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Music Reviews

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.

Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures (Taken From the Vaults)

cadilliac margarita   9/18/2019   12-inch, Soul

A compilation of “Deep Soul”* (soul from America that never found a wide audience in America) selected by the late Dave Godin, a UK Record shop owner and soul music enthusiast who coined the phrase*. There are a few familiar names on here…Irma Thomas, Ruby Andrews…other than that, mostly artists new to me, including some artists that there is little to no info on. Love and pain, both political and personal can be found on these recordings spanning the years of 1966-1973, which as we know was a time of turmoil and big change in this country. My personal standouts: A3, A4, and the first three tracks on side B, which cook!!

Bootsy’s New Rubber Band – “Blasters of The Universe” – [Rykodisc]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This double Bootsy-blast dates from way back in 1994, but it hasn’t aged a bit. The Boots takes all the lessons he learned from he sojourn with James Brown and Funkadelic and distills them down to two hours of solid boogie! The tracks on Disc 2 are extra-funkified version of Disc 1 tracks, without the banter. Any of the tracks will boil water but go for CD2 if you really want to blow your speakers. Reviewed by Goodwrench, January 14, 2015.

Booker T. & The M.G.’s – “Soul Dressing” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

A collection of cuts recorded at various times during ’62, ’63 and ’64, some with Lewis Steinberg on bass and the rest with his replacement, the legendary Duck Dunn. The music itself is the Stax sound stripped to its essentials and sinew. Glorious, glorious stuff. Reviewed by Johnny P., January 8, 1992.

Booker T. & the M.G.’s – “Green Onions” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

The first Booker T. & the MG’s album (1962) and this provided the blueprint for it all. Not just this band but the entire Stax/Volt sound and aesthetic. Stripped down, no-bullshit ensemble playing. Pre-Duck Dunn with Lewis Steinberg on bass. – Reviewed by Johnny P., February 12, 1992.

Blowfly – “Twisted World of Blowfly, The” – [Pandisc Records]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

While many Johnny-come-latelys having been using the foul word as a career (2 Live Crew, etc.), the man called Blowfly has been doing it for more than thirty years. He’s like a R’n’B Redd Foxx. This is all old material, but new versions helped out by members of Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some are lame, but most aren’t. Reviewed by Lucifer, July 3, 1991.

Blind Boys of Alabama, The – “Higher Ground” – [Real World Records Ltd.]

Medusa of Troy   9/4/2019   CD, Soul

This group has been around for 7 decades! Since forming their group at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, they have kept alive the spirit and energy of pure soul gospel music. The Blind Boys’ music has not only endured, but thrived, helping both to define the sound of the American south and to push it forward through the 20th century and well on into the 21st. This is one of their best known albums (a Grammy winner) from 2002. The sound is fresh and often more gutsy than traditional gospel music. The best known tracks on this album are: “People Get Ready”[1] and “I Shall Not Walk Alone”[11]. I especially like [9] and [10]. Reviewed by Ann Arbor, May 23, 2018.

Black Children Sledge Funk Co.- Band – “Vol. 3 – Aviation Grand Father” – [PMG Audio.CD]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Nigerian psych rock. Re-issue of 1979 album. This was the band’s third album, Vol. 3: Aviation Grand Father, is soul, funk, jazz and a little bit of early synth. In the mid-sevens Nigeria, everybody loved the Black Children Sledge Funk Co. Band. Blasting out of the bustling river port of Onitsha, their infectious, feel-good grooves were the perfect antidote to the dark economic clouds gathering over the country. Everyone in the band changed their last name to Black. Last track is an instrumental. – Reviewed by Carson Street, January 31, 2018.

Birmingham Sunlights – “For Old Time’s Sake” – [Flying Fish]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

The Sunlights are a dynamic young a cappella gospel group. They hail from Jefferson County, Alabama, where gospel music has flourished since the turn of the century. The Sunlights have received priceless instruction from groups like the Four Eagles and the Sterling Jubilees, and have taken that technical know-how and combined it with unusual syncopation for a fresh sound. This is lively, fervent, joyous stuff. Please enjoy.

P.S. Note there are 5 singers in this quartet — a fifth voice was added so the lead singer can “step out front” for long solo passages without sacrificing the groups 4-part harmony. – Reviewed by Peggy O, August 26, 1992

Biggs, Travis – “Challenge” – [Universal Sound]

Medusa of Troy   8/21/2019   CD, Soul

Multi-instrumentalist, martial artist, and magician Travis Biggs recorded and self-released this debut album in the mid-70s, then went on to work with higher-profile artists including The Supremes and Isaac Hayes. The current reissue comes to us in conjunction with Soul Jazz’s NEW THING! compilation, which featured the very best track here, “Tibetan Serenity.” While Travis plays several instruments on the album, his most obvious (and unique) contributions are the acoustic and electric violins, which make him sound like a funkier version of Jean-Luc Ponty. Check his Stevie Wonder cover, “I Wish,” or the instrumental track “Solar Funk for more highlights. – Reviewed by Rococo, January 11, 2006.

Bell, William – “Soul of a Bell, The” – [Atlantic]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

William Bell was the best-kept secret on the entire Stax/Volt roster. He was there from the very beginning, and continued recording with the label ’till the end. A versatile musician, he was both a writer and a singer. As a singer, he could hang with anybody – as his gutsy cover of Otis’ “Loving You Too Long” attests – and he possessed a sweet, understated voice. The first half of this is ballads, the other half more up. Both are sublime. Do yourself and your listeners a favor and play this … a lot (especially the ballads). – Reviewed by Johnny P., October 9, 1991.

Basehead – “Play with Toys” – [Emigre]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Inventive Washington D.C. duo that uses mostly live instrumentation mixed with imaginative samples. Languid, clever stories of a lovelorn individual over slow non-cliche mixes. A whole new approach here: had a good one. – Reviewed by Lucifer, January 29, 1992.

Basehead – “Not In Kansas Anymore (Unedited)” – [Imago Recording Company]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Follows in the style of their “Plays With Toys” CD. Michael Ivey’s voice is predominant, as is his attitude – he’s definitely pissed off with social and criminal justice – racism – police treatment. Humor on some tracks – but not as enlightened as on “Play With Toys.” Some tracks deal with the pleasure of smoke (try playing together with Ring Tee.) Overall, a step down from “Toys”. Reviewed by Ned Walker, February 24, 1993. [N.B – lots of FCCs]

Bar-Kays – “Soul Finger” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

I don’t know why Stax Records they they needed a younger clone of Booker T & the MGs but they did, and even got Book and MG drummer Al Jackson to mentor them. A more aggressive, maybe even more energetic and enthusiastic than the MGs, but lacking in that rock solid, yet slinky panache. Still, quite a nice record, this. Reviewed by Johnny P., 1994.

Ballard, Hank – “Sexy Ways: The Best of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters” – [Rhino Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/7/2019   CD, Soul

Hank Ballard wrote “The Twist” – Chubby, born and raised in Detroit, Ballard was discovered singing on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line (so the liner notes say). Ballard’s connections go way back: Johnny Otis picked him over Jackie Wilson – out of an amateur bank contest – to win a recording contract. Ballard is a good friend and singing buddy of Mr. James Brown. Some tracks on this CD are bluesy (3)(7). Some are gospelly (10), most are R&B. – Reviewed by Ned Walker, May 11, 1994

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