Archive for July, 2007

Funky16Corners Radio v.29 – Rubber Souled Pt2

July 30, 2007


Funky16Corners Radio v.28 – Rubber Souled Pt2

Ramsey Lewis – Mother Natures Son (Cadet)
Bobby Bryant – Happiness Is a Warm Gun (Pacific Jazz)
Orchestra Harlow – Larry’s Complaint (Me & My Monkey) (Fania)
Ramsey Lewis – Back In the USSR (Cadet)
Chubby Checker – Back In the USSR (Buddah)
Groove Holmes & Ernie Watts – Come Together (Pacific Jazz)
Jazz Crusaders – Golden Slumbers (Chisa)
Gene Ammons – Something (Prestige)
Ike & Tina Turner – Get Back (UA)
Shirley Scott – Get Back (Atlantic)
Mohawks – Let It Be (Supreme)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Greetings once again.
The past week has been an eventful one in a couple of ways.
As I mentioned in my last (brief) post, the Funky16Corners Blog got a mention over at Metafilter (Thanks, Jonson!) that sent our daily stats through the roof, both in visits and in downloads (something in the range of 700 downloads of Rubber Souled Pt1 in a single day.
Thanks to all our new friends that took the time to stop by and sample the soulful smorgasbord, and I hope that some of you will be joining us again.
Thanks also to all of you that have made recommendations for Beatles covers that I have not included. At the rate these suggestions have come in, I may have to make this an annual occurence.
This is especially relevant because today we bring you the second installment (of three) of our survey of soul, funk and jazz covers of songs by the Beatles.
As I should have mentioned the first time out, these many covers were the sounds of the Beatles coming full circle, as the Fabs, like many of their UK contemporaries were fans of soul and R&B, covering (and borrowing from) many soul/R&B artists on their early records, including Arthur Alexander, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Bobby Parker, Richie Barrett, the Shirelles, and the Cookies.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they carried these influences too far into their catalog, because so much of what they went onto create after 1964 was in essence sui generis, or at least enough so that the influences that contributed to their creation were by and large masked and the Beatles themselves had already gone on to influence their contemporaries.
Funky16Corners Radio v.28 – Rubber Souled Pt1 covered the period stretching from the beginning of the Beatles recording career up to and including the material that was released in the US on the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ LP.
This second volume (number 29 to be exact) starts out with songs that originally appeared on ‘The Beatles’ (better known to most as the ‘White Album’), ‘Abbey Road’ and ‘Let It Be’.
This time out more than half the mix is composed of versions from the world of jazz, but as you all know, in order for this podcast to remain extant, the corners – as it were – must be funky, and so they are, jazzbo or jazz-no.
There are also a couple of songs where I juxtapose instrumental covers with vocal interpretations, so you get a couple of numbers twice, but I think you’ll dig it.
Things get started with a selection from one of the great Cadet LPs of the late 60’s, Ramsey Lewis’ ‘Mother Nature’s Son’. Produced and beautifully arranged by Charles Stepney – in many ways the yin to Richard Evans’ yang – the LP sees Lewis working his way through eight selection through the ‘White Album’. In turns lush and funky, the album is one my faves by Lewis. The title track, opening with some odd Moog-noodling segues into a lovely string arrangement that oddly enough brings to mind George Martin’s orchestrations for the instrumentals in ‘Yellow Submarine’.
Bobby Bryant was a jazz trumpeter who recorded five albums as a leader through the 60’s and early 70’s. He recorded two LPs for Pacific Jazz in 1969, and his version of ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ (as well as a cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’) appeared on the first one, ‘Earth Dance’. Bryant eases into the tune, and manages to translate the song’s odd tempo changes into some very nice solo work, easing gradually into the sound of the full big band. This LP also sports a cool cover of the Parliaments ‘Testify’.
We get to take an unexpected – but excellent – detour into the world of Latin soul with a groovy version of ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)’ by Orchestra Harlow. Led by Latin music giant Larry Harlow, and sung by Ismael Miranda, the tune (retitled ‘Larry’s Complaint (Me & My Monkey)’) was the title cut of Orchestra Harlow’s first gold LP (I pulled it from a Fania 45). They give the tune a rocked up boogaloo workout, even taking time for a little freak-out at the end.
We head back to Ramsey Lewis (switching to electric piano) with a very funky take on ‘Back In the USSR’ (also from ‘Mother Nature’s Son’). This recording is highly regarded by beat diggers for its lengthy drum breaks, and should be as highly regarded by everyone else for its overall funky excellence.
Those of you that thought you’d never cross paths in this space with Chubby Checker, have another think coming. Chubby laid down some cool soul sides in 1965/66 (‘Karate Monkey’, ‘At the Discotheque’, ‘Hey You Little Boogaloo’), and then pretty much dropped off the face of the earth (no doubt in an ashram somewhere with Bobby Rydell) until he returned in 1969 (briefly) with his own revved up take on ‘Back In the USSR’.
Hammond master (and Camden, NJ’s own) Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes paired up with sax man Ernie Watts for the LP of the same title in 1970. Featuring some searing organ work from Groove and some electric sax from Watts, ‘Come Together’ has a slow, dirty groove that takes the feel of the original and gives it a funky edge. The rest of the album is worth checking out too.
The Jazz Crusaders take on ‘Golden Slumbers’ is one of those numbers I only discovered while digging through my crates in preparation for these podcasts. Originally appearing on the 1970 LP ‘Old Socks New Shoes’ (I recorded it from a 7” jukebox EP pulled from that LP), the band works up a nice mellow groove, lifting the mix of ‘Golden Slumbers’ and ‘Carry That Weight’ out of the almost sidelong suite from ‘Abbey Road’, with some very nice keyboard work from Joe Sample.
Mellower still is Gene Ammons version of ‘Something’. Ammons was one of the great late-period tenor men, working with style in bop, hard bop and soul jazz settings through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He recorded ‘Something’ in 1970, not long after spending the bulk of the 60’s in prison on a drug rap. The session that yielded ‘Something’ also featured Idris Muhammad on drums and George Freeman on guitar.
Funky16Corners faves Ike & Tina Turner drop by with a tasty take on ‘Get Back’. Hailing from their 1971 LP ‘Working Together’ – which also included their hit version of ‘Proud Mary – their ‘Get Back’ takes the rolling groove of the original and wraps it up in Tina’s barbed-wire voice, as well as some cool guitar.
The instrumental version of ‘Get Back’ that follows is from perhaps the greatest female Hammond organist of the classic era, Miss Shirley Scott. Coming from her LP ‘Shirley Scott & the Soul Saxes’, which includes contributions from King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman (but not from her husband Stanley Turrentine), ‘Get Back’ is a hard charging tour de force with Shirley sounding like a graduate of the Alan Hawkshaw school of Keys. The album also includes a very funky version of ‘It’s Your Thing’.
Speaking of Alan Hawkshaw, this edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out with a very nice reggae version of ‘Let It Be’ by the Mohawks. I can’t say for sure if Hawkshaw had anything at all to do with this, the only 45 under the Mohawks name (that I know of) to include vocals. There is some organ here, but it’s a far cry from the prominent leads of ‘Champ’. If there’s someone out there that knows the story behind this 45, drop me a line.
That all said, I hope you dig the sounds this time out. I’ll probably be back on Friday with the third and final installment in ‘Rubber Souled’.
Until then…

PS  Head on over to the Fufu Stew Snack Bar annex for a taste of some more Beatle cover-ation, by no less a talent than Miss Ella Fitzgerald

PSS Drop by Iron Leg for some fresh, NJ -grown 1966 garage punk…Not as nourishing  as our tomatoes, but just as delicious.


