Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mints for you

Very recently I've found quite a few records on line at the right price. Records are like buses sometimes. A couple days ago, amongst some Christmas cards, three little packages were sat there all together on the doormat, freshly delivered by the postie (who was no doubt wearing shorts, as they always seem to do). Just in time for Christmas - perfect timing.

Here they all are scattered on the table after receiving their first couple of plays. And what is that you see amongst them? Yes, it's another Capsoul 45.

Long term visitors here will know I am not big on Christmas records. I just don't possess many, especially in the genres I feature here. But I thought this record maybe vaguely appropriate as we move into the festive holiday. I dare say after you have tucked into your mountainous Christmas dinner tomorrow you may soon be dipping into the bowls of chocolates that have appeared around the house and that you have somehow convinced yourself you have room for. After dinner mints always go down well, so here are some Mints for you – four to be precise.

Season's Greetings to you all. Enjoy your holidays - try not to eat too much!

Friday, December 22, 2017

All Dud but no duds

Here's Dud dressed for the season. Although this album was recorded in Australia, where I doubt he would have needed the coat.

Looking back at this year's forays into the fields of England it was once again disappointing and represented a worrying continued trend of diminishing returns from the car boots. There were a few highlights though, and this album is one of them.

Dudley Moore – actor, comedian, musician,composer as his wiki entry states. Oh to be so talented. Depending on your age I guess you might know him best as an actor, most notably in Hollywood blockbusters 10 and Arthur, or alternatively you would know him primarily from his earlier role as a comedian, initially in Beyond the Fringe and then as one half of the achingly funny comedy duo Pete & Dud. That partnership was forged on his BBC TV shows that aired in the mid to late 60s - Not Only... But Also. A phrase that neatly leads into the other strings to his bow: jazz pianist and composer. Wikipedia tells us he had played harpsichord and organ (and violin) from an early age and fell in love with jazz during his university years, playing with John Dankworth in the late 50s. Through most of the 60s and into the 70s he played jazz piano and was leader of an excellent jazz trio, and in that guise was vastly underrated in my opinion.

The album that this track comes from – Today – was recorded in 1971 and released in 1972. I picked up this copy at a car boot back in May. Today, giving it only its second or third spin, it hit me as to what a great album it is. In truth I could have featured any track from it, there is nothing that is just ordinary, and it certainly presents a paradox – it is all Dud, but there are no duds.

Friday, December 15, 2017

That Capsoul feeling

If somebody asked me to name my favourite record label I would not give an instant response.  That would not be possible for such a serious and difficult question. It's a question akin to "what 10 records would you take to a desert island?" after all, almost impossible to answer. But if I were forced to give an answer, after some inevitable pondering, I might just say: Capsoul.

Ten years ago (nearly eleven now) I featured in two successive posts the two Capsoul singles I owned at the time, and mentioned then that the label, for some unknown reason, held some special mystique for me.

The mystique started in 1976 from the moment I bought, blind off a mailing list, Kool Blues' I'm Going To Keep On Loving You. It immediately meant something special to me that I could not, and still cannot, fully explain. It took me 28 years before I bought my second Capsoul single - Johnson Hawkins, Tatum & Durr's You Can't Blame Me - at a record fair in Atlanta. At that point Numero had not released their excellent compilation of the Capsoul label's output so the mystique was still intact. Numero's great work has since immortalised the label so now I know it's background and more about it's artists. But despite this, somehow, the mystique still endures for me. This was brought home when, a few weeks ago, I opened a package that had arrived in the mail and pulled out, finally, another Capsoul single that can keep my other two company. Just handling it brought on a little frisson of excitement. Why? I still cannot fully explain it. The label is colourful and individual, but so are so many others. Perhaps it is something to do with what's in the grooves – a group soul sound that seems to be just that little bit different, a production that does have a sort of home made feel to it.

There is also the fact that these records don't seem to be quite of their time. All three singles I own were released in the early 70s but they seem to hark back to earlier times. Perhaps that gets closest to the reason I have this special feeling for the label. When I bought the Kool Blues single in 1976 that was only four short years after its release in 1972, that was the same year as, for example, David Bowie's Starman and Al Green's I'm Still in Love With You - two artists that had shaped my listening habits back then - but it sounded worlds apart. I could attempt to develop and expand on my thinking here, but I think it is better to just let the mystique remain.

Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr – that certainly is a mouthful. Discogs is, I assume, consistent with Numero when they state in their profile on the group: After scoring an successful audition with Capsoul’s Bill Moss, the Revelations which comprised of Vigil Johnson, Al Dawson, Willie Tatum, and Norris Durr found themselves cutting their first side for the label in 1971. Moss changed the group’s name to comprise all of their last names; then he finally mistakenly changed their name to Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, and Durr for the labels on the 45” That was a bum rap for Al Dawson!

