Sunday, 29 September 2019

Laura Lee




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SUPREME SOUL DIVA: BACKBEATS COLLECTION

1. Woman's Love Rights
2. Wedlock Is A Padlock
3. Love And Liberty
4. It's Not What You Fall For, It's What You Stand For
5. Since I Fell For You (Parts 1 & 2)
6. Two Lonely Pillows
7. Her Picture Matches Mine
8. I Can't Make It Alone
9. Don't Leave Me Starving For Your Love
10. We've Come Too Far To Walk Away
11. I Need It Just As Bad As You
12. Crumbs Off The Table
13. Rip Off
14. If I'm Good Enough To Love (I'm Good Enough To Marry)
15. Guess Who I Saw Today
16. If You Can't Beat Me Rockin' (You Can Have My Chair)
17. You've Got To Save Me
18. I'll Catch You When You Fall
19. At Last (My Love Has Come Along)
20. Mirror Of Your Soul  

This is another excellent compilation from soul's Backbeat Records. Laura Lee was from Chicago and signed for the legendary Chess label in the late sixties and then for Holland-Dozier-Holland's Hot Wax/Invictus label and subsequently released some of her best material in the early seventies. Her voice was strong and gospelly, as you would expect and the backing music to much of her material was muscular and funky in a Stax meets Blaxploitation sort of way. Although Northern, Lee's soul is very Southern in style. Lyrically, like Shirley BrownBetty Wright and Millie Jackson, her songs are very much in the "my man gone done wrong again" mode.

Like her ex-lover, Al Green, Lee later became ordained as a minister.                                              
Woman's Love Rights is a big, chunky "stand up and fight for your love rights" call-to-arms for Laura's sisters to say no more cooking and sewing until their love rights are acknowledged. Right on, sister. It is full of funky soul and Laura's vocal is superb. Wedlock Is A Padlock continues in the same theme of female empowerment in the face of feckless men. Laura sounds a lot like Martha Reeves on this vibrant piece of sublime seventies soul. "Wedlock is a padlock when you're married to a no-good man..." she sings. You tell it like it is. Love And Liberty is a similarly rousing protest number calling for female emancipation. The vocal performance is sensational, and the rhythm is punchily appealing, as are the horn breaks. The backing vocals soar. This is a wonderful track. These three are the most lively, "in your face" pieces of militant female soul on the album. They get it off to a barnstorming start.

It's Not What You Fall For, It's What You Stand For is a supremely hot, slow-paced funky number with a bit of a hint of label-mates Chairmen Of The Board in its refrain. The gospelly vocal/percussion interplay in the seven minute song's last two minutes is seriously good. Another lengthy track is Since I Fell For You (Parts 1 & 2) which emerges from its spoken intro to a piece of late night sweet soul. Heartbreak is expressed on the yearning Two Lonely Pillows. More suspicion, sadness and mistrust is found in Her Picture Matches Mine, which is another stately, immaculately delivered passionate and soulful song. After the two long numbers earlier, the ambience of the collection has turned to one of dignified, mid-pace Stax-ish soul. I Can't Make It Alone fits the same bill.


A bit of a Philadelphia-style string orchestration backs the sumptuous slow rhythm of Don't Leave Me Starving For Your Love. A slowed-down Millie Jackson vibe dominates We've Come Too Far To Walk Away. As on all the tracks, the bass line is deep rumbling and resonant and the drums are constantly full-on fatback. The pace ups a bit on the driving, pulsating beat of the brassily funky I Need It Just As Bad As You where says her needs will lead to her being unfaithful as well, if she has to due to the infidelity of her current lover. "I had to do what I had to do..." she confesses. Beneath all this there is a serious point being made about sexual equality.

Crumbs Off The Table reminds me a bit of Chairmen Of The Board's Finders Keepers in its funky, infectious clavinet and wah-wah backing. The music throughout this one is intoxicating. Now, the beat really ups it again on the delicious groove of Rip Off. There are more Chairmen Of The Board echoes on here and Laura's vocal is excellent, as, of course, is the bass. This is a wonderful track. It is not quite fast enough to be a Northern Soul song, but it has that feel about it. It just lifts your soul. Another sumptuous bass line kicks off the infectious If I'm Good Enough To Love (I'm Good Enough To Marry). Listening to this just makes you wonder why Laura Lee didn't make it really big as her voice is sensational - effortlessly soulful and powerful.

An obvious Millie Jackson/Shirley Brown is to be heard on the spoken narrative of Guess Who I Saw Today. It follows the familiar theme of the song's protagonist seeing her husband with another woman. Time for some funk after that, I think. We get it on the cookin' If You Can't Beat Me Rockin' (You Can Have My Chair), which positively drips with down 'n' dirty soul. The wah-wah and bass near the end is the business. Some copper-bottomed gospel comes next in the vibrant strains of You've Got To Save MeI'll Catch You When You Fall is another gospelly, but slower number with Laura saying she will take her lover back despite his infidelity - make up your mind! At Last (My Love Has Come Along) is a soaring vehicle for Laura's vocal while Mirror Of Your Soul is a saxophone-driven number reminiscent (musically) of David Bowie's Young Americans album.

You can't go too far wrong with this collection and the sound quality is really good too. Nice, warm seventies bassy stereo. One thing I would say about this compilation is that from tracks 6-10 it gets bogged down a bit by continuous slow numbers, not that they aren't good, but some variety can be gained by playing the music on "shuffle".

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Saturday, 28 September 2019

Tommie Young



Tommie Young was a soul singer from Texas who recorded most of her music in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early seventies. Her voice was strong, soulful but gospel-influenced, like Betty WrightShirley BrownFreda Payne and Candi Staton. She has been relatively forgotten, which is a shame cause she laid down some seriously quality seventies soul.

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SHREVEPORT SOULSTRESS: BACKBEATS COMPILATION

1. That's How Strong My Love Is 
2. Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul
3. You Came Just In Time
4. Hit And Run Lover
5. Midsummer Dream
6. Do You Still Feel The Same Way?
7. You Brought It All On Yourself
8. That's All A Part Of Loving Him
9. She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You)
10. Do We Have A Future?
11. You Can Only Do Wrong So Long
12. Take Time To Know Him
13. Get Out Of My Life
14. I'm Not Going To Cry Anymore
15. One Sided Love Affair
16. You Can't Have Your Cake (And Eat It Too)  

This is an excellent compilation from the impressive, reliable Backbeats label. The sound quality is superb.

The horn backing is dominant throughout the material as are the churchy backing vocals. I think you can get the picture - powerful vocals, emotive songs, big brass backing - all the usual ingredients from the era.                 

That's How Strong My Love Is is very different-sounding to the version that is more commonly heard - by Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones for example. Young's version is slowed down to walking pace and it becomes a late night soul ballad, although some horns are still there on the backing, they are not as "hooky" as on the more popular version. It is, however, a bit of a cult hit among soul music fans, apparently.

Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul is a marvellously catchy, upbeat piece of gospelly soul with lots of call-and-response vocals and fast, funky guitars. It is a rousing track.

You Came Just In Time is a very typically early seventies soul number - mid-pace, attractive melody, sumptuous horns and an uplifting vocal. It is a bit reminiscent of some of The Supremes' seventies output. Hit And Run Lover is a Betty Wright-esque punchy number. Midsummer Dream sees the pace slow down for a classic-sounding soul ballad. Do You Still Feel The Same Way? is a stately, heartfelt piece of horn-powered gospel soul. It was a hit on the US soul chart.

A gem is the delicious slow burning groove of You Brought It On Yourself. Its lyrics are familiar ones of male fecklessness and infidelity. That is all forgotten about in That's All A Part Of Loving Him as Tommie forgives her man anything on an attractive funky, grinding and bassy number. It has a bit of a Northern Soul feel to it, although the beat is probably just a bit slower. It also features some nice flute enhancements. It is the type of track that Paul Weller might have covered during his Studio 150 phase. Ok he didn't but he just may have...I'm sure he would have liked the track.