Holy Crap! b/w Thanks Metafilter!

July 27, 2007

Greetings all.

Writing from a few hundred miles away from home base.

Spent most of the day driving today, and decided to just log on and check my e-mail to see what was up, logged into WordPress and BANG ZOOM, discovered that Funky16Corners experienced a COLOSSAL, HUGE heretofore unseen spike in traffic (huger even than the Boing Boing hit of 2005).

This is due to some kind soul over at Metafilter writing up the latest podcast.

Fortunately, this huge traffic spike and the ensuing increase (exponential) in downloads did not take the blog down, as the previously mentioned BoingBoing write up caused me to prepare in advance for such a windfall.

Alls I can say is thanks, and I hope everyone is digging the mix (though it seems a lot of folks aren’t digging the Bill Cosby track…).

I’ll be back on Monday with Part 2!



PS It had been brought to my attention that there was a comp sometime back that used the ‘Rubber Souled’ title. I had no idea, really.

PSS If you are so inclined, check out things over at Iron Leg, where there is some excellent non-soul music to be heard.

Funky16Corners Radio v.28 – Rubber Souled Pt1

July 23, 2007


Funky16Corners Radio v.28 – Rubber Souled Pt1

Billy Preston – Eight Days a Week (Exodus)
Music Company – TheWord (Mirwood)
Bunny Sigler – Yesterday (Parkway)
Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (Tamla)
Vontastics – Day Tripper (St Lawrence)
Chris Clark – Got To Get You Into My Life (Motown)
El Chicano – Eleanor Rigby (Kapp)
Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows (Capitol)
Bill Cosby – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (WB)
Soulful Strings – Within You Without You (Cadet)
Bud Shank – I Am the Walrus (World Pacific)
Soulful Strings – Hello Goodbye (Cadet)
Soulful Strings – The Inner Light (Cadet)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Greetings all.
I hope all is well with everyone.
I’ve been hard at work for a couple of weeks, selecting, digi-ma-tizing and mix-o-fying so that I might bring to you an epic in the style of the late, great Cecil B DeMille, featuring a cast of thousands, spanning the globe, crossing the Seven Seas…and…uh….well, not exactly.
But I have been working hard.
What we begin with this edition of Funky16Corners Radio (volume 28 to be exact) is something new, in that it is a podcast composed of three parts, all related, which I will be whipping on you over the next three weeks (my apologies for the less than brilliant title…).
Sometime back, inspirado hit me as a result of two things.
First, Danny over at the mighty Office Naps blog – once again – hepped me to an amazing track that I had never heard before, which oddly enough you will hear in the mix before you. That tune, bluesman Junior Parker’s reading of the Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, as well as a thread over at Soulstrut inquiring about covers of tunes by the Beatles, got me started on a mental inventory of my crates in search of same.
When I actually moved that search into the corporeal world, it proved both daunting and enlightening. I found a bunch of cool stuff that I had either passed over the first time, or forgotten about and became reacquainted with some old favorites.
This vinyl safari proved so fruitful in fact that I decided that the planned edition of Funky16Corners Radio would have to be spread out over two (ultimately, three) podcasts.
I have to take a moment to let you know that during my formative musical years, the music of the Beatles (who had just then dissolved) had a profound effect on me. They were in many ways my first musical “love”, and the records they made played an important part in the way I hear, and appreciate music today.
A cultural phenomenon in a pre-internet age (in a way the world of today can’t even imagine), the Beatles  – who’s appearance on the scene coincided with the explosive growth of McLuhan’s ‘Global Village’ – influenced virtually all parts of the musical landscape, with their stylistic innovations, but more importantly with their songs. It’s no coincidence that so many of them have achieved the status of “standard”, still being recorded and re-used (how about those Target commercials with ‘Hello Goodbye’?).
That many of the people hearing these songs are doing so for the first time, and are probably unaware of where they came from is beside the point.
The first Beatles record hit the streets 45 years ago, so a certain generational disconnect is to be expected, but how many artists from the 60’s can boast of having so much of their music (and their images) still such a strong element of the zeitgeist 35 years after their dissolution?
These Funky16Corners Radio podcasts are more of a reflection of the Beatles ubiquity in their own time. The cuts I decided to include– like just about everything else I feature in this space – come from the worlds of soul, funk and jazz, and for the most part (but not exclusively) from a period coinciding with the release of the Beatles originals (give or take a year here and there). The selections are lined up not in their own chronological order, but rather in the order the LPs were released by the Beatles.
The tracks in this first installment come mostly from Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour. These mixes are by no means comprehensive and the playlists are based solely on the contents of my crates (and even then I excluded a couple things, mainly to avoid redundancy).
Things get started with a cut from an early Billy Preston LP (on the Exodus label, which I think was a Vee Jay subsidiary). His lively take on “Eight Days a Week” gets things off to a rocking (Hammond, of course) start.
Next up is a cut from the studio group The Music Company, which recorded the LP ‘Rubber Soul Jazz’ for the storied Mirwood label. Composed entirely of LA studio musicians – many of whom were regulrs at Gold Star studios with Phil Spector – the disc pretty much escapes “easy” territory with some very nice soul jazz covers, including ‘The Word’.
The first ballad of the mix comes to you courtesy of Philadelphia’s own Bunny Sigler. His epic reading of ‘Yesterday’ comes from his 1967 Parkway LP which also included the Soulies (and my pal Haim’s) fave ‘Girl Don’t Make Me Wait’. ‘Yesterday’ is probably the Beatles song most often covered, and Sigler does a fantastic job making it his own, giving it just enough soulful flavor (with just a touch of gospel).
Stevie Wonder’s version of ‘We Can Work It Out’ has long been one of my fave singles by the genius. The hard hitting drums, alongside fuzz guitar and keyboards make for a nice bit of proto-funk, not to mention Stevie’s waling harp.
The Vontastics – one of my fave Chitown soul groups, with a couple of smoking 45s to their credit – drop by with their biggest hit, a storming cover of ‘Day Tripper’ (also done with great success by the mighty Otis Redding). I really dig the horn chart here.
The next cut comes courtesy of a recent Funky16Corners visitor, Miss Chris Clark. Hailing from the same LP (‘Soul Sounds’) as ‘Love’s Gone Bad’ is her version of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’. Oddly enough, the tune which found the Beatles at their most soulful, ands up heading a little more into pop territory in the hands of the fine folks at Motown. Clark is of course in fine voice.
El Chicano, best known for their 1970 cover of Gerald Wilson’s ‘Viva Tirado’ offer up a very nice rendering of the mournful ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Dig the organ and Latin percussion here, as well as the Wes Montgomery-goes-East LA guitar. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy of the ‘Viva Tirado’ LP which features this cut, the title track and a whole lot more.
We head into psychedelic territory here, with the aforementioned Junior Parker cover of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, which in my book goes down as one of the great intersections of artist style and material. The tune appeared on his 1970 LP ‘Outside Man’ (as well as the flip side of his version of ‘Lady Madonna’). Parker strips the song down to its framework, almost chanting the lyrics over a very spare backing. The effect is amazing, and oddly lysergic for a recording almost completely removed from the spychedelic landscape.
If that was a little too dirge-like for you, enter Doctor Cosby to lighten things up a touch. If you stop by here on the reg you know I dig Cosby’s musical efforts, and while this isn’t the funkiest thing he ever did, I still dig it. The LP ‘Bill Cosby Sings Hooray For the Salvation Army Band’ (the title tune of which is the weirdest “cover” of ‘Purple Haze’) also features the excellent ‘Funky North Philly’ and yet another version of ‘Get Out of My Life Woman’.
Another Funky16Corners fave is the great Richard Evans. His group, the Soulful Strings recorded many Beatles covers, often going in interesting directions in both song choice and arrangement. The first example in this mix is a reworking of George Harrison’s ‘Within You Without You’ which features an amazing string arrangement, as well as sitar and tabla (natch), which also appeared as the flip side of the legendary ‘Burning Spear’.
We head back to the West Coast for a cool cover of I Am the Walrus’ by Cali-jazzbo Bud Shank. Shank (who played sax and flute) worked in many styles, recording some of the earliest jazz takes on Brazilian material, as well as moving over into the worlds of pop and rock. This cut comes from his LP ‘Michelle’ which also includes cool covers of ‘Flying’ and ‘Blue Jay Way’.
The Soulful Strings return with another cut from Magical Mystery Tour, that being ‘Hello Goodbye’. The tune starts out hewing pretty closely to the original, before the drums drop in and take things in an entirely new direction (as they so often do in Evans productions). This tune (and the next one) appears on the Soulful Strings LP ‘Another Exposure’.
We close things out with the Soulful Strings taking a second dip in the raga pool with a cover of perhaps the most obscure track in the mix, ‘The Inner Light’. The song, which originally appeared as the b-side to ‘Lady Madonna’ was yet another Harrison side-trip to the subcontinent, and as such includes lots of sitar (electric this time) and droning strings.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix.
I’ll be taking the rest of the week off – time for a little family vacation – and will return next Monday with Part the deuce, in which we survey the landscape from the White Album to Let It Be’.

