THE CURTIS MAYFIELD DEEP DIVE

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Since the summer, I’ve been in a deep dive Curtis Mayfield mode because of the new Traveling Soul biography of Mayfield that I reviewed for Pitchfork.com.

I’ll try not to repeat the same lede as the review but it does bear repeating: it’s crazy that it took until now for someone to write a definitive Mayfield biography. There was Peter Burns’ Curtis Mayfield that come out of the UK in the early ‘00s but while it was a fantastic discographic resources, it offered little on Mayfield’s actual life. Traveling […]

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THE IMPRESSIONS: KEEP ON TRYING

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The Impressions: I’ve Been Trying (ABC-Paramount, 1965). Also on The Complete A & B Sides

At random times, I’ll just start singing to myself, “I’ve been trying…lord knows that I’ve been trying.” Don’t ask me why; that’s how ear worms work sometimes but it reminds me of how The Impressions could craft these simple but incredibly memorable lyrics out of just a few words, especially in the mid’60s with hits like “People Get Ready,” “Keep On Pushing,” […]

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WILLIE HARPER: HE’S LOST THAT LOVING FEELING

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Willie Harper: I Don’t Need You Anymore (7”, Tou-Sea, 1968)

The first 30 seconds of this song are damn near perfect.

There are some songs which ostensibly claim “I don’t need you anymore” but really, it’s all a fake out. Those singers are lying to themselves – they still do need the inconstant object of their affection, they just can’t bring themselves to fully admit it so they sing us the lie instead.

But Willie? He is done. Gone. Vamoose. 5000.

His first two lines – the inflection in […]

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A QUICK PRIMER ON BETTY DAVIS’S COLUMBIA RECORDINGS ALBUM

I was very pleasantly surprised to see this morning that Light in the Attic announced the release of Betty Davis’s long-buried Columbia recordings from 1968 and ’69. I’ve known this release was coming but was asked to keep it under wraps and to be honest, I forgot it was even due out this week until I read this morning’s press release. It’s hard to overstate how excited people – myself especially! – am about this. For years, we were told the Columbia songs were off limits and that there was a snowball’s chance in hell that anyone would […]

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ADVENTURES IN STEREO SEPARATION: THE IMPRESSIONS

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I’ve been listening to The Impressions’ This Is My Country/Young Mod’s Forgotten Story a ton the last few weeks. Though recorded as separate LPs, I always just lump them into one since they’re so similar in theme and feel that they just feel like a single album that happened to be released in two installments. What I especially love about this faux-double album is that my favorite song off of it keeps changing every few weeks. Right now, it’s “My Deceiving Heart,” but […]

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GET STONED

Do you like Sly? Of course you do.

I put together a 20 song playlist on Sly and the Family Stone’s “essential” records for Rolling Stone’s website.1 Could have probably been twice that.

If I had to pick a favorite song off that list…it’d either be “Rock Dirge” (which is “off-canon” for some folks but f— that. DRUMS) or the so-very-slick-and-fonky “If You Want Me to Stay.”

With research assistance from David Ma. Thanks man! ↩

NPR REVIEW OF GLORIA ANN TAYLOR’S “LOVE IS A HURTIN’ THING”

Got to review the new anthology of Gloria Ann Taylor’s Selector Sound catalog. As folks here know; I love her work.

7 DAYS OF SOUL: THE EQUATICS

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I’m finishing up the 7 days of soul challenge (thanks again to Michael Barnes) with my favorite soul track of the last couple of months:

The Equatics: Merry Go-Round (Now-Again, 2010, Doin’ It!!!)

I feel rather stupid since I slept on “Merry-Go-Round” specifically by 1) totally missing when Now-Again reissued this most obscure of Virginia soul LPs in 2010 and also failing to listen to it when Now-Again put it onto their excellent Loving On The Flipside compilation in 2012. ,It took until this fall for me to […]

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7 DAYS OF SOUL: ZILLA MAYES

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Zilla Mayes: All I Want Is You (Tou-Sea, 1968, 7″) (Available on The Lost Sessions)

Even if this song screams “NOLA” thanks to the touch of writer/arranger/co-producer Allen Toussaint, Zilla Mayes/Mays herself was far more of a fixture in Atlanta. As a recording artist, she primarily cut blues tunes; there’s a phenomenal series of photos killer photo of her recording “Come Back to Me” for RCA’s Groove subsidiary in 1955. However, Mayes was best known as a pioneering radio DJ, the first Black woman to grace a booth in Georgia when […]

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7 DAYS OF SOUL: THE RELATIVES

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The Relatives: More Time (To Explain) (Archway, 1971, 7″)

I learned about this Bay Area 7″ from the late Matthew Africa; I not only have a soft spot for Bay Area sweet soul and songs that use both male and female singers, but throw in some background harmonizing and I’m positively weak in the knees.

Best that I can piece together, the Relatives were a one-off group put together by Archie Reynolds III (producer) and Larry Coney (singer/writer/co-arranger). There’s a remarkable musical biography of Reynolds available here; he grew up […]

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