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]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mink Deville

Where would my musical direction have progressed to without Mark? I wonder if it would have evolved without him, or would it have grown as much? Mark was a profound mentor of music who influenced me deeply and thoroughly thought he never knew it. Never specifically playing anything with me in mind, he simply played music that he dug and I absorbed the ambiance like a black hole.

He unknowingly exposed me to a thick, potent, glossy maze of a music jungle that incorporated 45’s, albums, artists, groups, and whole genres that I most likely would not have uncovered, or explored as deeply, on my own or in lesser company.

Mark was the one who first turned me on to Southside Johnny, which was my very first post. Although, when I was a guard at Wingersheek Beach the girl I was seeing (Sherri?) did in fact play a track or two from an album of Southside, but Mark played the whole rich catalogue, dunking my head and giving me total immersion.

I’ve long since lost touch with this amazing friend but his legacy lives on in me. One out of the boundless ranges of artists that he played around me, and that I will always thank him for, was Mink DeVille. What memories would I think of during the soundtrack of the late 70’s and early 80’s without Mink Deville? Thank you Mark – wherever you may be.

Mink DeVille was part of the CBGB heyday along with Blondie, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Tuff Darts and Television. While the mix there was birthing punk, new wave and art pop, Mink gave us a palpable taste of the Soul, R&B and Blues, which was distinctly unlike the aforementioned – especially because he also brought the ethnicity of a diverse New York with him on stage. Lead singer Willy DeVille had an ominous growl that could next turn to warm doo-wop and then channel dripping wet spirit.

The band had none other than Jack Nitzsche as producer, Willy wrote songs with Doc Pomus, they toured with Elvis Costello and I can tell you from first hand experience that to see them perform live was an encounter that I should have by rights paid triple for. Willy would snarl and make the mike back up in fear on ‘Gunslinger’ or ‘Soul Twist’, drop to his knees denting the stage floor and achingly plead for love on ‘Little Girl’ or ‘Guardian Angel’ and it was precisely when you felt as though you had fingered through the band’s full brunt of atmospheric force and emotions, he’d pull out stunning and shocking covers of Moon Martin’s ‘Rolene’ and 'Cadillac Walk’ that might have had Moon smiling, nodding his head and muttering “Yea – that’s how I meant it to be.”

And I wonder, how can I possibly do justice to the band, most especially for those with little or no knowledge of Mink DeVille, by dispensing only two tracks? Which album to choose? And I certainly did consider spotlighting only Willy with his ‘Backstreets of Desire’ because it is an example of how an artist can grow and still retain his essence by recording material that does not leave his base audience behind and at the same time enriching the intoxicating mix of musical flavor while attracting new legions.

Well, I just have to choose.

Mixed Up Shook Up Girl
Quintessential Mink DeVille, this is a blend of Latin late night, smooth as silk a cappella by The Immortals, confident and crisp guitar licks and Willy’s voice focused from deep with his soul.

I chose this one because this was one of the first tracks that I heard through Mark and one that just happened by chance to pop into my head on the way back from work today.

This clearly illustrates the music that they would be playing on the CBGB stage. Can you imagine that amongst all the burgeoning scenes and cacophony that was on stage at any given night that Mink would bring down the house with something as tender as this? That’s a reputation!

One could think of this first selection as if on a date, a first date - suave, all grins and best foot forward.

She's a mixed up, shook up girl,
Got me so strung out.
I don't know what to do.
She's a mixed up, mixed up, shook up girl.

Take a breath, in the night.
Hurry over, she said,
But there was no one in sight.
Now break away, is in her eyes.
You know that little girl,
She cut me deep, inside out.

She's a mixed up, shook up girl,
Got me so strung out.
I don't know what to do.
She's a mixed up, mixed up, shook up girl.

Turn You Every Way But Loose

The smell of week old spilt beer on the floor and tables has been wafting through your nostrils. A small clutch of groupies standing off to the left of the stage stare – anticipating. Cigarette haze, not yet outlawed, has everyone inhaling slow, steady breaths. Sweat drips in sequence to the beads of condensation outside the mixed drink tumblers.

The band builds fury.

Early in the morning
Don’t you hearing me calling
Howling like a dog at the moon
It’s all right, I don’t mind

Cause, I just wait for that sign
In just a wink of an eye
I’ll come runnin’ to you
Any ol’ time

With a shaker like a fever
Getting close to heaven
Just think of your receiver and breath (ha!)
Its alright, I don’t mind

Cause, I just wait for that sign
In just a wink of an eye
I’ll come runnin’ to you
Any ol’ time

I wanna turn you any way but loose
If I can only get my hands on you

Savoir Faire
This is a rough and dirty homage to an eye popping and captivating woman that he happens to catch a glimpse of. All wild hormones are on full alert, rational thought has been sliced at the throat and objectivity hanged on the spot leaving hindsight running for safe harbor.

