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editorial

Due to a reorganization of the SoulMusicHQ site and the introduction of the earshot magazine a number of changes have now and will continue to take place. From now on ‘News & Reviews’ and ‘The Last Goodbye’ will appear in earshot magazine. So a number of previously featured items have now been updated and generally tinkered with, to reappear in this issue and elsewhere. The Drifters (and associates) and the Impressions (and associates) that have formed a large part of my writing since the mid 60s soon will have their own buttons.

mose allison


mose allison

peter burns

Mose Allison has been touring the world laying down his own particular original brand of suburban blues, spreading his philosophy through unique song and performance for over 50 years. I have dim memories of seeing a much younger him performing in a small Soho club in the late 50’s. When I reminded him about the occasion, he confirmed being here but couldn’t come up with the name of the club either. Today, not surprisingly his style is pretty laid back but still concise, drole, amusing, ageless, poetic and offbeat. He redefines how we see the 70s (years that is). Though he didn’t perform it, I first remember him for ‘Parchment Farm’ an early indictment of the southern penal system. Mose comes from Tippo, Mississippi where he grew up steeped in Jazz and Blues music. He played trumpet in the services and for a while after he left but then returned to the keyboard. Allison studied Philosophy in Indiana before touring the South with his band for a couple of years and then heading for New York in his ’52 Chevy. He’s played in London many times and inspired a number of UK keyboard players/singers like Georgie Fame and Alan Price. More recently he’s appeared annually at Pizza Express W1 and this year was in residence from 21-30 September. It was a more than pleasant experience to sit drinking wine, while he and his duo entertained us. (Roy Babbington (bass) and Paul Clarvis (drums)). After an unspecified instrumental intro (to loosen up and relax) Mose had us on his wavelength and was taking us through a series of wonderful self penned songs such as ‘Fool’s Paradise’, ‘Your Molecular Structure’, ‘No Special Place, No Particular Time’ (an old Nat King Cole tune), ‘If You Only Knew’, ‘What’s Your Movie’ and ‘Since The World Ended’. His deadpan observations on the human condition, kept us laughing at ourselves, he knows well the use of humour as a survival technique. Mose cut his first album for Prestige in 1957 and as he and his music matured, we understood that ‘nothin’s gonna be alright’. He was our voice in the dark, questioning events and attitudes with delicious irony, initiating whole discussions with a few poetic words, delivered almost as an aside. Allison isn’t stuck behind his own songs however and treated us to his version of John D Loudermilk’s amusing ‘You Call It Jogging’ and ‘I’m Just A Stranger’ (Percy Mayfield). Along with ‘Certified Senior Citizen’, ‘Monsters Of The Id’ and ‘Wild Man’ taking us to the interval. Mose was signed to Atlantic and plenty of his albums can be found in the shops or on the internet, look for him listed under Jazz …Greatest Hits (16 tracks, OJC ’91), Best…(20 tracks Atlantic ’90), Wonderland – Anthology (20 track 2CD Atlantic ’94), Wild Man On The Loose and quite a few others, his music is timeless, a bit like the man himself. After a drink and a short break, Mose was back with an equally special second set. Beginning with ‘You’, ‘When I Get To My City Home’, ‘When You Get To The City’, ‘Everybody Crying Mercy’ and ‘If You Got The Money Honey’. He shared a few anecdotes and wry observations with us between songs and moved seamlessly between standards like ‘Trouble In Mind’ and Muddy Water’s ‘Be A Rolling Stone’ and his own classics ‘Do Nothin’ ‘til You Hear From Me’, ‘7th Son of the 7th Son’ (which I also remembered from long ago) and ‘I Feel So Bad, It Must Be Right’. BBC showed ‘Ever Since I Stole The Blues’ a documentary tracing Mose life and career (29/09/06) that featured many big UK stars who claimed him as a major influence. He always seemed to take what came along with a knowing smile and still does ‘How Much Truth Can A Man Stand’, ‘Lamb To The Slaughter’, ‘Let’s Talk It Over’ and ‘Your Mind Is On Vacation’ all testify to his wry observation. As he wound up the set, Mose looked relaxed, at home behind the piano. He treated us to two more pearls of wisdom - ‘Too Much Truth’ and ‘Practice Is Policy’ And then he took his leave to an animated farewell from the audience. Mose Allison has a surprisingly wide appeal, either he moves you or he don’t. People have always tried to classify him but Mose is just Mose. He’s been around forever and always had witty and funny things to say about the lives we lead. As one gets older, his philosophy seems more relevant and his words have distilled true and clear. Since the world ended, he doesn’t go out as much as he used to – so if you want to see him play and sing his unique music – make it soon.

it came from memphis
peter burns


It came from Memphis and without Booker T & the MGs the ‘Memphis Sound’ as we know it, would not have existed. They were the Stax Records house band who played behind most of the big hits to come out of that label. Down the years most of the Stax hits by Rufus & Carla Thomas, William Bell, Otis Redding, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett etc. have become classics and owe much of their acclaim and enduring success to this Memphis quartet. Of course Booker T & the MGs themselves broke as an international act with ‘Green Onions’ in 1962 and they followed on with a string of hits over the next 20 years. The original line up on their first hit was Booker T Jones (organ), Steve Cropper (guitar), Al Jackson (drums) and Lewis Steinberg (bass) but Steinberg quit after ‘Green Onions’ and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn was recruited from the Mar-Keys to replace him. They got their European introduction touring as part of the Stax-Volt Revue in the mid sixties as much a highlight for the artists involved as for the fans. A short time later Booker T went solo in 1968 and the MGs disbanded. They reformed in the early 70s and while they were cutting a reunion album in 1975, their drummer Al Jackson was murdered, shot dead at his home by an intruder. Steve Cropper and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn joined the Blues Brothers band in ’79 and have remained with them, one way or another ever since. The MGs have come back together on occasion to tour, as was the case in early 2005 when they came to London. The Barbican hosted a superb movie and concert celebration of Memphis music based around and featuring the Memphis studios bands from Ardent, Muscle Shoals, Sun, Hi and Stax, reached a splendid climax on Monday 25 April ’05 with ‘Stax – Soulville USA’.

