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.