It seems like Don Covay had his fingers in just about every piece of R&B pie baked from the 1950s to the 1970s. His contributions were significant in the development of the r&b-pop dance craze of the early 1960s (with his "Pony Time") and Southern soul (with Stax as well as Aretha Franklin). He also dabbled in acid-hippie album-oriented soul-blues-rock of the late 1960s, raw funk, 1970s slow jams, and even Philly disco-soul. When he wasn't busy recording himself, he was writing songs that would be classics for others.
I can't say it would be hard to imagine soul music without Don Covay. No. It would be IMPOSSIBLE to imagine soul music without Don Covay. And with his passing over the weekend, sadly we've lost one of the very roots of this music.
He had a song called "Iron Out the Rough Spots" but luckily with few exceptions, Covay laid the gritty, raw quality of his voice out on the table for all to hear. He balanced the ruggedness with a unique, delicate vulnerability in his performances. I guess you could say Don Covay's jagged edges were often draped in satin. Those who would try to imitate him (Mick Jagger, eh hem) would not be able to capture the nuances of the Covay delivery. He was one-of-a-kind.
Today's selection of the day is by The Soul Clan, a soul supergroup initiated by Covay (the name being a political, Black Power jab at the KKK). This group was supposed to include Otis Redding, but unfortunately he died before they made it to the studio. Otis was replaced by Ben E. King who was joined by Joe Tex, Solomon Burke, Arthur Conely, and of course Don Covay. This song was written by Covay with another recently departed soul legend, Bobby Womack. Now that I'm listening to it again, I can definitely hear an echo of this record in D'Angelo's "How Does It Feel". What do you think?
Bobby "Blue" Bland was born on this day 85 years ago in Barretville, TN. Though he never achieved much success on the pop charts, Bobby Bland was a GIANT in the blues/soul world. He is perhaps one of the most influential and imitated vocalists of the genres and certainly is credited with launching the genre of soul-blues.
To soul dance party goers he's best known for the famous Bobby Bland growl he unleashed as he roared through uptempo gospel-blues records like "Turn On Your Love Light" and "Don't Cry No More." However, Bland also could gently massage a lyric as masterfully as some of the greatest vocalists in American music history. And that's why today I'm featuring "Building A Fire With Rain," the absolutely gorgeous rumba-soul-blues B-Side of another great Bland tune "Poverty". The rumba rhythm is actually quite common in the blues and as I write this and think about some of my favorite records, I'm noticing that I tend to have an affinity for rumba blues.
But enough about me, let's talk about you and how much you're gonna love listening to this song today.
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.
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.
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!