Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beside myself : One for the desert island

From the design point of view Phil-LA Of Soul has to be my favourite record label. I love it so much I bought the T-shirt!

It’s got it all – I love the fish design, I love the label name’s play on words, I love the starkness of the black on yellow, and I love the (I think) unique way it was chosen to designate each release – that is the initial of the first name followed by the first two letters of the surname of the artist were generally included in the release number.

The release number also has a tell-tale “R” after it to identify a re-issue, and I’m surprised that such a small label actually had an official re-issue run (I think the re-issues were made in the mid 70s, approximately five years after the original releases).  

Phil-LA Of Soul started life in 1967 as a Jamie label offshoot. Although based in Philadelphia many of the early releases were on Florida based artists such as Helene Smith and Little Beaver. This was I think because Jamie had picked up national distribution for the Deep City/Lloyd labels roster. Jesse James was a writer at the label and specialised in finding gospel singers in churches and offering them the chance to make a name for themselves as soul singers on wax.       

It just so happens that one of absolute favourite deep soul tracks is on a B side of a Phil-LA of Soul 45. To be precise #334, which is designated PH-ABR-1.      

Alfreda’s “I’ll Wait For You” is the flip side of “Chained & Bound”, which is a shame in a way because “Chained & Bound” is a dancer loved on the Northern scene which a) puts its price up and b) leaves the B side sadly overlooked. I bet so many of the people who own this record are Northern fans, as such they will be so focussed on the A side they will possibly have never even played the B side – in fact I bought my copy from one such person and when I pointed out I was buying it for the B side he played it for the first and said “Ooh, that’s good isn’t it!”.          

Once again I have to thank Sir Shambling for turning me on to this track. I did get a tad anoraky with him when I pointed out that the track on the copy I bought is about 20 seconds shorter than the version he has on his website. My copy is an original issue and I’m guessing his soundfile is from a re-issue copy (certainly his label scan was). What’s 20 seconds, you say? Well in this case a lot I think because to my mind there is only one thing wrong with the track on the original issue it fades too quickly and the extra few seconds allows you to savour the magnificence of this song just a little bit more.

I’m betting Alfreda Brockington came out of the church. I can’t find any information on her, except a woman by that name, and of approximately the right age does, today, seem to reside in Upper Darby PA. The Alfreda, I wonder?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Beside myself : Friday version

The B side of a Reggae record is usually where you will find the dub, or a version. In Augustus Pablo's case, on this 45, the dub - "King Tubby Meets The Rockers Up Town" - was so mighty Island flipped it and put it on the A side. This was the dub that got me hooked on Reggae.

On the B side Jacob Miller sings the original (or is it  the original? because invariably, where Reggae is concerned, there is always another version).  And it is every bit as mighty.

Sorry about the stuttering start. What was I thinking about 30 something years ago when I put this in a poly lined cardboard sleeve and sellotaped the top edges in an attempt to protect the record from card scuffs?     

Off to a houseparty in a few minutes. Unfortunately I doubt there will be much, if any, Reggae played. This will keep me going though...

Augustus Pablo / Jacob Miller - Baby I Love You So 1975

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beside myself : Ace detective

There is nothing like a relatively obscure record to bring out the detective in me. This record, for example, on the wonderfully named Cu-Wu label, recently caused me to don an imaginary deerstalker, a la Sherlock Holmes, to see what I could unearth.

I did an initial bit of googling last year immediately after I bought the record and seem to have a distinct memory of finding a good article on Ace Jones fairly quickly. So a few weeks ago I decided to see what information I could compile on Mr Jones and the label Cu-Wu for this post.

Hmmm… absolutely nothing on Ace Jones apart from references to his record releases. (Of course Jones is a common name and I’m not about to go trawling through all of the numerous search hits). Where did that article go I found last time I looked? Maybe I dreamt it – I do very occasionally dream complete articles or songs.

How about the label Cu-Wu? I’ve been able to track down references to six releases on the label: Deep Heat (CW101), Ace Jones (J102 in two forms*), Five Ounces Of Soul (J103), Ace Jones (1001), and Ace Jones & The Instant Souls (AR 1206). *The J102 release has appeared in two forms – the copy I have has “I Can’t Quit You” on the A side and “Somebody Going To Tell” on the B, but in another form “Somebody” is the A with “Jotie, The Gal” on the B. All five of these releases credit Ace Jones in one form or another, and label scans I’ve seen of the other releases all show “Detroit, Mich.”
What about a release date? Well, Cu-Wu CW101 is by the group(?) called Deep Heat, and on one side is a version of the Steely Dan tune “Do It Again”. That song was on the Dan’s first album “Can’t Buy A Thrill” which came out in 1972. No earlier than 1972, then. But there is also another Deep Heat release on the Excello label dating to 1976. Interestingly both these Deep Heat releases credit “Sculp Music” which is also mentioned on this Ace Jones record AND Cu-Wu Productions and CW Jones (i.e Ace) are also credited on both records.  The Excello release definitely sounds more mid ‘70s and later than the Cu-Wu releases so that could date the Cu-Wu’s anywhere from late 1972 to 1976.

