Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blowing the Fuse 1959

If you have begun to notice that some very familiar tunes sound different in this set it is likely because these are the originals by the black artists rather than the white covers that sold more copies and are more often played.

"Blowing the Fuse: 29 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1959 is among the finer entries in this excellent series issued by the Bear Family label. For starters just look at the list of artists that appear here: James Brown, Lavern Baker, Lloyd Price, Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson, Brook Benton, the Coasters, the Flamingos, and more. It's loaded. Just looking over the contents makes a serious music listener wistful for a culture where the juke box still thrived everywhere, from diners to bars and even bowling alleys. These early sides by some of the greatest R&B artists are not to be missed. Brown's "Try Me," drips with so much lonely ache, you want to help him find his woman. Likewise, the lonely sax blowing behind Baker is a response to her every brokenhearted line. Price's "Stagger Lee" is one of the great reads of the song -- whether Greil Marcus likes it or not -- the groove is tight, tough, and it sounds like the unfolding of an epic, and it all happens in two-minutes-and-22 seconds. There's also a smoking version of Wilbert Harrison's stroller "Kansas City." Hank Ballard's "The Twist" is rawer than the Chubby Checker version, which is why the latter was probably the hit. There isn't a track on this monster that doesn't shimmy, shake, or groove, and you need it. Period." Jurek, AMG

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blowing he Fuse 1958

 The one thing I will point out personally here is track 4 by Roy Hamilton - now you know who Elvis was REALLY copying!

"While the 1958 volume in the Bear Family label's Blowing the Fuse series may not have as many utterly well-known hits, that doesn't mean it's not every bit a treasure trove of fine music. Far from it, and it does have its share; Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive," Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," Fats Domino's "Whole Lotta Loving," the Monotones' "Book of Love," and Bobby Freeman's' "Do You Wanna Dance" all qualify in this category, as does Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly." But there are other smoking cuts such as Roy Hamilton's rock & roll and R&B hybrid "Don't Let Go," the early soul of Sam Cooke's early solo effort "I'll Come Running Back to You," and Little Willie John's "Talk to Me, Talk to Me." But the side opens with the inimitable wail of the Hollywood Flames' "Buzz, Buzz, Buzz," which is early rock & roll as it engaged doo wop. And then there's the scorching original version of "Rockin' Robin" by Bobby Day. In other words, it's about as necessary as a record of early rock & roll and R&B can be. Get it." amg

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dan Penn - Do Right Man

There has really never been a doubt about who the first white guy to get a post here would be, it was only a matter of when and I just can't resist anymore because it just isn't fair to keep this in my pocket any longer. Do yourself a favor today, you need this album, period!

"If James Brown is Soul Brother Number One, you can make a very credible case for Dan Penn being number two. The Alabama native has had a hand in writing a fair number of classic soul songs, and here he commits his versions of them to tape for the first time, recording, of course, in Muscle Shoals, with their fabulous house band, and a horn section including former Memphis Horn member Wayne Jackson. It's a tall order Penn sets himself, offering himself up for comparison with greats like James Carr, Aretha Franklin, and James and Bobby Purify, who have sung his songs -- and that's just the start of the list. However, he comes out very well, beginning with a quiet take on"The Dark End of the Street," coming across like a note to a secret lover, rather than a cry of pain. "It Tears Me Up" conveys the anguish,"You Left the Water Running" bounces in its pain, and "Do Right Woman Do Right Man" is advice to a friend, instead of Aretha's extra freedom cry for equal rights."I'm Your Puppet" becomes a sigh of resignation. Given tracks like that, the other songs will inevitably suffer by comparison, and, to be fair, "Memphis Women and Chicken" is little more than a throwaway. But even the lesser-known material from a craftsman-like Penn is head and shoulders above most of the competition, and "Zero Willpower," a song that he took 20 years to complete, has soul classic written all over it, as good as the greatest hits. Penn can't just write 'em, he can perform 'em too, in a manner as soulful as the greats, as this record shows. The man deserves to be an American musical icon." by Chris Nickson, AMG

 I just had to include this review so that it isn't just me gushing over this magnificent little gem. I can't seem to get this one off my player, I'm just hooked on it. From the opening moments of "Dark Side" you will be transfixed by the power of this man's genius. I have read all the stories of how Dan's demo's were so good they challanged the artists who had the hits with them to even match the deep soul of Penn's versions, but until you hear something like this it isn't real to you. The vulnerability in Penn's  version of "It Tears Me Up" is unbelievably moving, it is unfathomable that they did not put it on the radio in 1994, how could it miss being a hit?

I enthusiastically second the final statement of the review, Penn belongs in a very special group of pure originals, Muscle Shoals should erect statues of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham in the center of town for crying out loud. Oh Yeah, Spooner? Well of course he's on the record too!

 "Dan Penn (born Wallace Daniel Pennington, 16 November 1941) is an American singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer who co-wrote many soul hits of the 1960s including "Dark End Of The Street" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" with Chips Moman as well as "Out Of Left Field" and "Cry Like A Baby" with Spooner Oldham. Penn also produced many hits including "The Letter" by The Box Tops. Though considered to be one of the great white soul singers of his generation, Penn has released relatively few records featuring his own vocals and musicianship preferring the relative anonymity of songwriting and producing.

Penn grew up in Vernon, Alabama, and spent much of his teens and early twenties in the Quad Cities/Muscle Shoals area. He was a regular at Rick Hall's FAME Studios as a performer, songwriter, and producer. It was during his time with FAME that Penn cut his first record, "Crazy Over You" in 1960, and wrote his first hit, "Is a Bluebird Blue?" which was recorded by Conway Twitty in the same year, and was later covered by James Brown. The success of the #6 pop hit, "I'm Your Puppet" by James & Bobby Purify convinced him that songwriting was a lucratively worthwhile career choice.

