It seems like just the other day that Jon Spencer and I were having a laugh about some fist-flying Gibson Bros. scuffle, but it's been ages since I've heard anything new from Monsieur Jeffrey Evans. Well, you can rule out billiard halls, barrooms and prison work farms, since it appears that M. Evans has found religion - at least enough of it to fill two sides of a golden 7-inch gospel single on the Big Legal Mess label.
Before anyone gets too weirded out by the idea of Evans rockin' for Jesus, the two songs he recorded with his Southern Aces, namely Brother David Terrell's Lord, Keep Me Sanctified and Evans's own Spread A Joyful Noise, could be considered hymns for heathens and not that different from the grimy blues rock for which he's known and loved. The Big Legal Mess label shares a post office box in Oxford, Mississippi, with Fat Possum. 'Nuff said.
Little Willie found!
For a long time now there have been rumours of an unreleased Little Willie John recording session circa 1966, around the time of his murder convicton and subsequent life sentence. It turns out that John, one of the all-time great song stylists of the R&B era, who paved the way for the advent of soul, actually did cut three sessions in Hollywood while awaiting the results of an appeal on February 24, 1966, under the supervision of arranger H.B. Barnum and producer David Axelrod. The idea was to release a comeback album on Capitol, but King label boss Syd Nathan caught wind of it and blocked the release, claiming he still had John under contract, so the recordings were shelved.
Now, 40 years after John's tragic passing in a Walla Walla penitentiary, 20 of those lost tracks have finally been issued as Nineteen Sixty Six: The David Axelrod And H.B. Barnum Sessions (Kent/Ace). They show John in top form, singing with the pleading passion that was his hallmark, over Barnum's tasteful arrangements that recall Axelrod's work with Lou Rawls of the period. The music doesn't eclipse John's classic King sides, but it's a welcome capper to a stellar canon that defines deep soul.
I Had A Dream aka Just a Dream (Little Willie John)
Never Let Me Go (Little Willie John)
Funk for all
There have been so many compilations of so-called "funk" from the 60s and 70s, covering everything from slower northern soul to indie jazz and basement disco, that it's difficult to tell what sort of music you might be getting on any collection using the funk descriptor. The patchy sixth volume of BGP's Super Funk series is called Mighty Super Funk, but to compiler Dean Rudland's ears, anything with a wah-wah pedal, a talk-singing vocal track or a reference to hot pants seems to qualify. They're clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel, but there are a few impressive finds, like Joe Haywood's (Play Me) A Cornbread Song
Queen of Losers (Mighty SuperFunk)
Significantly more solid is the second Kay-Dee label retrospective assembled by collector/DJs Kenny Dope and Keb Darge, which leans more heavily toward gritty disco than to anything that might be mistaken for straight-up funk. But the sequencing is superb, and Dope's dance-floor-tested remixes of Clarence Reid's Masterpiece
, the Soul Severes' I Got It and Rickey Calloway's Shed A Tear
make it well worth grabbing.