“Listen – Howard Tate – Get It While You Can – MP3″
“Listen – Garnett Mimms &the Enchanters – Cry Baby – MP3″
I’m going to take a minute this Friday to do something I almost never do, which is to plug a couple of new releases. Generally, my reluctance to do stuff like this has to do with both my being unwilling to deviate from a long running format, but also a lack of worthy product (or at least stuff that I think the Funky16Corners readership would be interested in). I don’t get a ton of review items, and often when I do it’s stunningly inappropriate for a blog that focuses on classic funk, soul, R&B and jazz.
However (big however) I recently had a couple of very interesting things drop through the mailslot, and I thought I ought to share them with you.
A while back I got an e-mail from a publicist who informed me that one of my all-time favorite soul singers, the mighty Howard Tate (profiled in this space many a time) had a new album coming out. I mailed them back, indicating that I’d be very interested in hearing it.
Well, not long after that an envelope arrived at the Funky16Corners compound, bearing not only a new album by Mr. Tate (‘Blue Day’) but another new release by an artist featured here but a short while ago, Mr. Garnett Mimms.
Both albums were largely written and produced by Jon Tiven, who had previously helmed career resurrecting sessions for both Arthur Alexander and Wilson Pickett. I was initially unsure that anyone (aside from Jerry Ragavoy) would be up to the task of creating an entire LP with Howard Tate. I shouldn’t have been.
Tiven’s songs provide a solid, timely showcase for Tate’s vocals (hardly diminished by the passing of four decades). There’s a fair amount of gritty soul, as well as some bluesier material, which if you’ve ever heard a tune like ‘Part Time Love’ (from Tate’s 1967 Verve LP) is right up his alley. Tate – an ordained minister – lays down some rocking soul (like the paen to Amy Winehouse ‘Miss Beehive’) as well as my fave track on the album, the slightly churchier (but no less rocking) ‘If God Brought It To You’.
The album by Garnett Mimms ‘Is Anybody Out There’ is a solid effort by a singer too long removed from the spotlight.
Mimms always had a huge helping of the amen corner in his voice, and it remains today. Much of the material on ‘Is Anybody Out There’ has a gospel edge, with lyrics edging closer to the sacred than the profane, and managing to avoid stylistic clichés. My favorite track is ‘Let Your Love Rain’, which sounds like an outtake from an early 70’s Memphis session (Both LPs feature guest appearances by folks like Steve Cropper, Little Milton, Felix Cavaliere and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns).
Both albums ought to be required listening for anyone with even a passing interests in great soul singing. Though I’m inclined to think of Tate as a more definitive stylist than Mimms, both artists reveal themselves to be capable of truly moving performances that put much of what is offered up as contemporary “soul” singing to shame.
I find a lot of modern sessions by classic soul artists – or by modern artists intent on generating a classic sound – fall far short of the mark. Both the Tate and Mimms albums are exceptions to this rule, sounding neither overly (slickly) modern, nor slavishly retro. Tiven is obviously aware that the most important element in these recordings is the singers themselves. Instead of attempting to recreate their classic recordings by repainting a masterpiece, he allows their essence – the voices of Howard Tate and Garnett Mimms – to shine through and illuminate something new. I’ve included two reminders (above) of just how great these two giants are.
On the video front, Shout Factory (probably the best DVD company out there for respectfully handled archival material) has released a three-DVD set, ‘I Got the Feelin: James Brown in the 60’s’. The set includes the recent documentary about the Godfather’s 1968 Boston Garden show (immediately following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and credited with helping to keep the peace in Boston), Brown’s set from that concert, and a 1968 Apollo Theater performance.
I’ve owned a bootleg copy of the Boston Garden performance for years, long wishing that someone would get their hands on the original video and release it in a cleaned up version. Shout Factory has done that and more.
Though the source material is somewhat primitive black and white videotape (this was after all 1968), the performance (which I raved about previously) is no less than electrifying, presenting the Godfather of Soul at the peak of his powers. There are performances in this concert that must surely be among not only the finest of James Brown’s career, but by anyone, anywhere at anytime. The middle of the set in which Brown and the band thunder through ‘Get It Together’, ‘There Was a Time’ (stunning) and ‘Get It Together’ is remarkable. It’s hard to imagine any group of performers performing at this level for a single night, let alone for the better part of a decade, which they did.
The third disc, which features the Apollo Theater concert (in color) features a very similar set, but honestly, who among you will walk away from an extra helping of James Brown on stage. The disc also features a number of bonus performances. One of these, JB and the Famous Flames performing ‘Out of Sight’ in the ‘T.A.M.I. Show’ is almost worth the price of admission on its own, with a supporting turn by the Flames, performing a kind of free-form Mickey’s Monkey-esque dance next to Brown that rivals his own patentend terpsichorean genius.
In other news…next Tuesday is Vinyl Record Day, and as I did last year I’ll be taking part in the blogswarm (led by JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Coming) with another spell-binding, mind bending, heart rending reminiscence of my love affair with the records.
I’ll see you then.