Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy Songs Sell Records

Today we're gonna go way, way back to 2007.

I'd been meaning to pick your ears about a couple of reissues from last year that I figgered deserved a little more attention than some other more highly profiled second acts. Thought I'd take the time now, before heading back to the hills for that old timey stuff we all love and cherish.

So, outside of the lavishly, and deservedly, discussed Miles Davis "The Complete On The Corner Sessions" Box Set, these are my fave rave reissues from 2007.

Betty Davis:
"Betty Davis" and "They Say I'm Different"

Jim Ford:
"The Sounds of Our Time"

Jim Ford died in November of last year. It's a damn shame, as Bear Family had just released the collection "The Sounds Of Our Time". The collection contains his lone, classic (perfect?) album "Harlan County" and a slew of previously uncollected singles and unreleased tunes. I wrote about "Harlan County" way back in the day here.

Ford was a master songwriter, and Country Soul vocalist. He counted Sly Stone among his closest friends, and influenced everyone from Nick Lowe and Dan Penn, to The Drive By Truckers.

Here's what the Bear Family website has to say about the record:
"'Harlan County' inhabits the same territory as 'From Elvis In Memphis' or Dan Penn's 'Nobody's Fool,' and his record was every bit their equal. It occupies the land where R&B meets country, Memphis and Nashville meet Louisiana, and the Mississippi Delta meets Appalachia. Jim Ford blended the ingredients in a way that had never, and would never, be done again."

Yep. All true. Country Soul at it's very finest. It's a lost classic that deserves much wider recognition.

The first two songs below are from "Harlan County" proper. The last two are from the "unreleased/uncollected singles" portion of the record. The song "Happy Songs Sell Records..." is hardly representative of Ford's sound or genius, but it makes us smile. If you download only four songs from The Mountain this year, make it these.

Jim Ford: Harlan County (mp3)

Jim Ford: Working My Way To LA (mp3)

Jim Ford: She Turns My Radio On (mp3)

Jim Ford: Happy Songs Sell Records, Sad Songs Sell Beer (mp3)

Betty Davis is nasty. Completely filthy. The former Mrs. Miles Davis (she kept his last name, though only married for a little over a year) made some of the sleaziest, greasiest soulfunk records of the early 70's, full of blatant, almost pornographic sexuality and a commanding feminism that surely shocked some listeners at the time of their release. Lucky for us, Light In The Attic Records has rescued those first two records ("Betty Davis" and "They Say I'm Different") from the dustbin of obscurity.

Featuring songs with titles like "If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up", "He Was A Big Freak", and "Don't Call Her No Tramp", Davis purrs, hollers, and wails her way through rubber-banded wah-wah grooves, and slimy bass thump, making Grace Jones look and sound like a little kitten. They're records for a night on the town. The kind of night where you finally draw up the courage to walk into that club without a name, behind heavy doors. You're not sure what's behind those doors, but the people going in sure are interesting to look at, and a little bit scary. Once your inside, it's the best night of your life, but you'll never be able to talk about it in decent company.

Betty Davis: Don't Call Her No Tramp (mp3)

Betty Davis: Game Is My Middle Name (mp3)

Please support your local, independent jukejoints and dance clubs.


Anonymous said...

Very cool post. I'm hoping that Jim Ford comp has a sequel from Bear Family.


bigrockcandymountain said...

It does have a sequel, coincidnetally enough. It's call "Point of No Return", and just came out Tuesday (I haven't received my import copy yet...and indeed it's also from Bear Family). It's entirely demo's and unreleased stuff, and appears to not repeat any of the stuff on "The Sounds Of Our Time", least near as I can tell. I'll keep y'all informed on how it sounds.

jwroblewski said...

Thanks for the Jim Ford. He should be mentioned more often by more people. Maybe someday.

I'll have yet another drink to Bear Family re-issues tonight.


Anonymous said...

Excellent news. Thanks for the heads up, Big Rock.


Dave LaGrange said...

Holy crap. Those Betty Davis tracks are amazing.

Thanks for posting the Jim Ford tunes too - all winners.