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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Chambers Brothers: Feelin' The Blues

THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS: FEELIN' THE BLUES (1970)

1) Girls, We Love You; 2) I Got A Woman; 3) House Of The Rising Sun; 4) Don't Lose Your Cool; 5) Just A Closer Walk With Thee; 6) Blues Get Off My Shoulder; 7) Travel On My Way; 8) Undecided.

General verdict: Another decent bunch of decent outtakes, no more, no less.


Guess what — another Vault Records release, and this time I cannot find any definitive info at all on where and when these studio and live recordings come from... and, frankly, nobody should really care just as nobody gave a damn back in 1970, when the very last thing on anybody's mind probably was to listen to half-decade-old outtakes from The Chambers Brothers' career. (Well, actually, it turns out that Rolling Stone gave the record a glowing review, right at the same time that they were busy trashing Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath).

In all honesty, this one, too, is a mess, as it continues to present The Chambers Brothers as dashing dare-devils, always unafraid of experimenting onstage — regardless of whether the experiment in question would end up boring, embarrassing, or inspiring. The first track is quite seriously inauspicious: ʽGirls, We Love Youʼ is a musical mish-mash of ʽMemphis, Tennesseeʼ and ʽThat's Alright Mamaʼ with new lyrics, a relatively low level of rock'n'roll energy and decent harmonica playing (which is still nothing that even Mick Jagger couldn't do). This is followed by the stupidest intro to ʽI Got A Womanʼ yet (stretching out on the opening "weeeeeeell..." until it becomes offensively out of tune) — fortunately, the main performance mostly redeems for that with some wild Hammond organ improvisation, and the brief inclusion of the chorus to ʽToo Fat Polkaʼ in the middle is actually a funny touch that could have been emphasized more sharply (as it is, most people will probably not even take notice).

The record then arguably hits its peak with the slow-dark-brooding six minute take on ʽHouse Of The Rising Sunʼ — this performance actually earned some gushing comments from the few people that heard it, and the lead / back vocal arrangements are indeed impressive, but the instrumental work seems sluggish, except for the drummer, who is the only band member here trying to rise above the «just sit and play it» approach. Another problem, perhaps, is the lack of context: it is hard to take this version of ʽHouseʼ with all the seriousness it deserves when it is wedged in between so many tracks that rather have a comedic disposition or, at least, a positive outlook on life. (Admittedly, the second side of the LP does feature a cover of Bobby Parker's ʽBlues Get Off My Shoulderʼ — which sounds exactly the same as the cover of ʽHouseʼ, just shorter by three minutes).

In the end, the record's most redeeming quality — typical of all Vault Records releases — is the diversity: we have blues, rock'n'roll, R&B, doo-wop, polka, soul, gospel, in short, a nice mini-ency­clopaedia of everything that was cool about the Fifties. Why precisely we had to get it in mid-1970 remains a bit of a mystery, but that's all water under the bridge anyway. Well worth listening to at least once for a bit of peculiar fun; otherwise, chalk this one up for completists who are on a quest to hear every song ever made performed by The Chambers Brothers.

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