Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy Blueday & A Happy New Year

At this time of year lots of things seem to conspire to magnify the fact that another year has passed.

First there are Christmas holidays which are typically traditional in nature – i.e. put the same decorations out, lovely they are but you only see them once a year; do the same things; and see far flung family members and old friends, again often for the first time since last Christmas. Then there are all the reviews of the year in the papers and on the TV in which you are reminded of all those people and events that seemed so important at the time but which were then so quickly forgotten, and also reminded of many noteworthy people who have passed away during the year.

Also, working in manufacturing, I usually have an enforced break of ten days or so. This somehow leaves me with a real feeling that a chapter has ended, even though projects are mid flight and I know things will be all starting all over again in a few days and won’t be any different.

Then, to top it all, on New Year’s Eve it’s also my birthday. Happy birthday to me! There I am, already trying to put a positive spin on the fact. The truth is I always wake up in a reflective mood on my birthday and by the end of the day I’m usually suffering from a full blown dose of the birthday blues and a real sense of “another year over, another year older”.

My wife, who always seems to have a sunny outlook - dazzlingly so at times - will say this is just another manifestation of my glass half empty approach to things. I don’t know about that, I think I’m just an average grumpy old man, who will be 50 next year – there, see, wishing my life away! Snap out of it! After all life in my orbit is OK and I’ve got nothing to be unhappy about.

Nevertheless my birthday blues are now such an old friend I have learnt to wallow in them. So, if you will excuse me, I will wish you all a Happy New Year and get back to some serious moping!

Here is an Art Pepper cover up which seems a perfect soundtrack to my day. Recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s in June 1980 from the album “Blues For The Fisherman” (not currently available but in vinyl form it pops up now and then on ebay and is not expensive). The Milcho Leviev Quartet were: Milcho Leviev (piano), Art Pepper (alto sax), Tony Dumas (bass), Carl Burnett (drums). As you can see from the label scan the title of the first track is appropriate for the time of year but the second track is perfect for my mood - and let the applause at the end of the track be for all those people who bade as farewell this year.

The Milcho Leviev Quartet – Sad, A Little Bit 1980

Monday, December 25, 2006

The angels are on the one today

May the holiday season be everything you want it to be. That was going to be – and is – my simple message to you.

However, the merriment will be tinged with sadness today. I have just heard that James Brown has passed away.

Rest In Peace, James.

Thankyou for the funk.

James Brown – There Was A Time 1967

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The name game

Some people’s names seem very appropriate. On the current music scene for example we have Amy Winehouse who does indeed appear to be a structure that contains a lot of alcohol. One that made me chuckle recently was somebody being interviewed on a news program about water conservation whose surname was Spray.

Then there are people whose names suggest to me something they are not.
Robbie Williams always seemed a good name for a snooker player - instead of making the ladies feel sorry for him with his little boy lost, can’t find no love act – give me a break! At the Crucible in Sheffield! And how about Noel and Liam Gallagher – great names for a couple of mega talented modern day rock gods, whereas in reality….

The names of two of the artists on the Cookin’ With Kent LP are similarly distracting. Somehow Larry Davis doesn’t seem a good name for an R’n’B performer, rather it conjures up images of somebody who could have had a shot at a world heavyweight boxing championship. Then there is Arthur K. Adams. I suppose the K dilutes the image somewhat, but for me Arthur Adams will always be a wizened little man that used to live about five doors down the road when I was a nipper.

I must get these images out of my head because they are in danger of spoiling my enjoyment of these good old fashioned R’n’B tracks. Hope I haven’t spoiled things for you.

Larry Davis – I’ve Been Hurt So Many Times 1970>
Arthur K. Adams – I’m Lonely For You 1968

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sundown leaves a binary footprint

The records show that in January 1976 the US release of this single spent just 1 week in the Billboard charts at #100.
To my mind that’s a travesty, and 100 weeks at #1 would have been more justified for what is a brilliant double sider.

In one of his “Blues & Soul” (UK magazine) articles later in 1976 the late Dave Godin said this of the record in describing it’s UK release: “Now this one I'd have sympathised with any reluctance to issue in this country. It won't do a thing, and anyone who DID urge Arista to issue it needs their heads examined! Utterly brilliant, marvellous and all the rest of it, but SO uncommercial for this country I'd be happily surprised if it sold more than a thousand copies. One of the year's best released though.”

Did it reach a 1000 copies in the UK ? Don’t know. I seem to remember I picked it up in a cheapie bin some months after it’s release. I certainly bought it ‘blind’, but was maybe influenced by Dave Godin’s comments. Anyway I consider myself lucky to have it, even though as you will hear it’s, shall we say, a bit used. By all accounts the US release had longer run times on both sides. Whether the extra minutes intensified or diluted the experience I know not, but my UK copy is good enough for me.

By the time of this single’s release (late 1975 in the US) the disco beat was already more than a distant sound emanating somewhere on the horizon and the sun was setting on the golden age of soul. Continuing the analogy with that great ball in the sky the sun’s intensity maybe highest at it’s zenith but it’s at it’s most beautiful and serene at sunset. Debbie Taylor’s “I Don’t Wanna Leave You” is a beautiful and serene soul record. Flip it over and “Just Don’t Pay” has a similar feel but a lolloping disco flavoured beat is also present (albeit understated and not much more than a slow canter). It’s possible to imagine that as “I Don’t Wanna Leave You” fades we are experiencing the final rays of a magnificent sunset, and, as the needle passes over the run-out groove, the shimmering orb dips below the horizon and the sun finally sets on the golden age of soul. If that’s the case “Just Don’t Pay” is maybe the red sky at night. Red sky at night bodes well, but as far as soul music is concerned I’m still waiting for a brighter future.

Some trawling on the interweb (Soulful Detroit forums were valuable) has given me a bit more of an insight on Debbie Taylor’s career, but only a bit. She would appear to hail from Norfolk, Virginia and made her recording debut at Decca records in 1968 where she had two or three releases including “Check Yourself”. This track is included in a list of late sixties tracks that were apparently, in part at least, a result of collaborations between David Porter and Curtis Johnson & The Astors. Debbie then moved to the GWP label. In March 1969 “Never Going To Let Him Know/”Let’s Prove Them Wrong” was the label’s debut release and well worth seeking out. Debbie had another couple of single releases on GWP, The Hesitations were co-credited on one release and were almost certainly present on her other singles too. Production was by George Kerr. Her only album “Comin’ Down On You” was produced by Patrick Adams and released in 1972 on Today, and reissued on CD in 1997 as “Still Comin’ Down On You”. Apart from that the only other releases I can find reference to were lone outings on Grapevine (a GWP offshoot), Polydor and the Arista single featured here. A criminally small catalogue to leave, and I wonder where life took her after 1976?

Here are both sides, and I’ve included the sundown run-out groove!
Debbie Taylor – I Don’t Wanna Leave You 1975
Debbie Taylor – Just Don’t Pay 1975

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Time for another reggae post. I dug this one out of the collection to include on a little vinyl mix I put together for a party at chez nous recently. Hadn’t heard it in ages and thought it sounded good after all these years. The label is great too – the horse is of the Trojan variety which makes sense as Horse was a sister label of the great reggae label Trojan.

Dandy Livingstone hit the UK pop charts twice in the early 70s, first in 1972 with “Suzanne, Beware Of The Devil” and then with “Big City”, which peaked at #26 in January 1973. That was back in the days when singles sold in hundreds of thousands, and everything from glam rock to American singer-songwiters to novelty records to quality soul to football teams to records your mum liked would rub shoulders in the charts (how about: The Sweet – Paul Simon – Benny Hill – The O’Jays – Chelsea FC - Shirley Bassey. Actually, Shirley was my dad’s favourite back then).

