THE FUZZ: WARM AND FUZZY

 

 

 

The Fuzz: I Love You For All Seasons & I Love You For All Seasons (instrumental)
From 7″ (Calla, 1970) and The Fuzz (Calla, 1971)
Also on Art Laboe’s Dedicated To You Vol. 2

This is a joint Black Label and Private Reserve posting since I was initially introduced to the song via the Black Label Collection and then, absolutely coincidentally, found the 45 while record shopping the other day. The Fuzz were a short-lived female vocal group out of Washington D.C. and were initially called the Passionettes (how did they go from that to The Fuzz?) Veritable one-hitters wonders, they scored a top 10 hit with “I Love You For All Seasons” but within three songs, their career was over. Just like that.

This song opens beautifully: dark and funky but then swings into sweet soul. The Fuzz’s vocal harmonies breeze in nicely, especially Seila Young’s lead – she’s not more distinguished than any number of other female soulsters of the time but nonetheless, her voice is easy on the ears. Songwriting-wise – I did find this song just a little inane. Given: most love songs are incredibly inane but the Fuzz force the whole “seasons” simile just a LITTLE too hard. Perhaps they should be have been more abstract and less literal, especially with lines like, “I love you with the gentleness of a falling lead on an autumn day/but most of all/I love you with the briskness of a winter/when the snow comes out to stay.” Not mad corny but still…

What’s interesting is that the flipside of the Calla 45 features an instrumental version of the song – certainly not unheard of in 1970 but at the very least, uncommon.

COUNT IT OFF

 

 

Jackie Ross: Selfish One
On 7″ (Chess, 1964) and Full Bloom (Chess, 1964)

Bobby Bland: Two Steps From the Blues
On Two Steps From the Blues (Duke, 1961)

Willie Mitchell: Take Five
On 7″ (Ace, 1968) and On Top (Hi, 1969)

O.V. Wright: Eight Men, Four Women
On 7″ (Back Beat, 1967) and Eight Men, Four Women (MCA, 1967)

Clarence Reid: Ten Tons of Dynamite
From 7″ (Alston, 1971)

The Platters: I Love You 1,000 Times
From 7″ (Musicor, 1966) and I Love You 1,000 Times (Musicor, 1966)

Call me crazy, but I hear the melody of the ballad “Tenderly” running underneath the beginning of this hit by Chicago vocalist, Jackie Ross (a Sam Cooke discovery). This has all the elements of great mid-60s soul; a little swing in its step, lush production and Ross, while not as passionate as other vocalists, has a pleasant sweetness in her tone. If you want to talk about great voices though, it’s hard to do better than bluesman Bobby Bland who is blessed with one of the warmest baritones you’ll ever get to enjoy. “Two Steps From the Blues” is one of those late-night ballads that you listen to at some dive bar, nursing one drink too many. Not that I’d know anything about that personally…

Staying in Bland’s native Tennessee, it’s Hi Records’ legend Willie Mitchell…best known for producing Al Green, but also a competent musician and bandleader in his own right. This is his cover of Dave Brubeck’s smash, “Take Five,” but unlike the smooth stylings of Brubeck’s version, Mitchell sasses his up on a jazzy soul tip.

Clarence Reid‘s “Ten Tons of Dynamite” is an obscure B-side from the man-otherwise-known-as-Blowfly (luckily, this song is a lot more PG-rated than his alter ego’s fare. Not quite as explosive a song as you’d assume from its title, but it’s still a solid soul groover (ok, his songwriting is just a little hokey though). Last, we have the honeyed harmonies of The Platters, with the title song from their mid-60s album, I Love You 1,000 Times (that’s a lot of love). Nice arrangement on this one, especially that downward chord progression which gives the song an expectedly bluesy quality.

I COMMAND THEE TO

 

 

 

Eddy Jacobs Exchange: Pull My Coat
From 7″ (Columbia, 196?)


Maceo and All The King’s Men: Shake It Baby
From Doing Their Own Thing (House of Fox, 1970)

Marvin Holmes and the Uptights: Ride Your Mule
From 7″ (Revue, 196?) and Ooh Ooh the Dragon and Other Monsters (UNI, 1969)

Albert Collins: Do the Sissy
From 7″ (Imperial, 1968) and Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Imperial, 1969)

Yeah, it’s true that most funkateers post-James Brown were just trying to cop the style of The Man Himself, but occassionally, they nail the vibe down so well, you have to tip your hat. “Pull My Coat” by the Eddy Jacbos Exchange couldn’t be more on fire if you dipped it in paraffin and crammed a wick in it. Totally post-JBs sound but the rhythm section is finger lickin’ kickin’, especially the brass on the opening and choruses. Of course, Maceo and All the King’s Men don’t have to make excuses for sounding like James Brown since they made his sound the funky standard it became. This is from the group’s “we’re fed up with Brown so we’re ditching him and doing our own thing” album which JB basically shut down before it really had a chance to shine (great album tho’). “Shake It Baby” is classic JBs’ flavor – sounds like something you would have heard Bobby Byrd screaming over.

Marvin Holmes‘ “Ride Your Mule,” (which eventually would give birth to “The Funky Mule,” a song covered by Holmes again, as well as Ike Turner) is more lo-fi in its engineering but no less cookin’. The guitarist is getting his best licks in on the song but don’t ignore the drummer who’s chattering off underneath. Closing up is blues guitarist Albert Collins with his slick hit, “Do the Sissy.” I’m a big funky blues fan and Collins’ track is simple but effective in its tightly wound rhythms. The opening, with the horns is killer too.

RUBY TUESDAY


 

 

Ruby Andrews: You Made a Believer Out of Me
From 7″ (Zodiac, 1969) and Everybody Saw You (Zodiac, 1970). Also on Casanova

Ruby Johnson: I’ll Run Your Heart Away
From 7″ (Volt, 1966). Also on I’ll Run Your Heart Away

Two Rubies from the Black Label. Confession: I’m a sucker for funky female soul songs and Ruby Andrews’ “You Made a Believer Out of Me” had me from jump. Her hard-edged voice fits right in with the song’s urgency and the rolling piano loop just nails down the rhythm as good as any hip-hop beat. Once you’re done sweating to that, you can ease back with Ruby Johnson’s big Volt hit, “I’ll Run Your Heart Away.” This used to be one of my favorites songs off the Stax/Volt Boxset (Vol. 1) and it’s such a masterpiece of bluesy, melancholy soul. Like Andrews, Johnson benefits from a well-produced track that uses a key instrument – this time the guitar – taking a prominent role in the rhythm section but Johnson’s hollers are what seal the deal and then some.


ELSEWHERE

Moistworks.com has the “Welcome Back Kotter” theme available right now. This is such a great song…

INTRODUCING: THE SOUL SIDES BLACK LABEL COLLECTION



Johnny Talbot: Git Sum & Pickin’ Cotton
From 7″ (Jasman, 1970). Also available on Bay Area Funk.

Ya’ll are in for a treat. My man Tommy Tompkins at Extreme Measures is such a fan of Soul Sides that he recently laced us with 250 soul/funk songs from the mid 1960s through early 1970s for the expressed purpose of eventually seeing them shepherded onto our site. These aren’t your same ol’ Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, etc. soul tunes but many lesser known and obscure hits. We’re not talking about $1,000 45s or anything crazy like that, but really great singles that most casual soul fans have probably not heard in a long time – or at all. Hence, we’re calling this Soul Sides’ Black Label Collection. (Look for the Black Label logo on future postings to indicate that those will be using selections from the collection.) With 250 songs to choose from, we’ll have many future Black Label songs to bring you, each posting organized a particular theme, i.e. artists, labels, song titles, etc.

To kick it off, we’re going local, starting with Oakland’s very own Jasman Records, best known for being the home of singer Sugar Pie DeSanto. The first release on the Jasman imprint was Johnny Talbot’s “Git Sum” (a song later covered to greater success by DeSanto) b/w a slinky funk number “Pickin’ Cotton.” The first song is solid soul groover – very Sly Stone influenced in its sound. I’m sure Talbot’s Bay Area roots, alongside Sly and the Family Stone, didn’t hurt here. “Pickin’ Cotton,” sparks off with this fluttering jazz break and launches into a horn-heavy arrangement that bears more than a passing resemblance to Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the chorus (get it? “Pickin’ Cotton”? “Summertime”? Ya’ll get it). I’ve been a huge fan of this song since I first heard my fellow KALX DJ Matthew Africa play it on his show years ago.

