I have two
excellent books to begin with, and I’ll present them in chronological order,
based on their contents. The first book concentrates on the music created in
the 1950s and 1960s, whereas the second one surveys records mainly from the
1960s and 1970s. For record collectors and music enthusiasts, both are
reading, I’ve lately listened to some sweet soul sounds from the past and also
to the latest CD by Peggy Scott-Adams, which in a way also takes us back
in time. The last time I was in touch with Peggy was already six years ago,
and now I contacted her again to find out more about this record.
In his book
entitled Those Old School Records (378 pages, incl. index;
A4-size), the author Stephen C. Propes advises us “to read
a passage from this book and play the corresponding youtube video”, in case
you’re teaching a class in rock and roll history. It may take a while, though,
to go through the whole book, because the subtitle already reveals the amount
of material you’re dealing with: Fifty Years of Over 1000 Selected Rhythm n
Blues / Rock and Soul 45 RPM Records – how to teach about them.
Stephen is a
distinguished music historian, and I believe this is his 10th
reference book in rhythm & blues and rock n roll flavoured oldies music.
The preceding one called simply Old School was published a little over
four years ago (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep2_2014.htm#oldschool).
This time Stephen covers the years 1946 – 1987, starting from Arthur Big Boy
Crudup’s That’s All Right and finishing with Los Lobos’ La
Bamba. True to the title of the book, he’s in no hurry with the years and
still on page 300 he’s going through the records released in 1965 and only on
page 354 he enters the 1970s. That suits me fine.
Not only the name
of the artist, the title of the record, the label and the year of release, Stephen
also tells us where the artist was born, where the single was recorded, who’s
the original performer, who has done remakes and even suggests pairings, such
as the Isley Brothers’ Twist and Shout to the Contours’ Do
You Love Me. Some of the other suggestions include Hank Ballard &
the Midnighters’ The Twist to Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters’ What’cha
Gonna Do, Bing Crosby’s Please to the Beatles’ Please
Please Me, the Miracles’ My Mama Done Told Me (1958) to the
Miracles’ Shop Around and the Bailey Gospel Singers’ I’ve
Got a Saviour (Across Town) (1951) to Ray Charles’ I’ve Got a
Woman etc. etc.
The best part in
each case, however, is the description of the music itself and the stories
about the artists and the making of that particular record. They are often
told by the artists themselves – e.g. there are unique quotes from Big Joe
Turner out of past interviews - and also by fellow artists, composers,
musicians, label owners or just somebody involved in the recording process. On
these pages we learn how Bill Haley & the Comets’ cover of Sonny
Dae & the Knight’s Rock Around the Clock was first classified as
“fox trot”, how the Four Tops/Aims first appeared on Dolores Carroll’s
single in 1955 and how the Jordan Brothers released the original Gimme
Some Lovin’ prior to the Spencer Davis Group.
Did you know that Danny Taylor is probably
the real writer of Fever, that the Monotones’ Book of Love is
based on the Pepsodent jingle, that Johnny Rivers started his recording
career under his real name of John Ramistella on Suede in 1958 and similarly
Phil Spector used his middle name, when as Phil Harvey hereleased
a jazzy single on Imperial in early 1959? Phil was the producer of the
original version of Twist and Shout for the Top Notes, but when Bert
Berns was cutting the hit version for the hard-headed Isley Brothers they
were actually fighting in the studio. Also The Whispers twins – Walter
and Wallace - whohad first sung with the Utopians on Imperial in
1962, didn’t actually get along with each other during their early Dore
sessions in 1965.
There are dozens
and dozens of such interesting details and stories in the book. Some have been
chronicled earlier, but at least for me there was a lot of new info. Stephen
has chosen many of the ground-breaking and significant sides mostly in the
rhythm & blues genre, and – besides r&b, rock and soul - the styles of
these selected singles vary from doo wop, blues, country and rockabilly to pop,
zydeco, surf, swamp and occasionally novelty. Towards the end in the afterglow
of British invasion understandably more and more such genres as garage rock,
psych rock and retro-rock pop up... and in the case of the Drifters’ Moonlight
Bay (already in 1958) – barbershop ensemble singing.
essential book is Spinning Around/A History of the Soul LP, volume 2: L-Z
(ISBN 978-1-5272-2303-5; 434 pages, 12 with colour photos of LP covers;
A4-size), written by John Lias. You’ll find the photo of the author in
my review of the first volume at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep3_2016.htm#johnlias,
and there you can also read about the history of these volumes, how they are compiled
and about John’s criteria in choosing and presenting the material. Altogether
it makes almost 1700 artists and over 6000 LPs.
