soul music


It was interesting to be reminded from the dusty memories of my youth where The  Fabulous Thunderbird’s song came from originally – Sam & Dave. This is a whole different thing – very funky; produced and recorded in Memphis at the legendary Stax Records.

From the  Wikipedia article on Sam and Dave: “Wexler wanted the Southern roots and gospel style of their live performances [on their records], so the pair were loaned to Stax to record, although they remained Atlantic Records artists. According to Wexler’s autobiography Rhythms & Blues, “Their live act was filled with animation, harmony and seeming goodwill. I put Sam in the sweet tradition of Sam Cooke or Solomon Burke, while Dave had an ominous Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs-sounding voice, the preacher promising hellfire.”

No doubt about it; they were a real double threat, very soulful! When you add the horns and steamy Stax production, you have something that is irreducible.

The Thunderbirds version is a great interpretation; nice pop music. It’s a little more “cool” maybe, benefiting from updated production values, clean elocution, good singing – Kim Wilson at his most soulful. Keyboards and Jimmy Vaughn’s guitar play the horn parts. It’s my favorite Thunderbirds track.

Listen to the Sam & Dave original here.

Watch and listen to the Thunderbirds version here.

But the Thunderbirds’ video is kinda sleazy, yo! The message I get is, “If women are attractive, seductive – and put out – they will be rewarded materially.”    I think we’ve all heard that too many times. And you know what? It’s a really sucky, unfair message. To me, the video diminishes the music.

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So… two kind of different things, but the original here gets my props. Who would you have rather seen live – Sam & Dave at their height? Or the Thunderbirds? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. And not to belittle the Thunderbirds – good music is always at a premium.

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I bought this on cassette in the early 80’s. This da one made me a Toots fan forever! It’s an all time feel-good favorite album and goes a long way towards explaining why I’m such a fan of classic reggae.

I’m not familiar with all of Toot’s work, but this album brilliantly illustrates for me how Soul Music and the Memphis sound were influences on Toots. It’s not my original thought; it’s been said elsewhere. What he comes out with is far from derivative – it’s like a brilliant echo. Check out my other postings on Sam and Dave – compare for yourself. And then just think about the influence of reggae on American and world popular music…     Toots, is an originator, yo!

This album seamlessly and slyly incorporates pedal steel guitar on some of the tunes – one of the slickest and most effective uses of the pedal steel I’ve ever heard. It speaks volumes to Toots’ musicianship and his openness to other influences. The production values on this album are a remarkable achievement. There’s lots of well integrated organ playing throughout – very bubbly.

There’s a beautiful cycle of songs about relationships. “Beautiful Woman” is a hilarious tongue in cheek cautionary tale about the perils of beautiful women. In “Spend The Weekend”, he’s fed up and asks his partner to go “spend the weekend with your mother”. “Two Time” is a classic been-done-wrong song, an eloquent mix of smoky anger, paranoia and plaintive vulnerability, using echo to heighten the tension. In “Missing You” Toots gets the heart ache. It’s a beautiful song about heartbreak, as only Toots could sing it. “I Know We Can Make It” is a percolating request for his partner to stick by him… it would be hard to resist!

“Careless Ethiopians”, “Revival Time” and “Never Get Weary” are nice statements about his faith and beliefs. “Never Get Weary” exemplifies the indomitable Jamaican spirit in the face of poverty and racism, a powerful indictment against colonialism’s slavery past.

“Will You Be Kind” is an eloquent plea to remember the less fortunate that is sure to get under your skin. It would make a good anthem for today, as relevant as it ever was in 1981, as more and more people get left behind economically:

“You left me so far behind when you know I didn’t have a dime / ‘So sorry, sonny’ / You left me so far behind – tell me, why you so unkind? / Will you be kind, will you be kind… while eating your belly full?!”

All of these songs can be purchased as MP3s at Amazon and found on YouTube or MySpace. The CD is sadly out of print and it can only be hoped that the powers that be are persuaded to re-release this lost masterpiece – with decent mixes. It hangs together seamlessly as a whole and the sum effect is greater than the parts. They sure named this album right, though – this album is a Knock Out!

“Never Get Weary”

I was down in the valley for a very long time and I never get weary yet

I was born and raised in a little earth shack with my poor family

I was from before     Christopher Columbus

And I was from before     the Arawak Indians

Trodding creation      before this nation

I’ll always remember    I can’t forget

I was walking on the shore when they put me on the ship

and they threw me overboard

And I swum right out of the belly of the whale

and I never get weary yet

They put me in jail and I did not do no wrong

and I never get weary yet