Once again, I'll preface this post by saying 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!
We left off around the mid-'00's, and in 2005, Little Barrie's excellent debut full length (We Are Little Barrie) was released, containing a few tracks that had previously been released on 7" and a whole lot more. "Free Salute" was the single drawn from the LP, and the b-side is a SMOKING hot BBC version of "Didn't Mean A Thing", which itself was previously issued on the 'Memories Well" 45. This live version finds the band in top form. Just dig the tone, fire and taste of Barrie's guitar playing; it's the type of thing that seperates true talent from reheated, unispired blues licks.
One of the most definitive jams from Little Barrie is "Love You", a standout track from their second album (2007's Stand Your Ground). As great as the studio track is, the band takes it to a whole other galaxy during live perormance, as the groove, lyrics, and (once again) Barrie's massive guitar playing are the type of thing that's as essential as oxygen.Thankfully, this single was cut to wax, as the album was not (maybe someday we'll get a double vinyl issue of the first two Little Barrie albums...Now THAT would be a great thing.
As I mentioned previously, Little Barrie's 2011 LP release King Of The Waves is one of the best albums of recent years. The band is locked in to a (hopefully permanent) lineup of Barrie, Lewis Wharton (bass), and the 2008 addition of the amazing Virgil Howe (son of Yes' Steve Howe) on drums. Not only was King the first barrie LP to come out on vinyl (in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve) but also two really nice 45's were released from the album. While they are the same versions as the LP, they sound GREAT, are pressed on super thick wax and showcase some of the best tunes from the album, of which 'Precious Pressure" is probably my favorite, with its nice tip of the hat to The Parliaments' 1967 hit "(I Wanna) Testify".
"Burned Out" was an early (2002) single that made its way onto the Little Barrie debut LP, and DAMN is that track funky! DJ Nu Mark remixed it, and it takes the track into new terrain in the way that only an exceptional remix can (and adds a downright funny drum break section as well). Genuine Records released a cool white label promo 7" of the remix.
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!
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.
While Fontella Bass will always be thought of as one of the preeminent
Chicago soul artists (thanks in part to her massive hit, the brilliant
'Rescue Me") her roots and earliest recordings were in St Louis, MO.
Fontella's third release (1963), finds her backed by Tina Turner &
The Ikettes, and in my opinion is one of her finest records; the
personification of sass and power! While in St Louis, Fontella also sang
in the Little Milton band, and began an association with Bobby McClure
that continued on after her move to Chicago.
Bass relocated to Chicago in late '64, and cut her first duet record
with Bobby McClure ('Don't Mess Up A Good Thing') which was released in
early '65 and became a minor hit. A second duet disc was released in the
summer of '65 which was only a minor r&b hit. However, late in the
same year 'Rescue Me" was released and became a massive hit; the song is
still heard everywhere (a staple of commercials as well) and for very
good reason- it's the type of song and performance that will live on
forever. Fontella's followup disc, "Recovery" (early '66) is a lovely
song and another mighty fine performance, but it failed to match the
massive success of the big hit. further bitterness ensued when Fontella
claims she was cheated out of her share of songwriting credits on
"Rescue Me" (she eventually won co-writer credit in the 1990's). While
Fontella continued on making a few more great records through the '60's,
she, along with her husband, avant-garde sax man Lester Bowie (Art
Ensemble Of Chicago) moved to Paris. Her vocals grace the incredible Art
Ensemble track "Theme De Yo-Yo". Fontella Bass, R,I.P (1940-2012).
Also from Missouri (Kansas City), Marva Whitney (born Marva Ann
Manning) had one of the brassiest, funkiest, most powerful voices in all
of soul music. Like so many soul singers, her singing career began in
the church, and she was a member of family band The Manning Gospel
Singers, and at age 16 joined the Alma Whitney Singers (where she met
future husband Harry Whitney). Her gospel career ended in 1967, when she
joined the James Brown Revue, although the testifying power of her
voice always remained fully in the church. James Brown began producing
her records in 1968 (beginning with the incredible 'Unwind Yourself")
and the godfather certainly helped in unleashing the funk power of
sister Marva's voice.
