Friday, January 21, 2011

FF Rewind:Darrow Fletcher-Northern Soul King

 FF=Funky Friday (Originally Posted 10.9.2009)

The other day we had a discussion about the demise of the album format, as folks turn more often these days to individual tracks, the playlist, and the shuffle, as their preferred mode of listening. It all seems so new, but really it's the album that's the (relatively) new concept. Up until the technology allowed for the album in the 50's, music was sold, as is rapidly re-becoming the fashion, 1 tune at a time (plus a bonus B-side) on 78's, then 45's,then the dreaded cassingle, and finally (as single song selling was going out of fashion in favor of the gigantic record company piggy bank of digital discs) as the CD single.

Of course, nowadays single songs rule and albums are rapidly becoming an esoteric pursuit for music afficianados only. The album, perfected in the 70's as a transmission of an artists current output, is being ripped apart for playlists and scrutinized for tracks that aren't "worth it." I don't fall on either side and I hope the album stays, but I will never underestimate the power of a single, especially when it arrives on a 45.

Soul (and then funk) man Darrow Fletcher came up in the time when albums were not the typical mode for soul music. Sure there were LP's in '66, but the concept of the soul LP was still just a gleam in the eye of folks like Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye. In fact, though he cut close to 20 singles in an active career that spanned 9 labels and 13 years, Darrow Fletcher never made an album. I don't know the why's and wherefore's of all that, but I do know it makes his records a little more rare and a lot more enticing to crate diggers, especially those of the Northern Soul variety, to whom Darrow is a legend. 


That's Darrow singing at 2006's Cleethorpe's Weekender, where organizers spared no expense to track down the long retired Fletcher, whose rare 45's have fueled dancers for years. The Northern folks have basically rescued his oeuvre which consists of Motwn-esque kid soul (his first records came out when he was 14) to a more mature funk sound that came in with his 70's records.
First up, 'cause it's Funky Friday, is 1970's Now Is The Time For Love, a percussion,flute, and wah wah thing that was released on the tiny Genna label.

Now Is The Time For LoveDon't mind that 45 surface noise..


Funk was not all Mr. Fletcher did as evidenced by this other A+B from 1970, cut for the larger (but often very soulful UNI label)
When Love Calls-A/Changing by The Minute-B





Next up are the tunes that tend to tickle the fancy of Northern Soul folk..singles Darrow cut in '66 for the Groovy label when he was barely a teen..His debut and his 3rd record.
The Pain Gets A Little Deeper


Gotta Draw The Line


Finally,' cause of the day, I'll give you a taste of his late work with a 1978 single he cut for Atco/Atlantic..The voice was still there, and the groove is no slouch, but funk was on it's downhill slope by then. So, after years of scuffling around in the minors, Darrow got called up to the majors for one more shot. Evidently (and it's amazing considering who got to make albums by '78) the suits didn't have an album in the marketing plans for Mr. Fletcher either, but with the scant info available on him, I can't really say why he never cut an LP or why he dropped out of the biz. Many thanks to the soul collective across the pond for bringing him back and teaching me yet another thing I didn't know. The education continues...
Improve-1978


I'll submit that Darrow Fletcher is at least one reason why the album isn't the be all and end all of music delivery. It's kind of fitting (though somewhat annoying) that there isn't a Darrow Fletcher album or, at the very least ,a compilation of his work out there for folks to dig. Of course, some would prefer the 45's, and for now that's all we've got.

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