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Have Mercy, Percy!!

sledge

Spotlight on Percy Sledge, y’all.

While most well-known for When A Man Loves A Woman, Southern soul legend Percy Sledge is a master of delivering smoldering, aching love songs that young lovers have been rubbing bellies to for generations.  I grew up on Percy music and he’s one of my all-time favorite artists.  The Alabama native was honored by being inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Enjoy.

  Warm & Tender Love

  My Special Prayer

  Set Me Free

  Bring it on Home to Me

  Take Time to Know Her

  A Sweet Woman Like You

 

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2009 in music legends, oldies, Soul

 

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Soulful Friday

Limping into the weekend…2,000 point drop in the stock market, work kickin’ my butt, gutters are clogged, and the country’s going to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

Thankfully, there’s a little soul for the soul.

  It’s All Wrong, But It’s Alright, Percy Sledge

 

  Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Wilson Pickett

 

  Come in From the Cold,  Marc Broussard

 

  My Last Regret, Robert Cray

 

and a song from my youth….suddenly we’re back to 1976.

  A Real Mutha for Ya,  Johnny “Guitar” Watson

Hang in there, the weekend is almost here.  Next week HAS to be better.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2008 in Soul, weekdays, wilson pickett

 

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Colette’s Corner: Where There’s Fire….There’s Smokey

Nah, not that Smokey, THIS Smokey…
 
The Great Smokey Robinson.  Singer.  Songwriter.  Producer.  Talent Extraordinairre.
Here’s Colette’s entertaining homage to William Robinson, Jr.:
It’s wonderful  to sing well.  It’s even more meaningful to write a great and enduring song.
Both talents were bestowed on young William “Smokey”  Robinson, long before he helped to start Motown Records in Detroit in the early 1960s, with his friend Berry Gordy.
Gordy had the business acumen; Smokey had the musical chops.  By the time he was in his early 20s, Smokey was writing, recording and arranging a stream of hit tunes for this landmark record company, which blended bluesy soulfulness with sleek arrangements and killer hooks.  He also was a terrific talent scout, cultivating the musical gifts of the kids he grew up with in  Motor City.
As an entertainer, Smokey’s still terrific — I saw him recently, and in his late 60s he’s not only still in great voice (one of the best pop falsettos ever) but he’s still sexy, romantic and full of joy.
But while I’ve found a lot of great performances on video of Smokey, with his hit-making crewT he Miracles and after he went solo,  Part I of this tribute considers some Smokey tunes especially wrote (and produced) for other Motown masters.
What makes Smokey’s songs so memorable?  The lyrics, though inevitably about boyfriend-girlfriend passions, are so clever that Bob Dylan once called Robinson one of his favorite poets, and  John Lennon and George Harrison also gave him props.

Smokey knows how to twist a phrase to make it fresh every one of his songs tells a compelling story, and there are indeed poetic images in a lot of his tunes,  along with real wit.   But it’s also the arrangements he worked up with the fabulous Funk Brothers (Motown’s brilliant house  musicians), including the miraculous James Jamerson on bass, that make the best of the tunes he produced instantly unforgettable.  Listen to the baselines — a symphony in themselves! And there’s a perfect layering of percussion, piano, vocals, guitar, bass and backup voices (augmented sometimes by horns and violins). 

But Smokey’s been a huge fan of many kinds of music his entire life — from opera to Cole Porter to modern jazz.  A grouchy Boomer like me wants to encourage this in  young artists:  listen, listen, listen to all the greats, and absorb!
 

 
So from the more than 1,000 tunes in Smokey’s songbag, I’m picking out some gems.   (Later,  I’ll play tribute to Smokey doing his own material, with and without the fab Miracles.)

 

Let’s start with the suave, magical Temptations, since Smokey wrote their break-through hits.      Here are some  rare live  versions (sometimes with lipsynching, which was what some people did on TV at the time) with the ultra-suave Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin singing leads.  Do check out the choreography, created by such legendary jazz-tappers as Cholly Atkins and Honi Coles.  It’s a total delight.
 
