martes, 31 de marzo de 2009

Ike & Tina Turner: The Kent Years (1964-1967)

It is difficult to understand why the music Ike & Tina Turner produced together in the 60s has been so completely overlooked for years, being excellent as it is. This compilation tries to make up for some of that by including many of their strongest numbers made for Kent and Modern Records in the period 1964-67, their most prolific and exciting period. In addition to 45s and album tracks that came out at that time, included are five cuts that are seeing the light of day for the first time for a total 26 songs. We can find here their popular upbeat singles outings such as 'I Can't Believe What You Say' (a Top 100 entry), 'Gonna Have Fun', 'Chicken Shack' and 'Flee Flee Fla', together with their flip sides and other important songs from their Kent albums. There are many other quite revealing sounds, too. Listen, for example, to the soulful strings on 'Makin' Plans Together' and the Mayfield-inspired vocals on 'I Don't Need'. It's not all dance music either - for bluesier numbers, there's Ike's guitar behind Tina on 'Give Me Your Love' and on Eddie Boyd's 'Five Long Years'. Virtually all tracks feature the wonderful Ikettes, horns are liberally sprinkled and Ike's distinctive guitar and piano are prominent. He also adds a few vocal moments on the ultra-fast 'Goodbye, So Long', and on ‘Something Came Over Me’, a sort of sequel to their most famous hit, ‘A Fool In Love’, which it references musically throughout just as ‘Hard Times’ harks back to ‘It's Gonna Work Out Fine’. Tina Turner's vocal style at this time was a world away from that with which she dominated the world in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but was aimed at a wholly different audience with whom she was highly successful, and it is excellent news that the confusing clutter of releases from this era are gradually being made sense of and becoming available on compilations such as this one.,
Ike & Tina Turner featuring 'Fool In Love' & 'It's Gonna Work Out Fine' medley on the TNT show, 1965:

lunes, 30 de marzo de 2009

Kiki Dee: Love Makes the World Go Round - The Motown Years (2005)

British singer Kiki Dee remained a music industry secret in the 1960s despite releasing numerous high-quality singles during that decade. She was even offered a contract with Motown in 1969, and it was no surprise that she jumped at the opportunity to record for the prestigious American label. ‘The day will come between Sunday and Monday’ was issued as her first US single, in 1970, and an album, Great expectations, followed. Kiki Dee looks young and innocent on this recording, and her voice is beautiful as she covers some classic Motown here: an up-tempo ‘I Second That Emotion,’ a unique ‘For Once in My Life.’ The late Jimmy Miller said that Dee and Dusty Springfield were good friends. Dee covers Springfield's ‘You Don't Have to Say You Love Me,’ and it is excellent, but what is more intriguing is how much she sounds like Dusty Springfield on the lesser-known ‘Johnny Raven.’ Tackling ‘Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing’ without the duet that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's version enjoyed is commendable, the Motown sound making a transition to showcase a white soul singer works. ‘I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel for You’ is Kiki Dee working within the wonderful confines of Berry Gordy's hit machine, it's just too bad nothing here charted. This is a wonderful album with top-notch production, great vocal work, and a classic '60s sound: Kiki Dee before she found some fame, and often more appealing than what people recognized her for. Many have covered ‘More Today Than Yesterday,’ but few as perfectly as it is captured on this forgotten album. Sadly, its title proved prophetic for Kiki: if she had hoped Motown would make her a household name, she was mistaken. However, the connections she made at the label helped her landing a new contract with Elton John’s fledgling Rocket label in 1973, which eventually proved very fruitful for her. This 18-track compilation includes the whole Great Expectations album, as well as two additional tracks from her time with the label that surfaced on the rare budget Kiki Dee album in the mid-'70s, along with four previously unreleased 1969-1970 outtakes.

Kiki Dee permorming 'You Made Me So Very Happy' on the Benny Hill Show, 1971:

Bettye LaVette: Souvenirs (2000)

Bettye LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that, although LaVette has been recording for over four decades, up to this point she has remained criminally unknown. Despite the wealth of quality recordings that Bettye cut over the years, only six of her forty-fives managed to chart R&B and none of them broke into the pop Top 100. That is something unbelievable for a singer of her stature. Rather than enjoying the sustained success that by right should have been hers, her career has been haunted by what she refers to as “buzzard luck.” In 1972, on her second go round with Atlantic Records, LaVette headed down to Muscle Shoals with the Memphis Horns and producer Brad Shapiro to cut her first full-length album. The recordings were mastered and readied for release under the title Child of the Seventies before the powers-at-be at Atlantic mysteriously pulled the plug, unconscionably shelving the record for nearly thirty years before it was released in 2000 on Art and Soul under the new title Souvenirs. Soul fans the world over were stunned by what was clearly a heretofore unknown masterpiece. The backing is classic Muscle Shoals, in this case rather guitar-based, with additional arrangements, such as strings, applied tastefully. It is a truly classic Southern Soul record made for grownups, with very little filler. ‘It Ain’t Easy,’ ‘Our Own Love Song’, Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me,’ ‘If I Can’t Be Your Woman’ and ‘Souvenirs’ are simply superb and her interpretations of Kenny Rogers' ‘What Condition My Condition Is In’, Neil Young's ‘Heart of Gold’ and Free's ‘The Stealer’ clearly beat the original. Both sides of her first two singles, from 1962, are also included. Obviously, these tracks represent a major shift in mood, but are welcome nonetheless.

