I would like to use this space to congratulate Bill Withers on his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Though the RnRHoF is imperfect in its selection process, I'm happy to use this excuse to give a nod to my favorite live soul LP. Mr. Withers has long been in the DJ Action Slacks Favorite Artist Hall of Fame, which is maybe not quite as prestigious, but includes some really great company.
I think I could easily say that I follow the ethical philosophy of the School of Bill Withers. I've been listening to him since my formative years, and his music message is burned into my psyche. This man was much more than a singer to me. As someone who found his voice a little later than most famous musicians(in his 30s), he was an inspiration for me as I struggled to find my own creative path.
The Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall LP represents everything I love about Mr. Withers. It clearly shows Withers as the soul representation of the singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s and as a soul-folk troubadour he sings every hue of emotion.
This album has it all: songs of celebration, songs of the deepest sorrow and hopelessness, inspirational message songs about togetherness and overcoming adversity, protest songs about Vietnam and inequality, soul-folk story songs, entertaining stage patter, a lady percussionist, and funky dance grooves. And because it travels across such a wide range of emotion, I can't recommend just one song off of this album. I simply must recommend the entire thing.
I've listened to this album at least a kabillion times and I NEVER get tired of it. He takes me on a journey EVERY time, bringing me to tears one moment and celebrating humanity the next. Check it out. You won't be sorry.
I would like to extend an enormous HAPPY 75th BIRTHDAY to Lester Chambers of the Chamber Brothers, who's still out there playing music.
Lester launched an online campaign a couple of years ago to increase awareness of the unfair business practices of record labels that were experienced by artists throughout the 20th century. The Chambers Brothers, whose record "Time Has Come Today" remains a classic of the psych-soul era still heard regularly today, did not receive any royalties from 1967 - 1994 - A shameful way to treat a band who used their music to create positive change.
The Chambers Brothers started out as a gospel group, but soon took to the stages of the folk scene of the early 1960s. By the end of the decade they were electrified and had pioneered a sound unlike any other. Like much of the music I have come to love, it's hard to draw boundaries around the music of the Chambers Brothers. They are all at once rock n roll, psych-rock, psych-soul, gospel, blues, folk. Perhaps this is why their record label was never able to repeat the success of "Time Has Come Today", for there was no lack of interesting output by this band. Perhaps the label didn't really know how to promote them.
Since it's Lester's birthday, I've chosen to highlight a song written by him. This has been a staple in my collection since the very beginning of my live DJ career. It's the perfect bridge into Latin soul and one of my all-time favorite summertime songs. Almost a guaranteed floor-filler.
Happy Birthday Lester! Thank you for your gift!
Why they never released Junior Wells' "Watch Me Move" as a single, I'll never know. Well, I guess I kind of know. It may have fit a little better with the R&B singles of 1971 than the disco of 1975, but MAN this record really cooks!
I've always had a soft spot of Junior's special brand of funky blues. I'm actually not sure this particular song qualifies as blues per se. It's really funk, but most of Junior's records had at least one foot firmly planted in the blues and many times his other foot was tapping (on the one) in funk.
Though he made nods to his birthplace of Memphis, his sound was all tough & rough Chicago electric blues. He was less like his soulful cousin (fellow harp player) Little Junior Parker, and more rugged like a Little Walter for the funk era.
Today Junior Wells would have turned 80 years old. In his honor, bust a funky blues groove to this Record of the Day (from the Delmark LP Blues on Tap).
One of my visions for Sugar Town was for it to be more than a dance party. I wanted Sugar Town to be a community of soul-loving queers who gather regularly to support each other in a welcoming environment in which people could feel relaxed enough to enjoy themselves without worry of judgement. In short, a place where we're free to "let it all hang out" in a supportive atmosphere. Of course, for this vision to become a reality it takes a group effort. As they say, "It takes a village". That's why I feel blessed that so many wonderful Portland queers have become members of the Sugar Town community (I like to call them Sugars).
I'm riding on a high from Saturday's Sugar Town Sno-Ball which really felt like my vision had become a reality. DJ Lar-Supreme brought incredible positive vibes to our town (not to mention the best dance moves I've seen in a long time). His smile lit up the room and we all were basking in that warmth.
In the years to come, I hope for our community to keep growing and to include folks from the full spectrum of the Pacific Northwest LGBTQA community. I hope for Sugar Town to be a safe haven where we can come together in love for a positive recharge, especially when the world around us feels like it's spinning out of control. We'll come together for a pause, then go out there and fight the good fight together.
Thanks to everyone for making last Saturday so special. Thank you for making the holidays truly a season of peace and love, if only for one night.
