Tag Archives: Sunday Williams

In Rotation: Ayana Contreras of Vocalo’s Reclaimed Soul on a softly stratospheric Andrew Hill LP

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The music that is currently in rotation (in my head), as excerpted from

Ayana Contreras, DJ and host of Vocalo’s Reclaimed Soul, blogger at darkjive.com

The Natural Four, Natural Four This was released here in Chicago on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in 1974. The Natural Four was a group that came here from San Francisco to record because Chicago was a soul-music center. Unfortunately, aside from scoring a Top 40 hit with this album’s classic lead track, “Can This Be Real,” the group was unable to break through. Natural Four brims with loping strings, aggressive horns, and slinky harmonies.

Andrew Hill, Lift Every Voice I collect old Blue Note albums, and I’m often initially attracted to their covers. This 1970 release features Hill’s face superimposed over stars and violet nebulas, and the record itself is softly stratospheric in its energy. Hill leads a crowd of vocalists and an instrumental quintet that includes Richard Davis on bass and Carlos Garnett on tenor sax. With song titles such as “Love Chant,” “Ghetto Lights,” and “Hey Hey,” the record gently envelops you with a sense of perpetual motion—sometimes it feels like you’re swinging in a hammock, and sometimes it’s like you’re running electrically in the streets.

Sunday Williams, “Where Did He Come From Sunday Williams recorded this single in Chicago around 1969 for Bill Meeks’s Alteen label, based on Stony Island Avenue. It did OK locally, mainly thanks to the cheery flip side, “Ain’t Got No Problems” (which features the hook “Know what to do with my man, yeah!”). Really, both songs are stellar. But “Where Did He Come From” has a hauntingly beautiful staccato horn intro, coupled with dreamy vibes and a rock-solid bass line.

Proof positive that I do listen to stuff that’s not from Chicago, sometimes. For the rest of the article, click here.

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Al-teen Records: Bill Meeks’ little ships of soul

Bill Meeks was, in the late sixties, a jingle writer here in Chicago who started a record label called Al-teen. The label was based at 82nd and Stony Island, and put out records by Sunday (Williams), Drake and the En-Solids, Earl Duff, The Supurbs (sic), and Johnny McCall. Many of the tunes were composed by D. McGilberry. None of them were hits in their day.

Many small labels existed in this town, and most of them were born out of someone’s dream. They sent out little ships into the murky waters of the Industry hoping to reach that unknown shore of stardom. So many of those ships, those records, are still floating out there (testaments to those dreams).

Below, a couple of my favorite cuts from the label. Both are now worth a pretty penny. “Ain’t Got No Problems/Where Did He Come From” by Sunday was a hot enough platter here in Chicago that it got picked up for national distribution by Chess (which makes it Alteen’s most successful production).  To my ears, “Where Did He Come From” (the original B-Side) is the star of the story.

“I Need You” By Johnny McGill is a bit of a grittier record with sparser production, but has that particular leanness of a “little ship” sort-of-record that I love. You can feel that the record is a love child: created of of passion rather than obligation.

Female background on all of the Al-Teen cuts was by a group called The Voices. This is them singing along to Sunday’s “Ain’t Got No Problems” in 2009 (forty years after the fact) on a local radio show called “Sitting in the Park”. Wow. All of the talents of a whole bunch of people (and a whole bunch of hopes) rode on these little ships. I respect that. Jive on.