For their first number the Bo-Keys gave us the rousing ‘Soul Finger’ and that really got things off to the perfect start. This band features the only survivor from the fateful Otis Redding/ Bar-Kays plane crash - Ben Cauley on trumpet and vocals (he gave us a pretty good version of ‘Sweet Soul Music’ - which included samples of other famous soul classics). Skip Pitts, the guitar man from ‘Shaft’ wah wahed centre stage in his big white suit, along with fellow Ike Hayes sidemen Willie Hall and Marvell Thomas (son of Rufus) the featured vocalist being Mabel John (who told us that she last toured the UK with the Ray Charles as a member of the Ralettes). Mabel may be past her stormin’ best but she still had that vital spark.  After a 15 -minute break, on came the stars of the show - Booker T & the MGs (with newest member Steve Potts on drums). A soul fest extravaganza ensued, with images of hawaiian shirts, ponytail mane and mature versions of the Memphis Group. Our four heroes live their music and the atmosphere that they created was so infectious, that we all went took a round trip to Memphis with them. So enthralled was I, that I didn’t even take time to jot down tiles of the featured tracks. But you know what they were. The quartet magnetized the audience as they worked their way through their soul classics ‘Time Is Tight’, ‘Soul-Limbo’, ‘Hip Hug-Her’, ‘Groovin’, ‘Green Onions’ and many more. Towards the end of their set, on came the two featured vocalists - Eddie Floyd and William Bell. Floyd’s classic ‘Raise a Hand’ went down well and William Bell rarely disappoints (as long as he’s the genuine article). Judy Clay, who recently joined the alarmingly long list of soul singers now departed, was honoured by a good rendition of ‘Private Number’ her best known hit with Will. The audience didn’t really want to leave but satisfied by two riveting encores they finally took their exit, buzzing with a renewed inner rhythm.

Outside in the foyer there was overpriced Stax memorabilia and CDs on offer but the more mature fans desisted, they only came to listen to their favourite Memphis Group. It was disappointing to hear the news that Stax was lost to Ace Records (UK) in the spring of ’06, as a result of a US deal whereby Universal acquired the Fantasy catalogue. It’s hard to believe that any record company will represent Stax better than Ace did over the past 20 years. But all that remains to be seen. Since the Stax Museum opened in 2003 it has again raised the profile of the label and long may this situation continue.  

Juggy Murray

juggy murray
peter burns
 
Recently, premier UK reissue label Ace Records devoted a four CD series to the memory of the UK Sue label, set up by Chris Blackwell in 1963 and run by Guy Stevens from ’64. ‘Mockingbird’ by Inez & Charlie Foxx was the initial release on UK Sue, which took its name from Juggy Murray’s US Sue label that had already been in operation for six years.

Henry 'Juggy Murray' Jones Jr. was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 24 November 1923. As a child he moved with his family to Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, New York where he grew up.
Juggy Murray incorporated Sue Records with his partner Bobby Robinson on the 2 January 1957. He quit a successful career in real estate and set up office on West 125th Street (near the Harlem Apollo Theatre) where he shared space with Tommy Smalls (the legendary New York DJ 'Dr Jive') and Tommy Robinson, who ran Atlas and Angeltone Records from that same address.

He moved around a bit but finally settled at the 'Sue Building' on West 54th Street close to Bell Sound Studios (that later became known as the Hit Factory) where many famous Sue sides would be cut. Murray also used A&R Sound on 48th St, co owned by Phil Ramone and Don Frye. Don was soon to supervise the installation of the Juggy Sound Studios at Sue HQ. The charismatic Juggy set about producing a number of big to medium US hits with artists like Bobby Hendricks, Ike & Tina Turner, Inez & Charlie Foxx, Baby Washington, etc. His very first, by the Matadors was a Doo Wop ballad that only created local interest. He also launched and became involved with five more labels in various parts of the States – Symbol in ‘58, Broadway, Eastern, Crackerjack and AFO (All For One). All the labels concentrated on Jazz, Soul or R&B with the occasional novelty item. 'Itchy Twitchy Feeling’ by ex Drifter Bobby Hendricks really set Sue rolling and gave Juggy his first million seller. Murray's other big hits came from Ike & Tina, who had 5 R&B hit singles, all of which crossed over to the Hot 100. The biggest was the classic 'It's Gonna Work Out Fine', that remains amongst the duo’s very best sides and went to #2 R&B/ 14 pop in July '61. 'A Fool In Love' had been their first Sue hit, also peaking at #2 R&B/ 27 pop in August '60. Ike and Tina left Sue in '62 but didn't chart again for another two years. Juggy's other soul duo were the brother-sister Inez and Charlie Foxx, who shot to the top of the R&B and pop charts in June '63 with the magnificent 'Mockingbird'. Though they were no one hit wonders and scored three more lowish R&B hits on sister label Symbol, it was downhill after that. They left Symbol in '66. Ex-Heart Baby Washington had more hit singles than any other Sue artist - eight in all and the biggest (her career best) was of course 'That's How Heartaches Are Made' #10 R&B/ 40 pop April '63 and 'Only Those In Love' came close. The others were lowish crossovers and she stayed with the label until '65 and didn't chart again until '69. New Orleans born Barbara George hit big on the sister AFO label with 'I Know' that went to #1 R&B/ 3 pop in November '61. 'I Can't Stand It' by the Soul Sisters was a pre recorded master that Murray picked up for Sue and it went to #40 R&B with hot crossover sales in February '64. This one also crossed the Atlantic to create more success with the soul fans and London DJs. The Soul Sisters had two more hot singles on Sue in '64. But it was their first hit that everyone remembers.

