Diana, Doris And Bobby (Soul April 25th 1970)

The highest new entry on the Cash Box Top 50 in R&B Locations for April 25th 1970 was the debut solo single by a singer for whom her label had the greatest of expectations. In the preceding 10 years Tamla Motown’s commercial, artistic & indeed cultural influence had become the most incredible story in American popular music. The company began the new decade with the launch & instant success of the Jackson 5. It was now the turn of their biggest female star to take centre stage.

 

 

Diana Ross (1970) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

 

Diana Ross : Diana Ross (1970) (LP, Vinyl record album) -- Dusty ...Diana Ross had already sung on 12 US Pop #1 records with the Supremes, a trio that her name had been at the front of since 1967. For her debut LP she was placed with husband & wife writer/producers Nikolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson who provided 10 of the 11 songs, a surprising 6 of which had been previously recorded by other Motown acts. “Reach Out & Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” was the lead single & it sold 500,000 copies, more than respectable for any single. While it’s now one of Ms Ross’ signature songs #20 on the Pop chart & #7 R&B was lower than expected particularly while “Up the Ladder to the Roof”, the first 45 by the Supremes without Diana hit #10 & #5 respectively.

 

The “Diana Ross” LP is undoubtedly a fine record & the next single, a remake of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, a hit for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, put Diana right back at the top, achieving the double whammy of #1 Pop & R&B. Despite this Motown rushed her back into the studio with staffer Deke Richards & another album “Everything Is Everything” was released in November 1970. There were more modern standards, 2 Beatles songs, Bacharach & David, Aretha Franklin & on the cover, after the previous dressed-down, doe-eyed, elfin look Diana was much more glam. Diana Ross was already an American musical icon before she started a solo career. Whether she was singing big, positive, emotional ballads or songs custom-made for her by the Bee Gees & Chic, new music from her was an event anticipated by her millions of fans & she remained a major star for over 30 years.

 

 

 

After a week in the Top 10 Doris Duke’s “To the Other Woman (I’m the Other Woman)”, a top shelf example of Deep Soul, was sliding down the chart to #21. Doris Curry, born in Georgia, had moved to New York to see what opportunities were offered by the music business. In 1966, now Doris Willingham, there was a single & regular gigs as a back-up singer at the Apollo theatre & for recording sessions. A spot as a member of Nina Simone’s touring band was certainly prestigious. In 1969 Doris was introduced to Jerry Williams Jr a performer/songwriter who was re-inventing himself as Swamp Dogg & setting up his own production operation. Mr Dogg made a deal with Phil Walden, the former manager of Otis Redding, so the pair headed off to the new Capricorn studio in Macon Georgia to make an album.

 

Soulful Detroit: Wonder B - 'The Wonder-photo Man' - 1Swamp’s vision was to make Soul “concept” albums & “I’m A Loser” is a collection of lovelorn, love-weary songs from the perspective of a grown woman. With Doris’ strong, Gospel-inflected vocals getting understated support from the talented Capricorn Rhythm Section (that’s got to be Duane Allman on “Ghost of Myself”) it really is Southern Soul at its best. The remarried Doris Logan became Doris Duke & they were ready to go.”To the Other Woman”, written by Swamp & Gary US Bonds, a Rock & Roller from the early 1960s, is a strong almost Country ballad, the lyrics unusual & distinctive enough to be memorable & to stand out when heard on the radio. It & the more upbeat follow up “The Feeling Is Right” both made the R&B chart.Doris objected to having little input in the recording process beyond providing vocals to finished tracks & her relationship with her producer was never a good one. The pair did record another LP together, “A Legend In Her Own Time” & then only because of the previous success. Swamp Dogg had his own thing going on, an album & a single rising up the chart. We’ll get to this in a couple of weeks.

 

 

Eclectic Vibes — Sam Cooke's Widow Marries Bobby Womack 77 Days...Further down the Top 50, stalled at #41, was a singer on the way to restoring his reputation as a significant talent. In 1964 Bobby Womack, with his sister-in-law Shirley wrote “It’s All Over Now” for the family group the Valentinos & a cover version by the Rolling Stones became that group’s first UK #1. Later in the year the untimely death of Sam Cooke, Bobby’s idol & mentor was a great blow. A hurried marriage to Barbara, Sam’s widow, met with disapproval from the Cooke family & a reluctance from radio stations to give airtime to his records. In Memphis Bobby found a place at American Studios where he played on many sessions, having a couple of his songs picked up & put on the chart by Wilson Pickett. “I’m In Love” & “I’m a Midnight Mover” featured on his 1969 debut LP. Covers of “Fly Me To the Moon” (the title track) & California Dreamin'” were R&B Top 20 singles.

