“Listen – More and More MP3″
As we speak – at this particular moment, and no other, because we live in an ever changing world where each ticking second is in some way unique – all is well. While I can’t say that I’ve gotten caught up on my sleep (a never ending chase, akin to a snail catching up with a cheetah), I did get a couple of extra hours of slumber under my belt last night, and as a result – if not totally refreshed – I no longer have the mental acuity of a slice of burnt toast.
It’s finally starting to cool off roundabout these parts, and I don’t know what those of you who live in perpetually warm climates think, but I find cool breezes and turning leaves to be refreshing, in all ways. What better time then to whip out a very tasty slice of bluesy soul (or soul-y blues as the case may be) by the late great James Milton Campbell, known to fans of good grease the world over as Little Milton.
While I am in no way an expert on Little Milton, I will tell you that his mid-60’s powerhouse ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries’ (a retitled version of the Titus Turner classic, recorded by Little Willie John as ‘All Around the World’*), a real party-starter, is one of my favorite Chicago soul cuts.
Though he was born in Mississippi, he first recorded with Ike Turner in Memphis (for the Sun label) before hooking up with Checker in 1961. he would stay with that label until the early 70’s, after which he moved on to Stax (until 1975), then Glades for a few years after that, and then finally to Malaco where he recorded through much of the 80’s. Sadly he passed away in 2005 after suffering a stroke.
Not too long ago, I was listening to one of Mr. Finewine’s archived ‘Downtown Soulville’ shows (on the WFMU web site) and heard today’s selection, which he had included in a 2005 memorial tribute set, dedicated to Little Milton. Like I said on Monday, it was one of those records that as soon as I heard it, I needed to have one of my own.
The tune, which was written by a mysterious pair named Don Juan and Vee Pee Smith would later be covered by Blood Sweat and Tears. Listening to the Little Milton original, it’s not hard to see why David Clayton-Thomas wanted to cover it, as it’s right up his (and the bands) stylistic alley. They take it at a much faster pace, in which the tune loses a little bit of its built-in funk, but it’s still worth a listen.
Much like ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries’, ‘More and More’ (which was a Top 50 R&B hit in 1967) has a decidedly funk underpinning to it’s soul groove. Milton’s vocals and guitar work are outstanding, and I really love the way the horns (arranged by none other than Charles Stepney**) build under the guitar riff at the beginning of the record.
Fortunately, much of Little Milton’s best work is available in reissue, and for the most part his Checker 45s aren’t too hard to come by at reasonable prices.
*The first version I ever heard of ‘All Around the World’ was recorded by the Fleshtones in 1981 and released as the b-side of ‘The World Has Changed’. It was years before I realized that the tune had long R&B roots. The Fleshtones take on the tune is absolutely kick-ass, and if you can find it (it was last reissued in 1989 on ‘Living Legend Series: The Fleshtones’) , I think you’ll dig it.
** I originally typed “Richard Stepney” (got my Richard Evans/Charles Stepney wires crossed) and was alerted to the mistake by a reader (Thanks!).