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February 2006 Reviews

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  • February 2006 Reviews

    45 REVIEWS:

    1619 B.A.B.
    For Your Love/World (Chess 73)
    This 45 was originally released on the Brown Sugar label before being taken up by Cadet. I found out about it while looking for the 1619 Bad Ass Band LP. For Your Love is a great soulful number with a funky backing and a catchy group chorus. The bass playing stands out especially. World is just as good.

    Keep On Sockin it Children/Like A Rolling Stone (A&M)
    Keep On Sockin It Children is a great catchy Funk instrumental with just a basic rhythm section with no horns. The Brownesque walking bass line anchors the tune and is sure to get heads nodding. The flipside is a Soul version of the classic Bob Dylan song with female back-ups making this a very nice 2-sided 45 to pick up.

    Johnny’s Gone To Vietnam/Trippin (Mutt & Jeff)
    Johnny’s Gone To Vietnam is a guitar led Soul instrumental with a strong beat. Trippin is a nice blend of a funky rhythm with some Jazz guitar playing over the top making for the better of the two sides. Both of these songs are featured on Green’s LP.

    Down Home Girl/Feer (Red Bird 64)
    I originally heard Down Home Girl as done by the Coasters, and thought they were the originals. It was later that I found out that New Orleans’ singer Alvin Robinson actually first recorded the tune written by Jerry Leiber and Artie Butler, and released on Lieber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird label. The tune is a great mid-60s Soul number with horn accents, a bouncing beat and Robinson’s great delivery. The flipside is a cover of the standard Fever.


    Love & Peace (Atlantic/Crossover 78)
    Love & Peace sees Ray Charles attempting to mix his soulful Big Band sound with some 70s Funk and dance music. Sometimes it’s pretty good such as the grooving Take Off That Dress, No Achievement Showing and A Peace That We Never Before Could Enjoy. Other times it’s a bit mixed like Ray’s attempt at an upbeat dance number called You 20th Century Fox. What actually stands out more than the music is the fact that a couple of the lyrics deal with the tumultuous political situation in the U.S. and the Middle East during that time with references to Watergate and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Give It Away (Brunswick 69)
    Give It Away was the Chi-Lites first album for the Brunswick label and was named after their first hit single. The song is an OK Soul tune, but My Whole World Ended is better with its upbeat mood. There are also good covers of I Heard It Through The Grapevine and I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, but the best number is the cool What Do I Wish For with its little guitar intro and finger snaps before Eugene Record comes in with his trademark falsetto voice. You’re No Longer Part Of My Heart is another uplifting song.

    In The Garden (Metromedia 71)
    Gypsy was originally a Rock group out of Minneapolis, before they relocated to Los Angeles. Most of the record is unimpressive late-60s Rock with a little Prog thrown in for good measure. The one song to check for is Here (In The Garden) Part Two that has a nice organ groove to it. The second half of Part One of the song is a long drum break/solo that goes on for several minutes.

    Stop The World - We Wanna Get On (VIP 70)
    The Hearts Of Stone were a four-piece male vocal Soul act who released this, their one and only LP on VIP, which was a subsidiary of Motown Records. Most of the opening numbers are upbeat Soul tunes like It’s A Lonesome Road and Would You take A Dime From A Poor Man. There are also a couple funky cuts like Gotta Sacrifice (We Gotta Sacrifice) and a cover of Thank You Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin. Overall, an OK, but not great Soul LP.

    The Man! (Curtom 73)
    Leroy Hutson got his big break in 1970 when he co-wrote The Ghetto with Donny Hatahway. Later, he joined the Impressions replacing Curtis Mayfield. Hutson eventually went solo and released a few highly regarded 70s Soul LPs. The Man! was his second release and features lush arrangements and rich orchestration. Unfortunately, he misses more often than not with that mix. The only tunes that really stick for me are the funky Soul of After The Fight with a strong rhythm and Dudley Do-Right even if it is about a cartoon. The other cuts just don’t seem to go anywhere.

