Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Do You Know The First Thing About Music? Part One

Now that I've put all of you on the defensive by asking a somewhat patronizing question, rest assured that the title of today's post is more of a play on words than a presumption that most of you don't know your asses from your elbows as it pertains to music history. In fact, I tend to think of my readers as knowledgeable, intelligent and resourceful...and if you're not...well...I suppose my stupidity would trump all for talking to a bunch of idiots in the first place...

Since that isn't the case, what I'm really making reference to is a flip on the concept of the Cover My Ass/On Second Thought series. The songs in today's post are the first versions of some commonly recognizable tunes, at least in popular American culture. Apologies to my readers in Bangladesh or elsewhere who may have never heard the more well-known or definitive versions of these songs. I always think that this blog must be hilarious when translated into other languages, not that it isn't sometimes a bunch of gibberish even if English is your native tongue.

Anyway, there are tons of songs that have met with greater success when rendered by cover artists, often causing the original versions to be marginalized into the realm of the forgotten. I'm certainly not promoting the idea that the first offerings are necessarily the best. In some cases, it makes perfect sense that other artists took a stab at trying to improve upon a mediocre or God-awful original. In others, you may sincerely regret only being familiar with the version that you heard playing on the radio 50 times a day. I'll let you be the judge of that. My purpose is only to press the rewind button on these tracks and do my part to share a bit of music history with the masses.

A'ight then, soul kids. This begins the first part of least two part series. Commitments make me nervous...can you tell?

Back soon with the next episode. One.

"I (Who Have Nothing)"---Ben E. King (zShare)

"I (Who Have Nothing)"---Ben E. King (savefile)

*Although King recorded the first version of this beloved tune in English, the track's origins can actually be traced back to an Italian song called "Uno Dei Tanti" ("One Of Many"), written by Carlo Donida Labati and Giulio "Mogol" Rapetti, and originally recorded by vocalist Joe Sentieri in 1961. The popular songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller translated the song's lyrics, and Ben E. King was the first to release the Americanized version in 1963.

*King's take on the song was relatively popular at the time, reaching #29 on the popular charts. However, Tom Jones catapulted the tune to an even higher position (lucky #14) when he released it in 1970.

Shirley Bassey recorded a widely known rendition of the song that became a number one hit for her in the UK. Her take was later sampled by the underground hip-hop group Jedi Mind Tricks.

Terry Knight & The Pack released a version of the song that only climbed to #46, but it's worthy of mention because the relative popularity of their cover earned them an appearance on Dick Clark's show Where The Action Is. Two members of Terry Knight & The Pack later formed the foundation of the enormously popular Grand Funk Railroad.

More recently, the song was heard in millions of homes when Jordin Sparks, last year's brutally unexceptional American Idol winner, performed a rendition of the song on the show.

Other artists who've covered the tune include Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Sylvester, Hodges, James, & Smith, Petula Clark, Luther Vandross & Martha Wash, Neil Diamond, Manfred Mann, and Joe Cocker.

*If something about the song's melody reminds you of "Nights In White Satin" by The Moody Blues, you're not alone. Music listeners/critics have been pondering the similarities for years.

*King's version resurfaced in recent history on The Sopranos, and appears on Peppers & Eggs: Music From The Original HBO Series.

"Spoonful"---Howlin' Wolf (zShare)

"Spoonful"---Howlin' Wolf (savefile)

*"Spoonful" is a classic tune that was written by the poet laureate of the blues, Willie Dixon. Lyrically, the song is based on "Spoonful Blues" by the Father of Delta Blues, Charley Patton.

Dixon and Howlin' Wolf frequently collaborated with one another, and Wolf would be the first to put the song on wax in 1960 as a single on the Chess label. The track was also released in 1962 on his self-titled LP, sometimes known as "The Rockin' Chair Album" in reference to its cover illustration.

To give you some idea how truly essential this record is, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame named Wolf's version of "Spoonful" as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

*This tune has been covered by artists such as Etta James, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, and The Who.

It was Cream, however, who released what is presumably the most well-known version of the song. Their cover appeared on their debut album (Fresh Cream) in 1966, but there's a bit of a story behind that as well. There were actually two different versions of Fresh Cream. The UK version (also released in Canada) included "Spoonful", but did not include their single, "I Feel Free". The U.S. version included "I Feel Free", but omitted "Spoonful". Polydor also released an album entitled Full Cream, which was the same as the U.S. version of Fresh Cream, but it featured a shortened version of "Spoonful". On subsequent CD releases, both songs appear in the originally intended order. Damn...ya got that?

