Monday, January 1, 2018

The Chitlin Circuit

"The "Chitlin' Circuit," like "Tin Pan Alley" and "Motown" and other legendary music locations, is both a real and symbolic term for the on-and-off-again venues--shoebox-sized bars, clubs, cafes and increasingly in the 21st century, casinos-- that support traditional rhythm and blues in a tenuous but tenacious thread through America's mostly rural (or low-profile urban) Bible Belt." Daddy B. Nice

" A circuit of nightclubs and theaters that feature African-American performers and cater especially to African-American audiences.

When Jim Crow and segregation were even more prominent in the United States, the Negro race, freed through emancipation, did not have equal access to public “White Only” places. The Chitlin’ Circuit - a connected string of music venues, diners, juke joints, and theaters throughout the eastern and southern United States that catered primarily to African American audiences was created.

The Chitlin’ Circit was the only option for touring Black entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Ike and Tina Turner, B. B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, T.D. Bell and the Blues Specialists, Roosevelt "Gray Ghost" Williams, Eubie Blake, Robert Shaw, Big Joe Williams and many others begin touring in an effort to “eek” out a living when Jim Crow and segregation was even more prominent in the United States.

Historically, Baltimore was the first city on the Chitlin' Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit stretched through the South, bending Westward throughout Texas, extending Eastward on through Chicago, offering continuous opportunities for black entertainers." Urban Dictionary

"The "Chitlin' Circuit" is the collective name given to the string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe and acceptable for African-American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers to perform in during the age of racial segregation in the United States (from at least the early 19th century through the 1960s) as well as the venues that contemporary African American soul and blues performers, especially in the South, continue to appear at regularly. The name derives from the soul food item chitterlings (stewed pig intestines) and is also a play on the term "Borscht belt" which referred to a group of venues (primarily in New York's Catskill Mountains) popular with Jewish performers during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Noted theaters on the Chitlin' Circuit included the Royal Peacock in Atlanta; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and the Apollo Theater in New York City; Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre in Chicago; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore; the Fox Theatre in Detroit; the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas; the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, Virginia; the Ritz Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; and The Madame C. J. Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.

The second historic marker designated by the Mississippi Blues Commission on the Mississippi Blues Trail was placed in front of the Southern Whispers Restaurant on Nelson Street in Greenville, Mississippi, a stop on the Chitlin' Circuit in the early days of the blues. The marker commemorates the importance of this site in the history of the development of the blues in Mississippi. In the 1940s and 1950s, this historic strip drew crowds to the flourishing club scene to hear Delta blues, big band jump blues and jazz." wikipedia

Much love to Wikipedia on this project, they have saved enormous amounts of time for me and most of what I've found so far is pretty informative and reasonably accurate. Believe me, I'll cheerfully point out where they got it wrong and do my own writing where necessary but the point of an encyclopedia is a place to cite information from and in this function they have been invaluable. On the music side I am deeply indebted to "Unky Cliff" for a huge portion of what appears here and for the books I am educating myself with as well. My morning discussions with him will often filter into the blog. The files here that do not come from actual rips or itunes, likely originated on other blogs through the years, thanks to all of them as well, your generosity to me is being passed on.  kc 

Shares and Requests

Here is a place to drop both your own shares and requests for shares in a central place everyone can check - you know how this works by now.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Solomon Burke ‎– Soul Alive!

Hey everybody, and happy new year!

It's been a while since I have posted, so hopefully this offering will make due.  Rounder reissued and remastered this show in 2002, and released a 2CD set.  Unfortunately, this is the original single CD, but that doesn't mean that it's not amazing.  I have ripped it in FLAC and included all the scans in hi-rez.  Enjoy!!

For pure soul testifying, no one compares to Solomon Burke. He earned his title -- "King of Soul" -- by bringing the gospel fervor of the Southern preacher to his performances, and no recording proves his command over an audience quite like Soul Alive! Recorded in 1983 in Washington, D.C., the set proves Burke had lost little from his '60s heyday; he works through nearly all of his hits, spurring on the concert-goers as though they were the ones performing instead of him -- in fact, some of the women are heard screaming so often they should've been credited. Burke shines most when leading the faithful through "I Can't Stop Loving You," pausing for a lengthy monologue before reprising the song and leading into a devastating finish. Elsewhere he works through deeply felt country-blues-gospel fusions like "I Almost Lost My Mind," "Take Me (Just as I Am)," "He'll Have to Go," and "Down in the Valley." - John Bush / AMG
______________________________________________

Rounder Records ‎– CD 11521
1988
Recorded at the Phoenix 1 Club, Washington DC, 1981. Solomon Burke is accompanied by the "Realtones".

