Saturday, December 24, 2016

Ray Charles - The Spirit of Christmas

Rather than trot out my Christmas compilations yet again (if you really want to hear them you can stream them on mixcloud), I thought I'd just share a few choice holiday records.

This second record is one of at least three Ray Charles records that I've seen, but I think it is the best of the bunch. Yes, sometimes silly, sometimes schmaltzy, but it IS Christmas music and hey, it's RAY CHARLES!

The Blind Boys of Alabama - Go Tell It On The Mountain

Go Tell It On The Mountain (2003)

  1. Last Month of the Year
  2. I Pray on Christmas (ft. Solomon Burke)
  3. Go Tell It On The Mountain (ft. Tom Waits)
  4. Little Drummer Boy (ft. Michael Franti)
  5. In The Bleak Midwinter (ft. Chrissie Hynde with Richard Thompson)
  6. Joy To The World (ft. Aaron Neville)
  7. Born in Bethlehem (ft. Mavis Staples)
  8. The Christmas Song (ft. Shelby Lynne)
  9. Away In A Manger (ft. George Clinton with Robert Randolph)
  10. Oh Come All Ye Faithful (ft. Me’shell Ndegéocello)
  11. White Christmas (ft. Les McCann)
  12. Silent Night

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Texas Gospel: Be What You Are, Vol. 2: 1953-1954

The second volume of this stunning 9 disc series from the good folks at Acrobat Music. This long overdue treasure trove of legendary Gospel recordings from the Peacock vaults is an absolute 'essential' in any serious collection of golden age Gospel.

Volume Two continues with those classic Quartet recordings with minimal instrumental backing, usually a guitar and the occasional bass drum. The artists featured include: The Christland Singers, The Southern Wonders, The Southern Tones, The Mid-South Singers, The Heaven Bound Four, and The Sunset Travelers (who would soon feature O.V. Wright). These tracks give little hint of the Robey revolution that was on the horizon.

Acrobat has done a fine job of remastering without imposing modern sound standards that would have ruined the set. Highly recommended. Robert Wingfield, Allmusicguide

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marva Wright - After The Levees Broke

A repost by request:

I must admit that I am still incapable of listening to the first two tracks here without shedding tears. The whole album is a bit gut wrenching for me. Not only does it evoke powerful images of Katrina (in which both she and I lost everything), but it is also the last album before her untimely death. That said, I'd have to call this album her masterwork. It certainly helps that seemingly every musician who was in town at the time of these sessions showed up with axe in hand. Together they made a bit of magic amidst the wreckage of our collective nightmare.

Glenn Gaines, manager of Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, had a large hand in organizing this project. Glenn has done a fine job making sure that the world will always remember Big Chief Bo and I believe he has done the same here for Marva. Different participants produce different tracks, but I believe that Glenn and Peter Noble had the big vision of the project here and they have succeeded admirably. 

Those powerful first two Katrina tracks come from Benny Turner and from there the album is full of lovely surprises. Tell me that when Marva begins That's Just The Way It Is you don't get a little tingle as she transforms the song into a powerful statement. Funny Not Sunny Kind of Love is just a jaw dropping wonder, the gospel tracks with the Crawfords are brilliant, the Toussaint touch is all over the second line treatment of You Are My Sunshine, and then there is Willie Nelson's Crazy....

Musically as consistently top shelf as it gets, powerful and well delivered emotional content, great twists and turns in feels and styles -- superior performances by the main artist -- Can someone PLEASE tell me how THIS album didn't win multiple Grammys?

update: I'm listening to the album now and it still makes me cry, but it's good for the soul. I couldn't help polishing up the review a bit too.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Texas Gospel, Volume One, Come On Over Here

The first volume of a stunning 9 disc series from the good folks at Acrobat Music, in which they dig deep into the Gospel catalog of the the Don Robey imprints (primarily Peacock). This long overdue treasure trove of legendary Gospel recordings is an absolute 'essential' in any serious collection.

Volume One's focus is on classic Quartet recordings with minimal instrumental backing, usually a guitar and the occasional bass drum. The artists featured are The Christland Singers, The Southern Wonders, The Gospel Tone Singers, The Swanee Spiritual Singers, The Golden Harp Singers, The Stars of Hope, and The Gospel Travelers.The disc ends with a pair of burning tracks from The Wilson & Watson Singers: a slightly larger ensemble featuring piano and organ accompaniment.

Acrobat did a fine job of remastering without imposing modern sound standards that would have ruined the set. Highly recommended. Robert Wingfield, All Music Guide

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Best Of Excello Gospel

A repost by request:

Before he turned his Excello Records imprint more toward blues and R&B, Jay Miller recorded straight Southern gospel in the 1950s. These sides lack the distinctive echo-laden swamp sound of his later secular productions, and they tend to be sparse affairs recorded live with minimal instrumentation, usually just an organ or piano. That doesn't mean these tracks aren't explosive, though, as the joyous exclamations that are the heart and soul of black Southern gospel are everywhere here. Among the highlights on this generous collection of Excello gospel releases are the Boyer Brothers' simple and sturdy "Step by Step," the energetic "Since Jesus Came into My Heart" by the Silvertone Singers, and the zippy, doo wop-like "Didn't It Rain Children" by the Sons of the South.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Joe Tex - The Singles A's & B's, 1964 - 1976 (vols 1-4)


Been some requests for Joe Tex things I didn't have...maybe this will do...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bill Samuels/Buster Bennett - Chrono Classics 1945-47

   AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
One of the very first acts signed to the newly founded Mercury label in 1945 was a quartet calling itself the Cats 'N Jammer Three, a name derived from Rudolph Dirks' old-time comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids. Their pianist and lead vocalist was Mississippi native and Chicago-based entertainer Bill Samuels. Adam Lambert played mellifluous amplified guitar, and rhythmic support was provided by bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Hillard Brown. The first of two versions of "I Cover the Waterfront" was terrifically successful for the Jammers and for Mercury. Stylistically, Samuels and his group sounded something like the King Cole Trio, tempered with the quaintness of the Charioteers and, at times, the cheerful carnality of the rising R&B movement. Comparisons could also be drawn with the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, the Cats & the Fiddle, Slim Gaillard, the Delta Rhythm Boys, the Three Keys, the Four Blazes, and the Five Red Caps. "Waterfront" is smoothly romantic with cool background vocals, and the lovely "One Hundred Years from Today" epitomizes the old-fashioned aspect of Samuels' act. On the raunchier end of the spectrum, "Jockey Blues" and "My Bicycle Tillie" -- with its repeated references to "pumping" -- are distinctly and daringly copulative. This combination of cuteness and relatively overt sexuality was an important ingredient in R&B and early rock & roll. Tapping into a rowdy novelty routine popularized by both Count Basie and Louis Jordan, bassist Sylvester Hickman tried to out-squeal Jordan during the Jammers' rendition of "Open the Door, Richard." Three sides from July of 1947 find Samuels in front of a small band led by Ram Ramirez, with trumpet solos from Bill Coleman and guitar passages by Mundell Lowe. The Cats 'N Jammer Three seem to have disbanded during the 1948 recording ban. Samuels waxed only a couple of sides in 1949, then moved to Minneapolis where he managed to form a trio, eventually recording an LP and one last single. Bill Samuels passed away in March of 1964 at the age of 53. This is the heart of his musical legacy.

James Joseph Bennett (March 19, 1914 – July 3, 1980) Born in Pensacola, Florida, by 1930 or so, he was working in Texas, but spent most of his active career (1938 to 1954) in Chicago. He was employed as a session musician by Lester Melrose from 1938 to 1942; he played on recordings with Big Bill Broonzy, the Yas Yas Girl, Monkey Joe, and Washboard Sam. Concomitantly he played on sessions with Jimmie Gordon under Sammy Price's direction.

In 1944, the Buster Bennett Trio featured Arrington Thornton on piano and Duke Groner on bass.  Other lineups led by Bennett included Wild Bill Davis, Israel Crosby, and Pee Wee Jackson.

In 1945, Bennett signed a three-year recording contract with Columbia Records; he was marketed as a Louis Jordan sound-alike. In early 1946, while under contract to Columbia, Bennett appeared, under the name of his trumpet player, Charles Gray, on a recording for the short-lived Chicago label, Rhumboogie. He also made an unannounced appearance on a Red Saunders session on Sultan Records in 1946, and on a "tenor-battle" session with Tom Archia for Aristocrat in 1947.

At the height of his popularity, in the late 1940s, he was known for his ability to draw customers into a South Side club - and for his cantankerous personality. On one occasion, he and Preston Jackson got into a fistfight at the Musicians Union hall, over a $2 debt.

Bennett recorded his last session for Columbia in December 1947. By 1956 he was out of music, because of the loss of recording opportunities and his own failing health. He retired to Texas, where he lived out the remainder of his life. He died in Houston in 1980, at the age of 66.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Harold Burrage - The Pioneer of Chicago Soul

A companion post to the one running at "Don't Ask Me".

Harold Edwin Burrage (March 30, 1931 – November 26, 1966) was an American blues and soul singer, pianist, and record producer.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Burrage did session work as a pianist in the 1950s and 1960s as well as recording under his own name. He released singles on Decca, Aladdin, States, and Cobra in the 1950s, and for Vee-Jay and M-Pac in the 1960s. Burrage's backing bands included the likes of Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, and Jody Williams, while Burrage supported Magic Sam, Charles Clark, and others as a pianist.

Burrage's only national hit as singer was the 1965 Chicago soul song "Got to Find a Way", which reached #31 on the Billboard R&B charts. The following year Burrage died in Chicago, aged 35, from heart failure at the home of Tyrone Davis, a musician whom Burrage influenced.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Other Anthology of American Folk Music

In response to the Harry Smith collection for Folkways/Smithsonian, a disappointingly anonymous human being out there somewhere on the interweb collated and produced "The Other Anthology" from other deserving tracks that didn't make the pick for Smith - mainly alternate material from the same artists: the Memphis Jug Band,  Bascom Lamar Lundsford, Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Dock Boggs.....  98 tracks in all - some of which, like the Harry Smith pick, unavoidably duplicates some of the recent monster Paramount boxed-sets.

There is no booklet and no notes and no credits for this internet production.

Well-deserved appreciation for whoever painstakingly put this together in the first place, and big thanks to whoever shared it on whatever site I downloaded it from.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bobby Womack and The Valentinos

a repost by request:

When considering what to tell in the epic myth-like tale of the life of Bobby Womak, I came to the same conclusion that wikipedia's editors did...the tale is too rich to abbreviate. If you have been here through enough of the blog you caught the very first chapter in the SAR set. This portion really just covers The Valentino's - there will be even more about Bobby alone. His story is in many ways the tale of the fallout from the killing of Sam Cooke. Womak played the role of pawn, hero, villain, tragic hero, resurrected is the stuff of a fantastic book, complete with side plots, or a movie crafted from the very real history of soul.

"The Valentinos (also known as The Womack Brothers), was a Cleveland, Ohio-based family R&B group, mainly famous for launching the careers of brothers Bobby Womack and Cecil Womack, the former brother finding bigger fame as a solo artist and the latter finding success as a member of the husband and wife team of Womack & Womack with Linda Cooke. During their 22-year tenure, the group was known for R&B hits such as "Lookin' for a Love", famously covered by The J. Geils Band and later a solo hit for Bobby Womack and "It's All Over Now", famously covered by The Rolling Stones.

