Saturday, November 22, 2008

True Reflection: That's Where I'm Coming From (Atco)

With a melody reminescent of Jr walker's all-time classic "What Does It Take", this joyous dancer was recorded at the celebrated Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia. Luxury 70s soul on a major label that could be a floorfiller in northern rooms too.

Lew Kirton: Something Special (Alston)

Lew Kirton originally hails from Barbados, West Indies. He played the drums with Sam & Dave and in 1972 joined the Invitations. Northern Soul fans know him for the classic "Heaven In The Afternoon". This album came out later, in 1980, and was produced by Clarence Reid and Freddy Stonewall. A cool T.K. production made precious by Lew's deep vocals.

Ebony Jam: Ride On (Amos)

Funky soul tunes seem to be en vogue between the more open minded rare soul fanatics. A perfect example is this bongo driven instrumental (the flip is the vocal version but I prefer this one), with horns and strings here and there. Amos Records was founded in 1968 in Los Angeles by Jimmy Bowen, a veteran of the music business.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Lovelites: Certain Kind Of Lover/I Love You (Yes I Do) (Uni)

It took me a while to find a decent copy of this LP but it was worth the long wait. Produced by Clarence Johnson and Johnny Cameron, the album was recorded in Chicago on a well known California-based label, part of MCA records. Clarence Johnson cited the group as the best he had ever work with, their principal talent being Patti Hamilton. If you are into midtempo crossover, this is the Holy Grail. For Chicago soul lovers, "Certain Kind Of Lover" was written by Eugene Record (check also Diane Cunningham's superb version on Fontana).

The Jaedes: Uh, Uh, What Did I Do/Big Surprise (Athena)

A great album recommended by my dear friend Simone Ceccarelli from Gambettola Soul City. This quintet from Alabama delivers us a refreshing sound, with fabulous harmonies and subtle arrangements. The whole track list is brilliant from start to the end, mixing together covers and originals written by Fredrick Blackmon. Another case of unrecognised talent.

The Ethics: I Want My Baby Back (Vent)

Big demand for this excellent crossover. The Ethics are one of the great vocal groups of the 60s that did not reach the success they deserved. They worked with Vince Montana and Thom Bell, the cream of the Philly scene. 1969 should have been a very interesting year on the soul side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Soul Children: We're Gettin' Too Close (Stax)

Rated by connoisseurs as one of the best soul albums ever made, it is a privilege to own a copy of this masterpiece. Written and produced by Homer Banks and Carl Hampton, 'We're Gettin' Too Close' is the side popular between soul club goers. The band formed in Memphis at the end of the 60s under the supervision of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Mavis Staples: It Makes Me Wanna Cry (Volt)

The excepional lead voice of the Staple Singers from her second album, issued in 1970 by Volt. Produced by Detroit legend Don Davis and arranged by Horace Ott, it is a fine collection of orchestrated ballads about loneliness and desperation. Deep soul and then some!

The Pretenders: It's Everything About You (Carnival)

A re-make of a recent Northern biggie by Lee Williams & The Cymbals, issued on the same label. The Pretenders line-up was composed of a female and three male singers. For those who want to know more, Joe Evans musical talent was deeply investigated by Kent some years ago.

The Malibus: Ten Times A Day (Sure-Shot)

Famous for the classic "Gee Baby (I Love You)", the Malibus had other 3 singles on Don Robey's Sure-Shot. This is the last one and is a catchy midtempo that grows on you. Another fine piece of vinyl worth your attention is "I Can't Stand It" on sister label Duke.

Ronnie McCain: This Time I'm Gone (Triode)

I know nothing about this 45 except the fact it is a gorgeous crossover. I purchased my copy at Soul Essence some years ago and left it laying in my collection until few weeks ago, when I saw it in a playlist. What a shame, let me say, as it is really good! Triode is a highly collectable New York label.

Little Beaver: Listen To My Heart Beat (Cat)

Taken from the 1975 album 'When Was The Last Time' on the Cat label, an associate of the giant T.K. Records, this is the standout track that made it to 45 to promote the LP. A super funky guitar leads this dancefloor friendly record, written by Milton Wright. Demand made the price rise up in recent times.

Ann Sexton: I Had A Fight With Love (Sound Stage 7)

I had the pleasure to meet this lovely lady in 2007 at the Baltic Soul Weeekender. An extraordinary singer, with a rooster of 24-karat gems in her repertoire. Her second album was recorded in Muscle Shoals and Nashville and is a superb example of 70s Southern Soul. The up-tempo opening track is simply fantastic!

