Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I know, I'm working on it

Just a warning, things could look a bit strange here for a bit. For a while I’ve been thinking I should add an image the header of this page, and maybe play around with the layout a bit. I’ve finally decided on the image for the header, now I just have to work out how to add it and size it. With the new Blogger this is supposed to be a lot easier but first I have to upgrade to the new way of coding templates – or layouts as they are now called. Once I do this all sorts of layout tweaking should become easier, or so I’m promised.

But Blogger warns me to back up by template and tells me that some features will be lost in the upgrade and will need to be reinstated once I’m in the brave new world. Hmmm, now I’m getting nervous. Only a few years ago I would have relished the challenge and would have grabbed Blogger’s widgets with both hands. Now I’m just fannying about with font selection which in all truth is just a displacement task really. Time to take a deep breath. But who knows, if it all goes swimmingly there may be no stopping my urge to fiddle with the layout.

Recently I have bumped into a couple of comments on other blogs from Davy H over at The Ghost Of Electricity. He’s hankering after more reggae in the blogosphere.

It’s funny, this time last year, I was listening to a lot of reggae. I think this must have had something to do with the weather, which was glorious at the time. Not so this year, the weather is awful and I think it’s drowning my reggae taste buds. I’ve listened to a few tracks recently, but even the familiar hasn’t grabbed me. This is worrying, especially as I’m going to see Culture live in a few days time.

Anyway, reggae pops up here now and then, so I will happily oblige Davy H today. “Concious Man” (sic) from Dr Alimantado was another single that was pulled from one my boxes during my ‘randomising session’ described in my previous post. Looks like the guys at GGs could have done with a label preview button, and polished up the spelling before pressing. You can learn more about the good Doctor, and buy a compilation CD, here. “Conscious Man” borrows the riddim from Horace Andy’s “Fever”, as it seems do a few other tunes!

And just to reiterate, if it all goes a bit weird here over the next few days it’s not Blogger’s server catching a cold. These are the workings of a man concious (sic!) that he is messing it up and frantically attempting to put all right again!

Dr. Alimantado – Conscious Man 1977
(released on GGs in 1978)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gert lush

Look at me - it’s 1978, a year on down the line, and I’m still writing on my labels.

I pulled this one out of the box during a well overdue refiling session earlier this week. I needed to enlist the dining room table to in the sorting phase which prompted me to bring a couple of boxes down and into the same room as the turntable. I then spent the rest of the evening on a fairly random puIl and play session. Lately I have been grabbing a few specific records from their normal home upstairs and bringing them down to play. But I really should bring the boxes down more often and ranodmize more, much more fun – a sort of antiquarian ipod shuffle.

Only inasmuch as they ploughed a furrow could you say that Slave was an apt name for the Dayton outfit that formed in 1975 and debuted in 1977 with the album that included the magnificent “Slide”. The musical furrow they chose to plough, though, was very much their own. Their sound had influences, what band doesn’t? I can hear shades of latter day BarKays, Brick, early Commodores, Parladelica, and Ohio Players (trumpeter ‘Peewee’ Middlebrooks was the uncle of Slave’s Steve Washington, trumpeter, founder member and accepted leader). You could say they also tipped a wink to the disco scene, but they were never in its thrall.

In the end their mid-west funk came out of left field and set them apart from other bands at the time.

The tracks here are both sides of a 1978 Cotillion single taken from their third album “The Concept”. Forget the lyrics, just listen to what’s going on underneath. Driven by the organic bass of Mark Adams it’s vivid, dense, and rhythmically luxuriant, all at the same time! Both of these stand the test of time and sound really fresh.

As we say (or used to say) in my part of the world - Gert Lush! (look up lush in the Thesaurus and any and all of the synonyms could easily be used to describe Slave’s output).

