Tuesday, July 22, 2014

He means it, you feel it.

Don Covay deserves better recognition for his services to soul music. He is not mentioned in the same breath as Aretha, Marvin, and the like but he probably should be. His recording career started in the mid Fifties and was pretty much over by the mid Seventies – it terms of released material it peaked while at Atlantic in the mid-late Sixties. Not many of his own recordings charted big so unless you are a soul aficionado you may hardly be aware of him. At the same time, though, you may well be very familiar with some of his songs as he was a prolific songwriter and the stars have sung his songs: Aretha - “Chain Of Fools”, Gladys Knight & The Pips – “Letter Full Of Tears”, Little Richard – “I Don’t know What You’ve Got But It’s Got Me”, The Stones version of his 2nd biggest hit “Mercy, Mercy” are a few examples.    

Every now and then I have to remind myself of Don Covay’s greatness. I did it last year when I dug out his 1973 album Super Dude I from my collection, played it for the first time in too long, and realised it is up there with my favourite soul albums of all time.

I’m doing it again now. Just recently I acquired the precursor to his Super Dude album. Different Strokes For Different Folks was one of two albums he released with the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band. Recorded in Memphis it is a great mixture of bluesy rock, soul, and funk.

Don has a distinctive voice with a really expressive delivery. His material throughout his career, and on his late Sixties and Seventies albums, has been diverse, running the full gamut of R&B, Soul, and Funk. His songs can be simple, but he often tells stories. He can make you move, he can touch your heart. He is by turns wild and raucous, playful, soft and contemplative. He can rock (and roll) with the best of them, turn it bluesy, and get down deep and soulful.

At all times he means it, you feel it. Go get it!*     

There is a good summary of Don Covay’s career at All Music.

*Actually Different Strokes For Different Folks  is another of Don’s albums that is not too easy to find. Here you can find all formats and releases listed, but realistically it will need to be vinyl.    

Friday, July 18, 2014

What happened?

This week I have bought albums in four different charity shops, a mix of independents and ‘big’ organisations. In every one of them I had to pay £2 for an album. That represents a 100% increase in price from earlier in the year. What’s going on? They must be in cahoots. At anything up to £1 I would happily take a chance on a record. At £2 I’m thinking twice.

I’m not at all sure I like Boz Scaggs voice but the £2 price tag didn’t put me off buying his 1977 Down Two Then Left album today. There is usually something worthwhile to find on Boz Scaggs albums, and there is a peach on this one. We’re Waiting has the perfect feel for the summer weather we are currently enjoying. There are some strongly reminiscent musical bits and pieces on this track, from the Dan-esque intro, through certain parts of the vocal melody, to the sublime long, long, jam/fade where the synthesiser in particular reminds me of something else. Reminiscent of what though? There are at least three other tracks in there somewhere but I can’t conjure up any of them at the moment.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Reasons to be bashful

This recent gap in posts here has been the longest since I started this thing. Blogging just seemed to be pushed to the bottom of life’s priority list for a time.

I know I don’t need to justify this silence to you, but in a way I need to justify it to myself. This blog has been a part of my life for over eight years now, have I been just too busy doing other things or is this the end, or the beginning of the end, of this blog – this phase of my life?  

So, here are ten reasons I gave this blog a rest for a few weeks:

1. Our daughter has been in Canada for a year and came home (for a holiday!) for  three weeks before embarking on another year back in Canada. Plenty of family time.

2. Collecting Panini world cup stickers. Yes, like seemingly many hundreds of thousands of adults who should know better, for a brief time I worked myself into a frenzy of collecting and swapping via Ebay and Gumtree to complete my Panini sticker book. (For the record 162 – Mauricio Pinilla of Chile was the final sticker to be, er, stuck in; and this act was played out on Skype so that our daughter - by then back in Canada - could witness it. She is another sticker fan.)

3. Painting kitchen cabinets.

4. Getting the garden in shape – pruning, cutting, and chopping - repeat; and of course there were all those pots to plant up (seems like a long time ago now, but it is only four weeks or so). We then enjoyed sitting in the garden a bit too.    
5. Painting kitchen cabinets.