Bass – Dave Conrad
Drums – Bobby Kent
Guitar – Marc Ribot
Keyboards – Gabriel Rotello
Saxophone [Baritone] – Crispin Cioe
Saxophone [Tenor] – Arno Hecht
Trumpet – "Hollywood“ Paul Littoral
Vocals – Solomon Burke

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Chicago Hit Factory; The Vee Jay Story 1953-1966, Discs 1 & 2, The Hits

 This will be the third compilation of Vee Jay material to be featured here over the years. Many moons ago Poppychubby graced us with a 2 disc set....some time later I came back with a 4 disc set from Cliff that dug a little deeper into the catalog. Now we are going to explore Charly's 10 disc box that gives the most comprehensive look at this historic label yet offered anywhere.

These first two discs focus on the hits from the wide array of artists who called Vee Jay home.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Marva Wright - My Christmas Song

For my friend Feillimed:

I have known for a long time that there was a Marva Christmas disc that I'd never heard. You would think that since I had everything else, I would have diligently tracked this down...but no, I kind of wrote it off as likely a half-ass obligatory type recording. This year I said "What the hell, get it and if it's bad...so what." Unnnh...Ooops! Do you notice where this is leading....Oh You Silly, Foolish Old Man! Are You Out Ya Mind?!

The first track opens with swelling organ, the unmistakable keyboards of Davell Crawford, the rest of the band kicks in and oh here comes the choir! It's Go Tell It On The Mountain "Damn THIS is rockin'" ...and Whoa, here comes Marva! (an enthusiastic 'chair boogie' follows) "Gee, I may have underestimated this one a bit." ya think? ...a nice sax intro, and My Christmas Song, part one  of a  classic Southern Soul tale of an abandoned woman and her inner strength to hold her family and herself together thru the Holidays...Now it really starts to get deep as Ms Marva gets your tears going with a soul stirring rendition of Silent Night....and now "OH Hell Yeah, time to get up and dance!" If Marva's Holiday Shuffle don't get ya moving...well you know.

Okay so now we are clear...I WAY underestimated this album. I mean I'm 4 tracks in and I've already laughed, cried and danced! ...now some more strong DC piano and here comes the triumphant part two of our tale of the abandoned woman, I'll Be Fine, If this one doesn't move you then you are a heartless bastard!

A Holiday Medley is just that, a nice little piece that may or may not be live. Freddie King's classic Christmas Tears follows...beautiful...I'd guess that this is something of a tribute to the late Johnny Adams, who loved to sing that song...unh oh we goin' to church AND we gettin' funky! What follows are a trio of beautiful Christmas songs that you've never heard that are clearly born of the church. Each of them is a wonderful gem. Some spastic 'old man dancing' is left to your imagination.

 What Christmas Means To Me is so deep into Marva's wheelhouse that I'd have been shocked if she hadn't absolutely crushed it, ...no shock, song crushed! Christmas Comes But Once A Year could be a third part to the story of our heroine, she somehow makes it all magic for her kids...there is a weary joy to this one.

Marva even manages to make the finale of Auld Lang Syne memorable, no mean feat! Today my favorite Marva Wright album is this one right here!

Ray Charles - The Spirit of Christmas

Rather than trot out my Christmas compilations yet again (if you really want to hear them you can stream them on mixcloud), I thought I'd just share a few choice holiday records.

This second record is one of at least three Ray Charles records that I've seen, but I think it is the best of the bunch. Yes, sometimes silly, sometimes schmaltzy, but it IS Christmas music and hey, it's RAY CHARLES!

The Blind Boys of Alabama - Go Tell It On The Mountain

Go Tell It On The Mountain (2003)

  1. Last Month of the Year
  2. I Pray on Christmas (ft. Solomon Burke)
  3. Go Tell It On The Mountain (ft. Tom Waits)
  4. Little Drummer Boy (ft. Michael Franti)
  5. In The Bleak Midwinter (ft. Chrissie Hynde with Richard Thompson)
  6. Joy To The World (ft. Aaron Neville)
  7. Born in Bethlehem (ft. Mavis Staples)
  8. The Christmas Song (ft. Shelby Lynne)
  9. Away In A Manger (ft. George Clinton with Robert Randolph)
  10. Oh Come All Ye Faithful (ft. Me’shell Ndegéocello)
  11. White Christmas (ft. Les McCann)
  12. Silent Night

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Texas Gospel: Be What You Are, Vol. 2: 1953-1954

The second volume of this stunning 9 disc series from the good folks at Acrobat Music. This long overdue treasure trove of legendary Gospel recordings from the Peacock vaults is an absolute 'essential' in any serious collection of golden age Gospel.