She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You) has Tommie warning other women off her no-good man. Man, he is a no-good low-down whatever. Do We Have A Future? is a deep, lively and pulsating number with a funky vibe to it. You Can Only Do Wrong So Long is another Betty Wright style song and it is a most infectious one too, with an addictive rhythm and a killer vocal. This is absolute quality soul and really deserved more critical credit than it ever got.

Take Take To Know Him is a Percy Sledge cover and it has that irresistible organ-driven slow Atlantic groove that Sledge gave us on When A Man Loves A Woman. Check out that beautiful bass line and backing vocals on the "I didn't listen to mama.." part. Sublime soul. "Girls can you dig this..." sings Tommie. Ummm hmmm. Sure we can, sister.

Get Out Of My Life has the first sings of a bit of a disco beat creeping in with its punchy horns and "chicka-chicka" guitar riff backing. Tommie copes with the demands of disco/soul admirably. I'm Not Going To Cry Anymore is a Detroit Spinners-style orchestrated fast-ish soul number. One Sided Love Affair is a big production but slow paced ballad. The strings are being used a lot more on these last few tracks.

The familiar Memphis, Stax-ish sound returns on the cookin' soul of You Can't Have Your Cake (And Eat It Too). This is a fine end to a very impressive and uplifting collection of seventies soul. The fact so much of this material slipped under the radar is a pity.

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Friday, 27 September 2019

The Flying Burrito Brothers




Included here are:-

The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)
and Burrito Deluxe (1970)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN (1969)

1. Christine's Tune
2. Sin City
3. Do Right Woman
4. Dark End Of The Street
5. My Uncle
6. Wheels
7. Juanita
8. Hot Burrito #1
9. Hot Burrito #2
10. Do You Know How It Feels
11. Hippie Boy                  

The "country rock" genre was ushered into fashion, amongst others, by Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding and The ByrdsSweetheart Of The Rodeo in 1968 and continued in May 1969 by Crosby, Stills and Nash. In February 1968, and comparatively unnoticed, was this album by ex-Sweetheart Of The Rodeo era Byrds member Gram Parsons' new group, The Flying Burrito Brothers. It is my favourite of that bunch of albums and has a subtle, warm-sounding ambience about it that I find most appealing. I have always had a bit of a weakness for The Rolling Stones' country-influence material (like Far Away Eyes) and Elvis Costello's Almost Blue. There is plenty of obvious influence on this album regarding both of those, including one actual song (Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy) that Costello covered on that album.

It didn't sell well at the time, yet retrospectively it has gained considerable critical kudos and, as I said above, it has had a fair old influence. Bob Dylan, incidentally, said "boy I love them - their first record really knocked me out..." So there you go.
                           
Christine's Tune has an early Beatles feel about it, you know, the sort of tune Ringo would have loved doing. It it carried out of its sixties feel, however, by some excellent fuzzy, buzzy rock guitar from Chris Hillman. Chris Ethridge's bass is superb on this and throughout the album - nice and full and "rubbery".

  

Sin City is a twangy, mournful but melodic piece of country. Elvis Costello no doubt loved this and it also really reminds me of The Stones' Far Away Eyes in its vocal refrain. I am sure Parsons' vocal was the country tone that Jagger tried to imitate.

Oddly, up next is a cover of Aretha Franklin's Atlantic soul classic Do Right Woman given a slow country makeover and with no gender-changes made to the lyrics. Listened to as a country song it is appealing, but compared to the original it doesn't quite stack up. Check out that lovely, sumptuous bass line, though. Another cover is of James Carr's Dark End Of The Street. This one is the better of the two covers, with Parsons delivering a sensitive vocal over a stately piano, bass guitar and drums backing.



My Uncle is a finger-picking, lively number that hides a more sombre message about getting a letter from the military draft board ("Uncle Sam"). Parsons says he's off to Vancouver. I don't blame him.

Wheels is a fetching, slow country ballad enhanced by more of that buzzy guitar. "Juanita" is another one that really reminds me of The Stones. I could really imagine Mick Jagger singing this. It could have come off Beggars' Banquet.

Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy was covered very nicely by Elvis Costello on Almost Blue as I'm Your Toy, but this original is sublime, with an emotional vocal, great guitar and more of that peerless bass. It is the best track on the album, for me. Also impressive are the rockier tones of Hot Burrito #2 which has slight hints of Argent's Hold Your Head Up in its riff (maybe Rod Argent had been listening to this). It is the album's most "rock" number and again features that very early seventies buzzy guitar, like The Carpenters used on Goodbye To Love.

Do You Know How It Feels returns to the steel guitar and melodic piano of more traditional country. Hippie Boy is narrated by Chris Hillman, the words spoken over a slow country melody and describes counter-culture drug-dealing experiences going wrong (as far as I can make out). Apparently it is about the 1968 Chicago riots but I struggle to get that from the lyrics, but if they said it was, then it was.

Overall, I much prefer this to Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, for example, and to Dylan's Nashville Skyline too. It is one of the best examples of late sixties/early seventies country rock.

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BURRITO DELUXE (1970)

1. Lazy Days
2. Image Of Me
3. High Fashion Queen 
4. If You Gotta Go, Go Now
5. Man In The Fog
6. Farther Along
7. Older Guys
8. Cody, Cody
9. God's Own Singer
10. Down In The Churchyard
11. Wild Horses   

After an excellent, most appealing debut in 1969's The Gilded Palace Of SinGram Parsons' country rock outfit returned with a more upbeat, rocking offering. Unfortunately, the group's impressive bassist Chris Ethridge had left the group, taking a great sound with him, and apparently the group were having problems coming up with material. New guitarist Bernie Leadon had this to say, retrospectively:-

"...We started getting together – Gram, Chris, and I – at the A&M lot and trying to write songs. We spent three or four months doing this. It was like pulling teeth. We knew the mechanics of writing music, but the stuff that we did were not Gram's best songs...."

Guitarist Chris Hillman added:-

"....After the brief initial burst Gram and I couldn't seem to hook up again. Burrito Deluxe was recorded without any of the feeling and the intensity of the first album...."

Reading that, you would imagine the album to be pretty poor, which it is not, it is not quite as good as the debut album. What it is, though, is far more rocking and more fun. It is not without its merits. The sound is not as good as one the first album, though, sounding just a bit "lo-fi" in places.

 

The album is notable in that the cover of The Rolling StonesWild Horses was the first recording of the song, a year before it appeared on Sticky Fingers. Apparently Keith Richards gave it to Parsons to record after a brief falling out, something that was unusual in that The Stones didn't make a habit of giving great songs like that away.
                                   
Lazy Days is a lively piece of pulsating bar-room style rock to start the album on an exciting note, with the band sounding like a country Dr. Feelgood, although country melancholia soon appears on the violin-backed mournful strains of Image Of Me. The latter is very much a continuation of the material from the first album. High Fashion Queen is a steel guitar-driven fast slice of typical country rock. The vibrancy carries on in a rousing, frantic cover of Bob Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now. It features some excellent rocking guitar.



Man In the Fog is a Cajun-style romp powered along by some infectious accordion. Farther Along is a mid-paced, harmonious country take on a traditional gospel song.

Older Guys is one I really like - a pounding thumping number, while Cody, Cody has some nice harmonies on the vocals and a very Byrds-style sound. God's Own Singer is a song in a more traditional lachrymose country vein. I'm sure Elvis Costello would have loved this one.

Down In The Churchyard is an energetic number that rocks infectiously throughout. Then there is Wild Horses. The country nature of the song is played up to the fore on this interpretation. It would seem that Mick Jagger based his delivery of the song very much on this one. Incidentally, Leon Russell plays piano on this, and on Man In The Fog.