 

Bobby Womack Soul Funk Art Poster | Etsy“More Than I Can Stand” is taken from the “My Prescription” album, a disc I don’t own but I know every song. Bobby was hitting his soulful stride with a mix of original songs & sometimes unlikely covers (“Everyone’s Gone To the Moon” & “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”) with great backing from his friends the session men at American. “Communication” (1971) &, after a move to Muscle Shoals, the self-produced “Understanding” (1972), with “I Can Understand It” & “Harry Hippie”, continued the run. I have a “best of…” from these first 4 records & it’s a double album. In the future Bobby’s title track for the “Across 110th St” movie became an instant & abiding classic. In 1981 the LP “The Poet” was something of a revival & while his subsequent recordings reflected changing times & styles he kept his essential qualities. The self-styled & justifiable “only survivor left in town” kept on until his passing in 2014. In 1970 Bobby Womack had already laid the foundation of his reputation, by the time he was done he was a legend.

In One Love And One I-nity (The Front Line Sampler)

I’m so old that I can just about remember when billionaire, tax-dodging, publicity hungry  beardo Richard Branson, recently asking for other people’s money to bail out his ailing airline businesses, was kinda cool. Back then Virgin was a mail order concern selling discounted records through ads in the weekly music press. You could actually send in unwanted vinyl with your order, a reduction would be made & they would send you the new stuff. “Hippie Capitalism” maybe but if Virgin were happy to make a deal then everyone else was. At their Oxford Street shop shuffling longhairs had worn a path on the carpet of the shoe shop you passed through to get to the stairs. The old Birmingham store, on Corporation St, you knew it, there were aircraft seats, ashtrays, headphones & a Space Invaders machine. I once helped a guy trying to get his Grateful Dead tee shirts stocked there by offering to buy whatever he had in his bag! Virgin started their own record label in 1972 & the first release was Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, a phenomenon, 287 weeks on the UK Album chart. That’s like 6 months or something.

 

1971 never a dull moment — Virgin Records mail order ad from this ...

 

Full page advertisement for Virgin Records' reggae sampler album ...So that’s when Branson’s money pile got started. Virgin’s subsequent catalogue was mainly British & German Prog Rock alongside mavericks like Kevin Coyne, Captain Beefheart & Ivor Cutler. In 1975 they picked up U-Roy’s “Dread In A Babylon”, recorded & originally released in Jamaica, their first incursion into Reggae. Island Records had always carried the swing with regard to Jamaican music. Founder Chris Blackwell, raised on the island had local connections & after moving to the UK had supplied & then nurtured what was still a niche market. His own efforts & his company’s distribution of the Trojan label raised awareness of Reggae & his signing of both Bob Marley & the Wailers & Toots & the Maytals signalled ambitions for further growth & for Reggae to go international. Virgin used some of the Oldfield cash to invest in Jamaica’s flourishing Roots Reggae scene. Most of the albums they licensed for UK release were by artists unfamiliar to a wider audience so they compiled a sampler album, 10 tracks from 7 new records for just 69 pence (86 cents). Again if Virgin were happy with the deal then so were we, “The Front Line” became the biggest selling Reggae LP in the UK.

 

 

Oh yes, the Gladiators, “Looks Is Deceiving”. ” Goat never know the use of him tail till the butcher cut it off”. The Gladiators had been around for a while & a successful time with “Sir” Coxone Dodd at the producer’s Studio One persuaded Virgin to finance “Trenchtown Mix Up” their debut LP. Originally a vocal group, they became a band, the songs written by they founder/singer/guitarist Albert Griffiths. “…Mix Up” has great harmonies, fine upfull lyrics of Rasta philosophy & the struggle against Babylon. The competition was fierce back then & it was more distinctive music, Culture, Burning Spear & the now separate Wailers who caught wider attention. This track & the other included on “The Front Line”, “Know Yourself Mankind” still do it. The Gladiators have continued to tour & record, Albert having handed over the reins to his two sons. “The man laugh first, him nuh laugh yet the man laugh last get it full”.

