Monday, April 28, 2008

From The Depths Of Creation Life Still Flourishes...

How we feelin' out there, soul children?

No sense in trying to conceal the obvious---I've been lazy as all hell this past week or so. I've written some excerpts for upcoming posts and been in contact with a couple of future guests who I'm sure you're going to appreciate, but otherwise, I've just been taking it easy for a minute.

I don't know about you, but most of the time when I'm relaxing, music is somehow involved in the equation. That means that even when I haven't consciously decided to put forth any effort for this site, I'm still constantly hearing sounds that I want to share with all of you. It's an illness that I'm pretty certain has no discernable cure.

Maurice Blanchot once shared this piece of wisdom: “Lovers of painting and lovers of music are people who openly display their preference like a delectable ailment that isolates them and makes them proud.” I suppose that sentiment speaks volumes as to why my energy and enthusiasm for this blog seems to perpetuate into infinity.

It may very well be a sickness, but fuck it---it's time to get ill...

"Stay With Me"---Lorraine Ellison (zShare)

"Stay With Me"---Lorraine Ellison (savefile)

This is such a strange thing to admit, but the first time I recall hearing this song was when Bette Midler sang it in The Rose. Bette often bores me to no end with her insipid adult contemporary balladry, but I won't hate. Before she started belting anthems for desperate housewives and insufferably sappy soccer moms, she was doing edgier stuff like performing in men's bathhouses and plastering 45 records in her 'fro with copious amounts of Aqua Net. While this was utterly offensive to the ozone layer and the so-called moral majority, at least her antics back then were mildly amusing.

At any rate, Midler's version of "Stay With Me" is hardly the best on wax even though I almost kinda like it. There have undoubtedly been some very worthy covers of this tune, but Ellison's version remains the uncompromising original. I don't generally gravitate towards songs that have a flat emotional affect, and Ellison's vocal performance is just the opposite in terms of expression. Her voice is urgent, pleading, and full of despair. Just can feel the woman's pain all up in your spleen.

Dig deeper...

"Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)"---Jay Electronica (zShare)

"Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)"---Jay Electronica (savefile)

I would ask for a late pass on this one, but everyone knows my ass is retro. I was reading some comments in a forum the other day, and the e-thugs are already declaring Jay dead because his hype has supposedly peaked before he's even released a full-length LP (not to mention that little mishap at Nokia Theatre). On the current hip hop clock, that may well mean that he'll be considered "old school" by the middle of next week.

I have no good reason for not posting about him sooner, because I've been diggin' this cat since day one. This joint is just one of many reasons why I've contemplated whether or not Jay could possibly save our misguided souls from blingtastic ridiculousness once and for all. Regardless, this should be required listening for anyone who refuses to acknowledge the spectrum of creative possibilites inherent in this thing we summarily refer to as hip hop.

Dig deeper...

"This Time"---Baby Charles (zShare)

"This Time"---Baby Charles (savefile)

I actually couldn't agree more with the description that appears on this band's website: "Baby Charles are a special band. Their funky music is simultaneously tight but loose, heavy but soulful and dirty... yet beautiful."

I know that many of you refuse to listen to any funk or soul that was pressed after 1975, and although I can appreciate that sentiment to some degree, I can promise that you've missed out on some truly phenomenal artists in the past 30+ years, gramps and grannies. Just don't let Baby Charles be one of 'em.

Dig deeper...

"The Lie"---Andre Williams (zShare)

"The Lie"---Andre Williams (savefile)

Whether Andre "Mr. Rhythm" Williams is a bizarre sleazebag or a misunderstood genius is a matter of relatively strong opinion amongst those who are familiar with his legacy. Regardless of your viewpoint on his...ummm...morality, it can hardly be denied that the Black Godfather's written and performed some of the most bad-ass, soul-shaking rhythms to ever rattle the chains of an unsuspecting music industry.

Addressing his detractors, Williams once said: "Get off my back about the language; I'm trying to tell a story. Dig the theme. We can't all go on the expressway. Sometimes some of us got to take the low road." While you couldn't pay me enough to introduce him to my grandmother, focusing entirely on his smuttier material is to mistakenly overlook the many facets of the man and his music.

There's so much to Williams' story that I can't possibly do his biography justice without writing something of encyclopedic proportions. However, here are a few very random facts about him:

*Andre not only has enjoyed an illustrious recording career as a solo artist, he's also known for his songwriting and production credits. His past affiliates include Mary Wells, Ike & Tina Turner, George Clinton, The Chi-Lites, The Dramatics, The Contours, and Stevie Wonder. In the first phase of his career he was associated with labels such as Fortune, Motown, Epic, Chess, and Duke/Peacock.

