Monday, December 14, 2009
Comprised of Little Ida (Ida Sands) and Little Daddy (Joe Webster from The Anglos), The Soul Duo recorded two classic 45's for Noah Biggs' Shiptown label. Their first single, "This Is Your Day" piqued enough interest in 1969 to be picked up for national release on the Jamie label out of Philly, but down in the Old Dominion, The Soul Duo are most fondly remembered for their follow up effort. "Just A Sad Xmas" was a sizable hit in the Tidewater region, and for good reason. Ida and Joe turn in some amazingly deep vocals on this hard hitting ballad with perfectly sympathetic backing from The Sounds Band (love that bluesy organ!). Definitely not your run-of-the-mill seasonal fluff, we think "Sad Xmas" deserves to be included amongst the classic soulful Holiday songs.
Here's hoping the season finds you happy and well. Thanks for your support over the past year. See you in 2010! Happy Holidays from Funky Virginia!
Soul Duo "Just A Sad Xmas"
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Our dear friend Brent Hosier, the guy behind the outstanding "Ol' Viginia Soul" series and head honcho of Plut Records has done it again! Hot off the presses comes a previously unreleased gem from the First Lady of Virginia Soul, Norfolk's own Barbara Stant! More powerful than a locomotive, "Superman" is heroic Sister Funk from 1972 written and produced by Lenis Guess. MS. Stant is at the top of her game on this one, with super-human backing from Raw Soul, who also contribute the aptly titled flip, "Just Walk Funky". How these two tracks remained in the vaults for some 37 years is beyond us, but now's your chance to get them both on one killer 45!
Another high quality release mastered from the original reels, for optimal sonic impact. As always, quantities are limited, so grab 'em while you can, and support a great Virginia label! And remember "It ain't a boot...if it's on Plut!"
$5.00 each (Shipping $3 in the US and $6 for the rest of the world). Listen to the sound samples below!
Raw Soul featuring Barbara Stant "Superman"
Raw Soul "Just Walk Funky"
Sunday, September 27, 2009
As is the case with most of his Southern Soul brethren, the influence of the church is undeniable in the early work of Wilson Williams. The most sought-after of his two releases for Noah Biggs' How Big label, "I Got A Whole Lot To Be Thankful For" is a devastating Deep Soul ballad so true to these gospel roots it sounds as though he just got off the pulpit and walked straight into the recording studio.
Continuing in this distinctly Southern vein, the Lenis Guess produced "Losing You" was released on the Tri-Us label. Best known for successful outings by Washington D.C. native Little Royal (Torrance) & The Swingmasters, Tri-Us was the flagship of Leroy Little's family of labels which included Tri-It and Tri-Som. In addition to owning the Waxy Maxy record shop on 35th Street in Norfolk, Little was well established in the music business, having done extensive promotions work for larger labels like Atlantic. He utilized his many connections within the industry to secure wide distribution deals, explaining why Nashville and Houston addresses can be found on many of his labels. In fact, most of the Little Royal releases, including his lone album "Jealous", were distributed through the King/Starday empire.
On this, one of the harder to find singles on Tri-Us, Wilson Williams turns in a powerful performance, beautifully complimented by a small chorus of ascending female vocals, mournful piano and soaring organ, all building on a haunting melody. Strongly juxtaposed with this gorgeous ballad is its flip, the provocatively titled "He's A Mother", a wah wah-infused stoner funk track with devilishly breathy vocals drifting in and out. The best of both worlds on one 45!
Besides writing most of his own material (in many cases along with his brother Garfield), Wilson Williams also penned some notable sides for Shiptown artists including Barbara Stant, as well as contributing vocals to The Positive Sounds. By 1978 he signed with ABC Records and had a string of quality singles with an updated Modern sound, including "Faith Will Bring It Home", and even a full album "Up The Downstairs". More recently he has worked on projects with his other brother Jerry Williams Jr., who of course is the legendary Swamp Dogg. To this day Wilson is still performing, most recently touring with a new line up of the Platters.
Wilson Williams "(I Can't Get Over) Losing You"
Wilson Williams "He's A Mother""
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Since Funk's inception, the influence of James Brown has been inescapable. In fact, J.B. is widely acknowledged as the genre's originator. With millions of records sold, legendarily mind-blowing live shows and a relentless touring schedule, it's indisputable that Mr. Brown was indeed the king, and pretty much the personification of the style. It only makes sense that the countless acts that sprang up during Funk's golden era bore quite a striking resemblance to Soul Brother #1.
