Happy Birthday America, Pt 2
Scott Beach/Mike Bozzoli Bicentennial Salute to the American Truck Driver 7" (B&M, 1976)
From Fort Bragg to Eureka, California and across this great land, Mike Bozzoli hauled freight for 30 years at the time of this recording. In tribute to the professional drivers who brings you beer, wheat, and steel, Bozzili has penned this classic. Produced by Leo Kulka and narrated by Scott Beach, you will hear the epic story of those who Unite the United States.
I found this wonder at my favorite record store just last Monday. I walked in and the owner sez "I was hoping you would stop by" and pointed at 20 boxes of 45s that just came in. I walked out with a 2 1/2 foot pile.
Have an unsafe and insane July 4th!
Happy Birthday America, Pt 1
Keisa Brown Happy Birthday America 45 (Little Star, 1976)
God knows where I found this 45 other than in a pile! Mississippi-born, Chicago-raised Keisa Brown took the path of many soul singers. She started as a backup singer (with Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, & others). She did a little sweet soul, got funky with a band called Prime Cut, and when disco hit, she turned out some tunes for the cocaine crowd. On this single she teams up with producer HB Barnum (!) for a so-so disco songs and a nice & funky tribute to America on her 200th Birthday. While there are so many things to complain about this country - from blind projection of power to mindless consumerism blah blah blah - it is little pieces of plastic like this that make me happy to be here. (Hell, we could pull all our troops out of everywhere and send out an army of vinyl fiends. Give me a portable turntable and a copy of Surfin Bird and I'll conquer the fucking world!) The lyrics on this are pretty great, especially the first line and the second verse.
Yaphet Kotto Revisited
Yaphet Kotto Have You Dug His Scene b/w Have You Ever Seen the Blues 45 (Chisa, 1968)
A great actor who unfortunately came up when the Hollywood system allowed for only one or two Black actors to play prominent roles in marque movies. Had Kotto started in the 1990s, you would know his name as well as you know Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and Samuel Jackson. But as it is, Yaphet Kotto remains a cult figure known mostly for his role as the best Bond villain, Dr. Karanga AKA Mr. Big, from Live & Let Die. Kotto fans thrill every time they see him show up in a bit role on TV or as a character in a movie.
Kotto did this jazz poetry blast back in '68, and it comes off as a bit less Burn Baby, Burn than the Last Poets. Perhaps that is because Kotto is the son of a Cameroonian prince! And his producer on this is fellow African Hugh Masekela. Coming from Africa and seeing the plight of American Blacks in the 1960s, especially the institutionalized poverty, is a bit different than living it. So maybe that is why Kotto doesn't spit the same rage as the Last Poets. Or maybe he is just a different cat. Man, I don't wanna kill your head so forget that jive for a second and check out Kotto's Beat-inspired 'try (as in poe'try).
I'm in the Mood for Love
King Pleasure I'm in the Mood for Love 45 (Prestige, 1962)
One of the masters of vocalese (a singing style in which the vocals are sung to the solos of other instruments) who I had no idea existed until I got this little gem of a record. My reasons for buying it were pretty superficial: The guy's name and a 5 second needle drop made me think "over the top vocals." But the more I listened to the record, the deeper it got. With Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure was one of the first to do vocalese.
The story of this song goes a bit like this: Saxman James Moody recorded a version of I'm in the Mood for Love as Moody's Mood for Love. Eddie Jefferson adapted the words to Moody's solo and sang it in 1952. OR Moody recorded Moody's Mood and King Pleasure put words to the words and recorded it in 1952. OR Moody did his, Jefferson did his, and years later King Pleasure did his as I'm in the Mood for Love. Also unclear is who does the second vocal. I've read Jon Hendricks and I've read Annie Ross. (A reader hipped me that the answer vocal might be the excellently named Blossom Dearie. From what I can find, she did the 1952 version with King Pleasure. Is she on this one? Most likely so.)
(Please do not confuse King Pleasure with the lame UK swing band by the same name. Our King Pleasure dropped into obscurity in the mid Sixties and died in the early Eighties. Unfortunately, the Brits play on TV often and are still alive.)
