Archive for October, 2008

The Return of Funky16Corners Halloween!

October 28, 2008

Greetings all.
This is going to be a busy couple of weeks.
We have Halloween this Friday (thus the repost of last years Funky16Corners Radio Halloween Spooktacular), Election Day next Tuesday – for which I’ll be posting something cool – and then in the middle of next week the four year anniversary of the Funky16Corners Blog, for which I’m working on a special mix.
I have some personal committments toward the end of the week, so this maybe the last post until the election post on Sunday night.
If all goes as planned, the anniversary mix (Number 60!) will be up next Wednesday, after which the Funky16Corners fam will be hitting the road for a well deserved vacation.
I hope you dig the spooky stuff, and I’ll work on keeping the sounds coming.
Happy Halloween!
Peace
Larry

Originally posted 10/29/07

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 Don’t forget to check out this week’s mix at Iron Leg!

Merl Saunders RIP

October 26, 2008

Example

Merl Saunders
1934 – 2008

Listen/Download – Merl Saunders – Soul Groovin – From Funky16Corners Radio v.35 – Soul Organs Pt2 – MP3

Listen/Download – Merl Saunders – Soul Roach Pt2 from Funky16Corners Radio v.55 Soul On – MP3

Listen/Download – Merl Saunders – Julia – from Funky16Corners Radio v.24.5 The Beat Goes On – MP3

Listen/Download – Merl Saunders & Heavy Turbulence – A Little Bit of Righteousness – from Funky16Corners Radio v.53 Ain’t It The Truth- MP3

Greetings all.
I had something entirely different already written up for the beginning of the week, but unfortunately I just heard that one of my fave organists, and one of the truly interesting lights of the Bay Area music scene, Merl Saunders, had passed away at the age of 74*.
Though I’m sure I knew of Saunders during the few years I was going to see the Grateful Dead – Saunders had recorded with various members of the band, especially Jerry Garcia – I didn’t really start to get into his music until I dug up one of his Galaxy label soul jazz sides.
Merl Saunders was born and raised in the Bay Area, and before he started grooving with the hippified element, he fronted a slamming organ combo, recording for a variety of west coast labels, including Galaxy and Early Bird.
Though I managed to find most of his early 45s over the years, it was only earlier this year that I finally scored a copy of the rare ‘Soul Grooving’ LP by the Merl Saunders Trio and Big Band.
Saunders had a fantastic touch on the Hammond, working soul jazz, funk and rock with equal facility. His organ stylings have been a repeated part of the Funky16Corners Radio experience, appearing in no less that four different mixes.
The tunes I’m posting today range from his earliest soul jazz efforts right through to some of his funkier sounds.
The first cut is my personal favorite, the cut ‘Soul Grooving’, which features Saunders on both organ and electric piano. Dig the thumping bass and groovy guitar solo on this one.
The second tune is the flip side of his 45 for the collectible Early Bird label, ‘Soul Roach Pt2’, which is as pure a piece of soul jazz organ shuffle as you’re likely to come across.
The third track is another fave, and very unusual in the Saunders catalog, a version of the theme from the Diahann Carroll TV series ‘Julia’, another cut on which he doubles on organ and piano. I love the electric piano solo on this one. Very groovy indeed.
The final cut is one side of the 1970 45 recorded by Saunders with the group Heavy Turbulence. I’ve heard that the funky ‘A Little Bit of Righteousness’ features none other than Mike Bloomfield of the Electric Flag on guitar. Saunders went on to record an album called ‘Heavy Turbulence’ in 1972 which featured both Garcia and Tom Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In the 70s, Saunders went from working a soul groove to laying down a jamming groove as a part of the extended Grateful Dead family, recording with the Dead, and on solo albums by Garcia and Robert Hunter , and eventually recording the classic ‘Blues From The Rainforest’ LP.
He was felled by a stroke in 2002, and it was reportedly complications from that ailment that took his life this past week.
He will be missed.
Peace
Larry

*I know that the blog is starting to look like the soul/funk obituary page, but when someone of note passes, it’s important to honor their memory. I’ve always thought that the obit page was the last stop for many interesting people before passing on to the great beyond of their choice. With any luck, if you’ve never heard anything by Merl Saunders, and you dig what I posted, you’ll continue to investigate his work, keeping his music alive.

PS Make sure to head over to Iron Leg for a new edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast devoted to 60s pop.

Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (and Epilogue)

October 23, 2008

Example

Sylvester

Example

Listen – Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real – MP3″

Listen – Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (Epilogue) – MP3″

Greetings all.
I hope all is well, and that you’ve got your loins girded (or un-girded as the case may be) for the weekend.
I decided to bring the week to an end with one of my all time favorite disco tracks, and a tune that I’ve loved since it came out.
If you’ve followed the Funky16Corners blog, you’ll already know that despite the funk and soul-osity of this blog, my musical tastes range far and wide, and have evolved considerably over the years.
To go back to the statement (no doubt a paraphrase) generally credited to Duke Ellington, there are two basic kinds of music, good and bad, and despite the fact that there are many folks out there that would question my taste – this being a chaque’un a son gout monde, mon freres – I like to think that I get it right a lot of the time.
To those of you to whom the term disco is poison, I ask you to bear with me. To the rest of you, I request only that you make sure that your dancing shoes are on securely.
I’ve broached this particular subject before, but for the many who do not have the time or inclination to hang on my every word, I’ll recap briefly. Like many of my ilk and age group, I was loathe to like much disco, and double-extra-loathe to admit what I did like, through an unpleasant combination of teenage homophobia, warped suburban rockist class consciousness and a misguided longhair’s purism.
As the years have passed, and I have matured (somewhat anyway) I have shed most of the aforementioned stupidity in favor of what might be considered a somewhat more enlightened frame of mind.
As I have also related, back in my teens, when it was all but unheard of among my antisocial circle to like disco, let alone make mention of the fact, there were a couple of records that absolutely blew my mind. ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ by Sylvester is one of those.
Back in the day, when – despite the fact that there weren’t too many cartoons I was interested in on Saturday mornings – I still remained fastened securely to the couch, eyes glued to the television set, with substandard broadcast fare still a superior option to getting up and wandering out into the light of day.
One byproduct of the couch-potato-ness, was the fact that American Bandstand would pop on around noon. Now, as byproducts go, American Bandstand ranks right up there with the kind of things corrupt manufacturers use to stretch dog and cat food. However, in between the Shaun Cassidys, and the Leif Garretts there appeared the occasional gem, like the Fleshtones, and one boring Saturday morning, Sylvester.
Now, I was probably glued to the sofa with a bowl of soggy Captain Crunch, half paying attention, when the polyester form of Dick Clark introduced someone who I’d never heard of, the synths started pumping and Sylvester boogied out onto the stage. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that the studio audience of California teens were as surprised as I was, when what looked like a great big woman (He did say ‘Sylvester’, right?) danced out on the stage and started to tear it up.
I was transfixed.
When I first heard ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’, I was probably 20 years away from hearing the term Hi-NRG, but I think I grokked it anyway, because there is no better example of a genre that carried a name like that than this song.
Oddly enough, I already owned another (maybe the first) example of the genre, in the 45 of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, produced by Giorgio Moroder. Moroder created many hits with the Hi-NRG sound, using electronic keyboards and percussion, and his American counterpart was none other than Sylvester’s producer Patrick Cowley.
Sylvester James got his start in show business as part of the legendary drag troupe the Cockettes, and went on to record a couple of albums with the Hot Band for the Blue Thumb label in the early 70s. By the middle of the decade he had signed to the Fantasy label, and started making some of the most infectious records of the disco era.
‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ appeared on his second LP ‘Step II’ in 1978. It made a minor mark on the pop charts, but held the Number One spot on the Billboard Dance chart for six week in the summer of that year. It went on to become an anthem of sorts, and was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
Bottom line is that ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ is a hard driving record, not only as disco, but as soul. It’s often forgotten – since so much mainstream disco was so formulaic and awful – but there were a lot of great singers, songwriters and producers working in the genre (as well as the many DJs that helped to shape the sound), and Sylvester was in the first rank of vocalists. His singing in general, but especially on this record is a thing to behold, filled with joy and daring, his falsetto soaring over the pulsing beat. It’s hard to listen to ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ and keep from moving. Whether you shift surreptitiously on your seat, or leap up with your freak flag flying high, there is no denying the power of a record like this.
Sadly, Sylvester had a tough time of it, peaking just as the genre was beginning to decline, under pressure from his label to tone down his image, and most tragically succumbing to AIDS at the age of 40 in 1988.
Do yourselves a favor, rip this one to CD, take it out to your car, pop it into the player and drive around with the windows open, playing it at full volume (you’ll probably make the stiffs in your neighborhood a little uneasy, which is always a good thing). You’ll feel a lot better, and you’ll be sending a little Sylvester back out into the ether.
See you on Monday.
Peace
Larry

PS I’ve also included the Epilogue, which closes out the LP side that starts with ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for some storming Irish R&Beat

