Monthly Archives: June 2008

Whole lotta familiarity

One of my regular stops is Flea Market Funk, run by DJ Prestige, one of the great crate diggers of our time. (You ought to make it one of your regular stops, if you haven’t already done so.)

DJ Pres is forever hitting The Spot, that mysterious East Coast open-air flea market, and coming up with remarkable tune after remarkable tune.

Last night, he posted a cover of “Whole Lotta Love” by Collective Consciousness Society, or C.C.S. No matter what you call them, I’d never heard of this British group.

But once I heard the cut, I said … hey, I’ve heard this before. And, no, not by Led Zeppelin, either.

I just about fell over. The arrangement on the C.C.S. cover is almost exactly the same as the one on King Curtis’ cover of “Whole Lotta Love.” What’s more, both covers were recorded in 1970. Why they sound almost alike, I don’t know and can’t say.

DJ Pres says:

“’Whole Lotta Love’ by C.C.S. is right up there with Dennis Coffey and Ike and Tina Turner’s cover versions of the mighty Zep. I think it might even be better IMHO. The flute, which many people may be annoyed by, just furthers this band legitimacy. Their interpretation, often out of time, and a bit odd and Jazzy, is definitely a hit for me.”

He has a whole bunch of detail about the studio musicians backing C.C.S., but I have none about who might be backing King Curtis. All I know is that he’s on tenor sax, recorded in New York on Dec. 14, 1970. Larry over at Funky 16 Corners also wrote about the King’s version a while back, but he didn’t know much more than I do. The comments on Larry’s post also point out the similarity between the two versions.

Grab this, then head over to FMF and grab the C.C.S. cover, then enjoy.

“Whole Lotta Love,” King Curtis, 1970, from “Atlantic Honkers,” a terrific 1986 compilation of R&B sax tunes on the Atlantic label. It’s out of print.

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20/20/20 vision, Part V

Here’s the last installment in our supposedly brief series, 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

There are tunes off the albums I found under the tents in the back yard of one of our local used record dealers last month. We’ve taken so long to finish the series that there’s another tent sale this weekend.

Today’s batch is a bit of a mixed bag, if only because we’ve come to the end.

“Dead End Street,” Lou Rawls, 1967, from “The Best of Lou Rawls,” 1968. Reissued in 1979 but out of print regardless. Available on “The Legendary Lou Rawls,” a 1992 CD release.

Though the album jacket is falling apart, the grooves on the record have held up pretty well. Most of Lou Rawls’ early tunes produced by David Axelrod have held up pretty well. This cut is preceded by one of Rawls’ classic spoken monologues. He, too, is a godfather of hip-hop.

“Get Ready,” the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,” from “Together,” 1968. The album link is to a 2007 CD release by Rhino UK. The remastered LP features eight bonus tracks.

This mostly instrumental version of the familiar tune came after it was a hit for the Temptations in 1966 but before it became an even bigger hit for Rare Earth in 1970. Charles Wright and the band crank up a driving, jazzy, funky take on the tune written by Smokey Robinson.

“Sweet Sticky Thing,” Ohio Players, from “Honey,” 1975.

You know the big hit off this album. This is the other hit, one you may not have heard or simply may not remember, having long been overshadowed by the enduring popularity of “Love Rollercoaster.” It’s a sweet slice of classic ’70s soul/jazz.

“Roll Over Beethoven,” Electric Light Orchestra, from “ELO II,” 1973. The album link is to a 2006 CD release. The remastered LP features four bonus tracks.

I confess. I bought this album only to get a decent rip on this tune. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen it posted here before. No apologies, though. I like it that much.

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Walleye Weekend washout

This weekend was Walleye Weekend in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, about an hour south of where we live. I’d hoped to go down Saturday night to hear a most unlikely double bill of the Grass Roots followed by War.

However, that trip never materialized. My brother needed help moving, so I found myself in another part of the state for most of the day. That, and it rained for most of the day.

