Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deep Soul Top 25

A couple of months or so ago, this mailing list I subscribe to about Southern Soul challenged the members to come up with a top 25 Deep Soul cuts. It started out with a call for the one song that might define Deep Soul, and my first thought was (Little) Johnny Truitt's "Your Love Is Worth the Pain." A truly amazing performance that really just has to be heard to believe.

I should say that any discussion of Deep Soul begins with all the great work done by John Ridley, aka Sir Shambling, whose Deep Soul Heaven website is a mammoth and largely altruistic effort to share great rare 45s with the rest of the world. I personally owe hit a big thank you and haven't even gotten through even half the tunes on the site.

Without further ado, the radio show was the top 25, only in the order of what sounded natural.

Little Johnny Truitt; Your Love Is Worth the Pain; A-bet 9433
Kip Anderson; I Went Off and Cried; Excello 2303
Jimmy Braswell; I Can't Give You My Heart; King 6374
Doris Allen; A Shell of a Woman; Minaret 149
Arthur Conley; In the Same Old Way; Fame 1007
Carl Marshall; I Can't Live Without You; Double Hit 801
Thomas Bailey; Wish I Was Back; Federal 12567
Z. Z. Hill; (Home Just Ain't Home at) Suppertime; Atlantic 2659
James Carr; That's the Way Love Turned Out For Me; Goldwax 338
Ruby Johnson; Come to Me My Darling; Volt 140
Otis Redding; I Love You More Than Words Can Say; Volt 146
Otis Clay; Is It Over; Cotillion 44104
O. V. Wright; This Hurt Is Real; Backbeat 604
Bobby Boseman; Cheaters Never Win; Eve Jim 1941
Irma Thomas; Your Until Tomorrow; unissued (Down at Muscle Shoals; Chess)
Tony Ashley; We Must Have Love; Decca 32342
Candi Staton; Another Man's Woman, Another Woman's Man; I'm Just a Prisoner; Fame
Johnny Copeland; Let Me Cry; unissued? (At His Best)
Herman Hitson; You Are Too Much For the Human Heart (unsweetened version); Soul-Tay-Shus
Rudolph Taylor; Doorsteps to Sorrow; Roman 311
Touissant McCall; Nothing Takes the Place of You; Ronn 3
Joe Simon; Looking Back; Sound Stage 7 2622
Don Bryant; Is That Asking Too Much; Hi 2131
Laura Lee; Hang It Up; Chess 2062
Margie Hendrix; Do Right Baby; unissued (Southern Soul Sisters; SS7/Charley)

Department of Discography: I limited myself to one tune per artist, so it was difficult to chose just one song from the following artists. So if I were going to start anywhere with Deep Soul, I would choose these reissues:

O. V. Wright; The Soul of O. V. Wright; Fontana
James Carr; The Complete Goldwax Singles; Kent
Otis Clay; Hi Records; Hi
Irma Thomas; Down At Muscle Shoals; Chess/Charley
And of course, any Otis Redding compilation

Speaking of compilations, two of these songs (Jimmy Braswell and Thomas Bailey) come off a great Deep Soul compilation that tends towards the more obscure 45s: King's Serious Soul: Too Much Pain,
put together by John Ridley with the good folks at Kent. The tracks on the CD were not done (for the most part) in house at the label's home in Cincinnati, but rather leased from all over the great Southland. Furthermore, both the Johnny Truitt and Kip Anderson tunes are on the first volume of Excello soul cuts, entitled
The Heart of Southern Soul: From Nashville to Memphis and Muscle Shoals.

A few songs that I think of in the same breath that I left off the list since they are more precursors than fitting exactly into the genre:

Bobby "Blue" Bland; I'll Take Care of You; Two Steps from the Blues; Duke (that haunting organ!)
Sam Cooke; I Lost Everything; Night Beat; RCA
Percy Mayfield; Memory Pain; Tangerine 935
Earl King; Those Lonely, Lonely Nights; Ace

And there are omissions that I can't justify: Bettye LaVette ("Let Me Down Easy" or "Your Turn to Cry"), the late Earl Gaines ("Hymn #5"), Johnny Adams ("Sometimes a Man Will Shed a Few Tears Too"), Ella Washington (so many), Dan Penn (any version of "It Tears Me Up"), Willie Hightower ("You Used Me"), The Dells' "Stay in My Corner," and others. And the best thing about any list like this is that it's a moment in time. There's always more songs to discover (I just bought the Ollie Nightingale Memphis 45 with the very O. V. Wright-ish "Standing On Your Promise" that could've made the list).

