Best of F16C – All Strung Out

By , January 13, 2019 11:19 am


Funky16Corners Presents: All Strung Out

San Remo Golden Strings – Hungry For Love (Ric Tic) 1965
San Remo Golden Strings – I’m Satisfied (Ric Tic) 1966
Luther Ingram Orchestra – Exus Trek (Hib) 1966
Kaddo Strings – Crying Over You (Impact) 1966
Robert Walker and the Soul Strings – Stick To Me (RCA) 1967
Lebaron Strings – Now She’s Gone (Solid Hit) 1967
Soulful Strings – Burning Spear (Cadet) 1967
Soulful Strings – Soul Message (Cadet) 1968
Soul Strings and a Funky Horn – Yester Love (Solid State) 1968
Soul Strings and a Funky Horn – Think (Solid State) 1968
Soft Summer Soul Strings – I’m Doing My Thing (Columbia) 1969
Soulful Strings – Chocolate Candy (Cadet) 1969
Soulful Strings – Zambezi (Cadet) 1969
101 Strings – A Taste of Soul (Alshire) 1970 (also billed as Les Baxter and 101 Strings)
Gordon Staples & the Motown Strings – Strung Out (Tamla/Motown) 1971
Gordon Staples & the Motown Strings – Get Down (Tamla/Motown) 1971
Soft Summer Soul Strings – Theme For Soul Strings (Columbia 1969)

Listen/Download -Funky16Corners Presents: All Strung Out – 98MB Mixed Mp3/256K

NOTE: This has been an exceptionally busy week, so I thought I’d dig into the archives and repost a favorite mix. I hope you dig it (or re-dig it) and I’ll catch you all next week. – Larry

Greetings all.

Welcome to another week here at Funky16Corners.

What you see before you is the result of one of my musical obsessions, taken to the nth degree.

Longtime readers of Funky16Corners will already be hip to the fact that I am a huge fan of the Soulful Strings.

I consider Richard Evans to be a genius, and the work he did for the Cadet label, with the Soulful Strings and otherwise made for some of the finest music of the 1960s.

It was a while back, while prepping a blog post about a JJ Barnes 45, that I discovered, quite by accident that two of his sides had been redone (using the same raw tracks) as string instrumentals on a Solid Hit 45, billed as the Lebaron Strings (after label honcho Lebaron Taylor).

This got me thinking about other “strings” instrumentals, and so the search began.

I dug back into my own crates, and started to look elsewhere and was surprised by much of what I found.

The “soulful string” instrumentals can be divided into pre-and-post Soulful Strings.

The first wave, starting with the San Remo Golden Strings made its way onto vinyl in 1965.

The first of these tracks, ‘Hungry For Love’ got its start as an uncredited instrumental on the flipside of Barbara Mercer’s 1965 Golden World 45 ‘The Things We Do Together’.

Reportedly, when the instrumental started to get some airplay, Ed Wingate, using the name of an Italian town that he and his wife had been to on vacation, paired the tune with ‘All Turned On’ (featuring pianist Bob Wilson) and the San Remo Golden Strings were born.

The “group” was in fact various and sundry moonlighting Funk Brothers, backed by string players from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, led by violinist/concertmaster Gordon Staples.

‘Hungry For Love’ was a minor hit, as was its follow-up ‘I’m Satisfied’. Another San Remo cut, ‘Festival Time’ buoyed by the Northern Soul scene, became a UK Top 40 hit in 1971.

The UK soul scene is an important link, especially in regard to the early string-laden instrumentals.

‘Exus Trek’ by the Luther Ingram Orchestra was released in 1966. It was an instrumental dub of that single’s A-side ‘If It’s All the Same To You’. Both sides of the 45 became popular spins in the UK.

The same can be said of 1966s ‘Crying Over You’. An instrumental version of Duke Browner’s vocal of the same name got its own 45 release, three catalog numbers before Browner’s version (both writing and production are credited to Browner. As with the Ingram 45, both sides became popular spins on Northern dance floors.

I haven’t been able to track down much in the way of info on Robert Walker and the Soul Strings. The involvement of producer/arranger Ernie Wilkins suggests to me that it was a Detroit record. The side presented here, ‘Stick To Me’ is classic Northern Soul and is one of the rarer 45s in this mix. The flipside ‘The Blizzard’ is a great, uptempo dance craze vocal.

‘Now She’s Gone’ by the aforementioned Lebaron Strings was released in 1967, pre-dating the vocal version of the tune by JJ Barnes by a year.

As I mentioned earlier, these tracks can largely be divided into pre-and-post Soulful Strings eras.

Though Detroit producers and musicians were ladling strings over all kinds of records (the classy sound of strings an important component of what would become known/collected as Northern Soul) Richard Evans work with the Soulful Strings was the first purpose-built example of the sound.

It was in Evans hands that the string aspect of the music became more than an embellishment. He integrated the sound of the string section with the more innovative aspects of the Cadet Records sound. That he had access to the finest musicians in Chicago had a lot to do with the artistic success of the records.

Their first album ‘Paint It Black’ was released in 1966, but it wasn’t until ‘Burning Spear’ charted, making it into the R&B Top 40 in early 1968 as well as having regional success on Chicago radio that the group had some success.

