Got The Fever

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Peddlers

I don’t know where this particular fascination I have with this band came from. I mean, you hear a single from an album and most times just think ‘Hey – not bad’. Usually, and by far, most singles that I hear are gone from memory within a minute. Next come the few downloads that I enjoy immediately and put on the drive permanently for future play. Still more rare are those that snap into mind gear effortlessly - those that have substance enough to have you recording them on disk for playing in the car so you can hear them over and over. Then, in the natural progression for all music pushers, it’s recording them on disk for friends and smiling, savoring the moment when they light up after being turned on.

Such was the case for me when for the first time I heard a song by “The Peddlers”. A band from Manchester England in the 60’s that describe themselves as “blues based with a touch of rock and jazz …”, they have long since broken up. The Peddlers were Roy Phillips on piano/organ/vocals, Tab Martin on bass, and Trevor Morais on drums (who went on to play on many other artist’s tracks). There are others who would be able to elucidate much more articulately and explicitly about them than I can, but for now let me turn you on to the tunes.

Evidence One: On A Clear Day
This is the one that I downloaded one day (12/28/05) from the good folks at Ear Fuzz. A colossal B3 organ, a nasty thumping bass line, a precision, hypnotic drum beat – all just toppled me over from the first minute I heard it, right up to and including, this minute as I listen to it while write this.

Listen for, out of nowhere, at 1:54 through this divine abomination, an abrupt twist: a drum break that’ll snap you out of focus and leads to a second half of bliss B3 that does not have an equal. Truly, if not the best, then one of the top 2 or 3 new downloads for me in all of 2005.

Why is this not sampled somewhere?

Evidence Two: It Ain’t No Big Thing
Another whooping-thumper hot on bass, horns, drums and B3 that serves to continually sear The Peddlers into my mind. Another example of unparalleled musicianship, which serves to remind us, just how high the bar can be set. Not that this is filled with such structure and content as to epitomize the pinnacle of musicianship, but it is a sterling example of what quality musicians can do with material that in lesser hands would be pitted, shallow and trite.

Visit The Peddlers website and take a look at how many luminaries of the 60’s and 70’s were followers.

The Peddlers: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
From: How Cool Is Cool

The Peddlers: It Ain’t No Big Thing
From: How Cool Is Cool

PS – Damn Blogger for not having the problem with pictures fixed! On the other hand, we’re paying zero, so … I can’t complain. Comment if you must about the situation.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Jeff Beck

For the intrepid – beware. This is the real deal. Nobody here imitating a long lost previous, or a plebian who is practicing-ten-hours-a-day to lay down a pretentious lick. This is not someone fruitlessly trying to carve out bitter territory with techno pyrotechnics or a blessed-be-art-thou solemn solo designed to lay you down swooning.

This is a founding father. He roams an area so vast that he can almost, but not quite, ever bump into another peer. One of the only members of the guitar playing elite that has earned and commands respect and long ago stopped having to prove anything.

This is someone who can walk in the room and sneer with just cause. Someone who has lasted through many of the once every seven to ten years, up and coming, ‘guitar wonders’ (who in truth lasted maybe only one album) and who now eke out a measly living touring with two or three other ‘former guitar wonders’ trying to fill seats on the Holiday Inn tour.

This is someone who can get them to pay prime coin to watch him play a short set, and then savagely slay their confidence slack. Look for those meandering, shocked, awestruck, ripped-jean, leather jacketed, pierced, tattooed, wavering off-balance, and pretentious individuals at his shows. Watch them as they stupidly stand there slack-jawed with air guitar hands poised as if they’re drugged-up retards waving ‘ello’.

Jeff Beck mightily commands nothing less than major props no matter the material you hold near and dear. Anything less and you come off looking like a first round elimination loser at a musical Jeopardy contest playing against eighth grade level music nerds.

His lists of accomplishments require a much larger brush stroke than what I can paint here. Suffice to say that through the years he has not only managed to broaden his influence, but he has also kept putting out quality material - an impressive array of material! And there are those musicians that go just short of lopping off their own body parts just to have the opportunity to record with him.

A musician seemingly afraid to rest on past milestones, Jeff is a rare bred in that despite having nothing to prove, he constantly forges new ground. Sure, he could lay back and cash the check from playing the cheap beer sponsored summer yawn-fests rehashing the same ol’ standards. Like any number of other guitar gods (insert names here). But, damn! In refusing to lie down he continues to walk a thin tightrope into new territory while gaining new converts each and every time!

Because it’s such a huge body of output, I’m narrowing it down to just a few slabs of prime cuts for now. And even then, justice is not only sidelined, it’s pissed.

