• By: Owen Maxwell

Swing into Spring with These Classic Spins

Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth
– The 24-Carat Black

You’d need an extra set of hands to count the past members of the 70s soul/funk group 24-Carat Black but it all started when Motown / Stax musician and producer Dale Warren caught a glimpse of a young Cincinnati, Ohio band called The Ditalians. A quick name change later and 24-Carat Black hit the scene to bust out…well, really, just one recording. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth would draw comparisons to Warren’s more known collaborations with Issac Hayes and to many genre fans is considered one of the first concept albums in the soul, funk and R&B genres. Back in the 70s this spot was usually reserved for the prog-rock of, say, Pink Floyd, Genesis or Rush.

Spinning it on this phenomenal 180-gram vinyl reissue, you have to wonder why the group didn’t continue. This, put simply, is a gorgeous soul opera. The orchestral ballads and grooves synonymous with the Blaxploitation-era are present to tie together one of those releases that may have been miles ahead of its time. From the epic eight and a half minute opening cut “Synopsis One: In The Ghetto / God Save The World” you know you’ve landed on different territory with things bordering on Chopin’esq classical before the funk comes down. A personal stand out is side two’s funkified “Food Stamps”.

Keeping it old-school, the tip-on jacket has a printed inner sleeve with new liner notes by Rob Bowman, Grammy Award winning author of Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records.

Howl and Other Poems
– Allen Ginsberg

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”

With those words Allen Ginsberg began one the most influence poems of his or any generation, Howl. Unleashed into a torrent of controversy in 1956, the work would establish Ginsberg as one of the leaders of the Beat Generation with people taking notice of the brave new voice early on. Especially the cops! The San Francisco police seized 520 copies of the poem in March of 1957 citing vulgarity. The text would find itself at the heart of an obscenity trail that would see two bookstore owners arrested for selling it. (They would later be cleared)

Still recognized as a landmark work, Craft Recordings has released a deluxe vinyl box set that includes this and other works by Ginsberg as read by the poet himself. It’s like having a legend fill your room with a tapestry of verbal brilliance.

Craft wanted to highlight the history behind this release and has included a replica of the original text published in 1956 as well as a reproduction of the original invite to the City Lights reading. This was an event fictionalized by Kerouac in The Dharma Bums describing the riotous crowd as chanting “Go! Go! Go!” as Ginsberg recited.  The set also includes new liner notes by Beat scholar Ann Charters, as well as notes by poet Anne Waldman.

The Beats were there before Howl but this poem would establish them as a cultural movement. If you haven’t discovered this poetic rage against society’s conformism and capitalism, now is the time!

Stax Singles, Vol 4
– Rarities & The Best of the Rest

If you managed to catchMelissa Etheridge’s amazing Bluesfest show last summer, you’d have heard the praise of Stax Records, the Memphis Tennessee label that helped introduce Southern soul to the world. When you have Booker T. & the M.G.’s as your house band you know you’re coming out swinging. The artist roster on Stax is a Hall of Fame unto itself with names like Otis Redding, Albert King, The Staple Singers and Wilson Picket gracing the vaults.

Having already released three volumes of their historic singles catalogue in the past, Stax is now reaching up to the top shelves to dust off some rarities and the best of the rest in a 6-CD box set that shows the archives are still exceptionally mineable. 

Don’t think this is a label slapping a coat of gloss over whatever they have left to offer. This material is worthy of any collection. As author Rob Bowman states: "[Stax's B-sides] are, by and large, better than most companies' A-sides."

This set has a fine mix of soul, as you’d expect, but listeners might be surprised to find the inclusion of blues, rock and even a little country. While known more for the soul sound, the label opted to explore new avenues in the 60’s and 70’s opening the door to rockers like Ardent, gospel singings like Chalice and even some comedy with Richard Pryor.

There’s lot to dig into in these 145 cuts. The collection features over 60 wide-ranging artists, including the Staple Singers, Big Star, the Bar-Kays, Jean Knight, Don Nix, the Rance Allen Group and Johnnie Taylor. It also has an 80-page booklet to flip through with four informative essays by by music journalist Lee Hildebrand, writer and producer Alec Palao, box set co-producer Bill Belmont and Rob Bowman, author of Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records.

Here’s Little Richard
–  Little Richard

A whomp bob a loo bop, a whomp bam boom. Tuttie Fruit, yes rutti, one of rock ‘n’ rolls best golden oldies is now 60! Celebrating Little Richard’s iconic 1957 debut, Here’s Little Richard, Craft has dropped a piano thumping 2-CD set that gives listeners the classic album as well as a slew of demos, alternative takes and stuff you’ve never heard before.

Richards first recording gave him some of his biggest hits. You should have already gathered that “Tutti Fruitti” is kicking off this collection but you’ll also be able to spin “Ready Teddy”, “Rip It Up” and “Long Tall Sally”. The golden oldies have never sounded so golden as they do on these two discs.

Richard was a performer like nobody had ever seen when he hit the scene to shake it up in the early 50s with a mess of sweat and flamboyancy backed by thunderous piano playing. Though it’s debated on who created rock ‘n’ roll, Little Richard is always somewhere at the top of that list.

So, what are collectors going to be interested in here? How about 22 tracks of bonuses that dives into the man’s creative process? You get to step into the studio back in ’57 and hear different takes of tracks that defined rock. You can decide for yourself if what made it onto the album was the best choice or pick up nuances between four different versions of “Rip It Up”. The “Slippin and Slidin’” demo showcases the piano and drums while take 6 of “Long Tall Sally” provides listeners with an alternative path to how things might have been.

Arguably, the main realease stands on its own feet (and those feet are dancing!) and doesn’t need any bells and whistles (or extra bop bam booms?). The bonus disc is just gravy! New liner notes by GRAMMY®-nominated writer, music editor and journalist Chris Morris round out the package.