Monday, March 08, 2010

posted by O.W.

I've had a few individual songs that I've been meaning to post up and usually, I wait for some kind of thematic opportunity but I realize this is an inefficient way to go about things and instead, I just took ten of these stragglers, whipped up a quick sequence for them and if you download them in order, you'll have yourself a half-hour mix.

Paul Kelly: Only Your Love
From 7" (Dial, 1965)

This single (backed with "Chills & Fevers") originally came out on Lloyd but turned out to be enough of a hit that Dial picked it up for distribution and, strangely, Atlantic UK also issued it (but not until the late '70s). My man Brendan first played this for me and while "Chills and Fevers" was the big hit, it was always the flipside ballad that captured my attention. I could be crazy but this definitely sounds influenced by Sam Cooke's "Change Gonna Come" - the arrangements seem remarkably similar though not a copy. But like Cooke, you have this impassioned delivery and the kind of deep, deep soul track I simply can't get enough of.

Marvin Gaye: It's Love I Need
From I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Tamla, 1968)

Confession: much as I recognize the greatness that was Marvin, I actually own very few of his albums besides a few anthologies. I basically missed out on buying a lot of classic Motown-era LPs (I'm starting to make up for it though) and it wasn't until the other month that I finally picked up one of his biggest selling albums of the '60s, I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Besides the now-ubiquitous title track though, I really liked listening to what some might call the "filler", LP-only songs because you will always find little gems tucked away. Motown knew what the f--- they were doing in that era and even the non-hits sound like potential hits. This track in particular has a nice, funky twang to it, anchored by fatback drums. Reminds me a little of this, an absolute favorite of mine from Tammi Terrell's catalog.

Great Pride: She's a Lady
From 7" (MGM, 1974)

I originally heard this back in 2003 when I got booted on a strange, one-off 12". Even then, I remember it being some really crazy stuff but I had forgotten about it for years until recently, when I grabbed an OG copy of the 7". It's such a fantastically quirky song that mashes up some funky white dude rock, lush orchestral production and crazy psychedelic vocals. Call me crazy but didn't the moment where the strings and beat come together at :15 remind you of this? Far as I can tell, this was the only release this 7-man band ever put out; pity - I would have loved to hear what an entire LP's worth of material sounded like from these guys.

The Victors: Magnificent Sanctuary Band
From 7" (Clarion, 197?)

This cover of Donny Hathaway's tune retains the opening drum break and a mostly loyal arrangement that isn't necessarily superior to the OG but it's a fun listen and nice to have on 7".

The Detroit City Limits: 98 Cents Plus Tax
From Play 98 Cents Plus Tax and Other Hits (Okeh, 1968)

Ironically, even though this album was mostly covering other people's hits, as one of the sole original compositions by this short-lived group, "98 Cents Plus Tax" was the group's biggest hit: a squawking monster of an instrumental cooker that's been a favorite of DJs for years.

Big City: Love Dance
From 7" (20th Century, 1974)

This excellent, mid-70s proto-disco jam is a real enigma. If you've ever heard "Mud Wind" by the South Side Movement, you'll notice that "Love Dance" = "Mud Wind" - a minute + vocals. Does that mean Big City is actually South Side Movement? That's my assumption only because I've never seen another Big City single but apparently, this isn't the first time a tune on Wand ended up being re-released on 20th Century (see The Groove: "Love, It's Getting Better").

Juan Diaz: Hit and Run
From Thematic Music (New World, 197?)

This comes from one of the many NY-based New World library music records. New World isn't anywhere near the level of KPM/DeWolfe library respectability but like most library series, there's good tracks to be found if you're willing to sift through. This is one of the better cuts I've found on a New World LP - a slick, disco-y instrumental that rides a nice little groove.

Willie West and High Society Brothers: The Devil Gives Me Everything
From 7" (Timmion, 2009)

Finland's finest teamed up with legendary NOLA soul man for this single that sort of flew under people's radars from last year. Whether intentional or not, there's just something slightly "off" about this deep soul recording but whatever that element is, it works for me.

Myron and E: It's a Shame
From 7" (Timmion, 2010)

And staying on the Timmion tip is the latest single from Oakland's Myron and E who made a strong splash with "Cold Game." This is their follow-up 7" and hopefully paves the way for the duo's long-awaited debut LP with the Soul Investigators. This one's real catchy (but it's not a cover of the Spinners' song in case you were wondering).

Bitty McClean: Tell Me (remix)
From 7" (Sir Peckings, 2007)

Straight up, McClean's "Tell Me" and "Walk Away From Love" are two of my favorite reggae songs that I've discovered in years. I didn't even realize "Tell Me" got a remix 7" treatment but had to cop. This doesn't change the song dramatically; it basically keeps the original rocksteady arrangement but then remakes it over with some heavy dub elements, basically stripping it down and letting McClean's vocals echo out.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

posted by O.W.

For the longest time, I've been meaning to write a series of posts on gospel soul but for whatever reason, I kept putting it off. Then, a few weeks ago, I was asked to review two new gospel anthologies for NPR:

  • Fire In My Bones
  • Born Again Funk

    The review ran yesterday afternoon.

    With it, I figured, damn, I can't keep putting this off any longer so I'm going to use them as a prompt to finally get my stuff together and knock these posts out.

    Let me start by saying that I'm a completely secular guy so gospel's appeal to me has nothing to do with theology. However, I've long respected gospel's important, formative influence on R&B ("gospel soul" almost sounds redundant) but more than that, I appreciate the depth of emotion that comes into gospel. You can't really compose a song meant to praise an entity like God and come half-assed about it. That commitment? That is the essence of soul.

    My favorite song off of Numero Group's second in the Good God series is what I tried to end my review with but given the length of the piece, they had to cut it off pretty quickly:

    The Inspiration Gospel Singers: The Same Thing It Took
    From Good God!: Born Again Funk (Numero Group, 2010)

    This song is so perfect on every level - the bassline, the lead vocalist, the back-up vocalists, the hook... It kills me that this is also insanely rare ("a handful of known copies" according to the compiler), with many copies having been destroyed in a warehouse fire. All the more reason I'm thankful it got comped here.

    One song that I'm frankly amazed hasn't made a gospel soul comp is this one:

    Robert Vanderbilt and the Foundations of Soul: A Message Especially From God
    From 7" (Sensational, 196?)

    It's an Illinois record (and I just have to think TNG thought about comping this at some point but I don't really know) and I swear to god it sounds like they're using the instrumental track from another song but I can't for the life of me remember which one. Either way, this rolls deep, especially with those guitars and the faint swirl of...(I have no idea what's creating those swirling notes except for some weird reverb off the bass). It's a pity that it came out on styrene. I have what looks like a mint stock copy but there's just the slightest, annoying touch of cue burn on it so I'm borrowing my rip here from a JBX mix. I don't know anyone who's ever heard this and not been floored.

    Alright, let this be the first post of several over the next few days (or hours, if I get around to it) to highlight some of my favorite picks out of my small (but hopefully growing) gospel crates.

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  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Sebastian: Living In Depression
    From 7" (Brown Dog, 1975)

    Sebastian's "Living in a Depression" highlights a different kind of "cover" (even though it's technically not): the recording of a new vocal track over a pre-existing instrumental. This happens in R&B more often than some may remember - "Light My Fire," by Young Hold Unlimited, Jackie Wilson AND Erma Franklin being one of the better known examples. However, it wasn't until last year that I even realized that "Living In a Depression" existed even if its instrumental track - Little Royal and the Swingmasters' "Razor Blade" is pretty much a common but classic funk 45.

    Here's the thing: I don't think this song works well. Partly, the mix sounds way off; you can barely even hear, let alone comprehend, what Sebastian is singing. But even if the song had better engineering, Little Royal's original arrangement just doesn't sound like it was meant to have vocals on it. Trying to fit "Living in depression/what you gonna do?" over that opening horn line feels forced and awkward. Yet, I like the 7" because it is so off, as if this was some bad studio cut that was meant to be thrown out but was released by accident. (Thanks to Soul Marcosa for turning me onto this song).