Blue's Men Prohibido Prohibir 10" (Odeon, 1967)
There are only a few genres in rock & roll and R&B that automatically get my attention. Late Seventies Los Angeles punk rock is nearly always a high. Early Seventies deep funk usually is a given. And up until recently, early to mid Sixties garage punk was a sure thing. I write until recently because within the last ten years there has been a flood of reissues and compilations of Sixties punk, so much that now the most mediocre band warrants a triple CD box with 20 page booklet documenting their non-career. Comps are released with material that is not good, only "rare," which often means a 45 was so lame no one bought it and most the pressing was deservedly destroyed. So it is probably no surprise that I have mostly written off Sixties punk as something I already know enough about and don't want to waste my time on aesthetically worthless reissues. That said, there is an exception. I am always willing to try some non Anglo/American Sixties band on the chance that there might be some clash of cultures or anything out of the standard Wolly Bolly/You Really Got Me chug.
While in Mexico I picked up a number of bootleg reissues of Latin American Sixties garage. Some of it turned out to be a band doing covers of American/UK hits with vocals in accented English (Apocalipsis, Los Hitters), others wound up being off enough to be intriguing (Los Temerarios with one member as band handclapper - very maniacal!). That I was prepared for. What I could not predict was that I was about to be completely blown away by Argentina's Blue's Men.
I can't tell you much about the Blue's Men's history other than they were from Buenos Aires and had five members in them ranging from 18 to 21. They released on record in 1967, which was either originally an LP or a 10", on Odeon. And I know that some time in the last five years a label named Mystic bootlegged the Odeon release. The boot is what I found.
From the piano intro at the record's start, which heaves into a drum guitar Who/Kinks "We're Here!" kabam! I knew I was in for a treat. And then when the vocals came in I was in Heaven. Because while the band is hard-hitting and the production is fantastic (more about that latter), it is the vocalist, Miguel Witis, who stands out and makes this band go from great to one of the best ever.
Witis has a vocal style/sound that I can only describe as Van Morrison doing Bryan Ferry doing Tom Jones doing Steve Martin influenced by Tampax. He is so over the top and the vocals take such nice unexpected turns that Witis is to the Blue's Men what Reg Presley is to the Troggs, Morrison to the Them and Gerry Roslie is to the Sonics. Yes, Witis is that good.
Upping the Blue's Men a little bit more is whomever produced Prohibido Prohibir. If he would have been content to not spice the recording, the record would still be great, but adding jungle noises behind "Honey on the Vine," a 50s sci-fi sounding feedback over a Bo Diddley beat on "The Day the World Fried My Brain" (which is as good as the title and especially exceptional because the reason the subject's brain got fried is because "she....loves....me!"), and murky piano on a few other cuts. One "trick" that totally works happens in the song "If I were a Carpenter." The beat is established in the beginning by a piece of wood being sawed, when the song takes off the saw is replaced by a hammer that accents the beat. And behind the Witis and the studio tricks is one hell of a band with a strong drummer, a tight enough to be loose rhythm section, and a very good guitarist. The song choices - from Billy Joe Royal's "Hush" to Caetano Veloso's "Prohibido Prohibir" - is great. There are no flaws here.
There is a small stack of Sixties punk albums records that I consider undeniable. The first LPs by the Troggs, ? & the Mysterians, and the Music Machine are all perfect. Same goes with the two Them records, Here are the Sonics, the Wailers' Out of My Tree, The Seeds' Web of Sound, and Love's Da Capo (you can also throw in a singles collection by Jacques Dutronc). The Blue's Men's Prohibido Prohibir can be added to that list.
All for One
The Loading Zone All for One LP (Umbrella, 1968 or 1970 depending on who you trust)
The Loading Zone formed in Oakland, California in 1967 from the remains of a jazz band called The Tom Paul Trio and a Berkeley psych group named the Marbles. They took the jazz and the psych and crammed it with R&B and recorded a very underrated but sought after debut called One For All. The record contains some full bore MC5 style R&B blasts, some psychishness, and a bit of free jazz. There is a little too much jazz and too much funkiness for the psych & garage crowd thus it's rep. Plus the band released a self-titled album with jazz singer Linda Tillery which is the blues rock that people write the band off as. And sure some of All for One gets a little much, but it is a solid record. Hell, it is worth it for their version of Think alone.
