City Slang - Sonic’s Rendezvous Band Written by Fred Sonic Smith, the man who co-founded the mighty MC5 and released as a one sided single in the 70’s, this slab of perfection is now mercifully available on a variety of different compilations and live albums. The box set is worth getting. Check out “Sweet Nothing” as well- another monster Sonic heavyweight hymn from the Church of Detroit High NRGRocknRoll. Talking about sweet nothing never sounded so good.
I Still Wonder - Arthur Lee’s Love Admittedly, there is a drum solo track on this album, but get past its unwelcome syncopation boredom and delve into a perfect Arthur Lee moment - I Still Wonder - worth buying the album for and dare I say it – good enough to appear on Love’s Forever Changes.
Universal Sounds of America - Various - Soul Jazz Records 1995 Star-seed communications from Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders, Marcus Belgrave - the list goes on- legends of free form Jazz bringing you music for angels and astronauts. If it’s true that mostly everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die-these guys wanted to go to space and by the sounds of it they did. There is so much to explore and get your teeth into on this double album. If forced to choose one track, I’d go for the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s’ Theme De Yo Yo originally released in 1970. Talk about loose but tight, orange but yellow, loud but quiet. Mesmerising stuff! Furious soul intensity heaving with sexual energy like an inter galactic lust catapult finding new trajectories.
Little By Little – Dusty Springfield A bass line hook announces this classic soul tune before the drums take you off to Wigan Casino-beat ready for your Northern soul. As it happens, this track is also available on Northern Soul – 20 Original Classics, which is an almost flawless compilation. This is an absolute monster of a tune. Britain’s finest white female singer of all time? Would be hard to argue otherwise. Dusty In Memphis is such an incredible record. Here’s to you Dusty.
King Tubby’s Special 1973-1976. A simply stunning double album of original Drum & Bass. Check out Turntable Dub, Another Version, and Straight to the Boy Niney Head- dub plates that still sound as fresh and innovative as they were upon being released. Dreader than dread heavy perfection from The Master.
Rolled Gold - The Action “We all tried our hand at getting that [Motown] sound you know... all the bands in the mid ’60s. The best ones at it were the Action... They were an amazing band.” (Steve Marriott, 1987). Like discovering that your guitar has a switch that makes politicians disappear- for good, uncovering Rolled Gold by The Action, is as mind blowing as hearing #1 Record by Big Star for the first time...how can there be songs that good that you've not heard before. The Action are Mod's Big Star. In February 1966 Brian Epstein described them as "the greatest thing since John, Paul, George and Ringo".... If you think Brian was having a Wilson moment, check out Something to Say - the opening riff is a goosebumper which never lets up, a soul song as good as any ever written. I love the story of a mate of mine who was in his car about to park when Something To Say kicked in leaving him no choice but to keep driving until the song was finished. Rolled Gold - The Action’s ‘lost’ demos, recorded between 67 and 68, is another head scratching example of the band that got away. Everything they ever did was beautiful and this is no different. I love the fact that it wasn’t mixed or mastered at the time; you can get right inside the songs, feel the band as they evolve having lost a guitar player to be replaced by a flute. This, simply put, is another astonishing collection of songs. Rolled Gold is better than you ever can imagine - go get it now. Quick!
Purity Accuracy - MC5 A sample CD from the same named 6 CD 2004 box set which I’m still saving up for. Check out the blistering version of Gotta Keep Moving and the live explosion which is Black to Comm…easy to hear why they blew Cream off the Grande Ballroom stage.
A Whole New Thing - Sly and The Family Stone An album which receives far less attention than it deserves, check out the first track “Underdog”. Tuuuuuunnnnnnneeeeeeeeee!!!! I will sample that killer break if nobody else will! A relentless innovator; Sly was a maverick genius who barely drew breathe as he bust open the funk with one landmark album after another. The Wailers must have been seriously heavy-seriously good, when they supported Sly in 73, if it’s true they were asked to leave the tour by Sly’s management for fear they were perhaps a little too cooking.
In A Misty Morning - Gene Clark Another one of Gene’s portal songs, this song makes you feel like you’re sat in the passenger seat beside Gene (your holding) as rain pours down the windshield like diamonds, forming a paranoid prism through which you stare as the patrol car slowly passes by. Gulp music. Ethereal Byrd country explorations steeped in white line fever, a trip that takes you far beyond the city limits, whilst never separating you from the cause of your broken heart. Gene Clark IS one of America’s Finest Poets.
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One - Kinks Minus a couple of throw away fillers, this album contains two of Ray’s finest songs; This Time Tomorrow and Get Back In Line. The latter able to transport you to the desperation dole queue wearing the shoes of a man who knows his value as a human is based on the roll of the dice. This Time Tomorrow is a perfect example of the song writing prowess which makes Ray Davies probably Britain’s finest ever songsmith.
That’s The Way It’s Got to Be - The Poets I remember hearing this for the first time and thinking – what was I doing breathing whilst living without this song in my life! Described as freakbeat, blues, even pych-Mod, this Scottish band were much better than any of our attempts at World Cup glory and unlike Roughie’s perm, should have been much bigger! Get Wooden Spoon – The Singles Anthology 1964-67, a compilation with more than a few golden nuggets waiting to be discovered.
Sounds From The Burning Spear – Burning Spear at Studio 1 The 1973 debut by one of Jamaica’s finest, if not finest roots reggae groups. Check out Door Peeper, hypnotic spiritual music that commands every molecule as the air fills with bass transcendence. Rebel music? Aye.
Heavy Load - New Kingdom Released on Gee Street in 1993- this is a seriously big wedge of hip hop heaviness that never loses ifs empty glass smile – a grin eye son that shines a light amongst the beats bleeps and breaks of early nineties dek experimentation. Hip hop for Shebeen’s.
Rowed Out - The Eyes The Arrival of the Eyes – their 1966 EP, commands the kind of price that means it’s unlikely it will ever spin on my turntable but check out the tracks on the reissue CD. Rowed Out is a Mod anthem if I’ve ever heard one…” Grey suede coat and a soul like fire“. How these talented fellas ended up having to record an album of Beatles and Stones covers is beyond me, makes about as much sense as Fred Sonic Smith being unable to land a record deal.
Circles - Les Fluer DeLys One of my favourite cover versions of all time and the best cover version of a Who Song. (Don’t throw you Rickenbacker at me but this version is even better than the Who’s). Rumour has it that upon hearing it- Keith Richard’s snapped- “who the hell is playing that guitar”.
Back To The World & Sweet Exorcist - Curtis Mayfield The gentle genius joined The Impressions when he was fourteen; perhaps it was the smell of teen spirit that led to him tune his guitar to the black keys on the piano and in the process - creating a sound all his own. These two albums, whilst perhaps lesser known, remain vital documents of the time. Soul reminders that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Take Me For What I’m Worth - The Searchers A song that wouldn't sound out of place on Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan or a Tim Hardin record; PF Sloan lends his talents to The Searchers on this scorcher of a cover. Written by the son of a Romanian immigrant who had to change the family name because of repeatedly being turned down for a US liquor licence. Perhaps such events influenced the lyrics?
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