Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Betty Everett - It's Getting Mighty Crowded

Miss Betty Everett
The first time I ever heard ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’ was as a teenager, hearing it performed by Elvis Costello. It was years before I realized that his revved up version was a cover of an old soul 45. I’m ashamed to admit that for the longest time, I turned the dial whenever I heard Betty Everett on the radio, mainly because all I ever heard was the ‘Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’. That tune ranks for me – along with Fontella Bass’s ‘Rescue Me’ - as one of the most painfully overplayed items on “oldies” radio (ironically, both were Chicago records). This is not to deny the power of ‘It’s In His Kiss’ as a well written/arranged/performed pop song (though the mid-section with the xylophone is fairly painful), but that even the finest wine starts to taste like varnish after the fifth gallon. So, time wore on, and by the mid-80’s I has started to collect soul 45s, and one of the first good ones I found was ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’ by Betty Everett. To be honest, my curiousity was piqued because Costello had performed it (but that wouldn’t be the first time I was led to gold by a trail of gravel), and moreso after seeing Van McCoy’s name listed as the song’s author. As a kid that grew up in the 70’s, Van McCoy meant one thing and one thing only – ‘The Hustle’. It was only years later – starting with this 45 – that I began to get a glimpse of a what a solid and prolific career McCoy had a songwriter in the 60’s. In addition to ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’ he penned ‘I Get the Sweetest Feeling’ for Jackie Wilson (a killer), ‘The Sweetest Thing This Side of Heaven’ for Chris Bartley (one of my all-time fave sweet soul sides) and ‘Baby I’m Yours’ for Barbara Lewis. This was a guy that had a head filled with fantastic songs and the good luck to get them recorded by some of the best singers of the era. Everett was born in Mississippi, but moved to Chicago and started recording for the Cobra label in 1957 (Cobra was ostensibly a blues label, but they also released a lot of R&B and rock’n’roll sides as well). She moved to VeeJay in 1963 (after recording sides for CJ and One-Der-Ful) where she recorded the original version of ‘You’re No Good’, later covered by Barbara West, the Swinging Blue Jeans and most successfully by Linda Ronstadt. ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’ didn’t get much chart action here in the States, but became a serious favorite of the Mod crowd in the UK – who along with the Northern Soul folks did more to keep American soul music alive than almost anyone on this side of the pond. Betty’s vocal is strong and the lyrics are amazing, making for one of the best “kiss-off” songs of all time ‘There ain’t room enough for three In dreams that were made for you and me And so you see It’s getting mighty crowded Too crowded for me It’s getting mighty crowded’ The production by Cal Carter and the arranging by I don’t know who, makes for a classic of Chicago soul. The strong 4/4 beat, looming horns and classy strings, working with Everett’s lead and the backing vocals combine to powerful effect. Everett went on to record through the 60’s and 70’s for the ABC, UNI, Fantasy, and UA labels. Sadly, she passed away in 2001.This cut (along with the best of her VeeJay sides) can be found on several reissues.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Rhine Oaks - Tampin'

The Great Tousan!

Here’s an interesting one. A few weeks back on, someone let on that they had scored a 45 that was supposed to be the Meters recording under an assumed name. Instantly my seventh-sense (that’s the one that all diggers have) began to work. It starts to kick in when word of an interesting new record sets in motion the innate digging “instinct”. The brain starts buzzing, the fingers get itchy, the Google starts a-Googling. You know how it is…. Anyway…. I start looking and in about 5 minutes I track down a copy, listen to a sample and decide that the stars are aligned, the price is right and my crates are crying out for such an addition. Fast forward a couple of days and the 45 drops through the mail slot and onto the deck of the old GP3. I listened to the flip side (‘Oleancler’) first, and was greeted by a pleasant slice of Bacharach-inflected pop. I flipped the disk over and was more than pleasantly surprised. The sounds on ‘Tampin’’ would suggest a few things to me. A. The Meters could very well be involved. The drums they are snappy- the clavinet she’s a clavinetty, and the guitar is Nocentelli

B. If it’s not ALL the Meters, it would appear that some of them, along with Monsieur Toussaint sitting in for Mr. Neville on the keys were definitely involved. I'd be willing to bet that someone who had access to session logs would find that this was recorded around the time of Willie West's 'Fair Child' or Eldridge Holmes' 'Pop Popcorn Children'.

