Aretha Franklin | I Say A Little Prayer

12 10 2010

This is a great video of Aretha Franklin performing “I Say A Little Prayer”. It was originally released on her 1968 album Aretha Now, but I like this live version from 1970 better. Actually, it’s a Burt Bacharach tune that was written for Dionne Warwick, who recorded it in 1967. Her version is also very good, but Aretha is the best.





Young-Holt Unlimited | Soulful Strut

14 09 2010

Young-Holt Unlimited. It’s probably one of the worst band names EVER. Fortunately for these guys, they can really play. Chicago based, they were a late 60’s Soul/Jazz Instrumental group. Drummer Isaac “Red” Holt and bassist Eldee Young, formerly members of Ramsey Lewis’ jazz trio broke off to do their own thing in 1966. The first incarnation of their group was called The Young-Holt Trio. It’s not exactly original but it’s got a nicer ring to it than Unlimited. In 1968 they replaced pianist Don Walker with Ken Chaney, at which point they changed the name… I’m still confused about this name. Names aside, they are a solid band. “Soulful Strut” was their biggest hit, reaching #3, but they had other minor hits along the way. Many of their albums include soul jazz covers of some classics that were relatively well received back in their heyday. First check out “Soulful Strut” and then I have a few of their covers I’m fond of.

Oddly enough, “Soulful Strut” is actually the backing instrumental to another less popular song, “Am I the Same Girl”. Recorded by Barbara Ackerly, the wife of the songs writer Eugene Record, it was recorded in early 1968 but was shelved by the label. Shortly thereafter, the producer Carl Davis removed her voice from the track, replaced it with a piano solo by Floyd Morris, and released the resulting track in November 1968 as “Soulful Strut”. Although credited to Young-Holt Unlimited, neither Young nor Holt are believed to have played on the recorded track.  The instrumental is simply credited to the Brunswick Studio Band. which could include Red and Eldee, but it’s not likely. It sounds like some pretty fishy stuff, but it is confirmed that these they went on to perform the song for many years after it’s release.

Two songs I have featured on GG before are Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” and The Stylistics “People Make The World Go Around”. Both at GREAT tunes that get a lot of attention in the Soul/R&B community. Cover versions are abound so these two versions don’t exactly rank at the top of all that are available but I like these. The cool thing about these guys is that they have a very distinct sound in their playing. Although it’s very much of it’s time, it is very stylized, which plays to their Jazz roots.

References:

More info on Young-Holt Unlimited

More info on “Soulful Strut”

More info on Ramsey Lewis

Previous GG Post: “Sunny”

Previous GG Post: “People Make…”





Grazing In The Grass

30 08 2010

“Grazing In The Grass” is a very cool (and yet little known) tune from 1968. Originally recorded by South African trumpet Master Hugh Masekela, it is an all instrumental soul groove that sounds more jazz inspired R&B than afro-pop. It’s full of great horn lines and A LOT of cowbell. Masekela is a pop legend both at home and here in the States. “Grazing In The Grass” was probably his most popular tune, selling over 4 million copies to date. Later in his career, he also had a hit with a song dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison called “Bring Him Home”. Even in his early days, Masekela was a go-to “world music” collaborator for everyone from Paul Simon to The Byrds, as well as numerous jazz ensembles. That aside, this is easily my favorite of all his work.

There are many covers of this song but only one that stands out to me. And, it comes with a cool back story. It’s from Eivets Rednow’s 1968 release Alfie, which was an all instrumental album inspired by the works of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (most notably their hit score “Alfie”,  hence the title). What is not commonly known is that this is actually an early Stevie Wonder album. If you look again at the artist, you will see that it is Wonder’s name spelled backwards. It was released without much promotion on a Motown subsidiary called Gordy Records because Berry Gordy and the rest of the Motown machine were still establishing Stevie as a soul/pop shouter on their more popular label. As not to confuse their audience, it was practically released in secret. Funny enough, there is almost no hint as to who the real artist is except for a tiny little note on the top corner of the album spine saying, “How do you spell Stevie Wonder backwards”. The album is mediocre at best, in the scope of Wonder’s catalog but it’s a very cool one to own for die-hard collectors. Stevie plays harmonica, piano, clavinet and is accompanied by Motown greats Benny Benjamin on drums and James Jamerson on bass. For me, that’s the best part… it’s this little known, under-the-radar snapshot of these guys just playing and having fun in the studio.

References:

More info on Hugh Masekela

More info on Eivets Rednow

More info on Stevie Wonder





Brenton Wood | Gimme Little Sign

23 06 2010

This 1967 release from American soul singer Brenton Wood, is an R&B classic that you may catch on satellite radio but has since gotten little attention on terrestrial radio. Despite numerous covers and even a few remixes, the original which was written by Wood himself still proves to me the most successful, reaching #9 on the R&B charts back when it was released. I recently discovered this old footage of Brenton performing “Gimme Little Sign” live. The footage is from Top of the Pops, circa 1968.   It’s truly some authentic late 60’s soul. I really love his energy in this performance… and his moves are pretty great too.

As a side note, Brenton’s real name is actually Alfred Jesse Smith. A Louisiana native, he changed it to Brenton Wood after relocating to Southern California as a boy and graduating Compton High School. It has been rumored that he came up with the stage name as an homage to the tony area of Los Angeles, Brentwood.   Oddly enough, Brenton has not totally disappeared. He released an album of new material as late as 2001, called This Love Is for Real.


References:

Brenton Wood’s Official Site

More info on Brenton Wood

More info on “Gimme Little Sign”








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