In the UK many of these tracks (and many others) were released under the Sue banner. The earliest UK Sue singles were issued on London American but in 1964 Murray set up a new distribution deal with Chris Blackwell, who launched the Sue label in the UK. This deal worked well at both ends and provided a string of big European sales backed up by well-choreographed tours and media appearances. But unlike Island, US Sue didn't grow fast enough to keep its hit artists from signing with the majors once their Sue deal expired and when Juggy’s interest began to wane, he sold the masters to United Artists in 1968. Murray moved out to the West Coast to set up his next label Jupiter Records in ’72 and issued his first solo album ‘Built For Speed’. Four years later as Juggy Murray Jones, he had a bubble under US hit with 'Inside America' that also proved very popular on the UK dancefloors and took him to #11 on the UK soul singles chart in March '75. Two years later his ‘Rhythm & Blues’ album got good reviews but sales were disappointing. In the years that followed Juggy wound up his Jupiter label and moved back home to New York. Henry ‘Juggy Murray’ Jones died at home on 8 February 2005. He was 82 years old.

sue records sue records

sue recordssue records

The UK Sue label took it’s releases from various sources other than US Sue and many of the tracks mentioned above can be found on these four Ace CDs ‘The UK Sue Label Story’.

great vocal moments

mike finbow

Listening to the great gospel quartets I am often struck by the close link the music has with the performances of the early jazz pioneers. The stunning improvisation and interplay between the instruments in those groundbreaking recordings is frequently mirrored by the interaction between the voices in gospel. One such example is the Swan Silvertones 1962 recording for Vee-Jay,  “Saviour Pass Me Not.” The Swans had always been a force to reckon with, but their recordings for Vee-Jay took the quartet to new artistic heights. The addition of Louis Johnson to the group gave them the luxury of three superb and charismatic lead singers – Johnson, Paul Owens, and the legendary Claude Jeter. All three brought their own qualities to the group. Owens was cool and slick; Johnson had the vocal style and presence of a country preacher, while Jeter could switch from a melodic tenor to a piercing falsetto. Jeter in particular was hugely influential, and his style was much imitated, notably by Al Green.

the Swans

“Saviour Pass Me Not” had been featured by other quartets in various guises and under various titles, but the Swans version is the definitive one. Over a gently strummed guitar Louis Johnson takes the first two verses with the group’s stunning harmonies providing an ever-shifting backdrop. Johnson’s lead vocal is nothing short of sublime; restrained yet hinting at an underlying power and intensity. It is a lesson in the art of soul singing that leaves most pretenders trailing in its wake. At the midway point Jeter’s strident falsetto makes it’s first appearance, and turns a memorable performance into a masterpiece as both singers trade ad-libs, feeding off each others lines in the manner of the finest jazz musicians. Within the first few bars Jeter repeats the word “loving” over and over again to create a rhythmic effect, which then prompts an ad-lib from the increasingly rapturous Johnson that leads Jeter into his famed falsetto “hmmmmm”. Then Jeter extends the word “humble” so that the first syllable literally becomes a hum. And so the improvisations continue, each singer spurring on the other to ever-greater heights, leaving the listener drained, but totally absorbed.

“Saviour Pass Me Not” had its admirers in the secular field too. Take a listen to Don Covay & the Goodtimers “I Cant Stay Away”, which appeared on the Atlantic “Mercy Mercy” album, and on the flip of the “Mercy Mercy” 45, and you’ll hear Don’s own take on the vocal interplay between Jeter and Johnson. Not quite in the same league, but fascinating all the same.

The Swan Silvertones Vee Jay album “Saviour Pass Me Not” was reissued on a Collectables “twofer” CD, and should be easy enough to track down.

knight brothers

knight brothers on cd
peter burns

Two years ago the long awaited Knight Brothers CD compilation was issued in the UK on Shout!   I really liked this group when I first heard them in the mid sixties (their Chicago period) and was one of the few to write about them in the UK music press. ‘Temptation ‘bout To Get Me’, their best-known record was picked up by London DJs of the time and became popular on the London club scene. It was the first of just two singles issued in the UK, the second ‘That’ll Get It’/’She’s A1’ being their last. But these non-brothers Richard Dunbar and Jimmy Diggs had a unique sound and made some great soulful singles. Richard & Jimmy grew up in Washington and they first sang together in the Starfires who had two singles on Decca in the late fifties. The duo changed their name to the Knight Brothers in the early 60s and their first two singles were issued on Bargain Records but due to their lack of success they called it a day. Two years later they went to New York and tried again cutting two sessions for Checker under the direction of Bert Berns in ’63. Berns produced three great singles but no hits, so they took another break. Diggs joined the Carltons and began writing songs for them.
Dunbar and Diggs reunited and their work with Chicago producer Monk Higgins finally put them on the US R&B charts at #12 and they cracked the Hot 100 at #70 with ‘Temptation…’ in May ‘65 but their great ‘I Owe Her my Life’/’I’m Never Gonna Live It Down’ didn’t follow through. Despite a string of good singles they couldn’t get another hit. After Diggs song ‘Love Grows Bitter’ was recorded by Billy Butler they got another chance through Fountain Productions and brother Jerry who produced two more corkers ‘Nobody’s Fault’ and ‘Tried So Hard To Please Her’ both issued on Mercury in ’68. Jerry also cut Diggs/Dunbar’s ‘Mr Dream Merchant’ that gave him a top 30 R&B single plus the title of his third Mercury album. The Knight Brothers gave it one last try on Allen with ‘Back To School’ later that year and finally called it quits. This talented duo deserved better and now 36 years later here’s their first and probably their last album. Some say it’s an acquired taste so if you don’t yet know their music here’s your chance. Given that this is likely to be their only CD, it’s a shame so many Carltons tracks were included, two would have been sufficient (after all they were an Impressions cover group). The missing Mercury single would have been preferable or even better a few of the ten or so unissued Checker tracks. But quibbles aside this is still a must have collection and will hopefully do well. If you take my advice grab a copy, I wouldn’t wait for a more complete compilation because it’s unlikely to come. And from what I understand Jimmy Diggs could do with the royalties.

