I was too young and 3000 miles away when this show was broadcast in New York City, but Soul! was the premiere place to listen to and watch Black music without fear. WNET-13, the public television station that originally broadcasted it, are placing some episodes online, which you can watch by clicking here. The performances are incredible, you will definitely spend a few hours enjoying this. If you’re at work or at a library, you may want to make some room to dance.
Finally made it out to the thrift stores again, didn’t bring my camera with me but I was able to find a few things worth picking up. First visit was to Goodwill in Richland, Washington. Lately the selection has been dry, and I don’t know if that means people aren’t throwing out any good music or people have run out of stuff to donate. I went in and saw a small section of records, both albums and 45′s. Decided to look at the 45′s first and this is what I ended up buying.
Seymour (His Heartbeat Trumpet)-“Stripper’s” Sugar Blues/You Made Me Love You (3.9mb) (Heartbeat H-27)
I haven’t done my research on this, but I have another 45 on the Heartbeat label (gold with black lettering) consisting of someone on trumpet playing a melancholy melody over a church organ, if I remember correctly. I know the artist on that wasn’t Seymour, but this record specifically credits someone whose playing sounds exactly like that record. What moved me about this was that the song is called “Stripper’s Sugar Blues”. From the other 45, I knew it couldn’t be something too good, either that or it would be a surprise and I’d really like it.
His style of playing is kind of Dixieland-ish and would be the kind of jazz you’d play alongside Al Hirt or Bent Fabric. The song is only 1:44, with all of the room in the world to properly end the song but Seymour just plays and plays, teases until it fades abruptly. It doesn’t make sense.
However, I finally did a search and the Seymour in question was somewhat of an entrepreneur. Seymour was Seymour Schwartz, a struggling musician who did quite well selling records at his own record stores in Chicago. According to his bio, he went out of his way to talk to jukebox operators so he could buy up all of the records they no longer wanted. He kept the good (read “collector”) records for himself and sold the cheaper (read “unwanted”) records to dime stores. In other words, he knew the value of old records when people were more than willing to trash them. When he opened Seymour’s Record Mart after the end of World War II, he claimed he had a warehouse with a second floor that had at least 50,000 records. His store and love of music would be known throughout Chicago, and that lead to him wanting to start his own label, Seymour Records.
Countless session work, writing songs, and record store business kept him busy, but in time Seymour Records would be no more, which is when he started Heartbeat Records. These records were sold from his store, and were primarily heard in jukeboxes. The label released a single by Billie Hawkins, which is of note since her backing band was none other than Sun Ra & His Orchestra, and his believed to be one of the first Sun Ra records in his Earthly musical excursions. Heartbeat also allowed Schwartz to record some records on his own, simply under Seymour. Heartbeat was meant to be a 45-only label, but managed to get himself on Chess Records via the Argo label to release a full-length album.
Eventually Schwartz stopped creating music and by the mid-60′s sold his record store, even though Chicago was still the place to find “record row” and incredible community of music. What I also didn’t know was that as I would find many Heartbeat 45′s over the years, he was still with us. Schwartz passed away in 2008.
Sonny James-The Only Ones We Truly Hurt (Are The Ones We Truly Love)/Here Comes Honey Again (Capitol 3174)
Sonny James-He Has Walked This Way Before/Only Love Can Break A Heart (Capitol 3232)
I have one or two Sonny James albums from the mid-60′s I believe, so I was familiar with who he is, but here were two 45′s on Capitol with the late 60′s/early 70′s design so since I hadn’t hurt of the songs, I picked them up. Both of these 45′s were released in 1971, and to be honest I had bought them in the hopes I would discover that it had a non-LP track or something, since the B-sides didn’t list the song as being from one. When I got home and did a search, that’s when I found out that the songs on the B-side would be released on the follow-up album, perhaps a calculated sales tactic.
I’m not sure what kind of country singer James would be called, but it’s that style of country you never hear on the radio anymore, that really sobby-heartbreak stuff with a bit of a gospel influence. In truth, he’s one of those singers who puts a lot of himself into the songs, and thus demands the kind of respect… well, this is what is listed on his website: for nineteen years (1960-1979) he spent more time in the Number One chart position than any other artist in country music — a total of 57 weeks. Who is capable of doing that today, in a realistic manner? I am sure there are countless jukeboxes in the South that are filled with his records, and when one of his songs is played, the room is silent. Good music all around.
Then a few albums:
Gil Evans & The Monday Night Orchestra-Live At Sweet Basil (Gramavision; 1986)
I had never heard of this album before, but it’s a double LP originally released in Japan, and released domestically, on “high quality audiophile vinyl”. The recording is incredible, with side 1 featuring an 18-minute version of “Parabola”. The album goes through songs by Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, and two tracks by Jimi Hendrix. There are moments in this where Evans and the orchestra (which includes Lew Soloff and Hannibal Marvin Peterson on trumpets, Chris Hunter on alto sax, Hiram Bullock on guitar, and Adam Nussbaum on drums) gets as “out there” as Evans did during the Svengali era, in fact this sounds more like the early 70′s than the mid-80′s, but then again this is Gil Evans we’re talking about. I wanted to put this on eBay, but as I’m listening to this, this may be a keeper.
Kris Kristofferson-Border Lord (Monument/CBS; 1972)
The first time I became aware of Kristofferson was through the movie A Star Is Born, which got a lot of time on HBO in the late 1970′s. I would later discover he was not only an artist in his own right, but a songwriter, including a song he co-wrote called “Me And Bobby McGee”, later covered by Janis Joplin and becoming a hit a few months after Joplin’s death. Some of you may have only known of Kristofferson through Big Top Pee Wee, but that’s another story, another time.
Border Lord was Kristofferson’s third album, and has the feel of a rugged country album that was far from what George Jones and Conway Twitty were known for. It’s not rock, but it has the feel of country rock that would dominate much of the 70′s, from The Eagles to Neil Young where things are more country than rock, but there’s a slight groove that probably wouldn’t sit too well with country purists. Nonetheless, with songs like “Stagger Mountain Tragedy”, “Smokey Put The Sweat On Me”, and “Gettin’ By, High, and Stranger”, this definitely wasn’t your mom’s country music. He’s talking about the cops, letting your hair down and smoking interesting things, all done with an attitude that was about being a badass but was still very down to Earth.
The album also marks the first appearance of Rita Coolidge, who would eventually become his wife. Border Lord also features Jerry Kennedy, Pete Drake, Charlie McCoy, and Donnie Fritts.
Bonnie Raitt-Give It Up (Warner Bros.; 1972)
This is an album I’ve seen over the years but never bothered to pick it up until today. This was Raitt’s second album, released in 1972, and combines her love of blues with country, and sounds like the kind of album you’d open the gatefold and smoke doobs to/with. Her singing and guitar work is, as always, strong. The gatefold features Raitt and friends jamming in the studio, or practicing at home, and like a lot of similar albums of the time, it has an intimate feel that makes you want to listen to it again and again, as I will. Now if I can find her first and third albums on vinyl, I’ll be alright.
The Three D’s-Songs Of Our American Heritage (Covenant; 1978)
This is what happens when you feel you have a good feeling about a record, and it ends up being anything but, at least for me.
I have no idea who The Three D’s were, and even with a title like Songs of Our American Heritage, I had taken a chance because it featured a song called “Buffalo Gals”. I looked at the cover while in Goodwill and said to myself “I wonder if this is the album with the sample everyone is looking for.” I brought it home and it definitely was not. The music is decent folk music that you might expect to hear on A Prairie Home Companion, but not something I would listen to on a regular basis.
(Songs Of Our American is available on CD and can be purchased here.)
John Rowles-Cheryl Moana Marie (Kapp; 1971) There was no reason I needed to buy this album, I already have a copy, but this record does have a bit of significance for me, as the title track was one of the first songs I remember my father used to sing to me as a child. Maybe the song about missing that special someone was him being homesick when we briefly lived in California, or the someone as a metaphor for missing the place he called home, but he would sing this all the time and he would always be happy when he did it. The copy I remembered had the colorful Kapp label. I would eventually find a copy, and I was happy with that:
Today, the copy I saw had the previous black label incarnation. In the grand scheme of things is this a big deal, no, but for most of my life I’ve associated this song and album with the colorful Kapp, and now I have to deal with the reality it had come out during the label transition. Yes, for most of you this is useless/pointless information, but I bought it simply to have a different pressing. Now, I will quietly weep as I hear Mr. Rowles sing safe in my arms she will be… my Cheryl Moana Marie.
BTW – I told my nephew about finding at least one good reason, and of course he has no idea of the significance of it to me. The first thing he tells me is “he looks like Jemaine from Flight Of The Conchords.” I’ve always thought this too, and with the New Zealand roots between Rowles and Jemaine Clement, you never know. Maybe one day, these two will meet and perhaps fight like men: topless.
Bob Kuhn & The Sanctuary Singers-Keep On Singing (Faith Unlimited; 197?)
This is a local gospel record, where everyone is wearing matching outfits outside while standing around a pool. It’s not what I normally listen to, but I bought this before and I bought it again specifically to place on eBay because of a certain bass guitar passage (played by Darrell Strong) in “Get All Excited” that is definitely sample worthy.
The rest of the album? I’m someone who likes gospel/church records for its passion to be a bit cheesy, although what I like is when some of the music is off-tempo and the singing is off-key (one wonders what would happen if someone did a remix and ran the vocal track through Auto-Tone). When a good moment like a funky bassline or a weird drum break that can be chopped up nicely shows up, it makes buying these type of records worth it.