Archive for the ‘Motown’ Category

Funky16Corners Radio v.72 – The Pulse aka the ‘Marvin’ Mix

August 2, 2009

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Funky16Corners Radio v.72 – The Pulse aka the ‘Marvin’ Mix

Playlist

Titanic – Sultana (CBS)
Santana – Jin-Go-La-Ba (CBS)
Simon Kenyatta Troupe – Soul Makossa (Avco)
Curtis Mayfield – Future Shock (Curtom)
Cymande – Bra (Janus)
Eddie Kendricks – Date With the Rain (Tamla)
Cold Blood – Valdez In the Country (WB)
Rufus – Half Moon (MCA)
Dexter Wansel – Life On Mars Part 1 (Philly Intl)
Hank Ballard & the Midnighters – Freak Your Boom Boom (LeJoint)
Kool & the Gang – More Funky Stuff (Dee Lite)
Disko Band – Pick Up the Pieces (Pickwick)
Gene Faith – Lowdown Melody (Virtue)
Barrett Strong – Stand Up and Cheer For the Preacher (Epic)
Gladys Knight & the Pips – Who Is She (And What Is She To You) (Motown)
Heatwave – Grooveline (Epic)
KC & the Sunshine Band – Get Down Tonight (LP Edit) (TK)
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel Mighty Real (Fantasy)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive
Greetings all.

I’m back from DC, and though I’m tired as hell (I feel like I was dragged home behind a truck belching oily smoke) I’d be a liar if I said that I had less than an absolutely amazing time in our nation’s capitol.
First and foremost I have to offer thanks to my gracious hosts DJ Birdman and his lovely wife, who gave me a comfortable bed in which to sleep in addition to all manner of great hospitality.
I spent the better part of Wednesday afternoon in the Funky16Corners-mobile, making extraordinarily good time and arriving in DC a little on the early side. Naturally I took advantage of the hole in my schedule to fall by Som Records on 14th St to say hi to my man DJ Neville C and pick up some fresh vinyl for the upcoming gigs. If you’re in DC and you need a vinyl fix make sure you stop by and tell the man behind the counter that Funky16Corners sent you.
After that it was a quick turnaround to drop off my stuff and head back out with Birdman for the Jazz Corner of the World 5th anniversary party at Cafe St Ex.
I have to take a moment to say that I have been extremely lucky in my DJ travels this year. All of the venues have been next level, and St Ex and Marvin (the places I spun at this week) were no exception. Wonderful spaces, great staff (outstanding cuisine) and all around chill environments made for great experiences.
The Jazz Corner party was a subdued spin on off-the-hook-ness, giving me a chance to DJ alongside Birdman, DC Digga, Fatback, Neville C and a the rest of the crew. The sounds included everything from old school New Orleans jazz, right on through to hard bop and jazz funk (breaks included, natch).
We headed out on Thursday for some Virginia digging, ending up in Richmond where I scored some very cool 45s.
Friday morning we were out digging again where I scored some cool stuff that I ended up taking with me to Marvin that night.
If you make it down to DC, you absolutely MUST make it over to Marvin. I had been to Marvin once before to see DJ Birdman spin but split for my own gig early on. This time out Birdman and I split the night (one hour on/one hour off from 6PM to 3AM), keeping it jazzy and mellow for the first half and then turning up the heat around 10. My first heavy set was mostly funk and breaks, with the later set including a healthy selection of disco.
I got to spin Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real’ over of a club sound system for the first time and it was a transcendent experience. As stated in this space before it is a positively explosive record, and quite frankly, if you aren’t digging Sylvester you need to get your ass out of the club.
Other highlights of the evening were the sister who lost her mind (she reached into the booth, grabbed me and then screamed!) when I dropped ‘Hot Pants’ by James Brown, everyone who danced (and there WAS dancing!) and the cute girl who asked if there was any chance I would play some Vanilla Ice, to which I responded politely:

No.
Never, under any circumstances.

