Friday, May 15, 2015

Almost too/two eager

Had some minutes to kill earlier in the week so nipped into a charity shop (of course). Together with last weekend's booter finds these have restored my digging faith which had been seriously flagging lately. There was quite a lot of vinyl to rummage through, and while most of it was certainly staying in the shop I was very happy with to come away with two albums and a single – one Soul comp, a great slab of post punk a la Slits from the Mo-dettes, and a lovely Lovers 45 which will appear here very soon.    

The Soul comp is New York City Soul, a Kent compilation album from 1985 focussing on the Laurie, Rust, Spectrum and Providence labels. Kent Soul comps are always worth it. I wondered about this one though as the focus was the Laurie label which in my limited experience is a bit too poppy for my liking. But it turns out to be well worth it.

The original title for this post was going to be “Eager to please”. Why? Because in the cover notes of this album "Harboro' Horace" (aka Ady Croasdell) points out that Brenda Lee Jones, who is also Jean in Dean & Jean,  would resurface in the early Seventies as Brenda Lee Eager. I certainly didn’t know that but was willing to share this “fact” with you today. I thought it best to do a bit of on-line research on Brenda first with the result that I am now confident to say that Jones (RIP) and Eager are certainly not the same person. Unusual for Kent to get this wrong. I suppose 30 years on and with a medium available that encourages information sharing it is not surprising that new facts have come to light. At the same time though when “Horace” wrote the notes for the album it would have been little more than 10 years after Brenda Lee Eager’s duets with Jerry Butler (and her sublime 1974 Larry Mizell produced When I’m With You), and Eager I’m sure would still have been active on the scene. So it would surely have been easy to check?

Turning to Brenda Lee Jones, to summarise what I have found out in my reading around: she may have come from Dayton, Ohio. She was the Jean half of Dean & Jean that recorded on Rust in the first half of the Sixties. By this time she was married, her married name being Melson. After the Dean & Jean duo she went on to record a number of solo outings up until the late Sixties. She then took a break from the music scene to raise an adopted son. She returned to the scene around 1971, although had little output after that. Brenda passed away in 2001 four years after her long time husband.

Both these tracks can be found on the New York City Soul compilation. Silly Little Girl was, unbelievably, left unreleased at the time of its recording (around 1965?). You’re The Love Of My Life was one side of a Rust 45 issued in 1967.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When the world turns blue

So, the Tories, somewhat surprisingly, won the election this time around with a few seats to spare. Painful for many, but the “shy Tories” had their say at the ballot box. I don’t do politics here, so I’ll leave it at that.      

The mighty Blues are Premiership champions again for the first time since the UK had its last general election. TSO is back at the helm and normal service is resumed.

And what did I find at the car boot this Sunday? Blues albums!

PS. This post's title is borrowed from a Merry Clayton track. I would have posted it but my 45 is a bit scratchy. You can have a nice YouTube HD clip instead.  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I have bought virtually no vinyl for a few weeks now. The charity shops and the car boots are dry and it seems everything that take my fancy on-line is out of my price range. I was casting around on the ‘net the other evening for a fresh fix of soul 45s when I came across an Oscar Weathers 45. I put it on my watch list. Then I thought – do I already have it? Checked the T-Z box and, yes, I do! Shame on me for letting it lie in the box unplayed, for a good few years now too in all probability. Now there’s an idea – why don’t I go rummaging around in my boxes and play some soul I already own? Radical!   

I can find hardly any info on Oscar Weathers. He has his page on Deep Soul Heaven, but even the good Sir cannot really offer any info on the man himself. I found a very old thread (1999, that’s really is old in Internet terms) on a Yahoo group where it was mentioned Oscar hailed from Macon, Georgia. How did his Southern sounding recordings come to appear on a Philly label, though? Well that was probably down to Alan Walden.

In checking Oscar’s discography I was a bit surprised to see that this 45 was released in 1970, it sounds earlier than that to me. It may even have been early 1971 in fact, it got its first mention in the Jan 23 1971 edition of Billboard. By April 3 1971 You Wants to Play could be found, static, in the middle reaches of the Soul Singles chart. By then it was in its 6th week on the chart. Digging deeper into the Billboard magazines from around that time – meandering around these old magazines in all their preserved glory at Google books is a thing I get constant pleasure from – I found that Oscar Weathers, along with Bill Coday and Phillip Mitchell to name two others, were all part of the roster of artists on a then fledgling Macon based artist management, publishing, and recording company – Hustlers Inc. This had been set up in late 1970 by Alan Walden, and Eddie Floyd also had involvement. By that time Alan Walden had already had plenty of experience in music publishing having been part of Redwal Music along with his older brother Phil, and Otis Redding. When A Man Loves A Woman was just one of the songs they had publishing rights on.  Hustlers Inc. therefore obviously had plenty of connections in the music industry and would have been well placed to promote their artists to labels nationally so that is probably how Oscar Weathers got a deal on a Philly label.