I can't give enough credit though: if I was starting anywhere for obscure Deep Soul cuts, I would go to Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven.

Sorry it's taken so long to update, but I've got some archived radio shows including tributes to the late greats Willie Mitchell and Bobby Charles, as well as a tribute to Eddie Hinton that coincided with the reissue of "Very Extremely Dangerous."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Little Bob and the Lollipop's "Nobody But You" b/w "I Got Loaded"

While I put together the forever promised Spooner show, I figured I'd take a week and focus on one of those great two siders from Southwest Louisiana: Little Bob and the Lollipops with the sweet R&B ballad, "Nobody But You" b/w their hit stomper "I Got Loaded."

Little Bob, born Camille Bob in Arnaudville in 1937, was (and still is) one of the great R&B and Swamp Pop singers of Southwest Louisiana. As quoted by Herman Fuselier, Lafayette music journalist, Little Bob came to our ears the honest way after trading a horse for his first set of drums: "My thing was to make a dollar. Help my mother and father get off that farm, man. When you're a sharecropper, you don't make no money, working on half. About the time the crop come in, the white man had it all. I was tired of going in that field. Dew on your hands in the morning, bending your back digging potatoes and breaking corn, running from snakes. It was a lot easier playing music. In '55, I was making $85 a week playing music. That was big bucks back then."

After some time backing Good Rockin' Bob on drums, Little Bob decided to break out on his own. He wanted to name the band Lil' Bob and the Tigers, but on the advise of a club owner and tapping into the popularity of Cookie & the Cupcakes, he wanted something with a little more girl appeal: and Lil' Bob & the Lollipops was born. I wish bands could still have names like that today. The band got quite a following playing the fraternity and dancehall circuits in the gulf area.

In 1964, Little Bob & the Lollipops recorded for Carol Ranchou's La Louisianne label in Lafayette, pumping out 5 stellar tracks in July, including today's song: "Nobody But You" along with its B-Side, "I Got Loaded." "Nobody But You" was a minor hit (Top 40) nationally in 1959 for Chicago R&B singer Dee Clark. Although somewhat forgotten to history, Clark had a number of smaller hits in the hey day of R&B, culminating in 1961 No. 2 hit, "Raindrops." Clark's version of the song is very urbane R&B (you can listen to it here) complete with extraneous production (including a flute and almost constant backing singers) and his super smooth tenor with the occasional falsetto. There's no doubt it's a sweet, sweet song.

Little Bob & the Lollipops do a bit more with the tune, by doing less. The band is the straight R &B line-up, guitar, bass, drums, and horns--recorded with nothing else (most likely 'cause they couldn't afford any more). The interesting thing about this recording to me is that Little Bob's vocals sit right on the crossroad of the influences on Southern Soul: the material being the urban R&B with a hint of those doowop harmonies in the falsettos, mixed with a little Sam Cooke climbing those notes and a little Bobby "Blue" Bland in the phrasing.

It's also got a couple of the elements of Swamp Pop that I love. Little Bob starts with the money making falsetto hum, achieving that instant recoginition of a song that is so important to the great Swamp Pop tunes. And, although this is more of an accident than an intention, the sound of the singer going into the red on the modulator in those early recordings is endearing to me--there's that piece of compression when Little Bob gets loud that (for no good reason) I find compelling. And then there's the B-Side.

"I Got Loaded" is a great Southwest Louisiana party tune: relentlessly upbeat, repetitive enough in its structure to keep the dance going strong, and anthemic for that sing-a-long. Fellow blogger, Funky 16 Corners, captures that feeling by admitting how he can't help but sing in the car at the top of his lungs everytime this track hits him. I also like the bravado and simplicity of the tune: there's no narrative, no reason, no sad tales--it's just what happened and will happen. Dance to it or not. Don't think about it.

