THE CAPRELLS, JO ANN GARRETT, EL MICHAELS AFFAIR: WALKING ON BY



The Caprells: Walk On By
From 7″ (Bano, 196?)

Jo Ann Garrett: Walk On By
From Just a Taste (Chess, 1969)

El Michaels Affair: Walk On By
From Rewind 5 (Ubiquity, 2006)

It’s funny, I had been planning on doing a Burt Bacharach covers post sooner or later, decided to just focus on “Walk On By” (maybe I’ll do a “Look of Love” post later) but then realized: damn, he wrote “Baby, It’s You” too. Just goes to show you: Bacharach is one of the greatest living American songwriters, hands down.

“Walk On By” is arguably the biggest of his hits – it’s been covered many different times and most of them (as you can hear here) are great, a testament to him and Hal Davis’ exceptional talents. Dionne Warwick made the song a hit to begin with but what I like about the tune is how different groups are able to bring something new to the table when they mess with it.

For example, I love this Caprells cover – the sweet soul/falsetto approach works very well and the song opens almost drug-like with the echoing vocals and the brass section is just so chill. They definitely put their own spin on the song.

However, no one transformed the song more than Isaac Hayes when he recorded an epic version in 1969. You’ve all heard it, you know what it sounds like, you know that it is, flat out, one of the most amazing remakes of a song ever. That intro alone pretty much slays most artists’ entire catalogs. It would become such a definitive cover that later artists would cover Hayes! Case in point: Jo Ann Garrett’s version of “Walk On By” is clearly a riff on Hayes – the arrangements are almost identical. Her band can’t attain the same kind of symphonic energy that Hayes achieved but I like hearing how female vocals sound over what amounts to a very similar track.

Lastly, this El Michaels Affair cover of “Walk On By” is another riff on the Hayes version. It appears on the just released compilation, Rewind 5, the latest in an excellent series put out by Ubiquity (if you don’t have Rewind 4 yet, you are Rip Van Winkling it). This is an instrumental version and surprisingly, I thought I’d miss the vocals but didn’t. A very nice, smooth and slick cover that clearly nods to the versions that have come prior but lets the band put their stamp on it. Like I said, Bacharach = genius.

JACKIE MCLEAN: HIS TIME


Jackie McLean: Soul
From ‘Bout Soul (Blue Note, 1967)

Lee Morgan: Cornbread
From Cornbread (Blue Note, 1965)

Freddie Redd: Wigglin
From Music From The Connection (Blue Note, 1960)

Jackie McLean: Hootman
From Action (Blue Note, 1964)

(Editor’s Note: This post originally came several weeks ago but due to technical problems – on my end – and the fact that I’ve been on the road so much, I wasn’t able to get it up until now. This tribute to the late, great Jackie McLean, comes to us from David A. Jaffe. Much thanks for his patience. – O.W.)

On March 31, the great alto player Jackie McLean was lost. McLean, who was 74, is better know to jazz heads than hip-hop nerds, likely because he occupies the space in the jazz spectrum somewhere between the high bop of Charlie Parker and the out new thing of late period John Coltrane. This is not to say that McLean wasn’t funky as other boppers like Gene Ammons (think “Black Cat” on Prestige), Les McCann (think “Swiss Movement” on Atlantic), or Bobby Timmons (think “Moanin'” on Riverside), rather it is just that McLean’s soul was more in line with bassist/band leader/enigma Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach.

McLean recorded with Miles Davis (“Dig” on Prestige), Charles Mingus (“Pithecanthropus Erectus” on Atlantic) and Art Blakey (including the classic Columbia LP “Hard Bop”) before moving on to the Prestige family of labels. At Prestige, McLean recorded on some sought after hard bop sides including Gene Ammons’ “Funky” and his own “Makin’ The Changes.” However, McLean’s first long-player as a leader is the obscenely rare outing with trumpeter Donald Byrd on Ad-Lib. Later, McLean’s most important and arguably best sounds, came from his work for uber-label Blue Note in the ’60’s.

