Friday, January 30, 2009

Twennynine, featuring Lenny White

Twennynine featuring Lenny White

Back in '79, '80, '81--the hip thing was for a jazz cat to make a R&B/Soul album. Jazz drummer Lenny White's album, Best of Friends, pictured here is an overlooked jewel of the era. Lenny's in the white tie, I should add. The tune that got the radio play was the silly, but fun "Peanut Butter." But don't sleep on the title cut, a mellow cut with strings and strong vocals. You can go here to listen to cuts from the album.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drop Squad: The Gospel Pak

The critics panned "Drop Squad" when it was released in 1994. The move was about a shadowy band of Brothers (led by Vondie Curtis-Hall and Ving Rhames) who kidnap and deprogram a "sell-out" black advertising exec played by Eriq LaSalle. "Drop Squad" should have been a razor-sharp satire through-and-though (like the brilliant "Fear of a Black Hat"). Instead it often got bogged down, preachy and heavy-handed.

Some parts are inspired, though, such as the clip above: a fast-food commercial produced by the company for which LaSalle's character works. This was high parody in 1994. Not so much today. Shoot, I bet if this commercial aired during "House of Payne" nobody would even notice.


Here is the music video for the 1982 hit "Inside Out" by the vocal group Odyssey. The dancers leaping through the clouds in a nice touch. And by the way, if the song sounds a lot like "Watching You" by Slave, there are a few good reasons: Slave's producer Jimmy Douglass was behind this song, and Slave's Mark Adams is handling the bass.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ebony Magazine Fashions, 1970

Ebony Magazine, 1970

We bring a little style to the Soul Closet today with these offerings from the early 1970s pages of Ebony magazine. We begin with the above outfit, worn by the wife of a prominent Ohio businessman, according to the caption. It doesn't say what kind of business he was in, but my guess? Fur trapper.

The Liberated Look: 1970

The caption for the above outfit said, "The hip, together, modern woman definitely intends to do her own thing.." This is a design by Maurice Rentner and features "the hippest of beige felt hats and beige above the knee boots that are just too much!" Rentner died in 1958 and his design house later merged with that of his sister and in late 1970 became better known as Bill Blass.

The Liberated Look: 1970

The original caption said this Pauline Trigere design is "a freedom loving black coat with plaid color squares." Power to the people.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Soul Double Feature

I was flipping through Comcast OnDemand last weekend and stumbled across two near gems. The first, "Buck and the Preacher" is a pretty good 1972 western starring Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte as a pair of post Civil War outlaws trying to defeat The Man while protecting a group of black settlers looking to move west. It's Poitier's first outing as director and he does well. Belafonte steals the movie as a comically-scheming preacher (who looks like a early Howard Hewitt). The coolest scenes: Belafonte, Poitier and the great Ruby Dee tearing across the desert on horseback; and Poitier gunning own a room full of bad guys in a burst of Sergio Leone-style violence (seen in the trailer above) They should have made a sequel.

The other movie is "Together Brothers" from 1974, a long-forgotten, ultra low-budget flick filmed in Galveston, TX. In it, a group of poor urban kids try to solve a murder. Sounds as square as the "Bloodhound Gang" and the movie drags on a bit, especially in the middle.

In fact, I was about to turn away when just after the half-way point, "Together Brothers" finds its groove and--so help me, y'all--turns into a convincing thriller, with shades of greatness. There is a surprising and poignant performance by Lincoln Kilpatrick who died a few years ago and was a fixture on screen and TV, including "Soylent Green" and "Uptown Saturday Night."

"Together Brothers" hasn't made it to DVD, so I have no clips to show, but check it out on On-Demand if you have it. Meanwhile, I will leave you with a little something: Barry White (a Galveston native son) and his Love Unlimited Orchestra did the movie's funky, urgent score. Decades later, the Quad City DJs would sample the "Together Brothers" theme to create "C'mon Ride the Train." Hear Barry's original here. And the Quad City DJs' here.

Monday, January 26, 2009 other words, "Baby, You Stank."

Baby, You Stank.

That's what he's really saying. His eyes are set, his collar is turned up and he ain't smiling. In fact, she must really stink because look closely: He's dressed for cooler weather. Which means she also has a coat on, too. And yet he can still smell her. So they're walking to the store, or coming out of the furniture shop and he turns to her all of a sudden and drops the bomb.

Trouble is, it's an ad for Ban Roll-On. So Brother, if she uses it, she's still going to stank.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vanessa Williams

We crack open the Soul Closet today with this 1988 dance hit by Vanessa Williams. Just four years earlier, folks were reading the last rites over her career in the wake of her having to give up her Miss America crown when those nudie pix got released.

