Monday, January 15, 2018

Re-lighting my fire

And there I was starting to build up a bit of a head of steam with a few posts here before Christmas and then the dreaded Aussie flu (or at least something approaching it) struck. At 4pm on Christmas Day to be precise. At least I managed to enjoy the Christmas dinner. The rest of the holidays were pretty much a write off and I was close to cancelling my big (as in a rather large round number) birthday party at the end of the year. I finally managed to get rid of the lingering cough yesterday.

I've been fit again now for most of this new year but it knocked me out of my blogging stride.

Anyway a belated Happy New Year to you all.

As I hinted at above it was my birthday on NYE and I reached the big six oh. I know, it's only a number. An early birthday present to myself arrived in the post a couple of days before the day in question. I had been on the look out for a copy of this album at the right price and condition for a few years, and finally I found one that even after factoring in postage from the USA was a good buy. Not stung for customs either, that's two packages in the last couple of months that have got through. I think the USA is on my radar again as a record source.

The album in question is Rhetta Hughes' Re-Light My Fire. It is not very well known but is one of the great soul albums I think. Soul albums, especially from the Sixties, are often little more than a collection of singles as the album format was slow to catch on in the Soul world. This album could be said to be the same, seven of the tracks appeared on four 45 releases in 1968 - the year before this album was released. But all the tracks are so strong it makes the album a winner. The back cover tells us it is “A Mike Terry & Jo Armstead Production”, Mike Terry arranged, and Jo Armstead is named in the writing credits of eight of the eleven tracks – surefire quality marks right there!

After her run of Tetragrammaton 45s and this album at the end of Sixties Rhetta would not commit anything else to wax until the early Eighties. It seems she went in the direction of the stage instead, appearing in a number of musicals. In truth it would have been difficult to follow Re-Light My Fire.

I'll share two tracks with you. One picks itself but I could happily pick any one of the other tracks on the album and they wouldn't disappoint. I'll settle for this one, which also be found as a B-side to one of Rhetta's 45s.

Then there is this, a desert island disc for me. The intro just gets me every time and the whole track is just perfect.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mints for you

Very recently I've found quite a few records on line at the right price. Records are like buses sometimes. A couple days ago, amongst some Christmas cards, three little packages were sat there all together on the doormat, freshly delivered by the postie (who was no doubt wearing shorts, as they always seem to do). Just in time for Christmas - perfect timing.

Here they all are scattered on the table after receiving their first couple of plays. And what is that you see amongst them? Yes, it's another Capsoul 45.

Long term visitors here will know I am not big on Christmas records. I just don't possess many, especially in the genres I feature here. But I thought this record maybe vaguely appropriate as we move into the festive holiday. I dare say after you have tucked into your mountainous Christmas dinner tomorrow you may soon be dipping into the bowls of chocolates that have appeared around the house and that you have somehow convinced yourself you have room for. After dinner mints always go down well, so here are some Mints for you – four to be precise.

Season's Greetings to you all. Enjoy your holidays - try not to eat too much!

Friday, December 22, 2017

All Dud but no duds

Here's Dud dressed for the season. Although this album was recorded in Australia, where I doubt he would have needed the coat.

Looking back at this year's forays into the fields of England it was once again disappointing and represented a worrying continued trend of diminishing returns from the car boots. There were a few highlights though, and this album is one of them.

Dudley Moore – actor, comedian, musician,composer as his wiki entry states. Oh to be so talented. Depending on your age I guess you might know him best as an actor, most notably in Hollywood blockbusters 10 and Arthur, or alternatively you would know him primarily from his earlier role as a comedian, initially in Beyond the Fringe and then as one half of the achingly funny comedy duo Pete & Dud. That partnership was forged on his BBC TV shows that aired in the mid to late 60s - Not Only... But Also. A phrase that neatly leads into the other strings to his bow: jazz pianist and composer. Wikipedia tells us he had played harpsichord and organ (and violin) from an early age and fell in love with jazz during his university years, playing with John Dankworth in the late 50s. Through most of the 60s and into the 70s he played jazz piano and was leader of an excellent jazz trio, and in that guise was vastly underrated in my opinion.

The album that this track comes from – Today – was recorded in 1971 and released in 1972. I picked up this copy at a car boot back in May. Today, giving it only its second or third spin, it hit me as to what a great album it is. In truth I could have featured any track from it, there is nothing that is just ordinary, and it certainly presents a paradox – it is all Dud, but there are no duds.

Friday, December 15, 2017

That Capsoul feeling

If somebody asked me to name my favourite record label I would not give an instant response.  That would not be possible for such a serious and difficult question. It's a question akin to "what 10 records would you take to a desert island?" after all, almost impossible to answer. But if I were forced to give an answer, after some inevitable pondering, I might just say: Capsoul.

Ten years ago (nearly eleven now) I featured in two successive posts the two Capsoul singles I owned at the time, and mentioned then that the label, for some unknown reason, held some special mystique for me.

