4 July 2011
Five Flights Up - Do What You Wanna Do/ Black Cat
Year of Release: 1970
I have a general rule on "Left and to the Back", which is that if a track seems to be commercially available as an mp3 download already, I won't upload it in full. This is one reason why soul records, however obscure, tend not to get featured here. Almost all of the legitimate online sources for music are stuffed to the gills with soul tracks nobody cared about at the time, but have suddenly decided to start listening to now.
Examples where the usual situation has been flipped are incredibly rare to come by, but with Five Flights Up we may have just found the odd fish, the rum old exception to the rule. Back in 1970, this single was popular enough to get to number 37 in the Billboard pop charts, and has since disappeared into the ether. Google searches reveal nothing apart from people asking where the hell they can obtain a copy from (to a bemused silence) and radio airplay is apparently also impossible to come by these days. If nothing else, it's interesting to know that some US hits of yore suffer the same problem as UK ones - it really feels as if they might as well have never existed.
In the case of "Do What You Wanna Do", that's a slight shame. It's a slick, neatly harmonised piece of soul which saw the quintet crossing over to a mainstream audience. Pleasant as it may be, however, it's the impassioned, Smokey Robinson styled yearning of "Black Cat" on the flipside which sets my motor running, with its haunting, swelling brass arrangements and tales of lost love. If somewhere in your mind's eye you can't see a sulking, broken man strolling down city backstreets with only the local neighbourhood feline for company, you clearly have no feelings to speak of. "Black Cat" is autumnal, cinematic and actually quite wonderful.
Sadly, neither side provoked any commercial interest in the UK, although apparently this record did get a moderate amount of plays on the Northern Soul circuit - but once again, clearly not enough plays to warrant an inclusion on any of the usual compilations. Maybe the subtlety of the disc ultimately proved to be its undoing, but it certainly doesn't make it a bad record, and I for one would quite like to put forward the case for its revival.
FACT: When I spun this record at The Boogaloo bar in North London at the point when most people had drifted off home, the resident black cat strolled in front of the DJ booth just as the opening lines were delivered. Only one person noticed.
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