Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting skanky 'round here

I have been playing a lot of reggae these last few days. It's funny, I don't listen to reggae regularly but when I do I sort of binge on it and then wonder why I don't play it more often. After this latest episode I think I may be really hooked all over again - as I evidently was around 1979-80 from whence many of my reggae vinyls seem to date. A time when Jamaica and the UK seemed to be attached by a musical umbilical cord.

To mark my latest reawakening here is one of the records that got some plays this weekend just gone. Thirty years ago to this very day this record was number 10 in the Joe Gibbs Record City (Lewisham Way, SE23) Pre 45's chart (as compiled by Cassius). I know this because I read it here (a great site for Reggae heads). Actually by March 1980 it could hardly be described as a "Pre" as it had been selling well in the specialist UK reggae outlets for some months by then.  

What do I love abut this record:

1. Dennis Brown (of course) - he had such a sweet and natural voice. When the debate comes around to the best singers of all time his hat should be thrown into the ring every time.

2. The ethereal-like piano.

3. The label  (D.E.B - Dennis Emmanuel Brown) - no matrix or release numbers, just the essential information -  crude and vital.

Dennis Brown - Want To Be No General 1979

and of course the dub:

DEB Music Players - Dub Wise 1979

Buy  The Promised Land: Dennis Brown 1977-1979



Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting in the mood

Sunshine and warmth in the UK this week. Of course it's raining again now but the winter chill has gone and at last it seems Spring is on the way.  

Haven't had any reggae around these here parts for a while but the sunshine awoke my reggae earbuds and sent me rummaging through my collection of 12" singles.

On playing this particular one (for the first time in a very long time - to think this has been in the cupboard unplayed and unloved for, I'm guessing, at least 25 years) I was at first a bit puzzled as to why I had bought it in the first place. Louisa Mark may have been the attraction, I initially thought, but "All My Loving" is not the strongest thing she ever did, and it's some way from being my favourite Beatles song. The B side is by the Cool-Notes but is also nothing special.

Then I played the Tony Washington track, an instrumental. Ah! that is why I bought it.

Surely I mean dub, you say. In this case no, it's simply an instrumental, and it's beautiful.

Tony Washington - Sitting By The Wayside 1980*

*UPDATE: this 12" dates to 1980 but a comment by Raggedy prompted me to do a bit more research. This track was in fact the B side of the original 7" release of Louisa Mark's "All My Loving" on Sir Coxsone's Safari label so the track itself dates to 1975.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fork handles

Sound your horns, blow your whistles, light the candles – Feel It is four today!

So, a slightly frivolous beginning to this post? But I couldn't resist it, and it is very funny. Now, so to speak, on to the main event.

Why all this noise and pyrotechnics for a liitle old blog birthday? Well, regulars around here will know that I started this little indulgence called Feel It on March 13th for a reason – because today is Candi Staton’s birthday. So it’s a double celebration.

Have The Two Ronnies and Candi Staton ever appeared in the same feature before? Unlikely. They may have been mentioned in the same newspaper entertainment section though as the classic Two Ronnies sketch above dates from 1976, the same year Candi Staton had the big hit - “Young Hearts Run Free”- that made her well known across the world.

“Young Hearts” may have been most people’s introduction to Candi Staton, but by 1976 she was in what could be called her Disco era, which was already the third phase of her career.

Many people, through this must have CD, have now become more familiar with the second phase in her career – the Muscle Shoals, Rick Hall produced, Fame era running from 1968 to 1974. These were the recordings I picked up on around 1972 and the ones that made me a lifelong fan.

For the first phase of her singing career you have to go way back to the Fifties where she was a member of  a couple of Gospel groups. The first group she joined were the Four Golden Echoes at around seven years of age. So in fact Candi must be pretty close to celebrating 60 years as a performing singer, in fact she may have already passed that milestone. (That's some milestone!!).

After her mother had moved the family to Cleveland to avoid their, by then, alcoholic father Candi joined another gospel group - The Jewel Gospel Trio. The trio comprised Canzetta (Candi), her elder sister Maggie Staton, and Naomi Harrison. Naomi, I am presuming, was the daughter of their musical director Nettie Mae Harrison. The Jewel Gospel Trio secured a recording contract and had a number of releases on the Nashboro label (as 45s and 78s, I wonder?). They also toured and supported the likes of The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, and a young Aretha Franklin. (This information has been gleaned from the Honest Jon's Candi Staton CD liner notes, and Candi's bio on her own site).                

It seems you can find just about everything on YouTube nowadays. Yes, The Jewel Gospel Trio make a number of appearances! Here's something I found. The accompanying YouTube video only seems to serve as a distraction as it would appear to bear no relationship to The Jewel Gospel Trio, so I am just giving you the mp3. In fact take no distractions when listening to this - close your eyes and just listen. I don't think you have to have a faith (I know I don't) to be moved by this. The question is - is it Canzetta taking the lead? I don't know, but I think it just might be.              

The Jewel Gospel Trio - Sin Is To Blame  (mp3) 1957

And how about some more:

Happy Birthday Canzetta!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Warming up

A final one out of a recent box of delights I’ve been featuring , and another perfect marriage of Country and Soul.

Harlan Howard composed and recorded this song in 1961 as “She Called Me Baby”, and it was soon gender switched and covered by Patsy Cline. It has become a staple of many a Country and Soul artist since, as have many of Harlan Howard’s compositions.

I grew up listening to another version of this song. Consequently when I first heard Ella Washington’s version I was a bit sniffy. But I soon came to my senses and now love it almost as much as the version I grew up with. Ella’s recording career was relatively brief but included some fine soul records, mostly on John Richbourg’s Sound Stage 7 label. Many of them can be found on her eponymous 1969 album – if you can find it! – but her original 45s are fairly easy to pick up. Or, of course, you could always buy this CD.

Ella Washington – He Called Me Baby 1968

Oh, and who recorded the version I will always cherish the most? Well, it just has to be Candi Staton.

Hmmm, Candi Staton…..

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Polk salad with that anyone?

Two more from the box of delights.

We're down in the deep south, feeling swampy.

First time I heard this Bettye LaVette track it immediately brought Bobbie Gentry to mind. Turned out she recorded it too, around the same time as Bettye but it charted a little later.

Advance warning on this one: the horns are to die for.. (and unfortunately the pressing is not the best - looks like somebody might have mixed some polk salad in the vinyl!)

Betty LaVette - He Made A Woman Out Of Me 1969

Buy Do Your Duty a collection of her Silver Fox output.

This Pat Lundy track can be found on the other side of "Prove It". Pat was from New York and her recording career followed a similar path to Bettye Lavette's during the Sixties and Seventies - a significant number of singles released on a variety of labels with criminally little success.      

Pat Lundy - Only Mama That'll Walk The Line 1969?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday night out of the box

Let's see, what have we in the box of delights for a Friday night? Something funky.

Time to open another bottle of wine and dance around the kitchen table.

Here's Betty getting all raunchy on us (recorded on MCI equipment dont'cha know).

Betty Wright - Slip And Do It 1975

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The box of delights

Back to the box of delights that dropped through the letterbox recently. I’m going to rattle through the rest of its contents in the next few posts here, because they are all worth sharing.

Leroy Hutson replaced Curtis Mayfield in The Impressions before going solo himself in 1973. He is often described as one of the best kept secrets of Seventies soul. From 1973 here’s a single featuring two tracks from his debut solo album “Love Oh Love”.

“When You Smile” seems to be on constant rotation on the turntable in my head at the moment. A beautiful song and arrangement, unfortunately edited down somewhat for the single – for radio play purposes presumably. “Getting It On” is essentially an instrumental version of the ‘A’ side which includes a cool ARP synth that places the track very definitely at a moment in time in the early 70s. As you can see form the label scan “Getting It On” is billed as a theme to what is presumably a blaxploitation film (as I have seen it is included on a compilation of said films), but googling for details of the film itself draws a blank. Which came first, I wonder, the vocal or the instrumental?

“When You Smile”, a simple love song, has an arrangement to die for – the duh-duh duh bit (for want of a better description!) really gets to me. It is a clever (and irresistible) musical motif that to me suggests thunder, and is introduced when Leroy is singing about the things in life that get him down giving the song at that point a suitably dark, and threatening feel. But as the “trials of the day” are starting to get in the way Leroy’s warm voice and the strings soar away as "the sweet smile on the pretty face" of the woman in his life lifts his spirits and overcomes everything. Great stuff!

Leroy Hutson - When You Smile 1973

If the length of the single isn’t enough for you, you can find the full album version of “When You Smile” here.

Leroy Hutson - Getting It On 1973

Buy "The Best Of Leroy Hutson"