Hip Doo-Wop

I’ve been listening to some serious Doo-Wop via these two compilations lately, and I’ve found that the innocent style, smooth sounds, and pre-soul melodies compliment the still summer evening like a mojito on a foreign beach.  You too should give it try.

50 tracks of classic Doo-Wop from what was to be the genre’s finest year ever. This was the year that Doo-Wop’s popularity reached its peak, and the tracks on this great collection demonstrate why they were so well received. A must for any fan of the genre with informative notes.

Tracklist:

CD1

[02:13] 1. The Five Keys – Ling Ting Tong
[02:51] 2. The Penguins – Earth Angel
[03:12] 3. The Moonglows – Sincerely
[02:21] 4. The Spiders – 21`
[02:19] 5. The Five Keys – Close Your Eyes
[02:35] 6. The Charms – Two Hearts
[02:42] 7. The Hearts – Lonely Nights
[02:48] 8. Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters – Whatcha Gonna Do
[02:38] 9. The Clovers – Blue Velvet
[02:16] 10. The Danderliers – Chop Chop Boom
[03:05] 11. The Moonglows – Most Of all
[02:59] 12. The Cardinals – The Door Is Still Open
[02:20] 13. The Nutmegs – A Story Untold
[02:39] 14. The Platters – Only You
[02:29] 15. The Five Keys – The Verdict
[03:02] 16. The Four Fellows – Soldier Boy
[02:54] 17. The Midnighters – Its Love Baby 24 Hours A Day
[02:37] 18. The El Dorados – At My Front Door
[03:07] 19. The Nutmegs – Ship Of Love
[02:43] 20. The Drifters – Adorable
[02:28] 21. The Drifters – Steamboat
[02:58] 22. The Turbans – When You Dance
[02:37] 23. The Spiders – Witchcraft
[02:39] 24. The Platters – The Great Pretender
[02:47] 25. The Robins – Smokey Joe’s café

CD2

[02:21] 1. The Caddilacs – Speedo
[02:39] 2. The Regals – Got The water Boiling
[02:29] 3. The Cardinals – Come Back My Love
[02:49] 4. The Sensations – Yes Sir That’s My Baby
[02:25] 5. The Clovers – Devil Or Angel
[03:05] 6. The Four Fellows – Angels Say
[02:37] 7. The Diablos – Daddy Rockin Strong
[03:04] 8. The Diablos – The Way You Dog Me Around
[02:27] 9. The Empires – Make Me Or Break Me
[02:16] 10. The Heartbeats – Crazy For You
[02:37] 11. The Heartbeats – Your Way
[02:17] 12. The Barons – Eternally Yours
[02:43] 13. The Harptones – Life Is But A Dream
[02:41] 14. The Solitaires – The Wedding
[03:17] 15. The Cleftones – The Masquerade Is Over
[02:27] 16. The Spaniels – Painted Pictures
[02:45] 17. The Penguins – Be Mine Or Be A Fool
[02:03] 18. The Diablos – Route 16
[02:57] 19. The Leaders – Stormy Weather
[02:32] 20. The Rainbows – Mary Lee
[02:40] 21. The Flamingos – (That’s My Baby) Chicka Boom
[03:11] 22. The Orchids – You’re Everything To Me
[03:00] 23. Andre Williams & The Don Juans – Going Down To Tijuana
[02:51] 24. The Flamingos – I Want To Love You
[02:17] 25. The Valentines – Lily Maebelle

2 whole records full of tracks that still somehow retain a freshness and rarity that has yet to be duplicated.

This from the press release, “from the Primordial Musical Ooze to the Birth of Doo-Wop. What is this glorious music we call Doo-Wop? It’s a style conveying naivete and young love in a way no genre did before. It’s an attitude harking back to the birth of the teenager in the 1950s. For a lot of us, it represents nostalgia for an era we may or may not have experienced. Technically, Doo-Wop is an amalgam of five key characteristics that are explored in the 24-page booklet that accompanies this CD and richly evidenced in the choice of recordings. This CD, the first in a set of six, covers the formative years of Doo-Wop, offering astonishing vocal harmonies, vibrant instrumentation and a fun collection of songs that will not fail to please the amateur while being of interest to the serious collector. Compiled and annotated by Anthony J Gribin & Matthew M Schiff, the Doctors of Doo-Wop.”