Evidence One: Rolling And Tumbling
A wild and uninhibited cover of the blues standard that features ex-Frou Frou Imogen Heap supplying the flame to Jeff’s fuel.

A raucous roll in the hay that had me playing this track over and over from the very first time. Besides all the superlatives about his mastery, someone help me – does she absolutely slay you with her vocalization?

An irrefutable mastery of sensuality and blow me over bravado that’ll knock you over like the easy 6-10 combination in short-lane beginners bowling. This is just how masterful the combo of the two is.

From the intro gala of commanding bravado on Jeff’s part, to the ‘gimme the ball’ taunting and carrying on of Imogen, we are privy to the apogee of synergy. The throbbing animalistic pounding of the drums, the life affirming pulse of the rhythm, the at once angelic/demonic cutting and gyrating of the vocals and the masterful ambulation of Jeff’s channeling oration through his Strat lead us on an otherworldly variation of this standard never heard before.

Evidence Two: A Day In The Life
Proving to all the wannabees that you don’t need to be a lord of thunder to win it all, Jeff gives a lesson on interpretation of material. And what a holy monster of a choice!

Played live at BB King’s joint, Jeff, lord and commander, throttles and breaks this into something original and yet not so unfamiliar that it loses its identity. Nothing less than peerless.

Close your eyes. Listen to his mastery. Suspend belief. Dispense prejudice.

Allow your mind to accept his incontrovertible authority.

Jeff Beck: Rolling And Tumbling
From: You Had It Coming [February 6, 2001]

Jeff Beck: A Day In The Life
From: Live at B.B. King Blues Club [July 7, 2006]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Millie Jackson

I remember at first being enthralled at Millie Jackson’s sheer audacity. I was also drawn to her magnitude of charisma and sexual drawl while delivering such bawdy lines to her (what used to be called) ‘blue’ music. They would alternately make me raise my eyebrows and smile or just plain shock me. Kind of like when I first heard Chevy Chase say “Jane, you ignorant slut!” – they still make me laugh and want more and wonder ‘did she really just say that?

I also have respect for her musical output. While one could never say that her voice was on par with the likes of a silky Gladys Knight or a growlin’ Betty Davis - nor did she have the phrasing of Nina Simone or Diana Krall - she was, nonetheless, very fine to listen to. Though she would have the occasional stumble on virtually every album, she did have her elevated moments.

Such was the case with the troika of “Keep The Home Fires Burnin’” / “Logs And Thangs” / “Put Something Down On It” from the album “Get It Out’cha System”. She testifies that her man is burning his log somewhere else while he ought to be keeping the fires burning at home. Then she bears witness to what his limitations are exactly and the consequences of these here limitations. Wrapping it up, she gives him a way out – a second chance to make it up, while laying it down that she still loves him.

Evidence One: Keep The Home Fires Burnin’
In which Millie tells us that her man is not saving the best for her consumption and gives him clear instruction on how to keep her happy. After all – it’s her house that he’s in! This comes replete with soaring strings and backing horns. Nice funky guitar to be had here as a bonus – real air guitar for those so inclined.

Don’t let the flame get too low!
If you don’t start taking care of business,
You wont be sleeping here no more.

Evidence Two: Logs And Thangs
This is where she hits her towering stride, gets her red robe on and takes her turn preaching from the pulpit. And she is the high priestess pontificating on what his shortcomings are and what it is exactly that she requires. If her conditions are not met, she threatens to go out searching and find ‘an outside fire’. She ‘speaks of these fires in depth’.

Now we do have two kind of fires going on:
I HAVE a fire, and you HAD a fire.
Cause you see your fire has just about burned out.
It could be that you been flicking your Bick so much elsewhere,
Until you done run out of fuel, I don’t know this.

She goes on to say that if she’s not getting what she feels is hers, she’s declaring her own independence and her right to go find an ‘outside fire’ anyway. But she warns him: you could end up with a wild fire that will spread!

Cause you done messed around and let these outside fires beat your house.
And when an outside fire spread all the way to your house -
Ohh Lawd!
You wake up one morning – and YOUR house is on fire.
Building collapsing down around your ass!
And you in trouble.
I ain’t bullshitting boy – you in trouble
I’m taking bout the HEAT IS ON (the heat is on)

And then she works her way to the ultimate putdown:

And then you come home one day - lo and behold,
There’s a different kind of log in the fireplace!
A log BIGGER than yours!
A LONGER log than yours!

And it just burns for hours!
Even after the log burned down, the coals stay hot!
Then you know yo’ ass in trouble.
It’s time to gather your twig, and split!