My Capsoul fixation is full blaze again now. I'm hunting down a copy of a Four Mint's single as I write this. And how I would love to own a copy of Kool Blues' Can We Try Love Again. I would have to spend big money to do so, I might just treat myself one day!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Touching me

By the time JJ Barnes landed at Perception in 1973 he already had about twenty 45s to his name, on 11 different labels (including some iconic Soul labels - Groovesville, Ric Tic, and Revilot) stretching back as far as 1960. He had been at Motown, never managing a release in his own name, but was used as a writer. His biggest hit was Baby Please Come Back Home which reached 61 in the US Top 100 in '67. Soon after this Perception release he was encouraged to move to the UK by his friend Edwin Starr. He signed with John Abbey's Contempo label. A meal ticket on the Northern scene was probably the attraction and he would be appreciated more there than in his homeland.

Two strong sides here, The A side - You Are Just A Living Doll -  was the initial reason for buying this but I find I really like the B side too. It wraps you up all warm and cosy on a cold Winter's night.

This 45 landed on my mat last week on the 30th November, which I see was, coincidentally, James Jay's 74th birthday.

J J Barnes – Touching You 1973        

Friday, December 01, 2017

Just a few doors

It's the 1st of December (another year nearly over!). In years gone by, as recently as two years ago in fact, this day triggered a track a day in the run up to Christmas here as we went on a Feel It Advent-ure. A post a day! I'm doing well to give you a post a month lately. How times have changed. Blogging is a habit I've been falling out of recently. I don't know why really. I've got the time, but evidently I haven't had the inclination.

I am not planning on a full blown Advent-ure this year but December 1st at least warrants a post, for old times sake at least. This record arrived in the post today, along with three others also worthy of sharing so the plan is to to do just that over the next days, and a few more as well with any luck.

I've been obsessing over the Magic Tones recently. Just listen to the voices – and the strings! - on Great Day. Very evocative of it's time I think

The Magic Tones would metamorphose into The Undisputed Truth later in the 70s.

For everyone tying the knot tomorrow.

B side is great too.

Friday, November 03, 2017

A big tick

Back in my teens... as I sit here now, gingerly, because my back is twinging (again) those days seem a very long time ago... Anyway, as I was about to say, back in my teens I developed a long record wants list. The list was long because I was young and had discovered this giant musical sweet shop but pocket money, and then pin money earned shelf stacking at the local Co-op, didn't stretch nearly far enough to fund all the great music I was hearing. Take yourself back to your teens and I'm sure you were similar. I don't remember ever writing my list down, I just carried it around in my head. Forty or so years on there is of course a danger that the memory plays more than a few tricks, but I am reasonably sure that a certain Dr John album was on my wants list and I'm happy to say that, although it's taken a long time, I can finally cross it off the list. A local charity shop came up trumps recently. I had never seen a Dr John album in such surroundings before, they had three. To be fair it is not exactly your typical charity shop. They have an upstairs “inner sanctum” where they keep some records they deem to be more desirable. It is a mini record shop really, reflected in the prices. Nevertheless, I was happy to pay the asking price for this album.

Was it worth the wait? You bet. If I tell you that besides singing in his inimitable style and playing guitar and piano the good Doctor also plays muted fingernettes and zigola(!) you know it's on its way to being a winner. Now mix in The Meters and Allen Toussaint playing the most elegant* funk you could wish to hear and bingo! The whole album is an irresistible gumbo of New Orleans goodness. (*Maybe read slinkilicious – believe me, funk can be elegant without losing any of its power).

Can the album be summed up in just two words? Well, a track on the album has a good stab – Mos' Scocious – but the album title says it perfectly: Desitively Bonnaroo!

Friday, October 13, 2017

In out, in out.....

I was planning to write this post last weekend but then the weather intervened. It was a glorious day last Sunday - sunshine and an almost complete lack of wind lent the day a wonderfully serenity. Just had to get outside and enjoy it. We’ve had plenty of calm days so far this month and I seem to remember a similar pattern last year. September has always been my favourite month, but it seems October maybe becoming the new September.

I’ve written about the certain serenity that September brings before, and I think then I featured Johnnie Taylor’s song It’s September. What’s that in the picture? It’s a Johnnie Taylor album. But what is it doing next to a Ruby Turner album?

Fifteen years apart in release date but they do have some things in common: (the trivial) both are still partially in their shrink sporting dollar denominated price stickers - I keep albums in their shrink long after I should just accept the shrink is too torn and should just be ditched. The thing is I see the shrink as an integral part of the album’s history so it is very difficult to part with it - ; both albums have been buried deep in the collection without seeing the light of day for a fair few years; (the not so trivial) both feature singers I hold in very high regard.