The Coasters: Love Is A Funny Thing (Salsa Picante)

The Coasters started their career in the 50s in Los Angeles and continued successfully for several years. This album saw the light of day in 1979 and was arranged and produced by Bobby Sheen. The chosen track is a very soulful slow number, written by guitarist Jimmy Nunya. A popular spin in rare soul circles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lavern Baker: Nothing Like Being In Love (Brunswick)

The other side "Wrapped, Tied And Tangled" is one of my all time favourite records. This comes from 1966 and was written by Karl Tarleton, probably the most underrated composers of the Brunswick/Dakar labels. Two minutes of great soul music driven by the throaty vocals of Lavern, who's career was relaunched in Chicago.

Beloyd: Today All Day (20th Century)

Another great flip side! Beloyd was the guitarist in legendary Funk group S.O.U.L. (Sounds of Unity and Love), who released two albums and several singles in the early 70s. After leaving the band, Beloyd spent some time writing for Earth, Wind and Fire and playing for Donald Byrd and Gary Bartz. This is the only record he made as solist in 1977, a double-sider of gigantic proportions!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The O'Jays: Crossroads Of Life (Little Star)

Right before moving to Philadelphia, the O'Jays made this incredible LP for Little Star records in California, working with the great H.B. Barnum. The result is one of the best soul album of all times: inspired songs, soulful vocals, superb arrangements, everything is in the right place here. The album was reissued by Trip with a slightly different cover (by the way, the pictures of the gangster girls on the front and back covers are super groovy!!!).

The Whispers: Where There Is Love (Janus)

If you like the Philly sound, this masterpiece of a record is surely already part of your collection. Recorded at legendary Sigma Sound Studios and mastered by Frankword/Wayne Recording Labs, it is one of the best offering of the period. The Whispers formed in 1964 in Los Angeles and had a long and successful career.

Sidney Joe Qualls: The Next Time I Fall In Love (Dakar)

Sidney was born in Arkansas but moved to Chicago in the early 70s. He was considered a follower of Al Green, due to his vocal style. All the album is great so it is very hard to pick up a specific tune. Anyway, as sampler, we choose this modern soul classic that did not see the light of day on the small format. Another unbelievable Carl Davis production!

The Paramount Four: You Don't Know (Southern City)

A killer tune coming from the deep South (Gallatin, Tennessee). This was raved by Ian Levine some years ago even if it remains quite obscure. With a strong rhythmic section thanks to the Solid Dukes (the bass line makes me crazy!) , it is a solid dancer set at a fast pace. The vocal harmonies are also very good.

The Fabulous Dimensions: I Can't Take It, Baby (Sapphire)

From Chicago, a traditionl Northern sound that was tipped by Mark Bicknell in Manifesto ages ago. The song is a solid mover, with the brass section and the guitar supporting the lead and backing vocals. Another underplayed record that is waiting for a greater exposure.

Little Hank: Try To Understand (Sound Stage 7)

A record that was ahead of its time. It was issued in 1964 but it sounds like it was made five years later. Little Hank had another record on Sound Stage 7, the club classic "Mister Bang Bang Man", but this perfect beat ballad is the side to have.

Shirley Wahls: Because I Love You (Calla)

More great music from Chicago this time thanks to a marvellous songstress. Shirley Wahls recorded for Smash, Giant, Blue Rock, King and Calla and worked with soul giants like Willie Henderson and Joshie Armstead. As John Manship states "one of the rarest 45s on this highly-respected label". A 1967 Bill Sheppard production.

Imperial Wonders: Just A Dream (Day-Wood)

The Imperial Wonders were from Cleveland, Ohio. This "dreamy" 45 came out in 1968 and was the first published by the band. It was arranged by one of the true soul hero, Lou Ragland, another native of Cleveland, and is very popular right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

James Phelps: Don't Be A Cry Baby (Fontana)

The Windy City was one of the most important soul centres of the golden era. James recorded this finger-clicking midtempo in Chicago in 1967, after he left the Chess group of labels.

Kent Drake: Boss Thing Together (Wand)

Produced by Gene Chandler and recorded in 1972 in Chicago, it was issued by one of the greatest NYC soul labels, the legendary Wand Records. Silky soul with plenty of strings and female backing vocals.