 

Our favourite indie fleapit, the pre-gentrification Ritzy in Brixton, South London, didn’t stage many gigs. There was that Legalise Cannabis night, “Reefer Madness”, two good bands & hoping that we won the cake in the raffle because rocking down to Electric Avenue with a four foot high bong at 1 am could be awkward. I have no idea how, in the early 1980s, the Gladiators came to be booked there but it wasn’t one to miss & a fine group of friends showed out. There wasn’t the expectation we felt when going to see one of Jamaica’s superstars. We didn’t know all the tunes, we did know the Bob Marley tributes though & there was a great energy in the room & a connection between band & audience. Good live Reggae music, an informal venue, dancing in the aisles & the Ritzy’s honey, melon & stem ginger ice cream all round. A high time was had by all.

 

 

U-Roy - Natty Rebel (1976, Vinyl) | DiscogsU-Roy, the Originator, the Godfather of Rap, or just Ewart Beckford had spent the 1960s as a DJ with popular sound systems who played at dances throughout Jamaica. There he perfected the art of toasting, rhythmic, sometimes improvised chatting over the hit songs of the day. His first recording, in 1969, for Keith Hudson, another artist featured on “The Front Line”, was over a John Holt song. The following year, having transferred to Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, his treatment of a Paragons hit from 1967 was a hit on the island. On “Wear You To The Ball” the transition between vocals & chat is seamless. You hear the original now & you certainly anticipate U-Roy’s commentary & interjections, “Chicka-Bow-Wow-Wow!”. He opened the door for other toasters to follow. First Dennis Alcapone & I-Roy then young guns like Big Youth, Dillinger & Trinity became known as recording artists rather than sound system guys.

 

U Roy - Radio KingVirgin did well out of “Dread In A Babylon” & it was followed by “Natty Rebel”. For the title track producer “Prince” Tony Robinson put U-Roy on to the Gladiators’ cover of the Wailers “Soul Rebel”, a track he also produced. The album is more upbeat than “Dread…” & whether his chat is philosophical, militant Rasta or jaunty & funny (“Natty Kung Fu”), U-Roy is a master of all moods, riding every rhythm perfectly. He was a pioneer, an innovator, an influence on & a virtuoso in a genre of Jamaican music. You can make further claims for U-Roy that reach beyond the island into modern 21st century music & they are probably true too.

 

 

Johnny Clarke - Rockers Time Now | Releases | DiscogsFinally an all-time classic by Johnny Clarke who, in 1976 had been voted Jamaican artist of the year for the second successive time. Young Johnny had sung around the talent shows & with various producers before hooking up at Channel One studio with producer Bunny Lee. They began a prolific & successful partnership. A mix of conscious Rastafarian lyrics & covers of love songs established him as the foremost vocalist of the time. With studio band the Aggrovators, including Augustus Pablo, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Robbie Shakespeare & drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, “Striker” Lee finessed the “flying cymbal”, a drum sound first heard on Johnny Clarke’s hits which quickly became the very thing in Reggae. “Declaration of Rights” with its direct lyrics of an historic reality had been a hit for the Abyssinians. It received the Johnny Clarke treatment on the rather special “Rockers Time Now” LP. In the late 1990s a workmate had grown up in Jamaica, leaving for England when he was 30. I was a willing audience for his stories about the Kingston music scene & he was surprised when I asked about Johnny & “Declaration…” one of his favourites too. I told him about “The Front Line” album.

 

JOHNNY CLARKE. (born 12 January 1955) is a Jamaican reggae ...There were four albums released by Johnny Clarke in 1975 & again in 1976. There’s plenty of his fine music to discover so don’t hang about! Mr Lee would record his tracks then send them over to the Waterhouse studio of King Tubby (Osbourne Ruddock) who would work his alchemy & create a Dub version. Tubby’s Home Town Hi Fi was a top sound system before, in 1975, the police attacked & destroyed the set-up at a dance. He retreated to the controls of his small studio & his pioneering “King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown” with Augustus Pablo moved Dub to the forefront of Reggae music. I do love Dub but prefer the exploratory “versions” alongside classic tunes. Click on the track above & enjoy the experience of Johnny Clarke & King Tubby together.

 

Virgin Records The Front Line Stock Pictures, Royalty-free Photos ...

 

BBC Arts - BBC Arts - Marley, Lydon & me: Shooting the punky ...

