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editorial

While the ease of choice and availability on the internet are undeniably useful and convenient, there are some worrying signs in America and Europe that all is not well at the retail end of the music business. So many of the record stores that we used to see in the big and small cities have disappeared. The megastores like Tower and Virgin have all but vanished and many of the smaller independents and specialists have given up the struggle and gone under to the squeeze of downloads and higher rent increases. The ipod/ mp3s continue to decimate CD sales and the big record companies gobble up and deconstruct - all in the name of progress. There are even whispers that success stories like Rhino have fallen victim to internal machinations and that many of their reputation builders have been axed. Meanwhile in the UK there is no more Sanctuary to turn to - so wave goodbye to the stream of great reissues that came from that source and to the talent that created them. I was personally saddened by the demise of the Sequel label, who through Bob Fisher, Tony Rounce and Roger Semon provided me the great opportunity to create, design and write a super series of Drifters, Ben E King, Impressions, Curtis Mayfield and Curtom CD albums (amongst others) from the mid 90s onwards. Later I continued that collaboration with John Reed and Sam Szczepanski and of course last but definitely not least Norman Jopling and Terry Chappell of Ideal Music, who passed numerous freelance projects my way - many thanks to all those mentioned, you have all left a great big hole in my soul!  I still harbour a fragile hope that the Sequel logo might re-emerge one day in the near future because especially early on, it was responsible for making such great music available at budget prices. Looking back through their catalogue it was very impressive and in my opinion Sequel was a major small label that achieved much in its 17-year history. (peter burns)

kurt mohr

I knew Kurt Mohr briefly in the late ‘60s when we spoke on the phone and corresponded for a few months. We had collaborated on a couple of Discographies that I was interested in, those of Tony Middleton and the Willows. When I was on holiday in Switzerland the following year I was driving through Basel, where he had a house and I dropped in to see him. However, my timing was off as he had recently returned to Paris. We didn’t keep in touch but I have always remained interested in his Discographical work and have many in my SoulMusicHQ database. More recently, I was writing a piece on Middleton (for earshot 8) and I emailed Gilles Petard in an attempt to contact Mohr. Gilles told me that Kurt hadn’t embraced the technological revolution but I might be able to reach him by phone at his home in Paris. He also mentioned that Kurt hadn’t been in good health. So I decided not to bother him with my trivia. For most of us Kurt Mohr was ‘Mr Discography’ – he must have published 1000s down the years. His work was very influential and it was he that inspired me to start creating my own work in that direction. So I would like to add my condolences to those expressed below. Many thanks to Clive Richardson for sending me the Soul Bag obituary - on 15 November 2007

Death of pioneer African-American Music critic and Discographer Kurt Mohr

It is with deep emotion that we have to report that Kurt Mohr passed away on the 4th of November in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 12, 1921. During his teens he discovered jazz while listening to the radio and quickly developed a fondness for Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. He soon participated in jazz fan clubs and got involved in discography after having found Charles Delauney’s 1936 Hot Discography, the book which laid the foundation and template for all further discographical research in the field. Thus Kurt became an industrious interviewer of touring American musicians. Before long the combination of his sharp knowledge of music, awareness of social issues and genuine interest in people earned him a unique reputation among musicians. Reaching age 33, in 1954, Kurt made up is mind to give up his job as a chemist, doing research for the pharmaceutical industry in Basel, and settle in Paris to devote himself to his love for “jazz” full time. “Jazz” for him, by the way, meant the full spectrum of what was not yet called African-American Music, including Blues and Rhythm and Blues. In Paris, while writing for the Jazz Hot magazine, Kurt worked first for the Vogue record label, and then for Odéon, where he started releasing recordings from US labels such as Vee-Jay, Ace, Gone/End, King. He even released many masters which were unissued in the U.S. Incidentally, Kurt Mohr’s French releases in the early sixties of recordings by John Lee Hooker, Billy Boy Arnold, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, Freddy King, James Brown or Johnny “Guitar” Watson got rave reviews in the U.K. and did not remain unnoticed by lots of aspiring or emerging local young musicians, among which the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Besides, Kurt did production work with the help of US expatriate ace studio guitarist Mickey Baker, who also had a string of records released on Odéon under his own name. In 1966, Kurt Mohr was part of the Jazz Hot team who left to launch Rock & Folk, where he had a column called “Soul Bag”. It is no coincidence that this very name would be used two years later by a fanzine that Kurt was instrumental in instigating and which would feature many of his discographies. Kurt then worked for the Best and Pop Music magazines. For the latter, unfortunately short lived, he had started an alphabetical encyclopaedia of Rhythm and Blues / Soul Music. Kurt also spread his knowledge, love and enthusiasm for music through numerous radio programs aired from his native Switzerland. Always willing to cooperate with other discographers, he especially had a long fruitful collaboration with Michel Ruppli on the latter’s massive label discographies (Kurt had notably spent much studious time in the Atlantic vaults, courtesy of Ahmet Ertegun). While Kurt Mohr often did not receive the credit he deserved, his considerable contribution was duly recognized by Neil Slaven in the second edition of the Leadbitter / Slaven famous book Blues Records 1943-1970: “The first person who deserves acknowledgement from us all is Kurt Mohr. His ongoing discographical research is the inspiration of everyone engaged in similar enquiries, not just in the field of Blues but in Black music generally. Too little credit (and sometimes none at all) has been given to his unceasing efforts, and I am glad to express my gratitude and appreciation”. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know him will never forget that distinctive character: a warm, articulate, curious, science inclined, uncompromising man, who once decided to go by his feelings and never looked back. (the soul bag staff)

