March 05, 2008

Denise Keeble: Giving It Up In More Ways than One

[UPDATED 3/15/2012]

This is a follow-up to a post I did last October on Denise Keeble's Pelican single "Chain On My Thing" b/w "Before It Falls Apart". Right around the time I featured those sides, I found a nice copy of her only other known single and am finally getting around to featuring it. Please refer to that earlier post for what little background I have on Ms Keeble and those songs.

"Love School" (E. Small -M. Cottrell)
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

If you thought Wardell Quezergue's Pelican label was obscure, B.F.W. had it beat, with apparently only this one release to its credit. Probably the only reason the 45 came out on a newly minted imprint was the hope that it would get some airplay and attract the interest of a larger label that could give it a push into national markets. A hope that was unrealized.

As he did on her other record, Big Q produced and arranged these sides at Malaco in Jackson, MS in 1970/1971, during the very productive days when he was almost constantly using the studio and it's fine young studio band, having created big hits right off the bat for King Floyd and Jean Knight. Though Knight recorded the massive "Mr. Big Stuff" early in 1970, it was not picked up for release by Stax until the next year. I don't know exactly where "Love School" fits into that timeline, but it has obvious similarities to the style and flavor of Knight's hit, which was composed by members of the producer's songwriting team, Joe Broussard, Carol Washington, and Ralph Williams.

Another member of the team,
Elliott Small, co-wrote "Love School" with Milton Cottrell; and, while the tune has a pretty funny concept and some of the funky bounce of "Mr. Big Stuff", it pales in comparison. Part of the problem was that Keeble just didn't have the same sassy, stand-out vocal chops to deliver the goods like Ms Knight. But, even if Knight had done it, "Love School" would have been at best a B-side or album cut. Still, Quezergue's signature tight arrangement of interlicking, syncopated parts offered good enough grooving to make the track worth some spins. The predominant, percolating bass line rendered by Vernie Robbins put the emphasis on booty action and keeps me coming back for more education.

As with Keeble's other single, I find the B-side more interesting - impressive even, which is why I am including it, too.

"Giving Up" (V. McCoy)
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

The great songwriter and producer of soul/pop hits, Van McCoy, wrote "Giving Up" for Gladys Knight in 1964. In Quezergue's deft hands, this version outshines McCoy's own production on Knight's original Maxx single. Dramatic and musically sophisticated, the song is just the kind of thing an expansive talent like the Big Q could run with. He issued forth a flowing, lush, well-paced, and rhythmically gripping arrangement that uplifted Denise Keeble's vocals and allowed her to finally show her strengths. Although she held her own on the song, she was nowhere near the league of Gladys Knight. Just imagine what Knight could have done with this version. To listen deeply into this song is to behold and relish Quezergue's gifts in all their glory. So why, why, why was it the B-side?

I also have all four songs from Keeble's 45s on the Funky Delicacies CD, Wardell Quezergue's Funky Funky New Orleans, [now out of print, it seems] but totally forgot about this one until I got the single. That's a true record collecting pay-off right there.

Interestingly, around the same time that Keeble did her version, Donny Hathaway also recorded an interpretation of "Giving Up" that took the song somewhere else; but, neither his take nor Keeble's caught a commercial break. Subsequently, she either gave up on the business, or it gave up on her, because, as far as I can tell, she did not record again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick heads up not necessarily related to this week's post:

While planning my Jazz Fest night shows, I came across this listing for the funky Meters and the Neville Brothers at the same event!...

It's the Que'in on the Red Festival (as in Bar-B-Que) and it's March 14th and 15th.

Check the entertainment list:

Yowza! I know Alexandria ain't Lafayette, but once you know, so you can make yer plans to go...

1:33 PM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger 100%groove said...

That would please to me If you thank you could réuploader l'album of etta James Etta Is Betta Than Evah :))

4:18 PM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yowsa, indeed, freebo! I'll tell ya, Alexandria is coming right along. They've been reaching out to bands from NO and this area to play up there; and this festival sounds like they mean to take it to the next level. Me 'n the Mrs have tickets to see Barbara Lynn perform here in Lafayette that Friday night; so, I doubt we'll be able to make it up there - but, if anyone else lives in this general area, you have a shot at a double whammy with the funky Meters and Neville Bros on the same weekend- though I hope the weather warms up.

By the way, are you THE freebo?

And 100%groove, if you will, please email me about l'album Etta James and give me some more details, so we can discuss.

11:23 PM, March 07, 2008  
Blogger 100%groove said...

I am French I maitrise not enough l'anglais veiled my email ( thank you to m'avoir répondu!"

4:39 AM, March 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

No I am not THE Freebo, but I'll tell ya that fine gentleman is still around, making and playing good music. I tip my hat to him and his accomplishments.

The name is just a nickname that I acquired way back when... and it's been an easy handle for internet postings like this one. But, in an effort to differentiate, I do not capitalize my spelling...

Anyway: enjoy Ms. Lynn! Good to know you're talking the better half along witchya. Yeah you right.

And especially: thanks for this great blog. I am truly grateful you share your passion and knowledge with us. Love it, bro.


12:55 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Well, a lower-case freebo is better than none at all! Glad to hear that your capitalized counterpart is still making with da music.

I am truly blessed that my Mrs is almost as big a music freak as I am. She also did a radio show at WEVL in Memphis. Fortunately, I guess, she's not quite obsessed (that's the kind word for it) enough to do a blog.

Glad you get something out of HOTG. I appreciate your comments and encouragement. Enjoy your Festing.

2:06 PM, March 10, 2008  
Blogger Mondo said...

Very jaunty funk - top digging

6:42 AM, March 13, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Peaches Records has reopened... this could be a great resource for your site. I went in today, it's a very chill location and they have everything.

There was also live music.

4:50 PM, July 29, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Everything, lilmeg? We'll soon see 'bout dat! Of course, for those not from or familiar with New Orleans, Peaches has opened up in the French Quarter in the former space occupied by Tower Records, now defunct. Thanks for the heads-up; but don't forget to support the Louisiana Music Factory, too. They have been the real deal and a great resource for a very long time - before and after Katrina. Good folks. That's why I link to 'em so often.

7:54 AM, July 30, 2008  

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