Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tapping My Feet #6 - Turned On

I’m in equal parts chilled (holiday mode), otherwise engaged (domestic admin), and lazy (the bloggers summer disease it seems) so I’m slipping in another 12” (so to speak).

This one is prompted by one of my latest charity shop (US English: thrift shop) purchases.

“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” was written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and the Cherrelle version was produced by them – let’s face it they were omnipotent for a period in the 80s. I’m not sure which came first here, Cherrelle’s or Mr Palmer’s, both have a 1985 copyright. I’m guessing Cherrelles’s was first as the lyrics seem to be more suited to a female singer. With Robert singing it seems a bit tongue in cheek whereas with Cherrelle singing it is potentially an altogether different song.

For some reason the video of Robert Palmer’s version of this song is forever etched on my mind (can’t think why!). Watching it again though it’s interesting that I only remembered the girls dressed in black, but there is no denying those girls (the same girls?) in white have some great…er… moves.

Cherrelle’s version can be found on the B side (7”) of her excellent “Saturday Love”, her duet with Alexander O’Neal, a single I picked up a couple of days ago in the Animal Welfare Trust shop in Camborne - what else do you do in Cornwall when the sun refuses to shine?. As a rule Camborne would be one of the last places you would think of visiting on a holiday in Cornwall, but then as I said it was another dull day. The real reason of course is that digging is always top of my list of things to do. I was attracted to Camborne by a guy I had been inadvertently following around the charity shops in Redruth (I only went there to buy a paper, honest). We got talking and he recommended Camborne as being full of charity shops, including one that “had several hundred singles, and only 10p each. I’m off there now”. Well, I never found that particular shop, or if I did he must have bought up the entire stock the day before my visit, but it proved to be a worthwhile diversion anyway and I picked up a few bits and pieces at a refeshingly low price.

Incidentally Camborne also has its own record shop. I walked in and through to the back room and my heart immediately started to beat faster – there was vinyl everywhere, filed alphabetically on shelves around the walls and in random boxes strewn across the floor (some with cobwebs over them!). I didn’t have time to give it a good going over and there maybe some gold in there but in the end I was disappointed – not much soul (what’s new in the UK?) and the records were generally in pretty poor shape. Still, it’s all about the chase isn’t it?

Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On 1985
Cherrelle – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On 1985

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I can’t concentrate. It must be love. You can love a vinyl record, can’t you?

Strictly speaking it’s just the song that's giving me this sweet torture because I don’t own the record – yet. But I will one day. I know it will cost me more money than I have ever spent on one record before but I MUST have it.

I stumbled across this on YouTube a couple of days ago and it’s been spinning around in my head ever since. When it seems it maybe fading into the background I go to the computer and play it again. Yes, I’m smitten. The sound of Detroit circa 1970 (or maybe ’71 or’72)....

Over at In Dangerous Rhythm you can see a picture of Dee Edwards on a pic sleeve of, incredibly, a German issue of the 45, and a label scan of the original Bump Shop (great name) 45.

Dee Edwards (born Doris Harrell) was active on the music scene from the early 60s right through to the 80s, although her only really consistent run of issued singles was on the D-Town label in three years up to 1966. Sadly she is no longer with us, having died in January 2006. Another of her 70s singles “I Can Deal With That” has been a favourite on the scene in recent years and turns up on compilations fairly regularly, and a man of excellent taste - Gilles Peterson – has included “Why Can’t There Be Love” in his latest compilation Digs America Vol 2.

You can find a good article on her early career here. The Bump Shop 45 barely gets a mention. Ah, that Bump Shop 45 by Dee Edwards, excuse me but I must go and play it again.

Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There Be Love (mp3) 197?

"the birds do it, the bees do it"... there is love I know it and I’m in love with this record.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An unscheduled outage

Well what do you know? Feel It sort of went to sleep there for a bit. I hadn’t consciously taken a break, and I’ve been around most of the time, but in a blink of an eye it’s two weeks since my last post.

I’d like to say I was having a great time but it’s been mostly the same old routine. I have been enjoying the Olympics and I’d just like to salute all our great British sports men and women for lifting the mood here amongst all the gloom of rising prices and a truly awful (in fact, non existent) summer.