The foundation of the Valentinos started in church where the five Womack brothers - Friendly, Jr. (born 1941), Curtis (born 1943), Bobby (born 1944), Harry (1945-1974) and Cecil (1947-2013) - performed at their father Friendly's church located from the East 85th & Quincy area of Cleveland. The group started out around 1952 when eight-year-old Bobby Womack played guitar for his father after he had broken a string. Following this, he discovered that all five of his sons could sing, forming the Womack Brothers.

Attracting a gospel following, in 1954, the group, under the name Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, cut a single, "Buffalo Bill" with the Pennant label; both Curtis and Bobby Womack were only ten years old at the time of the recording. In 1956, Sam Cooke discovered the group performing while he and his then group, The Soul Stirrers, were headlining and was so impressed with the brothers that he promised to help the group advance in their careers. In 1960, a couple of years after he founded SAR Records and becoming a crossover solo sensation, Cooke made good on his promise signing the teenage act to the label. The group arrived to California in a beat-up Cadillac prior to Cooke signing them.

Still going by The Womack Brothers, SAR cut two gospel singles the group recorded in 1961 and 1962 including "Somebody's Wrong" and "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray". After the singles failed to chart, Cooke advised the group to go a secular direction. Upon this, they changed their name to the Valentinos and while both Bobby and Curtis continued to switch leads, Sam Cooke reportedly favored Bobby and while some SAR singles featured Curtis in lead, the Bobby-led singles would garner the most airplay.

Shortly afterwards, the group under its new moniker, recorded "Lookin' for a Love", which was a pop rendition of "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray". The song would peak at number eight on the R&B charts and number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, going on to sell two million copies. The hit landed them an opening spot on James Brown's national tour.

In early 1964, the group issued their next hit, "It's All Over Now", which was co-written by Bobby and sister-in-law Shirley. Prior to them releasing it, however, word got around that The Rolling Stones wanted to cover it. Despite Bobby's initial protests, the Stones were eventually allowed to release it and their version became their first national hit in the U.S. Bobby's anger cooled after he received his first royalty check for the single following the Stones' release of the single.

Around 1963, Womack began touring with Cooke as his backing guitarist. Bobby added in instrumentation to several of Cooke's albums including Night Beat and Ain't That Good News. Around the same time Bobby was one of the first people to hear Cooke's chilling anthem, "A Change Is Gonna Come". In December 1964, the Valentinos' career was put in jeopardy when Cooke was suddenly shot and killed while at a Los Angeles motel.

Struggling to deal with the sudden loss of Cooke, the group lay low. Not long after Cooke was buried, however, in March of the following year, Bobby, who had just turned 21, married Cooke's widow, 29-year-old Barbara Campbell. Womack would claim later that he initially had wanted to console Barbara after she lost her husband fearing she "may do something crazy" because of the attention given to Sam Cooke's stature. Womack, his family and friends later say that Barbara fell in love with Bobby and convinced him to marry her. Womack even wore one of Sam's suits to the wedding by Barbara's request.

The marriage angered many of Cooke's loyal fans due to the fact that Cooke's death was still being investigated at the time. In response to the negative attention, Bobby chose to leave the Valentinos and start his solo career in 1965, first recording for Him Records and later the Chess Records subsidiary, Checker. But due to the Cooke scandal, radio deejays refused to play his records and onstage, he was often referred to as "the kid that married Sam Cooke's wife". Womack settled on session work for the time being as a rhythm guitarist, beginning in 1966, while the rest of the Valentinos, who had initially disbanded following Cooke's death, was urged by Bobby to regroup.

Following Cooke's death, SAR Records folded and the remaining Valentinos auditioned for several record labels before Chess Records picked them up. In 1966, they recorded two singles, "Do It Right" and "Let's Get Together" but neither single failed to chart and the brothers were dropped from the label soon after. Following this, the youngest Valentino, Cecil Womack, was the next brother to leave the group after he decided to marry former Motown singer Mary Wells. Cecil was only 19 at the time of the marriage, Wells was 23. In 1968, Wells and Cecil helped the brothers get signed to Jubilee Records. Several of the brothers - including Bobby - would contribute to the sessions of Mary Wells' Jubilee album, "Servin' Up Some Soul", many of the tracks being Cecil and Mary compositions. That same year, the remaining trio of Friendly, Jr., Curtis and Harry recorded the single "Tired of Being Nobody" followed by the Cecil Womack penned "Two Lovers History" before calling it a day.

Meanwhile Bobby Womack's career was on a rise again, this time as a session musician and songwriter. After contributing guitar to recordings by Aretha Franklin, he gave up some of his compositions to Wilson Pickett, who later took the Womack single, "I'm in Love", to the top 40 on the pop and soul charts. Several of Womack's other songs including "I'm a Midnight Mover" would also be recorded by Pickett. Following this success, Minit Records signed Bobby and released the album, Fly Me to the Moon, which featured the singer's first charted hit, a cover of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreaming". Once again being able to have a career after years of struggle following his marriage to Barbara Cooke, Womack would continue his session work, working with musicians such as Gábor Szabó, with whom he would write "Breezin'" with. By 1970, Womack's brothers rejoined him as background vocalists on his work, starting with the 1970 release of his second solo album, My Prescription.

In 1971, Bobby signed with United Artists Records and released his breakthrough album, Communication, which featured the top ten R&B hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", in which the rest of his brothers (The Valentinos) , contributed background vocals to. The brothers would be featured on several of Womack's other albums over the years including Understanding, Facts of Life and Lookin' for a Love Again, the latter album in which the brothers re-recorded "Lookin' for a Love" in a modern funk setting. The remake later shot up to number one R&B and number ten pop becoming the biggest hit the brothers ever sang on, selling over two million copies. Bobby Womack later produced a version of "I Can Understand It" for the remaining Valentinos, releasing it on the Clean Records label. The song gave the Valentinos some traction again on the R&B charts leading to them appearing on Soul Train where Bobby was a frequent guest.

