Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's late

As I post this 2007 has less than two days left. Using a clock as an analogy and doing a quick bit of maths that makes it just about five minutes to midnight. Why not climb into one of those idealised Christmas card scenes that you probably have on your mantelpiece now. It’s dark outside and the snow is falling. It’s cosy inside, the light is down low and the candles are flickering. Throw another log on the fire, pour yourself your favourite late night drink, settle down in the fireside chair, and close your eyes.

Keely Smith - Time After Time 1965
Keely Smith - He Needs Me 1965
Keely Smith – Blame It On My Youth 1965

The vinyl has a few crackles, which in fact you can easily imagine are coming from that open fire you are curled up in front of.

(The BBC Ella Fitzgerald documentary on Christmas Eve made me wonder why I have virtually none of Ella’s records in my collection and prompted me to go and buy some more yesterday. While I was at it I also bought “The Intimate Keely Smith”. Ella singing ballads does it for me, and this album recorded in 1965 by Keely Smith is every bit as captivating. Keely wanted to recreate the intimate feel of her late night club dates, to the extent of recording these songs without breaks. The record company didn’t like the idea so Keely and the group had to go back into the studio and give the record company cuts between the songs. This album has never been released on CD. If the masters are still around perhaps it is high time it was, and in its originally intended form.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sunshine and Season's Greetings

By my reckoning for those of us living in the northern latitudes today is the shortest day of the year.

Daylight is at a premium at this time of year, the days are often grey, we go to work before it’s light and it’s dark well before it’s time to swipe the clock.

Let’s have some sunshine. Here, in the shape of a 45 by The Jimmy Castor Bunch is 3 minutes 15 seconds of pure sunshine to cheer us up.

“Everything Is Beautiful To Me" featured on the 1976 album “E-Man Groovin’”. Out of print and not available on CD as far as I can tell but you can currently find it at Lost-In-Tyme.

As we career headlong into another year of seasonal festivities I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas – have a good one.

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – Everything Is Beautiful To Me 1976

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Early symptoms?

I buy records. Those black things. Vinyl (and styrene sometimes). You knew that. Not particularly unusual, and vinyl as a music medium is refusing to die, even making a bit of a comeback. Nevertheless, in this day and age my affection for vinyl puts me in the minority. Those of my children’s generation, and indeed many of my contemporaries, may mark me down as being a bit weird. “Ah, so you are a record collector”, they will say, checking to see if I’m carrying an anorak. I will reply, “Well, no not really”.

A record collector in my eyes is someone who splashes serious cash to satisfy their vinyl habit. The sort that remorselessly hunts down the first press. The sort that has to have that single by that obscure Garage band that was released on pink vinyl but then hastily withdrawn at the last minute because the band realised how naff it looked so there are perhaps only two in existence. The sort that develop a fixation on a particular artist and have to own everything they have ever had anything to do with, good or bad.

I have never thought of myself as a record collector. I just buy what I like. I have a fairly scatter gun and impulsive approach, and I’m not close to needing to re-mortgage the house to fund my habit.

On the other hand I do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time nowadays trawling the web and ebay for records. Also I now find it impossible to walk past a charity shop – I have to go in and have a quick rifle through whatever records they may have lying around, mostly Mantovani of course, but you never know. I don’t actually buy much, but, if nothing else, my fondness for digging is showing signs of developing into an addiction.

Then last Friday I took what could be possibly construed as the first step towards becoming a bona fide record collector. I bought a record that I already possess a copy of. This was not an accident (as in not along the lines of buy it, get it home, then find I already have it, doh!). Neither was this a record bought to replace a scratched and beat up copy. This was a conscious act of buying a record that I like and already have a copy of simply because it was on a different label. Is this the start of the slippery slope to full blown vinyl addiction? My wife thinks I’m already there. But this record only cost a £1 – that’s less than a latte to go, or half a pint of Marston’s Pedigree – so I don’t think I will be checking into Vinyl Junkies Anonymous yet. But, I wonder, am I just trying to gloss over the awful truth?

Here’s both sides of the said recording – Ted Taylor 1972 release “I Want To Be A Part Of You Girl” and “Going In The Hole”, a great double header. The Ronn label always says 60s to me. It started life in 1966 and unlike many record labels I don’t think it had a single design change in it’s existence, and by the 70s to my mind it had a sort of charming old fashioned look to it. Anyway by the time Ronn reached 65 it was 1972. In true anorak style the A side mp3 has been taken from my copy of the original US Ronn release and the B side from my newly acquired UK Contempo copy.

