Thursday, January 28, 2010

Margie Margie

No words this time so I better make the sounds good.

Here’s a great double header single from Margie Joseph that dropped through my letter box recently.

Note Darryl Carter's name in the credits - always a sure fire sign of quality.

Margie Joseph – Punish Me 1970

Margie Joseph – Sweeter Tomorrow 1970

From the LP “Makes A New Impression”.

(For another great Margie Joseph track check out a recent podcast mix thingy from the always excellent Paris DJs - “Who Is Molesting Laura – part 17”)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Well, wobble me Bunch! No. Don’t!

After the lethargy of the Christmas holidays and the recent snow, which limited movements somewhat, it’s been good to get out in the field again and trawl the charity shops and second hand stores. And this year, like last year, I’ve had some early successes, which have set up the rest of the year very nicely. For the next few week at least I will have an extra spring in my step as I do my rounds of the charity shops.

For 50p I couldn’t leave The Who’s “Tommy” in the rack. That was quickly followed by a white label copy of The Brilliant Corners' “Somebody Up There Likes Me”. The Brilliant Corners were a band from my home town that released a number of albums in the 80s to some critical acclaim. Back then their brand of breezy indie pop wasn’t really to my taste but the album was worth a punt simply because they were a Bristol band. On playing it I was pleasantly surprised, it sounded really fresh. A good few of the tracks sound to me like a jaunty Smiths. Now there is another band I have only very recently come to appreciate.

The really good scores happened earlier this week. One lunchtime I had to pay an emergency visit to the bank to pay a wedge of cash in to prevent our son incurring some probably eyewatering charges (the banks have to find the money to pay those bonuses somehow don’t they?). Almost as an afterthought I quickly popped into our local branch of Cancer Research. They often have some interesting albums but usually ask too much for them. They obviously have someone pricing up the records who thinks they know what they’re doing – no fun. The latest visit found them running true to form, they were asking £15 for a copy of an early Dusty Springfield album and £30 for Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep..” album. But for every overpriced (or at least priced out of my range) album by a well known artist there is often something less well known that is more than reasonably priced (their expert isn’t so cute after all). And so it proved this time. For only £2 each I picked up The Gil Evans Orchestra “Out Of The Cool” on a UK Impulse reissue and also the album featured here – “It’s Just Begun” by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. Not particularly rare or in demand albums, but quality. I’m glad to have them and they are certainly worth more than the asking price.

Both albums are in excellent shape and I am confident the “Bunch” is an original 1972 US issue. Confident for two reasons: one - the back cover is pasted paper on card, and two - it’s a Dynaflex disc. RCA issued Dynaflex pressed LPs in the 70s. My copy of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is a Dynaflex disc so I knew what to expect. But, trust me, if you have never come across one before the first time you handle a Dynaflex disc you will utter the words “what the ****?”. They are alarmingly thin and floppy. Never mind a needle and turntable, I’m sure Rolf Harris would be able to get a good sound out of them!

I had always been intrigued with my “Space Oddity” disc and my latest purchase prompted me to see what I could find on the internet about Dynaflex. It turns out it has it’s own Wiki page. Dynaflex was manufactured and used by RCA for LPs throughout the 70s. I also found a news item about its launch in a January 1971 edition of Billboard. Be sure to follow the article onto Billboard page 66 where you will see somebody folding a Dynaflex disc in half! Ouch! There is no way I’m going to try that on my new purchase.

The jury seemed to always be out on the merits of Dynaflex. It was apparently free of trapped air bubbles and imperfections in the manufacturing process and also less susceptible to scratching resulting in a long life without surface noise – something I would agree with on my limited experience. But equally people felt that bass response and dynamic range was not as good – something I can’t make my mind up on.

