Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Boxing match


It seems that C and I are involved in a spot of inspiration tennis at the moment. (Hang on, this is starting to sound like an episode of Grandstand!)

I couldn't resist this box of singles at a car boot earlier this month. "They're all reggae, roots, lovers" the seller said. Yeah, right. A quick flick through told me there were likely lots (and lots) of dancehall and ragga which is not my cup of tea at all. It's funny how sellers like to pass off dancehall as reggae. Yes, dancehall and ragga is where reggae went but their soundscapes are so different they really shouldn’t be described as reggae. Well, they know what they're doing, I suppose, as dancehall is mostly a challenging listen (and almost worthless) in my limited experience. Still, there was bound to be something in there worth having, I thought, and I just felt like taking home a box of mystery 45s to sift through (especially as there was nothing else on the vinyl front to be had). I couldn’t budge him on his price but he had set that on the estimation of about 50 records in the box. I could see there were more than that so I handed over the money, I’m not a great haggler.

It turns out there were 85 records in the box. I have to say my gut feel on the content was borne out. Nevertheless, I have had enormous fun working through the box, and felt I have had my money’s worth simply by doing that.

On first play many of these records sounded a bit rough. I was sort of expecting that really, as I thought it came with the territory i.e. cheap local label presses. But I’m working through cleaning them and that is mostly having a marked improvement on the sound quality.     
  
So what is in this box? They were nearly all released in the period 1996-2006 it seems – so no roots or lovers in the classic tradition. But on a first quick play through I actually put aside about 30-40 that grabbed me enough to warrant further investigation. Tracking the records down on the internet has been a bit of a challenge due to the general lack of release numbers and the somewhat loose way artists and track names can be identified. I’ve managed to pinpoint many on Discogs though. This has opened my eyes to the staggering quantity of records some of these artists have released. I suppose this high release rate is driven by the nature of the dancehall scene where there is a constant battle to come up with a new sound. In the end it has to be quantity rather quality though.

I really wanted to like Harry Toddler's offerings (read it quickly as Hairy Toddler if you want!), and a version called Flying Green Puss (which involves the deejay/singer doing much clearing of throat a la Bob Fleming!), but they are in the out pile. One artist is called Teetimus, that name really makes me chuckle.

Also finding their way into the box were a few US R&B singles. There was a white label Angie Stone which is great and the two singles in the picture outside the box. These are bootlegs it seems (of K-Ci & JoJo and Usher). The label is the interesting thing though, both singles show a photocopy of the venerable US Volt label (VOA4010 B side to be exact - to save you looking that up it is The Emotions - Got To Be The Man). Why did the bootleggers choose that particular label and release I wonder? 


Of all the songs (if you can call them that), and their almost inevitable B side versions, the track that gets my #1 vote is an artist named on the label simply as Tami with So In Love on the Gibbo label. Some research tells me Tami is Tami Chynn, This single was released in 2005 which is about a year before Tami went “overground” into the worldwide pop arena. Tami was born in Jamaica. When she was 14 she came to England and spent three years in Leamington Spa studying performing arts. Her younger sister, Tessanne, won series 5 of the American version of The Voice. In 2009 she and Wayne Marshall, another dancehall artist, were married and they now have a child. Incidentally, there is at least one Wayne Marshall single in this box too.      



Another one that has worked its way into my brain is Sizzla with Baby and its Version. On Discogs Sizzla has a mind-boggling 925 singles listed! On many of these his singjaying just makes an appearance but he is co-credited and, as Discogs states: “he is very prolific even by Jamaican standards”. Discogs also informs us that this track is based on the Money Juggling rhythm, son now we know.

Sizzla – Baby  2004   


I’ll finish this post with Keety General’s Problems. For dancehall this lays down a marker as being out there on the edge of acceptable as far as I am concerned.  


Friday, April 17, 2015

AG by the end of the evening


Until now I have been living my life BG. In a few hours time, for the first time in my life, I will finally see one of my heroes perform. I'm going to see George Clinton and the P Funk gang.

Then I can count my days as AG - After George.

Will they play a P-Funked version of this I wonder?

The Parliaments - A New Day Begins  1969    

So here I am AG.
Well they didn't perform this but they did play for two and a half  hours (essentially with no break between songs/jams/grooves!) and it was, for me, a religious experience!!


The man himself was very fetching too in tramp's trousers, check shirt, striped pink tie and a hat that the barmy army down in the Caribbean would die for right now.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Identity crisis

Another cover story and, you’ve been warned, another visual abomination!


