the last goodbye
nick ashford – born 4 May 1941 in Fairfield, SC and grew up in Willow Run, Michigan, Nick had originally aspired to be a dancer. He met his future singing/ writing partner and wife in Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. They began working together in 1964, a decade before they married, as Valerie & Nick and found early success when Ray Charles cut ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ that became a #1 R&B hit single in 1966 (it was originally recorded by the Coasters). They also wrote for Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown at Scepter/ Wand and often worked with co-writer Jo Armstead. One of the most prolifically successful duo singer/ songwriter, producer teams in musical history, they went on to become very successful when they joined the staff at Motown where their relationship made them particularly well suited to composing duets like ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’, ‘Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing’, and ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’. They also famously wrote Chaka Khan’s ‘I’m Every Woman’, (also used by Whitney Houston in her hit movie ‘The Bodyguard’) and Diana Ross’s ‘Reach Out & Touch’. Other great songs were written for Betty Everett (‘Too Hot To Hold’ and ‘The Shoe Won’t Fit), the Shirelles ‘Look Away’, Betty Lavette’s ‘Only Your Love Can Save Me’, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Cry Like A Baby’, Doris Troy’s ‘Please Little Angel’ and many, many more for the likes of the Crystals, Mary Love, Marvin & Tammi, Candy & the Kisses, the Temptations & the Supremes, Vernon Garrett, the Chiffons etc. Their own recorded R&B hits included ‘Don’t Cost You Nothing’ on Warner #10 /78, ‘It Seems To Hang On’ #2, ‘Found A Cure’ #2 /79, ‘Love Don’t Make It Right’ #6 /80. And on Capitol they had ‘Street Corner’ #9 /82, ‘Solid’ #1 /84, ‘Outta The World’ #4 /85 and ‘Count Your Blessings’ #4 in August 1986. Nick & Valerie were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Nick died from throat cancer at a New York hospital aged 70 on 22 August 2011.
jerry Leiber - born 25 April 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland Best Rock ’n’ Roll, R&B, Blues lyricist of his generation. Partner with Mike Stoller for more than 50 years with whom he was the very first record producer, the term was coined for them when they moved to Atlantic Records in the mid-50s and they took the music business to a new dimension. Lyricist to great songs like ‘Hound Dog’, ‘Yakerty Yak’, ‘Three Cool Cats’, ‘Is That All There Is?’ ‘Love Potion No.9’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’. As writers and producers Jerry & Mike did great work with the Coasters, Drifters, Ben E King, Peggy Lee, Elvis Presley and so many more. It really started for them with ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ by the Robins on the own label Spark that was picked up by Atlantic. They inspired Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector and many writing teams at the Brill Building. In later years they made a fortune publishing songs. For more info see Personal Heroes in earshots 7-11. To quote Jerry he was “top of the mark”. He died 22 August 2011. photo Paul Hosetros
sylvia robinson – born Sylvia Vanderpool on 6 March 1936 in New York. Started singing aged 14 and her first records were made with trumpeter Hot Lips Page from 1950 as Little Sylvia on Columbia. She came to international attention in 1956 with virtuoso guitar man Mickey Baker and their duet ‘Love Is Strange’ as Mickey & Sylvia a couple of years before he quit the USA and moved to Paris. She married musician Joe Robinson and she ran a club in the Bronx, then later opened her own Soul Sound studios in New Jersey. In ’68 the Robinsons set up All Platinum Records and scored a number of big hits with the Moments, writing and producing ‘Love On A Two-Way Street’ and also Sham Shame Shame for Shirley & Company. Later attracted established soul artists like Chuck Jackson and Brook Benton to their label but she recorded her biggest international hit herself with ‘Pillow Talk’ in 1973. Mistakenly bought Chess Records and nearly went broke in the late ‘70s but was saved by creating Sugarhill Records and made a fortune out of Rap music. Eventually sold out to Rhino in late ‘80s. Their Studio burnt down in 2002 two years after Joe died. Sylvia died aged 75 on 29 September 2011.
gil scott-heron – born 1 April 1949 in Chicago where he had a difficult childhood. His Jamaican born father Gilbert Heron was the first black soccer player to join Celtic FC (and no doubt suffered a great deal of racial abuse from the Rangers fans). His mother Bobbie earned her living as a singer and a librarian. After the divorce Gil was moved to Lincoln, Tennessee where he grew up with his grandmother Lily Scott, who was a musician and civil rights activist and very encouraging and influential in Gil’s artistic development. Gil grew into a fine poet, jazz musician and singer/ songwriter with a keen eye for social issues and political shortcomings. His writings from the early age of 12 won him recognition and after he rejoined his mother in New York, elevated him from ghetto education to the prestigious Fieldston School which took him on to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He wrote his first novel ‘The Vulture’ in 1968 and cut his first album two years later. On his landmark album ‘Pieces Of A Man’ in 1971 he really broke through with his songs ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ the following year his influential novel ‘The Nigger Factory’ was published. Gil Scott-Heron’s contribution to Western Culture cannot be under estimated, he was a truly great and original urban philosopher. He was no saint, but much great music including ‘Johannesburg’, ‘The Bottle’ and ‘All The Places We’ve Been’ and poetry followed. Drug dependency led to terms in jail but could not dull his razor sharp mind. Gil died too early on 27 May 2011.
edmundo ros – born Edmund Wiilliam Ross on 7 December 1910 in Trinidad. He came to London in 1937 to study at the Royal Academy of Music and became the most influential bandleader to popularize Latin American music in postwar Britain. This is where I got my earliest dose of the wonderful Latin rhythms. Allegedly even Queen Elizabeth II was a big fan. He retired to live in Spain in 1975. BBC TV aired a documentary on him ‘I Sold My Cadillac to Diana Dors’ in 2000 the same year he was given an OBE - died 21 October 2011 but lived to the age of 100!
benny spellman born 11 December 1931 in Pensacola, Florida was one of the less well-sung heroes of New Orleans Soul. His only hit single was ‘Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)’ hit the US R&B chart in 1962 and reached #28 in June. He originally worked as a back up singer on a number of New Orleans recordings, famously supplying the bass support on Ernie K-Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’ and Earl King’s ‘Trick Bag’. Benny also performed with Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and the Clowns early on. While working with Allen Toussaint at Minit Records he was signed to a brief solo contract and cut the Toussaint written/ produced double sider ‘Lipstick Traces/ Fortune Teller’. Both songs were covered by other artists including the O’Jays and the Rolling Stones. His later records included ‘Word Game’ on Atlantic, but no further hits were forthcoming and in 1966 he left music to work in the beer industry. The majority of Benny’s recordings were issued on CD by Collectables. Spellman’s induction into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in 2009 can be viewed on YouTube. Benny died from respiratory failure on 3 June 2011.
jerry ragovoy born 4 September 1930 in Philadelphia. He learned classical piano and
began writing songs as a child. His first job was in Treegoobs record shop and when a young black group called the Castelles brought him their demo in 1952, he and his boss Herb Slotkin set up Grand Records and had a local hit with ‘My Girl Awaits Me’ which Jerry produced and played piano on. Other acts that he recorded on the label were the Beltones, Cherokees and the Angels. Through his Italian wife Jerry got a job in the A&R department of the Chancellor Label where he worked as a songwriter/ producer and arranger for Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Claudine Clark and many more. With enough studio time under his belt Ragovoy was ready for his move to New York but before he left Philly, he spent $1,200 on a session with the Majors who cut ‘A Wonderful Dream’ that was eventually issued by Imperial and became a #23 R&B hit in October 1962. After moving to the Big Apple he linked up with Bert Berns who became his sometime partner and they worked together with Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters co-writing the groups first and biggest hit ‘Cry Baby’ - #1 US R&B/ #4 H100 in September ‘63. (Jerry also wrote under the name of Norman Margolies (and later Meade). Ragovoy went on to make a series of artistically superb recordings that achieved big commercial success –‘Time Is On My Side’ Irma Thomas (1964), ‘Stay With Me’ Lorraine Ellison (1966), ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’ Howard Tate (1966), ‘I’ll Take Good Care Of You’ Garnet Mimms (1966), ‘Piece Of My Heart’ Erma Franklin (1967) and many others. His songs and sound were covered by many more like the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Walker Brothers etc. Outside the soul genre he worked with Miriam Makeba and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He invested money in the New York Studio The Hit Factory and started his own short - lived label Rags that only issued one single ‘What Do You Want Me To Do’ by Lou Courtney. Among many other notables were ‘Move No Mountain’ Dionne Warwick (1974) and ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ Dusty Springfield (1967). From the mid ‘60s Jerry often worked with the great arranger/ conductor Garry Sherman. Ragavoy went into semi retirement in the early ‘70s. He won a Grammy as producer of the Broadway cast album Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope and also produced albums for Milkwood and Bonnie Raitt. A reunion with Howard Tate on 2001 for the album Rediscovered had him co-writing, producing, arranging and playing on every track. Jerry became ill shortly after giving an interview for a forthcoming documentary about his old friend Bert Berns. See Ace Records - The Jerry Ragavoy Story – Time Is On My Side 1953-2003 for a great 24-track selection of his finest work. Jerry died from complications due to a stroke 13 July 2011.
