Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Second Thought...Again

What it be like, soul children? I dug a little deeper into the crates this past week, and pulled out some phenomenal cover tracks that I unintentionally neglected when I posted some other secondhand songs a few weeks ago. Time to blow the dust off and give these grooves their rightful turn in the rotation...

"Hold On I'm Comin"---Erma Franklin (zShare)

"Hold On I'm Comin"---Erma Franklin (savefile)

*Written by Isaac Hayes/David Porter; Originally performed by Sam & Dave; Erma's rendition appeared on her Soul Sister LP (Brunswick, 1969), while her sister Aretha didn't release her cover of the tune until 1981.

Rumored song fact: While songwriter/producer David Porter was on the toilet, his songwriting partner Isaac Hayes yelled at him to hurry up so they could get back to work, being frustrated at the lack of progress they had made that day. Porter responded, "Hold on man, I'm coming." The immediately inspired Porter quickly finished his business and excitedly told Hayes that "Hold On, I'm Coming" would be a great title for a song.

"Give It Up Or Turn It Loose (Part 1&2)"---Marva Whitney/Osaka Monaurail (zShare)

"Give It Up Or Turn It Loose (Part 1&2)"---Marva Whitney/Osaka Monaurail (savefile)

*This song was written by Charles Bobbit (JB's personal manager), and originally released in 1969 by James Brown as the "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" single (b/w "I'll Lose My Mind"). That version appeared on the Ain't It Funky album, while Brown also recorded a second take w/ The J.B.'s for the Sex Machine double-LP (1970). Over five minutes long, this later recording used a substantially different instrumental arrangement, with an added organ riff and a rapid, ornate bassline, as well as different lyrics. A remix of this recording by Tim Rodgers appears on the 1986 compilation album In The Jungle Groove. The remixed version has been sampled extensively.

*Marva Whitney is, of course, one of James Brown's Original Funky Divas, aka Soulsister Number One, aka The First Lady Of Funk. When she toured Japan in 2006, she teamed up with the ultra-funky Osaka Monaurail, who acted as her backing band in the six cities that she played. After this brief stint ended, Whitney went back to the studio with the group and recorded her first solo LP in 36 years. The album, I Am What I Am, features a mixture of covers, originals, and instrumentals...a must-have recording for anyone who's a fan of her work.

"Fever"---Patti Drew (zShare)

"Fever"---Patti Drew (savefile)

*Written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell; first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956, but was popularized by Peggy Lee two years later.

*Numerous artists have remade this track over the years, including Elvis, King Curtis, Ben E. King, Madonna, Ray Charles & Natalie Cole, Buddy Guy, Marie Queenie Lyons, and many more. Patti Drew's take on the song is decidedly cooler than most...

"Purple Haze"---The String Quartet (zShare)

"Purple Haze"---The String Quartet (savefile)

*Written by Jimi Hendrix; first released as an audio single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience on March 17, 1967.

*Despite the fact that most of us will forever associate this song with drug usage (and more specifically, LSD), Hendrix claimed that it was inspired by a spiritual dream he once had. The working title for the track is said to have been "Purple Haze, Jesus Saves".

*The String Quartet Tribute albums are an eclectic series released on Vitamin Records. They feature a rotating cast of musicians who perform classical covers of material by a wide variety of artists. More than 200 of these projects have been released so far, paying homage to everyone from Marilyn Manson to Massive Attack. The Hendrix tribute undoubtedly has some lackluster moments, but their take on "Purple Haze" kinda kicks ass (albeit in its own peculiar way). For anyone who's completely mortified by orchestral Jimi, I offer this as my unapologetic, yet humble penance:

"When Something Is Wrong With My Baby"---Bobby Byrd (zShare)

"When Something Is Wrong With My Baby"---Bobby Byrd (savefile)

*Another track written by the Hayes/Porter songwriting duo that was originally recorded by Sam & Dave; first released on their Double Dynamite LP in 1966.

"Come Together"---Willie Bobo And The Bo-Gents (zShare)

"Come Together"---Willie Bobo And The Bo-Gents (savefile)

*Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney; originally released on The Beatles' Abbey Road LP in 1969. Bobo's instrumental version was released on Sussex in the early '70s, perfectly fusing Latin sounds with deep funk rhythms.

*Unlike "Purple Haze", "Come Together" actually did have something to do with LSD. Timothy Leary, the drug's most visible and noteworthy proponent, ran for Governer of California and asked John Lennon to write a song for his campaign. Leary's slogan was "Come Together, Join The Party", the original title of the famous Beatles track. The Acid King's political aspirations didn't get him very far, but his slogan inspired Lennon to pen one of the most celebrated tunes in popular music history.

*John Lennon was sued for stealing a line and guitar riff in "Come Together" from Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me". It wasn't Berry who made the allegations, however. Rather, Lennon was sued by Morris Levy (founder of Roulette Records), a rather notorious music business mogul who claimed authorship and rights to quite a few songs that he actually stole from other artists. It would be laborious to highlight every detail, but Lennon ultimately agreed to record some songs that Levy owned in an attempt to settle the suit. Lennon was working with crazy-ass Phil Spector at the time, who apparently ran away with the session tapes for a while, adding even more insanity to the already dramatic sequence of events. More of the sordid details can be found here.

"Save Me"---Nina Simone (zShare)

"Save Me"---Nina Simone (savefile)

*Written by Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and Carolyn Franklin; originally released on Aretha's I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You LP in 1967. Nina Simone's rendition came two years later, appearing on her LP, A Very Rare Evening.

Nina's first TV performance, covering "Love Me Or Leave Me", a song written by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn. The tune was first heard in the Broadway play Whoopee!, and the original recording became a fairly big hit for Ruth Etting in 1929. Doris Day and Lena Horne both recorded successful versions of the song in 1955, while Nina's version came about in 1958 on her debut album, Little Girl Blue. In 1966, Simone also included the track on her Let It All Out LP:

"Respect"---The Soul Survivors (zShare)

"Respect"---The Soul Survivors (savefile)

*Written by Otis Redding, and originally released by him on September 15, 1965.

