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DEEP # 6/2017 (September)

In the CD review section there are a couple of new compilations, but my main object this time is a new book by John Capouya examining one often overlooked source of black music, Florida.  His research covers the period from the 1940s up till our times.

Content and quick links:


Book Review:
John Capouya: Florida Soul - Form Ray Charles to KC & the Sunshine Band

Compilation/Reissue CD reviews:
Undisputed Truth: Nothing but the Truth
Various Artists: Bluesin' by the Bayou



BLACK BOOKCASE

FLORIDA SOUL

Regular followers of soul music remember how in the 1970s in the midst of the Philly sound domination exciting and intriguing music from a Southern peninsula started flowing in and hit upper echelons of the charts.  Soon such artists as Betty Wright, Timmy Thomas, Clarence Reid, Latimore, Gwen and George McCrae, Little Beaver and KC and the Sunshine Band became household names that kept coming up with hits for many years to come.  We used to call this phenomenon “Miami soul.” 

In the early 1970s Tamla-Motown was still riding high, as well as the Memphis sound with Stax and Hi, Chi-sound was struggling a bit, New Jersey enjoyed a brief peak period in the middle of the decade, L.A. a few years later, Malaco in Mississippi started slowly moving up, but towards the mid-1970s and even in the latter part of the decade in terms of sales and popularity Philly was the undisputable leader and for quite a spell the T.K. dynasty out of Miami held the second place.

More devoted soul fans were already at that point aware of Florida’s soul music legacy and recognized the artists and the music created in that region prior to the 1970s.  Now John Capouya wants to share this information with all of us in his exhaustive book titled Florida Soulfrom Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band (ISBN-978-0-8130-5452-0; 408 pages, 67 photos, incl. index, but no map).  He wants to make sure that Florida Soul will no longer be ignored but is firmly placed up there with other popular black music trends.

Proceeding mainly chronologically, John’s profiles of some of the most prominent figures are very thorough.  He has conducted detailed interviews first with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), who repeats here his story of how he’s the actual composer of the song Money.  Among others there are James Purify (of James & Bobby Purify), Willie Clarke of the Deep City Records, Helene Smith of A Woman Will Do Wrong fame, Timmy Thomas, Latimore and Jackie Moore & Dave Crawford.  Besides those obvious choices John has also talked to many groundbreaking musicians, such as the saxophonist Ernie Calhoun, the bassist Chocolate Perry and another sax player Noble Watts, who still in the 1990s recorded for Wild Dog, a subsidiary of John Abbey’s Ichiban label out of Atlanta, GA.  In the book there are still separate chapters for Linda Lyndell, who cut the original What a Man in the late 60s, Wayne Cochran, known as “the white James Brown”, Frankie Gearing and KC and the Sunshine Band.  A chapter named The Twist Came from Tampa tells the chequered story of Hank Ballard and The Twist.

SOUTHERN COLOURING

Now I veer off a bit from the main principles of a review.  We have a saying here that if a person from a certain province starts talking, responsibility is transferred to the listener.  This was the first thing that came to my mind, when seeing the names Henry Stone and Papa Don Schroeder among intervieweesI must admit that I’ve never believed everything that these two music moguls have said.  I think I describe their rhetoric “Southern colouring.”  However, I’m not discrediting their admirable and enormous work.  I really respect everything they’ve done and achieved in the sphere of music.

Let be just bring up a couple of examples; and once more – don’t take this too seriously.  In Henry’s case, I’ve written earlier that I’m inclined to believe Ray Charles more than Henry in terms of Ray’s very first recordings.  In the biography called Brother Ray 1978), David Ritz and Ray write that “I had written a song – called Found My Baby There.  It was a nasty little number, and that day we worked it out – along with a couple of other songs – with the recorder going. - - Years later the song popped up on several albums.  That was after I had a name.  Someone must have found it down in Tampa collecting dust.  I never got any money from it.”

