Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chicago Gangsters - 1976 - Gangster Love

Chicago Gangsters
Gangster Love

01. Gangster Love 2:59
02. On The Way 4:00
03. I'm At Your Mercy 4:10
04. Feel Like Making Love 4:50
05. Michigan Avenue 5:15
06. Music For The People (Pt. 1) 3:27
07. Music For The People (Pt. 2) 2:03
08. Got A Little Picture 5:27

Bass – Anthony Amos
Congas – R. Evans
Drums – Chris McCants
Guitar – Dave Yushasz, Sam McCants
Piano, Organ – Sam McCants
Saxophone – Sammy Bryant
Trumpet – Ralph Flemm
Vocals – James McCants, Paul Ware, R. Evans, Sam McCants

The second album by The Chicago Gangsters – and a tasty bit of funk that's every bit as great as the first one! The group's got a tight ensemble feel – with plenty of keyboard/organ riffing underneath tight horns produced with a nice jazzy flourish. Highlights include the rough funk number "Music for the People" (parts 1 & 2), the jazzed-up instrumental "Michigan Avenue", which has a solid dancefloor jam, the mellow harmony cut "On the Way", and a great cover "Feel Like Makin' Love", done with a vamp that gives it a tight funky sound!

Chicago Gangsters - 1975 - Blind Over You

Chicago Gangsters 
Blind Over You

01. Blind Over You 3:10
02. I Choose You 9:20
03. Your Self Concious Mind 2:58
04. Don't Be Gone 3:09
05. Gangster Boogie 5:27
06. Why Did You Do It 3:58
07. We've Been Together 3:37
08. Let Me Go 2:48
09. My Ship 3:14

Bass – Richard Evans
Drums – Brian Grice
Guitar – Philip Upchurch
Keyboards – Tennyson Stephens
Saxophone – Clifford Davis
Trumpet – John Howell

Released under 2 different front covers and titles - However this is the most recognised one)

Yet another album that never left the shores of its native land on release, save for those fortunate few who could afford to trade with their local imports dealer.  It’s albums like this that are now a dream come true for those of us outside the USA - maybe a colleague can inform me as to how difficult these LPs were to grab back in the day in the States - I’d be very interested - as I imagine it wasn’t that much easier.  Getting to see the cover of such an album is almost as much a revelation as listening to the grooves.  There is almost something to be said about the relative unavailability and lack of information of these albums that gave them a mystical quality that is slightly lost in today’s more immediate world.

Alternate cover and name

Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers - 1968 - Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers

Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers
Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers

01. Does Your Mama Know About Me 2:52
02. So This Is Love 2:55
03. I Am Your Man 2:58
04. I Heard It Through The Grapevine 2:43
05. Malinda 2:52
06. Fading Away 2:50
07. You Gave Me Something (And Everything's Alright) 3:05
08. It's Growing 2:56
09. One Girl 2:25
10. Try A Little Tenderness 2:52
11. Day By Day Or Never 2:40
12. If You Love Her 2:35

Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals – Eddie Patterson
Drums – Ted Lewis
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Tommy Chong
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Wes Henderson
Organ – Robbie King
Vocals – Bobby Taylor

Taylor was a Washington, D.C. native and childhood friend of Marvin Gaye who relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, for his music career. At the behest of Supremes Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, Taylor and his group were signed to Motown, where, assigned to the Gordy imprint—and produced by Berry Gordy himself—they had a hit out of the box. Taylor was a talent scout himself: at Motown he discovered the Jackson 5 and produced most of their first album.

Although the Jacksons and Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering The Jackson 5, Taylor was the person who found the band.

Taylor fronted the band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. At a 1968 concert in Chicago, a family group called The Jackson 5 were their opening act. Impressed by the group, Taylor arranged for The Jackson 5 to audition for Berry Gordy and other executives at Motown. The group was signed to Motown, and Taylor would become their first producer.

In a 2011 interview for the documentary "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon," Taylor talked about first seeing The Jackson 5. "I saw this little kid spinning and stuff and said, ‘Dang, send him upstairs. When he finishes, I want to talk to this kid.'"

He produced The Jackson 5's early Motown songs including a version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You." Gordy felt the songs produced by Taylor were old-fashioned, and he would assign a new producer for the young group.

Taylor was born Feb. 18, 1934, in Washington, D.C. He sang in doo-wop groups in New York City. He moved out west and was in a band called Little Daddy and the Bachelors. One of the band members was Tommy Chong, who would go on to greater fame as a comedian and one-half of the duo Cheech and Chong.

The group's members ended up changing the band's name to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. The band was signed to Motown in 1965 on the recommendation of Supremes members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. The band had a top-five R&B song, "Does Your Mama Know About Me," in 1968.

"Bobby had a range that exceeded even Patti LaBelle," Chong told Rolling Stone.

Taylor went on to have a solo career for Motown. He later moved to China and then to Hong Kong, performing in clubs there. His last-known recording was on a tribute song for the late, legendary rock guitarist Dick Wagner.

Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, had their best years with the Motown subsidiary Gordy in the late 1960s, scoring three hit singles in 1968. The first turned out to be their best with Does Your Mama Know About Me? reaching # 4 R&B/# 29 Billboard Pop Hot 100 in May b/w Fading Away. Later that fall I Am Your Man struggled to a # 40 R&B/# 85 Hot 100 b/w If You Love Her, and in December Malinda peaked at # 16 R&B/# 48 Hot 100 b/w It's Growing.

The sextet - consisting of Taylor on vocals, Robbie King on keyboard, Wes Henderson on bass, Ted Lewis on drums, and Edward Patterson and Tommy Chong [who would later team up with Richard Marin to form the comedy due Cheech & Chong] on guitar - was a racially mixed group whose fame, unlike most Motown congregations, was short-lived.

In 1975 Taylor, who would also be credited with discovering The Jackson 5, had a minor solo hit with Why Play Games [# 83 R&B b/w Don't Wonder Why] for the Playboy label. but neither is included here. What is nice about this CD is that it gives you all six sides of their three Gordy hits, although I doubt if too many will be ordering one at the used price indicated.

Why not re-release with a couple of added tracks, i.e., the Taylor solo sides. That way, those having copies of the original release can continue to regard it as a collector's item.

A San Francisco nightclub launched one of the most exciting bands to come out the Northwest. Tommy Chong and Bobby Taylor formed Four N*ggers & a Ch*nk from Little Daddy & the Bachelors, who originated from the Shades, a Calgary/Edmonton-based group. Little Daddy & the Bachelors recorded a couple singles, including "Too Much Monkey Business" out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The offensive name killed the fan base that Little Daddy & the Bachelors had built. It's unclear whether Bobby Taylor was a member of the Bachelors -- Tommy Milton, Donald Mallory, Chong, and Wes Henderson -- but he was with the latter group who changed their name weekly around the same theme: Four Coloured Fellas and a Chinese Lad...Four N's and a C, before settling on Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. The original Vancouvers, in addition to Chong and Taylor, were Wes Henderson (guitar), Robbie King (keyboards), Ted Lewis (drums), and Eddie Patterson (bass).

They rebuilt their fan base by doing spirited, rockish versions of Motown hits. Jimi Hendrix played with them at one point for a year (prior to his stint with the Isley Brothers), mainly at Seattle's Black and Tan Club, but was fired because his solos were too long and loud. Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard heard the band when they played at Chong and Taylor's after-hours joint, the Elegant Parlor in Vancouver; Berry Gordy was contacted and the group signed with the hot recording company. It turned out to be a horrible mistake, but if they hadn't, would they have ever emerged from the Northwest?

Taylor was a veteran when he inked with Motown in 1967, he was born February 18, 1934, making him 33 at the time of the signing. In Washington, D.C., he grew up in a public housing project and sang doo wops with friends on the street corners, sometimes joined by a tall, skinny kid named Marvin Gaye. Taylor's father was a full-blooded Native American and his grandfather, who had a singing group, was Puerto Rican. The Taylors knew all the musicians and their home was used as a resting place and motel for many artists who came through the district.

Taylor and friends traveled to Brooklyn, New York -- the Fort Green Projects -- to doo wop with locals who became Little Anthony & the Imperials and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, but nothing happened until he migrated west and connected with Chong.