However, this period of success would unfortunately be short lived. On March 9, 1974, Harry Womack was shot to death by his girlfriend during a fight while living in Bobby's Los Angeles home. Bobby said later that he received a phone call from his oldest brother Friendly, Jr., who told him of what had happened to Harry. Bobby was then doing an interview for a local radio station while "Lookin' for a Love" was rising on the charts when he got the call. Bobby said he was shocked by the news and tried to escape the building of the station, later landing in a hospital from his fall where he made a full recovery. In response, Bobby moved his entire family including parents Friendly and Naomi to California to strengthen a fragile family bond. The Valentinos ceased recordings after Harry's death settling on background work with brother Bobby.

Bobby Womack's solo career struggled following the death of his brother as did the careers of the other ex-Valentinos. In 1982, Bobby Womack's solo career received a boost with the release of "If You Think You're Lonely Now", which featured his surviving brothers and other singers backing him. The following year, Cecil Womack, now married to Linda Cooke, Sam Cooke's daughter and Bobby's former stepdaughter, began finding success on his own with Linda as the duo Womack & Womack, releasing the album, Love Wars, which boosted the hit single, "Baby I'm Scared of You", which Cecil and Linda wrote. The duo later had a hugely successful international hit with "Teardrops". Friendly Womack and Curtis Womack continued to provide background vocals for brother Bobby's recordings until the nineties when both singers announced retirements.

An estrangement in the family occurred following the 1977 divorce of Cecil Womack and Mary Wells as it was alleged that a reason for the divorce (filed by Cecil) was due to Mary Wells carrying on an extramarital affair with Curtis. Curtis and Mary continued to date and in 1986, Wells gave birth to Curtis' daughter Sugar. Mary and Cecil had three children during their marriage including record producer Meech Wells (born Cecil Womack, Jr.). In the late eighties, disenchanted with life in the United States and searching for their African roots, Cecil and Linda Womack and their children moved to an African country and changed their name to the Zekkariyas where they continued recording music. As a songwriting team for Philadelphia International Records, the couple wrote hits for Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle. Cecil died on February 1, 2013 in Africa. In 2009, Bobby Womack was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, he performed his 1972 hit "Across 110th Street" and the Valentinos hit "It's All Over Now", in which Rolling Stone member Ron Wood backed him. Wood inducted Womack to the Hall. Womack's family with the exception of Cecil Womack was present for the induction ceremony. The family patriarch and founder of the Womack Brothers, Friendly Womack, Sr., died of cancer in 1981. Their mother, Naomi, is still living.

Some of the group's recordings are most noted for their covers by artists of various genres. Alongside the Rolling Stones, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett recorded covers of the Valentinos tunes "Everybody Wants to Fall in Love" and "I Found a True Love", both of which were written solely by Bobby. In 1971, The J Geils Band covered "Lookin' for a Love" a couple years before the brothers re-recorded it for Bobby's solo release, Lookin' for a Love Again. Another composition that was first recorded by Bobby as a solo release and revived by the Valentinos a year later, "I Can Understand It", became a major hit for the funk band New Birth. Prior to her later work with Cecil, Linda helped Bobby co-write the hit "A Woman's Gotta Have It", which also featured Cecil singing background for his brother. Cecil and Linda's composition, "Love TKO", a major hit for Teddy Pendergrass, has been covered several times."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Osibisa - Heads

The last album to feature the original "Beautiful Seven".

"Osibisa, the West African high-life band from Ghana, waxed their first LP in 1971 and continues to spit them out. Their longevity can be attributed to a vibrant sound and the ability to inject humor into music. They don't allow themselves to become mired in social issues as did the short-lived but often brilliant Cymande, whose LPs were essentially political statements. Osibisa's only agenda is making good music, and if it happens to strike a political or social nerve, fine, but it's not what they're totally about. "Wango Wango" starts slow but evolves into a wicked jam that's heavy as P-Funk. Pleasant flute and trumpet riffs accent the lovely "So So MI La So." The bands' tribute to America, the floating "Sweet America," teases and tantalizes. Percussion heads will appreciate "Ye Tie Wo" and "Che Che Kule." The deepest slabs of social commentary are the thought-provoking "Sweet Sounds" and "Did You Know." All tracks were written by all or various members of Osibisa, who share production credit with John Punter. "

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Osibisa - Woyaya 1971

Woyaya is a strong follow up to Osibisa' debut record, almost a companion volume.

The Sprit of Memphis Quartet - Happy In the Service of the Lord

A rerun by request:

Gospel music was largely neglected during the surge of CD reissues in the 90s and early 21st Century.  Only the Specialty and Nashboro labels had significant reissues.    The Spirit of Memphis Quartet was unquestionably one of the greatest, most popular, and most influential quartets of the Golden Age of Gospel in the 40s and 50s.    But the CD generation had little opportunity to hear it.  

  Recently, in the Sunset of the CD Age, the indefatigable Opal Lee Nations managed to put into print for first time in many decades a good chunk of the recorded legacy of the Golden Age of gospel.    He uses European labels that exploit the liberal copyright laws of the EU.  The two most prolific labels have been Acrobat and JSP.    While JSP is still going, Acrobat folded rather quickly after a string of great releases.

