Thursday, March 04, 2010

posted by O.W.

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

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

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

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

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posted by O.W.

Banks is the middle man, literally

I'd be remiss in not noting the sad passing of the Dramatics' Ron Banks. At this point, most of the original founders have all died in the last ten years and I don't think a single one of them made it 60.

I don't have a long post to write here - I can't say I really knew the Dramatics' catalog as deeply as that of other groups though obviously, I'm up on their big hits. I did find it fascinating that they were a Detroit group yet signed to the star of the South: Stax/Volt. Wonder if Gordy ever got pissed about that though by the early '70s, he probably had his hands busy with moving Motown to L.A. anyway. In any case, here's two songs I picked out in memmoriam: one being the Dramatics' first hit (and one of their most enduring), "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" and I decided to pair that with a killer reggae cover of one of their other songwriting gems, "In the Rain," done by the Debonaires (thanks to Hua for putting me up on that single).

RIP, Ron.

The Dramatics: Whatcha See is Whatcha Get
From Whatcha See is Whatcha Get (Volt, 1972). Also on The Best Of.

The Debonaires: In the Rain
From 7" (Tobin, 197?)

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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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Monday, February 01, 2010

posted by O.W.

As my dwindling finances can attest to, snapping up records with cover songs is bad habit sickness passion that I can't/won't shake. I'm sure there will be a Deep Covers 3 in the offering at some point in the near future but in the meanwhile, here's a few highlights from the last few months.

The Power Pack: I Got You
From Soul Cure (Polydor, 1969)

Generation Gap: Family Affair
From Plays Shaft (RCA, 1972)

These both come from instrumental exploitation LPs, jacking contemporary hits of the time and giving them makeovers that, in most cases, are laughably weak. Occasionally though, you cross a few tracks that at least can hold your attention (though I would never suggest that either of these two are superior to their inspirations).

The Power Pack seems to have been a session band overseen by Nick Ingram, one of the better known UK library composers and this very much sounds in the vein of KPM or similar library labels. The UK Polydor version of this album goes for far more money than really makes sense to me but personally, I prefer the Canadian Polydor issue for having the superior cover art. In any case, their cover of James Brown's "I Got You" has some slick, Hammond flavor to it and most of all, a strong drummer holding it down (albeit a bit "squarely").

Generation Gap were American (presumably) and tackled R&B hits of the early '70s, including a few blaxploitation tracks as the title suggests, but I thought their take on Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" was decent as far as instrumental flips go. Nice opening break and the sax is surprisingly uncheesy.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Get Out of My Life, Woman
From People Get Ready, This Is Rock-Steady '67 (Dynamic, 1967)

Derrick Harriott: Let It Whip
From Acid Rock (Crystal, 1982)

On the reggae tip, I pulled one off one of the Byron Lee albums I only recently got around to copping - the quite excellent Rock-Steady '67 which I learned about from my man Michael Barnes. "Soul Ska" (as Michael noted) is the jam on here but it's always fun to come across yet another cover of "Get Out of My Life, Woman," especially one given a ska rhythm makeover.

Fast-forwarding about 15 years, we arrive at Derrick Harriot doing a surprisingly groovy cover of The Dazz Band's classic "Let It Whip." For real - I don't think I really ever want to hear the actual original again but this reggae remake is totally working for me.

La Lupe: Bring It On Home to Me
From The Queen Does Her Thing (Tico, 1969)

The Exciters: Bring It Home To Me
From 7" (Loyola, 196?)

I know La Lupe has quite the posse behind her and I can't say I've listened to a ton of stuff from her outside of a handful of songs but everytime her shrill, cackling voice rings through on an English-language song, I think, "for the so-called Queen of Latin Soul, she mostly sounds like a novelty act." And let me be serious for a sec here - part of why La Lupe can lay claim to the title is because there's so little competition. The Latin soul scene had very very few women singers involved (unfortunately) so I suppose someone like La Lupe had a better shot at the title than, say, Noraida or the enigmatic duo behind Dianne and Carole and the Latin Whatchamacallits.

In any case, her singing on "Bring It On Home To Me" veers close to cringe-inducement (especially on her higher notes) but the fact that the song still manages to work is a testament to how good the source material is. Not that I'd want to hear it but I bet the Chipmunks could do a version of this and it'd still sound pretty good; the original arrangement and songwriting is so good, it can easily forgive less than stellar attempts at working with it.

I couldn't close with this though and I decided instead to bust out a cover of the same song that I absolutely, unqualifiably adore - Los Exciters' cover, all the way from Panama. Sure, no one in the group is touching Sam Cooke (and that pretty much applies to everyone in the world not Sam Cooke) but I thought their take on this song was done beautifully, especially the vocal harmonies. I have a few heavyweight pieces from this group but this 7" b-side is easily the favorite thing of theirs I have.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

posted by O.W.

I finally got around to catching up on my blog reading and noticed that Super Sonido recently wrote up Mon Rivera's "Lluvia Con Nieve." This salsa classic was introduced to me by Murphy's Law and I consider it one of my Top 3 go-to, never-fail salsa cuts to get an audience moving (Willie Colon holds down the other two with his "La Murga De Panama" and "Che Che Cole"). "Lluvia Con Nieve" fits right between those two - more aggressive and forceful than "Che Che Cole" though, for my money, nothing can ace the horn opening to "La Murga" but that "Lluvia" comes pretty damn close. Trust a trombonist to know how to use some brass to get feet to slide.

Super Sonido included Rivera's original plus a cover by Lucho Macedo on Virrey which I had never heard before (good stuff Frank!) and that made me think of this:

Carlos Pickling: Lluvia Con Nieve-El Molestoso
From Suplemento Dominical (MAG, 1970s)

Can't say I know much about this Peruvian organist except that he's, um, Peruvian and an organist. I picked this Mag LP up a while back, mostly on the strength of this medley/cover of "Lluvia Con Nieve" that segues nicely into "El Molestoso," a pachanga (Eddie Palmieri's?). The use of organ is what sells this cover for me, just adding enough of a touch of difference to stick in the ear.

Meanwhile, over at Philaflava's TROY blog, he's got the latest post in his "Who Flipped It Better" series up, focusing on samplings of Five Stairsteps' "Danger, She's a Stranger." It reminded me that I hadn't done an installment of my own, similar series in well over a year and as it was, in going back over some key Willie Mitchell productions, I forgot how many folks had flipped Al Green's "I Wish You Were Here."

Al Green: I Wish You Were Here
From Al Green Is Love (Hi, 1975)

Nas: Shootouts
From It Was Written (Columbia, 1996)

The Lootpack: Wanna Test
From Soundpieces: Da Antidote (Stones Throw, 1999)

Consequence feat. Kanye West: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
From Don't Quit Your Day Job (Good, 2007)

Wu-Tang (Ghostface Killah + Tre Williams): I Wish You Were Here
From Chamber Music (E1, 2009)

I find it rather remarkable that this song has been such a popular sample over the years if only because it's just not what I associate with Green's core canon. Doesn't mean it isn't a great song and in particular, such a classic Willie Mitchell sound. On that note, it's rather amazing that no one in the Wu seemed to mess with this until last year given that it sounds pitch-perfect for the Wu's well-known affections for the Hi catalog.

However, it was Nas who seemed to have been the first to flip this (Poke and Tone of the Trackmasters to be more exact), back with "Shootouts" from It Was Written. Call me crazy but listening back to this, some 14 years later, doesn't one get the sense that Poke and Tone were listening to some of Rza's beats and thinking, "yo, we need to get on this steez?" In any case, I admire how they didn't opt for a straight loop but chop it up instead (Jesse "Fiyah!" West style!) Madlib's flip on the same sample for The Lootpack's "Wanna Test" doesn't cut things up as much, opting instead to filter parts of the main, opening loop to add some dissonance. Fast-forward to 2007 and it's an interesting contrast with how Kanye uses more of the original sample in its "pure" sonic form to open, but then chops it up a bit (w/ Green's vocals sped-up and attached) for the main parts of the song. Honestly, I think I gotta give it up to the Trackmasters for the best flip of this sample - it just has the most edge and appealing sound of the bunch.

Continuing my "songs I thought of while reading other people's posts" - Earfuzz has the new Kings Go Forth's single, "One Day" and that reminded me that I'm behind on posting this:

The One & Nines: Something On Your Mind
From The One & Nines EP (2009)

This soul band out of New Jersey (no Jersey Shore jokes, please) contacted me over winter break and I really dug this one song off their new EP. Reminds me of that Noisettes song I posted last year in general sound but sans the rock elements. The arrangement here is done with smart subtly - the song doesn't try to force an overly aggressive crescendo; it's content with maintaining a slow burn that sparks towards the end without ever departing too far from the core, Southern Soul aesthetics that make this such an appealing tune. (Excellent use of back-up singers too - this isn't nearly as acknowledged as it should be.)

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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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    Monday, January 18, 2010

    posted by O.W.

    Sly, Slick and Wicked: You Got to Funkafize
    Confessin' a Feeling
    The World Is a Ghetto
    From Get Down Live (Bad Boys, 197?)

    This is my first official post-move post (finally!). Me and the fam just relocated from the Westside of L.A. to the San Gabriel Valley. I grew up out here in the 1980s but I haven't lived her in nearly 20 years. Coming back has been weirdly comfortable (or is that comfortably weird?) now that I'm an adult with my own family.

    It only seems proper then that the very first album that I've found since moving out here was actually recorded in the SGV, almost 7 miles due south of where I am, at 800 Garfield, in Montebello.

    It's easy to be confused when you talk about the Sly, Slick and Wicked. This local L.A. outfit is often confused with the Young Generation who had a decent sized hit in the same '60s/'70s era as SSW called "Sly, Slick and Wicked" and then there's the Ohio group also called the Sly, Slick and Wicked who recorded with James Brown (and ended up, I believe, in a bit of a copyright tussle with the L.A. group over their shared name). The original SSW (as they describe themselves) got their start out of the fertile East L.A. rock scene of the '60s (think Thee Midniters, El Chicano, etc.)

    They're best known for their single "Confessin' a Feeling" b/w a personal favorite - a cover of the Persuaders' "Love's Gonna Pack Up."

    The single was a local release (on the Bad Boys imprint) and evidently sold well enough that it's not a pricey single to come by (though it's not overly common either). However, as I learned from Cool Chris a few years back, the group's live album, Get Down is a far more obscure release but no less well-regarded. I've been looking for a copy of this since then but wasn't ready to pull the trigger to buy it at market-rate.

    As it turns out, a local seller for mostly A/V equipment got in a stock of records that they were selling in lots and while I missed their eBay auction, I saw that the LP was included in one of the lots and no one had bid on it. On a whim, I tried calling their warehouse and to make a long story short, I drove out 10 miles to Glendale and after a few anxious minutes just assuming that someone had beat me to it, left with a stack of 10 LPs, most of them dollar bin material, but including one very well-kept copy of Get Down Live, all for $20.

    These days, it's not often that I have great come-ups since I don't do enough digging in physical stores so I felt extremely fortunate to have come by this local LP having just moved back to the locale. It all seemed quite serendipitous.

