William Bell + Mavis Staples: Strung Out
From 7″ + Boy Meets Girl (Stax, 1969)
James Brown + Marva Whitney: Sunny
From Gettin’ Down To It (King, 1969)
Arlean Brown + Lee Williams: Impeach Me Baby
From 7″ (LaNoRmAyA, 197?)
First of all, no one’s gonna make a run at the David Axelrod contest? Really? C’mon, just give it a shot.
Onto the real post:
I’m not an automatic fan of duet songs – it’s always risky trying to put two people together on a song and still make it work; not everyone’s lucky enough to be Roberta and Donny or Marvin and Tammi. When this William Bell and Mavis Staples song crossed my path though, it had it, whatever that elusive quality is to make two singers find the right vibe together.
On a separate note, I realize, more and more, that I seriously need to beef up my ’70s Stax knowledge. I’ve had, for many years, their first boxset that covers up through the late ’60s but I’m constantly being surprised and pleased by what lay into the ’70s. This track, in particular, is fantastic (just ask Kanye!), especially the musical arrangement. Plus William and Mavis together? On point.
Same goes for James Brown and Marva Whitney in their duet for Gettin’ Down To It, one of my favorite Brown LPs, even though it’s off the beaten path compared to his funkier fare. They just sound good singing “Sunny” together and it reminds one that Brown’s first hits were as a vocalist, with that distinctive, rich and impassioned delivery of his.
Last, but not least, one of my favorite funky blues cuts – “Impeach Me Baby” by Arlean Brown, featuring an uncredited Lee Williams, playing Otis to Arlean’s Carla except that this is far dirtier and grimier than “Tramp.” This song is one of those where I forget it’s one of my favorites until I hear it again and remember, “oh yeah, this sh– rocks!”