Friday, November 28, 2014

Heathland


In recent weeks a constant trickle of jazz albums have been appearing in one of the chazzas local to me. If this carries on much longer I will start referring to it as the jazz emporium! I don’t have many jazz albums in my collection but I reckon its jazz section has doubled in the last few weeks. I know I have not been the only one snapping them up as they appear, and I have not always, if ever, been first to the fresh ones, so I can’t help wondering what I have missed. I’m happy anyway. At £1 an album I have taken a chance on quite a few of the albums and have had a about a 50% success rate on finding ones that grab me on first listen. II is also helping me expand my jazz knowledge. 
   
I was aware of the Heath Brothers really only through For The Public which appeared on a 45 and was always a favourite of mine back in the 70s. On the strength of that I picked up a copy of their 1981 album Expressions Of Life at said “jazz emporium” recently. At the same time one of my “blind” purchases was Clifford Brown’s Brownie Eyes. I had not heard of Clifford Brown before; from the extensive sleeve notes I learnt that he was a very talented young trumpeter who, like a few others who played that instrument, tragically died young (in Brown’s case at 27 in a car accident). The notes also describe in some detail the tracks on the album – they are from various early 50s sessions and group lineups. The double bassist on almost all the tracks was Percy Heath, and Jimmy Heath also played tenor sax on one track.

Percy and Jimmy had started playing in the 40s. Soon after the Clifford Brown sessions captured on Brownie Eyes Percy Heath would be a core member of The Modern Jazz Quartet for many years. Jimmy Heath featured on many recordings on the great Riverside label, and played with many top names - including Milt Jackson and Art Farmer - in the 60s and into the 70s. In 1975 along with their younger brother Albert (“Tootie”) and guitarist Stanley Cowell they formed The Heath Brothers. With slightly varying line ups The Heath Brothers were together as a touring and recording group until 1983.

Here are two tracks form very much opposite ends of The Heath Brothers’ – especially Percy's – career.


(In which the Brothers lope down the path well trodden by the jazz fraternity in the 70s and early 80s i.e. the one that led to the disco. Mtume has production credit here. I can clearly picture the  mirror ball slowly spinning around to this one).



(The Clifford Brown Sextet: Clifford, Gigi Gryce, Charlie Rouse, Art Blakey, John Lewis, and Percy Heath) 

Friday, November 21, 2014

We can still imagine


My lasting impression is there have been plenty of warm days and, apart from a dreadful August, the sun had its hat set at a jaunty angle more often than not this year. The  autumn has been long, and as recently as this Tuesday I enjoyed a long and pleasantly sunny lunchtime walk - I even saw a Red Admiral butterfly. It was certainly difficult dragging myself back into the office. 

The weather today though was miserable, and I can't help thinking that winter is now upon us.       

But we can still imagine....

Clea Bradford - Summertime  1968

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dial T for Tex


Back to the Friday double headers.

I’ve always liked Joe Tex. His recording career started in 1955 and his early releases were on King, Ace, and Anna. In 1961 he moved to Buddy Killen’s Dial label which was his home for almost all of the ensuing two decades. Joe had so many singles released I continue to come across ones I hadn’t been aware of before. Also, the Dial label is one of those that didn’t change its design much over the years so when I do find a single that’s new to me I often struggle to place it in Joe’s career without referring to the Interweb. Today’s offering is a case in point.

It turns out this single was released in February 1970, a little bit later than I would have placed it. February 1970 was about 18 months before the music bug really got hold of me (around then I would have been obsessing over Chelsea – I still do that - and getting excited about their march towards Wembley and a memorable FA Cup Final victory over Leeds). I thought I would look up the charts to see what everybody was buying at the time this single was in the shops (and, mystifyingly, staying in the shops it would appear). I found the Billboard Hot 100 for 28/02/70 in a copy of the magazine on Google Books, and on the page next to the printed Hot 100 there was an advert for You’re Right, Ray Charles as one to watch!  

