Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Compliments of the Season

I'm not one that feels it necessary to feature a Christmas song here, I think we all hear enough of them at this time of year as it is. But having said that here is Percy Sledge - ha! ha! (or groan!) a tenuous Christmas connection if ever there was one.

Davy H (thank you) over at "The Ghost" turned me on to this track some months ago as he was desperately seeking a copy. I am familiar with much of Percy's work, and have a few in my collection, but this one had escaped me. After hearing it I too put it on my list of ones to get. The other day a (nice and minty) copy finally dropped through my letter box and I have been playing it over and over these last few days.

I would just like to pass on Season's Greetings to all fellow bloggers and followers of this little indulgence. Have a good one, and 'speak' to you again soon.

Percy Sledge - Any Day Now 1969

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tapping My Feet #9

So I did some distinctly non-technical prodding, pulling, and wiggling of the cartridge connection wires on my turntable and I now at least have sound consistently coming out of both speakers again. But my feeling is the bass is not as good as it was. Ah – perception: the graveyard of fact. I’m on the slippery slope now, I can tell its going to be a new turntable for me soon.

The track offered up here was probably not the best one to test out the hi-fi with. There was definitely some knob twiddling going on in this remix.

A bona fide classic, and a perfect marriage of soul and disco.

Incidentally I’ve just noticed on the label the track time is quoted as “6.27 (Approx.)”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time quoted like that on a record before, but it makes perfect sense because in my experience many track timings are somewhat inaccurate. They’re certainly right to use it here because I reckon it clocks in at 6.17 (about).

There is a good and concise write up on Crown Heights Affair here, and if you follow the “buy the CD” trail through from that location you could end up buying “Crown Heights Affair – 100% Essential New York Disco” for next to nothing. Go on, treat yourself to some top drawer disco soul.

Crown Heights Affair – Say A Prayer For Two 1978

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Parish Notices #5

Well over a week between posts, and then all I can muster is a Parish Notice. Are things going a bit flat around here? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. After all, it’s not as if I haven’t had the time for general bloggery. The only excuse I can offer is that it’s been mighty chilly lately, our lounge is nice and cosy, and that’s where the computer isn’t. Hardly cuts it as an excuse does it?

Every now and then keeping this blog going starts to feel like a duty rather than a labour of love, and right about now I feel like putting my feet up rather than posts. A temporary dip, or something more permanent? Just a dip I think (hope), because I do enjoy doing this most of the time.

The last time I felt like this I just changed this blog's layout and added Candi’s picture to the banner and I was off and running again. A change is as good as rest as they say. Lately I’ve found myself once more thinking about a change. How this might manifest itself I’m still not sure. It’s possible I might start a couple more blogs alongside Feel It with different slants (still musical) and go for shorter, even wordless, posts across the board. Thanks to the global downturn and all that b*llocks I will be enjoying an enforced, longer than normal, Christmas break from work this year, so maybe that will be the perfect time to crystallise some of these thoughts and take some action. Of course it’s just as likely that I will emerge out of my blogging trough and Feel It will carry on carrying on completely unchanged (and not unloved).

My blogging malaise hasn’t stopped my ongoing virtual world tour of other blogs though, and, having just dipped over to one of my perennial favourites Souled On, what do you know? – Scholar is also experiencing something of a “mid-blog crisis” as he puts it. Reading his latest post is like holding a mirror up to my thoughts. This is weird because our hand wringing has coincided before (sometime last year, if memory serves). It’s as if our blogging-bio-rhythms are on exactly the same wavelength. I detect that when Scholar refers to his “mid-blog crisis” his emphasis is on the “mid” just to reassure us that he isn’t going to stop altogether – I, for one, certainly hope he keeps on keeping on. And I will borrow his term and also put emphasis on the “mid” for this particular blog (could I be feeling better already, er, well, maybe).

Hey, this all a bit ho hum, rather than ho ho ho – sorry. Let’s have some music. Scholar included a Soul Children track in his “confessional”. I am going to hold up the mirror again and follow suit. As music blogs go both Scholar’s Souled On and my Feel It are essentially soul children - so perfect symmetry!