Reggae (or ska) made the occasional appearance too although I can only remember it as being either bordering on novelty (i.e Judge Dread with his “Big…” series) or with a pronounced pop leaning viz Dandy Livingstone. So I thought then, and in fact until a few hours ago, that Dandy was just somebody who emerged, struck lucky with a couple of hits, and disappeared. But in fact he had been on the reggae/ska scene for a number of years and had recorded the original versions of what would become hits for Two Tone acts The Specials and The Bodysnatchers. You can read more about him at

Suzanne, Beware Of The Devil” is available as a sort of Greatest Hits CD. (“Big City” is on it, on the link provided you have to expand the list to get the full track listing, it fooled me to start with).

(An anoraks note: On my single I notice that the dead wax matrix numbers are reversed viz a viz the labels, I wonder if this makes it rare? Hell, get a life man!).

Here are both sides of the single. Simple lyrics and arrangements, and charming.

Dandy Livingstone – Big City 1972
Dandy Livingstone – Think About That 1972

Friday, November 24, 2006

Without boots came the rapper

What follows are a few random musings surrounding Millie Jackson by way of lead in to two tracks from the lovely lady.

I was originally going to call this post “Millie gets Darcy cooking”, a play on Limmie & Family Cookin’. For no other reason than Limmie and Millie are sort of similar names and they gave us “You Can Do Magic”, and Millie can certainly do magic. But the blog title I’ve settled on is a play on something else that I’ll let you figure out.

Back in September both Got The Fever and Moistworks featured Millie Jackson on blogposts. The featured trilogies in those posts make both those albums essential buys. Coincidentally, the day before the Moistworks post (that featured tracks from “Caught Up”) I had just filled a big hole in my vinyl collection by acquiring both “Caught Up” and “Still Caught Up”. On playing “Caught Up” it felt like being reintroduced to an old friend, it all sounded so familiar I know I must have listened to this album many times back in the day at some friend’s house, though now I can no longer remember who that person was.

I’m sure I remember reading some years ago that Millie was, at the time at least, a favourite of Ken Clarke - the real ale swilling, jazz loving, Hush Puppied MP who was the best party leader the Tory party never had. Excellent taste all round, he certainly would have got my vote.

Millie has given us some fantastic music down the years (quality control is not all it should be in the MJ production department, but when she's good she’s very very good). Her lyrics have often demonstrated a sharp and bawdy sense of humour and it seems this follows on her album covers too – witness the now legendary covers featuring a certain bathroom item of furniture. I’ve also noticed her feet are rather prominent on a number of album covers – another sign methinks of someone that doesn’t take herself too seriously.
As evidence I present for you here detail from the following MJ albums covers: “Feelin’ Bitchy” (back cover), “Free And In Love” (front and back cover), “Caught Up”, and “Get It Out’cha System”, all featuring Millie’s feet in all their naked glory.

Millie was well known for her raps. This was in the seventies mind. You couldn’t say they helped define today’s rap music genre. Millie’s raps are a million miles away from the metronomic malevolent morass that is much of today’s gangsta rap. Millie’s raps aren’t constricted by the never ending pursuit of a rhyme, however banal. Millie’s raps draw from a more classical meaning of the word i.e.Slang: to talk or discuss, esp. freely, openly, or volubly; chat as opposed to the now more accepted sense of the word in musical circles i.e. Slang. to talk rhythmically to the beat of rap music. Millie gets down to the bone.

"All The Way Lover”, from the 1977 album “Feelin’ Bitchy”, is a fine example of rap a la Millie. I used to play this in the slow spot at a club spot in Bath (England) I used to DJ at back in the day. Good memories. Do they still have slow spots in clubs nowadays?

Millie can sing too, a big, powerful, warm, gutsy voice. You could imagine her not needing a microphone on stage.

On “Walking In The Rain”, a single from 1983, she gets seriously soulful but also reveals a tender side to her character. Could Millie's bold and brash exterior all be a front? Well, maybe not, but even the toughest can get hurt by love sometimes.

OK you’ve got me banged to rights guv – yes Millie sets my pulse a racing. The quiet storm starts here….

Millie Jackson – All The Way Lover 1977
Millie Jackson – I Feel Like Walking In The Rain 1983

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How much!?

On a fairly regular basis I drop by Manship’s auction page. It’s good entertainment - I don’t buy, just look, and wonder whether the records can really be worth the money that is being bid and that there are people out there that can square it with themselves to shell out the sometimes stratospheric amounts of dosh that the records go for. No and yes are probably the answers. Earlier this week, as I was passing through, somebody was sitting on a current bid of £7375 for Don Gardner’s “Cheatin Kind” on Sedgrick with just under a day to go. I missed the end of the auction but guessed if I swung by soul-source their forums would be alive with the (probably predominantly Northern English accented) chatter of the progress of this particular auction. Sure enough I found what I was looking for – the Don Gardner slab of vinyl finally went for £8687 (yes that’s GBP)! Amazing. Not moving in NS circles I had never heard of this record. I listened to a sound clip (a few times) and have to say - I’ll whisper it: it really isn’t very good (in my humble opinion of course). The soul-source forum thread on said disc was fascinating, Apparently it was found in a DJ collection of predominantly rock and pop that was being offloaded. A few copies had circulated in the 70s. Mr. Manship himself had been chipping in saying how he had bought a copy of it for £3 from the legendary Soul Bowl in the mid 70s and sold it on for a similar amount a couple of years later. Apparently a few had tried to break it on the dancefloors, all to no avail. But crucially only a few copies have ever surfaced and so it developed into a ‘holy grail’ record. This is truly the strange world of Northern Soul. Record collecting as an extreme sport, or is it trainspotting as high art?

Even if I won the lottery I couldn’t imagine spending more than a tenth of that amount on a record. Luckily there’s still so much great vinyl around I don’t need to consider it.

“Just A Little Overcome” seems appropriate here. A truly magnificent soul record from the Nightingales (sans Ollie) and tons better than the Don Gardner track imo. Tommy Tate is the lead singer on this track (as I learnt recently while idly browsing John Ridley’s page at the Soul of The Net). This is from a strong compilation of Stax output “The Stax Story” that’s been in my collection for many years. The sleeve notes of this album say of the Nightingales and this track: “Originally a gospel group, the Dixie Nightingales, who worked steadily, weekend in weekend out, throughout the fifties (and recorded for Pepper and Nashboro Records), signed to Stax’s new subsidiary gospel label Chalice. In ’67 they had become Ollie & The Nightingales (featuring the lead voice of Ollie Hoskins) and turned their scorching, testifying style to non-religious material. The group had hits (“I Got A Sure Thing” 1968, and “I’ve Got A Feeling” 1969) before Ollie left to record solo (first with Stax, later for the MGM distributed Pride label) and the Nightingales turned in “Just A Little Overcome” an undiscovered flipside classic released in May ’71. Listen hard, it’ll move any soul”. Indeed.

In fact it was B side to “I Don’t Want To Be Like My Daddy” and you can probably pick this up for less than a tenner. On CD you can find the track on an Ollie & The Nightingales compilation.

Nightingales or Don Gardner? Whichever way you look at it I think it’s a no brainer, take me to Berkeley Square immediately (ouch!).

Nightingales – Just A Little Overcome 1971

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You're welcome, stop on by

“Hmm, early November – must be almost time for the December issue of The Word to drop through the letterbox”, and so it did the morning after I had this thought. Not quite a record for advance delivery, I think I had one delivered on the 3rd of the (preceding) month once. The Word is always a good read I think, probably due in part to the fact that I must be a near contemporary to the editor (Mark Ellen) and at least one main writer (David Hepworth). MP3 blogs, audioblogs, or whatever you want to call things such as this wot you are reading now seem to have been getting an increasing number of references and name drops in the mainstream press recently. The Word’s team seem to be quite disposed to them. In this month’s edition David Hepworth has written an article on MP3 bloggers and their output (I thought of saying "art", but that’s pushing it a bit I guess) that is almost reverential in tone. It seems David spends many a Saturday morning clicking from blog to blog, whether mine is one of them I don’t know. “MP3 bloggers don’t make any wild claims. They just put the stuff there” he says, and he concludes his article with : “… By then they will have formed themselves into the Society For The Protection of Unpopular Music (see in the phone book under SPUM) and will have royal patronage. Here’s to them, for they shall inherit the earth.”