the last goodbye

peter burns

billy davis

Billy Davis was one of the creative forces as a writer/producer that brought soul music into the mainstream introducing it to the rest of the world. Billy was born Roquel Davis and grew up in the care of his grandmother in Highland Park, Detroit. He sang with several Detroit vocal groups as a youngster, among them the Thrillers and the Aims, whom he later managed and wrote songs for. The Aims changed their name to the Four Tops. His early work with Berry Gordy and Jackie Wilson that began with ‘Reet Petite’ (a top 10 hit in the UK November ’57 and on reissue it went to #1 in November ’86) though it was not a hit in America. Billy and Berry synthesized the jive talkin’ of the modern jazz generation to create a clever song that was seen as a novelty record at that time. Their partnership created more hits for Wilson with  ‘To Be Loved’, ‘Lonely Teardrops’ ‘That’s Why (I Love You So)’ and ‘I’ll Be Satisfied’ all co-written by Billy as Tyran Carlo. Not only did these songs launch Wilson’s solo career but they bankrolled Motown Records.

Jackie split after a royalties dispute and Gordy and Davis established Motown. Davis ran the Anna label but he was increasingly marginalised by Gordy and jumped at the opportunity of moving to Chicago when Chess records poached him to develop and promote soul artists for them. Davis, who had an canny ability to create commercial hits with a soulful twist went on to work his magic for Etta James with ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’, ‘Summertime’ for Billy Stewart, ‘Temptation ‘Bout To Get Me’ for the Knight Bros. ‘We’re Gonna Make It’ for Little Milton, ‘I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night’ for Mitty Collier and most famously ‘Rescue Me’ for Fontella Bass.
Davis used some of these Chess artists to create a series of commercials for Coca Cola and their success led him to the world of advertising when McCann-Erickson offered him a job as one of their Creative Directors. Billy wrote and produced many jingles for Miller’s beers, Nabisco, Sony and others but his award winning ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ for Coke, written with Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook was later recut by the New Seekers and scored a worldwide hit. Davis continued to work in music and with Cook and Greenaway he co-produced the Drifters first Bell album Drifters Now after their move to the UK in ’73. He was still writing and producing shortly before his death and had just completed an album with Australian singer-songwriter Kate Cerberano. Sad news reached us of the death of Billy on 3 September ’04. “Soul Pioneer Billy Davis dies aged 72”.

jimmy lewis

jimmy lewis

Singer/songwriter Jimmy Lewis first came to my notice in late ’64 when he made a record as lead vocalist with Bill Pinkney & his Original Drifters called ‘Don’t Call Me’ on Fontana, that was produced by James Brown. He only stayed with the group for a few months but despite some solo singles on Era I didn’t hear of him again until ’67 when Minit issued ‘The Girls From Texas’ that has remained among my all time favourites ever since. Vocally Lewis has been compared to Joe Tex, Don Covay, Wilson Pickett even Sam Cooke (with a rasp) but he was very much the individual with a positive attitude and a wry sense of humour.
Jimmy’s biggest hit was with Ray Charles when ‘If It Wasn’t For Bad Luck’ went to #21 US R&B/77 Pop in September ’69. Lewis went on to write and arrange Charles’ Grammy nominated Doing His Thing ABC album. Jimmy had a medium solo hit single with ‘Help Me Understand You’ on Hotlanta in April ’75 and later still in May ’84 ‘Street Freaks’ went to #50 US R&B. Compared with his contemporaries Lewis wasn’t a big star but his talents were well understood by Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, Bobby Womack, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Jimmy Holiday, ZZ Hill and a host of other fine singers who have recorded his songs.
Critics and fans seem to agree that his best work can be found on the highly recommended Hotlanta ’74 album Totally Involved that has been hailed as a classic and reissued (with extras) by Collectables in the USA, Blues Interactions in Japan and Kent in the UK. Lewis spent ten years writing and producing (though not recording) for Malaco then Ray Charles renewed their 30-year association in the mid ‘90s when he used Lewis talents again for his Would You Believe and Strong Love Affair albums. At that time Lewis started his own label Miss Butch who had their biggest hit with Peggy Scott Adams and ‘Bill’. Jimmy lived most of his life in Los Angeles. He moved there in ’57 from Itta Bena, Greenwood, Mississippi where he was born in 1939 and grew up. A few years ago he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that was said to be in remission but sadly that was not the case, the multitalented Jimmy Lewis died on 11 September ’04 a victim to Liver cancer aged 64.