In early 1966, Penn moved to Memphis, began writing for Press Publishing Company, and worked with Chips Moman at his American Studios. Their intense and short-lived partnership produced some of the best known and most enduring songs of the genre. Their first collaboration, the enduring classic "Dark End of the Street", was first a hit for James Carr and has since been recorded by many others including Roy Hamilton, Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Elvis Costello, Frank Black, Gram Parsons, Richard & Linda Thompson, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. It was also used in the hit movie "The Commitments".
A few months later, during the legendary recording sessions that saw Jerry Wexler introduce Aretha Franklin to FAME Studios and her first major success, the pair wrote "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" in the studio for her, which went to #37 in Billboard in 1967. The song has since been recorded many times including by Barbara Mandrell, Cher, Etta James, Joan Baez, Marva Wright, Phoebe Snow and Willie Nelson. It has also been recorded with Japanese lyrics as "Onna No Sadame". In early 1967 Penn produced "The Letter" for The Box Tops.

He and long-time friend and collaborator Spooner Oldham also wrote a number of hits for the band, including "Cry Like A Baby", another song which has been covered many times, including by Cher, Kiki Dee, Kim Carnes and Lulu. Other songs written or co-written by Penn which have been recorded many times include "I'm Your Puppet" a #6 hit in 1966 for James and Bobby Purify, and also recorded by Sam & Dave, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Irma Thomas, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Peter & Gordan and Tierra, "Woman Left Lonely" recorded by Janis Joplin, Elkie Brooks, (Do Right Woman) Charlie Rich, Cat Power, Irma Thomas, Rita Coolidge, Patti Page & Clementine, and "Sweet Inspiration" a #5 hit for the Sweet Inspirations in 1968, and also recorded by The Supremes, Vonda Sheppard, Rita Coolidge, and Wilson Pickett, and "You Left The Water Running" a #42 hit for Otis Redding in 1966, and later recorded by the Flying Burrito Brothers, Huey Lewis, and Wilson Pickett.

Other notable songs written or co-written by Dan Penn are "I Hate You" recorded by Bobby Blue
Bland and Jerry Lee Lewis, "Handy" and "Everyday Livin' Days" recorded by Merrilee Rush, "I Got a Feelin For You" recorded by Kelly Willis, "I'm Not Done Lovin' You Yet" record by Neil Young's wife Pegi on her solo album, Like A Road Leading Home recorded by Albert King and Jerry Garcia, "Nobody's Fool" recorded by Alex Chilton, "Time I Took A Holiday" recorded by Nick Lowe, "Where You Gettin' It" recorded by Theryl DeClouet, "Out of Left Field" recorded by Percy Sledge and Hank Williams, Jr., and "Slippin' Around" recorded by Clarence Carter and the Detroit Cobras.

Penn continued writing and producing hits for numerous artists during the 1960s and finally released a record of his own, the 1972 single entitled "Nobody's Fool". He was coaxed into the studio again in 1993 to record the acclaimed "Do Right Man" which saw him reunited with many of his friends and colleagues from Memphis & Muscle Shoals. He also has recently written and produced for the Hacienda Brothers.

He now lives in Nashville, and continues to write with Oldham and other contemporaries such as Donnie Fritts, Gary Nicholson and Norbert Putnam. He and Carson Whitsett have had their collaborations recorded by Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams and often teamed with writers Jonnie Barmett and later, Hoy Lindsey. The Penn/Whitsett/Lindsey team are responsible for Solomon Burke's "Don't Give Up On Me" (also recorded by Joe Cocker), and Penn produced 2005's Better to Have It by Bobby Purify that featured twelve songs from the team. He and Oldham also tour together as their schedules permit."

I wonder who that bass player with him is?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sam Cooke - My Kind Of Blues

Ripped at 24/44.1 wav and dithered to 16/44.1 FLAC... enjoy!!

RCA Victor LPM-2392

Sam Cooke's voice is justifiably legendary, but most of his RCA albums are astonishingly little-known today, and My Kind of Blues explains why this is so, at least in part. The singing is superb throughout, but the repertoire, even in 1961, was not terribly well defined or the recordings well arranged. The basic problem lay in the nature of Cooke's career arc, which probably straddled too many styles and musical worlds for his own good -- the spiritual and the secular, pop and rock & roll, and pop and soul, all as defined in his time (which was, effectively, from the early '50s to the early '60s). The "blues" as a label on an album had a much wider meaning than it would have had at the other end of the decade, or any time since -- Cooke was part of a world where adult pop still held sway and seemed, at least for the LP market, a more attractive target than the teenage or even collegiate audiences of the time. Thus, the "blues" heard here would have been appropriate for a mainstream singer -- say, Sinatra, or Nat King Cole -- circa 1961 (or, really, about 1957 -- Cooke's producers were very conservative) -- rather than what most listeners today would call blues. Brassy, big-scale orchestrations abound, and even the leaner textured songs, such as "Little Girl Blue" and "You're Always on My Mind," rely on a reed or horn section, respectively, to augment the electric guitar, piano, bass, and brushed drums at the core of their arrangements. Some of this works beautifully, as on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," which was a good enough song to make it into Cooke's set at his Copa appearances, and, along with a handful of other tracks here, also onto the compilation The Rhythm and the Blues (and the box set The Man Who Invented Soul). All of this is what would probably be called "smooth blues" (assuming it is defined as blues at all in a modern sense); it's more soul of a pop variety. But Cooke's voice carries it -- even the weakest arrangements and material get elevated, as the best of Cooke's interpretive instincts overcome the worst of his producers' instincts. Given its limitations, My Kind of Blues was never going to be a defining album in Cooke's output, and had he lived past 1964 it almost certainly would have been relegated to his "early period" in a full career. Its strongest moments, of which there are many, stand on their own, however, and the leanest of the arrangements point the way toward greater things that were to come, including the best parts of Mr. Soul and the whole Night Beat album.  - Bruce Eder/AMG

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blowing the Fuse 1957

 Now I know that Cliff will disagree but I still say that any similar collection made over the last 30 years would be laughable in comparison to these babies.I mean just look down that list of names!

