100% Pure Poison – Coming Right At You (1974)

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100% Pure Poison
Coming Right At You
Released 1974 EMI-UK

A1 You Keep Coming Back (3:24)
A2 No More City, No More Country (6:54)
A3 Boarding Pass (3:46)
A4 Holes In My Shoes (3:42)
A5 My Little Someone (4:28)
B1 Windy C. (5:35)
B2 (But You Say) You Want To Make It With Me (4:31)
B3 Don’t Let Your Pride, Overpower Your Love (4:37)
B4 (And When I Said) I Love You (5:15)
B5 Puppet On A Chain (3:53)

Bass: Lawrence Reynolds
Composed By: Danny Leake , Lawrence Reynolds , Marvin Daniels
Guitar: Danny Leake , James Williams
Keyboards: James Williams
Organ: Steve Maxwell
Percussion: John Jackson, Pie Harrison
Producer: Danny Leake , Rick Hartung
Saxophone: Jackie Beard
Trombone: Slide Beard
Trumpet: Marvin Daniels
Vocals: Jackie Beard , Marvin Daniels , Pie Harrison , Slide Beard

Produced by Danny Leake and Rick Hartung

RIPPING INFO (Euripedes)

Original UK LP 1st pressing, EMI International, INS 3001, Matrix Numbers: A: INS 3001 A-2 1 R / B: INS 3001 B-2 1 M RJL
Equipment:
Vpi HW-17F Record Cleaning Machine
Technics SL 1210 Mk II
Rega RB 300 tonearm (Origin Live! mod)
Denon DL 304 M/C Cartridge
NAD 3101 (M/C phono section)
Outboard M-Audio Profire 610 Multichannel A/D
Adobe Audition 3.0

The song “Windy C”

This legendary album has long been out of my financial reach on vinyl and I have had to content myself with the a 2002 CD reissue. Kudos to Soul Brother for releasing it and making it accessible to a broader public beyond greedy collectors with deep pockets, but the sound quality was pretty much crap. I must say that the record gained a new lease on life when I found a really nice needledrop from a skilled vinyl ripper. I don’t typically like sharing other peoples’ vinyl rips here but the quality of both the music and the audio, coupled with the fact that I will most likely never own an original copy, compelled me to break my loosely-held rule. So, all credit goes to Euripedes for the transfer.

The band 100% Pure Poison, formed by US serviceman while stationed in Germany, only recorded this one record. I knew nothing about their back story until reading the liner notes on the reissue, and in fact I had always thought they were a Chicago band based on the track “Windy C.” The great playing and funky grooves on the album would have been enough to get the crate diggers reaching for their charge cards, and the quality songwriting helps put it a cut above the rest. The record opens with the very dance-worthy bit of Northern Soul, “You Keep Coming Back,” an immediately catchy tune that ought to be on all the AM radio dusties stations but isn’t. About half the songs here are sweet soul ballads, which personally makes things drag a bit in places for me, because as might be expected I prefer the funkier stuff on here. And that material does not disappoint. “No More City, No More Country,” is like.. Post-modern funk or something, where all categories of the black american experience, rural and urban, are declared passé and “everything is space, man.” Complete with a jazzy scat break at the end of every verse. Listen to the way the organ is mixed waaaaaaay in the background in a cushion of reverb. It’s the loosest and most jam-oriented of the tracks here and sort of a mind blower after the tightness of the opening track. “Holes In My Shoe” brings more funky northern goodness, but “Windy C” makes the obvious center-piece of the album. Both because it really is splat in the middle of the album but also because it shows off the group firing on all its creative cylinders – soul tunefulness, marinaded in heavy funk, and brushed with jazz before serving. “Don’t Let Pride Overpower Your Love” may be a mouthful of a title, but it might be my favorite ballad on the record, structured with crescendos that leave the tune positively soaring. The secret weapon of the whole album, though, may be “Puppet On A Chain” which hits all my pleasure centers relentlessly. The arrangement is both lush and lean – horns and strings and guitars and electric piano and Persian carpets of reverb in just the right places. Great lyrics and vocal performances. Four minutes of perfect. The kind of a track that has to go at the end of an LP because there just isn’t any way to follow it up. Thank you and goodnight!
You can do an A/B of the two versions for yourself, but makes sure to give Euripedes’work a listen.
2002 version

Terry Callier – Occasional Rain (1972)

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Terry Callier
Occasional Rain
Cadet Records, 1972
This reissue, 2008 Verve (B0011107)

 1. Segue No. 1 – Go Ahead On
2. Ordinary Joe
3. Golden Circle
4. Segue No. 5 – Go Head On
5. Trance On Sedgewick Street
6. Do You Finally Need A Friend
7. Segue No. 4 – Go Head On
8. Sweet Edie. D
9. Occasional Rain
10. Segue No. 2 – Go Head On
11. Blues For Marcus
12. Lean On Me
13. Last Segue – Go Head On

    Bass – Sydney Simms
Contralto Vocals – Shirley Wahls
Drums – Robert Crowder
Engineer – Gary Starr
Guitar – Terry Callier
Harpsichord, Organ, Producer – Charles Stepney
Piano – Leonard Pirani
Soprano Vocals – Kitty Haywood, Minnie Riperton

Recorded at: Ter-Mar Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois.

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This Sunday past I heard from a friend that Terry Callier had passed away at his home in Chicago.  I don’t know why or how when some performer’s leave us, they leave behind a bigger sense of loss than others.  Maybe it’s because with Terry there was always the feeling that he still had a lot more to say, and maybe the assumption that he would just keep on saying it at his own leisurely pace.  The news is too sudden for me to digest fully.

Whenever a person hears a Terry Callier record, they ask themselves how it is that they had never heard him before that moment.  Of course there are plenty of artists who never got their due during their lifetime, but it is hard to fathom how Terry’s early records could have been eclipsed by so much pedestrian music of lesser quality at the time.  At least his story had happier ending, with his work finding recognition many years later and drawing him out of musical retirement to make a handful of satisfying records.  Not to diminish his second flowering, but his albums on the Cadet label will always be the ones many of us cherish the most.  There just hasn’t been anything quite like them before or since.

Although I have tended to favor “What Color Is Love”, probably because ‘Dancing Girl’ was the first of his songs I ever heard, the album Occasional Rain (which preceded it, but only slightly) is really every bit it’s equal, and set the tone for the rest of his career.  How could any artist put out two records of this astounding caliber in the same year?  This one has almost a concept-record feel to it due to the songs being strung together by acoustic guitar/vocal segments of folk blues (“Go Head On”) that recall Terry’s coffee-house days (captured on the album “The New Folk Sound…”)  His voice still has the heavy vibrato, a common enough trait among folk singers of the 60s, but the similarilty pretty much begins and ends there.   The Cadet recordings show the flowering of Callier’s participation in Jerry Butler’s songwriting workshop in Chicago.   The song “Do You Finally Need A Friend” actually debuted the previous year on the fantastic “Jerry Butler Sings Assorted Songs With The Aid of Assorted Friends and Relatives” (Mercury ST-61320) on which he also appears uncredited along with Curtis Mayfield.   Butler also has a writing credit on  “What Color Is Love” and workshop members Larry Wade and Charles Jones contribute to that album as well as this one.

Looking at those album credits I got to thinking that we should just be grateful we had Terry Callier walking amongst us mere mortals for as long as we did.  Jumping out off the page were two names of his colleagues who left us far, far too young. Keyboardist, producer and arranger Charles Stepney, who would later work with Earth Wind & Fire on their most interesting records and was also a  founding member of The Rotary Connection, died in his 30’s from a heart attack.  And then there is fellow Rotary alumnus Minnie Riperton, who I had never really noticed in the credits until Sunday, and who sings beautifully as always in Stepney’s choral arrangements.  She died in her 30’s from breast cancer.  Another Rotary Connection member, Shirley Wahls, also sings on the record.  Phil Upchurch, one of Cadet’s ubiquitous session players, is absent from this session but would play on Terry’s two following efforts with great results.

Stepney deserves massive amounts of credit for the power of this album and Terry’s other Cadet recordings.  And he has received that credit, especially from Terry himself.  If you need convincing, you can check out earlier versions of some of these songs on the collection “First Light.”  Those versions are impressive because they show the intensity of Callier’s songwriting and highlight (by virtue of his absence) just how much Stepney helped him realize his musical vision.  “Occasional Rain” is the most ‘produced’ of his three Cadet albums, but that isn’t a negative in this case because these are artists on the same wavelength.   (Contrast this with the desultory rerecordings of some of these songs on the Electra release “Turn You To Love.”) The psychedelic baroque-pop of Ordinary Joe probably has Stepney’s “producer’s stamp” most clearly on it, opening the record with strong stylistic overtones of Rotary Connection and mixed as if it could be a huge hit.   But this was no ordinary song, and too extraordinary and unclassifiable for mass consumption even in an era of relative experimentation in popular music.  Groovy harpsichord and some churchy organ; that infectiously catchy melody – how could this song NOT be huge in a fair world?  Maybe it was the brilliant lyrics and vocal delivery that swings from soul, to scat singing, to a blues shout.  It was just too real for the radio.  As a lyricist-poet Callier had a special talent for oscillating between earthy grit, tender nuance, and cosmic musings, sometimes all in the same song.  The intimacy of “Golden Circle,” the darker burned-out realism of “Trance On Sedgewick Avenue” – Terry could make ordinary moments into something transcendent, then turn around and translate the abstract and spiritual into familiar, achingly human terms in the next tune.    And it is no hyperbole to call him a genuine poet.  You could try just reading the words to “Occasional Rain” to a room full of people and hear their cadence, see how they work as compositions even separated from the music:

