Archive for the ‘Tom Jones’ Category

Janis Joplin

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Listen: Little Girl Blue / Janis Joplin

When Janis passed away, I played only this song, this very single, for a solid week straight. ‘Little Girl Blue’ always felt autobiographical. Both song and situation were as sad as I was, and thousands of other kids across the world, during that period. Intentionally self disciplined, I didn’t want to be happy. I guess I was kind of in love with her. But big deal, I was far from alone.

There have been more than a few oddly coincidental ways she impacted my life and still does. Nowadays, I realize that I actually saw a living legend perform in both her and my lifetime. Very few have come along since, who’ve been regarded in such a way during their active careers. Famous artists and regular people alike, just about everybody needs to die before being totally appreciated. But when Janis was alive, journalists, other musicians, personalities from all walks proclaimed her blinding uniqueness.

Brought up Catholic meant when a family member passed on, we were all dragged through three long days of wakes, body viewings, spontaneous melt downs and every kind of prayer ceremony you can freaking imagine. After a first such ordeal at my grandfather’s showing, on the morning of that third day, when we all schlepped back to the funeral parlor to sit through one last batch of tearjerking prayers prior to finally wrapping it up at the cemetery, my aunt taps me on the shoulder from behind, “Have you heard the news on the radio this morning?”

“No, what?”

“Janis Joplin is dead”

Sometimes I feel like I’m still frozen in that very spot, with absolutely no way to get more information. I couldn’t leave, there were no cell phones, nor could I switch on the radio in the car ride to the burial site. I remained paralyzed with shock for hours. Now, if I visit my hometown, it’s exactly what comes thundering back every flipping time I drive past the place. Nice way to get that news, right, while staring at your deceased grandfather about ten feet away. A proper crash course in death.

Like my Mom, Janis would have been celebrating her birthday today, had she lived. January 19. Yet another Janis Joplin coincidence. And there were more, being saved for possible future posts.

Below, one of the few bits of television footage that captures her at 100% capacity:

Unit 4 + 2

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Listen: Concrete And Clay / Unit 4 + 2

Always loved this band’s name. It pre-dated tags given to electronic music acts by about thirty years or so. As it turned out, their acoustic guitar style had a Flamenco thing about it, I guess. It was a thread pretty common to the majority of Unit 4 + 2′s records, even though as a kid, the wilder, trashier, bluesy guitar stuff appealed the most, especially when maracas were involved.

Anything from Decca UK, and released via their London Records Group in America was moved to the top of my pile though. Even the MOR productions of Tom Jones and The Fortunes were fine by me.

‘Concrete And Clay’ would’ve gone Top 10 here, no doubt, if another competing copy cat version by Eddie Rambeau hadn’t been grabbing airplay and sales simultaneously. So instead of reaching a placing near it’s UK #1 slot, the record topped out at #28 on BILLBOARD, victim to a wank American singer who hadn’t moved on fashion wise since Fabian from about five years earlier.

Nice intro as well, ironically similar to but predating label mates, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ by about three years.

Listen: (You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before / Unit 4 + 2

Even more appealing was the followup. ‘(You’ve) Never Been In Love Like This Before’, complete with my favorite, an unnecessary bracket within the title, continued their pattern of re-writing the previous single, as ‘Concrete And Clay’ had done with it’s predecessor, ‘Sorrow And Pain’. This can double as either developing a sound, or becoming a perfect target for hater journalists. Both outcomes are common.

Basically, a stiff, it hovered around the lower reaches of the Top 100 for several weeks, eventually topping out at #93. I can still see that unsold chunk in a W.T. Grants record rack, back when vast areas of department store walls were lined with rows and rows of the latest 45′s. There they sat for weeks, until one day, gone. Well, all but the copy pictured above.

Gus Jenkins

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Listen: Chittlins / Gus Jenkins

Damn, I wish I knew more about Gus Jenkins. I know he recorded as early as ’56, under the name Gus Jinkins, and he’s up there as one of the most mysterious raw blues obscurities around.

Someone at Capitol decided to release ‘Chittlins’ via their newly formed subsidiary, Tower, in late ’64.

The Tower label went on until ’68, amassing a small, but fairly collectable bunch of releases, the most famous of course being all the very early US singles by The Pink Floyd. But there were more, Joe Meek masters by Heinz and Tom Jones, Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Standells…pull up a Tower discography sometime. Nice stuff.

Even on first listen, you’ll agree, a wonderfully noticeable amount of Gus Jenkins’ swagger may have influenced The Cramps just a bit, and even more, The Rolling Stones, sounding not unlike any number of tracks from their first few albums.

