Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Pass #2: Ned Doheny

It's been a long time coming getting back to this "reoccurring series", but let me assure you it's well worth the wait. For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, there exists a cadre of caucasian-persuasion musicians that Stevie Wonder might inaccurately refer to as his soul brother or sister. In other words, they pass for Black sonically. They also qualify if they're known to be White, but are nonetheless adored by the darker than blue demographic. Some examples: Phil Collins or Average White Band. Actually, tt was thanks to those pale Scottish soul-ders that I learned of Soul Spectrum's second ever Free Pass recipient.
Ned Doheny's 62nd birthday was just a few days ago (March 26th) as I found out just now doing some research. He was born on Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills, CA the grandson of oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny. Like many children of privilege of the time, Ned became a hippie. A Laurel Canyon hippie, to be exact. Ned was part of the extended Asylum records/David Geffen family as you can see from the photo above (from left to right: Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliot, David Geffen & Ned Doheny: Venice, California, Easter Sunday, 1972)

As you can see from the photo, David & Ned were close. David's recently minted Asylum Records signed Ned as the very first artist and Ned's self-titled LP came out in 1973. I haven't heard that one yet, but I understand its more in that Laurel Canyon hippie-country style (this blog sure seems to like that kinda stuff). And finally, we get back to the Average White Band story . . . so Hamish Stuart, the falsetto crooning AWB songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is out in L.A. and starts writing songs with Ned. Ned's next album on CBS from 1976 featured the quiet storm classic "A Love of Your Own" which Average White Band also recorded. Ned recorded a follow-up for CBS in 1977, but the label only released the album, "Prone" in Japan in 1979. The single from that album, "To Prove My Love", was released more widely on 12" and 7" formats. A friend recently told me that the legendary DJ David Mancuso of "The Loft" parties played the 12" at the 40th anniversary of the "Love Saves the Day" party.

Ned Doheny - Give it Up for Love
Ned Doheny - A Love of Your Own
Ned Doheny - I've Got Your Number

Ned Doheny - To Prove My Love

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heavier than Fiction

With the release of the Stonesthrow compilation of Fela Kuti covers, the cat’s finally out of the bag on the Mosco Tiles Fontclaire Steel Drum Orchestra; I can quit pretending I’m the only person who knows about their LP “Funk, Steel and Brass”. It’s my greatest bargain score ever, found for pennies in a box on the sidewalk in front of a junk shop in Montevideo, Uruguay.

I ask you: how can this record even exist? The idea is so perfect it’s like something made up by a record nerd, like the fake “legend” of Clutchy Hopkins.

It’s a steel drum orchestra from Trinidad; OK whatever. But this is not just some tourist hotel band. They record with a heavy drum kit and electric bass.

That’d be sweet by itself, right?

But check the stats:

  • Recorded in 1974 (if you know what I mean)
  • They don’t do the obvious stuff like James Brown; instead they cover artists now adored by beat-heads the world over, like Fela Kuti and Lou Donaldson
  • There’s a Cymande cover!
  • And just to add to the intergalactic left-field radness, it has a John Prine cover, too.

Bonus: The Mosco Tiles Orch. version of Lou Donaldson’s “Caterpillar” may be the heaviest sound ever in the history of recording. Maybe even heavier than Gil Evans' Las Vegas Song (start at about 03:00 and turn up the bass).

BTW anyone heard the other Mosco Tiles LP?

Mosco Tiles - Caterpillar
Mosco Tiles - The Message

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ode to Bobbie Gentry: Delta Sweetie (Part 2)

If you're wondering where part one of this Bobbie Gentry tribute is, check out the more twang-ified side of Bobbie on my sister blog "Weed, Whites & Wine". I've been curious about Bobbie Gentry for awhile now, since I heard her stomping "Mississippi Delta" (below) on a Blue Note rare groove comp (Blue Juice Vol. 1) so whenever I found a record of hers cheap, I'd snag it. I've got most of them now and recently ripped some of my favorite tunes.

Bobbie pretty much defined pop country alongside Glen Campbell, with whom she did a duet album in her peak year (this one is by far the easiest to fine, but not the best example of her stuff). But unlike Glen, Bobbie took a funkier approach, often using drums way out in front and her guitar strumming style had a really rhythmic feel. She claims that she produced all of her records and that she wasn't credited on the LP back covers because it was just unheard of for a woman to be a producer in the mid-to-late sixties. Below I've collected some of the funkier tracks from Bobbie's albums.

Bobbie Gentry - Mississippi Delta
Ironically, this was the A-side to Bobbie's iconic hit song "Ode to Billy Joe". It's a slamming tune and very different than the haunting B-side. This goes to show that Bobbie came out of the gates firing off funky country pop.

Bobbie Gentry - Son of a Preacher Man

Sure, it's no Dusty, but I would say it K.O.'s Aretha's version. Unlike either Aretha or Dusty, Bobbie actually grew up in the South.

Bobbie Gentry - Find 'em, Fool 'em and Forget 'em
An interesting song selection, but checking out the steamy cover painting, you get she's going for a seductive almost pop-feminist theme. In this tune she learns the hard way the downside to being a player and getting played.

Bobbie Gentry - He Made a Woman Out of Me
This is kinda like flip perspective from the last song. You should check out the Weed, Whites & Wine
post to hear the title track from this album, which explores similar territory.

Bobbie Gentry - Rainmaker

A nice version of this semi-funky Nilsson tune.

This is a great single-only tune from 1970. I gotta get this one.

and this really great clip of Donovan on Bobbie's show singing a duet on Donovan's Zen Pop song "There is a Mountain":

and one more very groovy version of the classic bayou blue-eyed soul "Niki Hoeky":

Monday, March 08, 2010

So Much Time . . Ain't Got Time Fa Nuthin'

So, after dodging bullets since arriving in the Bay Area nearly two years ago I recently became one more (of the many) victims of this harsh economic climate. That might help explain why I have not posted anything new for a few weeks. I spent the past two weeks kicking it with my family and friends in Portland, OR. This also allowed me some time to do some care-free digging in Portland's famous record shops as well as thrift stores up and down the West Coast as my pal Chris and I drove back to the Bay Area along the coast. Needless to say, the coastal route is beautiful, but it's not much for soulful vinyl as the rural Oregon and Northern California coast makes Portland look like New York City. Be sure to check in over at Weed, Whites & Wine for some of my less-soulful and more twangy vinyl scores.

I'm still working through some of the goodies I brought back, but the one that is steady rotation in my brain is this killer little tune from the lesser-known Philly vocal group, The Futures. I snagged this little gem at a junk-shop in SE Portland for $5 along with a couple other great pieces. This tune really seems to speak to my current situation: so much time, but so much to do. Three weeks of being unemployed has taught me one thing: I work best with structure.

So, until something comes along that pays a little bit better I'm committing to give myself a bit of structure by posting on Soul Spectrum & Weed, Whites & Wine much more frequently, so stay tuned!

The Futures - Ain't No Time Fa Nuthin'