Monday, October 31, 2005

A Funky16Corners Halloween...

Vampires & Ghosts!!
Greetings. I was going to say something sunny like ‘Happy Monday!’, but then I realized that no one is happy about getting up to go to work on Monday (and I wasn't looking for a punch in the nose). Even if you’ve gotten to the point where you “enjoy” your job (and I kind of do...), a willingness to extract yourself from a nice warm bed on a crisp fall morning, just so you can fight highways full of equally unhappy/sleep deprived people - driving recklessly because they dropped their Blackberry into their coffee when they stopped to turn up the radio – is indicative of a deeper problem. Dare I say a sickness??? Well cheer up bucko! It’s Halloween! After all of the previously mentioned discomfort, you get to see who in your office was foolish enough to show up in costume. If you’re lucky you also get to drift around the building, grazing for Halloween goodies. When you’re done with that you can Google jpegs from ‘It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’, imagining that you are not shackled to your computer, but rather a WW1 flying ace, battling the Huns from the cockpit of your Sopwith Camel (that’s what I’d do...). When you’re done with that, you can check out today’s selections from the cobwebbed vaults back at Funky16Corners central command. As much as I enjoy partaking in holiday celebrations, I’ve never been very good at assembling canonical lists of “holiday themed” records. Whenever I see people putting together lists of great Christmas or Halloween songs, I’m always shocked at how many great records I’d forgotten (as well as how many crappy records get dragged out at times like this). That said, I couldn’t let Halloween pass without digging in the crates for a couple of goodies. The first track I thought of is one of those great, “weird” funk records that almost defy explanation. Why the Souls Unlimited decided to record ‘The Raving Vampire Pts 1&2” is beyond me. The backing track is solid, organ-driven funk, that in and of itself fits in quite nicely with other contemporary examples of the genre. Things start to get strange as soon as the singing starts. The vocal track is composed alternately of macabre laughter, and shouts of ‘I'm the Raving Vampire!!”. There are “lyrics” of a sort, in which young girls are warned that the sun has gone down and it’s time to get up, followed by the sun coming up again etc etc. I’ve heard on good authority that this record originated in the Carolinas, and I’m left wondering if there’s some regional Halloween-related genre that I’m unaware of. Other than that, or the possibility that there’s some C-grade low budget slasher film out there with this record as it’s theme, I just don’t know. Either way, the combination of quality late 60’s/early 70’s funk with bizarre/exploito lyrics is a winner (not to mention the teepee on the label....). Our second selection is the always surprising ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ by R. Dean Taylor. When I was a kid – back in the day – R. Dean Taylor was know as the guy that created the cringe inducing AM radio favorite ‘Indiana Wants Me’. Years later, I find out that prior to that part of his career, he recorded a smoking disc for the Motown subsidiary VIP (and also co-wrote 'Love Child' for the Supremes) that was a solid fave of the Northern Soul crowd, ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’ (it actually charted in the UK in the 70’s) . Now, after a cursory listen to the lyrics, it’ll become obvious that R. Dean’s “ghost” is of the figurative variety, but since the protagonist of the song is being psychologically “haunted”, it’d do for a Halloween post (C’ many “horror” movies have you sat through where it turned out that the “monster” is other people???). So, enjoy these tunes, and then go home and make yourself sick mixing beer and candy.



Friday, October 28, 2005

Timmy Thomas Meets Chuck Edwards

The Mellow Yin and the Upbeat Yang
So, it’s Friday. It’s been a looooong week. Too much work, not enough fun. There’s apparently a lot of this going around these days. The world is a mess. The 2000th US soldier was killed this week. Things are so depressing that I ‘m finding little joy in the fact that one (or more) of the criminals in the White House is finally going to be indicted today (and that’s the kind of thing that would – on a normal day – make me get up and do a little jig, giggling all the while). Anyway, I had a couple of tracks lined up that I wanted to post today, and I was having a hard time choosing which one. Normally, I like to drop something lively and upbeat on a Friday, as a sort of symbolic kick start to the weekend. That’s the period when most of us are freed temporarily from our wage slavery so we can get reacquainted with our families, breath some of hat crisp fall air and watch the bloodshot in our eyes recede just enough to convince us that our battles with stress are not lost. Certainly, any weekend worth it’s salt – if it’s to have any restorative value – must be seasoned with music (at least in my house). Whether I’m recording some newly acquired 45s to CD, reading with the headphones to my IRiver on, or riding in the car singing along to one of my son’s “childrens” CDs, there’s usually music of some kind going most of the time. It is important to note – especially in times of trial – that music can be uplifting in many ways. When I’m down, I don’t necessarily reach first for an upbeat soul jam. My first choice is more likely going to be something deep, spiritual and maybe even melancholy, to remind me that feeling that way is not unreasonable, and that a lot of great music was born out of pain and lifts you up not because it’s happy, but because it reminds you that you are not alone, and that things will come around again. Whether you draw this feeling from John Coltrane, Nick Drake, James Carr or whoever, it makes for some of the deepest connections that music can make with your heart and mind. One of the songs I had ready to go, was actually a sizeable hit (#1 R&B, #3 Pop). Despite those numbers, it’s not a song you hear very much on “oldies stations”, and that’s a real shame. The tune I speak of is Timmy Thomas’s ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’. Thomas was an organist and singer who had previously released 45s on Goldwax. ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’, composed entirely of Thomas’s voice, organ and a beat-box is one of the most unique, intimate and truly soulful records of it’s time, with a message of reconciliation. Released when the issues of race and Vietnam were still raw in the American mind, it’s the kind of record you can’t help but stop and listen to. So stop and listen to it (a couple of times if you dig it). Breathe deep. of the other records I had set aside is in a whole different bag. As I said before I like to drop something hot on Fridays, because in addition to resting, getting your head back together and appreciating the finer (realer) things in life, some of us like to strap on our wig-hat, high-heeled sneakers and continental suits, throw back a couple of cocktails and hit the dance floor (literal or figurative) to work on a groovy thing to get the sweat going. This can be done from the safety of your couch, as long as your feet are tapping, and you’re smiling. One of my all-time favorite 45s is ‘Downtown Soulville’ by Chuck Edwards. For the deeper info on Mr. Edwards I will refer you to the story I wrote about him in the Funky16Corners web zine. That said, ‘Downtown Souville’ is nothing less that a masterpiece of 60’s soul. Featuring Edwards vocals and guitar, and his unusual garage-soul vibe, the record should have been a huge hit everywhere, instead of just in my mind where it rules the Hit Parade on a daily basis. So...after you soak up the Timmy Thomas, and are one with the universe, crank up the Chuck Edwards and go forth into the weekend with your head (and beer) held high.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Howard Tate - Get It While You Can

Epic Hair for an Epic Tune
To say that the 1960’s was a golden age for music (especially soul music) isn’t exactly breaking new ground. The 60’s were a turbulent time...blah, blah, blahhhhh.... That said, there was so much great soul music being made back then, that much of it has been forgotten (if it was ever noticed in the first place). It certainly doesn’t help that the heart of this “golden age” was almost 40 years ago, meaning that most of the people that experienced it first hand have forgotten, moved on, or sadly REALLY moved on (i.e. expired...). Sure, there are lots of folks like me (and my ilk...) who jump up and down, waving our hands like a bunch of kooks trying to get people to remember, but aside from the curious few (which is - don’t get me wrong - far better than the curious “none”), spontaneous stampedes created by a newfound upswell in soul music fandom are few and far between (if not completely non-existent...). I am also reminded – frequently – that as obscure as my tastes are (and they are obscure with a certain populist seasoning added), the world of record collector-dom is filled with people who’s focus is much more laser-like than mine, drilling ever deeper into the dark labyrinth of forgotten/neglected vinyl. As long as their purpose is to eventually share the information and music they excavate, more power to them. These kinds of things work like ripples on a pond. Even if the first impact/discovery is visible to an isolated group of collectors/specialists, the ripples spread, and with enough momentum, and enough popular appeal built in (on account of some things are obscure and forgotten for a good reason...) the obscurities will reach a much larger audience. It would be unfair to list Howard Tate among those “lost” artists. Though it seems likely that were you to stop 100 people on the sidewalk, 99 (or more) of them wouldn’t know Howard Tate from Larry Tate, he actually had a long career making quality records for a relatively major label, some of which hit the charts, and as a result shouldn’t be counted with the Chicken Shack Johnson’s of the world. Howard Tate, a singer of undeniable talent had the extremely good fortune to catch the ear of songwriter/producer Jerry Ragavoy. With songs and guidance from Ragavoy, and the backing of the Verve label (albeit not the best label for a soul singer), Tate laid down a string of powerful – and ultimately influential – singles and an LP for Verve between 1964 and 1968. The combination of Tate’s adaptable voice, and Ragavoy’s pop savvy (and fantastic songs) made for musical dynamite. As I just mentioned Tate’s recordings were influential, and it’s entirely likely that you’ve heard today’s selection before (if not his version). ‘Get It While You Can’ became (along with other Ragavoy gems like ‘Cry Baby’, a hit for Garnett Mimms with whom Tate sang in the Gainors) a signature number for Janis Joplin. Now, I’ve gone on record in the past as saying some rather uncharitable things about Janis, especially when it comes to her renderings of songs that I (and a lot of other folks) consider to be soul/R&B classics. While my estimation of Ms. Joplin’s talents may have been harsh, I think that if you line her covers up against the originals by Garnett Mimms, Etta James and Howard Tate (among others), the end result would not be favorable for her. While there’s certainly something to be said for an artist like Joplin’s value as a “popularizer” of lesser-known material, I’d be willing to bet that the number of people that went out and dug up Howard Tate records because they heard Janis sing ‘Get It While You Can’, is actually quite small (as they often are in these situations). To take it to an even more basic level, I’d posit that Tate’s version is so good as to be definitive, and as a result any attempt to recreate that magic is wasted. I’m willing to admit that that statement is kind of unfair, but that’s my gut feeling every time I hear someone making hay off of a substandard reworking of a brilliant original (which seems to be the modus opperandi for the majority of the “product” generated by the entertainment industry, especially Hollywood these days). There are certainly exceptions to the rule even where the songs of Howard Tate are concerned, specifically the covers of ‘Stop’ by L’il Bob & The Lollipops and...get it comes....the epic reworking by the James Gang (you weren’t expecting that, right??? No one expects the James Gang!!!). So, despite the fact that Howard Tate managed to graze the Top 50 a few times, his impact on the world of music was largely an artistic triumph and a commercial failure. ‘Get It While You Can’ is one of the great, shoulda/coulda/woulda stories of it’s day. When you add up all the talent involved, and the incredible performance (I’d rate it alongside great soul ballad tours de force like Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and James Carr’s ‘Dark End of the Street’), the end result should have been a huge hit, well remembered by one and all and dragged out perennially as an example of all that was great about 60’s soul. Unfortunately, the calculus of popularity being what it is, ‘Get It While You Can’ is a favorite of soul fans and record collectors and not too many others. The arrangement by Ragavoy is a testament to the value of understatement. Opening with quiet piano triplets, Tate comes in with a deep, gospel-inflected vocal, which builds into the anthemic (albeit brief) chorus. With the successive verses, the horns and guitar come aboard and the “build” becomes more powerful each time. Tate’s vocal soars like a beam of light from the Amen Corner, with the line ‘Don’t turn your back on love’ standing as a shining example of how amazing the fusion of gospel and rhythm & blues could be in the right hands. A lot of this has to do with the lyric by Mort Shuman, which is a simple, yet eloquent classic. Whether or not Shuman was tapping into the zeitgeist when he wrote -
"In this world, where people are fighting with each other. Nobody to care on, not even your own brother."
– or was simply laying down a soulful tale of woe (with a word to the wise in the chorus), his words, as delivered by the mighty Tate hit home. Following his tenure with Verve, Howard Tate recorded 45s for Lloyd Price’s Turntable label, Epic, and an LP for Atlantic (also done in tandem with Ragovoy). After 1974 Tate didn’t record for more than 25 years. He was reunited with Jerry Ragavoy in 2001 for the critically well received LP ‘Comeback’ and is touring and recording today. His Verve and Atlantic sides are available as reissues.
NOTE: I originally had an Amazon link here for the Howard Tate CD, and I completely zoned on the fact that it was listed for $59...I got the following message from a reader, which will direct you to a MUCH cheaper version of the Verve sessions on Hip-O Select:
"T. Berry Shuffle said... Great Track Larry. Howard Tate is a mostly unknow soul burner. Your site visitors will be pleased to know that the Disc is now available in limited numbers for $19.99 from Hip-O select "

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sandy Nelson - Sock It To 'Em J.B.

