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Dave Godin's column for Soulful Kinda Music. Issue 27

Sadly I have to record another bereavement, this time a staunch fighter in the cause of Blackamerican music, James Hamilton. He was an early and ardent supporter of James Brown, years before most people had really heard of him over here, and I first came to know him as a regular visitor to "Soul
City" record store. During his final illness I managed to visit him in hospital along with my old friend Chris Hill, and ever thoughtful to the end, he shared with me a snippet of information he had about one of my all-time favourite records. (Lisa Richards' "Take A Chance"). There is no doubt in my mind that James made a most valuable contribution in helping make the music of Blackamerica more widely known in this country, and the cause has lost a valuable ally with his death. 

The 1956 movie DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK was recently screened on Channel 4, and 40 years on it proved to be jaw-droppingly awful, but was, nevertheless, a valuable social document to show the mind-set of America's dominant ideology in those times, and its attitude towards Blackamericans. Only when all element of threat (i.e. sexuality) had been removed, were Blackamericans given the spotlight. and even then, they were constantly reduced to the level of clowns, or harmless figures of mild amusement. The subtext too seemed to imply that this crude, wild and untamed music had to be brought under control in order to become acceptable; polished and refined; and all "nastiness" or "going too far" eliminated; and for that, of course, we needed white exponents! We were treated to lengthy sequences of "rock & roll" dancing (so "daring", since even some of the guys wore beachwear whilst performing it, but they showed nothing), and yet such dancing, (performed with breath-taking brilliance and skill) could have been seen 13 years earlier (in 1941!) in the movie HELLZAPOPPIN'. I have, in the past, been criticised for bringing "politics" into my writing on Soul, (often by people whose own political persuation adheres to the radical "Me First" school of political consciousness), but the music we love is the result of politics, and injustice, struggle and aspiration. To take the one and ignore the other is, in my view, not only morally wrong, but stupid and cruel. And, as everyone knows, (I hope) there's nowt I deplore more in this old world than cruelty! Even though it incidentally helped create the greatest musical culture of the 20th century! Study Blackamerican history, and, believe me, it WILL enrich your understanding of, and enjoyment of Blackamerica's music. That's not "politics", that's humanism and common sense. 

It is a somewhat ironic fact that probably at this moment in time there are more soulful Soul sides available for purchase via CDs than there ever were in the days of "Soul City", and it presents a great opportunity to fill gaps, get elusive hard-to-finds, and finally hear sides which are seeing the light of day for the first time ever. I said on the esteemed Richard Searling's Soul Show that there were often good, sound reasons why some sides never were issued, but, conversely, what in tarnation was going on in people's heads when they held back sides like Marva Whitney's Here I Am, which now is waiting to stun you on Ace's superlative new CD "The Heart of Southern Soul Volume 2" (CDCHD 601)? It's a good starter in a collection that contains some utter gems gleaned from the EXCELLO, A-BET and RENEGADE labels, and certainly, if you are in any way committed to Deep Soul, this is a set you simply cannot afford to miss. There are so many sterling items here that it's hard to select the standouts, but certainly Lattimore Brown's I Will has got to be highlighted. Impassioned and beautifully paced, like all great Deep Soul sides, it starts strong and ends up wicked. Kip Anderson's Letter From My Darling (here in a previously unissued take) is classic format Deep Soul narrative of separation and longing, full of basic heart truths and that inexorable pace that hooks you in and grabs your attention as well as your own personal deep subconscious longings, and one of those unresolved endings that makes you wish the Sixties (and all it's mind-set values) could have lasted forever! Although in no way intended to diminish the quality of sides like this, they additionally bear a bitter-sweet quality of nostalgia with them... were those times really that glorious and perceptive? Yes. They were. And sides like this are the glorious relic evidence.  

