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