    But enough of "O-Dub's dusty fingers tales"... Get Down Live has everything you'd want out of a great live album - it's not only about the music, it's also about the small nuances that come through on a live recording, such as when someone accidentally bumps into a mic during one of the quieter parts of a song or listening to the band and audience interaction. The actual fidelity of the recording is quite impressive; it does have "big room" acoustics but it's not remotely lo-fi.

    I decided to open "big" by starting with "You Got to Funkafize," a classically '70s funk jam which comes halfway through the A-side. That slides into the live version of "Confessin' A Feeling", offered here to provide some contrast with the original. I've been so enamored with "Love's Gonna Pack Up" that I never gave this song it's proper due but now that I'm listening to it in both versions, I can appreciate why it's such a lowrider classic for folks in So Cal. Lastly, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include the group's cover of another Southern Californian classic - "The World is a Ghetto" by Long Beach's WAR. I like how stripped down SSW's take is on the song, distilling it down to a strong vocal performance ever-so-lightly dressed in the familiar melodic strains of the original. SSW manage to make the song sound even more melancholy than War's version.

    So there it is, the first post for 2010, coming to you live from the brand-spanking new Soul Sides Central. Here's a belated shout out to the new year and hopefully more good music (and posts!) to come.

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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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    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: Get Ready
    From Pocket Full of Miracles (Motown, 1970)

    Smokey Robinson and the MIracles: Get Ready (O-Dub Edit)

    Controller 7: Get Ready for the Young Folks
    From 7" & 12" (Token Recluse, 2007)

    Of the classic '60s Motown catalog, few songs are as guaranteed dancefloor gold as The Temptations' "Get Ready" - the horn/bassline openeing already pushes you into motion before the drum roll even comes in and once the whole thing kicks into gear, you'd have to be catatonic to resist its charms. For over the last year, I've been very fond of playing out Little Eva Harris' incredible medley/cover of the song (last written about in Nov '08). I was spinning with DJ Soul Marcosa earlier this fall when he dropped the Smokey and the Miracles version on me and I couldn't believe 1) how frickin' good it was and 2) that I had never heard it before despite it being from the Miracles (notably, Pocket Full of Miracles doesn't seem readily available on CD (if it ever was).

    If Harris blended together "Get Ready' with Stevie Wonder's "Uptight," the Miracles instead choose to throw in some licks of "Sunshine Of Your Love," which goes together brilliantly here. There's also the matter of a short but sweet little breakbeat that comes in after two bars and this whole thing clearly embraces the funk aesthetics resonant at the time. Personally, I wanted to create a version of the song that was just a bit more DJ friendly and noticing that the song's breakbeat was panned in the left channel, and using some super amateur editing skills (thank you Sound Studio!), I isolated and extended that break into four bars, following by two more with the "Sunshine" riff moved underneath before cutting back into the song. I played it for a friend who thought he could imagine the strains of Can's "Vitamin C" coming in here but the more I listened to it, what I kept imagining was Kool and the Gang's "Hustlers Convention" theme popping in (intrepid re-remixers, take note).

    Lastly, if I'm going to write about blends involving "Get Ready," I have to show some love to Controller 7 who, two years ago, put out this slick mash-up of the original "Get Ready" accapella over Peter, Bjorn and John's "Young Folks." It is eerie how well the arrangements line up with one another (coincidence or not?).
    (BTW: If any digi-DJs out there want a higher quality version of my "Get Ready" edit, drop me an email)

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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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    Friday, October 30, 2009

    posted by O.W.

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

    Montclairs: Hey You!
    From 7" single (Arch, 1969)

    Captain Planet: Fumando
    From Speakin Nuyorican EP (Bastard Jazz, 2009)

    Big Boi w/ Gucci Mane: Shine Blockas
    From Sir Lucious Leftfoot: Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam, forthcoming 2009/2010)

    Jay Electronica: Exhibit C (radio rip)
    From untitled(?) (Decon, forthcoming ?)

    Lupe Fiasco: Fire
    From Lasers (Atlantic, forthcoming 2009)

    Clipse feat. Pharrell, Cam'ron: Popular Demand (Popeye's)
    From Till the Casket Driops (Re-Up, forthcoming 2009)

    I have a playlist I keep on my iPhone of all the songs that are at the top of my listening priorities but most of the time, I'll add just one or two songs to that list every week or two (if I'm lucky). In the last two weeks though, it's been like a deluge with quite a few things rolling through, including a few tracks that qualify as "today's best things ever" which mostly means I put them on single-song-repeat and just gorge on them.

    Top of that list is Bitty McLean's cover of The Choice Four's "Walk Away From Love," a song most connected to David Ruffin's mid-70s recording of it. Let's first acknowledge that composer Charles Kipps penned an absolute gem here; it is such an incredibly well-written song about a someone who realizes that his relationship is fated to fail so he decides to "walk away from love/before love can break my heart." But here's what McLean does; first, he sets his song over the riddim from Alton Ellis' "Get Ready (Rocksteady)" (which is one of my favorite songs out of JA so this already looking good). Now...McLean sounds like he's 16 (he was really in his early 30s) with a very youthful tenor but Kipps' words to the work to make McLean sound more worldly and this all comes together at the chorus where McLean hits that falsetto during "breaks my heart..." Listen to the song and try NOT to sing along (even if you cause small animals sonic pain when hitting that top note) when he does this. It is magcial to me - despite being a song about heartbreak, when he gets there, I feel positively euphoric. Best thing ever. (By the way, the entire On Bond Street album is basically McLean singing over old rocksteady riddims).

