Toots Thielemans (1959) The Soul of Toots Thielemans (LP) Signature (SM 6006)

Toots Thielemans

The Soul of Toots Thieleman 

Recorded 1959, released 1960

Signature (SM 6006)

**** recommended

For this 1959 date, Toots is backed wonderfully with three Americans, Ray Bryant (Philly) on piano, Ray’s brother Tom on bass, and Oliver Jackson (Detroit) on drums, all the members helping to set the tone for the meeting and helping bringing Toots into their country, planting the sound deep into American soil, Ray getting plenty of time to get his piano into the conversation.


Of course, as the billing suggests, this is Toot’s album, his last name showing on all the credits of the originals on this set, his playing gracing every selection, the talented Toots alternates between harmonica and electric guitar, even whistling through his original “Brother John” that closes the set.


Toots shows he was not just an outstanding harmonica player, but a great guitar player as well–showing this clearly on cuts such as “Lonesome Road”–showing that the harmonica can color in a selection as much as any horn, and showing that the electric guitar can do the same. While blues and jazz guitar players revealed the ability for the guitar to offer rhythm and lead at the same time, adding electricity offered even more, making it easier for the guitar to fill in the song with colors much like horns had done for centuries.


This whole set is thoroughly enjoyable, a mix of originals by Toots and tunes by others—old tradition songs and jazz standards, Garner’s “Misty,” Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” and Parker’s “Confirmation”–the meeting laid back yet swinging, taut as a congregation yet relaxed as a Sunday afternoon, swinging like a porch swing with autumn in the air, the warmth of summer mixing with the latter parts of the year, youthful as young man, yet thoughtful as an elder. This might not be a great album, but it’s certainly a good one.

— winch (author of

 

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Road (1972) S/T (LP) Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Road

Road

1972

Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Produced by Tom Wilson and Road

*** (noteworthy)

Featuring  Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) on bass, Rod Richards (Rare Earth) on guitars, and Les Sampson on drums, this sole album by this Detroit/UK outfit clearly comes out of the 1960s power-trio acid-rock tradition established with the Hendrix Experience. This trio had the talent, power and energy to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, they appeared to have a lack of material.

And considering the era and the lyrics, they were perhaps too stoned to notice, or too stoned to care.

The set starts off promising enough with a Richards-penned number called “I’m Trying” that seems to come out of the Allman Brothers as much as Hendrix, but if one didn’t notice the void in the lyric department with the opener, it’s hard to miss with the second cut, a Redding-penned number about “Going to the Country.” (Of course, maybe that was the point: rock is about raw energy rather than clever comments.)

By the time you get deep into “Side 49” (aka side one) the Hendrix influence comes through loud and clear as a cranked Marshall amp, and Hendrix remains the primary influence as the band jams throughout “Side 17 1/3” (aka the second side).  While it sounds like they were a bit lost in a drug-induced haze, the Sampson/Redding engine provides plenty of power, and Richards does a pretty convincing Hendrix impersonation.

With the opener of side two, Richard’s “Spaceship Earth,” the Detroit influence can also be felt, both hints of the energy of bands like MC5 and the muscle of Norman Whitfield of Motown fame, and while this was co-produced with the legendary black-American producer Tom Wilson (one of the greatest producers of all time), one can’t help wonder what would have happened if this band would’ve hooked up with Whitfield.    As it sits, it’s a noteworthy chapter in the story of Rod Richards and the beginning of the team of Noel Redding/Leslie Sampson–a team that would record several albums together.


This also serves as an inferior companion set to the “Kapt. Kopter & The Fabulous Twirly Birds” which was released this same year, featured both Redding and Les Sampson (aka Clit McTorius and Henry Manchovitz) and applied the loud raw energy to songs by other artists (Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mother and Child Reunion” for example).

While some of the excesses on this sole album by Road are a bit much–such as the drum solo on Redding’s “Friends”–excess was an integral part of 1972 and we’ve heard a lot worse from this era of excess, and arguably the nine+ minute title track by Richards is a relatively strong conclusion to a fairly unremarkable album.  In its own way, it’s fairly consistent: the better cuts ain’t that great, but the weaker cuts ain’t that bad.  While this isn’t essential listening, fans of acid rock, hard rock, the power trio, and what would decades later be called stoner rock will likely find something to enjoy with the acid-rock jams of this set.

— winch (author of  

Harlan Howard (1961) Sings Harlan Howard (LP) Capitol 1631

Harlan Howard

 Sings Harlan Howard

1961

Capitol 1631

Produced by Ken Nelson

*** (noteworthy)

While sources are inconsistent–likely because facts are hard to determine when an artist comes from poor rootless beginnings–apparently Harlan was born in Detroit in 1927 and grew up in Michigan and Kentucky.  He didn’t find success in his life’s calling until he was in his 30s, just before settling in Nashville and recording this debut album.

While he released a few of his own albums, he will be remembered mostly as a songwriter, for writing thousands of songs, many of which would become hits for various artists, first for hillbilly stars but also for soul and jazz artists. For example “Busted” would be a hit for both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in 1963, and while “Chokin’ Kind” was first recorded by Waylon Jennings, it would become Joe Simon’s first number-one hits on the R&B charts.

This album came at a time when he was beginning to make a name for himself, and this set showed that he likely wasn’t going to run out of songs, as this features all new songs–from heartbroken ballads to the rather-dark humor of “We’re Proud to Call Him Son.”  While Howard will be remembered for his songwriting (and for defining country music as “three chords and the truth”), this albums shows he had a good voice, perhaps coming out of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb (although I’m sure he’d note others as well) and perhaps he should have been given more opportunities to record his own material.  This isn’t essential but it suggests that fans of this artist (or hillbilly music in general) might be advised to check out Howard’s own recordings (along with the material he provided for others).

— winch

 

“We’re Proud to Call Him Son” download:

Diana Ross (1980) Diana (LP) Motown 155

Diana Ross
Diana
Motown 155
1980
Written and Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)

After Ross split for a solo career, the Supremes slowly faded into obscurity, and by the end of the 70s, it looked like Ross was headed for a similar fate.  Edwards and Rodgers came to the rescue with this album.  In many ways, this was another Edwards-Rodgers album: they not only provided the bass and guitar but wrote and produced this set.  While this helped put Ross back at the top, its success likely didn’t hurt Edwards-Rodgers.  Most listeners simply saw this as a Ross album, but the recording industry likely took notice of the team behind the hits.

“Upside Down” jumpstarts the proceedings, but perhaps it would have been more effective to ease into that number because the rest of the set sounds quite weak after that opener. Fans of Edwards-Rodgers should get a bang out of “Upside Down,” “I’m Coming Out,” and perhaps a few other numbers, but much of the material is filler–only for hardcore fans of Ross.

— winch 

Dennis Coffey

the legendary guitarist dennis coffey, the man from motown (actually born in the UP, Copper City, Michigan) the man who offered his guitar to many of those Whitfield-era Motown classics, later the first white man to play on Soul Train…Older now but he’s still got it, launches into his classics “Theme from Black Belt Jones” and “Scorpio.”  That’s all I need to hear, that alone worth the trip to the club.
 

      dennis  coffey                   photos by winch