On behalf of all the bloggers on my blogroll and the thousands of others out there I would like to say thanks to David for the kind words. I’m sure we all approach this MP3 blogging lark as a labour of love, but nevertheless it’s nice to get a comment or two now and then and it strikes me that with his article David has just posted a huge communal comment.

Just one thing, though – SPUM? It sounds like a cross between scum and spam. Surely we bloggers deserve a better sounding acronym/initialism?!

So what to play to accompany this post? Well, I can’t believe I have been doing this for almost eight months now and I haven’t yet posted a Rufus track. Time to put that right. I’m sure Rufus & Chaka Khan need no introduction from me – they had a unique sound and were pure class. "Stop On By" was the last track on their 1974 "Rufusized" album when they were just hitting top form. There are plenty of Rufus tracks that make me cry whenever I hear them and this is one of them, maybe it's the strings on this one that does it. The label scan is of the UK single but I've posted the album version of the track as it has a sublime fade out-in-out. Don't be fooled - stay listening for the sax at the end.

Rufus – Stop On By 1974

Sunday, October 29, 2006

One thing leads to another...

Work dominates again at the moment I’m afraid, so this post will be short. If you’re a regular visitor you will have been expecting a follow on from The Ohio Players post in the form of another Capitol release from 1968. Just three Capitol releases earlier than The Ohio Players was this one from Bettye Swann. “(My Heart Is) Closed For The Season” was the B-side of “Don’t Touch Me” on Capitol 2382 although it had also appeared as an A-side earlier in the same year on Capitol 2236. “Don’t Touch Me” was a minor hit I think but maybe assisted by it’s, to my ears, superior B-side. I don’t think “Closed For The Season” was a hit in it’s own right but it deserved to be a monster. Bettye’s voice may be sweet and pure, but on this track the tone is anything but - she’s hurt and indignant as she pours her heart out over the realisation that her latest love affair wasn’t all it seemed. Like the song’s subject matter the arrangement is also complex, and the horns in particular remind me of something else, but I have never been able to nail it (if somebody could help me out with that I would be grateful). On top of all that it’s got a great title.

In 2004 Honest Jon’s followed their great collection of Candi Staton’s Fame material with a similarly fine Bettye Swann compilation focussing on her Capitol material that includes this track. Also here you can find (some?) liner notes from that compilation which give insight into Bettye’s musical career and what she is (maybe) doing now.

Happy Birthday Bettye, 62 earlier this week.

As I post this there is only just over an hour to go before British Summer Time is closed for the season – have you turned those clocks back?

Bettye Swann - (My Heart Is) Closed For The Season 1968

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

...and another

So where have those dots in the post title led from? Well, the next post actually. Confused? So am I! I’ll try and explain.
The Ohio Players single in my previous post had made my mind up on my next post – it reminded me of a 45 I had been going to feature some time ago but hadn’t quite got round to. The reason for the nudge being that this other record is also on Capitol and, to use one of my favourite cricket commentary phrases, is very adjacent in the catalog. Not plum you understand, just very adjacent*. Anyway, back from another European jaunt a few days ago I needed a vinyl fix so pulled out a few 45s to spin. One of them was Betty Wright’s “One Thing Leads To Another”. Now that’s a perfect title for my post on the (at the moment mystery) Capitol track I thought, and so it will be. But hey, this Betty Wright single deserves the spotlight turned on it too, so, as Betty sings, one thing leads to another… and another, and Betty’s track has muscled it’s way into today’s post and will serve as a bridge to the next post by dint of it’s title. So, with my next post laying claim to “One Thing Leads To Another” as it’s subject title, today’s post gets the sequel title although it has ended up as the prequel. Also, I thought with the Previous Posts list reading backwards in time the post titles will eventually read correctly with the ellipses** flowing naturally into each other.

* If you know your Capitol catalog you are welcome to guess which track it will be – no prizes, just a bit of fun.

**I may be on shaky ground but I think these are called an ellipsis. More than you ever wanted to know about ellipses can be found here.

If you’re still with me you deserve a medal! And I haven’t been smoking anything, honest!
Enough of all this - what’s the word I’m looking for? - drivel?!

Time to let Betty Wright take centre stage with a cautionary tale for all the young ladies out there. By the end of this song Betty’s in trouble!
I would venture to say this isn’t one of Betty’s better known tracks, but it’s nevertheless a wonderful piece of Miami styled slippery, slinky funk. At two and half minutes it’s small but perfectly formed, and still manages to incorporate a few pauses which I really like. I love Betty’s voice, and on Alston (named after Steve Alaimo and Henry Stone) with Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke on writing and production credits that was quite a team back in the seventies. Betty is truly a legend on the soul scene. She seems to have been around forever yet she is now only in her early fifties. Her first Alston single “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do” was released in 1968 when she was only 15. This was in fact already her third single, earlier releases having been made on Deep City and Solid Soul. At the still tender age of 18 she hit it big with “Clean Up Woman” which was single number 12 (“Clean Up Woman” was on the 1972 album “I Love The Way You Love” which I highly recommend, and it’s not difficult to find on vinyl, nor expensive). For the record the single featured here was number 18 and when you realise how young she still was the lyrics were no doubt very pertinent. She is still very active on the music scene and recently, of course, was a key element in the production team responsible for Joss Stone’s “Soul Sessions”. Betty’s Wikipedia entry has a few interesting bits of trivia.

Betty Wright – One Thing Leads To Another 1974

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Observations in time

Week in week out Mr. Fine Wine over at WFMU keeps on coming up with the goods. Downtown Soulville is chock full of soul/r&b classics every week. The records may be generally 30-40 years old but many are new to me, and therein lies the joy of tuning in (in reality, of course, “tuning in” simply means a couple of mouse clicks nowadays). I like the paradox - I’m excited and invigorated by hearing music that is new and fresh to me, at the same time knowing that it is all from a bygone age. Every now and then the excitement becomes full blown intoxication - you know, that special feeling you get when you hear a record for the first time and it hits you right between the ears and your moved to say "WOW! this is fantastic, who is this?!" (out loud, to nobody and anybody, and it’s like a knee jerk reaction – you know, you just can’t stop yourself). Well, in my experience, that happens fairly often listening to Mr. Fine Wine, and it certainly happened a couple of weeks ago. Tucked in near the end of his show were The Ohio Players with “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow”. Now, being born in the late 50s, my musical radar didn’t really attune until the 70s when, among others, it picked up The Ohio Players loud and clear with their own unique brand of slinky, senuous funk (with an occasional twist of hard rock). Incidentally, their album covers registered elsewhere too! What I didn’t realise then, nor in fact, until very recently, was that the band had paid their dues, so to speak, through the 60s. In much the same way as many other 70s heavyweights – George Clinton’s extravaganza Parliament/Funkadelic and the O’Jays for example – some enduring members of The Ohio Players (originally the Ohio Untouchables) had started out at the dawn of the 60s in almost a doo-wop vein before moving (with the times) into straight ahead soul later in that decade.

“Here Today and Gone Tomorrow” dates from 1968. Structurally reminiscent of Smokey’s “Tracks Of My Tears” it is one of the finest examples of a soul record you are ever likely to hear. Sometimes in my archaeological digs through soul music’s golden age I begin to think that maybe there are no more classics to unearth, but then such a track as today’s selection pops up and I know the digging is worthwhile, and so I carry on, refreshed.

