Week 48: Orientation
The 4BB/Damn! Remix Competition 2009 is over, and it feels kinda comfy to get back into our old weekly format. Once again, congratulations to Gorque – our newly crowned remix champion…and please, a big round of applause for Damn! and all the contestants in the competition! Thank you! And as promised, the “Damn! Remix EP” (including the two original Damn! songs, as well as the six finalist entries) is now available for download right here! Just so you know, the special Remix Competition pages are still up and running – click here to get to the main page…where you’ll find links to the entries, the jury, the prizes etc.
OK, so how do we best celebrate our return to being just about them dusty LPs? Well, how do y’all feel about a rare, dusty 1975 LP with The Directions? This is yet another fine contrib from our “brother in arms”, Paros – and in my humble opinion, a damn fine way to kick things off!
Let’s begin at prestigious Chicago-label Brunswick, led by the legendary Nat Tarnopole (president and owner) – home of fine acts like Jackie Wilson, The Chi-lites, Barbara Acklin, Young-Holt Unlimited and Gene Chandler. Naturally, Nat had plenty of other artists and musicians working for him – like any other label of the time. Not much is known, but I’m sure The Directions wasn’t really signed to the label as a group, but was rather a handful of talented session vocalists working on various Brunswick projects, who befriended a bunch of local session musicians – on this album known as the The Directions Band.
Back in the early 60’s, when Brunswick ran into some image problems with womanizer Jackie Wilson’s extra-marital affairs, Nat Tarnopol had Jackie’s touring manager, mobster Johnnie Roberts, hiring a special guy just to look after Jackie. According to Tony Douglas excellent book “Jackie Wilson – The Man, The Music, the Mob”, published in 2001, the perfect guy for the job was a certain August Sims: “Roberts employed a minder to look after Jackie. He was August Sims, a hulk of a black man weighing around 230 pounds. He provided protection as well as ensuring Jackie made his concert dates – and stayed out of trouble.”
Well, more than 10 years later big August Sims had become one of the regulars hanging around the Brunswick recording studios, and was by now friends with pretty much every one recording for the label. August was also the guy who talked Nat Tarnopol into giving his buddies in The Directions Band, led by bassplayer Tommy Meeks, a chance…and together with vocalists Earl Haskin (baritone), Willie Morrison (lead, tenor), Kenneth Perrey (bass), Howard Hopgood (lead, tenor) and Lawrence Wooden (tenor), they got to cut an album of their own! The production was handled by August’s buddies Benny Clark (writer and arranger) and Willy Bridges (arranger and saxophone player) – who both had been working for Brunswick for years.
What about the end result? Well, apart from being the most sought after 1975 Brunswick release by far (a worn copy of the original LP was sold for over $270 earlier this year), the outcome is best described as “all over the place”…genre-defying and highly varied to say the least. Perfectly arranged vocal group soul mixed with funky instrumentals songs – sweet ballads mixed with great funk cuts…and as a bonus, a couple of instrumental versions of some of the songs! Luckily, the thing that ties it all together is the fact that you actually can hear how much fun The Directions and The Directions Band had recording it all!
My personal favourites on the album are “We Need Love” (beautiful harmony soul), “Copy Cat” (great funky instrumental), “Soup Line” (fast horn-driven funk) and “She’ll Never Say It” (another great group soul track)! If you wanna know why people pay a lot of money for this LP – just listen to this:
So, now that you want to own a copy of the album, you’re wondering where you can lay your hands on the LP, right?! Well, the original vinyl is really hard to find…luckily there seems to be a Japanese CD-reissue (not sure if it’s a bootleg or not) in circulation – there’s a reasonably copy available right here. But the purists shouldn’t be discouraged – keep sifting through them vinyl bins…eventually you’ll strike gold! :¬)
Again, mad props to Paros for supplying us with the good music…but first and foremost, August Sims and The Directions – thank you for the music!
(Ps. Sorry about the delays regarding the weekly updates – we’ll be playing catch up this week for sure! The delays was mainly caused by a complete hard drive crash on my laptop…people, remember to do regular back-up’s!)