A live version of "Spoonful" also appeared on Cream's third LP, Wheels Of Fire, released in 1968. This sixteen-minute rendition of the tune was recorded at the Winterland Ballroom, and was later divided into 2 parts that were released as the A and B sides of a 7".

"Piece Of My Heart"---Erma Franklin (zShare)

"Piece Of My Heart"---Erma Franklin (savefile)

*"Piece Of My Heart" was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns, and was first recorded by Erma Franklin in 1967 as 7" single on Shout Records. Although the song made it into the top ten on the U.S. R&B charts, it only reached #62 on the pop singles charts. Franklin's version was never released as a single in the UK until 1992, when it peaked at #9.

*In 1968, Big Brother and The Holding Company recorded the song with lead singer Janis Joplin, and the track took mainstream culture by storm. Their version climbed all the way to #12, and is undoubtedly one of the signature songs of Joplin's short-lived, yet highly celebrated career. It was released as a 7" and appeared on the band's Cheap Thrills LP.

So what did Erma think of Joplin's take on the track? She said that she didn't recognize it when she first heard it on the radio, because the vocal arrangement was quite different. However, she's also reported watching documentaries about Joplin's life, and has concluded that she was a very talented and soulful singer.

*Other renditions of the tune have been offered by Faith Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Betty LaVette, Dusty Springfield, Bryan Ferry, Phoebe Snow, Beverley Knight, Etta James, and many others. We're not even going to think about the Sammy Hagar version, alright?

"Time Is On My Side"---Kai Winding (zShare)

"Time Is On My Side"---Kai Winding (savefile)

"Time Is On My Side"---Irma Thomas (zShare)

"Time Is On My Side"---Irma Thomas (savefile)

*Researching the history of this song is a somewhat confounding experience as there is quite a bit of conflicting information about the track's origins. One thing is clear, however...many people erroneously attribute the first recording of this song to The Soul Queen Of New Orleans, Irma Thomas. Trombonist Kai Winding recorded his version on October 3, 1963 for Verve Records (10307). Irma Thomas and The Rolling Stones both released a cover the following year, but Thomas' version did precede the rendition by The Stones.

*The original credits indicate that Jerry Ragovoy wrote the song, although this created some confusion as he used Norman Meade as a pseudonym. If you listen to Winding's original take, you'll notice that lyrics were added to the renditions by Thomas and The Stones. As legend has it, Jimmy Norman added these additional lyrics just moments before Thomas went into the studio to record her version for Imperial Records. As another point of interest, Thomas' cover was produced by one of the most influential figures in New Orleans soul and R&B, Allen Toussaint.

Thomas' version failed to score significantly on the popular charts, whereas the cover by The Rolling Stones became their first top ten hit in the U.S., peaking at #6.

*Kai Winding's original recording was produced by Creed Taylor and engineered by Phil Ramone. The other details get utterly mind-boggling, so I'm definitely open to further information from readers who possess some actual factual knowledge about who the backing vocalists were on this tune. By all means, feel free to school me on this one...

Meanwhile, here's what I've gathered from researching numerous resources. Many writers attribute the background vocals on the tune to The Enchanters, a group that Garnet Mimms was in with Sam Bell, Charles Boyer, and Zola Pearnell. Perhaps this notion is related to the fact that Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters also worked with Jerry Ragovoy, who co-wrote their song "Cry Baby" (more about that tune in a moment). However, the vocals on "Cry Baby" were actually provided by The Gospelaires, who sang on hundreds of New York recording sessions in the early and mid-1960s. Their line-up was fluid and subsequently evolved into the Sweet Inspirations. At one time or another Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Carol Slade, Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Sylvia Shemwell, Estelle Brown (and possibly some others) were involved in this collective of vocalists in some way, shape, or form.

Many articles suggest that on Winding's recording, it was actually a few of The Gospelaires who sang on the track (often proclaimed more specifically to be Cissy, Dee Dee, and Dionne). I tend to believe that it was some combination of these aforementioned soul sisters who appear on this song (not necessarily those three in particular), but the whole matter is a bit confusing, to say the very least.