6. Watching the World Cup.

7. A weekend staying with friends in Exmouth.

8. Watching the World Cup.

9. Moving everything in our conservatory elsewhere in the house while I  redecorated it and the roof was replaced. A lot of the things ended up in the hi-fi room which meant the turntable was inaccessible for about 10 days L

10. Painting kitchen cabinets (Yippee! They’re finished at last!). 
Sorry if I bored you there. It is a fairly mundane list isn’t it? But this has served to convince me I have been busy lately (if you can call sitting on the sofa watching 22 blokes kick a football about a bit being busy).

Returning to number 7 on the list, while we were in Devon we visited Topsham, a lovely little village (which is actually classed as a suburb of Exeter I believe). Topsham is home to an antique market. A veritable Aladdin’s cave on three floors – which, much to Mrs Darce’s dismay, had some vinyl J

So, as far as I can remember, for the first time in my life I bought some vinyl in an antique market. This turned out to be more expensive that I had bargained for as Mrs Darce, tired of waiting for me to rifle through yet another stack of LPs, wandered off and bought (yet another) pair of earrings.    

I bought four albums in total, including this excellent Isley Brothers compilation Tamla Motown Presents… on the budget MFP label (this is actually a Dutch press, funny, I always thought of MFP as quintessentially English).

The compilation includes a few tracks that were essentially left in the can, never being released as 45s, nor on bona fide Isleys albums, and made their first appearance on this album in around 1972. One such track is this gorgeous version of My Love Is Your Love (Forever), written by Ivy Joe Hunter and Stevie Wonder and taken at a slower pace than the more well-known Smokey Robinson & The Miracles take on the song, and all the better for it in my opinion. 

Ronald Isley’s voice is a thing of beauty, that's for sure.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Toe poke

On Saturday, after yet another shift painting kitchen cabinets (almost finished now), I experienced shooting pains in my right big toe. (Sorry to bore you with my minor ailments, but I have been experiencing these pains off and on for a year or so now. In a recent development the pain seems to alternate between my right toe and my right thumb!) Anyway, the pains on Saturday were a bit worse than usual and caused me to hop about a bit and audibly wince. Mrs Darce was not impressed and, as usual, offered no sympathy, giving me instead one of those ‘man up’ looks. I hobbled over to the sofa, sat down and gave my toe a good rub and a squeeze.

Yesterday morning, early doors at the car boot, once again records were thin on the ground. The round had been done and I was talking to some other record hunters bemoaning the lack of reggae vinyl, in any condition, that I had come across this year (no doubt sounding like a broken record as it, quite frankly, has always been thus it seems). After the conversation had reached its natural conclusion I bid my compadres farewell and headed off to another car boot. Records were more in evidence at this venue than they had been for some time. At one table I paused and looked dubiously at what was fairly clearly going to be a stack of run of the mill 70s/80s pop singles. Expectations are never high when a lot of pic sleeves are visible but I have to look through them just in case. As it turned out my instincts were correct on both counts: the singles were all 70s/80s pop rubbish except, bizarrely, for a sleeveless one in the middle of the stack… a Ska single from Delroy Wilson with the title Squeeze Your Toe!  

Now that is worthy of a post I thought, and so it is that Feel It has been kick started (or, rather, toe poked) into life again.

This 45 (at least the playing surface) looks a bit battered, par for the course on most reggae and ska records found in the wild, but it plays through OK. A clean with the magic fluid has improved it a bit and, when I get around to it, the PVA glue treatment may help some more. In the meantime enjoy Delroy Wilson complete with the noise of 50 years of existence.

The next time my toe hurts I will play this 45.

Here’s the B side too…

Monday, June 30, 2014

RIP Bobby Womack 1944-2014

It is not unusual for music to move me to tears but down the years Bobby Womack, with his voice and his music, has probably brought on the tears more than anyone else. I am crying now.

RIP Bobby.

Friday, May 23, 2014

You move me, Mary

This one has spent a lot of time on the turntable this week. The unmistakable sound of Muscle Shoals, this 45 represents 50% of Chuck & Mariann Coopers’ recorded output, this being one of two 45s they had released on A-Bet in 1968. Both 45s feature the duo on one side and Mariann solo on the other.  

