SKYE’S “AIN’T NO NEED”: A REVISIT

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Skye: Ain’t No Need (Unity Edit) (Anada, 1976)

This is a revisit of sorts though I haven’t written about the Skye single since 2008. It’s a disco 45 where I’m continually surprised that dancers don’t seem to adore it as much as I do. In my more active DJing days, I was convinced it would be a floor-filler and while it wasn’t quite a floor-killer, it just never produced the kind of reaction I assumed/hoped for. People just treated it like…whatever and it made me want to grab a mic and shout “you fools, this is amazing! What’s wrong with the lot of you?!”

But c’est la vie. Maybe I’ve had the wrong crowds. Or maybe I’m just alone on this hill (I don’t think so though).

Skye traces its beginning back to JFK High School in Richmond CA where members of the school jazz band, including Johnnie “Sargent” Tucker, Kevin Burton, Carl Lockett, Kevin Lockett, Michael Jeffries, Michael Griggs and Marciel Garner, formed into Two Things in One. They drew the interest of Ray Dobard’s prolific Bay Area label, Music City, who released their first single “Silly Song/Snag Nasty” as the Music City Two In One in 1971 but later, the group’s name was changed to The Two Things In One by 1973. Officially, they only released two more singles on Music City but the bulk of all their recordings were compiled back in 2011 for the Together Forever anthology..

In 2011, I interviewed Alec Palao, who compiled that anthology, for my Sidebar podcast and he was the first person from whom I learned about the connection between Two Things In One and Skye; totally blew my mind since I knew of both groups but not how they were linked. Skye was formed by most of the former members of The Two Things In One after a relocation to L.A. to continue pursuing recording opportunities. This included lead singer Michael Jeffries, drummer Marcel Garner, bassist Sargent Tucker, guitarists Carl Lockett and Michael Griggs, plus newcomer Greg Levias on keys.

Skye was signed to Anada, a subsidiary of A&M. The imprint only released two singles in the ’70s, both collectible disco jams: the aforementioned “Ain’t No Need” and a self-titled release from Family Tree. (Anada also placed the “disco versions” of both songs on a very sought-after 12”.

Back in 2008, writing about about songs, I had this to say about “Ain’t No Need”:

“Ain’t No Need” is the kind of song I want to wrap around me like a sleeping bag – everything about this is sublime to me. It’s practically all chorus in essence but the chord progressions and instrumentation combine so beautifully that you can lose yourself inside the groove forever.

Let me add (13 years later): the main groove powering the song feels like the platonic ideal of what great disco should sound like: driving and energetic but very importantly, also uplifting. If Jeffries’s lyrics are to be taken at face value, this is a breakup song but it doesn’t feel like one, quite the opposite. It feels euphoric, even perhaps spiritual in how the groove and Jeffries’s vocals keep cycling over and over. It becomes a literally repetitive song yet it’s anything but static in its kineticism. This is precisely why I don’t understand it doesn’t light up the dance floor; I find it completely irresistable in making me want to move something.

In any case, a few year ago, Jeffries and Garner sold off dead stock copies of “Ain’t No Need” and in doing so, helped fill in some of the history behind its recording, namely that it was taped during a 10 hour session in the spring of 1976 and released a few months later in the summer.

The outstanding questions I’d still have: what studio was it taped at? Why did A&M create Anada and why did it have so few releases? How was the single initially received? Etc. More I think about this, the song would make a great candidate for a future Single Servings episode.

MY FAVORITE THINGS – 2019

2019 was a good balance between new music I discovered/enjoyed vs. old tunes I’m continually finding via records. I find that raising a teenager helps with the former and while I would never try to pass myself off – these days – as having a finger of the musical zeitgeist, I think it’s valuable to stay engaged with new music coming out. Anyways…I’m going to flip this from the round-ups of the last few years and start with the old tracks I gave heavy run to last year. (Not in ranked order)

1. The Rascals: My World (1968)

So…yeah, I slept. I think the only reason I even came across it last year was because of the 3 Ft. High and Rising anniversary mixtape. Anyways, this is an example of a perfect ’60s pop song in terms of all its core elements: the vocal interplay is key, the instrument and arrangement decisions are lush without being overbaked, and the hook is a legit ear worm.

2. Karen Dalton: Are You Leaving For the Country? (1971)

Credit for this goes to Jason Woodbury who brought in the Dalton LP for our Heat Rocks episode. I find the song haunting and melancholy and even this city boy isn’t immune to its sentiment.

3. Basabasa Experience: Homowo (1979)

Earlier this summer, I was crashing for a couple of nights with my friend Hua and in his office, he has a small stack of records and this was near the top. I was intrigued by the title and asked about it and he just put it on and I was instantly smitten. It’s easily the best African disco LP I’ve ever heard and “Homowo” is a standout thanks to those opening synths and the lyrics.

