Saturday, March 30, 2019

Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band in Fleet

Over 50 years on from his 'Hand Clappin, Foot Stompin', Funky Butt' days, Geno Washington is still strutting his stuff along with his Ram Jam Band. His show at the Harlington in Fleet, Hampshire, last night showed that he still has loads of energy, and even though he mangled many of the numbers by not finishing them or morphing into another song, it was good fun and much enjoyed by the rather sparse crowd. The five man Ram Jam Band, including two sax players, provided good support as Geno grinned and joked his way through an hour long set. Vocally he is still is pretty good form, and at 75 he is showing no signs of slowing down. Originally from Indiana (as he pointed out) he came to the UK in sixties with the US Air Force and stayed, at least for a while.
Geno's act hadn't really changed since his sixties heyday when I can remember seeing him do his thing at Brixton's Ram Jam Club, inspiring along the way Dexy's Midnight Runners to record their big hit 'Geno'. He's still doing soul covers at a frantic pace - too fast in most cases - but putting his all into them.He began in traditional style with' Philly Dog' and 'Ride Your Pony', and moved on through a bunch of soul standards including 'Uptight', 'Hold On I'm Coming', 'I Can't Turn You Loose', 'Land of 1000 Dances', 'Midnight Hour', Shotgun' and 'Papa's Got A Brand New Bag'. Other songs included 'My Jolene', 'I Got You (I Feel Good), 'Sweet Soul Music' and 'Knock On Wood'.There were a couple of less well known numbers as well, but for the most part it was the sixties soul classics.
The show was supposed to be a reunion of people who went to the Carousel Big C Club in Farnborough back in the day where Geno played three times. I never went there, as I didn't live in the area, but they had some big names playing there, including Otis Redding, Lee Dorsey, the Who and Pink Floyd. There were a few original Carousel-goers in the audience, but according to Bobby Gallocker, who is doing his best to keep memories of the club alive, many club goers just couldn't be bothered to turn out. A shame, as live music in the provinces needs to be supported. It's not often we get an original act playing in Fleet: it's mostly tribute acts. Geno's material may not be original for the most part, but he is: a true survivor from the sixties.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Andre Williams and Dick Dale RIP

The music deaths keep coming with two important artists passing away over the weekend - Andre Williams and Dick Dale.
Andre Williams, who has died aged 82, had a varied career beginning with records on the Fortune label in Detroit in the mid fifties, including 'Bacon Fat' and 'Jail Bait'. He released a record on Motown's Miracle label ('Rosa Lee') and on the Wingate label in the  sixties, including 'Loose Juice' and 'Got It'. More followed on Ric Tic and on Chess, including 'Humpin', Bumpin' and Thumpin'' and 'Cadillac Jack'. Among the songs he wrote were 'Shake A Tailfeather' and 'Twine Time'. After a period of drug addiction he returned with an album of new renditions of his old hits entitled 'Mr Rhythm' and toured with various bands, becoming known as the father of  Sleaze Rock and being compared with Dolemite (aka Rudy Ray Moore). Bands Andre appeared with included The Flash Express. I saw Andre's show at the Luminaire in 2008 and it was noisy, to say the least. Here's what I wrote:
'Andre Williams at the Luminaire last night was an assault on the eardrums. His backing band Flash Express was a fairly basic three chord punk band, and boy were they loud. They drowned out much of what Andre was singing. The audience, though, thoroughly enjoyed it. They were mostly ex punks now approaching middle age, with a few trendy younger guys and girls dotted around - not the sort of audience I usually mingle with.
Andre looked dapper in a smart military style jacket, black hat and peach trousers and was clearly enjoying himself. It was a bit weird hearing a 71 year old singing about Jailbait, and the twinkle in his eye suggested he wouldn't mind a taste. He has been called Mr Rhythm and the Black Godfather over the years but Bad Motherfucker - the title of a pretty effective piece of punk rock - probably sums him up. Of his early bluesy doowop stuff there were brief but potent versions of Jailbait and Bacon Fat, but otherwise it was largely unknown territory to me. Half deafened, I and three other Woodies left the gig to the sound of Pussy Stank to find sanctuary in the Black Lion pub nearby. Nice pub by the way.'
Andre appeared with the El Doradoes at the Blues Estafette in 1998 and this was doowop rather than sleaze. It was one of the highlights of the festival that year. (see photo above).
Another musician who could pump up the noise levels was Dick Dale, who has died aged 81. He was known as 'The King of the Surf Guitar' as a result of his guitar amplification and reverb based on Middle Eastern music scales. With his band the Del-Tones he recorded 'Let's Go Trippin' in 1961, often said to be the first surf beat record, and 'Misirlou', which gave him a new audience in the nineties when it was used in 'Pulp Fiction'. Other singles from the early sixties included 'Surf Beat' and 'The Scavenger' and his LPs, including 'Surfer's Choice' and 'King of the Surf Guitar', were highly influential on many artists from the Beach Boys to Jimi Hendrix. I last saw him at Viva Las Vegas in 2016 (pictured above) when I described him as 'loud and forceful and also none too subtle'. Good fun however.
Another death, at the age of 90, was that of drummer Hal Blaine, who in his own estimation played on 35,000 records, including 6.000 singles. A member of the Count Basie band early on, he moved on to session work and was a key part of the famed 'Wrecking Crew'. based in LA. Renowned as the drummer on the Ronettes' 'Be My Baby', he also worked on many hits by the likes of the Beach Boys, the Crystals, Johnny Rivers, Jan and Dean, the Byrds, the Mamas and Papas, the Association, the Raiders and countless others.
The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ural Thomas and the Pain at the 100 Club