*He's sometimes been called the Father Of Rap, owing to the spoken-word and graphic storytelling style evidenced on many of his recordings. He also knows a thing or two about hustlin'.

*Williams definitely doesn't hold his tongue when he reminisces on the people who he's worked with over the years...

On Motown's Berry Gordy: "Berry was one of the greatest record producers that I've ever seen, but I didn't like him!"

On Alvin Cash (for whom he wrote "Twine Time"): "What a dumb motherfucker!"

On Stevie Wonder: "Stevie Wonder was a real nuisance, he knocked the pianos out of tune all fuckin' day."

*Williams had some major addiction problems that effectively ended the first part of his career. He traces much of his affinity for cocaine back to the time he spent producing Ike Turner. He ended up smoking crack, being homeless, and panhandling on a Chicago bridge for a period of time.

*In 1996, Williams got it together and began working towards revitalizing his career in music. He released a comeback LP called Greasy, and started performing live and reacquainting himself with the record-buying public. Since then, he's released 6 subsequent LPs, and is reportedly working on another.

While Williams has undoubtedly maintained some fans from his earlier years, he's also amassed a cult following of new admirers. Largely due to his own diversity as an artist, his music appeals to a broad audience of funk, punk, soul, hip hop, rockabilly, blues, and country enthusiasts.

"The Lie" appeared on his Bait & Switch LP, released on Norton in 2001. Not particularly naughty, but not exactly nice, it should serve as a worthy middle-of-the-road introduction to the many faces of Mr. Rhythm.

Dig deeper...

"Blue Monday People"---Curtis Mayfield (zShare)

"Blue Monday People"---Curtis Mayfield (savefile)

If I was forced to compile a list of my ten favorite Curtis Mayfield tracks (how do I come up with these highly unlikely predicaments?), "Blue Monday People" would be included without a second thought.

I suppose I could have posted a nice clean copy of the track, but this vinyl rip makes the song all the more appealing to me. The static hiss, scratch and pop has become such a welcome familiar, I prefer the deeper grooves.

Dig deeper...

"Saul Seance (Sardonic Smirk Mix)"---Saul Williams (zShare)

"Saul Seance (Sardonic Smirk Mix)"---Saul Williams (savefile)

I'm convinced that Saul Williams has come to Earth light years before the people are ready to receive his prophetic message.

The history of the universe is destined to read something like this: Once we thought that the world was flat, that drilling holes in people's skulls would make them well, that McDonald's actually tasted good, and that Saul Williams was just talkin' some crazed Afro-electro-hippie bullshit. Damn...did we get it twisted or what?

Sardonic Smirk is still not widely known, but he's released some fairly good mixtapes, one of which is entirely dedicated to Williams. While it has its imperfections, this mix of "Gypsy Girl" is pretty exceptional in my opinion. The music sometimes drowns out the lyrics...I'm undecided as to whether that effect was intentional or not. Either way, the musical backdrop seems to perfectly complement the intensity of the lyrics the more that I listen to this. If you're interested in reading all of the words, you can find them here.

Dig deeper... (Saul Williams)

Dig deeper... (Sardonic Smile)

"One For Jackie"---DJ Arkive/The Harlem Experiment (zShare)

"One For Jackie"---DJ Arkive/The Harlem Experiment (savefile)

This track comes from the third installment in Ropeadope's Experiment series---an effort to revisit and pay homage to decades of music that emanated from Harlem's rich cultural and stylistic landscape (Philly and Detroit were the first to be explored). The Harlem Experiment is not a band, but rather a collective of musicians who were united to generate this somewhat massive undertaking.

Obviously, this is a rather ambitious idea for a project, and the high level of expectation that naturally attaches itself to such a lofty concept/ideal is bound to occasionally disappoint. With that understood, this LP can be truly enjoyable if you don't sincerely expect it to single-handedly encapsulate and represent the voluminous wonders of the Harlem music scene. If you simply think of it as inspired funky jazz hop with a soulful salsa twist, the Experiment will yield incredibly desirable results.

Dig deeper...

"The Prelude"---Has-Lo (zShare)

"The Prelude"---Has-Lo (savefile)

I first heard from Has-Lo a few months ago when he asked me to check out his EP, Fuck Has Day. I slept for several weeks, planning to listen, but always postponing it for one reason or another. Have you ever gotten an amazing CD or record after much deliberation and later wondered why you put it off for so damn long? That's exactly the feeling I had when I finally downloaded his EP, as if every moment that link sat in my inbox was time wasted and illness deferred.