Two months after the release of the album, Parsons was fired from the band he helped to create for drunkenness and general unreliability.

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Thursday, 26 September 2019

Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations



Albums included here are the two that this collaboration released in the late sixties:-

Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968)
and Together (1969)

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES JOIN THE TEMPTATIONS (1968)

1. Try It Baby
2. I Second That Emotion
3. Ain't No Mountain High Enough
4. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
5. This Guy's In Love With You
6. Funky Broadway
7. I'll Try Something New
8. A Place In The Sun
9. Sweet Inspiration
10. Then
11. The Impossible Dream                           

This was a fun, upbeat, joyful album collaboration between two of Motown's most successful singles groups - Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations. The album was notable in that it marked the first appearance of Dennis Edwards on vocals for The Temptations, in place of David Ruffin.

Try It Baby is a jazzy, lively piece of enjoyable fluff. It sounds much better in the album's stereo than on the single version, which was in mono. The voices are spread out by the stereo and the effect, and indeed the whole sound, is far superior, in my opinion. Indeed, for 1968, it is truly superb stereo. The massive hit single, Smokey Robinson's I Second That Emotion is wonderful, outdoing Robinson's original for verve and vitality. The vocals are simply superb on this. Diana Ross was never my favourite Motown female vocalist, (I always preferred Martha Reeves and Gladys Knight), but she is towering on this one. Their version of Ain't No Mountain High Enough is excellent, too. Again, I prefer it to Diana Ross's melodramatic famous recording of the song.

  

The even bigger hit, the timeless I'm Gonna Make You Love Me keeps the quality coming. It is possibly the best of all the Motown collaborations. This Guy's In Love With You was an example of Motown's tendency to go a bit "cabaret" on albums, with a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "easy listening" classic. They do it pleasantly enough though. The track fades in to the fuzz guitar of Funky Broadway and The Temptations cook up a funky recipe that is probably the most credible on the album. Even Diana Ross manages to strut her funky stuff.


Smokey Robinson's I'll Try Something New is both punchy and delicious. Stevie Wonder's A Place In The Sun has a big, bassy backing and Diana Ross's lead vocal handles the song beautifully. Sweet Inspiration is a rhythmic, gospelly number. The quality on this album has been surprisingly good. One may have expected it to be just the two big hits and some schmaltzy cover versions, but it has not been the case.

Then is a forgotten corker of a song. Recorded in the mid-sixties by The Four Tops, the lads and lassies breathe new life into it. Apparently, it had been originally intended as a single. It would have been a good one. Diana Ross suits the diva-esque show song glamour of The Impossible Dream down to the ground. This sort of song was often put on to albums like this to lure "adult" record buyers as well as pop-loving teenagers. It is delivered perfectly, but it does seem a bit incongruous amongst all the Motown majesty of earlier.

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TOGETHER (1969)

1. Stubborn Kind Of Fellow
2. I'll Be Doggone
3. The Weight
4. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing
5. Uptight (Everything's Alright)
6. Sing A Simple Song
7. My Guy, My Girl
8. For Better Or Worse
9. Can't Take My Eyes Off You
10. Why (Must We Fall In Love)                         
After their excellent debut album from the previous year, this marriage of two huge Motown groups had one more outing. Again, it was a pleasant, enjoyable mixture of mainly cover versions of other Motown songs and assorted classics. Any combination of this voices will be a success, it has to be said. The album has excellent stereo sound too, which always brings Motown material to life.

Diana Ross takes the lead on an impressive Stubborn Kind Of Fellow with Eddie Kendricks backing her up, while a great cover of Smokey Robinson's I'll Be Doggone sees Paul Williams aided by Ross. Two good ones to kick off with. Covering The Band's iconic country rock of  The Weight was probably not a good idea, however. However great their voices are, it doesn't work, I'm afraid. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing is tailor-made, however, and works a treat. Stevie Wonder's Uptight is slowed-down somewhat to turn into soulful Temptations-style groove. Again, though, it works and is quite infectious.

 

Sly & The Family Stone's funky Sing A Simple Song is given a "psychedelic soul" makeover to great effect, sounding all Ball Of Confusion before it had even been conceived. The merging of My Guy/My Girl has a great sound to it, although the two songs don't quite mesh. The join sounds a bit clumsy. The backing on it is superb though.

For Better Or Worse is a bit schmaltzy, however. Frankie Valli/Andy WilliamsCan't Take My Eyes off You doesn't hold a candle to either previous recording, it has to be said. Why Must We Fall In Love is a joyous singalong that would have made a great single, with Diana Ross on fine vocal form.

This is a pleasant, enjoyable half hour's listen, excellently-played and sung. Nothing spectacular, but worth digging out every now and again.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Wattstax - The Concert (1972)

Can you dig it, brothers and sisters....

 

Recorded live in Los Angeles on 20 of August 1972

Wattstax was a benefit concert performed on August 20, 1972, organised by Stax Records on the 7th Anniversary of the Watts riots in Los Angeles The concert took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum and tickets were $1 each, ensuring many African-Americans could attend. 112,000 duly attended. The crowd was most African-American and it was policed by African-American officers.

The music was soul, funk, blues, gospel, r 'n' b n jazz and a lot of it had a theme of conscious, aware positivity for black Americans. This compilation is the most comprehensive and includes most of the show. Some songs from previous compilations from the show do not appear, though, like Eddie Floyd's Lay Your Loving On Me, several Isaac Hayes tracks and some others. Either way, it plays like one continuous show.

There are actually three different compilations from the show, so by sourcing all three you can get all the songs covered.

The sound quality is pretty good for an outdoor 1972 live recording, as, of course, is the music. The concert took place at the height of the early seventies funk/soul era and we get a lot of it too - wah-wah guitars and horn breaks all over the place.

TRACK LISTING

CD ONE

1. Salvation Symphony
2. Introduction - The Reverend Jesse Jackson
3. Lift Every Voice And Sing - Kim Weston
4. Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom) - The Staple Singers*
5. Are You Sure*
6. I Like The Things About Me*
7. Respect Yourself*
8. I'll Take You There*
9. Precious Lord, Take My Hand - Deborah Manning
10. Better Get A Move On - Louise McCord
11. Them Hot Pants - Lee Sain
12. Wade In TheWater - Little Sonny
13. I Forgot To Be Your Lover - William Bell
14. Explain It To Her Mama - Temprees
15. I've Been Lonely For So Long - Frederick Knight
16. Pin The Tail On The Donkey - The Newcomers
17. Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd                                  

CD TWO


1. Peace Be Still - The Emotions
2. Old Time Religion - The Golden 13
3. Lying On The Truth - Rance Allen Group*
4. Up Above My Head*
5. Son Of Shaft/Feel It - The Bar-Kays*
6. In the Hole*
7. I Can't Turn You Loose*
8. Introduction - David Porter*
9. Ain't That Lovin' You (For More Reasons Than One)*
10. Can't See You When I Want To*
11. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)*
12. Niggas - Richard Pryor*
13. Arrest/Line Up*
14. So I Can Love You - The Emotions*
15. Show Me How*                                                     

CD THREE


1. Open The Door To Your Heart - Little Milton
2. Backfield In Motion - Mel & Tim
3. Steal Away - Johnnie Taylor
4. Killing Floor - Albert King
5. Pick Up The Pieces - Carla Thomas*
6. I Like What You're Doing To Me*
7. B-A-B-Y*
8. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)*
9. I Have A God Who Loves*
10. The Breakdown - Rufus Thomas*
11. Do The Funky Chicken*
12. Do The Funky Penguin*
13. I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To - The Soul Children*
14. Hearsay*
15. Theme From Shaft - Isaac Hayes                  

CD ONE 

The Staple Singers (pictured) perform an excellent five song set, as you would expect, including I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself and Roebuck "Pops" Staples doing a rap where he praises the achievements of black people throughout history. Stevie Wonder expanded on this on his Songs In The Key Of Life album in 1976. Louise McCord's Better Get A Move On was a solid, muscular piece of wah-wah-driven soul/funk.



