Posts Tagged ‘James Brown’

King Curtis & His Noble Knights

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Listen: Beach Party / King Curtis & His Noble Knights

I’m struggling to find a King Curtis single that I don’t like. Even his questionable cover choices of current day standards during the late 60′s Atco run like ‘ Harper Valley P.T.A.’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ are fun spins on a rainy Sunday. Plus they always sound good in the Seeburg.

But few compare to his Capitol debut from ’62 ‘Beach Party’. What other RnB act was segueing straight into the whiter than white surf craze? None. Ok, so James Brown pulled up to the bumper in time to do a ski party appearance, but King Curtis, he was first.

Yvonne Fair

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

It Should Have Been Me / Yvonne Fair

Listen: It Should Have Been Me / Yvonne Fair YvonneFairShould.mp3

Taking a page right out of the Millie Jackson handbook, Yvonne Fair ripped into Norman Whitfield’s written and produced ‘It Should Have Been Me’. Taken from the equally powerful THE BITCH IS BLACK album, how the fuck this wasn’t a hit in America is just bewildering.

Scaling to #5 in the UK, it went unheard back home and it wasn’t like she was an unknown here. Cutting her teeth as a member of The Chantels and then The James Brown Review, she joined Motown in the early 70′s. Now this song certainly deserved a serious video, still does.

Basement 5

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Listen: Last White Christmas / Basement 5

My holiday contribution, but really just an excuse to post this, having weeded through the B’s this past weekend making room for a new bunch of James Brown UK presses, thereby stumbling on some neighboring singles. Been years since I’d played this, and unfortunately I never ever hear the record name checked nor credited. Almost like it never existed.

Although a pretty happening seasonal single in 1980 this one, complete with original Christmas wrapping paper sleeve. And what a marvel when cranked loud. ‘Last White Christmas’ may be one of the best holiday singles of all time, if I do say so myself.

Roger and I played this on the radio a lot that December. We particularly loved the “Ayatollah this and Ayatolla that” lyric. The whole affair unthreateningly meshed nicely with The Slits and Killing Joke. I guess no one informed Basement 5 they needed a non-stop drip of solid material. Given their encouraging beginnings, it was a surprise when the guys remained cold as soon as the snow melted.

Nonetheless, original intended punk/dub sonic onslaught generally accomplished.

James Brown

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Listen: Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix) / James Brown

Back in the late 80′s, when plundering a label’s master tape library to feed remix mania was prevalent, the UK offices, in particular, had an official field day unearthing soul and funk. They just couldn’t get enough of the stuff, and neither could the British consumer. Polydor’s Urban imprint, in addition to signing new acts that imitated American RnB and hip hop, cornered Polydor’s back catalog remix campaign, with older James Brown material as a flagship.

I can only guess he approved, given it did much to supplement his income, and money can change you, so to speak. Tim Rogers was brought in to do an album’s worth of his remixes, released as IN THE JUNGLE GROOVE during ’88, with ‘The Payback Remix’ reaching #12 in the UK Pop chart when coupled with this, ‘Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (Remix)’ as both a 7″ and 12″ single.

I heard it on Radio 1 almost as much as the A side, and really fell in love with it. I may even prefer it to the original.

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 James Brown Productions: Bill Pinkney / James Crawford / Anna King

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I Do the Jerk / Bill Pinkney

Listen: I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney
I Do The Jerk / Bill Pinkney

There was actually a period in the 60′s when an artist could get away with signing to more than one label at a time, sometimes under different names, sometimes not. Usually, these were all singles deals anyways, I’m guessing, whose shelf life may have been months instead of years. Give someone a few releases and if nothing clicked, keep it all moving and on to the scrap heap they’d go. Not everybody got away with it, specifically James Brown.

As the story goes, while still under obligation to King Records, he upped and signed to Smash, a subsidiary of the Mercury/Philips group. Pretty quickly it was squashed, but as he still owed Smash many sides, James was forced to record as an instrumentalist for the label, specifically playing organ. A big old Hammond at that, thereby helping create amongst other genres, mod jazz, well sort of, as his stuff was mostly a combination of soul & schlock. Kinda black muzak versions you could say. All great listens though, the perfect party soundtrack in it’s day or even now in trendy trust fund pads or retro club nights. Part of his deal with Smash included a production imprint, whereby he did just that, produced other artists for Smash, Mercury and Fontana (another sister label), many bearing the recognizable ‘James Brown Production’ logo. Most famous was Bobby Byrd, his loyal sideman for decades.

Not so famous, but musts nonetheless, found their way, despite little or no marketing/push, onto the Mercury Group’s release schedules.

Like Bill Pinkney’s cash-in, almost Young Rascals rocker, ‘I Do The Jerk’ on Fontana. This was when the Jerk was a dance de jour. Everyone did it, or claimed to know how. Never ever heard ‘I Do The Jerk’ at the time, but mind you, was way to young even if it was played. Most likely, the pop stations went nowhere close, although from tooling the annals of radio playlist history, God bless Google but be prepared to work, some very, very secondary Southern delta markets spun it occasionally.

Strung Out / James Crawford

Listen: Strung Out / James Crawford
Strung Out / James Crawford

The super great, and oddly James Brown similar, James Crawford, released the spectacular ballad ‘Strung Out’ on Mercury. Don’t bother closing your eyes and imagining, you won’t need to. This could easily be the man himself. Quite possibly, buried somewhere in the Universal master tape storage library, which sadly was partially destroyed by fire not that long ago, may exist a James Brown version. Or maybe a vocal guide demo version laid down by producer for artist. Meaning James Brown for James Crawford.

If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Back to Soul / Anna King

Listen: If Somebody Told You / Anna King
If Somebody Told You / Anna King

Which brings this post to the one time featured female vocalist from the touring version of The James Brown Revue. She being Anna King. Good voice, perfect look: processed hair, bullet proofed into place, body tight, sparkle floor length ensembles and no doubt, an onstage sizzling swagger.

She made a few singles, produced by James Brown for Smash. And even an album. As well, she did one 7″ with Bobby Byrd ‘Baby Baby Baby’, which was included on the UK only EP BACK TO SOUL.

Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Listen: Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head Hard?) / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express
Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head Hard?) / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Not sure if this is Dixieland or Swing or whatever. Seems “Caldonia’ gets spelled a little differently depending on who releases it. In fact, it’s even spelled two different ways on this label copy alone.

The James Brown version was my favorite for years and still is, yet lately I’ve been spinning this. Yeah, it’s very SNL but hey, he was the singer of Them and the single sounds just that little bit better given it’s a wlp.

How this was chosen as a single, if hit record was the plan, remains baffling. I do recall reading an interview with Van Morrison one time whereby he claims to deliver albums to the label letting them figure out the rest, a luxury you can bask in if you sell a decent chunk of each release. Does he really pay no attention though?

Listen: What’s Up Crazy Pup / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express
What's Up Crazy Pup / Van Morrison & The Caledonia Express

Hold on, does Van Morrison play an instrument? Actually, I’ve no idea. Presumably not, so other than shouting out “What’s Up Crazy Pup” a few times, I guess he just enjoyed the band stretching it here.

James Brown

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

JamesBrownBoogaloo, James Brown, Smash

Listen: James Brown’s Boo-Ga-Loo / James Brown
James Brown's Boo-Ga-Loo / James Brown

One day, around ’90, I decided to own every last James Brown single from the 60′s and 70′s. It was a most fun challenge, and surprisingly easy. Don’t forget, we were still in the heyday of folks dumping their vinyl for cd. Despite all the unsolvable problems that began with the onset of the cd configuration, it was absolutely a miracle for the vinyl collector. What could be better than the entire world wanting to unload their records?

James Brown’s temporary switch from the King label to Smash lasted a only year or two. Seems he signed one contract before the previous one expired, ultimately settling it all by agreeing to record only instrumentals for Smash. Some fans seem to downplay their interest in the period – not me. Besides, I’m a sucker for any releases from the Mercury Records Group: Philips, Fontana, Blue Rock, Limelight and of course Smash.

The best part of all this being the public tired of his assembly line, contract fulfilling output, so sales declined faithfully with each release. These last few before returning to King became the hardest to find. Good fun in my book.

‘James Brown’s Boo-Ga-Loo’ came and went completely unnoticed. Although the label copy suggested it’s from his NEW BREED album, it’s not. Well, sorta not. The track is actually an edited version of ‘New Breed’ retitled and easily doubles as incidental music for a B movie. No problem.

JamesBrownJimmyMack, James Brown, Smash

Listen: Jimmy Mack / James Brown
Jimmy Mack / James Brown

Equally enamored with muzak renditions of familiar hits meant many of his singles for the label were prime wants like ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’ plus his own covers of ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ and ‘Try Me’ for instance.

The last Smash 7″, and non-LP as well, is a lazy, slightly mundane (and therefore perfect for my tastes) version of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s ‘Jimmy Mack’. As with many of the jazz organists from that period, I bet they all rattled out these one after the other in a day long session, thereby making both recording costs and sales pressure low. Everyone needed a few for party music I guess. Another hard one to find, yet most likely competition is pretty minimal.

Dyke & The Blazers / Wilson Pickett

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

DykeFunky, Dyke & The Blazers, Original Sound, Atlantic, Wilson Pickett

Listen: Funky Broadway (Part 1) / Dyke & The Blazers DykeFunkyBroadway.mp3

Unrefined, impolite and uncouth. Some of the words used to describe Dyke & The Blazers as successful catalysts in the evolution of RnB into Funk. Traveling a parallel musical path to James Brown at the time, their records always maintained a homemade sound, and in fact most of the early 7′s like ‘Funky Broadway’ were just that. Rough, unpolished in-your-face lengthy jams with a focus on feel as opposed to precision, edited into singles – many as Part 1 and Part 2′s.

Having relocated to Phoenix, Dyke and band were always marketed as local, being originally from Buffalo. Luckily, that meant ‘Funky Broadway’ was ever present during what I recall being a very cold and snowy upstate winter ’67, though not until April did it make the Billboard chart. Peaking in one market, then spreading to the next, meant it’s chart high of #65 didn’t really represent the sizable hit the single actually was.

Worth getting are both the WE GOT MORE SOUL anthology cd and accompanying double vinyl edition which includes the extended versions of their biggest breaks, both on UK’s Ace Records label.

WilsonFunkyUS, Wislon Pickett, Atlantic

WilsonFunkyBroad, Dyke & The Blazers, Original Sound, Atlantic, Wilson Pickett

Listen: Funky Broadway / Wilson Pickett WilsonFunkyBroadway.mp3

Why waste a hit. Given the purity of Dyke & The Blazers’ chitlin’ circuit original, it wasn’t allowed full exposure on most Top 40′s. Even in ’67, a slicker produced, Motown-like, less street sound was required for airplay. In no time, Atlantic got the wicked Pickett to bring it home chartwise, hitting #1 RnB in autumn ’67, less than a year after the original first hit the charts earlier that same year.

Fred & The New J.B.’s

Friday, December 18th, 2009

FredJBsBreakin1, Fred Wesley & The New J.B.'s, Fred Wesley, The J.B.'s, James Brown, People, Polydor

Listen: Breakin’ Bread / Fred & The New J.B.’s FredWEsleyBreakinBread.mp3

It was hard to keep up with their constant and annoyingly slight, name changes. Does one file all Fred Wesley & The J.B’s singles together despite the little details, or by the exact artist name as it appears on the label? A dilemma for the meticulous record collector. I stuck to my rule: file exactly as the label reads. All record alphabetical by artist, then chronologically within each. Hence my Fred/J.B.’s singles are in several places on the wall shelves. I had to check a few spots before tracking this one down. Every time I file it away, I swear I’ll remember it’s exact location next play. Never happens.

As mentioned in prior posts, I’m a sucker for records about food. None better than this ‘NEW NEW SUPER HEAVY FUNK PRODUCTION BY JAMES BROWN’ to satiate that appetite.

Will Lord Warddd play this when he dj’s The Funk Hangover Party at Brooklyn Bowl on January 1?

Spyder Turner

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

spyderstand, MGM, Spyder Turner, Billy Stewart, Ben E. King, Sirius, James Brown, Eddie Kendricks

Listen: Stand By Me / Spyder Turner Spyder.mp3

This version of ‘Stand By Me’ is the one way too many people overlooked or more likely, sadly never heard – despite it being a big US hit (#3 Pop, #12 RnB) in ’67. The accompanying album is great too. If you stumble on a copy, buy it.

Credit to Sirius Radio. I caught this one while listening during a recent JetBlue flight. I don’t recall the station’s name, maybe The Joint or something like that.

A possible blame for his short career may indeed be MGM Records. They just didn’t have the roster, and therefore the leverage, when it came to RnB. A+ for trying though.

Listen through until the end – he does some killer vocal impersonations. The Billy Stewart take is spot on and Jackie Wilson’s is priceless. They’re all pretty sweet.

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.