Archive for the ‘ Soul ’ Category

Cold Blood “Cold Blood”

San Francisco/East Bay area’s Cold Blood were one of the first bands of its kind, combining a smooth blend of psych, horn rock, jazz, soul, and R&B with front woman Lydia Pense’s Janis Joplin-esque vocal growlings.  People have often compared the group to the more well-known Californian outfit Tower Of Power, and with good reason.  Even so, Cold Blood have held their own ground and place in rock history, because of their energetic live shows, and the quality of material on their albums.  In 1969, Bill Graham signed the band and made them regulars at his legendary Fillmore West auditorium in San Francisco.  Their fan base quickly grew, and soon the band landed in the studio to record their eponymous debut, Cold Blood.

The album starts with the gospel-feel of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”, and has become one of my all-time favorite opening tracks of any album.  The song captures a longing for personal freedom and independence, which was a major dream for the people of the 1960′s dealing with civil rights, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam war.  Lydia Pense’s powerful and emotional vocals shine on this one, perhaps owing a bit more to Aretha Franklin than Janis Joplin.  Their rocked-up, funkier version of Sam & Dave’s “You Got Me Hummin’” could have been a huge hit single with the right promotion, and contains some VERY flashy bass work, courtesy of Rod Ellicott.  Their cover of Muddy Waters’  “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, is one of the best cover versions of the song, with the horn section just soaring, and the whole feel of the song positively oozing with passion and sexual desire.  The album ends with the semi-obscure Bobby Parker early soul classic “Watch Your Step”.  The saxophone reaches almost an other-worldly plateau, with a super funkified rhythm backing that leaves the listener with sublime aural satisfaction.

Cold Blood went through various incarnations, with several members passing away or moving on to other projects.  The band finally called it quits in the 1970s, with Lydia Pense recording solo material, and then deciding to retire from music indefinitely in the 1980s to raise her daughter.  The band reformed, have a strong cult following, and still continue to perform and wow audiences.

Cold Blood is so chocked full of great songs that it was very difficult to try and pick the “very best” to review.  Truth be told, this entire album is fantastic.  The original vinyl of the album is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to find on eBay, Discogs.com, etc.  “Oldies” label Collectibles reissued the album in 2001 as a two-album set, paired with their second album Sisyphus, which is also highly recommended.  From a personal standpoint, I’d suggest getting the original vinyl version.  It’s one of the best sounding albums, sonically, that I’ve ever owned, and is almost mandatory to crank to the highest possible volume to get the full experience.  Grab this one if you come across it.

mp3: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
mp3: Watch Your Step

:) Original | 1969 | San Francisco | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | Collectables | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Hour Glass “Power of Love”

Some folks out there will tell you that the two records cut for Columbia Records by The Hour Glass, Gregg and Duane Allman’s early west-coast rock and roll band, are nothing but commercial garbage. Don’t listen to them. From the perspective of the rabid, biker-boogieing Allman Brothers fan, The Hour Glass may very well come across as nothing but lysergic flower-child pop, but to the more informed listener a record like The Power of Love is a rare and valuable slice of psychedelic soul; I know that, for this long-time Allman Brothers fan, these Hour Glass recordings have actually edged out that later band’s albums on my turntable by a considerable degree, though I will confess to occasionally missing Duane’s inimitable bottleneck runs.

Cut between reworked songs by southern soul legends like Don Covay, Eddie Hinton and Dan Penn and memorable originals, The Power of Love really does (for lack of loftier language) kick ass from start to finish. Duane Allman’s heavy fuzz guitar and electric sitar may be a world away from the supple slide style that made him a household name, but it does have a vintage appeal of its own, and at the very least manages to display the guitarist’s legendary ear for melody. Meanwhile, Gregg’s singing is as heavy and soulful as it would ever be – just listen as he tears the roof off of songs like “Home” and “I Still Want Your Love,” sounding much more rough-hewn than his tender age would otherwise imply. So many of these tunes had Billboard potential that it blows my mind that this band never managed to take off, whatever record company hassles they were caught up  in at the time.

