Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spencer Wiggins - Feed the Flame The Fame and XL Recordings

And how could I do one without the other...

"Spencer Wiggins was ... indeed, is the consummate Southern soul man. Born and raised in and around Memphis he served his musical apprenticeship in the Church before trying to eke out a living on the Memphis club scene. A residency at the legendary Flamingo Club landed him a recording deal with the equally legendary Goldwax label and a few years back Ace/Kent issued a most excellent CD of Spencer's Goldwax best. At the time the Kent crew knew that a smattering of Wiggins' Goldwax cuts had been sold on to Fame – the label he eventually signed with in 1969. There he recorded a further nine tracks, but lack of success saw him finally move across town to Sounds Of Memphis/XL, where – again – despite some excellent recordings he failed to break though. The lack of commercial success, however, doesn't, of course, mean that the music he crafted was sub-standard in any way. Far from it. This 22 track collection of all the aforementioned Fame and XL recordings proves that vocally Spencer Wiggins was the equal of any of the great southern soul men. At one moment he could sing as sweetly as say William Bell, the next he could come on as fiercely as Wilson Picket. No, Wiggins' problems were the usual lack of promotion and less-than-dynamic management. Still – thanks to Kent we can now enjoy the music and, incredibly a good half of the cuts here are seeing the light of the day for the very first time. Of the previously unreleased cuts – the opener, 'I'm At The Breaking Point' is absolutely superb – big, bright and brassy it typifies the very best of up-tempo southern soul. .Stuff like 'Water', ''Love Me Tonight' and 'Love Works That Way' represent the other end of the spectrum – lugubrious ballads with that odd mix of the Church and country music about them. Add to that superb covers of Bettye Swan's 'Make Me Yours' , Solomon Burke's 'Cry To Me' and Etta James' 'I'd Rather Go Blind' and you have a wonderful Southern soul set, which - taken with the earlier Kent collection on Wiggins will give you all the man's secular recordings. Yes, as you might have guessed a disillusioned Spencer went back to singing in the church (in Florida –where he'd relocated in 1973) but the news is that Kent's Dean Rudland has coaxed him to play at a 6T's weekender – and who knows where that might lead."

Spencer Wiggins - The Complete Goldwax Singles

A reposting has been requested!

"Spencer Wiggins (Memphis, Tennessee 1942) is an American soul - and gospel singer. He is an exponent of the so-called deep southern soul and is considered one of the best kept secrets of soul music."

Wiggins was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where he grew up encouraged by his parents to engage with music, especially gospel; his mother sang in the choir of the Baptist Church where she attended services. He lived in the same area as singers James Carr and Bobby Bland. While at Booker T. Washington High School, he formed a gospel group with his brother Percy and sister Maxine and, on leaving school, formed an R&B group, the Four Stars, that included his brother Percy and David Porter, later to become a leading songwriter and record producer.

In the early 1960s, he began singing in clubs in Memphis, where he was discovered by Quinton Claunch, head of Goldwax Records. In 1964 Wiggins recorded his first single, "Lover's Crime", produced by Claunch, for the label, though his early recordings were licensed for release through the sub-label Bandstand USA. The recording was followed by eight further singles, but none became a hit. His recordings for Goldwax included "Uptight Good Woman", written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and "I Never Loved A Woman (The Way I Love You)", recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals with guitar by Duane Allman.

In 1969, after Goldwax collapsed, Wiggins went on to Fame Records, where he recorded two more singles, including "Double Lovin'", which reached no.44 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1970. However, other singles for Fame, and for the Pama and Vivid Sound labels, were unsuccessful.

In 1973 Wiggins left Memphis, married, and moved to Miami, Florida, where he became active in the Baptist church and in gospel music. He became a deacon and choir director at the New Birth Baptist Church in Miami, and worked with a number of gospel choirs. He has since released gospel recordings, including Keys To The Kingdom released by Tavette Records in 2003.

The Japanese label Vivid Sound released a compilation of Wiggins' singles from Goldwax, and in 2006 the Kent label issued another compilation. Due to copyright issues, however, this compilation contains fewer songs than the Japanese release. The album was widely acclaimed and led to Wiggins being seen as one of the greatest unknown soul singers.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Otis Rush - The Cobra Recordings 1956-58

Church is out...the last choice bit of the weekend remains...time for some good time blues!... I gotta tell ya Otis is one of my personal all time faves!

"Otis Rush (born April 29, 1935 in Philadelphia, Mississippi
) is a blues musician, singer and guitarist. His distinctive guitar style features a slow burning sound and long bent notes. With similar qualities to Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago blues and became an influence on many musicians including Michael Bloomfield and Eric Clapton.