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

Rudy Ray Moore (aka Dolemite) RIP

October 21, 2008

Example

RUDY RAY MOORE
1927 – 2008

Greetings all.
I come to you today with the sad news that Rudy Ray Moore, better known far and wide as Dolemite has slipped the surly bonds of earth and passed on to a special, profane section of heaven, dedicated to providing eternal rest for the truly outrageous.
Moore wore a lot of very funky hats (literal and figurative) during his five decade long career, working as an R&B singer, pioneering stand-up comic, actor and all around provocateur.
He is best known for creating the fast-talking pimp Dolemite and portraying him in the films ‘Dolemite’ and ‘The Human Tornado’, as well as including the character on some of his comedy albums.
In remembrance of the great one I’m reposting the special guest mix I did for Jazz Syndicate Radio back in January.
There are several sound bites from Dolemite films, and the mix closes out with what I consider to the RRM’s finest musical effort, ‘Put Your Weight On It’, on which he is accompanied by the Fillmore Street Soul Rebellion.
I hope you dig it, and that you raise a glass in memory of one of the baddest motherfuckers ever to walk the earth.
See you on Friday.
Peace
Larry

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

Funky16Corners Meets Dolemite!
Special Mix for Jazz Syndicate Radio

Bill Blacks Combo – Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Be Do Dah Day (Hi)
Mighty Hannibal – Jerkin’ the Dog (Shurfine)
Kool & the Gang – The Gang’s Back Again (Dee Lite)
Rufus Thomas – Sister’s Got a Boyfriend (Stax)
Johnny Goode – Payback (Solid Hit)
Bill Cosby – Road Runner (WB)
Mr C & Funk Junction – Hot Butter’n’All (Hurdy Gurdy)
Della Reese – Compared to What (Avco)
Toby King – Mr Tuff Stuff (Federal)
Marva Whitney – It’s My Thing (King)
Triplett Twins – Get It (Thomas)
Joe Haywood – Sing Me A Cornbread Song (Decca)
Willie Mitchell – Pearl Time (Hi)
Rudy Ray Moore & the Fillmore St Soul Rebellion – Put Your Weight On It (Generation)

Greetings all.
I figured I’d finish out the week by posting the mix I put together for Tony C over at Jazz Syndicate Radio in the UK. The show will actually be rerun one more time (Friday morning 1/11 at 11AM EST) so if you’d like to experience the whole shebang (i.e. my mix surrounded by two excellent sets by Tony) then that’ll be your last chance since Jazz Syndicate Radio does not currently archive. This will be a quick one, and I’m sorry to say that there’s no ZIP file associated with this one (I never make them for the guest mixes I do), so you’re just going to have to listen to Dolemite laying it down between songs.
Some of the tunes herein will be familiar to longtime devotees of the Funky16Corners thang, as about half of them have appeared here over the years, but then we’re always picking up new visitors here, and since (as far as I can remember) I haven’t included any of these tunes in a mix before, the “experience” (as it is) ought to be fairly fresh (nice run-on sentence, huh?).
Things get started with a very groovy Stevie Wonder cover by Bill Black’s Combo (dig the electric piano and guitar on this one) and sail right on through one of my all-time faves (by anyone, maybe one of my Top 10) from the aptly named Mighty Hannibal. We move on to a tasty one from New Jersey’s own Kool & the Gang, head on to Memphis for a banger from Mr. Rufus Thomas, and then back on up to the Motor City for a classic by the great Sidney Barnes, working incognito under the nom de guerre ‘Johnny Goode’.
The next cut is another by the once funny, and occasionally musical Bill Cosby. Though the last tune I featured by Cos (his version of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’) drew some derisive hoots from the audience, I still ride for Cosby’s detours into the world of soul. Sure, his take on ‘Roadrunner’ isn’t going to make anyone forget Junior Walker, but I dig it anyway. Next up we flip over one of the truly brilliant funk 45s (Lou Courtney’s ‘Hot Butter’n’All’) for the instrumental version thereof, which bears the same title yet is credited to ‘Mr C and Funk Junction’ instead.
Fans of ‘Touched By an Angel’ might be shocked when they lend an ear to a funky side from Miss Della Reese. Here Della whips out a cover of Eugene McDaniel’s ‘Compared to What’ that – although she edits the lyrics a tad – is still smoking.
Things continue to smoke with Toby King’s contribution to the ‘Big Stuff’ wars of the early 70’s with his own answer, entitles ‘Mr Tuff Stuff’.
If that wasn’t hot enough for you, please fasten your seatbelts and put your seats in the upright position, because Miss Marva Whitney is about to bring the turbulence. Another “answer” record (though really a barely disguised cover), her ‘It’s My Thing’ is the very soul of intensity. How her vocal cords survived this session is a mystery.
I know little of the Triplett Twins other than they were from Chicago. I can only speculate on the fortuitous arrival of twins at the Triplett house (imagine, had they been triplets??).
Joe Haywood’s ‘Sing Me a Cornbread Song’ is – in the vernacular of the kids – HEAT. It resides on the border of Soulville and Funk City, and is as sweaty, heavy and groovy as they come. Dig that guitar!
The Master from Memphis, Willie Mitchell joins us with a cover of Andre Williams ‘Pearl Time’. It may lack the saucy je ne sais quois of the original, but – to paraphrase the mighty Lee Dorsey – EVERYTHING Willie Mitchell does is soulful, so…you know…dig it.
We arrive at last call with a musical contribution from the man who gave this mix its dramatic flavor, Mr. Rudy Ray Moore. There’s another – more Hammond-y – version of ‘Put Your Weight On It’ out there, but seriously, WHY would you want a Rudy Ray Moore record with less Rudy Ray Moore on it? Here, we meet (and exceed) USDA Rudy Ray Moore daily allowance. Put your weight on it INDEED.
Peace
Larry

