Friday, June 30, 2006

We've Moved! AGAIN!!! Funky16Corners v3.0

Funky16Corners Has moved yet AGAIN!!! Go to.... Henceforth, all new blog entries will be at that location, and all archived posts have been moved there as well. I hope to see you there. Larry PS The regularly scheduled Friday post will be up in that space shortly.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bill Withers - Harlem


Mr. Bill Withers



First off, we're still MOVING. The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will soon be final . This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is. Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to

See you there... Larry

Good day to you..... Here we are, at the regular Wednesday get together. The grey weather continues unabated, but since we in NJ have been spared the worst of this seemingly endless storm – which has caused all kinds of flooding and property damage between Philadelphia and the Carolinas – I can’t really complain. As long as it’s warm – and it is – it’s still summer to me, and I’ll take it. Today’s selection is one of those records that I’ve carped about before, i.e. a song that I genuinely love (as are all of the tunes I post here), but one that escapes easy categorization, and thus description. This may or may not be a moot point. As I post an MP3 of each and every song I write about, it is possible for the listener/reader to download/play and listen to the tracks and describe it for themselves. However... That’s not really the sole purpose of this little electronic Mom & Pop operation I have going here. What I strive to do (though strive may be, on some days, too strong a word) is present little slices of excellent music, wrapped in a little bit of context/perspective, a lot of enthusiasm, strained through my own stew of opinions. The end result is – I hope – that the readers are exposed to some excellent music that either they haven’t heard before, or are hearing in a new way, and that they learn something new about that particular piece of music’s place in the grand scheme of things. I try to maintain a balance between playing to the connoisseurs in the crowd, and to those who are by and large unfamiliar with much of the music posted here. On that note, despite the fact that today’s selection resides on the b-side of a substantial hit record, I hadn’t heard it before a few months ago. I have my fellow posters over at Soulstrut to thank for hepping me to the excellence of Bill Withers first LP, 1971’s ‘Just As I Am’. While I (and everyone else with access to a radio) knew and loved ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, and had picked up a couple of Withers’ 45s when they came out in the 70’s, I had never owned, or heard a copy of his first LP. While browsing the racks at my local book and music mega-mondo-mart, I saw that ‘Just As I Am’ had been reissued in an excellent new package that included the entire album, and when you flipped the CD over it was also a DVD with a mini-documentary about Withers and the entire album again, in surround-sound, so I grabbed it. I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t gotten a copy of this album, you should do so now. Withers, who was recording demos and laboring installing airplane toilets when he was finally signed to Sussex, is if not unique, a truly unusual talent. His style combined the basic singer/songwriter structure that was the lingua franca in 1971, with pure, deep soul. He was an outstanding songwriter, and his performances, often with an acoustic guitar, carried with them an intimacy that made his songs even more powerful. When I hear ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, the first thing I think of is a feeling, i.e. melancholy, before I even begin to consider the elements of the actual record. That’s deep. That ability to transmit emotion in his songs carries throughout the entire ‘Just As I Am’ album, from his powerful originals like ‘Grandma’s Hands’, ‘Hope She’ll Be Happier” and the loose and funky ‘Do It Good’, and creative reworkings of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ and the Beatles ‘Let It Be’. The tune that grabbed me the most when I listened to the album for the first time was ‘Harlem’. Opening with Withers’ guitar and then a wave of strings, the momentum of the song builds gradually. The lyrics, painting a picture of life in Harlem, are excellent, and as their intensity builds, so do the vocals, working into a powerful statement. It’s really interesting that they chose to make ‘Harlem’ the flip side of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, because the two recordings form a kind of stylistic yin/yang, balancing the quiet pleading of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ with the forceful ‘Harlem’. The production by Booker T. Jones (he of the MGs) is outstanding, and the record manages to build in its mere three and a half minute span into a kind of mini epic. It’s the kind of record that in combination with a very solid track record as a hitmaker, ought to spur on a reconsideration of Withers as a major artist. As I said before, ‘Harlem’ was the flipside of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, so a little garage-sale-ing, and 25 cents ought to be enough to secure your very own copy of this gem. If your interest is a little bit deeper, you can always grab ‘Lean On Me – Best of Bill Withers’ which includes not only ‘Harlem’ but all of his big hits. I would suggest grabbing the ‘Just As I Am’ CD, if only to hear the album in its entirety. It’s just that good.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Brenda Holloway - You've Made Me So Very Happy


Miss Brenda Hollway


Greetings. First off, we're still MOVING. The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will soon be final . This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is. Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to See you there... Larry

Greetings all. Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Once again, allow me to apologize for the absence of the regularly scheduled Friday post. My lovely wife – who happens to be 8 months pregnant – had to go to the hospital on Thursday – which kept me occupied all of Thursday night and most of Friday. Fortunately she and the baby are both doing fine and remain on track for an early-August delivery (phew...). If you notice a sudden interruption in new blog posts around that time, you can safely assume that we are otherwise (happily) occupied with a new little soul fan. Today’s post begins with a little bit of time travel. It’s the summer of 1969, and I am 7 years old. My family has taken a vacation drive to Dayton, Ohio to visit my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. A decision has been made that I will remain in the mysterious Midwest for a few weeks and will be catching a ride back to New Jersey when the Ohio branch of the Grogan clan treks east for a visit. If memory serves, I was pleased by this development. I enjoyed spending time with my cousins, many of whom were older than me. My late cousin Pat was a teenager who worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, which then struck me as the coolest job imaginable (I’m not positive, but at the time I may very well have thought that Colonel Sanders was actually running the restaurant in question). I had a lot of fun out in Ohio that summer, but the lasting impact of the visit is that by virtue of being around teenagers, 1969 was the year that I first made my first, solid connection to the radio, vis a vis contemporary pop music. I remember a clear grouping of songs that seemed to be getting a lot of play on the radio that summer, including ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’ by Tommy James & The Shondells, ‘My Cherie Amour’ by Stevie Wonder, and ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ by Blood Sweat and Tears. I always loved the Blood Sweat and Tears tune, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that it was in fact a cover. By the time I finally heard the original version (maybe 15 years ago), I was surprised to find out that it had been recorded by an artist that I already knew, Brenda Holloway. In the late 80’s, Motown already had a miserable reputation for the reissue packaging of their classic material (a situation that I’m happy to say has been resolved). The exception to the rule was a series of ‘Hard To Find Motown Classics’ (I think that was the title) cds. The volume I had - purchased for Eddie Holland’s original version of ‘Leaving Here’, which became a mod fave when covered during the British beat era by the Birds and the Who – gave me my first taste of the Velvelettes (“Bird In The Hand”), as well as Brenda Holloway’s ‘I’ll be Available’. I always dug Holloway’s voice, and when I found out that she had recorded (and co-written) the original version of ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ I decided to keep my eyes peeled for a copy. Strangely enough I didn’t get that particular record until recently (sometimes it’s just like that, i.e. the rare ones walk right up and bite you on the ass and the common stuff takes a while to acquire). Holloway was unusual in that while she recorded for Motown in their mid-60’s prime, she was based not in Detroit, but California. She had been spotted by Berry Gordy singing at a radio industry convention in LA, and signed in 1964. She recorded a number of 45s (including the oft covered ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, which was a substantial hit) and an LP that year. ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ was a Top 40 R&B and Pop hit in 1967. Written by Holloway, her sister Patrice (who would go on to be the singing/speaking voice of ‘Valerie’ on the Josie & The Pussycats cartoon), Frank Wilson and Berry Gordy, the arrangement is a little mellower than the BS&T take, and of course features Holloway’s wonderful vocals. Despite the fact that she managed to rack up a number of hits (and record two LPs) for Motown, Holloway was criminally underpromoted by the label. In Nelson George’s excellent ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ he reprints a letter from Holloway to Gordy in which she suggests that due to her location on the West Coast, she was not getting the kind of attention her career deserved (and she was right). So disillusioned was she by her experience with Motown that she retired from music in the late 60’s. She recorded again (gospel and soul) starting in the early 80’s.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham - Lover and a Friend


You go, Bo!