Volume Two continues with those classic Quartet recordings with minimal instrumental backing, usually a guitar and the occasional bass drum. The artists featured include: The Christland Singers, The Southern Wonders, The Southern Tones, The Mid-South Singers, The Heaven Bound Four, and The Sunset Travelers (who would soon feature O.V. Wright). These tracks give little hint of the Robey revolution that was on the horizon.

Acrobat has done a fine job of remastering without imposing modern sound standards that would have ruined the set. Highly recommended. Robert Wingfield, Allmusicguide

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Marva Wright - After The Levees Broke

A repost by request:

I must admit that I am still incapable of listening to the first two tracks here without shedding tears. The whole album is a bit gut wrenching for me. Not only does it evoke powerful images of Katrina (in which both she and I lost everything), but it is also the last album before her untimely death. That said, I'd have to call this album her masterwork. It certainly helps that seemingly every musician who was in town at the time of these sessions showed up with axe in hand. Together they made a bit of magic amidst the wreckage of our collective nightmare.

Glenn Gaines, manager of Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, had a large hand in organizing this project. Glenn has done a fine job making sure that the world will always remember Big Chief Bo and I believe he has done the same here for Marva. Different participants produce different tracks, but I believe that Glenn and Peter Noble had the big vision of the project here and they have succeeded admirably. 

Those powerful first two Katrina tracks come from Benny Turner and from there the album is full of lovely surprises. Tell me that when Marva begins That's Just The Way It Is you don't get a little tingle as she transforms the song into a powerful statement. Funny Not Sunny Kind of Love is just a jaw dropping wonder, the gospel tracks with the Crawfords are brilliant, the Toussaint touch is all over the second line treatment of You Are My Sunshine, and then there is Willie Nelson's Crazy....

Musically as consistently top shelf as it gets, powerful and well delivered emotional content, great twists and turns in feels and styles -- superior performances by the main artist -- Can someone PLEASE tell me how THIS album didn't win multiple Grammys?

update: I'm listening to the album now and it still makes me cry, but it's good for the soul. I couldn't help polishing up the review a bit too.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Texas Gospel, Volume One, Come On Over Here

The first volume of a stunning 9 disc series from the good folks at Acrobat Music, in which they dig deep into the Gospel catalog of the the Don Robey imprints (primarily Peacock). This long overdue treasure trove of legendary Gospel recordings is an absolute 'essential' in any serious collection.


Volume One's focus is on classic Quartet recordings with minimal instrumental backing, usually a guitar and the occasional bass drum. The artists featured are The Christland Singers, The Southern Wonders, The Gospel Tone Singers, The Swanee Spiritual Singers, The Golden Harp Singers, The Stars of Hope, and The Gospel Travelers.The disc ends with a pair of burning tracks from The Wilson & Watson Singers: a slightly larger ensemble featuring piano and organ accompaniment.


Acrobat did a fine job of remastering without imposing modern sound standards that would have ruined the set. Highly recommended. Robert Wingfield, All Music Guide

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Best Of Excello Gospel

A repost by request:

Before he turned his Excello Records imprint more toward blues and R&B, Jay Miller recorded straight Southern gospel in the 1950s. These sides lack the distinctive echo-laden swamp sound of his later secular productions, and they tend to be sparse affairs recorded live with minimal instrumentation, usually just an organ or piano. That doesn't mean these tracks aren't explosive, though, as the joyous exclamations that are the heart and soul of black Southern gospel are everywhere here. Among the highlights on this generous collection of Excello gospel releases are the Boyer Brothers' simple and sturdy "Step by Step," the energetic "Since Jesus Came into My Heart" by the Silvertone Singers, and the zippy, doo wop-like "Didn't It Rain Children" by the Sons of the South.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Joe Tex - The Singles A's & B's, 1964 - 1976 (vols 1-4)

 

Been some requests for Joe Tex things I didn't have...maybe this will do...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bill Samuels/Buster Bennett - Chrono Classics 1945-47

   AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf
One of the very first acts signed to the newly founded Mercury label in 1945 was a quartet calling itself the Cats 'N Jammer Three, a name derived from Rudolph Dirks' old-time comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids. Their pianist and lead vocalist was Mississippi native and Chicago-based entertainer Bill Samuels. Adam Lambert played mellifluous amplified guitar, and rhythmic support was provided by bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Hillard Brown. The first of two versions of "I Cover the Waterfront" was terrifically successful for the Jammers and for Mercury. Stylistically, Samuels and his group sounded something like the King Cole Trio, tempered with the quaintness of the Charioteers and, at times, the cheerful carnality of the rising R&B movement. Comparisons could also be drawn with the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, the Cats & the Fiddle, Slim Gaillard, the Delta Rhythm Boys, the Three Keys, the Four Blazes, and the Five Red Caps. "Waterfront" is smoothly romantic with cool background vocals, and the lovely "One Hundred Years from Today" epitomizes the old-fashioned aspect of Samuels' act. On the raunchier end of the spectrum, "Jockey Blues" and "My Bicycle Tillie" -- with its repeated references to "pumping" -- are distinctly and daringly copulative. This combination of cuteness and relatively overt sexuality was an important ingredient in R&B and early rock & roll. Tapping into a rowdy novelty routine popularized by both Count Basie and Louis Jordan, bassist Sylvester Hickman tried to out-squeal Jordan during the Jammers' rendition of "Open the Door, Richard." Three sides from July of 1947 find Samuels in front of a small band led by Ram Ramirez, with trumpet solos from Bill Coleman and guitar passages by Mundell Lowe. The Cats 'N Jammer Three seem to have disbanded during the 1948 recording ban. Samuels waxed only a couple of sides in 1949, then moved to Minneapolis where he managed to form a trio, eventually recording an LP and one last single. Bill Samuels passed away in March of 1964 at the age of 53. This is the heart of his musical legacy.


James Joseph Bennett (March 19, 1914 – July 3, 1980) Born in Pensacola, Florida, by 1930 or so, he was working in Texas, but spent most of his active career (1938 to 1954) in Chicago. He was employed as a session musician by Lester Melrose from 1938 to 1942; he played on recordings with Big Bill Broonzy, the Yas Yas Girl, Monkey Joe, and Washboard Sam. Concomitantly he played on sessions with Jimmie Gordon under Sammy Price's direction.

In 1944, the Buster Bennett Trio featured Arrington Thornton on piano and Duke Groner on bass.  Other lineups led by Bennett included Wild Bill Davis, Israel Crosby, and Pee Wee Jackson.

In 1945, Bennett signed a three-year recording contract with Columbia Records; he was marketed as a Louis Jordan sound-alike. In early 1946, while under contract to Columbia, Bennett appeared, under the name of his trumpet player, Charles Gray, on a recording for the short-lived Chicago label, Rhumboogie. He also made an unannounced appearance on a Red Saunders session on Sultan Records in 1946, and on a "tenor-battle" session with Tom Archia for Aristocrat in 1947.

At the height of his popularity, in the late 1940s, he was known for his ability to draw customers into a South Side club - and for his cantankerous personality. On one occasion, he and Preston Jackson got into a fistfight at the Musicians Union hall, over a $2 debt.

Bennett recorded his last session for Columbia in December 1947. By 1956 he was out of music, because of the loss of recording opportunities and his own failing health. He retired to Texas, where he lived out the remainder of his life. He died in Houston in 1980, at the age of 66.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Harold Burrage - The Pioneer of Chicago Soul

A companion post to the one running at "Don't Ask Me".

Harold Edwin Burrage (March 30, 1931 – November 26, 1966) was an American blues and soul singer, pianist, and record producer.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Burrage did session work as a pianist in the 1950s and 1960s as well as recording under his own name. He released singles on Decca, Aladdin, States, and Cobra in the 1950s, and for Vee-Jay and M-Pac in the 1960s. Burrage's backing bands included the likes of Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, and Jody Williams, while Burrage supported Magic Sam, Charles Clark, and others as a pianist.

Burrage's only national hit as singer was the 1965 Chicago soul song "Got to Find a Way", which reached #31 on the Billboard R&B charts. The following year Burrage died in Chicago, aged 35, from heart failure at the home of Tyrone Davis, a musician whom Burrage influenced.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mose has left the building

Claude Jeter - Yesterday and Today

The great Claude Jeter's final album (produced by Anthony Heilbut) is a satisfying mix of newly recorded (in 1991) tracks blended with unreleased Swan Silvertones material.

nytimes obit

guardian obit


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Other Anthology of American Folk Music

In response to the Harry Smith collection for Folkways/Smithsonian, a disappointingly anonymous human being out there somewhere on the interweb collated and produced "The Other Anthology" from other deserving tracks that didn't make the pick for Smith - mainly alternate material from the same artists: the Memphis Jug Band,  Bascom Lamar Lundsford, Blind Willie Johnson, Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Dock Boggs.....  98 tracks in all - some of which, like the Harry Smith pick, unavoidably duplicates some of the recent monster Paramount boxed-sets.