    I also recently got this single from Spain that seems to fall under the same category:

    Charly and the Bourbon Family: Boogachi
    From 7" (Poplandia, 1971)

    Charly is clear riffing on "Look-a-py-py" by The Meters (uncredited as it may be). A perfectly awesome funk instrument which Charly and the Bourbon Family then proceed to get all CCR over with their vocals. Interstingly, though this appeared on a Spanish label, Charly and the Bourbon Band (aka The Diamonds, aka the Untouchables) were a German band who cut their teeth in the various American G.I. clubs throughout Europe. They also, apparently, do covers of Hugh Maekela's "Grazing in the Grass" and Cliff Nobles' "The Horse" both those are formal covers unlike this, an "unauthorized" re-versioning of "Look-a-py-py." (I have an even more bizarre European 7" out of Sweden which puts vocals over the Mohawks' "Champ" but that will have to wait until another time).

    In terms of another example of this phenom that I unqualifiably enjoy, that'd have to be this:

    Leon Austin: Steal Away
    From 7" (King, 1970)

    This is a "double" cover of sorts. For one, it's a legitimate cover of Jimmy Hughes' 1964 hit, "Steal Away" but James Brown (who produced the single) also threw the vocals over the instrumental track "Nose Job". And unlike the ill-fit with Sebastian/Little Royal, Leon Austin sounds great over the "Nose Job" riddim. (Thanks to Mao for turning me onto this song).

    P.S. Speaking of covers, here's a real one. I write up the awesome Mexican cover of the Joe Cuba Sextet's "El Pito" for Super Sonido.

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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Here's a quintet of stuff I've been listening to lately...

    Cumbias En Moog: Cumbia Del Sol
    From 7" (Peerless, 197/8?)

    Cumbia, done in moog. Awesome idea, marvelously executed here by the outfit, appropriately named, Cumbias En Moog. I'm betting there's a lot more of this out there, probably collecting dust somewhere between Colombia and Mexico City. Holler at me with that! This came out of a batch of cumbia 7"s I picked up the other month; money well-spent! Really solid stuff all around (the A-side of this 7", for example, has a surprisingly good, bossa-flavored cumbia). I'll share another one:

    Pedro Beltran y Orquesta: Cumbia De Lucy
    From 7" (Aries, 1970s)

    Killer intro; sounds like a marching band bass drum being pounded there, intercut with chattering percussion and then what sounds like an Indian flute creeps in (I'm assuming it's some Peruvian woodwindaccording to commenter Alejandro, it's a Colombian instrument called a "gaita".). The whole package is an incredibly mesmerizing rhythm. Lyrically, I can only assume the song is a riff on Lucille Ball given that the vocalist (Beltran?) sings "Lucy! Luck!" Ricky Ricardo style.

    The Sonics: Have Love Will Travel
    From Here Are the Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)

    One of my favorite songs to DJ with over the last year or so has been the Lefties Soul Connection's cover of "Have Love Will Travel." The song was originally recorded by Richard Berry in 1959 but like several of Berry's influential compositions ("Louie Louie" being the most obvious), it would actually be later artists who'd record the more definitive version. In the case of "Have Love Will Travel," the version the Lefties are riffing on isn't Berry's original but the 1965 cover by the garage rockers, The Sonics. With the fuzzed out guitar and screaming intro, their version rocks in a way that Berry's never really did and it's easy to see why it's been such a compelling cover to cover since then. Check out Thee Headcoat(ees) cover for the femme makeover.

    Chikaramanga feat. Droop Capone: A Life Like This (snippet)
    From 12" (Tres, 2010)

    Droop Capone aka Dr. Oop is one of my favorite West Coast rappers from the indie hip-hop heyday; he had such a distinctive flow and a knack for choosing good beats to rhyme over. In 2010, he hasn't slipped on that front, teaming with Japan's Chikaramanga for this upcoming single on Tres Records. Call it nostalgist in me but I like any song that a shout out to the Good Life on the chorus. Cop this.

    Professor Longhair: Big Chief Pt. 2
    From 7" (Watch, 19640). Part 1 + 2 version here.

    This is a classic of NOLA music though I didn't get around to grabbing the OG 7" until recently. If you want to understand the roots of funk polyrhythm, you'd do well to just pay attention to what's going on this song in terms of what Smokey Johnson (second line ya'll!) is doing with the drums and how it plays off against the rest of the layers of the song. Longhair's piano work here is sparkling and I went with the lesser played Pt. 2 of the 7" because I like it makes the Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section more prominent plus you get actual vocals (from Earl King) instead of only whistling. (Home of the Groove has an excellent primer on this single).

    In other news...people may also be interested in:

  • Part 3 of my overview of the Latin soul label, Speed, on
  • An essay for about who usually wins the Grammy's R&B Female Performance award.

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  • Friday, January 22, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Richard's People: Yo Yo (O-Dub's Extended Intro Edit)
    From 7" (Tuba, 1968)

    When Doc Delay came through to spin the other month, he dropped this in the middle of a funk mix and trainspotter as I am, I craned my neck over to ask: "wtf is this?" It sounded like the unruly love child of a Midwestern funkateer backed by an East Harlem band and as I dug around for more info on its background, turned out I was more or less on point.

    While the 7" came out of Detroit (rumor is, the vocalist was a janitor at Tuba Records), the backing track originated in New York which probably explains why the dip into the shing-a-ling has a distinctive Nuyorican sabor on it. Boogaloo fiend as I am, I love where Latin boogaloo comes back to the Midwest (where the booglaoo was born). It's very post-modern before anyone was talking about post-modernity(ok, I'm hella nerding out right now) but all you need to know is that "Yo Yo" rocks. Sure, it's a derivative track in terms of being a "new dance" that also borrows from any number of hit songs from the same era such as the "Cool Jerk" and "Here Comes the Judge." (Again, pastiche! Collage!) Plus, all that and a breakbeat intro? Oh hells yes. (Personally, I'd love to see how the "Yo Yo" is done; sounds like fun.)

    (See also Funky16Corners' excellent exploration of the single's history).

    This is jarring gear shift but I'd be remiss in not taking the time to mourn the passing of Teddy Pendergrass, gone far before this time (which is about 99% of the great ones, no?).

    Teddy Pendergrass: Love TKO
    From TP (Philly Int'l, 1980)

    All-time, end of night, slow jam, red light classic (though I suppose "Close the Door" is the king seduction song even more).

    King Kong: The Love I Lost
    From Funky Reggae (MFP, 1970s)

    Just played this out last night and cotdamn was this Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (feat. Teddy) such an incredible jam, made all the more enticing in this reggae-fied remake.

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    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    2009 REWIND
    posted by O.W.

    Besides being able to share music, the other great joy of working on is the process of discovery for myself. I have this big crate of "songs I mean to post about" but inevitably, these get pushed out of the way based on "stuff I just discovered" and it's almost always the case that my year-end review of my favorite songs are comprised by songs that I found-along-the-way; 2009 was no different.

    Irma Thomas: Hurt's All Gone
    From 7" (Imperial, 1966). Also on The Jerry Ragovoy Story -- Time Is On My Side

    The path to how I heard this song actually begins with a different song written/produced by Jerry Ragavoy - "Stay With Me, Baby" by Lorraine Ellison which I first heard after watching The Boat That Rocked/Pirate Radio. I think Matthew Africa then recommended the Ragavoy anthology, on which I discovered the Irma Thoamas song and promptly fell in love.

    Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Find a Way
    From Suite for Ma Dukes (Mochilla, 2009)

    The more I've sat with this, the more I admire the subtle ways in which Niño and Atwood-Ferguson capture the melancholy beauty of Jay Dee's production. As I originally wrote, I was concerned this could come off as kind of corny but instead, what they compose here isn't remotely cloying but moving and magical.

    Otis Redding: Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
    From In Person at the Whiskey A Go-Go (ATCO, 1968)

    The Emotions: As Long As I've Got You
    From Songs of Innocence and Experience (Stax, unreleased from 1972)

    Gotta show love to Funky Sole's Clifton; I think he's the one who played the Redding single at an early spring party and instantly turned it into a staple for me. Otis and his band just murder this cover in the best ways possible.

    And I have both Hua and Mao to thank for turning me onto the Emotions song. It's hard to outdo the Charmels' original and I think the Emotions do an incredible job here of understanding what worked about their version and then found ways to put their own signature on it. The fact that this was never released in the 1970s is astounding.

    Laura Nyro w/ Labelle: The Bells
    From Gonna Take a Miracle (Warner Bros, 1971)

    At least at this moment, if I had to pick my favorite song I heard in 2009, it'd be this one. Surprisingly, I never posted about it originally, opting instead for the livelier "Jimmy Mack," but over the course of the year, "The Bells" keep (you knew this was coming, right?) ringing in my head over and over. Sublime.

