Archive for the ‘New Jersey Soul’ Category

The Four Seasons – Beggin’

October 4, 2009

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The Four Seasons

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Listen/Download – The Four Seasons – Beggin’

Greetings all.
I hope all is well on your end of things.
I was doing my standard ‘look into the digi-ma-tization archive and see what I like’ exercise, and while selecting musical wonderment to pass on to you via the ones and zeros on the interwebs and what not I happened upon something I picked up earlier this year. The song in question had been on my radar for a while (in a once removed kind of way, but more on that in a minute) and the artist even more so.
Having had my pop music horizons expanded, nay blown the fuck apart back when I was a kid by an ‘oldies’ station, the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has been hovering around my ears for decades, but it wasn’t until rather late in the game that I started to actually give it a listen.
Back in the day the music of the Four Seasons, though ubiquitous, was rather alien to me. I always had a hard time adjusting to Valli’s falsetto gymnastics, and the Four Seasons’ sound was an odd amalgam of things that I was too young and inexperienced to grasp. As the years went by and my musical vocabulary expanded drastically, I began to encounter Four Seasons records with what was basically a new set of ears.
What was once a jumble of seemingly incongruous parts started to come into focus. Once I understood the group’s modern adaptation of doo-wop style harmonies, and gave their records a “deeper” hearing I started to realize that what I was listening to was a bridge of sorts from the pop stylings of the early 60s and the new sonic playground of the mid-60s. I started to hear fuzz guitars, stomping feet, unusual keyboard sounds and what was in essence a tightening (focusing) of the Wall of Sound within a small group context.
This had a lot to do with group member – as well as producer (with Bob Crewe)  and main songwriter – Bob Gaudio, who would eventually leave the performing end of the Four Seasons to work exclusively behind the scenes. The AllMusic Guide entry on the band by William Ruhlmann is an excellent appreciation of the band and places them firmly in the ranks of major American bands of the 60s.
That said, I came to appreciate and respect the music of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (even indirectly via the Walker Brothers cover of Valli’s ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’). The ‘once removed’ group I mentioned above was the UK freakbeat/blue eyed soul band Timebox who’s cover of today’s selection ‘Beggin’’ made its way into my ears long before I knew it had originally been written and recorded by the Four Seasons. The Timebox version has a certain amount of cache with the Northern Soul crowd, and though there are those that will tell you that it is superior to the original, I (and a recording of the latter) am here to tell you that they are incorrect.
When I finally got my hands on the Four Seasons 1967 LP ‘New Gold Hits’, I rushed home to give ‘Beggin’’ a spin, and was pleasantly surprised. There’s no question that the Four Seasons had a soulful side (with records like ‘You’re Ready Now’ and ‘The Night’ spun frequently on UK dancefloors) , but it really comes to the fore in ‘Beggin’’.
The song’s arrangement, opening with an arsty, neoclassical flourish, soons break open into a Four Tops*-ish dancer with a thumping bass line, layered with piano chords and strings. The chorus, with Valli and the Four Seasons in harmony with a ringing, sitar-like guitar and clapping hands takes ‘Beggin’’ over the top.
If this isn’t getting soul night spins, then it certainly ought to be. I know I’ll be packing in my record bag.
In 2007 the French DJ Pilooski did a re-edit of ‘Beggin” that eventually went to #1 on the UK dance charts. It has since been used in a commercial for the Adidas.
I hope you dig he song, and I’ll be back with something cool on Wednesday.

Peace

Larry

*The Four Seasons would eventually sign with the Motown subsidiary Mowest

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Labelle – Won’t Get Fooled Again

September 1, 2009

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Ms’s Hendryx, Dash and Labelle

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Listen/Download – Labelle – Won’t Get Fooled Again – MP3

