Monday, June 30, 2014

Bobby Womack - Only Survivor: The MCA Years


I wanted to add this collection to KCs great tribute to Bobby Womack below.  Bobby Womack continued to make very fine music into the 1980s, and this is one of the Womack collections that I reach for most often.   There are many highlights, including the moving title track, I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much, a great cover of That's Where It's At, (No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still Be Looking Up to You, and Inherit the Wind.   If you like Bobby, you will enjoy this collection: 100% Bobby from the heart.

Doris Allen - A Shell of a Woman

One of the most popular recent postings here was the soul compilation, "Down and Out."   A highlight of that compilation were the powerful and soulful vocals on "A Shell of a Woman." by a certain obscure vocalist by the name of Doris Allen.   Fortunately, Soulscape Records helped to rescue Doris Allen from almost complete obscurity several years back with this fine CD compilation that includes (I believe) most of her recordings: 23 tracks in all.   To the degree that Doris Allen became known during her career, it was primarily as a duet singer with Big John Hamilton.  But her solo efforts here speak for themselves.

The booklet for this CD also contains very detailed biographical information.  Unfortunately, I am not with my CD collection at the moment and cannot access it.   I can therefore fill in some biographical details in August when I am united with my CDs.

The majority of tracks here date from the 1960s, and were produced by Finely Duncan at Duncan's Playground Studios.  It was Finely Duncan who again recorded Doris in the 1980s, including a remake of A Shell of a Woman.  Those are the final tracks on this collection.    

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Famous Caravans - I Find No Fault In God [vinyl rip]

 A second service featuring the ladies today - to the left is the termite chewed cover of the record that this was actually ripped from, however some may prefer the clean one from the internet. This is a strong record featuring a 17 year old Shirley Caesar on about half the leads.


The Zion Travelers - The Dootone Masters

Opal Nations history of the group is HERE.

The Zion Travelers may not have achieved the national notoriety of contemporary gospel quartets such as the Soul Stirrers, Pilgrim Travelers, or the Swan Silvertones. Nevertheless, Zion Travelers were certainly one of the finest-quality gospel quartets of the period. Stylistically diverse, the recordings of Zion Travelers provide the listener with a good musical cross section of what gospel-quartet singing of the late '40s and '50s (and 60's) was all about.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bobby Womack - The American Singles 1967-1976

For those of you who may have the album versions of these songs, you will need these as well as most of them seem to be different, if only in the mix in some cases -- for those who don't have either, I will do some sort of mega-post on the albums too as they also include songs never released as singles The story is so huge, it requires multiple chapters.

continued......."Womack worked at Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis and played on recordings by Joe Tex and The Box Tops. Womack played guitar on several of Aretha Franklin's albums, including Lady Soul, but not on the hit song, "Chain of Fools", as erroneously reported. His work as a songwriter caught the eye of music executives after Wilson Pickett took a liking to some of the songs and insisted on recording them. Among those songs included the hits, "I'm a Midnight Mover" and "I'm in Love".

In 1968, he signed with Minit Records and recorded his first solo album, Fly Me to the Moon, where he scored his first major hit with a cover of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'". In 1969, Womack forged a partnership with Gábor Szabó and with Szabó, penned the instrumental, "Breezin'", later a hit for George Benson. Womack also worked with rock musicians Sly and the Family Stone and Janis Joplin, contributing vocals and guitar work on The Family Stone's accomplished album, There's a Riot Goin' On, and penning the ballad "Trust Me", for Joplin on her album, Pearl. Womack was one of the last people to speak to Joplin before her death in October 1970.