US-07

cruisin’ the carolinas

It was carefree driving as we cruised the beautiful south taking in the magic of Charleston with its sumptuous gardens, spooky Spanish moss, amazing architecture and quaint cobbled streets. It’s a history lesson to wander way down yonder and embrace the unique culture in that part of the world. If you can get off of the interstate it’s beautiful country down there, breathtaking and pretty quiet on the road. As the speedo slows to a moderate pace, the big city clamour slowly falls away. Evening sounds of live music meander to you on a balmy breeze as you stroll past the local haunts that spill out onto the sidewalk. I was half hoping to stumble across an Original Drifters concert, so I could update my interests in that direction but was out of luck, as our trails didn’t cross and now I’ve missed my last chance to see the great man perform. Bill Pinkney died on 4 July, shortly after my return home. Their future will be less authentic without him. But there was plenty of excellent live music on offer in South Carolina. We didn’t stop anywhere for long, just taking our time when we came across somewhere that caught our interest. One memorable visit was to Chai’s where we sat outside in their garden sipping cold drinks and relaxed to the easy beats of a reggae kissed jazz quartet. Next day we took US 17 North. Random tuning on the car radio found a few of the oldies stations and a selection of Doo Wop and vocal group goodies from the 50s and 60s like ‘Tears On My Pillow’ the Imperials, ‘Sorry – I Ran All The Way Home’ the Impalas. ‘Lovers Never Say Goodbye’ the Flamingos, ‘There’s A Moon Out Tonight’ the Capris, ‘Oh What A Nite’ the Dells and ‘Daddy’s Home’ Shep & the Limelites became the soundtrack to our journey to Brookgreen Gardens. Today this huge landscape stretches for miles and is the habitat for bountiful exotic fauna, many varieties of birds and other wildlife amongst 500+ sculptures, a garden museum built on the site of an old rice and indigo plantation. After lunch we drove to Myrtle Beach, the epicentre of Beach Music but found that it was pretty well off limits, choked with 1000s of Harley Davidson bikes - due to an annual convention. It was a little daunting, weaving our way through mile after mile of the big Harley’s as they packed every Avenue for as far as the eye could see – ‘The Wild One’ wasn’t on our itinerary, so we just kept on going North until they gradually thinned out and had all but disappeared by the time we reached Shallotte. The next morning after breakfast we took the East coast road up to Holden Beach and spent a couple of sunny hours on the clapperboard mansion lined beach. Above our heads five or six Pelicans flew a patrol along the white sands that stretched for miles in either direction. Over lunch at the Paradise Café we decided to go for the last ferry from Southport, so we put the hammer down and arrived in good time to join the other passengers and their cars on the crossing to Fort Fisher. This is Cape Fear country, honeycombed with inland waterways and small islands but not as remote as it used to be, even early in the season. Wilmington, where we stayed that night was brimming with tourists and students with quite a few good restaurants and music bars at its centre, so being a Saturday Night that great little town was jumping. After we had returned to Raleigh, the base for our Carolina tour, I got a call from Ben E King and we finalized arrangements to begin work on his semi-autobiography, a joint project that we have been discussing (on and off) for the past couple of years. So some champagne celebrations were in order. (peter burns)

chat

impressions of chattanooga

The Impressions appeared in an all-star line up on Long Island, New York, in 2006 as opening act for Little Anthony & the Imperials. This was one of their earliest gigs with Reggie Torian back as lead singer. Reggie had not long rejoined the group after a 25-year absence. He initially joined them in ’72, during the recording of their ‘Preacher Man’ album and stayed for 10 years, recording on Curtom, Cotillion and Chi Sound eventually giving way to Vandy Hampton in the early ‘80s. Due to Sam Gooden’s recent triple by pass surgery, the Impressions had to appear without him in the line-up in February 2007. It was the only time that Sam had not appeared with the Impressions in their 50-year history and his place was temporarily taken by Impressions’ band member Flynn Pickens. “I was concerned about having such a big operation…” Sam told me “…but it all went so well – When Fred came in to see me the next day, I was sittin’ up eating eggs and bacon!” After that, Sam made a miraculous recovery and was back in the line up a month later when the group made several appearances in California and Las Vegas. He was also present for their 50th Anniversary concert in Tivoli Theatre, Chattanooga on the 5 May along with Jerry Butler and Leroy Hutson (both famous ex- leads with the group). I was in Chattanooga recently (June) to catch up with Sam and Fred who were delighted with the way their anniversary concert went. It had been a full house with hundreds of guests standing at the back and in the aisles (the Tivoli is a grand old (1921) theatre situated on Broad and Seventh, that seats 1700). “It went so well that none of us wanted to leave.” Fred explained “The audience knew all the songs and sang along with us. So many people came back to congratulate us after the show – we couldn’t move in that dressing room - they all loved it that Jerry and Leroy sang with the group on their songs and Reggie got so many compliments – it was a shame that Curtis was not there too.” “Perhaps he was watching from the upper circle.” I suggested, which made them smile. We didn’t meet Mrs Cash this time out, who was away teaching at University but Sam and Gloria showed us around Chattanooga, as we’d not been there before. They took us downtown to the Big River restaurant area that was busy with tourists and locals eating and meeting on the street. “The city was pretty run down by the late‘90s” Sam said “But now there’s a lot of redevelopment and big improvements in progress.” Along the riverbank they were constructing a huge stage in readiness for a big music festival due to start the following week. The recently constructed Tennessee Aquarium, situated on the river, is spectacular and is a major tourist magnet, with the sea and river attractions in separate buildings. Though the train station made famous by the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ song no longer operates – it’s now a museum and a Holiday Inn hotel. A free trolly service (they call the shuttle) runs down to the river - that you can get on and off as you like. The station has been beautifully preserved and one of the carriages is a restaurant, it’s well worth seeing. The night before we left town, Fred drove us up to Lookout Mountain which has an amazing vernacular railway that crawls up the steepest track you can imagine to the Incline Railway station at the top, where on a clear day you can see five states. “This is where all the people who run Chattanooga live.” Fred pointed out as we drove down the mountain road, huge mansions towering above us on either side. He drove down past Ruby Falls into the city insisting that we must try the best barbecue ribs for our dinner. We were not going very far after that. During our visit Sam and Fred told me that they have a UK tour booked for May 2008 that they are pretty excited about. “It’s really the first chance we’ve had to perform for our UK fans. On our past five visits, except for Albert Hall with Eric, we only played at US bases. By the way how is Eric? What’s he been doing lately? He’s such a gentleman and was great to work with when we toured with him back in 2001.” I explained that I didn’t really follow Eric Clapton but I was sure he was doing pretty well. All too soon our few days in Chattanooga were over and we were on the road driving up on I-24 towards Memphis. Sam & Fred too were on the move, they were just about to fly down to Augusta, Georgia with their 7 piece band and then west to New Mexico to play a couple of dates. (peter burns) Acknowledgements Larry Cotton, Sam Gooden, Fred Cash

