Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vinyl Obscurities - 3

Continuing an occasional series on some of the more obscure records in my collection - this time three issued on Polydor in the mid 60s and two on Stateside.
1. Joey and the Continentals - Rudy Vadoo/She rides with me. Polydor BM 56520. Mint value: £85.
Joey (Porello) and the Continentals were a white doowop group from Cleveland who had a number of singles released in the US, but only one in the UK under that group name. Rudy Vadoo is a garage/freakbeat type rocker written by band member Gene Marotta, while the B side She Rides With Me was an excellent Brian Wilson composition. Released on the Claridge label in the US. 2. The G.T.O's - Rudy Vadoo/ She rides with me. Polydor 56721. Mint value: £75.
The Joey and the Continentals record had no impact in the UK, but the band changed their name to the G.T.O's (after their management company the General Management Organisation) and strangely it was released again under their new name shortly afterwards, also on Polydor. Once again it sank without trace.
3. The Holidays - I'll love you forever/ Makin' up time. Polydor 56720. Mint value: £125.
Recorded for Golden World records, this Don Davis production features Edwin Starr as lead vocalist. But he claimed in an interview that he was tricked into doing it and The Holidays did not really exist. Whether true or not, it's a great record. The B-side is a soulful instrumental.
4. Major Rowely - There's a riot going on/Do it the right way. Stateside SS 438. Mint value: £15.
This is a strange record - a version of the Robins' hit sung in a squeaky upper class English accent by someone claiming he was doing time for the Great Train Robbery. Released on Amy Mala in the US, it was produced by Shel Talmy, who also claimed to have written it. But who was Major Rowely? I've no idea, but it seems that UK band Tony Rivers and the Castaways sang and played on the record. B-side is a typical 60s British sounding beat number.

5. Prince Buster - Everybody ska/ 30 pieces of silver. Stateside SS 335. Mint value: £12.
This is the only Prince Buster 45 released on Stateside and just about the only one by him on a mainstream UK label. It was recorded by Amy in the US so perhaps there's a connection with Shel Talmy here as well, but I have no information.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Great American Soulbook

To Basingstoke last night to see two 60s soul legends Gary US Bonds and Ben E King perform 'The Great American Soulbook'. Fears that this would be an evening of middle of the road nostalgia were quickly dispelled when the excellent six piece Memphis style band took the stage. Between acts they performed authentic versions of Peter Gunn, Green Onions, Time Is Tight and Soul Finger.

Ben E King, now 72, may have lost some power from his voice, but his laid back approach had the audience in the palm of his hand in two short sets (one in each half) as he went through several of his own numbers - Spanish Harlem, Don't Play That Song, Save the Last Dance For Me and, of course, Stand By Me. His other selections were pretty good too, with a couple of Ray Charles numbers (Let the Good Times Roll and Hallelujah I Love Her So), some Sam Cooke (Twistin' The Night Away and a medley of Wonderful World and Cupid), How Sweet It Is, Under the Boardwalk and, rather incongruously, Imagine.

The choices of Gary US Bonds, a mere 71, were more predicable, but his sense of humour (he took great pleasure in pronouncing Basingstoke) and strong voice and energy carried him through. Apart from his own hits Quarter to Three and New Orleans all of his choices from the 'soulbook' were crowd favourities - Midnight Hour, Soul Man, Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay, Higher and Higher, Knock on Wood, Mustang Sally, Sweet Soul Music, Let's Stay Togther and an excellent Try A Little Tenderness.

The two soul men came together for the climax of New Orleans and a reprise of Stand By Me. They joked with each other and Gary did a rather camp silly walk which he called 'soul strolling' - to Ben's consternation. Altogether, a very enjoyable show and well worth £20.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good news about Porretta

First news of the line up at this year's Porretta Soul Festival - and it looks pretty good. The names so far are Spencer Wiggins, Percy Wiggins, William Bell, Harvey Scales and a Tribute To King Curtis. The Wiggins brothers were the stars two years ago of probably the best ever Porretta. William Bell is a huge figure in sixties soul and always good to watch. I have never seen Harvey Scales, but he had a great Wilson Pickett style soul record on Atlantic in the UK with Get Down, backed with Love-Itis. So it's looking good, and I think I will probably go. There's been no announcement on the Porretta website yet, but there's a message on Facebook. The photo shows Spencer, Percy and me in 2009.
Update: the line up looks even better now - as well as the above there's also Swamp Dogg, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Toni Green and Chick Rodgers.
No news at all officially on the Ponderosa Stomp yet - not even the dates, which makes life difficult for Brits planning a US trip. Get your finger out Dr Ike!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rocksteady - Roots of Reggae

Growing up in south London in the 60s I was exposed to Jamaican music - the great sounds of ska, rocksteady and early reggae. This weekend BBC4 has been celebrating these musical art forms with a series of programmes. Last night Reggae Britannia featured the likes of Ken Boothe and Rico Rodriguez in a recent concert at the Barbican, followed by a 1973 Old Grey Whistle Test which included Nicky Thomas and The Pioneers among others.
Tonight's programme - Rocksteady - Roots of Reggae - brought together many of the original rocksteady pioneers, including Hopeton Lewis, Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan and Marcia Griffiths, who relived their roles in the evolution of ska into rocksteady in the late 60s. Sadly the King of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis, is no longer with us, but it brought back memories of the West Indian clubs that I frequented in Brixton back in the day. The music sounded fantastic then, and it sounds fantastic today.
The photo shows what may be the first rocksteady record to be issued in the UK.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Clay Hammond RIP + Marvin Sease & Tura Satana

Clay Hammond, one of the very best of soul/blues vocalists, has died aged 74. I was lucky enough to see him perform a couple of times - at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2001, the year it was held in Bologna, and at Utrecht. He had a superb voice, having been an original member of gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy, and was the writer of Part Time Love, a big hit for Little Johnny Taylor. He recorded for Galaxy and Kent, as well as DuoDisc - the 45 pictured is a different song from the one made famous by Roy C. Here's the B-side of that record Dance Little Girl on YouTube

Thanks also to Dave for alerting me to the death at 64 of Marvin Sease, one of the biggest Southern soul stars, whose raunchy lyrics to songs such as Candy Licker meant that he got little airplay in the US, and none at all in the UK, where this genre is not appreciated these days. A great voice. Here's his classic on YouTube

A word too about Tura Satana, glamorous star of Russ Meyer's 1965 cult movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! who has died aged 72. What a girl she was!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Bill Haley oddity, plus John Barry

Here's a photo of a Brunswick 78 I have by 'Billy', rather than Bill, Haley and his Comets. It's Birth of The Boogie backed with Mambo Rock. The record's number is correct but the label is the old style brown Brunswick 78 design, rather than the usual black label. The label reads Made in England at the top. I've shown the photo to a couple of experts who haven't seen anything like it before. Can anyone offer an explanation?

Farewell to John Barry who has died aged 77. He is rightly revered for his film scores, especially the James Bond ones, but I also remember his instrumentals hits as the John Barry Seven in the late fifties and early sixties, including Hit and Miss (the theme for Juke Box Jury) and his cover of Walk Don't Run, and the lush string backings that helped make Adam Faith a star.