There is no booklet and no notes and no credits for this internet production.

Well-deserved appreciation for whoever painstakingly put this together in the first place, and big thanks to whoever shared it on whatever site I downloaded it from.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bobby Womack and The Valentinos

a repost by request:

When considering what to tell in the epic myth-like tale of the life of Bobby Womak, I came to the same conclusion that wikipedia's editors did...the tale is too rich to abbreviate. If you have been here through enough of the blog you caught the very first chapter in the SAR set. This portion really just covers The Valentino's - there will be even more about Bobby alone. His story is in many ways the tale of the fallout from the killing of Sam Cooke. Womak played the role of pawn, hero, villain, tragic hero, resurrected hero...it is the stuff of a fantastic book, complete with side plots, or a movie crafted from the very real history of soul.

"The Valentinos (also known as The Womack Brothers), was a Cleveland, Ohio-based family R&B group, mainly famous for launching the careers of brothers Bobby Womack and Cecil Womack, the former brother finding bigger fame as a solo artist and the latter finding success as a member of the husband and wife team of Womack & Womack with Linda Cooke. During their 22-year tenure, the group was known for R&B hits such as "Lookin' for a Love", famously covered by The J. Geils Band and later a solo hit for Bobby Womack and "It's All Over Now", famously covered by The Rolling Stones.

The foundation of the Valentinos started in church where the five Womack brothers - Friendly, Jr. (born 1941), Curtis (born 1943), Bobby (born 1944), Harry (1945-1974) and Cecil (1947-2013) - performed at their father Friendly's church located from the East 85th & Quincy area of Cleveland. The group started out around 1952 when eight-year-old Bobby Womack played guitar for his father after he had broken a string. Following this, he discovered that all five of his sons could sing, forming the Womack Brothers.

Attracting a gospel following, in 1954, the group, under the name Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, cut a single, "Buffalo Bill" with the Pennant label; both Curtis and Bobby Womack were only ten years old at the time of the recording. In 1956, Sam Cooke discovered the group performing while he and his then group, The Soul Stirrers, were headlining and was so impressed with the brothers that he promised to help the group advance in their careers. In 1960, a couple of years after he founded SAR Records and becoming a crossover solo sensation, Cooke made good on his promise signing the teenage act to the label. The group arrived to California in a beat-up Cadillac prior to Cooke signing them.

Still going by The Womack Brothers, SAR cut two gospel singles the group recorded in 1961 and 1962 including "Somebody's Wrong" and "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray". After the singles failed to chart, Cooke advised the group to go a secular direction. Upon this, they changed their name to the Valentinos and while both Bobby and Curtis continued to switch leads, Sam Cooke reportedly favored Bobby and while some SAR singles featured Curtis in lead, the Bobby-led singles would garner the most airplay.

Shortly afterwards, the group under its new moniker, recorded "Lookin' for a Love", which was a pop rendition of "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray". The song would peak at number eight on the R&B charts and number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, going on to sell two million copies. The hit landed them an opening spot on James Brown's national tour.

In early 1964, the group issued their next hit, "It's All Over Now", which was co-written by Bobby and sister-in-law Shirley. Prior to them releasing it, however, word got around that The Rolling Stones wanted to cover it. Despite Bobby's initial protests, the Stones were eventually allowed to release it and their version became their first national hit in the U.S. Bobby's anger cooled after he received his first royalty check for the single following the Stones' release of the single.

Around 1963, Womack began touring with Cooke as his backing guitarist. Bobby added in instrumentation to several of Cooke's albums including Night Beat and Ain't That Good News. Around the same time Bobby was one of the first people to hear Cooke's chilling anthem, "A Change Is Gonna Come". In December 1964, the Valentinos' career was put in jeopardy when Cooke was suddenly shot and killed while at a Los Angeles motel.

Struggling to deal with the sudden loss of Cooke, the group lay low. Not long after Cooke was buried, however, in March of the following year, Bobby, who had just turned 21, married Cooke's widow, 29-year-old Barbara Campbell. Womack would claim later that he initially had wanted to console Barbara after she lost her husband fearing she "may do something crazy" because of the attention given to Sam Cooke's stature. Womack, his family and friends later say that Barbara fell in love with Bobby and convinced him to marry her. Womack even wore one of Sam's suits to the wedding by Barbara's request.