The mystique started in 1976 from the moment I bought, blind off a mailing list, Kool Blues' I'm Going To Keep On Loving You. It immediately meant something special to me that I could not, and still cannot, fully explain. It took me 28 years before I bought my second Capsoul single - Johnson Hawkins, Tatum & Durr's You Can't Blame Me - at a record fair in Atlanta. At that point Numero had not released their excellent compilation of the Capsoul label's output so the mystique was still intact. Numero's great work has since immortalised the label so now I know it's background and more about it's artists. But despite this, somehow, the mystique still endures for me. This was brought home when, a few weeks ago, I opened a package that had arrived in the mail and pulled out, finally, another Capsoul single that can keep my other two company. Just handling it brought on a little frisson of excitement. Why? I still cannot fully explain it. The label is colourful and individual, but so are so many others. Perhaps it is something to do with what's in the grooves – a group soul sound that seems to be just that little bit different, a production that does have a sort of home made feel to it.

There is also the fact that these records don't seem to be quite of their time. All three singles I own were released in the early 70s but they seem to hark back to earlier times. Perhaps that gets closest to the reason I have this special feeling for the label. When I bought the Kool Blues single in 1976 that was only four short years after its release in 1972, that was the same year as, for example, David Bowie's Starman and Al Green's I'm Still in Love With You - two artists that had shaped my listening habits back then - but it sounded worlds apart. I could attempt to develop and expand on my thinking here, but I think it is better to just let the mystique remain.

Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr – that certainly is a mouthful. Discogs is, I assume, consistent with Numero when they state in their profile on the group: After scoring an successful audition with Capsoul’s Bill Moss, the Revelations which comprised of Vigil Johnson, Al Dawson, Willie Tatum, and Norris Durr found themselves cutting their first side for the label in 1971. Moss changed the group’s name to comprise all of their last names; then he finally mistakenly changed their name to Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, and Durr for the labels on the 45” That was a bum rap for Al Dawson!

My Capsoul fixation is full blaze again now. I'm hunting down a copy of a Four Mint's single as I write this. And how I would love to own a copy of Kool Blues' Can We Try Love Again. I would have to spend big money to do so, I might just treat myself one day!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Touching me

By the time JJ Barnes landed at Perception in 1973 he already had about twenty 45s to his name, on 11 different labels (including some iconic Soul labels - Groovesville, Ric Tic, and Revilot) stretching back as far as 1960. He had been at Motown, never managing a release in his own name, but was used as a writer. His biggest hit was Baby Please Come Back Home which reached 61 in the US Top 100 in '67. Soon after this Perception release he was encouraged to move to the UK by his friend Edwin Starr. He signed with John Abbey's Contempo label. A meal ticket on the Northern scene was probably the attraction and he would be appreciated more there than in his homeland.

Two strong sides here, The A side - You Are Just A Living Doll -  was the initial reason for buying this but I find I really like the B side too. It wraps you up all warm and cosy on a cold Winter's night.

This 45 landed on my mat last week on the 30th November, which I see was, coincidentally, James Jay's 74th birthday.

J J Barnes – Touching You 1973        

Friday, December 01, 2017

Just a few doors

It's the 1st of December (another year nearly over!). In years gone by, as recently as two years ago in fact, this day triggered a track a day in the run up to Christmas here as we went on a Feel It Advent-ure. A post a day! I'm doing well to give you a post a month lately. How times have changed. Blogging is a habit I've been falling out of recently. I don't know why really. I've got the time, but evidently I haven't had the inclination.

I am not planning on a full blown Advent-ure this year but December 1st at least warrants a post, for old times sake at least. This record arrived in the post today, along with three others also worthy of sharing so the plan is to to do just that over the next days, and a few more as well with any luck.

I've been obsessing over the Magic Tones recently. Just listen to the voices – and the strings! - on Great Day. Very evocative of it's time I think

The Magic Tones would metamorphose into The Undisputed Truth later in the 70s.

For everyone tying the knot tomorrow.

B side is great too.

Friday, November 03, 2017

A big tick

Back in my teens... as I sit here now, gingerly, because my back is twinging (again) those days seem a very long time ago... Anyway, as I was about to say, back in my teens I developed a long record wants list. The list was long because I was young and had discovered this giant musical sweet shop but pocket money, and then pin money earned shelf stacking at the local Co-op, didn't stretch nearly far enough to fund all the great music I was hearing. Take yourself back to your teens and I'm sure you were similar. I don't remember ever writing my list down, I just carried it around in my head. Forty or so years on there is of course a danger that the memory plays more than a few tricks, but I am reasonably sure that a certain Dr John album was on my wants list and I'm happy to say that, although it's taken a long time, I can finally cross it off the list. A local charity shop came up trumps recently. I had never seen a Dr John album in such surroundings before, they had three. To be fair it is not exactly your typical charity shop. They have an upstairs “inner sanctum” where they keep some records they deem to be more desirable. It is a mini record shop really, reflected in the prices. Nevertheless, I was happy to pay the asking price for this album.

Was it worth the wait? You bet. If I tell you that besides singing in his inimitable style and playing guitar and piano the good Doctor also plays muted fingernettes and zigola(!) you know it's on its way to being a winner. Now mix in The Meters and Allen Toussaint playing the most elegant* funk you could wish to hear and bingo! The whole album is an irresistible gumbo of New Orleans goodness. (*Maybe read slinkilicious – believe me, funk can be elegant without losing any of its power).

Can the album be summed up in just two words? Well, a track on the album has a good stab – Mos' Scocious – but the album title says it perfectly: Desitively Bonnaroo!