I'm kinda pissed at Verve for putting an unnamed vocal group on the Winding record in the first place. If Dionne is truly psychic, maybe she'll figure out that I really need to know if she sang on this joint or not. Don't think I should hold my breath...

"Mercy, Mercy"---Don Covay and The Goodtimers (zShare)

"Mercy, Mercy"---Don Covay and The Goodtimers (savefile)

*"Mercy, Mercy" was Covay's debut single with the Rosemart label, a subsidiary of Atlantic records. This self-penned tune became an R&B Top 40 hit, and would lead to Atlantic deciding to release a full LP (Mercy!) with Covay's Rosemart singles and some other material he had cut in their studios.

It's well-established that Jimi Hendrix played the guitar on some of the songs on the album, but there is much debate over whether or not he played on "Mercy, Mercy" in particular. Covay himself was an accomplished guitar player, and preferred to write his songs on the six-stringed instrument as opposed to tinkering around with ideas on the piano.

*In popular culture, the more recognizable rendition of the tune was released by The Rolling Stones on their Out Of Our Heads LP (1965). As I've mentioned previously, Mick Jagger was rather preoccupied with Covay's work, and ended up taking quite a few cues from the soul artist's distinctive style.

"Cry Baby"---Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters (zShare)

"Cry Baby"---Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters (savefile)

*"Cry Baby" was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns; Sam Bell is also sometimes mentioned in the songwriting credits for this tune.

*After Mimms ended a relatively lengthy stint in the military in the late '50s, he went back to Philadelphia (where he spent his childhood years) and formed a doo-wop quintet called The Gainors. The Gainors were Sam Bell, John Jefferson, Willie Combo, and Howard Tate (who later sang another song Janis Joplin covered, "Get It While You Can").

After releasing singles together for a few years, The Gainors evolved into Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters. Just in case you weren't paying attention earlier in the post, The Enchanters were Sam Bell, Zola Pearnell, and Charles Boyer. The group's pathway to success began when they moved to New York and joined forces with producer/songwriter Bert Berns. Berns introduced them to Jerry Ragovoy in 1963, who took an immediate interest in the group. Shortly thereafter, they recorded "Cry Baby", which became a hit for them in the U.S., alongside "For Your Precious Love" and "Baby Don't You Weep". Although these early recordings were billed as Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, Ragovoy actually used The Gospelaires (later known as the Sweet Inspirations) as the background singers. "Cry Baby" debuted on the Billboard 100 on August 17, 1963. By October, the track was dominating the R&B charts and climbed to #4 on the popular charts, a rare achievement for an uncompromising soul record.

By 1964, the group had decided to part ways. Mimms decided to pursue a solo career, while The Enchanters made Sam Bell their new lead vocalist and continued to record. Perhaps not surprisingly, they failed to match the career high point they had achieved with their former frontman.

*Despite the fact that Mimms' version was a chart-busting success, most people in contemporary culture undoubtedly associate the tune with Janis Joplin & The Full Tilt Boogie Band. Her cover of the song was released on her Pearl LP in 1971, the album she was recording at the time of her death from a heroin overdose. In 2003, Pearl was ranked at #122 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

*The song has also been covered by the likes of Natalie Cole, The Mad Lads, and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.

Fundamental Supplementalz:

The truly amazin' Howlin' Wolf performing "Meet Me At The Bottom",

"Dust My Broom",

...and "Smokestack Lightning":

Bonus mp3s and an elementary lesson in hip hop:

Generally speaking (although there are exceptions), hip hop artists don't tend to cover someone else's material, at least not in the traditional sense. They sample, interpolate, spit new bars over recycled tracks and even borrow the occasional lyric, but rarely do they attempt to duplicate another artist's work in its entirety. That said, it's still sometimes possible to compare and contrast their material simply by slightly modifying the guidelines.

For example, ponder this. Oh No (Madlib's younger brother) made a great deal of noise in the underground sector when his oustanding Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms LP dropped in 2006. Pairing fresh beats with classic samples of material by genius composer Galt MacDermot, Oh No created an album that was sonically and conceptually tight as a drum.