The Record of the Day is inspired by this experience and my hope for Sugar Town's future. It was recorded in 1971 by a group of young men (I believe at least some of them were teenagers at the time) in a group/band called Love's Children. The band originated from Gary, IN and recorded as the Domestics for both Stax and Motown before being discovered by Curtis Mayfield who gave them a name change. Rumor has it he was hoping they would fill the void on his Curtom roster after the departure of the 5 Stairsteps (another teen group).
This track was written and produced by Curtis and arranged by the legendary Leroy Hutson.
Smokey Holman of Love's Children is still performing today. Check out his band's site.
On this day in 1939 Anna Mae Bullock was born in Nutbush, TN. She would become one of the mightiest voices of the 20th Century. There ain't another like her. There never could be. Tina Turner has become a (s)hero to women everywhere, and a voice that rips through the darkness. Like a chainsaw, it cuts through the BS to the heart of every matter.
We all know her story, many of us have lived aspects of it. She has become the physical representation of what we want to believe lives somewhere inside of every disadvantaged person: determination, perseverance, and the ability to triumph over a system that is stacked against us. Over the past 55 (!) years Tina has even helped to coax that out of us from time to time.
My selection of the day is a great example. This is from Ike & Tina Turner's LP "Come Together" which is a psychedelic soul masterpiece and easily in my top 10 favorite soul LPs of all time. This is their sequel to Curtis Mayfield's anthem of the Civil Rights Movement "Keep on Pushin," a song they had performed in their live act for years. Their rock-infused, fuzz-frenzied, soul freakout, turns up the urgency in the fight against the machine. It's a message just as relevant today as it was when it was first released 44 years ago, which perhaps makes it all the more compelling. To me it still sounds fresh, raw, and real.
REALNESS, that's what we're gonna need a whole lot more of it we're going to keep on pushing for a lasting change in America.
I'll admit that I know nothing about this record except that it has an adorable label and I've played it at nearly every disco party I've ever thrown. One more thing, I'm sure there is someone out there who can tell me all about Stage Three and producer Dwight Mitchell. Come forth and spill the beans. The rest of you just listen to this record and enjoy the groove.
Happy 69th Birthday to Melba Moore, superb vocalist and legendary stage actress of the 1970s and beyond.
Though I'm a fan of a lot of Melba's work, today I am celebrating her epic version of the Curtis Mayfield song "Make Me Believe In You" produced by Van McCoy at the height of his reign as the King of Disco. There is a more famous Mayfield-produced version of this song by Patti Jo that predates Melba's by three years. I love that version too, but Van McCoy takes it even further while he riffs on the original arrangement by infusing it with some solid sophisticated disco-soul sounds.
The extended dramatic intro sounds like it's plucked from the film score of a mid-70s Black action film, which is great because you can direct the scene in your imagination. Here is how I like to imagine it - A lonely woman is briskly walking down a dimly-lit city street at night. She's holding back tears as she encounters various acquaintances on the street. She tosses them artificial smiles and niceties making her way from block to block as the song's intro continues to build until...BAM BAM! At the 1:46 minute mark she busts through the doors of a the neighborhood disco, fights her way through the crowd to the dance floor and confronts her cheating significant other. At the 3:47 mark she would definitely be engaged in a very empowering solo spinning dance with arms stretched out while everyone else gathers around her and watches in awe.
Happy 79th birthday to the legendary Sugar Pie DeSanto! You gotta love her! She's still going strong!
Listen to her funky 1967 cover of Joe Simon's "Do the Whoopie" and SHAKE IT FOR SUGAR PIE!
Every soul DJ has "signature songs" and this is one of mine. Oh how I LOVE this song! I love it, love it, LOVE IT! I bust it out as soon as the first raindrop falls in Portland and play it throughout the rainy season with no apologies. This is a unusual for me. I really try not to overplay songs, not only because it's lazy DJing, but also out of consideration for other local DJs who may want to play the same records to an audience who isn't sick of hearing overplayed records. It's really easy to fall into that trap as a soul DJ. However, I do have very small handful that get played more often than others and this is one of them.
I found it through a European seller, but today I found out it was a favorite of legendary DJ pioneer David Mancuso. I guess that's validating. I do find my tastes sometimes overlap with his.
So, in anticipation for Portland's rainy season, and perhaps and attempt to hasten it along (as it is running a little late), the Record of the Day is Dorothy Morrison's "Rain." It's got everything I love- congas, gospel vocals, funky dance groove, and a positive message.
Dorothy started out as a gospel singer. You can hear her singing one of the leads on one of the most beloved gospel records of all time, "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. She went on to record some solid solo gospel-soul albums in the early to mid-70s.
Give this song a listen and I challenge you to find gloom in the rain.
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!