I was actually able to fulfill a couple of requests (it helps when people request cool songs) and had an absolute blast. Big ups to Sheldon, who runs an absolutely incredible place.
Saturday Birdman took me to some more digging spots and It turned up some excellent stuff, including a couple of soul 45s that I’ve been chasing for a long time.
In honor of the folks at Marvin, I’m dropping this edition of Funky16Corners Radio that includes some of the stuff I played on Friday, some new finds and a couple of old faves. There’s over an hour of funk, disco, funky disco and disco-y funk. I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back later in the week with some breaks and what not.

Peace

Larry

PS You can check out some pics from Marvin over at the Funky16Corners Facebook Group

PPS – Make sure to fall by Iron Leg for some sunshine pop

PPPS Make sure to hit up Funky16Corners on Facebook

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Funky16Corners Guests at Hook and Sling

December 9, 2008

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To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Guest Mix Archive

Greetings all.
A littlw while back, Mr. Double Down over at the Hook and Sling blog inquired if I might be interested in once again gracing that spot with another guest mix.
The Hook and Sling-ers are fine folks, so naturally I responded in the affirmative.
The result is something that I’d been wanting to do for Funky16Corners for a long time, but as it worked out, the hour-long Northern style amalgamation will be dropping at Hook and Sling instead.
There are some old faves, and some stuff you might not know. You should make sure to fall by and check it out.
I think you’ll dig it.
Me? I just got back from a visit with my physician, who – believe it or not – told me to chill on the whole “burning the candle at both ends” thing, so I’ll be absent until this Friday.

WITH THESE TWO EXCEPTIONS…

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Make sure to tune in this Thursday at 9PM for the Funky16Corners Radio Show on Viva Internet Radio.

Also, last but certainly not least, assuming that I have recovered sufficiently, I’ll be spinning this Friday (12/12) at the Asbury Park 45 Sessions at the World Famous Asbury Lanes. The whole AP45 crew will be bringing the heat, as will returning guest selector Cool Hands Luke! I hope to see you there.
Until then…
Peace

Larry

PS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a new garage punk mix

PSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Funky16Corners Radio v.61 – Focus On Lou Courtney

November 23, 2008

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Funky16Corners Radio v.61 – Focus On Lou Courtney

Playlist

Professional Lover (Imperial 45)
I Watched You Slowly Slip Away (Philips 45)+
Skate Now (Riverside 45)
Do The Thing (Riverside LP version)
You Ain’t Ready (Riverside 45)
I’ve Got Just the Thing (Riverside 45)
If the Shoe Fits (Popside 45)
It’s Love Now (Popside 45)
I Need You Now (Riverside LP Track)
Me & You Doing the Boogaloo (Riverside LP track)
Hey Joyce (Popside 45)
I’m Mad About You (Popside 45)
Do the Horse (Verve 45)
Rubber Neckin’ Chick Check’n (Verve 45)
You Can Give Your Love To Me (Verve 45)
Tryin’ To Find My Woman (Buddah 45)+
Lou Courtney & Funk Junction – Hot Butter’n’All (Hurdy Gurdy 45)
Beware (Rags 45)
The Best Thing That a Man Can Do For His Woman (Epic 45)
Lou Courtney & Buffalo Smoke – Don’t Stop the Box (RCA LP track)

To hear this mix, head on over to the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast Archive

