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Archive for July 23rd, 2014

Sumpin Funky Going On: “Country Funk II” Features Willie, Dolly, Bobby, Jackie, Kenny and More

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Country Funk 2Almost two years ago, we reported on Light in the Attic’s Country Funk, an anthology celebrating the hybrid genre of the title.  Back then, LITA described country funk as an “inherently defiant genre” encompassing “the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit.  It is alternately playful and melancholic, slow jammin’ and booty shakin’.  It is both studio slick and barroom raw.”  Well, if the 16 nuggets on that 2012 release weren’t enough for you, the label has returned to the well with another 17 slabs of soulful country-and-western tunes with Country Funk II.  Whereas the first volume spanned the period 1969-1975, this second installment takes in tracks from 1967 to 1974.

One familiar name has returned for Volume II.  It’s Bob, formerly known as Bobby, Darin, with another track from his Bob Dylan-inspired Commitment album of 1969.  “Me and Mr. Hohner” is about as far-removed from “Mack the Knife” as one can get, but Darin filled the role of hippie-folkie troubadour with the same conviction he had brought to the role of tuxedo-clad showman.  The luminous Jackie DeShannon also crossed over from the world of pop.  The “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now” artist was an early lady of the canyon with her 1969 LP Laurel Canyon, from which Country Funk II has derived her gritty cover of The Band’s immortal “The Weight.”

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton famously teamed up in 1983 for the chart-topping single “Islands in the Stream,” but both artists were by then well-versed in blurring genre lines – so it’s no surprise to see them here.  Rogers is heard with his band The First Edition, best-known for their psychedelic “Just Dropped In,” on the 1971 single “Tulsa Turnaround.”  Parton’s contribution is “Getting Happy” from her still-not-on-CD 1974 album Love is Like a Butterfly.  Willie Nelson had the same deft ability to traverse the worlds of pop and country as Parton and Rogers, and he shows up here with “Shotgun Willie,” the title track of his 1973 Atlantic Records outlaw-country breakthrough album.

The Byrds’ Gene Clark helped that seminal folk-rock band incorporate elements of country, bluegrass and psychedelia into their own music, and in 1968, he teamed up with banjo great Doug Dillard to form Dillard and Clark.  The duo produced two albums for A&M including 1969’s Through the Morning, Through the Night, from which their reinvention of Lennon and McCartney’s “Don’t Let Me Down” is reprised here.  Another duo, Larry Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, created an unusual fusion in 1967 when they teamed with psych-rockers The Kaleidoscope for the Okeh single “Nobody.”  The song was covered by Three Dog Night for that band’s debut album; the original recording is presented on Country Funk II.  Three Dog Night scored a No. 1 hit with “Joy to the World” from the pen of Hoyt Axton; the Oklahoma-born songwriter’s “California Women” from his Joy to the World album appears here.

We have more details – plus the full track listing with discography and order links – after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2014 at 13:37

We Want “Muscles” and Other Diana Ross Albums for RCA, Expanded by Funkytown Grooves

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Diana RossDiana Ross is well-known as the Queen of Motown, but for real record geeks and catalogue enthusiasts, it’s her post-Motown works – released in the U.S. on RCA Records and on Capitol/EMI worldwide – that deserves a revisitation, thanks to its high energy dance grooves supplied by several very famous collaborators. This fall, Funkytowngrooves is doing what Diana’s fans have wanted for years: remastering and expanding her six albums from 1981 to 1987 for the first time ever.

After two decades with the famed Detroit label, as a member of The Supremes and an increasingly popular solo starlet and actress, Ross left Motown on a high note with 1980’s diana, featuring backing and production from CHIC founders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. (The duo were initially slated to produce her first RCA effort, but bowed out due to other commitments.) With a $20 million dollar deal in hand, Ross’ first effort was a modest dance record, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, anchored by the title track (a cover of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers’ immortal doo-wop classic), a new solo version of “Endless Love” (her No. 1 duet with Lionel Richie) and “Work That Body,” co-written with Donna Summer collaborator Paul Jabara and noted session man Ray Chew. (The latter was a Top 10 U.K. hit.) “Muscles,” off of follow-up Silk Electric (1982), was another Top 10 hit, one written and produced by Michael Jackson right before Thriller took off. (Muscles was the name of his pet boa constrictor.)

