Monday, December 04, 2017

Touching me

By the time JJ Barnes landed at Perception in 1973 he already had about twenty 45s to his name, on 11 different labels (including some iconic Soul labels - Groovesville, Ric Tic, and Revilot) stretching back as far as 1960. He had been at Motown, never managing a release in his own name, but was used as a writer. His biggest hit was Baby Please Come Back Home which reached 61 in the US Top 100 in '67. Soon after this Perception release he was encouraged to move to the UK by his friend Edwin Starr. He signed with John Abbey's Contempo label. A meal ticket on the Northern scene was probably the attraction and he would be appreciated more there than in his homeland.

Two strong sides here, The A side - You Are Just A Living Doll -  was the initial reason for buying this but I find I really like the B side too. It wraps you up all warm and cosy on a cold Winter's night.

This 45 landed on my mat last week on the 30th November, which I see was, coincidentally, James Jay's 74th birthday.

J J Barnes – Touching You 1973        

Friday, December 01, 2017

Just a few doors

It's the 1st of December (another year nearly over!). In years gone by, as recently as two years ago in fact, this day triggered a track a day in the run up to Christmas here as we went on a Feel It Advent-ure. A post a day! I'm doing well to give you a post a month lately. How times have changed. Blogging is a habit I've been falling out of recently. I don't know why really. I've got the time, but evidently I haven't had the inclination.

I am not planning on a full blown Advent-ure this year but December 1st at least warrants a post, for old times sake at least. This record arrived in the post today, along with three others also worthy of sharing so the plan is to to do just that over the next days, and a few more as well with any luck.

I've been obsessing over the Magic Tones recently. Just listen to the voices – and the strings! - on Great Day. Very evocative of it's time I think

The Magic Tones would metamorphose into The Undisputed Truth later in the 70s.

For everyone tying the knot tomorrow.

B side is great too.

Friday, November 03, 2017

A big tick

Back in my teens... as I sit here now, gingerly, because my back is twinging (again) those days seem a very long time ago... Anyway, as I was about to say, back in my teens I developed a long record wants list. The list was long because I was young and had discovered this giant musical sweet shop but pocket money, and then pin money earned shelf stacking at the local Co-op, didn't stretch nearly far enough to fund all the great music I was hearing. Take yourself back to your teens and I'm sure you were similar. I don't remember ever writing my list down, I just carried it around in my head. Forty or so years on there is of course a danger that the memory plays more than a few tricks, but I am reasonably sure that a certain Dr John album was on my wants list and I'm happy to say that, although it's taken a long time, I can finally cross it off the list. A local charity shop came up trumps recently. I had never seen a Dr John album in such surroundings before, they had three. To be fair it is not exactly your typical charity shop. They have an upstairs “inner sanctum” where they keep some records they deem to be more desirable. It is a mini record shop really, reflected in the prices. Nevertheless, I was happy to pay the asking price for this album.

Was it worth the wait? You bet. If I tell you that besides singing in his inimitable style and playing guitar and piano the good Doctor also plays muted fingernettes and zigola(!) you know it's on its way to being a winner. Now mix in The Meters and Allen Toussaint playing the most elegant* funk you could wish to hear and bingo! The whole album is an irresistible gumbo of New Orleans goodness. (*Maybe read slinkilicious – believe me, funk can be elegant without losing any of its power).

Can the album be summed up in just two words? Well, a track on the album has a good stab – Mos' Scocious – but the album title says it perfectly: Desitively Bonnaroo!

Friday, October 13, 2017

In out, in out.....

I was planning to write this post last weekend but then the weather intervened. It was a glorious day last Sunday - sunshine and an almost complete lack of wind lent the day a wonderfully serenity. Just had to get outside and enjoy it. We’ve had plenty of calm days so far this month and I seem to remember a similar pattern last year. September has always been my favourite month, but it seems October maybe becoming the new September.

I’ve written about the certain serenity that September brings before, and I think then I featured Johnnie Taylor’s song It’s September. What’s that in the picture? It’s a Johnnie Taylor album. But what is it doing next to a Ruby Turner album?

