Archive for the ‘Janis Joplin’ Category

The Graham Bond Organization

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Listen: St. James Infirmary / The Graham Bond Organization
St. James Infirmary / The Graham Bond Organization

Around ’65/’66, The Graham Bond Organization were a most evil sounding jazz/blues mixture, not only as a band, but compared to any other group during the period. Their two albums, including the Jack Bruce / Ginger Baker / Dick Heckstall-Smith lineup, were released by Columbia UK but remained unissued in the US. In fact the only American release ever from this line-up and The Graham Bond Organization in general was this lone 7″ on Ascot, both sides from that Columbia UK period. The much covered ‘St. James Infirmary’, a single only A side in the UK from early ’66, likewise took on the A side position in the US.

This American folk song of anonymous origin dates back to early 1900 and has taken on many interpretations, one of which claims the song to be written about St. James Hospital in London, which was used to treat leprosy.

Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Big Mama Thornton, Billie Holiday, Bobby Hackett, Stan Kenton, Lou Rawls, Bobby Blue Bland, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Doc Watson, Janis Joplin and The White Stripes are amongst those who have recorded the track. Yet it’s this one that competes neck in neck with the Cops ‘N Robbers version as my personal favorite.

The soon-to-be direction John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Dick Heckstall-Smith would assume on BAREWIRES can be heard here.

Listen: Wade In The Water / The Graham Bond Organization
Wade In The Water / The Graham Bond Organization

‘Wade In The Water’, the band’s first A side single for Columbia UK was also included on their debut album, THE SOUND OF ’65. Here in the US, it was coupled, to complete this lone US single, as B side. I’m guessing Ascot Records had released it, with an option for an album, should they get any traction.

At the time, the label was having great success via Manfred Mann, during their initial RnB influenced period with Paul Jones as lead vocalist. They were also a Columbia UK act, and Ascot was releasing other singles from that label’s catalog, including those by Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, The Force Five and Madeline Bell.

The smooth mod rendition of ‘Wade In The Water’ from The Ramsey Lewis Trio stole all the airplay that same year, but this jazz leaning, late night version clearly counter balanced a then ubiquitous song that seemed insatiable to just about everyone in some form or another.

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle
BigMaybelleGettingLong.mp3

I can not lie. I get weak around any Okeh single, particularly in it’s matching stock sleeve. This certainly must have something to do with purple foil and paper wrapped chocolate bars from that first trip to Ireland when only in my single digits. We spent the summer with my aunt and grandmother in the house where my Mom grew up. Ballymoney, County Antrim. I don’t recall much, except for getting caught dipping my hand into a neighbor’s purse. The result was most unpleasant, but I needed a Cadbury marzipan bar, a flavor long since discontinued. The experience dented my brain permanently.

This Big Maybelle single from 1954 still glistens as a true visual artifact of color and design, and it’s a frequent choice when flipping through the wall shelves looking for something to play.

As with Bessie Smith, I became smitten by Big Maybelle soon after discovering both Janis Joplin and Tracy Nelson. Big Brother & The Holding Company were just releasing their first singles on Mainstream Records then, with Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson’s band also based out of San Fransisco, doing the same on Mercury shortly thereafter. Given they repeatedly name checked Bessie Smith and Big Maybelle as inspirational influences, my curiosity ran high.

Big Maybelle singles were easy and inexpensive finds for years. Album culture was fully prevalent during the late 60′s so singles simply became passé to most music aficionados of the day. This presented me with great joy as the pickings were euphoric. Marked down 7″ records being commonplace meant you could acquire the most amazing titles for a nickel or a dime. This single was one such find.

Her voice, great. The sound quality of these recordings, great. The subject matter, wow. So many Big Maybelle singles just reeked of sex. And comically presented. Surprisingly, Janis Joplin never nicked the idea, or more likely, conservative Columbia Records wouldn’t allow it.

I have to believe a sausage lyric version exists somewhere, with this cleaned up chicken take recorded specifically for the single, given ‘I’m Getting ‘long Alright’ was it’s A side.

Listen: My Big Mistake / Big Maybelle
My

‘My Big Mistake’, being formula bar room blues, allowed her to stomp and bully through the song in presumably very few takes. I recall hearing Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum play this straight into Mother Earth’s ‘Down So Low’ on their overnight college radio show, when underground album rock began overtaking the FM dial. WAER, Syracuse University’s student station gave all night shifts to nocturnal speed freak students who thankfully proceeded to pollute our ears with the wildest and most eclectic records around.

