Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S

BRINGING YOU THE STORIES BEHIND MUSIC + ESSENTIAL NEWS, REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS

Column

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking column (November)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column Undisputed Truth:  Essential Collection - The Undisputed Truth Detroit control room - Dennis Coffey sat talking to Spyder Turner and Carl Dixon David Van De Pitte's Sheet Music (with his notes on) for 'Suddenly' Lonel Richie: Can't Slow Down Boyz II Men: II Ludie Montgomery & Vickie Wright: My Sister Tommie - The Real Tammi Terrell Brenda Edwards @bluesandsoul.com Maxine Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life Boyz II Men: CooleyHighHarmony Diana Ross and the Supremes Greatest Hits (1967) THE JACKSON FIVE: CHRISTMAS ALBUM (1970) Boyz II Men: Evolution Jaki Graham: Absolute Essential - The Very Best Of Jaki Graham Smokey Robinson - The Solo Albums Vol 2 Smokey Robinson - The Solo Albums Vol 1 Michael Jackson - deluxe box set 'Vision' Michael Jackson - deluxe box set 'Vision' (Cover)

Talk about your past catching up with you! Quite out of the blue, Roger Isted contacted me for a catch up. And as we meandered through our memories, he mentioned his friend Ivor Westacott who had been playing some Thelma Houston material, and remembered I’d written that I was mad about her version of 'Do You Know Where You’re Going To' (which Diana Ross went on to sing in the soundtrack to 'Mahogany'). I quote Roger now – “Ivor says that for some bizarre, inexplicable reason, he has the feeling you said you played it continually at Lincoln’s racecourse. Well, I said, I’ll certainly mention that to you next time.” So Roger duly emailed me with this. My reply was immediate - “I’ve never been to Lincoln’s racecourse!”.

Within forty-eight hours, I was sent a copy of my column Motown Magic, dated October 1975, and there in black and white are my words – “blah, blah..Thelma Houston did in fact cut this song nearly two years ago. It was never issued….but I can recall happily riding around the racetracks of Lincoln playing the darned song continually.” (B&S 172) OK! OK! My apologies guys! I can’t remember everything can I? But thank you. It was a fun thing to do, and I shall now happily return to my crayoning. What is it about 1975 – a life changing year for some I do believe? Steve Harley’s (Make Me Smile) Come Up And See Me springs to mind also. Let’s move on.

THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH

I’ve dug out The Undisputed Truth’s The Collection to play this time round. And I suppose it’s really thanks to Norman Whitfield’s determination to record as many Motown acts as he could, that the Undisputed Truth were born. Norman already was aware of Brenda Joyce Evans and Ray Calvin from The Delicates, so he united them with ex Preps’ member, Joe Harris. The fun began with 1971’s Save Your Love For A Rainy Day followed by Smiling Faces Sometimes. Looking down the track listing, I instantly remembered You Got The Love I Need and I’m A Fool For You , but it was cuts like the pulsating cover versions of Law Of The Land, Papa Was A Rolling Stone and You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell that won them a niche in the American market when it was gripped by the mind blowing, drug induced mysteries of psychedelia.

MO-DREAMS DO COME TRUE!

I was sorry that this had to be held over from last time, but we’re here now. I chatted to Carl Dixon a little while back, but before continuing, let me remind you about the two singles we told you about earlier on. Spyder Turner’s Tell Me (Crying Over You) and Pree’s Suddenly There’s You, both released on the Bandtraxs label as vinyl singles at £10 each, including postage and packing. (see websites at the end of this piece) Let’s talk more. Carl is British, lives in Chiswick, is a Sky tv technician and a self taught musician. “I did two levels of piano in my teens, but gave up to go dancing and listening to wonderful soul records in discos.” He said it seems like only yesterday when way back in 1974 he visited as many record shops as he could on a Saturday afternoon searching for obscure US soul records that few people had heard. “I picked up albums to discover that some companies had started to name musicians, arrangers and other faceless people who’d contributed to the studio sessions,” he told me. “Then over the years – eighties and nineties – names of certain individuals became more celebrated as their contribution to the songs became more apparent. All those years ago, I just wanted to pay my respects to the musicians, like David J. Van De Pitte, because their musical interpretations and orchestration affected me on the dance floor in Hull, of all places. I used to say, I’d trade ten years of my life to have been in the studio back in the sixties. They were the words from somebody in their twenties, who was young and inexperienced.” Carl’s ambition was to travel to Detroit and Philadelphia to thank the musicians he admired so much – and he did in 2003! “Through a number of encounters on soulfuldetroit.com, and a visit to both cities, I met Dennis Coffey and Bobby Eli. That’s now in the past and my labour of love matured nicely giving me the incentive to start writing songs as a way to get into their confidence, and then pay for the sessions to make it all work. Dennis, Spyder and David J. Van De Pitte made it work in Detroit, and Bobby Eli in Philly. They really care about their fans, and particularly somebody who wants to risk about £27,000 of their personal savings, cancelled PEPS and pensions to provide funds for the project.”