Another good thing about Downtown Soulville: although some of the featured records are almost impossible to get hold of, many are fairly easy(=cheap) to find. So to continue the notion of the “old is new” paradox, barely two weeks after hearing this track for the first time I now have my very own vinyl copy of it. In these situations – i.e. hear a record, got to have it - the Internet is truly a wondrous thing. I went onto Gemm and found a handful of copies available, and so it was that a few days ago, all the way from sunny Brighton UK, a copy dropped through the letterbox. I popped it on the turntable and I am sure experienced pretty much exactly the same feelings as I did some thirty odd years ago when playing The Ohio Players then new release “Love Rollercoaster” for the first time. Yes, I still get those same tingly feelings, just like a kid with a new toy.

“Here Today And Gone Tomorrow”, and the other side of this single “Bad Bargain” – which judging by the catalog numbers on the label may well have been the original A side – were both featured on The Ohio Players second album “Observations In Time”. Both these tracks and much of their late 60s Compass/Capitol output is available on the Charly CD Trespassin’.

The Ohio Players – Here Today And Gone Tomorrow 1968

Monday, September 25, 2006

Six Music (Pt. 3) - Seventies big hitters

The jet setting work schedule is continuing to play havoc with the posting calendar I’m afraid. I’m back at home for a couple of weeks now but at the moment seem to be feeling a bit below par so will keep the words to a minimum if you don’t mind.

This is the third and final part of my Six Music mini series. With two records featured in each post that makes six altogether, which is sort of appropriate.

The O’Jays and The Fatback Band should need no introduction, both giants of the 70s soul and funk scene.

In the early 70s The O’Jays seemed to develop a preoccupation with some of the more dishonourable facets of human behaviour – witness songs such as “Backstabbers”, “992 Arguments”, “For The Love Of Money” and the B side of the single featured here, the wonderfully titled “Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind Of People”. It’s always good to get things of your chest isn’t it? There’s not much to choose between this and the A side “Time To Get Down” – both prime examples of early Philly soul sophistication. But the B side has to win here on the title.

On the other hand The Fatback Band just wanted to PARTY. “Njia Walk” is an infectious hunk of street funk. In 1973 they were still on Perception and hadn’t really hit the big time, although that was just around the corner with singles such as “Wicki Wacky”, “Yum Yum”, and “Bus Stop”. Njia is a Swahili word meaning way, road, route, or street – hence “Street Walk”.
Incidentally sorry about the sound quality on this one, the vinyl looks pristine, it must just be a bad pressing.

The O’Jays – Shiftless, Shady, Jealous Kind Of People 1972
The Fatback Band – Njia (Nija) Walk 1973

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Six music (Pt. 2) - dawn and dusk, and long titles

For the artists concerned the releases here are representative of the dawn and dusk of their respective recording careers.

As Sisters Sledge, Debbie, Kim, Joni & Kathy had formed in 1971. After one(?) local release they signed with Atco in 1972. “Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me” was I believe their third release for Atco (and I think their second for Atlantic in the UK). Mention Sister Sledge nowadays and Disco will automatically come to mind. But back in the early seventies when they first formed, as teenagers, the Jackson Five were probably the blueprint. Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers and Disco were phenomena that hadn’t yet happened. “Changes” is well loved on the Northern circuit I believe. It certainly isn’t a stomper though, and I would think could claim to be one of the earliest examples of the Modern Soul genre (I’m not expert on these labels mind, and don’t really subscribe to all this pigeon-holing). I seem to be building up something of an obsession with this cut - I now own three copies. My first is in fact on an EP issued on the back of a 1974(?) UK Atlantic artists tour (it also includes Ben E King's great "Supernatural Thing"). I only vaguely remember the gig – it was half empty I seem to remember and suffered accordingly from the lack of atmosphere). But I love this track so much that whenever I see it in a cheap bin I can’t resist buying it to give it some TLC.

Laura Lee recorded some really earthy Southern Soul at Rick Hall’s Fame studios in the late sixties that were released on Chess (“Dirty Man” is up there as one of the all time classics of the style). In 1970 she moved to Holland Dozier Holland’s then newly formed Hot Wax label and charted a number of times. By 1973 Hot Wax was no more so Laura was moved onto the Invictus label. An album “I Can’t Make It Alone” was released in 1973 from which both sides of the single featured here come. Earlier releases had put Laura firmly in the straight talking, bold soul sister mould. But by this release it seemed that image was receding.
“Don’t Leave Me Starving For Your Love” was Laura’s last Invictus single. I think the b side “(If You Want To Try Love Again) Remember Me” is the stronger side though. Again, today, it would probably be branded as Modern Soul, and in fact the more I listen to it the more anthemic it feels – some Northern jock should push this. (I’ve given you a scan of both sides just to prove that it is a legitimate “6er”).

Laura left Invictus in 1975 and, with Disco changing the face of black music, her output all but dried up. Then in 1979 she fell sick and was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully Laura made a full recovery, although it took some time, and she returned to the gospel circuit where she had started her singing career in the fifties with the Meditation Singers. For an in depth look at Laura Lee’s life you should go to Colin Dilnott’s site dedicated to telling her story (that’s where some of this information comes from).

Sister Sledge CD comp.
Laura Lee CD comp.

Sister Sledge - Love Don't You Go Through No Changes On Me 1974
Laura Lee - (If You Want To Try Love Again) Remember Me 1974

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Six music (Pt.1)

One of my early posts featured two Ann Peebles singles I had recently picked up in my longest standing crate digging haunt “Disc ‘n’ Tape”. In that post I expressed a wish that the shop should keep a link with the past and never change it’s name. Well, worse than changing name, it closed its doors for good this weekend. From a brief chat with the owner I learnt that it had been a record shop since 1969 and was run by the same family until the mid 90s when the current owner acquired it. With the digital age of downloading and cheap CDs on the internet he has found it increasingly difficult to compete. I am sure the ever increasing costs and red tape (I’m thinking swingeing business rates and seemingly increasingly over zealous health and safety regulations of this nanny state we live in, for example) of running a high street based business in the UK hasn’t helped the cause either.

Anyway it’s a sad loss. It seems, like the hardware stores and many other types of independent shops that were invariably run by knowledgeable and community friendly owners, the local independent record shop is becoming a thing of the past. The knock on effect is that finding places that offer up any significant quantities of vinyl to run my fingers through is getting increasingly difficult. It will be charity shops or nothing soon.

My final haul from “Disc ‘n’ Tape” included a number of singles with what appears to be a number 6 written in black felt tip on the label. Whoever 6 was he had good taste in soul music. So over the next few posts I will offer up for your aural delights “Six Music”.

First up is Eddie Floyd. Both sides of this single are beautiful so it gets a post all to itself. After “Knock On Wood” this was Eddie’s biggest hit I believe. You can find both of these on “Rare Stamps”. If you follow this link you will find a reviewer state that Eddie was thought of as something of a second-string artist at Stax. To date I too would not have listed him as an essential listen, but I think it’s about time I changed that view.

Eddie Floyd – I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do) 1968
Eddie Floyd – I’m Just The Kind Of Fool 1968

While i'm here just a quick mention for a relatively new blog on the block - Office Naps. Some great words and music being posted. Soul Sides drew my attention to it and therefore probably yours as well. But if you haven't tilted back your chair and put your feet up on the desk yet then you should.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An old friend

As an impressionable teenager in the 70s I developed a fascination with America and all things American. I am sure that was not an unusual teenage fixation to have. It was, no doubt, fuelled by the explosion of American shows on TV. In comparison with the relatively staid and drab UK that seemed to exist then, or at least the version of it that seemed to be invariably depicted on the TV, America was a big, bold, glamorous place. I loved the fact that there seemed to be a spirit of enterprise, that people could be individuals; I loved the cars, the sunshine… and of course the music. Initially glam rock (T.Rex, Bowie and Roxy Music – the usual suspects) had opened my musical ears. But I soon picked up on soul and funk. All emanating from across the pond, this music fitted perfectly with my developing American fixation and fuelled it even more. One of the first albums I bought that could be labelled as soul was Tower Of Power’s “Back To Oakland”. I had heard some of their music somewhere on the radio and it sounded good, a millions away from glam rock, and redolent of the America I was seeing on those TV shows. The cover of the album was a clincher in terms of making me part with my money - a view of Bay Bridge with the album title represented as a massive road sign – it perfectly represented my vision of America as it was back then. (In hindsight a somewhat rose tinted view of course, but remember I was a teenager). I was too young to drive then but my dream was a road trip across America. Thirty something years on I can drive but the dream remains unfulfilled. The album cover still does it for me today, as does the music on the vinyl within.

