Sunday, March 31, 2013

Misty Eyed - Part 4

..... The Tracks of My Tears concludes. 

As 1976 was coming to an end Parliament released “The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein”. It was the follow up to “Mothership Connection” and has somehow always remained under that album’s shadow. For my money though “Clones” is at least its equal. The funk is looser, the feel is more laid back, horn arrangements to die for abound, and there are some great vocal performances (for example just check Gary Shider on the track featured here)*. To my mind the more stripped down feel reveals a melanlcholic undercurrent to many of the tracks. Cut through the invented on-the-one-cosmic-science-thang world of Clinton and his cohorts and what you have is a really soulful album. The soulfulness struck me on first hearing, just after its release. Back then I wasn’t aware of the group’s history and previous incarnation as The Parliaments. Now of course it all makes sense.        

*(I have featured  “Getten’ To Know You” on Feel It before so instead here is another track (with, this time, Glen Goins on vocals) which has a similar effect on me.)

Parliament - Getten’ To Know You (1976)         

I used the term “marriage made in heaven” earlier in these outpourings. Here’s another one – Country and Soul music. So many Country songs tell a story, simple but powerful tales about human relationships and feelings – hearts swollen, torn, broken, mended. What makes someone a Soul singer is the extra level of emotive power they seem able to impart in their delivery, a feeling that they are singing from the heart. Put these together and you have a have a potent brew.

In the mid 70s Dorothy Moore had a string of ballad hits on the Malaco label at a time when the whole world was turning disco. Love songs - new love – “Misty Blue”, “I Believe You” – old flames -  “Funny How Times Slips Away”, “For Old Time's Sake”, written by, or for, Country artists. Actually “For Old Time's Sake” was written by Frederick Knight so my premise falls down somewhat – but it sure has a Country feel to it. I have never been in the situation that “For Old Time's Sake” recounts, but the way Dot sings it she makes me feel like I want to be the partner, even with the pain that would obviously come with the territory.            

I have just noticed that many of these tracks come from the same period of the 70s, a period that coincided with my late teens. We seem uniquely impressionable at that stage of life and perhaps this explains why I have such a special relationship with these songs. Looking back I appeared particularly shy at that time of my life, especially where girls were concerned. Maybe in immersing myself in these songs I was acting out an otherwise fairly non existent love life! Then again, maybe these songs move me so much simply because as I said back at the beginning - they are so damn good.        

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Misty Eyed - Part 3

......The Tracks Of My Tears continues.

The next track appeared on Lucinda Williams’ 2001 album “Essence”. A dead slow Country waltz is not something you will likely find very often at Souled On, or Feel It for that matter. But I defy you not to be moved by Lucinda’s memories of her Grandmother’s house brought into sharp focus by a final visit. Lucinda may have her roots firmly planted in Country music but she is as soulful as they come. 

Disco may seem like an odd genre of music to make you cry, but I find no shortage of Disco numbers that do it for me. Some examples – Candi Staton “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” (The uniquely ‘hurt’ quality of Candi’s voice seems to be highlighted even more by the backdrop of a disco track); Tata Vega “Get It Up For Love” (just a fantastic arrangement); Chantal Curtis “Get Another Love” (so melancholic and wistful); Patrice Rushen “Haven’t You Heard” (can’t explain). All those are pretty long tracks on 12” so I’ve chosen a 7” from Marlena Shaw. I love Marlena’s delivery as she sings her tale of loneliness and lost love. Dance your troubles away. Perhaps there was a situation or event in my life associated with this record that causes me to fill up still, but if there was then it is now buried deep in my sub-conscious. I don’t know why, but I have always kept this single in its original cardboard mailer, maybe that is part of its enduring charm.  

 MarlenaShaw – Love Has Gone Away (1976)            

I can recommend this Marlena Shaw Anthology CD as I have a copy.

To be continued…..and concluded.....

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Misty Eyed - Part 2 : Happy Birthday Chaka

......The Tracks Of My Tears continues. I have taken the liberty of playing around with the sequence of my original article (and posting two Rufus tracks so close together) because today a certain lady is 60 years old. 

Happy Birthday Chaka Khan.   

I was struggling to pick just one Rufus track here. Their albums are littered with tracks that readily induce my tears, but especially those from the album “Ask Rufus”. What an album this is. I’m sorry, but they just don’t make them like this anymore. Chaka was in a more restrained mood on this album, and the better for it in my opinion. But though her voice is of course a sweet and wondrous instrument, it wasn’t all about Chaka. All the members of Rufus deserve the plaudits, their musicianship was superb, and their arrangements were lush and complex, and by this album they appeared to be operating on a higher plane, music as art. Sweetly complemented by Chaka Khan they made a unique contribution to the world of soul music. “Better Days” from “Ask Rufus” contains the line ”I don’t know why, but I want to cry…” so in the end it picks itself really. (NOTE: the sound dynamics on this may not be too good, I really must get another copy of the album – or were all the pressings like this?)*

To be continued…..

* I had a comment or two on the original post that seems to suggest all the vinyl pressings may have been a bit "muddy".   

If you don't own it already you really must buy "Ask Rufus".  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Misty Eyed - Part 1

Feel It’s birthday last week has made me I little nostalgic, after all seven years is a long time in the blogging game.  The nostalgia is also tinged with a little sadness as another one of our longstanding (or I should say hopping) family pets – Buttons the rabbit – passed away yesterday. We estimate he was nearly 11 which is a great age for a rabbit. He died of glorious old age, which is no bad thing.

To suit my mood I have decided to repost (with some minor editing) something I put together a few years ago for another blog – Scholar’s sorely missed SouledOn… 

I was honoured to be invited by Scholar to write something for his blog back in 2007. The theme I chose was, simply, songs that make me cry.

So here on Feel It for the first time , split up into a little mini-series over the next few days is:

The Tracks Of My Tears.

I often find the tears welling up. It can be embarrassing, I can be simply talking fondly about something, anything - with someone, anyone - and I can feel my eyes getting misty. I think I have taken after my father because I have noticed the same thing in him. My wife (Mrs Darce!)  is pretty adept at it too. Our children have learned to don sou’westers and wellies if, as a family, we are all watching a film that is anything approaching moving! There we are, both brushing away the tears.

I am sure all of us will find that certain songs make us fill up. Some songs by simple dint of their sentiment will have an almost universal effect – for example I’m betting Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” gets many people reaching for a tissue whenever it’s played. But equally, songs can be very personal, evoking very special and private memories.          

Listening to music is one of my favourite pastimes so it’s not surprising that I find many songs exercising the tear ducts. What is it about a piece of music that gets the tears flowing? As touched on above: the sentiment of the song; triggered memories – fond or painful; simple nostalgia. There again it could be the fact that the track is just so damn good. Or it could be simply inexplicable. Forgetting lyrics for the moment, the way that the music is structured or nuanced can also be crucial I think. I’m no expert on musical structure but elements such as chord patterns, cadence, particular tones - the profoundly sad sound that most stringed instruments make for example, can all play a part in moving someone to tears, and I am sure there will be some science behind this that can prove it.

But let’s not overanalyse. The danger then is the evocative power of a song will evaporate, and with it the tears. And I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good cry.

Here, for your delectation, are some tracks that have the desired effect with me. As Millie Jackson once put it: “I Feel Like Walking In The Rain”!

Kicking things off are two tracks that are segued by seagulls! I think Kool & The Gang were at the peak of their powers in 1974 when they released “Light Of Worlds”. “Whiting H. & G.”, an instrumental, was track 1 on side 1 of this album. Who says you need lyrics to bring on the tears, these guys could funk it up with the best of them but they also really knew how to drag emotion out of their synthesizers  and the long fade is irresistible. Cue long shot of a couple, or a lone person if you prefer, in the distance, at dusk, walking along an otherwise deserted beach (er, except for the seagulls). And they walk around the point and right into Jean Carn’s “You Are All I Need”. The scene’s gone all misty now – that will be the tears! Dexter Wansel consistently came up with sublime arrangements and this is one of them. Put that together with Jean’s beautiful jazz tinged vocals and the sentiment of the lyrics and you have a marriage made in heaven.