The marriage angered many of Cooke's loyal fans due to the fact that Cooke's death was still being investigated at the time. In response to the negative attention, Bobby chose to leave the Valentinos and start his solo career in 1965, first recording for Him Records and later the Chess Records subsidiary, Checker. But due to the Cooke scandal, radio deejays refused to play his records and onstage, he was often referred to as "the kid that married Sam Cooke's wife". Womack settled on session work for the time being as a rhythm guitarist, beginning in 1966, while the rest of the Valentinos, who had initially disbanded following Cooke's death, was urged by Bobby to regroup.

Following Cooke's death, SAR Records folded and the remaining Valentinos auditioned for several record labels before Chess Records picked them up. In 1966, they recorded two singles, "Do It Right" and "Let's Get Together" but neither single failed to chart and the brothers were dropped from the label soon after. Following this, the youngest Valentino, Cecil Womack, was the next brother to leave the group after he decided to marry former Motown singer Mary Wells. Cecil was only 19 at the time of the marriage, Wells was 23. In 1968, Wells and Cecil helped the brothers get signed to Jubilee Records. Several of the brothers - including Bobby - would contribute to the sessions of Mary Wells' Jubilee album, "Servin' Up Some Soul", many of the tracks being Cecil and Mary compositions. That same year, the remaining trio of Friendly, Jr., Curtis and Harry recorded the single "Tired of Being Nobody" followed by the Cecil Womack penned "Two Lovers History" before calling it a day.

Meanwhile Bobby Womack's career was on a rise again, this time as a session musician and songwriter. After contributing guitar to recordings by Aretha Franklin, he gave up some of his compositions to Wilson Pickett, who later took the Womack single, "I'm in Love", to the top 40 on the pop and soul charts. Several of Womack's other songs including "I'm a Midnight Mover" would also be recorded by Pickett. Following this success, Minit Records signed Bobby and released the album, Fly Me to the Moon, which featured the singer's first charted hit, a cover of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreaming". Once again being able to have a career after years of struggle following his marriage to Barbara Cooke, Womack would continue his session work, working with musicians such as Gábor Szabó, with whom he would write "Breezin'" with. By 1970, Womack's brothers rejoined him as background vocalists on his work, starting with the 1970 release of his second solo album, My Prescription.

In 1971, Bobby signed with United Artists Records and released his breakthrough album, Communication, which featured the top ten R&B hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", in which the rest of his brothers (The Valentinos) , contributed background vocals to. The brothers would be featured on several of Womack's other albums over the years including Understanding, Facts of Life and Lookin' for a Love Again, the latter album in which the brothers re-recorded "Lookin' for a Love" in a modern funk setting. The remake later shot up to number one R&B and number ten pop becoming the biggest hit the brothers ever sang on, selling over two million copies. Bobby Womack later produced a version of "I Can Understand It" for the remaining Valentinos, releasing it on the Clean Records label. The song gave the Valentinos some traction again on the R&B charts leading to them appearing on Soul Train where Bobby was a frequent guest.

However, this period of success would unfortunately be short lived. On March 9, 1974, Harry Womack was shot to death by his girlfriend during a fight while living in Bobby's Los Angeles home. Bobby said later that he received a phone call from his oldest brother Friendly, Jr., who told him of what had happened to Harry. Bobby was then doing an interview for a local radio station while "Lookin' for a Love" was rising on the charts when he got the call. Bobby said he was shocked by the news and tried to escape the building of the station, later landing in a hospital from his fall where he made a full recovery. In response, Bobby moved his entire family including parents Friendly and Naomi to California to strengthen a fragile family bond. The Valentinos ceased recordings after Harry's death settling on background work with brother Bobby.

Bobby Womack's solo career struggled following the death of his brother as did the careers of the other ex-Valentinos. In 1982, Bobby Womack's solo career received a boost with the release of "If You Think You're Lonely Now", which featured his surviving brothers and other singers backing him. The following year, Cecil Womack, now married to Linda Cooke, Sam Cooke's daughter and Bobby's former stepdaughter, began finding success on his own with Linda as the duo Womack & Womack, releasing the album, Love Wars, which boosted the hit single, "Baby I'm Scared of You", which Cecil and Linda wrote. The duo later had a hugely successful international hit with "Teardrops". Friendly Womack and Curtis Womack continued to provide background vocals for brother Bobby's recordings until the nineties when both singers announced retirements.

