DANNY FREEMAN AND THE SOUL SUPERIORS
Jungle Walk/My Melody (W.S.J. Sound)
Jungle Walk is just a raw, RAW Soul tune with Freeman’s rough vocals over a wild sounding track. Great stuff. My Melody sounds like part 2 of Jungle Walk, but just a little less hectic with even a little vibes solo at the end.
Life And Death In G & A (Stone Flower)
Joe Hicks released two singles with Sly Stone in the late 1960s. Life And Death In G & A was penned by Stone and recorded twice, once by Abaco Dream and then by Joe Hicks. The song points towards the future of Sly Stone’s recordings. High on drugs he kicked out the Family Stone and retreated to his studio where he would spend hours doing dope and recording tracks mostly on his own with various studio musicians popping in from time to time to finish the tracks. Life And Death In G & A has a drum machine beat, and is much slower and moodier than the Abaco Dreams version. It also has a really raw production quality to it. The best part is Hicks’ strong singing.
Sophisticated Sissy/Sehorns Farms (Josie 69)
I thought I’d finished off the Meters’ 45s a long time ago, but an article in Wax Poetics proved me wrong. Since most of their singles are pretty easy to find and it’s the Meters I set about collecting the ones that had alluded me. Sophisticated Sissy/Sehorns Farms was the Meters’ first release for Josie reaching the top ten on the R&B charts and even #34 on the pop charts. It’s a slow but funky instrumental beginning with the guitar and drums before the organ takes over the main melody. Sehorns Farms is much more of a southern Soul sounding tune that’s just yearning for some vocals to be added over the top.
Everybody’s Talkin/Sugar Pie Honey (Jo Jo 70)
It seems like the Promatics couldn’t write their own material very well so they just adapted other people’s hits. Everybody’s Talkin is a take off of Sly Stone’s Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin with the same rhythm and vocal arrangements for much of the tune. Sugar Pie Honey borrows from the Four Tops Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, but is a little more original. That being said, I actually like the A-side.
Draw Your Brakes (Crystal)
Draw Your Brakes was a Derrick Harriott production. The Crystalites lay down the version track on the B-side. The A-side is one of my favorite early Reggae tunes with the soulful back-ups singing “Stop that train, I wanna get off” while Scotty toasts over the top giving it the perfect compliment. I could listen to this for hours on end.
Music/No Sunshine (A&M 69)
Music was the plug side of this 45 and is an upbeat Soul number with Ms. White’s strong vocals, a driving beat and back-up vocals that give the song a strong Sly Stone feel at times. No Sunshine is pretty good as well. It’s less hectic and more moderate in tempo, but again highlights White’s great soulful singing.
Arzachel (Roulette 69)
When I first began investigating this LP the first thing I noticed was the variety of pressings and prices. There were Spanish, German, Italian pressings, different colors on the cover from a light, whitish-blue to a pinkish-red hue. The English version is the original, as that was where the group was from. Arzachel consisted of four post-war baby boomers, three from England, and one, Njerogi Gategaka, a Kenyan immigrant. This is the American pressing, which I found for pretty cheap. From the first couple tracks you get an idea of their sound, haunting organ work over relatively mid-tempo songs. It turns out the best song, the instrumental Soul Thing (Queen St. Gang), was written by Keith Mansfield of Library record fame. The song starts off with a heavy bass and drum line before the organ joins in to carry the melody. Azathoth is also pretty good with its simple yet effective rhythm line and guitar and organ crescendo in the middle, Leg is a rough and tumble Rock tune, while the ten minute long Clean Innocent Fun sounds like early bluesy Black Sabbath.
Graffiti (United States Air Force Academy 74)
The Falconaires were the official big band of the United States Air Force Academy. They released several LPs to help recruitment into the armed forces. Amongst the typical Big Band Jazz numbers, there are actually a few Soul-Jazz cuts like Country Roads that has a nice laid back groove to it, Blood, Sweat And Tears’ Fire And Rain, and the more upbeat Here I Am Baby from Smokey Robinson.
