Booker, Duck, Al & Steve
Listen/Download – Mongo Santamaria – Sing a Simple Song – MP3
Listen/Download – Booker T & the MGs – Sing a Simple Song – MP3
I hope that the end of yet another summer week (as the season dwindles with increasing quickness) finds you all well.
I have just about recovered from last week’s road trip (and the previous week’s medical incarceration), just in time to meet the onrush of humidity. The weather here in NJ has taken a sudden, swampy turn and I couldn’t be less pleased. I’ve come to the point in my life where I try not to let the summer heat bother me (and I don’t) but no matter how much you steel yourself against the elements, no amount of vim can stand up to the wall of moisture that I’ve been encountering every time I step out the door.
It’s especially bad after chilling out – literally – in air conditioning and then facing the sudden burst of the outside world (like stepping into a wall of peanut butter) each morning.
Anyhoo, I shouldn’t grouse too much, since all else is well, especially considering how kind the vinyl fates were to me last week. I’m going to make a point of digging in and around our nation’s capitol as often as possible, since I came home with what one might colloquially refer to as a “shitstack” of records (LPs and 45s) that had not made the trip south with me.
Both of today’s selections are part of that haul.
Both are also versions of the very same Sly and the Family Stone tune, ‘Sing a Simple Song’.
I found the first one when I stopped into Som Records the first afternoon. No matter what some Latin vinyl snobs might say, I swear by Mongo Santamaria’s 1960s Columbia LPs, each and every one a healthy source of vitamin boogaloo, waiting to be injected into the ears of dancers wherever you go.
The LP I picked up last week – ‘All Strung Out’ – which features Mongo on the cover surrounded by a mound of string beans (clever visual pun, that!) caught my eye specifically because the text on the cover stated ‘Features Sing a Simple Song’. The LP was sealed, and available for a reasonable price, so I purchased it and took it with me.
While I was sitting in DJ Birdman’s driveway awaiting his return, I took my purchases out of the bag to examine them more closely. When I unsealed the Mongo LP, and looked at the label, my heart sank.
‘Sing a Simple Song’ was credited to ‘B. Darin’, which suggested to me that the tune being covered was in fact Bobby Darin’s ‘(Sing a) Simple Song of Freedom’. I dig Bobby Darin as much as the next cat, but if this was indeed the case, the funk quotient just flew out the window.
When Birdman got home I mentioned this to him. He asked me if this was the LP with the string beans, to which I replied in the affirmative, to which he replied that he was pretty sure that the tune on the record was indeed the Sly tune. It was but a few minutes later that a needle drop confirmed that this was in fact the case, and that the label was a mistake.
That said, Mongo takes the Sly Stone foundation and slaps on a layer of Latin funk, creating in the process exactly the kind of sound I was looking for.
The second version of the song I bring you today was procured a day later in the fine city of Richmond, VA. Much like Senor Santamaria, whenever I encounter an OG LP by Booker T & the MGs, if it’s one I do not already have, I grab it.
This time out, the LP in question was ‘The Booker T Set’ – which I did not own – which also contained a version of ‘Sing a Simple Song’ (which, oddly enough is also miscredited on the label). The record store where I found it had a listening station, so I gave it a spin and discovered what you will shortly be discovering, that being that the Booker T version of ‘Sing a Simple Song’ gets started with a very tasty (and for all you DJs out there, seeming panned all the way to one side) break by the mighty Al Jackson Jr.
Booker T and band take the tune at a slightly more relaxed pace, but I have as much room in my ears (they’re big) for downtempo funk as I do for the fast stuff, so I dig it.
I hope you do to, and I’ll be back on Monday with some gritty funk.