Things are getting pretty dicey out there in the world of social justice activism. My heart goes out to everyone in the wake of the tragic events in NY over the weekend. My holiday prayer is that this doesn't diminish the movement and that people continue to unify over human rights in the United States. This is an historic movement, and happily people who have taken on this fight in the past have left us the gift of songs to lift our spirits when we hit roadblocks on the path to freedom.
So as we go into the holiday week and hopefully have at least one day of peace, this song comes to mind.
This epic performance is by one of my favorite vocalists, Judy Clay (with Booker T. & the MGs) for the 1969 soundtrack Uptight. The ambiguous gospel song was written by Booker T. Jones and released in the year following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr when the nation was desperately in need of messages of endurance in the face of such an earth shattering setback.
So if you're in need of a little lift, I strongly encourage you to give this song a listen on repeat.
The legendary Kim Weston turn 75 today. She's best known for giving us the dance floor classic "Take Me In Your Arms," but she also had a recording career beyond Motown. Unfortunately, she's never really received her proper dues. Kim Weston could really wail!
My selection of the day comes from her 1970 lp released on Stax. It was produced in part by Isaac Hayes with Kim's husband Mickey Stevenson as executive producer. I may be wrong, but to my ears this has the Isaac Hayes signature symphonic psych soul stamp all over it. Kim got a chance to show off her chops on this smoldering performance which serves as a feminist blues testimonial for the times.
This one is near and dear to me not only because it's incredible, but there is some sentimental value attached. I share it with you today. Happy Birthday Kim Kim Kim!
45 years ago legendary eccentric producer Swamp Dogg brought Doris Curry into a Muscle Shoals studio to record her first album. It would prove to be perhaps the definitive deep soul LP. At least as far as Dave Godin, the man who coined the term, was concerned. In the UK Doris Duke (her stage name was taken from the heiress) is legendary. In the states she is certainly not celebrated enough.
My selection of the day is the second single from the above mentioned LP. The beautifully crafted, clever composition was written by Swamp Dogg and Gary "US" Bonds. The production perfectly captures the emotion of a woman who has just faced the shock of finding her lover in the arms of another. How would I feel in such a situation? I would want to high-tail it out of there as fast as my feet could carry me. The rhythm of the piano, which simultaneously portrays a racing heartbeat and a hurried footstep, makes me feel as if I'm running right along side Doris as she talks herself though a devastating realization. It's pure genius.
And the winner for best dramatic performance on a 45 for the year of 1967 was...CARL HALL for "You Don't Know Nothing About Love". That's what would have been announced if they gave out acting awards for 45s. And that's quite a feat given the vast array of dramatic performances that year.
I love slow soul burners but I as a person of limited income I tend to direct my dollars at records I can actually play more regularly at dance parties. However, there are certain 45s that are so perfectly executed, I simply can't resist purchasing a copy if given the chance. This one I actually spent years hunting down. People buy paintings so they can hang them on the wall and appreciate them and treasure them. Music is obviously something you can't look at or hang on your wall and admire. For music nerds, that's where a 45 comes in. It's the physical representation of one song (well two I guess). You can see it in the grooves. You can hold a masterpiece in your hands.
If you don't appreciate this record, I dare say...YOU DON'T KNOW NOTHING ABOUT LOVE.
Jerry Ragavoy wrote and produced some of the most definitive deep uptown soul records of the golden era of soul. However this one soars above the others. On the vocal wings of Carl Hall it reaches the upper room.
This is how to use dramatic vocal techniques effectively in a soul performance. To me, THIS is definitive. Contestants of reality tv singing contests, this is what you need to listen to. Abandon the empty histrionics and ridiculous disconnected vocal runs. Listen to what Carl Hall does in this song. Interpret song lyrics like an actor would interpret a monologue and attach emotion accordingly. Carl Hall knew this because in addition to being a singer, he was an actor.
Of course, if everyone could sing like this we'd never appreciate something so glorious as the performance etched into the grooves of this 45. And that's what makes it a masterpiece.
I have so deeply fallen in love with this record that I've begun to wonder if I'm crazy. Why do I think that? Because I don't understand why this record is only mentioned in passing whenever some soul nerd writes about Memphis deep soul belter Barbara Brown. So I have to wonder, do I just have bad taste or are other people just not paying attention? That's a rhetorical question. Don't feel compelled to answer that.
Maybe it gets overlooked because it's the flip side of Barbara's classic deep soul, slow burner "I Don't Want to Have to Wait." Who knows.
All I know is that this record moves me. I love Barbara's performance. I love the production. I love the arrangement. I love the concept. I love that it falls in the sisterhood of "listen here girls" songs. It perfectly captures the feeling of emptiness of the person left behind in a relationship.
All the more special was finding my copy in Barbara's home town of Memphis exactly one year ago. It really was my favorite recording at the time and there it was waiting for me to find on 45 in the heart of Memphis.
Take a listen.
I'm definitely drawn to songs which lament the demise of one's childhood stomping grounds. I can think of 4 of these songs off the top of my head that are all favorites of mine. This is one of them. However, this song particularly speaks to me these days as someone who has witnessed the rapid gentrification of Portland.
This city has transformed before my eyes from a gritty unpolished gem of the Pacific Northwest, to a slick trendy haven for upwardly-mobile yipsters. The wealthier folks are pushing out the less-affluent. Old buildings, classic landmarks, and sweet open space are disappearing and being replaced by giant, bland condo buildings. The "weird" personality of Old Portland has made way for the cookie-cutter "quirky" restaurants, boutiques, and bars of New Portland. I've never seen a city transform so quickly. When I drive around these days I don't even recognize where I am because the landscape has changed so quickly. Admittedly, as one of the many artists who moved to town a decade ago, I'm part of the problem and it's a constant source of remorse for me.
This song is not necessarily about urban gentrification, but it is about "rich folks" taking over the land of the poor folks who tended to the land.
Phillips Mitchell is a soul singer out of Kentucky who bounced around in different soul scenes before briefly landing at Hi Records in Memphis to record his composition "Turning Over the Ground". He went on to write more of my favorite soul classics, "It Hurts So Good" and "Star of the Ghetto" among others. But it's this song that really grabs my heart and squeezes. It has in fact, brought me to tears at times.
For more background on the racial implications of the gentrification of Portland, Oregon please click here. Read about the history and then listen to this song.
Have you ever heard a sing and felt that the singer was plugged directly into your heart and was streaming out of your soul? Of course you have. This has been one of those songs for me. Especially during my early years as a partially closeted queer who was not really sure where I fit into the world. It's definitely in my top 10 favorite soul slow burners of the 60s.
Jackie Verdell recorded this while on break from The Davis Sisters, one of the most important gospel groups of the golden era. It was produced by Clyde Otis who had done similar sophisticated symphonic soul productions for Dinah Washington and Brook Benton. With Jackie's vocal in the mix, this record can't be called anything but DEEP SOUL, tapping into the deepest emotional insecurities in all of us.
Give it a listen to see if you can dig this deep.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!