If there was ever a perfect Louder Than War film soundtrack CD, it is probably this. Good Vibrations is the soundtrack for the acclaimed 2012 movie account of the chaotic life of the legendary hippie Belfast record collector, DJ, record shop owner, record label founder and dance promoter Terri Hooley; from his childhood, through the punk years that irrevocably changed his life, to the present day.
Compiled by the celebrated DJ David Holmes and Terri Hooley himself (who offers interesting perspectives upon the selections in the accompanying booklet), Good Vibrations covers the music of the 60s and 70s that shaped Hooley’s life and attitudes. From Hank Williams’ ‘I Saw The Light’, ‘Outcast’ by the Animals and the epic pop melodrama of The Shangri-Las’ ‘Past, Present and Future’ (Hooley’s favourite all time group), through Hooley’s influences of psychedelia from Ramases & Seleka, the rocksteady sound of the Upsetters, the raw energy of The Saints (‘This Perfect Day’), the visionary futurism of Suicide (‘Dream Baby Dream’) to the Belfast punk bands he helped record (The Undertones, The Outcasts, Rudi), the Good Vibrations soundtrack, like the film, really captures the spirit of the period.
The music of Good Vibrations is probably likely to have the same profoundly moving effect upon those in their late teens and early twenties as it does upon those who originally lived through this music so many years ago.
A storming collection of hard and vital early 60s Chicago blues, captured as some of the music was mutating into embryonic soul. Richard Stamz was a dynamic R&B and soul DJ who operated in Chicago throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A smooth talking dude who hosted a groundbreaking black TV show in the city in 1956, his on-air persona ran from crown prince to Royal Highness. Around 1960 he took over the Cobra/Artistic/Abco studio and the Paso label, which he continued to run alongside his own Foxy operation.
Bluesman Harold Burrage was already at Paso and he and Stamz began working together. Burrage recorded, composed songs and played sessions – one of his best tracks under his name, ‘Say You Love Me’, opens Foxy R&B. The fruits of their labour, compiled by Dick Shurman and Ady Croasdell, and noted by Shurman and Patrick Roberts, the author of a book on Richard Stamz’s life, Foxy R&B definitely lives up to its title. Thrillingly, Howlin’ Wolf’s sidemen are highlighted in the Willie Williams band, including the late, great guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and are heard on several previously unreleased instrumental tracks (‘South Park Shuffle’, ‘Gittin’ Along (Green Onions)’, ‘Getting Back Home’).
Featuring remarkable blues singers Mary Johnson (‘Going Home’) and Flora D (‘Way Out, Baby’), together with vocal groups The Ideals and the Ze-Majestics (‘Garlen’s Mambo’) rounding out the overview of the Chicago scene, Foxy R&B is a blast from beginning to end.
Ace’s Boplicity imprint has just re-released a number of brilliantly remastered 1950s West Coast jazz albums recorded by Dexter Gordon (Dexter Blows Hot and Cold), Carl Perkins (Introducing… Carl Perkins), Curtis Counce (Exploring The Future) and Buddy Collette (Buddy’s Best) for Dootsie William’s labour of love label, Dootone.
The obvious album to pick is legendary tenor sax player Dexter Gordon’s excellent Dexter Blows Hot and Cold (featuring an infamous photo of the saxophonist on the cover looking very strung out), but underrated bassist Curtis Counce’s 1958 ‘lost’ and final album Exploring The Future is also well worth investigating. This is prime hard bop jazz, with a clear, clean edge. On Exploring The Future Counce is joined by the renowned hard bopper pianist Elmo Hope (who wrote most of the compositions) and the magnificent tenor saxophonist Harold Land, for a highly enjoyable session.
The material does not really merit the futurist tag of the title track and the names of the ‘space age’ numbers ‘Into Orbit’ and ‘Race For Space’ – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were way out in front in the hard bob field – but Counce and crew produce moving renditions of the slow standards ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ and let rip on the improvisations on Hope’s work.
All this and Counce appears as a hard bop ‘Afronaunt’ on the cover. Dig it.
Carla Thomas, the daughter of Rufus Thomas, is rightly referred to as The Queen Of Memphis Soul and the Ace CD Sweet Sweetheart contains amble evidence to back up that title. Comprised of more than 20 previously unissued tracks from the 1960s, including a complete lost album Carla Thomas made under the direction of Chips Moman at Memphis’ American Studios for the Stax label. Only two of the tracks from the album, both included on Sweet Sweetheart, were issued as a single in September 1970. The 45 flopped, and subsequently Stax foolishly coincided the tapes for the rest of the album to the vaults – until now.
Compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, building upon the work of Roger Armstrong, Mick Patrick and Peter Gibbon on the Ace Stax CD Hidden Gems, has assembled a magnificent overview of Cara Thomas’ enduring soulful talent. Covering a diverse range of artists’ material, such as James Taylor (‘Country Road’), The Bee Gees (‘To Love Somebody), Free (‘Heavy Load’), James Brown (‘Try Me’) and Isaac Hayes (an alternative version of Thomas’ huge hit ‘B-A-B-Y’ is included here), Carla Thomas manages to take any song down to Soulsville with ease and persuasive emotion.
And finally, a great collection of 24 vintage R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, vocal group, soul and blues gems that inspired the celebrated New York Dolls, and vocalist David Johansen and guitarist Johnny Thunders in their various solo guises after the break up of the group in 1975, to record their own versions.
It’s all here – ‘Pills’ by Bo Diddley, ‘Don’t Start Me Talkin’’ by Sonny Boy Williamson, The Coasters’ ‘Bad Detective’, “There’s Gonna Be A” Showdown’ by Archie Bell & The Drells, The Jayhawks ‘Stranded In The Jungle’, and much more. The original versions of covers by the Dolls after they reformed in 2004, at Morrissey’s behest for his Meltdown Festival – such as ‘Out In The Streets’ by The Shangri-Las, ‘Piece Of My Heart’ by Emma Franklin, ‘I Sold My Heart To The Junk Man’ by The Basin Street Boys and the title track by Joe Turner – are also included.
I think this CD is pretty bloody good. I should do – I helped compile it with Mick Patrick and wrote the notes. I hope you dig it as well.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.