But this video marks the beginning of her second coming as entertainment force. Between then and now, she's starred and co-starred in major motion pictures, hit TV shows, and has been a presence on the pop music charts. Shoot, the girl has even sung with Pavarotti.

And--as this video shows--she can also Cabbage Patch down a flight of stairs like nobody's business.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The SOS Band

The Soul Closet ends the week with this 1980 jam from the SOS Band, "Take Your Time (Do it Right)." The sneaky and insistent bassline and great vocals by Mary Davis--who possesses one of the most unique voices in R&B--make this cut memorable. So here they are, on "Solid Gold" (remember that show?) from 1980. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hoopty -n-waiting

Hoopty in Waiting

Look at this. Everybody is trying to get you to buy this 1993 Mercury Tracer. Your girlfriend in the top center square--doing somebody's hair--is saying "you'll look good in it." Grandpa wants you get something comfortable. Look at the cheap ass brother on the bottom row who thinks air conditioning is free.

Trust me: The tow truck ain't free. And when this car broke down at 11pm on 23rd and Lake Shore Drive in the winter of 1994, none of these people were available to help.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Electric Company v.1

I noticed PBS has begun airing a remake of the classic 1970s educational show, The Electric Company. So I watched a bit of the new show and it wasn't bad, actually. Needless to say, it got me to thinking about the original which featured folks like Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and that Soul Brother who played Easy Reader.

So dig the above clip of a really young Irene Cara with that stone fox Lee Chamberlin. And let me say this: I had a mad, mad crush on Lee Chamberlin when I was a kid watching this show. She was tall, fine, funny and--like me--had a gap in her front teeth. Not to mention she had a great first name and that Afro, which I am digging, even as I watch this clip. Turn it on, Baby. Bring ME the power!

The Pimpware Came C.O.D.

The Pimpwear Came C.O.D.

Footwear 1971, from Flagg Brothers. For my money, the Spat Boot and the Dorset were what all the discerning macks-in-training and hustlers-on-the-rise were wearing that year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day: America's First Black President

Frankly, I'm surprised this 1972 movie isn't being referenced these days. "The Man," stars James Earl Jones as Douglass Dilman, a U.S senator who becomes the country's first black president.

But even in the movies back then, it was impossible for a black man to be flat-out elected president. Senator Dilman, president of the senate, gots the nod after a building collapse killed the president and the speaker of the house--and the vice president declined because he's too old.

"The Man" was made for ABC-TV, but had a theatrical run before heading to television. Jones talked about the movie a little earlier this month in the LA Times. "I have misgivings about that one," he said of the film. "It was done as a TV special. Had we known it was to be released as a motion picture, we would have asked for more time and more production money. I regret that."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Truck Turner: Addendum (rated R dialogue and MAJOR spoiler)

In my "Truck Turner" post from a few days ago, I should have also mentioned the movie's ultimate scene stealer: Nichelle Nichols who plays Dorinda the scorned and possibly psychotic madam who puts a hit out on Truck (played by Isaac Hayes.) You'll know Nichols as gentle Lt. Uhura in the old "Star Trek" tv show.

She's anything but that in "Truck Turner."

Click on the above video of various clips of Ms Nichols performance in the movie. See just how strong her pimp hand is. But be warned: Nichelle's language is foul. (But that woman could fill out a dress...and that white satin midriff-revealing pants suit thang.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rufus and Chaka, 1979

The Soul Closet closes for the week with this 1979 jam from Rufus & Chaka, "Do You Love What You Feel?" Why, yeah, I do. Especially when I see Chaka in those thigh-high boots.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Renee Diggs--and the way she pranced and jiggled her way through this video, to be more precise--made me late for class when I was in college back in 1987. What class was it? I don't know. What grade did I get in the class? Couldn't tell you. But I do remember the video...

Watching it now, it's worth noting how much mass-produced R&B has changed since "He Wants My Body" was released. Diggs fronted the band Starpoint, which had a pretty good run in the mid-1980s. But you hardly ever see a female-fronted R&B act like that today. In fact, the self-contained R&B group--once a staple of the genre--has all but disappeared from the airwaves. What I also like: Diggs wasn't a teenybopper. At 33 when this video was made, her performance carried the authority of that of a grown woman.

The "He Wants My Body" video represents Starpoint at its brief apex. Diggs was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a short time later, and by 1990, the group had broken up. Ernesto Phillips, who slides across the floor on his knees during the guitar solo in the video, died in 2004. Diggs died from complications of MS in 2005.

