Sunday, April 27, 2008

Karin Jones - Under The Influence Of Love

I wish I knew more about Karin Jones but I'm at a total loss on this one. Under The Influence Of Love, released in 1982 on the Handshake label appears to be her only album. The set features arrangements by Dunn Pearson and Dennis Williams and co-production and background vocals by Eddie Levert.

What I DO know is that this album is virtually impossible to find as an original pressing nowadays for less than three figures and the equally elusive twelve inch single of the title track (pictured above) commands anywhere from $50 -$100.

If you're interested in finding your own original copy of Under The Influence Of Love, get that plastic ready and try your luck here.

But if a reissue is good enough for you, you can usually find it on CD or LP right here.

Featured cut: "Last Night In My Dreams"

Listen to the full album here

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cliff Nobles & Co. - The Horse

Nobles grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and began singing in high school as a member of a local group, The Delroys. He moved to Philadelphia and recorded three singles for Atlantic Records, none of which charted. While living in a commune in Norristown, Pennsylvania, he formed a group, Cliff Nobles & Co., with bassist Benny Williams, guitarist Bobby Tucker, and drummer Tommy Soul. They recorded demos and, with the help of songwriter/record producer Jesse James, landed a recording contract with the Jamie/Guyden Records subsidiary label, Phil-L.a. of Soul.

Unfortunately, the band's first release bombed but their second single, "Love Is All Right" b/w "The Horse" made the public sit-up and take notice. The platter featured a group of session players that would later go on to develop into MFSB. The flip side, "The Horse", was simply an instrumental version of the A-side, and lead singer Nobles didn't actually appear on the track at all. Nevertheless, it caught fire at radio stations and became a hit, peaking at #2 for three weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968, as well as #2 on the Black Singles chart. It was held out of the #1 spot by Hugh Masekela's "Grazin' in the Grass", on the week of 29 July 1968 - resulting in the extremely rare occurrence of instrumentals occupying both the #1 and #2 slots of the pop charts in the same week. With the song being a hit, Cliff had developed a dance, and traveled around the country making TV appearances on various shows demonstrating how to do the horse.

Later that year, Cliff's label issued an album entitled The Horse that consisted of mostly instrumentals and dance tunes like "The Mule," "The Camel," and "Judge Baby I'm Back."

Like the title track, there were quite a few other songs on the LP that were actually just instrumental versions of hits by other Jamie/Guyden acts such as The Fantastic Johnny C's "Boogaloo Down Broadway", Barbara Mason's "Yes, I'm Ready", and Brenda & The Tabulations' 1967 smash, "Dry Your Eyes."

[Sidebar: If you listen closely to Cliff's version of "Dry Your Eyes", you can hear Brenda Payton's lead vocals bleeding through.]

One year later, Cliff left the Phil-L.a. of Soul label and signed with Moon Shot Records to release his follow-up album, Pony the Horse.

In 1973, Nobles signed to Roulette Records and recorded his sole single for the label, "Feeling of Loneliness" b/w "We Got Our Thing Together". The track peaked at #42 on the R&B charts in June of that year.

Although Jamie/Guyden Records is still active, they haven't gotten around to reissuing The Horse on CD. The good news is you can still find a copy of the original LP here or here.

Featured cut: "The Horse"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Renee Geyer - At Her Very Best

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Geyer's singing career began in the early 1970s as a vocalist with Dry Red though she soon left for the more accomplished jazz-rock band Sun. The group released one album before Geyer departed in 1972. She next joined Mother Earth whose R & B/soul music style was more in keeping with the style Renee wanted to pursue.

RCA, who had released Sun's album, then signed Renee to a solo contract; however, when it came time to record her first solo album, Renee, already showing signs of her self proclaimed "Difficult Woman" tag, insisted that Mother Earth back her on the album. This first release mainly consisted of R & B/Soul cover versions of overseas hits but Renee and the band nonetheless excelled, stamping them as their own in most cases.

Her follow-up album It's A Man's Man's World was released in 1974 and became Renee's first charting record. The title track, her classic rendition of the James Brown hit from 1965, also became her first hit single. She then formed her own band, Sanctuary, to promote the album. At the time Renee had become disenchanted with RCA and their refusal to let her record more original material. She was prepared to wait out her contract if necessary but Australia's up and coming and most respected independent Mushroom Records, were able to strike a deal where they would record her and RCA would release the albums and singles with a Mushroom logo stamped on the label.