1957 was one fun year on the jukebox. The rise of the vocal groups continue; they seem to take up at least half of this one. The teen domination of the market is clearly evident in the increase of cornball and romance and the decrease of adult themes, even the Ruth Brown tune is shockingly 'sweet'. Still the beats will get your foot patting for the whole ride.

While lighthearted fun pieces are clearly in vogue, the are still some surprising moments of gravity provided by Junior Parker, Slim Harpo, Fats, Roy, Bobby, Little Richard and Ernie Freeman.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Complete O.V. Wright on Hi Records, Vol. 1 In The Studio

By the time O.V. is released from the Texas penitentiary in 1975, he was incarcerated on a narcotics charge, his old label has been sold and his contract along with it. As Don Robey's health failed he sold everything to ABC, who were less than enthusiastic about Wright in the wake of the absence from the market. After a couple of half-hearted attempts at recording him, ABC handed Wright back his contract and he was a free agent.

His friend and collaborator Willie Mitchell was now at Hi records and riding the wave of success with both Al Green and Sil Johnson and he was more than happy to add O.V. to the stable and hoped he would propel him  to the kind of stardom that he had found with Green. I imagine he was even more motivated because by this time there was already evidence that Green was loosing it and becoming unstable.

The O.V. that came to Hi was not the man who had made those phenomenal Back Beat recordings. Drugs, alcohol and heart trouble were taking a serious toll on his body although he strove to hide it from nearly everyone. The voice was still better than anyone else and apparently at first he was still the show stopping live performer he had always been.

One story of a tour that gives you an idea of his ability to tear up a house was a tour with Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton and O.V. The discussion on the first day centered around the performing order and since Wright was the only guy who didn't seem concerned with the subject he was asked to lead off the show. By the end of the night all three of the other guys told the promoter that O.V. would close the show for the remainder of the tour, no-one wanted to follow him ever again.

The material on this set is unquestionably good but there is a feeling of Willie Mitchell trying to shoehorn O.V. into Al Green's loafers. Green and Wright were very different but somehow Mitchell failed to alter his approach. The Hi band had fallen into a very comfortable groove and certainly by the late 70's was getting a little stale (Mitchell later acknowledged that). All that said, even flawed O.V. Wright is better than damn near anyone else so don't think for a second that this isn't worth hearing.

Health problems derailed Wright a number of times in the last 5 years of the decade, but each time he emerged from the hospital he returned to work and by 1980 he was an emaciated shadow of his former self. The last year of his life Wright returned to Gospel and was quoted as saying that he never really liked singing Soul, and had always longed to return to the Gospel fold. In November 1980 Wright collapsed while on the road and despite Roosevelt Jamisons' heroic efforts to get him to an adequate hospital, Wright died shortly after reaching the hospital, he was 41 years old.

Wright laid in an unmarked grave in Memphis for some 28 years until 2008 when a fund and concert was put together to put a proper marker on the grave on the anniversary of his death.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bob Geddins Blues Legacy, vols 1-4

"Bob Geddins was a man with a big heart; a true music lover who persevered with his recording and distribution business even though he was repeatedly ripped off by partners and let down by artists who broke their contracts.
He is responsible for developing the Bay Area blues sound of the late 1940s and 1950s in his Oakland studios and some of the best loved vintage recordings from the West Coast were made for his Big Town, Cava-Tone and Rhythm labels.
For all the usual reasons, musicians were leaving their home states and moving to California and Geddins attracted some of the most popular into his recording studio. Lowell Fulson, Roy Hawkins, Johnny Fuller and Jimmy McCracklin are all included in this box set as well as some pretty obscure names like pianist Fats Gaines and Johnny Ingram whose Rhythm Czars featured Jimmy Nelson on vocals and John Patterson on some pretty swingin' sax. Johnny Fuller, whose down-home Mississippi blues with a beat, laid back vocals and versatile guitar wrangling reminds me of early Muddy Waters, has sixteen stellar tracks; his ringing guitar clanging away on ‘How Long?', ‘Too Late To Change' and ‘The Roughest Place In Town' which is a virile version of ‘Tin Pan Alley'.
Fuller appears again later with some superb down-home blues guitar on Willie B Huff's four sides. This girl has one deep bluesy voice and it's perfectly suited to her big song ‘Operator 209' (her version of Lightnin's ‘Hello Central') but then she's just as good when she hits a higher register on ‘I've Been Thinkin'And Thinkin' which has Lafayette Thomas on guitar.
KC Douglas, another Mississippian transplanted to California, is here roaring out his greatest song ‘Mercury Boogie'. This version leaves all others, bar none, doodlin' in the dirt! Juke Boy Bonner's rural style comes direct from Texas and although usually a one-man-band, he adds guitarist Lafayette Thomas on ‘Well Baby' and ‘Rock With Me Baby' with pretty good results. Big Mama Thornton really rocks with the thumping ‘Don't Talk Back', a fabulous gospel singed screamer she made with The Hi-Tones (better known as James Brown's second set of Famous Flames). Roy Hawkins and Jimmy McCracklin supply the early R&B jump while Little Caesar forsakes his usual rockin' R&B groove on ‘Big Eyes' a Coasters-type spoofy tune before sailing into a big blues ballad that Big Joe Turner would be proud of.
There are 107 tracks on this wonderful set and not a dud among ‘em, compiler Neil Slaven supplies his usual informative sleeve notes and the presentation is snazzy with all those vintage colour photos of the Bay area.
Excellent, highly recommended, top class, five stars."