Oh, by the way, Bettye is NUMBER 1 on my list…

Bettye's stunning take on The Who classic, 'Love Reign O'er Me' at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey as part of the audience. Watching their expressions during this video is as moving as the performance by Bettye LaVette:

sábado, 28 de marzo de 2009

Yvonne Baker and The Sensations: Let Me In - The Complete Collection (1955-1968)

The Sensations, a quartet from Philadelphia, PA, were one of the first groups of the rock and roll era with an all male background and a female lead. They formed in Philadelphia in 1954, with Yvonne Mills lead, Tommy Wicks tenor, Alphonso Howell bass, and one other forgotten member. In 1955, the unique makeup of the group caught the attention of Atlantic Records and the Sensations began a three year association with Atlantic's Atco subsidiary. They had a couple of R&B chart entries on the label between 1955 and 1956, but that was all. After the three-year Atco contract expired, the group decided to disband as Yvonne became Mrs. Yvonne Baker and started raising a family. In 1961, Howell, feeling that vocal groups were once again in demand, convinced Baker to re-form the Sensations. Tenor Richard Curtain and baritone Sam Armstrong were added and new manager Kae Williams arranged a record deal with Chess Record's Argo subsidiary. The Sensations recorded ‘Music, Music, Music’ which reached #54 Pop and #12 R&B in the summer of 1961. It was their first R&B hit in five years and first Pop hit ever. Later that year, the Sensations came out with ‘Let Me In’, which became their biggest hit reaching #2 Pop and #2 R&B in early 1962. As so often happens after a major hit, the Sensations couldn't record any follow up hits to sustain their momentum. ‘That's My Desire’ made it to #69 in 1962 and there were two more Argo releases along with several on William's own Junior label. But nothing could bring the group back. Yvonne Baker latter attempted a solo career, recording a number of cuts that sustain longstanding cult status among Northern Soul aficionados; I added four of these, ‘I Can’t Change’ and ‘You Didn’t Say a Word’ from 1966 and ‘A Woman Needs A Man’ and ‘My Baby Needs Me’, from 1968, as bonus tracks. As far as I know this is The Sensations’ most comprehensive collection ever released: 32 tracks including all of her Arco, Argo & Junior hits, plus numerous rarities.

viernes, 27 de marzo de 2009

Denise Lasalle: Here I Am Again (1975) ... Plus

The "Queen of Soul Blues" is a title that rightly belongs to this survivor who has been recording for over three decades. Not only does she have a phat, supple blues voice but she's a great songwriter and even a producer. Having moved to Chicago in 1954 to pursue a career as a fiction writer, Denise LaSalle turned to songwriting and, by the late 60s, had begun to record for Billy "The Kid" Emerson's Tarpon label, on which she achieved a sizeable local hit, ‘A Love Reputation’, in 1967. In 1969, she formed Crajon productions with her husband, Bill Jones, and also began working with producer Willie Mitchell in Memphis. After a period writing and producing for other artists, LaSalle returned to recording her own compositions, and one of the first results, ‘Trapped By a Thing Called Love’, released on Westbound in 1971, reached number 1 in the US R&B charts and climbed to the US pop Top 20. After that, other excellent, sometimes uncompromising singles followed, plus three fantastic albums for Westbound released between 1972 and 1975. A stylist in the mould of Laura Lee, Ann Peebles and Millie Jackson, LaSalle continued to enjoy hits during the late-‘70s (for ABC), ‘80s and ‘90s (MCA & Malaco). Denise LaSalle cut this album, her third, ‘Here I Am Again’ in 1975, utilizing Bowlegs Miller's top-notch charts and the backing of the Memphis Horns and Muscle Shoals for some Southern Soul ala Stax and Hi Records. LaSalle displays power and flexibility throughout, whether bouncing atop a cool-breeze groove (‘Stay With Me Awhile’), digging into a bit of shuffle-bump salaciousness (‘I Wanna Do What's on Your Mind’), or hitting the vocal heights on a rootsy ballad (‘Don't Nobody Live Here (By the Name of Fool)’). She also invades Barry White territory on the sultry title track ‘Here I Am Again’. There are also 4 bonus tracks added to the original 1975 release.,

jueves, 26 de marzo de 2009

Sharon Cash: He Lives Within My Soul (1970)

Sharon Cash is best known for replacing Edna Wright in the 1976/77 edition of female soul group Honey Cone. With this new line-up fronted by Cash, they released the single 'Somebody's Always Messing Up a Good Thing', backed by 'The Truth Will Come Out'. But Sharon Cash also recorded a couple of albums as a solo artist in the early-70s. The first one, which I am posting today, was called ‘He Lives Within My Soul’. It was arranged by H.B. Barnum and appeared on Mothers, in 1970. Her rendition of the classic 'Fever', considered by many as one of the best versions ever released of that song, is one of the highlights of the album. This track can also be found on some compilations such as ‘Soul Sides Volume Two: The Covers’, ‘Living in the Streets 2’ and ‘Even Mo' Mod Jazz’. There are also great versions of other soul hits like Sam Cooke’s ‘Change Gonna Come’ and ‘Shake’ and Otis Redding’s ‘Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)’ and ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’. Her second album ‘Sharon Cash’, was released on Playboy, in 1973, and is one of those hot items on my Wishlist! I hope you enjoy this classic soul rarity.
02. Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)
03. Guess Who
04. Fever
06. Nature Boy
07. Shake
08. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
09. Pledging My Love
11. What Am I Living For

miércoles, 25 de marzo de 2009

The Flirtations: Sounds Like the Flirtations (1969) ... plus

Although they never recorded for Motown Records, the Flirtations should have, because they sounded like nothing so much as a more energetic version of the Supremes, and by all rights, this exciting vocal trio should have been continually at the top of the pop charts during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They did have a big hit with 1969's ‘Nothing But a Heartache,’ a record that has had an enduring shelf life and actually might be better known now in the 21st century than it was 40-some years ago. Originally formed in 1962 in Alabama, the three-vocalist line up (Ernestine Pearce, Shirley Pearce, Vie Billups) relocated to the UK in 1968 where they picked up with producer Wayne Bickerton and writer Tony Waddington, and a deal with Decca. They recorded the album Sounds Like the Flirtations in 1969 plus six singles released through the Deram imprint between 1968 and 1971, before leaving for Polydor Records in 1972. This set collects the Deram album and adds in four additional tracks from the same time period to make an ideal introduction to this fun group. Among the gems here are the undeniably classic ‘Nothing But a Heartache,’ the bursting-with-energy ‘Need Your Loving,’ the autobiographical ‘South Carolina’ and the why-wasn't-this-a-hit ‘What's Good About Goodbye My Love,’ but everything here falls into the same groove, with upbeat arrangements, spirited singing and insistent, racing and almost unhinged horn arrangements. I added 8 bonus tracks, consisting on three songs recorded for Josie and Festival between 1966 and 1967, two more on Polydor and RCA in the early ‘70s, plus their late disco hits, the 2008 recording of ‘Run for the Exit’ included. 27 songs in total. It's fun stuff, and fans of Motown and Northern Soul are going to love this. The Flirtations are one of my favorite ‘60s girl groups. ~,

