The Starr-crossed dig

Our spring record show was Saturday morning. Shortly after they opened the doors at 10 a.m., there were so many people that it was tough to find room to dig. Rather than going where you wanted, you went where you could.

A spot opened up at my friend’s tables, so I started looking through his boxes at the H records, making my way to the end of the alphabet. A through G, though, were occupied and remained occupied.

Truth be told, I was waiting for some room to open up at another table nearby. I finally slid over there just as the dealer was wrapping up a sale. I glanced over at what the guy ahead of me was buying. Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles” LP. Oh, man. That’s one I really would like to have. But he got there first.

After the Edwin Starr near-miss, there was the Ruby Starr near-miss.

You might remember Ruby Starr as a backup singer for Black Oak Arkansas. She recorded a couple of solo albums in the ’70s. She also gigged around Wisconsin with another group. They billed themselves as Ruby Starr and Grey Ghost. I found one of her records, but not the right one.

After those near-misses, you don’t want to get something just for the sake of getting something. It becomes a matter of heeding the words of the grail keeper: “Choose wisely.”

So three hours of crate-digging — always enjoyable — yielded just five LPs, and one of them is for someone else.

This was in one of the last boxes I dug through, at another friend’s tables.

“What It Is?” the Undisputed Truth, from “Face To Face With the Truth,” 1971. It’s out of print.

Finding a record by the Undisputed Truth, Motown producer Norman Whitfield’s experimental soul-funk-psych group of the early ’70s and one of my favorites, always is nice. This is the group’s second LP.

This cut is a scorcher from the get-go. The singers are Joe Harris, Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce, all great if underappreciated voices from that time. That’s the still-fabulous Dennis Coffey on lead guitar, complemented by a host of Funk Brothers.

“What It Is?” — one of five cuts co-written by Whitfield and Barrett Strong — was released as a single in 1972. It reached the Top 40 on the R&B charts, but didn’t have much broader appeal.

Enjoy. We’ll get to the more far-out stuff on this record another time.

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6 Comments

Filed under April 2011, Sounds

6 responses to “The Starr-crossed dig

  1. Scorcher is right!!!..Love early 70’s r&b.
    Great find!

  2. Nice. You know I’m a big Whitfield fan, and the Undisputed Truth is always interesting.

  3. Been awhile since I’ve visited. Spent 18 months working in radio sales (pure whoring, immodestly at that). Now back to writing full-time (lots of stuff t WNEW.com). But enough about me. Nice to see you’re still digging the crates. Have an Undisputed Truth record around somewhere, probably on Pickwick, bought from a bargain bin years ago for a couple of bucks. Used to have some promo copies of Ruby…can’t tell you where it went. Sitting next to me waiting to be fully enjoyed: Bing Crosby “Hey Jude/Hey Bing” (that’s right, Bing Crosby covering “Hey Jude”); Gerry Rafferty “Snakes And Ladders” (which has be on the fence, yay or nay); an original Pye edition of Elton’s “Empty Sky,” which is in reasonable condition and — for the pure political incorrectness of it all, a 60s era jazz record by Shorty Rogers — which a rather shapely woman, her behind headed toward the camera — with the title “Chances Are It Swings.” Love it. Fusion 45.

  4. forgot to mention there’s a new Dennis Coffey record out…or upcoming. (And new Garland Jeffreys on the way, too, which is really good…).

  5. duane

    Ruby Starr’s “Telephone Sex” can be downloaded from certain blogspots out there.

  6. mdan

    Dangit. Not only is that Undisputed Truth track great, but now I have to move finding that album up ahead of a lot of other stuff on my Must Get list. Thanks so much for the introduction.

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