Monday, August 06, 2007
Take This How You Have To Or Don't Take It At All...
"Im Sad About It"---Lee Moses
It may seem a bit overstated to refer to Lee Moses as one of my absolute favorite soul vocalists considering that he only released one full-length LP and a handful of singles during his entire career. However, Time And Place is an album of such magnitude that it offers more exceptional material than most artists could manage to produce in a prolific lifetime of recording.
For many years, Time And Place (originally released on Maple Records) was such an obscurity that even the most industrious crate diggers had a difficult time securing a copy. Because I felt so strongly that the record should be heard by soul fans worldwide, I've previously shared a couple of my favorite tracks from the LP. Many people wrote to me about how much they enjoyed those songs, and inquired as to how they might go about finding a copy of their own. Well, soul children---your day has finally come. A few months ago, Castle Records in the UK finally re-issued the album and included the material from his elusive 45s as well.
Moses wrote some of his own material, and "Sad About It" is one such example. While his coverage of other artists' material is stellar (see "Hey Joe" and "California Dreaming"), there is something particularly affecting about hearing him wail and moan over tunes that are biographical in nature. His emotional and gut-wrenching vocal delivery has come to epitomize the very sound of Southern soul---at least for myself and Moses' dedicated cult following. Your initiation begins now...
To really persuade you of the necessity of purchasing this LP, watch the record spin on the turntable while you listen to one of Lee's best tracks---"Bad Girl (Part 1)":
"Rumble In The Jungle (Arythematic 411 Remix)"---The Fugees/A Tribe Called Quest/Busta Rhymes/John Forte
The original version of this track was released on the soundtrack to the film When We Were Kings, a documentary about the famous "Rumble In The Jungle" heavyweight championship between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in 1974. The song was also released as a maxi-single in 1996, and as a 12" that included a radio edit and some snippets from the film. Personally, I was checkin' for a remix, but no such luck until I scored this one by a basement DJ a few years ago.
Why bother, you ask? I always thought the lyrics were kinda dope, and you have to appreciate this line-up---especially since most of the players have since gone missing or insane. The original beat was a bit of a turn-off for me, but hell...it was doomed from the start with the lacing of that shitty ABBA sample. Sorry dancing queens, but "Name Of The Game" sucks. Arythematic's take on the track is still not sonic perfection, but like it or not, you gotta admit that his choice of sample is most agreeable in comparison.
The video for the original joint:
"Some Kind Of Wonderful"---Soul Brothers Six
We were having a discussion about music at work the other day, and someone asked who sang the classic jam "Some Kind Of Wonderful". The Drifters had a song by that name, but when the person started singing the tune, it was obvious that she was talking about the other "Some Kind Of Wonderful". I proclaimed that it was Soul Brothers Six, and a few of my co-geniuses started snickering, because they were positive that couldn't be the correct answer. Finally, someone googled the track, and announced that the credit belonged to Grand Funk Railroad.
Both answers are correct, depending on whether you're a soul junkie or a classic rock radio drone. The fact that I'm the former rather than the latter helped me prove to be just a little bit righter in my response. In fact, the song was originally recorded by Soul Brothers Six in 1967, although admittedly the more popular version (reaching #3 on the US charts) was covered by Grand Funk on their 1975 LP, All The Girls In The World Beware.
Don't worry---I'm not posting this track because I'm still bitter about our little debate. We had a good laugh after this, and I merely warned them to proceed with caution before they try to fucks wit da Scholar again. The whole thing just got me thinking that '70s and '80s babies unknowingly attribute this song to Grand Funk, and the even more misguided Generation Y, Z, or whatever we're up to now, might not realize that its roots go any deeper in music history than Joss Stone. Just setting the record straight kids, because the original is far too exceptional to be casually overlooked.
"Soul Power '74"---Maceo & The Macks
If you've ever been listening to a James Brown record and heard The Godfather shout "Maceo! Blow Your Horn!", then you have an idea what a vital figure Maceo Parker is in the history of funk and soul music. Playing alto, tenor, and baritone sax, Maceo was indisputably a major influence on the trademark JB sound.
In 1971, James Brown released one of his most popular tracks---the monumental tune known as "Soul Power". Not long afterwards, an instrumental version of the classic jam was created when Parker and trombonist Fred Wesley added some overdubbed horn parts to the rhythm track from the original recording. The original horn track had bled into the rhythm in certain parts, so sound engineer Bob Both added various sound effects to disguise this and perfect the quality of the recreation. Subsequently, the track was named "Soul Power '74", and was credited to Maceo & The Macks. The song was initially released as a 7" on People Records (1973) and reached #20 on the R&B charts, and later appeared on Maceo's Us! LP (1974). The song has also been popular with hip-hop producers and DJs, having been sampled on tracks by Redman, MC Shan, Eric B & Rakim, Schoolly D, 3rd Bass, Stetsasonic, Salt-N-Pepa, Doug E Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, and more.
