Greetings, and welcome to the 2008 Funky16Corners Pledge Drive.
The Funky16Corners blog will, this November, complete its fourth year of existence. I started the Pledge Drive three years ago to help offset the cost of storing the sound files and graphics for the blog and the web zine. Initially this was in response to a sudden (though welcome) spike in attendance that briefly knocked the blog out of commission, necessitating the move to a new server with a more generous helping of bandwidth.
Since that time, in addition to the individual tracks I’ve put together and posted all of the Funky16Corners Radio mixes (as well as several mixes I’ve done for other blogs), eventually assembling them for permanent availability in the Podcast Archive (the most popular part of the blog) where there are currently over 60 mixes for download. In the last six months or so I’ve also begun to up the bit rate on the podcasts, improving the sound quality, but also making the files larger.
Though the WordPress blogging tool allows me to keep the blog going free of charge, the server space where all the files are stored costs money, the bill for which comes due this time every year. Each of the podcasts (and the individual files) get downloaded several hundred (occasionally thousands) of times and this consumes a fair amount of bandwidth.
That said Funky16Corners is, and always has been (and will continue to be) a non-profit operation, so I only resort to this annual beg-a-thon to keep it that way. The money raised not only goes to keeping the blog(s)* going, but also the Funky16Corners Web Zine Archive which has been up and running for since 2000.
If you feel that we provide a form of public service here, letting the soulful ones and zeros flow on a regular basis, and you can afford to throw a couple of bucks into the tip cup (a familiar image from my old man’s decades playing in piano bars), then please do so via the Paypal link.
If you cannot (or just don’t feel we deserve it, or are against throwing money at the interwebs on general principle), that’s cool too. Above all, this enterprise is a labor of love in the truest sense of the word. Music in general, and soul music specifically is a major part of my life, and sharing it with you all is as well.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and know that no matter what happens, there’ll always be something new and interesting here to help keep your ears (and the rest of your head) happy.
Funky16Corners Radio v.50 – These Arms of Mine
Funky16Corners Radio v.50 – These Arms of Mine
Irma Thomas – I Wish Someone Would Care (Imperial)
Eldridge Holmes – An Open Letter To My Love (Kansu)
Laura Lee – Hang It Up (Chess)
Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (Volt)
James & Bobby Purify – I Don’t Want To Have To Wait (Bell)
Roosevelt Grier – Yesterday (MGM)
Percy Sledge – When She Touches Me (Atlantic)
Walter Jackson – Funny (Not Much) (Okeh)
Mighty Sam – In the Same Old Way (Amy)
Lyn Collins – Ain’t No Sunshine (People)
Bobby Bland – Do What You Set Out To Do (Duke)
Baby Washington – What Becomes of a Broken Heart (Cotillion)
Solomon Burke – These Arms of Mine (Bell)
Thelma Jones – Never Leave Me (Barry)
James Carr – To Love Somebody (Goldwax)
Howard Tate – Part Time Love (Verve)
Freddie Scott – Where Were You (Shout)
Lou Rawls – Your Good Thing (Is About To End) (Capitol)
Betty Harris – Nearer To You (Sansu)
O.V. Wright – Please Forgive Me (Backbeat)
Irma Thomas – Time Is On My Side (Imperial)
I should begin by recognizing that this, Funky16Corners Radio v.50 marks – approximately – the second anniversary of this podcast (the first volume appearing around the beginning of May 2006).
Those of you that have been here from the beginning (or have come up to speed via the Podcast Archive) will already be aware that the “style” of the Funky16Corners Radio thang has evolved over the past two years, due in large part to my own increased comfort on the technological end of things. When things got started, these podcasts were pretty much straight song-to-song mixes with no additional content. I did not have the wherewithal to add anything to the mixes because I had no idea how to do it. This – thanks in large part to a few crucial pieces of software** – changed, and the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast evolved into its present form, something between a classic DJ mix and an actual radio program (at least the kind of program that I’d do if I was actually on the radio). With any luck, if time allows, it will evolve even further.
That said, in the fifty odd mixes to date, all manner of soulful sounds have been featured, including no less that five devoted to New Orleans soul and funk, several Hammond mixes, three Philly Soul mixes, a number of soulful and funky jazz mixes, mixes focusing on individual artists like James Brown, the Soulful Strings, Jerry O, Lee Dorsey and Sly Stone, three volumes of Beatles covers (and one on the Stones) and a wide variety of themed/vibe specific (funky, downtempo etc) mixes. There’s pretty much something in the Podcast Archive for anyone with a taste for funk and soul.
A point that I made recently, is that I make these mixes as much for myself as for those that come to the blog. I have a playlist in iTunes – more than two days long – composed entirely of Funky16Corners and Iron Leg mixes (as well as the guest mixes I’ve done for other blogs) and it is by far the most frequently accessed playlist on the old iPod.
