viernes, 31 de julio de 2009

HOLIDAY TIME! I'll be back soon ...

I’m leaving on holidays, so there will be no more blog postings for a while.
See you all in a few weeks! ;D

Timi Yuro: Live at PJ's (1969) ... plus

Timi Yuro's performance at PJ's club in Los Angeles was recorded in April 1969 for an album that almost saw release in August of that same year, but was withdrawn just before issue. Five of the eight tracks that would have comprised that set did show up on the 1976 LP The Timi Yuro Album, but this reissue marks the first time the entire canceled album has been officially available. What's more, it adds three alternate takes recorded on different nights, as well as an instrumental version of 'Comin' Home Baby' by the backup band. Yuro herself said that she was not unhappy with the LP's failure to hit the marketplace, as she was not pleased with the recording equipment and resulting sound. Nevertheless, it's a good show, though one can hear why a perfectionist singer might have felt that it wasn't up to the optimum standards of a live recording. One cannot, certainly, fault Yuro's vocals, which are characteristically strong, beefy and inspired. The material comprising the set is not as imaginative as one might hope for, built around her two big hits, 'Hurt' and 'What's a Matter Baby,' the latter given a peppy soul arrangement. Other than that, it has covers of contemporary hits seemingly designed to cover the entire variety spectrum, from soul ('I've Been Loving You Too Long' and Stevie Wonder's 'A Place in the Sun') and country ('Make the World Go Away' and 'Stand By Your Man') to pop ('Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),' 'Yesterday'). It's supper-club soul, complete with between-song patter and medleys on half the tracks, though it's supper-club soul of the first order.

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2009

Etta James: Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions (2001)

Born Jamesetta Hawkins in L.A. in 1938, Etta James had made an early start on the local gospel scene before graduating to clubs and being spotted by the ever watchful Johnny Otis in the early 50s. He organised the name change and with ‘Dance with Me Henry’ Etta made her mark on rock & roll history. An answer to Hank Ballard’s ‘Work with Me Annie’, it too was famously banned for being overly suggestive (the real title was, of course, ‘Roll with Me Henry’), then suffered the iniquity of being covered by Georgia Gibbs—a white artist who specialised in anodyne and cynical re-makes of black hits. Gibbs’ bowdlerised version was the bigger seller but James had made her mark as singer of explosive power with a genuine, grown-up sexuality. After a number of further releases, she signed to Chess Records, where she scored with a series of lushly arranged R&B tunes such as ‘At Last’ and ‘Sunday kind of Love’. On these dates she began to show a penchant for mixing in jazz, country and pop with her driving blues-based style—something that has remained a feature of her work. In 1967 Etta went to record in Alabama at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio. The result was her most accomplished album, on which her voice had been mixed to perfection, allowing her to sound strong on the previously distorted high notes. James was rightly seen in a different light as one of the great soul voices of all time as she belted out powerful tracks such as ‘The Love Of My Man’ and ‘Watch Dog.’ Her slower numbers were equally arresting, including the wonderful ‘I'd Rather Go Blind’.~, ~

viernes, 24 de julio de 2009

Pat Bowie: Out of Sight (1964) / Feelin' Good! (1965)

Here's Pat Bowie's two mid-'60s dates for Prestige, the only albums she ever recorded. While the style and scope of Out of Sight! (1964) positions the singer as a jazz act, her vocals boast a soulful edge that plainly suggests the influence of R&B. If anything, the album fails to properly exploit the full extent of Bowie's talents, relying too much on familiar ballads and standards instead of more contemporary and complementary material. That being said, this is still a lovely record, with nuanced small-combo backing from guitarist Kenny Burrell, pianist Ray Bryant, and tenor saxophonist Seldon Powell buoying Bowie's lithe interpretations of songs like 'Moon and Sand', 'I've Got Your Number' or Cole Porter's ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’ and ‘Get Out of Town.’ Like its predecessor, Feelin' Good! (1965) saddles Pat Bowie with a collection of predictable standards that compromise the singer's distinctly modern and hip approach. The session features contributions from altoist Charles McPherson, one of his few dates in support of a vocalist, and McPherson's rich solos ripple below the lyrics, caressing the contours of Bowie's voice. Pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Al Hall, and drummer Osie Johnson further underscore the set's moody, spacious approach, updating chestnuts like 'I Wanna Be Loved', ‘Summertime’, 'Baby, Won't You Please Come Home' and ‘They Can't Take That Away from Me’ with style and sophistication. After such a promising start, Bowie would never make another record, at least according to discographies. Even if these two albums never really became classics, with the superb musicians present and Bowie’s individual approach there is much for the jazz enthusiast to enjoy here.