Mr Big Youth & Mr Lydon

The success of the budget sampler encouraged Virgin to start the Front Line imprint exclusively for Reggae records. Branson went to Jamaica accompanied by the lead singer, a big Reggae fan, of his star turns the Sex Pistols. They signed some great artists & released some enduring albums. I’m going for Big Youth’s “Dread Locks Dread” but it could have been Culture, Prince Far I or either of the Roys, U & I. It didn’t last but there was no doubting the influence of the original “Front Line” sampler in spreading the word about Roots Reggae. Volumes II & III followed & now you can buy a box set of 4 CDs with the same name for £50 ($62). I’ll stick with the one for under a quid thanks.

 

 

As a lockdown bonus here’s one of the 350 singles that Johnny Clarke has released. It’s another Johnny/ Bunny Lee/King Tubby creation, from 1975, just before his bigger hits. “Rock With Me Baby” isn’t one of his conscious, cultural songs, it wasn’t all natty this, natty that, chanting down Babylon there had to be a little sweetness to nice up the dance. I knew the song from Ronnie Davis, part of his contribution to the brilliant 1979 “Gregory Isaacs meets Ronnie Davis” LP, I’ve only recently found this version & well…get on it & enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Everybody’s Got A Thing (Soul April 18th 1970)

This week, 50 years ago, the Jackson 5 were replaced at the top of the Cash Box Top 50 in R&B Locations by the breakthrough hit, a million seller,  from the Moments, not always mentioned in the first rank of vocal groups but who stuck around & made the listings for the next 15 years. “Love On A Two Way Street” kept the #1 spot on the Cash Box chart for 8 weeks, the longest stint of any record in 1970.

 

 

 

 

Not On The Outside The Moments MIDI FileThe Moments were formed in Washington DC in the mid-60s. They signed to All Platinum, a label run by husband & wife Joseph & Sylvia Robinson, in 1968 & experienced immediate success. Ms Robinson has her own chapter in the history of African-American music. There were hits as duo Mickey & Sylvia in the 1950’s, solo records (& a Grammy nomination) in the 1970’s &, as the founder of Sugar Hill Records, she pioneered the recording of new Hip Hop acts. Sylvia knew what sold, in fact she made a vocal contribution to “Lovely Way She Loves”, the fourth of the Moments’  R&B Top 20 hits before “Love On A Two Way Street”. It was during the recording of their debut LP that things got a little complicated when lead tenor Mark Greene & Richie Gross left the group. Billy Brown & Al Goodman joined John Morgan, Greene’s vocals were re-recorded by Billy & it was this trio pictured on the cover of the record.

 

The Moments - Love On A Two-Way Street | Releases | Discogs“Love On A Two Way Street”, is a dramatic, romantic ballad, backing provided by the wonderfully named Willie & the Mighty Magnificents, & while maybe not as groundbreaking as the Delfonics it’s certainly comparable. More team changes when Morgan left did not affect the Moments’ popularity nor did Billy Brown’s vocal problems which brought newest member Harry Ray to the foreground. There were to be two more R&B Top 10 entries before the year was out & in 1975 “Look  At Me (I’m In Love”) put them back at the top of the R&B chart. The group released a steady run of albums, including the intriguing “Live At New York State Women’s Prison”, & three singles which missed out in the US all became Top 10 hits in the UK (Over here everyone knows “Girls” by the Moments & Whatnauts…Right On !). On leaving All Platinum in 1979 the label claimed dibs on “The Moments” name so the trio became Ray, Goodman & Brown & continued to have hits. This music business thing…it’s complicated.

 

 

 

 

45cat - Funkadelic - I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody's ...“You don’t smoke what I smoke. You don’t think like I think…I got a thing, You got a thing, Everybody’s got a thing”, Well alright! At #20 on the chart is the third single from the aural nitroglycerine that is Funkadelic’s debut LP. The Parliaments, a five man vocal group formed in a barbershop in Plainfield, New Jersey, finally sold some records in 1967 when the driving beat of “(I Wanna) Testify” made the R&B & Pop charts. When their record label filed for bankruptcy & leader George Clinton wanted to move on he found that it meant leaving his group’s name behind! George’s solution was call his backing group Funkadelic & sign them to Westbound Records. This collective, 5 players & 5 singers, brought new talent to the fore, influences spread across Soul, Funk, Rock & Blues & probably a suitcase full of drugs, to pursue an intrepid exploration of the possibilities of music “dedicated to the feeling of good…for nothing is good unless you play with it”. “Funkadelic” can be dense & chaotic, the birth of P-Funk. It’s still Soul, a new kind & it’s brilliant.

