RCA Italiana – PM 3581 1971
Track 1: Chissa’ Chi Sei
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)…
Roy Thompson 1966
The Primitives 1967
Ricardo Ray Orchestra 1968
Davy Jones and the Voodoo Funk Machine 1968
Tina Britt 1969
Etta James- from her Come A Little Closer 1974
Here’s some great clips from Canzonissima 1971
And here she is doing Chissà chi sei…
CBS 1647 Netherlands 1973
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…
Placebo credited line up
Marc Moulin Arranged By, Composed By, Keyboards, Synthesizer
Drums – Garcia Morales
Guitar – Francis Weyer, Philip Catherine
Percussion – J.P. Oenraedt
Saxophone, Flute, Accordion – Alex Scorier
Trumpet – Nicolas Fissette
Trumpet [Electric], Flugelhorn – Richard Rousselet
Bass – Yvan De Souter
Track 1 Hercules Track 2 Going Home
Aaron Neville has a gentle voice that could bring the hardest man down to his knees. A distinctive voice that closes the eyes and opens the soul. Hercules is his lost gem that deserved to outshine so many popular soul hits of the time, but it was never even given the chance. However today this elusive humble masterpiece WILL stand up high above any rival counterpart with the strongest respect and heroic vengeance.
Aaron Neville was born January 24, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is brother to Art, Charles, Cyril, and sister Athelgra. Before the children were around, Aaron’s mother and her brother were in what is said to be the best dance team in New Orleans. They were once offered to go on the road with Louis Prima, but their fearful mother didn’t allow it due to awful Jim Crow laws of the time (state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States). Aaron met his first wife Joel in 1957, and were married on January 10, 1959 when both were only 18 years old.
Aaron grew up in the centre of the Calliope Projects, a neighbourhood-housing estate built between 1939 and 1941, and which boasted 690 apartments in the original development. Although it was considered a means for working-class families to live comfortably while saving up the funds to purchase their own homes, the area gained nationwide fame/infamy for its extremely high violent crime rate. But for Aaron, who had lived there ‘til he was thirteen, his turf was a modern structure of family hope and happiness, a place that actually sheltered the surrounding evils away from his innocent years.
As a boy, Aaron liked to wander on over to the glorious Gem Theatre, where he would use his voice to bride innocent box office ladies into free admission to film screenings. While it must have been evident for Aaron, that segregation was an awful and ugly monster lurking behind every corner of his hometown, his love of musical artists had no colour prejudices. Those westerns that the wide eyed young boy was privileged to see, were pivotal to his voice development. Aaron credits the likes of heroes Roy Rodgers and Gene Auntry for shaping his yodeling technique and vocal range he was so proud to share among friends at that young age. Aaron singing took him to a safe place, and away from the horrible race discrimination and other negative ghosts that were breeding in his hometown, be it for just a short time. Aaron was open for inspiration by from all styles of music of the time, from R&B to country (he was a huge Hank Williams and Nat King Cole fan as a kid) but at the age of 13, Aaron first heard Sam Cooke’s song called Any Day Now, a moving and gentle song that must have had a real impact oh him. Aaron recalls that at that time, fellow gospel singers were more commonly singing strong, loud up-praising songs. Aaron was so moved by this song, and knew from that moment on, that he was placed on the earth to be a singer.
When Aaron moved out from “Kal-ee-ope” he was exposed to a harsh side of reality and in turn “traveled some crooked roads”. Stealing cars was an easy thing to do back then, especially in the company of mutually wild encouraging mates. He was caught one day when he was returning a car to a nearby location (as they did back then once the criminal task had served it’s course) and as a consequence the eighteen year old was thrown into the New Orleans Parish Prison where he served a 6 month sentence. But maybe the demon that lead him on this wayward path was an angel in disguise, for it was in this dark isolated institution where Aaron would find a light, and write his first song Every Day.
Every Day is harrowing and delicate at the same time, as he takes us through one day, yet everyday, of prison life, and how every hour reminds him of his past freedom and that now lost companionship with his lover. The song was released in 1960 on the Minit label, which was only formed the year before in ‘59 in New Orleans, Louisiana, by Joe Banashak and Larry McKinley. The man responsible for most of the hits on Minit was Allen Toussaint, who wrote, played piano, arranged, and produced. The first Minit hit was with Toussaint’s production of Jessie Hill’s Ooh Poo Pah Doo, which reached No. 28 in the summer of 1960. Toussaint had a part in Aaron’s debut flip recording, the rhythm and blues mover Over You, but this wouldn’t be the last time the two collaborated. That same year Aaron released another single that included Out Of My Life, another Toussaint creation, but this time credited with the pseudonym Naomi Neville, which was commonly used by Toussaint, mostly for songwriting credits at the time (this was his mother’s maiden name…she’s not related to the famous Neville brothers though).
Aaron would continue to release a handful of 7’s on Minit in the next year or two with moderate success. A standout is the ‘62 release How Could I Help But Love You, flipped with Wrong Number (I’m Sorry, Goodbye), again writing credits for both songs to “Naomi Neville”. It’s a truly sincere love song with a melody to match, that really should have been a smash for Aaron! When Allen Toussaint went into the Army in 1963, the hits stopped coming and the Minit Record Label was sold to Imperial.
But Aaron would have his breakthrough hit finally in 1966, this time released on a small New Orleans label Par-Lo, co-owned by local musician/arranger and school friend George Davis, and band-leader Lee Diamond. That song was Tell It Like It Is, it topped Billboard’s R&B chart for five weeks and also reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, AND it sold over one million copies! Aaron who was working hard on the docks at the time, tells of his surprise and shock when he learned that the single had sold close to 40,000 copies in the first week in New Orleans alone. Contributors to this successful release included George Davis arranging and playing Baritone Sax, Emory Thomas on trumpet, Deacon John on guitar, Alvin Red Tyler on tenor sax, Willie Tee played piano and June Gardner on drums.
One would think that this must have been a life changing time for Aaron. Unfortunately his well earnt success was short lived, and soon after, Aaron would find himself arrested again, this time on drug charges. Fortunate to be let off with 3 months probation, Aaron saw the short sentence as a blessing, and promised himself to never walk that dark path again, and even reassured the prison guard on the way out, of his last final parting. Neville would continue to release singles from the mid sixties to the early seventies, jumping from label to label, including Bell, Safari and Mercury. He had two LP releases also, the 1966 Tell It Like It Is, and a year later the similarly title Like It Is, on Minit. It is on a 1973 Mercury label, where this featured lonesome giant sleeps.
Hercules – Nowadays, that opening bass line is famous and well recognised to most soul lovers, but as simple and gentle as it may be, it’s strength is insurmountable. With arranging and writing credits to Toussaint (as well as a shared producer credit to Marshall E. Sehorn), as far as I’m concerned, among so many of his great and now historic compositions, this has to be one of, if not his most finest moment! Sung with such genuine yet unlarboured compassion by Aaron, here is another song about the downs and out of society, and having the strength and will power to stand tall up against it all. Aaron is invincible. Again I find it quite unbelievable that songs of this calibre never achieved any major recognition. Perhaps similar to Dusty’s Haunted, or Cappani’s I Believe In Miracles, the world just wasn’t ready. Or maybe promoters just couldn’t comprehend the beauty and significance, blinded because they didn’t fall into those “popular radio” or “smash hit” pigeon holes.