An estrangement in the family occurred following the 1977 divorce of Cecil Womack and Mary Wells as it was alleged that a reason for the divorce (filed by Cecil) was due to Mary Wells carrying on an extramarital affair with Curtis. Curtis and Mary continued to date and in 1986, Wells gave birth to Curtis' daughter Sugar. Mary and Cecil had three children during their marriage including record producer Meech Wells (born Cecil Womack, Jr.). In the late eighties, disenchanted with life in the United States and searching for their African roots, Cecil and Linda Womack and their children moved to an African country and changed their name to the Zekkariyas where they continued recording music. As a songwriting team for Philadelphia International Records, the couple wrote hits for Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle. Cecil died on February 1, 2013 in Africa. In 2009, Bobby Womack was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, he performed his 1972 hit "Across 110th Street" and the Valentinos hit "It's All Over Now", in which Rolling Stone member Ron Wood backed him. Wood inducted Womack to the Hall. Womack's family with the exception of Cecil Womack was present for the induction ceremony. The family patriarch and founder of the Womack Brothers, Friendly Womack, Sr., died of cancer in 1981. Their mother, Naomi, is still living.

Some of the group's recordings are most noted for their covers by artists of various genres. Alongside the Rolling Stones, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett recorded covers of the Valentinos tunes "Everybody Wants to Fall in Love" and "I Found a True Love", both of which were written solely by Bobby. In 1971, The J Geils Band covered "Lookin' for a Love" a couple years before the brothers re-recorded it for Bobby's solo release, Lookin' for a Love Again. Another composition that was first recorded by Bobby as a solo release and revived by the Valentinos a year later, "I Can Understand It", became a major hit for the funk band New Birth. Prior to her later work with Cecil, Linda helped Bobby co-write the hit "A Woman's Gotta Have It", which also featured Cecil singing background for his brother. Cecil and Linda's composition, "Love TKO", a major hit for Teddy Pendergrass, has been covered several times."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Osibisa - Heads

The last album to feature the original "Beautiful Seven".

"Osibisa, the West African high-life band from Ghana, waxed their first LP in 1971 and continues to spit them out. Their longevity can be attributed to a vibrant sound and the ability to inject humor into music. They don't allow themselves to become mired in social issues as did the short-lived but often brilliant Cymande, whose LPs were essentially political statements. Osibisa's only agenda is making good music, and if it happens to strike a political or social nerve, fine, but it's not what they're totally about. "Wango Wango" starts slow but evolves into a wicked jam that's heavy as P-Funk. Pleasant flute and trumpet riffs accent the lovely "So So MI La So." The bands' tribute to America, the floating "Sweet America," teases and tantalizes. Percussion heads will appreciate "Ye Tie Wo" and "Che Che Kule." The deepest slabs of social commentary are the thought-provoking "Sweet Sounds" and "Did You Know." All tracks were written by all or various members of Osibisa, who share production credit with John Punter. "

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Osibisa - Woyaya 1971

Woyaya is a strong follow up to Osibisa' debut record, almost a companion volume.

The Sprit of Memphis Quartet - Happy In the Service of the Lord


A rerun by request:

Gospel music was largely neglected during the surge of CD reissues in the 90s and early 21st Century.  Only the Specialty and Nashboro labels had significant reissues.    The Spirit of Memphis Quartet was unquestionably one of the greatest, most popular, and most influential quartets of the Golden Age of Gospel in the 40s and 50s.    But the CD generation had little opportunity to hear it.  

  Recently, in the Sunset of the CD Age, the indefatigable Opal Lee Nations managed to put into print for first time in many decades a good chunk of the recorded legacy of the Golden Age of gospel.    He uses European labels that exploit the liberal copyright laws of the EU.  The two most prolific labels have been Acrobat and JSP.    While JSP is still going, Acrobat folded rather quickly after a string of great releases.

  Happy in the Service of the Lord was the single most important release on Acrobat, a 2-disc collection that brings us the most important recordings of the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, those made for King and Peacock during 1949-1952.   During this time, The Spirit of Memphis may have wrecked more churches than any other outfit.   The lineup featured three great lead singers: Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax (tenor), Jet Bledsoe (tenor/baritone), and the inimitable thundering baritone of Silas Steele.    A number of other classic recordings of the Spirit of Memphis from the mid-later 1950s, many of which with Joe Hinton on lead vocals, were included in Acrobat’s 9-Volume “Texas Gospel” reissue of the Peacock label.   We can get into that series later on for this blog if there will be demand for it.
  The Spirit of Memphis stands for quite a rich and diverse gospel tradition.   The Quartet has roots dating back to the 1920s and continues to perform today as one of the finest remaining gospel quartets.   If they come to your town, don’t miss them.   There are also excellent CDs available from the newer aggregations.  But here you have the very artistic peak of the Spirit of Memphis, and one of the peaks of recorded gospel music. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Boogie Uproar - Gems From The Peacock Vaults

Re-run by request:

"The formation of Peacock Records in late 1949 dates back to an event nearly three years earlier when a young guitarist called Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown saw his chance to grab the spotlight - and took it with both hands! 'Gate' had never been backward in coming forward. When legendary bluesman T-Bone Walker fell ill in mid-performance, he leapt up, picked up the guitar left on the stage and started playing his own 'Gatemouth Boogie'. 15 minutes later a star was born. The owner of the club, Don Robey, ensured the young upstart put his autograph on a management contact. Robey would eventually found Peacock Records to release his music, and that's where the label's history starts."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Osibisa - Osibisa 1971

Rarely in popular music history has an unknown band debuted with such a perfectly formed diamond of an album as Osibisa did with their eponymous first album in late 1970. To be fair, these were seasoned musicians, the core of whom had years of experience playing together.

