jueves, 30 de abril de 2009

Melba Moore: Living to Give (1970) ...plus

Tony Award winning and two-time Grammy nominee, Melba Moore’s enduring talent has earned her a rewarding career in recording, theater, television, music and film. For over 30 years, her powerful and beautiful four-octave voice has endeared her to music lovers around the world as a great virtuoso singer on a variety of genres, including rhythm and blues, gospel, rock and roll, jazz and pop. She hit it big when she joined the cast of the Broadway musical ‘Hair’. One day while working in the studio, a barefoot gentleman asked her if she wanted to be in the play. Moore accepted and eventually won the lead role. It was the first time in history that a black actress replaced a white actress (Diane Keaton) for the lead role on Broadway. That followed with another Broadway hit, ‘Purlie’, which earned her a Tony Award and rave reviews. Moore also forged a successful singing career. Her very early experience in the industry saw her working as a singer/pianist with a group called Voices, Inc., and performing at clubs in New Jersey and the Catskills. In addition, she was able to supplement her income by doing background vocals for a whole host of names including Jerry Butler, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin. One of her colleagues at the time was none other than Valerie Simpson. She released her debut album, Living to Give, on Mercury Records in 1970, followed a year later by Look What You're Doing to the Man. She also had a UK Top 10 (and a minor US hit) in 1976 with ‘This Is It’, and although her pop chart placings were inconsistent, she remained a fixture on the R&B lists over the following decade. Moore has been and is currently focusing on gospel recordings while still appearing in an occasional Broadway show. Today I am posting that promising first album, Living to Give, augmented by 7 bonus tracks from her 1971 release Look What You're Doing to the Man. Enjoy! http://www.musicianguide.com/

Melba singing 'Purlie' on the Broadway musical of the same name:

Performing 'Lean on Me' on an episode of Soul Train, in 1976:

miércoles, 29 de abril de 2009

Nella Dodds: The Complete Wand Recordings (1964-1965)

The combination of her unusual, highly beguiling voice, some excellent songs and corking dance grooves make the recordings of Nella Dodds have charmed collectors of Northern Soul and girl groups for more than 35 years. Nella should, by rights, have had an album release in the mid-‘60s, when she was signed to New York’s Wand label via a production deal with Philadelphia’s Dyno-Dynamic Productions -essentially the precursor of what would eventually evolve into classic 1970s ‘Philly Sound’. She should also have had several major hits, rather than just the two fair to middling ones that she did have. But by the time that Philadelphia usurped Detroit as the epicentre of commercial Soul music, Nella Dodds had forsaken music for domesticity, destined to be regarded as another ‘great unknown’. Both sides of all six singles Dodds released on Wand between 1964 and 1965 are on this compilation, along with three outtakes from the same era, which have never been heard in public since the day they were recorded. Besides Nella, others who participated in these sessions include musicians who went on to form the core of MFSB, legendary Philly DJ/songwriter Jimmy Bishop (discoverer of and mentor to a host of other Philadelphia soul greats, most notably Barbara Mason) and Philadelphia International co-founder Kenneth Gamble, who wrote many of the songs. As well as Nella’s hit cover of the Supremes’ 'Come See About Me' (a song that made it up to number 74 in the charts) and its Top 100 follow-up 'Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers', this great collection features the Northern Soul favourites 'Come Back Baby', 'Honey Boy', 'First Date' and 'Maybe Baby'. It also includes what is probably the best cut on the set: Gamble’s moody ballad ‘You Don't Love Me Anymore’ which, sadly wasted on the B-side of ‘Come See About Me,’ sounds like a cross between Dionne Warwick and mid-'60s girl groups. All in all, this is a consistently enjoyable retrospective of an underrated singer who deserved more than she got. http://www.allmusic.com/, http://www.acerecords.co.uk, http://www.amazon.co.uk/

martes, 28 de abril de 2009

Brenda & The Tabulations - Dry Your Eyes (1967) ...plus

Brenda and the Tabulations had an overnight success in early 1967 with the smooth, uptown ballad ‘Dry your eyes’. Like many overnight successes, Brenda Payton and the three Tabulations (Maurice Coates, co-writer with Brenda of many of their tracks, Eddie Jackson and James Rucker) never did re-achieve the same amount of success, but they did have a steady run of medium size chart hits that lasted until 1977; in all, 16 Top 50 R&B hits. This reissue of their Dionn LP Dry Your Eyes, contains all the A sides and B sides of the five 45 releases they had on Dionn in 1967, including ‘When You're Gone’, which is a bonus track, not included on the original album. Subsequent single releases on Dionn in 1968 and 1969 are not included here, though I have added two of them myself, ‘That's the Price You Have to Pay’ and ‘The Touch of You’, both from 1969. Brenda & the Tabulations later recorded chart hits for Top & Bottom, Epic, and Chocolate City. Did I mention they were from Philadelphia? I know you know, but just for the record. As for the music: what we have here is plenty of subtle, orchestrated Philly style ballads: the title track of course and, notably, a nice version of Smokey's ‘Who's Loving You’, ‘Stay Together Young Lovers’, and the LP only track ‘Oh Lord What Are You Doing To Me’. The cover of the Marvelettes' ‘Forever’, taken at a midtempo pace, may cater to northern soulies, as well as ‘Hey Boy’, which was used as a B side on no less than three 45's. The version of Gershwin's classic ‘Summertime’ is also interesting. This is the kind of work that we soul fans should be thankful for, and especially, of course, all you Brenda & the Tabulations fans out there. http://www.melingo.com/.

