Mr. Ricardo Ray
“Listen – Sookie Sookie MP3″
How’s it hanging?
I’m home sick today, after spending the better part of last night passing a kidney stone.
I’ve endured that unpleasant experience many, many times over the past 9 or so years, and I can say with certainty that it never gets better (if you’ve never been unfortunate enough to experience the kidney stone thang first-hand, I would suggest you avoid it at all costs).
That said, I’m feeling a little better. I’m still running a fever, but the feeling that someone is trying to remove my kidney with a rusty screwdriver has passed – for now.
Today’s selection is another one of those “digitized it months ago but only just got around to writing about it now” deals that have become so common around here that they ought to have their own logo, like “Soul Procrastination #?”.
As I’ve said before, I didn’t set out to drag my heels, but sometimes I just kind of have to feel a particular tune on a particular day, and the spirit (as it is) has to grab me.
Well grabbed me it has and I think you’ll be pleased.
In the annals of funky soul tunes, one cannot go wrong with any and all versions of Don Covay’s ‘Sookie Sookie’. While I would say that the original is still the best (one of the grittiest slices of hardcore soul ever committed to wax), I would also say that there have been numerous groovy covers, with your Tina Britt (on Veep), Roy Thompson (on Okeh) and Steppenwolf (on sale for 25 cents at your local flea market*).
I came upon the cover I bring you today via another smoking cover version by the same artist.
I can’t recall exactly when I picked up the 45 of Ricardo Ray’s boogaloo monster version of ‘Nitty Gritty’, but ever since that day it has been a fave of mine. So much of fave that when the opportunity came to grab myself a copy of the LP from which that recording hailed, I took it (the opportunity and the LP). That album 1968’s ‘Let’s Get Down to the Real Nitty Gritty’, while reeking of boogaloo-era cash-in, manages to transcend that label by in actuality being quite excellent. I won’t yank your chain and try to convince you that anyone needs to hear a boogaloo version of ‘California Sun’, but that there are in fact some other hot numbers therein.
One of those, delivered mas caliente is Mr. Ray’s version of ‘Sookie Sookie’. On first listen (though this could be said of more than a few cuts in the LP, it is immediately obvious that though Ricardo may be reaching for an even bigger slice of the record buying public (most of his previous efforts having been restricted to the salsa-esque**), he was doing so with an energy and power that some of his contemporaries – engaged in the same kind of efforts to cross over – were either incapable, or unwilling to deliver.
Ray takes the tune at a much faster tempo than was customary (Covay, his Goodtimers, and most others pounding the tune out to a heavy, slightly modified Jerk beat), which in this case is a good thing, mixing well with the crazed vocals and a blaring horn chart.
Strangely enough, in the mid-70s Ray (first, soon to be followed by partner Bobby Cruz) converted to evangelical Christianity and started making Christian salsa records, both eventually becoming ministers.
I for one am thankful that they got this stuff out of their system – and onto vinyl – first.
PS Sookie Sookie following Nuki Suki is no more than a bizarre coincidence…
* Nothing pejorative meant here, as I am referring to the common-ness of the Steppenwolf version, not it’s inherent power as it is quite the heavy bit of machinery, in a late 60’s, stoner, lightning smoking kind of way…
** Though the titles of his two previous LPs ‘Jala Jala y Boogaloo’ Pts 1&2 suggest otherwise, previous to this LP Ray and Cruz hadn’t come anywhere close to this level of Latin soul