 

WHAT IS SOUL? George Clinton & the Birth of Funkadelic - Blurt ...This wild & wonderful appearance on the nationally syndicated “Upbeat” TV show to promote “I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody Got A Thing” highlights the difficulty of capturing the tumult of a 10 man fancy dress parade with little respect for the conventions of presentation. Things were more convoluted when George sorted out his legal problems & in July 1970 after Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind… & Your Ass Will Follow”, Parliament released “Osmium”, an album by the same line-up. With all this studio time guitarists Eddie Hazel & Tawl Ross, Billy “Bass” Nelson, drummer Tikki Fulwood & new guy on keys Bernie Worrell flourished, enabling George Clinton to pursue his grand vision for the group. By the middle of the decade more people were listening, gold & platinum albums & #1 R&B singles were achieved & Parliament-Funkadelic, with a stage show to match their reputation, were the biggest band in America.

 

 

 

 

Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band on SpotifyOver on the West Coast the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band had made a couple of albums that consolidated their reputation as a fine club band. Soul standards were energetically & imaginatively arranged for an 8-piece group by member Raymond Jackson . The track that caught people’s attention was the closer on “Together” (1968). “Do Your Thing”, effectively employed in the film “Boogie Nights” while William H Macey is doing his, is a potent Funk brew, more basic than the rest of the record. Encouraged by their success 1969’s “In The Jungle Babe” is much more confident, individual & adventurous as the group explore their new sound, stretching out on the cover versions of “Light My Fire” & “25 Miles”. Somewhere between the two lead singles from “Jungle”, to feature the singer & band leader, there was a name change to Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

 

45cat - Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band ...“Love Land”, a new entry at #38 & the sweetest sounds you will hear today, is a bit of an outlier from the drive of the LP. All of the players in the Rhythm Band are pretty hot but drummer James Gadson is rightly considered as an innovator & an influence. He’s less well known as a singer but he’s on the button here. James became Motown’s go-to drummer in L.A., he played on so many records that you know. Maybe he should have sung more. A Top 20 Pop hit, the biggest track from the album, “Love Land” is an update of an Al Hibbler song from 1959. It’s credited to Charles Wright & Don Trotter. James Gadson believes that he should have got & was promised more credit. There were to be two more LPs from the group, the much-sampled “Express Yourself” was another that hit big,  but, as James said, things got a little strange after “Loveland”. In 1971 four of the band left to tour the world with Bill Withers & Charles continued as a solo performer.

 

As many of us have a little more time on our hands here’s a little bonus music. First, in 1972, James Gadson, still unsettled about getting burned on “Love Land” recorded “Got To Find My Baby”, same tune, different lyrics.  On the Rhythm Band’s final album “You’re So Beautiful” he was, as usual, given one song. I first heard “What Can You Bring Me?” on Robert Palmer’s “Some People Can Do What They Like”. The original is wickedly funky & always hits the spot.

 

Splendid Isolation (Amanda & Jason)

Whatever displacement activity occupying my time in this stretch of isolation is put to one side every night at 11 pm UK time to watch & listen to a tea-time concert from the home of Amanda Shires & her husband Jason Isbell where they are quarantined with their daughter Mercy, Amanda’s guitarist Seth Plemmons, his wife Kelly & Zeyke the dog. In the past month I’ve gladly accepted & enjoyed invitations to join favourite musicians like Richard Thompson & Kate Rusby in their living rooms but these daily “I So Lounging” sessions have become a much appreciated constant when you are living by the days. I’m in daily contact with family & friends but the best news we have is “I’m still here”. The opportunity to enjoy some good music, to listen in to good conversation by good people is a blessing. This weekend Jason reached out & got his band back together.

 

 

 

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Reunions – The Drift Record ShopJason Isbell & the 400 Unit have a new album, “Reunions”, slated for release on May 15th. There are three track available on the Y-tube & “What Have I Done To Help” is sounding more powerful each time I hear it. There will not be the usual promotional run for “Reunions”, the in-store record shop appearances, the national tour & even the Summer festivals may not happen. When Jason did gather the Unit from their respective isolation they chose to play a track from “Something More Than Free”. “24 Frames” is a staple of the band’s setlist & it rocks. This more living-room friendly acoustic version by musicians who are not going to play together for some time is a beauty. “This is how you make yourself call your mother & this is how you make yourself closer to your brother & remember him back when he was small enough to help you sing”. We’re all taking some time out to do that.

