Thee Midniters: Come Back Baby
From S/T (Whittier, 1965). Also on Thee Complete Midniters
Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals: Slow Jerk
From Everybody Jerk (Donna, 1965)
Bonus: Sunny and the Sunliners: Run Away + The One Who’s Hurtin’ Is You
From Live in Hollywood (Key-Loc, 1966)
Having moved back to the eastside of L.A., I’m definitely always open to soaking in the musical heritage of the region and given the ridiculous richness to be found in R&B/soul, I know I’ve barely scraped the tippy-tip of an iceberg thus far. The first two albums both com out of the San Gabriel Valley – Thee Midniters are indisputable kings in this scene and I’m embarrassingly thin on owning much by them besides a couple of 7″s and this, their debut on LP. I wanted to keep this post focused on ballads so I left off their more uptempo hits but “Come Back Baby” is some pyro Eastsider soul right here. Firme roll de verdad
Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals were contemporaries of groups like Thee Midniters, but far as I can tell, never made it very far. It doesn’t really help that their lone LP was a derivative attempt at capitalizing on The Larks’ hit “Jerk” dance from the same year. And heck, “Slow Jerk” is basically a bite of “Keep On Pushing” by The Impressions! (But you know what? I’m still feeling it.).
As a bonus, I threw in two more songs, both from Sunny and the Sunliners’ Live In Hollywood album. Sunny and his crew were, of course, not L.A. natives but from San Antonio but their particular brand of Chicano soul undoubtedly meant they had a huge fan base out here. I could be wrong but part of this does sound like a “faked” live album, which is to say, the audience noise is piped in over studio recorded tracks but so long as the fidelity is good, I don’t care if it’s live or Memorex. (I did add “Run Away” partially to include what certainly sounds like a portion recorded live). “The One Who’s Hurtin’ Is You” is killer; need that one on 7″…
Barbara Lynn: Why Can’t You Love Me + Mix It Up Baby
From Here Is Barbara Lynn (Atlantic, 1968)
I first heard this LP at The Groove Merchant and then ended up getting a copy through The Record Jungle: my two favorite CA stores, making the indirect connect!
This was Lynn’s first album for Atlantic, having already landed in the spotlight five years prior with “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” (which this album also includes…and odd, if not calculated move on Atlantic’s part). The LP didn’t really yield any major hits, though two singles barely made the charts: “Until Then, I’ll Suffer” and “This Is the Thanks I Get.”
For me, the heavy rotation track has been “Why Can’t You Love Me.” It has one of those openings that, within the first 2-3 bars, I’m already sold on the song…something about the interplay between the piano, the guitar and the vibes = magical. And of course, Lynn herself drops in with a lovely, haunting ballad about unrequited love.
“Mix It Up Baby” is one of those classic ’60s dance tunes which mostly just sounds like a compendium of other ’60s dance tunes, literally…calling out the dance names. Mix it up, indeed.
Los Socios Del Ritmo: Frijol Con Puerco
From S/T (EMI, 1971)
Los Lazos: La Rola
From Como Has Hecho (Orfeon, 1970)
I’m not saying, “if you see a record by a Mexican band from the early 1970s where the band members are standing next to or leaning against a wood paneled wall, you should definitely pick it up.”But really, what do you have to lose?
Just be forewarned – with both these LPs, the two tracks I highlight are the outliers. True, the Los Lazos LP does have a very loyal cover of Booker T’s “Time Is Tight”…but I found it rather tepid. And definitely on the Los Socios Del Ritmo album, there is nothing that even approaches “Frijol Con Puerco.” Clearly, neither LP was meant to pitch itself to a soul/funk crowd (no matter what their outfits say) though our friends at Super Sonido suggest that you’d expect a Yucatán group like Los Socios Del Ritmo to get down on it.
Of the two, “Frijol Con Puerco” is short and snappy – a slick, mambo-meets-mod cut. Even though it was likely recorded after Los Lazos’s LP, it sounds about 4-5 years earlier (stylistically). “La Rola,” though…whew, that’s a bit of revelation to me: a jazzy, soulful swirl of a fusion track. Excepcional…
From 7″ (Mystic, 1979)
Extra special shout out to Andy at Record Jungle for the hook-up on this. Talk about random: Mystic Records was a Hollywood-based label that, by far, is best known for a slew of 1980s releases by punk and thrash bands; it has a strong cult following. Sabroso’s recording here, a Spanish-language cover of Chic’s “La Freak,” clearly predates Mystic’s shift towards the punk world (and not surprisingly, the recording doesn’t seem to show up on discographies for the label).