1983’s Ross saw production duties divided between Ross, Steely Dan producer Gary Katz and Ray Parker Jr., a year before “Ghostbusters.” Swept Away, issued a year later, was an all-star affair, boasting production, vocals and songwriting from Lionel Richie (“Missing You”), Bernard Edwards (“Telephone”) Daryl Hall and Arthur Baker (“Swept Away”) and Julio Iglesias (“All of You”). Eaten Alive, from 1985, boasted near full writing and production from the Bee Gees (Michael Jackson returned to write the killer chorus to the title track alongside the Gibbs’ verses). Her final effort for RCA, Red Hot Rhythm and Blues (1987), was a considerably greater success in Europe than the U.S., as evidenced by the heavy presence of single mixes on the EMI label as well as several tracks that didn’t make the album Stateside. In 1989, she rejoined Motown with the Nile Rodgers-produced Workin’ Overtime.

Funkytowngrooves has remastered all six of these underrated albums with the help of Sean Brennan at Battery Studios. All will feature single mixes and/or B-sides as bonus tracks (including all U.S. and U.K. mixes for Red Hot and one unreleased outtake); the first three albums are single-disc presentations while the latter three are double-disc sets. The label has opened up discounted pre-orders on their site, anticipating to receive their stock for September 29; after that date, the price will go back to normal and will be open to buy through Amazon.

Now looks the time to get in on this exciting set of releases by one of soul music’s most beloved divas. Hit the jump for specs and links!

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Written by Mike Duquette

July 23, 2014 at 12:35

Posted in Diana Ross, News, Reissues

Old School: Soul Man Willie Jones Has “Fire In My Soul” On Comeback Album, Welcomes Frank Black, Steve Cropper and Felix Cavaliere

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Willie Jones - Fire In My SoulWe interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a special news bulletin: Willie Jones, vocalist for The Five Jokers back in the early 1960s, has returned to recording for the first time in decades! His new solo album, Fire in My Soul, arrived this week in the U.K. from Cherry Red Records’ Shout! label, and we’re happy to report that it’s a treat for vintage soul enthusiasts!

Much has been made of today’s crop of “neo-soul” artists, fusing organic elements of traditional R&B into more contemporary grooves. But one modern soul revivalist was actually there at the ground floor: “Willie Jones was the first guy to sing rhythm and blues in Detroit,” said soul singer par excellence Bettye LaVette. “Everybody in the world would come down to watch [Willie’s group] The Royal Jokers. They did, and said, ‘I can do that’ and off they went and made a lot of money, and nobody in Detroit offered a kind of leg-up to Willie that he needed to get his career going.” Yet miraculously, nearly 60 years after Jones first appeared on Atlantic Records, the veteran soul man has reappeared with Fire in My Soul via Cherry Red’s Shout! imprint. Its fifteen robust tracks harken back to classic R&B and gutbucket southern soul but with a vibrant edge befitting the 77-years young singer.

The vocal instrument – an expressive tenor – that led Jones to establish himself as a popular recording artist at Atlantic and a host of independent labels in the early days of popular R&B is largely undiminished despite the passage of time. Jones is joined by a core rhythm section of album producer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Tiven on keyboards, saxophone and guitar and Sally Tiven on bass plus a rotating line-up of drummers including Anton Fig, Simon Kirke, Chester Thompson, Harry Stinson, Darrell Peyton, Tariq Snare and Greg Morrow.  “I’ve got a fire in my soul and I just can’t put it out,” he sings on the funky title track, a collaboration with Stax legend Steve Cropper and the Young Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere. Cropper and Cavaliere, who co-wrote the track with Tiven, contribute their signature guitar and keyboards, respectively, to the song as well as to “In the Wind.” (The pair have previously issued two joint albums, 2008’s Nudge It Up a Notch and 2010’s Midnight Flyer. The contemporary blues-soul approach of those projects is echoed here.) Black Francis, a.k.a. The Pixies’ Frank Black, joins Jones on the big, honking soul stew of “Janie, Turn It Over.”

Bettye LaVette, for whom Jones wrote the Atlantic single “Shut Your Mouth” in 1962, pays tribute to her old friend with a typically soul-deep vocal – and even a bit of rap – on “Without Redemption” (“Without redemption, all human goodness fails/Without redemption, there is no peace…”) penned by Jones, Tiven and LaVette with poet-lyricist Stephen John Kalinich, best-known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Kalinich also co-wrote “Janie” and the brassy, up-tempo “Troubled World” on which Jones duels with Tiven’s searing guitar. Another special guest on Fire in My Soul is Jon Auer of The Posies and Big Star. Auer co-wrote and plays both guitar and keyboards on the rueful “Scar B4 I Bruise” (“They gave me a pillow to sleep on/But I had to make my own bed of nails…”). “Reasons” is similarly dark, though the arrangement has an Allen Toussaint vibe to it. “Add It Up” is a slow blues-flecked scorcher that would have fit snugly in the Otis Redding songbook.

Keep reading after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 23, 2014 at 10:28

Posted in News, Reviews, Willie Jones

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