  Happy in the Service of the Lord was the single most important release on Acrobat, a 2-disc collection that brings us the most important recordings of the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, those made for King and Peacock during 1949-1952.   During this time, The Spirit of Memphis may have wrecked more churches than any other outfit.   The lineup featured three great lead singers: Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax (tenor), Jet Bledsoe (tenor/baritone), and the inimitable thundering baritone of Silas Steele.    A number of other classic recordings of the Spirit of Memphis from the mid-later 1950s, many of which with Joe Hinton on lead vocals, were included in Acrobat’s 9-Volume “Texas Gospel” reissue of the Peacock label.   We can get into that series later on for this blog if there will be demand for it.
  The Spirit of Memphis stands for quite a rich and diverse gospel tradition.   The Quartet has roots dating back to the 1920s and continues to perform today as one of the finest remaining gospel quartets.   If they come to your town, don’t miss them.   There are also excellent CDs available from the newer aggregations.  But here you have the very artistic peak of the Spirit of Memphis, and one of the peaks of recorded gospel music. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Boogie Uproar - Gems From The Peacock Vaults

Re-run by request:

"The formation of Peacock Records in late 1949 dates back to an event nearly three years earlier when a young guitarist called Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown saw his chance to grab the spotlight - and took it with both hands! 'Gate' had never been backward in coming forward. When legendary bluesman T-Bone Walker fell ill in mid-performance, he leapt up, picked up the guitar left on the stage and started playing his own 'Gatemouth Boogie'. 15 minutes later a star was born. The owner of the club, Don Robey, ensured the young upstart put his autograph on a management contact. Robey would eventually found Peacock Records to release his music, and that's where the label's history starts."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Osibisa - Osibisa 1971

Rarely in popular music history has an unknown band debuted with such a perfectly formed diamond of an album as Osibisa did with their eponymous first album in late 1970. To be fair, these were seasoned musicians, the core of whom had years of experience playing together.

"The Ghanaian founder members of Osibisa – Teddy Osel (saxaphone), Sol Amarfio (drums) and Mac Tontah, Teddy’s brother (trumpet) – were seasoned members of the Accra highlife scene before they moved to London to launch their attack on the world stage. Osel and Amaflio had played in the Star Gazers, a top Ghanaian highlife band, before setting up the Comets, who scored a large West African hit with their 1958 single ‘Pete, Pete’. Tontoh was also a member of the Comets, before joining the Uhuru Dance Band, one of the first outfits to bring elements of jazz into Ghanaian highlife. The other founder-members of Osibisa were Spartacus R, a Grenadian bass player, Robert Bailey (b. Trinidad; keyboards) and Wendel Richardson (b. Antigua; lead guitar), & Lasisi Amao (b. Nigeria; percussionist & tenor sax)."

"Osibisa is a British Afro-pop band, founded in London in 1969 by four expatriate African and three Caribbean musicians. Osibisa were one of the first African bands to become widely popular, leading to claims of founding World Music.
In Ghana in the 1950s, Teddy Osei (saxophone), Sol Amarfio (drums), Mamon Shareef and Farhan Freere (flute) played in a highlife band called The Star Gazers. They left to form The Comets, with Osei's brother Mac Tontoh on trumpet, and scored a hit in West Africa with their 1958 song "Pete Pete." In 1962 Osei moved to London to study music on a scholarship from the Ghanaian government. In 1964 he formed Cat's Paw, an early "world music" band that combined highlife, rock and soul. In 1969 he persuaded Amarfio and Tontoh to join him in London, and Osibisa was born.
The name Osibisa was described by the band members as meaning "criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness" but it actually comes from "osibisaba" the Fante word for highlife. Their style influenced many of the emerging African musicians over the last forty plus years." last FM

To some extent I think the band suffered a bit from their own perfection on this debut...while they certainly equaled this music subsequently, they never really surpassed it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings "Anthology of American Folk Music" curated by Harry Smith

Harry Smith was one of the world’s great eccentrics.

The unorthodox lifestyle and non-conformist beliefs of his parents must have already given him a big head-start on becoming such a pioneer of west-coast bohemia.  Growing up on the Pacific Northwest like he did, with licence to indulge and pursue his magpie enthusiasms, I imagine he knew right from the beginning that he was different.

While a student with the University of Washington's anthropology department at the tail-end of the war years, around the time the beatnik era had begun its incubation, he made a fledgling journey down the coast to San Francisco and smoked his first joint.

Shortly thereafter, he quit school, moved to the Bay area, and found a place in the local arts community as a painter and film-maker and an obsessive archival collector without borders, collecting all kinds weird and wonderful shit.... including the thousands of 78rpm shellac discs from which he came to distill 1952’s three-volume, six-LP, collection “Anthology of American Folk Music”.

The Smith story is long and fascinating - far too long to go into with much detail right here - that's why I include the collection's booklet of notes and essays and stuff, and also the Harry Smith chapter from a book about the crazy world of collector-archivists by Amanda Petrusich called "Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records".  ("A cracking good read on the anthropology of obsession," sez Lazz) 

The production of the legendary Anthology took place when the river of serendipity and a Guggenheim grant washed him up in New York at the Chelsea, badly short of cash, and drove him to offer some of his precious collection of 78s for sale to Moses Asch at Folkways records.  Asch commissioned him instead to edit and curate an overview of American music from the mid-'20s up to the depression driven collapse of the early record business.  Those of you who own the Paramount collections will in consequence discover some duplication.

Smith had planned for six volumes in total, extending the anthology's reach through to the end of the '40s.  For one reason or another, he failed.  Luckily for us and the rest of the world, the lovely Revenant Records worked with the Harry Smith Archive to recreate a fourth volume, also included here.

(You may find worthwhile diversion here, too:

The Soul Stirrers with R.H. Harris - Shine on Me

Within the realm of Soul and Gospel, Rebert Harris occupies a position slightly analogous to Louis Armstrong in Jazz. Not quite as huge because while Pops wrote the language that Everyone used in both solos and singing, Harris is responsible for creating the archetype that Men sing by for many years after in both Gospel and later Soul. The Women's side had already been pioneered by Mahalia Jackson and Rosetta Tharpe but Rebert was the first man to show them how to solo.