Through an excellent article on Mary that appeared in the Oxford American a few years ago I have learnt that Chuck & Mariann were husband and wife for a time, and that Mariann is actually one Mary Gresham. The OA is, at least in part, what could be termed a literary journal and consequently the article’s prose may come over as a little flowery at times, but it nevertheless provides much detail on Mary’s life and musical career. It is always especially satisfying to put some meat on the bones of an obscure record and artist and I recommend you follow the link to it.

Motivation in particular is a stormer of a record, laid down at FAME I believe. Rick Hall liked to turn the volume up on his recordings and this one is certainly a loud pressing.

Mary, like Candi Staton, was born in Alabama, and in the same year too. I’m guessing Candi was on the FAME scene by the time Mary walked in for her sessions. Who knows what might have been if she had turned up a few months earlier?      

Now I need to go and track down the other Chuck & Mariann 45.

Make sure the kitchen chairs are tucked away before you play this one!...

A CD of Mary Gresham’s Muscle Shoals recordings, much of it previously unreleased, is available now thanks to Garry Cape at Soulscape. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Your rambling reporter

It continues to be a vinyl desert out there on the streets and in the fields of England. The year kicked off pretty well on the vinyl hunting front, but the last few weeks have proved gruelling at the chazzas and car boots. Last weekend I managed to squeeze in no less than four car boot sales; the sun shone and encouraged the sellers out in their droves. But for all the sellers there were, hardly any of them had any vinyl amongst their unwanted junk. Either that or some very early bird dealers had hoovered it all up before I arrived (I don’t think so though, there is one notorious local ‘hooverer’ but I now tend to avoid the venues I know he frequents).

Taking stock, this weekend booting frenzy yielded five albums, two 12“ singles and eight little uns. Hmmm, not too bad in the end, but it was hard work. 

There are a few highlights. The 12” singles are relatively recent reissues of some obscure(ish) 60s and 70s soul gems I would have to look long and hard for as original issues (Helene Smith, Edna Wright, James Walsh Gypsy Band gives you a flavour) – nice to have, but in the end not the originals. Amongst the little uns are 45s from The Hollies, one of which is a double header belter. Over at the VG+ forum there is an amusing thread on the subject of collection tics. I think Hollies singles could qualify as one of my current collecting tics - I buy everyone I see, unless I’m sure I have it already. On the other hand a tic is something you wish you didn’t have, and I make no apology for buying Hollies singles because they are generally great.          

One of the albums I bought was a compilation and was sans sleeve. Hardly a highlight then? On the contrary, I am more than happy to have found it. The compilation in question is This is Loma Vol 6. Loma was Warner Brothers specialist Soul and R&B label that was active from 1964-68. In the mid ‘70s WB UK issued no less than seven This Is Loma compilations. This one was a must have for me purely on the strength of a Carl Hall track, and the hope that Linda Jones wasn’t over singing too much on the four tracks of hers featured (I blow hot and cold with Linda Jones, although her voice was undoubtedly a wondrous instrument, I think that too often she tended to over-egg the delivery, and it’s the songs where she kept it reined in that I prefer, I can just never remember which ones they are!). As it turns out, on this comp Linda’s tracks generally get the thumbs up from me; as do all the tracks on the album because it is a really strong compilation from a really strong label. The one track that grabbed me by the ears on first listen – as much as the Carl Hall track – was one of the two tracks by Ben Aiken.

I wasn’t familiar with Aiken and haven’t been able to turn up much about him. It seems that Jerry Ragovoy brought him into the Loma fold. There has seemed to be confusion surrounding the colour of his skin, some people describe him as a “blue eyed” soul singer, but over at the Soulful Detroit archives some big names from the world of soul music refute that, and also state that he was working as a custodian at Philadelphia City Hall, at least as recently as 2004. Baby You Move Me was released in May 1968 a few short months before Loma’s demise, and was the last of four singles Ben had released on the label. His voice, especially on the other track of his on this comp, reminds me of Art Neville at times.

Carl Hall’s You Don’t Know Nothing About Love preceded the Ben Aiken track here by six months – Loma were really cooking by then, such a shame the label was soon to close. About as much as I know about Carl Hall can be found on a Wiki entry. I’ll let the music do the talking here….. stunning!    

Carl Hall - You Don’t Know Nothing AboutLove  1967               

And so once more, my ramble that started in a field in England has ended up in Sixties America.

PS: I’ve just played this whole album again, it’s really really good!