Both tracks come from the album “Genesis” which was released in 1972, in the States at least. I can still remember where (a record shop in Cheltenham) if not exactly when ('77 or '78?) I bought this. I have just noticed that the date on my UK Stax copy of the LP is 1975, the dead wax number tends to indicate it is a first press so I guess that means it didn’t get a UK release until ’75. Why then and not before I don’t know, especially as the Soul Children’s more traditional soul/gospel sound was becoming unfashionable by then.

The Soul Children – It Hurts Me To My Heart 1972

The Soul Children - Just The One (I've Been Looking For) 1972

NOTE: Apologies if the sound isn't great. It seems the cartridge connections on my turntable are breaking down. More ho hum!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Another obsessional follows.

There are many tracks on the late Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures Volume 3 that exercise the goosebumps but to my ears the real jewel is “Rozetta” Johnson’s “Who Are you Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife)”, written by the great Sam Dees. After a few plays I knew I had to get a vinyl copy. Although released early in the Seventies the original 45 is not too difficult to find and so now I have my own copy safely tucked into the collection at a price that didn’t do any real damage to the wallet.

So it is with much of my vinyl buying nowadays: sparked by hearing something in digital format - be it CD or Internet - that “does it for me”, I have to go out and get a copy of the original record. For me it’s a way of connecting more closely with the music and a step towards feeling an affinity to the artist. An artist that in this case was previously completely unknown to me. A record, after all, is an artefact, something you can hold as well as hear. Pulling an original copy of a record out of its sleeve immediately transports me back to its time of release. I can imagine the sense of excitement and expectancy for all concerned with its recording, pressing and release into the world. For those that heard it on the radio as a fresh new sound and instantly loved it I can imagine the tingle they got; their lunchtime trip to their local record shop to buy their very own copy; and the rush home that evening to put it on the record player move the needle across and play it for the first time, and then play it again, and again.

I knew this “Rozetta” Johnson 45 had been released in 1971 and to place it in time in my world I tried to think of another record that might have been around at the same sort of time and I might have bought. Difficult, as my record buying didn’t really begin in earnest until the end of 1971. For some reason George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” sprang to mind, close, but that was 1970. This proved to be something of a coincidence though, as I subsequently found this playlist chart from Birmingham, Alabama radio station WSGN 610 AM for week ending 30th Nov 1970 (yes that’s almost exactly 38 years ago). Nestled at #3 between The Miracles and The Supremes was “Rozetta” Johnson with “A Woman’s Way” (her first release on the Clintone label which was backed with the stronger – in my opinion – “Mine Was Real”). Cast your eye down to #24 and what do you see? Yes George Harrison! Most of the artists on this top 30 playlist are household names. “Rozetta” Johnson is very much the exception but was obviously benefiting from local support as she hailed from nearby Tuscaloosa and would have been known on the local club circuit. “A Woman’s Way” would actually break into the lower reaches of the US Top 100 Pop charts. Another WSGN playlist from March 1971 shows “Rozetta” at #22 with “I Can Feel My Love Coming Down” which is the other side of “Who Are You Gonna To Love…”.

The Deep Soul Treasure’s liner notes are excellent and extensive but as far as Ms Johnson is concerned reveal little about her. Nowadays, though, liner notes and holding and playing a record no longer have to suffice as a way of getting closer to an artist – there is the Internet. The WSGN playlists and “Rozetta”’s birthplace were just a few of the pieces of information I picked up trawling the Internet for more on Ms Johnson. Putting “Rozetta Johnson” into Google gets you lots of hits to the Deep Soul Treasures CD and the recently released CD “Personal Woman”, but information on “Rozetta” herself is scant. There is little information on her early career, except for some excerpts from the liner notes to the aforementioned CD. It would appear she followed the standard soul singer’s route, initially singing in church choirs she moved into secular music when she performed the only non gospel song she knew at the time in the 401 Club in Birmingham, Alabama (in this respect she has close similarities with Candi Staton, also discovered in a Birmingham club singing the only secular song she knew, and from what I can estimate “Rozetta” and Candi’s birth years cannot be far apart either). I can find only two documented single releases before her emergence on Clintone in 1970 – an early (1961) release on NRC co-billed with The Organettes, and a 1965 outing on a local label, Jessica, that also got national release on Atlantic. I’m sure if (when) I purchase “Personal Woman”, I will find out more, but finding out more about “Rozetta” by “Internet archaeology” is part of the fun.