The arrangement led to what some believe is the finest soul album ever released in Australia, Ready To Deal. By this stage Sanctuary, who co-wrote most of the material for the album with Renee, was renamed "The Renee Geyer Band" which was the credit on the album cover. It spawned another of Renee's signature songs "Heading In The Right Direction" which reached the Aussie top twenty in 1976.
Shortly after Deal's release, Renee signed a recording contract with Polydor Records as a solo artist. Before departing for the US however, the Renee Geyer Band released the live album Really Really Love You, recorded at the band's farewell concert at Melbourne's Dallas Brooks Hall.

Renee's first US-recorded album Moving Along was produced by famed Motown Records producer Frank Wilson and saw her own musicians supplemented by members of Stevie Wonder's band, as well as Ray Parker Jr. and other noted US session musicians. Released in late 1976, it provided her with her biggest Australian hit to date with the single "Stares and Whispers". It also attracted considerable attention in the United States when radio stations began playing several of the album's tracks, in particular a re-recorded version of her Australian hit "Heading In The Right Direction" which was issued as the first US & UK Single. Renee's new label was aware that her vocal style had led many listeners to incorrectly assume that she was black, and they urged her to keep a low profile until her popularity had grown, even suggesting that the American release of the album should not include her photograph. Known for her uncompromising and direct personal manner, Geyer refused to allow this deception and insisted on marketing the album complete with a cover photograph of what she later referred to as "my big pink face". With the album's release, interest in Geyer subsided in the United States, an event that Geyer would later blame on her headstrong decision in regard to her marketing. The album garnered Renee a great deal of respect within the recording industry and for several years she worked in Los Angeles as a session vocalist.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, RCA/Mushroom released At Her Very Best, a collection of Geyer's first three albums. The comp also contained the original versions of some songs that were re-produced and re-recorded for her Moving Along album including the non-LP 1976, Band version of "Be There In The Morning".

[Sidebar: I kinda need a late pass for this one. I first got hip to Renee Geyer a few years back while listening to a replay of Gilles Peterson's BBC Radio show. He played the cut "Be There In The Morning" and I was instantly intrigued. Why had I never heard of this woman before? Why haven’t I seen her records in the field? More importantly, what would I have to do to get my hands on this song??? He mentioned that we, the listeners, could probably find the record in Australia... DAMN!! I did some research and hunting around and found the track appeared on her stateside debut album produced by former Motown hit-maker Frank Wilson. I got lucky and nabbed a copy of the LP only to find it was a completely different recording than the one Gilles played!!! DAMN AGAIN!!! After buying a few collections along with a good portion of her catalog I still couldn't find the song he played. I even went so far as to reach out to Renee herself hoping to shed some light on the matter. One of her people said they didn't know of a different version existing and said they’d ask her and get back to me... they never did. Months later, I came across an Aussie-only 45 of the song with different production credits and the song was credited to "The Renee Geyer Band". I took a shot and grabbed it. Glad I did, the search was finally over. Years later, I found out the song was also featured on the equally hard-to-find 1977 At Her Very Best LP which I now share with you.]

Polydor felt there was enough interest in the US for a second album, again recorded with Frank Wilson but this time Renee was not entirely happy either with the mix or the support from the record company. So she negotiated a release from her contract but managed to bring the album tapes home to Australia where it was remixed and released as Winner. Though Renee herself, perhaps a little unfairly, says it should have been called "Loser" as much of the material was not up to standard. She toured the country promoting it but neither the album nor the two singles released from it enjoyed the same success as her previous releases.

In 1979, Renee teamed up with Australian guitarist Kevin Borich to record her next release, Blues License. The album was made up of straight blues material and featured backing from Borich's band Express and other Aussie notables of the genre.

In 1980, now finally free of her original RCA contract, Renee signed directly with Mushroom Records in Australia and they released her next album So Lucky, as well as re-issuing all her previous albums on the Mushroom label. The album was slight departure from the soul style she'd been so closely identified with and added a slightly tougher, more rootsy Rock/R&B style, while incorporating a bit of Salsa and Reggae. The single "Say I Love You" became the biggest hit of her career when it reached number 5 on the Australian singles charts. It also spawned two further Australian hits and was issued in the US on the Portrait Records label.

By this time, Renee was at the peak of her Australian popularity and headlined Mushroom's 10th Anniversary Concert celebration, the "Mushroom Evolution Concert" in 1982. The following year she released a second live album Renee Live, which produced the hit with "Goin' Back" a remake of the Dusty Springfield tune featuring male vocals by Glenn Shorrock.

