Monday, October 07, 2019

I can feel it

I'm a sucker for picking up records in the wild just on the fact they look to be in great, almost unplayed, condition (M- as the grading would go). I might not have any great desire to have the record for it's content, the condition alone can be sufficient attraction to make me part with some cash if the entry price is cheap enough. I think the motivation is if I see a record that is forty-odd years old and is seemingly as good as new I want to keep it that way and save it from an uncertain future - mishandled in a charity shop box, parted from its birth sleeve, forced to sit unloved and unnoticed between scratched, grubby, and frankly awful Cilla Black and Ken Dodd singles, that sort of thing. (Of course the record must hint at potentially having some merit in the grooves, on those grounds a minty Cilla Black or Ken Dodd record would not qualify!).

And so it was in the case of this single 50p was certainly cheap enough, and I was familiar with Bo & Ruth, although not these particular tracks.

You're Gonna Get Next To Me was a big UK hit in the mid 70s for Bo & Ruth (a much bigger hit than in the US), and one I remember fondly. But in the end it was all over the radio at the time to the point of being overplayed I think.

Bo & Ruth were Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis. Just another duo in the Peaches & Herb vein I probably thought at the time. It wasn't until a few years ago I learnt that Bo was in fact Michael James Kirkland who, along with his brother Robert, had been in the group Mike & The Censations, and cut a number of few beautifully soulful singles in the the second half of the 60s. Many of those singles are highly collectable now. (Arguably There Is Nothing I Can Do About It is the best of them, a B side at the time). But did I get that wrong? Was Bo in fact Robert, not Michael James Kirkland. "Bo" would certainly fit better as a shortened form of Robert, after all, No, apparently Michael took the performing name Bo when he thought he might be confused with Michael Jackson. Maybe he chose Bo as a nod to his brother? Bearing in mind Mr Jackson's success at the time many people would have probably been happy to be confused with him. Testament to MJK that he believed in his own ability – and there is no denying he had a great voice.

I guess you could call Ruth Davis something of a journeywoman on the Soul scene. She had appeared in at least a couple of groups in the 60s, including a short stint as an Ikette. In 1971 she had a single released on Kent. It was a slab of uptempo funky soul but didn't stand out form the crowd and didn't do anything chartwise. After that disappointment Ruth went back to singing in local clubs until she was signed to Claridge and ultimately teamed with “Bo” Kirkland.

Bo & Ruth had seven singles released in the US, but only two in the UK. You're Gonna Get Next To Me emerged in the US late in '76 and got a UK release about six months later in the UK. It was a massive hit in the UK and went on to be a worldwide hit. To follow up its success in the UK EMI went back to Bo & Ruth's second US single Easy Loving, which had initially seen the light of day in the US a couple of years earlier. Personally, now I have listened to it I think Easy Loving is a bit average, and they probably would have been better going with the single that followed ...Next To Me in the US – Stay By My Side, stronger to my ear and one I remember featuring here many moons ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the B side though. Can You Feel It was included on Bo & Ruth's one and only album but didn't appear on a US single. It is a lovely slice of gentle, soothing Soul with some nice understated piano and horn additions and, yes, I can certainly feel it.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

I'm reminded

I notice it is a month since my last “comeback” post. How can that be possible?! Retirement has clearly caused me to enter some sort of time warp!

Recently I have felt more pangs of nostalgia for the days when trawling for Soul 45s on the interweb seemed to be easier and more pleasurable. Because my collection was much smaller then it was easy to find things to buy and it was more pleasurable because I was discovering so many artists that were new to me. It was a good deal cheaper too. Those days of $2 to the pound and reasonable postage costs seem a long time ago now. In fact I just looked it up and the exchange rate hit $2.10 to the pound late in 2007. That was a little longer ago than I thought, actually. But just five years ago it was still at $1.65 to the pound. I would be happy with that now.

In the early Noughties I had been bitten (all over again) by the Soul bug big time, and in 2007 I would have been buying a fair amount of 45s from the States on ebay. Of course with hindsight I should have bought more.

I remember I had become aware of Otis Clay's output and I was seeing his One-derful 45s on ebay fairly regularly. They are fairly common and I thought I had bought some at the time. When two popped up from UK sellers recently within the space of a few weeks (I don't recall seeing any copies for some time on ebay, at least on the sellers lists that I have been trawling through) I checked the collection and was a bit surprised to find I had neither. They were reasonably priced so now copies of both of Otis Clay's 1966 released 45s have finally taken a long overdue place in the collection. (Incidentally, when these 45s were released in 1966 the exchange rate was $2.79 to the pound).

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What day is it, anyway?

It is evident I have been struggling to keep this thing going. Time to break another long silence.