The Teen Beat-er
Sandy Nelson is a name that should be immediately familiar to collectors of 60’s LPs. If they haven’t heard his music, they’ve certainly seen one of his 30 or so LPs listed on an LP inner sleeve at some point. Nelson, who was born in California in 1938 was working as a session drummer by the mid-50’s. In 1959 he had his first chart hit with the instrumental ‘Teen Beat’. His records featured his drums prominently (no surprise there...) and weren’t too far from the surf sounds of the day (also no surprise as Nelson had started in a band with Bruce Johnston, of Bruce & Terry and later the Beach Boys). He had his last top 40 hit in 1962, but managed to continue cranking out a virtual flood of albums through the 60’s for the Imperial label. The vast majority of these (as with most “rock” instrumental albums) were uninspired (at one point he recorded/released 8 albums in an 18 month period), but he did manage to hit the spot a few times. The few albums I have by Nelson are late 60’s sessions that leaned heavily on soul/funk covers (‘Boogaloo Beat’ includes some nice tracks, featuring Nelson and – as was the case with most of his albums – top session players). Today’s track is especially interesting. ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ was originally recorded by one of my fave 60’s soul outfits, Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers. Their version was released on the Like label, then Atlantic and again on Atlantic in Europe (and covered years later by the Specials). Despite the multiple issues (and it’s obvious high quality) the tune never charted. I’m especially curious as to where Nelson got his hands on the track. Nelson recorded the tune for the LP “Beat That #!!@* Drum” in 1966. Unlike a later LP like ‘Boogaloo Beat’, “Beat That #!!@* Drum” contained a wide variety of contemporary covers, running the gamut from the Yardbirds, Donovan, Bobby Hebb, the Lovin’ Spoonful, as well as Mr. Garvin and his Mighty Cravers, all big hits, which as I said before, ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ was not. As I said before, despite a prolific output that would suggest assembly-line levels of quality, Nelson’s work is not entirely without merit. This is especially true in the case of his covers of soul tunes. The bands he recorded with were seasoned pros, and if there was ever a genre that lent itself to high energy, drum-heavy covers, soul it. This is especially true with his cover of ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’. Opening with pounding drums (who wasn’t expecting that???), the battle is soon joined by wailing sax, guitar and organ. As Nelson was an “instrumental” artists, the classic James Bond-related shout-outs from the Garvin version are gone, replaced by brief drum solos, but the overall quality of the record is quite high. I supposed I shouldn’t be all that surprised by this. Los Angeles was no only infested with great session musicians, but it was also a hotbed of instrumental rock in the early to mid-60’s, from the whole surf scene, to exploito groups like the Hollywood Persuaders (Drums-a-Go-Go). As Nelson himself came up with some of the major players of the surf/hot rod scene, hadn’t yet hit 30, and – I’ll assume – took some pride in his work, cuts like ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ are marked by real enthusiasm, managing to exceed expectations. On a related note, this record was produced by Lee Young. If my information is correct, this is the brother of jazz legend Lester Young. Lee Young was a jazz and session drummer in Los Angeles from the 40’s onward and through the 1960’s worked as a West coast A&R man for a number of labels

Friday, October 21, 2005

Chuck Wood - Soul Shing-A-Ling

You just have to love b-sides. Some years ago – before we had our son - my lovely wife would sometimes accompany me on digging expeditions. This in and of itself probably isn’t that unusual. The difference is, my wife would actually dig with me. I would provide her with the following basic set of guidelines:
1. Look for unusual labels, small/independent outfits 2. Look for song titles that include tell-tale keywords like “soul”, “funky”, “boogaloo”, “shingaling” etc. 3. Look for interesting artist/band names that give off a soul or funk vibe, i.e. anything along the lines of ‘Fatback Johnsons Goodtime Chicken Shack All Stars’ I even once went so far as to scan a number of labels for her to use as a guide. She would join me in dusty back rooms, rifling through boxes of 45s for hours at a time. Am I not married to the most wonderful, considerate woman?? Indeed I am. So...we’re out on a digging expedition in a blighted burgh across the river from Trenton, NJ, in a store manned by an old hippie who insisted on torturing us by playing early-70’s vintage Wizard rock at high volume, while we dragged various structurally unsound cardboard boxes out from under display cases. The place was typical, in that you had a ratio of one or two interesting records per 1000 (if we were lucky), and only intensive digging would be rewarded in any way. So, we’re flipping through 45s, getting dirty and breathing in that magical mixture of decaying paper, dust and god-only-knows what else that you get in places like that, and my wife says “Hey, look, “Soul Shing-a-ling”. Do you have that?” (see rule #2, above). I did not... I wasn’t familiar with the tune, but decided that I couldn’t pass on a title like that (this was in the days before I owned a portable turntable), and added it to my stack. At the end of the day, I suppose I walked out of that place with 25 to 30 45s. Not many spectacular finds, but some nice stuff (mint copies of James Brown 45s I didn’t have, a couple of Philly funk 45s), and of course ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’. When we got home I dragged out my record guides, and fired up the internet. I started searching for Chuck Wood, and discovered that he had recorded a tune called ‘Seven Days Is Too Long’ that was a big favorite of the Northern Soul crowd. Coincidentally enough, that very song also happened to reside on the other side of the ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’ 45. I cleaned the 45 and slapped it onto the turntable, therein experiencing for the first time one of the great ‘Jeckyll and Hyde” 45s in my crates. What do I mean by that? It’s no surprise that ‘Seven Days Is Too Long’ is a popular Northern spin. It’s a stylish, upbeat dancer with the kind of polish and emotion that gets them out on the floor at places like the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca and Herringbone-on-Slyke (ed. - not a real place) etc. It was so popular that it was reissued at least twice in the UK, first on the Mojo label and then as the flipside to ‘Footsee’ by Wigans Chosen Few (where it would chart in the UK in 1975). It was also covered by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Flip the platter over, and the turntable gets all greasy, with a side that sounds like the Velvet Underground backing the aforementioned Fatback Johnson. ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’ leads off with a decidedly lo-fi, swampy, front-porch guitar riffing over what sounds like a Merry-Go-Round calliope immersed in a vat of molten Velveeta. Chuck falls by with a soulful vocal about how the ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’ is sweeping the nation on TV and “Even in Miami Beach”. Chuck is joined on the chorus by some high pitched, and vaguely off-key backing vocals. The record is so “funky” – in the back country, collard green-y, overalls with one broken strap kind of way - and possessed of such a comparably low fidelity, it sounds like the Chuck Wood that recorded ‘Seven Days Is Too Long’ had a breakdown, returned to the studio, kicked everyone out and recorded ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’ with some people he met at the doctors office. Now – never having heard anything else that Wood ever laid down – it’s entirely possible that ‘Soul Shing-a-ling’ is what he sounded like most of the time, and that ‘Seven Days Is Too Long’ is the aberration. He did record for a number of labels from the late 50’s to the late 60’s, including Mercury, Warner Brothers, SSS Intl., and at one point recorded a song called ‘Chocolate Covered Ants’. Make of that what you will. As the wise owl used to say in the Tootsie-Pop commercial, ‘The world may never know....’.
PS There's soemthing weird going on with my web storage, so I had to move some files and delete others. I will restore them when I get a chance...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Warm Excursion - Hang Up Pt 1

