Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Aside from being a brilliant song writer, vocalist and guitar player, Curtis Mayfield produced many great singles for other artists. It always amazes me just how many great records Curtis Mayfield recorded on himself with the impressions and others on the side. He was without a doubt one of the most creative souls ever to grace the recording industry.
Monkey Time is one of my favorites. Though it is arguably just a throw away dance record few dance records sound quite as warm and inviting. Any good dance record should invite you to join in the fun of whatever dance it promotes. With its punchy horns and it's subtle dragging funk groove you can't help but shout and shimney even though the record sounds almost unbearably light. Monkey Time is simply just one of those great mysteries that pull you in, whether you want to or not. The music begins to play and automatically you're on your way.
Available on Curtis Mayfield's Chicago Soul
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Thurston Harris is know as a one hit wonder from the sunny state of California. He scored a whopping million seller with Little Bitty Pretty One, after which not much happened. Not for the lack of great singles though. Be Baba Leba sounds so irresistible that it should have been another million seller.
The record opens a bit tame, with a few rather fruity back up singers. But as soon Thurston storms in it's a rave. Thurston Harris shows he could be a furious shouter and translates the joy of this fine 45 with a fervorous fervor. Again, it is one of those places where we all have been. Just every once in a great while we all meet that one person that'll make you Be Baba Leba just at the prospect of seeing her again. Simply because that sweetness doesn't let itself describe any better than simply Be Baba Leba. So Be Baba Leba my friends!
Of course, the original in this case is by Helen Humes, in a great early jump blues version.
Thurston's version is available as a vinyl reissue. What better reason to dust off your turn table right?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Bobby Fuller is often characterized as something of a Buddy Holly impersonator. While Bobby did was a big fan of the horn glassed R&R legend and modelled many of his records to Holly's example, Fuller also managed to turn out a few stompers who came closer to Motown and the British Invasion bands of his day. Don't Ever Let Me Know is a prime example of one such singles.
Driven by a propelling beat and chipper hand claps, Don't Ever Let Me Know is a rather desperate lover's plea. The Fuller on this record knows he's being two timed by his baby, knows she's too much woman for one man. But, he'd rather not know. In ignorance he can enjoy his own vision on their love. Not knowing he can uphold that chipper outlook on their relationship and imagine he's got plenty of reason to celebrate his love in this fine stomper.
Available on I Fought the Law: The Best of the Bobby Fuller Four
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Another favorite of the Cramps. Paul Chaplain is one of those cats that sort of just popped in and out of the recording industry to leave us with that one killer record. Released in 1960, this raving version of an old folk song, is about as wild as a record ever got. The Emeralds were a band that were as Country as a band could get. They even had fiddles. I couldn't tell you where the fiddles went on this monster though. It is all wild swinging guitars and a whooping and hollering vocals on this great little disc. Unfortunately, it proved too wild for America at the time and never made it beyond the lower regions of the Billboard Top 100. Chappy, as people called Paul, released one more 45, Swinging in the Rockies. The fire burned short and fast.
Available on Theme Time Radio Hour: With Your Host Bob Dylan
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Shorty Long was something of an oddity in the Motown household. Next to Smokey Robinson he was one of the few artists that Gordy allowed to produce and write his own material. Within Motown he was a jack of all trades, playing various instruments on unidentified recordings and doing the MC honors on the Motown Revue. Shorty's records for Motown, Here Come the Judge,Function at the Junction and this gem were unlike any other record Motown became famous for. Shorty Long was greasier and fatter than anything else that came from Hitsville at the time. Shorty's career was cut short when he drowned in lake Michigan but this 45 continued to appeal to generations of great bands.
Come 1966 Mitch Ryder first made this song into a proper hit with a rather souped up version of it. Mitch set Little Richard behind the wheels of Shorty's ride. Mitch's version was subsequently picked up by the Cramps and Bruce Springsteen. Yet none of those versions have that dangerous sly and sexy feel to it. On Shorty's record you can actually see those fine hips strutting down the boulevard, packed in that tight blue dress, you can smell the Chanel no 5 in her neck. When you hear Shorty's you know he's talking about the kind of woman that will get you high and mighty, wind you up, make you crazy, before, of course, she'll let you fall smack down on your face. This record is a mighty dangerous attraction.
Available on The Essential Collection
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Like we said, we're not adverse to hits over at this place. Polk Salad Annie is one of my favorite grooves with that steady plucking base and those punchy horns. Polk Salad Annie is a down home and country as Soul music could get. Especially with Southern Soul the racial lines were ofter more blurred than Rock mythology has it. Though Southern Soul is often seen as a more pure expression of African American culture, the reality learns that music was much more a shared experience in the South. Socially and politically all the communication lines were closed for the longest times. But in the great Stax and Fame studios they were wide open. Tony Joe White recorded this fine 45 with the same Muscle Shoals musicians as were used on the legendary recordings by Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge, using a mixed band of Country and R&B musicians. I just picked it because after all these years it still sound so damn tasty! These days the song is best remembered in Elvis's version, but Tony Joe White was the real deal!
Available on The Best of Tony Joe White
Friday, February 5, 2010
This is one of those records that I heard years ago and kept haunting me. I knew it was called the Snake, but I didn't know who sang the damn tune. These days the internet will get you a long way in trying to uncover those kinds of mysteries, but in those days I still had to rely on help from my local Dutch record store. Soul has never been a big thing in Holland, like it was in Britain, so for the longest time nobody knew what I was talking about. You really have to find out everything for yourself over in this country! Then I ran into a record by Oscar Brown jr, including a track called the Snake. Same song, different performer as it turned out to be. Though I have been told it was the original version of the songs and its jazzy feel has grown on me over time. Fast forward a few years, somebody slips me an old mix tape and there it was the Snake! Al Wilson was the cat I was looking for! On eBay the record kept eluding me after that, until I found this Belgian print nobody wanted. So after all these years its a delight to finally present to you the Snake!
Available on the forgotten Soul classic Searching for the Dolphins
And because I love you all so much, I'll throw in Oscar Brown Jr's version as well. If you ever come across one of his albums, pick it up, you won't be disappointed by his brand of cocktail Jazz. Oscar Brown Jr had this uneasy edge that simmers below the surface. Great stuff!
Available on Kicks! The Best of Oscar Brown Jr.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
To me this 45 brings back the memory of entering Rooky Ricardo’s Records in San Francisco for the first time. A record store that should be named Heaven for Record Collectors. A young man with specs big enough to function as a windshield in an open car asked me if I had a list. I did. I handed him the list hoping he would come back with one or two singles from the endless piece of paper. Instead he came back with a pile of 45’s costing $40 altogether. At that point (two years ago) the dollar wasn’t worth crap. Well, it still isn’t.
This beauty, recorded in 1961, was standing on a small display on the counter in its original Dot company sleeve. It went on my pile because of a-side “You better Move On”. But at home I realized that flipside “A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” was an even nicer find. Alexander sings the song, almost without time to breathe, over a delicious groove. A groove that will make you stand up from your chair and start to shake your hips. The only thing I dislike about the song is the fact it fades out at 1.40 seconds. In my opinion this song should go on forever.
The song also made an appearance on The Beatles’ BBC sessions album. While listening to their version I noticed how big the comparison is with Lennon and McCartney’s “I Saw Her Standing There”. To put it stronger: they stole the riff and made it their own. Listen to both songs and judge for yourself.
Monday, February 1, 2010
It is around this time of year that I really start to get the itch for spring. Somehow I kid myself every year into thinking that spring begins in February. Maybe it is all the crocuses springing up! I get a deep graving for Bar-B-Q even though it is cold and dark outside. My mouth starts to water when I think of Hot-Dogs and Hamburgers. Unfortunately spring is months away. Untill then we'll just have to make do with this great Wendy Rene record. It certainly feels like spring when she heats up the turn table!
Available on After Hours 2: More Northern Soul Masters