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end, and that you all had a most excellent weekend.
My world – on the other hand, is a bit chaotic and stressful right now. As a result, after the mix I’m dropping today, I’m going to take the rest of the week off. I need to relax a little and get my head screwed back on correctly.
Of course, working at a newspaper, there are few weeks as stressful as the one leading up to Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), so maybe this isn’t the best time to try and chill, but my addled brain can only concentrate on so much at any given time. Right now, in addition to the normal work stress, yet another major layoff is looming, and I have lots to concentrate on in my non-work life.
This mix ought to keep you busy, and if that’s not enough, you can always dip back into the podcast archive and whip a little soul on the gang while you’re stuffing your face with turkey, taters and pie.
In the history of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast (this being the 61st edition thereof), I’ve only done a couple of ‘single-artist’ mixes (Lee Dorsey, James Brown, Eddie Bo, Jerry-O, Soulful Strings). The reason for this, is that this has always been that very few of the artists we cover in this space have ever generated enough material for a mix of their own, and those that have, probably already have compilations on the market. The ethos here being – after all – that what you dig here ought to get you out and digging for more of the same on your own.
However – big however here – as in the case of the Soulful Strings – sometimes I have an artist that I dig a lot, and there is almost nothing available in reissue.
The mix I bring you today is another example of someone like that.
I remember the very first time I pulled a Lou Courtney 45 out of a box and put the needle to the wax. I was out digging with a buddy at a once great spot out in the hinterlands, and I happened upon a grip of 45s on the Riverside label by an artist that I’d never heard of before. Despite the fact that I knew Riverside as a jazz label, a quick look at the titles suggested to me that these were soul 45s. As soon as I sat down to preview the records on the store turntable, my suspicions were confirmed.
That first one I played was the mighty ‘I’ve Got Just the Thing’ by Lou Courtney.
That was probably close to 10 years ago, and that record remains a big fave. It was the beginning of a long search for more of his records, and as you’ll hear in this edition of Funky16Corners Radio, that search was consistently rewarding.
There is however , a catch…
Though I’ve been digging up his records for close to a decade, I’ve never been able to turn up much information on the man. Suitably enough, the little I have found is confirmation that over the years, Lou Courtney let his music do the talking.
Courtney was born Louis Pegues in Buffalo, NY in 1944, and appears to have laid down his first 45 for Imperial in 1963. He recorded fairly steadily, for a variety of companies for the next 15 years.
During that time, while he wrote and recorded some absolutely spellbinding soul and funk 45s, he was also writing for, and producing other artists. The really interesting thing is, that at least in the beginning, he was having as much success as a pop/rock writer as he was as a soul singer.
During the British Invasion years, he and his writing partner Dennis Lambert* wrote songs that were recorded by Freddie & the Dreamers, Leslie Gore and the Nashville Teens among others. On the soul side of things, Courtney went on (often with Robert Bateman) to write for Mary Wells, Lorraine Ellison, Gloria Gaynor, Dee Dee Warwick, the Webs** and Henry Lumpkin.
Though he clearly spent a lot of time working for other artists, he was (at least in my opinion) saving his best material for himself. Though Courtney’s Imperial and Philips 45s are rousing soul sides, by the time he hooked up with Riverside (and its Popside subsidiary) he had crafted a dynamic sound. Courtney had a wonderful voice with a flexible range, as adept with hard edged soul as with a gentle ballad. That he was also a talented songwriter makes his relative obscurity all the more hard to understand.
I’ve gone on in this space before about ‘journeyman’ performers, who managed to record and perform through the classic soul era without ever breaking through to a larger success. Unlike many of those artists, Lou Courtney had more than enough talent to be a much bigger star, yet for any number of reasons was unable to get to that level.
Much like another favorite of mine – Chuck Edwards – Lou Courtney had a knack for mixing pop and rock sounds into his soul. As a result his records have both pop hooks and a heavy edge, forceful enough for the dancefloor but with enough pop savvy to keep the dancers singing along.
Between 1966 and 1968, Courtney recorded an LP (‘Skate Now and Shingaling’, both rare and excellent) and a number of 45s (some of them with amazing non-LP tracks) for Riverside/Popside. Many of the cuts from this era have become prized by both soul and funk DJs. During this period he created storming Northern style cuts like the brilliant ‘Me & You Doing the Boogaloo’ (try not dancing when you hear this one), pop-edged soul like ‘If the Shoe Fits’ and Motown influenced fare like ‘It’s Love Now’.
His Riverside/Popside discography demonstrates that Courtney was an important transitional artist, bridging the gap between soul and funk. There’s not better example of this than the crate digger’s fave ‘Hey Joyce’ (its famous break sampled by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist) It’s important to keep in mind that Courtney was working in a variety of styles during this period, continuing to record mainstream soul and ballads as well as funk.
He moved on to the Verve label by 1968 (for two singles), where he continued to craft danceable soul (like the dance craze ‘Do the Horse’), ballads ( a cover of the Bacharach tune ‘Please Stay’) and edgy funk like ‘Rubber Neckin’ Chick Check’n’.
He laid down one single for Buddah in 1969, the smoking ‘Tryin’ To Find My Woman’. Here (again) Courtney works both prominent guitar and combo organ into the mix, along with blazing, soulful horns.
Sometime in the next few years (1971, I think) he recorded one of the most slamming funk 45s I’ve ever heard, the manic (borderline insane) ‘Hot Butter’n’All’. This is one of those records that’s so powerful it just about makes may hair stand on end. The track was also used by Donald Height (also on the Hurdy Gurdy label) for the song ‘Life Is Free’***.

