Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bobby Powell - Peace Begins Within

Running the risk of biting, here's a call and response to the ever-excellent Home Of The Groove's most recent blog on Mr. Bobby Powell. It's the flip of this fine, cheap 45, containg two pearls of laced Baton Rouge funk, on Lionel Whitfield's Whit label.

Dan Phillips chose the sweet soul of the Questions flip, here we've gone for the buttoned down funk. Bobby Powell was a gospel-based blind pianist, who would go on to record with Excello, Hep City and others. Lush backing vocals are almost certainly supplied by Jackie Johnson (later to adopt the Lady Mem'fis title), and I'm not sure whether this came before or after Powell's breakout hit, a cover of CC Rider.

There's a fantastic cover of this on the Trojan label by Nora Dean to be blogged at a later date...

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Monday, February 21, 2005

Jimmy Smith - RIP

Didn't have time to mount a brief Obit for the legend before we went to Germany.

What's left to say ? That he was THE single-handed revivor of an instrument that seemed doomed to the kind of queasy end-of-the-pier doldrums.

Inspired by the great Wild Bill Davis (note to self - dig out that great Caves De La Huchette live album, and blog accordingly), Smith pioneered a hard, strident sound, made tougher and funkier through the use of heavy bass pedalling. Have you ever tried to play a Hammond ? Flying a chopper would be simpler. And his long, pyrotechnic marshalling of Bernstein's theme from Walk On The Wild Side, with Oliver Nelson signalled a desire to go beyond the mere 30 organ stops in front of him.

Gone were the supine, lax, chordal-based output of many of his peers ; this was all about the note. And the silence in between. The definition of funk.

His impact was enormous, sparking Jimmy McGriff and Charlie Earland to change instruments mid-career, and his legacy after his tenure at Blue Note left a mark on the sound of labelmates Grant Green, Lou Donaldson and many others. He scorned the efforts of James Brown's hammond playing, and held a healthy contempt for those that mimicked or bit his style.

Recent concerts in London saw a tough gritty fighter - a man justly arrogant of his own impact. This was not a man of whom you could think ever took an easier path in life. Cussing like a sailor, he played the crowd like a last great showman, and took the roof off with his gnarling style.

Much missed.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Soul Brothers Six - "(She's) Some Kind Of Wonderful"

Now, Northern Soul really isn't really my thing. This is about as close as it gets, but I've had at least with one pious soulbore who tells me that this isn't the real thing, anyway. Why ? Because it's not expensive enough ? Because you can pick it up for the price of a mild piss-up in a pub ? Because it was...commercial ?

Aah, who cares a fig for rarity. This is the stuff of champions. And pointlessly covered in a really nasty, Dinner Funk way by Joss Stone. And Grand Funk Railroad.

An Atlantic stormer from 1967, this probably featured the lineup of members Willie John Ellison, Joe Johnson, Charles Armstrong, Harry Armstrong, Vonn Elle Benjamin and Lester Peleman. John Ellison went on to release a bunch of singles on that fine, under-rate label Phil-La of Soul, but this was the breakthrough..and the exception, commercially.

By 1969, the Soul Brothers Six were split up, leaving this fine fragment plus some solid follow-ups in their wake. If you're into this, check out You Gotta Come A Little Closer, recently comped, along with another John Ellison track, on the Soul Jazz Philadelphia Roots comp over here.

This is from the 1969 UK reissue. A mere £3 in your local boot sale, fact fans. £3 for this piece of sweet, uplifting, gospel-soaked feel-good, goddamn-i-even-put-britches-on-the-right-way-round anthem ?

You was stitched up there mate.

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