    Johnny and the Expressions: Now That You're Mine
    From 7" (Josie, 1966)

    Mayer Hawthorne: I Wish It Would Rain
    From A Strange Arrangement (Stonesthrow, 2009)

    There's quite a few other similar singles that I considered plugging in here, including the Mandells' awesome "Now That I Know" (and I still need to write up the Falcons' "Standing On Guard") but this song is such a perfect mix of deep and sweet soul, it deserves to be heard again. And again. And again.

    And since we're on the slow jam tip, I have to give a nod to Mayer Hawthorne's excellent "I Wish It Would Rain" - easily my favorite song by him behind "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out". I wouldn't think too many songs would want to risk confusion with the Temptations song (since Mayer's isn't a cover) but he puts down a strong claim to that name with this superlative effort.

    Ohio Players: Ecstasy
    From Ecstasy (Westbound, 1973)

    Technically, I heard this song before but I didn't pay enough attention to it until this year. Once I did, it now makes me wanna go, "uh huh huh."

    Spinnerty feat. EP and Czar Absolute: Feels Like Rain
    From 7" (Trazmick, 2008)

    I don't have much to add to what I said before except to re-emphasize. This is really really really good. Oh wait, I did say that before. You catch my drift though.

    Bitty McLean: Walk Away From Love
    From On Bond Street (Peckings, 2005)

    Johnny Holiday: Nobody Loves Me But My Mama
    From 7" (Bold, 196?)

    I was about to sing the praises of these again (and they definitely are two of my favorite of the year) but I'd rather talk about each artist's other songs from the same releases (see the forthcoming part 2).

    The Noisettes: Never Forget You
    From Wild Young Hearts (2009)

    I admit, I did kind of tire of this after keeping it in heavy rotation but here's what I know: I'll go a year without hearing this and then hear it again...and it will still sound incredible.

    Michael Jackson: We Got a Good Thing Goin'
    From Stripped Mixes (Universal, 2009)

    I can't find much more to say than I already have; Michael Jackson's untimely death is one of the defining musical moments of the decade, in my opinion, in terms of how much it compelled me to reexamine his catalog and learn to appreciate his work in a whole new light. It seems apropos to offer up this deconstructed version of one song I only really discovered this year - "We Got a Good Thing Goin'" - that appeared on the suspiciously well-timed Stripped Mixes album. I didn't think all the stripped down versions worked but it was perfect on this one, especially in honing things down to all the best parts of the original's melancholy mood and charm. It's not meant to be an elegy but I can't but help but hear it as one.

    The 2010 Rewind songs.

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    posted by O.W.

    A few weeks ago, I put forward a challenge to folks to try their hand at remixing Bobby Reed's "Time Is Right For Love" and so far, we've had three folks step up.

    These are all "works in progress" so be nice with your comments/feedback but so far, I like where it's all heading.

    Bobby Reed: Time Is Right (Choplogic Remix)

    Bobby Reed: Time Is Right (Prince of Ballard Remix)

    Bobby Reed: Time Is Right (Flip Edit)

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    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Revelation Funk: Elastic Lover
    From 7" (Gold Plate, 197?)

    The Mighty Lovers: Ain't Gonna Run No More
    From 7" (Soul Hawk, 196?)

    As I learned from the omniscient Dante Carfanga, Revelation Funk was an Ohio outfit that, among other things, was where James Ingram got his start back in the early 1970s. "Elastic Lover," the b-side of "Bear Funk" is supposed to be their "common" 7" though let me tell you, after looking for it for over a year, it certainly doesn't show up as one might expect a common single to. This is all besides the point.

    I first heard "Elastic Lover" on a now-infamous Jared Boxx mix-CD from a few years back and partially because it's early in the mix, partially because it is so striking, it went high onto my want list. Once I actually got it and listened to it, it hasn't lost its magic except that I have to say: the hook/chorus is amazing on this song but wow, the songwriting is otherwise terrible. I mean, c'mon:

    "tell me why you want to be so plastic/when you know your love for me has to be made out of elastic"

    I don't know if that's as bad as rhyming "crouton" with "futon" but it's somewhere in the ballpark. But, that all said, once you hit that chorus, with that multi-part harmony and the way everyone is stretching out the title...they could be singing off a cereal box and I'd forgive 'em.

    I had a similar reaction listening - really listening - to the Mighty Lovers' "Ain't Gonna Run No More," which comes Soul Hawk, the same Detroit label that gave us the New Holidays (note: my daughter has gotten into singing the hook for this song too but alas, no sound file for you...yet). I first heard the ML song when Mayer Hawthorne spun a guest set at my weekly last January and it is a totally catchy song - awesome arrangement/production by Popcorn Wylie - and it has a great, great hook (hence why my 4.5 year old can rock it).

    But when I actually sat with it, I realized: "wow, this song is all about how he's getting bullied around but now he's got a girlfriend and he's trying to stand up for himself..." Maybe it's just me, but as far as narratives go, it's rice paper thin. It's just hard to get all that excited for someone trying to shore up their manhood just because they're trying not to get punked in front of their girlfriend (unless your name is McFly). But the hook, the hook...the hook. "Ah ah, no no, I ain't gonna run no more." Try it. You'll like it.

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    Monday, November 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Bobby Reed: Time Is Right
    From 7" (Bell, 196?)

    Tek and Steele: We Came Up (Crystal Stair) (feat. Talib Kweli)
    From Reloaded (Duck Down, 2005)

    Tek and Steele: We Came Up (Bobby Reed Section)

    My man Hua hepped me to this Smif N Wessun cut from 2005 that missed my radar and the first thing I noted was, "oh schnap, they're looping up Bobby Reed's "Time Is Right For Love," aka "one of the few records I'd current break the $300 mark to cop".

    I can't believe I didn't already write about Reed for the site (I got brief mention before but never a dedicated thread.) Best. Thing. Ever. Seriously. This song is one of the best two minutes you'll ever enjoy. It's so good I'm not even going to try to explain why it's so good, lest I tarnish its greatness with my descriptive inadequacies.

    Now - I'm not saying, at all, that this song needs a remix. But listening to "We Came Up" made me think, "ok, this is cool but honestly - I think someone could do a better job with it." I isolated the end of the song, where it's really just Reed's OG with a beat behind it so you can get a sense of how they play with it. (And yes, yes, I know, Saint Etienne already messed with this but I'm not really feeling their take either. And if you want to truly hear an abomination, check this.)

    So heck, I know a few Soul Sides readers mess with production so I thought I'd put out a high-quality copy of the Reed to see what folks might come up with if anyone is so inclined. If anyone actually messes around with this, please send me a copy to peep.

    Wait, did I already mention that the Reed original is one of the best things ever? And that I cannot believe I haven't written about it until now even though it's quite possibly my favorite record of the last two years?

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    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    7 x 7 + 12
    posted by O.W.

    Johnny Holiday: Nobody Loves Me But My Mama
    From 7" (Bold, 196?)

    The Combinations: Bump Ball
    From 7" (RCA Victor, 196?)

    Fruko: Langaruto
    From 7" (Fuentes, 197?)

    Orquesta Zodiac: Tremendo Problema
    From 7" (Costeño, 1972)

    Jimmy and Eddie: Stop and Think It Over
    From 7" (One Way, 196?)

    Mandells: Now I Know
    From 7" (Hour Glass, 196?)

    Family Affair: I Had a Friend
    From 7" (Authentic, 197?)

    Bonus: Frankie Nieves: True Love (English + Spanish Version)
    From 12" (Disco Int'l, 1979)

    A few 7" single songs to share with ya'll...

    First up, I've been hunting down a copy of this Johnny Holiday single for years now. It could very well be one of the roughest things I've ever heard - sounds like a funk garage band with a flutist sitting in and Holiday just raging on the mic like he's mad at the world. Holiday has cut other singles, including for Bold, but none of them sound like this; I don't know if the studio was having recording problems that day (the flipside is also a monster but the mix is completely f---ed up, burying his vocals over a crushing, blues-influenced funk number) but whatever happened - god bless. I love grimy cuts like this. Thanks to Records L.A. who sold me their last stock copy.

    The Combinations 7" is something I bought on a lark; I was already buying another 45 from the same seller and decided to take a chance on this despite minimal awareness of the group. As I dug deeper, I was surprised to learn that the group originally began as a garage band from Easton PA; mostly white save for a lone Black member. They described their sound as "a blend of white rock under black soul." What's funny is that they somehow managed to record "Bump Ball," a funky R&B boogaloo, in conjunction with the release of Milton-Bradley's Bump Ball. I'm not clear if the 7" I have was the one actually included with the game (as some sites have reported). There was also a Bump Ball album (but it's not clear if the Combinations recorded all the songs on here or just the title track, which was credited to "The Bumpers"). Interesting history but all that aside - I like the track. It, uh, bumps.

