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Archive for March, 2011

Marcella – Nessuno Mai

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

NOTE: Repost from March 30, 2010 with updated picture and link.

OK, we’re going back a few years further now to cover the pre-history of Italo Disco…by bringing you an Italian disco track.  I make the distinction because this in no way resembles the later synth-vocoder-drum machine combination of Italo Disco, but it’s by a known Italian singer (well…at least Marcella Bella has more than one record to her name)  and it has a really Disco-y bass line and beat.  Lame parts?  There’s a bridge that may make the song more interesting but it interferes with the dance tempo.  That may be why the proprietor of Italo Deviance, Marcello Giordani, recently cut a  remixed version of it.  The original track seems like it may well be in print, meaning this is probably the least obscure tune I’ve posted about so far.  Also probably the track least likely to survive a takedown notice.  Get ’em while ‘er hot!

I really like the bass line and the string flourishes, though.  As for the title, Babelfish tells me that Nessuno Mai translates to Nobody Never, which I can only imagine is a terribly heartbreaking lament about how hard it is to be a single woman in Italy.  Or something?

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Categories: Italo Disco

Dee Dee

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

This is one of the most incredible arrangements I’ve ever heard.  That repeating guitar figure – I’m sure someone’s sampled it – is godlike.  Dee Dee turns in a smashing vocal performance that could best be described as the dark side of Shirley Bassey.  (Why didn’t we get Dee Dee to sing the theme to Diamonds Are Forever?  There’s still time to use this track as the theme to the new Bond!)  Overall it’s another victory for one of the most credible offshoots of Mercury Records – Blue Rock.  I love their label design but I love their A&R even more – not just Dee Dee but also Gentleman June Gardner’s 99+1/Mustard Greens single, as well early sides by the Chi-Lites and scores of drool-worthy others.

The Zombies covered the track as a B-side (to Indication, I think?), and in a global coincidence, I’ve just now gotten my hands on the new double disc BEGIN HERE compilation that contains it.  As much as I love them, they’ll never match Dee Dee on this track (on the other hand, I’m not sure how she would have handled “Care of Cell 44.”)

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Categories: Funky

Bocage, Edwin J.

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

OK enough of this Northern shit for now – you guys want to hear some real funk?  OK, using the plural “guys” there may be presumptuous.  I do however know what I am listening to at midnight on this 25th of March 2011, and it’s Eddie Bo.

Not just any old Eddie Bo compliation CD, not even the excellent but expensive recent Vampi-Soul comp.  No, it’s my pristine original blue SCRAM pressing of “Hook and Sling,” and my trashed original Bo-Sound “Check Your Bucket.”

Two great songs, two incredibly different records from a mechanical point of view.  Record dork notes ahead, beware.

There are two distinct pressings of “Hook and Sling – Part II” (yes, Part II was the A side!).   One is the blue vinyl pressing to the right, the other a green label styrene pressing that says “Distributed by Scepter.”  Much though I like styrene and Scepter (they took Hook And Sling to #73 on the charts!), obtaining a blue label is not that much more expensive and potentially a much better investment.  Supposedly the blue labels are the first pressing.  If that’s true, that this was pressed first on real vinyl is an almost unbelievable stroke of fate.  Vinyl is more durable by a mile and has the potential for better sound with today’s elliptial styli (for best results on styrene, I’m told a conical stylus gives better results).  Bottom line – lots of these out there, don’t pay more than 20 bucks or so.

Sound – this is relatively uncompressed – wonder if the Scepter is squished.  Great mix, too, you can really hear way into the recording and the instruments sound natural.