 

 

amanda shires john prine — Blog — Lindsey BestThe quality of the “I So Lounging” sessions has been uniformly high but new heights were reached on the day we heard of the sad passing of John Prine. John was a Great American Songwriter as well as a friend & mentor of both Amanda & Jason & on April 8th they performed “Angel From Montgomery”, “Clocks & Spoons”, a favourite of their daughter who loved her Uncle John, & “Illegal Smile” while sharing stories of times shared with him. It was obvious from the sigh at the beginning of this clip that Amanda was having a tough day & she did have to take time to compose herself. I was fine as between songs they shared affectionate memories & humorous  stories about their friend. John Prine’s songs are always honest & bitter-sweet & I must admit that halfway through “Illegal Smile” it was something more than dust in my eye that brought the tears.

 

Throughout this memorial & tribute I knew that I had come to the right place to think about & pay my own respects to a fine artist. I only know John Prine’s music but these people knew & loved him as a human being. I felt their loss & was grateful that they were taking the time to share their feelings with us. The following day a beautiful piece written by Jason appeared in the New York Times, further confirmation that none of the many obituaries & eulogies about John were more heartfelt than the performance I had witnessed on the previous evening. 

 

 

Amanda Shires joined by husband Jason Isbell for two Montana shows ...Alongside their own songs Amanda & Jason are taking the opportunity to cover some of their favourite songs. Jason sang fine versions of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” & “Unknown Legend”, Amanda chose “Chelsea Hotel #2” & “Everybody Knows” from the Leonard Cohen songbook. Others have included Loudon Wainwright, a great reminder of how good a song the Allman Brothers’ “Melissa” is & a very a propos “Keep On Smiling” by Wet Willie. Last night (Sunday) I was introduced to Lennon Stella’s charming “Golf On TV”. We’ll go with Amanda’s take on Radiohead’s “High & Dry” because, after seeing her sing, play & talk to us daily for almost a month now, it showcases what an absolute talent she has & delight she is. All of the “I So Lounging” episodes can be found on the Amanda Shires channel on the Y-tube ( Episode 20 is the Prine tribute). I can only recommend that you check them out, I can only hope that they bring you as much pleasure as they have brought me.

 

 

While I’m here I’ll mention that Sadler Vaden, Jason’s trusty guitar partner in the 400 Unit has his own solo album. I had kind of guessed that Sadler had a bit of a thing for Tom Petty & “Anybody Out There” is an assured collection of modern American Rock. The more I hear the more I’m liking it.

 

OK, I have a couple of hours before tonight’s episode. Time to read a little more or to progress my game of “Civilization V” before settling down to enjoy whatever Amanda & Jason (not forgetting Seth & Kelly) want to bring into my living room for 45 minutes & to celebrate making it through another day. Stay safe & stay healthy everyone.

Plant Love Seeds (Soul April 11th 1970)

My last post, on new records by Daniel Romano, could have been chiselled on to stone tablets & wouldn’t have been any slower to write. I’m three weeks into this isolation rigmarole, my age & health situation puts me in the “so long, it was nice knowing you” bracket so I’m doing it right. With any anxiety about that thing being usurped by an unease that the world has finally jumped the shark (it was coming) I found the usual flow wasn’t forthcoming. That’s not good & has to be nipped in the bud because I like doing this. So for the duration of this craziness my monthly missives about the great Soul music of 50 years ago from the “Cash Box Top 50 in R&B Locations” will now be a weekly word. Fine, fine music, that’s what I need. I’m feeling better already & here’s some now.

 

 

 

Cryin' In The Streets by George Perkins on SpotifyThe Number 1 R&B record on April 11th 1970 was by the teen sensation of the day. The Jackson 5’s “ABC” was the quintet’s second chart topper of the year & there would be two more before 1970 was done with. We must get to them later. The youthful vivacity of “ABC” is a perfect modern fusion of Pop & Soul while just behind it, at #4 in the Cash Box chart, is a song that, but for it’s subject & inspiration, could be at least 20 years old. The Silver Stars were a popular Gospel group from Louisiana whose 2 45s “They Call Him Jesus” & “Father Don’t Forget Me.” had been released locally in 1968. Things were changing & 2 years later leader George Perkins, inspired by the civil rights movement & the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, wrote “Crying in the Streets”.

 

What a beautiful record it is. Backed by the most basic of instrumentation (though that’s some fancy drumming) it’s the quality & emotion of a Gospel quartet that makes it right. There’s an essential playlist of significant songs concerned with the shift in American society at this time & “Crying in the Streets” rightfully takes its place on it. Released on the Golden label “Crying…” was successful in the Southern states before being picked up for wider distribution by Silver Fox in Nashville. George & the Silver Stars were surprised to have a national hit on their hands & delighted to have a week-long booking at New York’s Apollo Theatre. The follow up “How Can A Broke Man Survive” was back on Golden & failed to register as did subsequent records released while George combined music & a job in insurance. George Perkins was always “the Crying in the Streets man”, there are worse things to be known as.

 

 

 

Live with Otis, Janis & Jimi | Documentary of the Week | WNYCAt #34 on the chart “Wicked” Wilson Pickett commemorated three musical icons who had died in the past decade. “Cole, Cooke & Redding” is a sincere tribute to Nat “King”, Sam & Otis set to the tune of “Abraham, Martin & John”, a Top 10 US Pop hit for Dion in 1968 & a UK best seller for Marvin Gaye in 1970. Just two places below, at #36, was a posthumous release by one of these stars. In July 1967 Otis Redding’s performance at the Monterey Pop Festival had electrified “the Love Crowd” & showed him the possibility of reaching a new audience. Otis’ response was to write & record “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay”, a song with a more restrained approach which was finished at Stax’ Memphis studios on December 7th. Just three days later Otis, his valet, four members of the Bar-Kays & the pilot were killed when their plane crashed near Madison, Wisconsin. Before this tragedy Otis had already confirmed his status as an outstanding talent in American music. That the fatal accident occurred just before his development & potential would surely have led to greater success make the event even more poignant.

 

Otis Redding - Tell The Truth [White Label Promo] (Vinyl LP ...“Demonstration” is one of Otis’ final posthumous single releases. It’s taken from the LP “Tell the Truth”, the 4th studio collection since his death. There were no more tracks like “Dock of the Bay” in the vaults, this is the old-school Otis & while these records may not sit alongside “Otis Blue” or, my favourite, “The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul” every one of them, indeed every song has its moments. These may have been unfinished tracking vocals but the heartfelt soulfulness still excites as does the inimitable groove of Booker T & the M.G.s & the gritty power of the Memphis Horns. “Demonstration” is not an Otis Redding single that comes immediately to mind but it’s a great example of how they did it in Memphis in the1960s when no-one was doing it better.

 

 

MARVIN GAYE DISCOGRAPHYThe pairing by Tamla Motown of Marvin Gaye, the label’s biggest male star with young Tammi Terrell was a great call. Marvin had previously recorded with Kim Weston & Mary Wells & Tammi proved to be the perfect foil. Their first release “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was a smash & it began a run of success with, mostly, songs tailor-made for the duo by husband & wife writer/producer team Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson. “The Onion Song”, a new entry on the Cash Box chart at #39 was their 9th & final Top 20 R&B hit. The single had a US release on March 20th 1970 just 4 days after Tammi succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 24. She had not had an easy life & I’m not about to summarise the abuses she suffered as a child & at the hands of her male partners which surely contributed to her early death. Tammi Terrell’s obvious affinity with Marvin had established her as a vivacious talent & personality, holding her own with a much bigger name. This, allied to the efficiency of the Motown star-making machinery, would undoubtedly have led to greater things had she lived longer.

 

marvin gaye & tammi terrell - Google Search | Marvin gaye, Tammi ...“The Onion Song” had been released in the UK in October 1969 & became Marvin & Tammi’s biggest hit here. At the time it was not my favourite of their singles. I found the lyric a little clumsy compared to the more delicate “You’re All I Need to Get By” & the charm of “You Ain’t Livin’ Till You’re Lovin'”. Yeah, I was so much older then, I was wrong. I don’t really care that Tammi’s illness prevented her recording & that Valerie Simpson’s vocals were used on the later songs. The three albums that Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell released together are full of romance, spirit & optimism & we could all use those things in these trying times, I know that I could.

