Monday, January 19, 2015


You could find reasons to dismiss Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, particularly if you don't dig fancy threads, tight afros, and an abundance of strings with your soul. I did, for years. That was before I found out that a Big Youth song that I'd been listening to for a long time, "Wake Up Everybody" was a Blue Notes cover. I just listened to Big Youth's version today for the first time in a long time, really digging it, and thought about how it had made me less Blue Note phobic. I like it when that happens.

"Wake Up Everybody", the original, is a classic piece of syrupy string soaked seventies soul, a message song, the subject of which is hard to argue with, and as relevant today as it was when it was released in 1975. It was produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff who practically invented syrupy string soaked seventies soul, their names synonymous with Philly soul. The duo were already successful hit makers before they started adding strings and whatnot, beginning with the Soul Survivors' "Expressway To Your Heart" in 1965, followed by Archie Bell and the Drells' "I Can't Stop Dancing" in 1968. Once they really hit their stride, chart appearances were regular, among them the O'Jays' "Love Train" and "Back Stabbers" and Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones".

But this was supposed to be about "Wake Up Everybody", before I got sidetracked. After listening to the two versions below, those of you familiar with Big Youth will note that his is a fairly straight forward cover. Released just a year after the original, it stays faithful to the original lyrically, with no toasting whatsoever. One could surmise it was because Big Youth had enough respect for the song itself not to fuck with it. Which is a good thing. Otherwise I'd have not given Melvin and mob a pass on the fancy threads and such.

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody mp3 at Basement Rug
Big Youth - Wake Up Everybody (streaming) at YouTube
Gamble & Huff joints:
Soul Survivors - Expressway to Your Heart mp3 at LZ Center
Archie Bell and the Drells - I Just Can't Stop Dancing (streaming) at YouTube
The O'Jays - Back Stabbers mp3 at Setagaya Sounds
Gamble and Huff at Wikipedia

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