  The Soul Stirrers are an American gospel music group, whose career spans over eighty years. The group was a pioneer in the development of the quartet style of gospel, and a major influence of soul music, doo wop, and motown sound, some of the secular music that owed much to gospel.

The group was formed by Roy Crain, who had launched his first quartet, which sang in a jubilee style, in 1926 in Trinity, Texas. In the early 1930s, after Crain moved to Houston, he joined an existing group on the condition that it change its name to "the Soul Stirrers." The name "Soul Stirrers" yields from the description of one of Roy Crain's earlier quartets as "soul-stirring". Among the members of that group was R. H. Harris, who soon became its musical leader. The Soul Stirrers formed as a Jubilee quartet, transformed their sound, influenced by many hard gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Rebert Harris, also from Trinity, Texas, brought several changes to the Soul Stirrers that affected gospel quartet singing generally. He used a falsetto style that had its antecedents in African music, but which was new to the popular jubilee singing style of the time. He pioneered the "swing lead", in which two singers would share the job of leading the song, allowing virtuoso singers to increase the emotional intensity of the song as the lead passed between them without disturbing the four part harmony. That innovation led the Soul Stirrers, while still called a quartet, to acquire five members; later groups would have as many as seven but still consider themselves "quartets", which referred more to their style than their number.

The Soul Stirrers made other important changes in those years: ad-libbing lyrics, singing in delayed time, and repeating words in the background as both a rhythmic and emotional support for the lead singers. The Soul Stirrers along with other quartet performers, dropped the "flatfooted" style of jubilee quartets before them and expanded their repertoire from spirituals and traditional hymns to the newer gospel compositions. The group also loosened the rigid arrangements that jubilee quartets had favored to permit individual singers within the group more space for individual development.

In 1936 Alan Lomax recorded the Soul Stirrers for the Library of Congress's American music project under the Aladdin Record label. They later moved to Chicago, where they broadcast a weekly radio show (WIND) with other famous groups including Golden Gate Quartet, and The Famous Blue Jay Singers. As the gospel quartet style of singing became more popular, groups would perform in competitions called "song battles" to further increase the genre's popularity.

As World War II began, it became more difficult for many gospel quartet groups to make a living. This resulted in many quartets making a living by doing "live performances at churches, schools and neighborhood centers," (Rubin). Despite the economic situation, throughout the 40's and leading into the 50's, many gospel quartet groups were able to pursue their careers successfully. The Soul Stirrer's nationwide touring gained them an even larger audience, as they delivered the emotional fervor that popular jubilee groups, such as The Golden Gate Quartet, did not.

The Soul Stirrers signed with Specialty Records, where they recorded a number of tracks, including "By and By" and "In that Awful Hour". Harris, the most popular member of the group, soon quit, however, in order to form a new group. He was briefly replaced on lead by Paul Foster, then by the unknown Sam Cooke.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mandrill - Mandrilland 1974

 AllMusic Review by Amy Hanson

"With four superb and nearly flawless albums under their belt, it was no surprise to anyone when raves began pouring in for Mandrill's ambitious August 1974 double LP Mandrilland. Recorded in the swampy, seething backwater of Bogalusa, LA, the album proved by far to be the band's most sophisticated set of jams to date, thankfully in spite of the replacement of guitarist Doug Rodrigues for the departing Omar Mesa. Although the set is packed with deliciously smooth grooves, it's clear that the band was continuing to experiment with bright clatters and brash beats -- one spin through "Road to Love" provides a map through some of the best jazz-funk-Latin fusion, as notes tumble down into empty spaces before being lifted up by the hush of the vocals. It's an eclectic vibe, and one that plays beautifully off the quiet soul hook of "Khlida," a song that uses Carlos Wilson's flute and various vibes and synths to add Mandrill sparkle to what could otherwise have become a bland instrumental. Elsewhere, of course, Mandrill kick up classic, brassy funk on "Positive Thing" -- an R&B Top 30 hit -- while inflecting a little bayou blues into the often overlooked "Folks on a Hill."

Willie Hightower

When someone of GIANT talent and tiny (18 tracks) recorded legacy comes across your path, you can only hope that what you get has decent songs and competent production and professional recording - check, check. check!

Who the hell was Willie Hightower? GOOD QUESTION! Ummm he was from Alabama and these tracks were done in the 70's. He came along too late in the ballgame to be the Southern Soul Super-Star he should have been.

That's it! All I got! After these 18 songs you will be just as distressed as I am by that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mandrill - Composite Truth & Just Outside Of Town 1973

 "...MANDRILL’s first three albums were recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Their reputation as a “World Music Group” and “Champions for Peace” began with their self-titled debut album, which contained the epic composition titled “Peace and Love.”  This amazing suite was performed by the group accompanied by the Symphony of the New World, an 80-piece orchestra, and a 200-voice chorus to a Standing Room Only audience at Philharmonic Hall in New York City.

During this momentous evening, the president of Polydor Records presented MANDRILL with a platinum album for their participation, with Aretha Franklin and other musicians, in the creation of a recording for the United Nation’s UNESCO that raised funds for children and international refugees.