I was standin’ on the corner of the avenue
I was watching all the girls go by
And there she was in a five and dime
Somehow I got to make her mine
Yea! Somehow I got to make her mine

I was way uptown, I was lost in a crowd
I was in the blood bank, I was standing in line
And there she was, she was checking my car out
Somehow I got to make her mine
Yea! Some how I got to make her mine!

She got style she got taste
She got a beautiful face
She got - Savoir Faire!

She don’t need hooks
She got more than good looks
She got - Savoir Faire!

I love the way you paint your face
Yea I love the way you move your hips

Still, I struggled trying to determine what to feature. While you could find all of these on a ‘Best
of’, you’d be better of with the individual disks to allow you a heady, musky scent. So, though this is a small DNA strand of the band, I strongly recommend that you get your oily prints all over two or more CD covers that house the greatness of Mink Deville within.

Mink DeVille:
Mixed Up Shook Up Girl
Mink DeVille:
Turn You Every Way But Loose
Mink DeVille:
Savoir Faire
Cadillac Walk: The Mink DeVille Collection

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Kinks

I’ve long wanted to put up a few by The Kinks. More specifically I’ve wanted to showcase the magnificence that is ‘Sleepwalker’. The album brings back long glorious nights of hanging with the mates and the heady effluvium that accompanies so many of us teenage boys while driving around with no particular place to go - cheap beers between the knees, an old worn out smoking device and the occasional long haired, tube topped, micro short-shorted, sandal wearing girlfriend with a crisp heady giggle. Now, you’ve got memories that may be one of the last that you’ll remember as your gasping, flickering ember is wheezing and finally extinguished long into the future.

So, I lay claim to squatter’s rights where 'Sleepwalker' will occupy a blog somewhere ahead of me.

However, amazed by the alarming and precipitous rise of the cost of gas brought yet another of my favorites by The Kinks, the album “Low Budget”, to mind. To me, this is another, among many, of the album pinnacles that the long and storied career of the Kinks have graced us with.

If my mind is right, at the time I was also listening to Herman Brood, Kiss ‘Dynasty’, Roxy Music, Ry Cooder, The Babys, Clash, Lena Lovitch, Undertones, XTC, Little River Band, Elvis Costello, Ramones, Nazareth, Stranglers, Patti Smith … at least those are the ones that leap with excited, raised hands. And wasn’t that around the time of Dave Edmunds? BTW, see the great AM, Then FM for Dave Edmunds.

The Kinks drop of ‘Low Budget’ was one of the Titans among the gods of music for me around that time. A return to their garage ways, it sounded edgy, raw and angry. But, the album also kept in line with the contemporary, adding a few tracks that were put out as 12” long playing singles that so many of the bands of the era were doing to keep pace, and expand their popularity, with the disco singles that so proliferated those years.

Gallon Of Gas
When I think back of how much gas was back then, and the worry of affording it as a teen, I wonder how the heck the legions of cruisers of today are able to come up with the fold to travel the aimless miles that we used to.

A simple I-IV-V blues riff, Ray and band mates squeeze it red and blue at the windpipe. Dave Davies on lead is always imaginative, and he allows a guttural quality to the fill-ins.

At the time this was written, Davies was referring to the gas shortage. But, one can easily make a leap of faith and with imagination attach the lyrics to the outrageous cost of the gas itself.

I've been waiting for years to buy a brand new Cadillac
But now that I've got one I want to send it right back
I can't afford the gas to fill my luxury limousine
But even if I had the dough no one's got no gasoline!

Low Budget
Squeals and moans right from ‘Go’, this is a head knocker with balls and venom. They talk of how their clothes and shoes don’t fit, but they can’t afford anything better that has a higher price tag. Even where they can buy is important – Woolworth’s instead of the higher retail outlets. Doesn’t it sound familiar in these times of rising fuel that keeps stretching its tentacles through everything we now purchase?

I'm not cheap, you understand
I'm just a cut price person in a low budget land
Excuse my shoes they don't quite fit
They're a special offer and they hurt me a bit
Even my trousers are giving me pain
They were reduced in a sale so I shouldn't complain
They squeeze me so tight so I can't take no more
They're size 28 but I take 34

I'm on a low budget (What did you say?)
I'm on a low budget (I thought you said that.)

The Kinks: A Gallon Of Gas
The Kinks: Low Budget
From: Low Budget [1979]

Damn, I just can't let this go without one of their 12" extended play singles. Here's "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman [Disco Mix Extended Edit] ". Get it while it's hot.

Addendum: Get yourself over to Feel It for (as always) supreme quality tracks that are eclectic and powerful. He continues to wrestle with boulder heavy personal issues, and yet he still has time to keep up his own blog and write comments on other blogs? A towering inspiration as a blogger and an undeniable humanist, our prayers at WZJN continue to be with him and his family.