According to BILLBOARD’s November 14, 1964 RnB DJ Roundup below, along with Jimmy Reed’s ‘I’m Going Upside Your Head’, Ed Wright at WABO Cleveland was spinning it, Ed Hardy over at KDIA in San Francisco chose ‘Chittlins’ as well as Little Jerry Williams’ ‘I’m The Lover Man’, a filthy sleaze fest of a single, a no fucking around must for every collection. And let’s not forget WYLD’s Ed ‘Screaming’ Teamer in New Orleans, who was not only jamming Gus Jenkins and Little Jerry Williams, but was playing the mad great ‘My Country Sugar Mama’ by Howlin’ Wolf.

Tom Jones

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Listen: It’s Not Unusual / Tom Jones
Listen: It's Not Unusual / Tom Jones

Everyone knows Tom Jones. Most don’t know that he began his professional life as the powerful front guy in Tommy Scott & The Senators, from home turf Wales. And during that period, the first person who tried bringing him to the public’s attention was Joe Meek. A few of those early recordings they made together, and I believe there were four, surfaced on Tower Records in the US not long after his initial success on Decca UK and their American outlet, Parrot. Someday soon I’ll post one.

Meanwhile, his first release for Decca, ‘Hide And Seek’, got no traction or attention. Second single ‘It’s Not Unusual’ skyrocketed despite the BBC’s lack of belief and airplay for the record. Massive at the time, and well played on the US oldies stations for decades, it wasn’t until a week back, while waiting for Kim to show up for dinner in the bar of The Lodge, did it suddenly come onto their house system. I figured it was an ipod playlist, but upon inquiring, learned it to be a stream from the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora radio. Wow – this whole Pandora thing is clearly becoming a major factor in the rapid listenership decline of foul US commercial radio, satellite’s Sirius/XM excluded. I’m no doubt one of the last to discover this good Pandora news. But with the onset of the Ford’s Focus’ groundbreaking internet ready technology, the hour glass on snail paced commercial FM programming instincts and decision makers has officially been turned over.

After ‘It’s Not Unusual,’ Decca/Parrot released a handful of singles that dwindled chart wise, all in Tom Jones’ forceful, RnB powerhouse vocal style. When Top 5 results evaded his followup 45′s like ‘With These Hands’, ‘Stop Breaking My Heart’ and ‘Sixteen Tons’, the label heads guided him toward daytime radio ballads. Given his undeniable voice, many of these are essentials in my collection too. ‘Detroit City’ and ‘I’m Coming Home’ of particular note.

What I did realize though, ‘It’s Not Unusual’ seems to have passed beyond that cut off date in the oldies radio world, and now, if played, would be a bit of an oasis, as is, say ‘Lola’, these days. That is, of course, if one is forced to endure your short playlist, local oldies station, religiously puking up the same researched standards. At least that’s the case with the very, very tired WCBS-FM here in New York City. Okay, some greats do get spun, but they’re basically overplayed beyond enjoyment (‘California Girls’, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘I Got You’, ‘Respect’) and so a nice reminder last week of Tom Jones’ greatness via the Pandora death knell to stations like the aforementioned.


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

sunnydoctors, Sunny, Sue & Sunny, The Brotherhood Of Man, Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway, Geoff Stephens, CBS

Listen: Doctor’s Orders / Sunny SunnyDoctors.mp3

Basically Sunny has loads of history. Solo artist, one half of Sue & Sunny (both of whom were also members of The Brotherhood Of Man) and background voice on many, many, many hit singles (Dusty Springfield, Elton John, The Love Affair, Lulu, Mott The Hoople, T. Rex, Tom Jones, and Joe Cocker to name but a few bigger ones). She’s probably on more records than even she can remember – let alone you or me.

Often associated with the Cook & Greenaway writer/producer team, it was their song ‘Doctor’s Order’ (co-written with Geoff Stephens, himself claim to a long list of song credits: The Applejacks, Manfred Mann, Scott Walker, Dave Berry, Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters) that became a favorite for literally months in ’74. As into rock and soul as I was in ’74, the occasional pop track would bite me hard. I was never comfortable that Sunny’s version didn’t become the US hit version, it was better and smoother than Carol Douglas’. Rest of world though, the crown went to the awesome Sunny. I want to meet her someday.

Eddie Floyd

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

eddiefloydraise, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax, janis joplin

Listen: Raise Your Hand / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydRaise.mp3

It wasn’t hard to love Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’. The pure grit of his voice would have you enjoying the phone book if he decided to sing it. Like all things Stax, you got the added value of Booker T & The MG’s on backup, and many times Booker T and/or Issac Hayes producing. In the ‘Midnight Hour’ groove of the day, it was a big favorite. Along comes Janis Joplin and her Kozmic Blues Band to hurricane it into a riot inciting opening live number. That’s just what happened on May 2, 1969 at the Syracuse War Memorial. Already an hour and a half late on stage, due, as I found out many years later, to a heroin slump that had tour manager and band dunking her head in buckets of ice water usually reserved to keep the dressing room drinks cold.

