Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two more obituaries

A couple more deaths to report - this time of Louisiana musicians who were not especially well-known, but nevertheless important in their own way.

James Phelps was a Shreveport-born gospel and soul singer who sang with the Gospel Songbirds, the Holy Wonders, whose line up included a young Lou Rawls, and the Clefs of Cavalry, before joining Sam Cooke's former gospel group the Soul Stirrers in 1964. The group having signed for the Checker label, he had a US hit with Love is a Five Letter Word and later became a Northern Soul favourite with a UK release entitled Check Yourself on Paramount in 1972. He was 78.

Walter Payton (pictured) was probably best known as the father of New Orleans trumpet player Nicholas Payton, but he was a significant musician in his own right as a bass player over a period of 40 years. He played on Lee Dorsey's Working in a Coalmine and Aaron Neville's Tell It Like It Is, before settling down with New Orleans' own Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He also recorded with Champion Jack Dupree, Chuck Carbo and Harry Connick Jr. Walter was 68.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gregory Isaacs RIP

Sad to hear the news (on Jools Holland's show) of the death of the 'Cool Ruler', reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs. Isaacs was a true great, with a string of big reggae hits, most notably Night Nurse (a gift for advertisers of the anti flu product). He was just 59.

Gregory Isaacs made his recording debut in 1968 with a duet with Winston Sinclair, Another Heartache, recorded for producer Byron Lee. In 1973 he teamed up with Errol Dunkley with My Only Lover, credited as the first lovers rock record. He had a string of hits in the three years that followed, ranging from ballads to roots reggae including All I Have Is Love, Lonely Soldier, Black a Kill Black and Extra Classic, but it was Night Nurse in 1982 that made him a reggae superstar. I saw him only once, although I tried to see him a number of times, but sadly he wasn't the most reliable of acts. But he was certainly one of the top reggae acts of the last 40 years. I have nine of his albums, including Slum Burning Sounds, Soon Forward, The Lonely Lover and, of course, Night Nurse. He will be missed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

State of the vinyl market

I've just bought the 2012 Rare Record Price Guide - and suddenly I'm several hundred pounds poorer. Compared with the previous edition (2010) prices of many of the vinyl records in my collection have fallen. Rock and roll and fifties LPs and singles have been declining for several years and the latest edition shows a continuation of this trend - particularly singles. Indeed, quite a few have disappeared from the guide altogether as they no longer reach the minimum value required for inclusion. I suppose it's the inevitability of age, as my generation retires or begins to die off.
Quite a lot of sixties soul records have reduced in value it seems, although Tamla Motown and Northern Soul rarities have resisted that trend. Ska has stayed rock steady in value and so has most UK sixties beat, but prog rock, psychedelic, Krautrock, British jazz and rare folk and acid folk albums have increased in value, along with perennial favourites such as the Beatles and the Stones. I tend to sell this type of record on Ebay as soon as I find it (in car boot sale, charity shop etc) and have done quite well recently, but the basis of my collection has suffered. The biggest rise of any record in my collection is an LP called Into Your Ears by Pete Dello and Friends, the value of which has leapt from £200 to £500. I bought it a few years back at a boot sale and I've hung on to it as an investment - and it seems to have paid off. The rare High Numbers (The Who) Fontana 45 Zoot Suit (pictured) has also increased and is now my rarest record at £600 (in mint condition which unfortunately it isn't).
Sadly, these increases have been more than outweighed by cuts in the values of records by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, various doowop groups and sixties soul stuff by Wilson Pickett and the like. And it's this type of vinyl that makes up most of my collection.
Never mind. It's the music that counts, not its value. I've recently sold LPs by Hendrix, Farirport Convention, Jethro Tull and Soft Machine - all for good prices. But, frankly, they have no place in my collection so I'm glad to have the cash.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grim Reaper strikes down the General

Dave C has alerted me to the death of General Norman Johnson at the age of 67. The General started his career in North Carolina and was best known as the distinctive lead voice of the Chairmen of the Board, who made a string of excellent beach music/shag records for Holland/Dozier/Holland's Invictus label in the late 60s and early 70s. These included, memorably, Give Me Just a Little More Time, You've Got Me Dangling on a String, Everything's Tuesday, Pay to the Piper and Elmo James.
I first came across him several years earlier however when he sang lead on the great rock and roll anthem It Will Stand by The Showmen, which was released on the New Orleans-based Minit label . It was a fantastic record that got nowhere in the UK but reached number one in my personal top ten in January 1962. Follow ups such as The Wrong Girl and Swish Fish were almost as good but failed to hit. When the Chairmen broke up General made solo records under the names of General Johnson (Generally Speaking) and Norman Johnson and was also a successful songwriter. But it is for his amazing voice that he will be best remembered. Here is It Will Stand on Youtube
Dave also alerted me to the death of gospel singer Albertina Walker at the age of 81. She began her career as a member of The Caravans in the 1950s and was known as the Queen of Gospel Music. Another sad loss.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Life, by Jerry Lee

It was announced Tuesday (October 12) that Jerry Lee Lewis has signed a contract with a division of Harper Collins to publish his autobiography sometime in 2012. "People can read it, burn it, or never give it another thought," said Jerry. "Either way the truth is about to be told, and I'm the only man still standing who can touch it."
Should be an interesting read.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Farewell to Solomon Burke

Farewell Solomon.

Every time I've seen Solomon Burke over the last few years I've wondered if it would be the last. In fact, I said as much in my blog in March 2009. His immense weight - reckoned to be around 30 stone - would be a handicap to anyone, but to an ageing soul singer constantly touring the world it seemed too much to bear. Yet every time I saw him perform he was superb. His voice was always strong and, even though he had to be carried to his 'throne' under cover of darkness, he never failed to entertain and to demonstrate that he was indeed the King of Rock and Soul.
The last time I saw Solomon was at Porretta last year (see photos). As ever he put on a great show, with one of his 21 children supporting him along with one or two of his 90 grandchildren. Solomon was around at the beginning of soul music as we know it, with hits like Just Out of Reach and Cry to me in the early sixties on Atlantic and produced a string of great records over the ensuing decades. He managed to run his own church and a mortuary business as well as performing and recording and maintained the high quality of material throughout his life.
His death at the age of 70 (or possibly older - it depends who you believe) on his way to perform in Amsterdam demonstrated his approach to show business: a performer and recording artist to the last. Jerry Wexler described him as 'The greatest soul singer of all time', and that's a verdict that I would not disagree with. Easy...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No twang on Jools' show

Duane Eddy's twangy guitar hit Later with Jools Holland tonight - but he didn't play it. Instead we got a short interview and a plug for his UK tour, plus a clip from a TV show in 1986 when he played Peter Gunn. Apparently he will play on the show on Friday. Sadly I missed him at the Festival Hall the other night so it's nearly 20 years since I last saw Duane - at Wembley Arena alongside Jerry Lee, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Johnny Preston and Little Eva. Eddy's guitar was one of the signature sounds of my youth and, although it got rather samey after a bit, at his best he was truly one of the greats, thanks to Lee Hazlewood and Al Casey of course.

Despite the lack of twang, it was good to see some variety on Jools' show. There was Cee Lo Green, doing a sanitised version of his latest record 'Fuck You' and a soul ballad called 'Right on Time' (I think). Apparently he was part of Gnarls Barkley and is a big name in neo-soul circles. Good voice, and he certainly looked the part in his pink suit. Also on the show was the rather boring Steve Miller Band, the musical brother of Ed and David, according to Jools, who finished the show with 'The Joker'.