Saturday, November 1, 2008

I'm not against cheap tricks.

It's been about a week since my last post, but that's mostly because I've been trying to decide exactly how to get my readership up. When you go from last having about 500 to 600 people per day (which is nothing compared to the serious audio blogs) to about 5 per day, you try and remember what really drew people to your blog in the first place. Don't get me wrong, people stayed because of quality soul music, but people came originally for a series of posts around Christmas time. Back in December of 2005 (I think), I did 25 days of Christmas Soul. Well, I might not have the write-ups I did back then, but I still have the songs so I'm going to do those posts all over again (and, hopefully I'll be able to grab some new ones out of my collection, which has grown since then). I don't even remember what I called those posts back in the day, but I'm going to re-do those to try and both inspire myself to post regularly (daily in this case), and get a few of those hopefully still loyal readers back. Until then, you'll see probably a weekly post about a random song or two, but December is when we'll really kick it up a notch!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shepp is for losers.

OK. Shepp certainly isn't for losers. My knowledge of Archie Shepp's musical output is limited to three albums: Attica Blues, The Cry of My People, and For Losers. The first two albums in that list, as I understand it, are slightly better known among soul and jazz fans (for possibly very different reasons). Those albums feature music that reminds me of Eugene McDaniels Outlaw-type work, which is a big compliment as I think that record (as well as Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse) are fabulous combinations of social commentary, soul music, and jazz.

Anyway, For Losers was an album that came my way somewhat serendipitously. Just as I had purchased the previously mentioned albums, I found an old used copy (that looks like a bootleg) at a used book/record store. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I thought why not pick it up.

It's great. I recommend it. It isn't terribly easy to find in vinyl or CD form these days, but if you see it grab it. But, before you do, make sure you like Attica Blues and The Cry of My People, because this album is very similar from my perspective. There are free jazz parts on the disc, but there is also that fusion of soul and jazz that is absolutely spectacular. The funkiest cut on the album is "Stick 'Em Up," a song unlike anything on the rest of the album, featuring a cast of characters worth mentioning.

Thanks to this great resource I can tell you the following. The voice you hear on the track will probably seem the most familiar, especially when you hear a little yodeling comin' at ya--that's none other than Leon Thomas, with Tasha Thomas and the lovely Doris Troy backing him up. Wilton Felder, Beaver Harris, Mel Brown, and Andrew Bey also play lay some funk down on this track (bass, drums, organ, and piano, respectively). This track was recorded in 1968 in Los Angeles, during a session where some material for Shepp's Kwanza was also recorded. The track, however, was not released on For Losers until 1971. The song "Stick 'Em Up" doesn't really sound like an Archie Shepp song, but it sounds like a funky track that deserves some attention. Please give it some! Enjoy.

Archie Shepp
- Stick 'Em Up (1968, released in 1971)

Friday, October 17, 2008

We'll call this "Video Friday."

The first comment the new blog here received came from Red Kelly, the person who's recent series of posts on Lattimore Brown inspired me to start blogging again. (You really need to read Red's amazing account of his journey with Lattimore. One of the most amazing things I've read in a long time.)

Well, in Red's comment he mentioned a post I did on Frankie Beverly & the Butlers. Frankie's work with Maze is stellar, but the stuff with the Butlers (and later Raw Soul, which would turn into Maze) is the best. Not just his best, mind you, THE best in my opinion. Now I can think of a million ways that grandiose statement is wrong, but who cares. Frankie Beverly and the Butlers is a group whose music I have wanted to own since the track featured in the video below first graced my ears. I've never been able to get a copy because (a) I've never stumbled upon one while digging and (b) I've lost a number of eBay auctions that I could not have afforded if I had won anyway.

The point When I randomly found this YouTube video of the song (accompanied by random pictures of Frankie) I couldn't help but share it. Perhaps I'll find all of those Butlers and Raw Soul tracks I posted a few years ago and do a new post. It won't be the same because I can't remember anything I wrote. Probably better--rediscovering all that information again will be a lot of fun. Until then, enjoy "If That's What You Wanted" by Frankie Beverly & the Butlers--one of my favorite soul songs. Ever.

NOTE: Holy crap. Someone actually seems to have taken credit for my previous post and research on Frankie Beverly and the Butlers. You can find it by clicking here. Why do I know that's mine? Because I remember thinking about changing my opening line "Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power" before posting back in January of 2006 (thanks to an old aggregator archive for that info!).

NOTE #2: And another person seems to have borrowed my writing! I'm not upset at all--surprised, and I guess somewhat honored that a whole two people thought that it was worth re-posting. I'm actually kind of glad I can just re-check my research for a future post instead of having to start from scratch!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Far sweeter than funky.

If you sat down and had a conversation with someone about funk, it seems unlikely that you'd start talking about Chicago sweet soul harmony group the Dells. Thus, the fact that the Dells album Sweet As Funk Can Be isn't some rare, hard-to-find, one-off Dells funk outing. I'm sure somewhere there's documentation about where the record title came from, and undoubtedly it has something to do with the ample segues between each full-length track, but it honestly doesn't matter. What matters is that this is a great Dells album, certainly not the easiest of their catalog to find, but a gem all the same. Honestly, it's the freaking Dells and it's on Cadet (for those of you familiar with my musical tastes, you know I enjoy using the term Cadetitis to refer to how much I want to listen to damn near anything released on the Cadet label).

