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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Thursday, March 04, 2010

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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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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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

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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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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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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Thursday, April 23, 2009

posted by O.W.

Jennifer Lara: Close To You
Jennifer Lara: Our Love
From Studio One Presents Jennifer Lara (Studio One, 197?)

Sharon Forrester: Please Don't Let Me Be Lonely
Sharon Forrester: Silly Wasn't I
From Sharon (Vulcan, 1973). "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" also on Trojan Seventies.

I'm definitely not that deep of a reggae collector but I do have a yen for good reggae soul songs and that's what drew me to both of these albums. The Lara LP was a bit of an impulse buy - I hadn't even really heard much of it but decided that Studio One + 1970s + female singer = worth a shot. And it turned out to be a pretty good one in my opinion as Lara's bright and light voice on a song like "Close To You" has a dreamy, summery charm to it. What's so striking is that Lara then drops about two or three octaves for "Our Love," getting all sultry and seductive with one of the album's main highlights. She sounds so damn smooth here. From what little I know, Lara was mostly a backing artist though she had a few solo albums of her own. Alas, she also passed away at only 52, back in 2005, from a stroke - surely before her time.

With the Sharon Forrester - straight up, I bought this LP initially to procure one song: her cover of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." It's not that I have a big thing for Taylor covers but between Forrester's sugary sweet vocals (which remind me a lot of Linda Lewis) and that rich track courtesy Geoffrey Chung, this song has stuck with me ever since I heard it on the Trojan Seventies boxset. It's a gorgeous treatment. "Silly Wasn't I" isn't quite as magical but it's pretty damn good - very soulful with a nice mid-tempo swing.

Anything I know about Forrester, I learned here. Apparently, she was a teenage talent discovered in Jamaica in the early '70s and, at one point, was voted "Best New Female Reggae Artist" but for such a promising beginning, I can't seem to find any Forrester's output beyond this one album and some of the 7"s that came off it.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

posted by O.W.

Tyrone Davis: Can I Change My Mind?
From Can I Change My Mind? (Dakar, 1969)

Alton Ellis: Can I Change My Mind
From 7" (Studio One, 1970). Also on I'm Still In Love With You

Tyrone Davis: Let Me Back In
From Turn Back the Hands of Time (Dakar, 1970)

Jesse Anderson: Let Me Back In
From 7" (Curtom, 1970). Also on The Curtom Story.

Tyrone Davis: A Woman Needs To Be Loved
From Can I Change My Mind? (Dakar, 1969)

I'm definitely not that well-versed in Tyrone Davis' career - most of what I knew about him for a long time was what he recorded in the mid to late 1970s rather than - as requested - his Brunswick/Dakar output. On paper, I would have thought I'd really be into that era of his career; I've generally found Brunswick very reliable in the early 1970s, especially when you have producers like Carl Davis and Willie Henderson in the mix. But overall, Davis' years at Brunswick didn't knock me off my feet - he was certainly a good enough singer but song-for-song, there's a lot there I never really got into.

I would certainly make an exception for one of his first big hits for Brunswick: "Can I Change My Mind" which is, by far, my favorite Davis song (thus far): the horns are fantastic here and there's such a great "boogie on down" swing to both the vocal and musical arrangements. One way in which you can see how far Davis got with it is by looking at the number of covers that followed. One of the best I've probably heard is out of Panama and should be coming out on a forthcoming compilation (props to Beto for sharing) but on the reggae soul tip, you could do a lot worse than Alton Ellis' cover, once again proving that Ellis wasn't only a brilliant songwriter and musician in his own right...he had impeccable taste in music writ-large.

What's interesting about Davis' original, thematically, is how similar it is to one of his other songs from the same era: "Let Me Back In." Of course, there's probably a billion songs about boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wants-girl-back, etc. but given that these singles came very close to one another and even sound alike, you do have to wonder a bit.