Of all the selections in that playlist, none is played more than the one mix I put together devoted to soul ballads, Funky16Corners Radio v.18 Blues, Tears and Sorrow. Since I first dropped that mix in January of 2007, I’ve wanted to get a second volume of ballads together, and Funky16Corners Radio v.50 is it.
I’ve always been of the opinion that great soul ballads are in many ways the realest, or at least the deepest kind of soul records. This has a lot to do with the fact that even years into the soul genre, the ballad sides retained traces of the very birth of the sound. Many of the records in this mix bear the marks of gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues vocal harmony, and are – at least for me – the most deeply emotional records in my collection. This may have much to do with the subject matter therein, i.e. love, unrequited, lost and stolen, and the fact that these sentiments are being delivered by some of the greatest singers around. I love all kinds of soul; fast paced Northern-style dancers, rough soul shouting and sweet harmony, but there’s something more going on in the best soul ballads. It could be the drama, or the way a great ballad envelops you, grabbing your heart as well as your ears, but I find myself coming back to, and reexamining great ballad performances more intently than I do a hard-hitting dance floor mover.
I’m sure it also has a lot to do with the fact that there is no greater showcase for a great singer (or a more thorough betrayal of a bad one) than a ballad. If you really want to hear why Otis Redding or Eldridge Holmes are so revered, you need only listen to their performances in this mix.
If you get the chance, I’d suggest saving this one for a warm night. Set yourself up by a window, feel the breeze of a summers evening and let the sounds (and soul) wash over you. You won’t regret it. There’s a little over an hour of deep soul herein.
The mix starts out with one of my personal favorites, Irma Thomas’ sweeping ballad ‘I Wish Someone Would Care’. Her Imperial Records catalog is filled with amazing records, but none of them come close to the epic scope of ‘I Wish Someone Would Care’. The core of the record, Thomas singing against a basic rhythm section, is built upon gradually, adding backing singers, and in the chorus even Spectorian chimes, but none of it matters when Irma’s voice takes on an edge and soars above it all.
Regular readers will already be aware that I think Eldridge Holmes was an amazing – and dreadfully underrated – vocalist. During the decade he was recording (most often under the aegis of Allen Toussaint) Holmes made several of the finest soul records to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s and 70’s, from R&B, to soul and right on into funk. The last record he made – interestingly enough not with Toussaint but with another great NOLA producer Senator Jones – was ‘An Open Letter To My Love’. If you ever needed proof of Holmes’ remarkable talent, you need go no further than this record, probably the most obscure side in his discography. It’s one of those performances that you can listen to over and over again and find something new each time.
Laura Lee is best known for her funkier Invictus/Hot Wax material, but the seven 45s she recorded for Chess between 1967 and 1969 are all outstanding. ‘Hang It Up’, her second to last record for Chess in 1969 is a powerful performance, not in the least because she seems to be threatening to murder her man. Heavy stuff.
As far as I’m concerned, there was no greater soul singer than Otis Redding, and I couldn’t very well put together a mix like this without including what I feel is his greatest song, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’. Originally appearing on his 1966 LP ‘Otis Blue’, Redding went on to record a couple of brilliant live versions of this track.
James and Bobby Purify made some scorching upbeat sides (‘I Take What I Want’, ‘Shake a Tail Feather’), and one of the great classics of sweet soul (‘I’m Your Puppet’), but ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Wait’ proves that they could deliver a solid ballad.
Roosevelt ‘Rosie’ Grier is one of the most interesting crossover stories of all time. A star as a professional football player in the 60’s, Grier made a number of soul records (some of the rarer sides being popular with the Northern Soul crowd) and had a pretty successful career as a TV and film actor. It was on a recent digging expedition that I turned up his first single for MGM, 1967’s ‘Slow Drag’ b/w ‘Yesterday’. I picked it up for ‘Slow Drag’ (which I’ll feature in the future), but when I flipped it over I ended up hearing what is probably my favorite version of the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’. Recorded in Memphis at American Studios, Grier’s deeply soulful yet minimalist take on the tune has really grown on me. Interestingly enough, the guitarist on ‘Yesterday’ sounds like the same player on the previous track by James & Bobby Purify.
Percy Sledge will reside in the soul ballad hall of fame for all eternity for ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, but I prefer another cut from that album, the slightly lower key ‘When She Touches Me’. I love the combo organ on this one. This tune was also covered by Solomon Burke and Mighty Sam McLain.
