Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vinyl Obscurities 1

In my search for rare vinyl - in record shops, boot sales and charity shops - I come across the good, the bad and the ugly. These days I tend to buy anything that looks interesting, as long as the price is right, which means I sometimes land up with crap, but sometimes hit pay dirt (like Ronnie Self's Bop-a-lena which I featured a few weeks ago). From time to time I intend to feature some of these finds in Vinyl Obscurities, the first of which comprises five records which definitely range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I start with the sublime, and gradually work down...
Maurice & Mac: Why don't you try me/Lean on me Chess CRS 8081. Maurice (McAlister) and Mac (McLauren Green) emerged from the Radiants, whose Voice Your Choice is one of my all time favourite soul records. The duo had just two 45s released in the UK (the first was You left the water running) and this, their second, is an absolute cracker.
Dale Ward: Letter from Sherry/Oh Julie London HLD 9835. Dale Ward was (is) apparently the brother of Robin Ward, who had a hit in 1963 with Wonderful Summer. Dale was a one hit wonder but this is quite a decent slow ballad, with a spoken part (possibly by Robin). The B side was a revival of a song which was a US hit for both the Crescendos and Sammy Salvo (both of which I have), and is not at all bad.
Paramounts: I'm the one who loves you/ It won't be long Parlophone R 5155. The Paramounts were a fairly run of the mill British beat group from Southend on Sea whose first hit, a cover of Poison Ivy, was a minor hit. This, their third hit featured a second rate cover of the Impressions song on the A side, but is probably more notable for its B side (pictured) which was the first recorded song for band members Robin Trower and Gary Brooker, later the mainstays of Procul Harum.
Janie Jones: Tickle me tootsie wootsies/High and dry Columbia DB 8173. This is a really shit record, but Janie Jones was infamous in her day and her fame lives on. Her first record Witches brew was a minor hit in 1965, but her claim to fame came a few years later when Janie, the 'vice queen', was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1973 for 'controlling prostitutes'. Four years later The Clash recorded 'Janie Jones' on their first album, a song which was revived by Babyshambles in 2006.
Bill Kenwright: Giving up/Love's black and white MGM 1430. Bill Kenwright is best known today as a West End theatre producer and as chairman of Everton Football Club. But he made his name playing the role of Gordon Clegg in Coronation Street. Less well known was his attempt at a pop career and this dreadful single, Giving up, was something that he wisely did, so far as his music career was concerned, not long after.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Death of a spy

Edward Woodward, who has died aged 79, made his name in the brilliant dark spy series Callan in the late 60s. Along with The Prisoner, this was the absolutely must-see TV programme of the era. Woodward's cynical, brooding character was the opposite of Bond and much more believable. A first rate cast including Russell Hunter as the pathetic Lonely, Anthony Valentine as the sinister Toby Meres and a young Patrick Mower as Cross, helped make Callan one of the most engrossing British TV series of all time. But it was Woodward himself who made this so watchable. Later he starred as the straight laced Christian police sergeant who investigates pagan practices on a remote Scottish island and who meets his fate as The Wicker Man - a film that looks rather wooden today - and eventually he became an international star as The Equalizer.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Divas of Motown

Divas of Motown at the Apollo Hammersmith last night brought together some of the (mostly) lesser known female stars of the great Motown sound in what proved to be a great celebration of the label's 50 years. Excellently supported by Jack Ashford's Funk Brothers Band, the show kicked off with 79 year old Mable John who was billed as the First Lady of Motown but who is better known for her Stax material, which made up most of her act, even if Able Mable was originally recorded, but not released, while she was at Motown. I've seen Mable quite a few times over the years and her voice is as strong as ever. Wearing an elegant white dress she was drawfed by Jack in his flashy red jacket, but there was obvious chemistry between them.
Next on was, for me, the star of the show, Brenda Holloway who, like many of the acts, is a Northern soul favourite. Looking glamorous in a gold dress her set kicked up with a couple of upbeat numbers (hopefully Dave will provide set lists for all the acts!) and followed up with the wonderful Every Little Bit Hurts and then moved on to Mary Wells' Operator and her original You've Made Me So Very Happy. Fantastic voice!
Completing the first half (apart from some well performed Motown songs by the backing group) was Chris Clark, Motown's first white act, who is also popular with Northern soul fans. Her first couple of numbers were rather weak I thought, but she got more into her stride after that. The second half kicked off with two of the eight women who can claim to have been Supremes - Scherrie Payne and Lynda Lawrence - augmented by Joyce Wilson, formerly of Dawn, who ran through the Supremes song book in good style. This was Motown for the masses I guess, but the three women, dressed similarly in purple dresses, gave their professional all. Finally it was the turn of Thelma Houston, a true diva to be sure, but not one associated with the great Motown years of the 60s. But she has a fantastic voice and her cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' Don't Leave Me This Way went down a storm. The show finished with the backing group inviting audience participation with My Girl and then the stars joined together for a finale. An excellent show - although maybe not quite top draw - and definitely one for lovers of Motown and Northern soul.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Stomping away?

Worrying news from the Big Easy. It seems that the Ponderosa Stomp is unlikely to take place to coincide with Jazzfest next year. Rumour has it that it will be in September and may not even be in New Orleans at all, but in LA. There is nothing official (which in itself is ominous as we're already in November) but the rumour is that it may take place at the Rock & Bowl, which was its home pre-Katrina, but may be at the LA Mint I've never been to the Mint (or to LA for that matter) but it would be a shame if New Orleans was to lose this event. The one-off move to Memphis after Katrina was understandable, but this has become very much a Louisiana tradition over the last eight years with many of the acts originating in the state or from nearby.
Meanwhile I've already booked my flights (using my Air Miles) on the basis that as usual it will take place between the two Jazzfest weekends. Not that my trip will be wasted, as there are also festivals in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Memphis during the time I'm planning to be there as well as Jazzfest and any associated gigs at New Orleans clubs. Nevertheless the Stomp will be missed, as Dr Ike and co have managed to assemble a fantastic group of little known or half forgotten music greats year after year.
Anyone with firm news please post a comment. In the meantime the Stomp website can be found here
Here's confirmation from that the Stomp is moving to the autumn, but no dates or venue yet.