Funky16Corners Radio v.36- Philly Soul Pt2: On the Northern Side
Cooperettes – Shingaling (Brunswick)
Chubby Checker – Hey You Little Boogaloo (Cameo)
Intruders – Up and Down the Ladder (Gamble)
Eddie Holman – Stay Mine for Heaven’s Sake (Parkway)
Fantastic Johnny C – New Love (Phil L.A. of Soul)
Preludes – Deeper Than That (Harthon)
Bob Brady & the Con Chords – More More More of Your Love (Chariot)
Candy & the Kisses – The 81 (Cameo)
Bunny Sigler – Girl Don’t Make Me Wait (Parkway)
Ambassadors – (I Got To Find) Happiness (Atlantic)
Intruders – (You’d Better) Check Yourself (Gamble)
Joe Renzetti’s Sound – Reach Out I’ll Be There (Mala)
Mike & Ike – Sax on the Tracks (Arctic)
Show Stoppers – How Can Your Heart Forget Me (Heritage)
Bunny Sigler – Follow Your Heart (Parkway)
Volcanos – It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm (Harthon)
Bernard Williams & the Blue Notes – It’s Needless To Say (Harthon)
Lee Garrett – It’s Needless To Say (Harthon)
Billy Harner – I Struck It Rich (OR)
Sorry – once again – for the late start this week, but I have been (as the kids say) up to my ass in alligators, and I feel like I’m still playing catch-up. Time is at a premium, and I’ve been working as fast as I can (maybe a little faster).
The end product of my labors (at least my non-working for a living labors) is before you today, and I think (hope) you’ll be pleased with the results.
When I posted the first volume of Philly Soul, back in April, I already had this mix (of which there will most definitely be a second part, sometime in the next few weeks) pretty much fully formed in my mind. Whereas I approached the first volume with a mellower, sweeter vibe in mind, the next few editions of Funky16Corners Radio have been compiled with the dancers in mind, specifically those with an interest in that ever unfolding Lotus blossom we know as Northern Soul.
I suppose it’s only fitting that I begin with a disclaimer, however minor. While some of the records herein are recognized as classics of the genre, others are not, and may cause train-spotters, anoraks and others of their ilk to raise their collective voices in complaint, i.e. “That particular song does not fall within the boundaries of what I consider to be Northern Soul because (insert reason here)…”.
Well, that may be the case, but as chief cook, bottle-washer and selector at Funky16Corners I get to decide what tunes make the final cut, and as always, the only constraints are my personal tastes and the contents of my crates (as they are). I figure there may be a song or two here that fall outside the boundaries of the canon, but the “set list” of the Northern Soul world has been an ever evolving one, and as such there’s always room for growth.
That said, while the sounds of Northern Soul are first and foremost Detroit-centric, there are countless Philly-based sides in the record boxes of any self respecting Soulie. Aside from the fact that the studios of Philly and the surrounding area were cranking out soul music of the highest quality in the 60’s and 70’s, it’s important to note that many of the hallmarks of Motor City soul were included in and expanded upon in the sound of Philadelphia.
Even a cursory listen to the discographies of powerhouse Philly soul labels like Harthon, Gamble and Arctic will reveal a kings ransom of brilliant, storming dancers chock full of memorable melodies, propulsive four-on-the-floor beats, chiming vibes and honking baritone sax solos. There is no question that Philadelphia had more than its share of talented performers, writers, producers and arrangers, and one need only to download the mix I offer to you today for incontrovertible evidence of that.
Things get started with a personal fave, the Cooperettes ‘Shingaling’. I don’t know much about the Cooperettes, other than the fact that they released a handful of 45s on Brunswick and ABC (some harder to find than others), and that they were (like many other artists in this mix) connected to the Harthon organization. If the song seems familiar it’s because it was re-used for the unreleased (but bootlegged and classic) ‘You Need Love’ by Irma and the Fascinators.
“Chubby Checker?!?!” you say as you spit out your beer. Well my friends, if you didn’t already know, you know now. Mr. Evans, in addition to a hundred odd Twist-related novelties recorded some excellent soul sides further down the line for Cameo, including ‘Hey You Little Boogaloo’. Oddly enough, I’ve never turned up a clean US copy of this disc, but have a UK Cameo issue 45 (y’know, with the teensy hole), from which this is ripped.
The Intruders path to success ran almost parallel to that of their writers/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. While they had their greatest success in the late 60’s and early 70’s, their earlier work, like ‘Up and Down the Ladder’ (from 1967) is not to be missed. Featuring great lead vocals by ‘Little’ Sonny Brown, ‘Up and Down the Ladder’ was only the fifth 45 on the fledgling Gamble imprint.
Eddie Holman is another Philly giant who is best known for his later work, like ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’. However, there are those (like myself) who consider his string of 45s for Cameo/Parkway and Bell to be superior. Holman, possessor or one of the finest voices in all of soul music, not only recorded a grip of amazing sides under his own name, but also wrote for other artists like the Volcanos. ‘Stay Mine for Heaven’s Sake’, released in 1966 was his third 45 for Parkway, immediately following his classic ‘Eddie’s My Name’ (which will be included in part two of this mix).
The Fantastic Johnny C is best remembered for his hit ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway’, but my personal fave from his discography is the Northern flavored ‘New Love’ which saw release as a 45, and as a track on his Phil L.A. of Soul LP.