lunes, 27 de abril de 2009

Sandra Feva: The Need to Be (1979) ... plus

Detroit vocalist Sandra Feva may be an unfamiliar name to those who didn't follow indie soul scene in the late ‘70s-early ‘80s, but she certainly was not unknown to real soul enthusiasts at the time. On the contrary, it seemed that every connoisseur rated her very high, and compared her to Gladys Knight, Betty Wright, Margie Joseph and other songstresses of the same calibre. Soul Express scribe Heikki Suosalo wrote in early 1983 that he "hasn't heard a better album by a female singer this decade", John Abbey in Blues & Soul considered Sandra on a par with Gladys, and Clive Richardson cites in the liner notes of this reissue release that "here was a new voice to match the newly-solo Gladys Knight and the vibrant Patti LaBelle". Feva earned a good local reputation, but gained more national notoriety as a background vocalist with Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, and Prince than on her own as a solo act. Husky-voiced and with enough lung capacity to cause a minor windstorm, she occasionally stepped out of the shadows to show off her own vocal prowess, although she didn’t get much chart success. Sandra recorded for a variety of labels, including Venture, Krisma, Catawba, Grandstand, and Robbins. She also released on the Buddah label what would be her first single (as Sandra Richardson, her then-married name): the original version of ‘I Feel a Song (in My Heart)’, from 1973. But the two solo singles that came closest to making an impact for her were 1979's ‘The Need to Be’ and 1981's ‘Tell 'Em That I Heard It,’ the latter of which was produced by Tony Camillo (renowned writer of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’) on his Venture label, and peaked at #33 on the R&B charts (I added both sides of this 1981 single as bonus tracks). Her 'Savoir Faire' LP, from that same year, has been an acclaimed “must have” item for soul collectors ever since. One note for those who stop listening to music from the late-'70s on (and most of the time I am one of them!): don’t let the release date discorauge you. This is PURE DEEP SOUL at its best, with touches of modern soul on the uptempo tracks. The balance is great, and really makes the album a fresh one: hardly the usual soul set from the time, and a record that really holds up over the years! Trust me, if you are a real soul fan, you don’t want to miss this. http://www.soulexpress.net, http://www.allmusic.com/.

domingo, 26 de abril de 2009

Faye Adams: Shake a Hand - 30 of Her Greatest Hits (2007)

Called by Alan Freed "the little gal with the big voice", R&B pioneer Faye Adams brought a fiery gospel passion and an instinctive toughness to the songs she sang in the ‘50s, paving the way for the great soul singers of the following decade. She was discovered by singer Ruth Brown, who won her an audition with bandleader Joe Morris of Atlantic Records. Changing her name to Faye Adams, Morris recruited her as a singer in 1952, and signed her to Herald Records. Her first release was Morris' ‘Shake a Hand’, (B-side ‘I've Gotta Leave You’), which topped the R&B charts for ten weeks in 1953 and also made # 22 on the pop charts. The song was later covered by many others including Little Richard, LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Jackie Wilson. In 1954, Faye had two more R&B chart toppers with ‘I'll Be True’ and ‘Hurts Me to My Heart’. During this period, she left the Morris band and was billed as "Atomic Adams", a tribute to her showmanship on stage. In 1955 she appeared in the movie Rhythm & Blues Revue and in 1957 moved to Imperial Records, but althought she had a minor R&B chart hit with ‘Keeper of My Heart’, her commercial success diminished. By the late 1950s she was seen as an older recording artist whose time had come and gone and, although she continued to record for various smaller labels until the early ‘60s, by 1963 she had retired from the popular music scene. She returned to her gospel roots and family life in New Jersey, and was reportedly unwilling to discuss her classic secular R&B recordings. Faye was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1998. This 30 song anthology collects her earliest recordings with Joe Morris and his orchestra, including 1952's sarcastic and sassy ‘That's What Makes My Baby Fat’ (which was recorded for Atlantic Records when Adams was being billed as Fay Scruggs) and all of her hits for Herald and Imperial. http://en.wikipedia.org/, http://secure.swapacd.com/, http://www.billboard.com/

Faye Adams' performance of 'Everyday', taken from Rhythm & Blues Revue, 1955:

viernes, 24 de abril de 2009

Doris Troy: Just One Look: The Best of Doris Troy (1994)

Surely one of the most talented one-hit wonders of the rock era, Doris Troy hit the Top Ten with 'Just One Look' in 1963, but also recorded many other fine pop-soul sides for Atlantic between 1963 and 1965. Unlike many soul performers of the time, Troy wrote most of her own material, and had already written for other artists and sung backup with Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston on New York soul records before striking out on her own. More melodically ambitious and stylistically eclectic than many of her peers, her Atlantic sides blend elements of gospel, girl group, blues, and pop into a rich New York soul sound. Troy never reached the charts again after ‘Just One Look,’ but was more appreciated in England, where she toured occasionally. Moving to Britain, she recorded an album for Apple in 1970 with assistance from George Harrison and Billy Preston. In the early '70s, she sang backup vocals for British rock groups, most notably the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, in addition to recording a couple more albums. In the '80s she starred in Mama I Want to Sing, a musical based on her life story. The musical became a touring success, one which Troy remained involved with until 1998. She continued to perform in Las Vegas until her death from emphysema on February 17, 2004. This fantastic out-of-print Ichiban/Soul Classics anthology of her 1963-1965 Atlantic sides (don't take notice of the front cover) is as comprehensive as one could ask for. It includes all of her singles, her rare 1963 album, three cuts only issued on British singles, and her rare 1965 single for the Calla label, ‘I'll Do Anything (He Wants Me To Do).’ Besides ‘Just One Look,’ there are quite a few other downright excellent cuts here: ‘What'cha Gonna Do About It,’ the bluesy ‘Draw Me Closer’ and the driving ‘You'd Better Stop’ (with a fierce guitar break that sounds like a young Jimmy Page). ‘How My Heart Aches’ is a special standout that ranks among the very finest wrenching, melancholy soul ever waxed. Much more than a collector's item, this proves Troy to be a genuinely overlooked major talent. http://www.allmusic.com/.

jueves, 23 de abril de 2009

The Shirelles: The Definitive Collection (1996)