C. This is the only record the ‘Rhine Oaks’ ever made (and where in the name of all that is holy did Toussaint come up with that name???) The tune has a humid, swampy groove, like the soundtrack of someone poling a boat along, pushing Spanish moss out of the way, and sucking on the business end of a big, fat joint. A close look at the label, listing Allen Toussaint as the writer and producer (along with Marshal Sehorn) of both sides, and the tell-tale instrumentalizing, suggests to me that this is indeed a one-off studio project from the extremely fertile mind and fingers of the Great Tousan. Either way, it’s a groove…

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bobbie Gentry - Mississippi Delta

Miss Bobbie Gentry
My father-in-law is a righteous dude. Aside from all the obvious reasons, he’s always bringing me records. An inveterate garage sale-er, he’s always got something for me, ranging from a small carton of records, to a lot of about 3,000 45s. As I said, a righteous dude. The last time we visited my in-laws he had a couple of boxes of 45s he had picked up for me. When I got home later the next day, and started going through the records, it seemed that the boxes contained the usual mix of garage sale fare, i.e. lots of top 40 stuff, and a handful of keepers. Nothing I had any hopes of selling, but a few items for my crates. Among these was Bobbie Gentry’s 45 of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ (and a few other things I’ll be blogging in the next week or two). The tune was a huge hit in 1967, and despite the fact that it’s always been a fave, it was never a record I sought out on 45. So, the other night I’m recording some vinyl, and going through the stack of 45s and I decide to flip some of them over to see what was hanging out on the b-side. This is a practice I recommend highly, as I’ve found many a hidden treasure taking up the forgotten side of a single. The flip side of ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ was a tune called ‘Mississippi Delta’. Now let me preface this by saying that I’m not a complete rube. I know that Bobbie Gentry’s early work carries with it a certain amount of hipster cred (a fact that simultaneously intrigues me and makes me suspicious), and that she is all the more interesting for having written much of her own material, and for her later reclusiveness. As a result, the ole Spidey sense was ever so slightly a-tingle as I dropped the needle. I had no freaking idea. ‘Mississippi Delta’ was a complete shocker. Opening with some funky, swampy guitar, the tune takes a sharp left turn when Gentry starts singing. Gone is the smoky, honey barbecued voice of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’. The Bobbie Gentry on this side of the 45 features the vocals of a woman that sounds like she hadn’t been asleep for a few days, cruising along on a mixture of bourbon, black coffee and trucker speed. The track is a rough-edged, funky rocker with the kind of crazy, back-bayou, rattlesnake soup lyrics that came into fashion briefly with the rise of Tony Joe White a few years later. I mean, really…. Have me a little that Johnny cake, A little bit of that apple pan dowdy. Picking them scuppernon's off that vine. Chigger bite, it's goin' to beat howdy. Ate me a bucket of Muscadine, Sit on the riverbank after dark. Drop my line down a crawdad hole, Do him in with a scaly bark. One-ree-o-ree-ee-reeanni. Fidderliss-farce-nickory-john-queery-quan. M I double S I double S I double P I. M I double S I double S I double P I. Right in the middle of the cotton belt, Down in the Mississippi Delta, Wearin' last years possum belt, Smack dab in the Mississippi Delta. Right there, nestled securely on the bottom side of a HUGE radio hit, is a certified lost classic. The kind of butt-shaking number that might otherwise have been used as the soundtrack to a funky, psychedelicized party scene in a forgotten exploito flick – a rough collision of country, funk, rock, blue-eyed soul and bizarre Faulkner cum Joyce swampbilly cant. I love it. The weird thing is (now get this…) ‘Mississippi Delta’ was originally the A-side of the 45. When it was first released, deejays started to flip it over to play “Ode To Billie Joe”, which was then pulled back, string-i-fied and re-released as the top side of the 45. This configuration hit #1 in August of 1967 (knocking the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’ from the top slot). ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ went on to be covered countless times, ‘Mississippi Delta’ went on to a life of obscurity, though it was covered years later by the Dutch group Shocking Blue. Now you can all go out and get your own 25 cent copy of the 45, take it to your next potato chip and Ripple party, flip it over and impress your friends.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Georgie Woods - Potato Salad Pt1