*The Soul Survivors released some great blue-eyed soul tracks in the '60s, including their biggest hit, "Expressway To Your Heart" (from their LP of the same title, 1967). The album included some memorable covers, including their energetic rendition of "Respect". I'm pretty certain these guys are still touring, but I'm afraid that respirators, aging groupies, and shitloads of Viagra might somewhat cheapen the experience.

"Ain't No Sunshine (J Rocc Remix)"---Kashmere Stage Band (zShare)

"Ain't No Sunshine (J Rocc Remix)"---Kashmere Stage Band (savefile)

*Originally written by Bill Withers, appearing on his Just As I Am LP, 1971.

*The track was originally released as a B-side to Withers' song "Harlem", but DJs preferred it to the intended single. "Ain't No Sunshine" won the Grammy for best R&B song in 1972.

*The Kashmere Stage Band is actually a group of high school students who made some phenomenal music in the late '60s and early '70s. The school is in a predominantly black neighborhood in Houston, Texas, known as Kashmere Gardens. As legend has it, music teacher Conrad Johnson was inspired by seeing a live Otis Redding show, and decided to translate this style into the work he did with his highly talented student musicians. Thanks largely to Stones Throw records, the band has achieved quite a bit of recognition in recent years. J Rocc's bottom-heavy take on their cover is from a 12" collection of KSB remixes (released on Now Again in 2006).

One of the greatest covers of "Ain't No Sunshine", a jaw-dropping performance by blues legend Freddie King:

"Hard Times"---Baby Huey & the Babysitters (zShare)

"Hard Times"---Baby Huey & the Babysitters (savefile)

*Written by Curtis Mayfield

*It may be a bit questionable to call this a cover considering that Baby Huey actually recorded this song for The Baby Huey Story (Curtom, 1971) two years before Mayfield released the track himself on his Back To The World LP (Curtom, 1973). I say fuck itself is imperfect. (Edit: see the comments section for info on the very first recording of this song by Gene Chandler, and a link to the mp3. Gratitude to the Stepfather Of Soul for helping me straighten this out)

*Baby Huey was introduced to Mayfield by Donny Hathaway in 1969. Mayfield promptly signed him to his Curtom label and penned a handful of tunes for the debut. Unfortunately, Huey tipped the scales at around 400 pounds, and his weight (coupled with a crippling heroin addiction) led to his untimely demise in 1970. His passing came before The Baby Huey Story was completely finished. The album was released in 1971 after edits and overdubs allowed for five vocal tracks and three instrumentals to be pieced together in a somewhat cohesive manner. Chaka Khan, wife of The Babysitters' bassist Hassan Khan, fronted the band for a short while after Huey's passing, but the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

*Many music critics/fans have promoted the idea that Huey's unique vocalizations often bordered on an embryonic style of rapping, particularly in his pre-Curtom live performances in the late '60s. Hip hop has undoubtedly played a vital role in keeping his lone record relevant through sampling, despite the fact that it was generally ignored at the time of its release. "Hard Times" alone has been sampled on joints by Ghostface Killah, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Moon, Alkaholiks, Ice Cube, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, Diamond D, Yaggfu Front, Saafir, People Under The Stairs, and more.

"Wild Horses"---Labelle (zShare)

"Wild Horses"---Labelle (savefile)

*Written by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards; recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1969 by The Rolling Stones, and first released on their Sticky Fingers LP in 1971.

*Part of this tune was evidently written by Richards for his son Marlon, who was an infant at the time. Richards was apparently regretful about leaving his newborn child to go on tour. Jagger rewrote some of the lyrics, but the source of his inspiration has been somewhat disputed over the years. By some accounts, Mick's verses pertained to his relationship with Marianne Faithfull. She claimed that she told Jagger "wild horses couldn't drag me away" upon awakening from a drug-induced coma in 1969. Years later, Jerry Hall (Jagger's longtime girlfriend) claimed that "Wild Horses" was her most beloved Stones tune, despite the fact that Mick had written it for his wife Bianca.

*Labelle is the group that launched the career of lead vocalist Patti LaBelle. They recorded several records together in the early to mid-'70s, and have often reunited for various projects/performances since their split in 1976. A complete history can found here.

Supplemental Materials:

For my last covers post, I included a couple of Rolling Stones remixes as bonus mp3s. This time, I decided to feature some remakes of Radiohead's material. I have discussed my unabashed respect for the group in previous posts, and found that I was not alone in my admiration for their undeniable impact on contemporary music. Their material has been reworked in a variety of different ways, so understand that these selections are not even beginning to skim the surface...

Bonus mp3s (zShare only):

"Side B"---Greenhouse Effect vs. Radiohead
These Def Jukies out of Columbus, OH haven't always impressed me with their output, but I can't live without the flipside of the Greenhouse Effect vs. Radiohead 12". Ridiculously emo, but the lyrics fit perfectly with the fuzzy vibe of Radiohead's spaced-out melancholia.

"Paranoid Android (DJ Panzah Zandahz Remix)"---Radiohead
A phenomenal instrumental remix from the Me & This Army: Radiohead Mashup mixtape.

High And Dry---Bilal (Radiohead cover)
Despite their seemingly disparate musical styles, Bilal did an stellar job revisiting "High And Dry" for the Radiohead Remixed CD.

Word From Your Moms:

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”---William Faulkner

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Importance Of Being A Candy Licker

Today's guest writer is Preston Lauterbauch, editor of the Backroads Of American Music, a wonderful new website featuring musicians, venues, and music history "off the beaten path". Additionally, he writes full-time for Memphis magazine and the Memphis Flyer.

I first encountered Preston via his blog The Memphis Sound: Lost And Found. Considering my affinity for Southern soul and blues, I was immediately taken by Preston's tireless dedication to preserving the history of the artists and nearly forgotten landmarks of the Memphis music scene. His efforts are nothing short of heroic, and through my correspondence with him, I have learned that he and his wife Elise are two of the kindest and most genuine people you'd ever have the good fortune to get to know.