The Shirelles were the first major female vocal group of the rock era, defining the so-called “girl group sound” with their soft, sweet harmonies and yearning innocence. Their music was a blend of pop/rock and R&B -especially doo-wop and smooth uptown soul-, that appealed to listeners across the board before Motown ever became a crossover phenomenon with white audiences. Even if they were not technically the first of their kind, their success was unprecedented, paving the way for legions of imitators. The Shirelles’ spawning ground was also their ticket to fame: specifically, Passaic High School in Passaic, NJ, where four teenage girls (Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Doris Kenner and Addie "Micki" Harris) met and formed a vocal group. Originally known as the Poquellos, they auditioned for a schooltalent show with a song they'd written called ‘I Met Him on a Sunday.’ They not only won, they also won the ear of friend Mary Jane Greenberg, whose mother, Florence, owned Tiara records. Re-named the Honeytones and then the Shirelles the group recorded ‘Sunday’ for Tiara. Just missing the Top 40, the record was picked up by Decca, but the group was dropped after several flop followups. By that time, Greenberg had started Scepter Records, and after several more attempts, the group hit big with Carole King's ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow.’ Several hits followed (including ‘Dedicated to the One I Love’, ‘Tonight's the Night’, ‘Mama Said’, ’Soldier Boy’, ‘Baby It's You’ and ’Foolish Little Girl’, among others); but, despite the admiration of British Invasion groups like the Beatles and Manfred Mann, the foreign fad had claimed the Shirelles' thunder by the mid-‘60s. This 65-song anthology is clearly the best existing collection for die-hard Shirelles fans, though it is sadly out-of-print now. The box set contains every Shirelles’ hit to crack the US Billboard charts -except ‘I Met Him on a Sunday’, apparently unavailable due to licensing problems-, along with long sought after songs such as ‘Blue Holiday’, plus some late-'60s Northern Soul-flavored cuts like 'Last Minute Miracle', 'Too Much of a Good Thing', 'Hippie Walk, Pt.1' and 'Wait Till I Give the Signal'. Unlike other collections of the Shirelles' works, all tunes are presented here in remastered stereo sound. http://oldies.about.com/, http://www.allmusic.com/, http://www.amazon.com/.

The Shirelles, featuring Shirley Alston Reeves, Addie "Micki" Harris, and Beverley Lee, performing their biggest hit 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow':

miércoles, 22 de abril de 2009

Linda Lewis: Not a Girl Anymore (1975)

The title says it all. No matter how well-loved Linda Lewis was during her days at Reprise, still the focus of both marketing and material was on the sheer youthful glee with which she attacked every performance. Her 1975 debut at Arista, however, was built around her determination that, at last, she was going to be treated like an adult, a vow that proved to have been fulfilled long before you reached the sultry, resolute title track. Packing more covers than any of her earlier albums, Not a Little Girl Anymore nevertheless emerges as Lewis' most well-rounded and, perhaps, personal album yet. Cat Stevens' ‘(Remember the Days of) the Old Schoolyard,’ a somewhat forced exercise in nostalgia in its writer's hands, is here imbibed with a genuine sense of emotion and regret. However, there is no time for maudlin reflection as ‘It's in His Kiss (Shoop Shoop Song),’ a wily cover of the Betty Everett classic, which made #6 on the U.K charts and gave the singer her only U.S. hit in July 1975, simply erupts out of the song's closing notes with a rambunctious passion that suggests kissing is only the first thing on Lewis' mind. From there on, and to paraphrase one of the album's other prime cuts, Lewis rollercoasters through a succession of moods and styles, ranging from the emotive soul of Gwen Guthrie's ‘This Time I'll Be Sweeter’ to her own (stylistically, aptly titled) ‘My Grandaddy Could Reggae,’ a reminder of the versatility that past albums occasionally allowed to overwhelm content, but which here is balanced with delicate precision. And, as you approach the end, the gentle ‘I Do My Best to Impress’ leaves the listener with one thought. You succeeded. http://www.allmusic.com/

Linda Lewis singing live 'This Time I'll Be Sweeter':

martes, 21 de abril de 2009

Jackie Ross - Take the Weight off Me (1972-1982)

Chicago soul singer Jackie Ross had a classic hit record in the '60s with ‘Selfish One’, after which she fell from mainstream popularity but continued to cut great records. This well researched and well packaged 21 track compilation comprises ultra rare and obscure ’70s singles cut after her more famous ‘60s sides for Chess, including tracks issued on the Scepter, GSF, USA, Capitol, and Sedgrick labels. If you know Jackie's classics, you'll know she has got an incredible voice, trained in gospel (she was the daughter of husband-and-wife preachers), but let loose on secular soul with a really righteous quality, a soaring, dynamic range that always went all-out, even in the most conventional settings. Much of the work here was done with producer Jimmy Vanleer and is in a style that mixes some warmer ‘70s touches with Ross' deeper soul vocals. A style that's a bit more sophisticated than before, but still comes off in a personal, intimate way. The set features 5 duets with Little Milton, and another 16 titles with Jackie solo, all of them recorded between 1972 and 1982. A whopping compilation of rare work that includes ‘This World's In A Hell of a Shape’, ‘A Woman (Get's Nothing From Love)’, ‘Need Your Love So Bad’, ‘Love Master’, ‘Hey Love’, ‘One Hand Wash the Other’, ‘I Think I'm Losing You’, ‘Take the Weight off Me’, ‘The People Some People Choose to Love’, ‘Patching Up the Wound’, ‘Teach Me’, and ‘I Like Your Loving’. Enjoy this great music collection that comes to prove once again Jackie Ross is one of Soul Music's most under-appreciated artists. http://www.cityhallrecords.com/, http://www.dustygroove.com/. Many many thanks to Lohmax for passing me this absolute gem ... though I know he despises that word ;-)

First Choice: Armed & Extremely Dangerous (1973)

When it came to female Philly soul in the ‘70s First Choice were second to none. The girls were high school friends from Philadelphia who sang together as The Debronettes in the late ’60s. After contacting WDAS Radio DJ Georgie Woods, they were introduced to Philly soul guitarist/songwriter/producer Norman Harris and Delfonics manager Stan Watson. Their first release was a song written by Harris and Allan Felder, the pumping ‘This Is the House Where Love Died,’ which was leased to New York's Sceptor Records and issued on their Wand imprint in 1972. The single received airplay in Philly and other markets, but failed to chart nationally. Their next single, the Harris-produced ‘Armed and Extremely Dangerous,’ (with its urgent "calling all cars!" intro) was their first big hit, going to number 11 R&B in early 1973 for Stan Watson's Philly Groove label, which was distributed by Bell Records. It was also a Top 20 UK hit. The Armed and Extremely Dangerous album was released in fall 1973 and it was co-produced by Watson and Harris, and mostly arranged by Harris. The credits are a who's who of Philadelphia's finest, already utilised on Gamble & Huff recordings as M.F.S.B., with names like Vincent Montana, Bobby Eli, drummer Earl Young and percussionist Larry Washington. Beginning many of the songs unaccompanied, Young's distinctive 4/4 shuffle beats and Washington's energetic rhythms would in time become the backbone of many a release on the Salsoul label - the premiere Disco label. Lyrically the album could hardly be further from the social commentary and spiritual messages of Gamble & Huff. Aside from a fair reworking of Al Green's ‘Love & Happiness’, titles like ‘Smarty Pants’ and ‘Newsy Neighbours’ speak volumes about a fun, lighter side to soul - but still using that all-important Philadelphia expertise. The title track itself is the most wonderful combination of sublime music and pure cheesiness. Unsuprisingly First Choice's best known songs were released on the Salsoul label a few years later. http://www.wholecircleround.co.uk/, http://www.allmusic.com/