Funky16Corners Radio v.59 – Hammond Madness!

October 19, 2008

Example

Funky16Corners Radio v.59 – Hammond Madness!

Playlist

Dave Baby Cortez – Twine Time (Roulette)
Georgie Fame – The In Crowd (Imperial)
Jackie Ivory – Thank Heaven (Atco)
Mark 3 Trio – Mr G (Downhill)
Al Kooper – Soul Hoedown (UA)
Bill Doggett – Fingertips (Columbia)
Leon Haywood – A River’s Invitation (Convoy)
RD Stokes – Partying Groove (II Bros)
Art Jerry Miller – Mod Strut (Enterprise)
Doc Bagby – Mix It Up (VIM)
Gene Ludwig – Sticks and Stones Pt1 (Atlantic)
Hollis Floyd – Everything Is Everything (Silloh)
Keith Mansfield Orchestra – Moanin; (Pronit)
Richard Groove Holmes – 1-2-3 (Prestige)
David Rockingham – Little Davie (Dee Dee)
Odell Brown – Hard to Handle (Cadet)
Bobby Emmons – Blue Organ (Hi)

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

Greetings all.

I hope the new week finds you well, and ready to download, reload and grease up the joint with a steaming plate of Hammond.
The mix I bring you today is the tenth Hammond-theme edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast. Since Funky16Corners Radio v.8 (Hammond Internationale) back in August of 2006, we’ve covered funk, soul, R&B, long players, and the Hammond stylings of James Brown (to date the only single-artist Hammond mix). If you don’t know by now, that I ride hard for some Hammond*, you haven’t been paying attention.
The mix we bring you today, F16Rv.59, has some unusual things by some old faves, a couple of rarities and as always, a surplus of groove.
Things get started with a smoking version of Alvin Cash’s ‘Twine Time’ by the great Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of DBC’s mid-period Roulette stuff, but it does contain some gems, and this track is a case in point.
Georgie Fame has appeared in this space many times before. Known best to fans of British Beat, Fame was a great Mose Allison/Jon Hendricks influenced vocalist as well as a killer organist. His albums always included a couple of instrumental workouts (including one of my all time faves ‘El Bandido’), and his version of Dobie Gray’s ‘The In Crowd’ is a great example.
I don’t know much about Jackie Ivory. I was first hepped to his playing via a mix sent to me by a friend, and eventually picked up a jukebox EP of his on the Atco label. His sound was a lot more jazz than soul, but groovy nonetheless.
The Mark 3 Trio is one of my personal Hammond ‘white whales’. As far as I can tell, there were probably two different organ trios working under that name. The first, recorded for IN, Atco and Wingate. The other (the one in this mix) recorded an extremely rare LP at (and released by) a ski lodge, and featured none other than a young Grover Washington Jr. on sax. The fidelity on the LP is very poor, so forgive any weakness in sound quality.
Al Kooper’s ‘Soul Hoedown’ is a track from his soundtrack to a very cool film, ‘The Landlord’. Though the tune is short, it does sport a drum break, and some great playing by Kooper.
Bill Doggett was one of the greatest masters of soul jazz organ, recording classic sides for many labels, including the crate diggers staple ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’. He recorded a couple of LPs for Columbia, including 1963s ‘Fingertips’. The title track, a cover of the Little Stevie Wonder classic is a swinging killer. If you can find the album, grab it as it also includes ‘The Worm’.
Leon Haywood is best known as a singer of sweet soul like ‘It’s Got to Be Mellow’ but those in the know will tell you that he was also an organist, often placing instrumentals on the B-sides of his vocal 45s. Prior to his establishment as a vocalist, he recorded a number of instro-only 45s for a variety of labels. His cover of Percy Mayfield’s ‘River’s Invitation’ is one of the best.
I can’t tell you anything about R.D. Stokes, other than that he recorded two 45s, and that he’s my second favorite organist from Watts, following Labert Ellis. While ‘Partying Groove’ may lack the ferocious attack of ‘My Sandra’s Jump’ (which appeared in Funky16Corners Radio v.23.5, Old School Hammond) but it’s still very cool.
Art Jerry Miller is another one of those shadowy figures whose name pops up here and there on a number of Memphis recordings. He apparently worked with Willie Mitchell (he wrote the slamming ‘Up Hard’), prior to recording a 45 and an entire LP for the Stax subsidiary Enterprise, which included the track ‘Mod Strut’.
