9 Feb

Yes, I know, I don’t write, I don’t call….Sorry Mother.  For some reason I let things get on top of me (got ill, changed jobs, lost a dear friend  – RIP Lee) and despite my best intentions let the blogging slide.  So no posts since early December….

But you know what?  I’ve missed it,  so I’m back with some new stuff, and some of the old stuff (mixed up with potato and fried up as a kind of bubble’n’squeak), and hopefully a load of things for you check out on t’intenet and in person.  Gonna try a few new features, and maybe get some contributors in (going to try to get a friend to do a rare soul column) but will hopefully keep the same mix:  clothes (not fashion), music (that you can get – apart from the rare soul column of course) and tipping the wink to things that are not getting the props they deserve elsewhere.  But this time around: if you like anything leave a comment.  And if you don’t like anything: leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.


Mod on a budget – great soul comps for less than a Lady

5 Dec

OK, so like me you probably spend far more than you should on new music (or new old music, if you try and and keep up with the amazing flood of previously unobtainable stuff being released on CD and increasingly on vinyl).  But some times its nice to pick up an older compilation that, even though it contains some brilliant music, has significantly dropped in price on Amazon and the like (before they become rare and go up tenfold in price – you know how it is!).

I generally find these by doing an ‘Allmusic’ google to find out where I can pick up on a track that I’ve heard on the brilliant PY shows on Jazz FM, or Pete Mitchell’s Soul Time on the internet-only Absolute Radio, and then find the comps that they’re on are literally going for less than a song…but there are many paths to the garden (as the actress said to the bishop)

So these are a few for me that are keeping the wolf from the door….

1) ‘Soul Satisfaction’ series

The first one was compiled by Richard Searling, and has an understandably NS flavour, whereas the subsequent ones are put together by the brilliant Jo Wallace and reflect her Motown involvement, these are great comps that should cost you no more than a fiver if you look around – tracks below from vols 1 and 4 respectively, but they’re all good:

Natural Four ‘I Thought You Were Mine’

David Ruffin ‘Questions’


2) ‘Soul Allnighter: Metropolitan Soul Presents…60’s Stompers & 70’s Dancefloor Classics’

OK, a bit of a mouthful, but I found this when I was looking for Betty Moorer’s ‘Speed Up’ (which of course I already had on at least two other comps!) – I think Metropolitan Soul did a number of good Modern Soul comps around the same time (‘On The Real Side’ being one of these), but this is a lovely mix of NS stompers and modern soul gliders.  And currently available on Amazon for £3.14 (I’d try and knock ’em down if you can – outrageous!).

Here’s the immortal Betty:


3) Chris Clark ‘The Motown Collectiom’

Collecting (unsurprisingly!) all of her Motown output (including loads of great unreleased stuff).  It also contains the complete ‘Soul Sounds’ album (which would probably cost you 3 figures now for an original copy if you could find one) and the unreleased ‘CC Rides Again’.  Again, I paid a fiver for mine.

This is the wonderful ‘Do Right Baby, Do Right’:

‘Every Little Bit Hurts’: The Artistry of Brenda Holloway

3 Nov

Some things are easy to explain away, but others are harder to understand.  In retrospect you can see why Aretha will always be known as ‘The Queen of Soul’ when you listen to that amazing run of Atlantic albums in the 60s, and why so many contemporary r’n’b singers are still trying to assimilate the vocal stylings that make Marvin soul’s most revered voice.  And James Brown’s rhythmic innovations continue to echo across the years, simultaneously sounding brand new and as old as time…

But then we have to consider why Brenda Holloway made some of Motown’s most memorable records and yet is now relatively forgotten outside of the soul cognoscenti.  Falling foul of the pecking order and internal politics within the Motown recording set-up, Brenda quit the music business in 1968 at the age of 21 and effectively never came back.  And yet anyone who has heard the records that she cut before then, showing an amazing maturity and versatility way beyond her years, can understand why diehard soul fans (particularly in the UK) have always held a candle for her talent, and refused to let these records drift away into obscurity.  And finally, 45 years after its first release in the UK, the ever wonderful Kent records have re-released ‘The Artistry of Brenda Holloway’, fully remastered and with a number of excellent bonus tracks that have never released before.

If you’ve not heard many of these tunes before you’re in for a real treat: there are dancers (of course) such as the sublime ‘When I’m Gone’ and a great version of Smokey’s ‘My Smile Is Just A Frown Turned Upside Down’, but it’s the ballads that are the real deal here: ‘I’ll Always Love You’, ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’, and the gorgeous title track wonderfully capture desire and longing (those sexy vocals!) and dress them in uptown arrangements that make them feel simple and sophisticated all at once.

Timeless stuff – here’s ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’:



And get the CD now from Kent/Ace Records:

Fred Perry ‘Large Mod Check Shirts’

27 Oct

Now, I really don’t want this to blog to become another wide-eyed-and-breathless ‘guess what I just bought’ type affair.  But – I just bought one of these and they’re great.  And I wanted to tell you about them while they’re still in the shops (and online).  So there.  Sorry (btw they’re not just for ‘large’ mods – it’s the check they’re talking about).



