Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Communications Is Where It's At

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I've been going through alot of records, etc. that I had placed in the spare room to get it organized and cleaned in preparation for the arrival of our first child. I've been looking through cassettes I haven't played in years, organizing some records that I need to sell, and listening to alot of things I haven't heard in a while. Looking back, I decided I'd pull out some records I first bought when I got into funk, jazz, etc. Tonight's selection is Billy the Baron & His Smokin Challengers' "Communication Is Where It's At" on Grill. Bought this in the 90s at the Thanksgiving Record show in my area, if I remember correctly.

"Communication" has a loose funk sound pinned down by a solid groove and a chunky bass. There are 2 guitars, sometimes playing the same lines, often stretching out in their own directions, one wah-wah, one scratchin'. Organ moves through the background, seeming to fill in the gaps that the singer leaves. A male chorus supports the singer, stressing lyrics for importance. A nice mover. Have a listen to some of it at

Thursday, August 24, 2006

All I Need Is Your Love

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In the mail today was the debut issue of There's That Beat!, a new soul fanzine. Inside is an article on Carnival Records, a label that released records out of northern New Jersey. After reading the article, I immediately went looking for the few Carnival 45s I own (and wondered why I don't own more....). I also realized that I had yet to feature one of my favorite soul records, The Manhattans' "All I Need Is Your Love".

Opening with a guitar line, the horns and rhythm come in and the backing vocals set up the chorus. The lead vocals come in and it's all business. The sound is a textured, multi-layered sound, vocals and backing vocals supported by the guitar, horns covering the background, the percussion - drums and congas - seeming everywhere (especially like how the cymbals and the congas interact at the start). The group is tight, the production is crisp. A vibraphone accompanies the conga for the bridge, which adds a nice transitional element. Then the group comes back together to bring it on home. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Ladies Choice

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Here's a great early 70s mover, Boby Franklin's "The Ladies Choice". Originally released on the Fee label outta Detroit, this 45 received spins on the northern soul scene in the mid-70s. I first heard it on a Golden State Soul Club cassette entitled "Saucy 70s" min the late 90s. At the time, I was not a fan of the 70s soul sound, and that cassette helped to widen the soul spectrum for me. One of the featured tunes was "The Ladies Choice".

"Ladies Choice" has a crashing 4/4 beat, a wah-wah guitar, and a bass that supports it all. A vibraphone moves through the background, adding a nice texture. Male backing vocals support the lead, and they help to add depth. Come to think of it, this is a pretty rough tune, there's an edge here - primarily in the guitar and that thunderous beat. Sounds great on vinyl. Now if I could only find that "Saucy 70s" cassette, I need more 70s recommendations.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just Ain't No Love (Without You Here)

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Here's an atmospheric, laid back 70s soul tune by John Gary Williams, "Ain't No Love (Without You Here)". It's a great shuffler with female backing vocals, lush orchestration, and horns that seem to move about the back of the song. And lets not forget the unassuming flute bits that hover just above the other elements. "Ain't No Love" is pretty mellow throughout, never straying from the mid-tempo rhythm, even when the vocals intensify near the close. The bass and horns move closer to the fore, the vocals become more urgent, but the song stays the course. Exactly the kind of tune that'll get me through a humid August day......

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Are You Man Enough

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On a Motown-related note, I had the pleasure of finally finding a minty copy of this great 45 by The Four Tops this weekend at the monthly record show I attend. This 45 comes from the 'Shaft In Africa' soundtrack.

The tune has a suspenseful opening, featuring an interplay between strings and I believe a harpsichord. This opening theme appears a few times throughout, but the song mainly sticks with heavily textured sound: plenty of wah-wah, soaring strings, plenty of low end courtesy of the bass (I would argue that the bass owns the goove here, more so than the drums). Mr. Stubb's vocals are top notch as well.

Derfinitely a 45 I recommend buying on sight. You can hear a soundclip on Soulclub (scroll down to play the tune).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Baby, Baby Don't Cry

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One of the things I have been trying to do this summer is buy more Motown 45s. The hunt for obscure titles has often made me pass over 45s that seem more common, and I have come to the conclusion that I am doing myself a disservice. Especially when a 45 of this quality is out there. I am sure the name of this group is familiar to most folks, but if the title is not (which is what not for me, and it charted), I highly recommend you check this 45 out.

It has many elements I seem to favor in soul tunes: falsetto lead, a tempo that stops and starts, vocal harmonies, and a solid groove. And one thing I normally avoid, spoken parts. But it all works. The song ebbs and flows thanks to the strings and the rhythm section, gently moving between the highs and lows. Smokey really steals the show, though, with those vocals. Perhaps I need to listen to more stuff by The Miracles, but his delivery sounds so much better than on the few records of theirs I've heard. And that Motown production just convinces me I've not spent enough energies on this catalog. Any recommendations would be appreciated......

Friday, August 04, 2006


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A few weeks back I featured a Jackie Wilson 45 that knocked me out last year, 'It's All Over'. Well here's another 45 by Jackie Wilson, 'Helpless', that's been on heavy rotation.

'Helpless' has a big sound, featuring a snapping drum beat, congas, flourishes of horns, and some very nice female backing vocals. The group is tight, tight, tight. Jackie's delivery is confident and spot on. After each chorus, the band gets to groove a bit before they get back to the tune. And then in the middle, Jackie changes his delivery slightly for only a few lines, and the band accompanies him by loosening up the tempo. And then they get back to it. There's a bit of a breakdown near the down, the intensity of the tune seeming to bubble over......really interesting tune, and one I would love to hear out at a club. Recommended 45.