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Dust, Crackle and Pop: Vinyl cuts

August 12th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Today, August 12, is International Vinyl Record Day. To mark the event, here are a few songs I”ve ripped from my LPs lately. I have old LPs stashed all over the house. Most of them ““ almost all of them ““ have not been played in more than a decade, some in more than two decades. None was played after my son, then three or four years old, broke the stylus on my Technics turntable. It has been great playing some of these old records again, and in some cases painful as I realise that the music wasn”t as great as my memory had deceived me to think. These songs here did not disappoint. Happy Vinyl Record Day.

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Tony Schilder ““ Madeleine.mp3
tony_schilder Tony Schilder is now retired, but in his day he was a keyboard maestro in the field of South African jazz-fusion. His trio regularly featured guest artists, of whom the internationally best known is Jonathan Butler. Schilder”s trio was the houseband of the Montreal nightclub in Cape Town”s Manenberg (which lent its name, inaccurately spelt, to Dollar Brand”s jazz opus), an impoverished, gang-riddled township established by the apartheid regime for South Africans classified as “Coloured” (that is, people of mixed race). In that community”s vibrant nightclub scene, Montreal was the place to be in the 1980s. It had style and Cape Town”s great artists would regularly appear there, such as frequent Schilder collaborator Robbie Jansen (a gifted saxophonist and vocalists, whose unrecorded version of Marvin Gaye”s What”s Going On is the best I”ve heard) or Dougie Schrikker, “the Frank Sinatra of the Cape Flats”.

The cheerful Madeleine (such a beautiful name) was the highlight in Schilder”s sets; it”s opening keyboard bar alerting the serious jazz dancers (and by this I mean Cape Town jazz-dancing, which is a sexier version of ballroom styles) to take to the dancefloor. Strangely Madeleine didn”t appear on his CD of re-recorded classics released in 1995. The 1985 LP it came from, Introducing the Music of Tony Schilder, has never been released on CD, to my knowledge. The song features Danny Butler on vocals, and his brother Jonathan on guitar (and check out his great solo).

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The Four Tops & The Supremes – Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).mp3
four_tops_supremes The famous version, of course, is that by Diana Ross, her first solo single after splitting from the Supremes. Shortly after La Ross recorded the Ashford & Simpson composition in 1970, the Supremes (now fronted by Jean Terrell) recorded it with the Four Tops, creating a more joyous version than Diana”s, which was lovely but not particularly soulful in arrangement or vocal delivery. I will be honest and admit that I had forgotten I even had this until last weekend, when I ripped most of the tracks featured here. It”s on a collection of soul tracks released in 1974 which I picked up cheaply some 20 years ago in a second-hand shop. Whatever I paid for it, this song alone made it a bargain.

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The Mystics – Hushabye.mp3
MYSTICS American readers of a certain age may well remember this: Hushabye was the song with which the legendary DJ Alan Freed closed his televised Big Beat Show. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, it was released in 1959 by the New York doo wop group The Mystics, Italian-Americans from Bensonhurst. A year after Hushabye was released, a young Paul Simon (then calling himself Jerry Landis) joined as lead singer, albeit only very briefly.

The Mystics were supposed to be given Pomus/Shuman”s A Teenager In Love, which in the event was recorded to great commercial success by Dion & the Belmonts. The record label, Laurie Records, were not too pleased, it seems, and ordered the songwriters to come up with a new tune for The Mystics. The next day, Hushabye was ready. It became a #20 hit in summer 1959. Five years later, the Beach Boys recorded a cover for their All Summer Long album.

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The Crusaders ““ So Far Away (live).mp3
crusaders Jazz legends The Crusaders covered Carole King”s So Far Away twice. The studio version is nice; the live take, from 1974″s Scratch: Live At The Roxy, is brilliant. It”s warm and cool, exciting and relaxing. And it sounds barely like the original tune. At 1:54 trombonist Wayne Henderson begins a note which he holds continuously for a minute, driving the crowd mad with concern for his safety (one member shouts “stop!”) before Sample, Hooper, Felder, Carlton and Popwell resume to finish the song off in a rhapsodic orgasm.

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Mungo Jerry ““ Have A Whiff On Me.mp3
mungo_jerry A typically exuberant Mungo Jerry number with its boogie woogie piano, improvised instrument, percussive oral noises and Ray Dorset”s obligatory scat and exclamation of “all right, all right, all right”. Most of Mungo Jerry”s tracks sounded like they were remakes of old songs, but few actually were. Have A Whiff On Me is an exception; it was an old blues song which the folk/blues historians John and Alan Lomax picked up from James “Ironhead” Baker (he of Black Betty original obscurity) and Lead Belly, then titled Take A Whiff On Me. It was recorded subsequently by folk singers such as Woody Gutrie, Cisco Houston and, in 1970, by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. A “whiff” is slang for cocaine, and the song is alternatively known as Cocaine Habit Blues.

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Misty In Roots ““ Own Them Control Them.mp3
misty_in_roots The regular reader will have noticed that this blog features very little by way of reggae (one Peter Tosh track, and one by Freddie McGregor in 321 posts). For a brief time in the mid-“˜80s I was into reggae, absorbed a lot of it, and then got bored with it. During that fleeting flirtation, I bought the 12″ of Own Them Control Them by the London band Misty In Roots. It was not a hit ““ none of the group”s single bothered the UK Top 75 ““ and I hadn”t heard it for a very long time. When I did, it did remind me why I bought the record in first place: it”s very good indeed.

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Christopher Plummer & Phillip Glasser ““ Never Say Never.mp3
american_tail Before Disney had their massive resurgence following 1989″s A Little Mermaid, the studio had lost its mojo It took Universal with the Steven Spielberg produced An American Tail in 1986 to show Disney the way to make great animated films again (even if some of them were too saccharine for my taste). The adventures of the immigrant mouse Fievel were charming, certainly in the first film. Children in film can be very endearing or very annoying. Phillip Glasser, barely eight-years-old at the time, voiced Fievel beautifully. His reprimand to Plummer”s French Statue-of-Liberty-building pidgeon for using the word “never” is very cute without being too sugary.

The song, an old-style production number by James Horner which classic Disney would have been proud of, was set early in the movie. Fievel has arrived in America but had lost his family, with whom he was immigrating from Russia (on the false premise that there are no cats there). Henri the pidgeon encourages Fievel not to give up. And, “” ***SPOILER ALERT*** “” you”d never guess it, but Fievel actually does find his family. Phew!

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George Fenton ““ The Funeral (Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika).mp3
cry_freedom We started with a bit of South African music, and here we wrap up with the greatest ever South African song which in a truncated form and combined in a medley with the old apartheid-era anthem Die Stem is part of South Africa”s current national anthem. To this day, I refuse to sing the apartheid-anthem portion, an act of recalcitrance which many South Africans with much greater grievances than I can lay claim to evidently do not share, for they sing it with gusto.

This recording is from the 1987 film Cry Freedom, in which Denzil Washington played the murdered anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko. Biko represented the radical Black Consciousness Movement, which held that liberation must come from black people and not through the mediation of whites. This placed him closer to the Pan African Congress, a breakaway from the African National Congress of Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela. That”s why this version of Nkosi Sikelel” iAfrika includes parts of the anthem which the ANC (and, in the “˜80s, its internal federation, the United Democratic Front) excluded. Written by a Methodist school teacher named Enoch Sontonga in 1897, it was originally a Christian hymn ““ the title means God Save Africa ““ before in 1927 one Samuel Mqhayi added further verses to it.

The version here, scoring Biko”s funeral on 25 September 1977, is dramatically orchestrated by George Fenton, starting off with a solo by Thuli Dumakude, with the choir directed by the great Jonas Gwangwa. It is real goosepimple stuff.

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On International Vinyl Record Day, don”t forget to visit those blogs which heroically keep the memory of crackling, dusty vinyl alive. These include AM Then FM, The Hits Just Keep On Coming, The Vinyl District, Great Vinyl Meltdown, Dusty Sevens, Funky16Corners, Dust And Grooves, and Dr Forrest”s Cheese Factory for the truly weird stuff (apologies to the fine vinyl blogs that I have neglected to mention).

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  1. shadreck
    August 12th, 2009 at 04:17 | #1

    Much appreciated, particularly the George Fenton track. Many thanks

  2. August 12th, 2009 at 16:22 | #2

    That Supremes / Four Tops track is fantastic. I like the Diana Ross version, but this is so much better.

  3. August 12th, 2009 at 17:41 | #3

    Great post – loved the Fenton. (I’m still doing vinyl as well.)

  4. nick
    August 13th, 2009 at 13:07 | #4

    Another top post Dude, some great tracks. The ‘American Tail’ reference had me smiling to myself remembering my then 7yo daughter doing impresions of the sherrif and giving me the ‘layzee eye’ for weeks. Thanks man.

  5. Walter
    August 16th, 2009 at 02:22 | #5

    ‘Have a whiff’ goes back a little further than the Lomaxes.

    This traditional, most likely of black origin was first recorded in 1927 by (white) Charlie Poole’s North Carolina Ramblers in a watered down version as ‘Take A Drink On Me’. It became also a big British hit for Lonnie Donegan in the early 60s. First annotation of the song as ‘Honey, Take A One On Me’ in Howard Odum’s 1911 ‘Folk-song and
    Folk-poetry as found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes: Part 1’.

    Thanks for MJ, never heard that one.

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