4. Italian Asphalt and Pavement Company: Check Yourself (1970)

No shade on The Intruders, who originally recorded this Gamble/Huff tune, but this cover by the IAP Co. is straight crossover fire.

5. Ohio Penitentiary 511 Jazz Ensemble: Psych City (1971)

The best prison spiritual jazz LP ever recorded. Ok, maybe the only but seriously, this whole album is a gem. Read more here.

6. Kalle & L’African Team De Paris : Africa Boogaloo (1971)

I’ve long been a fan of New York boogaloo influences returning to its African roots and this single, written/produced by Manu Dibango, is a stellar example of the genre.

7. Nina Simone: Cosi Ti Amo (1970)

https://youtu.be/csIJBNhbKMk

The High Priestess taking it higher for an Italian jukebox-only cover of her “To Love Somebody,” sung in Italian. I have Y La Bamba’s Luz Mendoza to thank for this since I came across it when she chose Simone’s LP for her Heat Rocks episode.

8. R.D. Burman: Dance Music (1976)

Listening to Freddie Gibbs/Madlib’s “Education” (see below) compelled me to track its sample source back to this R.D. Burman-produced Bollywood marvel that packs in four movements in so many minutes. I find the whole song to be magical but the portion that kicks off a little after two minutes in is the best.

9. Herman Davis: Gotta Be Loved (1971)

A white whale that took me a few years to hunt down, I think of this as a repentant playboy’s anthem. Love the whole groove of this one-off single from St. Louis MO’s Davis, especially the plinkling piano after “I hear the raindrops” opening line.

10. The Delfonics: He Don’t Really Love You (1968)

Talk about coming out the gate: this is the Delfonics’ first single and it’s a masterful deep/sweet soul tune. The hook is massive and shout out to whoever is working the kettle drum on this.

11. Sweet Daddy Reed: I Believe To My Soul (1969)

Came across this via my dude Pablo: Sweet Daddy Reed takes Ray Charles’s original and strips it down to its bluesy bones. So deep, so good.

12. Breakers Two: I’m Gonna Get Down (1965)

When I came upon this in Amsterdam’s awesome Wax Well Records, I assumed it was an early electro single given the artist name and song title but nope: it’s a gorgeous island soul single from Guyana.

13. Joby Valente: Tu N’es Pas Riche, Tu N’es Pas Beau (1970)

Same trip to Amsterdam also brought me to Paris and I scooped this (plus the “Africa Boogaloo” single from earlier) at the ace Superfly Records. Originally from Martinique, Valente recorded several sides for the French/Guadalupe label Aux Ondes and this B-side is a killer blend of her voice with some soul boulder goodness on the track.

14. Members of the Staff: Stop the Bells (1972)

https://youtu.be/UWG1F04zeVM

Bought this one off of the aforementioned Hua: a Leon Haywood-produced, Gene Page-arranged, local L.A. tear-jerker that’s definitely NOT what you want to play at a wedding.

15. Fully Guaranteed: We Can’t Make It Together (1972)

One of the last things I picked up in 2019, I love how this is an answer/rebuke track to the 1970 soft rock hit, “Make It Together.” Take that, Bread!

Ok, onto the new joints….

1. Jamila Woods: Betty

I mean…Jamila made a song about Betty Davis. That’s already frickin’ awesome but it’s also my favorite tune off her Legacy! Legacy!” Those opening piano chords lure you in and I was hooked all the way through the stinger. I just wish it was longer but hey, I don’t want to be greedy.

2. Valerie June: Cosmic Dancer

Would I have guessed that Valerie would absolutely smash a T-Rex cover? Actually, yes, yes I would. The melancholic beauty of her rendition is just sublime.

3. Bazzi: I.F.L.Y.

This might be the most “Spotify sound” track on my list but if I’m a victim of the algorithm, I’m ok with that. Give me all the mellifluous guitar R&B beats.

4. Normani: Motivation

This feels like retro-Destiny’s Child and I mean that in all the best ways.

5. Los Retros: Someone to Spend Time With

I’m fine with Tapia’s general sound but it’s the pairing of his voice with Firelordmelisa’s that makes this work as well as it does.

My only knock: why is there no 45 for this yet?!?!?!

6. UMI: Sukidakara

UMI is one of my favorite new artist discoveries and I love that she gets to bust out her Japanese skills on this one. My 14 y.o. was already into her sound but discovering that UMI is half-Japanese (like her) endeared her even more.

7. Samm Henshaw: Church

London’s Henshaw is also one of my favorite new artist discoveries. I thought his 2018 single, “Broke” was stellar and this new gospel-infused single is similarly awesome. Glory glory hallelujah.