When I started the guest series, Preston was one of the first people I invited to get on board. His first instinct was to do a piece on Marvin Sease, an artist he greatly admires and has interviewed in the past. I asked Preston to be creative with the content of his submission, and suffice it to say that he didn't take his task lightly. Anyone who can write an article about a song that celebrates the joys of oral sex and make it sound, well...scholarly...deserves your full attention and respect. Your education on the essential things in life begins now, soul children...Scholar

In order to recognize a song about cunnilingus as an artistic pinnacle, we may have to reconsider a few things. For starters, what qualifies as art and what counts as history.

Of the great chitlin’ circuit singers — Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Tyrone Davis, Bobby Rush, Millie Jackson, Benny Latimore and Little Milton Campbell, among many others — Marvin Sease is the most daring and inventive lyricist. His titles stand out among the love songs, and love on the side songs that populate the genre, including “I Made You a Woman,” “Ghetto Man,” “Condom on Your Tongue,” and “The Bitch Git It All.” His masterpiece is one of the greatest overlooked pieces of 20th century American music, “Candy Licker.”

I compare “Candy Licker” to the American novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1851 story Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s 1814 painting The Third of May, 1808. All are singular, iconic works that transcend their media — Uncle Tom’s Cabin is more than just a novel, no? — and speak to eternity from their time, place and circumstances in human history.

But “Candy Licker” is unlike the other masterpieces in at least two significant ways. It isn’t considered art. Its distinctive circumstances — those of the chitlin’ circuit — aren’t recognized as history. Marvin Sease would like to discuss this.

To hear Sease talk about the song’s genesis — “It came to me in a dream,” he explains — and to listen to the lyrics, in which he tackles the taboo of eating pussy, is to know that the artist and his surroundings deserve greater recognition.

Sease was a 39-year-old gospel singer when the song stirred him from sleep. He flipped on a light, grabbed a pencil and notepad, and scribbled the lyrics down in a hurry. “After I wrote down the words, I kept asking myself all night, ‘What is candy licker? Candy lick what?’ I called my best friend over to listen, and he said, ‘What is this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I think it’s a good song. There’s something about it.’ He said, ‘Marvin, you’ve lost your mind. Women will hate you the rest of your life. Throw that shit in the garbage.’”

As is usually the case with divinely inspired works, the art challenged the artist’s sensibility. “My friend said, ‘Marvin, so what is the meaning behind this song?’ Then it hit me one morning,” Sease explains. “You’re talking about oral sex. And I said, ‘Oh God, no, I won’t release nothing like that.’”

But the song wouldn’t leave Sease alone. He grappled with what it might indicate about his spirit. “So I called my pastor up and we had a long talk,” Sease says. “He really understood what I was doing.”

And an earthy pastor was he. “I didn’t get his blessings,” Sease continues, “but he said, ‘Do what worldly people would do. I think it will sell. I don’t think women will hate you. Worldly women will love you for this.’”

Thus emboldened, the artist created. “I decided that I was gonna record it and take a chance,” Sease says.

“I had ‘Candy Licker’ out on my label, Early Records, in ’86. I was selling ‘Candy Licker’ on a cassette tape out of the trunk of my car for $6. It was picked up by Polygram in ’87 and re-released. When Polygram put it out on record it was like my life blew up.”

For those of you who don’t know the song [and haven’t clicked the mp3 track yet] a lyrical excerpt may enlighten. A little set-up first, though.

Apparently, African-American men have not always looked upon oral sex favorably. At least, not in a giving sense. The phrase “down-low brother” — in 1985 — might have applied just as well to the few who went down on their ladies. This practice, like closeted homosexuality, was publicly denied if discussed at all.

Enter Sease, in the guise of “Jody” the romantic anti-hero of the chitlin’ circuit, who came along in WWII to please the wives of overseas servicemen, and hung on after the war to slip in the backdoor and out a window while hard-working breadwinners assembled automobiles and ginned cotton. Jody’s name was first chanted in march cadences during WWII. He later appeared in Jimmy Coe and His Gay Cats of Rhythm’s “Run Jody Run” (1953), Johnny Taylor’s “Jody Got Your Girl and Gone” (1971), among others.

Sease channels Jody to liberate men and lick women. He turns the taboo on its head. Late in his 10 minute tour de force Sease sympathizes with men he outs.

“Yeah, I used to be like that — ashamed to go down. You know what I once said? 'I ain’t puttin’ that shit in my mouth'. But I got hip."

The track begins:

"I’m not ashamed no more.
I wanna do the thing,
that your lover never did before, girl.

Baby let me be, mm-hmm, your candy licker…

I wanna make you feel good, like your lover should.
I wanna lick you till you cum…"

The song rivals Loretta Lynn's “The Pill” as an anthem of far-reaching (I considered the phrase “deeply penetrating”) sexual liberation. Naturally, such bold steps incur some backlash. The whole of a society is not typically prepared to join the revolution. “In the beginning a lot of black men hated my gizzard,” Sease says. “I think there were a few blacks doing it, it was mostly a white thing, but it was all under the table. Nobody wanted no one to know that they was going down on their woman.”

As his pastor foresaw, though, Sease immediately won over half the population.

"Hey ladies,
I wanna talk to you about most mens
When most mens cum, you know what?
You think he give a damn whether you cum?...
All they wanna do is go to sleep,
Or smoke a cigarette."

“When I did the song,” Sease says, “it was as if I had millions of licenses to mail to every home and say, ‘It’s alright to eat pussy.’”

Or, as he preaches in one of the song’s many spoken passages:

"One day my lady told me,
Marvin, you better get your shit together…’
And girl, I started to go down."

Having dispensed with the candy-licking stigma, Sease now uses the song to break down more barriers.

“There’s a gimmick that I use in my show most of the time, where I say, ‘You know there’s an old rumor that some blacks hate white people.’ I say, ‘Next motherfucker I hear talks about how he hate a white man, I’m ‘on kick his ass. How in the fuck can you hate somebody that taught you how to do something that’s so damn good, that every man in America— white and black— love to do. They taught us something good! You gotta eat coochie nowadays.’”