PS To those of you that just grab the zip file, download the mix and give it a listen.

I think you’ll dig it. – L

Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band – Scorpio

July 20, 2007


Mr. Dennis Coffey


Listen – Scorpio MP3″

Greetings all.

The end of the week is upon us at last. I’d like to breathe a sigh of relief but if I did I might pass out from exhaustion.
This is much more emotional than physical. It’s just one of those times that I couldn’t be sicker of working for a living, and find myself reeling from encounters with epic stupidity that boggle the mind (the product of boggled minds??).
I ought to be thrilled that Friday is here, yet all I want to do is take my fevered brain out for the weekend and soak it in a big bowl of ice water until it returns to it normal, withered self.
Normally, any sane person would react to such a state of affairs by shutting down and backing away from the keyboard slowly, but as you well know, I’m not that person, so here I sit (tap, tap, tap…).
I was driving home from work this afternoon, trying not to get killed on the Garden State Parkway (a triumph of oxymoronics…), mulling over what I had digi-ma-tized and thinking about what to post this evening.
My first thought was to load up something of an uplifting nature, guaranteed to lift the spirits and mellow out the collective unconscious with some soulful good vibes.
Then – after considerable thought, when I probably would have been better of paying attention to the great hordes of maniacal beach-bound tourists swarming around me in their Hummers – I decided to take a different tack. While I normally would respond to having my psyche dented and scraped all week by throwing a little positivity back into the mix, I decided instead to hit back (figuratively at least…).
Back in the day, when I was but a wee lad of nine summers, I first heard today’s selection, and in a then typical forest for the trees moment, wrapped my mind around its monumental guitar riff (which attacked the ears like an atomic mutation of the Batman theme) and ignored the world/life changing drums.
Now, I don’t think I’d be telling tales out of school by admitting that at the age of nine I was not the funky old soul you see before you today. Like any self-respecting kid of 1971, my ears were attuned to pop radio candy, and pretty much ate up anything I heard that wasn’t immediately identifiable as “wimpy” garbage (and even then I remember liking the odd Bobby Sherman and/or Partridge Family record). So, when I look back and remember jumping up down with my next door neighbor – who in a strange twist of fate was also named Larry – to Dennis Coffey’s ‘Scorpio’, much as we had to the Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ the year before, and then I lose myself in the uber-break today, I am verily stunned that I all but ignored it back in the day.
It is entirely possible that WABC-AM in New York was playing some drastically truncated version of ‘Scorpio’ that was in essence breakless, but it’s more likely that my nine year old ears (and the rest of me) were unprepared to absorb and react to so powerful a groove in any meaningful way.
Now, some thirty-six (cough…cough..) years hence, with hip hop almost as old as ‘Scorpio’ itself, and years of funk and soul collecting under my belt, I could probably quote the break back to you chapter and verse at a moments notice (though it’s safe to say that nobody needs to hear that).
Anyway, if you don’t know – and you should so get to Googling – Dennis Coffey spent the years leading up to ‘Scorpio’ as one of the hardest working session guitarists on the Detroit scene, working as a Funk Brother at Motown and adding memorable licks to a mountain of amazing records on Ric Tic, Revilot, Invictus/Hotwax (that’s his guitar on the Spinners ‘It’s a Shame’ and Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’ to mention but a few).
Coffey’s ‘Detroit Guitar Band’ is on first glance a slightly deranged guitarist’s vanity project, until you drop the needle on the wax. The ‘Evolution’ LP does have it’s moments of axe-man self-indulgence (what album of the era doesn’t?), but it also sports some very solid funky heaviosity, the ne plus ultra of which is the mighty ‘Scorpio’.
I mentioned the history of hip hop earlier, and the ‘Scorpio’ break is one of the building blocks of the music’s early years (as well as a popular sample later on*). Back in the day when Flash and Kool Herc were spinning parties in the Bronx and rocking doubles, extending the breaks for the b-boys, ‘Scorpio’ was a major ingredient in the mix.
The record opens with Coffey’s wild kung fu/spy movie gee-tar whipping things into a frenzy. Though the funky backing is there, nobody could have been expecting what was about to come next. At around one minute ten seconds the guitar drops out and the bass drum drops in, and the listener bears ear-witness to the sound of history.
While Dennis places his axe in a dry ice-lined casket (to prevent it from bursting into flames) the entire Funk Brothers percussion juggernaut (Pistol Allen, Jack Ashford, Bongo Brown and Uriel Jones) steps to the front of the stage and whips out the mightiest break in all of recorded time.
The ‘Scorpio’ break is – like some of the best beats of the James Brown organization – a brilliant combination of clockwork precision and deep, deep soul. Not to mention the fact that the production by Mike Theodore picks up every nuance, balancing the delicate interaction between the four percussionists perfectly, giving the hi-hat, snare, congas and tambourine equal love and letting the groove within emerge to blow some minds.
I’d even go as far as to say that the ‘Scorpio’ break is also a monument to tasteful restraint. This is not five or ten seconds of funked up drum bashing by some inspired but long forgotten amateur, but rather a perfect storm of rhythm laid on you by some of the heaviest players ever to lay wood (or hands) on skins.
I can’t imagine anyone giving this record a close listen and not being carried away in a percussive reverie, all nodding of head, tapping of foot, or dare I say down on the rug spinning around in that grey area between Curly Howard and the Rock Steady Crew.
The drums are pretty much on their own until about two minutes ten seconds when someone in the background says ‘Well, well, well!’ and the bass joins the party for almost another minute and a half (?!?!?) of rumpshaking bliss before Coffey (who had to have been in the background doing the robot dance or some such) straps on his still smoking guitar for a reprise of the main theme.
This is some heavy, heavy, HEAVY shit, and in the end the perfect antidote to the brutality of the working week.
Thank you Jack Ashford, Richard Allen, Uriel Jones and Eddie Brown.
Thank you Dennis Coffey.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

PS Head on over to Fufu Stew for a very nice new mix by my man Vincent.