Paul Gayten: New Orleans Player
Turned Hollywood Entrepreneur
Greetings. Today’s selection is really quite funky, more of – how do they say – a “Friday” record than a “Wednesday” record. However, here at the Funky16Corners blog we’re all about breaking the rules, shaking things up and “thinking outside the box” (idiotic cliché overload!!!). Well, I suspect that the rules are loose, things are already shook, and the box is pretty small, so in tribute to expectations raised, lowered, and then – craftily – raised yet again, we bring you ‘Hang Up Part 1’ by Warm Excursion. Since hearing this tune years ago, I’ve been trying to track down and bag a copy, but the ever fluid world of funk 45s conspired against me – until recently – when a minty fresh copy rolled into my sights and was quickly, shot, stuffed and mounted (or things to that effect...). As I’ve stated her before, I’m always game for a funky organ jam, and this is a stellar example of that particular sub-genre. But first, a little background... The Pzazz label (“Put a little Pzazz in your jazz!”) was started by New Orleans legend Paul Gayten (funny, isn't it how things always make their way back to New Orleans?). Gayten, who wrote and recorded some seminal R&B in the Big Easy in the 1950’s, eventually winged it out to the West Coast where he ran things for Chess Records on that end of the map for some years. He started Pzazz in 1968, and over the next few years released all kinds of records; jazz, funk, soul and blues, with a catalogue including a few dozen 45s and a handful of LPs (and an especially cool label design). Pzazz had success with recordings by Lorez Alexandria, and also released sides by veterans like Louis Jordan. Also included in their discography is another funky organ classic, ‘Twitchie Feet’ by The Soul Machine. I haven’t really been able to track down much information about the group Warm Excursion (subtitled ‘Terrible Three’ on the 45 label). They recorded at least one other 45 for the Watts-USA label, ‘Funk-I-Tus’ b/w ‘Phut-ball’, and were almost definitely LA-based. There’s also a rumor that they recorded a full albums worth of material, which was destroyed at some point. ‘Funk-I-Tus’, which was included on one of Goldmine’s ‘Sound of Funk’ volumes is a loose, funky organ jam. If you’ve ever heard ‘Soul Brother’ by Art Butler (blogged here months ago) ‘Funk-I-Tus’ has a really similar groove. ‘Hang Up Pts 1&2’ delivers a little more on the “jazz” promised on the label. The tune is a hard hitting slice of jazzy funk, with some hard (well-recorded) drums, wailing Hammond organ and sax. The horn chart sounds JBs-esque, and the playing is top notch. The group sound mixes elements of the harder-edged soul jazz coming out on Prestige in the same era, as well as early Kool & The Gang. There’s a very nice sax solo leading into the fade out of Part 1. ‘Hang Up Pts 1&2’ appeared at one point on a Ubiquity records comp, but I don’t know if it’s still available. Most of the Sound of Funk volumes can still be picked found. If you’re digging for 45’s, expect the ‘Hang Up’ 45 to pull upwards of $40-$50 out of your wallet, and the ‘Funk-I-Tus’ 45 to hit you for over $250.00.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Joe Haywood - Sadie Mae

It’s Monday again. I’m lucky I made it out of the weekend with enough unscarred brain to type, let alone string together some meaningful thoughts. Much like the magician in Frosty the Snowman I’ve been “BUSY BUSY BUSY!!!”. Busy...sleep deprived...You know the drill. Aaaaanyway.... I’m going to start out by being honest, in that I know almost nothing about Joe Haywood. I’ve been a-Googling, and checking all of my standard references, and the end result is that I’ve been able to dig up a bunch of “standard” (or sub-standard as the case may be) facts. Among this throbbing chunk of history are the facts that Haywood recorded for a number of labels in the 1960’s, including New Orleans based outfits like White Cliffs and Deesu, nationally distributed indies like Enjoy and Kent, and one other label I’ve never heard of (Front Page) that may or may not be NOLA-based. That’s about it (that and the fact that Haywood does not appear to have hit the R&B charts). I’ve seen a bunch of his records show up on sale lists, and decided to grab ‘Sadie Mae’ after hearing a soundclip on a friend’s website. That the price was also agreeable is beside the point, though after spinning it a few times I can safely say I would have (and could have) paid more. This record is a burner. A slice of 66-67-ish funky soul, ‘Sadie Mae’ doesn’t have what I would call a typical “New Orleans” sound. The production is a little on the muddy side, with the bass turned way up, aided by combo organ, powerful horns and loud drums. Haywood is a solid soul shouter who reminds me more than a little of someone like Oscar Toney Jr. In fact, that comparison should go even further. If I had to guess (without knowing what little I do about Haywood’s recording history, or that this 45 was released on Deesu) I would have thought ‘Sadie Mae’ was a product of a label like Fame or Goldwax. It really has that “Southern” soul sound, without any of the trademark style, or filigree that one might expect to hear on a New Orleans based session of that era. Though the 45 label lists Marsaint publishing and Tou-Sea productions, the producer (Larry Lucie) is unfamiliar to me. That info along with the Deesu release would suggest to me that it was a New Orleans session, but I may be wrong. Either way, I dig the tune (maybe you will too) and I’ll be on the lookout for more Joe Haywood sides. As they say on CNN, updates as they become available.... That said, my inaccurate calculations what they are, I believe that this is the 100th record blogged in this space. A small milestone, but a milestone nonetheless. This blogging thing has turned out to be a lot of fun. The Funky16Corners blog hasn’t really taken on much of the “personal journal” aspects of many blogs, but I think I manage to make my feelings pretty clear, and hopefully exposed some of you to some cool music you hadn’t already heard. I started out writing about music over 20 years ago, first in a succession of fanzines, then later in local newspapers and then a few years ago with the Funky16Corners web zine. After my son was born, it became increasingly difficult to find the free time necessary to pull together new “full” issues of the web zine. I figured then that I would try out blogging as a way to keep writing about the kind of stuff I was covering in the web zine, but to do shorter form pieces, more often than not concentrating on individual records. In the 11 months since I started the Funky16Corners blog, I’ve gotten a lot of cool feedback from readers, and made some new friends. Hopefully that’ll continue.

