Chrissi Poland, Edlene Hart, and Keith Fluitt tearing it up on 25 or 6 to 4, our encore for the evening. Check out the Top Shelf horns (Tim Ouimette, Louise Baranger, Joe Meo, and Jon Saxon) and guitar work from Peter Calo.
Last year I wrote a blog post about how there’s been an onslaught of artists that are producing truly world-class R&B and soul, including Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and Shemekia Copeland (not to mention Adele and Bruno Mars).
There have been many discussions about which artist had the greatest influence on Michael Jackson. One name that pops up on many lists is Jackie Wilson. Consider this clip from the TV movie The Jacksons: An American Dream that dramatizes “Mr. Excitement” mesmerizing a young MIchael Jackson.
The actor here is doing a fine job, but readers should really check out the real deal. Here’s Wilson closing “Shindig” in 1964.
If you look carefully you’ll see the Righteous Brothers and a very young Bobby Sherman joining Wilson on stage. Willy Nelson was also on the show that night, but I’ve not been able to spot him during the show’s “dance off”.
Here’s another clip of Wilson performing the same song a year later (keep your eyes out for Fontalla Bass).
In addition to Wilson just killing it, I love the house band, which features the likes of Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and Glen Campbell.
(Note: It’s nice to know these folks were in fact mortal. Check out some problems with the form around 1:50 where only some people in the and move to the IV chord).
I’ll leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Jackie Wilson songs, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” which Wilson recorded in 1967. The Top Shelf performs this from time to time.
And yes, that is James Jamerson on bass even though it’s not a Motown recording.
I love writing new arrangements of familiar tunes but I shy away from Beatles songs as many attempts by others have resulted in horrible failures. Just listen to the Sleepy’s commercial that uses “In My Life” and you’ll hear what I mean.
That said, there are some exceptions and one truly astonishingly arrangement is Earth, Wind, and Fire’s version of “Got to Get You into My Life”.
Don’t get me wrong; the Beatles’ version is great, but I think Maurice White and company’s take is the definitive version of the song.
There was no way I was going to improve upon this gem, but given that the recording fades out I did write a tag so we could have a tidy ending.
We haven’t performed this for a while but we’ll take this on — along with some Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears — at our next show at The Cutting Room on June 7.
Several years ago a very good friend of mine asked me to play bass on a gig and learn what he said was the best disco song ever. I looked at him skeptically and he quickly pointed out that the song was in fact a really good song, period.
He also said it had a great bass line.
The song in question was Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and after listening I had to admit it was a very good song. And I liked the bass line and bass tone so much I wanted to know who was the bass player on the track.
A search on the Talk Bass forum revealed that the player in question was Henry E. Davis, the bass player for LTD and the same person that played the great bass line on “Back in Love Again.” I decided to contact Henry and ask him about how he got his great sound and groove.
Here’s what he had to say about his sound and approach to the Thelma Houston song:
I was influenced by Larry Graham, the Godfather of Thump. As a matter of fact, he was the first bass player that I was aware of that played walking octaves. I had no idea that he played with his thumb when I first heard him with Sly and the Family Stone, but I liked the lines he played so I incorporated his lines into my arsenal of riffs, practiced it until his lines felt comfortable in my hands. The Graham-influenced style of playing was first explored with my own group. LTD, and then “immortalized” first with Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover”, and then on Thelma Houston’s record. A lot of producers on subsequent sessions wanted that “Love Hangover thing” on their records. I complied but didn’t really feel it because those songs/sessions didn’t have all the same elements that the Love hangover sessions did; i.e. the song, the musicians, the studio, the time we recorded, the studio, the joking, the overall mood, etc. Musical performance is a “thing of the moment” that takes in to account everything involved in that moment; what’s happening influences what happens.
We exchanged more e-mails, discussing basses, strings, pickups, and his excitement over LTD getting back together, as well as a promise to give me a bass lesson when the tour got to New York. I also pointed out to him that he had achieved a type of immortality in that the recordings he made in the 1970s were being enjoyed 30 to 40 years later by an entirely new generation of listeners.
Sadly, Henry died last year and I never got to meet him and take that bass lesson. But I am very glad I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his work and how much it had influenced my playing. Indeed, I’ll be playing at least one of hist bass lines at The Top Shelf’s upcoming performance at The Cutting Room on March 22.
In the meantime, I leave you with two great Henry E. Davis bass performances. Enjoy.