Buy – Dennis Coffey – Big City Funk – at

*Records sampling ‘Scorpio’
  Busy Bee’s “Old School”
  Double D & Steinski’s “Lesson 3”
  Geto Boys’s “Do it Like a G.O.”
  House of Pain’s “All My Love”
  LL Cool J’s “Jinglin’ Baby”
  Lord Finesse’s “Keep it Flowing”
  Moby’s “Mobility”
  Mos Def’s “Universal Magnetic”
  Professor Griff’s “Bro Kemit Splitting Atoms in the Corporate War Zone”
  Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads”
  Queen Latifah’s “Mama Gave Birth to the Soul Children”
  Roni Size’s “Share the Fall”

  and, of course

Young MC’s “Bust a Move”

A Classic From the Archives, PLUS…

July 18, 2007

Greetings all.

I’m a little short of time this evening, so I’m pulling a post out of the Funky16Corners Blog archives. This post originally ran almost exactly two years ago .

Herein lies the rub…the first time I featured ‘The Hen’ by Louis Chachere – one of the greatest funky organ sides ever committed to wax – I only posted ‘Pt 1’. I recently had to digitize both sides of the 45 to fill a special request, so with today’s repost, you get both halves of this mighty banger.

If you’ve never heard it before, strap yourselves in. If you know it, you’ve probably only heard ‘Pt1’, so dig the coda if you will.

Either way, I know you’ll dig it.

See you on Friday.




Listen/Download – The Hen Pt1 MP3

Listen/Download – The Hen Pt2 MP3 

Originally posted 7/15/05 – “In my book, there’s just nothing tastier than a funky organ groove on 45. There are a number of reasons that this is so…

1. Most of your best organ grooves appear only in 45 form 2. Organ grooves provide at least 200% of your daily minimum requirement of party starting, butt-shaking, good time 3. Because I said so (you can ignore this one…at your peril!) Anyway, whether it’s R&B, soul, jazz or beat-heavy funk, there are dozens of amazing Hammond sounds out there to be had and heard. I always dug organ sounds, but for years my listening was largely limited to jazz organ (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) and the masters thereof, the Jimmy’s Smith & McGriff, Groove Holmes, etc. Then in 1999, my pal Bill Luther hit me up with a righteous birthday present. The CD in question was the ‘Vital Organs’ compilation, compiled and annotated by the mighty Matt ‘Mr. Finewine’ Weingarden of WFMU and record collecting fame (a righteous dude and a man who’s probably forgotten more great records than I’ve managed to collect). I was immediately intrigued. The track listing revealed not a single familiar name (a challenge!), and lots of appealing song titles – ‘The Hatch’, ‘Soul Power’, ‘Put Your Weight On It’, ‘Shimmy’ – the kind of titles that when attached to a dusty 45 pulled out of a moldy box set the spidey sense a-tingling (they’re also the kind of titles you sometimes find on surprisingly un-funky records, but that’s why I got a portable to dig with).

So, I get into the car, slide the CD into the player and enjoy a whole other party all the way home. It was all over after that. It’s not often that I can trace my interest in a genre of music back to a specific starting point, but this was one of those times. In the ensuing six years I have spent an inordinate amount of time (and, yes….money) tracking down, and digging up all manner of Hammond action on 45, to the point where I can proudly say that my organ crates are quite healthy and filled with all manner of death dealing heavy hitters, each one guaranteed to leave the house suitably rocked and the dancers sweaty (but happy).

Though I still haven’t tracked down all the cuts from ‘Vital Organs’ (and considering the rarity of some of them likely never will), I have managed to snag a copy of ‘The Hen Pts 1&2’ by Louis Chachere. Despite the fact that ‘The Hen’ was released on Louisiana’s Paula label, and the artist in question has a name that sounds like it shows up several dozen times in the New Orleans phone book, this gem is a bit of Kansas City soul. Chachere originally recorded ‘The Hen’ for the local MJC label, and it was then re-released by the Forte label, in Kansas City, MO. Forte was owned by Marva Whitney’s husband Ellis Taylor (her Excello 45 ‘Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear’ was originally issued on Forte). ‘The Hen’ was licensed to, and released by Paula records.

The tune opens with a tighty, funky snare break (one of my fave snare sounds, along with the drums on James K Nine’s – actually Eddie Bo – ‘Live It Up’ on Federal),and the bass and organ jump right in. The melody line is stated first by the saxophones and then Louis drops in wailing on the break.. The jazzy guitar playing is excellent, and the record is very tightly arranged and well produced. ‘Part 2’ starts back in with a lengthy (and tasty) sax solo, followed by a nice section where the bass/drum tandem is brought up in the mix. Both sides of the record put together barely crack the four and a half minute mark, so the dj in you can’t be blamed for wanting to rock doubles and play it all the way through. The beat is irresistible, and Louis and company manage to keep the novelty “chicken” hysterics on a very low boil. I haven’t been able to nail down a release date, though the catalog number on the 45 suggests sometime between 1969 and 1970, so there is a possibility that this was an attempt to capitalize on the Meters ‘Chicken Strut’ (if anyone knows for sure, drop me a line). Mint copies of this classic are unlikely to be had for less than $50 (sometimes more) though I bagged mine at a bargain price because I took a chance (rewarded) that the record had been undergraded. ‘Vital Organs’ is sadly, out of print, though you might be able to track down a used copy. The only other info I could track down about Louis Chachere is that he produced the funky rarity ‘Remember Me’ By the Trinikas.”

PS Head over to the original post at Blogger and check out the additional info in the comments at the bottom.