Virginia definitely had more than it's share of hopefuls doing their best James Brown. A prime example of this phenomenon is a 45 on the Gent's YGB label out of Norfolk by WDJ- The Prince of Soul. "Funky Loving" is so dead on it you'd swear you just stumbled upon some great lost track by The Godfather himself. The only major difference is the sexy female backing vocals utilized on the Prince of Soul's take.
On the flip, we find WDJ (W.D. Jordan) showing some range with a achingly heartfelt ballad "Invitation To Love". We highly recommended Sir Shambling's fantastic site for a listen to this and many more lost deep soul gems.
Special thanks to our friend Kevin Coombe of D.C. Soul Recordings for the WDJ photo!
WDJ-The Prince Of Soul "Funky Loving"
Friday, July 17, 2009
Frank Guida sure had a knack for making music that sounded like nothing else anybody had ever heard before. Drawing heavily from seemingly disparate influences including Afro-Caribean rhythms, classical, gritty R'n'B, and the melodies of his Italian-American upbringing, Guida's compositions had an exotic quality that was alien to top 40 airwaves of the time.
His production style was dense, compressed and very loud, recorded with meters planted firmly in the red, and mastered super "hot", resulting in a delightful distortion that gave everything an electrifying live edge. Get a small but enthusiastic audience to come into the studio to clap their hands and raise a ruckus while the tape is rolling, and you've got a party... and a hit record. It was a sound that leapt from the speakers, and stood out ingeniously on AM radio. The drive to be different served Guida well, as his trademark "Norfolk Sound" routinely held lofty positions on the national charts (including two #1's) throughout the first part of the 60's.
But for every hit Frank Guida had over the years, there were a host of obscure recordings equally as captivating, and in many instances even more unusual. Case in point: the work of a singer known as Hot Lungs. We're not positive if Guida came up with this attention grabbing stage name a la Gary U.S. Bonds or Jimmy Soul, but one thing's for sure, it's definitely fitting.
Our pal Don Harrison, who interviewed Frank Guida in depth and wrote a fantastic article for 64 Magazine in 2001, shed much light on Hot Lungs since this entry was first published. According to Don: "Hot Lungs was none other than Jimmy Moore, who had been singing on Guida recordings since the early '60's, when he was the lead singer for the Sheiks. He also cut two great 45s for Guida on SPQR and Legrand under his own name. 'Church Street Sally' on SPQR is a particular favorite". It's also speculated that Moore was the uncredited lead vocalist on the novelty record "Spanish Cooking" by Chaos Incorporated (S.P.Q.R. 1005). Jimmy's alter ego Hot Lungs had two more singles, "Take Me Back To Virginia Beach" for the Got It label (named for Frank's record store, Frankie's Got It), and "I Cried One Million Tears" the only record we're aware of on Pe Pe. Jimmy Moore did, however, return to cut two singles for Joe Riley the first on the obscure Seagull imprint, the latter on the more familiar Pesante label.
"I Cried One Million Tears" is not so much a reworking, but a total deconstruction of the early Gary U.S. Bonds B-Side "One Million Tears". Whereas Bonds's 1961 reading is a plaintive ballad, Hot Lungs unleashes a throat-shredding howl worthy of his moniker. The whole thing is a weird amalgam of hard driving acid rock and funk. Besides the "double tracked" vocals and overall raucous "live" quality, this one bears little resemblance to the sound that made Guida famous. Nonetheless, the song still possesses the genre bending uniqueness that made so many of Guida's recordings interesting if not great, and very difficult to pigeonhole.
This record illustrates how radically things had changed since the dawn of the 60's. The Norfolk Sound hit machine had slowed considerably, at least on a national level, with the onslaught of the British Invasion. Ironically enough, many of these bands were influenced by Frank Guida's classic recordings. Regardless, Frank generally viewed these new acts and their sound with disdain. In fact, legend has it that in the early 60's Guida received a demo by The Beatles (then unknown stateside). Independent labels like VJ and Tollie jumped at the chance, Guida flatly declined. No doubt a huge business blunder, but a decision he steadfastly stood by until the day he died.
But that was Frank Guida, a guy with a strong vision, who wasn't afraid to (colorfully) express his opinions one way or the other. Although a record like "I Cried One Million Tears" seems odd, it makes perfect sense coming from a character like Frank. It's yet another compelling moment hidden away in the prolific, widely varied and wonderfully strange output of a man who was successful at a business in which he broke so many of the rules. A man who no matter how many gold records he had, still seemed to relish throwing the more than occasional curve to keep us all guessing.