I bought Mother Earth’s LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS album the very next afternoon, a Sunday. We made our weekly trip to the SU campus, hanging around Discount Records or Record Runner on Marshall Street for hours, juggling what to buy. It became my purchase choice that weekend. Once home I discovered Mother Earth had modeled the majority of the album after Big Maybelle’s delivery style on records like ‘My Big Mistake’. maybe even that very song.

Janis Joplin

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Listen: Little Girl Blue / Janis Joplin
Little

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:

Savoy Brown / The Nice / Family

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Savoy Brown The Nice Family Poster

The Weaver's Answer / Strange Band

Listen: The Weaver’s Answer / Family
The Weaver's Answer / Family

One of the great triple bills from ’70, still trading on the English Invasion angle that was becoming a distant marketing ploy.

No problem here. My friends and I ate it up. Couldn’t leave early enough that morning to make a day of hanging out on the campus, pretending to be college kids. The serious Anglofiles, crowded onto the entrance steps of The Palestra Auditorium for a solid few hours prior to doors opening, provided the ultimate social scene. Everyone opinioning and bragging about one record after the other. It was almost as much fun as the show.

I think it was well attended, up front there was no looking back.

We were very seriously not prepared for the power of Family live. No one in the room was. And I do mean no one. I’d only seen their three albums in the store, never heard them and as much as I wanted ownership of at least one record, some other title always took their purchase slot. Turns out, this was my favorite lineup, having become obsessed as a result of the show and then seeing them many times. Poli Palmer on xylophone most of the night, a stunning player. And John Weider on guitars and violin. It was the first band I saw playing any of these instruments (except Brian Jones on vibes during ‘Under My Thumb’), not to mention changing them up for each song.

The ace in the deck for Family was always Roger Chapman. Definitely an acquired taste vocally, you still seldom see a madman like him, totally possessed. Once you experienced Family in person, their recordings made perfect sense, vividly bringing back his on stage intensity.

They couldn’t catch a break in The States. Bill Graham banned them from The Fillmores. Don’t know why. This particular night the audience was into it, but a few years later, opening for Elton John, things didn’t work out the same. I remember many of the crowd booing. I couldn’t believe such a sophisticated group of great musicians were being booed. I was embarrassed. But the band tore threw it unflinched. This was ’72. Sadly it was to be the last time they toured the US. Props to Elton John for having them.

The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack / The Nice

Listen: The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack / The Nice
The

The Nice were on Immediate. This was a big deal.

Immediate was a serious label to this bunch. A lot of conversation was had earlier on the steps about the greatness of the roster. Everyone was clued into the supposed stage antics of Keith Emerson, still I don’t think we were really ready. When he mauled his organ during ‘America’, it was shocking. Everyone took a step back as the knives came out. All these skinny English people with crazy energy. The flower power stuff from their albums interested me a lot. I think they stopped playing that stuff pretty quickly as the prog symphonic material took center stage, plus I assume Emerson, Lake & Palmer were right around the corner. I remember hearing this tour was simply honoring contractual commitments. Didn’t seem like it being a wide eyed kid upfront.

Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown

Listen: Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown
Made Up My Mind / Savoy Brown

Savoy Brown were theatrics-free, but never mind, they tore it up. In keeping with the evening looks wise, the underfed, velvet and stacked heeled Englishness prevailed. Can still remember these fair haired frail guys playing wicked blues. Probably very white, but this was prior to seeing any of the originals, so all new, all impressive. RAW SIENNA had just been released, and their set covered a lot of it plus some prior singles (‘Made Up My Mind’, ‘Train To Nowhere’) and their theme at the time, Muddy Waters’ ‘Louisiana Blues’. Like Family, this was a classic Savoy Brown lineup, with Chris Youlden on vocals and Tone Stevens on bass.

