Well it’s HALLOWEEN again, and that means it’s time to pull out some of my dearly beloved spooky records from under the bed! This year I’ve chosen to feature this incredible Kay Bell and the Spacemen track, because in my eyes it’s one of the absolute best if you’re up for spooks and frightful delights! EVERYBODY SCREAM!!!
Kay Bell was at one point, one half of the youthful and famous pop duo, The Bell Sisters, the other half being her big sister Cynthia Strother. Born in Kentucky, they have four sisters and one brother, and as performers the duo would adopted their mother’s maiden name of Bell. Cynthia 16, and Kay, being only 11, were discovered on October 31, 1951, singing “Bermuda” on a Los Angeles television program called “Peter Potter’s Search for a Song.” The song was released in 1952, it reached #7 on the Billboard charts and sold in the millions, and The Bell Sisters pretty much became a household name, particularly in the US.
They enjoyed a roller coaster ride of success, eventually releasing eleven records (22 songs) for RCA and hitting the charts again with “Wheel of Fortune” (#10). They appeared on many popular radio and television programs, including The Johnny Carson Show, The Frank Sinatra Show, The Perry Como Show and The Dinah Shore Show. They appeared some 14 times with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and opened for Nat King Cole in Los Angeles and also worked with greats Kay Starr, Rosemary Clooney, Lucille Ball, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mel Torme. They took their act on the road (during school breaks) and performed in big cities including New York, Dallas, and Las Vegas.
They also made it onto the big screens, working on the movies Cruisin’ Down the River (Columbia, 1953), Those Redheads from Seattle (Paramount, 1953) and Les Brown Goes to Town (Universal).
Kay Bell would start venturing into solo projects around 1959, singing in ballrooms and performing and broadcasting on radio. In the early sixties, Kay worked with the Space Men (Johnny Schmidt and Sonny Anderson) and scored a residency at the Disneyland Space Bar (now known as Tomorrowland Terrace). She performed with them as many as 6 nights a week, even while attending Long Beach State College for her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She recorded a single as Kay Bell & The Tuffs called Surfers’ Stomp in 1961, written by Schmidt and Anderson and released on Dot.
Kay performed on a couple of live television broadcasts from Disneyland in 1962, on what was a regularly Saturday night screening “Meet Me at Disneyland”, on the Tomorrowland theme episodes Swingin’ Through Space and Talent On Parade. In September 1963, Kay Bell and the Spacemen recorded live two tracks, Surfer’s Blues and Scream Along With The Monster, written by Kay Bell herself (and W. Anderson).
Scream Along With The Monster starts with a VERY familiar “Comin’ Home Baby” groove, which is fantastic, as many innocent listeners would believe they know what they are expecting, when I play this track. But the twist is quick, and Kay Bell is superb in her delivery, preparing you for with what you need to do when you hear green eyed monster’s horn! The energy becomes more frantic as the song progresses, and after two short versus, you can’t help but feel an obsessive need to join in with the screams! I love that this was recorded live! Surely they must have prepared the audience to give them their all, before they pressed record! It’s so much fun but just too quick, but then again, like a fast roller coaster ride, it can leave you out of breath! Surfer’s Blues starts as a bit of a Jazzy stroller but quickly unleashes into a bit of a grinding savage beast with raunchy chaos and beats! Kay really enjoys showing off her vocal skills on this one and it’s such a bonus to have it on this single!
Unfortunately this was the only release from Kay and her Spacemen, and it makes me wonder about all the fun that would be had, listening and dancing to all those live performances they all played together, in those years of the sixties.
Now it’s important I mention, everything I found about about Kay and Cynthia, and the Spacemen, is attributed to the Bell Sisters official website put together by their nephew, who has nicely packaged and categorize a great amount of articles, photos and timelines, he’s been able to unravel about his aunties. So please jump over and dig in, and find out so much more about these incredible talented ladies. There’s also a great FaceBook page with a heap of great images, memories and dedications (links below for both).
Scream Along With The Monster is the ultimate Halloween party track to have, but I really believe it’s just too good to play once a year, so if you are lucky enough to have a copy, people always need a good scream, so spread it out there!
I’m a bit of an Italian “disco” victim and can go weak at the ginocchia (that means knees apparently) when I hear that particular chemistry of new wave electronica, a breathy Italian voice, and a polished spaced out production, combining as one beautiful moment of sound. This lovely track from Patrizia Pellegrino, came out in the early 80’s when this sound was in it’s element. It is a specific genre from a particular time, with a tone I’ve always loved, maybe because it takes me back to my very early teen days, when this “new” exciting style was emerging. While I never had access to this particular Italian style of new wave synth disco back then, it somehow still feels like it fits in to the hair gel scene was I discovering in the early eighties. I’ve been obsessing over this era of Italian dance music for some years, and thought this track from Patrizia, would be a good one to share.
Patrizia Pellegrino was born on July 28, 1962 in Torre Annunziata, Campania, Italy. She is an actress, producer and TV presenter, and today is still a much admired celebrity figure. She released 6 singles between 1981 and 1991, on various Italian labels, and most to me, feel very aimed towards the commercial pop dance floors. It’s very difficult to find any sales numbers for any of these singles, as it was such an inclusive euro market and scene, but that’s not to say her songs weren’t popular. I’m sure they were well loved sound tracks to many.
The stand out for me in Pellegrino’s catalogue is this track Automaticamore, which happens to be the flip side of her debut single Beng!!!. Arranged and directed by Jean-Pierre Posit (real name Claudio Gizzi), a name unfamiliar to me, but after looking up his credentials, looks like he was responsible for releasing quite a number of “easy listening” instrumental recordings throughout the seventies and eighties. After a bit of a dig into his library, Saint-Blas from 1975 would be my top pick which has a really nice synth jazz percussive soundtrack feel to it.
The production on this beautiful mid tempo track is clean and bright, and has a classy Giorgio Moroder feel to it. Pellegrino’s distant whispery voice is mixed so nicely with the defined bass lines and the period correct staccato muted guitars, along with the bright and saturized keyboards and synthesized choir lines. It’s so beautifully eighties and a perfect journey into the stars! This is a nice one to play over a cocktail in a dark room, or late into the night to a beautiful chilled out room.
Pellegrino also had an acting career that started in the early eighties, appearing both on the TV and the movie screens. In 1984 she starred in Breakdance Sensation ’84, about a an Italian dance group that travels to a break dance competition in New York (Pellegrino plays Sharon, one of the key dancers). Directed by Vittorio De Sisti, the film came out to exploit the current break dance craze, but actually featured very little break dancing other than some (presumably second unit) footage of the notorious breakdancer, Mr. Robot. I was able to discover one clip only of the Disco dance contest sequence, which features the “break dancing” contest. See the link below…it’s pretty fun! While Pellegrino wouldn’t appear on any of the recordings, the songs included on the soundtrack including Shannon’s Let The Music Play, make it a respectable record to get a hold off. The film has heavily promoted in Germany, and is sometimes referred with the title Dance Music.
Pellegrino would also star in Italian Boys, around the same time, a film about a group of young DJs who embark on a disco challenge to win the money they need to save their radio channel, Trip Radio. Due to a total economic loss, the rebellious group decides to kidnap the popular DJ Umberto, so as to gain an audience for the broadcaster. However it is soon feared that given Umberto’s success, radio station owner Doctor Viganò decides to keep only him and fire the others. Anyway, reading various descriptions (I have yet to see this film), it seems to get a bit twisted with different parties running scams to either suit their own advantages or save the station. But again, the finale looks like it has another contest of sorts, between a popular rival station and a dj challenge thrown down, to see who can gain the bigger audience. Whoever wins will be rewarded with a lot of money and a flamboyant classy car.