"It's My Thing" (You Can't Tell me Who To Sock It To)" (1969), an
absurdly funky answer to the Isley Brothers "It's Your Thing" is not
only something of Marva's signature track, but is also a feminist call
to arms. James Brown's band vamps furiously behind her, while Marva
asserts her place in the world and tells the man that she doesn't NEED
him, taking the freedom aspect of The Isleys' jam to a whole other
Marva's debut solo single (1967) was 'Your Love Was Good For Me";
however, I prefer the flip side- "Saving My Love For My Baby". This
track bridges the gap beautifully between her gospel past (check out the
intro) and her funk future. When I listen to this track, I feel as
though I'm listening to the type of voice that is such a force of
nature, so raw, so powerful, that it's almost akin to looking too deeply
into a very personal side of an individual's life. I am thankful every
day that these performers gave so much of themselves in their music, and
while their passing is an indication of how fleeting life is, the music
will always resonate.
Marva Whitney, R.I.P: 1944-2012
Here's the final installment of my three-part series on the pre-Funkadelic productions of George Clinton. I've left out the Parliaments (plural) recordings from '67-'69, as they are relatively well known, amazing and easily obtained. Original copies of Pat Lewis' INCREDIBLE 1967 release "No One To Love" are nearly impossible to track down (no, I do not own an original, but this weird bootleg, probably pressed in the UK in the '80's). This record is a milestone in Detroit soul, and why it's so rare is a mystery (even a beat up copy will fetch over $2000). Perhaps it was hastily withdrawn; I have never heard a plausible explanation to its scraceness, but I can attest to its greatness.
No One To Love Clinton, along with the great J.J Barnes fully realized the soul potential found in the Beatles "Day Tripper" when this groundbreaking record was released in late '65, and they cut a VERY hard driving version to wax in '66. J.J's career, which begain in 1960, never achieved the fame that this exceptionally talented singer (and songwriter) so deserved.
This week's entry picks up more or less where I left off last week, though I'm not *exactly* in chronological order as I present these; merely arranged in a way that I feels tells the story of thse amazing records that in effect, show the birth of the P-Funk empire!
While J.J Barnes 1968 version of "Our Love (Is In The Pocket)" is the more revered version, the original take (1966) by Darrell Barnes is practically just as good! This is the b-side of Banks' debut single, and the song was co-written and co-produced by George Clinton.
Lewis' second solo release was written and produced exclusively by
Clinton, and Pat's vocals reach a new level of sultry and sexiness on
this recording. This track was also recorded by The Parliaments in 1968,
and while it's a cool version, it does not COME CLOSE to Pat Lewis'
magical performance of the song.
girl group The Debonaires knocked their 1967 recording of "Headache In
My heart" into another galaxy! This moody, stomping track is one of
Clinton's finest, and the influence of psychedelia is certainly seeping
into the potion by the time of this recording. The track was later
re-worked by Funkadelic s "Some More" on their 1970 LP "Free Your Mind
And Your Ass Will Follow". My UK copy shown here was issued a few years
later when the demand for obscure American soul records was starting to
become massive and fanatical. Too bad they couldn't be bothered to find
out who wrote the track!Headache In My Heart
Clinton used the expressiveness in Pat Lewis' voice to great effect; not only could Pat completely OWN an uptempo number, but she on "I'll Wait" (the b-side of "Warning", a classic with no Clinton involvement) she shows off her abilities with a moody, almost bluesy number.
I'll Wait There is some debate over this record by the all-white Detroit soul/ funk band The Flaming Ember; it has been reported that this two-sider marks the first appearance of (then teenaged) Eddie Hazel on lead guitar, and to my ears it *is* him. Eddie is one of the unsung geniuses of electric guitar, and the way the guitar playing is phrased so soulfully here, I firmly believe that Eddie is playing on the tracks, which truly sound like a dry run for Funkadelic!