Friday, November 24, 2006

Without boots came the rapper

What follows are a few random musings surrounding Millie Jackson by way of lead in to two tracks from the lovely lady.

I was originally going to call this post “Millie gets Darcy cooking”, a play on Limmie & Family Cookin’. For no other reason than Limmie and Millie are sort of similar names and they gave us “You Can Do Magic”, and Millie can certainly do magic. But the blog title I’ve settled on is a play on something else that I’ll let you figure out.

Back in September both Got The Fever and Moistworks featured Millie Jackson on blogposts. The featured trilogies in those posts make both those albums essential buys. Coincidentally, the day before the Moistworks post (that featured tracks from “Caught Up”) I had just filled a big hole in my vinyl collection by acquiring both “Caught Up” and “Still Caught Up”. On playing “Caught Up” it felt like being reintroduced to an old friend, it all sounded so familiar I know I must have listened to this album many times back in the day at some friend’s house, though now I can no longer remember who that person was.

I’m sure I remember reading some years ago that Millie was, at the time at least, a favourite of Ken Clarke - the real ale swilling, jazz loving, Hush Puppied MP who was the best party leader the Tory party never had. Excellent taste all round, he certainly would have got my vote.

Millie has given us some fantastic music down the years (quality control is not all it should be in the MJ production department, but when she's good she’s very very good). Her lyrics have often demonstrated a sharp and bawdy sense of humour and it seems this follows on her album covers too – witness the now legendary covers featuring a certain bathroom item of furniture. I’ve also noticed her feet are rather prominent on a number of album covers – another sign methinks of someone that doesn’t take herself too seriously.
As evidence I present for you here detail from the following MJ albums covers: “Feelin’ Bitchy” (back cover), “Free And In Love” (front and back cover), “Caught Up”, and “Get It Out’cha System”, all featuring Millie’s feet in all their naked glory.

Millie was well known for her raps. This was in the seventies mind. You couldn’t say they helped define today’s rap music genre. Millie’s raps are a million miles away from the metronomic malevolent morass that is much of today’s gangsta rap. Millie’s raps aren’t constricted by the never ending pursuit of a rhyme, however banal. Millie’s raps draw from a more classical meaning of the word i.e.Slang: to talk or discuss, esp. freely, openly, or volubly; chat as opposed to the now more accepted sense of the word in musical circles i.e. Slang. to talk rhythmically to the beat of rap music. Millie gets down to the bone.

"All The Way Lover”, from the 1977 album “Feelin’ Bitchy”, is a fine example of rap a la Millie. I used to play this in the slow spot at a club spot in Bath (England) I used to DJ at back in the day. Good memories. Do they still have slow spots in clubs nowadays?

Millie can sing too, a big, powerful, warm, gutsy voice. You could imagine her not needing a microphone on stage.

On “Walking In The Rain”, a single from 1983, she gets seriously soulful but also reveals a tender side to her character. Could Millie's bold and brash exterior all be a front? Well, maybe not, but even the toughest can get hurt by love sometimes.

OK you’ve got me banged to rights guv – yes Millie sets my pulse a racing. The quiet storm starts here….

Millie Jackson – All The Way Lover 1977
Millie Jackson – I Feel Like Walking In The Rain 1983

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How much!?

On a fairly regular basis I drop by Manship’s auction page. It’s good entertainment - I don’t buy, just look, and wonder whether the records can really be worth the money that is being bid and that there are people out there that can square it with themselves to shell out the sometimes stratospheric amounts of dosh that the records go for. No and yes are probably the answers. Earlier this week, as I was passing through, somebody was sitting on a current bid of £7375 for Don Gardner’s “Cheatin Kind” on Sedgrick with just under a day to go. I missed the end of the auction but guessed if I swung by soul-source their forums would be alive with the (probably predominantly Northern English accented) chatter of the progress of this particular auction. Sure enough I found what I was looking for – the Don Gardner slab of vinyl finally went for £8687 (yes that’s GBP)! Amazing. Not moving in NS circles I had never heard of this record. I listened to a sound clip (a few times) and have to say - I’ll whisper it: it really isn’t very good (in my humble opinion of course). The soul-source forum thread on said disc was fascinating, Apparently it was found in a DJ collection of predominantly rock and pop that was being offloaded. A few copies had circulated in the 70s. Mr. Manship himself had been chipping in saying how he had bought a copy of it for £3 from the legendary Soul Bowl in the mid 70s and sold it on for a similar amount a couple of years later. Apparently a few had tried to break it on the dancefloors, all to no avail. But crucially only a few copies have ever surfaced and so it developed into a ‘holy grail’ record. This is truly the strange world of Northern Soul. Record collecting as an extreme sport, or is it trainspotting as high art?

Even if I won the lottery I couldn’t imagine spending more than a tenth of that amount on a record. Luckily there’s still so much great vinyl around I don’t need to consider it.

“Just A Little Overcome” seems appropriate here. A truly magnificent soul record from the Nightingales (sans Ollie) and tons better than the Don Gardner track imo. Tommy Tate is the lead singer on this track (as I learnt recently while idly browsing John Ridley’s page at the Soul of The Net). This is from a strong compilation of Stax output “The Stax Story” that’s been in my collection for many years. The sleeve notes of this album say of the Nightingales and this track: “Originally a gospel group, the Dixie Nightingales, who worked steadily, weekend in weekend out, throughout the fifties (and recorded for Pepper and Nashboro Records), signed to Stax’s new subsidiary gospel label Chalice. In ’67 they had become Ollie & The Nightingales (featuring the lead voice of Ollie Hoskins) and turned their scorching, testifying style to non-religious material. The group had hits (“I Got A Sure Thing” 1968, and “I’ve Got A Feeling” 1969) before Ollie left to record solo (first with Stax, later for the MGM distributed Pride label) and the Nightingales turned in “Just A Little Overcome” an undiscovered flipside classic released in May ’71. Listen hard, it’ll move any soul”. Indeed.

In fact it was B side to “I Don’t Want To Be Like My Daddy” and you can probably pick this up for less than a tenner. On CD you can find the track on an Ollie & The Nightingales compilation.

Nightingales or Don Gardner? Whichever way you look at it I think it’s a no brainer, take me to Berkeley Square immediately (ouch!).

Nightingales – Just A Little Overcome 1971

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You're welcome, stop on by

“Hmm, early November – must be almost time for the December issue of The Word to drop through the letterbox”, and so it did the morning after I had this thought. Not quite a record for advance delivery, I think I had one delivered on the 3rd of the (preceding) month once. The Word is always a good read I think, probably due in part to the fact that I must be a near contemporary to the editor (Mark Ellen) and at least one main writer (David Hepworth). MP3 blogs, audioblogs, or whatever you want to call things such as this wot you are reading now seem to have been getting an increasing number of references and name drops in the mainstream press recently. The Word’s team seem to be quite disposed to them. In this month’s edition David Hepworth has written an article on MP3 bloggers and their output (I thought of saying "art", but that’s pushing it a bit I guess) that is almost reverential in tone. It seems David spends many a Saturday morning clicking from blog to blog, whether mine is one of them I don’t know. “MP3 bloggers don’t make any wild claims. They just put the stuff there” he says, and he concludes his article with : “… By then they will have formed themselves into the Society For The Protection of Unpopular Music (see in the phone book under SPUM) and will have royal patronage. Here’s to them, for they shall inherit the earth.”

On behalf of all the bloggers on my blogroll and the thousands of others out there I would like to say thanks to David for the kind words. I’m sure we all approach this MP3 blogging lark as a labour of love, but nevertheless it’s nice to get a comment or two now and then and it strikes me that with his article David has just posted a huge communal comment.

Just one thing, though – SPUM? It sounds like a cross between scum and spam. Surely we bloggers deserve a better sounding acronym/initialism?!

So what to play to accompany this post? Well, I can’t believe I have been doing this for almost eight months now and I haven’t yet posted a Rufus track. Time to put that right. I’m sure Rufus & Chaka Khan need no introduction from me – they had a unique sound and were pure class. "Stop On By" was the last track on their 1974 "Rufusized" album when they were just hitting top form. There are plenty of Rufus tracks that make me cry whenever I hear them and this is one of them, maybe it's the strings on this one that does it. The label scan is of the UK single but I've posted the album version of the track as it has a sublime fade out-in-out. Don't be fooled - stay listening for the sax at the end.

Rufus – Stop On By 1974