Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Opposites attract

I usually feel a bit short changed by a single whose B side is merely an instrumental version – often simply the backing track - of the A side. So am I short changing you today? Well read (and listen) on.   

Linda has just finished recording the A side and needs a break. She pops out of the studio for a cigarette – actually that will help her vocals for the B side she wants to lay down as she wants her voice to sound huskier for this track. Meanwhile back in the studio her backing band Soul Express continue to mess around and, after Linda’s dead slow song, fancy a bit of fun and a work out. While Linda smokes outside, Soul Express are smoking in the studio. They play so loud and fast it triggers the tape machine and, wow!, that’s one for the can. “Hey Linda”, they say, “have another cigarette, save your voice for another day – the B side’s sorted”!


Soul Express have had a long day in the studio. They’re happy with a breakneck little instrumental they’ve laid down but they’re whacked now. Linda, the tea lady, comes in with some refreshments (in truth, something a little stronger than tea). She’s been pestering the studio guys for a while now – “I can sing”, she says, “let me get behind that microphone, I’ve got a little song Mr. Billups wants me to sing”. As I said, it has been a long day for the Soul Express guys. But Linda’s refreshments are helping them unwind and they’re feeling mellow right now. “Go ahead Linda”, they say, “but we got to take this one at a slow place, OK?”. Linda kills it. The unanimous feeling around the studio is that a star is born, and her song is going on the A side.   
Howver it came about, this is one 45 with an instrumental side that is definitely worth picking up because all is not as it seems.

Why does a certain (or should I say uncertain) Mr Billups gets his name in big writing on this 45? He is in the writing credits but was he a member of Soul Express? His brother, Shorty, has stated that Eddie was a keyboard player. So just possibly it is Eddie on the organ on these tracks. Mainstream picked up this 45 from a local label HELPP which it is possible Mr Billups was connected to. You can read more about him (or his brother) in this little piece of mine from last year.

Monday, February 23, 2015

That Ella

I spent an hour listening to Ella Washington on Deezer through my Sonos the other evening. To be honest I was surprised to find Ella on Deezer, but a number of her compliation CDs are there. In fact I have been consistently amazed at what I have found to be available on Deezer since I activated my free subscription at the beginning of the year.

One of her tracks that really grabbed me during that enjoyable hour was I’m Losing The Feeling, a song better known performed by Gwen McCrae. This went unreleased at the time. It is obviously a demo, and benefits from that I think, the recording is understated and beautiful for it.     

 Now, what prompted me to suddenly go looking for Ella? Ah, I remember, Mr Finewine played one of her earliest records – The Grass Is Always Greener… - on Downtown Soulville recently. It is one of her 45s I don’t have, but hearing it prompted me to bump up its priority on my wants list. Deep Miami soul - Ella putting giving us a really polished vocal (taking Betty Wright's territory!), Little Beaver on guitar, and just listen to those haunting horns. I have overlooked this record too long.      

I was feverishly acquiring Ella’s 45s a few years ago. Now I realise the last time I featured one of them here was back in 2008. That’s longer ago than I thought, and I’m not sure I have listened to any of those 45s in the ensuing years. Silly boy! It was good to give her some air time again. My music consumption habits have been increasingly all over the map lately, listening to Ella Washington was like coming home and made me realise that Southern Soul is really still where it’s at for me.   

Ella has a fine voice that should be heard more. Nearly all her recordings were made within that golden age for soul music ('66-'72 in this case) and capture the classic Southern Soul sound – those horns, those guitars, those churchy background vocals: heaven.

I dug out my Ella Washington 45s and picked this one to share today. It also features the song's writer - Bobby Womack - on guitar.

*Originally issued in 1967 it made another appearance as the B side to Trying To Make You Love Me in 1970. 

You can read more about Ella Washington at Sir Shambling's place (of course you can).

This looks like a good CD compilation.

Friday, February 20, 2015

An extraordinary goose

It wasn’t so many years ago that I had never seen one of my long time musical idols, Candi Staton. Then, I couldn’t quite believe it, she came to my hometown, and there I was one evening standing in a crowd of people (and next to Mrs Darce who I had dragged along) staring up at Candi on the stage. Something I never thought I would do – certainly not in my hometown.

Well it’s time for those feelings all over again as another one my musical idols is coming to town. The other day I bought my ticket to see George Clinton and the 21st Century incarnation of Parliament/Funkadelic.

In celebration of this fact I decided it was high time I fleshed out my Parliaments' singles collection a bit more. The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg was one of their numbers that had previously left me, not cold, but a bit luke warm. What had I been thinking?! I played it again the other day (from a CD comp) and bang! the full crazed majesty of it finally hit me. So I had to go and source a copy of the 45, and here it is, on that wonderfully lysergic Revilot label, for your listening pleasure.