Lee Sain's Hot Pants is a copper-bottomed slice of seventies funk telling us all about how good hot pants looked - very early seventies. Little Sonny's blues harmonica/brass take on Ramsey Lewis's Wade In The Water is marvellous - lively, bluesy and deliciously funky. William Bell delivers a beautifully soulful I Forgot To Be A Lover. Reggae artist George Faith later covered this. The Temprees' Explain It To Her Mama is an uplifting, high-voice powered soul number. Frederick Knight provides more rousing soul and The Newcomers some Jackson 5-style lively bubblegum-ish fun. Gospel is delivered suitably inspirationally by Deborah Manning and Motown's Kim Weston.

The CD finishes with Atlantic soul legend Eddie Floyd giving us a stonking, horn-driven Knock On Wood.

CD TWO

The CD opens with The Emotions' nine minute gospel/soul of Peace Be Still. The vocal performances are outstanding and there is a palpable live atmosphere as you hear the crowd getting involved. For me, though, it goes on a few minutes too long, although that is a bit of a nit-pick. The Golden 13 lift everyone high up with some classic upbeat, hand-clapping gospel in Old Time Religion. The Rance Allen Group were a group I was unfamiliar with, and they provided a couple of infectious pieces of funky, soulful jazzy stuff.



The Bar-Kays (pictured) deliver some superb early seventies funk with the lengthy workout Son Of Shaft/Feel It. Their set was one of those bits in a show like this when everything comes even more alive. In The Hole is almost psychedelic rock meets Stax - far out man. Their cover of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose is cookin' hot. Stax songwriter composer David Porter contributes some punchy, typically Stax-y soul - full of rumbling bass and strident brass. His Can't See You When I Want To is incredibly drawn out, though, Isaac Hayes style. Richard Pryor brings some of his ground-breaking observational comedy to the stage for a few minutes. It is very much of its time but in 1972, its power cannot be underestimated.

The Emotions return with some sumptuous, sweet soul in So Can I Love You and Show Me How. The singers introduce themselves by name and star sign in true seventies style.

CD THREE

Little Milton's take on the Northern Soul classic Open The Door To Your Heart is a delight, with some great improvisation at the end, while Mel & Tim's Backfield In Motion is also really brassily appealing. I get the feeling that Southside Johnny would have loved this at the time. I love the duo's spoken bit at the song's climax too. Great stuff.



The bigger names of Stax are up next - Johnnie Taylor with the funky soul of Steal Away, legendary bluesman Albert King who gives us a searing, guitar-driven blues track in Killing Floor and Carla Thomas, who performs five songs, sounding a lot like Ronnie Spector, including her big hit B-A-B-Y before it is Rufus Thomas (pictured) time. Time to flap our wings and get all unnecessary. Yes it's The Funky Chicken. Up next is The Funky Penguin - not much different from the chicken, except I guess you shuffle as penguins can't flap their wings....

I Don't Know What The World Is Coming To from The Soul Children is a wonderful piece of uplifting, pulsating gospel/soul. So too is their Hearsay. Finally, Isaac Hayes takes to the stage. Unfortunately, you only get the one cut from him here - The Theme From Shaft. A pretty good choice, though.
*
I have supplemented this album by sourcing the missing tracks from elsewhere, but even without them, it is an excellent listen.

B

Friday, 20 September 2019

Carole King



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TAPESTRY (1972)

1. I Feel The Earth Move
2. So Far Away
3. It's Too Late
4. Home Again
5. Beautiful
6. Way Over Yonder
7. You've Got A Friend
8. Where You Lead
9. Will You Love Tomorrow?
10. Smackwater Jack
11. Tapestry
12. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman  

Leading the burgeoning female singer/songwriter boom in the early seventies was Carole King (already a veteran of many sixties hits, written with her ex, Gerry Goffin), with this album, one that could be found in the record collections of many female students throughout the seventies. It is one of the best selling albums of all time. At the time, it was not an album my early teenage self was interested in but as many years have passed, so my tastes have matured.

A nice bit of trivia - King's cat on the cover was called Telemachus.
       
I Feel The Earth Move. Contrary to the album's well-known laid-back ambience is the opener, which is a bit of a powerful piano, bas and drums-driven bluesy rocker. It is full of excellent guitar, bar-room piano and rumbling bass. It is a rousing rock start to the album. So Far Away - reflective ballads are what the album is known for, however, and we get the first one in this attractive song. Like Bread's output from the same period, the album's rock sensibilities are greater than one may have presumed - the bass and drums on here are very slow rock in their sound and delivery. In a lot of ways this is far less of a wishy-washy bedsit album and far more of a slow, deep rock/soul one. It has surprised me over the years in that respect.

It's Too Late was album's first well-known classic is. Its deep, sumptuous backing is very, very similar to that used by Carly Simon on her No Secrets album from later in the same year. She had obviously been listening to this. It is a lovely bass/drum guitar/acoustic hook line and a similarly attractive tenor saxophone. King's vocal is beautifully melodic and ideally suited to a hot summer's afternoon.

Home Again is a slow, meaningful ballad, once more featuring that infectious bass, piano and drum backing. Billy Joel must also have listened to this a lot. It is so like some of his mid-seventies material, both lyrically and musically. There is also a bit of a slow country rock feeling to the song. Beautiful is a quirky number that sounds a bit like a song from a musical. The lyric is uplifting and King addresses her listener personally. The piano is again superb, she really could play.

Way Over Yonder is a slow gospel-influenced number with impressive backing vocals from Merry ("Gimme Shelter") Clayton. Another good piece of saxophone is to be found on here. You've Got A Friend was a big hit for James Taylor. Most people know it by now, especially the "winter, spring, summer or fall..." refrain. It is a song that can be instantly sung along with, whether you have this album or not. Long before I had this album, I knew this song.

Where You Lead is almost Stax-y in its lively, deep soulful beat. It is one of the album's best examples of its unexpectedly soulful rock. Carole certainly had far more soul than she was sometimes given credit for.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow Next up is King's take on her sixties composition for The Shirelles. She does it in a much slowed-down way, turning into a piano-driven lament as opposed to the fairground-style early sixties Motown-ish rock'n'roll of the Shirelles' hit version of it.

Smackwater Jack is a delicious piece of lively, bassy blues, showing King's versatility again. It shows that Carole could rock and once more goes against the cliché that this is a light, airy-fairy, acoustic laid-back album. In Tapestry we have a plaintive, thoughtful piano and vocal ballad that exemplifies the sort of material one may have thought the whole album was populated with. As it is, it is one of the album's few songs in this vein. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman - then there is this all-time classic. Of course, the definitive version is surely Aretha Franklin's one, but Carole King wrote it and here she sings it beautifully and with not a little soul herself. Great stuff. It has been remembered as one of the great songs of all time.

The latest remaster of the album gives it a nice, warm, bassy sound for probably the first time ever.

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Thursday, 19 September 2019

Carly Simon



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NO SECRETS (1972)

1. The Right Thing To Do
2. The Carter Family
3. You're So Vain
4. His Friends Are More Than Found Of Robin
5. We Have No Secrets
6. Embrace Me, You Child
7. Waited So Long
8. It Was So Easy
9. Night Owl
10. When You Close Your Eyes    

The early seventies was a good time to be a female singer/songwriter - Carole King's Tapestry was everywhere, then there was Joni Mitchell and later on Janis Ian. There was also Carly Simon, who has been a bit forgotten about. This was her biggest selling album and is worth revisiting. Oh, and there was every teenage boy's dream of a cover that made this a popular album to look at in the record shop - Carly proudly and clearly braless. Lordy.

