Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Soul of Peter Greenberg

The Secret Museum
by Jim Webb

It’s not often that you meet a solar company executive who is also one of the most underrated guitarists in America. Many in the Taos Valley can now make that claim since Peter Greenberg and his wife Milissa moved to Arroyo Seco in 2008. Music aficionados of the local rock scene have seen him playing with Manby’s Head in a garage rock style, and a recent show at the KTAO Center had Peter on stage with his old Rock n’ Soul group Barrence Whitfield & The Savages. Throw in his previous membership with Boston punk group DMZ and the ‘60’s influenced Lyres and you have someone who has attacked his fret board with a passion in a variety of styles these last thirty-five years, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

He is a music fan, as well as a writer and performer of songs, but his music collection isn’t like mine or yours. First of all he doesn’t buy cds, only old style vinyl 45s and LPs are allowed into his home. He has turned his back on any mainstream release through the years, and concentrates with a gold miner’s intensity in looking for lost nuggets in a variety of styles that others have missed. Listening to forgotten swing / jump blues artists from the 1940’s like Louis Jordan and Bullmoose Jackson, along with old time country singers from the 1950’s including Floyd Tillman, Webb Pierce and Moon Mullican is his idea (and mine) of a fun evening. Obscure blues artists and rockabilly bands form another core of his library that pretty much ends by the late 60’s. His real passion though falls under the category of Soul music. There has been a lot of Soul Music sub -genres through the years including Memphis Soul, Philly Soul, Detroit Soul, Chicago Soul, and the broader, overlapping Northern Soul. Detroit Soul, more popularly known as Motown, had the most mass commercial appeal, while Philly Soul generally had more of a “sweeter” sound than the grittier Stax/Volt label artists who recorded in Memphis. Chicago Soul had at times a harder blues edge, and Northern Soul is a general catchall phrase for a lot of obscure artists from the North who never had hit records but released a lot of quality music. Northern Soul also caught on big in certain U.K. clubs during the 60’s and 70’s that were specializing in playing these lesser known Soul musicians. No matter how you classify Soul records, it always has a lot of feeling inside the grooves.

I spent an evening with Peter recently, and he kept pulling out rare and unknown Soul 45s while we discussed the various artists on the small Chicago labels of Onederful and Mar - V- Lus. He recorded the songs he played onto a cdr; here are a few of what we listened to:

1.) Carl O. Jones / Betty Everett – “Days Gone By” (Chicago / Northern Soul). Betty had a hit with the “Shoop Shoop Song”, this was less commercial, but just as satisfying.

2.) Johnny Sayles – “You Told a Lie” (Chicago Soul). Deep, wrenching tale of loss and betrayal.

3.) Soul Brothers Six – “Your Love is Such a Wonderful Love” (Rochester, N.Y.) Five brothers and a friend, uptempo group who recorded on the Atlantic label

4.) Otis Clay – “I Got to Find a Way” (Chicago Soul). Powerful vocalist still
performing live.

5.) Alvin Cash – “Twine Time” (Chicago Soul) Big instrumental hit in 1965

6.) McKinley Mitchell – “A Bit of Soul” (Chicago Soul). One-derful label, he epitomizes the talented, unknown mid – sixties Soul artist.

7.) Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces – “Go Ahead and Burn” (Alabama). The Deep South never sounded so good.

8.) Freddie Scott – “I’ll Be Gone” (Rhode Island). Knock out lost single on the Shout label.

9.) Eddie Floyd – “Big Bird” (Memphis Soul). Lesser known song than his big hit “Knock on Wood”

10.) Johnnie Taylor – “Love Bones” (Memphis Soul). Stax / Volt label magic.

In one evening of playing music we didn’t even scratch the surface of his massive collection of hard to find records. Singers like O.V.Wright and Harold Burrage will have to be saved for another day. After repeated listening to the cd he made for me, I learned more than a few things. Johnny Sayles has Soul. Bobby Moore has Soul. Freddie Scott has Soul. Peter Greenberg has Soul.

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