Wednesday, March 29, 2006

posted by O.W.

By the way, I'm starting to do posts for NPR's new Song of the Day column. It's a cool feature that I think Soul Sides fans would be into. My most recent post was on King Floyd's "Groove Me," and before that, it was Darondo's "Didn't I."

Also, I saw over at Elliot Wilson's new XXL blog that he broke down EVERY SAMPLE on the new Ghostface CD. And people think I go overboard... Btw, that Dells song is dumb hot. (Thanks for the shout, YN)

posted by O.W.

Ghostface Killah: The Sun
Deleted from Bulletproof Wallets (Epic, 2001). Also on Put It On the Line

Ghostface Killah: The Champ (original version)
Revised version on Fishscale (Def Jam, 2006)

Forget Nas - Ghostface has enough "lost tapes" songs to fill a box-set. You got to give him and his producers credit for favoring tasty loops and samples but negatory on his label's ability to shell out the money to actually license the loops. That's left dozens of tracks by the wayside, only to end up on things like J-Love's excellent Hidden Darts CD series or pseudo-mixCD/albums like Put It On The Line. In honor of Fishscale, aka the first great album of 2006, I'm plucking out two examples.

Strangely enough, I blogged about "The Sun" almost two years ago to the week. I'll just repeat what I had to say last time: "this song was supposed to kick off the Bulletproof Wallets album. Simply put: one of the greatest rap songs ever recorded, so good that even the comic strip The Boondocks quote it in one Sunday panel. Honestly, when's the last time you heard a song about how great the sun is? Exactly." By the way, I got the full story about why this song couldn't get cleared but you'll have to read Scratch Magazine in about two months to find out. Just to plug...

As for "The Champ," this song has gone through at least three permutations. There's the original version, posted above, which features a sample from a cover of "Fever" (I'm still trying to find out which one), plus some dialogue from the Rocky movies. However, they couldn't afford the licensing so then they flipped it into a second version (which can be heard on J-Love's Hidden Darts 2) but for the album version, they hired a band to interpolate the original version (and I think they do a pretty good job).

And here, have a good argument over this question: Is this album as good as or better than Supreme Clientele?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

posted by O.W.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: My Sweet Lord
From Reggay Splashdown (Dynamic, 1971)

The Troubadours: My Sweet Lord
From Breakthrough (Hilary, 1972)

It's no secret that I - love - covers. At times, I wonder if that means I don't appreciate original compositions as much but it really just comes down to the surprise-factor in hearing a familiar song done in a new, interesting way. (At some point, yes, I will definitely try to bring back my CD, Deep Covers, back into production.)

I've had this Byron Lee for several years now - it is a great LP, especially since it has this song plus a cover of "Express Yourself" which is ace. I especially love it when reggae/rocksteady artists cover soul and rock songs: the reggae rhythm often complements the original style very well and what Byron Lee and the Dragonaires do to George Harrison's sublime "My Sweet Love" is just phenomenal in really bring out the soulful qualities. I played this the other night at the record release party for Soul Sides Vol 1, towards the very end of the evening, and it felt like a great way to help close things out.

The Troubadours version is very new to my collection: I just got it less than 10 days ago and when I heard it, it was an instant impulse buy. This is more uptempo, "groovier" than Lee's version but it's an equally interesting and, to me, compelling take on the Harrison original. I can't even really choose between this and the Lee to argue which one I like better: they're different approaches and both appeal to me. I think that, more than anything, is a testament to the late Harrison and the beauty of his songwriting (which goes far too overlooked compared to the Paul/John debates).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

posted by O.W.

It's Here!.

Soul Sides Vol. 1 is finally here (release parties this past weekend = awesome).

To order, I am strongly recommending you get yours from either:
1) Sandbox Automatic - who host this site. If you want to support Soul Sides, support them.
2) Turntable Lab - who are pretty cool too.