Funky16Corners Radio v.27 – Soul Organs Vol. 1

July 16, 2007


Funky16Corners Radio v.27 – Soul Organs Vol1

1. Chicago Cubs Clark St Band – Slide (Cadet)
2. TKOs feat Hank Jacobs – The Charge (Ten Star)
3. East Bay Soul Brass – The Panther (Rampart)
4. Hindal Butts – In The Pocket (MS)
5. Ordells – Big Dom (Dionn)
6. Philly Four – The Elephant Pt1 (Cobblestone)
7. Mr D & the Highlights – Nose Full of White (Jas)
8. Jimmy Brown – Soul Man (Abet)
9. Beverly Pitts – Just Some Soul (Soul Shot)
10. Hank Marr – White House Party (Wingate)
11. Soul Set – Flunky Flunky (BB)
12. Toussaint McCall – Toussaint Shuffle (Ronn)
13. Soul Toranodoes – Go For Yourself (Burt)
14. Truman Thomas – Cold Sweat (Veep)
15. Lonell Dantzler – Bo Ghana (Met)
16. Deacons – Sock It To Me (Shama)
17. LaBert Ellis – Dancing In the Street (A&M)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Greetings all.
I hope everyone had a great weekend, soaking up sun, suds and soul.
My man DJ Prestige hepped me to the fact that there was a record swap happening over at the World Famous Asbury Lanes this morning, so the entire Funky16Corners fam strapped themselves into the soulful mini-van and rolled on up.
I wasn’t expecting much, but I found some cool stuff – LPs and 45s – some of which will of course be appearing in this very space sometime in the future.
I also picked up a couple of real stinkers, but that’s nobody’s fault but mine brothers and sisters. You leave the crib without the portable, you takes your chances and in every sack of gold ye will find a lump of coal or two (or three….).
That all said, I have been working on some podcasts for the upcoming months – including a huge, multi-part Beatles covers project which got bigger right after I sat down to record the vinyl (“Look! Yet another version of ‘Hey Jude’!) – and, beginning with today’s edition of Funky16Corners Radio, a grip of Hammond mixes.
The Funky16Corners Radio decks have previously brought you Hammond funk, International Hammond and Old School Hammond, and in an effort to split the atom (or slice the baloney) yet again, I bring you the first installment of SOUL Hammond. This is – like everything around here – a subjective judgement based on my crates (literal and figurative) and my own personal genre dividing lines. In the end no one need respect these borders, which should of course be viewed only as suggested guidelines.
Just a note: longtime followers of the Funky16Corners web zine might recognize some of these tracks, which appeared on an early fundraising CD mix I did.
Now that we have that out of the way, on to the music.
The first track in the mix is an old fave round these parts, ‘Slide’ by the mysterious Chicago Cubs Clark Street Band. This instro originally appeared as the flip side to a recording of the 1969 Chicago Cubs singing a reworked version of Little Willie John’s ‘Fever’ (I shit you not), called ‘Pennant Fever’. The only clue to the origins of this track is the presence of the name Richard Rome on the label. Rome was a longtime Philly composer, performer, producer, and his name in the credits suggests to me that the tune originated not in Chi-town but the City of Brotherly Love. Either way, copies of this one turn up frequently so go find yourself one.
The TKOs recorded a number of hard charging instros on the Ten Star label, but ‘The Charge’ is the only one that features legendary soul jazz keyboardist Hank Jacobs (‘Monkey Hips & Rice’) n organ. Thanks to Hank, it ends up being their finest.
The East Bay Soul Brass are another mystery group, but their appearance on the East LA label Rampart (also home to the Village Callers and Cannibal & the Headhunters) suggests to me that they hail from that area. ‘The Panther’ is a stormer filled with crazed cat sound effects.
Hindal Butts ‘In the Pocket’ is a big fave amongst Hammond 45 hunters, which is ironic since Butts wasn’t an organist (he’s the drummer). A Detroit based artist, Butts made a number of 45s for a variety of Motor City labels. Anyone know who the organist is? If so, drop me a line.
The Ordell’s ‘Big Dom’ was something of an accidental find years ago. Back in the day when I was picking up everything I could on Philly labels (like Dionn) I grabbed the Ordells 45 and dug the wonderful soul ballad ‘Sippin’ a Cup of Coffee’. Then I flipped it over and BANG ZOOM, discovered a completely incongruous organ instro. I have no idea who’s playing here, but my guess is a studio group filling extra space.
Staying in Philly for while, we have the Philly Four. A one off out of the Harthon stable, I always suspected that this might have been Luther Randolph & Johnny Styles, but I can’t say for sure.
I’ve never been able to track down any info on Mr. D & the Highlights. I dig the tune though, and the cool title.
Jimmy Brown recorded an LP and a number of 45s for the Abet label (the 45s being MUCH easier to score than the LP). His take on Sam & Dave’s ‘Soul Man’ has a nice gritty edge to it.
Beverly Pitts (he or she?? I dunno….) ‘Just Some Soul’ is just that, a very nice slow grooving shuffle that wouldn’t be out of place in a smoky barroom. The flip of this one is nice too.
Next up is one of my all-time faves (another one my man Haim turned me on to years ago), and an odd sort of commemoration for the passing of Lady Bird Johnson, Hank Marr’s ‘White House Party’ (which is filled with references to the Johnson years). It’s one of the swinging-est bits of mod jazz ever, and one of the best sides ever to come out on Detroit’s Wingate imprint.
‘Flunky Flunky’ by the Soul Set is (I believe) a Philly record, with no connection to the Central Jersey Soul Set that recorded for Johnson Records. The tune has a great, chunky organ sound and some heavy drums. The flip is a reworking of the Miracles ‘Mickey’s Monkey’.
Toussaint McCall  is justly worshipped by Hammond fans the world over for his monumental ‘Shimmy’, which is in my opinion one of the greatest 45s EVER, by ANYONE, on ANY INSTRUMENT (how’s that for hyperbole??). ‘Toussaint Shuffle’ is one of the two other organ instrumentals he recorded for Ronn (the third being ‘The Title Escapes Me’). He wouldn’t record Hammond instros again until his sides for Dore a few years later (which are all funky and well worth searching for). It’s not as heavy as ‘Shimmy’ (but really, what is???), but it swings nicely, and should be easy to find.
Folks that caught Funky16Corners Radio v.25, the Jerry-O mix might recognize the melody of the Soul Toranodoes (I always assumed that it was supposed to be Tornados, but I go by the label) ‘Go For Yourself’, which is an “adaptation” of Jerry-O’s ‘Soul Sister’. The flip of this one, ‘Funky Thang’ is also cool.
You can read more about Truman Thomas over at the Funky16Corners web zine, but I’ll summarize here by telling you that Thomas, who went on to work for a number of soul artists (including Aretha Franklin) recorded an LP and some excellent 45s (a couple featuring non-LP tracks) for the Veep label, and they’re all groovy. His take on the Godfather’s ‘Cold Sweat’ takes a somewhat lighter tack than the original.
Lonell Danztler’s ‘Bo Ghana’ is a really jazzy swinger with some nice banging drums. Dantzler went on to record with the Chicago soul group Weapons of Peace.
Speaking of Chicago (and borrowed tunes) we present the Deacons’ ‘Sock It To Me’ which doubled as the instrumental track for a certain record by Mr. Syl Johnson. I love the groove on this one – especially the handclaps.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out with a longtime fave of mine – and sure to be one of yours – ‘Dancing In the Street’ by LaBert Ellis. When I grabbed this out of a box of 99 cent 45 years ago, I had no idea how much I’d dig it, or how long I’d search for info on it. There’s something of a mystery here, in that it appears that the A&M catalog number on the Ellis 45 appears to have been assigned to another release, and this disc may never have made it past the promo stage. Ellis was an LA-based organist who, aside from this one 45 never released anything on vinyl again. There was a CD out there of an unreleased early 70’s session he did (which includes a smoking version of ‘Cissy Strut’, but that’s about it.
Either way, pop this on the Pod and groove in the sand.

WCBS FM Is Back On The Air!

July 14, 2007


Bob Shannon back on the mic!


It was a little more than two years ago – in the original Funky16Corners Blog – that I lamented the passing of one of the last great radio stations in the New York area, WCBS-FM (read my original post here).

WCBS – FM was a major part of my musical education growing up. The first years of the station – with the best ‘oldies’ format I ever heard – coincided with the my own early years of listening to the radio, and for the next 30+ years was a major part of my listening time (and a serious learning experience).

In 2005 WCBS’s parent company decided (in their infinite wisdom) that they should take an original (profitable) station, unlike any other in its market, and make it just like 500 others all over the country (with the execrable ‘Jack’ format). I, and countless other loyal listeners were crestfallen.

In the time since, I have been lucky enough to get to know one of the cornerstones of the WCBS-FM sound, the legendary Bob Shannon. Bob is a righteous individual, and he KNOWS music.

Well my friends, I’m happy to say that this week, with none other than Bob Shannon on the mic, WCBS-FM has returned!

The format as announced with cover the 60’s through the 80’s (pretty much what it was when they went ‘Jack’), with detours back into the 50’s now and again. I haven’t seen a schedule yet to see who – if anyone – from the old crew will be returning (Cousin Brucie has been working with Sirius Satellite Radio), but as long as Mr. Shannon is there, you can bet that the heat (as we say ’round here) will be brought, along with tons of knowledge and one of the great modern radio voices.