The two albums are featured here, however, because they are a perfect representation of where I am with my record collection right now. I have once again reached maximum capacity and I’m in purge mode. This time I’m trying to be a bit more ruthless with my purging. As I said both these singers have great voices and I love them dearly but even so they have been tentatively put in the out pile. I say tentatively because I admit to being very anal over this and so ‘ruthless’ still entails a process. Even though these albums have sat in my collection for a fair few years without a play (let’s face it some of the records I am pulling out I may never have played before!), and realistically they are not likely to get a play anytime soon – ever? – I cannot bring myself to put them straight into the outbox. So the process is I play them once, or just needle drop, to see if there are tracks that grab my attention. If there are enough strong tracks I then proclaim the album to be a hidden gem, and keep it (patting myself on the back for being so discerning in picking up the album in the first place). If there is nothing of note then easy – into the outbox it goes. If there are one or two tracks of note I record them in wav format with a view to putting them on a mix CD and then outbox them. That’s the theory. Of course it does make purging a slow process. But actually for the most part not a painful one. It makes me listen to albums I’ve picked up (for pennies mostly) but possibly never given a proper chance, I find some new gems, I manage to distil down some worthwhile tracks, and then one way or another I feel I’ve had my money’s worth.

Of course there are grey areas.

Johnnie Taylor’s album for example I found to contain as many as four decent tracks when I put it through the “process” the other day. To be honest I was surprised. Johnnie Taylor is one of my very favourite male singers, but this album was recorded in 1976 by which time Disco and slick production was sweeping good honest soul music aside. (There are so many JT songs to enjoy from his 60s-70s Stax period). There was also the problem of record companies increasingly calling the tune resulting in more frequent releases, without necessarily having the quality songs to fill them. Consequently my expectation wasn't high, but there are more decent songs on this album than I was expecting, and Johnnie’s voice wins me over time and time again. But in the end Eargasm is a patchy album. For that reason I doubt I would ever play it all the way through so it is going in the outbox.... Ha! Except as I wrote this I gave it another listen and Johnnie's voice is so beguiling he's won the day and now I'm keeping it!

Ruby Turner is now close to National Treasure status after her years with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. She has been involved in the music business for many years, a fact that I'm so glad to see was recognised last year when she was awarded an MBE for services to music. She has a fantastic voice. The Other Side was an album released in 1991 and production wise is very much of its time. A Soul to Soul / Mantronix vibe permeates many of the tracks This and its generally commercial production values I think restricts Ruby's ability to fully showcase her magnificent pipes. This album was targeted very much at the US audience I believe to follow up on three top 30 US R&B single hits she had in 1990. The album did nothing though. Ultimately it is much of a muchness I think, but it is fairly even throughout. Again I'm going to keep it, because in the end there are hidden forces at play – sentiment. I believe it is the first album I ever bought on foreign soil, 13 years ago now I picked it up in the US, which just happened to be 13 years after its release. I picked out the track below to share, then, as I was writing this, I suddenly had this little memory nudge that perhaps I had written about Ruby before. Sure enough back in 2009 I did, my comments on the album were very similar, and I shared the same track then! At least I'm consistent (or should that be boring!).

So, in light of the above, is my process actually resulting in any purges?, I hear you ask. Yes, the outbox is a fair size and it's full. Now a second box is lined up waiting.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Spinning again

Three months away from this little indulgence is long enough. Let's straighten it out and get posting again.

Summer's over, the great outdoors doesn't beckon so much, and the nights are drawing in. There must be time for some blog meanderings again surely?

Surprise finds in the charity shops and car boots often spark a post here, and one reason for the lack of posts has been the lack of finds this year. For want of sounding like a broken record my hunt for vinyl in the wild has once again taken a turn for the worse. This year's trawling has been worse than last year, which in turn was worse than the year before. Vinyl may be back but it's gone AWOL in the fields of England, at least in my experience.       

Gwen McCrae's 1978 album Let's Straighten It Out was one welcome find a couple of months ago. It's not the strongest album I've heard, but has a number of redeeming features. There is Gwen's voice of course, and a great picture of her on the front cover - foxy lady! The Cat label in the middle of an album is a nice thing to see too. I've always loved Latimore's version of this song (the original?) and Gwen's take on it here is gorgeous.

Gwen McCrae - Let's Straighten It Out  1978   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beach ready

We're off to Portugal for a week in less then 24 hours. So I'll have to be brief.

The car boots have been almost completely devoid of vinyl so far this year. Each year the pickings get slimmer. The charity shops proved a bit better earlier in the year but they haven't produced much lately either. Something good to come out of this state of affairs is it has allowed me to concentrate on actually playing more of the records I have accumulated over recent times (instead of times I could easily have said years!). A novel approach eh? Sitting down and listening to records rather than just simply piling them up in a corner. Many albums I buy out of curiosity and in the full expectation of maybe only finding one track of real worth. So it is I have been playing quite a few of my recent acquisitions properly for the first time, picking out the cherries and recording them for further listening on, say, a beach.