Some of my personal favorites here include the organ-driven “Changing of the Guard,” the wild, burning take on Eddie Hinton’s “Down In Texas,” and the righteous, reverberating psychedelia of the closing number, “Now Is the Time.” Duane’s solo on that last piece displays a radical controlled feedback tone that really makes it for me, and his sitar spotlight on the group’s jazzy instrumental reading of The Beatles evergreen “Norwegian Wood” is entertaining, if rather inconsequential. After hearing these numbers one almost wishes that more of the artistic eccentricities heard here had carried over into the brothers’ latter-day careers.

The Hour Glass recordings have been repackaged and reissued under a number of different titles, but I’d say the best place to find them is in the comprehensive Hour Glass anthology, originally a double LP released in the early seventies but recently remastered by Beat Goes On Records.

mp3: Still Want Your Love
mp3: Now Is the Time

:) Original | 1968 | Liberty | search ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | BGO | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Jesse Ed Davis “Jesse Davis”

While Jesse Ed Davis’ legacy has finally started to see the light of recognition, there is still a long way to go in establishing his rightful place in the pantheon of rock and roll legends. The Kiowa guitarist’s career encompassed work with everyone from Conway Twitty to John Lee Hooker to Bob Dylan, and his time served in the original Taj Mahal band would be highly influential on up-and-coming guitar slingers like Duane Allman (he being the inspiration for the latter’s taking up bottleneck-style guitar in the first place). Davis never really managed to establish himself as a commercially successful singer in his own right, but that did not prevent him from cutting a series of strong and invigorating records in the early 1970s, the first and foremost of these being Jesse Davis.

Davis has surrounded himself with a real who’s-who of rock and roll musicians here, including Eric Clapton, Joel Scott Hill, Gram Parsons and the oddly-omnipresent Leon Russell. This is a hearty American brew; it’s only too bad that the liner notes do not include a track by track breakdown of who is playing what on which songs. Davis’ voice may be an acquired taste – being slightly nasally and, yes, sometimes a little pitchy – but it also has a lot of character, and its hard not to give the guy a break; in the end, whatever vocal limitations the cat may be accused of are more than made up for by his exemplary musicianship. In his guitar playing I have noticed that Davis exhibits a certain degree of Curtis Mayfield influence (similar to that of Woodstock-era Robbie Robertson) in his ability to always serve the song and the rhythm; that is, until it comes time to let loose into a sharp and jagged solo, such as that which leaps out from the end of the otherwise lethargic “Reno Street Incident” – an original composition which was also recorded by Southwind’s Jim Pulte. The expansive horn arrangement on “Every Day Is Saturday Night” falls somewhere between Memphis boogie-woogie and red dirt dixieland, with Davis’ sharp staccato guitar leaping and swerving through the collective improvisation until its gleeful collapse. Make a joyful noise, indeed.

Perhaps the most memorable number here is “You Belladonna You,” which not only manages to lock into a serious groove, but also boasts an inescapable vocal hook. The extended jam at the end is the reason I harbor such ill will towards “the fade-out” on rock and roll records: is this not where the real magic happens? On the other hand, the oddest moment on the record comes with “Golden Sun Goddess,” which is an uncharacteristic detour into Los Angeles yacht rock replete with groovy electric sitars and a lava lamp vocal choir. It sounds like the album’s closest thing to a hit single, though its Steely Dan-isms are pretty jarring. Pretty much everywhere else Davis leans on an earthy, deadpan charm that betrays his deep Oklahoma roots. “Redheaded woman wants me to get a haircut,” Davis grumbles at the end of Pamela Polland’s “Tulsa County” before cracking, “man, I can’t get no haircut. Redhead? That’s a redneck.” Alright, so the Byrds may have cut the definitive take on this one, but they never let themselves have this much fun in the studio. Davis may be criticized for relying so heavily on other people’s material for his own albums, but his takes on these songs are always individualistic, and anyways, the guy’s got some good taste.

Jesse Davis has been reissued both individually and as a set with the follow up release, 1972′s Ululu, but somehow both are currently out-of-print and demanding ridiculously high prices. Your best bet is to keep an eye out for some original vinyl or else sucking it up and purchasing a digital copy, which may in fact be the most affordable choice at the moment though it does entail missing out on the righteous jacket artwork.

mp3: Washita Love Child
mp3: You Belladonna You

:) Original | 1971 | Atco | search ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Wea | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Mother Earth “Make a Joyful Noise”

Mother Earth has to be one of the best American rock and roll bands to have ever been forgotten. A hot act in its day, it seems folks have tended to overlook the group in recent years. Perhaps the band’s aesthetic center in 1960s blues and soul music makes them just a little too straight for today’s “forward-thinking” music listeners more hip to the weird, experimental sounds of bands like Faust or The Incredible String Band than righteous electric combos like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (now that I mention it, East/West really does beg review on these pages). No matter, though; let us take the first steps in reintroducing listeners to the wild, rootsy sounds of Mother Earth.

Make A Joyful Noise is the band’s second album, and marks a clear evolution in the band’s dynamic by containing both a “city side” and a “country side,” the latter recorded in Nashville with legendary pedal steel player and country music producer Pete Drake. Whatever new angles the band was introducing to their sound, however, they certainly hadn’t lost sight of their strengths, for there is soul enough aplenty across both sides of this collection. Dig the explosive opening number, “Stop the Train,” starring part-time Mother Earth shouter The Reverend Ron Stallings. Though the band is best remembered for Tracy Nelson’s fiery vocal talents, they were actually an extraordinary collaborative ensemble, also including among their ranks the enigmatic Powell St. John, occasional lyricist with The 13th Floor Elevators and whose stunning “The Kingdom of Heaven” the band had recorded the year before.

The “country side” here introduces Tracy Nelson’s talent for Music City soul, which would really shine on her first solo record Country, itself recorded around the same time as the Pete Drake selections on Joyful Noise. The band’s recording of Doug Sahm’s slow-grooving “I Wanna Be Your Mama Again,” a song purportedly written with Nelson in mind, really cooks and includes some tight picking. Dig the way the fiddle, pedal steel and electric guitar weave together during the instrumental breaks; rocking, rolling, backwoods bliss. Powell’s lazy, West Texas vocal spot on “Then I’ll Be Moving On” further highlights the appeal of the communal group organization, one which would eventually be discarded when the band turned into Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth.

All of the early Mother Earth albums are go-to records for me when I’m in the mood for beautifully honest, down-to-earth music (and yeah, I reckon that’s pretty often). If you’re really digging the rhythm and blues here, look for a copy of the band’s follow-up Bring Me Home; if you’re more into the country half, you absolutely need to get your hands on Nelson’s aforementioned solo record. Fortunately for all, every one of these records are still in print and readily available.

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“I Wanna Be Your Mama Again”

:) Original | 1969 | Mercury | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | buy ]

Hill, Barbata & Ethridge “L.A. Getaway”

Anybody familiar with L.A. canyon-rock circa 1970 should be familiar with the name Chris Ethridge. Having more or less made his debut as the R&B-minded bass player with the Flying Burrito Brothers, the man soon went on to become one of Americana’s most in-demand session players, serving with everyone from Phil Ochs to Ry Cooder to Judy Collins. There’s a good chance that you can find him on more than one of your favorite records. A less recognized part of Ethridge’s career, however, is his time served as a member of Hill, Barbata & Ethridge, a tight congregation of musicians who had until the band’s formation only really been seen working the sidelines of the nascent country rock movement. John Barbata probably had the highest profile of any of them, having spent several years manning the kit for sardonic folk rockers The Turtles, while singer Joel Scott Hill had only cut a couple of solo sides for small independent labels out of the west coast.

So it was really only with L.A. Getaway that these three really got a chance to shine on their own. Hill, perhaps the largest unknown quantity here, turns up positively mind-blowing on cuts like “Old Man Trouble,” where he takes Otis Redding’s classic heart breaker and wrenches out one of the most satisfying blue-eyed soul performances I’ve ever heard. Ethridge, whose bass work has always lain somewhere between Stax and McCartney, finally gets a chance to work out his R&B tendencies, having heretofore been confined mostly to country and folk-rock music. I should also mention the cast of supporting players here, if only to emphasize the weight these cats held in the world of Los Angeles rock and roll. Hammering the piano and Hammond organ are none other than the holy quadrumvirate of Leon Russell, Spooner Oldham, Booker T. Jones, and Mac Rebennack. Clarence White throws down some trademark guitar solos.

