Thursday, October 04, 2007
Chambers BrotherTime Has Come Today Once Again
Four early blues/soul/roots albums by the Chambers Brothers from the Vault label are reissued on Collectors’ Choice Music.
LOS ANGELES — The Chambers Brothers will forever best be known for their 1968 hit “The Time Has Come Today” on Columbia Records. But long before they inked with CBS, the Mississippi-bred, California-weaned sibling band logged an extensive discography of bluesy soul recordings on Jack Lewark’s L.A.-based indie Vault label, known primarily for the surf band the Challengers. On October 31, 2007, Collectors’ Choice Music will reissue four out-of-print early Chambers Brothers albums: People Get Ready for the Chambers Brothers; Now, Shout!; and Feelin’ the Blues.
Steeped in the gospel hymns dating back to their Mississippi Southern-Baptist church upbringing, George, Willie, Lester and Joe Chambers’ earliest music freely combined blues, folk, soul and gospel. Their earliest sides included a gospel single for the Proverb label and a Folkways album with Barbara Dane. Signing with Vault in 1965, their recordings juxtaposed covers of blues standards with original compositions. The band became a stalwart presence at L.A.’s legendary Ash Grove folk venue. Only on their departure to Columbia did their soul become psychedelicized.
Vault Records recorded a passel of material in a short time, and released much of it concurrent with the Chambers’ Columbia recordings. Collectors’ Choice presents these early albums all fully re-mastered and with extensive notes by music historian Richie Unterberger.
People Get Ready for the Chambers Brothers: The Chambers Brothers’ first album was recorded live at the Ash Grove, ‘60s home of the burgeoning L.A. folk scene, and at the Unicorn in Boston. Ed Michel (best known for his work with Impulse! in later years) produced the album, which includes covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby,” Hank Ballard’s “Tore Up,” Gershwin’s “Summertime” and a signature cover of “It’s All Over Now” more faithful to writer Bobby Womack’s original than to the Rolling Stones.
Now: Folk revival graphics on People Get Ready’s cover were replaced with a flower-power look on Now, the band’s second Vault long player, released in 1966. Like People Get Ready, the album was recorded live at the Ash Grove and Unicorn, and consisted of covers of blues and R&B classics including “High Heel Sneakers,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “What I’d Say,” “Long Tall Sally,” “C.C. Rider” and “It’s Groovin’ Time.”
Shout!: The cover of the 1968 release Shout! probably caused confusion in the marketplace as its lettering and overall look was suspiciously Columbia-like. The music nods to the Chambers’ gospel roots as well as the rock sound they were rapidly embracing. Like its two predecessors, Side One of Shout! consisted entirely of live covers including the Isley Brothers’ title track, which holds its own with the original. Side Two, however, featured mainly originals recorded in the studio. Highlights are Willie Chambers’ harmonica-laced “There She Goes” and Joe Chambers’ “It Rained The Day You Left,” which has more in common with Vault label-mates the Beau Brummels than to blues or R&B. Also included is “Love Me Like the Rain,” penned by Brian Keenan, the group’s drummer on the later Columbia recordings.
Feeling the Blues: By the time Vault released its fourth and final Chambers Brothers album, the band had already hit the big time on Columbia. But Vault had vaulted several albums worth of music from which this was culled. Like Shout! before it, Feeling the Blues was a mélange of live and studio material. The album tarried off in many musical directions: there’s a cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman” along with folk anthem “House of the Rising Sun” and gospel standard “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” There’s even a jazz track (“Undecided,” co-written by trumpeter Charlie Shavers in the ‘30s.) A pair of Chambers originals — Lester’s “Girls, We Love You” and Joe’s “Don’t Lose Your cool,” opened each side of the original LP.
By the time Vault released the lion’s share of these albums, the Chambers Brothers were onto greener pastures. Yet the Vault sides document the band’s blues, folk, gospel and soul roots of which later fans might not know existed — until now.