Saturday, January 9, 2010

Call my number, 568-69-69...

Tedious computer problem fixed. I'm back....

I presume everyone has heard that Willie Mitchell died recently. For my part, saying 'too bad' just isn't enough. The sound of Mitchell's work at Hi records is one of the most distinctive ever created by any producer, anywhere, anytime.

While some think of those records made in the 70's as 'lush', what I hear, beyond the use of string sections, is something quite different. I hear a collection of possibly the most economical, disciplined, austere productions ever waxed. And even when the string section is heavily used, there's still a severe economy at play. No fluff, everything in it's proper place.

More than anything, the utter consistency of the recordings Mitchell produced once he started working with vocalists, is mind boggling. Obviously, some of this had to with the crack team of musicians he used, it would be stupid to pretend otherwise. But still, if you put any Hi record made between 1968 and 1975 on the turntable, the sound is instantly recognizable, and clearly Mitchell's.

That sound sold an awful lot of records too, reportedly 20 million albums by Al Green alone. Al Green is probably the first soul artist I ever paid close attention to, and I'm sure that's true of many. And ya know, since when is it a bad thing to begin your education with the Rev. Al.

R.I.P. Willie Mitchell, ya done good.
I considered posting one of Mitchell's many instrumentals, but it looks like Larry Grogan's got that covered over at Funky 16 Corners. In fact, because I'm a bit late at getting to this, quite a lot of my fave Mitchell productions have already been posted around the blogs. But ya know, ain't like there's a lack of great tunes to choose from. So no problem.

It's odd this record wasn't more of a hit. Come To Mama never even made it half-way up the R&B charts. Most certainly it was not Ann Peebles' biggest seller. All I can think is that the competition must have been particularly tough that year.

Btw, there's an absolutely killer Ann Peebles comp around called St. Louis Woman/Memphis Soul. It's the well worth the money. Hopefully she gets a little something from the sales. Cause, yeah, Ann is still with us.

I haven't done this before, but the footage is so good I'm simply have to post it along with the song. Here's Ann Peebles in the studio....and, Come To Mama.


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