oscar brown jr

oscar brown jr
I must confess that I was unaware of Oscar Brown Jr until he began writing lyrics to Bobby Timmons songs like ‘Dat Dere’ and ‘Dis ‘Ere’ at a time when I had not long discovered the Cannonball Adderley Quintet – who Timmons was currently playing with. Then came his greatest hit ‘Work Song’. I was fortunate enough to catch him live in September ’63, when he appeared at the Jazzhouse (Green Man Pub) in Blackheath, London.
Rather uncharacteristically I’d arrived early and was glad I did, my buddy wasn’t there yet but eventually arrived towards the end of his set. The club was virtually empty when Oscar sat down next to me at the bar, he seemed rather surprised that I knew who he was. We talked about his career in an ad hoc interview and gave me a signed photo that I still have today - somewhere. The resident Ian Bird Quintet worked their way through a lengthy set as the club began to fill up. When the time was right Oscar just got up from his stool, stepped up onto the small stage and went straight into his first number. His sophisticated set was a mixture of self penned jazz ballads, mixed with one or two standards. His performance was cool and relaxed and he seemed comfortable in the intimate surroundings of the club - the audience hung on his every word. My pal eventually turned up with a sulky girlfriend in tow, just as Oscar was laying down the final verse of his last number ‘Work Song’. The crowd erupted giving him an enthusiastic send off that turned into a standing ovation. I swung round, ordered a round of drinks and began talking to the latecomers, when he appeared out of the crowd just as the drinks arrived. “How was it?” he enquired “Superb” I enthused and introduced him to my gob smacked friends. Then he was gone, whisked back to his west end hotel. His music still ringing in our ears, we made our way out onto the heath hoping to catch a late bus.
In the forty plus years since then, I kept an eye on his career. He didn’t make too many appearances here in the UK, live or on TV but his work was constantly evolving and he kept writing good songs, when he had something to say. A collaboration with Curtis Mayfield in early ’68 produced ‘Don’t Cry My Love’, a song that the Impressions cut at the end of their contract with ABC records. As a single, it went to #44 US R&B singles (#71 pop) in December ’68 but its brief success was swamped by the Impressions themselves, with their later Curtom records. Oscar Brown Jr was categorized as a Jazz performer and as such he achieved international success. He was a great and very talented artist but not generally well-known outside Jazz circles. If you are not familiar with his music, I suggest that you listen to Kicks –the best of Oscar Brown Jr (BGP CDBGPD 159) that was issued in 2004.

Oscar Brown Jr - Singer/ Songwriter/ Poet
Born 10 October 1926 – died 29 May 2005
Complications from a blood infection

reviews
peter burns

cds

Jackie Edwards – The Soul Records

Jackie Edwards – The Soul Records – Castle CD
It’s been said and I’m sure it’s true that Wilfred ‘Jackie’ Edwards came to the UK from Jamaica in 1962 with Chris Blackwell, when he moved his Island label to London. There was an even mixture of Reggae/Ska and soul on London club turntables in the early to 60s and Jackie seemed to hover between both genres comfortably. At that time Edward’s name appeared on many different obscure labels like R&B, Black Swan and Starlite that could be found on market stalls and in record shops. He, like many other - would be Jamaican soul singers had been smitten by the touring top line soul acts that played on the Islands from the late 50’s onwards. He no doubt saw them all and was inspired to become not only a great singer but a unique writer as well. Jackie was one of the artists that established Island in the UK. Without scoring any major hits, he released a string of great singles and his albums were packed with his own original compositions. I didn’t personally go for the duets with Millie at the time and some of his early ballads were sentimental - but mid-tempo honed an edge to the honey tone of his vocals. Jackie Edwards – The Soul Recordings puts together 18 tracks starting with the infectious ‘Feel So Bad’ (a big club record of the time) and as the CD runs through, one great track follows another ‘Come On Home’, ‘Come Back Girl’, ‘I Don’t Know’ (Blackwell’s production influenced by the Atlantic sound of Ben E King). Jackie also recorded a few songs he hadn’t written like Tim Hardin’s ‘How Can You Hang On to A Dream’ that comes from his great Premature Golden Sands album and the ballad ‘Put Your Tears Away’ both included here. The impingements of commerce led him to record some covers like ‘He’ll Have To Go’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘White Christmas’ (a note for note copy of the Drifters arrangement). Then in late ’65 Spencer Davis picked up Jackie’s great ‘Keep On Running’ and it gave them their first #1. The following March they did it again with Edwards ‘Somebody Help Me’. Both lead vocals by Steve Winwood reflected as much of Jackie’s style as his own. Winwood of course went onto achieve superstar status but Spencer Davis never had another number #1(though ‘Gimmie Some Loving’ came close). In retrospect it’s easy to see why Edwards songs worked well for them but I never understood why he couldn’t get his own hits with those records, which were easily as good. This great compilation stays good to end with ‘L-O-V-E’ and ‘I Must Go Back’. I still hold out some hope for some Island twofers of his albums but until then this compilation will do nicely.

Twofers please of:
The Most Of Wilfred Jackie Edwards ILP 906
Come On Home ILP 931
By Demand ILP 940
Premature Golden Sands ILP 960

The Northern Soul Of Doré - Night Owl 2CD

This fine collection of West Coast Soul pulls together 53 tracks from the Doré label. We get a surprisingly even ride on these LA/Detroit remoulds with plenty highlights from the Whispers, the Superbs and the Entertainers IV. The opening track ‘Gone With The Wind Is My Love’ by Rita & the Tiaras is rightly one of the best-known Doré tracks and starts proceedings well. ‘Dr Love’ and ‘Jerk Baby Jerk‘ are among the more predictable dance tracks but interest peaks with the more unusual items like ‘What Did You Gain By That’ and ‘Do The Skin’ from Kenard Gardner. Certain familiar riffs and phrases flick through your mind as you listen to this collection like Little Johnny Hamilton & the Creators, who borrow an Impressions groove for ‘Keep On Moving’ and later ‘Hold Back The Dawn’ by Frances Lark contains some similar vocal inflections to Shirley Owens (of the Shirelles). Moving on to the second disc we are treated to a few alternative takes and more highlights like ‘My Garden Of Eden’ (my particular favourite) and ‘Needle In A Haystack’. It’s good to have all the early Whispers, Superbs and Entertainers IV tracks in one place for easy access and the Toussaint McCall rarity tagged on the end for good measure is also worth a listen. The booklet contains interesting sleevenotes from the Night Owl (whoo-hee) that sketch in a little of the background to Doré and the 2CD pack comes in a stylish slip sleeve. Though we are spoiled for choice with this extensive set, it’s not really ideal for continuous consumption rather as the Whispers suggest it’s better to dip (makes you wanna flip).