Robert L. "Bob" Geddins (February 6, 1913 – February 16, 1991) was an American San Francisco Bay Area blues and rhythm and blues musician and record producer.

Geddins was born in Highbank, Texas, United States, a town ten miles south of Marlin, who came to Oakland, California during World War II, and worked there until his death in 1991.

From 1948 onwards he founded and owned numerous small independent record labels, such as Art-Tone, Big Town, Cavatone, Down Town, Irma, Plaid, Rhythm, and Veltone. He also leased his recordings to Los Angeles labels such as Swing Time, Aladdin, Modern, Imperial, Fantasy, and also to the Chicago operated Checker label.

Bob Geddins was largely responsible for developing blues in the San Fransisco-Oakland area in the late 1940's into the late 1950's. Largely unknown today except by deep blues record collectors, Geddins struggled to record a number of good local talent. Artists like Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Hawkins, K.C. Douglas, Mercy Dee Walton (a personal favorite), Johnny Fuller, Juke Boy Bonner, Big Mama Thornton, and other singers who were virtually unknown-all recorded for Geddins on his various labels. Geddins himself (along with his brother on vocals) is even heard on the track "Irma Jean Blues", something he would do when the mood struck.

A TV/radio repairman by trade, Geddins would start up a record label when he had the necessary cash, only to see his labels go out of business, usually because he had no real distribution-he was the sole distributor of his artists. Another reason his labels didn't last was someone would cheat him in a shady business deal, but Geddins would persevere and start up another label when he could. Geddins realized that there were few labels catering to the population which had moved there looking for work. He was basically a one man record label-even owning his own pressing plant.

Geddins' artists were a combination of locally or regionally known musicians, and "walk-ins"-people who literally walked in wanting to record a track or two. When Geddins recorded someone, he wanted it to sound as sad as possible. As Geddins said, "I want black folks to feel the troubles of the old times". And all the tracks have a certain sad aura about them, especially the slower tunes. Even the up-tempo jump tunes have a certain amount of sadness- a reminder of hard times. But as with all good blues, there's a small amount of optimism heard in these songs which gives added depth to the music.

The groups range from small two or three man bands, to larger ensembles including a proper rhythm section and a horn or two. But no matter the size of the band, these tracks are a great example of what people in the Bay Area were listening to after WWII, and on into the 50's. In many ways these artists are closer to what large numbers of people in the region preferred to listen to. None of the major record labels would touch this music-especially artists not nationally known. And while a few of the artists heard here went on to larger fame, many remained locally popular/and or faded back into obscurity.

This set is a window into another time and place long since past. But listen to this music and be transported back to a time of local watering holes, with ten cent beer and a jukebox in the corner-probably playing some of this very music. It's exciting, and it's real,and while the people and the era have vanished, this collection takes you right back there again, every time you hear it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sam Cooke - One Night Stand!

"Not only is this one of the greatest live soul albums ever released, it also reveals a rougher, rawer, and more immediate side to Sam Cooke that his singles only hinted at, good as they were. Working with a merged band that included guitarist Cliff White and drummer Albert "June" Gardner (New Orleans own)  from Cooke's regular touring outfit and saxophonist King Curtis and his band, Cooke brings a gospel fervor to these whirlwind versions, which are fiery, emotionally direct, and hit with uncommon power. Every track burns with an insistent, urgent feel, and although Cooke practically defines melisma on his single releases, here he reaches past that into deeper territory that finds him almost literally shoving and pushing each song forward with shouts, asides, and spoken interactions with the audience, which becomes as much a part of this set as any bandmember. "Chain Gang" is stripped down to a raw nerve, "Twistin' the Night Away" explodes out of the gate like a runaway rocket, and Curtis' sax breaks on "Somebody Have Mercy" make it sound like the saxophone was invented for this one song alone...... Although recorded January 12, 1963, at the Harlem Square Club in Miami in 1963, RCA didn't release it as an album until 1985. The set was remixed from the original first generation three-track tape for 2000's The Man Who Invented Soul box, and while the music (and Cooke's vocals in particular) sounded much cleaner, much of the crowd noise from the 1985 mixes was toned down, robbing the recording of some of its claustrophobic, frenzied power. The mix used here seems to more or less split the difference, but the crucial key is and was always Cooke's vocals, and while he was a marvelously smooth, versatile, and urbane singer on his official pop recordings, here he explodes into one of the finest sets of raw secular gospel ever captured on tape. It is essential listening in any version."  by Steve Leggett, AMG


The album that terrified RCA so badly that they suppressed it for 22 years! The idea of it being compared to the Copa album was something they felt the need to avoid at any cost.

Sam Cooke's SAR Story

Given the fact that no less than Peter Guralnik has written superb notes to this historic set, you will have to excuse me for choosing to spare myself the embarrassment of attempting any sort of synopsis beyond saying that the Gospel disc is glorious and indispensable for any fan, the secular disc is perhaps less so, although the Sims Twins tracks alone are enough to make it worthwhile. Here is a link to Guralnik's notes and pictures from the accompanying book for this set. The book is 86 pages long so you will have to forgive me that I only scanned the covers and discography for the download.

The dl links are in the comments below.

"Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story is a double-disc set presenting material recorded for the legendary soul singer's own SAR label from 1959-1965, much of it produced by Cooke himself and including a few of his rough, unreleased demos. The first disc covers the label's religious side, with a multitude of cuts from Cooke's former group the Soul Stirrers (now with Jimmie Outler on lead vocals), plus a generous helping of songs by R.H. Harris & His Gospel Paraders and the Womack Brothers. The second disc covers essentially the same gospel-derived soul territory but with a secular bent, featuring future stars Bobby Womack (with the Valentinos), Billy Preston, and Johnnie Taylor, plus L.C. Cooke, Johnnie Morisette, the Sims Twins, and Mel Carter. All in all, it's an excellent look at a lesser-known portion of Cooke's career, and there's some great, underappreciated music to boot. [The 1995 edition was also produced in a 'longbox' packaging format.]" ~ Steve Huey

Sunday, October 21, 2012

None But The Righteous: Chess Gospel Greats

I thought this would go nicely with our Chess Story. What you will find here is wildly varied in terms of style. It mirrors the secular counterpart in every way, aside from lyrical content. Stripped down, bluesy quartets through to high spirited, funky soul jams.