LIKE YOU WERE THE ONLY ONE

Erma Franklin: Piece of My Heart
From 7″ (Shout, 1967) (also on Golden Classics)

William Bell: I Forgot To Be Your Lover
From 7″ (Stax, 1968) (also on Best Of…)

No offense to Janis Joplin but f— Janis Joplin. Her big hit “Piece of My Heart,” was based off of Erma Franklin’s amazing original version of the song but unlike JJ, Erma never found cult stardom (or death at the bottom of a bottle) and certainly never came remotely close to the fame that her sister, this lil gal named Aretha, enjoyed. Erma’s the veritable definition of “unsung” (though she sang quite a bit).

“Piece of My Heart,” is a soul sledgehammer. It opens innocously enough, with a clean piano melody and Erma keeps the tone even-keeled. But about eight bars in, when the back-up singers start sliding on, the song muscles up quick, hard and fast to a chorus that just destroys you. This is a love song for those who’ve been ripped apart by love yet Erma doesn’t bemoan her condition – she’s like a love masochist and there is something in the fury of her singing that nails you straight in the gut. An amazing song.

As for William Bell, this Stax crooner’s “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” has been getting quite the contemporary workout lately, covered by Jaheim, sampled by Dilated Peoples, etc. As usual though, the OG is mo’ sublime, thanks to that intro guitar melody, amplified with just the right tough of reverb. I love Stax and I’ve listened to many tracks from their catalog but this may be the best opening I’ve heard of anything from Stax/Volt. Then Bell drops in the vocals and the strings start-up: this is the best Al Green song that he never sang and the best Willie Mitchell production that he never made. It’s absolutely haunting and frankly, makes you wish people would just leave it well-enough alone and let the master do his thing.

JULIUS BROCKINGTON: HOLD ONTO THIS FEELING

Julius Brockington and the Magic Force: This Feeling
From 7″ (Burman, 1973)

(same): This Feeling (Freedom) Part 1
From 7″ (Burman, 1974)

You’re not seeing double – not exactly at least. “This Feeling,” originally came out in 1973, a slick soul groover with a fantastic, catchy chorus – “hold on to…this…feeling…freedom…freedom.” For some reason though, the single was popular enough to warrant a remix a year later in 1974. “This Feeling (Freedom) Part 1” retains the basics of the original arrangementl but now adds some whining synthesizers on top (very Dr. Dre circa The Chronic) and the feel is more aggressive than its progenitor. While I’m sure there were other remixes being done prior to this, I can’t remember of a case where a 7″ single got remixed onto 7″ again. Go figure.

FINDING A WAY

Moses Dillard and the Tex-Town Display: I’ve Got To Find a Way Pt. 2
From the 7″ single (Curtom, 1970)

Dillard was a guitarist out of South Carolina who worked both studio time at Muscle Shoals as well as lead his own bands, beginning in the mid 1960s. This 1970 single – arguably his biggest hit as a lead artist – was recorded with a young Peabo Bryson as part of the “Tex-Town Display.” Apparently, it sold a whopping 250,000 copies though it seemed to have flown underneath the radar of a lot of soul fans I know (myself included). What’s so great about the arrangement on “Pt. 2” of the song is how it goes from this sweet soul intro and then drops into some Issac Hayes-esque funkyness – I swear to god, it sounds like Dillard is biting Hayes’ “Walk on By” but I mean that in a good way. How is it that no one has ever sampled this? Paging Rza!

Aretha Franklin: Skylark (Alt. version). 
From The Queen in Waiting (The Columbia Years 1960-1965)

If you click on the link to my 2002 column on this Aretha anthology, you can read a lot more of the backstory to her years at Columbia. The short version is that before she became soul’s greatest vocalist, Aretha Franklin began her career as a jazz singer, trying to follow in the footsteps of folks like Dinah Washington. History has mostly forgotten that entire era and sure, there were some good reasons why her Columbia catalog was dismissed but c’mon – you can’t front on the whole damn thing and she sure as hell recorded some fantastic sides for them. This alternative mix of “Skylark” is probably my favorite song of her’s from those years. It was engineered to sound “live” which just means that the mood and tone is more intimate, more hushed. Simply beautiful.