Soul Jazz (Statler)
A while ago I was on a road trip to Ohio and Michigan with dCastillo. Our last stop was Ann Arbor and a stay with Breakself for a little record convention. The convention turned out to be a bit of a dud, but Sampo ended up pulling this record for me from a local shop. Statler Records released a couple 45s with instrumentals of hit songs for dance classes. Soul Jazz was an entire album for this purpose. The music was actually arranged and directed by Don Tipton and the Superstitions. Frank Hatchet was the head of Statler’s dance company. The instrumentals are by far the highlight of the record as the singing is really lacking. Things begin on a good groove with 3 upbeat dance numbers with plenty of percussion with Lets Go Disco, The Love Machine, and Bad Luck. There’s also the Rock edge of Stratus with a long drum break intro and heavy bass line. The best songs however are the funky Get Down and the slower Mellow Blow plus the fast paced Change With The Times. Everything ends with Just Percussion, which is exactly that.
Sage Show (SSP)
The Impossibles were one of the hottest bands in Thailand for a while in the 1970s. From 1970-73 they won national awards for being the best live band in the country. That led to extended tours in Hawaii and Scandinavia of all places. Stage Show was a live recording of one of their performances. You wouldn’t realize they were so hot from the opening Touch Me In The Morning, which is actually just Memories with a different name. The fact that their vocals are off on a lot of the harmonies doesn’t help either. Things do get better as the record progresses. First there’s Rock Your Baby where the vocals are still a little suspect, but the band at least catches a groove. That gets full blown during Kool & The Gang’s Funky Stuff and the following Soul On because the beat is hard and the vocals are rough. The upbeat Funk tracks continue with Down To The Night Club and Get Your Feed Back On The Ground, and yes, that’s “Feed.” I guess their English translation wasn’t that good. There are also various drum breaks throughout the record for an extra little treat.
Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui (Beautiful People) (Prestige 71)
It only took me a year and a half to listen to this record, but I guess it was worth the wait. Aided by Rusty Bryant, Virgil Jones, Melvin Sparks, Jimmy Lewis, Idris Muhammad and Bernard Purdie on one track, Kynard lays down some of that trademark Prestige Soul-Jazz. First up is the fast paced title cut that Sparks leads with some sharp strokes on the guitar giving it a Rock tinge. Zebra Walk has a more traditional Soul-Jazz sound and consists of a set of ascending and descending notes. On the flipside there’s a decent cover of the Beatles’ Something with a drum break by Purdie.
My Own Time And Space (Catalyst 76)
One day I randomly ran into O-Dub at an Oakland record store. We were flipping through records in neighboring bins when he told me to pull out this Flip Nunez LP and give it a listen. Nunez was a Filipino-Californian Jazz singer and piano player. He started off playing R&B in the post-war period, but quickly gravitated towards Jazz. In the Seventies he joined Azteca with Coke and Pete Escovedo. On My Own Time And Space Nunez was joined by Willie Colon on percussion. Most of the LP is mellow Jazz numbers with Nunez coming off as an Asian Frank Sinatra singing over some Fusion and Lounge tunes. That makes the emergence of Mr. Cool at the very end of the record all the more surprising. After all this schlock Nunez and company lay down a Funk-Blues mix with some sharp guitar work by Michael Howell.
SONNY OKOSUNS OZZIDDI
For Sale (EMI/Pathe Marconi 77)
Sonny Okosuns was an Afro-Pop musician from Nigeria, which is where this LP was recorded. His singing isn’t the strongest, so the best cuts are the ones with long instrumental parts like Festival Of The Hunter’s with plenty of horns and a catchy melody. Chant Of The Slaves is also good but the band sounds a little out of tune at points.
