Sunday, 3 February 2013

DELANEY & BONNIE Genesis 1971

Last time I visited California I made a couple of trips to the music shops on Haight St looking for Bobby Whitlock and Rick Danko's self-titled albums. No luck finding those, but I did come out of Rooky Ricardo's Records with this and the Blue Diamond album. Little bit pricey (no worse than Dale's was) but this place will stand out as the only record shop I've found so far with listening booths. Delaney Bramlett also stood out from that shop's general fare of soul, funk and motown, and I couldn't just not buy a couple of his albums that I hadn't seen before.

This is a Delaney & Bonnie demo compilation (focussing on the Delaney), and I'm a bookworm, so I had to find some info bout this. The minimal packaging on what ought to be a higher profile release spurred my curiosity. The info out there says CASHGRAB - it crossed my mind when I looked at the cover (THINKS) "I suppose that could be Bonnie with the honeycomb down...?" - some of these songs were apparently released as Delaney Bramlett's solo singles in 1964 by GNP Crescendo Records, so maybe all these recordings were made under their watch? That seems to conflict with the 1967-'68 dates on the back of the sleeve. This is pure empty speculation, google investigations came up with very little information about this album.

What I did find was that Delaney had a rich musical world opened up for him as a member of the Shindig! house band. The names of the sessions musicians and producers were probably familiar to fans of American rock music c.1971, so I'm guessing that's why the record label didn't spend any more $ on ink to hype them further. It's their snappy pitch to their core demographic! Popculture has been at work making sure dummies like me get to know about the work and ability of some of the folk helping Delaney in his formative years. It's been cool, finding out about the Wrecking Crew; bunch of talented guys putting in some hard work to give me something to write about.

Up til this point I knew Delaney & Bonnie as performers of powerful Americana music, a beautiful blend of rock, blues, soul and gospel. Of course I also like/d them a lot when accompanied by Eric Clapton and his Honourary Metal sound. It took me longer to get to this album than Blue Diamond, because I was thrown by the British Invasion pop vibe some of the songs carry. That vibe seems to bleed into other songs, with cheesy orchestral and brass backing bands, but that's probably just a case of my choosing to hear it that way. I went through a pile of 60s British pop 7"s my housemate dumped on me - fulfilling my cheesy pop quota for the next five years - and the closest I got to a name that sounded like some of these songs, was Eden Kane...whatever that comparison's worth.

On a typical pop track, the vocal is the centrepiece, and that's generally true on all songs here. The album starts off with one of my favourites, What The World Needs Now. It's a birrova belter backed by-a big beat, I love the "WOAH!" the duo hit; that's two kids having fun! You've Lost That Loving Feeling's uptempo arrangement took a bit of getting used to - bizarrely, it changed from annoying to enjoyable round the fourth listen. The way they rush out of THAT chorus throws me, but I've been won over by the impassioned performance on these three duo tracks. I Can't Take It Much Longer has the cheesiest music but also Bonnie's shining moments; all three of them are probably the strongest songs on here, and give a good idea of the duo's potential. It's interesting to hear it here in a different context.

There's a perhaps-surprising lack of guitar showboating, but that was never Delaney's calling. You get folk like Clapton, Allman and Hendrix in for that. Without Your Love is the best example of a song carried in part by it's guitar tone, reminds me of that Link Wray song Rumble on account of that (admittedly one of the few reference points I've got to go on). This is also what makes Better Man Than Me another favourite, but that's more because of the vocal delivery and melody. The three songs with no producer credited are the most consistent as rock songs and the best step away from that orchestral pap.

You can't help getting whimsical, trying to imagine the atmosphere in these California studios, where a young and ambitious guitarist was starting as he was gonna go on, singing his heart out with the best musicians anyone could get their hands on. It's an interesting historical document; the music is dated, but the way these two sing takes you straight to their later albums together and those are timeless (especially Motel Shot, o yea). Definitely worth a bit of time for Delaney & Bonnie fans, and the curious.

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