Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Me and my C.C.S

So there I was reading the Pet Shop Boys feature in this month’s (just) Word magazine.

(A very good feature in a particularly good issue I thought. I have been a Word subscriber for two or three years now. I often wish there was more coverage of soul, jazz and Americana – and less front cover pictures bearded rockers of a certain age – but all in all I’m hooked).

Back to the Pet Shop Boys feature. Now it has to be said I am not a fan of PSB. “West End Girls” I liked but just about everything they’ve released since has left me cold. So to read the PSB feature was not a given, it required the effort of a decision and represented a very conscious act on my part. As I said I enjoyed the feature but, I guess because PSB have never really fired my imagination, as I was reading I’m sure my sub-conscious was working away in parallel mulling over music and bands from back in the day that did do it for me. Then the article made mention of the current band CSS and that immediately sparked off a memory of one of those bands from a bit further back in the day: C.C.S. And that was it, the memories – my buried consciousness – came rushing back into full focus and the PSB article had to take a rest on the sofa for a few minutes.

“Tap Turns On The Water” by C.C.S – the Collective Consciousness Society – was one of the first singles I ever bought. It hit the UK Top Ten in the Autumn of 1971 which coincided with the time I first took a serious interest in music. I loved this record, and it always reminds me of, wait for it, conkers! I can remember plain as day being in our back garden with a friend listening to the charts on the radio wondering how high C.C.S would go and sorting through a fresh haul of conkers. Happy days. Those wonderful pastimes like conkers and marbles (remember drainsies) don't seem to get played much by pre-spotty boys anymore. The world is going to the dogs, I tell you.

The memory fast forwarded a few years then and I could hear in my head, as clear as if it was at that moment emanating from the radio in the corner of the room, Alexis Korner’s voice introducing yet another fantastic piece of soul music by…well wait and see my next post. Alexis hosted a great Blues & Soul radio show on the BBC from the beginning of ‘77 through into the early ‘80s. I am eternally grateful to him (and John Peel) for turning me on to so much great Blues & Soul music.

Fast forward again to a few months ago and I remember a blogging soul mate (was it DJ Prestige over at Flea Market Funk?) posted the C.C.S take on “Whole Lotta Love” – the Top Of The Pops theme of course. His copy of the single was a US one so of course sported a big hole in the middle. Now, if ever there was a label design made for UK singles the RAK one was it. I feel sorry for all of you in America who have never been able to appreciate the centrepiece of a RAK 45 (You could of course own a RAK album I suppose, in which case you can enjoy the ship in full sail – wonderful). When I saw the scan of the “Whole Lotta Love” single with the big hole in the middle I remember thinking - I may have commented as much – I must dig out my “Tap Turns On The Water” single and give it a spin so we can see what lies within the Bermuda Circle. So now, finally, here it is.

C.C.S - Tap Turns On The Water (mp3) 1971

So there you have it – a window into my very own personal collective consciousness society in action.

My Internet trawling for all things C.C.S led me to “Brother”. I had forgotten how great this single was – it was used as the theme tune to the Top Twenty BBC radio show:

And I also found “Hundred Highways”, which I had never heard before. It comes from the third and final CCS album “The Best Band In The Land”. Excuse me, but this is - as they say - dope, is it not?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Laurel & Hardy

Mrs Darce and I spent a great weekend in Devon with some friends. It was wall to wall sunshine, good food, and a fair amount of alcohol as we raised a glass or two (or three) to Evie on her 60th birthday. (And if you’ve found Feel It’s url on the back of that envelope in your handbag – hello Mary!). All good things come to end and so it was back to the grindstone yesterday. After such weekends it seems very difficult to get motivated at work, and this week, so far, has been no exception. That lack of motivation has spilled over into blog affairs too and so this post is a little later than planned, and a little short on research.

I have been enjoying Dust & Grooves, a new blog on the block. When I’m not crate digging (and unfortunately that seems to be most of the time) I like nothing better than to look at pictures of shelves and crates full of records and read of others’ experiences of the noble obsession. Eilon’s new blog is therefore the perfect fix for me.