The Four Knights - Oh Baby Volume 1 1951-54 - Acrobat CD

The Orioles - 1947-55 - Acrobat 2CD
The Deep River Boys - London Harmony - Acrobat 2CD
Mills Brothers -London Sessions - Fabulous CD
For those of you who have an interest in the history of the vocal group, Acrobat have been issuing a whole series of CDs devoted to this very subject over the past months. Back in the 40’s and 50’s in the age of steam radio, US vocal groups were quite popular and got plenty of UK airtime. Consequently many made it across the pond and enjoyed considerable concert success in London like the Deep River Boys and the Mills Brothers. These groups were an earlier generation to the soul and doo- wop groups of the 50s and 60s but without these guys there would not have been a vocal group tradition. They were more influential than most of us realised. Many of these fine records were passed over and forgotten and became difficult to obtain but now due to the magic of modern technology they are available today. ‘The Orioles 1947-55’ is a particularly good set and features all their US R&B hits including ‘It’s Too Soon To Know’, ‘Crying In The Chapel’ and ‘What Are You Doing New Years Eve’. This underrated group were very influential and their records became later hits when covered by other artist. Most soul fans know their name and now can catch up on their great music via this 2CD set. Also available for the first time on CD are 22 tracks from the Four Knights, who had a UK #5 hit with ‘I Get So Lonely’ in ’54 and also gained US R&B success with Nat King Cole twice in the mid 50s. The Four Knights beautiful version of ‘The Way I Feel’ was covered by Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters just a year or so later. If you are a vocal group buff, I’m probably preaching to the converted, if not here’s a good place to start.

So Amazing/Tribute to Luther Vandross - J Records CD
For the first tribute to Luther a host of today’s recording artists including Mary J Blige, Usher, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys and many others, come together to pay their respects to a great but generally underrated star. According to J Records urban/soul man Russell Jones, this album has been in preparation for quite some time. Clive Davis has produced a great collection of the songs that Luther made his own over the brief span of his solo career. Personal favourites include ‘Never Too Much’, ‘So Amazing’ by Beyonce & Stevie, ‘If This World Were Mine’ by Alicia & Jermaine Paul and ‘Love Won’t Let Me Wait’ by John Legend so far – after just a couple of plays. There’s a rich mix of styles to choose from and overall it’s a sensitive, respectful collection. I suspect these tracks are rather like Luther himself, a subtle, slow but long lasting burn that in his case was cut tragically short. I’m looking forward to the ‘Complete Luther Vandross’ from J real soon. Because good as this collection is - no one does it quite like the man himself.

Money Honey  – Indigo 2CD
The Rise of the Black Vocal Group 1951-53
It’s a bonanza for vocal group buffs as many a rarity becomes freely available in the avalanche of CD compilations, celebrating the liberation of public domain on music more than fifty years old. Indigo issue a good looking 2CD set ‘Money Honey – The Rise of the Black Vocal Group 1951-53’ which contains 50 hot contenders from that era. Besides the better known items like the title track and ‘Let The Boogie Woogie Roll’, which sowed some early seeds for R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll, there are previously hard to find collectables from the Swallows, Du Droppers, 5 Budds, Hawks, Sultans and many more. This excellent set was compiled by Roger Dopson, has good notes by Dave Penny and topical graphics from Paul Bevoir. Check it out.

Jesse Belvin - Guess Who – Ace 2CD
Jesse Belvin was considered a pivotal figure in the development of West Coast soul and doo wop. Now with the release of this ‘Guess Who’ 2CD we can really begin to hear his work in some real perspective for the first time. Belvin first emerged as the credited songwriter of the Penguins classic doo wop hit ‘Earth Angel’ which topped the R&B charts in December ’54 and is considered to be the best R&B record of all time by many collectors. His first hit with Marvin Phillips ‘Dream Girl’ (as Jesse & Marvin) was a US R&B hit in early ’53 and before my time but I heard ‘Goodnight My Love’ in ’56 and ‘Guess Who’ in ’59. Jesse and his wife were killed in a car accident the following year curtailing his singing career before he made any real commercial impact. RCA was no doubt looking for a singer who could duplicate Nat King Cole’s huge success for them, had signed Jesse in the late 50s (and later inked Sam Cooke - who could have done it and Roy Hamilton, who cut several great sides but scored no hits for them). These tracks represent the last two albums issued in America plus everything else he cut for them (and a couple of extra tracks by the Chargers). Up until the ‘Just Jesse Belvin’ album he had recorded singles for a number of small labels writing and singing with different vocal groups and bands.
Signing to RCA gave Jesse the opportunity to restructure his career and better organise his approach to his work. The format that the label imposed was a collection of already proven hits, show tunes and pop standards of the time. ‘Secret Love’, ‘Ol’ Man River’, ‘Funny’ (a medium hit single for him), ‘The Masquerade Is Over’ but these are no dreary reruns. Belvin’s subtle style is complimented by jazz tinged arrangements and the brassy sound of the great Shorty Rogers orchestra. This combination puts some of these tracks on a par with the best from Sinatra and Cole. The choral backgrounds and sugary string arrangements date some of these tracks but Belvin’s easy vocals rarely disappoint. With hindsight, commercial attempts like ‘Volare’ and ‘Take Me Back To the Islands’ were better been left to Martin and Belafonte. Though ‘Just Jesse Belvin’ was not a classic album it would have served as a promising introduction had events not conspired otherwise. 
Tony Rounce, who compiled this album and fills in most of the blanks with his informative notes, expertly assembled this extended portrait. It opens with the first dozen tracks from the first album and the centre section collects the singles together. On CD2 the singles continue and include highlights ‘The Door Is Always Open’ and ‘It Could Have Been Worse’. Belvin’s final album Mr Easy begins on track 6 with ‘It’s All Right With Me’. RCA bought in arranger Marty Paich who supplied superior charts for the Shorty Rogers band and together they provided the perfect foil for Jesse’s silky vocals. The results were a triumph and this album by merit should have been a huge hit when it was released shortly after his death. On the surface Jesse’s later music was mainstream with jazz and blues tinges but the undercurrents were driven by a deeper more unique talent. His subtle influence touched many great artists among them Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Walter Jackson and scores of other singers. With the completion of Mr Easy it became evident that Belvin was destined for future stardom.
‘Blues In The Night’, ‘Imagination’ and ‘Making Whoopee’ are all superb tracks. ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘What’s New’ which along with ‘Blues In The Night’ were all songs featured on Sinatra’s remarkable Only The Lonely album (issued two years earlier) and compare favourably with those versions. ‘My Last Goodbye’ is an appropriate farewell but for those of you whose interest was sparked by this collection, ‘Goodnight My Love’ the previously issued Belvin 26 tracker (on Ace CDCHD 336) in ’91 is still available.

