Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Good Week For Chicago-Terry Callier+More

 Originally posted 4.8.07
This past week saw an incredible amount of Chicago related music pass through my ears and it made me think a lot about my tumultuous time in the second city. I lived in Chicago for about 6 years off and on in the '90's. Despite the lack of good pizza (that deep dish stuff they make there is more of a quiche), Chicago is a great town with an intoxicating mix of mid-western innocence and international flavors. I got my first taste of the music biz there, got married for the first time there, and really expanded my music horizons there. Until I moved to Brooklyn, it was my adopted hometown. But on to the week that was.

Firstly, I got a copy of the latest entry in the Numero Group's  Eccentric Soul series. No.13 is called Twinight's Lunar Rotation. Twinight (aka Twilight) was a Chicago label started as a side project by some legendary Chicago radio promoters that lasted only for a couple of years. During that time the label had some killer releases from Syl Johnson, but none of those are featured here.

1.The Devastator-Stormy
2.Antoinette Poindexter-Mama
3.Pieces Of Peace-Pass It On
4.Renaldo Domino-Not Too Cool To Cry
5.The Notations-I Can't Stop

Instead you get rare offerings, often produced by Syl Johnson and featuring the versatile backing of Pieces of Peace. This was good for me, since I already have Syl Johnson's Twinight stuff, so I got 40 new tracks, ranging from slabs o' instrumental funk to sweet Chicago style ballads from forgotten groups like the Dynamic Tints, Antoinette Poindexter and the Pieces of Peace, and The Notations. Great stuff and all done up with typical Numero quality. 

Next was Jerry Butler who came up in Chicago singing with Curtis Mayfield in the Impressions. The CD I scored was some of his late 60's work with Gamble and Huff. The 2-fer contains, The Ice Man Cometh and Ice on Ice, and these records are smooth like butter. Perhaps too smooth for Impressions fans, but right up the alley of Philly Soul lovers, I'd reckon.

Perhaps stretching the theme a bit, I also laid my hands to something from Chicago's, now venerable, Bloodshot label.  I checked out the new Detroit Cobra's record, Tied and True. Perhaps not as ragged as their previous releases it still hits harder than most modern attempts and rhythm and blues.

 Puppet On A String

You'll Never Change

The Chicago-centricity of my week added to a post I read about Bill Withers finally nudged me to revisit my fave musical discovery from the Second City.. that would be Terry Callier.

Record store folks in Chicago always talked in hushed tones about Callier, a local artist who "coulda been a contender." A family man making his way up from his local label (Chess-Cadet) beginnings to a major label signing, but who instead ended up disappearing for about 20 years. Much like Bill Withers he had an incredible warm voice and an acoustic folk-soul sound. Unlike Bill, he had a less straightforward way with lyrics and some of his tunes drift on past the 7 minute mark and are colored with Jazz touches. His earliest Cadet records were straight up folk, but at the dawn of the 70's instruments were added to the mix and, as acid jazzers would discover 15 years later, were pretty damn funky. 1972's Ordinary Joe, has become something of a personal theme song for me.
Ordinary Joe

What Color Is Love

His lyrics range from strummed love ballads to jazz excursions into the mind and beyond, but by the end of the 70's, after a trip through the major label wringer, he dropped off the scene (much like Bill Withers). The later records, while still decent, seem overproduced, as the majors just had to pigeon hole him as a love man, a soul man. They needed him to fit in and he didn't, so he just left.

Flash forward 20 years to '98 and it seems the love he got from small tours organized by movers in the British acid jazz scene convinced him to come back into the spotlight. Time Peace was my introduction to Terry Callier. I had heard some of his classic material, but when I heard he was releasing a record in '98, I was all over it and I wasn't disappointed. Besides one track that nods to hip-hop, his comeback record is a criminally under appreciated LP (only 7500 sold to date).  The production is throughly modern, but the unique combination of soul, folk, and jazz he hit on 20 years before is brilliantly captured. The record came out on Verve in the US, but never did much here, as Terry Callier just did not fit into any of the niches folks wanted to put him in.
 Lazarus Man

People Get Ready/Brotherly Love

He ended up returning to England and Europe where he was received enthusiastically and cut a brilliant live record, Alive, in 2001. He has continued to perform across the pond and has released 4 more records on the Mr. Bongo label. None of them have seen any kind of stateside release.
You're Gonna Miss Your Candyman (Live-2001)

From Louis Armstrong's Hot 5's and 7's to Sun Ra to Curtis Mayfield to Marshall Jefferson to Bloodshot to Common, Chicago has a rich musical history that I probably would know a lot less about if I hadn't lived in the toddlinest of towns. But folks who look at that history will be missing a crucial piece if they don't take a listen to the catalog of Chicago original, Terry Callier.


Amy said...

Thanks for this, Cody B. I am always a fan of your reviews and music recommendations. When I'm sitting here craving something new, I always return to your Mog/Blog and see what crusty funk nuggets I can discover in your wake. :) Keep up the great blogging and funk it forward, my friend.

Cody B said...

Glad to be of service! Followed you back. Hope to get back in blogging action this fall.