The tender, slow dance ballad on Side A, the stomper on Side B. Now that's what a 45 should be.

There's a bunch more to the story: Little Bob endured some very tough times being a black performer in the early 60s in the South, which is well told by Shane Bernard in his excellent book, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, and by Fuselier in the liner notes to the La Lousianne cd. But this story has a good ending, Little Bob still plays to this day and the La Louisanne record label still exists to this day.

Department of Discography:

That same label, La Louisanne has a great cd of 26 tracks recorded by Little Bob and the Lollipops recorded between 1963 and 1969. Check out their website here. The label seems to be run still in the family, as David Rachou is listed as the re-masterer of the tracks. It's got all those great Swamp Pop songs: blues, New Orleans soul (including one by Eddie Bo, who I just learned yesterday, sadly passed away), some originals that sound like crosses of Sam Cooke and Art Neville, and mid 60s soul cuts.

Lil' Bob also recorded for Goldband, Whit, Jin and others. Sir Shambling has posted some of those tracks here.

The great Southern Soul singer, Willie Hightower, who Barney Hoskyns described as "Sam Cooke after a night on the tiles," also recorded a stellar version of "Nobody But You" in 1968 for Capitol, which has been reissued by the London record store Honest Jon's in collaboration with Astralwerks on a self-titled cd.

"I Got Loaded" has been kicking around for a while in other forms, on a New Orleans (sic) party mix cd from Rhino, covered by Los Lobos (whose version was in Bull Durham), Elivis Costello and others.

Thanks for listening and reading. The set list:

Roy Hamilton; From the Dark End of the Street; Tore Up: The AGP Recordings (Shout!)

Little Bob & the Lollipops; Nobody But You; I Got Loaded (La Louisianne)
Arthur Alexander; Anna (Go To Him); Ultimate (Razor & Tie)
The Masqueradors; I Got It; Bell 733
Kelly Brothers; You're That Great Big Feelin'; Sims 265 (Heart of Southern Soul; Excello)
Little Willie John; Let's Rock While the Rockings Good; King 5142

Irv Le June, Jr.; One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer; The Greatest of the Greats; Goldband
Cleveland Crochet; Sugar Bee;
Ted Taylor; Don't Lie; Okeh 7154 (Shout!)
Bobby Powell; Who's Your Lover; Whit
Sleepy LaBeef; You're Humbuggin' Me; Electricity; Rounder

Joe Tex; Don't Let Your Right Hand Know; Dial 4006
Buddy & Julie Miller; The River's Gonna Run; Best of the High Tone Years
Carla Thomas; Baby I Like What You're Doing To Me; Stax 0024
Doug Sahm; She Put the Hurt on Me; Juke Box Music; Antone's
Doris Duke; Feet Start Walking; I'm a Loser; Canyon (Kent)

Johnnie Allan; Your Picture; Promised Land (Ace)
Mighty Sam McClain; Talk To Me; Amy 984 (Sundazed)
Bobby "Blue" Bland; You Got Me (Where You Want Me); I Pity the Fool; (Duke/MCA)
Barbara Lynn; There's Something on Your Mind; You'll Lose . . . Jamey Recordings

Arthur Conley; I'm Gonna Forget About You; Sweet Soul Music; Atco
Earl Gaines; Have Faith (In Me); I Pity the Fool;
The Raelettes; I'm Getting Along Allright; Tangerine
Larry Coney; More Time (To Explain); (Down & Out; Trikont)
Tommy McClain; I Can't Take It No More; Essential (Jin)
Johnny Cash; I Couldn't Keep From Crying; Now There Was a Song; Columbia

James Carr; Love Attack; Goldwax (Kent)
Bettye LaVette; What Condition My Condition Is In; (Dirty Laundry; Trikont)
Wilson Pickett; Stagger Lee; I'm In Love; Atlantic
Bobby Womack; Arkansas State Prison; My Prescription; Minit

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bobby Womack: "I'm Gonna Forget About You"

A couple of weeks ago, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced it's 2009 Inductees, and lo and behold, 3 Dark End of the Street Favorites are on the list: Bobby Womack, Wanda Jackson (as early influence), and Spooner Oldham (as sideman). So this week, we did a set of Womack songs, to be followed in the coming weeks by ones on the other two. The song that starts this week's show is Bobby's version of an unreleased (at the time) song by his mentor Sam Cooke, recorded at American Studios for his second solo record, My Prescription.