There lies some mystery and myth behind Hercules, as it is believed that due to production problems at the plant with the pressing of the 7”, meant they were all deemed faulty. Therefore it is also believed the record never received an official release, and were likely all destroyed just after production. Well I can’t tell you how much truth is in that, but it is rare for either the promo or red label to turn up these days.
My promo copy is styrene, (these are produced with injection mold as opposed to the vinyl counterpart which are heat pressed) which sources say wears out a lot faster than a vinyl record. My copy plays beautifully, and only on special occasions, but I have never had the opportunity to play a red label and would love to know if these are actual “vinyl” pressings. A common reissue label, who dare to call the originals “nasty”, released their edited “unreleased full length version” recently, and to tell you the truth, I hear no improvement in this mix at all. I stand by the original, which has a nicer vocal harmony mix and those distant keyboards are slightly more prominent, making it even sweeter. Sadly the single never appeared on an Aaron Neville LP, so it’s future seemed destined to be a lonely one. It did however appear on a soul funk compilation LP Get Up And Get Down (Philips E– 9299 160), along with other “disco delights”, but haven’t been able to track a release date on that one yet. If you want to hear an amazing alternate version, well in 1974 Boz Scaggs released his version on his Slow Dancer LP. I often wonder about that Scaggs link, just a year later, and how he discovered the track, or how it was it offered to him?
There’s also something pretty wonderful on the flip of this 7”…a slow deep gospel song called Going Home. Here’s a song of death, but not of misery. As sad as it may make you feel to get through this meaningful song, it’s message is beautiful and uplifting. The song is not just about departing, but more importantly, it’s about belief and faith, and being reunited with those loved ones that left before you. Obviously a song with deep meaning for Aaron.
Aaron’s brother Art formed Art Neville and the Neville Sounds, in the early 1960s which included brothers Aaron and Cyril, as well as George Porter (bass) and Leo Nocentelli (lead guitarist). Shortly after, Aaron and Cyril left the group to form their own band Soul Machine. In the late 1960s Art changed the name of his band to The Meters, which at that time included Joseph “Ziggy” Modeliste on drums. Considered by many to be the founding fathers of funk, The Meters would release a series of albums that today are infamous classics that should be standard in all dj collections. In 1975, Cyril became the fifth Meter as a percussionist and vocalist for three of their albums for Reprise/Warner Brothers, but by the mid-Seventies, the four Neville brothers had not still recorded as a unit.
In 1976, the four brothers Art, Charles, Cyril and Aaron got together to take part in the recording session of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, a Mardi Gras Indian group led by their uncle, George Landry (“Big Chief Jolly”). The self titled result produced by Toussaint may not have been a financial success, but the effort was well received critically and the recording experience encouraged the four Neville brothers to perform together for the first time as a group. Paul Howrilla created Neville Productions, Inc., serving as president and CEO with all four Neville brothers as members of the board of directors. The newly formed business covered the entire Neville family, designed to protect them from the music business abuse they had previously endured in their individual careers. In 1978, The Neville Brothers self titled debut album was released from Capitol Records, and it was the beginning of solid recording run for the group for the next decade or so. Due to the health problems of Art Neville, the band kept low profile in the late 1990s onto the early 2000s. They made a comeback in 2004, however, with the album, Walkin’ In The Shadow Of Life, from Back Porch Records.
In 1989, Aaron would find that second big solo hit, well actually in the form of a duet with Linda Ronstadt, with the song Don’t Know Much. It reached #2 on the Hot 100, and was certified Gold for selling a million copies! This duet with Ronstadt would win Aaron his first of four Grammys! The album which was titled Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, was certified Triple Platinum for US sales of more than 3 million. And ever since Aaron has pretty much been a household name, and has shared more success from following albums.
Neville’s longtime partner Joel was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2004 and died on January 5, 2007. She was 66, and needless to say, this must have been a sorrowful time for Aaron. In 2008, during a People magazine photo shoot, Neville met photographer Sarah A. Friedman, who had been hired to take a portrait of the Neville Brothers. From that first meeting Aaron sensed something deep in his heart towards Friedman, and they were married November 13, 2010 in New York City. In 2016, Neville announced a 75th birthday show at the Apollo Theater that also marked the 50th anniversary of the release of Tell It Like It Is.
Today Neville sister Athelgra is part of the current line up of The Dixie Cups (known for their hits Chapel of Love and Iko Iko) alongside original members, sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins.
Nolan Porter’s If I Could Only Be Sure is one of my absolute favourite soul 45’s, and while it gets copiousness amounts of rotations around the house, that fervor it holds to me has never dwindled. But once again, it’s a little sad to discover that the man behind this big soul track, never really received the accolades he well and truly deserved! His discography is brief, recording only two albums and six singles in the early 1970’s. If you know and love this giant but gentle tune, you may also feel a little cheated, and wonder why we couldn’t have had more artistry from the beautifully voiced man! Well maybe we can.
Nolan Frederick Porter was born 1949 in Los Angeles and started singing at around 12 years old, for local churches and choirs, and even in classical and madrigal styles. He believes he received his gift of singing from his mother, who had in fact auditioned for the Count Basie Orchestra at one time, but had to refuse due to her pregnancy. His musical “career” started when Porter meet Gabriel Mekler when he was performing alongside his sister in a classical group at the Los Angeles city college when he was around 19. She was keen for the two to meet, knowing with Porter’s voice, and her brother’s production knowledge, something great could come of it. Mekler was at the time producing some big bands like Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf and also Janis Joplin, and after Porter’s audition, the potential was evident for Mekler, who would spend the next year or two trying to help develop and adapt his vocal skills for the studio and the current scenes.
His first recorded release was in fact an LP in 1970 called No Apologies, and was release on Gabriel Mekler’s Lizard label. It included a handful of pretty smooth covers, including a really nice version of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love. He also tries on with comfort Randy Newman’s Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield and Don Convay & the Good Timers great Iron Out The Rough Spot. Also appearing on the LP was the track Don’t Make Me Color My Black Face Blue, which would turn up as a flip on a particular big classic soul 45 the next year. The track Somebody’s Cryin’ would also show up as another 7” flip, this time to I Like What You Give, also in ‘71.
Porter had some big session players by his side on this debut delight, including former members of Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, Roy Estrada (bass), Jimmy Carl Black (drums), and Lowell George (guitar). Also sharing studio space with Nolan were members of Little Feat, Bill Payne and Ritchie Hayward, who were at the time supposedly working on their debut album (along with George and Estrada). Lowell George and Bill Payne contribute an original song called Somebody’s Gone.
In August 1972, Porter returned to the studio to record his second album, simply titled Nolan, this time distributed on the ABC label, and again Porter was gifted with a handful of incredible session performers to lay down these tracks. Crossfire Publications lists Clarence McDonald (keyboards), Jim Gordon (drums), Ray Pohlman (bass), Larry Carlton (guitar), Ron Elliott (guitar), Charles Owens (sax), Oscar Brashear (trumpet), and The Blackberries (backing vocals) as the studio line-up. The album contained four new songs and re-recorded mixes of older songs such as Groovin (Out On Life), which was released on a Vulture 7″ the year before, with Porter under the alias of Federick II. This album also contains Porter’s best known song Keep On Keepin’ On, which was written by Richard Flowers, and it’s a huge tune likely more popular on the world wide soul scenes of today, rather than of the time. It had a single release on Lizard label in ’71, with Nolan credited as N.F. Porter, as a white promo label and with two red variations.
