Monday 27 February 2012

The Anchors - Soul Upstairs (1969)

Today we have very special treat, the debut album by one of Alexandra's first soul groups — The Anchors. Under the influence of the Memphis Sound of groups like Booker T and the MGs, organ jive swept South Africa in the late 1960s and the Anchors were one of the earliest purveyors of this style of music. Last Time, a single (not on this LP) by the group, is featured on the excellent Next Stop Soweto Vol. 2 (2010) album, one of the best compilations in recent years.

Soul Upstairs was produced by Ray Nkwe, then the president of the newly formed Jazz Appreciation Society (see JAS Pride label). Nkwe must have played a significant role in promoting this sound in the late 1960s because in the same year he also produced the first album, Soul-A-Go-Go, by another significant soul group, The Beaters (later renamed Harari).

Soul Upstairs was recorded in March 1969 at Herrick Merrill Studios in Johannesburg and issued on the City Special label. The LP appears to be that labels first project unless there is a CYL 1000 out there. Of course this label would soon be famously dominated by another organ driven soul group — The Movers. The album features at least two hits of the period: Collin Goes and Tell Me.

The liner notes reveal that the Anchors were formed in March of 1968 by Ezrom Kgomo and Collins Mashigo (Mashego) after a split in an earlier Alexandra soul group simply called The Soul. At the time of this recording, the bulk of the members were still in school and included Patrick Nkosi (who was 19 at the time) on organ, Anderson Nkosi (18) on lead guitar, Given Sabela (19) on bass, Condry Sequbu (Ziqubu) (who must have been 13 or 14) on rhythm guitar, and Dinah Mbatha (17) on vocals.

On the other hand, according to Max Mojapelo the group was formed by Kgomo and Mashego, but it included Simon 'Bra Jika' Twala on bass, Philip Malela, Pepsi Rapoo on vocals and Herman Fox on lead guitar. Majepelo goes on to say that the group was later joined by Ziqubu, Sabela, Dinah and brother Lucky Mbatha, Mbokoto Nkosi and Jabu Nkosi, son of the legendary 'Zacks' Nkosi. It is not clear to me whether keyboardist Jabu Nkosi is the same as Patrick Nkosi who plays the organ on this recording or which version of the group is the original lineup.

Nevertheless, the Anchors split in the early 1970s with Simon Twala, Philip Malela and Herman Fox going on to form the Flaming Souls, another famed soul group of the period. See their album Alex Soul Menu here at Electric Jive. Condry Ziqubu would soon replace Fox in that group on lead guitar after his untimely death by stabbing. Ziqubu then moved on to the group Harari in 1980. Both Dinah Mbatha and Philip Malela migrated to the Movers. Collins Mashego after becoming an MC would later join the SABC. Mojapelo also mentions that he produced the historic funeral of the late Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde. Given Sabela and Jabu Nkosi would also record with 'Zacks' Nkosi on his classic 1976 LP Our Kind of Jazz (not the 1964 compilation of 78s).

Interestingly at the end of the liner notes on Soul Upstairs, Lucas Molete asks Kgomo if he would like to play with the group abroad and receives this answer: "No, we don't want to play overseas. We want the cats overseas to come here and listen to us. We want them to know that there is something brewing in Africa."

View images and liner notes from the LP in detail at flatinternational.

Soul Upstairs
March, 1969
City Special
CYL 1001

Monday 20 February 2012

2 Mabone (1973)

1970s South Africa developed a taste for everything American. In fact, one could argue that black South Africans have always looked towards the African-American scene for inspiration and influence - but particularly into the 1970s, together with the afros and platform shoes, the Chevy Impala became something of a key image for the urban, modern city dwellers.

In 1973, the studio group West Nkosi Nabashokobezi worked up a sensational mbaqanga beat that just had to be recorded. Released on the FGB Producers label in 1973, the hit single “Two Mabone” defined that alignment with the US. The single became a huge hit within South Africa, quickly attaining gold status – the tune was so popular that Gallo Africa issued it for international release via London Records in the US. Before long, jive Mabone – referring to the headlights of the Impala – became the in-thing. A long string of recordings by various sax jivers all helped to keep the trend alive for some two or three years. It may be something of an irony that this typically, uniquely African beat displayed the increasing Westernisation of black people living in the cities of South Africa.

The obscure long-playing record 2 Mabone, released on the FGB Producers label in 1973, comprises 12 ‘headlight’ offerings by various Mavuthela combos.

Mavuthela did begin the trend with “Two Mabone”, but were by no means the only black music production company to peddle it to the public. Lulu Masilela, backed by Teal Records' effervescent Boyoyo Boys, recorded “Three Mabone” in anticipation of the great sales that the original recording had received. West Nkosi Nabashokobezi recorded “Four Mabone”, while violinist Noise Khanyile and His Violin gave “Five Mabone”. The Big Bag Boys, led by alto saxophonist Elias Shamba Lerole, gave the public the peppy little “6 Mabone”, but was perhaps blown out of the water by Lulu Masilela’s soulful stomping “Six Mabone”, which became a big hit. Nonetheless, West Nkosi hit back with the great “Seven Mabone”, which added accordion rhythms into the mix. The tunes came fast and thick from all of the major black labels and producers including Thekwane, Bopape and Nzimande... and it was by no means a given that once somebody had recorded “10 Mabone” that the next tune must be “11 Mabone”. In fact, “12 Mabone” superseded “Seven Mabone” and then was followed straight after by “17 Mabone”… the highest number (to our current knowledge) was “Jive Mabone 800”, recorded in 1974 by studio artist 'Mr. Singo'. We can safely assume that there were not 799 Mabone tunes recorded before we got to that one (!) But indeed, just the use of the word "Mabone" was enough to capture the eyes of people (see last week's post from Chris for a nice example). David Thekwane instituted a Teal label named 'Six Mabone' after Lulu Masilela's big hit, and Teal's popular soul outfit The Movers did their own great version of the tune which, in true Movers style, sounded nothing like straight-up mbaqanga!

Not all of the tunes on this "collector's album" (as the liner notes of West Nkosi's Sixteen Original Jive Hits describes it) contain “Mabone” in the title, but all of them are certainly performed in that classic jive Mabone style. Every tune has its moment, but highlights away from the “… Mabone” titles include “Shiluvani”, “Marabi Bell 800”, and “Tonkana”. If you’re a fan of violins – and shouting voices – then I’m sure this album is for you…!


2 MABONE (Various artists)
FGB Producers LPBS 17



Thursday 16 February 2012

The Last Special: The Mallory Hall Band (1974)

The second album from the December 1974 three-day studio stint by what had become a versatile big soul-jazz band assimilating and reflecting their South African geographical context. If you have not heard the companion album "Song of Soweto" yet check it out - the link is also at the end of this post. Some of you who did download and listen to "Song of Soweto" earlier this week might have realised by now that I got the links mixed up. The proper links are now restored.

The song titles on "The  Last Special" were very much contemporary for South Africa at the time. The "Mabone" (headlight) craze was sweeping through the soul, bump and mbaqanga world - with the "blue" in this particular title having a number of possible references. Al Hall went on to re-record "Abafu" as "Clouds" on Patt Britt's 1975 album Jazzman. The final track "Princess of Joh'Burg" nicely closes the circle that enfolds the four albums in this thread - being a track that could seamlessly have been included on Kirk Lighstey's Habiba.

If anyone is aware of any further recordings this group made while in South Africa, or elsewhere - please do let us know.
1. The Last Special (11.10) Mallory
2. Blue Mabone (12.12) Hall (see the comments)
3. Abafu (Clouds) (7.07) Hall
4. Princess of Joh'Burg (4.15) Mallory

Last Special on Rapidshare here
 Last Special on Mediafire here
Song of Soweto on Mediafire here

Monday 13 February 2012

Song of Soweto: The Mallory Hall Band (1974)

Two more tight and enticing offerings this week from the twelve-piece band of U.S. jazz musicians that backed Lovelace Watkins on his extended stay in southern Africa during 1974. This time guitarist Charles Mallory and trombonist Al Hall jnr come to the fore with excellent compositions that reflect their time on the sub-continent.

