Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farewell to some music greats

Time to cach up on a number of music deaths over the lst couple of weeks.
Baton Rouge bluesman Rudy Richard (pictured above with C C Adcock) has died aged 75. Originally from Church Point, Louisiana, he played with Slim Harpo and his guitar licks can be heard on such classics as Rainin' In My Heart, I'm A King Bee and Baby Scratch My Back, but he never recorded under his own name. I first saw Rudy at Teddy's Juke Joint in Zachary, near Baton Rouge, in 2010 and the following year he played at the Ponderosa Stomp alongside Lazy Lester. A few days later I saw him again at a swamp blues show at the Rice Theatre in Crowley, La, which also featured Warren Storm, Carol Fran, Guitar Gable and C C Adcock.
From the world of rocksteady we have lost Jackie Bernard, founder member of the Kingstonians, aged 66. He recorded with Derrick Harriott in the late sixties and had great success with Sufferer and Singer Man, before the band broke up in the early seventies. Their only LP, Sufferer, was released in the UK on Trojan.
One of the architects of some of the greatest pop music to come out of the States, Bob Crewe, has died aged 83. Together with partner Frank Slay, he wrote and produced the Rays' double sider
Silhouettes and Daddy Cool and, with Swan Records of Philadelphia, had further success with Billy and Lillie's La De Da and Freddy Cannon's Tallahassee Lassie and Ofefonokee. In the early sixties he joined with Bob Gaudio and guided the career of the Four Seasons, who had huge success with Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Rag Doll, Walk Like A Man and many others. In 1965 he formed Dynovoice Records and had hits with Eddie Rambeau (Concrete and Clay), the Toys (Lovers Concerto and Attack), Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (Devil With A Blue Dress On and Jenny Take A Ride) and Norma Tanega (Walking My Cat Named Dog). Bob enjoyed success under his own name (the Bob Crewe Generation), with Music To Watch Girls By, which became a hit for Andy Williams, as did another Crewe song, first recorded by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Can't Take My Eyes Off You. In the seventies he was involved in forming Disco Tex and the Sex O Lettes and recorded Labelle's Lady Marmalade, as well as recording as a solo artist. Truly one of pop music's greats.
From the world of country music we have lost George Hamilton IV at the age of 77. A recording
artist since 1956, when he recorded A Rose And A Baby Ruth, George's many other hits included Why Don't They Understand, Fort Worth Dallas and Houston, Abilene, Canadian Pacific and Carolina In My Mind.
Finally we say goodbye to jazz keyboard player Joe Sample, a founder member of the Crusaders, who recorded with them until the early nineties.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The O'Jays at the O2, London

Seamus McGarvey reports from an exciting show at the O2.
The O'Jays – Indigo2 at the O2, London: Thursday 18th September 2014
This was quite an occasion, the first night of a two-night run at London's O2 Arena for legendary soul vocal group, The O'Jays. They were appearing in London for the first time in over 20 years, with a classic line-up featuring original and founding members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams, plus Eric Nolan Grant who joined the group almost 20 years ago in 1995.
The trio hit the stage about 9.10 pm and went through a 90 minute set supported by a tight 11-piece band  including their own rhythm section, a 4-piece horn section from the UK and backing vocalists. They drew a good Thursday night crowd who cheered wildly as they came on in their white suits and matching shoes, opening with 'Give The People What They Want' from 1974, Eddie's voice still showing real edge, the rhythm giving them the pace and opportunity for some neat choreography. The smooth soul of 'Lovin' You' had the crowd cheering yet again while 'Forever Mine' elicited some nice gospel-styled testifying from Walter. The vocal harmonies throughout were sharp and strong, and tellingly so in the closing bars of 'Forever Mine', before 'Back Stabbers' raised the pace once more, the harmonies flying high behind Eddie's lead. 'Let Me Make Love To You' gave Eddie the chance for some 'getting close to the audience' time, which he used to good effect with some nice touches of humour, then it was the smooth choreography and harmonised vocals of 'Cry Together' and 'Stairway To Heaven', before 'I Love Music' lifted the whole feel yet again.
Eddie introduced the band members before each of the three took a solo spot with a song from each in turn including Eddie's 'Family Reunion'. There was even a reference to Scottish independence from Eddie ('as one we can always win') which segued into a snatch of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' and a barnstorming 'Love Train' with Walter out front and Eddie and Eric doing some fast stepping. 'Use Ta Be My Girl' and 'For The Love Of Money' maintained the pace and took us through to the end with most of the audience up and dancing. A legendary act, still a potent force as performers, and an exciting show. Great to see them back in the UK; let's hope they return soon. Seamus McGarvey ('Juke Blues' magazine UK, with thanks to Cilla Huggins)
Eddie and Walter.
Eddie Levert.
Eroc Nolan Grant.
Walter Williams.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Soul Pioneers....Little Willie John

