Friday, May 23, 2014

You move me, Mary

This one has spent a lot of time on the turntable this week. The unmistakable sound of Muscle Shoals, this 45 represents 50% of Chuck & Mariann Coopers’ recorded output, this being one of two 45s they had released on A-Bet in 1968. Both 45s feature the duo on one side and Mariann solo on the other.  

Through an excellent article on Mary that appeared in the Oxford American a few years ago I have learnt that Chuck & Mariann were husband and wife for a time, and that Mariann is actually one Mary Gresham. The OA is, at least in part, what could be termed a literary journal and consequently the article’s prose may come over as a little flowery at times, but it nevertheless provides much detail on Mary’s life and musical career. It is always especially satisfying to put some meat on the bones of an obscure record and artist and I recommend you follow the link to it.

Motivation in particular is a stormer of a record, laid down at FAME I believe. Rick Hall liked to turn the volume up on his recordings and this one is certainly a loud pressing.

Mary, like Candi Staton, was born in Alabama, and in the same year too. I’m guessing Candi was on the FAME scene by the time Mary walked in for her sessions. Who knows what might have been if she had turned up a few months earlier?      

Now I need to go and track down the other Chuck & Mariann 45.

Make sure the kitchen chairs are tucked away before you play this one!...

A CD of Mary Gresham’s Muscle Shoals recordings, much of it previously unreleased, is available now thanks to Garry Cape at Soulscape. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Your rambling reporter

It continues to be a vinyl desert out there on the streets and in the fields of England. The year kicked off pretty well on the vinyl hunting front, but the last few weeks have proved gruelling at the chazzas and car boots. Last weekend I managed to squeeze in no less than four car boot sales; the sun shone and encouraged the sellers out in their droves. But for all the sellers there were, hardly any of them had any vinyl amongst their unwanted junk. Either that or some very early bird dealers had hoovered it all up before I arrived (I don’t think so though, there is one notorious local ‘hooverer’ but I now tend to avoid the venues I know he frequents).

Taking stock, this weekend booting frenzy yielded five albums, two 12“ singles and eight little uns. Hmmm, not too bad in the end, but it was hard work. 

There are a few highlights. The 12” singles are relatively recent reissues of some obscure(ish) 60s and 70s soul gems I would have to look long and hard for as original issues (Helene Smith, Edna Wright, James Walsh Gypsy Band gives you a flavour) – nice to have, but in the end not the originals. Amongst the little uns are 45s from The Hollies, one of which is a double header belter. Over at the VG+ forum there is an amusing thread on the subject of collection tics. I think Hollies singles could qualify as one of my current collecting tics - I buy everyone I see, unless I’m sure I have it already. On the other hand a tic is something you wish you didn’t have, and I make no apology for buying Hollies singles because they are generally great.          

One of the albums I bought was a compilation and was sans sleeve. Hardly a highlight then? On the contrary, I am more than happy to have found it. The compilation in question is This is Loma Vol 6. Loma was Warner Brothers specialist Soul and R&B label that was active from 1964-68. In the mid ‘70s WB UK issued no less than seven This Is Loma compilations. This one was a must have for me purely on the strength of a Carl Hall track, and the hope that Linda Jones wasn’t over singing too much on the four tracks of hers featured (I blow hot and cold with Linda Jones, although her voice was undoubtedly a wondrous instrument, I think that too often she tended to over-egg the delivery, and it’s the songs where she kept it reined in that I prefer, I can just never remember which ones they are!). As it turns out, on this comp Linda’s tracks generally get the thumbs up from me; as do all the tracks on the album because it is a really strong compilation from a really strong label. The one track that grabbed me by the ears on first listen – as much as the Carl Hall track – was one of the two tracks by Ben Aiken.

I wasn’t familiar with Aiken and haven’t been able to turn up much about him. It seems that Jerry Ragovoy brought him into the Loma fold. There has seemed to be confusion surrounding the colour of his skin, some people describe him as a “blue eyed” soul singer, but over at the Soulful Detroit archives some big names from the world of soul music refute that, and also state that he was working as a custodian at Philadelphia City Hall, at least as recently as 2004. Baby You Move Me was released in May 1968 a few short months before Loma’s demise, and was the last of four singles Ben had released on the label. His voice, especially on the other track of his on this comp, reminds me of Art Neville at times.

Carl Hall’s You Don’t Know Nothing About Love preceded the Ben Aiken track here by six months – Loma were really cooking by then, such a shame the label was soon to close. About as much as I know about Carl Hall can be found on a Wiki entry. I’ll let the music do the talking here….. stunning!    

Carl Hall - You Don’t Know Nothing AboutLove  1967               

And so once more, my ramble that started in a field in England has ended up in Sixties America.

PS: I’ve just played this whole album again, it’s really really good! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back and forth

As promised another one from my little stack of 45s from last week’s booter. Something on the mellow side as it’s Sunday.