Hope I'm not blasphemous in saying this too but I think Jesse Anderson's version pretty much destroys Tyrone's original - a better arrangement, stronger rhythm section and Anderson manages to out-Davis in a Davis-esque singing style. I may simply be biased because I heard Anderson's version before I heard the original but I still think Jesse's got the jam with this one.

I'll end with Davis' deep soul single "A Woman Needs To Be Loved." Doesn't this one have "power ballad" written all over it? Davis is swinging for the fences with that growling, shouting performance and the music keeps in step with its dramatic force and bluesy intensity. Mercy!

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

posted by O.W.

Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Westbound Train
Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno: Make Dub Not War
From Death of the Revolution (Tru Thoughts, 2008)

Should have been on top of this back in the summer when it first dropped but consider the new Flowering Inferno album to be good, warm listening for the chilliness of winter. This is Quantic's latest incarnation, a close kin to the Quantic Soul Orchestra's Tropidelico album from 2007 except here, it's Quantic himself handling all of the musical duties.

The sound this time is out notably influenced by reggae and dub - the Latin touch still trails in the background but most songs are unmistakably built on dub's viscous rhythmic signature. I was originally thinking this new album would be packed with tracks to play out and there are some more uptempo cumbias, such as the title track, but instead, I was pleased to find that where the album excels is really in the downtempo tracks that Quantic builds around drizzles of melody and druggy rhythms. "Make Dub Not War" for example, is a masterpiece of simplicity in contrasting the bright drops of acoustic piano against the echoing slap of snares. With "Westbound Train," Quantic is working with any number of different samples in here - the most obvious to me was the pygmy flutes from Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," and a guitar melody borrowed from Al Green's "Love and Happiness." It reminded me of some of the remix/edit tracks from the early '90s (just minus the Fatman Scoop style shout outs)..

With "Westbound Train," Quantic remakes the Dennis Brown song by the same name (thanks to DRev for schooling me) which, as most should note, picks its guitar line from Al Green's "Love and Happiness". From there, Q throws in a bit of the pygmy flute melody from Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking "Watermelon Man" and builds another winning slow-tempo track for you to get grind on to.

If you really want to get hardcore, there are three different 7"s available from the album.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

posted by O.W.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Slow Run
From S/T (JAD, 1968). Also on Very Best of the Reggae Superstars.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: My Sweet Lord
From Reggay Splashdown (Dynamic, 1971). Also on Hot Reggae Splashdown.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Live and Let Die
From Reggae Fever (Dynamic, 1972). Also on Trojan Beatles Tribute.

I am really derelict for not getting to this sooner. Byron Lee, one of most prolific artists in Jamaican history, died on November 4th, 2008 (alas, not long after one of his contemporaries, Alton Ellis, also passed away). I should have had a dedication post up weeks ago but it slipped my mind until recently.

Lee's always had a special place in my heart since he was one of the first reggae-artists-not-named-Bob that I ever discovered and his album, Reggae Splashdown was probably one of my early introductions to reggae soul (it doesn't hurt that he was also half-Chinese). It's one reason why I wanted to put Lee's cover of "Express Yourself" on Soul Sides Vol. 2.

"Slow Run" comes from Lee and the Dragonaires' self-titled album from the late '60s - long after the band had become legendary in the Caribbean but before the founding of Lee's own Dynamic label where most of the albums in the '70s and beyond would appear. It captures well the burgeoning "funky reggae" sound sweeping through Jamaica in the era; a real slick instrumental.

"My Sweet Lord" is one of my favorite of Lee's covers - a beautifully rendered version of an already classic song. And heck, since we were already on a Beatles tip, I figured I'd throw in another cover - this of "Live and Let Die" (best James Bond song ever?). First time I heard this, I figured it'd be kind of cheesy but the reggae-reworking of the main melody is surprisingly effective.

