A few things first off- if you like what you hear from Little Barrie, I suggest you buy their entire catalog and (definitely) go to a live gig if you have a chance. Their most recent release (King Of The Waves) is one of the great LP's of recent years, hands down! Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Barrie's a good mate of mine; in fact, we became fast friends before I even KNEW of his amazing work (we met while on tour- him holding down the lead guitar slot with Primal Scream, me guitar teching with The Stooges). When I did hear what he was up to, I became a fan instantly, and it was a super cool instance of meeting a fellow musician as a pal first, then really digging the sounds in a big way!
While the lineup of Little Barrie has changed over the years, the power trio concept remains, and the focal point is Barrie Cadogan's blazing guitar work. Now, blazing guitar work only goes so far and thankfully Barrie's got the SONGS to match, and the vibe of the records and band have ingredients that include the intense swing of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the sparse electric blues of the likes of JB Hutto and Lightnin' Hopkins, a whole lotta soul and funk, and cooks it into something entirely original and REAL.
"Reply Me" is the b-side of the group's debut (2000), and it spells out from the get go that these guys are here to COOK. Over a slow burning groove, the band lays it out thick (at this time ithe trio was guitar-organ-drums) and the live feel sounds as if we're sitting in on something very private yet very appealing. So many records with a "jam session" vibes fall flat due to sheer boredom; not this record! It's one of those rare cases where 6 minutes goes by WAY too fast, and they could have easily stretched it out longer. Note to wise-enheimers; yeah, this record plays at 33 RPM. So what.
"Give Me A Microphone" is found on the b-side to Barrie's second 45 (2001), and starts out with a riff that sounds like a lost Eddie Hazel/ Funkadelic intro (yeah, it's THAT good) and introduces what came to be a Little Barrie trademark of duo call and response vocals (I think it's Wayne Fullwood here, and the role is presently handled by the amazing Virgil Howe on drums).
The group truly hit a peak with the release of their third single (2001), 'Memories Well"; this record channels the groove of 1970 James Brown (with a little bit of The Stooges "Funhouse") and somehow turns it into something truly unique but so familiar sounding. This record swings so hard it HURTS!
To me, nothing says "Sunday vibe" like some easy groovin' soul singles. One of the coolest radio traditions of my lifetime (and one which educated me about many records in my formative years) are the oldies Sundays programs that have been popular in many major cities since the 80's (I've listened to them growing up in L.A, the Chicago area and here at my home in the bay area). Taking a cue from these shows, I'll pop in every now and then on a Sunday to lay out some tracks that you probably won't hear on the radio, but certainly should.
The Emotions (made up of the Hutchinson sisters) are purveyors of some of the greatest girl group harmonies in history, and even though they started recording early (around '67 when the ladies were teenagers), it took until 1976 for them to hit big. I'm a lover of harmony singing to the highest degree, and the Hutchinson
sisters (Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette) outta Chicago consistently laid
out some of the most divine (and in this case, serious stomp and ass
kicking) harmonies ever cut to wax. There is simply NOTHING like the
harmony blend of blood relations, and here, the ladies lay out some of the most heavenly vocals ever cut to tape.This record was cut in 1969, and thanks to Bedazzled host Spike Priggen, footage of the horn players rehearsing their part for this song at Stax studios is available for your viewing pleasure here.
Unfortunately, nothing is known about these Mellow Fellows that cut this record in 1968. When my wife and I got married, we put together a CD comp of all of our favorite love songs which we gave away to guests; it was a no brainer for this song to be included, as it is plain and simply divine.
This next one (from 1970) is so beautiful, I could sit and listen to it 20 times in a row...
The Vandals began their singing career as a teenage Temptations tribute
act called The Young Tempts around 1967, while the singers were still in
high school. A court order from The temptations saw the group change
their name to The Young Vandals, then, by the time of this final
release, The Vandals. Lead singer Otis Harris nails Eddie Kendricks'
falsetto lead vocal style. After this release, Harris broke up the group
because he wanted to go to college. fate had other plans, and in a
bizarre twist of life imitating art, Harris BECAME the lead singer for
the Temptations in 1971, as a friend urged him to audition for
Kendricks' vacated slot. After changing his first name to Damon, Harris
held the position which he until 1975. His falsetto, which we hear
here, is all over the massive hit and stone classic "Papa Was A Rolling
First off, a confession- I am downright obsessed with this record, and
it's probably an unhealthy obsession. Not only the song itself, but the
overall production is one of the greatest I've ever heard.
I've listened to this record so many times in a row, trying to absorb
every element of its magic; the first thing that's striking is the
plink-plink muted guitar part that runs thru the song. Perhaps because I
just downright love reverb-ed guitar, and being a guitarist myself this
to me is one of the coolest hooks I've ever heard!
