Wednesday, 29 July 2009

RICHARD "GROOVE" HOLMES - WORKIN' ON A GROOVY THING (PACIFIC JAZZ 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Revered in soul-jazz circles, Richard "Groove" Holmes was an unapologetically swinging Jimmy Smith admirer who could effortlessly move from the grittiest of blues to the most sentimental of ballads. Holmes, a very accessible, straightforward and warm player who was especially popular in the black community, had been well respected on the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey circuit by the time he signed with Pacific Jazz in the early '60s and started receiving national attention by recording with such greats as Ben Webster and Gene Ammons. Holmes, best known for his hit 1965 version of "Misty," engaged in some inspired organ battles with Jimmy McGriff in the early '70s before turning to electric keyboards and fusion-ish material a few years later. The organ was Holmes' priority in the mid- to late '80s, when he recorded for Muse (he also had stints throughout his career with Prestige Records and Groove Merchant) . Holmes was still delivering high-quality soul-jazz for Muse (often featuring tenor titan Houston Person) when a heart attack claimed his life at the age of 60 in 1991 after a long struggle with prostrate cancer. He was a musician to the end, playing his last shows in a wheelchair.
The name says it all. This man knew how to groove with both hands and feet. He acknowledged himself that in the world of organ players, there was Jimmy Smith and then all the rest; but he (humbly!) considered himself to be at the top of the rest. IMO, there was Smith, Groove, Patton, Young, then all the rest. But when it comes to funking it up, Groove had no match. He's influenced by sax players, like a lot of organ players.
He recorded some very nice "straight" Jazz sessions with Ben Webster, Gene Ammons, Houston Person, and Paul Chambers (renowned bass player). But he also recorded some of the funkiest shit I have ever heard.

Monday, 27 July 2009

STEVIE WONDER - UP TIGHT (TAMLA 1966) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

"Uptight" was one of those albums that really didn't have a bad cut at all, and you could listen to both sides, all the way through, without your interest waning. The year started with the single of the title song still high in the top ten. Next, came a single whose both sides were equally good: the driving "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" backed with a hypnotic ballad, just right for Stevie, "With A Child's Heart." Summertime saw a slightly edited version of "Blowing In The Wind" (a near-duet with Clarence Paul) climb high on the pop chart and to No. 1 on the R&B. The LP also reached back to January 1963 to carry the pre-`Fingertips' single, "Contract On Love." The album contained another duet as well: Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops giving Steve an assist on "Teach Me Tonight." Nowhere on the cover was this mentioned - you got the surprise when you played the record. "Hold Me," also, became a strong B-side in 1967 for "I Was Made To Love Her."
"Uptight (Everything's Alright is one of his most popular early singles & it was the first Stevie Wonder song to be co-written by the artist.
The single was a watershed in Wonder's career for several reasons. Aside from the number-one hit "Fingertips", only two of Wonder's singles had reached the Top 40 of Billboard's Pop Singles chart, ("Workout, Stevie Workout" reached # 33 in late 1963 and "Hey Harmonica Man" reached # 29 Pop in the Summer of 1964) and the fifteen-year-old artist was in danger of being let go. In addition, Wonder's voice had begun to change, and Motown CEO Berry Gordy was worried that he would no longer be a commercially viable artist. As it turned out, however, producer Clarence Paul found it easier to work with Wonder's now-mature tenor voice, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby set about writing a new song for the artist, based upon an instrumental riff Wonder had devised. On the day of the recording, Moy had the lyrics, but didn't have them in braille for Wonder to read, and so sang the song to him as he was recording it. She sang a line ahead of him and he simply repeated the lines as he heard them. In 2008, Moy commented that "he never missed a beat" during the recording.
The resulting song, "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", features lyrics which depict a poor young man's appreciation for a rich girl's seeing beyond his poverty to his true worth. A notable success, "Uptight" peaked at number-three on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in early 1966, at the same time reaching the top of the Billboard R&B Singles chart for five weeks. An accompanying album, Up-Tight, was rushed into production to capitalize on the single's success.

Monday, 20 July 2009

STEVIE WONDER - STEVIE AT THE BEACH (TAMLA 1964) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Born Steveland Morris May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. Stevie Wonder was placed in an incubator and given too much oxygen, causing permanent sight loss. Playing the harmonica at five, he started piano lessons at six and took up the drums at eight. Lula Mae Hardaway Wonder's mother was afraid to let the young boy out of house. Thus a brilliant musical career was launched. To pass the time of day, Wonder would beat on pot, pans,and any other surface that helped him keep rhythm with the tunes he heard on the radio. As he became proficient on various real instruments, he started playing at the local church and soon grew to be something of a neighborhood sensation. A child prodigy at an early age, Steveland sang like a seasoned veteran. After the family moved to Detroit word spread of the gifted Wonder. It would be only a matter of time until someone from Motown caught wind of this talented youngster.
Stevie at the Beach is the fifth album by Motown singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder released on the Tamla (Motown) label in 1964. This album—with the exception of the mild hit—"Hey Harmonica Man", was a concept album of sorts, focusing on beach and surfer anthems as an attempt to get Wonder to now sing surf tunes. But much like the label's attempts to first make Wonder the teenage version of Ray Charles and then for one album as a lounge singer, it failed to connect with audiences. Wonder wouldn't have another hit until 1965 when he was finally allowed to showcase his musical talents more...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

LEE DORSEY - YES WE CAN (POLYDOR 1970) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 9 bonus

