Monday, January 28, 2008

Jackie Jackson - s/t

In October 1973, big brother Jackie decided to step up to the plate to release his own solo project following the lead of siblings Michael & Jermaine. The outcome resulted in one of the most overlooked and undervalued soul albums of all time. When most folks mention The Jackson 5 the first thing that comes to most folks' mind is "bubblegum soul". Anyone who may have written Jackie's self-titled debut off as just another teeny-bopper disc clearly missed the boat. What the album turned out to be was a glimpse at a maturing Jackie stepping out to try his hand at a more adult style. Listening to the album, paying attention close to its production and vocal delivery, you might find it easy to make comparisons between Jackson and many of the falsetto-fueled acts of the day like The Delfonics, Eddie Holman or The Stylistics. Who knows, maybe that's part of the reason the LP stalled before reaching the status it deserves. My theories (yes, I have more than one about what could've gone awry) go like this...

[Sidebar: Bear in mind, I was still in diapers when this all happened so this is all speculation and I could be totally off-base here.]

For your consideration...

Theorem 1) Too Much of a Good Thing?
In 1973, Motown issued Jackie's album along with the three other Jackson-Motown projects that year; Michael's Music & Me, Jermaine's Come Into My Life, and the group's LP Skywriter. One can see that Motown was really trying to flood the market with Jackson product and repeat the successes it had doing the same just the year before. Now the Jackson 5 was basically marketed towards a pre- to mid-teen audience and while that age group is statistically shown to have the most disposable income, maybe expecting a 12 year old girl to go out & scarf up 4 albums with her hard-earned baby-sitting money was a bit too unrealistic.

Theorem 2) For Whom was this Album Truly Intended?
If someone in 1973 looking for the average "Jackson 5 sound" were to buy Jackie's album and realize they'd wound up with a ballad-heavy, Delfonics-sound-alike record instead, that might make for some disappointed listeners. Perhaps this new direction Jackie's producers decided to take strayed too far from what their core audience was used to. On the other side of the coin, coming right after hits like "Little Bitty Pretty One", "Got To Be There" & "Rockin' Robin" perhaps the freshly reinforced stigma of "bubblegum" was firmly stuck in the minds of the post-teen to adult record buying public and seeing the name Jackie Jackson emblazoned across the front of an album cover coupled with little to no promotion from the label to help showcase this new side of Jackson wasn't doing the trick to attract an older ear who might be more appreciative of and receptive to a more sophisticated sound.

While an argument could be made that Jermaine's debut solo album issued one year prior seemed to go for a more adult sound, yet still sold well; there are major difference between each projects that invalidate the point. Jermaine already had an excellent head start as a solo act since he was already being viewed as a strong secondary lead within the group. Jackie never had a solo number or sang more than one or two lead lines at best. Another thing to keep in mind was that Jermaine's solo project had the magnificent Motown Marketing Machine behind it. Promotion for his album was well orchestrated and played a key role in it's market performance. At radio, Jermaine had two singles generating a buzz, Jackie never even got one. In concerts and appearances, Jermaine was given a spotlight to perform songs from his album. Heck, the family was featured in an entire episode of Soul Train where Jermaine was featured in his own segment to promote his set complete with a short film and an extra interview with Don Cornelius.

Theories aside, the fact remains, that due very little promotion and no single releases, Jackson's sole Motown solo album quickly became rack job fodder. My sister nabbed her copy (now mine) for a whopping 88 cents at Mays department store in NY back in '76 or '77.

[Sidebar: C'mon you remember rack jobs right?? Those record racks you used to see at your local drug store, car wash or supermarket that had the albums with the corners chopped off or had saw marks or holes cut thru the jackets??... No??.... Never mind, I think just dated myself.]

Even though no official singles were issued, the cut, "Love Don't Wanna Leave" has popped up on several Jackson 5 comps over the years. Three times to be exact. The first being 1976's Anthology set, the second appearance was on the original CD reissue of the same set again in 1986 (it was left off the 2000 re-reissue). The third and final chance to get the track was on the 1995 25th Anniversary boxed set, Soulsation. All three compilations are currently out of print. Way to go Motown!!!

