Monday, February 20, 2012

Jigsaws and geography

This record has been in the collection for a few years now and I have been meaning to feature it for some time. While I was dragging my feet Sir Shambling has recently nipped in and added CarolynVeal to his Deep Soul Heaven hall of fame (you and me both Ana!).

I bought the record off the ‘bay and it was the almost home made look to this 45 that initially attracted me to it. I love the way the track information has been typewritten, carefully cut out, and then glued onto the white label. (Incidentally – typewriters! Remember them?). This copy was described as having come from an ex-record executive’s collection. I wonder, did they receive the record like this? Or did it maybe come as a plain white label together with some promotional blurb from which they cut out the title and artist info? Or did somebody else stick the information on at a later date? Whatever the circumstances, I cannot remember seeing a demo record presented in this way before. Demos of Phil-LA-Of-Soul 45s followed the usual industry practice of sporting full logo and credits but had a white background colour (presumably primarily to make it easier for disc jockeys to read). So this must have been an advance advance copy! The Phil-LA-Of-Soul label is probably my favourite of all designs so it would have been nice to have this 45 with the proper label, but it’s just as good having it in this form, which must be very unusual, and I think looks rather wonderful in its own right.

When I initially acquired this 45 I tried to find out some background on Carolyn Veal. I didn’t manage to turn up anything. Then, a few weeks ago, as I said, John Ridley added Carolyn Veal, and her seemingly only 45, to his peerless site.  John evidently hadn’t been able to turn up anything on Carolyn either but mused that the track had possibly been cut in Florida.

This sparked me into another web trawl in search of more information on Carolyn or this record, and this time I found something.  This track has been on YouTube now for some time and recent comments are interesting:

1. Carolyn Veal herself appears to have left a comment.

2. Another commenter mentions that it was a hit in the Netherlands in late '70. (Although I don’t think it was released on Phil LA until 1972, but read on). 

3. Somebody else mentions that the track will always be number one in the Caribbean community (or something like that), and somebody else again then refers to a 45 by Carole Veal that went for a tidy sum on ebay a few months ago. That is really interesting: it was released on the Ditanfra label with Miss Veal credited as song writer. The label says “Recorded in V.I.". VI turns out to be the Virgin Islands I think as I have seen a couple of albums also released on Ditanfra which are calypso or soul/funk style and also purport to be from the Virgin Islands. So it would appear that Carolyn recorded the song in the Virgin Islands (where she was resident?) with the help of Florida based Tom Markham, who then leased the song to Philly based Phil-LA-Of-Soul. There was certainly precedent for a Florida link for the label with the likes of Helene Smith and Little Beaver having had releases on the imprint. Almost certainly the Ditanfra release was first so that could fit in with the comment that it had graced the Dutch airwaves in late ‘70.

I have passed on this info to the good Sir and in his reply he mentioned he would put out some more feelers with friends in Suriname. Of course, I thought! I was wondering how this record could have become a hit in Holland of all places, but Suriname used to be known as Dutch Guiana until it achieved independence from Holland in 1975. Positioned on the north coast of South America, Suriname has trading links with the Caribbean islands so this could explain how this 45 came to get exposure in Holland. But there's more. I followed my nose on Wikipedia and ended up at Negerhollands a Dutch-based creole language that was once spoken in the Danish West Indies, now known as...... the U.S. Virgin Islands. So there is a direct link between the Virgin Islands and Holland. Sorry if you knew all this geography and so forth, but I didn't! Anyway this can explain how this 45 came to get exposure in Holland. Of course that would suggest there is a Dutch press of this record in existence. Will one turn up?

Once John collates this new information and anything else he manages to find out from his own further investigations I am sure we can look forward to an even fuller picture on Deep Soul Heaven of this great piece of lost soul. 

Remember that difficult jigsaw that used to be kept under the tablecloth for weeks on end? Piece by piece we’ll get there.

Friday, February 10, 2012

GG / B = AA

I am still getting round to playing records I bought at car boot sales last year. The particular batch I’ve been working through recently is a small crate full of mainly 80s pop 45s, with a few 70s thrown in as well. 80s pop isn’t really my scene but this lot of records came with a bunch of mint Depeche Mode singles – their first 27 singles to be precise – and the whole lot (about 150 singles) only cost £5.

Anyway in this bunch of records was Gloria Gaynor’s ’75 disco outing “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, looking the worse for wear. I gave it a rub with the magic fluid, put it down on the turntable B side up – and discovered a mid tempo gem.  I can’t stop playing this record, it has a top notch arrangement with irresistible strings, understated horns, a simple xylophone(?) motif and Gloria Gaynor’s fine vocals drenched in heartache.

This sent me upstairs to dig out my other Gloria Gaynor 45s and proceed to play all the B sides, and I found it was well worth the effort. Gloria will maybe be forever known as a Disco Diva (and especially for "I Will Survive") but these sides prove that there was much more depth to her, and the arrangers she worked with.

Most of these B sides can be found on Side 2 of her first two albums” Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Experience” ("We Just Can't Make It" was only ever a B side). Side 1 of those albums featured her Disco hits and were segued to run continuously which was both a novelty and a hit with the club DJs in the, then, very much fledgling Disco scene. It was those tracks that gained all the attention and I doubt that many people turned over the singles or the albums to find out what lay lurking. A pity. Now, all these years later Gloria’s hits definitely sound of their time but I think it’s the B side of Gloria that has stood the test of time better.

Buy “Experience”. (The B side of this album contains "What'll I Do" which is another hidden gem).  

Friday, February 03, 2012

Hoping to get back in the ......

It’s been a busy few weeks both at work and socially. There are signs that things may quieten down a bit on the life front soon and with that a more normal service can hopefully be resumed here.

In the meantime I’ve dug deep into one of my original Schweppes boxes for this 45 from the Rhythm Makers. Always a favourite of mine, it’s a hypnotic instrumental from 1975 performed by the band that would change their name to GQ and hit big with “Disco Nights (Rock Freak)” towards the end of the 70s. “Disco Nights” was in fact a reworking of “Soul On Your Side” which was the title track of the one and only LP the band released as the Rhythm Makers, which also featured “Zone”. I used to play “Disco Nights” a lot back in my DJing days and “Zone” would have got a few airings too. Back then I wasn’t aware of the “Soul On Your Side” album and, although it’s quite possible I read at the time about the GQ backstory in a copy of Blues & Soul, the link back to the Rhythm Makers certainly hadn’t stuck in my mind. Now, of course, we have the Internet.