Better than the house red

I have always found the term “house band” vaguely disparaging, as if a recording studio has a house band in the same way an Italian bistro offers the “house red”: unlabelled and, at best, unremarkable. Sometimes, undrinkable. There may well be the odd house band out there that is like that – a bunch of jaded session musicians recording the sound track for a breakfast cereal commercial.

But here on Planet Vinyl we jump to the defence of such musicians – hey, they are making a living out of their art, and that is not to be scorned.  And many a house band is actually a fantastic ensemble, skilled and passionate players who in a more-just world would be household names.

Up_Tight!_(1968)_poster

Time is Tight was the theme to the 1969 movie Up Tight, a  drama about black militancy. Image: Wikimedia Foundation

There are some house bands which do score hits and become famous in their own right. The Shadows was one; The Band another.

In this illustrious company belongs Booker T and the M.G.’s, the “house band” for Stax studios in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s. “M.G.” just stood for “Memphis Group”, but there was nothing “no-name” about them They played behind the cream of soul singers, including Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Albert King and Carla Thomas.

And they had hits of their own, groovy, catchy instrumental numbers. This is one of their later releases, Time is Tight, part of a soundtrack they contributed to the 1969 feature film Up Tight. It has all the hallmarks of the MG’s at their finest: seamless group playing and an irresistible groove.

Just listen!

  • Artist: Booker T and the MG’s
  • Track: Time is Tight
  • Format: 7”, 45rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Stax
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalog: KK-2888
  • Year: 1969

 

 

 

 

Rascals in knickerbockers

Four young men, looking moody and  wearing knickerbockers and short ties. The cover picture on this EP is strange. What is this? Little Lord Fauntleroy Does Motown?

young rascalsI had not heard of the Young Rascals, the gents in the strange gear. But they were genuine stars in the late 1960s, with five US number 1 hits, including Good Lovin’, Groovin’, and People Got To be Free, a civil rights song.

LLF

An early-model Young Rascal

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music describes the Young Rascals as “one of America’s finest pop/soul ensembles” and explains:

Despite a somewhat encumbering early image – knickerbockers and choirboy shirts -the group’s soulful performances endeared them to critics and peers … one of the east coast’s most influential attractions, spawning a host of imitators

Most of their songs are smooth and soul-tinged, but the track I have chosen here has a rougher edge. It’s a stomper, a break-up song with strong vocals and nice harmonies. Ignore the knickerbockers, and just listen.

  • Artist: Young Rascals
  • EP title: How Can I Be Sure
  • Track: A2 You Better Run
  • Format: 12”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: AX-11,407
  • Year: 1968

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

 

You can honk your own horn!

Guest post by “Green Strobe”

“Excuse Me” is the final track on Alison MacCallum’s album of the same name, which turned out to be her last. A powerfully-voiced Australian blues/rock/soul singer, she released a couple of well-regarded albums, but is best remembered nowadays as the vocalist of the successful “It’s Time” jingle which emotively helped Gough Whitlam to victory in the 1972 Australian federal election.

whitlam_131011_getty

“It’s Time” was one of the great jingles. The T-shirts, not so much. Image via SBS

The single was issued in 1974, and the album in 1975. The single and its B-side are a pair of opposites – one an expression of love, the other a diatribe about a failed relationship.

0622 b“Excuse Me” is a lush number arranged in the mid-1970s manner, telling us how much she misses her other half. It’s rather unfair to say so, as the song predates Sherbet’s, but during the orchestral build-ups you may half-expect her to start singing “how-ow-ow howzat!”.

The B-side, “Honk” was not included on the album, making the single that much more attractive. And it’s pretty racy! A song of scorn directed at an ex-lover, the double entendre is not exactly subtle (it is on the Albert label) – “you can honk your own horn!”.

Rather explicit for the time, it takes a swing at male sexual gratification, mixing metaphors along the way (moving to sweets and gluttony, instead of maintaining the theme of lust and automotive and/or musical horn-blowing). It’s more of an upbeat tune, and brings to mind the angry feminism of the time – until you realise it was written by men! Pop svengali Simon Napier-Bell arranged, produced and (with Antonio Morales) wrote both sides. Nothing is ever what it seems…

  • Artist: Alison MacCallum
  • A Side: Excuse Me
  • B Side: Honk Honk
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Albert
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: AP-10476
  • Year: 1974

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

Pacific Rim

Allegations are flying that Planet Vinyl has sold out. A puerile head of state, who shall remain nameless, has Tweeted: “So-called ‘obscure’ music blog writes about ROLLING STONES in failed attempt to boost LOSER ratings. Sad.” Well, Sir, normal service has been resumed.

I had never heard of Rim D. Paul, but one of his records came my way. And, wow! Yes, it is derivative. There is some Wilson Pickett there, and a lot of James Brown. But, who cares? The band rocks, and Rim gives a stellar vocal performance.