Without any doubt If I Could Only Be Sure is the shining diamond of Porter’s catalogue, a composition of true genuine soul that has stood the test of time. One most notable player at these sessions was Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and when he plays Porter’s melodic guitar line, he threads the perfect foundation from the very beginning. The production breathes clearly, the keyboard has a minor but lustful distant howl, and Porters desirable voice sews all the components into a beautiful web of pure devotion. A simple progression with just a handful of poetic lines of love, like many of my favourite soul songs, it’s the simplicity that’s so astounding. The single was released on ABC then had a re-release on the subsidiary label Probe the year after in France, Japan, Brazil, and even Peru. All sharing the same flip with the Bryan Ferry sounding Work It Out In The Morning, quite a surprising jux’ed to the big soul sider!
Porter was around 23 when If I Could Only be Sure hit the Top 100, and the prospect of a successful music career must have seemed inevitable. But by some cruel fate, the anchor holding his aspiration and hope, and Mekler’s record company, broke away, and that dream drifted away into a sea of disappointment. It’s evident that the implosion of the his good friends Lizard label was a complete debacle, and Porter, who generally found the whole business side of things too difficult to deal with at the best of times, found it all very discouraging. Mekler had licensed Nolan’s previous Lizard/Vulture recordings and his new Nolan Porter material to ABC, but ABC never signed Nolan Porter as an artist, although his recordings appeared on the label in 1972 and 1973. With alternate record divisions putting different songs under different labels and under different artist names, it was all just a calamity!
With no intentions of suing helpful friends or playing any sly business games, Porter decided to depart the record business in 1974, but never got away from music. Porter returned to the studio in 1978 with the sessions producing the tracks, Bird Without A Song, Only A Thought Away, It’s Alright To Dream, City Lights, and a cover of Paul Simon’s Cloudy. He returned again to the studio in 1980, and re-recorded his 2nd LP cracker I Like What You Give, this time with a bit of a modern polish, but resulting with a more tame version than it’s predecessor. He also re-recorded Oh Baby, a new original titled Every Little Move, and also covered The Doobie Brothers’ What A Fool Believes, and quite nicely may I add. But alas, nothing eventuated with these recordings, and it would be two decades before he took another opportunity to record again. In 1999, Nolan was asked by co-producer Jeffery Ward to do a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You, or the film The Quickie, but after the film was completed in 2001, it went directly to DVD.
Nolan has had a live and recording resurgence of late with contemporary soul group Stone Foundation to thank for. Founders and Porter fans Neil Jones and Neil Sheasby, were able to track their legend down around 2010 and grouped together for a show. A tour followed from the north to the south of England in 2012, and in between, the band even shared some beneficial time in the recording studios. The outcome was a pressed 7” titled Tracing Paper (Heavy Soul ROR015HS3), a duet in fact with singer Neil Jones, who I’m sure must have been pinching himself more than a few times throughout that session. A follow up single in 2013 followed, this time resulting with a tight and snappy reworking of Porter’s Fe Fi Fo Fum (Heavy Soul ROR044), taken from his No Apologies Lp. Nolan and the “foundations” also recorded a very cool and moody track titled The Right Track, which was apparently featured in a detective show, but I couldn’t track down the details (my detective skills failing here) but I’m almost certain it had no official vinyl release.
In 1999 Nolan Porter met Patrice, and by coincidence, little sister to Frank Zappa, and as Porter quotes, a “far better” R & B singer than himself. The couple fell in love and married, and now sing together. Porter never had the opportunity to meet Frank himself, even back when key members of the Mothers Of Invention were hired to record on his debut LP, but he does feel close to him and holds him tight with the strong family bond. Today Porter is still both excited and surprised to discover that today’s soul scene holds him in such high regard, and that his tunes are been danced to all over the globe. But it is us that should be truly grateful!
Gabriel Mekler passed away in September 1977, leaving the entire Lizard/Vulture catalogue unguarded. This has led to numerous unauthorized and/or unlicensed releases of Nolan Porter’s material.
Photo by Lee Cogswell. More great Porter photos from Lee here… Lee Cogswell
Referencing and recommendations…
So I just recently returned from a short but incredible trip into country India, which I’m just refusing to let go of at the moment. The experience was one I’ll never forget because of the people I met, the things I saw, and the sounds I heard.
Somehow, in the little city known as Pushkar, a small record shop appeared, something I was not expecting to see, and a lovely man named Shashi, sat behind the counter. Now my knowledge of Indian music is very thin, especially in the Bollywood genre, which is what a lot of the shop stock consisted of. But after a few days of drop-ins, and some great recommendations from the shop keeper, I started to comprehend the realisation that there were certainly some records that needed to come back home with me! While most of my wins were marvelous, colourful outlandish soundtrack LP’s, I did also manage to bring home a few 7″s, including this one by prolific and renowned “disco king” Bappi Lahiri, that I thought I should share.
Bappi Lahiri was born in Calcutta, West Bengal in 1952 into a family with a rich tradition in classical music. His father, Aparesh Lahiri was a famous Bengali singer and his mother, Bansari Lahiri was a musician and a singer who was well-versed in classical music and Shyama Sangeet. His parents were determined to teach their only child in every aspect of music, and by the tender age of three, Bappi began to play the tabla. At the young age of 19, Bappi began his career as a music director, and received his first opportunity in a Bengali film, Daadu in 1972. The first Hindi film he composed music for was Nanha Shikari in 1973, and only 2 years later it was Tahir Husain’s Hindi film, Zakhmee that brought him to the heights of Bollywood fame, also bringing forth a new era in the Hindi film industry. Bappi rose from strength to strength, and the music for his subsequent films Chalte Chalte and Surakksha were tremendously popular, placing Bappi on the pedestal of stardom, and making him the youngest music director of his time to have attained such intense success in such a short duration.
Surakksha, which I think translates as “Protection” in Hindi, was directed by Ravikant Nagaich and released in 1979. The film stars Mithun Chakraborty as CBI Officer Gopi, Ranjeeta Kaur, Jeevan, Jagdeep, Iftekhar, and Aruna Irani. Based as a spy thriller (with the hero’s code of Gunmaster G9, as opposed to 007), it was the first of a two of such films with Chakraborty in the lead, the other being the sequel Wardat. The success of Surakksha made Chakraborty a huge commercial star.
I have yet to watch this film in it’s entirety, so I’m just summarising the plot through other sources here. The evil Shiv Shakti Organization (SSO) intends to spread terror in India. The trouble starts when a plane manned by Captain Kapoor is attacked by a stream of deadly signals forcing the plane to land. The missing agent gets replaced by a look alike, but Officer Gopi, aka Gunmaster G-9, who was assigned by the Central Bureau of Investigation, is on to it! But there are obstacles, including Priya Varma, played by Ranjeeta Kaur, who’s out to investigate her father’s death, supposedly by Gopi, and who’s determined to seduce and enslave him. Gunmaster G-9 must also battle other women, venomous snakes, gangsters, kidnappers and even a robot-human. The fast adventures continue with wild stunts and car chases, but of course there’s always an opportunity to dance with scantily-clad girls, before there inevitable meeting with the patchy-eyed SSO chief Doctor Shiva .