The Right Thing To Do is one of Simon's best known songs, this was an easy-listening, laid-back AOR classic. Simon's voice is up there with that of Karen Carpenter in its beautiful tone. It was a huge hit, deservedly so, it is a truly lovely song. It has a similar instrumental backing to You're So Vain.

The Carter Family is a wry, observational Carole King/Janis Ian-style song that highlights Simon's ability to write a clever, character-driven song. It is actually a meaningful song about not missing people until they are gone - from Simon's childhood neighbours (The Carter family), to her Grandma and finally an ex-boyfriend. It has a nice bit of late sixties Beatles-style bass on it too.

You're So Vain. The other "big one" was this - a sensual, confessional song from a songwriter honestly confessing that "you had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive...". This was quite strong stuff in 1972. Who was it about? Everybody said Mick Jagger. Then they said Warren Beatty. Simon actually said it was about three men, although the only one she has ever named was Beatty. Jagger, by the way, sings some backing vocals on the track. It is a superb song, both musically and lyrically.

"Your hat strategically dipped below one eye, your scarf it was apricot...". Simon has sometimes copped a bit of stick for the verbosity and possible clumsiness of lyrics like these, unfairly. Yes, it is a mouthful, but they are also pretty clever too.

His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin is a perplexing, plaintive song, sung in a quiet voice over a gentle piano. It is a nice song, but it sounds somewhat undercooked. In fact, both this and The Carter Family seem to have a markedly different production to the rest of the album. They sit a bit incongruously due to their more lo-fi, muffled sound. On We Have No Secrets the more full, solid rock sound of You're So Vain is back, however, on this one. It is an attractive, very typically early seventies number that features some excellent acoustic guitar and drum interplay.

Embrace Me, You Child has an impressive vocal and some enticing orchestration. The bass on here is once again very good, played by John Lennon's mate, Klaus Voorman. The drums throughout the album are played by ex-Sly & The Family Stone drummer Andy Newmark.


Waited So Long. "Daddy, I'm no virgin..." sings Simon on this, another confessional, slightly country-ish and upbeat bluesy song. It was a song that showed Simon to be singing as a mature, confident woman. Why is that important?  Well, in 1972, it was actually pretty rare for solo female artists, amazing as though it sounds. There is a Janis Joplin style of chutzpah on this, despite its relatively laid-back ambience.

It Was So Easy is a pleasing, almost folk-rock sounding number with Simon providing a most melodic and winning vocal.

Night Owl is a grinding, bluesy rocker that shows that Carly could give us a gin-soaked vocal when she felt like it. It features a good saxophone solo too.

When You Close Your Eyes. This short album finished with the peaceful, reflective Carole King vibe of this song. All very soothing and tranquil.

This was a most appealing album, I have to say, immaculately played and sung, with a bit of depth to the themes in the songs. It is worthy of the occasional check-out.



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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Blind Faith




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BLIND FAITH (1969)

1. Had To Cry Today
2. Can't Find My Way Home
3. Well All Right
4. Presence Of The Lord
5. Sea Of Joy
6. Do What You Like         

Blind Faith was a short-lived "supergroup" consisting of Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from Cream and Steve Winwood from Traffic, with additional help from Rick Grech of Family. It was a short, six-track album of quality blues rock, as you would expect, that achieved notoriety for its original cover of a topless barely pubescent girl. Quite what the intention behind that was is unclear. It has since been replaced by a cover with a picture of the group on it (as shown here).

The group actually only lasted six months, yet this album was a critical success and remains highly thought of, often making "greatest albums of all time" lists. Funnily enough, although it is only forty-two minutes long, it seems much longer, probably because of the length of some of the songs.
                         
Had To Cry Today is a chugging, Traffic-influenced mid-paced blues rock number. It features some solid bass and drums. Winwood's vocals just remind me of Traffic, unsurprisingly. This sounds very much like the sort of material that would have followed Traffic's eponymous second album. There is some excellent Clapton guitar soloing near the end. It sort of merges Traffic with Cream, which once again is no surprise. It has Traffic's soulfulness and Cream's deep power.

 

Can't Find My Way Home is an acoustically-driven folky song of the sort that Paul Weller or Ocean Colour Scene would do many, many years later. It is plaintively sung by Winwood. It taps in to the country/folk rock vibe of the later sixties/early seventies. A lot of critics didn't have much time for the  group's cover of Buddy Holly's Well All Right, which I find puzzling, as I love it. It is big, bassy, upbeat and bluesy. I always enjoy listening to it. It has a great heavy bit near the end - lots of organ, piano, organ and thumping drums.


Presence Of The Lord was possibly Eric Clapton's first great self-penned song and it is certainly an impressive one although I have always felt it suffered a bit from a muffled, undercooked sound. Although this latest remaster is finally an acceptable one after many very poor masterings of the album, no amount of tweaking can make it sound any clearer. However, when Clapton's guitars soars in towards the end I guess it doesn't really matter so much. It has been better over the years in Clapton's many live performances of it. Sea Of Joy is an appealing, melodic track enhanced by some nice bass and organ. It is very Led Zeppelin-influenced, with Winwood doing his best Robert Plant. As with many folky blues rock songs of the period, it starts in laid-back style before getting heavier half way through. Rick Grech also contributes some superb electric violin on here.

Do What You Like is a fifteen-minute monster of a track written by Ginger Baker and, although parts of it cater to that late sixties/early seventies creature, the drum solo, there are other appealing bits, particularly early on - a great rumbling bass sound, an insistent, vaguely funky rhythm and a far better sound quality than on Presence Of The Lord, for example. Although it has the obvious feel of a studio "jam" about it, it is certainly still enjoyable. Baker could drum, for sure. Take it for what it is, a child of its time, or just stop it after seven minutes!

I wouldn't say that this is one of the greatest albums of all time but it has something about it and it very representative of its era.

*

There are several non-album tracks that have surfaced on the "deluxe edition". They are:-

Sleeping In The Ground

This is an upbeat, Clapton-driven slice of archetypal blues rock. I guess these days room would have been found for more of this material to be included on the album. It is livelier in ambience than most of the original album's songs. There bonus tracks also include a slowed-down blues version of the track, which is also impressive. 

Can't Find My Way Home (electric version)

The acoustic number from the original is enhanced here with some buzzy Clapton guitar, to great effect as well. I think I prefer this version, actually. Something punchier about it. The guitar brings that to it. It is now a rock song as opposed to a folk/country rock song. 

Acoustic Jam

This is appealing enough, but it goes on for fifteen minutes and is only really worthy of a listen as background music while you're putting up a shelf or painting a room, let's be honest!

Time Winds

A more urgent, lively feel is to be found on this organ-powered instrumental. There is some nice bass on it too.

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Monday, 16 September 2019

Love Affair



The Love Affair were a considerably underrated rock/soul group from the late sixties that caught on to the Small Faces/Amen Corner/Spencer Davis/Traffic psychedelic rock in places but with far more of a catchy, soulful pop sensibility to their sound with a robust brass section and young singer Steve Ellis's magnificent vocals.

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THE BEST OF LOVE AFFAIR


1. Bringing On Back The Good Times
2. Hush
3. Everlasting Love
4. A Day Without Love
5. Handbags And Gladrags
6. Rainbow Valley
7. So Sorry
8. The First Cut Is The Deepest
9. Let Me Know
10. Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday
11. Baby I Know
12. 60 Minutes (Of Your Love)
13. Someone Like Me
14. One Road
15. I'm Happy
16. Tobacco Road   
                                                      
Bringing On Back The Good Times is a horn-drenched piece of poppy soul with one of those killer late sixties choruses. Hush is a track that showed the group's liking for latter-era Small Faces-style psychedelia. It is full of swirling, crazy sixties organ, man, rumbling bass, buzzy guitar and general freaked-out vibe.

