Music Reviews

Bradley, Charles – “Black Velvet” – [Daptone Records]

aarbor   3/2/2022   CD, Soul

“Black Velvet” was the name Charles Bradley used when he worked as a James Brown impersonator early in his career. Other names he used were “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” and even “James Brown, Jr.” Gabe Roth (a/k/a Bosco Mann) co-founder of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records discovered Bradley. His debut album was released (on Daptone) in 2011 (he was 62) and he spent the last years of his life recording and touring with Daptone. He died in 2017. This album (his last) was released posthumously in 2018. The Menahan Street Band, with which Bradley recorded for many of his releases, is outstanding here. Some have described this album as a “love letter to his fans”, others as a collection of B-sides. It encapsulates the funky heart and soul of Charles Bradley and has great instrumentals. AArbor

Diasonics, The – “Origin of Forms” – [Record Kicks]

aarbor   3/2/2022   12-inch, Soul

Recorded in Moscow, Russia in 2021 this debut album is mostly instrumental funk from the Diasonics – a tight knit 5-piece funk band that calls its music “Hussar Funk”. They blend cinematic instrumentals with Eastern European melodies and boom-bap rhythms, with a touch of lingering psychedelia. They are fans of the recording techniques of the late ’60s and early ’70s. The album was recorded at the Diasonics’ own Magnetone Studio in Moscow and was mixed by Henry Jenkins in Melbourne. Enjoy! AArbor

King, Ben E. – “Spanish Harlem” – [Atco Records]

Cousin Mary   2/6/2022   12-inch, Soul

This was Ben E. King’s first solo album after his success as the lead singer of the Drifters. A big production with orchestra accompaniment, it features his huge hit Spanish Harlem. The other tracks are well known Latin American standards, sort of a unique choice for a soul album. The lyrics in Sweet and Gentle concern his cha-cha compulsion. King’s gorgeous voice carries it all.

Shirley and Lee – "Complete Singles As & Bs 1952-1962, The" – [Acrobat Music]

aarbor   10/13/2021   CD, Soul

Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee were teenagers in New Orleans who were pioneers of the boy/girl R&B duo style in the early 1950s. Their biggest hit was “Let the Good Times Roll” [Disc 1 track 23]. They hardly ever harmonized. Instead they sang separate verses and choruses using a call-and-response style, mostly because Shirley’s voice was piercing, sat in a narrow range, and she often sang a bit sharp or flat – hard to harmonize with. They recorded at the important Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studios which created the New Orleans R & B sound. Shirley and Lee were dubbed “The Sweethearts of the Blues” although the relationship they supposedly sang about in their songs (on CD1) may not have been real. I preferred CD2 for the better arrangements and more interesting songs. AArbor

Brown, James / Live At Home With His Bad Self

carsonstreet   8/31/2021   12-inch, Soul

This album is a complement to the 50th anniversary release of Live at Home With His Bad Self (which itself is an expansion of a 1969 live show that was heavily edited into the LP ‘Sex Machine’), this Record Store Day Black Friday exclusive is the after-show set, featuring extended versions of rare cuts, new mixes, a duet with Marva Whitney and some revealing stage patter.

GWP NYC TCB [coll] – [Ace Records Ltd./Virgin]

aarbor   7/28/2021   CD, Soul

GWP = Gerard “Jerry” W. Purcell a [white] “colorful New York music business man who used the best back music talent to produce fabulous soul sounds for his GWP label”. In addition to his record label, he was a TV, concert and music producer, songwriter and artist manager (he managed Al Hirt, Nancy Wilcox, Eddy Arnold and Hugo Montenegro). These 24 tracks were recorded between 1969 and 1970 for one of these 3 labels: GWP, NYC or TCB. Some of these artists did a number of recordings but none became big stars. AArbor

Como Mamas, The – "Get an Understanding" – [Daptone Records]

aarbor   4/14/2021   12-inch, Soul

In 1959 Alan Lomax visited Como, Mississippi and recorded some “porch sessions” with Miles Pratcher and his friends. In 2005 3 guys returned to Como on a trip to the South to film a documentary about local musicians. They discovered the angelic voices of Miles Pratcher’s granddaughters Della Daniels and Angela Taylor who with their friend Ester Mae Smith became The Como Mamas. This live recording was made on June 4, 2005 at their church. The stories of these 3 women are classic: poverty, hunger, clothing from flour sacks, ruined dreams… their singing helps them deal with the trials in their lives. They sing like angels. AArbor