Every listing of All for One that I have seen online claims that the record was released in 1970 and that Loading Zone was released in 1968. However that does not jibe with the band's line up or the sound of each record. All for One does not have Tillery on it though every history says that she was in the band when it was recorded? The sound on All for One is far rarer than the self-titled record, it sounds like a band before full gloss. The choice of Think as a cover is also far more of a 1968 idea than 1970.
Perhaps aiding to the confusion is that All for One is a hard record to find and, when you do find it, the record goes for $100+. The self-titled record is not difficult to obtain and can be had for $10. (as far as I can tell only the self-titled has been reissued on CD.) If I was to think the self-titled is the first, thus the least commercial of the two, and I could easily pick up a copy, well, yeah, sure I'd assume that there is no need to track down the "second" and much, much better record.
Due to space on the server you get just one. I would love to turn you on to the Loading Zone's 15 minute free jazz workout Enter but, alas, this dial up and my server conspire against me.
Blow Your Mind Part 1 & 2
The Relations Blow Your Mind Part 1 & 2 45 (Bem Sole)
One day about ten summers ago Tristan Tozer and I were digging for records at B&E Salvage on Gerber Road, way the hell out in the east part of Sacramento County. Now housing developments are eating the land. Back then the low hills were dotted with farms. In the middle of that vast expanse was the salvage yard, a magnificent monument to both thriftiness and waste.
B&E had a contract with the county, which allowed them access to the dump. They would pull out the good shit and sort it out on their land and the public would visit, pull out the great shit, pay for it and take their finds home. But B&E was much more than that. It was a post-consumer sculpture park. What B&E did with their pickings was create huge piles, heaps of stuff sorted and lining dirt paths. You would walk through the yard and pass a 40 foot pile of fans which sat next to a 30 foot mound of bike frames. Across the way was a forest of expired water heaters, which were shaded by a hill of copper pipe. Chairs in a pile, tables in another. File cabinets, lawn mowers, doors, and shelves all stacked high. And there were the single things that sat by themselves - a popcorn machine, an incubator, something that looked like it came from a nuclear power plant... Under a covered area were things that could not stand the sun and the rain: clothing, books, electronic equipment, kitchen ware, and records.
I took many a friend visiting from out of town to B&E. We looked for records, but the real reason I took them was to see the piles of stuff. You look at life different after seeing a 50 foot pile of lawn seeders. Among the yard tools, tourists, and record diggers were B&E's clientele. Russian handymen dug for stuff next to Mexican garden contractors. Clothes dealers picked through fabric while tinkerers scoped out the electronics. And then there was us, a small group of friends who looked for records wherever we could find them.
Record hunting at B&E was a chore. The LPs were stored in plastic bins, large enough to hold about 200 records. Because the roof often leaked it was common to find a great record fused to another or covered in mildew. Most of the carnage was Andy Williams, a myriad of nameless Christian albums, and classic rock. When you did hit a bin with something good - usually old R&B and funk records - chances were that they would be beat to shit. However when you did score, it was well worth it. One day I found a small stack of Sun Ra LPs, another time some original James Brown's, and another about 25 Rebel Truth 7"s. Usually I brought home odd ball stuff: Circus records, weird instructional albums, etc.
The 45s were stacked, unsleeved on 2 foot tall metal poles which had a 10 pound weight as a base. There were about 20 45-holders and we would go through them one by one. Most of the time we found R&B 45s - good stuff and despite the horrible storage idea, most of the time they were in good shape. It was in the 45 stacks that Tristan found a copy of Blow Your Mind Pt 1 & 2 by the Relations on Bem Sole Records out of Los Angeles. He also found a copy of Kenny & Larry's You and I are Through b/w Tired, Tired, Tired. Not having a portable record player, we didn't know what we found until we got home and dropped needle. When Tristan aired the Relations single we shit. After a spoken intro that is obviously done by someone who is pretty wasted and a tidbit of music, the thing rips into the most primitive, punked out, fucked up, pyschedelic funk we had ever heard.
