acts to have recorded for Trojan and their classic work is available on many reissues.

The Peddlers – Comin’ Home Baby

September 16, 2008

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The Peddlers

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Listen – The Peddlers – Comin’ Home Baby – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope that all is well with you in midweek, and that you are quite ready to have your ears blown off.
A bold claim?
Bear with me.
The Funky16Corners blog first broached the subject of the Peddlers back in July as part of Funky16Corners Radio v.53. Though I’d known of the Peddlers for a while, I only took the leap and grabbed some of their vinyl last year (much more since).
Though my first inclination is to describe them as ‘soul jazz’, they are at once much more than that, creating (behind the voice and wailing Hammond of Roy Phillips) a truly unique mélange of beat, jazz, cabaret, rock and soul that must be heard to be believed. Listening to the breadth of their sound is like passing through a cloud composed of equal parts Tom Jones, Jimmy Smith, Georgie Fame, Mel Torme, Alan Hawkshaw and dozens of lesser jazz/lounge vibe-creators. They’re one of those bands that comes along every once in a blue moon and I just sit and wonder how they escaped my notice for so long.
The Peddlers first came together in the early 60s following participation by the group’s members in various and sundry beat units. Phillips and bassist Tab Martin worked in the Joe Meek stable, and drummer Trevor Morais had been Ringo Starr’s replacement in Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. They played together for a few years (releasing their first single in 1964), developing their sound in a residency at London’s Pickwick Club, where they would eventually record a live LP. They played all over the UK and Europe, as well as working it out in Las Vegas during the late 60s.
Between 1964 and 1973 – when Morais left the band – they recorded several outstanding albums for CBS/Epic including the beat diggers fave ‘Suite London’ and had a number of hits in the UK.
Their storming version of Bob Dorough and Ben Tucker’s ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ – from their 1968 ‘Three In a Cell’ LP – is positively relentless, with a typically wild vocal by Phillips and blazing rhythm work by Martin and Morais. Phillips’ vocals may be my favorite aspect of the Peddlers sound. He had rich, soulful baritone and had a tendency to move into wild flights of scatting, all the while working the Hammond masterfully. Check out the way he scats in unison with the organ at the 59 second mark. The tune has quite a following amongst the Mod contingent (as well it should).
The Peddlers version of the oft covered ‘I’m Coming Home’ has quickly become a favorite, as has the band. To get another taste of their wild side, check out ‘Southern Woman’ in F16 Radio v.53, and get a look at this live performance of ‘Walk On the Wild Side’ on UK TV (the only live clip I’ve ever seen of the band).
The Peddlers continued on for a brief time without Morais, with Phillips eventually relocating to New Zealand where he continues to record and perform. You can find much of their 60s output reissued on CD, or grab the vinyl if your willing to dig a little and throw some money around.
That said, check out the tune, then stitch your ears back on so you can fall by on Friday for some tasty funk.

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for something unusual from Simon & Garfunkel

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well (just updated).