As I mentioned on a recent post, Tower Of Power’s music can be difficult to categorise (in fact that post was two months ago already! Where does the time go?, and the weather :( ). They had/have a tight rhythm section, horns to die for, and with Lenny Williams, at the peak of his powers methinks on this album, a SOULful front man. On “Back To Oakland” you get strings added into the some of the arrangements too and a few of the tracks border on jazz supper club territory. So - soulful yes, funky yes, and with a cocktail cherry thrown in for good measure. I won’t hear a bad thing said about this album. It occupies a place close to my heart.

I would love to post the whole album, but that is sort of against my principles. So I’m limiting myself to only a couple of tracks. The funky “Don’t Change Horses” and “Squib Cakes” are possibly the most well known from the album, and excellent they are. But I’m posting what are to my mind the two hidden gems on the album. “Man From The Past” is as perfect an amalgam of soul, funk and jazz as you are likely to ever hear on one track. “Can’t You See” is small and perfectly formed, with a complex arrangement that sounds deceptively simple, TofP make it sound so effortless but it’s full of soul.

Buy “Back To Oakland”

Play that Oakland Stroke....

Tower Of Power – Man From The Past 1974
Tower Of Power – Can’t You See (You Doin’ Me Wrong) 1974

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Beavering away

My usual beat of a post every 5 or 6 days has gone a bit haywire of late, sorry ‘bout that. Busy times. Looks like work is going to take me away from my “blogpit” pretty frequently over the next few months. And of course when I am at home there are all the other family and homey things to catch up with. This has certainly contributed to the less frequent posts of late but who knows? it may have the opposite effect in the long run. As work has taken me to a big European city (Munich) I’m sort of in tourist mode in the evenings, and tracking down the good restaurants and watering holes. However experience suggests that the novelty will wear off and then I suspect I will have some time on my hands in the evenings. So what better way to fill it than by composing more blog posts? There is no free internet at the hotel though so my output maybe a bit thin on the facts and fat on my aimless ramblings. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s the music you tune in for, so without further ado let’s get to it.
I think it was on her (excellent) rendition of Super Duper Lover that Joss Stone uttered the words “play it for me Little Beaver”. Younger listeners, or those without an extensive knowledge of Soul and R&B (in it’s original sense), may have been forgiven for thinking “Wow she can do that with it? that’s one versatile lady!”. Of course the Little Beaver she was referring to was in fact guitarist William Hale. Willie was born in Forrest City, Arkansas and celebrated his 61st birthday last week. He moved to Florida in his teens and later hooked up with Henry Stone at the TK label at he start of the 70s. He was a prolific session guitarist appearing on many of the TK and related label’s releases in the early 70s – for artists such as Betty Wright and George & Gwen McCrae. In 1972 he started exercising his vocal chords as well and launched his solo career on another TK subsidiary label – Cat. “Joey” was his first single hit in 1972 and “Party Down” was his biggest hit in 1974. To the best of my knowledge he released five albums in the 70s. His music is a mix of blues, soul and funk. Unfortunately his solo career really got into its stride at the same time as disco was taking off and the Southern soul style was going out of fashion. Having said that his final hit “Groove On” is something of a disco classic (filed under rare groove).

What you are maybe wanting to know is how he got the name Little Beaver? Well I would like to know too. I haven’t been able to find anything on he internet by way of explanation. So if anybody out there knows please post a comment.

Both tracks here today have a really haunting and mellow groove. “Let The Good Times Roll” I remember picking up nearly 30 years ago on a stall in London’s Soho. “We Three” I found on eBay a few months ago. So for your listening pleasure here’s an old favourite of mine together with a new favourite.

The Very Best Of Little Beaver

Little Beaver at Dusty Groove

Little Beaver – Let The Good Times Roll Everybody 1975
Little Beaver – We Three 1977

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The birth of this post has been a real effort for some reason. Sometimes an artist or track just jumps out of the collection and demands to be featured, sometimes something (usually trivial) going on in my life or the world will prove the inspiration for a post. But for some days now I haven’t been able to settle on a track, the words haven’t flowed, and in all honesty I haven’t even felt like listening to much music. Mitigating circumstances? Well I’ve been busy at work, and it took me out of town last week. But apart from that when not at work these lazy hazy days of summer have seemed to fill me with a feeling approaching ennui. Maybe the weather is frazzling my brain.

So how did I finally decide on LJ Reynolds for this post? Some tenuous and random connections. As I said, I was out of town last week - out of the country in fact. It’s the first time for a couple of years I’ve taken a jet plane to go to work. Then, I made a number of trips to Atlanta, Georgia and was staying and working not far from Norcross. (Old Norcross was charming, with a sense of history and some good restaurants I seem to remember). Anyway after getting back from my trip last week (to Germany this time round) and checking the Sitemeter stats for this blog it just so happened the last person to visit would appear to have been located in Norcross. So the first connection is? During my trips to Georgia I spent many a spare hour trawling second hand record shops (and a few thrift shops, and a couple of Atlanta record fairs too) and “Let One Hurt Do” was one of my $1 bin finds. The second connection? I dropped in on Yoni’s Soul Of The Net for the first time in a while the other day to find some new listings for our listening pleasure. From previous visits I know that “Let One Hurt Do” is an entry in his Living Room Chart. Yoni has so much great material available on his site the chances are, even if you have made yourself at home in his living room, you may well have not stumbled on today’s little gem. So there you are – the tenuous and random connections that inspired today’s choice.

LJ Reynolds is probably best known as a long time member of the Dramatics. He joined the group in 1973 and has been a near constant member ever since. He is credited as singing the most leads on their recordings. Larry James Reynolds was born in 1952 in Saginaw, Michigan. His recording career would appear to have started at the tender age of 11 when he released three singles on the Tri-Spin label. The second single was called “Sweet Tooth” which must have been what Larry had at that time as he was credited as Larry “Chubby” Reynolds! (Still, if you can’t enjoy your sweets at 12 years old then when can you?). I guess schooling took priority for a few years because it seems that his next credited recordings didn’t appear until 1969-1972. In this period I have been able to find mention of five credited singles (although more releases on small local independents may well exist): topped and tailed by solo credits, in between came a single with The Relations – real relations, and two with New Jersey based Chocolate Syrup which included “Let One Hurt Do” and the gloriously titled “The Penguin Breakdown”. (Incidentally, both these appear on the UK album Chess/Janus Mobile Discotheque released in the early 70s and not too hard to find in the second hand shops. In fact I have this album but only discovered “Let One Hurt Do” was on it sometime after I picked up the single in Atlanta!). The story goes that Chocolate Syrup recorded the track (possibly simply as a backing track intended to be used for a different song – because this is what appears on the b side of the Law-Ton disc) and LJ’s vocal was recorded separately before he had even met the group, and then the two tracks mixed together. “Let One Hurt Do” was a top 30 R&B hit in 1971. LJ’s time with Chocolate Syrup didn’t last long as he went on to join the Dramatics in 1973, replacing William Howard. He left the Dramatics in 1980 for a solo career with Capitol, releasing four albums, and then rejoined them in 1986. Since then he has recorded a number of other solo ventures whilst still singing with the Dramatics. (some of this information was gleaned from this Dramatics fan site.

It’s a surprise to me that LJ was so young at the time he recorded this track. There seems to be more experience there than his tender 19 years, and with some beautifully restrained backing vocals and soaring strings added into the mix, go on, wallow in that Chocolate Syrup.

Lost Soul Treasures Vol 4 is the only CD compilation I know of that contains today’s track.

LJ Reynolds & Chocolate Syrup – Let One Hurt Do 1971

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And the heat goes on

Short and sweet on the words front today, you can’t take of advantage of the wonderful weather sitting in front of a computer.

Back in April I posted my first reggae track and predicted a long hot summer. Well, so far here in the UK (and across much of Europe and the US too by the looks of things) the prediction has come true, and how! So let’s try and keep it going with another reggae track. “Joggin’” by Freddie McGregor was released in 1980. You may not feel like jogging in this heat but it’s a pure summer groove. The song operates on two levels. You can let it wash over you as you relax in the sun but listen to the words and you will find the song sounds a cautionary note and, from the viewpoint of twentysomething years on, a prophetic one too.

This track has appeared on a few CDs but if you can find this one in any of your favourite second hand haunts then get it because it looks like a cracking selection.

Freddie McGregor – Joggin’ 1980

Friday, July 21, 2006


Paid another visit to Avalon this week (see earlier post) for another spot of fishing on what turned out to be the hottest July day here in the UK “since records began”. As far as actually catching fish is concerned hot weather and fishing don’t really go together. When you see the fish up near the surface cruising around you know the bites are going to be few and far between and so it proved. The fish were cruising with the top down from 8am! So here’s some cruising music for all those fish, and for you.

The two tracks today come from Neil Larsen’s album “High Gear”. Released in 1979 when jazz-funk was my cup of tea. “Rio Este” is the real cruiser – feel that sun beating down and the wind in your face. And I can’t make reference to this album without also offering up “Demonette” – a great track, it starts slow and moody but don’t be mistaken, it kicks in, and there’s Joe Farrell sax to look forward to near the end of the track too.

Keyboard player Neil Larsen would be pigeon-holed as a jazz rock fusionist I guess. His first recording project appears to have been with guitarist Buzz Feiten, a now much sought after album by a band called Full Moon , this also being the album title and released in 1972. He was for a time a member of The Soul Survivors, the blue eyed New Jersey group that had started in the 60s and then reformed(?) in 1974 and released an album on Gamble & Huff’s TSOP label. Then in 1978-79 he released two albums in his own name (but still with Buzz Feiten in the list of musicians): “Jungle Fever” which included a jazz-funk favourite “Sudden Samba” followed in 1979 by “High Gear”. In 1980 an album appeared as the Larsen-Feiten Band, and then in 1982 another album was released as “Full Moon”. Two further albums were released in his name in the late 80s. Tracing his recording history proved somewhat confusing but I think I’ve got the timeline right. Recorded output in his name, or with him as a leading band member, would appear to represent only half his story though as he is clearly a well respected musician having made numerous appearances in the studio and on stage with the likes of George Benson, David Sanborn, Randy Crawford, and Al Jarreau - with whom he was musical director and keyboard player for a time. My trawl for information also indicates that he may have played on Steely Dan’s “Only A Fool Would Say That” from their first album “Can’t Buy A Thrill” (which just happens to be on my desert island discs list).

It looks like only some of Neil’s material is currently available, and that only as Japanese import CDs.

Neil Larsen – Rio Este 1979
Neil Larsen – Demonette 1979

Friday, July 14, 2006

Patience is a virtue

Today’s tracks come from The Voices Of East Harlem’s 1974 album “Can You Feel It”. They cut four albums on the Just Sunshine label, this being the last. This album has lain dormant in my record collection for nearly 30 years and has received precisely two straight through plays in that time, both in the last few weeks. The reason? The record had a major warp when I bought it way back when, to the extent that it was unplayable. (I bought it from a cut out bin in a still sealed state, and it always makes me think that these people who pay big money for SS albums are taking a risk – there is no way of knowing the condition of record within. Better maybe to buy an opened record described as M-, at least you have some confidence it what you are getting. The allure of the SS record is of course that you will be the first to play it, or that you don’t even open it and just admire it – but that’s just silly! isn’t it?). Anyway, as I am not one to discard things, I put the album back in the collection and there it stayed lovingly hugged all these years by UB40 and Junior Walker. Then a few weeks ago curiosity caused me to pull it out and lo and behold (bit of gospel phrasing there, fitting I thought) the warp has nearly gone, still a little bumpy (well, gently undulating really) but perfectly playable. After a couple of plays my verdict is that the grooves contents are, rather like the vinyl, a bit uneven.

The Voices Of East Harlem were an (up to) 20 strong soul-gospel group, including members as young as 12, and are probably best known for “Cashing In” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” which both appeared (I think) on their eponymous third album. “Can You Feel It” was arranged and produced by Leroy Hutson, and I believe he had a hand in their earlier recordings too. I love the vocals generally on this album but I fear some of the tracks are fairly lightweight and frankly forgettable, and I think some of the tracks end up falling between the two stools of gospel and soul. Nevertheless there is an overall feel to the album and it sort of leaves you with a warm glow, which can’t be bad. For me the two tracks featured here are the standouts. “So Rare” has a lovely gentle and relaxed feel and is a great “summer song”. “Jimmy Joe Lee” is a funkier proposition and has a good arrangement.

“Can You Feel It” is now available on CD and Dusty Groove certainly like it.

The Voices Of East Harlem – So Rare 1974
The Voices Of East Harlem – Jimmy Joe Lee 1974

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Something for the weekend

Something for the weekend, sir? Mmm, some southern soul please.

Here are two tracks from Barbara Lynn’s Atlantic years. "You’re Losing Me" has a light almost pop feel it and is insanely catchy. But what hooked me more than anything though, on first hearing, was the way Barbara semi sings-semi speaks a single word: ‘disgusted’. For me that was reason enough to buy this record. It drove me on to have one of those ebay moments where you get caught up in the chase and end up paying just a little bit more than you intended. In the end I paid what I guess is near the going rate from a dealer, so nothing stupid but not a bargain, or so I thought. On getting the record though, and playing the B side "Why Can’t You Love Me", I think perhaps I got a bargain after all. Pure southern soul, every bit as good as the A side so, effectively, two records for the price of one.
Barbara was born Barbara Lynn Ozen in Texas in 1942. Signed to the Jamie label she enjoyed her first hit in 1962 with "You’ll Lose A Good Thing", and more followed. The hits had dried up by the end of 1965 though and, after a brief spell at the Tribe label, Barbara signed with Atlantic in 1967. Her stay at Atlantic lasted five years but is rather puzzling. In 1968 she released the album "Here Is Barbara Lynn" (available along with other tracks on a now out of print? CD "The Best of Barbara Lynn: The Atlantic Years"). I don’t have this album but looking at the tracklisting it appears to be a strong one as it includes the two tracks featured here; her 1967 hit "This Is The Thanks I Get"; a re-recording of her debut hit; and another strong side "Until Then I’ll Suffer", which finally surfaced as a single in 1971. And that’s the puzzle - after laying down such strong tracks in 1968 her output for Atlantic was precisely zilch for the next three years, and no newly recorded output appeared until 1972. Some interweb trawling reveals that she married at age 28 and has three children, and has stated that she let her music career take a back seat some quality family time. Whether that was the reason for her Atlantic hiatus, which would have started before her marriage, I don’t know. (An aside: as well as having a fine set of pipes Barbara does of course play guitar left handed. So that’s two things I have in common with her, I am also a southpaw, and I also got married when I was 28. My wife is also left handed, and my left handers calendar - an Xmas stocking filler - tells me that means we have something in common with Napoleon & Josephine Bonaparte – you really wanted to know that, I can tell!). After Atlantic, Barbara released a number of singles on Jetstream through the latter half of the 70s. But after that recorded material has been few and far between. She is still active on the music scene though, labelled as a blues artist – but then soul as a genre label seems to have dropped completely off the radar now anyway. A CD "Blues And Soul Situation" was released in 2004 on Dialtone. Listening to the track samplers it seems a pretty good collection, although a number of the tracks are new versions of old material which seem to be a feature of much of her recorded output, even from her earliest days.
You can find a good bio of Barbara, written by Dave Rimmer, which originally appeared in the Soulful Kinda Music fanzine, here.