memphis

On the road into music city we stopped to break the lengthy drive a few miles before the outskirts of Memphis. In the rest room lobby the walls were covered with framed photos of Stax recordings artists and outside were place signs dedicated to Rufus Thomas – Walking The Dog Trail and Isaac Hayes, Tina Turner, Booker T & the MGs – Rest Area, an intriguing invitation to the Music Highway. It was late in the afternoon by the time we finally rolled into the city and checked into our hotel. Memphis was hot in early June - the atmosphere was like soup, so thick you could cut it with a switchblade spoon. The brightly coloured trams constantly trundled up and down Main Street where a lot of the old shops and businesses are in one or another stage of redevelopment. Up closer to Beale is where the action is, there are lots of great restaurants, hotels and shops within a couple of blocks - besides the famous landmarks like BB Kings, Peabody Plaza etc. The sidewalks were busy on both sides of Beale and R&B, Soul and the Blues blared out of every venue. A free live performance was creating some attention in WC Handy Park and a cluster of curious listeners stood and sat, sipping cold drinks, watching the performance. One thing I found surprising about Memphis is that there is not a greater abundance of record shops there, considering it’s adopted title you’d expect one on every block. Another cluster of tourists was gathered around the larger than life size bronze statue of the King that straddles the concrete plinth on which it stands in the small park at the end of Beale.

memphis

Out in the burbs at 706 Union Avenue stands Sun Studios, famous not only for Elvis and the million-dollar quartet but responsible for many other important vinyl milestones including ‘Rocket 88’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Mystery Train’. Here Sam Phillips found the previously undiscovered key that merged R&B with Rock ‘n’ Roll, laying solid foundations with artists like Ike Turner, Little Walter, Rufus Thomas, the Prisonaires, Roscoe Gordon and many more. 50 years are up on the clock and if you go to Memphis, don’t miss this vital artery at the creation of American music. Incidentally they do have their own record store. You can catch the free shuttle that runs between Heartbreak Hotel, Graceland, Sun Studios and the Rock & Soul Museum. It operates every day and the first run starts at 9.55am. Throughout the day there are 9 runs finishing at 6.30pm. It’s a very useful way to get around and see the various locations if you don’t have your own transport. New in town since I was there last is the Rock & Soul Museum that’s on 3rd, which crosses Beale. This is an important site if your quest is to trace and understand the roots of Memphis music. The museum covers the development of Soul & R&R via Country & Gospel. I suggest you use an audio set, as it really does enhance the journey. The museum format borrows from Stax, starting with a short movie and though it zeros on Memphis, the spectrum is broad – check it out on www.memphisrocknsoul.org it’s a fascinating and informative visit.

ncr

national civil rights museum

Due to the suppression of black history many Americans, black and white knew very little about the true story of slavery until the success of the TV mini series ‘Roots’. The transmission of this vital series in the mid 70s was shown on six consecutive nights because the network was uncertain about public reaction to this graphically emotive saga. They need not have been concerned because millions of Americans were glued to their TVs every night for almost a week and Arthur Haley’s drama sparked a nationwide civil rights discussion that changed and informed the attitudes of many. So if you are serious about civil rights and the history of black America then the National Civil Rights Museum is somewhere you will want to visit. The Museum is located on 450 Mulberry Street on the site of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated on 4 April 1968. The motel has been preserved and remains as a shrine to Dr King. Open since September 1991, the museum historically traces the birth and development of the civil rights movement through photographs information panels and 3D exhibits. It highlights the men and women who struggled from the mid 1700s for freedom from slavery and oppression and historic events that have occurred up to the present day. They have a very good website at www.civilrightsmuseum.org

stax 50

Another great American label that is celebrating its 50th anniversary is Stax Records, who in addition to their wonderful museum, located on the labels original site at E. McLemore Avenue had a special exhibit entitled ‘The Art of Stax’. It featured legendary images by noted music photographer Joel Brodsky of Stax icons Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Mavis Staples, Rufus Thomas, Booker T. & the MGs and many others including great shots of Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin on display as well as out-takes and never-before-seen portraits. Sadly this unique exhibition was only on view for a couple of weeks but the label is staging many events throughout the year - so check their website (www.staxmuseum.com) if you are thinking of making a visit. The museum itself has grown since my last visit. You could easily spend best part of a day in there wandering between the clusters of exhibition cases that contain memorabilia, costumes and all kinds of interesting stuff flanked by photos, info panels and plasma screens showing continuous documentaries and interviews. Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton, Steve Cropper, Al Bell and many other notables talk about the labels influential history and as you proceed the story gradually unfolds.