Clinton, George & Parliament Funkadelic – "Live At Montreux 2004" – [Montreux Sounds]

aarbor   1/27/2021   CD, Soul

George Clinton et. al. Live at Montreux in 2004 playing some of their standards, but not all of these tracks are in our collection. The tracks here that are new to our collection are: Flashlight/Get Low (definitely worth a play), Yank My Doodle, Not Just Knee Deep (in which they get the audience to scat along with them), and a cover of Sentimental Journey. Of course some tracks are for late night listening. Enjoy! AArbor

Troutman, Roger – "Many Facets of Roger, The" – [Warner Bros.]

aarbor   1/20/2021   12-inch, Soul

This is Roger Troutman’s first solo album from 1981. Before going solo he and some of his brothers started the band Zapp in 1979 and was signed by George Clinton. Zapp influenced West Coast hip hop because its music was sampled a lot. Later he collaborated with Bootsy Collins. Later in his career Roger was best known for his use of a specialized “Talkbox” to create interesting vocal effects. Apparently the cover of I Heard it Through the Grapevine and the song So Ruff, So Tuff on this album were very well received. Most of the tracks are funky and the last track is Blues. AArbor

Jimmy Castor Bunch, The – "Jimmy Castor Bunch, The" – [Cotillion Records]

aarbor   1/20/2021   12-inch, Soul

From 1979, this album is upbeat, funky and danceable. The last 2 tracks are notably slower than the earlier ones. Castor is vocalist and alto sax player here. He is best known for several songs (none of which appear on this album: Hey Leroy Your Mama’s Callin’ You (1967), the Bertha Butt Boogie (1975), It’s Just Begun (1972) and Troglodyte (Cave man). He also recorded a soprano saxophone cover of A Whiter Shade of Pale (1973). AArbor

Worrell, Bernie – "All The Woo In The World" – [Tidal Waves Music]

aarbor   1/13/2021   12-inch, Soul

Bernie Worrell (who died in 2016) was a founding member of Parliament/Funkadelic, also known for his work with Talking Heads. This is his first solo album, originally released in 1978. Featured artists include: P-Funk alums like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Eddie Hazel. One reviewer described it as “so funky you can smell it through the dust jacket.” This beautiful slab of orange vinyl has much of what you’d expect from Funkadelic: layered sounds, amazing horns, toe-tapping midtempo beat – a classic platter of cosmic slop. AArbor

Brown, James and The Famous Flames – "Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" – [Rumble Records]

aarbor   1/13/2021   12-inch, Soul

This is a 2015 re-release of an early 1960’s album by James Brown and the Famous Flames when they’d had a few hits, but hadn’t quite made the big time. James has gone beyond just being a “blues singer” or a gospel singer and is singing ballads and covers here as well. What I love is the energy and intensity of his singing here – a star on the way to super stardom. AArbor

The Apollas – “Absolutely Right!” – [Kent Soul]

cadilliac margarita   6/25/2020   CD, Soul

 Originally called The Lovejoys, The Apollas were considered the Warner Brothers equivalent of the Supremes. Beginning in the early 60s as a quartet from The Bay Area, including one male singer, Ronnie Brown, they eventually ended as a trio anchored by the powerful growl of Leola Jiles. By her side was Ella Jamerson, and a rotating 3rd member (Originally 17-year-old Joann Forks, then Dorothy Ramsey, Billie Barnum, and briefly Blondell Breed). WB released their music on their short-lived LOMA soul imprint, before converting them back the main label for the remainder of their contract. During that time, they opened for Barbra Streisand and the Monkees, and performed on many nationally syndicated TV shows. Towards the end of the 1960s they toured extensively in Asia. The group called it quits in the early 70s due to a failure to break through commercially. Dick Glasser, who signed Jiles to a solo contract (stop me if you’ve heard this one) then promptly refused to let her audition under fair terms as the new lead singer of the Supremes, dashed her hopes for a mainstream career. However, the group singles found a new and enthusiastic audience in London’s Northern Soul scene. Since disbanding, all members have continued to perform as professional back- up singers, along with occasional solo tours, and most recently a reunion in UK in 2007. This is wonderful. A nice mix of upbeat RnB rockers, soulful strings, and melancholy heartbreak. Leola Jiles spectacular lead vocals burn hot and are very distinctive and memorable in my book. I’m glad we have the opportunity to share this collection, which includes some of Jiles solo cuts, with our listeners.

