Mr. Edwin Starr (in a serious moment…)
“Listen – Headline News MP3″
Hope all is well on your end.
Things are groovy hereabouts, with a new stack of vinyl (and a few choice pieces currently rolling my way via the postal service), general familial health, good weather and lots to read. If only there were a few more hours in the week…
Today’s selection is a longtime fave, not only of yours truly, but of soulies, Northern, Southern and othern the world over.
If you haven’t already heard Edwin Starr’s ‘Headline News’, you might be forgiven, because unless you live in an especially hip market, the only tunes of his you might have actually heard on the radio are ’25 Miles’ and the 1969 pounder ‘War’.
The fact of the matter is that much of Edwin Starr’s best work was recorded previous to his Motown stint for Detroit’s storied Ric-Tic imprint (one of Ed Wingate’s labels which included Wingate (of course), Golden World and Impact). The half-dozen 45s that he recorded for that label (not counting one promo 45 for a local radio station) are among the finest to come out of Detroit in the mid-60’s. While at Ric-Tic Starr recorded ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’, ‘Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.) practically a Northern Soul anthem, and today’s selection ‘Headline News’.
A quick survey of the Ric-Tic sides makes it obvious why Starr is such a fave on Northern Soul dance floors with their heavy four-on-the-floor beats, and anthemic sing-along choruses.
‘Headline News’, released in 1966* is – in my humble opinion – not only the best thing he recorded for Ric-Tic, but the best thing he ever did, anywhere, for anyone in a career that spanned three decades.
Opening with piano chords over a thunderous bass, the record soon blows up in a rain of handclaps, snare beats, vibraphone, rhythm guitar chank and a backing chorus before Starr drops in with his brilliant tenor.
‘Headline News’ – though not the ur Northern side by any means – is a fantastic example of the genre as it includes many of the signal elements that were repeated/adapted in recording studios all over America (especially Philadelphia) during the period, in particular the pounding drums, and the contrast of the shimmering vibraphone accents against the honking baritone sax solo.
What sets this record apart from the pack is first and foremost Starr’s remarkable voice. The vocal on ‘Headline News’ is much smoother than the rough delivery on his Motown hits a few years later. The way Starr soars in the chorus is a thing to behold. It might be cause to wonder why Starr wasn’t a much bigger success, but the world of 60’s soul is sadly, one story after another of unrealized commercial potential.
Though Starr wouldn’t score another major hit after 1971’s ‘Stop the War Now’ (he did have minor hits in the disco era), after moving to England in 1973** he continued to record and perform consistently until his death in 2003.
Fortunately all of Edwin Starr’s best work is available in reissue, and if you just have to have the records, his original 45s aren’t too hard to come by at affordable prices.
I hope you dig it.
*That same year, Starr wrote and produced ‘Oh How Happy’, a Top 20 hit by the blue-eyed soul group the Shades of Blue on Wingate’s Impact label.
**Oddly enough, Starr played a mythical Northern Soul legend named “Ossie Sands” in the bizarre UK surfing film ‘Blue Juice’ in 1995, featuring early appearances by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ewan McGregor.