I have three rounds of video clips from this great soul trio for you today. First of all, a rare performance of the Northen Soul classic 'Nothing But a Heartache', filmed in colour at Tintern Abbey at Monmouthshire, South Wales:

Second, a performance of 'Someone Out There' on a Spanish TV Show conducted by Joaquin Prat, who embarrass the girls asking them about their marital status and the name of the boys they have in mind (being one of The Fantastics and Steve Wonder for the Pearce sisters). This was the third time they visited Spain and, after that, probably the last one!:

And last, but not least, a clip of 1972 Polydor single 'Hold on to Me Babe'. It's anyone's guess what the girls are doing in a sawmill, but it's pretty safe to assume that health and safety regulations wouldn't enable this clip to be made these days!:

martes, 24 de marzo de 2009

Ann Peebles: This Is Ann Peebles (1969)

A diminutive singer with a powerful voice and an even stronger attitude, Ann Peebles was one of the artists who defined Willie Mitchell's legendary Memphis soul label Hi Records, along with Al Green and O.V. Wright. Easily the best female singer in the Hi stable, Peebles ranked among the finest deep Southern soul singers of the decade and her recordings, although not always appreciated on the charts as they often merited, hold up among the best of their era. She released her debut single ‘Walk Away’ in 1969, which shot to an impressive number 22 on the Billboard Top 100 R&B singles chart in April. Following a second single, ‘Give Me Some Credit,’ Hi issued Peebles' debut LP, This Is Ann Peebles. Unlike her subsequent albums, Peebles' first release did not contain any of her own original material, but featured great covers of Otis Redding's ‘Respect,’ Aretha Franklin's ‘Chain of Fools,’ and Fontella Bass's ‘Rescue Me,’ It also included the Club Rosewood song ‘Steal Away’ and the "Bowlegs" Miller composition ‘Won't You Try Me.’ I added five bonus tracks to the original release, 'Part Time Love', 'I'll Get Along', 'I Still Love You', 'Generation Gap' and 'I Can't Let You Go', 17 tracks in total. The greatest Peebles' albums were produced later, in a burst of collective creativity between 1972 and 1976, but this 1969 fantastic debut was a perfect first taste of what was to come. Ann Peebles has always been her own person, known as a real "singers' singer" and a "musicians' musician”. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, why she has had such an influence on real soul music since her big time in the early ‘70s. Needless to say, she is one of my favorite soul sisters.,

Ann Peebles Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival with Paul Brown on Keyboards, Malcolm Cullen on Guitar, Curtis Steele on Drums and Randy Middleton on Bass:

lunes, 23 de marzo de 2009

Margie Joseph: Margie Joseph Makes a New Impression/Phase II (1971)

Frequently compared to Aretha Franklin, singer Margie Joseph earned neither the fame nor the critical success lavished upon the Queen of Soul, but a series of excellent records during the ‘70s nevertheless won her a spot in the pantheon of soul cult favorites. In 1969 Joseph signed with the Stax subsidiary Volt, and with New Orleans soul legend Willie Tee assuming production duties, she released the underground favorite ‘One More Chance.’ Producer Freddy Briggs took the helm for Joseph's next effort, ‘Your Sweet Loving’; released in the summer of 1970, the single proved a minor R&B chart hit. The following year, she cracked the R&B Top 40 with a cover of the Supremes' classic ‘Stop! In the Name of Love,’ boosting sales of her fine debut LP, Margie Joseph Makes a New Impression, in the process. This was Joseph's most successful and aesthetically pleasing album. Like some of Stax's product from this era, there's a Stax-meets-Motown air to much of the material. Although it was cut in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, some orchestral and vocal overdubs were done in Detroit, perhaps accounting for some of that Motown feel. ‘Punish Me,’ ‘Sweeter Tomorrow,’ and ‘Temptation's About to Take Your Love’ are prime examples of this. Much the same approach was used on her 1972 follow-up Phase II, right down to another drawn-out Supremes cover (of ‘My World Is Empty Without You’), but the album sold poorly. Both records are agreeably competent, intelligently varied mainstream soul. If one had to choose only one of Margie Joseph's albums & comps, this two-fer would be it; her later sides on Atlantic, and other labels are slicker and not as raw as these great tracks. I added as bonus tracks three of her previous singles, 'One More Chance', 'Your Sweet Loving' and 'What You Gonna Do', which were not originally included on this set.

Loleatta Holloway: The Hotlanta Soul of Loleatta Holloway (1971-1975)

With her full-bodied gospelized vocals, Loleatta Holloway epitomized like no other singer of her day the transition of African-American popular music from soul to disco. Years before becoming the hot club queen with ‘Love Sensation’ and other 12-inch cuts, Loleatta Holloway laid down some of the most fantastic female southern soul of the early ‘70s, an early example of the growing strength of the Hotlanta scene, quite different from Memphis' and Miami's. Her double-sided hit 'Our Love' / 'Mother of Shame' charted in 1973 and were included on her debut album, ‘Loleatta’, which also featured a cover of Syl Johnson’s Memphis groover ‘We Did It’, Sam Dee's typically heartfelt 'So Can I' and the magnificent cheating opus 'Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool'. Two years after, ‘Cry to Me’ gave Holloway her highest charting solo single on the R&B and pop charts and it is now acknowledged as a deep soul classic. The album of the same name, which followed, maintained that quality threshold. This early work has wonderful arrangements, excellent production, and some really top-shelf songwriting that already shows a really sophisticated side of Holloway's talents. The set not only brings together the cream of her first releases, there are also five previously unissued cuts which confirm her premium status at that time. Although it is the stone ballads which have stood the test of time the best, this is by no means a collection only for deep soul freaks. There are some first class finger-snappers (listen to the track below) and one or two funky offerings as well. Partially taken from John Ridley’s original liner notes.

sábado, 21 de marzo de 2009

Rosetta Hightower: Hightower (1971)