Recently Eilon featured DJ Prestige (he of Flea Market Funk) and finished off the post with a little video clip of an impromptu pavement vinyl affair in which he played a Paul Humphrey record on his little portable turntable. A little cameo that perfectly captured the essence of my continuing love affair with the little black round thing that is the vinyl record. And that Paul Humphrey record was hot! I had never heard it before but one listen was all it took – I knew I had to get a copy for myself. Fortunately “Funky LA” is not a rare record so I quickly found one at a decent price (and in the UK so I didn’t have to worry about the plummeting exchange rate) and a few days ago it dropped through the letter box. I expect DJ Prestige found his copy whilst doing some proper crate digging, rather than the more virtual on-line variety, but, hey, the possibilities of picking up records like “Funky LA” in the UK “out in the field” are limited, and I’m impulsive, so I dig any way I can.

The copy of “Funky LA” I bought has to be the thickest, heaviest slab of vinyl I have ever laid my hands on. I almost needed a crane to lift it onto the turntable! The grooves also deliver a great big fat sound. In the same package that dropped through the letterbox was another purchase - “Stay By My Side” by Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis. Coincidentally this now has to be the thinnest 45 (not counting those flexidiscs you used to get with NME etc) in my collection – it is bendy – and it also came in the thinnest paper sleeve I think I have ever seen.

So here for your listening pleasure are my latest purchases – I give you Laurel & Hardy!

Paul Humphrey & His Cool Aid Chemists – Funky LA (mp3) 1971

Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis – Stay By My Side (mp3) 1977

Monday, March 16, 2009

Everlasting candles

The celebrations continue. Two more numbers have come up – Feel It’s latest Happy Birthday post was number 150 and also brought up 150,000 hits.

That has to be worth celebrating with some more Candi Staton. Something from her disco days this time. I love the way this track just picks you up and carries you along.

My sticker on this one says I bought it on 9.6.79 – that’s nearly 30 years ago!

150, 150,000, 30: three more numbers divisible by 3 – a magic number - I tried to blow out the candles but they keep burning.

Candi Staton – When You Wake Up Tomorrow (mp3) 1979

Friday, March 06, 2009

Back in the groove

With two weeks in a row working away I had started to suffer withdrawal symptoms, from blogging of course, and from trawling charity shops.

My work related travels over the last fortnight have resulted in a fair amount of hanging around in airports. There are plenty of shops in airports but even at the best of times they mostly seem to be full of fabulously expensive merchandise. Nevertheless, to date, I had always been happy to browse, and chuckle at the prices. But now good old GBP has begun to resemble a third world currency (sorry, I guess that’s an insult to those of you living in the third world) such browsing isn’t fun anymore. It got me thinking that what the airport lounge experience needs is a bit of variety, say a few charity shops and second hand shops – somewhere to dig. It would certainly make my waiting experience more enjoyable and productive – then again I would probably get so carried away I would miss my flight! (Imagine: underneath a rack of women’s skirts (large) you’ve just found two boxes of albums that show some promise (the first two albums you already have but that shows someone has your taste) and then you hear the dread words: “Mr Darcy you are delaying the flight please proceed to the gate immediately or we will offload your bags”).

Anyway I’m back home again now with no more business trips for a few weeks at least. And today, in between a frustrating and ultimately fruitless search for a replacement brake light switch for our car*, I managed to dip into a few local charity shops and banish those withdrawal symptoms – and how!

As I recounted back in January my first trawl of the year was a successful one and included an album by George Freeman on Groove Merchant, my first piece of vinyl on that label. Well, what do you know?, I bagged another Groove Merchant album today – Jimmy McGriff’s “Groove Grease” no less – for 50p! I found this in a branch of the British Heart Foundation and I can assure you my heart skipped a beat when I pulled this one out of the rack. There is grease in those grooves I thought, and, ahem!, the cover's not bad!

As I said to the two charming old ladies behind the counter as I paid for my swag (which also included a Marlena Shaw Anthology CD – another result!) – “the cover on this one is a bit racy, perhaps you had better put The Bird in a Plain Brown Bag!”

Jimmy McGriff – The Bird (mp3) 1971

Jimmy McGriff – Plain Brown Bag (mp3) 1971 (or 1974?)

As a McGriff album “Groove Grease” is unusual inasmuch as the bass on the tracks is provided by a bass guitar rather than Jimmy’s left hand. I’m a bit puzzled by something though - Jimmy McGriff discographies seem generally to state this album as being from 1971. But this copy is dated 1974. I know this album has had a recent reissue on vinyl but this one is pretty clearly an original – it has Bell Sound stamped in the dead wax for instance. Were there two releases in the 70s I wonder?

Jimmy McGriff passed away last year, you can find a good tribute to him here.

(* The one I finally bought didn’t fit and, in the end, I got the original one working again – a day gladly wasted as it led me to “Groove Grease”).