One of the albums I played on Sunday was a Timi Yuro compilation (75p from a Sally Army charity shop if memory serves). About six tracks made it into wav/mp3 format. One of those tracks is a storming version of Fever. I had not heard it before but I know I will be hearing it a lot more from now on. 

Friday, June 23, 2017


I've said it before and I'm saying it again, the allure of a piece of plastic seven inches in diameter otherwise known as a single, a 45, or simply “ a little one” goes far beyond just what's in the grooves. The sleeve, be it picture or sporting a record company design, the label, and the dead wax, all have their attractions and the little details they hold can cause me to happily lose endless hours diving down some research rabbit hole.

Focussing on the label for now, just some of the information it will offer in addition to the artist and title, usually, are composer, arranger, and producer credits. I am a digger so I happily trawl, physically and virtually, through lots and lots of records that are unknown to me and I have learnt to pay close attention to the credits beyond the artist because they can hold clues. The artist maybe unknown, so now is it Soul, or Country, or Psych? The label name itself can help but not always, but a look at the detail credits can often pinpoint a genre. I've been a Soul nut for a fair few years now so I'm pretty good at spotting a Soul record, but will it be any good? I've learnt that certain names are almost a guarantee of quality.

There are many such names that will spark my interest, here are just five by way of example: Dees, Terry, Wansel, Armstead, Warren.
Familiar to Soul buffs I'm sure, here is just a line or two on each of them anyway.

Sam Dees writes, sings and produces. He has written so many great soul songs and released one of the greatest Soul albums – The Show Must Go On.

Mike Terry was initially a session bari' sax player at Motown, he has featured on so many of Soul's well known records; he then went on to become a prolific arranger in Detroit, Chicago, Philly, New York and elsewhere.

Dexter Wansel is a keyboardist and producer/arranger responsible for so many sublime Philly records throughout the 70s.

Joshie” Jo Armstead is a singer but is more well known as a songwriter. She also worked with Ashford & Simpson (ah, two more names on the “hallmark” list).

Dale Warren was an accomplished conservatory-trained violinist who became an arranger initially at Motown and later with Stax.

So to today's 45. I am familiar with Back Beat and Little Carl Carlton so there is no doubting there will be Soul in the grooves. But let's take a closer inspection on those credits – not one, but two names make an appearance from my list – producer Mike Terry, songwriter J. Armstead. This record is most definitely hallmarked!

There, see?!

PS: The latest hiatus here was partially caused by the collapse in faith in my stylus. It wasn't that old but everything I was playing no longer sounded right. So I just stopped playing things, and so the mojo disappeared again, and writer's block followed (something other bloggers around this neck of the 'net also seemed to be suffering from lately). New stylus arrived in the post a few days ago and is now duly installed. So, let's see.

PPS: Rustiness caused me to put the wrong link up (thanks for pointing it out John). Link corrected above and as a bonus here is the B side correctly named: 

Little Carl Carlton - Drop By My Place  1970

Friday, May 19, 2017

The boxes keep delivering

Yes, I went to the “little” fair again last weekend and, yes, I found some more records worth bringing home.

Most of the records I picked up this time I have probably flicked through many times before, there is no new stock in evidence, but each time I go I collect a stack that catch my attention and listen to them on the portable and I'm gradually working through them all that way. The prices get cheaper every time too as the one particular dealer whose boxes I frequent must be winding down his stock with a view to retirement in the not too distant future.

There was another dealer with a Soul box there as well this time. So, after this latest visit, my mind's made up to a next time for this little fair. But that next time will probably be next year as I will be on holiday the next time it's in town and they don't think there will be a pre Christmas one this year.

The pick of the bunch this time round is by The Vareeations, released on the Dionn label in 1968. I can find no info on The Vareeations beyond the fact they had two singles released on Dionn. Was their group name a mis-spelling? Or maybe the lead singer's name is Varee? I believe that is a name, the Ohio Players certainly wrote a song that referenced  a Varee - Varee Is Love that can be found on their album Pain

Dionn was part of the Jamie/Guyden group of labels and hailed from Philly. “Tom” Bell, in what must be an early example, is credited as arranger on Foolish One which was the plug side on this DJ copy. I love the “This Side Hot” (“Thanks – A. Lott”) sticker on the label, and the fact it has survived for almost 50 years now. What is interesting is that on 45cat and Discogs the scans of DJ copies show the other side - It's The Loving Season - with the PLUG designation. So was my copy a mistake? It's possible the record company plugged both sides at the same time, maybe to different radio stations, or different cities. So which could be considered to be the A side on the issue copy? I guess we will never know, although the matrix identifier might suggest Foolish One which is certainly a play on repeat side for me at the moment.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Maybe tomorrow

I sometimes feature records hear that I have picked up at a little local record fair that hits town about four times a year. That fair is in town again tomorrow. Each time I have been in the last year or so I have wondered whether it would be my last visit. It's mainly R&R and the few dealers with Soul boxes have dwindled to basically just one on my last visit. And that dealer is not getting any new stock in; he's not getting any younger and has stopped his visits to the States as much as anything because of the dive in the exchange rate. At the last visit he was telling me how he used to hit the big fairs and warehouses and ship hundreds, thousands of 45s back at "book rate" which was dirt cheap then. Granted this is going back a good few years now. Alas, now I finally have the inclination to do the same, those days are long gone I feel.