I found out yesterday that the great Georgie Woods had passed away. Woods was one of the the pillars of R&B/soul radio in Philadelphia for decades. Known as Georgie Woods “The Guy With the Goods”, he came to Philly in 1953 and for the next twenty years, on WDAS and WHAT, and from the stage of the Uptown Theater, he was the main man. In addition to his work on the air, Woods was also involved in the Civil Rights movement, marching in Selma with Dr. King and serving as an officer in the local chapter of the NAACP. ‘Potato Salad Pt1’ is one of the best entries in a long line of records laid down by soul djs in the 60’s (a list that included the great John R. , E. Rodney Jones, Sonny Hopson, Bernie Hayes, Magnificent Montague and others). Though the record is credited to “Broadway Eddie’ and Woods, the tune is lifted 100% from Lionel Hampton’s ‘Greasy Greens’. The record was arranged by Philly legend Vince Montana, who’s vibes are featured prominently in the mix. The essence of the tune is Georgie rapping about the wonders of soul food, warning the listener – “Don’t eat chicken on Sunday. It’ll put a hole in your soul! Is that black enough for you? Write that down! Potato Salad, ha HAAAAAA! WHOOOO! Lawd have mercy! Philadelphia PA, that’s where I stay! Big leg girls walking up and down Broad Street, South Street, High Street, All you Philadelphia girls don’t forget to put your girdles on!” …and on, and on in the same funky, fun vein. The drums are funky, and there a crazy sound effect through the song that sounds like someone making choo-choo Charlie noises with a full box of Good’n’Plenty. At the end of the day, it’s a great funky side (I play it out whenever possible), and rises above the level of most “novelty” deejay sides. Woods was one of the last of the great AM radio giants, in that he spanned the R&B and soul eras, standing as an institution in the Philly radio market (along with the "Mighty Burner" Sonny Hopson and Jerry ‘The Geater’ Blavat). Thanks to the ongoing encroachment of blandness and homogeneity in commercial radio, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see his like again. Sad days indeed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Mable John - Your Good Thing (Is About To End)

Mable John
I first heard of Mable John years ago after picking up a comp of all-female funky soul (I can’t remember the title but it was on Rhino, if that’s any help). That same CD turned me on to the Apollas and Laura Lee. Mable was the sister of the mighty Little Willie John ("Fever", "All Around The World"), and was one of the earliest artists to record for the Tamla label (she also did time as a Raelette). ‘Your Good Thing (Is About To End)’, from the summer of 1966 ( a Hayes/Porter composition, it was actually a top 10 R&B hit) is a stone solid ballad/warning that features a beautifully modulated performance by Mable. She opens the tune with a mellow touch, reaching for the ceiling now and then, ending the verse/starting the chorus with a “Look out!”, just to let her man know she’s serious. The record also features some of those real tasty Stax horns (props also going to whoever is playing that fatback guitar…), and some bluesy – and slightly out of tune - piano. There’s a real gospel flair here, which comes as no surprise since after leaving Stax in 1968 Mable John quit the world of secular music and gave that powerful voice over to Jesus. The flip side, ‘It’s Catching’ is a great, mid-tempo on the way to upbeat number with tight, funky (and loud, sounding like the mike was inside the snare, hello Al Jackson) drums and organ and some cool backing vocals. What’s so cool about Mable John is the fact that, although she was initially a “blues” performer, she is as representative as any “soul” singer of the era of the intersection of blues, gospel and rock that made the best soul record so transcendent. Her voice sounds as if it were pulled right out of the Amen Corner, wrapped in a Saturday night dress and rinsed in a whole lot of “been done wrong” on the way to Soul Street. Strangely enough (considering that it was a hit) the only currently available CD of Mable John’s Stax recordings omits ‘Your Good Thing (Is About To End)’. I would suggest that tracking down the original 45 (one of the finest two-siders of the 60’s) would be money well spent (and not all that much in the end).

