Dominic's Staff Pick: October 14, 2022

Howdy Sorry Staters! Thanks for clicking on our newsletter. As always, we appreciate it. Daniel works super hard to make sure we give you plenty of cool stuff to read and look at each week. He really is a beast the way he cranks out his workload and always writes from the heart and honestly about the bands and records we are championing. Give him a slap on the back, buy him a drink or just say thank you next time you see him or talk to him. He deserves it.

I’m just super grateful to be a part of the Sorry State world and can say that working here has been a lifesaver. Music is my salvation and I love nothing more than being around records and music people. My health, wealth and personal life might be a shambles, but working with such cool and talented people here along with our interactions with our friends and customers gets me through the day. You can’t beat being around great music all day and putting records into the hands of those that appreciate them is such a reward. Truly.

Being a music evangelist, enthusiast, record nerd, DJ and keeper of random trivia, there is no other place for me than a record store. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some good ones over the years, but with all due respect to all the great stores out there past and present, Sorry State is number one in my heart. Lol.

When not in the store slinging vinyl, I do still occasionally get out and do some DJ work. Not as much these days since the pandemic, but hopefully moving forward there will be more opportunities. A gig came up last week that I was happy to do, and which was a lot of fun. It was a fundraiser for Democratic North Carolina Senate candidate Cheri Beasley in the form of a dance party which took place after the televised debate she had with her opponent. Hosted by the good folks at Hummingbird at their event space, it was a great success and I felt good supporting and being a part of the night. I was one of three DJs for the night and had the honor of being behind the decks when Cheri Beasley arrived and had a little dance. As it was a dance party, I had brought some good disco and funk bangers to spin but also brought some popular faves that I wouldn’t typically play out much due to them being so well known. This wasn’t the gig for deep cuts so much, and sure enough the tunes that got the floor filled and people dancing were the hits.

One such record that I haven’t played out in years because we’ve all heard it a million times, but that was perfect for the night, was Ladies’ Night by Kool & The Gang. I know, I know, you are probably raising your eyebrows, but have you listened to that record in full recently? Loud? At a party? With some red wine fueling you? Lol. Well, have you? Let me tell you, it sounds great. Those horns punch magnificently. What a groove from start to finish. A big hit for a reason, along with the song Too Hot that appeared on the Ladies’ Night album released in the fall of 1979.

Kool & The Gang’s story began back in 1964 in Jersey City, New Jersey with the Bell brothers and five of their friends who formed an instrumental soul and jazz band called the Jazziacs. They changed their name a couple of times during the next few years and played mostly as backing for local and visiting vocal acts, eventually settling for Kool & The Gang in 1969, suggested by their new manager Gene Redd as an alternative to Kool & The Flames which was thought to be too close to James Brown’s Famous Flames. Gene Redd had just started his new label De-Light Records and signed Kool & The Gang and their career truly began. Their 1970 debut self-titled album was still all instrumental, but the band realized they needed to add vocals and stage presence if they were going to succeed. Over the course of the next few albums, two of which were live records, they began gaining their confidence as vocalists and songwriters. Although not disco devotees themselves, they picked up on the underground sounds becoming popular in the clubs and on their 1973 album Wild And Peaceful gave the world the song Jungle Boogie, which along with the tune Funky Stuff were big hits and hinted towards the sound of disco about to explode across the country and world.

The group continued throughout the rest of the decade, achieving a good amount of success and releasing several records. It was during this time that they cut the all-time classic Summer Madness that went on to be a popular hip-hop sample best used by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for their mega hit Summertime. A tune so good they released it as both a studio and live version. It wasn’t all chartbusters though, and for a brief time towards the end of the decade they saw their star diminish somewhat. Perhaps the move to overtly disco sounding records and the addition of strings wasn’t the best move for them and realizing this they sought a way back to their original harder funk sound but still being appealing to a wider (and white) audience. The group did this by aligning with a new producer, Brazilian Eumir Deodato ,who helped develop the poppier side of the band by keeping the catchy hooks and danceable beat and by bringing onboard James “J.T.” Taylor as a dedicated vocalist. The first fruit of this new set up was Ladies Night, and thus launched the most successful era of the band’s career. Amazingly, this was their eleventh album. Although the group would undergo more changes over the years, by 2021 they had released a total of twenty-five albums, which included nine number one R&B hits and a pop number one with the song Celebration. Quite some feat and testament to their enduring appeal.

I’m not going to BS y’all and say I have all their records, but certainly have their 1970s records and the early to mid 1980s ones. There are bangers to be found on all of those, and I would encourage you to investigate. They don’t typically run too expensive and aren’t that tough to find. We probably have a copy of Ladies Night in our bargain bin right now.

Besides the gig this past week, I was a little busier over on The Face Radio. Before our regular show Worldy, Matt and I did what the station calls a “side hustle” show where the DJs play music not in their wheelhouse or stuff that they don’t get to spin that often. Both Matt and I love country music, so we did a whole two hours of country, western and bluegrass music. It was a lot of fun, and two hours wasn’t nearly enough time to play a fraction of the records that we both wanted to play. Despite a technical problem at the top of the show which affected the first few minutes, once we got going, I think we had a good one and perhaps you will enjoy listening if Americana and roots music is your bag.

My love of all things America and particularly the legends of the Old West has been with me all my life, and was set into stone during the two incredible tours my parents took my sister and I on back in the day. My dad, who didn’t listen to too much music, did like country music and his favorite artist was Hank Williams. When he was a young man, he sailed to America on the old Queen Mary with his brother and spent five years or so working and traveling around the States. This was in the early 1950s, when Hank Williams was at his peak of popularity, and I am sure my dad was exposed to his music and honky-tonk country during this time. His love for this period of country music was passed on to me, and I always try and pick up good records from this period when I see them. One such record that got played this past Monday on the show is one of my favorite Hank Williams albums called Honky-Tonkin’. This one has some of my all-time fave Hank tracks on it as well as sporting an awesome cover. It includes the big hit Jambalaya (On The Bayou) to start things off then goes right into I Won’t Be Home No More, Honky Tonk Blues, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive—a song with some of the best lyrics ever—and that’s just the first side. Side two keeps going with more classics, including the immortal Mind Your Own Business. It’s almost a greatest hits record. I guess technically my copy is a 1960 repress as the original 1954 release was an eight track 10” record that was expanded to an LP with twelve tracks in 1956. I honestly prefer the cover to this version over the 1954 release, although that one is cool too, but the newer art is just a little better in my opinion.

I have a few things that my dad and I bonded over. Our love of western movies and country records were probably the biggest, and every time I hear an old Hank Williams record, I imagine my dad back in the 1950s sitting in some bar listening to the jukebox or driving on the highway dialed into the local radio station. The music entered his DNA and was passed onto me, and here I am all these years later still digging it. I picture him up in heaven honky-tonkin’ and having a good time. I almost didn’t mention any of this, but coming into work this morning, John Scott had a Hank Williams record playing, and so it confirmed my decision and I hope you’ll join us in some classic country appreciation this week.

Okay, that’s all the blah, blah, blah from me this week. Thanks for reading and as always, I hope you have fun spinning whatever record you have on your turntable. Cheers and see you next time.

Footnote: I had a beater copy of Kool & The Gang’s Wild And Peaceful in my bargain bin boxes and gave it a wash, and John Scott and I jammed out to it at the end of our shift. It looked like an ice rink but sounded great. That record is chock full of bangers. Gotta love how they made records back then.


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