Al Hall in Cape Town - 1974
UPDATE: Since commenting on this post below, Al Hall has been in regular contact with Electric Jive. Al has been trying to get hold of the original master tapes of these recordings from Gallo (IRC/Teal originally owned these, but Gallo would own them now) - but he has had no joy from the company. To hear a recent interview with Al Hall, during which he talks about his music, and his time and recordings in South Africa, and the African roots within jazz, visit the Jake Feinberg show HERE and download the MP3 recording (right click and "save as").

A friend of Charles Mallory (Sharon Hall), and Charles' brother Richard have written to EJ to inform us that Charles passed on in February 2012. See a letter from Richard below in the comments section.
L to R: Tommy Cab Cortez, Pearl Ukumane, Delbert Hill,
Julius Billy Brooks, Sanifu Al Hall, Jr; Ray Nkwe (pic supplied by Sanifu Al Hall Jnr

If you have not had chance to connect with Kirk Lightsey and Rudolph Johnson’s “Habiba”, and Monk Montgomery’s live set in Soweto – do yourself a favour - here and here. These four recordings should really be enjoyed as one volume expressing a growing and shared experience which results in a funky soul-jazz interpretation of southern Africa at the time. Johnny Boshoff very ably again steps in for a contractually tied Monk Montgomery on bass.

Despite an impressive list of credits, this particular Charles Mallory is surprisingly scarce on the internet. He appears along with Herman Riley on a 1968 “Big Black” album with Caiphus Semenya ; and then on a 1973 funk-soul offering: “Hodges, James and Smith – Incredible”.

 The record sleeve credits Mallory as having been musical director of Martha and the Vandellas, two years as guitarist for Diana Ross, and as guitarist and conductor for Dusty Springfield’s band for a similar period. Other credits include playing for Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder Tuijuana Brass, John Lee Hooker, O.C. Smith, and so the list goes on. On these sessions he treats us with five sensitive and strong funky soul-jazz compositions. I would love to know what became of him.

Al Hall jnr already showed us what he could produce with his great “Blues for Nkwe” track on the Monk Montgomery live offering. Hall went on to arrange, conduct and lead Johnny Hammond’s 1977 jazz-funk offering “StormWarning: on Milestone Records. Hall’s writing, arranging and playing pedigree can be checked out here.

The two albums being showcased this week (the second one will come through in a few days) are surprisingly rare, and should really be better known. The tracks were recorded over three days from 7th to 10th December 1974 at the Video Sound studios in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg.
Recorded by Nino Rivera and John Lindemann.
Re-mixed by Johnny Boshoff and Nino Rivera.
Cover Art from original paiting by Eli Kobeli.
Marshall Royal (Alto sax and flute)
Herman Riley (Tenor Sax and flute)
Kirk Lightsey (Keyboard);
Rudolph Johnson (Tenor Sax / Flute);
Johnny Boshoff (Bass - and Congas over-dubbed on Hamba Samba);
Curtis Kirk (Drums);
Charles Mallory (Guitar);
All Hall jnr. (Trombone);
Delbert Hill (Clarinet);
Danny Cortez (Trumpet).
Tommy 'Cab' Cortez (Trumpet and Flugelhorn)
George 'Buster' Cooper (Trombone)

1. Song of Soweto (9.24) - Mallory
2. Hamba Samba (9.34) - Hall
3. Cape Town Blues (9.11) - Hall
4. Moroka Rock (4.34) - Hall
5. The African Night (8.10) Mallory

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Monday 6 February 2012

Nzimande All Stars - Breadwinner Part 2 (1980)

Seriously grooving studio sounds from the Nzimande All Stars (sometimes backing band for Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje), named after uber-producer Hamilton Nzimande.

Nzimande started his musical journey in an early mbaqanga group The Big Four whose single Woza Friday was a big enough hit in South Africa during the sixties to see release "overseas" (listen at Matsuli). Nzimande was instrumental in recording and developing the early careers and musical styles of key seventies artists The Soul Brothers and The Movers. Check this earlier post for details of his relationship with Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje.

A partial discography of the studio group includes Nomali (1974), Sporo (1978) that contained the track Breadwinner, Side by Side (1980) and today's Breadwinner Pt 2. Any further details on the Nomali LP fully welcomed at the electricjive HQ.

So get ready to groove! In 2010 the Nzimanade All Stars also caught the attention of tropical dancefloor specialists Sofrito who released an edit of Sporo Disco.

Links: MF