Thursday, April 12, 2012

»Soul has Gained New Fans«

... we read in a Billboard article (»Soul Trends - The Widening of Its Audience«, Aug. 16, 1969, issue), »thanks to the rediscovery, by progressive rock FM stations, of Blues. LP cuts by B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Ray Charles, Albert Collins, and Ike and Tina Turner are programmed almost as regularly as those by Iron Butterfly or Jimi Hendrix Experience by these stations, and an audience completely different from those already mentioned has emerged with great interest in the music and tre- mendous buying power. Soul has come a long way from Fats Domino being covered by Pat Boone ...«

Hmm, not exactly the mix of names which would come to my mind if I had to restate this, but still ... Albert Collins certainly had a peculiar role in bringing different, and often separate, musical styles together. His Imperial LP Trash Talkin' (# 12438) was released just at the time when the above-quoted Billboard issue was published. (His previous album, for Blue Thumb, had been released only two months before ... perhaps you remember the beautiful headshot of Albert on the cover.) Albert's Imperial LP contains 12 tracks, 8 of which are instrumentals. The funny »Conversation With Collins« has him talking, among many other things, about changing diapers, and »Talking Slim Blues« is actually »Things That I Used To Do«. However, these are more or less classic blues tunes. More towards the blending of styles - soul, blues and funk for instance - go some of the instrumentals, and it may have been those that prompted the Billboard writer to include Collins's name in his musings about Soul's widening audience. The instrumentals best exemplifying this are, to my mind, »Jawing« and »Tongue Lashing«, the first pretty funky, the second reminding of the Memphis soul sound (complete with horn section). Just the right stuff for a thursday night I'd say ...

Albert Collins: »Jawing« / »Tongue Lashing« from the Imperial LP # 12438 (1969):

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... and I love his ties!

Monday, April 09, 2012

A Landmark Record ... and a Riddle

You certainly won't mind if I conclude the Easter posts by two further songs of Edna Gallmon Cooke. She was outstanding in many respects, and her artistry is quite unique. Since Edna was featured on this blog recently (viz. her 45 Nashboro # 705 from late autumn 1961), we might just as well have a look at her 1962 LP Stop Gambler! (Nashboro LP # 7009) which includes this and a number of other single releases (several of them, Nashboro # 745 & 760, were only released after the album!). In fact, only four of the twelve songs didn't appear on 45.

Edna's 1962 Nashboro LP is a landmark album that has not, as far as I can see, received the praise it deserves. Many moods pervade this album, and it is not the »typical« Edna-ser- monette style of »Stop Gambler« which dominates (there are just two more tunes of this kind on the LP, »Jesus Will Never Say No« and »The Lost Sheep«). Especially, we find several very lyrical performances, »Life's Lonesome Road« (recorded in May 1961) and »Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had«. The latter is a breath-taking performance, never released outside this LP. I've nowhere heard of a category »lyrical gospel« (seriously used and aimed at general acceptance) but I propose to create it on purpose for this gem of a song which is sui generis:

Edna Gallmon Cooke: »Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Had« from the Nashboro LP # 7009 (1962):

But then we have also the very opposite on this LP: Edna taking her chances at an uptempo shouter, backed by the Singing Sons and actually playing somewhat the second fiddle alongside ... yes, whom? This is the riddle.

From Billboard, August 21, 1961, p. 34
First, the song in question is »The Lord Still Answers Prayer«. It was also released on Nashboro # 697 in or little before August 1961. I do not know the 45 version but assume that it is the same as the LP version. The 45 label states, beneath the artists's name, »New Singing Sons« (who, in Billboard's messy review, became »The Friendly Sons«!). Now, this song is not only, as Billboard's careless critic would have it, a »meaningful performance« (hmm, could you say anything more disparaging about a song?), it is a masterful blend of a rough-cut male voice (of the Ermant Franklin-type) paired with the honeyed voice of Edna, hesitantly joining in into this unlikely and eventually nothing but thrilling battle between a vocal sledgehammer and finely-tuned vocal chords accustomed to subtle modulation. But before you listen to this exceptional recording, help me solve the riddle men- tioned above.