"The Ghanaian founder members of Osibisa – Teddy Osel (saxaphone), Sol Amarfio (drums) and Mac Tontah, Teddy’s brother (trumpet) – were seasoned members of the Accra highlife scene before they moved to London to launch their attack on the world stage. Osel and Amaflio had played in the Star Gazers, a top Ghanaian highlife band, before setting up the Comets, who scored a large West African hit with their 1958 single ‘Pete, Pete’. Tontoh was also a member of the Comets, before joining the Uhuru Dance Band, one of the first outfits to bring elements of jazz into Ghanaian highlife. The other founder-members of Osibisa were Spartacus R, a Grenadian bass player, Robert Bailey (b. Trinidad; keyboards) and Wendel Richardson (b. Antigua; lead guitar), & Lasisi Amao (b. Nigeria; percussionist & tenor sax)."

"Osibisa is a British Afro-pop band, founded in London in 1969 by four expatriate African and three Caribbean musicians. Osibisa were one of the first African bands to become widely popular, leading to claims of founding World Music.
In Ghana in the 1950s, Teddy Osei (saxophone), Sol Amarfio (drums), Mamon Shareef and Farhan Freere (flute) played in a highlife band called The Star Gazers. They left to form The Comets, with Osei's brother Mac Tontoh on trumpet, and scored a hit in West Africa with their 1958 song "Pete Pete." In 1962 Osei moved to London to study music on a scholarship from the Ghanaian government. In 1964 he formed Cat's Paw, an early "world music" band that combined highlife, rock and soul. In 1969 he persuaded Amarfio and Tontoh to join him in London, and Osibisa was born.
The name Osibisa was described by the band members as meaning "criss cross rhythms that explode with happiness" but it actually comes from "osibisaba" the Fante word for highlife. Their style influenced many of the emerging African musicians over the last forty plus years." last FM

To some extent I think the band suffered a bit from their own perfection on this debut...while they certainly equaled this music subsequently, they never really surpassed it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings "Anthology of American Folk Music" curated by Harry Smith


Harry Smith was one of the world’s great eccentrics.

The unorthodox lifestyle and non-conformist beliefs of his parents must have already given him a big head-start on becoming such a pioneer of west-coast bohemia.  Growing up on the Pacific Northwest like he did, with licence to indulge and pursue his magpie enthusiasms, I imagine he knew right from the beginning that he was different.

While a student with the University of Washington's anthropology department at the tail-end of the war years, around the time the beatnik era had begun its incubation, he made a fledgling journey down the coast to San Francisco and smoked his first joint.

Shortly thereafter, he quit school, moved to the Bay area, and found a place in the local arts community as a painter and film-maker and an obsessive archival collector without borders, collecting all kinds weird and wonderful shit.... including the thousands of 78rpm shellac discs from which he came to distill 1952’s three-volume, six-LP, collection “Anthology of American Folk Music”.

The Smith story is long and fascinating - far too long to go into with much detail right here - that's why I include the collection's booklet of notes and essays and stuff, and also the Harry Smith chapter from a book about the crazy world of collector-archivists by Amanda Petrusich called "Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records".  ("A cracking good read on the anthropology of obsession," sez Lazz) 

The production of the legendary Anthology took place when the river of serendipity and a Guggenheim grant washed him up in New York at the Chelsea, badly short of cash, and drove him to offer some of his precious collection of 78s for sale to Moses Asch at Folkways records.  Asch commissioned him instead to edit and curate an overview of American music from the mid-'20s up to the depression driven collapse of the early record business.  Those of you who own the Paramount collections will in consequence discover some duplication.


Smith had planned for six volumes in total, extending the anthology's reach through to the end of the '40s.  For one reason or another, he failed.  Luckily for us and the rest of the world, the lovely Revenant Records worked with the Harry Smith Archive to recreate a fourth volume, also included here.

(You may find worthwhile diversion here, too: http://www.harveybialy.org/category/harry-smith/)