If there is any part of this record which disappoints, it is in the fact that the band here relies so much on other people’s material. Though songs like Dr. John’s swampy “Craney Crow” and Allen Toussaint’s woozy closer “So Long” are given strong and inspired readings, the most memorable moments come with Ethridge’s numbers, such as the barnstorming “It’s Your Love,” which could have been a radio staple had fortune only dealt more cards in their favor. His laconic vocal drawl on the twangy title track, a wry kiss-off to the smoggy city, makes one wish he had gotten a chance to record more of his own material in this way. Otherwise, the band’s treatment of rock and roll standards like Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight To the Blind” are fun, but not remarkable.

It’s a shame that L.A. Getaway didn’t get the chance to develop further than this one album. All three musicians would go on to other high-profile ventures, though I would argue that their sum was greater than their parts. John Barbata would serve time in many different bands through the seventies, from Jefferson Airplane to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, while Hill joined up with Canned Heat for a couple of years. Eventually, him and Ethridge were reunited in a latter-day incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers, though the recordings they made under that name, including 1975′s Flying Again, are a solid disappointment, especially in regards to Hill’s vocal performances.

L.A. Getaway did in fact see a compact disc reissue in 2004, courtesy of Water Records, but it has since fallen back out of print. At this point it’s probably easier to track down an original vinyl copy, though if the word gets around one hopes that this long-neglected classic will soon be made available again.

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“It’s Your Love”

:) Original | 1971 | Atco | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2004 | Water | get it here ]

Otis Redding “Otis Blue”

In 1965,  Otis Redding recorded and released his third studio album, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul on the legendary Stax label’s subsidiary Volt Records.  The album is considered by fans and critics alike to be Otis’ masterpiece.  To me, it just may be the ultimate masterpiece of soul music, period.

The album begins with “Ole Man Trouble,” a cry of desperation of a man who has had one too many demons on his trail.  In classic Otis Redding-style, this is a damn powerful and convincing song.  He is begging for some peace and contentment in his life.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest opening tracks of any album of any genre.

The album continues with the original version of “Respect,” one of Otis’ own compositions.  For those of you who are only familiar with Aretha Franklin’s rendition, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise (yes, it is quite different).  Otis Redding’s original rendition of the classic tune takes on a life of its own, and is an all-out soul stomper.  Definitely a track worthy of cranking at maximum volume.

The album just keeps getting more and more fantastic as it goes on.  Track three:  Sam Cooke’s immortal “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  Now, as much as I truly love Sam’s original version, nothing beats Otis’ version.  The power in this man’s voice as he sang this song is unbelievable.  This song, a classic Civil Rights anthem,  always reduces me to tears.  Otis, who was a huge Sam Cooke fan, covers two more of his compositions: “Shake,” which is a great soul dancer, and the playful and tender “Wonderful World”.  One thing was for certain, Otis showed the utmost of respect to his fellow artists by doing incredible covers of their songs.  “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” is one of the greatest love songs ever made.  It’s pretty hard to not be emotionally touched by that song.  I’ve always been a fan of Otis’ love songs.  They don’t sound sappy or weak at all.  Otis Redding sounded like a strong, real man who was comfortable with being emotional without sounding syrupy or weepy.

The other track on this album that gets me every time is the cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  Some background info on Otis’ cover kind of goes like this: supposedly, Otis was not very familiar with the song, until the day came to record it.  The reason why Otis’ lyrics differ so much from the original is because he actually barely knew any of the words!  Talk about true creativity!  The Rolling Stones wrote and recorded the song with Otis Redding and similar American soul artists in mind as inspiration.  Redding’s rendition featured the horn section main-riff, which is what Keith Richards originally intended on doing.  The Stones were so impressed with this cover, that their later concert rendition of the song reflected Redding’s interpretation.

The Stax players (Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr., Donald “Duck” Dunn, and so on) positively smoke on this record.  Steve Cropper’s biting and nasty Telecaster sound just screams.  Pay particular attention to the all-out sweaty ‘n’ gritty blues workout, “Rock Me Baby.”  These guys were jamming hard in that little studio!

Since Otis Redding is probably my favorite solo artist of all-time, I’d recommended all of his recordings to a beginner.  However, I’d have a hard time not recommending this album as the starting point. To me, and many others, this album truly embodies the classic Stax sound.  A gem.