Back to my record fair visit the other week. So there I was flicking through the boxes of soul and funk 45s I had finally stumbled upon. What’s this Bob Marley & The Wailers single doing in here? Oh, wait a minute it’s not Bob. It’s The Dupars. Hang on, that’s one of those lovely Mayfield labels peeping out of the sleeve. It’s not the Dupars, it’s Marvin Smith – I like him!  

What a the sad predicament this single had found itself in. In a vain attempt to assert its identity it had decided to be a promo – i.e. same song both sides (think NY,NY – so good they named it twice!).   

Marvin Smith has featured here before on more than one occasion. The last time I featured a 45 of his bought on Record Store Day 2011, and of course RSD is just around the corner now. 

A quick reminder - Marvin used to be lead singer with The Artistics. For a moment I thought there was actually a coincidental link between this Marvin Smith 45 and the cover it found itself in. But I got my Du’s mixed up – you see, Marvin replaced Charles Davis in The Artistics, and Charles had previously been with the Dukays. Close!       

On the issue release of this single Who Will Do Your Running Now would have been the B side, which gets a lot of attention on the Northern/Crossover circuit I believe, but I prefer You’re Really Something Sadie, written by Curtis Mayfield; and the arrangement does have Curtis written all over it. Marvin himself was pretty excited about Sadie too as he recounted in a recent interview (scroll about half way down). Sadie is not really Northern and hence the value of a promo is not so high, but the song is a good one and that’s what counts.



*More than one site has this listed as a 1974 release which is much too late I think. Discogs puts it at 1969 which is more like it.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

So wrong... so right


Isn’t this picture is an assault to the eyes? For a start the colours clash like a bad fashion disaster, and what in God’s name is an obscure mid-sixties US soul gem of a 45 doing clothed in a mid-seventies sleeve of a UK company known for pop-soul (OK, I grant you, GTO did have a half decent roster: Donna Summer, Heatwave, Billy Ocean, and not forgetting Fox!, all made some pretty good records).

When I buy a 45 I like it to come in its original sleeve. This particular 45 was released in 1965 (it’s 50 years old!). LLP was a tiny label so I’m sure it wouldn’t have come in a company sleeve, but I would have expected a plain brown (probably) sleeve. Then I could have obsessed over thoughts of it lying around unwanted and unplayed in a warehouse or two, and maybe a garage or two too, for all of its 50 years until finally I came to its rescue, taking it out of it mailer, slowly turning it over as I admire it, carefully withdrawing it from the sleeve and placing it on the turntable, lowering the needle onto the run-in and hearing it give up – for the first time after all these years? – the secrets it holds in its grooves.

Imagine my initial gasp of horror when I pulled this out of its mailer. How could I perform my little ritual with any conviction when it was nestling in that sleeve?!  Its essence had been besmirched. What happened to its original sleeve? Did the poor record exist without a sleeve for some time before somebody so heartlessly mismatched it with the GTO sleeve? (probably not, actually, as the record is in tip-top condition). This came from a Soul dealer too, they ought to know better. If they had acquired it in this state they surely could have set the record (and sleeve) straight. I could have at least played out my little ritual then (even though it was really an illusion).

Get over it! It’s what’s in the grooves that counts. And both sides of this record contain something magical.

I’ve featured a Gloria Parker 45 here before (the ritual then was full and real!). As far as is known Gloria only released three records, two on LLP in 1965, and a final one on Samar in 1966 which was a disappointment in comparison to the LPP releases. That’s a shame, I would have enjoyed hunting down some more of her records, and performing my little ritual with them.



Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Serendipity


There was a record fair on in town last weekend. This is the “big one”, as opposed to the “little one” I’ve written about before. I only occasionally go to the “big one” and it was a last minute decision to go this time. I’m glad I did. At first I was bemoaning the general lack of 45s on offer, but somehow I still managed to while away most of two hours browsing the albums on the various stalls. This resulted in Bobby Bland, Bobby Womack, and Peter Brown albums finding their way into my bag (I paid for them of course!). A last minute, or so I thought, 45 was purchased too (a nice upgrade to this) and then I decided it was time to go. As I was walking towards the exit I noticed a dealer tucked away around a corner on the first floor I hadn’t noticed before. I’ll have a quick look, I thought. Bingo! He had lots of 45s, and even better they were nearly all 60s and 70s US soul and funk! So, before I knew it, another hour had passed which was good and bad. Bad because it meant I knew I would be in trouble with Mrs Darce back home, who would have been waiting for use of the car. Good because in that hour I bought six 45s, all great finds that realistically I would have only expected to find on-line (eventually) and not at the sort of prices I managed to secure them for. There were lots of albums and 12” singles too but for the sake of my marriage, and my wallet, I didn’t look at those! (Incidentally, it wasn’t until I got home that I realised I had completely missed a whole floor of dealers! So I could have easily spent all day there).