How Do You Spell Relief?

Greetings again! Back from the brink of disaster (just barely).... I won't drag you down with an explanation of what happened (you can scroll down for that), but suffice to say, yesterday was an unexpected detour in my brief blogging "career". For a few hours I wasn't sure what to do. I've been doing the Funky16Corners web zine for over three years (and this blog for only eight months), and just about getting by in areas of technical expertise (bottom line being I know more than some people about web stuff, and a lot less than some others). I found out yesterday that understanding concepts like bandwidth and being prepared for emergencies involving bandwidth are two different things. I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction to my post about the problem, which included both some very kind words from readers and some very generous donations to the "Pull My Hash From Out of the Fire Fund" which have gone a long way to getting this whole enterprise (at least the parts that eat up bandwidth) moved to a different server. For both of those things I thank you. I have restored a few of the MP3 files that were removed yesterday, and will likely have a new blog entry up some time later today. Cheers Larry

Monday, June 20, 2005


Greetings... This past weekend, this blog experienced a sudden, shocking increase in popularity* that caused upwards of 10GB of my allotted bandwidth to be sucked dry, putting me over my limit. As a result (mainly an emergency stopgap) I've removed the older sound files and reduced the sampling size of the current posting (still sounds OK though...). Because of the problem, I purchased some more bandwidth and will be monitoring traffic closely to see what I can do to keep things running here without my account getting suspended. If you are inclined to help, you can click on the "Make A Donation" button on the right side and send some money my way (via Paypal) to help out (it would of course be greatly appreciated). Thanks (and sorry for the inconvenience). Larry *UPDATE: Thanks to a reader who hepped me to the fact that the ole Funky16Corners blog got a mention on, which would explain the sucking chest wound-like loss of bandwidth over the weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Radars - Finger Licking Chicken

"It'll make you MOAN!"

Why this tune hasn’t been resurrected in the UK for a KFC ad (like so many others) is beyond me. Picture – if you will – Colonel Sanders (or the cartoon approximation thereof) getting hot, funky and sweaty on the dancefloor, drumstick clutched in his hand, grease running down his crisp, white sleeve as his glasses fog up. It’d make me buy a bucket of extra crispy (like I need coaxing….). One of my fave Philly funkers (I like to spin it next to the NY Jets ‘Funky Chicken’ on Tamboo), this record initially saw release on the Leoso label with the group listed as ‘The Radors’ (I have a copy of that too, but I like the Yew label so much I had to post it). The tune was written by Sonny Fulton who recorded for a number of small labels in the 60’s also had a single on Leoso, “CBL Pts 1&2” (which, though I’ve never heard it is rumored to share an instrumental track with this 45). Other than that not much is known about the Radars/Radors, other than the obvious fact that they laid down a supremely funky 45. The tune opens with a ‘Harlem Shuffle’-esque fanfare, and the band cranks out a funky beat (with some nice crisp, funky drums). The singer can’t stop going on about the delicious “chicken”, which must have been really amazing It was:

A. Good to the bone (ok) B. Moan inducing (hmmmmm) C. Really kickin’ (I hope not in the literal sense) D. Finger Lickin’ (of course) E. Worth pickin’

I think you’ll agree that any such chicken (if it is being described accurately) would move even the most stolid person to break into song. Maybe not to the orgasmic extremes of the Radars, but honestly, can you blame them? The Yew label was also home to the sweet soul sounds of the Intrigues.

