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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Chambers Brothers: A New Time, A New Day


1) I Can't Turn You Loose; 2) Guess Who; 3) Do Your Thing; 4) Where Have All The Flowers Gone; 5) Love Is All I Have; 6) You Got The Power To Turn Me On; 7) I Wish It Would Rain; 8) Rock Me Mama; 9) No, No, No, Don't Say Goodbye; 10) Satisfy You; 11) A New Time, A New Day.

Honestly, I do not like this at all. A band with a magnificent musical formula can allow itself to milk said formula until the end of time; but if you are merely competent and mildly amusing, the act of stubbornly sticking to your guns ends up becoming irritating. The Chambers Brothers (or, perhaps, Columbia Records as the self-imposed market brain behind The Chambers Brothers) were so happy to finally be noticed through the success of ʽTime Has Come Todayʼ that they wasted little time producing another album that not only sported a very similar title (because, you know, if The Chambers Brothers sing about TIME, that's a frickin' quality mark!), but had the exact same structure — a random mix of blues, R&B, and folk covers and originals, capped off by one lengthy psycho-R&B freakout.

ʽTime Has Come Todayʼ was actually fun — catchy, with a good beat, a freaky guitar solo, and, most importantly, freshness of approach, as you could hear the guys actually having fun in the studio. In contrast, its follow-up, ʽA New Time, A New Dayʼ, is not nearly as memorable, and the freakout section offers not a single new idea: they simply pick a slightly different groove and tempo, then proceed to offer the same mix of psychedelic guitars, keyboards, and vocal whooping. In relation to ʽTime Has Come Todayʼ, it is precisely what, say, ʽBye Bye Johnnyʼ is to ʽJohnny B. Goodeʼ: everybody remembers the original, but who really gives a damn about the sequel? (Other than the Stones occasionally covering it in their 1970s shows, probably because they were too bored playing the first part).

As for the rest, it all gives the impression of having been assembled and recorded in great haste: considering that ʽTime Has Come Todayʼ only began climbing up the American charts in the fall of 1968, while the official date of release for this album is given as October 8, this seems to have been exactly the case. So, for instance, most of the «originals» here are really just semi-impro­vised funky grooves — on ʽDo Your Thingʼ, they go for a modern James Brown vibe, predictably nowhere near as impressive as the real «thing»; ʽNo, No, No, Don't Say Good-Byʼ (sic!) shifts the rhythmics to a slightly more «Latinized» mode, but the only interesting thing about the song is a wildly ecstatic piano part (no idea who is actually behind the keyboards, but he sure cared more about the performance than all the other members of the band put together).

Of the covers, the only element of surprise is encountered on their rather unorthodox arrangement of ʽWhere Have All The Flowers Goneʼ, redone here as a passionate gospel-soul number with very little other than the lyrics to connect it with the original; not sure if I like it, but at least they did try — which is more than I could say about the inferior rendition of Redding's ʽI Can't Turn You Looseʼ, or the boring six-minute long bluesfest of ʽRock Me Mamaʼ. And it was generous of their producer Tim O'Brien to write a slow soul ballad for them (ʽSatisfy Youʼ), but, unfortunate­ly, while the brothers' collective harmonies have always been their strongest side, in terms of solo delivery none of them could ever compete with the tones, timbres, and delicate phrasing of the genre's true masters. In short, whatever future hopes for artistic growth and commercial success they might have raised with ʽTime Has Come Todayʼ, all of this was effectively buried with this mediocre (not too horrendous, but flashbang-obviously mediocre) rushjob — which, in the context of their overall career, only merits a disappointing thumbs down.

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