    Moving into some Latin, this Fruko cut is a 7" only song as far as I know (w/ "Bang Bang" on the flip but not Joe Cuba's well-known boogaloo hit). "Langaruto" shows off the strong piano work of (I think?) Hernán Gutiérrez who really is the secret weapon for all the best Fruko y sus Tesos tracks. This song, in particular, has that massive salsa dura sound that manages to be distinctly Colombian in a way I still haven't been able to put my finger on - it opens like a guajira before switching things up to a quicker son montuno about half a minute in (again, I think. Corrections welcome!). So fierce.

    Puerto Rico's Orquesta Zodiac drops the other Latin cut in this set, another strong '70s slice of salsa. I really like the use of organ on here; it's subtle but it adds that spritz of sonic lime to flavor up the rest of the track. I'm also feeling the vocal interplay between the lead and background singers - great call and response.

    The Jimmy and Eddie is a strong funky soul cut I nabbed at Big City Records in NYC earlier this year; the mix sounds just a tad off here but in favor of the rhythm section and especially the bassist and drummer. Their team-up really brings this whole tune together - it pushes along nicely and the drums are mic-ed just right to lend that extra oomph.

    Give the rhythm section some love on this Mandells' single too. The group perfectly blend some Chicago-style sweet soul vocals with that deep, deep bass, the chicha-chicha of the hi-hat patterns...with a string arrangement to book? Are you kidding me? Best thing - this 7" is usually found for $10 or less - an incredible value given how good the music is.

    Last on the 7" tip is one of the straight up strangest 45s I've come across of late. I could have sworn I originally heard this on Matthew Africa's blog but I can't seem to find it there again. Nonetheless, it really pays to listen to this beyond just thinking, "ooooh, nice groove." I mean, it's a great groove - so soulful with what I think of as subtle disco edge. And then the sweet, falsetto vocals drop in and you're thinking, "man, this is so butter." But then you start listening and you realize, "uh, ok, this is not setting things up well, with the singer talking about, 'I had a friend who had everything'" since you always know how those stories end. I won't spoil it for you but just wait until you pass the two minute mark. I feel like there should be a sound effect inserted here, just to hammer the point home. An otherwise beautiful tune.

    Bonus cut is the special bilingual disco 12" edit of Frankie Nieves' finest work for Speed, "True Love" (which, as you can figure out in one bar, interpolates "Soulful Strut.") I am super curious to know who ran Disco International; they seemed to specialize in (I'm assuming) unlicensed disco edits of many a great Latin jam, including Al Gonzalez' "El Rumbon" and this one. In the case of "True Love," Disco Int'l took the English A and Spanish B-side of Nieves' Speed 7" (which, by the way, came out 10 years prior) and then edited them together into a single, 6+ minute track (the B-side is a 6+ minute long Spanish-only edit). To be frank(ie), the edit does get a bit repetitive after a while but then again, it is one effective groove (Young Holt Unlimited knew what the f--- they were doing back in the day).

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    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Raven: How Long Before I'm Gone
    Stay With Me
    From Brief Replies (Polydor, 1970)

    The Highlighters: You're Time Is Gonna Come
    From 7" (Chess, 1970)

    I save a slew of songs with the intention of "eventually posting them up" and what inevitably happens is that they just end up "hanging around" and go nowhere fast. Right now, I have at least 1.5 years worth of stuff and decided to get off the proverbial pot by finally posting some up.

    The Ten Wheel Drive's "How Long" came to my attention after hearing this Black Moon cut (arguably the last good one they ever put out), "Way of the Walk." This combines at least two pet loves: 1) funky rock bands fronted by 2) female singers (in this case, Genya Raven who has a huge voice - very post-Joplin. I don't think her version of Lorraine Ellison's "Stay With Me blows the OG out of the water but it was an interesting take.

    Th Highlighters were an Indiana group probably best known for their uber-rare "Funky 16 Corners" funk 45. "You're Time Is Gonna Come" (not to be confused with the Led Zep song of similar title) is a taste of the group's penchant for crafting a great little, doo-wop influenced power ballad that showcases lead singer James Bell's pipes. I also really dig the organ here - unexpected but quite welcome.

    Jan Jankeje: Elsa Marie
    From Sokol (Jazzpoint, 1974)

    Preston Love: Kool Ade
    From Omaha BBQ (Also on LP) (Kent, 1969)

    Roger Saunders: Darkness
    From The Roger Saunders Rush Album (Warner Bros, 1972)

    I previously posted (anonymously) another song from Jan Jankeje's funky fusion LP, Sokol back in the "Breaks and Basslines" post. I'm not remotely as big on fusion stuff as I was about 10 years back but I still have a soft spot for this album by the Slovakian Jankeje which is one solid footing in funk-influenced rhythms but also healthy touches of avant garde jazz as this composition, in particular, seems to capture. File under "I can't believe I never posted this": Preston Love's Omaha BBQ was one of the earliest funky blues albums I ever became acquainted with and I still find it to be one of the most consistent efforts in the genre. "Kool Ade" especially is killer - as gritty a groove you can imagine. The drummer gets some special attention here on the two bridges where band members rap with each other over a chattering like series of breaks and fills.

    Speaking of breaks, you'd be hard pressed to find too many songs with a better 8 bar opening break than this. The actual song itself is a decent, mid-tempo country-rock ballad which isn't quite what you'd expect with an intro like that but it's definitely a step up from "Put Your Hand in the Hand."

    Prisoners of Watts (POW): Language of Funk
    From 12" (No Busters Allowed, 1990)

    Da Lench Mob: Ain't Got No Class (T-Bone Remix)
    Ain't Got No Class (Beatnuts Remix)
    From 12" (Street Knowledge, 1992)

    King Tee: The Great (Distorted Alcoholism Mix)
    From 12" ("Bust Dat Ass") (Capitol, 1992)

    I picked up this 12" by L.A.'s P.O.W. (Prisoners of Watts) on a whim and while it's not exactly the unsung NWA or anything, I do digthe early '90s L.A. hip-hop production steez on here. Bonus points for having Battle Cat (back when he was mostly known as a DJ) on the cut.

    Less obscure (but still staying in the Southland), we have two mixes from Da Lench Mob's "Ain't Got No Class" 12". Again, I don't really ride that hard for the song itself (there are better Lench Mob cuts out there) but I do like the contrast in production style you can here between the Beatnuts and T-Ray. Especially because T-Ray was doing stuff for Cypress Hill and his style and Muggs' seemed so compatible, I always associate it with a Left Coast thing even though neither Muggs nor T-Ray were originally from California. T-Bone's remix (which I, embarrassingly, confused for a T-Ray remix for, uh, years now) is some classic West Coast, post-Sir Jinx/Muggs ruggedness while
    The Beatnuts mix is classically 'Nuts with the filtered bassline and use of horns.

    One more from the West (actually, now that I think about it, these three songs were probably from a long-forgotten "early 90s West Coast hip-hop post") - a remix of King Tee's "The Great" found on the "Bust Dat Ass" 12". King Tee = unsung and then some. I always like going back and listening again to his catalog (especially anything connected to The Triflin' Album - such a good voice and such a damn shame his Aftermath album never got official release.

    Los Pakines: Hojas Verdes
    Oh! Cherie
    From S/T (Sono Radio, 197?)

    I don't know much about Peruvian chicha but this fusion of Colombian cumbia with American surf rock makes for style that's hard to forget once you hear it. I got turned onto this Los Pakines album when I was looking for stuff by Los Diablos Rojo, another group in a similar vein. The Pakines, in particular, seemed to love that reverb and just drench every song on this album with it. "Hojas Verdes" is a slinky cumbia piece with some funk undertones while "Oh! Cherie" sounds like a cover of a '60s tune I should recognize (but don't).

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    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Vicki Anderson: Answer to Mother Popcorn
    From 7" (King, 1969). Also on Mother Popcorn

    Bobo Mr. Soul: Answer to the Want Ads
    From 7" (Ovide, 1971)

    Joyce Jones: Help Me Make Up My Mind
    From 7" (ATCO, 1969). Also on What It Is!.

    Jeanne and the Darlings: Soul Girl
    From 7" (Stax, 1968). Also on The Complete Stax/Volt Vol. 2.

