Round the Dial
Wednesday 04 December @ 10:55:57
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Looking back on my childhood now, there’s a sort of glow to my reminiscences. It’s like my memory has blocked out most of the bad stuff. You need to have good memories from your past; you never know when you’re going to have to depend on them...”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “%@!#$&in’ Up”
-- Neil Young
Greetings, Dial-heads. This week we’ll blast back to the past and review a couple of classic albums that no self-respecting music fan’s collection should be without. That ol’ Holiday season is comin’ up, and there’s no better stocking stuffer than a killer album or two. If you’re Grinch-ish or simply don’t have anybody to buy a gift for, treat yourself. These albums can only make your life richer...
ROUND THE DIAL’S FLASHBACK CD REVIEWS:
I’m not gonna waste precious space here giving you an in-depth background report on late acoustic blues/soul/country legend Ted Hawkins—there’s plenty of info on the man’s life available online and elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Ted was another tragic casualty of rock n’ roll—a black man who wrote, sang, and played gospel/soul-inflected, countrified blues guitar, a gentle soul who made his living busking on California beaches and constantly ran afoul of the law, a troubadour of Truth who left this world far too soon. Ted made close to a dozen albums between 1971—the year he actually recorded his 1982 Rounder debut—and 1995, when he released his breakthrough effort, The Next Hundred Years. They all have great stuff on ‘em, but my faves are the two we’ll be looking at this month.
Ted had the kind of raspy, mid-range voice that was perfect for the lovelorn mini-anthems he wrote. A hint of Sam Cooke, a dollop of Clarence Carter, a little shade of Hank Williams, Sr., along with his own Southern inflections, made a perfect vehicle for a wide range of styles, including the disarmingly charming warning of the title track, (“...caught you takin’ it easy baby/with a one-night affair”) the giddy “Bring It On Home Daddy,” (with Ted intoning, Wild Man Fischer-style, “Boom boom boom boom, boom boom boom”) the weepy, more-ghetto-than-Curtis-Mayfield classic, “The Lost Ones,” (“...icebox is empty, and the food is all gone/this wouldn’t be happenin’/if my daddy was home/We are the lost ones, livin’ all alone...”) and the get-the-%@!#$&-up-an’-shake-it power groove of “Who Got My Natural Comb?” As an intro to Mr. Hawkins’ super-tasty ouvre, Watch Your Step is a perfectly balanced platter of irresistible delights that’ll surely leave you wanting more.
Which is why I strongly recommend diving right into 1986’s Happy Hour next—you’ll need to quench your thirst. This album finds Ted throwing in a couple covers (the title track—which he undeniably makes his own—plus a how’s-that-for-kismet track written by Curtis Mayfield) and exuding the kind of straight-up Americana vibe Charley Pride would’ve killed for. The set kicks off with “Bad Dog,” a bittersweet ode to his cheatin’ woman’s canine, who normally barks at everybody—(including Ted) with one exception—the dude she’s steppin’ out with.
The title track eases in on a cosmic wave, as Ted walks into a dimly-lit bar to find her “...in another man’s arms/slow-dancin’ across the floor...” He winces, shrugs, and lets her/us/himself have it: “Welcome to happy hour/they gather here every day/Cheatin’ is one of the games they play/This time it’s on me.” This album, like its predecessor, is chock fulla genuine Soul music—that is, music from and for the soul—and is probably one of the greatest heartbreak records of all time. Ted may no longer be wooing ‘em on Venice Beach, but his music lives on. Take my word for it, there’s gonna come a time when you’re gonna need it.
Soul/R&B legend Bobby Womack is definitely a man who’s paid his dues—the writer of such classics as “It’s All Over Now” (covered by the Stones), “Lookin’ For A Love” (covered by J. Geils), and the guitarist on Sly Stone’s chestnut, “Family Affair,” and Wilson Pickett’s mover, “Funky Broadway,” he has all the prerequisites for a spot in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. After leaving his strictly religious father’s home in the late Fifties (with a car bought for them by Sam Cooke), Bobby and the Womack Brothers set out to conquer popular radio, using their church-bred voices and down-home, bluesy stylings to twist and change genres they hadn’t even heard of yet.
“Back To My Roots” finds Womack doing just that, singing some of his favorite gospel numbers, while retaining some of that old fire that made him so popular with the white youth of America and Britain in the Sixties. Enlisting the aid of J.W. Alexander (Sam Cooke’s partner and a former member of the Pilgrim Travelers gospel group) to introduce and close the album, Womack dedicated this work to his father, who unfortunately died before he got a chance to hear the finished product, as did Alexander himself. With versions of “Rug” (one of his ‘60’s hits), “Motherless Child,” and the Staple Singers classic “Oh Happy Day,” this album showcases Womack’s love of all styles and genres, from country pickin’ to funky, bluesy breakdowns, to choir-esque, baptismal uber-joy.
The opening lines of the first track, “Rug,” say it all better than I ever could: “Now I’m sitting here reminiscing about the good old days/singing gospel music with my brothers/we called ourselves the Womack Brothers/before we were ever born, my father prayed for five sons, he said, ‘God, if you bless me with them, I will teach them to sing your praises’/well, he got his wish, not knowing that we would want the material things in life/I remember the first time I told my father I was going to sing rock and roll—that’s the first time I saw my daddy cry/I remember him saying, ‘what does it profit a man to gain the world, and lose his soul?/And I know now, absolutely nothing...’” Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see mentioned in this column, or you’re just wondering how the new Homeland Security measures will affect your ability to find Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.
*Thanks to those sharp-eyed readers who noticed a glaring error in the first paragraph of last week’s column. The sentence in question should’ve read: “Who could deny the power of CSNY’s in-the-moment tribute to Kent State students who were shot by U.S. R.O.T.C. troops while exercising their right to peacefully demonstrate against the horrors of the Vietnam War, “Ohio”: “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’/We’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drummin’/Four dead in Ohio...,” or Buffalo Springfield’s equally-blazing anti-war anthem, “For What It’s Worth”: “Stop! Hey, what’s that sound/Everybody look what’s goin’ down...” Well, at least Neil Young was in both bands. As for you irate Shakey fans, I make no excuses for my own bad editing job, but simply refer you all to the title of this column’s Song Of The Week.