Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lost Hits Of The Rock n Roll Era-Soul Brothers Six

Atlantic Records had plenty of soul acts that made big impacts on the charts back in the 60s. Notables such as Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding. But in my time a lot of less known would put out DJ copies of forgotten songs that only I remember. Don Hollinger's Cruel World (ATCO 6592), White soulster Billy Vera recorded a version of I've Been Loving You Too Long. And Patty LaBelle & The Bluebell gave us I Don't Want To Go On Without You.

One of the lesser knowns of the soul Atlantic era is The Soul Brothers Six, who released five good to great to classic singles. I don't believe they made an album for Atlantic which is a shame. Wikipedia calls their singles unimpressive which tends one to believe that whoever wrote that, never did listen or could get access to the singles.

Best known for Some Kind Of Wonderful (Atlantic 2406) (which Grand Funk Railroad took up to the charts in 1975), that song was their only chart appearance in their career. The next song You Better Check Yourself (Atlantic 2456) may be the best Motown song not done by Motown, the bass introduction reminds one of James Jamerson. It didn't get much airplay but in fact I didn't come across it till I found a decent copy of it at the old Marion Goodwill next to the old Mays Drugstore. The group was led by John Ellison who sounded a cross between Little Richard and Wilson Pickett. The call and response from the other guys makes this a lost classic and why it didn't break big remains a mystery.

The next two singles, Ellison went for a more soul ballad style and neither sold either, copies of the songs becoming part of those 10 for a dollar 45 box sets that K Mart used to sell. Arif Mardin Co Produced and arranged Charles Armstrong's I Can't Live Without You (Atlantic 2535) and the followup Thank You Baby For Loving Me (Atlantic 2592). Their final Atlantic offering, What You Got (Sure Is Good For Me) (Atlantic 2645) was written by Charles Armstrong and showing more of a harding rocking edge than previous efforts. The record didn't sell and the Soul Brothers Six got dropped and basically broke up. But John Ellison would recruit new faces and they moved over to Philadelphia: LA Of Soul Records for three more singles that were regional hits at best and actually more of a funk feel than the Motown R & B feel of the Atlantic singles.

However The Soul Brothers Six, lack of sales would benefits others. Duke And The Drivers had a bigger hit with What You Got in 1975 and also covered Check Yourself. And even though there has yet to be a official release of an actual SB6 retrospective (Some Kind Of Wonderful can be found on Sire's Sweet Soul Music 1992 and Check Yourself is on The Beat Goes On-Best Of Atlantic Dance Music on Kent/Ace UK). Most of their singles can be heard via You Tube.

PS There's a early version of Oh I Need You Yes I Do (Lyndell 747 circa 1965?) that gives one a feeling of Wilson Pickett leading the Miracles.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Music Reviews of the Great 50th Birthday Bash.

LOBO-A Cowboy Afraid Of Horses (Big Tree 1975) In terms of singer songwriters Kent LaVoie should be up there with James Taylor or Dan Fogleberg but you don't hear him that much. This was his final album for Big Tree, which really doesn't sound much different than the previous. Rocks a little here, tries for the big folk statement on The War To End All Wars and falls flat on his face. Had a minor hit with Don't Tell Me Goodnight. B

Aldo Nova-(Portrait 1981) Mullet rock before Bon Jovi did it better, Nova was a pretty good guitar player and had a big hit with Fantasy but the rest of the album falls somewhere that Loverboy was doing at the time. The ballads foretell the coming of Richard Marx. Maybe Aldo was ahead of his time. B-

Dave Brubeck-The Last Set At Newport (Atlantic 1972) Sounds more like a jam session than jazz and his rhythm section of Jack Six and Alan Dawson might be even better than the better known Joe Morello and Eugene Wright, judging from what I have heard from the Atlantic sides. Another good version of Take Five and Gerry Mulligan does a wonderful job. But we all know Paul Desmond was the secret weapon and he's missing. The side long Blues At Newport and Open The Gates prove that Brubeck sense of time and melody remain second to none. A-

Let's Active-Every Dog Has Its Day (IRS 1988) Needing a bit more muscle, Mitch Easter turns to John Leckie (XTC, Be Bop Deluxe) for a better sound and gets it. Musically, it's pretty good and the title track turned out to be a minor hit. But Easter's vocals still remain a tuneless acquired taste. Sometimes I can over look that. B

Neil Young-Prairie Wind (Reprise 2005) I think this was the followup to Harvest than Harvest Moon. Harvest Moon was more likable and when Prairie Wind came out I call it perhaps his less interesting album in years. A 2nd listen a few years later proved that time has made this a bit more listenable and The Painter & Falling Off The Face Of The Earth remain the highlights. I guess I can forgive him for the goofy I Knew The King eh? Original Grade C+ Upgraded to B+

Ian Hunter-Live In London (Great American Music Co. 2009) Taken from a 2004 concert that has Mick Ralphs joining in on guitar it showcases sometimes sloppy and at times Hunter tosses off lyrics as an afterthought. He doesn't even attempt the high notes of Standing In My Light. Brian May and Joe Eliott pop in on the sloppy All The Way From Memphis. Two versions of All The Young Dudes, the best one is the acoustic. Overall: you had to be there. B-

David Bowie (Rebound 1997) The early years when he was on Deram/London and comes as a cross between Anthony Newley and Syd Barrett and not in a good way. Love You Till Tuesday flopped as an single. C

Willie Nelson-Who Will Buy My Memories The IRS Tapes (CMG 1992) Just Willie and his guitar, singing some of his old better known originals. Too bad Sony Music didn't reissue this as the Original Naked Willie a couple years ago. Not exactly I would play every day but it's a curio that best to hear a couple times. I think I perfer his version It's Not Supposed To Be This Way on this than the others. B+

The Judybats-Native Son (Sire/WB 1991) Spotty debut. Their best song was a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators She Lives In A Time Of Her Own to which their record label forced upon them to record for a Roky Erickson tribute album. They never did topped that. C+

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Ocean Blue

Band from Hershey Pennsylvania that for a short time was the darlings of the 120 minutes fame of MTV and alternative radio, back when alternative radio was that and not the watered down modern rock it is today. They sounded more of a cross of Echo & The Bunnymen (but only more melodic), The Smiths (without the Morrissey whine to go with Johnny Marr's cheese) and Psychedelic Furs around Talk Talk Talk. And a bit of Roxy Music Manifesto too.

All their albums, you may not remember unless you hear the songs, but when you do hear the songs you will find that they do sound pretty good twenty years beyond the fact. While some perfer the debut and Cerulean which is their Smith's tribute, I like the 1993 Beneath The Rhythm & Sound which gave them Crash, which aired a few times on MTV 120 Minutes before MTV decided to go reality TV and gave up on music.

Steve Lau left and the last two recordings showed more of a rock and less polished sound. The Ocean Blue moved from Sire/Reprise to Mercury for See The Ocean Blue, but before anything good happened Polygram got swallowed up by Universal and the band was set free again. Davy Jones Locker was reissued in 2001 on a independent label and it was more stripped down but it was a better listen.

Since then, there has been an EP to which I yet to hear and their website continues to say that the guys are working on their next album. Nevertheless, you can find their albums in the budget or clearance bins at thrift stores. They did work their influences quite well and all of their albums are worthwhile. I've heard they were excellent playing live.

The Ocean Blue 1990 B+
Cerulean 1991 B+
Beneath The Rhythm & Sound 1993 B+
See The Ocean Blue 1996 B+
Davy Jones Locker 2001 A-