NOTE: Some people seem to have gotten the impression that the Colonel Sanders cover above is the picture sleeve for the Radars 45 (I wish...). It is in fact the jacket for an actual Colonel Sanders LP (God only knows what it sounds like). It was included here because of the Finger Lickin'-ness of the Radars 45...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lee Dorsey - Four Corners Pt1

Mr. Lee Dorsey
When you’re talking about the true giants of New Orleans soul and R&B, the name Lee Dorsey has to be close to the top of the list. From his first 45 in 1958, to his breakthrough with ‘Ya Ya’ in 1960, on to the beginning of his association with Amy records in 1965, Dorsey went from being a body and fender man with a Ray Charles jones to one of the Crescent City’s most solid senders. It’s especially cool to hear Dorsey’s records go from “funky” (with that old school, New Orleans “funk” that is sometimes – but not always – the same thing that funk 45 hounds dig for) to out and out “funk”. There are those that will pinpoint that transition on the Lee Dorsey timeline to the release of ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman’, but I’d suggest that their minds are clouded by the endless covering/sampling of that tune – wherein the opening break is supremely funky – but the song itself wouldn’t really be called funk (by anyone that knows better). Round about 1968, though, things take a turn for the funky, and Dorsey (with Allen Toussaint) starts laying down some serious funk (abetted by the Meters). Ironically, the introduction of the funk vibe to his 45s predates the manifesto/statement of purpose ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)’, as well as stone funky gems like ‘Give It Up’, ‘A Lover Was Born’ and ‘What You Want’. The first real banger, the warning shot across the bow of all challengers was 1968’s ‘Four Corners Pts 1&2’. The tune, a reaction to the various “Corners” dance crazes (see “Four”, “Eight” and of course “Sixteen”, opens with an absolutely batshit drum break (a selling point that has made the 45 popular with beatheads, and as a result the hardest to find item in Dorsey’s discography) and moves quickly into horns, bass and guitar that sound like they were lifted from the tapes of a seminar on how to reproduce Archie Bell and the Drells * “Tighten Up” without actually getting sued by their lawyers (Dorsey even name-checks the tune in 'Four Corners'). It behooves me to note here that Dorsey and Toussaint (who I believe is also singing backup here) were hardly the only suspects “borrowing” elements of ‘Tighten Up” (and of that group hardly the worst) , and were they all to be rounded up it would be a crowded cell indeed. There’re also some groovy “Oooh yeah!’s from the backing vocalists, some greeezy organ helping to move things along. Aside from the fact that this is a powerful, highly danceable 45, it’s worth it if only to hear Dorsey shout –
“Now gimme that shake-a make-a! Shake-a make-a make-a shake-a HULA! Awwright! What’d I Say? Fee Fi Fo Fam! Give some to the guitar man!”
Part two is equally hard hitting. The tune was never released on a US LP, though it did appear on a UK issue EMI ‘Greatest Hits’ as well as being tacked onto the US CD release of the ‘Ride Your Pony/Get Out Of My Life Woman’ album. Also highly recommended are Dorsey’s LP and 45s from his association with the Polydor label. Allen Toussaint was still twiddling the knobs and providing stellar material like ‘Yes We Can’, ‘Who’ll Help Brother Get Further’ and ‘Gator Tail’, and Dorsey was in rare form. I can’t say as much for his ABC album.
* You remember Archie Bell and the Drells, right? They were Houston, Texas and they could dance just as good as they walked...

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Spinners - It's A Shame / WCBS-FM RIP

The Spinners
I selected this song to blog more than a week ago, mainly because it’s one of my all time faves – a veritable monument to sweet soul, the greatness of the Motown organization and the music of the late 1960’s/early 70’s in general. ‘It’s A Shame’ manages to work as a great soul 45, great pop 45 and all around great song (not always the same thing…) at the same time. Then I heard the news, that WCBS-FM, really the last great radio station in the New York area was changing formats. A shame indeed… First, the record…. Co-written by Stevie Wonder, Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright, and sung so well by the Spinners, ‘It’s A Shame’ was released on Motown’s VIP subsidiary (also home to R. Dean Taylor’s mighty ‘There’s a Ghost In My House’) and was a sizable hit (probably the biggest hit I’ve ever covered here, hitting #4 R&B and #14 Pop). From the chiming guitars of the opening, the surprisingly hard/funky drums and the sweet harmonies, right through the escalating tempo and powerful horns, the tune sounds like a slice of the summer of 1970 (or what the Summer of 1970 would have sounded like in the absence of widespread riots, Kent State etc.). Among the cool footnotes to the record is the Wonder/Garrett one-two punch. Stevie Wonder is of course a huge star known to millions (Wright was his longtime writing partner and eventually his wife). Lee Garrett on the other hand, despite a lengthy career – and the amazing ‘I Can’t Break the Habit’ 45 for Philly’s Harthon label – remains an unknown quantity to everyone but soul collectors. Garrett was also (like Wonder) blind. So, back to the radio… WCBS-FM, in it’s incarnation as an “oldies” station (maybe the greatest oldies station ever) came on the air in 1972. I was ten years old, and in the beginning, all I knew of the station was it’s humorous TV commercials. Over the next year or two, my radio listening increased dramatically and I spent a lot of time listening to WCBS. It was the first place I ever heard soul music, British Invasion, 60’s punk (at least the stuff that charted) and the ONLY place I heard old-school R&B and doowop. The stations playlist (and it’s air talent, many of whom had spent the 60’s working at Top 40 powerhouses like WABC-AM) had a huge formative effect on my musical tastes*. Even the shows that I only listened to on occasion, like Don K. Reed’s Doowop Shop - where Reed would play all manner of obscure 45s and 78s – inspired me with their attention to “forgotten” but great music. As time wore on, and other New York radio giants fell to market research and changing times, WCBS was always there. It was especially important because as other “oldies” stations started up in the market, and beat the same two dozen songs into the ground mercilessly, WCBS was always there, like an oasis in the desert playing something interesting. Last week the ownership (Infinity Broadcasting, the same bunch that helped drive Howard Stern to satellite) fired the air staff (including NY radio legends Cousin Brucie and Harry Harrison) and changed to a “Jack Radio” format (whatever the f*ck that is…). Just like that, WCBS-FM was no more. It’s true that the clues were there that something was going to happen. Management had curtailed some of the station’s more esoteric tendencies in the last few years, but even then it was still great. So there you have it. Commercial radio in New York City is now dead. You can still catch great stuff on public radio, and WFMU is still the greatest free-form station around, but that stuff reaches a very small market. Infinity says that the old format will still exist was an internet station, but really…. Take some advice from someone that knows (and has been a satellite listener for almost two years). Get a satellite hookup. Both Sirius (which I have) and XM are doing things that you just can’t hear on commercial/terrestrial radio anymore. The satellite programmers are taking chances, and the results – while not always smooth – are always interesting. “It’s a Shame’…. *Interestingly enough, many fellow collectors/music fiends in the same age range tell similar stories about being exposed to cool old music for the first time on WCBS-FM.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mr. Jamo - Shake What You Brought With You Pt1

Mr. Jamo (right) with "The Geater" Jerry Blavat
‘Bay-Go-DAH! Bay-Go-DAH!’ Huh? The first time I heard ‘Shake What You Brought With You’ by Mr. Jamo I wondered immediately if the record had in fact been mislabeled, and was not the work of Jamo Thomas, but of some drug addled Euro-au-go-go maniac. Y’see, Mr. Jamo aka Jamo Thomas was a funky soul man who left his cabana in the sunny Bahamas to come to Chicago and make a grip of cool soul records in the 60’s. The best known of these ‘I Spy (For the FBI)’ is a groovy classic. He recorded a number of 45s for Chi-town labels like Conlo and Thomas (no relation) before taking his Party Brothers down south to the SS7 and SSS Intl labels. ‘Shake What You Brought With You Pts 1&2’ sounds like nothing less than a one-song greatest hits of late 60’s swinging Europe exploito-soundtracks (I'm pretty sure the track dates from either '69 or '70) . The mixture of bright, straight ahead horns with psychedelicized sitars and funky drums, sounds like it was custom made for a party scene in which Owlsey spikes the punch and everyone, from the Russian count wearing a monocle to the miniskirted Dolly Birds feel the vibe and decide to take off all of their clothes and do the Frug (or the Funky Chicken, Boogaloo or whatever). No…really. The whole crazy feel of things is regroove-u-lated (come on now…that’s not even a real word…) when our friend Jamo slides on in and starts interjecting what can only be described as a mixture of standard funky hype man exclamations (processed through a filter of hashish and joss sticks) and nonsensical (at least to me) proclamations, shouted by Mr. Jamo from his minaret, high - and I do mean high – above the proceedings.
Come on now, shake what you brought witCHOOOOO! Shake it, shake it , shake it! Bay-Go-DAH! Bay-Go-DAH! Whoop it on mayyyyy, whoop it on mayyyy and go A-HAYUYYYD! Go HAYYYYYYD! Mercy, baby mercy! I feel gooood! I feel GOOD? We gohn let your favorite jock whoop it on ya! Go ‘head on and work your show!
The overall effect is almost like they picked up the studio, relocated it (and Mr. Jamo) to a Discotheque on the Riviera and let the tape run. There are elements to this record that sound like they were spliced in from a UK-based library record and bits of any given soundtrack by Manfred Huber and Siegfried Schwab (the guys that did the soundtracks to the Jess Franco films). I’ve never heard anything else by Jamo (or anything else on the SSS Intl label for that matter) that sounds anything like this. It is a truly remarkable little record, and a lot of fun. The record was arranged by Anthony Dorsey and produced by Stan Watson (who both share writing credit with Mr. Jamo). As Watson was a big Philly producer (Delfonics, First Choice etc.) there’s a possibility that this was done in Philly.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fantastic Johnny C - Let's Do It Together

