Thursday, June 25, 2009

School's out completely

So that’s it – school’s out forever. Our son took the last of his ‘A’ level exams yesterday (a Maths extension paper, for three hours it was just him and the invigilator in a large exam hall). Our daughter is a bit older and already two years through University.

I can’t believe both our children are now through the school system. It seems like yesterday that we were walking them to primary school for the first time and full of the hopes and fears that I’m sure all parents have for their children as they enter school. Looking back, my school years seemed to go on forever (and were mostly enjoyable). I’m sure our children feel the same way. But as parents that time has gone in a flash, just another example I suppose of how time seems to speed up as one gets older.

In the circumstances this single from Cindy & Playmates picks itself due to the title. I bought this back in the 70s and for years have known nothing about it. I was guessing that it dated to about 1972 but then read this from the Numero Group’s notes on their “Home Schooled” compilation, discussing producer Jim Porter (ah – so Jay Pee) which may date it as early as 1969:

... 1969, he issued a crop of singles on his Jay Pee label, including a funky reworking of “Here’s Some Dances,” awash in kid-breaks and eerie vocal lifts. As the group grew locally, New York’s Perception label took note and eventually purchased their contract from Porter. The move spelled the end of their playing days as Perception brought in a team of session men for their only album. This same fate would bestow the Jacksons upon arrival at Motown. The LP and ensuing singles charted decently, but the Sudduth and Gogins family stopped short of pulling their kids out of school to take them to the next level. Years later Wendell would comment, “It was for the best, I think. I got to play baseball and be a normal kid. Michael didn’t.”
At the same time that Jim Porter was reconfiguring the Soul Impacts, he was also dabbling in a pre-teen girl group across town. Cindy & the Playmates, led by Cindy Redd (later of the Voices) and backed by Wanda Cunningham and Manesbia Pierce issued two singles on Jay Pee while in their early teens. “Now That School Is Through” is a classic kid concept song, yet still strong enough to have post-adolescent appeal. The uncredited male during the fade out captures the sentiment perfectly with “I think I’m just… just gonna lay around… take it easy.”

“Now That School Is Thru” may not be the greatest single ever made but it has a quirky charm. On the other hand The Dells “All About The Paper” is a bona fide classic. Its lyrics make it appropriate here too. Also, our son has been listening to the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show a lot recently whilst revising and this song was a stand out for him recently.

Cindy & The Playmates – Now That School Is Thru (mp3) 197?

The Dells – All About The Paper (mp3) 1980

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On tour

I’m two thirds of the way through a mini European tour. That is to say the week before last I was in France (with work, so mostly I saw only the office and the hotel); I have just returned from a looong weekend in Berlin (boys – or should I say grumpy old men – on tour); and later this week it’s off to Kernow (ha ha!) with Mrs Darce.

Since saying a few weeks ago that I was planning to hit the car-boot sales with some regularity this year (in search of vinyl) I find I haven’t had the opportunity. However, whilst in Berlin I did manage to convince my friends that it would be a good idea to seek out a flea market or two. We walked around in circles for a while failing to find one I had some details of, but in doing so did find we all liked the district of Kreuzberg. In my opinion the only way you experience the real soul of a city is to get away from the big tourist spots – and looking for flea markets and records shops certainly enables you to do that! I did find one junk shop with quite a lot of vinyl. In the end though it only yielded a couple of LPs worth the 1 Euro asking price – and those I bought for the covers not the music. The fact that I could happily spend all day – given half the chance – getting my fingers dusty, AND also actually buy records for the covers not the musical content caused much consternation within the group, I think. Still, everyone had to agree one of the LPs (“Wolfgang Reich’s Neue Ernte” – go on see if you can find an image on t’net) was a gem and couldn’t be left in the shop.

