Archive for the ‘Blaxploitation’ Category

Billy Paul

Friday, November 25th, 2011

billypaulblackenough, Billy Paul, Philadelphia International

Listen: Am I Black Enough For You / Billy Paul

Nothing like getting straight to the point. Pull that band-aid off Billy Paul.

This followup to the RnB and Pop #1 ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’ should have been a near repeat of that previous achievement. Certainly RnB-wise. But no, it stalled at #29, and only hung in for six weeks. Even less impact was made on Pop (#79).

All the elements were there too. This mono edit sounded good on the radio, well the two times I heard it that is. I wanted this single immediately. I was obsessed with all the Blaxploitation/Shaft/Black Caeser stuff, the wah-wah sleeze guitars and metallic bongos. It was the allure of the dirty heroin ghetto that seemed quite romantic from my parent’s house in the white suburbs of Syracuse.

It sure was a lot of fun going round to the record shops in the not so nice part of town. Many of friends wouldn’t join me, so I’d take the bus by myself most of the time. Man, those Mom & Pop shops were bulging with good stuff, and nice business people too. They’d always go out of their way to welcome you in, especially the ladies that ran The Record Shack, just off Salina Street. They were sisters, always cooking and eating, many times sharing their baked macaroni and cheese, or drug like pineapple upside down cake. Never will I forget that dish. I think they got a kick out of this little white kid, always carrying singles from Walt’s Records, my first stop for the English releases. I got many a great, now obscure, down dirty funk single in that shop. The activity, record playing and dancing on the spot echoed the British Invasion of the 60′s. Different music, different clothes, same energy.

Edwin Starr

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Listen: Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem / Edwin Starr

Edwin Starr had some surprising US pop hits quite early on in his career curve. Surprising given they were precursors to Northern Soul, and usually those titles didn’t chart. That was the whole point. But ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’ (#21, ’65), ‘S.O.S. (Stop Her On Sight)’ (#48, ’66) and ’25 Miles’ (#6, ’69) all did well and even at the time, they had that magnetic something special.

By 1970, he switched up labels, leaving Ric Tic Records for Motown. Simultaneously trading in his soul stylings for the intense Vietnam protest diatribe ‘War’, he transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart story. But his US success was short lived.

Europe and the UK proved more loyal, and given the nature of his earlier hits, Edwin Starr relocated to England in ’73. Ironically, during ’74, he recorded a very American ‘Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem’, main title of the HELL UP IN HARLEM film, itself an official sequel to BLACK CAESAR.

Despite a slightly cluttered arrangement, the track perfectly snapshots the sound of Blaxploitation, a near official genre, briefly prevalent at that time and very much synonymous with grainy, washed out color cinema.

De La Soul / Steely Dan

Friday, March 11th, 2011

delasoul, De La Soul, Steely DanBig Life, Tommy Boy

Listen: Eye Know / De La Soul
Eye Know / De La Soul

When I worked at Island in the late 80′s, the whole UK office were nuts about hip hop, most of them that is. When they’d visit New York for CMJ, or maybe it was called the New Music Seminar then, it would be straight to lower Broadway to buy sneaks and the East Village to see bands, all the while thinking they were steeped in hip hop culture. Pretty funny. Grass is always greener. I was just as guilty of acid house, or Brit pop as it cringingly got coined. De La Soul was top of the list for them all. They’d go on about De La this, De La that, like De La clothes and De La haircuts. It was a bit embarrassing. I suppose the lure of ghetto life was no different then than my attraction to it ten years earlier, whether it be Blaxploitation or funk. So fair enough.

steelypeg,  De La Soul, Steely DanBig Life, Tommy Boy

Listen: Peg / Steely Dan
Peg / Steely Dan

I tell you what, my effort to avoid them failed, and De La Soul became a bit of a guilty pleasure. A double pleasure really, as it got me to lower my guard against Steely Dan. During their heyday, I was way more interested in The Buzzcocks or The Heartbreakers than all their polish. Taste changes with age, mine widens in fact. Because of ‘Eye Know’ I suddenly realized my affection for the sampled hook from ‘Peg’.

And I found I do love a nice UK pressed Steely Dan 7″, especially the promos.

Little Richard / Quincy Jones

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Listen: Money Is / Little Richard
Money Is / Little Richard

How do you take a period piece blaxploitation style soundtrack composition, and make a proper song out of it, one that might actually get heard and become a radio hit? In the case of turning ‘Money Runner’ (below) into ‘Money Is’ (above): bring up the electric guitar chords, the love hangover Rhodes keys and add a RnR legend. VoilĂ .

Oh, don’t forget one other ingredient. Quincy Jones. Check out his discography sometime. How did he do it all….and when? Did this guy ever sleep?

I bet there’s recordings so obscure, so off his radar, even he doesn’t remember. Troll through your old Mercury soundtracks some time. Or just check credits on Mercury releases from the mid 60′s. Start with Lesley Gore.

Not until filing stuff from last summer’s trip to London did it even come to my attention he’d worked with Little Richard at all. It’s constantly a mad dash against time, sorting through piles of promos every trip to Graham Stapleton’s basement shop in Fulham. I just end up grabbing, then reading the fine print a later.

Listen: Money Runner / Quincy Jones
Money Runner / Quincy Jones

Incidental music for films, many times more experimental and mesmerizing than those intended works meant to push the envelope could ever be. The rare talent of turning actions into sounds, like the ending of ‘Money Runner’, is what separates us common people from Quincy Jones.

