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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Chambers Brothers: Now!


1) Introduction To; 2) High Heel Sneakers; 3) Baby Please Don't Go; 4) What'd I Say; 5) Long Tall Sally; 6) Bony Maronie; 7) It's Groovin' Time; 8) You Don't Have To Go; 9) C. C. Rider; 10) So Fine.

All right, this one is eminently skippable. Maybe the decision to stick to live recordings can be qualified as a gesture of toughness and determination, and I have nothing against this in theory, but in practice, this is pretty disappointing. Seemingly recorded at the same venues in Boston and L.A. as last time, Now! would sound as just a bunch of outtakes that did not make it onto the first album — except I think that these are different dates, because the recording quality is much worse: there is an ugly echo marring all the performances, creating the illusion of a deep well, rather than an intimate club, and also completely obscuring any musicianship that may or may not have been concealed behind the singing.

Another problem is the setlist: less diverse and original than last time, it consists mainly of covers of well-known standards, ranging from the early rock'n'roll of ʽLong Tall Sallyʼ and ʽHigh Heel Sneakersʼ to Jimmy Reed and Ray Charles. As much as I respect the vocal prowess of The Cham­bers Brothers, I really do not need another (and poor quality at that) version of ʽWhat'd I Sayʼ in my collection; nor do I need an extended, monotonous, slowed down version of the pop song ʽSo Fineʼ which, for several minutes, they try to transform into an ecstatic soulful groove without much success.

The only «new» tune is ʽIt's Groovin' Timeʼ, which, judging by its title, should be a fast, exciting rave-up, but in reality it is a slow, harmonica-driven piece of Chicago blues, as generic and for­gettable as they come; next to its drabness, the covers of ʽLong Tall Sallyʼ and ʽBony Maronieʼ are true salvation in the flesh... if only I could hear those guitar solos on the latter, though — the guitarist almost seems to intentionally wish to remain unheard.

Technically, you can dance to this, and I can even imagine the album having some use in college parties around that time — especially the ones where nobody needs anything but a good beat, anyway — yet in career terms, especially considering that this is frickin' 1966 we're talking about, with Hendrix on the horizon and shit, they pretty much shot themselves in their brotherly feet. It is highly likely, though, that Vault Records simply released this crap without the artists' explicit permission: I cannot imagine why they'd want to have this out on their own. Regardless, this is as proverbial a thumbs down as they ever come (for some reason, Bruce Eder gave it a positive review in the All-Music Guide — but the man has a passion for praising obscurities just because they are obscure and ever so slightly out-of-field; I also like to engage in musical archaeology from time to time, but have no interest in overstating its delights).


  1. This one wasn't their fault. The record company forced them into it. The label wanted them to be the Temptations, or at least a soul group, and they wanted to be a rock group. The band eventually prevailed, freeing them up for "Time Has Come Today"

  2. I think this was released after "Time Has Come Today," to cash in on the success of that song. From what I heard, it was Columbia, oddly enough, who wanted them to stick exclusively to soul. "Odd" because their most rock-influenced records were released on that label.