To arrange this session, Carl exchanged what seems like hundreds of emails with Dennis Coffey, and as time went on he realised it was a good idea to employ an arranger to study the four demo recordings he’d already sent to America. Dennis contacted David to ask if he’d be interested in arranging the songs, doing the charts for the musicians and leading the band in the studio. He agreed. Carl continued - “How could this happen to somebody like me? An average person from Hull, England, about to embark on one of the most difficult ventures of his life and here, a top Motown arranger is coming on board to help make my dream come true.” Dennis then arranged for the musicians and David to meet up in Studio A in Dearborn Heights, Detroit, one Monday morning in March 2008, to make plans to record Carl’s material. “I witnessed with my own eyes how the musicians in Detroit read the hand written charts David provided, with freedom to experiment with musical phrases here and there. And how the Philly guys had chords only, and listened to the demo in the control room for the groove and chord changes. Absolutely fascinating .”

Carl also recalls a small bearded man waltzing into the studio on that Monday morning with a bag full of Federal Express white envelopes. He thought he was the mail man looking for someone to sign for a delivery, so asked his name. “David Van De Pitte!”. He told Carl he was thrilled to be working on the session – “and of course he knew many of the musicians who had already arrived, and I remember fondly the embrace he and Uriel Jones had as they’d not seen each other for some time. ..I was speechless when out of the Federal Express bag came hand-written musical notations for every musician playing on the gig. Meticulously organised and created without the use of computer technology, something he didn’t believe in.” Musicians participating included Bob Babbit on bass, Ray Monette and Dennis on guitar, with Uriel and Spider on drums. Carl concluded “Spyder and Pree have been great with all sorts of musical advice. They are really professional, and now my co-writers of the songs I took over. I wanted their contribution, and improvements to the lyrics, and they provided some excellent enhancements to the songs. For the Philly stuff, I took some ideas over that I’d worked on, and Bobby and I did the chords and melodies in the studio over two nights. Chiquita Green came up with lyric ideas, and Bobby called Double Exposure to see if they were interested and they were. I saw the whole process from start to finish. I am one lucky person.” It certainly was a dream come true for him; history in the making. So, if you’re interested in the singles or want to read more, do check out these sites –
bandtrax.com carlsmusic.blogspot.com youtube/bandtrax youtube/phillysoultronics funkyfeetrecords.co.uk crazybeat.co.uk

FLORENCE BALLARD

From musicians to singers, and one in particular. Florence Ballard, founder of The Supremes and, well, you know her story I’m sure. It seems a film is to be made of her life, with R&B singer Faith Evans playing the star role. Great news of course, because there’s so much interest in this much-loved lady who died very prematurely at the age of 32 in 1976. The big question is, however, will it actually happen? And, if it does, what will the film makers use for music because, with the best will in the world, Motown/Universal rarely license for this sort of thing. (I know, am going through a similar predicament at present with a project I’m involved with.) Also, would Diana Ross and Mary Wilson need to give their permission? After all, the bulk of it would be their music too. Fingers crossed then that the music issue won’t be too much of a stumbling block. I’m told the film will be based on Tony Turner’s book All That Glittered (he’s also to be a consultant) and, I assume, on Peter Benjaminson’s book The Lost Supreme and Florence’s sister Maxine’s book The True Story Of Florence (Blondie) Ballard. Filming starts in Atlanta during January 2011. Watch this space.

BRENDA EDWARDS

You might have caught my recent review of Brenda Edwards’ debut single You Know How To Love Me and you’ll know I’m crazy about it. It’s a people/friendship song, not necessarily a love song for two people. Anyway, we caught up just recently to talk Motown - and alas, it was during one of the busiest times of her life. She was in the middle of filming a promo for the single and preparing for an evening’s performance as the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You. Although she lost the 2005 X Factor to Shayne Ward, Brenda Edwards boldly stepped straight into the world of theatre (Chicago:The Musical and Carmen Jones); played high profile concerts across the country winning a loyal audience, before landing this marvellous role in the West End’s multi-hit musical. Motown was part of her growing up, she explained – “Yeh, like Diana Ross, The Supremes, Gladys Knight, Marvin, Stevie and Smokey Robinson. I’m a sixty-nine baby. I also love Aretha Franklin. They’re all fantastic soul singers, and because I came from a gospel background, like most of those singers, I can relate to them. They all started in church – and gospel is soul. But I listen to all sorts of music because you can’t afford to close yourself down.”

However, when we deliberated over our favourite artists, we came terribly unstuck. I kept interrupting which, of course, didn’t help! Anyway, we both agreed on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, before she went on to list off most of his fellow arists!. “Two years ago I was trying to write lots of different songs” she said “so I bought Motown Gold – sixty songs or so – Four Tops, Martha, Diana Ross, the Isley Brothers. I wouldn’t even know where to begin in choosing a favourite. I love The Contours’ Do You Love Me, the Jackson 5, Jimmy Ruffin. Where do you start? I Heard It Through The Grapevine I did when I was on The Motown Show.” I interjected – you’re a very brave woman taking that on! “That’s the thing. If it’s the soul that moves you, you can do it. If you’re going to do somebody else’s song, you need to do it justice. Don’t muck about with it. I also did a version of ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’. It’s a simple version, not affected in any way. No vocal gymnastics, and it worked.”

In 2008 she supported Smokey Robinson at a gala concert in Rochester Castle – something she’ll never forget. “Just watching him on stage was just like, I can’t believe that it’s actually me being there. Smokey is just an effortless performer. So natural. I was watching him – soaking it all up – to see how you’re supposed to do it. He’s a veteran, and hearing some of those songs he was doing like The Tracks Of My Tears, and to get the opportunity to share the stage with him, was just awesome. He came to speak to me after my show and said ‘your voice is so powerful, you’re so amazing’. All I could think was ‘are you having me on because I’m not worthy’”.

Brenda explained she’d performed at Rochester Castle before. A concert is held there annually, and her manager put her name forward because the organisers were staging a soul weekender. “I’m a soul singer, and plus they had seen me on X Factor. The first time there I did some songs that I’d sung on the show like Rescue Me and Respect . It went down so well, that they asked me to come back again the following year. This time I managed to bring my whole band with me, and the following year I was asked back to support Smokey. I jumped at it – who’s gonna say ‘no’? They’d be crazy!” Apart from Smokey, Brenda’s other Motown connection was with the stage show – The Motown Show – where she spent two and one half years. “We took it around the UK. It was nice to have my own little slot there and do a few numbers. The audiences really enjoyed it, they took part and sang along. Y’know, you can’t put a price on that sort of thing. Everybody loves a Motown song, everybody knows Motown – young old, whoever you are, because it breaks down barriers.”

The singer then told me about the time she linked up with Ashford & Simpson in their New York bar/restaurant. Brenda and her manager had flown to America for some promotional stuff, and chanced to pop by the duo’s venue where, once a week, artists performed on stage, but Brenda had missed that week’s night. “So, Ashford & Simpson said come back the following week, so I did, and I got up there and sang. Freddie Jackson was there. It was an amazing experience. I love them, they’re idols of mine. We had a talk afterwards and they said they liked my voice. For me to hear things like that from these guys – well, it just doesn’t happen.” But it does love, and as I said to you before - you’re just warming up!

TAMMI TERRELL

Next up – Tammi Terrell’s Come On And See Me – The Complete Solo Collection. Have been playing this non-stop - as I guess most of you have. Let me say, first and foremost, it’s such a joy hearing her only official solo album Irresistible again without the scratches that have become embedded in my original vinyl. How well I remember Tammi’s orange tights on the album cover. (I don’t see colour very well, so assume they’re orange) From the album’s opening track I Can’t Believe You Love Me, through to Come On And See Me, Tears At The End Of A Love Affair and the others, I was lost in her music; her vital, soulful voice with its distinctive edge, as she bemoaned lost love affairs or showed her young delight at being in love. Tammi’s most earliest tracks open this very special 2-disc package – If You See Bill, It’s Mine, Voice Of Experience and so on. And it’s clear from her vocal interpretations to these songs that a successful career was to come. What I found particularly interesting though was the second disc – a pot pourie of tracks that prove beyond doubt what a talented vocal stylist this lady was – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, All I Do Is Think About You, Give In, You Just Can’t Win among others. Then there’s precious memories of her as the opening act for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, recorded at the Roostertail, Detroit, rounding off this very exceptional release. Can’t recommend this enough. A wonderful companion to Tammi’s sister Ludie’s book My Sister Tommie: The Real Tammi Terrell available via amazon.co.uk

MOTOWN FIFTIES COLLECTABLES

And to Felix Mensa with this month’s list - the Top 50 US albums. He says this reearch is a 'mix & match'; the first four positions are from the RIAA but the remainder has been pooled via a combination of chart peaks/weeks at number one/points system/weeks listed on the US Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, so this research may not be totally accurate but it is accurate as can be.
  