Here's the deal: I gave both sites an exclusive bonus disc that is unique to them (i.e. each got a different disc) that has 5 bonus songs. I can't tell you what they are but suffice to say, if you like the songs on the Soul Sides CD, you're going to like these bonus tracks. Note: there's no vinyl for the bonus discs, just CDs. Sorry!1

Update: Some of you have pointed out: "hey, I pre-ordered the CD from Zealous...but I don't get a bonus?" This is a fair point to make but understand this: TTL and Sandbox approached me about doing the bonus CD only last week and moreover, both offered to pick up all the production costs. Zealous couldn't have offered a bonus disc for several key reasons (all, um, legal), plus pre-order customers got to order the album at a cheaper price than other retail sites. I will try to work out a solution but regardless, you're going to have to be patient. (Also: keep your paypal receipts if you pre-ordered).

This all said: need I remind you but people get several dozen "bonus discs" worth of material every year from this site for free. Please consider that before emailing me or posting in the comments to complain that we're not "rewarding" you enough. It's ungracious, to put it politely.

Also, if you haven't peeped yet, the CD has its own site, complete with liner notes and sound samples in case you need added incentive. Don't forget, a portion of sales goes to the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Good music. A good cause.

1. Some of you might wonder: do I have to buy both CDs, from two different places, in order to get both bonus discs? Well, technically...yes. I will try to make it simpler for people in a few weeks but right now, I'm not prepared to sell the bonus CD through this site, especially since I'm not trying to swipe sales from Sandbox or TTL. I'll try to make arrangements later in April. Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

posted by O.W.

King Floyd: Do Your Feeling + Woman Don't Go Astray
From Think About It (ATCO/Chimneyville, 1973)

I'm still blown at the fact that no news outlets (apparently) have reported on the fact that King Floyd died 10 days ago, on March 6, in California. He wasn't a huge star but he was hardly obscure either. In any case, The B-Side audioblog has an excellent biography and remembrance.

For me, what's always stood about King Floyd is that, as a vocalist, he had this notably mild tone yet most of his best cuts found him funkin' it like he was James Brown's lost brother. (I know the obvious cut to illustrate this would be "Groove Me," but seriously, at this point, if you've never heard "Groove Me," you shouldn't be reading this blog. I mean, that song basically put Malaco Studios on the map, was a #1 R&B hit, and has appeared in many soundtracks and funk comps.)

Floyd knew how to get into a Southern state of mind when it came to his soul and funk - a lot of hootin' and hollerin' but vocally, he didn't have that Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett power behind him and under other circumstances, might have made a decent balladeer (see Bill Withers for an example of someone with a weaker voice but who knew how to use it) but as noted, his best cuts were invariably dance tracks.

By the way, unbelievably, of his various albums, I could find exactly none of them available on CD outside of a compilation format. Someone had the good sense of reissuing his eponymous debut onto vinyl, but no CD. Provided, the Malaco-issued Choice Cuts is actually a very, very good anthology, with almost all of what I'd consider Floyd's best songs but even so, I'm rather surprised the soul set didn't make more of his albums available on CD or reissue.

In any case, Choice Cuts has a few songs I'd put high on my list of recommended King Floyd tracks (including "Woman Don't Go Astray"): "Baby Let Me Kiss You," "I Feel Like Dynamite," and "Hard to Handle."

It was actually a challenge finding a song to highlight that wasn't on that comp but I'm surprised "Do Your Feeling" (a King Floyd original) wasn't on the anthology: this is a smoking hot funk track that highlights just how mean a groove Floyd could help lay down (with help from arranger Wardall Quezergue and producer Elijah Walker).

I also went with another song off of Think About It (which is an excellent album that more than holds its own against his debut): "Woman Don't Go Astray" which is probably my favorite King Floyd track amongst his slower numbers. It's got this great, soulful kick to it: not exactly a ballad but not as hyperactive as "Do Your Feeling." Its distinctive rhythm is what really sells the song.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

posted by O.W.

Junior Parker: Taxman
From Love Ain't Nothin' But A Business Goin' On (Groove Merchant, 1971)

Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass: A Day In the Life
From Touchdown (Polydor GER, 1977)

I felt out of it today. Slightly blue. I don't know what's going on - it's just been a weird (though actually quite ordinary day). Oh my f----ing god, I'm turning into one of those people who blog about their life but aren't actually saying anything of import. Stop me.