Let The Boy Rock And Roll (Daniel Romano)

Like many of us I have time on my hands so last week I visited the Bandcamp website as they were waiving their admin fees, giving a bigger cut to the artists suffering a loss of income from the cancellation of all tours for the foreseeable future. I struck lucky on my first click. Hoping for a preview of the upcoming live album by Daniel Romano I found that he had uploaded, for the duration of his own self-isolation, “Visions of a Higher Dream” a 10 track collection of new songs. What’s more he only wanted three of his Canadian dollars for them. I paid more than that because when it comes to Daniel Romano I’m a bit of a fan-boy.

 

 

Daniel Romano's Outfit Announces US Tour - Closed CaptionedOK, Bandcamp is only letting us share/embed the whole of “Visions…”. Whether you only play the sparky opener “Where May I Take My Rest” or hang around for show-stoppers like “Lilac About Thy Crown” or “Boy In A Crow Skin Cape” I’m sure that you can hear that this is new music at a bargain price. It’s been a long often challenging trip to keep up with the prolific Romano. He established himself with a heartworn, lovingly recreated classic Country & Western sound, traditional structures, honestly & respectfully emotional, artfully packed with guile & drama, doing it better than anyone around. Before the Nudie suits & three chords & the truth Daniel’s band Attack in Black were quality indie-rockers & subsequent albums “Mosey” (2016) & “Modern Pressure” (2017) expanded his palette, experimenting with psychedelic flourishes, different musical styles, more impressionistic lyrics delivered with a touch of Dylan’s nasality. Personally I was willing to follow an artist with the ability to write great songs like “There Are Lines In My Face (That Don’t Come From Smiling)”, I don’t expect the same thing every time & now some of my favourite songs of his are on these adventurous records.

 

 

 

Daniel has previous when it comes to this surprise album thing. Always prolific, in January 2018 he placed two albums of original material, “Human Touch” & “Nerveless” on Bandcamp. They were not there for too long & I was sorry that I missed them. They’re around, both uploaded to the Y-tube & very good they are too. Again all the Romano bases are covered, plenty of atmosphere even grandeur in every song. “Nerveless” is the more immediate of the pair, opening with a flurry of uptempo crashing guitars & continuing with some fine almost-Pop songs. “Anyone’s Arms” is as simple a piece of radio-friendly Power Pop Daniel has ever recorded. I don’t need more of that but it always puts a smile on my face. It may have been my coming late to these songs that dampened my enthusiasm when, later in 2018, “Finally Free” was released. What with 3 solo efforts while also touring & recording with his group Ancient Shapes it was a little too much. I’m getting there with “Finally..” though. You have to quicken your pace to keep up with Daniel Romano but it’s always worth it.

 

 

Daniel Romano Tickets, Tour Dates & Concerts 2021 & 2020 – SongkickSo, I’m just a couple of days into a very enjoyable exploration of “Visions of a Higher Dream” when the new album proper shows up. There’s no problem with overload this time around because “Okay Wow”, a live set recorded in Scandinavia credited to Daniel Romano’s Outfit, is so different from his previous releases & boy, it rocks. The 15 tracks are a breakneck slalom, nothing over 4 minutes, through his back catalogue. Earlier songs “Hard On You” & “Time Forgot (To Change My Heart), beautifully judged Country songs in their original form, have become a Crazy Horse-like blast of guitars. There are songs from the 2 now-you-see-them albums, “Roya”, above, (go on you’ve got 2 minutes to spare), is from “Modern Pressure”. All of them are remade-remodelled & more of his old-school fans may decide that enough is enough. Me, I’ve not heard Country Rock played with such energy since Jason & the Scorchers. I can still hear the strong construction of the songs & still love the commotion & emotion of his music.

 

 

Daniel Romano's Outfit Announces US Tour - Closed CaptionedDaniel has made just the one video for the new record. “Nerveless” sounds great, the film, a couple shoplifting in the mall, has, of course nothing to do with the live performance. There has always been an artfulness to even the most traditional of his work. He’s not going to change & I’m more than comfortable with the challenges he presents with his musical evolution & the way he presents himself through his videos. A shout must be made to The Outfit, brother Ian, David Nardi, Roddy Rossetti, Tony Cicero & Julianna Riolino for their exciting contributions. “Okay Wow” is livening up my days of isolation & if I need to chill then there’s always “Visions of a Higher Dream” alongside it.