What amazed me
was to read in John’s preface that “the vast majority of the books I have sold
today have gone to addresses in England.” That excludes the rest of the U.K.,
Europe, the U.S., Japan and other territories. What’s the matter with you soul
music fans all over the world? This is a priceless and well-researched piece
of work, actually in a way a reference book on the history of soul music. If
you consider yourself a soul music devotee, I urge you to order both of these volumes
right away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After getting my
hands on this volume, I immediately started checking on some of my idols, such
as Oscar Toney Jr., the O’Jays, the Spinners, Esther Phillips, Bettye
LaVette, Freddie Scott, David Sea, Tommy Tate, the Masqueraders, Latimore, the
Manhattans, O.V. Wright... and yes, they are all there and presented as
detailed and correctly as John only can. Only O.C. Smith seems to be
Again there are many
artists featured that I’ve never heard of, or have just forgotten about them.
Besides numerous self-contained funk bands, there are such Hawaiian acts as Lemuria
and Lil’ Albert. How many of you are aware of Loncie Malloy,
Marlboros, Maurice, Mr. Cix, Moonpie, Sapphire and Target, just to
name a few more obscure names?
I really enjoyed
reading this book. John’s enthusiasm and dedication to this matter shines on
every page, and it’s a pity that the English alphabet consists of only 26
letters, which deprives us of volume three.
– Tribute to Jo Jo Benson - reintroduces us to the almost forgotten
Nothing Can Stand in Our Way LP by Peggy and Jo Jo, released in 1984 on
GCS Records. Peggy goes back to those days 35 years ago: “Wayne Blackmon approached
me about the possibility of Jo Jo and myself going back in the studio and
recording together. At the time, it had been almost 10 years since Jo Jo and I
have worked together. However, immediately the first day back in the studio we
felt the magic – we felt nothing can stand in our way.” Wayne was one of the
producers on the original album, too. “Wayne was involved, along with Clayton
Ivey, Alan Schulman, and Billy Lawson. That all took place at
Wishbone Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.”
Gone was released in April this year on Hook One Record out of
Pensacola, Florida. “It’s a new label, a joint effort (with Wayne)... just
having fun – no pressures, and just maybe we can help some younger artists
along the way.” From the original 1984 album they left out two songs, Nothing
Can Stand in Our Way and Oh What a Feeling. “I love those songs and
tracks. I am hoping to use them on another project in the near future.” They
were replaced by Peggy’s version of Bettye Swann’s Make Me Yours,
which first appeared on the Life after Bill CD in 2012, and a new song
from last year, a swaying slow number called I’m in Love by Myself,
produced by Peggy and Dee Bradley.
Too Far Gone,
a soulful cheating ballad written by Frank Johnson and Clayton Ivey,
backed with a routine disco dancer named We’ll Make It, was released as
a single off the LP in 1984. “The single did really well in the very small
areas where it was marketed. This album never had national/international
distribution, so it was never really given a chance. That’s why today I feel
it’s a true hidden secret and a great tribute to the late great Jo Jo Benson.”
Jo Jo passed away in 2014.
Along with two
quite poppy songs, co-written by bassist Brandon Barnes – Love Is
What You Make It and Before the Fire Dies – and one melodic ballad
titled Long Way Home from Here, there are still two truly beautiful
songs from the pen of Phillip Mitchell that he and Mel & Tim
first recorded 45 years ago – Same Folks and Oh How I Love You.
Peggy: “At this
time of my life it’s called grace. I don’t know what the future holds, but I
know who holds the future. Hopefully I will continue recording not only
myself, but with the development of new younger artists. I cannot express my
sincere appreciation for all those, who along the way have helped me survive
this 50-year career.”
Whipped (ECD 1174; www.eckorecords.com)
is David’s sophomore comeback release on Ecko Records and he also pre-produced
the tracks, while John Ward is the natural main producer on the set.
David also wrote or co-wrote eight songs out of the ten on display.
enjoyable and memorable dancers this time include John’s Kitty Whipped
and David’s Sexy and You Know It and Buckle Up. You may have a
hunch, which are the matters David praises on two mid-tempo tracks named Nothing
like Good Sex and Club Booty. I’m Taking a Stand is the only
romantic ballad, which makes this a good-time, party music CD.