Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Stovall Sisters - s/t

Sorry it's been so long since my last post, my 2K9 got off to a hectic start, but I'm not gonna bore you good people with the details. Let's just get into this post.

For a brief moment in 1971, Warner Bros.Records' Reprise imprint took sometime out from promoting Frank Sinatra,Sammy Davis, Jr., and Lola Falana records to spread the gospel via the electrifying music of the Stovall Sisters. Lillian, Netta, and Joyce Stovall were all born in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were the last three of ten children born to Della Stovall. Four older sisters sang as a church group for years until they married and settled into domestic bliss. The three younger girls sang in churches too as the Little Wonder in the 1950s, but by their teens had changed their name to the Valley Wonders. Della managed the group and booked their concerts. She also snagged them a record deal with a small label.

In 1964,the family moved to Oakland,California, where they finished high school, sang in church as the Stovall Sisters, and took on 9-to-5 jobs. They began to see that there was little money to be made in singing gospel, to they added secular music to their repertoire and started getting nightclub work around the city, lying about their ages because they were still underage. "We were with Ike & Tina Turner for a while," Lillian said in a 1971 press release. "I think we were the 18th set of Ikettes. We did a lot of recording sessions, too, but mostly it was club work. We were [known as] the Sisters Three when we did rock and roll, but we'd still record for the gospel label as the Valley Wonders or the Stovall Family."

Things weren't happening fast enough for their careers, so they took out an as in the Oakland Tribune that read, "Three Black Girls Looking for a Caucasian Band to Sing With." They got a lot of weird calls, but the only decent response from the ad was a keyboardist named William Truckaway. "He came right in and sat on the floor like we'd been knowing him for year," Joyce said back then. Through Truckaway, they did background vocals on "Bluegreens." He also introduced them to his musician buddy Erik Jacobsen, who decided to use them as the background singers on Norman Greenbaum's song "Spirit in the Sky." The song went to No. 3 on the pop charts and became the label's bestselling single up to that time.

Everyone enjoyed the sisters so much that Greenbaum's label, Reprise, decided to record a self-titled LP on them. Reprise issued three singles in 1971 including "Hang On in There," "Spirit in the Sky," and "The World Is in a Change," but none of them took off, The sister' sound was gutsy gospel wrapped in a rock music package and should have been a huge seller. Of particular interest was "Yes to the Lord," a brilliant gospel reworking of Martha Reeves & the Vandella's "My Baby Love Me." Also notable were the powerful vocal punches in the ballad "I'm Ready to Serve the Lord" and the sweet " The World is in a Change." Philip Baily briefly served as their music director before he eventually joined Earth, Wind & Fire. In the meantime, they did background vocals on Greenbaum's follow-up albums Back Home Again and Canned Ham. They did the same on Tom Fogerty's Myopia (1975) and Truckaway's LP Breakaway in 1976.
Bio source: Bil Carpenter's "Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia"

To find out what's going on with the Stovall Sisters today, you can visit their MySpace page by clicking here.

Their self-titled LP is long out of print but with some luck and lotsa patience you may be able to find an affordable vinyl copy here or sometimes here...I did.
The album was also reissued on CD back in 2005 and can be found here & here.

With things bein' as rough as they are lately, it's kinda cool to be able to find some solace within the lines of a song. Stay up y'all... Hang On In There.

Featured cut: "Hang On In There"

Listen to the full album here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jose Feliciano - And The Feeling's Good

Happy 2009 everybody, here's hoping the new is a damn sight better than the old.

Lemme kick off the new year with a new post. Read, listen and enjoy!!!

One of the most prominent Latin-born performers of the pop era, singer/guitarist Jose Feliciano, was born September 10, 1945, in Lares, Puerto Rico. The victim of congenital glaucoma, he was left permanently blind at birth. Five years later, he and his family moved to New York City's Spanish Harlem area; there Feliciano began learning the accordion, later taking up the guitar, and made his first public appearance at the Bronx's El Teatro Puerto Rico at the age of nine. He reputedly sat by himself in his room for up to 14 hours a day to listen to 1950s rock albums, classical guitarists such as Andrés Segovia, and jazz players such as Wes Montgomery. He later had classical lessons with Harold Morris, who earlier had been a student of Segovia 's.

While in high school, Jose became a fixture of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit, eventually quitting school in 1962, at the age of 17, in order to accept a permanent gig in Detroit.

In 1963, after making his rounds with live performances in pubs and clubs around the country, he was signed at RCA Victor. In 1964, he released his first single "Everybody Do The Click" and followed with his first full-length release, The Voice & Guitar of Jose Feliciano. Later, in 1965 and 1966, he released his next two albums, The Fantastic Feliciano, & A Bag Full of Soul. Both were folk-pop-soul albums that showcased his talent on radio across the USA, where he was described as a "10 finger wizard."

