Sunday, April 24, 2011


My first real memory of eating Crème Eggs was in about the 3rd year of my senior
school. Cycling, or walking, home from school as part of a straggly pack of 
schoolboys we would inevitably call into a newsagents to buy (I was never into
stealing) sweets of some description and as far as I can remember
this was when I developed a real taste for the Crème Egg. This would have
been about the time they changed, in the UK, from being a Fry’s Crème Egg
to a Cadbury’s Crème Egg.

It has struck me how my taste for Crème Eggs, and similar sweet confectionary
has developed in directly inverse proportion to my love of sweet soul. 
Back in the early Seventies while stuffing Crème Eggs into my mouth on the
journey home from school if we were discussing music it would likely have been
all about Bowie, Elton, Roxy, or Zep. I had discovered Soul music and was liking
it too, except for that horrible sweet sickly stuff - I blame the Stylistics.

Now here we are in 2011 and, prompted by our children, being that certain
time of year, our house is again seemingly awash with Crème Eggs. I can’t stand
the things now though. Just the sight of one sets my teeth on edge, that gooey stuff
in the middle is just sooo sweet – ugh!  On the other hand I have noticed that over
the last few years my vinyl collection is getting increasingly laced with sweet soul records.

This new found appreciation of sweet soul really started to gather pace a few years
ago when I started delving more deeply into the back catalogues of groups that I
had previously only been vaguely familiar with, and somewhat dismissive of –
groups such as The Moments, The Whispers and, especially, The Delfonics. Now,
this year, I have suddenly developed a passion for another early Seventies group
– The Montclairs.

Their name sounds like it could be a good name for a sweet, a chocolate perhaps.
In fact this East St. Louis group took their name from a brand of cigarettes. 
Their recorded output was small – initially they had two 45s released on
Oliver Sain related labels Arch and Vanessa. Then, in 1971, Oliver Sain placed them
on the Paula label (there’s a Ronn link again!) and in an all too brief time between
1971 and 1974 they would have six 45s and one album released. Most of the 45s
reached the R&B charts with “Dreaming Out Of Season” being their biggest hit, 
peaking at #34. You can find more on The Montclairs here.

A feature of their sound was Phil Perry’s beautifully rich and pure falsetto which,
married to the lush arrangements, put them very much in the sweet soul bag.
Their arrangements though were often complex and quite unusual, I think, with
great structure. There is a sort of slowed down doo wop feel to the harmonies
and at times a skewed jazzy feel to the instrumentation. Describing them simply
as a sweet soul group doesn’t do them justice.   

Many of my friends do not share my passion for soul music, and of those that do
sweet soul can be a step too far. At best therefore they can maybe appreciate that
the unusual arrangements, and Phil Perry’s pure voice, make The Montclairs stand
out from the pack a bit – excellent in parts could be their verdict, a curate’s egg
perhaps? In truth until recently that may have been my verdict too, but now all
of the a sudden I find I can’t get enough of them. Right down to the hard centre
(for as I think their sound is so much more than your average sweet soul fare if it
were a chocolate egg it would possess a hard centre not a soft one like a sickly
sweet Crème Egg). 
Why not bite into The Montclairs and you too might find them thoroughly
exquisite throughout too – or should that be eggquisite?  :)

They don’t make them like this anymore…  part 84….

Saturday, April 16, 2011

RSD - something to remember you by

I missed Record Store Day last year but today I participated, and of course bought a record. Just the one, amazingly, but a good one and it feels like two because both sides are strong.

“St Nicks” Market in Bristol is full of interesting stalls and small independent shops including a few  record shops. Today they promoted Record Store Day with a mini sound system playing some cool reggae (in all its flavours) and soul sounds all afternoon. A great setting, and some great sounds. (The only shame as far as I was concerned was that Mrs Darce wasn’t with me to chill as she is currently on her annual jaunt to Turkey with her bestest friend).     

I would have liked to have bought some reggae but it’s all so expensive. (In truth I could have bought any number of new 45 presses at £4 each but I’m getting picky in my record buying – I want the originals, but can’t afford them – stupid, I know).