First comes “The Way You Do the Things You Do,”  with a lyric led by Eddie that’s full of charming similes (“You got a smile so bright/You know you could’ve been a candle….”)
   “The Way You Do the Things You Do”  — The Temptations  (rare live on a NY TV show)
 
Another Temps classic.  Picture a little blurry, but the guys look so great, and move so hot:
 
   “Get Ready” — The Temptations
 
If you ever go see the Temps, and some incarnation of them is still out there touring, this is the tune they turn into a huge audience sing-along.  And who doesn’t know “My Girl”??  The song is in our collective bloodstream.  David Ruffin does the lead honors this time:
 
   “My Girl” — The Temptations
 
The other “My Girl” rendition that brings a different vibe and some rough-edged soul to the song is this live version by the incomparable Otis Redding, the Love Man.  ‘Nuff said.
 
    “My Girl” — Otis Redding  (with his great band, The Bar-Keys, live in England)
 
As a kind of book-end to “My Girl,” Smokey also conconcocted “My Guy” for Motown solo artist,  Mary Wells.  With its jaunty beat, witty internal rhymes  (“Nothing you can buy can make me tell a lie to my guy”), and that ultra-cool vocal by Mary, another favorite of the Beatles, it was another big-selling classic:
 
  “My Guy” — Mary Wells
 
The Smoke (as pal Stevie Wonder calls him) also took a strong interest in shaping the musical style of The Marvelettes, who  toured with the Beatles on their U.S. tour.  Talk about sexy, these girls were HOT, and I prefer them to the Supremes (shown here briefly).  Here’s one of the treasures Smokey wrote for them, featuring the sultry Wanda Rogers on lead —  one of the great “hands off, ladies!” tunes of all time.  And love their moves:
 
    “Don’t Mess With Bill
 
Finally, we have another Motown genius, Marvin Gaye, who was like a brother to Smokey.   The ebullient Gaye started out at Motown as a session drummer, but that skill was soon eclipsed by his mounting fame as a smooth, sexy, utterly distinctive vocalist.   Marvin is one of my soul gods! And these are his early classics, tailor-made for him by his pal:
 
   “Ain’t That Peculiar” —  Marvin
 
Another from Marvelous Marvin — what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a guy who looks this cool in a tux! :
 

   — Take This Heart of Mine — Marvin
 
Finally, a little novelty from the Smokey annals, first done by the Contours and later the J. Geils Band.  It’s a tongue-in-cheek tune about being a gold-digger, the lyrics are a hoot:

 

    
   “First I Look at the Purse” — The Contours
 
 
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Posted by on October 1, 2008 in colette's corner, motown, music legends, oldies, Soul

 

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Funky Broadway

  Funky Broadway, Wilson Pickett

Need some Wilson Pickett today….Happy Friday.

To those of you on the Eastern Seaboard…stay safe and dry.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2008 in funk, music legends, Soul, wilson pickett

 

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Colette’s Corner: Right Proper Soul Kats & Kittens

 
The latest installment from Colette on Soul from the British Isles.  Enjoy.

Most people know how much I love, adore and worship vintage soul music and musicians.  But like MM, I’m also constantly trolling for those new young artists with a truly soulful sound (blue eyed or black) — and the artistic backbone to keep it from being watered down by a recording industry that wants to mulch every bit of soul grit out, and  ground it into a smooth, sludgy club-vibe Spam version of R & B that’s so hot these days, and to me feels like slightly funkified elevator music.
 
Turns out there are a lot of kids out there carrying  the torch under the radar (to mix metaphors), trying to refresh the R & B/soul idiom and keep on keepin’ it real  with some integrity.  And there’s a new movement afoot, at least in Britain:  Retro-soul!   Amy Winehouse‘s huge, surprise success is propelling this, as is Joss Stone‘s and (though she’s got a different soul bag) my beloved Corinne Bailey Rae.    
 