    The Montclairs song has also been in heavy rotation; it's a monster Northern Soul classic from the late '60s that's the best thing in this vein I've heard since first discovering Bobby Reed's "The Time Is Right For Love". I previously wrote about the Montclairs last summer but while the sweet soul on Dreaming Out of Season is lovely, "Hey You!" is on some whole other level. This has everything - great vocal performances, an irresistible uptempo track, and a general joyfulness that rings true with every snappy backbeat. Best thing ever.

    Captain Planet's "Fumando" was, once upon a time, a track called "Boogaloo" which was (and still is) a favorite play-out track (and, as it were, appeared in an episode of Entourage). "Fumando" subtly upgrades the original "Boogaloo" track with some added melodic touches but at its core, it's still the same, bangin' track of guitars, horns, flutes, claps and that crisp breakbeat he's got popping off in the back. DJs - get familiar with this.

    Ok, rap haters, feel free to leave now; the last four songs are all from upcoming hip-hop projects.

    "Shine Blockas" comes from the long awaited Big Boi solo album that was first announced in 2007 but probably won't drop until late this year if not early 2010. Hua was the first to put me up on this, first by sending this to me on some, "this is pretty good." Then he followed up the next day with a succession of IMs: "I can't stop listening to this" and "have you listened to it yet?" and "Dude, what's your f---ng problem, this is fire, get with it already!" (ok, I'm making up the last one but I would have deserved it).

    I don't know what it is but Southern flows over soul loops is a good combination - see here and here if you don't hear what I'm saying. This time around, it's not Willie Hutch (though that would have been a safe bet) but Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with "I Miss You" (last heard(?) on Jay-Z's "This Can't Be Life" (ah, back when him and Beanie weren't beefing). I'm not clear on who produced this (google, you failed me!) but kudos on a nice flip of the Melvin that doesn't fuss around with it too much except for the drum programming. I can see why Hua put this on repeat - between the ultra-smoothness of the track and Big Boi's hopscotch flow this has "instant classic" slathered all over it. (I'm still forming an opinion of Mane's verse but I was impatient to hear Boi back so I guess that's not a ringing endorsement).

    For Part 2 of "Southern dudes rapping over soul tracks," please to see NOLA's Jay Electronica (he of the "terrible name yet intriguing artist" sabor) rapping over a Just Blaze track that is just...uh, blaze. I've been wondering what the hell the Megatron Don's been up to and clearly, it's figuring out how to make a smooth ass Billy Stewart track sound like the world's end.

    And here's the thing: that beat is like the least great thing about this song, which is to say, Blaze's track is aces but holy sh--, I had no idea Jay Electronica could bring it like this. Even though this is a radio rip, with drops making it hard to listen through, by the time the song hits the last verse, I can see why Tony Touch rewound it to play back again. I can't even transcribe it but *whew* cotdamn.

    (By the way, this song encouraged me to go back and listen again to some of Jay E's other works, including Nas' "Queens Get the Money." I originally thought it was a track that screamed for a drum track but I now recognize the simple brilliance of keeping this to just the piano. Hypnotic power. This user-created video understands this by extending that piano passage into a long instrumental before Nasir comes in on it.

    Lupe isn't Southern and Jimi Hendrix isn't soul but whatever - "Fire" is a great pairing between the Chicago rapper and a Jimi classic that burns baby burns here. I'll be amazed if they manage to actually clear this sample for use (see what happened to Fat Joe's "Hey Joe") but I hope they do. This sh-- is a Leatherface mallet to the head; feeling the distorted mic approach Lupe takes here. Seriously, between this and the last two songs, 4th Q 2009 sounds a lot like 2006 (and I mean that in the best way possible).

    ...and just to complete that cipher, we have a new track from the Clipse and Neptunes, with Cam'ron cameoing. Straight up - this isn't incredible or anything, just merely good but I'm willing to settle for that given how some of the Clipse's other recent material was jaw-droppingly weak plus the Neptunes and Cam have stayed MIA for a minute. Cam's turn here isn't much to write home about (surprisingly) but the one shining spot is that beat. "Sparkling" comes to mind even though it also sounds like something the Neptunes might have hooked up years ago. Good enough is good enough.

    (Oh, by the way, I have three CDs - two soul mixes, one Aretha special - all about to come up for the offering. It's been a long time but I hope I've made up for the hiatus).

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    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Hnos. Carrion: Rosa Mi Rosita
    Toño Quirazco: Aprieta Arriba
    Hielo Ardiente: Mambo La Merced

    (Editor's Note: Sonido Franko of Super Sonido blesses us with another guest post, this time tapping into my favorite genre: covers! --O.W.)
      Everything you’ve ever known about copyright laws seems to fall off some huge cliff as soon as you enter a Latin American country. In fact, one has to simply walk over the boarder to Tijuana and find that the entire city is pretty much infringing upon everything. This especially rings true for the Mexican music industry, which has a long history of copped covers in almost every genre. Maybe it’s reparations for all the land we took from them.

      Take Los Hermanos Carrion for example. These two brothers started their career as the Mexican version of the Everly Brothers (see my prior post El Ultimo Adiós). From the pioneers of Mexican rock to the kings of cheesy ballads, they have run the gamut of every genre imaginable. I guess to stay on top you just have to keep reinventing yourself. Or if you run out of ideas you can always rip off Sly & The Family Stone’s Thank You. They actually pen themselves as authors for this pretty banging track.

      On the other hand, Toño Quirazco gives credit where credit is due. The king of Mexican Ska actually doesn’t claim to have written the cover of Stevie’s Uptight. Then again he is guilty of covering a shit piles of other tunes from ska, to rock, to reggae, to just about everything else under the sun.

      And lastly, we have El Salvador’s Hielo Ardiente doing what seems like a lot of Latin American groups do, cover a Perez Prado song. I chose the dope cover of Mambo La Merced, which is about the Merced Market in Mexico City. I was going to us the song Mensaje, which is the cover of Cymande’s The Message. But then I would have only been copying Mr. O-dub.

      I’d like to thank Soul-Sides for having me on their site, it has been a huge honor. I look forward to doing more in the future and I hope everyone likes what they hear! Saludos!!!

      – Sonido Franko

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    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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    Sunday, October 04, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Sly and the Family Stone: Sing a Simple Song
    From Stand (Epic, 1969)

    Ike and Tina Turner: Bold Soul Sister
    From The Hunter (Blue Thumb, 1970). Also on Bold Soul Sister.

    Deadeye: Silly Song
    From Gathering at the Depot (Beta, 1970)

    Please: Sing a Simple Song
    From S/T (Telefunken, 1975)

    Of all the pioneering funk tunes Sly and the Family Stone turned out, you'd be hard-pressed to find one more raucous, more alive with energy than "Sing a Simple Song." For one, the way the song opens is monstrous; it practically climaxes from jump yet rather than declining in intensity, the band keeps hammering away. While folks tend to contrast the thicker sound of Sly with the terse efficiency of the JBs, this is the closest I can think of a meeting point between the two, especially with the styles of changes the song goes through - it's hard not to hear the infamous bridge at 2:11 as comparable to any number of James Brown compositions, mostly notably Marva Whitney's "It's My Thing" or Lyn Collins' "Think."

    Small aside - but on the second Digital Underground album, in the liner notes, the group jokes about the number of songs that used the "Humpty Break" which, in turn, comes from that same bridge. No doubt, many songs in the late '80s/early '90s used this same break but I was curious if DU were, indeed, the first to realize you could pan out the drums on this and just flip that? Any sample/production historians out there confirm this one way or another?

    Given that this song was on the B-side of "Everyday People," it would become one of the best-known Sly songs of all time and as such, has been well, well, well covered. In choosing what songs to include in this post, I wanted to shy away from covers that were good but fairly loyal - sorry Kerrie Biddell! - and instead went with a few off the beaten path.

    That has to include a song that is rather obviously a cover-yet-not-a-cover: "Bold Soul Sister" by Ike and Tina Turner who basically take the main riff from Sly but then turn it into a whole 'nother piece of funky ferocity. I'm rather curious if they ever got into a legal issue with Sly and the Family Stone around that.

    Then there's Deadeye, a local Minneapolis group, with "Silly Song,"...I'm not sure if they were riffing off the fact that "Sing a Simple Song" mostly seems to consist of people going "ya ya ya" though it's hard to read "Silly Song" as anything but a bit of a diss. Despite that, it's actually a pretty good cover, and a loyal one at that despite a new, jaunty intro and some interesting contrasts in vocal harmony. What's particularly notable about their version is that on the bridge, they replace the organ from the original with the vocalizing of the band instead - do do do do do. (Thanks to Young Einstein for introducing me to this LP).

    That idea gets taken to the nth degree with one of my favorite versions of this song, by the Filipino band Please (recording for Germany's Telefunken label). At 2:18, various members of the band get to "sing" a melding of the bridge's drum break but with the chorus melody. Each of four singers gets two bars to sing (some better than others) and then the entire group comes back for another few turns but what's cool is that after they're done, the familiar bridge comes back, this time played by the horn section. Righteous! (Apparently, this version was comped for one of the UBB series though I first heard it at J-Rocc's crib when I did a story on him a few years back.)

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    Friday, September 25, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Nostalgia 77 feat. Alice Russell: 7 Nation Army
    The Hot 8 Brass Band: Sexual Healing (Re-Edit)
    Both from Tru Thoughts Covers (Tru Thoughts, 2009)

    My first encounter with Tru Thoughts probably came via the Nostalgia 77, back in 2004 when I first wrote about their amazing cover of The White Stripes' 7 Nation Army. What I marveled about 5 years back was how it, "switches out the cold, cold vocals of Jack White and replaces it with Alice Russell's searing soulistics. I'm not saying this is get a bunch of emo kids into the mosh pit but I'm feeling how this just rips things up a bit but keep the mood very tense and controlled." I still think this kicks major ass (even though I'm less likely to use such purple prose as "searing soulistics") - especially how it takes the main bassline from the original and then juices it up bigger than a BALCO ball player (I'm still not above hyperbole though, obviously). It's a monster.

    I resurrect this song because Tru Thoughts just put it as the lead track off their new Tru Thoughts Covers compilation which seems overdue given the label's impressive track record for striking reconstructions of many kinds of songs, old and new. For example, you have the Quantic Soul Orchestra covering both 4Hero, Kylie Auldist covering Jeff Buckley, and in an example of pop eating itself, Bonobo covering Quantic.

    However, besides the Nostalgia 77 song, the single best thing on here is really one of the single best things ever: the Hot 8 Brass Band remaking Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." If you haven't heard this before...well, I'd be a bit astounded because it's gotten a lot of play over the years...but if you haven't, then at least you get your mind blown now. Heck, I've heard it dozens of times and this still blows me away. Brass bands + Marvin Gaye classics = a good combination.

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    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    The Impossibles: Easy to Be Hard b/w
    From Hot Pepper (Phillips, 1975)

    The Impossibles: Satin Soul
    From Stage Show (SSP, 197?)

    It's been over two years since I last posted about the Impossibles but that's partially because it's taken over two years for me to finally add another album of theirs to the collection. The Impossibles are pretty much the only Thai funk band that anyone outside of Thailand is familiar with and that's in large part due to the fact that they toured Europe and the U.S. and released an album on Phillips, recorded in Sweden.