Who Will Love A Little Sparrow? (Sentinel Record 68)
Cyril Paul was born in Trinidad and came to the Midwest to study at a divinity school. Instead of becoming a priest however, he became a teacher in Minneapolis and later took up singing as well. Who Will Love A Little Sparrow? was recorded live during a series of concerts hosted by local Catholic churches to help raise money to fight poverty and racism. The music is mellow and mixes Folk with a Lounge sound such as on Who Cares For The City and Universal Soldier. On the second side he throws in some Soca influenced numbers as well to show his Caribbean roots. In the end though, there’s nothing that really stands out about the music.
Merry And Sad (Crea Sound LTD 82)
Roger Roger was a pair of French composers who released a couple Library records. On Merry And Sad they worked with Nino Nardini to produce 16 mood pieces as the title would suggest. They’re all heavy on the keys. Many of the songs sound like something Dick Hyman was doing with his moog in the 60s with a little Kraftwerk thrown in at times. Unfortunately, none of the tracks really stands out.
The Distant Galaxy (Verve 68)
Distant Galaxy is a mix of orchestrated Jazz and Sixties Rock. That works on some tracks like the Hippy Rock sounding Dance The Night Away and the original Soul-Jazz number Water Brother, both with flute and sax work by Hubert Laws. On the other cover songs it doesn’t quite stick.
WILLIE AND THE BUMBLEBEES
Honey from the Bee (Sweet Jane Ltd., 1976)
From what I can gather from the liner notes to Honey from the Bee, Willie and the Bumblebees were a bar band from Minnesota. They played a nice brand of Rock and Soul as heard on the slow and funky title cut with plenty of brass. Even better is the instrumental Dipstick with its strong horn accents and frenetic guitar work that’s all accentuated by a melodious bridge in the middle. There’s also another, more refined instrumental called Sahara. There are a couple melodic Rock numbers on the second side as well that are bit like Dr. John.
OLD RECORDS OUT THE CRATES:
Don’t Let Go (Polydor 79)
By 1979 Hayes was trying to get that dance groove on while still laying down some of his patented slow jams. The problem was that his game wasn’t good enough by then, and others, notably Barry White, had taken his place with that style. The one song Hayes is able to pull off is A Few More Kisses To Go with its swirling horns and strings and Hayes’ trademark deep singing over the top. There’s also a drum break intro to Someone Will Take The Place Of You.
Hot Buttered Soul (Enterprise 68)
Hot Buttered Soul begins with one of Hayes’ greatest pieces of work, his massive re-arrangement of Burt Bacharach’s Walk On By into a 12-minute funky Soul monster. Hayes then lays down some real Funk with the bluesy Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalmistic that turns into an instrumental jam half way through. On the following side there’s the power ballad One Woman. That’s followed by an 18 minute plus version of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, which is actually Isaac just talking about the song for at least 10 minutes before he gets to the meat and potatoes of the tune.
Isaac Hayes Movement (Enterprise 70)
Movement consists mostly of mellow Soul numbers and power ballads such as I Stand Accused and One Big Unhappy Family. The best song out of the four is probably a re-working of the Beatles’ Something that’s turned into a twelve minute tune.
Joy (Enterprise 73)
Joy gets right down to business with the drum break intro to the title cut, a 15 minute plus lush Soul piece with re-occurring breaks. Just as good is The Feeling Keeps On Coming with its methodical rhythm. The rest is just OK.
Live At The Sahara Tahoe (Enterprise 73)
Isaac Hayes took his act to the Sahara club at the Lake Tahoe area resort to record this live double album. Like his other LPs of the time, the show is a mix of originals and covers. Usually the songs are one continuous jam, one flowing into another. First up is Shaft that goes into The Come On, a long instrumental featuring Hayes on the keys, and then the covers Light My Fire, Never Can Say Goodbye, and The Look Of Love. Then there’s the slow and moody Ellie’s Love Theme. He then used his rearranging abilities to create a new rendition of Bill Withers’ Use Me. Next is the funky Soul of Do Your Thing and Theme From The Men. By the third side however, Hayes begins falling off a little. He starts off fine with a re-arranged It’s Too Late, but then tries to get into the Blues with Rock Me Baby and Stormy Monday Blues, then a dance track Type Thang, and finally a very slow rendition of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, none of which really connect. Ike is able to finish strong however with the fourth and final side with the slow build up of Ike’s Rap VI, a ten minute cover of Ain’t No Sunshine, and finally Feelin Alright.
