Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Queen B

It was time for another tidy up of my vinyl collection at the weekend. The haphazard piles of newly acquired records and old ones pulled out of the collection for playing (or even just looking at) had grown to the point of triggering an OCD style tidying instinct. It’s also a good way of finding out exactly what I have got (oh, I had forgotten about that one; ah, so I’ve got two of those now!). In the end the singles were only partly done and the albums were untouched. More happy filing weekends to come J

This sort of exercise always seems to take longer than you think. The first thing to consider is whether a new filing structure should be pursued. To an extent that is what I decided to do this time which meant the random piles of records temporarily grew as they were pulled out of one box to be subsequently put in another. Then, of course, you come across some records that just have to be played, and a few that get looked up on the internet, and… well you know how it goes.

As part of this filing frenzy the soul and funk (sub division: original collection, bought in the 70s) M to Ps (hardly any Ns strangely enough) were shifting from the back of one box to the front of another as I attempted to reduce their packing density so I could actually flick through them more easily. In the end the Ms didn’t move box. (Exciting this isn’t it? J)

In the Ms were, reasonably enough, as one lasting regime to my filing is alphabetic by surname for individual artists, some Jackie Moore singles. I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent towards Jackie Moore, I like her well enough to have collected a few of her singles, but her voice and her records, for me, seem to have retained a sort of permanently elusive quality to them. Sometimes when I think of, or hear, one of her records I can be quite dismissive, but then I find I keep coming back to her and giving her another listen. Her voice can seem somewhat nondescript, and yet at the same time totally distinctive (at times I can detect similarities with the quieter, hurt side of Candi Staton; and Gloria Gaynor; and how about this for a curve balI – I read a comment on another blog that likened her to Carly Simon,the blogger didn’t get that, but I think I can see it). Her delivery can sound uninvolved but at the same time achingly soulful. The arrangements are never less than competent but are they any more than that?  

Digging out the records I have of hers the over the weekend prompted me to look at her career in some more detail. (Considering her solid recording career, information seems somewhat thin on the ground. - there you are: elusive again). Having done so it has made me appreciate her a good deal more and, even with so little information on Jackie the person, her career  demonstrates a degree of consistency and “stickability” that leaves me with the feeling that those traits would be mirrored in her life and that those who know her will see her as a rock and a great friend.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1946 Jackie Moore has spent most of her life in that State. She moved briefly to Philly in the late 60s where she started her recording career on the Shout label. From then until the early Eighties Jackie was a regular visitor to the studios, and she continued to record sporadically into the Nineties.

Jackie was very much an artist of the Seventies though. She seemed to steer a steady, if not dramatically successful, course throughout that decade, releasing (by my count) 17 singles and 3 albums (plus another one that sneaks into 1980) neatly bookended by probably her two most well known songs and biggest hits: “Precious, Precious” (1970), and “This Time Baby” (1979). After moving from Shout to Atlantic she would then move labels only twice more in the Seventies (Kayvette, and then Columbia). Working with relatively big name producers and arrangers – Dave Crawford (her cousin), Clarence Reid, Brad Shapiro, and Bobby Eli – her output was generally consistent both in quality and style and was not greatly affected by the changing fads in black music. Her sound, although rooted in southern soul, often had a lighter (radio-friendly?) feel to it. Output in the latter half of the decade did inevitably, on occasion, tip its hat to the disco floor - witness “This Time Baby”, for my money one of the great disco records, except that it is so much more than just a disco record. But it would appear there were always good song choices made and a sufficient variety of tempo and tone on her albums. This is well demonstrated by the two songs featured here I think which are both album tracks that each found their way onto B sides of, to my mind, more commercial, but weaker songs.

First up is the flip side of “How’s Your Love Life Baby”. I did not remember having this single, and I’m wondering whether the weekend was the first time I had ever turned it over and played the B side. It immediately struck me that this could “go massive” if it got some exposure on today’s modern soul scene. A feel good song. From the album “I’m On My Way”.