Many thanks to Don Harrison for his invaluable information and all the support!
Hot Lungs "I Cried One Million Tears"
Monday, July 6, 2009
Decked out in a sharp white three piece suit with red shirt and white tie, Lenis Guess took the stage at Brooklyn's Five Spot with a nice fresh peach in hand. He slowly savored a few bites of said peach, musing over how hard it is to find a nice fresh one in New York, then placed it in a ziploc bag, slowly removed his wrap around red shades, and confidently launched into "For All You've Been". Lenis told the crowd it was the first time he had ever performed the song on stage. There he was, some forty plus years after the release of that first solo record, just getting around to singing it in front of a live audience. Pretty hard to believe, considering it's one of his greatest songs, but then again it was pretty fitting for such a special night.
It had been a couple decades since Lenis last performed in New York, but you wouldn't have known it from the show he put on at June's Dig Deeper. Some people just seem to be born entertainers, with a charisma, a presence, that never really fades away. This is Mr. Guess to a tee. He's still got it!
Lenis worked the crowd like a pro, his voice still in remarkably fine form, as he moved through a killer selection of his classic 60's tracks. Highlights included "Working For My Baby", "Thank Goodness Gotta Good Woman", and of course, "Just Ask Me", the show closer. The aptly named Solid Set did an amazing job supplying the musical backing. Guitarist and band leader Damon, took some good-natured ribbing between songs from Lenis, who affectionately referred to him as "the greatest guitar player in the world" and the bespectacled bass player, whose name escaped Lenis, as "Buddy Holly".
After a perfect set of about forty five minutes or so, Lenis finished things off with a blazing encore of "Why, Why, Why'd She Leave Me?" (a crowd favorite!) and then left the stage to the cheers of a packed room.
As the place buzzed in the wake of what could only be described as a phenomenal performance, Lenis came back out in a mustard colored button down shirt and gray slacks and unassumingly walked through the club. Drawing no attention to himself, he quietly slipped out onto Myrtle Avenue. It was an almost Clark Kent like transformation, but not too surprising from a class act like Mr. Guess. A true gentleman, who's probably seen it all in his distinguished career, he let his music speak for him.
We're just glad we could have been there to see a legend work his magic. When we first started finding the name Lenis Guess on so many of these great Virginia records we were turning up, we never in our wildest dreams thought we'd see him perform live someday. It was almost surreal to actually be witnessing it, and there were definitely some emotional moments. It was truly something we'll never forget.
Thanks to Nicole Lang Key and Kimberlee Fuller for the photos. And thanks to Lenis Guess for bringing it!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
To get you ready for the Lenis Guess show at Dig Deeper this Saturday, we bring you an overlooked cut from his great S.P.Q.R. run.
In the playfully dramatic intro Lenis strains to hold back the tears, then a slight pause, some hard nasty drums kick in, the band gets down to business, and Mr. Guess tells us what's on his mind, with equal parts sorrow and righteous indignation. A soulful piece of rock solid funk that chugs along with forcefully melodic horns and and a catchy as hell chorus that anybody could chant along to immediately. Too bad this one fades out just as the soul clapping gets going.
So many classics to pull from. We can't wait to see Lenis this weekend. This is going to be an amazing show. Whatever you do, don't miss it!
Special thanks to our friend Kevin Coombe of D.C. Soul Recordings for the great photo of Lenis!
Lenis Guess "Why, Why, Why'd She Leave Me ?"
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Fresh off his triumphant performance at the prestigious Prestatyn Soul Weekender in the UK, Virginia Soul legend Lenis Guess will be doing his first New York show in decades this month at Dig Deeper. This promises to be a very special night, and we are honored and excited to be spinning some funky Virginia 45's during the festivities along with hosts Mr. Robinson and DJ Honky.
Mr. Guess takes the stage around midnight backed by the super tight Solid Set, to perform his classic 60's material including the bona fide killer "Just Ask Me".
