Week 17: Love & Soul
I’ve got something special for you all today! And it’s all purely by coincidence…or chance, luck, kismet, karma (I actually found this album when about to do a somewhat good deed) or whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t even my week to do a post…really…Soulbrotha was about to step up to he plate and do his thing – but something came up. So he asked me to fill in for him, and I happily obliged…luckily the timing was perfect!
Just the day before, I finally got my act together to do some some new rips – mostly because of Jazzypier over at My Favourite Sound who had been asking for a certain Hank Marr album for months, an album I knew I had somewhere…so I ventured out to the vinyl archive to search for it. It took some heavy lifting and a couple of minutes and I had found it – but I also stumbled upon a smaller, overlooked box with vinyls I bought at a flea market 16 or 17 years ago. 10 albums for about $10! So I popped it open and grabbed the first album I got my hands on, and brought it inside together with the Hank Marr album. I started ripping the album for Jazzy, and while listening to Hank’s “Greasy Spoon”, I decided to have a closer look at the other album: Stu Gardner’s “To Soul With Love”.
I remember buying it because of the funky yet cheerful cover, but I had never heard of the guy before…or even gotten around to listen to it (too much music, too little time) – so I Googled it, and came across an old blog post over at the great In Dangerous Rhythm (Colin’s posts are always on point) that really peaked my interest, with words like “one of the most underrated albums of the 60’s” – check it out!
And right after that, I came across a post that got me even more intrigued – and add to that, the perfect write-up for the album! Cody B’s serious approach to digging for information really took that piece the whole nine yards. He’d dug up everything that was to be found on Stu Gardner and the “To Soul With Love” album (well, apart from the actual album itself). Go ahead…read it before we go any further (and don’t miss the wonderfully violent video clip with Stu and Lee Marvin taken from “Point Blank” from 1967 – the same year this album was released)!
So, naturally I put the Hank Marr album aside for a while…and listened to the entire Stu Gardner album like 3 times in a row – and was completely blown away! What a fantastic surprise! And after reading Hugh Masekela’s liner notes on the album (with all the great background information I knew Cody would have killed for to be able to include in his post) I just knew I had the perfect album for my next post – and a perfect opportunity for some payback to the community!
This is what Hugh Masekela had to say:
Around the summer of ’67, Msr. Elmer Valentine gives me a gig at his groovy Whiskey A-Go-Go on the strip and on opening night I notice that we’re sharin’ the stay with the “Stu Gardner Trio.” So I’m walkin’ upstairs with my kosher partner, Stewie Levine, and we find ourselves lookin’ down from the balcony onto the stage where Stu Gardner is on the organ, shoutin’ out with all the feelin’ he’s got left; Mike McGriff, with calloused paws is gettin’ right in there layin’ down the groove, and Billy Kinney standing and shuffling head-down, is making his guitar cry and they’re all soakin’ wet and they’re brunin’ up the place.
The Whiskey is on fire and we’re standing on the balcony, dumb, flipped-out, turned-on, and tripped out behind the sounds. We automatically give each other five and we ask Stu Gardner, “Who are you?” and he smiles and then Stewie says, “Can we record you?” and he says, “Yeah.” We die!!
So the gig is over and we meet one night and we immediately immerse ourselves into a meditative level as regards Stu Gardner’s first album. My partner, Stewie, starts talkin’ to Stu Gardner about the Bronx, which is where they both come from, and he asks Stu to sing please those songs that will remind him of the Bronx. I have to keep both of them from cryin’ about how “beautiful” it was in those days and Stu, he proceeds for the next hour to sing ten songs, nine of which were written by him. This obviously causes us to flip out completely. In the following 12 hours we proceed to write lead sheets with glee, we call the cats to find out if they can do the sessions and we call Doc at Gold Star Recording and kindly request him to warm the pots, and we summon Wayne Henderson who helps come up with most of the horn lines we make up in the studio.
Billy and Mike and everyone else are burnin’ and Doc and Stewie in the booth have lost their wigs and the whole thing turns out to be a mish-mosh of sounds from everywhere. Stu Gardner, he is the source of all this grease-boilin’, flyin’ and talk of Love & Soul!
Well, baby, that’s how it all happened and it sure was a groove. I thought you might like to know about it because the whole scene really blew my mind and it’s all inside so as they say in the Bronx, “ENJOY”!!!
With Colin’s and Cody B’s words fresh in memory, I don’t feel the need to tell you anything about Stu and Bill Cosby’s relationship, or his gig as music supervisor for The Cosby Show, or Stu being one of the few acts recording for both Stax and Motown or anything else like that. Instead I’ll just serve you all up with a fresh rip of Stu Gardner’s “To Soul With Love”! With this being such a rarity that plenty of you diggers out there are on a constant lookout for, I’ve kept the rip at a low 128 kbps. I want you all to be able to listen to this almost forgotten masterpiece – but I’m not out to stop you in your quest for it (hey, some people could really lose their sense of purpose for shit like this)! But I did it with love (and some soul, too) – so listen closely, you won’t be disappointed! :¬)
If forced to choose, I’d say my favourite cuts on the album are “Soul Wrecker”, a perky groover on the A-side – and the absolutely fantastic second cut on the B-side, “Love Slipped Away“ (preview clip)…but it’s a real tight set all in all, and definitely a wonderful listening experience from start to finish!
Some happy person recently got hold of the orginal vinyl right here for a measly $35, but a somewhat more expensive copy ($169.50) is still available here – that’s still nothing compared to the japanese collector who allegedly paid over $2000 for a “factory-sealed” copy of it at an auction some 2 years back!
OK, that’s about it for this time! Big thanks to Colin and Cody for helping me find out what a treasure I unknowingly had in my posession, and to Jazzypier for asking for that Hank Marr album – but first and foremost to Stu himself…thank you for the music!