Not only was ‘Burning Spear’ covered many times, but the group must have been selling LPs, since Cadet released no less than seven albums, including a live set and a Christmas record.

Evans was no less than a visionary, taking what could have been a simple, easy listening concept and doing something entirely unexpected with it.

The first two Soulful Strings tracks included in this mix are the classic ‘Burning Spear’ from the 1967 LP “Groovin’ With the Soulful Strings’ and ‘Soul Message’ from 1968’s ‘Another Exposure’. Both are fantastic examples of the broad palette that Evans was working with.

The remainder of the tracks in the mix seem to have been following the lead of Evans and the Soulful Strings to varying degrees.

‘Soul Strings and a Funky Horn’, released in 1968 seems a direct attempt to capitalize on the sound of the Soulful Strings. Produced by Sonny Lester for his Solid State label, the record bears no other credits whatsoever (aside from songwriting).

The LP was a mixture of covers of obvious hits and more obscure numbers.

The two tracks included here, a cover of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ‘Yester Love’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Think’ may not be nearly as adventurous as the Soulful Strings, but the band and the arrangements are tight.

The Soft Summer Soul Strings are another mystery. Though the catalog number of the 45 seems to indicate a 1969 vintage, the music on the 45 points to a somewhat earlier time.

The first tune included here, ‘I’m Doing My Thing’ is a fairly obvious lift of the Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ and the flip (with which we close the mix) ‘Theme For Soul Strings’ applies the same MO to King Curtis’ ‘Soul Serenade’ (both 1964 records). I haven’t been able to make any connections using the info on the labels, so if anyone knows where this one is from, please drop me a line.

The next two cuts hail from what in my opinion is the finest of all the Soulful Strings albums, 1969’s ‘String Fever’. The first of the group’s albums to be composed almost entirely of original material and featuring some of the grooviest sounds of their catalog, ‘String Fever’ is also one of the hardest Soulful Strings albums to come by.

‘Chocolate Candy’ and ‘Zambezi’ are both funky, forward thinking and leave the listener wondering why the Soulful Strings weren’t much more successful.

The next cut is an aberration of sorts, since it comes not from the world of soul, but out of Exotica. ‘A Taste of Soul’ was released a few different times, credited to Les Baxter, Les Baxter and 101 Strings and just 101 Strings.

One of the more prolific exploit-Exotica outfits, 101 Strings created albums aimed squarely at squares, especially those with ‘hi fi’ systems.

The California-based Alshire label was home to all manner of cash-in records aimed at the rock, pop, country and easy listening markets. There were dozens of albums issued under the 101 Strings name, including classical, ethnic, exotica and pop efforts.

This material, once recorded was often issued and reissued with different covers, in different collections, getting the maximum mileage out of the product.

‘A Taste of Soul’ is itself an anomaly in the Alshire catalog. Though the cut opens with waves of strings that sound like they were lifted from a contemporary movie soundtrack, once the drums come in (and they come in heavy) you begin to realize that you’re hearing something unusual.

Where Cadet may have been casting an eye at the easy/hi-fi crowd with the Soulful Strings albums, leaving them in the hands of Richard Evans and the Cadet house band took them in another direction entirely.

101 Strings, emanating from the 99 cent bins in supermarkets, gas stations and occasionally record stores had no overt musical agenda beyond basic competence, but like any broken clock that reads the correct time twice a day, they struck gold with ‘A Taste of Soul’ (which even had a 45 release under Baxter’s name).

Gordon Staples and his compadres from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra were fixtures on all manner of Detroit soul records, for Motown as well as various and sundry smaller labels. It was in 1970 that Staples and the Funk Brothers (once again, anonymously) were paired yet again as ‘Gordon Staples and the String Thing’ (aka the Motown Strings).

Of all the tracks in this mix, Gordon Staples and the String Thing meet the Soulful Strings on their own turf and come away looking (and sounding) quite good.

The 1970 LP ‘Strung Out’ features a couple of well-chosen covers, as well as a grip of excellent originals penned by Motown arranger Paul Riser. Riser, who won a Grammy with Norman Whitfield for the instrumental b-side of ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’ wrote some stellar material for the String Thing/Motown Strings.

The first cut here ‘Strung Out’ – which also saw release as a 45 – is sought out by crate diggers and is a great showcase for the Funk Brothers (dig that James Jamerson bass line).

‘Get Down’, which is a little less laid back features some excellent guitar work.

Many of the tracks from the ‘Strung Out’ album were recycled a few years later on the soundtrack to the Fred Williamson Blaxploitation flick ‘Mean Johnny Barrows’.

The last track in this mix – the only one presented out of chronological order – is the Soft Summer Soul Strings ‘Theme For Soul Strings’. As I mentioned before, it sounds as if it was written as a ‘tribute’ to King Curtis’ 1964 ‘Soul Serenade’. It’s slow, mellow, and is a great way to close out the mix.

I hope you dig this look into an often forgotten chapter of the ‘soul story’.

Also, make sure to follow Funky16Corners on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Keep the faith




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