    By sheer coincidence, besides that Willie West 7", I also picked up two different "answer" singles at Records L.A. last week. As the name suggests, they are meant to follow-up on other (almost always, far more famous) songs and in that sense, they're both covers AND originals. In the case of the Vicki Anderson (I've had a crappy VG- copy for years and finally decided to upgrade), "Answer to Mother Popcorn," she's hollering back at James Brown and his big hit, "Mother Popcorn" (Brown got a lot of mileage out of the "Popcorn" dance in his music of that era), flipping Brown's leering gaze into a funky feminist anthem.

    With Bobo Mr. Soul...I initially thought this was Willie Bobo under a different name but nope, that'd be Beau Williams from Houston. Here, he's answering (appropriately enough) Honey Cone's big hit "Want Ads," though unlike the relatively fresh track Vicki was grooving on, Williams tends to stay fairly close to the original arrangement.

    Lastly, there's no "answer" in the title but clearly, Joyce Jones is talking back to Tyrone Davis' great "Can I Change My Mind?" I really love the musical flip here - it's reminiscent of Davis' OG but changes things up enough to put a different spin on it and make this all its own. Same goes for Jeanne and the Darlings' slept-on answer song to Sam and Dave's classic "Soul Man" - they built their arrangement off some "Soul Man" riffs but don't follow it so closely to be identical.

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    Monday, November 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Willie West: Fairchild (2nd version)
    From What It Is! (Rhino, 2006)

    Willie West: Fairchild (promo version)
    I Sleep With the Blues
    From 7" single (Josie, 1970)

    I first became familiar with "Fairchild" off the What It Is! box-set that I helped work on; I had never heard it before but within the first bar or two, the influence of NOLA's Allen Toussaint was obvious. Strip singer West off of here and this could have been a Lee Dorsey track or something Cyril Neville put out (and indeed, it seems likely some of the Meters played on here). The version of "Fairchild" on here is pretty stripped down - a sparse bass and drum combo and not much else besides West's vocals.

    I came upon a 7" promo version of the song at the brand spankin' new Records L.A. store in West Adams and in listening to it, I realize there were subtle differences (or perhaps not so subtle) between it and the version that was on What It Is!. Clearly, the two were done from two different mixes since the promo version has horns that don't exist on the other version at all, plus more prominent guitars. I did some research and I'm hardly the first to have noticed this difference. Others seem to prefer the 2nd version better but personally, I like the density of the promo version given the added elements. True, it does mask more of West's vocals as a result but I didn't have a real issue with that. I've included both for you to compare and contrast. (You can really hear the difference on the post-chorus bridge, w/ and w/o horns).

    I also don't want people to, uh, sleep on the B-side, "I Sleep With the Blues" which I thought was an interesting slow jam that's even more sparse but mesmerizing for all its minimalism. You keep expecting some snares to fall in, but really, all there is are those kicks.

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    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Pazazz: So Hard To Find
    From 7" reissue (Soulplex, 2009)

    Twilight: You're In Love
    From Pains of Love (Ross, 1986)

    The folks at Soulflex in Germany were kind enough to hep me to this new reissue they put out of a killer Florida disco single by Pazazz called "So Hard To Find" (an apt name considering how insanely obscure it is). This is the kind of disco I never tire of: a simple but infectious groove, upbeat vocals and a general air of happiness that's like a mood-enhancing substance minus the substance. I'm sure those who hate disco would hold this up as everything wrong with the genre - its repetitiveness for example - but they're missing how amazingly awesome a song like this feels on a dancefloor where you want that repetition to keep that feel good vibe going as long as possible. The single also includes a remix by Samurai 7 though personally, I prefer the OG.

    As for Twilight, this Vallejo-recorded LP was pushed on me by the Groove Merchant's Cool Chris and while I'm nowhere near someone who knows much about boogie or even bore the genre any mind until very recently, I was glad Chris encouraged me to open my ears enough to enjoy this. I'll be honest - I'm bewildered by how boogie (funk/R&B records from the early through mid '80s) have staged such an intriguing comeback as the latest style hipsters have glommed to. That's not a diss (well, not exactly) since I believe that people who like boogie actually really do like it. It's just that this used to be the kind of syrupy, fonky tunes that hip-hop heads would clown as they were getting their fingers dusty but this is all the rage with some of the elders from that crowd. Go figure.

    But yeah...Twilight...of all the songs on the album, "You're In Love" grabbed my attention the most, probably because I love that little squeegee synth that runs throughout (plus that intro bassline is pretty slick).

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    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Po-Boy-Citos: Brand New Dance
    From 7" single (Superultramega, 2009)

    Orchestra Harlow: Horsin' Up
    From Presenta A Ismael Miranda (Fania, 1968)

    Mophono: TIghten Up Remix
    From 7" (CB, 2007)

    One of my favorite new singles to spin out has been the appropriately named "Brand New Dance" by New Orleans' Po-Boy-Citos. I wrote about the group a year ago and they've been steadily building their name and catalog and this new 7" is a real gem (hint: they need to make it easier to buy other than their show!)

    "Brand New Dance" combines two big hits from the South - mostly obviously "Tighten Up by Texas' Archie Bell and then they slide in a little "Check Your Bucket" for the hometown NOLA hero, Eddie Bo (there's also a touch of Wardell Quezergue/Jean Knight with that intro which sounds adapted from "Mr. Big Stuff"). The mash-up is a fun slice of instrumental soul that has yet to fail me in the club. (The B-side, "Trinidad" is a slick, funky guajira for the Latin heads).(The group also has their first CD avail, while this new single will likely end up on their next album.

    "Brand New Dance" instantly reminded me of Orchestra Harlow's "Horsin' Up," recorded during Harlow's reluctant boogaloo days. I also posted this up around a year ago but no one seemed to have a reaction to it but I'm still feeling how it throws together Cliff Nobles' "Horse" and "Tighten Up" for a classically '60s meeting of two big, complementary hits.

    Both songs just remind us how insanely massive "Tighten Up" was in its moments. Easily one of the most covered songs of its kind and one where it's hard to find a bad cover. In fact, I'd challenge anyone to send in a bad cover of this song, just to see if it actually exists. Just as some bonus flavor, I included Mophone's remix of "Tighten Up" (I previously put up the B-side of this single) which manages to both slim the song down to its most vital components, especially the drums, and then juice 'em up heavy. Rat-a-tat-tat.

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    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Binky Griptite: The Stroll Pt 2 (Snippet)
    From The Stroll 7” (Daptone, 2009)

    Dap King member/leader Binky Griptite has come to the forefront with his Stroll. Where I'm typically drawn to horn stabs and vocals over instrumental affairs, the flip-side “The Stroll Part 2” reworked instrumental peaked my interest more. The “dirty ho” lyrics just didn't quite sit right with me over the funky stylings presented. As mentioned above, the instrumental version is an altered version of the backing track. The horns are gone and the bongos are buried a little more in the mix. The lead vocals are replaced with a nice guitar lead, almost in a lite Freddie King styling which complements the thick bass riff quite well.

    Darrell Banks: Don't Know What To Do (Snippet)
    From Don't Know What To Do 7” (Daptone, 2009)

    Just released last week on Daptone's Ever-Soul imprint, Darrell Banks' 1969 cuts (which were both lifted from his “Here To Stay” LP) are some pleading soulfulness, one in which he's pondering how to go on after being left and the other in which he learned his lesson and reserved a spot for his lovely lady. On “Don't Know What To Do” Darrell goes from gruff David Ruffin vocal stylings in the opening moments to smoother sounding Marvin Gaye when he eases up on the gas pedal. The Detroit influence was there because, well, he was from the Motor City. However, instead of a Motown/Tamla release, Darrell released these pieces on Stax/Volt, although it is believed that both Memphis and Detroit players laid down the music. The background woo-woos really add flair to an already nice accompaniment. Meanwhile the chunky bass keeps things afloat in his plea to win back his lost love. Hey, for whatever it's worth Darrell, I was won over with this 45.

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    Monday, September 21, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Gloria Ann Taylor: World That's Not Real
    From 7" single (Selector Sound, 197?)

