Saturday, February 26, 2011

One of the best compilations I've heard in awhile....

Great, great late 60's NY Latin soul comp, quickly becoming at the top of my list of most played albums the past few weeks.  I've just gotten more into NY Latin Soul recently...It started with this:

Then this...
Then this and this...(both good comps of early latin funk and soul Joe Bataan)

Then finished off with this...
I love this Pete Rodriguez album, but I gotta say that I like the Bataan albums a bit more.  Bataan has a charming style to his music--songs are about going on a subway, getting Chinese food, checking out girls, etc.  Bataan also sings a bit off-key, which I find to be endearing as well.  But there's a real soulful funk to his music.  Rodriguez has a great groove, and of course, "I Like It Like That" is a great track--my Ecuadorian wife recalls hearing this song at a young age.   She prefers the Pete Rodriguez stuff--it is more polished though still really funky/soulful.  You can't go wrong with early Bataan or Rodriguez, and the "The Soul of Spanish Harlem" I recommend highly as well!  Here's a track clip of a Pete Rodriguez and Joe Bataan below.  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song o' the day

I've been listening to The Intruders for a majority of the day today.  They have a good best of collection called "Cowboys to Girls" that I would recommend checking out.  First half of it I love, great Philly soul.  Second half, which focuses more on their later period, verges more into disco territory, which isn't my cup of coffee.   Although I wouldn't say The Intruders were a consistent band, and some of their songs are cringe worthy ("love is like a baseball game"--yikes!), but when they were on, they were among the best.  Here's one of my favorite songs of theirs, recorded in 1967, called "Together".  Enjoy!  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"The Iceman"--Jerry Butler

Jerry Butler, also known as "The Iceman",  is one of R&B's great singers of the 60's and 70's.  Growing up with Curtis Mayfield, they formed an early gospel group called the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, and they were influenced by the gospel/soul sound of Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.  After Butler left, they later became the famed The Impressions, where Curtis Mayfield and company achieved many hits throughout the 1960's--but that's a whole other story.  Jerry Butler released his first album "The Iceman Cometh", in 1968.

 "The Iceman Cometh" is Butler's best album, as his voice works magic with  the Philadelphia songwriting duo Gamble and Huff.  Together with the famed Philly soul strings, backing vocals, and Butler's strong, assertive, yet smooth vocals, "The Iceman" never sounded so better.  My favorite track on the album is the first track, "Hey, Western Union Man", which is one of those tracks that I tend to play more than once in a sitting.  The vocals, the arching chorus, strings, "Hey, Western Union Man" is the gem of what is one of Philly soul's great albums:

"Never Gonna Give You Up" is a great track too.  This track was often covered in the soul circuit, from Eddie Floyd to Isaac Hayes.  Even as recently, The Black Keys covered this track as well.  Check it out below:
In 1971, Butler again teamed with Gamble and Huff and recorded his second album, "Ice On Ice".  Great album, though maybe doesn't quite reach the heights of his first album.

Here's one of my favorite tracks off of "Ice on Ice", "What's the Use of Breaking Up":

These days, you can buy these first two Jerry Butler albums combined on one cd, "The Iceman Cometh/Ice on Ice".

Jerry Butler, "The Iceman", one of soul's greats and certainly one worth checking out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fontella Bass "Rescued"!

Fontella Bass was one of the great soul singers of the 60's with albeit a short career. Fontella's mother was a gospel singer, and at a young age, Fontella toured with her mother as a young teen. In her late teens, Fontella began interested in R&B/Soul music, and eventually began touring with Little Milton. She later auditioned for the famed Chess Records, and released her first solo single, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" in early 1965. While the song was moderately successful on the R & B charts, it wasn't nearly as successful as the single released later in the same year--"Rescue Me".