0638Rim, I learned, is a legend in New Zealand, a pioneer of Maori music breaking into the mainstream. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Like the indigenous peoples of my own country, and indeed pretty much every colonial-settler society, the Maori have had a rough road. But they are resilient, proud, adaptable, and a people with an amazing feel for music. Listen, just listen, to a Maori choir. A whole community singing together, weaving in Maori tradition, mission hymns, and the popular music of the world.

Rim Paul was a bridge builder. Back in the 1960s he led groups, such as the Quin Tikis, bringing Maori musical talent into the mainstream – first in New Zealand and later in Australia as well. He also worked with or led the Howard Morrison Quartet and the Maori National Choir, exploring an extraordinary variety of musical styles.

Wanting to learn more, I found an interview Rim did with Radio New Zealand a few years ago. He talks of his long, varied career, his journey exploring and recovering his Maori identity, the struggle to make a living as a musician. He shows an undiminished voice and love for music, not to mention a dignity and grace which the odd world leader could learn from.

  • Artist: Rim D. Paul
  • Single Title: All God’s Children Got Soul
  • Side A “All God’s Children Got Soul”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Philips
  • Catalogue: BF-454
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1969

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

Election special

There is a federal election on today in Australia. It will be very close, as elections here often are. Usually, in a close election, the government hangs on, but you never know. It has been a dreary, unedifying election campaign, which is also as expected.
Even so, it is something wonderful and precious thing to take part in choosing the government. It is also something I like about our community: the actual voting is invariably peaceful. I have never heard so much as an angry word exchanged at a polling station. There are no police present – they are not needed. The people handing out how-to-vote cards might be a little frosty with each other, but that is about as bad as it gets. Everyone queues up patiently, chats amiably.
0254 BThe ballot boxes are made of cardboard – no need for metal or padlocks. Regardless of the result – even if we end up with a hung parliament – there won’t be riots, there will not be armoured cars patrolling.
It is easy to take these things for granted, but we shouldn’t. This is not a natural state of things. Free elections which might cause a change of government, and which carry no risk of violence – historically, these are a very recent development. Even in the modern world they are the exception.
So, I am thankful for Australian democracy, even if many of our people in public life rather lack personality.
Someone who certainly didn’t lack personality was Lloyd Price. I only knew him for his biggest hit, “Personality”, which you still hear played on golden oldies radio. It’s a fine pop song, beautifully arranged and Price sings with a warm rich voice. It is a delight.
But on Planet Vinyl we shy away from things you might hear on commercial radio. If it’s the golden hits you want, you are on the wrong planet. We are going for the B-side, “Have You Ever Had the Blues”. It isn’t really a blues – much too cheery for that, and lyrically lightweight – but a fine, danceable, singalong soul-tinged number.
This is one battered record. Just look at it! This disc has been to many a party, bounced down the stack of many a radiogram, and from the look of things survived being attacked by a child learning to write. It needed a good clean, but plays surprisingly well. The vinyl of 1959, like the music is carried, was made to last.
It is getting late in the evening, and the election is still undecided. One way or another, one of those guys in suits who lack personality will end up having the blues.

  • Artist: Lloyd Price
  • Single Title: Personality
  • Track: Side B “Have You Ever Had The Blues”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G WG-SPN-800
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1959

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

Something sweet

I live near Geelong, a regional city which is a bit down on its luck at the moment. It used to be an industrial town, but the industries have closed, or will do soon. There are other ways to prosper besides making cars or smelting aluminium, but the transition isn’t easy. Making things harder is that the city government has lurched from problem to crisis to, just recently, being dismissed and replaced by an administrator. We are not Detroit, but on a much milder level the trend is the same.

0158 Sweethearts sleeve

Our future lies in services, ideas, creative industries. There is a strong music scene here, and one thing I would love see is some enterprising soul build on that, invest in turning empty factories into busy recording studies. No reason at all why Geelong could not become the place for affordable, professional recording. Art thrives on cheap rents, and that we have.

One model for music and how it can work here is Sweethearts, a soul band which is also an educational program. It is tied in with a girls’ secondary college, and it has been hugely successful, touring internationally, winning all sorts of awards, being acclaimed as the apostles of Nu Soul. Personally, I am an old soul, but I have seen them play, and they rock. Something else, Sweethearts has a strong presence online, as musicians must these days, but they also put stuff out on vinyl. This record was released in 2013, making it the youngest disc in my possession by some years. (Just to reassure, true to the Planet Vinyl ethos, I picked it up second-hand in an op-shop. Doesn’t count, else.)0158 Sweethearts label and inner sleeve

As you can see, it is artfully presented and – most important – the music is strong. As is often the case with Millennial Vinyl, the record comes with a code allowing you to download a digital version. But that is not the way we roll on Planet Vinyl. I have, quite pointlessly, digitised the disc, just so there is the faintest hint of surface noise in there.

This band is a going concern, so if you like what you hear, please do catch a gig or go onto iTunes and listen in a way which sends a little love to Sweethearts.

  • Artist: Sweethearts
  • Single Title: E’s Voodoo Woman / Odetta
  • Track: “E’s Voodoo Woman”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Sweethearts
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 2013