McLean fit in perfectly at Blue Note as part of the label’s regular roster and house sound in the decidedly hard- and post-bop directions. While some readers may cringe at the thought of honking and squeaking instruments, and drum playing that seems to keep no time signature recognized on this planet, McLean’s style incorporated a tone that owed a tip-of-the-hat to Parker, yet was as distinctive as more well know players in the pantheon. Take for example his recording of “Soul” with Grachan Moncur III on the 1967 Blue Note LP “‘Bout Soul.” The orchestration and pace owes more, from my point view, to Mingus and his style as a composer than to the squawks of other out sax players such as Joe McPhee (best known for his well sampled “Nation Time”). Readers of Soul-Sides may think of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place” when hearing the spoken wordy chant of poet Barbara Simmons (whose work was published by author/poet/jazz freak Amiri Baraka, nee LeRoy Jones, in “Black Fire”). Among the amazing things about “Soul” isn’t just how easily it slips from an almost soul-jazz spoken word piece to a free jazz composition in several movements, but the fact the song was composed on the spot – pure improvisation.

Diggers may be familiar with the McLean LP “Demon’s Dance” for its Bob Vanosa cover (see Miles’ “Bitches Brew”), although those in search of the more conventionally funky can check out “Cornbread” from Lee Morgan’s 1965 Blue Note album, and “Wigglin'” from Jack Gelber’s play about junkies waiting for a fix, “The Connection.” The music from the play (later made into an experimental film) was actually played both on stage and on celluloid by the musicians, most or all of whom had been or were actively using heroin. McLean acted in both the stage and cinema versions. Music from “The Connection” is noteworthy for the bluesy bop playing of the two principles McLean (ala Bird) and Redd (ala Monk). Somewhere between the free of “Soul” and the blues of “Wigglin'” is the (sorry) free soul of “Hootman” from McLean’s classic Blue Note title “Action” (1964). The cut has Bobby Hutcherson’s smooth vibe playing and solos with progressions that are jagged and unpredictable for what outwardly appears to be a bluesy, straight ahead tune.

Jackie McLean had a long, distinguished career, which I’ve only hinted at here. Besides his exciting
recording career and his canonical albums for Blue Note, McLean was also the artistic director and program founder of the African American Music Program of the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford, a program that eventually bore his name. A quick look at the message boards is indicative of how much this man’s music moved people, and McLean’s music it is definitely worthy of being played out on the decks. In memory of the man, drop the needle in the groove and soak in the free soul of Jackie Mc, in loving memory, y’all.

ROMANO MUSSOLINI + JOE BATAAN: GRAB BAG


Romano Mussolini Trio: Hong-Kong
From Mirage (PDU, 1974)

Joe Bataan: This Boy
From Sweet Soul (Fania, 1972)
While flying back fro Seattle and reading this month’s Atlantic Monthly, I read that Romano Mussolini died. For those unaware, Mussolini was an Italian pianist and a well-respected jazz musician in that country. He was also the song of Benito Mussolni. Aka the dictator who joined forces with Hitler during WWII and was subsequently caught and hanged. It’s an interesting backstory for Romano, to be sure, but his music speaks for itself regardless of the surname. Mussolini was very prolific, much of his stuff was straight-ahead, but Mirage has become popular (not to mention $$$) amongst soul-jazz heads, namely for its funky arrangements and Mussolini’s choice to play a Rhodes electric piano on it. I’ve always liked this album for its sound – fusion-y at times but definitely far from overboard. I went with “Hong-Kong” which didn’t sound like what I expected – exotica – it’s actually a very nice, soulful arrangement.

Also, it’s no secret I’m a big Joe Bataan fan. I’ve spent a good deal of time interviewing him and will certainly be writing more on him in the future. However, surprisingly, I don’t actually own any of his original Fania material – I have his post-Fania albums on Mericana and Salsoul but his Fania material isn’t cheap and for whatever reason, I was slacking in going out to find more of it. However, I recently had a chance to pick up Sweet Soul and I would have just bought it on the strength of the cover alone. However, it opens with this great cover of “This Boy” by the Beatles. Hope you enjoy – I certainly did.

