Monthly Archives: April 2008

Midnight Tracker sampler, Vol. 6

It is late at night in the early ’70s.

You are listening to your local FM rock station.

A song comes on, its crunchy intro mixing some nasty wah-wah guitar with a little Hammond organ. Halfway through, there’s a pretty cool guitar solo.

Then you listen to the lyrics.

Well, your blacks are dyin’, but your back is still turned
And your freaks are cryin’, but your back is still turned
You better stop your hidin’, or your country will burn

Whoa. This is a protest song!

Then, in the last minute, there’s another pretty cool guitar run.

“Golden Country,” REO Speedwagon, from “R.E.O. T.W.O.,” 1972.

That’s Gary Richrath on lead guitar. He wrote “Golden Country.” He left the band in 1989.

That’s Neal Doughty on the Hammond organ. He’s the last original member of REO still with the band.

Check out the rest of Side 2 over at our other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

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Oh, wow, he did that, too?

One day after writing about the passing of R&B singer Al Wilson and the roundabout manner in which I eventually came to learn more about him, this happened:

Evan had lacrosse over on the east side of town, which is where our used record store is located. Given the choice between an hour of watching lacrosse practice in the rain and an hour of crate digging … you got it.

There, in the back of the small bin of soul and R&B records, was this:

Al Wilson’s debut album, “Searching for the Dolphins,” on the Soul City label, from 1968. It was produced by Johnny Rivers, as was its hit single, “The Snake.”

It’s in pretty rough shape. There are so many pops and ticks on it that it sounds like it was recorded in the rain. A plastic sleeve is holding the jacket together. The upper right corner of the jacket has a water stain. Most of the cuts are marred by skips.

It’s a little like an archaeological dig. You handle it carefully, dust it off, clean it off and perhaps only then do you find whether there’s a treasure that remains intact. As always, you be the judge.

“Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over),” a cover of the Four Tops tune from 1966. This is the cleanest cut of the 11 on the album.

“I Stand Accused,” a cover of the Jerry Butler tune from 1964. This is so good, so impassioned, I hope you’ll forgive the small skip at 2:16.

“Summer Rain,” a cover of the Johnny Rivers tune from 1968. Is it sacrilegious to suggest this version should have been released instead of Rivers’ version that year? Please forgive the small skips at 2:49 and 3:01.

All by Al Wilson, from “Searching for the Dolphins,” 1968. It’s apparently out of print in the States, but has been re-released on CD in the UK as “Searching for the Dolphins: The Complete Soul City Recordings and More, 1967-1971.” It’s available as an import.

Al Wilson was just 29 when he recorded this album. the first of his five U.S. albums. Though born in Meridian, Mississippi, he really was a kid from the L.A. suburbs, having moved to San Bernardino when he was in high school. He started out as a drummer, then started singing while serving in the Navy. Wilson was in his late 20s when he hooked up with Rivers, signing with his Soul City label. Wilson was 34 when he had his biggest hit, “Show and Tell,” then continued to make music for the rest of his life.

Peace, Al.

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Oh, wow, he did that?

That was my reaction when I found “The Snake” on another blog last year.

I knew the song. I didn’t know a guy named Al Wilson had recorded it, nor did I know anything about Al Wilson.

I had another revelation like that last night, reading another blog. Tom over at One Poor Correspondent mentioned that Al Wilson had died Monday. He was 68.

Tom mentioned that Al Wilson had done “Show and Tell” — a big hit in early 1974 — and linked to this great YouTube video of Wilson doing that tune on “Soul Train.” Smooth.

I knew that song, too. I didn’t know Al Wilson had recorded it. And I still didn’t know much about Al Wilson.

Even the usually reliable Los Angeles Times wasn’t much help. Though Al Wilson lived in the L.A. area, it didn’t offer much in the way of an appreciation of his life. For that, I had to turn to the San Bernardino Sun and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, a couple of suburban papers:

“He was a very good songbird and a very good father.”

That’s what Al’s son, Tony, told the San Bernardino paper.

Can’t ask for much more than that.

“The Snake,” Al Wilson, from the original 45, Soul City 767, 1968.

Yes, it was produced by Johnny Rivers on Rivers’ label with Rivers’ distinctive sound.

(Thanks to Jason over at Shindiggit for posting this last year.)

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Turnabout is fair play

This kept running through my mind as I rummaged through my local more-or-less indie record store on Saturday afternoon:

“Why do I want to buy this on CD when I can pick up the original vinyl for far less at the used record store? And get better sound?”

I guess I’ve become a vinyl snob. No apologies, though. There is some justice in finding great music at a far more affordable price.

That said, I’ll have to stop back at The Exclusive Company more often. They’ve expanded the vinyl selection quite nicely since I last was in there.

So tonight, an oldie that is new to me. I hadn’t heard it, but I trust the label. Remember doing that at the record store? You cannot go wrong with anything on the Daptone Records label. It’s R&B, funk and soul made new in Brooklyn, but sounding as if it came out of the ’60s and ’70s.

Here’s the title cut of an album released a decade ago on New York’s Desco Records and re-released on Daptone.

“Sugar’s Boogaloo,” the Sugarman 3, from “Sugar’s Boogaloo,” 1998.

On this album, the Sugarman 3 — an instrumental combo that’s a throwback to the ’60s — is anchored by Neal Sugarman on tenor sax, Adam Scone on the Hammond B-3 organ and Rudy Albin on drums. The group’s official bio says:

“Driven by a fluid tenor sax and warm Hammond B-3, ‘Sugar’s Boogaloo’ explored the jazzy side of Funk. The band’s debut featured smooth originals written by Sugarman with a few sly instrumental reworkings of classic tunes.”