So what is all this “Rozetta” business? Well one of the Google hits led me to this, 2002 correspondence from a friend of Ms Johnson to a local DJ which reveals that the correct spelling is, in fact, Roszetta.

Now put “Roszetta Johnson” into Google and a whole new world opens up. Roszetta’s world since 2002.

Like many other soul singers from the golden age Roszetta disappeared from the recorded music scene sometime in the mid Seventies. A career in education followed, with gospel singing very much a second string to her bow. Then it would seem that in 2002 the realisation that there were people all round the world who still fondly remembered her Clintone output prompted her to re-ignite her singing career. In the summer of 2002, in what must have been a déjà vu moment, it seems she entered an amateurs singing competition “Amateur Night At The Apollo” in Birmingham and was chosen as one of 13 finalists. The winner got the chance to appear in the legendary Amateur Night at New York’s Apollo Theatre. Roszetta was described as a “country gospel singer, age not given”. I don’t know if she won.

By 2005 Roszetta was performing (billed as Roszetta Johnson Scovil) with a jazz band fronted by Bill Doggett, and by then had also added “stand in for Candi Staton” to her CV. Around this time too it would appear she lent her name, or maybe owned, a night club in Birmingham as I have found listings for the “Roszetta Johnson Jazz Club” in various yellow pages style listings. However the latest Google Maps entry for that address has it described as “Glenn’s Bar”. In 2007 Roszetta won a BAMA (Birmingham Alabama Music Award) as best female vocalist, and now appears in an established residency “Jazz On The Porch” at Rucker Place which by the looks of it is an upmarket eaterie.

So from what I have found on my Internet trawl I think it’s fair to say Roszetta is once again active on the local music scene in Birmingham Alabama, and her rekindled musical career appears to be flourishing.

I hope with this piece I haven’t sounded as if I am some sort of stalker. I'm just someone who likes to know a bit more about the people who made all this great, and often criminally under appreciated, music from the past that gives me so much pleasure.

So it’s about time we heard Roszetta.

I am still not sure whether the intro to “Who Are You Gonna Love” is a mess or inspired. If, on first listen, you are of the former opinion don’t let it put you off, what follows is a work of genius. This is definitely not your average run of the mill “cheating” song. It’s really not like anything else I have ever heard. Roszetta is in fine voice, there are powerful lyrics – of course – from Sam Dees, and to top it all there is the intricate and haunting arrangement from Dale Warren (Dale was classically trained and it shows, at the time of this single he was also arranging for various Stax artists including Isaac Hayes). The writer and journalist Barney Hoskyns is also rather taken by this song and had this to say about it: “…it's so extraordinary - like three songs in one, with melodies sliding in and out of each other and rhythms shifting in mid-verse. The domestic heartbreak is par for the early '70s course, but the song underscores just how unorthodox a ballad writer Dees is”. Indeed. Jackie Wilson may have recorded the “Who Who Song” but for me Roszetta can stake a claim to singing the definitive “Who Song”, just listen to the way she sings that word in this song. The only pity is that the song fades too quickly, its final moments are deserving of at least some sort of subtlety.

“Mine Was Real” , as I have already mentioned, was one side of Roszetta’s first Clintone release. The song was written by Sam Dees’ wife Lillian. “A Woman’s Way” was the credited hit but I prefer this side. The advertising around Roszetta’s recently resurgent singing career likens her voice to Dinah Washington, and I think the similarity is most evident here. The song seems so simple and understated but the more I hear it the better it gets.

Roszetta Johnson – Who Are You Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife) 1971

Roszetta Johnson – Mine Was Real 1970

Buy "Personal Woman" which gathers together all her Clintone recordings, including some previously unreleased.

*The pictures of Roszetta were obtained here. I sincerely hope the Dewsbury native who took these doesn't mind me using them.