First Choice on Soul Train singing 'Smarty Pants', 1973:

domingo, 19 de abril de 2009

Nina Simone - Wild Is the Wind / High Priestess of Soul (1990)

Of all the major singers of the late 20th century, Nina Simone was one of the hardest to classify. She recorded extensively in the soul, jazz, and pop idioms, often over the course of the same album. It's perhaps most accurate to label her as a "soul" singer in terms of emotion, rather than form. Like, say, Aretha Franklin, or Dusty Springfield, Simone was an eclectic who brought soulful qualities to whatever material she interpreted. These qualities were among her strongest virtues; paradoxically, they also may have kept her from attaining a truly mass audience. Simone's best recorded work was issued on Philips during the mid-'60s, a period that saw her issuing seven albums in three years. Wild Is the Wind, from 1966, was apparently a bit of a pastiche of leftovers from sessions for Nina Simone's four previous albums. But the material is certainly as strong and consistent as it is on her other mid-'60s LPs. The selections are almost unnervingly diverse, ranging from jazz ballads to traditional folk tunes (‘Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair’) to the near calypso of ‘Why Keep on Breaking My Heart’ to the somber, almost chilling title track. Highlights are two outstanding pop-soul numbers written by the pre-disco Van McCoy (‘Either Way I Lose,’ ‘Break Down and Let It All Out’) and ‘Four Women,’ a string of searing vignettes about the hardships of four African-American women that ranks as one of Simone's finest compositions. Perhaps a bit more conscious of contemporary soul trends than her previous albums, High Priestess of Soul (1967) is still very characteristic of her mid-'60s work in its eclecticism. Hal Mooney directs some large band arrangements for the material on this LP without submerging Simone's essential strengths. The more serious and introspective material is more memorable than the good-natured pop selections here. The highlights are her energetic vocal rendition of the Oscar Brown/Nat Adderley composition ‘Work Song’, the gospelish 'I'm Going Back Home' and her spiritual composition ‘Come Ye,’ on which Simone's inspirational vocals are backed by nothing other than minimal percussion. This 1990 reissue gathers both albums on one single cd. http://www.allmusic.com/

Nina sings 'Four Women' at the Antibes Jazz Festival, 1965:

Lyn Collins - Check Me Out If You Don't Know Me by Now (1975) ...plus

Nicknamed "The Female Preacher," Lyn Collins was discovered in the early '70s by James Brown, who was making the transition to the hardest funk phase of his career. Collins sent Brown a demo tape and he responded by essentially putting her on standby in 1970, when Marva Whitney left the Revue. Former vocalist Vicki Anderson elected to rejoin, however, so Brown instead invited Collins to come to Georgia for a recording session in early 1971, which produced the single ‘Wheel of Life.’ By the end of that year, Anderson was ready to leave again, and Collins officially joined the James Brown Revue. In 1972, Brown's People Records label released Collins' self-penned single ‘Think (About It)’; produced by Brown, it became her first and biggest hit and made her the most commercially successful female singer in Brown's camp. Collins' first full-length album, also titled Think (About It), was released later in the year. Collins continued to record singles for Brown through 1973, also fulfilling her heavy touring commitments as a member of the Revue. Collins' second album, Check It Out if You Don't Know Me by Now, was released in 1975. This is the mellower of her two LPs for the People label, though still pretty darn fantastic. At some level, it seems like Lyn is taking on the rest of the soul industry, showing them that she can kick some major booty on her interpretations of hits like ‘Backstabbers’, ‘If You Don't Know Me By Now’, ‘Try A Little Tenderness’, and ‘Mr Big Stuff’, which is one of her best funky tracks ever. She also shines extremely well on the original cuts, especially the funky classic ‘Rock Me Again & Again & Again’, plus the often-overlooked mellow soul groovers ‘To Each His Own’, ‘Put It On The Line’, and ‘How Long Can I Keep It Up’. Along with the original album, this reissue contains 8 bonus tracks. Collins eventually became a backup session vocalist and attempted a comeback as a dance-club diva around the late '80s/early '90s. http://www.answers.com/, http://www.dustygroove.com/
Lyn Collins singing 'Never Gonna Give You Up' on Soul Train, 1973:

Lyn Collins singing 'Rock Me Again & Again' on Soul Train, 1974:

sábado, 18 de abril de 2009

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: Black Magic / Natural Resources (2002)

This two-fer remastered reissue of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ Natural Resources (1970) & Black Magic (1972) Lps contains some of the most accomplished and mature work the girls ever did with Motown. By the turn of the decade, the music scene had changed and the practice of loosely throwing together a bunch of familiar covers for an album release was considered passé for artistes who wanted to be taken seriously. So, with these two albums, Motown tried to upgrade the group's image a bit by getting them to record more contemporary material. The results were mixed. But vocally, Martha was in peak form; she never sounded better. On gems like ‘I Should Be Proud’, she lets rip with a new confidence, allowing her gorgeous voice to soar and her passionate vibrato to convey emotions that must have registered on the richter scale. The release of Natural Resources went virtually unnoticed, but even with its fair share of fillers, it was memorable for the half dozen songs that genuinely worked and showcased Martha's growing prowess as a vocalist. Aside from the devastating ‘I Should Be Proud’, Martha also experimented with jazz and come up with the goods on Jimmy Webb's ‘Didn't We’ and a searing performance on ‘Love, Guess Who’. Another particular highlight was the raunchy ‘Easily Persuaded’ featuring some of the most impressive and soulful singing Martha ever did. The group went out in style with Black Magic, which like its predecessor, wasn't perfect but delivered some truly good stuff. By 1972, the Jackson 5 was Motown's priority act, so Martha & the girls benefited from the spillover effect. ‘Bless You’, written and produced by The Corporation, was their most catchy number in a long while and a modest sized Top 40 hit for them. Their cover of the Jacksons' ‘I Want You Back’ was also different and interesting. But the piece de resistance was ‘Benjamin’, an emotional ballad which showed off Martha's vocal dexterity to great effect. There was also Ashford & Simpson's ‘Tear It on Down’, which once again distinguished Martha's choices from Diana's when they were picking from the same songbook. Martha always went for the heavier, grittier, though less tuneful stuff. Both albums have been included here, plus three previously unreleased bonus tracks. http://www.amazon.com/