One of the upsides to Lee's prolificness was that his albums are still easily found in any record stores with a half-decent reggae section. Find your own and celebrate this late great's catalog.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

posted by O.W.

(from l-r, Alton Ellis, Edwin Starr, Labi Siffre, The Impressions
Joe Bataan, Stevie Wonder, the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band
Bobby Matos, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Skye 7")

(This post began life on Side Dishes and has "evolved" since).

I had a strange realization the other week: 2008 might be the first year where I spent more time listening to older music than new music. This hasn't been out of nowhere - it's been a long-term shift but it hit me, when I was trying to come up with the standard "Top 10" list that I'm not even sure if I actually listened to 10 new albums in '08.

Not just that: even the new music I did like tended to overwhelmingly be music that sounded like it was from another era - Raphael Saadiq, Solange Knowles, Mayer Hawthorne, etc. For real - if there was one big presence in my 2008 year-in-review, it was Motown! Not only do quite a few Motown artists fill up my "old music I discovered this year list," amongst the new artists, several of them ride off the Motown sound and one of them (Q-Tip) is actually signed to Motown.
I turned 36 this year but why do I feel like my tastes are that of a 66 year old?


On one hand, your tastes are your tastes and if that's the direction I'm leaning, maybe I should just shrug and enjoy it. I don't have the professional pressure to have to stay as current as my colleagues do but as I said last year, I also don't want to be a born-again baby boomer (even though my fascinating with the 1960s has only grown this past year).

So here's my New Year's Resolution For 2009: I shall listen to more new music and ideally, not new music that sounds like old music. (We'll check back a year from now and see where I'm at).

This all said, here's Part 1 of my year-in-review, beginning with old music I (re)discovered.

Edwin Starr: Running Back and Forth
From War & Peace (Gordy, 1970)

I get music recommendations from all sorts but no one is more influential than my friend Hua who has probably put me up on more of my more recent "new favorite songs" than any other single source I know. It helps that he has kick ass taste as well as a circle of friends in NY who have equally good taste and so I get some of these recommendation second, even third hand but heck - I ain't too proud!

Case in point: this lesser known single off Starr's big selling War and Peace album. It's easy enough to forget that there was any other songs from that LP given how successful and iconic the "War" single became but when I first heard "Running Back and Forth," I had a proverbial jaw-drop over how good it was and that it'd be from the same album. This song oozes with classic Motown production strengths of its era (RIP Norman Whitfield!), especially in its brass and the driving push of the sound bed. Seriously, try to piece apart all the little bits of the music; it is dense yet comes off sounding clean and simple. In contrast to Starr's forceful polemicizing on "War," here, he's in classic love man mode, trying to kick some game. (Bonus points for the Sam Cooke nod on the bridge).

Labi Siffre: A Little More Line
From S/T (Pye, 1970)

This British singer, songwriter and poet has a voice you can't soon forget - it's not the most powerful, nor the most dynamic - but it is so distinctive and soothing, it stays with you long after the song's end. I especially love how this song builds from an almost hymnal opening only to swell in size and sound with the string orchestration and some killer work on the drums. Siffre's entire catalog from the '70s is classic material (even if many of you probably have never heard of him). This was from his debut album and it's just as good of a place to start as any to enjoy his gifts.

Alton Ellis: What Does It Take To Win Your Love
From Sunday Coming (Coxsone, 1971)

There is something humbling discovering this song the year of Ellis' death. My awareness of him preceded his passing but I had been giving Ellis' cover of Jr. Walker's hit much spin in the first part of the year that when Ellis passed away in October, I found myself coming back to his catalog again and again. Ellis was arguably reggae's finest soul man, not just with his covers but also original compositions.

The Impressions: I'm Loving Nothing
From This Is My Country (Curtom, 1968)

In a year of Obama's ascendency, there are no doubt more apropos songs from the Impressions' catalog but the song of theirs that will haunt me is "I'm Loving Nothing." Its beauty seems almost profane given that this is all about the death of love. Not something you'd want as a first dance at your wedding but doesn't it sound like an embrace rather than slow turn away?