I’m intrigued by a few of these other old soul contenders, and wonder what you think:  Do they have a groove?   Do they have a future?  Would you want to see them live, or hear a whole album?
 
Let’s start with the most hyped of this bunch:  a pretty 24-year old Welsh bird called Duffy, marketed as the healthier, cleaner version of the sadly ravaged Amy Winehouse.  She’s gaining chart traction with original tunes, and so far so good.  I like this one best:
 
    — “Mercy” — Duffy
 
Here’s another of her originals — a scratchy, beseeching ballad:
 
 — “Syrup and Honey” — Duffy
 
Palol Nutini is even younger — a 21 year old Scottish kid with an Italian name (his parents are from Tuscany),  and a  slurry/blurry, broken and raw kind of voice, that oozes eros and hurt, and is quite distinctive. A bit of a hipster teen idol, and a little scary (rumors of substance abuse already).  But there’s something compelling about his sound.  This is a sort of knock off of “Let’s get it on” by Marvin Gaye,” but I do love Paolo’s lyric “Let’s get restless baby….”
 
 — “Loving You,”  Paolo Nutini
 
He does a lot of very interesting, offbeat covers of old tunes — would you believe “Bang Bang”?  One I especially like is this heartfelt rendition of a tune by the late great Fred Neil, who also wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’.”
 
  — “Dolphins” sung by Paolo Nutini
 
I also have to fess up to a fondness for his “Rehab” cover — just hope it doesn’t apply to him as much as to Ms. Winehouse…..
 
  —  “Rehab” sung by Paolo  Nutini
 
James Morrison (no relation to Jim, or The Doors)  is another very young stripling of a Brit, with a different kind of ragged voice and a more —  dare I say —  wholesome(?) brand of sensitivity.   It’s amazing, isn’t it — I mean, where do they get these kids in England?   Their tradition of blue-eyed soul is still, obviously, very strong.    And the record companies get behind it.  This was a huge British and European hit, but hasn’t caught on as big in the US:
 
  —  “You Give Me Something” — James Morrison
 
And one of his originals:
 
  — “Call the Police” — James Morrison
 
 
Then there’s Jamie Lidell.  I was extremely disappointed when I saw Jamie live last year, and he spent the set tinkering with several synthesizers and induced brain freeze in a long, boring, electronic jam — with himself.   He’s apparently quite the trickster, loves changing up his look and sound.  But I’m happy to learn that his fetching new “Jim”  gets him doing what he does best:  singing those old-school jumps.    Very gifted guy, in my book:
 
  — “A Little Bit of Feel Good” — Jamie Lidell
 
  — “Multiply” — James Morrison
 
 
Finally, working a groove that’s a little Amy Winehouse, a little Van Morrison, a little Screamin’ Jay and a lot of scrappy soul is the older (45)  but not yet hugely famous  James Hunter.  He was discovered by Van the Man, who used him as a backup vocalist on “Days Like This.”  Live he doesn’t have much variety, but he really cooks. Also it’s such a rush when someone can really play instrumentally, do great arrangements and otherwise behave like a gen-u-ine musician:
 
 
  — “Baby Don’t Do It” — James Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2008 in colette's corner, Soul

 

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Shut Yo Mouth…Soul Man Isaac Hayes, Dead at 65

Stax music legend, Isaac Hayes, has reportedly died from a “simultaneous” stroke and heart attack at his home in Memphis, TN. 

Known for the watershed album, Hot Buttered Soul, and the mega hit Shaft, Isaac Hayes became the savior of Stax Records when Otis Redding died in a plane crash in 1967.  Hayes started at Stax as a session musician for Redding and others, eventually taking the forefront in the early ’70s.  He was also a successful songwriter, writing the Sam & Dave hits, Hold on, I’m Comin’ and Soul Man, with writing partner David Porter.  He is considered a pioneer in Urban Contemporary and Rap music, adding “raps” or dialogue to many of his songs.

Most recently, Isaac Hayes was best known as “Chef” on Southpark and was working on the film Soul Man, with Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac, who also passed away yesterday.  Both will be missed.

 

Can you dig it?

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2008 in memorials, Otis Redding, Soul, the seventies

 

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Spotlight On….Wilson Pickett – I’m In Love

Year:  1968

Artist:  Wilson Pickett

Songwriter:  Bobby Womack

Label:  Atlantic Records

Recorded:  American Studios, Memphis, TN

Producers:  Tom Dowd, Tommy Cogbill

The title track from Pickett’s 1968 album that also featured Stagger Lee and Bring It On Home to Me, I’m in Love stands out as the one song in “The Wicked’s” repetoire that shows any kind of vulnerability or longing.  Most of Pickett’s hits were displays of his vast male bravado and self assurance, so I’m in Love was an enjoyable deviation from his norm.

Like most pioneers of soul music, Wilson Pickett started out in gospel and perhaps the brash sexual nature of his popular music had a little something to with that.  Many of the sexy, soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s, like Otis Redding, Bobby Womack and Sam Cooke all became dichotomies of their upbringing by embracing and advancing sensual, risque’ music that quickly became the music of love.

In 1962, Atlantic Records signed Wilson Pickett as part The Falcons, who had a modest R&B hit with I Found a Love.  Eddie Floyd of Knock On Wood fame, as well as Sir Mack Rice who penned the classics Respect Yourself and Pickett’s Mustang Sally, were also members of the famed Falcons.

Soon after, Pickett went solo but had no success in his first few attempts.  Atlantic executive, Jerry Wexler, then made the fateful decision to send Wilson on down to Memphis to record with Stax musicians and writers.  There, Steve Cropper worked with Wilson Pickett to write In the Midnight Hour, which became a huge hit in 1965.  The Stax collaborations would produce other hits, like 634-5789 and Don’t Fight It.  After Stax owner, Jim Stewart, banned all outside production in 1965, Pickett moved on to FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, where he recorded Mustang Sally and Funky Broadway.

In 1967, Wexler arranged for Wilson to go back to Memphis, but this time at the pretigious, American Studios.  There, Pickett recorded the I’m in Love album.  He would subsequently return to FAME to do a funky version of The Beatles’ Hey Jude, with Duane Allman sitting in, but the I’m in Love album would prove to be his apex.

In the single I’m in Love, Pickett exudes sex and charisma, with a side of desparation that is so appealing to women.

  (Live)

The lyrics, or rather, the phrasings create a sense of wanting and needing mixed with jubilation.  Coupled with Pickett’s steamy delivery, I’m in Love is a pure anthem of love.

I´m in love, yes I am
Love, love, love
I´m in love, sho ´nuff in love
Look-a-here
My friends all wonder what´s come over me
I´m as happy as a man can be
I´m in love (love, love)
I´m in love (love, love) love
I´m in love (love, love)
I´m so glad I can tell the world
(love, love, love)
I´m too proud on my own
(love, love, love)
Yes I am
(love, love, love)
I´m sho ´nuff in love
(love, love, love)
Look-a-here
I feel just like a baby boy (ooooo)
On a Christmas mornin´ with a brand new toyI´m in love (love, love)
I´m in love, love, love
Uum-mmm
I´m in love (love, love)
Sho´ nuff´ in love (love, love)
I can shout about it, yeah
(love, love, love)
I can cry about it sometime
(love, love, love)
Whoa sho ´nuff in love
(love, love, love)
Sho ´nuff in love, yes I am
(love, love, love)
FADES-
I can knock on wood, now
(love, love, love)

 

This song is one of my absolute FAVORITE songs.  Wilson Pickett’s passion and enthusiasm has yet to be matched by today’s artists in terms of delivering REAL soul music, with the possible exception of Marc Broussard.  When I hear this song, it really gives me that “feel good all over” feeling and makes me want to grab Mr. D to cut a rug.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2008 in music legends, oldies, Soul, wilson pickett