Mr. Syl Johnson
“Listen – Syl Johnson – Come On Sock It To Me – MP3″
The work week is upon us once again, and I don’t know about you, but I need a lift.
Though the mighty Syl Johnson has appeared in this space before (and likely will again) today’s selection is one of those records that first made it’s way into my record box in an instrumental version.
You all know that I am a Hammond nut of the first order, so it was via the Deacons ‘Sock It To Me’ on Shama that I first heard a version of this song.
I’m pretty sure that I knew of the Syl Johnson OG at the time, but since my brain was all wrapped around the Hammond sound I figured Syl could wait and I’d get around to him when I was good and ready.
In the ensuing years I started to grab his 45s when I was able, and soon enough realized that no matter how much I dug the Deacons’ version, I was going to have to find the vocal. Once you give this one a spin I think you’ll know why.
Johnson originally hailed from Mississippi got is start playing the blues as a sideman for Magic Sam and Jimmy Reed among others.
One of the truly great Chitown based soul (and funk) singers, Johnson really had two distinct stages to his career, the first half dominated by his Twinight recordings (though he had a number of bluesier sides on Federal in the late 50s/early 60s) and the second devoted to his work on Willie Mitchell’s Hi label. His Twinight sides are pretty much 100 percent dynamite, wholly unfuckwithable and filled from needle drop to run off groove with socking soul power. Among these, my personal faves being ‘Dresses Too Short’ and the epic ‘Is It Because I’m Black’.
‘Come On Sock It To Me’ was his first effort for Twinight in 1967, and it’s about as fine a debut as I’ve ever heard. Johnson is – as always – in fine voice, and the backing (even minus the wailing organ) is killer with a memorable guitar riff.
The breakdowns, with Syl going –
Sock It To Me!
Pop it to me!
Rock It to me!
Sock it to me baby!
– are amazing.
The tune was cowritten by Johnson, Jo Armstead and a third writer with the last name Anderson that I haven’t been able to nail down. All of Syl Johnson’s best work is available in reissue, and he continues to record today (often with his brother, Jimmy Johnson).
I hope you dig the tune and I’ll see you all on Wednesday.