|(The Royal Flairs and friends - not dead yet)|
This month's selection box...
1. Blind Willie Johnson – “The Soul Of A Man” (1930)
Willie’s mother died whilst he was a baby and his stepmother blinded him by throwing lye in his eyes after catching his father messing with another woman. Not a great start to life and his last days saw Willie’s house burn down, he and his wife living in the ashes, him getting wet, catching pneumonia, the hospital refusing to take him due to his blindness, and so he died. Still, looking on the bright side, he recorded some brilliant music in between.
2. Little Robbie – “I’ve Got Troubles Of My Own” (1964)
I’ve had this slow burning 45 for years but still can’t find out anything about Little Robbie, yet this is ideally suited to the R&B dancefloor of today with its pace sympathetic to the needs of the more mature dancer.
3. Rosco & Barbara – “It Ain’t Right” (1965)
Wonderfully raucous rhythm and soul duet on Old Town Records with full bloodied vocals from Rosco Gordon and his wife Barbara Kerr, punchy horns, thumping drums and dancing piano.
4. A. K. Salim – “Afrika (Africa)” (1965)
Ahmad Khatab Salim was a successful big-band writer and arranger during the 1950s (a broken jaw putting pay to any earlier ambitions as reed player) and after a period of quiet re-emerged in 1965 with Afro-Soul/Drum Orgy, an album of off-the-cuff, completely spontaneous recordings attempting to capture the band’s impression of the sound of Africa, with the drums and the horns “really having a conversation, not just playing in a traditional way”.
5. The Syndicate – “The Egyptian Thing” (1965)
Shooting straight outta Los Angeles we have this gravel throated, blues wailin’, sonic powered, garage punk rocket. You get the picture. No idea where the Egyptian angle comes in. Dot Records were suitably impressed and began to record an album on the boys but it never surfaced and they spilt the following year. Shame.
6. Edwin Starr – “Has It Happened To You Yet?” (1967)
Same backing track as his Ric-Tic label mate JJ Barnes’s northern soul classic “Sweet Sherry” (who co-wrote the song with producer Don Davis), this lay gathering dust in the vaults for 30 years. With quality like this it was little wonder Berry Gordy gobbled up Ric-Tic for his own empire.
7. The Royal Flairs – “Suicide” (1966)
Primitive garage 45 with lead singer Bob Everhart offering to follow the unexpected suicide of his loved one (although in the true tradition of garage-punk they’d both done each other wrong). The guitar and harp are fantastic. Everhart nearly did achieve an early death when he was shot in a nightclub protecting a 350-pound go-go dancer, Miss Temptation, from the advances of a crazy customer, the bullet grazing his skull and taking a bit with it. Poor Bob came to at the hospital, turned to his side, saw a fella with his throat cut and promptly passed out again. The surf-instrumental flip of this 45 for Marina Records from Chicago was, appropriately enough, “One Pine Box”.
8. Reuben Wilson – “Superfly” (1974)
The near-obligatory Curtis Mayfield cover in the monthly playlist goes this time to Reuben Wilson for his super funky Hammond version from the LP The Cisco Kid, released on the aptly named Groove Merchant Records. Wilson is puffing on a big cigar and looking dead pleased with himself on the sleeve, as well he might.
9. Paul Weller – “Saturns Pattern” (2015)
On his previous album Lord Welly of Woking spelt Sonic with a “k”, and now banishes the annoying apostrophe to his bin of unwanted clutter just because he doesn’t like the look of it. This is a man who plays by his own rulez. Saturns Pattern follows the shape of Weller’s more recent output: sounds which jump and twist into unexpected areas rather than follow a simple straight forward song for geezers travelling on buses to whistle. It’s an approach I salute and one Weller wears well.
10. Saun and Starr – “Look Closer (Can’t You See The Signs)” (2015)
Sharon Jones’s backing singers Saundra Williams and Starr Duncan-Lowe move into the spotlight backed by the unmistakable tight-funk snap of Dap-Kings. Has a real old Acid Jazz vibe to it. Think summer barbeques, stripy t-shirts, love beads, South American bottled beer.