Bonnie and Shelia: You Keep Me Hanging On
From 7" (King, 1971). Also on New Orleans Funk Vol. 2.

King is best known as the home of James Brown for many of his pivotal funk productions of the late 60s but at least for this single, the Cincinnati-based label picked up a slice of NOLA funk thanks to this excellently produced tune from Wardell Quezerque. One of my new favorite femme funk tracks, "You Keep Me Hanging On" reminds me a lot of the snap and sass of Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff." Hang with it.

Ray Barretto: Pastime Paradise (Good Parts Edit)
From La Cuna (CTI, 1981)

Gotta thank my man Rani D for hepping me to this Barretto song. As big of a fan I am of the late master's work, I had never listened to anything he did past the early '70s and I was mightily drawn to how good this cover of Stevie Wonder's song is. The sound of this song is just so gorgeous, especially the first few minutes but I did have to admit I wasn't quite as enamored with the vocals...and cheesy sex...and bad, Santana-wannabe rock guitar. So I just cut all that out and left you with a 1/3rd length "best of" edit from the song. Like Bobby B. - it's my prerogative.

Joe Bataan: Ordinary Guy (7" version)
From 7" (Fania, 1967)

"Ordinary Guy" has been Joe Bataan's enduring hit for over 40 years but this version, which only appeared on 7" single, isn't well known and when I first heard it, I was instantly enamored. It's not entirely clear what Fania's thinking was but they brought in pianist Richard Tee to give the song a a subtle new dynamic, most obviously heard in how different the new intro is. Tee's piano has a strong presence, especially with an arrangement that sounds very much like the beginning of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Precious Love." This is probably my favorite version of the song, precisely for that intro which gives the tune such a rich, soulful feel to it.

Bobby Matos: Nadie Baila Como Yo
From My Latin Soul (Phillips, 1968)

I've owned Bobby Matos and Combo Conquistadores' incredible My Latin Soul album for years, but I had somehow totally overlooked the incredible charm of "Nadie Baila Como Yo" (nobody dances like me). It wasn't until I heard the Boogaloo Assassins play it at their shows that I was reminded of how damn good it is; it's since become, easily, one of my favorite Latin songs ever. Love how it changes up from a guanguanco into a son montuno and has those beautiful keyboard chords anchoring.

Skye: Ain't No Need (Unity Mix)
From 7" (Ananda, 1976)

When I was out in New York earlier this year, Jared at Big City Records slipped a reissue of this 45 into my hand and I was hooked (and then later, managed to procure an original from the Groove Merchant). Sometimes all you need is a good groove and this obscure disco single from the mid-70s delivers a one helluva great groove that just goes on and on and on. Under other circumstances, I'd find the whole thing repetitious but somehow, I don't tire of it. Ever. (I created this "Unity Mix" which combines the original mix and disco mix in a simple edit).

Stevie Wonder: Send Me Some Lovin'
From I Was Made to Love Her (Motown, 1967)

Heck, I could have filled this list with Stevie Wonder songs I've been rediscovering but "Send Me Some Lovin'" has stood in front of that line. I love the small touches of funk to the arrangement, especially those pianos at the very beginning. This has a fantastic groove to it and you put Stevie's distinctive vocals on top of that and you have an unbeatable combination.

Songs that are technically new (i.e. that just came out) but are based on older recordings:

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (alternate version)
From Puckey Puckey: Jams and Outtakes, 1970-71 (Rhino Handmade, 2008)

This was a real gem from the Puckey Puckey anthology that I wrote the liner notes for. It's a completely alternate recording of the Watts 103rd's big hit, "Express Yourself." Compared to the original, this one is far more languid, like the group was nearing the end of their recording day and just wanted to something to chill out to, maybe smoke a bowl to (as they were known to).