UPDATE: Dan Phillips from the mighty Home of the Groove blog sent along some more info on Joe Haywood: Hi, Larry. Let me add my congrats on your 100th! I like this track, having never heard it. But I am pretty sure it is not a New Orleans record, except for its label. As far as I know, Joe Haywood was from Spartanburg, SC and was a drummeras well as a vocalist. At one time he either played or sang (or both)with guitarist Larry Lucie's band. Lucie and the other co-writer on "Sadie Mae", Lucky Dixon, worked out of New York, I believe. Since some of Haywood's other sides were done for Bobby Robinson's Enjoy and Fury labels, based in NYC, and since Marshall Sehorn, who started Deesu with Toussaint, was previously a rep and talent scout for Robinson, I am going hazard a guess that "Sadie Mae" was recorded in New York with Lucie producing and that Sehorn agreed to release on Deesu. It is possible that they came to NO to do it; but you are quite right that it doesn't have that NO sound. While there is somewhat of a Memphis/Muscle Shoals feel to it, my money is on a NYC session for this one. Let me know if you find out more, as I just pieced this theory together from some available sources around here."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

King Curtis & The Kingpins - Whole Lotta Love

Zeppelin Soul Stew
Gotta love King Curtis.... His career and accomplishments are almost too diverse to get a real handle on. He worked jazz, R&B, blues, soul and funk before being murdered in 1971. The King laid down some amazing sides, including the mighty ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ (the flipside of which, ‘Blue Nocturne’ is one of my all-time fave soul instros), ‘Instant Funk’ and his early hits ‘Soul Twist’ and ‘Soul Serenade’. In the last few years of his career he recorded several LPs for Atco, on which he by and large remade the hits of the day with lots of soul and style. How he got his hands on ‘Whole Lotta Love’, I have no idea. He recorded it in 1971, and a live version of the track appeared on his ‘Live At the Fillmore West’ LP (I believe that the track featured today was a 45 only studio track). Two weeks after he recorded that particular album he was murdered in New York City. I first heard this record – believe it or not – being used as a bumper intro/.outro on the Howard Stern Show. Fred Norris used to employ all kinds of crazy instros to play them in and out of live commercials. The first time I heard it I thought it had to be from some kind of exploitation/dollar bin “hits” LP. It wasn’t until I pulled the 45 out of a stack of otherwise uninspiring vinyl at a record show did I realize that I’d actually been listening to King Curtis. I’ll make a leap and assume that the same cats that played on the Fillmore LP are here as well, which would mean that it’s Cornell Dupree laying down the fuzzed out guitar leads, and the Memphis Horns (plus heavy friends) working the brass. Not surprisingly King Curtis manages to bring a jazzy touch to the proceedings, and the overall feel isn’t too far from the kind of stuff that Woody Herman was doing with Richard Evans on Cadet or that Buddy Rich was recording for World Pacific/Pacific Jazz. Though the sax leads are pretty straight forward restating of the main melody from the song, the horn charts are dynamic. I’m not sure who was doing the arranging, though Arif Mardin arranged some of his ATCO sessions from around the same time. Say what you want about old time jazzbos trying to stay relevant – something that often yielded embarrassing results – but both Herman and Rich layed down some heavy stuff in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Listen to tracks like Herman’s ‘The Hut’ or ‘Sex Machine’ (the Sly Stone tune) or Rich’s “It’s Crazy’ for big band tracks that managed to be both satisfying on a jazz level as well as powerful in a rock/soul way as well. King Curtis’s take on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ creates the same kind of feel, managing as well to remove Robert Plant's tortured wailing without deflating the tune’s bombast. I have no idea whether Zeppelin was aware of King Curtis’s reworking, or whether the very recording of the tune was engineered by some greedy soul at Atlantic who had a vested interest in puffing up those royalty statements. Either way, those were strange days, in which larger jazz, soul and blues bands shared ballroom stages with all manner of long-haired, exploding crotch, post-hippie excess, and it’s as likely that the good King and the Limey rock juggernaut crossed paths at some point. Plant was certainly a big fan of US soul and R&B, which - despite his fandom resulting in execrable garbage like the Honeydrippers – was a good thing, even if he and Page weren’t always willing to give credit where credit was due (You go Willie Dixon!).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Agents - You Were Meant For Me