Actress Prema Narayan who plays Maggie, is quite the attractive star who has quite an established Bollywood movie career, appearing in close to seventy films. Originally an English teacher in a convent school, she later opted for a modelling career and was crowned Femina Miss India World in 1971. Besides being noticed for her acting prowess she was also appreciated for her western-style dance numbers. A fine example of those said dance moves can be witnessed during the song Tere Jaisa Pyara Koi Nahin in Hotel. She was also a regular feature in lower-grade horror films including Mangalsutra, Saat Saal Baad and Ghabrahat. Mithun Chakraborty made his acting debut with the art house drama Mrigayaa (1976), for which he won his first National Film Award for Best Actor, and to this day has appeared in more than 350 films. Most famous for his lead role as dancer Jimmy in the 1982 super-hit film Disco Dancer, he is particularly recognised as one of the best “dancing-heroes” in Bollywood with his unique “Disco and Desi” fusion-style dancing that is immensely popular among the masses. The 1981 Gunmaster sequel Wardat, was even more high action with giant locust plagues attacks (brought on by evil men who plan to black market farmer’s grains), a new hunch backed super villain called Jambola, more gadgets and even flying cars!
The title track Mausam Hai Gaane KaAlong, includes the popular singer Annette Pinto, who would provide her voice talents on the Gunmaster sequel a few years later as well. Her dynamic voice really delivers a huge cinematic, almost Morricone-like characteristic quality to this opening titles track, and has to be the perfect introduction director Nagaich could have wished for! She went on to release many more sizzlers with other producers also, including Handsome Man from Mr. Bond in 1992 (composer-duo Anand-Milind and brother Anand Chitragupth), the hot disco Love Me Now for Hemant Bhosle and the film Barrister in 1982, and the cheeky Hello Darling with Rajesh Roshan, from the film Telephone in 1985. She also stars on the absolute incredible title track for The Burning Train from composer Rahul Dev Burman, where you feel like she’s channeling Yma Sumac! I will feature that one soon!
Surakksha also marked Bappi Lahiri’s entry as a singer, where he would provide his voice talents onto four of films compositions, including the second track on this EP, Dil Tha Akela Akela, which incredibly sounds like The Stones’ As Tears Go By! In fact throughout his career Lahiri has been accused of plagiarizing music produced by other composers without giving them any credit or royalties. I was actually surprised at first, when listening to a bunch of his records, at just how many covers he did, not realising that they were apparently original compositions. Ironically portions of his song Thoda Resham Lagta Hai were included in the song Addictive by American R&B singer Truth Hurts in 2002. Copyright holders sued Interscope Records and its parent company, Universal Music Group to the tune of more than $500 million. But lets not take any praise away from this talented producer/musican. His interpretation can sometimes be wonderful takes on well worn classics (have a listen to Meri Jaisi Mehbooba from Baadal) that can only make you squeal with delight.
Bappi Lahiri would go on to release literally stacks and stacks of LP’s, and so far my standouts-latest discoveries include Karate, Wanted Dead or Alive, Morchha and Dance Dance…or big sounding soundtracks! Along with Biddu (who had the international breakthrough in 1974 with Kung Fu Fighting with eleven million records sold), Lahiri helped popularise disco music Indian style. The pioneer of disco beats with his refreshing, vibrant, and rhythmic music had the entire nation dancing for decades. He has also worked with renowned singers like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, had paved the path to fame for Alisha Chinai and Usha Uthup through his compositions, and has sung alsongside Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. In fact a barrage of popular singers have sung songs composed by Bappi Lahiri in a career spanning for 40 years in over 600 films in over 5000 songs. Bappi received an award in 1990 from the then Indian President Giani Zail Singh for the best musical score in the film Thanedaar and was invited by Ex-Prime Minister of India, H.D. Deve Gowda, to compose a song for the World Football Tournament in Calcutta.
Lahiri disappeared from the Indian film industry in the 1990s though he tried a brief comeback in the Prakash Mehra produced Dalal starring Mithun Chakraborty with the song Gutur Gutur which was a big hit although it had its share of controversies due to its suggestive lyrics. Thereafter he focused on bringing out albums with remixes of his earlier songs, and to this day appears on guest spots for popular TV shows, with the occasional film role. Lahiri is famous for his constant desire to reinvent himself and face the challenge to keep up with the rapidly changing preferences of current generations. He is the complete entertainer and superstar with his multiple talents as a singer, music director, and percussionist! I feel I have only scratched the surface of what this man has done for Bollywood music, and the damage to dance floors he is responsible for all around India.
Track 1 – You’ve Been Gone Too Long Track 2 – You’re Letting Me Down Mary Ann Sexton was born In Greenville, South Carolina and was yet another child raised by a family heavily influenced by gospel music (a time it seems when heavenly angels were certainly handing out some great voices to their young followers). Her path was always going to be singing amongst her church choir, but she was also open to talents shows on the side, which by no surprise ,she won more than a few times.
In 1967, Ann had her first recording experience as a featured singer on Elijah and the Ebonies’ I Confess on Gitana (credited as Mary Sexton). A beautiful soul ballad that’s hard to come by, and a track that really demonstrates the beginnings of her talent…a teasing taste of things to come from Sexton. The Ebonies’ Tenor and Alto sax player, Melvin Burton (who gained notoriety as a youth playing for Mosses Dillard), must have shared a certain spark with Ann, falling in love, they married soon after and started their own group, Ann Sexton and the Masters of Soul.
Soon song writer David Lee would discover the dynamic soul group while performing at a club in North Carolina in 1970. He had the small label Impel at the time and had to have them on board, so he penned the ballad You’re Letting Me Down, and also with the coloration of Ann and Melvin, what must be the most incredible soul B side ever…You’ve Been Gone Too Long. I’m not evening going to try and explain the purity and greatness of this track. If you don’t feel it, then there’s nothing I can do to help you…although I’ve never know anyone not to love this track. And the A side is a little monster ballad too.
Now I usually strive with all my might, to sort first pressings whenever I can, but this red Impel 1971 pressing has eluded me for some time. It rarely surfaces around the collectors market although a little while back, a handful did show up briefly. And it is rumored that this was due to a freak find someone was fortunate to discover…a box of mint jukebox 45’s, including a nice handful of these pressings. While they did prove to be way over my budget, maybe it’s a regret I may now have to live with.
The Impel release gave Ann the recognition she needed and soon after, was signed to Nashville’s soul DJ and label owner John Richbourg’s Seventy Seven Records. In 72, this killer double sider was thankfully re-released, (Richbourg must have realised how deserving and worthy these two great compositions would be for his label) but even this first Seventy Seven pressing for Sexton isn’t an easy one to find. There is an alternate label press also, with a later more graphic, brighter label, and while I do believe it is a slightly later press, I’m not sure what the time frame between each pressing is (anyone out there know?)
1972-74 were busy years for Sexton, releasing five 7’s, including the must have You’re Losing Me (penned by Ann and Melvin) flipped with the great You’re Gonna Miss Me. Recording in Nashville and Memphis, she also released her first album Loving You, Loving Me produced by Lee and Richbourg (Ann and Melvin penned six of the songs)….to this day, a much sorted LP.