“Now, you could walk down any street and see a woman, and some man say, ‘Hey baby, let me be your candy licker, I’d love to be your candy licker.’ Women even say, ‘no baby, let me be your candy licker.’ It’s become a household word,” Sease says.

With a little luck, and if the elevation of consciousness and acceptance that Sease’s art creates can affect the music-loving American public at-large, perhaps his name will become household words someday, too.

"Candy Licker"---Marvin Sease (zShare)

"Candy Licker"---Marvin Sease (savefile)

Word From Preston's Moms:

"The blues is something that leads you, that lays on your mind. You got to go where it leads you. When I was young I'd sit around and play the blues, and sometimes it would put me in mind of of someplace else. I'd always follow it. I'd get up and go wherever it took me. And everywhere the blues took me was home."---David "Honeyboy" Edwards

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Souled On Samples XV

"The Magic Of Your Love" ---The Majestic Arrows (zShare)

"The Magic Of Your Love" ---The Majestic Arrows (savefile)

*Sampled on "The Show" by Madlib/Talib Kweli

Dig deeper...

"Under The Street Lamp"---Joe Bataan (zShare)

"Under The Street Lamp"---Joe Bataan (savefile)

*Sampled on "Play Your Cards Right" by Common

Dig deeper...

"Is It Because I'm Black?"---Syl Johnson (zShare)

"Is It Because I'm Black?"---Syl Johnson (savefile)

*Sampled on "Hollow Bones" by Wu-Tang Clan

Dig deeper...

"My Song" ---Labi Siffre (zShare)

"My Song"---Labi Siffre (savefile)

*Sampled on "I Wonder" by Kanye West

Dig deeper...

"Let The Dollar Circulate"---Billy Paul (zShare)

"Let The Dollar Circulate"---Billy Paul (savefile)

*Sampled on "Dollar" by Spacek, produced by J Dilla and "Dollars Circulate" by 9th Wonder

Dig deeper...

"Holy Are You"---The Electric Prunes w/ David Axelrod (zShare)

"Holy Are You"---The Electric Prunes w/ David Axelrod (savefile)

*Sampled on "Loop Digga" by Quasimoto (Madlib) and "Respect Mine" by Fat Joe

Dig deeper...

"You'd Better Believe It"---The Manhattans (zShare)

"You'd Better Believe It"---The Manhattans (savefile)

*Sampled on "Barbershop" by Ghostface Killah

Dig deeper...

"Word Called Love"---Brian & Brenda Russell (zShare)

"Word Called Love"---Brian & Brenda Russell (savefile)

*Sampled on "Some People Hate" by Jay-Z

Dig deeper...

"Mixed Up Cup"---Clyde McPhatter (zShare)

"Mixed Up Cup"---Clyde McPhatter (savefile)

*Sampled on "One Love" by Nas

Dig deeper...

"Chippin"---Melvin Van Peebles (zShare)

"Chippin"---Melvin Van Peebles (savefile)

*Sampled on "Life Is..." by Quasimoto (Madlib)

Dig deeper...

Supplemental Materials:

Nas' "One Love" video:

Labi Siffre performing live in 1972:

Lord Quas/Madlib's tribute to the history of hip hop-"Rappcats Pt. 3":

Bonus mp3s (zShare):

"The Show"---Madlib/Talib Kweli

"Play Your Cards Right"---Common/Bilal

"Thank You"---9th Wonder/D.O.X. & Dash
(A new joint from 9th Wonder's Dream Merchant 2, showcasing his ever-soulful production style)

"Dollar"---Spacek/J Dilla

For more sample goodness, check out some original song selections by Chris @ WYDU and Diddy Wah's feature on the soulful blues and gospel tunes that Moby borrowed for Play.

Word From Your Moms:

"For the introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperiling the whole state; since styles of music are never disturbed without affecting the most important political institutions."---Plato

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bringing Genius To The Table...

Before we formally begin today's listening session, a note regarding the music you intend to download (for educational purposes only, of course). A lot of people have expressed opinions via comments and email regarding the best place to host mp3s. I'm still giving the matter some thought, but in truth, I'm never going to please all of you. Uncle Pee Wee likes Sharebee. Grandma prefers Megaupload. Auntie Peaches wants me to use divShare. I had to make an executive decision, so for the time being, it's savefile or zShare. Such will be the case until I change my schizophrenic mind. Feel free to bitch if you want, but I can't promise it will get you anywhere.

Alright then---now that the "official business" is out of the way, it's time to start shaking your collective rump...

"See And Don't See"---Marie Queenie Lyons (zShare)

"See And Don't See"---Marie Queenie Lyons (savefile)

Marie Queenie Lyons was a funky soul diva whose powerhouse vocals and raw emotive energy drew stylistic comparisons to many other outstanding female artists of her era, including Lyn Collins, Betty Davis, Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, and Ann Sexton. She only released one full-length album (Soul Fever, 1970) that wallowed in obscurity for a number of years alongside her ultra-rare 45s. In more recent years, her material has been reissued, sampled, and comped, allowing a wider audience to become familiar with her work.

"See And Don't See" is the first track on Soul Fever, and for me, the most memorable and immediately engaging. This heart-wrenching ode to the art of denial as a means of self-preservation contains some truly unforgettable lyrics, such as "If I ever face reality, I know that's gonna be the end of me" and "I must look beautiful standing here in the dark all by myself/ But the only way I can take it is pretend I'm someone else". Throw in a funky bassline, some seriously soulful belting, a "good God almighty" or two, and you have the makings of a certifiable classic.

"Ooh Ah Ee"---Vern Blair Debate (zShare)

"Ooh Ah Ee"---Vern Blair Debate (savefile)

Despite bearing a title that merely sounds like some phonetic gibberish, "Ooh Ah Ee" is a supertight funky instrumental from the underappreciated Vern Blair Debate. This track was on the flipside of their "Super Funk" 7-inch, but this little gem packs a powerful punch and more than maintains the energy and momentum generated by the A-side of the record. This single has been re-issued on vinyl and I'd strongly suggest digging until you find it. If all else fails, this joint is also included on Quantic Presents The World's Rarest Funk 45s, an excellent selection of forgotten grooves. "Super Funk" can be found on Stones Throw's Texas Funk 1968-1975: Black Gold From The Lone Star State compilation LP.