The Ultimate Staple Singers – Kent 2CD
Subtitled ‘A Family Affair 1955-1984’ this excellent set is almost a career sampler that includes many of the Staples finest sides. With some selective Northern interest moving towards gospel/soul this album deserves to reap healthy sales. Listening to many of these great tracks makes me want to investigate all their other records on Riverside, Epic, Vee-Jay, Vanguard, United etc. Pops has written and adapted some wonderful songs down the years like ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, ‘I Wished I Had Answered’ and ‘This May Be The Last Time’ but his song writing didn’t restrict the family, they also recorded Stephen Stills, Donny Hathaway and Bob Dylan songs. After ‘Heavy Makes You Happy’ first put them on the secular charts in 1970 the Staples had a string of hit singles on both US R&B and pop listings right into the late 80s. They had 11 big hits with Stax including the classics ‘Respect Yourself’, ‘I’ll Take You There’ and their first gold record ‘If You’re Ready’. ‘Let’s Do It Again’ written by Curtis Mayfield for the movie of the same name, their first for Curtom topped both US charts and became their career hit.  Pop and Mavis both recorded solo projects but they remained part of the family group up until his death in 2000. A selection of their solo work is included here also. There are just too many great tracks on this 2CD showcase to mention them all but if you ever wanted a Staple Singers album for your collection this has to be it.

Various - 100 R&B Classics – Pulse 4CD Box
What a fantastic collection of R&B greats from Pulse. There are 100 great, rare and previously unavailable tracks, on four CDs. (25 on each). These are all the original hit versions digitized but not remixed or messed around with in any other way. This is a one-stop R&B encyclopaedia featuring Fats Domino, Ray Charles, the Drifters, Louis Jordan, the Orioles and too many more to list here. These are among the classic tracks that inspired Elvis and other Rock ‘n’ Roll stars to cover and restyle them into the revolution that created the popular music phenomenon. Check out ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Such A Night’, ‘Mystery Train’, ‘Rocket 88’, ‘Reconsider Baby’ and so many others. At such a reasonable price – this would make a perfect Christmas present.

Get it from www.budgetcd.co.uk

Praise The Lord – Pulse 3CD Gospel Box
Anyone who has been a long time fan understands the relevance of gospel music on the soul music genre. While it’s always been acknowledged as the cornerstone of soul, relatively few pure gospel records have made it to R&B, let alone the pop charts. There have been a few but in the 50’s and 60’s, a particularly rich gospel era, artists like Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and others had to make a choice and it was one or the other.                                        
In the 70’s artists like the Staples began to bring gospel more into the mainstream and now it’s gradually becoming more popular with collectors and soul fans. In the same way Northern Soul grew out of the search for authentic and rare grooves, so gospel is beginning to gather that kind of interest. But there has been a lot of gospel recorded in the past 50 years and only a small percentage of it works in this kind of way. Recently I was invited to compile and annotate this 3CD box set Praise The Lord. Let me tell you it wasn’t easy but it was an education. I listened to so much gospel, in a wide variety of different styles and what I ended up with was a sampler, a selection of many of them. I started from what I know best - the Soul Stirrers, Original Blind Boys of Mississippi and the Highway QCs. Along the way I discovered people like Cecil Holden, The New Jerusalem Fire Choir, Brooklyn Allstars, Slim & the Supreme Angels and many others. I also re-discovered artist that had temporarily surfaced in soul and then gone back to gospel like Katie Sankey and Dorothy Morrison. If you’re only interested in a narrow band of soul then it’s probably not for you but there are some very good and interesting tracks that go to make up the 48 tracks on offer here.

Get it from www.budgetcd.co.uk

movies

ray charles movie

Ray - Directed: Taylor Hackford. 152 mins. - DVD
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King.)

‘Ray’ was said to be 15 years in the making, when allegedly Hackford finally obtained the rights to make a movie of Ray Charles life. Tireless attention to detail, great casting, sensitive use of the original music (it’s always a mistake to re-cut the soundtrack, no matter how close the mimic - it remains just that. Authenticity is so important and should never be under rated, no matter what the price tag) make this movie a classic. Input from Ray himself provided the best possible course to follow and so eventually the results were superb. Despite great reviews the movie has not been to everyone’s taste though, Paul “I know a lot about Ray Charles…” Morley didn’t like it - but in some places that could be taken as a high recommendation. Though it’s hard to satisfy the fans who have closely followed their heroes for many years, even if as with Darin and ‘Beyond The Sea’ all the best intentions are in place, the results can often still be disappointing. Simply because we all have our own images of how it was in our heads – right or wrong, our fantasies may be way off but they are ours and therefore sometimes hard to reconcile with the facts (or other peoples fantasies). After all Toby Ziegler is not Jerry Wexler – a goatee doesn’t make Ahmet Ertegun and it don’t get better if you keep picking at it. For his amazing performance, Jamie Foxx most deservedly won the best actor Oscar this year (only the third Oscar awarded to a black actor for this category in the whole history of cinema). Like many of Ray’s fans, I looked forward to the DVD, which included greater detail than the cinema version and I wasn’t disappointed. In my humble opinion – ‘Ray’ (the director’s cut) is simply the best biopic yet.