Their sophomore release Mandrill Is contained the single “Get It All” and the cosmic anthem “Ape is High.”  The third album, Composite Truth, released in 1973, propelled MANDRILL’s popularity around the globe with their jam-heavy funk rhythms encapsulated in the song “Fencewalk.”  Their freewheeling approach influenced peers such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Earth Wind & Fire and others.  As their popularity grew, so did their appearances on all of the major music TV shows.  MANDRILL performed on both of Don Kirshner’s series, In Concert and Rock Concert.  On numerous occasions they appeared on Soul Train with Don Cornelius, Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack, Soul! with Ellis Haizlip and Like It Is with Gil Noble..."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mandrill 1970 & Mandrill Is 1972

 "Mandrill is an American multi-genre band formed in Brooklyn, New York City in 1968. Members of the band included three brothers: Carlos Wilson (trombone, vocals), Lou Wilson (trumpet, vocals) and Ric Wilson (sax, vocals). The brothers were born in Panama and grew up in the Bedford–Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. Other members included Claude 'Coffee' Cave II (keyboards, percussion, vocals); Bundy Cenac (bass) on the band's eponymous first album, replaced by Fudgie Kae Solomon (bass, vocals) in 1972; Charles Padro (drums, percussion, vocals) for two albums, replaced by Neftali Santiago (drums, percussion, vocals); and Omar Mesa (guitar, vocals), replaced in 1974 by Doug Rodriguez (lead guitar, vocals). This completed the Mandrill line-up from the Polydor years 1970–1975 which make up the Mandrill sound. Other members of the band in later years included Juaquin Jessup (lead guitar, percussion, vocals) and Tommy Trujillo (guitar).

Their songs have been sampled by many hip-hop acts such as Johnny D, Public Enemy, DJ Shadow, Shawty Lo, Big L, Kanye West, Jin, Eminem, and 9th Wonder. They combined funk with many other styles such as Latin, salsa, rock, blues and soul.

Some of their songs have been used in the soundtracks of films: The Greatest (1977), directed by Tom Gries and Monte Hellman; and The Warriors (1979), directed by Walter Hill. The band continues to perform live. Their signature song is arguably "Fencewalk."

Composite Truth (1973) was the band's most commercially successful album." wiki

The Highway QC's - VeeJay Recordings

 The Highway Q.C.'s were an American gospel group active for over fifty years. The group launched the careers of several secular stars, including Lou Rawls, Johnnie Taylor, and Sam Cooke.

The Highway Q.C.'s were founded in 1945 in Chicago by a group of male teenagers who attended Highway Baptist Church, including Sam Cooke, Creadell Copeland, Marvin Jones, Charles Jones, Jake Richard, and Lee Richard. Cooke sang with the group through 1951, when he joined The Soul Stirrers; Lou Rawls took his place through 1953. Rawls had previously sung with the Holy Wonders, and eventually all of the other Wonders (Spencer Taylor, James Walker, and Chris Flowers) would also join the Highway Q.C.'s.

After Rawls's departure in 1953, Johnnie Taylor joined the group, and in 1955 they made their first recordings for Vee-Jay Records. In 1957 Taylor left the group, replacing Cooke in the Soul Stirrers as Cooke pursued a career as a solo artist. Spencer Taylor, who had joined in 1956 and was not related to Johnnie Taylor, became the group's leader after Johnnie's departure and remained so for over forty years, leading the group well into the 1990s. They would record for Savoy Records and A&M Records, among others.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Effie Smith - Blues & Rhythm Series Classics (1945 - 1953)

 "Effie Smith (born Effie Mae Blu or Bly, April 10, 1914 – February 11, 1977) was an American blues and jazz singer and comedian, best known for "Dial That Telephone", a song she first recorded in 1953 which became an R&B hit in 1965.

She was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, and after an early marriage took the surname of her husband, Fred Smith. By 1940 she was living in Los Angeles, California, with her two children, and was working as a singer in a WPA project. She sang in a vocal group, the Three Shades of Rhythm, and with the Lionel Hampton and Benny Carter orchestras, and during World War II appeared on several Armed Forces Radio Service broadcasts including sessions with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and 16-year-old pianist André Previn.

She married comedian, songwriter and record producer John Laurence Criner (1914–1992), and recorded several songs with Johnny Otis for the G&G and Gem labels, both parts of Criner's Royal Records group. She also recorded for Miltone Records in 1947, one of her songs being an answer record to label owner Roy Milton's own "R.M. Blues". During the 1950s, she recorded a number of tracks for Aladdin Records, including in 1953 the first version of "Dial That Telephone", a comedic monologue in which she complains to a friend about the absence of her husband.

She also recorded with Ike Carpenter's orchestra. In 1955 and 1956, she recorded several tracks including "Champagne Mind With A Soda Water Income" with the Squires, a vocal group featuring Don Harris and Dewey Terry (later Don and Dewey). She recorded several versions of "Dial That Telephone" over the years, including a 1959 version released on Criner's Spot record label. However, the song only became a chart success in 1965, when a new recording on the Duo Disc label reached #36 on the Billboard R&B chart. In 1968, her recording of "Harper Valley P.T.A. Gossip", a spoken elaboration of the content of Jeannie C. Riley's hit "Harper Valley PTA", reached #43 on the R&B chart.

Smith later worked in record promotion and A&R for Stax Records. She died from cancer in Los Angeles in 1977, aged 62.

A compilation of her recordings between 1945 and 1953 was issued by the Chronological Classics label in the 1990s. One of her children, Fred Sledge Smith (1933–2005), became a prominent songwriter and record producer in the 1950s and 1960s, with artists including The Olympics, Bob & Earl, and Bill Cosby." wiki

Willie Mabon - I'm The Fixer

 Willie Mabon (October 24, 1925 – April 19, 1985)

Born Willie James Mabon, and brought up in Hollywood, Memphis, Tennessee, he had become known as a singer and pianist by the time he moved to Chicago in 1942. He formed a group, the Blues Rockers, and in 1949 began recording for the Aristocrat label, and then Chess.

His biggest success came in 1952 when his debut solo release, "I Don't Know", topped the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks. It was one of the most popular releases of its era, becoming Chess's biggest hit in the period before Chuck Berry's and Bo Diddley's success. It also became one of the first R&B hit records to be covered by a leading white artist, Tennessee Ernie Ford. Mabon's original was played on Alan Freed's early radio shows and also sold well to white audiences, crossing over markets at the start of the rock and roll era.