There has been a life development since the my last post – both Mrs Darce and I are now retired! So at least I should have more time on my hands to post a few more things here. Hmm. Not so fast! Because I should tell you I retired at the end of April. That's nearly four months ago now, where did that time go!

I had been been thinking of retiring for the last year or two but what had stopped me was the thought I might not have enough things to do and I might be bored (for “I” also read “we”, of course). So, having taken the plunge what have we been doing for this last four months? Not much at all really – no big holidays (one is coming next year); unlike some of my friends I'm not a golfer, a sport that can easily take up a lot of time; and I have not yet taken up any new interests. So am I bored? No, and the weird thing is the days seem to go by really quickly. I guess we are just simply enjoying not having to be at anybody's beck and call, and not having to have a routine. I also find I have this real urge to spend as much time as possible outside, that urge had been growing in me for some time now. In that regard the summer has helped, so we have been going on lots of walks, bike rides, and lots of general pottering in the garden. As the days shorten and winter approaches those activities will no doubt reduce and it will be interesting to see what fills the time then.

This first flush of retirement had also, until a few weeks ago, caused the record collection to be a bit neglected. But now I find I'm immersed in them again, already anticipating winter, and long nights, maybe.

So I won't promise anything but there maybe some more action again here from now on (although we are off to Cornwall for a few days next week so straight away that will cause another silence).

I think I have featured this 45 from The Intruders before* but I thought it would be appropriate in the circumstances – in the land of the retired it is very easy to completely lose track of which day of the week it is, so it is easier to say that every day is a holiday!

* I just checked. In fact it has featured twice before, way back at the dawn of this blog in 2006,  and again in 2011.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Dial O for obscure

If you are a fan of classic Soul & R&B music will undoubtedly know, and love, Joe Tex. It then follows that you will be familiar with the Dial label. In 1961 Buddy Killen set up the Dial label primarily to feature Joe Tex. Joe had the first release on the label and, fittingly, in 1979 he had the last. In between he had countless other singles released, many of which would justifiably feature in any Soul Hall of Fame. The label was primarily a Soul label – for example some other artists you will probably recognise that also had releases on the label are Clarence Reid, Bobby Marchan, Paul Kelly, and Annette Snell – but it was not exclusively so with, I believe, some Pop and Country tinged records featured. Dial was quite a prolific label, and at time of writing this there were 158 US releases documented on 45cat (albeit a few of those are promo doubles). So I think we can say it is as well known, well loved, and well documented.

Looking at the catalog numbers on 45cat there appear to be hardly any missing Dial releases. But recently whilst trawling Ebay I found one of them! I was in the process of buying something else so I thought I would scan the other items the seller had for sale to see if there was anything else worth getting and so diluting the postage cost (as you do). The Dial label caught my attention and when I went off to t'interweb to see if I could find some more info on this particular 45 … I found nothing. Nothing at all. It was not on 45cat, not on Discogs, there were no links to old sales lists or ebay listings anywhere; the only references to it were a few repeated Dial master release lists (e.g. Global Dog Productions). Likewise I could not find any info at all on the artist – Sherrie Hughes.
I was curious now and as the price was small I decided I had to have this record, so I bought it blind.

Info on Sherrie Hughes maybe elusive but not so for the songwriters – Ronnie Wilkins and John Hurley – who were prolific, writing songs for Joe Tex and also some other very well known songs and big hits – Son Of A Preacher Man and Love Of The Common People being just two.

So have I found a lost Soul classic? No. Is it even Soul? Not really. The A side I would class as Pop. My preference is for the B side (presented here) which is more difficult to pigeon hole, it has elements of Country, Soul and Pop to my ears, and on this side particularly Sherrie has a Country edge to her voice I think and is most probably white. It has some nice background vocals, I would be interested to know who the singers were. The pity is the track clocks in at just under two minutes and is sort of over before it really gets going.. But despite this not being the greatest of records it is not always what is in the grooves that counts. I have had my money's worth in researching this 45 (or attempting to) and had the pleasure of filling one of the tiny chinks in 45cat's Dial listing (yes the entry you now see for Dial 45-4043 on 45cat is mine). For these reasons this 45 will, from now on, sit proudly in my collection.

Sherrie Hughes – It's Just My Love That's Showing 1966

PS: Publishing this post sent me off on another quick bit of googling around this 45. I have now found that the A side -  I've Got A Lot Of Love (Left In Me) -  was originally recorded by Nancy Ames and was the B side to Friends And Lovers Forever which got a release (on both sides of the pond) late in 1965. It has been described as Northern Soul, but that is a bit of a stretch in my book. Nancy's version is superior I think with Sherrie's version maybe being pitched more fairly and squarely at a Pop audience.     

