Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two more soul men pass on

Two more soul men have passed on in recent days, adding to the long list of those who have died in the last few years.
Chess recording artist Maurice McAlister was the leader singer of the Radiants, who made what in my opinion was one of the best records of 1965 (it made number one in my personal top ten), namely Voice Your Choice. He was also one half of the Chicago soul duo Maurice and Mac, who made a stunning version of You Left The Water Running at Muscle Shoals among other excellent recordings.
Maurice formed the Radiants in 1962 as Chicago's answer to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, having previously sung in a gospel group. Their first record Father Knows Best showed Maurice's voice off to good effect and it was followed by other singles on Chess, including Shy Guy, I Got A
Girl and I Gotta Dance to Keep My Baby which failed to break through. Their first big hit Voice Your Choice reached number 16 in the Billboard chart and the follow up It Ain't No Big Thing did even better, reaching 14. The group's only other UK single release was Hold On in 1968.
Meanwhile Maurice had begun recording with Green 'Mac' McLauren, a former member of the Radiamts who had been drafted into the Army, as Maurice and Mac. The Chess brothers took them to Muscle Shoals where they recorded several tracks with Rick Hall, including You Left the Water Running, a minor hit, You're The One and Why Don't You Try Me. The duo's final record, very much in the Sam and Dave mould, was But You Know I Love You in 1970. It's clear from the Radiants and Maurice and Mac records that Maurice McAlister was a superb talent, but somehow he, and the groups he was in, never quite made it to the top level. RIP Maurice.
Another recent loss to the soul world is Robert Knight. Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, he recorded a version of Free Me in 1961 for Dot, a song better known by Johnny Preston. In 1967 he
recorded Everlasting Love for the Rising Sons label which made the US top 20. It was a huge UK hit
for the Love Affair reaching number one, preventing Robert's original from becoming a hit there. After a couple of relatively unsuccessful pop singles he hit the jackpot again in 1973 with Love On A Mountain Top which made the UK top ten. A reissued single of Everlasting Love also made the UK top 20 soon afterwards.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Woodies magazine reaches its century

The Tales From The Woods online magazine reaches its 100th issue this month, a landmark that few thought it would reach when it was first produced as a brief newsletter umpteen years ago. For those who aren't familiar with it, the mag is an eclectic mix of gig reports, record reviews, music obituaries. personal invective and loads of other stuff, all put together in a way that defies any kind of logic or editorial control. Somehow it works and attracts regular contributors issue after issue. It 'borrows' from The Vinyl Word in each issue and I'm more than happy for it to do so. I doubt if many people read it from cover to cover (impossible now that it's on line of course), but there's something there for everyone, including the regular 'Hold The Third Page' entry from the eponymous Keith Woods, John Howard's often inflammatory Mr Angry column, Dave Carroll's obscure but highly knowledgable insights into jazz in his Jazz Junction reviews and John 'Soulboy' Jolliffe's soul column.
The Woodies themselves all share a love of roots music, although their preferences vary - from rock and roll to blues, soul and jazz - and some of us have a monthly meet up when we have a few beers and a meal in London. Membership is quite wide geographically and the roots music shows put together by Keith a couple of times a year (or more), are attended by far flung Woodies who sometimes never see each other the rest of the year.
Until a couple of years ago many Woodies made an annual pilgrimage to the Rhythm Riot which is taking place at Camber Sands this weekend. Then the organisers decided to stop inviting 'heritage' acts (artists from the original rock and roll generation) to the shows and many of us decided not to go any more. I'm sure those who are there are having a good time, but unlike Keith's shows, or Hemsby, or some US festivals that I regularly go to, such as Viva Las Vegas and the Ponderosa Stomp, all the acts are relatively recent ones. I won't be going again unless they change their booking policy.
On my 2011 visit to the Rhythm Riot, when the stars included the Bobbettes and Jivin' Gene, I took some photos of Woodies regulars and here are a few of them. As you can see, most of us are of a certain age (six years older now of course) but we still love great music and get to as many live shows as we can. The top photo shows Keith Woods (centre) with Bill Haynes, whose main interests are old time music hall and Chelsea FC, and Darren Vidler, who recently revealed a talent for singing at one of Keith's shows. Below is John 'Soulboy' Jolliffe, who's recently moved to Worcester, in typical pose.
Here are John Spencely (centre), lead guitarist of the Tales From The Woods house band, with R and B expert Gordon Fleming and all round musicologist and Juke Blues contributor Dickie Tapp (right).
Two old school rock and rollers, Lee Wilkinson, now living in Burnley, and Tony Papard, who has often contributed memories of his youth, theories about Princess Diana speaking from beyond the grave, and political views somewhat to the left of Jeremy Corbyn, as well as stories about pantomime characters.
Standing outside the record shop in Rye, here are Arsenal fan and jazz expert Dave Carroll, Sutton United supporter Brian Jessup, and me (Nick Cobban).
Here are Hastings resident Martyn Harvey, Gordon Fleming and IT specialist Alan Lloyd, a regular companion on my US trips.
This dodgy looking group are Shrewsbury folk lover Ralph Edwards, record collector Ken Major, accomplished drummer Brian 'Bunter' Clark and John Spencely. Don't know who the lady at the back is.
International Woodies Jay McCaddin from Mobile, Alabama, and Paula, with Ralph looking on..
Finally, here are Ace record man Ian Saddler and his American friend Chris, with music photographer Paul Harris and Dickie Tapp.