musicology #378

Modernist #6

(The Impressions – Say It’s Alright)

I was going to end this theme tomorrow but on reflection there’s too much music yet to be featured and such is the quality of the dialogue from the commentators I’m letting it run for another week.

A large part of the debate has been the use of the word ‘Modernist’ and whether it was in fact used by anyone at the time? with that in mind hold this quote from the book ‘Soul Stylists’ compiled by Paolo Hewitt which is full of anectodes from Cats who claim, (and I see no reason to believe they are lying), to have participated in the ‘nameless thing’ of the early 1960’s.

“The bands from our youth club in Hastings were dressed like The Shadows on the cover of their first album; very neat red jackets, dark ties and white shirts. Then I spotted these strangely dressed guys from another school. They had short Italian haircuts and they wore bum freezer jackets with cut away collars and half belts on the back, narrow ties, tapered trousers with slits up the sides and side laced winklepickers. I went up to one of them and asked;
“Why are you dressed like that?” and he spoke the immortal words;
“Because I’m a Modernist”

The cat’s name is Lloyd Johnson and no date is mentioned but from the sounds of the ‘clobber’ it’s likely to have been before 1964

From themusicologist’s perspective what is beyond doubt are the release dates of the music contained on the theme which is obviously, (in almost all cases), not subjective and delivers insight into the most important aspect of any ‘scene’..the music and today’s cut is, in my mind, one of the greatest pieces of mod/ernist musicology of the period from quite possibly the driving force behind the winds of change none other than Curtis Mayfield who has featured heavily on themusiciologist over the last few years but also in my life since babe in arms.

hold this next quote on today’s cut from a book on the legend by author Peter Burns.

“Recorded in August 1963 the horn arrangement, a suggestion of Mayfield’s, took it’s inspiration from a Bobby Bland single but the idea for the song itself had come from a conversation between Curtis and Fred, (Cash, member of ‘the holy trinity’), one night when the Impressions were on tour in Nashville. Mayfield was effusively expounding some ideas and future plans and Cash was interjecting from time to time and concurred with “Right” and “Well that’s allright”, suddenly Curtis had a hook line ‘Say It’s Alright’. They cut this historic track at Universal studios in Chicago just two months after Curtis’s hit production of Major Lance’s ‘The Monkey Time’ which was still riding high on the charts. All the vital elements came together and this modern classic brought The Impressions back even stronger than before”.

Released on ABC-Paramount and arranged by Johnny Pate

“Say It’s alright, (it’s alright), say it’s alright, (it’s alright),
It’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright wooohh it’s alright,
We’re gonna move it slow, when lights are low,
When you move it slow it sounds like a moan and it’s alright wooohh it’s alright
Now listen to the beat, trying to catch your feet,
You got Soul and everybody know that it’s alright wooohhh it’s alright,

When you wake up early in the morning feeling sad like so many of us do,
Hum a little Soul make life your goal and surely something’s gotta come to you,
And say it’s alright, say it’s alright…it’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright woohhh it’s alright,
Now everybody clap your hands give yourself a chance,
You got Soul and everybody know that it’s alright wooohh it’s alright,

Some day I’ll find me a woman who will love and treat me real nice,
Then my roams? gotta go and my love she will know from morning noon and night,
And she’s gotta say it’s alright..say it’s alright,
It’s alright have a good time cause it’s alright woohhh it’s alright,
Now everybody clap your hands, now give yourself a chance…you got Soul now baby..”

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musicology #375

Modernist #3

(Major Lance – The Monkey Time)

Following yesterday’s dynamic duo of, (an extract from), Johnny Spencer’s excellent ‘Mod/ernist’ critique combined with the equally inspirational Miracles cut I would like to continue by quoting from a piece by Dick Hebdige who wrote a paper, (presumably for a thesis), in 1974 called ‘Style Of The Mods’. The majority of it, (as the title suggests), involves ‘Mods’ which is a different subject but obviously connected.