Welcome back Bob!



PS There’s a new post over at Iron Leg…

Friday Flashback – F16 Radio v.15 So Much Trouble

July 13, 2007

 Happy Friday!

We end the week with another installment of the institution known as the Funky16Corners Radio Friday Flashback, in which we re-drop one of the previous installments of the F16 Radio Podcast, putting the files back into permanent, archived circulation.

This weeks mix originally appeared around Thanksgiving of 2006, and is generally “theme-less” other than the shared vibe of high quality funk.

As always, I hope you dig it (or re-dig it if you got it the first time around), have a most excellent weekend and return to this space on Monday for a brand new edition of Funky16Corners Radio.




Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul

Track Listing

1. Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul – (I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind (GSF)
2. Capitols – Afro Twist Time (Karen)
3. Slim Harpo – Dynamite (Excello)
4. Bill Cosby – Hikky Burr Pt1 (UNI)
5. Brother Jack McDuff – Hunk of Funk (Blue Note)
6. Donald Height – Life Is Free (Hurdy Gurdy)
7. Stevie Wonder – We Can Work It Out (Tamla)
8. Hoctor – Cissy Strut (Hoctor)
9. John Phillip Soul & His Stone Marching Band – That Memphis Thing (Pepper)
10. NF Porter – Keep On Keeping On (Lizard)
11. Joe & Everyday People – Sleep Walk (Brooks)
12. Dyke & The Blazers – Funky Walk (Original Sound)
13. Mongo Santamaria – We Got Latin Soul (Columbia)
14. Mickey & the Soul Generation – Football (Maxwell)
15. Johnny Talbot & De Thangs – Pickin’ Cotton (Jasman)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Hey, g’morning….
I was gonna hold onto this mix, but I decided that since I was going to take the end of the week off (from work, blogging, getting up early in the morning and giving a crap about anything that doesn’t strictly involve leisure) that I owed it to my pals to leave something of substance on yon blogspot to keep your ears fed while you stuff your bellies on Thanksgiving (for those of you in non-Thanksgiving celebrating locales, the experience can be recreated by making a turkey sandwich, and adding string beans, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy and pumpkin pie between the slices of bread, mayonnaise optional).
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio is just a random selection of funky goodness featuring a variety of excellent vinyl that I had digitized in various and sundry locations, carefully selected and banded together for your delectation. The title of the mix may or may not be indicative of a certain level of angst that I may or may not be wrestling with (on micro and macro levels), or it may just be the title of the extremely funky tune that opens the mix (or it may be both, hmmmmmm.…).
Anyway, this one blows up from the git go with the titular number, brought to you courtesy of Sir Joe Quarterman and Free Soul. The Washington, DC based unit recorded a number of 45s and an LP, and 1973’s ‘(I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind’ was their most successful, and in my opinion their finest. Opening with a super-tight horn blast and hard, hard drums, this ode to the bad vibes of the early 70’s is a killer.
If you’ve ever been plagued by the omnipresence of the Capitols ‘Cool Jerk’ on oldies radio and whipped topping commercials, I present you with a balm for your weary ears in their late 60’s funk banger ‘Afro Twist Time’. One of many Afro/African Twists sides from the era, the Capitols break it down with a happening groove, some well placed grunts and some very nice gutbucket guitar. Good gosh awmighty, indeed.
The first time I ever heard Slim Harpo’s ‘I’ve Got My Finger On Your Trigger’, I figured it was a one-off trip to Funkytown by the highly regarded swamp bluesman. It turns out, after a perusal of an old LP, that I was incorrect, and that Slim got funky at least one more time, not long before his untimely demise. ‘Dynamite’ may not knock you on your ass, but if all you’ve ever heard by Slim is stuff like ‘Raining In My Heart’, it will come as a surprise. Unlike many seasoned bluesmen, who found themselves at the end of the 60’s grasping at stylistic relevance, Slim Harpo had always had a pop edge (and a touch of the groove) in his records.
Regular readers of the blog (and before that, the Funky16Corners web zine) know that I dig the soul and funk efforts of famed non-musician Bill Cosby (as we saw not all that long ago). Back in the day, post- I Spy, and way, way, waaaay pre-Cosby Show, Bill had a TV series (called ‘The Bill Cosby Show’) where he played a gym teacher in Los Angeles. Why am I telling you this? Because the theme to that show is far and away the funkiest thing that Cosby EVER laid down, ranking up there with just about any “legitimate” funk 45 you can dig out of your crates. The tune in question ‘Hikky Burr Pts 1&2’ was the product of a collab between Cos and Le Q (known to his friends as Quincy Jones), and opens with an exquisite bass riff from none other than studio bassist extraordinaire Carol Kaye (drums courtesy of Mr. Paul Humphrey, he of the Cool Aid Chemists). What you get here is a very, very funky instrumental bed, on which Mr. Cosby jumps up and down for two and a half minutes, running off at the mouth like a crazy man. The end result is quite satisfying.
I couldn’t very well whip up a mix like this without adding the spice that a bit of funky Hammond brings, and it doesn’t get much funkier (in title or execution) than Brother Jack McDuff’s ‘Hunk O’Funk’. Starting out with a delicious drum break, the band comes in with both organ and clavinet in the background. The first solo is taken by the flute, and it’s a fine example of Kirk/Steig style overblowing. By the time Brother Jack drops in to throw gas on the already raging fire, you’re all like ‘Where’s this record been all my life?’ and ‘How do I get me one?’, and all I can say is, you can’t have mine (but here’s an MP3 to tide you over).
If the next tune sounds eerily familiar, it’s on account of the fact that the instrumental track is better known as the underpinning from one of my all time fave funk 45s, Lou Courtney’s ‘Hot Butter’n’All’. Donald Height (the Singing Preacher) may have even been the first to use the track (going by the catalog numbers on the 45 labels), but I still have to vote for Lou. Either way, Height’s take on the track is a groovy one, with a new lyrics and just enough space at the beginning for the insane, free-jazz-ish sax-o-ma-phone to peek through the mix.
Stevie Wonder and the Beatles go together like chocolate and peanut butter, and there is no better example of this than Mr. Wonder’s banging cover of ‘We Can Work It Out’. The drums drop like a hammer, the clavinet is all clavinet-ty, and the harmonica manages to transcend all previous negative connotations of harmonicosity (as it often did in the hands of Stevie) in what may very well be my fave cover of a Fabs tune (as well as one of my fave Stevie records). Solid.
Another familiar tune delivered to you by unfamiliar hands is a tight little version of the Meters ‘Cissy Strut’, courtesy of the folks at Hoctor. Hoctor was not really a band (in name anyway) but rather a record label that created vinyl for use in dance classes. The fact that some of these records managed to be quite funky is but a happy coincidence. The end result, while certainly not up to Meters standards, is still pretty hot, with some chunky drums and a cheesy little organ solo.
I don’t think I’m taking too much of a risk by suggesting that John Phillip Soul and His Stone Marching Band were a studio concoction. They made but one 45 (both sides of which are very, very nice) and were never heard from again. As to which Memphis organist brings the heat on ‘That Memphis Thing’ I cannot say, but I will vouch for the fact that this is a very hot slice of soul party au-go-go, replete with drum breaks, wailing Hammond, greasy guitar and blaring horns (the whole affair is certifiably overmodulated, which I dig).
The next track, while probably not “funk”, is undeniably funky, and strangely enough a favorite of the Northern Soulies. It is also a disc with an oddball pedigree. NF Porter recorded soul for a variety of labels, but he really hit the jackpot with the folks at Lizard (who also brought you sides by Clydie King and Paul Humphrey), who sent him into the studio with various members of Little Feat and the Mothers of Invention (no kidding). That this unlikely admixture should produce a track as heavy as ‘Keep On Keeping On’ was a happy surprise. The weird juxtaposition of a guitar that sounds like it was running through a Leslie speaker and those classy strings works in spite of itself.
I can’t tell you much about Joe and Everyday People, other than they hailed from Virginia, and that I almost had a heart attack when I happened upon this 45 in a box of records. I first heard it on a comp years ago, and was aware that it was fairly rare (so much so that I had never seen a copy for sale). The box I happened to be digging in contained a large helping of what might be charitably called “fairly ordinary” records, not the kind of stuff that you would expect to find clustered around a record like this. When I pulled it out, and asked the guy how much he wanted for it, it was clear that he too was aware of its scarcity. After a bit of haggling I was able to obtain said record, so that I might share it with you today.
Dyke and the Blazers may be the great underrated producer of funk 45s ever. Known to all far and wide as the band that brought you ‘Funky Broadway’, they had a string of extremely good 45s for the Original Sound label, all of which had a certain down and dirty vibe. ‘Funky Walk’ is one of the best.
Speaking of Dyke, we go to Mr. Mongo Santamaria who brings us a boogaloo-ed reworking of the Blazers’ ‘We Got More Soul’, delivered here as ‘We Got Latin Soul’. At the risk of blasphemy, I would go as far as to say that I prefer Mongo’s version, which is taken at a more lively pace, with the addition of Latin percussion and an excellent vocal by I know not who.
Mickey and the Soul Generation are best known as the purveyors of the deep funk monster ‘Iron Leg’ (which holds a place in my all time top 5), but they also made a number of other excellent sides, of which ‘Football’ is one. Sitting atop their second Maxwell 45, ‘Football’ is less of an organ spotlight, focusing instead on some very tight horn work. It says something that while ‘Football’ may not be the monument to heavy-osity that ‘Iron Leg’ was, it still towers above the vast majority of early 70’s funk 45s.
Things draw to a close with one of my favorite “affordable” funk 45s, ‘Pickin Cotton’ by Johnny Talbot & De Thangs. Talbot – sometimes listed as Talbert – was a Bay Area (Oakland to be specific) singer/guitarist that made a number of 45s in the 60’s and 70’s. ‘Pickin Cotton’ has some very tasty drum breaks, and works up quite a nice groove. The flip side ‘Git Sum’ is also excellent. Though this once comparatively cheap 45 has started going back up in price, a listen to the actual music will tell you that it is certainly worth it.
See you on Monday.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – Don’t Leave Me This Way