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As far as I can tell, Courtney didn’t record again until 1973 when he went into the studio with Jerry Ragavoy to record for the latter’s Rags label. The funky ‘Beware’ was written by Courtney, produced by Courtney and Ragavoy and arranged by Leon Pendarvis.
The following year Courtney would record the album ‘I’m In Need of Love’ for the Epic label. The lone ballad in this mix, ‘The Best That a Man Can Do For His Woman’ comes from that album, once again co-produced by Courtney and Ragavoy, and arranged by Pendarvis.
Lou Courtney would record one more LP, ‘Buffalo Smoke’ in 1976. By this time he was working on the funkier side of disco. My favorite cut from the LP ‘Don’t Stop the Box’ is a great example of the kind of polished, funky grooves that Steely Dan was clearly listening to at the time (dig the electric piano on this one). Buffalo Smoke would go on to have a disco hit in 1978 with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow’. It was during that year that Lou Courtney would join a later version of the Fifth Dimension, during the period when Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were out having hits on their own.
I haven’t been able to track down anything on him after that point, other than a few mid-70s sessions as a backing vocalist on other people’s albums (Bonnie Raitt, Michael Boothman). The trail goes cold.
Where is Lou Courtney?
Though ‘I’m In Need of Love’, (highly regarded by modern soul fans) has been reissued, and several early tracks have appeared on compilations over the years, most of his finest work is available only to those willing to head out into the field and dig for vinyl.
This is nothing less than a crime.
Certainly there are countless soulies and crate diggers out there (myself included) who cherish his records, but Courtney’s was no ordinary talent, and is deserving of commemoration. I can offer up this mix, but I suspect that it’s so much ‘preaching to the choir’. Someone out there (Numero, Sundazed) ought to get to work on something (maybe a disc of his own recordings and a disc of his work with other artists?).
I hope you all dig the sounds, and if you’re still out there Lou, know that your music is still loved.

See you all next week.

Peace
Larry

+ I wanted to represent something from all of the labels Courtney recorded for, but have as yet been unable to get vinyl copies of the Philips, or Buddah sides. The versions here were digital copies I found online, so the sound quality may be a touch substandard. My apologies.

