Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vinyl finds of the year

As regular readers will know, I spend a lot of time hunting for rare vinyl at car boot sales and charity shops. 2011 was a fairly good year, with quite a few potentially valuable records turning up. Here are my top six LPs by value (according to the Rare Record Guide). Not many of them would be in my top 20 in terms of their music, but my taste clearly isn't shared by others.
1. Locomotive - We Are Everything You See. LP released in 1970 on Parlophone PCS 7093. Mint value - £375.
Birmingham band Locomotive started life in the mid 60s as a pop outfit and released ska flavoured 45s including versions of Rudy A Message To You and Rudy's in Love. In 1969 they changed direction with a psychedelic single called Mr Armageddon written by vocalist and keyboardist Norman Haines. The following year they released this hard to find psychedelic/jazz flavoured LP which basically sank without trace at the time.
2. The Gods - To Samuel A Son. LP released in 1969 on Columbia SCX 6372. Mint value - £250.
This was the second progressive rock album by a band who succeeded the Rolling Stones at The Marquee and whose early members included future Stone Mick Taylor, and Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake, later with Uriah Heep. After this LP they signed with a new record company, recruited Rebel Rousers singer Cliff Bennett and changed their name to Toe Fat.

3. Rolling Stones - Out Of Our Heads (export copy). LP released in 1965 on Decca LK 4725. Mint value - £170.

This is the third Stones LP in the UK and appears quite often at boot sales. But this is the export version with a different track listing which includes their big hits The Last Time and Satisfaction. I found a couple of other original collectable 60s Stones LPs in excellent condition during the year.

4. Conway Twitty - Lonely Blue Boy. LP released in 1960 on MGM C 829. Mint value - £100.

This was Twitty's third LP with tracks including Just Because and Heartbreak Hotel as well as the title track. I found another Twitty LP - R and B (worth £70) - at the same time.

5. Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - Rhythm and Blues At The Flamingo. LP released in 1964 on Columbia 33SX 1599. Mint value - £100.

Excellent first LP bringing back memories of those great days at Soho's Flamingo club, this album includes 10 covers of R and B songs, including Night Train, You Can't Sit Down and Shop Around. None of them quite match the originals, but there is plenty of excitement on show.
6. Wailin' Howie Casey and the Seniors - Twist At The Top. LP released in 1962 on Fontana TFL 5180. Mint value - £90.

This LP has some damage to the front sleeve but it's quite a rarity. Saxman Howie played at the 2Is coffee bar and in Hamburg and his band was the first Liverpool group to have an LP released. This features some vocals by Freddy Fowell (better known as Freddie Starr) and includes a selection of rock and roll twist numbers. Howie is still going strong, playing alongside Roy Young, as Woodies will know well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Death List 2011

Around this time of the year I like to look back at those music and entertainment people who have passed away during the year. As ever, it's a lengthy list with December producing more than its fair share of music deaths - the latest being that of Blanket On The Ground singer Billie Jo Spears, who has died aged 74. Here's this year's Death List - so far! Other suggestions welcome.