Jimmy Bo Horne – Let Me Be Your Lover

September 14, 2008

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Jimmy Bo Horne

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Listen – Jimmy Bo Horne – Let Me Be Your Lover – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope you all had an excellent weekend.
I won’t like to you and tell you that I come to you well rested, but I did get a lot done, especially in the blog-o-mazation department. I put the next chapter in the Funky16Corners Radio saga to bed (coming next Monday), as well as digimatizing the raw material for the one following that, as well as various and sundry single tracks for the time in between.
With every passing day it seems more and more that the passage of time has turned me into, if not a workaholic, certainly a blog-o-holic. I made a comment to someone a few weeks ago along the lines of, if my 15 year old self could see my 46 year old self his head would explode. I get more done in a day now, than I was likely to accomplish in a week back then. Part of that has to do with a renewed sense of direction, especially in creative pursuits, which – along with a body that bears the marks of the physical equivalent of roughly two-million (rough) highway miles, and of course the presence of two small children – finds me unwilling to partake in the kind of “recreation” I used to love so much. That, and the fact that in the face of a seemingly permanently shortened sleep cycle, when the house gets quiet early (like tonight, it’s around 10PM as I write this), I fire up the laptop instead of taking to my bed for a few, precious hours of extra sleep.
That said, the track I bring you today first arrived in my ears on one of those rare nights where I’m out after midnight, i.e. one of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions. Aside from the opportunity to spin pretty much whatever I want, and to hang with some very cool people, the AP45 thang is – as I mentioned just last week – a trainspotters paradise. The folks I spin with – regular selectors and guests – are veritable 45 gunslingers. Not a Session goes by that I don’t walk away shaking my head in disbelief in my newly lengthened want list.
It was just such a night, sometime last year, when DJ Prime took to the wheels of steel, and in the midst of a typically shit-hot set dropped the needle on something that was at once familiar and utterly new to me. It took me a second to figure out why I thought I knew it, and when I did I had to get up on the riser to check out the label.
The tune he was spinning – and that I bring to you today – was ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’ by Jimmy Bo Horne. If the title isn’t familiar, pull down the ones and zeros and give the song a spin. It ought to be almost immediately apparent that ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’ was the sample source for the Stereo MCs ‘Connected’, a song that I was previously unaware had used a sample.
Horne was a Florida based artist who had been recording since the mid-60s for Henry Stone’s Alston label (where he recorded the “answer” to Betty Wright’s ‘Clean Up Woman’, entitled – not surprisingly – ‘Clean Up Man’ in 1972). He laid down ‘Let Me Be Your Lover’ in 1978 during the heart of the disco era. Fortunately for us, the tune was written and produced by Harry Casey and Richard Finch, two gentlemen who wrote and recorded some of the funkiest disco records with KC & the Sunshine Band (Casey being “KC”), as well as tunes for George McRae (‘Rock Your Baby’) and Betty Wright among others.
‘Let Me Be Your Lover’ is positively swimming in bass, with a punchy horn section trading off with Casey’s electric piano. There’s a very subtle layer of strings, but they hardly make a dent in the record which seems engineered to take full advantage of the woofers in any club’s sound system. There’s a great section about one minute and forty seconds into the tune where the horns drop out and the keyboards (sounds like both an electric piano and a clavinet) are used to accent the vocal. I’m not sure if there’s a 12” mix of this tune (there would just about have to be, wouldn’t there??), but I’m betting it’d be killer.
So, I hope you dig the tune (props to DJ Prime), and I’ll be back on Wednesday with some more soulful excellence.

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for something unusual from Simon & Garfunkel

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well (just updated).

James & Marva & Lyn (& Herb, sort of…)

September 9, 2008

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James Brown

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Marva Whitney

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Lyn Collins

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Listen – Marva Whitney – This Girl’s In Love With You – MP3″

Listen – James Brown & Lyn Collins – This Guy/Girl’s In Love With You – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end.
This will be the second and final post this week. I have some real world stuff going on that needs my attention, and as I’m already sleep-deprived, stressed and not feeling my old, creative self I’ll be taking the rest of the week off.
Of course I couldn’t leave you all hanging, so you get two songs today.
They’re the same song (two different versions), so you’ll have a little something extra for your ears.
A while back, DJ Prestige – always on top of his game – brought in yet another outstanding guest DJ to the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, this time the world-renowned Dave Withers.
Each and every Asbury 45 hang has it’s share of trainspotting amongst the selectors, but this time out I think I jumped up on the riser to spec out what Dave happened to be spinning at least three or four times. He dropped a very heavy set, and I walked away with a number of new want list items.
Today’s selection is the only one of those that I’ve been able to track down in the time since.
A few seconds after he dropped the needle, I – and pretty much everyone else – was hit with a twinge of recognition. It was one of those, ‘I know this song, but not this version’ things. It was almost immediately obvious that I was hearing a distaff reworking of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’, presented here in a storming, funked up version. I gave it a good listen, thinking it sounded like Marva Whitney, a hunch that was confirmed when I checked out the label.
It was one of those “where has this record been all my life” happenings, and I went home that night, grateful to Dave for hepping me to that, and a few other killer records.
Not long after that, I found a nice, clean copy, digimatized it and prepped it for blog-i-fication.
Not long after that I was out digging with a couple of my AP45 comrades and what should I come across in a crate of 45s but another version of the tune, this time a duet by James Brown and Lyn Collins.
Methinks the Godfather liked this song.
Naturally, after further recording and uploading a single tune quickly became a double-feature, and here we all are today.
The two presentations of the song are radically different, but both cool in their own ways.
If you’ve heard any of the Marva Whitney material that has appeared in this space, you’ll already know that she was a purveyor of vocal dynamite, with a powerful instrument at her disposal. Her take on ‘This Girl…’ is, if not completely unique (there is after all Lyn Collins’ version of ‘Fly Me To the Moon’ to consider) is still a very unusual entry in the JB-related King discography. Recorded and released in 1969, a year after Herb Alpert’s Top 40 OG, Whitney’s interpretation of the song is a great show of restraint on here part, allowing the listener to really hear the quality of her voice, generally eschewing the vocal acrobatics of some of her ‘harder’ material.
The instrumental arrangement manages to be both lush (dig those strings) and funky (hard, snapping drums and guitar), and it’s a little surprising that it wasn’t a hit, though a look at the King discography reveals that they released in excess of 70 singles in 1969, half a dozen of them by Whitney, either on her own or in duets with James Brown.
The duet version, by JB and Lyn Collins was recorded a few years later (in 1972), and the approach is somewhat more conventional, coming across as a romantic – and soulful – duet, with a great performance by JB, with Collins taking more of a supporting role. It’s certainly not among the first rank of Brown’s catalog, even among his duets, but it does provide an interesting contrast of his conception of the song over the course of a few years. Like the Whitney version, this recording is a reminder of what a great “conventional” singer JB was.
The Whitney and Brown/Collins recordings are hardly the only soulful versions of the song. There were countless versions of the song, among them Dionne Warwick’s hit in 1969 as well as others by Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Ruffin, Barbara Acklin, Gene Chandler and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, among others.
That said, I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll be back on Monday, hopefully well rested (though I doubt it), clear headed (never that son) and ready to go (as always).

