Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Compliments of the Season

I'm not one that feels it necessary to feature a Christmas song here, I think we all hear enough of them at this time of year as it is. But having said that here is Percy Sledge - ha! ha! (or groan!) a tenuous Christmas connection if ever there was one.

Davy H (thank you) over at "The Ghost" turned me on to this track some months ago as he was desperately seeking a copy. I am familiar with much of Percy's work, and have a few in my collection, but this one had escaped me. After hearing it I too put it on my list of ones to get. The other day a (nice and minty) copy finally dropped through my letter box and I have been playing it over and over these last few days.

I would just like to pass on Season's Greetings to all fellow bloggers and followers of this little indulgence. Have a good one, and 'speak' to you again soon.

Percy Sledge - Any Day Now 1969

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tapping My Feet #9

So I did some distinctly non-technical prodding, pulling, and wiggling of the cartridge connection wires on my turntable and I now at least have sound consistently coming out of both speakers again. But my feeling is the bass is not as good as it was. Ah – perception: the graveyard of fact. I’m on the slippery slope now, I can tell its going to be a new turntable for me soon.

The track offered up here was probably not the best one to test out the hi-fi with. There was definitely some knob twiddling going on in this remix.

A bona fide classic, and a perfect marriage of soul and disco.

Incidentally I’ve just noticed on the label the track time is quoted as “6.27 (Approx.)”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time quoted like that on a record before, but it makes perfect sense because in my experience many track timings are somewhat inaccurate. They’re certainly right to use it here because I reckon it clocks in at 6.17 (about).

There is a good and concise write up on Crown Heights Affair here, and if you follow the “buy the CD” trail through from that location you could end up buying “Crown Heights Affair – 100% Essential New York Disco” for next to nothing. Go on, treat yourself to some top drawer disco soul.

Crown Heights Affair – Say A Prayer For Two 1978

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Parish Notices #5

Well over a week between posts, and then all I can muster is a Parish Notice. Are things going a bit flat around here? Well, as a matter of fact, yes. After all, it’s not as if I haven’t had the time for general bloggery. The only excuse I can offer is that it’s been mighty chilly lately, our lounge is nice and cosy, and that’s where the computer isn’t. Hardly cuts it as an excuse does it?

Every now and then keeping this blog going starts to feel like a duty rather than a labour of love, and right about now I feel like putting my feet up rather than posts. A temporary dip, or something more permanent? Just a dip I think (hope), because I do enjoy doing this most of the time.

The last time I felt like this I just changed this blog's layout and added Candi’s picture to the banner and I was off and running again. A change is as good as rest as they say. Lately I’ve found myself once more thinking about a change. How this might manifest itself I’m still not sure. It’s possible I might start a couple more blogs alongside Feel It with different slants (still musical) and go for shorter, even wordless, posts across the board. Thanks to the global downturn and all that b*llocks I will be enjoying an enforced, longer than normal, Christmas break from work this year, so maybe that will be the perfect time to crystallise some of these thoughts and take some action. Of course it’s just as likely that I will emerge out of my blogging trough and Feel It will carry on carrying on completely unchanged (and not unloved).

My blogging malaise hasn’t stopped my ongoing virtual world tour of other blogs though, and, having just dipped over to one of my perennial favourites Souled On, what do you know? – Scholar is also experiencing something of a “mid-blog crisis” as he puts it. Reading his latest post is like holding a mirror up to my thoughts. This is weird because our hand wringing has coincided before (sometime last year, if memory serves). It’s as if our blogging-bio-rhythms are on exactly the same wavelength. I detect that when Scholar refers to his “mid-blog crisis” his emphasis is on the “mid” just to reassure us that he isn’t going to stop altogether – I, for one, certainly hope he keeps on keeping on. And I will borrow his term and also put emphasis on the “mid” for this particular blog (could I be feeling better already, er, well, maybe).

Hey, this all a bit ho hum, rather than ho ho ho – sorry. Let’s have some music. Scholar included a Soul Children track in his “confessional”. I am going to hold up the mirror again and follow suit. As music blogs go both Scholar’s Souled On and my Feel It are essentially soul children - so perfect symmetry!

Both tracks come from the album “Genesis” which was released in 1972, in the States at least. I can still remember where (a record shop in Cheltenham) if not exactly when ('77 or '78?) I bought this. I have just noticed that the date on my UK Stax copy of the LP is 1975, the dead wax number tends to indicate it is a first press so I guess that means it didn’t get a UK release until ’75. Why then and not before I don’t know, especially as the Soul Children’s more traditional soul/gospel sound was becoming unfashionable by then.

The Soul Children – It Hurts Me To My Heart 1972

The Soul Children - Just The One (I've Been Looking For) 1972

NOTE: Apologies if the sound isn't great. It seems the cartridge connections on my turntable are breaking down. More ho hum!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Another obsessional follows.

There are many tracks on the late Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures Volume 3 that exercise the goosebumps but to my ears the real jewel is “Rozetta” Johnson’s “Who Are you Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife)”, written by the great Sam Dees. After a few plays I knew I had to get a vinyl copy. Although released early in the Seventies the original 45 is not too difficult to find and so now I have my own copy safely tucked into the collection at a price that didn’t do any real damage to the wallet.

So it is with much of my vinyl buying nowadays: sparked by hearing something in digital format - be it CD or Internet - that “does it for me”, I have to go out and get a copy of the original record. For me it’s a way of connecting more closely with the music and a step towards feeling an affinity to the artist. An artist that in this case was previously completely unknown to me. A record, after all, is an artefact, something you can hold as well as hear. Pulling an original copy of a record out of its sleeve immediately transports me back to its time of release. I can imagine the sense of excitement and expectancy for all concerned with its recording, pressing and release into the world. For those that heard it on the radio as a fresh new sound and instantly loved it I can imagine the tingle they got; their lunchtime trip to their local record shop to buy their very own copy; and the rush home that evening to put it on the record player move the needle across and play it for the first time, and then play it again, and again.

I knew this “Rozetta” Johnson 45 had been released in 1971 and to place it in time in my world I tried to think of another record that might have been around at the same sort of time and I might have bought. Difficult, as my record buying didn’t really begin in earnest until the end of 1971. For some reason George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” sprang to mind, close, but that was 1970. This proved to be something of a coincidence though, as I subsequently found this playlist chart from Birmingham, Alabama radio station WSGN 610 AM for week ending 30th Nov 1970 (yes that’s almost exactly 38 years ago). Nestled at #3 between The Miracles and The Supremes was “Rozetta” Johnson with “A Woman’s Way” (her first release on the Clintone label which was backed with the stronger – in my opinion – “Mine Was Real”). Cast your eye down to #24 and what do you see? Yes George Harrison! Most of the artists on this top 30 playlist are household names. “Rozetta” Johnson is very much the exception but was obviously benefiting from local support as she hailed from nearby Tuscaloosa and would have been known on the local club circuit. “A Woman’s Way” would actually break into the lower reaches of the US Top 100 Pop charts. Another WSGN playlist from March 1971 shows “Rozetta” at #22 with “I Can Feel My Love Coming Down” which is the other side of “Who Are You Gonna To Love…”.