Yeah, she had a really great manager, Albert Grossman. Praise has been showered on this many for his guidance of Bob Dylan and The Band. But when it comes to Janis Joplin, it sure does have a stink all over it. Clearly, he didn’t help her, just put her on tour to rake it in. Why not, he’s already destoyed Big Brother & The Holding Comapny with cohort Clive Davis, what’s the point of stopping now?

Well when she hit the stage, the place errupted. There was no stopping the mayhem, even after she pushed a sercurity officer right into the crowd (the world’s first stage dive?) who by now, with about ten others, had engulfed she and the band to try calming the crowd by threatening to end the show early. Not a smart move. Great fun to see as a youngster.

Watch: Raise Your Hand / Tom Jones & Janis Joplin

Just to prove the power of her delivery, check out the above clip with Tom Jones from his 1969 US TV series. Tom’s undeniably a great soul singer, but by the end, even he was indeed no match for Janis. Still hugely powerful on both parts.

eddiefloydbringuka, eddie floyd, steve cropper, stax

Listen: Bring It One Home To Me / Eddie Floyd EddieFloydBring.mp3

I always had a soft spot for Eddie’s ‘Bring It On Home To Me’, despite it’s tame formula. Let’s face it, Stax became a dependable assembly line. Even despite that reality, this was of favorite.

The Ikettes

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

ikettesimblueuka, ikettes, ike & tina Turner, london, atco, modern, stateside, polydor

Listen: I’m Blue / The IkettesIkettesBlue.mp3

All the behind the scenes drama, politics, tension and sleeze associated with Ike & Tina Turner is an endless source of stimulation for this voyeur. Get hold of every last cd booklet accompanying their reissues, and especially the box sets (the Time/Life one is hugely advised) and study. The countless sessions and musical chairs will never really be figured out, but when this bunch was on – they were truly on. Whether as an after thought, or a genius parallel business model, The Ikettes were the bomb. ‘I’m Blue’ premiered them to vinyl and was probably an unexpected hit. The first of many sizzling, gutteral vocal performances – you could always depend on an Ikettes single.

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Listen: Peaches & Cream / The Ikettes IkettesPeaches.mp3

‘Peaches & Cream’ sounded fantastic on AM radio in ’65, and I was well excited to see that summer’s Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars make a Syracuse stop. The Ikettes took the stage in silk fringed orange mini dresses and gyrated though four numbers including this one. Being afforded the benefit of headliner Tom Jones’ full brass back up band transformed it into a crazy wild Soul revue. Not surprisingly, these weren’t The Ikettes at all, at least not the ones on record. Still through Ike’s revolving door it seems everyone was an Ikette for a minute, so who’s complaining. Considering they followed Them on stage after ‘Here Comes The Night’, ‘Call My Name’ and a rousing ‘Gloria’, and upped the stakes is proof of their power.

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Listen: I’m So Thankful / The Ikettes IkettesThankful.mp3

Like The Flirtations’ ‘Nothing But A Heartache, ‘I’m So Thankful’ is one of the great Motown records that was never on Motown. You’d swear it was recorded right there on Grand Blvd.

Don Covay & The Goodtimers

Friday, June 12th, 2009

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doncovaymercyukre, don covay, atlantic

Listen: Mercy, Mercy / Don Covay & The Goodtimers DonCovayMercy.mp3

I woke up one day realizing albums by The Rolling Stones serve as introductory encyclopedias for figuring out the best American RnB and Blues originals. I felt really behind the curve at that moment, but considering it was still 1969, I caught up ok. The band, or someone in their camp, had impecable taste when picking this stuff. I still read the occassional story of their early visits to the US, whereby they’d all flock to now infamous record shops in Harlem or East LA just to buy all the black releases. Man, those stores must have been amazing. And where are all those records now? There were plenty of those original US pressings amongst the Tony King collection…..

Don Covay entered my world via OUT OF OUR HEADS. The Rolling Stones started side one of the US version with ‘Mercy, Mercy’. OUT OF OUR HEADS was their fourth and final US album to pressed initially (first run only) in the UK, then exported to the US and sleeved here. Just recently have collectors been alerted to this detail, but for years I was buying up those UK copies at garage sales for $1. They are particularly easy to spot. The font is obviously different than US London labels, but they’re also deep groove, and they indicate ‘Made In England’. Quite helpful. A few other London releases during the era (’64 – ’66) were intially pressed in the UK as well: Marianne Faithfull, Tom Jones and Them.

When I worked at Island in the late 80′s, Chris Blackwell signed Don Covay, who came by regularly to see Holly Furgeson and her office was next to mine. She did the A&R admin, and Don Covay handled all his own business. I remember him working diligently on the project only to have it shelved, a bad habit Island always had.

I was well pleased to find not only the original DJ copy of ‘Mercy, Mercy’ amogst Tony’s records, but a very nice UK reissue as well, both pictured above.