Final Solution: I Don't Care
From Brotherman (Numero Group, 2008)

Provided - their name was terrible. No one wants to think of the Holocaust while groovin' to sweet soul - but even if the Chicago band formerly known as the Kaldirons probably could have chosen a better name for themselves, at least the music speaks for itself. The album - a soundtrack for a blaxploitation film never made - has an interesting backstory all its own but for now, all you need to know is how damn good "I Don't Care" is. Especially when paired with that melancholy but heavy guitar melody by newcomer Carl Wolfolk, there's something sublime about how the group's falsetto voices come coasting in on top of the track. It's a mix of slow-building drama with an angelic set of voices, lending a gospel-like quality to the music's otherwise dark undertones.

Marvin Gaye: What's Going On (DJ Day Edit)
From 7" single (MPM, 2008)

This single just came out a week or so ago and it finds California's DJ Day reworking an alternative version of Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On" in a way so clean and organic that even Motown fanatics would swear it was a lost tape from the label's vaults. I don't know why it sounds so perfect with the season but there's something warm and comforting about this that makes you want to wrap yourself in it.

Nina Simone: Gimme Some (Mike Mangini Remix)
V/A: Verve Remixed 4 (Verve, 2008)

Frankly, this song had three killer remixes that I found almost equally commendable including Diplo's remix of Marlena Shaw's "California Soul" and the smoky Chris Shaw remix of Sarah Vaughn's "Tea For Two". But if I had to pick amongst that trio, this Nina Simone reworking took the slimmest of leads, possibly because it's so damn happy (which is not an adjective I often associate with Her High Priestess. Seriously though, this whole album is nice.

Honorable Mentions:
1. Patti Drew: Stop and Listen
2. Joubert Singers: Stand On the Word
3. Ceil Miner: Stardust
4. Aaron Neville: She Took You For a Ride
5. New Holidays: Maybe So, Maybe No
6. Nick and Valerie: I'll Find You
7. Pedrito Ramirez y su Combo: Micaela
8. Bobby Reed: The Time is Right
9. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: If You Can Want
10. Tammi Terrell: What a Good Man He Is

PART 2: NEW(ISH) MUSIC (to follow soon!)

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

posted by O.W.

1944 - 2008

Sad news: rocksteady great (and one of the finest crafters of reggae soul) Alton Ellis passed away recently. I was a late-comer to his magic but I've been beguiled by it ever since. His catalog is massive but I've always had an ear for his stuff from the late '60s and early '70s. Here's three of my favorite. Jah bless.

Alton Ellis: I'm Still In Love With You
From I'm Still In Love With You (Trojan, 196?)

Alton Ellis: What Does It Take To Win Your Love
Alton Ellis: It's Gonna Take a Miracle
From Sunday Coming (Trojan, 1970)

This dude is back, recognizing the real:

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

posted by O.W.

I recorded this mix for back in June and is now available on their website archive. I originally created it as a promo mix for Deep Covers 2 (though the timing was off since Dublab was back-logged over the summer). Still, I put in a nice selection of different cover songs here - some you've heard, some you haven't. Here's the tracklisting:
    Simply Red - I Know You Got Soul - You’ve Got It - WEA

    James Brown: Your Cheatin’ Heart - Soul On Top - King

    Jimmy McGriff - Ain’t It Funky Now - SOul Sugar - Groove Merchant

    Bo Diddley - Bad Side of the Moon - Another Dimension - Chess

    The Gimmicks - California Soul - Em Las Brisas - Swedisc

    Klaus Wunderlich - Summertime - Hammond Fur Millionen - Telefunken

    The Professionals - Theme From Godfather - On Tour - CES

    Dutch Rhythm Steel and Show Band - Down By the River - Soul, Steel and Show - Negram

    Byron Lee and the Dragonaires - Express Yourself - Reggay Splashdown! - Dynamic

    Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - Movin’ On Up - Live at the Haunted House - Rhino Handmade