"Two Of A Kind"---Lord Luther & Counts (zShare)

"Two Of A Kind"---Lord Luther & Counts (savefile)

Once upon a time, there was a vocal quartet known as The 4 Deuces who formed in Salinas, California in the mid-5os. The members were army buddies who initially tried their hand at gospel, but eventually decided to experiment with an R&B/doo-wop style. Their lead singer Luther McDaniels wrote a tune called "W-P-L-J" that was about a popular concoction at the time, white port wine and lemon juice.

In search of a record deal, the group ultimately crossed paths with Roy Dobard, who owned Music City Records in Berkeley. They ended up recording "W-P-L-J" and a couple more sides ("The Goose Is Gone" and "Down It Went") for Dobard before they disbanded and went their seperate ways.

Although "W-P-L-J" was a relatively successful record (later covered by Frank Zappa), the group members didn't receive any of the royalties. The quartet even re-recorded the song as a commercial jingle for the Italian Swiss Colony wine company (who offered a yellow vinyl copy of the song with every bottle of their white port), but the group apparently didn't receive any monetary compensation from that venture either. As Luther McDaniels would later tell it, "My name was on (that song) with Dobard's, but he had registered it in his own name...I didn't get a cent from "W-P-L-J."

Luther McDaniels continued on his musical path after The 4 Deuces parted ways, recording for some independent labels in Cali, Imperial Records, and eventually for his own Lusan label. During this period, he morphed into Lord Luther, playing and recording with a variety of other soul, blues, gospel, and jazz musicians.

None of these ventures were particularly successful, but they certainly weren't without artistic merit. "Two Of A Kind" (credited to Lord Luther & Counts) is a lost soul treasure that he recorded on Lusan as the B-side to his rather obscure "Tough" vinyl 45.

This year, Lord Luther put out a retrospective of his work called Pure Soul Music that includes "W-L-P-J" and 14 other undiscovered gems. "Two Of A Kind" doesn't appear on the CD, but I'm hoping it will generate some well-deserved interest in Luther's material. You can purchase Pure Soul Music via CD Baby.

"Cold Hearted"---Blu & Exile w/ Miguel Jontel (zShare)

"Cold Hearted"---Blu & Exile w/ Miguel Jontel (savefile)

Despite being a fan of Blu's capabilities on the mic and Exile's deeply soulful production, I erroneously procrastinated about buying Below The Heavens (Sound in Color, 2007). It wasn't until my personal hip hop guru Travis suggested that it would probably suit my taste that I finally checked this out a few weeks ago. It turns out he was right on point---this will ultimately be one of my favorite records of the year. Although Below The Heavens is not without flaw, it's got a few truly outstanding joints and remains fairly consistent throughout the entire length of the LP. "Cold Hearted" is one of the tracks that's recently been on heaviest rotation at the crib.

If you like your rap music gritty and meaner than cat shit---well, this probably isn't for you. Otherwise, it's worth giving a spin. There's an insightful review of the album over at Hip Hop DX, so I don't feel a particular need to echo Shake's sentiments. Just be sure you don't sleep on this one.

The video for another gem on the LP, "Soul Amazin' (Steel Blazin')":

"Love Put Me On The Corner"---The Isley Brothers (zShare)

"Love Put Me On The Corner"---The Isley Brothers (savefile)

I just realized the other day that I've never really done a feature on The Isley Brothers, which is probably a bit strange considering the length of time that I've been running a soul and funk blog. I'm sure that there are two main reasons for my avoidance---their popularity coupled with their overwhelming abundance of material. I usually prefer to spotlight lesser-known artists, and then really, how the hell do you extract a single track from the discography of a group that's been around for half a century? Even subtracting the mostly insipid quiet storm era material, I was still left with an enormous selection of prospects.

As you can see, I ended up with somewhat of a leftfield choice, a relatively unassuming track from their Brother, Brother, Brother LP (1972). "Why this song ?", you may rightfully inquire. My formula was actually quite simplistic---I recently scored a very scratched vinyl copy of this album at one of my favorite digging sites for 99 cents. I often preview records this way because my ass is so old school that I still prefer this method to streaming music online. My boy Sonny has boxes of battered records that he sells for dirt cheap and if I like something a lot, I search for a cleaner copy.

I don't think Brother, Brother, Brother is going to top my list of LPs I need to upgrade in the immediate future, but it's still pretty wonderful. There are some worthwhile Carole King covers on the album and their own "Work To Do", which has been sampled and covered on countless occasions. Furthermore, the record marks a very transitional moment in The Isleys' career, a sort of musical purgatory if you will. Although Ernie, Marvin, and Chris had made previous appearances on other releases by the brothers, this was the record where they truly began to have a significant impact on the group's sound. This album was directly followed by 3+3 (T-Neck, 1973), their breakthrough LP that obviously marked the point in time when the trio officially became a sextet.

At any rate, the album's closing song, "Love Put Me On The Corner", has been very appealing to me as of late. I get stuck on this groove every time I play the album, and not just because it has a couple of deep scratches. It's a haunting track that is easily one of the group's finest ballads released during this time period. Dusty Groove describes the song as "a baroque soul symphony in itself", which perfectly expresses how lush and deeply moving this song truly is.

I would have ripped the track from my well-worn vinyl, but in the interests of preserving the quality of the audio, I decided against it. I would still urge you to try to find this LP on wax, as the overall sound is far superior in vinyl format.

"Mass Hysteria"---Lateef & Z-Trip w/ Chali 2na/ Crystal Timberlake (zShare)

"Mass Hysteria"---Lateef & Z-Trip w/ Chali 2na/ Crystal Timberlake (savefile)

Since we're already into the fourth quarter of musical releases in 2007, I've begun evaluating and reconsidering some of the year's greatest successes and failures. It's one of my favorite exercises in futility, since I've never actually bothered to write a year-in-review post. There are always plenty of those to go around, and it generally takes me a decade or two to make a final decison regarding an album's overall artistic merit anyway.

Perhaps that's why I didn't immediately embrace the Ahead Of The Curve mixtape, Lateef and Z-Trip's release from earlier this year. Clearly my ass is still lagging somewhere behind the curve, but I did take the time to revisit this CD just in case I had overlooked something.

Don't get me wrong---I can generally appreciate Lateef's slightly off-kilter rhyme patterns and Z-Trip is an undeniable force to be reckoned with on the tables when he's in his zone. Maybe I was just in a cranky mood the first time I listened to this, but I thought the project was an overall disappointment. Suffice it to say that I wanted to like Ahead Of The Curve quite a bit more than I actually did.

Like Dj Shadow and RJD2 before him, Z-Trip seems to have somewhat lost me with his newer material. I believe that every artist should progressively alter their style and sound, and fans who expect a continual repeat of an established trend tend to annoy me. That said, come on there a reason we must suffer a remix of E-40's "Tell Me When To Go"? And why would you do such a grave injustice to "Lady Don't Tek No" as to blend it with shitty beats and Slug rhyming like a fish out of water, creating the ultimate hyphy hybrid disaster?

These questions continue to perplex me, but I guess what I'm getting around to is that I've finally begun to digest at least half of the CD. I've been listening to it in the ride for a couple of weeks now and in all fairness, it has some exceptional moments like "Mass Hysteria". The bass on this joint knocks so loudly, it becomes pretty difficult to resist opening the door. Lateef and Chali 2na both showcase some impressive rapidfire verbal techniques on the joint, and their rhymes are nicely syncopated with the heavy pulsation of the music. In short, some funky fresh goodness with a futuristic lean.

My only complaint with this track is that I can't get Crystal Timberlake's slightly perturbing and overly repetitive hook out of my head. Shit's worse than crack, but it's still a thousand times better than having something like "hey bey bey" knocking around the corridors of my dome...

Word From Your Moms:

"I'm just a musical prostitute, my dear."---Freddie Mercury

Thursday, October 11, 2007

10 Funky Gems From Martini & Jopparelli

Whaddup, soul kids? Hopefully you're already familiar with Martini & Jopparelli's Music Selections, because if not, you're sleeping on one of the most amazing audioblogs in the known universe. This is one of my favorite spots to find records that I have NEVER heard, which is quite an accomplishment considering that I spend most of my waking life in pursuit of undiscovered auditory pleasures. People who think that I'm even remotely adept at serving up samples and breaks really need to spend some quality time hangin' with my Italian friends/amici, who are astoundingly knowledgeable about a variety of different musical genres. What follows is an eclectic mixture of tracks that they wanted to share with all of you.

We're planning on doing more collaborations in the future, so prepare yourself for the unseen powers of this formidable global connection. The possibilities of joining more than one nation under a groove seem infinite. One love...Scholar

What do you bring with you when a friend invites you to his crib to listen some good music? Okay, I know what you're thinkin'... let's exclude smoking and drinking...;-) What do you take with you? Some of your favorite vinyl records to listen to of course! And, if your collection is kind of eclectic like Jopparelli's, you don't limit yourself to one musical style, but rather, you try to put together different styles to see if your friend likes those sounds too...

That's exactly what we did when Scholar invited us to his spot, one of the most inspiring places in the blog galaxy, the Souled On blog...

We thought: ok let's keep it basic, let's pick up 10 interesting tracks from Jopparelli's vinyl collection, let's rip them and try to tell the people where these tracks come from and why we like them so much! Some of these tunes are not easy to find on the internet...I hope Souled On readers enjoy these gems!

1- George Clinton -"Erotic City". This is George Clinton's version of a classic hit by Prince. Need I say more? This song was sampled by a lot of producers over the years, but GC's version is still the best! One of the phattest basslines ever.

2- Cassius -"Au Reve". French duo Cassius is mainly known for house music. Actually they are complete musicians, and here they show their skills, taking inspiration from vintage sounds and bringing fresh new music while keeping an old, cool groove. (BTW the title means "in a dream"...)

3- Frankie Jugga -"Clap Your Hands". This is Frankie Jugga, straight out of the Funkmaster Flex Camp. A track in the cut-up-style used by party MCs such as DJ Kool, Fatman Scoop and sometimes Flex himself. You know what I'm talking about. This is the instrumental version, a mash up of famous beats and vocals...clap your hands to the beat!

4- The Incredible Bongo Band - "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". The band is famous for the classic break "Apache", but the whole Bongo Rock album is full of beautiful percussions (what else would you expect with that name?). This is an example, a monster tune based on the homonymous psychedelic rock hit from the late sixties. Have a nice trip...

5- Mindless Boogie - "Area 45". Mindless Boogie is a new label from Belgium. They are specialized in re-editing forgotten disco gems. Here they resurrected the original 45 sampled by Metro Area in their hit "Miura". That's why they named it "Area 45". In my opinion this tune is the biggest nu-disco floorfiller in the latest years! Try playing it at a party, and see what happens.

6- Roughneck Soldiers - "Kill Or Be Killed". To all real 90's hip hop headz this tune is a well known classic. But I suspect the new generations may have slept on this one, so here it is! Kenny Dope production, Stretch Armstrong as executive. Is that enough? No? Ok, the instumental is from Shirley Bassey's "Light My Fire", remixed by KD himself. Plus, the two young MCs rap with great style and originality....kill or be killed, that's the question!

7- Saukrates feat. Masta Ace & O.C. - "Rollin". Saukrates is one of the many underrated rappers of the 90's. I first heard him on a mixtape, and he impressed me so much that I immediately bought his EP (which, surprisingly, was imported in Italy, in about 1995). When I listened to it, this EP was definitely a good surprise: it is simply perfect, both in lyrics and production. This track with Masta Ace and O.C. explains the rest of the story.

8- Supernatural - "Buddah Blessed It". This track is famous indeed (famous but NOT mainstream), but I included it because it represented a lot to us back in the days. We liked it because it was so different from the others, and so dope... and we were crazy about the stories he tells in the song... stories about getting stoned of course.