Pellegrino looked like she had a pretty good run with film appearances around this time, starring in Se tutto va bene siamo rovinati (1983), and also being included in the film Final Justice (1984) aswell as starring in Vacanze d’estate (1985). You can see a full list of her film and TV appearances on her current official website (see link below).
As far as further recordings, Pellegrino would release only a small number of singles in the following years, with her final release in 1992. If this feature track is doing it for you, I do suggest have a listen to Musica Spaziale, released a year later in 1982. It’s pretty great. However while none of the later recordings are really my cappuccino, they seem to all be highly sort today, proving she still has a strong fan base, and probably not just in the vinyl collecting world. But I myself, am very content on playing the timeless Automaticamore on endless rotations, for many years to come!
Here is a real fire cracker from Raffaella Carrà! After losing her just a short time ago (on 5 July 2021), I thought this would be a good time to post what I think is one of her best tracks! Shine on Raffaella!
Raffaella was definitely NOT obscure or unknown by any means, especially in Italy where she was adored for a lifetime. She oozed that Italian sassy-ness and bravado and was always a glamorous shining light whether singing on stage or on the screens as an actress or presenter. She was also appearing and performing up until a couple of years before her death, so there is plenty content on line about this wonderful woman, but here’s a brief run down I think you may find interesting.
Carrà was born on 18 June 1943 in Bologna to Raffaele Pelloni and Angela Iris Dell’Utri, her parents, however, separated shortly and Carrà spent most of her childhood between her mother’s bar and the ice cream shop in Bellaria – Igea Marina. She grew up watching the television programme Il Musichiere, a game show that required guests to sing, learning by heart the most popular songs. When she was only eight years old, she left the Romagna Riviera to continue her studies directly in Rome at the National Academy of Dance. At the age of 9, while walking with her mother in Rome and through a family friend, she met the director Mario Bonnard who cast her in his film Tormento del passato, in which she played the very young character of Graziella. At the age of 14 she dropped out of ballet classes.In 1952 she began her studies at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia to study the art and technique of cinematography and film, until she graduated in 1960. Carrà landed a few smaller roles in a couple of films in 1958 and 59, but she really made her debut as a recognized actress in 1960 in the film Long Night in 1943.
SWORDS AND SANDALS: Carra’s film roles would follow with a handful of “swords and sandals” films, an Italian film genre also know as peplum films, a sub-genre of largely Italian-made historical, mythological, or Biblical epics, that attempted to emulate the big-budget Hollywood historical epics of the time, such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Ten Commandments.
She would appeared in films, including Fury of the Pagans (1960), Atlas in the Land of the Cyclops (1961), Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules (1961) as Princess Salirah, Ulysses Against the Son of Hercules (1962), Pontius Pilate (1962) (with the dashing Cocteau star Jean Marais as Ponzio Pilato) and Caesar the Conqueror (1962) with Dominique Wilms as Queen Astrid. There’s not a lot of public images around, with Carrà in these roles for some reason. Maybe she didn’t look at this early stage of her career as her best work? I did not know about this path of Raffaella! Most these films are available on line and look like so much fun! I’ve booked marked them all and so looking forward to watching them!
MUSICALS, COMEDIES AND ACTION THRILLER FILMS: Carrà soon landed opportunities to play more popular roles, in a few comedies, musicals and action films, such as 5 Marines Per 100 Ragazze (1961), The Terrorist (1963), The Organizer (I Compagni) directed by Mario Monicelli and starring Marcello Mastroianni (1963) and La Celestina P… R… (1965). In 1965, Carrà moved to Hollywood after signing a contract with 20th Century Fox, following in the footsteps of her fellow artists Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren and Virna Lisi, Carrà. She appeared in the film Von Ryan’s Express alongside Frank Sinatra, Edward Mulhare and Trevor Howard. But feeling homesick and not liking life in Los Angeles, she decided to return to Italy that same year, and would star in more “local” productions such as the french film Le Saint prend l’affût (1966), Il Vostro Super Agente Flit, an Our Man Flint parody (1966), Why Did I Ever Say Yes Twice? (1969), and the french thriller Cran d’arrêt (1970).
1970’S AND THE MUSIC: In 1970 Carrà participated as a guest actress on Io, Agata e tu, a TV show hosted by the great Nino Ferrer. It was here where she could really show off her singing and dancing talents, which rocketed onwards!
She also presented the musical contest Canzonissima 71, which featured some pretty glamorous fashion, some back breaking dance moves on amazing sets, and a incredibly talented and dynamic house band that played some wild compositions just as “out there”! Here she would she release her hit single “Ma che musica Maestro“. She would also host the Canzonissima 74 edition.
After her success on the Italian market, in 1975 Carrà made her first appearance in Spain when she performed in the variety show Señoras y señores. During these years Carrà concentrated more on her singing career, achieving success in countries including Spain, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, England, Greece, and in particular Latin American countries.The world was becoming well aware of Carra! And there was no stopping her!
Carrà would release a good number of LP’s and singles in the seventies and did well out of them. Her first LP simply titled Raffaella, I’m just discovering is a rare beauty, and also includes this featured single, Chissa Chi Sei (Sookie Sookie). Many would recognise this immediately, as a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Sookie Sookie” from the first their self-titled studio album Steppenwolf, released in January 1968. And it likely is the most well know version. But in truth, the original version is from Don Covay & The Goodtimers, released in 1966 (later released in March 1967 just credited and released by Don Covay).
The song was co-written by Covay alongside Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, who was a big co writer for Stax and Atlantic, co-writing classic songs such as Knock On Wood, The Dock Of The Bay and In the Midnight Hour. This early version is gritty soul and tight, and a real dance floor number, and apparently Cropper plays guitar on the track. The Goodtimers had an incredible line up including Bernard Purdie on drums and Buddy Lucas on tenor saxophone!
Carra’s version is an absolute banger! Why? Well for starters it has Carrà singing it in Italian with her undeniable Carrà determination! Her energy along with the fiery production takes this song onto a far bigger dance floor! Great percussion throughout, with big horns and Hammond organs (sounding very Brian Auger-ish), this is the best version in my book! The great Paolo Ormi E La Sua Orchestra takes the credit for the arrangement, and if you’re into Italian big beat-psycho beat records of the seventies, you will recognize Paolo Ormi’s name associated with tracks like Spiaggia Libera, Cocco Secco and No No No, and also the rare LP releases of P.O.X. Sound 2 and Tastiere.
The LP also includes and amazing version of Foot Prints In The Moon by Johnny Harris Orchestra, titled Conta Su Di Me. This blew my mind! I have never heard a vocal version of this and I’m assuming Carrà wrote the lyrics. Although after a quick Google translate, I was a little disappointed the lyrics weren’t about anything to do with the moon, nor any space travel concepts. Composers Francis Lai and Liberace (I’m not kidding) would both release beautiful versions of the track also in the early seventies.
While many albums followed, and were very successful for Carrà….not a lot of tracks are to my taste to be honest. But she is fun to dig on line for, as there’s some pretty great performances, especially the live clips. She’s a joy to watch and had some great outfits! One absolute amazing performance is her pairing up with Adriano Celentano, singing the great Prisencolinensinainciuso, likely in 1972 or 73! There’s also a great clip of her singing Superman from her 1974 album Felicità Tà Tà, and I also suggest the great Italo disco track Dreamin’ Of You.