IMPALAVILLE + SOUL BOULDERS: GOOD FOR THE SOUL


Johnny Paycheck: Impalaville (sampler)*
From Impalaville (Good Records, 2006)

DJs Matthew Africa + B. Cause: Soul Boulders (sampler)*
From Soul Boulders (2006)

I’m going to let you in on the realness: I’m tired of super fried funk. I mean, I like some good gutbucket, Friday night sweat box funk 45s as much as the next guy but it’s not what I need right now. I need something sweet and soulful that will relax my mind and heart in these here times.

You need it too. Really, you do. And thus, you need both Soul Boulders and Impalaville.

As someone who listens to a lot of mixtapes and compilations, the mark of a really good one is when I think, “damn, I wish I had done this.” I felt that way about both of these.

Impalaville is the creation of Johnny Paycheck aka Johnny Pacheco aka the owner of Good Records NYC. Despite being located in NY however, the album is inspired by L.A. Chicano summer anthems: Low Rider Soul 4 Real. Rarity isn’t the point here (though there will definitely be songs you haven’t heard before) – it’s all about nailing a vibe. Pacheco sets up the mix as the best radio show you never heard – something you can imagine drifting out your car stereo as you cross the bridges of East L.A., 3pm sun blazing overhead.

Believe me, you may look over the tracklisting and say, “yeah but who hasn’t heard “Groovin'” or “Evil Ways” before?” Then you’ll slip this on at a backyard BBQ one afternoon, watch a dozen people walk up and ask, “hey, what’s playing right now?” and realize how genius this is. Everyone, from you parents to your boy/girlfriend to your 11 year old nephew/niece will be feeling this. Top that.

As for Soul Boulders, it’s a new mix-CD of “slow, funky soul burners” put together by a tag team of two of my favorite Bay Area DJs: Matthew Africa and B. Cause. Between the two of them, they have crates so deep you could drown in them (and believe me, I’d want to). Seriously, the selections on here are so damn good, I’m already started to plot ways to cop a few of the titles for my own stash.

To put it another way, if you liked my CD, then you will definitely like this too. The 9 minute sampler I include here is the tippy tip of the iceberg.

Once again: both are these are fantastic. GET THEM.

*Sound files encoded at a crappy 64 bitrate. The actual CDs sound, of course, pristine.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN



The Diplomats: I’ve Got the Kind of Love
From 7″ (Dynamo, 196?). Also on Greatest Recordings.

Gayle McCormick: You Really Got a Hold On Me
From S/T (Dunhill, 1971)

Joe Williams: Sad Song
From Joe Williams Live (Fantasy, 1973)

Mickey and the Soul Generation: Iron Leg
From 7″ (Maxwell, 1969). Also available on Iron Leg.

I’ve been on the road lately – in the last three weeks, I’ve been to L.A., N.Y.C., Yellow Springs (Ohio), Minneapolis and Denver/Boulder. If you’re curious why, peep. I haven’t always taken full advantage of my travel schedule to go record shopping while I’m out wherever but this most recent trip last week (to MSP and DEN) lead me and diggin’ partner Adam M. to hit up a few spots.

The pipe dream of most road trips is to find some crazy ass $1,000 private press gospel country heat but it’s not really all about that (and plus, I, uh, didn’t find any of those albums). The fact that you’re scouring through random crates means landing on random records that aren’t necessarily linked by genre or theme or geography. They’re just what you come upon by chance. Here’s a quartet from this last trip:

In Minneapolis, Adam and I only had time to really hit up one store so we took the bus out to the southeast part of the city. The store looked fantastic, insofar as it definitely could have been a winner but we actually didn’t find a ton that day. I perused the 45 section and found the Diplomats 45. This is what I call a “Shaolin soul” type cut (in deference to RZA’s taste in vintage soul) – gritty yet sweet. The Diplomats are an interesting group – originally formed in Washington D.C. in the late 1950s, throughout the ’60s they changed personnel and labels. This single, on Dynamo, was one of half a dozen they cut for the imprint until the early 1970s where they changed their name to the Skull Snaps. Yeah, those Skull Snaps.

The McCormick LP was something I actually saw in Minneapolis but ended up buying in Denver (I was being really cheap on this trip and wasn’t trying to spend more than a few bucks if I could help it). McCormick originally was the lead singer for the L.A. based rock group Smith and then went solo in the early 1970s. This was from her first solo LP and I’ll be honest – while she’s not bad for a blue-eyed soulster, I wasn’t really blown away by the arrangements on the album even though she covers “A Natural Woman,” “Rescue Me,” and “Save Me.” I did, however, like her cover of “You Really Got a Hold On Me” especially for the instrumentation and how it begins with the bassline and electric piano.

Speaking of Denver, we hit up two stores – the first located in a strip mall in one of those cookie-cut suburban sprawl zones that you see in many cities throughout America (unfortunately). Cool store though – it was combined with a book store/gaming store – basically a geek’s wet dream (did I mention the huge vintage porn collection too?) The Williams LP came out of there…the moment I needle-dropped on “Sad Song,” it sounded familiar and looking at the back, I realized it’s because the most of the same personnel who play on here (essentially, the Nat Adderley Sextet) also played on another Fantasy LP around the same time, Soul Zodiac. That explains the smooth funkiness of the backing band.

Last, but not least, I was combing through the 45 box at this store in downtown Denver and pulled out a “well-loved” (read: VG-) copy of “Iron Leg” but for .50 I’m not about to pass up one of the illest funk 45s to ever come out of Texas (and as it turns out, it still sounds pretty good considering the condition). The way this song opens, with the near-distorted guitar and that thick bassline is reedonkulous. By far, my favorite find on this trip.

Like I said, I didn’t pull anything bonkers but it was nice being out in the field again after a long year+ of just eBay “digging” and the weekly sojourn to the Groove Merchant.

O.V. WRIGHT: AT THE NUCLEUS OF SOUL


Sunset Travelers: On Jesus Program
From On Jesus Program (Peacock, 1965)

O.V. Wright: 8 Men and 4 Women
From 8 Men and 4 Women (Back Beat, 1968)

O.V. Wright: A Nickel and a Nail
From A Nickel and a Nail (Back Beat, 1971)

O.V. Wright: We’re Still Together
From We’re Still Together (Hi, 1979)

(Ed. The following post comes to us from Soul Sides reader Manu from France. Yeah, we continental like that.)

I can’t remember the very first time I heard about O.V. Wright but I guess it was either Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music or a Jay Owens’ interview (who played guitar and toured with O.V. Wright) that planted the idea that I should listen to some his music.

You couldn’t find his original albums as CDs then (you still can’t) but an excellent compilation of his songs on Back Beat had just came out, The Soul of O.V. Wright. It was nothing short of an illumination.

Overton Vertis Wright was born October the 9th, 1939 in Leno, Tennessee, right outside of Memphis. Like many of his peers, he honed his singing early in the church choir where his talent was soon noticed. During the 50s and early 60s, he sung with local gospel acts: the Memphis Five Harmonaires, the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, the Luckett Brothers, the Highway QC’s and the Sunset Travelers (with whom he started recording for Peacock in 1964).

His first foray into secular music was the original 1964 version of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” for Goldwax (a song written by Roosevelt Jamison). The song was picked by local DJs and later got covered by Otis Redding. This success, instead of kickstarting his secular career, stalled it: Don Robey, Peacock Records’ boss, claimed O.V. Wright was still under contract and filed a lawsuit against Goldwax.

O.V. switched to Peacock records subsidiary Back Beat and in 1965 he released albums If It’s Only For Tonight and 8 Men and 4 Women. Each respective album featured 2 beautiful ballads, the kind he excelled at: “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and the haunting “8 Men and 4 Women,” his 2 highest-charting songs.

On his his next album, 1969’s Nucleus of Soul, O.V. Wright started working with Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, the beginning of a long and successful collaboration. The next two albums on Backbeat, A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades (1971) and Memphis Unlimited (1973), are arguably his best, finding O.V. on the brink of despair, singing with devastating power.

After leaving Back Beat in 1973, O.V. signed with Willie Mitchell’s Hi-Records and they released 4 LP’s, since reissued as The Complete O.V. Wright on Hi Records, Vol. 1: In the Studio.

However, after years of hard work, drug abuse, and personal problems, his health went into sharp decline. On his last album : We’re Still Together (1979), released not long before his death at only age 41 (heart attack), his voice sounds like a broken bell, but in a similar way to Billie Holiday’s last records, it is very moving despite the awful back-up vocals and bubble-gum-disco music.

Through all this, I was always smitten by his voice: gorgeous, sinuous and punchy. His singing WAS church (imagine Ira Tucker singing the blues). His performances were full of pathos, tension and drama – the epitome of soul music. Finally, I couldn’t escape feelings of sympathy. I mean, his life was built on great talent, great hopes, taken to the brink of success, then slide into hardship and problems, and ultimately, tragically, early death.

THE DEVICS + FEIST: DISTANT RADIOS


The Devics: Distant Radio
From Push the Heart (Filter, 2006)

Feist: One Evening
From Let It Die (Interscope, 2005)

I was recently in Los Angeles while Sharon was attending the Radical Craft Conference in Pasadena. Tasked with occupying Ella for the day, one of my techniques in making sure she was getting her naps in was hitting the road and just driving. Anywhere. Randomly. Which, in L.A. is a rather easy thing to do.

I have a love/love relationship with driving in Los Angeles. Yeah, there’s gridlock. There’s atrocious air pollution. There’s the materialism of equating what you drive with who you are (for the record, I was rolling in a rented Kia mini-van so flossin’ I was not). But I grew up in L.A., I learned to drive there, and the radio became part of my life in a completely different way as it turned into a constant companion on the road.

This is hardly a new observation but music simply sounds different – mostly better – in the car. Part of it is the acoustics of the space but all fidelity aside (my first car had a crappy, single speaker stereo with no cassette deck even) the moods invoked by music forms a synergy with the rhythm of driving (except in cases of said gridlock). Everything feels more expansive, more atmospheric (just to abuse that oft-used musical cliche), more perfect in the way we want music to be.

So anyways, I’m winding my way through streets I’ve never been before, somewhere between South Pasadena and downtown L.A., and I’m tuned into KCRW’s Saturday “The A Track” show and these two songs come on, back-to-back and I’m totally mesmerized. Surprising as it may sound, I actually like stuff that’s not soul/funk/Latin/hip-hop and for some reason, I’ve always had a special place for female, moody singer/songwriter types. I think this is because an ex got me into Sarah McLaughlin and then I discovered Aimee Mann on my own and since then, I’m just a sucker for this kind of sound. I’m not making apologies or excuses here: I don’t care if other people think it’s pretentious indie folk dribble (as one friend said, upon hearing the Devics’ song, “that’s so Lilith Fair.”), I really do like this stuff. In moderation. (I feel the same way about, you know, Young Jeezy).

Of the two, the Devics was more enticing that afternoon – it’s those damn guitars and the vocals offer a melancholy yet expansive feel that seems well suited to a long drive to nowhere. By the way, you don’t hear it on this song, but elsewhere on the album, the Devics make good use of accordion. You don’t hear that everyday. Outside of polka. (Check “A Secret Message To You” especially).

I think Feist has a superior vocalist – I like the edge of her voice and her nuances in singing. Musically, it’s a big quiet stormy but again, on a nice Saturday afternoon, it seemed to hit the right groove. Also, Let It Die is more ambitious than Push the Heart but honestly, I doubt either CD is going into my constant rotation despite my soft spot for the two songs in question.

Your favorite road tunes?

NPR’S SONG OF THE DAY

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)

GHOSTFACE: LIKE BOND IN THE OCTAGON


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?

BUY MY CD: SOUL SIDES VOL. 1


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.