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Raw Spitt - Raw Spitt

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 13 / 8 / 2013

Raw Spitt - Raw Spitt
Label: Alive Naturalsound
Format: CD


Definitive reissue of 1970 eponymous debut album from Raw Spitt, the pseudonym for New York-based soul musician Charlie Whitehead, which was produced by the legendary Swamp Dogg and which comes with five extra tracks

Forging ahead with their reissue of the Swamp Dogg/ Jerry Williams Jr. back catalogue, Alive Natural Sound Records now turn their attention to the album that Charlie Whitehead made under the name of Raw Spitt for the Canyon label in 1970 which was produced by Swamp Dogg. Despite his writing talents and his soulful vocals, (while no Otis, Whitehead deserved much more credit than he ever received for his heartfelt vocals) Whitehead never made the major league. It’s a mystery as listening to this album some forty years after being committed to tape it still sounds as relevant and fresh as the day Swamp Dogg first worked his magic on the songs. Those old enough to remember the glory days of 'Blues And Soul' magazine will no doubt remember Dave Godin raving about Whitehead’s recording of ‘Songs to Sing’ released under the Raw Spitt banner. Few UK soul fans were able to track down a copy of the 45 on import when originally issued in 1971, but Godin (who did more in his lifetime for spreading the word about soul music than any other) finally got the song out to the masses when it formed a part of the first volume of ‘Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures’ in 1997. Sadly, although this reissue of ‘Raw Spitt’ does include five superb bonus tracks that did not feature on the original album, ‘Songs to Sing’ is missing here. What Alive Natural Sound have issued is the complete Raw Spitt ten-track album superbly re-mastered with punchy, sit-still-if-you-can sound on the more funky tracks that surprisingly haven’t dated at all along with both sides of the Charlie Whitehead 45 from 1972 issued on the Stone Dogg label ('Between the Lines' and 'Predicament #2 'of which more later); the original B-side of the ‘Songs to Sing’ 45 which is a version of ‘That Ain’t My Wife’; a horn-drenched version of the Beatles'‘Hey Jude’ in which Whitehead proves that vocally he should be held in higher esteem than he ever received, and Whitehead’s take on ‘Synthetic World’ which also appeared on the Swamp Dogg album ‘Total Destruction to Your Mind’ which again is horn-heavy and is perfectly suited to Whitehead’s vocal style. It would take a fool to suggest that Whitehead had made a better job than Swamp Dogg on this song so we’ll move on… The Raw Spitt album opens with Whitehead’s version of the Jackie DeShannon co-write ‘Put a Little Love in Your Heart’ which set the template for the Al Green/Annie Lennox version some eighteen years later. This version is brimming with Swamp Dogg touches, the brass, the backing vocals and an outstandingly sweet vocal from Whitehead. While it leaves all previous versions of the song up to the recording date in the shade, it will sound familiar to newer listeners through the Green/Lennox copy. Hearing it all these years later, it confirms that most records that bear the name of Swamp Dogg in some capacity were way ahead of their time and are still relevant today. Up-tempo and slightly funky is the way of the majority of the songs on ‘Raw Spitt’, the title song and ‘Call Me Nigger’ (which although sharing sentiments with some of James Brown’s better known songs is actually more effective and memorable) being both stand-outs. They simply can’t be faulted, and when Whitehead slows things down as on ‘Who Do They Think They Are?’ you’re left wondering how the hell such an accomplished set of songs could have passed virtually unnoticed all those years ago. It’s telling that the weakest song on the original ‘Raw Spitt’ album was one of only two that Swamp Dogg didn’t have a hand in writing. While ‘This Old Town’ has some pedigree, being written by William Stevenson and Wilson Pickett, in this setting the bluesy interperation, although sung and played with passion, just doesn’t stand up to the quality of the other songs. Although in a similar vein the following song, ‘Sweet Bird of Success’, a Jerry Williams Jr./Troy Davis co-write, is a lesson in how it should be done. The original album closes with the ballad ‘Excuses’. With Swamp Dogg’s distinctive piano playing opening the song it’s another social comment piece, again as relevant today as it was in the seventies. The bonus tracks here are all as good as anything on the original album. ‘Between the Lines’ will bring back memories of Betty Wright’s best sides. With Little Beaver on guitar and the Miami rhythm section that graced so many great songs in the seventies, that’s no surprise. The long introduction to the bluesy ‘Predicament #2’ (which, and I hold my hands up and will readily admit if I’m wrong here, is surely wrongly titled on this issue, surely the correct title should be ‘Predicament #3’? Listen to Swamp Doggs own version of ‘Predicament #2’ on the recently reissued Dogg album ‘Rat On!’ on Alive Natural Sound Records and make up your own mind…but with Swamp Dogg involved things were never going to be straightforward were they?) sets the scene for another remarkable vocal performance from Whitehead, and again lyrically shows that what Jerry Williams Jr. was writing forty years ago is still important today - “ I was just found guilty and convicted…that’s when I found that black wasn’t just a colour/ It was also a crime.” Whitehead’s version of ‘That Ain’t My Wife’ holds up well against the Dogg version on ‘Rat On!’, and the same can be said for Whitehead’s version of ‘Synthetic World’ best known to Dogg fans for his version on ‘Total Destruction To Your Mind’. While neither version differs so much except in the vocals, it all comes down to whom you feel the better singer is. Not something that can be decided easily. In many ways ‘Raw Spitt’ is a companion piece to ‘Total Destruction of the Mind’. The front covers of both albums use similar images, the same musicians are employed on both albums and the overall feel and themes of the songs are comparable. Considering that ‘Total Destruction to Your Mind’ is hailed by many Swamp Dogg fans to be one of his best speaks volumes for ‘Raw Spitt’. Charlie Whitehead did eventually trouble the R&B charts; in 1975 on yet another label, this time Island in the States and United Artists in the UK. ‘Love Being Your Fool’ made a dent in the top thirty in America. Before that, in 1973 Whitehead cut another album, ‘Charlie Whitehead & The Swamp Dogg Band’, where long instrumentals shared the album with a handful of vocal cuts. With Whitehead and Swamp Dogg involved the album could hardly be a disaster, but it has to be said that the collection was not the most inspired set of songs these two immensely talented musicians ever put their names to. Even the instrumental take of ‘She’s All I Got’ best known to soul fans via Freddie North’s version couldn’t lift the album to Whitehead’s previous heights. By issuing the ‘Raw Spitt’ album in its entirety and by only adding a few choice and relevant songs Alive Natural Sound Records have made the definitive version of Charlie Whitehead’s finest album. With new sleeve notes by Swamp Dogg, this is another soul re-issue from that label which deserves to be snapped up immediately. Who knows, but with a little well-deserved attention this time maybe Whitehead will be encouraged to visit the studios once more.

Track Listing:-
1 Put A LIttle Love In Your Heart
2 Raw Spitt
3 Call Me Nigger
4 The Freedom Under Certain Konditions Marching Band
5 Midnight Rider
6 Who Do They Think They Are
7 I Dig Black Girls
8 This Old Town
9 Sweet Bird Of Success
10 Excuses
11 Between The Lines
12 Predicament 2
13 That Ain't My Wife
14 Synthetic World
15 Hey Jude

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