1977 saw the release of Ann’s 2nd studio album The Beginnings (Sound Stage 7)… now a classic album with some beautiful ballads like Be Serious and I Want To Be Loved, but it also included the very danceable You Can’t Lose With The Stuff I Use and the soulie I Had A Fight With Love. Unfortunately there was only one single release from the album, I’m His Wife.
After her second album, Ann decided to leave the music industry and relocate to New York. Looking to escape the stressful politics of the music industry, she embraced a career change. Her desire to help the community inspired her to become a school teacher.
I am pleased to report that today, Sexton has been rediscovered, and due to popular demand, she is now on the occasion performing back on the stage, where she can once again share that incredibly beautiful voice. But I believe Ann has never needed a stage to shine, she has warmed many turntables and dance floors around the world for many years, whether she has been aware of it or not.
I thought researching this extremely beautiful and soulful New Holidays composition (and one of my top ten I must add) was either going to be fairly easy (such an outstanding recording from them…surely credit and facts should be well documented)…or quite difficult, (other than collector’s of fine soul records, it’s existence is fairly unknown).
But after only a few hours of researching, did I realise that the information on the “Holidays” was so mixed up and jumbled, and to make any sense of it all may just prove to be too overwhelming! THANKFULLY, good ol’ Soul Detroit has saved me again! Well in fact researcher Graham Finch is responsible for exposing what must have been an incredibly difficult ordeal, to sort through facts, lies and myths, that makes up the real story behind the Holidays!
And even with all the facts …it’s still a real brain trip to decipher, so I’m going to try and map out the path that will eventually get us to this one great song, with Holland at the wheel!
The New Holidays are James Holland, Jack Holland and Maurice Wise (and possibly Joe Billingslea).
The Fresando’s – James Holland first recorded with the The Fresando’s in 1957 with the release I Mean Really on the Star label. The absolutely astounding flip Your Last Goodbye holds up a writing credit to Leo Parks (so-called manager at the time) but the truth is, it was chiefly penned by lead singer Aaron Little. The harmony group really shines here, up along side Eddie Bartell and his Dukes of Rhythm minimalist accompaniment.
The Five Masters -The Fresando’s record wasn’t a hit and in 1958 the five singers changed their name to The Five Masters and hooked up with Robert West, one of the first of Detroit’s recording pioneers to taste success – most notably with The Falcons. Their next release was We Are Like One (flipped with Cheap Skate) on the Bumble Bee label, and although it was the Master’s who were responsible for writing this beautiful song, this time it was new manager Clyde Clemons, that took the credit. Their Bumble Bee disc failed to create much of a buzz, and in September ’59, the teenagers enlisted in the army, separating to different corners of the globe, from France to Korea and to even Alaska. When they arrived back to Detroit in ‘62, things had changed and it was the dawn of a new era, for music and the group.
The Four Hollidays – Once James Holland and the Barksdale brothers returned to Detroit from their military service, they immediately set about resurrecting their musical careers. They were joined by Johnny Mitchell, a friend of theirs who just had recorded with The Majestics for the local Chex label. They decided to call themselves The Four Hollidays.
Detroit now offered more opportunities than when The Five Masters had disbanded in ‘59, with the success of Motown Records, however there seemed to be some unfair play going on around town, leaving artists with no money regardless of their sucessful recordings, so the decision was to instead head to Chicago and audition for Vee Jay Records. It was the great Andre Williams who introduced them to Lenny Luffman, who signed them up to Markie.
The Four Hollidays first released the dance-fad song Grandma Bird in ’62, but it was the great flip Step By Step that became the seller, especially in Chicago where popular WYNR radio jock “Wild Child” Dick Kemp dubbed it the “47th Street Stomp”. This was reference to the street in Chicago’s Near South Side where Black American’s had created a vibrant community. It was also where Markie Records was based.
The follow up was in September ‘63 with I’ll Walk Right Out The Door (which seem to exist only as promotional copies), and although the group did their best to push the great tune, it didn’t do as well as their previous hit. Thankfully the success of Step kept them going on the club circuit for quite some time.
The 4 Hollidays – The group headed back to Detroit and scored a session at United Sound where they recorded Deep Down I My Heart with Jimmy leading, and He Can’t Love You in ’64. It was the maiden 45 for The Master Recording Company, but the fledgling company wasn’t really set up to properly promote and distribute the disc and consequently sales never materialized.
Jimmy and the Barksdale brothers now decided they should take charge of their recordings and start a business. Johnny Mitchell left the group to team up with the re-formed Majestics , James Shorter was recruited as the new fourth Holliday. Somehow they managed to pull together the $200 they needed to pay the studio and musicians, and recorded Set Me On My Feet Right / Happy Young Man but without hardheaded promotion and slick marketing, the company wasn’t able to push the first and what proved to be last 45 on the Holliday label.
By spring ‘65, The Four Hollidays had shrunk to one member: Holland. The two Barksdale brothers had taken regular jobs and James Shorter had signed with Lou Beatty’s La Beat Records. Jimmy decided to head back to Chicago, an soon recorded with Andre Williams the upbeat Baby Don’t Leave Me on Blue Rock (with a rippa’ punchy female-led intro’ and backing). Unfortunately this release didn’t take off and again only seems to have been pressed as a promotional 45.
It’s 1969, James returned to Detroit and formed a new group of “Holidays” with younger brother Jack, and Maurice Wise and the trio got a deal with LeBaron Taylor’s fast-fading Solid Hitbound Productions. He teamed up with George Clinton (who had already left LeBaron for Westbound Records and now had renamed himself and band, Funkadelic) and together penned All That Is Required Is You. It was released on LeBaron’s Revilot label that same year. Now do not get confused with the The Holidays that had the previous two releases on the label…Holland’s group had nothing to do with that, and eventually the courts decided that due to the earlier success of Holland’s group, he would win the lawsuit that would allow ownership of the title.
Finally, in ’69, Holland hooked up with the mighty songwriting partnership duo Richard “Popcorn” Wylie and Tony Hester, and recorded the unbelievable Maybe So Maybe No. The flip side If I Only Knew, is a version of a song that Jimmy ‘Soul’ Clark had a recorded a year earlier. Note that on the Westbound release, you will find My Baby Ain’t No Plaything on the flip, Popcorn could sense the potential for a the hit and decided to put a stronger B-side which is actually not at all the New Holidays, but was in fact sung by a different group that included Bobby Martin, Herschel Hunter (both former Martiniques from the early 1960s), and guy named Fletcher, and Willie Harvey.
For some reason or another, the Westbound or Soul Hawk release didn’t takeoff…and I’ll never understand why!
So a journey of amazing talents and more than a fair share mighty fine bad luck and missed opportunities.
The Holiday story goes even further on, and the holes I’ve avoided are sometimes creators! But I highly recommend reading the full (?) breakdown of the compositions, band members and “sidestreets” here at Soulful Detroit!
Track 1 – Star Wars Title Theme
Track 2 – Funk
Okay, so I may need to explain something here. I’ve just had a very significant birthday (a number which really relates to this blog content) and thought I really should post something that is quite special to me, for this momentous occasion. Star Wars was one of the biggest and influential things to happen to me as a young kid. It inspired me, it strengthened my imagination, and it let me dream…and it also introduced me to the 7″ record.