I'm Tired / Savoy Brown

Listen: I’m Tired / Savoy Brown
I'm Tired / Savoy Brown

My vivid memory of Kim Simmonds starting off ‘I’m Tired’ is as plain as day. It was my first time up super close, literally with elbows on the stage, and thinking ‘he makes it look so easy’, the true sign of a great guitarist.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Kim Simmonds

On the way out of town after the show, we stopped at a late night record/head shop near the campus, figuring out who would buy what, strategizing so that collectively we arrived home with records by all three bands. Picked these handout charts up at the counter, with some pretty interesting playlist titles. Yes, the days of underground radio…..and the ‘Super Heavy Sound’ of Janis Joplin. See them below:

WHFM 3-5-70

WHFM 11-5-70

WHFM 12-4-69

Big Brother & The Holding Company / Janis Joplin

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

Listen: Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company
Down On Me / Big Brother & The Holding Company

There are two things about Janis Joplin that annoy me. Neither are her fault.

Firstly, there is so little footage that really captures her power and that the media uses. The clips on a short lived US pop music show, MUSIC SCENE, are the best ones. That was with her Kozmic Blues Band lineup. Then to be fair, the Ed Sullivan and Dick Cavett shows were great as well. But the media always use that shit footage from the Monterey Pop Festival, when she hadn’t yet exploded vocally or visually. By the time she left the Bay area and was playing nationally, her voice was rasp and tortured; and she was visually a ball of color and fire. So heads up: seek out some of the aforementioned performances.

The second is Clive Davis. Why people line up to credit him with her success sickens me. Yes, he signed Big Brother & The Holding Company. And yes, he’s done a lot of things. His resume looks way better than mine. For instance, he let Ray Davies make two awesome Kinks albums, SLEEPWALKER and MISFITS, when most felt he and the band were washed up, signed The Patti Smith Group and let her make two great ones initially as well, plus gave both Lou Reed and Iggy Pop shots on Arista.

But masterminding the break up of Big Brother & The Holding Company with Albert Grossman is not a creative stroke of genius and is definitely unforgivable. How fucking dumb can you be? Their CHEAP THRILLS album soared to #1 in the Billboard charts being a blisteringly perfect document of her and the band’s magnetism.

Big Brother & The Holding Company were the ultimate acid rock group, probably of all time. They were raw and ragged but had swing, a lethally positive combination. Listen to James Gurley’s solo on the version of ‘Down On Me’ I’ve posted. By the time this was released, after her death, Columbia didn’t even have the courtesy to credit the band on the label. I assume the plan was to polish her for mainstream acceptance. Please. The whole point was her wild abandon.

Big Brother & The Holding Company live were an experience I’ll never forget. Friday October 11, 1968. Syracuse University presented the band at The War Memorial, but you had to be a student to get in. I wasn’t an SU student, in fact I was a little boy; no way could I even pass for a college kid. My friend Denny and I begged a security guy to let us in, bless him cause he did! Changed my life.

Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Above and below: Big Brother & The Holding Company / Syracuse War Memorial / October 11, 1968

Janis, October 11, 1968

These two pictures are from that night, snapped with my crap camera. I wish I had the negatives as the prints are fading. Check out how little equipment is up on stage. Still it was loud and out of control. Fantastic. Luckily, Janis played my area many times. I got to see all her line ups through the years. She was amazing. It’s not because I was young and impressionable. Janis Joplin was truly a living legend. And the lasting effect she has over everyone, not just me, proves it.

The Stone Poneys / Linda Ronstadt

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Stone Ponies - Different Drum

Listen: Different Drum / The Stone Poneys StonePoneysDifferentDrum.mp3

Ok, so a follow up single isn’t always better than the hit preceding it, as was maybe the case with ‘Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water’. It’s hard to top ‘Different Drum’. In fact, Linda Ronstadt never did. At least I don’t remember her doing it, possibly due in part to my general lack of interest toward country leaning music back then.

‘Different Drum’ was indeed another story though. It became a radio staple not long after Jefferson Airplane’s somewhat similar sounding ‘White Rabbit’, and at the same time as both ‘Itchycoo Park’ by The Small Faces and ‘Zabadak’ from Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.

‘Different Drum’ felt a bit psychedelic, even though it wasn’t. Maybe it was by association. Nick Venet was the producer and his work covered many genres. As a Capitol in house employee, seems he was handed all their youth culture signings of the day, thus slotting The Stone Poneys sessions between The Leaves, Lothar & The Hand People or Hearts & Flowers. It was one of many historic times at the Capitol Tower.