I think “novelty” would be a kind way to describe this cover; it’s loyal…just not very good, at least not in the pantheon of “Spanish-language covers of Chic songs” (ok, I’m not sure if that pantheon includes anything besides Charanga 76 doing “Good Times”). But still, I love that someone in L.A. decided to do this regardless.
Bob Zellin: Sunny + The Shadow Of Your Smile
From In a Whirl (Di No, 196?)
Sometimes, all it takes is a good cover. Add to that a 20-something organ prodigy, stroking the B-3, H-100 and a harpsichord, recording for a custom label, and covering a slew of jazz standards. This may border on lounge kitschy (not an unfair characterization) but a B-3 has such a distinctive, playful character that I’m willing to forgive a lot to hear someone who knows what they’re doing. Both of these covers are loyal to the original but all that means is that you can appreciate how good the original songs were, especially “The Shadow Of Your Smile”: such a lovely yet haunting tune.
Dyna Souls: Do You Want To Know a Secret
From Pinoy Beatles (Zodiac, 197?)
I love the Beatles, I’m interested in American pop music made by Asian/Asian American artists…how am I not going to cop this when I see it at the Record Jungle?
This came out of Manila in what I can only guess would be the early 1970s. Assuming the band stuck the same assignments as the original Beatles, then Vick Generoso would have been John, Tony Generoso was Paul, Walter Pennington was Ringo, and Buoy Catuncan was George (though Buoy doesn’t sing on the album; guess they couldn’t fit “Taxman” on here).
I wasn’t crazy about the song selection on the album if only because, selfishly, they weren’t the songs I’d want to hear but I did find a couple of the slower ballads to my liking, especially “I Will” and the group’s own youthful spirit works well with them tangling with “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”
Gary Gassell and Pam Tims: School’s Out – Let’s Shout
Ba Ba Ba “B”
From School Days (Melody House, 197?)
Let’s just get this out of the way…this is not one of “those” Melody House LPs, i.e. chock full of funky breaks and loops. That said, I almost never pass up a MH title simply because their approach to kids’ music was so deeply informed by pop conventions in a way that seems “very ’70s” and as a ’70s baby myself, I feel a kinship of sorts. You hear especially on the “B” song which has a real Happy Days vibe, i.e. a ’70s nostalgic interpretation of ’50s rock n’ roll.
And besides, as an educator and parent of a elementary school child, I can relate to “Schools’ Out – Let’s Shout”, believe that!
Rick Holmes: Remember to Remember + The Unknowledgeable One
From 12″ (Gold Mink, 1981)
Picked this up at Record Jungle the other week: a really strange 12″ produced by Roy Ayers, featuring L.A. radio DJ Rick Holmes. Some of you might already be familiar with Holmes since his voice graces the Cannonball Adderley Love, Sex, and the Zodiac album but I didn’t realize he went onto record something with Ayers, a decade later.
Musically, this is vintage post-disco Ayers; very groovy and soulful. Holmes though… He’s ok in small nuggets, like on that Love, Sex and the Zodiac album but for a nearly 10 minute song? It’s a bit much to take even if I do like what Holmes is trying to do on “Remember to Remember” especially with his roll-call of great artists and historical figures.
Los Freddy’s: Vuelve Mi Amor (Never My Love)
From 7″ (Peerless, 196?)
Los Xochimilcas: Y La Amo (And I Love Her)
From Cumbias y Dengues (Eco, 196?)
I recently got the Los Freddy’s in…I always did love the original version by The Association and the Los Freddy’s pull off a pretty loyal cover musically. I could be wrong but doesn’t this sound like a bunch of teenagers? Either that or the lead has a naturally “young” sounding voice.
The Los Xochimilcas’ cumbia flip on “And I Love Her” by the Beatles is all kinds of awesome. Really stripped down but I love how they replace the vocals with an accordion instead. Totally works in some “Paris by way of Mexico City” sabor.
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.