So what was in the charts then? There was a surprisingly strong tendency to the “middle of the road” I thought but perhaps, when you really analyse them, the charts, almost by definition, have been forever thus. There was less Rock music on the chart than I thought there would be, although I suppose by 1970 the album was more of a vehicle for Rock, and Glam had not yet emerged. Edison Lighthouse with Love Grows was doing well both sides of the pond and was #1 in the UK. That was just ahead of Lee Marvin’s Wand’rin’ Star – a single I still have from back then – although it must have been one of my parent’s purchases originally. Also in the UK charts were Kenny Rogers & The First Edition with Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town. I do remember liking that one at the time. A certain Australian who now, following recent developments, will now become air-brushed from entertainment history no doubt was doing well with Two Little Boys. And in the lower reaches of the Top 40 proof that the Northern Soul scene was significant well before it went overground later in the 70s: The Tams Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy and The Contours with the classic Just A Little Misunderstanding (I was aware of neither at the time). In the Billboard Hot 100 Simon & Garfunkel were at #1 with Bridge Over Troubled Water. Soul and R&B were very well represented in the top 20, making up 50% of the entries with the likes of Sly & the Family Stone, The Temptations, The Jackson Five, and The Delfonics. Soul and R&B made up close to 40% of the entire top 100 by my reckoning. I also noticed that just appearing in the lower reaches of the R&B charts was Al Green with his first release on Hi, You Say It. Now there is another record I had not previously known. Al’s, and Willie Mitchell’s, classic sound had yet to appear, Tired Of Being Alone – one of the first songs to sell me on Soul – was still over a year away. 

So, I have this Joe Tex single placed in time now.

Joe’s songs often tell stories and contain a rap (in the old sense of the word). This A side is one of them but it’s primarily one for the dancers and I’m surprised it isn’t better known. The B side is wonderful too, in its own quirky way, and a real bonus to my ears. As I say, it is quirky and has an unusual structure, and I think I even detect a bit of Pearl & Dean action going on too!    

Enjoy both, and the crackles!






      

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FreeMasonry

I started buying records in the early 70s. I didn’t consider myself a collector then, I just bought them when I could afford it. It would have been around 1976 I started to accumulate records – when I started work and had some spare cash for the first time, and then started DJing. I still didn’t think of myself as a collector but in hindsight I was by then demonstrating collector traits. For one thing I started to concentrate on particular genres and types of record – soul/funk, punk/new wave 45s, and disco 12”. But more significantly, I never gave records away or swapped them or sold them. I say never, but I do distinctly remember owning Barbara Mason’s 1973 album Lady Love, and then not having it anymore. I do seem to remember it was a conscious decision to release it back into the wild based on the fact that a) it didn’t really have any tracks on it that I could play out as a DJ, b) I couldn’t convince myself I liked Barbara Mason’s voice and c) it really wasn’t very good(?). At the same time I freed a few more records from my fledgling collection I think but can’t remember what they were (hang on, I do remember one – Roberta Flack Blue Lights In The Basement, and I replaced that one a few years ago), and I can’t think of any other purges.

The fact that I distinctly remember that Barbara Mason album is strange though. Was it because it was the first album I ever thought about purging? Or was it because it was something originally pulled from a cut-out bin (fond memories), in my favourite genre, and I’m sure a blind purchase? That’s it, I think. It was an early representation of my obsession with vinyl at the dawn of my collecting bent - especially of the soul variety – and, as such, I have felt ever since that I gave away a piece of my life.     

I have never come across a copy of Lady Love in the wild since. In fact I had never come across any other Barbara Mason albums in the wild until earlier this month. I was idling away my lunch hour in a local ... er ... “spot” for want of a better description. It used to be a garden centre, but now seems to be in a state of semi closure and appears to have turned into a sort of static indoor car boot sale. People can rent a small area, or just a table, and sell whatever they want, generally of the 2nd hand flavour. I quite often mooch around it but this latest visit was the first time I had ever seen any records there. At last, I thought. Rooting through them it was a pretty motley collection of easy listening, pop(pap) and big bands, but in amongst the stack I did find a Mighty Diamonds 12”… and a Barbara Mason album. They weren’t priced so I left them and went to ask. “It depends which ones you’re talking about” the old guy said “I know a bit about records and there is some good brass band stuff in that lot” (!), or something along those lines. Here we go I thought, he has no idea but he’s going to ask silly money. “Oh, just a Barbara Mason album and a 12 single is all I’m interested in”, I replied betting he would never have heard of Barbara Mason. I was right and he named his price “50p each for those”. Right, almost free then. I went to get them. (Incidentally, as I was paying, the old guy commented on the Mighty Diamonds 12”: “Cor, they go back a bit”. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking of the reggae group).

So now, after all these years, I own a Barbara Mason album again, and it’s title is… A Piece Of My Life !