There are so many reasons why this Philly resident reigns supreme over most of the unsigned hype I've heard in the past year or so. Although many of his influences are apparent in his beats and rhymes, Has is hardly a cheap imitation of anything you've ever heard before. His wordplay is thoughtful, clever, and intelligent, while his production style is both innovative and unique. Despite this element of originality, he manages to avoid the pitfalls of pretentious fools who sound like they're trying too hard to be different. These qualities alone make this EP as relevant to the streets as it is to backpackers in button ups. Although you can tell he's spent quite a bit of time honing his skills, his tracks somehow come across as profoundly effortless.

While I believe in supporting musicians at every level of the food chain, we all know that up-and-coming artists are almost always struggling to make some paper. You can buy tracks directly from Has on his MySpace page, where you can stream the other joints on his EP before you make the wise decision to cop his material.

Dig deeper...

"Nude (Holy Fuck Remix)"---Radiohead (zShare)

"Nude (Holy Fuck Remix)"---Radiohead (savefile)

My fixation with Radiohead reduxes is well-documented, so you must recognize how much I'm diggin' the "Nude" remix contest at At the time of this writing 1989 remixes have been submitted. Admittedly, I've only listened to about 200 of them, but from what I've heard, Holy Fuck deserves to win the lifetime supply of Hamburger Helper or whatever the hell they're giving away as the top prize.

Despite the fact that I enjoy the act of rebelling against the consensus (whatever it may be), I can't help but give these guys props. Apparently, a lot of blogs feel the same way, because this mix is posted everywhere I turn in cyberspace. Is the buzz because they're winning, or are they winning because of the buzz? Chicken vs. The Egg hypotheses hurt my snitches be the judge.

Dig deeper...

"Fucked Up (Hurricane Mix Ft. Thom Yorke)"---Tupac Shakur (zShare)

"Fucked Up (Hurricane Mix Ft. Thom Yorke)"---Tupac Shakur (savefile)

Before I peace out, I have one more Radiohead-related remix for the enlightened few who will appreciate. Hate me if you have to...although I respect him, Tupac is not one of my Top 5 Dead Or Alive. Although there are billions of exceptions, I'm not immediately drawn to the production sounds on a lot of early '90s west coast hip hop records, and that greatly impacts my ability to listen to Pac on a regular basis. As a result, I'm always up for a good remix of his material. Blend that with a little Thom Yorke and I'm doubly down...

All respect and propers to Dukes over at The Full Clip for putting me on to this track. Dukes is my kind of people, and not just because he seems to like Radiohead remixes as much as I do. My man is posting incredible hip hop joints over there every single day. I'm actually waiting for him to drop something that isn't quality, but he just won't let it be. Think hip hop is dead or at least gasping for air? Let The Full Clip convince you otherwise.

Fundamental Supplementalz:

A few Souled On family members have released material in the past few weeks. Gotta do what we can to support our own:

You may remember how much I hyped Soul Klap's American Gangster remixes when he first dropped them. Now Klap's back with another banger called Soul-Xplotation, his proper debut EP. As I've said before, this dude's production skills are impeccable, but I was literally floored by what a dope MC he is as well. It may sound unbelievable, but Klap makes the present-day Kanye sound like a parody of himself. I bought Graduation praying it would sound something like this. Soul-Xploitation takes me back to a much better time and place, when 'Ye was tearing up the mixtape circuit with one hot joint after another. I use the Kanye metaphor only as a reference point, but make no mistake...Klap's got his own style that is virtually unparalleled on the current hip hop scene.

Head over to Souler Space where you can cop the first of many big things to come from this lyrical and production wizard. It's well worth your time and the little bit of change it'll cost to show him some support.

Another soulful beatsmith on the rise is my man Graziano from Italy. Although Graz has done production on single tracks in the past, his recent remix of Joe Budden's Mood Musik 3 is his first full-length effort. He calls his take on the LP The Soulful Mood, and you should recognize one or two of the tracks he sampled from music I've previously posted here. I told Graz off the top that I'm not a big J.B. fan myself, but his soulful spin makes these joints much more and believe. The project is absolutely free, so you have nothing to lose by checking it out. Cop it here.

Last but never least, my friend Donny Goines is staying on his hustle by sending out tons of new material to those who run blogs and websites where his material has been featured in the past. Most of you will remember his guest appearance here several months ago when he wrote a captivating article about life as a struggling artist. I got a lot of positive feedback via e-mail about that feature, so I'm sure quite a few of you are ready for more.

Here's one of Donny's latest joints. If you like his style, be sure to keep his name in your mouth and his music in your headphones:

"Play Out In The Rain"---Donny Goines

Saul Williams and DJ Krust's brilliant collabo on "Coded Language":

"Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face of the unchanging, the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth."