This album hasn't been reissued in any format as far as I know but if you're in the market for your own copy, you can usually find one pretty reasonably priced here or even here.

Featured cut: "Love Don't Want To Leave"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quickie: Michael Jackson - Euphoria

While noone can argue that Michael Jackson is in any way an overlooked or underappreciated artist, he's still got a few solid, slept-on tracks that scream for a good dusting off every now and then and "Euphoria" is definitely one of 'em. Taken from his 1973 Music & Me set, the tune was a team effort penned by Jacqueline Hilliard and soul legend Leon Ware.

[Sidebar: You might be wondering, if the song was so good, then why didn't it make any noise? Good question. Could be lots of answers to that. Maybe it was because "Euphoria" was left as an album cut and never got serviced to radio. Who knows? In the end, the LP didn't fare well commercially and that too could be due to any number of things. One factor might be that the only singles released were the sugary-sweet title track and a cover of the song, "Morning Glow" from the Broadway musical 'Pippin'. What??? A showtune??? A showtune as the lead single from a 15 year-old pop star's new album?? WTF were they thinking?? *Sigh*]

As labels often do, Motown too made the occasional bad decision in the single-choosing department, and those same bad decisions kept reveberating through the years as countless repackaged "hit" compilations were cobbled together with single releases and not much else. As a result, some of his best work lived and died solely as album cuts that have fallen through the cracks and remain unheard to anyone who only has those stale "best of" collections as a point of reference.

While it was still OOP in all formats when I ripped my LP copy to CD years ago, this album has since been reissued on CD a few times over but never officially in the U.S.; so what else is new?

[Sidebar: Far too many record companies have a tendency to neglect black music here in the states. I could rant on for days about it but since this "quickie" post is already gettin' kinda wordy, I'll get into that some other time.]

Anyway, Music & Me is pretty easy to track down and well worth the small investment. If the CD reissue (available here) isn't to your liking, you can easily find an original vinyl copy on the cheap both here and here.

Listen (password req'd)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Johnny Bristol - Bristol's Creme


Johnny Bristol first came to local fame in the Detroit area as a member of the soul duo "Johnny & Jackey" with Jackey Beavers, an associate he met while in the U.S. Air Force. The pair recorded two singles in 1959 for Anna label owned by Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis and four more for Gwen Gordy and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi record label, none of which were successes beyond the Midwest US.

In the mid 1960s, Tri-Phi was absorbed by Motown Records, and Bristol began working with Fuqua as a songwriter and producer. Among Fuqua and Bristol's successes as producers were hit singles such as Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967), "Your Precious Love" (1967), and "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" (1968); Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969); and David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" (1969). On his own, Bristol co-wrote and produced Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want to Do Wrong" (1971) and "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" (1972), and several singles by Jr. Walker & the All-Stars such as "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969)

Notably, Bristol was the producer and co-writer of the final singles for both Diana Ross & the Supremes and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, before each group lost its namesake lead singer. While the Miracles' "We've Come Too Far to End It Now" (1972) was an original, the Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" (1969) was a cover version of a Johnny & Jackey single from 1961 (pictured above). The song was written as an ode to their wives who they'd miss whilst on the road touring. Bristol is the male voice on the Supremes' version, singing response to Diana Ross' lead vocal.
Dig the original version!!!
[Sidebar: As the story goes, towards the end of the session for 'Someday', Ross was getting tired and not delivering as strong a performance as she was at the start. Bristol decided to step into the vocal booth and sing along with Diana in an effort to provide some soulful inspiration that might help Ross complete the take. Johnny's vocals were supposed to be edited out of the final version but when Berry Gordy heard the session results, he wound up liking them so much that he decided to keep them in. Incidentally, the song was initially meant to be Ross' first solo single so she recorded the song with session singers instead of fellow Supremes Cindy Birdsong & Mary Wilson.]

Bristol left Motown in 1973 to resume his singing career, joining first with CBS Records and almost immediately moving to MGM Records. In 1974 he successfully re-launched his career as a performer with the hit, "Hang On In There Baby". The album of the same name also yielded the classic single "You and I". But when 1975's follow-up set for MGM, Feeling The Magic, didn't fare as well as it's predecessor, Bristol left MGM for Atlantic Records.

Bristol's Creme was the first of two albums he'd record for the label; best known for its first single, "Do It to My Mind" and the other gem, "I Sho Like Groovin' With Ya". Chartwise this album didn't do very well but despite it poor positioning, "Creme" is still regarded as a sought-after, solid body of work.

In 1982 Bristol released the single "Love No Longer Has A Hold on Me" and album, Free To Be Me on Handshake Records in the US. By the mid eighties Johnny's core audience was based primarily in Europe, so it's not surprising that in 1989 he signed to the UK label Motor City, where he delivered one of his most popular releases "Man Up in the Sky" and later, his own reading of "What Does it Take to Win Your Love".

Johnny's last releases were a 12" single in 1991 for Whichway Records "Come To Me"' and the 1993 album, entitled Life & Love released solely in Japan.

Johnny Bristol passed away at his home in Brighton Township, Michigan March 21, 2004 due to natural causes, he was sixty-five.
Featured cut: "Do It To My Mind"
It's fairly easy to track down an original vinyl pressing of Bristol's Creme. You can probably grab one for under $20 right here. As for the CD reissue, you can pick that up here or here.

Listen to my crispy vinyl rip right here

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quickie: Ramsey Lewis - Spring High

Keepin' it simple today, a little Ramsey Lewis/Stevie Wonder collabo pulled from Lewis' 1977 album, Love Notes!


Sadly, as of this writing, this album still hasn't been reissued but you can easily find an original vinyl copy of Love Notes here or here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Odyssey - s/t


I'm sure we’ve all heard of the group Odyssey, right? If so, you might be thinking of the mid-seventies, New York based trio comprised of two sisters sporting cornrows and a male singer that brought us such hits as "Native New Yorker" and "Don't Tell Me, Tell Her" and you’d be correct.

However, for most rare groove fans and soul aficionados, another musical entity of the same name might come to mind. A small band out of California that hit the scene a few years earlier churning out classic movers like "Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love" and “Battened Ships”.

Odyssey was largely made up of session musicians and featured Royce Jones (lead vocal) who would later go on to sing lead and backing vocals for Steely Dan and Ambrosia), Billy Pierce (lead vocal), Kathleen Warren (Piano, Fender Rhodes, Vibes, & Vocals), Warner Schwebke (Fender & String Bass), Don Peake (Acoustic & Electric Guitar), Don Dacus (acoustic, electric & slide guitar) and Gene Pello (drums) whose signature sound can be heard on countless Motown hits by the likes of the Jackson 5, Diana Ross & Smokey Robinson.

The band's self-titled lp was released back in 1972 on the MoWest label; a subsidiary of Motown handled by the company's West Coast offices before they completely shifted operations from Detroit to Los Angeles. While not a commercial success in its day; over the passing years, “Odyssey” has become a highly sought after piece by DJs and collectors alike.

While some may argue that not all the cuts from Odyssey would fit into the Soul category, there are more than a few standouts among the bunch that pick up the slack for the rest.

Dig for yourself!!

Featured cut: "Battened Ships"
In 1998, the album was officially reissued and released on CD for the first time as part of the Motown/Polygram Free Soul series. It's hard, but a few copies can still be found sprinkled around the net.
On the other hand, if you're prepared to lay out some serious money ($55-$200+) and prefer an original vinyl copy, you can check ebay, GEMM or NetSoundsMusic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Patti Drew

For my first audio post, I’m gonna showcase some tracks from Patti Drew, one of Soul music’s most overlooked artists.
Patti began her singing career as the lead singer of the Drew-vels, which included her sisters Lorraine and Erma and bass vocalist Carlton Black.