This was her penultimate album before turning her back on recording to focus on a publishing career in 1984. She recorded her first album - Yes I’m Ready - as an eighteen year old in 1965. The title song was a massive pop and R&B hit. Ten more albums followed, on a variety of labels, with moderate success throughout the early to mid 70s in the R&B charts. She bowed out in 1984 with another sizeable hit, at least in the clubs - Another Man from the album Tied Up.

Barbara certainly has a distinctive voice. It reminds me of honey. Sweet then? No not really. To me honey (or at least the few varieties that have graced my toast) tastes sweet and sour/bitter all at the same time. I like it but I often wonder why I like it. And that’s the same feeling I’m coming around to with Barbara Mason’s voice. 

On first play I was immediately quite taken with this album, but after a second play I wasn’t so sure. Now I’m playing it again and yes it has some merit, especially side 2. Eight of the ten tracks are written by Barbara Mason – she should be known as a singer-songwriter really, but for some reason that has never really been a term bandied around in black music circles. The tracks, with the exception of the dancefloor pitched opener, are very much late night low light music and on the face of it are all much of a muchness. Or are they? In America alone there are over 300 varieties of honey apparently, each with their own flavour, although I’m sure, in many cases, the flavour differences are very subtle. Perseverance may allow me to identify ten subtly different flavours of Barbara on this album, and eventually to love Barbara Mason’s voice as I do honey. So I will not be setting this one free again just yet.  
       

Barbara Mason – All Inside Of Me 1980

Friday, November 07, 2014

Pleased to meet you Hank


For the last couple of years I had been thinking of buying a portable turntable but had never quite managed to press the buy button. This was partly because of the price .v. the variable reviews and partly because I wondered how much I would use it – I haven’t been an avid record fair visitor to date and to use a portable at a charity shop or car boot just doesn’t seem right, or practical. But I have been thinking lately that my buying pattern may start moving more towards quality than quantity and so record fairs maybe the way to go as far as physical digging is concerned. So when this one (an ION LP2Go) came up at only £30 including postage (almost half price) I couldn’t resist.    
     
Last weekend it had its first outing at the local small R&R slanted record fair. In truth I wasn’t looking to spend much money as quite a few records have already dropped through the letterbox this last few weeks, but I looked on this outing as an exercise in getting familiar with the ION.  I always dig for soul, but at this fair there is very little I haven’t seen before. I may have seen the records before but I hadn’t heard them. So my new toy allowed me to run through the rest of the vaguely interesting ones – and in most cases discount them for good.  
At one point there were four or five of us all in a line sat down hunched over our portables with a stack of records in front of us. The portables were all shapes and sizes. Design wise the ION is based on the original classic of its type - the Soundburger. I thought it was funny - there I was a somewhat ageing has been with my new piece of kit and next to me was a young gun with his girlfriend, and what looked like an original Soundburger. His girlfriend seemed to be looking at me, and my ION, quite a bit. I guessed she was inwardly scoffing at my uncool, and admittedly in comparison somewhat clunky looking, bit of hardware. I did notice though that after an initial spin the Soundburger wasn’t getting a lot of use. Showing its age and reliability problems creeping in maybe. I know, that’s a comment that can also easily apply to me! But as far as the portables were concerned perhaps I could at least have the last laugh.

With the Soul cheapie bins finally exhausted this portable is now going to allow me to start exploring some of the other records for sale at this fair i.e. R&R, early R&B especially, and even maybe some Hillbilly! I am no expert in these genres so in the past taking a punt was not really an option but now I’m all tooled up!

This bit of technology may turn out to be a costly purchase: on the one hand it will stop me buying average or worn records, but on the other hand it has effectively opened up whole vistas of old records in new (to me) genres. I made a brief start on a box of cheapie early R&B and was happy with this 1961 release from the, at that time, prolific Hank Ballard & The Midnighters. This record I will forever remember as the first one ‘found’ with the help of my portable turntable. For that reason I think I may call it Hank.


And to my ears the even better B side….


Sunday, November 02, 2014

ST-0047: Cover up at source

Sorry for another gap in posting. This has been, at least in part, due to being a bit preoccupied with a bit of detective work of late. Warning! Anorak on!....   

