Tim Brown Talks
Ooo.. I’m all disembodied! Perhaps not literally but I write now so far away from the last available issue of Manifesto that I feel almost unconnected. I’ll do what I can, I’ll make a few points, but I feel as if my pen is losing all vitriol. Is that really the case? Let’s see….
Well, I can observe a few things in my already-dust-covered June Manifesto. Probably the most interesting for me is Rob Moss’ item on Ed Wolfrum and his observations, as a studio engineer, on Detroit recordings of the sixties. Don Davis used to use United Sound studios quite a lot back in those days and at Goldmine, we hit a deal with Don to release material he owned, a lot of stuff came from there – a situation Goldmine financed in terms of retrieving material from old masters. In fact stuff keeps emerging rather mysteriously from what would appear to be that source and I’ll say no more, suffice it to say that we obviously weren’t offered all the tracks mastered at the time. It is also rather disappointing, nay astounding to learn that Wolfrum has a ‘library’ of unreleased material which Rob claims ‘will probably never gain a release’. Hands up those that think that to be an acceptable situation! If this is true then Wofrum is doing no-one a favour. And whilst legal situations may be murky who is really going to complain or be precious about it? If anything the producers of said music probably have legal entitlement anyway. I’ll always remember Davis stating that he did not sell Solid Hitbound productions to Ric Tic or Golden World either outright or in perpetuity, and certainly not to Berry Gordy!
On to Soul Sam in June’s Manifesto and those rather horrible scans in brown paper – a column which brought about a rather classic circumstance via the Jesse Slaughter review (‘I Had A Dream’ on Les-Stan). For sure a great disc and one which had a small following in the eighties, perhaps more importantly it is a Florida recording/label co-written and produced by the great Paul Kelly. A look in our price guide sees the disc rated at £30 and at £20 in the pie region of our sceptered isle, an area that also produces a price guide to rare soul. However, our on-line price guide now sees this as a £250 touch for the simple reason that I’ve recently sold it at such a price. Look around the world – Ebay, Pop Sike, Gemm, whatever you like – the Jesse Slaughter disc is not available at all. The classic circumstance referred to above is that of an age-old price remaining constant while no-one thought about it and that of a revived sixties spin (in the absence of ‘new’ sixties discoveries) revealing a total dearth of copies i.e., ‘I Had A Dream’ is really rather rare. And, by the way, it is also really rather good.
Talk of Florida soul leads me onto another tremendous slab of sixties finally starting to make a name for itself after being known for a couple of decades at least. I can’t swear that I haven’t reviewed REATHA REESE’S fabulous ‘Only Lies’ (Dot) before in Manifesto but it’s too big a job to check to be honest and I can’t swear it’s from Florida either, although the latter is a good bet, if not, then Nashville, certainly not Hollywood, California (the home of Dot Records). Of course Dot leased material in from all over the place, but the clue here is Clarence Reid and Bob Riley on songwriting credits. Florida stalwart Reid had releases on Nashville’s Dial label and his songs for that logo went under Tree Publishing. Ditto the Reatha Reese – so it’s either/or as far as I’m concerned. So what about the music? Well, this is a simply superb piece of uptempo soul with an infectious rolling rhythm pounding along. Reese can sing – witness the wailing fadeout, a ballad flipside usually confirms this aspect and ‘Things I Should Have Done’ emphasizes that this artist should have had more than the solitary release I know of (although I’ve a sneaky feeling she’s someone else if you know what I mean).
Curtis Futch Jnr… ever heard of him? Well actually you have in the shape of Kurt Harris of ‘Emperor Of My Baby’s Heart’ fame. Not only was the man Kurt Harris but his later releases reveal him to be KURTIS SCOTT. Originally from Georgia, Scott (aka Harris, Futch) moved to New York in 1952 and was to feature in elements of the black music of the Big Apple for the next four decades. In the ‘soul’ era most of his releases seem to be in association with famed all-rounder Robert Banks (of ‘Mighty Good Ways’). Labels include Cherokee, Apache and Marky Ho (a soul version of ‘Moon River’). He first came to the attention of the Northern Soul Scene via a track leased out to Don Robey’s Sureshot label in Texas. Not heard in a dancehall for many a year is ‘No, No, Baby’ a vocal to an equally forgotten instrumental by the Soft Summer Soul Strings on Columbia, ‘I’m Doing My Thing’. Handily, my copy is date-stamped ‘July 30 1966’. A decent disc if a bit too ‘bouncy’ for today it is however, not the focus of my current attentions and we move into the seventies, 1975 to be exact, for that particular aspect. The waxing in question is ‘Build, Build, Build’ (Happening) and, once more, Robert Banks is at the helm. Rather different from anything else I’ve heard from Scott, this is a strong seventies dancer with a great arrangement that really does ‘Build, Build, Build’ the combination of strings, chorus and lyrics screams ‘minor league in a good way, mail immediately to Britain’. It features parts one and two as consecutive takes of the song rather than vocal/instrumental. It’s a rare one too! We recently obtained £1200 for a copy in our on-line auction.