carl gardner born 29 April 1928 in Tyler, Texas. Served in the US Army. Became the shared lead singer with the Robins when he replaced the departing Grady Chapman in March 1954 on Spark Records, Carl sang the lead on the Robins second hit single ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ (#10 US R&B December ’55) which had been picked up for national distribution by Atco. The Coasters were one of the greatest vocal groups of all time and Carl Gardner was one of two original members when he and Bobby Nunn left the Robins and with the help of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller formed the Coasters with two New Yorkers - Billy Guy and Leon Hughes in Los Angeles late 1955. Leiber & Stoller had inked a production deal with Atlantic and were in the process of tying up their interests in LA before their move to New York with the Coasters in mid 1956. Meanwhile the L&S magic provided their first hit ‘Down In Mexico’ when it went to #8 on the US R&B charts on Atco in March ’56. ‘One Kiss Led To Another’ hit #11 the following August and then came ‘Searchin’’ that bought the Coasters national fame when it hit #1 US R&B/ #3 Hot 100 in May ’57 and international recognition four months later. They were known as the ‘Clown Princes of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and though they were much imitated and their records were covered by many other artists like the Beatles, the Hollies and the Rolling Stones, the Coasters were unique. More big international hits followed with ‘Young Blood’ (R&B #2/ #8 H100, May ’57), ‘Yakety Yak’ a double chart topper in June ’58 (the first recorded in New York with King Curtis on tenor sax) and ‘Charlie Brown’ in February ’59. ‘Poison Ivy’ gave them their final #1 in August ’59 but they had consistent chart success with singles such as ‘Along Came Jones’, ‘What About Us’, ‘Wake Me, Shake Me’ and ‘Little Egypt’ and most of the lead singing was by Carl Gardner (with Billy Guy). The Coasters last chart record was ‘T’aint Nothin’ To Me’ that was culled from the ‘Live’ album Apollo Saturday Night in early 1964 by which time Leiber & Stoller had left Atlantic, who still had the Coasters under contract. Earl ‘Speedo’ Carroll joined the Coasters from the Cadillacs but after early ’64 they scored no more significant US hits despite good records like ‘Bad Detective’ and ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ - that later became a big hit for Ray Charles. The Coasters cut their last Atco session in ’66 with an update of the Louis Jordan favourite ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ just before their Atco contract expired. They linked up with L&S again that year, who wrote produced and recorded them on Date but their superb singles ‘Down Home Girl’, ‘Soul Pad’ and ‘DW Washburn (instantly covered and a big hit for the Monkees) did not chart. Carl held the legal right to the Coasters name but as with the Drifters and the Platters, this didn’t stop many other ex members from founding their own versions of the famous group - there was plenty of work out there to be had. His Coasters group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Their 1958 recording of ‘Sorry But I'm Gonna Have To Pass’ made the UK pop chart in 1994 when it was used on a TV ad. After many years on the road after he was diagnosed with throat cancer Gardner passed the Coasters lead baton onto his son Carl Jr. in the mid 90s. Following surgery he continued to sing with the group but eventually retired in 2005 and wrote his autobiography, ‘Yakety Yak: I Fought Back’ that was published in 2007. Carl died at Port St Lucie, Florida 12 June 2011 in a hospice where he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had developed congestive heart failure.
gene mcdaniels born Eugene Booker McDaniels on 12 February 1935 in Kansas City, Kansas. Gene sang in gospel groups after the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska. Aged 11 he formed the Echoes of Joy who became the 5 Echoes in 1953 and changed their name to the Sultans a year later when they signed to Duke. After 4 singles went nowhere they changed their name again to the Admirals in 1955 to get out of their contract and signed to King. In addition to their own recordings they also cut some sides as background singers to other artists on the King roster. McDaniels went on to study at the Omaha University’s music conservatory. While singing in Los Angeles at small Jazz clubs he met and joined Les McCann’s group, who later recorded and had a hit instrumental of Gene’s protest song ‘Compared To What’. He signed solo to Liberty Records in 1959 and hit the US charts in April ’61 with his third single ‘A Hundred Pounds Of Clay’ that took him to #3 on the Hot 100/ #11 US R&B. Liberty and his producer Snuff Garrett had their sights set securely on the Pop chart so he had more success there. Sales in the UK suffered at the hands of Craig Douglas and Frankie Vaughan who’s covers got more radio play and even Gene’s biggest hit ‘Tower Of Strength’ (#5 H100/ & US R&B October ’61) only struggled to #49 while Vaughan’s version gave him the biggest success of his later career with a UK number one. Early albums contained MOR Movie themes but McDaniels weathered well and later recordings were much better ‘Chip Chip’, ‘Point Of No Return’ and ‘Spanish Lace’ all sold well in America and ‘It’s A Lonely Town’, ‘There Goes The Forgotten Man’, ‘It Happened In Monterey’ and others deserved better appreciation. Gene was the coolest thing about the British movie ‘It’s Trad Dad’ (renamed ‘Ring-A-Ding-Rhythm’ for USA) when he crooned ‘Another Tear Falls’ in a smokey studio. Surprisingly, his powerful reading of ‘Walk With A Winner’ didn’t chart and shortly after that he had a short stay at Columbia then this very promising singer dipped below the radar. Roberta Flack recorded his ‘Compared To What’ (with McDaniels lyrics for the first time) on her debut album at the same time he signed to Atlantic as the radically different Eugene McDaniels in 1970. His explicit protest songs got him into hot water with the White House and for a period Atlantic withdrew both of his albums The Outlaw (’70) and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (‘71) and neither sold well. Ode issued Natural Juices four years later but a return to fine love songs like ‘Dream Of You & Me’ and ‘Shell Of A Man’ didn’t find an audience and Gene went back to songwriting and record production. He worked with Jimmy Smith Sit On It (’77), Merry Clayton and Nancy Wilson. Gene really should have stuck to his early persona and then broadened his style to reflect his Jazz and protest interests plus his real talent for songwriting. He could have had the longer sustained career he really deserved. McDaniels and family lived in Kittery Point, Maine in later years and he died aged 76 on 29 July 2011.
dobie gray born Leonard Victor Ainsworth on 26 July 1942 in Brookshire, Texas
“Gimmie the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your Rock ‘n’ Roll and drift away…” became a mantra for dancers worldwide from the summer of 1973 onwards, Dobie’s distinctive voice filled many a dance floor with a swaying throng who would sing this memorable refrain in unison, the single was a regular on the decks of Fumble Disco (and many others) and became one (the only one to earn him a gold disc for 1M sales) of the two or three career hits for Dobie Gray. Eight years earlier he had arrived with his first blockbuster ‘The In Crowd’ that served as a Mod anthem in London and went to #25 on the UK Pop charts in February 1965 after hitting a high #11 on the US R&B charts (#13 on the Hot 100) the previous month. Dobie had moved to Los Angeles in search of fame in 1960 and he was signed to Stripe Records who issued half a dozen singles that made little commercial impact. Other singles on Real Fine, Cordack and Jaf followed but it was his first for Charger in ’64 that put him on the charts. ‘See You At The ‘Go Go’, and ‘In Hollywood’ couldn’t follow through and neither could a Charger release of ‘Out On The Floor’ in ’66 (presumably released to cash in on ‘The ‘In’ Crowd’s’ success) but ‘Out On The Floor’ did chart in the UK on re-release in September ’75. Dobie took acting lessons and appeared in stage productions of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, ‘Look Homeward, Angel’ and spent two years in the Los Angeles cast of ‘Hair’, he was also a fine songwriter and co-composed ‘I’m Only Speaking My Heart’, ‘Streets Of Fire’, ‘I Can Live With That’, ‘If I Ever Needed You’ and several other good songs. He worked with Mentor and Paul Williams at Almo-Irving music publishers as a songwriter after spending sometime as a member of soul/ funk group Pollution, who also featured Tata Vega. Other chart successes came with ‘Loving Arms’ on MCA in ’73, ‘Find 'Em, Fool 'Em & Forget 'Em’ on Capricorn in ’76 and ‘You Can Do It’ on Infinity in ’78. Gray had more than 20 albums issued and many of his singles were re-issued. After ‘Drift Away’ Dobie moved to Nashville where it was recorded. When I talked to Troy Seals, who played guitar on those sessions in 1972 - he referred to Dobie’s music as “Country Soul” and it sure sounded good to a whole lot of music fans. Dobie died from cancer on 6 December 2011.
johnny otis born John Alexander Veliotes on 28 December 1921 in Vallejo, California.