Rosetta Hightower made her primary mark as the lead singer of the classic Philly girl group the Orlons, who rolled off a series of girl group soul hits in the early '60s. After the Orlons broke up, Rosetta Hightower moved to England. Alongside other Yankee transplants like Geno Washington and Doris Troy, Hightower played the club and casino circuit that was in the early stages of developing into what would eventually be called Northern Soul. There she recorded a few singles and released a couple similarly titled albums. ‘Hightower’ (1971) was by far the best of these, merging rock, soul, and folk-rock with stellar session musicians like Rick Grech, Harold McNair, Jim Price, and Bobby Keys. Although the song selection leans far too heavily on familiar recent soul hits like ‘Tracks of My Tears’ and ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine,’ her vocal prowess is undeniable: rather than showy over-souled histrionics, Hightower's restraint becomes her trademark, lending an elegance to these smartly arranged pop-soul interpretations. It's the four pre-album single sides that are a revelation, however: in particular, the energetic ‘Pretty Red Balloons’ is a lost classic with a killer chorus featuring a swooping string section in the classic bubblegum tradition, and her stormy break-beat cover of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Big Bird’ goes gritty and psychedelic in the manner of contemporaneous Temptations singles. Although the other LP, the self-titled ‘Rosetta Hightower’, was also well done and well sung, it was devoted to Motown covers, rather than to more distinctive material that might have helped her make a name for herself as a solo artist. ~ Stewart Mason, Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide.

viernes, 20 de marzo de 2009

Mary Wells: Servin' Up Some Soul (1968)

Servin' Up Some Soul is the eleventh overall album released by R&B legend Mary Wells, released in 1968 on the Jubilee record label. The success of ‘The Doctor’ and its flip, ‘Two Lovers History,’ prompted Jubilee to rush-release a whole album, which consisted of six originals, written by Mary Wells-Womack and Cecil Womack, and some remakes. Generally the sound here is close to Stax/Volt with a touch of Ike Turner's guitar work, and her voice has a high, wavery quality that's oddly reminiscent of Smokey Robinson. Part of the explanation is that her voice is so husky, when she's in her high register she sounds like a man singing falsetto. Cecil, now known as Zekkariyas, plays guitar and supplies backing vocals. The bluesy, deep soul inspired ‘Woman in Love,’ is saddled with brazen Memphis horns that nearly overpower her lead. ‘Two Lovers History’ is better, more mainstream R&B, Mary's vocal is self assuring and alluring, and the horns are not intrusive. ‘Bye Bye Baby,’ her first Motown release, gets an appreciated update, but maybe lacks the stark, rawness of the original. There is also a rendition of Betty Swann's ‘Make Me Yours’, which sounds as creamy as whipped butter. Womacks' soulful guitar introduces ‘The Doctor,’ a pleasant mid-tempo number that reached #65 on Billboards' Pop 100 Chart and #22 R&B, her biggest Jubilee single. Unfortunately, it was the last time a Mary Wells single would crack the Pop 100, though she would continue to have R&B hits. Servin' Up Some Soul would be her final album for thirteen years with 1981's In and Out of Love, as Come Together, recorded in 1969, wasn’t released until 1993.,

Mary Wells singing live 'My Guy' on Shindig, backing vocals courtesy of The Blossoms (1965):

The Soul Sisters: I Can't Stand It (1964-1968)

While not being biological sisters, these two sure had the "connected" duo thing happening well! Tresia Cleveland and Ann Gissendanner, known as The Soul Sisters, first came to national attention with their pulsating, rock-a-twist rendition of 'I Can't Stand It', in 1964. As a result of this outstanding debut, the girls became one of the most successful, fast-rising groups in the country. An appearance on the Steve Allen network TV'er was received with the utmost enthusiasm. Prior to that they were building fine reps appearing at such famed spot as the Baby Grand in NY and Brooklyn, the Town Hill Key Club in Newark, the Playboy Lounge, Basin Street South and Boston's Louis Lounge. Before that it was strictly gospel engagements throughout the USA and abroad, receiving return engagement request everywhere they sang. After that promising single, they continued recording done-up Blues, R'n'B, Pop and some Gospel-flavored singles, plus an LP for Sue Records, from 1964 to 1968. This 1996 Collectables' compilation reissues that 1964 Sue album, plus some other singles. Included are 'Good Time Tonight', a bright, medium beat driver; 'Night Time', a potent affair that they stroll through with beat-ballad finesse and 'Loop De Loop', which opens in sermon-like manner and then breaks into a sparkling thump-a-rhythm cha cha that sports a 'Saturday Nite Party' atmosphere. It's an oh-so-soft, slow beat cha cha for the gals on the tender sentimental opus, 'Foolish Dreamer'. And you may never have enjoyed 'Blueberry Hill' as much as you will when you hear their captivatingly slow, waltz-beat-ballad interpretation. I'm sure that after you've heard the collection contained herein you'll agree that each tune is a gem and that whether they're done-up blues, rhythm, & blues, popular or gospel, you are listening to from the Soul, Soul Sisters style.~ Taken from the original liner notes by Gene Redd.

miércoles, 18 de marzo de 2009

Fontella Bass - The Very Best of Checker/Chess (1965-1968)

The 1965 classic ‘Rescue Me’ is widely regarded as the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made. The song in question was instead cut by Fontella Bass, who, like Franklin, was a singer who channeled the power and passion of her gospel roots to create some of the finest music of soul's golden age. This set is the most comprehensive anthology ever assembled of the great sides the St. Louis-born vocalist recorded for Checker/Chess Records in the mid-'60s. It includes the entirety of her 1966 The New Look album - largely consisting of contemporary covers -, as well as three duets with Bobby McClure - much in the mode of some of the more famous duets coming from Detroit or New York -, plus ten tracks from singles not previously included on album. There are indications that Checker were slightly caught out by the runaway success of ‘Rescue Me’ and weren't sure quite what to do with her, as some of these subsequent singles sound like blatant attempts to capitalize on her hit by sounding as much like it as possible. Some of her best material, conversely, was buried on B-sides, for example ‘The Soul of a Man’ and the duet with Bobby McClure ‘Don't Jump’, which became a big favourite despite being consigned to the other side of flop single ‘You're Gonna Miss Me’. This compilation also shows an evolution in music, as Bass sings in styles that include deep soul ala Atlantic, sweet soul ala Motown, uptown soul ala Wand and soaring soul ala Brunswick. I added ‘Don’t Jump’ as a bonus track, which was not originally included here.,,