Somewhere in the dim and distant past of soul literature I bemoaned the fact that what I call ‘staxified’-styled uptempo records didn’t have much of a place on the Northern Scene. Well, ‘don’t wish too hard for what you want or you might just get it’ is my mantra here; of course Stax records have always had a place on the scene if not a vertebral role as does Motown, but recent spins by the likes of Clarence Murray or Don Varner lead me to believe that messier-but-soulful stompers are being accepted. Two such items are in front of me now. Gradually creeping up in price is CARL HOLMES AND THE COMMANDERS ‘Soul Dance No 3’ (Blackjack), quite rightly so because this is firmly in Wilson Pickett territory taking absolutely no prisoners with its pounding beat and caustic vocal delivery. In fact I would like to know just who the singer is – other Carl Holmes 45s don’t sound like this gritty unknown, the Blackjack release credits Pervis Herder, but he was principally an organist with a light voice at best. Cliff Nobles could do the searing vocals as we know and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were him. Blackjack (Carl Holmes later fronted the Sherlock Holmes Investigation) was a Philadelphia label but it’s ‘down home’ to Atlanta and William Bell’s Peachtree label for GORGEOUS GEORGE and ‘Get Up Off It’. Amazingly George’s real name was Theodopholus Odell George, a former valet for Hank Ballard, George cut quite a figure on the southern chitlin’ circuit as an M.C. Periodically George would enter the studio, for instance he had a 1965 one-off Stax release ‘Biggest Fool In Town’, and his seventies releases for Homark Records are valued. The feeling is that Gorgeous George should have gone in to the recording studio more than he did and ‘Get Up Off It’ proves that weighing in with several punchy bouts of uptempo southern soul and a running piano not unlike a Little Richard record, all punctuated with typically healthy southern horns. You won’t find this one in a hurry that’s for certain. Like one or two other Peachtree releases this one is very rare and long in-demand in Japan for the Deep Soul flipside ‘It’s Not A Hurting Thing’. Just realised that I have a rare early dancer by this guy as well on Neptune ‘Now I Believe In Miracles’ plus he was Georgie Boy on SSS International and Birmingham George on Marsi.
Just to confirm that all is not what it would seem with Northern Soul collecting, I got asked for ‘Sax On The Track’ by Mike and Ike (Arctic) the other day. It is of course a rather splendid and surprisingly raunchy instrumental on the famous Philly label. Stroking my chin over the price, my potential customer (a noted deejay) admitted that he had never seen a blue-lettered original and that all copies he had seen were the black-lettered reissue/bootleg. Went to my own collection and sure enough my own copy was less than pristine indicating that few if any, other copies had come my way. £60 in our current paper price guide but now £100 on-line. I hate to admit it but the internet does have its advantages.
I will finish with a killer CD track from the recent Kent compilation ‘Hall Of Fame’. Consisting of 24 tracks, no less than 21 are previously unissued featuring names familiar to the UK like James Barnett and June Conquest. Ralph ‘Soul’ Jackson does a reasonable version of Jimmy Hughes’ ‘You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy’ as does the unidentified Jackie on ‘Almost Persuaded’. Clarence Carter answers Etta James’ ‘Tell Mama’ with the great ‘Tell Daddy’ (but why, oh why, Mr Rounce do we get O.B. McClinton?). Northern Soulers however, will swoon (or should do) over BOBBY MOORE and ‘Baby Come Back’. Possibly a tad too sprightly for the dance floors of today, somehow, somewhere, this effervescent mover reminds me of some very rare Northern in-demander which I just can’t put my finger on. Apparently dating from a 1971 session ‘Baby Come Back’ sounds at least four years older than that year and incorporates great saxophone work from Moore (who rarely actually sang on his recordings). Bouncy, trouncy, fun, fun, fun.
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