Anyway, at my last visit to the fair (late last year, that long ago already!) I still managed to pick up a handful of 45s I was pleased with. I thought I would dig them out and give them another spin to encourage me to go to the fair again tomorrow for yet another "one last time".

I will share of couple of them with you now.

This Sheila Ellis 45 on SAN is pretty obscure. I really love the B side If This Is Love. Described as Swamp Pop on Discogs it is certainly swampy, and I think it has a fair dash of soul too.

Sheila Ellis - If This Is Love  1963 

The Radiants were another great male vocal harmony group form the Sixties that were equally at home with dancers and the slower numbers. This one is another B side.         

The Radiants - Tomorrow   1965   

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fridays on my mind

I am surrounded by people I know who are either recently retired, talking about retiring, or reducing their working hours. It's my age – and theirs - of course. So, for a few months now, this topic has been in the forefront of my mind, and it had made me a bit restless. Retire as soon as you can and enjoy life while you are still able is something I often hear – but what would I do to fill the time? I feel like I need at least some sort of plan - don't worry about that, just do it and you will soon find things to fill your days. Hmmm. I don't feel ready to retire just yet, but at the same time working five days a week holds no attraction anymore (and we are in the fortunate position that I don't really need to work full time from a monetary perspective). So I made the decision recently to reduce my working hours, something my employers were amenable to. Today, therefore, was my last working Friday. Four days (also slightly shorter) working and three days play seems a good work-life balance for the time being. That gives me a bit more space to think about what shape retirement should actually take. I guess I'm on retirement's nursery slopes.

The car boots have shown some promise this year in the early weeks of the season proper. Let's hope this continues after a fairly dismal 2015 and 2016. I was chuffed to pick up a copy of Kool & The Gang's Wild And Peaceful album for 50p last weekend. Kool & The Gang, at least in their early Seventies incarnation, have always been a favourite band of mine but I had never owned this particular album before. Singles such as Funky Stuff – which is on this album – and Jungle Boogie* were some of my earliest clubbing memories, and on the back of such singles they became known a s a funk band. But they were always so much more than that, and there was always a large dash of jazz to be found in the grooves of their albums of the time, as you will here on the title track.

[* EDIT: I must be going blind in my old age; Funky Stuff and Jungle Boogie are both on this album, as is Hollywood Swinging. I was probably as guilty as the rest of us at the time for thinking these would be the highlights of the album and the other tracks would probably be just funk heavy soundalike tracks.] 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

And then there were none

We had to have our one remaining cat – Jazz – put to sleep last weekend.

Our house has been home for 30 years now. This is the first time in all those years we have not shared it with at least one cat.

Not too long ago we had four cats roaming around the place. Two that were ours and two more that had moved in and become ours. Jazz was one of them. As far as I remember the children called her Jazz. She had been known in the area for some time although nobody seemed to know to whom she belonged, and all the children in the area called her Jazz. Of course it could have been Jas, short for Jasmine. But for us, once she became a fixture, it was always Jazz.

Jazz was a lady, a little aloof, never hurried. She never really made a sound. That was until she became the only cat in our house, and in the last couple of years she had become increasingly vocal. An easy purrer, she had also perfected a howl that sounded like a baby crying. She had become almost deaf in her final years we think and would howl if she thought she was on her own and wanted some attention.

During the last few months she had developed a tumour in her left ear which wasn’t very pleasant for her and we decided over the weekend that it was just no fun for her anymore.

When she moved in on us all those years ago we took her to the vet to see if she was chipped (she wasn’t). At the time the vet estimated her to be between 5 and 6 years old; based on that she had reached the ripe old age of 21, so she had a good life.

As we were driving to the vet last weekend Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions was playing on the radio. Not something you usually here on the radio and I can’t remember the last time I had heard it across the airwaves. So it seems appropriate to play it here. We like to think Jazz will be expanding her mind in cat heaven now.

RIP Jazz.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mary, Mary, quite contrary?

As promised, some reggae from my good start to the car boot season. As I picked out these 45s, and a couple of UK releases, from the little stack in a box on the ground the lady they belonged to noticed they were all reggae. “I love reggae”, she said. “So do I”, I replied. The lady was probably in her sixties, well spoken and as English as me. In fact on first impression I might have thought she would be more likely a fan of opera. But then why should I be surprised of her love of reggae? As someone of a certain age she would have probably been in her teens or early twenties when these records were released – the early 70s – and it was a genre of music that was beginning to enjoy its golden age.