This was the first one pulled out and the one I was most excited to find. Not rare but it’s been on the want list for some time. As I was settling up I noticed it had a crack, it was grabbed out of my hand and thrown (literally) into the boot of the car as junk. Whoa! I said, that might have been OK, I was simply pointing it out. It was rescued, and the crack, which had opened a bit after its aerial adventure, was reset. The price was also adjusted - to zero pence…. and yes, you guessed, it plays OK. (Hmm, although there is a click now seems more noticeable than when I first played it a week ago; can that be?).  

Our daughter is back home after nearly a year in Canada. We picked her up from Gatwick yesterday morning; her plane had been assisted by quite a tailwind I'm sure. It's little more than a flying visit as she is going back for another “year out” early next month. As Mrs Darce put it “I’m so excited to see her I could burst”.            

Friday, May 09, 2014

Cutting through the years

I’m getting huge enjoyment out of my little haul of scruffy but playable 45s from the booter last weekend. Here’s another from the pile, and I plan to share more in the coming days. It’s a good job I found these because I’m finding it’s generally a vinyl desert out there in the wild currently. I’m empty handed today after my usual Friday pm trawl of the chazzas – again.

Here are two great sides of early Sixties Detroit from Lee Rogers. This record climbed to 17 in the Billboard R&B charts in early 1965 and was Lee’s only real hit.

To think, this 45 is just about 50 years old! It started life in a pressing plant somewhere in the US. Was it bought from a little corner record shop – possibly in a then vibrant Detroit – way back then, it’s sale contributing to the #17 chart position? Or did it languish unsold, and unloved for years in a warehouse somewhere?  Certainly, JA, whoever he or she may be, acquired it at some point and coveted it so much they marked their initials on it.  When, I wonder, did it make its way across the pond to the UK? And how long had it been hiding in the dealer’s box I pulled it out of in a field just outside Bath? Things like this always go through my mind when I find an old 45, especially an old Soul 45. 

Whatever its history it has obviously been around the block a bit, and graced a few turntables I would think. Nevertheless the recording is a loud one and the sound of early Detroit still cuts through the general wear and tear, and the years. 

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Skank Holiday

It seems my local pubs are featuring more and more ska and soul music on their music nights. I wonder is this a trend across the country? Next month a local rugby club is putting on a weekend ska festival and this weekend one of my locals had a ska weekend. Friday night featured  Ska Train, a mobile disco that seems to be going from strength to strength. They play roughly 50/50 vinyl and CD, mostly the more well known sounds. They are booked solid for the rest of the year apparently. (I had attended their gig at my local of locals the previous week). On Saturday it was live ska from local band The Great Eskape. This one I did attend, and very good they were. Last night I was there again for a vinyl fest from My Friend Jack (who is, in fact, Sean).  More ska, and plenty of top notch soul too.  Today we (Mrs Darce arrived back from her travels in the early hours) did our normal Bank Holiday thing, i.e. not a lot. A lie in and then some general pottering in the garden. The soundtrack to this general pottering (at least some of it) was..more ska! Lauren on BBC 6Music played about 30 minutes of back to back ska and reggae which she dubbed (ha!) her Skank Holiday mix. It has certainly been a Skank holiday for me.   
I have been rapidly approaching a crisis of confidence on the boot fair front. After a reasonable start to the season the last few weeks have been barren – I do get to them early nowadays too, but quite probably still not early enough. Or are rekkids drying up? Sunday's trawl restored some confidence, but only some. I bagged this little selection from a dealer who occasionally puts in an appearance at a boot fair. Boxes and boxes of singles at 50p with always a fair chance of picking up something worthwhile, accepting the fact that they may have some condition issues. But hey, they’re only 50p after all. Now if the private sellers could just oblige by bringing some records along too everything will be OK again.

In this little haul there are actually four reggae singles. Here’s one of them.

Friday, May 02, 2014


The kitchen decorating goes on. The cabinets need to coats of paint. It feel a bit like painting the Forth road bridge. On top of that Mrs Darce is currently on her annual jaunt to Turkey with her bestest friend to see her friend’s mother. This means I have to do other things like cook,  food shop, wash and iron clothes. At this time I realise just how much time these basic tasks take up, and how much I appreciate Mrs Darce.

So, little or no time for blogging.

Here’s a quicky. The Canyon label’s last ever release - #54 – in 1970. I have just bought this and when I put it on the deck earlier today I would bet it was the first time it had ever been played. It looks absolutely mint. Appearances can be deceiving though. On close inspection there are some bubbles and general rubbish in the pressing, a common problem with US vinyl in the early 70s. So, although I am sure it is the first time it has graced a turntable, this 45 does have some play issues – the nasty thwop thwop near the end of the B side for example. Never mind.

These tracks are both from Doris Duke’s revered I’m A Loser album I believe. I was familiar with the B side, but not The Feeling Is Right. I love this. The simple piano motif and the strings make the arrangement just irresistible.  

Note: you might not want to listen to the B side straightaway, it might spoil your Friday night. Deep almost to the point of mournful.  But it is great anyway, so set aside some other time.