Sunday, 16 February 2014

Jubt On: The Record That Really Got Me Digging For Records

Every addiction starts with the intial high that you continue to chase. In the case of records, it's still part of the residual rush that keeps dragging me back to Real Groovy, Conch, and Record Fairs to this day (and OK, yep, markets, opshops, junkstores). For me the records and music were always important, but it was a chance find at the Grey Lynn City Mission (now a generic suburban cafe) that really got me hooked on pursuit of the black crack.

The album was a bendy, nabby-cornered NZ pressing, sporting a sticker proclaiming "Property of NZBC". It was Esther Phillips 'Alone Again, Naturally' (Kudu 1972). I had never heard of Esther Phillips, but knew a cover like that housed some quality music.

Inspection of the back cover revealed the band were littered with some of the era's greatest players; not only current favourite drummer Billy Cobham, but also Bernard Purdie, bass from Ron Carter, and (already being a James Brown nut) the names Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis slapped me between the eyes. I didn't know it at the time, but an unfamiliar name accompanied by a scrawled signature above Esther's forehead would become a fetishised brand of quality for many years of record collecting ahead: Creed Taylor.

The songs are a mixture of funky soul and a few ballads, with the material drawn from the songbooks of Bill Withers ('Use Me', 'Let Me In Your Life'), Gilbert O'Sullivan (title track) and others. I'm not going to get myself any cool points naming this record. It's not on anyone's top twenty soul albums, it's considered by many to be recorded after the end of the prime period of soul and Creed Taylor's smoothed out "soul with strings" irritates soul purists. Hell, it's probably not even Esther Phillips's best album, and doesn't contain her funkiest joints. However, one listen to 'Use Me' and I was hooked. There are many worthy cover versions, but Esther sees off the Withers original and the Grace Jones robotic cover. Be warned! There lurk out in the wilderness of the internet covers by Fiona Apple, and Mick Jagger featuring Lenny Kravitz.

Over the next few years I played this record until the groove became crackly and indistinct. To this day when I see it cheap on a record shelf I pick it up - because for me this is where it all began.

- Jubt Avery
(Taken from issue #3 of the 'Soultearoa Shakedown' fanzine)

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