    Hielo Ardiente - Mensaje (The Message) - Ritmo Ardiente - Dicesa

    Al Escobar - Tighten Up - The Modern SOunds of Al Escobar - Tico

    El Freddy Flaco - K-Jee - La Fiesta Vol. 2 - FTA

    Manny Bolone and His Latin Boys - Micaela - Boogaloo - Boogaloo

    Conjunto Universal - Que Se Sepa - Que Se Sepa - Velvet

    Enrique Lynch - Viva Tirado - Sexympacto - Sono Radio

    Wganda Kenya - El Abanico - COmo Se Hace Ah - Fuentes

    Alton Ellis - What Does It Take To Win Your Love - Sunday Coming - Coxsone

    Sparrow’s Troubadours - Soulful Strut - Hot and Sweet - Hilary

    Joe Bataan - More Love - Singin’ Some Soul - Fania

    Margie Joseph - Let’s Stay Together - S/T - Atlantic

    Rhetta Hughes - Light My Fire - Re-Light My Fire - Tetragammon

    West Coast Revival - Feelin’ Alright - S/T - LAX

    Hodges, James, Smith and Crawford - Nobody - 7″ - Mpingo

    El Alamo - Candy - Malos Pensamientos - Decibel

    Donovan Carless - Be Thankful FOr What You Got - 7″ - Impact

    Nancy Holloway - Never Can Say GOodbye - 7″ - N/A

    Mark Holder - Sweet Caroline - Where THere’s a Will, There’s a Way - Deriva
And just because I wanted to be a good egg - I created a downloadable version of the mix, split into individual tracks (but no IDs written; I'm lazy - deal).

Enjoy! Hopefully I'll be rolling back to Dublab to do another mix soon.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

posted by O.W.

Soul Sides' Summer Songs Series has moved to its own exclusive site. I've ported over all of the past posts but for all the new, upcoming posts, I'll make a quick post here and point folks over.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

posted by O.W.

Sorry to have been away for a while - my thanks to the Captain's Crates crew for holding it down.

I've been on award tour, starting last week at Duke University where I gave a pair of talks in conjunction with their Transcultural Humanities project. It was a great opportunity to talk about my work but the real enjoyment was spending some time, rapping with Mark Anthony Neal who brought me out there. He put me up on this stunning Max Roach/JC White Singers song but I'm still trying to track it down so that'll have to wait.


I did catch an equally compelling exhibit at the Nasher, an impressive, first-ever retrospective of Barkely Hendricks' paintings. Hendricks has flown under the radar for decades but hopefully, this show - which will travel to the Studio Museum in Harlem and then the Santa Monica Museum of Art - will rectify that situation. His works from the '60s, in particular, are such beautiful snapshots of the time, both in terms of the cultural signifiers and the personalities that he captures in them. Here's a personal favorite, "Tuff Tony":

Folks might be more familiar with this more recent painting of Fela:

If you're in Durham...or New York in the fall (or Santa Monica next spring, or Philly after that), I highly recommend you see his work. Soul inspired, for real. Shout out to Trevor Schoonmaker for having the foresight and resources to put this retrospective together. Here's a video preview he helped put together for the Nasher:

After Duke, I came home for all of 12 hours then had to fly out again for the EMP Pop Conference in Seattle. I. Love. This. Conference. Which is probably something only an academic would ever say, but f--- it. I have no shame in my appreciation for the conf (as noted in the past). I'm not going to do a complete run-down but I'll say this much: the conf does much to both inspire me intellectually as well as turn me onto new music/ideas/people. Here's a quick scattering, perhaps a follow-up post later.

