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’.