Thursday, August 28, 2014

Oh Yays

The last two weekends have been fruitful at the car boots.

More of the stack in the second picture soon. The stack of 45s in the first picture all came from one seller whose car boot was in fact the back of a hearse! As I walked up to his pitch he called out “soul, funk and r&b, all dead stock, £1 each”. Before me were about eight boxes and I could immediately see they appeared to be all US singles (i.e. the ones with the large centres). I thought I had died and gone to heaven and was contemplating the need for a run to the cashpoint. As it turned out there were multiple copies of most titles so there were probably no more than about 60 different titles in all (LOTS of James Brown – I Cried, Soul Power and Super Bad). They clearly were nearly all unplayed dead stock, and mostly soul and funk as stated. Apparently they had been pulled out of a US warehouse in 1972, and had languished ever since in some small corner of England. That back story gets me every time. 

In the end I settled on about 20 titles, the artists in question being: The O’Jays x2 – Ronettes – The Soul Children – C.L Blast - Johnny Jones – Madlyn Quebec – Sam & Dave - Eddie Floyd – Vicki Nelson – CODs – Earl Van Dyke - Natura’elles – Fantastic Four x2 – James Brown – Mandrill , and the only non soul/funkers - The Family – Strawberry Alarm Clock – Kay Tolliver.

A few of these are real stand outs but it is the O’Jays single that is really grabbing me at the moment. What a double sider from their pre PIR days. Looking on ebay it does seem to regularly sell when it turns up, but usually for less than a tenner. I should have picked up some more copies. I should have at least bought one more because I might wear out my sole copy pretty quick.

In the coming days I’ll put up a few more from the bunch I think. 

The same weekend, coincidentally I found a copy of The O’Jays In Philedelphia. Before they settled on PIR in the Seventies, The O’Jays appeared on a number of different labels in the Sixties. After Bell they were, for a short time, on Neptune. This was a nice find, and I can’t imagine it turns up very often , especially in this sparkling condition. There is something special about an album on a small label that you are only used to finding 45s on. I didn’t notice until I got home that it had a drill hole. I have never seen a drill hole on an album before. Luckily the aim was true and the hole did go through the label and not the playing surface! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Runaway obsession

And to think I have been wondering lately whether my obsession is getting a little out of hand. After reading the NY Times article on Zero Freitas I now feel I have fresh licence to collect!

I better get out there quick before all the records in the world have been shipped to Sao Paulo! So, after two weeks off from the car boot sales, I will be out and about this weekend, weather permitting. My last car boot excursion yielded, among other things, this Promo 12" from U-Roy. This was the star find - it's Reggae, and it's not thrashed. Yippee.

Hopefully the island sounds will tempt the sun out again this weekend.

U-Roy - Runaway Girl  1975        

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Just You, Just Me

So I’ve had the Sonos since Christmas and I continue to be impressed by the sound quality; even more so, in fact, than the functionality, which is a surprise. One of the reasons I invested in it was to allow my vinyl collection to be unleashed to roam free in the rest of the house. Of course it isn’t that simple. The gubbins required to put a line-in into the Sonos is too expensive so I have had to resort to recording the vinyl into high quality mp3. This is time consuming, but I am finally getting my act together. The spur has been, as I’ve already said, the sound quality of this little box, and also the recent addition by Sonos of access to Google Play, which, you may know, allows you to place 20,000(!) tracks into the cloud for free.    
So the digitizing of the vinyl collection can be said to have finally begun in earnest. I am pulling albums from their designated filing space (premium spot in the vinyl room, little pile behind the speaker, overflow in the spare room, 12” pile A in the bedroom, the original DJing carry cases in the  wardrobe, etc etc) in a purely random manner, which is as it should be I think. I play what I fancy at the time, or think “I haven’t played that in ages let’s give it a spin”, copy it as I do and upload it to Google Play. From there, in truth, it is much more accessible and I fully expect to become better acquainted with many of the records in my collection which have sat there untouched for too long.

So it is with this album by The Counts. Love Sign was their second album, released in 1973 on Aware (I have some singles on Aware, but this is the only album and I love seeing the label in the middle of an LP). I probably bought it around 1977 from a cheapie bin (it could have been in a supermarket – remember when you could find stacks of cheap vinyl imports in supermarkets? Those were the days!),  and I’m guessing since then I have only played it five or six times, and probably not at all in the last thirty years. It’s crazy really, I’m constantly searching for more vinyl to buy in charity shops, car boots, on line. The result is I’m getting so much of it now I no longer really know, and certainly have now failed to appreciate, what I already have.

This album had been filed deep in my memory in a little recess labelled  “interesting”. It was as such because, I think, the album was not exactly as I expected – I had a couple of Counts 45s which were more in the funk vein but, back in my DJing days, this album had nothing that I could really use to burn up a dancefloor. But it was full of tracks that were not quite like anything else I had.

So, even though I was vaguely… er … aware I had this album, it was so deep filed in both my memory and my collection I think I can reasonably... er …  count it as my latest find!
Playing it again after all these years, to my ears, it has aged very well. It has been taken out from its little recess in my memory to a space labelled “very interesting”, and it is now also residing in (on?) my personal cloud where I will no doubt be giving it some more plays – to some friends too, possibly - through my Sonos.   

From the album Love Sign. Not currently available on CD as far as I can see, it has had a vinyl reissue on Scorpio. I think I have read that the quality of some Scorpio releases is questionable, you may be better looking for a second hand original which has a gatefold sleeve with a nice  die cut detail on the back as I hope my terrible picture shows (the light was fading fast when I was taking the shot).


Thursday, July 31, 2014

RIP Idris Muhammad 1939-2014

Drummer par excellence who played with many of the greats - one of his early gigs was playing on Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill. I was introduced to him via Could Heaven Ever Be Like This from his 70s jazz-funk days, a glorious, sparkling track. Unfortunately my cherished 45 copy is a bit crackly nowadays.That would have, no doubt, spurred me on to buy his 1978 album Boogie To The Top, not his finest hour I know, but I've always liked the track One With A Star from that album.

Idris Muhammad - One With A Star  1978

His 1974 album Power Of Soul is conspicuous by its absence from my collection, and I really should put that right.     

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.