7 x 7 + 12

Johnny Holiday: Nobody Loves Me But My Mama
From 7″ (Bold, 196?)

The Combinations: Bump Ball
From 7″ (RCA Victor, 196?)

Fruko: Langaruto
From 7″ (Fuentes, 197?)

Orquesta Zodiac: Tremendo Problema
From 7″ (Costeño, 1972)

Jimmy and Eddie: Stop and Think It Over
From 7″ (One Way, 196?)

Mandells: Now I Know
From 7″ (Hour Glass, 196?)

Family Affair: I Had a Friend
From 7″ (Authentic, 197?)

Bonus: Frankie Nieves: True Love (English + Spanish Version)
From 12″ (Disco Int’l, 1979)

A few 7″ single songs to share with ya’ll…

First up, I’ve been hunting down a copy of this Johnny Holiday single for years now. It could very well be one of the roughest things I’ve ever heard – sounds like a funk garage band with a flutist sitting in and Holiday just raging on the mic like he’s mad at the world. Holiday has cut other singles, including for Bold, but none of them sound like this; I don’t know if the studio was having recording problems that day (the flipside is also a monster but the mix is completely f—ed up, burying his vocals over a crushing, blues-influenced funk number) but whatever happened – god bless. I love grimy cuts like this. Thanks to Records L.A. who sold me their last stock copy.

The Combinations 7″ is something I bought on a lark; I was already buying another 45 from the same seller and decided to take a chance on this despite minimal awareness of the group. As I dug deeper, I was surprised to learn that the group originally began as a garage band from Easton PA; mostly white save for a lone Black member. They described their sound as “a blend of white rock under black soul.” What’s funny is that they somehow managed to record “Bump Ball,” a funky R&B boogaloo, in conjunction with the release of Milton-Bradley’s Bump Ball. I’m not clear if the 7″ I have was the one actually included with the game (as some sites have reported). There was also a Bump Ball album (but it’s not clear if the Combinations recorded all the songs on here or just the title track, which was credited to “The Bumpers”). Interesting history but all that aside – I like the track. It, uh, bumps.

Moving into some Latin, this Fruko cut is a 7″ only song as far as I know (w/ “Bang Bang” on the flip but not Joe Cuba’s well-known boogaloo hit). “Langaruto” shows off the strong piano work of (I think?) Hernán Gutiérrez who really is the secret weapon for all the best Fruko y sus Tesos tracks. This song, in particular, has that massive salsa dura sound that manages to be distinctly Colombian in a way I still haven’t been able to put my finger on – it opens like a guajira before switching things up to a quicker son montuno about half a minute in (again, I think. Corrections welcome!). So fierce.

Puerto Rico’s Orquesta Zodiac drops the other Latin cut in this set, another strong ’70s slice of salsa. I really like the use of organ on here; it’s subtle but it adds that spritz of sonic lime to flavor up the rest of the track. I’m also feeling the vocal interplay between the lead and background singers – great call and response.

The Jimmy and Eddie is a strong funky soul cut I nabbed at Big City Records in NYC earlier this year; the mix sounds just a tad off here but in favor of the rhythm section and especially the bassist and drummer. Their team-up really brings this whole tune together – it pushes along nicely and the drums are mic-ed just right to lend that extra oomph.

Give the rhythm section some love on this Mandells’ single too. The group perfectly blend some Chicago-style sweet soul vocals with that deep, deep bass, the chicha-chicha of the hi-hat patterns…with a string arrangement to boot? Are you kidding me? Best thing – this 7″ is usually found for $10 or less – an incredible value given how good the music is.

Last on the 7″ tip is one of the straight up strangest 45s I’ve come across of late. I could have sworn I originally heard this on Matthew Africa’s blog but I can’t seem to find it there again. Nonetheless, it really pays to listen to this beyond just thinking, “ooooh, nice groove.” I mean, it’s a great groove – so soulful with what I think of as subtle disco edge. And then the sweet, falsetto vocals drop in and you’re thinking, “man, this is so butter.” But then you start listening and you realize, “uh, ok, this is not setting things up well, with the singer talking about, ‘I had a friend who had everything'” since you always know how those stories end. I won’t spoil it for you but just wait until you pass the two minute mark. I feel like there should be a sound effect inserted here, just to hammer the point home. An otherwise beautiful tune.

Bonus cut is the special bilingual disco 12″ edit of Frankie Nieves’ finest work for Speed, “True Love” (which, as you can figure out in one bar, interpolates “Soulful Strut.”) I am super curious to know who ran Disco International; they seemed to specialize in (I’m assuming) unlicensed disco edits of many a great Latin jam, including Al Gonzalez’ “El Rumbon” and this one. In the case of “True Love,” Disco Int’l took the English A and Spanish B-side of Nieves’ Speed 7″ (which, by the way, came out 10 years prior) and then edited them together into a single, 6+ minute track (the B-side is a 6+ minute long Spanish-only edit). To be frank(ie), the edit does get a bit repetitive after a while but then again, it is one effective groove (Young Holt Unlimited knew what the f— they were doing back in the day).