So, the story behind my acquisition of the record. On one of many trips to Chicago, I happened to stumble into one of the many record shops in a trendier part of town. Most of the shops have a fair amount of moderately hard-to-find stuff, an occasional rare 45 or two, and a lot of things that one might want to fill in gaps in their library. Such is the case here. My favorite Dells albums, hands down, are Freedom Means and Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation, so finding the record that was released between the two was a real treat (note, also released between the two was The Dells Sing Dionne Warwick's Greatest Hits). I thought maybe there would be something really different about Sweet As Funk Can Be and those other two records, but there really wasn't (and that's ok). More importantly, I saw the album was produced by Charles Stepney, which made me realize that the $15 price tag was likely by some young kid who didn't know how to price records (because this thing was in perfect condition).

Just like the majority of the Dells early 70s output, the album is solid throughout. Some tracks are certainly weaker than others, and one can arguably pull out the tracks considered "filler" by the label, but overwhelmingly it's a beautiful sweet soul harmony LP. Unique to this album, however, are the segues spoken/sung by the members of the Dells. They're kind of strange...and I'd be lying to say I totally understand the point or purpose of them, but that being said they are kind of fun. The track for your aural enjoyment today is a little Soul Shower special medley. I went ahead and took the sixth segue from the album, and combined it with my favorite full-length song "Windy City Soul." The name of the segue tacked on to the beginning of the track is "Fonky Thang/Diamon' Rang." Like I said, kind of weird, but no less enjoyable.

The Dells still suffer the same fate as so many 70s groups--some big company owns their back catalog and all we get to show are some crap compilations instead of 2 for 1 CDs or reissues with bonus material The best (or at least most complete) collection seems to be this, and if you head over to Dusty Groove you can usually find a few used LPs for sale (including the one featuring today's selections). I hope you enjoy the "sweet funk" of the Dells.

The Dells - Fonky Thang/Diamon' Rang/Windy City Soul (1972)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

She started this mess.

She started it last time, so it only makes sense that she starts it this time as well! When Soul Shower (the original) started back in 2005, I had just begun looking beyond Motown, Stax, Hi, Philly International, etc. to find those soul artists that slipped past me, not surprisingly, growing up in a suburban city in the Midwest. Unlike many audio bloggers, I didn't start crate digging until well after I began exploring the world of CD reissues. How could vinyl sound better, I thought? Oh, how naive I was...anyway. My first outlet for non-mainstream soul music, if you will, was through Dusty Groove. Now, I lucked out in finding Dusty Groove as my first outlet, because I still use them, and if you're unfamiliar you're doing yourself a disservice by not regularly visiting their site (but, if you don't have extra money for records, then it's probably best you stay away from there). Back then, and still now, their website is filled with great CDs, but at the time I was intrigued more by the concept of reissued LPs. I thought, why not buy one?

Well the first reissue LP I bought was Alice Clark's self-titled 1972 release on Mainstream Records...from Dusty Groove. She was my first real introduction to amazing soul music sung by someone I had never heard of, and it seemed like many other people hadn't heard of either. But as soon as my needle dropped on the LP...I was in love. "I Keep It Hid" is the first track on the album, and it's a song that can easily be placed in the "Sunday Morning Soul" category--a category I do not take lightly (it's not as deep as you may think, simply put it's just a great song to listen to on a lazy Sunday morning). Anyway, after Alice Clark the floodgates opened for me, and the amount of soul music that I still don't know about amazes me (and saddens me, to a certain degree).

To give you some background on Alice, well, much like my first post in 2005, I don't really have any. Here's what I do know...

Northern Soul fans probably know her from her song "You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me)," a burner of a tune that was released on Warner subsidiary Seven Arts in about 1966. The flip to that record is "Heaven's Will (Must Be Obeyed)," which I've never heard, but would sure like to. Randomly, I found out just a few days ago that Alice recorded another single in 1968 called "You Got A Deal," backed with "Say You'll (Never Leave Me)," released by a label called Rainy Day Records. I've heard the A-side to that, but not the B-side. I want to buy both 45s, but neither seems to be readily available anywhere. Oh well, I'll get my hands on them some day! If you know any other releases by Alice Clark, please drop some knowledge in the comments and I'll include it in the post.

The track linked below is called "It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone," and is just one of many great tracks off of her self-titled album on Mainstream (available on LP or CD reissue!). Enjoy.

Alice Clark - It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone (1972)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A damn good cause.

I received an email today from an old friend, and someone who runs three of the best soul audio blogs around ("B" Side, "A" Side, and Soul Detective). He asked a few people to pass along a message, and since I think it's a damn good cause, here's the message...if you're around, please attend the following event (which is sure to be a good time!)...

For more information visit the O.V. Wright Memorial Fund website.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Keeping my fingers crossed.

Hi everyone.

I used to have an audio blog that a number of people really liked; it was called Soul Shower. Due to a variety of reasons, I was unable to keep up with the blog and stopped updating it. One day, I went to delete a different blog that I had started and accidentally deleted all of Soul Shower. That was three years of love and dedication wiped away because I wasn't paying attention and I deleted the blog (as you can imagine, that wasn't a good day). However, due to some recent inspiration I'm going to give audio blogging another go. I still have a lot of things to figure out (or remember, depending on how you want to look at it) about this whole thing, but once I do, I look forward to posting and interacting with all you lovely soul people in the future.

Be well, and take care.