February 22, 2005

The Soul of Whit

"Question" (Price/Logan and Powell/Whitfield)
Bobby Powell, Whit, 1971

Don't ask

Well, no, it really isn’t all that swampy around Baton Rouge, where Bobby Powell is from; but, as I’ve said before, I use the Swamp Side designation as just a figure of speech to identify Louisiana soul or funk not directly related to New Orleans.

As I think you’ll agree after sampling “Question”, Mr. Powell’s obscurity is certainly undeserved. I rank his vocals up there with the Crescent City’s Johnny Adams for seemingly effortless delivery, incredible range, and soul power; and I picked this song to showcase that. Yet Powell, who had some minor hits in the 1960’s, is virtually forgotten today, while the late, great Adams’ flame burns on, maybe due to his late blossoming popularity through his Rounder recordings.

I didn’t really become a big fan of Bobby Powell until I heard his mid-1960’s to early 1970’s sides compiled on the now out of print WESTSIDE CD, Into My Own Thing. Most of those records were done for Lionel Whitfield’s Whit label, based in Baton Rouge; and, while the production values were sometimes less than optimal, the unnamed backing bands and Powell’s performances take many of the tunes to higher ground. Bill Dahl, in his informative, insightful CD notes, mentions that the lyrics to “Question” are based on a 1960 Lloyd Price song of the same name, while the music is totally redone. So, I’ve given two writing teams the credit on this one.

I encourage y’all to hear more Bobby Powell. He also did an LP for Excello in the 1970’s, plus recording later that decade for Hep Me in New Orleans, which is what I first heard. But his hometown work made me realize what a gem this guy was in his prime.

Latebreaking: Monkeyfunk has the flip side of "Question", "Peace Begins Within", posted right now. An inspired choice. Check it out. And, I've got some suggestions for finding Bobby Powell on CD over at Da Big Greasy Guide.


Blogger monkeyfunk said...

Fantastic song - for those digging the vinyl, this is available on a 45, I think on the Whit label...the flip is the incredibly solid funk of Peace Begins Within, itself covered by Nora Dean on Trojan, mid 70's. we've posted it up on http://monkeyfunk45.blogspot.com/

Dan - loving your style.

5:12 AM, February 23, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks to monkeyfunk - check out dat blog. Anybody who posts Bobby Powell has my gratitude and encouragement. Hey, the funky flip, "Peace Begins Within", was written and originally recorded by Mylon LeFevre and his band in 1970 on the album 'Mylon', produced by Toussaint. Guess I'll have to blog some Mylon one of these days.

9:33 AM, February 23, 2005  
Blogger Reverend Frost said...

Bonjour Dan, just can't believe I didn't see your blog, must be blind ! Thanx again.

3:44 AM, February 25, 2005  
Blogger perryb said...

Hi there,
Great blog BTW which I stumbled across while trying to find info on Bobby Powell. I won "Do Something For Yourself" (Whit 45) on eBay last night.
I have the Beat DVD which features Powell doing this song (Live I think too. A very fine song indeed from an under exposed artist.

2:19 AM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Congrats on that score, perryb. It is a great song. I can't remember if his performance of it on The !!!Beat is live or not, either, right now. Your message reminds me that it's past time to post something else by Bobby! Stay tuned. . .

9:50 AM, March 14, 2006  

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