“Tired Of Hiding” is the B side of “Disco Body”. It was written by Phillip Mitchell. Just look at some of the songs Phillip has written and who has performed them, that’s some list! For a long time I have known and loved Millie Jackson’s rendition of this song, which appeared on her classic “Caught Up” album. In the past I was not a great fan of covers which I think made me reluctant to listen to Jackie Moore’s version. Now, after a few listens I am feeling Jackie’s version too.

After playing my Jackie Moore singles I went onto YouTube where, of course, I found more Moore - I’m particularly taken with “With Your Love”. This weekend just gone I finally found that elusive quality of Jackie Moore and I love her a whole lot more now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring at last

So far this year charity shop trawls have yielded hardly anything worth buying. (I suspect more and more of them now have their own local or in-house “experts” who are cherry picking the incoming donations and selling the best through other channels, and who can blame them I suppose, they are just trying to maximise their income after all). Couple this with the seasonal absence of car boot sales – and, in truth, not much action on the ebay front either - it’s meant a relatively dull few months in pursuit of the holy vinyl.

But, just as Nature is waking up from its winter slumber, there were also signs of life on the digging front over the last few days. My interest was initially reawakened last Friday by a few scores at my most local chazza, namely a couple of 12” disco/boogie monsters from back in the day “Act Like You Know” by Fat Larry’s Band, and Dinosaur L’s “Go Bang!”; John Hiatt’s 1987 album “Bring The Family” (which seems to have lots of rave reviews on the Internet, but left me pretty cold on first hearing); and a great compilation album of mainly 50s R&B, jump blues, jazz, and doo-wop – more of which in a minute.

This prompted me to check when the local car boot sales were starting up again. Normally they seem to start with the Easter bank holiday, but with Easter being so late this year I guessed they may be starting around now - and I was right. One has been going for three week already and another started up again over the weekend. Opportune! So I hauled myself out of bed at a relatively early hour for a Sunday and kicked off my 2011 “booting” season yesterday. (Starting the car, Archie Bell’s “Here I Go Again” was the first thing on the CD player – quite!).

I came back with a few things, nothing to get the pulse racing, but I was pleased to find a copy of Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” (I already have a copy but it’s cover is on the wall and the this latest copy is a US demo first issue in great condition), another Steely Dan album “Aja” which I have only ever had on CD before, and a couple of 45s (Chairmen Of The Board’s “Dangling” – oh how I love the look of that Invictus label, and it was in a dark blue company sleeve - and The Originals “Down To Love Town”).

Incidentally, I also found a pair of pictures which, for £2, I couldn’t resist. Predictable response from Mrs Darce though when I got them home: “What did you buy those for? They’re a bit old fashioned aren’t they? You’re not putting those on the wall!”.I had a response lined up ready: “Well, I thought Mum would like them anyway, I’ll give them to her.” To which the reply was “don’t do that yet, perhaps we can find somewhere to put them”. Ah ha, maybe Mrs Darce is warming to them!

From a digging point of view then, I feel 2011 is off and running now (but I had better watch the off curriculum purchases!).

The compilation album I mentioned above is called the “The Official Sampler”. Official being the record label (out of Copenhagen apparently) and the album being a selection of tracks from the various artist specific releases they had lined up. The sampler dates back to the late 80s but I don’t know whether the individual albums were ever released. The selection is generally excellent, with at least five tracks that will happily shuffle around on my ipod over the next few weeks. It has also introduced me to a few artists that are new to me. I have noticed that lately my music listening is tending to take me further and further back into black music’s history but, for example, Linda Hayes is a new name on me.

I now know that Linda was born Bertha Williams in 1923 in Linden, New Jersey (hence Linda?) and is the sister of the Platters lead singer Tony Williams. In the 50s she had a number of hits on the Hollywood label. You can read a bit more about her and pick up a compilation album of her recordings here.  

Here are a couple of tracks from the Official Sampler that both have a similar stop start structure.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Feel It is five today. Getting a bit long in the tooth now - for a blog at any rate.

If there any of you who have been regulars around here for at least a couple of years will possibly be aware that a Feel It birthday also means it is Candi Staton's birthday.

I spent a leisurely breakfast today playing a few of Candi's tracks on YouTube and then read a few old articles about her that are still available on The Guardian's website. One of them, from a couple of years ago, features a long interview with her (conducted in a modest London hotel room) that is well worth listening too. I know I'm biased but I find I'm moved by Candi's speaking voice almost as much as I am by her singing voice. 

During the interview Paul Morley laboured the Disco thing a bit too much to my mind. I know she has not one, but two disco/club anthems to her name that alone will mean her name will live forever, but that should not overshadow the significance of both her longevity in the music business and her wonderful Fame output in the late 60s and early 70s. But I'll forgive him because if you read his preamble to the interview you get the feeling he was just a little bit in awe of her, and I can relate to that.  

In the interview she mentions that back in those Fame days Rick Hall used to make her sing and sing until her voice became rougher and almost hoarse because that was the sound he was looking for. But she said that to begin with her voice was clear as a bell. In the very first post here at Feel It I featured the B side of her first Fame single, from 1968, "For You". The take for that song must have been one from fairly early in the day because you can hear the pureness and tenderness in her voice. Let's hear it again.      

Happy Birthday Candi!       

Friday, March 11, 2011

Testing 1 2 3...4...

So Feel It’s physical home has been reorganised; I’ve got a shiny new laptop with all my files and programs now transferred from the old PC; I think I’ve got the new gizmo (USB soundcard) working to my satisfaction; and I think I’ve got used to Audacity to record my vinyl (I had to move away from the other software I was using as it wouldn’t work with Windows 7). 

Everything’s good to go.

Actually I found acquiring a new laptop was a strangely traumatic experience somewhat akin to moving house. A PC is just that - a personal computer - and you spend years arranging its contents just how you want it on an operating system (XP in this case, one of Microsoft’s better incarnations) you become used to. Also, in my case, it was housed in one of those computer desks that was all the rage in the noughties but with the incessant march of technology has already just about become obsolete (from the latest must have piece of modern furniture to Antiques Roadshow candidate in record time). But that desk was home to all sorts of bits and pieces that now I’ve had to redistribute around the room in various drawers and cupboards. It seems for now like I’ve lost a comfort blanket. Sigh.

Of course the upside is the new laptop is snappier (and I’ve managed to leap frog Vista on to Windows 7 which seems to be another reliable platform), and I can get to plonk around on it anywhere I want to. This has already been frowned upon though, as Mrs Darce did not take too kind a view to me surfing the Net the other night at the same time as eating my dinner in her and my daughter’s company. Not much different to watching the TV at the same time as eating in my opinion, but I guess I’m never going to win that argument J  

The new gizmo I referred to earlier not only allows me to input the hi-fi to the laptop but output back through the hi-fi speakers as well. So if I’m within a USB cable’s length from said hi-fi my listening experience of my various accumulated music files is vastly improved.

So the question is what was my first choice to play and record through this new set up? Spookily enough it was a 45 by none other than First Choice.

First Choice were a Philly group backed by a good proportion of MFSB and featured the distinctive and delicious voice of Rochelle Fleming. Active through most of the 70s their sound was a perfect marriage of soul and disco. In the long run the disco tag has probably done them no favours because they were a very soulful group who should be more highly regarded. I’ve come to realise that ever since their first hit back in ’73 - “Armed & Extremely Dangerous” - I like just about everything they have recorded (at least what I have heard). 

From 1977 here is a solid double header 45. “Love Having You Around” is the Stevie Wonder song, and First Choice retain a Stevie vibe to their excellent version. “Indian Giver” is more straightahead Philly in feel and I can’t stop playing it at the moment. The fade out hints at a longer version, which indeed there is on their 1977 album “Delusions”. I wasn’t familiar with the term “Indian giver”, would a band get away with such a title nowadays I wonder?