Motown got Bobby & the Vancouvers' name out there, but things were never right. They suffered the same indignation as the Isley Brothers and were viewed as carpetbagging, newcomers, and were ignored, by Taylor's account, by "90 percent of the artists." And to add salt to an open wound: Johnny Bristol didn't like Tommy Chong, who was married with a kid and a die-hard pot smoker. Taylor left the group sometime after the first album, which contained their hit "Does Your Mama Know About Me" (number 29, 1968), and two lesser smoothies: "Malinda" and "I Am Your Man." The Vancouvers were reduced to backing blue-eye soul singer Chris Clark on gigs. A Canadian, Chong needed green cards for himself and the bass player and was fired by Clark (actually Bristol) when he left in the middle of a gig for a green card interview.

Taylor "discovered" the Jackson 5, who were billed with him for a ten-day stint at Chicago's Regal Theater. He took them back to Detroit and put them up in his apartment while he prepped them for an audition with Motown. He was living in a mostly lily-white apartment building at the time, and when management saw all the little black kids running around, they kicked Taylor and the Jacksons out.

Motown released his solo album, Taylor Made Soul, on Gordy; a good album that met with disinterest. Some of its titles, however ("I've Been Blessed," "Don't Be Afraid," "Out in the Country," and "Eleanor Rigby"), were bona fide. A second album was reportedly recorded but never issued.

The Jacksons passed their audition with distinction and Taylor was busy flying to Los Angeles to record them. His productions with the J5, except for some tracks that appeared on their debut album, were shelved for years. Taylor cut mostly old soul tunes with them to demonstrate their singing skills. But Berry Gordy wanted a contemporary sound that would cross over to all segments, so he created the Corporation with Deke Richards, Fonce Mizelle, Freddie Perren, Taylor, and himself. Taylor worked on the first three Jackson 5 hits, but got no credit. He was out by 1970; according to many, Taylor was a bear to get along with. The Jackson 5 situation caused IRS problems for Taylor and he subsequently sued Motown for unpaid royalties, won the suit, but supposedly never got paid.

Tommy Chong hooked up with Cheech Marin and the two became comedians and actors who glorified marijuana use. The rest of the Vancouvers continued in bands and worked day jobs. After Motown, Taylor recorded for Epic, Playboy, and Philadelphia International Records (never issued); none were as successful as his Motown releases.

He developed throat cancer and relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where he lived with his mother for years before returning west and settling in the San Jose, California area. He was part of Ian Levine's near 900-track Motorcity project, cutting one of the Britisher's best songs and tracks -- "Cloudy Day," a stupendous ballad. He formed Bobby Taylor & the New Vancouvers and reportedly performed occasional gigs in the San Jose area. Later, Taylor moved to Hong Kong, where he set up a production company and also performed. He died in Hong Kong in July of 2017.

Little Daddy & the Bachelors tracks -- featuring Tommy Chong's rock guitar licks -- can be heard on Northwest Killers, Vol. 2: Shout (1964-1965), which includes "Come on Home," and Real Gone Aragon, Vol. 1, which features "Junior's Jerk" and "Too Much Monkey Business." Another track, "Valley of Tears," has been compiled elsewhere.

A marvelous but underrated collection by Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, one of the few mixed groups to record for Motown. Tommy Chong, later of Cheech & Chong fame, was a member and co-wrote their biggest record, "Does Your Mama Know About Me," a song about an interracial relationship. Though their biggest hit was a ballad, they built their reputation by singing spirited live versions of Motown and soul classics. Bobby's tenor dripped with soul, as his crooning on Ashford & Simpson's "I Am Your Man" attests. "Malinda," one of Smokey Robinson's catchiest songs, will have you singing along with the chorus. A good version of the Temptations' "Fading Away" and the Fantastic Four's "You Gave Me Something" will have you finger-snapping and hand-clapping.

Ballin' Jack - 1973 - Special Pride

Ballin' Jack
Special Pride

01. This Song 2:38
02. Come Up Front 2:48
03. Good Feeling 3:35
04. Sunday Morning 3:34
05. Big Dealer 3:30
06. Thunder 3:22
07. Try To Relax 5:03
08. Two Years 5:59
09. Carry Me Back 3:00
10. Special Pride 6:50

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Congas – King Errisson
Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone, Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Mandolin – Glenn Thomas
Harmonica – Tommy Morgan
Keyboards – Mike Lang
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Vocals – Jim Coile
Synthesizer, Horns – Jimmie Haskell
Trombone, Vocals – Tim McFarland
Vibraphone – Victor Feldman