Johnny Otis became one of the most influential figures in the West Coast music business.
Otis was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, singer, arranger, producer, DJ, club owner, talent scout, manager, label owner and a lot more - his major influences included Count Basie and jazz drummer Jo Jones. Johnny was of Greek parentage but early on elected to frequent the black side of the music business where the ‘soul’ resided. In 1940 he joined Otis ‘Count’ Matthews band in Oakland then a year later was playing with Willard Marsh’s Collegians. He also spent periods with Lloyd Hunter’s Serenaders and Harlan Leonard’s Rockets before forming his own big band in 1945. Two years later he opened the Barrelhouse nightclub in Watts, with business partner Bardu Ali which he used as a base from where to launch many of his discoveries who Included Preston Love, Carl ‘Pete’ Lewis, Little Esther, Big Jay McNeely, Charles Brown, Mel Walker, Devonia ‘Lady Dee’ Williams, the Robins and many, many more. Early records with Excelsior, Exclusive and Modern established him in LA and ‘Harlem Nocturne’ notched up his first sizable West Coast hit on Excelsior. But his earliest nationwide recording success came with Little Esther and the Robins ‘Double Crossing Blues’ that topped the US R&B charts in February 1950 on Savoy Records. This hit record went national and set off an almost continuous run of big R&B hit singles on Savoy which lasted for 2 years and included ‘Mistrustin’ Blues’ (#1), ‘Cupid’s Boogie’ (#1), ‘Deceivin’ Blues’ (#4), ‘Rockin’ Blues’ (#2), ‘Mambo Boogie’ (#4), ‘Gee Baby’ (#2), and ‘All Nite Long’ (#6) these records and several others showcased vocalists Mel Walker and Esther in duet and solo as well, backed by his Band, Quintette, Congregation or Show. Some Savoy recordings were also duplicated on subsidiary label Regent. When Esther moved over to Federal Records in 1951 Otis and his Show moonlighted under assumed personas to avoid contractual obligations. Johnny moved his Show to Mercury in 1952 and ‘Call Operator 210’ cruised to #4 R&B in August that year with Mel Walker on vocals. The following year he moved over to Don Robey’s Peacock label and here in addition to his own releases, the Show backed other Peacock artists on roster including Marie Adams, Little Richard, Joe Fritz and Big Mama Thornton. The entrepreneurial Mr. Otis was well wise to the sharp practices going on around him in the music business and cut quite a few of his own. One of his first gigs at Peacock was when the Otis Show played on Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ session (as ‘Kansas City Bill’) and apparently Johnny produced it (not that record producers were recognized by the industry at the time, that did not happen until Hound Dog’s writers Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller established the post of producer at Atlantic in the mid ‘50s) but somehow Otis managed to get his name added to the songwriting credits, that earned him quite a few dollars especially when Presley hit the big time with it in ’56 (Leiber & Stoller eventually got his name legally removed, but I doubt they got any royalties back). Allegedly Otis also produced some of Johnny Ace’s hits on sister label Duke and was definitely responsible for his best know hit ‘Pledging My Love’. Etta James was discovered by Johnny in 1954 and he put her on at the Barrelhouse and signed her to Modern where her first record ‘The Wallflower’ (Roll With Me Henry – inspired by Hank Ballard’s ‘Work With Me Annie’) went to #1 R&B in February ’55 and Otis steered her to another #6 hit ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’ and stayed influential until she moved to Chicago and Chess Records in 1960. Like his earlier protégé Little Esther, Etta also fell into the heroin trap. Johnny formed DIG the first of his 8 labels in 1956 and for the next year issued his half a dozen singles like ‘Let The Sun Shine In My Life’, ‘The Midnite Creeper’ and ‘The Night Is Young’ on his own label. The Show’s next move was to Capitol where after several false starts his biggest commercial successes came with ‘Ma (He’s Making Eyes At Me)’ #2 in the UK November ’57 and ‘Bye Bye Baby’ reached #20 in January 1958 but not as many Europeans bought ‘Willie & The Hand Jive’ (his last big US R&B/ Pop hit in June ’58) even though the ‘Hand Jive’ is said to have originated in mid ‘50s UK coffee bars. Eric Clapton’s version must have brought a very welcome royalty cheque in 1974. His final R&B hit single was ‘Country Girl’ on Kent in the spring of 1969 but he remained active in music recording on small labels such as Hawk Sound, Red Hot and Universal Jazz World. With his son Shuggie, Johnny recorded a number of R&B legends in the ‘70s on his own Blues Spectrum label and issued a dozen albums featuring Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Richard Berry, Joe Liggins and Amos Milburn revisiting their most famous tracks. After being ordained in the mid 70s Otis formed his own Landmark Community
Church, which got a reputation for good works and programs fighting poverty and hunger in the greater Los Angeles area. He had interests in a chicken farm and grew organic foods for LA Deli stores, was part owner of the Record Rack music store chain and as a broadcaster he frequented the radio waves for many years and had a daily show on WFOX, then later had his Blue Monday show on KPPC-FM then KPFA. The music industry did not pay Johnny Otis his dues as they should have but the R&B Foundation inducted him as a ‘Pioneer’ and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gave him an ‘influential’ award. He also received a Grammy for his The Spirit Of The Black Territory Bands Arhoolie album in 1992. Otis found time to write ‘Upside Your Head: R&B on Central Avenue’ published by Weslyan University Press in 1993. Johnny Otis was known by many names (some of them bogus to fool the man) but the most enduring and closest to the truth was ‘Godfather of Rhythm & Blues’ his influence on and contributions to music were, are and will remain inestimable. Johnny Otis died aged 90 at his home in Altadena, California on 17 January 2012
etta james born Jamesetta Hawkins 25 January 1938 in Los Angeles. Her mother Dorothy Hawkins was 14 and James always maintained that her father was the famous pool shark ‘Minnesota Fats’ (Rudolf Wanderone). After her adoptive mother died, Dorothy reappeared and took Etta (aged 12) to San Francisco. It seems that their relationship was a running battle and Etta became increasingly wayward. After gospel influences with the Echoes of Eden in her early years, James formed her own vocal trio the Creolettes with two teenage sisters Abbye and Jean Mitchell. They auditioned for bandleader and talent scout Johnny Otis who took them to LA to cut their first record ‘Rock With Me Henry’ (The Wallflower) for Modern as Etta James and the Peaches - with the addition of Richard Berry. This record went to #1 on the US R&B charts in February ’55 and her 3rd single ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’ reached #6 the following November. Over the next couple of years her records on Modern and Kent had little commercial success but are well worth obtaining on extensive 2CD compilations of the recordings from this period of her career issued by Ace or Jasmine. On tour with the Otis Band, Etta shared the stage and picked up a number of bad habits with the likes of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and Ike Turner to name but two. She signed up to Chicago’s Chess (Argo subsidiary) Records in 1959 and Leonard Chess took her under his dubious wing where she cut ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’ (#2 R&B), ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘Spoonful’ (with Harvey Fuqua) as Etta & Harvey (#6 R&B) plus ‘My Dearest Darling’ that all became hits in 1960. A career highlight came with her superb reworking of the old Glen Miller hit ‘At Last’ (#2 R&B/ 47 Pop) followed in ’61. Her powerful vocals were often cut in contrast with Riley Hampton’s cool arrangements. Her ‘live’ album Etta James Rocks The House captured the intensity of her appearances and later Tell Mama (’68), Etta James (’73) and Come A Little Closer (’74) also found success on the R&B album charts. She had many hit singles throughout the ‘60s ‘Something’s Got A Hold On Me’, ‘Stop The Wedding’, ‘Next Door To The Blues’ and ‘Pushover’ among the most successful. As a singer she was very influential, her defiant attitude was reflected in others like Janis Joplin - her lifestyle was outside the law. Heroin and bad company put her in jail on several occasions. Through the late 60s and throughout the 70s she consistently managed to hit the R&B charts with medium hits, often reworked classics like ‘I Found A Love’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ and ‘Piece Of My Heart’. Eventually Etta achieved control of her self -destructive streak and settled down with Artis Mills. James sang at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, appeared in Taylor Hackford’s Chuck Berry biopic ‘Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll’ in 1987 and finally kicked Heroin in 1988. Then was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Three years later Etta scored her only UK hit with ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ (after it was used on a Diet Coke TV ad). Her harrowing autobiography ‘Rage To Survive’ (see review in earshot 15) was written with David Ritz and published in 1998 and in 2002 she had gastric bypass surgery to reduce her weight from 400 to 200 pounds that allowed her return to singing. The release of the heavily fictional Chess Records biopic ‘Cadillac Records’ (’08) with Beyonce starring as Etta sparked a major digital reissue of most of her back catalogue but
the title of her millennium album Matriarch Of The Blues isprobably as good an epitaph as any – Etta James died aged 73 from leukaemia on 20 January 2012.