Greetings. First off, we're still MOVING. The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will soon be final . This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is. Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to See you there... Larry

Hey, hey ,heeeyyyyyyy!! Wheeeee! First day of summer in da hi-youssse! Of course this information will come as a surprise to my fellow New Jersey-ans who have been sweltering for a few weeks now. By way of what may come as a disturbing revelation to some, I used to go see the Grateful Dead on a fairly regular basis (late 80’s/early 90’s ish). Now I wasn’t following them around in an alfalfa sprouting, incense burning, tie-dyed, bloodshot, VW microbus, but I was otherwise a rather typical, long-haired, bong-rattling concert attendee, indistinguishable - aside from my largeness - from the rest of the crowd (though I never went in for the terpsichorean flights of fancy so common at the time). I mention this, because at the time, the Dead used to hit Giants Stadium every year in early June. The first time I saw them there, it was the end of the first week in June and it had to be close to 110 degrees. The following year, at roughly the same time, it was about 55 degrees, and I sat in my crappy, upper-deck seats freezing my fat ass off. So basically this was just a public service announcement about the capricious nature of the late-Spring/early-Summer weather in NJ. Some years the “official” first day of summer is an eagerly anticipated event, wherein it is hoped that nice weather is just around the corner. Other years it’s like you’re standing in the middle of a bonfire and some wise-guy sidles up next to you to say “Sure is getting warm!” Other than the fact that the rather abrupt change of seasons can be jarring, I dig the warm weather as it brings with it the opportunity for me to wear shorts, allowing me the opportunity to expose my ghostly white legs to the general public. If it weren’t for the persistent traffic jams that come with the post-Memorial Day season, wall to wall out-of-state plates, and the drunken yahoos driving the cars (for some reason, at the Jersey Shore these visitors are known as “bennies”). Summertime would be an absolute pleasure. That said, in the spirit of New Orleans Week, and the onset of summer, what better tune to post than Eddie Bo and Inez Cheatham’s ‘Lover and a Friend’. One of the pricier Bo items on the record market, due in large part to it’s inclusion as a sample on DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist’s ‘Brainfreeze’ mix (which drove up the value of a number of records in exactly the same way), it is worth every penny an intrepid (lucky) digger might pay, and then some. If you follow my ramblings, here an over at the webzine, you already know that I hold Mr. Edwin Bocage in the highest possible regard. If you dig good music, you should too. From the mid-50’s right on up to the present day Mr. Bo has been working his magic in vinyl, creating a vast and amazing catalogue of R&B, soul and funk, under his own name and as the guiding force (writing, producing, arranging) behind other artists. He really ought to have a shiny brass plaque affixed to his piano that reads:

The man that brought you both ‘Pass the Hatchet’ and Hook and Sling’.

I mean, the man is responsible for a LOT of amazing records, but his involvement in those two ought to be enough to get respect from anyone with an ounce of soul. However, I will not – as is my bag – let Mr. Bo rest on his laurels, without taking a moment to freshen them.

‘Lover and a Friend’ is – rightly so - one of the cornerstones of Eddie Bo’s mighty reputation. The record opens with one of the most earth-shaking drum breaks in all of New Orleans recorded soul - a genre filled with them – provided by Mr. Bobby Williams. This is the same Bobby Williams of the storied ‘Boogaloo Mardi Gras Pts 1&2’ which, like ‘Lover and a Friend’ first saw the light of day on the legendary Seven B label prior to being picked up by Capitol for national distribution.

While the ‘Lover’ break may not possess the wild, off-kilter brilliance of James Black’s opening on Bo’s ‘Hook and Sling’ (a work of absolute, certified brilliance that all who broke (breaked?) afterward should bow down before in awe), it is undeniably powerful, and ought to get even the sleepiest listener perk up, pick up their invisible drumsticks and start flailing along.

Listen to that snare snap.

Listen to that kick drum thump in syncopation as the high-hat ticks along with metronomic precision.

It’s a thing of beauty. Then the singing starts and I’m here to tell you that it gets even better.

Eddie Bo made some outstanding records with female vocalists, most notably Mary Jane Hooper and the Explosions. For a long time, due in large part to what I would consider startling vocal similarities, I believed (as did many others) that Mary Jane Hooper (real name Sena Fletcher) and Inez Cheatham was the same person. According to a few reliable sources (including Martin Lawrie at Soulgeneration) this is not the case. Though Fletcher and Cheatham apparently sang together for a while, and both worked with Bo, they were two distinct people. Cheatham and Bo start the record with a repeated refrain of ‘Shoop!”, before diving into the verse, singing in unison. They both take turns breaking out of the harmony, especially in the choruses. The backing, with piano and guitar setting a steady rhythm and the drummer almost taking the instrumental lead, provides (borrowing the title of another Bo side) a solid foundation for the exciting vocals.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping record, allow me state once again that this is another example of a New Orleans record that should have broken nationally, and for whatever reason did not connect with the record buying public. New Orleans soul and funk are decidedly idiosyncratic sounds, but the top 40 (pop and soul) of 1967/68 was certainly diverse enough to absorb them. ‘Lover and a Friend’ is certainly not the only great record – from New Orleans or anywhere else for that matter - that was not a chart success, but something inside me just wants to imagine a 1968 where it was emanating from car radios (and on dance floors) all over the country. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Funky16Corners Radio v.5 - Funky Nawlins Pt 1

Track listing
1.The Meters – Cardova (Instant) 2.Chris Kenner – Fumigate Funky Broadway (Instant) 3. Jimmy Hicks - I’m Mr Big Stuff (Big Deal) 4. The Unemployed – Funky Thing Pt1 5. Skip Easterling –Too Weak To Break The Chains (Instant) 6. Lee Dorsey – When the Bill’s Paid (Polydor) 7.Cyril Neville – Tell me What’s On Your Mind (Josie) 8.Danny White – Natural Soul Brother (SSS Intl) 9. David Batiste & The Gladiators – Funky Soul Pts 1&2 (Instant) 10.Wilbert Harrison – Girls On Parade (Buddah) 11. Chuck Carbo – Take Care of You Homework (Canyon) 12. Allen Toussaint – We The People (Bell) 13. Oliver Morgan – Roll Call (Seven B) 14.Deacon John – You Don’t Know How To Turn me On (Bell) 15. Mary Jane Hooper – Harper Valley PTA (Power) 16. Eddie Bo – Don’t Turn Me Loose (Bo Sound)
First off, we're still MOVING. The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will be complete and final in a week or so. This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is. Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to See you there... Larry

