Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Not Just The Blues

Chess Records is the undisputed champ when it comes to electric blues in the early sixties, but there were also great R&B, soul & jazz records made there as well. Towards the end of the decade the heyday of Chicago blues had passed and Chess was finding more success with soul acts such as Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Fontella Bass and Billy Stewart.

One of these soulful singers was Marlena Shaw. Marlena dropped out of college and played small clubs throughout the mid sixties until she hooked up with Count Basie with whom she toured for four years. She is still performing today and it is on stage where she really shines. That energy is captured on Liberation Conversation recorded in 1969 for Cadet Records which was Chess' Jazz subsidiary. The songs erupts into a frenzy of scat (Ga,Ga,Gan,Ga,Ga,Ga,G) that has been sampled numerous times. It appears on her LP Spice of Life.

Marlena Shaw: Liberation Conversation

Terry Callier is a jazzy mystic whose style defies genre. A Chicago native, Terry caught the attention of Chess execs while playing local coffeehouses. Ordinary Joe appears on his 1972 LP Occasional Rain. The song has an easy swing that instantly puts you in a great mood and makes you want to say hello to your neighbor.

Terry Callier: Ordinary Joe

The Rotary Connection possessed a lavish sound that still sounds modern today. The group that featured the remarkable 5 octave voice of Minnie Riperton recorded 6 albums between 1967 and 1971. Black Gold of The Sun appears on 1971's Hey Love and is arguably the group's best track. I love an epic song like this!

The Rotary Connection: I Am The Black Gold of The Sun

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Young, Gifted & Black

It's the tail end of Black History Month and I can't help but think of the many great tunes that came out of the civil rights movement in the 60's. Am I Black Enough For You, Give More Power to The People, We're A Winner, Be Real Black For Me, & of course Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud just to name a few. But there is one that always stands out to me: Nina Simone's To Be Young, Gifted & Black released in 1969.

Nina Simone: To Be Young, Gifted & Black

Co-written with musician Weldon Irvine, Y, G & B was an homage to Nina's friend playwright Lorraine Hansberry (Raisin In The Sun) but soon became an anthem to express the pride in the achievements of African-Americans. Being a white kid from the 1970's suburbs, this song certainly wasn't written to speak to me, but I think anyone can see how empowering this song is. Nina Simone was one of a kind and you'll be hearing a lot of her around here. Her fragile, wavering voice backed by the small but strong choir really tells the story.

Donny Hathaway: To Be Young, Gifted & Black

Donny Hathaway was a true master of soul with a voice that flows over the listener like warm molasses. Most well known for his duets with Roberta Flack, Donny ultimately proved to be a tragic figure in music commiting suicide in 1979. Here is his cover of Ms. Nina's song from 1970's Everything Is Everything.

Bob & Marcia: Young, Gifted & Black

Bob & Marcia's version also from 1970 was the first that I ever heard and has quite a different feel. Still just as powerful, it has a much more upbeat and celebratory vibe. Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths were both well known reggae stars when their rendition of Young, Gifted & Black hit the UK Top Ten. Here's another bit of trivia for you, Marcia later joined Bob Marley's backup singers The I-Threes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Little Sunshine in The Middle of Winter

There's only two ways to get though winter in Western New York 1. drink or 2. deny that your cold and put on some reggae! Who am I kidding, you need a Red Stripe with that too. Here's one of my favorite soulful reggae covers. Its Jimmy Lindsay's 1978 version of Lionel's Easy. I can't help but be in a great mood with this one that I took from a UK Rewind Selecta compilation introduced to me on vinyl by my good friend Andy. I was fortunate to stumble across the same compilation on CD on my last trip to London at Intoxica, a stellar soul funk reggae shop in Notting Hill.
Taken from the same CD I've included Back A Yard from The In Crowd also from 1978 and Time Is The Master by the great John Holt from 1973. The sun will soon shine. Irie.
Jimmy Lindsay: Easy
In Crowd: Back A Yard
John Holt: Time Is The Master

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Finally, a mash-up that does not annoy me

Elvis Meets The Wailers: Crying In The Chapel
Here's my first post and I'm stealing it from another audioblog. Pretty weak of me but this is a really cool mash-up. I found this on Captain Crate's tremendous blog and unfortunately I don't have too much info on it. Just sit back and enjoy!