Other’s missing from music are Hubert Sumlin born 16 November 1931, Blues guitarist genius behind Howlin’ Wolf for more than 20 years. After Wolf died in 1976 Sumlin quit music but returned to continue a 30-year solo career. He influenced many of the Rock guitarists with his albums on Black & Blue, Black Top, Blues Special, JSP and others. Hubert died 4 December 2011. Jimmy Gilmer of Fireballs fame born 15 September 1940 had a big hit with ‘Sugar Shack’ in 1963. He and the Fireballs had another 5 US Top 40 hits between 1959–68 ‘Bottle Of Wine’ (Atco) reaching the Top 10. Miracle’s guitarist and songwriter Marv Tarpin born 13 June 1941 co-wrote ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, ‘My Girl Has Gone’, ‘The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage’ among others and also co-wrote ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ and ‘I’ll Be Doggone’ for Marvin Gaye. When Smokey Robinson left the Miracles in 1973 so did Marv and he continued to back Robinson until 2008. Marv died 30 September 2011 aged 70 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fallen soul sister Whitney Houston stumbled a few years ago, though she became a huge star, some say she never really reached her peak and definitely had the potential to, given time, reach the highest ach in the pop/ soul universe but sadly it was just not to be, she died in a hotel bath on the eve of the 54th Grammys, who tastefully (in the edited TV version) acknowledged her passing via upbeat host the excellent LL Cool J. Jennifer Hudson performed ‘I Will Always Love You’ in her honour and fortunately the proceedings did not descend into the trough of sentimentality that the media had in the past couple of days. The show ended on a high with Saint Paul reminding us all that in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make. More about Whitney next time…maybe.
Various – Bandera Doo Wop – Ace
It’s great to have all eleven Impressions Bandera tracks finally issued on CD at last. Some of these earliest Bandera sides were recorded at the label to compile a better rehearsal tape with the intention of attracting a more established Chicago label. The original open reel tape that the Impressions had previously put together themselves was recorded in Mayfield’s mother’s kitchen according to Curtis and as he said. “… they sounded like it.” There are a number of inaccuracies in Ian Saddlers notes. ‘For Your Precious Love’ was not leased to Vee-Jay - this is the rehearsal version. Producer Calvin Carter re-recorded a superior version of ‘For Your Precious Love’ at VJ, after he had struck a deal with Vi Muszynski, who had the Impressions under a one year contract but as yet no label to issue their records on. Once she got her share of the royalties from the VJ/ Falcon/ Abner hit, she then set up Bandera as an operational label. It’s true that some of these events may have blurred a little with the passing years but my information is taken from personal interviews with Curtis Mayfield (1971), Jerry Butler and Calvin Carter (1972), and Sam Gooden (2001). Due to their inexperience, the Impressions only earned pocket change from their first recordings. All profits went to Bandera and VJ. After the first year was up Jerry Butler left the group for a solo deal on VJ subsidiary Abner (Carter often encouraged this as with Gene Chandler and Dee Clark) and the Impressions cut a further four-track session with Curtis and Sam Gooden sharing leads and with Fred Cash replacing Butler. With no further hits, VJ dropped the group and on 27 April 1959 they cut their only Bandera single ‘Listen/ Shorty’s Got To Go’ at Hall Recording Studios featuring Sam on the ‘A’ side and Curtis on the ‘B’ side. All these Bandera tracks are featured here on this great CD. Though this single didn’t make any national impact, it did register in Chicago and Carter cut another five-track session with the Impressions from which ‘A New Love/ That You Love Me’ (Abner 1034) was issued. When Butler’s career went ballistic with ‘He Will Break Your Heart’ (a song he’d written with Carter and Mayfield) Curtis parked the Impressions for a few months and joined Jerry’s nationwide tour as his MD/ guitarist and wrote and played on Jerry’s following three top 10 hits. This kind of success enabled Mayfield to reform the Impressions and sign to ABC Paramount Records where their first single ‘Gypsy Woman’ established the group internationally. Incidentally - back at Bandera – ‘Shorty’s Got To Go’, ‘Pretty Betty’, ‘My Baby Loves Me’ were issued in America in 1962 on Design Records after ‘Gypsy Woman’ had been a huge hit and only ‘Shorty’s…’ been out on CD before. Considering how old these Bandera tracks are and the uneven quality of the source tapes, Duncan Cowell did a great reclamation job to reach this issue standard.
The remaining 14 Doo Wop tracks included on this excellent CD are shared between seven other Bandera artists who created a wide variety within the Doo Wop genre. The Majestics are featured three times with and without Kirk Taylor - ‘Run Run Daddy’ is Chicago Rock A Billy and a stark contrast to their pleading ‘From Out Of This World’. The Fleetones who feature twice, according to the notes also cut records as the Northfleet Brothers both gospel and secular. Their lead singer on ‘Please Tell Me’ had a great set of pipes - wonder what happened to him. Another of their records ‘Your Lover Man’ sounds like it was cut in Memphis. The Boomerangs ‘Telling Lies’ is Country Doo Wop and the Dailtones beautiful ‘Oh Baby Come Dance With Me’ echoes a strong flavour of early Drifters 2. There are some great pieces of Doo Wop memorabilia included in the 16-page booklet including a previously unseen photo of the Impressions with VJ label owner Vivian Carter. This is a great limited edition – don’t miss it as only 1500 copies were pressed.
Marv Johnson – I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose – Kent
Marvelous Marv Johnson had a lot of success down the years but somehow, it seems to me, he wasn’t quite as big a star as he deserved to be. After all he was one of a few singers that gave Motown its start even though his early hits all came out on United Artists. Marv’s two biggest US hits being ‘You Got What It Takes’ and ‘I Love The Way You Love’. In the UK however ‘I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose’ became his first Tamla Motown UK hit (earlier hits had been issued on London) and ‘I Miss You Baby’ also included here, was his last. Kent have issued his I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose album with 9 Bonus tracks plus a further 6 Mono single mixes a total of 26 tracks in all (these include 5 previously unissued Motown masters) that must make this just about the best value Marv Johnson album available at this time. I’ve always found Johnson very easy to listen to so for me this is a very welcome compilation. Marv was also a very accomplished songwriter as well as a gifted singer, he has a voice like honey that can make a fairly unimaginative song a pleasure to listen to. Not that these are those. Highlights include ‘Just The Way You Are’, ‘So Glad You Chose Me’, ‘You Got The Love I Love’, ‘There Goes A Lonely Man’, ‘Let’s Talk It Over’ and this is just the first time I’ve played it!
Julio Awad - Thousand Miles – Global Jazz
If jazz piano is your thing, you should give Julio Awad a listen. Don’t be put off by the rather chaotic start to track one ‘Tornado Tango’, the storm passes and it’s generally a smooth passage through ‘Lucy’, ‘3x4’, ‘I Saw You’, ‘Childs’, ‘We Arrived’ and ‘At Home’. Awad gets good support from eight musicians/ singers and I particularly liked the bass of Mark Egan and Patxi Pascual’s sax. ‘Thousand Miles’ and ‘Life’s A Treasure’ feature vocals from Lucy Cummins and Machan Taylor, who both wrote lyrics to Awad’s music. At times his music has a serene (almost eastern) quality, especially on ‘We Arrived’. But this musical journey is a rewarding one. Julio was born and raised in Argentina and moved to Spain a decade ago. Check his website www.julioawad.com for further info.
Jackie Wilson – Talk That Talk 2CD – Jasmine
Jasmine has come up with yet another knockout 2CD 60-track compilation, this time featuring the first five solo albums recorded by Jackie Wilson. Even though Jackie did not recover from the heart attack that cut his career short in 1975 and left him in a coma for a further 9 years his recording career was prolific. He had 50 hit solo singles, recorded many albums for Brunswick and before that had several hits with the Dominoes. His classic ‘Reet Petite’ has been a big hit more than once in the UK and many of his records were used on advertising campaigns long after his death, it was one of the records that laid the foundations for what became Motown Records. Wilson was a one off and his unique vocal style was very influential his energetic reputation earned him the nametag “Mr. Excitement” that was in no way any exaggeration. CD1 begins with his debut solo album He’s So Fine that includes his first solo hit ‘To Be Loved’ written by Berry Gordy and Billy Davis. The second album features his next big hit ‘Lonely Teardrops’ and his third ‘That’s Why (I Love You So)’ plus ’You Better Know It’ that was also featured in the movie “Go Johnny Go”. The third album So Much split here between CD1 and CD2 featured more hit singles ‘I’ll Be Satisfied’ and ‘Talk That Talk’. Jackie Sings The Blues, Wilson’s fourth album in 2 years features ‘Doggin’ Around’ which became his third #1 in April 1960. ‘Night’ from A Woman A Lover A Friend hit #3 later that year and the title track became Jackie’s fourth #1. The third hit single from this fine album ‘I Am The Man’ went into the R&B Top 10 in late November. A great value 2CD set.
