Saturday, March 24, 2012


Once again I’m gravitating towards Chicago. This one has been on heavy rotation in the house recently.

I’m reading Greg Milner’s excellent book “Perfecting SoundForever”. I’m almost at the end now and well into digital samplers and Pro Tools territory. AAC and MP3 are a few pages away. In short, a million miles away from the recording techniques (then still mainly focussed on faithful reproduction) that would have been employed when The Five Stairsteps entered the studio in 1967 and laid down this song that would end up as only a B side (!) on their fifth release on the Windy C label.    

This record has a wonderful open sound I think – it’s bursting with “presence”. You could almost believe it hadn’t been recorded in a studio at all, but instead, outside, on a street corner somewhere, or maybe in Grant Park – and the sun would have been shining - and the Burke family would have been holding their heads to the sky.

Yes, I’m really feeling it.

I can’t help thinking we’ve somehow lost something along the way.

(I hope the feeling isn’t too dissipated by conversion to MP3!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

You learn something new every day

I’m doing a bit of record filing and reorganising again. During which this 45 surfaced, and I’m glad it did.

There are a lot of things I don’t know. Here are two:

1.   1   I don’t know where I got this record. I’m sure it’s not been in my collection for long so I suppose it must have been at a boot fair, but it’s not in my list of purchases (yes, I know, it’s sad but I do try to keep a list of everything I buy).
2.   2  I didn’t know that Donnie Elbert had recorded anything outside of the soul genre.

Having done a quick bit of research on this record I can now tell you that the A side of this rocksteady number – yes, rocksteady! – “Without You” was a number one in Jamaica in 1969. It also got a lot of airplay on Radio Luxembourg which, inexplicably, failed to make it a hit in the UK. Donnie Elbert moved to the UK in 1966, and if it hadn’t been for that he probably would not have ventured into the reggae arena.   
I have just noticed too that the arranger on this is John Fiddy. I bought an LP in a local charity shop last year just because it had a sticker on the cover that said “John Fiddy Music, Foxton, Cambs”. I had never heard of John Fiddy but Foxton is where my brother-in-law lives so I thought it would be a good conversation piece.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Birthdays

A birthday always heralds a cake at the office. Today none of my colleagues were celebrating a birthday but the company laid on donuts for all of us anyway.

Lots of donuts as it turned out, more than enough to go round.

I had two, and celebrated two birthdays close to my heart:

Feel It is six today J J J J J J

And that means Candi Staton is celebrating her birthday too.

Exactly four years ago I made a wish that some tracks that Candi had possibly  recorded at Fame only to remain in the can would one day get a release. Last year those wonderful people at Honest Jon’s made my wish come true and released the double CD “Evidence: The Complete Fame Record Masters” which contains most of those tracks! Even though the CD contains some of the tracks that appeared on their 2004 CD of Candi’s Fame output it is well worth picking up. As a Candi completist I have, of course, made my investment.

It means I now have just about all of Candi’s secular recordings. It must be time to start hunting for traces of some more unreleased gems, then.   

I did find this on YouTube recently though, a song I had not heard Candi sing before. Dig the yellow trouser suit!

Happy Birthday Candi J    

Friday, March 09, 2012


I caught up with the recent Disco related documentaries on BBC4 this week. Enjoyable stuff on the whole. One was a repeat and dated back to 2006 I think,  and it was interesting to see how much Giorgio Moroder had aged in these last few years!

When did Disco start and when did it end exactly?

It’s strange to think that we conceivably have Hitler to thank for the origins of the Discotheque.  In 40s occupied France the Nazis banned live jazz bands in Paris and as a result illicit underground clubs sprang up playing recorded music in what became known as Discotheques.

In my formative years (= mid teens = c1973/74) I went to my first clubs. That’s how they were generally known then. The first I can remember were those at the local rugby club. I have never been a rugby player, they just had great club nights - where what was already known then as a “mobile disco” would spin the holy vinyl although you wouldn’t then have said you were going to the “disco”. When a short time later I went “down town” it would be to a night club.     