Then, of course, there is Everlasting Love. This song is up there in my top ten songs of all time. I was ten when it came out and I loved it and I still do. If any song sums up the sixties for me, it is this. From the introductory huge drum beat, to the throbbing bass, the massive punch of the horns and then Steve Ellis's remarkable, soulful voice. For a lad of eighteen it was a phenomenal achievement. When I hear this, I am always nine years old, playing football in the playground. It is simply wonderful.

Just check out the video of this. Everything about it screams "1968", even down to the graphics on the front of the drum. I absolutely love it. What is the girl in the bowler hat up to? Far out, man. I love the typically sixties "go-go" dancer as well. Great stuff.


A Day Without Love is in the same vein as Everlasting Love, with more sumptuous horns, another great Ellis vocal and a Northern Soul thump to the beat. This is quality sixties pop. If there was one song tailor-made for Ellis's rasping voice, it is Mike D'Abo's Handbags And Gladrags. Ellis's harpsichord-backed Stonesy take on it is easily up there with Rod StewartChris Farlowe and Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics' versions. Rainbow Valley also has some of the same horn backing and vibe of Everlasting Love. Its chorus is uplifting in that rising, dramatic way. It also has a typically hippy feel to it in its lyrics.


So Sorry has a big, bassy thump to it and some infectious congas on the backing. This has the group going a bit Blood, Sweat & Tears in the powerful, bluesy soul sound. It has a great psychedelic-ish/freakbeat guitar solo. Ellis's interpretation of Cat StevensThe First Cut Is The Deepest is one of the best ever of the song. It is freaking superb. He really is one of the great underrated British soul/rock vocalists of the period. The group show that they could do upbeat bluesy rock too in the impressive Let Me Know, which is very Spencer Davis in its sound. It is full of superb guitar and it goes without saying that the vocals are peerless, Ellis sounding like Robert Plant in places. The same applies to the the gritty, slow white soul of Gone Are The Songs of Yesterday. Ellis sounds very like Chris Farlowe on this one.

Baby I Know has a lot of the sound of Handbags And Gladrags to it, in both its backing and vocal. The chorus is big and catchy. There is something of Tom Jones in here too. 60 Minutes (Of Your Love) is a massive, pounding piece of Small Faces-influenced psych-ish rock. It is really good, considerably removed from the pop of Everlasting Love too.

Someone Like Me is a slow, piano and bass-backed soul ballad. It has something of Every Little Bit Hurts to it. One Road is again very Small Faces-esque and is a rhythmic, orchestrated, acoustic and melodious number. The group were moving now to that very late sixties/early seventies big soul sound.

I'm Happy is a short slice of freakbeat-inspired stuff. More Small Faces influences abound, together with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, particularly in the drum sound. It is very short but contains some excellent, hazy guitar. Tobacco Road is one of those songs that many late sixties/early seventies groups covered. It starts very slowly before easing into some quality blues a minute or so in. Many other covers of it were much faster.

This is an excellent compilation from a group who were a lot better than they were ever given credit for. It is enjoyable late sixties soul/pop/rock/soul and well worthy of a listen. The sound quality is surprisingly good too, considering its date of recording - full, bassy and in nice stereo.



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Friday, 13 September 2019

David Bowie - Non-Album "rarities"

 

David Bowie has a huge wealth of music that for one reason or another did not appear on his albums. I have listed and commented on just some of them here. For the information regarding dates of recording, I have referenced Nicholas Pegg's definitive Bowie reference book, "The Complete David Bowie". The opinions expressed regarding the tracks are, of course, my own. Sometimes they may concur with Pegg's, which is probably not surprising, but not intentional.

Conversation Peace 1969/2000/2019

This was a rejected song from the 1969 "Space Oddity" sessions. It is a pleasant, melodic, wistful number with Bowie's voice sounding very much like it did on some of the plaintive 1966-68 recordings. It contains some beguiling lyrics - "I live above a grocer's store owned by an Austrian". It is largely acoustically driven with a fetching rhythmic beat to it. The drums were apparently played by a session drummer whose identity has been long forgotten. It was not "Space Oddity" drummer John Cambridge, but a jazz musician, which may help to account for the unusually rhythmic groove.


It underwent a remix in 2019 which has given it far more bass oomph and a general warmth of ambience that makes it a more attractive number. "My essays lying scattered on the floor..." sings Bowie. Was he recalling some past student days?

The song was also re-recorded for the discarded "Toy" sessions in 2000 and is much slower in pace, with none of the breezy joie de vivre of the original and a considerably more sonorous Bowie vocal.

Shadow Man 1970/2000

This plaintive ballad was originally recorded in the "Hunky Dory" sessions but the original recording was never released. It was re-recorded in 2000 for the abortive "Toy" sessions, given a torch song-style piano and deep strings backing. The song, lyrically, is very much in the Bowie of 1968 vein and it is hard to see it fitting in on "Hunky Dory".

Lightning Frightening 1971

This is a quirky outtake from 1971 which features Herbie Flowers on bass and Bowie on saxophone. It is an odd slice of hippy-ish blues with some strange lyrics saying "I'll give you back my farmland, I'll give you back my house..." in some sort of bucolic protest. It features some appealing bluesy harmonica and lively saxophone that make it quite a catchy number. I can't imagine it fitting either "Hunky Dory" or "Ziggy Stardust" however.

The song fades in at the beginning, giving it a real "demo" feel, despite subsequent good sound quality. A guitarist called Mark Pritchard contributes a convincing solo near the end. The song is said to seriously resemble Crazy Horse's "Dirty, Dirty", which was released in the same year and listening to them both one after the other, you can definitely hear the similarities, more in the music than the vocal. Bowie was going through a Neil Young phase in 1971 so it is probably no coincidence.

Bombers 1971

This was a song from the "Hunky Dory" sessions that is full of lyrics about nuclear bombs, sirens and wastelands and the like. It has a liveliness and a post-apocalyptic lyric that suited "Ziggy Stardust", musically, but its vocal is hauntingly plaintive, in that typically sixties Bowie style. There was plenty of that vaudeville, music-hall hamminess that Bowie had ditched by the time "Ziggy" was recorded.

The track was apparently going to open "side two" of "Hunky Dory" instead of "Fill Your Heart". In many ways, I would have preferred it, but there is something of the sixties whimsicality to it that irritates me a little, so maybe not.

The Supermen 1970/1971

This is a re-recording, from 1971, of the final track on 1970's "The Man Who Sold The World" album. It doesn't have the big, rolling, tympani-style drums of the original nor the sonorous backing vocals. Neither is Bowie's vocal anywhere near so mannered or theatrically high-pitched. This alternate version is pretty "Ziggy" in many ways, featuring gentle acoustic verses and a far more melodic, tender vocal from Bowie before a big Mick Ronson guitar interjection leads into a robust, solid, riffy chorus. It is very "Spiders" in its instrumentation and indeed, this is the version Bowie would subsequently play live. Which do I prefer? Both have good points, but if I had to make a choice at gun-point, it would always be this rocky alternate version.

Holy Holy 1970/1971

This track was originally recorded in 1970 and in this form it is a very sixties-sounding, early T. Rex-influenced number, driven along mainly by Herbie Flowers' inventive bass, drums and backing vocals with the lead guitar considerably down in the mix and featuring a very typically late sixties Bowie vocal. it sounds in this form a lot like the final, superior material from the stuff that appeared on the "Deluxe Edition" of "David Bowie", once Bowie had started to record some credible songs. It was actually released as a single and duly disappeared without trace.

Then there is the summer of 1971 re-recorded "Spiders" version, which is so much better. It is faster -featuring lots of searing Mick Ronson guitar, pounding rock drums and a stronger vocal from Bowie. I say that, though, and it has me suddenly wondering whether it is the same vocal track. Maybe not. I cannot find any mention that it is, anywhere. In fact, I'm sure it is different. The vocal is slightly deeper, more resonant. Either way, the second recording turns it into a proper early seventies rock song that indeed was initially pencilled in for inclusion on "Ziggy Stardust". It would have been better than "It Ain't Easy", that was for sure!