Over at his excellent B-Side blog, Red Kelly did a two part post of the early career of Bobby Womack, from his time singing gospel with his brothers as the Womack Brothers, to his early secular forays under the tutelage of Sam Cooke as the Valentinos, through his time as a studio musician in Memphis and association with Wilson Pickett, up to his first couple of records. Matter of fact, Red posted the B-Side (aptly enough) of this week's song, the similarly incredible, "Don't Look Back" (which to Red's discerning ear, may be the best track of all the great ones he's put up on the site). There's no need to rehash all that information here, just click on over to Red and get back to me.

First of all, the song: Mr. Cooke recorded it in late August, 1962 at the same time as "Nothing Can Change This Love," at RCA studio with Rene Hall coordinating the arrangements. As far as I can tell, it was never released in his lifetime (it doesn't even get mention in Peter Guralnick's extensive biography, "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke" which I heartily recommend). Coming on the heels of some time in Chicago with family and a 2 week tour of the West Indies, this studio session to record the follow up to the incredible gospel flavored reworking of Charles Brown's blue number "I Want to Come Home" as "Bring It On Home" b/w the stomper "Having a Party." It was a double sided hit and Mr. Cooke wanted to rush into the studio for "Nothing Can Change This Love," which I must admit, is the flowing pop standard side of his repertoire that I don't find as compelling as his other work (as a brief aside the song itself doesn't have to fit that mold, as evidenced by the live recording on "Live at the Harlem Sqaure Club"). Depite the lush orchestration and the sugar Romantic lines, Mr. Guralnick does well to describe the other side of the coin in the "sorrowful deliberation" of the ending: "It ends with as straight forward an admission of the lover's plight as you're ever likely to get from Sam."

I can't recall where I read this (might have been in Womack's autobiography), but apparently Bobby was playing guitar at this session. And, well, I'm not sure if that makes chronological sense, but the opening guitar line sound like vintage Womack: that elegant mix of a hard plucked line with the simplicity of a vocal melody. It really just sets the tone for the number perfectly: both looming and instantly recognizable. The organ (the brooding seems so unlike the recordings of the time, and is enthralling) and and rhythm section fill out behind the introduction and Sam just sings it with all the multifarious sentiment that made Sam such an incredible singer: each line starts with a new emotion. Most if it, Sam brings such a strained sense to the difficultly of the song's narrative.

Lyrically, it also has that very Sam Cooke sense of the universal scene, such common lines as taking her picture off the wall, the same old line, and fishes in the sea take on such an internal feel with Sam that emanates to all his listeners. (Aside: the lack of detail in Cooke's songwriting is probably more a product of his time and background music than a lack of creativity--I occasionally make the unsubstantiated claim that the era of specificity in songwriting begins with Chuck Berry, but that's probably another post).

Sam had recognized early the talent that Bobby had, as quoted by Guralnick in conversation with his brother, L. C. Cooke, after just signing the Womack brothers to SAR, "Now let me show you something about Bobby. It's different when you close your eyes and listen to him. When Bobby sings, he demands attention -- whether you like him or not, you're going to listen to him." In such a short statement, that really sums up Bobby Womack best for me: he demands attention. Bobby was no innovator in soul or rock music, but the size of his talent is immense. To borrow a metaphor from baseball, he's the rare 5 tool player: singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and showman. His guitar playing, beginning with the work with Sam, through his time as session musician in what I would argue is the greatest production/backing group ever at American studios under Chips Moman, to his own solo work was always so distinctive--simple, hard hitting and unforgetable and the same time. His singing always demanded an extra listen.