Greetings all.
I come to you in the middle of a busy week with something a little unusual.
Another find from my recent DC digs (with another NJ connection*) was the album ‘Moonshadow’ by Labelle.
Now I’m as down with ‘Lady Marmalade’ as the next cat (I carry no less than three different versions in my DJ box at all times in case of emergency), and as a recent post will prove I am familiar with (and dig) the group’s sound when they were known as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles.
However, the ‘Moonshadow’ LP was known to me only peripherally (if that), and it was only through the good graces of my man DJ Birdman that I walked out of one of the many stores we hit that weekend with a copy of the record in my hands.
Good thing too, because when I got home, and had a chance to sit down, spin and digimatize my acquisitions, I was shocked (and stunned, of course) when I dropped the needle on side one and discovered a wild, souled up take on the Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
Are you now as shocked and stunned as I was?
Wait until you hear it.
Recorded in 1972, under the auspices of Vicki Wickham (producer of the UK TV show Ready Steady Go, and one of the co-composers  – with Simon Napier-Bell – of the English lyrics to Dusty Springfield’s ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me), ‘Moonshadow’, featuring the title cut (a Cat Stevens tune), the Who song I bring you today and a number of group originals is, to borrow a tired old cliché, a transitional album.
The old school, polished girl group-isms of a few years earlier are gone, but the wild, space age funk of a few years in the future has yet to arrive.
The Labelle version of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ hews closely enough to the original that it is still recognizable, yet there’s no mistaking Patti Labelle’s mighty voice tearing its way through the song. It’s also worth giving some thought to differences inherent in these particular lyrics being delivered not by the Who but by a group of black women in early 70s America.
While pretty much any song sung by Patti Labelle automatically becomes soulful, there’s still a rock underpinning to the proceeding, though things do take off in another direction entirely at the end of the record, as jazzman Harold Vick comes in with a slightly “free” soprano sax solo.
It’s a very groovy record, and as always I hope you dig it.
I’ll be back on Friday with something cool.

Peace

Larry

*Ms. Nona Hendryx coming from the capitol city of Trenton!

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Kool & the Gang – Who’s Gonna Take the Weight Pts 1&2

August 30, 2009

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Kool and the Gang

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Listen/Download – Kool & the Gang – Who’s Gonna Take the Weight Pts 1&2 – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope everyone had a most excellent weekend.
Here in NJ (as I’m sure it was along most of the East Coast) we were rained on for most of the weekend, the result of the passing remnants of a dying hurricane. Better – I’m sure – than the hurricane itself, but still a drag.
I figured I’d get the new week started with something tasty that I picked up while down in DC a while back.
As I’ve recounted to my DJ buddies, the digging in DC is outstanding, as applies to both variety and price. I grabbed myself a couple of OG Kool and the Gang LPs in excellent condition. Oddly enough, for a relatively popular band from New Jersey, their LPs rarely show up around here, and when they do they are – in the parlance of the digger – skated. To locate a nice copy of ‘Kool and the Gang Live at the Sex Machine’, for the low, low price of a single, crispy US dollar, was indeed a treat.
It is thanks to that very find that I bring you today’s selection, the supremely funky ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight Pts 1&2’.
I don’t know how it is where you hang, but in my personal vinyl neck of the woods, Kool and the Gang MK1 (the band as it existed from it’s first recordings to it’s stylistic dilution somewhere in the late 70s) was one of the most reliably funky bands ever to take a stage (or prop themselves up in front of a microphone).
They managed to mix in a jazzy sophistication without compromising the funk, and ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’ is a great example thereof.
The tune gets started with a little bit of preaching:

People, the world today is in a very difficult situation
And we all know it because we’re the ones to created it
We’re gonna have to be the ones to clean it up
We’re gonna have to learn to live together and love each other

Because I believe one day someone or something
Is gonna wanna judge who’s creating
All this corruption and death and pollution
And all these difficult situations on earth

And He’s gonna wanna know
Who’s gonna take the weight

Following which, Kool (and the Gang, of course…) firm in the knowledge that you can’t leave the audience hanging, winds up and knocks the whole thing over the fence.
The wah-wah guitar sets things up, and then – as is often the case with any Kool and the Gang record – the horn section takes the lead and makes it so that the listener simply must abandon his or her seat and step out onto the dance floor.
There’s a great breakdown toward the end of part one, where the drums and percussion bubble up to the surface for a moment, before the whole thing fades out into a wave of fake crowd noise. When the congas and electric piano come in to start off part two the groove is restored, if spread open a little bit wider than in Part 1. The horns are still there but the rhythm section is a little bit higher in the mix.
It’s solid stuff (sampled many times), and as always, I hope you dig it.

Peace

Larry

PS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a podcast of the best of the Walker Brothers.

PSS Check out Paperback Rider too.

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