Then along came Disco….. it all went overground on a grand scale…. Saturday Night Fever…. Disco Duck… Rod Stewart and the Stones jump on the bandwagon…   aaaaggghhh! …….. Disco Sucks and the ritual demolition of thousands of disco records (no doubt many extended 12” mixes included) in Chicago in 1979..

….. and it all went underground again and we went to plain old (night) clubs once again.

Of course some of us had been going to plain old clubs listening and dancing to fantastic grooves – soul, funk, reggae, and “disco” – all along, and continued to do so.  

At the time I resented the Chicago disco demolition as I loved (and played as a DJ) a lot of records that could be described in its widest sense as disco. But now, looking back, I can support what they did. OK, the people who did it had their own agenda that went beyond the music, but from a purely musical point of view “Disco” had been massively over commercialised and had become a monster. I, for one, was happy for it to go underground again, without possibly completely realising it at the time.

Recently ”Aerodrome” has been dropped from the dictionary as it fallen into disuse as a word. If you search Wikipedia for Discotheque this is what you get.
Here is a sound from my early rugby clubs days. The origins of Disco? Just great club music I would say.

On a more soulful tip I’ve always liked the B side too…

Ace Records' Ady Croasdell, who issued Act One's one and only LP on CD a few years ago, wrote:

"Researching the group has been tough, as the main man - producer, writer and general svengali, Raeford Gerald - died several years ago. Old contracts have thrown up several group members names and changes within the line-up, but speculation is inevitable as several questions remain unanswered. Unfortunately no photos of any of the groups line-ups could be found. "

Friday, March 02, 2012

Say what?!

The boot fair season is almost upon us once again. A regular haunt of mine fires into action again tomorrow. That will no doubt herald the return of winter weather!

At least a couple of boot fairs in my parish have in fact kept going throughout the winter. Unfortunately they charge £1 for parking so it puts me off going too frequently, that and the freezing mornings, where I find the fingers just can’t perform the riffle!

I did go to one of these last weekend, though, and it had the feel of a new season about it. The unseasonably warm weather had obviously encouraged plenty of sellers (and buyers). There were quite a few boxes of records to go through too and I secured a few good purchases. For much of the time I was rubbing shoulders with a particular fellow digger, and someone I had come across before. She is a digger with a difference – she is buying vinyl so she can make cake stands! That’s a pretty cool idea I think.

All albums were 50p and singles were 25p which was good, and here is one of the purchases.   

Where do I start with this one? It’s a bit of an oddball.

I have a handful of Nina Simone records, and I like her and respect her as an artist. From her initial love of classical piano, her involvement in the civil rights movement in the Sixties, and her often uncompromising live performances, Nina always came across as a very serious woman. So to find this album entitled “Nina’s Back” with a cover shot of …er… Nina’s back (at least I assume it is Nina on the cover) is a bit of a surprise. Then we have the small detail of the release number of this album. It was originally issued in the US on VPI in 1985. My copy is a UK release from 1989 on the Jungle label with the release number Freud 28. Why? Well, why not, I suppose.

Now to turn to what’s in the grooves. I was hoping against hope that, although recorded in the 80s, the unmistakable 80s production sound might be absent from this record. It was a vain hope.  The album is split into a “party side” and a “mellow side”. I thought I would play the mellow side first as I think of Nina as more suited to mellow songs. In truth I couldn’t get through it. I needle dropped, and wherever I did I found twee and vapid, 80s style arrangements and Nina, to my ears at least, not sounding good at all. So to the party side. I can’t imagine how Nina was coaxed into the studio to perform songs set to an 80s dancefloor backdrop. The mix is pretty strange too, with Nina and her piano way back in the mix – perhaps the engineers were trying to hide her thin vocals.

But nevertheless the album does have a few redeeming features. The background vocals are provided by The Waters, and they are invariably excellent. Then there are the last two tracks on side one which I actually really like. I was going to feature “Touching And Caring” which is one of those songs that immediately gets into a groove and just bowls along until finally it breaks down into a gloriously loose vampy long outro. But you can find that for yourself on YouTube, unlike the track I am going to feature which is the closer to side 1. “You Must Have Another Lover” is something to get you dancing around the kitchen table on a Friday night. Nina Simone like you have never heard her before I suggest.