Random stuff, just for the hell of it:
    1) What my site is to old records, her site is to vintage cameras. So dense and thorough, it's scary. I am now desirous of one of these.
    2) My friend Hua's blog. He's starting to post more MP3s, including that ridiculously hot Juelz Santana song I mention in my Six Picks -->. Plus, he told me he's been getting a lot of hits off of Catchdubs site and I want to see if I can out-refer. (It's nothing personal Nick, your site rocks).
    3) I want these shoes. But they're sold out in my size. Alas.
    4) Gourmet hot chocolate is my new s---.
    5) Isaac Hayes is an amazing musical force but his religious beliefs are suspect.
So yeah, Beatles covers. To be honest, I could do a whole month on just Beatles covers and as much as I adore the Fab Four's output, I think that might be a bit much. That said, one of my favorite all-Beatles covers albums is Ramsey Lewis' homage to the White Album, Mother Nature's Son. (And yeah, I know about George Benson's The Other Side of Abbey Road but I never liked it that much).

Junior Parker straight up owns his version of "Taxman." No disrespect to George Harrison but Parker's funky blues take on the song cannot be f---ed with. That's all there is to say.

The Peter Herbolzheimer version of "A Day In the Life" is a strange cover of a strange enough song to begin with. I begins innocuously enough with Don Adams on vocals doing a super-slowed down, ballad-y version. Then the RC&B creep in a's still pretty mellow, nothing to write home about. Then they hit the second bridge and the song goes bat-sh-- on some funked-up fusion tip only to slow back down after a few minutes. I can't say I love the overall effect but it is, uh, different. (Just to make it clear, I like RC&B stuff - I own three of their best albums and there is some scorching material on there).

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Monday, March 13, 2006

posted by O.W.

Dusty Springfield: Piece of My Heart + Love Power
From Dusty...Definitely (Phillips UK, 1968). Songs also found on Dusty In London.

My man Joel (prolific record reviewer for put me up on this Dusty Springfield LP. It has an interesting history insofar as most of these recordings were never released in the U.S. because of a distribution agreement set between Atlantic (who recorded Dusty in the States) and Phillips (who held her UK contract). Though the material on this LP isn't quite as sublime as her famed Dusty In Memphis album, it does have some strong moments in the R&B/soul vein, especially as she's working with such noted British arrangers as Keith Mansfield (of KPM fame).

Now...if you know me, you know my favorite version of "Piece of My Heart" is the original by Erma Franklin but all things considered...Dusty's cover is pretty good as her more laid-back, smoky voice offers a nice contrast to the power vocals of Erma's. The arrangement is fairly loyal to the OG but it does seem just a touch funkier.

"Love Power" is definitely on a funky tip, a bit of aberration on this album since many of the songs tend to be more conventional ballads. This song is downright aggressive with the strong backbeat and fiery brass section, both of which help push Dusty to charge forward on her vocals.

(You might also want to check out her version of "Crumbs Off the Table," another UK-only song)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

posted by O.W.

A Break In the Road: Katrina Benefit CD

I've been meaning to do a proper post for this but have gotten caught on time and don't want to lag much further. It's a benefit CD some folks I know over at helped put together. It's a pretty cool project in terms of how it came together organically (read here) and I'm proud that so many people created original songs and donated them for the comp - 19 in total.

The CD's website has song samples for about half the album so check out and support.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

posted by O.W.

Serge Gainsbourg: Melody + En Melody
From Historie De Melody Nelson (Phillips FR, 1971)

This is one of those albums that should have been highlighted already but somehow escaped my recollection. The Melody Nelson LP is not the rarest of Gainsbourg's works - he was ridiculously prolific as a composer - but it is the one that shows up on want lists all the time. You probably would get more out of listening to it if you actually understood French (which I don't) and friends of mine have told me that Gainsbough is downright nasty on this album with his salacious lyrics. You can hear him try to get his mack game on with "Melody" - a signature track where Gainsbourg's smoky voice is layered over a masterfully moody beat built on one of the most memorable basslines you'll hear, a few bolts of electric guitar and simple but steady drum work. It's an understated funkiness at its best.