Doc Bagby was an old school Hammond player of the first order, laying down a long string of wax for many, many labels through the 50’s and 60’s. He never really made it into soul jazz (or out and out soul) but recorded some outstanding R&B, of which ‘Mix Up’ is my personal favorite. It’s one of those records that sound like its recording produced a strain on the equipment in the studio, needles in the red, vibes verily jumping from the grooves.
Gene Ludwig is the epitome of the Hammond aficionado’s favorite. Not well known to the rank and file, yet treasured by those in the know, Ludwig has been a master of the keyboard for six decades. He recorded for a number of small labels (and a few nationals like Mainstream and Atlantic). His version of Ray Charles ‘Sticks and Stones’ is ond of his finest.
Other than the fact that he hailed from Philly (like so many great organists), and got his start working alongside Philly legend Johnny Styles, I can’t tell you much about Hollis Floyd. Though I’m partial to his swinging cover of the Chi Lites ‘Have You Seen Her’, the tune in today’s mix, ‘Everything is Everything’ (the flip of the sought after ‘Black Poncho is Coming’) is excellent.
Keith Mansfield is one of the kings of the UK Library music field. His version of Bobby Timmons’ soul jazz standard ‘Moanin’ hails from the ‘All You Need Is Keith Mansfield’, which also included the original version of ‘Soul Thing’ (the one with the snappy break). I’m not positive, but I suspect the organist here is none other than Alan Hawkshaw (he of the Mohawks).
Richard Groove Holmes is another one of the accepted past masters of the soul jazz organ. His very groovy version of Len Barry’s ‘1-2-3’ has a nice, swinging Latin vibe that I dig very much.
David Rockingham recorded one of my all time fave organ sides – ‘Soulful Chant’ – one of several tunes he recorded for the Josie label. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that he recorded sides for a few other labels, including the grinding ‘Little Davie’ for the Dee Dee imprint.
The great Odell Brown (and his Organizers) were the subject of an extended feature back at the old Funky16Corners web zine. Following his extended run with the group, he went on to record two albums under his own name, one for Cadet and one for Paula. His version of ‘Hard To Handle’ comes from the Cadet LP, a tribute to Otis Redding.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio comes to a close with a track that has actually appeared here before – featured as a single track – Bobby Emmons’ ‘Blue Organ’. Emmons was a stalwart of the American Studios crew, playing keyboards on countless rock, soul and country sessions during the 60s and 70s. ‘Blue Organ’ is one of his more soulful efforts, and can be scooped up on either 45, or on the LP ‘Blues With a Beat With An Organ’ (great title, huh?).
That all said, I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be back later in the week with something unusual. Stay tuned as well. The fourth anniversary of the Funky16Corners Blog is approaching rapidly, and it will coincide with the 60th Funky16Corners Radio Podcast. I have something very cool planned, so watch for that in a few weeks.

Peace
Larry

*I’m sure that somewhere in this mix, and definitely in a few earlier ones there have been more than a few organ sides that were created on some other make of organ, but since the vast majority are Hammond, I figured I’d go with that.

PS Make sure to stop by Iron Leg for some great UK R&Beat…

PSS Check out Paperback Rider as well

Levi Stubbs RIP

October 17, 2008

Example

The Four Tops

Example

Listen/Download – The Four Tops – Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over) – MP3

Greetings all.

Earlier today I read the very sad news that one of the greatest soul singers of all time, and the man I consider to be the greatest male singer in the Motown stable – Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops – passed away at the age of 72. Stubbs had been in ill health for the better part of a decade, and as far as I can tell last appeared with the Tops during an anniversary celebration (during which he looked extremely frail) back in 2004.

This is a repost (from just over two years ago) of my all time fave Four Tops song (and there are many to love) ‘Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)’. As I mention in the post, I feel that Levi Stubbs never really got the acclaim he deserved because he never really had the opportunity to establish himself as a solo artist. This takes nothing away from the undeniable greatness of the Tops, but I can’t help wondering where that mighty voice may have soared if applied to different kinds of material.