Meco’s take on the Star Wars Theme was the first 45 I ever owned! I remember vividly when my papa wanted to reward me for scoring a rare soccer goal…I asked if we to go to that little record shop in Beverly Hills to see if they had the music to that science fiction movie which all us young boys were going space nuts over! At the time I didn’t realise (or care) that the version I had in my hands, wasn’t actually the original John Williams score, but in fact a “dance” take by an Italian named Domenico Monardo.
Meco was born on November 29th, 1939 in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, and had a passion for building model ships and science fiction movies. He got his first musical education from his father who played the Valve trombone in a small Italian band. Although at 9, Meco wanted to play the drums, his father convinced him that the trombone was the right instrument, which he stayed with (he did however opt for the Slide Trombone, troublesome as it was for the small-statured boy to extend the slide fully at first). He joined the high school band while still attending grammar school and at 17, won a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York which provided him with some solid classical & jazz skills. There, together with his two friends Chuck Mangione and Ron Carter, he started the Eastman School of Music Jazz Band. He attended West Point, where he played in the Cadet Band, and learned about arranging from an Army sergeant.
Meco worked from 1965 to 1974 as a studio player and arranger, and also earned a nice living arranging commercials, however his breakthrough arrived in 1974 when he co-produced the Gloria Gaynor’s smash Never Can Say Goodbye, followed by the Carol Douglas’ Doctor’s Orders. Having aligned himself with Broadway arranger Harold Wheeler and producer Tony Bongiovi, Meco was now on his way to producing several early disco hits.
On May 25th, 1977, Meco, along with many hundred others, lined up at the New York City theatre for the the opening day screening of this new science fiction film starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. He was amazed by the film and loved the score (he went back to see it eleven times in all), but he couldn’t help but feel there was an opportunity for a commercial hit combining Williams’ dramatic score along with the other big phenomenon of the time, disco!
He conceived of a 15-minute disco treatment of several themes in the movie, including the music played by the Cantina Band in the bar on Tatooine, and also really wanted to include R2-D2 sound effects. He called Jimmy Ienner at Millennium Records and Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records and explained his idea. Based on the tremendous success of Star Wars, Bogart and Ienner agreed to Meco’s idea without hearing any of the music. Meco was thinking grand and hired 75 musicians to play on the track, which was just unheard of for a pop production, (all credited on the lp sleeve) and played trombone and keyboards himself. The complete composition was released as part of an album, Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk, and on a 12″ single. The original main title theme by The London Symphony Orchestra was released by 20th Century Records and entered the Hot 100 on July 9th, 1977, less than two months after the film opened. It raced up to #10 on the charts, however Meco’s electro-disco medley, which debuted on the chart on August 6th, 1977, raced past it to go to #1 the week of October 1st, 1977 where it stayed for two weeks and received endless airplay.
So on the flip of this 7″ we have the percussive track simply titled Funk. It actually holds up okay, Mandingo-esque, some nice horns and rhythms, and quite odd to find it here on this B side. Obviously this 7″ got released in every corner of the globe, but I have to say it’s the Italians that scored the best cover artwork, which is a simpler stylised version of that fab album cover art.
A few years later the Italian was eager to do it all again with the release of the SW sequel, however Meco Plays Music From The Empire Strikes Back was a different sounding album. Disco was out and the new sound was rock-oriented instead. First Harold Wheeler was replaced by Lance Quinn, who was a guitarist on the previous Meco releases, giving the arrangements a totally different sound. And this time it was going to be released on RSO Records instead of Millennium/Casablanca Records and importantly, it was endorsed by George Lucas which meant he could finally use the very real sound effects.
And then things started to get even weirder! With the success of the album, Lucas gave the green light for Christmas In The Stars (The Star Wars Christmas Album). Once again on RSO Records, this time Harold Wheeler was back with his arrangements. Lucas not only allowed the use of special effects of R2D2, but also the voice of Anthony Daniels as leading vocals for C-3PO. There was also a vocalist that appeared on a track by the name of John Bongiovi, who had not yet achieved fame as Jon Bon Jovi. The great album cover is by Ralph McQuarrie, the designer who made most of the artwork for the “Star Wars” trilogy.
And then in 83, we got the Ewok Celebration, which was to be Meco’s last movie-based album. The album features other film and television themes as well as sax and lyricon solos by, dare I say, Kenny G! The Ewok Celebration Theme includes a rap by C-3PO (performed by Duke Bootee).
So yes, in hindsight, Meco’ Star Wars Title Theme is simply disco with lasers and beep boops, not a genre I really go crazy over these days, but I have to remind you, the impact this movie and it’s soundtrack had on me, would shape the person I was growing into (I even joined the school band after see Star Wars just to learn the cornet, hoping I could play the main theme). And to play so many memorable soundtrack moments including the Cantina “movement” all within 3.28 seconds was just fantastic. As a kid with a Star Wars obsession, it was pefect! I would play it over and over again, reliving the exciting space adventures Lucas had implanted into me, which will last a life time.
Music City USA Cat#45-894 Year 1972 Upon learning of the recent loss of the great and mighty Darondo, I thought it an appropriate time to praise what I think, is one of the most beautiful and soulful songs you will ever hear in your lifetime, by this unknown master.
Born October 5, 1946, William Daron Pulliam was raised in Berkeley, California, where his mother bought him his first guitar when he was around eight. When Darondo hit his later teens, he and a bunch of high-school friends formed The Witnesses, who became the house band for a strict early night “teenage nightclub” in Albany called the Lucky 13 Club. He fell in love with the R&B and rock that was popular at the time, but it wasn’t until he picked up Kenny Burrell’s 1963 album Midnight Blue that he found his niche. “I learned guitar from listening to Kenny Burrell,” Darondo says. “Him and Wes Montgomery. I got my chords from them. Kenny Burrell was cold“.
Darondo may have trained to be an electrician in his twenties, perhaps doubting his abilities to reach a professional music career, but obviously there was a light within him that needed to rise up and out into the world…and indeed, there certainly was an incredible and important voice that needed to be heard.
His friends may have treated his determination for releasing his own record with skepticism, however he insisted “I’m going to show you suckers something. I don’t care if I have to do it myself; I’m going to put this thing out.”
Darondo’s big break came when he met experienced jazz pianist Al Tanner, who was impressed with Darondo’s style and suggested that he should go into the studio. That session produced the great “Darondo Pulliam” two-sider, I Want Your Love So Bad, flipped with the mover How I Got Over, on Leroy Smith’s Ocampo label. Although the song didn’t exactly light up the charts, it caught the attention of Ray Dobard, who owned the record label Music City.
Darondo and Tanner recorded nearly an entire LP in one session at Dobard’s studio. The session produced the fat funk Black Power anthem Let My People Go and the killer jam Legs, but it was the soul pouring “Didn’t I” that became Darondo’s 7″ release in ’72. Local radio put the song into heavy rotation, and the single went on to sell 35,000 copies. Unfortunately, no LP ever came out of that session. “We did about ten tracks,” says Darondo. “I think [Dobard] stole the records. I don’t know what happened to those songs, I don’t know what he did with it.”
But in ’74, there was a third and final single to come out from those sessions, his rarest 7″, recorded for the uber-obscure Af-Fa World imprint (Let My People Go/Legs). By this time, Darondo’s voice had matured, settling in with a refined falsetto that harkened to his years listening to and singing gospel, or what he calls, “spiritual things.” “Spiritual and rhythm and blues—it’s two different things,” he explains. “If you can sing a spiritual thing, you can mostly sing anything, because you are hitting so many more…high pretty notes.”
During his early-’70s run, Darondo opened up for James Brown, became a close acquaintance with Sly, and by all accounts, lived the high life. He’d purchased his signature Rolls Royce from a “cold” car dealer. “This Rolls had racing lights,” he recalls. “It had a bar in the back …I put all the scanners and other mess up in it, so that if the police pulled up behind you, you could hear everything they say. It was too cold. At that time, I had mink coats, diamond rings. I stayed sharp.”
While it may have seemed Darondo was living a little too well for a fledgling regional star, it is rumoured he had other sources of income, as a successful pimp, though it’s a topic he himself refused to speak about, neither confirming nor denying, though he did elliptically refer to it as his “fast life” days. “When people see something, they’re going to think one way or they’re going to think another way,” he muses. “When they saw a chauffeur driving me around in a Rolls, they said, ‘That boy is a pimp.’ I made money, but I was working. I had a job … I was a janitor. I drove up [to the hospital] in the back of my Rolls with my mink coat on … and I’d take the elevator down and change in [the janitor’s locker].”
But back to Didn’t I. It only takes one listen to this haunting, down-tempo breakup ballad to realise that there is something pretty special happening here. And to tell you the truth, I actually don’t play this very often, even in the company of no one else but me and my dog…and it’s a 45 that’s never left the house. Darondo’s wiry falsetto, his lonely guitar chords and understated, melancholic orchestration makes it all just too personal and devastatingly beautiful. I don’t know really what else to say, only that this composition deserves respect. This means if I’m going to play this record, I’m doing nothing else but sitting back with your eyes closed and my soul wide open.
Ubiquity Records put together 2006’s Let My People Go, a collection of reissued classics and unearthed demos. The album won praise in the national press, and Darondo after so many years away in another life, was once again performing live shows. “I never imagined this,” he told SF Weekly in 2007 about his return to the stage.
Darondo died of heart failure on Sunday June 9, 2013.
Be sure to read the following references from Sam Chennault and Oliver Wang.
Gold Cup 0005 A US Year 1970
As a lot of Bo’s ventures go, it’s difficult to find specifics and particulars with so many scattered productions, and while I can’t tell you much about the Explosions in detail, what has come to light is that it was a teenage Juanita Brooks singing up front on Hip Drop!
Bo, who is responsible for such beastly funk jams as Hook and Sling, Pass the Hatchet and the irresistible Every Dog Got His Day, to name but only a very few, produced, wrote and released this gem on his own label Gold Cup in 1970. That same year he also released Check your Bucket on another imprint Bo Sound, and wasn’t a stranger to “going it alone” for publishing and producing by that time.
There were only two other releases on Gold Cup, which happen to be the only other three recordings that Explosions ever released, the elusive Jockey Ride and Garden of Four Trees flipped with Teach Me. Brooks was in fact mis-credited on the latter label when it was actually Marilyn Barbarin who sung up front on Four Trees, although apparently she was never an actual member of the Explosions. Obviously she is freakin’ amazing on that track!
Hip Drop is so damn funky and really should come with a booty shaking warning! And to make things even better, it’s a “2 parter”, so you get to come back for seconds. It’s perfectly raw as you’d expect from these great early 70’s Bo recordings, and cooks up with just the right amount of fat, dirt and “sassytude” (see what I did there…clever huh)!
Juanita Brooks, who came from a musical family, was also a great gospel and jazz singer and later performed for many years in stage and theater in New Orleans and off Broadway. Sadly she passed away at the age of 55 in September 2009. Eddie Bo died 6 months earlier on March 18, of a heart attack. But let us rejoice for this fist full of funk they both hit us hard with all those years ago which still gives the floor a good beatin’. And every time I drop it, I can always expect to get at least one punter asking “what the hell was that”!
Now some highly recommended “must read” sites for info and dedications…
Track 1 Underdog Track 2 Bad Risk
Sylvester Stewart was born in Dallas, Texas, in March of 1944 & began his recording career at the very early age of four as a vocalist on the gospel tune On the Battlefield for My Lord. In the 50’s, his family moved to the San Francisco area where he & his brother Freddie learned to play various instruments & made music under the name the Stewart Four. Stewart also played & sang with doo-wop groups & in high school sang with a group called the Viscanes, appearing on their record Yellow Moon, & at sixteen made a solo record called Long Time Away which gained him some modest fame.
Stone studied music composition, theory, & trumpet at Vallejo Junior College in the early 60’s & began playing in several groups on the Bay Area scene. Around ’64 he had become a disc jockey at the R&B station KSOL, & his radio appearances led to a job producing records for Autumn Records. There he worked with a number of San Franciscan garage & psychedelic bands & he himself recorded three 7’s titled Buttermilk PT1-2 & Temptation Walk PT1-2, both in 65, & also the unusual surf track I Just Learned To Swim in ’64 flipped with Scat Swim, which is a personal fav’ that I’ll have to share sometime in the future…it’s a little insane!
As a DJ he gained notoriety as one of the more eccentric voices on radio, blending sound effects with public service announcements & mixing soul singles with rock & roll records by Bob Dylan & the Beatles, & was generally considered the top R & B commentator in the area.
In ’66 Stewart’s current band The Stoners split, & it was saxophonist Jerry Martini who approached Stewart, who was content at the time with his DJ gig, into fronting a new band. Along with Martini, Stewart enlisted brother Freddie as guitarist & his sister Rosie to play piano, with the addition of bassist Larry Graham & drummer Greg Errico & ex-Stoners trumpet player Cynthia Robinson. Stewart changed his name to Sly Stone, & the Family Stone was born.
The band quickly attracted the attention of Columbia Records A&R executive David Kapralik & soon signed with Columbia, releasing its debut LP, A Whole New Thing, in 1967 on the Columbia subsidiary Epic Records. The album didn’t fare particularly well, but my only explanation for that could possibly be only because of the lack of radio hits, & definitely not the lack of fat funk! The opening track on that Lp, Underdog is a killer & the debut album’s only 7″ release which, I suspect, was a promo only (please correct me if I’m wrong!). I myself think this is the most desirable & important Sly 45 to have! It’s an epic tune, with big vocals, snappy rap versing & the sharpest percussion. I’m just not sure the world was ready for this!
But it didn’t take long for the Family to hit it big, which they certainly did with the almighty (& much more radio friendly) US. and UK. Top 10 smash Dance To The Music, from their follow up LP of the same name. Even Sly admits he wasn’t ready for what was about to hit them!
In ’69, Sly released the album ‘Stand’ which included the next big follow up hit Everyday People. A big album, with some big songs, also including I Want To Take You Higher & my personal fav’ from the album, the title track Stand!
This album went on to sell two million copies.
Underdog was also released on a french picture sleeve as a B side to Dance To The Music, but it’s this bad boy you want with the baddest Bad Risk on the flip!
