Friday, July 8, 2016

Ruben Fort "So Good" (Anna, 1960): NY Night Train Party Platter

This is the continuing series I will post every other day while i'm out of town, thanks to Jonathan Toubin DJ of New York Night Train

This week I'm throwing all Detroit platters up here in anticipation of Saturday's Soul Clap and Dance-Off at U.F.O. Factory!

While "So Good" can definitely be categorized as popcorn soul, like a lot of the rockin' minor key Detroit destroyers, this one's minimal arrangement, lack of orchestration, strong dynamics, ripping guitar work, handclapping break, and rock'n'roll bridge drives this jam smack dab in the middle my neighborhood. Also while the intro warns that the backing vocals may send this track into cheeseville, the singers instead hold back until the choruses and add a little touch of Detroit group doo wop harmony to the mix. And of course Fort's soaring soulfullness is the star of this show!

Of all of the early Motor City recording stars, its particularly difficult to find any information about Ruben Fort. And this is too bad because he possesses some serious pipes and can really push 'em way up into Willie Little John-ville with the greatest of ease.

What little is known about Fort is that his career got lost in the Anna/Harvey/Check-mate soap opera from which Motown was born. "So Good" was cut for Billy Davis and Gwen Gordy's Anna Records imprint one month after Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" put the label on the map. Motown mogul Berry Gordy's sister Gwen was in a long heavy romantic relationship his writing collaborator Billy Davis (the co-writer here! The team of Gordy and Davis pinned Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," Marv Johnson's "You Got What It Takes," etc) and Gwen and Billy started Anna Records together. The Moonglow's Harvey Fuqua, the arranger here, a huge Chess Records recording star, and at the time Etta James' boyfriend and collaborator, helped Anna get the Chess distribution that enabled "Money (That's What I Want)" to become a hit. Harvey also fell in love with Gwen and the two ran off together to build the excellent Harvey and Tri-Phi imprints. The dejected Davis split with the acts he signed to start the quality but unsuccessful Chess subsidiary Check-Mate. And Berry Gordy absorbed the remainder of the Anna roster to help build the foundation of Motown Records.

As luck would have it, Ruben Fort was assigned to Check-Mate instead of Motown. Despite getting lost in the shuffle of history, Fort's Check-Mate platter, "I'll Do The Best I Can"/"Nobody" also illustrates what a badass Ruben Fort is. I'm gonna go in my stacks and dig that one up for you as well. If you're somewhere out there Ruben Fort, you've got fans!

graphics by AVI SPIVAK (!

You're listening to my daily addition to the New York Night Train Party Platter playlist. Each track here is recorded directly from my original 45s (no bootlegs, reproductions, etc) to give you an idea of what the real deal authentic vinyl sounds like. COME BACK EVERY DAY FOR A NEW FIX! Because the records pass so quickly at my dance parties, this channel is an attempt to stop and focus on one record at a time in hopes to personally learn more about each one and at the same time turn you on to the artists, tracks, labels, etc. I'm just hipping myself to a lot of these records for the first time as well - so you can view this as our journey to learning more about cool old records together! But mostly I hope this music moves you as much as it moves me.

Get your enjoys,
Jonathan Toubin
Soul Proprietor, New York Night Train

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