We’re returning to an artist today who it’s fair to say has gained a reputation as something of a legend – the one and only Candi Staton. Staton’s early years started out (you guessed it) as a child prodigy as part of a gospel trio with her sister Maggie in the early 1950s. The group toured for the best part of 10 years and cut some singles during this time for labels like Apollo & Savoy. Fast forward 5 years and Staton was to meet up with Clarence Carter (whom she later married) and it was to be his introduction to Rick Hall – of the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals – that was to shape Staton’s future career as a solo artist.
The song I bring you today is Staton’s first solo record recorded on the Fame label in 1969. This was to be the springboard for a host of r&b hits on the label which gained her the title of “The First Lady Of Southern Soul” due to the success of singles like “Stand By Your Man” and “In The Ghetto” – both smash hits for Tammy Wynette & Elvis Presley respectively. However the move away from soul & gospel to the now dominating disco sound was to provide her with her biggest hit to date – the massive selling “Young Hearts Run Free”. From a personal point of view, I’ve never been a fan of disco music as it always reminded me of being dragged to relatives’ weddings/christenings etc as a young boy and it’s always been something I’ve seen as “cheesy” and even now the same tunes are played at these types of events.
Whilst “Young Hearts” was hugely successful, she is perhaps best known throughout Europe for a single that was released 10 years later – “You Got The Love”. This became a huge dancefloor hit and was revived a few years back by the wailing Florence & The Machine for a chart hit that seemed to remain in the U.K. Top 40 for an eternity. Again, like the disco era stuff it’s not a song I particularly like, however Candi certainly deserves huge respect for continually moving with the times and embracing the new styles of music each decade presented. This week’s selection is back to the old “Sister Funk” style that you know I favour so much. Unfortunately she didn’t perform this when I saw her live at the Mostly Jazz festival in Birmingham a couple of years ago, but she did show that her voice can still cut it at the ripe old age of 73! Respect!!!
It still comes as a bit of a surprise to me (even at this stage) that there are records out there that are super cheap but that still remain largely unplayed/unknown. The track I bring you today is a perfect example of this – I’d say this is probably one of the cheapest records I have in my collection, as a copy in decent enough nick can be found for as little as £5!! I’ve long since given up trying to figure out why some records are highly valuable and others extremely cheap when in my humble opinion this is as good quality as something touching £100!!
With all that I have said above, I’m sure it will come as absolutely no surprise to you that I’m travelling down that well-worn path of featuring a record that I know nothing about. Such is the perils of writing about music that over time there are tracks that you feel are worth a greater audience and so deserve to be showcased even if the accompanying blurb doesn’t provide much of an insight. But, as I always say it’s all about the music so I hope you can dig this one and share it where you can. Gracias!!
P.S. I hope to be able to announce a few upcoming dj gigs soon and I’m working on getting more guest contributors to dig into their collection to feature for you over the next few months.
My last few selections have been tracks that I suppose you could say are well-known to those with an interest in the soul and funk world, however this week’s piece of wax is certainly back in the realms of obscurity and seems to have passed by many of my soul brothers. Of course the heavyweight collectors like my bro Larry Grogan over at Funky16Corners is a big fan of this record and who am I to argue???
What we get here is an instantaneous heavy, heavy funk smasher. From the opening drumbeak (which is about as heavy hitting as any that I can think of) to the final bars, it is just a slab of the grooviest funk you’re gonna hear. Released in ’68 on the Tuba label out of Detroit, this sounds much more raw than the sort of soul music that one would have associated with coming out of that city at that particular time. It’s probably one of the earliest examples of a record that would lay the foundations for a “breakbeat” type sound, with it’s sampledelic drumbeat, references to other well-known funky soul records (“Here Come The Judge” & “Cool Jerk” are both mentioned here) and it’s slow intermissions set against an almost “cut & paste” type format.
As far as the artist themselves are concerned, I know nothing about them and indeed the Tuba label which I believe had a rather modest discography. So turn the speakers up on this one and dig the funky beat of Richard’s People, yo!
Just before Christmas I brought you a fantastic cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by Thelma Houston and this week I return to yet another brilliant soul cover of one of the Stones’ greatest songs, Gimme Shelter.
Merry Clayton was born in New Orleans in 1948 and her first foray into the world of music came as a 14 year old when she sang a duet with Bobby Darin entitled “Who Can I Count On (When I Can’t Count On You?)”. Her first solo record was released a year later and was the original version of “The Shoop, Shoop Song” which became a hit for Betty Everett and less memorably years later for Cher. Unfortunately Clayton was to taste little success as a solo artist but instead became well- known as a backing singer for many artists in the late 60s/early 70s including Ray Charles (she was actually a member of the Raelettes), Tom Jones, Joe Cocker, Neil Young & Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Her most famous role however was as the female vocalist on the Stones’ original version of Gimme Shelter, released on the “Let It Bleed” album in ’69 as a response to the Vietnam War. Clayton’s vocals on the record was an example of a more soulful side of the band which was to be further enhanced by their recording of the follow up LP “Sticky Fingers” at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama.
Clayton explains her role on the record and her subsequent cover version in the excellent docu-film “Twenty Feet From Stardom” about the secret life of the backing singers who performed vocals on some of the 20th century’s most memorable songs. If you haven’t seen the film as yet, you should definitely check it out.
There’s little more needs to be said about this track other than in my humble opinion it’s an even better version than the original and believe me, that is high praise indeed!
Before I crack on with this week’s update, I’d first like to take the time to say a big thanks to Greg Belson for his excellent guest selection last week. I know Greg’s been very busy with various things so we appreciate the time he put aside to contribute to the blog. I hope to have even more guest contributors over the next few months and with a bit of luck some more interviews with a number of legendary funk artists during the year, so stay tuned!
I guess some of you may be thinking I’m losing my mind with this week’s update, featuring 70s rocker Meatloaf. Well, I’ve probably mentioned before that many artists who are known for other styles every now and then come up with something that gives an insight into their inner funkiness! This is definitely one such case.
Stoney & Meatloaf cut 2 singles and one album in the early 70s after Meatloaf was signed to Motown. The Rare Earth label was set up as a subsidiary in the late 60s and the focus of the label was to move away from the classic Motown sound and instead featuring more rock orientated white artists like Rare Earth. This record showcases the strong vocals that was to become such an intrinsic part of the sound that was to lead to Meatloaf becoming a global superstar in the mid to late 70s.
It’s been a little while since I’ve been able to bring you a selection from one of our funky friends but we’re back with a bang this week as our latest guest contributor is the one and only, Mr Greg Belson.
Greg began collecting records in 1984, initially exploring the “Hip-hop” genre with artists like Public Enemy, Tuff Crew, D.O.C., Just Ice & Schooly D dominating his record collection. It was always gonna be a natural progression to investigate where the samples actually came from so by 1988, soul, funk and jazz had properly taken flight. Labels like Blue Note, CTI, Kudu & Strata East, artists like Minnie Riperton & The Rotary Connection, David Axelrod & Eddie Bo all became instant mainstays. In 1990 he started the much lauded “Urban Soul” sessions with DJ Vadim (Ninja Tune/Jazz Fudge/BBE). By 1994, Greg & Keb Darge joined forces to launch the legendary club session that has become a brand name in “Deep Funk”.
After around 15 years of dj’ing across the U.K. Greg relocated to Los Angeles in 2006 where he regularly spins at “Funky Sole” at The Echo on Sunset Boulevard. DJ appearances around the States include the “Emerald City Soul Club” in Seattle, “Soul Togetherness” in Chicago, as well as dates in New York, Detroit and all across California. 2011 saw the launch of “The Divine Chord Gospel Show” which has gained a global fanbase with dedicated listeners tuning in worldwide. Greg has continued funking floors all around the globe for the best part of 25 years and in 2014, he embarked on a 46-date European tour taking in nights all over the U.K., as well as Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy.
We’re delighted that Greg has taken time out of his busy schedule to dig into his collection and showcase a brilliant piece of rare black music with us. Mr Belson, it’s over to you…
“Thanks so much to Gary for giving me the opportunity to write some words about a funk 45 that’s currently residing in my playbox.
I’ve been exploring the world of gospel and it’s harder more soulful, funk oriented recordings for the last 20 and some odd years. It was a conscious decision I made after hearing DJ Snowboy play Clarence Smith’s ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child’ on Gospel Truth, back in 1993. The moment totally stayed with me along with the thought of starting to explore more gospel recordings that could certainly crossover into clubland territory.
And so it began.
Searching for 45’s that often never found the light of day out of their own local ministry, let alone had any kind of state wide distribution. The hallowed nationwide distributed recordings were saved for the select few like The Staple Singers or artists that made it into the Peacock, Checker and Songbird labels. In an attempt to grab a bigger audience, many artists would take a popular secular song of the day, and essentially ‘gospelize’ it. Some tracks like Florida Spiritualaires ‘I remember when’ on Ernie’s Record Parade, basically took the entire riff of The Intruders ‘Cowboys to girls’ on the Gamble label, and repackaged it for a gospel market. There are countless examples of this occurrence and the harder you dig, the more you’ll discover.
My offering here is one such recording by Shirley Finney…..her version has stayed pretty true to the original recording by Sly & the Family Stone, written by Sylvester Stewart. This take was released by a gospel label out of New York circa 1971, by a gospel oriented artist. The production is rough and ready and includes a mighty, mighty drumbreak for the dancefloor. Shirley had recorded a few singles prior to this release, which were issued at the beginning of the Jas catalogue around 1968. As a label, Jas were starting to wind down by 1971, and by the following year, they had closed up shop entirely. This release is heading towards the end of an era, but yet, it really is as tough as they come.
Ms Finney later went on to record some incredible discs for the much famed and far larger co-operation, Savoy label. Let Google be your friend and have a look around for some of her work on those two LP’s released in ‘76/’77. Whilst the production is distinctly more modern and some might say disco, the tunes are powerhouse dancefloor cuts worthy of any forward thinking club”.
One of my favourite things about digging for records is that every now and then you can turn up quality sounds somewhat unexpectedly – today’s selection is one such case. To be more specific, this is one of those occasions where the funk makes an appearance on a track that would be mainly thought of as a “blue grass” sound with it’s fiddle and banjo but was cleverly mixed with funk (hence the “black grass” title). There is very heavy breaks on this one and in fact it featured on a compilation entitled “Ultimate Breaks & Beats” released back in 1986 which comprised of a number of songs that became huge favourites among b-boys. Normally when I play this out, I speed it up a little to make it a bit more dancefloor friendly, but I’ve featured the 45 at it’s original speed today.
BadBascomb is probably a name that few of you would be familiar with, however the man behind the band is in fact WilburBascomb who became popular among funk collectors for his excellent song “Just A Groove In G”. There’s not really a lot more to say about this record but everybody’s got to get some black grass…
It’s all too rare these days that I dig into my collection and pull out a record that takes me back to the days when I was heavily involved in the mod scene, but today’s selection is one such occasion. In recent years I’ve found myself drifting further and further away from the mod scene for a variety of reasons – the reticence from some to progress beyond the obvious Small Faces/Who/Paul Weller and well-known Northern Soul & Motown tunes and the fact that in some quarters it has moved on to an almost exclusively r&b playlist. Now don’t get me wrong – I really dig my r&b, however when nights feature just the one genre of music it tends to put me off a little and becomes somewhat “samey” after a while. This has of course led me to follow a more funky route and embrace more experimental sounds and genres as well as becoming a bigger fan of psychedelia. I’ll always be a mod at heart (and still dress that way) but I’m happy to have broken free of the constraints of the scene.
So anyway, on to this week’s featured tune. This was something that I first heard on David Holmes’ Come Get It, I Got It mix album/compilation a number of years back. As soon as I heard it, it just screamed out the word “cool” in capital letters! I had always had a soft spot for funky jazz, but this was what would be more apporpriately described as mod jazz and I absolutely loved it! It kinda reminded me of a song that was used as the theme music for the “Film..” tv series in the U.K. that was hosted by Barry Norman. The track in question I later found out was by an artist called Billy Taylor and the song was called “I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” – which became an unofficial anthem for the U.S. civil rights movement and was later covered by Nina Simone. Where “Up Above The Rock” differs is the drums which could very easily be used as a break in hip-hop – the “hey” part of the song was later sampled in The Wiseguys’ “Start The Commotion”.
Just as I write this update, news has just reached me of the passing of the legendary Mr Don Covay. We featured Mr Covay here on the blog last year and it’s with great sadness we learn of his death. May god have Mercy on the Overtime Man. R.I.P.
We’re moving towards the obscure side of funk with this week’s track, which of course means that it’s a song and artist that I know next to nothing about. It seems that this one is a bit under the radar for a lot of funk collectors as it’s not one I’ve ever heard played out anywhere, or indeed any reference made to it on social media etc. Like many funk records (and indeed tracks that I have previously featured) this is the b-side, with the a-side being a cover of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World”.
Released in 1971 and clocking in at around the 2 minute mark, this is one that is very catchy and perfect for a club with a great sound system. I’m sure you’ll dig it – and maybe after this it might work it’s way onto the wantslist (or indeed) playlists of some of the other funk djs!
As an aside – I’m doing a bit of work preparing for our next guest contributor and I hope to bring you something in the next couple of weeks. Say tuned – you’ll really enjoy this one!!