The Deep Soul Treasure’s liner notes are excellent and extensive but as far as Ms Johnson is concerned reveal little about her. Nowadays, though, liner notes and holding and playing a record no longer have to suffice as a way of getting closer to an artist – there is the Internet. The WSGN playlists and “Rozetta”’s birthplace were just a few of the pieces of information I picked up trawling the Internet for more on Ms Johnson. Putting “Rozetta Johnson” into Google gets you lots of hits to the Deep Soul Treasures CD and the recently released CD “Personal Woman”, but information on “Rozetta” herself is scant. There is little information on her early career, except for some excerpts from the liner notes to the aforementioned CD. It would appear she followed the standard soul singer’s route, initially singing in church choirs she moved into secular music when she performed the only non gospel song she knew at the time in the 401 Club in Birmingham, Alabama (in this respect she has close similarities with Candi Staton, also discovered in a Birmingham club singing the only secular song she knew, and from what I can estimate “Rozetta” and Candi’s birth years cannot be far apart either). I can find only two documented single releases before her emergence on Clintone in 1970 – an early (1961) release on NRC co-billed with The Organettes, and a 1965 outing on a local label, Jessica, that also got national release on Atlantic. I’m sure if (when) I purchase “Personal Woman”, I will find out more, but finding out more about “Rozetta” by “Internet archaeology” is part of the fun.

So what is all this “Rozetta” business? Well one of the Google hits led me to this, 2002 correspondence from a friend of Ms Johnson to a local DJ which reveals that the correct spelling is, in fact, Roszetta.

Now put “Roszetta Johnson” into Google and a whole new world opens up. Roszetta’s world since 2002.

Like many other soul singers from the golden age Roszetta disappeared from the recorded music scene sometime in the mid Seventies. A career in education followed, with gospel singing very much a second string to her bow. Then it would seem that in 2002 the realisation that there were people all round the world who still fondly remembered her Clintone output prompted her to re-ignite her singing career. In the summer of 2002, in what must have been a déjà vu moment, it seems she entered an amateurs singing competition “Amateur Night At The Apollo” in Birmingham and was chosen as one of 13 finalists. The winner got the chance to appear in the legendary Amateur Night at New York’s Apollo Theatre. Roszetta was described as a “country gospel singer, age not given”. I don’t know if she won.

By 2005 Roszetta was performing (billed as Roszetta Johnson Scovil) with a jazz band fronted by Bill Doggett, and by then had also added “stand in for Candi Staton” to her CV. Around this time too it would appear she lent her name, or maybe owned, a night club in Birmingham as I have found listings for the “Roszetta Johnson Jazz Club” in various yellow pages style listings. However the latest Google Maps entry for that address has it described as “Glenn’s Bar”. In 2007 Roszetta won a BAMA (Birmingham Alabama Music Award) as best female vocalist, and now appears in an established residency “Jazz On The Porch” at Rucker Place which by the looks of it is an upmarket eaterie.

So from what I have found on my Internet trawl I think it’s fair to say Roszetta is once again active on the local music scene in Birmingham Alabama, and her rekindled musical career appears to be flourishing.

I hope with this piece I haven’t sounded as if I am some sort of stalker. I'm just someone who likes to know a bit more about the people who made all this great, and often criminally under appreciated, music from the past that gives me so much pleasure.

So it’s about time we heard Roszetta.

I am still not sure whether the intro to “Who Are You Gonna Love” is a mess or inspired. If, on first listen, you are of the former opinion don’t let it put you off, what follows is a work of genius. This is definitely not your average run of the mill “cheating” song. It’s really not like anything else I have ever heard. Roszetta is in fine voice, there are powerful lyrics – of course – from Sam Dees, and to top it all there is the intricate and haunting arrangement from Dale Warren (Dale was classically trained and it shows, at the time of this single he was also arranging for various Stax artists including Isaac Hayes). The writer and journalist Barney Hoskyns is also rather taken by this song and had this to say about it: “…it's so extraordinary - like three songs in one, with melodies sliding in and out of each other and rhythms shifting in mid-verse. The domestic heartbreak is par for the early '70s course, but the song underscores just how unorthodox a ballad writer Dees is”. Indeed. Jackie Wilson may have recorded the “Who Who Song” but for me Roszetta can stake a claim to singing the definitive “Who Song”, just listen to the way she sings that word in this song. The only pity is that the song fades too quickly, its final moments are deserving of at least some sort of subtlety.

“Mine Was Real” , as I have already mentioned, was one side of Roszetta’s first Clintone release. The song was written by Sam Dees’ wife Lillian. “A Woman’s Way” was the credited hit but I prefer this side. The advertising around Roszetta’s recently resurgent singing career likens her voice to Dinah Washington, and I think the similarity is most evident here. The song seems so simple and understated but the more I hear it the better it gets.

Roszetta Johnson – Who Are You Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife) 1971

Roszetta Johnson – Mine Was Real 1970

Buy "Personal Woman" which gathers together all her Clintone recordings, including some previously unreleased.

*The pictures of Roszetta were obtained here. I sincerely hope the Dewsbury native who took these doesn't mind me using them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tapping My Feet #8

You better have this to be going on with.

I am going to put something a bit more substantial together soon, honest.

The mirror ball in my mind is rotating in perfect time with this one. Irresistible!

Stephanie Mills – What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ 1979

Buy The Best of Stephanie Mills

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An obsessional

Oh dear. I have been feeling very lazy lately. Certainly too lazy to put together any serious words for a post.

So with no words from me the music here must speak for itself, and both sides of this 45 certainly do.

You know, every now and then you get one of those moments when you’ve had a really good experience and you feel have to tell somebody (everybody) about it, and right away? Well this 45 dropped through the letterbox today and I haven’t been able to stop playing it. A stunning piece of vinyl, and it was a steal. Hairs standing up on the back of the neck, lump in the throat, that funny feeling in the chest, tears of joy welling up – I tell you, it’s all going on.

Betty Bibbs is yet another great soul singer from the golden age that slipped under the radar and is now filed under “where are they now”, and once again I have to thank Sir Shambling for turning me on to her.

This is Seriously Southern Soul.

Betty Bibbs – Who’s Gonna Take Care Of Me? 1971*
Betty Bibbs – The Story Of My Life 1971*

*I’m guessing, but the length of the tracks probably puts them in the 70s.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A dream made reality

Martin Luther King’s 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech always moves me to tears.

Barack Obama is another great orator and had a similar effect on me today.

It seems like a special day today.

I wonder how many of the Soul Train dancers in this video believed they would see a black president in their lifetime? Here are The Pointer Sisters from 1973 with Allen Toussaint’s mantra , now from another era…

Find it on this.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Blue Peter Files #2

These dark nights have really brought on the torpor. But I've finally shaken off the hibernating tendancy to bring you the second instalment on the theme "here's one we made earlier".

Most people of a certain age will be familiar with The Whispers, but in the UK maybe only for their club classic “And The Beat Goes On”. This hit in 1980 in the UK (my time compass was a bit off with this one, I remembered it being earlier). It was the first real hit they had in the UK. I don’t frequent clubs anymore but I’m betting this one will still be played, it is, as they say, a classic of its type.

“And The Beat Goes On” and other records The Whispers cut in the late 70s and early 80s such as “It’s A Love Thing” were aimed very much at the club scene (I’ll call it “club scene” as disco was becoming a dirty word by then). I still have fond memories of playing those records and, of course, still have the 12” singles.

But, beyond the beat and the commercial gloss of those records, you don’t have to concentrate very hard to hear some very polished close harmony singing. They were a polished act with good reason, as the group had been singing together since 1962.

