Sunday, August 24, 2008
Legendary Soul two-sider from Lynchburg, VA. This record is pure class. The elegant vocals of Robert Tanner show the confidence of someone who doesn't need to resort to histrionics to express deep emotion or get someone's attention. His voice is a unique blend of strength and vulnerability that conveys an honesty, a truth that is at the core of the best Soul Music. The tasteful backing of his band, The Jivers, (in particular the guitarist) makes this subtly powerful 45 irresistible. This is one of those records that just works its magic the more you listen to it.
Robert Tanner's follow up release on Megatone, "Sweet Memories", is arguably even better and equally as rare. Both 45's have achieved true grail status amongst discerning soul collectors and have gotten spins for decades to appreciative dance floors at Northern Soul nights in the UK and beyond. Later in the 70's, Tanner went on to form The New Sounds, releasing a superb album for Sylvia Robinson's Turbo label out of New Jersey. One of the label's rarest and most sought after releases, the self-titled New Sounds album contains stellar updated versions of "Tell Me Your Name", "How I Feel" and "Sweet Memories".
Mr. Tanner still resides in Lynchburg as does fellow New Sounds member and writer and producer of the Megatone sides, Dawson Smith. Smith had a great release of his own on the nationally distributed Scepter label, the funky "I Don't Know If I Can Make It", that even managed to scratch it's way onto the Billboard charts in 1975.
Special thanks to our good friend Jason Hamlin for loaning us this elusive masterpiece. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Robert Tanner "Tell Me Your Name"
Robert Tanner "How I Feel"
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Richmonder Nick Colleran founded the seminal frat rock band The Escorts in 1961, while attending Douglas Freeman High School. Through the balance of the 60's The Escorts became one of the the most popular bands in town, releasing five singles and even a full length album, "Bring Down The House", which was recorded live at the Richmond Mosque in 1966. In addition to handling guitar and vocal duties, Nick also produced the band's records and started the T.E.O. (The Escort Organization) label.
After the break up of The Escorts in 1969, Nick continued to engineer, produce and release records. "I Know You" by Wild Sound Unlimited is an interesting example from this period. This infectious blue eyed soul tune fits comfortably enough into the Beach Music category, but to our ears it has a little extra "oomph" that sets it apart from what you would normally associate with the genre. Sure, it has the prerequisite tight horns, the warm vocal harmonies, the bright, catchy melodies (even though the actual lyrics are about a really ugly break up), but the punchy production on this record really brings out the break-neck drumming. The drummer on this track is bonkers!
Mr. Colleran definitely knew his way around a recording studio, but he also had a strong entrepreneurial streak. By 1972 he co-founded Alpha Audio in Richmond, which soon became Virginia's first major state of the art studio, recording everything from commercial jingles (national and regional), to t.v. and movie voice overs, to up and coming local bands, to platinum selling major label acts. But we'll save that story for another day...
Wild Sound Unlimited "I Know You"
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Beach music in the south side of Virginia has been a huge musical force since the mid sixties when clubs along the VA/NC coasts thrived with R&B loving teens flocking to the beach wanting to dance to the sounds of a full live band. Truth were a late entry in the beach music scene, they were more of a show band but still kept the feel of a classic beach band (well before the late 70's, early 80's revival of the "shag scene"). The lone single from Truth come out on the Thoth label in 1972. These guys played all over the east coast, opening for everyone from James Brown to Blood Sweat & Tears. "Maybe Soon" is classic mid tempo beach all the way around, overly optimistic and as breezy as the Carolina beaches.
Truth "Maybe Soon"
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Hailing from the Hampton area, The Royale VII released two 45's in the early 70's, both on the Windmill Label. "It's An Explosion" is now a high dollar record on the Northern Soul scene, and rightfully so. But here we turn our attention to the uptempo stormer "Hand Out Love". Call it what you want: White Boy Soul, Horn Rock, it doesn't matter. This track kills.
No surprise, the Royale VII had years of experience under their belts. These guys cut their teeth as the Sheepherders, playing tons of frat parties and club dates across the region. The band also released a great single, "If Ever You Need Me", on the Sounds International label out of Norfolk. Featuring vocalist Bubba Bailey, the Sheepherders were yet another interesting example of a white band fronted by a black singer touring and recording in the Commonwealth during the turbulent 60's.
As they entered the 70's, the band changed singers and became the Royale VII. The horn section was the focal point, as evidenced on both their singles. The horns are absolutely huge on "Hand Out Love", but the rest of the band is just as tight. The rhythm section sets a torrid pace, with the bass in particular pushing things along. Add some fuzz guitar to the mix along with some urgent vocals, and you've got a power packed two and a half minutes!
Royale VII "Hand Out Love"
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The aptly named Stars Of Virginia were among the elite groups from the gospel hotbed of Richmond, VA. In a career spanning decades, this highly regarded outfit recorded for several labels, local and national, including Atlantic and King Records.
The quintet cut at least four LP's and a handful of singles for John Major's Major Recording Company (MRC). Located in Waynesboro, the prolific MRC was responsible for a wide variety of recordings from Virginia artists. The bulk of these releases seemed to be Country or Bluegrass, but there were also quite a few interesting exceptions, including some pop, garage, light psych and black gospel records.
Led by Mr. Clyde Wilson, The Stars of Virginia were responsible for countless hard hitting gospel tracks, but this is the only one we know of that could be classified as a true "funk" record. Recorded in the early 70's, "Soul Religion" stands as a great example of a record that not only delivers but actually exceeds everything its title might promise. From the opening chords of wah wah guitar to the booming bass to the tight echoing horns to the rock solid back beat and tambourine, this song has all the right elements. Top it all off with the awe inspiring vocals of a world class gospel group and this one sails into the stratosphere.
Stars Of Virginia "Soul Religion"
Monday, August 4, 2008
The enigmatic Roc-Kays Band released their only 45, a raging 3:00 afrofunk workout backed with a deep soul ballad, some time in the early 70's. Recorded at D'arcy Studio Center in Norfolk, the A side "Roc-Kays Afro" is available on the Ol' Virginia Soul: Encore! CD. While here we present the B side cut "A Love As True As Mine" for the first time anywhere, unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have your own copy.
Roc-Kays Band "A Love As True As Mine"
Friday, August 1, 2008
Danville's own Jerry Wilson got his start as a vocalist for the integrated Soulmasters band in the mid 60's. The Soulmasters played the beaches of Virgina and the Carolinas, local Coke bottling plants, drive-ins, just about anywhere they could get a gig, and in 1967 released what is now a highly sought after 45. At some point in the 70's Jerry took off from southside Virginia and ended up in the DC metro area where he met up with the great Al Johnson (of "Peaceful" fame) and recorded this nice piece of disco soul.
For more info on the southside scene go here
"I Like The Music"
"Everybody Spread A Little Love"