Got The Fever

Monday, July 21, 2008

“Hot, Sweaty Soul”

We were talking about music a little over a week ago and debating the greatest in different genres, when an acquaintance from work told me that he didn’t really have much knowledge of Soul. Well, he said he knew of Earth, Wind and Fire, some Aretha, the over played James Brown radio selections, a few hip drops of George Clinton and whatever his parents had played back in the day from the swinging sixties.

As a few of them had rambled previously about favorite “older” (from the 70’s) bands, I wondered aloud if they knew that a lot of their selections were previously recorded by great Soul artists. For instance, someone mentioned that they used to really dig J. Geils. When I told them that “I Do” had been done by The Marvelows and “First I Look At The Purse” by The Contours he was amazed! So, I went ahead with “You’re No Good” (Van Halen, Linda Ronstadt) done originally by Betty Everett, “The Chokin’ Kind” (Joss Stone) done by Joe Simon and B-A-B-Y (Rachel Sweet) by Carla Thomas. Of course, there are dozens more (and, maybe a blog of these in the future).

But, what I really wanted to do, because they already knew these tunes, was to turn them on to stellar Soul music that they hadn’t even heard yet - pity their hearts.

So, dismissing the tracks that they may by chance hear on a “Soul Weekend” radio extravaganza, and not wanting to get too obscure while losing their interest, I made a few of them a CD of tunes that, in my opinion, are just too damn good to be held back from the uninitiated.

These are a few that that I dropped onto the play list.

Memphis Soul Stew
Let my pale accolades begin as I praise King Curtis. Connoisseur of the sax, he was also a producer, composer, highly sought after session man and worked for everybody running the gamut from Buddy Holly, Aretha, Stevie to John Lennon. Matter of fact, his solo on Lennon’s “It’s So Hard” (from Imagine) was his last recording. In the R&R Hall of Fame (natch), the man died in the heat of the summer (if I remember right). As he was lugging an air conditioner to his apartment, druggies who were in the hallway wouldn’t move and they stabbed him there on the spot.

“Memphis Soul Stew”, to me, is what my elders used to refer to as “Hot, Sweaty Soul”. Though it’s not by any standard a long track, it does in fact pack a lot of Soul vibes in three minutes. The instruments that are introduced one by one (similar to Archie Bell and The Drells’ “Tighten Up” and Sly's "Dance To The Music") are taught, lean and extraordinary. I believe that this was a hit (anyone ?), but you’ll never hear it.

Snatching It Back
If you only knew Clarence for “Patches” or “Slip Away”, consider this a remarkable gift. Carter was originally with another blind artist Calvin Scott (another blog idea and a
completely fascinating read) until they split after a car accident.

How badly do you wish you could play guitar like this? Horns that snatch you from note one are in total harmony with the fundamental nature of this track. As I usually do, I try to picture the time and mood of the session and for this one, I visualize a perspiring session room with booze, cigarettes and smiles. Not a bad place to be.

As an aside, today, the few who received the CD, all raved about the quality of music and how fresh and exciting it seemed to them. One even played it as background at a card game this past weekend and said one by one guys were asking him “Who is this?” I’ll take that type of applause.

King Curtis:
Memphis Soul Stew
Clarence Carter:
Snatching It Back
From: Beg, Scream & Shout! The Big Ol' Box Of 60's Soul (vol. 3) [1997]


  • Indeed, King Curtis made the Top 40 just barely with "Memphis Soul Stew" in 1967. His version of Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" is mindblowing.

    Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes do an interesting cover of "Snatchin' it Back."

    Glad to see you blogging regularly again. Keep up the good work.

    By Anonymous jb, at 7:57 AM  

  • "Memphis Soul Stew" was actually covered (in a sense) as "Springfield Soul Stew" on The Simpsons Sing the Blues album. Yes, that was my first exposure to the song at age 9.

    By Blogger Empire Hancock, at 8:34 PM  

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