Friday, March 28, 2014

A vortex of uncertainty

A good trawl of the internet for more information on this recently acquired 45 has turned up a number of uncertainties.

Let’s start with the credited singer “Eddie Billups”. It seems that, in fact, the singer is Shorty Billups. So Shorty and Eddie are one and the same, and “Shorty” was a nickname? Well, no, it seems that Shorty and Eddie were brothers but Shorty chose to take his brother’s name on a number of recordings. If I have understood it correctly that’s the size of it if you take John Ridley’s liner notes for a CD of Peachtree recordings as the definitive take on the Billups question that has puzzled many a soul aficionado (and why wouldn’t you?) . Except that I find it odd that in I Won’t Be Around the singer actually refers to “himself” as Eddie.     

Shorty is still very much alive and touring. No mean feat when you consider he is now 82 years old. At least that’s what his simply put together internet site states (a birth date of 1932 in Connecticut). Elsewhere it is more commonly stated that he was born in Boston in 1941. So maybe Shorty was born in '32 and Eddie in '41? But the quoted day - Feb. 1st - is the same in both cases. So, who is singing on this 45? Uncertainty is creeping up on me again! 

The two songs on this 45 were initially released in 1967 on the small Brume record label, and around that time I understand they were picked up and nationally released on the Josie label. It is more difficult to date this particular 45 on the wonderfully name HELPP (Help Everyone Live Peacefully Profitably) label. A best estimate is 1972 based on what I have been able to find concerning a few other releases on the label.

Looking at the address on the label of this 45 it seems the HELPP label was based in New York. Although on other releases a Chattanooga address is given, and the co-writer on this track - Ed Bibbins - was Chattanooga based according to Red Kelly.

So as this 45 revolves on the turntable, in turn plenty of factual uncertainties revolve around it. There is, however, no uncertainty in the fact that the A side I Won’t Be Around is as fine a soul sound as you would want to hear, and that it has the feel of a 1967 recording. The only shame is it fades too quickly. I wonder if this was the same on the original Brume issue? 

Before you play the B side here (page down a bit) is a health warning, Pete Nickols review of the track that was included in the CD Lost Deep Soul Treasures Vol 4. Maybe not the track to play if you are having a Friday night party. It is certainly memorable, and I find it compulsive listening even though I’m not sure I like it. There, another uncertainty!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SS Stargard - Warp Factor 78*

After a good start to the car boot season the last couple of weeks trawls have been completely fruitless on the vinyl front. The trouble is I find it impossible to leave these sales empty handed and so it was, a couple of weeks ago, I returned home the proud owner of a Monkees annual, a book on Kentucky including some beautiful photographs, and a pair of miniature brass deer! And last Sunday, despite the CD being my least favourite music format, I picked up 19 of them for a total of £7 and I have to say I am very pleased with my haul (Fleet Foxes, Procol Harum, The Bees, Lambchop, Ben Harper, Emiliana Torrini, Arctic Monkeys to name just a few).

Anyway, on the vinyl front I am returning once more to the batch of soul albums I picked up at the beginning of the month. Amongst them was an original copy of Stargard’s album What You Waitin’ For. In all honesty there was only one reason I bought this album - it was still sealed! I don’t think I could not buy a vintage still sealed album no matter what it was, and it was only 50p to boot.

When I got it home I noticed that what I thought was just a storage bend on the sleeve looked a bit more serious and I guessed the record was warped. (I have read that records if sealed tightly for a long time can warp). It was just a guess that it was warped at this stage because I like to live with a long sealed record for a week or so, marvelling that it has stayed in that condition for so long, and working myself up to the actual act of slitting it open - a moment that has to be savoured.

So, a week or so ago, I finally opened this record, about 36 years after it had been shipped out of the packing plant. Just for an instant I was instantly transported back to 1978 and I like to think I was breathing in a tiny amount of 70s air that would have been trapped within during the sealing process.
Sure enough the record was warped, quite noticeably. But, miraculously, it plays fine, and I am sure that in the week or so it has been freed from the confines of its shrink the warp has already reduced.   

I wasn’t expecting much from this album – my hunch was it would be full of disco orientated filler. But I have been pleasantly surprised, and corrected. Stargard were more a funk act than a disco act – like the Brides Of Funkenstein with some sweetening -  my memory had just managed to file them in wrong compartment. This album offers up some enjoyable funk jams, and some more soulful numbers too, and I am now very pleased the warp didn’t render this album unplayable.

This one is insanely catchy to my ears…..

*Ha! Asterisks again! In your average spaceship once you reach a warp speed in double figures you start to go back in time (I just made that up  J ).   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Another asterisk required

It’s Friday, this week I give you two JAGs (quality soul as opposed to quality motoring!)

Jo Ann Garrett was born in Chicago and would have been only 17 or 18 when these tracks were recorded. She had been discovered at a talent show in 1966 where she had come second to the Five Stairsteps (as described by Robert Pruter  in Chicago Soul).

Jo Ann released a total of 14 singles and one album between 1966 and 1973, with most being released on a short spell in the latter half of the 60s on Chess, and then Duo. You can find many of the releases on YouTube and they are all well worth a listen. By her mid twenties Jo Ann had left the music scene. A shame.     

Thousand Miles Away is a beautiful song. This Jo Ann Garrett 45 was released on 1967 and is a glorious throwback to the doo wop era. It is a remake of the song that was originally a hit 10 years earlier in 1957 for The Heartbeats. The song also featured in the 1973 film American Graffiti. The Dells are providing backing vocals on this track and the arrangement is, I assume, by Dale Warren (miscredited as Del).     

Turn this 45 over and you find Just Say When an irresistible Chicago groove that in fact sounds very Detroit and is very much of its time. On the label, after the title Thousand Miles Away, there is an asterisk. I assume this denotes it as the A side. There is no asterisk after Just Say When, but there should be because it is the equal of its partner.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


In a recent post I suggested that later 70s albums from Barry White and Smokey Robinson could be classed as 2nd division soul. I have been feeling a bit twitchy about that assertion ever since.

After now listening to the two Barry White albums I have just acquired I am happy to promote the “Walrus Of Love” up to the 1st division. (Smokey also gets promoted because, well, he is woven into the fabric of soul music isn’t he?).

The Barry White album Is This Whatcha Wont? is from his 70s super stardom days, pretty much mid period. By then his distinctive sound had been well honed. Yes, it could be said that commercial forces were taking a successful formula and mining it to the max. But there are some nice touches on this album. The drums are pushed to the front of the mix (Barry did a bit of drumming himself, but I think the prolific session man Ed Greene was the drummer on much of Barry’s ‘70s output) and there is a lot going on under the surface in the lush arrangements. I find the whole album quite seductive (well, it’s Bazza after all), it’s very evocative but at the same time I think it avoids sounding dated.

The other album of his I picked up is No Limit On Love and I think is especially interesting. It was released in 1974 on Supremacy, a small offshoot label of Scepter. The material it contains obviously dates much earlier than ’74 though. It took me a lot of Google digging to get any sort of lowdown on this album. It turns out the album contains material Barry recorded at the Bronco/Mustang label, probably between late ‘66 and ’68. Bronco/Mustang was a west coast label set up by Bob Keane out of the ashes of his Del-Fi and Donna labels. Barry was brought in as producer and early releases, especially on Felice Taylor, very much mirrored the Motown sound. Included on this album is an alternate version of the first 45 Barry had released as a solo artist (not backed by, or part of vocal groups) under his own name – All In The Run Of A Day, released in 1967.The album alternates between vocal tracks and instrumentals (credited to the Barry White Orchestra). At least two of the instrumentals I believe were released as B sides of Felice Taylor Mustang 45s. But most of the tracks, as far as I can tell, were unreleased at the time. The sound is relatively unpolished – charming nonetheless – but you can tell Barry’s production instincts are already at work and as such this material could be seen as a prototype for the Love Unlimited Orchestra and his fully formed 70s sound.     

All in all these two albums represent £1 very well spent!

A great intro on this one:

And here he gets all Righteous Brothers on us:

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Friday double feature

A bonus of this new Friday affair where I feature both sides of a 45 is that it leads me to some great B sides that have previously remained hidden in my own collection.

Here’s a case in point. Today, frankly, I have been struggling to find the right record to feature, to the point where the table is now strewn with records, some still not put back in their sleeves (shock, horror). I’d been rummaging through a T-Z box and pulled out this Kim Weston 45. I seemed to remember the A side had had an outing on Feel It before, and indeed it has – way back in the same month 7(!) years ago. I gave it a spin anyway and found a little gem of a B side. That was enough to make my mind up that this was going to be tonight’s double header.  

A “cheap as chips” 45 that everybody could, and should, own.

The A:

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Another year has flown by and this blog is now 8 years old! This of course means we must also wish Candi Staton a “happy birthday” today. 

I have seen a couple of different years stated as her year of birth* but if we accept the generally quoted one then Candi is now 71. Borrowing loosely from numerology if you add up the two digits of her age you get 8 and so it is I realise this is now the second year of a decade where Candi’s age and the age of this blog  - which was deliberately launched on her birthday – are so aligned.  I realise this is of no consequence whatsoever, but being a massive fan of Ms Staton you can perhaps understand I draw some enjoyment from this worthless fact.

I certainly hope that Candi will still be with us when she reaches 79 (and I hope I am still knocking around then too!), but I wonder, will this blog still be alive another 8 years hence? It would be nice to think so but I somehow think it will be a miracle if my publishing enthusiasm endures for that long, and also if people like you will still be interested in reading something so quaint as a blog!   
We shall see. 

A big thank you to all of you who continue to drop by.

Here is a track from the 1974 album simply entitled "Candi". This was the first, and for many years only, Candi Staton album I owned.

(Unfortunately I continue to shy away from giving you anything other than a Youtube clip of a Candi track nowadays after a takedown request a couple of years ago.)     

*I have just noticed that her Wiki entry now states 1940 but I think it used to say 1943 which is the year I have always had in my head)

Friday, March 07, 2014

TT x 2

I haven’t posted much reggae recently. Over the years I have been slowing working through posts of my small but treasured collection of reggae 12s, mostly purchased back in the late 70s. And, in truth, there aren’t many left to post.  

I’ve just woken up to the fact, though, that this new regular “double header Friday” of mine is the perfect place to feature reggae 12” singles.

So here goes… the sun is shining… the mood is set.

I had forgotten how good this one is. A perfect melding of the Roots and Lovers sounds.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Season opener

I went to a car boot sale today. It felt like something of a novelty. It is (only) the second time I've been this year but I'm calling it a season opener because a) meteorologically speaking at least, it is now Spring, b) the booters are beginning to open up again and c) I actually bought something this time. 

As you can see from the picture what I bought amounted to a clutch of 2nd division Soul (and an album by someone I had not heard of before - Felix Cavaliere - but names such as Brecker, Sanborn, Feiten and Farrell in the supporting cast alerted me to its jazz/funk possibilities. It's playing at the moment and I can report it does have a pinch of soul and funkiness but is very bland). Nothing in this clutch was wildly attractive but at 50p a pop and great condition all round I couldn't leave them behind. 

2nd division soul? Do I relegate Barry White and Smokey Robinson to that? Well, inasmuch as these albums have pop-soul leanings, then yes. Actually I wasn't even going to buy the Smokey Robinson album but the lady seller was struggling with change (and possibly the maths too!) so I chucked it in to make up the total to a nice round number. 

Most of  the artists represented on this little pile of albums were not big names at the time however, and could be said to be fashion followers rather than trend setters. Although most of the artists enjoyed some chart success it wasn't sustained, and was just as likely to have come via the pop charts than the R&B charts. Most of the albums also date to the mid-late 70s by which time the golden age of Soul could be said to be over and commercialism - and disco - was having a big effect on style.

I will take some time to listen to all of these albums but I reckon it's worth it as they surely offer possibilities of a hidden gem or two, or three. (I was already aware of The Honey Cone's Sitting On A Time Bomb for example). Proof of this wasn't long in coming either as I gave the Hodges, James & Smith album What's On Your Mind a spin. The date on this album is 1977 which had me expecting the tracks to exhibit a liberal daubing of the disco brush. Not true, and I'm particularly taken by the closing two tracks of Side 1 of the album.    

Hodges, James & Smith - Love Baby  1977

Hodges, James & Smith - People Needing People  1977