"Newniss"--- DJ 2Tall/Dudley Perkins/Georgia Anne Muldrow
As a longtime fan of Otis Jackson, Jr., I was introduced to Dudley Perkins (aka Declaime) primarily through his affiliation and collaborations with the Supreme Being, Madlib. Dudley's always been somewhat of a leftfield hip-hop personality, never quite tailoring his eccentricities to afford much acceptance from mainstream hip-hop enthusiasts. His latest venture, Beautiful Mindz, with DJ 2Tall and the stunning Georgia Anne Muldrow will likely not provide any realistic exception to this rule. Those who've appreciated his style from day one are likely to continue doing so after hearing this LP, while his detractors will find fault along the same lines that they usually do.
I can usually appreciate where Dudley's coming from and Muldrow's influence is more than welcome, although she does little in the way of altering his unorthodox hip-hop style. This is a pretty damn beautiful record, if you tend to like this sort of thing. However, there are a few elements that may be less than desirable to the masses. Perkins gets a bit repetitive at times, utilizing certain catch phrases through the LP that have the potential to grow rather wearisome by the end of the recording. Furthermore, the whole effort seems a bit a disjointed and improvisational, as if the entire LP was thrown together during a single recording session. I have friends who get intoxicated and enjoy freestyling such ramblings over some of their favorite beats, but to be fair, none of them are as skilled at pulling this off and making it work as Perkins obviously is.
Depending on your personal preferences, "Newniss" may or may not be one of the better tracks from the LP, but it should give you a pretty good taste of what you're in store for if you decide to cop the record (Amalgam/Eclectic Breaks, 2007).
The first video from the LP---the title track "Beautiful Mind"
"I Can Stand A Little Rain"---Esther Phillips w/ (Joe) Beck
The story of Esther Phillips has always struck me as a tragic one. She was born Esther Mae Jones in Texas on 12/23/35. She grew up singing in the church, bot got her first big break while living in Los Angeles when bluesman Johnny Otis discovered her through a talent show she won at his nightclub. She began her recording legacy as part of Otis' revue while still a teenager, aptly dubbed as Little Esther. While under his wing, she cut a successful record with The Robins (an early version of The Coasters), leading to a string of other popular singles bearing her name.
She eventually had a falling out with Otis, which marked the beginning of many of her personal and professional instabilities. She frequently switched labels around this time and began experimenting with drugs, culminating in a serious addiction to heroin. As a result, she frequently had to be hospitalized and the scope of her career was sizably reduced to the smaller circuit of the Southern nightclub scene. Finally, future country star Kenny Rogers rediscovered her in 1962 and she was signed to the Lenox label that his brother owned. At this point, Esther decided to drop the "Little" from her moniker, and allegedly selected her last name from a nearby Phillips gasoline station.
Phillips started recording country-soul tunes that also found popularity with a pop and R&B audience, but her fortunes changed again when Lenox went bankrupt in 1963. Atlantic picked her up, but guided her into performing a variety of different genres---jazz, pop, the blues, R&B, etc. Although the proposed idea was to find her niche, this lack of consistency may have ultimately led to a marked decrease in her commercial viability. Atlantic eventually dropped her from their roster in 1967, primarily due to a lack of sales.
Phillips' addiction continued to worsen and she ended up in a rehabilitation facility in 1969. While still in treatment, she cut some sides for Roulette. Once released, she again signed with Atlantic, who confounded her career ambitions a second time by imploring her to lose her gritty edge and and try performing more pop-oriented tunes. Those ventures failed to make the grade, and the company dropped her again in 1971.
Kudu Records then picked her up, and she recorded one of her most celebrated LPs to date, From A Whisper To A Scream (1972). In fact, the several albums she recorded for Kudu would mark the most stable and successful run of her rocky career. In 1975, she released What A Diff'rence A Day Makes, which became one of her greatest selling LPs of all time. The soulful blues of "I Can Stand A Little Rain" was one of the best tracks from the album, arranged by guitarist Joe Beck and featuring David Sanborn, Randy Brecker, Steve Khan and Don Grolnick.
In 1977, she left Kudu to pursue an opportunity with Mercury, presumably because she was offered a greater modicum of creative control. After releasing some relatively unsuccessful records for the label, she again found herself without a deal in the early '80s. Her last chart single was for the small Winning label in 1983.
The following year Esther's health began to fail, and she had complications resulting from years of drug abuse and a more recent penchant for alcohol. She died in Los Angeles on August 7, 1984 of liver and kidney failure.
Stay tuned for more pending updates from yours truly and more exciting guest contributions from members of the Souled On army...
Word From Yor Moms:
"The sincere, sensitive artist, willing to go beneath the cliches of popular belief to get at an underlying reality, will be wary of confining a race's entire characters to a half-dozen narrow grooves."--- Sterling Brown