Carrà would continue to work in TV for many years, as an actress and presenter, well into the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s. She’d continue with her music path as well, and would appear again on euro vision, would do support benefit gigs and kept releasing records up until 2021. In October 2020, the musical film Explota Explota, based on Carrà’s songs and directed by Uruguayan Nacho Álvarez, was released in Spanish cinemas, a country where she was very much love by for a big part of her life. Carrà died in Rome on 5 July 2021, at the age of 78
Other notable Sooki Sooki covers (all pretty great)…
Philips 6136 001 Série Parade Couleurs France 1970
Track 1 – Xango
Track 2 – Umbanda
The life of the beautiful Tuca was sadly short lived, but she left behind for us some truly glorious musical gifts, including this outstanding 7″. She also played a very important part of a particular album from an artist I have loved my for a big part of my life, Francoise Hardy. So much to celebrate regarding Tuca, but with heart break, there should be so much more.
Brazilian singer, guitarist and songwriter Valeniza Zagni da Silva was born on 17 October 1944 in São Paulo, Brazil. In 1957, Valeniza began to compose while studying classical music at the Conservatory of São Paulo, and a little later during the mid-sixties, she participated in several TV talent-shows while being part of the Group of Popular Music at the University of Architecture and Urbanization of São Paulo. She made her first steps as a professional musician, writing the music for Homem de Verdade, penned by Consuelo de Castro and recorded by singer Ana Lúcia in 1962. Valeniza made her singing debut on the television show Primeira Audição, produced by João Leão and Horácio Berlinck, and would further participate in several very popular Brazilian TV singing contests.
In 1965, Valeniza came up with her new stage name Tuca, and the year saw the release of her first LP Meu Eu. She composed the music on twelve songs of the thirteen, and wrote the lyrics on three, while co writing all the others, including six tracks along side Mexican pop-folk-singer, songwriter, actress, politician and vedette, Irma Consuelo Cielo Serrano Castro, later known simply as “La Tigresa”. Not an easy album to find these days with no re-release. The following year in 1966, in the second Festival Nacional da Música Popular Brasileira, she performed with Airto Moreira a song called Porta Estandarte which was awarded first place, and won them the 1966 Berimbau Golden Award. She followed that prize with a second place position in the 2nd International Music Festival – National Sector, with her composition O Cavaleiro. These award winning songs would then of course also be released as a singles in 1966.
In 1968, she signed a contract with Philips Records who would release her next album, simply self titled Tuca. Similar to her previous album, this release also contains quite complex arrangements and dynamic rhythms and pacing, but also with some absolute soft tones as within Verde and O Cavaleiro E A Virgem. She would also compete in the Festival Nacional de Música Popular Brasileira, singing one of her composition Paixão segundo o amor (Passion according to love) with soprano Stella Maris, which won third place. You really start to comprehend the broad talent of Tuca, and what she was capable of, when you hear tracks like this. The songs from these performances and artists were released on the LP O Brasil Canta No Rio in 1968.
In 1969, due to political issues and rising tensions in Brazil, Tuca went to Europe and settled in Paris and would perform every night at a Brazilian restaurant called La Feijoada. It is here it is believed, in 1971, where she was noticed and befriended by French singer and songwriter (and Goddess) Francoise Hardy. Tuca and Hardy connected very well; the singer later described their meeting as “love at first sight”, personally and artistically speaking. With Tuca’s expressive mind and her Brazilian influence, Hardy was confident she could escape her marketed pop look and sound, and could now really explore new boundaries. Hardy was particularly infatuated with Même sous la pluie, a song Tuca had written for another artist but eventually gave to Hardy. Together they began working on her eleventh album, Hardy’s magnum opus “Françoise Hardy” (also known as La Question, and Un Recueil De Mes Poésies – A Collection Of My Poems in Japan). Lyrically, the album encompasses themes of love, anxiety, eroticism and fear, attributed to instabilities in Hardy’s relationship with Jacques Dutronc at that time. Tuca was also suffering from an unrequited love at the time of the recording. She desired and wanted to be with the Italian actress Lea Massari, who in contrast, had no romantic connection nor was that way inclined. It is believed that this would also shape the album’s content.
The album was not well received by French audiences and radio stations upon release, but today it is celebrated as one of the most important works in Hardy’s discography, now viewed as a turning point in her career, in which she moved toward a less commercial and more sophisticated style. Tuca composed the music for all but one song on the album (Doigts), and rehearsed them with Hardy every day for a month before recording the album (with Guy Pedersen on bass) finishing each track after three takes. After the recording sessions, the duo took a break in Corsica, returning later to compose the string arrangements. For this, Tuca played different themes on a piano for Hardy; once they were chosen, Raymond Donnez was asked to write them. Thus, the making of La Question also marked the first time Hardy “participated in such a crucial choice”. With Tuca’s musical direction and guitar playing, this is truly an incredible album from Francoise! It’s my favourite LP of hers, and apparently also the record Francoise is most proud of and revered. I am falling in love again with this album, rediscovering it, and it’s helping me through this current tough lock down time.
Tuca would release two singles in 1970. The first single was Negro Negrito, which also had the B side Que C’Est Bon L’Amour, and had three separate pressings, from France, Italy and Brazil. The second 7″, this featured single, includes two incredibly fiery tracks, Xangõ on the A Side, and Umbanda on the flip side. Xango is new territory for Tuca with it’s tribal beat and frantic pacing, and unlike anything she had produced before. The B side is even faster and more up tempo. I couldn’t find any production credits other than “Tuca” with this release. This single would also come with a Venezuela release in 1972, and would end up being her final single. Neither of these releases were met with success, and her contract with Philips was subsequently broken.
However in 1974, on her return to Brazil, Tuca would sign with Brazilian label Som Livre, giving her now the belief she would have the opportunity to really express her music from deep within her soul and with all her musical abilities. Her masterpiece, Dracula I Love You, would be her final album. Recorded with Mario De Castro in Michel Magnes’ Château D’Hérouville Studios, where artists such as Pink Floyd and David Bowie would record, the album is a journey through darkness and light, sometimes experimental, and sometimes with tradition. It’s a blessing that Tuca had the opportunity to make this final art work. With no official re release, this album is incredibly difficult to find, which is a real shame as it really is a testament to Tuca and her artistry. I discovered a great article by Diego Olivas, who writes about this album and recommend you have a read (see fondsound.com link below).
As astonishing as her last album was, it also didn’t receive the sales or accolades it deserved, and with the label reluctant to promote the album, I’m sure investing towards any further recordings wasn’t a high priority for the recording company.
Tuca had a big voice and personality and perhaps a demanding passion that went with it. She comes across as fun and radiating when you see footage of her, but with the media always asking about her weight, diet and appearance, and less about her art, well this would have affected her deeply. She was a musical genius, and far too complex for most to comprehend, and maybe management would have found that difficult to market.
Due to complications from aggressive and intense dieting, and a draconian weight-loss program, resulting in inanition starvation, Tuca would leave us in São Paulo on May 8, 1978 at the age of 33.
– del Piero
NOTE – In 1970 Tuca also played guitar for her compatriot Nara Leão, on her album Dez Anos Depois, a double album of Bossa Nova standards and haunting ballads.
Research and references:
Tuca fan page with great pics, videos and tributes
Top right photo of Tuca by Eustaquio Trindade Neto.
I feel many of these incredible artists, who in my opinion are the top singers and performers of the time, seem to be constantly hidden in a faraway past, with very minimal traces of timelines and successes. Perhaps there’s some personal experiences that should stay in the past? Or maybe in some places, those pivotal moments and events that happened, are still living strong in many hearts, and that’s enough? Perhaps in Brazil, Rosa Maria is still celebrated and gets the recognition she deserves? But to an outsider and fan like myself, that today lives and breathes this music, and who really wants to learn more and more about the artist, it really is a struggle to find facts and details, as is the case with this wonderful singer. I was grateful to discover an interview she did for Museu da Pessoa in 2012. I have referenced some of this information from that source and have tried to translate as best as I can, but please forgive me if I have misinterpreted anything.
This truly is one of my most prized Brazilian records, and one that gets played a lot, and will always excite me on every drop. So here’s what I can find out the lovely Rosa Maria.
Rosa Maria Batista de Souza was born Febuary 27, 1945, in Machado, Minas Gerais, a large inland state in south eastern Brazil, and was the daughter of Jorge Batista de Souza and Armanda Costa de Souza. When she was three years old, her mother took her to the Tabuleiro da Baiana in Rio de Janeiro, where a children’s singing contest was being run. She sang Chiquita Bacana, which was popular at the time by Emilinha Borba, and won first place. It was always in her blood. Her parents separated when she was very young, and Rosa would live with her paternal grandmother in Machado, until she passed (on the day of the feast of São Pedro). Rosa was only 8 when she passed away. “It was the biggest tragedy of my life! It was torture. She was everything to me. My ground, my sky, everything”.* Rosa then move in with her father, in Sao Paulo, and this part of her life sounds like a particular difficult time for her. Her father had “many wives”, but Rosa says she really struggled with a particular step mother that wasn’t a nice person to her at all, especially when she was growing into a young lady, which I feel must have been a frightful experience for Rosa.
She started working in her father’s dry cleaning business, and at the age of 9, and was responsible for the employees, with all the money she made going back to her father. At the age of 12, the Juvenile Court came to pick her up. The first days spent in the court were frightening and terrible for Rosa. The girls were the worst they had. She didn’t mix with the offenders, so they would burn her with cigarettes and hurt her with needles. Rosa would spend time at a boarding school and working at a plastics factory. But soon she would be offered a place to stay at Pensionato Maria Gertrudes. She describes this time as wonderful and the best phase of her life, because there she would get to study. She would take courses in ceramics, botany, cooking and embroidery. It was subsidized by Diários Associados, TV Tupi and Radio Difusora. And on the corner was Wilma Bentivegna’s house, and when she came home, passing by on the street, the girls would say: “Wilma’s there!” Rosa would run upstairs to the bathroom to sing, to see if she could find her. But Mrs. Maria José said that she shouldn’t and couldn’t be a singer, and that Rosa had to be a teacher. She said that a singer was a slut!
The Diários Associados would send the records that the radio stations no longer wanted, to the Pensionato. These would land into the hands of a very excited Rosa, and this is how she discovered and became infatuated and hooked with classical music, jazz, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and so many more artists. She would learn and sing along to all the great songs and arrangements.
Some time passed, Rosa had turned 18, and she would decide to move back to Rio de Janeiro and live with her mother. Rosa describes her mother as a very bubbly person, who liked people, long nails, and painting herself a la Carnival, but it was sad for her to see her mother drinking beer, and going to the Carnival. Rosa hated it and knew she was the exact opposite of her mother. She would struggle living in a house with so many rooms and being so close to domestic fighting and arguing. She just wanted to sing!
With all her books and a Barsa (English Portuguese) dictionary she had bought, Rosa studied long and hard, and soon she would be giving classes around the community teaching English, and making some money. She taught in the mornings and afternoons and would look for more work during the day. She was always trying to search for her dream, trying to get spots on the local radio shows. The first time she went to Rádio Mairinque Veiga, on a program called Papel Carbono, she thought it a good idea to do a Angela Maria piece. She was “gonged” but that didn’t make the determined Rosa give up. At Rádio Tupi, where Rossini Pinto presented Today É Dia de Brotos, she sang a song in English and another in Portuguese. Pinto of course invited her back. **
He would introduce Rosa Maria to Jair de Thaumaturgo, one of the main broadcasters from Rádio Mairinque Veiga, where he had a program called Alô Brotos that featured young singers playing rock music, and this is how it is said Rosa got introduced to TV interest. In 1964, the artist started to collaborate for TV Tupi and TV Rio, and in 67 she was hired by TV Record. Many were proposing Rosa to perform American music including conductor, arranger, DJ and singer Erlon Chaves who had a program called Embalo. Rosa was popular on Blota Júnior’s music game show Essa Noite se Improvisa also around this time. This family favourite show aired on Thursday nights for 3 years, and every week, 6 music guests would come on arguing facts about songs and lyrics. Some artists had a prodigious musical memory and would always win. This was the case of Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Carlos Imperial, Silvio César, Rosa Maria and the MPB4 group (Música Popular Brasileira 4), who would always be represented by one of its members, Aquiles. Rosa recalls how she was treated with great affection and attention because they knew where she had came from. “In my first show with Wilson Simonal, he took care of me”. Through television, she was discovered by Roberto Menescal and André Midani, who saw her and invited her to record their first album.
But while all this radio and TV direction was developing, Rosa had already started her music career, singing bossa nova and jazz at the infamous Beco das Garrafas, the name given to a cul-de-sac on Duvivier Street, which housed a group of popular nightclubs in the 50’s and 60’s. This was the meeting place for young Brazilian musicians including Sergio Mendes, Luis Carlos, Bebeto and Wilson das Neves and so many more. Also many now legendary singers would meet here including Elis Regina, Jorge Ben, Sylvia Telles and Simonal.
Bossa Nova was the bones of this exciting movement, but the fact is, that almost all of those artists from the lane, really liked jazz. Bossa would present a handful of songs that would serve as standards, but with so many musicians meeting and exchanging experiences and ideas daily, a revolution and new progression that would be the keynote in the 60’s, would form, a new Samba Jazz style. Groups began to emerge, such as the Tamba Trio, the Bossa Três , by Luís Carlos Vinhas, the Sextet by Sérgio Mendes and Sambossa 5 among dozens of others.
Rosa adapted well to the Bossa, Samba and jazz repertoire, and in 1965 she recorded her first EP for Odeon, which included the upbeat Tudo Rosa and also Vai Em Paz, a cover of Walk On By composed by Burt Bacharach. The following year she released the single of Pãozinho Do Leblon with the very great Samba Jovem on the B side. Also 1966 would see her first LP by the name of Uma Rosa Com Bossa and would included the outstanding tracks Capoeira De Oxalá, Minha Filosofia, Fica Só Comigo (with Wilson Simonal) and the brilliant Peter Gunn themed O Grito. This album is so rich and timeless. Orchestrated by João Theodoro Meirelles, composer, arranger, saxophonist and flutist, credited as one of the originators of Samba-Jazz and an important figure in the Bossa Nova movement. And produced by Lyrio Panicali, conductor, arranger and pianist. This would be her only LP release for quite some, up until 1980 on the release of Vagando. But she would release over a dozen singles before that LP release, and some are real rippers, with standouts from 1972, Deixa não deixa and Avenida Atlantica, and also the big Rio Da Felicidade in 1976.
Rosa’s first musical theater experience was in 68, in the production Hair. “It was a revolutionary piece. People were naked. I didn’t get naked because I was already a singer and it wasn’t good for my image to be naked, but a lot of actors did. It was a wonderful experience, it made me smarter about the world.”* She would perform in Hair for a good year.
From the beginning of the 80’s, Rosa Maria established herself as a jazz singer, playing alongside the Traditional Jazz Band. She would release 8 more LP’s from 1980 to 1992. A department store TV commercial in 1988 that included her version of California Dreamin by The Mamas & The Papas, lifted her to the top of the charts. In the late 90’s Rosa changed her name to Rosa Marya Colyn. In 1991, she was honored in her birthplace, Machado, in the state of Minas Gerais, in a gala night at the Clube dos 30, with the Cidade Presépio Award, for her body of work. She would also appear on a few popular TV shows over the years, presenting her acting talent.
I strongly suggest for readers to have a listen to the Rosa Maria interview linked below from 2012. It’s lovely hearing and watching her talk. You can clearly see her eyes light up when things were good, and get that understanding when they weren’t so good. I loved learning a bit more about the wonderful Rosa Maria. -del Piero
** Rossini Pinto was one of the most important names in the Jovem Guarda movement, and helped establish several artists, including Roberto Carlos and Erasmo Carlos, with his own compositions and Portuguese versions of British and American rock songs.
I have always been a big fan of the Fire label and this single from Gay Poppers, as far as I’m concerned, is one of their best releases! Please any doo wop and rhythm and blues experts please feed me more info on this one! I’ve searched for information for too long and nothing! I want to know!!!!
Their first release was under the name The Gay Poppers (losing the “The” on following releases) and released on the Savoy label. Savoy was founded in 1942 by Herman Lubinsky, specializing in Jazz, R&B and Gospel and played an important role in popularizing bebop. Savoy recorded some of the biggest names in jazz including Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, and Charlie Parker. But regardless of the success of the label, Lubinsky didn’t sound like a particular nice person and was commonly hated by many. If you want to know a bit more about the Savoy label check out the Wiki page link below. The A side is a great stroller called You Better Believe. The flip side carries the track I Need Your Love with both tracks listing Graham-Donn as writing credits. This single is far less sort after and quite attainable, and actually not a bad one at all to have.
The next release for “Gay Poppers”, was on the Fire label in 1960, (from New York under the parent label Fury), a label that was co founded by songwriter and producer Bobby Robinson. He was also a legendary Harlem record shop owner (Bobby’s Records And Tape Center and Bobby’s Happy House), and penned and produced numerous hit records from the 1950s up to the 1980. The BIG A side titled I Want To Know, is a dance floor monster. “Do you love me….Do you really care…I want to know… I want know… I want know now”. The opening lines are now an infamous introduction, and unless you have some kind of problematic hearing condition, this is when you drop everything and head quickly towards the dance floor, if you’re not already there. Truthfully, I wouldn’t play this out very often. This is a special one, and that would only come out for a very particular special occasion. I always believed the dance floor would need to earn this one. The flip side that is I’ve Got It, does not deserve to be ignored either, but it definitely is more suited for those gospel stomping lovers. Nathaniel Black gets writing credits for both these tracks along with Bobby Robinson as producer.
Gay Poppers final single release was again on the Fire label just a year later in 1961. The A side is a track called You Got Me Uptight written again by Bobby Robinson, but also alongside Fury Records owner Clarence L. Lewis, who is best known as co-writer of Lee Dorsey’s 1961 hit song Ya Ya. Uptight is a well paced and perhaps typical rhythm and blues track, but a pretty damn good one. However the moody B side Please Mr. Cupid, I find quite astonishing as it has that irresistible haunting mood and tempo I just die for! Nathaniel Black gets the credit for writing this beautiful piece.
You have to move quite a few years forward into the disco era actually, before any further Gay Poppers related recording is released, well at least as far as I can make out. There is a single solo release by Nathaniel Black called Keep On Steppin‘, released on NDR Records, a late-1970s era North Carolina record label, that only released another 2 singles with separate artists. With a track called Freak All night on the flip, this single, which I didn’t know about until now, seems to go for big money. I’m guessing the pressing had a very short run which would add to its desirability.
So yeah that’s it! That’s all I could really gather together regarding the Gay Poppers group, who is responsible for this killer R & B single. Always grateful for anything else! Some one out there must know something surely?
La Ragazza Fuoristrada OST Piero Umiliani – Bla Bla – BBR 1338 Italy 1973
This is a pretty special one, among my beloved mountain of 7″ soundtracks, and these tracks are in fact the only recordings by Eritrean-born Italian actress Zeudi Araya. The A track is fascinating and quite a hypnotizing piece, that pulls you right down into the beautiful deep dark water of sensuality. Composer Piero Umiliani recorded the soundtrack for La Ragazza Fuoristrada in 1973, which starred Zeudi in the lead role as Maryam, but for some reason the two vocal recordings for the film, did not end up on the soundtrack LP. But instead, and thankfully, they did end up on this Italian released single!
Piero was much more than a talented piano player and composer. He truly was one of the top master and pioneer composers of cult Italian films of the 60’s and 70’s. Providing soundtracks to films such a Il Marchio Di Kriminal 1968, Paranoia (Orgasmo) 1969, Five Dolls For An August Moon (5 Bambole Per La Luna D’Agosto) 1971, My Darling Slave (La Schiava Io Ce L’Ho E Tu No) 1973 and of course Sweden Heaven and Hell (Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso) 1968 in which Umiliani composes his famous Mah Nà Mah Nà, made famous by The Muppets.
Umiliani also founded his own label Omicron in 1964, where many more of his soundtrack works would be released. As he would also compose a lot of way out compositions that would not appeal to the Italian producers, this became the perfect outlet for him to release some of his incredible abstract, experimental and library albums such as Preistoria, Atmospheres, L’Uomo Nello Spazio and Psichedelica (Umiliani was also a great collector of music instruments from all over the world, and was one of the first in Italy to experiment with the Moog and other electronic keyboards). Some of his releases were under the alias Moggi, including my favorite Tra Scienza E Fantascienza from 1980, and also Omaggio a Einstein, Tensione and News! News! News!. By the end of his career he had written more than 150 soundtracks, without considering the music composed for documentaries, theatre and television.
While there’s so much to know and discover about the great Umiliani, unfortunately there’s not a lot out there regarding Zeudi. No official website and all the general film and music go to sites are very brief and unhelpful. Which is a real shame of course. Thankfully there’s one or two Italian websites that share a few details, that I’ve hopefully translated correctly.
Zeudi Araya was born on the 10th of February, 1951, in Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and is a former actress, singer, model and currently a film producer. Zeudi was the daughter of a politician and granddaughter of an Ethiopian ambassador to Rome. She graduated in 1969, and the same year she was elected Miss Eritrea. She is one of the best-known actresses of the Italian erotic cinema of the seventies, thanks to films such as La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, and Il Corpo, and was second only to Laura Gemser, another icon of that particular Italian genre of cinema.
A trip to Italy opened the doors of Cinecittà to her almost by chance. In 1972 Araya starred in a commercial for a coffee, where director Luigi Scattini noticed her, and would cast her along with Beba Lončar, in his film La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna, shot in the Seychelles. The film is noted as being quite successful with the Italian audiences. The role was that of a girl from the Tropics who screwed up the marriage of a middle-class couple, with her overwhelming eroticism. Alberto, an engineer, and Helen, a magazine photographer, had been married for a few years, but their marriage was in crisis and they would betray one another. This debut film launched Araya as an up and coming actress. Mass media interest followed, as did other erotic films roles, mostly directed by Scattini from 1973 to 1975.
So the plot in her follow up film, that includes this feature track, La Ragazza Fuoristrada, again really circles deeply around Zeudi and her stunning model looks. Giorgio Martini, an advertising journalist who went for a shoot in Egypt, falls in love with the beautiful Maryam. He takes her with him to Ferrara, Italy, introduces her to his perplexed (perhaps disapproving) parents and marries her. Maryam’s ingenuity, spontaneity and sincerity burst into this provincial town and collide with a hypocritical, mean and racist environment. He will then be the victim of the cruel game of a former mistress of the journalist and of a joke combined by two rejected friends. Giorgio, thinking that Maryam has betrayed him, begins to neglect her. After having an abortion, she abandons him and returns to her people. Umiliani’s score throughout this film is wonderfully suited and at times just breathe taking (I’m basing this from the clips I have seen and knowing the official soundtrack). Zeudi sings two songs in the movie, Oltre l’acqua del fiume in Italian and Maryam, in Amharic. If you spend most of your life tracking down this rare record, and you do happen to get your hands on it, you’ll likely not be disappointed that it doesn’t contain the two vocal tracks, although you will then need to track done this featured single.
After Araya’s marriage with the film producer Franco Cristaldi, she would go on to star in the films Mr. Robinson in 1976, Atrocious Tales of Love and Death in 1979, and staring Marcello Mastroianni and Ornella Muti, Tesoro Mio also in 1979, than a fantasy film called Hearts and Armour in 1983, and starring the late Tanya Roberts as Isabella, and finally in Control in 1987.
In the early 1990s, Araya withdrew from the film scene. After the death of her husband, Araya became an active part of film production work, and still today produces several films for cinema and television, always remaining behind the scenes (she returned to television only in 2001, interviewed by Daniele Luttazzi, for the program Satyricon), with her new partner, the director Massimo Spano, with whom she had a son.
As is the case with a lot of these obscure Italian films, they are difficult to source, and therefore I have not had the privilege to enjoy many of them, including the film that has this featured track. But for me, that doesn’t really matter so much as I love the music enough and that’s where it holds that special place. I will continue to try and find these obscure films ofcourse but it is a challenge, trust me.
Zeudi Araya also also appeared in the Italian version of Playboy magazine in March 1974, which I may have to track down, to you know, maybe find out more information about her.
Araya’s starring films…
1972 La ragazza dalla pelle di luna – Also known as The Girl With The Moon Skin, Sex of Their Bodies, Moon Skin and The Sinner
1973 La ragazza fuoristrada
1974 La Preda – Also known as The Prey
1974 Il Corpo – Also known as The Body
1975 La peccatrice – Also known as The Sinner
1976 Il signor Robinson, mostruosa storia d’amore e d’avventure – Also known as Mr. Robinson
1979 Giallo Napoletano – Also known as Atrocious Tales of Love and Death
1979 Tesoro Mio
1983 Hearts and Armour – Also known as I Paladini: Storia d’armi e d’amori
1987 Il giorno prima – Also known as Control and Mind Control
I picked up this haunting love song a few years ago, but since, I haven’t really been able to find a lot about the singer or the release. Well, regardless of my inability, here’s a brief post hoping someone out there can shed some light on this relatively unknown singer.
So what 45Cat and Discogs are telling me, is that she did have 4 single releases from 1960 to 1963, all on Columbia. Her first single was an upbeat blues rocker called, Itty Bitty Love, flipped with the lovely slow and swaying So Little Time. Predominantly released in the US early in 1960, however 45Cat shows an odd distribution here in Australia later that same year, on the CBS Coronet label. It also actually looks like a panel sheet-sleeve came with a promotional record for this release, with a picture of the beautiful Hannah!
A 45Cat member who is fortunate enough to have a copy, also gratefully shares the back cover, and reads this about Dean…“Hannah Dean’s style is a mixture of rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer”. Irving Townsend, Executive Producer for Columbia Records in Hollywood, sent this personal evaluation of Hannah Dean’s talent to Columbia’s producers in New York along with Hannah’s first record – “So Little Time” backed with “Itty Bitty Love.”
The response was rapid. They agreed down to the last man. Hannah’s unique vocal quality is understandable because she has been a gospel singer since she was two and still sings regularly in a Los Angeles Baptist Church where her mother serves as minister. Until two years ago she was a Los Angeles house wife, completely unaware that she could be an extraordinary popular singer.
She was heard at a church by a Los Angeles talent scout who suggested immediately that Hannah should consider a popular career. Hannah told him frankly that she had no formal training and only sang popular music to herself and a few friends. Nevertheless, she was bolstered by his confidence and agreed to make the demonstration record which soon after brought her a Columbia recording contract. Hannah’s Dean’s first record launches for her a career as promising as it was unanticipated.
I also came across a fellow blogger with similar record collecting habits, and found a link on their The Listening Post blog, that pointed me to this short review from The Billboard dated September 5, 1960. It reads… HANNAH DEAN is a new name on the scene via the release of her first Columbia Record, ‘So Little Time/Itty Bitty Love’. Until two months ago she was a Los Angeles housewife whose only singing outlet was the L.A Baptist church. She was heard at the church by a talent scout who encouraged her to make a demonstration record that found its way to Columbia Records and resulted in a contract. Irving Townsend, Executive producer for Columbia in Hollywood, describes Miss Dean’s style as a “mixture of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer.”
In 1962, Dean released Open Sesame / Without your Love. At this very time, I cannot find even a sound bite of this release. There are a couple of copies on ebay (not big money) but unfortunately not one seller supplies an audio sample. So I’m at a loss to tell you anything about this one.
Dean’s Gospel righteousness roots and vocal capabilities come out for her 1963 release You, You, You. The B side High Noon has everything I love about the beautiful popcorn genre, and now makes me want to get my hands on a copy.
So back to Strange Man. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this release is quite unknown, especially as it sits on one of the bigger labels. The production is absolute killer. It has all the ingredients, the devilish blues guitar work from intro to end, the flute, Dean’s deep soul lines as well as the backing vocals, all sitting in the exact right place. When I hear tracks like this, I am aware this is no lost recording accident. Everyone in that recording studio at that time knew what exactly was being produced. Imagine as a musician, coming home from the studio late at night and realising what you were just a part of. And being in the midst of this truly holy and graceful Hannah Dean! January 16, 1961 Billboard Music Weekly states “Strange Man – On this side the thrush turns in another attractive performance on an unusual piece of bluesy material. Two sides show off her strong pipes”.
On the flip is one of many many covers of (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over, originally released in January 20, 1939, by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, with Vocal Refrain by Bea Wain. I might go to hell for saying this, but Dean’s version is smoking hot. There’s something about her commitment that maybe can only come from that very deep part of the soul of a gospel singer. There are some beautiful versions of this song out there, from artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nancy Wilson and my personal favourite from Aretha Franklin, and this Dean version sits up high along side these.
So where does this odd 33rpm 7″ release fit in? To be honest, I’m not sure as there’s no catalogue I could find online of this particular release. There is one small hint which is Columbia Marcas Reg. appears on the label, so possibly this is a Spanish release. But Marcas is also Portuguese, and as many Brazilian 7’s come with the 33rpm format, maybe this is it’s origin?
Should we be sad that so many of these unknown songs that surface today, are hidden in the past with no real leads to the artist and their faces? Or should we respect their gospel roots and maybe it was their decision that stardom and popularity wasn’t something as important to them. Tonight, with the lights dimmed down low, I can place the needle down gently, and be grateful that singers like Hannah Dean did gift us with at least a few beautiful songs we can hear and appreciate today. And be thankful, many years ago, these great ladies did have that fleeting time behind that microphone, that is here to stay, and forever.
I hope you can also hear the honest beauty of this track and Hannah Dean. She passed away on May 6, 2004 at the age of 71.
UPDATE! So thanks to my good friend Kristy, who knows how to really dig deep into the hidden corners of the internet, some light has been shed onto Hannah and her career path. It looks like Hannah pursued an acting career in theater and also had a good run in film and TV. Although looks like many TV roles were the type cast “maid” characters and similar. Thanks to DJ Soup for also recognising her as an actress.
Here’s some, but not all of her screen appearances and plots…
The Black Six Hannah Dean as Mrs. Daniels – 1973 “Six times tougher than Shaft! Six times rougher than Superfly! See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!” A black high school student is caught dating a white girl by the girl’s brother. He and his white supremacist motorcycle gang beat the boy to death. The boy’s brother an African American veteran of the Vietnam War hears about it and his motorcycle gang, known as the Black Six, vow to avenge his brother’s death.
The World’s Greatest Lover 1977 Hannah Dean as The Maid Directed and written by Gene Wilder Starring Dom DeLuise as Adolph Zitz and Carol Kane as Annie Hickman. A neurotic baker travels to Hollywood to attend a talent search for an actor to rival the great Valentino. Although not an actor, through blind luck he succeeds, to a certain degree.
Every Girl Should Have One 1978 Hannah Dean as Ernestine. Also starring Zsa Zsa as Olivia Wayne, and Z-man himself, John Lazar as Chris. A million dollar diamond theft involving unlikely thieves, zany lovers and a fast talking maid sets this comedy caper zooming from sophisticated discos to exciting chase scenes all in a spirit of good, innocent fun.Mother, Jugs & Speed 1976 Looks like Hannah may be unaccredited in this American black comedy film? It stars Bill Cosby as Mother, Raquel Welch as Jugs, Harvey Keitel s Tony “Speed” Malatesta, and Larry Hagman as employees of an independent ambulance service trying to survive in Los Angeles. Also stars Toni Basil as the junkie.
Out Of The Blue 1979 12 Episodes Hannah Dean as Gladys (The house keeper) This one was a popular but brief TV show about Random, an angel-in-training who is assigned to live with a suburban Chicago family, while trying to earn his wings by doing good deeds. Hannah had a big part in this series.
This article was found on the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) Sun, Sep 30, 1979.
Hannah Dean was born into music in her Native New Orleans. She was giving concerts in church at the age of 3 and literally sung her way through life. She completed a 6 month run of “The Evolution of the Blues” on stage just before the production start of “Out Of The Blue”.
After her sixth child and the Watts Riot inadvertently started her on her acting career. She had decided to cancel all singing dates until after h the birth but worked with young people in Watts teaching choral work. In 1965, following the riot, her Watts Community Youth Choir became affiliated with the Mafundi Institute…a culture center created in the devastated area. There she won a role in the stage production “Don’t Bother Me, I Can Cope”. This led to other theatrical productions that included Porgy and Bess with Mickey Rooney.
She began recording in the early 50’s with a gospel song “Every Day and Every Hour” with The Branch Gospel Singers. This was followed by “Baby My Love” on an obscure label and then she was signed by Columbia Records where she recorded “So Little Time” Without Your Love” and Itty Bitty Love (backed by The Blossoms). At this time, she meet songwriter Jon Hendrick, who had just written “The Evolution Of The Blues” Some of the numbers were sung by Mahalia Jackson at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Jackson cancelled her tour and Columbia’s Erwin Townsend Suggested Dean. She received a standing ovation which prompted Columbia to record “Evolution” with Dean singing the gospel songs. Dean went on to sing “Evolution” at the Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and on a Canadian tour.
The Jon Hendricks LP release of Evolution Of The Blues Song from 1960 was released on Columbia and credited with The Hannah Dean & Chorus. Hendricks is one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists, and is considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing. A very interesting article discovered here, on the live performance of Evolution Of The Blues, with a brief interview from Hendricks and Dean.
12 years ago today we lost the legendary Marc Moulin, so I thought this is a nice opportunity to post the one and only seven inch Placebo ever released, in his honour. I was hoping I’d be able to dig up and share some hidden knowledge about this great man, but despite his legendary cult following even to this day, still not much out there that hasn’t really been shared before. I will however link to some rare footage and interviews that I have sourced and referenced below post.
The Belgian musician, producer and journalist was without a doubt a pioneer to experimental electro jazz funk. An absolute master on keyboard and synthesizer, his pre-hip hop rhythms and sound experiments was more than high end musicianship, but was also luminescent artistry at it’s peak.
Moulin began his career in the 1960s playing the piano throughout Europe and in 1961 won the Bobby Jaspar trophy for Best Soloist at the Comblain-la-Tour festival. In the early-mid seventies, Moulin formed the jazz-rock group Placebo with his close friend, guitar player Philip Catherine. They released three LP’s from 1971 to 1974 and were widely played on the alternative scene in the early 70’s. The first two Lp’s Ball Of Eyes and 1973 are the real blazers, but all 3 releases are believed to have very low pressing numbers, resulting in big money exchanges for original copies. But of course the allure comes down to every moment in between every groove.
Balek is a deep dark and cosmic journey and thankfully runs it’s entirety on this 7″, however it’s beautifully sedated flip Phalène II, is understandably an edited down version due to it’s running time on nearly 8 mins on the LP. As a music blog, I prefer not to try and describe sounds, moods and feelings, and instead would prefer the listener to appreciate their own ears and interruptions. But if I was too try and describe Balek? Balek is a dark light. It is science fiction in it’s sexiest form. It is flesh made up from electric energy. Creeping and slithering, seductively, enticing the soul. It is an ageless composition that has not lost any lustre since conception, and will continue to be sampled and held up in high regard by music enthusiasts and record collectors around the world. The LP 1973 as a whole, is a trip of syncopated moods and Balek is quite the pleasant disturbance. Even with everything that has happened in music from the then to the now, this instrumental album still engages defiantly. The excitement Placebo must have stirred up among the underground hipster jazz heads, with their groundbreaking and captivating musical explorations, must have been at the height of praise at the time.
In 1975 Moulin would release another underground showpiece entitled Sam’ Suffy, this, his premier solo album. A compelling and unique mosaic of jazz, soul, and electronic elements, it now has become highly influential, especially in acid jazz, hip and trip hop circles around the planet. Many fans say this is Moulin at his best. It’s a stunning piece of work, comparable to a cinematic dream.
Following Placebo’s breakup in 76, Moulin went on to become a member of the avant-rock band Aksak Maboul in1977 and also formed the space pop group Telex in 1978. Alongside programmer/sound engineer Dan Lacksman and vocalist Michel Moers, Telex would release five albums between 1979 and 1988 and would end up with some big sales in Europe, UK and in the US, with their unique quirky computer electro dancers.
During the ’80s, Moulin worked as a radio producer, and was the big shot of a revolutionary FM radio station in Belgium, Radio Cité. He would interview greats such as Miles Davis, and also wrote for various Belgian publications, including ‘Télémoustique’. I highly recommend you check out the link below to witness the live recording of Placebo in Bruxelles (Belgium, 12th April 1973).
Moulin died of throat cancer on 26 September 2008. He was 66 years old.
Below are links of sourced material and related interests…
Leo Morris was born on November 13, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was a banjo player (his family originated from Nigeria), and his mother was French, and he had three brothers and a sister that played drums, so it was inevitable that he would follow the same path. Leo remembers his first day at school and the moment his teacher gave him a drum instantly when she had learnt this kid was another “Morris”. And he can also recall his mother’s reaction when he walked in with yet another drum for the house.
Leo knew at a young age that music was going to be his life. One Mardi Gras day, some Dixieland guys came by seeking a drummer, and asked his mother if he could play on the back of this truck with these old musicians. Some how they convinced her to let the 9 year old go with them. They had a big bass drum and one snare drum and a symbol, and they built up some beer cases for a seat for him. “This kid can play” acknowledged one of the musicians, and after about six hours of touring through the streets of New Orleans, they started passing out money and gave the surprised kid two $5 bills.
In his early teens Leo was snatched up by Arthur Neville who had band The Hawkettes, and believes he was only chosen because all his other brothers were already working at that time. That was the launching of his professional playing career…playing rhythm and blues. They would back up all of the important artists that would come to New Orleans, including Big Joe Turner and Muddy Waters, and would go on the road with people like Fats Domino, Eddie Bo, Earl King, and Lloyd Price. Thanks to Joe Jones recommendation (who had the hit You Talk Too Much) he scored his first trip to New York as Sam Cooke’s personal drummer, and that was certainly an eye opener!
