Greetings all. This post represents the 4th Friday Flashback in which we dig up a past episode of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast – this time it’s Episode the Sixth – for your re-delectation. The traffic hereabouts has almost doubled since thismix was posted last July, so I’m hoping that it will be new to a lot of you, as well as holding some value for those that dug it the first time around (assuming that it was indeed dug…).
As always, there’s a mixed MP3, as well as a zip file with the individual tunes in it. So download away, slip the ones and zeros onto the podlike device of your choosing, and have a funky weekend.
1. Thelma Jones – The House That Jack Built (Barry) 2. Gladys Knight & The Pips – The Nitty Gritty (Soul) 3. Ike & Tina Turner – Bold Soul Sister (Blue Thumb) 4. Tina Britt – Sookie Sookie (Veep) 5. Ann Sexton – You’re Losing Me (Seventy Seven) 6. Viola Wills – Sweetback (Supreme) 7. Martha Turner – Dirty Old Man (Royal American) 8. Shirley Vaughn – Escape (Columbia) 9. Ruby Andrews – You Made a Believer Out Of Me (Zodiac) 10. Helena Hollins – Baby You’re Right (Stonegood) 11. Monica – I Don’t Know Nothing Else To Tell You But I Love You (Toxsan) 12. Lyn Collins – Mama Feelgood (People) 13. Gi Gi – Daddy Love (Sweet) 14. Erma Franklin – Baby What You Want Me To Do (Shout) 15. Yvonne Fair – Say Yeah Yeah (Dade) 16. Brenda & The Tabulations – Scuze Uz Y’All (Top & Bottom) 17. Cold Blood – You Got Me Hummin’ (San Francisco)
As we gather again, upon ye olde blogspot, I have decided that a single song is not nearly enough of a balm to bind the troubled psyche together in anticipation of a sunny, summer weekend. Because the weekly posts were – in the words of the great Vladimir Softelevnya – truncated, I have prepared for your delectation a mix composed of a variety of delicious sister funk.
This is powerful stuff, so I suggest that you get your 72 oz coffee and breakfast taco out of the way (and settled) before diving in (I don’t want to be responsible for your boss coming in and finding you face down on your keyboard, smoke pouring out of your ears).
We start things off with a cooker from the great Thelma Jones. If the tune sounds familiar, it’s because ‘The House That Jack Built’ is the original (and some, myself included feel the superior) version of a record brought to prominence by the mighty Aretha Franklin. Though the power of Franklin’s version is undeniable, Thelma Jones – who recorded a number of very tasty 45s for the Barry label in the late 60’s – was clearly no slouch, and her ‘House’ has a looser, funkier feel. Give it a listen and I think you will soon be creeping through your local flea market in search of her other 45s.
Now, don’t get me started on Gladys Knight…I know that she’s probably too “mainstream” (and her 45s too cheap and easy to find) for the deep funk anoraks of the world, but if you can deny the essential funk of records like ‘You Need Love Like I Do’ and ‘Nitty Gritty’, then you are either a liar or a fool (maybe both) and unfit to collect records of any kind (with the exception of the six million Firestone Christmas LPs clogging up the thrift stores of America). The fact that the original version of ‘Nitty Gritty’ by Miss Shirley Ellis is a banger as well should not prevent you from shaking it loose to the strains of Gladys and her Pips, with the “woo woo woooos” and the “get on downs” and the wah wah guitar, tambourine and such as they strip the song down and rebuild it on a Detroit frame. It is –as they say – the shit.
In the matter of Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘Bold Soul Sister’, aka the People vs. Thangs and Stuff and Stuff and Thangs and Stuff, if this doesn’t grab you by the ass and force you to step lively, then you may be dead. I’ve addressed the pure, raw power of this record before, but restating the obvious, i.e. that ‘Bold Soul Sister’ is as potent a funk 45 as Ike and Tina ever created, hurts no one. Not to mention that the lead guitar is provided by an uncredited Albert Collins.
Another one from the ‘Hey, where have I heard that before?’ file, Tina Britt brings us the third version of Don Covay’s monumental ‘Sookie Sookie’ to appear in this space (the previous two being Mr. Covay himself on Atlantic and Roy Thompson on Okeh). Britt was a bluesy shouter who laid down some Northern style sides for Eastern before dropping some very (VERY) tight 45s and an LP for Veep/Minit in 1968 and 1969. ‘Sookie Sookie’ is the best of the lot, with a towering horn section, some loose, greasy guitar and snapping drums. I suppose it’s possible that anyone with the appropriate amount of verve could lay down an acceptable version of such a great song, but only someone possessed of a voice like Tina’s can really lay it in the groove.
Ann Sexton recorded a number of excellent sides for Seventy 7, SS7 and Monument, in the late 60’s/early 70’s, but none of them pack the wallop of ‘You’re Losing Me’. Opening with a deceptively sedate riff, it’s only after her initial cries of ‘You’re Losing Me!’ that the band suddenly pops into a deeply funky, James Brown-ly crisp groove. I initially heard this record on a mix by some long forgotten Samaritan, and demonstrate my eternal gratitude by spinning this one whenever I get the chance.