It’s the second time I’ve missed the Grass Roots this year. They played a gig at an auditorium in a small town about an hour away in April … on NFL draft weekend. When you work for the web site at the newspaper in Green Bay, no one asks off on NFL draft weekend.

So I can’t tell you what the Grass Roots sound like these days.

They’ve gone through lots of lineup changes since they started in San Francisco in 1965, when a bunch of studio musicians backed up P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, a couple of songwriters who came up with “Where Were You When I Needed You.” These days, the only link to the glory days is lead singer Rob Grill, who is 64 and has been with the group since 1967.

Likewise, I can’t tell you what War sounds like these days.

This group also has seen lots of lineup changes since its start in southern California in 1969. That’s when, after several years of gigging in the L.A. area, first as the Creators and then as Nightshift (backing Deacon Jones, the Los Angeles Rams football star moonlighting as a singer!), it became War, the backing band for British rocker Eric Burdon. He was gone by 1971, and the rest — the multiracial, multiethnic War’s potent mix of rock, funk, soul, jazz and Latin music — is history.

These days, War tours with only one of its original members. Keyboard player and singer Lonnie Jordan is 59 and has been with the band since before it was War. (The four other original, surviving members tour as the Lowrider Band, having lost a lawsuit to Jordan and original producer Jerry Goldstein over use of the name “War.”)

A couple of tunes I would have liked to have heard this weekend …

“Baby Hold On,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. Out of print. Also available on “The Grass Roots’ All-Time Greatest Hits,” an import CD released in 1996.

“The World Is A Ghetto,” War, 1973, from “War Greatest Hits,” 1976. Out of print. Also available on “Grooves and Messages: The Greatest Hits of War,” a 1999 CD compilation that includes eight remixed tracks on a second disc.

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He pissed off Ed Sullivan, too

Died June 2, 2008, Archer, Florida.

(Revised a day later to add new tributes and Bo’s Ed Sullivan story in his own words.)

By now, you know Bo Diddley, one of the giants of rock ‘n’ roll, has passed. He was 79 and had been in declining health since a stroke in May 2007. He was to have played in our town later that month, but that was not to be.

The best Bo Diddley quote of the day, from the Orlando Sentinel’s story: “Elvis was fantastic, but he did not start it. He was 2 1/2 years behind me.”

The best Bo Diddley story of the day: In 1955, Bo was booked on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the dominant TV variety show of its time. If you played Sullivan, you’d arrived. Bo told the story to Billy Watkins of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger in 2005:

“Sullivan had asked me to sing ‘Sixteen Tons,’ the old Tennessee Ernie Ford hit. When I saw a list of the program, it read ‘Bo Diddley. Sixteen Tons.’ Well, I had a No. 1 song called ‘Bo Diddley,’ so I thought he wanted me to play both. But he only wanted the one song played. The show was live, so it wasn’t like we could stop.

“Afterward, he came unglued backstage. He said something to me I won’t repeat, and I told him I’d punch him out. My manager was saying, ‘But, Bo, this is Ed Sullivan.’ I told him I didn’t care who he was, that I was gonna bust (Sullivan’s) lip if he said another word. That guy was a control freak.”

Yeah, Bo knows.

“Sixteen Tons,” Bo Diddley, from “Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger,” 1960.

Lots of tributes to Bo Diddley today, and rightfully so. Go check ’em out.

From the newspapers: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Washington Post and USA Today (the latter offering a list of five essential Bo Diddley tracks — great fodder for debate). Also, the Post’s music blog has some YouTube videos of artists inspired by Bo Diddley (including George Michael!).

From the people’s music blogs, all offering a variety of Bo Diddley tunes: Ted at Boogie Woogie Flu, Vincent at Fufu Stew, Ben at Moistworks, Aiken at Licorice Pizza, Mike at Art Decade, Whiteray at Echoes in the Wind, Sir Mojo at Popdose and our man at The Vinyl District.

JB also offers a tribute over at the WNEW blog.

And a couple of simple, graceful photo tributes from Chris at Local Vertical and Bruce at Some Velvet Blog.

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