Posted tagged ‘1969’

The lady behind the liner notes

May 3, 2014

Among the charms of old records are liner notes.

When found on the back jacket of a record, it was promotional copy meant to help convince shoppers to buy that LP. But I wonder how many people actually chose a record because of what was written on the back.

So tonight, as y0u listen to this vintage side on The Midnight Tracker, enjoy the liner notes that accompanied it in the record bins of 1969.

willie mitchell soul bag lp 2

“Everyday People,” “Knock On Wood,” “Grand Slam,” “Honey Pot,” “Hawaii Five -O” and “Set Free,” Willie Mitchell, from “Soul Bag,” 1969. It’s out of print. This is Side 2. It runs 14:05.

“On the flip side of the album, ‘EVERYDAY PEOPLE’ kicks it off. The organ carries the melody singing out a very familiar tune, while the horns handle the chorus.

“The million-seller Eddie Floyd standard ‘KNOCK ON WOOD’ is Willie’s next outing and he does beautiful justice to it. At any dance you attend you will be bound to hear request after request for this song, but you will never hear an arrangement that quite touches Willie’s.

“Another original ‘GRAND SLAM’ is included that demonstrates the nationally known ‘Memphis Sound.’ It’s the only slow tune on the album, so relax and just enjoy it.

“The nicest horns yet are in ‘HONEY POT,’ another Memphis-based tune. The changing tempos used make this song one of my very favorites.

“To close the LP Willie uses ‘HAWAII 5-0,’ the popular television show theme with an easy tempo and horns in the lead, and also an original entitled ‘SET FREE.’ This tune is up tempo with very effective guitar work that will not let you sit down.

“Willie has definitely out-done himself again and it seems as if this album is a contest against the last. The album speaks for itself and you will really hate to hear it end. So don’t let it, just pick the needle up and start it over again … And again … And again … And again.”

Those liner notes were written in 1969 by Linda Alter, who was a music publicist for more than 35 years.

But that year, Alter was working at Pop Tunes, a record store in her hometown of Memphis. She was so good and so personable that she was promoted to head buyer for its parent company, Poplar Tunes, which also had a wholesale arm that sold records to stores and jukeboxes throughout the South.

“Soul Bag” came out on Hi Records, so Alter likely was quite familiar with it, and with Willie Mitchell. They all were part of the Poplar Tunes family. Hi — for whom Mitchell started recording in 1960, then became a producer and vice president — was founded by Poplar Tunes co-owner Joe Cuoghi.

In 1974, Alter moved to Los Angeles and became the national promotion chief for Shelter Records, one of the first women to have such a job. Leon Russell, who co-founded Shelter in 1969, was one of her first big clients. Alter later worked for the Bang, Motown and Arista labels and became one of the most influential women in the music business. She died in 2005 at age 58.

This also came from Philly

November 28, 2011

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have another LP rarely seen while digging for records.

The Electric Indian was a group of Philadelphia studio musicians brought together in 1969 to lay down some funk and soul instrumentals, mostly covers. It recorded one LP, “Keem-O-Sabe,” and two modestly successful singles, the LP’s title cut and a cover of “Land of 1,000 Dances.”

The most thorough piece I can find about the group is this 2006 blog post from The Record Robot, which specialized in odd and quirky records. Most sources credit onetime Swan Records owner Bernie Binnick as the sole founder of The Electric Indian. However, the Record Robot post also says ’60s singer Len Barry was a co-founder. Both were Philly guys.

Barry, who produced the group, is said to have been fascinated by American Indian culture at the time. He and Binnick co-wrote the title cut and its 7-inch flip side “Broad Street,” with Barry taking the writer’s credit under his real name, Leonard Borisoff. Barry also co-wrote “Rain Dance,” another cut on the LP. The last cut on the record is a cover of Barry’s hit single “1-2-3.”

Wiki, which doesn’t mention Barry in connection with The Electric Indian, insists the group was “influenced by the popularity of American Indians in the media.” Listening to this record, it’s clear any such influence was superficial at best. At a time when the American Indian movement was gaining strength and respect, here is a record on which the hit single, “Keem-O-Sabe” samples the theme from “The Lone Ranger.” As always, you be the judge.

That said, The Electric Indian cranked out some mighty fine grooves. Its members, uncredited on the album jacket, included some now-familiar names. Two legendary Philly rhythm sections that followed soon after in the early ’70s —  MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra — can trace part of their legacy to The Electric Indian.