Mary (she has her name written on most of the records I bought from her) told me she bought these particular 45s when she was in Jamaica. Apparently her brother was living there at the time and she used to visit for holidays. So, provenance! It is always great to have a back story to the records I pick up, and when I have one I always cherish the records a little bit more. With her name written on the labels I will now always think of Mary and also know these records are not more recent UK pressings but did start life in Jamaica, where Mary probably danced to them all those years ago.

(“Buttercup” like you have probably never heard it pronounced before! Winston was reputedly U Roy's brother-in-law and was toasting before it really came fully into vogue).   

Friday, April 07, 2017

Winter blues dissipate with tales of The Big Bamboo and green spot

Blimey, the writing mojo is back with a vengeance – that must be the longest blog title ever here!

There is one car boot in our area that carries on throughout the winter. I do pay it the occasional visit but for the last two winters it has by and large been a fruitless exercise.

Last Sunday morning though I jumped in the car with slightly heightened enthusiasm as the car boot season proper started last weekend in our neck of the woods with at least one of the summer ones starting up again. I qualified my enthusiasm because generally over the last couple of years trawling the car boots (and charity shops, come to that) has been an increasingly miserable experience, with vinyl of any interest extremely difficult to come across. So the question is will this year continue the trend? And with all this talk of vinyl being back will that spur on people selling their, or their relations’, collections to hike the asking price?

Start times meant I could visit the “winter” one first and then go on to the “summer” one after. The first port of call was predictably disappointing yet again, but not a complete waste of time for a change. For the princely sum of 10p each I picked up five albums in sparkling condition all dating back to the 60s. I guess you could bracket them all as easy listening but I cast my net wide nowadays. I was very pleased with one of them in particular. Called “The Big
Bamboo” it contains 12 charming calypso tinged tracks performed by Roy Shurland and his Orchestra (with Little Sparrow on the Steel Pan) recorded live at the Big Bamboo club in Nassau, Bahamas in 1961. I love coincidences, and finding this record is one of them as our son is off to Nassau next week to start a five week jaunt around the Caribbean, mostly in a boat (it is part and parcel of his PhD course). The record has been duly copied and is now in Dropbox ready for him to pick up and listen to to get him in the mood.

I got a bit carried away chatting to some of the regular vinyl hunters so by the time I got to the next venue I had missed the initial stampede by about 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is often crucial, early birds will hoover up any vinyl worth having in the first few minutes. But as it turned out other serious vinyl hunters seemed not to be around (this possibly was because this particular booter had only just started up again after a year off), and this appeared to be borne out by the fact I managed to amass a small haul of records I am very pleased with all in all. A right old mixed bag too: a handful of jazz albums, three 78s, some reggae 45s (yes, reggae! Very rarely come across any nowadays), and several 45s from a little box that contained quite a strange mix of genres (these were in front of two boxes of dance/techno/house 12 inchers – surely the new landfill. Mantovani and Val Doonican has competition!).

I’ll share a bit of the reggae, and jazz too possibly, in subsequent posts, but today will focus on the small batch of singles I bought that were perfectly representative of the strange mixed box. There was just some really random stuff in this box. By way of example I found some household names (think Lennon, Springsteen, Dylan), a few pic sleeved 45s from the outskirts of punk (TRB, Roogalator), some that just had interesting titles (Housewife's Choice, and Christine/S-E-X, this one sung by Miss X who turns out to be Lionel Blair's sister).... and some kiddie soul. “How much?”, I asked. “50p or £1”, was the reply. There was nothing obvious to determine which of these 45s commanded the dizzy heights of a £1 asking price. I made my selection and handed them over requesting a price.

It turned out two of the singles in my hand commanded the £1 price. And how was this determined? They had a small green spot sticker on the sleeves. Now I'm left puzzled as to why someone would go to such lengths to try and squeeze out an extra 50p on just a few of these records? Of course I'm equally puzzled as to why I decided to put the Dylan one back when I was told that one was a green spotter! I know, I don't like Dylan, but I'm sure I could have still made a small profit on flipping it. I don't like Springsteen either, but I bought that one for the same reason.

Anyway, kiddie soul? Yes, that's what I said. As far as I remember now there were just two big holers (i.e. US singles) in this little box. I always get excited when I find US 45s, and I recognised the labels. Soul! So I bagged them. I knew The Eight Minutes were a kiddie group – following the Jackson Five template, except there were eight of them – but I didn't know until I got home and playd this record and did a bit of research that Leonard 'Lil Man' Kaigler was also a child singer – and he sounds almost uncannily like a young MJ. The 'Lil Man' commanded a green spot. I have no idea why. Neither record is highly prized but The Eight Minutes seems to have a slightly higher price on Discogs.