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lucky 13

Wake up! Wake up! You're thirteen!

If I can't muster a post on this blog's birthday – 13 on the 13th to boot – then there is surely no hope for it.

Once again I have been silent for a while – in fact, Happy New Year!

So, if there are any of you still checking in occasionally, I hear you wondering: were there reasons for the latest silence? Yes, and no. It all started with our central heating. Or rather, lack of it. We came home from our US trip at the end of last October knowing it needed some attention. The boiler, which is basically new, was happily pumping away but the radiators, one by one, had started to stop radiating. The man was called. He was puzzled, but decided some acid in the system and a flush through should sort it out. It didn't. As Christmas approached the only radiators giving out heat were in our kitchen and conservatory (they were on their own loop). As the system and the radiators were old we bit the bullet and decided to go for a re-pipe and replace most of the radiators. Unfortunately our man couldn't do it for six weeks from the point of decision. So we hunkered down in the lounge – which had a gas fire – and kitchen/conservatory over Christmas and throughout January. A couple of fan heaters were drafted in for other areas of the house. (It did make us think this was normal for our parents and us as children in the days before central heating was commonplace, and we don't know how lucky we are nowadays).

As far as this blog is concerned the point of all this is the record room, which is north facing and cool at the best of times, was bl**dy cold! A fan heater could warm it up but fan heaters are noisy and not conducive to listening to music. So the record room became almost out of bounds. It was the end of January – the day before the snow arrived luckily – before we could once again feel nice and toasty in our own house. The source of the original problem was never really found, but now we realise the system had not really been that efficient for years. The upheaval – floors up, furniture and stuff shuffled around, left its mark through most of February as we took the opportunity to redecorate a room and do some general sorting out. This meant the record room became a holding room so once again was almost off limits vinyl wise.

The record room is where I am typing this on my laptop, and although I could type it anywhere habit dictates that it is usually the record room, with vinyl in close proximity, where Feel It's posts are composed. That is the thing with habits too, when you fall out of them it sometimes takes a while to pick them up again. And so, now in mid March, that is how Feel It's 2019 is only just beginning. Quite frankly it was only the sudden realisation that his blog was about to be 13 that snapped me into action!

I could make a new blog year resolution to post more frequently, but I have never been one to make resolutions, so that is probably not a good idea. However, the record room is warm once again, and relatively clutter free, and I have broken the 2019 silence so there is a fair chance of some action around here again!

I have still been acquiring records (of course!), and a few have been played. One that became a real earworm was (another) Jackie Wilson single. As you dig deeper you realise there is so much to admire in his catalog. Once again peerless vocals matched by a stunning arrangement.

PS: As is tradition here on this day in March: !! Happy Birthday Candi Staton !!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Mystery lady?

I featured June Conquest's first single – Almost Persuaded, released in 1965 – earlier this year, so she was on my radar. As a result when I was flicking through that surprise box of 45s in Sandwich, MA on the last day of our holiday and I saw the flash of the striking Windy C label and her name on it my heartbeat sped up a bit.

June's known recording career spanned seven years, but in all that time she only had five singles released. I believe she hailed from the Chicago area, so her initial release on Fame is a bit of a puzzle. So too her second on Jet Set , which had a Washington DC address on the label, although I have read that at least one of the tracks was recorded in Houston. All over the map!

The record featured here was her third single and finds her in Chicago on Curtis Mayfield's Windy C label. Windy C was basically set up to feature The Five Stairsteps (a group I am a great fan of and I have just about all of their Windy C releases), June's 45 was the only one not by that group on the label. I wonder why it was decided to release on Windy C rather than another of Curtis' label – Mayfield – which was also active at the time? Maybe it was thought that the style of June's songs fitted more closely to those of the The Five Stairsteps. Whatever the reasons a few months after this 45 was released Cameo-Parkway, which distributed Windy C went out of business and that was the end of Windy C. This untimely event may well have hindered the development of June's recording career. A solo release on Curtom in early '68 – Curtom's first release by the way and one of only three as a locally distributed label – and a duet with Donny Hathaway four wholw years later were her only other releases.

Very little is known of June. The assumption is that Conquest, at least, is not her real name. Who knows? maybe she is hiding in plain sight – rather like another soul singer from the Sixties, Debbie Taylor, who had “disappeared” in the Seventies leaving a few top notch recordings behind. Many people who loved Debbie's records had wondered what had happened to her. In fact she had continued to be sporadically active in the recording arena and had also been performing live on local circuits as a soul and jazz singer under her real name Maddie “Maydie” Myles, only announcing her previous incarnation as Debbie Taylor in 2011. So, in a similar vein, could June Conquest be out there somewhere performing today?

This is another 45 with two strong sides so I'm sharing both of them.