Back in the US, Renee formed the band Easy Pieces with Hamish Stuart and Steve Ferrone, both former members of The Average White Band. They signed to A&M Records and the band's self-titled album was released in 1988 to excellent reviews, but the label changed distributors just as it was released. Therefore music stores couldn't order copies in, and with no copies on the shelves unfortunately the Easy Pieces album sank without a trace.

Geyer continued as an in-demand session vocalist working with artists like Sting, Joe Cocker, Neil Diamond, Julio Iglesias, Buddy Guy and longtime friend Bonnie Raitt. She headed back to Australia in 1993 to record songs for the ABC-TV mini series "The Seven Deadly Sins." While there, she met one of Australia's most respected songwriters, Paul Kelly, who offered to produce and help write a new album for her. Difficult Woman, would be Geyer's first solo studio album in 9 years and was heralded as one of her very best. While the LP wasn't a hit at the time, the renewed respect and exposure it brought Renee encouraged her to move back to Australia permanently. She later named her autobiography "Confessions of a Difficult Woman" nodding to the album.

Following the release of the Difficult Woman, Geyer then spent time re-establishing herself on the live circuit. She then re-signed with Mushroom Records for a new single which was included on the excellent retrospective The Best of Renee Geyer 1973-1998. The album served to introduce Renee to a new, younger audience due to a bonus disc included with initial copies. The disc featured some of her earlier singles and album tracks, remixed by some of the best up and coming DJs at the time.

The compilation's success led to the recording of her next full length project, Sweet Life. Renee was surrounded by the cream of Australian musicians, the album showed that she was also at the very peak of her exceptional vocal abilities and sold respectably well. The album is also noteworthy for containing many original Geyer-cowrites. However it was to be her last for Mushroom as the company was sold soon after.

In 2001 Australian label, Rajon issued the retrospective 3-Disc set The Great Renee Geyer. Since then, has continued released a steady stream of releases with her latest effort to date being 2007's Dedicated.

Source: edited & tweaked from Wikipedia

At Her Very Best has never officially been issued on CD, but if you're looking for your own vinyl copy, you can sometimes find one here or here.

Featured cut: "Be There In The Morning"

Listen to the full album here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Lovelites - With Love From The Lovelites

Not to be confused with the Brooklyn girl group of the same name, the Lovelites were a Chicago-based vocal group composed of sisters Patti Hamilton, Rozena Petty and friend, Barbara Peterman. In 1967, the trio recorded for local Chicago label, Bandera Records. In 1968, Peterman left the group and was replaced by Ardell McDaniel.

One year after the change in lineup, the single, "How Can I Tell My Mom & Dad" was released on Lock records. The tune, written by lead vocalist Patti Hamilton & producer Clarence Johnson, boldly addressed the then taboo subject of teen pregnancy and went on to sell 55,000 copies locally and 400,000 nationally, peaking at number 15 on Billboard's Soul chart and landing the group a deal with MCA-owned, Uni Records. By this time, the group had also undergone yet another personnel change, as Joni Berlman stepped in for Rozena Petty.

The girls continued working with Johnson as well as producer Johnny Cameron and went on to release their only full-length LP, With Love From The Lovelites. Unfortunately, the album wasn't nearly as well received as the group's previous single and subsequently flopped. After leaving Uni, Johnson started up Lovelites records and the group released a handful of singles.

By 1972, the girls had signed to Atlantic subsidiary, Cotillion records, where they released 2 singles as "Patti & The Lovelites." By 1973, the group disbanded.

Sadly, as so many of these stories go, due to shady dealings and being too young and unaware of the ins and outs of the recording industry, Patti, the group's leader, holds no portions of the publishing rights for any of the songs she wrote and recorded with the group. Clarence Johnson took advantage of Hamilton's inexperience and claimed all the rights and accompanying royalties for himself. Johnson also copyrighted the Lovelites name without notifying the group or their manager. Today, Patti Hamilton resides in Chicago where, as of 2000, she makes her living as a CTA bus driver while trying to launch a career as a gospel singer.

If you're interested in finding an original copy of With Love From The Lovelites, you wont have too much trouble finding it on ebay but be prepared to dig deep in those pockets cuz this is one of those albums that routinely sell for $120 and up. On the other hand, if hundred dollar vinyl isn't quite your bag you still have some options. Click over to Amazon where you can buy 11 of the 12 tracks from the original LP as digital downloads.
Still not happy? Well if you head over here you can cop the CD version of the same songs offered on Amazon plus get yourself a few bonus tracks from long lost female soul trio The Fuzz to boot.

Featured cut: "Oh My Love"
Listen to the complete LP here.