Funky16Corners Radio v.67 – Eddie Bo in Soulville
Eddie Bo – Just Like a Monkey (Cinderella)
Eddie Bo – Let’s Let It Roll (Chess)
Mary Jane Hooper – That’s How Strong My Love Is (World Pacific)
Eddie Bo – What You Gonna Do (Seven B)
Eddie Bo – Fallin’ In Love Again (Seven B)
Rainbows – Good Thing Goin’ (Instant)
Rainbows – Key To My Heart (Instant)
Eddie Bo – Fence of Love (Seven B)
Eddie Bo – Skate It Out (Seven B)
Eddie Bo – All I Ask Of You (Seven B)
Skip Easterling – Keep the Fire Burning (Alon)
Skip Easterling – The Grass Looks Greener (Alon)
Skip Easterling – Just One More Time (Alon)
Eddie Bo – S.G.B. (Seven B)
Eddie Bo – A Solid Foundation (Seven B)
Though Eddie Bo has been featured prominently in several editions of the Funky16Corners Radio podcast, as well as the mix I reran on Sunday, the news of his passing made me dig a little bit deeper.
I’ve featured something from just about every stage of Eddie Bo’s career over the years, but the main focus has always been on what I consider to be his greatest work, i.e. the 1967-1973 funk sides. Despite the undeniable greatness of his entire catalogue my belief is that he hit his artistic zenith with the funk 45s he created under his own name, several pseudonyms and for other artists.
However… in the years running up to that period (and crossing over in 1967/8) Bo was also making great, pure soul music. During this period Bo’s triumphs were (in my opinion) greatest as composer and performer. None of the records in this mix could be fairly described as falling on the wrong side of the style vs substance equation. This is not to say that his funk records did, but rather that pure funk is much more of style driven sound, less know for it’s songs per se and more for it’s grooves (and Bo crafted some of the finest ever heard in the funk genre).
Of course there are those among you who might disagree where I’ve drawn a line here, but that’s kind of the way it always is on the soul/funk divide, i.e. is it more soul, funky or all the way over into funk? Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because between the previous mix, the individual tracks I’m posting this week and the previous New Orleans funk mixes in the Funky16Corners Podcast Archive, the bases have all pretty much been covered (and of not completely, enough to get anyone going).
That said, this is not by any means a comprehensive mix. The earlier things get in the Eddie Bo discography, the more I discover that there are tons of records (mostly things he did with other artists) that I haven’t dug up, or even heard yet. So, if there’s a favorite missing, know that the search always continues, and a record not included as of yet may very well appear sometime in the future.
Things get going with a record that I long considered the lost treasure of the mid-period Bo discography. Barbara George had had one of the biggest New Orleans hits with 1962’s ‘I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)’. She recorded for AFO and Sue in 1962 and 1963 and then dropped out of sight for a time, only to return to recording briefly in 1967 with none other than Eddie Bo. The tune he recorded with George (and wrote, under the pseudonym ‘Joan Parker’) , ‘Satisfied With Your Love’ is one of those great “shoulda been a hit” numbers. It’s the perfect combination of singer and song, with a sophisticated arrangement. George would not return to the studio until the 70s, and then would promptly vanish from vinyl once again.
‘Just Like a Monkey’, one of Bo’s sides for the Cinderella label is an energetic bit of dance craze boilerplate, mixing a modified Bo Diddley beat (one step removed from the Miracles’ ‘Mickey’s Monkey’) with a repetitive horn riff, and Bo trading vocals with a female backing group.
‘Let’s Let It Roll’ from 1964 sees Bo borrowing liberally from Curtis Mayfield, though all of the Impressions polish is gone, with the familiar sounding tune given a nice, rough Crescent City reading. It’s also a great Bo vocal.
Mary Jane Hooper should be a familiar name to followers of all things Bo. She recorded a few 45s for Bo’s Power/Power-Pac label, including the mighty ‘I’ve Got Reasons’, and the selection in this mix ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’. This tune was issued locally, and later picked up for national distribution by World Pacific. It has a great, driving beat with a dynamite vocal by Hooper and backing from Eddie in the chorus.
Interestingly enough, the 45 with ‘What You Gonna Do’ and ‘Fallin’ In Love Again’ was the very next single released on Seven B after ‘Pass the Hatchet’. Both sides are energetic soul with great guitar, vocals by Bo and horn backing.
The next two tracks were from Bo’s brief period providing tracks for the Instant label. I’ve never been able to find out anything about the Rainbows. Both sides of their 45 (‘Good Thing Goin’ and ‘Key To My Heart’) were Bo compositions, and it sounds like he provided the arrangements (and backing vocals) on the 45. ‘Good Thing Goin’ is a mid-tempo shuffler with the guitar placed oddly high in the mix (and the organ oddly low). ‘Key To My Heart’ is a ballad with another odd mix.
Bo’s ‘Fence of Love’ is one of my favorite from his time with Seven B. It’s simply a great song, his piano rides high in the mix and his vocal is outstanding. I really dig the way the tempo picks up ever so slightly toward the chorus, as well as the drum/piano breakdown in the middle of the song.
Aside from the Barbara George side, ‘Skate It Out’ sounds to me like the hit that got away. It’s one of the few cuts here that isn’t in any way idiosyncratically ‘New Orleans’, treading on more traditional soul/pop grounds, working a dance craze vibe with Bo on the organ and a great blaring horn section that builds toward the end.
The flipside of ‘Skate It Out’, ‘All I Ask of You’ is a great bit of waltz-inflected southern soul, with an outstanding vocal performance by Bo, and a great arrangement.
The next three tracks are from Bo’s collaboration with blue-eyed soul singer Skip Easterling. Easterling, who later made some excellent funky sides for Instant had the opportunity to work with both Bo and Allen Toussaint, and for my money his Bo sides are his best. The finest of these is ‘Keep the Fire Burning’. A record with a Northern Soul following ‘Keep the Fire Burning’ is a relentless, pounding side with a wild vocal by Easterling that at times sounds like he was following a guide vocal from Bo himself.
The flip of that record, ‘The Grass Looks Greener’ is a wonderful southern soul ballad, as is ‘Just One More Time’.
The last two tracks in this mix are both sides of the second to last 45 that Bo would record under his own name for the Seven B label. The last would be ‘Lover and a Friend’, which in this case can serve as the dividing line/jumping off point into the funk years. ‘S.G.B.’ (or stone graveyard business) is really the soulful side of Bo edging up into proto-funk territory, with a breakdown that borrows from James Brown’s ‘Out of Sight’ and an opening line played by what sounds like a soprano saxophone.
The flipside, ‘A Solid Foundation’ is a kinder/gentler Bo, with a mellower soul sound and one of the more sophisticated arrangements from this period. The horn section is tasteful and subdued, the female backing vocals are excellent and Bo’s piano gets lots of space to shine through.
Hopefully this mix will give the listener a good jumping off point for the mid-period sounds of Bo. Unfortunately, no quality reissue company has stepped forward to give Bo’s work the attention it deserves. As I said earlier, no matter how much Bo I bring you here, I can guarantee you that there’s a lot more out there that I haven’t been able to get my hands on. The time is long since past for someone like Sundazed to head down to New Orleans, sort out the rights and present the music of Eddie Bo to a modern audience with the proper sound quality and annotation it deserves.
I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be back on Friday with one more record.