The Whispers started out life as the Eden Trio, singing on street corners in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Although originally a trio they soon developed into a five piece: Walter and Wallace Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson, and Gordy Harmon.. They acquired the name The Whispers in 1964 after being picked up by Lou Bedell at the Hollywood based Dore label. There they would release nine singles between 1964 and 1967, including “The Dip” which has been a favourite on the Northern scene for many years.

It would appear they took a gap year in 1968, but in 1969 they resurfaced on the Soul Clock label and that’s when the American national R&B and Pop hits started. Their second release on Soul Clock “The Time Will Come” broke into the national US R&B charts in August 1969. Their next release didn’t do anything but then, in 1970, their fourth release on the label “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” went top 10 in the US R&B charts and made it to #50 in the pop charts. This single was something of a double header – flip it over and you found “Needle In A Haystack”. This had a feel to it that placed it earlier than 1970, and indeed it was because it had originally been released in 1967 on Dore.

At the end of 1970 they moved to Janus Records and scored a string of R&B hits that also occasionally dented the pop charts, including the wonderfully titled “I Only Meant To Wet My Feet”. Then in 1975 there was another label move to the Soul Train / Solar stable, where they stayed until the early 80s. Both “And The Beat Goes On” and “It’s A Love Thing” made the top 10 pop charts in the UK but they would have to wait until 1987 with “Rock Steady” to crack the US top 10 pop charts.

As I said I have a soft spot for their Solar hits – they bring back good memories. Their Janus output left me fairly cold back in the day as it was a bit too sweet for my liking – but on listening to some of it again I’m warming to it (must be my age). I admit I am not really familiar with their output after the early 80s. It’s their early output on Soul Clock and Dore that really does it for me though – clean, melodic, arrangements that complement the group’s beautiful voices and really allow them to shine - great soul music.

From 1964 right through to 1995 The Whispers enjoyed chart pretty much unbroken chart success, initially locally, then nationally, and finally internationally. In 1971 the group experienced their one and only personnel change – Gordy Harmon decided to leave in 1971 and was replaced by ex Friends of Distinction Leaveil Degree. Due to ill health Marcus Hutson had to retire from performing in 1989, and sadly passed away in 2000. Apart from that The Whispers are still intact and still performing.
Forty years from now I wonder how many recently formed groups you will be able to say that about?

The Whispers - The Time Will Come 1969

The Whispers - Needle In A Haystack 1967/1970

The Whispers - And The Beat Goes On 1979

(I know some of you have an aversion to zshare but as savefile seems to be having problems again it has to be zshare again I'm afraid).

Buy "Planets Of Life - The Soul Clock Recordings"

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Blue Peter Files #1

“Here’s one I/we made earlier” is a phrase that has become commonplace in the British English language during the last 40 years or so. Certainly during the last few weeks you will not have been able to open an English newspaper without encountering it, and with good reason. This phrase has its origins in the children’s TV show Blue Peter, which celebrated its 50th birthday last week and is now apparently the longest running children’s TV show in the world. Blue Peter holds a special place in many a British person’s heart, especially those of a certain age, e.g. like me who, at 50, can truly be said to have grown up with the program.

The picture here is of my Blue Peter badge. I seem to remember getting this for collecting and sending in milk bottle tops (for one of their annual charity appeals). This would have been sometime in the sixties and demonstrates that Blue Peter were ahead of the game in the recycling stakes. There was also a deluxe version of the badge which had a dark blue background and the ship picked out in gold (or silver?). I seemed to remember you had to do something a bit special to get that one, although the Wikipedia entry says that it was just issued to those who already had the white badge. In any event I never managed to get one, but I’m sure my next door neighbours did – they were pretty gung-ho about most things.

Now I just have to show you this….

When they weren’t cocking a snook at the old adage “never work with children or animals”, amongst other things, the Blue Peter presenters were always showing us things to make with any old bit of tat and general stuff that you were bound to be able to find lying around the house. Coat hangers, empty washing up bottles (well, empty after you had deposited the contents into a glass or some similar receptacle, inviting mum’s wrath), sticky back plastic, cornflake packets, that sort of thing. After some enthusiastic instruction they would, with a flourish and the words “here’s one we made earlier”, produce a completed example of their industry.

Happy days.

Right, now it’s time for some music, and I thought I would use “here’s one we made earlier” as the theme of this, and my next post.As I have no doubt described before, my love of music really started in the early seventies and I quickly developed a love of soul and funk music. In Britain Soul to the masses was Motown if nothing else. Motown had become established as something of a mainstream sound, and for me, through continued radio airplay and reissues of classic sixties hits, the lineage of acts such as Stevie Wonder and The Temptations was clear.

But I was also discovering all sorts of great new artists and groups. At least I assumed they were new groups. Then I gradually became aware that these acts weren’t new on the scene at all, they had been around for years – way back into the sixties – and they were just reinventing themselves, embracing new musical technologies and trends, and giving us vital new music. A cynic might say they were deserting their roots and simply riding a commercial wave. But there is nothing wrong in moving with the times, and you have to make a buck to eat.

When you juxtapose the output of these groups from the different phases of their careers (and yes I know the nucleus of both these groups goes back even further than my starting point here) you realize just how much their sound changed and, indeed, that of soul and funk music in general. You also realize there was true musical genius at work here.

The Parliaments – Don’t Be Sore At Me 1967

Parliament – Star Child outro / Unfunky UFO 1976

The Ohio Players – Here Today And Gone Tomorrow (mp3) 1968 *

The Ohio Players – Fire 1974

* I've featured this one before, and have no hesitation in doing so again as it is such a great record.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mine's a Southern Comfort and lemonade

While I slowly get my act together on a more verbose post I thought I would offer up this not so little track. This has been inspired by DavyH’s recent rediscovery of jazz-funk and his craving for full length versions of same, and is for him, at least.

For a few years now I have not been able to get enough of the immediacy of two minute something 60s and 70s southern soul and obscure sister funk tracks. Whereas back in the late 70s early 80s, in my relative youth (early twenties), I was cruising around in my silver Capri with my “If it aint Jazz, it aint worth a Funk” sunstrip listening to the likes of Lonnie Liston Smith, The Jeff Lorber Fusion, and Sadao Watanabe, (OK, yes, I’ll admit it, Shakatak too). The land of jazz-funk where every track was at least five minutes long.

Sometimes I think I must be living my life backwards.

Hiroshi Fukumura with Sadao Watanabe – Hunt Up Wind 1980*

*recorded in Tokyo in 1978 this was released on Inner City in 1980. Check out the credits on the back cover, all the ususal suspects were on the session.

(I can’t find this currently available on CD anywhere).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

For Dad

How to start this post? I don’t know. I’ve made a few false starts that the delete key was happy to swallow up. So, not even knowing if it’s fair to even burden you with this, I’m just going to come straight out and say it. The truth is it’s been a bad week in my world. The worst. Dad passed away on Monday.

A neighbour of my parents summed it up well when he said it must have been a blessed release. He is right, in the end Dad’s health had deteriorated so much that he had no real life left, and no prospect of any real recovery. The last year had been tough for him and mum, and our family.

Only last Saturday my parents had celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. I’m sure Dad was still with us enough to be aware of this and I think he was determined to reach this milestone. Then I think he said to himself - enough is enough. Dad reached 89, so life dealt him a fair hand.