Gaye, Marvin – You’re The Man – [Universal Music Enterprises]

aarbor   5/6/2020   12-inch, Soul

From 1972 when George McGovern ran against Nixon in the presidential race and a lost year in the life of Marvin Gaye. The title track like its predecessor “What’s Going On” is clearly political but nowhere near as powerful. The issues may be different today but the message is still relevant.    I liked the B sides of both of the records. Apparently Stevie Wonder gave Marvin Gaye a brand new Moog (which had just come out) it appears on the instrumental Christmas in the City and is cool. AArbor

The Complete Cookies

cadilliac margarita   2/5/2020   CD, Soul

Fun, smooth, sweet as a toothache, and impossibly catchy, these ladies make me want to find some friends to dress in matching outfits, tease my hair to the sky, and choreograph synchronized dance moves. Their harmonies are tight, the hand claps and doo-wahs are on point, and there is a confidence to these tunes that make it way more about finding personal strength through teenage heartbreak than just chasing stupid boys. A product of the Carole King / Gerry Goffin hit machine. Masterfully produced early 60s girl group sound. The trio, who started out as backup singers for Little Eva on her King/Goffin smash, “Locomotion” featured Earl–Jean McCrea, Dorothy Jones, and Margaret Ross. They had worked on other various songs in 1962, but working after working with King, they moved from background to foreground. In a bit of scandal, Earl-Jean ended up giving birth to a baby girl in 1964 fathered by Gerry Goffin, who was married to Carole King at the time. She ended up retiring from music, and by 1967, The Cookies had disbanded. Dorothy Jones has since passed away, but Margaret Ross still tours as The Cookies on occasion with two other new backup singers.  

Seba Kaapstad – Thina

cadilliac margarita   1/22/2020   CD, Soul

Groovy neo-soul from a multi-cultural quartet of 2 singer/songwriters from South Africa, and 2 German multi-instrumentalists, equally contributing to the intriguing sound tapestry presented.  There is piano, synth, drums, guitar, and strings. This is lovely and mellow, shimmering with positivity and upbeat in a very relaxing way.  The lyrics never get too preachy, just contemplative in an existential way that can make even the most cynical of listeners stop and consider getting out of your own head for a while. Take a look at the world around you to consider others, their existence, and how you can relate and connect.

Sounds Like…The Flirtations

cadilliac margarita   9/20/2019   CD, Soul

Their 1969 LP + demos and a few bonus tracks from the early 1970s.

The Flirtations (Sisters Ernestine and Shirley Pearce, along with friend Vie Billups, who also performs under the moniker of Pearly Gates) began as a 4 piece with their other sister Betty and Lestine Johnson in NYC in 1960. After recording a few singles and mild success domestically, they were convinced to relocate to the UK where Northern Soul was still very popular. They hooked up with producer Wayne Bickerton and writer Tony Waddington, and released their debt full length album on Decca. They have recorded and performed ever since, working with several different labels.

Lovely full sound! Lots of clear and well-rounded vocals, plucky horns, dramatic strings, and upbeat percussion.

FAST FACT: Their big single (Track 1) was used in a KFC advertisement campaign in 2007.

Brown, James – “JamesBrownJazz” – [Verve/MGM]

Medusa of Troy   9/18/2019   CD, Soul

Over six decades of recording, Brown touched on jazz in a variety of projects – first, as an organist with his own hard swinging group; then a couple of vocal albums, one with a cocktail trio, another with Louis Bellson’s big band. There’s also JB’s tribute to fellow King Records artist Little Willie John that fired up his jazz influences. Despite being an influential funk band ever, JB’s band also introduced trumpeter Waymon Reed, trombonist Fred Wesley and saxophonists Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis and Maceo Parker, all of whom had enviable jazz credentials. (Parker’s rousing performance on “There” is thought to be his first recorded solo.) There are some highlights — a number of tracks are rare versions or previously unreleased — including “That’s My Desire (alt. mix)”, “After You’re Through (extended version)”, “Tengo Tango”, “Home At Last (alt. mix)”, “There (unreleased version)”, “What Do You Like (stereo single edit)”, “Go On Now (alt. mix.)”, “For Once In My Life (alt. mix)” and “Cottage for Sale (alt. mix)”. The material is from the 1960s and ’70s, and features a number of alternate mixes and singles edits, some of which have never been released.

This album really doesn’t belong in the Soul Library, even is JB is the “Godfather of Soul”. There’s more Jazz than Soul here. – Reviewed by Ann Arbor, April 8, 2009.

Brown, James – “Love Over-Due” – [Scottie Brothers Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/18/2019   CD, Soul

No one (except maybe Kevin O’Dante or the Reverend Dah) is a bigger JB fan than me, but just the same, I was prepared to hate this. Guess what? It’s not half bad. Not every tune is brilliant (they range from some smokin’ funk to some too-slick ballads) but there’s way more than enough to justify its existence, as well as some damn fine moments. Well done, JB! – Reviewed by Johnny P, September 21, 1994.

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