In contrast, "En Melody" uses the same basic instrumentation but kicks the groove into a far higher gear with a speedier beat that races along at breakneck pace. If I'm not mistaken, that's Jane Birkin's laughter chiming in on the track (she appears elsewhere on the album was Gainsbourg's great muse on many of his best compositions). Great, great stuff.

(By the way, for the curious, there's a Japanese-recorded remake of "En Melody" you can check out)


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

posted by O.W.

Retta Young: You Beat Me To the Punch (disco version)
From 7” promo (All Platinum, 1976)

Gloria Scott: Just As Long As We're Together
From 7" (Casablanca, 1974)

Life Force: Prove Me Wrong
From S/T (Strawberry, 1975)

Chuck Jackson: Take Off Your Make-Up
From 7” (ABC, 1974)

(Ed. Today's post comes from Soul Sides reader Tom Bigg who offered a variety of topics. Had to nix the "UK Hip Hop" suggestion but "proto disco" sounded like the move.)

It’s easy from this distance to divide musical history into neat categories and time frames: ’68 to ’74 is the butter period for soul and funk; ’75 onwards becomes ever more dominated by four-to-the-floor disco.

But as always the truth is more complicated and more interesting. For a start, as the song implies in the mid-70s no-one really knew where disco was going – and the increase in music aimed at clubs and dancing challenged established soul and funk artists to try out new rhythms and tempos.

Retta Young is typical of this shift. Her two most famous songs are “Sending out an SOS” and “My man is on his way”: the first a Northern soul track from 1972, the second a disco classic from five years later. In between she recorded “You beat me to the punch”, and it’s only on the promo that you find a ‘disco version’ of the song – presumably to be played out in clubs. The song starts slowly, it’s even a bit pedestrian – but it builds a fantastic groove which combines a disco rhythm with some great wah-wah guitar and strings.

Barry White needs no introduction as a master of smooth soul and funky beats, though his first success was as a producer in the late 60s for artists such as Viola Wills and Felice Taylor. He also produced a string of great records on the cusp of disco by Love Unlimited, West Wing, Tom Brock and many others, including a fantastic album for Gloria Scott from which this track comes.

I haven’t been able to find out anything about Life Force, whose only album came out on a small New York label. It’s a really impressive combination of good songs and interesting themes, including a tribute to Paul Robeson for his trailblazing role as a black singer and activist. The track I’ve chosen here is a mid-tempo gem which exactly captures the sense of being midway between early 70s soul and mid 70s disco.

And finally a singer best known for his earlier material (and for being Jesse Jackson’s brother, fact fans). Chuck Jackson has a powerful voice and this song has everything: a nice break to kick off and gorgeous piano, strings and backing vocals – in true disco fashion. Again, this is a b-side which seems to have been more about experimentation than getting airplay.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

posted by O.W.

DJ Day: Gone Bad (snippet)
From 12" (Melting Pot, 2006)

Lefties Soul Connection: Organ Donor (snippet)
From 7" (Melting Pt, 2006)

I'm so brain addled. I was joking how I confuse DJ Delay and Day but as it turned out, I thought I had already posted about DJ Day but that's because I actually did confuse Delay and Day.

In any case, here I am, making amends. For long-time fans of the site, you know I've already posted about Day before. Twice in fact. As you might gather, I'm a big fan of his stuff and this new 12" is no exception. For DJs looking for a solid floor spinner or just listeners into some hype funk edits in the same vein as Red Astaire or QSO, "Gone Bad" will fill that need. Be sure to check out the sublime, dreamy B-side too, "Four Hills."

Day's 12" appears on Melting Pot Music, run by my namesake, Oliver von Felbert aka Olski, and his label also has a curious 45 by the Dutch group, Lefties Soul Connection. The B-side has a medley/cover of "It's Your Thing/Hey Pocky Way" but the A-side (included above) is a cover of...DJ Shadow's "Organ Donor" (which itself was a remix of sorts of a Giorgio Moroder song). Geeked out? Sure but in a good way.