Posts Tagged ‘Carl Davis’

Jackie Wilson

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Listen: Baby Workout / Jackie Wilson

It’s strange how time has diminished the apparent power and originality once associated with Jackie Wilson.

Read Doug Carter’s THE BLACK ELVIS: JACKIE WILSON. You won’t be able to put it down, nor will you understand why he didn’t reach legendary status like those who credited him with their inspiration: Michael Jackson, James Brown and Elvis Presley for starters.

On stage, his knee drops, splits, spins, one footed across-the-floor slides became the blueprint from which they, and many others, lifted, crowning him Mr. Excitement. As a result of the book, I found myself trolling through a surprisingly large section of about thirty Jackie Wilson singles, involuntarily amassed through the years, sure that one day, I’d need them. Well that day arrived even before the book’s halfway mark. Didn’t take much to pull out and spin the pristine pressing, on original orange labelled Brunswick, of ‘Baby Workout’, a huge record in ’63 (#5 Pop). Workout being the giveaway word, this title held great potential. No let down there.

House producer Dick Jacobs, ann under appreciated band leader and executive, took responsibility for A&Ring many of Jackie Wilson’s records during the period. His clean, safe backing vocals and big orchestral arrangements, often dismissed and unfairly overlooked, actually helped to bring out the grit in both Jackie Wilson’s voice and songwriting. According to many, the combination of these two talents led to some of the earliest soul recordings, many becoming mainstream hits, like ‘Baby Workout’.

Listen: Soul Galore / Jackie Wilson

The post Dick Jacobs era resulted in Carl Davis being tasked the Jackie Wilson production responsibilities. One of their first works together, ‘Soul Galore’, got no traction upon release, somehow failing to pick up much airplay, even on the RnB stations. But by the early 70′s, it qualified as one of Jackie Wilson’s biggest Northern Soul successes, thereby being reissued, via the pressing pictured above.

Luckily, a very typical trait of Carl Davis’ was to consistently incorporate pumped up, brass arrangements into swinging soul songs, thereby helping give Jackie Wilson one of his biggest and ultimately final mainstream hits with ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’ a year or so later in ’67.

The Vibrations

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Listen: End Up Crying / The Vibrations VibrationsEndUp.mp3

Been meaning to create a section somewhere on the blog’s layout for great double siders. Once I do, this will reside in a new home. Until then….

I admit it, my knees go weak for the sight of a 60′s Okeh pressing in it’s original company sleeve. Usually I prefer a dj copy of any record, but with a few labels, Okeh being one, I love both.

These records always struggled for pop airplay in those days, well it’s still that way I guess. Just baffles me how something as good as ‘End Up Crying’ didn’t catch fire. Probably down to hindsight being 20/20. At the time, this was most likely considered just another Motown-lite, having peaked at 130 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart in May ’65. If not for that, there’d be no Northern Soul, so give thanks at the end of the day.

Listen: Ain’t Love That Way / The Vibrations VibrationsAintThatLove.mp3

To think though, Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield were all over Okeh releases, this being just one. Talk about an insurance policy. Despite all eyes and Northern Soul book values focusing on the A side, ‘Ain’t Love That Way’ feels equally deserving of such status. It might be the one I ultimately favor. I think.

Check my previous post on The Vibrations, and how I was lucky enough to see them live as a little kid, vivid memory cells still intact of their on stage somersaults, backdrops and flips.

Until you find your own version of this 7″, I can’t recommend strongly enough getting THE VIBRATING VIBRATIONS:THE OKEH AND EPIC SINGLES 1963-1968, released last year by UK’s Ace/Kent label – if only for the booklet.

Mary Wells

Friday, February 26th, 2010

MaryWellsBeatMeUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsPunchUK, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: You Beat Me To The Punch / Mary Wells MaryWellsPunch.mp3

I agree with those who say Mary Wells was the first lady of Motown, well if I turn a blind eye to Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell that is. I guess because she had the biggest pop crossover hit out of the bunch with ‘My Guy’ sort of justifies it. Whatever, she had the voice and the presence. There are some fantastic shots of her on various UK album sleeves, and that blond hair dye job turned brassy orange – I just love it.

No question, she and Smokey Robinson were a perfect match and gave her the biggest successes. Same with The Marvelettes. It’s just something about his productions, maybe it’s the drum sound or use of vibes combined with handclaps. Some magic recipe was definitely at work, I never could put my finger on it though.

MaryWellsTwoUSA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole
MaryWellsTwoUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Two Lovers / Mary Wells MaryWellsTwoLovers.mp3

Then there’s the lyrical twist, most prevalent on ‘Two Lovers’. It doesn’t get much more clever than this. What happens at the end of this song again, how does the two lovers thing play out? I forget every time.

It’s a drag about the royalty issue that drove Mary Wells from Motown. Once burned, it’s sometimes hard for certain folks to move beyond it – by all counts, that summed up her attitude toward Berry Gordy. And so the downward spiral began.

MaryWellsDearLover, Mary Wells, Atco, Carl Davis
MaryWellsDearLoverUKA, Mary Wells, Atco, Motown, Oriole

Listen: Dear Lover / Mary Wells MaryWellsDearLover.mp3

The fact that ‘Dear Lover’ was substandard compared to any of the Smokey songs, in a way, became the appeal. I do love a struggle to polish up something fairly mediocre in the world of singles and follow-ups. I find it rather interesting, the way all parties involved go through the motions, hoping no one else will notice that it’s actually not very good.

In the case of ‘Dear Lover’, seems producer Carl Davis basically tried copying the Motown sound – unsuccessfully. Is that a description of Northern Soul or what? Exactly the whole point of the genre, making substandard copy attempts glorious in their own way.

Probably the most Northern of any Mary Wells track, it’s absolutely become a favorite.