    However, more than just being a curiosity of 1970s cross-cultural/musical fusion, the Impossibles also cut some damn good sides. The Hot Pepper album can regularly fetch in the ballpark of $200 and up and I have to say, I think it's totally worth it in terms of the overall caliber of the album and its inclusions.

    The standout is their cover of Kool and the Gang's "Give It Up"; it'd be the obvious one to post...which is precisely why I'm not posting it (you can find it on Chairman Mao and DJ Muro's excellent Run For Cover II mix-CD). I'd rather put up two other songs that I find even more intriguing. The first really blew my mind when I started listening; a cover of "Easy to Be Hard," a song from the Hair but one I associate more with Three Dog Night's version. It's clear The Impossibles do too; their cover is riffing off TDN's but they really funk it up in ways the rock band didn't - check the reverb on the guitar and the way the horns creep in. When the vocals come in, it just takes you there - so soulful, so melancholy. The ramp up to Tony Bennett-land halfway through is a bit jarring but overall, I find the song exceptionally well-executed in terms of how it builds tension and release and the interplay between the dreaminess of the vocals and the music.

    As for "California" it's a more conventional funk song, opening with a basic breakbeat stomp and then sliding into a groove that wouldn't be out of place from an Average White Band album. Personally, I'm feeling how this is an ode to California and San Diego, in particular. I can't figure out if this is a cover or not - it's not exactly easy to google "California". My guess is that this is one of the few original songs on the album and based off the group's experience touring the U.S. California, represent...'sent.

    I also pulled another song off the group's recorded-in-Thailand Stage Show LP. This is a cover of the Barry White production, "Satin Soul" (originally a Love Unlimited Orchestra tune). Once again, a strong breakbeat opener that then slides into some screechy guitar and a heavily vamped up organ that deliver the song's signature riff. Because this was apparently recorded live, the audio quality could stand to be better but overall, I think this bumps quite nicely.

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    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Lyn Christopher: Take Me With You
    From S/T (Paramount, 1973)

    Tyrone and Carr: Take Me With You
    From 7" single (Jam, 1973). Also on Kings of Diggin'.

    Here's a bit of a musical mystery...

    Unless you're a hardcore KISS fan - or are just into LPs with foxy ladies on the cover - "Take Me With You" is probably the only Lyn Christopher song you've ever heard. And even then, had it not been for the Smut Peddlers, you probably wouldn't even say that much. Nonetheless, Christopher's self-titled debut - and the 7" version of "Take Me With You" - have been heavy collectibles by at least two different crowds. The first are KISS fans; Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley played on her album before they would blow up as KISS (technically, I think the band existed but their debut album wouldn't come out until 1974).

    After Smut Peddlers looped this up lovely in 1998, it then got "outed" on Dusty Fingers Vol. 3 and that all helped blow things up for sample hounds who began to chase after the LP and 7" versions. It's easy to see why: it is so downright sultry and funky, possessed of a seductive sensuality that rings through when Christopher croons, "every morning/every evening." Yes, please, take us with you.

    But here's the thing...I heard what I thought was a cover of this song by Tyrone and Carr on the Kings of Diggin' compilation by Kon, Amir and Muro (this being one of the songs on K&A's half). It's a very similar version, especially with that telltale bassline that's such a distinctive part of both. Tyrone and Carr's approach is more modern soul-y (if you had told me this was recorded in the early '80s, I would have totally believed that). Very smooth stuff and nice use of both acoustic guitar and electric keys. The interplay between male and female vocals is also an interesting approach, as is the shift in the back half of the song with the addition of horns and more percussion.

    It took a minute but I was lucky enough to come two copies of their single - one of Jam from 1973, the other being the second issue on DJM from '75. And this is where things get interesting...

    Which is the cover? I think most have assumed it was Christopher first but only because hers is, by virtue of its noteriety, the definitive version. But all that means is that she has the best known version, not necessarily the first.

    Both releases are credited to 1973 though this site puts Tyrone and Carr's single as a March 1973 release, making it less likely that they're covering Christopher unless her album came out Jan 1 or something. However, on Christopher's own site, it says the album was recorded in 1972, which would put it ahead of the Tyrone and Carr 7".

    However, "Take Me With You" was written by Kaplan Kaye, a producer and songwriter who worked for... Jam. It seems more likely to me that Kaye gave his song to an artist on the label he works for and that song goes on to get covered elsewhere than for him to give the song to Christopher and then return to find a Jam artist to record it.

    Moreover, musically, I feel like it Christopher's version sounds like a cover insofar as it adds something that isn't there on Tyrone and Carr's - the very beginning of the song with that haunting back-and-forth between the (what the hell is it? A guitar? A horn?) and bassline. That sounds like something a smart arranger throws on to distinguish their cover from the original. In contrast, the Tyrone and Carr don't have anything like that - the bassline is there but that's it. It's possible they could have stripped off Christopher's intro but it's so distinctive, you'd think if theirs was the cover, they'd try to riff off it somehow.

    There's nothing "at stake" here except simply establishing a correct timeline of who-covered-who. Personally, I love insider baseball stuff like this and besides, it gives me the opportunity to post up what I think are two excellent tunes, regardless of which came first.

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    Monday, September 07, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    With the release week heard 'round the world, we here at Soul-Sides are celebrating the Beatles by picking some of our favorite Beatles tunes as covered by soul artists. While I know not everyone likes covers (especially of The Beatles), I, as well as Oliver, am always interested in hearing the interpretations artists have within their musical fraternity. Writing songs that have universal appeal is part of the reason why they were so successful. Hear some of the heavy hitters of soul on their takes of some of the best music and lyrics ever written below.

    Stevie Wonder: We Can Work It Out
    From At The Close Of A Century, (Motown, 1999)

    1970 saw Stevie still delivering the hits. Two years prior to his greatest string of work album-wise, he covered “We Can Work It Out,” a #1 hit for The Fab Four in 1965. Stevie adds a funky lilt to the song with an opening Fender Rhodes riff and a harmonica solo in the middle converting what had been a tune about saving a relationship with a lover into a social commentary for working it out with your fellow brothers and sisters. He does away with the 3 / 4 bars in the bridge to keep the pace going. This song is proof of the genius in his abilities showcasing how he could not only compose an original song but also add a fresh take on a group that weren't too bad at songwriting and arrangements themselves.

    Aretha Franklin: Eleanor Rigby (Live)
    From Live At The Fillmore West, (Atlantic, 2006)

    While Father McKenzie was writing the words to a sermon no one would hear, Aretha was prepping the church choir and band to unleash this rousing take on a previously mournful elegy. Check the piano intro that leads into the frenetic pace that is unleashed. Aretha meanwhile does what she does best – sing her ass off. She goes into ad libs that add depth to a churchy affair but keeps it just at arm's length from overdoing it.

    Smokey Robinson And The Miracles: And I Love Her
    From What Love Has...Joined Together, (Motown, 1970)

    I saved my favorite for last. The first time I heard this, I stopped what I was doing and just zoned out. I had to keep rewinding it to hear its sheer elegance. The earliest song of the bunch presented, “And I Love Her” - already a beautiful love song in its own right, finds Smokey and The Miracles upping the ante of the intimacy found in the original's acoustic guitar and percussion with a small dose of brass and faint a crying violin. The clincher here is the background harmonizing, especially after that first “And I Love Her,” to Smokey's delicate, but confident lead vocals. The backup singing remains steadfast throughout and is the glue that holds it all together. Wow.

    Oliver's picks: First of all, definite co-sign on the awesomeness that is Stevie's cover of "We Can Work It Out." It's definitely up there as one of the greatest soul covers of a Beatles' song I can think of. Another should be obvious to anyone who's read this site for a while:

    Al Green: I Want To Hold Your Hand
    From 7" (Hi, 1969)

    This was one of the featured songs I put on Soul Sides Vol. 2 and is an easy "go to" song for any party. It's also a fairly obscure song by any measure; it originally only came out on 7" and that's because, surprisingly (or perhaps not so), it was a total flop and Hi pretty much backpedaled off it (it did show up on the 1989 compilation Love Ritual, finally). I feel like I've spoken about this song a lot (it came up in interviews frequently) so I won't reinvent the wheel except to say: this is what the old folks call "fly." Believe that.

    Lee Moses: Day Tripper
    From Time and Place (Maple, 1970)

    To this day, I'm surprised more soul artists haven't covered "Day Tripper." That intro guitar line is easily one of the most recognizable in Beatles' history and it is so damn funky. Luckily, this same point must have occurred to Lee Moses, possibly having been influenced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience who do a pretty righteous version themselves. I find Moses, however, to really distill the song down to a rough but not cluttered version of the song that highlights how very raucous that riff really can be.

    The Overton Berry Trio: Hey Jude
    From At Seattle's Doubletree Inn (Jaro, 1970). Also on Wheedle's Groove

    "Hey Jude" is one of those Beatles' songs that are so iconic that you almost wish people would leave it well alone since even the original can grate on you once you've heard it for the umpteenth time. Yet I had the choice between two great versions of this song (the other being Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers'). My reasons for going with Seattle's Overton Berry Trio and their live version, recorded at the Doubletree, mostly rest with how it opens with that massive bassline. Deep deep deep and once the drums click in, it becomes this monster groove that isn't even obvious as "Hey Jude" until you hear the Ramsey Lewis-esque piano come in.

    Bonus: Toi Et Moi: Across the Universe
    From In USA (EMI Japan, 197?)

    I couldn't pass this up; probably not the best sung version of "Across the Universe" ever recorded (but hey, in all fairness, these two weren't exactly from Liverpool) but I love how fun and lively this Japanese duo's take on the song is. That plus, that funky backing track sounds positively British library album, no? It's all quite fab in its own right.

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    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    William Bell and Mavis Staples: I Thank You
    From Stax Classic Soul Duets: Boy Meets Girl (Stax, 2009)

    OW has covered this release previously, but recently it has been (sort of) reissued on CD. Indeed, Boy Meets Girl was not a compilation but a concept album to join forces of some of the male and female artists on the label.

    One of the highlights is the cover of Sam and Dave's “I Thank You.” Sam Moore's intro lines (you may have heard them in the '90s at the beginning of Naughty By Nature's “Clap Yo Hands”) were clipped in the remake, and the song starts off with William Bell and the heavily underrated Mavis Staples soulshouting over conga and tambourine and a few horn stabs for nearly a minute before the groove really kicks in. Midway through, it kicks back to this acoustic breakdown. This seesawing effect with the fuller accompaniment adds a churchy element to the already gospel influenced lyrics.

    Also featured is a beautiful remake of the Everly Brothers “All I Have To Do Is Dream.” Considering Carla Thomas had her own hit with “Gee Whiz,” perhaps it was on purpose that she's half the duet, with William Bell being the other half, in a song that features that same phrase a couple times. It's sung with such yearning, which is appropriate given the song is about a lover daydreaming of his yet-to-be attained mate. This take on “Dream” would be much better if it was pared down to a three minute edit without the majestic buildup at the end, which diminishes its melancholy tone.