Word From Your Moms:

"You see, Ms. Winfrey, at it's worst; Hip Hop is simply a reflection of the society that birthed it. Our love affair with gangsterism and the denigration of women is not rooted in Hip Hop; rather it is rooted in the very core of our personal faith and religions. The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation. 50 Cent and George Bush have the same birthday (July 6th). For a Hip Hop artist to say "I do what I wanna do/Don't care if I get caught/The DA could play this mothaf@kin tape in court/I'll kill you/ I ain't playin'" epitomizes the confidence and braggadocio we expect and admire from a rapper who claims to represent the lowest denominator. When a world leader with the spirit of a cowboy (the true original gangster of the West: raping, stealing land, and pillaging, as we clapped and cheered.) takes the position of doing what he wants to do, regardless of whether the UN or American public would take him to court, then we have witnessed true gangsterism and violent negligence. Yet, there is nothing more negligent than attempting to address a problem one finds on a branch by censoring the leaves."

*An excerpt from Saul Williams' open letter to Harpo, addressing her denigrating remarks towards hip hop.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do You Know The First Thing About Music? Part 2

As promised, here is the second installment of original songs that became more famous after they were covered by other artists. If nothing else, I had to revisit the concept so I could see how long it takes this genius to plagiarize my entire post again. Damn...I'm all about peace and love, but some peoples are just downright uncivilized, ya know?

Today's post is dedicated with respect to the genuine soul children in the know who you are.

Be easy, kids...

"Tainted Love"---Gloria Jones (zShare)

"Tainted Love"---Gloria Jones (savefile)

*Written by Ed Cobb, a musician, songwriter, record producer, and sound engineer. He was affiliated with a wide array of artists in some capacity or another, including The Four Preps, The Standells, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Brenda Holloway, and Steely Dan.

*Gloria Jones became fully immersed in the music business as a backing vocalist for many popular artists, including Etta James, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Phil Spector, and Jerry Garcia. She was also a songwriter, penning tunes for Motown acts such as The Jackson 5, The Commodores, and The Four Tops.

*In 1964, Jones released the original version of "Tainted Love", a slice of northern soul that ultimately met with greater success in the UK than it did in the United States.

*Jones joined the group T. Rex in 1973 or '74 (depending on whose account you believe), playing keyboards, clavinet and assuming background vocal duties. She became romantically linked with the group's lead singer Marc Bolan, with whom she had a child in 1975 (model/musician Rolan Bolan). Marc Bolan played guitar and assisted with the songwriting on Jones' Vixen LP, released in 1976. One of the more memorable moments on the album was a revamped version of "Tainted Love". Jones has always been forthright in admitting that she didn't particularly care for the song in its original form.

*Jones' life changed drastically in September of 1977 when she crashed into a tree, and was subsequently accused of driving under the influence of alcohol. Bolan died instantly in the passenger seat, and Jones sustained numerous injuries, but recuperated during hospitalization and managed to survive the incident.

Although Jones is generally vilified as a result of this unfortunate event, it's been reported that both parties were drinking at least moderately on the night of the accident. Although Bolan is known to have had somewhat of a fascination with cars (they were the subject matter in many of his songs), he never had a driver's license and adamantly refused to get behind the wheel.

Another point of interest: the license plate on the vehicle Jones was driving that fateful day was FOX 661L. It's a bit creepy, but Bolan's song "Solid Gold Easy Action" (1972) contains the following lyrics: "Life is the same and it always will be, easy as picking foxes from a tree,", eerily foreshadowing some of the tragedy's specific details. The sycamore tree the couple crashed into now acts as a shrine memorializing Bolan and is still frequently visited by his fans.

At the time of the accident, the couple had been residing in the UK, but Jones soon relocated to Los Angeles with their son, apparently evading the allegations she faced in the UK. After achieving minor musical success in the 1990s, Jones moved to Africa, where she currently runs an orphanage based in Sierra Leone.

*In the early '80s, "Tainted Love" became a huge hit for the group Soft Cell. Their version appeared on their Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret LP, reaching #8 on the U.S. charts and #1 in the UK. In 2006, the SC rendition was sampled on Rihanna's "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)".

*Other covers of this tune have been rendered by Marilyn Manson, Ruth Swann, Coil, Inspiral Carpets, Paul Young, and many more.

"(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me"---Lou Johnson (zShare)

"(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me"---Lou Johnson (savefile)

*Music written by Burt Bacharach; lyrics by Hal David

*Despite having cut some very good soul records, Lou Johnson remains a relatively unknown figure in popular music history. Johnson's first signing as a solo artist was with the Big Top label in New York. During his tenure there, he teamed up with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who provided the uptown soul singer with some very promising tunes in their formative years as a songwriting duo. Despite the possibilities inherent in their collaboration, Johnson was plagued by a series of career misfortunes. For example, his recording of "Reach Out For Me" essentially flopped, while Dionne Warwick's cover turned the song into a commercial success. "Kentucky Bluebird (Send a Message to Martha)" didn't even crack the Hot 100 for Johnson, yet when British teen idol Adam Faith revisited the tune, it became a chartbusting hit.