The opener "This Song" comes in a casual pop-rock garb, but already the second number works right. Popping bass, brass sections, fuzzy organ, pounding rhythm, screaming lead guitar - what more could you want. "Good Feeling" with its tricky rhythm and transparent production clings into the ear canal, "Sunday Morning" captivates with bongos (naturally play a bigger role here) and saxophones, you feel transported back to the good old days of "Detective Rockford" and "The Streets of San Francisco". One must not forget that the really great times of the fuzzy radio should come yet. Accordingly, some songs on this album still seem strangely awkward and unpolished. Also missing now and then the one or other igniting beat or even a catchy melody. Does not do anything. Ballin'jack delivers a solid album without spectacular highlights. If one can still hear good today, but whether a purchase is still worthwhile, the individual case should decide.

Even closer to WAR in style. Luther has finally become the leader of the band, after Jim Walter's departure. Tim McFarland's input is minimal, in fact he's on his way out of the band. Musically, Special Pride is something new for Ballin 'Jack. For the first time, we hear harmonica on some tracks, like "This Song" and "Try To Relax". Not to mention some female (?) Backing vocals on things like "Sunday Morning" and "Special Pride". But there are plenty of good moments here, like the powerful opening jam on "Try To Relax", the acoustic thing on "Two Years", the proto-Dixieland style on "Carry Me Back", and the classic title track itself.

The biggest problem here is that the opener is flat-out awful. But my god ... do you know how close "Come Up Front" is to hip hop? I mean, seriously, the first fifteen seconds of that track could conceivably be the beginning of a showbiz and AG track. 

And there are more guitars here and less flute. And the fonk is harder here, but not diminished. And that title track! Hoo man.

Find this!

Ballin' Jack - 1972 - Buzzard Luck

Ballin' Jack 
Buzzard Luck

01. So Do I 5:05
02. Good Man 2:38
03. (Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need 3:36
04. Stay Awhile 3:08
05. Trouble 3:29
06. Telling Lies 3:45
07. Country Pine 3:33
08. Playin' The Game 2:26
09. You And Me 3:10
10. Bye,Bye,Bye 7:03

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Glenn Thomas
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Backing Vocals – Jim Coile
Trombone, Piano, Backing Vocals – Tim McFarland
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead Vocals – Jim Walters
Really good jazzy rock stuff.  The stand out tracks for me are "Contry Pine" and "Stay Awhile". 

I love these bands that have both black and white players, lots of members, facial hair, horn sections, a flute and somewhere maybe some bongos.  This combination can normally only lead to excellent soulful jazzy rock.  See also "Stuff" for this combination.

Ballin' Jack - 1970 - Ballin' Jack

Ballin' Jack 
Ballin' Jack

01. Found A Child 2:44
02. Super Highway 2:42
03. Festival 4:31
04. Telephone 2:09
05. Only A Tear 2:18
06. Never Let 'Em Say 2:46
07. Street People 2:03
08. Carnival 6:14
09. Ballin' The Jack 1:52
10. Hold On 6:38

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Glenn Thomas
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Backing Vocals – Jim Coile
Trombone, Piano, Backing Vocals – Tim McFarland
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead Vocals – Jim Walters

Ballin’ Jack was formed in Seattle by former childhood friends Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. Both of them had gone to school with and been friends with Jimi Hendrix at the city’s Garfield High School.  In the early 60s Luther Rabb played around the NW with several moderately successful outfits on the teen and R&B circuits.   He had even played saxophonist alongside Jimi Hendrix’s in The Velvetones, the first band Hendrix had been involved in.  Ronnie Hammon was a drummer who’d also backed a few Seattle bands-none of them particularly notable.  