1. II-BOYZ II MEN (1994)

2. CAN'T SLOW DOWN-LIONEL RICHIE (1983)

3. SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE-STEVIE WONDER (1976)

4. COOLEY HIGH HARMONY-BOYZ II MEN (1991)

5. THE SUPREMES GREATEST HITS (1967)

6. CHRISTMAS ALBUM-THE JACKSON FIVE (1970)*   

7. EVOLUTION-BOYZ II MEN (1997)

8. FULFILLIGNESS FIRST FINALE-STEVIE WONDER (1974)

9. THE LADY SINGS THE BLUES(SOUNDTRACK)-DIANA ROSS (1972)

10. LITTLE STEVIE WONDER/12 YEAR OLD GENIUS (1963)

11. TESTIMONY:VOL 1 LIFE & RELATIONSHIPS-INDIA ARIE (2006)

12. SUPREMES A GO-GO (1966)

13. TCB-SUPREMES/TEMPTATIONS (1969)

14. DIANA-DIANA ROSS (1980)

15. DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES JOIN THE TEMPTATIONS (1969)

16. LET'S GET IT ON-MARVIN GAYE (1973)

17. NEW AMERYKAH:PART ONE (4TH WORLD WAR)-ERYKAH BADU (2008)

18. ALL DIRECTIONS-TEMPTATIONS (1972)

19. WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO-SUPREMES (1965)

20. TALKING BOOK-STEVIE WONDER (1972)

21. WORLDWIDE UNDERGROUND-ERYKAH BADU (2003)

22. MARVIN GAYE LIVE AT THE PALLADIUM (1977)

23. COMMODORES LIVE (1977)

24. LIONEL RICHIE (1982)

25. INNERVISIONS-STEVIE WONDER (1973)

26. STREET SONGS-RICK JAMES (1982)

27. COMMODORES (1977)

28. I WANT YOU-MARVIN GAYE (1976)

29. NATURAL HIGH- COMMODORES (1978)

30. ABC-JACKSON 5 (1970)

31. MIDNIGHT MAGIC-COMMODORES (1979)

32. CLOUD NINE-TEMPTATIONS (1969)

33. STEVIE WONDER'S ORIGINAL MUSIQUARIUM (1982)

34. FOUR TOPS GREATEST HITS (1967)

35. THIRD ALBUM-JACKSON 5 (1970)

36. JOURNEY THROUGH THE SECRET LIF OF PLANTS -STEVIE WONDER (1979)

37. BEN-MICHAEL JACKSON (1972)

38. DIANA ROSS PRESENTS THE JACKSON 5-JACKSON 5 (1970)

39. WHAT'S GOING ON-MARVIN GAYE (1971)

40. TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING-DIANA ROSS (1973)

41. GEMINI-BRIAN MCKNIGHT (2005)

42. PUZZLE PEOPLE-TEMPTATIONS (1969)

43. IN SQUARE CIRCLE-STEVIE WONDER (1985)

44. DIANA ROSS (1976)

45. A TIME TO LOVE-STEVIE WONDER (2005)

46. VOYAGER TO INDIA-INDIA ARIE (2006)

47. DANCING ON THE CEILLING-LIONEL RICHIE (1986)

48.S UPREMES SING HOLLAND- DOZIER-HOLLAND (1967)

49. TEMPATATIONS CHRISTMAS CARD (1970)

50. MERRY CHRISTMAS-SUPREMES (1965)
 
*Jackson 5's “Christmas Album” was a perennial Christmas seller for five solid years

And finally - 
LITTLE TRACKINGS…

Michael Jackson’s deluxe box set Vision is released this month. It includes forty short films, ten of which have never before been available on dvd, and covers songs like Rock With You, Billie Jean, Thriller, Black Or White and Jam. ….. San Francisco police arrested Alan Jones for crimes committed while impersonating Motown personalities – I kid you not. It seems this Alan chappie was wined and dined by business owners and the like, but was eventually caught when he impersonated Lamont Dozier to buy a painting at an art gallery……..Big hugs to Peter Sherlock who was recently involved in a nasty car crash. …… On Absolute Essential – The Very Best Of Jaki Graham, check out my pal’s version of Brenda Holloway’s Every Little Bit Hurts. …. The late Obie Benson’s daughters are reputedly suing Duke Fakir because he has failed to collect and later account for money owed to the group’s company Four Tops LLC, relating to their father’s contribution to Marvin’s What’s Going On ……One release that I’ve overlooked is Smokey’s current The Solo Albums: Volume 1 (Smokey and Pure Smokey) so will catch up with that next time….. Thelma Houston emailed to say she’s fine and currently working in Seattle, Washington – “which I always enjoy, rain and all!”…and my email is motowntracking@sky.com

And that really is it! Til next time – keep the faith.

SHARON DAVIS

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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