All music presented on this site is shared under the premise of "fair use"; this site is solely intended for the purpose of education and critique. If you are a rights holder to any of the music presented and wish for it to be removed, simply contact me directly and it will be taken down.
At age 24 (1958), McKinley Mitchell left his home (and his gospel roots) in Jackson, Mississippi to make his home in Chicago. A few years and a few records later, he waxed his biggest hit (which I present today); McKinley's voice is guaranteed to give anyone whoever had a heart goosebumps and bow to the glory of this beautiful record.
The Enchanters were the fantastic backing singers for many of Garnet Mimms' classic sides, and here they struck out on their own under the genius production of Jerry Ragovoy. The combination of the Enchanters' male lead vocals with some truly inspirational female backingtakes a song that may be of average quality and transports it into pure delight.
I'm posting over at the excellent Bedazzled blog once again; and I just uploaded a tribute to the great Motown raconteur Frank Wilson for your listening enjoyment. Do check it out, and bookmark Bedazzled!
More proof that sometimes the best records come from isolated places; The Third Booth came from Canton, IL (southwest of Peoria), cut this one single and with the chutzpah of youth got it into the hands of an influential Chicago DJ; the record became a hit in the windy city, whereas it was picked up for wider distribution by Independence records.
Allegedly the group practiced the song for 40 hours for a session in which they scraped together $250 to pay for (the band wanted to make sure they got it in one take). They sound VERY together on the track (with its tricky bridge section); one of the records that took American beat music and fuzz tone into the annals of all around greatness.
I'm not sure if this group has anything to do with the other Variations that recorded in the 60's-'70's (I am guessing there are at least a few other groups that used the name), and I'm also guessing that this is a Chicago record.
Whatever the backstory is, all is forgotten once this track starts. Pure heat, let me tell you...
Reverb- whether provided by an tile echo chamber or thru a spring and transducer- is the single greatest invention that ever hit audio, and the expansive (and sometimes haunting sound) it provides gives space and vibe in thousands of great records.
The first thing that hits me about both sides of this excellent record is the judicious use of reverb and how much power and spook factor it gives these sides; "Let The Doorbell Ring" sounds like midnight, and "Let Your Love Run Over Me" 3 A.M.
Guitarist (and on this record, a singer of great ability) Larry Dale was Texas born, and relocated to New York City where he became a fixture on the blues circuit, eventually ending up in Champion Jack Dupree's band in the late '50's. His guitar work on both sides of this record clearly demonstarte why he was such a big influence on the Stones' Brian Jones- himself no stranger to the power of reverb.
After a stint in the army in the early 1950's, Bobby Bland (and his producers at Duke records) brought a newfound sophistication to blues, which was crucial in the development of soul music. Bobby released dozens and dozens of excellent singles and LP's throughout his career, and his records in the sixties were an excellent example of the fine line that was straddled between blues, soul, r&b and, yes, even pop (just listen to the fantastic, catchy horn chart here). No matter the material, Bobby's voice was always one of the finest in the land, and he could emote a lyric in a way that he's practically living within the track.
I featured a handful of his records early on in this blog, but never got around to this great side. Bobby left Duke records (his home for nearly 20 years at that point) for ABC/Dunhill shortly after this release, where he saw his greatest commercial success with "His California Album".
Sadly, Kim Weston's records recorded after she left Motown in '67 are unheard by most, as they never achieved the success they deserved. Kim's voice was massive and powerful and the material was great, but for whatever reason (maybe the fact that her and her husband Mickey Stevenson sued Motown?) these records never got airplay and sold in small numbers.
This excellent side was first issued by the tiny Mikim label and was licensed by Stax/ Volt for national distribution; even though it's a fantastically catchy record (and who wouldn't love the faux-phone call breakdown) it went unnoticed.
Like so many early girl group records, this song won't set the world ablaze with social relevance or the power of a song that makes us think; instead, it goes right for the gut with a message that may seem mindless on the surface. HOWEVER, any song that can make us feel this happy when it spins is smarter than we can truly gauge!
Genius Chicago producer Carl Davis was summoned to Nashville to cut this disc, which was (I believe) the only release from these Tennessee gals.