Many of the records in this mix hew pretty closely to the southern soul sound, but Walter Jackson’s ‘Funny (Not Much)’ is a slice of pure torch song heaven. Jackson, who at times sounded like a slightly grittier version of Johnny Mathis recorded for a number of labels in the 60’s, but his best work was laid down for the Okeh imprint. ‘Funny (Not Much)’, was originally recorded by Nat King Cole and later covered by Etta James and Marvin Gaye. The tune is a real heartbreaker, and in the hands of a lesser talent may have been maudlin, but Jackson’s amazing reading of the tune makes it a winner.
Mighty Sam McLain was – like James and Bobby Purify – a discovery of DJ ‘Papa’ Don Schroeder. A native of Louisiana, McLain recorded a number of classic 45s for Amy in the mid-to-late 60’s. One of these, ‘In the Same Old Way’ features McLain’s wonderful voice wrapped around a haunting Dann Penn/Spooner Oldham tune. Like a few other Penn/Oldham songs, this was also covered by a country singer, in this case Bobby Bare.
Lyn Collins is best known for the funk classic ‘Think (About It)’, but in addition to her talents as a funky diva, she could also work a ballad, as illustrated by the flipside of that record, her cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Collins may be the ragged yin to Withers’ mellow yang, but I really dig her take on the song.
Despite the fact that he is thought of by many as a blues singer, Bobby Bland (one of the truly classic vocalists of his era) recorded many a great soul side. ‘Do What You Set Out To Do’ which sounds like it could have been recorded years before its 1972 released date, features a powerful vocal by Bland over a smooth, string laden arrangement.
Baby Washington had a long career that lasted from the mid-50’s until the late 1980’s. Though the title is changed, ‘What Becomes of a Broken Heart’ is actually a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s 1966 hit ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’. Recorded in 1969 and released as the flip side of her superior version of ‘Breakfast In Bed’, Washington reels in the emotion of Ruffin’s original, applying a layer of deep southern soul.
One of the greatest soul artists of all time, Solomon Burke appears here covering another, that being Otis Redding. Burke’s version of ‘These Arms of Mine’ appeared on his 1969 ‘Proud Mary’ LP. His velvety tenor provides a great contrast to Redding’s rougher original.
Despite the fact that I own several 45s by Thelma Jones (including her original version of ‘The House That Jack Built’, later made famous by Aretha Franklin), I’ve never been able to find out much about her. ‘Never Leave Me’, was the a-side of her first Barry 45 from 1966 (the flip is the hard charging ‘Stronger’) . She would record a total of five 45s for the label between 1966 and 1968 and then drop out for several years, making a comeback during the disco era.
James Carr is another Funky16Corners fave. His cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘To Love Somebody’ – which Barry and Robin Gibb wrote with the intention of giving the song to Otis Redding – was covered by a wide variety of artists, from the Flying Burrito Brothers, to Dusty Springfield and Nina Simone. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that Carr’s is the definitive soul version.
The original Funky16Corners Radio ballad mix led off with Howard Tate’s ‘Get It While You Can’. The bluesy ‘Part Time Love’ a cover of the Clay Hammond song also recorded by Little Johnny Taylor – is another strong cut from the 1967 ‘Get It While You Can’ LP.
Freddie Scott recorded for a number of labels in the 60’s (his first hit was the wonderful ‘Hey Girl’ on Colpix) but he is best remembered for his Shout sides. ‘Where Were You’ was the b-side of his first 45 for the label in 1966.
One of the highlights of Funky16Corners Radio v.18 was the original version of ‘Your Good Thing Is About To End’ by Mable John (a personal fave of mine). The version featured in this mix is the cover by the great Lou Rawls (the flip of his cover of Donovan’s ‘Season of the Witch’), which was a hit in 1969. It may lack some of the emotional power (and the Stax house band) of the OG, but I still dig it.
If you’ve been around since the web zine days, you know that I ride for Betty Harris in a big way. Her Sansu recordings (under the direction of Allen Toussaint) are all excellent, but the only hit was her heartbreaking ballad ‘Nearer To You’.
Another return visitor from v. 18 is the mighty O. V. Wright, one of the greatest southern soul singers. His Backbeat recordings, starting in 1965 are uniformly excellent. Released in 1973, ‘Please Forgive Me’ was his second to last 45 on the label.
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out as it began, with a classic 45 by Irma Thomas. ‘Time Is On My Side’ is another great example of a song that should have been a hit, but wasn’t until it was coopted/covered by a white rock band (in this case the Rolling Stones, but you already knew that). Irma’s take is much more animated than the Stones laconic reading, and it’s a great way to finish the mix.
I hope you dig the sounds as much as I did compiling them, and I’ll see you next week with much more goodness.
*The plural indicating the addition – as of last summer – of Iron Leg, my 60’s pop/rock blog to the Funky16Corners family.
**Props to DJ Prestige for turning me on to Audacity