There was rain today
And crystal blue was hidden by a cloudy gray
A sudden shower come to chase the sun away
Occasional rain
Damn the weatherman
He seems to work against me any way he can
And he’s been dealing tear-drops since the world began
And occasional pain

And blue you, don’t believe I’m talking to you

The light is shining through you- still you will not see
Blue you- think I’m trying to undo you
When I only want to seek the Truth
And speak true

I can’t tell you when

But someday soon we’ll see the sun re-born again
And there’ll be light without as well as light within
And occasional rain 

Fucking brilliant, isn’t it?

The record closes with the majestic “Lean On Me” that is arranged like a series of crescendos leading to one massive climax.  It is kind of ironic that this record was released the same year as Bill Wither’s massive hit of the same title and of similar sentiments.

Speaking of which, the irony did not escape me of listening to this record over and over while the entire northeastern seaboard of the US was being drenched by a hurricane.  It also struck me how listening to Terry Callier is like being sheltered from the storms of the world.  His work had a certain warmth in common with other writers from the frigidly cold metropolis of Chicago, placed at the crossroads of Memphis and Detroit, New York and L.A., always a few steps removed the hype and the drama, and always carrying himself with grace.

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Curtis Mayfield – There’s No Place Like America Today (1975)

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CURTIS MAYFIELD
There’s No Place Like America Today
Released 1975 on Curtom
Reissue on Charley / Snapper 2001

1 Billy Jack 6:07
2 When Seasons Change 5:23
3 So In Love 5:10
4 Jesus 6:10
5 Blue Monday People 4:45
6 Hard Times 3:42
7 Love To The People 4:06

   Arranged By – Rich Tufo
Bass – Lucky Scott*
Design – Lockart*
Drums – Quinton Joseph
Engineer – Roger Anfinsen
Guitar – Phil Upchurch
Illustration – Peter Palombi
Keyboards – Rich Tufo
Keyboards, Guitar – Curtis Mayfield
Percussion [Congas And Bongos] – Henry Gibson
Producer, Written-By – Curtis Mayfield

_____________________________

(Special Indepedence Day post for our United States readers…)

It’s hard to pick a favorite Curtis Mayfield album, and my judgment is
surely clouded by the fact that this album was under-celebrated at the
time and still often overlooked.  But as speaking objectively as I can,
this is surely Mayfield at the top of his game.  And possibly my
favorite album.  Clive Anderson’s liner notes on this Charly reissue may
be a bit pretentious, opening up with a citation from Wordsworth, but
they do pretty much nail the album and do it justice.  The album is truly like
an extended meditation on the American underclass, and particularly the
despair in the Black communities of the mid-70s.  He is right to point
out that (unlike previous albums, like his landmark Superfly), this
record “refrains from excoriating Black Americans for their
predicament.”  Gone are the warnings about self-destruction, as well as
the anthems of ‘racial uplift’ like Move On Up or Miss Black America.
It’s as if the utopian optimism born in the Civil Rights movement, and
its counterpart in revolutionary consciousness like that found in the
Panthers, have fizzled out into a resignation to grim realities.
Still, the record may be spare and solemn, but it’s not bleak.  Music
can still get you through the Hard Times, and Mayfield manages to show
us the redemption found in everyday moments and daily struggle, of
turning to the people close to you when everything else has let you
down.

It’s worth pointing out that the song ‘Hard Times’ was
first recorded by Baby Huey on his one and only album, produced by
Mayfield.  And even if it’s one of the funkier cuts on the record, it’s
still downbeat, much more so than the Baby Huey’s frantic version.  Also
there’s no adlib about living on Oreos and drinking Thunderbird.
Further testament to Mayfield’s genius that he could recast his own
compositions into such different contexts and wring two different
stories out of them.

this is also one of the BEST SOUNDING CD’s I OWN.  It makes me want to find the other Charly pressings of Curits’
stuff, because the Rhino reissues sound really harsh by comparison.  I have the vinyl too and this Charly / Snapper is as close as you’ll get to perfection short of that.

 

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Terry Callier – What Color Is Love? (1972)

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TERRY CALLIER
What Color Is Love?
Originally Released 1972 on Cadet Records
This reissue, 1998

1 Dancing Girl (Callier) 9:02
2 What Color Is Love (Callier) 4:06
3 You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman (Braxton, Callier) 7:20
4 Just as Long as We’re in Love (Callier, Wade) 3:41
5 Ho Tsing Mee (A Song of the Sun) (Callier) 4:21
6 I’d Rather Be with You (Butler, Callier, Wade) 6:40
7 You Don’t Care (Callier, Wade) 5:28

A very beautiful record, sent out to my beautiful friends out there in the blogosphere who have request a repost of this in FLAC. This album deserves a new write-up from me, because it truly is an essential record that does not bear easy comparison to anything else. With one foot still tangled in his folk roots, and the other in the Chicago soul scene (Callier participated in Jerry Butler’s composers’ workshop), it is one of those genre-transcending gems that was probably destined to go over most peoples’ heads until being “rediscovered” for the work of genius it is, decades later. The first track hits so hard and is so gripping that it takes repeated listens to appreciate the strength of some of the other material. Here is the text of my original post:
———————————
The first time I heard the song “Dancing Girl”, I stopped whatever it was I was busying my hands with at the time and just stood still as stone, listening. And then I sat down. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, and really haven’t since. Even in the repertoire of Callier it is a singular thing. To say it “defies categorization” is beside the point, as accurate an observation as that is. This song actually stands outside of time, still as stone, while making razorsharp cuts in and out of the landscape of the 1972 united states. It’s a sound sculpture, with an almost transparent artistry that deflects your ear away from its own strangeness. Again, there is little need to wax poetic over this — just listen to it yourself. This review, from Mojo magazine, fills in the pertinent details about Callier and this album.

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The Impressions – Keep On Pushing / People Get Ready (1964, 1965)

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Keep On Pushing 2:30
I’ve Been Trying 2:45
I Ain’t Supposed To 2:28
Dedicate My Song To You 1:52
Long, Long Winter 2:48
Somebody Help Me 3:15
Theme From Lillies Of The Field (Amen) 3:25
I Thank Heaven 2:30
Talking About My Baby 2:33
Don’t Let It Hide 2:20
I Love You (Yeah) 2:07
I Made A Mistake 2:31

————————-
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Woman’s Got Soul
Emotions
Sometimes I Wonder
We’re In Love
Just Another Dance
Can’t Work No Longer
People Get Ready
I’ve Found That I’ve Lost
Hard To Believe
See The Real Me
Get Up And Move
You Must Believe Me

——————
The Impressions
“Keep On Pushing” and “People Get Ready”
Originally released on ABC Records, 1964 & 1965
This digital compact disc pressing on Kent Records 1996

The Impressions are Curtis Mayfield, Samuel Gooden, and Fred Cash
Arrangements by Johnny Pate

These two gorgeous records show The Impressions at a transition between their more adolescent-doo-wop/pop material to a mature soul vocal trio. Lyrically the tunes are still mostly of the romantic and lost-love variety with only the famous title tracks of both records showing a glimpse of where Mayfield’s writing was headed. Those are pretty notable exceptions, however: “Keep On Pushing,” with its jazz-inflected rhythm section, and the gospel-drenched “People Get Ready,” one of the most recorded tunes in history. Both anthemic and deeply spiritual, and with lovely arrangements from Johnny Pate. In the case of “People Gets Ready” it is really enlightening to go back and listen to this original version. Along with Mayfield’s stripped-down version on “Curtis Live!”, the original is pretty hard to improve on, although I can’t blame people for wanting to record it either. And while the album “Keep On Pushing” contains one song not penned by Mayfield (the hit “Amen”), “People Get Ready” would be the first album where Curtis was in charge of all the writing.

I don’t mean to give short shrift to a good old-fashioned love song either, because there are plenty of great ones on these two records. “I’ve Been Trying”, the second cut here, really stands out. It sounds incredibly fresh to my ears and very “modern” for 1964, in a good way. It doesn’t hurt that these records were recorded and mixed immaculately, and that Kent Records did a very nice job in remastering them. The other song sample I’ve given here below is the tune ‘Emotions’, which was actually recorded in 1962, is another favorite of mine. The liner notes allege that the song sounds out of place but I love it. It’s also a good example of the Impressions sweetening up a blues arrangement with their vocal harmonies while still retaining enough ‘grit’ to keep it from being too saccharine. The songwriting gets a little repetitive across these two albums, but I still consider these essential listening, especially for fans of Curtis Mayfield.

On a related note, the liner notes from some ABC Records suit on both of these albums are completely ridiculous, and go out of their way to depict The Impressions as “gentle” and accessible, in contrast to “the loud, unintellgible sounds that can hardly be understood through the overpowering beat of much of today’s popular music.” While this is certainly hilarious and entertaining, I am thankful that Kent saw fit to contract Peter Burns to write NEW, more informative notes for this collection.

Enjoy these two albums of classic Chicago soul!

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Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (1971)

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Baby Huey & The Babysitters
“The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend”

Original release Curtom (LP CRS-8007) 1971
This pressing Water Records 2004 (WATER 142)

1. Listen To Me 6:35
2. Mama Get Yourself Together 6:10
3. A Change Is Going To Come 9:23
4. Mighty, Mighty 2:45
5. Hard Times 3:19
6. California Dreamin’ 4:43
7. Running 3:36
8. One Dragon Two Dragon 4:02

Produced by Curtis Mayfield

——————————

I came across this album from James T. Ramey, aka Baby Huey, due to digging into the Curtis Mayfield discography and finding that he had produced this sole album by the Chicago soul heavyweight (*cough*). It’s heavy deep soul that does not disappoint for a single moment. (The last track here is a bonus track tagged on to the original album, and is pretty disposable.) The original LP is damn near impossible to find, so big props to Water Records for making it available again. In fact this is also the best-sounding reissue I have yet heard from that label, whose remasters often sound a little harsh to my ears. But not this — Mayfield’s trademark tight production sounds full, warm, and punchy as always. The vibe runs the changes from party, to strung out, to menace, and back to party again. I always wonder what Sam Cooke would have thought of Huey’s take on his civil rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come.” The liner notes hit it pretty much on the head when they describe this tune as “epic, stoned, silly and heart-wrenching.” Turn it up loud enough and the room will fill with the purple haze of Vietnam-era exhaustion, conjuring images of ghettos overrun with smack and people knodding off to deep funk while King’s dream grew sour and white people retreated to the suburbs. Hell it is actually kind of blood-curling by the time it gets to the final chorus, Baby Huey’s screams drenched in echo-plex giving way to a final bar of nothing but a feedback loop of delay.

“There’s three kinds of people in this world. That’s why I know a change has gotta come. I said there’s white people, there’s black people, and there’s my people.”

“Might Mighty” is a Curtis Mayfield tune first recorded by The Impressions and would also appear on the “Curtis Live!” album. Here, it’s almost an instrumental with Baby Huey rapping over it, foregoing Mayfield’s lyrics of interracial harmony. “Hard Times,” one of the most sampled tracks ever cut, just scorches. It’s another Mayfield tune, one that he wouldn’t record himself until the album “There’s No Place Like America Today” where Curtis takes a decidedly more laid-back approach than this version, which is ferocious and frantic. “California Dreamin'”… goddamn a lot of people recorded that song. Do we really need another interpretation of it? Well, in this case, yes. It’s breeziness between these heavier songs is something of a counterweight but with the nagging feeling that it’s not to be entirely trusted — The Babysitters are just giving us a little breathing space before taking us on one last trip. That would be “Running,” which will leave blisters on your synapses. The bass guitar is pushing so hard it is only a decibel or two away from blowing the speaker in the Ampeg amplifier (I will bet my right arm its an Ampeg..). There is enough freak-flown swagger on this tune to make Funkadelic look like a bunch of amateurs. These guys were cued up to lead the congregation in Hendrix’s Electric Church if only both Jimmy and Huey had lived long enough. And only Curtis Mayfield could have produced this song — all the instruments are played hard and rough, no bullshit, all heart — drums, bass, guitar, organ, horns, all pushing the VU needles into the red and saturating the tape with funk, yet EVERYTHING comes out in the mix crystal clear. Who the fuck pulls that off? Oh that’s right, Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield, Huey, and the Babysitters were a perfect match. It is a damn shame that Huey died of a heart-attack at the age of 26 in a Chicago hotel while working on this record. We all missed this the first time around. Don’t miss it now.

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