Hmmm… CW - Cu-Wu – could Cu-Wu be derived from Mr Jones’ given names. Cu – Cubby? Cuthbert? Wu – Wu…. don’t know! Putting Cubby Jones and Cuthbert Jones into Google yields nothing relevant.   
How about the producer Famous Coachman?  That turns out to be an easy google, and fascinating. Coachman ran a Detroit record shop, in one form or another, from 1954, and, starting in 1976, for 21 years on WDET-FM 101.9 Coachman hosted America’s longest continuously running blues radio show. Look here, and here.

Still trying various “Ace Jones” related searches – to no avail.

What about the dead wax then? Now that’s interesting – a scratched in “GM East Det” and “Milan” can both be found.

“GM East Det” translates to Guido Marasco’s GM recording studio that was located on Nine Mile Road, East Detroit. I’ve mentioned this studio before, it was located above a car repair business that undoubtedly spawned the label Bump Shop. One of my “wow” tunes Dee Edwards’ “Why Can’t There Be Love” was recorded at GM and appeared on both the GM and Bump Shop labels. At this point I can also link back to my recent post on Creative Source because their first album was also recorded there.

“Milan” must be Milan Bogdan who was an engineer at GM for some years. This article states that Milan decamped to The Sound Pit in Atlanta with The Counts. I have the The Counts first Atlanta based album – “Love Sign” on Aware – and that was released in 1973 so that means in if Milan engineered Ace Jone’s Cu-Wu outing then he must have done so either early in ’73 or before so we’re homing in a date for this record now: either ‘72 or ’73.    

Both side of this 45 have a distinctly blues feel to them, why haven't I thought of this before? - how about I put “C.W. Jones blues musician” into Google?

Bingo! On the first page I get a link to a whole article on Ace. You can read it here, and there is a picture of him too. The article is scant on detail of his time in Detroit and understates his recording career there a little, but it’s a good read and tells his life story pretty well it seems. It states that he now runs a little radio station out of Gallion, Alabama which coincidentally is on 101.9 FM just like the Famous Coachman’s show used to be. Coincidence or design, I wonder?

This gets better! I’ve just put “Ace Jones blues” into Google and got this YouTube link. Put up on YouTube only one week ago it’s a 70+ Ace Jones performing!!                   

My detective work is done.

Ace Jones – Somebody Going To Tell  1973?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beside myself : turn the beat... over

So much for making it a post a day in this little B side series. I fell at the first hurdle. I blame the weather – the sun shone yesterday so it needed to be enjoyed. It’s raining again now.

Over the years of listening to radio shows certain tracks stick in the mind and the artist and title are somehow magically permanently stored away in a little corner of the memory with the thought “I must hunt that one down one day”. (I say permanently stored away, but I’ve reached the age where it is becoming noticeable that the memory banks are starting to shut down). Of course this memory burning process was often facilitated by a record button and a C60 cassette.   

Anyway, a few years ago (with the memory still fully intact) when I first “found” ebay some of those memorable tracks were swiftly hunted down. One of these was “Common Thief” by Bill House. (I think John Peel - once again - was the person who had played it as a new release - and I think it found its way onto one my mixtapes). On playing the copy I eventually snagged it was, in all honesty, not as great as I had remembered it. But in any event I was still glad I had a copy.

More recently I discovered I had had a version of Bill House’s song in my collection all the time. It just goes to show that back then I must have been as guilty as many others for not paying proper attention to B sides, because I certainly have no recollection of ever linking Bill House’s original with the B side of Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around”. Yes, Vicki Sue covered “Common Thief” on her first album “Never Gonna Let You Go” and all 5 and a bit minutes of it were squeezed onto the B side of her biggest hit, which, in its 7” inch form, has been sat in my collection for – well - forever.        