I never saw the film, but it sure sounds like a heist to me.

Lesley Gore / Quincy Jones

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

LesliePartyUKA, Lesley Gore, Mercury, Quincy Jones, Reprise

Listen: It’s My Party / Lesley Gore LesleyParty.mp3

We had a Christmas lunch today, but friends actually started showing up around 10AM. I find the simplest background music solution for these gatherings to be Music Choice, part of the Time Warner cable selections. Our setup spans the kitchen, den, living room, basically the ground floor, so everyone’s covered. For the more hardcore, it’s off to a whole ‘nother part of the house with the turntables, jukebox, record library, memoribilia, the works, but I digress.

Back at the main floor party, the 60′s channel got everyone’s vote. It was a nice if predictable mix, nothing obscure that might put off a WalMart shopper of course. On comes ‘It’s My Party’. The mood turned up a notch. An all time favorite combined with champagne at 11AM did the trick. Seriously, she sounded great, and I’d been forever meaning to spin some of her 7′s lately. Having spent the last few days trying to file a couple thousand singles that have just enveloped my existence, I happened on a nice original UK A label from Tony’s collection of ‘It’s My Party’ – a repeat play was in order.

LesleyShesFoolPS, Lesley Gore, Mercury, Quincy Jones, Reprise

Listen: She’s A Fool / Lesley Gore LesleyFool.mp3

I keep forgetting that the first 1/3 or so of her Mercury hits were produced by Quincy Jones just after he took over the NY Mercury offices in ’64 (Shelby Singleton and Bob Crewe divided up the last 2/3′s pretty evenly).

Yes, that Quincy Jones. If you want your mouth to drop and eyes to bug, check out his discography. A cat does not have this many lives. There’s hardly a bad one in the bunch.

‘She’s A Fool’ rivaled ‘It’s My Party’ as my favorite for ages. I’d forgotten the autographed sleeve Howard got me one time. Apparently she visited a friend at CBS often back when he was there.

QuincyUKA, Lesley Gore, Mercury, Quincy Jones, Reprise

Listen: Money Runner / Quincy Jones QuincyMoneyRunner.mp3

His many accomplishments included writing and producing some 33 film scores and soundtracks. I’d bet that number is even higher, but even if it’s not, wow, can you imagine? Another of Tony’s singles that almost got filed, but instead has been played about 20 times, is ‘Money Runner’ from the ’71 film/soundtrack THE HEIST. Quincy Jones even dipped his toe into Blaxploitation, with a bit of ‘Shaft’ mixed in. It was this year’s Christmas Day favorite.

Will Lord Warddd play it at Brooklyn Bowl on January 1?

The Impressions

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey / The Impressions

Listen: Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey / The Impressions ImpressionsMighty.mp3

Was it by coincidence the album from which this, and it’s flip side ‘Choice Of Color’, came sported a title THE YOUNG MODS’ FORGOTTEN STORY? What fan of the under appreciated US Blues/RnB/Soul sound, so loved in the UK, would not embrace it whole heartedly? After all, the mods championed Tamla/Motown, James Brown, all things blues, ska and multi racial in the years prior to this 1969 release. Capturing the heroin chic of Harlem, glorified by endless blaxploitation films, ‘Mighty Mighty Spade & Whitey’ was the real theme of racial tensions in every inner city public school. If you lived it, you’d know. Relegated to a B side, it’s a bit of an undiscovered gem.

Impossible now not to respect, even worship, the mere sound of Curtis Mayfield’s fragile falsetto voice, his style was in extreme contrast to the sound of rollicking soul, then dominating the charts. It’s gratifying that he, along with Donny Hathaway, tended to define the mainstream almost overnight.

Grover Washington, Jr.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Masterpiece (Part 1)/ Grover Washington, Jr.

Listen: Masterpiece (Part 1)/ Grover Washington, Jr. GroverMasteriece.mp3

A more perfect Blaxploitation instrumental there is not.


Monday, July 7th, 2008

Listen: Black Byrd / Donald Byrd DonaldByrdBlackByrd.mp3

If I am musically all over the place with these posts, it’s because I like everything. Pretty much all kinds except…modern country or classical, and even then I admit not appreciating those genres and therefore, don’t listen enough to truly know. But I can easily have a foot in both RnB and 60′s UK rock at any given moment (or on the two turntables waiting to do a segue as I amuse myself playing deejay). So, Donald Byrd. I love the Blue Note label for one, it’s 7″ designs were really appealing to me. Not big on brassy jazz, there are always exceptions. Donald Byrd is one, and because this promo copy makes me shake at the knees, an extra break is cut. Plus ‘Black Byrd’ is such a period piece. It’s his only charting single – and one that could probably never be a hit nowadays. At the time, it was just the urban/jazz/funk sound of the street. Today it’s associated with the films of that moment, conveniently coining them and the music as blaxploitation. BLACK CEASAR, FOXY BROWN, SUPERFLY, SLAUGHTER’S BIG RIPOFF etc – I can watch them endlessly. The cars and clothes and shots of a very changed Harlem keep my eyes peeled. ‘Black Byrd’ could have placed perfectly in any. Edited down from the lengthy album version, I was working for a one-stop record distributor upon it’s release and they both sold like hot cakes. Now, it’s getting really difficult finding a clean copy of the single or album for that matter.