Archive for Newbury Comics

Intruder Alert

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by greedycherry

What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves CD Cover

I am a sucker for old soul records.  Most new r&b music really doesn’t do much for me, I’m afraid … but leave “The Complete Stax/Volt” box set on my desk and I probably won’t come out of my room for a month.  Or more.  (Or maybe a little less, depending on how badly I need to eat and pay rent that month.)

Point is, there’s sooooo much good stuff out there.  And the sad part is that there’s sooooo much good stuff out there I still haven’t heard.  And probably never will hear. Reason being that so many groups in history never became well-known, perhaps barely made one album, or maybe even only ever recorded one single …. but what intrigues me and keeps me searching for that old soul music is that maybe it was an amazing single.

Therefore, every compilation or box set of “old school” r&b that gets released, I give it a long, hard look. I buy if I can. Just last year, as a matter of fact, I purchased “What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves”, which turned out to be four discs of pure heaven sent down to redeem my sinful little CD player.  I mean, maybe you can turn away from Clarence Carter and “Snatching It Back”, but I sure can’t.  My reaction to most of the tracks on that box set is akin to that of Mrs. Mia Wallace after snorting a line of cocaine in the bathroom of Jack Rabbit Slim’s: “GodDAMN!!!!! Goddamn, goddamn…..”  Or as my friend Angelo might say, “those songs are funkier than a dirty Pamper.”

Anyway, back in 2010 a two-CD compilation was released that really got my attention … and the main reason it got my attention was its title.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple years listening to the excellent college radio stations that broadcast in the Boston area (shout out to MIT’s WMBR and Boston College’s WZBC, two of the best), and one of my favorite shows hands-down is an afternoon show on WMBR called “Lost and Found”.  Every day of the week, a DJ comes in and plays old or rare tracks from a different genre for two hours … but nothing gets me happier than Wednesday afternoon’s edition with Brother Wayne, who always manages to unearth some of the coolest soul gems I’ve ever heard.  (He still runs the show to this day …. you should visit their website and check it out.  Trust me on this one.)

Therefore, being a huge fan of the “Lost and Found” show, I was stopped in my tracks one day while checking out new music releases at Newbury Comics. There on the shelf sat a new CD set which read “Keb Darge & Paul Weller present Lost & Found: Real R’N’B & Soul”.  Lovingly assembled by well-known Scottish DJ Darge and journeyman musician Weller (formerly of The Jam and The Style Council), this collection represented their favorite rare cuts from 50s and 60s soul. It’s a stellar compilation, and I can’t see how any fan of the style wouldn’t want to rush out right now and pick it up.

Er…..I said now.  Go ahead……I’ll wait for you.

Back yet?  Good!  Let’s talk about one of the best tracks on the set.  It’s this one (sorry about the crappy YouTube graphic … it’s the best-sounding version I could find):

If you’re familiar with groups like Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and The O’Jays, you already know a little bit about the “Philadelphia Sound”.  When Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff decided to form their own record label in the 1960s, they began with this group, The Intruders, which provided a sound unlike any other at the time. Not as pop-oriented as Motown, but also not as funky or bluesy as Stax, this new sound was more smooth, more soaring, more orchestral.  The kind of record I picture Don Cornelius and his lady curling up with a glass of Courvoisier to enjoy.  Simply delightful.

Anyway, I was listening to this track again the other day, being eternally grateful for its lush sound and soaring harmonies, and thought I’d share. Doesn’t it make you wonder how much great music is still out there, buried in the past, yet to be discovered?  It makes me sad … and yet, at the same time, excited for the searching, and eager in anticipation of the thrill of the discovery.

Man, I love music.

Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

Posted in Current Events, Music with tags , , on April 13, 2011 by greedycherry

So today there was a CD release that I feel is worth mentioning to you….so I will.

I was driving down the road the other day listening to some local college radio when a song came on by a very popular artist that I’d never heard before. It was, in my opinion, a very good and – unusually for this artist – funny song, and I thought to myself, “Gotta get a copy of that!”

The song was “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” and the artist was Bob Dylan.

Dylan wrote this one way back in 1962, and it was one of the first songs recorded for his “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album in April of that year. If you are a Dylan fan, you will at this point shout to me quite loudly that this song is not on that record, and you would be correct. We can attribute that to fate…whether you look at it in a good light or bad light is up to you.

Dylan actually recorded a ton of songs that year, and, as it would turn out, his songwriting prowess was developing so quickly that none of the approximately fourteen songs he recorded in April ended up on the album (at least not those particular recordings). For instance, when he resumed recording in July of that year, he brought “Blowin’ In The Wind,” one of his perennial classics, to the table….he had only performed it live for the first time shortly before the initial recording sessions, and didn’t have it ready to go until these later sessions. More classics followed, of course, which did make it on to the record, but never would have had they just pressed the original batch of tunes he recorded.

Still, “Talkin’ John Birch” was still scheduled to be on the record, if Ed Sullivan hadn’t gotten involved. Dylan was scheduled to appear live on the Sullivan show in May of 1963, and he had chosen to perform “Talkin'” that night. However, the “head of program practices” at CBS told him that the song was “potentially libelous” to the John Birch Society, and therefore asked him to play another number. Dylan considered this censorship and refused to do the show.

Unfortunately, the controversy over the song was already brewing at Columbia Records. Accounts differ as to whether it happened before or after the Sullivan show incident, but apparently Columbia got nervous about the tune as well (as well as a couple of other political-minded songs that were scheduled to appear on the LP) and made Dylan pull the song and replace it with some of the other material he had recorded. If you’re a rarities collector, take note….the initial pressings of the album got through before the songs got pulled, and, even though Columbia quickly recalled and then destroyed most of the records, some still exist. If you’re at a local flea market or yard sale, take a look….if you find a copy of “Freewheelin'” with “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” on it, you could make a pretty penny! (The last one is rumored to have sold for about $35,000.)

Anyway, today a CD hit the stores called “Bob Dylan In Concert – Brandeis University 1963.” The recording itself is most likely taken straight from the mixing desk of the show, and, as it turns out, was actually forgotten for over forty years until turning up in the personal effects of late music writer and Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Ralph Gleason. The disc, if you decide to buy it, is actually priced pretty cheap, as it only has seven songs on it….but one of them is “Talkin’ John Birch.” As it turns out, this is the exact version I heard on the radio, so I can assure you that this disc will be part of my collection before the week is up! (Also of note: the link I gave you above is not for the version on this CD, unfortunately, but I did want you all to hear the song in some form….the one on the new disc is far better!)

The song is done in that old folk style where a story is told in a speaking voice, not sung. It’s a very popular performance method that has been done extensively, especially in old country records, and I have heard and enjoyed many tunes that were done in this manner (Johnny Cash’s “One Piece At A Time” is probably my favorite). Dylan is a great storyteller, and quite funny as a narrator, all the while chugging away on his acoustic guitar, punctuating his verses with bursts of harmonica. It will show a new side to Dylan for most people, I think….you should give it a listen!

(And if you live in Boston, Newbury Comics is selling it for $7.99 this week! CHEAP!!)