    Gloria Taylor: Deep Inside You
    From 7" single (Columbia, 1973)

    Speaking of songs that totally throw me, "World That's Not Real" is one of the more unsettling songs I've ever sat with, ever since I heard it off Matthew Africa's blog. I don't even mean lyrically, though, as you can probably guess, it's not a happy tune. Just listen to how this song unfolds - it's creepy and ominous from jump and only goes further into darker places when Taylor's piercing vocals coming in. But just wait until the song reaches :53 or so - there's that crazy chord that sounds like Death's ringtone that comes in out of nowhere and the composition shifts, inexplicably, into a slightly happier feel which is then abetted by the reverbed, over-dubbed vocals around 1:30 but then Taylor goes back into the "world that's not real" chorus and for the remainder of the song, it just teeters in this uncomfortable space, balanced above the abyss. At no point does the song ever give over to anything resembling "comfort" and as it fades, it just leaves you out there, in the twilight.

    The same ambiguity also surrounds "Deep Inside You," which bears more than a loose resemblance. There's a Selector Sound 7" that has both songs on the same disc (mine has "Music") though "Deep Inside You" also appeared on a Columbia promo 7" and this holy grail private press disco EP. It's a more driving song - with a more aggressive rhythm section and Taylor's vocals are more forceful. But that distinctive reverb is still slathered everywhere here and overall, Taylor's plaintive vocals are a close cousin to what she does on "World That's Not Real."

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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Melvin Bliss: Synthetic Substitution
    From 7" single (Sunburst, 1973)

    UBB: Synthetic Substitution
    From 7" single (Street Beat, 2009)

    It took a long, long, long time, but I finally got around to copping Melvin Bliss' breakbeat classic, "Synthetic Substitution." In a sense, it's a song I've heard many times, at least the first bar, given how popular a drum break it's been. But it's been a long time since I actually listened to the song itself and when it arrived in the mail, I threw it on and just let it ride and was reminded of this:

    It is one of the more eclectic of the classic breakbeat songs I can think of. James Brown songs - "Funky Drummer" - are awesome but they're straight ahead funk tunes. They "make sense" the same way Skull Snaps' "It's a New Day" or the Honeydrippers' "Impeach the President" make sense; they're great tunes but nothing about them necessarily throw you.

    "Synthetic Substitution" totally throws me. Just listen to how it unfolds: that signature breakbeat gives way to the darkness of the keys, then an unexpected vocal drop-in which is so solemn in tone. Listen to the lyrics - it's some heady stuff. But then the song swings in feel midway through (I want to say it goes from minor to major but I may be wrong) only to give back ground to the song's inherent somberness. This song may be many things but simple or straight forward it is not.

    Earlier in the year, the Ultimate Beats and Breaks (band?) released an instrumental cover of the song that's been getting some good responses. I think it's pretty solid but to me, the song isn't the same sans lyrics. I'll let you decide.

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    Monday, September 14, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    The Posse: You Better Come Out and Play b/w That's What Makes Us Happy
    From 7" (EJC, 197?)

    Lil' slice of Michigan funk here; the A-side sounds like something Norman Whitfield might have whipped up for the Temptations in their psychedelic era but then accidentally ended up in the hands of the Jackson 5 (albeit, the Posse's falsetto lead here is no MJ). The lyrics make it sound innocent but the vibe is so dark that when the singer croons, "you better come out and play," it sounds like a threat made by an arsonist holding a Moltov. I'm just saying. Flipside is a more conventional, mid-tempo sweet soul tune about cotton candy and ferris wheels; talk about an incongruous A/B side combo. (Thanks to Cool Chris for this one).

    Little Denice: Check Me Out b/w You Can Teach Me New Things
    From 7" (Ruthies, 196?)

    This 7" by Little Denice is a two-fer two ways: not only is it a remarkably solid A/B-side, it's also simultaneously one of my favorite kid funk and Bay Area singles. I don't know much about the artist or the players here at all; her backing band is pretty bad ass and Little Denice herself is a frickin' monster on this single. "Check Me Out" is so salacious that it feels a bit dirty listening to it as she brags about "no other woman could take a man from me." Damn girl, slow down! "You Can Teach Me New Things" is pretty much the same song, content-wise, with another horn-heavy funk track powering Denice's precocity.

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    Friday, August 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jewel Bass: I Tried It & I Liked It b/w Richard Stoute: What Bag I'm In (snippets)
    From 7" single (Sticky Records, 2009)

    HE3 Project: Rapture of the Deep b/w Funk Punk (snippets)
    From 7" single (Family Groove, 2009)

    For those of you rockin' turntables, we have a special 7" giveaway - two new reissues. One is for a great slice of Southern funky soul by Jewel Bass, described as, "a backing singer...acknowledged as 'Mississippi's most recorded voice.'" Well, on this one, she gets to step out in front...on a Malaco single that is apparently among that legendary label's rarest. You can hear the obvious influence of "Mr. Big Stuff" (like that Jean Knight classic, Wardell Quezergue was behind the production) but it's not a fake cover; it's an incredibly snappy bit of New Orleans funk that holds its own. Great, great wtuff. (Flipside has a bit of island funk for you from Richard Stoute).

    From Family Groove Records, right here in L.A., it's the first single off the HE3 Project, an anthology that highlights a tiny, private studio in the Bay Area, most of whose records were never released - but thankfully, whose tapes were preserved. This is a really remarkable find; I've gotten to hear several of the songs from that archive and it's an extraordinary mesh of jazz, psych, funk, soul, and whatever else was swirling around San Francisco's heady musical mix in the 1970s. "Funk Punk" sounds like a lost Eugene McDaniels' song off the Headless Heroes album; it has that same, eclectic vibe and vocal touch. The song neither sounds like conventional funk nor punk, but nonetheless, it's an absolute gem of a tune. "Rapture of the Deep" is actually the more purely funky of the two; a jazz instrumental that sounds like something Lonnie Hewitt might have recorded with the San Francisco TKOs. This single is limited to only 100 copies; buy 'em now before they're gone!)

    For one lucky Soul Sides reader, you'll win both. Just ID the two snippets recorded here (clues to what they are can be found above) and email your guess to soulsides AT, subject "7-inch giveaway." Good luck!

    Update: I'll give people until the end of tonight (8/31) to submit their answers and after that, I'll pick a winner at random from all correct answers.

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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Naomi Shelton feat. Cliff Driver: Wind Your Clock (snippet)

    From 7" single (Daptone, 2009)

    Nice, nice, nice: Daptone has resurrected an old single from the days of Desco - the most influential retro-funk label of the 1990s. Right towards the end of the label, before its founders parted ways to form Soul Fire and Daptone Records, respectively, Desco cut a pair of songs featuring Naomi Shelton and Cliff Driver, including "Wind Your Clock," an absolute mid-tempo stomper. However, they were only able to press up a few white label copies before the label folded and the song purely existed as an uber-rare collector's item. 10 years later and Daptone are finally putting it out (backed with "Talkin' About a Good Thing").

    This song is superb, easily one of the best things I've heard from any of the three labels mentioned. Hopefully, for non-vinylites (and really, what's your excuse for not having a basic turntable?), they'll have this out in a digital format soon enough. In the meantime, if you rock records, you need this. Seriously.

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    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Spinnerty feat. Elliot Peck: Sweet Soul
    From 7" (Trazmick, 2008)

    Spinnerty feat. EP and Czar Absolute: Feels Like Rain
    From 7" (Trazmick, 2008)

    At some point last year, someone suggested to me: "check out this guy Spinnerty," including a link to "Sweet Soul." I instantly dug the vibe, it reminded me some of Adriana Evans' songs from the early 1990s or a track that would have gotten some love at Nickies BBQ in the Haight. I should have already known this was out of the Bay but for whatever reason, I thought it was from Seattle. I also couldn't quite figure out who Elliot Peck was but I'm assuming it's the female singer on here...the fact that she's name "Elliot" is both strange and cool.

    It wasn't until I was actually on Haight, at the Groove Merchant, listening to Spinnerty's latest earlier 45, "Feels Like Rain" that I discovered: duh, Spinnerty, 1) isn't a group. It's a guy and 2) he's currently living in the Bay (though he's originally from the Midwest).

    As much as I liked "Sweet Soul," I really, really, really loved "Feels Like Rain." I credit those sweeping vocals looped up in the background but this is so easy to throw onto single-song repeat and just keep playing it over and over. Peck is back, this time credited as "EP" and joining her is rapper Czar Absolute who drops two small verses. The song works better with vocals but there's nothing wrong with flip the instrumental on as a lovely bit of background.