I’m still not back into the writing groove so I need to give you a potent musical groove to make up for it (I know, it’s the music you drop by for anyway).

In January 1974 The New Birth hit the US R&B charts with “It’s Been A Long Time”. It would stay in the charts for 17 weeks. Leslie Wilson delivers a great vocal on this track (and you can hear the wonderfully named Londie Wiggins on background vocals). This is Quiet Storm before the phrase was invented, a stunning arrangement, and one I keep coming back to.

The New Birth – It’s Been A Long Time 1973

You can get the unedited version on their 1973 album of the same name.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Say it loud

My home town puts on a Harbour Festival every year. Increasingly it seems to be turning into a music festival, which is no bad thing – especially as it’s all free. On the bill last Friday were Still Black, Still Proud. Described as an African tribute to James Brown, the band leader is none other than Alfred “Pee Wee “ Ellis and he is more than ably assisted by Fred Wesley amongst others. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw them billed – and it was only 24 hours before they were due to play. I phoned a friend, alerted him, and told him to make sure he wore his Parliament Mothership Connection t-shirt!

We tried, but failed, to drag our ladies along – they preferred the sofa and a bottle of wine – but it was their loss. We caught the bus, fuelled up in the beer tent, and listened to Bristol legend DJ Derek build up the atmosphere with a selection of reggae, soul, and funk classics. Then two presenters from the local commercial radio station appeared and in the space of a couple of minutes managed, in the worst possible Smashy & Nicey way, to destroy that atmosphere AND make the heavens open.

No matter. The rain stopped and Still Black, Still Proud took the stage and treated us to nearly two hours of glorious funk, jazz and African grooves. Pee Wee and Fred were joined centre stage with local alto sax player James Morton. Their set built beautifully and included a mix of instrumentals and vocal numbers, most of which were James Brown classics. Fred Ross had the impossible task of ‘being’ James Brown but, probably helped by the fact that he looks nothing like James and didn’t try any of the moves, did a fine job. He has a great voice, as does Martha High who also pitched in with a few songs, including a great “Try Me”. We both really liked Martha. Fred and her evidently went back a long way but we had never heard of her. A subsequent bit of internet trawling revealed that she was also a long term member of James Brown’s backing bands, and was even for a time James’ hairdresser!

Still Black, Still Proud, with African guests Cheikh Lo and Vieux Farka Toure, are hitting a few cities in the States later this month – they’re well worth a trip.

In the 70s the JBs released records under their own name… and many others. With Fred Wesley in the band, that included The Last Word, The Devils, The First Family, and Fred & The New JBs (and possibly also the 1975 incarnations AABB (Above Average Black Band) and The Hustlers, although I’m not sure as Fred left the JBs for the P-Funk Mothership in 1975). Martha High will I’m sure have been on background vocals on some of these records too.

Here’s both sides of The Last Word single from 1974. The A side's title is topical all over again at the moment. On the B side Fred’s slidy thing is particularly evident!

The Last Word – Keep On Bumpin’ Before You Give Out Of Gas (mp3) 1974
The Last Word – Funky & Some (mp3) 1974

Both these tracks are on a CD compilation “Funky & Some” which was released in 1996. Good luck on tracking it down at a reasonable price!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Great Scott!

Some of you may remember in my recent post on Shirley Bassey I promised a feature on a classic soul album whose cover bore similarities to Shirley's. Well I've finally got round to it.

It took the distance of a few years for me to appreciate that Barry White was a genius arranger. At the time he started turning out the hits in the early 70s I was into Bowie, Roxy, Elton, and “The Dan” probably more so than the various forms of “black music” that I now love. Partly this was because it was more accessible – to buy certainly - although paradoxically the soul and funk I was picking up on at the time was not particularly mainstream. I seem to remember I was a bit sniffy about Barry White: His image was not cool enough to latch on to for a British male teenager like me. It was girls’ music. He couldn’t sing very well, could he? His records all sounded the same.

Eventually I grew out of the wildly impressionistic time that is your teens. I recognized that girls music can be guys music too. I grew to appreciate the love bear’s growl, and that he didn’t just sing his stuff he arranged it too. And I realized that his records didn’t all sound the same, similar yes, but that became part of the attraction. Barry White had forged a distinctive sound that would stand the test of time.

During the early 70s he also put his trademark sound behind Love Unlimited. In 1974 he also produced and arranged an album that, unlike his and Love Unlimited’s records at the time, would sink without trace. But for my money it is this album that is his true masterpiece. I think it is safe to say that if it had been released on Motown, or even Barry’s home during the early 70s - 20th Century, it would have become a massive hit and would now regularly be cropping up on people’s “albums you must own” lists.

I, like just about everybody else, was completely unaware of the album on its initial release. Later in the 70s I acquired a Casablanca sampler album that contained the title track off this album. It was buried amongst a mish mash of rock, AOR, mock country, and disco acts (and Parliament!) and was representative of Casablanca’s roster at that time. Parliament’s appearance had attracted me to the album, but I have no recollection of listening, then, to a track on the album by somebody called Gloria Scott. Obviously I tired of all the sub standard rock elsewhere on the album and gave up before I even got to side 2 track 3 which is where Gloria Scott made her appearance. So I had passed up an opportunity to possibly learn of the existence of Gloria’s stunning album back in the day. Fast forward to the 21st century and via the Internet I finally learned of this album’s existence. A few tracks from the album, including the title track, have been popular on the Northern scene, normally placed in the dubious pigeon-hole that is “Modern Soul”. It obviously rang enough of a bell with me then to make me dig out my Casablanca sampler album again, and so I finally played the Gloria Scott track therein, quite possibly for the first time. Then I played it again, and again. It’s that good.

The album in question is “What Am I Gonna Do” by Gloria Scott, released in 1974. You will need to pay big money if you want an original issue. It’s a stone cold classic.
Produced and arranged By Barry White it is soaked in his distinctive sound – hypnotic mid- and down-tempo grooves with magical interplay between strings, guitar and piano. Add to that Gloria Scott’s tender voice, which has a really melancholic quality, and the whole album takes on an almost dreamlike air, infused with an almost overpowering sense of wistfulness, resignation, and yearning. For these reasons the album really does feel like a complete entity, not simply a collection of tracks. The mark of a truly great album.

So what of Gloria Scott? As far as I know, to date, this is her one and only album release. It seems she was yet another example of someone who found her opportunity to shine as a solo soul artist at exactly the wrong time. Disco, and mass commercialism, was just around the corner.

I have not been able to find out much at all about Gloria. It seems she was for a short while (sometime around 1964-66) a member of the touring version of the Ikettes. At the time she joined she was apparently 19, and living in California, although it is possible she was born in Texas. Gloria (then also known as Gloria Dean?) joined as an Ikette along with friend Maxine Smith after the Modern Records era incarnation of the group (Robbie Montgomery, Jessie Smith & Venetta Fields) all left. They were instrumental in bringing PP Arnold, an acquaintance of Maxine’s, to Ike’s party. Trying to follow the various incarnations of the Ikettes is not easy. Many girls came and went probably due in no small part to Ike’s treatment of them – low pay, fines, no access to royalties. Ike’s fine policy was too much for Gloria it seems and her tenure as an Ikette probably didn’t last past 1966.

What happened to her between then and her team up with Barry White, and when and how that team up exactly started I don’t know. Session singing? Family commitments? Who knows? I can’t find any evidence that she was part of the Love Unlimited set up. But however it started, her hook up with Barry White (and Tom Brock who wrote some of the great songs) resulted in one of the greatest soul albums of all time.

And after “What Am I Gonna Do” it seems Gloria has left virtually no trace in the musical landscape, save for a couple of obscure credits on AllMusic. For all I know she may no longer be with us. All I can say is it’s a crying shame that we are all not more familiar with her beautiful voice.

Her album finally got a limited edition Japanese release on CD a few years ago and now, it seems, there maybe another limited edition vinyl reissue available, which I need to get quick. I can pronounce my love of this album due to the fact that Funk My Soul and Deacon Blues have both upped the whole album recently. Generally I’m a little uneasy about people making complete album rips available for download. Although where the album in question is not generally available then that’s ok I guess, and in the end it can build up a groundswell of support that results in a reissue which has got to be a good thing. Especially in this case - everybody in the world needs to hear this album!

Gloria Scott - What am I Gonna Do (mp3) 1974
Gloria Scott - I Think Of You (mp3) 1974