Actually, the riddle comes in two parts. First, the Singing Sons (credited on the 45 but not on the back cover of the LP). I found no information about them as such. As male backing group of Edna G. Cooke they are mentioned frequently, but without further details as to their members. A more-than-usual (I hope) profound search on the net (and in the limited number of discographies) turned out the following names: Dave Edrington, Providence Thomas, a certain James Brown (maybe not the famous), Carl Davis, Tommy Ellison, Julius Cheeks, Willie Banks and Johnnie Jones, all members at one time or the other.
  Carl Davis (of Richmond, Va.) was part of Edna's Singing Sons for a number of years, before leading the Miami-based Florida Robbins Singers (see more here). He later joined the Swan Silvertones and the Dixie Hummingbirds. He is heard on the Singing Sons' only '60s Nashboro release, # 676 (Oct. 1960). Willie Banks also joined the Florida Robbins Singers after leaving the Singing Sons. Tommy Ellison (from South Carolina) was part of the Singing Sons, together with Julius Cheeks, but both left before 1960. Ellison left for the Sensational Nightingales and later organized his own group, The Five Singing Stars; Cheeks likewise was part of the Nightingales, later of the Soul Stirrers and others. Dave and Providence were members of the group in the mid-'50s but, it seems, no longer in or after 1960. Regarding James Brown (!) and Johnnie Jones I have no further information. In addition, several other names are mentioned in connection with Edna's Singing Sons, viz. Roscoe Robinson (!) and Horace Thompson. I found no conclusive evidence about how and when they were part of Edna's backing group. Finally, there is guitarist Bobby McDougle (of Valdosta, Ga.) who is said to have been recruited as a musician for the Singing Sons at age sixteen, i.e. in or around 1960. Conclusion: The story of the group is utterly confusing, due to many changes over the years and lacking credits, and remains yet to be written.
   Second part of the riddle: Whose is the prominent male voice doing the group's lead and, as it were, duetting with Edna in »The Lord Still Answers Prayer«? I have no idea. Any suggestions?
   Well, it is no matter of life and death. We'll find out one day. Until then, get carried away here (the musicians got carried away as well ... listen after 00:30, they are about to stumble right out of the song!):

Edna G. Cooke & unidentified singer: »The Lord Still Answers Prayer« from the Nashboro LP # 7009 (rel. 1962):

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Nashboro LP # 7009 (1962)
(this label is post-1968, unfortunately ... alas, I do not possess the LP with the original green label)

Sunday, April 08, 2012


J&B LP # 0076 (1986)
This morning, intuition hit me that Geneva Jones's »He's Still Alive« is just the song befitting Easter Sunday. It comes from the 1986 album One Day We'll Be Together Again by Geneva Jones from Vicksburg, Mississippi. To tell the truth, this was one of those LPs you pick up because you're right at it ... and then you discover some really beautiful tunes once you find the time to listen. So it was in this case. Which proves, if proof is needed, that you should always grab what you can because in most cases you won't be sorry you did. On the contrary, you'd be sorry you didn't.
   Geneva Jones is alive and well and still around performing. Her daughter put up a youtube channel, and there you'll easily find some footage of evangelist Jones in action (scroll down to watch one recent video of Mrs Jones). She was 36 when recording this LP and I'm very happy she did. Especially the first songs on Side Two are a fusion of powerhouse blues and gospel ... »gospel« understood here in the broad sense, because »Storms In My Life« isn't a classic »church song«. Rather, it is an autobiographically tainted (as it appears) song speaking about - well, life. It much records tunes by Gladys McFadden (of the Loving Sisters, once and again a cherished presence on this blog). Without doubt, »Storms In My Life« is the very highlight of Geneva Jones's LP. Happy Easter All!