...and Lou Rawls with the Weather

I could tell you how cold it is in Chicago today. But let's let Brother Lou break it down instead. His monologue here at the beginning of the supremely funky "Dead End Street" tells you all you need to know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Othello. Set to Jazz

Well, this might not be as funky as the Soul Train dancers I posted a few days ago, but bear with me. Reports today of the death of actor Patrick McGoohan got me to thinking about a seldom-seen 1962 movie in which he co-starred. The film, "All Night Long" is the story of Othello set to jazz and takes place in a single night in a modern loft. The movie stars Paul Harris as the Othello-like jazzman Aurelius Rex. McGoohan is Rex's scheming drummer Johnny Cousin. The music is superb and all sort of jazz giants make apperances here, including Charlie Mingus and Dave Brubeck. McGoohan gets off a very good drum solo. It's worth checking out.



Today we present a well-done cover from Raydio's 1979 album Rock On. Ray is still in the game. And you can hear this album's biggest hit "Jack n Jill" here on Last FM.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who Said Black Folks Can't Swim?

Today, we dig d-e-e-p into the Soul Closet for this almost surreal item: a 1964-ish TV performance by Bobby Freeman, then 24, singing "C'mon On Swim." We dig Bobby, but the go-go dancers "swimming" across the floor at the end...why, that's just priceless.

"Free as a Breeze"

Free as a Breeze!

This 1970 ad depicts a day in the life of a beautiful, young redbone sister. She doffed her hat, drove a dune buggy, rode a bike, flew a kite and chilled on the beach in a funky hooded outfit. And then the toxic shock set in.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Soul You Can Drink To

Ola Hudson

The Soul Closet opens this week with a question: I wonder if the people at Dewar's White Label still do these clever magazine ads? I haven't seen one in a very long while. They'd pick an interesting person and do a quick profile, asking what books they read, their latest accomplishment and their favorite scotch. The favorite scotch was always Dewar's White label. An effective but subtle way to establish a brand. The 1970 ad above features a very fine 25-year-old fashion designer Ola Hudson--dig the earrings, y'all. She's also the mother of Slash, the guitarist from Guns n Roses and Velvet Revolver.

This 1968 ad features the gifted and distinguished Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt:
Richard Hunt: Sculptor, 1968

And this gorgeous Sister here is literary editor Carole Henderson in 1969:
She's Carole Henderson Tyson now. And is still on the scene.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jermaine Stewart

Here's an old school song that you don't hear anymore: Jermaine Stewart's "The Word is Out," from 1984. Looking at the video and listening to the lyrics now, it seems rather clear to me that despite what images portray, Jermaine ain't really singing about no girl.

Nevertheless, Jermaine was a talented performer who released four albums in his relatively short recording career between 1984 and 1989 and even briefly appeared in an episode of "Miami Vice." He died in 1997 at age 39.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Soul Train

The Soul Closet concludes the week with a dose of Soul Train from 1974. My favorite part: The couple at :48.

Love, Peace and Soul.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Big Apple (Hat) and the San Remo Groove

Big Apple and the San Remo Groove

A 1971 ad from Ebony Magazine. We remember when Rudy from the "Fat Albert" cartoon used to rock the knit Kangol on the left. But for my money, the coolest thing is the coat on the right. Whatever the San Remo Groove was, if it allows me to stand like that with my loosely-tied ascot blowing in the wind, then doggone it I WANT it. And I can get it, too. At all the hip stores, baby. For $95.00

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Soul Hottie: Annazette Chase

I was watching Isaac Hayes' 1974 classic, "Truck Turner" recently--probably for the third or fourth time over the last 15 years--when I noticed something that should have been obvious from the first viewing: his movie woman, Annazette Chase not only can act, but is hot as all get out in a laid-back and sexy kind of way.

Yes, yes, she plays a shoplifter. But she plays it so well. As keeper of the Soul Closet, I was intrigued. What other work did she do? Where is she now?

The valuable Internet Movie Database has her appearing in 27 different features between 1966 and 1984. The bulk of her work in the late 1960s to mid-1970s with appearances in TV shows "Sanford & Son," "Harry O," "Dragnet '67," "The Green Hornet"--even a 1974 "The Rockford Files" episode that featured Isaac Hayes. (They made two or three "RF" eps with Isaac Hayes playing the memorable Gandolph Fitch).

Chase was China Doll in the film "The Mack" and played Belinda Ali in the Muhammad Ali biopic "The Greatest." Her tv and film career seems to have slacked off after then. Her last appearance was in a 1984 episode of Benson.

I don't know where she is now, though. But I'll continue the hunt. Meanwhile, click on the video above and enjoy. (If only I could do as well with a six pack of beer.)