Vince Montana Jr., who’d worked as a Philly session man for a decade, played vibes for The Electric Indian and arranged four of the LP’s 10 cuts. He also wrote its longest cut, the 5-minute “Geronimo.” He eventually joined MFSB, as did guitarist Bobby Eli. Montana went from MFSB to become the conductor of the Salsoul Orchestra. A young Daryl Hall, just getting started in music, was The Electric Indian’s keyboard player. Tim Moore, who became a well-regarded singer-songwriter in the ’70s, was another of the guitarists.

Hear, then, the music that led to MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra.

“Keem-O-Sabe,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Storm Warning” and “Rain Dance,” The Electric Indian, from “Keem-O-Sabe,” 1969. It’s out of print. This is Side 1. It runs a brisk 12:42.

The first and last cuts are originals. You know “Grapevine,” the Motown classic, and “Spinning Wheel,” the smash for Blood, Sweat and Tears. “Storm Warning” is a Philly soul classic from 1965, written by Carl Fisher of the Vibrations and recorded by the Volcanos.

Just passing through

June 1, 2011

One of the charms of the old Midnight Tracker radio show was that you would, from time to time, be exposed to something you otherwise might not have listened to.

Some months ago, a friend asked me to keep my eye out for a record by the French singer Francoise Hardy. He passed along the title of the LP. I had to Google the rest, just to get a sense of what I was seeking.

Last month, I came across a Francoise Hardy record while digging in my friend Jim’s basement. It didn’t match the title my friend gave me. Still, I had a hunch it might be the right record. Googling it a second time confirmed that.

Having spent several months digging through H records and female vocalist records — when I remembered to do so — damn right I was going to put it on the turntable and give it a listen before passing it along to my friend.

It was like listening to the Midnight Tracker back in the mid-’70s. Here was a record someone else liked, so why not give it a chance?

“Loving You,” “Hang On To A Dream,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Lonesome Town,” “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” and “Never Learn To Cry,” Francoise Hardy, from “Loving,” 1969. This is Side 1. It runs 13:44.

Released on the Reprise label, this LP is said to be Hardy’s only major English-language release. It is out of print. (Also known as “En Anglais,” it was re-released in Japan in 1976, 1979 and 1990.)

The formula for “Loving” is a bit like that of Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty In Memphis,” which also came out in 1969.

Hardy’s soft, gentle folk-pop vocals grace a bunch of covers. Side 1’s first five songs are from Elvis Presley (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), Tim Hardin, the Shirelles (Gerry Goffin and Carole King), Ricky Nelson (Baker Knight) and the Kinks (Ray Davies). Side 2 includes Phil Ochs’ “There But For Fortune” and Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.”

The Kinks cover is the best cut on the record.

Hardy was 25 when “Loving” was released. By then already a huge star in France and Europe,  she had set up a production company, Productions Asparagus. It gets the producer’s credit on this LP, so it seems that this is Hardy, in English, the way she wanted to do it.

Truth be told, this isn’t a record I’d buy for myself. But I am glad I heard it, and I’m delighted to be able to pass it along to my friend, to whom it really matters.

Get your groove on

August 28, 2009

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have a side that will allow you to do just that. Instantly.

Curtis Owsley has been gone almost 40 years now — stabbed to death in an argument outside his apartment in New York City in August 1971 — and there are many who don’t know about King Curtis.

He was a tenor sax player, first with Lionel Hampton’s jazz band in the early ’50s, then as one of the greatest jazz, rock, soul and R&B session men around from the late ’50s on.

King Curtis also made a name for himself with a bunch of terrific solo records from 1959 until his death. In the three years I’ve been crate digging, I’ve come across exactly one. I bought it. This is it.

Mostly instrumental, as are all of Curtis’ records, “Instant Groove” lives up to its name from the sizzling first cut.

Time to get your groove on, instantly, with Side 1 of this great album.

That is Curtis on tenor sax, of course. On two cuts — “Foot Pattin'” and “Games People Play — that is Duane Allman on lead guitar.

There are two funky Curtis originals — the title cut and “Foot Pattin’.” There are covers of tunes done first by Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Joe South and Sly and the Family Stone.

kingcurtisinstantgroovelp

“Instant Groove,” “Hey Joe,” “Foot Pattin’,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Games People Play” and “Sing A Simple Song,” King Curtis, from “Instant Groove,” 1969. It runs 18:39.