Here are both. Do you think the green spot was justified? On first hearing I said no, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps the title, which is rather unfortunate, tips the balance. Hang on, now I'm obsessing over green spots, this is stupid!

PS. I only noticed when I copied these that they both have the same release number – 533. What were the chances? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Magical powers

We were searching through one of our kitchen drawers earlier this week looking for spare dollars and euros for our son who will be travelling a bit over the next few months. Alas, no such currency was found although many other interesting things were because it was one of those drawers. You know the type, we all have at least one I'm sure, it's the drawer that just seems to accumulate various random stuff. Stuff that was once useful, but has now fallen into disuse; stuff that maybe might come in useful one day, just maybe; stuff that just had to be stuffed somewhere. In this drawer for example there were out of date passports, a tuning pipe thingy, old sunglasses, lots of coins of various currency (except dollars and euros), an old Xbox connector, an old sellotape dispenser, etc etc.

There was also my old Ipod Shuffle, the first one I had owned (and I apologise for the apparently very grubby appearance of the lanyard!). I reckon it had been put in the drawer five or six years ago after I got a new larger capacity one. I thought it would be interesting to bring it out of retirement and see what was on it. So I charged it and yesterday listened to it while I cycled to and from work.

I was impressed with the music it offered up on my journey to work in the morning. A good mix of mostly Sixties obscure soul (of course), none of which I had probably heard since I had last worn this ipod.

However, I was truly amazed by what this ipod gave me on my pedal home later in the day. As usual I was day dreaming as I cycled home – I switch off from work instantly nowadays. Probably jogged by all this great music I was hearing and the fact that when I had put this particular mix of tracks on this ipod I would no doubt have been actively looking for and buying various similar 45s from the USA back when postage costs and exchange rates would have not been prohibitive, my thoughts had turned to a possible digging trip to the USA - one can dream. I then asked myself what would be a record at the top of my wants list on such a trip. I thought of Ella Brown's two 45s on Adams. Then I thought I want one of them more than the other but I couldn't remember which one. Just as I concluded this thought process a track I had been listening to ended and, after a brief silence, the next track started.
It was Ella Brown singing Right Or Wrong (I Love Him). My old ipod had answered me!!

I kid you not, that was exactly how it happened. Very spooky.

Can I offer up an explanation? Subconsciously maybe the selection of tracks I had heard on this ipod after all these years had triggered a memory which caused me to think of Ella Brown because my momory knew an Ella Brown track was coming sooner or later? Or maybe it was because some of the tracks on this ipod may well have been downloaded from Ana-B's old site The Singing Bones, and it was Ana-B who had outbid me on a copy of this Ella Brown record about six years ago? Who knows? I will just carry on thinking this old ipod has magical powers and answered my question.

You can now find Ella Brown's Right Or Wrong on YouTube.

Ella released four singles. Two on Adams and two on Lanor. The two on Lanor are quite easy to come by and I have both. Here is the B side of one of them.

Ella Brown – Touch Me  1972   

PS: This magical event also seems to have had an effect on my writing mojo, which is showing signs of life again.   

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Changing times

Yesterday turned into a beautiful early Spring day. All the more beautiful because I had the day off work. This is the second week running I have taken a Friday off and made it a long weekend (last weekend that long weekend was taken in a bracing, but thankfully dry, Cornwall). Fridays off are a current experiment with a view to reducing my working hours and making it a fixture. A much better work – life balance and gradual wind down to retirement is my thinking.

Taking advantage of the weather Mrs Darce and I took a sunny stroll to a new favourite local watering hole. There, spurred on by some successful DIYing earlier in the day that entailed putting our fridge freezer back on an even keel (we think a leak of some description had caused a floorboard to rot), conversation turned to the subject of more general house maintenance and room makeovers. By the end of the pub visit we had a plan. Oh dear! DIY and decorating have not been on the agenda for some years.

So it seems changes are afoot.

I guess it is thoughts of approaching retirement (which have been occupying my mind a lot recently), but I have been feeling nostalgic this past week or so, and in particular nostalgic for my 70s disco days.

With changes in the air it made me think of Brass Construction. They were a go to band for me in the mid 70s. The band originally formed in the late 60s, with Randy Muller the 'leader', but in their early years only had only one record release, a 45 in 1970 on Jeff Lane's DOCC label Two Timin' Lady / Take It Easy. It can be found on YouTube (what can't!?) and it is noticeable that their brass sound was immediately fully fledged, and somewhat ahead of its time I think. However, it was another five years before they committed to vinyl again. Their debut album, released in 1975, stood out from the crowd. The brass was prominent, the guitars were insistent, and a novel string sound had been added to the mix. BT Express had featured a similar string sound a year earlier? Yes but that had also been the brainchild of Jeff Lane and Randy Muller. A Wax Poetics article from 2004 is an excellent in depth appreciation of the group and also adds some interesting detail on how the string sound came to be. They go on to feature a number of tracks that feature Randy Muller's involvement. It is interesting to note I hve nearly all of them. 

