Friday, September 27, 2013

Those were the days

It’s now eight months since I bought any records from the States. Back at the start of the year the US Mail postage hike made buying records at the cheap end of the spectrum (where I usually operate!) a whole lot more expensive. I also hear that a much tighter customs regime is resulting in import charges being levied on many more low value packages and now, also, I read about ebay’s “wonderful” global shipping program which can result in even higher shipping costs.  I still browse US listings, but I can’t bring myself to hit the buy button anymore.    

As you can imagine, with my musical tastes, not having USA on the buying map is proving a bit limiting and it’s getting me down.

Today’s record was in my last package to arrive from the US, back in January.  

Nostalgia in more ways than one.

“His New Group” were in fact the new Charms. Otis Williams had to set up a new group after the original Charms decided they no longer wanted his services. Otis wanted to call the new group The Charms and while a law suit was bubbling away over that three 45s were released as “Otis Williams And His New Group”. “That’s Your Mistake” was the last of those three singles, issued in November 1955. It would be re-released soon after as “Otis Williams And The Charms” when the law suit was settled in William’s favour. This information and a whole lot more on Otis Williams And The Charms was found here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tapping my feet #16 (12" heaven - nudge nudge, wink wink)

I have too many records. Recently I made the momentous decision to purge some of the ones I bought back in the 70s/early 80s. These form the core of my collection and I have a special affinity towards them – the first ones I bought, memories, and all that. But some, especially the 12” singles, I’m sure I will never play again and I need the space (for more records!).

This one found its way, briefly, onto the out pile. I thought I would give it one last play and found that the B side has some merit – more than some merit, in fact - and I’m not sure I had ever played it before! (It bears no real resemblance to its namesake (Part I) on the other side). So it has been returned to the bosom of my collection. 

Dick Morrissey and Ronnie Scott are the sax players on this track. They of the horn. I seem to remember reading somewhere (but I could easily be wrong) that Dick could be heard on some film soundtracks of, shall we say, the smutty variety. If that was true, I wouldn’t mind betting he slipped this one in (sorry!) in his lunch hour during one such soundtrack session. (“Let’s do a disco number”. “What shall we call it?”).   

This one is very long and Dick keeps it up admirably (sorry again!). It certainly has its moments – just like one of those films he may have soundtracked (or so I imagine!).   

PS: It has just registered that the combined playing time of the two sides of this 12” exceed the length of Arthur Conley’s entire “Sweet Soul Music” LP! How times changed in 13 years! And, indeed, the ”excesses” of the 70s/80s era 12” have been reined back somewhat since then too, I think .   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quality not quantity

In some ways it is difficult to call Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” an album at all. Running times of albums were shorter back in the 60s but even by that decade’s standards under 26 minutes is short. Then there is the fact that it hadn’t initially been conceived as an album. Pricked by the success of Arthur Conley’s single of the same name it was, I'm sure, swiftly put together and rushed out essentially as a cash in, and is a collection of mostly earlier recordings - a greatest hits that weren’t (but should have been) if you will.   

So, not worthy of being called an album? I jest. In reality it is one of the great Soul albums, and, although not in pristine condition, I was feeling very pleased with myself when I picked up a copy for 20p at a car boot sale the other week.  

Arthur Conley had been making singles for a few years when he eventually hit gold in 1967 with what was, arguably, his most pop friendly 45, “Sweet Soul Music”. Otis Redding had taken Conley under his wing and become his producer after hearing his original version of “I’m A Lonely Stranger”, which was re-recorded and issued Otis’ own label, Jotis, in 1965. That song is included on this album and it should be regarded as a deep soul masterpiece. That superlative could easily be applied to all 10 tracks on the album. In equal measures the soul is deep, sweet and uptempo. With the usual suspects making up the backing band, and some tracks recorded at Rick Hall’s Fame studio, there is guaranteed quality in the groove. But then there is also the not so little matter of Arthur Conley’s performance. Bear in mind he was only 21 when this album was released, and only 19 when some of the tracks were laid down (including “Stranger”). The depth of feeling – Soul with a capital S – he elicits in his delivery is astonishing for someone so young. And it wasn’t just his voice, his song-writing talent was also undeniable, three of the tracks on this album were credited to Conley and three more to Redding/Conley.  

Otis Redding was certainly a fan. He had this to say in the closing sleeve notes on the back cover of this album: “Being an A&R man is still a new thing for me. Arthur makes the job exciting through his great artistry. I feel he’s in the early stages of a sensational career as a recording artist and in-person performer. Listen to him on this new album and see if you don’t agree with me”.

Only a few months after penning those words about his protégé Redding would, of course, perish in a plane crash. Tragically, Soul music had lost a great voice. In fact, in a way, it lost two great voices. Arthur Conley, having finally been recognised as a real talent was a star on the rise, and furthermore could have ably stepped into the void left by Otis Redding. But, deeply affected by Redding’s death, he sort of lost his way as a singer in the soul music world.   

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Summer break over

I had a summer break from blogging, as you may have noticed. It was a conscious decision, and I should have told you I suppose. Anyway, I'm back.

Just a quickie to get things moving again. This one was in a little package the postman delivered today (yes, I know, what was the postie doing delivering on a Sunday?!). 

I have always thought of The Jones Girls as a Philly group - they were on PIR by the time I became aware of them back in the late 70s, their classic "Nights Over Egypt" might be most familiar to some. But Brenda, Valerie, and Shirley hailed from Detroit. Their first recording was issued on Guido Marasco's GM label sometime around 1968-1970.   

This track appeared twice as a B-side on separate Holland-Dozier-Holland run Music Merchant 45s released in 1972: "Come Back" and "Your Love Controls Me". The sound is definitively Motown, with strings that could easily have served as a template for Barry White's sound that also emerged in 1972 with Love Unlimited. I absolutely love the intro on this one.

Jones Girls - You're The Only Bargain I've Got 1972