The four songs in question are I Found My Baby There aka St. Pete Florida Blues aka St. Pete’s Blues aka Done Found Out / Walkin’ and Talkin’ (Talkin’ about You) / Wanderin’ and Wandering / Why Did You Go?  Ray says he recorded those songs on a primitive wire recorder in Tampa in 1948, and they were his very first recordings.  Later Henry claims that he recorded Ray on those songs in Tampa in 1950 or ’51.  After Ray passed, they even went to court with this, and T.K. won.  But Ray wasn’t there anymore to tell his side of the story.  After the court decision they even released awful house mixes to cash in on those songs.  But on the bottom there were those very first recordings that – as Ray said – popped up on compilation albums.  I believe Ray mostly because by the end of 1950 his style had changed considerably towards more rocking rhythm & blues and he wasn’t singing in his late 1940s style anymore, so those four songs were definitely recorded earlier than 1950/51.  

Henry also tells that he and James Brown were very close and that may well be, but in his 1986 biography (by James and Bruce Tucker) James mentions Henry briefly only two times, and his version of the making of Mashed Potatoes differs from Henry’s in John’s interview.

Ray Charles' first hit in 1949, # 2 on the Race Records chart; Heikki Suosalo's collection

PAPA DON

Papa Don says that Mighty Sam doesn’t like him, and that’s very true.  Please read Sam’s opinion – scroll down to Sweet Dreams – at http://www.soulexpress.net/mightysam.htmOscar Toney Jr. is more diplomatic: “Papa Don was hard to get along with.”  In John’s book Papa Don says that he wrote the spoken intro to Oscar’s For Your Precious Love hit.  Let’s hear Oscar’s version: “Papa wanted me to record.  I said ‘fine, what have you got for me to record’?  We got into the studio, and he’s got a tune called A Pig and a Pussycat.  I couldn’t get into it.  It just wasn’t me.  Then I started doing something that I normally would do on my shows.  I’d do the recitation and then I’d go straight into For Your Precious Love.  They bought it, they cracked up and from then on we didn’t have any problems. -- That recitation is something that I usually did before I was recording.  With the Kayos, the Sextet, whoever, at the club – I just say ‘into each life a little rain must fall...’  But it’s not every time I went into For Your Precious Love.  Sometimes I would go into That’s How Strong My Love Is. -- I might talk a good five or ten minutes – a lot of depends on the feed-back from the audience.” (Soul Express # 4/1998: The Oscar Toney Jr. story). 

Let us still briefly quote Bobby Purify aka Ben Moore: “I was under the contract with him (Papa Don), so I tried to be peaceful, although I didn’t like him.  I tried to be as nice as I could” (Soul Express # 3/2005: Bobby Purify).  Incidentally, if you want a piece of trivia how about absorbing the fact that Ben’s voice can be heard for the first time on Jimmy Tig & the Rounders’ single Small Town Girl / Foolish Lover (on Spar 779 in 1966).

Although I got carried away a bit, my intention was to show why I don’t necessarily trust those moguls and their stories one hundred per cent.  But – as I said – they’re in charge of creating hundreds and hundreds of wonderful records, and many of them are my big favourites.  It was also great to read their interviews in John’s Florida Soul, which for me contains a lot of new information.  Besides telling interesting stories, John analyses music like a professional.  In addition to manifold episodes in their career, interviewees reveal facts about life on the road, segregation, mob connections, behaviour of big stars and a lot of other controversial matters.  It’s a fluent, well-written book filled with facts and a valuable source of information for classic soul music fans. 

COMP-ART-ment

THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH


If you think that The Undisputed Truth was just one extra arm for Norman Whitfield to spread and develop his work with the Temptations, to a degree you’re right.  Even though they recorded and released Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone first in the spring of 1972, the Undisputed Truth’s faith was to cover many songs only after the Temptations – Save My Love for a Rainy Day, Since I’ve Lost You, Ball of Confusion, Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone, Law of the Land, Just My Imagination, The Girl’s Alright with Me, You Make Your Own Heaven and Hell Right Here on Earth etc.  Also some of their other tracks sounded like cast in the Tempts’ mould: Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don’t Say No), Big John Is My Name and I’m a Fool for You.

All those tracks above are included in a 2-CD compilation entitled Nothing but the Truth (CDTOP2 469, www.acerecords.com; 36 tracks, 2h 20 min.), which combines three albums by the group – The Undisputed Truth (1971), Law of the Land (1973) and Down to Earth (1974).  Track annotations are by Keith Hughes and other notes by Tony Rounce, who also has interviewed the key member of the group, Joe Harris.  Together they tell, how Joe from the Fabulous Peps and Billie Calvin and Brenda Evans – both from the Delicates – were put together in 1969/1970 and how the trio broke up in 1973/1974 and the group became a quintet with Joe and four new members.

 Clay McMurray co-wrote and produced one single for the group, the sunshiny, mid-tempo Girl You’re Alright (in 1972), but all the other tracks were produced by Norman Whitfield and mostly arranged by Paul Riser and David Van DePitte.  Their debut, Save My Love for a Rainy Day, and the b-side to the follow-up, You Got the Love I Need, are both nice toe-tappers, but the actual plug side of that second single, the smooth Smiling Faces Sometimes, evolved into their signature song.  Again recorded by the Temptations earlier, in the summer of 1971 the Undisputed Truth’s version hit # 2-soul and # 3-pop on Billboard’s charts.

Norman Whitfield let his creativity flow also on many other covers with the group.  Besides earlier Motown songs (I Heard It Through the Grapevine, What’s Going on), he tested many pop/rock numbers, such as Aquarius, Like a Rolling Stone, Feelin’ Alright?, With a Little Help from my Friends, and in most cases I must say that I wasn’t overly impressed by the results.  Also some soul covers – Killing Me Softly with His Song, Love and Happiness, Walk on by, Our Day Will Come... - sounded more routine than innovative.  Along with those two career highlights – Smiling Faces Sometimes and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – I’d still bring up the funky Help Yourself and the gentle and delightful cover of Gonna Keep on Tryin’ Till I Win Your Love.

Track listing available at: Nothing but the Truth - 3 albums on 2 CD plus bonus tracks.

BAYOU BLUES


Should I call this deep blues?  The only thing that has a connection with soul music on Bluesin’ by the Bayou – Ain’t Broke, Ain’t Hungry (Ace, CDCHD 1506; 28 tracks, 73 min., notes by Ian Saddler) is the name of one artist, Barbara Lynn, and even her song Sugar Coated Love (1971) is fast-tempo, straight blues.

This is the fourth blues compilation in Ace’s extensive By the Bayou series, and it includes eight previously unheard tracks.  Mostly the recordings derive from the 1950s and early 60s, and – besides the human voice - the main featured instruments are guitar and harmonica.  If you feel like it, you can party to jump blues or rollicking boogie-woogie runs, such as Slim Harpo’s Cigarettes, Polka Dot Slim’s A Thing You Gotta Face or the more rhythm & blues flavoured Baby, Baby, Baby by Ramblin’ Hi Harris.

Among mid-tempo shuffles there’s one melodic pop-blues called Dreaming Dreaming by Joe Richards, whereas on the more sorrowful side Lightnin’ Slim (Little Girl Blues, Hoo Doo Blues, I Hate to Leave You Baby) and Big Walter (If the Blues Was Money) bring the tempo down.  They’ve also succeeded in unearthing such poor singing acts as Cookie & the Cupcakes, Jimmy Anderson & the Joy Jumpers and Jake Jackson.  Still Boozoo Chavis and Clarence Garlow add zydeco to the mix.  This CD should please serious blues music collectors.

© Heikki Suosalo

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