Monday, February 27, 2006

Final word on Ray Barretto

To quote Nick (of the Too Early to Tell blog) The Vinyl Word is rapidly becoming The Final Word, as more and more musicians pass away. The latest (to my knowledge) is Latin maestro Ray Barretto. Now I have to admit that Ray Barretto means little to me with the exception of his fabulous 1962 recording of El Watusi. If you haven't heard this track seek it out - it's amazing. I remember it from its first release and was lucky enough to pick up the original Columbia 45 in a charity shop a few months ago. For more information on Ray Barretto - a percussionist who played jazz, Latin and rock - check out this link,,60-2059924,00.html

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lynden David Hall

As anyone who knows me well will testify, I seldom, if ever, rave about British soul singers - least of all contemporary ones. I made an exception, however, a few years ago about Lynden David Hall whose excellent album Medicine for my pain, and the singles from the album Sexy Cinderella and Do I qualify were some of the best examples of Marvin Gaye styled soul I have heard in a long time. It came as a shock, therefore, to hear that he died last week of a rare form of cancer at just 31. I remember seeing him at a hot sweaty Borderline in 1998. His voice was pure and soulful and just for a moment I thought we had found a true successor to the greats of the 60s and 70s. I bought the CD and played it to death , before being persuaded to give it to a girlfriend who was equally hooked on this young man's vocal talents. Hall appeared in the hit film Love Actually in 2003, where he sang at the wedding of the characters played by Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Two years later, he released his third studio album In Between Jobs on the independent label Random Records. In 2004, Hall was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He passed away on St. Valentine's Day, 2006, after having lost his battle with the disease at the age of 31.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

February top 10s

A trip down memory lane with my personal top tens from February 1961 to 1965:
Feb 22nd 1961: 1. Ja-da Johnny & the Hurricanes; 2. Shop Around The Miracles; 3. Sad mood Sam Cooke; 4. Walk right back Everly Brothers; 5. Happy days Marv Johnson; 6. I'm Learning about love Brenda Lee; 7. Ram Bunk Shush The Ventures; 8. Calendar girl Neil Sedaka; 9. Wheels The String-a-longs; 10=I count the tears The Drifters and Once in a while The Chimes.
Feb 21st 1962: 1. Twistin the night away Sam Cooke; 2. Please don't ask about Barbara Bobby Vee; 3. Do re mi Lee Dorsey; 4= Dream baby Roy Orbison and I got Bonnie Bobby Rydell; 6. A matter of moments Mark Dinning; 7. Dear lady twist Gary US Bonds; 8. Hey baby Bruce Channel; 9. I'm talking about you Chuck Berry; 10. Be a leader Lloyd Price.
Feb 21st 1963: He's sure the boy I love The Crystals; 2. Send me some loving Sam Cooke; 3. In dreams Roy Orbison; 4. Sandy Dion; 5. Come on and love me Freddy Cannon; 6. Everybody loves a lover The Shirelles; 7. Don't make me over Dionne Warwick; 8. Wild weekend Rockin' Rebels; 9= Little town flirt Del Shannon, Alice in wonderland Neil Sedaka and You're all grown up Johnny Horton.
Feb 23rd 1964: 1= Nadine Chuck Berry and I wonder The Crystals; 3. Good news Sam Cooke; 4. What kind of fool The Tams; 5. Abigail Beecher Freddy Cannon; 6. Doo wah diddy The Exciters; 7= That girl belongs to yesterday Gene Pitney and Borne on the wind Roy Orbison; 9. Who cares Fats Domino; 10. Um um um um um um Major Lance.
Feb 21st 1965: 1. Yield not to temptation Bobby Bland; 2. Hold what you've got Joe Tex; 3. Have mercy baby James Brown; 4. My girl The Temptations; 5. Shake Sam Cooke; 6. Please don't let me be misunderstood Nina Simone; 7. The In crowd Dobie Gray; 8. Boy from New York City The Ad-libs; 9. The name game Shirley Eliis; 10= Twine time Alvin Cash & the Crawlers and Wild one Martha and the Vandellas.
More next month.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Taking a new look at Irma