Fontella Bass' classic performance of 'Rescue Me' on Shindig (1965):

martes, 17 de marzo de 2009

Varetta Dillard: Got You on My Mind - Complete Recordings Vol.1 (1956-1961)

Varetta Dillard was one of the great unknown blues shouters of the ‘50s, best known for several hits of poppish R&B in a style very reminiscent of Ruth Brown. As the result of a bone deficiency she spent most of her childhood years in a hospital, where she discovered singing as a therapy. Encouraged and inspired by Carl Feaster, lead singer with the Chords, Dillard began entering talent shows, which led to two consecutive wins at the Apollo's amateur show. Signed to Savoy Records in 1951, she made her own records and duetted with H-Bomb Ferguson, enjoying success with ‘Easy, Easy Baby’ (number 8 R&B) in 1952, ‘Mercy Mr. Percy’ (number 6 R&B) in 1953, and after Johnny Ace's untimely demise, ‘Johnny Has Gone’ (number 6 R&B) in 1955. In 1956 Dillard switched to the RCA subsidiary label Groove, where, much to her distaste, she was coerced into capitalizing on James Dean's death with ‘I Miss You Jimmy’. Later recordings for Triumph and MGM's Cub subsidiary failed to match her Savoy successes, and she ended her solo recording career in 1961, although she continued singing into the late 60s by joining her husband's group, the Tri-Odds, who were active in the Civil Rights movement, performing jazz, a cappella, and black-centric poetry. Bear Family issued a two-volume collection in 1989, the first of which features 29 of Varetta Dillard's songs, leading off with a curious novelty, ‘The Square Dance Rock.’ The other tunes are divided between earnest covers (‘See See Rider Blues’ and ‘Pennies from Heaven’), robust stompers (‘Mama Don't Want What Poppa Don't Want’) and soulful laments (‘That’s Why I Cry’ and ‘The Rules of Love’, with backing vocals by The Cookies). Dillard makes most of these songs entertaining, and sometimes turns in a triumph.

lunes, 16 de marzo de 2009

Gigi & The Charmaines: Cincinnati's Top ‘60s Girl Group (1960-1967)

This thorough overview of Gigi & The Charmaines' recorded output from 1960 to 1967 shows the Cincinatti R&B trio had the stuff to compete on a bigger field if they'd had a bit more luck. Gigi Griffin, the group's lead singer, was able to meld passion with vocal precision and her partners Dee Watkins and Irene Vinegar brought some superb harmonies and backing vocals to their sessions. Add some memorable production smarts and quality material and you have one of the better soul vocal acts of the era. Their brief and only Billboard chart appearance at #117 in 1961 doesn't reflect the trio's great solo work on six different labels, nor does it take into account their work backing vocals for the likes of Lonnie Mack, Kenny Smith and Carl Edmondson. This compilation not only collects Gigi & the Charmaines' best near-hits, but rare sides, including the group’s Fraternity debut from 1960 ‘Rockin’ Old Man’, backed with ‘If You Were Mine’, for which Gigi wrote the lyrics. It also features their swampy version of ‘Rockin’ Pneumomia and The Boogie Woogie Flu’, a fabby, dangerous sounding and sexy take on Ike Turner’s song ‘I Idolise You’, plus the original version of ‘On the Wagon’, a song later recorded by the pre-fame Ronettes. There are other Columbia, Date and Fraternity recordings, some great examples of their work as back-up singers and all of the trio's Northern Soul favourites, like ‘Guilty’, ‘Girl Crazy’, ‘Poor Unfortunate Me’ and the previously unreleased track ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Him’.~, Thanks again for passing me this, Martin!

domingo, 15 de marzo de 2009

Helene Smith: Sings Sweet Soul! (1964-1972)

On the Miami soul scene Betty Wright is the first name that springs to everyone’s mind, but Helene Smith was there first and, in the opinion of a few knowledgeable fans, could give her more famous sister a good run for her money. Although Helene’s voice could sound rather insipid on some of the more poppy arrangements that her writers/producers asked her to sing in front of, when given a decent ballad to interpret, she was able to let go with both power and passion. On ‘Willing and Able’ Helene sounds mature, getting a good grip on the slow beat, aided by the way Clarence Reid hammers away at the piano and the drummer really slams his bass drum. The superb deep soul of ‘Wrong or Right He’s My Baby’, and the funky ‘You Got to Be a Man’ with its JB horn line, confirmed her growing confidence. But her one true masterpiece was the much heralded ‘A Woman Will Do Wrong’, with Reid’s idiosyncratic piano lines and one of the most delayed backbeats ever to come out of Miami. As the decade closed Helene found herself less in demand, but she did make a comeback of sorts with a couple of fine singles in 1973. The best of these was the heartfelt plea ‘Help Me to Keep What I’ve Got’ on which Helene sounds even better than on her earlier material. Her voice is pitched in a lower register, overcoming the major criticism she’s faced of sounding too much like a little girl to be a true southern soul queen. We really could have done with more in this vein from her in the ‘70s but sadly it was not to be.
01. You Got to Do Your Share
02. Willing and Able
03. The Pot Can't Talk About the Kettle
04. I Am Controlled by Your Love
05. Thrills and Chills
06. A Woman Will Do Wrong
07. True Love Don't Grow in the Trees
08. Wrong or Right He's My Baby
09. What's in the Lovin'
10. Pain in My Heart
11. You Got to Be A Man
12. Help Me to Keep What I've Got

viernes, 13 de marzo de 2009

Dee Dee Warwick: I Want to Be With You - The Mercury/Blue Rock Sessions (1965-69)