The Agents
A quick one today... I can’t say I know much about the Agents. They were definitely a Philly based group, active in the mid-60’s. Their producer Phil Gaber worked with many great Philly soul artists, including the mighty Emperors, Ronnie Walker, Emanons and the Temptones (featuring a young Daryl Hall). The Agents – Warren Lundy, Jimmy Downs, Nat Williams, Kenneth Davis and Norman Bowen – were formed in 1962. The recorded a few 45s for Gaber’s P&L label, as well as sides for Liberty Bell. Today’s selection, ‘You Were Meant For Me’ was released in 1965 and got some local airplay, but never broke outside of Philly. I picked up this 45 years ago when I was grabbing as much Philly soul as I could afford/get my hands on. The first time I listened to it it didn’t grab me. This is more my fault than the Agents’, since I was on the prowl for hard-hitting, upbeat soul shakers, and as high quality a record as this is, it’s not one of those. When I finally settled down, and my senses were more suitably attuned to the sweet side of soul, I pulled a bunch of 45s from my Philly crates that leaned in that direction and slapped them together in a mix. It was a good thing I did too, because ‘You Were Meant For Me’ is really something of an undiscovered treasure*. Opening with just a bass line (it almost sounds acoustic) and tambourine (I can’t hear any drums on the track) , the group drops in with a falsetto harmony line. Nat Williams lead vocal and the guitar backing start at the same time, and the gentle, somewhat stark backing gives the singers lots of room to shine. The overall effect is not unlike some of the great, early Curtis Mayfield helmed soul sides out of Chicago, where the harmonies are anchored in soul but manage to throw a line back into the waning days of group harmony R&B. I love the relatively understated reverb effect on the vocals. When the backing vocals reach the occasional peak, there’s the slightest bit of echo mixed with distortion, and it takes a fairly “spare” sounding record into another space entirely. Those little touches have made ‘You Were Meant For Me’ an enduring favorite of mine. *When I say “undiscovered”, I mean only by the general public. Dave Brown and the Philly Archives label have reissues a number of Gaber-produced sides on the comp ‘Philly Soul Volume 1’. The CD includes five tracks by the Agents, nine by Ronnie Walker and others by the Temptones, Emanons, Exceptions, Royal Five and Clarence Williams. Like their other releases it’s thoroughly annotated and includes lots of cool pictures (like the one above, which I borrowed for today's feature). Buy one and keep a great reissue label going.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Don Covay & The Goodtimers - Sookie Sookie

Mr. Don Covay
I’m starting late this week because I tripped on a brick staircase and strained my typing arm (really) and was in no mood to think and/or blog (they’re not always the same thing...), so I come to you on a Tuesday, asking for forgiveness on two counts (yer honor...). First, the late thing... Second, please to forgive the snaps, crackles and pops on the enclosed tune. However, I believe that once you listen to it, and pick yourself up off the floor, mop your brow with ice water and wait for your head to stop spinning, you’ll thank me. I say that, because today’s selection is as potent a funky gobsmacker as has ever been pressed into vinyl. It’s so powerful, that I firmly believe every time I play the 45, the energy released somehow brings the record (and my stereo) that much closer to total destruction. The WMD I speak of....Don Covay and the Goodtimers ‘Sookie Sookie’. Back in the olden days, when I was a long-haired sprout of 14, wishing for nothing more that a respectable pair of sideburns and as many records as I could handle (I can now manage the sideburns quite well...the record problem persists), I worked weekends in a dusty pit called the Englishtown Auction Sales (or “The Auction” as it was know to the locals). I toiled for a pitiful wage, loading/unloading a van full of car stereos, boom boxes (still a novelty at the time), CB radios and accessories - and then acting as a human “theft deterrent” - for an otherwise retired couple from the Outer Boroughs of New York City (which was about an hour away). It was not the worst job I ever had (I could start another blog devoted solely to the crappy jobs I’ve worked over the years), but it was damn close. With the exception of the few weeks in NJ when it’s neither too hot nor too cold – our brief “Spring” and “Fall” seasons – I stood out in the open air, either sizzling like an overdone piece of toast, or getting the human equivalent of freezer burn for about $2 an hour, and one of the worst “free lunches” imaginable. What does all of this have to do with anything?
Bear with me. At the end of the day, when things were slowing down, I would wheedle my pay from my employers and walk a few rows over to see my pal Wally. Wally, glanced from a distance looked exactly like the guy on the cover of Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’ LP. When you got up close, you realized that he was in fact that guy, and bore on himself the “aroma” of the Auction at all times, i.e. the horrific mixture of dirt, bacon grease, car exhaust and sweat that I had to shower off when I got home from work. Wally had a black German Shepherd named Satan (I’m not kidding), and drove his family - who had the look of hippies past their expiration date - up from the outskirts of Philadelphia in an old van every Saturday and Sunday. Wally sold records. I would walk the 50-or-so yards to Wally’s stand and in less than 15 minutes cycle my earnings back into the Auction economy, leaving with an armload of vinyl. One of my prized finds from those hauls was Steppenwolf’s Greatest Hits. Now I’m not gonna sit here and feed you a line about how Steppenwolf could have been as big as Led Zeppelin if they’d had the chance (which some have said), but I will vouch for the fact that they did occasionally kick ass (and take names) bridging the gap between the hippie years and the rough birth of hard rock. Anyway, despite the fact that I bought the LP for ‘Born To Be Wild’ (I was, after all only 14), the track that ended up as my favorite, was ‘Sookie Sookie’. Even as a 14 year old who knew next to nothing about soul or funk music, I could sense something new and exciting at work in the heavy beat. Flash forward some years later, and I find out who Don Covay is (after falling in love with Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘See Saw’), and things got interesting. I started to dig for Covay’s original versions of songs popularized by others (‘Mercy Mercy’ by the Rolling Stones, ‘Take This Hurt Off Me’ by the Small Faces etc), and found out that in many cases I preferred his original versions. This was never more true that when I finally heard Covay doing ‘Sookie Sookie’. Strangely enough it wasn’t until I picked up Rhino’s ‘Roots of Funk Vol ½’ back in 1994 that I heard a version by Don Covay, and as expected, it ate Steppenwolf for breakfast. So, flash forward a few more years and I dig up a copy of the 45 on Atlantic, and found myself listening to an even more intense version of the tune. The 45 we’re listening to today is the 1966 version by Don Covay and the Goodtimers (the version on the Rhino comp was the 1970 version by Don Covay and the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band). Opening with unadorned tambourine slaps, the starkness is soon washed away by a blaring horn section, funky guitar, organ and a set of drums with a bass kick heavier than Solomon Burke and Billy Stewart teaming up in a chicken-fight. Don falls by, asking his peeps to “Let it hang out baby!” then dropping a succession of suggested dance steps for the crowd. When they get to the ‘Sookie Sookie’s’ in the chorus, it’s like someone dropping a sledge hammer, with one of the Goodtimer’s leaning over Don’s shoulder and screaming “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!!!!”.
Second verse, close to the first, drums mighty hard, horns on point and then the screamer returns with something that sounds like either “ROCK ME!” or “DROP ME!”, but it doesn’t really matter since the screams are there for punctuation, like ending a sentence with a punch in the nose. After that the fumes in the studio apparently got stronger because Don starts rapping about banana peels and turpentine, and you can almost see the band in their sequined matador jackets, conked hair and pointy boots, rocking back and forth, jammed too close together on a tight little stage dripping their sweat on the audience and making the ice cubes in everyone’s drinks spill on the floor. I can just see some poor slob, on his way home from the late shift stopping in for a rock and rye, pulling open the barroom door and getting his wig blown off by the mixture of heat, soul and cigarette smoke. It’s that heavy. You can dig on your Steppenwolfs, or more groovily your Tina Britts, Etta Jameses and Grant Greens (Green’s radical reworking of ‘Sookie Sookie’ from the ‘Alive!” lp was sampled by US3 for ‘Tukka Yoots Riddim’), but when you take it back to the source, you know you’ve found something special.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Lee Bates - International Playboy