Jennifer Hudson – I Remember Me – Arista
One dozen of the best from vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson on her latest album I Remember Me. This time she’s cut three Alicia Keys songs that fit well into this percussion driven collection. It’s all good, with highlights ‘Don’t Look Down’, ‘Still Here’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Why Is It So Hard’ and the title track. This is a stronger set, well produced by Clive Davis and Larry Jackson. Good photos in the booklet by Anthony Mandler show Hudson looking fine, she deserves her success and I wish her more of the same. It’s a pity that Arista & j records have recently both been absorbed under the RCA logo but Jennifer will no doubt find good fortune on whatever label survives.
Gabriela Martina – Curiosity
Bright and fresh - Gabriella takes us on a selection of excursions through her songscape - all written by her. As far as I can tell she is completely original and this sampler treats us to five tracks of interest including ‘Ain’t Nobody’, ‘Like A Seed In The Earth’, ‘My Best Smile For You’, and ‘Catch Me A Star’. This album comes to me via Music Submit but Gabriela has ‘Narcissus’ and a dozen other cuts on YouTube and if you want to know more check out other links at www.gabrielamartina.ch - She’s definitely an exciting new artist that deserves big success with her versatile music.
Swamp Dogg – It’s All Good – Singles 1963-89 – Kent
Swamp Dogg had just three hit singles over a ten-year period and the first came in early 1966 as Little Jerry Williams with ‘Baby, You’re My Everything’ (Calla- #32 R&B). He assumed the Swamp Dogg monika in 1971 after ‘Mama’s Baby - Daddy’s Maybe’ went to #33 R&B on Canyon in April 1970 and his most recent minor success ‘My Heart Just Can’t Stop Dancing’ just reached #7 in July ’77 - a rarity that didn’t make this compilation. Swamp is much better known as a songwriter whose songs have been recorded by the mighty and the minutiae. Little Jerry, like many of us was enamored with Rock & Roll but being a musician it came through in his early work. The Killer’s influences in his piano and vocal style are plain to hear - he could have been Jerry Dogg Lewis and then later when he worked with Gary US Bonds – Jerry US Bonds was a possibility but sensibly he settled for Swamp Dawg. This interesting compilation of singles lovingly collected by the soul pioneers at Kent give you as wide as an understanding of his talents as you’re likely to get anywhere. His passion cannot be denied on many of these entertaining tracks – give it a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.
Lee Dorsey – Soul Mine 2CD – Charly
Snapper issue the perfect compilation from that ‘Ride Your Pony’ man Lee Dorsey. His greatest hits and more are contained in this superb double CD booklet. Right from his first #1 hit ‘Ya Ya’, through ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Get Out My Life Woman’, ‘Working In A Coal Mine’ to ‘Holy Cow’, and ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)’. Dorsey was New Orleans soul establishment but he no pretentions, he was by all reports a down to earth nice guy who was in consistently good humour – and that’s just what he sounds like on his records. CD1 contains a wealth of previously unissued recordings from the mid-sixties, a few of them demos, others from the unfinished last album. Many of Lee’s hits were produced and some were written by Crescent City genius Allen Toussaint and his piano enriches those sides. This is the best collection I’ve ever seen, 56 tracks in a great package too - With expert notes by Cliff White and compiler Bob Fisher.
David White Jazz Orchestra – Flashpoint - MSR
Perhaps not everybody will embrace the big sound of David White’s Jazz Orchestra, even with all the great talent that he and his band possesses. But there are enough of you out there who will love this kind of quality sound. It’s not easy to follow in the footsteps of Duke Ellington or Count Basie, especially in these cash strapped times but judging by this amazing album Mr. White deserves to survive and prosper and then go on to greater success. Recorded earlier this year in New York City Flashpoint displays through such beautiful pieces as ‘Pandora’, ‘Eyes Closed’, ‘First Light’, ‘I’ll See You In Court’ and many more, a range of moods and colours that hold your attention and satisfy your soul. There are some great individual solos, too many to mention here. But I recommend this album to anyone who has the slightest interest in the sound of the jazz orchestra. All theses songs were written, arranged and conducted by David - I for one, look forward to hearing more from the multi-talented David White.
The Johnny Otis Story Vol. 1 Midnight At The Barrelhouse – Ace
Described as the first of a two-part career-spanning salute to the lynchpin of West Coast R&B, The Johnny Otis Story Part 1 cherry picks his output between 1945-57 and is subtitled ‘Midnight At The Barrelhouse’. This was where Johnny coached and presented many of his early protégés including the great Little Esther (Phillips) and the ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, both featured here. Pete ‘Guitar’ Lewis is also playing on half a dozen of the 25 tracks. Two of Johnny’s biggest hits ’Ma (He’s Making Eyes At Me)’ and ‘Willie & The Hand Jive’ are also included and there are plenty lesser known tracks to hold the interest. Good informative 20-page booklet stuffed with photos, labels and other memorabilia with notes by compiler Tony Rounce is up to the usual Ace high standard. Looking forward to Volume 2 already.
Matt Wilson – Fable
Matt Wilson provides a quartet of Pop/ R&B and jazz tinged tracks that are well worth a listen.
He’s described as piano entertainer. Songs on offer here on his sampler EP are ‘Keep It Together’, ‘Facebook’ a topical take on personal obsession, ‘Bring It’ and ‘Nobody’s Drivin’ Home Tonight’ a good R&B stamper but there are half a dozen more worth investigation on the full album - website www.mattwilsonband.com - Matt toured for two years in a production of ‘Piano Man’ a musical based on the career of Billy Joel, before setting up his own quartet and cutting his debut EP/ album. The group come from Austin, Texas and they sound pretty good to me.
Various – Disco Gold – BGP
Most interesting to me on this BGP compilation Disco Gold are the fine Independents ‘I Love You, Yes I Do’ and ‘Arise & Shine’ tracks plus the two Curtis Mayfield written and produced Patti Jo cuts ‘Make Me Believe In You’ and ‘Aint No Love Lost’. But I do remember Tom Moulton’s Scepter Records mixes as being the real deal. So if dancing is your thing get down with these super cuts – Five of which have never been reissued before – listening to them now has me wrestling with my walking frame. Remember you’ve gotta get down to get up and have a good time. And there’s no better beats to dance to than this disco dozen.
Various - Where The Boys Are - Songs Of Sedaka & Greenfield – Ace
Another superb songwriter collection in the great ongoing Ace series this time from the joint pens of Neil Sedaka & Howie Greenfield who were two of the Brill Buildings finest back in the day. This compilation presents 25 of their best remembered classics starting with the ridiculously commercial ‘Stupid Cupid’ that gave Connie Francis her best known hit (it must have been a lot of fun singing it every night on tour). Another Brill star Carole King cut Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ on Dimension but I think Neil’s own version was the bigger hit as with Dee Dee Sharps ‘Calendar Boy’ but it’s interesting to hear these versions. Nonsense lyrics on Mickey & Kitty’s ‘Ooh Sha La’ but again very catchy. Micky ‘McHouston’ Baker made his reputation as a New York session guitarist before getting his biggest hit with the recently departed Sylvia 3 years earlier. You can hear Sedaka in the background and even in the vocal slant of the singers on some of these tracks it’s amazing just how influential even infectious he was on the interpretation of their songs. It’s great to hear the wonderful sound of the Everly Brothers on ‘Crying In The Rain’ a great record. There are so many fine tracks on this comp ‘Get Rid Of Him’ Dionne Warwick, ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ Clyde McPhatter, ‘It Hurts To Be In Love’ Gene Pitney, and of course the superb ‘Walking In The Footsteps Of A Fool’ by Ben E King. This duo had such versatility just listen to Nancy Wilson’s ‘Don’t Look Over Your Shoulder’, ‘Bewitched’ by Peggy Lee, ‘The Diary’ Little Anthony & the Imperials or ‘Working On A Groovy Thing’ by Patti Drew - Great songs well recorded.