stax

Even the experts among you will find the experience fascinating. There is so much to see, hear and absorb and all the major artists (and many more besides) are featured. With all this great music, you can even strut yo’ stuff - on a mini dancefloor with a12 foot high screen and disco lights, midway into the museum. Lots of rare footage including James Brown, Curtis, the Isleys, Ike & Tina etc are also on continuous loop. It is all superbly laid out and in the studio there’s Steve’s Fender, Duck’s bass, AJ’s drums and Bookers organ - as if they’ve just gone for a coffee break. The large screens on the walls show black & white stills, shot while those great tracks were being laid down with sfx studio crosstalk providing further atmosphere. This leads on to 100s of album sleeves and singles that cover the walls of a long corridor. A jukebox with headsets has been installed so that you can choose to listen to practically any Stax-Volt cut you want to hear. Near the end of the exhibit there’s Ike’s Blue Caddy Eldorado with 24carat gold plated fixtures, a bar in the back, TV and white mink longhair carpets (like a mini version of his original office at the old Stax building). Across the street from the entrance to the Stax car park I noticed an old weatherboard house had been purchased for renovation – it used to be the home of Memphis Slim.
If like me, you believe that Stax was just about the best Soul/R&B label of them all, you should take the time to visit this amazing museum. There’s a lot to see in Memphis but this location should be at the very top of your list. (peter burns)

chicago

We dropped the car off at Memphis airport and caught a domestic flight to O’Hare where
due to the high levels of visitors in the Windy City at this time of year, reasonably priced hotel bookings had been impossible to find. So we’d rented an apartment near to the Chicago pier at McClurg Court, close to where OKeh recording studios had been located in the early 60s. This area was in development – new high priced town houses and apartments were ready for occupation on the banks of the Chicago River. It is not far from the elevated magnificent mile (Michigan Avenue) a busy thoroughfare jammed with shoppers and tourists. We took the time to visit the Hancock tower where the observation suite on the top floor has superb views of the city on all sides and you can see for miles and miles. The breathtaking visual sweep takes in a vista of many skyscrapers, Lake Michigan and it’s beach, pier and water traffic. Consoles dotted around the perimeter highlight the various areas of interest like Cabrini Green (where a host of the great Chicago Soul artists grew up). Though Chicago music scribe Bill Dahl was not too enthusiastic about the Blues Festival these days, he told us over dinner that it was a shadow of it’s former self. We did however visit the event one sunny afternoon and meandered through the various tents and stalls selling CDs, posters, books and various other blues & soul memorabilia plus wide variety of food and drink. Several stages were in operation with ongoing performances much as you might expect.

irma

We returned to catch ‘The Soul Queen of New Orleans’ Irma Thomas in performance later that evening but couldn’t get near the stage for the scores of families enjoying the show, eating & drinking around their personal coolers, standing, sitting, laid out on blankets and loungers – these folks come prepared for the long haul. But the sound system was great and big colour screens gave us all a better view than we could have hoped for, given the size of the audience. Irma played for about an hour performing a wide selection from her distinguished recording career to an appreciative crowd. She still looks and sounds amazing and her set was everything that I’d hoped it would be. Most of the crowd stayed on for local man Magic Slim and the Teardrops, who whipped up wave of enthusiasm and had the people dancin’ and strutting their stuff from the moment they hit the stage.

chess

When I last visited the city in 1972 many of the great Chicago labels like Curtom, Constellation, Mercury, Twinight etc were still hanging on and creative centres like the Butler Workshop were in residence, many of them housed on and around Record Row but the area was already running down and all have been swept away in the intervening years. One shrine that has survived however is the original Chess building on 2120 South Michigan that has now been rechristened ‘Blues Heaven’ and was rescued from oblivion by bluesman Willie Dixon’s wife Marie in 1993, since when it has undergone a slow internal reconstruction and is now back to it’s former state.

chess

These days it is a museum run by Willie’s daughter Jacky and Kevin Mabry. Downstairs is a shop and the offices of Chess founders Phil and Leonard plus a display room full of instruments and artefacts including a rather macabre exhibition wall of facial moulds, taken from many of their past recording artists - It sent a shiver down my spine. Upstairs in the old studio is a viewing area where you can watch a video of the Chess Story and see more exhibits in the adjoining rooms behind. Kevin, who manages the office, told me that 90% of their visitors come from the UK and had it not been for the ‘Brits’, they may not have survived the mid 90s. “So be sure to tell them of our gratitude and that they will always be welcome here at Blues Heaven”. Though the museum is quite small, they have also acquired the lot next door that was cleared and landscaped as ‘Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden’. Kevin also explained that the ‘Blues Heaven Foundation’ is committed to Dixon’s mission to keep the Blues alive through a number of programs that include ‘The Muddy Waters Scholarship’, ‘Royalty Recovery & Legal Assistance’, ‘Blues In Schools’ and the ‘Record Row Festival’ to name a few. For more info about the foundation’s calendar of events and other good works go to www.bluesheaven.com it won’t cost you a dime unless you feel inclined to make a donation. (peter burns)

gmv

#6 a change is gonna come

Ask the classic soul singers of the past which artist they admired most and the name Sam Cooke will crop up with unerring regularity. Sam of course learnt his trade in the top gospel quartet of the day – the Soul Stirrers, and it was with them that he developed and perfected his unique vocal style.

One of the group’s last recordings with Sam on lead was “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” / “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” cut on the West Coast in 1956 and released on the Specialty label. Putting aside any religious prejudices, anyone with an interest in the history and development of soul should hear both sides of this 45, which was one of the group’s biggest sellers. On both titles Sam’s voice is sweet and soulful, but with a rough edge that is often absent on his more pop slanted offerings. Whilst it is the memorably melodic “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” with it’s clever biblical storyline that is the better known of the two sides, it is the exquisite “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” that wins out vocally. It begins with Sam floating his voice into falsetto range on the word “Jesus”, then breaking up the two syllables into several different notes – a technique known as “melisma”, and much used by his predecessor, R. H. Harris. Unlike Harris, Cooke rarely used falsetto, and when he did it always sounded like a natural extension of his normal range rather than the usual “false voice” we associate with artists such as Jackie Wilson, or indeed Harris himself. Sam employs the same devise twice more on the record, varying the pitch and timing on each occasion, so that each one is a unique moment of vocal creativity. In fact Sam manages to cram more vocal twists and turns into just two minutes than some lesser vocalists manage in an album’s worth of material. The lyric is of interest too with lines such as “I’ve Got Enemies, Don’t You Know”, hinting at darker things from which only death will bring true release and freedom. It was a theme Sam was to revisit again in one very special song cut and released just before his death in 1964 in which he brought it all together in one momentous recording – “A Change is Gonna Come”.

