While the crop of old school sounds that have popped back into consciousness within the past ten or so years may be looked at as a revival or comeback, only a fool would say that soul music had EVER gone away.
Music has always been the center of my existence, and I remember back in the late 70's/ early '80's, TV commercials were full of reworked soul tunes (remember that floor cleaner using Robert Parker's 'Barefootin'?), and it's impossible to go anywhere in the world without hearing classic soul music, whether on the radio, piped into stores, etc. Not difficult to understand, as this music is LIFE.
Of the current soul groups, I really, really love Oakland, CA based Myron & E. They've released 4 great 45's in the past few years, and the first time that I heard 2010's 'It's A Shame" I was fooled for a moment and thought it was an early '70's bay area track that I'd never been hipped to before! The song has that perfect melancholy-but-swinging late '60's/ early '70's sound that's heard on records by the likes of The Natural Four, but adds a definite little bit of post hip hop flavor in a way that I can't quite explain. The duo vocals have a very unique vibe that's part hesitant, part confident, but 100% pure soul.
"Cold Game" is the duo's debut 45 from 2008, and the sound is laid out perfectly on the debut, which has such a great intro. The guitar lick, amazingly soulful drumming and groovy strings set it all up for this cool song that gets even better when the vocals arrive. The vocals are unison a whole lot of the time, then the fellas break out into a super funky harmony that just makes me smile.
Turns out that Myron has been performing for 20+ years, and was one of the dancers on TV's In Living Color in the early '90's. He eventually relocated to the bay area, toured as a backing singer with Blackalicious which is where he met E (aka E Da Boss). E has been collecting soul records and DJing since his teens, and released a solo album as E The Boss. While on tour in europe, E recorded some tracks with The Soul Investigators group, and eventually realized that the tracks were perfect to collaborate vocally with Myron on.
The duo's debut LP is set to be released this July- preorder it from Stones Throw and get an immediate four song EP download (which is fabulous, by the way).
PLUS, I'm super excited to be sharing the stage with these fellas Saturday night in berkeley at the Starry Plough, with my band The Bang Girl Group Revue. The super cool New Love Soul Revue are also on the bill, and E will be joining me behind the turntables for some DJ action.
Some of you Rock Fans may have heard of Alan Merrill (... "The Face of '69"! Just like Peter Frampton was "the Face of '68", does that ring a bell? ) :
If not, here's for reminders :
The son of two jazz musicians, singer Helen Merrill, and saxophone/clarinet player Aaron Sachs, Alan is mostly known for having penned the original version of Joan Jett's mega-hit : "I Love Rock'n'Roll" with his band of American and English expats in Japan at the time, The Arrows (... Not the Davie Allan garage-band famous for Biker movie anthem : "Blues Theme"! ) :
By 1968, the hits had all but dried up for Tottenham's Dave Clark Five. With a run of massive hits recorded between '64-'65, this group was considered STRONG competetion for the Beatles, and many teen magazines speculated the Beatlemania was gonna wane and the Dave Clark Five would come out on top of the world. While history tells a far different tale, the DC5 released many fabulous records, well past the heyday of the British Invasion.
Buried on the b-side of a track that must have seemed like a relic from a bygone era (the downright putrid "Red Balloon") in the heady days of 1968, there's a gem lurking that is not only one of my favorite numbers from this group, but also one which I consider one of the ultimate freakbeat statements, ever. Driven along by Dave Clark's always powerul, upfront drumming and powered into the ether by some downright nasty single guitar notes played with attitude and fuzz tone on "10", "Maze Of Love" is a track that's every bit as forceful as other legendary English psych/ beat records. The boys had undoubtedly been digging the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This is how the song was heard in its release everywhere except for the US, and the picture sleeve shown is a Spanish issue.
For some reason, Epic Records in the US was given a completely different mix of the song. The track is slowed down (perhaps due to an error in mastering), making it sound far heavier, and the vocal is single tracked as opposed to the double tracked vocals as heard on the worldwide release. There's an overall echo added as well (especially heard on the vocals) giving the song a murkier sound. I love both versions, and my pal (and super duper DJ) Major Sean is on record as preferring the US version. When I DJ it, though, I always play the UK mix. The US mix is far rarer, as this single died a death commercially (I've only seen promo copies, never yellow label stock copies).