Jerry Butler & the Impressions – No End Or Time – Jasmine
A year after Jerry Butler had his first big hit ‘For Your Precious Love’ as lead singer with the Impressions, VeeJay producer Calvin Carter persuaded him to go solo and together they created a body of work that would turn Jerry into one of the greatest vocalist of all time. This fine Jasmine CD combines the first two albums that Butler cut at VJ/Abner plus five bonus tracks and they contain five of his earliest hit singles. CD1 begins with Jerry Butler Esquire and ‘September Song’, it also features the Impressions first two singles ‘For Your Precious Love’ and ‘Come Back My Love’ and highlights ‘The Challenge’, ‘Rainbow Valley’, ‘Lost’ (his debut single and #17 hit), ‘No End Or Time’ and ‘You Go Right Through Me’. Jerry’s landmark second album He Will Break Your Heart was rushed out after the huge single of the same name which took him to #1 R&B/ 7 Pop in October 1960. This famous hit record really established Butler and co-writer Curtis Mayfield who would bring the Impressions back and top the charts the following year – three more of their tracks are included here. Other great tracks include ‘A Lonely Soldier’ (#25 R&B), ‘Thanks To You’ and ‘I Found A Love’ but these are 25 great tracks from the Iceman. First time on CD in the UK.
Meters - Here Comes The Meter Man 2CD – Charly
The entire Meters Josie catalogue on 2CDs - 50 tracks from one of the premier soul/ funk instrumental bands of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, all enclosed in a great ‘booklet package’ that Snapper are currently specializing in. The Meters were Sansu’s houseband and backed most of the artists on that great New Orleans label. Sansu was owned and run by Marshall Sehorn & Allen Toussaint and between them they produced all the company’s hits. The Meters were originally formed by Art Neville in 1967 and were first known as Art Neville & the Neville Sounds. Bob Fishers liner notes tell us in addition to Art (keyboards) that the Meters featured Joseph Modeliste (percussion), Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and George Porter (bass). Also featured in the original line up were Arts brothers Aaron and Cyril plus Gary Brown (sax) but these three left when the owner of N’Orleans club the Ivanhoe on Bourbon Street would only book them as a quartet. They changed their name to the Meters when they cut ‘Sophisticated Cissy’ in ’68. The group performed as a quintet and a quartet at various times. CD1 begins with album The Meters (’69) and continues with Look-Ka Py Py (’70). CD2 picks up with Strutin’ (’70) and features several single sides. Singles cuts as Art Neville & the Meters ‘Bo Diddley’ and ‘Heartaches’ plus Cyril Neville & the Meters ‘Gossip’ finish off this funky interlude.
Brook Benton – Silky Smooth Tones 2CD – Jasmine
At last, a great Brook Benton compilation of his early solo recordings. The problem with buying Benton on CD in the past has been that he re-recorded much of his repertoire and though I doubt he ever turned in a substandard vocal throughout his career, if you wanted the original recordings they were difficult to find. Here Bob Fisher’s compilation features the first five of Benton’s Mercury albums cut between 1959 and 1960. Brook teamed up with arranger Clyde Otis and between them they wrote many fine songs starting with ‘It’s Just A Matter Of Time’, which provided his first #1 and became the title of his debut album. The remaining eleven tracks are his unique versions of standards including ‘When I Fall In Love’, ‘I’ll String Along With You’, and ‘I’m In The Mood For Love’ and this set the style for the first three albums. The Benton/ Otis song ‘Endlessly’ became his second top ten hit and the title of album two. Brook’s silky baritone enriches ‘You’ll Never Know’, ‘Because Of You’, ‘Around The World’ and ‘Blue Skies’ that are just a few of the 14 tracks that ease us through to the end of CD1. Songs I Love To Sing features a dozen more superb Benton versions of well-known standards from the late 50s such as ‘Moonlight In Vermont’, ‘September Song’, ‘Lover Come Back To Me’, ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ and his big hit from early ’61 ‘Fools Rush In’. It was Clyde Otis’ bright idea to team Brook and Dinah Washington, two of Mercury’s biggest stars of the time together in duet. Artistically it proved to be right on the money because together they scored two #1s in a row with ‘Baby (You Got What It Takes)’ and ‘A Rockin’ Good Way’ but Dinah had a reputation for being difficult to work with and the amiable Brook got a tongue lashing and their falling out prevented further duets. All of the four recordings they cut together are here and Clyde Otis had to complete the The Two Of Us album with Brook and Dinah solos (Washington’s tracks have been removed from this compilation). More contemporary tracks mostly co-written by Benton or Otis are featured here ‘Not One Step Behind’, ‘Someone To Believe In’ and ‘Because Of Everything’. The final album Golden Hits Of Brook Benton completes this superb 54 track collection and features all his hits up until the end of 1960 including – ‘Hurtin’ Inside’ (#23), ‘So Close’ (#5), ‘Thank You Pretty Baby’ (#1), ‘So Many Ways’ (#1), ‘The Ties That Bind’ (#15), ‘Kiddio (#1)/ The Same One (#21). Highly Recommended.
David Anthony – Kool & Smooth – Welwood Music
The opening title track lays down the right groove and the following 13 tracks roll on with the same enjoyable feel. David’s keyboard artistry makes for very pleasant listening as well as moving you at the same time. His vocal style doesn’t remind me of anybody else either plus he’s written all the music, lyrics and arrangements himself – accomplished. I’ve only had a couple of chances to play this fine album so far but highlights include the title track the instrumental ‘Coltrane’s Opus’, ‘Haven’t Heard A Word’ and ‘You Fooled Me For The Last Time’ but I’m pretty sure others will grow on me soon. There is also some very good sax work from Paul Stone. I have met the very excellent Mr David Anthony a couple of times in his capacity as the Impressions MD and this fine debut album illustrates just how talented and versatile David really is. At home in Chattanooga Mr Anthony plays at a few local cool spots with The Gentlemen’s Jazz Quartet but I think he’s an artist with a great deal to offer of his own as well. As he proved in the first place this man is very Kool, Smooth and gifted.
Dee Clark – A History 1952 – 60 2CD
Dee had several levels to his tenor, that sounds deeper on ‘What’d I Say’ and still deeper on ‘Senor Blues’ but Clark’s vocal style had most success in high register. However he was more than Chicago’s answer to Clyde McPhatter though he was clearly inspired by the ‘Archangel of Soul’. It’s difficult for us, more than half a century later, to understand just how influential McPhatter was on the up coming generation of American high tenors like Smokey, Marv, Dee, and many more. Because Clyde’s hits with the Dominoes and Drifters were only big in the USA, none were issued in the UK and Europe until much later. Clark made some memorable hits in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s’ and he was visible on the R&B chart up until 1963. But before that in the early ‘50s he sang with the Hambone Kids while still at school and they caused quite a stir in Chicago on OKeh Records. Dee moved onto the Goldentones who were championed by DJ Herb ‘Kool Gent’ Kent and soon the group were hip enough to change their name to the Kool Gents. Kent negotiated their move to Vee-Jay and they cut some good records such as ‘I Just Can’t Help Myself’ there where they also doubled as the Delegates on a couple of singles before producer Calvin Carter persuaded Clark to go solo (the specialists amongst you should note that ‘Just Like A Fool’ and ‘Crazy Over You’ by the Kool Gents has not been issued elsewhere). Two early solo singles were issued on temporary VJ subsidiary Falcon and the second ‘Oh Little Girl’ c/w ‘Wondering’ backed by the Upsetters in 1958 had him sounding quite like Little Richard on one side and Clyde on the other. But it had no chart success and after the label’s name changed to Abner Dees luck changed with it and he had his first big hit with the self penned ‘Nobody But You’ in late ’58. Clark followed on with a succession of hits including ‘Just Keep It Up’ that also scored big pop success, ‘Hey Little Girl’ and ‘How About That’ which went to #10 R&B /Top 40 pop. Carter made the sound of Clarks records more commercial and he sold more pop than R&B with ‘You’re Looking Good’ and the album of the same name also found big success. ‘Your Friends’ found equal medium mid 30 placings on both charts but the second disc on this fine Bob Fisher compilation features a perfect selection of his pre ’61 album tracks that include great versions of Jimmy Reed’s ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’, his own ‘Just Like A Fool’ and ‘You There’, Ray Charles much cut ‘What’d I Say’ and much, much more including his duet with Jerry Butler and the previously unissued ‘Emma Jean’. Super compilation.
Various – London American Label 1958 – Ace
The sixth issue in Ace’s landmark series The London American Label – Year By Year takes us all the way back to 1958 and features 26 releases from that memorable year. Track 1 is Duane Eddy’s ‘Cannonball’ that twanged it’s way to #22 in January ’69. In addition to the better known hits by the likes of Eddie Cochran ‘Summertime Blues’, Pat Boone’s spiritual ‘A Wonderful Time Up There’, Bobby Darin’s first big hit ‘Splish Splash’, Jane Morgan’s ‘The Day That The Rains Came’ a UK #1, even ‘Ooh My Soul’ by Little Richard - We are also treated to some less well remembered classics such as ‘Break-Up’ Jerry Lee Lewis, the great ‘Lend Me Your Comb’ by Carl Perkins, ‘Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes’ by Chuck Willis, ‘The Shadow Knows’ by the Coasters and ‘Geraldine’ by Jack Scott. Also on this fine collection are a few obscure cuts form the likes of Royal Holidays (‘Margaret’), Frank DeRosa Orchestra ‘Big Guitar’, Tony & Joe’s ‘The Freeze’ and some covers such as the Mills Bros. ‘Get A Job’ (better known by the Silhouettes) and Jimmy Starr’s version of the Conway Twitty hit ‘It’s Only Make Believe’. Unexpected highlights include ‘The Secret’ by the Gainors, ‘Tootsie’ by Carl McVoy and one I had forgotten all about ‘The Greasy Spoon’ by Billie & Lilie (but not a patch on Parts 1 & 2 by Billy Preston). Great comp!