I can’t really put in to words how I feel at the moment so I will just leave you with some music. Dad liked piano music of various forms (and, in his earlier years, used to play the piano accordian). There are a few Oscar Peterson albums in his collection and I remember this particular track was one he kept going back to.

Oscar Peterson – Robbins Nest (mp3)
recorded in 1967

from this if you can find it available.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Deja Vu

And so it is September again (OK, I know it’s nearly over).

I wrote about September last year. Reading that post again I was struck by how closely its themes match my current scenario: i.e. too busy to blog, and the September weather coming up trumps again following a non existent summer.

Unfortunately the general life stuff that has been getting in the way of regular bloggery is by no means all good this time around. Dad is in hospital again and has been for the last four weeks. The daily requirements surrounding visiting, supporting Mum, and trying to work out what is going to happen next is leaving little time for anything else. As I may have mentioned earlier this year, Dad is nearly 90, and has had a good innings as we say. But the various effects of diabetes have now well and truly taken hold and at the moment it is difficult to see that he will be able to return home.

As a nation we British love to talk about the weather and I have found myself describing the days to Dad when visiting him in hospital. In the circumstances talking about the weather seems sort of banal, and I am not sure he is taking in what I say, but in the end it is something to say and I like to think it at least gives him some sort of link to the outside world and a structure to the days (and it sure beats talking about the global financial meltdown).

Again this year, September, for the most part, has been a good month to report weather wise, conducting itself with a customary quiet elegance. I am not one to blow my own trumpet, but, reading it back, I was actually quite pleased with my reflections on September last year; to the extent that I cannot really improve on what I had to say then. So, if you feel so inclined, you can read what I had to say here (skip past the italics).

So what to play to go with this post?….. sing that summer song, soon it will be gone.

Buy “Live At The Bijou”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tapping My Feet #7

DRC = my initials (say it quick and what do you get?)

0.17 = intro (to beat) in seconds
0.25 = intro (to vocal) in seconds

F = end fades
(not that I would have played it to the end, who did with 12" singles?)

117 = bpm
(not measured scientifically, just using a second hand if I remember!)

RM = ? (I'm b*ggered if I can remember what this means!)

General Johnson - Can't Nobody Love Me Like You Do 1979

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This is why we do it

I’m sure if you ask my wife she will say that my desire to hunt for vinyl has now reached addictive proportions. She is probably right. Increasingly, for instance, I find myself sharing with my friends and work colleagues the details of my recent finds and the finer points (if there are such things) of charity shop trawling. If I took myself out of my body for an instant and eavesdropped on my conversation I wonder what I would think of myself? An anorak certainly, and then perhaps there is a fine line between that and a bore? Well, there is nothing I can do about it, the craving for vinyl has got me hooked.

One of the finer points of charity shop trawling I quickly noted was that independent shops (for example your local Cat’s Protection League shop as opposed to a CLIC or Oxfam shop) will typically ask less for records, and will also know less about what they have. So more chance of a ‘find’.

I also then learnt that second hand book shops will also sometimes have a few records tucked away. My belief is that as they are book specialists they, also, are not likely to know the vinyl gems they maybe offering for sale for less than the price of a choccie bar.

By way of proof to my second hand book shop theory I present to you Exhibit A – a single by Denise LaSalle released on the UK(!) Westbound label.

I found this in a Falmouth bookshop a few weeks ago and was happy to part with the princely sum of 50p for it. (Stupidly I only had £20 notes on me so knowing that my wife and friend were not far away, undoubtedly looking for earrings – now there’s another addiction if ever there was one!, – I phoned her on the mobile and summoned her to the shop with all speed with some small change!).

I didn’t know the Westbound imprint had ever appeared in UK form. I wouldn’t mind betting this record sold no more than a few handfuls on UK release so that makes it a relatively rare record. That is always nice to know but in the end it’s what’s in the grooves that counts and I knew that Denise LaSalle + 1973 + a title like “Your Man And Your Best Friend” meant there was a very good chance this was a slab of vintage Southern Soul. The record had no sleeve and looked a bit worse for wear but was worth a punt I thought. And wow! I was right. This must rate as one of I my best ever finds. It scrubbed up nicely after a good clean with the magic fluid and I think you will agree it is indeed vintage Southern Soul – and it’s a B side to boot! (The A side is “Do Me Right”).

Denise LaSalle, now into her 70th year, has been ever present on the soul and blues scene over the last 40 years or so. In the past soul artists recorded output was often mainly in the 45 format, with albums being thin on the ground. Not so with Denise, since her first recording back in 1967 – “A Love Reputation” – as well as numerous 45s Denise has also released no less than 32 albums (see Wikipedia). That’s pretty good going.

I have almost none of her records. It’s something I feel almost embarrassed about, and something I need to put right soon. (Scholar over at Souled On has turned me on to some more of her early 70s output in recent months).

What I do have I present to you now. As well as the aforementioned “diamond in the rough” here is her big hit from ’71 “Trapped By A Thing Called Love” on the US Westbound label – sporting a design that yet again proves that UK labels can’t hold a candle to US ones.

As I am bowled over by Denise LaSalle at the moment you also get two tracks from her 1980 album “I’m So Hot”. Both were also singles. I loved the title track back in the day and used to play it a lot in my DJing days. Playing the album again I was also struck by “Try My Love” a glorious disco burner with a whirl of strings and horns driven along by an irresistible beat with strong Moroderesque undertones. The sound would have been out of fashion by 1980 but now it sounds great again. Southern Soul they’re not, and they prove that soul music had changed beyond all recognition (disappeared really) by 1980, but they’re excellent tracks in their own way.

Denise LaSalle – Your Man And Your Best Friend 1973
Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love 1971
Denise LaSalle – I’m So Hot 1980)
Denise LaSalle – Try My Love 1980

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tapping My Feet #6 - Turned On

I’m in equal parts chilled (holiday mode), otherwise engaged (domestic admin), and lazy (the bloggers summer disease it seems) so I’m slipping in another 12” (so to speak).

This one is prompted by one of my latest charity shop (US English: thrift shop) purchases.

“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” was written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and the Cherrelle version was produced by them – let’s face it they were omnipotent for a period in the 80s. I’m not sure which came first here, Cherrelle’s or Mr Palmer’s, both have a 1985 copyright. I’m guessing Cherrelles’s was first as the lyrics seem to be more suited to a female singer. With Robert singing it seems a bit tongue in cheek whereas with Cherrelle singing it is potentially an altogether different song.

For some reason the video of Robert Palmer’s version of this song is forever etched on my mind (can’t think why!). Watching it again though it’s interesting that I only remembered the girls dressed in black, but there is no denying those girls (the same girls?) in white have some great…er… moves.

Cherrelle’s version can be found on the B side (7”) of her excellent “Saturday Love”, her duet with Alexander O’Neal, a single I picked up a couple of days ago in the Animal Welfare Trust shop in Camborne - what else do you do in Cornwall when the sun refuses to shine?. As a rule Camborne would be one of the last places you would think of visiting on a holiday in Cornwall, but then as I said it was another dull day. The real reason of course is that digging is always top of my list of things to do. I was attracted to Camborne by a guy I had been inadvertently following around the charity shops in Redruth (I only went there to buy a paper, honest). We got talking and he recommended Camborne as being full of charity shops, including one that “had several hundred singles, and only 10p each. I’m off there now”. Well, I never found that particular shop, or if I did he must have bought up the entire stock the day before my visit, but it proved to be a worthwhile diversion anyway and I picked up a few bits and pieces at a refeshingly low price.