Round And Round 1971

This was a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around And Around". It was recorded in late 1971 as part of the "Ziggy Stardust" sessions and was due to be track four on "side one", before "Starman" replaced it. It is given the full-on Spiders from Mars treatment and features some red-hot guitar from Mick Ronson. Bowie, whose voice was never the most convincing in a straight ahead rock 'n' roll format, copes pretty well with it. It rocks in a full, bassy and muscular fashion.


Sweet Head 1971

Another one from the late 1971 "Ziggy" sessions this is a risqué rocker with a refrain that is almost punky in its intensity. Ronson's guitar again calls all the shots throughout this excellent track. It would have fitted in fine to the "Ziggy" album. It is actually the only song apart from "Ziggy Stardust" that mentions Bowie orange-haired creation by name. It is populated by salacious sexual references - "bob your sweet head..." and "give me sweet head..." as well as the cheeky "while you're down there....". No doubt had I heard this when I first got into Bowie, aged thirteen in 1972, I wouldn't have understood any of this. It is one of these rarities that I feel would really have done the business had it been included on the album it was intended for. It is a quality track that can consider itself unfortunate not to have made the final cut.

Velvet Goldmine 1971

Also from those same sessions as "Round And Round" and "Sweet Head" is this, another truly excellent number that really should have made the album. It is a solid-paced, chunky number with a strong Bowie vocal, quality Ronson guitar, a melodic rumbling bass from Trevor Bolder and a big, clunking "Hunky Dory" style piano. Its backing vocals are deep and sonorous in a sort of "Volga Boatmen" style, or maybe like some of those found on "The Man Who Sold The World" album. It ends with some jaunty whistling and madcap laughing vocals fading away in the background.

Amsterdam 1971

Bowie always liked the whole Jacques Brel/Berlin in the 1930s decadent thing and this Brel song is perfect for that - a tale of drunken sailors and prostitutes. Bowie had been playing it live for a few years before he recorded it in the summer of 1971. It is a robust acoustic and evocative torch song and I first met it as the 'b' side of "Sorrow" in 1973. I found its images and atmosphere truly captivating. It was totally unlike anything I had ever heard from Bowie thus far. I always remember its abrupt ending too. Apparently it was going to be in the "It Ain't Easy" slot on "Ziggy Stardust". I wish it had.

John I'm Only Dancing 1972/1973/1979

I loved this single back in 1972 when it came out. I was far too young at thirteen to pick up on the homosexual references, as most were. It passed the BBC censorship (but not in the USA). It became a top twenty hit here. It is a nice mix of a catchy acoustic intro/ongoing riff and some vibrant Spiders rock. I remember being blown away by how great the sound was when my father allowed me to play the single on his stereo. I still love hearing it today.

The original single mix dates from July 1972 and is the best one. A subsequent one was re-recorded in January 1973 using saxophone in place of the acoustic guitar riff. It is ok, but not as good as the original, neither is the 1979 remix which seems to tone down the sharpness of the acoustic guitar. For me, the original single version will always be the best - that crystal clear strummed acoustic intro and then the consecutive drumbeats leading into Bowie telling us that "Eileen's pretty neat, she always eats her meat...". Hmm.


All The Young Dudes 1972

The legendary anthemic song that Bowie gave to ailing mates Mott The Hoople in the summer of  1972 (they were originally offered "Suffragette City") and they took right up the charts, making the song their own. Bowie's version was recorded in December 1972 and suffers in comparison to the Mott classic. The saxophone dominates this version (the Mott one was driven by acoustic and electric guitars) and, dare I say it, Ian Hunter's vocal is the definitive one.

A most interesting rarity is the version of that has Mott's original instrumental backing but Bowie's vocal that he recorded as a guide for Hunter to follow. I must say it has a certain appeal. It includes Hunter's spoken "outro" but Bowie sings the verses. It has a certain nostalgic fragility about it, especially in Bowie's ever so slightly tentative vocal.

By the way, I'm sure the "boogaloo dudes" line was inspired by Bowie's mate Marc Bolan.

Oh man, I need TV....

Oh brother you guessed....I'm a dude, man.

Growin' Up 1973

Now this is an odd one. Thought to be a reject from the "Pin Ups" sessions, it was actually recorded in November 1973, a month after that album's release. It is a cover of a song from Bruce Springsteen's debut album from 1973, "Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey". As a Springsteen aficionado as well as a Bowie one, I find it strange hearing Bowie doing Bruce. Listened to objectively, however, he does a pretty good job and if you listen to the vocal you can hear the first strains of that high-pitched soulful voice that he would utilise on the following year's "Diamond Dogs" and subsequently on "Young Americans". In that respect it was a bit of a landmark in Bowie's development as a vocalist.

It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City 1973

Another Springsteen cover that nobody categorically knows from whence it came. It is believed to hail from the late 1973 "Diamond Dogs" sessions that produced "Growin' Up". For many years it was thought to come from the "Young Americans" sessions but the backing sounds nothing like that band and indeed members of that group have no memory of having played it. It is also far too rough-edged and rocky for the 1975 soul-influenced material. Whatever its source, though, it is a credible cover of a good song. Bowie again does it justice.

The Man Who Sold The World/Watch That Man 1973 (Lulu recordings)

Two other interesting rarities are Lulu's two Bowie covers that were recorded originally during the "Pin Ups" sessions and finished off by Bowie at the time of the "Diamond Dogs" sessions, featuring Bowie on saxophone, Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, Mike Garson on piano and Aynsley Dunbar on drums - basically the "Pin Ups" band. "The Man Who Sold The World" actually sounds really good and duly gave Lulu a top ten hit. "Watch That Man", however, doesn't quite work for me, sounding somewhat clumsy, as if Lulu is a bit perplexed by the lyrics. Bowie's backing vocals at the end are jazzily quirky but a bit bizarre.

Dodo 1973

This was recorded in September 1973 in the sessions for "Diamond Dogs". It is a lively, brassy song with the sort of dark, futuristic lyrics that would dominate that album. It has a smoky-sounding Bowie vocal and plenty of brass and saxophone in its backing. The chorus of "she's a dodo, oh no..." is somewhat clumsy, though. It was originally titled "You Didn't Hear It From Me", which was the next line.

It makes another appearance in a funked-up medley with "1984" that was included on the 30th Anniversary edition of "Diamond Dogs". The song is altered quite a bit here and is far funkier. Had this medley been included on "Diamond Dogs" it would have contributed to a far funkier ambience on what was more of a glammy album.


Candidate 1974

This is a different song to the "Candidate" that appears as the middle part of the "Sweet Thing" trilogy on "Diamond Dogs". It was, however, recorded in the sessions for that album, on New Year's Day 1974. It is an impressive, soulful but upbeat song with a jaunty, swing-style drumbeat driving it on together with some breezy Mike Garson piano. It contains a sexually suggestive opening couple of lines and an odd reference from Bowie about his being "the Führerling", starting his unfortunate fascist fascination earlier than we thought. It is an appealing song, though, and showed the direction Bowie's music was beginning to take, despite it not making the album. If this and "Dodo" had been on "Diamond Dogs" it may have sounded quite a lot different.

Rebel Rebel (US Single Version)/ Reality Tour Remix 1974/2002

This is quite a different take on the glammy hit single. It misses out the iconic introductory guitar riff and starts with the line "hot tramp I love you so.." before progressing into a rhythmic, conga-driven piece of soul/rock that once more provided a signpost as to Bowie's future musical direction. It was this version that Bowie played live on "David Live" and "Cracked Actor" and indeed for many years afterwards. In 2002, Bowie re-worked the song for the Reality Tour, using a quiet, atmospheric guitar opening before crashing into that recognisable riff. He opened the shows with this and recoded a studio version as well. I like both these versions but I will always prefer that scratchy, riffy glory of the original.

