Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Mar-Keys

The Mar-Keys The only Mar-Keys collection available on Amazon is an import that sells for $49.95 USD – and that one is available only from a 3rd party reseller. And for your 50 dollars you get a whopping 21 tracks, which don’t even include all 4 of their top 100 singles (Pop-Eye Stroll is missing).

There must be a dozen collections by Booker T & The MGs. This isn’t something that I can explain easily.

My collection has all 4 singles, among 11 tacks taken from The Complete Stax Volt Singles, 1959-1968, which I found on that delightful, though totally corrupt, and no longer extant, Russian web site.

The Mar-Keys were a Stax group, laying down that groovy Memphis rhythm behind some of the great Stax artists, the house band, when the said Booker T and company weren’t being the house band (you figure it out, I can’t). And, like the MGs, they made a series of recordings of their own, and managed to put four of them, as I said, into the top 100. Not to be confused the Marketts (aka Mar-Kets) who did Surfers Stomp and Out Of Limits and the big hit cover of Batman, or the Bar-Kays, another 60 soul group very similar to the Mar-Keys who recorded for the same label. How could anybody keep it straight, I don’t know…

The Mar-Keys:

Last Night – The big one, from the summer of 1961. It doesn’t get simpler, and it doesn’t get into a deeper groove…
Morning After – The follow up, from the fall of 1961.
About Noon
Pop-Eye Stroll – There is a superficial resemblance to Popcorn by Hot Butter, with the emphasis remaining on “superficial.” From the winter / spring of 1962.
Whot’s Happening
Bush Bash
Grab This Thing (Part 1)
Philly Dog – Their 4th and final pop hit, from the spring of 1966.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bobbie Smith & The Dream Girls

Bobbie Smith & The Dream Girls The Truth about oldies lies with YouTube.

Bobbie Smith & The Dream Girls have about 20 videos. That represents about 10 songs. That doesn’t sound all that impressive.

But this is a group that did not have a single hit on the Billboard top 100. The bible according to Whitburn has its limits. They are not even on Wikipedia. Those of us who try to make sense of the world by looking at the records are doomed. (We need to look at the records instead.)

So here was a girl group from Detroit who had a series of singles between 1959 and 1965, who played the Apollo and had a faithful following, whose records were presumably played on local radio stations, and who, but for YouTube, would be relegated to historical non-existence.

My one track comes from some Rhino random song collection. This is as random as it gets.

Bobbie Smith & The Dream Girls:

Mr. Fine – The thing to aim for was cool. Handsome was ok, but what this guy was was fine – wears a white suit and Stetson hat, drives a Cadillac. Pretty obvious what’s going on here. From 1961.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chris Kenner

Chris KennerI’ve never been to New Orleans. As a kid I travelled a lot with my family, and we made it to the south west (LA), the southeast (Miami) but never due south.

So I have no firsthand experience that I can draw on here, none to explain what makes New Orleans music unique. I can’t tell what’s unique about it either – I can hear it, but I can’t describe it. The best thing I can tell you to do is listen: Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Allan Toussaint.

Chris Kenner.

Kenner is know more by his songs (3 of them, to be specific) than by his recordings. But this collection is one of the best party albums I can recommend, if your party is about dancing. (You’ll have to look elsewhere for slow dances though; the ones on here you wouldn’t want to dance to). He has a foggy NO voice and a rhythm that can define the entire genre. This is a collection called I Like It Like That. All his hits are here (all two of them).

Chris Kenner:

I Like It Like That – His big hit. The title refers to a cool place you can go to and dance (with a name like that it has to be cool). This is one of a long series of songs about cool places, from The Drifters’ 333 to Ohio Express’ Down At Lulu’s. A hit in the summer of 1961 and covered to great success by The Dave Clark Five in the summer of 1965.
Anybody Here Seen My Baby – The tale of an abuser. No? Then why did she disappear without a trace?
Shoo-Rah – Not The Fats Domino song, though it can’t be a coincidence that they both did a song with this title. The rhythm here is more Bo Diddley, and the chord changes are non-existent. This must be where James Brown got the idea.
Johnny Little – This tale of a compulsive gambler sounds like a cross between Hully Gully and The Gong Gong Song.
Gonna Getcha Baby – I hope so, because he can’t dance to this all alone.
Never Reach Perfection – So when he does a ballad, it’s not romantic, it’s gospel.
Something You Got – He didn’t put this on the chart, but if there’s any justice he could retire on the royalties. So many covers of this. My favourite is Them.
That’s My Girl – And he sure is proud of her, tight jeans and all.
Land Of A Thousand Dances – “You gotta know how to pony.” Another iconic song, though Kenner’s version didn’t make it higher than number 74, and that was in the spring of 1963. It was Cannibal & The Headhunters that put it in the top 40, and who invented the na na-na-na na refrain, which was picked up later by Wilson Pickett. “Get down on your knees, do the sweet peas.” And don’t forget the slop, and chicken in the pot.
She Can Dance – In the context of this collection, that’s great praise indeed, though no surprise.
Come Back And See – I wouldn’t if I were her, but that jagged rhythm may be irresistible.
How Far – Love as distance, not the physical kind.
Time – Back to gospel, complete with church chorus.
All Night Rambler – Anticipates Mick and the boys by the better part of a decade, with a guitar that would do Keith proud.
Packing Up – Land Of A Thousand Dances redux, in the context of emotional severance.
(I Found) Peace – This could be romantic, or this could be religious, but either way this is noisy peace…
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