We also get to hear from some lesser known artists, which is also why I have chosen this album. Aside from greats like Aretha Franklin and The Soul Stirrers, we are treated to local Windy City talent.

We even get treated to Elder Utah Smith. If you missed KC's post, it's here and it's a wild one.
An excellent comp, all pre-approved by Jesus for your eternal enjoyment.

1 Don't You Want To Go - The Meditation Singers
2 None But The Righteous - The Norfleet Brothers
3 Anyway You Bless Me Lord - The Bells Of Joy
4 Never Grow Old - Aretha Franklin
5 Oh What A Meeting - The Soul Stirrers
6 I've Been Weeping For A Mighty Long Time - The Original Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi
7 When My Time Comes - Reverend Alex Bradford
8 Resting Easy - The Soul Stirrers
9 Two Wings - Reverend Utah Smith
10 Your Mother Loves Her Children - Reverend C.L. Franklin
11 Old Time Religion - The Violinaires
12 Life In Heaven Is Free - Cleo Jackson Randle
13 Walk In The Light - The Evangelist Singers Of Alabama
14 The Angels Keep Watching Over Me - Sammy Bryant
15 Floods Of Joy - The Windy City Four
16 I'm Gonna Tell God - Elder Beck
17 You've Got The Jordan River To Cross - Martha Bass
18 Don't Give Up - The Southern Stars

Good News - 22 Gospel Greats (From the Vaults of Vee-Jay)

 This old Charly collection of Vee-Jay Gospel highlights is a classic. A particularly good set for someone who doesn't have a lot of Gospel or someone looking for an entry compilation. The disc is set up like a multi-act Gospel show with a pair of songs from each of the first four acts and then seven each from the "headliners".  Your very own Sunday morning Gospel hour.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bigg Robb - Blues Soul & Old School

OK, bloggers, time for something a little more contemporary - Bigg Robb!   This one is bound to get mixed reactions here.  But if you have never heard of Bigg Robb, bear with me for just a bit.  You may end up deleting these MP3s immediately after listening to them.  Or you may end up on the dance floor with a new perspective on modern Blues and Soul.  As for me, I've been on the dance floor with a new perspective from Bigg Robb for a number of years already.

I remember that, back in the 90s, they would sometimes refer to the blues/soul being played on the Chitlin' Circuit as music for the over-30 crowd.  Well, now it is usually more like over-50, if not over-60.   So what about the future?

Well, thankfully, there are some people making serious attempts to modernize the music for the new age, while still respecting the beautiful essence of classic blues and soul.   I would put Bigg Robb at the front of this movement.  In my mind, he has been suprisingly successful, artistically as well as commercially.    Check out some of the youtube videos of live performances by Carl Marshal of Good Love Will Make You Cry (Included on this album).   What a crowd of fans, a good number of which are decidedly under 50!

Bigg Robb has recently entered the over-50 crowd, himself.  He comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, and began his career as a radio DJ, where he came into contact with Bootsy Collins.  His primary mentor was Robert Troutman of Zapp.   Robb's early interests were primarily in the emerging Hip Hop scene and deep funk.  Gradually, he developed a major interest in old school blues, soul, and gospel, and has worked in recent years to produce a modern version of this music with the full palette of Hip Hop production techniques at his disposal.   In my mind, Bigg Robb uses this palette with taste in a manner that complements rather than obstructs the soulfulness of the music.  This is not a Hip Hop sampling of Blues & Soul.  Blues and Soul are at the core here. 

Blues Soul & Old School was a quite popular release in 2008, especially Good Love Will Make You Cry, which was the runaway #1 Southern Soul single in 2008.   Not every track here reaches that level.  But there are a number of other standouts, including  Keep on Swinging and Grown & Sexy (one mix featuring another younger sensation of the Circuit, Sir Charles Jones).  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lowell Fulson - The Complete Chess Masters

Lowell Fulson's career is so long that it needs digesting in segments. In his own analysis the 40's were his Swing Time years, the 50's were his Chess years, the 60's his Kent years, the 70's were Jewell, the 80's he "laid low" and in his final decade he made some nice albums on the Bullseye imprint of Rounder.

The 50's long-distance marriage of Fulson and Chess is an uneasy one from the start. Fulson needed a new label, Chess was signing every major Blues artist they could get their hands on so the initial hookup is easy to get, although Aladdin would seem a more natural fit in hindsight. The problem was that Lowell was based in Oakland and L.A., had his own West Coast club blues style that he was developing, and he had a tight, well rehearsed band that he was unwilling to art with. Guys like Ray Charles, Stanley Turrentine, Maxwell Davis, David Newman, Dexter Gordon and Lloyd Glenn passed through that band!

When discussions of Fulson's first Chess session began, the tension between Lowell and Leonard Chess began. Chess assumed that Lowell would come to Chicago and record in his studio using Willie Dixon and the gang but Fulson was having none of leaving his band behind and instinctively knew he didn't want Chess contriving his sound. After some invective laced tirades from Chess melted a few phone lines, the agreement was made that Fulson would be record the first time in Dallas and the results would be mailed to Chess. Chess warned the record had better hit or else. It did.

Reconsider Baby was Fulson's biggest single ever, the opening walking bass/piano line is punctuated by Lowell's biting guitar then soon adds his plaintive vocal and the marvelously swinging but understated horns that are just perfect. The track makes it to #3 on the R&B charts and you would think that Fulson had proven his point. Leonard Chess still obstinately insisted that the next session take place in Chicago, in January no less! One can imagine that Fulson was less than thrilled at the prospect.