8. Kota the Friend: Chicago Diner

The lyrics here are…just ok but the vibe? Cookies in the oven on a Sunday, indeed.

9. Lady Wray: Come On In

As the late Matthew Africa would have called this: it’s a soul boulder.

So. Damn. Heavy.

10. Brainstory: Beautyful Beauti

Straight outta the Inland Empire, Brainstory’s Buck was one of my favorite albums of 2019 and this single, in particular, embodies everything great about their sound/style.

11. G Yamazawa: Good Writtens Vol. 5

I’m digging G’s entire “Good Written” series so this really was a toss up between equals. Regardless, I’m hyped for whenever he puts out some new studio material in 2020.

12. Amber Mark: Love is Stronger Than Pride

Technically from 2018 but no song got more early 2019 play than Mark’s luscious riff on Sade’s classic.

13. Solange: Stay Flo

I’m not sure how a song can sound sparse and lush at the same time but here we are.

14. Freddie Gibbs, Madlib, Yasiin Bey, Black Thought: Education

I suppose this is lab-engineered to appeal to ’90s heads like myself but I don’t care. Having these three cats flow over that R.D. Burman loop (see above) is lo-fi gold.

15. Lizzo: Truth Hurts

Artist of the year and it’s not particularly close. We’re all in Lizzo’s world now.

RECORD WHEEL #7: DISCO FEVER

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Been promising this one for a minute. I am, by no means, a deep disco head (that particular well runs incredibly deep) but I do respect/appreciate it. These aren’t my absolute favorite cuts but randomly selected ones that I think do a good job of showcasing the diversity of the genre.


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Playlist:

  • Charanga 76: Good Times (TR, 1979)
  • Ernie Story: The E Groove (Legend, 1976)
  • Manzel: Space Funk (Fraternity, 1977)
  • Gospel Soul Revivals: If Jesus Came Today (Sonic, 1982)
  • Frankie Gee: Date With the Rain (Claridge, 1975)
  • The Bee-Gee’s: Too Much Heaven (RSO, 1979)
  • Wild Sugar: Bring It Here (TSOB, 1981)
  • Belle Epoque: Miss Broadway (Shadybrook, 1977)
  • T.C. James and the Funk-O-Fist Orchestra: Dance All Over the World (Funk-O-Fist, 1977)
  • B&G Rhythm: Hibaros (Polydor, 1978)

PATTI JO: YOU GOT TO BELIEVE

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Patti Jo was a teenager from Nashville when Curtis Mayfield first discovered her circa 1972.1 At this point, Mayfield had already left The Impressions to embark on his solo career and manage his label, Curtom. It’s unknown why Mayfield didn’t sign Jo directly to Curtom but instead, she ended up recording with New York’s Scepter and its subsidiary, Wand.

Jo’s first single came out in ’72: “Ain’t No Love Lost/Stay Away From Me.” However, it would be her next single, “Make Me Believe In You,” in 1973 that would help immortalize her (with some help from Tom Moulton). Mayfield both wrote and produced the song (and his frequently collaborated, Rich Tufo, arranged it) and it’s worth noting how the string arrangements and steady backbeat are such mainstays of disco’s conventions but this was cut half a decade before disco’s mainstream dominance.2

Here’s that original 7″ version:

Patti Jo: Make Me Believe In You (Scepter, 1973)

The single was a minor hit but its true ascension into the disco canon came two years later when pioneering remix guru, Tom Moulton, was given access to a slew of Scepter songs to help produce the Disco Gold compilation of 1975.

Patti Jo: Make Me Believe In You (Tom Moulton Remix)
Disco Gold (Scepter, 1975)

Mouton’s remix is a masterpiece of extending a song’s best elements without radically altering it. The biggest change he makes, right off the bat, is taking the original’s 12 bar intro and extending it six-fold. That instrumental build, which takes up the first 2/5ths of the entire song, folds in different elements from other parts of the song and it’s a masterful slow-burn build where the listener – and really, dancer – already has undergone a journey of sorts before Patti Jo’s vocals even enter the picture.

Moulton also stripped down the tracks behind the first vocal verse. If you go back to the original, Mayfield brings in strings almost immediately but Moulton muted those stems in favor of just the drums, bass line and light flute track. He waits instead to bring in the full string arrangement on the hook, which feels like a reward for the listener/dancer’s patience. From here on out, he adds more layers back into the mix as well as extends the song’s bridge in what we now would think of as a conventional disco edit fashion. All in the all, an unqualified classic remix of the era.