9- Tragedy ft. Capone- "Thug Paradise". I chose this one for three reasons: First -the killer sample is from "Theme from SWAT", the #1 song in the charts when I was born, in 1976! Second -this song has the best Capone verse ever! Third -Because I want to tell everybody my opinion about it: if I was CNN, I would have included this one on The War Report.

10- Wrecks n' Effect - "Juicy (12-inch mix)". An early rap version of the "Juicy" disco tune, produced by Teddy Riley. It's dope! A perfect track to play in combination with the Biggie version.

...and that's all for the Music chapter. Next time I'll speak about Art, Politics and Life, so stay tuned! Much thanks to Scholar for this opportunity and for the dope sounds he brings us each and every day!

Word From M&J's Moms:

"Electronic transmission has already inspired a new concept of multiple-authorship responsibility in which the specific concepts of the composer, the performer, and, indeed, the consumer overlap. ...It will not, it seems to me, be very much longer before a more self-assertive streak is detected in the listeners participation, before, to give but one example, "do-it-yourself" tape editing is the perogative of every reasonably conscientious consumer of recorded music (the Hausmusik activity of the future, perhaps!). And I would be most surprised if the consumer involvement were to terminate at that level. In fact, implicit in electronic culture is an acceptance of the idea of multilevel participation in the creative process."
Glenn Gould
From "Strauss and the Electronic Future," 1964

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Slow And Steady Wins The Race...

When it comes to music appreciation, Jeff Ash isn't a critic, know-it-all, or expert. In fact, he's the type of guy who has to put his pants on one leg at time, just like the rest of us. In an arena that's disproportionately overloaded with egocentrism and narcissistic personality types (and people who call themselves shit like Scholar), Jeff's approach to audioblogging is refreshingly humble and straightforward. Make it a point to stop by his eclectic site AM, Then FM, where amongst other treasures, you'll discover some killer Percy Mayfield tunes that he recently posted. Thanks for joining us, Jeff...Scholar

Up front, a confession: Having read the guest posts in this series, I must concede those writers are far more knowledgeable than I am about the soul and R&B (and, certainly, their relation to and their sampling in hip-hop) that is at the heart of Souled On.

I grew up in small-town Wisconsin in a time – the late ’60s and the entire ’70s – when soul and R&B were side by side with rock and pop on first the AM radio of the day, then the FM radio of the day, both influenced by what they were playing in Milwaukee and Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of soul and R&B, but I increasingly have come to realize I know a wide but shallow pool of material. What I know is just the tip of the iceberg.

So to Scholar, and to those who have written the guest posts, and to the music bloggers I regularly read, I say thank you. It’s a pleasure to learn from those who know.

Here, then, are some things I’ve learned. Two years ago, I had none of these tunes in my collection. Now, they’re among my favorites. Hope you dig them, too.

I learned about ’50s organist Jon Thomas at Crud Crud, where Scott Soriano offers up obscure records in a variety of styles, R&B and soul among them. Scott described the following cut as “an absolute stunner” and “a killer.” He is correct on both counts, both for its organ and its sax. But for the 45 release, they cut it into two parts. Listen to them, and it’s clear Part 2 should come before Part 1.

"Hard Head Part 2"

"Hard Head Part 1"

Both selections by Jon Thomas, from “Big Beat on the Organ,” 1957.

I was only vaguely aware of Texas R&B singer/guitarist Barbara Lynn, and then I saw her play live earlier this year. This is what I wrote at the time: “Barbara Lynn, who hit it big on the R&B charts with “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” in 1962, sounded great and looked great. She can really play that left-handed guitar, and she can belt it out. She’s a lovely 65. She could pass for 45, easily. I need to get some Barbara Lynn into my collection.” And I have. I don’t recall where I got this, but it came from a music blog.

“I’m a Good Woman”, Barbara Lynn, Tribe Records single, 1966.

Betty Davis. Oh, man. Had I heard this fierce funk when it came out in 1974, one of two things likely would have happened. 1. Just 17 at the time, I wouldn’t have gotten it. 2. Had I gotten it, my mind would have been blown. I’ll happily settle for having my mind blown now. I have Oliver Wang over at Soul Sides to thank for introducing me to Betty Davis.

"They Say I’m Different", Betty Davis, from “They Say I’m Different,” 1974.

I’m pretty sure I also have O.W. to thank for introducing me to the Kashmere Stage Band, the hottest high school band ever. They were from Houston, and there is no way I would otherwise have learned about them.

"Super Bad", Kashmere Stage Band, from “Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974,” 2006.

Sure, I knew about Billy Preston, about his career. Or at least I thought I did. Came to find out I did not. Just another example of that wide but shallow pool. Among the many Preston tunes I have come to know, this is my favorite. I learned about it at The A Side, where Red Kelly serves up vintage R&B.

"Can’t She Tell", Billy Preston, Capitol single, 1967. Preston wrote this with Sly Stone – who sings and plays on it -- and David Axelrod produced it.

If you don’t read Mojo magazine, you should. Leave it to a British magazine to have the proper respect for American soul and R&B. A couple of summers ago, one of Mojo’s sampler CDs, “Southern Soul,” introduced me to Eddie Floyd. The following cut has become one of my favorites, and I’ve since come to know Eddie Floyd’s work a little better. I still have a ways to go.

"I’ll Take Her", Eddie Floyd, 1968, on “Southern Soul,” a Mojo magazine compilation CD, 2005.

Then you have the trinity of East Coast crate diggers – Larry Grogan over at Funky 16 Corners, Jameson Harvey over at Flea Market Funk and Vincent Ebb over at Fufu Stew –from whom I’ve picked up dozens of obscure but fabulous vintage R&B and soul tunes. This cut is from one of Larry's terrific compilations. I had never heard of the “popcorn” style of R&B before reading Larry’s posts. Now I know. Dig it.

Soul Poppin’, Johnny Jones and the King Casuals, Brunswick single, 1968 or 1969.

