Funk & soul music of the late 60s and early 70s has rarely yielded any albums that have been highly regarded by music fans in comparison to those released by rock bands. Sure, What’s Going On, Hot Buttered Soul, Innervisions & Maggot Brain have all received plaudits over the years but those records are the exception rather than the rule. What is perhaps even more conspicuous by their absence is the complete lack of respect given to albums by female soul artists and today’s artist is one such soul sista who certainly deserves a lot more recognition for her album.
Recorded in 1970 and released on the James Brown King/Deluxe label, Soul Fever is the perfect example of an LP that has been massively overlooked by the general music fan but which has gained a huge respect from the funk & soul collectors – so much so that an original copy sells for around £300 – £400, which is a huge amount for an original soul LP. Thankfully though, for those who can’t afford the price tag the reissue is available for around £15 and in my opinion is an absolute essential purchase for any fan of that late 60s funky soul trip.
So what do you get for your money? Well, there’s everything from mid tempo groovers, fantastic ballads, uptempo funk and huge vocal screamers in there. Sadly Ms Lyons only recorded the one album but I suppose we can think of it as a case of quality over quantity. The song I have selected to feature for you today is the album’s opener and is backed with the second song on the record “Daddy’s House”. This 45 has always been popular among soul & funk djs and much like the LP has become quite valuable – copies regularly sell for £100 – £150. So tune in to the fantastic sound of Marie “Queenie” Lyons.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m partial to songs that I suppose you could call “quirky”, you know what I mean, tracks that have kids singing or were put together for some tv ad or as a promo item for a particular product. With that in mind, you’ll probably recall a few months back a record that I featured which very much falls in to the “quirky” category – The Bunny Hop by Bugs Bunny. Well it’s only right then that I should turn to a song celebrating Disney’s biggest and most well-loved character – Mickey Mouse.
This track isn’t like The Bunny Hop in so far as it doesn’t actually feature Mickey Mouse unlike Bunny Hop that really does have Bugs Bunny singing along. As you can see from the label, this song was released on the “Buena Vista” label which was owned by Walt Disney and was an off-shoot of the Disney Record label set up specifically at the time for the recordings of the Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello. The label further expanded to cover soundtrack recordings and other selected releases and today’s feature comes from 1974.
What marked this out to the attention of funk collectors is the insane opening drum break. This is one heavy break for what is a pretty cheesy record but it ended up being featured on one of the “Dusty Fingers” compilations which at last count ran to volume 17!! These comps composed of tracks many of which were sampled in well-known (and some lesser-known) hip-hop tracks. This is certainly one for the kids & parents to groove along to!!
On this May Day Bank Holiday, a day that is traditionally thought of as a day for “the workers” I thought I’d dedicate today’s selection to those unable to find work – The Unemployed (see what I did there??) I’ll be honest – I don’t really know anything about The Unemployed (the band, not the people out of work!) so this update is going to be one of my shorter ones!
Anyway what I do know is that they were from New Orleans and this record was cut back in ’71 and released on the Cotillion label which was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records (one of many). Beginning in ’68 it’s primary focus was on releasing blues & soul records – indeed the debut release on the label was Otis Clay’s “She’s About A Mover” and featured songs by the likes of Brook Benton, Young Holt, Jean Knight and The Fatback Band. However as the 70s moved along the label moved in a slightly different direction cutting tracks by The Velvet Underground & Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The label folded in 1985 leaving behind a catalogue of collectors items in the process.
So the song I’m focusing on this week is probably rather unsurprisingly a nice little slice of funky soul with a sound that typified that era. This is certainly one to groove along to – oh, and it can be found for cheap too!!
Just a very short update to advertise a gig that I’ll be guesting at tomorrow night (on the off-chance any of you are in the area). I’ll be dj’ing in The Menagerie in Belfast as part of a new series of nights showcasing some of Northern Ireland’s best bands alongside my old friend Revenant Presley. This will give me an opportunity to dig into my collection and pick out some stuff other than my usual funk & soul that I feature here, including some indie, 60s garage & psych, swamp rock and 1 or 2 other little oddities (I’ll still sneak in some soul & funk though!).
For more info, you can visit the event page on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/events/1426312361006398/ Here’s a little taster of the type of thing that you can expect to hear on the night:
Today’s feature comes courtesy of the man responsible for one of the 60s most well-known (and biggest selling) songs “1-2-3″. Len Barry was not just a singer but also an actor who appeared in film. His career began way back when as a member of the U.S. military he sang as part of the U.S. Coast Guard band and so well received was his performance that he decided that he would try to forge a music career upon his discharge from the military.
A local Philadelphia band called “The Dovells” were looking for a lead singer and Barry (or Leonard Borisoff to give him his real name) was successfully recruited to complete the line-up. The Dovells cut a number of popular singles including the million selling “Bristol Stomp” which received a gold disc. Barry’s tenure with The Dovells lasted all of 3 years but this was in no small part down to his desire to make a name for himself as a solo artist and so in 1964 he released his debut single entitled “Lip Sync”. It was to be his next release in 1965 however that was to turn him in to a global superstar – the aforementioned “1-2-3″. This was a song that seems to have appeared on every 60s compilation ever made – I don’t know whether there were some copyright issues which allowed the track to be endlessly used but it’s one of those dreamy 60s pop numbers that was hugely popular and even become a part of the mod scene for a while (though it’s not a song I particularly like, the flip “Bullseye” is the more impressive track in my opinion).
And so the song I’ve decided to bring you today is a bit later in Barry’s career (it was released in ’69) and is a world away from the bubblegum pop of “1-2-3″ This one features the sort of social commentary one would expect from the likes of Curtis Mayfield and features a fantastic musical arrangement, complete with bongos and horn section that sees him move to full-on funky soul mode. What a belter!
It’s been quite a while since I last featured something that I would consider “nu-funk” on the blog so I figured I would return to that vibe today. The Grits were formed in Brighton back in 2005 and set out to record instrumental funk harking back to the halcyon days of Eddie Bo, The Meters & The JB’s. In the early 2000s there was a huge explosion of bands playing this sort of heavy instrumental funk (many of whom we’ve featured in the past) including (but not limited to) The New Mastersounds, Speedometer, The Bamboos & Lefties Soul Connection.
This single was put out on the excellent ” Freestyle” label which became the go-to label to hear the latest nu-funk bands on the scene. Released in 2007 and featuring swirling organ and pounding drums, the single became popular among many of the UK’s biggest funk djs of the time and caught the attention of Craig Charles (whom they recorded live sessions for on his Funk & Soul Show). The b-side to this record is a cover of a single that we featured some time ago by The Fabulous Counts entitled “Jan, Jan” the lead track from their album of the same name.
I hope to have our next guest contributor’s selection as well as some gig news and a VERY exclusive featured track coming up over the next few weeks so stay tuned!!
We’re returning to one of the classics for this week’s selection, however I guess this version may not be that familiar to some of you. Written by the legendary father of New Orleans Soul, Allen Toussaint, the original release (in 1965) was by another icon of the N’Awlins scene, Mr Lee Dorsey. Toussaint cut his own version and it was to gain tremendous popularity among many 60s bands including garage rockers The Leaves & The Kingsmen as well as The Doors, Iron Butterfly and even Gerry Rafferty.
Today’s take on it comes by way of Wilmer & The Dukes – a New York R&B band formed in 1957 comprising 3 white members and the black bandleader, Wilmer Alexander Junior. In the late 50s/early 60s, this was quite a unique line-up and ensured that the band stood out from their peers of the time.
The group mainly operated as a covers band performing many Motown hits by artists like The Four Tops & Junior Walker & The Allstars. This led to a very loyal following when they appeared at various clubs around the New York/New Jersey area and afforded them the opportunity to support Wilson Pickett & Sly & The Family Stone. After a number of years on the circuit the chance arrived for the band to cut their first single called “Give Me On More Chance” in 1968. A number of singles quickly followed including one whose b-side featured a cover of The Rolling Stones “I’m Free” (which was to be covered by The Soup Dragons around 20 odd years later).
This version of Dorsey/Toussaint’s classic was cut in ’69 and had no chart success whatsoever. What I particularly like about this record is the saxophone and the heavy drum break in the middle. Enjoy!!
We’re a day late this week as I treated myself to a little trip over to London at the weekend and only arrived home late yesterday afternoon.The Easter holidays are something of a write-off here in Belfast (and across Ireland, in truth) due to our archaic licensing laws that means many venues close early over the holiday season and on some days (Good Friday) are only allowed to open a mere 5 hours!!! With Easter being one of only 2 occasions during the year that most workers get 2 days off work, it gets a bit frustrating that there are very few events during this period due to most things shutting down, hence why I (and many others) escape to more progressive cities/countries.
Friday night saw us score guestlist places to the London International Ska Festival which was taking place in the Forum in Kentish Town. The place was jumping and we had great fun. After leaving we went to Joe’s Bar in nearby Camden, where Andy Smith was dj’ing playing a mix of soul, rock & roll, funk, disco and everything in-between. This made for a real party vibe and everyone seemed to have a good time showing of their dancing skills.
Saturday saw us take a trip to Peckham for the South London Soul Train. We gravitated to the 2nd floor where it was the mighty Snowboy & Perry Louis laying down the heavy funk from the likes of The Jackson Sisters, Cymande, Joe Quarterman and James Brown among others.We stayed right through to the end – 5 a.m. for what was a marathon of soul & funk!!
Sunday night was a journey to Shoreditch to hook up with my old friend Dr Kruger – he was dj’ing in a Brazilian bar/restaurant playing latin/Brazilian & Caribbean sounds. The place packed up pretty quickly and had a number of people dancing early on. We were also treated to a couple of professional Brazilian dancers in full traditional costume which was a sight to behold!! We journeyed off into the night thinking of another most enjoyable weekend in London town. Til next time…
And so this week’s song selection – you’re probably looking at the name of the artist and thinking that I’ve spelt the name wrong, however this is how the record has been pressed. The band are of course the “Soul Tornadoes” from Ohio(who have had their name spelt many different ways!!). You may well know them from two of their other 45s – “Hot Pants Breakdown” & “Crazy Legs”. The record I have picked to feature is probably the least well-known of the 3 45s they cut and was the first release by the band. This is a really heavy hitting funk tune which is mainly based around the guitar work of James “Boots” Smith with a little bit of hammond thrown in there. Check it!
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.