Tag Archives: Edwin Starr

Four records at a time

It took a pandemic for me to listen to a bunch of my records. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go.

Staying home and socially distancing wasn’t too bad until the weather turned cold up here in Wisconsin and really kept us inside. So I just kept dropping record after record onto the turntable. No ripping to digital. Just let it go, man.

Four records make for a nice night of listening while surfing or writing.

Some records take me right back to where I found them, a nice memory.

Some records have startling moments. Those, I’ll circle back on and rip a little something from. Eddie Floyd’s “Down To Earth” LP was the first eye-opener. Then the scorching “Involved” by Edwin Starr. Then “Dreams/Answers,” Rare Earth’s rarely-seen debut LP. Then a couple of alternate Beatles takes from the 2017 re-release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

There you have it, four records.

Four records also make for a nice visual presentation when you post to Facebook or Twitter. If you follow me either place, you’ve seen a lot of them, especially this month for Black History Month. Today will make it 23 such posts — 92 records, all by Black artists — over 28 days and nights.

From the Black History Month social posts, some records that’ll get more spins:

— “Young, Gifted and Black” is by far the best Aretha Franklin record in my crates. That was a $1 record. Looked rough, played fine.

— Didn’t know about Johnny Adams, but, man, could he sing.

— Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” has lost none of its punch.

— The instrumentals on “James Brown Plays New Breed (The Boo-Ga-Loo)” really cook.

— Ike and Tina Turner’s early live records are astonishing.

— Definitely going back for seconds on the “Cleopatra Jones” soundtrack featuring Joe Simon and Millie Jackson. That was a $3 record found in a box on the floor at a record show in Indianapolis.

— Timmy Thomas got a lot of mileage out of that syncopated beat on “Why Can’t We Live Together,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Found that at a record store that no longer exists.

There you have it. Eight records, two nights’ worth of listening.

When I spent a couple of nights listening to blaxploitation soundtracks last week, I circled back to the first record I ever wrote about here. I’m talking ’bout “Shaft.”

I was 14 when I bought this record in 1971.

With that, we quietly mark 14 years here at AM, Then FM. Can you dig it?


Filed under February 2021, Sounds

Fully involved

“War” started with the Temptations, but it was seemingly too hot to handle.

The story goes that Motown didn’t want to sully the Temps’ reputation by releasing a protest song as a single. (If that’s so, please explain “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball Of Confusion [That’s What The World Is Today],” all culturally aware Temptations singles produced by Norman Whitfield and released before “War.”)

So Whitfield handed “War” to Edwin Starr, who performed the blistering version everyone has known for 50 years, a No. 1 single in the summer of 1970. In so doing, perhaps Whitfield got a version closer to what he’d originally imagined for it.

Perhaps you could say the same for “Ball Of Confusion.” It was a smash for the Temptations, also in the summer of 1970, and then Whitfield handed it to Starr for “Involved,” his 1971 LP.

Because “Ball Of Confusion” was such a big hit for the Temptations is perhaps why Whitfield fully unfurls his freak flag on Starr’s cover of it. This version is built on Bob Babbitt’s familiar bass line but Whitfield’s production takes it far out, man. Waves of psychedelic echoes surround Starr’s scorching vocals. Random dialogue floats past.

With 4 minutes left, that bass line cuts out and Starr starts preaching. “Roaches! Rats! Black folks living in hate. Ain’t no justice. … You make your own heaven and hell right here on Earth.”

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” Edwin Starr, from “Involved,” 1971.

Fun fact: “War” is the first cut on back-to-back Edwin Starr LPs — “War and Peace” from 1970 and “Involved” from 1971. The former was cobbled together in the wake of the smash single. The latter is a proper release, as evidenced by the quality of the sounds that followed it on Side 1.

So you know “War.” And now you’ve heard Edwin Starr’s freaky cover of “Ball Of Confusion.” Now behold “Funky Music Sho’ ‘Nuff Turns Me On,” the third and final cut — and the third Norman Whitfield-Barrett Strong composition — on Side 1 of “Involved.” It’s a furious shot of funk, with Starr blasting his way to the final grooves.

“Funky Music Sho’ ‘Nuff Turns Me On,” Edwin Starr, from “Involved,” 1971.

Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau thought this LP was “Norman Whitfield’s peak production,” even though he thought Whitfield wasted 12 minutes on “Ball Of Confusion.”

As always, you make the call.


Filed under October 2020, Sounds

How much stuff is too much stuff?

Dad old apartment

Much of the month that’s passed since our last post has been spent moving my 89-year-old father into assisted living.

A big part of that has been dealing with things he accumulated — and for whatever reason — held onto. He wasn’t a hoarder, but it still was too much stuff, some of it kept for no apparent reason. Chalk it up to the mindset of someone who grew up during the Great Depression.

Everyone collects stuff. I’ve collected baseball cards and football cards and basketball cards, Batman cards and Green Hornet cards and James Bond 007 cards, Beatles cards and Monkees cards, comic books, coins and old pop bottles. I collected bobbleheads long before that became a thing. I don’t collect any of those things anymore.

Of course, I still collect records, as I have for more than 40 years.

Having dealt with all my dad’s things, I wonder whether I have too much stuff. I have about 1,200 vinyl records, the vast majority of them LPs. There must be at least 100 records I’ve bought but never listened to. Is that a bad thing? Does that happen to other record diggers?

All those records bought but never heard, set aside for a day when I have more time, a day that never seems to come.

But I did sit down pretty much right away and listen to the Ike and Tina record I bought last month at Tin Dog Records. When Don Covay died at the end of January, I pulled out the only Don Covay record I have — bought it at least a couple of years ago — and listened to it for the first time. About the same time, I pulled out a Booker T. and the M.G.’s record I bought in Chicago last summer and listened to it for the first time.

I know this because I ripped all three of these records to digital.

Edwin Starr Hell Up In Harlem LP

As I did when I found the “Hell Up In Harlem” soundtrack back in January.

But as I listened to that record, I discovered it was missing the last cut on Side 1. A record about 2:43 shy of a load. Typical Motown bull to leave it off the reissue pressing. I mentioned it on Facebook, and my man Greg in Minnesota came to the rescue.

So please enjoy a song I don’t have from a record I do have.

“Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free,” Edwin Starr, from the “Hell Up In Harlem” soundtrack, 1974.


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Filed under April 2015, Sounds