For a time Leo became Jerry Butler’s musical director, along with Curtis Mayfield (who was the guitarist) and was recording a lot of music in Chicago. Curtis put The Impressions back together (between 1958 and 1960 they performed as Jerry Butler & The Impressions) and made Leo an offer he couldn’t refuse, so he joined up. After about three and a half years, deciding that the Chicago winters were too cold, and the fact that his wife, who was the lead singer with The Crystals, was living in New York, he moved back to the big city. Working the Apollo Theatre at nights, Leo would cross over afterwards to the jazz clubs like Birdland, “just to hear something else”. This music was jazz, and he was experiencing it by watching Miles Davis and Coltrane, Cannonball and the likes. In an interview with allaboutjazz.com, he says…”I’d just be hanging around, listenin’ at what they were sayin.’ I was too young to have a drink in Birdland. They had a space in the club they called the Peanut Gallery. That’s where all the young people used to go and have a Coca Cola and listen to the music”.
One night he wandered over to the Five Spot to hear a guy that all the members in the band were talking about, who played three horns at one time…a cat called Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Completely amazed, Leo asked the drummer if he could step in and play one tune with Kirk. After the song had finished, Kirk turned around and said, “Who’s that on them drums? Keep that beat! Keep that beat!” Leo ended up playing the whole set. Night after night, he kept on attracting he right attention. American jazz trumpeter, singer, and composer Kenny Dorham spotted him and asked if he could do concert with him. After a couple rehearsals, he played the concert at Town Hall with Dorham’s band. Also on he bill on the same night were Freddie Hubbard’s band and Lee Morgan’s band who also wanted to know who this new young New Orleans “jazz” drummer was and how do we get him? “I had this rhythm no one else could play”.
Never playing jazz before, he was now “the” drummer to have. After playing in Betty Carter’s band with (George Coleman, John Hicks and Paul Chambers) he joined up with Lou Donaldson in 1967, who started as a sideman in more or less straight ahead jazz settings, but now had begun experimenting with more bluesy beat-heavy styles, and recorded a string of influential albums on the Blue Note label. The first LP (recorded April 7, 1967 and released August 1967 ) was Alligator Boogaloo, a classic jazz masterpiece that also included Lonnie Smith on organ George Benson on guitar. Leo record a dozen or so LP’s with Donaldson and Blue note in the sixties, and would continue to work with a barrage of other Jazz “gods” at this time. His collaboration with jazz saxophonist Rusty Bryant is standout for me (by this time Leo Morris had changed his name to Idris Muhammad upon his conversion to Islam). In 1971 he recorded on the Fire Eater LP for the Prestige label, releasing that killer 7″ edited version of Fire Eater which includes that furious break, and is always sort by collectors. He also recorded on the Soul Liberation and Wild Fire LP’s.
In 1971 Prestige released Black Rhythm Revolution!, Muhammad’s debut album in the driver’s seat, and would be accompanied by a double funk 7″ which include two strong covers, Charles Wright’s Express Yourself and James Brown’sSuper Bad! Although perhaps considered less intense than the title might lead one to believe, the LP is the opportunity for Muhammad to express and reveal just what this man is capable of, a taste test of what is to come. Peace and Rhythm was released later that same year, and this one comes with far more praise from the enthusiasts. A dynamic LP with more of everything and everyone, it includes his regular line up of greats (Melvin Sparks, Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Jimmy Lewis and others) but also in came with the new addition of his wife Sakinah Muhammad.
Sakinah Muhammad was a former member of The Crystals and back then was known as Dolores “LaLa” Brooks (she also converted to Islam with Idris). Brooks was the second youngest of 11 children, and first displayed her talent by singing gospel music in church. At age seven, she took part in her siblings’ gospel group called the Little Gospel Tears, where they sang in Brooklyn. She was discovered in an after-school program by Crystals member Dolores “Dee Dee” Kenniebrew and her mother, who invited her to join the girl group as a replacement for a departing member. The youngest member of the group, she joined when she was just 13 years old and only after 2 years she became the lead singer. Coupling La La’s strong voice with Phil Spector’s (pictured) Wall of Sound, the Crystals would become one of the defining girl groups of the 1960s. Her first hit as lead singer was Da Doo Ron Ron, a top 5 hit in both the United States and United Kingdom, and then was soon followed by Then He Kissed Me. The 7″ to track down in my opinion is the post Spector uptempo R&B killer I Got A Man, released in 1966 on United (flipped to Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby). There are a handful of versions of this song and all great, and I’m guessing the Sugar N Spice version as it has a 1964 release, is the original (although song credits differ on each release). There is a rare issue by Barbara Harris of The Toys released in 1965, which I’m almost certain is the same version officially released by The Toys the next year. Again, all nifty versions worth tracking down.
So back to the featured track I’m A Believer, in which I question, is even possible to find a more spiritually uplifting song ever? You have to realise when listening to this, the strength and bond Idris and Sakinah must have shared together. The chemistry between every band member is exhilarating. Idris’ complex rhythms somehow come across with such nimbleness and feels so unconfined. Melvin Sparks on guitar and Jimmy Lewis on bass, together collaborate as the backbone that allows Sakinah to express her beautiful vocal lines and melodies. As in many cases, the 7″ has a cut down version and only runs at just over 2.30 mins, where as the longer LP version is where the horn sections of Virgil Jones and Clarence Thomas have the opportunity to fly gracefully between the song’s blissful arrangements. It’s a song about belief in the Lord, but I also think it’s a song about having faith and hope when your life is falling into pieces, and maybe that strength will come through friends or family or perhaps something else. The very contrasting flip side to this moving soulful masterpiece, is Rhythm, a fiery Latin dance floor jumper, and a rowdy neighbour to I’m A Believer, but a welcomed partner that you like to visit on many occasions.
Sakinah would also contribute as lead on Brother You Know You’re Doing Wrong, a more uptempo song, again about standing up and dusting yourself off, when you’ve fallen down that wrong path. I’m almost certain this would be the last time she would appear on any Idris Muhammad solo recording, and I believe this is because of her decision to devote more time to their family around that time (she was also touring and recording for various artists such as the Neville Brothers, Bobby Womack and Isaac Hayes, and guest starred on movies and soundtracks including the 1970 film Cotton Comes to Harlem).
In 1974 Idris released the respected Power of Soul LP. In a Modern Drummer 1996 issue, he himself called it his greatest record. “It’s only four tracks,” he said, “but the intensity of the rhythms I’m playing and how settled, and how swinging, and how hard it grooves is what makes it.” The Beastie Boys album “Paul’s Boutique” opens with a lengthy sample of Loran’s Dance, from that LP. Asked in an interview how he felt about other people using his music, he told Wax Poetics magazine, “It don’t really belong to me, man,” adding: “The gift the Creator has given me, I can’t be selfish with. If I keep it in my pocket, it’s not going to go anyplace.”
Idris Muhammad would ease nicely and successfully into the disco and boogie genres with following LP releases. As far a 7″s go, Turn This Mutha Out, taken from the 1977 LP of the same title, is a nice disco 45 to have, and can be found either as a flip to the great Could Heaven Ever Be Like This, or as a two sided Part A and B solo track. Beyond that, a few more releases into the early 80’s, but personally, not the era I really move in to.
I’m A Believer is a very treasured single, and I’m incredibly thankful that Sakinah and Idris joined together in a studio, to produce this jewel. When Sakinah sings a song about faith, love and worship, it is a true genuine piece of artistry that only this true believer could deliver. And regardless of your beliefs, you have to agree that with this kind of strong faith in music history, we have been gifted with some of the most beautiful and purest songs that soul music has to offer. I for one am very grateful for that, and I feel very honoured to have this much revered record in my collection.
Idris and Sakinah Muhammad had had two sons and two daughters together, and lived in London and Vienna before their marriage ended in 1999. Idris Muhammad died on July 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2014, at the age of 74. His cause of death was not immediately known, but Muhammad had been receiving dialysis since retiring to his native New Orleans in 2011. La La Brooks (as she now goes by publicly) also moved back to the United States and resides in the East Village and is a grandmother of seven. She released an album containing 14 new original songs in 2013, titled All Or Nothing and continues to perform across the world.