The likes of the late Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and Lee Fields have brought retro soul to the masses. They are artists whose careers started long ago but fizzled out for some reason or another before finding fame later in life. Now there's another name to add to list: Ural Thomas. And a very welcome addition he is too. With his seven piece band The Pain he put on a show at the 100 Club last night that spanned the decades, mixing old school sixties Stax flavoured soul with some excellent songs from his recent album 'The Right Time'.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Ural was a member of a group called The Monterays before going solo, and made some decent soul records in the sixties, including 'Can You Dig It' and 'Pain Is The Name of Your Game' (hence his band's name). He appeared at the Apollo with Otis Redding top of the bill, but with his career going nowhere he returned to Portland where he continued to organise jam sessions at his home. Local DJ Scott Magee was planning to set up a soul band and met Ural six years ago. After local gigs they made an album and are now on their first European tour.
Ural is nearly eighty, but you would never think so as he has the energy and the looks of a man much younger. It's a dynamic stage act, with hints of James Brown and Sam and Dave among others. His numbers - well supported by the band - were a good mix of his own material, much of it co-written with Scott Magee - and a few well performed covers. He began with 'Pain Is The Name of Your Game' and followed up with two more tracks from his album 'No Distance (Between You and Me)' and 'Gotta Say (I Love You)'. Two covers followed - an exciting version of Sam and Dave's 'You Got Me Humming' and William Bell's 'Any Other Way'.
'Can You Dig It', first recorded in 1967. followed and then came a great version of the Contours' 'Just a Little Misunderstanding'. The title track from his 'Right Time' album was very much a James Brown influenced number but the next one, the slow 'Come Back To Me', showed that he isn't just a shouter. The opening track on his album 'Slow Down' followed, with more variety with 'Vibrations' and 'I Got To Go Back'. There was some funk included but this was really varied material and highly enjoyable. His encore featured a slow number called 'Smile' and the energetic 'Push 'Em Up'. Overall, this was a good show and Ural is to be recommended. Catch him while you can!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Rudy Love and the Manhattan project

It's a long standing practice in the music business to falsely use the name of someone famous to promote records by lesser known artists. It's harmful to the star, but also harmful to the lesser known name, who may be unaware of the deceit and almost certainly not in receipt of any royalties for their work. And it does nothing to promote their career.
There can be few more blatant examples of this than an LP attributed to Tyrone Davis on the Manhattan label, a subsidiary of the UK President label, which came out around 1980. I bought a copy yesterday (because I'm a fan of Tyrone) but on playing it it was obvious that it wasn't the real Tyrone, and closer inspection of the label revealed that it was by 'Brother' Tyrone Davis. A little research revealed that the ten tracks on the LP were actually by Rudy Love, a Wichita soul man who has experienced quite a bit of this double dealing over the years. So much so in fact that last year a documentary film called 'This Is Love' was released at the Raindance Film Festival which featured Rudy and his mistreatment by record companies over the years. Apparently he appeared at the 100 Club in London to promote the film on September 29, 2018, as Rudy Love and the Love Family. I was away in the US at the time and wasn't aware of this but would be interested to hear from anyone who was there.
The irony is that, although the Manhattan LP is not by the real Tyrone, it's an excellent record. There's a version of 'Where Have You Been', originally by the Whispers, which has a great Northern soul feel, and the other tracks are equally good. It seems that the tracks were recorded for the Canyon/ Roker label but not released at the time.
Manhattan issued over 30 LPs at the time by the likes of Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Shirley and Lee and several jazz greats and as far as I can see these were obscure, but genuine, tracks in the main
(I may be wrong and would like to know if so). But one release that definitely wasn't genuine was 'Funky Fox', which was attributed to Doris Duke 'and Friends'. Incredibly, there are at least three tracks on this LP by the real Tyrone Davis, but why they didn't turn up on the LP attributed to his 'brother' is a mystery. There are also some great soul tracks by Mamie Galore and Bobbie Jean Bland, but you wouldn't know it from the sleeve or label as neither are mentioned. In fact, like the fake Tyrone Davis LP, all the songs have 'Unknown' as the writer. That even applies to the Shirley and Lee LP.
It's to be hoped that Rudy Love is now getting his just desserts but I wouldn't count on it, and I wonder how many examples of this dishonesty have occurred over the years.