1. Harmonica Slim – ‘Hard Times’ (1960)
A wickedly funky workout from Travis Leonard Blaylock. Despite the raw harp style this, to me, sounds a bit later than 1960.
2. Dion – ‘Two Ton Feather’ (1965)
Dion’s lost 1965 album Kickin’ Child has finally been released this month and it’s a cracker of Dylanesque folk-rock in the style of Bringing It All Back Home. Some of the tracks did see light of day at the time, including this playful romp.
3. The Temptations – ‘You’re Not An Ordinary Girl’ (1965)
No mistaking the hand of Smokey Robinson here but the track is credited to all the Miracles. The flip of ‘Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’, with lead vocal by Eddie Kendricks, the backing track hints at the way forward for the Showstoppers’ ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’.
4. Fortson & Scott – ‘Sweet Lover’ (1968)
Sweetest soul on the Pzazz label (“Put some pzazz in your jazz!”) outta Hollywood. Fabulous. Nothing more to say.
5. Guitar Ray – ‘You’re Gonna Wreck My Life’ (1970)
Talking of record labels, this one’s on Shagg, something Guitar Ray doesn’t seem to be getting much of listening to his beautifully sung soulful blues. No money, no place to go, old and grey, his woman can’t stand him no more. Still, he cut this 45 and so it wasn’t all in vain. Cheers Ray.
6. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – ‘I Should Be Proud’ (1970)
Martha’s Vietnam protest song doesn’t pull any punches as she tells how Johnny died not for her but “fighting for the evils of society”. Reeves believed the government put heat on radio stations not to play it and Berry Gordy to withdraw it. The other side of the record features the far less controversial, and more well known, ‘Love Guess Who’.
7. Jr Walker & the All Stars – ‘Way Back Home’ (1971)
This down home countrified soul was blown in my direction care of Zyd Hockey’s recent Motown show on Fusion and has been a regular spin ever since. As I said at time, and think every play, this would have suited The Faces down to the ground.
8. Spacemen 3 – ‘Rollercoaster’ (1986)
From their debut Sound of Confusion, Spacemen 3 set their aim higher than the sun with a thoroughly convincing bug-eyed interpretation of the 13th Floor Elevators classic.
9. Redskins – ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ (1986)
It’s a pity the Redskins never made a second album. ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ featured on their final single, ‘It Can Be Done’, and hit a Brit-funk groove falling between The Jam’s ‘Precious’ and Pigbag’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’.
10. Benjamin Booker – ‘Witness’ (2017)
Booker’s sings about seeing a crime but Mavis Staples steals the show, no surprise there, witnessing something far more holy. Oh, by the way, Mavis’s show at the Union Chapel this month was, as always, sensational. Being in her presence is to experience very magical joy and happiness. And wow, can that lady still sing.