Isaac Hayes & David Porter
“Listen – Soul Girl MP3″
Here we are at the middle of the week, for what may be the very last “fresh” post* before the arrival of the hardest working infant in showbiz, aka Soul Baby #1 aka Mr. Wah Wah Waaah aka Little Mr. Dynamite, so I figured that I ought to bring some heat, so as not leave a bad taste in the mouths of those that drop by here for a slice of soul every now and again (and we have a winner for the run-on sentence of the week!!).
I have to start by admitting that over the course of this blogs existence, I have been remiss in providing the listener/reader with his/her daily requirement of Memphis soul, especially the varieties thereof created by the good folks on McLemore Ave, i.e. the Stax/Volt organization.
This isn’t because I don’t love me some Stax – on account of I do – but rather because I just haven’t gotten around to it. There may be a little bit of what I referred to in the Four Tops post on Monday, that being that the ongoing safari for soul obscurity may have led me to miss the forest for the trees, and in the end you may have been unduly deprived of some of what I – in my slightly skewed POV – may have considered too “obvious”. For this – or any similar omission – I beg your forgiveness, because if there is any “major” soul label that deserves your attention, Stax (and its sister label Volt) is it.
Seriously….you have your Otis Reddings, your Rufus (and or Carla) Thomas’s, the Eddie Floyds, the Mable Johns, Booker T and the MGs, Albert King, not to forget the double dynamite of Sam & Dave. As a purveyor of high quality soul, Stax had few peers. However, they also (like any label that released hundred of 45s) had some tasty obscurities, one of which (that being today’s selection) I will use to craftily present something from the Stax/Volt catalogue, which will also provide a taste of rarity for those so inclined.
That record, ‘Soul Girl’ by Jeanne & The Darlings is, at least in my opinion, the greatest example of while there may not have been a whole lot of out and out, shoot out your hip and let your backbone slip funk on Stax/Volt, they made records that were funkier, in word and deed than just about anyone, anywhere (anyhow).
Jeanne & The Darlings hailed – much like our funkiest President – from Arkansas, where they started out (at least Jeanne and Dee Dolphus) as the Dolphus Sisters, recording for Avant Records. They relocated to Memphis where between 1967 and 1969 they recorded five singles for Volt, none of which met with any measure of success. They did however (at least with their first two Volt releases) have the help of Isaac Hayes and David Porter and ‘Soul Girl’ was one of those collaborations.
Now, unless you just rolled off the storied turnip truck, you will of course realize that ‘Soul Girl’ is in fact a re-working of Sam & Dave’s mighty ‘Soul Man’. However, unless you just hopped back on said truck, you will also realize that ‘Soul Girl’ is much more than a cover. When Sam, Dave, Isaac, David and the Stax gang got together in 1967 and whipped up ‘Soul Man’, the creation they unleashed on the transistor radios of America (and the world) was a swaggering, super-charged machine that would tower above the world of soul for nearly ten years before being unjustly hobbled by the Blues Brothers, an affront from which the image of that song – as it is in the public consciousness – may not yet have recovered.
This is not to suggest that ‘Soul Man’ is not still one of the greatest soul records of the 60’s, but rather that the Blues Brothers opened a wound that the memories of a generation of kids – now approaching middle age – have kept from healing. It’s like if ten years after Bartholdi built the Statue of Liberty, some clown rolled up and spray painted a dick on it.
Know what I mean?
Anyway, when Hayes and Porter entered the studio a year later, being the talented and wise individuals they were, they decided that to merely redo ‘Soul Man’ in the distaff would be a waste of everyone’s time and money. As a result, they set to work putting a new spin on the tune, assisted ably by the powerful pipes of Jeanne Dolphus.
Jeanne & The Darling’s ‘Soul Girl’ takes the tempo back a step, with the addition of a drum line so epic in its scope as to bring about involuntary spasms (sometime known as dancing) in listeners. When the needle hits the groove, with a single guitar chord, and the drums come in, it sounds like whoever was working the board fell asleep, pushing the drum mike all the way up**.
It also sounds like they went out, found an all midget gospel quartet, kidnapped the bass singer, placing him inside the kick drum and forced him to repeat the phrase,
BOOM CHICK A BOOM BOOM CHICK
…over and over again to supplement Al Jackson’s right foot. I can’t say that I know for a fact that it’s the MG’s drummer playing, but as the Magic Eight Ball would say, all signs point to Al Jackson.
Hayes lays down some grooving piano chords on the bottom, and the horn section come in at all the right time, but the main thrust of ‘Soul Girl’ (aside from the aforementioned bass drum) is all Jeanne & The Darlings. The lyrics have been reworked here and there, Jeanne’s lead is powerful, and the Darlings keep bringing it it the background, with the WHOOOOOO!’s and the ‘SOOOULLL GIRLLL!’s and what not.
No matter how you slice it, ‘Soul Girl’ is a great record.
After their last 45, the group dropped from sight, as far as I can tell never recording again. ‘Soul Girl’ has been comped a few times, but the actual 45, while not being especially costly, is not an easy score (at least in decent condition). It’s been a fave of mine for a long time, and I only found one earlier this year.
*Unless of course I get uncharacteristically ambitious. One never knows….
**Said drums have been sampled numerous times, by the likes of Pete Rock and House of Pain