Mark your calendars now: Saturday June 27th 10PM at The Five Spot in Brooklyn. For more info and to purchase tickets in advance, please visit our pals over at Dig Deeper. See you there!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Although not a Virginia native, Mr. Fields recorded many of his greatest songs in the Commonwealth. Our friends over at Dig Deeper are having him over to lay down a set of super heavy funk and soul at the Five Spot. If you live in the NYC area, this is a show not to miss. Also just announced will be the one and only Lenis Guess for June!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
In the 70's, the Commonwealth was well represented on the charts and radio dials with such acts as Mass Production, Poison, Trussle, Ujima (Later Anglo Saxon Brown and Silk) and smaller groups like Standing Room Only, Starfire, and Star Material. Star Material was a Richmond group produced by Tyrone Thomas of Virginia powerhouse The Whole Darn Family and Richmond record mogul supreme August Moon. This lone single on the Sprite label is not rare by any means, but is a good representation of the Virginia sound during the late 70's. Members of the band continue to perform, including vocalist Jimmy "Slim" Smith who is part of the Richmond's NYCE
Star Material "I Need You"
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The Star City's own Randolph Bros. return, this time adding a sister to the mix. Belva's unique vocals on the super catchy "Happy Fool" immediately draw you in with a delivery that's somehow innocent yet knowing. Ultimately, it becomes clear that she's not as blissfully ignorant as the title might lead us to believe. The rhythm section falls into lock step behind a crisp guitar line, as the horns deftly augment the tight arrangement with percussive melody. Then out of nowhere comes this blast of fuzz, as if the Deep Purple tour bus made a quick detour through the studio on the way to the Roanoke Civic Center. Truly out of left field, but, hey, it works!
Belva & The Randolph Bros. "Happy Fool"
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Van Jones is best known for his 1981 album "Time Has Made Me New", a highly sought after Modern Soul masterpiece that most point to as the pinnacle of his career. Trying to track down all the records Mr. Jones put out over his varied recording career can prove challenging to say the least, but infinitely rewarding. Spanning a couple decades and ranging from Sweet Soul to Disco, for every new Van Jones record discovered, there usually seems to be a new label or different address to ponder as well. One 45 on Silver Sound, "I Just Want To Love You" (1976), has a San Diego address, while the next on the same label, "I Fooled Myself" (1977), came out of Virginia Beach.
Our quest to piece together the far flung discography of Van Jones ended up taking us to a another galaxy, where we stumbled upon "YTTG To The Freak", by far one of Van's most obscure releases (from an album that as far as we know never saw the light of day). Transmitting live from Planet Grind in 1978, Van Jones and The Jays had to be feeling the influence of P-Funk at the height of it's intergalactic powers. Using the Mothership as a launch pad, Jones and the boys take things to a whole new level...of insanity. The largely indecipherable vocals on "YTTG To The Freak" make Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk sound like
Sir John Gielgud, while underneath it all the band brings some much needed grit to the slickness of late 70's Disco Funk. Who knew outer space could be so grimy?
Van Jones "YTTG To The Freak"
Van Jones "I Do Love You"
Friday, January 9, 2009
The America Poeple "Give It Up, If You Can't Do Nothing With It" / Prince Charles & The Royal Guards "Funky Bootie" (Attack)
Room 206 of the mysterious "American Building" in downtown Richmond, served as the headquarters for Charles E. Scott and his curious venture Attack Records. Boldly touting itself as the "Virginia Sound", Attack went on the offensive issuing a handful of oddly off kilter, if not down right strange recordings ranging from Lance Corporal Charles E. Scott's "From Vietnam With Love" (recorded "Live" on the battlefield) to girl group the Honey Bees, to Reginald "C" and Jimmy Wonderful to the traditional gospel of The Jones Special (released on the subsidiary International Music World, a record for which the term low-fi doesn't even begin to paint the picture).
"Give It Up" by The America Poeple (possibly a pun on one time Richmond resident Edgar Allan Poe, but more likely just a typo) very well could have been the final release on Attack. And although still quite a bit rough around the edges, it is perhaps the most consistently tight and, yes, polished effort Attack had to offer. Although the 45's label alludes to a full length LP, it seems that such an album never materialized. Makes you wonder what was about to come and why Mr. Scott would stop just as he seemed to be figuring things out.
Trying to piece together the Attack Records catalog proves quite challenging. The release numbers jump all over the place, showing no obvious chronological sequence. To make matters even more confusing, one 45 has too many digits listed in the phone number and another has the wrong area code. The only common thread amongst these recordings seems to be the overall crudeness of the production (or lack there of), and the tendency of performers to occasionally fall noticeably out of key.
But what most might dismiss as crassly unprofessional or even inept, to us makes Charles E. Scott's Attack label all the more intriguing and endearing. These records display the do-it-yourself ethic in its most basic form. A spirit that seems to be behind just about every record we spotlight here at Funky Virginia. We can only assume that "Prince" Charles had to be a true character, a man of unflagging ambition with an amazing story to tell. Only in America...
Prince Charles & The Royal Guards "Funky Bootie"