The Queen of Soul
“Listen – See Saw MP3″
Here’s hoping that you all had a great weekend, whether you were wrapping up Passover, working up to Easter or engaged in any number of non-religious activities.
The weekend was busy, and it is only by a stroke of luck (and a kind wife who volunteered to put the kids to bed) that I find myself with enough time for the traditional Sunday night late/Monday morning early (for the folks in the EU) post.
I spent the majority of the ride home from Pennsylvania mulling over which of the carefully pre-selected numbers I was going to post, and wouldn’t you know it, when I actually sat down to write, I changed my mind almost instantly (mainly because the tune I was considering really deserves more attention that I can muster at this late hour, so I’ll get to it later in the week).
Today’s selection is another one of those absolute soul smokers that I found my way to only after a circuitous detour to the UK.
Back in the day (I seem to start a lot of stories that way, don’t I?), when Ronald Reagan and his gang of tightly necktied thugs were running roughshod over this once-great nation of ours, my pals and I were deeply ensconsed in revival/re-examination of the music of two decades prior, specifically US garage punk, UK R&B/Beat and psychedelia of all nationalities. While I came into this world fairly well versed in the kind of 60’s rock I got to hear on WCBS-FM in New York City (that being all kinds of great music, from soul, to “charting” garage and psyche to just plain classic pop music), the scene I walked into was inhabited by folks for whom those sounds were merely a jumping off point into the depths of obscurity.
The next few years were something of a collaborative crash course in the back alleys of 60’s sounds, where I was first acquainted with many of the artists that became lifelong favorites.
One of these artists, to whom I was introduced by the Mod contingent, was a Hammond wrangler from the old sod who like many of his Brit contemporaries had taken to ingesting and reformulating American R&B and soul. Known to his mama as Clive Powell, and to the rest of us as Georgie Fame, this cat looked to the likes of Fats Domino, Mose Allison and Prince Buster to create a swinging sound that built him a serious career in the UK, as well as a few moments on the charts here in the US (with hits like ‘Yeh Yeh’ and ‘Getaway’).
At the time – mid-80’s that is – if you were part of the In Crowd, you usually had yourself a copy of what at the time was the standard Georgie Fame re-ish, that being ’20 Beat Classics’, and those of us that needed a little more Fame in our game grabbed what 45s we could track down, and his first two US LPs, which oddly enough carried the same names as his first two US hits (those being ‘Yeh Yeh’ and ‘Getaway’).
It was on that second album – alongside one of my all-time fave Hammond sides, ‘El Bandido’ – that I first heard the tune ‘See Saw’.
As time went on, and we all dug a little deeper, we discovered that the tune had been written by the mighty Don Covay. It was soon after that, during some DJ night or other that I first heard what I now consider to be the definitive version – which we bring to you today – that by the fantabulous Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin.
Now, if you aren’t hip to Aretha, well….I don’t even know what to say to that.
Either way, she was (and is) possessed of one of the mightiest voices to jump directly from gospel into soul, and back and forth until the line was forever blurred and we all just sat back and let the greatness wash over us.
Aretha’s version was recorded in 1968 for the ‘Aretha Now’ LP, which also included other heavy bits of brilliance like ‘Think’, and her classic re-working of Dionne Warwick’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. Though I can’t say with certainty where the LP was recorded, a look at the credits suggests to me stops in Muscle Shoals and Memphis, where she was ably assisted by Messrs. Cogbill, Moman, Hawkins and Jemmot, as well as the Memphis Horns, the Sweet Inspirations and Mr. Bobby Womack to the point where the sessions were so heavy they could have charged double for the album and it still would have been a steal.
Aretha and band get down into a tight groove (those horns are HOT) and whip some serious soul on us all. When she gets toward the end of the song and sings ‘That ain’t right!” over and over again, joined by the Sweet Inspirations on the last repetition, the record – already solid – goes off into a whole new thing. It bests Covay’s loose, funky original, and though I still dig the Fame version, at the end of the day (or at least the end of the record) there’s no messing with Aretha.
‘See Saw’ was a Top 40 hit, and as result it’s been reissued a grip of times on any number of Aretha collections, not to mention the original LP which remains in print in CD form.
In other Funky16Corners Blog news, me and the fam are hitting the road at the end of the week for a little R&R (and if we’re lucky, lobster rolls), so I’ll probably refrain from any new posts next week (though you never know what kind of wi-fi time I might find). That said, I have prepared a brand new Funky16Corners Radio podcast/mix that I’ll get up here in yon blogspot before we depart (It’ll probably drop on Friday).