One of the standout joints on the LP was undoubtedly "T. Biggums", but as much as I still love that track, it does somewhat negate the "unheard rhythms" concept. It instantly reminded me of something else, which I couldn't put my finger on for about a week or so. Then one day, I was like...woo hah!...that shit sounds a lot like an older Busta Rhymes joint.

"You Won't Tell, I Won't Tell" was on the flipside of the "Dangerous" vinyl single, released in 1997. The track's producer, Armando Colon, had also looked to MacDermot's "World Today" to craft his beat, and as a result, the two tracks bear some distinct elements of similarity.

Oh No fans shouldn't despair, however. It's certainly not uncommon for more than one producer to mine the same sample for a beat. My thought was that a lot of the soul babies may not remember this particular Busta joint, and it seemed a good example to illustrate the point that an engaging comparative analysis can be every bit as applicable to hip hop as it is to any other art form.

My opinion? Oh No's joint reigns supreme overall, but Armando Colon/Busta undoubtedly deserve more than an honorable mention.

"You Won't Tell, I Won't Tell"---Busta Rhymes w/ Greg Nice

"T. Biggums"---Oh No ft. Dudley Perkins, Georgia Anne Muldrow

The relatively memorable "T. Biggums" video:

Besides borrowing from the same sample sources, producers are also occasionally known to give more than one artist the same beat (Lil' Jon, anyone?). Looking to Busta Rhymes again for an example, the late great J Dilla produced some tracks on the MC's Anarchy LP (Flipmode/Elektra, 2000), one of which was "Show Me What You Got".

Later, this same Dilla beat would be paired with Madlib's vocals on the first Jaylib track that was put on wax, "The Message". The song was not included on the duo's debut LP (Champion Sound), but has since been reissued on Stones Throw Records.

In this case, I prefer the Jaylib joint hands down, but this has always been one of my favorite Dilla beats, regardless. Quite truthfully, I would have spun the shit if he'd have let Vanilla Ice spit some rhymes on it, but at the same time...ugh...thank God he didn't.

"Show Me What You Got"---Busta Rhymes

"The Message"---Jaylib

In the second post of the series, I'll take a brief look at MCs uttering new lines over familiar beats, and fire some friendly shots at one lyricist who spat the same "freestyle" on three separate occasions. Tune in, snitches.

Word From Your Moms:

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."---Socrates

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Medium Is The Message

"Darkness is to space what silence is to sound, i.e., the interval."

"My Everything You Are"---Mark IV (zShare)

"My Everything You Are"---Mark IV (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"Video Tapez"---AmpLive vs. Radiohead ft. Del the Funky Homosapien (zShare)

"Video Tapez"---AmpLive vs. Radiohead ft. Del the Funky Homosapien (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"I've Got To Tell You"---Count Willie With LRL And The Dukes (zShare)

"I've Got To Tell You"---Count Willie With LRL And The Dukes (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"I Don't Want To Do Wrong"---Esther Phillips (zShare)

"I Don't Want To Do Wrong"---Esther Phillips (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"Eve"---Angelo Bond (zShare)

"Eve"---Angelo Bond (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"The Workover"---Vast Aire/Mighty Mi (zShare)

"The Workover"---Vast Aire/Mighty Mi (savefile)

Dig deeper...

"The Power Is Gone"---Eugene Kemp (zShare)

"The Power Is Gone"---Eugene Kemp (savefile)

Dig deeper...

Word From Your Moms:

"Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it."

"There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew."

"I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it."

All quotes in this post courtesy of Marshall McLuhan

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

People Make The World Go Round

It's been a while since I've featured a guest writer, so I recently reached out to a couple of new kids on the block to see if they would be so kind as to introduce themselves to the funky soul children in the place to be.

The music community on the internet has been good to me...not only my readers, but many fellow bloggers have also extended themselves in one way or another since I started Souled On. I'm terrible at self-promotion, so I'm grateful to those who've contacted me personally or been good enough to spread the word in one form or another. In turn, I've tried to do some reaching out as well, especially to up-and-coming bloggers who have a style I can genuinely respect. Without question, E-Mile is one such dude.

What can I say, except that this guy astounds me? He asked me to check out his blog a short time ago, and my jaw literally hit the floor when I saw what an amazing and diverse selection of music he's sharing with his readers. You'll have to check this out thoroughly for yourselves at
E-Mile Says The Songs Do Matter.

