Friday, May 4, 2012

James Brown Month: Wall of Browned pt. 1 - Yvonne Fair

It's hard enough making sense of the number of records James Brown put out under his own name, let alone the number of records he "produced".

But that's not going to stop us from highlighting some of the best ones.

In this case, the recordings of Miss Yvonne Fair.

Is it me or does JB look like Ike Turner in this photo?

Sugar Pie DeSanto, Bea Ford, Marva Whitney, Tammy Montgomery, Lynn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Anna King . . . they all served in that vaguely creepy spot as James Brown's opening "girl" act and occasional duet partner.  But none of them produced records I love as much as I love the ones JB concocted for Yvonne Fair and her weird little shrill "ow"'s.  He seems to have lavished extra attention on them, or at least extra organ - maybe Yvonne got lucky that JB was working out his organ playing (not to mention his brand new bag) in the early 60s when he cut her best sides.

Speaking of vaguely creepy, this has got to be the eeriest and least textually convincing version of "You Can Make It If You Try" ever laid down.  Sounds like the aforementioned Ike Turner's "Sinner's Dream" or something.

JB on creepy organ and the rolls of the devil,
 the boatman and the murdered best friend

But the flip is the Mother, a sped-up, guitar blasting version of Annie Laurie's old King classic "It Hurts to Be in Love", complete with start/stop action and proto-Fred Wesley trombone solo.

This double sided gem was actually the second record Brown produced on Fair - the first was this prototype version of "I Got You (I Feel Good)" called "I Found You".  Recorded 3 years before "I Got You" was finally released!

But JB sent his mightiest Yvonne Fair production, "Say Yeah Yeah", over to Dade, his potato-port in a storm when Syd Nathan wasn't feeling up to releasing something because it was too weird or because his stomach was acting up or whatever. Brown had already released the "Mashed Potatoes" series under Nat Kendrick's name at Dade (resulting in the birth of King Coleman) so why not drop a brilliant, years ahead of schedule (and anonymous - Brown's name does not appear on the record) funk bomb on the place, as his last production for the label?  

Fair sings with much more authority on this record than on her earlier ones, and whoever is playing drums taught Clyde Stubblefield a thing or three. Add Brown organ and Famous Flame back up vocals.  Result: major league dance floor monstrosity.

JB produced one more 45 for Yvonne, on Smash, before moving on to other soul sisters.