It’s odd that You Wants to Play was the side that got the chart credit at the time of its release. Nowadays this 45 is always listed in discographies with The Spoiler as the A, which seems to be correct if you look at the matrix numbers on the label. (Incidentally, I have just noticed they follow the Phil LA Of Soul label’s convention for numbering, which I have always loved – I’m sad, I know - i.e. in this case TB-OWE-5 and -6 so TB for Top & Bottom, O for Oscar, WE for Weathers  and 5 and 6 for the fifth and sixth tracks by the artist on the label). I could imagine The Spoiler being more instantly radio friendly too and therefore having more hit potential but it is You Wants To Play that seemed to get the sales and the plaudits.

Deservedly so too, it’s a gorgeous track. Written by Oscar it runs to four minutes, quite long for a 45 of that era.  Oscar is tired of his woman playing games with his heart and attentions. The games were no doubt stormy, the flood came, and now Oscar has had enough and this song is a glorious meander through the alluvial deposits that are his thoughts. (Just there too, is that guitar describing an oxbow lake?) . The guitar and horns provide some delightful touches and the (way)backing singers are hauntingly beautiful. In fact I would be happy if this song could meander on forever.      

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Boxing match

It seems that C and I are involved in a spot of inspiration tennis at the moment. (Hang on, this is starting to sound like an episode of Grandstand!)

I couldn't resist this box of singles at a car boot earlier this month. "They're all reggae, roots, lovers" the seller said. Yeah, right. A quick flick through told me there were likely lots (and lots) of dancehall and ragga which is not my cup of tea at all. It's funny how sellers like to pass off dancehall as reggae. Yes, dancehall and ragga is where reggae went but their soundscapes are so different they really shouldn’t be described as reggae. Well, they know what they're doing, I suppose, as dancehall is mostly a challenging listen (and almost worthless) in my limited experience. Still, there was bound to be something in there worth having, I thought, and I just felt like taking home a box of mystery 45s to sift through (especially as there was nothing else on the vinyl front to be had). I couldn’t budge him on his price but he had set that on the estimation of about 50 records in the box. I could see there were more than that so I handed over the money, I’m not a great haggler.

It turns out there were 85 records in the box. I have to say my gut feel on the content was borne out. Nevertheless, I have had enormous fun working through the box, and felt I have had my money’s worth simply by doing that.

On first play many of these records sounded a bit rough. I was sort of expecting that really, as I thought it came with the territory i.e. cheap local label presses. But I’m working through cleaning them and that is mostly having a marked improvement on the sound quality.     
So what is in this box? They were nearly all released in the period 1996-2006 it seems – so no roots or lovers in the classic tradition. But on a first quick play through I actually put aside about 30-40 that grabbed me enough to warrant further investigation. Tracking the records down on the internet has been a bit of a challenge due to the general lack of release numbers and the somewhat loose way artists and track names can be identified. I’ve managed to pinpoint many on Discogs though. This has opened my eyes to the staggering quantity of records some of these artists have released. I suppose this high release rate is driven by the nature of the dancehall scene where there is a constant battle to come up with a new sound. In the end it has to be quantity rather quality though.

I really wanted to like Harry Toddler's offerings (read it quickly as Hairy Toddler if you want!), and a version called Flying Green Puss (which involves the deejay/singer doing much clearing of throat a la Bob Fleming!), but they are in the out pile. One artist is called Teetimus, that name really makes me chuckle.

Also finding their way into the box were a few US R&B singles. There was a white label Angie Stone which is great and the two singles in the picture outside the box. These are bootlegs it seems (of K-Ci & JoJo and Usher). The label is the interesting thing though, both singles show a photocopy of the venerable US Volt label (VOA4010 B side to be exact - to save you looking that up it is The Emotions - Got To Be The Man). Why did the bootleggers choose that particular label and release I wonder? 

Of all the songs (if you can call them that), and their almost inevitable B side versions, the track that gets my #1 vote is an artist named on the label simply as Tami with So In Love on the Gibbo label. Some research tells me Tami is Tami Chynn, This single was released in 2005 which is about a year before Tami went “overground” into the worldwide pop arena. Tami was born in Jamaica. When she was 14 she came to England and spent three years in Leamington Spa studying performing arts. Her younger sister, Tessanne, won series 5 of the American version of The Voice. In 2009 she and Wayne Marshall, another dancehall artist, were married and they now have a child. Incidentally, there is at least one Wayne Marshall single in this box too.      