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this very rare Parlophone release by Little Willie John the other day so I thought I would select Willie as the second subject of my series on Soul Pioneers. Willie was a star of R and B in the late fifties and early sixties, but there's no doubting that he had an incredibly soulful voice and can rightly be considered one of the true pioneers of the genre.His first releases, Titus Turner's All Around the World and his original Need Your Love So Bad, both of them R and B classics, were not given a general release in the UK at the time, and in fact only a handful of Willie's singles were issued over the following few years. Fever, released in 1956, became much better known when Peggy Lee recorded it a couple of years later, but this first Parlophone 45 must have had a very small circulation. It's certainly hard to find, hence its mint value of £300. Later records such as Leave My Kitten Alone, Talk To Me, Talk To Me and Sleep enjoyed success in the US but went virtually unnoticed in the UK.
The older brother of Mable John, Willie's recording career came to a dramatic end when he was dropped by his record company, King, after suffering alcohol problems, and then, in 1966, convicted for manslaughter following a knifing incident in Seattle. Despite appealing the verdict and being released for long enough to record a comeback album (not released until 2008), Willie was sent back to prison and died, allegedly of a heart attack, in 1968.
Pictured are a couple more Parlophone releases in my collection and some of Willie's original King 45s, with Youtube links. First, here's a Youtube link to Fever.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i93-hlwULUk
Let's Rock While The Rockin's Good.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPF5BqcNjwo

 Sleep.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7ai9W4KUbs
Leave My Kitten Alone.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1y_FKlwdjk
(I've Got) Spring Fever.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo9rYgquh40
Take My Love (I Want To Give It All To You).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3rXSKm3VYM
Doll Face.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNRP14mASkE
Selection of Little Willie John LPs.