Shaft OST (Enterprise 71)
Isaac Hayes had been one of the mainstays at Stax Records since the 60s, first as the sax player in the Mar-Keys, then as part of the hit making song writing duo with David Porter. Despite all that, he’ll probably always be known mostly as the man who wrote the score to Shaft. To tell you the honest truth, I use to be into the song Shaft, but now I hear it and think, yeah, that’s a great theme song for a movie, but I wouldn’t play it out or expect to hear at a club. Yet that was the point, to create a groundbreaking soundtrack and that’s what Hayes, backed by the Bar-Kays, achieved. The title tracks is followed by some great, soulful mood numbers like Bumpy’s Lament with the organ in the lead, Walk From Regio’s with its strong horns and subtle guitar line, the jazzy Ellie’s Love Theme, and Shaft’s Cab Ride. There’s also the Funk monster Do Your Thing with Hayes’ singing that eventually turns into a 19-minute long jam session. The 2nd disc isn’t half as interesting, but there is the strong instrumental Funk number No Name Bar with plenty of brass.
To Be Continued (Enterprise 71)
To Be Continued starts off with one of Hayes’ trademark spoken word intros entitled Monologue: Ike’s Rap I. That flows into a pretty boring version of Our Day Will Come however, which proves that not all of Ike’s re-arrangements worked. He does a much better job on The Look Of Love that starts off with some nice and mellow horn work before turning to into a guitar-laden jam session at the end before mellowing out at the finish. Hayes is best though with his own compositions like the big and brassy arrangement at the beginning of Ike’s Mood I with a little piano interlude. The song just builds and builds with sung melodies, strings, etc. Of course Hayes also couldn’t keep away from those MOR tunes with I Lost That Lovin Feelin. Still, the good songs, make up for the bad ones on To Be Continued.
Tough Guys OST (Enterprise 74)
The full title of this soundtrack is actually Three Tough Guys, which featured Hayes himself playing a cop. The album wasn’t as famous as his Shaft OST, but the music is just as good if not better because of its consistency. First is the hi hat beginning of the Title Theme that leads into some swinging horns and Hayes singing just the chorus. After that there’s a series of instrumentals from the mellow and jazzy Randolph & Dearborn and Kidnapped to the more funky The Red Rooster and Joe Bell with a drum break intro to the soulful Hung Up On My Baby and Buns O Plenty with its distinct guitar line. Finally there’s the Big Band Funk of Run Fay Run with another drum break.
Truck Turner OST (Enterprise 74)
Truck Turner was another soundtrack by Hayes. You get the 70s wah wah guitar of songs like the title track, Hospital Shootout, and Breakthrough with its oft sampled drum break, Soul-Jazz instrumentals such as House of Beauty and Driving In The Sun and slicker ones like The Insurance Company, Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile with two percussion breaks, and Dorinda’s Party. There are also a couple vocal numbers like A House Full of Girls. All of these make Truck Turner a pretty solid listen.
Hustle To Survive (Atlantic 75)
In the 1970s Les McCann was trying to move units rather than stick to a traditional Jazz sound, hence the title, Hustle To Survive. Like a lot of his 70s releases, most of the album features him singing. On Changing Seasons he reminds one of Lou Rawls, while he gives a bluesy delivery on the Soul-Jazz tune Got To Hustle To Survive. On others, like Everytime I See A Butterfly, it sounds like he’s trying to catch the Roberta Flack crowd. Whatever the case, his songs with vocals usually fall short. Probably the best cut is the opening instrumental Us with plenty of fuzz tones to save it from its slick Fusion underpinnings.