Dennis Edwards: Magnificent bastard.
Adrian Younge is a musician/writer/producer heavily influenced by the sounds of 70s soul, particularly the cinematic grooves of Blaxploitation soundtracks. He first came to my attention a couple of years ago with an album he produced for The Delfonics which recalled their Philly-Soul glory days so beautifully that you really should hear if you haven’t.
His latest album Something About April II has guest vocal turns by a diverse crowd including Raphael Saadiq and Laetitia Sadier, with music that also has elements of Hip Hop, Psychedelia, and Ennio Morricone. It sounds like the soundtrack to the coolest, trippiest movie ever. Love it.
This is another of those lost records I strongly suspect I was one of the only people to buy. It’s a wonderful, gorgeous track I only heard by chance back in 1985 because a DJ friend of mine was part of local (and very short-lived) pirate station called Radio Fulham and he played it on the air one Saturday night when I was getting ready to go out. I never would have heard it if I didn’t feel obliged to listen to my mate’s radio show but that one listen was enough for me to go out and buy the 12″ right away. Well, a couple of days later anyway. I think I was in the bath at the time, no doubt sprucing myself up for another night of failure with the opposite sex.
I knew nothing about First Love for years, but now I know they were a female quartet from Chicago who released several singles and an album, none of which were hits. This one really should have been though: It’s a soaring, shimmering ballad with an electronic-soul sound similar to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ productions for the SOS Band, which isn’t too surprising as it was written and produced by their keyboard player Jason Bryant.
Real lost gem this, hope you like it.
Download: Things Are Not The Same (Without You) – First Love (mp3)
The Celebrity Grim Reaper was busy in the week between Christmas and New Year, taking Lemmy, Natalie Cole, The Specials’ drummer John Bradbury and Guru Josh (not Guru Josh!) off to meet their maker. But I’m not kidding when I say the one that upset me the most personally was the death of legendary Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.
Basketball is a niche sport in England and when I was a kid we’d never even heard of the NBA and couldn’t name a single American team. But we knew all about The Harlem Globetrotters (who actually came from Chicago), the exhibition team who toured the world playing “matches” against opponents they always beat which were full of trick shots and clownish routines and more about entertainment than sports.
They were such a pop-culture phenomenon in the early 70s they had their own Hanna-Barbera cartoon show on television (the first one made with a primarily black cast) and made guest appearances on Scooby-Doo.
My mum took me to see them at Wembley Empire Pool (now the Arena) one year and actually seeing Lemon — the star of the team nicknamed “The Clown Prince of Basketball” — doing his famous Hook Shot and that gag with the bucket full of confetti was one of the major treats of my childhood.
But it was their cartoon show that really made them household names with my generation of English kids, and because of it Meadowlark Lemon (how could you forget that name!) became part of the pantheon of loved TV stars I watched after school. So when I heard the news about his death it felt like Hong Kong Phooey or Secret Squirrel had died. No wonder I was so upset.
Download: Harlem – Edwin Starr (mp3)
This soulful beauty by Edwin Starr was the b-side of “Headline News” in 1966.
I found out the other day that Jacqueline Bisset’s real first name is Winifred.
Does this woman look like a Winifred to you?
Download: You Don’t Know My Name (Reggae Remix) – Alicia Keys (mp3)
I can’t remember where I got this track from but it’s terrific. I loved the Kanye-produced original and it’s even sweeter in reggae style, like old-timey Lovers Rock.
The sad death of the great Allen Toussaint earlier this week got me falling down a YouTube hole of records he either wrote, produced, or performed himself. Bouncing between Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Dr John, The Meters, Aaron Neville, and Labelle really brought home what an extraordinary amount of great music he was responsible for. Like this joyous beauty he wrote.
Though I didn’t know the original version of this song was recorded by Frankie Miller of all people.
I’ve never seen the 1990 movie The Return of Superfly, and I don’t think many other people have either because it was a total flop and is apparently a bit crap too. Some may even be surprised to learn it exists and is actually the second sequel to the original.
I do, however, have this 12″ single from the soundtrack by the great Curtis Mayfield with Ice-T. Curtis’ career was in the doldrums at the time (he still drew crowds in England though, I saw him live twice in the late 80s) and teaming him up with a rapper was a way of appealing to the kids. Sadly, Curtis’ comeback was derailed later the same year when he had the accident that left him paralyzed.
While this can’t hold a candle to his original Superfly songs it’s a pretty good record. Gangsta Rap owed a lot to Blaxploitation movies so Ice-T is a good fit for the subject and it’s always nice to hear Curtis’ sweet, yearning voice, even if it is for a rubbish film.
Download: Superfly 1990 (Mantronix mix) – Curtis Mayfield & Ice-T (mp3)
My blog-writing muse seems to be on holiday at the moment so here’s a single from 1971 for no other reason than it’s utterly, utterly gorgeous.
Download: Ain’t Understanding Mellow – Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager (mp3)