Levi Stubbs was a giant, and he will be missed.

Peace

Larry

Originally posted in July of 2006:

Today’s selection is another one from the “I Can’t Believe How Much I Took This Group For Granted, Honestly.” File. Certainly, of the artists that pop up in this space, few are as well known or successful as the Four Tops. If you follow my antics with any regularity, you will have noticed that periodically I return to a previously worn groove. I do this – at the risk of sounding repetitive (or embarrassing myself) because usually it has to do with a slightly “larger” concept.

As a music lover and record fiend, I often catch the collector psychosis, in which rarity brings not only an increase in monetary, but also artistic value (dubious to be sure) stepping in when I listen to music. This results in many fine records, which popularity and drastic levels of overplaying on oldies radio have rendered, how do you say “familiar” (with the most pejorative meaning possible) getting the brush-off when they come on the radio. Many of these records are Motown sides, that for better or worse have gotten the “Big Chill” treatment, and as a result have become – for me anyway – all but unlistenable.

I realize that this is not the artists (or the songs) fault, and that my beef is with the homogeneity of commercial radio. As I often explain to my wife (who’s a little younger than I am) the vast majority of what gets played on “Oldies” radio, is the stuff that was lodged firmly in the Top 10 of its day, and that you rarely get to hear anything else that resided between #10 and #40. These songs were in fact hits when they came out, but because the America’s pop-cultural “memory” has been so warped by the funhouse mirror of commercially driven “nostalgia” (and the reliance of “Oldies” radio on the Pop top 10), that many great records are known today only to the people old enough to have heard them first-hand or collector types (like myself) who spend most of their time rooting around in the dusty attics (literal and figurative) of the world.

Anyway, the aforementioned issue kept me from properly appreciating the sounds of the Motown organization for many years. That this was foolish on my part is, sadly, undeniable. I can however say that the last few years have seen me endeavor to remedy this situation. This isn’t to say that you’re going to find me blogging ‘Stop In The Name of Love’ – a song that I’ve decided I just don’t dig – but that you shouldn’t be surprised if you see me singing the praises of groups like the Four Tops or the Miracles alongside people you’ve never heard of before.

That said, despite songs like ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ getting overplayed into oblivion, the Four Tops discography is filled to the brim with records that are so potent that they transcend their abuse at the hands of radio programmers, advertising executives and wedding DJs. One of the prime beneficiaries of the Holland/Dozier/Holland troika, the Four Tops – led by one of the great soul voices of the 60’s, Levi Stubbs – racked up a remarkable series of hits between 1964 and 1967*. Some of these, like ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, ‘Standing In the Shadows of Love’ and ‘Bernadette’ (one of my wife’s favorite records) are among the greatest soul records ever produced, taking Motown (and all of soul and pop for that matter) in new directions.

I first heard ‘Shake Me Wake Me (When It’s Over)’ not on the radio, but on a scratchy, flea-market copy of the Four Tops greatest hits that I scored as a teenager. It struck me the first time I played it as one of those “where has this been all my life” records.

Starting with the piano and bass drum in tandem, then the tambourine and Stubbs vocal, ‘Shake Me…’ busts open with a drum roll that takes the cry of anguish into a solid, danceable tempo. There’s a real “cry” in Stubbs’ vocal, and the backing of the Tops (and I think the Andantes) in the background is perfect. The melody is one of HDH’s best, and the arrangement, pushed along by strings and ringing vibes is brilliant (the key change in the second half of the song is beautiful), but the real standout here is the voice of Levi Stubbs.

I think that because Stubbs never recorded as a solo artist, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I suppose some of problem is that Motown is looked at as a kind of “hit factory” where the composers, producers, arrangers and band are often seen as equal contributors to the success of a given record (the same thing could fairly be said of many great Stax sides), and the singers end up looking like just another vehicle for delivery of the product. But I mean, really…give this track a couple of close listens and then honestly tell me that anyone besides Levi Stubbs could have delivered such a masterful, passionate performance (it is possible to make such a statement without denying the genius of the song itself, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive). I think you’ll agree**.

*I’m talking about the records that I consider remarkable. They obviously kept having hits after 1967…

** This said of course, noting that on the LP (this track is recorded from the jukebox EP seen above) ‘On Top’ almost the entire b-side is devoted to awful attempts at middle-of-the-road-ness like a version of ‘Matchmaker’ from Fiddler on the Roof. Despite the fact that the Four Tops did record jazz and standards before they signed with Motown, this unfortunate detour can be wholly attributed to the Motown organization, who pushed the same, ill-advised supper club dross on many of their hitmakers.

Buy – The Four Tops Millenium Collection – on Amazon.com

Southern Soul Friday

October 16, 2008

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Jimmy Hughes

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Listen – Jimmy Hughes – Steal Away – MP3″

Greetings all.
If you follow my movements through the blog-o-mosphere, you know I don’t plug things too often (other than Presidential candidates). This is due in large part to the fact that I don’t get a ton of promo stuff, and most of what I do get is grossly inappropriate considering the kind of music I cover here.
Every once in a blue moon, the stars align and something falls through the mailslot that is both Funky16-appropriate, and musically exciting.
A while back I got an e-mail informing me that the legendary Fame label was being reactivated and a number of reissues of classic Southern Soul were planned. The first of these is a retrospective of the man who recorded the very first 45 for the label, Mr. Jimmy Hughes.
I first heard the name Jimmy Hughes was in relation to a cover of his song ‘Neighbor Neighbor’ by the Graham Bond Organisation’ (which, if you’re not familiar, is a killer), which I first encountered during my garage/beat revival days in the mid-80s.
Some years later I picked up a copy of today’s selection, ‘Steal Away’, which was both Hughes’ first hit and the first hit (and recording) for Rick Hall’s Fame label.
‘Steal Away’ is classic southern ballad, and a great showcase for Hughes’ soaring tenor (almost falsetto).
Other than the two songs I already mentioned, I was largely unaware of the rest of Hughes’ catalog.
This was remedied earlier this week when the aforementioned ‘Best of Jimmy Hughes’ arrived at the house. I ripped it to the MP3 delivery device forthwith, and to say that I was blown away is an understatement. I listened to the entire disc at least three times today, and probably would have given it a few more spins were I not worried about pissing off my boss.
Not only was Hughes a fantastic singer, but the Fame house lent its remarkable sound to all of these recordings. It just doesn’t get any better than this, and if you haven’t figured it out already, I dig it.

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In related southern soul news, my man Red Kelly over at the B-Side blog (maybe the finest soul blog out there) has been a mover in the effort to raise money to place a headstone on the grave of the mighty O.V. Wright. The O.V. Wright Memorial Fund met its goal and a marker has been selected by the singer’s widow and will be placed at his grave. There will be a memorial service in Memphis on Sunday, November 16th, the 28th anniversary of Wright’s death.
There will also be a tribute concert on November 15th (also in Memphis) featuring the great Otis Clay and the Hi Rhythm Section performing the songs of O.V. Wright. I certainly wish I could be there, and if you do to, more information can be found at www.ovwright.org.
That said, I hope you all have an excellent weekend, and I’ll be back on Monday with a new edition of Funky16Corners Radio.

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a 45 from Big Star

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

John Paul – I’m a Bad Son of a Gun

October 14, 2008

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Listen – John Paul – I’m a Bad Son of a Gun – MP3″

Greetings all.
I come to you midweek with another one of those records that is very solid, very funky, and very, very mysterious.
I had never heard of John Paul, or ‘I’m a Bad Son of a Gun’ before someone mentioned it over at Soulstrut some months ago in a thread (if memory serves) about unknown/underrated records. Naturally my interest was piqued, so I strapped myself into the Google and found myself a very cheap copy in short order.
I’d never heard the song, but since the folks over at the Strut tend to have exceptional taste – and the deepest crates – I took a chance, rolled the dice and chucked a fiver at the interwebs.
Good thing too, because when the record arrived at the Funky16Corners compound, was released from its cardboard prison and placed under the stylus, its charms were immediately revealed.
‘I’m a Bad Son of a Gun’ opens up with some dirty chanky (dare I say Hendrix-esque) guitar, and then drops into a very tasty drum break. John Paul comes in with a soulful vocal, dropping references to the ‘Popcorn’ (which suggests to me that the record is of a 1969/1970 vintage).
That’s pretty much where the information train jumps the rails and drops off into oblivion. I can’t find any trace of John Paul (and I wonder if that’s his real/full name) recording anything else (he definitely didn’t record anything else for Philips). The record was produced by legendary Virginia (on to Chitown) musician and producer Gene ‘Daddy G’ Barge, but none of the other names on the label produce much info. ‘I’m a Bad Son of a Gun’ is just another excellent, relatively unknown 45. It’s a cool song, and with a break like that you’d think every wet behind the ears crate digger would be wrestling with their competition to get their hands on a copy.
As it is, I didn’t have to wrestle with anyone (except myself, to remove my wallet from my trousers).
I hope you dig the record, and if you have any additional info, please let me know.
Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Marvin Holmes & the Uptights – Ride Your Mule Pt2