Barbara Lynn - You're Losing Me 1968
Barbara Lynn - Why Can't You Love Me 1968

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Let's do it

I’ve been watching paint dry too much lately, and it’s not all been due to the decorating! So come on England shape up or ship out - the time is now, or else there’s no tomorrow.

Editor's note (6/7/06): There really wasn't much conviction in this rallying cry, the outcome was, I thought, somewhat inevitable. Still, a good excuse to post the Brass Construction track. A poor showing throughout from the England boys. Hopefully though there will be one good thing to emerge from England's whole sorry World Cup journey - the mad swede Sven might well be unemployable in football from now on!
Good luck to Italy and France in the final.

Brass Construction – Now Is Tomorrow 1976

(From "Brass Construction II")

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Two whole days without football – this must be a window of opportunity for a blog post.

Last weekend (a long one – hooray) was spent in deepest Somerset on a very relaxing fishing trip with some friends. Although the Somerset Levels are almost on my doorstep - certainly from a Google Earth perspective - I had never ventured into (onto?) them before. Being flat, I suppose my perception was that the Levels would be featureless and the landscape therefore uninteresting. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As Wikipedia describes, the Levels should more accurately be described as the Levels and Moors, and it was the Moors area in which we were fishing, and which I had been previously unaware of. I guess due to it’s susceptibility to flooding the whole area is sparsely populated and not intensively farmed. Looking at the countryside surrounding the lake we were fishing it was easy to imagine that it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. The broads and lanes seem to be on the verge of falling apart in some places, and there is a rash of 30 and 40 mph speed limits on the more major roads. So you are left with an overall feeling of a slow and dreamy pace of life. It felt like we had stepped back in time. Add to that some great weather (and some great beer in the evenings) and the whole weekend took on a vaguely magical air. I will be going back soon.

I have been struggling to pick a track of music that reflects the trip. I was hung up on the thought that it should at least in some way feel quintessentially English and have a watery reference, if not actually a reference to the noble art of angling. In the end the track I have chosen scores on none of these points. However, I think it does fit perfectly with the trip’s overall dynamic.

“Sparkling In The Sand” appeared on Tower Of Power’s first album “East Bay Grease” in 1970. It was also, I believe, their first single (although it must have been in edited form). Something of an opus, it clocks in at just over nine minutes. Listening you are transported to a place where all there is to do is dream away the hours shimmering in the heat haze. The overall feel is languid, although it does build to a few quiet crescendos (now there’s a contradiction in terms, but I could easily relate these to the few times a fish took hold of my hook during last weekend). Much of Tower Of Power’s output is difficult to categorise – you get a mix of funk and soul (the soul was especially present with Lenny Williams on vocals), a wicked horn section, and often a liberal helping of Hollywood Hills sheen, which in later years sometimes veered dangerously close to MOR.
Their overall sound is unique. And I would be so bold as to say that “Sparkling In The Sand” takes one step further and is unique within their output. It has a dreamy and magical quality. I almost feel like I’m listening to the sun going down on the flower power era, and timewise that just about fits.
Download and enjoy (and make sure the sun is shining for the perfect effect).

Tower Of Power – Sparkling In The Sand 1970

Forthcoming menu (a la Darcy):
On our trip a friend commented that the ambience of the Somerset Levels reminded him of the American Deep South – for example there were some distinctly tumble down looking collections of shacks and sheds nestling in the trees, something you don’t normally see in the UK nowadays. We are no experts on the Deep South but I can imagine he’s right. And that’s a good cue as any for a dash of southern soul coming up in a post next week.
ALSO sometime soon I intend to post some more Tower Of Power.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Boogie Friday sub

Life continues apace. Let’s see: the decorating isn’t done yet, due in some part to the little matter of the World Cup - there is plenty of the beautiful game to watch on TV (that’s beautiful providing you’re not watching England!). I also made a short notice business trip to Germany this week - no live football on the itinerary though :( . And the next few weekends are blocked out in the diary and will take me away from the computer. All this is a roundabout way of saying that the posts maybe a little less frequent for the next few weeks. Over at #1 Songs In Heaven London Lee is busy too it seems. It’s possible he won’t make his usual Boogie Friday post in which case you could treat this post as an able and willing sub.

Oh no! did somebody say disco? Don’t be put off by the title, this one’s a banger. You are propelled along with an almost frantic disco beat and, granted, there are some fairly derivative girly vocals to begin with, but stick with it. Two and a half minutes in Sil Austin’s sax throws of the shackles, a haunting synth underpins the whole thing, and the rest is pure jazz-funk magic. As far as I know this never came out on 12” and if it had I am sure it would have found a wider audience and would now be regularly hailed as a classic.

Sil Austin - Disco Music 1976

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reggae and decorating

Busy busy this week. The lounge makeover has been going well. I set the pasting table up on the patio so managing to do two things at once – decorating and sun bathing. It’s been a great week weather wise - wall to wall sunshine. Inevitably the sunshine led me to put some reggae on the CD player. So with a pasting brush in one hand and a bottle of Stella in the other it’s been all good.

My other obsession this past couple of weeks has been trying to complete a set of Panini World Cup football stickers (I know, I’m a grown man and I should know better). Well, as I write this I’m down to needing just three more to finish the collection after some, at times, frenzied swapping on ebay (I need numbers 319, 324, 388 if anybody would like to make a donation). An interesting use of ebay and one I’m not sure they would particularly condone, although I suppose they do get the seller’s advertising fee.

So, short on the words this week but here’s a splash of reggae. I used to play Errol Dunkley’s “A Little Way Different” to death at a club I used to DJ at back in the day. It was blasting out of the speakers again this week as another piece of paper went up (just about straight). You can find it on OK Fred: The Best Of Errol Dunkley although I’m not sure if it’s the full 12” version as featured in this post. The full version is on Reggae Classics – Serious Selections Vol. 2 – RewindSelecta but I think this CD is now out of print.

Errol Dunkley – A Little Way Different 1978

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What goes round...

About 15 years ago we had a cabinet made to house our already ageing hi-fi seperates (as they were called back in the day). But as the 90s wore on the cabinet sat in the corner and its contents seemed to get less and less use. Then I decided to keep tropical fish and it seemed the best place to put the tank was on top of the hi-fi cabinet. Now the cabinet had an opening top for easy access to the turntable (quaint, I know). With the fish tank on top of the cabinet there was no way to open the lid so the only way to put a record on the turntable was to feed it through a narrow gap (almost like feeding a CD player), and cueing was a nightmare. Consequently for a few years the vinyl collection was badly neglected. Then I realised you could hook up the hi-fi to a computer so the turntable and amp went upstairs to the spare room with the computer. That left the CD player and speakers in the lounge completely redundant with no amp, and that’s the way it has been for the last few years, with the hi-fi cabinet performing as nothing more than a fish tank stand and video storage.

Well finally it’s makeover time for the lounge (my project for the next few weeks). The fish tank has been moved and said cabinet has a new lease of life. It’s been moved into another room, reunited with the hi-fi equipment and hooked up with another computer. I’m working on re-introducing my original KEF speakers to the mix (they’re a bit too big for my wife’s liking), but with that done the entire hi-fi ensemble will have been reunited. Back from the dead!