Martha Reeves & the Vandellas sing 'Bless you' on Soul Train, 1971:

viernes, 17 de abril de 2009

Maxine Weldon: Right On (1970)

One of those endlessly versatile vocalists who eventually earn the tag "song stylist," Maxine Weldon is equally at home singing soul, jazz, or blues, and often blurs the lines between all of them. Weldon cut her first LPs, Chilly Wind and Right On, for Mainstream over 1970-1971; despite an overall soul flavor, she received significant support from members of the Jazz Crusaders, among others. Weldon next turned up on the Monument label with 1974's Some Singin', a Southern-style country-soul outing that nonetheless bore the hallmark of Weldon's innate sophistication. It became her biggest seller, climbing into the Top 50 on the R&B album charts. She followed it in 1975 with Alone on My Own, but concentrated much less on recording in the years to come. Weldon remained active, though, performing regularly over the next several decades. She was a cast member of the Broadway show Black and Blue, touring with the European production from 1995-1997, and subsequently put together a revue called Wild Women Blues with singer Linda Hopkins. Maxine's first album, Right On, may well be her best. That is thanks to Artie Butler's tight use of soulful backings, often supported by rolling basslines, socking rhythms, and just the right amount of horns to push the album into outta site territory. There is a pretty large group behind Maxine on most numbers, including some LA studio jazz and funk talents like Carol Kaye on bass, Victor Feldman on vibes, Joe Sample on piano, and Plas Johnson on tenor and flute. Titles include the great tune ‘Right On’, plus ‘Johnny One Time’, ‘Grits Ain't Groceries’, ‘It Ain't Me Babe’, ‘Lodi’, ‘Tomorrow On My Mind’, and ‘Make It With You’. http://www.answers.com/, http://www.dustygroove.com/

jueves, 16 de abril de 2009

Shirley Gunter: Oop Shoop - The Flair and Modern Recordings (1953-1957)

Shirley Gunter was one of the first women in Rock & Roll and helped to pave the way for other women to lead their own groups. Like Wanda Jackson, Etta James, LaVerne Baker, Esther Phillips, and Brenda Lee, she was a pioneer. Gunter and her vocal group, the Queens, came together in Los Angeles in the spring of 1954. They were initially spotted by Joe Bihari one night at Savoy Ballroom, sharing the stage with B.B. King, Johnny Otis, the Platters, the Lamplighters, and Marvin & Johnny. Bihari brought Shirley and group to the studios, producing ‘Oop Shoop,’ which made a huge impact on the West Coast, entering the R&B charts and rising to #8. Between 1954 and 1955, the Queens toured the U.S., but subsequent singles failed to do as well as their initial release and, before the end of 1955, they officially split. Shirley carried on as a solo performer, signing to Buck Ram's Personality Productions. In 1956, at the urging of Ram, Gunter joined Modern's Flairs, partnering up with brother Cornell Gunter. Shirley's first Modern single with her brother's group, 'Headin' Home,' sold in a few markets, and they toured the East Coast, but overall nothing clicked. By 1958 Shirley Gunter, a veteran of four years in the R&B limelight, left the music business, returning only periodically. This collection features every single recording that Shirley made for Modern and Flair, and 2 later singles notwithstanding, pretty much represents her recording career in total. Most of these 26 tracks have never been reissued on digital, and four have never been issued at all. ‘Oop Shoop’ itself - along with its B-side, 'It's You' - is a bona fide Rock & Roll Hall of Fame classic, and the rest of the tracks here, the emphasis for which is very definitely on the upbeat, are not even slightly shabby by comparison. http://www.allmusic.com/, http://www.electricearl.com/

martes, 14 de abril de 2009

Barbara & The Browns: Can't Find Happiness - The Sound of Memphis Recordings (2007)

A four-girl family group out of Memphis, led by Barbara Brown, was first known as the Brown Sisters, but by the time they enjoyed their first and only charted single, ‘Big Party’, in 1964 (first on Wil Mo, then leased to Stax; peaked at # 97-pop) they had become Barbara & the Browns, and later on it would be only Barbara Brown on a couple of labels (Atco and Tower). Barbara has got a deep, rich voice that is clearly schooled in gospel, but pointed towards more secular ends; an approach that is very much in keeping with the best late ‘60s wave of soul from Atlantic Records, and which is carried off here with a sharpness and precision simply mindblowing. Why Brown never scored bigger is a real mystery, because these tunes come off like the cream of the crop of southern soul at the end of the 60s: not just obscurities for obscurity sake, but some of the highest level of soul a female soul singer could hope for at the time! This 20-track compilation has eight previously unreleased cuts, and it can roughly be divided into two parts. The first one covers releases on such labels as Cadet, Atco and Tower between 1966 and '68 - including most of the unreleased songs, too - and the second one offers singles on XL and Sounds of Memphis from 1971 and '72. If you're into raw and horn-heavy Memphis sound with intense and gospel-infused singing, then this set is for you. Barbara's six Stax sides (from '64 and '65) are not originally included in the set (though I added myself their 1964 version of ‘Big Party’ as a bonus), but there is more than a fair share of big-voiced deepies to satisfy your soul – ‘Can't Find No Happiness’, ‘It Hurts Me So Much’, ‘If I Can't Run to You I'll Crawl’, ‘I Don't Want to Have to Wait’ (this one has appeared on a number of compilations before), ‘Pity A Fool’, ‘Big Party’ (the 1972 version), ‘Play Thing' and 'Great Big Thing’, among others. Most of them are placed in the first part of the compilation, but starting from track # 7 there are also some toe-tappers, dancers and stompers on display. The '68 Tower single contains two country-soul sides, the touching ‘Things Have Gone to Pieces’ and the bluesy ‘There's a Look on Your Face’. Can't Find Happiness was well worth the wait. http://www.soulexpress.net/, http://www.dustygroove.com/

