sábado, 30 de enero de 2010

Madeline Bell: Madeline Bell (1971)

Wonderful work from Madeline Bell, a great singer with a sound that's equal parts American soul and British '60s female pop. The recordings here are from Madeline's last solo Lp for Philips Records. Simply titled Madeline Bell, it was released in 1971, more or less at the same time she was achieving greater fame on crossover rock recordings with Blue Mink. As a matter of fact, the band's single 'The Banner Man' on Regal Zonophone was released in the spring of that same year, and reached #3 in the UK chart. The sound of Madeline's record is wonderful, a bit more R&B oriented than her two previous efforts for Philips. The album, which has got Doris Troy on backing vocals, includes some great funk tracks, like the single 'If You Didn't Hear Me the First Time', and 'Get Off Your Back-Sides', but it also has its moments of soft pop/soul like 'You Walked Away', 'Make It with You' and 'Ordinary People'. This is definitely Madeline's hardest LP to track down. As it has never been released on cd, it is still well in demand, selling for around £50,00 now. Enjoy!

Madeline Bell, with her band Blue Mink, performing 'Our World' in 1970:

miércoles, 27 de enero de 2010

Lesley Gore: It's My Party (5-CD Box Set) (1963-1969)

The popular appraisal of Lesley Gore is that she sang teen soap opera songs that never pulled their substance much above puppy love, and while a cursory listen to songs like 'It's My Party' and 'Judy's Turn to Cry' would appear to support that view, there's more going on beneath the surface than meets the ear. For starters, Gore had a jazz background, and her vocal phrasing, even in her most generic releases, was always sharp and clear. Add to that the production of Quincy Jones, who worked with Gore during her peak Mercury years, and the end result is a series of recordings that continue to sound fresh and effective even into the 21st century. In retrospect, it would appear Gore's theme was always the struggle for personal identity (which also happens to be a pretty good definition of what goes on during the teen years), culminating in the powerful 'You Don't Own Me,' a feminist anthem a decade before the term even began to take hold. Even 'That's the Way Boys Are,' which could be read as a shallow song of blind acceptance, is sung by Gore with a sly sense of dismissal that turns the song on its own heels, while later-era tracks like 'Small Talk,' which illustrates the desperate ennui that can enter and undermine a relationship, demonstrates that in matters of love — even puppy love — personal identity is always at stake. This gargantuan five-CD set contains absolutely all those great tracks Lesley cut for Mercury Records between 1963 and 1969. Whether covering standards, helping put neophyte songwriter Marvin Hamlisch on the map, or adding to Carole King and Gerry Goffin's string of successes, Gore and her producers put a special stamp on everything they recorded. It's difficult to pick high points from Disc One and Two, the prime of Gore's career, when she was starting to sound like a woman rather than a girl. Disc Three shows her doing more mature songs with a very different, more assertive sound, courtesy of producer Jack Nitzsche. All of the Nitzsche sessions have a peculiarly soulful feel that was new to Gore's output; he worked some magic on 'No Matter What You Do' and 'Baby That's Me', a song The Cake also recorded. The Shelby Singleton sessions make up most of the second half of the disc. Alas, Gore did no recording at all in 1966, partly due to her desire to complete her education, and the lapse shows in this set — when she re-emerged in 1967, she lost a little bit of immediacy, as well as lots of relevance. The material from Disc Four covers this tail end of Gore's commercial career, including her last big hit, 'California Nights,' as well as a handful of unreleased tracks from the never-issued Magic Colors album. The opening of Disc Five shows Gore moving into a more sophisticated pop-rock mode, close to what Carole King would succeed with a couple of years later. Unfortunately, nobody was listening to Gore by this time, and her performing career came to a halt with the end of the '60s. The major part of this last disc is given over to Gore's foreign-language recordings of her own hits. http://www.allmusic.com/
Wicked live footage of Leslie Gore telling it like it should be, early '60s:
A performance of 'Hello Young Lovers' and 'Didn't We' on Playboy After Dark, late '60s:
And, finally, Lesley on the Donna Reed Show, in 1966:

domingo, 24 de enero de 2010

Pat Thomas: Jazz Patterns (1961) / Desafinado (1963) ... plus

Jazz Patterns, de debut album from obscure Chicagoan jazz singer Patricia "Pat" Thomas, is a pretty hip collection of jazz vocal numbers released on the Strand label in 1961. The record is a bit like Lorez Alexandria's work from the same time, solid all the way through vocally, but with a deeper sense of soul than most other singers of her generation. Pat's vocals are always strong and extremely captivating, giving the impression that, like Sarah Vaughan, she can sing anything. The emphasis here is on ballads and standards, with Thomas putting plenty of feeling into such numbers as 'Mean to Me', 'Almost Like Being in Love', 'There Will Never Be Another You', 'My One and Only Love' and 'Stella By Starlight'. Pat's second album Desafinado (1963), released on MGM, is a bossa-styled classic set thanks to her working with Lalo Schifrin as conductor/arranger, and musicians Paul Horn, Laurindo Almeida, Buddy Clark, and Mel Lewis (the song 'Desafinado' was even made into a Scopitone!). Lalo's using a fair bit of strings on the set, but he also keeps things lean too - a bit in the mode of his own bossa work for Verve during the time, although with Pat's vocals in the lead this time around. Thomas has a strong undercurrent of soul in her work, which is one of the things that really sets this album apart. Schifrin really seems to get this quality of Pat's, and he brings in a good sense of timing in rhythms to present Thomas at her best. Titles include 'Recardo Bossa Nova', 'Carnival', 'To Welcome the Day', 'Could Be', 'Samba De Orfeu', and 'Once Again'. I added two extra tracks, issued as singles at the time, for MGM and Verve respectively. 'Where There's Love There's Hope' (1963) is a classic girl group oldies song written by Ben Raleigh. Pat's vocals are stellar as they fly into ranges you might not think are possible over impeccable arrangements by Claus Ogerman. 'Where There's Love There's Hope' was released as the b-side for 'Home in the Meadow', from John Ford's How the West was Won; a song with a Western theme, so it's nice that this girl group gem was found in such a strange place. The second bonus is an impeccable version of Jerry Ragovoy's classic 'I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face'. Co-written with Chip Taylor, the tune was originally recorded by Baby Washington and would gain several more covers, including by Aretha Franklin and another Ragovoy collaborator, Dusty Springfield; but personally, I'm most partial to this 1964 version by Pat Thomas, with Ragovoy arranging.

martes, 19 de enero de 2010

Kathe Green: Run the Length of Your Wildness (1969) ... plus

Californian actress, model and singer Kathe Green cut this hugely sought after but rare-as-hell long player for Deram in 1969 after having appeared in The Party with Peter Sellers. Finding herself in London as guest and bosom buddy of Richard Harris, himself enjoying a spin-off career as a hugely successful pop star at the time, Kathe found herself singing Mark Lester's vocal parts on 'Where Is Love?' for the soon-to-be-massive Oliver soundtrack. She was snapped up by Deram where she was teamed up with in-house whiz-kid producer Wayne Bickerton, arranger supreme John Cameron and the cream of London session players. Run the Length of Your Wildness can't quite make up its mind whether to be pop-folk or Swinging London pop/rock. In that respect, as well as in its Baroque orchestral arrangements it's reminiscent of another late-'60s record, Dana Gillespie's Foolish Seasons — not surprising, as Bickerton produced both albums. The resemblance between the two singers is emphasized by a song that appears on both LPs, 'Tears in My Eyes'. You can throw in some similarities to a few other British female vocalists of the time straddling the lines between pop and folk, like Marianne Faithfull, Vashti Vunyan and (much more distantly) Judith Durham of the Seekers or even Sandie Shaw. Green did write or co-write much of the material on the album, and some of it's above average for this orchestrated British pop-folk-rock genre, particularly 'Primrose Hill' and the slightly Donovan-ish 'Promise of Something New'. She also turns in a lump-to-the-throat reading of Cameron's perennial 'If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind'. Housed in a striking sleeve which featured gushing notes by the likes of Peter Sellers, Rex Harrison and Simon Dee and named after a line of poetry bestowed on her by Richard Harris himself, Run the Length of Your Wildness disappeared as quickly as it had come, only being picked up on through Internet exposure over the last years. Produced in conjunction with Kathe herself, this is a lost late '60s femme pop classic! I included in a separate file her contribution to the motion picture soundtrack Oliver! (1968), 'Where Is Love?'. http://www.cherryred.co.uk/, http://www.artistdirect.com/

viernes, 15 de enero de 2010

Jo Armstead: A Stone Good Lover (1996)

Jo Armstead has had a long and distinguished career in the music business. She started out as an Ikette in the early '60s before going solo in New York cutting for Infinity in 1965. But she was an expert songwriter as well as singer, penning songs for other artists, including Ray Charles' number one R&B classic 'Let's Get Stoned' with Ashford and Simpson. Born Josephine Armstead on October 8, 1944, in Yazoo City, MS, she joined the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in 1961 singing background vocals as one of the Ikettes who had a 1962 number three R&B hit with 'I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song)' on Atco Records. Relocating to New York City, she began collaborating with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson who were staff writers for the publishing branch of Scepter/Wand Records. Other Armstead/Ashford/Simpson songs were 'Too Hot to Hold,' 'The Shoe Won't Fit,' and 'The Real Thing' by Betty Everett on VeeJay; the latter was a 1965 number 20 R&B hit by Tina Britt on Eastern. In 1967, Armstead moved to Chicago from New York and formed Giant Productions with her new husband, Mel Collins. The label, which issued releases on the Giant, Globe, and Gamma imprints, had offices at 56th and Maryland, then 81st and Cottage Grove. The artist roster included Ruby Andrews, Garland Green, Fenton Robinson, Little Jimmy Scott, Shirley Wahls, Smokey Smothers, and Armstead herself, recording as Joshie Jo Armstead or Jo Armstead. Their first hit, Carl Carlton's 'Drop by My Place,' was recorded in Detroit with arranger Mike Terry. Hollandale, MS, native Ruby Andrews' 'Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over),' released on Ric Williams' Zodiac label, hit number nine R&B in the summer of 1967. Armstead wrote, produced, and recorded the Terry-arranged 'A Stone Good Lover,' which went to number 28 R&B in spring 1968. Giant's sole million-selling single was Garland Green's 'Jealous Kind of Fella,' which was leased to MCA's Uni label and peaked at number five R&B on Billboard's charts in summer 1969. By 1970, Giant was no longer active. Armstead returned to New York, but was back in Chicago by the late '80s, managing boxer Alonzo Ratliff. A Stone Good Lover is a nice collection of Armstead's late-'60s and early-'70s hits. Highlights include 'There's Not Too Many More (Left Like Him),' 'I've Been Turned On,' 'I'm Gonna Show You (How a Man Is Supposed to Be Treated),' 'Got My Taste (of The Honey)' 'I Feel an Urge Coming On' and the title track. Armstead's early training with Ike and Tina Turner shines brightly on these tracks, and as a woman writing much of her own material, this distanced her from other R&B divas of the time. A hidden treasure by a vastly underrated writer and performer.
Jo Armstead performing a remake of her beautiful mid tempo piece of sizzling wonderfulness, 'I Got the Vibes', in 1998:

miércoles, 6 de enero de 2010

Margie Day: Dawn of a New Day (1968) / Experience Margie Day (1969) ... plus

With her gutsy, no-holds-barred, delivery, Margie Day emerged as a solid R&B vocalist of the '50s. As lead singer for the Griffin Brothers Orchestra, Day twice reached the R&B top ten between 1950 and 1951, lending her boisterous voice to 'Street-Walkin' Daddy' and the Willie Dixon-penned 'Little Red Rooster'. Inspired by her success, she left the Griffin Brothers Orchestra to perform briefly with Paul Williams's band. By the end of the 1952, she had moved on to the Floyd Dixon Combo, with whom she toured throughout the Midwest. Announcing her retirement in 1964, Day returned to her hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. Encouraged to return to performing, she joined the Dick Morgan Trio, in the late-'60s, and recorded these two compeling albums for RCA. First up is Dawn of a New Day - a set that has Margie working in a really unique approach to vocals - a bit jazzy at times, inflected with bluesy undercurrents at others, but often delivered with a sense of class and poise that's a bit like Nancy Wilson at Capitol. Given that Margie's always apt to push the inflections on the tunes, working the notes heavily with very soulful expression, she really changes things up from the usual album of this type, and creates a nice sense of tension with the arrangements from Ray Ellis, Chuck Sagle, and Jimmy Wisner. Titles include 'Am I Blue', 'Walk Away', 'As Time Goes By', 'Much Too Long', 'Ain't It The Truth', 'Let's Do It', and 'In Times Like These'. Experience Margie Day is pretty groovy little set, a record which is somewhere in a space between jazz and soul vocals, and put together with some really unique inflections overall. There's a surprisingly sophisticated quality to the music, almost like some of Marlena Shaw's late '60s music, filled with adult themes and featuring a track list that includes a fair bit of unfamiliar numbers that really keep things fresh. Arrangements are by Ray Ellis, Art Beck, and Garry Illingworth, the latter of whom wrote some of the best tracks on the set. Titles include 'What Does He Think', 'If The Laugh-In Don't Kill Me', 'I Keep It Hid', 'Time Doesn't Matter Anymore', 'Ever Livin' Lovin' Program Plan', 'Rainbow People', 'I Thought About You', 'Don't Pay Them No Mind', 'Let's Start All Over Again', 'Maybe You'll Be There', and 'Wine in the Wind'. Blessed with a wide and secure vocal range, Margie is capable of the belting approach or of the tender whisper. Sadly, she left music permanently in 1969 due to a serious illness. I included here as bonus tracks 18 of the R&B songs she recorded during the '50s, both solo and with different groups, like the Blues Destroyers and the Griffin Brothers. Titles include 'Pitty Pat Band', 'Little Red Rooster', 'Ho Ho', 'Stubborn As a Mule' and 'Take Out Your False Teeth Daddy'. http://www.dustygroove.com/, http://www.answers.com/
Margie Day: Ever Livin' Lovin' Program Plan (1969)

domingo, 3 de enero de 2010

Sounds of the City Experience: Sounds of the City Experience (1976)

Sounds of the City Experience is a group even rarer than the Jackson Sisters. They released this excellent - and super obscure - funk soul album pressed in 1976 on the famous tax scam label Tiger Lily, featuring a whole lot of gems, including some blaxsploitation instrumental grooves like 'Getting Down'. Reissue is long overdue.
Side 1
1. Getting Down
2. Through No Fault of Our Own
3. It's So Wonderful Baby/Gina
4. Come on and Stay with Me
5. Stuff N' Thing

Side 2
1. Keep on Keepin' On
2. Babylon
3. Reality
4. Judgement Day
5. My People
Sounds of the City Experience: Keep On Keepin' On