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“Rock Me Baby”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Rhino | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Shuggie Otis “Freedom Flight”

As we all know, the oldest cliché in rock is the casualty list. There are the high-profile heroes of misadventure: Buddy Holly, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are those that couldn’t handle success and took the ultimate way out: Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley. But perhaps saddest of all are those huge talents who unaccountably chose simply to fade into obscurity, often in self-imposed seclusion: Brian Wilson, Peter Green, Emitt Rhodes . . . and Shuggie Otis.

Johnnie Velotes Jr was a precocious musical polymath. Son of extrovert jump-jive bandleader Johnnie Otis, Shuggie inherited the musical gene in spades, playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vibes fluently before reaching his teens. At fifteen he replaced Mike Bloomfield in Al Kooper’s occasional all-star supergroup for the album Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis. In the same year he played bass on the sessions for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats; that’s Shuggie’s bubbling, syncopating bass on “Peaches En Regalia”.

A year later the teenage prodigy released his first solo album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, co-written and produced by his father and backed by the cream of Johnnie Sr’s session pals. The second followed a year later: its title Freedom Flight symbolised Shuggie’s breaking loose from his father’s patronage, with most compositions being credited to him alone and with a much smaller coterie of backing players, while Shuggie overdubbed his own bass and keyboard parts and wrote his own string and brass charts. But even this new level of creative control wasn’t enough: his third and final album, Inspiration Information, took three years to construct, with Shuggie playing everything bar the horns and strings which he scored. And then, at the age of 22, Shuggie Otis went into self-imposed retirement. Apart from occasional studio sessions for other artists and, recently, some low-key live appearances in Northern California, he’s remained silent and invisible.

The first album is an enthusiastic freshman romp through blues and funk, showcasing Shuggies’s youthfully exuberant guitar; the last is an introspective, sensitive effort that unites soul and jazz in what would now be called ambient soundscapes, way ahead of its time but with a curiously vulnerable, unfinished quality. Freedom Flight is undoubtedly his most-realised collection. The blues/funk axis carries over from Here Comes, notably on the killer opener “Ice Cold Daydream” and the sole cover, Gene Barge’s “Me And My Woman”, but with a far more mature, considered approach to his guitar playing from the eighteen-year-old virtuoso. The album also nods in other directions; the gorgeous psychedelically-tinged California soul of “Strawberry Letter 23” with its astonishing coda, the restrained modal slide guitar work on “Sweet Thang” and the guitar/flute dialogue that ends the joyous “Someone’s Always Singing”. But the big surprise is the title track, which moves unexpectedly into the most melodic of free jazz with the guitar improvising against tenor sax, Fender Rhodes and a ubiquitous wind chime for thirteen minutes, and not a wasted note anywhere – Shuggie’s absolute masterpiece. This points toward the third album, and the direction he’d probably have taken thereafter had he stayed the course.

One reviewer called Shuggie Otis the link between Sly Stone and Stephen Stills; personally I’d say between Mike Bloomfield and Curtis Mayfield. But such comparisons are subjective and irrelevant. If you want to follow up this brilliant, enigmatic young musician’s brief career on CD, Inspiration Information was reissued on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint in 2001 with four key tracks from Freedom Flight included as bonus cuts, while the first two albums reappeared in full as a twofer on the excellent Raven label from Australia in 2003. Both releases are unreservedly recommended.

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“Strawberry Letter 23″

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Epic | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | 2fer | Raven | at amzn ]

Swamp Dogg “Total Destruction To Your Mind”

Total Destruction to your Mind

One of the best underground/unsung soul albums I know of.  Prior to Total Destruction To Your Mind, Swamp Dogg had been recording music and releasing 45s since the 50s, under the name Jerry Williams (or Little Jerry Williams).  Frustrated by the lack of commercial success, Williams changed his name and persona and in 1970, unleashed Total Destruction To Your Mind on an unsuspecting world.  While those early Calico 45s are a fine musical legacy, the above album saw Swamp Dogg hit on something totally new: a very original brew of R&B, funk and rock n roll that still sounds fresh today. Without doubt he delivered a true soul classic.

Total Destruction To Your Mind was originally released by Canyon.  Swamp Dogg’s eccentric nature, blunt lyrics, and gruff vocals make it stand out from the commercial soul of the day.  His style is really individual and authentic, which makes drawing comparisons so difficult.  Think of a more eccentric Curtis Mayfield or a less lysergic Sly Stone with the occasional Stax horn arrangement – but even this description does the man no favors.  The title cut is a classic, probably one of Dogg’s best known numbers.  This track opens the LP and is best described as psychedelic soul rock, featuring wah wah, loud horns, funky guitar riffs, piano, and cryptic lyrics.  Also of note are the fine contributions from guitarist Jesse Carr and drummer Johnny Sandlin; they provide structure and sanity on this great chuggin’ funk rock gem. “Redneck” (written by Joe South) and the excellent “Sal-A-Faster” are similar funk numbers that feature great beats, classic horn arrangements, and controversial lyrics.  Other goodies are the Bob Dylan influenced “Synthetic World,” notable for its cerebral organ and the soulful, psychedelic worldplay of “Dust Your Head Color Red.”  The album closes most unusually with “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe,” a great blues number that took me by surprise.  Swamp Dogg wrote 9 of the 12 songs featured on this LP.  Regarding the 3 covers; there are two great Joe South numbers which Swamp Dogg interprets brilliantly and then there’s ”The World Beyond,” a killer soul ballad with nostalgic lyrics (written by Bobby Goldsboro).

Again, Total Destruction to Your Mind never gained any commmercial notoriety or widespread acceptance but this should in no way discourage you from buying the 1996 cd reissue (which also adds the excellent Rat On LP from 1971) by Swamp Dogg’s very own S.D.E.G. Records.  Swamp Dogg always did things his own way and thats what makes Total Destruction to Your Mind such a special release.

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“Sal-A-Faster”

:D CD Reissue | 2fer | 1996 | SDEG | amazon ]
;) MP3 Album | 2fer | download ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1970 | Canyon | ebay ]

Don Covay “See-Saw”

Seesaw

I’ll forever be indebted to British R&B bands like the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things and the Downliner’s Sect for not only changing my life with their incredible music, but for also infecting me with an incurable obsession with American roots music. Noticing that their early albums were almost entirely comprised of cover songs sent me scrambling all over the place to track down the raw blues of Howlin’ Wolf and Slim Harpo, the trailblazing country of Hank Snow and Buck Owens, and lots of Southern soul.

Mick Jagger was no Solomon Burke. Well aware of his limitations, he found a way to make it work by studying less technically accomplished singers like Don Covay. One listen to those falsetto notes he hits and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Covay was a prolific songwriter who penned an impressive string of hits for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Burke and Wilson Pickett. He was also one of the most overlooked soul singers of his generation. His first single, “Bip Bop Bip,” is a frantic ‘50s shouter wild enough to make Little Richard (who he once chauffeured for) sound like Fabian. After releasing a few more sides that were a bit derivative but great nonetheless, Covay finally hit his stride in 64’ with the genre blurring cut “Mercy, Mercy.” A solid R&B groove was intact, but the prominent raw guitars (rumored to have been played by a young Hendrix) and crashing drums gave it a strong rocknroll edge, anticipating the garage boom that was just on the horizon. His pleading vocals convey a sense of desperation that even surpasses Pickett’s stellar rendition of the song.

This single along with some equally crude tracks from the same era were collected on the 1966 LP See Saw. “Everything Gonna Be Everything” is an all-out stomper that’ll make you to wonder if he’s not being backed by the Pretties. Also included are some more straight-ahead soul songs he cut at Stax, featuring the tight, horn dominated sound and Steve Cropper licks that made the label famous. On the title cut and “Iron Out the Rough Spots” we find Covay neck and neck with best talent on the formidable Stax roster.

See Saw is the epitome of a great mid-‘60s Southern soul album, perfectly balanced with the right amount of dance tunes and ballads. It was reissued on CD as a twofer with his terrific first LP Mercy. Razor and Tie released a decent anthology, which includes some of his earlier and later efforts.

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“Mercy Mercy”

:D CD Reissue: 2000 | Koch Records | Buy Mercy!/See-Saw @ Amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue: 2000? | Atlantic | Search eBay for Don Covay See Saw ]

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