It’s a lovely week to be a fan of mercurial sixties singer-songwriter P.F. Sloan, with his first US album release since 1972’s Raised on Records (my review of Sailover is here), a feature story in the L.A. Times (which I had a small part in, passing contact info for Phil’s one-time songwriting partner and Bubblegum Award recipient Steve Barri along to writer Richard Cromelin) and a terrific electronic press kit over on YouTube, where Phil wanders around London, talks about the record with producer Jon Tiven, leafs through old photo proof sets and lets slip the secret identity of Hallowe’en Mary. It’s great to see Phil looking so happy, and getting the recognition he’s so long deserved.
Hope you all had a Happy Fourth of July! I sure did, and the resulting recovery from said celebrations have made me once again kinda slow on the draw here in blog-land and I am once again begging you to bear with me as I catch up.
After a few blogs about the genius of soul that is Don Covay, I promised I would hip you to a series of tribute CDs to soul heroes which came out in the early-to-mid-’90’s on the Razor and Tie label and Shanachie Records.
The tributes, one each for Curtis Mayfield, Don Covay and Arthur Alexander, were spearheaded by a rocker with Memphis ties, Jon Tiven. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Tiven has bumped around the music scene since the late ’60’s but started gaining fame in the mid-’70’s as part of the Big Star axis. Although never in that groundbreaking pop band, Tiven played in other bands with various permutations of the members and also counted among his bandmates and collaborators unsung Memphis pop geniuses (and who I will devote future blogs to) Van Duren and Tommy Hoehn.
Knocking sround Memphis and later New York City, Tiven slowly gained notice as an excellent producer and songwriter, as well as artist in his own right. Many bands and artists have covered Tiven and his bass-playing wife Sally’s songs over the years and current albums by Ellis Hooks, Shemekia Copeland and Frank Black bear evidence of his song-writing ability and producing skills.
Back in the early ’90’s, Tiven started releasing these great tribute CDs featuring a coterie of great performers like Covay, Ron Wood, members of rock band Living Colour, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Iggy Pop and on and on. Though they are hard to find today, I suggest searching them out if you can. The performances are all top notch and many feature Tiven and his band playing back-up.
I am set to interview Tiven soon and I will flesh out the story behind these tributes in a few weeks but I hope you endeavor to search them out and listen to them. They are possibly the best tribute CDs ever in a world that has way too many of them. The artists taking part are showcased well and the artists being honored couldn’t possibly have their songs lavished with more respect.
Also keep your eyes peeled for any CD with Tiven’s name in the credits. He is a throwback to the days when people cared about music and everything he produces has an authentic feel to it. Whenever I stumble across his name on a CD, I pick it up because I know I am going to like it. He has a great ear for new artists, is a great songwriter and has a cool little recording career going himself. An album on Rounder from the late ’90’s is especially good. Search that out as well.
The Music Nerd knows…..
As I sit here still suffering from computer woes, I have to tell you about a great little CD I heard a few weeks ago by the young soul artist Ellis Hooks.
It’s called Godson of Soul and it came out on the Evidence label last year. I ran into it a few weeks ago during one of my frequent record store CD hunting expeditions and it quickly became one of my favorite CDs.
Hooks is a relatively young (late 20s) Southern born gentleman who has the uncanny ability to channel Sam Cooke and Al Green whenever he wants to. That’s right: he plays vintage soul of the highest order but does it in-the-now, baby. This ain’t old sessions from an unknown found and released – this is the freshy fresh done with the old school flava!
Old rock hand and (I am sure) friend of co-blogger Gary Pig Gold (yes, Gary – Intercourse is what I am talking about – the album, that is!) Jon Tiven and his wife Sally have produced all of Hooks’ albums including this one and done an excellent job of capturing the old Stax and Hi Records’ sounds. Tiven himself is worth a few columns and his soul tributes on Razor and Tie featuring Gary Pig (among many others) paying props to Don Covay and Arthur Alexander are delightful.
But Hooks is what I am writing about today. By the way, search out his other three records. Most are on Evidence but I believe his debut from 1993 is out only as an import. I have searched them out in the past few weeks and they are all equally great.
To see a new artist go after the old sound and be unashamed about it is refreshing and wonderful as hell. Artists like Hooks and Joss Stone are giving me faith in the music business again. A bonus with Hooks is he can write some hellacious lyrics and with his good looks and talents there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to put the puzzle together and hit it really, really big. I believe he just needs an “in” right now – to do some work or a duet with some established artist on a “big” album. He could do it on his own, but let’s face it – he’s fighting all of the scum in the music business.
If you are a fan of old soul like Green and Cooke and would like to hear what they did done on a contemporary level without all of the Michael McDonald/Taylor Hicks/Michael Bolton cheesiness, check out Ellis Hooks – you won’t be sorry.
The Music Nerd Knows……..