In 1967 Rabb and Hammon decided to form their own band.  Rabb, a multi-accomplished musician would leave the saxophone behind and switch to bass guitar.  Hammon continued drumming, thus forming a strong rhythm section.  Almost immeadiately they added Jim Coile on flute and Tim McFarland on trombone. A bit later Jim Walters would come onboard as their saxophonist and Glen Thomas providing the lead guitar.  The name Ballin’ Jack has obscure origins.  It could be based on “Ballin’ the Jack” a 1913 song written by Jim Burris and  Chris Smith.  It could refer to the and the ensuing dance that became popularized by the song.  The expression “Ballin’ the Jack” also has ties to railroad workers who used the expression “to go full speed”.  But the band’s use of the shortened expression probably was chosen for one of two other reasons.  Sometimes the term “ballin’ the jack” implied having a great time.  There’s certainly enough examples of the expression being used in film, on Broadway and popular music….but sometime he meaning was (literally) deep, full-on sex.  Blues great Big Bill Broonzy sang in “Feel So Good”

There’s several ways to interpret the term, but “ballin the jack” was an expression often used in jazz and blues circles to mean deep, full and fast sex.  It may be this veiled, slang reference is the meaning the band intended their name to represent.

Ballin’ Jack found themselves moving to Los Angeles, living in a large house cum-home studio near the Sunset Strip.  Although all of the members had put plenty of time paying dues, their signing to Columbia Records and tour success came almost immediately, partly due to the encouragement of their old friend Jimi Hendrix.  One key to their success is that Ballin’ Jack had been formed not only as a soulful funk unit, but also as one of the “horn bands” that were popular on the fringe of pop music in the late 60s and early 70s.  They found themselves treading the waters of both James Brown and Sylvester Stone along with bands like WAR, Pacific Gas and Electric, Cold Blood, Tower of Power and other rock bands featuring horns that were arising from on the West Coast.  Obviously the most successful of these bands was the more commercial Chicago Transit Authority-later shortened to Chicago-from the Windy City

Many of these bands had begun creating a new hybrid of soul, jazz, funk with strong horn sections. They also followed the current (at the time) move to integrate multi-ethinic players into their line-up. Ballin’ Jack could be counted among this new genre, and their rise had been quick, but Ballin’ Jack they only found modest success outside the Northwest and Bay Area of being an incredibly tight and incredibly well-loved live act.  They played the college circuit, auditoriums  like the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East and a myriad of rock festivals.  In 1970 Billboard Magazine proclaimed

“Ballin Jack’s’ reputation was that live their shows were so good that fans were known to have left afterwards, and that some headliners had actually refused to have them again as an opening act”.

Unfortunatly none of this translated into the kind of album sales and radio play they deserved. The band only lasted five years, but not before becoming a reliable touring draw and Jimi Hendrix insisting they be included as openers for several of his 1970 Cry of Love tour. After .Hendrix’s death that year they would continue to share bills with the likes of B.B. King, Spirit, Elton John, Sly and The Family Stone, The Kinks, and more of the most famous artists of their day.  They even found themselves playing two of America’s most venerated small clubs, The Bottom Line in New York City, and The Troubador in Los Angeles.  The band also played two separate sold-out dates in their hometown, at Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1973 and 1974 respectively.  In 1973 Ballin’ Jack were featured on Burt Sugarman’s prestigious late-night show The Midnight Special.  One thing that distinguished the show was that bands played live in the TV studio.  No lip-synching.  No backing tracks.  Of course, Ballin’ Jack tore the place up.

In 1974 Ballin’ Jack called it quits due to poor album and single sales, and the band’s running it’s natural course. Co-founder Luther Rabb went on to tour as vocalist with Santana in 1976.  He then began working with Lola Falana and in 1977 released his own solo album Street Angel. Throughout the early to mid 1980’s Rabb was the bass player for

In 1986 Rabb was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with nerve damage-consequently ending his career as a bassist.  At that point Rabb moved on to management and production until, sadly, he was left paralyzed by a stroke in 2002.  Eventually Rabb died in 2006, but he’s still recognized for his incredible talents in Ballin’ Jack,  Santana, and WAR.  He had kept close contacts with friends and musicians in the Seattle area, where his passing also had a great effect.

Although Ballin’ Jack never found the audience they should have in the 70s it’s ironic that since the band’s demise their music has been used in TV and Radio ads for the ESPN X Games and Found A Child was re-recorded in 2005, by Kon & Amir” and released as 12? vinyl for sale to hip-hoppin’ live DJ’s.    The Beastie Boys also sampled Ballin’ Jack’s  “Never Let ‘Em Say” on their album Paul’s Boutique.  Their music has also been sampled by Ozamatli, Gang Starr and DoubleXX Posse Cheetah Girls .  Their most famous and most heavily sampled Found A Child was used liberally on Young MC’s international hit, Bust A Move.