Fifteen years apart in release date but they do have some things in common: (the trivial) both are still partially in their shrink sporting dollar denominated price stickers - I keep albums in their shrink long after I should just accept the shrink is too torn and should just be ditched. The thing is I see the shrink as an integral part of the album’s history so it is very difficult to part with it - ; both albums have been buried deep in the collection without seeing the light of day for a fair few years; (the not so trivial) both feature singers I hold in very high regard.

The two albums are featured here, however, because they are a perfect representation of where I am with my record collection right now. I have once again reached maximum capacity and I’m in purge mode. This time I’m trying to be a bit more ruthless with my purging. As I said both these singers have great voices and I love them dearly but even so they have been tentatively put in the out pile. I say tentatively because I admit to being very anal over this and so ‘ruthless’ still entails a process. Even though these albums have sat in my collection for a fair few years without a play (let’s face it some of the records I am pulling out I may never have played before!), and realistically they are not likely to get a play anytime soon – ever? – I cannot bring myself to put them straight into the outbox. So the process is I play them once, or just needle drop, to see if there are tracks that grab my attention. If there are enough strong tracks I then proclaim the album to be a hidden gem, and keep it (patting myself on the back for being so discerning in picking up the album in the first place). If there is nothing of note then easy – into the outbox it goes. If there are one or two tracks of note I record them in wav format with a view to putting them on a mix CD and then outbox them. That’s the theory. Of course it does make purging a slow process. But actually for the most part not a painful one. It makes me listen to albums I’ve picked up (for pennies mostly) but possibly never given a proper chance, I find some new gems, I manage to distil down some worthwhile tracks, and then one way or another I feel I’ve had my money’s worth.

Of course there are grey areas.

Johnnie Taylor’s album for example I found to contain as many as four decent tracks when I put it through the “process” the other day. To be honest I was surprised. Johnnie Taylor is one of my very favourite male singers, but this album was recorded in 1976 by which time Disco and slick production was sweeping good honest soul music aside. (There are so many JT songs to enjoy from his 60s-70s Stax period). There was also the problem of record companies increasingly calling the tune resulting in more frequent releases, without necessarily having the quality songs to fill them. Consequently my expectation wasn't high, but there are more decent songs on this album than I was expecting, and Johnnie’s voice wins me over time and time again. But in the end Eargasm is a patchy album. For that reason I doubt I would ever play it all the way through so it is going in the outbox.... Ha! Except as I wrote this I gave it another listen and Johnnie's voice is so beguiling he's won the day and now I'm keeping it!

Ruby Turner is now close to National Treasure status after her years with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. She has been involved in the music business for many years, a fact that I'm so glad to see was recognised last year when she was awarded an MBE for services to music. She has a fantastic voice. The Other Side was an album released in 1991 and production wise is very much of its time. A Soul to Soul / Mantronix vibe permeates many of the tracks This and its generally commercial production values I think restricts Ruby's ability to fully showcase her magnificent pipes. This album was targeted very much at the US audience I believe to follow up on three top 30 US R&B single hits she had in 1990. The album did nothing though. Ultimately it is much of a muchness I think, but it is fairly even throughout. Again I'm going to keep it, because in the end there are hidden forces at play – sentiment. I believe it is the first album I ever bought on foreign soil, 13 years ago now I picked it up in the US, which just happened to be 13 years after its release. I picked out the track below to share, then, as I was writing this, I suddenly had this little memory nudge that perhaps I had written about Ruby before. Sure enough back in 2009 I did, my comments on the album were very similar, and I shared the same track then! At least I'm consistent (or should that be boring!).

So, in light of the above, is my process actually resulting in any purges?, I hear you ask. Yes, the outbox is a fair size and it's full. Now a second box is lined up waiting.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Spinning again

Three months away from this little indulgence is long enough. Let's straighten it out and get posting again.

Summer's over, the great outdoors doesn't beckon so much, and the nights are drawing in. There must be time for some blog meanderings again surely?

Surprise finds in the charity shops and car boots often spark a post here, and one reason for the lack of posts has been the lack of finds this year. For want of sounding like a broken record my hunt for vinyl in the wild has once again taken a turn for the worse. This year's trawling has been worse than last year, which in turn was worse than the year before. Vinyl may be back but it's gone AWOL in the fields of England, at least in my experience.       

Gwen McCrae's 1978 album Let's Straighten It Out was one welcome find a couple of months ago. It's not the strongest album I've heard, but has a number of redeeming features. There is Gwen's voice of course, and a great picture of her on the front cover - foxy lady! The Cat label in the middle of an album is a nice thing to see too. I've always loved Latimore's version of this song (the original?) and Gwen's take on it here is gorgeous.

Gwen McCrae - Let's Straighten It Out  1978   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beach ready

We're off to Portugal for a week in less then 24 hours. So I'll have to be brief.

The car boots have been almost completely devoid of vinyl so far this year. Each year the pickings get slimmer. The charity shops proved a bit better earlier in the year but they haven't produced much lately either. Something good to come out of this state of affairs is it has allowed me to concentrate on actually playing more of the records I have accumulated over recent times (instead of times I could easily have said years!). A novel approach eh? Sitting down and listening to records rather than just simply piling them up in a corner. Many albums I buy out of curiosity and in the full expectation of maybe only finding one track of real worth. So it is I have been playing quite a few of my recent acquisitions properly for the first time, picking out the cherries and recording them for further listening on, say, a beach.

One of the albums I played on Sunday was a Timi Yuro compilation (75p from a Sally Army charity shop if memory serves). About six tracks made it into wav/mp3 format. One of those tracks is a storming version of Fever. I had not heard it before but I know I will be hearing it a lot more from now on. 

Friday, June 23, 2017


I've said it before and I'm saying it again, the allure of a piece of plastic seven inches in diameter otherwise known as a single, a 45, or simply “ a little one” goes far beyond just what's in the grooves. The sleeve, be it picture or sporting a record company design, the label, and the dead wax, all have their attractions and the little details they hold can cause me to happily lose endless hours diving down some research rabbit hole.

Focussing on the label for now, just some of the information it will offer in addition to the artist and title, usually, are composer, arranger, and producer credits. I am a digger so I happily trawl, physically and virtually, through lots and lots of records that are unknown to me and I have learnt to pay close attention to the credits beyond the artist because they can hold clues. The artist maybe unknown, so now is it Soul, or Country, or Psych? The label name itself can help but not always, but a look at the detail credits can often pinpoint a genre. I've been a Soul nut for a fair few years now so I'm pretty good at spotting a Soul record, but will it be any good? I've learnt that certain names are almost a guarantee of quality.

There are many such names that will spark my interest, here are just five by way of example: Dees, Terry, Wansel, Armstead, Warren.
Familiar to Soul buffs I'm sure, here is just a line or two on each of them anyway.

Sam Dees writes, sings and produces. He has written so many great soul songs and released one of the greatest Soul albums – The Show Must Go On.

Mike Terry was initially a session bari' sax player at Motown, he has featured on so many of Soul's well known records; he then went on to become a prolific arranger in Detroit, Chicago, Philly, New York and elsewhere.

Dexter Wansel is a keyboardist and producer/arranger responsible for so many sublime Philly records throughout the 70s.

Joshie” Jo Armstead is a singer but is more well known as a songwriter. She also worked with Ashford & Simpson (ah, two more names on the “hallmark” list).

Dale Warren was an accomplished conservatory-trained violinist who became an arranger initially at Motown and later with Stax.

So to today's 45. I am familiar with Back Beat and Little Carl Carlton so there is no doubting there will be Soul in the grooves. But let's take a closer inspection on those credits – not one, but two names make an appearance from my list – producer Mike Terry, songwriter J. Armstead. This record is most definitely hallmarked!

There, see?!

PS: The latest hiatus here was partially caused by the collapse in faith in my stylus. It wasn't that old but everything I was playing no longer sounded right. So I just stopped playing things, and so the mojo disappeared again, and writer's block followed (something other bloggers around this neck of the 'net also seemed to be suffering from lately). New stylus arrived in the post a few days ago and is now duly installed. So, let's see.

PPS: Rustiness caused me to put the wrong link up (thanks for pointing it out John). Link corrected above and as a bonus here is the B side correctly named: 

Little Carl Carlton - Drop By My Place  1970