The way he reworks "I'm Gonna Forget About You" is a showcase for all that talent. He keeps the guitar introduction, but moves the backing vocals echoing the line with the chorus before the vocal lead, a trick that Dan Penn had learned earlier (and this may be part of what made this an "American Group Production"), about putting the hook of the title right up front for instant recognizability. The horns swell and punch then the genius of those backing vocals (echoing the horns) to counterpoint the attention grabbing gutteral vocal sound. And that's where Bobby can hiy hard everytime, it's not the deep growl of a Bobby Bland or his deep soul followers, it's something else entirely: it's stuck in his throat while being secondary to the catch of the melody, "If you stay, I'm gonnnna move" and especially the "Don't try to tell me that you're sor-ry / Whoooa don't give me the same old line" where the organ gives way to the drums coming up in the mix and really push his register up by the time the horns come back. And then to top it all off, he just smoothly eases into the chorus again. Wow. In one word: resilent.

The more and more I listen to these recordings from My Presciption, I'm just in awe of how tight the group is, how complex the layering of the arrangements are, and how well Bobby just brings it all together with the vocals. The American Group Production at its height and Bobby at his best. I just can't say enough about his talent (mostly cause I just don't have the words). This talent did him well for the rest of his career, scoring hits throughout the decades. A Hall of Famer indeed.

Department of discography: The Bobby Womack version on My Prescription is available (cheaply too in most cases) on a Charley double cd called Bobby Womack in Memphis which includes that record along with Fly Me to the Moon. It's absolutely essential Southern Soul. And for my money, My Prescription is the best solo record--great originals, stunning preformance and production that highlights both of those.

Also essential for the Womack Brothers/Valentinos and how unique Bobby's talent was even then is the double cd set Sam Cooke's SAR Story, which includes the first big commercial splash (although for some other band supposedlty), "It's All Over Now."

For his songwriting skills, the Wilson Pickett Atlanitc records from the late 60s are peppered with Womack songs--my personal favorites are The Sound of and I'm In Love, which each have 3 great Womack songs. As for his guitar playing at American Studios in the mid 60's, that's a whole nother post (or website for that matter).

If you want a whole overview of Bobby's solo career, the 2cd set, Midnight Mover: The Bobby Womack Collection has all the hits and more (including some just flat out incredible songs like the country soul "Arkansas State Prison" and the lightning in a bottle "What Is This" as well as the best of his later recordings).

The Sam Cooke version of the song appears on the even more essential 4cd set, The Man Who Invented Soul, which is really for my money the best place to start for those interested in Sam (although Live at the Harlem Square Club is a cheaper alternative if you're more into the gritty Cooke). Actually, the one problem (licensing) with that set is that it doesn't include the excellent recording done at the end of Sam's career for Abcko, so I would say buy the above mentioned 2, as well as the compilation Just Moving On, and really who at this point in our history can live without "A Change Is Gonna Come." Someone out there has put up a easy to navigate discography of Sam Cooke's recordings here.

Arthur Conley also recorded a version of "I'm Gonna Forget About You" on Sweet Soul Music, which has its own merits, and sounds worlds away from Bobby's version--more resigned than rebellious.

And check out the entertaining (although not that informative) autobiography of Bobby Womack: Midnight Mover: The True Story of the World's Greatest Soul Singer (modesty is apparently not a requirement for the HoF). If you want to learn about his recordings at American, you wouldn't find much, but if you want to hear funny stories about his experiences with prostitutes or his coke dealer, you'll be well rewarded.

Thanks for reading and listening, and I promise a Spooner Oldham show soon. Here's the set list:

James Carr; Dark End of the Street; Goldwax 317

Bobby Womack; I'm Gonna Forget About You; My Prescription; Minit
Wilson Pickett; I Found the One; The Sound of; Atlantic
Ella Washington; I Can't Afford To Lose Him; Sound Stage 7 2597
Gene Taylor; Don't Go Away; Minit 32073
Percy Sledge; Baby, Help Me; Atlantic 2383
The Valentinos; I Can Understand It, Part 1; Clean 60005

Aretha Franklin; That's the Way I Feel About 'Cha; Rare & Unreleased (Atlantic/Rhino)
Don Covay & the Goodtimers; Can't Stay Away; Rosemart 801
Geater Davis; I'm Gonna Change; Lost Soul Man (AIM)
Johnny Copeland; Dedicated to the Greatest; Wand 1114