Nick Ashford - Motown singer/songwriter, John Barry - James Bond composer, J Blackfoot - Soul Children and solo soul singer, Sir Lattimore Brown - southern soul man, Bob Brunning - member of Fleetwood Mac, Mojo Buford - bluesman, Grady Chapman - former Robins/Coasters member, Clarence Clemons - Springsteen saxman, Smiley Culture - British reggae singer, Eric Delaney - UK band leader, Billy Diamond - New Orleans music promoter, Betty Driver - Betty Turpin in Corrie, Cornell Dupree - jazz & R and B guitarist, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards - 96 year old bluesman, Esther Gordy Edwards - Berry Gordy's sister, Peter Falk - Columbo star, Fred Ferrara - member of Del-Satins, Wild Man Fischer - cult singer/songwriter, Keith Fordyce - DJ and Ready Steady Go presenter, Joe Frazier - boxer and singer, Dolores Fuller - Rock a Hula Baby songsmith, Carl Gardner - former Coaster, Andrew Gold - US singer/songwriter, Billy Grammer - 50s singer, Dobie Gray - 60s/70s soul singer, Jet Harris - former Shadows guitarist and solo star, Keef Hartley - 60s British blues man, Loleatta Holloway - seventies soul singer, Gladys Horton - Marvelettes singer (pictured), Ferlin Husky - country singer, Bert Jansch - folk guitarist, Big Jack Johnson - blues musician, Clarence Johnson - former Chi-Lite, Kathy Kirby - British 60s singer, Eddie Kirkland - bluesman, Don Kirshner - record label owner and producer, Jerry Leiber - half of Leiber/Stoller songwriting team, Steve Mancha - soul singer, Country Johnny Mathis - country singer, Gene McDaniels - US soul singer, T P McKenna - Irish actor, Ross McManus - 60s singer & Elvis Costello's dad, Huey Meaux - legendary Louisiana record man, Joe Morello - drummer with Dave Brubeck, Jumpin' Jack Neal - Blue Caps bass player, Barbara Orbison - Roy's widow, Ottilie Patterson - Irish jazz singer, Pinetop Perkins - 97 year old bluesman, Johnny Preston - Running Bear singer, Wardell Quezerque - New Orleans record producer, Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street singer, Jerry Ragovoy - soul record producer, Cliff Robertson - US actor, Coco Robicheaux - New Orleans 'voodoo' bluesman, Bobby Robinson - Fire/Fury record label owner, Sylvia Robinson - singer and record label owner, Edmundo Ros - Trinidad born band leader, Jane Russell -Hollywood actress, Ken Russell - controversial British film director, Jimmy Savile - British DJ & TV presenter, Calvin Scott - half of Clarence and Calvin, Gil Scott Heron - jazz vocalist, Marvin Sease - southern soul star, Mack Self - rockabilly singer, George Shearing - jazz pianist, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith - bluesman, Phoebe Snow - jazz singer/songwriter, Billie Jo Spears - country singer, Benny Spellman - New Orleans R and B singer, Poly Styrene - seventies punk singer, Hubert Sumlin - blues guitarist, Marv Tarplin - member of Miracles, Howard Tate - 60s soul singer, Elizabeth Taylor - Hollywood icon, John Walker - former Walker Brother, Mike Waterson - UK folk singer, Lee 'Shot' Williams - southern soul/bluesman, Roger Williams - American pianist, Amy Winehouse - British soul singer (pictured), Randy Wood - Dot Records founder

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jazzfest line up announced

The line up for next year's New Orleans Jazzfest was announced today, so as usual I have to decide whether to make the trip or not. Given the fact that many New Orleans R and B artists have passed away, there is inevitably a shortage in that department, although regulars such as the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Dr John, Walter Wolfman Washington and Aaron Neville (solo) are on the list. There's also a New Orleans Revue with Frankie Ford (hopefully), Robert Parker and Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson, and a tribute to Wardell Querzerque with Jean Knight and the Dixie Cups.
It's a huge line up though, as ever, and also of interest are Al Green, Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm with Mavis Staples, Sharon Jones and the Dapkings and Little Anthony and the Imperials. There is also Steve Earle, James Cotton, Bobby Rush, Marcia Ball. the Texas Tornados (featuring Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers and Shawn Sahm) and Ruby Wilson, plus quite a few Cajun and zydeco acts such as Beausoleil, Rockin' Dopsie Jr, Buckwheat Zydeco and Steve Riley. Other big names include the Eagles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Herbie Hancock and Bunny Wailer.
I am not sure whether the first or second weekend looks the more attractive - probably the second - but I will have to think about it over the next few weeks, work out my finances and see who else might be interested in going. Something to consider anyway. Here are the line ups for the first and second weekends:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Dobie Gray drifts away

The Grim Reaper has cut a swathe through the ranks of soul men this week. The latest to pass away is Dobie Gray, at the age of 71. Born in Texas, Dobie made some records for small labels in the early 60s but made it big in 1965 with the discotheque hit The In Crowd and followed up with See You At the Go-Go. Another song from that era, Out On The Floor, became a Northern Soul hit in the UK in the mid 70s.
After some unsuccessful records and a spell as an actor in the stage production of Hair he joined a soul/psychedelic band called Pollution which had some success, before joining US Decca and having a massive country/soul smash with Drift Away in 1973. He released three LPs on MCA, as the label then became, and later recorded some country flavoured material for Capricorn and Capitol. In the late 70s he performed in South Africa after persuading the apartheid authorities to allow him to play to integrated audiences, becoming the first artist to do so there.
Here are a couple of Dobie's classic tracks:

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Now it's Howard Tate RIP + Hubert Sumlin

This has been a terrible week for sixties soul men. Now, Howard Tate, possessor of one of the most beautiful soul voices of the era, has died aged 72. A friend of Garnet Mimms through his early gospel roots, he was introduced to producer/songwriter Jerry Ragovoy (who also died this year) and recorded some scintillating and sophisticated soul records for Verve in the late sixties, including Ain't Nobody Home, Look at Granny Run Run, Baby I Love You, Get It While You Can and Stop. Howard recorded further albums for Turntable (produced by Lloyd Price and Johnny Nash) and Atlantic, but his career faltered and he left the music business in the late 1970s. A disc jockey discovered his whereabouts in 2001, and that year Howard played his first date in many years, in New Orleans. He then began working with Ragovoy on an album that was released, as Rediscovered, in 2003. It was regarded as a return to form and included a new version of Get It While You Can.

I missed Howard in New Orleans, but saw him perform at Porretta in 2006 (see photo). It was a patchy performance and I wrote at the time: "The weakest day was Saturday where the headliner was Howard Tate. Fine on his early hits like Get it while you can and Ain't nobody home, he struggled with material from his latest CD as he read from a song sheet and, unlike Irma, failed to sing into the mic or, at times, keep in tune. He would have been fine as a support, but as the main act on the busiest night he didn't quite cut it."

A dreadful loss - yet another - all the same. Here's one of his greatest tracks

And now blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin has died, aged 80. This has been some week for lovers of blues and soul! Hubert played in Howlin' Wolf's band for many years and subsequently found continued success with other members of Wolf's band and as a solo artist. He was listed as one of Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists. His last album About Them Shoes was released in 2004. I saw him perform several times, including a Howlin' Wolf tribute in New Orleans in 2005.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

J Blackfoot RIP - and others

Another great soul man has died. J Blackfoot, a dynamic solo soul singer and former member of the Soul Children, was just 65. Born John Colbert in Greenville, Mississippi (where he played as recently as September at the Delta Blues Festival), he got his stage name from his habit of walking barefoot on the sidewalks of Memphis where he grew up. After a spell in prison he was heard singing in the streets by David Porter of Stax Records and for a while was lead singer of The Bar-Kays after the plane crash which killed many of the band. He became a founder member of the Soul Children who had major hits with The Sweeter He Is, Hearsay and I'll Be The Other Woman. After the band broke up in the late 70s he had a massive solo hit with Taxi in 1984 and recorded a string of excellent soul albums.
I first saw J at Porretta in 1997, where his stage act was one of the highlights. I saw him subsequently at Jazzfest the following year and again at Porretta in 2009. We had heard that he had suffered a stroke but he seemed in good health and showed that his exciting stage act was still very much intact as he performed Taxi, Hearsay and a selection of Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave and Johnnie Taylor numbers. The top photo shows J with other performers at the finale of Porretta 2009.
* Sadly J isn't the only soul/blues performer to have died recently. Lee 'Shot' Williams has passed away aged 73. He sang with Magic Sam's band in the sixties before having success with I Like Your Style in 1969. In 1995 he recorded an album called Big Shot which was voted Best Blues album of the year by readers of Living Blues magazine and followed it up a couple of years later with Hot Shot. He continued recording until 2010 and had success with It's Friday (Time To Get Paid) and Wrong Bed.
* Another recent death is that of hoodoo New Orleans bluesman Coco Robicheaux, who died while performing at the Apple Barrel on Frenchman Street in the city.
* On this side of the pond Keef Hartley has died aged 67. Keef played with the Artwoods in the sixties before forming his own band and recording five albums, including Halfbreed and The Battle of NW6.