Slave – The Way You Love Is Heaven 1978
Slave – Just Freak 1978

Buy “Hardness Of The World” and “The Concept” on one CD here

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A long pot

I can often be found bouncing around tInternet like a cue ball that’s been given a good tonking by Ronnie O’Sullivan. This week, as I careered from cushion to cushion (or should that be url to url) desperately trying to work out where the side should be taking me, I bumped into a couple of references to the Pockets “Come Go With Me”. Seems this is getting some fresh action on the Modern scene, here in the UK at least, and it’s in demand - watch it go and all that.

Some of us remember when this was a new release. As you can see from the label scan that was, again in the UK at least, late in 1977. Verdine White and Kalimba Productions in the credits give it away that Earth, Wind & Fire had a lot to do with this single, and the Pockets first two LPs. They hailed from Baltimore and lasted, in recorded form at least, a mere three years and three albums.

Why did I write on my labels then? I must have been mad! I can come up with reasons, but they sound pretty lame.

Along with three school friends we ran a mobile disco and we used to pool our records, hence my name on the label. But they were friends of mine - didn’t I trust them?

Then there is the word “fades”. I guess that was me trying to be a DJ, but hell, most records fade. Why didn’t I just accept “fade” was a default and write “sudden” or “stop” on those that had that particular type of ending that all DJs, back then, hated. Thankfully my penchant for writing on labels didn’t last long, I graduated to writing similar information on sticky labels (peelable, thankfully), and then eventually gave up the whole stupid habit altogether.

As for the date that was the anorak in me coming out, but at least that now serves some purpose and tells me the exact date I bought the record, and I kind of like knowing that. Of course my memory would have put it a bit earlier, in the summer. But that’s a common trick of the memory – the sun is always shining in fond memories, and if the sun is shining it must be summer.

I do remember clearly where I first heard this record, prompting me to buy it. It was on Robbie Vincent’s Radio London Saturday soul show. I should qualify that statement. I clearly remember it, as opposed to clearly hearing it, but it must have been a clear day when I heard it. This was of course before the Internet and DAB radio had been invented, even FM hadn’t been around that long. Robbie Vincent’s show was broadcast on good old MW/AM and Radio London’s broadcast catchment area was, well, London only I guess. Nevertheless, I was listening to Robbie’s show some 120 miles west of London so hearing it all was something of a feat. I couldn’t pick it up every week but with good weather and a following wind sometimes I would be lucky and the show would come through, just. Returning to my dodgy snooker metaphors - rather like that elusive long pot into the corner pocket (ouch!).

Pockets – Come Go With Me 1977

You can buy Pockets "Golden Classics" here

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pure class

It’s been a busy week – Mum needed to spend a few days in hospital so we have been looking after my Dad. Mum’s back at home now, and frankly looks like she has spent a few days in a health farm. Dad discovered the delights of my new DAB radio, particularly the theJazz station which plays a great selection of Jazz, and I think he will be investing in a DAB radio as well now.

This has meant there has been little time to consider, let alone compose, a Feel It post. At times like this you need to turn to someone you can rely on.

Ann Peebles fits the bill. Here are two tracks from a true queen of soul. The tracks are sweet and feisty in equal measure. Ann sounds sweet and pure on “Until You Came Into My Life”. This was penned with husband Don Bryant and released in 1974, the year they married. Clearly the song is a very personal statement. “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” was released two years earlier and will be familiar to all you soul aficionados. Is there a better example of Willie Mitchell’s classic Hi sound?

Ann Peebles – Until You Came Into My Life 1974

Ann Peebles – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down 1972

Both tracks can be found on "The Hi Singles As and Bs".

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Where VG = Perfection

In recent weeks I have found my Internet browsing habits have altered somewhat. e-digging for vinyl and any titbit of information related to the soul music genre has been a well established passion bordering on addiction for some time. But recently I’ve found myself spending more and more time searching for pictures of automobiles – yes, I admit it, I am developing an unhealthy interest in downloading horn! And not any old horn, because the pictures I am looking for specifically are those of abandoned and derelict automobiles. You would be forgiven for thinking that’s more than unhealthy it’s dangerously close to being a perversion!

This interest in images of abandoned cars was sparked recently after reading a review of, and then subsequently buying “Roadside Relics – America’s Abandoned Automobiles” by Will Shiers a photojournalist from the UK. It is a book full of wonderful pictures, taken over the last 10 to 15 years, of classic American automobiles of varying vintage (we’re talking early 70s and back) and all in various states of abandonment and dereliction. The author notes that with both the soaring price of scrap metal and environmental pressures his search for such photo opportunities has become more and more difficult as salvage yard merchants are cashing in and selling up, and backyards and roadsides are generally being ‘cleaned’ up. So it seems the great crusher in the sky now beckons for more and more of these hulks and this book could prove to be a lasting legacy and window on a golden age of abandoned automobiles. Many of the pictures were taken in salvage yards. But there are also some of cars that are at roadsides, or in fields, or behind derelict shops, simply left where they expired, often many years ago, and these are the really great images I think. They make you speculate on the sort of life the cars owners led? How far and wide did the cars travel in their lifetime? What were the circumstances surrounding their abandonment?

I now realise I have always had a general interest in things abandoned or derelict. For example I find that when out walking in the country I am always drawn to that abandoned and weed infested tractor in the corner of a field, or a tumble down shack, or a derelict house. I enjoy browsing antique markets, and, of course, I like collecting old records. Now, these images of abandoned cars have really captured my imagination. The author, Will Shiers, says in the introduction to his book: “I just think there is something so poignant about seeing a once-beautiful automobile, a car that used to someone’s pride and joy, sitting lonely in a field or junkyard, abandoned to the elements and ravages of time…”. Sums up my thoughts exactly. It’s a wonderful book, you should really go and buy it.

But so what? "This is a music blog", I hear you say? Well it got me wondering about grading systems. What??? Let me explain, or simply ramble a bit more! In vinyl record collecting there is a generally accepted grading system for describing a record’s condition M, M-, VG+ etc. Most of us are probably, usually, in search of M(int) or M- copies – i.e. the copies that haven’t been played, or played very few times, with pristine labels, and, for a 45, a company sleeve would provide the icing on the cake. At the same time most of us will normally pass over a G(ood) as it’s going to be scratched and generally beat up. On the record grading scale M(int) is good and G(ood) is bad. Is there a grading system for abandoned cars? I don’t know. But it strikes me that in my newly discovered esoteric world of images of abandoned and derelict automobiles you could pretty much turn the record grading system on its head. For me, a picture of a car in an advanced state of decay is far more interesting and poignant than one of a car that is gleaming and minty. There is one picture in the book featured here of a 1959 Mercury Monteray parked in the middle of a salvage yard that looks like it has just been driven off the concourse. A great looking car but as an image of a derelict it’s incongruous. So in this world G(ood) really is good and M(int) becomes bad. F(air) or P(oor) are technically gradings as well, but let's say for the sake of argument they represent a few rusting panels barely hanging together and discount them because that’s not really my cup of tea. It’s V(ery)G(ood) territory that sets my pulse racing. The front cover of the book is shown here and depicts a 1961 Plymouth, which in my newly adapted grading scale would, I think, rank as a VG. Perfect.

To complement this Plymouth, newly graded VG, here is a record from my collection that in the record grading world probably also ranks as VG (at a pinch). Appropriately it’s on the Wheelsville label, and the title is sort of appropriate too. This record looks and sounds like it has been around the block a few times but apparently it possesses something special. It seems most of the copies that turn up include an incorrect spelling - “craked” in the title on the label. This one says “cracked” so even though it’s probably only a VG, maybe it’s still worth a bit. Not that I’m selling. This side of the label seems a few shades lighter than the other. Like the rusting beauties in Will Shiers book maybe it’s been basking in the sun for a few years.

Lee Rogers – Cracked Up Over You 1966

And the B side

Lee Rogers – How Are You Fixed For Love 1966

“Cracked Up Over You” appears on “Northern Souljers Meet Hi Rhythm” which looks like a good compilation CD.

And, couldn’t resist this