After two more albums with Minit, Bobby switched labels, signing with United Artists where he changed his attire and his musical direction with the album, Communication. The album bolstered his first top 40 hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", which peaked at number two R&B and number twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1972.
1972-1985: Solo success

Following Communication, Womack's profile was raised with two more albums, released in 1972. The first of which was Understanding, noted for the album track, "I Can Understand It", later covered by the funk band New Birth and a three-sibling lineup of Bobby's old group, the Valentinos, and two hit singles, "Woman's Gotta Have It" and "Harry Hippie", the latter song was written for Womack by Jim Ford in a country version, in which Womack re-arranged in an R&B version. "Harry Hippie" later became Womack's first to be certified gold. Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about Womack's brother Harry. "Woman's Gotta Have It" became Womack's first to hit number-one on the R&B charts.

Another hit album released after Understanding was the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film, Across 110th Street. The title track became popular during its initial 1972 release and later would be played during the closing scene of the film, Jackie Brown, years later. In 1973, Womack released another hit album, Facts of Life, and had a top 40 hit with "Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out", an older song Sam Cooke had done years before.

In 1974, Womack released his most successful single during this period with a remake of his first hit single, "Lookin' for a Love". Bobby's solo version of the song became even more successful than the original with the Valentinos', becoming his second number-one hit on the R&B chart and peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his only hit to reach that high on the pop chart. The song was featured on the album, Lookin' for a Love Again and featured the minor charted "You're Welcome, Stop on By", later covered by Rufus & Chaka Khan. Womack's career began stalling after Womack suffered from the tragic news of his brother Harry's death. Womack continued to record albums with United Artists through 1975 and 1976 but with less success than previous albums. In 1975, Womack collaborated with Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood, on Wood's second solo album, Now Look."

Bobby Womack - The Minit LP's

from the bio..."In 1968, he signed with Minit Records and recorded his first solo album, Fly Me to the Moon, where he scored his first major hit with a cover of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'". In 1969, Womack forged a partnership with Gábor Szabó and with Szabó, penned the instrumental, "Breezin'", later a hit for George Benson. Womack also worked with rock musicians Sly and the Family Stone and Janis Joplin, contributing vocals and guitar work on The Family Stone's accomplished album, There's a Riot Goin' On, and penning the ballad "Trust Me", for Joplin on her album, Pearl. Womack was one of the last people to speak to Joplin before her death in October 1970."

I think I've posted enough of the story of this man's life that you can  perceive the almost mythological pendulum swings. Tragedy and triumph have regularly taken their turns with Bobby. I have to confess that I nearly succumbed to the temptation to just fling the rest of the classic Womack out whole-hog in a post unworthy of the material and it's importance..... fortunately sanity has won out, I believe the true genius of Bobby Womack has to be experienced in pieces small enough to fully digest. It is certainly true that others, Al Green in particular, occupied the national spotlight during this period and Bobby's magic was only sporadically recognized, but we have the privilege today of fully appreciating what escaped our earlier attention and perhaps amend our perception. Even in those moments where this stuff crosses WAY over into hokey bullshit, Bobby somehow delivers it with a conviction that makes you buy into it.

Bobby Womack - Understanding & Communication / The Womack Live & Safety Zone

If you were to point to the 'sweet spot' of Womack's career, this is considered by most to be it. According to the discography Understanding preceded Communication but the excerpt from the wiki bio below claims the opposite. What is clear is that Bobby has his ears open to the music world around him and influences from the like of Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown are taking his music to exciting new places.

".....After two more albums with Minit, Bobby switched labels, signing with United Artists where he changed his attire and his musical direction with the album, Communication. The album bolstered his first top 40 hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", which peaked at number two R&B and number twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1972.

Following Communication, Womack's profile was raised with two more albums, released in 1972. The first of which was Understanding, noted for the album track, "I Can Understand It", later covered by the funk band New Birth and a three-sibling lineup of Bobby's old group, the Valentinos, and two hit singles, "Woman's Gotta Have It" and "Harry Hippie", the latter song was written for Womack by Jim Ford in a country version, in which Womack re-arranged in an R&B version. "Harry Hippie" later became Womack's first to be certified gold. Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about Womack's brother Harry. "Woman's Gotta Have It" became Womack's first to hit number-one on the R&B charts.


