Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lloyd Charmers RIP

One more death to report before 2012 comes to a close - this time of ska and reggae artist and producer Lloyd Charmers, aka Lloyd Terrell, aged 74.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he started out with the Charmers and had several singles released on the Blue Beat and R & B labels in the early 60s, some of them highly collectable, including Lonely Boy and Nobody Takes My Baby Away From Me. He joined the Uniques for a while, with Slim Smith, and then started recording under the name of Lloyd Charmers with releases on Coxsone and Duke from 1967 onwards. As Lloyd Terrell he recorded a series of X rated singles for Pama including Bang Bang Lulu, Birth Control and Big Eight and as Lloydie and the Lowbites he released Pussy Cat on Harry J and the album Censored.
He set up his own record label and with his own session band The Now Generation he produced records for artists such as Ken Boothe (Everything I Own) and the Gaylads. He relocated to the UK and continued to produce Lovers Rock and disco material, including the Chosen Few, Bobby Blue and Buster Brown.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fontella and Marva pass on

Another end of year, and yet more music deaths.
Fontella Bass had one of the biggest soul hits of the 60s with Rescue Me, released on Chess in 1965. Fontella, who was 72, was born in St Louis and grew up singing gospel before moving into secular music and joining Little Milton and his bandleader Oliver Sain.
After some unsuccessful records recorded with Ike Turner, Fontella moved to Chicago and joined Chess, where she recorded a huge hit with Bobby McClure - Don't Mess Up A Good Thing. Shortly afterwards she sold a million with Rescue Me and also enjoyed success with the follow up Recovery. Other Chess releases included I Can't Rest and Safe And Sound. An LP called The New Look followed, with covers of soul hits including Gee Whiz, Our Day Will Come, You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling and Since I Fell For You.
As was common at the time, she was cheated out of royalties and moved to Paris where she recorded two albums with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. She moved into gospel and I remember seeing her at the Barbican with her brother David Peaston (who also died this year) a few years ago (1998). Rescue Me became the theme of an American Express ad in 1990 and Fontella sued for unauthorised use of the song. Fontella Bass was one of the great soul singers of the sixties and yet another of 2012's major music losses.
Marva Whitney, who has died aged 68, was from Kansas City and also started out singing gospel before singing with a local group and touring with Bobby Bland and Little Richard before joining James Brown as featured singer. She recorded several singles for King including Unwind Yourself, which has been sampled a number of times over the last few years. She recorded three LPs, one of which It's My Thing, was released in the UK on Polydor in 1969. She later recorded for the T-Neck and Forte labels. She suffered a stroke while performing on stage in Australia in 2009.
A final word, too, for Gerry Anderson, who created many sixties  kids' series including Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Joe 90 and, of course, Thunderbirds.
Also the Amercian actor Jack Klugman, probably best known for his role in the TV adaptation of The Odd Couple.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jimmy McCracklin RIP

Yet another music death, this time of the great jump blues pianist, singer and songwriter, Jimmy McCracklin, at the age of 91.
Born in St Louis,  he made his name in the San Francisco area and recorded his first release Miss Mattie Left Me in 1945 and played in the house band at the Club Savoy, before joining Modern in the late 1940s. His big break came in 1957 with The Walk, released on Checker, and a huge hit. In 1962 he recorded Just Got To Know for his own Art-Tone label in Oakland and had his own club in San Francisco in the 1970s. Other well known tracks included the self-written Tramp and Think. He recorded dozens of high quality singles and LPs from the 60s onwards on a variety of labels, including Mercury, Imperial, Minit, Stax and Rounder, and performed regularly at blues, soul and rock and roll festivals.
Among these, memorably, was an appearance at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2007 (see photo above) at the age of nearly 86 backed by the female group Sweet Nectar, which included his daughter. The photo below shows Jimmy with me and Austin Delone.
Here's his big hit The Walk

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Martha Reeves at the Jazz Cafe

Not even her biggest fans would claim that Martha Reeves can hold a tune these days. Clutching a tambourine she warbles and screeches, occasionally hitting the right note, more by luck than good judgment, but more often missing by quite a distance. Despite that, after 50 years in the business she knows how to please a crowd, and the audience at the Jazz Cafe last night seemed to be well contented with the show.
Accompanied by two attractive young Vandellas - the gorgeous Vanessa from London and Stella from Leeds - and a band featuring two saxophones and trumpet, she stuck mostly to her Motown hits fom the 1960s, interspersed with a few seasonal Christmas songs.
Martha began with a trio of her uptempo numbers - Quicksand, I'm Ready For Love and her second single Come And Get these Memories - before reminiscing about the Wigan Casino and launching into Nowhere To Run. She drew breath with the slower Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things) before cranking up the beat again with Jimmy Mack, followed by its B side Third Finger, Left Hand. Next it was In My Lonely Room, before again slowing things down with Oh Holy Night, followed by her favourite track, she said, My Baby Loves Me. After a lively Heatwave she turned seasonal again with Silent Night and then her later hit No One There and Billie Holiday's God Bless The Child.
It was time for her finale and Martha and her Vandellas listed some of the artists who have recorded versions of her 1964 smash hit Dancing In The Street over the years - everyone from Mick Jagger to Bruce Springsteen to Lulu. It was a great way to finish and to remind the audience of her fantastic back catalogue. Martha may warble, but she still thrills. Maybe she should have left things there, but she returned to the stage with a glass of Guinness and was singing Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire as I left for my train home.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Farewell to Floyd's Record Shop

Sad to learn that Floyd's Record Shop in Ville Platte, Louisiana, is closing its doors. I've been there a few times and have enjoyed going through the records on display, and having a Cajun meal at the Pig Stand nearby.
Floyd Soileau is one of the great American record producers, having made hundreds of Cajun and Swamp Pop classics over the years, issuing them on his Swallow, Jin and Maison De Soul labels and also running a record pressing plant. His record store opened in 1956 and its closure is sadly a sign of the times.
My photo shows some of the South Louisiana records that came out on Floyd's labels, plus a couple of highly collectable LPs on other Louisiana labels. Details below.
Top row: Rod Bernard - Night Lights and Love Songs. Recorded in 1975 and released on Jin 9010.
Clint West And The Boogie Kings. Also features G G Shinn and Johnny Giordano. Released on Jin 4003.
The Best Of The Cajun Hits. Cajun hits by Aldus Roger, Austin Pitre and Vin Bruce among others. Released on Swallow 6001.
Rockin' Date With South Louisiana Stars. Tracks by Rod Bernard, Clint West, Johnnie Allen and Rockin' Sidney among others. Released on Jin 4002.
Middle row: Aldus Roger Plays The Cajun French Classics. Roger with the Lafayette Playboys. Released on La Lousianne 122.
South Louisiana Juke Box Hits. Tracks by Tommy McLain, Charles Mann, Johnnie Allen and Lil Bob & the Lollipops, among others. Released on Jin 4006.
The Shondells At The Saturday Hop. Not Tommy James, this is a rare rock and roll LP by the Louisiana band of the mid sixties featuring Rod Bernard, Warren Storm and Skip Stewart. Released on La Louisianne 109.
The Boogie Kings Live At The Bamboo Hut. Live album at the club in Galveston released on Montel Michelle 111.
Bottom row: Cookie And The Cupcakes Vol 2. Released in 1978 on Jin 9018.
Rod Bernard - Country Lovin'. Recorded in 1974 and released on Jin 9008.
Rod Bernard - Rod Bernard. Original LP featuring Colinda and This Should Go On Forever released on Jin 4007.
Irma Thomas - Soul Queen Of New Orleans. Manfactured at Ville Platte and released on Maison De Soul 1005.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Death List 2012

It's time for The Vinyl Word to salute those musicians who have died during the year. It's a lengthy list, as ever, which includes some big names, as well as some who are less well known. It's not meant to be comprehensive: these are just a few of many. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to all of them. Additions/comments are always welcome.
Bob Babbitt - member of the Motown Funk Brothers, Mickey Baker - influential guitarist and singer, Johnnie Bassett - bluesman, Lloyd Brevett - bassist with The Skatalites, Chuck Brown - soul singer, Dave Brubeck - jazz pianist, Eddie 'Guitar' Burns - bluesman, Larry Butler - member of The Gentrys, Max Bygraves - comedian and singalong singer, Terry Callier - jazz and soul singer, Ian Campbell - folk group leader, Earl 'Speedo' Carroll - member of The Cadillacs, Jimmy Castor - saxophonist and doowop/soul singer, Dick Clark - presenter of American Bandstand, Don Cornelius - presenter of Soul Train, James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford - New Orleans R and B singer, B B Cunningham - Memphis bass and keyboard player, Larry Cunningham - Irish showband singer, Nick Curran - rockabilly singer and guitarist, Hal David - lyricist, Carl Davis - Chicago soul record producer, Bill Dees - Nashville songwriter, Robert Dickey - original Bobby of the Purifys, Larry Donn - rockabilly singer, Cleve Duncan - member of The Penguins, Donald 'Duck' Dunn - Memphis bass player, Jimmy Elledge - country singer, Walter Gaines - member of The Originals, Bridie Gallagher - Irish folk singer, Robin Gibb - member of the Bee Gees, R B Greaves (aka Sonny Childe) - soul singer, Larry Hagman - JR actor and occasional singer, L J Hamilton - New Orleans singer, Marvin Hamlisch - composer/conductor, Major Harris - member of The Delfonics and solo singer, Levon Helm - drummer with The Band, Whitney Houston - soul diva, Etta James (pictured) - R and B superstar, Davy Jones - former Monkee & Corrie actor, Jimmy Jones - falsetto pop and soul singer, Paul Kelly - soul singer, Eddie King - bluesman, Jon Lord - member of Deep Purple, Louisiana Red - blues singer and harmonica player, Andrew Love - Memphis saxophonist with Memphis Horns, Tony Martin - fifties crooner, Jerry McCain - harmonica bluesman, Scott McKenzie - flower power folk singer, Fred Milano - member of The Belmonts, Joe Moretti - UK guitarist, Johnny Otis - Godfather of R and B, David Peaston - gospel and soul singer, Johnny Perez - member of Sir Douglas Quintet, Skip Pitts - wah wah guitarist with the Bo-Keys, Dory Previn - singer/songwriter, Lou Pride - soul and blues singer, Herb Reed - founder member of The Platters, Winston Riley - reggae producer and singer, Earl Scruggs - bluegrass banjo player, Ravi Shankar - sitar player, Big Walter Smith - bluesman, Joe South - country rock singer and composer, King Stitt - reggae singer and DJ, Billy Strange - singer/songwriter, Big Jim Sullivan - British session guitarist, Donna Summer - Queen of Disco, Doc Watson - bluegrass, Bert Weedon - influential British guitarist, Kitty Wells - country singer, Andy Williams - easy listening singer, Frank Wilson - Motown singer and producer.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More music deaths

It's nearly time to record my annual music Death List for the year - and as ever it's a long one. But before I do, there are some famous names from the music industry who have died in the last few days who deserve a final word on The Vinyl Word.
Ian Campbell, who has died aged 79, was the leader of a folk group who were at the forefront of the British folk revival of the 1960s. The Ian Campbell Folk Group emerged from the Clarion Skiffle Group which was formed in 1956 and went on to record many folk albums for the Transatlantic label during the 60s, eventually breaking up in 1978. Members at various times included Dave Swarbrick and Dave Pegg, who later joined Fairport Convention. The group's first record was the Ceilidh At The Crown EP in 1962 and their version of The Times They Are A'Changing made the lower reaches of the UK charts in 1965. Three of Ian's sons became members of UB40.
Sitar player Ravi Shankar, who was 92, was the most well known classical performer on the instrument as a result of his association with Beatle George Harrison and classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin. He perfomed at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and played on Harrison's Concert For Bangla Desh in 1971. One of his daughters is singer Norah Jones.
Eddie 'Guitar' Burns, who was 84, was one of the leading Detroit bluesmen playing harmonica and singing, as well playing guitar. His first record was Notoriety Woman in 1948 and he played frequently with fellow Detroit bluesman John Lee Hooker. His first LP Bottle Up And Go was recorded in England and released on the Action label in 1972. Other albums include Detroit Blackbottom, Snake Eyes and Second Degree Burns.
Another recent death is that of Bill Dees, aged 73, who collaborated with Roy Orbison on Oh Pretty Woman and co-wrote many of Roy's later recordings. He also wrote songs for Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, among others.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bettye Lavette at the Jazz Cafe

"A sudden overnight success that only took 50 years." That's how Bettye Lavette described her career when she showed off her new album Thankful N' Thoughtful in a passionate and soulful show at the Jazz Cafe last night. Bettye has seen it all in the 50 years since she started out in Detroit and recorded her first single 'My Man - He's A Lovin' Man' back in 1962: crooked record companies, lovers such as Jackie Wilson and Aretha Franklin's first husband Ted White, men who were more interested in pimping her than helping her in her career and more than her fair share of disappointments and hard times. She has a new book 'A Woman Like Me', co-written with David Ritz, in which she tells the unvarnished truth about her remarkable life.
There are many words to describe her: gutsy, determined, passionate, soulful are a few that come to mind. And now at last she is getting the recognition she deserves. Despite early success, and some brilliant soul records, including the deep soul classic Let Me Down Easy in 1965, she never quite made the big time. A 1970 Atlantic album was unreleased and only saw the light of day in 2000, an LP for Motown in 1982 called 'Tell Me A Lie' was unsuccessful as the company tried to make her a replacement for Diana Ross, and it was only when UK soul fans took up her cause in the last decade that she has seen her career take off, with a series of albums featuring covers - 'interpretations' as she rightly calls them - of songs made famous by other artists.
Bettye's husky voice can make even dull songs come alive, as she showed last night. After a funky interpretation of the Beatles' The Word, she moved on to Take Me As I Am, one of the numbers from Scene Of The Crime, her soulful 2007 album which won a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy Award in 2008. From her new Thankful N' Thoughtful album of covers she sang I'm Not The One (The Black Keys), Bob Dylan's Everything Is Broken, Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (along with a stunning version of Young's Heart Of Gold that she first recorded in the early 1970s), a passionate version of Crazy (Gnarls Barkley), The More I Search (The More I Die) (Kim McLean), and I'm Tired (Savoy Brown). In between she did a track from her earlier album I've Got My Own Hell To Raise - Lucinda Williams' Joy (the only woman who can outdrink her, Bettye said), and A Woman Like Me, the title track from her comeback album of 2004.
For me, the standout performance was her 1965 song Let Me Down Easy - a song, she said, that no one in Detroit had ever heard apart from her family. I've seen Bettye a couple of times before - at the Utrecht Blues Festival in the late 90s and at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2001 - the year it was held in Bologna - and she has never failed to impress with this song and her general soulful style. But this time there was something more intense and more powerful about Bettye - a confidence and contentment that now at last she has arrived. She finished off with an impassioned accapella version of Sinead O'Connor's I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got and the lyrics seemed to sum up the new state of mind of this remarkable singer. There's an excellent biography of Bettye on the SoulfulDetroit website

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dave Brubeck RIP

Modern jazz wasn't really my thing, but if any jazz man successfully crossed the gap to the mainstream it was pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, who has died a day before his 92nd birthday. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Paul Desmond on sax and Joe Morello on drums, produced some of the most well known jazz numbers of all time, including the massive hit Take Five and other numbers in odd time signatures such as Unsquare Dance and Blue Rondo A la Turk.
In fact, San Francisco-born Brubeck made a string of successful albums for Columbia from the 1950s onwards, including Jazz Goes To College, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia, Time Further Out, Jazz Impressions of New York, Time In and dozens of others. He was without doubt the best known and most accessible jazz man of the late 20th century and his death is a sad loss.

Vinyl Obscurities - Pye label

I was never a great fan of the UK Pye label of the 1960s. Yes there was Lonnie Donegan and the Kinks, but there was also a lot of rubbish released on the label and some successful, but rather run of the mill acts such as the Searchers, the Honeycombs, Petula Clark and Emile Ford. So finding some interesting 45s for my Vinyl Obscurities was not easy, and as a result there are just four this time. They are all interesting in their way and worth a listen on Youtube.
1. The Blue Rondos - Little Baby/ Baby I Go For You. Released in 1964. Mint value £40.
I found this in a batch of cheap 45s in a charity shop last week and was definitely impressed. It's a really classy Joe Meek-produced freakbeat double sider by a short-lived North London band. The B side has a great punk feel to it. They reformed in the 1990s for some Joe Meek tribute shows.

2. Tony Jackson & the Vibrations - Bye Bye baby/ Warch Your Step. Released in 1964. Mint value £25.
Tony was bass guitarist with the Searchers and also vocalist on the band's first two hits but left in acrimonious circumstances and formed the Vibrations. This, their first release, featured two cover versions - of the Mary Wells song on the A side and the Bobby Parker number on the flip. Tony died in 2003.

3. The Riot Squad - I Wanna Talk About My baby/ Gonna Make You Mine. Released in 1965. Mint value £55.
The main claim to fame of this London band, managed by Larry Page, was that David Bowie became a member a couple of years after this record was recorded. This earlier version included among its members Graham Bonney, who had a hit in 1966 with Super Girl.  There's a Joe Meek connection with the band as well - apparently.

4. Paul Brett Sage - 3D Mona Liza/ Mediterranean Heat Wave. Released in 1970. Mint value £15.
This psychedelic effort was by a guitarist who also played with the Strawbs, Overlanders, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, Tintern Abbey, Roy Harper and Lonnie Donegan, among others. He later wrote for music magazines and has appeared on Antiques Road Show and Flog It.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Love Me Do: The Beatles '62

Just been watching the BBC4 programme on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first single, Love Me Do. Some interesting footage, including some whingeing from sacked drummer Pete Best. And a slightly misleading commentary from Stuart Maconie, suggesting that Parlophone was a small label (ask Adam Faith), that it was only from merchant seamen bringing American discs into the UK that you could get to hear records like Good Golly Miss Molly (not true, although Radio Luxembourg was the only place to hear decent rock and roll), and that beer was 10p a pint in 1962 (it waseven less than that!). There is much fantasising about that era today - the reality is that the Beatles got lucky and that Love Me Do was OK, but hardly a fantastic record.
Nevertheless, the programme brought back memories of the time: the Cuban missile crisis, when as a 16 year old schoolboy I planned with friends to go to Ireland where we thought we might be safer if the bomb was dropped; the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the launch of Telstar. Love Me Do was the only Beatles record (indeed the only UK 60s beat record) to make it into my personal top ten of the time (one week at number 10) as I much preferred the US originals. Not living in Liverpool I never visited the Cavern, but I was a regular at my local dancehall and occasionally in the West End where similar bands played the same rock and roll songs every week (the Konrads and the Herd for example). I loved that music but I always knew that what I was listening to was a second rate copy of the real thing.
In this year of 50th anniversaries - of the Stones as well as the Beatles - it's good to think that, musically speaking, I could not have grown up at a better time. So for that I thank the Beatles. But I can't forget that it was the great American rock and roll, blues and soul artists that I really should thank.

Classic soul LPs - 1

Here are some classic soul LPs, mostly from the 1960s and all excellent examples of southern soul.
Top row:
Arthur Alexander - Arthur Alexander (US Warner Brothers 1972). Includes his great version of Rainbow Road. Produced by Tommy Cogbill at Muscle Shoals;
Darrell Banks - Here To Stay (UK Stax 1968) Produced by Don Davis;
William Bell - A Tribute To A King (UK Atco 1967) Includes his tribute to the Big O;
Booker T & the MGs - Green Onions (UK London 1964) First Stax album.
Middle row:
Don Bryant - Precious Soul (UK London 1970). Classic Hi material produced by Willie Mitchell;
Solomon Burke - I Wish I Knew (US Atlantic 1968). Produced by Tom Dowd;
James Carr - You Got Your Mind Made Up (UK Stateside 1967). Wonderful Goldwax material produced by Quinton Claunch and Rudolph Russell;
Clarence Carter - This is Clarence Carter (UK Atlantic 1968) First UK release produced by Rick Hall.
Bottom row:
Arthur Conley - Shake Rattle & Roll. (UK Atlantic 1967). 2nd UK LP, produced by Otis Redding;
Don Covay - See-saw (UK Atlantic 1966) Recorded at Stax with several tracks co-written by Steve Cropper;
Steve Cropper - With A Little Help From My Friends. (UK Stax 1969). Produced and arranged by Steve at Stax;
Al Greene - Back Up Train. (UK Action 1969). Pre-Hi material produced by Palmer James and Curtis Rodgers for Hot Line Records.