They say it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Irma Thomas suffered a flooded home and lost her club, the Lion's Den, in the aftermath of Katrina and was feared dead for a while, before turning up safe and well with relatives 50 miles away. But the catastrophe has given Irma's career quite a boost. She sang at the all star tribute to New Orleans at the Grammys recently, appeared at two major fund raisers for the city and will be recording her first new album for six years in the summer. Irma will be celebrating her 65th birthday this year (it seems only yesterday that I was at the Lion's Den as she hit 50!) and is in demand for live performances. I'm looking forward to seeing the Soul Queen of New Orleans again at this year's Porretta Soul Festival, where the all star line up also includes the Neville Brothers, Shirley Brown, J Blackfoot, the Bar-Kays and Davell Crawford.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kim Weston at the Jazz Cafe

Looking every inch the Motown star that she is - encased in a long black chiffon gown and immaculately coiffured - Kim Weston stormed onto the stage at the Jazz Cafe last night with a set that took us all back to the great soul era of the 60s. Her voice may be a little ragged at times - not surprising for a 66 year old (a fantastically well preserved one it has to be said) - but what she lacks in vocal purity she more than makes up for in excitement, professionalism and old fashioned glamour. She got the northern soul crowd dancing with Motown hits such as Take me in your arms and Helpless, showed a bluesier side with a delicious version of Please send me someone to love, and demonstrated her gospel roots too. Kim is also an excellent pianist but had to play standing up as she was worried that her tight fitting dress would split if she sat down to play. Best known for It takes two, her duet with Marvin Gaye, which she sang with a young man who came up on stage to sing Marvin's part with the aid of a songsheet (I didn't catch his name), Kim showed fans new and old that there is much more to her than just that. Altogether, it was a brilliant evening from a true legend, but there was a sting in the tail. As an encore she sang Dancing in the Street which, legend has it, she was offered and turned down, providing Martha and the Vandellas with a mega hit. Not so. Kim said that the song was written for her but TAKEN away from her. I asked her afterwards who had made that decision and she told me that it was her ex husband and Motown producer Mickey Stevenson. As for the reason, that will have to wait for her book, she said.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jazzfest line up disappoints

It's a sign of the passing years that the line up at this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival announced today ( see ) is weak compared with earlier years. The highlight is, of course, Fats Domino who plays over the second weekend, but although many of the surviving New Orleans artists are there, there is little that catches the eye for the rock and roll or soul enthusiast. The first weekend features Bob Dylan, plus the Meters, Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costelllo, Dr John, Keb Mo, Snooks Eaglin, Clarence Frogman Henry, Walter Washington, Sonny Landreth and Eddie Bo plus the usual plethora of local or little known artists. Second weekend highlights, apart from Fats, include Lionel Richie, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Irma Thomas, Doug Kershaw, Koko Taylor, Frankie Ford, the Dixie Cups and Jean Knight. If I was going this year it would be for Fats Domino - and to show my support for New Orleans in its struggle to recover. But I won't be going. And sadly, the line up will only deteriorate still further as the great artists of the past pass away.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ska postscript

For some interesting comments on the origins of ska music check out this excerpt from Reggae Routes:

Bobby Moore dead...

