Friday, January 22, 2016

A queue at the gates

I've been playing a lot of David Bowie this last week or so. His passing hit me hard. David won't be feeling lonely at the gates, every day seems to bring news of the passing of another name from the musical world.

Drew, over the kitchen table so to speak, alerted me to the death of a great singer – Otis Clay – recently. Otis died of a heart attack, age 73, two days before David Bowie. Otis Clay had a wonderful Soul and Blues voice and had been actively singing right up to his passing. He started his solo career in 1965 on the aptly named One-derful! Label (and I realise I don't have enough of his releases on that label.) Is It Over, featured here, is a tortured ballad of real intensity; produced by a moonlighting Willie Mitchell late in 1970 and release on Cotillion early in 1971. Otis would move to Willie's Hi label soon after and continue to release some top drawer Southern Soul. More recently he was a regular on the Blues and Gospel circuits.

A few days ago another legend of Southern Soul - Clarence Reid – succumbed to liver cancer. Some people may have known him by his alter ego Blowfly. As Blowfly he performed sexually explicit material in the 70s and 80s. I have never really explored that side of his career, knowing him better as a producer and writer for many Florida based acts, such as Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae and KC & The Sunshine Band. He also released some material under his own name in the early 70s too.

It's going to be quite a party up there this month. Rest In Peace guys.

(*co written and produced by Clarence Reid)    

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

And the stars look very different today

Thanks for everything David. Ever since I saw you perform Starman on TOTP your music has been spinning around in my head, not always to the fore but always there, a bedrock. A part of my life has died. Don't think we will see your like again. I am sort of lost for words, and even if I had the words I wouldn't be able to see through the tears to type them. 


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Back to the future

A belated Happy New Year to you all.

This should be a time for looking forward but I always find myself in a contemplative mood and looking back, thinking about the passage of time. It probably has something to do with my birthday being on New Year's Eve.

In recent days I've been digging deep into my collection and have pulled out a few albums I haven't played enough down the years. When you have 1000+ albums an equally large number of singles I suppose that statement will actually apply to most of my records!

I thought I had featured The Bar-Kays 1972 album Do You See What I See? before here, but a quick trawl through my old posts seems to say not. If in fact it has featured and I have bent your ear with the following musings before, I apologise.

In line with my contemplative mood there are a few things worth saying about this album. In my teens a friend of mine had a copy of this album. Those were the days when department stores used to have racks of cut outs, and I think that is where he probably found his copy. He was very artistic and it was the cover that probably attracted him to it. Of course we only had pocket money, or a Saturday shelf stacking job (in my case) to provide meagre funds for record buying then, so we couldn't afford to buy much, especially blind. I shudder to think what we passed on in those racks back in the day. Anyway I remember listening to this album at his parent's house a few times and it stuck in the memory.

Fast forward to 2004. That was when I joined the ebay hoards and I thought it was time I started acquiring some of the albums I had loved down the years but never owned. This Bar-Kays album was one of the first records, if not the first, I ever purchased on ebay. When I bought it I probably played it maybe three times at most and so for the last 10 years at least(!) it has been filed away in the collection unplayed – until today. Even so, ever since I first heard it at my friend's house back in the Seventies, it has been one of those records that has been with me in my mind, every now and then popping into my thoughts, or jumping onto my mental jukebox. It's funny how just certain records can do that, specific memories give some a helping hand I suppose.

And now here we are in 2016. I understand the vinyl revival continues apace. Apparently the biggest selling home audio product on Amazon this Christmas was a $50 all in one turntable. Most of these have been bought by, presumably young, people new to the wonders of vinyl I would guess. So a whole new generation will be buying their first records. The format kind of demands the music contained is listened to at home, and in the case of albums, straight through. No listening on the move through headphones, no constant skipping and shuffling the virtual collection. Maybe such behaviour will cause a few more records to be lodged in peoples' memory for the long term, just as this Bar-Kays album has in mine.

Do You See What I See? has great packaging – incidentally probably one reason why people are flooding back to vinyl – a gatefold sleeve of thick card, matt finished, with striking artwork. The artwork documents many of the big themes and questions haunting America in the early Seventies and hints at the tone of social consciousness that courses through many of the tracks on the album, although there are some killer ballads, in the simpler vein of love, on the album too. Here are two tracks to give you an idea.