Still, I’m more than pleased with my purchase. After digging through a few boxes in Wanted Records I found this Marvin Smith 45. I featured a Marvin Smith 45 not too long ago and today I found another one of his Brunswick releases (there were only four). I had not heard either side of this 45 before so it was a real bonus to find it.

So this is something to remember Record Store Day 2011 by.

Marvin Smith – Love Aint Nothing But Pain  1967

Monday, April 11, 2011

... Ronn

Looking around on the Internet I haven’t been able to find out any background on Barbara West, beyond details of her Ronn releases. It seems her only output were four 45s released on Ronn in the late 60s. (Barbara A. West on Nu Sound may also be her). “Congratulations Baby”, her last on Ronn from 1969, has some favour on the Northern Soul scene which would account for its higher going price in relation to her other releases, most of which lean more towards a deep and slow style, with a strong southern/gospel feel. Just how I like them, in fact.

“The Love Of My Man” was Barbara’s first release on Ronn, in 1967. When I heard it recently I assumed it was a) Barbara West’s original and b) a song I had not heard performed before. I was wrong on both counts. The song was originally recorded by Theola Kilgore in 1963, and I’m sure by many other artists since. Bouncing around YouTube I also found a cover by Gayle Adams recorded in 1980 – and included on an album of which I have a copy!  Gayle’s version absolutely had not stuck in my mind (in fairness, at the time I bought Gayle’s album I was in the middle of my DJ phase and so it was the dancefloor slanted cuts on that album that would have had my attention – and there are some crackers). Theola’s version is there on YouTube too (what isn’t nowadays?!). All versions referred sound very much of their time.           

After buying this 45 recently I am fast developing a mini obsession with Barbara West and will be adding to my collection soon I think. My intentions in this regard are evidently in sharp contrast to someone whose comments on “The Love Of My Man” I stumbled across on some old forum thread while I was looking for information on Barbara. The forum thread was entitled “Candidates for the world’s worst record” and this individual had this to say:

The worst 45 I ever had (and one of the few records I ever parted with) was "The Love of My Man" by Barbara West. The singer's voice was totally overshadowed by the out-of-tune piano. It was in one of those sight-unseen 10-record 45 packs that sold for a dollar (you could see one of the labels on one end of the box, which was a record I wanted). I gave it away with a turntable I sold.  !!
(Incidentally he also cited Archie Bell & The Drells “Do The Choo Choo” for a dishonourable mention. He obviously never bothered to turn that 45 over and play the B side!)    

Hmmm. Well, I agree the piano sounds like it could do with a tune, but in those days  in the studios the takes were few, and in the long hot days from what I understand the tuning could go off pretty quick. With the recording sessions packed in there probably wasn’t time to keep tuning the instruments. I’ll forgive them that because there is the guitar to listen to too… and then there are the horns… oh, and the strings… and not least Barbara West’s strong voice, which by no means could be said to be drowned out. The piano’s “noise” just adds a certain charm I think. Well that’s my opinion, anyway. I’ll let you make your own mind up.   

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Do Do Ronn...

Ana-B and Derek have both posted Ted Taylor tracks in recent days. Being a fan of Ted myself I thought I would make it a hat-trick of posts.

This may not be the greatest song Ted Taylor ever recorded but it certainly could lay claim to being one of the best titles of a song that he recorded (and penned).

Ted Taylor has appeared on Feel It before and it was then that I mentioned my love of the Ronn label. The label was named after Stan Lewis' younger brother Ronny (the related Paula label being named after Stan's wife). The label has a distinctive design and to my mind an old fashioned feel (especially when you consider it's design remained unchanged well into the Seventies.). Also the printing on the label of this particular 45 looks like it was prepared using a child's John Bull printing kit. The quoted time is completely wrong too; altogether it has a real down home feel to it, as does what's in the grooves.

More from the Ronn label next time.      

Ted Taylor - I'm Just A Crumb In Your Bread Box Of Love 1971