More vital recent releases from Ace Records, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world. By Ian Johnston.
Various Artists – Finders Keepers: Motown Girls 1961-67
Impeccably compiled, researched and noted by Keith Hughes, together with Ace’s Mick Patrick, this indispensable compilation focuses upon the female artists who were key to the huge success of Berry Gordy’s Tamla Motown label. A remarkable selection, comprising an equal split between issued and amazingly previously unreleased tracks, spread out over twenty four vital numbers, Finders Keepers spotlights less familiar Motown artists and their songs.
The previously issued classics include LaBrenda Ben’s euphoric 1963 tune ‘I Can’t Help It. I Gotta Dance’, The Supremes amusing 1961 tune ‘Buttered Popcorn’ and Martha & The Vandellas’ soulful 1966 ‘No More Tearstained Make Up’. There are plenty more.
Among the unreleased gems from the vaults are Hattie Littles hard hitting Judo R&B ‘My Black Belt’ (“If you think you’re gonna mix me up, My black belt in judo’s gonna change your mind!”), the stamping ‘Let Love Live (A Little Bit Longer) by The Velvelettes, Thelma Brown’s jubilant ‘Dance Yeah Dance’, Liz Lands irresistible jazzy interpretation of ‘I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues’ and LaBrenda Ben’s dance floor filler ‘Do You Know What I’m Talking About’.
Enough of this palaver – just load this CD up and hit play. Unless you’re deaf and dead from the waste down you are bound to agree that Finders Keepers is most emphatically a keeper.
Spanky Wilson – ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’
Another fantastic 7 inch single release from Ace/BGP – Spanky Wilson’s incredible funky and sparse version of the Cream number, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’. One of the great soul remake/remodel interpretations of a rock song, Spanky Wilson’s rendition of Clapton, Bruce and Brown’s number, originally featured on her aptly titled 1968 album Doin’ It, is up there with Otis Redding’s ‘Satisfaction’ and Chubby Checker’s ‘Back In The USSR’, The Moments’ ‘Rocky Racoon’ or Merry Clayton’s ‘Gimme Shelter’.
Hopefully, Ace will soon issue Spanky Wilson’s fast, swinging and slick soulsville version of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, another track from the astonishing and long deleted Doin’ It album, from which the dance floor filling flipside of this ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ single, ‘So’, is also taken. Buy a copy.
Various Artists – Liberation Music: Spiritual Jazz And The Art Of Protest On Flying Dutchman Records 1968-1974
Complied and noted by Dean Rudland, this compilation does what it says on the tin, in offering an overview of the challenging and exciting left field jazz released on Bob Thiele’s (the former head of the Impulse, the label that issued some of John Coltrane’s best work). As the title implies, and is overtly stated in Angela Davis’ assured 1971 spoken word piece ‘We’re Threatening The Oppressors’, this radical, challenging music reflected the anger and dissatisfaction of African Americans in the wake of the death of John Coltrane, the herculean struggles of the civil rights movement, urban riots and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Highlights include ‘Friends And Neighbors’, a funky, upbeat number celebrating solidarity by the redoubtable and innovatory Ornette Coleman, a bongo powered rendition of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes’ 1974 transcendental odyssey ‘Sais (Egypt’) and a remarkable 1970 version of free jazz practitioner Pharoah Sanders’ classic ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ by the pioneering jazz legend Louis Armstrong (released a year before his death), with Leon Thomas.
The power and significance of this groundbreaking music (the echoes of which are heard in everything from Public Image Ltd to hip-hop and all manner of contemporary dance music) endures.
Denise LaSalle – Making A Good Thing Better: The Complete Westbound Singles 1970-76.
Though they never really enjoyed the commercial success that they should have, Denise LaSalle’s single recordings for the Detroit label Westbound (who issued all the classic Funkadelic recordings) are pure solid gold southern soul and funk. Compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, Making A Good Thing Better presents the A sides and flipsides of her Westbound singles, and a very good case for Denise LaSalle as a great pert soul singer and songwriter into the bargain.
Beginning with her magnificent 1970 song of blind love ‘Hung Up, Strung Out’ (originally released on the Parks label), Making A Good Thing Better includes such delights as the sassy 1972 rebuke to “Mr. Romeo” ‘Now Run And Tell That’, LaSalle’s celebration of a younger lover ‘Man Sized Job’, the stinging 1973 putdown of her indolent paramour ‘What It Takes To Get A Good Woman (That’s What It’s Gonna Take To Keep Her)’, the cautionary, hypnotic number ‘Your Man And Your Best Friend’ and the soulful tale of heartbreak ‘Don’t Nobody Live Here (By The Name Of Fool)’.
With a slinky 1975 version of Earl Randle’s ‘Any Time Is The Right Time’ and the Detroit Emerald’s ‘Do Me Right’, together with some groovy Westbound Records radio adverts for LaSalle’s albums Trapped By A Thing Called Love and On The Loose, Making A Good Thing Better is the perfect testament to the art and soul of a remarkable performer, who, at the age of 73, is still performing and recording. Do yourself a favour and check out Denise LaSalle.
Nathan Abshire – Master Of The Cajun Accordion: The Classic Swallow Recordings
This CD is a special treat: the rollicking and thrillingly uninhibited recordings by the king of the Cajun honky tonk accordion players, recorded during the 1960s and 1970s for the Swallow label, with his bands The Pine Grove Boys and the Balfa Brothers. A totally remastered version of a seminal late 80s Ace release, this compilation, noted and extensively researched by Lyle Ferbrache, John Broven and Ann Savoy (featuring an invaluable song by song analysis of these French-Cajun numbers and a discography), is a fitting monument to the prodigiously talented but troubled Nathan Abshire (1913 – 1981).
These timeless blues flavoured tunes, drenched in Cajun history and tradition, are propelled by Abshire’s earnest vocals and authoritative accordion playing, backed up every step of the way by the sensitive fiddle, acoustic guitars, bass and drums of his groups. Yet, as Lyle Ferbrache points out in the notes, they also possess the influence of pop, folk, hillbilly and country, which is perhaps why they have such a wide appeal. In his later years Abshire had the inscription The Good Times Are Killing Me etched on his accordion, and it is this spirit of abandonment, despair and disillusion that informs songs such as the memorable compositions as ‘A Musician’s Life’, ‘Pine Grove Blues’, ‘I Don’t Hurt Anymore’ (a cover of the massive 1954 Hank Snow country hit) and ‘Service Blues’, which relates his awful experience of being drafted into the army during 1942.
Nathan Abshire – once heard, never forgotten.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.