lunes, 13 de abril de 2009

Letta Mbulu: Naturally (1973) ... plus

Resident in the USA since 1964, Letta Mbulu first came to prominence in South Africa in 1960, as a member of the cast of the musical King Kong. On arrival in the USA, she was still under a exclusive world contract with leading South African label Gallo which, afraid of reprisals from the Pretoria authorities, declined to offer her any new recording opportunities. For three years she continued her fruitless negotiations with Gallo's New York representatives, before unilaterally severing the agreement and signing to Capitol Records. For her new label she released two albums before Gallo re-emerged waving her contract and threatening legal action. The continuing ramifications of this situation meant that Mbulu was unable to record for a further two years, instead spending much of her time on tour with, first, Masekela and, later, Cannonball Adderley. In 1973, the singer issued the album Naturally for Adderley's label Fantasy Records. Indeed, he and Mbulu were paired for several of the album's songs. It's here that the L.A. stamp on Mbulu's still-true take on African township pop starts to reveal itself. Songs like ‘Kube’, ‘Noma Themba,’ ‘Hareje’ and ‘Zimkile’ reflect how comfortable Mbulu could be at the crossroads of African and American music. With brilliant production courtesy of Caiphus Semenya, the album also includes the killer soul flute & break ‘Afro Texas’ plus some creamy strings, afro-bass and nice drums. I added three bonus tracks to the original LP: her catchy soul jazz classic ‘What Is Wrong with Groovin’?’, which starts with a throbbing bassline and then leaps into a beautiful soulful vocal that's among one of her best ever, and two songs from her 1968 album Free Soul, ‘Kukuchi’ and ‘West Wind’. After enjoying considerable USA and UK dance-floor success with the single ‘Kilimanjaro’ in 1981, she guested on Michael Jackson's ‘Liberian Girl’. Her singing can also be heard in Roots and The Color Purple. Mbulu continued to be active throughout the 80s and 90s, based in the USA but frequently touring Africa, the Far East and Europe. http://www.nme.com/

Letta Mbulu astonishing rendition of 'Carry On', from 1983:

Betty Harris - Soul Perfection Plus (1963-69)

Renowned in deep soul circles for the devastating ballad ‘Cry to Me,’ Betty Harris left home at 17 to pursue a career on secular music, briefly apprenticing under R&B star Big Maybelle before eventually landing in California. In 1960 she cut the single ‘Taking Care of Business’ for the Douglas label. Record promoter Babe Chivian recommended that Harris relocate to New York City, promising her an audition with Brill Building producer Bert Berns. He immediately dispatched Harris to the recording studio, and in just three takes she turned ‘Cry to Me,’ into a top 10 R&B hit (#23 Pop) and a Deep Soul classic. Two further singles were released on Jubilee, with ‘His Kiss’ making the lower part of Billboard Pop and R&B charts. When ‘Mo Jo Hannah’ met a similar fate, Berns opted to cut his losses. During a 1965 tour, Harris met New Orleans composer and producer Allen Toussaint, and with the superbly slinky ‘I'm Evil Tonight’ she became the first artist to record for his fledgling Sansu label. The bluesy balladry of Harris' Jubilee sides gave way to a funky, sensual dynamic that heralded a new era of New Orleans R&B. The 1966 ballad ‘Sometime’ was backed by the brilliant ‘I Don't Want to Hear It,’ Toussaint's edgiest and most aggressive production to date. The subsequent ‘12 Red Roses’ further refined the approach, and with 1967's ‘Nearer to You’ Harris finally returned to the R&B Top 20, delivering another sublimely emotional performance. ‘Love Lots of Lovin',’ a duet with Lee Dorsey, closed out the year. Harris forged on, with 1968's ‘Mean Man’ delivering her grittiest effort to date. She then ended her Sansu tenure with the fierce ‘Trouble with My Lover,’ reuniting with Toussaint for one final collaboration, the 1969 funk cult classic ‘There's a Break in the Road’. This out of print set contains all of the Jubilee, Sansu & SSS International works (including first-time stereo mixes and previously unissued material) recorded by one of soul music's most talented yet underrated singers. Enjoy! http://www.allmusic.com/

domingo, 12 de abril de 2009

Billie Davis: Tell Him - The Decca Years (2005)

A vivacious and talented British singer who sustained a notable performing career throughout the ‘60s despite significant setbacks, Billie Davis certainly deserved greater chart success for her recordings, with really only the classic ‘Tell Him’ regularly making the general ‘60s compilations today. By the end of the decade, Billie had gone full circle with recording labels from Decca to Columbia to Pye then Decca again but not before making another classic record, ‘I Want You to Be My Baby,’ in 1968, that should have been a monster-sized hit, but sadly ended up just missing the Top 30. This is a superb collection comprised of Billie's singles for Decca, most of them dating between 1967 and 1970 (with four tracks from her 1963 stint with the label), and augmented with a handful of tracks from her self-titled 1970 album. It's all superb girl group-style pop, with a distinctly American, blue-eyed-soul edge and even an occasional psychedelic intrusion, highlighted by the northern soul dancer ‘Billy Sunshine,’ her impassioned versions of ‘Wasn't It You’ and ‘Angel of the Morning’ and the moving ‘Nobody's Home to Go Home To,’ among other tracks. There's not a loser in the bunch and, in fact, the songs all show an amazing consistency despite origins as different as Joe Cocker, Carole King, Ian Anderson (yes, she covered ‘Living in the Past’), and Neil Diamond. Strangely enough, the appending of the four early Decca sides at the end of the set is sort of jarring, throwing listeners back to an earlier (though still eminently enjoyable) era of British pop/rock. Should you want everything she recorded, try also her 28 track anthology ‘Whatcha Gonna Do: Singles, Rarities and Unreleased (1963-1966)’ -already posted on my other blog-, which contains all of her singles for Columbia and Piccadilly (including her duets as half of Keith & Billie), along with five previously unreleased 1963 cuts (two studio outtakes and three live performances). http://www.alibris.co.uk/, http://www.cherryred.co.uk/
Billie Davis performing the song ‘Whatcha Gonna Do?’ on Top Gear (1965):

sábado, 11 de abril de 2009

P.P. Arnold: The First Cut - The Immediate Anthology (2001)