Other outstanding items are the seriously funky No Pity In The City by Eugene Kemp; the atmospheric Forbidden Fruit by Tiny Watkins; the excellent and deep Right Here Is Where You Belong by Jerry Washington which really brings it all on home; the Otis Redding soundalike Let's Try To Build A Love Affair by The Exotics, (who even the knowledgeable sleeve notes have to admit are a mystery group), is excellent; and as moody and introspective as they come, Let's Walk Down The Street Together by Chuck & Mariann is troubled and worrisome deep despite the innocent surface of the lyrics; the catchy and winning Don't Let Me Be A Cryin' Man from Johnny Truitt; and a maverick inclusion of Seventh Son by Lee Webber, which shows so well that funky records CAN still be soulful in the right hands; and the classic (Those) Precious Words by The Wallace Brothers is included for good measure... As you will see, it is a CD that I cannot recommend too highly. It even surpasses the quality of Volume 1, and compilers John Broven and John Ridley are to be congratulated on assembling such a deep and indispensable package! 

Another winner from Ace is "Chicago Radio Soul", compiled by Robert Pruter who wrote the indispensible and excellent book "Chicago Soul". This set comprises sides from Chess-Checker which were big hits on Chicago radio stations at the time, even if not all of them went on to national chart success and glory. As always with Ace Records, they are superbly remastered for CD, and the sleeve notes by Robert Pruter are as excellent as his book. One final point that seldom gets mentioned these days is the art-work which entirely captures the spirit and the mood of the period in which these records were made... were those times really that glorious and perceptive? Yes. They were! 

Still sticking with Chess-Checker, "Club Rhythm & Soul" sticks to more familiar territory, but contains some sides which were less popular than they deserved to be, and are welcome additions to the CD format. The Kolettes' "Who's That Guy" (briefly issued here on red and yellow Pye-Internatinal), Maurice & Mac's excellent "You Left The Water Running" (also finely recorded by Barbara Lynn in its day), and anything by Fred Hughes is always welcome; on this set its his 1967 outing "Can't Make It Without You". I have often said that Chess-Checker have never had their rightful due of respect and praise, (maybe because they were such an unpredictable label which always defied being neatly pigeon-holed), but now that their catalogue is free of legal entanglements, hopefully we shall get more of their excellent stuff. Certainly I've tried to include some of their more esoteric material on projects I am currently working on for Ace. 

Over in Los Angeles, David Nathan is still working on superb compilations, his latest being on Ichiban's Soul Classics with a CD of 20 sides of Chuck Jackson & Maxine Brown duets from the Scepter-Wand vaults, and a fine collection of the late Z. Z. Hill's work for Columbia. The latter is of particular interest since whenever artists got signed to major labels, if they didn't produce hits their issued singles rapidly fell into obscurity, and, as is so often the case, many of them are far too good to warrant such a miserable fate. 

Over at Sequel, they have just announced an ultra-ambitious project which is a 7-CD of everything recorded by The Drifters, and a similar 7-CD set from Ben E. King! No doubt for fans of these outstanding and enduring artists, these sets will be high on their Christmas present wants-list! Just as video has saved films from extinction and becoming lost, so the CD revolution has ensured that tapes are never again going to get misplaced, wiped or neglected, and this sort of thorough-going compilation is not only a service to fans, but to culutral historians as well. Also in their pipeline is a CD of material from the wonderful Roy C, and although never an ardent fan of his "Shotgun Wedding", his subsequent material is as soulful and anyone's. I look forward very much to writing about it in more detail when it is finally released. 

Many readers have heard that I am working on a Deep Soul compilation for Ace and are desperate to know (a) what's on it, and (b) when will it be released. Well, at present I can't answer (a) because tracks are awaiting clearances and permissions, but (b) has been decided as February 1997. As I told Ady, if I don't personally make it until then they must still go ahead and re-title it "The Dave Godin Memorial CD"!! If we can get all the tracks I most want, then I'd be proud to be remembered by and through such outstanding sides! 

Keep the Faith. Right On Now !