Like Darlene Love and Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick's considerable gifts as a soul singer were mostly confined to session work. And like Aretha Franklin's sisters, Dee Dee had to struggle with the shadow of a superstar sibling, Dionne Warwick. Certainly she had the talent to compete as an artist in her own right -possessing a rawer approach than Dionne’s and closer to that of her cousin’s Cissy-, but she only had a sporadic run of small hits in the ‘60s and early-‘70s, and benefited from neither frequent recording opportunities nor substantial promotion from her labels. As a sort of companion to She Didn't Know: The Atco Sessions (though I personally prefer this one), this collection compiles everything she recorded for Mercury/Blue Rock from 1965 to 1969, with two tracks from a later 1973 session. Most of the better-known and significant of Dee Dee's recordings are represented here, including her highest charting and signature song, ‘I Want to Be With You’; besides, it marks the first digital appearance of many other rare songs. Warwick lays into the bluesy ‘That's Not Love’ like Etta James, causing distortion as she hauls off and wails with soul-searing power. The obscure Goffin & King tune ‘Yours Until Tomorrow’ is a should-have-been hit, as is the original version of ‘I'm Gonna Make You Love Me,’ later a smash when the Temptations and the Supremes took it to the charts. Ultimately, Warwick was a substantial talent who didn't find her niche, or land songwriters of the Bacharach/David stature to guide her. This AMAZING compilation -predominantly taken from the original masters but still sounding thin and sometimes shrill- is an important historical item for soul fans. I must add that Dee Dee is one of the very few soul sisters who will always deserve a place on my personal Top Five: she is absolutely fantastic.,
Dee Dee Warwick performing ‘We’re Doing Fine’ on Shivaree (1965) [minute 3:07 to 5:41]:

miércoles, 11 de marzo de 2009

Genie Brown: A Woman Alone (1973)

Rare soul sister Genie Brown, of whom I was not able to find any info, recorded this very much sought-after white label promotional vinyl called 'A Woman Alone', on Dunhill Records in 1973. The song 'Can't Stop Talking' can also be found on the albums ‘Edits by Mr. K - The Original Rare Disco Edits’ and ‘Nicky Siano's Legendary 'The Gallery' - The Original New York Disco 1973-77’. Thanks again to Guillermo for passing me this gem.

A1 That's How Heartaches Are Made (3:40)
A2 Maybe This Will Be the Morning (3:04)
A3 Can't Stop Talking (2:57)
A4 My First Night Alone Without You (3:31)
A5 Let Me Stand in Your Shadow (3:09)
B1 Take Me Where You Took Me Last Night (3:40)
B2 It's Gotta Be That Way (3:29)
B3 Wrapped In Love (3:12)
B4 You and Me (3:42)
B5 Life Is Beautiful When Love Is Everywhere (2:20)ee

martes, 10 de marzo de 2009

Ruby Johnson: I'll Run Your Heart Away (1962-1967)

A tremendous Southern soul vocalist whose ability to convincingly sing heartache ballads ranks with any active performer, Ruby Johnson never got a breakout single during the soul era. Raised in North Carolina in the quasi-Jewish Temple Beth-El faith, she grew up singing a cappella at the local temple, but aspired to emulate the power-soul style of Aretha Franklin and Etta James. After singing with Samuel Latham and The Rhythm Makers at Virginia Beach, she moved to Washington, DC, and became show-opener at the popular Spa Club. Never Duncan, manager of Bobby Parker (of ‘Watch Your Step’ fame), signed her first to the Philadelphia-based V-Tone label (for which Parker was also recording), and then to his own Nebs outlet. Subsequently, ex-Washington disc jockey Al Bell signed Johnson to Stax/Volt when he moved to Memphis in 1965. There, she recorded a handful of classic soul records with the writing and production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and backing musicians including Steve Cropper, "Duck" Dunn, Al Jackson and Booker T. and The MG's. These included ‘I’ll Run Your Hurt Away’, a minor R&B hit, 'Come to Me, My Darling' and ‘If I Ever Needed Love’, staples of subsequent soul compilations such as those by Dave Godin. Despite the quality of her records, they met with little success, and in the early ‘70s she returned to a quiet life outside the music business. This compilation contains 20 outstanding singles recorded between 1962 and 1967, 14 of them previously unreleased.,

lunes, 9 de marzo de 2009

Brenda Holloway: The Very Best (1999)

This 15-track collection gathers up the very best of Brenda Holloway's recordings for Motown. A peripheral figure in the company's history, Brenda made the trek from Los Angeles to Detroit to record, working with producers Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stevenson, Henry Cosby, Frank Wilson, and label boss Berry Gordy. Known as “the most beautiful woman ever signed to Motown”, she was one of several female Motown artists who never broke through to the top level of stardom, or even of the company's concern, partially because she was a bit too sophisticated and gritty for the label formula. Holloway's big hits ‘Every Little Bit Hurts,’ ‘I'll Always Love You,’ and ‘When I'm Gone’ are aboard, along with the original version of ‘You've Made Me So Very Happy,’ later appropriated by Blood, Sweat & Tears. Solid album material from the canceled Motown album Hurtin' & Cryin' makes up the majority of this collection, with ‘Hurt a Little Everyday,’ and ‘You Can Cry on My Shoulder’ being two of the highlights. Two previously unreleased tracks, ‘You've Changed Me’ and ‘Til Johnny Comes,’ round out the package. Holloway was a big-voiced gospel-style belter, and while not in the Motown front racks, this scintillating comp makes a welcome addition to any soul collection. Along with The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, she is one of the Motown acts I like the most.~

Brenda Holloway with King Curtis Band singing 'I Can't Help Myself', from opening-act for The Beatles' concert (Shea Stadium, 1965):

domingo, 8 de marzo de 2009

Dee Dee Sharp - The Best of Cameo Parkway (1962-1966)

A backing vocalist for the Cameo-Parkway labels, Dee Dee Sharp was the uncredited voice on Chubby Checker's ‘Slow Twistin'’ single. Her own debut, ‘Mashed Potato Time’, was recorded at the same session and, thanks to the power of Dick Clark's American Bandstand television show, this energetic, exciting song, which she delivered in a bright, soulful voice became an immediate success. Cameo sadly chose to milk its dance-based appeal and releases such as ‘Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)’ and ‘Do The Bird’ packaged her as a temporary novelty act at the expense of an untapped potential. Dee Dee resurfaced in the ‘70s on the TSOP/Philadelphia International labels. Married to producer Kenny Gamble, she enjoyed two minor soul hits with ‘I'm Not in Love’ (a 1976 cover of the 10cc hit, which I added as a bonus track) and ‘I Love You Anyway’ (1981). This release from the Cameo-Parkway catalogue generously collects the output of Dee Dee Sharp, including the biggest dance hits of the early ‘60s and her mid-‘60s work, the best of which ride sinuous, funky grooves. Other tracks boast early production work by Gamble and Huff -the duo who went on to help sculpt the legendary Philly Soul sound- and, not surprisingly, the strings and lush back-up vocals play like proto-TSOP.
Dee Dee Sharp performing 'Mashed Potato Time':