October 12, 2008

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Marvin Holmes

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Listen – Marvin Holmes & the Uptights – Ride Your Mule Pt2 – MP3″

Greetings all.
Today’s selection is a great slice of Bay Area (San-fran-siskee Bay, that is…) funk from the mighty Marvin Holmes and his equally (supportively) mighty Uptights.
Marvin Holmes was one of the major movers and shakers of Bay area soul and funk through the 60s and 70s, recording with the Uptights, Justice, and under his own name. He recorded 45s for a number of different labels including Revue, Brown Door, Uni, Kon-Kord, and Boola Boola, as well as 1969 LP for Uni.
‘Ride Your Mule pts 1&2’, which was released on Revue in 1969 has a somewhat convoluted (and interesting) history. It’s the same song that the band recorded as ‘Funky Mule’ for Boola Boola, and was apparently retitled (cosmetically only, since the record retains references to the ‘funky mule’) due to someone considering “funky” an objectionable term (though due to the huge number of records released with “funky” in their title, I’d bet this part of the story was apocryphal). It appeared as a single on Revue as well as a track on the ‘Ooh Ooh the Dragon’ LP on UNI.
‘Ride Your Mule’ – part of a minor sub-Horse craze – is a tasty bit of JB-influenced funk with a powerful horn section and some tight drums (which is why I posted Pt 2).
The song was later covered (as ‘Funky Mule’) by both Buddy Miles and Ike Turner.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll see you all on Wednesday.
Peace
Larry

PS The pics and files here may be unavailable for a while tomorrow (Monday) as my interwebs provider is relocating their servers.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

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

Jimmy Smith – Sag’ Shootin’ His Arrow b/w VOTE

October 9, 2008

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Jimmy Smith at the Organ

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Listen – Jimmy Smith – Sag’ Shootin’ His Arrow – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope everyone has had an excellent week, and that Monday’s podcast added just the right amount of funk to your life.
I also hope that you’re ready for some slamming organ funk.
If you fall by here in the reg, you know I dig me some Hammond. If you do as well (and I know you do) then the name of Jimmy Smith looms large.
Though Smith wasn’t the first jazz organist, he is certainly the most important, taking the unwieldy wood and wire beast and infusing it with a serious helping of soul.
Interestingly enough, while Smith was an innovative jazz stylist, he was not among the forefront of R&B/soul/funk Hammond, lagging behind many of his contemporaries (and his followers) who took the organ in funky new directions through the 60s. This isn’t to say that he never got funky – which is why we’re here today – but rather that while so many other organists were creating hardcore funky 45s, Smith was in the studio with arrangers like Oliver Nelson making album after album for Verve, many of which weren’t terribly satisfying as jazz or soul. There were obvious exceptions – like the blistering ‘The Cat’ – but by and large the classic era of Hammond soul jazz saw Smith eclipsed by the likes of Brother Jack McDuff, Bill Doggett, Jimmy McGriff and Hank Marr.
Perhaps the greatest example of Smith breaking through with the funk is the 1972 ‘Root Down’ LP. If the title is familiar, it may be because the Beastie Boys took a sample from the LP and recycled the title. Recorded in 1972, with a band that included Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, and Paul Humphrey on drums, ‘Root Down’ is a every bit as loose-limbed and funky as his earlier catalog is restrained.
I was doing some e-digging a while back and was surprised to see today’s selection had been released as a 45. Naturally I grabbed it.
‘Sag’ Shootin’ His Arrow’ – dig the timely astrological reference – is one of the hotter cuts from ‘Root Down’ and what you get here, on the 45 is a drastically edited version (2:10 compared to the 7+ minutes on the LP) of the song, with Smith positively wailing over funky drums and some fast rhythm guitar. He veers wildly between fast funk and a jazzier approach, but the blending of the two is high speed and virtually seamless.
Very tight.
Very funky.
I hope you dig it and I’ll see you all on Monday.

Peace
Larry

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PS As the events of the last few weeks have proven, the Republican candidates have decided to eschew all trace of human decency and are in the midst of dropping the bar of political discourse to all new levels.
Though the polls seem to be favoring Barack Obama, this is not the time for complacency. If you have not yet registered to vote, or think for some reason that your vote is not necessary, you still have time to get it together. My New Jersey homeboys and girls still have until early next week to register. Those of you in other states can follow this link to see if you still have time left.
This is – especially with the addition of neo-fascist, hyper-religious, drastically unqualified Governor of Alaska (the emptiest suit of all) to the ticket – probably the most important presidential election of our time. If you have any interest in derailing the right wing juggernaut, and have yet to sign up to do your duty as an American citizen, please take the time to do so now.
EVERY VOTE COUNTS.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for some wailing garage.

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.


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