Mr. Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Mr. Eddy Senay
“Listen – Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine MP3″
“Listen – Eddy Senay – Ain’t No Sunshine MP3″
Sorry for the lateness of the end-of-the-week post, but as I said the last time, I was illin, which fortunately I no longer am (my kidneys aren’t stoned, but sadly neither is any of the rest of me either), and after returning to work today, and dealing with the rest of my normal life responsibilities, this had to wait until now.
Normally I would consider this a drag, on account of I like to think that the rest of you poor working stiffs (like me) appreciated a little musical kick from the interwebs when they pretend to work in their cubicles. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that these gems may well be better savored – at least once a week – in yer jammies, with a mug of delicious (and leaded) coffee. Whether you decide to augment the experience with a raspberry scone, or an eggamuffin, is entirely up to you. Vis a vis, whipping a post up onto the blog on a Friday night ought to see it arriving just in time for a breakfast nosh in the EU.
The selections that I’ve see-lected for this outing actually started off as a single record (the Eddy Senay) and then in the time since I originally digitized that one, I found myself rapping to someone about the second (RR Kirk) and figured it couldn’t hurt (might even help) to get them up – all juxtaposed like – for your audio perusal.
The song in question, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was of course originated by the mighty Bill Withers (who as far as I’m concerned waxed the definitive version of the tune). It was of course a huge hit, and spawned enough covers, across so many genres that I think it would be safe to say that it has become a standard.
There are more than a few reggae covers (Horace Andy and Ken Boothe among others), renditions by soulful divas (Betty Wright, Lyn Collins), soulful white crooners like Scott Walker and Tom Jones as well as poppers like David Cassidy and Crystal Gayle (which I think cements the “standard” label).
I first encountered the Eddy Senay version early in my funk 45 career, when I picked it up on the strength of the Sussex label. I figured that the a-side ‘Hot Thang’ would be my fave but that appraisal changed the second I dropped the needle of the flip, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Though it wouldn’t be fair to say that Senay had ripped the tune from its balladic roots, it is as supremely funky a reading as might be delivered without leaving that neighborhood entirely.
Senay’s guitar style had a really earthy, gutbucket edge to it, and the backing, with the jangling rhythm guitar, pumping organ and drums sounds like a rocksteady band trying to work themselves into a stateside urban trance. The production is barely polished, the guitar sound largely untreated, resulting in a very tough sounding disc.
Other than the fact that Senay hailed from Detroit, and that he managed to lay down two LPs for Sussex (Hot Thang and Step By Step, both from 1972), there’s not much I’ve been able to find. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did session work as well, but I have no hard evidence from which to draw that conclusion.
I said that Bill Wither’s original of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was the definitive version of the song, but among cover versions, especially instrumentals, none comes even remotely close to the mind-blowingness of that by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Now, if you don’t know who Rahsaan Roland Kirk was, you need to bookmark this page, get down to your local record store (online or off) and grab some of his records, because, and I wouldn’t steer you wrong – Kirk was a genius, and a very, very DEEP cat.
You should also grab the biography ‘Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’ by John Kruth, a very through and excellent read, which I believe – if not still in print – should be readily available from a number of sources.
Kirk was a master saxophonist who included obscure instruments like the stritch and the manzello in his arsenal with more “traditional” saxes, often playing as many as three of them at the same time (along with all kinds of crazy whistles, and other sound effects), and managed to do all of this while profoundly sightless (aka blind). He was capable of working in a wide range of genres, from traditional jazz, to bop, modal, free/out and soul, all with a mastery that plenty of single-instrumentalists with two good eyes could never approach.
Another one of Kirks big guns (and my fave) was the flute. As a kid who grew up in the 70’s digging on Ian Anderson in Jethro Tull, imagine my surprise/dismay the first time I heard Kirk play the flute*. It was one of those head-slapping moments of revelation where the road behind you all but disappears as the space ahead of you opens up to unimaginably wide vistas.
Kirk’s recordings are as continually unpredictable as they are consistently satisfying. The album that his version of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ came from, ‘Blacknuss’ sees that tune and a medley of ‘What’s Going On/Mercy Mercy Me’ alongside a version of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’. Not many folks out there that could pull that off, brother.
Kirk’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ features a wild ride through his flute style, complete with overblowing (if you think Ian Anderson is the only one “borrowing” from Kirk, grab yourself some Jeremy Steig LPs…), up to and including Kirk singing through the mouthpiece of his flute. The string backing, along with some subtle electric piano makes for a nice early-70’s uptown vibe that frames the virtuoso performance perfectly.
Give both of these versions repeated plays and let the vibes sink in. They get better every time.
Have a great weekend.
*It was years later, when I got my hands on one of the earliest 60’s era, blueswailing Tull LPs that I realized that they had actually covered an RR Kirk tune, ‘Serenade to a Cuckoo’.
PS I’m working on a new installment of Funky16Corners radio. If I get enough time blocked out you may be downloading it early in the week.
PSS Don’t forget, yours truly, as well as DJ Prestige, Sport Casual and a host of others will be rocking the house on February 23rd at the Asbury 45 Sessions, at the Asbury Lanes in (where else) Asbury Park NJ.