Incidentally Camborne also has its own record shop. I walked in and through to the back room and my heart immediately started to beat faster – there was vinyl everywhere, filed alphabetically on shelves around the walls and in random boxes strewn across the floor (some with cobwebs over them!). I didn’t have time to give it a good going over and there maybe some gold in there but in the end I was disappointed – not much soul (what’s new in the UK?) and the records were generally in pretty poor shape. Still, it’s all about the chase isn’t it?

Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On 1985
Cherrelle – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On 1985

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I can’t concentrate. It must be love. You can love a vinyl record, can’t you?

Strictly speaking it’s just the song that's giving me this sweet torture because I don’t own the record – yet. But I will one day. I know it will cost me more money than I have ever spent on one record before but I MUST have it.

I stumbled across this on YouTube a couple of days ago and it’s been spinning around in my head ever since. When it seems it maybe fading into the background I go to the computer and play it again. Yes, I’m smitten. The sound of Detroit circa 1970 (or maybe ’71 or’72)....

Over at In Dangerous Rhythm you can see a picture of Dee Edwards on a pic sleeve of, incredibly, a German issue of the 45, and a label scan of the original Bump Shop (great name) 45.

Dee Edwards (born Doris Harrell) was active on the music scene from the early 60s right through to the 80s, although her only really consistent run of issued singles was on the D-Town label in three years up to 1966. Sadly she is no longer with us, having died in January 2006. Another of her 70s singles “I Can Deal With That” has been a favourite on the scene in recent years and turns up on compilations fairly regularly, and a man of excellent taste - Gilles Peterson – has included “Why Can’t There Be Love” in his latest compilation Digs America Vol 2.

You can find a good article on her early career here. The Bump Shop 45 barely gets a mention. Ah, that Bump Shop 45 by Dee Edwards, excuse me but I must go and play it again.

Dee Edwards – Why Can’t There Be Love (mp3) 197?

"the birds do it, the bees do it"... there is love I know it and I’m in love with this record.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An unscheduled outage

Well what do you know? Feel It sort of went to sleep there for a bit. I hadn’t consciously taken a break, and I’ve been around most of the time, but in a blink of an eye it’s two weeks since my last post.

I’d like to say I was having a great time but it’s been mostly the same old routine. I have been enjoying the Olympics and I’d just like to salute all our great British sports men and women for lifting the mood here amongst all the gloom of rising prices and a truly awful (in fact, non existent) summer.

I’m still not back into the writing groove so I need to give you a potent musical groove to make up for it (I know, it’s the music you drop by for anyway).

In January 1974 The New Birth hit the US R&B charts with “It’s Been A Long Time”. It would stay in the charts for 17 weeks. Leslie Wilson delivers a great vocal on this track (and you can hear the wonderfully named Londie Wiggins on background vocals). This is Quiet Storm before the phrase was invented, a stunning arrangement, and one I keep coming back to.

The New Birth – It’s Been A Long Time 1973

You can get the unedited version on their 1973 album of the same name.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Say it loud

My home town puts on a Harbour Festival every year. Increasingly it seems to be turning into a music festival, which is no bad thing – especially as it’s all free. On the bill last Friday were Still Black, Still Proud. Described as an African tribute to James Brown, the band leader is none other than Alfred “Pee Wee “ Ellis and he is more than ably assisted by Fred Wesley amongst others. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw them billed – and it was only 24 hours before they were due to play. I phoned a friend, alerted him, and told him to make sure he wore his Parliament Mothership Connection t-shirt!

We tried, but failed, to drag our ladies along – they preferred the sofa and a bottle of wine – but it was their loss. We caught the bus, fuelled up in the beer tent, and listened to Bristol legend DJ Derek build up the atmosphere with a selection of reggae, soul, and funk classics. Then two presenters from the local commercial radio station appeared and in the space of a couple of minutes managed, in the worst possible Smashy & Nicey way, to destroy that atmosphere AND make the heavens open.

No matter. The rain stopped and Still Black, Still Proud took the stage and treated us to nearly two hours of glorious funk, jazz and African grooves. Pee Wee and Fred were joined centre stage with local alto sax player James Morton. Their set built beautifully and included a mix of instrumentals and vocal numbers, most of which were James Brown classics. Fred Ross had the impossible task of ‘being’ James Brown but, probably helped by the fact that he looks nothing like James and didn’t try any of the moves, did a fine job. He has a great voice, as does Martha High who also pitched in with a few songs, including a great “Try Me”. We both really liked Martha. Fred and her evidently went back a long way but we had never heard of her. A subsequent bit of internet trawling revealed that she was also a long term member of James Brown’s backing bands, and was even for a time James’ hairdresser!

Still Black, Still Proud, with African guests Cheikh Lo and Vieux Farka Toure, are hitting a few cities in the States later this month – they’re well worth a trip.

In the 70s the JBs released records under their own name… and many others. With Fred Wesley in the band, that included The Last Word, The Devils, The First Family, and Fred & The New JBs (and possibly also the 1975 incarnations AABB (Above Average Black Band) and The Hustlers, although I’m not sure as Fred left the JBs for the P-Funk Mothership in 1975). Martha High will I’m sure have been on background vocals on some of these records too.

Here’s both sides of The Last Word single from 1974. The A side's title is topical all over again at the moment. On the B side Fred’s slidy thing is particularly evident!

The Last Word – Keep On Bumpin’ Before You Give Out Of Gas (mp3) 1974
The Last Word – Funky & Some (mp3) 1974

Both these tracks are on a CD compilation “Funky & Some” which was released in 1996. Good luck on tracking it down at a reasonable price!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Great Scott!

Some of you may remember in my recent post on Shirley Bassey I promised a feature on a classic soul album whose cover bore similarities to Shirley's. Well I've finally got round to it.

It took the distance of a few years for me to appreciate that Barry White was a genius arranger. At the time he started turning out the hits in the early 70s I was into Bowie, Roxy, Elton, and “The Dan” probably more so than the various forms of “black music” that I now love. Partly this was because it was more accessible – to buy certainly - although paradoxically the soul and funk I was picking up on at the time was not particularly mainstream. I seem to remember I was a bit sniffy about Barry White: His image was not cool enough to latch on to for a British male teenager like me. It was girls’ music. He couldn’t sing very well, could he? His records all sounded the same.

Eventually I grew out of the wildly impressionistic time that is your teens. I recognized that girls music can be guys music too. I grew to appreciate the love bear’s growl, and that he didn’t just sing his stuff he arranged it too. And I realized that his records didn’t all sound the same, similar yes, but that became part of the attraction. Barry White had forged a distinctive sound that would stand the test of time.

During the early 70s he also put his trademark sound behind Love Unlimited. In 1974 he also produced and arranged an album that, unlike his and Love Unlimited’s records at the time, would sink without trace. But for my money it is this album that is his true masterpiece. I think it is safe to say that if it had been released on Motown, or even Barry’s home during the early 70s - 20th Century, it would have become a massive hit and would now regularly be cropping up on people’s “albums you must own” lists.

