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Any Major Southern Soul

November 19th, 2020 7 comments

 

After last week’s (pleasingly popular) freebirding mix of Southern Rock, it seems right to follow that up with a dose of soul music. I had two concepts in mind: keeping it geographically consistent with a set of Southern Soul, or congratulating Philadelphia for pushing President-elect Joe Biden over the needed 270 electorate votes. Well, there will be a Philly soul mix before too long, but here we are keeping it south.

Southern Soul is not an easy thing to define, less so because migration north saw similar sounds being created in places like Chicago. There isn’t really one Southern soul sound, though when you hear it, you usually can place it. When you hear horns, especially those striking jubilant tones followed soon by mournful minor notes (or vice versa) by the Memphis Horns, you might have a Southern Soul record. If it features a funky bass even on ballads, you might have a Southern Soul record. If the singer sounds like he or she is shouting, even when they aren’t, you might have a Southern Soul record. And so on…

Or use King Curtis’ recipe for Memphis Soul Stew: half a teacup of bass, a pound of fatback drums, four tablespoons of boiling Memphis guitars, just a little pinch of organ, and half a pint of horn…

For the purposes of this mix, all artists were born in the south, and their songs were recorded in the south, for labels such as Stax, Hi, Goldwax, Murco or Atlantic. I didn’t investigate whether every song here satisfies these criteria (Mitty Collier, for example recorded on Chess in Chicago, but came from the south); if they don’t, return to the previous paragraph.

Some obvious acts are missing — notably Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave. But Aretha’s sister Erma is represented. And two singers here are cousins: Percy Sledge and Jimmy Hughes.

As always, CD-R length, homestewed covers, PW in comments.

1. The Soul Children – Super Soul (1969)
2. Wilson Pickett – Don’t Fight It (1965)
3. Brenton Wood – Baby You Got It (1967)
4. Clarence Carter – Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise) (1970)
5. Spencer Wiggins – The Power Of A Woman (1967)
6. Bettye Swann – Tell It Like It Is (1968)
7. James Carr – A Lucky Loser (1967)
8. Syl Johnson – That’s Just My Luck (1975)
9. Phillip Mitchell – Turning Over The Ground (1973)
10. Jackie Moore – Precious Precious (1970)
11. Al Green – What a Wonderful Thing Love Is (1972)
12. Erma Coffee – You Made Me What I Am (1973)
13. Eddy ‘G’ Giles – Happy Man (1967)
14. Otis Redding – You Don’t Miss Your Water (1965)
15. Percy Sledge – The Dark End of the Street (1967)
16. Carla Thomas – A Woman’s Love (1964)
17. Don Covay – Everything Gonna Be Everything (1966)
18. Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love (1968)
19. Bobby Rush – Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man (1972)
20. Eddie Floyd – Things Get Better (1966)
21. Otis Clay – Brand New Thing (1971)
22. Marion Ester – Not Guilty (1969)
23. O.V. Wright – You’re Gonna Make Me Cry (1965)
24. Mitty Collier – It Looks Like Rain (1965)
25. Reuben Bell & The Casanovas – It’s Not That Easy (1968)
26. Erma Franklin – You’ve Been Cancelled (1969)
27. Jimmy Hughes – Neighbour Neighbour (1964)
28. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew (1967)

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Any Major Southern Rock

November 12th, 2020 11 comments

After the events of last week, I thought some people may need a little solace through the medium of music. So here’s a mix of Southern Rock songs which should unite the blue and the red and the orange in displays of face-contorting air-guitar solos.

Of course, one of the great air-guitar songs is Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That doesn’t feature here. Nor does this mix feature their southern pride anthem Sweet Home Alabama. Nor Charlie Daniels’ The South Is Going To Do It Again — though both acts feature here, naturally.

The closest we come to Confederation flag-waving here is the opening track, which became an earworm whenever US election coverage mentioned Alleghene County in Pennsylvania. I had to remind myself that the song is about the land Dewey Crowe’s cousins from Justified (how would they have voted, I wonder).

Molly Hatchet’s Gator Country cites many of the fellow Southern Rock acts who appear on this mix, by way of humorous one-upmanship in defence of Florida’s superiority. “I’ve been to Alabama, people ain’t a whole lot to see; Skynyrd says it’s a real sweet home but it ain’t nothing to me. Charlie Daniels will tell you the good Lord lives in Tennessee, ha! But I’m going back to gator country where the wine and the women are free.”

Richard “Dickey” Betts gets namechecked, too. The guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band takes the lead vocals and lead guitar on the track featured here, which is also mentioned on Gator Country.

And how exactly do we define Southern Rock? According to Wikipedia, it drives from rock & roll, country and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitars and vocals. So far so easy, but who qualifies for inclusion and who doesn’t? Well, one condition ought to be origin in the southern states of the US, and some kind of lyrical affinity with the region. Some acts that are often (but not invariably) included in lists of Southern Rock acts are Creedence Clearwater Revival (from California) and The Band (Canada). Of course, the latter included Levon Helms, who was from Arkansas and sings lead on the featured track. How purist should one be about such things? I don’t know, but I excluded the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Orleans, because they don’t really sound like the others.

If this mix is popular, there will be a second volume. If so, I might extend it beyond the 1970s (which I do here once) to include acts like Drive-By Truckers, .38 Special, Doc Holliday, Georgia Satellites, Bishop Black or the Black Crowes. If that happens, rest assured that Kid Rock will not feature.

No Confederate flags may be flown while listening to this mix. As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-gatorwrestled covers.  PW in comments.

1. Molly Hatchet – Gator Country (1978)
2. Wet Willie – Country Side Of Life (1974)
3. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken (1973)
4. Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See (1973)
5. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man (1973)
6. Charlie Daniels Band – High Lonesome (1976)
7. Boondoggle & Balderdash – I’ve Been Delayed (1971)
8. The Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man (1973)
9. Ozark Mountain Daredevils – If You Want To Get To Heaven (1973)
10. Black Oak Arkansas – Uncle Lijiah (1971)
11. Barefoot Jerry – Smokies (1975)
12. The Band – Up On Cripple Creek (1969)
13. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Someday Never Comes (1972)
14. Blackfoot – Diary Of A Workingman (1981)
15. The Outlaws – Green Grass & High Tides (1975)
16. Edgar Winter’s White Trash – Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo (1972)
17. ZZ Top – Tush (1974)
18. Elvin Bishop – Have A Good Time (1975)

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In Memoriam – October 2020

November 5th, 2020 6 comments

 

Do you hear the people sing? The remarkable man who wrote those words for the musical Les Misérables died in October, as did two triple-named country outlaw legends, two reggae pioneers, and three men who gave their names to eminent bands. Fans of The Originals will enjoy hearing the first recordings of hits for Waylon Jennings (I’m A Ramblin’ Man), Willie Nelson (Whiskey River) and the classic Mr Bojangles.

The Professor
In his young days, Spencer Davis almost casually came into contact with future music legends, a status he himself attained before he was 30. One of his early bands included future Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (then still William Perks). Then he got a girlfriend called Christine Perfect, who as Christine McVie became a creative force in Fleetwood Mac. And in 1963, Davis discovered 15-year-old Stevie Winwood and roped him and Stevie’s brother Muff into the band that would became the Spencer Davis Group. The band would rack up for UK Top 10 hits and two consecutive UK #1s, all with Stevie on vocals, all ’60s classics, especially Keep On Running and Gimme Some Lovin’.

The band stopped running in 1969, after Stevie had decamped to form Traffic two years earlier. Davis, known by many as “Professor” due to his university education — he had studied German, a language in which the band recorded a couple of novelty records — went to the US and recorded a couple of success-evading albums, reformed an iteration of the Spencer Davis Group to little interest. By the mid-1970s he was working as an executive for Island Records.

The Axeman
Confession time: much as I admire the technical skills and acknowledge the influence of the guitar soloing of Eddie Van Halen, they never were my cup of vodka & coke. Of course they were quite breathtaking in their technique, as is the expertise in synchronised swimming. But that should not detract from how they, and Eddie’s band, practically set the 1980s “hair rock” craze in motion. Eddie was one of the pivotal figures in rock history, and also in pop: his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, which at the time sounded super-hard, helped metal cross over into pop.

The Soul-Reggae Pioneer
Soul singer Johnny Nash was one of the pioneers of reggae in the UK especially. A superb soul singer, Nash recorded since he was 18 in 1958, but the decisive event was when he moved to Jamaica in the 1965. There he was influenced by the rising rocksteady scene, and recorded in that genre himself. That fusion of what would become known as reggae and US soul brought Nash three Top 10 hits in the UK in 1968/69. Three years later he had a #13 hit with a version of Stir It Up, the song by Bob Marley, who still had to break internationally. But soon came Nash’s own anthem: the much-covered I Can See Clearly Now. Another three years later, he topped the UK charts with the lilting reggae-soul number Tears On My Pillow. But that style wasn’t his only trick: Nash also released some very good soul albums, until he semi-retired from the music business in 1980.

The Drumming Centenarian
We have featured several centenarians over the years, but was any as old as 107? That is the age jazz drummer Viola Smith reached before she died five weeks short of her 108th. Her career went back to the 1920s when her concert hall-owner father set up his eight daughters in an all-girl band which he called the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra (later Smith Sisters Orchestra). As her five elder sisters chose all the instruments Viola wanted to play, she settled for drums. The band broke out in the early 1930s, but by 1938 Viola and sister Mildred formed their own all-female swing band, The Coquettes, which lasted till Mildred got married in 1942. Viola then joined the Hour of Charm Orchestra, also all-female, in which she earned the reputation of being “the female Gene Krupa”. All these bands, and some that followed, were stage acts who didn’t put their music to record.

Not surprisingly, starting in the early ‘40s, Viola advocated for equality between men and women in music. In an interview on her 107th birthday last year, Smith said she still drummed on stage occasionally.

The Gospel-Soul Man
In the 1970s, few gospel groups crossed over as well as The Rance Allen Group, a band of three brothers led by, you guessed it, Rance Allen. The lyrics might have been about the Christian faith, though even then many could be taken as inspirational, but the music was soul; channeling Chi-Lites or Sly Stone rather than Andrae Crouch. Indeed, in their performance at the legendary Wattstax festival, Rance and brothers referenced Dance To The Music after delivering a shredding guitar solo. In that way, the group paved the way for acts like Kirk Franklin and The Winans.

Rance himself was a powerful singer with a great range; he could sing ballads and also hit the high notes like the funkiest soul screamer. Later was made a bishop in his church.

The Mr Bojangles Writer
Outlaw country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker will always be remembered for writing the great Mr Bojangles, a song about a street performer whom he met in a holding cell in 1965. The story of that featured in The Originals: The Classics. Walker never reached the heights of fellow Outlaw singers, like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but he was influential enough to receive a namecheck in Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas (“Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Jerry Jeff’s train songs…”).

The Other Outlaw
It was a bad month indeed for outlaw country musicians with three names: shortly after Walker, Billy Joe Shaver died (David Allen Coe and Michael Martin Murphey must be getting nervous now). Like Walker, Shaver was a collaborator with Waylon Jennings. And where Jennings was namechecked by Jennings, Shaver was mentioned in song by Bob Dylan (on 2009’s I Feel a Change Comin’ On). Shaver recorded 17 studio albums in his time, but he was especially prolific as a songwriter whose compositions were recorded by other big names in country.  As it happens, Jerry Jeff Walker was among them, featuring here with one of Shaver’s finest songs.

Shaver certainly was a character: In 2007, he shot a fellow named Billy Bryant Coker in the face with a handgun. Luckily, Coker’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. Shaver said he had acted in self-defence after Coker threatened him with a knife. According to witnesses, Shaver had asked Coker before shooting: “Where do you want it?” Having shot the guy, he demanded: “Tell me you are sorry. Nobody tells me to shut up.” Some years later Shaver told NPR that Coker indeed said “I’m sorry” after being shot. The singer said that Coker had been a bully and “I hit him right between a mother and a fucker.” A court acquitted Shaver.

The Writer
Here’s a thought: the same guy who wrote the lyrics for the silly novelty records by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in the early 1960s (including the vaguely racist Goodness Gracious Me) later wrote the profound and moving lyrics for the musical Les Misérables. South African-born English writer Herbert Kretzmer (whose brother went on to become mayor of Johannesburg) also wrote the English lyrics for the Charles Aznavour hit She, the Streisand favourite When You Gotta Go, the much-covered Yesterday When I Was Young, and — within hours of John F Kennedy’s assassination — the tribute song In The Summer Of His Years.

Kretzmer was also an award-winning journalist in Britain, as a long-running TV critic and as an interviewer of the likes of John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Henry Miller, Cary Grant and Duke Ellington.

As before, this post is included in PDF format in the package.

Lisa Schouw, South African-born singer of Australian band Girl Overboard, on Oct. 2
Girl Overboard – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1989, also as co-writer)

Cookie Monsta, 31, British dubstep producer, on Oct. 2

Anthony Galindo, 41, Venezuelan singer, suicide on Oct. 3

Béatrice Arnac, 89, French singer, composer and actress, on Oct. 5
Béatrice Arnac – Athée ou à Té (1973)

Eddie Van Halen, 65, Dutch-born guitarist, composer, co-founder of Van Halen, on Oct. 6
Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (1978)
Nicolette Larson – Can’t Get Away From You (1979, on guitar)
Michael Jackson – Beat It (1982, on guitar)
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher (1984)

Johnny Nash, 80, singer-songwriter, on Oct. 6
Johnny Nash – Love Ain’t Nothin’ (1964)
Johnny Nash – You Got Soul (1968)
Johnny Nash – Say It Ain’t True (1975)
Ray Charles – I Can See Clearly Now (1978, as writer)

Bunny Lee, 79, Jamaican reggae producer, on Oct. 6
Delroy Wilson – Better Must Come (1971, as writer and producer)
Eric Donaldson – Cherry Oh Baby (1971, as producer)

Reverend John Wilkins, 76, blues musician, on Oct. 6
Reverend John Wilkins – Trouble (2020) ORDER

Ray Pennington, 86, country singer-songwriter, in a fire on Oct. 7
Ray Pennington – Ramblin’ Man (1967, also as writer)

Brian Locking, 81, bassist with British guitar band The Shadows (1962-63), on Oct. 8
The Shadows – Dance On (1963)
Donovan – Catch The Wind (1965, on bass)

Pierre Kezdy, 58, punk bass player, on Oct. 9

David Refael ben Ami, 70, Israeli singer, COVID-19 on Oct. 9

Harold Betters, 92, jazz trombonist, on Oct. 11
Harold Betters – Do Anything You Wanna (1969)

Kim Massie, 63, blues singer, on Oct. 12

Saint Dog, 44, rapper with Kottonmouth Kings, on Oct. 13
Kottonmouth Kings – Life Ain’t What It Seems (1998)

Paul Matters, bassist of AC/DC (1975), on Oct. 14

Herbert Kretzmer, 95, South African-born lyricist, on Oct. 14
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Bangers & Mash (1961, as lyricist)
Dusty Springfield – Yesterday When I Was Young (1972, as lyricst)
Charles Aznavour – She (1974, as lyricist)
Les Misérables Cast (London) – One Day More (1985, as lyricist)

Dave Munden, 76, English drummer and singer with The Tremeloes, on Oct. 15
The Tremeloes – Even The Bad Times Are Good (1967)
The Tremeloes – Me And My Life

Johnny Bush, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 16
Johnny Bush – Whiskey River (1972, also as co-writer)

Toshinori Kondo, 71, Japanese avant garde jazz trumpeter, on Oct. 17

Gordon Haskell, 74, English singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 17
King Crimson – Lady Of The Dancing Water (1970l, as member on bass)
Gordon Haskell – How Wonderful You Are (2001)

José Padilla, 64, Spanish DJ, producer of Café del Mar CDs, on Oct. 18
José Padilla feat. Angela John – Who Do You Love (1998)

Chet ‘JR’ White, 40, bassist with Indie band Girls, producer, on Oct. 18
Girls – Lust For Life (2009, also as producer)

Alfredo Cerruti, 78, Italian producer, singer, author, on Oct. 18

Tony Lewis, 62, bassist, songwriter with English band The Outfield, on Oct. 19
The Outfield – Your Love (1985)

Overton Berry, 84, jazz pianist, on Oct. 19

Spencer Davis, 81, Welsh musician, on Oct. 19
Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running (1965)
Spencer Davis Group – Det war in Schöneberg (1966)
Spencer Davis Group – Mr Second Class (1969)

Viola Smith, 107, American drummer, on Oct. 21
The Coquettes – The Snake Charmer (1939)

Margie Bowes, 79, country singer, on Oct. 22
Margie Bowes – Poor Old Heartsick Me (1959)

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 23
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Stoney (1970)
Jerry Jeff Walker – L.A. Freeway (1972)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Pissin’ In The Wind (1975)

Cal Vin, 35, Zimbabwean singer and rapper, in a hit-and-run on Oct. 24

Stan Kesler, 92, songwriter, musician and producer, on Oct. 26
Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (1955, as writer)
Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – Wooly Bully (1965, as producer)

Dolores Abril, 86, Spanish folkloric singer, on Oct. 26

Cano Estremera, 62, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Oct. 27

Billy Joe Shaver, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Billy Joe Shaver – Black Rose (1973)
The Allman Brothers Band – Sweet Mama (1975, as writer)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Old Five And Dimers Like Me (1976, as writer)
Billy Joe Shaver with Kris Kristofferson – No Earthly Good (2007)

Lou Pallo, 86, guitarist with Les Paul and His Trio, on Oct. 27

James Broad, singer, guitarist, songwriter with UK indie band Silver Sun, on Oct. 30
Silver Sun – Golden Skin (1997)

Rance Allen, 71, gospel singer and bandleader, on Oct. 31
The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head (1972, live at Wattstax)
The Rance Allen Group – Harlem Heaven (1975)
The Rance Allen Group – Some People (1980)

Marc Fosset, 71, French jazz guitarist, on Oct. 31

Sean Connery, 90, Scottish actor, on Oct. 31
Janet Munro & Sean Connery – Pretty Irish Girl (1959)

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Standing Together

November 2nd, 2020 27 comments

 

 

Dedicated followers of this quiet corner of the Internet might have found the site down for the past week. What happened? Well, it got attacked by hackers, infesting it with malware. I like to blame the spraytanned sphinctermouth’s agents for it, but it might just have been a coincidence that it followed the post of songs about orange.

Fixing the damage was quite expensive, and due to my current circumstances (thanks, 2020!) beyond my immediate possibilities. I posted of my woes on Facebook, and a number of followers came through in a big way, chipping in with contributions that enabled me to pay a service that removes malware and — importantly, as it turns out — protect me from Sphinctermouth’s agents.

This awkwardly-named mix is my thanks to the people who contributed so generously. It tells of friendship and solidarity. And, in good halfhearted fashion, it’s absurdly eclectic. So we have Syl Johnson covering The Beatles in funky fashion on an LP titled Is It Because I Am Black?, and eight tracks later a Beatle sings a kids’ song. And… I wasn’t aiming for irony. Yes, I’ll say it: I like We All Stand Together. It’s cute, it has a nice melody, and it is highly satisfying to sing along to it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

The reaction of people who came out to save this site has lifted me. They came from different places. They came from JB, who really wants Biden to win next week, and from TG, who supports Sphinctermouth. Music brings us together. Big support came from old friends from the early days of music blogging, and from some people unknown to me, but whom I shall love as I love my old compadres.

The support of kind people on Facebook — monetary and moral — has ensured the survival of the Any Major Dude With Half A Heart in more than technical ways. I was toying with the idea of retiring this blog, albeit with no firm plans of doing so. Their love showed that my work is actually appreciated, and thus has validated and encouraged me. I shall lock that in my heart, and draw from it every time a post gets no comments.

As ever, CD-R length, home-begged covers, PW in comments.

1. Big Star – Thank You Friends (1975)
2. Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (1974)
3. The Undisputed Truth – With A Little Help From My Friends (1973)
4. Rosetta Hightower – Friendship Train (1971)
5. Frederick Knight – Lean On Me (1973)
6. The Persuasions – He Ain’t Heavy / You’ve Got A Friend (1971)
7. Carole King – We Are All In This Together (1974)
8. Buzzy Linhart – Friends (1971)
9. The Kinks – All Of My Friends Were There (1968)
10. The Kingston Trio – Let’s Get Together (1964)
11. Wilbert Harrison – Let’s Work Together (1969)
12. Syl Johnson – Come Together (1970)
13. Leon Haywood – You Need A Friend Like Mine (1975)
14. Arrival – Friends (1969)
15. Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend (1978)
16. Randy Travis – Heroes and Friends (1990)
17. Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live) (1998)
18. Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1000000 (1992)
19. Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. – Me And My Shadow (1963)
20. Paul McCartney – We All Stand Together (1984)

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