Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hi Time

I love my soul served up with a Southern flavour and as Southern Soul hasn’t been on the menu for a while here I thought it was high time I put that right. (Hey, I’m starting to sound like FuFu Stew!)

Willie Mitchell and the Hi crowd developed their own unique sound in the Seventies. Some people may say that it was only about Al Green and, perhaps, Ann Peebles, that the songs could sound derivative, and condemn tracks recorded by other artists on the label as essentially no more than Al Green cast offs. I think that’s unfair and I certainly don’t subscribe to that view.

Darryl Carter is a name you may not be familiar with. You can find a picture of him here. His musical career had begun as a recording engineer in the 60s. As the 60s ended and the 70s began he would forge a writing partnership with Bobby Womack, and record, solo, a handful of singles with labels including Venture, Perception, and TTC. At Hi “Looking Straight Ahead” would appear to be his only outing. In the main however, it would appear has was essentially a “backroom” man as engineer, producer and writer

We can often pinpoint a time in the past and what we were doing by recalling a hit, or popular, record of the time. So I will refer back to Al and Ann to place Darryl Carter’s Hi single in time, and understand I’m not belittling Darryl Carter’s single by doing this. “Looking Straight Ahead” was nine singles later than Al Green’s “Call Me” and four before Ann Peebles “I Can’t Stand The Rain” in the Hi catalog.

I certainly wouldn’t have been aware of this single’s existence at the time. In the UK London released a fair number of singles from the Hi catalog, but didn’t often venture beyond the big names. I haven’t tracked down a UK London discography, but I’m sure Darryl wouldn’t have appeared. I found a low rate mp3 of this track on a Japanese site some months ago and liked it – a lot. So it was that I subsequently secured my own copy via some edigging. And so it is that the wonderful sound of Hi soul continues to make the heart skip a beat today.

Darryl Carter – Looking Straight Ahead 1973

You can find this track on a number of Hi compilation CDs.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parish notices #2

Souled On is a great site run by Scholar. Recently I was honoured to be given the opportunity to put together a guest post for his imprint. So, if you haven’t seen it already, as a little plug, it’s there now for you.

The RE-UP link on the right is now pointing to another of my older posts.

I’ve also added a couple of new links, including This Is Tomorrow which I have been reminded is definitely a worthwhile port of call. I have been visiting it for a while and thought that I already had it linked.

Scholar always finishes his posts with “A Word From Your Moms”. Scholar put me on the spot for one to finish my guest post with. I admit I had to resort to Google. Tears was the subject, and the one I decided on in the end was from the Little Prince. But I also found a few from Charles Dickens novels. Somehow I have never got round to reading any Dickens but finding those quotes has made me want to.

In my post over at Souled On I mention that there are quite a few disco tracks that can induce my tears. Somewhat inexplicably in many cases. Here is one of them – Tata Vega’s “Get It Up For Love”. I think the reason my eyes well up whenever this one is played is simply that it is so ridiculously good. I love the way it trips along, I love the bass, I love Tata’s voice (on this track), I love what the synthesisers are doing, and the break is sublime. Tears of course aren’t always shed due to sadness. In this case one of the Dickens quotes I stumbled upon seems perfectly appropriate:

" . . . Give me a moment, because I like to cry for joy. It's so delicious, John dear, to cry for joy.” (Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend).

I’m putting up two mp3s of the same track. I have been wondering lately whether my turntable is playing at the right speed (I don’t have the means to measure it). The time on the label for this one says 5:58 but when I recorded it clocked in at around 5:43 and I thought it sounded a little fast. Times stated on labels aren’t always accurate I know, but as I have just started playing with Audacity I thought I would use it to tempo adjust the track to it’s stated time of 5:58. I think possibly this one sounds a bit slow, so maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle – whatever! (This last bit of technobabble was used as a device to dry my tears, as I’ve run out of tissues).