    It's not all a William Bell affair. Former Soul Stirrers leadman Johnnie Taylor chips in with Carla Thomas for duets of “Just Keep On Loving Me” and “My Life” and Eddie Floyd chimes in as well on the uplifting “Never Let You Go” and more.

    Additionally, the reissue isn't a full-on replication of the original release. Missing are songs such as “Love's Sweet Sensation,” “I Need You Woman,” and “That's The Way Love Is” (and more). In replacement, you get two Delaney and Bonnie songs as well as two versions of “Private Number.” The 1980's Dusty Springfield version of “Private Number” sounds dated (and not in a good way) and is far out of place on an album featuring mostly late '60s production. Fortunately, it doesn't sink the ship. The rest of the material is quite capable of keeping the album afloat.

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    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Meaghan Smith: Here Comes Your Man
    From 500 Days of Summer Soundtrack (Sire, 2009)

    This is a quick addendum to the last post but I just heard this for the first time today (and I haven't even seen the movie yet). A little voice is telling me I probably should find it just a touch cloying and overly XM-Radio-The-Coffee-House-Channel-ish but I tell that voice to shut the f--- up and I'm happier for it.

    Keep in mind too, I think the original is the best damn thing the Pixies ever recorded and 20+ years, I still love the original. And somehow, Smith manages to tweak the emotional vibe of the song into something altogether more bittersweet and quirky and the type of pop ditty (I mean that in a good day) that I would have put on a mixtape back when I was in love with, well, anyone in my 20s.

    What I'm saying is that this song makes me feel young and old at the same time. And it also seems to fit - perfectly - with the end-of-summer theme.

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    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    posted by Eric Luecking

    Lushlife, whose debut album was released in July (and covered here at Soul-Sides), has been doing an acoustic covers series of classic hip hop tunes on the Rapster Records YouTube site.

    Cru – Just Another Case

    Jay-Z - Dead Presidents (version 1)

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    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Quantic and His Combo Barbaro: Mambo Los Quantic
    I Just Fell In Love Again
    From Tradition in Transition (Tru Thought, 2009)

    It's good to be Will "Quantic" Holland. His soul/funk remixes and productions are some of the best out there but then he went to developed a love affair with Colombian music and that's opened into a whole new, beautiful arena of music to craft.

    This new album finds Holland teaming up with some of the same players who graced the Quantic Soul Orchestra's excellent 2007 album, Tropidélico, including the ever-excellent pianist Alfredo Linares, legendary Brazilian composer and guitarist Arthur Verocai, drumming bad ass Malcolm Catto and the singing talents of Panama's Kabir.

    The album is an intriguing blend of multiple styles; it's not as "Latin" as you might initially expect. Instead, the group finds a way to bring in any number of different elements - a little cumbia here, some Afro-beat there, a dose of shing-a-ling, a whole lotta soul - to each song. "Mambo Los Quantic" is perhaps the closet thing to a set "genre" as you can find here but even then, it's not like you'd confuse it for something that would have rotated through the Palladium back in the day. "I Just Feel In Love Again" showcases the contribution Kabir brings to the Combo and I love the kind of happy energy emanating as the song shifts through sharp solos from the assembled talent.

    Musica Del Alma has another Combo Barbaro song (not on the CD) for you to check out.

    Bonus beat: Nostalgia 77 feat. Alice Russell: Seven Nation Army
    From the forthcoming Tru Thoughts Covers.

    Quantic's long-time label partners at Tru Thoughts are readying a compilation of cover songs and I am, quite predictably, looking forward to what they're bringing. One of the first songs they're circulating is this awesome cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" that first came out in 2004. It's incredible how monstrous they've made the signature bassline and when Alice Russell comes tearing in on the vocals, it's enough to make you cry. Hopefully, I can bring you at least one more selection off this comp once it drops later this summer.

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    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Jay-Z: Never Change (Dilla Remix)
    From Jimmy Green's What if J Dilla Produced The Blueprint? (2009)

    It's a bit odd that in 2009, someone would mash-up Jay-Z's 2001 album, Blueprint with a series of J-Dilla beats. Furthermore, let's just answer the question:

    If Dilla had produced The Blueprint, Jay-Z would have taken an L. That's no diss on Jay Dee but c'mon now - it's not like Kanye West and Just Blaze were exactly slacking on what's arguably one of the best produced albums this decade. What's next? "What if J Dilla Produced It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back?" (Note: maybe Def Jam should release the acapellas to that album).

    All this said, I have to admit that I am loving this remix of "Never Change." I'm not saying it's better than the OG, I'm just saying it's good - so laid-back yet slightly sinister.

    And it really brings to mind how Burt Bacharach compositions (in this case, "The Look of Love") make for potentially great sample fodder given that 1) they're familiar enough to catch our attention and 2) they're generally classics in basic, simple but rich songwriting and arrangements. When I was listening to this, I immediately thought of another mash-up from a couple years back:

    Biggie and Lil Wayne: If You See Me Walking
    From Mick Boogie and Terry Urban's Unbelievable: A Tribute to Biggie Smalls (2007)

    This time, it's a flip on a pre-Isaac Hayes version of Burt's "Walk On By."

    And heck, if we're going own the memory lane of "rap songs flipping Burt beats" then we can't forget this twist on Johnny Pate's version of "Look of Love":

    Show and A.G.: You Know Now (Buckwild Remix)
    From Goodfellas (Payday, 1995)

    And just to really blow your mind, here's the Jackson 5 throwing down their take on Isaac Hayes' version of "Walk On By." The LP version of this appeared on their live Goin' Back to Indiana album.

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    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    posted by O.W.

    Just in time for today's memorial services, here's my list of MJ5 cover songs.

    One song wasn't available for streaming via NPR; you can also hear it here.

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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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