Side one faded after a broken reed sax skronk n' squeel and we looked at each other in amazement. He said to me, "There's another one out there." I said goodbye, ran to my truck, did the twenty-five mile drive, and spent 45 minutes digging through the 45s Tristan had gone through. I found my copy of Blow Your Mind, as well as two copies of the Kenny & Larry single. I've had these records for at least 10 years and have found no reference to them anywhere. I have seen other things on Bem Sole and even have a flyer announcing a Bem Sole BBQ, but that is it. If you know anything about the Relations or Bem Sole, feel free to comment.
Do the Flo Show
The Carter Brothers Southern Country Boy b/w Do the Flo Show 45 (Jewel, 1965)
When I find a record I dig, I like to know as much about it as possible. I want to know the history of the band, where the record was recorded, things that make the record unique, etc. I go through books, do web searches, and talk to whomever I can. Most of the time I find something. But every once in a while I draw a blank.
On the surface, it seems strange that R&B is the one genre that stumps me the most. I pick up some really obscure records - including weird foreign pressings - and I am able to find out stuff about them, so why can’t I get info on a lot of homegrown R&B?
Consider this, from 1955 to 1975, nearly every town in America with a Black population had at least one R&B band. This is especially true in the South, where even towns with a population of 500, had two or three bands.
Many of these bands made records. Most of these records came out in small pressings on regional labels and remain obscure. There are plenty of great songs that are known only by the people who first heard them and a small group of collectors. When we do get to hear some of this obscure stuff it is usually because a record freak put out a bootleg comp of prime singles cuts. And even these collectors have little knowledge about the records they are booting, other than they are damn good records.
I am faced with the same dilemma when it comes to the Carter Brothers. Though the Carter Brothers (Roman, Albert and Jerry), as a group or individually, put out 7 singles on the Jewel label from 1965 to 1968, the most I know about them is that their label was from Shreveport, LA and they were from Garland, Alabama. There was a 78 put out on Okeh by Carter Brothers and Son ("Old Joe Bone" b/w "Give the Fiddler a Dram.") that is pretty rare, but I am unsure if it is the same group.
I also know that the Carter Brothers reformed in the late 1990s, toured Japan in 1997, had a gospel CD produced by Geza X (!) and released in Japan in 2000, and broke up shortly after.
The Carter Brothers play very bluesy R&B. Their sound is somewhere between Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters. The songs are pretty raw and feature a loud guitar. Other than it is played well, the Carter Brothers’ Jewel material - Southern Country Boy included - isn’t very unique. Ahem...there is one exception, Do the Flo Show, which is the song that I really want to write about.
Set against their blues rockers, Do the Flo Show is whacked. A snare cracks and the band, with horn section, start up with a hypnotic, garage, R&B riff that doesn't vary throughout the song. The riff is an ascending 9 note scale. The rhythm is Louie, Louie-esque, however the horns and a very odd slide guitar makes the band sound drunk or the record warped.
After a couple bars, with backing vocals chanting “Do the Flo Show,” the lead vocals come in. “Ladies ‘n gentlemen/here’s a new dance called the Flo Show/everyone can do it/from junior to granpa/now everybody get together and have some fee-u-n/fun//Now when I say clap hands I want everybody to clap hands/clap hands/that’s what I’m talkin about//When I say ‘Get in’/ I want one person to get in the circle and do your flo show/one person at time/ladies first/then one of you cats can join in too//Now the girl and the boy who get the most applause are the King and the Queen and get free drinks from the crowd/now when you dancin you must stay under the spot light so your costume may show/now the way you wear your hair is important too baby//Now you can do any dance that you want to do/but when you start the Mashed Potato/uhh owww/be careful/don’t slip in the gravy//Hit it/that’s what i’m talkin about//Hey egghead/stop jivin that little teen queen and pay attention to what you doin/cuz if you don’t stop droolin/you gonna get yourself a real cool schoolin/and I’m not foolin//Say little girl/you send me too/but I’m too slick to go/so do yo flo show “
Do the Flo Show is a superior, if somewhat odd, dance song. Now, whether today’s uptight teens would dance to it is a different story. I do know that while I’m sitting in this seat, listening to the song, and typing this stuff up, I’m movin’ and I’m not foolin.