jueves, 9 de julio de 2009

Marie Knight: The Story of Marie Knight

The recording career of Marie Knight spans an impressive fifty years; spells cutting gospel bool-endings a decade-plus in the service of R&B and soul music. Marie’s vocal talents were recognized early on. When she was five years old, Marie -who was born in Sanford, Florida, but raised in Newark, New Jersey- sang the gospel number 'Doing All the Good We Can' at her parents' church, where the congregants marveled at her poise. A member of the youth choir, she was soon elevated to soloist and taught herself to play piano. That joy soon became a professional calling for Marie, who by her early twenties had gained experience touring the national gospel circuit with evangelist Frances Robinson; she even recorded a few early sides with the quartet The Sunset Four. In 1946, she met Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the nationally famous gospel singer-guitarist, who recognized something special in Marie's compelling contralto and her elegant stage presence. The two became gospel's preeminent duo of the ‘40s, recording some hits for Decca Records. By the late ‘40s, Marie and Rosetta had split to pursue separate musical projects: Marie to do solo gospel work on Decca. In the '50s to mid-'60s , Marie cultivated a R&B career, touring with the likes of Brooke Benton, the Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter. This is the most comprehensive collection ever released of her fantastics sides of that era. There are some straight gospel and R&B-styled numbers, but Knight is at her best on the more elaborate early soul cuts, which sometimes have a adult pop, torch song bounce. ‘Come Tomorrow,’ covered by Manfred Mann in 1965, is an obvious highlight, and not that similar to the cover version, with a soaring string-laden production. ‘A Little Too Lonely’ sounds a lot like, and stands up very well to, the Bacharach-David songs recorded by Dionne Warwick at the beginning of her career. The dramatic ‘I Don't Want to Walk Alone’ has an absolutely commanding vocal performance the equal of (or better than) many a cult soul singer. A very interesting collection by an impressive, powerful singer deserving of wider recognition, recommended to soul collectors who think they've run out of things to discover., Many thanks to Lohmax for passing me this!!
Sister Marie Knight sings 'Up Above My Head (There Is Music in the Air)' on a recent live concert:

A short clip of Marie Knight's story (contains rare footage capturing a young Marie in some of her classic performances):

sábado, 4 de julio de 2009

Samantha Jones: Surrounded By a Ray of Sunshine - The UA Recordings (1964-1968)

Though Samantha Jones achieved some success, her powerful voice and her catalogue of great songs should have made her one of Britain’s biggest stars of the ‘60s. Some think the one-time key member of the Vernons Girls might even have been a potential rival to Dusty Springfield, had things gone right, but somehow she never made the cut. This collection gathers 20 tracks from her 1964-68 stint with United Artists, concentrating on the classic singles Samantha recorded during that era, with a few LP cuts, a previously unreleased 1964 version of ‘As Long As You're Happy’ and a rare swinging Ford Cars promotional single called ‘Ford Leads the Way’. These sides, produced and mainly written by the king of the UK girl sound Charles Blackwell, are noteworthy, among other reasons, for their inventive pop/rock-soul-orchestral sound. Samantha's 1964 debut single, ‘It's All Because of You,’ is stunning and strange for the time with its ghostly echoing percussive rattles, ominous melody, and brilliant orchestration. Francoise Hardy fans should note that the 1965 cuts ‘Don't Come Any Closer’ and ‘Just Call and I'll Be There’ are the English originals of tunes subsequently covered by Hardy in French. The arrangements of Jones' versions are pretty close to the Hardy ones, unsurprisingly since Blackwell was also Hardy's producer. Also here is the Phil Spector sound-alike ‘I Deserve It,’ recorded in New York in 1965 and arranged by ex-Spector arranger Arnold Goland. Other highlights on the set are the very strange 'Shoes', a version of Betty Everett's 'Chained to a Memory', 60's pop dancers 'And Suddenly' and 'Go Ahead', both produced by Mark Wirtz, and a strange funky version of ‘Can't Take My Eyes off of You' but the stand out track has got to be the title track 'Surrounded By a Ray of Sunshine' which was another one of the blue eyed 45's which became a regular spint at the Wigan Casino. Not exactly Northern Soul in the real sense, but a great '60s pop tune. Samantha later retreated to more of an MOR style in the ‘70s. I must add that Samanta Jones is is one of my favourite Brit Girls of the '60s.,

Samantha Jones performs 'It's All Because of You' on Ready Steady Go! (1964):

Samantha singing 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' on The Two Ronnies, ca. 1972:

miércoles, 1 de julio de 2009

Chris Clark: The Motown Collection (2005)

Chris Clark is one of a small number of white performers who recorded for the Motown imprint during the ‘60s. The United States' answer to Dusty Springfield, Clark is still acknowledged by Northern Soul fans for songs such as 1965's 'Do Right Baby, Do Right' and 1966's ‘Love's Gone Bad’. Another of her notable songs was the 1967 single ‘I Want to Go Back There Again’, also recorded by British singer Truly Smith. In 1967, Clark released an album called Soul Sounds on the Motown label. The LP featured twelve songs including a rare Motown ballad called ‘If You Should Walk Away’, which was slated for release as a single, but never was. Clark recorded one more album for Motown on its newly created rock label Weed called C.C. Rides Again (1969), but the album failed commercially because it was not properly promoted. This compilation offers a huge amount of Clark’s work for Motown: the complete contents of her two albums, plus non-LP singles, and a full bonus CD that includes 25 previously unissued tunes. Strangely enough, these unreleased recordings are much stronger than those on her albums, although from a commercial point of view were far removed from the pop orientated hits of 66-67. Opening with a version of ‘Ask Any Girl’, the song soon settles into an uptempo northern groove that will please the dancers, and it's followed by ‘Everything Is Good About You’, a true piece of Motown history. Chris' attempt at Kim Weston's ‘Take Me in Your Arms’ has the same feel as the Isley Brothers arrangement and her rendition of ‘Do Like I Do’ delivers a vocal version to equal Kim's. One song that stands out is her interpretation of Presley's hit single ‘Cryin' In The Chapel’ that just oozes class and has backing vocals to kill for. Other noteable tunes that will appeal to the dancefloor include ‘He's Good for Me’, ‘Bad Seed’ and ‘Something's Wrong’, on which Chris is amongst the best. This release is cause indeed to celebrate for a lady whose works have long been sought after by '60s soul fans.,
Chris Clark performing 'Fever' at the Pelican Art Gallery in 2008: