Thee Midnighters: Chicano Power b/w
Never Gonna Give You Up
On 7″ (Whittier, 1968). Also on Thee Complete Midniters.
The Magic Tones: Let’s Let Our Love Roll On b/w
There Is Nothing Better Than Love
On 7″ (Mah’s, 1960s).
James Young and the House Wreckers: Barkin’ Up the Wrong Tree b/w
On 7″ (Jetstream, 1960s)
Carrie Cleveland: Make Love To Me b/w
I Need Love
On 7″ (Audio-Ent, 197?)
There is something deeply satisfying about a 7″ with two great sides. I think part of this comes out with the digger’s dilemma of spending so much time sifting through piles of detritus in hopes of coming away with even one decent record and a double-sided single gives you twice as much bang for the buck. Here’s a selection of a few recent arrivals plus two older classics.
I’ve been hunting after that Midnighters’ 7″ for a while. It first appeared on La Raza Records and then was re-released on Whittier, where most of the Midnighters’ singles appeared. It’s more lo-fi than I would have liked but both are winning tunes. “Chicano Power” is a vigorous, mid-tempo instrumental soul workout that predicts some of what El Chicano would be cooking up in the years to come. For me, it’s all about their cover of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” a song that I almost never tire of hearing. (Straight up…I can’t say I love Jerry Butler’s work as a whole but this song is an all-time classique). Thee Midnighters’ cover sounds completely awesome that I wish I could have been in the studio to hear it; I imagine that with better acoustics, this version would be massive.
I first got a taste of Lee Williams and the Cymbals with their “L.C. Funk,” a classic “funk 45 for beginners” title, that De-Lite picked up from Rapda in the early ’70s (but was credited to the New Cymbals). Founded in Harlem, the band always had Williams at helm, regardless of name, and “I’ll Be Gone/I Love You More” was their first recording, done for the Newark label Carnival. “I’ll Be Gone” has an impressively heavy sound to it; I just love this kind of deep soul cut, especially with all the vocal harmonizations. And the flipside is just as good, if not better, especially with that intensely memorable (steel?) guitar line from the beginning. Usually, these kind of singles have a “fast song b/w slow song” but I love that it’s two ballads put back-to-back; works for me.
The Magic Tones were a semi-prolific Detroit group lead by two Tyrones (Douglas and Berkley), Virginia McDonald and a pre-Undisputed Truth Calvin Stephenson. They didn’t seem to have gotten that much national traction throughout their career but they also cut over a dozen records to their name; not too shabby! They recorded quite a bit on Mah’s (and later, Westbound) and this particular 7″ is the best I’ve ever enjoyed by them though maybe that’s because both sides remind me of other artists/song. The A-side is a snappy groover that opens with a killer guitar riff and then slides into a Smokey and the Miracles-type groover. The flipside is a lovely ballad w/ a backbeat (I’m sure there’s a more eloquent name for what I’m describing) that absolutely reminds me of The Intruders’ “Together” without being an actual cover or interpolation.
Speaking of interpolations though, it’s pretty clear to everyone that “Funky Booty” by the excellently named James Young and the House Wreckers is just biting the hell out of of “Mr. Big Stuff,” no? Not that I mind of course but the first time I heard it, halfway through it hit me, “oh wait, they’re just riffing on Jean Knight and Wardell! The A-side has a bit of that Southern flavor too but the heavy funk treatment definitely has a post-JBs edge to it. Altogether, a very solid funk 7″ that I’ve had in the crates since 2002 but only recently realized that I hadn’t bothered to digitize it before.
Similarly, I’ve had this Carrie Cleveland 7” since 2005 when I first bought a copy from Cool Chris at the Groove Merchant. I was reminded of it on a recent trip back to the GM where Chris had a copy for sale, significantly higher than I originally remembered it going for but as it turns out, the single has catapulted in value over the years. There’s an interesting story behind this single…Cleveland is a local Bay Area artist and she recorded the single twice (same songs on each one) but it’s only the *promo* copies of the single that anyone cares about. Apparently, the recording session for the second, commercial release resulted in a far, far inferior set of tunes. Even stranger is that Cleveland herself disliked both singles; she thought they were all embarrassingly bad and was reluctant to have other people listen to even the “good” version. I guess sometimes we’re our own worst critic since I think the promo version is super nice. It’s simple and unadorned and completely lovely with Cleveland’s light voice floating atop the keys, guitar and drums on both sides.