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

1 comment:

The Stepfather of Soul said...

Yoni's Soul of the Net was my first exposure to a lot of good soul material and was my inspiration to do online radio shows (I had two shows in 1998 and '99 - one show was not unlike the "Get on Down ..." show, albeit not as easy to make in the pre-MP3 era, the other was a short funk weekly). There I also first heard of the great John Ridley/Sir Shambling. His new site is great.