Another one that has worked its way into my brain is Sizzla with Baby and its Version. On Discogs Sizzla has a mind-boggling 925 singles listed! On many of these his singjaying just makes an appearance but he is co-credited and, as Discogs states: “he is very prolific even by Jamaican standards”. Discogs also informs us that this track is based on the Money Juggling rhythm, son now we know.

Sizzla – Baby  2004   

I’ll finish this post with Keety General’s Problems. For dancehall this lays down a marker as being out there on the edge of acceptable as far as I am concerned.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

AG by the end of the evening

Until now I have been living my life BG. In a few hours time, for the first time in my life, I will finally see one of my heroes perform. I'm going to see George Clinton and the P Funk gang.

Then I can count my days as AG - After George.

Will they play a P-Funked version of this I wonder?

The Parliaments - A New Day Begins  1969    

So here I am AG.
Well they didn't perform this but they did play for two and a half  hours (essentially with no break between songs/jams/grooves!) and it was, for me, a religious experience!!

The man himself was very fetching too in tramp's trousers, check shirt, striped pink tie and a hat that the barmy army down in the Caribbean would die for right now.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Identity crisis

Another cover story and, you’ve been warned, another visual abomination!

Back to my record fair visit the other week. So there I was flicking through the boxes of soul and funk 45s I had finally stumbled upon. What’s this Bob Marley & The Wailers single doing in here? Oh, wait a minute it’s not Bob. It’s The Dupars. Hang on, that’s one of those lovely Mayfield labels peeping out of the sleeve. It’s not the Dupars, it’s Marvin Smith – I like him!  

What a the sad predicament this single had found itself in. In a vain attempt to assert its identity it had decided to be a promo – i.e. same song both sides (think NY,NY – so good they named it twice!).   

Marvin Smith has featured here before on more than one occasion. The last time I featured a 45 of his bought on Record Store Day 2011, and of course RSD is just around the corner now. 

A quick reminder - Marvin used to be lead singer with The Artistics. For a moment I thought there was actually a coincidental link between this Marvin Smith 45 and the cover it found itself in. But I got my Du’s mixed up – you see, Marvin replaced Charles Davis in The Artistics, and Charles had previously been with the Dukays. Close!       

On the issue release of this single Who Will Do Your Running Now would have been the B side, which gets a lot of attention on the Northern/Crossover circuit I believe, but I prefer You’re Really Something Sadie, written by Curtis Mayfield; and the arrangement does have Curtis written all over it. Marvin himself was pretty excited about Sadie too as he recounted in a recent interview (scroll about half way down). Sadie is not really Northern and hence the value of a promo is not so high, but the song is a good one and that’s what counts.

*More than one site has this listed as a 1974 release which is much too late I think. Discogs puts it at 1969 which is more like it.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

So wrong... so right

Isn’t this picture is an assault to the eyes? For a start the colours clash like a bad fashion disaster, and what in God’s name is an obscure mid-sixties US soul gem of a 45 doing clothed in a mid-seventies sleeve of a UK company known for pop-soul (OK, I grant you, GTO did have a half decent roster: Donna Summer, Heatwave, Billy Ocean, and not forgetting Fox!, all made some pretty good records).

When I buy a 45 I like it to come in its original sleeve. This particular 45 was released in 1965 (it’s 50 years old!). LLP was a tiny label so I’m sure it wouldn’t have come in a company sleeve, but I would have expected a plain brown (probably) sleeve. Then I could have obsessed over thoughts of it lying around unwanted and unplayed in a warehouse or two, and maybe a garage or two too, for all of its 50 years until finally I came to its rescue, taking it out of it mailer, slowly turning it over as I admire it, carefully withdrawing it from the sleeve and placing it on the turntable, lowering the needle onto the run-in and hearing it give up – for the first time after all these years? – the secrets it holds in its grooves.

Imagine my initial gasp of horror when I pulled this out of its mailer. How could I perform my little ritual with any conviction when it was nestling in that sleeve?!  Its essence had been besmirched. What happened to its original sleeve? Did the poor record exist without a sleeve for some time before somebody so heartlessly mismatched it with the GTO sleeve? (probably not, actually, as the record is in tip-top condition). This came from a Soul dealer too, they ought to know better. If they had acquired it in this state they surely could have set the record (and sleeve) straight. I could have at least played out my little ritual then (even though it was really an illusion).

Get over it! It’s what’s in the grooves that counts. And both sides of this record contain something magical.

I’ve featured a Gloria Parker 45 here before (the ritual then was full and real!). As far as is known Gloria only released three records, two on LLP in 1965, and a final one on Samar in 1966 which was a disappointment in comparison to the LPP releases. That’s a shame, I would have enjoyed hunting down some more of her records, and performing my little ritual with them.