No, not the man who lifted the World Cup in 1966, but the man behind the scorching soul of Searching for my love in the same year with his band the Rhythm Aces. Recorded at Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, Searching for my love was an absolute classic, yet never dented the charts in the UK. Bobby died last week in Montgomery, Alabama, where he formed his group in 1961, after originally leading a band of the same name while in the army in Fort Benning, Georgia in 1952. Before he hit with 'Searching' the Rhythm Aces played for many soul stars of the day, including Etta James, Kim Weston (don't miss her at the Jazz Cafe on Thursday), Mitty Collier, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. The band's only LP (to my knowledge) was released on Checker (Chess in the UK) and featured 12 self penned tracks: Searching for my love, Mr Starlight, Follow me, The hamburger song, Hey Mr DJ (B side of the hit), When I get this feeling, We've got that, How can you do it baby, Alone, Jenny Jenny, I will never trust love again and Come back baby. A native of New Orleans, Bobby, 75, died of kidney failure, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.His son, Bobby Moore Jr., has been playing with his father's group for 40 years and told the newspaper he would continue to keep the name Bobby Moore alive."My father didn't just play R&B," he said. "He played jazz, rock, country, and I plan to carry on that legacy."
The younger Moore said one of his father's final performances was opening for country music's Alabama at a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to Dave Carroll for alerting me to the news of Bobby's death.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A blast from Barrence

Congratulations to Keith for promoting the fantastic Barrence Whitfield gig at the Water Rats last night. What a tremendous blast of raw, raucous rock and roll from Barrence! But what a shame there weren't more people there. I see from Barrence's website that he is available for weddings. Now that would be some way to tie the knot, with Barrence belting his lungs out. Tough on the grandparents, maiden aunts and those of a nervous disposition though.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sam Cooke - and others

During the period 1960 to 1965 I kept a personal top 10. Apologies to those who weren't born then (tough shit actually - you missed some great records) but here's the list of the top 50 artists as recorded at the time (10 points for no 1 down to 1 point for no 10):
1. Sam Cooke (who else?) - 1260
2. Roy Orbison - 832
3. Dion - 701
4. Everly Brothers - 553
5. Del Shannon - 552
6. Elvis Presley - 499
7. Bobby Vee - 464
8. Freddy Cannon - 462
9. Neil Sedaka - 436
10. Crystals - 427
11. Shirelles - 424
12. Johnny Burnette - 397
13. Chuck Berry - 377
14. Jimmy Jones - 372
15. Beach Boys - 363
16. Marv Johnson - 327
17. Fats Domino - 326
18= Jackie Wilson - 320
18= Bobby Darin - 320
20. Johnny & the Hurricanes - 319
21. Buddy Holly - 268
22. Ventures - 243
23. Bobby Rydell - 240
24. Jerry Lee Lewis - 221
25. Jan and Dean - 214
26. Marvin Gaye - 206
27. Rick Nelson - 201
28. Johnny Tillotson - 187
29. Miracles - 185
30. Impressions - 183
31. Otis Redding - 179
32. Piltdown Men - 173
33. Brenda Lee - 171
34. Bruce Channel - 170
35. Gary (US) Bonds - 166
36. Ronettes - 164
37= Drifters - 155
37= Gene McDaniels - 155
39= Floyd Cramer - 154
39= Chubby Checker - 154
41. Gene Pitney - 150
42. Supremes - 148
43. Connie Francis - 146
44. Don Gibson - 141
45. Billy Fury - 140
46. Chiffons - 136
47. Bon B Soxx & the Bluejeans - 132
48. Major Lance - 129
49. Little Eva - 128
50= Four Tops - 127
50= Eddie Cochran - 127
50= Duane Eddy - 127

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Skiffle, piffle

My friend Keith Woods, founder and editor of 'Tales From the Woods', is single handedly trying to revive an almost forgotten form of 50s music - skiffle. He recently organised a gig featuring a number of original exponents of this archaic musical form (plus a few, such as Vince Eager and Wee Willie Harris) who weren't associated with skiffle at all at the time) and is planning another one soon. By all accounts the event was enjoyed by all who attended, although I couldn't make it myself. But, like ska, the origin of which was recently explored on 'Balderdash and Piffle' on BBC2, the origins of the word skiffle are obscure. When the first 'skiffle' record was recorded in 1954 (at almost exactly the same time as Elvis recorded his first sides for Sun) by Chris Barber's band, the word was apparently used by Lonnie Donegan, its greatest exponent, to describe what they were playing. According to Billy Bragg in an article in the Guardian a couple of years ago, the origin of the word goes back to the US jazz scene of the 1940s, or possible even earlier. Here's what he said:
'Over the years, fans and academics have haggled over skiffle's origins. Like much of what was sacred to the British trad-jazz scene, it had its roots in the music of black America: music by artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly - a raw music blending jazz, blues and folk, in which the guitar predominates.
Determined to replicate this sound, British trad-jazz bands began downing their brass instruments and picking up acoustic guitars, double bass and, for rhythm, a washboard. Looking for a term to describe these interludes, they settled on "skiffle". The word had been used in jazz circles in 1940s America to describe bands at "rent parties", held by tenants to raise money to pay the landlord. The sound reflected their ad-hoc nature. What the bands lacked in finesse they made up for in enthusiasm. Occasionally they made records. They called themselves "spasm" or "skiffle" bands, but they were always novelty acts. There was no "skiffle scene" in the US.'

Skiffle was certainly influential in the UK in the innocent era of the 50s, when there was little access to the 'real thing' - American blues and folk music. But sadly, most of it was utter crap. Apart from a few tracks by Lonnie Donegan (I particularly liked the exciting climax of 'Bring a little water Sylvie') and Nancy Whiskey's haunting voice on 'Freight train' and its B side 'The cotton song' I can't think of a single skiffle record that has stood the test of time. Skiffle was a passing fad - popular in the UK only because the teenagers of the time knew no better. Like nearly all British pop music of the time it was second rate, derivative and uninspired. I'm glad that some of the old skiffle musicians are getting a gig or two thanks to Keith's efforts and enthusiasm. But I'm afraid it doesn't make the music any better.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bob Dylan Chronicles

If Peter Guralnick's biography of Sam Cooke is the music book of 2006 then the Bob Dylan Chronicles is surely the music book of last year, not least because he name checks many of the great records and artists of the 50s and 60s. Bob Dylan divides rock and roll and soul fans down the middle - you either love him or hate him - but for me his first three LPs in particular stand out as some of the most moving and intense of all time. I was in the sixth form at school at the time and they bring back memories of A levels and lunchtime games of bridge at a friend's house near the school. Bob's lyrics brought home to me what the civil rights movement was all about and were a huge influence on me then and indeed now.One section of the book of particular interest to me was his recording sessions in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois. This was just about the time that Lanois produced the Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon album, which was never off my turntable at the time and was the musical backdrop for my first visit to the Big Easy in 1989.Dylan references some of New Orleans' greatest sounds and places, including Radio WWOZ and New Orleans R & B DJ Brown Sugar, whose sexy voice excited me when I first heard this fantastic radio station. (It was only much later that I saw her in the flesh - not quite the way I pictured her, but so what - the voice alone was enough to give me a hard on).In one passage Dylan recalls going to Irma Thomas's Lion's Den Club (now sadly derelict as a result of Harricane Katrina) but finding Irma not at home. He missed out on a magical experience, as I discovered many times on my visits to Jazzfest. One comment, though, perplexed me: Dylan claims that Irma's version of 'Fever' was to be heard on the jukeboxes all the time while he was there. But I don't recall Irma ever recording the song. Is he right or has his memory failed him for once?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

And's 1965

Here is the final year of my personal top 10: my top 30 records of 1965:
1. Joe Tex Hold what you've got - 83
2. Wilson Pickett In the midnight hour - 78
3. Impressions People get ready - 74
4. Sam Cooke Shake/A change is gonna come - 66
5. Otis Redding Mr Pitiful - 63
6. Roy Head Treat her right - 61
7. Otis Redding Respect - 58
8. Radiants Voice your choice - 57
9. Righteous Brothers You've lost that loving feeling - 53
10. Four Tops I can't help myself - 50
11= Bobby Bland Yield not to temptation - 48
11= Arthur Prysock It's too late baby - 48
13. Roger Miller King of the road - 47
14. Len Barry 1-2-3 - 46
15. Temptations My girl - 45
16= Bobby McClure & Fontella Bass Don't mess up a good thing - 44
16= Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs Woolly bully - 44
18= Ovations It's wonderful to be in love - 43
18= Sam Cooke Sugar dumplings -43
20. Sam Cooke It's got the whole world shaking - 42
21. Shangri-las Leader of the pack - 41
22. Bobby Goldsboro Voodoo woman - 38
23= Beach Boys Help me Rhonda - 37
23= Otis Redding My girl - 37
25. Marvin Gaye I'll be doggone - 33
26= Shirley Ellis The name game - 32
26= Everly Brothers The price of love - 32
26= Beach Boys California girls - 32
29= Bobby Goldsboro Little things - 31
29= Fontella Bass - Rescue me - 31
1965 was a wonderful year musically. Here are some other chart entries: Alvin Cash Twine time, Dobie Gray The in crowd, Little Antony & the Imperials Hurt so bad, Anna King & Bobby Byrd Baby baby baby, Wilbert Harrison Let's stick together, Little Milton Blind man, Johnny Cash It ain't me babe, Gene Chandler Nothing can stop me, Marvelows I do, Lee Dorsey Ride your pony, Bessie Banks Go now, O V Wright You're gonna make me cry and Marvin Gaye Ain't that peculiar.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My top 30 - 1963

For some reason my top records of '63, based on my personal top 10, failed to appear on The Vinyl Word the other day. So here they are again:
1. Dion Sandy - 116
2. Crystals Da Doo Ron Ron - 104
3. Crystals He's sure the boy I love - 96
4. Chiffons He's so fine - 95
5. Del Shannon Little town flirt - 89
6. Ronettes Be my baby - 84
7. Sam Cooke Another Saturday night - 81
8. Crystals Then he kissed me - 80
9. Dion This little girl - 78
10. Chuck Berry Let it rock - 75
11= Sam Cooke Send me some loving - 74
11= Big Dee Irwin Swinging on a star - 74
13. Chuck Berry Go go go - 73
14= Lesley Gore It's my party
14= Dion Come go with me - 68
16= Roy Orbison In dreams - 64
16= Miracles You really got a hold on me - 64
18. Shirelles Foolish little girl - 63
19= Bob B Soxx & the Bluejeans Zip a di doo dah - 61
19= Jackie Wilson Baby workout - 61
21. Shirelles Everybody loves a lover - 59
22. Essex Easier said than done - 58
23. Rufus Thomas Walkin' the dog - 55
24= Freddy Cannon Patti baby - 53
24= Jan and Dean Surf City - 53
24= Dion Donna the Prima Donna - 53
24= Everly Brothers The girl sang the blues - 53
24= Dion Drip drop - 53
29. Sam Cooke Frank and Johnny - 52
30= Cookies Don't say nothing bad - 51
30= Roy Orbison Falling - 51

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Best records of 1964

My top 30 of '64 - a classic year for vinyl 45s:
1. Beach Boys I get around - 81
2. Four Tops Baby I need your loving - 75
3. Mary Wells My guy - 72
4= Betty Everett Shoop shoop song - 71
4= Beach Boys When I grow up - 71
6. Chuck Berry Nadine - 69
7. Supremes Where did our love go - 65
8= Tommy Tucker Hi heel sneakers - 62
8= Chuck Berry No particular place to go - 62
10= Jackie de Shannon When you walk in the room - 60
10= Velvelettes - Needle in a haystack - 60
12= Jimmy Witherspoon Evenin' - 57
12= Martha & the Vandellas Dancing in the street - 57
12= Maxine Brown Oh no not my baby - 57
15. Beach Boys Dance dance dance - 56
16= Sam Cooke Good news - 55
16= Sam Cooke Good times - 55
18. Kingsmen Louie Louie - 54
19. Dionne Warwick Walk on by - 51
20= Crystals I wonder - 50
20= Little Richard Bama lama bama lu - 50
22. Jerry Lee Lewis Lewis boogie - 49
23= Beach Boys Fun fun fun - 48
23= Major Lance Rhythm - 48
25= Ronettes Baby I love you - 46
25= Marvin Gaye You're a wonderful one - 46
25= James Brown Night train - 46
28= Exciters Doo wah diddy diddy - 40
28= Brenda Holloway Every little bit hurts - 40
28= Marvin Gaye How sweet it is - 40
28= Larks The jerk - 40
Other great entries to my personal top 10 that year included Jerry Butler Need to belong, Tams What kind of fool, Rivieras California sun, Lazy Lester I'm a lover not a fighter, Jan & Dean Dead man's curve, Irma Thomas Wish someone would care, Reflections Romeo & Juliet, Arthur Alexander Black night, Carl Perkins Lonely heart, Inez Foxx Mockingbird, Tony Clarke Ain't love good - ain't love proud, Sugar Pie DeSanto Soulful dress, Earl Jean I'm into something good, Bobby Bland Ain't nothing you can do, Jackie Ross Selfish one, Gene Chandler Just be true, James Brown Out of sight, Ronnie & the Daytonas - GTO, Shangri las - Remember (Walking in the sand), Don Covay Mercy mercy, Hondells Little Honda, Bobby Parker Watch your step and Little Antony & the Imperials Going out of my head. Just some of the fantastic records issued in 1964 - what a year!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New Orleans Jazzfest 1989 Part 3

It's great news that Jazzfest will be taking place this year and that Fats Domino will be headlining. Other details of the line up are eagerly awaited. Meanwhile, here's the conclusion of my diary of my first visit in '89, when Fats was also performing:
Thursday May 4: Pouring with rain. No day for sightseeing so drove back from Memphis to New Orleans, stopping off only in Jackson for another crappy burger. In the evening went to Tipitina's with John Howard, Dave Thomas and Scotty Mick. Cajun night - C J Chenier, Wayne Toups and Zachary Richard. Knackered well before the end.
Friday May 5: Browsed through the vinyl at Record Ron's and then discovered that the Fest is cancelled because of yesterday downpour. Sightseeing at Lake, then trawled record shops on Magazine St. Had a huge T bone in the evening, then met up with John H and Alec to see Buckwheat Zydeco at Storyville.
Saturday May 6: It's hot - a very hot day at Jazzfest. Acts included Marva Wright, John Lee Hooker, Marcia Ball, Johnny Winter (tortured guitar playing and tortured eardrums), Jessie 'Ooh poo pa doo' Hill, Oliver 'La la' Morgan, Dave Bartholomew Band and Frankie Ford with the Dixie Cups. Plenty of New Orleans greats. Ate some alligator, turtle and dirty rice. Back to Tipitinas for the Neville Brothers with Dave. Waited till 2.40am to hear Aaron sing 'Tell it like it is' - but it was worth it.
Sunday May 7: Last day of Jazzfest. First on was Johnny Allen , king of swamp pop, followed by Snooks Eaglin, Earl King, the excellent Johnny Adams, Ironing Board Sam, Dr John, with Chris Barber on trombone, John Fred and the Playboys and Jean Knight. Fantastic music all day, but topped off by the Neville Brothers, with Dr John guesting for the second half, and then forced my way to the front for Fats Domino, who had a marvellous band and was on top form. What an amazing day. Finished off with a few drinks at the Landmark with the festival tours, before flying off next day for a few days in Philadelphia and New York. A wonderful trip in every respect. I felt at home in the Big Easy right from the start. My spiritual home I think.