Greetings and welcom to the fifth installment of Funky16Corners Radio, this time taking a trip back down to the Crescent City, New Orleans, Louisiana for a selection of funk and funky soul. Connoisseurs of the genre will be familiar with some of these burners, but hopefully I’ve included something that’ll be new to everyone, especially some discs that I feel have been under-appreciated. We start things off with a number that resides at the top of many “Best of All Time” funk lists, the Meters mighty ‘Cardova’. By far my favorite number the Meters ever committed to vinyl under their own name – leaving out the many amazing 45s for which they provided anonymous backing – it starts out with George Porter dropping some heavy, heavy bass (so heavy in fact, that when it comes on in the car, I have to restart the tune and crank up the bass boost). As the rest of the gang drop in, Messrs. Neville on the organ, Nocentelli on the guitar and Modeliste snapping the traps, it all comes together into a swampy, hypnotic and undeniably funky mix. The only drag here is that this amazing song never made it out as a 45 (perhaps the tiny brittle confines of a 45 were too fragile to contain such a monster). If you want to spin it, you’re going to have to track down and snare a copy of their first LP (or a reissue thereof).

Chris Kenner is known to all for his early Instant label classics like ‘I Like It Like That’, but you would be wise to see if you can score copies of his late 60’s output for that label. In addition to his Eddie Bo collaborations like ‘All Night Rambler’, he also laid down tasty sides like 1967’s ‘Fumigate Funky Broadway’. Opening with a tasty drum break, Kenner goes off on a wild tear – as he was wont to do - backed by some groovy organ. The lyrics don’t make a whole lot of sense, but really, who cares? The b-side ‘Wind the Clock’, despite the new title, is actually a Part 2-ish continuation.
Jimmy Hicks ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ is of course an ‘answer record’ to Jean Knight’s 1971 ‘Mr. Big Stuff’. One of many outstanding 45s on the Big Deal imprint (along with Anthony Butler & the Invaders, and the Fantoms), ‘I’m Mr. Big Stuff’ takes things at a slightly more relaxed, and funky pace.
The Unemployed made a couple of excellent 45s with Wardell Quezerque. Though they recorded in Mississippi (at Malaco, as many of Quezerque’s productions), they were a NOLA band through and through. ‘Funky Thing’ is a fast moving, featuring group vocals, lots of guitar and solid drumming. Their other Cotillion 45, ‘Funky Rooster’ b/w ‘They Won’t Let Me’ is also excellent.
Though little known outside of New Orleans, Skip Easterling was the town’s greatest “blue-eyed” soul singer. Easterling recorded for a number of New Orleans labels – his ‘Keep The Fire Burning” on ALON is a classic – and his sides for Instant are outstanding. ‘Too Weak To Break the Chains’, from 1971 features some timely psychedelic guitar, a funky, stop-time beat and a smooth vocal by Skip. He recorded five 45s for Instant, one of which ‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ was a big local hit. Someone ought to get the lead out and compile his recordings, as he – like many other great NOLA singers – is deserving of wide recognition.
Where do you start with Lee Dorsey? The man could do no wrong. He was responsible for a number of hits, including oldies radio fixtures like ‘Ya Ya’, and was one of New Orleans’ finest R&B/soul singers. ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ hails from his 1971 Polydor LP ‘Yes We Can’. If you’ve heard the album, you already know that it’s packed from end to end with amazing tunes like ‘Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further’, ‘Tears Tears and More Tears’, ‘Gator Tail’ and the title track (later covered by the Pointer Sisters). ‘When the Bill’s Paid’ is one of the lesser known, but excellent tracks from the LP (it never came out on 45). Like the rest of the LP, it bears the mark of the Meters.
Cyril Neville’s solo debut was the 1970 45 ‘Gossip’ b/w ‘Tell Me What’s On Your Mind’. Also backed by the Meters, and Toussaint-produced it was funky on both sides – though funk 45 diggers are usually after the harder-hitting ‘Gossip’. ‘Tell Me What’s ON Your Mind’ is clearly no slouch in the funk department, with snapping drums, chunky organ and a tight, tight horn section.
Prepare yourself for the pure, unbridled soul power of Danny White’s ‘Natural Soul Brother’. White recorded a number of ballads and soul dancers through the 60’s for labels like Frisco. ‘Natural Soul Brother’ was his sole 45 for SSS Intl, and it is a stone killer. I first heard this tune years ago on a comp, and just about went nuts trying to track down a copy. For a track on a relatively common and well distributed label it proved extremely hard to find. I was foiled more than once when I thought I finally tracked on down – one disappeared en route from the UK – before I finally scored a copy for a single US dollar in an otherwise uninspiring lot on E-Bay. I suspect that after you hear the song, you’ll want one of your own as well.
I underwent a similarly frantic search for David Batiste & the Gladiators ‘Funky Soul Pts 1&2’ on Instant. Not only is this track hard to find, but when you do it is EXPENSIVE. I lucked out and got it for a reduced price, but only because it looked a lot worse than it played. I would rank ‘Funky Soul’ as one of the four or five best funk sides to emerge from New Orleans (and that’s saying a lot). Released in 1971, it was issued later on the Soulin label. I have seen sales listings that infer that the Soulin issue is the first, but looking at the vintage of other releases on that label, I have my doubts. I have included both Parts One and Two here.
The next track is by a non-New Orleans artist, but it was recorded there. ‘Girls on Parade’ hails from Wilbert Harrison’s self-titled 1971 Buddah LP. Produced by Marshall Sehorn, with horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint, the LP is unremarkable, save for the funky ‘Girls On Parade’. Harrison, best known for the classic “Kansas City” and the 1969 ‘Let’s Get Together’ (covered by Canned Heat) wails a series of girls names (and not much else) over the modified Bo Diddley beat.
Chuck Carbo’s ‘Take Care of Your Homework’ was the flip side of his funky, Eddie Bo penned/produced masterpiece ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’. ‘ Take Care of Your Homework’ never reaches the frantic levels of ‘...Squeeze’ but is still quite funky, with a melodic chorus. Carbo had recorded a number of 45s in the 50’s and 60’s, including several as a member of the Spiders with his brother Chick.
If you follow the doings in this space, you already know that I think very highly of the great Allen Toussaint. The man was responsible for the lions share of great R&B and soul sides to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s as a songwriter, producer and arranger. He worked closely with singers like Eldridge Holmes and Betty Harris, and lesser known (but also excellent) artists like Wallace Johnson. Toussaint also had his own performing career, first as Al Tousan, then as a member of the Stokes and finally under his own name. 1969’s ‘We the People’ was his final single for the Bell label. Moving along with a loping beat, lots of piano and Toussaint’s vocals, ‘We the People’ (which was flipped with a cover of ‘Tequila’) may not be the funkiest thing he ever recorded, but is nonetheless a fine – forgotten – chapter in his solo discography.
Oliver Morgan recorded a bunch of classics, including ‘Who Shot the La La’, and, not surprisingly ‘La La Man’. The latter was one of his three collaborations with Eddie Bo on the Seven B label. The first record the recorded together was ‘Roll Call’, which features some tight James Black drums, backing vocals from Mr. Bo and a wailing lead from Morgan. The b-side, ‘Sure Is Nice’ is a groovy, upbeat soul tune.
Deacon John Moore is best known for his work as a popular New Orleans session guitarist on countless classic 60’s records. His 1971 (or ’72, I’m not 100% sure) 45 ‘You Don’t Know How (To Turn Me On)” is a funky vocal with some excellent guitar (no surprise there). I know this was comped somewhere (but can’t recall where). The flip side is a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers To Cross’. Example
Eddie Bo produced and wrote for many singers, and many of his best remembered sides were with Mary Jane Hooper. For years, the rumor was that Hooper (real name Sena Fletcher) was the same person as ‘Inez Cheatham’, who recorded the duet ‘Lover and a Friend’ with Bo for Seven B and Capitol. This has been disputed – by no less an authority than Bo himself – but their voices are EERILY similar. ‘Harper Valley PTA’ was released on the local Power label, backed with another issue of ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’, which had been issued earlier on World Pacific.
Speaking of Eddie Bo, we close this mix out with the b-side of his 1971 Bo-Sound funker ‘Can You Handle It’. ‘Don’t Turn Me Loose’ is a more relaxed, but no less satisfying number, featuring a great horn chart and some nice female backing vocals (not to mention a stellar vocal by Mr. Bo himself).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Syl Johnson - Dresses Too Short


Syl, looking slick (and wicked)


Greetings. First off, we're still MOVING. The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will be complete and final in a week or so. This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is. Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to See you there... Larry

I said bayyyybeee…your dresses too short!

Say what?

It’s Syl Johnson kids.

The one, the only, blues wailing, soul singing, harmonica wrassling, Sock It To Me man, running the route between Mississippi and Chitown, and like he said, your dresses too short (though I’m having a hard time seeing his point of view).

A few weeks ago I dropped Mr. Johnson’s name in reference to an excellent cover version of one of his best tunes, the mighty ‘Is It because I’m Black’, as offered by one Ken Boothe, reggae singer extraordinaire. Mr Boothe will be featured in this space, laying down that very same song in a few short weeks (during Funky16Corners all-Jamaican week, really…).

Syl Johnson is one of those cats, that despite being a dependable R&B hitmaker for almost 20 years, starting out with Chicago’s storied Twinight imprint, and then moving on to even more fine work in the hallowed Memphian halls of the Hi label (home to the right Rev. Green – “Al” to his friends – Anne Peebles and Willie Mitchell among others).

As I said, he erupted from Mississippi, and crash landed in Chicago in the late 50’s, working for legends like Magic Sam (the cat that makes me wish I had a blues blog on the side), Junior Wells and Billy Boy “I Wish You Would” Arnold, before making it into the studio with the laconic (some would say somnolent), and highly influential blues giant Jimmy Reed.

He started laying down his own wax for Federal that same year, making a number of 45s for that label into 1962.

Between ’62, and ’67 when he made his first sides for Twinight he recorded for a few small labels. He had one of his biggest hits right out of the gate with ‘Come On Sock It To Me’, his very first single for Twinight. An outstanding example of rough-edged sock soul, it can also be found in its non-vocal form on the Shama label as played by Syl’s backing band The Deacons (featuring Syl’s brother Jimmy on guitar). It’s a nice slice of mid-60’s organ bashing and remains rather affordable (at least the last time I checked). The Deacons version – ‘Sock It To Me’ hit the R&B Top 40 in December of 1968, just a month after ‘Dresses Too Short’ did the very same thing.

‘Dresses Too Short’, a similarly savage entry into the Big Book of Fine Chicago Soul Sides, though committed to wax in the Windy City, sounds as if Syl dragged the gang back down below the Mason-Dixon line for the session. The drums, they snap, the gee-tar, she twangs, the organ grinds and the horns sound like they wafted in on a strong wind from McLemore Ave. It’s a lively take on, if I may borrow a phrase from Mr. Lou Courtney – “chick check’n” – and sounds like the sound produced by a hot room full of funky butts, cheap wine and Continental suits.

That’s a PARTY son!

When Syl, who wails mightily starts going on about how,

You’re looking good

You’re looking so good, now

When you sock it to me

Rock it to me one more time

I can’t stand it

I’m going out of my mind


You wear your dresses too short!

You’re there in the room with him, reaching up to mop the sweat from his brow, so his vision of such a fine, fine woman should not be in any way obscured.

The flip side, ‘I Can Take Care of Business’ is a very tasty soul ballad that incorporates a bit of Syl’s blues past.

Very nice 45 indeed.

NOTE: This, otherwise known as the regularly scheduled Friday post, is going up tonight on account of I got some bidness to take care of on the morrow. I’ll be back on Monday with a week of some high quality New Orleans sounds, including a new installment of Funky16Corners Radio.

Donate to the 2006 Funky16Corners Pledge Drive

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ike & Tina Turner & The Ikettes - There Was a Time \ African Boos \ Funky Street