Tracklist:

CD1

[03:37] 1. Bing Crosby & The Rhythm Boys – Them There Eyes
[03:12] 2. The Boswell Sisters – When I Take My Sugar to Tea
[02:55] 3. The Three Keys – Wah-Dee-Dah
[02:58] 4. The Five Spirits Of Rhythm – I Got Rhythm
[02:57] 5. The Four Blackbirds – Black-Eyed Susan Brown
[03:08] 6. The Ink Spots – My Prayer
[02:48] 7. The Cats and The Fiddle – I Miss You So (A)
[02:46] 8. The Golden Gate Quartet – Stormy Weather (A)
[02:48] 9. The Five Breezes – My Buddy Blues
[03:27] 10. Tex Beneke and the Four Modernaires – Chattanooga Choo Choo
[02:56] 11. Lewis Bronzeville Five – Low Down Gal Blues
[02:45] 12. The Andrews Sisters – The Shrine of St. Cecilia
[02:22] 13. The Song Spinners – Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer
[03:18] 14. The Dinning Sisters – The Way You Look Tonight
[02:37] 15. The Mills Brothers – Till Then
[02:35] 16. Ella Fitzgerald – It’s Only a Paper Moon
[03:05] 17. Deek Watson & His Brown Dots – For Sentimental Reasons
[02:59] 18. The Cats ‘n’ Jammer Three – One Hundred Years from Today
[02:52] 19. Savannah Churchill & The Sentimentalists – I Want to Be Loved
[02:38] 20. The Delta Rhythm Boys – Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’
[03:00] 21. The Basin Street Boys – I Sold My Heart to the Junkman
[03:03] 22. The Charioteers – Chi-Baba Chi-Baba
[02:59] 23. The Four Vagabonds – P.S. I Love You
[02:46] 24. The Cabineers – Whirlpool
[02:52] 25. Bill Johnson & His Musical Notes – You’re the Dream of a Lifetime
[03:02] 26. The Ravens – Lullaby
[02:56] 27. The Orioles – It’s Too Soon to Know

CD2

[03:08] 1. The Charioteers – A Kiss and a Rose
[02:47] 2. Little Esther and the Robins – Double Crossing Blues
[03:04] 3. The Four Jacks – I Challenge Your Kiss
[02:55] 4. The Ravens – Count Every Star
[02:45] 5. The Clovers – Yes Sir, That’s My Baby
[03:11] 6. The Blenders – The Masquerade Is Over
[02:57] 7. The Jive Bombers – Brown Boy
[02:36] 8. Ruth Brown and the Delta Rhythm Boys – Sentimental Journey
[02:44] 9. The Five Keys – The Glory of Love
[02:33] 10. The Clovers – Fool, Fool, Fool
[03:00] 11. The Swallows – Since You’ve Been Away
[02:39] 12. The Five Royales – Crazy Crazy Crazy
[03:02] 13. The Cardinals – Under a Blanket of Blue
[02:22] 14. The Larks – My Reverie
[02:30] 15. The Dominoes – Sixty Minute Man
[02:38] 16. The Four Buddies – Just to See You Smile Again
[03:03] 17. The Orioles – I Miss You So (B)
[02:33] 18. The Swallows – It Ain’t the Meat
[03:17] 19. The Moonglows – I Just Can’t Tell No Lie
[02:44] 20. Herb Kenny and the Comets – When the Lights Go on Again
[03:15] 21. The Five Keys – Red Sails in the Sunset
[02:20] 22. The Dominoes – Have Mercy Baby
[02:42] 23. The Five Sharps – Stormy Weather (B)
[03:13] 24. The Mello-Moods – Where Are You
[02:57] 25. The Royals – Every Beat of My Heart
[02:57] 26. The Diamonds – A Beggar for Your Kisses
[02:21] 27. The Four Knights – Oh Happy Day
[03:12] 28. The Vocaleers – Be True

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Salsoul Moplen Rework

Wanted to post this little joint cuz it was so much fun.

The Salsoul Orchestra – Ooh I Love It (Love Break) (Moplen Radio Edit)

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Sherman’s Showcase

“Sherman’s Showcase is an American comedy television series, created by Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle. The series premiered on July 31, 2019, on IFC.
Sherman’s Showcase is inspired by variety shows including Soul Train, American Bandstand, The Midnight Special, and In Living Color with each episode hosted by Sherman McDaniel as he takes viewers through time via music and comedy drawn from the forty-year library of a legendary (but fictitious) musical variety show.”-IFC

This is a MUST!  In fact this is the most Soul Donuts show in the history of shows.  Funk, Soul, hilarious comedy, disco dancing, boats!!! and everything else funky.  So go listen to the soundtrack over here, and watch new episodes on IFC.

Tracklist:
01. Sherman’s Showcase – Theme from Sherman’s Showcase (70s-80s Version) (0:44)
02. Sherman’s Showcase; Ne-Yo – Time Loop (5:44)
03. Sherman’s Showcase – That Ain’t Right (2:14)
04. Sherman’s Showcase – Marina del Rey (Let’s Spend the Day) (2:08)
05. Sherman’s Showcase – Drop It Low (For Jesus) (1:45)
06. Sherman’s Showcase; Buzzy Lee – Priestly (Gossamer Tunic) (2:58)
07. Sherman’s Showcase; Vic Mensa – Vicki, Is The Water Warm Enough (1:46)
08. Sherman’s Showcase – Theme from Sherman’s Showcase (90s Version) (0:43)
09. Sherman’s Showcase – The Black Kids At The White School (College Go-Go Song)
10. Sherman’s Showcase – Runnin’ (2:06)
11. Sherman’s Showcase – This Is My Fantasy (1:54)
12. Sherman’s Showcase – Theme from Sherman’s Showcase (2013 Version) (0:53)
13. Sherman’s Showcase – Venice Pier Futbol Club Anthem (2:17)
14. Sherman’s Showcase – Everybody’s Balling (3:03)

 

Here’s what Indie Wire has to say about it.

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a Double dose of Daptone Family Values

Daptone Records Singles Collection Volume 3

listen to it here

jump over here too

Track List
[03:24] 01. CHARLES BRADLEY, Menahan Street Band – The World (Is Going up in Flames)
[02:58] 02. CHARLES BRADLEY, Menahan Street Band – Heartaches and Pain
[03:47] 03. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens – What Have You Done
[02:57] 04. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens – I’ll Take the Long Road
[03:47] 05. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
[02:49] 06. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Settling In
[02:48] 07. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Tell Me
[03:24] 08. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – How Long Do I Have to Wait for You (Victor Axelrod Production)
[03:38] 09. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – How Long Do I Have To Dub For You (Victor Axelrod Production)
[03:51] 10. CHARLES BRADLEY, Menahan Street Band – The Telephone Song
[03:34] 11. Menahan Street Band – Tired of Fighting
[03:21] 12. Binky Griptite – One Time You’re Mine
[03:26] 13. Binky Griptite – You’re Gonna Cry
[03:41] 14. Binky Griptite – The Stroll, Pt. 1
[02:12] 15. Binky Griptite – The Stroll, Pt. 2
[04:36] 16. Naomi Shelton, Cliff Driver – Wind Your Clock
[04:42] 17. Naomi Shelton, Cliff Driver – Talkin’ Bout a Good Thing
[02:57] 18. Menahan Street Band – The Wolf
[03:09] 19. Menahan Street Band – Bushwick Lullaby
[02:50] 20. 3 Titans – College
[03:02] 21. 3 Titans – The Life of a Scholar
[02:24] 22. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
[01:25] 23. Binky Griptite – Holiday Breakdown ’09
[02:55] 24. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – When I Come Home
[03:01] 25. The Dap-Kings – When I Come Home (Instrumental)
[02:59] 26. The Budos Band – Reppirt Yad
[03:23] 27. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Money
[03:46] 28. The Budos Band – Kakal
[04:12] 29. The Budos Band – Hidden Hand
[03:20] 30. Saun & Starr – Big Wheel
[02:45] 31. Saun & Starr – In the Night
[03:41] 32. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Better Things
[04:36] 33. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Window Shopping
[05:06] 34. Menahan Street Band – The Crossing
[03:52] 35. Menahan Street Band – Everyday a Dream
[02:54] 36. CHARLES BRADLEY, Menahan Street Band – No Time for Dreaming
[03:30] 37. CHARLES BRADLEY, Menahan Street Band – Golden Rule
[03:24] 38. El Rego – Vimado Wingman
[04:33] 39. El Rego – E Nan Mian Nuku

Also

 

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Khruangbin goes Dub

Khruangbin - Hasta El Cielo (2019)

My fondness for the unique sounds of Khruangbin is no secret, and I’m happy to share with y’all their new project.  What we have here is the release of ‘Hasta El Cielo’, a dub version of their second album ‘Con Todo El Mundo’. The full album has been newly processed along with two bonus dubs by renowned Jamaican producer Scientist.  Dubs of tracks from their first album ‘The Universe Smiles Upon You’ appeared on limited vinyl releases of ‘People Everywhere’ for Record Store Day 2016 and ‘Zionsville’ on the Boogie Futuro remix 12”.

Here’s what they had to say about the release, “For us, Dub has always felt like a prayer. Spacious, meditative, able to transport the listener to another realm. The first dub albums we listened to were records mixed by Scientist featuring the music of the Roots Radics. Laura Lee learned to play bass by listening to Scientist Wins the World Cup. His unique mixing style, with the emphasis on space and texture, creates the feeling of frozen time; it was hugely influential to us as a band. To be able to work alongside Scientist, a legend in the history of dub, is an honor. This is our dub version of Con Todo El Mundo.”

Enjoy two of those Scientist dub versions below…and a video.  I think it’s fair to say that these tracks may be the dopest cuts you will hear all year.

Como Te Quiero (Scientist Dub)

Rules (Scientist Dub)

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Stuff I missed: Compilations Edition

I wanted to start with a charming little collection of Parisian Chanson and beyond that was released last year.

VA: Paris in the Spring (2018)

Paris In The Spring is a collection of new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, from France between 1968 and the mid-70s.  It is an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising.  All are represented on Paris In The Spring, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation English Weather.

VA: Seção Rítmica: Instrumental Funk from ’70s Brazil (2017)

In the late ‘60s and ‘70s when the talented players of Rio and Sao Paolo turned their focus towards the North American funk scene, bands like Kool & the Gang, the Meters and the JBs, a new element was added to the mix. As the more polished sound exemplified by Quincy Jones and CTI Records took hold, Brazilian musicians came right back with their own distinct twist on the sound, one that inevitably revolved around a rhythm section laying down grooves that were both the tightest and the most supple imaginable. If that combination seems paradoxical, this collection will make the notion clear. Culled from the times no vocalists were claiming the spotlight, these instrumentals focus firmly on the rhythm section and its funky accompaniment, a journey through the ‘70s heyday of instrumental funk from Brazil from its rawest roots to refined boogie gems.

El Barrio: the Ultimate Collection of Latin Boogaloo, Disco, Funk and Soul (2011)

An enormous collection of boogaloo from 2011 heavily featuring the Fania All-Stars.

Bamboola Boogie (2016)

“An exciting compilation release featuring some fresh music. With no restrictions on the music styles, we are thrilled to present you our compilation Bamboola Boogie. The tracks were selected carefully by Timewarp (the man behind everything on the label) together with his fellow friend from The Zuzu Club. The Zuzu Club is a blog that was created with a warm concept, to present to the people out there some great fresh music from all around the world.

We dig only great & fresh music, and this compilation will travel you in great paths and styles of modern electronic music forms. From dub – reggae and dancehall to nu funk, soul – breaks and nu disco and from world and international styles to electro blues and nu swing. This is what we call Freestyle!”-Timewarp Rec.

VA: Ghetto Discotheque (2002)

13 Tracks celebrating the disco kings and queens who kept the faith with the funk.

VA: Will You Love Me Tomorrow-Girl Groups of the 50s and 60s (2012)

2 whole discs of truly satisfying oldies to blissfully daydream your hours away.

Double Trouble: The Cobra Records Story (2013)

Another double disc set presenting 40 classic tracks released on the Cobra label between 1956 and 1959.  Featured artists include Shakey Horton, Magic Sam, Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm, Jimmy Kelly & The Rock-A-Beats, Harold Burrage, Guitar Shorty, Sunnyland Slim, Betty Everett and many others.  Good Ol’ Rockin’ Rhythm and Blues.

VA: That Driving Beat-Doin’ the Mod Vol. 5 (2003)

Vol. 5 is the first one in this series that I’ve listened to and it is a real solid disc!  This collection includes some of the finest from the 60s U.K. soul scene.

One of the minor strains of mid-’60s U.K. pop was a re-creation of American soul. It never crossed back over to America like other British music of the time because the real thing was so good that nobody wanted to hear a whiter shade of imitation. The sound never really took off in the U.K. either, but a great many bands played it. Castle’s Doin’ the Mod series is an attempt to round up the bands that were melding soul (Northern and otherwise) with mod and pop. There are also some girl group-style songs mixed in as well as some bubblegum soul. Vol. 5 of the series, That Driving Beat, lives up to its title and features 30 uptempo dance tracks, many of them lost classics, most of them top-notch blue-eyed soul. Most of the groups are obscure, the biggest names being Geno Washington (an American expatriate), the Alan Bown Set (whose “Headline News” is a charging and melodic highlight of the set), and the Koobas. If those are the big names, you know you are dealing with a bunch of unknowns. Names you should know after hearing the disc are Lucas & the Mike Cotton Sound (“Step Out of Line”), Kim D (the sultry “Come on Baby”), the Exotics (the bubblegum soul of “I Don’t Want Nobody [To Lead Me On]”), Timebox (“I’ll Always Love You”), Young Blood (a stomping cover of the American Breed’s “Green Light,” which pounds the original to dust), and Ways & Means (whose reverb-drenched and super-hooky “Make the Radio a Little Louder” may be the best song here). There are only a few bad songs lurking around: the Blue Chips’ stiff “Tell Her,” Stella Star’s oversung “Say It,” and Felder’s Orioles’ cover of “Something You Got,” which comes too close to Tom Jones territory. Still, that leaves 27 great songs that show that the Brits weren’t too shabby when it came to hijacking American soul and giving it a uniquely British sound.

VA: Soul in Harmony-Vocal Groups 65-77 (2013)

Kent/Ace revive their Harmony soul series with 2013’s Soul in Harmony: Vocal Groups 1965-1977, a 24-track collection of little-heard soul from the golden age of harmony groups (six of the tracks are unreleased). Strictly speaking, this collection runs to 1979, not 1977 (that’s the date the shimmering “Baby (There’s Nothing That You Can Do)” by the Joneses showed up on Spring, and there’s a 1984 version of “Once Again” by Nightchill included for licensing reasons), and most of the cuts were recorded somewhere between 1968 and 1971 — just after the rise of the Impressions and Motown and just before the dominance of Philadelphia International. Appropriately, this music is pitched somewhere between these eras, sometimes riding an effervescent groove but often sounding luxuriously dreamy in its rich harmonies. Often, the sound is more familiar than the names — the Dramatics, the Pretenders, and the Mad Lads are arguably the most recognizable names here, but there are echoes of the Stylistics, the Impressions, and the Miracles here (the Magnificent 7 cover the latter’s “Ooh Baby Baby”) — but there’s much to be enjoyed in this, not just because it’s comforting to hear this timeless sound performed well, but there are quirks and idiosyncrasies in the group interplay worth cherishing.

Oonops Drops Vol. 1 (2018)

‘Oonops Drops’ is the eponymous name of DJ Oonops’ monthly broadcast on Brooklyn Radio (NYC). It’s your not average radio show without talk and comments for which he invites renowned guests with their exclusive mixes from around the globe to create timeless and thematic episodes. In the last sixty shows he got visited by artists like Morcheeba, Guts, Nickodemus, The Herbaliser, Nostalgia 77, Boca 45, Blundetto, Chinese Man and many more.

Born in 1977 he got in contact with music at an early stage and soon discovered his medium of choice: vinyl. Oonops is a dj, selector, digger and is known for his smooth mixing skills to rock parties in his unmistakable wildstyle of jazz, soul, funk, hip hop, beats, edits, reggae, dub and afro. He shared the stages with acts like Nightmares on Wax, The Beatnuts, Jeru The Damaja, Ebo Taylor, Myron & E, Akua Naru and The Artifacts to name just a few.

As a longtime friend of the Agogo label and resident of its own club night, he now gets a compilation series to showcase his manifold taste in digging, selecting and mixing. His compilation finds genres of undiscovered, previously unreleased, and for the first time on vinyl, delicacies for any avid listener and dj.

Westbound Funk (2003)

Detroit’s Westbound label (and its sister Eastbound imprint) might be best known for recording Funkadelic, who have a couple of cuts there, but it did a lot of other funk in the years 1969-1976, as demonstrated by this 20-track compilation. It is rare stuff: aside from Funkadelic, only a few artists here are likely to ring a bell, those including the Ohio Players (with a previously unissued cover of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright”) and Bootsy Collins (with the previously unreleased slow-burning bass-heavy instrumental “RPM,” credited to Boots). Westbound also briefly corralled Alvin Cash (who had a hit instrumental in 1965 with “Twine Time”) with the 1970 dance chant riff-driven single “Stone Thing Pt. 1,” Albert Washington (known more as a blues-soul man than a funkster), and Melvin Sparks (who’d done soul-jazz for Prestige). The rest are names that only show up in crates of DJ records for funk nights. But whether no-names or names, this is good varied funk, both vocal and instrumental, even if some of the reference points are obvious. Freddie Wilson’s previously unreleased “In Born Soul,” for instance, is one of the most accurate late-’60s James Brown imitations ever, though vocally he sounds a little like Brown in a pinched high register; Jackie Harris’ “Get Funky Sweet a Little Bit” also follows the hem of the Godfather’s garment, though vocally he doesn’t sound quite as much like Brown. Elsewhere there is some quality instrumental jazz-funk with Melvin Sparks, who provides a touch of action soundtrack flair on “Get Ya Some”; Robert Lowe’s sleek but cookin’ “Back to Funk”; and the 19th Whole’s seven-minute, organ-dominated cover of Sly Stone’s “You Caught Me Smiling.” The influence of the Norman Whitfield-era Temptations is felt on some of the vocal outings, like Funkadelic’s “You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure.” Some of the rest is of more ordinary quality, but it is the kind of compilation that helps prove there was way more worthy funk recorded in this period than the relatively small amount that made it to mainstream ears. It’s too bad the liner notes are in such painfully tiny print, though.

Crème de la Crème: Philly Soul Classics and Rarities from the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco, and WB Records 72-76 (2003)

While the music produced by hitmakers like Leon Huff, Kenny Gamble, and Thom Bell remains the best-known of the myriad hits coming out of Philly in the pre-disco era, countless other titles were coming out of the city’s studios, some of them by superstars and most of them by unknowns, but all possessed of the same silky-smooth universal groove. Crème de la Crème: Philly Soul Classics and Rarities From the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco, & Warner Bros. Records 1972-1976 documents the best Philly soul singles from a label not really associated with its particular time and place, which is not to suggest that this material is remotely subpar — quite to the contrary, some of it ranks alongside the very best of acts like the O’Jays and the Spinners, even though virtually none of it came within miles of reaching the charts. Highlights include the Aristocrats’ “Let’s Get Together Now,” Major Harris’ “Loving You Is Mellow,” Bettye Swann’s “Kiss My Love Goodbye,” Vivian Reed’s “Save Your Love for Me,” and Clyde Brown’s “You Call Me Back.

VA: Groove With A Feeling ~ Sounds Of Memphis Boogie, Soul & Funk 1975-1985 (2015)

This installment of BGP’s examination of the Sounds Of Memphis label, focuses on the decade between 1975-1985, as regional differences faded and soul changed into funk and boogie. The 19 tracks are all, bar one, previously unreleased. There are three tracks by the highly collectable Lee Moore, one by the Ovations Louis Williams, one by Vision and two by former Hi records backing singer Erma Shaw. The booklet includes previously unseen photographs and a 2500 word essay that includes interviews with Lee Moore and with label and studio boss Linda Lucchesi. The release offers an insight to a largely overlooked period of the Memphis recording story.

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Rip Dr. John

Three of his great albums to dive deeper into.

“After the release of Mardi Gras in 1975, Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) left Atlantic Records. In late 1977, he signed with A&M’s Horizon imprint — a label whose purpose was to showcase the jazz side of its parent company. City Lights is the better of two recordings he cut there. Produced by Tommy LiPuma and Hugh McCracken, City Lights was recorded at New York’s Hit Factory Studios with a band of studio aces: drummer Steve Gadd, guitarists Cornell Dupree and John Tropea, bassist Will Lee, and Richard Tee as an additional keyboardist; Arthur Jenkins added percussive effects. The five-piece horn section included both David Sanborn and Ronnie Cuber. What’s really startling, however, is the material. For most of the 1970s, Rebennack had been playing well-known tunes by other Crescent City luminaries and pop songwriters, contributing precious little of his material to his albums. On City Lights he wrote or co-wrote everything on the set. His songwriting partner for part of this date was none other than Doc Pomus. The best of both men is captured on the opener, “Dance the Night Away with You,” a strolling New Orleans R&B number. Pomus’ words are wrapped in beautiful romantic fantasies of late nights, the magic of city streets, and the acknowledgement between lovers that they are the only people in the world. Rebennack’s music is filled with plinking upright piano, a killer horn chart, a languid pace, and some background effects that reinforce the song’s imagery.

Rebennack’s own funky “Snake Eyes” is another killer on the set, even as it’s set somewhere between a pulsing bossa rhythm and an uptown blues tune. When the good doctor begins his low growling moan on the vocal, it all comes together with phase-shifted Steely Dan-style slippery guitars, impressionistic synths, rimshot snares, and that trademark piano that is always in the cut. Even moodier is his “Rain,” a beautiful slow jazz ballad with great support from George Young’s tenor saxophone filling the tags, and a fine string arrangement by Claus Ogerman. There are some uptempo tunes as well, such as “Wild Honey,” written with Bobby Charles, and the righteously funky “Fire of Love,” written with Alvin Robinson. The two closing numbers are the icing on the cake. First is a medley, “Sonata/He’s a Hero.” It begins with a lithe, post-midnight piano solo by Rebennack and segues right into the fat and funky latter tune with a tight percussive horn chart and great, street-swaggering lyrics about a lonely ne’er-do-well by Pomus. Rebennack and Pomus showcase the other side of this urban soundscape on the blues-drenched closing title track with its slow boogie-woogie-style piano, gorgeous swirling strings, and Pomus’ gorgeous words that could have come right from Mose Allison: “Too many city lights/Too many midnights on the wrong side of life/Too many honky tonks…gave me no time to find a good wife of my own/All my yesterdays and tomorrows/Are all starting to look the same/All the places are filled with people/Without faces, without names.” It’s a perfect whispering finish. After 1972’s Gumbo, this is Rebennack’s most consistently satisfying recording of the ’70s; it also disproves the “Punter 101” theory that “slick” = “bad”; far from it. City Lights finally appeared on compact disc in 2008 as part of Verve’s excellent Originals series.

Dr. John’s debut for GRP doesn’t deviate from any release he’s made for several other labels. It’s still his chunky, humorous take on New Orleans funk; these are his songs, visions and performances, and there’s none of the elevator material or laidback, detached fare that’s a customary GRP byproduct. Such songs as “Witchy Red,” “Spaceship Relationship” and the title selection are a delicate mix of seemingly outrageous but actually quite sharp commentary and excellent musical performances from Dr. John on keyboards, Hugh McCracken on guitar, and several other veterans, among them the great Red Tyler on tenor sax. While not quite as fiery as his classic sessions for Atlantic, if anyone can bring the funk to a company that’s famous for avoiding it, it’s Dr. John

Having cut an album of standards on his first Warner Brothers album, In a Sentimental Mood (1989), Dr. John turned for its follow-up to a collection of New Orleans standards. On an album he described in the liner notes as “a little history of New Orleans music,” Dr. John returned to his hometown and set up shop at local Ultrasonic Studios, inviting in such local musicians as Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, and the Neville Brothers and addressing the music and styles of such local legends as Jelly Roll Morton, Huey “Piano” Smith, Fats Domino, James Booker, and Professor Longhair. The geography may have been circumscribed, but the stylistic range was extensive, from jazz and blues to folk and rock. And it was all played with festive conviction — Dr. John is the perfect archivist for the music, being one of its primary proponents, yet he had never addressed it quite as directly as he did here.”

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