Arthur Conley; Funky Street; Soul Directions; Atco
O.V. Wright; Into Something (Can't Shake It Loose); epon; Hi
Little Johnny Taylor; Zig Zag Lightning;
Peggy Scott & JoJo Benson; Love Will Come Sneaking Up On You; Soul Shake; SSS
Z. Z. Hill; Think People; Hill 222

Jimmy Hughes; Time Will Bring You Back; Fame 1015
The Wallace Brothers; You're Mine; Simms 174
Chris Kenner; What's Wrong With Life; The Name of the Place (Bandy)
Spenser Wiggins; Sweet Sixteen; Goldwax Years (Kent)
Otis Clay; Love Don't Love Nobody; Live in Japan; Rooster

Eddie Hinton; Cover Me; The Songwriting Sessions
Eldridge Holmes; Love Affair; Caroline Soul Survey (grapevine)
Joe Medwick; Secretly; Crazy Cajun Recordings (Edsel)

The Valentinos; I've Got a Girl (with chatter); Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story; ABKCO

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays, From the Dark End of the Street 12/19/2008

Happy Holidays to all. I don't find Xmas music that compelling, it always seems more camp than substance, so I decided (partly out of laziness), not to do a Holiday music show this year. So if you're looking for many days of Xmas, check out my colleague Brian's excellent blog, The Real Big Rock Candy Mountain.

I did, however, start the show off with one Xmas song, Otis Redding's excellent "Merry Chirstmas, Baby."

Happy Holidays to you and yours. I've got a backlog of some shows and posts which I'll start putting up more regularly in the New Year. I've also got some shows lined up, including some of the best releases of 2008, a deep soul focus on the influence of Bobby Blue Bland, an Eddie Hinton penned show, and more.

Thanks for sticking with me through this long year.

Here's the playlist:

Percy Sledge; From the Dark End of the Street; The Percy Sledge Way; Atlantic

Otis Redding; Merry Christmas, Baby; Atco 6631
Sam & Dave; You Don't Know What You Mean to Me; I Thank You; Atlantic
Doris Allen; I'll Just Keep On Loving You; Shell of a Woman: The Legendary Playground Recordings (Soulscape)
Don Varner; Down in Texas; Finally Got Over (Shout!)
Toussiant McCall; I'm Gonna Make Me a Woman; Ronn 20 (West Side)

O.V. Wright; A Nickel and a Nail; Backbeat 822
Homer Banks; Fighting So Hard To Win; Minit (Stateside)
Bobby Womack; Arkansas State Prison; My Redemption; Capitol (Charley)
Steve Young; Montgomery in the Rain; No Place To Fall (BMG Canada)
Johnny Addams; Real Live Hurtin' Man; Body & Soul; SSS (VampiSoul)

Joe Tex; A Sweet Woman Like You; Dial
Aretha Franklin; It Was You; Rare & Unreleased; (Rhino)
Sam Baker; Safe in the Arms of Love; I Believe in You (Soulscape)
Lucille Mathis; Somewhere Out There; Abet 9431 (Excello)
Van & Grace; Set Me Free; Louisiana Legends (Jin)

Roscoe Shelton; Running From My Life; Deep in My Soul (AIM)
King Curtis; Hold On, I'm Coming; Plays the Great Memphis Hits; Atco
Sweet Inspirations; Sweet Inspiration; Atlantic 2476
Joe Simon; Further On Down the Road; SS7 (Shout!)
Eddie Hinton; Happiness Is Just Around the Corner; Dear Y'all; Zane
Syl Johnson; Let Yourself Go; Hi 2269

Solomon Burke; Seems Like You're Gonna Take Me Back; Nashville; Shout Factory
Grace Braun; Do Right; It Won't Hurt; Rykodisc
Lloyd Price; Restless Heart; Profile; Specialty
Doug Sahm; Sell a Song; Complete Mercury Recordings; Rhino

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes, We Did! Obama's Got Soul

At 10:oopm Central Time on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, all of my anxiety and anger for the past few years was suddenly eased with a chill in my spine. I have been moved by the voice of this country:

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope"

On Friday morning, I did a radio show--the HPK stands for Hyde Park-Kenwood, home of the President Elect!--of soul songs that, in part, encompass many of the feelings that accompanied this historic event: freedom, redemption, optimism, unity, service, and mostly, hope for a new day. So many songs from the Civil Rights Era, echoing those same sentiments, seemed suddenly appropriate and re-energized to me, much as many of those themes were for this country during these past 22 months of campaigning. In the enduring words and spirit of Sam Cooke, "It's been a long, long time coming, but I know A Change Gonna Come, Yes it will." Let us all hope it has.