July 11, 2007


Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes


Listen – Don’t Leave Me This Way MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the middle of the week finds you well.
I wasn’t originally going to do a Wednesday post this week, but last night, as I was getting in a little headphone work before turning in (as I often do), I was flipping through my list of stockpiled blog tracks and when today’s selection came on I cranked the volume, closed my eyes and let the music carry me away.
The first time I heard Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes perform ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ I was just about pole axed.
I – like most people – always associated the song with the version (which I mistakenly assumed to be the original) by Thelma Houston. Her explosive take on ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ was a Number One hit in 1977, and is justly considered one of the truly great moments of the disco era (not to mention a fantastic record by any standards).
Then, sometime shortly after I moved in with my then fiancée (now wife), some nine years ago, we were listening to Felix Hernandez’ Rhythm Revue radio show*, and heard that familiar song, delivered by an unfamiliar (male) voice. Of course I hung over the radio until Felix announced the track, and was shocked to discover that ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ was in fact a cover of a recording by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and the male voice was none other than the great Theodore ‘Teddy’ Pendergrass.
I was shocked.
How did I not know this?
I certainly knew who Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes were, but this was one of those moments when it became immediately clear that I had been asleep at the wheel, not only on this particular record, but on mid-70’s soul in general, more specifically disco.
Now, I’ve said this before, but I was always – if not a closet disco fan – one of those soul snobs who was willing to acknowledge that there were some good records within the world of disco, but insisted on turning a cold shoulder to the genre as a whole. I felt bold in professing my love for a record like ‘Get Down Tonight’ by KC & The Sunshine Band, but insisted that it was because the record was atypical, and thus an exception to the (my) rule ( a more succinct explanation here).
Anyway, suffice to say that in the years since then, for a number of reasons, including maturing tastes, a greater understanding of DJ culture and the world of disco (thanks largely to Peter Shapiro’s ‘Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco’ and Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s ‘’Last Night a DJ Saved My Life’), and of course exposure to a wider variety of music, my musical world view was reshaped considerably.
That said, that very day I ran out and grabbed a budget ‘Best of’ by HM&theBN’s and listened to it over, and over, and over again.
No matter how you slice it, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ is an absolutely monumental record. It was a perfect combination of vocalists, composers, producers and musicians, all at the peak of their powers, riding the crest of a wave that had yet to fully break (that being disco).
The Blue Notes had been together in one form or another since the mid-50s. By the early 60’s he group had split in two, becoming Bernard Williams and the Original Blue Notes , who recorded the brilliant ‘It’s Needless to Say’ for Harthon, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (featuring lead singer John Atkins) who recorded the equally brilliant ‘Get Out’ for Landa (which was included on the Funky16Corners Radio Philly Soul Mix). By the end of the 60’s Atkins was out, and was replaced by Blue Notes drummer Teddy Pendergrass. The group signed with Philly International in 1972, and soon hit with their first really big record ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ which topped the R&B charts and entered the Pop top 5.
The following year they hit again with ‘The Love I Lost’ and then again in early 1975 with ‘Bad Luck’.
Later that year they released the LP “Wake Up Everybody’ and had another R&B Number One with the title track, a gem of socially conscious soul. Oddly enough, the finest track on that album ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ was never released as a single in the US, though it was a Top 5 hit on the disco charts and a Top 20 hit in the UK. It wasn’t until two years later that Thelma Houston recorded her version for Motown, and the rest as they say is history.
It’s hard to listen to the Blue Notes original without wondering what the hell Philadephia International was thinking when they didn’t release it as a single. Though disco had not yet really gained steam as a commercial powerhouse, it would be foolish to pigeonhole ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ as just a “disco” record. This is not to use disco as a pejorative, but is rather a reflection on how this record transcends genre. Pendergrass’s vocal is absolutely flawless and the arrangement is a masterpiece of dynamics.
Opening – and running with – the Rhodes (as does the Houston version) , and the congas, the tune builds very gradually before literally exploding in the chorus, and then building again and again until the listener is carried away on a wave of emotion. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone hearing ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ (especially the chorus which is absolute perfection) and not jumping up to dance. Had this record come out a few years later, when disco was at its height it would have been HUGE.
‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ is a great example of a great dance record that works on so many different levels. Clocking in at just over six minutes, it was long enough to build a fever on the dance floor, without resorting to any fluff or filler. When the record seems like it has reached its climax (right around the 5 minute mark), Pendergrass and the band take things back a notch. He whips a little mellow scatting on the room, backed by a very percussive electric piano and the drums, but then seemingly out of nowhere the rhythm guitar powers its way to the fore, taking over for just a few seconds and it’s a thing of beauty. I’m not sure who’s playing guitar here (Bobby Eli or Norman Harris most likely) but it’s amazing.
It’s interesting to contrast the Blue Notes version with Thelma Houston’s hit. While there’s no denying that Houston’s Motown-powered recording is a killer, especially her amazing vocal, the Blue Notes version manages to be incredibly exciting and a masterpiece of restraint at the same time. Where Houston’s version is marked by sharp trebly peaks, the Blue Notes recording has a richness about it. With all of its heightened moments of bliss it retains a wholly organic sound. The arrangements by Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Bobby Martin, and the production by Gamble/Huff is typically on point. The Philadelphia International crew (with the MFSB house band) created a huge catalog of incredible music, and ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ is one of their finest moments. It was also one of the last big moments for the group with Pendergrass, who embarked on a very successful solo career the next year.
Following his departure, the Blue Notes left Philadelphia International for ABC, and bounced from label to label through the mid-80’s. Despite several personnel changes, Melvin continued touring with the Blue Notes until his death in 1997.
I hope you dig this record as much as I do.