"(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" ended up being Johnson's most successful recording, but it reached its peak in 1964 at #49. Hopeful that the single may be more appealing to soul fans in the UK, Bacharach arranged for Johnson to perform the song on the British television show Top Of The Pops. Johnson failed to establish a strong fan base as a result of the appearance, but Sandie Shaw enjoyed a #1 hit in the UK when she released her cover of the song later that same year.

Johnson would later be signed to both Cotillion and Volt, but significant fame and fortune would continue to elude him . He maintained a bit of a cult following and became somewhat of a fixture on the LA club circuit, but his career as a studio recording artist came to a halt in the early '70s.

*Bacharach and David were working with Dionne Warwick at same time they were trying to assist Johnson with establishing his career. She was allegedly the first to record the tune, but only for demonstration purposes. Eventually, this first take was rearranged and re-recorded, being officially released in 1967 as the B-side to her "Who Is Gonna Love Me" single.

*In addition to Sandie Shaw's cover, other versions of "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me" were offered by Brenda Lee, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, Barbara Mason, The Stylistics, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, R.B. Greaves, Johnny Mathis, José Feliciano, Stanley Turrentine, and more. The group Naked Eyes released a very popular cover that peaked at #8 in the U.S. in 1983. Their rendition can still be heard to this very day on an elevator near you. I ain't gonna lie, though. That shit used to be my...ummm...jam.

"Hard To Handle"---Otis Redding (zShare)

"Hard To Handle"---Otis Redding (savefile)

*Written by Otis Redding

*As I mentioned when I posted Patti Drew's cover of this song, Redding's original version of this song wasn't released until the year after his death.

*Unlike many of the other artists featured here, Redding's music is hardly an obscurity amongst popular music fans. However, that certainly doesn't mean that none of his songs became more commercially viable in the hands of other artists. As just one example, consider that everyone and their mama associates "Respect" with Aretha Franklin, despite the fact that Redding wrote and originally recorded the song.

"Hard To Handle" has endured a somewhat similar fate. Otis' version of the song peaked at #51 on the popular music charts in the U.S., while The Black Crowes revisited the tune more than two decades later, when it climbed to #26.

*Other covers of this song have been rendered by The Grateful Dead, Etta James (in her Otis medley), Tony Joe White, Andrew Strong, Dynamo's Rhythm Aces, and more.

"You're No Good"---Dee Dee Warwick (zShare)

"You're No Good"---Dee Dee Warwick (savefile)

*Written by Clint Ballard, Jr.

*Forever relegated to the shadows of her superstar sister, Dee Dee Warwick is yet another artist whose enormous talent never fully blossomed into commercial viability.

After singing in gospel outfits and recording as a backing vocalist, Dee Dee began cutting her own records in 1963, when she released the original version of "You're No Good" (Jubilee 5459). Although the track was produced by the celebrated duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the record failed to properly launch her solo career. It likely didn't help matters that Betty Everett released a rendition of the tune that same year, especially considering that her cover met with some modest success on the charts. To this day, Betty Everett is often mistakenly cited as the artist who released the original version of the song.

Over the course of her recording career, Dee Dee did manage to crack the R&B Top 20 a few times. However, she still qualifies as an underappreciated soul artist in my book blog. It seems she never had a chance to truly flourish in the spotlight, having been eclipsed by not only her sister, but by Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, and a host of other beloved soul sisters who were on the scene at the time. It's largely a matter of personal opinion whether the oversight was due to Warwick lacking superstar qualities, or the fault of the music industry for not backing her with enough promotional weight.

For those wishing to dig deeper into her career, Dee Warwick: The Collection LP (pictured above) makes for a worthy introduction.

*"You're No Good" has also been covered by artists such as Van Halen, José Feliciano, Elvis Costello, and Wilson Phillips.

Undoubtedly, the most popular rendition was sung by Linda Rondstadt, who had a #1 single with the tune in 1975. I've never particularly been a fan of Rondstadt's music ("Blue Bayou" might just make my list of the worst songs of all time), so I think I'll shut up before I type something stupid.

"Harlem Shuffle"---Bob and Earl (zShare)

"Harlem Shuffle"---Bob and Earl (savefile)

*Written by Bob Relf and Earl Nelson; co-arranged by Barry White and Gene Page; produced by Fred Smith. Relf would later admit that the song was based on Round Robin's "Slauson Shuffletime", a tune that namechecked an avenue in Los Angeles. The duo decided to give the track a bit of a New York twist, and the rest is music history.