Their debut single, "Tell Him" was a huge local hit around the Chicago area and charted number 90 R&B in early 1964.
The Drew-vels broke up later that year, and in 1967, Drew signed a solo deal with Capitol records after a small stint on Peter Wright's Quill label. Her first Capitol single, a re-recording of "Tell Him," hit number 22 on the R&B charts in fall 1967. An LP, Tell Him, was also issued. One year later, her recording of the Neil Sedaka/Roger Atkins song "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" made it to number 34 R&B. A Workin' on a Groovy Thing LP was issued along with two more Capitol LPs, I've Been Here All the Time (1969) and Wild Is Love (January 1970). In 1971, she left the music business but resurfaced in 1975 with a release on Carl Davis and E. Rodney Jones' Innovation Records. During the '80s, she reunited with Carlton Black in the group Front Line and performed around the Evanston area.

Patti’s 1st album, Tell Him, has been reissued by Collectables along with the original Drew-vels rendition of the title song. You can pick it up here

In 2007, Capitol EMI released a decent comp of Patti’s material dubbed, "Workin' on a Groovy Thing: The Best of Patti Drew".

For more info, check here...

If you’re searching for original pressings of Patti’s albums, you can always try your luck here

Tell Him
(from the album, “Tell Him” (Capitol, 1967)

Hard To Handle
(Patti puts her own spin on the
Otis Redding classic, highly recommended!!)


The Love That A Woman Should Give To A Man
(both from album, “I’ve Been Here All The Time” (Capitol, 1969)

Where I'm comin' from


It's been a minute since my first post. I've been goin’ back and forth trying to figure out how I wanted to go about doing this audioblog. What I've decided is, every week or so, I'm gonna try to root thru my personal collection and throw up selected tracks or sometimes even a full LP (providing it's out of print) of whatever I happen to be diggin' at the moment. Be it Jazz, Funk, Soul, R&B, Dance, Blues, Reggae or anything in between, if I like it... it’s going up. Not shooting for super rare cuts or obscure stuff like that $10,000 copy of Don Gherkin & The Pickle Farts', “Funky Toenail, Pt. 1” or anything like that. Instead, you’ll just find some good music that you may or may not own yourself and hopefully like enough to add to your physical collection after hearing it here. Merchant links and other purchase info will accompany each post for those who wish to step up and buy their own tanglible copy. So what I'm saying is, if you really like it... go buy it.

My posting policy is basically this. Any and all music offered here will be encoded at a bitrate of 128k. The files on this blog are to be considered as clips and/or low quality reproductions of material; as such they should not be used as substitutes for retail copies of the material contained within. No pretense has been, nor will ever be, made that these files and their contents have ever been, or ever will be, of retailable quality. These files intended for audition purposes only and by retrieving any music posted on this blog you are agreeing to delete all downloaded material after 24 hours.

All songs will be available for about a month. There may be occasions where I might leave some things up longer than others but still, get 'em while you can because once the window closes, the material becomes stream-only. Please do not request re-ups or download links via comments or email as they will be ignored.

Why? Well, to tell the truth, I really don't want to wind up with thousands of audio files sitting on a server somewhere and risk raising unwanted interest by the RIAA. Not knockin' the cats who choose to freely share without limits; in fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's more appreciative of their efforts that me, but I wanna keep this blog public and open to folks who are genuinely interested in what I'm offering. Plus, to be real, I'm strugglin' 40+hrs/wk just trying to handle a mortgage, a crippling student loan and all the other wonderful expen$e$ of adult life and I really don’t feel like dealing with any legal fees right now. Also, if you're a blogger and would like to feature music from this blog on one of your own, please link back to the original article found here or send me an email and we'll work something out--just don't direct link to a track; that's just foul.

Lastly, the music found here is posted out of love, not with the intention of profit or to violate copyright. If you are the creator (or copyright owner) of a song, excerpt, essay, or image posted on this blog, please contact me at the email above if you want to comment on the selection or wish to have it removed.

Now that that’s all out of the way… onto the music.