Eula Cooper: Lost Queen of Georgia Soul (1967-1972)

Eula Cooper is a soul singer whose scant body of work lies in inverse proportion to its exceptional quality. It has been said that she is from Atlanta or Macon, Georgia (and even Birmingham, Alabama!), although nothing is known for sure. Anyway, Eula is best remembered for a small, singles-only discography on indie soul labels Tragar, Supersound and Note - with one, 1969’s hypnotic ‘Heavenly Father’, picked up for distribution by Atlantic. There were about a dozen songs, most of which were probably recorded at Muscle Shoals (?), circa 1967 and 1972. For whatever reasons she left the music business, but she re-emerged recently at Dig Deeper, with her first ever NYC appearance, in 2008. Here is almost her entire discography. I hope you enjoy it.,,
01. Shake Daddy Shake
02. Heavenly Father
03. Try
04. Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things
05. I Can't Help If I Love You
06. That's How Much I Love You
07. Let Our Love Grow Higher
08. Have Faith in Me
09. Standing by Love
10. I Need You More
11. Mr. Henry
12. Beggars Can't Be Choosey
Eula Cooper singing 'That's How Much I Love You' live at the Five Spot in Brooklyn:

sábado, 7 de marzo de 2009

Betty Everett: The Fantasy Years (1970-1975)

During a prolific recording career that spanned two decades, Betty Everett proved to be a producer’s dream, able to tackle all manner of material -be it blues, pop, or soul- with an uncanny combination of authority and vulnerability. Her diction was always crystalline, and her emotive, remarkably elastic mezzo-soprano tones had an aching quality that tugged at the heart-strings. Betty Everett began recording for Cobra in 1958, then joined Vee-Jay in the early '60s and started to land hit records. ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss),’ was her first major release, peaking at number six pop in 1964. Her next success was the duet ‘Let it Be Me’ with Jerry Butler, a soul version of the Everly Brothers tune that reached number five R&B that same year. Everett's finest song as a solo act was 1969's ‘There'll Come a Time,’ which reached number 2 on the R&B charts and also cracked the pop Top 30 at number 26. Everett was now on Uni, where she remained until 1970. She continued recording for Fantasy Records until 1974 and made one other record for United Artists in 1978. This collection brings together the best of her work for Fantasy between 1970 and 1975, and finds Calvin Carter, Willie Mitchell and Carles Chalmers, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Gene and Billy Page taking turns in the producer’s seat. Included are the hits ‘I Got to Tell Somebody’, ‘Ain’t Noting Gonna Change Me’, ‘Danger’ and the sizzlingly funky ‘Sweet Dan’.

jueves, 5 de marzo de 2009

Candi Staton: Candi (1974)

Candi Staton may not have been as acclaimed as others, but for a time, she was one of the best and most consistent singers of Southern Soul and R&B. Candi sang with the Jewell Gospel Trio as a teenager, touring the traditional gospel circuit in the 1950s with the Soul Stirrers, C.L. Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson. They recorded several sides for Nashboro, Apollo, and Savoy Records between 1953 and 1963. In 1968 Staton launched solo career as a Southern soul stylist, garnering 16 R&B hits for Rick Hall's legendary Fame Studios and gaining the title of First Lady of Southern Soul for her Grammy-nominated R&B renditions of the country tunes ‘Stand by Your Man’ and ‘In the Ghetto. What we have here today is a rare 1992 Japanese reissue or her first LP for Warner Bros. Records, ‘Candi’, originally released in 1974, short after she left Fame. This album gave Ms. Staton a top ten R&B hit (#6) with ‘As Long As He Take Care of Home’ and it included fine songs that were recorded at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. However, it was not a huge success and Candi decided to change producers, because she felt that it would be best to move with someone who was producing more in the disco/urban soul area. With that in mind, in 1975 Staton began collaborating with producer Dave Crawford, who propelled her into a disco diva with dance songs such as ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ and ‘Victim.’ Later, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, she would garner considerable acclaim as a gospel star, but her tenure in the early '70s as an R&B belter was arguably her finest period, of which this album is a good example. Again, Candi is one of my favourite soul singers.

miércoles, 4 de marzo de 2009

LaVern Baker: See See Rider (1963) / Blues Ballads (1959)

A versatile vocalist, LaVern Baker proved capable of melding blues, jazz and R&B styles in a way that made possible the emergence of a new idiom: rock and roll. The niece of blues singer Memphis Minnie, Baker had a stunning voice that, with little effort, could crack walls, and yet her ballad singing was wonderfully sensitive. During her time at Atlantic Records (1953-62), she cut half a dozen singles that rose to high positions on both the pop and R&B charts, including 'Tweedle Dee' and 'Jim Dandy.' Here are two of her best albums from the vaults of that label: ‘Blues Ballads’ and ‘See See Rider’, released in 1959 and 1963, respectively. The tracks are not presented in the original sequence, but the ones dating from 1963 are easily identifiable as they are in stereo and tend to feature prominent bass guitar, then something of a novelty. While the former is not all blues or ballads, there are some great sides here, all sung with the intensity and energy that made Baker's material so memorable, like 'I Cried a Tear', a major hit for her late in 1958. It also includes a solid version of the Edith Piaf hit 'If You Love Me' plus 'Love Me Right', 'I Waited Too Long', 'Humpty Dumpty Heart', 'St. Louis Blues' and others. "Rider" has a more pop oriented feel with strings on many cuts. Besides the hit 'See See Rider', it includes 'He's a Real Gone Guy', 'You Said', 'Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes' and more. LaVern fans will enjoy this, since it contains so many fine recordings that aren't available anywhere else.
LaVern performing 'Substitute', Live on The Ed Sullivan Show (1958). Her dance partner is Harold "Stumpy" Cromer:

Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel / Adventures in Paradise (1974-75)

This release pairs Minnie Riperton’s 1974 Perfect Angel with the following year's Adventures in Paradise; two albums that brought the singer her most popular success. Minnie, who had been lead vocalist in the '60s band The Rotary Connection, had one of the finest voices in Pop and Soul music –with her amazing five-and-a-half octave vocal range!- and made a huge impact on the music business during her short life. Perfect Angel, produced by Stevie Wonder, turned out to be one of Riperton's best-selling albums. Included were the rock-soul anthem ‘Reasons’, the second single, ‘Take a Little Trip’, and the third single, ‘Seeing You This Way’. Sales of the album started out slow and Epic was ready to move on to the next record, but her husband Richard Rudolph convinced them to release another single. With the fourth single ‘Lovin' You’, the album caught on, and in April 1975 the song went to the top of the charts in the US and 24 other countries. It reached number two in the UK, and number three on the R&B charts. Perfect Angel went gold, and Riperton was finally revered as the "lady with the high voice and flowers in her hair". The album also featured the song ‘Every Time He Comes Around’, with Deniece Williams singing the background vocals. Adventures in Paradise is not quite as across-the-board hot, but songs like the irresistibly seductive ‘Inside My Love’ make for another engaging listen.
Minnie Riperton singing live 'Loving You' (1975). Notice how beautifully she refers to her daughter Maya (Rudolph) near the end of the song:
... Yes, you heard right: She really could do THAT with her voice!

lunes, 2 de marzo de 2009

The Blossoms: Shockwave (1972)

The Blossoms were probably the most successful unknown group of the '60s. They made a career of singing backup for scores of artists from Paul Anka to Elvis Presley with a versatility that allowed them to be a choral group one minute and a surf sound doo-wop group for Jan and Dean's hits the next minute. They were formed in Los Angeles in 1954 as the Dreamers, consisting of Fanita James, Gloria Jones, and the twin sisters Nanette and Annette Williams. By 1957, Nanette Williams had been replaced by Darlene Wright, who later took the name Darlene Love. They did extensive session work, and Love and James were members of producer Phil Spector's studio group Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. Love also recorded with Spector under her own name and as part of The Crystals. The Blossoms had one pop chart entry in 1961 with ‘Son-In-Law,’ an answer record to Ernie K-Doe's hit ‘Mother-In-Law.’ In 1964, the group, now a trio consisting of Darlene, Fanita, and newcomer Jean King, were a featured part of the weekly Rock & Roll television program Shindig! They also scored an R&B singles chart entry with 'Good, Good Lovin' in 1967. The Blossoms resumed recording under their own name later in the 1960s for labels such as Reprise, Ode and MGM. They released their first and only album Shockwave, which I am posting today, in 1972 on Lion.

The Blossoms singing 'Tell Him'(1964):

domingo, 1 de marzo de 2009

Millie Jackson: Millie Jackson (1972)

Georgia-born, New Jersey-raised soul singer Millie Jackson is better known for her dirty mouth than her Gladys Knight-like voice, and she clearly doesn't mind, but she shouldn't be dismissed as an exploitative joke. At her best she's a canny writer/producer and an intelligent, passionate performer, and she did pioneer the raunchy "tellin' it like it is" patter for which she's infamous. Her 1972 debut is one of the freshest albums of her career, her style remarkably mature and the sound an infectious blend of '60s soul influences (from Motown to Stax to early Philly soul). Even though the arrangements are done north of the Mason/Dixon line (in New York by Bert DeCoteaux, and in DC by Tony Camillo), the record feels like it was lifted off the pressing plant in Muscle Shoals or Jackson. Millie is just as tough and aggressively honest here as she would be on her breakout, 1974's Caught Up, and songs like ‘I Ain't Giving Up’ and ‘I Miss You Baby’ are of the same high caliber. She injects the perfect measure of anger and genuine confusion into the hypocrisy fable ‘A Child of God (It's Hard to Believe)’ (her first R&B hit) and has no trouble switching gears for the affectionate ‘My Man, a Sweet Man,’ with a driving bassline and handclaps making direct connections to the classic Motown sound. The biggest hit here was another love song, the swinging ‘Ask Me What You Want,’ her second R&B Top Ten entry. Even though it never came together quite like Caught Up, Jackson's first LP introduced a major talent to the R&B world. ~
Millie Jackson singing 'Hurts So Good' (Soul Train '73):

Barbara Mason: Oh, How It Hurts (1997) plus...

An underrated soul singer, Mason initially focused on songwriting when she entered the music business in her teens. As a performer, though, she had a huge hit in 1965 with her self-penned ‘Yes, I'm Ready’ (number five pop, number two R&B), a fetching soul-pop confection that spotlighted her high, girlish vocals. One of the first examples of the sweet, lush sound that came to be called Philly soul, she had modest success throughout the rest of the decade on the small Arctic label, reaching the pop Top 40 again in 1965 with ‘Sad, Sad Girl.’ In the early and mid-'70s, Mason toughened her persona considerably, singing about sexual love and infidelity with a frankness that was uncommon for a female soul singer. Sweet soul continued to be her groove, and she continued to write some of her material, but the production, as it was throughout soul in the '70s, was more funk-oriented. This 1997 compilation on the Bear Family label of the original, and increasingly difficult to get, Arctic recordings (1964-1969), is simply sublime. It includes hits like 'Oh, How It Hurts', 'I Don't Want ToLose You' and 'Happy Girl', plus numerous rarities from the period. To make it more complete, I added 9 bonus tracks consisting on some of the hits that appear on ‘Yes, I'm Ready’ (1997), the first part of this 2-CD anthology, that are not on the second part 'Oh, How It Hurts', including 'Yes I'm Ready', 'Sad, Sad Girl' and 'Girls Have Feelings Too'. Also there's a few early-'70s Buddha classics like 'Yes, It's You', 'Give Me Your Love' 'and 'Child of Tomorrow', from the 1973 blaxploitation film Gordon's War. Perfect pop songs that surely must be re-mastered and re-released! .~
A shy Barbara Mason performing 'Yes, I'm Ready' (1965):