My introduction to the various members of the Staples family has come in fits and starts, to say the least. I first came to know the Staple Singers from their early hits — “Respect Yourself,” from 1971, and “I’ll Take You There,” from 1972. Yet it was 20 years later before I came to know Pops Staples, the family patriarch. Only recently have I come to learn more about Mavis Staples' solo career. Her current album of new and vintage freedom songs, “We’ll Never Turn Back,” is among this year’s best.

"Eyes on the Prize", Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007.

Also among the year’s best will be “100 Days, 100 Nights” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It was just released earlier this week. I don’t recall which blog first pointed me toward this terrific retro-soul band out of Brooklyn, but I know they are among Scholar's faves. We visited New York this summer – it was my first trip – and one of the highlights was seeing Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings play a free show in Battery Park. Of course, they played some stuff off the new album. Tasty.

"100 Days, 100 Nights", Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “100 Days, 100 Nights,” 2007.

Then there are three singers I once knew for exactly one cut each from the AM radio of 1970: Edwin Starr (“War”), Freda Payne (“Band of Gold”) and Clarence Carter (“Patches”). In just the last month or so, I’ve found out-of-print albums from each at Lost-In-Tyme or Fullundie, and they’re terrific. I’m still listening to them, still getting to know them, so I don’t have any favorites to offer. Besides, you know those singles.

I knew “War” was a cover of a Temptations tune. But only recently have I come to learn another of my favorites, “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, from 1971, was another Temps cover. And then, just a couple of days later, I found the out-of- print Temps album with that cut.

"Smiling Faces Sometimes", The Temptations, from “Sky’s The Limit,” 1971.

Man, the things you learn from the music blogs.

Word From Jeff's Moms:

“I object to the fact that people might listen to my music on these tiny headphones. It can only be a disappointment. I created it for you to crank up and have a sonic orgasm!” -- Tori Amos

Monday, October 01, 2007

On Second Thought...

The working title for today's post was "Cover My Ass", which seemed a somewhat befitting double entendre. It's been a ridiculously hectic week, which has somewhat limited my ability to assemble a cohesive and well-researched post (not that you ever get that sort of thing around here anyway). Regardless, I wanted to serve up a little something to make sure the soul children stay fat and happy, so I decided to dig out a few "secondhand songs" that should keep your musical appetites satiated for the time being.

As we know, the quality of cover tunes ranges across a fairly wide spectrum. In the worst cases, you have incredibly awful renditions of original material that somehow parody, cheapen, rip off, and/or steal thunder from the greatness that was in the first place. In the middle are what I call the head-scratchers---reinventions steeped in mediocrity that aren't exactly disastrous, but still seem utterly pointless. On the rarest of occasions, cover songs can actually be worthwhile and innovative, despite the fact that on the surface, the whole endeavor is merely a rehashing of something that's already been done.

It's not always necessary to one-up the original version of a track to crank out an exceptional cover tune. One of the most essential considerations is whether or not the newer rendition just sort of "reinvents the wheel" by too closely replicating the master version. However, diversification alone won't make a great record, and in fact, too great of an artistic divide will often create devastating consequences. Some artists just aren't suited to cover particular songs. See Elton John's version of "Young Gifted And Black", Duran Duran's "911 Is A Joke", and Celine Dion's "You Shook Me All Night Long" if you don't believe me.

Perhaps the final consideration is whether or not the recycler has enough talent and credibility as an artist to rise to the occasion in a somewhat dignified manner. We've all been subjected to "American Idol" enough times to know how horrifying it can be for a musical featherweight to take on a classic that's virtually unfuckwitable. Is there something programmed into the DNA of young, awkward, wannabe stars that predisposes their desire to annihilate Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder songs, or is it just cynical me? When paying tribute to a song of epic proportions, it's just good manners to avoid slaughtering it beyond all recognition.

Well, hopefully now that the ground rules have been established, we can smoothly segueway into some cover songs that don't suck. Enjoy, peoples...

"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (Live)---Otis Redding

*Originally written and performed by James Brown (1965)

"Reach Out I'll Be There"---The San Remo Golden Strings

*Originally performed by The Four Tops (1966); written by Lamont Dozier/ Brian Holland/ Eddie Holland

"Hey Joe"---Lee Moses

*Although this song was clearly popularized by Jimi Hendrix, there has been much dispute over the years as to who actually wrote it.

"I Heard It Through The Grapevine"---Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers

*Written by Norman Jesse Whitfield/ Barrett Strong

*Many different variations/versions of this track have been recorded over time, but most people were introduced to the song by way of Gladys Knight & The Pips or Marvin Gaye. In reality, the first two versions were shelved by Motown chief Berry Gordy--one by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and another by The Isley Brothers.

*The Vancouvers actually had a few more members than are depicted here, but this is the clearest photo I could find with their famed guitarist Tommy Chong, who went on to form a comedic duo with Cheech Marin when the group split after releasing only one LP.

"Southern Man"---Merry Clayton

*Originally written and recorded by Neil Young (1970)

"Sunshine Of Your Love"---Rotary Connection

*Originally recorded by Cream in 1967 at Atlantic Studios and released in 1968 on their album Disraeli Gears; written by Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce/Pete Brown.

"Ike's Mood I"---Visioneers

*Originally written and recorded by Isaac Hayes (1970)

"California Dreamin"---Bobby Womack

*Originally performed by The Mamas & The Papas (1965); written by John and Michelle Phillips

"I've Been Loving You Too Long (Live)"---Ike & Tina Turner

*Originally recorded by Otis Redding (1965); written by Otis Redding/ Jerry Butler

Supplemental Materials:

Another great cover by Ike & Tina, the Beatles' "Come Together" written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. One of my absolute favorite Tina performances of all time...

Besides Ike & Tina, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" was also covered (perhaps most famously) by The Rolling Stones. It is said that Otis covered "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (written by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) to return the compliment. This is just a small taste of the energy that Redding brought to his jaw-dropping live performances:

Which leads me to a couple of other tracks I want to share before I go---not exactly covers, but remixes of two joints by The Rolling Stones that are so colorful they manage to take on a life of their own...

Bonus mp3s:

"Sympathy For The Devil (Neptunes Full Length Remix)"

"Miss You (Dr. Dre Remix)"

Word From Your Moms:

"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."---John Lennon