Karma – bad.  Fish baron Al Scramuzza scrammed with all of the royalties for what must have been Eddie’s biggest hit.  Hey Jerkface, nobody thinks YOU wrote this.

download Hook And Sling – Part II

“Check Your Bucket” is, as I said, trashed.  It’s a styrene pressing that is well-loved, particularly the beginning of part 2.  It’s also considerably rarer – despite being distributed by Atlantic it was no great shakes of a hit (1971 was nearing the end for black music magic at Atlantic, unless your name was Aretha), since they were spending money that year on an album cover volvelle instead of old-fashioned payola.  Of course it’s a monster track so it’s everyone’s loss*, but prepare to get sticker shock when you go looking for it.  Or, like me, take a chance on a cheaper copy and be MOSTLY satisfied.

Sound – plenty of low-end thump, this one was also mastered by Atlantic so it has a bit more impact than fidelity.  But…totally awesome, this is no time to be an Audiophilanderer.  Crank it!

Karma – Better – Eddie owned this label.

download Check Your Bucket – Part I

Eddie stated in the liner notes to the Vampi-Soul comp, if I recall, that all his master tapes were lost in Katrina if not before.  Plus we’ve lost the man himself, far too young.  So original pressing vinyl is as good as it gets for his classic tracks, and these are two of the more affordable ones out there.  After you get these too, it’s off to the races for a copy of Can I Be Your Squeeze, Shelley’s Rubber Band and (gulp) Hip Drop.   (Those’ll run you a few bucks!)

Remember that Eddie got conned out of a lot of royalties in his lifetime, and certainly wasn’t getting a cut of the resale on his singles before his untimely death.   Now that he’s gone I don’t know the best way to fix that, but a few bucks tossed towards New Orleans relief/reconstruction might not be a bad start.

*Although I’m sure Jimmy Page doesn’t mind.

Categories: Funky

Something amorous…

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Ric-Tic is a much beloved label for Northern enthusiasts.  I have to say I’ve had some good luck in obtaining ridiculously clean pressings of various singles on the label, which makes me wonder if there’s a guy with a basement full of boxes somewhere (Mr. Ric?  Mr. Tic?) that’s selling them off one by one on eBay.  My Edwin Starr and JJ Barnes singles all came from there, but unfortunately for my crackpot theory, the Fantastic Fours didn’t.  They were all in that great Denver record shop (Twist and Shout) where I went twice in three days.

Denver not being a Northern enthusiasts town, I was not surprised to find the Fantastic Fours still taking up rack space there – four of them, even.  As I discovered later, though, not 100% of those tracks are really great.  A couple of B-listers, and one truly great track, maybe.  Not super-strong product over all.  So maybe there was a Manc there who just turned up his nose…?

“Ain’t Love Wonderful” is the earliest-issued of the four Fours in my possession, and is the B-side of the pretentiously-titled “The Whole World Is A Stage.”  Whomever wrote the song owes Billy Shakespeare some royalties: pay the man motherfuckers!

The song sounds a lot like Motown and might well feature some of the Funk Bros on the backing.  I particularly like the guitar picking out what could in an alternate universe/octave be a really active bass line.  Nice break beat with horns at the beginning, too.  I don’t think the track really holds its drama all the way through – the whole song sounds like third act, and the bridge is mediocre at best – but it’s an enjoyable listen anyway.  (And then my iTunes keeps swooping in afterwards with “Girls Are Out To Get You” by the Fascinations and I remember what a REALLY good song sounds like.)

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Categories: Funky

If you want a love that’s oh so sweet…

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

New retirement plan: Take 7″ collection to the UK, sell to Northern Soul enthusiasts.  Can’t miss, right?

“Baby Take Me” is the B-side of what must be the slowest version ever of “Something You Got.”  I’ll take the Pickett version of “Got” any day, but as far as I know, ol’ Wilson didn’t stick any hot and fuzzy Northern duets on his flips.

“Baby Take Me” kind of pokes along in the verse, but the chorus drives it enough that it retains momentum.  Love the weird harmony/intervals like wildfire.  Dig the drums that are doing a basic, casio-keyboard-accompaniment-like cymbal pattern, except when the drummer drops a BOMB of a fill.  Also the fuzz guitar way in the background.  Heavily echoed female backing vocals will occasionally wake you from your mesmerized amazement.

I’d play this a couple songs following some shit-hot fast dance track because nobody would feel awkward continuing to dance to this at a slower pace, or taking a break to get a cosmotini for that matter.  (In my theoretical DJ career, that is.)

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Categories: Funky

Brag, brag, brag

March 21, 2011 2 comments

OK, record collecting brag stories are about as interesting for non-collectors as bad beat stories are to non-poker players.  I’ll keep it short then – one thrift store in Zurich has coughed up a few ridiculous gems in the last few months, all for the low low price of 1 CHF each.  The first of these I’ll post is a real Northern Soul rarity – Little Jimmie (or Jimmy) Ballard’s Guilty (Of Love In The 1st Degree) b/w Sophisticated Walk on ABC Records.

I have no idea who this is or what else they may have done – the producer, arranger, and track writers are known quantities but I guess without asking one of them, we’ll not get any closer to the answer.  I don’t even know if it’s actually Jimmie or Jimmy because it’s spelled differently on the A and B sides (along with different label font – which for record nerds usually means different pressing plants, though it would be tough to press one record in two different plants.)

In fact the only reason I even know it’s rare is that it’s showed up on eBay a few times with high price tags attached.

I don’t claim that “Little” Jimmie/y has the best voice I’ve ever heard – but full credit to Messrs. Tee and Kerr – the arrangement saves the day.  Doesn’t stop me wishing we could slot in Wilson Pickett as vocalist instead, but for 1 CHF, I guess I should cool my jets.

Because of its rarity and also its awesomeness, I am posting sides A and B this time.  Enjoy!

Guilty (Of Love In The 1st Degree)

Sophisticated Walk

Categories: Funky

His Grace the Duke

March 20, 2011 2 comments

Gene Chandler – famous for “Duke Of Earl” but not much else, right?  This was a conversation I had while in Rooky Ricardo’s in San Fran recently with Dick, possibly the nicest record store owner I’ve ever encountered.  I was busy digging through his 45 stacks and he was floating around the store answering questions and chatting – every time he passed by he threatened to hire me because I was leaving the stacks neater than I found them.

“Groovy Situation’s” appearance in Anchorman notwithstanding, I first knew of Chandler from my visit to California last year* – several singles on his Mister Chand imprint turned up in Rockaway Records in LA.  (small tangent: How did I know to pick those up?  Well, they were co-productions with (and one of them featuring) Simtec Simmons** – the subject of this GREAT article on DJ Little Danny’s blog Office Naps.  Plus they had Mister Chand’s smiling countenance on the label – never a bad sign – see Brown, James.)

So after listening through my pile, I had an instant favorite – Chandler’s Pillars of Glass – the B-side of the epic Yes I’m Ready (If I Don’t Get To Go).  I told Dick, who took the record and put it on the stereo, declaring it after a minute or so to be pretty great.  I heartily agree!

The tune has a lot going on. Most thrillingly, one of Chandler’s trademarks on his records and productions is a very prominent, busy bass line.  (As a bassist this is like Scooby snacks for a stoned puppy.)  We’ve also got riffing horns, some kind of xylophoneish thing, strings that wouldn’t be out of place on a later 70’s disco track, a very Marvin-Gaye-ish vocal (seriously – some of the vocal tics are eerily similar), and some backing ladies echoing “sad, sad, sad,” “thee, thee, thee,” and “glass, glass, glass.”  No whoos to be found here.  (Except me.)

I can’t imagine spending this much time orchestrating and overdubbing a B-side. It’s quality product for sure.

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*On the other hand, I happened to be in Rooky Ricardo because I saw it on the trip to California before that, in 2009, but didn’t manage to stop then.  Moral: California is outstanding.

**Record collecting is like clicking random hyperlinks through Wikipedia sometimes – he who retains the most accurate memory of the click path wins.

Categories: Funky, Gene Chandler