sam cooke

Sam was prompted to write the song after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In the Wind”, the lyrics of which struck a chord with many African Americans at the time. Determined to put his own slant on Dylan’s astute slice of social commentary he came up with “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It could be argued that the massed strings at the start, with their echoes of Gershwin, threaten to dilute the message, however, any such fears are dispelled by Sam’s delivery. From the opening line “I was born by the river…..” where his voice soars magnificently we know we are in the presence of a true masterpiece. If the melody and chord structure owe much to the gospel music Sam loved then the lyric takes it into altogether more profound territory. Whereas “Blowing In The Wind” can be summed up as a poetic slice of Guthrie inspired social observation, “Change” is written from the viewpoint of the insider who has experienced the very injustices that Dylan is commenting on. Not that Cooke’s approach lacks subtlety. In the same way that some gospel lyrics, including “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” had a political undercurrent, so “Change” works on two levels. To the casual listener Sam is acting out the part of a solitary man who has not had an easy life but is hoping for a better tomorrow. For others Sam is speaking for all African-Americans who had experienced prejudice, alienation and hopelessness during their lifetime. And yet Sam’s overall message is one of optimism. Eight years earlier with the Soul Stirrers he had seen freedom only in death, but now, with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King ringing in his ears he sees real hope for the future. A change IS gonna come.

The song has inspired many cover versions, and hardly surprisingly gospel groups such as the Meditation Singers have covered it or freely borrowed from it. However, of all the versions I have heard, from Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin to the Hesitations, none can equal the sheer beauty of Sam’s original. Given that the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the development of soul went hand in hand, “Change” comes over as a worthy anthem. It was indeed a fitting farewell from one of the most influential artists in soul’s history.

Sam Cooke’s work with the Soul Stirrers has been well covered by ACE, with “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” appearing on two very accessible compilations, “In The Beginning”, and “Sam Cooke With The Soul Stirrers”. Both CDs also include Sam’s early secular sides.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” has recently appeared on a competitively priced release titled “Sam Cooke – Portrait Of A Legend 1951 – 1964” which also includes the indispensable “Touch The Hem Of His Garment”.(mike finbow)

editors note
There were in fact two versions of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ issued. The single edit version is best known but there was also an album version issued later that contains an extra verse and some minor changes to the mix.

the last goodbye

farewell

freddie scott born on 24 April 1933 in Providence Rhode Island but grew up in New York. Recorded first hit ‘Hey Girl’ in 1963 while working for Columbia as a songwriter alongside Goffin & King. Had several singles on Colpix then in ’66 joined Bert Berns Shout label and scored his career hit ‘Are You Lonely For Me?’ which went to #1 on the R&B chart.  Followed on with 4 more Shout hits. Scott had one more chart success on Probe in 1970 with Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’. He cut half a dozen good albums but though Freddie, a big voice balladeer, always gave good voice, his material choice was patchy. His only chart album ‘Are You Lonely For Me?’ was not reissued on CD but some of the tracks appeared on ‘Cry To Me – the best of…’ a Columbia Legacy CD in 1998. He tried an uneven redux in 2001 with ‘Brand New Man’ that got middling reviews and poor sales - died on 4 June 2007 aged 74.

james ‘pookie’ hudsonborn 11 June 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa, Hudson was featured lead voice with the Spaniels, one of the earliest Chicago groups signed to VeeJay. Their hits built the famous pre Motown label – ‘Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight’ written by Hudson became their most famous recording and was featured in the movie ‘American Graffiti’ (‘73) The pop hit however went to the McGuire Sisters with their cover version. The Spaniels other hits included ‘Baby It’s You’, ‘I Know’ and ‘You Painted Pictures’. James left briefly but returned in 1956 to cut another hit ‘Everyone’s Laughing’ and the classic ‘Peace Of Mind’. He went solo in ’61, created his own label North American and formed a new Spaniels group in 1975. The Spaniels issued a 40th Anniversary album in 1993 - died on 16 January 2007 from cancer, aged 72.

zola taylor born  1934. Nicknamed ‘the Dish’, Zola became famous as the first female member of the Platters. Taylor had previously recorded a couple of solo tracks for RPM and sang with the Shirley Gunther & the Queens. She appeared in bedrock movies ‘Rock Around The Clock’ (‘56) and ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ (‘56) – married troubled Do Wop star Frankie Lymon and was played convincingly in the movie ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’ (’98) by Halle Berry. She left the Platters but Zola’s solo career didn’t take and she ran her own version of the Platters in later years.  died on 30 April 2007 from a stroke, aged 73.

hyman weissborn on 12 February 1923 the legendary founder of Old Town records was famous as a tough negotiator and well respected by his peers. His labels were famous for their Doo Wop and R&B recordings, many reissued in the UK on Ace/Kent over the past 15 years. Four great volumes of ‘Old Town Doo Wop’ featured tracks by the Five Crowns, Capris, Chimes, Fiestas, Harptones and many more. Other artists he recorded were Billy Bland, Thelma Jones, Donald Height, Peggy Scott, Robert & Johnny etc. He was a larger than life character on the New York record scene of the 50s & 60s who’s passing will be mourned by many – died in Englewood NJ on 20 March 2007, aged 84.