Enough rambling. Let’s hear something from “It’s Just Begun”. Issued in 1972 the title track has belatedly become relatively well known following numerous samplings. Another track on the album is “Trogoldyte”, something of a novelty funk tune, a favourite of mine I remember getting radio plays back in the day, and it brought a smile to my face again. Most of the other tracks are very redolent of the early 70s – heavy rock-influenced guitar fuelled percussive funk workouts with a pinch of early Funkadelic, and a wonderful open sound to the horns that remind me of the feel achieved on early Earth, Wind & Fire albums.  

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – L.T.D (Life, Truth, Death) 1972      

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – You Better Be Good 1972

Buy It's Just Begun/Phase Two on CD

Hey Rolf, don’t get any ideas – my Jimmy Castor Bunch LP is not a wobble board, ok!

(By the way, I am spending way too much time reading old copies of Billboard on Google books. For instance in this Jan ‘71 edition I noticed that Walter Brennan sang Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” for the US market. Also, I noticed that Led Zeppelin III was listed in the Top 100 Soul Albums).  

Friday, January 15, 2010

Random words and pictures with a great soundtrack

One of the wackier newspaper stories I read recently quoted a new study that, in terms of an annual carbon footprint (or should that be pawprint?), owning a dog is more damaging to the environment than running a Toyota 4x4 Landcruiser; and owning a cat is equivalent to running a Volkswagen Golf. We have four cats.

Last Sunday with our children back at uni and the snow generally limiting our horizons Mrs Darce and I were at a bit of a loose end, so we decided it was time to sort out a little corner of our bedroom that had turned into a general dumping ground. We needed some furniture to put there so we took ourselves off to Ikea (not difficult as we have a store only about a mile away) and amazingly found just what we wanted straightaway.    

Ikea are of course renowned for the quirky names they give everything they sell (or at least they sound quirky to your average English person – there is in fact some logic to it apparently). And so it was that last Sunday I spent the afternoon assembling some little Trabys. Traby could be a Swedish place name, or possibly an occupation by the looks of things. Except that with a slight change in spelling it becomes Trabi and therefore immediately makes me think of the Trabant, the East German car that was, pre 1989, thought of as something of a joke, especially in the West, but is now increasingly fondly remembered it seems.        

So there you have it – not only does our household have enough Volkswagen Golfs to go around:

we can now also call on a small fleet of Trabants too:

Whilst building my “Trabi”s last Sunday I went appropriately retro and dug out some cassettes to play. They included a couple that I assume were Mrs Darce’s as I can’t remember buying them. One was Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” and the other was the Tavares’ “Hard Core Poetry”. One side of an album typically didn’t last long in the early 70s. It seemed like I was turning the cassette over every five  minutes! Anyway, I was completely blown away by one of the Tavares tracks. I can’t recall ever hearing it before but the play-stop-rewind-stop-play buttons have been exercised a lot this week playing “Too Late”. Some quick research tells me it was a single in the US, making 59 pop and 10 r&b. As far as I know it was never released in UK. Do you think this is maybe where EWF got some inspiration for “September”? Apparently this has started to get some action on the Northern/Modern scenes recently. Rightly so, it’s fab.

Tavares – Too Late 1974

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass R.I.P.

Willie Mitchell, and now Teddy Pendergrass - it's been a bad start to the year.

R.I.P Teddy P.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That question

Soulstress Beverley Knight was a popular winner of BBC Celebrity Mastermind recently. She certainly knew her Prince and took the General Knowledge in her stride too. They have surely made the questions easier for the celebs though, haven’t they?. (Incidentally, I’ve never been a fan of the Midlands accent but Beverley could talk to me all night in her soft Wolverhampton tones).

Possibly Beverley’s most difficult question on the night was one she couldn’t earn a point for answering. In the idle banter between rounds she was asked what is soul (music). You can see her answer here (it’s 23 min 40 secs in, and assumes of course that the show is still available to view). Considering she was put on the spot (I assume) a brave attempt at an answer, but perhaps not the greatest one I’ve heard. Beverley mentioned the words passion, pain, vigour in her description. Plenty of singers would rightly claim to exhibit or feel those emotions when singing but wouldn’t be considered soul singers.

Also, I read plenty of reviews that describe artists or tracks as being soul or soulful that are really only that in the broadest sense of the word, but in the end they cannot really be classed as soul music. On the other hand though I would certainly struggle to come up with a definition that gets to the essence of the genre, and one that clearly differentiates it from other musical styles. All I know is I know it when I hear it. And that’s my cop out – I simply refer you to some examples what is, undoubtedly, SOUL.

For instance a recent charity shop purchase of mine (for £1) that I am mighty pleased with is Z.Z. Hill’s album “A Man Needs A Woman”. Some research on this album reveals it as being a bit of a curiosity really. Released in the UK in 1985 on a Charly Records offshoot, Top Line, it is on first glance at the tracklisting a straight reissue of 1971’s SwampDogg produced “The Brand New Z Z Hill”. But it’s not as straightforward as that because while a slight majority of the tracks are from the original album other tracks are apparently an amalgam of later instrumental backings overdubbed with Hill’s vocals (which may or may not have been recorded in 1971) that sound as if Hill was in a very large space at the time.he was singing. The effect is to make Hill sound bluesier on these tracks, which may have been the idea.

The sleeve notes on this album said this about Z.Z Hill, and indicate that the album was probably issued as a tribute to the then not long departed Arzell Hill:
For 20 years ZZ Hill was a soul survivor, until his sadly premature death in 1985*. His career had as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster, but the next up was never far away, and he didn’t have to stray from wha the did best – his very own brand of Southern soul. Born in Texas in 1940*, and first making a local name for himself in Dallas, ZZ’s early influence was the classy blues singer Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland. In the early 60s his brother Matt had a little record company** in Los Angeles, and it was here that ZZ enjoyed a sizeable r’nb hit in 1964 with “You Were Wrong”. Although he recorded for the bigger Kent and Atlantic labels during the 60s with varying success, it was when he teamed up with his brother again, with Matt as producer, that he had his biggest soul hit – “Don’t Make Me Pay For His Mistakes”, in 1971. It’s the next ‘up’ in his career which is represented by this album, when he was signed in the same year by record producer Jerry Williams Jnr, better know as the legendary Swamp Dogg. ZZ Hill records continued to appear in the 70s***, and in 1981 he joined the Mississippi company Malaco, where he proved that, in spite of changing fashions, a top class singer could still make great music. [Ron Etts]    

*    Wikipedia states 1935-1984.
**  His early releases were on MHR – so that’s what is stands for: Matt Hill Records.
*** I first became aware of ZZ Hill in 1977 when I fell in love with his single “Love Is So Good When You’re Stealing It”.  

Z.Z. Hill – A Man Needs A Woman (A Woman Needs A Man) 1971
(this is the same version as that on “The Brand New ZZ Hill”)  

Z.Z. Hill – Hold Back (One Man At A Time) 1985?
(this is not the version as found on “The Brand New ZZ Hill”) 

Buy “The Brand New Z.Z. Hill”.

“A Man Needs A Woman” in particular is a peach of a song. I needed my research on the Z.Z. Hill album to remind me that James Carr, who some will say is the greatest soul singer of them all, had recorded a song with the same title back in 1968. The songs have similarities, but are not the same. I had to share the You Tube clip of James Carr singing the OB McClinton penned “A Man Needs A Woman” though because listening to it had a profound effect on me and by the fade out I found my eyes were moist. From Soul to Deep Soul, then? See what you think.    




Tuesday, January 05, 2010

His music will live forever

Willie Mitchell - behind so many records that I love and keep going back to.

Willie Mitchell - a true giant of soul music.

Willie Mitchell - your music will live forever.

Willie Mitchell - (1928–2010). Rest In Peace.

Jean Plum – Back To You 1976