In 1966, he went to Mar del Plata, Argentina, to perform at the Festival de Mar del Plata. There, he impressed RCA Victor officials who requested he stay there to record an album in Spanish. They weren't sure what they wanted to record, but Feliciano suggested they record bolero music. The resulting album spawned two smash hits, "Poquita Fe" and "Usted."

After two more successful Spanish albums, Feliciano, now a household name all over Latin America, moved to Los Angeles where he teamed up with producer Rick Jarrard, who was at the time working on projects with Nilsson & Jefferson Airplane. This new pairing gave birth to the album Feliciano! and featured a soulful Latin-tinged cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire." When released as a single in 1968, "Light My Fire" was an immediate success, reaching number 3 on the charts that summer. The buzz from the single launched Jose him into the mainstream pop stratosphere and he immediately followed up with another Top 20 U.S. hit, a reading of Tommy Tucker's R&B hit, "Hi-Heel Sneakers."

In 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, Feliciano was given the opportunity to perform The Star-Spangled Banner at Tiger Stadium during the World Series. His highly personalized, slow, Latin jazz performance proved highly controversial. He accompanied himself on an acoustic guitar. The rendition was released as a single, which charted for 5 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #50. Feliciano's "Star-Spangled Banner" took place 10 months before the more famous Jimi Hendrix rendition at Woodstock. In 1969, Jose took home Grammy Awards for Best New Artist of the Year and for Best Pop Song of the Year. The same year he recorded three LPs — Souled, Alive Alive-O, and Feliciano 10 to 23, but never again equaled the success of "Light My Fire."

In 1970, he wrote and released an album of Christmas music, "Felíz Navidad," and this has probably become his most famous recording. Each year during the Christmas season, the song receives heavy airplay and has been recognized by ASCAP as one of the 25 all-time most-played Christmas songs in the world. In 1971, Jose traveled to Italy to participate in the San Remo Music Festival, singing the song "Che Sarà" in Italian, earning second place in that contest, as well as a standing ovation from the audience. He later recorded the song, which became a popular favorite not only in Italy, but throughout much of Europe, including the Iron Curtain countries, as well as in Asia. Feliciano later recorded the song in Spanish, as "Qué Será," which became an enormous hit in Central and South America, and in English, as "Shake A Hand," a monster seller in Scandinavia.

Throughout the 1970s Feliciano remained an active performer, touring annually and issuing a number of LPs in both English and Spanish, including 1973's Steve Cropper-produced Compartments. Jose wrote and performed the opening theme song to the 70s comedy series Chico & The Man, sung the show's closing theme, "Hard Times In El Barrio" and released songs on his 1974 RCA LP, And The Feeling's Good.

Drawing on his immense popularity, Feliciano was able to dabble in the world of television and film, lending his talents to big and small screen projects both behind and in front of the camera. He did a number of cameos on such TV shows as Chico & The Man, McMillan & Wife, Kung Fu, and served as composer for the 1975 Gordon Parks film "Aaron Loves Angela."

In 1980, Feliciano was the first performer signed to the new Latin division of Motown, making his label debut with an eponymous effort the following year. Throughout the 80s, Feliciano recorded and released albums for RCA, EMI, and Capitol, netting four more Grammys for best Latin performer by the end of the decade.

In 1995, Feliciano was honored by the City of New York, which re-named Public School 155 the Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School. In 1996, he had a short cameo role in the film Fargo.

In 2003 "Guitarra Mía", a special tribute to Feliciano, was produced by the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and aired in Puerto Rico and in cities with large Latino populations in the United States. This television special (and its attendant soundtrack) featured Feliciano and many Puerto Rican and international stars singing some of his most famous songs, along with his personal favorites from other artists.

On December 6, 2006, Feliciano's new Spanish album, José Feliciano y Amigos was released by Universal Records, featuring duets with many other Latin American stars, including Luis Fonsi, Lupillo Rivera, Luciano Pereyra, Rudy Perez, Cristian Castro, Marc Anthony, Ramon Ayala, Alicia Villarreal, Ricardo Montaner and Raúl di Blasio. A special edition was later released and featured Ana Gabriel and Gloria Estefan.

In 2007, Feliciano released an album called Soundtrack of My Life, the first English-language album completely composed and written by him. Feliciano is married to wife Susan; they have 3 children: daughter Melissa and sons Jonathan and Mikey.

And The Feeling's Good is OOP and inexplicably hard to to find but with a little luck and some patience, you can grab an original vinyl copy here at a good price.
Back in 1997, BMG Japan reissued the album on CD as part of the Free Soul series. That CD is now, as usual, out of print and hard to find at a reasonable price. However, if you really want one to call your very own and money is no concern, you can drop coin here and have one arrive at a mailbox near you.

Featured cut: "Golden Lady"

Listen to the full album here.