Tag Archives: soul

Lowell Fulson, “Tollin’ Bells”

Before Otis Redding, there was a brief period in the mid-1950s where blues guitarist Lowell Fulson experimented with a soulful singing style. The Tulsa, Okla.-born musician in the 1950s worked with Chess Records’ musician/songwriter Willie Dixon, who is to rock ‘n’ roll what Alfred Hitchcock is to suspense.

Dixon wrote or performed on nearly every classic by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf — songs that would later be refurbished by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and the Stones. Case in point is the lesser-known Dixon-penned tune, “Tollin’ Bells,” from 1956. It’s a dirgy, reckless tune, the protagonist having just learned that his baby is not coming back — just a slow piano rag, weeping horns and a big pile of woozy despair belching forth from Fulson’s lungs. The song would later be covered by Paul Butterfield and Robert Cray.

(A note about the video below. It says Willie Dixon, but it is in fact Lowell Fulson singing.)

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Curtis Mayfield, “Pusherman”

Sure, everyone knows the title cut off Curtis Mayfield’s 1972 album, “Super Fly,” which accompanied the blaxploitation film of the same name. It, along with Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft,” were anthems in that heady flag- and bra-burning era when, for a time, the ghetto took up residence in Hollywood.

But while “Super Fly” and “Freddie’s Dead” were the two big hitmakers at the time, “Pusherman” is the song on the album with the most swagger. The head-held-high way Mayfield croons in falsetto about the degradation and desperation that permeates life on the streets; the blend of junky, mismatching snare and bongo duets with wah-pedaled guitar — the damn thing struts like it’s Denzel Washington walking down the middle of a blood-soaked interstate.

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The Stone Roses, “I Wanna Be Adored”

The Stone Roses is perhaps the most influential and over-accoladed bands at whose altar you’ve never worshipped. Which is fine with me, but it shows a lack of initiative on the part of executives charged with doing shit about such things. I mean, you can’t with a straight face say that the Roses are not as accomplished as retrospectively financially viable acts such as Toad the Wet Sprocket and Barenaked Ladies.

I never personally rode the SR bandwagon, but I’m sure there were s’mores at the end. I skipped the whole overcooked post-Joy Division acid house (Ding Dong! the Wicked Witch is Dead!) dancefest that stormed Manchester in the mid-1980s, dubbed Madchester, and which would lead to the rise of overly soapy acts like Oasis in the 1990s.

But we’ll always have “I Wanna Be Adored,” from 1989, an airy bit of English soul, and also an early foray into blending rock and dance elements in a way that feels organic rather than Eno’d  — something My Bloody Valentine would do in a more profound manner on its indie-world-shattering “Loveless” two years later.

In fact, that’s all we’ll have by SR. Seriously, you can skip every other entry on this or any other album. The reason you’ve never heard of the Stone Roses is because it was a one-trick pony.

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