1) Jeffrey Govan: This bassist in the LA ska scene is also now a grad student at USC's American Ethnic Studies program. He gave on paper on the Latin influence on ska back in the 1960s (and influence that has been remarkably cataloged here. Apart from introducing me to the Skatalites' "Latin Goes Ska" (a flip on Perez Prado), I was most thankful for Govan putting all of us onto this:

Tommy McCook and the Skatalites: Sauvitt
From 7" (Dodd, 1964). Also available on Tribute to Tommy.

It's a cover of a Mongo Santamaria song ("Sauvito") and the subtle intertwining of ska and Latin rhythms here are simply delicious. I love how the song opens with that piano, how the horns come in and layer themselves, and my favorite moment comes right before the two bridges with the four note horn hits - wish they had made that into an entire chorus. Great song - a new favorite.

2) Lauren Onkey: This professor at Ball State Univ. is doing fascinating research on the undersung Black rock and doo-wop bands who were part of the Mersey Beat scene in Liverpool circa the 1950s/60s. Onkey was drawn to this research given how, in most of the literature she had seen on Liverpool's music scene and the Beatles, rarely were any of the city's numerous Black bands ever acknowledged even though groups like the Fab 4 played with them and, according to some rumors, learned their R&B-styled chops from them. Onkey also makes the very provocative argument that Liverpool's historical Black population (dating back centuries to the city's prominence as the slaving port in Great Britian) is one reason why the blues fetishism that hit other British bands like the Rolling Stones or Cream bypassed Liverpool groups - they had grown up with Black people and thus, weren't as likely to romanticize/nostalgize them through the blues.

In any case, during her talk, she played this clip by the Liverpool doo-wop group, The Chants, who worked with the Beatles early on before they really became "The Beatles." Here they are, covering the jazz standard, "I Could Write a Book."

3) Gayle Wald: I last mentioned Gayle a year ago, in connection to her book on Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Gayle's now working on researching the life and times of the late Ellis Haizlip, a remarkable artistic force in New York, who, among other things, hosted the PBS show, Soul!. It's hard to quite capture how remarkable a show this was - in the late '60s through early '70s, it was an incredible meeting point of different Black artists, musicians, politicians, etc. in ways that have never really been duplicated since (no, not even by Arsenio).

The problem is that this show will likely never, ever be released to the public on DVD or any other format - the release contracts signed at the time make such a occurrence logistically impossible for all practical purposes. It's a damn shame - the clips that Gayle brought included a mind-melting interview between Haizlip and Farrakhan talking about gay sex, Ashford and Simpson performing on one of the last Soul! shows and - coincidentally enough - Max Roach w/ the JC White Singers.

Luckily (however illegally), clips have snuck out, including this 1973 performance by the Spinners on the show.

4) Last but not least, one of the other people on my panel (besides Gayle) was EMP organizer and fellow L.A. partner-in-culinary-crime Eric Weisbard who did a paper on Elton John's "Benny and the Jets" - a song that most everyone (I presume) has heard but may not remember being a big hit on not just the pop charts, but also the R&B charts. Don't believe it? Just ask Mary. Or the Diabolical:

Biz Markie: Sounds of Silence (by the Beastie Boys) (Capitol, 1999)

For real though, listening to that version isn't half as fun as watching it:

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

posted by O.W.

Two bits of personal trivia. 1) I have never, in the 15 years I've been a DJ, DJed a wedding. The reasons are partly logistical (I don't own speakers, lights or an amp), mostly personal (I've heard enough groom/bride-zilla stories to want to steer clear). In fact, at my own wedding, we didn't even have music, something that surprised many of my friends but seriously, it never occurred to me (note: our wedding was a potluck in a friend's backyard so "low-key" would be an understatement).

This all changed last Saturday night when I agreed to DJ a friend-of-a-friend's wedding in Los Angeles. It was a very, very nice affair, held at the Skirball Center, not too far up the 405 from where I live. In some ways, it was a little conventional: the requested playlist included such wedding favorites as "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night and Young MC's "Bust a Move" and I even had some ABBA ready to go (though never did around to playing it). I also got to drop in a few songs of my own choosing though I tried not to wild out too far - this wasn't a Boogaloo gig after all.