I had all but forgotten about this track until yesterday afternoon when it popped up on ipod shuffle play while I was driving; it sounded so good I had no choice but to turn it up til my speakers distorted. See, i support SOME modern technology!
This group from Miami struck a local hit with this downright savage psychedelic beat number in the summer of '67, only to be taken down by THE MAN- shortly after its release, the band was busted for pot, which all but guaranteed their banishment from radio and press, derailing their chances for fame.
Those were different times.
The record is a mini-masterpiece of a freak-out intro (complete with technical difficulty fake out) matched with a hard driving, intense and catchy song.
Sterling Magee is perhaps best known as the Mr. Satan half of blues duo Satan and Adam- an unlikely pairing of the r&b veteran singer/ guitarist with a white suburbanite Ivy League dropout (Adam) on harmonica. Satan and Adam (who began working together in the mid 1980's) took their street busking sound around the world and on the big screen for many years and apparently are working together again.
Before his transformation into Mr Satan, Sterling Magee was another talented guitarist/ singer/ songwriter (born in Mississippi) working the circuit; for this excellent double sided release, he came close to a hit, thanks to widespread distribution on Ray Charles' Tangerine label. Sadly, the record didn't give him the push over the edge he rightly deserved.
Phew, my copy of this record is certainly well loved, isn't it? It's a surprise that it plays at all; surprisingly, it sounds pretty well! This is a pretty tough one to find, so instead of waiting for an upgraded copy to come my way, I'd rather share this lovely gem sooner rather than later.
Washington DC based soul renaissance man Van McCoy discovered the group and cut two 45's with them, this being the debut. According to Kendra Spotswood (a fantastic singer who worked steadily with McCoy) lead singer Francine Hurd rode with Herbie Fame and Van McCoy from New York City back to their home in DC, harmonizing all the way. During that fateful drive, Peaches & Herb were born, with Francine becoming the first Peaches!
As for today's record, the ladies harmonize heavenly, and the track is pure Van McCoy transcendence.
This excellent side of Detroit soul does not have the type of 'immediate" feel that makes a song latch on to; instead, it focuses on a very sophisticated arrangement that accentuates tempo twists, driven along by some very cool reverberated finger snaps and Steve Mancha's ultra cool vocal.
Steve Mancha (real name Clyde Wilson- a name which is seen on a handful of Detroit soul songwriting credits) also cut one of my all time favorites of Detroit soul; the immortal "Friday Night".
One more from Chicago (both the origin of the record and from where I'm posting from) before I return to my California home.
Here's another track from Chicago twins Pat & Pam; the daughters of Chicago DJ Lucky Cordell; himself a very powerful jock at Chicago's WVON ("the Voice Of The Negro"- probably the most influential soul station in the nation during the '60's). Their two voice sound so close and identical on this sweet and funky track.
Writing today from the windy city itself; Chicago! I'm here for an all-too-brief weekend. Saw one of my best friends in the world last night and DJ'ed together at a great bar called The Whistler, and it's a lovely, sunny and mild day in Chi-town today.
What could be better than this gorgeous, harmony driven slice of Chicago soul?
Harold Burrage began his career in music as a young pianist on the Chicago blues scene, cutting his first record in 1950 at age 20. Harold cut records on his own thru the '50's (such as this one) and also worked as a session pianist for Cobra records (and probably other labels as well).
As the 60's dawned, Burrage became one of the fathers of the Chicago soul scene, using his rich voice in a way that influenced his proteges Otis Clay and Tyrone Davis. Burrage died FAR too young (age 35 in 1966) and never got his due credit for his trailblazing efforts and talent.
Here we find Harold backed by Willie Dixon's band (probably featuring the great Jody Williams on guitar) turning in a SCORCHING slice of r&b goodness.
Apparently this group was from Washington D.C, and this was their only release. I'm afraid that I don't know any more details, but it's an adorable cute double sided girl group platter, oozing with innocence, charm and joy.
Bobby McClure was one of many great artists discovered by St Louis R&B raconteur Oliver Sain. Sain, a true renaissance man, worked as a band leader, songwriter, talent scout, producer and arranger; he also counts Little Milton and Fontella Bass among his discoveries.