Funky Funky Nawlins
Ahhh yes…Friday is upon us once again, and so I bring you something juicy for the weekend. I’ve gone on in this space before about my ‘Instant funk’ rule, i.e., records in the Instant records discography with catalog numbers over 3300 are almost guaranteed to be funky (and conversely, records under 3300 are more than likely not). This rule of thumb has served me well over the years (though there is the rare exception...). Higher-numbered Instant 45s are hard to come by, and when I track one down, unless it’s prohibitively priced I like to grab it (whether I’ve heard it or not). It doesn’t help that Instant’s funk sides are woefully under-comped. With powerful stuff like Larry Darnell, some of the later Huey Smith sides, Skip Easterling and Lee Bates, the time is long since passed for a comprehensive compilation. Said formula – as it relates to today’s selection – had the assistance of previous Lee Bates sides already residing in my NOLA crates. Obie Leroy Bates was born in New Orleans in 1941. By the early 60’s the aspiring singer was doing time as Chris Kenner’s valet. He recorded his first 45 ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ for the White Cliffs label in 1967. After White Cliffs went out of business, Kenner brought him to Instant, where he would re-record the tune for his debut 45. Bates vocal style was seriously influenced by the (by then) late Otis Redding, and he tips his hat to Redding in the arrangement to ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ by lifting the horn line from Redding’s ‘Something is Worrying Me’ (the single was produced by Huey Smith). The flip side of that 45, ‘Simon Says’ is a funky dance craze number. Bates would go on to record a total of eight 45s for Instant, one of which – not surprisingly – was a cover of ‘Sitting On The Dock of the Bay’. Its Bates second 45 for Instant that brings us here today. I’ve been digging for NOLA 45s for a long time, and it’s unusual that I grab one and don’t recognize any of the names on the label. This is one of those times…Aside from Bates, the songwriters (Dozeir, Sigler, Broonier & Phillips - maybe Phil Phillips???) and the producer (the almost certainly pseudonymous ‘Alias Ducey’ ) were unknown to me. I’ve since found out that Ducey/Ducie eventually recorded a 45 for Instant with a group celled the New Orleans Poets, ‘Singing La Dee Dah’ (Instant 3326). As to who he actually is, I have no idea and would welcome any info readers might have. ‘International Playboy’ is a rough slice of funk with some great wah-wah guitar, hard drums and a wild vocal by Bates. The lyrics are a hilarious world tour of Bates’ international conquests, including the declaration:
My name is known in old Hong Kong I’m just as famous as Egg Foo Yung!
The flip side is a pretty straight-ahead cover of Melanie's big hit 'Look What They've Done To My Song'.
As far as Bates other 45s go, the only other one I’ve heard is ‘Mean Mistreater’, and it’s excellent. According to Jeff Hannusch in ‘The Soul of New Orleans’ many of Bates Instant 45s were local hits (Hannusch also mentions that Bates’ White Cliffs era band included none other than George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste).Bates went on to record a number of 45s for local labels (including one for the later incarnation of Sansu records). He continued to perform locally, and recorded at least two LPs in the 90’s, one of which, ‘Stop Leanin’ On The Wall’ was composed almost entirely of Otis Redding tunes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Volcanos - All Shucks

Photo courtesy Dave Brown/Philly Archives
Those of you that have heard of the Volcanos, probably know them for sweet, danceable, mid-60’s soul like the classic ‘Storm Warning’ or ‘It’s Against the Laws of Love’. Their recordings for Philadelphia’s Arctic label between 1964 and 1966 are some of the finest 45s of the era.
Led by vocalist Gene Faith (born Eugene Jones) and featuring Harold and Stanley Wade and Earl Young* (who would all go on to form the Trammps of ‘Disco Inferno’ fame) the Volcanos were signed to Arctic in 1964 by label co-owner (and Philly DJ) Jimmy Bishop. They would record six 45s for Arctic, with “Storm Warning” hitting the R&B top 40 in the summer of 1965. Their Arctic sides would feature tunes by the cream of the Philly songwriting community, including Gamble and Huff (together and separately), Eddie Holman, Johnny Styles and out-of-towner Carl Fisher of the Vibrations. At some point (my best guess has always been some time intersecting the release of the group’s last sides for Arctic, i.e. 1966 - 1967) the Volcanos had a pair of 45s released on Philly’s own Harthon records. Harthon, formed by Weldon McDougall, Luther Randolph and Johnny Styles (Stiles) was as formidable a regional soul production house as any in the 1960’s. Aside from releases on the Harthon label (by The Volcanos, Randolph & Styles, United Four, Preludes) there were numerous productions for other labels on records by the Cooperettes (Brunswick), Philly Four (Cobblestone), Larry Clinton (Dynamo), the Twilights (Cameo/Parkway), the Four Larks (Tower) and Eddie Holman (Cameo/Parkway). I should preface my statements about the Volcanos’ Harthon sides by mentioning that hard discographical info is nonexistent, and that some of the info is in dispute. My guess, that the Harthon sides are later than the majority of the Arctic tracks is based on the flip sides of both Harthon 45s being proto-funk. The first Volcanos 45 on Harthon, ‘It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm’ b/w ‘Movin’ and Groovin’ (Harthon 138) features an upbeat mover on the a-side and a funky instrumental on the flip. The second Harthon 45 ‘Take Me Back Again’ b/w ‘All Shucks’ (today’s selection) is a similar pairing. ‘Take Me Back Again’ is another upbeat dancer. ‘All Shucks’ is a raving slice of proto-funk with shout outs to the Shing-a-ling, the Funky Broadway, Boogaloo, Mashed Potato and the Jerk among others. The tune (written, as was the a-side by Faith/Jones) is a fast moving funk/soul vamp with a rousing horn chart and some high-pitched backing vocals. Stylistically it fits right in with material like Lou Courtney’s 45s on Riverside/Popside and Al James’ ‘Groove City USA’ on Big Beat (another Philly label). There are also Harthon 45’s that appear to be later reissues from the 1970’s. Most original Harthon issue 45s have a label design like the 45 above (though some of the earliest releases have a plainer label design). The later reissues (like the instro version of ‘It’s Gotta Be a False Alarm’ credited to the Body Motions) are on a lighter orange label with “Harthon” across the top in a plain black font. There are versions of this label on Volcanos, and Lee Garrett among others. Following their Harthon 45s, the Volcanos split into two factions. Gene Faith recorded a single as ‘The Volcanos” for the Virtue label, and went on to record several excellent 45s under his own name. The rest of the group went on to record 45s as the Moods (for Wand and Reddog) and as the Trammps (for Buddha, Golden Fleece and Atlantic). There has yet to be comprehensive reissue of the Volcanos material, and it’s long overdue. Some tracks have appeared on the comp ‘Storm Warning’ (which features a variety of Philly Northern Soul), various Goldmine Soul Supply comps and ‘Movin’ & Groovin’ was on one of the ‘Sound of Funk’ volumes. As far as I know, ‘All Shucks’ has yet to be compiled.