Various – Come Together - Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney – Ace
This is an agreeable compilation of Black American’s take on Lennon McCartney’s songs. It’s an enjoyable return journey through the Beatles songbook and sounds on a par with the earlier Dylan companion. ‘Day Tripper’ is a previously unissued take of the Otis Redding hit and other highlights from this compilation include ‘We Can Work It Out’ - Maxine Brown, ‘And I Love Her’ - the Vibrations, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ - Little Richard, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ - Donald Height, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – Al Green, ‘Let It Be’ - Aretha Franklin and of course the more familiar ‘Blackbird’ by Billy Preston. All soul music and Beatles fans should fond this compilation interesting.
Various – Raunchy Volume 2 More Instrumentals 2CD – Jasmine
Jasmine have released the second great 2CD volume of pop/ rock instrumentals entitled Raunchy – Rockin’ Into The 60s. This desirable 51 track compilation begins with title track Ernie Freeman’s ‘Raunchy’ which was a #1 US R&B/ #4 Pop hit in November ’57, and features an eclectic mix of hits, toe tappers and a few interesting, if a little obscure, grooves that include ‘Big Guitar’ the Owen Bradley Quintet, ’The Happy Organ’ Dave Baby Cortez, ‘Bongo Rock’ Preston Epps, the haunting ‘Sleepwalk’ by Santo & Johnny (that should have been as big as ‘Albatross’). Other hits also include ‘Teen Beat’ by Sandy Nelson, who endured better than most and ‘40 Miles Of Bad Road’ by Duane Eddy who was by far the most consistent instrumental hitmaker of his generation and has six more cuts on this comp. CD2 also jogs some more good memories with ‘Beatnik Fly’ Johnny & the Hurricanes, ‘Apache’ the Shadows, ‘Because They’re Young’ Duane Eddy, the classic ‘Walk Don’t Run’ by the Ventures, ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ Bill Black’s Combo (#11 Hot 100 October ’60) and a few I’d forgotten about like Chet Atkins’ ‘Teensville’ and ‘Gonzo’ by James Booker.
George Jackson – Don’t Count Me Out – Kent
It’s kind of hard to understand how this many great George Jackson tracks could lay dormant for such a long period. Anyway here is - the great ‘missing’ George Jackson double album that could have done so much more for him had it been released at the time. Thanks to Kent, finally it can be appreciated in retrospect and having played it a couple of times so far, I highly recommend it. Kent also issued Jackson’s In Memphis 1972-77 in 2009 that also caused a something of a stir with tracks like ‘Let’s Live For Ourselves’, ‘All In Your Mind’ and ‘Take Your Love And Go’ but these Fame tracks all sound better than good - personal highlights include ‘Search You Heart’, ‘Let’s Stop Hurting Each Other’, ‘I Can't Leave Your Love Alone’, ‘Don’t Count Me Out’, ‘The Feeling Is Right’, ‘Let’s Make a Deal’, ‘Back In Your Arms’ and ‘3-F Blues’ that was recorded as ‘Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, Forget ‘Em’ by the late great Dobie Gray. But I guarantee that your choices will probably be completely different, so good is the selection here on offer. Check it out and see what I mean.
Louis Jordan – The Rock ‘n’ Roll Years 2CD – Jasmine
Louis Jordan was an immensely influential figure straddling Jazz and R&B - also known for his humour, energy and live extravaganzas but not so much for these Rock ‘n’ Roll hits. He had 57 chart singles for Decca in the ‘40s and ‘50s but this great 2CD compilation features his later RCA and Mercury recordings made between 1955-58. Jordan may have dropped off the R&B/ Pop charts but his music was just as explosive and entertaining as ever. CD1 is a collection of singles (and sessions) featuring big favourites of the time like ‘Whatever Lola Wants’, ‘Baby Let’s Do It Up’, ‘Chicken Back’, and ‘Cat Scratchin’’. Plus for the many Jordan fans there are also three previously unissued RCA tracks on this set. On ‘Big Bess’ you can hear Louis had the excitement of Little Richard before he did. This is a great collection of R&R music that has not been heard that much before now. CD2 contains two complete Mercury albums Somebody Up There Digs Me and Man We’re Wailin’ on which Jordan revisits some of biggest hits such as ‘Caldonia’, ‘Choo Choo Ch’Boogie’, I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town’, ‘Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens’ and ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ plus some surprising additions like ‘Got My Mojo Working’. His band is so damn good! This is another great Jasmine compilation!!
Little Walter – Boom Boom/ Singles As & Bs 2CD – Jasmine
I didn’t know much about Little Walter until now – except he may have killed a singer who was masquerading as him down south (but that just might be an ugly rumour) and that he was one of the great Chicago harp bluesmen of the ‘50s. Perhaps that’s all you need to know but if like me you have an unquenchable thirst for great music, you might want to check out this superb 2CD compilation from Jasmine. Here are the only 50 tracks you will ever need from Little Walter - all his A & B sides. He had two R&B #1s ‘Juke’ - the introductory track composed by him and ‘My Babe’ written by the indelible Chess bluesman Willie Dixon. All his R&B hits are included here ‘Sad Hours’, ‘Blues With Feeling’, ‘You’re So Fine’, ‘You Better Watch Yourself’ and ‘Last Night’. Walter was perhaps the most influential harmonica player of all time, he played with Muddy Waters band for a number of years, toured Europe twice in the ‘60s and appeared with the Rolling Stones in 1964. This troubled blue troubadour died in 1968 when he was just 38 from injuries inflicted in a street fight. 40 years, a lifetime later in 2008 he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Candi Staton – Evidence 2CD – Kent
Dean Rudland dives into the Fame catalogue for Kent Records and comes up with a super 48-track collection from the delectable Candi Staton. In fact her complete Fame masters that contain a dozen previously unissued cuts. These fine recordings were made over the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and source the songs of the wonderful writers connected with that great studio like Clarence Carter, George Jackson, Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, Troy Seals and the main man himself Rick Hall. CD1 breezes through ‘I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart’, ‘Sweet Feeling’, ‘Do Your Duty’, ‘That Old Time Feeling’, ‘Freedom Is Just Beyond The Door’ and ‘Where Were You’ (that should of found it’s way onto a single at the time). The second half of this soulful feast reveals two-dozen more delights such as ‘It’s Not Love’, ‘Something’s Burning’
and ‘I’ll Drop Everything And Come Running’. It’s like having four great Candi Staton albums for the price of one – don’t consume it all at once ‘cause you know that too much of a good thing…
Bo Diddley – I’m A Man – Singles As & Bs 1955-59 – Jasmine
Despite how influential Bo Diddley was, it’s kind of surprising that he only had 11 hit singles between 1955-67 - eight of which are here on this great Jasmine compilation. Many of the later Rock groups like the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, the Yardbirds and Tom Petty were inspired enough to cover his records. So if you want to get back to where it began, this is an excellent place to start. Captured here are the self-named song and only #1 of his illustrious career ‘Bo Diddley’ (the first of many - also covered by Buddy Holly) and other greats including ‘Pretty Thing’, ‘Who Do You Love’, a personal fave ‘Mona’ and ‘Hush Your Mouth’ etc. Diddley was an R&B legend (both feet) and this CD puts you right where it all started.
Various - The Girl Group Sound 2CD – Jasmine
The Jasmine 2CD compilation The Shirelles and the development of the Girl Group Sound is a fascinating journey through much of what’s best about the female vocal group era. It begins with the early 50s and the Enchanters, whose lead had a slightly Billie Holiday sound on ‘I’ve Lost’ and ‘Today Is Your Birthday’. Moving West - Shirley Gunter & the Queens laid down a couple of uptempo tracks ‘Oop Shoop and ‘It’s You’ and CD1 moves swiftly through a choice selection of tracks including ‘In Paradise’ by the Cookies, the famous ‘Eddie My Love’ by the Teen Queens, the Jaynetts with ‘I Wanted To Be Free’, two tracks from the Crystals (not the Spector group), ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ by the Dreamers and ends with four wailers by the Chantels. CD2 starts with the Poni Tails big hit ‘Born Too Late’ and presents a good selection from the Tassels, the Delicates, the Bobbettes (including ‘I Shot Mr Lee’ and ‘Untrue Love’), the Starlets with a rather good version of ‘PS I Love You’, the Chiffons with ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and two from the Primettes who are unrecognizable from their later incarnation as the Supremes. For the final half of this CD you are treated to the Shirelles complete 1960 Scepter album Tonight’s The Night on which you can hear just how sophisticated a vocal group they were. Despite their many hits and the fact that they were the first black female group to top the Hot 100 the Shirelles were criminally mis-managed and should have had a much longer and wider internationally celebrated career – they really were that good. Superb compilation and annotation by Bob Fisher as usual.