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for some late 60s Detroit City freakout!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Barbara Banks – River of Tears

September 7, 2008

Example

An amazing 45

Example

Listen – Barbara Banks – River of Tears – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end.
The record I bring you today is another loooooong time want list item. One that I thought I’d never get a copy of, so when I made the score it was all the more sweet.
I made reference last week (and frequently over the years) to the world of Northern Soul. Though I am a huge fan of the sound (or at least the meat and potatoes of what is considered the sound, since the Northern soulies have often embraced some very odd records), and an admirer of the scene and all the history therein, I am at the end of the day but a lowly outsider.
My knowledge of the Northern Soul canon, while more in depth than some is barely a scratch on the surface of the truly devoted. I have no doubt that the best Northern DJs have hundreds of brilliant records at their disposal that have never heard, and very likely will never hear. It’s pretty much the same with any seriously collected genre. I know many of the great doo-wop and rockabilly records, but to the folks that do the deepest digging the stuff I know is mere piffle.
That said, my exploration of Northern Soul is ongoing, and thanks to the depth of the associated discographies will likely (and happily) continue for some time.
That said, I first came upon Barbara Banks’ brilliant ‘River of Tears’ some years ago, completely unexpectedly.
During the early days of my deep funk digging, the name Keb Darge loomed very large, so when I saw a compilation of rarities compiled by the man, I picked it up immediately. The comp – Beams Presents The Keb Darge Experience – was –  I assumed –  verily chockablock with deep funk nuggets. Surely there were several killer funk sides including the Third Guitar’s ‘Baby Don’t Cry’, and Herb Johnson Settlement’s ‘Damn F’aint’, but around the half way point of the disc the sound took a rather abrupt change in direction – into Northern Soul (at the time I had no idea then that Keb had started out on the Northern scene) and I was introduced to two records that I would fall in love with immediately. The first was Pat Lewis’ moody masterpiece ‘No One To Love’ (which still eludes my grasp) and today’s selection, Barbara Banks’ ‘River of Tears’.
The first time I ever heard the adjective “storming” in reference to music, it was describing a Northern Soul record (though I can’t recall which). I have used it repeatedly as a descriptor for the relentless dancers beat the propels many of these 45s. ‘River of Tears’ is as storming as they come.
I haven’t been able to track down much information about Barbara Banks. What I do know is that she recorded at least three 45s – for three different labels – in 1965, 1966 and 1967, all in collaboration with writers Gary Knight and Herb Bernstein (who also acted as arranger/producer) and all pulling major coin these days.
Knight and Bernstein were an interesting pair. They composed a couple of brilliant blue-eyed soul 45s, ‘Breakout’ by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and the Northern floor-filler ‘Stranger In My Arms’ by Lynne Randell (an artist featured earlier this year at Iron Leg), and did a lot of work as writers/arrangers/producers for Bob Crewe and the DynoVoice label. Knight also recorded a number of pop 45s under a few different names (and in the duo Dey & Knight) during the 60s.
Barbara Banks appeared to have been something of a “project” for Bernstein and Knight, as they kept doing records with her for three consecutive years.
Banks was a fantastic singer, and is also listed as the co-writer of ‘River of Tears’, the second of her three 45s, from the Fall of 1966. The record itself is an absolute wonder. It opens with the pounding of the snare drum and hi-hat cymbal before Banks comes in (along with interjections by backup singers) before the tune’s signature bass/vibes line comes in, followed by the rest of the band. Like the best Northern sides, the song’s driving beat is complemented by fantastic melody line. The tune changes keys a few times (there’s a great bridge) and the backing chorus of “wooo-wooos” is reminiscent of another classic, the Marvelettes ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’.
Banks would release one other 45 in 1967, ‘The Night Time Feelin’ for MGM before pretty much dropping off the face of the earth. If anyone knows where she went after that please post the info in a comment, or drop me a line via e-mail.
Though ‘River of Tears’ was not a hit, Bernstein and Knight were savvy enough to know when they had a great song, and they re-did ‘River of Tears’ in 1967 with the Royalettes.
I hope you dig this record as much as I do, and if you want to hear it over a great sound system, I assure you I’ll be spinning it at the next Asbury Park 45 Sessions on Friday October 3rd.

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a fine slice of Sunset Strip folk rock!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Clea Bradford RIP

September 4, 2008

Example

Miss Clea Bradford

Example

“Listen – My Love’s a Monster MP3″

Greetings all.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail that indicated that singer Clea Bradford had passed away. I was unable to confirm it until a few days ago when a reader posted a link to her obit. Bradford, who was 67 and was living in Maryland, had spent most of her career as a jazz singer, though the selection I’m reposting today reveals that she had her way with soul as well. ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is a personal fave and always has a spot in my DJ box.

I hope you dig the tune (I know you will) and I’ll see you all on Monday.

Peace

Larry

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN SEPTEMBER 2006

The record you’ll be hearing today was requested by one of our regular readers about a month ago. While the Funky16Corners blog isn’t a jukebox, I am not averse to taking (and honoring, when possible) requests for specific tunes. As long as I have a copy of said tune taking up space in my crates (and I remember where it is) I have no problem working it into the rotation. As I said on Monday, I’m usually selecting tunes to post sometimes a month in advance (husband and father type duties requiring that I condense my record-related work into short, intense periods of activity), so if someone makes a request, it may end up taking a little while to end up on yon blogspot, but it will get there.

The performer of today’s selection, Clea Bradford, is one I haven’t been able to find out much about. As far as I can tell she may have begun her career based out of St. Louis, Mo, where she often worked with the Quartette Tres Bien. She went on to record LPs for Prestige, Mainstream and Cadet through the 60’s, as well as 45s for the Tru-Sound and Hi-Q labels. The song I bring you today, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ was recorded for Cadet in 1968 and appeared on the LP ‘Her Point of View’.

The song is (much like Clea’s love) a monster. This is due in large part to the fact that it was co-written, arranged and produced by the legendary Richard Evans. During the 60’s and early 70’s, Evans – who started his career as a jazz bassist – produced and arranged a wide range of truly amazing records for the Cadet label. Like Charles Stepney (with whom he sometimes collaborated) Evans was one of the true “auteurs” of the Cadet sound, masterminding the Soulful Strings, and creating legendary recordings with the likes of Dorothy Ashby, Terry Callier, Marlena Shaw and Ramsey Lewis among others (for a deeper look at Richard Evans, follow this link to an article I wrote about him at the Funky16Corners web zine).

His recordings with Marlena Shaw – including crate digger classics like ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ and ‘California Soul’ – are an important reference point to ‘My Love’s a Monster’. Bradford – like Shaw – was essentially a jazz vocalist recording in a soul/funk frame of reference. Evans was a master of blurring the lines between jazz and funk, creating records that contained elements of both, often mixing big band brass with funky bass lines and breakbeats (not to mention unusual elements like kalimba and harp).

While the end result may be a little to polished for aficionados of the gritty funk 45, if you are a listener possessed of a certain taste and perspicacity, you are likely to find that once sampled, you are driven to seek out more of the same.

Opening with a brass flourish, followed by the rhythm section laying down a funky groove, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is in all aspects a BIG record. Bradford’s vocal is strong and assured, and the brilliant production manages to keep her voice out front, even while the instrumental track is absolutely booming. I love Bradford’s near-scatting in the breakdowns leading into the chorus remind me of Solomon Burke’s similar performance in 1966’s “Keep Looking”.

While I can’t say with any certainty who’s playing on this 45, I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s the usual suspects, i.e. the Chess/Cadet house band, and as always, they do an amazing job. The lead guitar is outstanding – dig how it keeps popping up in the mix – and the drums are hard as hell.

As far as I can tell ‘My Love’s a Monster’ has not been comped, which is at least to me, incomprehensible. This is sister funk of the first order, a party starter, floor filler etc, and for a record like this to be overlooked is nothing short of criminal. One group of people who hasn’t overlooked it is DJ-types, which might explain why it’s not a cheap 45, but not overly expensive either ($25 – $35 bucks seems to be the going rate). The LP (which I’ve heard may have a different mix of this tune) is also find-able in a similar price range. Hopefully someone out there with the wherewithal will put together a comp of Richard Evans productions, and include this track. In any event, as I just gave myself the idea, I’ll make sure to put together an episode of Funky16Corners radio highlighting that material. Look for it this Fall.

PS Johnny Sayles has a tune called ‘My Love’s a Monster’ (which I’ve never heard), but since it came out in 1965 (on the Chi-Town label) , and the Clea Bradford record was co-written by Bradford and Richard Evans, I’m guessing it’s a different song. If anyone knows different, please let me know.


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