Here’s one of the latter, with Daisy Sugarman accompanying the fellas on that cool flute.

“Sunshine Superman,” the Sugarman 3, from “Sugar’s Boogaloo,” 1998.

(The first link to the album is to the vinyl LP. The second link to the album is to the CD.)

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Things goin’ on

By now, you’ve likely heard that Saturday is Record Store Day. Independent record stores across America are having special events.

Here in Green Bay, The Exclusive Company will have guest DJs in the store all day long. It’s part of small chain of stores reaching from here down to Milwaukee and over to Madison.

Tom has been running the place for as long as I’ve been in town, almost 18 years now. I may head over there. Might be a fun scene. A lot of my CDs came from Tom’s store.

If nothing else, it has me thinking about the record store I’d really like to visit again.

Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin, started out in an ancient storefront across from the cemetery some 33 years ago. Then it moved to the edge of downtown and into an old building it shared with a bike shop.

A lot — and I mean a lot — of my vinyl came from the Sleeve in those days. Every two weeks, after I got paid at the Pizza Hut, I’d head down to the Sleeve and buy two or three new albums.

After I moved away, the Sleeve moved to the heart of downtown, in a narrow storefront next to the sporting goods store … until someone torched it on Labor Day weekend in 2006.

That almost was a fatal blow. Mike, the old hippie who has run the Sleeve since the beginning, lost most of his stock, didn’t have insurance and wasn’t sure he wanted to get back into business.

Mike may not have realized that wasn’t an option. The funky store that carried everything you wanted — and introduced you to everything else — had become a cultural icon in town. Wausau wrapped its arms around Mike, threw a few benefits and helped him get back on his feet.

It took a while for the Sleeve to open up again, but Mike found still another narrow storefront in the heart of downtown, this one on the ground floor of what once was the most elegant hotel in town.

That’s the record store I really want to visit. It’s been too long.

“Things Goin’ On,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd,” 1973 (purchased at the Sleeve). You probably know this one. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a protest song by Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington.

“Things Goin’ On,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Endangered Species,” 1994 (purchased at The Exclusive Company). And now, the unplugged version. Still one of my favorites.

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The ABCs of DE, Vol. 1

Regular visitors to AM, Then FM, know that Dave Edmunds is one of our favorites, whether solo or on soundtrack or in Rockpile.

The Welsh-born Edmunds has been a rock ‘n’ roll traditionalist almost from the start, 40 years ago. I got hooked on his stuff way back in 1970, when I heard “I Hear You Knocking,” a cover of a tune that was a hit for New Orleans R&B musician Smiley Lewis in 1955.

Today, we begin a regular series that’ll serve up a whole bunch of tunes by Dave and his friends.

Dave has plenty of friends. By all accounts, he’s one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people in the music business. His pals have included Nick Lowe, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Jeff Lynne, Led Zeppelin, the Band and the Stray Cats.

Dave turns 64 on Tuesday. Slowed by heart problems, he hasn’t toured much in recent years.

Let’s start with his cover of a tune done first by the Chordettes in 1956. As he so often does, Dave plays all the instruments and does all the vocals on this one. The Wall of Sound production is right out of Phil Spector’s book.

“Born To Be With You,” Dave Edmunds, from “Subtle As A Flying Mallet,” 1975. It appears to be out of print.

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Overheard while crate-digging

When DJ Pres goes crate-digging on the East Coast, he encounters some fairly curious characters almost every week.

Our opportunities for crate-digging are few and far between in our corner of Wisconsin, but we enjoyed one today. And sure enough, there were a few characters. None like the ones DJ Pres runs across — this is the mild-mannered Midwest, after all — but characters by our standards.

There was Price Guide Guy, his book neatly marked up with the records he already had. There was Clipboard Man, working from what appeared to be an extensive and lovingly prepared want list. There was The Loner, a guy carrying on a conversation with himself as he went through the crates.

Then there was Don Quixote.

A short, older guy in his late 50s or early 60s, Don sidled up next to me as I went through some crates. He’d brought an album to the show.

“Were you here two years ago?” he asked the guy behind the table. The dealer said he had been.

Don pulled the LP from the jacket and pointed out a flaw — a nick, a chip, a scratch, something. Don gently but persistently pointed out that flaw.

“I’d never sell a record that looked like that,” the dealer said.

That sorta took the wind out of Don’s sails. He gave it one last, feeble try, then moved on. He was almost out of earshot, but then I heard, from a couple of tables over …

“Were you here two years ago?”

I never did get a good look at Don’s album. I was too busy looking for us.

Here are some of the LPs in today’s haul. If you see something you might want to hear, drop me a note. After all, we take requests at AM, Then FM.

  • Jimmy Smith, “The Best of Jimmy Smith,” 1968.
  • King Curtis, “Instant Groove,” 1969.
  • Ike and Tina Turner, “Too Hot to Hold,” 1969, and “Workin’ Together,” 1971.
  • R. Dean Taylor, “I Think, Therefore I Am,” 1970.
  • Shuggie Otis, “Freedom Flight,” 1971.
  • Dennis Coffey, “Goin’ for Myself,” 1972.

Here’s another part of today’s haul. A couple of selections from “The Best of Buddah,” a two-record compilation set from 1976 that covers about a decade of hit singles.

“Somebody’s Been Sleeping,” 100 Proof (Aged in Soul), a 1970 single. Long one of my faves.

“O-o-h Child,” The Five Stairsteps, also a 1970 single. I’ve written before about how much I like this tune.

One more thing: We surpassed 100,000 visitors on Friday morning. Thanks, everyone. More to come!

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