I’m constantly surprised by the great, and frankly relatively obscure, soul recordings that turn out to have secured a UK release. These singles must have sold in tiny numbers on release, and in many cases now seem to be more difficult to come by than their original US release counterparts. Contempo was fully focussed on soul and funk, and latterly followed the trend into disco territory. It was John Abbey’s first foray into the record business. Abbey had started out in the UK with black music orientated magazine publishing in 1966 with a title what would eventually become Blues & Soul. The Contempo label was launched in around 1970 I think. Subsequently Abbey and his then partner Nina Easton moved to Atlanta, Georgia and founded Ichiban Records in 1985.

After writing this I realised that Red Kelly also posted “Going In The Hole” over at the B side back in October 2006. I must have missed that one. Red’s post on Ted Taylor is an education and excellent, as his posts always are. I point you at that post for more on Ted Taylor.

Ted Taylor was prolific on the 45s front. His complete Jewel and Ronn singles releases on CD can be found here.

Ted Taylor – I Want To Be A Part Of You Girl 1972
Ted Taylor – Going In The Hole 1972

A namesake of Ted's and another example of a great soul record that amazingly got a UK release can be found by following my latest re-up link (right).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Surprise package

It’s going to be short post this time. Leisure time around the turntable and computer has been minimal in recent days. Last week when I was on the computer it was mostly about Christmas shopping. Then last (long) weekend I was out of town. My wife and two close friends sprung a surprise weekend away on me as an early birthday present (I am rapidly approaching a significant number of years on this planet – a number that ends in zero, I will say no more). We all had a great time in Sidmouth, a place I had never visited before. I can recommend it. Its Regency buildings are beautiful, and remarkably intact. There isn’t a hint of tackiness, and not a fast food outlet in sight. It’s very civilised, very English, and a joy. All in all a bit of a throwback. We enjoyed some exhilarating coastal walks in what could only be described as “lively” weather - the sight and sound of a wild sea throwing its breakers onto the shore is something special. In the evenings we struck lucky with two great local pub bands. Marry that with plenty of good food, copious amounts of alcohol, and good company and what more could you ask for?

In keeping with my surprise mini break the musical selection today is a surprise. Everything I post here is a surprise to you I guess, but believe me this was a surprise to me too. I randomly grabbed four singles out of one of my boxes gave them a spin and went with the one which just had to be played again. Benny Latimore released a string of strong singles on Henry Stone’s Dade label in the late sixties. He would drop the Benny and record some bigger selling records as just plain Latimore on Glades in the seventies. “Let’s Straighten It Out” and “Something ‘bout Cha” were two essential Glades releases in my book, as were just about all of his earlier Dade outings. Here’s one of them.

Benny Latimore – Let’s Move And Groove Together 1968(?)

Update 13/01/08:
Latimore is still going strong of course and has just won the Blues Critic 2007 Reader's Poll Southern Soul Blues Song Of The Year. You can read the full story here, and you can hear it here. While you're at it you could also visit Henry Stone's Music Store where you can find plenty of music from Henry's back catalogue and new stuff too.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hi style

From my days of trawling record lists, long ago in the seventies, I was vaguely aware of Quiet Elegance. I had never heard any of their records but from their name I had them pigeon-holed as just another sweet soul male group. Being on the Hi label I should have known better – at least to the musical style, if not the gender of the group members. Anyway, as I didn’t have a particularly sweet tooth back then, and, probably more to the point, I had no way of checking the merchandise (i.e listening to the records) and couldn’t afford to buy records blind, I passed over Quiet Elegance.

Fast forward to a few months ago - I was looking to spread the postage cost on another ebay purchase from the US so looked to see what else the seller had listed. Until I win the lottery (which is unlikely as I don’t buy a ticket) I still struggle to justify buying records blind (unless they are going for peanuts – which nowadays they almost invariably aren’t, even in charity shops it seems). But with the wonders of the Internet and sites like Soul Juxebox, Manship, and the various e-tailers there is usually a way of listening to at least a snippet of many records now. Think of them as a kind of virtual portable turntable, there to support you in the virtual digging world. So it was that I heard my first ever snippet of Quiet Elegance and realised three things: 1. Their brand of soul although undoubtedly sweet was not sweet soul (you know what I mean). 2. They were a female group. 3. The record in question - “Do You Love Me” – was yet another nugget of pure gold - Hi style – and therefore a perfect addition to the cardboard mailer.

The Internet has also allowed me to find out more about Quiet Elegance. Considering their output was fairly limited (eight singles at Hi in a five year period) Allmusic has quite a detailed write up. Also their lead vocalist Yvonne “Frankie” Gearing, and the group’s previous incarnation in the sixties as The Glories, is covered at Soul Cellar.

"Do You Love Me" was their first single on Hi released in 1972. It appeared again (I am assuming it is the same song) as the B side to "Have You Been Making Out OK" in 1975. Enjoy!

Quiet Elegance – Do You Love Me 1975

Buy The Complete Quiet Elegance