I bought a little batch of Stax 45s the other day. An attraction of this stack of Stax was the inclusion of a copy of STA0011 Carla Thomas I’ve Fallen in Love (With You) which I had recently…er… fallen in love with. But when I dropped my newly acquired copy on the turntable I was crestfallen - it didn’t play I’ve Fallen in Love at all but instead a slow soul/jazz instrumental (featuring amongst other instruments a guitar that immediately made me think of George Benson). So, a mispress - you could say a cover-up manufactured in the pressing plant.

After the initial disappointment I decided to try and identify the track I was hearing, which was actually pretty good. Off and on over a number of days I have had tremendous fun with a bit of sleuthing.



The starting point was the deadwax etched ST-0047 and a ZTSB number. The ZTSB number matched the label, but the label stated ST-0046 not ST-0047. This led me into the wonderful world of Stax master numbers and a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list of them at 45cat complied by Peterh. The penny finally dropped with me that the numbers are consecutive, and the letter prefix denotes the label (Stax or one of its subsidiaries) that it was released on. Interestingly 0047 and 0048 are two of the only early numbers missing on Peter’s list of masters.

So this mystery track was presumably destined for a Stax release that never happened? But it didn’t sound like a track that would be released on Stax (it certainly wasn’t Booker T & The MGs). So was the master misnamed, could it have been released on another label? The Stax related Hip and Magic Touch labels for example had releases around a similar time. The style of the track made me think it would have been more at home on Enterprise though. Researching Enterprise releases and artists led me eventually to Art Jerry Miller and I was beginning to think that maybe it could be a track from the 1969 album Rated X Suggested For Mature Souls, especially as the track times were all in the ballpark. It wasn’t any of those I could find on YouTube though. Looking elsewhere for other possible links to Art Jerry Miller soundfiles led me to a couple of old Ace/Kent compilation CDs. No links to any soundfiles, but what is that last track on that compilation? – The Soul Merchants For: Wes – Wes Montgomery? not George Benson but close … So back to YouTube, it has most things, would it have For: Wes? Yes, I click play and… 

THAT’S THE  BADGER!

(The feeling I experienced was not dissimilar to the one the lad in the Northern Soul film had when he found out the cover-up the big DJ had been playing was the Salvadors!)

My Carla Thomas 45 on one side plays TheSoul Merchants For: Wes.

It turns out For: Wes was released no less than three times on the WEIS label in ’68–’69 (W3436, W-3439, WEA-3001). It is undoubtedly obscure, but of no particular value it seems. The last two releases were distributed by Volt, which is of course related to Stax. Peterh at 45cat has copies of the first two releases and has confirmed that neither of them has 0047 in any guise etched in the deadwax. But does WEA-3001 I wonder?
In the end how this WEIS release got a ST master number is a mystery. Perhaps they had considered releasing it on Stax but then decided it wouldn’t get a national release and of course as I said above the track didn’t really fit with the Stax sound. How it got onto my copy of this Carla Thomas 45 remains a mystery too. I know the person I bought it from has multiple copies of this 45 that were unplayed deadstock pulled from a warehouse in the US around 1972 (yes from the same batch as I mentioned here). I asked him if he could check his other copies, and it turns out they are all correct pressings, which does make my copy a nice curiosity.


A copy of the Carla Thomas 45 that actually plays what it is supposed to is on its way to me now too.  

                           

UPDATE: Marc's comments sent me down the Eddie Silvers rabbit hole. Eddie was credited on the Weis release of For Wes and is undoubtedly the saxophonist on the track. You can learn some more about Eddie Silvers here (near the bottom of the article) and there you can also find a picture of The Soul Merchants! The full story on Eddie would make a very intererting read I think and give a good insight into the workings of the R&B/Soul world in the 50s and 60s down at the grass roots. Unfortunately I believe Eddie Silvers passed away in the 70s.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lefty love


Swinging back into motion here again after a very enjoyable holiday in Turkey.

Barbara Lynn Ozen pumped out around 40 singles between the early ‘60s and late ‘70s and I love her. She is still very much active on the circuit too.

Barbara is left handed. So am I. So is Mrs Darce – and I love her for real!  


A curious 45 this. The B side is billed as Lonely Heartache but in fact plays Unfair. The wax, as opposed to the label, is correct I think as there are copies around that do bill it as Unfair.  A flip side in more ways than one as it is definitely not in keeping with the sentiments of the A side, or this post, but hey, I’m a vinyl junkie and it’s a side well worth hearing, so here it is: