Sunday, February 27, 2011


So in the end (at midnight!) the hire car turned up and I went to CZ and worked and came back and.... that was nearly a week ago now and I have been neglecting you. Truth is I haven’t felt like blogging this week. Six days away, including a working weekend, left me needing to catch up on other things and, well, just put my feet up too. (On top of that I think a bit of writer’s block has set in again).  

Some advance warning too that posts may continue to be a bit quiet here for the next week or two. This is due to the impending reorganisation of the room that is home to my blogging activities. The reorganisation includes re-siting the hi-fi, and retiring the desktop PC for a new laptop that should arrive in the next few days. This will also require the introduction of new gizmo to connect the laptop to the hi-fi, and you know those sort of things often turn out to be much more difficult to achieve than they should be. With this in mind I thought I had better put up a couple of tracks today to keep things going.

Erma Franklin, elder sister to Aretha and Carolyn, was a great singer in her own right. Too often given the wrong material or standards to cover, she also did not seem to be blessed with the greatest of good fortune in her recording career which was a bit of a stop start affair throughout the Sixties and didn’t last into the Seventies. In the end she wasn’t dealt a good hand healthwise either, and she sadly succumbed to throat cancer in 2002.

Ermas’s greatest work was released on the Shout label in 1967 and she also had some strong sides released on Brunswick in 1969.

“Open Up Your Soul” was the follow up to her most well know song “Piece Of My Heart” and is a wonderful slab of uplifting churchy soul.

In 1969 she scored another Top 50 R&B hit on Brunswick with “Gotta Find Me A Lover”. The B side of this release - “Change My Thoughts From You” -  was every bit as good as the A side, if not better, and should be better known on the dancefloors.

A top drawer soul voice that left a shockingly small back catalogue.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Parish Notices #13

I have a plane to catch tomorrow as work is taking me off to the Czech Republic for a few days (have to get to the airport first, of course, and the hire car hasn't turned up so that should be interesting in the morning) . So no posts until next week and no time to really say anything now.

Except I will point you at BBC iPlayer and a 1973 Reggae concert at the Edinburgh Festival of all places. This was put out last Friday night as part of BBC Four's series of Reggae related programmes. Not sure how long these stick around for on iPlayer so I suggest you click the link quickly.

You must, especially for Nicky Thomas performing Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black". Impassioned doesn't get close to describing it. Judge Dread introduces Nicky at around 22 minutes in. It's worth watching it all though, not least for the glimpses of the audience - a slight mismatch between artists and audience I'm thinking, and one can only wonder what they made of Nicky Thomas.      

The Old Grey Whistle Test Reggae Concert at The Edinburgh Festival - Nicky Thomas            

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A hen's tooth?

Bessie Banks was born Bessie White on February 8th 1938 in New Bern, North Carolina.That means it was Bessie Banks birthday yesterday*. And what dropped through my letterbox yesterday? A Bessie Banks 45. A very interesting one, of which more in a minute.

As far as I can tell this is the first time Bessie’s birth date has ever been mentioned on the Internet. It is a fact I could add to Bessie’s Wikipedia page (along with her place of birth, which I have only found one mention of elsewhere). It would be the first time I have ever been a Wiki contributor, but as the author of the Bessie Banks article there has specifically asked for information on her birth date I suppose I really should do it.

How do I know these facts? Because I found it an article I was reading the other day that John Abbey penned about Bessie that appeared in an old (1975) copy of Blues & Soul magazine. The article itself referred back to an even earlier piece written by none other than Deep Soul aficionado Dave Godin in the Rhythm & Soul USA magazine. That provenance is good enough for me.

Why was I reading this article? Because I was trying to find out more information on the record of hers I have just bought.

I’m quite excited about this record. Rather like Bessie’s birth date I can find absolutely no reference to it on the Internet (apart from a few links that all end up in what I think is the same place – a sales listing for, I think, the actual copy of the record which has just dropped through my letterbox).

For someone blessed with such a great voice Bessie Banks unfortunately released very little material. She is probably best known for her original take on the song “Go Now” which was too soon covered by the Moody Blues and ended up establishing the Moody Blues’ career and robbing Bessie of a deserved big hit in the process. Following 1964’s “Go Now” she had a handful of singles issued on a number of different labels sporadically through the 60s and 70s but, incredibly, only on the Private Stock distributed Quality label did she have more than one release and these, in 1976 proved to be her last. Quality 503 was the fantastic double sider “Don’t Worry Baby”/”Try To Leave Me If You Can”. “Try To Leave Me” was itself a re-release, the song originally appearing on the Volt label in 1974/75. This Volt release was current at the time of John Abbey’s B&S article and he, quite rightly, was waxing lyrical about it. He was also looking forward to more material from Bessie now she was on a good, seemingly solid, Soul label like Volt which was, of course, a Stax subsidiary. It was funny (well, sad actually) reading that article with the benefit of hindsight: Stax would soon go bust and Bessie would once more be in search of a new label. That label turned out to be Quality, although the B&S article was written before that happened. It gets more poignant - the article was entitled “Never Can Say Goodbye” but not much more than a year after it was written Bessie Banks would have her final record release.

The article went on to talk about Bessie’s involvement with Clyde Otis’ writing workshop and teaming up with Herman Kelly and Frank Green to write “Try To Leave Me”. That arrangement evidently survived the demise of Stax/Volt because Bessie’s second and final(ever) Quality release credits Kelly/Green on the A side writing credits and Otis on production.

Ah! The second Quality release – 508. Now here’s an interesting thing. Until a couple of weeks ago I had only ever seen demo copies of this release number pictured or referenced, and the demo copy has the same song on both sides – “Baby You Sure Know How To Get To Me”. But what dropped through my letterbox yesterday was an issue copy of Quality 508, with a B side “Do You Really Want To Be Right?”! Written by Otis Smith (the same Otis Smith who had a release on Perception in 1970? the same Otis Smith who founded Beverly Glen Records, and ‘discovered’ Anita Baker?), the song is about a couple finding themselves in the divorce courts, with the woman questioning if it is really finally the end of the road.

There is no mention of this song in Bessie’s discography at the excellent and usually exhaustive Soulfulkindamusic. Furthermore the sleeve notes of Ace Records “Larry Banks’ Soul Family Album” have extensive notes on Bessie but again no mention of the song. Could this just be a lost Bessie Banks side? Rare as a hen’s tooth?      

Bessie Banks – Do You Really Want To Be Right? 1976

Bessie Banks – Baby You Sure Know How To Get To Me 1976

*I am assuming Bessie is still alive, I can certainly find nothing to suggest the contrary and the above mentioned Ace Records CD sleevenotes (released in 2007) talk about Bessie in the present tense.  

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Groove alert

I’ve been bouncing around the 60s for a while here so by way of a change I’m jumping in the time traveller and jumping forward to 1980 (careful now!).

Browsing at a record fair yesterday proved completely fruitless, except for some reason it left me feeling nostalgic for my DJ days in around ‘79/80. More specifically, it led me to pull out my copy of Mass Production’s “Massterpiece” album. As I say I know not where this compulsion came from, I don’t remember seeing a Mass Production record at the fair; the brain – and memory – moves in mysterious ways.

Mass Production were, essentially, not true to their name. The Norfolk, Virginia group laid down a groove over a number of albums that was for the most part a cut above much of the soul/funk/disco groups output that was around in the late 70s/early 80s.  Their sound was an amalgam of soul, funk, jazz, and disco. They released a total of eight albums between 1977 and 1983. Their fifth album “Massterpiece” has always been one that’s stayed in the memory, being full of jams both slow and uptempo. The lyrics may have been, in the main, simplistic, but they laid down some irresistible grooves.

I’m glad I revisited this album. Placing the needle to the grooves I was trying to decide which tracks to share with you. I remembered being fond of “Angel”, “Forever”, and “Nature Lover”. All on side one. Then, of course, there was the monster instrumental “Shante” that opened side two. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t get enough of those tracks back in the day that I ended up overlooking “Your Love”, the penultimate track on side two. But playing the album again over the weekend that was the track that jumped out at me.

Mass Production – Your Love 1980

Of course, as I’ve mentioned it I have to give you this groove as well:

Mass Production – Eknuf~Shante 1980