7″ GRAB BAG

The Conservatives: Who Understands Pt. 1
Chicago soul group (arranged by the Pharoahs) that blends a little doo wop, a little Northern and a lot of heart on this funky soul groover. The A-side is the vocal cooker and it pulses with fantastic energy. Reminds me a little of the Impressions, just a lot dirtier. B-side (Pt. 2) is great too – it strips everything down and is more slinky…plays mostly as an instrumental except for the vocal bridge at the front and back end. What I want to know is whether or not there were any other groups on Ebonic Sound? I did a google on this Chi-town label and the Conservatives were the only group to come up on it!

Scott Bros. Orchestra: A Hunk o’ Funk b/w They All Came Back (Toddlin’ Town)

Still in Chicago… From what I can surmise, this is the group that recorded with Alvin Cash while he was at Toddlin’ Town Records, including on the infamous “Keep On Dancing” 45 that everyone and their mama has post-Brainfreeze. “A Hunk o’ Funk” is a lot better than any Alvin Cash 45 I’ve ever heard on TT however – it begins with a slide whistle, kicks in a little brass overture and then launches into absolute funk burner set off by guitar, that aforementioned horn section, and some solid bass work too. It’s just a superb instrumental – I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten comped somewhere (or is it?) B-side is ok – it has some moments but overall, the song is a little too brass heavy and it’s arranged more like a conventional pop instrumental that you’d hear on a soundtrack as “Car Chase #3”.

Odell Brown and the Organizers: The Weight b/w Think About It (Cadet)

This has long been a real favorite of mine ever since DJ Om played it for me years ago. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why more kids aren’t jocking this – “Think About It” is easily one of the best B-3 Hammond groovers I’ve ever heard. Unlike organ vamp orgies that you hear elsewhere (including on Brown’s other stuff), this is kept pretty mellow in comparison but it still cooks hard. Best of all, the arrangement is just so bright and sunny that it makes you wish everyday could feel as good as this song. I can NEVER get enough of listening to it. This is 7″ only – it was never on LP. Cop this – believe me, you won’t regret it.

Sugar Pie DeSanto: Git Back (Jasman)

Smokin’ female vocal funk on Jim Moore’s Jasman Records (of Johnny Talbot fame). I got extra special love for this since it’s an Oakland record but DeSanto f*ckin’ cooks on this like Julia Child. The track is a rollicking gem – a lot of spicy piano and heavy bass guitar rumbling through and DeSanto is tearing up over it. One of the better female funk tracks I’ve heard of late. B-side is a straight blues cut.


The Fame Gang: Soul Feud b/w Grits and Gravy (Fame)

This 45 came from the third incarnation of Fame Studio’s (i.e. Muscle Shoals) in-house rhythm section including a scorching Junior Lowe on guitar and Clayton Ivey slapping it down on organ. You got here a really nice double-sided instrumental funk cooker. I have a hard time choosing between the two of ’em – “Soul Feud” is a hard-driving funky blues tune, complete with some mean interplay between harmonica and guitar. Slaps down like shot glasses in a drinking contest. Meanwhile, “Grits and Gravy” is a more uptempo organ funk cooker – very soul jazzy in sound, with a touch of Kool and the Gang like flavor too. Like I said, a great double-sided 7″. It’s just too bad their LP wasn’t anywhere near this good.

Eddie Long: It Don’t Make Sense But It Sure Sounds Good b/w Did You Ever Dream Lucky (Skye)

Speaking of great double-sided 7″s, this Eddie Long single appars on Cal Tjader, Gabor Szabo and Gary McFarland’s rather short-lived NYC imprint, Skye. Side A opens with a cool 4 bar drum break and then winds into a slick, downtempo blues groover that invokes images of long cruises down some city southside in a droptop, easin’ into the seam with a gangsta lean. “Did You Ever Dream Lucky” picks up the pace though it’s still in the funky blues vein – all twitching guitars, tight rhythm section and just a sprinkle of organ at the beginning. I’m a big fan of the funky blues and this single’s been rocking for weeks now in my head.