Ohio Valley + Muscle Shoals = Rick Powell

I am eternally grateful that a hometown musical troupe – The Raisins – just happened to be one of the greatest rock bands of the 1980s.  Amusing to recall in retrospect my adolescent disbelief when a friend once informed me that Rick Powell‘s musical life was not wholly enveloped by The Raisins — that, in fact, he had played on 1978’s The Leblanc-Carr Band’s Live from the Atlantic Studios album.

Rick “Bam” Powell — the “writing-singing drummer” who joined forces early in his career with the aforementioned Wayne Perry, as well as Roger “Jellyroll” Troy (later with Mike Bloomfield & The Electric Flag) — would cut his first piece of wax providing the soul-rockin’ vocals for “Gonna Have a Good Time” on Randy McNutt’s Beast imprint:

[Pssst:   Click on the triangle above to play “Gonna Have a Good Time” by Rick Powell & Little Flint]

Did I mention that Powell was a high-schooler at the time?  Powell would record the song with his own group – The Chamberly Kids – along with Wayne Perry’s outfit, Little Flint.

Recorded in 1970/71 –  Released in 1973 – Distributed by Counterpart Records

Little Flint 45

Randy McNutt, who produced some of Powell’s earliest recordings, would include both versions on his CD compilation, Souled Out:  Queen City Soul-Rockers of the 1970s.  For the (unreleased) Chamberly Kids session, Powell was excited to work with Roger Troy, whose band, Jellyroll, had just been signed by Kapp Records.  According to McNutt, “Wayne [Perry] joined him on harmonies and Roger ‘Jellyroll’ Troy, leader of the band Jellyroll, played bass.  During the memorable session at Jewel, Jellyroll’s car was repossessed and he wore red, white, and blue shoes.”

Rick Powell recording at home in 1974 (photo courtesy of Randy McNutt)

Rick Powell - 1974As Powell recounted later to McNutt:

“One day I got a call from a guy who claimed he managed LeBlanc and Carr in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” Powell says.  “I asked him, ‘All right, who’s pulling my leg?’  But he was their manager, and he was offering me a job as one of their two drummers.  I auditioned and got the job.  Later, they cut back to just one drummer—me.  I toured and recorded with them for the better part of four years.  We were on the road constantly.  It was insane, really.  We opened for a bunch of hit acts—Robert Palmer, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Taj Mahal, and others.  I was based out of Muscle Shoals, where I visited the famous studio where the Swampers [studio musicians] cut the hits.  I feel like a small part of history.”

Sticker Shock:  Wayne Perry & Little Flint’s “Pain” b/w “Gonna Have a Good Time” 45 – categorized overseas as “northern soul mod” (!) – can fetch upwards of $100.

This drummer sings, you know

Rick 'Bam' PowellGood News for Music Fans:  Rick Powell, who once declared he has “no intention of quitting — they’ll have to drag me off the stage when they’re through with me,” has an excellent album of “funky pop rock” = 2009’s Eat the Fat, Drink the Sweet = that is yours for the taking at CD Baby.  Watch out for “Step by Step” – that one is particularly infectious.

Larry Nager’s 1999 biographical profile for The Cincinnati Enquirer is also very informative.

Powell’s soul-rockin’ Adrian Belew-produced B-side for 1983 Raisins 45

Raisins 45-21981 Debut Raisins 45                                   Final Raisins 45 from 1984

Raisins 45-1Raisins 45-3

insert for 1981 debut 45 “Quarters” b/w “Tour Guide”

Raisins

“Dr. Robert”: Cover Version Hall of Fame?

It is the mark of a true artist when he or she can take someone else’s song and transform it into something else entirely, to the point of making the new version almost unrecognizable.  Stevie Wonder’s 1973 version of “We Can Work It Out,” for example, begins with a funky clavinet riff whose boldness and originality immediately set it apart from The Beatles’ 1965 single.  An even better example of taking someone’s else tune and completely making it their own is Earth, Wind & Fire’s stellar arrangement of The Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” – a radio highlight of the summer of 1978.

Speaking of The Fab Four, those of you who lived outside Cincinnati during the 1980s have been sadly deprived of a Beatles cover version so original and inspired that it instantly merited inclusion in an exalted, exclusive group — a Cover Version Hall of Fame, if you will — once it was broadcast on public television in 1980 as part of a local talent series called Rock Around the Block.  Fortunately, some kind soul has made this amazing musical moment by Cincinnati’s finest – The Raisins – available to the rest of the world so that your life will now be complete:

Interesting to note that guitarist Rob Fetters would reprise his classic ‘Dr. Robert’ riff for “Mattress,” the kick-off track to 1995’s Awkwardsville album by psychodots, a group whose personnel include former Raisins, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser (click here to view the promotional video).

I would love to know from others:  are there any rearrangements whose uniqueness and freshness of perspective would qualify for inclusion in this presumptive Cover Version Hall of Fame?