He Called Me Baby!

Having saved my money for an album, I put it on the spindle, dropped the tonearm and sat on my bed with the cover, reading every word.  And the more albums I bought, the more networked the players and personalities ended up becoming, to the point where I started buying albums BASED on the credits.

They say this paradigm is dead.  I’ll just say it’s been reinvented, and like so much in this twenty first century, it’s BETTER!

Having written about One EskimO’s "Kandi", I was inundated with e-mail informing me it was based on a sample of Candi Staton’s "He Called Me Baby".  Check out the original here:

They don’t make them this way anymore.  Today, you call up the beatmaster du jour, pay for the beats and lay your rap atop it all.  Whereas you used to go into a studio, in Muscle Shoals, and guys who honed their chops for eons laid down a groove so deep you couldn’t help but getting swallowed up by it.

Yes, Candi Staton’s take came out on Rick Hall’s FAME label, as in FAME Studios.  You’d have been better off avoiding the Grammys completely and journeying to a smoky bar where people who played for enjoyment as opposed to fame laid down a sound with a pocket so inviting you couldn’t help but fall in, smile and dance.

But it gets better.  Turns out that Candi’s take wasn’t the original.  No, the first hit was almost a decade before for Patsy Cline.

A great song, but it makes you realize the genius of the Candi Staton arrangement.  It’s a completely different record, with a very different feel. Patsy’s take is full of remorse, you’re sitting by the Victrola drinking a scotch.  Whereas Candi’s man is gone, but she’s going to win him back, by being strong and sultry.  And if he doesn’t come back, GOOD RIDDANCE!  Because a woman this hot will soon be overrun with suitors.

But it turns out that Candi Staton wasn’t the first to rework "He Called Me Baby" into an R&B number.  Searching in Spotify I found a late sixties take by Ella Washington.

I don’t even remember listening to this Ella.  Makes me realize songs that on the surface are out of my genre can win me over, no matter how old they might be, through their sheer emotion, the genius of the players.

Meanwhile, through the aforementioned Spotify, I found a more modern take by one Pat Cooley, who I’d never even heard of previously.

And speaking of Spotify, the Candi Staton take there was completely different from the one on YouTube.  Almost a demo.  More like the album rendition before they polished it up for radio.  You can hear this take by Googling "Candi Staton He Called Me Baby", it’s the one on LaLa that comes up in the results.  It’s like rather than setting up in the studio with pros, a band came over to Candi’s house and worked out the arrangement on their acoustics, adding a bunch of horns later.

And that ultimately brings us to One EskimO’s take:

Actually, you can see hear two versions on YouTube.  The studio take above, and a live one here:

And the live one is akin to the second Candi Staton take, with the acoustic guitars, so intimate that you just want to roll it into a ball and cradle it next to your belly in bed.

So, one can criticize One EskimO for ripping off Candi who improved upon Ella’s reworking of Patsy Cline’s original.  Or we can ask what makes One EskimO’s version so INFECTIOUS!

Rollo Armstrong.

It’s just that simple.

Dido’s brother.

I’ll come to your house with "Life For Rent", I’ll convince you of Dido’s genius, I won’t leave until you cop to it.  And Dido’s lyrics are brilliant, but what makes those first two albums so great are Rollo’s textures.  When she ended up working with her new boyfriend, Jon Brion, Dido produced a stiff.

Amazon says Rollo produced the One EskimO album.  But the credits for the album are a bit more cryptic.  Rollo’s the first one thanked.  It says: "Firstly I would like to thank Rollo Armstrong – a massive inspiration for this One EskimO."

So, where does the truth lie?

I’d love it if Rollo weighed in.  And Candi too.  She e-mailed me about Barry Beckett, I’d love to know the backstory of her record, and why there are two versions.

I could do even more research, but that’s not how we do it in the modern era, today we crowd source, I put out the leads and the public delivers the answer, because many heads are better than one.

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