    Monkey Man (Trojan)
    Toots Hibbert is one of my favorite soulful Reggae singers. Monkey Man is by far one of the Maytals’ best albums as well. That great singing is apparent right from the beginning with Revival Reggae and Bla Bla Bla. The best is saved for the second side however with Monkey Man and Pressure Drop that I originally heard as covers by the Specials, along with Sun, Moon And Star and She’s My Scorcher. All contain catchy choruses, upbeat early Reggae rhythms and some strong back-up vocals as is the style of the Maytals.

    Reggae For Lovers (D.M.C.)
    The Pioneers started their career as one of the top Reggae vocal groups of Jamaica in the early 1960s. Some of their best work was done with Chinese-Jamaican producer Leslie Kong and the Beverley label. When they got a couple hits in the U.K., they decided to move to the imperial motherland in 1970. There they were taken into the slick Soul-Reggae sound that was then climbing the charts. Reggae For Lovers was released sometime in the mid-1970s. The entire first side is a melodic Reggae rhythm with the group singing a medley of lyrics from American hits such as Shining Star, Ain’t No Love, Can I Change My Mind, I’ll Take You There, Let’s Get It On, etc. The song isn’t half bad. The second side consists of three songs, none of which is really that interesting.

    Love Of The Common People (Trojan 70)
    Lately I’ve been getting back into a lot of early Reggae and Rock Steady that I use to listen to when I was in college. Nicky Thomas was one of those artists. He was born in Jamaica and eventually immigrated to the U.K. in 1970. The LP was recorded in Jamaica with Job Gibbs doing production. Like many of the Trojan releases of the time, strings were subsequently added to the tracks in the U.K. to appeal to the sweet Reggae sound that was then popular there. That’s readily apparent on the opening God Bless The Children that actually gets a little ruined by the orchestration. Thomas does best on covers like Rainy Night In Georgia and If I Had A Hammer, the soulful Turn Back The Hands Of Time, all of which Trojan didn’t mess with as much. Even better are the originals however, such as Doing the Moon Walk, the title track where the strings were an attribute and helped it reach the top ten in England, and the down home sound of Have A Little Faith with some nice echoed out back-up vocals, and Lonely Feelin

    Let Me Show You (Friends & Co 76)
    I happened to luck out and get this just as it came through the Groove Merchant. It wasn’t cheap but I had a bunch of credit to spend and thought this was a worthy purchase. Ms. Williams actually got her start in beauty pageants winning Miss Black D.C. She later got signed to Friends & Co. and Let Me Show You was her debut. The album was recorded with the help of label mates B.B.S. Unlimited, and proved to be a hit with the Disco crowd. One can see why with catchy numbers like You Gotta Let Me Show You led by the bass and containing a percussion break. That medium paced tune basically sets the stage for the rest of the album which are like minded Dance numbers such as the upbeat Every Dog Has His Day and the slower It Feels Real Good. Of course there’s also the best known track Last Night Changed It All (I Really Had A Ball) with its catchy chorus, flute work and drum beat, which has been sampled and comped many a time.

    City Living (Arista 79)
    A British Soul site hipped me to Linda Williams’ City Living LP. Williams gets right down to business with a drum break that leads into a slick piece of Modern Soul with another percussion break in the middle followed by some female back-ups throughout the second half that add to the energy of the song. No Love, No Where, Without You is a good slow jam. The rest of the album isn’t as interesting however.

    Nobody But You (Brunswick 76)
    Don’t let the stock photo of an earlier Jackie Wilson in a suite and bow tie fool you on the front cover, Nobody But You was actually released in the mid-70s. The first side is mostly lushly arranged Soul tunes like Where Is Love and You’re The Song. The second side features Don’t Burn No Bridges, a funky tune that reminds me some of the Temptations work with Norman Whitefield with the arranging and back-up vocals, especially the falsetto. There’s also the upbeat Soul of You’d Be Good For Me and Satisfy My Soul, plus the pop oriented, yet catchy It Only Happens When I Look At You.