Ike & Tina Turner
First off, we're still MOVING.
The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will be complete and final in a week or so. This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is.
Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to
See you there...
Hey, hey, hey..... It’s Wednesday morning, and I am feeling about as well as anyone whose two-year-old son decided to wake him up at 5:45AM, i.e. I am tired. My eyes feel like two tennis balls, and the urge to crawl under my desk and take a nap is almost impossible to resist. However, the need to remain gainfully employed, and the inner pilot light that ignites my ‘The blog must go on’ impulse is maintaining just enough of a connection between my ears, brain and fingers to get today’s entry typed out. The only remedy, of course, is to open up what beer-swilling, ham-fisted goons normally refer to as a “can of whoopass”, or what I like to call – coincidentally – a “can of whoopass”. This may betray the fact that sometime in my cloudy past I may have aspired to – and achieved – beer-swilling, ham-fisted goon-hood, but that is a risk I must take, because if there is a can of whoopass near enough to grab, it has a label that reads: Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Handle with Caution! That’s right chillun. By clicking on today’s MP3 link, you will be unleashing into your computer (and of course your ears) a blast of just over six minutes of absolutely, unrelentingly, spine-twisting, brain-softening, eye-popping soul power. It may have been recorded more than 35 years ago, but like a bottle of ripple, it has only gotten more powerful (maybe even dangerous). I have dropped some Ike and Tina action in this space before, and though I bow to their power without hesitation, it is only fair to say that when it comes to the Turners, I am often conflicted as to what category they and their music should inhabit. They are certainly soulful, but are they “soul”? While capable of undeniably funky moments, are they “funk”? Hmmmmmm.... Does anyone but me care about these distinctions? Perhaps not, but I’m gonna keep writing anyway. Ike and Tina Turner, by sheer force of talent and personality, managed to embrace all aspects of black music during their prime, while simultaneously transcending labels. They were purely rhythm and blues, but their sound passed through (and marked) soul, funk and even rock’n’roll. They managed to create explosive and popular music that while rooted in roadhouses and chittlin’ circuit theaters almost always ended up going in other directions. How much of this power resulted from their famously contentious and violent partnership, is not for me to say. Despite Ike’s obvious talent, he was reportedly a wife-beating asshole, tyrant and all around unpleasant individual, and I can’t imagine this inspiring Tina to do anything other than pack a bag, grab her kids and hit the road (which she eventually did). The only answer – for me, anyway – is that they were both very talented, and they managed to create dynamic music in spite of their problems. That said, they also managed to put together a shit-hot act, a large part of which was their backing group the Ikettes. Though I can’t say with any certainty which Ikettes are performing on today’s selection, but I can says that over the years their ranks included Clydie King, Vanetta Fields, Jo Armstead, P.P. Arnold and Bonnie Bramlett, and that they managed to crank out some outstanding 45s under their own name (and later as the Mirettes). Today’s selection(s) hails from a 1969 Minit LP, ‘In Person: Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes’. Though by this time the Ike & Tina Turner Revue was playing psychedelic ballrooms and festivals, they were still hitting the supper clubs, and as things open up, the appropriate vibe seems to be in place. The band is vamping on a vague approximation of King Curtis’s ‘Soul Serenade’ and KSOL DJ Herb Campbell – who sounds like he’s chairing the local Kiwanis– is greeted by polite applause as he comes out to introduce the band. He calls out the Ikettes, who take the stage and thank the audience. Then, it happens. Forgetting that they’re in a supper club and not looking out over a sea of muddy hippies, the band turns the volume up to 11, and proceeds to explode into a cover of James Brown’s ‘There Was a Time’. I can only imagine some of the tuxedoed swells in the audience gagging on their cocktail onions as the band tears into the song at about 150 miles per hour. ‘There Was a Time’ is one of my fave JB songs, and I’m here to tell you that the Ikettes more than do it justice. They take the song and turn it into an extended intro – warning? – as Tina is preparing to take the stage. The Ikettes finish up, and Campbell returns to the stage to bring Tina on. ‘The beautiful, talented, Queen of Soul, Miss Tina Turner!’ Tina walks on – I’m assuming, this is after all a record – and the band fires back up and take things at an even faster rate (if that’s possible). There’s an extended vamp, with Ike bending the strings, and the drummer (whoever he was) laying down a hard, fast groove, and you can imagine Tina and the Ikettes doing that frantic Pony-variation that they did so well. Tina drops in and starts things up.
One used to be the Shotgun Two used to be the bad boogaloo Three used to be the swingin’ Shingaling Four used to be the Funky Four Corners Down on Funky Street Diggin’ the funky beat Down on Funky Street Where the grooviest people meet! OUCH! It like Arthur Conley is there on the stage, his face streaked with tears as Tina and the Ikettes are dancing all over prone, shattered form. It’s that powerful. And then, after two (very) short verses, the whole affair comes to an abrupt end. The audience sits there, eyelids peeled back, lapels afire, wondering why they gave up a chance to see Robert Goulet to subject themselves to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, for which they were obviously not prepared. It’s just like that sometimes.
* PS I'm not exactly which part of this medley "African Boos" is, unless that's what Ike decided to call the part of the song where the band is vamping on 'There Was a Time', which in all hoesty just should have been called 'There Was a Time'.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Billy Preston - Let The Music Play

Billy Preston R.I.P.
First off, we're still MOVING.
The switch over to the Wordpress version of the Funky16Corners blog is underway, and will be complete and final in a week or so. This version will remain up as a repository and forwarding site, but the Blogger tool has become progressively more unreliable, and I've tired of dealing with is.
Please adjust your links/bookmarks accordingly to point to
See you there...
I was saddened last week to hear of the passing of the great Billy Preston. If you grew up in the 70’s, Preston was a very familiar face, having hit the charts a number of times with tunes like ‘Outta Space’ and ‘Will It Go Round In Circles’. It’s not hard to conjure up an image of the Billy Preston of the 70’s, with his impossibly large afro and infectious, gap-toothed smile. While most of the music blogs I follow featured a tribute of some kind, this space remained unfortunately Preston-less. This was due in large part to the fact that I already had some posts n the hopper, and because I couldn’t quite think of any tunes that hadn’t already been covered in some way. This weekend I started to pull out and record some new material for the coming weeks, and while flipping through my Hammond boxes, I came up with something I think you’ll dig. It was only in adulthood that I found out about, and started to listen to Preston’s early work. Through the 60’s, from the time he was a teenager up until just before he collaborated with the Beatles on ‘Get Back’, Preston made a series of instrumental LPs featuring his work on the organ for the Derby, VeeJay and Capitol labels. Though none of these records would meet with any chart success, a few of his numbers, especially ‘Billy’s Bag’ (on VeeJay) would become dancefloor faves with the Mod and Northern Soul crowds in the UK. Though I was aware of this material for a while, the first record I was actually able to get my hands on was his first Capitol LP ‘The Wildest Organ in Town’. Arranged by (and featuring uncredited contributions from) Sly Stone, the LP was recorded not long after Preston’s run on the US pop showcase Shindig. This LP - like his previous work for VeeJay - featured a mix of cover versions of pop and soul tunes and a few originals. So, the years went on, and – Hammond fiend that I am – I grabbed Preston’s early stuff whenever I was able. Some years ago, during that period of acquisition, my pal Haim played a Preston 45 for me that I had never heard before, which immediately blew me away. ‘Let The Music Play’, which was released in late 1966 (and was recorded for Preston’s second Capitol LP ‘Club Meeting’, which I have never seen in the field), is less a Hammond tour de force than a jubilant, soulful vocal number that verily explodes with energy. Arranged by HB Barnum, the tune opens with a wailing organ, horns and vibes. Preston starts the vocal (I tend to think that the second voice in the background may be Stone, but it’s just as possible that it’s Preston doubling himself), and the verse - about a miserable life redeemed by music – is excellent, but it’s not until the chorus, with it’s wild “Hey!”s that sound as if they are panned from channel to channel, that things take off. The horn chart is powerful, and the backing track sounds as if it were recorded live in the studio with little or no overdubs. It’s probably my favorite Preston side, and ought to be better known. Preston must have liked the song since he re-recorded it in the mid-70’s. The version of Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’ on the flip side, sounds like a live recording and has a loose, “churchy” feel to it. It’s a great companion piece to ‘Let the Music Play’. As I said before, I’ve never seen a copy of the LP ‘Club Meeting’, I have seen the 45 turn up now and again, and ‘Wildest Organ In Town’ and ‘Club Meeting’ have been paired up for a CD reissue, as have his VeeJay recordings.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tammi Terrell - I Can't Believe You Love Me

Miss Tammi Terrell
Howdy all... The end of the week is upon us, and change is looming on the horizon. The past few weeks Blogger (the service through which this blog is posted) has been experiencing another round of technical difficulties – which seem to be happening with increasing frequency. This has made posting the blog increasingly difficult – if not impossible. I’ve had less trouble than some because all of my sound and graphic files are posted on a separate server, and are unaffected by these outages, but actually getting my posts online has been getting harder and harder (especially considering that I like to meet my traditional Monday/Wednesday/Friday deadlines. I’ve decided to “mirror” the Funky16Corners blog using a newly constructed (and different looking) Wordpress blog. I’ll continue to post the entries on both blogs for a few weeks, giving readers and linking sites time to adjust their links, and then probably continue to maintain the Blogger site as an archive. I know this is a little confusing, but finding the time to get this all prepped and written is hard enough, but the difficulty is compounded when I can’t get my work posted on the web where you all can get a look at it.
Please adjust your links accordingly.