Treat yourself:

To be continued…..

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


It’s time to celebrate this blog’s birthday again. 7 years old today. I would have said “7 years young” except that in these days of the twittering classes, smartphones and the like the blog as an internet medium is beginning to feel a bit quaint. Are you detecting signs of a 7 year itch? Well I think the closest I’ve come to that is by starting another blog recently! No, at my age I’m beginning to feel a bit quaint too(!) so my blogs and I continue to be comfortable in their own skin.     

As is tradition here I also raise a glass to another birthday today. Take the 7 and (very quietly) put a 0 behind and I believe that is how old Candi Staton is today.

Happy Birthday Candi!!

One of the very few gaps in my collection of Candi Staton records is, somewhat unusually, her “Young Hearts Run Free” album. I say unusual because the song itself is one of my favourites of her later output and holds good memories. I have the single of course, but never felt moved to buy the album back in ’76 and strangely, for it must have sold in very good numbers, I have never come across it second hand. A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Candi’s single “Destiny”. This is a much too much of a “Young Hearts” clone to be truly enjoyable I think, but turn the single over and you can find a much stronger track in my opinion -  “Summertime With You”, which was also lifted from the “Young Hearts” album. It was great to find a track from Candi that I was not familiar with. (It actually reminds me of something else too, but I can’t think what at the moment).

Candi in particularly sweet mode…

(I am only posting a youtube clip as a previous Candi themed entry was one of the few I received a takedown request on).

Friday, March 08, 2013

Let's hear it for the girls

Today is International Women's Day. 

So for all the ladies all over the world here is a track for you sung by Chaka Khan (no, not that track). 

And, in these days of equality, men can listen as well!.

This track is from the Rufusized album. All of Rufus' 70s albums are essential listening in my book. Chaka Khan is well known to many I'm sure, but maybe not so well known is the lady who wrote this song - Lomi (Lalomie) Washburn. She also wrote another track on Rufusized - "Your Smile" - which is just beautiful.  

Rufus feat. Chaka Khan - I'm A Woman (I'm A Backbone) 1974 

Buy Rufusized

Monday, March 04, 2013

An orange and plum ocean ...

This was one of two compilations I picked up in the same charity shop last weekend. What made them completely irresistible were their labels, and to be precise, the colour of their labels. In this case the orange and plum of the 60s UK Atlantic label. I now own precisely three albums that sport this particular Atlantic label. All are mono, all are soul, and none are standard one artist studio albums; and I guess none are particularly valuable.

I can’t explain why, but my heart beats a little faster when I find an Atlantic orange and plum. There are some rare and desirable records on that label (for example I dream of finding a first issue Led Zeppelin album but I’m sure that will never happen) but it somehow goes beyond that. This album for example, being a compilation, will never be deemed to be that collectible, and I already have a few of the tracks so the heart was in a steady state when I picked it out of the rack. It was only when I pulled the out record from its cover to check the condition and I saw the flash of orange and plum that my heart started racing. 10 out of 10 to the Atlantic design department of the day then I suppose.          
Plenty of the usual Sixties Atlantic Soul suspects are represented on “Midnight Soul” but it is a male dominated affair. Here are two tracks that give you a flavour.

Some organ led goodness from the only artist on the album that may cause you to say “who?” They were apparently a group that hailed from North Carolina.

And one from the altogether more familiar, and great, Joe Tex. This track was also the B side of S.Y.S.L.J.F.M.

From the sleeve: “This is a high fidelity recording. For best results observe the R.I.A.A. high frequency roll-off characteristics with a 500 cycle crossover.” Don’t say I didn’t tell you!

To enjoy the full spectrum of this post you should also pop over to the Hi-Fi Cabinet Of Curiosities and read this.