Kool & The Gang and the Fatback Band had been dancefloor fixtures with their feel good funk vibe for a while but Brass Construction's sound, although anchored in funk, seemed to mark an entry point into a new, more sophisticated, disco sound and also lay down some early markers for the jazz-funk scene.

Pulling out my copy of Brass Construction for the first time in years I was puzzled by the Virgin price sticker on the front cover. I thought I had bought this album on its initial release, but the price sticker suggests it was a few years later. Perhaps until then I had been surviving with the singles that this album spawned, or maybe I lost my original copy and bought a replacement? It's all too hazy now. Scary, I'm sure only a few years ago my memory would have been sharp enough to have had this puzzle nailed.

The whole album sounds really fresh I think after all these years. Every track is a winner.

At risk of blowing my Box download bandwidth again (be sure to tell me when that happens) her is another track. This one was overshadowed by a few of the other tracks at the time but it it's finally got some well deserved love from me now.

Monday, March 13, 2017


This blog is eleven today. Oh dear, I am having trouble with my mojo, I almost missed it!

Only 40 minutes of this auspicious day ( :)  ) left as I type and this is, in truth, the first opportunity I have had to put fingers to keys today. Of course, presented with a similar situation in years past I would have prepared something in advance and scheduled the post. Where is that damn elusive mojo?

It struck me that in those eleven years I have not featured one of my favourite singers nearly enough. So in an attempt to put that right here are two tracks - both B sides - from Johnnie Taylor.

I have been feeling both of these recently.   

Johnnie Taylor - A Fool Like Me  1970

Johnnie Taylor - Hold On This Time  1969

PS: As is customary on this day, the 13th March, birthday greetings go out to Candi Staton.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dori has me hooked

While I think of something more substantial to say I will offer up both sides of this Dori Grayson 45.

I was going post this last Friday following storm Doris as a vaguely topical post, but once again my mojo was/is proving hard to pin down. Vaguely topical simply because Dori – Doris. Yes, tenuous I know, and of course Dori may not be short for Doris at all. (Doris Day would have been the obvious one but didn't seem appropriate here somehow).

Dori's recording career lasted just three 45s  and so was over almost as soon as it had started, rather like storm Doris.

When one hasn't much to say the topic of Dori Grayson is helpful. Why? Because I know almost nothing about her! In fact everything I do know can be found at Deep Soul Heaven as documented by the ever reliable Sir Shambling.

I wasn't aware of Dori Grayson until I stumbled across this 45 on an ebay listing recently. I like the simple production on these songs and find them both insanely catchy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A collective R.I.P.

Feeling sad at the moment.

We have kept rabbits for at least 15 years now. Pets for the children initially, but always family pets in reality; and it is we, not our children who have elected to keep having a couple of rabbits around. Until this week. We have always put them out in a run on the back lawn during the day. On Wednesday Mrs Darce arrived home and found an empty run. At first, it wasn't clear what had happened, we wondered if a person might have taken them. There was evidence something had lifted the wire at one end but the hole there didn't seem big enough to be relevant. But Whisper and Hector were nowhere to be seen. We looked around but found nothing. Later that night I was restless and went out with the torch to have another look around the garden, and it was then I found both of them – buried separately. A fox must have got them (at least we assume it was a fox). It seems foxes will do this, kill and then bury in a cache, possibly to return later. I retrieved them and we gave them a proper burial yesterday. Rabbits do not like to be alone. Whisper was an old lady and after her old partner died last year we got a new mate for her. Hector was only young. Anyway, they are together again now.

It is strange, the rabbits we have kept have never been house rabbits but right now the house seems so empty and quiet . This is the end of an era for us, we have decided there will be no more rabbits.

I learnt this week of the death of two jazz artists – Al Jarreau and Barbara Carroll R.I.P. I originally became aware of them as a result of my love of jazz-funk in the late Seventies . It prompted me to play the albums you see above for the first time in quite a few years, and make me wonder why I've ignored them for so long. The names from our youth continue to fall.

For Whisper and Hector R.I.P.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Something stirs

Hello, I'm still here. Offline for quite a while there.  As well as hello, I suppose I should also wish you belated Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year! 

In case you were wondering, nothing in particular caused the silence, just a number of little things that resulted in me losing my blogging mojo for a while. I think it's coming back now, although not enough yet that I feel moved to unleash any of my extended ramblings on you :)  

But music you shall have, today brought to you by those extra special Moments. 

Sweet, intensely so I think you will agree.

Moments - What's Your Name  1974