*They recorded the song in 1963 and it was was released as a 7" on the Marc label. It peaked at #44 on the pop charts, but its main success came upon re-release in the UK in 1969. The song rose to #7 on the UK charts, but by that time, the duo had already gone their separate ways. Nelson was recording under the alias Jackie Lee, and had enjoyed success with a hit dance record called "The Duck". The duo briefly reunited for a tour, but by the early '70s they had parted company once and for all.

*George Harrison of The Beatles once called their version of the song the greatest record of all time.

*The song was most famously sampled on House Of Pain's "Jump Around".

*The track has been covered by Booker T & The MG's, The Righteous Brothers, The Belle Stars, The Boogie Kings, and more.

Released on their Dirty Work LP and as a 7-inch single in 1986, The Rolling Stones issued what is undoubtedly the most well-known cover of the tune. Their incredibly popular rendition reached #5 on the U.S. charts and peaked at #13 in the UK.

A fact about their version you may not know...Bobby Womack and Tom Waits were two of the background singers on the track.

"Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)"---Lorraine Ellison (zShare)

"Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)"---Lorraine Ellison (savefile)

*Written by Jerry Ragovoy and Chip Taylor

*If Lorraine Ellison is remembered at all, it's usually for recording the original version of another song penned by Jerry Ragovoy, the oft-covered "Stay With Me" (Loma, 1966). Although she had previously charted with "I Dig You Baby" in 1965, "Stay With Me" reached #11 on the R&B charts and #64 on the pop charts. As legend has it, Ellison was blessed with a stroke of good fortune when Frank Sinatra cancelled a studio session, and she stepped in to record with an orchestra who'd been left hanging when Ol' Blue Eyes failed to appear.

Ellison had another modest hit in 1967 with "Heart Be Still", her last single that made any headway on the charts. She released "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" the following year, but the song failed to gain any recognition until Janis Joplin recorded it for her I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! LP (Columbia, 1969).

Lorraine Ellison's voice absolutely blows me away on some of her recordings. She was another exceptional vocalist who should be honored with a more prominent placement in music history. If you ever have a chance to pick up any of her material on vinyl or CD re-issue, I sincerely doubt you'd disagree. Her rendition of "Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)" is damn good, but it's hardly her most stunning moment on wax. If you like this, you should love the rest.

"Fever"---Little Willie John (zShare)

"Fever"---Little Willie John (savefile)

*Written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell (under the pseudonym John Davenport); some sources suggest that Little Willie John co-wrote the tune, but this hasn't been confirmed to my satisfaction.

*Without doing an actual count, my guess is that I've posted more versions of "Fever" than any other song I've ever featured on these pages. Why? I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I think of "Fever" as being one of the sexiest songs of all time. Its appeal on that level may be a bit understated in comparison to the vast of array of explicit bump-and-grind records I could obviously brand with that distinction, but for me, R. Kelly ain't got shit on Little Willie John. (I can think of a few lewd jokes I could crack right about now, but...ahem...guess I'll just leave that alone for the time being)

At any rate, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel and mention all of the cover versions there are of this tune. If you can read backwards, there's plenty of information about other renditions of this tune in previous posts. Instead, I'd prefer to do a brief introduction to Little Willie John for the benefit of the unfamiliar:

John was easily one of the most essential recording artists of the '50s and '60s. His gospel-tinged vocal style undoubtedly had a profound influence on the evolution of soul music, having been blessed with a voice that was far more powerful and mighty than his small stature (he was only 5'4") might suggest. He recorded for labels such as Savoy, Rama, Prize, and King, frequently enjoying hit records that crossed over from R&B into the popular music sector.

On March 1, 1956, John recorded the original version of "Fever" at King Records studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Although the record was quite successful, Peggy Lee's cover would get more play on the radio and end up garnering a higher position on the popular charts. Many have contended that despite this, Little Willie John's version actually sold significantly more copies.

On May 18, 1966, John was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for allegedly stabbing a man to death. He died in Washington State Prison on May 26, 1968. His official cause of death is listed as a heart attack, although conflicting reports suggest he died of pneumonia or asphyxiation. On December 19th of that same year, James Brown released an LP called Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things as a tribute to the deceased legend.

Fundamental Supplementalz:

In the first installment of the series, I briefly discussed the way that hip hop generally handles covers. As I said, it isn't commonplace within the genre for all of a song's elements to be duplicated from one artist to another. However, I mentioned that freestyling is one of the essentials of the game, in which MCs deliver improvisational lyrics over an instrumental version of a track previously recorded by another artist or crew. Here are a few prime examples:

"WPFW Freestyle (1994)"---Black Thought and Malik B of The Roots

"You Ain't A Killer '08/ Hot 97 Freestyle"---The Clipse/Re-Up Gang

"Stretch and Bobbito Freestyle"---OC/ Large Professor

When I mentioned last time that I was going to fire shots at an MC for dropping the same basic "freestyle" on 3 separate occasions, you probably never guessed that I was going to snitch on Jay-Z. My regular readers know that I've been a loyal Hov fan since day one, but right is right and wrong is dead fuckin' wrong. Judge for yourself, but I think his wordplay is a bit too similar to be considered off-the-dome:

"1991 Freestyle at Big Daddy Kane's B-Day Party"---Jay-Z

"1993 Freestyle"---Jay-Z

"1995 Freestyle w/ Big L on Stretch & Bobbito (Part 2)---Jay-Z
(*Yo...if you're offended by misogyny, violence and/or homophobia, you may want to skip over the first portion of this joint. Big L was a dope MC (R.I.P.), but he was known to get downright raw and ignorant at times. If you just want to hear Jay's verses, start listening at about 1 min. and 19 secs. into the track.


Vintage footage of Gloria Jones performing "Heartbeat" live:

A Gloria Jones performance from 1977, singing "Go Now". Marc Bolan introduces her at the beginning of the clip:

Word From Your Moms:

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence."---Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Souled On Samples XX (Version 2.0)

The soul kids with the sharpest pencils in their pocket protectors probably noticed that Souled On Samples XX is now gone daddy gone. The story behind why gets too involved to bother explaining (or maybe my insidious clue will help you figure it out), but needless to say, the entire post is officially retired. When last seen, it had purchased a deluxe condo in Florida and planned on spending the rest of eternity playing golf, eating soft-boiled foods, and watching Matlock reruns.

Anyway, no sense crying over spilled milk Heineken...time to move onward and upward.

This selection of tracks bears no similarity to the original line-up...I only tagged this post as version 2.0 for the sake of continuity. Lots of good stuff this time around, so don't sleep.

Peace and hair grease, children...Scholar

"What Happened To The Real Me?"---Mavis Staples (zShare)

"What Happened To The Real Me?"---Mavis Staples (savefile)

Sampled on "Law Of Physics " by Lootpack (prod. by Madlib) and "Head Rush" by Pete Rock w/RZA & GZA

Dig deeper...

"Can't Stop Loving You"---Soul Dog (zShare)

"Can't Stop Loving You"---Soul Dog (savefile)

Sampled on "Hungry" by Common (prod. by No I.D.) and "The Movement" by Declaime ft. Lootpack (prod. by Madlib)

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"Motherless Child"---O.V. Wright (zShare)

"Motherless Child"---O.V. Wright (savefile)

Sampled on "Motherless Child" by Ghostface Killah/Raekwon (prod. by RZA)

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"This Love's For Real"---The Impressions (zShare)

"This Love's For Real"---The Impressions (savefile)

Sampled on "Respect My Hustle" by Papoose (prod. by Heatmakerz)

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"Give In To Love"---Sister Sledge (zShare)

"Give In To Love"---Sister Sledge (savefile)

Sampled on "Stop Fooling Yourself" by Skyzoo (prod. by 9th Wonder) *Cop this joint via my last post

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"Morning Sunrise"---Weldon Irvine (zShare)

"Morning Sunrise"---Welson Irvine (savefile)

Sampled on "Dear Summer" by Jay-Z (prod. by Just Blaze); appears on Memphis Bleek's 534 LP

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"A Good Man Is Gone"---Monk Higgins/Barbara Mason (zShare)

"A Good Man Is Gone"---Monk Higgins/Barbara Mason (savefile)

Sampled on "Next Time" by Gang Starr (prod. by DJ Premier)

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"I Put A Spell On You"---Screamin' Jay Hawkins (zShare)

"I Put A Spell On You"---Screamin' Jay Hawkins (savefile)

Sampled on "Kick In The Door" by Notorious B.I.G. (prod. by DJ Premier) and "LL Cool J" by LL Cool J (prod. by DJ Scratch)

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"Never Let 'Em Say"---Ballin' Jack (zShare)

"Never Let 'Em Say"---Ballin' Jack (savefile)

Sampled on "Shadrach" by The Beastie Boys (prod. by Beastie Boys and Dust Bros.)

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"Food Stamps"---24 Carat Black (zShare)

"Food Stamps"---24 Carat Black (savefile)

Sampled on "Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" by Digable Planets (prod. by Butterfly)

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"Advice"---Sly & The Family Stone (zShare)

"Advice"---Sly & The Family Stone (savefile)

Sampled on "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" by Ice Cube (prod. by Bomb Squad)

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"(It's Not The Express) It's The JB Monorail"---The J.B.'s (zShare)

"(It's Not The Express) It's The JB Monorail"---The J.B.'s (savefile)

Sampled on "Nastradamus" by Nas (prod. by L.E.S.), "3 Out Of 7" by J-Live w/ Asheru and El da Sensei (prod. by DJ Spinna), "Final Chapter" by Compton's Most Wanted (prod. by DJ Slip), "Let The Funk Flow" by EPMD (prod. by EPMD), "Classic Shit" by Ill Al Skratch (prod. by The LG Experience), "Put The Squeeze On 'Em" by Jaz (prod. by Big Jaz), "A Real Mutha For Ya" by Cash Money & Marvelous, and "Hangin' Out" by 2 Live Crew (prod. by Mike "Fresh" McCray)

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Fundamental Supplementalz:

Bonus mp3s (zShare only):

"Untitled #16"---Madlib (from Top Secret Bangers)
Madlib generally samples more jazz and prog rock than straight-up soul records, but joints like this showcase his ability to flip just about any style and blend it seamlessly into his repertoire of sounds.

"Dedicated"---Digable Planets (from Beyond The Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles)

"Little Renee"---Digable Planets (from Coneheads OST)

If you live on my block, you know that it's not at all uncommon to hear some classic Digable tracks still bumpin' from my ride in '08. Luckily, no one's tried to shoot me it's still all good. I ain't never swappin' my soul funk jive and rhythm jams for some toxic waste by Webbie, ya heard?


"Hungry" is easily one of my favorite Common joints of all time. While he was insufferably afflicted with Baduizm, this is one of the records I dug out to reminisce on the good ol' days. (No disrespect to Erykah though, need to jump the couch):

My man Screamin' Jay was one crazy mutha (R.I.P.). If you aren't diggin' the crazy antics and such, you at least gotta appreciate his originality and exceptional vocal abilities:

This is a clip of some powerful moments during the civil rights movement, accompanied by Mavis Staples' song "Eyes On The Prize". The track can be found on her We'll Never Turn Back LP, released last year on the Anti label. If you have some appreciation for this, please consider buying her record. There are so few living soul artists left, and supporting the legends who are still with us is an essential means of expressing our collective gratitude:

Word From Your Moms:
"There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained."---W.E.B. Dubois

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Could Have Fooled Me...

Anyone who really knows me will tell you that April Fool's Day is one of my favorite...ummm...holidays. Perhaps I enjoy the fact that it's open season on idiocy, or maybe my inner child just enjoys fuckin' with my peoples at least once a year. Either way, I've always wanted to do a post on foolishness to pay homage to the underappreciated art of gullibility. Aaron Neville was speakin' the truth when he said that everybody plays the fool sometimes. There's no exception to the rule---even for you, pimps and pimpettes.

If you're human enough to accidentally get punked today, just laugh and brush your shoulders off...a'ight, children?

Be cool, fools...

"If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody"---Aretha Franklin (zShare)

"If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody"---Aretha Franklin (savefile)

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"Love's Made A Fool Of Me"---Bettye LaVette (zShare)

"Love's Made A Fool Of Me"---Bettye LaVette (savefile)

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"Everyday Struggle/A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Biggie vs. Sinatra)"---DJ Cappel & Smitty (zShare)

"Everyday Struggle/A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Biggie vs. Sinatra)"---DJ Cappel & Smitty (savefile)

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"Fool Of Me"---Me'Shell NdegéOcello (zShare)

"Fool Of Me"---Me'Shell NdegéOcello (savefile)

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"Oh! What A Fool I've Been"---The Sweet Inspirations (zShare)

"Oh! What A Fool I've Been"---The Sweet Inspirations (savefile)

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"Runnin' Out Of Fools/If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody"---Labelle (zShare)

"Runnin' Out Of Fools/If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody"---Labelle (savefile)

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"Sweet Fools"---Essence (zShare)

"Sweet Fools"---Essence (savefile)

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"Stop Fooling Yourself"---Skyzoo/9th Wonder (zShare)

"Stop Fooling Yourself"---Skyzoo/9th Wonder (savefile)

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"Don't Nobody Live Here (By The Name Of Fool)"---Denise LaSalle (zShare)

"Don't Nobody Live Here (By The Name Of Fool)"---Denise LaSalle (savefile)

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"Didn't I Fool You"---Ruby Andrews (zShare)

"Didn't I Fool You"---Ruby Andrews (savefile)

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"Fool I Am"---Ebony Rhythm Band (zShare)

"Fool I Am"---Ebony Rhythm Band (savefile)

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"Ain't Gonna Be No Fool (For You)"---The Fabulous Play Mates (zShare)

"Ain't Gonna Be No Fool (For You)"---The Fabulous Play Mates (savefile)

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Fundamental Supplementalz:

Aretha performing "Chain Of Fools" live in 1967:

Word From Your Moms:

“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding that limit.”---Elbert Hubbard