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.
3.Pieces Of Peace-Pass It On
4.Renaldo Domino-Not Too Cool To Cry5.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.
Puppet On A String
You'll Never Change
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.
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.
People Get Ready/Brotherly Love
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.