Joel Goldenberg: Freda Payne and others

The great Freda Payne.

And now we continue with the not-at-all ponderous P list, beginning with one of the great soul singers of the early 1970s.


Freda Payne: It's a dang ding dong shame that except perhaps on ITunes and Amazon and scattered brick and mortar record stores outside of Montreal, the wonderful catalogue of the Hot Wax and Invictus labels of the early 1970s, both started by former Motown songwriters and producers Holland-Dozier-Holland, is almost nowhere to be found.

(Someone let me know if the catalogue is available for streaming on Spotify U.S.— the only thing I've seen on Spotify Canada is a couple of compilations from the great girl group Honey Cone of Want Ads fame.)

The greatest artist on that label, in my opinion, was Freda Payne, where she best displayed her alternately boisterous and sweet vocals on well-known hits like Band of Gold and Bring the Boys Home, amongst others.

But my favourite of all her songs was the most ambitious, the 10-minute "medley" of I'm Not Getting Any Better/Suddenly It's Yesterday. Production wise, it's pretty much the soul version of the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations with its multiple musical changes. As a song, it has everything I like in early 1970s soul, including the horn charts, guitar licks, and background vocals. But best of all are Freda's own vocals, which are so appealing that I wish the song was 20 minutes long. I especially love the part near the fade out where she sings "I'm not getting any better" in different ways.

But please, somebody make a deal to get the Hot Wax/Invictus stuff out there for everyone to hear.


Peaches and Herb: I have a feeling that the smoochy Reunited and I Pledge My Love were among the most chosen songs to be played at late 1970s and early 1980s high school graduation dances. Because that's the image that comes to my mind when I hear those songs. And that's not an insult — it's wistful nostalgia.


Ann Peebles: Those who accuse the Hi Records production team of having used the same kind of gritty production techniques over and over, especially with Al Green, have to hear Peebles' much-covered I Can't Stand the Rain. The opening percussion sequence is an eye-opening production advance in the context of the early 1970s.


The Penguins: Yes, a lot of 1950s doo-wop was rather primitively recorded and, with many exceptions, amateurishly performed. But the much-heard Earth Angel stands out because of its wonderful yearning, which will never get stale no matter how much the song is played on Oldies radio.


Carl Perkins: Perkins is one of the greatest figures in the history of early rock 'n roll, with songs like Dixie Fried and his ambling hit Blue Suede Shoes, and he merits all of the acclaim he has received from critics and musical luminaries like the Beatles. But sorry, Elvis Presley's storming version of Blue Suede Shoes steamrolls all over Perkins' comparatively casual Sun Records original.


Peter and Gordon: This British invasion duo is best known for singing the Lennon-McCartney (probably just McCartney) song A World Without Love, with the immortal opening line "please lock me away," and also for singing McCartney's (under the nom de plume Bernard Webb) Woman, available for too many years in exceptionally murky Duophonic fake stereo.

But artistically, I find P and G's best moments to be their glorious and effervescent cover of Del Shannon's I Go To Pieces; and the novelty song Lady Godiva, especially the way the line "he directs, Certificate X" is sung.

(For those unfamiliar with British terms, Certificate X is known as Rated X in North America where movies are concerned.)


Peter Paul and Mary: A lot of late 1950s and early 1960s folk music was sanctimonious, but P, P and M's songs were consistently pleasant because of their phenomenal harmonies, spread across the stereo spectrum like early Beach Boys songs. My favourite of their songs was their wistful cover of John Denver's Leaving On A Jet Plane, which CFCF-12 used to use in the early 1970s as video filler with scenes of, I presume, Dorval Airport. The trio also helped bring Bob Dylan into the mainstream. But I can't get past the fact that their massive hit Puff the Magic Dragon sounds a bit too much like a 1950s hit, It's Almost Tomorrow by The Dream Weavers.


Esther Phillips: Before I bought the 2-LP Atlantic Phillips 1960s compilation Set Me Free, which was not a hits collection, I only knew the slinky-voiced Esther for hits like Release Me (pre-Engelbert) and her later version of Dinah Washington's What A Difference a Day Makes. Then I heard the non-LP (until Set Me Free) songs Mojo Hannah and Some Things You Never Get Used To. The former is one of the best rhythm and blues romps I ever heard, with breathtaking musical changes; and the latter, a heartbreak ballad, nearly brings tears to my eyes.


Bobby "Boris" Pickett: I like the Hallowe'en hit Monster Mash a lot, but I resent the fact it crowds out the very funny John Zacherle hit Dinner With Drac on radio when Oct. 31 comes around. On the other hand, I love Monster Mash because I was able to sing it pretty much perfectly in my karaoke performing era.

Next time: Wilson Pickett and others.





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