    Come And Get Yourself Some (20th Century 1975)
    This was one of the first records I bought off of eBay. The original impetus for the purchase was that the album contained the track I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You that Dr. Dre used on Nothing But A G Thing. The song is a great luscious Soul tune that just builds in intensity and oozes sex for almost six minutes with its groove and female moans in the background. There’s also Who You Been Giving It Up To and Believe Half OF What You See (And None Of What You Hear), two mid-tempo Soul numbers.

    Keep It In The Family (20th Century 74)
    Leon Haywood had a rather long career as a Soul singer. On Keep It In The Family, Gene Page did most of the arranging and conducting. If you had your eyes closed you could mistake the title track for the Staple Singers. A Hundred Pounds Of Clay is a funky Soul track, although I think it falters in parts. Long As There’s You (I Got Love) is much better with its moody guitar line and heavy instrumentation, and the instrumental B.M.F. Beautiful does an even superior job.

    Games, Dames & Guitar Thangs (Warner Brothers 77)
    Despite the fact that the cover to this record is barely holding together and that there’s almost as much white ring wear as color on the front and back, I’m still proud to own a copy of Eddie Hazel’s Games, Dames & Guitar Thangs. One of the wonders of George Clinton was that he was able to get many of his band mates their own solo contracts while managing the Parliamentfunkadelic monstrosity. Of course, hardly anyone got paid in the process so maybe it didn’t really all work out for the best in the end. Hazel’s LP is a fine slab of vinyl however. Even though it was released in 1977 it still holds a lot of power behind it like the opening California Dreamin with pop bass but some heavy distorted Rock influenced guitar soloing over the top. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) is in a very similar mood with a middle bridge that could’ve come from Black Sabbath. The two instrumentals Physical Love and What About It? aren’t half bad either with both sounding like a Parliamentfunkadelic song from the same period. On the other hand, you also have Frantic Moment, which is a misnomer of a name if there ever was one with its meandering music and the drugged out female vocals.

    Same People (Dunhill 70)
    Same People is an excellent piece of blue-eyed Soul by Roy Head. You can really get down with this LP from beginning to end. The title cut has a crisp driving drum beat and female back-ups. Trying To Reach My Goal could’ve been taken from a Stax record from the period with its horn riffs. There are also a couple grooving Blues tunes like Driving Wheel that really gets down at the end with the guitar and horns interplay. The best tunes are on the second side however with the burner She’s About A Mover with its two drum breaks, another upbeat number called Nieghbor-Neighbor, Don’t Want To Make it Too Funky, Double Your Satisfaction, a strong cover of Let A Woman Be A Woman, and finally Soul Train, which is an ode to Soul artists and hits of the period.

    Survival Of The Fittest (Arista 75)
    The Headhunters’ Survival of the Fittest is a classic slab of Jazz Fusion if there ever was one. The Headhunters were an outgrowth of Herbie Hancock’s exploration into electric Jazz and Fusion in the 70s, and featured two Oakland natives, bassist Paul Jackson and drummer Mike Clark. This album is a perfect example of their sound with famous numbers such as God Made Me Funky with its oft-sampled drum break, bass line and the group vocals on the chorus. There are also more avant-garde numbers like the percussion heavy Mugic and Here And Now. The second side attempts to fuse these meanderings in sound with some elements of Funk on Daffy’s Dance, Rima, and If You’ve Got It, You’ll Get It. The first goes a bit overboard with the soloing at times, while the second is a slow and subdued number led by Jackson’s bass work. The last tune might be the best of the three although it does go a little overboard with the Rock guitar soloing at times.

    Heritage (Blue Note 76)
    Fusion doesn’t really resonate with me as much, so when I was clearing out my collection I almost sold Eddie Henderson’s Heritage since it was released in 1976, Fusion’s heyday. However, when I gave it a spin I was caught by the opening cut, Inside You with its piano line played by Patrice Rushen and bass work by Paul Jackson. Mtume lays down a strong beat behind both, making up for the synthesizer and MOR Funk that follows. The rest of the album isn’t half as interesting with funky Fusion numbers like Acuphuncture and more atmospheric cuts like Nostalgia.