Tata Vega – Get It Up For Love 1979 (my turntable)
Tata Vega – Get It Up For Love (tempo adjusted to 5:58)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Still out there

Dipped into my limited stack of reggae just now and pulled out this one. This is the only slab of vinyl I own by Keith Hudson. Both sides of this 12” are deep, dark, brooding delights. As, I think, was much of Hudson’s later output. This article indicates that Hudson’s style was too sombre for his native Jamaica’s taste so he upped sticks and relocated to London in 1978. If he was searching for a spiritual home it was the right move. The UK in the late seventies was certainly in a dark and brooding place full of angst and the disaffected, and the winter of discontent was just around the corner to boot. His music would have fitted the mood of the country like a hand in glove.

If you follow the link above to the article on Keith, be sure also to check out the wonderful Dread Tale from Penny Reel, originally published in the NME in October 1978.

You can find both of these tracks on “Rasta Communication”. Both possess strong undertows that will suck you in and drag you down. Be warned, this is not feel good reggae. Hudson’s brand of Roots was out there, on the edge. Subtly different to most else floating around reggae’s universe at the time, it stands the test of time. I need to get some more Keith Hudson in my collection.

Keith Hudson – Nuh Skin Up 1979
Keith Hudson – Felt We Felt The Strain 1979>

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Time to come home M'Lady

I made a somewhat obtuse reference to a bubblegum card in one of my recent posts. You may remember – but of course that presupposes you a) actually read my ramblings and b) you find them remotely interesting enough to commit them to memory, unlikely I know!

Anyway, I found it – the bubblegum card that is.

Recently a nostalgia trip with colleagues at work led me to dig out my small stash of bubblegum cards, avidly collected “back when I were a lad”. As I remembered it I had a full set of the 1966(?) black and white large Somportex Thunderbirds cards. On looking through them I discovered No.51 was missing. Oh no! On searching the Internet I found that No.51 was Lady Penelope. Oh no again! But I was sure I had had the whole set. Then a flash of recall. I knew it was in the house somewhere. Was my memory playing tricks? I didn’t think so.

I warn you, you will have stick with this. Throughout most of the latter half of the 70s I ran a mobile disco, together with three school friends of the time. We were dreadfully pretentious and decided to jump on the homemade xeroxed and stapled fanzine bandwagon (probably most famously represented by “Sniffin' Glue”) and produce our own organ to be distributed free at our mobile discos. The fanzine was called, appropriately, “Pseud” – you see we knew we were being pretentious – and the enterprise lasted for two issues in 1978! From memory possibly as many as 20 copies of the first issue were distributed! But I’m not sure if the second issue ever made it past the proof stage. I remembered that I had copies of them still lying around somewhere, and I now had the distinct memory that my Lady Penelope bubblegum card had made an appearance in one of the issues.

So it was that I finally unearthed them just now and there indeed, still lightly sellotaped into place on page 11 (of 12) of the proof of the second issue was my No.51 Thunderbirds bubblegum card. Lady Penelope has spent the last 29 years contemplating such highbrow literary articles as reviews and charts of our favourite records of the time, impressions of the Anti Nazi League Carnival in London’s Victoria Park, the story of a drunken weekend in Cambridge, a Steely Dan discography, and the history of the 12” single.

I have decided that after all these years she is maybe missing her Thunderbirds friends so I have now tucked her back into my stack of Thunderbirds cards, of course between No.50 – Jeff Tracy – and No.52 Parker, Lady Penelope’s trusted servant. Back home. She will like that I’m sure.

What to play to celebrate Lady Penelope’s homecoming? Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited”? Or Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway’s “Back Together Again”? Great records but maybe too obvious and well known. I first alluded to the fact that this post may at some time appear when I featured Jean Carn recently. Initially I thought No.51 was missing and a Jean Carn track came to mind. Now Lady P has been found and my Thunderbirds cards are once again a complete set another Jean Carn track comes to mind – “Completeness”.

This track dates from 1982 and was the B side to her version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”. This single had been filed untouched in one of my boxes for a long time. I’m not sure I had ever played “Completeness” until a few months ago. It just goes to show you shouldn’t ignore B sides. It’s included on the Best Of compilation “Closer Than Close” which is a strong collection of Jean’s output, if you can find it.

For good measure you can also hear a track from my “Pseud” (Vol.1 No.2) featured Top Twenty – Narada Michael Walden with “Soulbird” which you can find on the album “I Cry I Smile”.

Jean Carn – Completeness 1982

Narada Michael Walden – Soulbird 1977