Gene West – In The Ghetto

Gene West - In The Ghetto

I’m sure (like me initially) you’ve never heard of the artist I bring you in this week’s update. Upon further investigation into just who Gene West is/was it became apparent that he was a heavyweight (literally) in the soul world – step forward the Love Walrus himself, Mr Barry White.

Now when you listen to the song it becomes obvious due to the deep tone of the singer’s voice. I have to admit, I’ve never been a fan of Mr White – in fact he represents a particular brand of “soul” music that I particularly dislike. So why then you are asking, have I decided to bring you one of his tracks on the blog. Well you see, this is unlike any of the other cheesy lurrvvve songs that he’s renowned for.

This song was originally written by Mac Davis and become well-known for the huge hit that Elvis Presley had in 1969 – the single that gave “The King” a major comeback hit. I have to admit to not being a fan of Elvis either – but that’s another story. This track has been covered many times over the years by people like Bobbie Gentry, Sammy Davis Jr & Dolly Parton but this version is far and away my favourite. Any of you who listened to my “Straight From The Playbox” mix will recognize this as the opening track, for any of you who missed it you can listen again here

Ananda Shankar – Jumpin' Jack Flash

Ananda Shankar - Jumpin' Jack Flash

One of the things about being a big crate digger is that sometimes you come across artists who are full of funk, when you wouldn’t expect it. Today’s selection is a perfect example of that. The surname Shankar is of course well-known in the Indian sitar world and Ananda is the nephew of the most famous of them all, Ravi, who sadly passed away last year.

You would think with an uncle like Ravi as an inspiration that Ananda would have gained all his musical talent through learning from Ravi himself. However it was Lalmani Misra another highly regarded sitar player who was to be the main influence for Ananda’s musical education. A spell in L.A. (where he played alongside Jimmi Hendrix) was to further shape his musical direction and led to the unique East-Meets-West vibe that Shankar was to pioneer.

Today’s selection is of course a cover of the Rolling Stones mega hit and is backed with a cover of yet another immensely popular track from the West, The Doors’ “Light My Fire”. Released in 1970, this was to be Shankar’s only single release until 1977 when an E.P. was released as a tribute to Elvis shortly after his death entitled “India Remembers Elvis” where Shankar reworks The King’s “His Latest Flame” in trademark funky style.

Shankar’s work remained largely unknown outside of India until the late 80s/early 90s when it was picked up by a number of djs/collectors on the Rare Groove/Acid Jazz scene. Because his albums were only released in India, stories were told of how collectors would travel to India with the specific intention of purchasing as many copies of his albums as they could get their hands on in order to sell on for a tidy profit back in good old Blighty!

Shankar’s first 2 LPs (the eponymously titled debut in 1970 & “Ananada Shankar & His Music” released 5 years later) were truly groundbreaking in their sound. Listening to the two records takes you on a psychedelic trip with pounding drums, tabla, mardangam, sitar and spacey Moog. The finest examples of these sounds coming together are to be found on the fantastic “Streets Of Calcutta” and “Dancing Drums” which both feature on the second album.

I urge you to buy the first two records even if you aren’t lucky enough to turn up original copies and have to make do with the reissues as in my opinion they should be filed under “Must Have” and you really can’t get a higher accolade than that.