These are powerful, fighting, demeaning and prophetic words from sister Millie. She’s obviously not a wallflower, or a dainty hang on to your elbow and do what I say woman. No sir. She’s a sexual, aggressive, coarse, fighting for what she wants force to be reckoned with. And no doubt about it – she will get what she’s after.

Evidence Three: Put Something Down On It
She takes it down again and does as silky as voice as Millie can get. But, her conviction and sincere vocalization (along with help from quality call-back background vocals) help give an honest quality to it. The horns, strings and rhythm section really help elevate sister Millie. The woman dishes it out from her point of view, and you know, she’s dead on with the delivery that she’s distinctively known for.

If you want this love I’m giving
Spend a little time on it, put something down on it
If you want this love I’m giving honey

There’s a things called love that has no boundary line
It gotta be in your heart not just in your mind
Hey baby – oh Lawd!
I believe that if you seek you will find.
All I’m asking you to do,
Is give just to give me just a little more time
If you’re gonna be mine and you wanna be mine
Put something down on it – speand a little time on it

Honestly, just as I said in the beginning, Millie is not a Gladys, Betty, Nina or Diana, but, turning the tables, very few artists pull off what Millie does.

That very uniqueness is all the more reason to have a spot for her in the collection here at Got The Fever.

If you have the ability, string the three tracks together and get the elongated feel of the three tracks playing one after another. I just don’t have the software to do it myself, and short of pulling the record player to the PC and recording it … well, that’s not in the cards right now. Anyone have free software for me that will allow me to do just that?

Millie Jackson: Keep The Home Fires Burnin’
Millie Jackson: Logs And Thangs
Millie Jackson: Put Something Down On It
From Get It Out’cha System [1979]

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rare Earth

No excuse. No excuses at all. None.

There’s no reason whatsoever not to feel the vibe right down to the blackened, hardened crust lining your liver as you listen to these cuts.

Quick story: I used to work with this guy – back in the music distribution/warehouse days of my youth, name of R.A. A tall and wide brother so black he was almost blue-black. Anyway, RA would relay countless tales of being in Dee-troit (he always pronounced it that way) during the early 70’s, and one of them was when the brothers and he would be crawlin’ the streets at night, listening to the open window sounds of music. Of course, being Dee-troit, Motown was the lining of the airways. Coming out of the windows, as told to me, were many songs he remembered vividly - including the two tracks highlighted today by Rare Earth.

He went on to say that it wasn’t until a year or two from first hearing Rare Earth that he and the homeboys were stunned to find out that the members weren’t black at all – they were white! They paraded one night to the local vinyl store just to check out if the album covers would have pictures of the band. He swore that no white dudes could sound like that.

Truth is told. Amen.

Rare Earth was indeed at the time, the only white band signed to Motown. Little wonder when you hear the blood pulse and pound of what they were putting out. Actually, there’s a little more to it than that. Motown signed them up, but were looking for a new label name to put them on. The band, audaciously, said why not call the label Rare Earth? Damned if they didn’t.

Evidence One: Smiling Faces Sometimes

Starting out with acoustic guitar and a Spanish speaking man who laughs like a crazed gnome, you don’t really know what to expect, and hey - is this really what I think it’s supposed to be?

But the plaintive wail of the singer and the banter of the sax, guitar and piano bopping really squirt the setting gel on it. Then the ‘Amens’ come in and the track further picks up integrity.

With the wah-wah teasing, incessant piano that will not be trodden upon, drum permeating demanding an individual identity, sax as the perfect spoonin’ partner, and that voice – that voice asking “can I get a witness (yea, yea, yea)”, it’s no wonder that this is one of those rarities of cover tunes whereby the cover may indeed be better than the original.

If you can translate whatever he’s saying at the beginning, post it.

Evidence Two: Big John Is My Name

Big John may be its name, but Funk with a capitol F is its middle name! Thunderous and in your face, this is the perfect ying to the yang of the previous track. Utterly free with its hip rumbling beat and that voice – that voice again - stating, “I like what I do, and I do what I like”.

Some of my friends ya’ll, smoke a little dope
Some of my friends, sniff a little coke
Different strokes for different folks.
But, me? Playing funky music all night long
Hey - That’s what turns me on

The bass that sucks you in – and you do go willingly let me tell you - absolutely devours the rhythm track with a ravenous reverberation that demands even more track recognition.

Do not mistake that by downloading “Big John Is My Name”you’re getting something “nice and easy”. They ain’t leading the party for the erudite, chic or ‘getting a taste of the other side’ wanna-be’s who timidly come and pah-tee politely, no, no, no.

This is a growling, unsentimental, most of the lights danglin’ and swayin’ from the ceiling are missing bulbs, the AC is broken, sweet sweat rubbing against salty sweat, slippery hands clutching half-full cheap beer bottle, crowd bumping into each other, moist, gummy floor, clothes clinging to my skin, music blaring in and through both ears, costume malfunctions and no amount of shouting is gonna get me heard above that band kind of gathering!

And all you sophisticated folks
We get it on every night at nine
Don’t look for no fancy car
With a flashing neon sign
I must warn you there’ll be whole a lot of folks there
Drinkin and sweating
And some cursin’ - and the folks in the back room close the door

You can almost hear nascent rap going on in here and you’ll be the better to listen to the rumblings created from deep within this masterpiece of funk. If anybody tells you different, remember that they’re the sole dismal dissension in a wide world of certainty.

Don’t forget to check out their back catalog and be amazed at just how many tracks by label mates (The Temps and many others) the band covered. These guys knew how to do it right.

Sure – we could’a featured a few other of their gleaming gems like the unparalled “I Know I’m Losing You”, “Warm Ride” or the full force of “Get Ready”, but I say once more, if you don’t know me by now …

Rare Earth: Smiling Faces Sometimes
Rare Earth: Big John Is My Name
From: Ma [1973]

Admin note: I’ve been reading that a lot of posters to Blogger have trouble posting an image, not just me. So, no pictures on this site for a while. No big deal, let the music do the talkin’.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tower Of Power

Way back (back before time), when my nascent, budding musical taste was being infused with all styles, I knew someone who played bass in a horn band. Man, they just scorched the pubescent hairs off me when I heard them. Listening to the demonic power with which they played made my heart try to beat on the other side of my ribs. One of the bands they covered was Tower Of Power, and man, are they aptly named.

Anyone who is any kind of serious music collector knows that TOP has lent their funk, soul, pop and absolute mastery of their playing and arranging to countless – yes, countless – bands who enlist them for the unparalleled and powerful impact they bring to each and every individual track they grace. And for all the neophytes wondering about where they may have heard them? Don’t worry, you simply cannot avoid hearing them – you have them playing on a track somewhere in your collection.

I could feature many, many tracks here and I struggle to narrow it down, but hey – get a grip and throw it down.

Evidence One: Soul Vaccination

While horns that play with wild abandon start to shape and mold the mood, the rest of the band follows with triumph. Listening behind the horns, can you hear the absolute triumph that is the rhythm guitar? How about the precision drumming coming from a man who obviously sold his soul at some crossroad somewhere! Can anybody human possibly play that perfectly? The conga playing?? … say no more.

Soul vaccination,
All across the nation people been catchin' honkypox (Honkypox)
When you get the notion,
Tower's got the potion - you might look in to set yourself in motion.

Damn straight they got the potion!

Soul vaccination, roll up your sleeve,
Cause if you ain't buggin' you might still got the
disease (Got the bug)
While responding to the treatment, feel the beat down to
your feet,
And release what it take to make you move your leg.

As they saying goes, this is good for what ails you!

Evidence Two: Don't Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)

This starts a bit foreboding with the organ/bass intro, followed by snappy drum/high-hat. Catch the modulation that elevates and pulls you up to another plateau. A real funkafied, percolating bubbling stew that permeates through your craw and never fails to pull you away from the present moment to nod, squint and smile with the vibe.

Five long years we have been together
Your love and understanding
Has brought us through stormy weather
I must admit girl I haven’t always been good
But you stuck by me just like you said you would

Sure, he’s been a freaky donkey at times. No doubt about it. However, he now has an inkling that the fine filly isn’t satisfied in the stable anymore.

Hey I know, that enough is enough
But you shouldn't be talking about
Givin'it up turn it loose it might be right, it seems
The wrong decision will spoil all our dreams
So if you don't want to spoil our secret dreams,
Don't change horses in the middle of a stream.

Giddy-up, giddy-up Hi-o Yeah!
Giddy-up, giddy-up Hi-o Silver!

Ride the wild buckin’ bronk of this bad horn banger!

Sure, ride the familiarity of “So Very Hard To Go”, “You’re Still A Young Man”, “What Is Hip”, “Still Be Diggin’ On James Brown”, but we here at Got The Fever love the tracks that haven’t been played in forever. If you’re here, so do you.

Tower Of Power: Soul Vaccination
From: Tower Of Power [1973]

Tower Of Power: Don't Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)
From: Back To Oakland [1974]

P.S. I haven't been able to post images to Blogger for two weeks now. What's up with that?