I, like just about everybody else, was completely unaware of the album on its initial release. Later in the 70s I acquired a Casablanca sampler album that contained the title track off this album. It was buried amongst a mish mash of rock, AOR, mock country, and disco acts (and Parliament!) and was representative of Casablanca’s roster at that time. Parliament’s appearance had attracted me to the album, but I have no recollection of listening, then, to a track on the album by somebody called Gloria Scott. Obviously I tired of all the sub standard rock elsewhere on the album and gave up before I even got to side 2 track 3 which is where Gloria Scott made her appearance. So I had passed up an opportunity to possibly learn of the existence of Gloria’s stunning album back in the day. Fast forward to the 21st century and via the Internet I finally learned of this album’s existence. A few tracks from the album, including the title track, have been popular on the Northern scene, normally placed in the dubious pigeon-hole that is “Modern Soul”. It obviously rang enough of a bell with me then to make me dig out my Casablanca sampler album again, and so I finally played the Gloria Scott track therein, quite possibly for the first time. Then I played it again, and again. It’s that good.

The album in question is “What Am I Gonna Do” by Gloria Scott, released in 1974. You will need to pay big money if you want an original issue. It’s a stone cold classic.
Produced and arranged By Barry White it is soaked in his distinctive sound – hypnotic mid- and down-tempo grooves with magical interplay between strings, guitar and piano. Add to that Gloria Scott’s tender voice, which has a really melancholic quality, and the whole album takes on an almost dreamlike air, infused with an almost overpowering sense of wistfulness, resignation, and yearning. For these reasons the album really does feel like a complete entity, not simply a collection of tracks. The mark of a truly great album.

So what of Gloria Scott? As far as I know, to date, this is her one and only album release. It seems she was yet another example of someone who found her opportunity to shine as a solo soul artist at exactly the wrong time. Disco, and mass commercialism, was just around the corner.

I have not been able to find out much at all about Gloria. It seems she was for a short while (sometime around 1964-66) a member of the touring version of the Ikettes. At the time she joined she was apparently 19, and living in California, although it is possible she was born in Texas. Gloria (then also known as Gloria Dean?) joined as an Ikette along with friend Maxine Smith after the Modern Records era incarnation of the group (Robbie Montgomery, Jessie Smith & Venetta Fields) all left. They were instrumental in bringing PP Arnold, an acquaintance of Maxine’s, to Ike’s party. Trying to follow the various incarnations of the Ikettes is not easy. Many girls came and went probably due in no small part to Ike’s treatment of them – low pay, fines, no access to royalties. Ike’s fine policy was too much for Gloria it seems and her tenure as an Ikette probably didn’t last past 1966.

What happened to her between then and her team up with Barry White, and when and how that team up exactly started I don’t know. Session singing? Family commitments? Who knows? I can’t find any evidence that she was part of the Love Unlimited set up. But however it started, her hook up with Barry White (and Tom Brock who wrote some of the great songs) resulted in one of the greatest soul albums of all time.

And after “What Am I Gonna Do” it seems Gloria has left virtually no trace in the musical landscape, save for a couple of obscure credits on AllMusic. For all I know she may no longer be with us. All I can say is it’s a crying shame that we are all not more familiar with her beautiful voice.

Her album finally got a limited edition Japanese release on CD a few years ago and now, it seems, there maybe another limited edition vinyl reissue available, which I need to get quick. I can pronounce my love of this album due to the fact that Funk My Soul and Deacon Blues have both upped the whole album recently. Generally I’m a little uneasy about people making complete album rips available for download. Although where the album in question is not generally available then that’s ok I guess, and in the end it can build up a groundswell of support that results in a reissue which has got to be a good thing. Especially in this case - everybody in the world needs to hear this album!

Gloria Scott - What am I Gonna Do (mp3) 1974
Gloria Scott - I Think Of You (mp3) 1974

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tapping My Feet #5

Sorry, no time for words today. We're off to (hopefully sunny) Cornwall for a few days - and I haven't started the packing yet!

I've always loved the colours on this label. The A side is their take on "Love Hangover", in delicate shades of pink and orange.


The Players Association - I Like It (mp3) 1977

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Our Shirl

Shirley Bassey hails from Cardiff, just like my Dad. Shirley grew up in Tiger Bay, a dockside district of Cardiff that had always been cosmopolitan, and also working class. My grandfather had worked in the docks there and dad grew up in another working class district of Cardiff – Splott. Both are charming names in their own way but Tiger Bay sounds somewhat more alluring than Splott doesn’t it? Lucky for Shirl. It’s bad enough that she always has to suffer being referred to as Burly Chassis (so inappropriate), imagine if she had been Burly Chassis from Splott!

I’m sure the Cardiff connection is, at least in part, the reason my Dad has always had a soft spot for her (incidentally, my Auntie Joyce has always been mad on Tom Jones: the Welsh stick together). So there are a few albums of hers at my parents house. One of these is “I Capricorn” which I think I bought for Dad as a present on its release in 1972. It contained what would prove to be her biggest hit, “For All We Know”, which was seemingly ever present in the UK pop charts in the latter half of 1971, just at the time I was discovering music. I really liked that single. Undoubtedly it would have been qualified as a guilty pleasure at that time – Shirley was Dad music, I couldn’t admit to liking it, at least not to my friends. Anyway, I also admit now that there was probably a bit of self-interest in me buying this album for Dad, as I secretly wanted to hear it. Dad played it occasionally but I was left with the impression that he preferred her earlier work, Shirley could belt ‘em out in the sixties and I think Dad preferred that style, “I Capricorn” for the most part had a much more lush and soulful feel. Which is what attracted me to it and so every now and then I snuck it on the turntable and enjoyed my, then, guilty pleasure, and from that point on I also have had a soft spot for Shirl.

Due to the material that Shirley has chosen to sing over the years, and the style and arrangements that typify her output – by turns lush and relaxed in an easy listening sort of way, or bold, brassy, showy – she would never be categorized as a soul singer. However, there is no doubt she is a soulful performer, she puts her heart and soul into the songs and is really living them.

The other day, dropping in at the parents house, I spent a few minutes trawling through the albums there – I was surprised by how many of mine are still there – and dug out “I Capricorn”. I had forgotten what a great album cover it had. Shirley's ethnicity is there for all to see (her mother was in fact Nigerian) and she looks stunning in a straight on head shot with some tasteful artwork behind her, and framed in gold with, top and bottom, her name and the album title in bold black lettering*. Classy. This could easily be the cover of a classic soul album, and in fact it does bring to mind the cover of one, one that I will feature here next time.

I was going to feature "For All We Know" here but in fact it didn’t sound as good as I remembered it - nothing wrong with Shirley’s voice but the arrangement is a little twee and lightweight in places. Ah, you were thinking of the Carpenters version, I here you say. Well no, I don’t think so, the version that plays in my head definitely has Shirley singing. Maybe my mind remixed the backing.

There are a few show tunes on the album – very much par for the course in the musical world of the time that Shirley was inhabiting – but I’m steering clear of those, not that there’s anything wrong with them. I just think some of the other tracks are more soulful and have better arrangements. For example Shirley’s interpretation of “The Look Of Love” is powerfully sensual and has groove that I think sets it apart from other tracks on the album. In a way it reprises the feel of her take of the Doors “Light My Fire” that did indeed light up her 1970 album “Something” (if you haven’t heard her version of "Light My Fire" then you should, and it’s becoming something of a rare groove classic).

Shirley is 71 now and has enjoyed hit records over five decades. She has sung the theme song of no less than three James Bond films. Last year she made an appearance at the mudfest that is Glastonbury, famously sporting diamante wellies. This is not the first time she has been seen by the masses wearing strange footwear – those of us of a certain age and British will no doubt remember a classic sketch on the Morcambe & Wise show where she ends up wearing… well watch it and see:

Shirley is a private, and even mysterious, person, a true professional but also somebody who evidently retains a good sense of humour.