When Tutti Hill's vocal comes in, if you don't instantly melt, check
your pulse and other vital signs. She delivers this ultra cool
performance that oozes confidence and extreme vocal prowess. As I also
produce music myself (with The Bang Girl Group Revue)
in this style, I am constantly drawing upon the resource of the music I
love for ideas on WHAT is happening sonically; just listen to how loud
Tutti's vocals are mixed; they are RIGHT THERE and so tangible, while
the backing chorus of girls gently sway amidst that lovely reverb. This
record takes on a few of the Spector wall of sound techniques but strips
away the layers and leaves something far more human and earthy, while
still having that other worldly mysterious quality. Basically everything
I'd ever want to achieve sonically in a studio happens on this track.
Tutti's vocal style is reminiscent of Mary Wells, and Mary herself cut
this song a few years later. While I practically worship every Mary
Wells record, her version is great but *this* is the version.
This seems to be the only release from this shadowy Tutti Hill figure. WHO IS SHE????
Three of my all time favorite singles were cut by the troubled soul man Tony Clarke.
Tony Clarke wrote a few great tracks for Etta
James, and released a handful of singles on his own for the mighty
Chess records, and a one-off for MS in Detroit (his last). In an ugly turn of events, Tony was murdered (allegedly
by his wife
in a domestic dispute) in 1970. While I could never excuse the disgrace
of violence against women, I have learned to separate the music from the
people who created it, and allegedly Tony was a wife beater.
Tony's fourth release was "The Entertainer" (1964), and it turned out to be his biggest hit as well. The lyrics deal with the smiling face that those on stage must show, especially poignant for those of us who do perform. The lyrics (written by Clarke) explain these feelings in a way that is very hard to explain to those who don't.
While the previously heard Clarke entries were recorded in Chicago, this one was
cut in Detroit (1968) and it burns strong with motor city fuel (both sides also
features some of my all time favorite guitar breaks).
Call Me A) Wrong Man" plays out like a one man show; the record starts
out with Tony cooly explaining his life, which later explodes into a
dramatic and powerful conclusion matched with a backing band that
follows him every step of the way. Records simply DO NOT get better than
this one. Flip side "(No Conception) No Sense Of Direction" is an
excellent uptempo stomper that continues in the theme of the a side. This record turned out to be Clarke's final release.
Terry was the arranger of this record (in addition to arranging a
dizzying array of other great Detroit 45's); Mike was also the baritone
sax player who played incredible breaks on countless Motown hits. His
horn was one of the defining sounds of Motown records, yet for some
reason he wasn't part of "Standing In The Shadows Of Motown"; a
travesty. He passed away in 2008.
BONUS: While I was writing this post, I listened to a bit of some of Tony's 'other" records, and I was pleasantly reminded how excellent his 1964 Chess debut single is! This record must have been a pretty strong seller, considering that my cop (with the sky blue Chess label) would have been released in '66 or later.
I try my best not to pick favorites of anything, since my introduction to The Dells I've always thought of them as the ultimate soul vocal group. It's with a heavy heart that I write this tribute to their lead vocalist, the amazing Marvin Junior; a man whose powerful baritone voice embodied the epitome of soul music. Laid out end to end, I probably have three feet of Dells 45's and LP's, and the thought of distilling their career into 4 sides is daunting to say the least. While I have your attention, I'm gonna start out with the track that, if I were asked, would be the one that sums up the greatness of this group in 2:40. With a super funky intro (what *is* the instrumentation???), a sublime wordless harmony intro, and the arrival of Marvin Junior's vocals this record sends me into a zone where no distractions could pull me out of the hypnosis that great music induces.
The Dells formed
while the members were still in high school (1952) during the early doo-wop
years, and it's not hard to imagine these young men honing their chops while singing under a street lamp in their hometown of Harvey, IL (just south of Chicago). Their first single was released as The El-Rays in 1954
(featuring the lineup of Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Lucius McGill,
Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, and Johnny Funches), and by 1955 they
had renamed themselves the Dells and became a quintet after the
departure of Lucius McGill. The group cut the exquisite "Oh What A
Night" for Vee Jay Records in 1956 which became a million seller, and
one of the most loved doo-wop songs in the history of the genre. As simple as a haiku it goes straight to the heart, and the purity of this record sends chills down my spine, and Marvin co-wrote this track with group member Johnny Funches.
