Crystal Stilts Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

Crystal Stilts is the band you wished you joined in college. There’s something so familiar yet inexplicably complex about its songs. The group’s debut album, Alight Of Night, sparked heaps of critical praise for its perfect garage pop, at once making tunes that were danceable, fun and filled with emotion. The magic of listening to Crystal Stilts is realizing the band has found the winning formula to reference and tweak some rich musical history while creating something entirely new. The fivesome makes music that feels good, but beyond that it’s music with a message, music worth listening to over and over again. Crystal Stilts just released its latest EP, Radiant Door (Sacred Bones), and to celebrate, drummer Keegan Cooke made us this soulful mix. Says Cooke, “At the risk of going well outside my comfort zone in terms of interesting bits to talk about, I thought I’d share a few favorites from my soul/R&B collection. This batch ranges from $1 records I’ve found over the years to items I searched for a long time to get. One of the most puzzling Internet compulsions to develop recently is the practice of uploading videos of records playing. This seems especially prevalent in the world of rare doo-wop and soul records. I was a little worried when I was told that MAGNET liked to include video links in their playlists, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find any to go with this set of songs. Turns out there are crudely recorded, poor-sound-quality videos for nearly every single one of them! Most of these videos are pretty dull: just a record spinning or a simple shot of the 45 label. But the live Wilson Pickett videos included are absolutely essential viewing.”

“Dark Eyes” (download):

Antennas “Be Yourself”
This one pops out of the gate so perfectly and is relentless in its message. This girl singing just likes her man the way he is. She doesn’t like the idea of him falling victim to the external pressures of society. Anyway, sometimes it’s hard to remember to, right? Video

Olympics “Well!”
The Olympics have lots of great singles ranging from novel to fantastic. Songs like “Western Movies” are fun, but “Well!” rips in a totally different way. It’s one of those lost soda-fountain classics they should play at those ’50s-revival diners instead of Dion and that kind of thing. Video

Don Covay “Can’t Fight It Baby”
The Pretty Boy himself. This is the man responsible for the most rocking version of “Ooh! My Soul” ever recorded, and this sweet ode to loneliness and longing displays nicely Don’s softer side.

Freddie Scott “Are You Lonely For Me?”
This song was actually a number-one hit for a few weeks in 1967, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who remembers that these days. Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who remembers last week’s number-one song, too. Such a great song. Video

Willie Parker “You Got Your Finger In My Eye”
I would sound like the biggest phony trying to use the genre-specific terms that apply here, but that low, growling guitar riff has my body betraying itself on the dance floor in about two seconds flat. Video

Shells “Whiplash”
“Whiplash” is one of the best “dance” songs I’ve ever heard. It follows the typical conventions of the form, but the production on this one set it apart from some of the others. I mean, I’m fond of “Jerking The Dog” and “The Mashed Potato” like anyone, but “Whiplash” is something I really wanna get involved in. Video

Falcons “I Found A Love”
This is the first deep ballad-y doo-wop song that I ever fell in love with. I’m not even sure if that’s how one would describe this, but listening to it in the car on an old cassette tape while driving between class and my job at the library always made my evening. I sat in a Wendy’s parking lot on my break from work, playing this song over and over, while I ate Value Menu delicacies and wiped my mouth on my sleeves. I wish I still had a car to do this kind of thing in. Video

The Blonde Bomber “I Am To Blame” And “Strollie Bun”
I once made a mix for someone that contained only the song “I Am To Blame.” This was the best and saddest song in the world to me for a long period. It took an equally long time to figure out who the Blonde Bomber even was, but eventually the songwriting credit led me down a rabbit hole I haven’t really escaped from yet. I included the more well-known rocker “Strollie Bun,” too, just to show our man Walter Rhodes was a multifaceted performer, but “I Am To Blame” will always arrest me and break my heart like few others. Still one of the most heartfelt performances on wax. Video

Soul Brothers Six “You Better Check Yourself”
Soul Brothers Six were introduced to me by my friend Tim, as he proclaimed that the half dozen or so singles they released would make a really nice long playing record. He played a song for me and I was astounded by how great it was. I instantly forgot the title of the thing, and to this day, I still pick up every 45 I see with the Atlantic label hoping its a Soul Brothers Six record I don’t have. The following is a funny video someone seems to have synched with a clogging group’s performance! Video

Parliaments “I’ll Wait”
George Clinton’s pre-Funkadelic work as a singer and producer resulted in some of the best Detroit area singles. There is a pile of great ones, this one just represents his work with the Parliaments, but others like Roy Handy’s  “Baby That’s A Groove” or Theresa Lindsey’s “I’ll Bet You” are absolutely essential, too. Video

Big Mama Thornton “Wade In The Water”
Some songs you like because of an association you have. Like, your friend Johanna was really into The Smiths, so you learn to love them because of her enthusiasm toward them. Or your pal Kyle liked some really dicey “under-dog” record and you developed a fondness for it because Kyle is a great guy, right? Well, Big Mama Thornton’s version of “Wade In The Water” was introduced to me by my good friend Adam, but I’d love it just the same if Joseph Stalin dropped the needle on it. If it doesn’t shake your soul, you’re immovable. Video

Nolan Strong “If I Could Be With You”
Nolan Strong just has one of the sweetest voices. What else can I say? I love this song. Video

Bunker Hill “Nobody Knows”
Everybody knows Bunker Hill. He’s the prize fighter who stepped out of the ring and into a studio with Link Wray to record the larynx-shredding, ear-shattering “The Girl Can’t Dance” on the Mala label. Well, he was also previously a gospel singer with the Mighty Clouds for a few, and this track shows his down-beat side, which I happen to love most. He can’t contain himself by the end of the thing, though, and in classic Bunker Hill fashion, he quickly melts your stylus. Video

Irene & The Scotts “Stuck On My Baby”
This was on one of those grey-area soul compilation albums called The Socker that you can mail-order from Norton Records or other like-minded mail-order catalogs, before things went digital. I bought all of these things back then and listened to them religiously, searching for standout tracks. This track is a highlight among the whole field. Video

Wilson Pickett “That’s A Mans Way”
Wilson Pickett was one of the singers of the Falcons before he went solo and released his famous In The Midnight Hour. This was one of my favorite tracks from that LP. My friend Martin’s mother lived in the apartment below us in a house in New Bedford, Mass. One time she commented that she liked the music I was listening to upstairs. I like to think it was this song that she liked. VideoVideo and Video

Witches & The Warlock “The Wanderer”
This is a nice haunting number from a group I know absolutely nothing about. I’ll have to look them up one day. They sound like a real spooky gang, I think. This video is their version of “Nowhere To Run To Nowhere To Hide.” Video

Nathaniel Mayer “Village Of Love”
The most well-known Nathaniel Mayer song, for good reason. Perfect sweet delivery, echoed handclaps, with just the right amount of shouting. This is a feel-good song if there every was one. Nate Dog Mayer has heaps of great songs, though, so this functions as a nice taster for one of the kings of Detroit soul. Video

James Carr “Dark End Of The Street”
The best version of this song—and the original. The songwriting duo of Penn/Moman churned out this cheaters’ lament in a hotel room, while on break from a card game they were involved in. James Carr gives it the best treatment, even though about 1,000 other greats have given it a try. Video

Irma Thomas “I Done Got Over It”
The Soul Queen of New Orleans is famous for recording the song “Time Is On My Side” before the Stones got a crack at it. “I Done Got Over It” is a perfect kiss-off for a neglectful ex-love. They were never around when you needed ’em, anyway. Video

Snooks Eaglin “By The Water”
Snooks was a blind bluesman from New Orleans, well known for his ability to play any song asked of him. (His nickname was “The Human Jukebox.”) He has several records working in that bluesy vein, and then he did a series of recordings for the Imperial label in 1960 and 1961 that resulted in this more soul-driven approach. I think this stuff is maddeningly great! Video

Vernon Green & The Phantoms “Sweet Breeze”
Vernon Green pops nicely at the beginning of this track and carries on with a gang of ghosts closely at his heels. Seems he can’t mention the wind without wondering where it’s blown and where it’s blowing. Video

Daylighters “(Oh Mom) Teach Me How To Uncle Willie”
First heard this song on a Les Sexareenos CD I had back in 2000 or so, and when I heard this original version on a compilation, I was shocked it wasn’t written by the Montreal garage band. Ohio group Cheater Slicks tricked me into loving a lot of old, lost ’60s garage recordings that way as well. All the best Cheater Slicks songs turn out to be on some bootleg comp you hear years later! Video

The Phantom “Whisper Your Love”
I always listen to this song on 33 rpm, because it sounds soooo good slowed down. I almost don’t even recognize it at regular speed. This song is the flip side to the track “Love Me,” which was covered by the Cramps and other rockabillies through the years. Also a fantastic song, though not as good when played at 33. Anyway, if you find the 45 of this, give it a try slowed down for fun. Kudos to my friend Amelie for discovering its slower merits. Video

Comments are closed.