"Rescue Me" sold over a million copies, and gave Chess Records its first major hit since Chuck Berry. Unfortunately, Fontella didn't see as much of the money as she felt she deserved. Fontella became disillusioned with the record label after she recorded her first full-length album "The New Look" in 1967 and left the label afterwards. Nearly five years later, Fontella released a second album "Free", which wasn't as successful as she'd hoped, and retired from the music business to raise a family with Lester Bowie, the trumpet player/composer from the free jazz band, Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Let's face it, Fontella Bass's name is remembered for "Rescue Me". It's still played on oldies stations occasionally, and you've even heard it over the years on T.V., in commercials for American Express and Pizza Hut. It's a great song, but there are many other songs that are worth checking out in Fontella Bass's short catalog. "The Soul of a Man" was released as the B-Side to "Rescue Me", and you can listen to it here:

Pick up a "Best of" compilation of Fontella's music for Chess Records, and you won't be disappointed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Is All You Need

Universal Love is a quality that allows a person to see beauty in every aspect of life. (Simply put) it's an altruistic love for everything and everyone.

Yes, it's Valentine's Day- a holiday otherwise known as "Singles Awareness Day." But don't depress! Even if you're a bird flying solo, you can still celebrate love, Universally.
Most religions and philosophies in some way encompass the concept of Universal Love. In the Buddhist religion, the philosophy and practice of Universal Love is known as "Metta." Metta is basically a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others- an unselfish, all-embracing love for every person and every thing. A pretty nice objective, right?
So, even if you didn't receive a heart-shaped box, a romantic dinner and a dozen roses this year, you can always use this holiday as a pretext to give love, universally, without romantic conditions.
"(All You Need is Love) was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a clear message saying that love is everything."- Brian Epstein.
The song was broadcast live, via satellite on "Our World," the first global television link. It was watched by 400 million people in 26 countries.
Happy Universal Love Day to all the lone birds and love birds out there! I hope your day is brimming with happiness and affection.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Brighter Side of Town---Joe Bataan "Singin' Some Soul"

"Singin' Some Soul" is a great early Joe Bataan album, which came out in 1972.  Previously, Bataan recorded some great Latin-Soul albums, but this definitely has a more Philly soul influence with its harmonies, an O'Jays type of feel to it.  Bataan grew up in Spanish Harlem, was involved in gangs, and eventually ended up in jail.  Once he was released, he cleaned up his act, started a band, and began making music.  Joe Bataan "Singin' Some Soul", is one of my favorite albums that he recorded.  The track below, "My Cloud" is the first (and best, in my opinion) track off of the album.  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who is Terry Callier?

 -Terry Callier grew up in Chicago, and was a childhood friend of soul greats Jerry Butler, and Curtis Mayfield and began singing doo-wop in his teens.  

-Terry Callier was began his musical journey in the early 60's (1962 to be exact) and signed by the famous Chess Records, recording his debut single "Look at Me Now", while attending college and playing in folk houses around the city.

-Terry Callier wrote songs in the late 60's that were later recorded by the psychedelic outfit H.P. Lovecraft.

-Terry Callier continued to write songs for artists on Chess Records, and his track "The Love We Had Stays In My Mind", became a hit for The Dells.

-Terry Callier, in my opinion, made his best music in the early 1970's, when he recorded a trio of soul-jazz-folk albums that were largely ignored by the public.  One of them "What Color is Love", released in 1973, I consider a masterpiece.

-"What Color is Love", sadly enough, should be recognized as one of the great albums of the 70's, of any genre, but doesn't receive the praise that it should.  From the build-up of the opening track "Dancing Girl", to the jazzy ballad of the title track, Callier's voice, expressive, your emotions hanging on every syllable of every word spoken..."What Color is Love" is one of those albums difficult to express.  You listen first time though, and you know it's something special though, which is rare when you've listened to millions of albums as I have.  The strings, Callier's acoustic guitar playing, the backing female vocals, but more than anything, it's his voice.  It aches...and you feel it.  The only album I can even compare it to in terms of true feeling and inspiration is Van Morrison "Astral Weeks", but there's just more beautiful moments in "What Color is Love" than in "Astral Weeks", so I give it the edge, although it's close.  

-Terry Callier continued to write and record music on and off through 80's and 90's, occasionally recording and even toured on separate occasions with Gil Scott-Heron and George Benson.  In his spare time, he taught classes in computer programming at the University of Chicago, while pursuing a degree in Sociology.  He continues to reside in Chicago.