Monday, September 15, 2014

All star gospel show in Maryland

Thanks again to music journalist Seamus McGarvey for his report and photos from what looks quite some show in the US last month.
Gospel Program: Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Lanham, Maryland: 23rd August 2014
Rosetta Thompson (pictured below), wife of The Sensational Nightingales' Horace Thompson, promotes gospel programs three times a year in Lanham MD and manages to bring to Mt. Calvary Baptist church some of the best-known gospel quartets in the country.
This program was no exception with supporting quartets including Maryland's Southern Gospel Singers who really tore the place up; Little Sammy and The New Flying Clouds from Philadelphia who had some exciting call-and-response numbers in their repertoire; and D.C.'s Nate and The New Generation displaying an exciting revivalist feel, with Nate really getting the congregation fired up. Later in the program, The Soul Messengerz (below) sang 'One More Time' from their new CD, and the title track 'Only The Strong Survive' which developed into a heated workout, with the lead showing his vocal range and power.
Doc McKenzie and The Hi-Lites (pictured below) opened their set with the mid-tempo 'The Other Shore' before moving on to 'one of our old songs... - and if you like it, let us know; if not, fool us!' - 'Ride With Jesus', complete with a nice bit of preaching, and soulful yet low key testifying. Doc joked that the next number was 'an old country song... even though I know we're way up North!' as he led into the mid-tempo stepper 'Must Have Been Jesus'. It was fine vocals and harmonies all the way, with some insistent preaching, which took him out  into the congregation. He was even hoisted up onto one of the benches at one point for more testifying, bringing their set to an exciting finish.
Darrell McFadden and The Disciples, (pictured below) a very active quartet with Darrell a formidable front-man, opened with 'Be Ready', a wonderfully pacey piece driven by Darrell and three backing singers. Suited in white, they exhibited wonderful verve and energy, their insistent 'I'm On My Journey Now' continuing the feel while Darrell, at times reminiscent of a young Solomon Burke, contributed some really hard-edged testifying  in 'Never Alone'. Finishing on the wildly sanctified feel of 'Shackles', they proved to be yet another exceptional quartet, prompting the M.C. to ask the congregation, 'You still enjoying Jesus?', to which the reply was a resounding 'Yes!'
The Swanee Quintet  were led by Percy Griffin, (pictured below) a member since the mid-to-late 1960s, who joked as he came onto the altar, 'I know I look good!' - and he did. He opened with the medium-stepping 'Eternal Life' and was in fine form, even singing someone a 'happy birthday', before another slow-stepper and a song he 'used to hear [his] mother sing round the house', 'Sit Down Servant', plus the mid-tempo 'Stumble And Fall'. Percy's godson Willie Jones, having overcome a lot of illness, delivered his version of 'Ups And Downs', providing a soul-stirring introduction to Percy's 'Dr. Jesus' which in turn gave way to some extended and exciting testifying from the two younger singers, Eddie McCoy and Koby Weaver. Percy closed beautifully with 'Georgia On My Mind', joking that 'this is probably sacrilegious!' but making for a great finish to The Swanees' impressive set.
The Sensational Nightingales (Joseph 'Jo Jo' Wallace, a member since 1951 (pictured below), Horace Thompson and Larry Moore) were recipients of a number of awards and presentations in  recognition of their 68th Anniversary before 'Jo Jo' led everyone through 'What  A Friend We Have In Jesus' with some passionate preaching. 'Something Beautiful' had a nice mid-tempo country feel, followed by the similarly-paced 'Hard Headed Jonah' and the effortlessly country-blues feel of' 'At The Meeting'. Larry led the beautiful 'He Was There All The Time' followed by Horace's tasteful treatment of 'See You In The Rapture' before slowing the pace to finish on 'Standing On The Promise'. A strong set from a classic quartet with a great history and sense of tradition.
Despite some recent voice problems, Harvey Watkins Jr. led The Canton Spirituals through a number of songs, demonstrating his abilities as a very expressive performer, using humour as a key part of getting his message across. 27-year-old lead singer Keenan Nichols (pictured below) shared some of the load, and - alongside Harvey's joke: 'you wouldn't believe I was 27 once!' - Keenan's 'Morning Dove' showed real vocal power and edge and the ability to testify, while Harvey responded with 'Show Me The Way' and 'Heavenly Choir', his late father Harvey Sr.'s song. They also performed 'Depending On You', written after his father died, and Keenan's handling of Harvey Jr.'s 'Hallelujah Square' was really impassioned. It was good to see them again.
Headliners The Mighty Clouds Of Joy featured legendary lead Joe Ligon who performed for half of the set, handing the reins over to younger members part-way through. One of the original members, Joe was in good voice, and with a stage presence befitting his years of experience in quartet performances. 'I've Been In The Storm Too Long' was taken at a measured pace and then it was 'back down memory lane', in Joe's words, for the testifying 'It's Another Day's Journey (I'm Glad About It)'. Still with a wide range and an edge to his vocals, Joe's closing' Heavy Load' really rocked the church. A great conclusion to a wonderful show.
Here are a couple of photos featuring Nate and the New Generation and Little Sammy and the New Flying Clouds.
Roll on the next program at the same venue on Saturday December 6th featuring Spencer Taylor and The Highway QCs, The Sensational Nightingales, The Swanee Quintet, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Canton Spirituals, The Pilgrim Jubilees and The Violinaires – quite a line-up! Seamus McGarvey (With thanks to Rosetta and Horace Thompson)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cosimo Matassa - rock and roll pioneer

Rock and roll pioneer and New Orleans record studio owner Cosimo Matassa has died at the age of 88. So many brilliant R & B and rock and roll records were produced at his J & M studio between 1945 and the late sixties that it is impossible to overstate the importance of Cosimo's contribution to music. Dave Bartholomew made Fats Domino's first record, The Fat Man,there and followed it up with dozens of million sellers. Little Richard recorded Tutti Frutti there and Lloyd Price, Professor Longhair, Roy Brown, Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Smiley Lewis and Bobby Charles were among the early artists who made many of their best records in his first studio in North Rampart Street.  Jerry Lee Lewis made his first demo there.
After the studio's move to Governor Nicholls Street the sound of New Orleans R and B blossomed with the likes of Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner, Irma Thomas, Benny Spellman, Barbara George, Barbara Lynn, Lee Dorsey and Aaron Neville. A young Mac Rebennack and Allen Toussaint were among the great musicans who recorded and backed fellow artists. All this time Cosimo continued to run the family grocery business in the French Quarter. He was belatedly admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
John Broven said in his book Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans: 'The whole New Orleans R&B record scene was centred around the recording studios of Cosimo Matassa. Apart from isolated sessions in radio stations or on “field” locations, almost every R&B record made in New Orleans from the 1940s until the late 1960s was cut in his studios. Cosimo is mystified when asked why others did not try to establish another studio. “Beats the hell out of me, I don’t know,” he said. “It could be that New Orleans is just like a big small town.”
Here's the report of Cosimo's death on Nola.com    http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2014/09/cosimo_matassa_new_orleans_rec.html
Here's another report   http://www.wwltv.com/story/entertainment/arts/2014/09/11/cosimo-matassa-dies-t-88/15466137/

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Candi Staton at the Jazz Cafe

There's no stopping Candi Staton. A soul star since the late sixties, she is still recording and is still a dynamic performer, as she demonstrated forcefully at the Jazz Cafe last night. Her set included songs from her early days when she recorded with Rick Hall at Muscle Shoals, the disco period of the seventies, her later hits in the eighties and nineties and several tracks from her new album Life Happens. Backed by two excellent backing singers and a decent band, including her son Marcus on drums, the 74 year old looked trim in a black leather dress and provided great entertainment for the packed venue.
Her southern soul career was represented by excellent versions of her 1969 recording I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than A Young Man's Fool), Sweet Feeling, her R and B cover of Stand By Your Man (interpersed with Stand By Me) and Elvis's In the Ghetto. Her mid period success in the seventies and eighties was covered by Nights On Broadway and her 1982 cover of Suspicious Minds. And she brought things right up to date with Even The Bad Times Are Good and She's After Your Man from her new CD.
But of course many of the crowd were there for her huge disco hits. Early in the show she promised a surprise and this turned out to be a guest appearance by pop star Pixie Lott, fresh from her appearance on the launch show for this season's Strictly Come Dancing the previous night.Together they performed an extended version of her monster hit Young Hearts Run Free, a hit in 1976 and again in 1986 and 1999, during which Candi introduced the band. Finally Candi sang her anthemic hit You Got The Love, another song that has been a hit more than once.
After 75 minutes the show was over, with no encore, but it was enjoyable and the noisy crowd, many of them not even born when Candi had her first hit, certainly had a good time.
Nick Cobban
Here's Candi with Pixie Lott.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Hopeton Lewis RIP

My thanks to Aussie mate Mohair Slim for alerting me to the death of Hopeton Lewis, one of the pioneers of rock steady and early reggae, in Brooklyn at the age of 66. Hopeton practically invented rock steady with his 1966 recording of Take It Easy, recorded with Lynn Tait and the Jets, and his first UK release on Island the following year was the eponymously titled Rock Steady recorded in Jamaica for Federal Records. The B side was the equally brilliant Cool Collie, reputedly the first 'herb' record.
Hopeton recorded with Duke Reid but his most successful record was Grooving Out On Life, recorded with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in 1971.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJpyHZpYug8  Later he formed his own company, Bay City Music, and released All Night Bubblin' in 1983 and then turned to gospel, with This Is Gospel in 1996, and Reaching Out To Jesus in 2000.
Here are the two sides of his collectable first Island single, with a re-attached skew-whiff centre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J_KvCqSNp4   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4YXYGjcDyE
Here's one of his Duke Reid 45s on Treasure Isle, a duet with Hugh Roy.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xm1We1dj0BA

Leo 'Bud' Welch - new kid on the block at 82

There's a new Mississippi bluesman in town. He had his first record released this year and played last night at the Studio Space Juke Joint East venue in Wapping, east London. His name is Leo 'Bud' Welch and he's 82 years old.
Leo has been playing guitar and singing gospel around his home in the small rural settlement of Sabougla in central Mississippi all his life, working in the cotton fields and singing in church, but it's only now, rather late in life, that his talent has been widely recognised. His CD, Sabougla Voices, is a gospel blues album, but his set included many standard blues numbers, including such well worn favourites as I Got My Mojo Working, My Babe, Sweet Little Angel, Hi Heel Sneakers, No More Doggin', Cadillac Baby and Sweet Home Chicago. Supported just by a drummer, the excellent Dixie Street from Clarksdale, Mississippi, Leo showed that he has a voice well suited to the blues and a strong if unsubtle guitar style. He certainly put his numbers across powerfully and it was good to see someone who has been overlooked all this time make such an impression. I will be seeing him again at the King Biscuit Blues festival in Helena, Arkansas, next month. Watch out also for a documentary film about Leo and his life in the Delta over the last eight decades. Funds are being raised for the movie and more info can be found at leobudwelchmovie.com
The venue in Pennington Street is far from being a genuine juke joint, even if the empty buildings and derelict lots nearby have a feeling of Clarksdale. It's far too bright and clean. But this was its first Juke Joint promotion and it is to be hoped that more will follow Leo's lead.
Nick Cobban.