Friday, August 20, 2010

Georgia on my mind

The nest is active at the moment. Just as our son was returning home after six weeks backpacking with friends in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia so our daughter was departing, again with backpack, for five weeks+ in America. (Perhaps I should say under a backpack as she is only little!). Our son had a great time and we have hopes that our daughter will have a similarly great experience.

At the same time one can’t help but feel a little bit envious. For various reasons trawling around the world wasn’t quite so easy when I was our children’s age. I need to start hatching some plans for a sabbatical.

Any sabbatical would of course have to include some vinyl hunting. When my work actually took me to the Atlanta area, some years ago now, my vinyl habit had only just been rekindled and, although I did manage a fair amount of digging, I can’t help thinking I really didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity.     

So, whilst a live digging trip to America remains a dream, I make do with the virtual experience on eBay etc.

Sometime last year this little bit of America came to me, through our letterbox. It is yet another record I first became aware of via Sir Shambling’s great site.

This record truly feels like a little bit of America because a) it was recorded in a Georgia studio by a local singer and released on a local label, b) it looks like Gina herself has signed it(!), and c) the package it came in had a Georgia postmark. You can almost smell the pines.

Because of my numerous trips to the Atlanta area a few years ago I developed a certain affinity for the area. So to think that for the 40ish years since this record was pressed, until my purchase, it had probably never left the state of Georgia, and that Gina herself has quite probably handled it and signed the dedication on the label (I wasn’t aware of this possibility when I bought it on eBay) somehow makes it very special to me.           

I know nothing about Gina beyond what appears on Sir Shambling’s page  dedicated to the artist (which, wonderfully, includes a picture of Gina). The record itself actually got two releases. I am assuming the first was on the Jill label – or could it be gill I wonder? (Gina hILL). I had not previously heard of the Lou-Neita label either but found this August 1970 Billboard article on the label (part of a feature on the Atlanta area recording scene), so I now know more about Lou-Neita than Gina Hill. Lou-Neita was named after the wives of the two label owners. It was initially primarily a country label but by 1970 its releases were about 50-50 country and soul. As it was undoubtedly a bigger concern than the Jill label it is reasonable to assume that Lou-Neita picked up Gina’s recording and issued it to enable wider distribution. Except that now, 40 years later it seems the Jill release is the one that turns up much more often than the Lou-Neita one.

In this instance I have to disagree with Sir Shambling and say that my preferred side of this 45 is “Help Me Solve This Problem”. Enjoy.

Gina Hill – Help Me Solve This Problem  1970?     

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Fresh out of the boot


"I've got some more in the boot", he said. "Saves the knees".

Unfortunately it kills the back!

But not the pocket. 20p each which you can't argue with.

The JBs- Hot Pants Road 1972

Ray Charles - Busted 1963

and, warning: crackle alert!

Kiki Dee - We've Got Everything Going For Us 1967

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Mabry my baby

So there I was a couple of nights ago plonking around on the Interweb (as you do) researching some single or other (I think it was one from Jackie Ross) when I stumbled upon a gargantuan list of records for sale (which, by the by, are probably mostly sold now as it turned out to be a few months old). Anyway, in that list of records I saw the name Betty Mabry. This caused me to take an immediate Interweb left turn and I ended up spending the rest of the night playing Betty Davis tracks on YouTube and seeing if I could find out more than I already knew about her.

For those unfamiliar with the names, Betty Mabry and Betty Davis are one and the same person. After moving to New York in the early 60s Betty Mabry recorded a little and, new news to me, had a couple of 45s released (the first in 1964 on the small NY DCP label a copy of which I found noted in the sales list mentioned above). She was also modelling, and writing songs. In 1968 she became Betty Davis when she married Miles Davis. The marriage lasted little more than a year. She appeared on the cover of Filles de Kilimanjaro and Miles wrote at least one piece dedicated to her – Mademoiselle Mabry – and it was Betty who apparently turned Miles onto the likes of Hendrix and Sly Stone and prompted Miles’ fusion era.

To those that know, and she remains relatively unknown, her other claims to fame are three incredible albums she released in the mid 70s: “Betty Davis”, “They Say I’m Different” and “Nasty Gal”. FONK is the operative word and, like her erstwhile husband’s finest output, they should be recognised as all time classic albums.      

Her first album “Betty Davis”, released on the wonderfully named Just Sunshine record label in 1973, has long been a jewel in my collection.  All the songs were written and arranged by Betty. On it she is backed by some stellar names - including Larry Graham, The Pointer Sisters, and the Tower Of Power horn section. The music is hard funk and rock, in just about equal measure, and it’s bluesy as hell – as well!  

In the early days of writing this blog I had fully intended to feature her and this album but it seemed whenever I was about to compose a post some other blog had beaten me to it. That was probably because at that time her entire catalogue, including some previously unreleased tracks from the late 70s, were re-released and a whole new fanbase had emerged.
I haven’t seen Betty featured on the blogs recently so my impromptu “Betty night” reminded me to finally do the right thing and feature her here on Feel It.

While I was casting around for more details of Betty’s career I found this interview, given in 2007 and apparently her first in thirty years. It follows her life and is full of interesting information, including some more background on some of the tracks on her debut album. For instance Betty states that “Stepping In Her I Miller Shoes” was written about Devon Wilson. Once in the orbit of Jimi Hendrix, Devon was something of a “super groupie” and after being consumed by the scene tragically lost her life too early, falling eight stories from a New York hotel. Two other tracks on the album - “Walking up The Road” and “Game Is My Middle Name” - were originally written by Betty for The Commodores who needed material for an upcoming deal with Motown. Nothing could be worked out for The Commodores to use those songs but they certainly wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Commodores’ Machine Gun album which was chock full of hard and slippery funk.

Because she retreated from what little limelight she had in the 70s people like me who didn’t know her personally but were simply captivated by her music (and her looks!)  will, I guess, not have been aware of her growing older. It came as something of a shock hearing her speak in the interview where she does, reasonably enough, sound - how shall I say it – a mature woman. In fact a couple of weeks ago Betty celebrated her 65th birthday! It shouldn’t be a surprise if you do the count back but, nevertheless, I can’t believe that. My image of her will always be as a young woman, and furthermore, to borrow the title of her third album, a “Nasty Gal” (in a good way). Again, having listened to the interview it seems that we should modify that image of her too – she described her younger, recording era, self as being quiet, and didn’t like her music being described as funky as that had a dirty connotation.

Sweet.  (But now I’m studying her shots again on the front of her first album they do have an almost little girl charm to them in stark contrast to the covers of her later albums where there was some serious image making at work it seems).    

Now hold that thought.

If Betty Davis happens to be a new name to you then listen up, then get yourself over to YouTube and then go and buy all her CDs.
If you know of her already then I am sure you will have one of her records on the turntable already.

Betty Davis – Steppin’ In Her I. Miller Shoes 1973

Betty Davis – Your Man My Man 1973