Rush is left-handed and, unlike many other left-handed guitarists, plays a left-handed instrument strung upside-down with the low E string at the bottom. He played often with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning. It is widely believed that this contributes to his distinctive sound. He has a wide-ranging, powerful tenor voice.

After moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1948, Rush made a name for himself playing in clubs on both the South Side and West Side blues scenes. From 1956 to 1958, he recorded for the Cobra Records and released eight singles, some featuring Ike Turner or Jody Williams on guitar. His first single "I Can't Quit You Baby" in 1956 reached No. 6 on Billboard's R&B chart. During his tenure with Cobra, he recorded some of his well known songs such as "Double Trouble" and "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)."

After Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1959, Rush landed a recording contract with Chess in 1960. He recorded eight tracks for the label, four of which were released on two singles that year. Six tracks including the two singles later came out on "Door To Door" album in 1969, a compilation also featuring Chess recordings by Albert King. He also went into the studio for Duke Records in 1962, but only one single "Homework/I Have to Laugh" was issued from the label. It also received a release in Great Britain on Vocalion VP9260 in 1963. In 1965, he recorded for Vanguard which can be heard on the label's compilation album, Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol.2.

In the 1960s, Rush began playing in other cities in the U.S. and also to Europe, most notably the American Folk Blues Festival. In 1969, the album Mourning in the Morning was released on Cotillion Records. Recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites (then of Electric Flag). The sound that incorporated soul and rock was a brand new direction for Rush.

In 1971, Rush recorded the album Right Place, Wrong Time in San Francisco, California for Capitol Records, but Capitol decided not to release it. The album was finally released in 1976 when Rush purchased the master from Capitol and had it released by P-Vine Records in Japan. Bullfrog Records released it in the U.S. soon after. The album generally has since gained a reputation as one of the best works by Rush. In the 1970s, he also released some albums on Delmark Records and also from Sonet Records in Europe, but by the end of the decade he stopped performing and recording.

Rush made a come back in 1985 making a U.S. tour and releasing the live album, Tops, recorded at the San Francisco Blues Festival. In 1994, Rush released Ain't Enough Comin' In, the first studio album in 16 years.  Any Place I'm Goin' followed in 1998, and Rush earned his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1999.

Though he has not recorded a new studio album since 1998, he continued to tour and perform. In 2002, he was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album Hey Bo Diddley - A Tribute!, performing the song "I'm A Man" produced by Carla Olson. However, he suffered a stroke in 2004 which has kept him from performing since. In 2006, Rush released his latest CD, Live and From San Francisco on Blues Express Records, a live recording from 1999. Video footage of the same show was released on the DVD Live Part 1 in 2003."

1947 - 1954: The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi

A repost by request:

"The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi was a post-war gospel quartet. Powered by lead singer Archie Brownlee, their single "Our Father" reached number ten on the Billboard R&B charts in early 1951. It was one of the first gospel records to do so.

The group originated in 1936 as a quartet of students from the Piney Woods School near Jackson, Mississippi. The students — Brownlee, Joseph Ford, Lawrence Abrams, and Lloyd Woodard — originally sang under the name "the Cotton Blossom Singers", performing both jubilee quartet and secular material, to raise money for the school. Their teacher, Martha Louise Morrow Foxx, helped organize the blind singers at the behest of the school founder Laurence C. Jones. On March 9, 1937, Brownlee and the others recorded sacred tunes (as the Blind Boys) and three secular numbers (as Abraham, Woodard, and Patterson) for Library of Congress researcher Alan Lomax. After graduation in the early forties, they began performing professionally singing pop music as the Cotton Blossom Singers and religious material under the name the Jackson Harmoneers. They were often backed by a female jazz band which originated from the same country school known as "The International Sweethearts of Rhythm." In the early 1940s, Melvin Henderson, also known as Melvin Hendrix, joined the group making them—like many so-called quartets—actually a quintet.

In the mid-1940s, Brownlee and the others relocated to Chicago, and changed their name to the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Under the influence of R.H. Harris of the Soul Stirrers, Brownlee moved away from the jubilee style of singing and towards a more popular hard gospel style. Even though Harris' influence was pervasive—the Blind Boys at first covered Soul Stirrers songs almost exclusively—Brownlee's high voice, which could move from a sweet croon to a devastating scream, was one of the most recognizable in gospel. His dynamic stage presence also became legendary: though blind from birth, he would sometimes leap from a stage into the screaming audiences below .