dvds

Four Kings Tour Live Angie Stone

Four Kings Tour Live – Event US DVD

Lloyd Price is looking remarkably good considering his age. He must be quite a bit older than the other three kings, who come from a later generation of hitmakers. It is Lloyd who came up with the concept for this particular tour and produced the show - and this DVD. So it’s no surprise that he kicked off proceedings with his ’58 hit  ‘Stagger Lee’ (a bar room ballad that has a genesis all it’s own). Lloyd looked sharp and bright and the crowd were up for a goodtime. The ‘Four Kings Tour’ is a complete revue including an African dance and percussive music theme that attempts to trace back to the very bedrock of R&B. The Big ‘A Team’ Swing Band backs up all the acts, that roll on introduced by each previous artist. Ben E King emerged from the audience singing the song that started it all for him and relaunched the Drifters ‘There Goes My Baby’. I was relived to see him looking and sounding so good, after suffering a lengthy period of slow recovery from his heart attack in 2001. His voice doesn’t quite have the power that it used to but he’s looking and sounding real good. Ben handed over to Jerry ‘The Ice Man’ Butler, who was cool as ever in his immaculate white suit, performing a splendid version of his classic hit ‘He Will Break Your Heart’. To complete the quartet on came Gene Chandler decked out all in black, with a top hat, cane and scarlet silk lined cape - chanting his career hit ‘Duke Of Earl’. It was an amusing and entertaining performance with Gene, reminiscent at times of a Vincent Price type figure prancing and gesturing to the crowd – who loved it. At this point we were treated to the first of our African dance and drum routines. Then special guest Tee Griffn emerged from within the troupe with ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ during which the quartet of Kings drifted on to take up the role of her backing group. They all stayed (including the dancers) for her second number - Sam Cooke’s ‘Having A Party’ that was a duet with the bandleader and MD Al Johnson (ex lead singer with the Unifics). The inevitable happening ensued and the atmosphere was really cookin’ with the crowd on its feet shouting for more.

As the party onstage quickly melted away, Ben E King was back with one of his signature tunes ‘Spanish Harlem’ that got him a popular audience response. Butlers iconic ‘For Your Precious Love’ brought howls of recognition from the crowd and Lloyds first hit ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ from ’52, put them back onto their feet. When it came to his turn Gene attempted a climb to ‘Higher Ground’ and the crowd went with him. After a slight return to the African theme of dance and drums, Jerry Butler’s great ‘Only The Strong Survive’ began the slow descent. He certainly enjoys his chosen role as the storyteller /troubadour for the R&B/Soul community and nobody else could do it better. Lloyd Price brought his ‘Personality’ into play to great effect one more once and this proved to be his most popular number. Ben’s career double-hit ‘Stand By Me’ proved yet another highlight persuading many ladies out there to heed his plea. Gene also gave us the all colours version of his showstopper ‘Rainbow’ which had him pleading, kneeling, wringing out every last drop of emotion. His performance moving even the elderly female audience members.  When the band struck up Sly’s coke anthem ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ it seemed a little incongruous to me – But what do I know and - hey it was the outro. Maybe this audience were off their meds and past caring but they were going out under there own steam. The stage was impossibly crowded as our Four Kings shuffled amongst the throng, taking turns to sing a snatch of the final number.
Perhaps the younger fans amongst us consider these Four Kings past their prime but for many others of us they have aged mellow, like fine wine. Their combined talents are well worth the ticket price and according to what my friend Faith tells me “You had to be there to really appreciate the energy level and to soak it up”. These were edited highlights of a much longer show and this is likely to be the only way we’ll see it in Europe. Whether the DVD is issued in Eurozone format remains to be seen (or not).

Angie Stone Hits Live – j Records US DVD

The best chance for Angie’s fans that didn’t get to see the Silk & Sandpaper tour is to catch it here on DVD. This US tour was a farewell to j Records and a round up of her hits (so far) too. We are treated to slices of sociology like ‘What U Dyin’ For’, ‘U Haul’ and ‘Karma’ peppered between love songs ‘Wish I Didn’t Miss You’, and ‘No More Rain’. The songs are intercut with snapshot reactions from Angie talking about this and that - with rapper THC taking a couple of solos. I had an eery feeling watching the early tracks that there were underlying shades of Barry White seeping through– I don’t know why. Four tracks in there’s an interesting take on Curtis Mayfield’s ‘The Making Of You’ which brings some nice vocal harmonizing into play. This is her crowd all right, bigging up ‘Stay For A While’, a duet with Anthony Hamilton song that’s the flipside of ‘Private Number’ (but not nearly as good). Generally Angie delivers her hits as a pretty agreeable cocktail of Soul/Funk/Rap. A viz-edit starts the intro to the band and ‘Touch It’ completes this excursion. Highlight back up singers Stephanie & Anita solo to the crowd and the band samples ‘Summer Breeze’ along the way -giving it up and getting it back. Angie winds up her crowd with her man anthem ‘Brotha’ and at her insistence everyone are on their feet. Then she takes her departure with ‘Before I Go’ - holding it down but giving it large (I wonder if that’s a Sears & Roebuck poncho).  Angie made a promising start with j Records but I hear she’s left them now and it remains to be seen where she goes from here. For hardcore Stone fans the Bonus features include behind the scenes footage and a photo gallery.

 

© earshot 6 - Peter Burns, November 200

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