Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rest for the wicked

It's vacation time, so I'll leave you with these.

New York Port Authority: "I Don't Want to Work Today" (Invictus, 1977)

If you know a better song about playing hooky, holler.

Greg Perry: "Come Fly With Me/Let's Get Away from It All" (RCA, 1977)

This one's subtle, but give it time and it'll pay off.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

I am he as you are me

Freddie McCoy: "I Am the Walrus" (Prestige, 1968)

By all rights, this should really suck.

A jazz vibraphone player gets sent to the studio to make an album of pop covers saddled with sitar and strings and draws a Beatles cover. Beatles covers are inherently really hard to pull off because (duh) the band were so fucking great. This works, though.

Being an instrumental, McCoy is freed from having to sing Lennon at his most self-indulgent and precious ("sitting on a cornflake"? "elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna"?) and can focus on the deliciously off-kilter melody.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 22, 2008

One thing leads to another

You are now about to witness the strength of epic nerdery.

A few weeks ago I was buying groceries when I heard Doug Sahm's "She's About a Mover" over the P.A. at Trader Joe's. It's a great song, but it made me want to go home and dig out this version:

Roy Head: "She's About a Mover" (Dunhill, 1970)

I'll always associate this song with the Solesides crew, who murdered it on their Radio Sole cassette. (Or at least that's how I remember it-- what was the line-up, Shadow cutting while Lyrics Born sang? Anybody want to send me a rip of the routine? Mine went MIA about ten years ago.)

While I was ripping, I noticed that on the same album Head recorded covers not only of Dyke & the Blazers "Let a Woman Be a Woman", but also of two great, but genuinely obscure songs:

James Anderson Parkway: "I Was Born a Free Man" (Pacemaker, 196?)

Body & Soul: "In the Beginning" (National General, 1970)

The first one isn't that surprising a song choice. The Steppenwolf-ish beast was produced by Texas genius/purported child molester Huey P. Meaux, who also produced Head's album and probably foisted the tune on Head. The original version was reissued on the Le Beat Bespoké comp of a few years back. James Anderson had at least one other record with Meaux, a blue-eyed funk single licensed to Cotillion.

The latter is surprising. Body & Soul was a L.A.-based band. Their lone LP, for the short-lived National General label, got national distribution from Buddah, but it's a pretty damn obscure record. I emailed the song's author, Charles Green, and even he wasn't sure how it ended up on Head's record.

To follow the thread a little further, nestled away on Body & Soul's LP is a cover of this:

Shades of Black Lightning: "Yesterday's Dream" (Tower, 1968)

In my private mind garden, this song was a huge hit inspiring legions of moody psych soul imitators. In reality, the Shades of Black Lightning album probably only inspired a cover because Burbank's Freddie Piro produced both albums.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The chicken and the egg

Following up on last week's tribute to Isaac Hayes, here's a very faithful version of Hayes's version of Bacharach/David's "Walk On By":

Joann Garrett: "Walk On By" (Cadet, 1969)

Or at least I assume it's based on Hayes's version. This one lacks not only strings but also horns that are in tune, yet that snaky, fuzzed-out guitar has got to originate with one of the two.

Garrett's LP credits her recording date as October 1969; Hot Buttered Soul came out sometime that same year but 5 minutes of doing a google and a glance at Rob Bowman's Soulsville, U.S.A. didn't tell me when. (BTW, great book, although it gets a little ponderous at the end and the type could not possibly be smaller.) For anyone recoiling at the mere suggestion that Garrett could have been first with the arrangement, let me just say that producer Andre Williams came up with a lot of stuff he's never received proper credit for.

BTW, there's a great, marginally snarky piece about Hayes's memorial in the paper of record. I didn't know rap's greatest live performer is a Scientologist, too.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's a groove

Damn, two R.I.P. posts in a row.

Jerry Wexler passed away this week. He was really old.

As one of the top guys at Atlantic Records, he was responsible for discovering (or re-discovering), signing, recording and promoting phenomenal black music from the early 50s on, including some of the titans: Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, to name three.

It's difficult to know how much credit to ascribe to guys on the business side of the music industry, but Wexler's history of being in the right place at the right time over and over again marks him as special. Wexler's particular gift appears to have been recognizing genius and finding the best possible setting for it--send Dusty to Memphis! Aretha to Muscle Shoals! Pickett, too! no, wait, send Pickett to Philadelphia! let Ray Charles do whatever he damn well pleases!

Here's one of my favorites together with an oddity from the 2-CD Aretha Franklin set of unreleased material that Wexler annotated last year.