With the addition of hard gospel shouter Rev. Percell Perkins (who replaced Henderson), the Blind Boys moved into their period of greatest fame. Perkins, who was not blind, became the group's manager, and they began to record, first for Excelsior in 1946, then for Coleman in 1948. Ford was replaced by another blind bass singer who later regained his sight and had to leave the group. He was replaced by J.T. Clinkscales, in that year, and in 1950 the group moved to Peacock Records where they recorded the hit "Our Father" at their first session.

Brownlee died of pneumonia while touring in New Orleans on February 8, 1960 at the age of 35. and not long after Perkins left as well. Brownlee was, at first, replaced by Roscoe Robinson and, after Robinson left the group to go out on his own, by the very able lead Henry Johnson,who, like Brownlee, made devastated screams. Quartet veteran Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax took the position of second lead. He was later replaced by Willie Mincey. Broadnax, in particular, had a high voice which was comparable, in some respects, to Brownlee's. Other singers who worked with the group for a time included Rev. Sammy Lewis, Rev. George Warren, James Watts, and Tiny Powel. By the end of the 1960s, the group had released 27 singles and 5 albums for Peacock. In the 1970s and early 1980s, they recorded some material for Jewel, and they continued to tour into the 1990s. Of the three remaining members of the original group, Lloyd Woodard died in the mid-1970s, Lawrence Abrams passed on in 1982,and Henry Johnson passed in 1999."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Arbee Stidham - Tired Of Wandering

This is a second repost by request:

  "Arbee Stidham (February 9, 1917 – April 26, 1988) was an American blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, most successful in the late 1940s and 1950s.

He was born in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, United States, to a musical family - his father, Luddie Stidham played with Jimmie Lunceford and his uncle with the Memphis Jug Band. Arbie Stidham learned to play harmonica, clarinet and saxophone as a child. Before his teens he had formed his own band, the Southern Syncopators, which backed Bessie Smith on tour in 1930-31, and played on radio and in clubs in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee.

In the mid-1940s he moved to Chicago and met Lester Melrose, who signed him to RCA Victor in 1947. His biggest hit, "My Heart Belongs to You", was recorded at his first session, and reached # 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart in June 1948. He spent the rest of his career trying to emulate its success, recording for Checker, States, and other independent record labels as a jazz-influenced blues vocalist. After a car accident made it impossible to play the saxophone, he took up the guitar in the 1950s under the tutelage of Big Bill Broonzy, and played it on his early 1960s recordings for Folkways.

Stidham continued to record occasionally up to the early 1970s, and also made many music festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He lectured on the blues at Cleveland State University in the 1970s, and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973. (He was active on the Cleveland club scene, frequently at Euclid Tavern which was also Robert Jr Lockwood's home bar)
He died April 26, 1988 in Cook County, Illinois, aged 71." wiki

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Junior Parker - I Tell Stories Sad and True.... [vinyl rip, flac]

a re-post by request:

One of Parker's final albums before dying prematurely from a brain tumor only months later. I just finished the rip for Cliff last week.

  I Tell Stories Sad and True, I Sing the Blues and Play Harmonica Too, It Is Very Funky [United Artists, 1972]
"Once a big man on the blues circuit, Parker was turning into the forgotten Beale Streeter by the time he died last year, and this is a respectful farewell--Sonny Lester, who wrecked his recent collaboration with Jimmy McGriff, keeps things simple (well, fairly simple). Never as penetrating as B.B. or Bobby, Parker smooths his way over the arrangements with the calm of a man who was mellow before the concept existed, at least in its present de-racinated form. Highlight: the sad, true story that goes with "Funny How Time Slips Away." " [R. Christgau]

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Solomon Burke - Blue and Soulful

Solomon Burke - Blue & Soulful

Was Solomon Burke the greatest soul singer of all time? Well producer Jerry Wexler, writer Peter Guralnick and Philly DJ icon Jimmy Bishop will all say that Solomon was The Dude any day of the week even with a borrowed band!

If you listen to the the stunning variety of vocal tones and colors he exerts in the 60 songs here it is pretty easy to understand their enthusiasm; quite simply THIS GUY COULD SING ANYTHING! Across these songs he seems capable of taking on ANY song, Any style, Any sound or even any diction and he sounds completely effortless.

Almost any singer who has been featured here on the blog was within his seemingly limitless range. In the course of this exploration we have seen one great singer after another prove incapable of conquering inferior material. Wynonie Harris, Little Willle John, and countless others prove unable to maintain excitement without good songs that fit them. With Burke it really does not seem to matter, he likely could have sung the Yellow Pages and made it riveting, he was just THAT good. From deepest baritone to highest falsetto there was never even a hint of loss of control that I have ever heard, NOBODY else could do that.