*The Rhythm Revue, which started out on listener-supported WBGO moved on for a time to commercial radio and lives on today in a series of popular dance nights hosted by Hernandez.

Funky16Corners Radio v.26 – Lovin’ Machine!

July 9, 2007


Funky16Corners Radio v.26 – Lovin’ Machine!

Lewis Clark – Dog (Ain’t a Man’s Best Friend) (Brent)
Gate Wesley & Band feat. Billy LaMont – Zap! Pow! Do the Batman! (Atlantic)
Rodge Martin – Lovin’ Machine (Bragg)
Count Rockin’ Sidney – Dedie Dedie Da (Goldband)
Little Milton – Grits Ain’t Groceries (Checker)
Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham – Lover and a Friend (Capitol)
Lou Courtney – I’ve Got Just the Thing (Riverside)
Alvin Robinson – Baby Don’t You Do It (Atco)
Freddy King – Sen Sa Shun (Federal)
Eddie Bo – Every Dog Has His Day (Ric)
Billy Clark & his Orchestra – Hot Gravy (Dynamo)
James Brown & Vicki Anderson – Think (King)
Shells – Whiplash (Conlo)
Mighty Hannibal – Fishing Pole (Shurfine)
Chuck Edwards – Downtown Soulville (Punch)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Howdy doodies, and a somewhat sad end of the weekend, back to work to you all.
This past weekend was quite the rollercoaster ride, starting out with Friday night at the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, right on through to waking up (after about 4 hours of sleep) to a screaming baby (ear infections are a BITCH!), on again to fireworks in Asbury Park last night (beautiful) and ending up here on the couch, with the sick little guy sleeping next to me as I type.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio is a distillation of a personal mix that I have been rocking in the ride (and on the Pod) for a long time now. It’s a hot and spicy stew (to borrow a metaphor from my man Vincent) with chunks of good rockin’ soul, spiced up with a dash of R&B and a pinch of blues.

I’m warning you now, soak your iPod in ice before you play this one…
Here in the summer, when the mercury pushes close to 100, and you become listless and sweaty, staring at the condensation roll down the side of your iced tea glass, what you need is not a burst of man made air conditioning, but rather an injection of high powered soul sounds. This dose of medicine carries with it a second wind, as well as the seeds of a spiritual reawakening to pull you from your figurative Sargasso Sea, slap some wind in your sails and set you back on the righteous path brothers and sisters.
Don’t get worried though. If I’m preaching it’s from the pulpit of the Church of the Funky Sepulchre, and instead of fire and brimstone I bring you grits and gravy with a side of dancing shoes.
It’s time to rip off your wig-hat, loosen your girdle and step lively because from the very first note (heavy drums those) to the very last you will feel compelled to shimmy, shake, wobble, hands on hips, backbone slipping wildly until a casual observer – unable to hear the music – might be forgiven for mistaking your soulful gyrations for some kind of a fit.
On the menu today, we start off with something gritty, that being Lewis Clark’s ‘Dog (Ain’t a Man’s best Friend)’ in which – thankfully – Lewis ses the light and chooses his woman over his Dachshund.
We move right on to an old Funky16Corners fave, Gate Wesley & Band (with Billy LaMont on vox) ripping into ‘Zap! Pow! Do the Batman!’, in which the drums they are tres heavy.
We then hear from the mighty, late great and never sedate Rodge Martin, whose killer diller ‘Lovin’ Machine’ gives this mix its title. Short form – I first heard this tune during my garage punk days back in the 80’s as a cover by the Easybeats. Though the Easybeats were great, they don’t come within a light year of the original, which is a slice of soul heaven.
Count Rockin’ Sidney was the be-turbaned wizard of the bayou, and over the course of his career recorded R&B, soul, funk and zydeco for a variety of Louisiana labels. ‘Dedee Dedee Da’ is a hot little party-in-a-disc that features the Count on combo organ and vocals, and sounds as if it were recorded over the phone.
Little Milton….sheeeyit….LITTLE MILTON??!?! That’s some live wire blues power right there, wherein the mighty one channels Little Willie John and greases the skillet for the Fleshtone’s cover years later. His is by far the funkiest version of ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries’ (aka ‘All Around the World’), and Milton really lays into those amazing lyrics.
What need I say about Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham’s ‘Lover and a Friend’, other than dig that break kids, and uhhhh….”WHOOOT!!!”
If you stop by here on the reg, you’ll know that Lou Courtney is a Funky16Corners favorite. ‘I’ve Got Just the Thing’ was the first LC 45 I ever found, and it’s still one of my faves. Why this guy was never a star is beyond me…
Another member of the F16C hall of fame is the mighty Alvin Robinson. One of New Orleans favorite sons, Alvin (also a slick guitarist) recorded the definitive version one of my all time fave tunes, ‘Down Home Girl’. His cover of Marvin Gaye’s Baby Don’t You Do It’ is one of his rarer post-Red Bird 45s, and is every bit a killer.
Freddy King! Good Gawd! Look at that big ole man wrassling that tiny little gee-tar into submission. King recorded a long string of hot instros for Federal in the 60’s, and he was a big influence on UK blues guitarists. ‘Sen Sa Shun’ is one of his finest.
What? More Eddie Bo? Yeah, what’s it to you??? ‘Every Dog His His Day’ is a great early R&B side that screams PARTY!
I don’t know much about Billy Clark (or his orchestra) other than there is some crossover with the Maskman & the Agents camp. ‘Hot Gravy’ bears by far the most self explanatory title in this mix. Nuff said.
We take a moment to stop in with the Godfather himself (and one of the Godmothers) with a great mid-60s soul stormer. Man that Vicki Anderson could wail!
Next up is one of my ALL TIME FAVES. Ever since my man Haim introduced me to the Shells Conlo 45 lo these many years ago (they had one other release as the Four Shells on Volt) it has been in my top ten. ‘Whiplash’ – and it’s flip ‘When I’m Blue’ – are both unique bits of Chicago soul, with some crazy guitar underneath. All you need to know about the dance, is that it took over when the Twine and Monkey died….
The Mighty Hannibal’s ‘Fishin’ Pole’ is a raver, and while it may not be the stunner that ‘Jerkin’ the Dog’ is (what record is???), it will surely get your knickers (and everything else) in a twist.
The mix closes out with another F16C top tenner, that being the mighty Chuck Edwards and ‘Downtown Soulville’. Brilliant record.
That all said, spend the week listening to this on your headphones, so when you whip it on your friends at next Friday’s ripple and potato chip soiree, you can look all cool like you know the words already.
Have a most excellent week.
Peace (and grits) be unto you…