Notably, Mayfield himself recorded a version of the song for his 1974 album, Sweet Exorcist. Melba Moore also covered the song in 1976 on This Is it, with a take that songs like it was definitely influenced by the Moulton remix rather than strictly the original. Both versions sound less…urgent than Jo’s original, partially because neither has as strong of a back beat. In 2007, Amerie covered the song – rather loyally – on her 2007 album Because I Love It and I don’t think it’s harsh to say that it’s not exactly essential.

As I mentioned in that first footnote…it’s surprising how difficult it is to find much information on Patti Jo herself. After those first two singles, she disappeared from the scene and then came back, years, later, to record a couple of new songs but I’ve yet to find a single interview with her available anywhere on the interwebs. If someone knows something I don’t, holler.

  1. It’s shockingly difficult to find anything about Jo’s history and what I managed to patch together was taken from a number of internet forums so take all this with a grain of salt.
  2. My point being: disco was never, ever a flash in the pan. It built and bubbled up over the course of the entirety of the 1970s.

KARRIEM: HOW LOW CAN YOU PASHLO?

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Karriem: I Love You (Pashlo, 1979, 12″)

It’s cliche to suggest that all you need with disco is a good, repetitive groove but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. This obscure-ish disco single out of Oakland is barely more than Karriem singing “I love you” over and over and that’s all you need. Actually, if you tried to put more on it, maybe it wouldn’t be nearly as endearing.

By the way, far as I can tell, this single was the only 12″ that Oakland’s Pashlo imprint ever released. They only had about half a dozen records to their name which isn’t surprising given that they were so local, their original address was a literally a house in deep East Oakland. I couldn’t find much on Karriem himself; he’s not even in the credits! The most notable talent on the song might be producer (and elsewhere, writer/arranger) Gerald Robinson who, among many other works, produced another Bay Area boogie classic, the Numonics’ “You Lied.”

Update: Len Romano on Facebook pointed out that Karriem, aka Dr. Karriem Muhammad , is still recording and actually re-recorded “I Love You” in 2008.

SALSOUL ORCHESTRA: STRIKE A POSE

Salsoul

Salsoul Orchestra: Ooh, I Love It (Love Break) (Salsoul, 1975, 12″)

It wasn’t until I read this Shep Pettibone interview that I realized that “Vogue” was basically built around an interpolation of this Salsoul Orchestra 12″. I love that Shep was able to revisit his own production history to help mint one of his (and Madonna’s) biggest hits.

365 Days of Soul, #161

WAR: THE WORLD IS A DISCO

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War: The World Is a Ghetto (Disco Instrumental Mix) (MCA, 1980, 12″)

Until recently, I had no idea this existed: an instrumental disco remake of War’s “The World Is a Ghetto.” It was included on the groups’s The Music Band 2 album (which clearly, I never copped) and then the 12″ version I have is a shorter, 9 minute version of what was 13+ minutes on the LP. Not sure what the hell MCA was cooking up here with that but *shrug*.

Personally, I dig this …it’s not better than the original but it does have this melancholy, Sunday afternoon vibe to it. Interestingly, most of the reviews I’ve seen of the version have savaged it…I think one review called it “elevator instrumental-lite.” Ouch!

365 Days of Soul, #142

SSO: GETTING FADED

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SSO: Faded Lady (RKM, 197?, Disco Soul Roots)

I never want to reduce a song to just its sample use but “Faded Lady” is put to such major effect on Diamond’s “I Went For Mine,” that it’s hard not to always think of the latter when you pump the former.

I’ve heard the players with SSO were also behind Nico Gomez, the Chakachas and a slew of other Dutch groups of the ’70s. Don’t know if that’s true but it does make sense given how damn groovy all those groups got.

365 Days of Soul, #138

LAMONT DOZIER + RICHIE HAVENS: BACK TO THEIR ROOTS

In honor of Richie Havens, who passed away earlier this week, I’m bringing back this 2010 post. -O.W.



Lamont Dozier: Going Back To My Roots
From Peddlin’ Music On The Side (WB, 1977)

Richie Havens: Going Back To My Roots
From Connections (Elektra, 1980)

One of my best moments in a club came back in the ’00s when I was at APT during a night that Chairman Mao was spinning. I had never heard Lamont Dozier’s “Going Back To My Roots” before and I was just marveling at now just how good the song was, but that incredible change in the arrangement that drops around the 6:30 mark. It was so unexpected and sublime, one of those songs that really only could work as well as it does when you give it time to unfold on a dancefloor. Simply incredible.

Not surprisingly, it drew the attention of other artists. The best known cover is by Odyssey but…I don’t know…I think I found the vocals to be too disco-cliché. Richie Havens’ version however won me over with that intro piano (I’m a sucker for good piano intros) and though Havens has a rougher voice than Dozier’s it works well here. The “reprise” section is missing but otherwise, I find this almost as pleasing to play out.