I know nothing of the Preludes, other than that they recorded at least one 45 for Harthon, which included the great harmony tune ‘Deeper Than That’.
The next selection comes by way of a little geographical cheating, in that Bob Brady and the Con Chords were actually from Baltimore. One of the great blue-eyed soul bands of the day, their records featured the “more smokey than Smokey” vocals of Brady, which were never better than on this Smokey Robinson cover, ‘More More More of Your Love’.
Candy and the Kisses recorded three 45s each for Cameo and Scepter between 1964 and 1966, and one last side for Decca in 1968. ‘The 81’ was their debut single, and is by far their best. I have an old Jerry Blavat dance party LP where every track has the appropriate dance listed next to it on the jacket, with ‘The 81’ (the dance not the song) listed next to a few tracks.
Bunny Sigler has had a long career, starting with doowop in the 50’s all the way up through disco and modern soul in the 80’s. ‘Girl Don’t make Me Wait’ – both a 45 and a track on his 1966 LP – is a stone soul classic and a huge fave on UK dancefloors. It was even covered in 1968 on Deram by the UK psyche-pop band Timebox. I love the string section on this one, and the way the drums come storming in.
The Ambassadors – pictured above – are one of the great underrated soul stories of 1960’s Philadelphia. They recorded a number of outstanding 45s for Atlantic, before moving to Arctic for their classic ‘Soul Summit’ LP and a number of great singles. ‘(I Got To Find) Happiness’ was on their first Atlantic 45 in 1967 (and, oddly enough on their second as well). Both sides of the 45 (the flip ‘I’m So Proud of My Baby’ is also a killer) were written by the group, and arranged by Bobby Martin.
We get back to the Intruders with what has to be their most aggressive 45, the hard charging ‘(You’d Better) Check Yourself’ from 1966. There’s definitely a Motown/Temps vibe to the proceedings, with a heavy beat in the verse and a soaring, melodic chorus.
Joe Renzetti started out as a studio guitarist at Cameo records, and went on to be one of the most prolific pop arrangers – in or out of Philadelphia – in the 60’s. His name is on countless soul sides (including some in this mix) , but only appears as the artist on a few 45s, one of which is his cover of the Four Tops ‘Reach Out I’ll be There’. Renzetti went on to win an Oscar in 1979 for his work adapting the score of ‘The Buddy Holly Story’.
I’ve never been able to track much information (aside from the fact that one of the members might have been a musician named Robert Peckman) on who ‘Mike and Ike’ were, but their one 45 for the Arctic label has been a fave for a while. I picked this one up back in the day when I was grabbing anything I could find on Arctic. The tune has a solid beat as well as some great interplay between the saxes and the organ. The flip side is a cover of Lee Dorsey’s ‘Ya Ya’.
The Show Stoppers – renowned for their classic ‘Ain’t Nothing But a House Party’ – recorded a number of fantastic 45s for the Showtime and Heritage labels before moving to the UK. The group – which included two of Solomon Burke’s nephews – tapped into a minor chord, quasi-eastern feel for the storming ‘How Can Your Heart Forget Me’, a record which should have been a much, much bigger success.
We come back to Bunny Sigler with the a-side of his last Parkway 45 (in 1967), ‘Follow Your Heart’. The record has a great horn arrangement, and among the 45s in this collection is perhaps the closest to the Motown blueprint.
I couldn’t very well put together a mix of Northern Soul from Philadelphia without including something from my all-time fave Philly group, the mighty Volcanos. You can catch up on the Volcanos story here, but take the time to check out ‘It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm’, the a-side of one of only two 45s the group recorded for Harthon records. I’ve never been able to definitively place the Harthon sides in the Volcanos discography, though due to the funky nature of some of the material I’d be inclined to say that they overlap the end of the Arctic period, moving into 1967. Years after the original issue there was an instrumental bootleg of this song (backed with a Preludes instrumental) in the UK.
‘It’s Needless To Say’ by Bernard Williams and the Blue Notes is simply an amazing record, with stellar lead vocals by Williams (who was an early member of Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, whose membership intersects with these Blue Notes). It’s another example of a side that in a perfect (or better) world should have been a much bigger success.
Vocalist Lee Garrett recorded one 45 for Harthon, and as might be expected from the co-author of the Spinners’ ‘It’s a Shame’ (with another great, and coincidentally blind vocalist, that being Stevie Wonder) it’s a killer. ‘I Can’t Break the Habit’ features a great beat (check the way that snare snaps) and some tasty piano work, in addition to Garrett’s interplay with the backing vocalists.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out with a great number from one of the great (and largely underappreciated) blue-eyed soul singers, Mr. Billy Harner. Harner, who recorded several classic 45s (and an excellent LP) that are justly revered in the UK, has recently returned to recording and performing, and with any luck ‘I Struck It Rich’ (also recorded by Len Barry) is on his set list.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be following up with Part 2 in the next few weeks.
It’s not likely that I’ll be posting again this week (aside from a post at Iron Leg), unless I’m unexpectedly overtaken by my second wind.
PS I’d like to wish my lovely wife a Happy Birthday, and to mention that she’s taking part in a Breast Cancer Walk this weekend. If you feel inclined to donate to such an enterprise, click here.