Tuesday, February 26, 2008

(My)Space Hopping

As I mentioned hereabouts recently I enjoyed a few days break in New York recently with the wife and some friends. Whilst there we took in a Broadway show, as you do. Our choice was Hairspray (we loved it). Currently Darlene Love is appearing in the show as Motormouth Maybelle. Darlene was only vaguely familiar to me. I remember she was part of Phil Spector’s entourage of girls and girl groups in the early Sixties, and if she featured on Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You” then I even have her on vinyl – somewhere. The other day I thought I would do a bit of Googling and find out a bit more about her. I found Wikipedia, as usual nowadays, is a starter if you are interested in learning more about her. Darlene is not actually the subject of this post though. Her MySpace page acted as the launch pad for my little game of (My)Space Hopping, and that is (the subject).

In a sort of variation on the idea of six degrees of separation I thought it would be idea to click on a “friend” of Darlene’s on her MySpace page and then do that a total of six times. (OK, I bet you have all done this before, but I’m slow to catch on, alright?). Then post a track from the artist (it had to be an artist) that I ended up at.

So it was that Darlene led me initially to Freda Payne, who in turn led me to her younger sister Scherrie. Unfortunately Scherrie Payne had decided not to let non members of MySpace explore (for want of a better word!) her friends, and I am a bit long in the tooth to have a Myspace page myself. So I backed up to Freda’s page and chose Spanky Wilson instead. Spanky’s page is well worth visiting with about six of her songs streamed that seem to represent very well the various stages of her career. (Side note: I need to get me some Spanky Wilson). Spanky led me to Vic Pitts. The only thing I knew about Vic was that he had at some point a group called the Cheaters and I had downloaded a track of his a while back from somewhere in the Interweb. I now know a bit more about him.

Around about now I noticed that some of the “friends” on these pages were in fact dead! (Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway for example). How does that work? Yeah, I know, MySpace is just another marketing tool at the end of the day. I decided that dead people, however gifted they may have been when alive, were not allowed in my chain. I now also realised that in the friends lists the big names always seemed to appear first. Marketing again muscling in on the act I suspect. Anyway that made my game easier, quite frankly I had already spent (wasted?!) way too much time doing this – there were cats to feed, washing up to do. So I stuck to the big guns, the names I recognised. So Vic Pitts led me to Steve Gadd, who led me to Marcus Miller, who led me to my final destination……………Jill Scott.

A few years ago I became aware of artists such as Jill Scott, Angie Stone, India Arie and Sunshine Anderson. All seemed to be bursting onto the scene at roughly the same time and I thought, hey, there could be a bright new future for soul music. Although talented I don’t think any of those artists have really followed through though. To varying degrees they all seem to have got sucked into the business and more recently ended up releasing some relatively formulaic R&B in the maddening (to my ears) clicktrack, rap sprinkled tradition. For example Jill Scott’s page features tracks off her latest album. Underneath they all have a good feel and groove, something I can relate to, and I love Jill’s vocals, but why do they all have to have a dominant click track? It’s been eight years since Jill released her excellent debut Who Is? Click tracks are in evidence here too but not so dominant, or perhaps the arrangements are so good your attention is directed elsewhere. In the ensuing years her output has not been that prolific, and I don’t think it has surpassed her debut. And surely it’s time to ditch those click tracks. I thought she would drift towards Jazz. Maybe she wants to but her management and record company are driving her in a more commercial direction. If so it’s a shame and it’s an example of why I now mostly look to the past for my soul music fix. (I know, I’m just an old fuddy duddy). Jill seems to be developing parallel careers by the looks of things, she has a book of poetry about to go on sale. Clearly a talented lady.

So let’s also back up to Scherrie Payne. Scherrie, Mary Wilson and Susaye Green made up the final incarnation of The Supremes. Their final album Mary, Scherrie, & Susaye was released in 1976 and outside of the clubs passed by virtually unnoticed. It in fact contains a number of strong tracks with a sophisticated soul/disco flavour. Less than a year later as Britain was preparing for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and teenagers everywhere were donning bondage trousers and trying to decide exactly where they should put that safety pin The Supremes would choose to make their final appearance at London’s Drury Lane. Put like that it sounds like 1977 was in fact operating in a number of parallel universes.

Jill Scott – Love Rain 2000

The Supremes (Scherrie Payne lead) – Sweet Dream Machine 1976

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Just for you

My busy schedule continues at the moment. Work takes me to Hungary today. That will be three countries (besides my own) in the last four weeks. I have a modest 8 (UK) shoe size but my carbon footprint is starting to take on size 12 proportions!

No time to for words so the music will have to stand up on it's own and the track here certainly does.

This just may be the first time this has ever been heard on the Internet. This seems to be a very elusive 45. I featured the A side on this blog many moons ago, and that is RE-UPED for you too.

Nearly two years after my original post on Joni Wilson and I have still been unable to find out anything more about her or this 45. Can anybody help?

Joni Wilson - Flame Flame Flame (mp3)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Scratching around

My life’s been a bit hectic in recent days, and the fallout now is that sitting in front of the computer seems to be a bit of a chore. Everything from searching for cheaper car insurance, to trawling ebay for another vinyl fix, to bouncing around my favourite blogs, to attempting to compose something half way entertaining and/or informative for this blog – oh I just can’t be bothered.

So I will keep it brief this time – some quick random observations.

Sometime last week while I was away oiling the wheels of British (well, German now, I guess in my case) industry this blog racked up 100.000 hits according to Sitemeter. Pull those party poppers!