The highlight of my six 45 purchases is I’ve Got The Kind Of Love by The Diplomats. My heart skipped a beat when I pulled this one out of the box, and another when I played it and found it to be in excellent condition. I had heard this on a mix I stumbled across a year or two ago and have been obsessing over it ever since. Copies on-line are hard to come by and I didn’t want to pay the prices when they had turned up. I never thought I would finally find a copy in the flesh, and in my home town!

I had not heard of The Diplomats before I heard this song on that mix. They existed, with some variation in line up, through much of the Sixties and into 1970. The line up at the time of their release on Dynamo was Sam Culley, Ervin Waters and Thomas Price. Two thirds of this group (Sam and Ervin) would represent 50% of The Skullsnaps later in the 70s. A good summary of their releases, line ups, and Sam Culley’s (primarily) other group involvements can be found here.      
            
I’ve Got The Kind Of Love was the B side to The Diplomats version of In The Ghetto (yes, think Presley and Staton) which, although it mostly seems to be listed as a 1970 release, was highlighted as the “Soul Sauce“ record of the week in Billboard as early as 16th August 1969. To my ears the A side isn’t very good, but then I have been brought up on Candi Staton’s version. The B side though is a masterpiece.



To help place it in time #1 that week in the Billboard R&B singles chart was The Impressions Choice Of Colors, which had just replaced James Brown’s Mother Popcorn. Gladys Knight & The Pips Nitty Gritty was storming up the charts and the highest new entry was Candice Love with Uh Uh Boy That’s A No No (not familiar with that one).

Friday, March 27, 2015

... Sonya naked


… At least Freddie was still snug in his inner sleeve. Along the way poor old Sonya Spence had lost her cover and her inner sleeve – there she was, in the crazy mixed up box of vinyl, naked! This album is titled In The Dark, but that is one thing it wasn’t! Considering the circumstances it is in remarkably good condition.

 I was not familiar with Sonya but the label sort of said reggae to me and when I noticed the name Pottinger in the credits I knew it would be. What sort of reggae though? I thought there would be a fair chance it would be tepid lovers rock. It’s not quite that though. The first side I think has a bit more of a hard edge to it than average lovers rock fare and contains one killer track - Peace And Unity – which is more roots than anything else. Side two has a different feel and I would say is hardly reggae at all. How can I describe it? – na├»ve melodies? Certainly simplistic, and with no pronounced reggae beat. I think I detect more of a calypso feel to a couple of the tracks. Whatever, all the tracks have a certain charm that really draws me in. The album contains a version of John Denver’s Jet Plane which, after a bit of research, I understand was a hit in Jamaica and brought Sonya to the listeners’ attention back in 1978.  

Sadly, neither Sonya Spence nor Sonia Pottinger are still with us. But in one 
sense of course they always will be – in the record grooves.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Freddie in his underwear...


Spring is in the air – the car booters are starting up again. At the weekend one of them actually had some records worth looking through too. I came away with a mixed bag – 10 records in all that set me back the sum total of £4. In amongst these was one album without a cover, and one with no cover or inner sleeve. After a quick play through them all (except a 78 which takes some logistics to be able to play) it is these two sartorially challenged discs I am most happy with!

Freddie Hubbard’s Echoes Of Blue is the album with no cover. There is no date on the label but when I picked it up I guessed it to be mid-Seventies. Worth a punt but the chances were, I thought, the grooves would contain some pleasant but ultimately tepid jazz-funk. After all, plenty of Fifties and Sixties jazz luminaries did wander off down the jazz-funk path in the 70s. I didn’t really know whether Freddie Hubbard had been one of those. When I got it home and played the album I found it to be full of mainstream jazz – bop, post-bop? I’m no expert in the fine details but I do know I am really enjoying it. So Freddie had not strayed down any side paths and got lost in a mess of jazz-funk? Well, it seems the critics were grumbling at the time that he had sold out and deserted his pure jazz roots and it turns out that the album Echoes Of Blue, although released in 1976, is in fact an amalgam of two of Freddie’s albums from the Sixties – Backlash and High Blues Pressure - featuring three tracks a piece from those albums. A slightly odd format choice for a compilation, but no matter. All is clear now, I think?! I thought it sounded Sixties.

This Freddie album maybe shivering a bit in only its underclothes, and the lack of a cover may have had me puzzling for a while about what I exactly had on my turntable, but in the end it goes down as a good score, a very good score.     



... next, the album in the nude! ...