New Orleans has always produced more than its share of truly singular music greats, many eccentric enough that they never hit outside of the region. But Lee Dorsey produced a considerable body of work, including several several national hits. Twenty four years after his death Dorsey remains a vastly underrated vocalist - by turns soulful, wry, converstional, playful, and bemused. By the time he made his first record ("Rock") for Ace in 1957 he was already 30 years old, and the following year began a longstanding collaboration with producer/writer Allen Toussaint ('Lottie Mo'). It wasn't until 1961 that he hit big on Bobby Robinson's Fire label with 'Ya-Ya', followed by 'Do-Re-Me' and several other less successful singles eventually collected on an album called "Ya Ya". In 1963 Lee recorded a terrific single for Smash that went nowhere, and this was followed by two more 45s released by the Constellation label. Finally In 1965 Toussaint signed him to his Sansu Enterprises and for the next five years Dorsey hit his stride on the Amy label with a string of classic singles and two great albums, "Ride Your Pony" and "The New Lee Dorsey", both beautifully remastered and expanded by Sundazed for CD in 2000. Next, Toussaint produced Dorsey's classic album for Polygram, "Yes We Can" in 1970. This is one of the seminal funk/soul albums of the '70s, capturing Lee and Toussaint at their mature peak. "Yes We Can" was first reissued on CD in the mid '90s, on a generous set that included bonus singles and outtakes from the 1970 - 73 Polydor period, plus a pair of rarely reissued gems recorded for the Smash label in 1963. The original album is essential, combining great songs, a mature delivery, and funk backing by the Meters and other N.O. greats.
"Yes We Can" is available in Japan edition with a cardboard sleeve replicating the original album jacket. But more importantly it sounds superb, warm and detailed, and is nearly twice the length of the original album, including all four subsequent Polydor singles, the two Smash tracks, and several outtakes first issued on the out-of-print US "Yes We Can...And Then Some"...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

JOHNNY ZAMOT - TELL IT LIKE IT IS (DECCA 1967) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Puerto Rican Johnny Ray (born Johnny Zamot) started playing Latin percussion while living in New York, signing to Decca Records after assembling his first group, called the Johnny Zamot Band. Soon they were climbing the charts with his first hit, a tropical song titled "Fat Mama." Johnny Ray's second band was Society 76, with trumpet players Ray Maldonado and Larry Spencer, trombonist José Rodríguez, and pianist Paquito Pastore, and achieved hits with "Bandolera" and "You're My Everything." Later, Johnny Ray founded his own label, releasing Suavecito and Dale Pa'arriba, and issued Romantico con Salsa in 2001 after signing up to Univision Music Group.
A heck of a great little boogaloo album -- and one of the few 60s sides by the legendary Johnny Zamot! Although cut for Decca, the album's every bit as tight and soulful as contemporaneous work for Tico, Fania, or Cotique -- and the set features a similar blend of English lyrics, Latin rhythms, and a nicely gritty Spanish Harlem approach to the music! The horns cut wonderfully into most of the tunes -- blasting out with a soul instrumental sort of vibe, while the lyrics tackle simple themes of love and lust on titles that include "Baby, Bring It To Me", "You Cheated On Me", "Harlem Boogaloo", "Hey Girl", "You Dig", and the sweet instrumental "Latino Baby", written by Pat Patrick, from Sun Ra's group!Here

Saturday, 4 July 2009

LITTLE JOE BLUE - SOUTHERN COUNTRY BOY (JEWEL 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 8 bonus

Little Joe Blue, born Joseph Valery, Jr., was a relatively late starter as a blues artist. Born in Mississippi in 1934, his musical sensibilities were heavily influenced by the work of Louis Jordan, Joe Liggins, and B.B. King, which he encountered from his teens into his 20s. He didn't turn to music as a profession until the late '50s, when he was well into his 20s, forming his band the Midnighters in Detroit at the end of the decade. By the early '60s, Valery had moved to Reno, Nevada, where he began recording as an adjunct to his performances in local clubs, before moving on to Los Angeles. He recorded for various labels, including Kent and Chess's Checker Records division during the early to mid-'60s, and never entirely escaped the criticism that he was a B.B. King imitator, which dogged him right into the '80s. The style that King popularized also happened to suit Valery, however, and he gained some credibility in 1966 when he racked up a modest hit in 1966 with the song "Dirty Work Is Going On," which has since become a blues standard. He had extended stints with Jewel Records and Chess from the late '60s into the early '70s, and recorded until the end of the 1980s. Valery performed throughout the south, and later Texas and California, during that decade, and later toured Europe, including performances as part of the International Jazz Fest during the 1980s.
Gritty electric work from Little Joe Blue -- a early 70s session for the Jewel label, cut with a really down-home feel! Most numbers here feature Little Joe updating an older mode with an electric twist -- but some other cuts pick up the pace a bit, and almost sound a bit funky -- thanks to some fuller southern soul backings! These are naturally our favorites -- and the cuts "Southern Country Boy" and "Right There Where You Left It" have more than enough beats to please any digger of funky 45s -- but the other tracks are pretty great too, and include "Encourage My Baby", "Gonna Walk On", "Only A Fool", "Just Love Won't Do", and "Sometime Tomorrow". CD features 8 bonus tracks too -- some recorded with Maxwell Davis on piano and Lowell Fulsom on guitar, and some a bit funky too. Bonus tracks include "Standing On The Threshold", "My Heart Beats Like A Drum", "Don't Tell Me Nothing About My Baby", "Your Hands May Be Tied", "A Fool Is What You Wanted", and "Shakin Hands With The Judge"...
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