Ladies and Gentlemen, The Dramatics
“Listen – Get Up and Get Down MP3″
Here’s hoping everyone had a decent weekend.
I’ll spare you the long form diatribe, but as always, time (and the lack thereof) is kicking my ass. All wake and no sleep make Larry a crabby bastard. I even find myself locked up in a berth on the caffeine train. For months I stood on the platform, watching the cars pass by, my will like iron. Unfortunately, iron – placed under the proper amount of stress – will eventually bend, and I find myself, eyes bulging like ripe toe-mah-toes, cradling a medicinal iced coffee as I type this.
Other than that, all is well.
In order to kick myself in the ass (and to provide a suitable ass-kicking for those of you that find your body at your desk but your brain still lost somewhere in the weekend), I decided to drop something powerful this morning, guaranteed to wake you (and if you’re an adventurous/sadistic individual, with the inclination to turn the volume on your computer to its maximum setting) and those in the veal pens around you, up.
I’m embarrassed to say that I was relatively oblivious to the existence of today’s selection until a few years ago. How I found it is a rambling tale that despite the inner voice that’s shouting “Get to the point!”, I will share with you now.
Some years ago, when I was still working evenings, I found myself after work, glued to the sofa, beer (or something stronger) in my clutches, trolling through the cable looking for something to hold my interest.
As I was clicking around I heard the strains of Isaac Hayes monumental re-working of ‘Walk On By’ exploding from the TV, and as a result, brought my clicking to a halt. I was surprised to see that someone had made a music video using the song. I waited until the end of the tune to see why Hayes 1969 recording was being used in a modern video, and saw that it was a promo for the film ‘Dead Presidents’.
It was maybe a year or so later when I finally saw the movie, and heard another amazing record on the soundtrack, which though clearly of an older vintage, was new to my ears. I waited eagerly for the credits to roll, and discovered then that the tune, ‘Get Up and Get Down’ was by none other than the Dramatics.
Now I may occasionally sound like I just rolled off the proverbial turnip truck, but I did know who the Dramatics were. If there’s anyone among you that can resist turning up the radio when ‘Whatcha See is Whatcha Get’ comes on, you need to get help. That tune, the Dramatics first big record in 1971 is a stone classic which I have heard and enjoyed countless times since I first heard it as a kid. I don’t recall ever hearing ‘Get Up and Get Down’ before seeing ‘Dead Presidents’ (though it was an R&B Top 10 hit), and I have to say I feel gypped.
‘Get Up and Get Down’ is one of those songs that’s so cool, so dynamic, soul-powered and ear-tingling, so….so….fucking GOOD, that once I heard it for the first time, I needed to hear it again as soon as possible. I certainly can’t say this about all records, but every once in a while I hear something that’s new to me, and I all I can think about is finding myself a copy as soon as humanly possible, if only to add that particular musical a-bomb to my arsenal, so I can spin it over and over again. In the case of ‘Get Up and Get Down’, it took me a surprisingly long time to find a copy, considering that the tune, and the album that it comes from were both hits. In cases like this (as it is with other records, and certain old books) my assumption is that the folks who bought the original, loved it so much they either played it until it was no longer playable, or just love the record so much they absolutely refuse to part with it under any circumstances.
When it comes to the ‘Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get’ LP, this is completely understandable. In addition to the title cut, and ‘Get Up and Get Down’, the album also includes the sweet soul classic ‘In the Rain’. If you do not own this album, and happen upon it in your local garage sale, flea market or boutique du disques, and it’s selling for anything less than $50 bucks, you should pony up the dough. This is not to say that if you do find ‘Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get’ that it’s going to cost $50.00 (it’ll probably be a lot less than that), but rather that it’s so good, so essential to adding a much needed dose of Nineteen and Seventy One soul power to your crates that even if the sticker says “fifty cents”, you need to peel off a crisp US Grant and whip it on the seller as a confirmation of the intrinsic value of such a mighty record. They may display a look of shock – though it’s more likely that they’ll crack a barely visible grin, pocket your cash and run off to tell their friends about the rube who’s dropping fifties on garage sale albums – but even though your billfold will be fifty dollars lighter, you can take satisfaction in the thought that you just stuffed all fifty bucks back into the ever flowing river of karma, and created a dynamite anecdote for the seller (though everyone that hears it, especially crate diggers will assume that it’s an urban legend).
The record itself is a masterpiece. Opening with a string flourish and a bloodcurdling scream, it soon drops into a very tasty groove, with enough bass drum to move your ass, and some classy French horn action to remind you that the Dramatics and their songwriter/producer Tony Hester were making their magic at the height of the urban soul era. The interplay between the various vocalists, as well as the mix of funky guitar and orchestration is amazing, sounding as if Hester, the Dramatics and arranger Johnny Allen spent a lot of time crafting this record, giving their attention to placing even the smallest elements of the mix in their proper place. Though on the surface ‘Get Up and Get Down’ is a very “busy” record, I’m here to tell you that nary a note is wasted. The Dramatics create a bed of harmony, out of which the individual members leap from moment to moment, adding stabs of falsetto and guttural grunts, and then suddenly soaring into the rafters like some kind of macked out gospel pimps.
The instrumental track pumps along powerfully, constantly climbing, reaching a plateau, and then when you least expect it, climbing yet again. Though at first listen the tune appears to be eminently danceable, it seems like just dancing would be a kind of a waste, making you feel instead like jumping to your feet, thrusting your fist into the air and testifying (which I guess is dancing of a sort, but not the kind that’ll win you any contests).
Either way, if you haven’t gotten the idea that I dig this record (and think you ought to as well), go directly to the top and start reading again brother, because if you aren’t feeling this tune, you need to get your MP3-age somewhere else, where musical greatness isn’t an issue (like Strokes.Emo.org or some such).
*I’ve listened to this tune 10 or 12 times while I was writing this, and I feel better already. In fact, I think I’ll play it AGAIN.
NOTE: Do not adjust your computers. Due to the fact that I didn’t take the time to cue up the LP properly, there’s about 13 seconds of silence at the beginning of the track. My profuse apologies…