*Lambert went on to write a number of huge hits, including ‘She’s Gone’ (Hall & Oates), ‘Baby Come Back’ (Player), ‘Night Shift’ (Commodores) and ‘It Only Takes a Minute Girl’ (Tavares)

**The Webs were one of the few acts besides Courtney to appear on the Popside label

***The song also appears as an instrumental (by ‘Mr C & Funck Junction’) on the flipside of ‘Hot Butter’n’All’)

PS Make sure to stop by Iron Leg for an entire album side of freakout

PSS Check out Paperback Rider as well

Henry Lumpkin – Soul Is Takin’ Over

November 9, 2008

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Listen – Henry Lumpkin – Soul Is Takin’ Over – MP3″

Greetings all.
I hope all is well on your end and you found the weekend to be both restorative and fun-filled (not always the same thing, y’know).
I figured I get the week started with something lively, raw and soulful.
The tune I bring you today is one of the last 45s recorded by Mr. Henry Lumpkin.
Lumpkin was one of the early lights of Motown, recording two 45s for the label in 1962. One of those 45s happened to be the original version of the R&B/soul standard ‘Mojo Hannah’ later covered by Larry Williams, Betty Harris and Tammi Lynn among others.
Lumpkin’s time at Motown was over almost as soon as it got started, but it was there that he made an important connection, that being songwriter and producer Robert Bateman.
Five years after his stint with Motown he hooked up again with Bateman, and the man who was by then Bateman’s partner – and a big favorite here at Castle Funky16Corners – Mr. Lou “Hot Butter’n’All” Courtney.
It was with Bateman and Courtney (as co-composers and producers) that Lumpkin made what is perhaps the greatest record of his career, 1967s ‘Soul Is Takin’ Over’.
If you’ve been sitting around, wasting away, wondering when your next dose of soul clapping was going to arrive, I’m here to let you know that Dr. Soul is about to fall by with your prescription.
‘Soul is Takin’ Over’ is a dance-floor pounder from the git go, with the aforementioned soul clapping, throbbing bass, guitar, piano and drums, all dragged around the studio by Lumpkin’s razor sharp delivery of the anthemic chorus. If ever a soul 45 was seeming engineered specifically for use as a drunken sing/dance-along, ‘Soul Is Takin’ Over’ is it.
Unfortunately, no matter how good the record is – and it is, good that is – it’s yet another example of a fantastic 45 that got lost in the shuffle, ultimately doing nothing to advance its singer’s career.
Lumpkin would make one more 45 for Buddah, and the promptly fell off the face of the earth.
No matter.
Make sure you pull down the ones and zeros, and the next time you have the gang over for a rug-cutting session, get’em lit and throw this one on, open the windows and piss off your neighbors.
I hope you dig it.

Peace
Larry

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Levi Stubbs RIP

October 17, 2008

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The Four Tops

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Listen/Download – The Four Tops – Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over) – MP3

Greetings all.

Earlier today I read the very sad news that one of the greatest soul singers of all time, and the man I consider to be the greatest male singer in the Motown stable – Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops – passed away at the age of 72. Stubbs had been in ill health for the better part of a decade, and as far as I can tell last appeared with the Tops during an anniversary celebration (during which he looked extremely frail) back in 2004.

This is a repost (from just over two years ago) of my all time fave Four Tops song (and there are many to love) ‘Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)’. As I mention in the post, I feel that Levi Stubbs never really got the acclaim he deserved because he never really had the opportunity to establish himself as a solo artist. This takes nothing away from the undeniable greatness of the Tops, but I can’t help wondering where that mighty voice may have soared if applied to different kinds of material.

Levi Stubbs was a giant, and he will be missed.

Peace

Larry

Originally posted in July of 2006:

Today’s selection is another one from the “I Can’t Believe How Much I Took This Group For Granted, Honestly.” File. Certainly, of the artists that pop up in this space, few are as well known or successful as the Four Tops. If you follow my antics with any regularity, you will have noticed that periodically I return to a previously worn groove. I do this – at the risk of sounding repetitive (or embarrassing myself) because usually it has to do with a slightly “larger” concept.

As a music lover and record fiend, I often catch the collector psychosis, in which rarity brings not only an increase in monetary, but also artistic value (dubious to be sure) stepping in when I listen to music. This results in many fine records, which popularity and drastic levels of overplaying on oldies radio have rendered, how do you say “familiar” (with the most pejorative meaning possible) getting the brush-off when they come on the radio. Many of these records are Motown sides, that for better or worse have gotten the “Big Chill” treatment, and as a result have become – for me anyway – all but unlistenable.

I realize that this is not the artists (or the songs) fault, and that my beef is with the homogeneity of commercial radio. As I often explain to my wife (who’s a little younger than I am) the vast majority of what gets played on “Oldies” radio, is the stuff that was lodged firmly in the Top 10 of its day, and that you rarely get to hear anything else that resided between #10 and #40. These songs were in fact hits when they came out, but because the America’s pop-cultural “memory” has been so warped by the funhouse mirror of commercially driven “nostalgia” (and the reliance of “Oldies” radio on the Pop top 10), that many great records are known today only to the people old enough to have heard them first-hand or collector types (like myself) who spend most of their time rooting around in the dusty attics (literal and figurative) of the world.

Anyway, the aforementioned issue kept me from properly appreciating the sounds of the Motown organization for many years. That this was foolish on my part is, sadly, undeniable. I can however say that the last few years have seen me endeavor to remedy this situation. This isn’t to say that you’re going to find me blogging ‘Stop In The Name of Love’ – a song that I’ve decided I just don’t dig – but that you shouldn’t be surprised if you see me singing the praises of groups like the Four Tops or the Miracles alongside people you’ve never heard of before.

That said, despite songs like ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ getting overplayed into oblivion, the Four Tops discography is filled to the brim with records that are so potent that they transcend their abuse at the hands of radio programmers, advertising executives and wedding DJs. One of the prime beneficiaries of the Holland/Dozier/Holland troika, the Four Tops – led by one of the great soul voices of the 60’s, Levi Stubbs – racked up a remarkable series of hits between 1964 and 1967*. Some of these, like ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, ‘Standing In the Shadows of Love’ and ‘Bernadette’ (one of my wife’s favorite records) are among the greatest soul records ever produced, taking Motown (and all of soul and pop for that matter) in new directions.

I first heard ‘Shake Me Wake Me (When It’s Over)’ not on the radio, but on a scratchy, flea-market copy of the Four Tops greatest hits that I scored as a teenager. It struck me the first time I played it as one of those “where has this been all my life” records.

Starting with the piano and bass drum in tandem, then the tambourine and Stubbs vocal, ‘Shake Me…’ busts open with a drum roll that takes the cry of anguish into a solid, danceable tempo. There’s a real “cry” in Stubbs’ vocal, and the backing of the Tops (and I think the Andantes) in the background is perfect. The melody is one of HDH’s best, and the arrangement, pushed along by strings and ringing vibes is brilliant (the key change in the second half of the song is beautiful), but the real standout here is the voice of Levi Stubbs.

I think that because Stubbs never recorded as a solo artist, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I suppose some of problem is that Motown is looked at as a kind of “hit factory” where the composers, producers, arrangers and band are often seen as equal contributors to the success of a given record (the same thing could fairly be said of many great Stax sides), and the singers end up looking like just another vehicle for delivery of the product. But I mean, really…give this track a couple of close listens and then honestly tell me that anyone besides Levi Stubbs could have delivered such a masterful, passionate performance (it is possible to make such a statement without denying the genius of the song itself, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive). I think you’ll agree**.

*I’m talking about the records that I consider remarkable. They obviously kept having hits after 1967…

** This said of course, noting that on the LP (this track is recorded from the jukebox EP seen above) ‘On Top’ almost the entire b-side is devoted to awful attempts at middle-of-the-road-ness like a version of ‘Matchmaker’ from Fiddler on the Roof. Despite the fact that the Four Tops did record jazz and standards before they signed with Motown, this unfortunate detour can be wholly attributed to the Motown organization, who pushed the same, ill-advised supper club dross on many of their hitmakers.

Buy – The Four Tops Millenium Collection – on Amazon.com