Barbara Lynn - A Good Woman – Kent
Great comp from Tony R at Ace/ Kent collects the best singles taken from a 20-year section of Barbara Lynn’s career – after the Jamie years (‘You’ll Lose A Good Thing’ and ‘You’re Gonna Need Me’ are not included here). Nevertheless here are 24 super cuts taken from the Tribe/ Atlantic/Jet Stream/ Copyright/ Starlite years beginning with ‘I’m A Good Woman’. The highlights are a superb version of ‘You Left The Water Running’, ‘I Don’t Want A Playboy’, the bluesy ‘(Until Then) I’ll Suffer’, ‘Take Your Love And Run’ a rather untypical number (that borrows a Motown riff), ‘Movin’ On A Groove’ and the mature heartache of ‘Give Him His Freedom’. But there’s no need to cherry pick the tracks, just sit back and enjoy. Babs played a mean left-handed Fender, like Hendrix (with a totally different but never-the-less great outcome) and even titles like ‘Disco Music’ and ‘Sugar Coated Love’ are a lot better than you might think. Lynn had genuine talent, she wrote and played guitar on most of her best sides and it all comes through. Her 8 R&B single hits between 1962-71 were as good as any of her contemporaries and many of her songs that didn’t chart like ‘Give Him His Freedom’, ‘I Warned You Baby’, ‘Nice & Easy’ and ‘Call My Bluff’ are superb. Give this quality soul a listen >
Various – Doo Wop The Greatest Hits 2CD – Jasmine
Volume 2 of Doo Wop The Greatest Hits covers the years 1957-60 and contains recordings by groups like the Drifters (There Goes My Baby, Dance With Me, Save The Last Dance For Me, This Magic Moment), the Coasters (Poison Ivy) that I wouldn’t really consider Doo Wop - but let’s not split hairs – they’re all classics and worthy of inclusion on any compilation. Among the 54 tracks on this desirable 2CD set are many gems including the Dominoes ‘Deep Purple’, and ‘Stardust’ and the wistful vocals of Eugene Mumford, who became the groups lead singer after the departure of Jackie Wilson. The great ‘Can I Come Over Tonight’ is also here from the Velours who in 1968 toured the UK and Europe as the Drifters and in still later years changed their name to the Fantastics. Fine tracks from the Fidelity’s (The Things I Love), the Fiestas (with their super cover of the Sheiks ‘So Fine’), the classic ‘You’re So Fine’ by the Falcons, a personal favorite ‘Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)’ by the Impalas, the beautiful ‘There’s A Moon Out Tonight’ by the Capris and CD2 is also packed with even more Doo Wop treasures.
Early on there is ‘Finger Poppin’ Time by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, ‘Where Or When’ by Dion & the Belmonts, ‘Image Of A Girl’ the Safaris, ‘Mia Amore’ the Flamingos and Smokey’s Miracles masterpiece ‘Shop Around’.
Johnny Guitar Watson – Original Gangster Of Love – Jasmine
This 29-track compilation of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s early recordings charts his development as a singer, songwriter and guitarist during the mid to late 50s. His first hit ‘These Lonely, Lonely Nights’ went to #10 on the R&B charts in October ’55 and was a cover of Earl King’s Ace hit a couple of months earlier. These blues highlights include ‘Hot Little Mama’, ‘Too Tired’ and ‘Don’t Touch Me’. Occasionally The Gangster of Love borrowed a tune or two as with ‘Love Me Baby’ (Hallelujah I Love Her So) and ‘Honey’ (You Send Me) but generally he stuck to Traditional Blues themes early on. Later Johnny evolved into a much wiser and more intuitive artist who could change with the times and was active until his death in the mid ‘90s.
His musical biography is long and rich - start here.
Arthur Conley – I’m Living Good – Kent < 24
Like his patron before him, Arthur Conley learned his craft under the shadow of the great soul master Sam Cooke and then after he took him under his wing the King of Soul Otis Redding. In the ‘60s Conley found these two major influences hard to shake off. His biggest hit was a re-write of Cooke’s ‘Meet Me At Mary’s Place’ (not on this compilation) as ‘Sweet Soul Music’ and in the three-year span that he was having hits, Arthur sounded like a mixture of both these soul giants. On this fine album are a great collection of songs beginning with ‘Let’s Go Steady Again’ written by Sam’s business partner JW Alexander and it first appeared as the flipside of Cooke’s 1959 hit ‘Only Sixteen’. The album is loosely chronological and takes us through Arthur’s vocal evolution and his eventual emergence as himself on songs like ‘Take a Step’ and ‘Is That You Love’ we begin to hear him coming through on ‘All Day Singing’, ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ and on title track ‘I’m Living Good’ he arrives fully fledged. Sadly for Conley this was about the time that his US audience lost interest and he dropped off the radar. I’m Living Good is fascinating album full of good songs, interesting productions and soulful performances.
Etta James – Tough Woman – Jasmine 2CD
Etta had been going down slow for a couple of years and now has finally gone to meet her maker. The re-issue companies have released many CDs in the past year or so and her music never fails to hit the right nerve. Another fine Bob Fisher comp features 46 of her great early tracks, taken from various sources including Modern, Crown, Kent and the complete At Last album on Argo. Early hits are included here from ‘The Wallflower’, ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’, ‘If I Can’t Have You’ (with Harvey Fuqua) and many more cuts worthy of your attention. And the cherry on the top is from Etta at her best - ‘At Last’.
Etta James – Call My Name – Kent
For the very first time on CD is another sumptuous collection of Etta James tracks from the Chess/ Cadet vaults. The initial dozen come from her stunning Call My Name album first issued on vinyl in 1967, that includes such greats as ‘That's All I Want From You’, I’m So Glad’,
title track 842-3089 (Call My Name – that owes a little to the Wicked Pickett), ‘Don’t Pick Me For Your Fool’, a little more intense version of Mayfield’s ‘It’s All Right’, and the R&B hit ‘I Prefer You’. Listen to that great production from one of Chicago’s finest (but underrated) Monk Higgins. A dazzling dozen Bonus tracks feature more hits, a great reworking of Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ and ‘Almost Persuaded’ plus (the first 8 produced at Fame that suit Etta beautifully and are all great) ‘I’ve Gone Too Far’. If you like Etta it’s all good!
Etta James – Losers Weepers – Kent
The superb but previously overlooked Etta James album Losers Weepers is now available on CD from Kent and occupies the first 11 tracks on this great compilation. Most of the production is by Ralph Bass with additions from Gene Barge (a great update of the Falcon’s ‘I Found A Love’ and Aaron Neville’s ‘Tell It Like It Is’) plus Esmond Edwards and Bobby Martin (a softer side of Etta on ‘Never My Love’ and ‘I Never Meant To Love Him’. The Losers Weepers album highlights include ‘I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good’, ‘Losers Weepers’ … listen there’s not a dud track on this album and Etta’s a touch less raucous - which is fine by me. The eleven Bonus tracks include ‘Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing’, ‘Tighten Up Your Own Thing’ and ‘Quick Reaction And Satisfaction’ - Quick get down to HMV while it’s still there.
Nina Simone – Fine & Mellow – Jasmine 2CD
Bob Fisher’s done it again! This Nina Simone 2CD set is the best compilation of her recordings for a long, long time. Nina’s never been one of the singers that I had to have everything by but I did get At The Town Hall when it was first issued in 1959 and later on, for years it was just not available on CD (without lots of other tracks I didn’t particularly want). So here it is on this fine 40-track collection sounding superb - just as it did all those years ago. Down the years I’ve been lucky enough to see Nina playing live on a few occasions and for me that is where she really excelled – somehow she always managed to give that extra 10% in front of an audience. But never more so than at the New York Town Hall in 1959 – that was one show I would love to have seen. All 10 tracks from ‘Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair’ to ‘Fine & Mellow’ are exceptional. The other three of her initial albums fall into the great category Little Girl Blue (which features her 1987 re-issue hit ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’), The Amazing… and Live At Newport. I love her robust piano style and sultry, cool vocals, she was indeed a unique singer. Don’t miss this one!
© earshot (peter burns) December 2011
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