Follow up singles didn't hit (although fortunately the music business of the 50s' and 60s allowed artists to continue recording and building their audience), and the group was derailed temporarily
after a serious 1958 car accident which involved Mickey McGill. The
group put their career on hold until 1960, when Mickey recovered, but
Johnny Funches had left (to be replaced with Johnny Carter). This lineup
remained stable for FIFTY years until Johnny Carter passed away in
2009. However, it's hard to imagine the Dells carrying on without Marvin...
The Dells spent the early part of the '60's as studio singers (most
notably singing the backups on Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger"; a
performance which I rank as one of the all time greats, not only from
Barbara Lewis and The Dells, but in the history of recorded music). The group cut several unsuccessful (but
usually quite good) singles for Vee Jay during these years (such as this one from 1965,
career renaissance began when they were signed to Chess records and
began working under the production and writing talent of Bobby Miller.
The singles released by the group between '66-'68 are some of the
greatest ever, and the LP There Is, which collects some of
these 45's and adds in a few more stellar tracks, is simply one of the
greatest soul LP's ever released. "Run For Cover" is featured on that LP, and was also released as a single. The track has it all- drama, tension, and a groove that, once again, hypnotizes me and sends me into a really great place.
Over at the Daily 45, I re-posted another amazing Dells track, the title track of their masterpiece LP, There Is. Check it out here. I recommend immediately buying and listening to this LP as soon as possible! While the '60's soul era is typically best represented by singles, this album hangs together as a whole, and every song on the album is stellar.
"Stay In My Corner" proved to be one of the Dells biggest hits, and this ballad (once again) shows Marvin's uber-powerful voice along with those sublime group harmonies. Luckily for us, this incredible live performance is available for our viewing and listening pleasure.
The Los Angeles music scene in the early 1980's was a place of diametric opposites in the early 1980's; the punk scene had become a form of conformity with cartoonish thugs churning out loud for the sake of being loud and held tightly to fashion while the last gasp of the bloated, cocaine driven superstar acts were still massive commercially but beginning to suffer a massive comedown culminating in a crash 'n' burn thanks to the visual media of MTV.
The Rain Parade were formed in 1981 by a pair of roomates- one California native (Steven Roback) and a transplant from Minneapolis (Matt Piucci). The pair were devouring music of the '60's, and found their creative calling within the sound of their The Byrds, The Doors and Love; bands that are the spiritual and geographical older brothers of The Rain Parade. The band drew inspiration from those groups and added the lilting drone of The Velvet Underground to the mix and created something that was entirely out of step with the rest of the L.A scene. The band was rounded out by Steven's brother David, Will Glenn, and
Michael Murphy and within their first year together self released the
incredible single you're about to enjoy. In a recent interview with The Austin Chronicle, Matt Piucci said of the times "When we started playing in Los Angeles, if you weren’t sweating like a
pig in a ripped T-shirt and screaming at the top of your lungs, then you
weren’t cool. It wasn’t valid. And we thought that was bullshit. We
thought it was very punk of us to play waltz tempos slowly with acoustic
guitars at punk clubs. We thought that was punk because nobody else was
I had the pleasure of asking Matt the other day if he had any special memories of the record, and he says
"It sure was a trip seeing that thing
spin around for the first time. Recorded 8 track at Radio Tokyo n Venice
with the late Ethan James. It was a tiny house that had been converted. I remember going in thinking I am putting a sitar in this no matter
Weird coincidence, I later learned that right before Ethan got it (the house that the studio was built in), my wife (who I was yet to meet) had lived there. Good karma"
Much has been made of the so-called 'Paisley Underground", and while the other bands associated with that scene drew on some obvious '60's influences, none matched the sheer blissed-out visionary droning brilliance of The Rain Parade. At this time, the only other band that was even performing were the still developing Bangles, who were known earlier as The Colors, then The Bangs, then by their more famous name. Bangles leader Susannah Hoffs was a neighbor of the Robacks and they all attended Pacific Palisades high school.
Matt's sitar is heard in all its glory on the b-side, the lysergic sugar cube bomb that is "Kaleidoscope".
The Rain Parade went on to release a 5 star LP in 1983 (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip), and a 5 star EP in '84 (Explosions In The Glass Palace), as well as a live album and another studio effort. David Roback left the band after Emergency and formed (the also brilliant) groups Clay Allison (which became Opal), and eventually Opal morphed into Mazzy Star. Steven Roback formed Viva Saturn, and Matt Piucci Gone Fishin' and also played in the (Neil Young less) Crazy Horse.
One of the thrills of my life as a musician was sharing the stage (my band played on the same bill) with the recently reformed Rain Parade, last December at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I stood in awe listening to these magical sounds which I never thought I'd be able to hear live. Several times I had to politely ask people "please talk to me later, as this is a big deal for me to LISTEN to this set!!!" I watched in awe as Matt laid out the same whammy bar moves on the same Gretsch Tennessean as on the videos I've seen of the group back in the early '80's. Check out these two performances of "No Easy Way Down"; the first from 1983, the other 2012. -Derek See
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.
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.
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