    Update: I got a nice email from Dan "Spinnerty" Finnerty who corrected my timeline: "Feels Like Rain" actually came out before "Sweet Soul." He also filled in some backstory:

    "The sample for "Feels Like Rain" I actually found at Rooky's [another record store in the Lower Haight]. It's a funny record because you can hear one of the guys coughing halfway through and some other foibles like that. I was over at Elliott's house doing some recording of another emcee for a different track and was playing some beats and heard Elliott humming along in the other room a la the oooooo'ing that made the final version. DING. Lightbulb went off."

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    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    As promised, one of my two NPR pieces on Lee Fields. This music list includes music I didn't include in my post from the other week.


    Lee Fields: Bewildered b/w Tell Her I Love Her
    From 7" (Bedford, 1969)

    Just picked this up at the Groove Merchant over the weekend - supposedly Fields very first single, released back in '69. I'm really feeling "Bewildered" especially - so Southern soul!

    By the way, if you're in New York and need something to do tonight.... But hey, if you don't live in NY, you can still listen in live.

    Speaking of which, the audio for this won't be up until 4pm PST, but here's my review of the new Lee Fields album for NPR's All Things Considered.

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    Thursday, July 02, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Thanks to Eric to an excellent review of Fields' new CD, My World. I have a couple of pieces on Fields being readied for NPR but they don't appear until later this month. In the meantime, I had a few "leftovers" that I thought folks here would enjoy.

    Here's the thing you must understand about Fields - he is far, far, far more prolific than you can imagine. Even someone like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - who have an impressive catalog - pale in comparison to the volume of music that Fields has put out. People who think of Fields as a primarily retro-soul guy don't even realize that this constitutes the minority of his output. Peep the discog. Fields is a monster in the Southern soul/blues scene and while retro-soul fans probably would blanch at the sonic style of that music, there's no denying that Fields has as many fans - if not more - in that regional, thriving scene as he does amongst listeners who like him for his throwback style.

    Moreover, even within the retro-soul circles, Fields has been a straight up monster when it comes to output. Peep the track record - he is, by far, the most recorded singer in that community, having worked with: Desco, Soul Fire, Truth and Soul AND Daptone, which doesn't even include all his other contemporary projects.

    I assembled a small sampling of Fields work, from his first album through some more current material, though heavy on songs that many probably haven't heard since most of them were only on vinyl 7" or compilations.

    Lee Fields: Flim Flam
    From Let's Talk It Over (Angle 3, 1979)

    This instrumental cooker is off of Fields' debut album back in 1979 but the date is a bit misleading since he had been recording throughout the '70s; he just didn't release a full-length until '79. I don't know for certain but "Flim Flam" certainly sounds like something recorded earlier in the decade though given how hard "Little J.B." rode that '60s raw funk vibe, I wouldn't be surprised if this was his attempt at recapturing some of that magic, even in the heart of the disco era.

    Lee Fields: Steam Train
    From Let's Get a Groove On (Desco, 1999)

    Along with Sharon Jones, Fields was the perfect vocalist for Desco back in its heyday. He just had "that sound" that went with their house musicians, most of whom would end up in the Dap-kings. "Steamtrain" came out on 7" as well as the big "comeback" retro-soul album, Let's Get a Groove On. I really dig how the rhythm section here recreates the feel of a rolling train.

    Lee Fields & The Dap-Kings: Give Me a Chance Pt. 1
    From Daptone 7" Singles Collection, Vol. 1 (Daptone, 2006)

    Speaking of the Dap-Kings, Fields ended up recording with them too (as well as the Sugarmen 3) for a few singles with the then-nascent Daptone label. This colalbo churned out yet another uptempo funk burner.

    Lee Fields: Honey Dove (OG Version)
    From Problems (Soul Fire, 2002)

    "Honey Dove," without a doubt, is my favorite Lee Fields song but while most people have heard his version with The Expressions, the original version of the song came out on his 2002 album, Problems recorded for Soul Fire (the other label, besides Daptone, that came out of Desco's dissolution). Personally, I think the Expressions improved on this song considerably but I wanted people to hear the OG to get a sense of the song's evolution.

    Martin Solveig: I'm A Good Man
    From Sur La Terre (Defected, 2005)

    I didn't even realize this until very recently, but Fields drew the attention of French DJ/producer Martin Solveig around the same time he was recording with Soul Fire and that's turned into a very fruitful partnership as the two men have recorded (I believe) four songs together thus far, which doesn't include a ton of remixes, especially for their first song together, "I'm a Good Man." The song strikes a fine balance between obviously club/electronic-oriented but Fields helps ground it with his vocals.

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    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Reuben Bell & the Casanovas: It's Not That Easy
    From 7" (Murco, 1967). Also on Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Vol. 1

    Reuben Bell: Superjock
    From 7" (Alarm, 1975). Also on New Orleans Funkiest Delicacies

    I had never heard of Reuben Bell until ten years ago, when DJs Shadow and Cut Chemist made "Superjock" one of the more memorable tunes off their Brainfreeze mix as a song about, well, DJing. Which disc jockey doesn't aspire to be describe as such: "he's number one/he's the turntable king/he's number one/when he's doing his thing/he really gets down with it"?

    By the time "Superjock" had come out though, Bell was already in mid-career, having kicked things off as more of a deep soul crooner beginning in the mid/late 1960s. I only recently got a copy of his very first single, "It's Not That Easy" feat. Bell and the Casanovas (thanks Mao!) and this is so quintessentially "deep soul" (emphasis on "deep").

    This is like heartbreak distilled into a record and what's especially powerful is how Bell was barely into his 20s when he recorded this; you can hear the youthfulness of his woes's not a older man's more seasoned pain but carries a young man's earnestness - all the more devastating. Props to the Casanovas here - they do a phenomenal job of setting the tone with those bottomless basslines and the haunting, unsettling guitar.

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    posted by O.W.

    I've been working on a 4 hour Southern soul set for a private party and it's been an enjoyable challenge sifting through what seems like an endless stream of tunes from across the great Southern soul cities - especially Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Jackson, Miami, etc. New Orleans figures prominently but what I'm continually struck by is how distinct that NOLA sound is. Obviously, the South is hardly monolithic but while some influences are shared between, say, Fame and Stax Studios, much of what you heard coming out of New Orleans was so distinct, there's no confusing it for anywhere but there. Here's two NOLA-flavored cuts that exemplify what I'm talking about.

    Don Covay and the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band: Standing In the Grits Line
    From Different Strokes for Different Folks (Janus, 1970). Also on Super Bad.

    Professor Longhair: Big Chief (Pt. 1)
    From 7" (Watch, 1964). Also on New Orleans Funk.

    Covay isn't from Louisiana (South Carolina, as it were) but thanks to a journeyman career that saw him bouncing around on Atlantic, Columbia, Janus, Mercury, even Philly Int'l, Covay recorded throughout the south, especially his time with Atlantic that tended to jump from Southern studio to another thanks to Jerry Wexler's fickle tastes (and calculated business decisions). This album, recorded during Covay's brief stint on Janus, was recorded at the famed Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS and there's no question that for "Standing On the Grits Line," (a Covay composition), he's borrowing heavily from New Orleans' second line traditions - if the voice was just a bit gruffer, you could easily confused this for a Dr. John cut. This cut's long been a personal favorite of mine - I'm genuinely surprised I never posted this (last time I gave Covay some shine was for "If There's a Will, There's a Way", a cut from the same album)>.

    "Big Chief" is a stone cold New Orleans classic and considered by many a clear sign of the city's proto-funk innovations. Obviously, the Professor's jangling piano stands out prominently here but try to pay some attention to what Smokey Johnson is doing here on the drums. His polyrhythm is incredible - there's all kinds of seemingly off-beats here (except of course, sounding "off" is how you sound "on"). No wonder then that Smokey would become of the most important session drummers in New Orleans in the 1960s, alongside James Black.

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    Friday, May 29, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Peter Ivers Group feat. Asha Puthli: Ain't That Peculiar
    From 7" (Epic, 1971)

    Asha Puthli: You've Been Loud Too Long
    From She Loves to Hear the Music (CBS, 1974)

    Asha Puthli: Space Talk + LP sampler
    From The Devil Is Loose (CBS Germany, 1976). Also on vinyl LP.

    As I mentioned a few weeks back, I had the immense pleasure to meet Asha Puthli and hopefully will be working with her on a future project. That encounter encouraged me to revisit her substantial catalog and that's been such a fun, revelatory experience.

    It starts with a song by her I had never heard before but Asha was kind enough to burn a copy for me - her singing with the Peter Ivers Group back in the early 1970s, covering Marvin Gaye's big Motown classic, "Ain't That Peculiar." This wasn't her first recording but it was (I believe) her first US release, recorded for a full album that was meant to be Ivers' follow-up to his well-regarded 1969 LP, Knight of the Blue Communion (I'll have to post up about that LP at some point too). For reasons I'm not clear about, the album feat. Asha, entitled Take It Out On Me was never released by Epic but the single did make its way out. It's definitely not something that will remind people instantly of Gaye's iconic version - Ivers adds a strong funk element to the rhythm section and it's actually quite a sparse song in many ways (despite the surprise harmonica) and Asha's voice - light but distinct - works nicely here, especially as she plays with the arrangement most of know through Marvin. I like this one a lot - it reminds me of Smith's "Baby, It's You" in terms of how a rock band interprets an R&B tune.

    Asha's second full-length solo album was She Loves to Hear the Music, released in 1974, with production principally from disco master Teo Macero and Paul Phillips (I'm assuming he of later Hi Tension fame?). I'm not 100% clear who produces "You've Been Loud Too Long," but I've loved this song for years - it's a spunky bit of Southern fried funk that seems to mesh Wardell Quezergue with Van McCoy (who works on this album so for all I know, he produced it!). I played this out at Boogaloo[la] the other week and one of the guys working security asked if it was Minnie Riperton; I hadn't thought of that before but there's definitely an affinity shared between singers like Puthli, Riperton and Linda Lewis.

    The one album that was new to me was The Devil Is Loose and I'm not even certain why it took me so long to listen to it but it is good. Very very good. Rush-out-and-get-this-now good. For starters, I think it showcases the possibilities of what disco could bring to pop music that defies all the haters and naysayers - the gloss and glean in the production (all by Dieter Zimmerman) isn't window dressing but an integral part to sonic texture of the album. It's subtly lush, with Zimmerman and Puthli smartly keeping things a bit cool and controlled rather than give into sweeping excess. Moreover, the diversity of styles here are impressive, ranging from the quiet ballad "Let Me In Your Life" (the last song on the sampler) to the slinky funk of "Flying Fish" to the sheer pop charm of "Hello Everyone." The album's best known song (also released on 12") however is "Space Talk," another funky excursion, and arguably, a big influence of the evolution of European disco. If it sounds familiar to some, it may be because the song's been popular sample fodder, including for Biggie.

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    Friday, May 15, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    I was interviewing Mayer Hawthorne today for an upcoming piece that will run around whenever his album drops (sounds like August or Sept. at the latest) and he was remarking how surprised he was that "young kids" (meaning teenagers) have been into his songs and I suggested that it was the "slow jam factor." For all the stereotypes of teens liking angry, rebellious music, there's also the contingent that likes the bump n' grind groovers they can get their red light dance on to or the kind of sweet, lowrider ballads you hear them dedicating to one another on Art Laboe's Sunday Special.

    (Note: slow jam fans - which is to say...everyone - will dig Mayer's upcoming LP. Some killer stuff on there, as good if not better than what's already in circulation).

    Anyways, as anyone who's ever been to Boogaloo[la] knows (and thanks to everyone who turned out last night), we always try to end the evening on the slow jam tip and I decided to pull out three cuts that have been patiently waiting in queue to get some late night spin:

    Steve Parks: Still Thinking of You
    From 7" (Reynolds, 197?)

    Patti and the Lovelites: Love So Strong
    From 7" (Love Lite, 1973)

    Young Billy Cole: Sitting In the Park
    From 7" (Audio Connection, 1976)

    I've posted about Steve Parks before but that was from slightly later in his career than this 7" above. It's a classic amongst Bay Area record heads, part of the small but excellent catalog on Reynolds Records (which is still waiting for a proper anthologizing at some point) and is an unforgettable piece of heartbreakingly melancholy song craft.

    "Love So Strong" sounds like something Alicia Keys has spent time studying, doesn't it? (Note: this is a compliment). This Chicago-based group is one of those who skated with limited success for a number of years, ending up on nearly half a dozen labels, including Uni and Cotillion though this single was on what I assume was their own imprint, Love Lite. I am so feeling the whole style of this track, just how laid back and damn soulful it is, especially with the background singing "whoo-hoooing".

    Lastly, what's a slow jam without a nod to Billy Stewart's "Sitting In the Park," this cover done rocksteady-style by Young Billy Cole. I don't know full story here but Cole's real name is Winston Francis and he changed it to Billy Cole to record a 1975 song, "Extra Careful" and apparently, the name stuck enough for Cole to continue recording under that name. The version of "Sitting In the Park" here follows closely to the original and you can hear how natural a conversion it is to take Stewart's original and give it a reggae makeover.

    (Slow) jam on.

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    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    This promises to be an awesome mix of Bay Area soul records.

    soul persuasion: The Bay Is Deep

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    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Eddie & Ernie: Snippet Medley
    From: "Bullets Don't Have Eyes" b/w "These Very Tender Moments"
    + "Bullets Don't Have Eyes" b/w "You Make My Life a Sunny Day" (Daptone, 2009)
    (All three songs also available on Lost Friends.

    Menahan Street Band: Snippet Medley
    From: "The Wolf" b/w "Bushwick Lullaby" (Daptone, 2009)

    I've been meaning to post about the Eddie and Ernie 7" for a while - the A-side is one helluva soul jam from the early '70s - explosive right out the gate with those horns and one of the more memorable titles you'll come across (bullets, indeed, don't have eyes. Or any other facial features!) The pic cover 45 comes with a beautiful heartbreak ballad on the flip, "These Very Tender Moments," originally from 1967. Ernie Johnson and Eddie Campbell were originally a duo out of Phoenix but apparently were impressive journeymen around the U.S. R&B circuit during the '60s and '70s.

    The group is so nice, Daptone put out "Bullets" twice, the second copy being a website exclusive with a new B-side, "You Make My Life a Sunny Day" which was a previously unreleased track, discovered by the folks at Kent in the studios of San Francisco's Loadstone (if this sounds familiar at all, it's because Jacqueline Jones put this song out, also on Loadstone). Great, great, great tune.

    Meanwhile, the folks at the Menahan Street Band have a new 7" out, not available on anything except 7" (more reason for you to get that record player). The MSB and Budos Band join forces here (which makes sense since Tom "TNT" Brenneck is a member of the latter and creator of the former. As a result, that MSB sound gets a Ethio-makeover on both sides for a mellow, hypnotic ride. A nice little slice of instrumental soul to tide things over until that Charles Bradley LP is ready.

    (And that reminds me, the long-awaited Lee Fields album is coming soon, stay tuned).

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Johnny and the Expressions: Now That You're Mine
    From 7" (Josie, 1966)

    Barbara Mason: Hello Baby
    From 7" (Arctic, 1966)

    I don't buy enough 7"s. No, seriously; I never got as invested as peers of mine, more out of laziness than interest. I mean, 45s are great because they're small and portable and let's be honest - it's not often you find LPs where the ratio of great album cuts outweigh the good singles. I'd probably rather tote around Ray Barretto's "Right On" given the choice between that an carrying Power but let's also be honest that I'm cheap and sometimes, copping the 45 is massively more expensive than buying the exact same song on LP.

    That said, there is an immense pleasure in getting good songs inexpensively on 45; it's a win-win! That's how I feel about these two 7"s, both of which (I think) I picked up at Academy Records during my NYC trip the other week.

    The Johnny and the Expressions was a real surprise because my only real familiarity with Josie is via the Meters (who recorded their first three classic albums for the label) but Josie had many other acts signed to them, including this sweet soul group lead by Johnny Wyatt. I don't know a ton about him or the group except that Wyatt, a decade previously, had been part of a doo-wop group in Los Angeles called Rochell and the Candles but neither that group - nor Johnny and the Expressions - ever became consistent national figures. This single, "Now That You're Mine" is pure sweet soul magic, especially with the background harmonies and Wyatt's seductive tenor crooning atop a simple but heavy track. Listen to 1:12, when the two sets of voices crossover one another. Butter.

    Barbara Mason I was more familiar with - she recorded heavily with the Arctic label, including at one highly sought-after Northern single but "Hello Baby" is easily the best thing I've heard from her and it's about, oh, 1/26th the price of the other single. Again, the background singers pull their weight here, especially with the antiphonal echo they supply to Mason's own rich voice. I love the happy swing of this but there's also some subtle melancholy overtones running beneath too (or at least, that's how I hear it).

    Both of these have been in heavy rotation of late; hope you enjoy them too.

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