*Earl Young would also go on to be a crucial part of the MFSB rhythm section

Monday, October 03, 2005

The "Soul" of Bob Dylan

Every once in a while, I need to be reminded that I’ve been taking something important for granted. Such was the case when PBS aired Martin Scorcese's Bob Dylan documentary ‘No Direction Home’. I certainly didn’t miss the boat on Dylan. Since my first Dylan purchase (Greatest Hits Vol 1, in 1976, from a friends record club acct, with the Milton Glaser poster...) I’ve probably owned (on and off) most everything he recorded between his 1962 debut and ‘Desire’ in 1976 (I kind of lose Bob after that, but my sister Melissa carries the post-76 Dylan burden for the whole family). However, my perception and consumption of Dylan’s music and persona has fluctuated wildly over the years, more or less in flux with my capacity for understanding his music in context with the times, and in relation to the music that inspired it and which it in turn inspired. My 8th grade perception probably ran along the lines of "Bob Dylan: Giant of Popular Music", a notion – simplistic but true – reinforced by the wide variety of material on the Greatest Hits LP, which included acoustic classics as well as wild-eyed boho skronk like ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ (running basically up to ‘Blonde on Blonde). As far as my 13 year old self was concerned, those widely varied sounds may as well have been coming from the same period. A few years later a good friend hepped me to ‘Desire’ which was really the first “contemporary” Dylan I had experienced. As a slightly more sophisticated college kid, I grabbed ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, because I’d seen it on countless critics “best ever” lists, and didn’t want to be left with my cheese flapping in the wind. By that time, several years with my ear tied to “classic rock” radio (which hadn’t really been forced into that semantic ghetto yet) had exposed me to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and I had fully accepted the ‘Dylan as rocker” idea (though I don’t think I fully appreciated what a work of genius that LP was for a few more years). By the time I was in my late 20’s, my interest in older music (i.e. original folk and blues) drew me deeper into Dylan’s early LPs, where the razor sharpness of his words was tempered by his Woody Guthrie/Ramblin’ Jack Elliot play-acting. My awareness of Dylan’s ties - symbolic and actual – to the Beats and my appreciation of the political nature of his lyrics (at least as it occurred tome) grew during this time. Soon enough I had digested ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’, getting the full picture of mid-60’s “electric” Dylan. Fast forward to my 30’s, and I began to get a grip on the “big picture”. This had a lot to do with finally being able to see where Dylan’s constant reinvention of himself intersected with his music and that they were not always the same thing. In other words, I was finally able to see past ‘Bob Dylan: Giant of Popular Music’ and finally see the master songwriter and the provocateur standing side by side, yin and yang. ‘No Direction Home’ wisely used archival footage where possible (the 1966 UK tour footage of Dylan and the Hawks was a revelation), the voices of those that were around Dylan during his greatest period of growth, and surprisingly enough the voice of Dylan himself, less to paint a picture than to bring an existing picture into focus so that the true details were revealed for the first time. It’s worth seeing if only for the Rashomon-like recollections of the storied ‘Dylan goes electric’ confrontation at the Newport Folk Festival. That said, one of the more important component parts of ‘Bob Dylan: Giant of Popular Music’, was his huge influence on the music of his time (and beyond). One need only look as the countless versions of ‘Blowin in the Wind’, as well as numerous Top 40 covers of other Dylan originals (by the Byrds, Peter Paul & Mary, Sonny & Cher, the Turtles and others) to realize that by 1965, Dylan had entered the zeitgeist in a big way (though it was funny to see Dylan express his distaste for the “folk rock” sound). Watching ‘No Direction Home’ got me to thinking about “soul” covers of Dylan material. I can’t say that many came to mind, but the few that did are worth mentioning. Both of today’s cuts hail from the 1969/1970 period, and from two very different kinds of singers. O.V. Wright was one of the many great 60’s soul singers to come out of a gospel background. He recorded a grip of amazing 45s and LPs in his short life, and had a supremely expressive voice. Wright lets his gospel roots show on his cover of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. Produced by Willie Mitchell, the tune has a great southern soul vibe with a subdued instrumental backing that brings out the full power of the vocals. Phil Flowers was a Washington DC area vocalist who recorded for a number of labels (including Hollywood, Dot, A&M, and Epic) from the mid-50’s until the 70’s. He always added a “rock” edge to his performances (he ended up in a rock band called Jebediah), and that's evident on his cover of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. He lays into the tune with a high energy, ‘Billy Stewart meets Wilson Pickett’ attack backed by blaring horns and hard drums. The version of the 45 that I have is a promo that includes the version posted here (which clocks in at just over 4 minutes) and on the flip side, a six minute version that features a wholly superfluous psychedelic freak out. It may be the only version of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ that you can dance to.
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