Mabon returned to the top R&B slot in 1953 with "I'm Mad", and had another hit in 1954 with the Mel London song "Poison Ivy". However, his career failed to maintain its momentum, and record releases in the late 1950s on a variety of record labels were largely unsuccessful. Releases in the 1960s included "I'm The Fixer" and "Got To Have Some".

After a 1972 move to Paris, Mabon toured and recorded in Europe as part of promoter Jim Simpson's American Blues Legends tour, recording The Comeback for Simpson's Big Bear Records label, and his 1977 album on Ornament Records. He also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. In April 1985, after a long illness, Mabon died in Paris.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

B B King - Live At The Apollo (1991)

Live at the Apollo is a Blues album by B.B. King and the Phillip Morris "Super Band" recorded at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. It was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

There are both good and bad points to this CD. Of the latter, the Phillip Morris "Super Band" is confined to background work with other than a few spots for Plas Johnson's tenor, no soloists being heard from. As an ensemble, the all-star orchestra performs well, but is essentially anonymous. Also, despite the backing, B.B. King does not attempt to play jazz, a wasted opportunity. But, switching to the good points, Live at the Apollo is an excellent example of a strong B.B. King live performance. Somehow he always makes his combination of blues and familiar hits sound fresh. With a liberal amount of space set aside for his guitar solos, B.B. is in top form throughout the well-paced set, which is far superior to most of his overproduced studio sessions for MCA. Even if the big band is mostly irrelevant, this CD is recommended for B.B. King's singing and playing. (AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Snooks Eaglin and His New Orleans Friends

Snooks Eaglin with His New Orleans Friends - The Sonet Blues Story

Sam Charters produced this marvelously funky collection of oldies rendered Eaglin-style with an all-star Crescent City combo: pianist Ellis Marsalis, saxist Clarence Ford, and the French brothers as rhythm section. Eaglin's revisit of "Yours Truly" floats over a rhythmic bed so supremely second-line funky that it's astonishing, while he personalizes the New Orleans classics "Oh Red," "Down Yonder," and "Let the Four Winds Blow" as only Snooks Eaglin can. - Bill Dahl (AMG)

Track List:
1. Down Yonder [2:50]
2. No More Doggin' [2:50]
3. Talk To Your Daughter [2:40]
4. Going To The River [3:21]
5. Oh Red [2:27]
6. Yours Truly [4:23]
7. Travelling Mood [3:27]
8. St. Pete, Florida Blues [3:08]
9. A Teeny Bit Of Your Love [2:17]
10. Mustang Sally [4:06]
11. Let The Four Winds Blow [2:15]
12. San Jose [3:38]

Snooks Eaglin (vocals, guitar)
Clarence Ford (saxophone)
Ellis Marsalis (piano)
George French (bass, background vocals)
Bob French (drums)

I miss being able to go to Rock n Bowl nearly any week and see Snooks, he never failed to pull out some tune I had never heard before.This is a unique ensemble with him here that is unlike any other Snooks on record. It is also notable for having both French brothers on it who nowadays can't stand to be in the same room with each other. (obviously this was written before Bob died)

The New Orleans Sessions - Mercury Records

 By request:

In earlier posts we looked at some of the pioneering R&B recordings coming out of New Orleans in the late 40's. The success of that material began to attract labels like Mercury to come down and record some for themselves, a repeated theme in the cycles of New Orleans popularity.

For whatever the reason may be, these recording are some of the most neglected of the major label recordings made here. This magnificent Bear Family set is an expansion of their earlier 2 lp set, with the second disc representing material that has not seen the light of day since I was a baby. I wish I had a way to give you the enclosed book with it but at 96 pages, I was not doing all them scans!

One of the real treasures here are the large number of tracks from the forgotten lady blues shouter Miss Lollipop but there are also 13 rare Professor Longhair tracks and some Gospel from the Silvertone Singers. All great stuff that even collectors likely did not have in full.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gospel Alive, Sacred Recordings Made in the Field

A re-run of one of my earliest posts of Gospel here, complete with my original somewhat ecstatic, and emotional review and listening instructions:

"This 3-CD collection offers for the first time an overview of black, sacred recordings made in the field. They demonstrate a wide variety of the many exciting styles of Afro-American gospel music covering for the most part the Post-War era. We have drawn in-the-front-seat clips from the tent, concert hall, church, park, festival grounds, stadium, ballroom, studio and auditorium and have included international gospel stars such as Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe alongside lesser celebrated but equally talented artists like the Morning Echoes and Golden Keys.
Hearing in-the-spirit-gospel live performances before an enthralled audience makes for a full and true experience. This emotional music is the closest you will ever get to the essence of black gospel music. If it doesn't have you off your feet and into the air, nothing will.
Much of this material has never had commercial release - although a few cuts may be familiar to the keenest collectors - even they may discover a lot that is new to them." promo review

Rafter rocking, soul shaking full tilt Gospel here my friends! I said it before but let me reiterate please, PLAY THIS LOUD, I MEAN FOR REAL LOUD!! Gospel is meant to penetrate your being, don't be surprised if you find yourself crying, it does that, let the tears flow, you will be shocked at how light you feel afterward. Not many recordings can really take you to the church or the revival with the power of these recordings. I sit here writing this while listening with tears streaming down my own cheeks and little breaks for spirit dances, Gospel is an experience, don't restrain your instincts when you listen to this stuff, let it flow and you will have a experience that is magical, cathartic and healing.

Maybe as much as anything else ever posted here these recordings demonstrate the thread of passion that connects all the music we have explored. Open your heart and let the music in, you will never regret it.