bill pinkney –  born on 15 August 1925 in Dalzell, Sumter County, South Carolina. Decorated for action in France during WW2.  Bill formed a group with four GI pals called the US Friendly Five. He sang with a number of Gospel groups including the Singing Cousins, the Wandering Four and after he’d moved to New York the Jerusalem Stars, who featured his lifetime friend Brook Benton. Shortly after joining the Southern Knights, Clyde McPhatter, who was reorganizing a second line up of his Drifters invited Bill to join. After the famous ‘Money Honey’ session Bill moved to bass when the group became a quartet. He was featured in a duet with Clyde when the Drifters cut their hit version of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’. After Clyde was drafted in mid ’54, Bill who also acted as their road manager, led the group and hired new members including Johnny Moore. Bill recorded lead on a few other Drifters records but was sacked by the groups management when he tried to negotiate higher wages for the other members. He formed the Original Drifters in 1958 that over the years featured many x Drifters in their line-ups. BP’s Originals recorded on several small labels and toured the world though in later years were more prominent in the southern states where Pinkney rotated a couple of line-ups. He was honoured many times by the music industry during the 90s. After 54 years driftin’ Bill died on 4 July 2007 at Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, aged 81.

reviews - cd

butler

Billy Butler – The Right Tracks – Kent CD
When I visited Chicago and the Butler workshop in October 1972 I was lucky enough to meet and spend a few hours with Billy Butler and Larry Wade, who sang together in Infinity at that time. Billy had always featured high amongst my favourite singer/ writers, so it was a rare treat to relax with him and discuss his great music. This superb CD contains many of those wonderful tracks that we talked about and are amongst Billy’s earliest and best recordings. Subtitled – The complete OKeh Recordings 1963-66 it contains 29 tracks, including 8 previously unissued masters. Despite Butler’s lack of R&B chart entries (only five singles in 10 years) he worked with some of the greatest Chicagoan talents of all time including Curtis Mayfield, Carl Davis, Johnny Pate, Riley Hampton, Gene Chandler and brother Jerry - to mention a few. “Billy’s probably been one of the unluckiest guys around with records – good records…” Jerry said in ’72 “He had some stuff on OKeh that was fixin’ to happen and they faded out the label. ‘The Right Track’ was fixin’ to be bigger than bubblegum when Columbia just said ‘We’re getting out of the black record market. Close everything up in Chicago’. Billy’s record had already sold 100,000 in Chicago and LA, the only two cities where it was distributed. But Columbia had said they weren’t gonna deal with Carl Davis and bing! Billy’s record went down”. After listening to these great recordings again it still remains a mystery to me that Billy Butler, who’s individual talents for songwriting, singing and guitar playing are indisputable – did not become a huge star. ‘I Can’t Work No Longer’, ‘(You Make Me Think) You Ain’t Ready’ and ‘Right Track’ are just a few classics of the Uptown Soul genre and ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ was simply a lost gem – why that wasn’t issued is beyond understanding.
Many of Billy’s recordings (especially the early stuff) are so full of energy and despite the fact that they often lament lost love, his sound is almost always optimistic, a quality that’s infectious and uplifting. This package was tastefully designed by Graham Smith with good informative notes by compiler Tony Rounce.

Various - Tears Full Of Soul  – Sanctuary 2CD
Like the Cappuccino coffee you had instead of the real thing – it’s pleasant enough but at the end of the day - not completely satisfying. One of the problems for me with ‘Sweet Soul’ is that it’s a very fine line between pure harmony and echoes most saccharine. Also known as 
‘Sophisticated Soul’ and built on the thematic and sometimes formulaic foundations laid by Thom Bell, Stan Watson, Bobby Martin and others, this genre for me can – in the hands of later producers too easily put my teeth on edge. But personal gripes aside, the highlights here include a great Jimmy James long lost track,  produced by the iconic Peter Meaden and exhumed after many years in the wilderness by Ideal Music man Norman Jopling – many thanks for that!  ‘I’m Glad’ was cut first by Captain Beefheart and it might surprise you to learn that a few of Don’s early tracks were soul influenced. Ex Hearts lead Lezli Valentine cut a good version of the Moments hit ‘Love On A Two Way Street’ (sounds like it might be the same backing track to me). ‘You Were Gone’ by the late great Brook Benton is a gem but he could sing the yellow pages and make it sound good. I don’t know much about Tommy Keith but he seems to have written some interesting songs like ‘On The Real Side’ a previously unissued track and Eleanore Mills ‘Telegram’ that’s on Disc 2. ‘In The Basement’ magazine editor David Cole has supplied interesting and informative notes (as always) that tell us Keith earned his spurs singing with a number of vocal groups – the Delites, Brothers Of Love and Marlboro Men and worked behind the scenes songwriting and producing. The Ovations lead singer Louis Williams contributes one of the more memorable tracks here ‘I Care For You’ a previously unissued single. This album is one of a six part series issued by Castle who were part of the Sanctuary Record Group - so if this kinda soul is for you - grab it soon.

Irma Thomas – My Heart’s In Memphis – Rounder CD
This is 8 years old but they were knocking them out at the Chicago Blues Fest for $5 so I picked up a copy and I’m really glad I did. The album was cut in Memphis with Dan Penn and a host of great musicians at the tail end of the last century and no one seems to have really listened to it.  All the songs are his, with various co writers and there has been no finer storyteller to emerge in the past 20 years. His words evoke an effortless stream of images especially when articulated by the supremely soulful Irma Thomas. It’s a marriage that could only be made in Memphis (or maybe Muscle Shoals). Four of these songs are Penn classics but the nine others were created especially for this album. But there’s no good trying to pick tracks, you just have to sit back and let it wash over you. Soak up that magic atmosphere while you marvel at the artistry, the poetry and the music. This album is right up there with the very best. So discover it for yourself. It should already be a classic. Don’t be put off by the unimaginative cover it’s a masterpiece.

