Quick opening note: not to sound like a broken record (pun intended) but the vinyl game is always humbling. No matter how many records you have, there’s always more/better ones to still learn about and yearn for. I’m reminded of this all the time, especially when DJing with my betters such as the Southern Soulspinners who always come with crazy heat at every gig. I try not to trains-spot on their sets too much but it’s hard to resist knowing what the hell it is they’re blowing my mind with. Their willingness to gladly share that knowledge is equally humbling and it’s a reminder of the importance of spreading that knowledge in turn.
Pigmeat Markham: Here Comes the Judge
From 7″ (Chess, 1968)
J-Zone’s recent column on his favorite drum recordings reminded me of how novel (nyuk nyuk) this single is. Basically a comedy song but set to the rugged-est of drums…as well as a great example of “rapping before there was rap music.”
Viva Brasil: Turn To Yourself + Skindo-le-le
From S/T (Sugarloaf, 1980)
The best Bay Area modern-soul-meets-Brazilian LP I know (as well as the only one). No, but really, I dig the grooves on here even if “Turn To Yourself” sounds almost like a parody of bad lyric writing. To me, the standout on here is “Skindo-le-le” which feels like the platonic ideal of what “samba soul” should sound like.
Sole Inspiration: Life
From 7″ (Soulsville, U.S.A., 197?)
This single (both sides) is at the crossroads between psych and soul, especially the moody, heavy and super-stoned out “Life.” It’s out of San Antonio if the inter webs has it right. (Flipside has a serviceable, hella garage-y cover of “Hold On, I’m Comin’.”)
Betty Wright: Pure Love
From 7″ (Alston, 1970)
When I first heard this, I just assumed it came out after the live version of “Tonight’s the Night” but now I realize I had it backwards. It’s interesting hearing “Pure Love” for the first time since it’s slower than “Tonight’s the Night” and that creates this moment of cognitive dissonance where the lick is familiar yet feels “off.” (Flipside is a good, funky Northern track: “If You Ain’t Got It”).
The Manhattans: I Call It Love
From 7″ (Carnival, 1967)
I’m slowly discovering the beauty of early Manhattans’s songs. This isn’t quite as sublime as “Follow Your Heart” but it’s still pretty damn good. They had a great ear for pairing their doo-wop harmonizing over strong, soulful arrangements. (Flipside is a solid, snappy Northern cut: “Manhattan Stomp“).
Amral’s Trinidad Cavaliers Steel Orchestra: The World Is a Ghetto + 90% of Me Is You
From Heat (Calypan, 1975)
On paper, the entire track listing makes you think this could be the greatest steel drum album ever. Cover galore, most of them R&B and funk. I mean, holy crap, they’re covering Gwen McCrae’s “90% of Me Is You,” which wasn’t exactly obscure but it’s not “Yellow Bird” either. I’ve been trying to figure out why this falls short of, say, the Dutch Rhythm Steel and Show Band (both groups cover Kool and the Gang’s “Funky Stuff’) and obviously, the Cavaliers have the sparser band…sounds like steel drums plus a drum kit and that’s it. I also feel like the conventional drummer is mixed rather low, thus blunting his/her presence. That said, their cover of “The World Is a Ghetto” works better, partially because so much of what carries the mood of the composition is in the melody rather than requiring a stronger rhythm section.
Muscle Shoals Horns: Addicted To Your Love
From Doin’ It To the Bone (Ariola, 1977)
A Soul Boulders classic. ‘Nuff said.
Tutti Hill: He’s a Lover
From 7″ (Arock, 1964)
Cool Chris talked me into this one, telling me it was one of his favorites. I was initially skeptical only because the notable absence of any real low end made this sound like a demo but the more times I listened to it at the store, the more that quality of the recording appealed to me. (That said, I feel like someone could remix this and throw in a stronger baseline and some drums).
Billy Woods: No One To Blame
From 7″ (Verve, 1966)
I often forget that Verve recorded other genres besides jazz; this great little sweet soul side came sandwiched in their catalog between everyone from Irene Reid to Willie Bobo to the Righteous Brothers.
Souls of Mischief: Never No More (76 Seville Mix)
From 12″ (Jive, 1994)
It’s funny but this remix has been in the back of my head for months but I was too lazy to digitize it from vinyl and lo and behold: that new 93 Til Infinity box set has all the remixes connected to that album and that included this. Great remix and paired (on the original 12″) with the equally good 12″-only “Good Feeling.”
Overhott, Tate and Phillips: Peg
From Direct-to-Disc (Kiras, 1977)
Another one from Cool Chris (since he knows my weakness for covers). Most of this direct-to-disc are fairly loyal disco-era covers but somehow, hearing “Peg” sung with a female trio gives this particular track a spark. (They also perform a decent version of Player’s “Baby Come Back.”)