Stone Ponies - Up To My Neck picture sleeve

Listen: Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water / Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys StonePoneysUpToMyNeck.mp3

Long before Simon Cowell, the ruthless corporate machine gnawed it’s way through bands, carving out the superstar for investment and mainstream marketing, leaving the other members to survive somehow. As when Clive Davis butchered Big Brother & The Holding Company for Janis Joplin, so too, it seems, did Capitol decimate The Stone Poneys for the asset now known as Linda Ronstadt.

‘Different Drum’ by The Stone Poneys was literally still on Billboard’s Top 100 when ‘Up To My Neck In High Muddy Water’ was released as Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys. Housed in a full color sleeve, big things were expected. The record stalled at #93, but the setback was only temporary. She skyrocketed. It’s a great single despite the misery.

Linda Ronstadt was particularly critical of The Ramones, having gone to CBGB’s, catching an early performance and trashing them the very next day in a local New York paper. It was a hurtful moment that they talked about on occasion. So when Elektra threw a rather lavish party for her in New York, upon release of a successful new album, CANCIONES DE MI PADRE, the mischievous idea of inviting the band was impossible to resist and they were happy to attend.

We all met at Paul’s Lounge on 3rd and 10th, now a drug store, for a drink, then proceeded uptown to the event. Monte of course came along, Michael Alago and Arturo Vega did too. Everyone cleaned up on designer Mexican food, the album theme being traditional Mexican folk songs, and waited patiently for her to make the rounds, greeting her guests. The moment when she turned towards our table was classic, but it was too late to turn back. Obviously, she’d not been forewarned. Her look was priceless. DeeDee smiled and stared very menacingly, John just glared. Joey, after about five or ten seconds, decided to break the silence with “So Linda, long time no see”.

Nervously: “How are you guys doing?”

“We’re fine” replies John before she’s even finished her last word.

Incredible singer, successful artist but at that moment, Linda Ronstadt was stumped. Wincing, she backed away and slithered into the crowd.

Touché.

Lorraine Ellison

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Stay With Me / Lorraine Ellison

Listen: Stay With Me / Lorraine Ellison LorraineStay.mp3

I was thinking about my previous post (The Exciters) and a whole lot of Bert Burns details kept coming to mind, like one of his reportedly last songs, written with Jerry Ragovoy, being ‘Piece Of My Heart’. After being made super famous by Big Brother & The Holding Company, there really was no point in trying to compete with a re-recordings, although some did. Janis Joplin clearly had a definitive knowledge of the great RnB singers at that time. I remember her being interviewed by Dick Cavett and mentioning her favorite being Tina Turner. Neither he nor the silent audience knew who that was. She dug up and recorded greats by Garnet Mimms, Bobby Womack, Howard Tate and obviously Jerry Ragovoy (who wrote many of the aforementioned); undeniably making them hers.

There’s a cd compilation currently available, TIME IS ON MY SIDE – THE JERRY RAGOVOY STORY 1953-2003. I highly suggest getting a copy. It overviews an impressive array of styles, but mostly pure RnB. One of the songs it includes is ‘Stay With Me’ by Lorraine Ellison. Now oddly enough, I love her version even though I don’t love love love her voice. I like her an awful lot, but prefer a bit more husk. When combining her with Ragovoy’s songs though, it always works.

Now the following is a true story. If someone were to tell it to me, I wouldn’t believe them – it’s so far fetched. About 8 years ago, I went down to the village to meet Kate Hyman for lunch. She was looking at a small, really run down (needed gutting to be exact), brownstone and suggested we meet there (just off Carmine Street), have a look and go eat. I love looking at property and she knew it – so bang, we had a plan. A mutual friend, Glen Schiller, was the agent and he walked us through the then rotting, water damaged debris of a home – now renovated and clearly worth a fortune. I was a little timid about going up the stairs but followed along. There was literally nothing, and I mean nothing, in the building except a perfect, US promo copy of Lorraine Ellison’s ‘Stay With Me’ (the second issue – pictured at the top) propped against a bedroom wall. I know – you think I’m lying. I swear on my Mother’s life – this is true. I couldn’t believe it. There should have been a faint sound of ‘magic’ or ‘angels’ or ‘fairydust’ backgrounding my arm reaching down and chiming when as fingers met the sleeve, just in the movies.