Awwwwww yeah! Mention the Fantastic Johnny C to most people and they’ll start humming ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway’, a big hit, comped to death and familiar to a lot of people without large collections of soul 45s. So, I’m out digging a couple of years ago, my trusty GP3 at my side and I happen upon this burner in a box of otherwise uninspiring 45s. ‘Hmmmm’, I thought to myself, eyebrows arched in curiousity. ‘I didn’t know he recorded anything for anyone other than the good folks at Phil-LA Of Soul’. So I slip the 45 out of a rapidly decaying paper sleeve, drop it on the GP3 and my eyebrows arched even further, then passed quickly into what can only be described as spasms of wonder. “This is a BANGER!” And it was. ‘Let’s Do It Together’ is the kind of record that immediately causes a funk-o-phile to wonder why he/she hasn’t heard this record before (truly egotistical, I know, but you’d think you would have heard about a familiar name like Mr. C having a certified funk heater in his discography). I supposed the fact that the record made no chart progress whatsoever had a lot to do with it’s lack of renown, along with the fact that the Fantastic Johnny C is what is commonly referred to as a “One Hit Wonder”. This is is some ways incorrect, and in others painfully accurate. FJC may only have hit the upper reaches of the charts once, but he did have some other cool tunes in his Phil-LA of Soul curriculum vitae, including the Northern style dancer “New Love” and the laid back boogaloo of “Cool Broadway” (I would recommend picking up his LP on Phil-LA of Soul if you can find a copy). Closer listens to ‘Lets Do It Together’ revealed some other interesting clues. The song’s structure and lyrics seem to indicate that it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Eddie Bo’s ‘Hook & Sling Pts 1&2’, which was a sizable hit in the summer of 1969, especially in Philly where the Fantastic One was hanging out with local hitmaker Jesse James (who wrote and produced the record). Both the guitar riff and the lyrics in the chorus (“Let’s Hook it babe!”) reference Bo’s funky classic . The rest of the record manages to be original enough (and funky as hell) with some tough drums and an explosive vocal by the FJC). Solidifying the bandwagon-jumping case, the flip side of the record, ‘Peace Treaty’ appears to be yet another in a growing list of tunes meant to capitalize on the success of the Electric Indian’s ‘Keem-o-sabe’ (see Len Barry’s vocal version of ‘Keem-o-Sabe’, ‘Pass The Pipe’ by the Alliance, ‘Come Out Smokin’ by the Panic Buttons, and ‘Peace Pipe’ by Pal and the Prophets among others), which seemed to be something of a cottage industry in Philly at the time. As an interesting point of reference, the two tunes that FJC seems to be biting here were hits within a month of each other, ‘Hook & Sling Pts 1&2’ in July of ’69 and ‘Kee-mo-sabe’ in August of ’69. This is in the end irrelevant because the ‘Let’s Do It Together’ went nowhere. Today – despite the high quality funk therein – it remains an obscurity, known only to funk/soul collectors/DJ’s in the know, and probably FJC’s immediate family. As a result it remains, though hard to find, a fairly affordable record which always seems to draw surprised looks and favorable feedback from the folks I play it for. There are rumors of a “local” release of this 45 on the Branding Iron label, but I have yet to confirm this. Fantastic Johnny C recorded one other 45 for Kama Sutra , ‘You Got Your Hooks In Me’ (another attempted rip???) which I remember as being wholly uninspiring.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dave Davani Four - The Jupe

Dave Davani (lower right)
& Friends
I haven’t done a Hammond side in while, so I figured I whip something tasty out of the organs box . Dave Davani was an early-to-mid 60’s, Swinging London cat who laid down a series of heaters with groups the D-Men and the Dave Davani Four. 1965’s “The Jupe” was (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain) his sole US 45 release (it came out here in ’66), and it’s a killer. Davani’s sound was really interesting in that he came from a jazz background but obviously had a feel for R&B/soul organ (he composed/performed the original ‘Top of the Pop’s' theme). Not an organist myself, you’ll have to bear with me when I say that the “voicings” that Davani was using (the combination of stops on the organ that a given player uses to create/modify his sound) were a lot closer to a non-R&B contemporary like Walter Wanderley (listen to Wanderley’s ‘Kee-Ka-Roo’ for reference) than they were to the greasier sound of someone like Hank Marr, Bill Doggett or even the UK players that emulated them like Georgie Fame, Artwoods-era Jon Lord or Alan Price. One wonders if the fact that Davani began his career as an accordionist had anything to do with that. Davani manages to take that jazzier sound into new places by virtue of his own style, and his backing band (whoever the guitarist is, he’s doing a fine job). In fact he does bring things to a decidedly grittier level by the middle of ‘The Jupe’ with a wild solo. Either way, the DD4 swing like sixty and it’s not hard to imagine a smoky club-full of sharply dressed Mods shaking it to Davani and combo. The instrumental recordings of the Dave Davani Four were reissued last year in the UK by Big Beat as ‘Fused: The Swinging Soul Sound of the Dave Davani Four’. The CD (which is outstanding, and features liner notes by present day West Coast Hammond wizard Nick Rossi*) included the DD4’s 1965 Parlophone LP, as well as single A’s and B’s. Aside from ‘The Jupe’, the disc includes tasty versions of Cannonball Adderly’s ‘Sack’O Woe’, an unissued cover of Booker T & The MGs ‘Boot-Leg’ and the DD4’s tribute to their home base, ‘The Crazy E’. * If Hammond grooves are your bag get yourself a copy of the new 45 by the Nick Rossi Set, “Spooky Pts 1&2” (Flare).
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