After Today 1974

This appealing piece of disco/soul dates from the August 1974 "Young Americans" sessions. It is a lively number with a falsetto vocal from Bowie at times and lots of funky saxophone. It would actually have made a nice addition to the album it was rejected from, its upbeat sound providing a contrast with some of the slower-paced deep soul numbers that were eventually chosen. At the end, Bowie laughs and exclaims "I was getting into that...". Indeed he was, he should have stuck with it.

Who Can I Be Now? 1974

This dates from the 1974 "Young Americans" sessions and is a truly outstanding song. It was inexplicably jettisoned in favour of "Across The Universe". It was one of the tracks selected to be on "The Gouster" album, which was never released. It features a great saxophone intro from David Sanborn and one of those smoky/interjection with falsetto vocals from Bowie supported by multiple backing vocals. The verses are evocative and soulful, while the chorus is big and brash, with the vocals loud and the saxophone wailing. as with all the "Young Americans" material, though, there is a slightly muffled muddiness to the drum sound, for me, anyway, although the 30th anniversary remaster suffers less so than the others. The title was chosen as the title for the second of the box sets covering Bowie's career, presumably as a reference to his many identity/image changes in the period.


It's Gonna Be Me 1974

Another from the August 1974 sessions, this was also left off the eventual album, which was once again a questionable decision. It was also another of the tracks that was going to be on the aborted album, "The Gouster". There are two versions of the song in existence. The original one and one that Tony Visconti added strings to, which was lost. but was subsequently remixed by Visconti from his original master tapes.

The original "Gouster" one is full of late night atmosphere and one of Bowie's finest vocals to date - so far removed from the late sixties/early seventies. It is quite sparse in its backing - mainly piano, jazzy guitar, drums, bass and backing vocals. A lot is spoken about Bowie's supposed "soul" phase but on this one I have to say that he is at his most credibly soulful. The improvised vocal around five minutes in is superb.

The Visconti strings version is from the 30th Anniversary edition and has wonderful sound quality and Tony has done a great job on the remixing. The sound is outstanding. Once more, there is a "which do I prefer?" quandary. It's a difficult one. I actually love both of them, for different reasons - the minimalist soulfulness of the original and the warmth of the strings one. It's a 1-1 draw.

Some Are 1975/1976?

Now, Bowie's music completely changed. This was an out-take from the "Low" sessions and is thought to date back as early as 1975 for some. Bowie himself disputed this, claiming it came from a bit later. Anyway, it was part of his collaboration with Brian Eno and is a sonorous keyboard piece with occasional mysterious, haunting vocals about "sleigh bells in snow". It included some wolf noises in the background and is full of atmosphere. It would have been fine on "Low"'s second side.

All Saints (unknown)

This has been included on CD as part of the unreleased material from the "Low" sessions. However, Tony Visconti had no memory of working on the track and is adamant that the tape loop deep synthesiser sounds of the beguiling instrumental were not the sort of thing they used either on "Low" or "Heroes". He believes it dates from the eighties, therefore. Either way, it is an intriguing and interesting piece. It certainly fits the vibe of those two albums. For that reason, I will probably always feel that is where it dates from, even though I know I am probably wrong.

Sound And Vision (1991 Remix)

This is a remix of the hit single from "Low" It is notable for its "new" drum sound - a big, warm, pounding affair that adds more rhythm to the track. The saxophone near the end is considerably enhanced and there are less synthesiser breaks. I like it although I prefer the original. I enjoy quite a few re-mixes but invariably they never take the place of the originals.


Abdulmajid 1977/1990s?

Tony Visconti believes this Eastern-influenced instrumental was definitely worked on during the "Heroes" sessions, but the version that eventually surfaced had been re-mixed and added to during the nineties. He could tell, again, the with the "Low" material, from the type of instruments used. Who am I to disagree? Once more, it is an impressive track and would have suited the "Heroes" album.

I Pray, Olé 1979? 

Nobody quite knows the provenance of this track, which was included as a bonus track on a reissue of 1979's "Lodger" album. It definitely as similarities to "Lodger" material - "Red Sails" and Repetition" in particular, in is drum sound and keyboard riff. Tony Visconti has no knowledge of it and says it is definitely not from the "Lodger" sessions. He suspects it may be from around the "Scary Monsters" period, but updated by Bowie in the early nineties.

With regard to the song itself, it is energetic and appealing enough, but is nothing special. Add it to a play of "Lodger", however, and it doesn't sound out of place.

Crystal Japan 1980

This (unsurprisingly) Japanese-influenced instrumental is from the 1980 sessions for "Scary Monsters". It has a very "Heroes" feel about it, though, in its deep, reverberating and mournful  synthesiser passages. It has a lot of the ambience of "Moss Garden", for me.

This Is Not America 1984

Recorded in 1984 as a theme song for a film, and co-written with jazz rock musician Pat Metheney, this is an attractive, laid-back piece of melodic and typically eighties jazzy wine-bar fare. It was a sizeable hit and fond Bowie getting in on the whole "sophisti-pop" thing that was so popular around 1984.


Dancing In The Street 1985

Recorded for 1985's "Live Aid" with The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, this is an acceptable-only cover of the Martha Reeves & The Vandellas Motown classic. It served a purpose and raised lots of money for a good cause, but it is not the finest moment from either artist, let's be honest.

Absolute Beginners 1985

There is only one version for me of this well-known Bowie song and that is the eight minute full length version which is packed with great saxophone, tinkling piano, a killer melody and Bowie's towering vocal. A copper-bottomed Bowie classic. It's absolutely true....

That's Motivation 1985

This was also from the "Absolute Beginners" film and utilises the same melody from the introduction to "Absolutely Beginners". It is a strange, hammed-up, theatrical mish-mash of different musical passages but is has some good points - the rhythmic percussion, the horns, the lively jazziness. Bowie's vocal is very dramatic and "stagey" but the song sort of grows on you and begs a few listens.

Julie 1986

From the sessions for "Never Let Me Down", this is a poppy, beaty and enjoyable song that would have been suitable for the album. Its rhythm is quite infectious and the whole thing is strangely carefree for a Bowie song.

Girls 1986

Bowie wrote this for Tina Turner and it appeared on her "Break Every Rule" album. His own recording of it dated from the "Never Let Me Down" sessions and is not a bad track at all. It starts atmospherically, almost in a sort of "Lady Grinning Soul" mode - piano and vocal, before it breaks out into a big saxophone-driven eighties-style chorus. Some have expressed reservations about that part of the song. Not me. I have to say I really quite like it. It is a quality Bowie rarity and is more than the equal of much of the material on "Never Let Me Down" (which is also an album that I like a lot more than many do).

When The Wind Blows 1986

This was also a song written as a theme for the animated film of the same name. It is an underrated little gem of a song. Although it has a big, thumping drum backing it has an evocative vocal from Bowie and a real feeling of dramatic emotion running all through it. It has an uplifting horn bit right at the end as well.

Underground 1986

Bowie was really in demand for movie themes in 1986, and this one is for the film "Labyrinth". It is a catchy number with a bit of very mid-eighties disco guitar, synthesiser riffs, an infectious drum sound and, of course, a suitably strong vocal. It also features some gospelly backing vocals. This, together with "When The Wind Blows" and "Absolute Beginners" were three excellent movie themes from 1985-86 that perhaps serve as a bit of a contrast with his regular work from the same period.

As The World Falls Down 1986

Also from the "Labyrinth" soundtrack is this pleasant, romantic number. Bowie's vocal is endearing croony over a slow but tuneful backing. It is simply a very nice song.

Within You 1986

This was the other Bowie vocal track from "Labyrinth". It is less instantly appealing than the other two and, although Bowie's falsetto vocal is convincing it suffers from a bit too much cinematic orchestration for my taste.

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