It must be noted that Sly & the Family Stone did release a mysterious 7″ with the titles I Ain’t Got Nobody & Otis Redding’s I Can’t Turn You Loose on the flip, on a small San Francisco-based Loadstone label. This is said to be the first “Family” 7″, however the dates I’m getting on this release are all over the place ranging from 67 to 72. The track also appeared on their ’68 LP.
The Family Stone are credited as one of the first racially integrated bands in music history, belting their message of peace, love & social consciousness through a string of hit anthems. Their music fused R&B, soul, pop, jazz, & an emerging genre soon to be dubbed funk! Sly developed a formula for the band’s recordings, which would still promote his visions of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism while appealing to a wider audience. And his new fused sound not only worked in selling records, but influenced the entire music industry. When “Dance to the Music” became a Top 10 pop hit, soul producers and labels immediately began appropriating the new “Psychedelic soul” sound. By the end of 1968, The Temptations had gone psychedelic, and The Impressions and Four Tops would join them within the space of two years.
Sadly Sly eventually fell down the spiral with his constant drug addictions over some many years. While he still may have that spark in his eyes, & that beautiful energy in his aura, he clearly has paid a price for those early years of fame. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, & is the recipient of the 2002 R&B Foundation Pioneer Award.
Referencing and recommendations…
Documentary – Sly & the Family Stone “Coming back for more” (I would love to see this!)
Documentary -Sly Stone: Portrait of a Legend
Jubilee 45-5459 US Year 1963
Track 1 – You’re No Good Track 2 – Don’t Call Me Anymore
If there’s ever a 7″ that deserves an A for “attitude”, then this is it!
Jersey gal Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warwick (sister of Dionne Warwick, niece of Cissy Houston and cousin of Whitney Houston) brings us this dizzying monster two-sider from way back in the early 60’s on Jubilee.
A young Dee Dee sang with her sister and their aunt in the New Hope Baptist Church Choir in Newark, New Jersey. Eventually the three women formed the gospel trio the Gospelaires, and at a performance with the Drinkard Singers at the Apollo Theater in 1959, the Warwick sisters were recruited by a record producer for session work and, along with Doris Troy, subsequently became a prolific New York City area session singing team.
Dee Dee began her solo career in 1963 cutting You’re No Good, produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, then in ’64 on the Tiger Label, releasing the lovely ballad Don’t Think My Baby’s Coming Back, before signing with Mercury in 65.
Vee-Jay’s head a&r man Calvin Carter found You’re No Good while visiting New York City in search of material for his label’s roster and he originally intended to cut it with Dee Dee, but as he recalls, “when I went to rehearsal with the tune, it was so negative, I said, ‘Hey, guys don’t talk negative about girls, because girls are the record buyers. No, I better pass on that.’ So I gave the song to Betty Everett”. Still uncertain as to why there’s an exception when Betty sings it however, maybe it was her more “acceptable” feminine approach she gave it?
Dee Dee’s delivery and conviction is nasty on this little gem. The tempo is scathing, the backing vocals are damn sassy! The song hits you in the head like on old piece of hard timber….she’s letting you know! And just as you think you can’t take anymore, you soon discover the rusty nail in the form of some serious fuzz tone delivered by a short but intimidating guitar rant.
While this tune proved to be much more successful for Everett, which she released only 2 months later in November, (the single peaked at number fifty-one on the Hot 100, and at number five on “Cashbox’s R&B Locations” chart), I’m definitely a lot more infatuated with this dirty raw punchier version of Dee Dee’s from what I like to call her “early punk” R&B days. I don’t wish to ever take anything away from Betty’s take, which really is something special (it may start off quite sweet and slick, but it builds up and gets swinging, and she does finally get a bit worked up towards the end).
There’s only one thing better than a two-sider, and as in this case, two tracks that you could say relate to each other in subject (another great example is Ann Sexton’s You’re Losing Me flipped with You’re Gonna Miss Me). The flip Don’t Call Me Any More is simply great and again, hard hitting, and makes this 7″ release quite an interesting one, when in a time most soul songs were about love and sorrow in relationships, and not so much about attitude and angst.
On a sad note…
The more I research about these wonderful artist’s that gave us these incredible songs, too often I find that there’s another darker side to their story. Dee Dee Warwick struggled with narcotics addiction for many years and was in failing health for some time. Her sister was with her when she died on October 18, 2008 in a nursing home in Essex County, New Jersey, aged 66.
Other Dee Dee recommendations!
Dee Dee Warwick – Foolish Fool – Mercury 72880 Year 1969
Dee Dee Warwick – Cold Night In Georgia – Atlantic 2091-057 Year 1971
Just criminal that this here dance floor monster was not the hit it deserved to be back in ’73 for K-Doe!!
Born in New Orleans on February 22, 1936, Ernest Kador Jr.’s first public singing was in church choirs at the age of nine, and went on to sing with such spiritual groups as the Golden Choir Jubilees and the Divine Traveler. Not able to resist the pull of doo wop and R&B, he advanced his career by briefly singing with The Flamingos and the Moonglows in Chicago in the early fifties.
K-Doe began hanging out at the famed Dew Drop Inn and other New Orleans clubs like the Sho-Bar, and also sang briefly with a local group, The Blue Diamonds, with whom he recorded on the Savoy label. As a solo artist he signed with Herald and Specialty and released a few hits, but it was the release of Mother-In-Law in ’61 on Minit that gave him his first real taste of sucess! It reached number one on Billboard‘s R&B chart during May of 1961, and it was the young 23 year old songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint who arranged the song, with backing vocals by the great Benny Spellma. Ironically, K-Doe abandoned Mother-in-Law during rehearsal because it had not gone well. However, as Toussaint recollected in K-Doe’s obituary in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “It found its way back out of the trash can and into my hands, so we could try again. I’m so glad we did.” Mother-In-Law was one of the biggest records to come out of New Orleans in the 60’s, selling in the millions!
The now successful and flamboyant K-Doe went on to release a string of great tracks there after, include Dancing Man, Popeye Joe, the self penned Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta, and one I highly recommend A Certain Girl, which was very nicely covered by The Yardbirds in ’64 with a truly big sound.
It’s 1973…K-Doe is on a new label Janus, and teams up once again with Toussaint, but this time releasing something a lot more funkier than ever before (well it was the 70’s!). Releasing a brilliant self titled LP, with Toussaint’s session hipsters, The Meters as his recording band, and it’s the dynamite Here Come The Girls that gets the single release (the flip being A Long Way Back From Home). The moment the distinctive military intro kicks in, you are forced to attention, and quickly that melodic verse sweeps you in. Driven with that tight rhythmic Meters strumming, along with that catchy bridge and chorus, you soon realise that this is more the funk that’s definitely derived from good R&B and soul roots! It’s snappy, tight and the pace is perfect!
Although this mighty tune may not have reached the success or attention of his hey day 61′ classic, or whether it even made the charts at all at the time, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t the soundtrack to plenty of dance floor lovers of the time. It just must have been! While the great man is no longer with us, the good news is today, it’s a tune certainly on many dj’s set lists (or wish lists), and still gets a whole lot of people jivin’ 40 years later!
Lots of info online on this great artist and here’s some I referenced and recommend!