When she’s not rockin’ around the Christmas tree, Atlanta native Brenda Lee is apparently wailing on this Williams classic. She manages to make that stunted-rockabilly-hiccup sound hotter than Charlie Feathers while getting as low and gritty as Wanda Jackson. I can’t say the latter is something she does on the regs (considering her fucking gargantuan discography), but when she shines - she shines. Enjoy!
This tune is my favorite number of the amazing French compilation “Ethiopiques,” which highlights some of the incredible jazz, funk, and pop recorded in 60s-70s Ethiopia. Some of the comps feature various artists, while others are solo artists.
I haven’t heard all of the 27 (!) volumes of the series, but it’s well worth checking out. I recommend volume 14, which features the eerie jazz-ish sounds of Gétatchèw Mèkurya, who later recorded with The Ex, and volume 8, “Swingin’ Addis, 1969-74,” which is where today’s sauce originates..
It’s a wonderful mystery to me how music is able to make its way into war-torn dictatorships through certain channels. In 1948, Ethiopia banned music that wasn’t distributed by the government, but as the Ethiopiques series highlights, subversive folks like Amha Eshete were able to record and distribute tons of Western-themed tunes in the late 60s and early 70s.
Sez Bob Tarte:
“Risking imprisonment, Eshèté gambled that the time was right to spin the momentum of a tape underground into a vinyl defiance of the recording ban. By 1970, the declining power of Emperor Haile Sellassie coupled with the huge commercial success of Amha Records sunk the 1948 edict under its own weight. Sellassie chose to bless the homegrown recording industry, spurring an artistic explosion unlike anything else on the continent. The intensity was so great, it was as almost as if the producers and performers recognized that they had only a short while to get as much music released as possible.”
However this tune came to be, there’s no doubt in my mind that James Brown’s influence had made it all the way to the Horn of Africa. It’s by Alemayehu Eshete, who was part of that recording boom, and remains one of Ethiopia’s best-known pop stars. He was one of many who fled the country when the Communist Derg party took over in 1974, leaving a trail of funkiness in his wake.