Another hit album released after Understanding was the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film, Across 110th Street. The title track became popular during its initial 1972 release and later would be played during the closing scene of the film, Jackie Brown, years later...."

Some of the packaging choices made by Stateside are a little bit confusing. This volume combines what was the third and final Minit album 'The Womack Live', 1970 with 1975's Safety Zone - the final two volumes also choose to ignore the chronology for reasons that don't seem to be space oriented. It is an odd choice here because the style and instrumentation are so obviously 5 years apart. I've been tempted for a while now to reformat these chronologically and listening to it today I think I'm finally convinced.

RIP to the bravest man in the universe...

Bobby Womack

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Little Miss Cornshucks 1947-1951

 Little Miss Cornshucks or Lil' Miss Cornshucks was the stage name of Mildred Jordan (née Mildred Cummings; May 26, 1923, Dayton, Ohio – November 11, 1999, Indianapolis, Indiana). She was an American rhythm and blues and jazz singer and songwriter who in her stage show styled herself as a country girl from the 1940s and early 1950s. Her vocal style inspired R&B and soul singers such as LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wynona Carr and Billy Wright.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Mildred Cummings was the youngest child of a large musical family of African-American origin; she began to sing with her sisters, as the Cummings Sisters, performing spirituals in Dayton and the surrounding area. By the 1930s, she was making solo appearances in young people's amateur talent shows or in front of her family. She preferred ballads and developed a stage wardrobe that appealed to black southerner agricultural workers who at that time were migrating to the US northern cities. In her stage show she performed barefoot, with a straw hat, braids, backwoods clothes and a basket. In US and Canadian English a cornshuck is the husk of an ear of maize.

In 1940, Cummings married Cornelius Jorman, with whom she had three children. Her husband worked as her manager and accompanied her at her performances. By in 1942 she was a star in the Chicago area, performing at the Rhumboogie Club. The band leader and arranger Marl Young who worked at the club recognised her talent and signed her under contract to the then famous Club DeLisa. A year later, the future owner of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, heard her sing in Washington DC and wrote in his memoirs:

    "1943, I was about 19 years old; I went to a nightclub in the northeast black district of Washington DC and heard a singer named Little Miss Cornshucks and thought: 'Oh God!' She was better than anything I had heard so far. She came across like a country girl, provided with a headscarf and a basket in her hand and so on; but she could sing the blues better than anyone I've heard to date. That night I asked her if I could record a record with her. We then played Kansas City and a few other blues numbers and the song 'So Long'. She had such a wonderful sound and I remember how I always thought, 'Oh my God, and I have no record company; I can make the drive just for myself.'" "So Long" became her signature tune and a regional hit in 1943 for the short-lived Sunbeam label.

For health reasons, Miss Cornshucks had to interrupt her career in the mid 40s. She returned to Ohio and there she finally separated from her husband Cornelius, who was involved in the drug trade. She then returned to her native Indianapolis and became increasingly dependent on alcohol.

Her Sunbeam recordings were now republished on the Old Swingmaster label and she enjoyed some success in the Detroit area based at the Frolics Bar. Performances in New York and Washington followed. During one of these tours she met the dancer Henry "Henny" Ramsey, who became her lover and with whom she spent several years on tour while her children stayed with her family in Dayton. Ramsey and Cornshucks lived together for a while in Los Angeles, where she appeared in the clubs of Central Avenue, such as the Last Word Room and Club Alabam.

In 1948 she appeared at the Million Dollars Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This was a converted former cinema. She was billed as "the new look in comedy" and "a rustic comedienne". Her comedic talent gave her a small film role in Campus Sleuth, a 1947 B-movie made by Monogram Pictures, and produced by the Bowery Boys and Charlie Chan.

In May 1948, she recorded new songs for the small label Miltone in California under the direction of saxophonist and producer Maxwell Davis . The 1950s saw her return to Chicago and she continued to sing in the clubs there while living in Kenosha , Wisconsin. In late 1960 she came out of retirement to record an LP for the Chess label, produced by Sonny Thompson, entitled The Loneliest Gal In Town. Success eluded her and went instead to Aretha Franklin who recorded a single of the LP's soul style version of ''Try a Little Tenderness'' and had a hit with it.

She died at her home in Indianapolis in November 1999, aged 76 , after a series of strokes.

The Dixie Hummingbirds - A Christian Testimonial

Yes, indeed it a two service Sunday although I'd nearly forgotten I had this one cued up. Now let's be clear - the group was formed in 1928, and began recording in the 30's so the subtitle is misleading unless you focus on the literal meaning of 'album'. The material comes from around 1959 at Peacock records where 'the Birds' are breaking new ground with R&B style accompaniment. A lovely snapshot in time of the 80 year national treasure that was The Dixie Hummingbirds.

The Soul Stirrers - Jesus Gave Me Water

A blessed and peaceful Sunday morning to one and all.

LINK

Still the number one source of real Gospel left in the blogworld! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

"For anyone who's collected 78-rpm records, enjoyed Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, or expressed interest in the great missing old-time and blues records of yesteryear, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of will be the Holy Grail. Whereas it isn't unusual for Yazoo to place a rarity on a new collection by Blind Blake or Blind Lemon Jefferson, this two-disc collection -- all 46 cuts -- is a testament to rarities. Perhaps the best-known (to a general old-time/blues audience) performer here is Son House, and the collection includes recordings of "Mississippi County Farm Blues" and "Clarksdale Moan." Others might be familiar with Dock Boggs ("Old Rub Alcohol Blues"), Ken Maynard ("Sweet Betsey from Pike"), and the Memphis Jug Band ("Jim Strainer Blues"). Incredibly, several of these tracks were recorded as test pressings and never officially released, meaning that as far as the recording industry is concerned, they don't exist. It's probable that all of the fuss made over this collection of rarities will make little sense to folks who don't spend all of their spare money and time hunting down 78-rpm records, and there's a point here. If you don't know that a certain item is rare, you won't value it in the same way a collector might. In this sense, one CD filled with scratchy old recordings is as good as another. But even for those who might not understand why they should be excited by The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, the collection nonetheless holds up as good old-time folk and blues, and expense-wise, Yazoo always offers lots of quality music for one's money. As an added bonus the cover art and inside cartoon has been put together by none other than Robert Crumb, a record collector and one-time string band performer himself."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Swan Silvertones - My Rock--Love Lifted Me

A pretty fascinating period in the Swan's history - powerhouse singing from every voice here! The move into pure hard Gospel was inevitable when they came to Specialty and here Jeter's vocal hands here include Paul Owens, Solomon Womack, Dewey Young and the irrepressible Robert Crenshaw. Crenshaw was a short-timer due in part to his tendency to 'go off' a little too easily and to challenge Jeter in the upper registers.

As is always the case when talking about the Swan Silvertones, this is some seriously powerful stuff for your Sunday Gospel Hour.

Albert Washington - Blues & Soul Man

Once again a repost by request - I'll leave my original intro intact even if it is sunny in New Orleans today.

It is an unexpectedly gray and wet Saturday here in the Crescent City, it is still 90 degrees, but gray and wet too - not much fun for errands or field trips. Fortunately I went to the store yesterday so I've got some LP's to work on later.....and beer to drink. Guess I could do an unscheduled post too, here is what I'm listening to this morning.... 

I was drawn to this one by the cover and the title rather knowing anything about him. Well I'm smilin' and feeling smart now cause this dude can sing!! I don't know how he flew so far under the radar with stuff this good but it just makes him that much more fun to discover today.  As you cruise through this disc it just seems to get better and better - you will play this one more than once!

"Singer and songwriter Albert Washington spent most of his career singing in the blues clubs around Cincinnati, Ohio and his home in Long Island, N.Y. Washington, who is blind, released two recordings for Iris Records in the 1990s, Step It Up and Go in 1993 and A Brighter Day in 1994.

One of four children of Jerry and Helen Washington, Albert's love of blues and gospel made itself known at a very early age. Washington remembers wanting to play his uncle's guitar at age five. At seven, he made his own guitar out of a gasoline can using rubber bands as strings. After losing his father at age nine, Washington got a job washing dishes after school to help his mother with the bills. After moving to Newport, Kentucky with his family while in his teens, Washington was encouraged by his mother to continue his gospel singing, but not his blues singing. At 16, he joined the Gospelaires, then recording for Don Robey's Duke and Peacock labels out of Houston. A few years later, he formed his own gospel group, the Washington Singers. In his late teens, Washington would sneak into blues clubs in nearby Cincinnati every chance he had, and there he was first exposed to the music of artists like Sam Cooke, Big Maybelle, Charles Brown, and Amos Milburn.

Washington cited B.B. King as most influential on his style of singing and guitar playing, which was heavily sprinkled with his gospel singing roots. Shortly after his mother died, he began singing blues as often as he could at the Vet's Inn in Cincinnati, where he worked with a house band for 16 years. In 1962, he recorded his first single for the Finch label in Cincinnati, and it was later released on the Bluestown label. His 1964 singles for the VLM label, including a song he wrote called "Haven't Got a Friend,'' got him noticed in England, and this in turn led to a deal with Fraternity Records in 1966. Lonnie Mack joined Washington on several singles for Fraternity recorded in 1969. In 1970, he recorded two singles for the Jewel label before finally recording his first LP for the Detroit-based Eastbound Records in 1972.

Due to complications from diabetes, Washington lost his sight, and his career fell into a trough from the mid-'70s to the early '90s, but despite the crippling effects of his diabetes and the tragedies that befell him over the course of his life, Washington remained an upbeat, positive figure.

In January, 1993, Long Island-based Iris Records released his first recording in two decades, Step It Up and Go. He began touring regionally again, and frequented clubs in Long Island. His 1994 follow-up album, A Brighter Day, was named one of the top three blues recordings of 1994 by France's Academie Du Jazz. Washington continued to perform in blues clubs around Long Island prior to dying of complications from diabetes on October 23, 1998." AMG

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Blind Blake - All The Published Sides

In the course of this blog, there have been quite a few artists whom I had been unfamiliar with and was subsequently blown away by; Blind Blake certainly fits that bill for me. I find the way he manages to mimic ragtime piano on an acoustic guitar to be jaw-dropping. I was already pretty hip to Lonnie Johnson and many of the other guys, but this was new territory. I called Cliff and asked "Geeze, how is this guy not worshiped as one of the Gods of guitar?" His response was that it was most likely a combined product of the horrible condition of most Paramount 78's and the fact that he didn't spawn a school of disciples to carry on his style. My response to that last part would be that it is unlikely that many could even attempt to copy him given the unique pianistic approach he brought to the instrument. Between 1926 and 1932 he recorded an astonishing 110 tracks for Paramount in both Chicago and Milwaukee. To me that would seem a titanic output for the time.

Until quite recently there wasn't much information known about this genius and the much of what was printed was based on stories from other blues-men which turned out to be false. He was thought to be from Jacksonville, Fl, but his alleged use of Geechee dialect in a song (He refers to Geechie several times in Southern Rag but never changes dialect) also spoke to the south Georgia Sea Islands. Families have been found in both areas that appear to have some connection with him. He was known to have lived part time in Chicago in the late 20's by direct reports of his landlady, he reportedly spent the winters in Jacksonville. The date of his birth and even his real name were all in debate, not to mention the date, place and cause of his death. It seems clear that he drank heavily and enjoyed getting into periodic fights as a result. Different stories had him dying a violent death in the streets of 5 or 6 different places or being run over by a streetcar in one of two. The time span was 8 or 9 years, the locations usually from New York to Jacksonville and points between with little to no attention paid early on to Milwaukee. (Cliff points out that any credible genealogist would have had last known place of employment high on the list of search parameters)

 In 2011 a group of researchers finally put some pieces together when someone found a newspaper obituary, which led to a death certificate, and then to a coroners report. They even found the holy grail, the grave site. Those documents gave us quite a bit of solid information about the man including his true name (Arthur Blake), the year and place of his birth (1896 in Newport News, Va!), his parents names (Winter and Alice), the wife's name (Beatrice McGee Blake), and of course the date and cause of his death and his last address.

When their black artists came to record in Milwaukee for Paramount, they usually stayed in an boarding house where the studio had made long term arrangements with the landlord. Blind Blake died about a block from that place (Brewer Hill area) some 3 years after his last Paramount sessions (and the immediately subsequent bankruptcy of the label). He had been married in 1931 to Beatrice McGee and was still with her at the time of his death due to pulmonary tuberculosis on December 5th, 1934 at the age of 38. The obituary referred to him as "Arthur Blake, an old timer in Milwaukee". (Old Timer at 38!?) The coroners report indicates he had been unemployed and ill for most of the previous 3 years and had died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital in the wee hours of the night while coughing up blood. He had been hospitalized earlier in the year with Pneumonia.

The article ends here for now, but the researchers, Alex van der Tuuk, Bob Eagle, Rob Ford, Eric LeBlanc and Angela Mack, are now followings the leads of the parents names and the Newport News birth place to flush out the story. They finish with a promise that they have already picked up the trail there. The article also attempted to trace Beatrice and to find a marriage certificate. No certificate was found, but she does show up in the city directories as the widow of Arthur from 1935 to 1949. (Cliff points out that if Beatrice did indeed get the parents' names and birthplace correct, it speaks to a longer relationship than just the 2+ years they were married.)

I'm left with some questions and speculations and I really hope to someday see more of this story told. Did Blake meet and marry Beatrice in Wisconsin or did she come there with him? (that she stayed on in Milwaukee may indicate she had family there, but her intimate knowledge of his parents and birth contradicts that) Were there any children? Why would a man whose history shows a clear distaste for northern winters settle in frigid Milwaukee where the very strict local musicians union's records indicate there was no work for him? Is it possible he was stranded there due to the collapse of Paramount? Did his family work their way down the coast to Jacksonville and at some point stay in the Georgia Sea Islands area or is the reference to Geechie in Southern Rag merely a sort of musical travelog? (that would be MY guess) His style speaks much more to a structured larger band background than an itinerant solo bluesman, but no record exists to support that. The number of songs seems to indicate he was quite popular for the 6 years or so of his recordings, Paramount would certainly not have pressed so many sides if they didn't sell, and yet he couldn't get ANY work despite being a remarkable guitar player....WHY??

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sonny Green - Rare 45s

Well, I finally managed to upload this collection as promised.  Thank you for your patience, Chitlin' lovers.   Here are 17 tracks that duplicate and extend the previous post on Sonny Green by KC.  The last track is actually an instrumental without Sonny Green, but it was released under Sonny's name as the B-side of a 45.

One night in the 90s, I somehow ended up in an L.A. club at a Sonny Green concert.   He was still in full voice at the time.  I hadn't heard of Sonny Green until then, and he hit me as something like a cross between Little Johnny Taylor and Syl Johnson, with a little Al Green thrown in for good measure.  In other words, POTENT!   I was happy that Sonny was marketing his own CDR at the time of his classic 45s.  So that is what I am posting here. 

I wonder if Sonny Green is still around and singing?   

Enjoy!   


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Legends of Coutry Blues - The Rest

I'm cleaning out my upload cue and that may well be it for this place for a little while - I'm not feeling it lately and there has to be better things to do with my time -

To the 10 or so of you who actually participate here, I apologize, it isn't any of you, I just don't see the point right now. 

I'll be back and recharged after a bit.