I’ve only just caught up on the fact that Shirley underwent a stomach operation recently. Get well soon Dame Shirley and keep on doing it, we love you!

Shirley Bassey – The Look Of Love (mp3) 1972
Shirley Bassey - I Capricorn (mp3) 1972 (sorry about the scratch in the intro)

*I’m afraid my scan omits the lettering on the album cover, I haven’t got the ability to “scan and stitch”.

“I Capricorn” is available on CD (with a slightly different cover to the original album).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rain rain go away....

.... come again another day (preferably next year).

Gwen McCrae - It Keeps On Raining (mp3) 1975

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jean Genies #2

Well back in business after a couple of Internetless days that turned out to be caused by the latest Microsoft security patch and Zone Alarm not singing from the same hymn book! It was my daughter who picked up on this fact before me and got us going again – I’ve taught her well!

Now, on with the show, as they say.

It must be strange to know that, quite possibly, in some way, you could live forever. Jean Caliste was born in 1943 and at 65 is, as far as I know – and hope - not about give up the ghost anytime soon. It is also true though that one day, like us all, she will physically be no more.

However, in 1971, as Jean Knight, she recorded what would prove to be just about the biggest hit Stax would ever have, the multi-platinum selling “Mr Big Stuff”. That song is proving to have a long and healthy life on the radio, in adverts, and on TV and film soundtracks. Combine that with the fact that Stax, like Motown, has become an iconic label and Jean, through “Mr Big Stuff” at least, could live forever.

In 1972 following Jean’s big hit and an album she was named “Most Promising Female Vocalist”. In fact Jean had started her recording career several years earlier. She had begun singing at her cousin’s bar in New Orleans and eventually recorded a demo of “Doggin’ Around” (at Cosimo Mattassa’s French Quarter studio?) which had been a hit for Jackie Wilson in 1960. Huey Meaux picked up on this and released it at the beginning of 1965 on his then fresh Jet Stream label. After considering Caliste too difficult to pronounce she adopted the name Jean Knight (although the B side of this single was written by her and credited to "J Caliste"). Jean would have two more releases on the Jet Stream label but strangely not until 1967/8. Singing wasn’t paying the bills it seems and Jean took a job as a baker at Loyola Univeristy. Then in 1970 her singing talents were rediscovered by songwriter Ralph Williams. And that brings us back to “Mr Big Stuff”, for which Williams has a co-writing credit. You can read much more about Jean Knight, and particularly this phase of her singing career, over at Home Of The Groove.

Jean is still performing and is once again based in New Orleans. She appeared at last years New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival. Her own website hints at a new album to be released on her own Comstar Records label.

I love both sides of Jean’s first ever single. Basically voice, organ and drums is all there is in the mix. They have a really primitive quality – completely authentic considering these tracks were probably laid down in 1964 which was close to first light in the age of Soul music.

Jean Knight – Doggin’ Around (mp3) 1965
Jean Knight – The Man That Left Me (mp3) 1965

If you can track it down both of these tracks are on "Blue Soul Belles Vol. 2"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Drink and migrate

First things first, thanks to all of you who left your good wishes for Dad. I passed them on and I think he was chuffed to think that people from all round the world were thinking of him. He is back at home now, and Mum is happy although she has even more of a caring job to do now (with our help when we can). In the end I am not sure precisely what Dad's problems were(are) and I am left with the impression that his body just got confused with the seemingly constant mix of pills he has been prescribed over recent years and said “enough!” That and his advanced years of course. Anyway the doctors conferred, and it was a split decision, but he has made it home with a fresh collection of pills and potions to take – no doubt with a fresh collection of side effects. Excuse me if I sound a bit cynical but in the end I wonder whether all these drugs really do any good. One thing that has deteriorated a lot in recent weeks is his sight – effectively he can no longer watch TV, nor read it seems. Hey, it’s a b*gger getting old!

My work took me to Hungary again the weekend before last. Prepare yourself for a bit of jargon. The project I’ve been working on – with many colleagues – was a computer system replacement, and it reached its climax – the ‘go live’ over the summer solstice weekend. A ‘go live’ incorporates the moving and validating of all the data from the existing system to the new one. This is known in the trade as ‘data migration’. The various stages of this migration required us to work, repeatedly, well into the night. So little time for r and r (= drinking) you may think. But no, we managed to fit that in too. “Drink and migrate” was our mantra. It just so happened there was a wine festival in town that went on well into the night. For three nights running we left the office after midnight and got a taxi straight to the festival, and three nights running a few of us returned to our hotel with the sun rising and the birds singing. I didn’t know I could still do that! (In fact flushed with the realisation I could still go to bed almost after I got up the next day and still function I did it again this weekend when the wife and I went to an old friend’s wedding reception at the weekend. This could become a habit!).

Anyway, returning to Blighty after a long weekend of ‘data migration’ I turn on the radio in the hire car and what should I hear? – a program discussing trends in migration of birds and insects! (It included the cuckoo, which I always think provides one of the quintessential sounds of an English spring and early summer, although the birds we hear in England in fact come from Africa).

This coincidence of migrations must be cue for a track on Feel It I thought to myself. (It’s now a week after this coincidence occurred but I’ve finally got round to it). But what to play? Tracks with migration as a subject are pretty thin on the ground, at least in my collection, but I have settled on a track that at least hints at it in the title. It’s from the 1979 Azymuth album “Light As A Feather”, which also featured the storming and irresistible “Jazz Carnival”.

The normal beat of posts may return now. Unless, of course, by some slim chance, the famously elusive British summer suddenly decides to make a prolonged appearance!

Azymuth – Fly Over The Horizon (mp3) 1979

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tapping My Feet #4

Dad is still in hospital. He is better than he was. He is starting to climb the walls though and was determined to discharge himself yesterday. We managed to talk him out of it. He's not ready to come home just yet.

Aurra - When I Come Home 1980

Buy Aurra - Anthology

Monday, June 09, 2008


Dad’s in hospital. Old age has really caught up with him in the last couple of years. He seemed brighter today when Mum and I visited but when (hopefully) he returns home realistically his horizons are going to be severely limited.

You’ll understand that, in between work, visits to the hospital, and giving Mum some moral support there’s not a whole lot of time, or inclination, to put anything substantial together here at the moment.

So, something of a random choice, albeit with an appropriate title.

Ella Washington – Fragile (Handle With Care) 1969

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tapping My Feet #3

Globetrotting (in the name of work) continues. Germany last week, Hungary this week. My destination is a city that starts with a K and has three Es. How’s that for a dodgy link to today’s featured band?

Kleeer – great band, but I’m tempted to say - naff name. It seems they went through a few name changes during their existence. Originally in 1972 the backing band for The Choice Four, during their first few years they were called, at different times, Pipeline and, possibly, The Jam Band. Pipeline’s bag unusually was heavy rock. Woody Cunningham the leader and drummer (and vocalist) was becoming in demand as a session drummer and played on tracks recorded by the likes of Sylvester, Candido, and Disco Tex(!). This presence on the New York disco scene resulted in 1976 with a hook up with Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael. The band changed their name again - probably at the behest of Patrick Adams who seemed to have spawned many ‘one off’ bands - to the Universal Robot Band, and went “disco”. In 1978 they decided to produce themselves and finally settled on the name Kleeer – they had obviously tired of thinking of names if that was the best they could come up with! Anyway they stayed as Kleeer until they disappeared from the scene around 1985. They released seven albums in as many years and tracks such as "Keeep Your Body Working" and "Get Tough" were propelled into the charts from the buzz they created in the clubs.

After 1985 most of the members appear to have reverted to session work and songwriting. In 1997 Woody resurfaced in the UK and released two albums (in 1997 and 2000) on the Expansion label. The first of these may have originally been released on a local Manchester label Olde English. Bizarre!

I haven’t got any of Kleeer’s albums but do have a number of their 12” singles. I have always really liked their polished mix of soul, funk and disco, and in a crowded early 80s scene always felt they managed to forge their own clear(!) identity and were a cut above most of the rest.

Here’s a classic double header 12” that came out in the UK. Both tracks are from Kleeer’s second album “Winners”. After all these years the track “Winners” itself doesn’t quite seem to pack the punch it did back in the day but nevertheless I still have a soft spot for it. “Open Your Mind”, however, is something else entirely. Anchored by Norman Durham’s bass it’s a real trip – lots of light and space, ethereal, gorgeous.

Kleeer – Open Your Mind 1980
Kleeer – Winners 1980

The Very Best Of Kleeer

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Jean genies #1

I hinted that posts would increase in frequency recently. Evidently not! I’m going to be out of town on business again a fair bit over the next few weeks, and when I’m not I’m anticipating some scorching summer weather (well, you can dream, can’t you?) will divert my attention away from the computer!

My last true Soul post here featured a great single by Jean Plum. The subject of that post was, indirectly, femme soul singers by the name of Betty(e) and Jean qualified as she was actually born Bettye Jean Plummer. Miss Plum(mer) has acted as a sort of Betty – Jean axis hereabouts as I launch into a mini series of posts featuring soul sisters by the name of Jean. This mini series will alternate with my “Tapping My Feet” feature for the next few posts.

Jean Wells is yet another example of a fine singer that, I would suggest, is completely unknown outside soul circles. In lists and ebay auctions I’ve seen her name crop up on a number of different record labels. After a bit of research I can now count 10 US labels in all. I have tried to trace her career through these various releases, but I have to say I’m still vague on many details.

Her recording career would appear to have started on the small Philly labels Quaker Town and Phila around 1965. She had travelled to Philadelphia from her native Florida in search of club work. By 1966 Jean may have upped sticks to New York. In any event she had a single released on the Eastern label (her “If You've Ever Loved Somebody “ / “Hello Baby, Goodbye, Too” immediately followed a string of superb Eddie & Ernie sides) and in 1967 Nate McCalla signed her to his New York based Calla label. There she would have some US R&B chart action through a number of 45 releases. It was rare for small independent labels to release albums but Calla managed a handful in the late 60s and in 1968 World Here Comes Jean Wells! was one of that handful, sporting some fantastic psychedelic cover art. The album was essentially a collection of her singles releases, many of which had a strong Southern tinge and included some great Deep style ballads such as “Sit Down And Cry” and “Have A Little Mercy”. Jean is possibly best known (in Northern soul circles at least) for her storming “With My Love And What You’ve Got” and she seemed equally at home singing Deep style ballads or up tempo movers. “Keep Your Mouth Shut (And Your Eyes Open)” was another example of a mover. That would appear to represent her last Calla outing. It also appeared on the tiny Volare label, I’m guessing after she split with Calla. After that (again, I think) Jean had one release on another New York label Law-Ton.

Her next label was Canyon. Jerry Williams aka SwampDogg worked at Calla as an engineer/producer and recording artist. Reincarnated as SwampDogg he was also at Canyon records and it’s a fair bet that’s how Jean Wells ended up releasing a single on that imprint - “He Aint Doing Bad” / “Somebody’s Been Loving You”. This is the single you can hear here. A great double-sided slab of funkiness, both penned by Jean. The chances are Jean would have released more on Canyon, but like so many of the smaller labels in the early 70s it went bust.

That was just about it for Jean’s “golden age”. There was a single on ABC and then she resurfaced briefly in 1979 back on a Philly based label TEC and then again in 1981 when there was another album release “Number One” (you can buy an autographed copy on Gemm at the moment!). The TEC release was on 12”. I haven’t heard it but it’s a fair bet it was disco flavoured. As for the album “Number One” again I haven’t heard it – disco biased again? Or gospel perhaps - I think that Jean, as many of the great soul singers did, moved back into the Gospel arena – and possibly well before her TEC outing - so it’s possible it was a Gospel album.

The Ace released CD “Soul On Soul” gathers together the bulk of her best output, including both sides of her Canyon single. I’m looking for it at a reasonable price. You can join me in the hunt if you like.

Jean Wells – He Ain’t Doing Bad (mp3)
Jean Wells – Somebody’s Been Lovin’ You (mp3) 1970

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tapping My Feet #2

In my previous post I was reminded of Yellow Magic Orchestra.

And that got me thinking...

In Bath, England, in a nightclub, a DJ is cueing “Firecracker”. In Munich, Germany, some teenagers are playing Space Invaders in a bowling alley, and in an apartment across the street it’s been a momentous day - little Ayumi has just taken her first steps.

As I said, just a thought.

Yellow Magic Orchestra – Computer Game/Firecracker 1979

Buy Yellow Magic Orchestra

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back to now

“Back to now” was the title that immediately came to mind when I started composing this entry. But, as I typed, it was nagging away at me that I’d used this title before. So I checked – and I have. No matter, it seems perfectly appropriate so I’m happy to use it again.

Alan Wilkis sent me an email recently with a very polite request – can I send you some music?

I get my fair share of product pushing emails nowadays. Mostly the musical genres they represent have nothing to do with those I wax lyrical about hereabouts. But the emails come in, scatter gun, and impersonal. Alan’s email was different though, it definitely had a personal touch, and I immediately had a warm feeling. So I popped over to his Myspace page and listened to a few of his featured tracks. As I told Alan - the music grabbed me.

Be prepared for a (pleasant) diversion. Alan’s Myspace page chooses to define his music as electronica/classic rock. It’s not what you would generally expect to find here at Feel It for sure (it’s new for a start! ha ha!). But equally I don’t think you can so simply pigeonhole Alan’s music, so let me quote from Alan’s flyer to give you an idea:

“Babies Dream Big” is the self-produced solo debut from Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, Alan Wilkis. The album is an exercise in stylistic cross-pollination, paying homage to the soul, R&B, classic rock, and electronic music of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.”

And also:

“BDB grew out of a genuine love for the pop music of the past”.

I can certainly hear echoes of ELO, Hall & Oates, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Queen, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra(!), to name just a few. The CD holds a consistently high standard, 12 tracks (well 11 and a twiddly bit), no filler.

It’s unashamedly feel good music. It has a sunny disposition, it’s big and bright, and proudly wears a retro heart on its sleeve.

“Babies Dream Big” will be a perfect accompaniment to the rapidly approaching summer. Get yourself a copy. Jump in the car, put the top down and turn the volume up. Find your favourite park and don’t forget to take your retro ghetto-blaster with you - forget your Ipod, this music deserves to be broadcast!

Alan Wilkis – I Love The Way 2008
Alan Wilkis – Girls On Bikes 2008