Wilson Pickett: "It's a Groove" (Atlantic, 1966)

Aretha Franklin: "Are You Leaving Me" (Atlantic, 2007)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It has come to my attention

that Divshare is fucking up such that the "download" option has disappeared from the little flash players for each song I've posted.

I'm not sure what's going on, but for the moment I've created a workaround by posting links to d/l pages for many of the songs posted recently. Just click on the hyperlinks in the song titles and holler if it doesn't work.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gospel week, day 7: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made

... but around here, we don't take it that easy.

Art Reynolds Singers: "Long, Dusty Road" (Capitol, 196?)

This is such a beautiful ballad, although when it gets to the line about "I've got unfinished stories to be told," I can't help thinking of Project Pat's "I Ain't Goin' Back to Jail" ("I got more dreams to tell...."). When I was poking around trying to find out which year this came out, I learned that my homeboy Jonny posted it a while ago at the site for his store, Good Records NYC. They have some cool mixes posted over there, especially the rare soul mix by the homie Justin Torres.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gospel week, day 6: why?

The Staple Singers: "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" (Epic, 1966)

I think John Fogerty bit his whole guitar style from the way Pops Staples played in this era. It's a fantastic sound.

This is a great cover version that appears on a record I used to find a lot:

The Metro-Tones, Inc.: "Why Am I Treated So Bad" (Savoy, 1973)


Friday, August 8, 2008

Gospel week, day 5: he's coming (RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

9th Creation were from Stockton, about an hour and a half east of Oakland. They never had any hits, but they were around for a decade and released some really good records, from jazzy funk to a mid-80s modern soul EP people pay insane amounts of money for. Aside from a couple gospel songs on their Reaching for the Top album, I think their whole output was secular.

9th Creation: "He's Coming" (Prelude, 1977)

The combination of the 9th Creation cover and lyric make me think of this place, which has maybe my favorite facade of any business in Oakland:

I think the wall with the third picture was painted over recently (black, natch), but the thong-wearing body builder with green laser hands is still in full effect. The photos came from here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gospel week, day 4: toil and trouble

Inez Andrews: "Troubled Young Man" (Songbird, 1976)

The production and arrangement are by Gene Barge, who for years was a staff producer and arranger for the Chess family of labels. If you're the type to read credits, you'll find his name on hundreds of great Chicago soul, funk and jazz releases-- along with Richard Evans, Sonny Sanders and Tom Tom Washington, it's a name that signals a record is worth a listen. I'm not sure how deep his gospel roots go but he also co-wrote the Violinaires' great "Groovin' with Jesus".


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gospel week, day 3: homework... homework... give me a break!

Jackson Southernaires: "Don't Let Him Catch You (With Your Work Undone)" (Songbird, 1973)

Somebody tell me-- did the "don't leave your homework undone" meme start in church and cross over to R&B, or did it come from all of the cheating songs of the day and then get put to use here?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gospel week, day 2: stealin' in the name of the lord

Secular soul music often borrows pretty liberally from traditional gospel songs (e.g., "Little Walter" from "Wade in the Water", "My Babe" from "This Train", "This Little Girl of Mine" from "This Little Light of Mine", etc. etc.), but I always kind of bug when borrowing goes the other way. I mean, the 8th Commandment applies to gospel dudes, too, right?

Anyhow, these guys understood that the world needed a gospel rip-off of "Long Train Running":

World Wonders of Birmingham, Ala.: "The Cost of Living (Is Very High)" (Savoy, 1980)

As a bonus, here's their version of the aforementioned "This Little Light of Mine":

World Wonders of Birmingham, Ala.: "This Light of Mine" (Savoy, 1980)

BTW, homie on the lower left looks dead-on ?uestlove, right?

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 4, 2008

What the hell... it's gospel week!

Listening to Nick the Record's gospel mix inspired me to pull out and rip a lot of records I hadn't listened to in ages, which in turn inspired me to try a week of gospel posts.

The vast majority of gospel records I own are things I snagged for the odd funk-style track hiding here or there. I can appreciate gospel in an unadulterated form, but it's not an experience I generally seek out.

Finding funky gospel records has always been surprisingly tough-- my hit-to-miss ratio quickly taught me to avoid blind buys altogether, and even listening to stacks with a portable has seldom been rewarding. Of course, there's some great stuff out there-- as Nick's mix or the Numero Group's excellent Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal comp demonstrate-- just not a lot of low-hanging fruit.

To kick the week off, here's something from Columbus, Ohio's Bill Moss, who's best known for the secular message record, "Sock It to 'Em, Soul Brother" (shouting out, among others, O.J. Simpson!):

Bill Moss & the Celestials: "Keep On Using Me Jesus (Until You Use Me Up)" (Jewel, 1975)