Sunday, February 28, 2010

Parish Notices #8

I was a bit puzzled by a comment Ravel made on my Josephine Taylor post. He liked the song, but thought the sound quality was awful. Well, I thought, I know the record wasn’t exactly nice and minty but I was pleased with the way the music for the most part drowned out any slight crackle. Checking out Ravel’s blogger profile I noticed 78rpm record collecting was a listed interest – so he should be used to a bit of crackle and hiss I thought.

So I played the mp3 I had created and found that Ravel was right, it sounded pretty nasty. Hmmm.

After some head scratching and frantic googling I worked out that I had somehow managed to mess up my recording software’s settings and created a mismatch between my MPEG version and sampling frequency (dontcha know!). So I was using MPEG1 encoding with a sampling frequency of 11.025 kHz which is designed only for use with MPEG 2.5. I was sort of aware of these various settings but until now hadn’t appreciated their significance.

If this has in any way aroused the geek in you (as you can see it did with me), Wikipedia, as usual, is your friend.

On my Feel It CC post the Josephine Taylor track has been refreshed and now sounds a lot better. So revisit it if you want.

Back on the subject of Josephine Taylor for a moment I notice that I just beat Sir Shambling to the punch (by 3 days) on featuring the "Depend On Me" song. I was excited when I saw that SS had posted JT as I thought I might find out some more about her. But it seems even the great John Ridley has been unable to track down any substantial background on her. He mentioned the excellent book by Robert Pruter "Chicago Soul". I bought this book only recently and even this seemingly exhaustive document on the Soul music that came out of the Windy City mentions her only twice in passing. So once again, if anybody can fill in any background on Josephine Taylor I would be interested to know. 
Right. This little episode put me right off my stroke, but I can start posting again now. Be with you soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feel It CC

This is Feel It’s 200th post. It’s taken nearly four years to get to this stage. Slow and steady, that’s me. Dependable.

I thought this milestone should be marked by something special.

I think this record is a bit special and I hope you do too.

I first became aware of this 45 a few years ago when I stumbled across a low rate mp3 of it somewhere on the internet. It became evident that this is not a common 45 and so ever since I have been patiently waiting to secure a copy of it at a price I can reasonably afford. And so it was, not long before Christmas, the magical words “you have won this item” appeared in my inbox in relation to the 45 I present here now. It was the most money I have ever spent on a single piece of plastic, but it’s worth every penny in my book. (I must point out that we are not talking serious money here, I still  drop out of any bidding situation before it even approaches three figures -  well so far anyway!)

Persistent Internet based research has failed to uncover much of a back story on Josephine Taylor. All I can tell you is she hails from Evanston, Illinois. In the mid-sixties she had a run of three releases on the Mar-V-Lus label (I particularly like “Good Lovng”). But, as far as I can tell, her only other releases were this Palos appearance and her much revered 1969 Twinight outing Is It Worth A Chance/I’ve Made Up My Mind. These can be found on the Numero Group’s Twinight's Lunar Rotation. Numero’s notes to that CD hint that Josephine was primarily a gospel based songstress and quotes Syl Johnson as saying that her father was a preacher. That would explain a lot – a committed gospel singer just occasionally being tempted into the studio, maybe initially as a backing singer, and  then persuaded to cut a few secular recordings. I think the sound of the church is all over Depend On Me.    

The only other reference I found of note, and only potentially to her, was a list of artists that had been listed as making live appearances in the Chicago area around 2004-2005. A Josephine Taylor was included, and I would like to think there is a fair chance that is “our” Josephine Taylor, still actively singing, maybe making a gospel appearance.    

My internet research was somewhat more fruitful regarding the Palos label and the credited writer. It even enabled me to be to identify with fair certainty the actual studio this record was recorded in.

The Palos label was activated around 1963. An early label design included Palos Records address, or at least the location – that being Palos Park, Illinois. (Wiki describes Palos Park as being an affulent township in Cook County, Illinois). Hence Palos. The label, among others, was run by producer Sunny Sawyer.
I haven’t been able to find a full discography of Palos Records (I don’t have access to such soul/R&B bibles as “R&B Indies” which I am sure would be of help) so dating this Josephine Taylor release is difficult. To me it feels like it should date to around 1966, but I think it must be later than that. The track length, at 3 minutes plus, would also tend to place it later The yellow Palos label design seemed to debut with release number 1200 which was Fenton Robinson’s “Somebody Loan Me A Dime” which was released in 1967 as far as I can tell. With Josephine Taylor being Palos 1208 that may make it as late as 1968, or even early 1969.  

I also stumbled across a lengthy piece on the first known recording sessions of The Jackson Five which proved pertinent. In this piece Depend On Me’s writer Jerry Mundo, a Chicago based writer/arranger/guitarist, describes the Chicago based, Sunny Sawyer owned Apex (or more precisely Morrsion Sound) Studio where The Jackson Fives’ first single - Big Boy on Steeltown – was recorded in late 1967. Quoting from this piece Mundo, who worked there frequently, had this to say of the studio: "Acoustically it was a live room, instead of a big dead-sounding studio. It didn't suck up a lot of sound, so most of the things we did came off bright and very definite." The studio was stocked with high-quality Austrian microphones and an Ampex MR-70 four-track tape recorder, a costly top-of-the-line machine. "Unfortunately," Mundo says, "only three tracks were working, so we'd have to mix down and ping-pong. It was tedious, but it was better than having one track or two tracks."
The piece goes on to say: By 1967 Sawyer had bought Morrison out. Early on he did some work as a vanity press—south-side gospel artists would pay to record, then take home 500 copies to sell or distribute at church. A good engineer with a good ear who'd worked at Universal, the top studio in the city, Sawyer also released rock 'n' roll, R & B, and blues records by artists like Mighty Joe Young, Fenton Robinson, and Josephine Taylor on his own labels, Palos, New Breed, and Betty—the last named after his wife, who along with another woman operated the machinery at the pressing plant while he ran the studio. Business was decent, but neighbors complained about booming bass leaking into their laundromat and grocery store. "Sometimes, knocking out the jams, you get up there in the dBs," Mundo says. "To get your hot sound, you're gonna have some bleed out the door." According to Mundo, business owners in the neighborhood—which was then predominantly white—were also intimidated by the steady stream of black bluesmen coming in for late-night sessions. By 1969 Sawyer's landlord had terminated the lease, forcing him to relocate to 72nd and Racine.

So this would appear to be the studio in which Josephine Taylor’s Palos outing was recorded – the same studio that played host to The Jackson Five as they lay down their debut release.

Depend On Me, written by Jerry Mundo, was I think also recorded by him and I’m guessing that was him playing guitar on this Josephine Taylor cut. Jerry Mundo is still active and even has his own website.

So there you have it, I managed to piece together a fair amount of information on this record – from the label, to the writer and even the studio it was most probably recorded in. I would just love to more about the object of my initial research – Josephine Taylor - a great singer who could surely have been a much bigger name in soul music circles.      
Josephine Taylor – Depend On Me (mp3) 1968?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Such a great record

I was at a record fair last weekend and one of the dealers played this. “Such a great record” I think I said, and the dealer (who I am sure was much more familiar with the record than me) was quick to agree.

(Coincidentally at the time I was holding – caressing? – the Gloria Scott album, wondering whether or not I could run to the asking price. I couldn’t).

And another coincidence - it just so happens that this was also one of my recent “sixteen” purchases that I said I would post up over the next few weeks.

Although this was a R&B No.1 in '66 why this is not now generally recognised as one of THE greatest soul records of all time, and Freddie as one of THE greatest soul singers, beats me.

Freddie Scott – Are You Lonely For Me 1966

Freddie Scott - Where Were You 1966

This CD is the perfect place to start with Freddie Scott, though a tad expensive and difficult to find nowadays.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Sixteen reasons to be cheerful

It must be the time of year - words have deserted me. But the good news is my turntable hasn’t, and it’s the music you drop in for anyway I’m sure.

The turntable arm has been getting plenty of exercise lately. The Margie Joseph 45 featured last time came in a batch of eight 45s that arrived recently, and that was the second batch of eight that I have purchased from the same source recently. All sixteen singles proved great value for money in my book. They were found through some judicious web digging, which I know isn’t quite the same as actually going out and getting your fingers dusty but, hey, be honest, the chances of me ever having come across even a few of these “in the field” in the UK were remote. So I take my pleasure where I can.

I might just feature all sixteen of these singles here over the next few weeks.

Well, I managed a few words after all.

But now it’s time for the music. Here’s the wonderful Ann Sexton from 1972. Another great double header - one side funky and some, the other side full of soul.

Ann Sexton - I Still Love You 1972

Ann Sexton - Come Back Home (I Know I Did You Wrong) 1972