(By the way I’m not a complete dinosaur – I do also have an ipod shuffle!).

You can find today’s track on the CD “James Brown – Funky Men” available at and Virgin UK

Bobby Byrd – Back From The Dead 1975

Monday, May 29, 2006

If it's Monday it must be....

… another holiday. It’s silly season here in the UK. Around this time of year, especially if Easter falls late, we get more holidays than you can shake a stick at. This year, starting with Good Friday, we have now had four Bank Holidays in the space of just seven weeks. Now we will have to wait another three months for the next one. It seems crazy that we get so many close together then, through what should be the best three months of the year weatherwise, we get none at all. I was surprised to learn that the full extent of this madness was in fact only created relatively recently. In 1971 today’s holiday, which originally celebrated Whitsun, was fixed as the last Monday in May after a trial that had started in 1967. Prior to that the holiday had respected the official Whitsun and therefore floated as Easter does. In some years it could land as late as the 14th June. This year’s holiday just happens to coincide with Whitsun. At the same time the August Bank Holiday was moved from the 1st Monday to the last Monday. Then, in 1978, the madness was complete when a new Bank Holiday was added and set as the 1st Monday in May. It seems that our close neighbours the Irish Republic have kept a more sensible spread, and Germany seem to have a better approach all round – they seem to have hundreds of holidays! Still, better not let Tony’s Ministry of Mayhem tinker with the dates at the moment, things could get even worse!

Anyway, enough of all this, and on with the show. The Intruders “Every Day Is A Holiday” is appropriate I think. Released as a 45 in 1969 from the 1968 album “Cowboys To Girls”. Funky16Corners featured The Intruders only a couple of weeks ago so that’s my excuse for offering you no background on the Intruders. Besides, I need to go and make the most of this holiday. Now where’s the sunshine?

Buy "The Intruders – Philly Golden Classics"
The Intruders - Every Day Is A Holiday 1969

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I have been enjoying Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven recently. On his intro page he refers to his day job as being a CEO (of a low rent housing organisation) – a term with distinctly American roots - which initially led me to believe he was American. However, the style of his artist write-ups seemed somewhat familiar, very much like the content found on John Ridley’s page at Yoni’s Soul Of The Net I thought. Then one day recently after a bit more aimless bouncing around on the Net the penny dropped, Sir Shambling IS John Ridley. And he’s based in sunny* Kent, UK. (*or not, at the moment, as it’s decidedly damp).

Finding Yoni’s Soul Of The Net a few years ago, and in particular John Ridley’s page, did a lot to rekindle my passion for soul music and buying vinyl once again. It also opened my eyes to the amount of great Deep Soul that has been recorded and now largely forgotten, but possibly still to be found if you look hard enough. Unfortunately in many cases you need a fat wallet as well. As far as John Ridley is concerned four obvious questions come to mind. Where does he find all this wonderful music? How much more is there still waiting to be (re)discovered? Where does he find the time to document it all? And how large is his overdraft?!

John has recently added Barbara & The Browns to his roster of artist spotlights. He was, I thought, relatively dismissive about today’s featured track (“bit harsh Noddy”). Barbara Brown’s “Watch Dog” was the B side of her final outing on the MGM/Sounds Of Memphis label, the A side being a pleasant if not stunning remake of the Brown’s 1964 hit “Big Party”. Not Deep Soul I suppose, inasmuch as it’s not a ballad, but “Watch Dog” is definitely Southern soul with a capital S and is a heady concoction of soul, funk and r&b.Horns aplenty, choppy guitar, fatback drums, and Barbara and (presumably) the Browns singing their hearts out in a call and response style. Great stuff.

“Watch Dog” was acquired blind back in the 70s during my initial love affair with soul music, and I wasn’t disappointed. My only regret now is that that passion back then was somewhat diluted as my attention was deflected (or, I guess more accurately, shared) by the shock of the new in the form of disco, jazz-funk, punk and roots reggae. (Then later in the 80s and into the 90s music generally seemed to take more of a back seat in favour of life in general). Don’t get me wrong, all these styles of music have given me lasting enjoyment and some great memories. I just sometimes wish I had picked up more gems like Barbara Brown over the years. Of course without the wonderful information sharing medium that is the Internet being around back then I would have been simply oblivious to the existence of many great recordings, and I don’t think for one minute that I could ever have amassed such an impressive collection as John Ridley obviously has. But now with resources such as Deep Soul Heaven available I increasingly seem to be feeling that I’m playing catch up. A case of so much music so little time.

Barbara Brown - Watch Dog 1972

Friday, May 19, 2006

Family affair

Today’s offering is prompted by my previous post that featured Earth, Wind & Fire. (Incidentally, when I selected “Mom” as a featured track I wasn’t aware that it coincided with Mother’s Day weekend in the USA – spooky!). Looking again at the credits on “Last Days And Time” reminded me that Ronald (Ronnie) Laws was the saxophone player on that album, and it was to be the only EWF album he featured on. I say reminded, but I’m not sure whether that fact had ever sunk in before.

Hailing originally from Houston, Texas the family Laws have been musically gifted. Of eight Laws siblings no less than four – Hubert, Eloise, Ronnie and Debra - have been prominent on the music scene. Hubert (second eldest of the eight siblings) was classically trained. The flute is his main instrument and he is still very active on the jazz circuit as both a performer and producer.
Both Eloise and Ronnie (born 1949 and 1950 respectively) started their recording careers in the 70s. Ronnie has been the most commercially successful of the four - probably his most famous track is seemingly all pervasive “Always There” which came from his first album as a solo artist “Pressure Sensitive”. It’s of course a jazz-funk classic and a favourite with many other artists – there are great versions by Willie Bobo, Side Effect, and Incognito to name just three. Ronnie has released over 20 albums in his career (as has Hubert). His initial albums were planted fair and square in the jazz-funk/jazz fusion scene, but by 1980 and the “Every Generation” album, there was a perceptible shift towards a more sophisticated soul-jazz feel, with more vocal tracks featured. Eloise has been less prolific recording wise. A few singles appeared in the early 70s, then a handful of under promoted albums in the period ‘76-‘82. For a while after that music took something of a back seat as she raised a family. In recent years she has made a number of appearances as both singer and actress on stage, and also released two more albums, the most recent being in 2004.

The baby of the four, Debra burst onto the scene in 1981 with the album “Very Special”. Her recording career didn’t really take off from there though, but she continues to make live appearances backing any number of black music luminaries. She has also broken into acting in films and television.

So Laws rule today and you will find three tracks here. Nothing per se from Hubert although he is present on at least one of the tracks here (and undoubtedly his family spirit is present on all). “On My Own” is a glorious piece of sophisticated dance music (sung by Debra, written by Ronnie and with him on sax, produced by Ronnie & Hubert), it’s from Debra’s 1981 album “Very Special”. “Love’s Victory” comes from Ronnie’s 1980 album “Every Generation” (Eloise on background vocal shenanigans - I think, Hubert on flute). It was difficult to pick a track from this album, there isn’t a dud on it, a great mix of uptempo jazz-funk and mellower quiet storm soul-jazz.

Eloise strikes me as having a more independent streak and her early output was produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland so I don’t know of any other Laws family connections on “Love Goes Deeper Than That”. This was included on her first album 1976/7’s “Ain’t It Good Feeling Good” and is hustling slab of disco with a hard edge and Eloise’s vocals shining through.

Bringing the link with my EWF post full circle, Roland Bautista, who was with EWF in the early 70s period that included “Last Days And Time”, is on guitar on “On My Own”, and long time EWF member Larry Dunn appears on both the “Every Generation” and “Very Special” albums. So lots of mutual respect there too methinks.

Buy Family Laws music here.

Debra Laws – On My Own 1981>
Ronnie Laws – Love’s Victory 1980
Eloise Laws – Love Goes Deeper Than That 1977