This copy was mint. The sleeve factory fresh. What the fuck was this doing here? I asked Glen – he didn’t have a clue and said “Take it”. Well you only need to say that to me once. I did. So there you go – meant to be.

Solomon Burke

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Listen: You Can Make It If You Try / Solomon Burke01 You Can Make It If You Try.mp3

A Philadelphia native, and trained in gospel, Solomon Burke had his biggest success during the ’60′s in the south, where they coined his sound ‘river deep country fried buttercream soul’. Who on earth would not want to hear this guy after a description like that?

I found out about Solomon Burke like every other white kid in the day, through the English groups covering all the classic blues and RnB hits. Yes, the originals were right here in my own back yard. Occasionally one of these would slip into the pop stations’ playlists, but not near enough. At the time, I would have probably dismissed the original anyways, preferring all the hepped up excitement of the British Invasion version and how that movement was changing my culture, my haircut and my clothes.

But on further investigation in the early 70′s, it was fantastic to find a whole world of great records yet to own and cherish. The Rolling Stones were clearly Solomon Burke fans, covering a bunch of the songs he had RnB success with. Those covers were spread out over the first 5 US albums including this one ‘You Can Make It If You Try’ (on their debut, ENGLAND’S NEWEST HIT MAKERS). So really, it’s through The Rolling Stones that I discovered him. The flip side of this single is equally great: ‘If You Need Me’, also recorded by them and included on 12 X 5 (as is his ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’). OUT OF OUR HEADS included ‘Cry To Me’, although The Pretty Things’ version is true to Solomon’s exactly.

Listen: The Price / Solomon Burke 01 The Price.mp3

The covers of Solomon Burke’s catalog are many, from Dr. Feelgood’s ‘Stupidity’ to The Herd’s ‘Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)’. So fierce was his vocal bite, that certain songs were just not even tried by others. One such favorite of mine, ‘The Price’, arranged by Northern Soul great Teacho Wilshire and produced by Bert Berns, could certainly have been served well at that time by Janis Joplin or maybe Chris Farlowe, but no other white voices that I know of. Great news: Solomon Burke is still alive. Go see him sing and get ready to lose it.

Frankie & Johnny

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

FrankieJohnny, Frankie & Johnny, Maggie Bell, Decca, Inferno, Hickory

Listen: I’ll Hold You / Frankie & Johnny FrankieJohnny.mp3

My bet: not much was expected when Maggie Bell (Frankie) came to London from Scotland to record ‘I’ll Hold You’ which she’d co-written with Bobby Kerr (Johnny) for UK Decca, and eventually licensed to the US Nashville based Hickory label. Hickory an odd choice admittedly, although they did pick up, with great success, the early Donovan releases as well as a few other British acts.

This was a few years before Maggie Bell joined/formed Stone The Crows and then onto solo releases via Swan Song Records. In that time (around five years) much would change about Maggie Bell, most noticeably her voice which on this recording was quite smooth. Yet by the time she began with Stone The Crows, a rough Janis Joplin quality was well in place.

Wish I had that original Decca or Hickory pressing to post and own, but meanwhile this later Inferno release is doing nicely as a temp. I will find those originals, that I can assure you.

Big Mama Thornton

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

BigMamaStonedUSA, Big Mama Thornton

Listen: Let’s Go Get Stoned / Big Mama Thornton BigMamaStoned.mp3

Covered by everyone from Manfred Mann to Ray Charles via his infamous version, ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ is as ubiquitous as “Strangers In The Night’ or ‘Satisfaction’.

During the late 60′s/early 70′s, during the heights of electric blues rock’s success, seems every last band dug up some deserving song, and in hindsight rather obvious classic from the genre, added on some whitewash and brought it successfully to the masses, tunes like ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ were everywhere. Add to that, the phenomenon of Janis Joplin – and you’ve get many a previously struggling original blues artist, particularly female ones, suddenly sharing bills with the biggest album selling underground bands of the day at The Fillmores, Avalon Ballroom, in War Memorials and college gymnasiums around the country. Big Mama Thornton was no exception.

Signed to Mercury and released around the time of Mother Earth’s almost breakthrough success, her renewed version of the surprisingly-penned-by Ashford & Simpson classic got some FM play in my neck of the woods. Never ever expecting a soul to buy it, I was well pleased to find a promo in the local used record bin for a quarter. Still sounds authenically ruff and tumble to this day.

Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

garnetmimmscry, Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, United Artisits, Jerry Ragovoy
GarnetMimmsUKA, Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters, United Artisits

Listen: Cry Baby / Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters GarnetCry.mp3

I’ll admit it. I had not heard this record, nor seeked it out, until Janis Joplin recorded her version of ‘Cry Baby’ in ’71. I’d seen Garnet Mimms’ records mentioned occasionally in the obscure sections of Billboard: like Bubbling Under The Hot 100, or listed as a possible minor hit in the ‘Chart’ section of their Singles Review page (the catagories were ‘Top 20′, ‘Top 60′ and ‘Chart’, in that order). Seemed like an eternity, those eight years between his release and hers. Now it’s just a blink.

Her rendition would make anyone want to seek out the original. She just tore it apart. Certainly Garnet Mimms’ RnB version had to be great too. Taste in black music Janis Joplin certainly had.

Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters’ ‘Cry Baby’ was worth the search. Turns out he’d sang in many gospel groups, as well as with Sam Cooke, before being drafted. Once discharged in ’57, he hit the circuit again before forming The Enchanters in ’62. They cut ‘Cry Baby’, and it went on to sell a million units, peaking in Billboard’s pop charts at #4. Within a year, the group disbanded.

Composed by then struggling Brill Building staff writers Norman Meade and Bert Russell (aka Bert Burns), and produced by Jerry Ragovoy, ‘Cry Baby’ is a now perfect snapshot of New York RnB in it’s heyday.

Mother Earth / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson

Friday, July 17th, 2009

motherearthmeusa, mother earth, tracy nelson, mercury

Listen: Mother Earth (Single Edit) / Mother Earth MotherEarthEdit.mp3

motherearthdownsolowusa, mother earth, tracy nelson, mercury

Listen: Down So Low / Mother Earth MotherEarthDown.mp3

motherearthdidmypartuka, mother earth. mercury, wille nelson, tacey nelson

Listen: I Did My Part / Mother Earth MotherEarthIDidMyPart.mp3

A best friend in high school, Mark, literally fell in love with Tracy Nelson. This wasn’t just fandom. He wrote her letters, and when Mother Earth finally came to the Northeast playing Syracuse with Three Dog Night. For some unexplainable reason, the mere idea of being in a room with her, despite the other nine thousand strong concert goers, gave him the shakes. To be young and in love with your idol is a great combination.

Mother Earth’s debut album, LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS spawned the perfect 7′s: the band’s namesake signature ‘Mother Earth’ and one of the greatest white gospel/blues songs ever ‘Down So Low’. The chances of them being hits were slim, but to focus your trusty overnight stoner underground radio DJ on just the right LP tracks to spin, they did the trick. Hearing both ‘Down So Low’ and ‘Mother Earth’ from the transistor stuffed in my pillow gave them a far away exotic attraction, coming off even more stripped down than early Big Brother & The Holding Company. Tracy Nelson and Janis Joplin captured and held down the white blues fort. Plain and simple: none of the other female voices in the US underground movement could touch them.

Tracy Nelson was beautiful and her country blues voice was not to be messed with. All of her recordings with Prestige, Mercury, both as a member of Mother Earth and solo, as well as Reprise are permanent fixtures in my library.

motherearthrevolution, mother earth, tracy nelson, united artists, revolution soundtrack

Listen: Revolution / Mother Earth MotherEartRevolution.mp3

Likewise Mother Earth’s theme song to the REVOLUTION film on United Artists. UA seemed to be home of the soundtrack albums (Goldfinger, Dr. No, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush), which they always released singles from. ‘Revolution’ was perfect political slant for the band, given their kind of dark blues image.

tracynelsonwhiskey, mother earth, mercury, wille nelson, tracy nelson

Listen: Whiskey River / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson WillieTracy.mp3

In ’74, I suddenly found myself holding a 45 by her and Willie Nelson. Many times a year Jack Riehle, the WEA salesman for upstate NY, unloaded his boxes of unwanted 7′s my way. Those were much anticipated bi-annual moments as I do recall. With no warning, here was a fantastic two sider, and my first thought was they must be related, Not true. It’s B side, ‘Whiskey River’ became our favorite. Corinne and I named our first cat Whiskey, and I’d play it over and over for him, ears always perking on Willie’s first deep ‘Whiskey’ intro. We still smile about that.