The first Chicago session is by all accounts excruciating for all concerned. Dixon, Spann and the Chess horns sound leaden and primitive compared to Fulson's L.A. band and Lowell fights with Chess and Dixon the whole way. The first track, Lonely Hours is suitable for a boat anchor, so heavy and plodding it is hard to believe it is Fulson. Check Yourself recovers some of the Fulson swagger as does Do Me Right but the session is far from successful and Fulson flees home to California.

Lowell's next session is done in L.A. with a return to his bounce and swagger but a year later Chess once again drags him to Chicago in the dead of winter with entirely similar results. The resulting 5 tracks are mostly leaden and forgettable with the possible exception of Smokey Room. This time Fulson flees Chess studio never to return and for the rest of his tenure everything is done in L.A. and finished product is mailed to Chess with instructions to not mess with it. This in large part accounts for why Fulson's records sound like nothing else at Chess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Earl King - Earl's Pearls

Another Guitar Gus contribution and a big one! These Westside sets were hard to find when they were in print and now just forget it! I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that I had yet to do a biographical post for Earl and now it will be paired with his first recordings as it should be.

Earl King (February 7, 1934 – April 17, 2003) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, most active in blues music. A composer of well known standards such as "Come On" (covered by Jimi Hendrix) and Professor Longhair's "Big Chief"...King was born Earl Silas Johnson IV in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father, a local piano player, died when King was still a baby, and he was brought up by his mother. With his mother, he started going to church at an early age. In his youth he sang gospel music, but took the advice of a friend to switch to blues to make a better living.

King started to play guitar at age 15. Soon he started entering talent contests at local clubs including the Dew Drop Inn. It was at one of those clubs where he met his idol Guitar Slim. King started imitating Slim, and his presence gave a big impact on his musical directions. In 1954, when Slim was injured in an automobile accident (right around the time Slim had the #1 R&B hit with "The Things That I Used To Do"), King was deputized to continue Slim's band tour, representing himself as Slim. After succeeding in this role, King became a regular at the Dew Drop Inn.

His first recording came in 1953. He released a 78 "Have you Gone Crazy" b/w "Begging At Your Mercy" on Savoy label as Earl Johnson. The following year, talent scout Johnny Vincent introduced King to Specialty label, and he recorded some sides including "Mother's Love" which created a little stir locally. In 1955, King signed with Johnny Vincent's label, Ace. His first single from the label "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights" become hit reaching #7 on the US Billboard R&B chart. He continued to record during his five year stay at the label, and during that time, he also he started writing songs for other artists such as Roland Stone and Jimmy Clanton.

In 1960, Dave Bartholomew invited King to record for the Imperial Records. At the label, he was backed by host of musicians including Bob and George French, James Booker, and Wardell Quezergue. It was at this label he recorded his signature songs "Come On" and "Trick Bag". The former of which remained a much covered standard for decades especially for Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Anson Funderburgh. The latter has also been widely covered including versions by The Meters and Robert Palmer.

King also co-wrote a number of songs with Bartholomew, either under his own name or under the pseudonyms of "Pearl King" and "E.C. King". One of the best known collaborations between Bartholomew and King is the rhythm and blues standard, "I Hear You Knocking", originally recorded in 1955. The latter song is variously credited to Pearl King and E.C King as the co-writer, with Bartholomew.

King recorded for Imperial till 1963, but he went without a recording contract for the remainder of the 1960s. During this time, he mostly concentrated in producing and songwriting for local labels NOLA and Watch. His compositions from this era includes Professor Longhair's "Big Chief", Willie Tee's "Teasin' You", and Lee Dorsey's "Do-Re-Mi". He also went to Detroit for an audition with Motown Records and recorded a few tracks in the mid 1960s. Three tracks from the session appeared on the Motown's Blue Evolution CD released in 1996).

In 1972, he was joined by Allen Toussaint and the Meters to record the album Street Parade. Though Atlantic initially showed interest in releasing it, they eventually declined. The title cut "Street Parade" was released as a single from Kansu label at the time, but the rest had to wait till 1982 to see the light of the day, when the album was finally released by Charly Records in the UK.

During the 1970s, he recorded another album That Good Old New Orleans Rock 'n Roll which was released by Sonet in 1977. He also appeared on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 1976 album.

In the early 1980s, he also met Hammond Scott, co-owner of Black Top Records, and started to record for the label. The first album Glazed, backed up by Roomful of Blues was released in 1986, and a second album, Sexual Telepathy came in 1990. It featured Snooks Eaglin as a guest on two tracks, and also Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters backed him up on some tracks. His third from the label Hard River To Cross (1993) was backed by George Porter, Jr., David Torkanowsky, and Herman V. Ernest, III.

In 2001, he was hospitalized for an illness during a tour to New Zealand, however, that did not stop him from performing. In December of the same year, he toured Japan, and he continued to perform off and on locally in New Orleans until his death.

He died on April 17, 2003, from diabetes related complications,  just a week before the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. His funeral was held during the Festival period on April 30, and many musicians including Dr. John, Leo Nocentelli and Aaron Neville were in attendance.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Johnnie Taylor - ...Just Can't Do Right

I was happy to see that there appear to be some big time Johnnie Taylor fans here at the Blog.  I am certainly one of them.   Johnnie Taylor is one of those singers who is a constant inspiration to me.   I am the proud owner of every one of his records.

Most of JT's gospel masterpieces with the Soul Stirrers and Highway QCs have already been posted here.  I assume that most people here are already familiar with much of Johnnie Taylor's output during the time of his huge national commercial success on Stax and Columbia during the 1970s.   So I have dipped into his large output on Malaco from 1984-1999 to pull out this gem from 1991 that may not be as familiar. 

