Posts Tagged ‘Blaxploitation’

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.

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.

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.