A soul vocalist who came from a family of gospel singers, Pat (P.P.) Arnold began singing as a four-year-old. She got her start backing Bobby Day before being invited to join the Ikettes, backing Ike and Tina Turner. Arnold toured with them in the '60s, including one stint with the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger persuaded her to remain in London, and she later recorded for the Immediate label (then run by the Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham). Loog Oldham, Jagger, and Mike Hurst produced Arnold's debut LP, The First Lady of Immediate, in 1967, which included the single ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest,’ which was written by Cat Stevens and later popularized by Rod Stewart. Arnold also had moderate success with the singles ‘The Time Has Come,’ ‘(If You Think You're) Groovy,’ (written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, of the Small Faces) and ‘Angel in the Morning’ in the late '60s, though they were hits in England and Europe rather than America. Arnold was part of the cast for the play Catch My Soul in 1969, and subsequently acted in the television shows Fame and Knots Landing, plus Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express. Arnold re-entered the music world in the mid-'80s. She sang lead on a Boy George song for the film Electric Dreams in 1984 while on 10 Records. She worked with Dexter Wansel and Loose Ends on the single ‘A Little Pain,’ which she recorded as Pat Arnold. She then had another English hit with the single ‘Burn It Up’ on the Rhythm King label. The Beatmasters later produced her song ‘Dynamite.’ P.P. Arnold is also the only classic soul sister I have had to chance to see on stage. And I can tell she is extraordinary!! This fantastic anthology collects her entire Immediate catalogue (28 songs), including all of her hit singles, plus several tracks recorded with the Small Faces. I added one more song that did not appear on the original release, a duet with Rod Stewart called ‘Come Home Baby’, from 1966. http://www.answers.com/.
Her classic rendition of the beautiful Cat Stevens' song 'The First Cut Is the Deepest' and 'Time Has Come', on Beat Club, 1967:


P.P. Arnold performs 'Eleanor Rigby' on the Spanish TV Show Peticiones del Oyente, 1970:

And, finally, singing live '(If You Think You're) Groovy' on a French show called Surprise, aired the 31st of December 1968:

jueves, 9 de abril de 2009

As a taster of what's to come ...

Which version of ‘Angel of the Morning’ do you prefer, Billie Davis’ or P.P. Arnold’s?


miércoles, 8 de abril de 2009

Maxine Brown: Oh No Not My Baby - The Best of (1990)

Although there had been great female R&B and pop singers before she came along, it is generally accepted that Maxine Brown was the first female soul singer of any significance. Given the excellence of the music that Maxine recorded, it is remarkable that she did not achieve superstardom. This 28-song anthology, originally released in 1990, is undoubtedly the best compilation of this iconic soul singer’s work, featuring many of her '60s singles and several tunes from the era that were unreleased until the '80s. The set draws from her recordings for the Wand label between 1963 and 1967, when Brown was at her artistic peak. Of course the hit title track is a highlight, but there are no clunkers in this collection of overlooked '60s pop-soul, featuring the New York "uptown" production that also graced the records of fellow Wand/Scepter artists like Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson. The strings and soaring backing vocals are a brilliant counterpart to some hard hitting drums and punchy choruses, and there are some delicate numbers, too - while Maxine shines beautifully throughout! Titles include ‘One in a Million’, ‘It's Torture’, ‘Let Me Give You My Lovin'’, 'Yesterday's Kisses’, ‘Gotta Find A Way’, ‘Baby Cakes’, ‘Why Did I Choose You’, ‘Misty Morning Eyes’, ‘Since I Found You’, ‘Losing My Touch’, ‘If I Had Known’, ‘It's Gonna Be Alright’, an impressive live version of her classic ‘All in My Mind’, from 1964, and more. Brown was one of the most versatile soul divas of the '60s, showing the influence of Brill Building pop, girl groups, Motown, and even Stax soul and supper-club ballads. As with a similar artist like Betty Everett, this versaility has worked against her in some ways. Neither full-fledged pop nor unabashedly soul, her work cannot be easily pigeonholed into a certain soul genre, and has cost her the respect that some purists reserve for "deep" soul singers. Nevertheless, she is one of my favourite soul singers. http://www.allmusic.com/, http://www.dustygroove.com/

martes, 7 de abril de 2009

The Sweet Inspirations: The Sweet Inspirations (1967)

If one was cutting a soul, R&B, pop, rock, or girl group record in New York in the '60s and needed female backup vocals, chances are they would try to get the Sweet Inspirations first. They found their way onto numerous recordings, including hits by the Drifters, Van Morrison, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and, most famously, Aretha Franklin, with whom they sometimes toured. The group evolved from the '50s gospel group the Drinkard Singers. At various points Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick, and sister Dee Dee Warwick were members, but by the time they began to record on their own for Atlantic Records in 1967 as the Sweet Inspirations, their leader was Cissy Houston. According to the liner notes of their self titled debut album, Jerry Wexler turned to Cissy and told her he had an inspiration, to which she promptly replyed, "oh, sweet!" Actually the group brought so much inspiration to the singers they backed, that Chuck Jackson suggested that name, and since there was already a group with that name, they added "Sweet" in front of it. In the summer of that year the Sweet Inspirations recorded some soul-like versions of ‘Why (Am I Treated So Bad)’ and ‘Let It Be Me,’ which reached number 57 and number 94 on the pop charts respectively. On the R&B charts, moreover, the songs reached number 36 and number 13, really establishing the girls as major recording artists. A breath-taking version of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Do Right Woman-Do Right Man’ was next up, but it failed to chart so closely after it predecessor. The girls had recorded enough songs to make their first album, and the title track, ‘Sweet Inspiration,’ became their biggest hit yet. It peaked at number 18 on the pop charts, but made it all the way to the Top 5 on the R&B listings. Houston left the group at the end of the '60s and the Inspirations left Atlantic in the early '70s, sometimes working with Elvis Presley and recording an album for Stax in 1973. Needless to say, they are one of my favourite girl groups! ~ http://www.answers.com/, http://www.geocities.com/