The Malaco period was the time when Johnnie Taylor moved from the large concert halls that he filled in the wake of "Disco Lady" back to the Chitlin' Circuit, where he had worked exclusively in the early-mid 1960s before striking gold with "Who's Making Love."   (In fact, before that hit, JT cashed in for a while on confusion about his name in the wake of Little Johnny Taylor's #1 R&B smash, "Part Time Love."  JT's promotional posters and materials from the early 1960s included a citation of that song!).  During the 1980s and 1990s, Johnnie Taylor continued to draw some of the largest crowds on the Circuit as one of the reining Kings of Southern Soul, and as someone who actually helped to define the genre itself.  

 In general, I am quite fond of most of JT's Malaco records.  It is true that the Malaco sound can sometimes get to feel rather formulaic.   But they always took Johnnie Taylor very seriously at Malaco, and worked hard to provide him with high quality material from George Jackson, Sam Mosley and other talented songwriters.  Almost all of Johnnie Taylor's Malaco albums have at least a few first rate compositions and performances.  " ...Just Can't Do Right" has not received as much attention as some of the other Malaco albums, but I consider it to be one of his very best of the period.   Most of the material is of notable high quality, and succeeds in putting JT solidly in his element.   It is one of JTs many albums that I still spin quite often.  I hope that you enjoy it too. 

Clifton Chenier - Black Snake Blues

Another superb offering from the Chenier brothers.  Although the star feature here is King Clifton, his brother Cleveland really shines on this.

I'm not sure about the timeline, but at some point Cleveland Chenier had the traditional rubber/washboard reworked to his specs and into the creation you see in the cover photo.  Brother Cleveland works some rhythmic magic with his trusty frottoir and at most points, is prevelant in the mix.  Johnny Can't Dance would have to be the highlight for Cleveland's talents.

As great as the rhythms are on BSB's, Clifton manages to steal the spotlight.  I think his talents are best heard on the tune Wrap It Up, where he busts out a solo that's equal parts solid rhythm and improvisation.  Incredible.  Of course his searching, yearning voice can be heard all over this one - with plenty of ha!s and huh!s thrown in for funky measure.

Enjoy this one mes amis!!!  Chitlins style...

Arhoolie 1038

Clifton Chenier - v / acc;  Cleveland Chenier - frottoir;  Robert St. Judy - d;  Felix James Benoit -g;
Joe Morris - b.

Lowell Fulson - My First Recordings

World famous Oklahoma born bluesman Lowell Fulson has been making hit records since his discharge from the Navy after World War II. This set features the early sides Lowell made for the legendary producer, Bob Geddins between 1946 and the early 50s. Many of these early hits showcase Lowell's fine blues vocals and his distinctive guitar accompanied by a small rhythm section as well as selections featuring just Lowell's singing and guitar accompanied only by his brother Martin on second guitar. Today, about 50 years since these performances were recorded, Lowell is still one of the active, leading blues singers of his generation.

1. Western Union Blues
2. Lazy Woman Blues
3. River Blues Pt.1
4. River Blues Pt.2
5. I Walked All Night
6. Between Midnight And Day
7. The Blues Is Killing Me
8. Did You Ever Feel Lucky
9. I'm Wild About You
10. Three O'clock Blues
11. Crying Blues (Street Walking Woman)
12. You're Gonna Miss Me
13. Miss Katy Lee Blues
14. Rambling Blues
15. Fulson Blues
16. San Francisco Blues
17. I Want To See My Baby
18. Trouble Blues
19. Don't Be So Evil
20. Black Widow Spider Blues
21. I'm Prison Bound
22. My Baby Left Me
23. Blues With A Feeling
24. Why Can't You Cry For Me
25. There Is A Time For Everything
26. Lowell Jumps One (Cash Box Boogie)

 tracks 1-10 likely recorded in June 1946 but released in 1948, 11-16 also June 1946. 17-20 late 46 or 47, 21-24 are some time in 1948, 25-26 are likely June 1952 (Bob Geddins did not keep accurate dates)

“They are all beautifully crafted country blues, recorded in San Francisco between 1946 and 1951, with basic guitar far removed from Fulson's later pyrotechnics, and with either Lowell's brother Martin on basic but effective rhythm guitar or a small combo with the great Lloyd Glenn on sparkling piano.... This really is a superb collection of an under-rated giant in his formative years, but with no sense of the beginner... If you know only Fulson's soul sides (available on a fine Ace CD) this gritty down-home material will be a revelation.”

-David Harrison, Folk Roots

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Johnny Rawls - Ace of Spades

Unky Cliff has been after me to post some Johnny Rawls for a week now and today you gets one each from Preslives and Cliff.

Johnny Rawls (born December 10, 1951) is an American soul blues singer, guitarist, arranger, songwriter and record producer. He was influenced by the deep soul music of the 1960s, as performed by O. V. Wright, James Carr, and Z. Z. Hill. Rawls was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States. He was taught the rudiments of guitar playing by his blind grandfather, and also played the saxophone and clarinet in high school in Purvis, Mississippi. Having mastered guitar playing by his mid teens, Rawls' schoolteacher arranged for him to back musicians who were touring through Mississippi, such as Z. Z. Hill and Joe Tex. In the mid 1970s, Rawls joined O. V. Wright's backing band, and played together with Wright until the latter's death in 1980. The band then continued billed as the O. V. Wright Band for another 13 years, and toured and performed with other musicians over this time span. These included B.B. King, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Little Johnny Taylor, and Blues Boy Willie. The band included the guitarist L.C. Luckett, and he and Rawls jointly released the 1994 album, Can't Sleep At Night, on Rooster Blues.