Bobby McClure had the type of voice that should have made him a star; dripping with emotion, his records could evoke the type of emotion that Sam Cooke conveyed. Bobby basically left the music business in the early '70's, and worked as an Illiniois corrections officer until his death of an aneurysm in 1992 at the far-too-early age of 50.
Thankfully, I recently found a duplicate copy of this record which caused me to play check it and hear the condition; stopping cold in my tracks, I had forgotten completely how incredible this record is! I felt like I was discovering a gem that I'd never heard before (even though this was a record that I've had in my collection for years), and it was pretty damn exciting!
During his early (secular) period (Clay became a professional gospel singer as a teenager, and only began his secular career in '65), Otis Clay was well represented on record with his hard driving, bluesy soul cuts that showed his supremely powerful voice. On this exquisite track, we hear Otis deliver a ballad in a way that brings out the goosebumps in a big way.
Much in the same way as Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman", this absolutely perfect record evokes a mood that embodies the lyric and takes us to a place that is somewhat ethereal, somewhat earthy, but most importantly, purely the embodiment of soul music.
OTIS CLAY - SO TIRED OF FALLING IN (AND OUT) OF LOVE
I'm amazed that Tennyson Stephens is such a mystery figure; even though his career in music has spanned more than 50 years, little is known about the man. He has been a part of Honolulu's live jazz scene for many years, and also cut a highly regarded jazz LP with Phil Upchurch in the mid 70's in addition to releasing a small handful of soul 45's.
This great side certainly has a mysterious vibe, and I believe that it is his debut disc, and one that shows off his fantastic, rich voice to great effect. The song has a fantastic groove and a very sophisticated jazzy soul sound; in fact, it sounds several years ahead of its release date!
This record (out of Ft Worth, TX) reminds me of a quote from Frank Zappa that was something along the lines of "writing about music is like dancing to architecture". I can't say I agree with that most of the time, but when it comes to a record such as this, which is a STONE GROOVE and all about losing ourselves in the sheer sound of the thing, I can't think of much else to say about it. Simply turn it up and let it take over.
This Chicago group released two 45's and are not the same band as the more famous (Philadelphia based) group of the same name.
While many Chi-town soul songs of the late 60's-early 70's used this particular groove and sound over and over again in both inspiration and downright copy-catting, personally, I can't get enough of this sound. It certainly helps to elevate the greatness of the groove when its capped off with the type of glorious, sublime harmonies that the group spins here.
Here we are in the waning days of summer. In my bay area/ northern California home, some of our most gorgeous and warm days occur in September, and this lovely song embodies the moment when we relish those sunsets that get earlier every day.
As for this group, I'm nearly certain that this is not the long running New York a capella Persuasions, but a group of the same name from Chicago (although both certainly have gorgeous harmonies in common). Beyond that, I'm afraid that I know no other information about the group.
The Van Dykes were formed by lead singer Rondalis Tandy; after he was stationed in Fort Hood, TX during an army stint in the early 60's, he settled in nearby city Fort Worth. It was in Fort Wort where he met up with the group that became the Van Dykes (Wenzon Moseley and James Mays). Initially, the group had a fourth member (Eddie Nixon) who also sang in the high, Curtis Mayfield style (as did Rondalis) who left the group before this; their recording debut (initially released on a local label, and picked up for nation release by Mala, a subsidiary of Bell records that released all of their future discs).
"I Won't Hold It Against You" is a fantastic Impressions style groove, one which also shows off the songwriting abilities of Rondalis Tandy. The flip side ("No Man Is An Island") is a gorgeous, haunting ballad (also written by Rolandis) that was perfect for the civil rights movement, and was also technically the A side of the record upon its release. The single was a minor chart hit, but perhaps the group was just too derivative of the Impressions to stand alone; they kept releasing records up until 1967.
The amount of 45's that were cut during the '60's and '70's is downright staggering; many artists were given multiple shots for hits, and seemingly nearly as many had one release. Sweet voiced Sunday Williams is in the latter category, and this Chicago productions (unusually released on an L.A label that I've never seen any other releases from) is a very sweet track.
Sunday delivers her vocal with charm and confidence throughout a song that simply feels GOOD; an excellent track the last days of summertime.