“All youth styles are threatened with the eventual neutralisation of any oppositional meaning. Mods were particularly susceptible to this combination of limited acceptance and full blooded commercial exploitation. According to George Melly the progenitors of this style appear to have been a group of working class dandies, possibly descended from the devotees of the Italianate style known through the rag trade world as ‘modern’ who were dedicated to clothes and lived in London. Only gradually and with popularisation did this group accumulate other distinctive identity symbols, (The Scooter, Pills and music). By 1963, the all night R&B clubs held this group firmly to Soho and Central London”.

In my personal experience the ‘Modernist’ of the early 1960’s steadfastedly refuses to align themselves with the ‘Mod’ movement that followed even though between 1962-1965, they shared many of the same clubs, dancehalls, venues and of course music. The ‘Modernist’ was not all all interested in imitation and therefore the music had to be Authentic. Be it Modern Jazz, Early Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Blues or the sounds of Jamaica that were beginning to be heard in and around London’s clubs at the time so NO English band imitating R&B would ever have been taken seriously. An exception may have been Georgie Fame’s Blue Fames who were BIG downstairs at the Flamingo but NEVER groups like The Animals, The Who, The Stones, Small Faces etc..they would be considered MOD bands.

Today’s slice of modernist musicology is courtesy of Major Lance whose vocal sound helped revitalise the sound of Black America. Mainly it must be said down to one man…Curtis Mayfield who in 1963 was at the forefront of the OKeh label’s re-emergance as a serious force to be reckoned with. This cut I know for a fact was a firm favourite downstairs at THE club for hip cats of the time ‘The Scene’ , (located in Ham Yard Soho). Arranged by Johnny Pate and produced by Carl Davis

Hold this quote on the cut from Robert Pruter’s definitive book on the subject ‘Chicago Soul’.

“On May 8th 1963, Lance went into the studio again and made what has to be considered recording history. He did three songs; ‘Monkey Time’, ‘Please Don’t Say No More’ and ‘Mama Didn’t Know’, the latter an answer to Curtis Mayfield’s Jan Bradley hit, (or the much more obscure Fascinations cut), from earlier in the year ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’. Monkey time was paired with ‘Mama Didn’t Know’ for Lance’s second release on OKeh, and the record became a monster hit during the summer and early fall, eventually selling more than a million copies. ‘Monkey Time’, featuring the classic brassy sound that distinguished later OKeh hits, launched the OKeh label and popularized a dance of the same name.”

musicology #234

inmodwetrust #1

(Walter Jackson – That’s What Mama Say)

new theme on themusicologist and one that is very much a part of my musical education due to the fact that both my mum and dad were first generation mod/ernists, (1962-1966). the cuts laid down this week were all played in and around London during the above period.

first up is a piece from one of the premier ‘mod’ labels, operating out of ‘Chi’, OKeh. A label that was one of the first to focus on ‘immigrant’ music in the 1920’s recording many of the early Jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Mamie Smith. After some time spent lost in the musical wilderness the company’s fortunes were reignited by employing Carl Davis in 1962 as head of A&R who had the vision to employ Curtis Mayfield as associate producer in 1963 as well as three of the best arrangers Johnny Pate, Riley Hampton and Gerald Sims who is quoted to have said

“the Chicago sound came from basically one source…Curtis Mayfield”

This one from 1963 is sung by one of themusicologist’s favourite singers, Walter Jackson. Produced by the aforementioned Carl Davis, arranged by Riley Hampton and songwriten by none other than Curtis Mayfield with, (possibly), the Impressions harmonising.

musicology #189

nowordsjustmusic #5

(Walter Jackson – What Would You Do)

musicology #180

soulsearching #2

(Major Lance – Sweet Music)

day two finds us sliding out of the downbeat, (Yin), and countering with one from the upbeat, (Yang), selection. a fine piece of 1964 Soul from, as far as I’m concerned, the premier record label of the period, OKeh. big shout I know but one I’m sticking with.

part of my reasoning behind that shout is that OKeh was the label where the combined talents of Curtis Mayfield, Carl Davis, Johnny Pate and Gerald Sims came together to deliver a musical style that became the benchmark for a lot of the Soul that followed. of course there was Tamla, Chess and Atlantic, (as well as many smaller labels), and there are many fine cuts on these but of them, it can be debated, that only Tamla – Motown exerted as much influence as OKeh on the direction Soul was to take.

listen tune…