Those of us who love the soulful music that came out of Memphis in the ’60 and ’70 will find it hard not to mourn the recent passing of the great Willie Mitchell (03/23/1928 – 01/05/2010). His achievements as a musician, band leader, record producer and label owner are almost unmatched when you consider how much his signature sound influenced the soul and R&B recordings from Memphis to Motown during those two decades. More popularly known for his production and arrangements of Al Green’s outstanding catalog, Mitchell himself released a string of moderate hits in the ’60s including our featured track, Bum Daddy.
Continue reading Willie Mitchell – Bum Daddy (1968)
So, you think you’ve got troubles? Just listen to the “Frogman” go on about “da rent man” and his wife and such and you will quickly shut yer mouth and start shakin’ yer rump. It was the A-side that quickly became the B-side after Ain’t Got A Home stole the spotlight via that darn, career-defining, novelty frog voice. Just as Gary Anderson forever carried his moniker after those early “U.S. Bonds” releases (a scheme cooked up by Legend Records label owner Frank Guida) Clarence Henry was never able–nor do I think he ever tried–to shake the “Frogman” nickname after the success of that single. I’ve got a small stack of 45s by Henry–all pre-Frogman era–that certainly demonstrate his capabilities and personality. But, a hit is a hit and, in the pre-web/iTunes/MySpace world of 1956, any way to make it onto the radio was a good bet. Well, that story has already been written a number of times, so let’s get back to the featured track, Troubles, Troubles.
Continue reading Clarence “Frogman” Henry – Troubles, Troubles (1956)
This is definitely not my parents’ First Edition. I may still have the 8-track somewhere that, among the handful of others secured by my dad for “just one penny” via the Columbia Record and Tape Club, played incessantly on weekend afternoons when my folks would host cook-outs with their neighborhood friends. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town was, by far, my favorite track and would–for quite some time–remain in my mind “The Gambler’s” best work. And, heck, I’ll even play Something’s Burning on a jukebox whenever I can find it. Now, I doubt my folks had recognized Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) as the First Edition when picking out that 8-track and so I can only assume that the grooviest First Ed they’d ever experienced was on Burning. Hence the first sentence of this review.
Continue reading Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – School Teacher (1972)
Thumb through random stacks of 45s long enough and you might just come across this surprising b-side to Rufus featuring Chaka Khan’s exquisite down-tempo classic Sweet Thing. Circles is at once an infectiously groovy dance tune, a vocal calling card for the fully-evolved Chaka Khan and possibly Rufus’ (the band’s) creative and recording peak. The single was released in 1975, two years after their masterful debut, Rufus, and yet the band’s best work had, in my humble opinion, already been laid down on wax at the time of its release. While Sweet Thing is an unfolding ‘slow jam’ in the classic sense, Circles pretty much begins and ends with the same vigor and driving pace that makes its just-shy-of four minute length pass all too quickly.
Continue reading Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Circles (1975)