Geneva Jones: »He's Still Alive« / »Storms In My Life« from the J&B LP # 0076 (1986):

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Friday, April 06, 2012

A Passion Song by Edna Gallmon Cooke

Edna Gallmon Cooke: »The Hammer Rings« on Nashboro # 705 (1961):

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dinah in Hollywood

Merrily, we live in a time where a number of fairly specialized labels bombard us regularly with CDs containing unreleased material of many more or lesser known artists. Once run out of this prime material, the labels in question will then, not without some malice and correctly estimating our sheepish inclination to follow this strategy without demur, produce further CDs, presenting us with outtakes, re-takes, unfinished takes, the respective artist talking between takes, giant anthologies featuring each and every take (including all the single tracks used for vocal overdubs etc. etc.), demo versions, bootlegs if available, live recordings made by someone in the concert audience (often of deplorable quality), acetate versions, re-mastered originals, mono versions converted into stereo, stereo versions mastered down to mono ... to mention only the most obvious. Of course, there will be numerous idiots around, like myself, who eagerly collect this kind of pocket-emptying money-traps which come disguised, quite innocently, as CDs, often embellished by very useful and precious liner notes (which of course, according to our distorted minds, would by and in themselves justify the purchase of any of those CDs). It's a mad, mad world.

Mercury LP # SR 61119 (1967)
However, all this pertains to today's post only insofar as I would like to point out that all this is not a new thing as such, and certainly it is not a brainchild of the CD age. It was done in the vinyl age as well, albeit less often. Mercury released, little more than three years after the death of Queen Dinah, in April 1967, an album of unreleased songs and aptly entitled Dinah Discovered ... Great Songs Never Before Re- leased (Mercury LP # SR 61119). The LP features ten songs, all »taped at a Hollywood studio on two evenings in January of 1961 with Belford Hendricks ... as conductor«. Other musicians who were present: Ernie Freeman and Joe Zawinul on piano. Now, this is certainly not Dinah's most momen- tous album. But it does contain a number of memorable songs, something easily explained by the fact that Dinah rarely, if ever, did something not worthy of being recorded straight away. And since we spoke so much about takes and re-takes above, the following quote from Patti Brown, one of Dinah's accompanists on the piano, is relevant here: »Sometimes after a record date, she'd have a few drinks and cry, listening to her own records and reminiscing. ... She always liked to listen to herself. She was such an artist. She was a "one-take" or "two-take" person. No "twenty-takes" to make a record. She'd focus right in on what was necessary« (quoted in L. Gourse, Louis' Children, p. 224). Bad news for the re-take issuing industry of today, incidentally!

If she liked to listen to herself, how much more should we, then? (Well, this is admittedly not a very convincing argument if you do not already belong to the Dinah-devoted ...). Listen to »Pagan Love Song« and »Stormy Weather« below. The first song, »Pagan Love Song«, was, as far as I see, never before or after recorded by Dinah, so it makes its appearance only on this album. A fine, up-tempo tune driven along by the band. Originally from 1929, this song is supposed to take the listener back to Dinah's childhood (I'm quoting from the LP's back cover). The second song, »Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All The Time)« on the other hand was one of Dinah's staple tunes. Recorded back in March 1954 in Chicago for the first time, it appeared on Mercury #  5906 but did not chart, in marked difference to several other of Dinah's songs in that epoch. She also recorded it again in December 1961, to be released on two of her »Golden Hits« albums. »Don't know why ...« are the words with which Dinah blasts the song off, and who could do it like her? »She used to say: Just bring me the bitch who could do what I can do - and do it all well« ...

Dinah Washington: »Pagan Love Song« / »Stormy Weather« from the Mercury LP # SR 61119 (1967, rec. 1961):

A photograph of Dinah Washington, from the January 12, 1961, issue of Jet magazine (that is, some days before she entered the Hollywood studio to record the songs above ... Rafael Campos, likewise pictured below, was one of Dinah's one-in- a-row husbands ... her marriage to the Dominican actor »didn't even last the time it took for a Sepia magazine article to be published on the newlyweds. By the time this big feature hit the newsstands, Rafael was on his way« ... read more here in Nadine Cohodas's 2004 interview):