The Goose was released in February 1968 and on it you can hear the full on collision of George and The Parliaments earlier doo wop and soul style with modish stoned psychedelic rock influenced sounds they would go on to explore to the max as they first dropped the s from their name (the album Osmium in 1970) and then transported (temporarily) into Funkadelic land in the early Seventies.

Will they play The Goose on stage in April? I hope so, but they have new material to plug so I’m not sure how much of their older material will feature. Of course in true Parliafunkadelicment fashion they could choose to give us a reimagined - 21st century - version. The Goose made an appearance on their 1974 album Up For The Down Stroke, and another, organ drenched, Funkadelic wig out exists too from an indeterminate time in the PFunk continuum.

I’m as happy as a monkey with a peanut machine J      

Friday, February 13, 2015

Head full of clay

For someone who likes their soul deep I’m surprised Clay Hammond hasn’t really registered with me before. I have no excuses either because now I come to think of it I have at least a couple of tracks of his on early Ace Kent compilations.

This 1967 45 is a new addition to my collection, the first I have of Clay’s, but somehow I think it will not be the last.

My head has been full of Clay these last few days as this 45 has had quite a few spins. Now it feels full of clay in other ways as a cold has really kicked in in the last 24 hours. As a result I don’t feel like writing much today so I will just post this and then go back to adding to the tissue mountain (Ally and I could have a competition, maybe!).

And here is the more uptempo, and equally great,  flip side (A, B who really knows?). This reminds me of something else. Anybody?

Buy Southern Soul Brothers (A strong Ace/Kent compilation featuring Clay Hammond and ZZ Hill)

Friday, February 06, 2015

Don Covay 1938-2015

It was Larry’s post over at Funky16Corners that alerted me to the sad news of Don Covay’s passing on January 30th. He passed away in his sleep after being ill for some time. 

A true giant of Soul and R&B, I wrote a little piece on him last July. Reading it again, it really does say all I feel about the man and his music and I am happy for it to be taken as my tribute to him. In truth I’m a bit too choked to say anything else now.

Soul music has lost another great.

RIP Don Covay.

PS. Playing I Stole Some Love just now Mrs Darce piped up and said “that sounds like Mick Jagger” (Mrs Darce doesn’t profess to be a music expert but is often right on the money) . I expect Mick is paying his respects too, in reality he has been for many years.

PPS. You can read Red Kelly’s extensive piece on him here. It follows his career  and was something Red put together a few years ago.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sound as a Bell

Harking back to last year again. A few months ago I featured an O’Jays 45 from their pre PIR days when they were on Bell. Finding that record prompted me to look out for some of their other Bell 45s. This one came along recently (from ebay at a nice car bootyesque price) and it is another one with two strong sides.

If it was an unknown group on a tiny label I’m sure it would garner more interest on the Northern scene, and a commensurately higher price. Lucky for me, as someone who baulks at paying a high price for a record, Bell were, I believe, nationally distributed so there will be quite a few of these singles knocking around still. Even so, it does seem fairly obscure.

(Incidentally, I must admit I do get a bit miffed when a 45 gets a big price tag because one side attracts the Northern buyers and I want it for a vastly superior deep soul track on the flip, a flip in many cases the Northern fan will not even have played.)

The O’Jays were quality, pure and simple. 

Why not buy the CD The Bell Sessions 1967-1969 (a bit pricey I grant you).

Friday, January 23, 2015


Last month’s frenzy of posts seems like a distant memory. I’m still here, just in my usual January state – semi-hibernation. I don’t watch much TV normally but at this time of year I seem happy to sink into the sofa and watch whatever is being served up. I have even squarer eyes than usual this month too as we have finally arrived in the 21st century and bought a new TV. It’s smart, it’s in HD, it’s 40ins. We are also now a two Sonos family. The latest Sonos purchase came with a free 12 month subscription to Deezer premium, and now it seems I can find and play just about any music I can think of at a quick scroll on the smartphone. Get us! It’s almost technology overload.   

As a result the record room has had little attention this last couple of weeks but I am now starting to get vinyl withdrawal symptoms so it’s time to fire up the turntable again.

Lynn White was behind door #9 of last month’s Advent-ure. Picking up that record left me wanting to find more of Lynn’s work and getting a copy of this 45 is the initial result of my forays. This is her version of an Earl Randle song first performed by Syl  Johnson back in 1972 (and I think Syl's version has made an appearance on Feel It). The feel is familiar on Lynn’s version as once again it is Willie Mitchell on production. It was released on Willie’s own label, Waylo, around 1985. Being on Willie's own label he will have been able to have total control of production and I'm betting this is the reason the dreaded Eighties synthesisers are buried deep and remarkably (and thankfully) subtle on this track. And I’ll say it again – Lynn can sing!