22-year old English actress Jane Birkin wafts in and out of this classic song, like a refrain. She whispers “Melody Nelson” to her lover. Serge Gainsbourg listens. ‘Ballade De Melody Nelson’ features on his 1971 album Histoire De Melody Nelson.
Now for the sound of some old school soul. In 1971, the Coasters had a minor hit with Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Love Potion No. 9’, a song about an aphrodisiac bought from a gypsy with a gold-capped tooth. The cheeky lyrics must have caused a bit of a stir back in 1959 when the song originally penned. Have a great weekend and don’t kiss everything you see.
Better known as Baby Huey, James Ramey was the front man to The Babysitters. He was just 26 years old when he died in 1970. The long player The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend was released posthumously on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in 1971. Produced by Mayfield, the album featured ‘Hard Times’ – a track that’s up there with the Superfly’s best as one of the most influential and sampled slices of deep funk. Have a great weekend.
There’s going to be a certain groove to this week, prior to the festivities of next. When a couple of Miles Davis collaborators, jazz guitarist John McLaughlin and foremost fusion drummer Billy Cobham got together with keyboard pioneer Jan Hammer, they created something quite mind-blowing. ‘You Know, You Know’ features on jazz-rock album The Inner Mounting Flame. The workout was notably sampled by Massive Attack (‘One Love’) and Mos Def (‘Kalifornia’). Billy Cobham was a drumming machine before such things existed.
Featuring on the gloriously plotted album Naturally, J.J. Cale’s ‘Magnolia’ may not be as well known as ‘After Midnight’, but it is as good. Many successive acts have included hymns to Cale is their sets, including a straight cover of this song by Jeff Beck, and much of the more Appalachian output of Lambchop.
1971 was a melting pot. Across the board, there was a fusion of genres. It was also was the year that Booker T. & the M.G.s released their last album on Stax with their classic lineup – bassist Duck Dunn, drummer Al Jackson Jr., guitar hero Steve Cropper and the hammondmeister Booker T. Jones. The album opens with its title cut – a swirling jazz funk workout. Despite the eight-minute length, the quick fade leaves a void. Glorious stuff! (MOMENT ALERT: Jackson’s drums at 2:33 quickly followed by Booker T’s hammond crescendo.)
‘Me And My Woman’ completes Roy Harper’s breakthrough album Stormcock, released on EMI. 1971 was the year of Led Zeppelin IV, Bowie’s Hunky Dory and Pink Floyd’s Meddle. Despite the high bar, Stormcock stands cheek by jowl with its formidable contemporaries. Harper’s sound manages to be both acoustic and progressive. And as if you needed any more proof than this song, Joanna Newsom and Fleet Foxes have spoken of the influence that the album has had on their work. What’s more, the first part sounds more than a little like Radiohead’s ‘How To Disappear Completely’.
Before the success of her solo hits ‘Les Fleur’ and ‘Lovin’ You’, Minnie Riperton was the heavenly soprano that bejewelled the output of Rotary Connection. The band was the rock-soul-jazz fusion experiment of producer Charles Stepney and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess). The world was robbed of Minnie in July 1979; she died of cancer aged 31.
The album was Nilsson Schmilsson, the song was’Coconut’ and the lyrics were “You put the lime in the coconut and drink them both up.” But more importantly for this week’s posts, Harry Nilsson wore a gorilla suit in the video. Have a great weekend. Carnival sounds next week – the World Cup is here!
Jon Mark and Johnny Almond played guitar and woodwinds, respectively. They had cut their teeth playing with the talent incubator that was John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, In 1970, they formed the Mark/Almond Band and turned their back on guitar-based blues rock in favour of jazz riffs. Their eponymous debut album featured the extended two chord jazzy jam ‘The City’.
Before they became as cold as funk, and certainly before they turned into a smooth pop ensemble, Kool & the Gang were treading the same soul-jazz path as The Crusaders. They had originally called themselves the Jazziacs. These guys revelled in their live performances, and in 1971 this was captured on two long players, Live at the Sex Machine and Live at P.J.’s. The latter included this Rick West-penned classic. It closed out the album. Dujii!
The drums, the drums. John Bonham’s percussion for ‘When The Levee Breaks’ was recorded in a stairwell at Headley Grange. The sound is gargantuan and became the signature break that the Beastie Boys used to open their freshman LP Licensed To Ill on ‘Rhymin’ and Stealin” (a.k.a. “Ali Baba and the forty thieves”). Led Zeppelin were famously forthcoming themselves when it came to using the work of other artists. The track is a reworking of a blues song written in 1929 by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It features at the end of Zep’s untitled fourth album.
Nico Gomez is Belgian, male and without afro, as far as I know. But boy, it sounds like he parties. He conducted his own Nico Gomez Orchestra and wrote Latin funk grooves. He recorded the long player Ritual in 1971, on which he covers the King of the Mambo, Perez Prado, with a monster Afro-funk version of the Mambo classic ‘Lupita’. Percussion, organ, horns and fuzzy guitars. Wild!