His debut solo album, Here We Go, was released on JSP in 1996. The Allmusic journalist, Thom Owens, noted, "Rawls has a powerful, soulful voice which can make mediocre material sound convincing."Rawls also worked as an arranger and record producer for JSP. Further JSP releases included Louisiana Woman (1997), My Turn to Win (1999), and Put Your Trust in Me (2001), although by the time the latter was issued, Rawls had set up his own label, Deep South Soul. Rawls appeared on the cover of the Living Blues magazine in April 2002, where he was described as "a soul-blues renaissance man". The 2005 release No Boundaries, on Topcat Records increased his profile.

His 2006 album Heart & Soul, was nominated for a Blues Music Award for 'Best Soul Blues Album of the Year'. In the same year, the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame named him 'Best Vocalist'. Rawls has twice played at the Chicago Blues Festival, twice at the Long Beach Blues Festival, and at the Boundary Waters Blues Festival. Red Cadillac (2008) won the Critics Award for Best Album of the Year in Living Blues. He has also been honored, along with Little Milton and Tyrone Davis, with a Blues Trail Marker in Hattiesburg. The title song of Rawls 2009 album, Ace of Spades, was a tribute to his one time mentor, O. V. Wright. The album also garnered Rawls with his first Blues Music Award for 'Best Soul Blues Album of the Year'.

Rawls latest album Memphis Still Got Soul, was released in April 2011. With a further reference to Wright, the album's track listing included Rawls cover of the song "Blind, Crippled and Crazy", which was originally associated with Wright.

Johnny Rawls - Red Cadillac

Johnny Rawls has been delivering his own brand of Memphis blue soul (soul blues) for four decades now.  He is somebody who still lives and breathes the music.    Red Cadillac is my personal favorite Johnny Rawls album, which deservedly received the "Best Soul Blues Album" award from Living Blues in 2008

Johnny Rawls has deep credentials for blues and soul.  He was born and raised in Mississippi (Columbia, Pruvis, and Gulfport) and began his career as a professional musician while still a teenager in the late 60s.  His big break came in the mid-1970s, when O.V. Wright made him the leader and musical director of his band.   He stayed in that position until O.V.'s death.  He began his own solo career in the mid-1980s.

Johnny Rawls produced a string of solid albums for JSP records during 1996-2005, which began to showcase his multiple talents as singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist.  Nevertheless, those JSP albums pale by comparison to what came later.   Rawls really hit his stride about 17 years ago, beginning with the No Boundaries album on Top Cat Records, which he then took to the next level on Heart and Soul. Red Cadillac was the killer follow up to that album.  Since then, Johnny Rawls has produced four more albums, all of which are very worthwhile and received critical praise.

The infectious and highly danceable title track on Red Cadillac is a perfect piece of Chitlin' Circuit pop, and was extremely popular on the Circuit at the time that it was released.   There are some other truly fine songs here as well.  I am particularly fond of "Wash Your Hands," "Get It While You Can (not to be confused with the Howard Tate song)," and "No One Gives A Damn."  All in all, Red Cadillac is a fine portrait of the talents of Johnny Rawls, somebody who can still deliver the whole package of 20th century blue soul sensibilities wrapped up in a 21st century package.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sam Cooke - Night Beat

Yeah, I have finally screwed up the courage to make some attempt at dealing with Sam Cooke on the secular side. Given the stated theme of what we are doing here I had issues with how to cope with a guy whose first secular recordings resorted to white female choruses and strings. Reconciling that with the Chitlin Circuit theme was a bit problematical.

I am saved to large extent by reading Guralnick, Gilllete and Shaw and the magnificent book in the SAR set. (thanks Cliffy for all of those). Despite the obvious made for top 40 production of the early sides with Bumps Blackwell, and the next generation of similarly produced sides at Keen, there was still a different side of Cooke that is not so tame. I have chosen to chicken out and jump to that.

The fact is that Cooke still played far more Circuit style black venues than he did white venues throughout his short career; we are made more aware of gigs like The Coppa through choices made by record people. At first Sam cleaved to the careful sound and phrasing of his pop records and when touring black venues with Jackie Wilson in 1960-61, he was regularly 'cut up' each night by Wilson's drama and vocal gymnastics. By 1963 he had achieved the synthesis of what made him so special in Gospel with secular R&B. When Sams' management agreed to a second round of touring, Wilsons' people expressed wonder that he would subject himself to that abuse again. This time Cooke cut Wilson deep each and every night, leaving a trail of ecstatic, weeping women across the Chitlin Circuit. Now rearmed with the tools that made him the Gospel star he had once been, he was unstoppable.

As undeniably good as that wave of major market driven hits that launched Sam where, they can't hold a candle to Night Beat. This is Sam showing his true stripes as a soul god. Much more sparse and musically interesting arrangements, much more riveting songs and that voice......Good God that voice... so much better showcased in this context than in those previous gooey distractions. All by itself this album would place Cooke squarely in the center of our discussion at the end of the Burke post about greatest soul singers. BTW that is a 16 year old Billy Preston on organ! Cliff White and Barney Kessell are on guitars and that fine piano was Raymond Johnson.

More glorious Cooke coming soon, including the rare SAR set! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ray Charles - Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952 - 1959)

Unky Cliff has requested a re-up for this set which put me in a mad scramble to fulfill his request.  I feel really great that we can send something his way, so Unky Cliff, if you're reading this.  A big thank you from all of us here at the Chitlins blog!!!

I will be slowly re-upping all of my previous posts.  If anyone has a specific request, don't be shy - put it in the shoutbox.

Why insult anyone's intelligence?!?!  There's nothing I can say here that you don't already know. This is the motherload... all of it guys and gals.  I think the title captures it perfectly - Pure Genius - certainly a word that's thrown around much too much nowadays.

Unlike my Stax/Volt set, this has been captured in FLAC.  All covers have been scanned and everything is tagged accordingly.

This collection is a must own for any music lover, as essential as Beethoven, Mozart, Bob Dylan, The Beatles... you name it.