In his mid teens during his first music career he toured in a show with Little Willie John and Joe Tex and stole the show every night. During his second music career he toured with a show that included Otis Redding, Joe Tex and Garnet Mimms.....Burke was the unquestioned headliner. Today he is somehow remembered more for his girth, throne and crown than his blinding talent.

When Ray Charles left Atlantic in 1959 it sent shock waves throughout what was then the greatest R&B/soul label going. Ahmet Ertegun felt deeply betrayed and retreated from the labels' R&B permanently, focusing first on pop like Bobby Darin and Sonny and Cher and later rock bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield. Jerry Wexler was still committed to black music but without his star he was lost. Between 1959 and 1961 Atlantic had lost it's per-eminent position in the music and sales declined sharply, then one fine day in late 1960 a giant fresh faced young man appeared in Wexler's office and over the next four years not only saved the label but carried them to previously unheard of heights. Go to Wikipedia today and they act like he was never as successful as Charles, Brown, Pickett or Redding but that just isn't true when you look at the actual history. Were it not for Burke, the Atlantic of 1965 that boasted Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding would likely have never happened.

Burke and his family carefully crafted an entire mythology about his birth, his grandmother claiming a vision of him 10 years before his birth and knowing the path his life was destined for. Burke claimed to be born in 1940 (at least 1 source claims 1936) and was a child preacher by age 7. He included gospel singing in his ministry and soon began to attract wider attention. Without question the preacher persona was the source of the comfort and easy confidence he felt on stage. Very few people in history have dominated a room the way this man could, his 'presence' and charm were actually far greater than his considerable size. 

At 15 Burke was signed to Apollo records and from 1955 to 57 and he enjoys a fair amount of success but when he began to ask uncomfortable questions as to whether his label and manager are dealing straight with him, his career ends abruptly. Burke was devastated to the point of withdrawing from the business and the world as a whole, according to him spending some time begging on the street until an epiphany moment which includes him being hit by a car driven by a relative who owned a mortuary. (Like I said there is more than a bit of mythology to his story) The woman sent him to mortuary college and in short order Burke became a successful mortician and returned to his ministry. We may well have never heard any more of him were it not for the determination of a man named Babe Shivian who so wanted to manage Burke that he essentially blackmailed him by parking his inappropriate bright red Lincoln in front of Solomon's funeral home each day until the singer relented. (Shivian then gave him the car)

After a couple of singles Solomon marches into Jerry Wexler's office and answers all of Wexler's prayers; the question of what to do after losing Ray is answered in this total package that shows up on his doorstep fully formed and ready for damn near anything. Burke embarks on his second music career with of all things a country song "Just Out Of Reach", replete with a white chorus and fiddle, he delivers the song completely straight, sounding for all the world like a better Elvis. After a few machinations the song is a hit with most of it's audience having little clue that the singer was black.

What follows over the next 4 years is well represented in the dizzying array of these 60 songs, although for my part they could have let out everything, no matter how many discs it takes. I defy any of you to listen to the lot of them straight thru and not come away stunned by the versatility of his voice; Elvis, Hank Snow, Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, James Brown? Yeah, no problem, got that covered. Al Green, Sam Cooke, Wynonie Harris? Yeah got all of them too. He even does the unthinkable in covering Lee Dorsey's "Get Out My Life Woman" and he absolutely crushes it! (Track 59)

The greatest soul singer ever? Well he sure as hell is in the conversation!

Z.Z. Hill - The Malaco Recordings


 "Texas-born singer Z.Z. Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard's soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs "Down Home Blues" and "Somebody Else Is Steppin' In" have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades). "Texas-born singer Z.Z. Hill managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire genre at large when he signed on at Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records in 1980 and began growling his way through some of the most uncompromising blues to be unleashed on black radio stations in many a moon. His impressive 1982 Malaco album Down Home Blues remained on Billboard's soul album charts for nearly two years, an extraordinary run for such a blatantly bluesy LP. His songs "Down Home Blues" and "Somebody Else Is Steppin' In" have graduated into the ranks of legitimate blues standards (and few of those have come along over the last couple of decades)....But Hill's vocal grit was never more effective than on his blues-soaked Malaco output. From 1980 until 1984, when he died suddenly of a heart attack, Z.Z. bravely led a personal back-to-the-blues campaign that doubtless helped to fuel the subsequent contemporary blues boom. It's a shame he couldn't stick around to see it blossom." Bill Dahl