Various – The Pomus & Shuman Story – Ace CD
This excellent album could almost be heard as a companion to the ‘Lonely Avenue’ - The Doc Pomus biography recently published in the USA and reviewed in earshot 10. Though many of us know the work of P&S through the songs they wrote for Presley, the Drifters, Dion etc it’s great to have a collection of them on one album for further edification and comparison. And what a great collection it is! Much of their early work came out of their close collaboration with Atlantic, represented here by the great R&B and soul sides written for Big Sister Lavern Baker (Hey Memphis) classic Ben E King (Save The Last Dance and First Taste Of Love) and of course Brother Ray’s ‘Lonely Avenue’. Fascinating to hear the early Rock ’n’ Roll ravings of the Tibbs Bros on ‘Miss Rip Van Winkle’, the solid UK tracks by Marty Wilde, the almost understated Little Tony and even the cardboard Rock of Fabian. Some of their smoother Doo Wop by the Mystics (Hushabye) and Dion & the Belmonts (the much covered Teenager In Love) is mighty fine. Songwriters this good were not hemmed in by genres, so even the pop cuts like ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’, ‘All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me’, ‘Angel Face’ etc are still great songs even though the production doesn’t always flatter them. In the right hands most of them would translate perfectly into soul. The Pomus/ Shuman portfolio was prolific and I for one would love to hear another volume of their work. But in the meantime don’t miss this one.

James Carr – My Soul Is Satisfied – Kent CD
Tipped by many as his successor after Otis’ death, James Carr despite cutting some of the most soulful tracks ever, couldn’t hack the touring and didn’t fulfil other peoples lofty expectations. Ace/ Kent made it their business to reissue all of Carr’s scattered back catalogue and this compilation rounds up tracks (many previously unissued) from various sources such as River City, SoulTrax, Vivid Sound and even some as lead with the Jubilee Hummingbirds. Despite the variety of sources it’s a solid collection with the standout tracks being ‘Hold On’, ‘I’ll Put It To You’. ‘It’s Sweet On The Backstreet’, ‘I’m Gonna Marry My Mother-In-Law’ and ‘That’s When The Blues Began’. Carr’s Bluesy, Gospel flavoured Soulful sound is undeniably great and fully deserves to be liberated into the digital format for all to hear.

Frankie Crocker – Do It Frankie, Do It To It - Sanctuary CD
Flamboyant DJ Frankie Crocker worked his apprenticeship in Pittsburgh, Chicago and LA before hitting the big time in New York. According to Joe Boy’s sleeve notes, he was also a face in many of the NY clubs and often an MC at the Apollo. So this compilation features a sample of the highlights from Crocker’s playlist, that not only include big hits from the Moments (Love On A Two Way Street), Chairmen Of The Board (Give Me Just A Little More Time), Crown Heights Affair (Galaxy Of Love) Whispers (Make It With You) but contain some less well known goodies like ‘Casanova’ by Coffee, ‘You’re My One Weakness Girl’ Street People ‘Tell Him For Me’ Louis Williams, ‘She’s For Real’ Dynamics and 8 Minutes, who have a similar family sound to that of the 5 Stairsteps on ‘Looking For A Brand New Game’. One particular track that’s of interest is (Adam Wade &) Johnny Pate’s ‘Brother On The Run’ a movie theme that echoes a lot of the Blaxploitation sounds of the early 70s. Frankie’s own record ‘Ton Of Dynamite’ is a lively but repetitive backing track, that despite all the urging he never gets close to Doin’ It To It – I’m sure that out on the dancefloor, it went down better than listening to it at home. These tracks roll on and over, keeping the energy pumping and the action moving and this compilation captures the spirit of New York 70s clubland with some conviction - despite the hype.

Various - Hands Off – Ace CD
A series of short-term contract songbirds with Modern & RPM in the mid 50s provide the tracks for this interesting compilation. First up is Donna Hightower, who wrote most of her early songs herself - with the exception of the Jay McShann title track ‘Hands Off’. Donna had a long undulating career, singing with various bands like Horace Henderson and according to the notes, is still active half a century later. Hightower never broke through to national chart success despite cutting some great tracks. High flyin’ Helen Humes on the other hand made records with the biggest and the best from Count Basie and Harry James to Al Sears, Roy Milton and Bill Doggett. She had 2 R&B top ten singles in 1945 with ‘Be Baba Leba’ and again 5 years later with ‘Million Dollar Secret’. Helen was in her forties when she cut
‘I Ain’t In The Mood’,  ‘Living My Life My Way’ and ‘Hey, Hey Baby’ and at the top of her tree but these fine tracks remained unissued until now. Dolly Cooper aka Linda Peters was a Buck Ram protégé who seemed to slip in and out of many identities never quite managing to steer any of them to stardom - but she could sing alright. Zola Taylor’s only RPM single is a Platters curio that may appeal to collectors. She was pretty enough to spice up their act as the ‘dish’ and was in their most famous line up – but never made it as a solo.

Tams – Comin’ At Cha! – Mossland CD (USA)
The Tams came up in the early ‘60s on Hermitage and Arlen, then ran a parallel course to labelmates the Impressions for a while on ABC. Joe Pope, their lead singer had one of the distinctive voices and took them to the US R&B charts 10 times between 1962-68. Their biggest hits ‘Untie Me’, ‘What Kind Of Fool’ (the only pop crossover) and ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’ are classics. Hailing from Atlanta - as they do, the Tams featured large on the Beach Music scene, where they are still very popular today. Sadly, Joe died in March ‘96 but this album, issued 10 years later does have a couple of tracks with his voice on them. Though  ‘Untie Me’ is a recut, it sounds like Joe to me and ‘Autumn Leaves’ might be as well - but there is understandably some attempt to emulate Joe’s vocal style. Though the new lead is very good, he has a generally smoother sound on tracks like ‘My Main Squeeze’, ‘Operator’ and ‘Numbers’. The Tams had 3 UK hits – ‘Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy’ in 1970, then a reissue of ‘Hey Girl…’ went to #1 in ’71 and finally in ’87 ‘There Ain’t Nothing Like Shaggin’ went to #21. Due to a certain level of popularity, most of their back catalogue has been reissued on CD. Unfortunately they have made a number of re-recordings as well, so if you want their recordings, take care you get the original versions. Comin’ At Cha! - the Tams latest album was cut in Atlanta and Quinby SC.  It’s a well produced set that given airplay could do them a lot of good.