I was inspired to write this post, as tomorrow evening the Cyril Jordan- Chris Wilson version of The Flamin' Groovies are gonna be playing the tiny Elbo Room club in San Francisco (their ONLY US show, as a matter of fact). This gig sold out immediately, and you best BELIEVE I'm gonna be there. I've had the pleasure of seeing Cyril & Roy Loney recreate the warped insanity of the Flamingo/ Teenage Head era, but have never had the chance to see Cyril and power pop vocalist extraordinairre Chris Wilson together.
Back in those pre-internet days, I'd read about the Groovies in Goldmine magazine and such and they just sounded like the coolest band I could imagine! However, at the time EVERYTHING was out of print and my their records never turned up in my flea market/ garage sale digging and the bin cards in the used record stores were always empty. Luckily, in the early '90's a US CD compilation called Greatest Grooves was released and FINALLY I got to hear these songs I'd been reading about; they DID NOT DISAPPOINT and as a young music fanatic I was immediately struck by the obvious passion for music that these guys have shown on their releases. I spent the next several years collecting every piece of Groovies wax I could get my hands on (still kicking myself though for not buying an original copy of Sneakers at Reckless Records in Chicago back around 1992; THIRTY FIVE dollars just seemed like a king's ransom to spend on a record.
The first actual piece of Groovies vinyl that I found and purchased was shortly afterwords at the amazing (defunct) Record Swap in Homewood, IL. I can't say that I play Supersnazz very often, but I was sure glad to find it for $3.99. 'The First One's Free" was drawn from that album, and the loose and bluesy track (who else but the Groovies would feature a guitar intro with a few seconds of tuning up? too damn cool!) is heard here in a unique mono 45 mix, and sounds a tad more powerful than the LP as well.
The group was dropped by Epic records after this one LP failed to take off commercially, and they were signed to Kama Sutra for the incredible one-two knockout of Flamingo (1970) and Teenage Head (1971); two records that show the group in their most powerful era of Roy Loney's reign as lead singer. Once again, success eluded the band and Roy Loney decided he had had enough of the music business, and left the group to focus on acting. Cyril Jordan enlisted Chris Wilson (ex- Loose Gravel) into the fold as lead singer, and the group left San Francisco for an extended stay in England. Working with Dave Edmunds as producer, the group cut several tracks, of which the only ones released at the time were "Slow Death" backed with a raucous take on Freddy Cannon's 'Tallahassee Lassie".
"Slow Death" is, hands down, one of the greatest singles of the 1970's. Chris Wilson proves himself to be an incredible vocalist, and with this record he cut the mold for all power pop vocalists who followed. While the group toured England relentlessly, the single was released all over Europe to great acclaim, yet no label in the US showed interest in releasing the record. Several unreleased recordings from the era were released by Norton Records as Slow Death in 2002; this is an essential LP for anyone interested in powerful rock n roll music and you can buy it here.
The group were unable to release ANY records until Cyril Jordan presented Who Put The Bomp fanzine publisher with the astounding "You Tore Me Down", and suggested that Greg release it in late '74. The track, as produced again by Dave Edmunds, is one of *the* key power pop cuts, and was the first release on Bomp! Records in 1975. Unfortunately, there was no college radio at the time and Bomp had no distribution power, but the record recieved massive praise from critics which landed the Groovies a contract at Sire Records, where they cut the Shake Some Action LP; the title cut of which FINALLY provied Cyril and the Groovies a belated hit with its inclusion in the 1995 film Clueless.
It's the age-old question: "The Beatles or The Stones?". A lot of people like 'em both, but most everybody who's a fan of 1960s Pop-Rock music seems to have a preference for one or the other.
Music Video collector Spike Priggen (of the Scopitones.com & Bedazzled.tv blogs) will present a program of musical films by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones that compare and contrast their musical, song-writing and sartorial styles, year-by-year, trend-by-trend, from "mop-tops" to psychedelia.
The show will be a mix of live concert & television footage, mimed promotional clips, TV specials & promos, starting with some of their earliest known TV & newsreel appearances and taking them right up to the end of the 60s. Ocean County Library, Tom's River Branch, 101 Washington St. Toms River, NJ 08753 7pm on Monday May 6th 2013.
Since there are several fine bios that tell the tale of The Zombies
quite well (the box set Zombie Heaven is essential stuff with a fabulous booklet/ history), I'll spare the history here and just present these amazing 45 sides for your listening pleasure.
The Zombies' first two US singles became massive smashes in '64-'65 ("She's Not There" and "Tell Her No") and the group's moody, organ-driven sound charted far higher in the US than their English home. Organist Rod Argent penned both of these classics, yet when the group was approached in the summer of '65 with a two week deadline to provide two songs for a film called Bunny Lake Is Missing, Argent's pen ran dry. Vocalist extraordinnaire Colin Blunstone was given his first shot as a compsoer for the a-side, and he penned the jaw droppingly incredible "Just Out Of Reach". The track is classic Zombies through and through, with an aching Blunstone vocal, hard driving beat sound and an organ break that show off the instrumental brilliance of Rod Argent. Sadly, the song made only the bottom rung of the US charts, and the film also tanked.
After several years of gruelling touring and waning commercial success, the Zombies decided to call it a day in 1967, and went into Abbey Road studios to record their swan song, the legendary Odessey And Oracle LP. Looking back with the hindsight of the status that this album has received in the years after it was released (it's easily in my personal top 20 favorite LP's ever recorded), it's almost unfathomable to think that Columbia Records in the US desided against releasing the LP. Thanks to the urging of Al Kooper who bought the LP on a trip to England and fell in love with it, Columbia decided to release the album nearly a year after its initial UK release. As public opinion of the Vietnam War was souring by the second in 1968, the strong anti-war statement of the avant-garde "Buthchers Tale (Western Front 1914) was released as the first single. Sang with strong emotion by bassist/ writer Chris White, this haunting song failed to chart but, just like the LP, is one of the most revered cuts in the Zombies catalog. The 45 presents the mono mix, as does "This Will be Our Year", a far more commercial track that may have been a better choice commercially for the a-side.
"Time Of The Season", pulled from Odessey became a massive US hit in 1969. The session for
the record found tempers within the group flaring, as Colin Blunstone stormed out of the session due to Rod Argent directing his vocals (Colin returned and cut the amazing vocal as directed by Rod for the released take). For all intents and purposes the Zombies were finished after the sessions were completed, bar for a few final live gigs at the end of '67. However, thanks to the massive belated success of "Time Of The Season", CBS UK and Columbia US wanted more Zombies product, and the single release "Imagine The Swan" was released. Essentially drawn from the earliest sessions of the group Argent (featuring Zombies Rod Argent and Chris White), the record certainly has the "feel' of a Zombies record with lovely Blunstone-esque vocals from Chris White. The amazing instrumental b-side "Conversation of Floral St" strikes me as being one of the last gasps of a swirling mod fantasy land that flashes images of Carnaby Street and well dressed folks dancing and clapping along with this track that, once again, highlights Rod Argent's superb musicianship and just generally sets an incredible mood.
While "She's Coming Home" followed up 'Tell Her No' in early '65 and is a lovely song in its own right, it failed to chart as high as the previous two records. It was issued with a cool picture sleeve in the US, and the b-side "I Must Move" is one of my favorite Zombies tracks. The Zombies were fortunate enough to have three superb writers in the band, and Chris White takes on a subject that's not easy to deal with on this track that shows off the groups' sophistication, class and grace in such a beautiful way.
"Friends Of Mine" was released as the lead-in single for Odessey And Oracle in the UK, where it never made the charts. The track is a favorite among Zombies fans, and with its sweet sentiment of love and friendship it has become a staple song heard at many a mod wedding! Columbia records wisely chose to release the track as the (US) b-side to "Time Of The Season", making the mono mix of the track easy to find for us mono-minded folks
"Here's MC5 filmed live on the campus of Wayne State University in Michigan and aired on hometown TV show "Detroit Tubeworks" in 1970 doing their biggest hit "Kick Out The Jams." We found the master tapes of over 11 hours from this legendary show which had been stored in a basement in Michigan. Other great guests we found on this underground show from 1968-1973 include MC5, Ted Nugent, Phil Ochs, Commander Cody, Captain Beefheart, Earth, Wind & Fire, Humble Pie, Fleetwood Mac featuring Peter Green and Joe Cocker. Also part of this archive is a 45-minute unseen concert of the Rolling Stones filmed at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on their 1969 tour."
"This clip is a fully edited composite of very rare footage of the Hollies recording "On A Carousel" in the legendary Abbey Road Studios in 1967. This was cut from a 20-minute piece which features each of the band members recording their individual parts on that historic day, when in the next studio the Beatles were recording pieces of "Penny Lane"."