-Listen to the greatness of Terry Callier "What Color is Love".  His voice, his words, his guitar-work...he is Terry Callier, one of the great singer-songwriter soulmen alive and very deserving to be heard. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Seconds"--The Rock Hudson/Brian Wilson Connection

 Wow!  I saw "Seconds"-- this 1960's Sci-Fi/Paranoid Thriller/Surreal film over a month ago, and haven't quite gotten it out of my mind.  It's a film that is almost impossible to find anywhere.  It's not available through Netflix, and has copies that range around $60/$70 since it's out of print.  Fortunately, I decided to blind-buy a copy on amazon for $30 a few months ago before the prices have skyrocketed, due to it being out of print.  I'm so glad I did!  Really, I can't say enough about Rock Hudson, who shocked me with this performance.  I never thought he could do so well in such an edgy, surreal film--most films he's been in have been run-of-the-mill predictable early Hollywood films.  Naturally, when "Seconds" was released, critics panned it, panned Rock's performance, and it did horrible in the box office.  Over the years it has gained a cult following, and it wouldn't shock me if David Lynch, or Terry Gilliam was a fan of this film.  Anyway, I've been thinking about this film so much, reading little antidotes on the making of the film, behind the screens, and about Rock Hudson's role in general.  I ran across this interesting tidbit taken from wikipedia in regards to "Seconds"--
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson saw the movie during its initial release, between sessions for Smile. Under the influence of drugs, the early stages of schizophrenia, and pressure to complete Smile, Wilson found Seconds an especially intense experience, that affected him personally (beginning with his arriving late; the first dialogue he heard onscreen was "Come in, Mr. Wilson", taking him by surprise). His state of mind shifted over the next months, between fantasies of escaping his own life in a similar way, and thoughts that perhaps rival producer Phil Spector had somehow convinced Columbia Pictures (sic) to make the movie "to mess with my mind". Wilson later abandoned the Smile sessions, and did not see another movie in a theater until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. His experience was later recounted in The Beach Boys by Byron Preiss, Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! by Domenic Priore, and Wilson's own Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story (written with Todd Gold).

As Ice Cube would say "Damn, it was a good day!"

Went to Silver Platters in Seattle yesterday and picked up these babies!!  All great albums!!!  Man, I didn't realize 1.)  Buddy Miles was so much more than Jimi Hendrix's drummer.  "Them Changes" is a great early/mid 70's funk album, with a few ballads thrown in.  Buddy has a wonderful voice, and a tight horn section behind him.  Highly recommended!  2.)  Allen Toussaint...great, great writer/producer/singer of New Orleans soul.  This album contains a few tracks sung by him, and many other sang by various soul singers from New Orleans.  Great, great New Orleans soul.  If you like Toussaint, early Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, etc., you'll love this!  Honestly, I'm not as much into his mid/late 70's albums that are considered his best.  I like this early, early comp because it's much more rawer, southern Soul.  3.)  Syl Johnson...great Chicago soul singer!  This dirty Chicago soul-blues.  He's making a bit of a comeback with his "Mythology" box set that just came out (contains many of his seminal 60's albums), but I'm on a budget and can't afford the $75 box set, though it's put out the label Numero Group, who put out those wonderful Eccentric Soul comps, so you know it's gonna be a great box set.  This will do for now...4.)  Junior Walker and the All Stars "Definitive Collection".  Junior was a great saxophone player, definitely a fun album though some of the later stuff is a little too smoothed-down Motown for me (I prefer the rawness of Stax).  However, still a good listen and of course "Shotgun" is the first track, ya gotta like that!

What is the "Soulexcusions" blog?

I'm asking myself this as I type this.  This is my first time creating a blog, so it's a work in progress.  Mainly it will contain thoughts and views on seminal and obscure 60's/70's soul and jazz albums, but I'll also discuss music like Old School Hip Hop, Tropicalia, African/highlife, boogaloo, and some British/American pop stuff.  Hell, I may even talk throw in some sports talk as well, as I can go on and on about college basketball, football, and major league baseball.  Anyway, please feel free to state your thoughts, recommendations on other albums, things of that sort.   

Peace!  And listen to The Meters  :)