Yesterday, walking towards the Berliner Dom (you have to see the sights too, and the Berliner Dom is definitely worth seeing), records were not on my mind but then we walked past the University outside which a guy was selling second hand books – and some records! I had a quick browse – well, you have to don’t you? – all the time thinking do I really want to cart around an LP all day long? I overcame that thought and was glad I did. “Cinnamon Flower” by The Charlie Rouse Band is a cracker. Fortunately it was “still in shrink” as the jargon goes because we got caught in a downpour later in the day.

Here’s a track from the album – beautiful to my ears - with a sort of appropriate title given that it was bought in Berlin and we are now of course 20 years on from the Wall coming down.

The Charlie Rouse Band – A New Dawn (mp3) 1977

Buy “Cinnamon Flower”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everything's Purple

Around this time last year I enthused about Alan Wilkis’ debut CD “Babies Dream Big”. Full of bright and cheerful songs that could soundtrack a summer perfectly. Perhaps it was the promising start to the summer this year that had just got me wondering whether Alan had anything new in the pipeline.

Then, less than 24 hours after I posted my “purple edition” Tapping My Feet, Alan’s new EP “Pink And Purple” dropped in my inbox. I love coincidences and this was something of a coincidence of coincidences.

Over to Alan: “… “Pink And Purple” [contains] 6 songs, very 80s-influenced, self-releasing on my Wilcassettes label, and been working on it for the past year. I've got a number of amazing special guests on there, including auxiliary members of/hired guns for Bell, Asobi Seksu, TV on the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Earl Greyhound, Antibalas, Dragons of Zynth, and many more...”

Put your shades on because once again Alan’s latest release is full of songs with a feel good factor.

All six tracks on the EP undeniably give more than a passing nod to the synthesised 80s (they tip the hat, and shake hands too!) but at the same time sound wonderfully fresh. There is something about Alan’s music that just makes me feel happy.

Fresh AND Retro – Pink AND Purple – go on, cheer yourself up:

Alan Wilkis – N.I.C.E. (mp3) 2009

Catch up with Alan Wilkis - web - myspace - tweet

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tapping My Feet #11 - The Purple Edition

Stumbled across this on YouTube the other day, which prompted me to dig out my copy for that truly authentic feel. Pulled it out of the sleeve to find it was on purple vinyl! I had no recollection of that fact at all. A bit of the shock, but a pleasant surprise.

For the full background on this single (in fact quite possibly more than you ever wanted to know) go here.

Key facts:
- This was recorded in the UK but went on to become a favourite on the NY Disco scene.
- TW is Tony Williams, a long time Reggae DJ on BBC London, and Tania is his
- The recording engineer was Linda Lusardi’s brother!
- Gerry.O’s name is scratched in the dead wax (never let it be said that I didn’t
bring something to the party).

The rap/lyric such as it is (this is the B side and so essentially an instrumental) is hilarious, but, released in 1980, the sound was way ahead of its time.

Funk Masters – Love Money (mp3) 1980

Monday, June 01, 2009

Go forth into the fields of England

No more lie-ins on Sunday mornings. The car boot sale season is upon us.

My first foray of the year and I am very pleased with my haul. This little collection set me back just £3.30p:

John Handy – Carnival (LP)
Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (LP)
Colin Blunstone – Ennismore (LP)
Soul II Soul – Club Classics Vol 1 (LP)
Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines (Sugarhill 12)

And Joni and Soul II Soul were in nice plastic jackets too.

In truth I did lie-in this Sunday. Just imagine what I might have found if I had been an early bird?

I have always treasured John Handy’s “Hard Work” album but somehow had never got round to buying it’s follow up “Carnival” – I think the cover always put me off, it strikes me as being a bit naff. But I now realise what I’ve been missing all these years. What’s in the grooves is seduction personified. Simply beautiful and a perfect soundtrack to a day bathed in warm sunshine.

And it only cost me 30p!

John Handy – I Will Leave You (mp3) 1977

John Handy – Love’s Rejoycing (mp3) 1977

"Carnival" is not available on CD as far as I can tell. You could pick up a vinyl copy here.