And not to get ahead of our selves, let us remember:

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."

Many of these songs speak to that for me, and I hope they can for you. Yes, We Can!

Mel & Tim; Yes We Can!; Starting All Over Again
Sam Cooke A Change Is Gonna Come; The Man Who Invented Soul
Aretha Franklin; People Get Ready; Lady Soul; Atlantic
Gene Allison; You Can Make It If You Try; You Can Make It If You Try; Vee Jay
Bettye LaVette; All The Black And White Children; Child Of The Seventies; Rhino
Otis Redding; Amen; Definitive
The Impressions; This Is My Country; This Is My Country; Curtom
Notations; A New Day; Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation (Numero Uno)
The Chambers Brothers; Time Has Come Today [Single Ed]; Time Has Come: The Best of the; Mercury
James Carr; Freedom Train; The Complete Goldwax Singles (Kent)
Solomon Burke; Maggie's Farm; Atlantic 2288
Bill Moss; Sock It To 'Em Soul Brother; Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label (Numero Uno)
Wilson Pickett; You Can't Stand Alone; The Sound of Wilson Pickett; Atlantic
Otis Clay; If I Could Reach Out (And Help Someone); Hi 2252 B;
Johnny Copeland; Blowing in the Wind; Wand 1114
Willie Hightower; Walk a Mile In My Shoes; s/t (Astralwerks/Honest Jon's)
Syl Johnson; Talk Bout Freedom; Is It Because I'm Black; Twinight
Eddie Hinton; We Got It; Very Extremely Dangerous; The Yes We Can Song (Obama for America);
Bob Dylan; Chimes Of Freedom [Live at Newport Folk Fest, 1964]; No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (Columbia)
Mahlia Jackson; We Shall Overcome

(This time I put up a version of the show that eliminates my talking--thanks for listening. And the excess of Dyland songs are in part because Mr. Obama has spoken of how his songs speak to him, specifically, the rebellious spirit of Maggie's Farm).

In that spirit, I have been talking about, and sharing, the following quote from Robert F. Kennedy, while campaigning for President in 1968. And it is my sincere belief and hope that it will be this President who can bring America to judge itself by "the enduring power of our ideals":

"We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the gross national product. For the gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highway carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them. The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods, and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads . . . It includes Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.

And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of public officials . . . the gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile; and it can tell us everything about America -- except whether we are proud to be Americans."

You can listen to a different version of this speech here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Lost Gem: Don Varner's He Kept On Talking

More and more excuses, so I figured I post a recent show that starts with a great track from Don Varner. I was reminded of this track from the yahoo southern soul chat list email, and as it turns out, it's only from that group that Don Varner was rediscovered in 2000.

All the information I have on Don Varner comes from David Cole in the liner notes to the excellent CD reissue of Don Varner's recordings, Finally Got Over: Deep Soul From the Classic Era (Shout!), which he took from a longer article in his excellent In the Basement Magazine. There's no need to recount all that here (go pick up a copy of the cd), just in short to say, Don Varner bounced around a few of the more obscure 45 labels in the South in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Downbeat, South Camp, Quinvy, House of Orange), did almost all of his recordings with Eddie Hinton at Quin Ivy's studio in Muscle Shoals, and just generally, seemed to be a great guy with a warm heart and an incredibly stark raspy, baritone voice. As I said, pick up the CD and check out the wealth of great tracks, from the Northern Soul favorite, "Tearstained Face," a great country soul swinger, "Down in Texas", a couple of Dan Penn gems, and some self-penned shakers like the title track. Even some of the cliched parts of the recordings, like the 60s tremloed guitar or the hip shaking, are overshadowed by the edge of his voice.