Mellow Dreamin’: lounge soul and jazz for autumn days

27 Oct

I’ve always enjoyed the softer, more beige side of soul and jazz (from the lounge pop orchestrations of the 5th Dimension through to the string-draped arrangements of Wes Montgomery’s 1960s Verve albums), and the music of Jimmy Webb and Bacharach/David have always seemed to me to represent a high point where popular art meets cosmopolitan sophistication that’s never been repeated.

A couple of other inspirations have led to me revisting this music recently.  Richard William’s excellent ‘the blue moment’ blog, which is a real treasure trove of memories and unexpected links between music (the kind of thing we love here – see the link to his blog below), had a really good post on Dionne Warwick’s overlooked 1970s Warner Bros material.  And Jamie Cullum (who has, I think the best pound-for-pound jazz show on radio at the moment, covering all the really important names from the past with some great selections of contemporary jazzy tunes – forget the sneery highbrow coverage he normally gets, and check him out – a real enthusiast as well) played some lovely late period Young Holt Unlimited that captured a period when popular jazz could reflect the changes  going on at that time, albeit in a gentler, less direct way than the likes of Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler.

You can just imagine this sort of thing coming on the radio as you drove through the sunshine to the Monterey jazz festival in 1969.  Or something…

Anyway, enough wistful time travelling back to a period I never knew – here’s some tunes that may make you feel similarly nostalgic for an idealised moment in time (and hopefully a million light years way from those awful cheesy Ray Conniff-style ‘lounge’ comps that were punted round in the 1990s):

1) Young-Holt Unlimited ‘Going In Circles’

I could’ve picked anything off of the ‘Mellow Dreamin” album from the erstwhile Ramsey Lewis backing group (Jamie Cullum chose another track from this excellent album for his show) but this version of the peerless Friends of Distinction tune captures their wide screen cinematic soul jazz (now there’s a genre) perfectly – check that purring organ!

2) Cal Tjader ‘Message to Michael’

From his Skye Records period, when he was produced by Gary Mcfarland (whose work typifies this type of vibe), this is a lovely version of the Bacharch-David tune that still seems incredibly haunting and wide-eyed.  Imagine Ali McGraw staring out of the window of a California condo at the ocean as you listen…

3) Dionne Warwick ‘Do You Believe In Love At First Sight’

A different decade (the 1970s) and Dionne, her collaboration with Bacharach and David the victim of legal wrangles and bad faith, was scratching around for a hit, despite some great material and collaborations (notably Holland-Dozier-Holland and Thom Bell).  This song is a typical example, which was picked out by Richard Williams in his previously mentioned post, but you can find any number of songs of equal quality on the recent compilation ‘The Complete Wartner Brothers Singles’ (and its even newer companion ‘We Need to Go Back: The Unreleased Warner Bros. Masters’).  Music that’s become undeservedly forgotten.

4) Wes Montgomery ‘Bumpin’ On Sunset’

Previously famed for his lightning chops and song-like improvisational skill, by the mid 60s Wes had adapted these to mirror the advances in popular song and production techniques, to predictable howls of derision from the jazz police (and widespread acceptance from the listening public).  But how can anyone cry foul when the music seems to hang beautifully in time and space like this does?  Gorgeous.

5) Ray Charles ‘Wichita Lineman’

And to link back to where we came in (you know we love to do that):  Brother Ray’s version of the wonderful Jimmy Webb tune, famously recorded by Glen Campbell but also covered by Young Holt Unlimited on the aforementioned ‘Mellow Dreamin” album.  Never has heartache and simplicity sounded so eloquent.

Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost

22 Sep

Why does Elvis remain relevant in 2013, and of interest to visitors here?

1) Unlike nearly all of his peers, he remains musically curious

2) He still sounds angry

3) He dresses like a jazz musician (and looks fucking brilliant)

That’s all (and that’s everything)


Present and Correct: Fred Perry ‘Re-issues’

22 Sep

Now I think Fred Perry have managed their relaunch over the last few few years better than most:  the main label (which is probably not of a lot of interest to people here) provides a kind of ersatz ‘mod’ to the casual observer, while the ‘Laurel Wreath’ stuff provides the cooler stuff, both in terms of quality and also design (albeit at a price – though they always have really good mid and end of season sales that are worth watching out for).  They keep things fresh with the collaborations, which I personally find hit or miss, though there’s doubting the quality or the innovativeness of the designs (see the current Raf Simons pieces as a case in point – not my thing at all, but I’d imagine young skinny kids into the likes of the Strypes would be all over this stuff, and recent collaborations with the likes of Drakes and 6876 satisfy the more ‘mature’ punter).

However, some of the nicest recent stuff they’ve done through ‘Laurel Wreath’  has been their ‘Re-issues’ – lovely facsimile pieces from the 60s, 70s and 80s, with shirts, knitwear and Harringtons just tweaked enough to make them feel contemporary but still with that ‘less is more’ early 70s skin/suedehead feel.  Very smart and absolutely correct.  Clothes to make you stand taller and straighter in.


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