I don’t know much about Viola Wills, other than that she (like Thelma Jones) recorded into the disco era (recording the famous disco cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Read My Mind’) , and that ‘Sweetback’ is a hard-hitting, Blaxploitation influenced burner. How can you miss with lines like ‘Sweetback, he’s livin’ in the ghetto, superfine and mellow.’?
If I didn’t know much about Viola Wills, I know even less about Martha Turner. ‘Dirty Old Man’ is a kicker, featuring a raw vocal by Martha, and some nice wah wah guitar. These are going cheap these days, so if you dig the record, you can probably pick one up without laying out too much coin.
Shirley Vaughn’s explosive ‘Escape’ is the product of one of the great trades of my digging career. Years ago I picked up a strange 45 while out digging, posted it up on the Funky16Corners web zine, and before too long had a trade offer from a cat in Scandinavia. For that curious but ultimately uninspiring 99 cent disc, I received in return both this Shirley Vaughn 45 and an excellent Louisiana funk side as well. Vaughn’s vocal is nothing short of amazing, and the arrangement, with ringing piano and a powerful beat is excellent.
Ruby Andrews is another artists that was unknown to me before someone hepped me to her via a mix CD (in fact I believe it was the very same mix that Ann Sexton arrived on). Andrews is known mainly for cuts like ‘Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over)’, but ‘You Made a Believer Out Of Me’ is by far my fave. Featuring rock solid drums, droning bass and piano and Ruby’s amazing voice, the tune also has the added benefit of that amazing Zodiac label. Fortunately all of Andrews’ best sides are available in a budget reissue.
As far as I can tell, Helena Hollins never recorded more than one 45, the most excellent ‘Baby You’re Right’. With a polished sound – courtesy of the legendary Monk Higgins – the record cooks along nicely, before exploding in the chorus. Helena – wherever you are – we thank you for your funk.
Monica (no last name) recorded two excellent 45s for Philadelphia’s storied Toxsan label. As far as rarity goes, Monicas 45s fall somewhere between relatively common sides by Rocky Brown and Topaz, and the ultra-rare, super funky ‘Damn Ph’aint’ by the Herb Johnson Settlement. ‘I Don’t Know What To Tell You But I Love You’ manages – despite it’s lengthy title – to be quite good. I’ve never come across any information about the vocalist, other than the fact that she may be the same Monica that recorded the also ultra-rare ‘Chauffeur’.
Lyn Collins, the ‘Female Preacher’, star of the James Brown stable, is known to most for her absolutely deadly (and oft sampled) ‘Think’, but in the spirit of taking things a little bit further out (and not belaboring the obvious, no matter how great it is) we offer her exceptionally funky “answer” record ‘Mama Feelgood’. Featuring the usual cast of characters (that just has to be Maceo with the creaming sax-o-mo-phone…) ‘Mama Feelgood’ bears all the funky trademarks of the James Brown groove factory, not the least of which is Ms. Collins’ outstanding vocals.
Gi Gi is another artist about whom I’ve never been able to locate any info. There’s no doubt that ‘Daddy Love’ is an absolute killer, shooting out of the gate at about 100mph. The band is tight, and Gi Gi’s right along side singing her heart out. Interestingly enough, this record also saw a UK release on the Pama Supreme label, and there’s also a male version of this tune, performed by the song’s composer Charles Hodges (also on Sweet).
If you don’t have a copy of Erma Franklin’s 45 ‘Piece of My Heart’ b/w ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ on Shout, you need to get off your ass and start digging, right away. The a-side is of course the original version of the song catapulted into the stratosphere by Janis Joplin, but the flip – the funkier side of the record – is a fantastic reworking of the old Jimmy Reed saw. Ms. Franklin – sister of Aretha – and band lay down a nice, hard groove and a wailing vocal, taking the oft-covered, sleepy blues into a whole new bag.
Returning to the world of all things James Brown-ian, we have ‘Say Yeah Yeah’ by Yvonne Fair. Better known for her 70’s recordings for Motown (like ‘Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns me On’ et al), this 1963 (?!?!?) recording has to qualify as one of the great masterpieces of prehistoric funk. Not to mention her vocal-chord shredding wailing, that really takes this record to the next level. Brutal.
Philadelphia’s Brenda & The Tabulations are better known for their great soul ballads like ‘Right On The Tip of My Tongue’, but ‘Scuze Uz Y’all’ resides firmly in the center of Funkville. Residing on the flipside of one of their later Top & Bottom 45s the tune sports a fantastic group vocal – dig those ‘BOOM BOOM BOOM’s – as well as juxtaposing funky guitars against a classy string section. An inexpensive 45 that deserves more respect than it gets.
We close things out with a side by the group Cold Blood. Part of the late 60’s San Francisco scene – they recorded for Bill Graham’s ‘San Francisco’ label – they were led by blue-eyed soul shouter Lydia Pense. Their cover of Sam & Dave’s ‘You Got Me Hummin’ lacks the subtle menace (and that rinky-tink Isaac Hayes piano) of the original, but they do manage to create a fine (and funky) example of late-60’s horn rock. The bass line is especially nice on this one.