It did get me to thinking about wedding songs and brought me back to this older post. People should definitely check out the comments for dozens of great wedding song suggestions.


Pamoja: Ooh Baby
From 7" (Keiper, 1970)

Bettye Swann: Make Me Yours
From 7" (Money, 1967). Also on S/T.

For me, I was reminded by how great "Ooh Baby" by Pamoja is (so I re-upped it) and I also thought about this special, wedding 7" that my friend and former DJ partner Vinnie Esparza created for his wedding a couple years back: "Make Me Yours" by Bettye Swann, one of the absolute gems from this Louisana soulstress (and a #1 R&B hit back in '67). I love the idea of a custom 45...makes me wish I had thought of that for my own wedding but oh well, maybe for the 10th anniversary.

John Coltrane: Body and Soul
From Body and Soul (Atlantic, 1960). Also on Coltrane's Sound.

From Saturday's wedding, I'm including one of the songs I played during dinner (yes, O-Dub does dinner jazz), "Body and Soul" by John Coltrane, featuring the majestic McCoy Tyner on piano, dropping an opening riff for the ages. I didn't realize this, but when "Body and Soul" originally appeared as a song in the musical Three's a Crowd in 1930, it was treated as too suggestive and banned from radio for a year. This is a beautiful rendition, like most of Coltrane's ballads from his Atlantic and Impulse years. The song just moves you.

Alton Ellis: I'm Still In Love With You
From Sings Rock and Soul (Coxsone, 1967). Also on I'm Still In Love With You.

Lastly, one song I didn't play but would love to at someone's wedding (apparently, I'm now for hire; holler): "I'm Still In Love With You," by Alton Ellis. This is NOT a cover of the Al Green song but rather, an original (I believe) by the prolific Jamaican innovator of rocksteady. Beautiful, beautiful tune and a classic riddim once Althea and Donna got their hands on it.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

posted by O.W.

Lloyd Charmers: Let's Get It On
From Trojan Motor City Reggae (Trojan, 2006)

Little Beaver: Let the Good Times Roll
From Party Down (Cat, 1974)

Betty Wright: Tonight Is the Night
From Danger - High Voltage (Alston, 1974)

My sister-in-law is starting a dance class and is looking for suggestions for suitable music. To be more specific, she's looking for: ""songs that make you feel like getting your groove on. Sexy slow uptempo or mid tempo, it's all good we're just asking for some ideas of what makes you feel sexy." I've thrown some suggestions her way but I figured I could gather a few from the Soul Sides crowd.

Here are two songs that came to mind for me:

"Let's Get It On" is practically de rigeur under these conditions but I thought I'd offer up the song with a twist - a really nice reggae cover by Lloyd Charmers that does a nice job of working off the original without straying too far. It's not better than Gaye's original - nothing ever could be - but it's a cool twist on a familiar classic.

The Little Beaver song is something I've been meaning to post for a long time but as part of a Little Beaver post...I still haven't gotten around to that (obviously) but this seemed like a good opportunity to pull out this, one of my favorite songs by one of Miami's finest. I love how the song hits this perfect balance as a soulful funk tune (or funky soul tune) with an irresistible rhythm that, for me at least, always seems to inspire a scrunched scowl that says, "oh yeah baby." You know what I mean.

Last song is the original version of Betty Wright's hit "Tonight Is the Night." Most folks are familiar with her live version and strangely, it's very hard to find her first version on CD. I can see why the live version is more celebrated but I've always liked this studio take too - it's more mellow, a bit more slick (vs. the rawness of the live one) but still has that familiar melody and hook that people know so well. That plus, c'mon - it's just about the best song ever written about losing one's virginity (albeit, no one's first time likely goes this groovy).

What sexy jams would you suggest for my sister-in-law's class?

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