If you missed Dave Gorman’s latest televisual delight last week – the one where he tries to make it coast to coast across America without giving any money to “The Man” - then you missed a treat. The DVD is released today though, so no excuses (OK so the link is to Amazon, "A Man", but then Dave Gorman's shop link to the DVD is also to Amazon, so I figure that's OK). For a long time I have harboured the dream of doing pretty much exactly what Dave Gorman actually attempted in his documentary (in my dream also to include stopping at every thrift store and second had record store I can find, of course). Suffice to say I loved the program and am now very jealous.

Davy H at The Ghost Of Electricity has been treating us to some of his old mix tapes recently (cassettes, remember those?). I dropped him a comment that contained a tracklist from one of my old mix tapes that crystallised some of John Peel’s shows back in ’78 (no Soul on this one, but JP did of course have impeccable taste in Soul too):
V2 - Man In The Box
Burning Spear - Mr. Garvey
Pere Ubu - Dub Housing
Arabs - Longlife
Public Image Limited - Lowlife, Attack, Fodder Stompf
Parliament - Aqua Boogie
Mikey Dread & The Instigators - Robbers Roost
Aswad - Behold
XTC - Rhythm
Bunny Wailer - Falling Angel
Big In Japan - Nothing Special
Lee Perry - Baffling Smoke Signal

The final track on this particular tape was from the Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, someone who has ably demonstrated down the years that madness and genius can indeed be two sides of the same coin. I loved this one so much I bought the 12”, and here it is for you. (Although it's not obvious from the picture the cover has a smaller centre hole than usual, I love that, it sort lends an added air of mystery to this 12").

This post may not be up to scratch by my standards, but Lee certainly is.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Bafflin’ Smoke Signal 1978

Friday, February 01, 2008

The only day in The Village

The body clock has readjusted, the jet lag fade outs have subsided, and although we only returned from New York on Monday it already seems like a long time ago. All ten of us (me, the better half, and four other couples) had a great time and left the Big Apple wanting more. We did A LOT of walking, much of it with our heads tilted skywards marvelling at the cityscapes, the sheer size of the buildings and the wonderful architectural details that are up there, if you look. My knees and feet told me that four days was, in fact, enough for one visit. But we shall return (I hope) – hell we didn’t take in a jazz club, we spent way too little time in the Village area, and missed the flea market. As for crate digging that was sadly strictly limited too, after all that wasn’t the purpose of the visit.

Saturday was our Greenwich Village day. I loved the feel of the area, a complete contrast to Manhattan. We eventually found the usual site of a flea market only to find that for the first Saturday in living memory it wasn’t there! Soon after that we made for Washington Square only to find it completely dug up undergoing re-landscaping! That was enough for a few in our party, it was cold and they didn’t seem to get the vibe of the area so they hot footed it back to the hotel. Others decided it was time to find a bar. I took this as my cue to strike out on my own for a bit in search of the holy vinyl. I found a couple of shops but nothing to really get the heart racing. After an all to brief dig I thought it was time to locate my wife and friends which, thanks to the cell (I’ve temporarily picked up the local lingo!), was easy. I rejoined them in the XR Bar. They had already taken advantage of the Happy Hour, and I swiftly caught up with their alcohol fuelled euphoria. A good time was had by all, and let me say thanks to Joan for excellent service – the drinks kept coming and she kept the sound system stoked with some great music, including our requests. A Happy Hour (or three) well spent. If you were in the area that day and were puzzled by the sight of six (slightly crazy) Brits skipping along singing James Brown songs, that was us.

In my quick dig I picked up a couple of Luther Ingram 45s which I’m very pleased with so I will share them with you here.

Luther Ingram was born in Jackson, Tennessee but actually started his professional career in New York. He had been working on the McDonnell space program in St Louis, but wanted a career in music. He travelled to Manhattan and soon found himself with a single released on Decca. That did nothing and for a time songwriting and background singing ensued. He is well known in Northern Soul circles for the excellent “If It’s All The Same To You” released on HIB in 1966 as a vocal version of “Exus Trek”, and a hard one to find. But that track is not really typical of his output. In 1972 he had a major hit with “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Right” (this was the first version of the song to get an official release although The Emotions and Veda Brown had both recorded earlier unreleased versions). This was just one of a series of excellent 45s of his that were released on Johnny Baylor’s KoKo label in a ten year period starting in 1968, all recorded in Muscle Shoals or Memphis.

Coincidentally Ace Records have just this week released Volume Two(I Don’t Want To Be Right) of a collection of Luther’s Ko Ko singles. Sadly Luther passed away in March last year (some of the information here has been gleaned from Luther’s obituary that was published in the UK’s Independent newspaper. While Luther was still alive Ace had already been planning to spotlight Luther’s KoKo output. In the end Volume One(Pity For The Lonely) of this work was released in July last year, and you can find both of the singles featured here on Volume One.

“I’ll Just Call You Honey” is in fact a B side (to “To The Other Man”) but it’s a belter, and sounds really fresh, it could have been recorded yesterday. Despite some surface noise picked up from nearly 40 years of knocking around various record boxes and turntables the sound quality on both of these singles is really good and loud although that may not come across on the mp3s.

NOTE: I’ve also re-upped an Intruders track (see link, right) that was featured here a while back, a record that was also picked up digging in America a few years ago.

Luther Ingram – I’ll Just Call You Honey 1970
Luther Ingram – You Can Depend On Me 1969