Lulu & The Luvers

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

luluforgetme, Lulu, Lulu & The Luvvers, Lulu & The Luvers, Decca, Parrot

Listen: Forget Me Baby / Lulu & The Luvers LuluForget.mp3

lulusatisfied, Lulu, Lulu & The Luvvers, Lulu & The Luvers, Decca, Parrot

Listen: Satisfied / Lulu & The Luvers LuluSatisfied.mp3

lulusurpriseuka,Lulu, Lulu & The Luvvers, Lulu & The Luvers, Decca, Parrot

Listen: Surprise Surprise / Lulu & The Luvers LuluSurprise.mp3

With a moniker like Lulu, it’s not too surprising if your powerful voice is overlooked. Shame. Lulu could, well still can, really sing. Does anyone honestly not love ‘The Boat That I Row’ or ‘Me, The Peaceful Heart’?

But even in ’65 the ruthless star making machinery was in aggressive full swing, preceding Clive Davis’ criminal dismantling of Big Brother & The Holding Company for a solo Janis Joplin by several years. Decca’s victims, although not as cleanly disassembled: Lulu & The Luvers or as sometimes listed, Lulu & The Luvvers. Initially known as The Gleneagles with Lulu as one of the vocalists, they played their brand of R&B regularly around Glasgow’s clubs. At 14, Lulu and band had their first hit with The Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’, making theirs the definitive version in the UK. Pretty quickly peeling her away from a band setting began. But not before one more single as Lulu & The Luvers was released (after a few solo Lulu singles confused the process): ‘Satisfied’ / ‘Surprise Surprise’. They sounded like a hot band, even if they were part studio guys, and I wish Decca had afforded them an album before her solo career commenced. Plus the way their name alliterates off the tongue is just perfect.

Seems even Lulu forgot about the Luvvers, based on her jukebox tab below:

LuLuJukebox, Jukebox Tab, Lulu

The Chantels

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

chantels, the chantels, london, janis joplin, kosmic blues band

Listen: Maybe / The ChantelsChantelsMaybe.mp3

The chances of hearing this on any US oldies stations these days seem pretty slim. It was not always the case. I came to appreciate ‘Maybe’ even more in the 70′s, a result of Janis Joplin covering it with her Kosmic Blues Band. I searched out The Chantels version desperately after she did a killer version at the Syracuse War Memorial in May ’69 – having no patience to wait for hers later in the year. Within weeks of that show, Janis appeared on the syndicated program, MUSIC SCENE, wearing the same crushed velvet outfit. It’s one of the few bits of footage that really captures her:

I was reminded of all this today, when finding a copy of The Chantels crazy rare album at an Episcopal Church Of Christ yard sale in a small upstate town, where we stopped for some lunch. It was a gem amongst many. Not to mention the sweet potato pies, the cornbread/mac & cheese/string bean platter from their food stall and a whole lot of 45′s.

Bessie Smith

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

bessie-smith-empty-us-a,bessie smith, janis joplin, columbia

Listen: Empty Bed Blues (Part 1) / Bessie SmithBessieSmithEmptyBed1.mp3

At the height of Janis Joplin’s popularity, Columbia realized they had the entire Bessie Smith catalog down in the basement of 51 W. 52nd Street just collecting dust. Janis had name checked her endless times in the press and on TV (Dick Cavett) as her primary influence. Us rabid fans couldn’t get hold of that first double reissue, ANY WOMAN’S BLUES, fast enough. I became obsessed with the first three songs on Side 2: ‘I’m Wild About That Thing’, ‘You Got To Give Me Some’ and ‘Kitchen Man’. They are primal and hilariously suggestive, just like Janis. I played them repeatedly. In fact, some of Janis’ vocal inflections are so similar – well it’s actually rather eerie. To my severe disappointment, none of the three made it to 7″ single, but just for fun (I’m assuming, as Columbia couldn’t possibly have thought a hit awaited), ‘Empty Bed Blues’ was indeed issued on the handy single format. Musically, the calamity of the noisy Salvation Army meets Dixieland band aside, it’s the voice that deserves close attention. Were Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin one in the same?