The track here, "He Kept On Talking," never got released in its day. According to Don (as interviewed by David Cole), "I thought that was the one. Everybody else thought that was the one, but it just didn't happen, it didn't even get a release." Quin Ivy prodcued the track himself, and it's written by another member of that southern soul mailing list, Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg. It definitely has that commercial appeal with the arrangements and doesn't have the edge of the Eddie Hinton produced tracks. That's not the appeal the song has for me: it's the downward spiral that Don Varner takes from the lyrics.

I admit that I have a soft spot for the narrative song, especially when its initial emotion is revealed and subtly shifted during the telling, and this is one of those that sticks in the throat just right. The kind of songs that are country strong: Looking back and wanting everything to change, allowing the anger to swell, then consigning yourself to the harsh end. The first song that came to mind was "Mansion on the Hill," but after thinking about it I realized I could name about 15 Hank Williams songs that word. Although the performance reminds me more of the young, vulnerbale Johnny Paycheck ("Apartment #9" or "The Late and Great Me").

Don's got it all over too: the innocence; trembling shock as he soars over all the bridges, "We were just talkin' . . .", "So go on with him . . .", "I'll just swallow my pride . . ."; a waver as he tries to hold himself together even after the fact "I kept on smiling and turned my head / 'cause a man ain't supposed to cry." Finishing it all off with the brutality of the last line:

"But the memory of you face
Is gonna be hard to erase
'cause everytime I come see my children
I'll see you.

I'll see your face, baby."

It doesn't get any harder than that.

Don Varner passed away in 2002, but his wife keeps his legacy alive. It was a post to the southern soul email list in 2000 by Mrs. Francine Varner that led to David Cole's contacting Don and the reissue cd, so go out and grab a copy. David Cole also has a new issue of In The Basement out, which I haven't gotten a chance to get my hands on yet, but I have no doubt to its depth and quality.

The song appears not only on the Shout! reissue, but also on Down & Out: The Sad Soul of the Black South, a real solid southern soul compilation put out in Germany by the Trinkont label.

Well, here's the playlist:

Linda Rondstadt; The Dark End of the Street

Don Varner; He Kept On Talking; Finally Got Over! (Shout!)
Sam Baker; Sometimes You Have to Cry; SS7 2550
Major Smith; Paying With My Own Tears; Lewis 2807
Solomon Burke; These Arms of Mine; Proud Mary (Atlantic)
Mighty Sam McClain; Silent Tears; Amy

Eddie Giles; So Deep In Love; Silver Fox 9
Clarnce Carter; Too Weak To Fight; This Is; Atlantic
Bill Brandon; Full Grown Loving Man; On Rainbow Road (Soulscape)
Roy Head; She's About a Mover; Introduction to (Fuel)
Sam & Dave; You Left the Running; (Atlantic Unearthed)

Ella Brown; A Woman Left Lonely; Lanor 566
Joe Simon; Further On Down the Road; SS7
Arthur Alexander; Call Me Honey; The Momument Years (Kent)
Kinky Friedman; Sold America (live); Lasson From El Paso
Joe Tex; I'll Never Do You Wrong; Soul Country; Atlantic
Merle Haggard; My Past Is Present; Sing Me Back Home; Capitol

Johnnie Allen; I'll Never Love Again; Promised Land (Kent)
Touissant McCall; I'll Do It For You; Ronn 10 (West Side)
Lattimore Brown; I Wish I Felt This Way At Home; Renegade 101
George Jones; Heartaches By The Number; Mercury Recordings

Don Covay; Just Because; Mercy; Atlantic
Van Broussard; Tell Me the Truth; Van and Grace (Jin)
Johnny Truitt; There Goes the Girl (alt); Excello
Roscoe Shelton; I Can Cry If I Want To; AIM
Bobby Charles; Your Picture; Chess Masters

The Ovations; You Had Your Choice; Goldxaw Recordings (Kent)
Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Dunn; You Can't Blamc Me; CapSoul 22 (Numero Uno)
Impressions; You Want Somebody Else; This Is My Country; Curtom

And don't forget to vote next week.