Various – Soul In The Midnight Hour  – Kent CD
Once more into the Atlantic vaults dear friends for another great volume of ‘That’s Where It’s AT’. ‘Snatchin’ It Back’ sets the funky mood that just keeps on going with a smooth mix of very familiar AT classics, latin grooves and cool ballads. The shockingly underrated Don Covays’ ‘You’ve Got Me On Your Critical List’ stands up strongly against the big hits of label mates Clarence Carter’s  ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Looking For A Fox’ and Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land Of 1000 Dances’ and ‘Midnight Hour’. Perhaps slightly more interesting, for the older soul fans are the reinterpretations of dance hits ‘Do The Hully Gully’ (King Coleman), ‘Philly Dog’ (Herbie Mann), ‘Uptight’ (Charlie Palmieri) or either of the two versions of ‘My Girl Sloopy’ (Vibrations/ Killer Joe Orchestra) that have not been so widely available before. 26 superb tracks roll on effortlessly and there is not one dud among them. Other than those cuts already mentioned, personal favourites include the superb Big Mac & the Boss Sounds instrumental take on ‘The Midnight Hour’ and the incomparable Esther Phillips ‘Release Me’. It’s a highly enjoyable well crafted up mood collection.

Various - The In Crowd (The Story Of Northern Soul) – Sanctuary 2CD
This 2CD compilation contains a mixture of obscure and staple tracks of the Northern Soul Scene. According to the sleevenotes it reveals the secrets of this underground club-based exclusive genre that took 20 years to break nationally, then even longer to become an international phenomenon. So if Motown on turbo is your speed, most of the dance tracks on this collection are for you. Otherwise - if you are not so inclined, there’s plenty of good music just to listen to from the 50 tracks on offer here. Dobie Gray, Betty Everett, Lou Johnson, Maxine Brown, Doris Troy, Darrell Banks and Eddie Holman are just a few of the established names included here. Designed as a companion to ‘The In Crowd’ book by Mike Ritson & Stuart Russell (which I have read and can recommendation to you) this compilation brings together seminal soul tracks from Chicago, New York, Detroit and many other US destinations and has been put together by music publishers Bee Cool.

books

shag

‘Shagging in the Carolinas’ – ‘Fessa John Hook
published by Archadia Publishing, SC (2005)

Other than the introduction, the reading of this book is mainly in the lengthy photo captions, press cuttings, posters, magazine covers and handbills etc of which there are many. Nevertheless it’s a fascinating journey through the Beach music phenomenon, its roots, influences and history. From what I can gather, Shagging has been going on in the Carolinas since the late ‘20s, when one Lewis Phillip Hall first invented the dance. Since then it has evolved through a number of musical genres like jazz, R&B, rockabilly and soul music as the Southern white middle class embraced it’s multicultural roots. 
There is a particularly interesting item on page 62 about an ‘alleged’ appearance of Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters (with The Richard Maltby Orchestra) at Clemson University in mid 1961. As a Drifter historian, I find this kind of puzzling. Clyde left the Drifters in 1954 for a solo career at Atlantic, by ’61 he was recording for MGM. This ties up with the caption that mentions ‘Ta Ta’ as being performed by Clyde. By 1961 the Drifters were a completely different group headed by Rudy Lewis. The photo does not give any clues to the members of the ‘Drifters’ on stage. By this time Bill Pinkney was performing with the Original Drifters. Other songs performed that night were - ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ (a hit for Ben E King & the Drifters in October 1960) and ‘Money Honey’. I suggest this must have been a ‘one date only’ combination of McPhatter and Pinkney’s Originals (not known about by Atlantic Records or the Drifters management). But I would be very interested to know more about this event.

Judging from the posters magazines, and photos published in this book pretty well every soul star still working was drawn to perform in the South at these Shagoramas. These events have provided plenty of work for the 60s soul stars right through to the present day.

dvds

moan

Black Snake Moan (2007) Director: Craig Brewer 117 minutes
Samuel L Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake
Soundtrack available on New West Records
All the performances in this quirky, blues soaked saga are good, convincing and compelling. They need to be, because the storyline is a bit of a stretch - but it’s very enjoyable if to go with it. Sam J plays Lazarus, a washed up blues singer who’s wife has left him for his brother and he’s not too happy about it. Christina (Rae) is the town bike who was traumatically damaged by parental sex abuse, while everyone else was busy looking the other way or taking advantage of the situation. Justin, her live in lover Ronnie, has decided to join the National Guard in an attempt to grow up and shake off his own inner demons. So everyone’s pretty fucked up. After an emotional goodbye Rae is out screwing, bingeing and drugging like there’s no tomorrow, until Ronnie’s best buddy (Gill) beats her to within an inch of her life and dumps her comatose body on a backwoods road. Meanwhile Lazarus has been drowning his own sorrows and he stumbles across her the morning after. After saving her life, Rae becomes Lazarus’ quest. He is obsessed by his righteous desire to turn her life around and save her from her self. His unconventional route to this goal means chaining her to a radiator in his shack. Somewhere between the metaphors, the pretzel logic of the characterization and the superb soundtrack, director Craig Brewer transports the viewer and you really begin to care about these crazy southern individuals. The soundtrack is a work of art that features many of Brewer’s Memphis music friends and there is even a contribution from the legendary harmonica man Charlie Musselwhite. Sam actually learned how to play guitar for the movie and performs 3 songs on the soundtrack – what a guy! Critics and female activists panned the movie – I will try to pick up a dvd when it goes on sale – it’s great!

budget-cd

© earshot (peter burns) december 2007

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