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White Soul Brothers In mid-Sixties Detroit, where cool white R&B bands were as common as cars, the Big Three were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, and, from nearby Ann Arbor, the Rationals. You might not know that last name: Think Rational! The A-Square Anthology (1965-1968)(Big Beat), a UK […]

David Fricke Sep 27, 2009
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White Soul Brothers

In mid-Sixties Detroit, where cool white R&B bands were as common as cars, the Big Three were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, and, from nearby Ann Arbor, the Rationals. You might not know that last name: Think Rational! The A-Square Anthology (1965-1968)(Big Beat), a UK import two-CD set, is the first time the quartet’s seminal garage-rock recordings for their manager Jeep Holland’s A-Square label have ever been officially reissued. But now it’s time to dance and be dazzled. Ryder had the big national singles; Seger got the long platinum career. But the Rationals ”“ guitarist Steve Correll, bassist Terry Trabandt, drummer Bill Figg and singer Scott Morgan ”“ were the local Rolling Stones, Small Faces and Kinks all in one, cutting regional-hit versions of Otis Redding’s ”˜Respect’ and Eddie Holland’s Leaving Here’ as tense, brash pop, with the tightness of a Motown rhythm section. Morgan didn’t howl like Ryder or growl like Seger; he had a long range and bright, biting intonation that meant he could cover the waterfront, from his Motor City-John Lennon attack on the Rationals’ 1965 debut, ”˜Look What You’re Doing (to Me Baby),’ to Morgan’s high, rippled-note submission in the 1968 slow-ballad inferno ”˜Temptation’s ’Bout to Get Me.’ Morgan still records and tours with that fire intact, and Big Beat promises a sequel covering the Rationals’ switch to heavier psych-tinged rock; their 1968 monster ”˜Guitar Army’ alone will, I assure you, be worth the wait.

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Lost and Found Ford

Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Jim Ford (1941-2007) made famous friends easily with his natural blend of country comfort and deep soul. Bobby Womack had a 1972 hit with Ford’s stoner portrait ”˜Harry Hippie’; Nick Lowe performed Ford’s songs with the bands Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile. But Ford kept hitting brick walls with his own albums. After 1969’s Harlan County, he made two unreleased LPs finally resurrected as The Unissued Capitol Album and Big Mouth USA: The Unissued Paramount Album (both Bear Family). The former, from 1970, has Ford’s pothead-gait version of ”˜Harry Hippie’ and is rife with New Orleans hoodoo. ”˜You Just-A’ sounds like Ford cut it at a Dr. John-Sly Stone session. The ’73 Paramount sessions veer wildly from raging honky-tonk to Cajun fiddle and wah-wah funk. In ”˜If I Go Country,’ Ford drawls about splitting the big city over a sleek urban-country groove ”“ like he’s headed for Highway 61 via 110th Street.

AC/DC’s Demon Seed

Reasons to give some ear to Black Leather Soul (Nickel and Dime), by the Los Angeles power-rock five Angus Khan: The band’s name is brilliant; guitarist Frank Meyer and bassist Dino Everett were in ace neo-Stooges group the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs; the album opens with a hot cover of ”˜Midnight Moses,’ by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band; and the whiff of AC/DC is strong in Derek Chris-ten-sen’s son-of-Bon Scott vocals and the chanted choruses. You get some generic put-downs (”˜Scene Bitch’). But in songs like ”˜Call Me Motherfucker’ and ”˜Exile on Mean Street,’ you get a lot more meat and moxie.

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