Also - the Funky16Corners 2006 Pledge Drive continues (see Paypal link in the sidebar)

Anyway... Today’s selection is another one of those “hey look what I found sitting in my pile of records” revelations, which seem to be happening with increasing frequency these days. A while back, I was working on the computer and pulling LPs off the shelf and spinning them on the portable. One of the discs I grabbed was a 1967 Motown anthology – something like “16 Original Hits” – that had a bunch of painfully obvious, heavily overplayed selections, and a few interesting items that I was not familiar with. One of these, buried at the end of one of the sides was a Tammi Terrell tune, ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’. So, I’m sitting there, waiting for a page to load in the background, and playing spider solitaire and suddenly I hear a strangely familiar song. I checked the label, saw it was the aforementioned Tammi Terrell song, and started wracking my brain as to where I might have heard it before. It took a few minutes, and then I realized that I knew the song, but in a recording by someone else, in this case the mighty Ambassadors of Philadelphia, PA. The Ambassadors were one of the finest harmony soul groups to come out of Philly in the late 60’s, having recorded a series of 45s for Atlantic, and then a second run of 45s and an LP for the Philly label Arctic (also home to the Volcanos and Barbara Mason). ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’ was the b-side of the group’s first Arctic 45, the a-side of which ‘I Really Love You’ was their only chart hit. Tammi Terrell - who also hailed from Philadelphia – is best known to most listeners as one of the more prominent duet partners of Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ among others) , and for her short, tragic life. She began performing in her early teens, and recorded a few 45s (for Scepter, and James Brown’s Try Me label) before being signed to Motown in 1965. ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’ was the a-side of her very first 45 for the label, and it hit the Top 40 of both the Pop and R&B charts. Written by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’, as recorded by Terrell is a lush, sexy mid-tempo number with a fantastic arrangement. Opening with what sounds like doubled electric guitars, and then strings, Terrell comes in with her sweet voice, running through the chorus once before dropping back into the verse. Her voice is accompanied only by the guitars and percussion, before the backing singers and strings come back in for the chorus, which builds ever so subtly into a crescendo. It has quickly become one of my favorite Motown sides. Terrell also recorded the tune as a duet with Gaye in 1969. In 1967, she collapsed on stage and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though she continued to record for a few more years, her condition got worse and she finally died in 1970, only 24 years old. Fortunately, all of Tammi Terrell’s best work – solo and with Marvin Gaye - is available in reissue, as are the recordings of the Ambassadors (which I recommend highly, even though their CD omits their version of this great song).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Funky16Corners Radio v.4 - S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)

Track listing
Velvelettes - Lonely Lonely Girl Am I (VIP)
Betty Harris - I Don't Want To Hear It (Sansu)
Irma Thomas - What Are You Trying To Do (Imperial)
Flirtations - Nothing But A Heartache (Deram)
Cooperettes - Shingaling (Brunswick)
Barbara West - You're No Good (Ronn)
Kim Weston - Helpless (Gordy)
Betty Everett - Getting Mighty Crowded (VeeJay)
Shirley Ellis - Soul Time (Columbia)
Christine Cooper - S.O.S. (Heart In Distress) (Parkway)
Persianettes - It Happens Every Day (OR)
Marvelettes - I'll Keep On Holding On (Tamla)
Thelma Jones - Stronger (Barry)
Bonnie & Lee - The Way I Feel About You (Fairmount)
Martha & The Vandellas - In My Lonely Room (Gordy)
Linda Jones - I Can't Help Loving My Baby (Loma)
Liberty Belles - Shingaling Time (Shout)
Jean Wells - With My Love and What You've Got (Calla) Top o’ the morning/afternoon to ye.... Today brings us to the fourth installment of Funky16Corners Radio, this time bearing the title ‘S.O.S. Heart In Distress’, borrowing its name from the record of the same name, representing a storming collection of mid-60’s, danceable, female-driven soul sides.
Keep in mind that the Funky16Corners 2006 Pledge Drive continues (see Paypal link in sidebar to the right). As with all previous Funky16Corners mixes, this one is a distillation of a personal mix I’ve been rocking for a few years, playing and replaying until it was boiled down to it’s essence. Composed of 18 of my faves, almost all compelling the listener to get up and dance (or at least nod one’s head vigorously). If you’re a cardholder in the world of hardcore soulies (or a regular reader of this blog), some of these tracks will be familiar, but hopefully many will be fresh and new (to you) and you will dig them accordingly. Example
Disinterested in wasting time, we kick in the door (as it were) with what I consider to be one of the finest records to have been produced in Detroit during the 1960’s. ‘Lonely Lonely Girl Am I’ by the Velvelettes , is an example of the early brilliance of Norman Whitfield. Cowritten by Whitfield, Eddie Holland and Eddie Kendricks, the tune is just over two minutes of dancefloor soul brilliance. Sporting a classy arrangement and a fantastic vocal by Carolyn Gill, it’s the finest of many excellent 45s by the Velvelettes.
Not willing to let up one iota, the next tune, ‘I Don’t Want To Hear It’ is one of Betty Harris’s best. Harris, who recorded ballads, upbeat soul and funk under the aegis of the brilliant Allen Toussaint between 1965 and 1970 (and is back performing today, having recently won back the rights to her catalogue) wails like a woman scorned. I’d love to know how Toussaint got that deep bass sound at the beginning of the record. Example
Speaking of the Soul Queens of New Orleans, the only woman that can give Betty Harris a run for her money in competition for that title is the legendary Irma Thomas. Thomas recorded a series of brilliant 45s for the Imperial label in the mid-60’s. Though many of these were recorded in California, the best of them (including this track) were recorded in her home base of New Orleans with Allen Toussaint. ‘What Are You Trying to Do’ is one of those brilliant Toussaint productions/arrangements that seem to transcend a “New Orleans” feel, skyrocketing into the pop/soul stratosphere. Thomas’s soaring vocal is complemented by a propulsive beat and elegant strings. It took me a long time to find a copy of this one, but boy was it ever worth it. The Flirtations ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ is a mindblower. I first found this record years ago, purchasing it unheard, mainly because it was a Deram 45 that I’d never encountered before. As soon as I got it home I realized what a find I had (keeping in mind that this was back in the day when this was a cheap record). The Flirtations recorded their first 45s in the US for the Josie label, but it wasn’t until they relocated to the UK and recorded for Parrot and then Deram that they really broke out. The recorded a series of tunes written by UK pop songsmiths Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington who had done time in Pete Best’s band and went on to write a number of pop hits. ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ grabs you from the opening piano chords, and seemingly manages to pack the power of ten records into this one recording. The tune was recently recorded by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. Example
I don’t know much about the Cooperettes aside from the fact that they hailed from Philadelphia and they recorded a number of excellent 45s. The best of them is the Northern Soul classic ‘Shingaling’. Recording for the Harthon organization, the backing track for ‘Shingaling’ was recycled for Irma and the Fascinators brilliant, unreleased but often comped ‘You Need Love’. Opening with casual high-hat hits that build into a powerful drum roll, the tune is a storming dancer with some amazing production.
Changing things up a bit, with a moody feel is Barbara West’s version of ‘You’re No Good’. Written by Clint Ballard (who also wrote the Mindbenders ‘Game of Love’ and ‘I’m Alive’ for the Hollies), the tune is perhaps best known in versions by Betty Everett and Linda Ronstandt. I dig West’s gritty, pained take on the number. When she’s shouting ‘You’re no good!” in the chorus, she sounds like she means it. West recorded four 45s for the Ronn label.
‘Helpless’ by Kim Weston is a fine example of Holland/Dozier /Holland goodness. Weston, who recorded a number of duets with Marvin Gaye, also recorded a grip of winners as a solo, most notable this gem from 1966. After leaving Motown she went on to record for MGM, Volt and People among other labels. Example
Speaking of Betty Everett, she may best be known as the singer of one of the most overplayed oldies ever, i.e. ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’ but she was certainly no slouch. She recorded a number of killer sides for the VeeJay label, including the classic ‘It’s Getting Mighty Crowded’. Written by Van McCoy, the tune was later covered by Alan Price, and even later by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
Shirley Ellis is another great singer who’s finest work is often overlooked because of her big hits (in her case ‘The Name Game’). Ellis recorded a number of excellent sides for the Congress label (including ‘Nitty Grity’) before jumping to Columbia in 1966. ‘Soul Time’ (taken from the LP of the same name) is one of her best sides
Christine Cooper recorded three outstanding 45s for the Cameo/Parkway label, the rarest of which ‘Heartaches Away My Boy’ trades for hundreds of dollars. 1965’s ‘S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)’ may be more affordable, but it’s no less a killer. Featuring a bright, poppy arrangement, and a “morse code” riff in the chorus (predating the Five Americans), ‘S.O.S. (Heart In Distress)’ is simply a great record.
The Persianettes/Persionettes were another Phildelphia group, part of the Ben-Lee stable that included artists like Patti & The Emblems, Timmy & the Empires, Cindy Scott and Kenny Gamble. ‘It Happens Every Day’ which was released on Open Records, was one half of a brilliant two-sided 45 (with ‘Call On Me’ on the flip). The Persianettes recorded sides for Swan, Olympia, Guyden and Open/Or, as well as singing backup on other Ben-Lee productions. Example
The Marvelettes ‘I’ll Keep On Holding On’ is one of the greatest Motown sides of the 60’s, as well as a beloved Mod/Northern Soul classic. Covered in the mid-60’s by UK Mod gods the Action (which is where I first heard it) ‘I’ll keep On Holding On’ is nothing less than an anthem. It has a pounding arrangement, memorable lead and backing vocals (gotta love those Oooooweeoooo’s) and builds to a sing-a-long chorus that you never want to end.
Thelma Jones recorded a string of great 45s for the Barry label between 1966 and 1968, including the original (and superior) version of ‘The House That Jack Built’. ‘Stronger’ was the b-side of her first single for Barry in 1966.
Years ago I picked up a beat up copy of ‘The Way That I Feel About You’ by Bonnie & Lee for a buck at a record fair, and fell in love with it instantly. Fortunately I was able to mint up a few years later at a similarly low price. It’s an amazing record (released in 65 or 66 on Philly’s Fairmount label), and why it remains undiscovered is a mystery to me. Though this is a duet – and doesn’t adhere strictly to the format of this mix – Bonnie’s vocals are so good I couldn’t hold it back.
Another song I heard by the Action before the original recording is 1964’s ‘In My Lonely Room’ by Martha and the Vandellas. Opening with jangly rhythm guitar and vibes, the drums soon kick in and take this record to another level entirely. By the time Martha and the girls drop is things are moving at a brisk pace, making this one of my favorite Motown dancers. The way the rhythm builds up, with the guitar, drums, tambourine and handclaps one on top of another, along with Martha Reeves powerful lead vocal is amazing.
Linda Jones recorded a bunch of great 45s for Loma in the mid 60’s. Her biggest hit was 1967’s ‘Hypnotized’, but I’m here to hep you to it’s energetic flip side ‘I Can’t Stop Loving My Baby’. Featuring a very solid vocal by Jones, and a tight, danceable arrangement, this one ought to get your feet moving.
I know nothing about the Liberty Belles, aside from the fact that ‘Shingaling Time’ is a killer. Dig that ‘Ha Ha!’ at the beginning and the pounding drums. The tune was also released in the UK on JayBoy.
The mix closes out with another personal favorite and is probably the latest tune in this batch, hailing from 1968. Jean Wells recorded excellent 45s for a number of labels (including Quaker Town, Sunshine, ABC and Calla) through the 60’s, and ‘With My Love and What You’ve Got (We Could Turn The World Around)’ is by far the finest. An absolute stunner with an arrangement that builds to a powerful chorus (which continues to build on itself right into the run off groove) this record never lets up. The record has sophisticated production with an eye turned to the pop market, and Wells vocal, especially in the last 30 seconds of the record is incredible.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pat Lewis - Warning b/w I'll Wait

Miss Pat Lewis
Greetings all.
I hope everyone had a good weekend and is sufficiently rested, at least rested enough so that the sudden shock of some outstanding soul music won’t knock you on your ass. Presumptuous? I think not. While combing the crates for the most recent batch of tasty 45s to whip on you via the ole blogspot, I was seized by what the Tenacious D boys refer to as “inspirado”. No matter how many 45s I flipped through, I was repeatedly drawn to some very nice 60’s female soul sides, and thought to myself, “Grogan...” That’s how I refer to myself when engaged in internal dialogue. “You know what you oughtta do?” “Whazzat?” said I. “Pull a grip of these babies, and do a theme week. Lay a new mix on’em on Wednesday and bookend that with a couple of winners on Monday and Friday.” Naturally, considering the source I thought this was a wonderful idea, and got right down to work. The first thing I grabbed was yet another Solid Hit disc (following the unjustly ignored Johnny Goode 45 of roughly a month ago), this time ‘Warning’ b/w ‘I’ll Wait’ by the mighty Pat Lewis. I first encountered the sounds of Pat Lewis a few years back via one of Keb Darge’s comps (Beams Presents the Keb Darge Experience). The tune he included, the absolutely incredible ‘No One To Love’, the third of her four singles for the Solid Hit label. I instantly fell in love with the song, and set out to try and bag my own copy. That is until I found out that when copies of this single turn up, they trade in the vicinity of $1000.00 apiece. Naturally, when I do come across that kind of money, I use it to pay my mortgage, so it was not to be. However, I did keep the name Pat Lewis on my want list and grabbed her – how do you say – “more affordable” sides when I was able to find them. If you are unfamiliar with Lewis, I can assure you that you have definitely heard her voice. She was one of the Andantes, the female backing group that appears on countless Motown 45s, and sang on Isaac Hayes’ ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ LP, providing the signature “Walk on!”s on Hayes’ epic rereading of ‘Walk On By’. In 1966 and 1967 Lewis also laid down several 45s under her own name, including ‘Can’t Shake It Loose’ on Golden World (re-recorded as ‘I Can’t Shake It Loose’ by the Supremes, and the aforementioned 45s for Solid Hit. Lewis had the good fortune to work with the Geo-Si-Mik organization (George Clinton, Sidney Barnes and Mike Terry) during her tenure with those two labels. Clinton co-wrote and produced ‘Can’t Shake It Loose’, eventually rerecording the song with Funkadelic during the sessions to their debut LP (the song remained unreleased until a recent reissue of the LP). Her first 45 for Solid Hit was a fantastic version of the Parliaments tune ‘Look At What I Almost Missed’. Today’s selection(s) appeared on her second 45 for Solid Hit. ‘Warning’ (written by Leon Ware and Mike Terry) is a moody but upbeat number that juxtaposes pounding drums and elegant strings. Lewis delivers the lyrics in her clear soprano against the propulsive instrumental backing. The flip side, the slower, darker ‘I’ll Wait’ was co-written by Clinton and sounds like any number of similar Parliaments numbers (such as ‘All Your Goodies Are Gone’). This number was also re-recorded (as ‘I’ll Stay’) by Funkadelic on their 1974 LP ‘Standing On The Verge of Getting It On’). Lewis would go on to record two more 45s for Solid Hit, making her responsible for a full third of that label’s output. Unfortunately very little of Pat Lewis’ recorded output is currently available. If you pop over to Dusty Groove and search under her name, a few comps containing the aforementioned ‘No One To Love’ show up, but little else. Funky16Corners 2006 Fund Drive In other news, the fund drive continues (Paypal link to the right in the sidebar). My thanks to those that have already been very generous. See you on Wednesday with that new installment of Funky16Corners radio!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Billy Vera & Judy Clay - Tell It Like It Is

Billy Vera & Judy Clay
Greetings all. Friday is here, the weekend is upon us and the fine weather (at least for the time being) gives us all something to look forward to. The Funky16Corners 2006 Pledge Drive continues (link in the sidebar to the right), and I have to say thanks to those of you that have already been very generous. I really appreciate the vote of support. Stay tuned, because next week is Soul Girls week, with a couple of very nice Detroit soul sides and a new Funky16Corners Radio mix. I think (I hope) you’ll dig it. Today’s selection is a record that I was completely unaware of until recently. Those of you that hit this space with regularity know that I’ve covered the sounds of Billy Vera & Judy Clay before. Their 1968 ‘Storybook Children’ LP is a longtime fave, and I consider their smoking b-side ‘Really Together’ to be one of the great, lost classics of upbeat late 60’s soul. A few months ago, a friend sent me his sales list, and I while scanning the pages, making mental checkmarks here and there, I happened upon what appeared to be a Vera/Clay 45 that I’d never seen before. After a quick check I discovered that both sides of this 45 were non-LP. Billy Vera was already a working songwriter/performer when he penned the song ‘Storybook Children’. Vera tried recording it as a duet with Nona Hendryx (then part of Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles), and when that session didn’t work out – according to Vera the duo was put asunder when the Bluebelles manager feared that a hit would break up that group -, Jerry Wexler suggested that Judy Clay (then signed to Stax) would make a suitable replacement. Clay, who had been a member of the gospel group the Drinkard Singers (with Cissy Houston) had already recorded a number of singles under her own name for several labels (including Ember, Lavette and Scepter) before hooking up with Stax in 1967. Clay came in and the vocal on ‘Storybook Children’ was rerecorded (over the original backing track), and the single went on to hit the Top 40 (both sides charting) in several markets. Unfortunately, as the first interracial soul duo, Vera and Clay were subjected to all manner of predictable racist nonsense, which was compounded by the fact that many assumed (wrongly) that ‘Storybook Children’ was based in fact and that Vera and Clay were more than just singing partners. They recorded their LP for Atlantic, and when further success eluded them, they went their separate ways. Vera went on to record as a solo, and Clay returned to Memphis to duet with William Bell on the hit ‘Private Number’. As far as I knew, that was where the Vera/Clay partnership ended. Then I found the 45 of ‘Reaching for the Moon’ b/w ‘Tell It Like It Is’. So, I’m doing my research, and I discover that the catalogue number on the 45 was significantly higher than on ‘Storybook Children’, placing the release of the single in 1969 at the earliest, long after the duo had supposedly stopped working together. My curiosity was piqued. I started digging a little deeper. It turns out that the partnership of Billy Vera and Judy Clay got a second chance. Following her success with William Bell, and a 45 of her own on Stax, Clay was brought back to Atlantic and paired with Vera once again. The 1969 session yielded the two songs on this 45. Unfortunately, after ‘Reaching for the Moon’ looked like it was going to catch on, the duet went their separate ways - for many of the same reasons - once again. While ‘Reaching for the Moon’ is a nice tune, I’m here to hep you to the flip, a very nice version of the mighty ‘Tell It Like It Is’. Now, I won’t yank your chain and suggest that any version of the song surpasses the 1966 original by Aaron Neville. That recording was a big hit, and for good reason. If ever a song seemed custom designed for Neville’s sweet voice and wide open vibrato, this is it. Written by New Orleans musicians George Davis and Lee Diamond (one of Little Richard’s Upsetters); it was recorded by Neville in 1965. Davis and Diamond offered the recording to several local labels, but there were no takers. They formed the Parlo label to release the song, and of course had a huge hit with it. Despite the song’s success, and a couple of other excellent recordings by Neville (including ‘Tell It...’s b-side ‘Why Worry’ and the lost classic ‘A Hard Nut To Crack’) Parlo soon went under. Since then, the song has been covered countless times by artists including Freddy Fender, Percy Sledge, Heart and (believe it or not) Andy Williams. However, for all the covers I never heard the song performed as a duet until I came across the Vera/Clay version. Produced (like all of their Atlantic recordings) by Chip Taylor, and recorded in NYC, the record manages to have a nice “Southern” sound, with a great horn chart, some soulful electric piano, and of course some fantastic Vera/Clay vocal interaction. I know that there are those out there that have cast aspersions of Billy Vera’s vocal talents, but I’m here to tell you that while he may not have been putting the fear of God into the Otis Reddings of the world, he was a fine R&B singer with a real “feel” for the music. He managed to be soulful without resorting to the kind of histrionics that make the Michael Bolton’s of the world so objectionable. His slightly reedy timbre provides a nice counterpoint to Clay’s soaring, gospel-inflected voice. The sad thing is that this 45 was their final record together. I find my self wondering what they might have accomplished had they the opportunity to work together for a longer period of time in a more accepting world. The ‘Storybook Children’ LP is available as a reissue, paired with Vera’s solo LP ‘With Pen In Hand’. Unfortunately the two tracks from this 45 were not included, and as far as I can tell are not currently available in reissue.
free web page hit counter