Due mainly to “Turn The Beat Around”, which was a big hit, Vicki Sue Robinson, who tragically died of cancer in 2000 much too young at only 45 years of age, has always been labelled as a disco act, at least in my mind. But dipping into her work that is up on YouTube it is evident that she was much more than that and all four of her released albums contain some strong songs, by no means all in a disco vein. Her singing has a certain jazz sensibility and Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan were, apparently, early influences, as were folk /blues artists such as Woody Guthrie and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee who were acquaintances of her folk singing mother.

Digging into her background some more, far from just a disco queen, singing – including jingles – was evidently just part Vicki’s repertoire having been a songwriter, film actress, and Broadway star too.

So let’s go to the disco - and beyond…

(Incidentally the strings about 3.30 in remind me of Pleasure’s “Joyous” which would have been recorded around the same time).       

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beside myself : let me take you to the other side

Over the next week or so I intend to post a string of great B-sides. They should be coming at you thick and fast. Yes at a posting frequency never before seen hereabouts! Possibly daily!!

This little series was prompted initially by this perfectly appropriately named Evelyn King B-side, heard a few weeks ago on an Internet radio show (Andy Smith, I think). That sounds good I thought, and after a rummage through the boxes I realised I had my very own copy. (It was during this rummage that I rediscovered Evelyn’s “Let’s Get Funky Tonight”, posted a few weeks ago). Since then I’ve had a few good sessions pulling records out of my boxes and  have reacquainted myself with a lot of other really strong B-sides so I thought I would share some of them.

“The Other Side Of Love” was, in fact, the other side of “I’m In Love”, a tune I just couldn’t get enough of back in the day which probably accounted for me overlooking this great track, until now.

(It’s bugging me too because it reminds me strongly of something else – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway? An Ashford & Simpson track? No, something else I think. I’m sure I’ve got it whatever it is but I can’t put my finger on it. Any help would be appreciated.)

Evelyn King – The Other Side Of Love  1981   

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Am I a dinosaur?

You will find a few new links in my blogroll. The first new entries for some time. None of these are new blogs, just new to me. My feeling is there are very few new blogs on the block nowadays, and quite a few of my erstwhile favourites have drifted into neglect. To be fair I find I don’t visit them as much as I used to either. It is also noticeable that the hit stats of this blog are showing a slow but steady decline. (Two obvious reasons for this of course could be 1. my posting frequency has dropped off a bit recently and 2. I’m posting stuff nobody’s interested in!).

But it’s got me thinking lately - has the blogging golden age passed? Technology moves on apace, and fads come and go on the Internet as they do elsewhere. More so, even.

This blog was by no means a pioneer but it has been going for more than five years now. In terms of a presence on the web (at least inasmuch as an openly accessible url worldwide) that makes it older than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Spotify.

- The first tweet was twittered on the 21st March 2006. That was longer ago than I thought but still makes Twitter 8 days younger than Feel It.  

- Although Facebook was launched on the US college circuit in 2004, it wasn’t opened to the public until September 2006.

- YouTube launched in beta in May 2005, but not officially until November 2006.

- Spotify had its beginnings in 2006, eventually being launched to the public in October 2008.  

I mention all these because they now consume a lot of peoples’ time when sat in front of their computer/laptop/netbook/iphone/android etc. Some of the time that probably used to be spent composing or reading blogs.

YouTube and Spotify in particular have made it easy to find and consume music on the Internet. I’m not a Spotify user but I certainly find I’m using YouTube more and more in my search for new (well, old mostly, in my case) music  (and audioblogs less). In fact it’s staggering how much obscure and old music you can find on YouTube nowadays; and a lot of the people posting their old record collections there might well have been running, and visiting, blogs if YouTube had not been available to them.

As for Facebook and Twitter (neither of which I have found the slightest inclination to use) I shudder to think of the amount of time spent on them updating statuses, friending, tweeting, looking at Izzy’s latest out of focus self picture taken at the pub up the road last night (which you saw being taken because you were there), blah, blah. To what end though I wonder? And by the way there is no time left after all that to actually read a blog (let alone a newspaper, or a magazine, or a book).                       

There you have it.

As I said all this has passed through my mind in the last few weeks.  Coincidentally, in the latest (July ’11) Word magazine there is an article that mulls over the same question of “where have all the bloggers gone?” and reaches some of same conclusions as me (although in a much more in depth and journalistically professional way, of course).    
So is the whole blogging malarkey now officially “old school”?

Am I a dinosaur?  

(The answer to the second question I know is yes, I keep playing 30+ year old music on vinyl for chrissakes!)

Sergio Mendes And The New Brasil ’77 – The Real Thing  1977

From this , a great little album I picked up this week for next to nothing.