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")