For his guest spot, he chose to share a generous number of versions of "People Make The World Go Round". Coincidentally, it just so happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time...hope you enjoy this half as much as I did.

Peace, Love, & Understanding

Hi folks at Souled On. Today I'm proud to present my guest post here. A little while back Scholar contacted me to see if I was interested in making a guest appearance on his great blog. After having a little time to think about it,(a second or two) I agreed and so here it is!

I'm rather a newbie in the Blog-o-sphere. I started my own little blog in November 2007, shortly after my dearly beloved job went down the drain. After working for 14 years in a recordshop, it was hard for me to "just let go" and starting a blog seemed a decent way to "lick my wounds" and to continue sharing music. So feel free to visit me once in a while, if you agree that songs do the matter!

With all the feedback I received (I must thank Vincent The Soulchef, Scholar of course, Ish from Ile Oxumare, Rab Hines, Vesper from Pharaohs Dance & many others), I felt that I had to pick ONE song that could express the (musical) love from the sharing community that Blogworld is... (to me!). So I thought about it for a while and picked (for obvious reasons!) the song "People Make the World Go Round".

First time I heard it was (strangely enough) not the rather classic Stylistics version, but the one from the Innerzone Orchestra! Go figure that!

I found two slightly different lyrics, the song was written by Thom Bell & Linda Creed:

Trash men didn't get my trash today
Oh, why, because they want more pay
Buses on strike, wanna raise in fare
So they can help pollute the air
But that's what makes the world go round
The up and downs a carousel
Changing people's heads around
Go underground, young man
People make the world go round
Wall Street losin' on every share
They're blamin' it on longer hair
Big men smokin' in their easy chair
On a fat cigar without a care
People make the world go round
People make the world go round
People make the world go round
People make the world go round

A slightly different rendering is the one done by Raven Symoné:

Trash cans sittin' cause it's trash day
Ohh, why because they want more pay
Buses on strike, gonna raise the fare
sooo they can help pollute the air
But that's what makes the world go round
the ups and downs, a carousel
Changin' people's heads around
go underground railroad
People make the world go round
People make the world go round
Teachers on strike, no more school today
They want more money but the board won't pay
Everyone's talkin' 'bout ecology
The air is so polluted that it's hard to breathe

I also discovered a painting by Eduardo Sarabia entitled: People Make the World Go Round, (don't know if it's inspired by the song, but it sure has a point :-)

Following are a few links to watch the song:

Lalah Hathaway & Marcus Miller (@ North Sea Jazz)
The Voices
Kendra Glenn
Earnest Walker Jr. &
here you can watch the record from Hortense Ellis go round.

And, aaah, finally, here's the tracklisting for the songs:

1. Angela Bofill - People Make The World Go Round (4:33)
2. Cleveland Eaton- People Make The World Go Round (4:27)
3. Freddie Hubbard - People Make The World Go Round (5:50)
4. Hortense Ellis - People Make The World Go Round (3:17)
5. Innerzone Orchestra - People Make The World Go Round (5:13)
6. O'Donel Levy - People Make The World Go Round (4:41)
7. Marc Dorsey - People Make The World Go Round (5:06)
8. Marcus Miller - People Make The World Go Round (9:04)
9. Michael Jackson - People Make The World Go 'Round (3:16)
10. Milt Jackson - People Make The World Go Round (8:29)
11. Now Generation- People Make The World Go Round (3:18)
12. Paperclip People- People Make The World Go Round (3:18)
13. Ramon Morris- People Make The World Go Around (3:16)
14. Ramsey Lewis Trio- People Make The World Go Round (4:49)
15. Raven Symoné- People Make The World Go Round (1:51)
16. Ruddy Thomas- People Make The World Go Round (3:54)
17. Stylistics- People Make The World Go Round (6:27)

Hope you listen to and/or like these 17 versions. Maybe the song gets a bit weary after hearing it that many times, so you might consider dosing them :-)

{Download each track individually via savefile by clicking the artist's name, or get them all in one package here}

And for those who can't get enough, a little bonus is available from this LP! I found it hard to even recognize the song...Listen to Bobby's vibes here.

So, remember, it's people (and their love for music) that makes the world go round.

I'm out.


Word From E-Mile's Moms:

"Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny."---Frank Zappa