lunes, 6 de abril de 2009

Anna King: Back to Soul (1964) ... plus

The James Brown Revue has included numerous 'feature' female singers through the decades, from Tammy Montgomery (Terrell), Sugar Pie DeSanto and Vicki Anderson to Yvonne Fair and Lynn Collins, but while Mr Brown included most of these ladies in 'live' LPs, and others had solo contracts with his label, only Anna King enjoyed the privilege of James Brown producing an album for her. Anna was initially a gospel singer, but her big break came when she auditioned for Brown searching for Tammi Terrell’s replacement, in 1963. He noted the quality of Anna's stirring, soulful vocals, had her sign with Smash and produced the Back to Soul LP. The album included Anna's distinctive versions of several soul and blues hits and some Brown originals written under various pseudonyms, plus a storming duet with Bobby Byrd, 'Baby Baby Baby', which took her into the R&B top 50 early in 1964 and 'bubbling under' the Billboard Hot 100. Anna left the James Brown revue in late 1964 to go her own way, although still contracted to him, releasing two more Smash singles. Finally free from James Brown, she released an answer record to ‘Papa's Got a Brand New Bag’, called ‘Mama's Got a Bag of Her Own’ (which I added here as a bonus track), on End Records, 1964. Oddly enough this would be her last secular recording. She retired from the business; her entire recording career lasted just over a year. A few years later she got a call from Duke Ellington to sing his sacred concerts. In the mid 1970’s she became a minister, but by then she was done singing professionally. She was still ministering when she died in Philadelphia on October 21, 2002. http://www.cherryred.co.uk/, http://www.amoeba.com

Marie Knight: The Story of Marie Knight

The recording career of Marie Knight spans an impressive fifty years; spells cutting gospel bool-endings a decade-plus in the service of R&B and soul music. Marie’s vocal talents were recognized early on. When she was five years old, Marie -who was born in Sanford, Florida, but raised in Newark, New Jersey- sang the gospel number 'Doing All the Good We Can' at her parents' church, where the congregants marveled at her poise. A member of the youth choir, she was soon elevated to soloist and taught herself to play piano. That joy soon became a professional calling for Marie, who by her early twenties had gained experience touring the national gospel circuit with evangelist Frances Robinson; she even recorded a few early sides with the quartet The Sunset Four. In 1946, she met Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the nationally famous gospel singer-guitarist, who recognized something special in Marie's compelling contralto and her elegant stage presence. The two became gospel's preeminent duo of the ‘40s, recording some hits for Decca Records. By the late ‘40s, Marie and Rosetta had split to pursue separate musical projects: Marie to do solo gospel work on Decca. In the '50s to mid-'60s , Marie cultivated a R&B career, touring with the likes of Brooke Benton, the Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter. This is the most comprehensive collection ever released of her fantastics sides of that era. There are some straight gospel and R&B-styled numbers, but Knight is at her best on the more elaborate early soul cuts, which sometimes have a adult pop, torch song bounce. ‘Come Tomorrow,’ covered by Manfred Mann in 1965, is an obvious highlight, and not that similar to the cover version, with a soaring string-laden production. ‘A Little Too Lonely’ sounds a lot like, and stands up very well to, the Bacharach-David songs recorded by Dionne Warwick at the beginning of her career. The dramatic ‘I Don't Want to Walk Alone’ has an absolutely commanding vocal performance the equal of (or better than) many a cult soul singer. A very interesting collection by an impressive, powerful singer deserving of wider recognition, recommended to soul collectors who think they've run out of things to discover. http://secure.swapacd.com/, http://www.marieknight.com/. Many thanks to Lohmax for passing me this!!
Sister Marie Knight sings 'Up Above My Head (There Is Music in the Air)' on a recent live concert:

A short clip of Marie Knight's story (contains rare footage capturing a young Marie in some of her classic performances):

jueves, 2 de abril de 2009

Dorothy Moore: Misty Blue (1976) ...plus

Dorothy Moore was one of the last great Southern Soul singers to find success in the late ‘70s, when disco and funk were making deep soul an increasingly marginalized form limited to the south. She began her career at Jackson State University where she formed an all-female group called the Poppies with Petsye McCune and Rosemary Taylor. The group recorded for Columbia Records' Date subsidiary, reaching number 56 in the pop charts in 1966 with ‘Lullaby of Love’. Abortive solo singles for the Avco, GSF and Chimneyville labels followed, before her career took off with a series of remarkable ballads for Malaco Records. ‘Misty Blue’ was a number two R&B and number three pop single and a sizzling piece of heartache soul, while ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ wasn't as definitive a soul recasting of Willie Nelson's composition as Joe Hinton's version, but it did better on the charts, reaching number seven R&B. Moore's recordings in the next few years were not nearly as successful as she succumbed increasingly to the disco trend. She left the business for several years, but in 1986 recorded the fine gospel set, ‘Giving It Straight to You’, in Nashville for the Rejoice label. It yielded a masterful remake of Brother Joe May's ‘What Is This’ that became a Top 10 gospel hit. Moore returned to secular music in 1988, recording, in a deep soul style, two albums for the Volt subsidiary of Fantasy Records. In 1990 she returned to her original label, Malaco, for whom she recorded several high class albums during the ensuing decade and into the new millenium. Here is her third album for Malaco 'Misty Blue', from 1976, containing the title track hit, plus three of her late-'70s singles 'I Believe In You' (1977, U.S. #27, R&B #5, UK #20), 'With Pen in Hand' (1978, R&B #12) and 'Special Occasion' (1978, R&B #30), as bonus tracks. http://www.answers.com/, http://www.oldies.com/

Dorothy Moore performing her classic 'Misty Blue':

miércoles, 1 de abril de 2009

Gangster Soul: Girlz Harmony (2007)

Here is a soulful, all female dynamite group Soul Harmony compilation, straight from the late 60's and early to mid 70's underground soul oldie era. With those heartbreaking stories, and tales of deceit, false love etc., fully backed by a woman's point of view, each pleading their case. With incredible arrangements, sweet lead vocals, and of course that trademark Gangster Soul Harmony Sound. I hope you enjoy it!

10. Linda More - I'll Give You the World
13. Exceptional Three feat. Ruby Carter - What About Me?