It’s A Shame

25 05 2010

The dual guitar intro on this Spinner’s tune from 1970 just grabs you as soon as you hear it. So much so that it helped take “It’s A Shame” to #14. The song was released on Motown’s subsidiary VIP, which is ironic because VIP was usually reserved for Berry Gordy’s least desirable acts. “It’s A Shame” was actually written and produced by Stevie Wonder (and wife, Syreeta Wright), specifically for The Spinners. It was his first that he produced by himself for an act other than his own. It proved to be The Spinners’ biggest hit in their entire career with Motown, which ended in 1972. The group signed with Atlantic after being referred by fellow Detroit native Aretha Franklin. In all their years with Motown, The Spinners were always highly respected but lacked any remarkable success. Often they would act as lackeys for Berry Gordy and Motown, taking work as road managers, chaperons or chauffeurs for other groups, and even as low as shipping clerks at one point. Shortly after signing with Atlantic, they became one of the biggest soul acts of 1970’s with numerous top 10 hits to their credit. Fitting retribution for all those years of hard work and no big pay day with Motown.

Here is The Spinners’ classic “It’s A Shame” circa 1970. No spectacular video here but the audio is all you need for this one.

There are a ton of covers of this tune but that should be no surprise. For starters, it’s a Stevie Wonder composition which always seem to make the rounds. On top of that, it’s one of those crossovers from the time when soul went funky, mixing the bass groove and harmonies of the 60’s with the energy and fire of the 70’s.

Here is Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings doing an all instrumental version of “It’s A Shame” live. I love how the baritone sax plays the lead vocal part, while the rest of the horn section blast away on the arrangement.

This cover is absolutely brilliant. So much so it almost deserves it’s own post. It’s Alton Ellis giving this classic an old school dub reggae feel back in 1971.

Finally, here is the instrumental track from Motown’s original house band The Funk Brothers. This is the actual original recording from the session that has since surfaced. This happens to be one of James Jamerson’s greatest bass lines so to hear it like this is a real treat. It has serious groove, implies the harmony and even touches the melody at points… genius.


More info on The Spinners

More info on “It’s A Shame”

More info on Motown

More info on VIP Records

More info on Berry Gordy

More info on The Funk Brothers

More info on Alton Ellis

NEW! Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

12 04 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings just released a new album this past week. Recorded for Daptone Records in their modest Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY) studio, the new album, I Learned The Hard Way, continues the tradition of beat heavy, groove-based soul music reminiscent of that which was coming out of Stax and Motown in the 60’s & 70’s. Not only does the material bring you back to this amazing era in American music but the sound of the recording is true to the classics. Recorded on a Ampex 8-track tape machine in Daptone’s analog studio, it’s remarkable how great this album sounds. There is an amazing  warmth and richness to it that harkens back to the old days of real soul music. As good as the songs and performances are the sound of the recording is truly the standout for me. I’m a sucker for that old school sound and there are very few folks out there today who are able to capture it so well. This album is available on vinyl too so you can really appreciate the nuances of what they are doing out there in Bushwick. That being said, when it comes to the material and performance Sharon and the gang did not take this 4th studio effort lightly. I Learned The Hard Way is without a doubt among their best releases thus far. Between this and their previous (2007) album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, it’s a close call.

The whole album makes for a great listen all the way through but I particularly like the title track “I Learned The Hard Way” as well as “Better Things”, “Mama Don’t Like My Man” and the bonus track “He Said I Can”. I was surprised to see that there is an instrumental on here given Sharon is such a presence in this sound, but I really dig it… it’s called “The Reason”.

“I Learned the Hard Way”

“Better Things”

“Mama Don’t Like My Man”

“He Said I Can”

“The Reason”

GG fans may already know I’ve been into Sharon & The Dap Kings and Daptone Records for years. For those that are not regulars, you can take a look at an earlier post on Sharon  and the boys HERE. There is also some more really cool Daptone stuff HERE.

If you want to learn more about Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings visit their site. Once there, you can sample music, check out tour dates and learn more about the band and the label. You can also buy their albums on CD, LP or MP3… which ever suits your needs:

Here is a link to a PBS interview that showcases Sharon’s amazing personality and offers a little background on the band, the label and music. : Sharon on PBS

%d bloggers like this: