A few years ago this week, I told the story here how two of my friends during my freshman year of college – 1971-72 – baffled me with a Christmas gift: A copy of Three Dog Night’s Naturally album. As I wrote in 2012:
I’d never paid much attention to Three Dog Night, and I doubted that I’d ever indicated to Dave or Wyoming Rick that I was looking for any of the group’s albums. I knew the group’s hit singles, of course, and had particularly liked “Eli’s Coming” and “Out in the Country.” I had one Three Dog Night LP, Captured Live at the Forum, and I suppose I might have dropped that 1969 album on the turntable when the two guys (and likely a few young women) had spent an evening hanging around in the basement rec room at my house.
Whatever their reasoning, I appreciated the gift, as the album turned out to be pretty good, one of the best in the (relatively) lengthy history of the group. The biggest hit from the record was “Joy to the World,” never one of my favorites, but the record also brought along “Liar” and “One Man Band,” which I liked pretty well. My favorite track on the record, however, was an album track: “Heavy Church,” written by Alan O’Day.
I also noted that some digging had told me that songwriter O’Day and soul/R&B singer Al Wilson had both recorded the song, and I wondered if I should toss some nickels in those directions.
Well, I did toss those nickels not too long after writing that, and the two records got here to the East Side, but the computer then living in the EITW studios was balky when it came to ripping records into mp3s, so only essential records made it out of the “to be ripped someday” pile. This autumn’s new computer is much more rip-friendly, and I took the two copies of “Heavy Church” in hand this week and gave them a listen.
Wilson’s came first. He released a promo of “Heavy Church” in 1972 on the Rocky Road label, with a stereo mix on one side and a slightly shorter mono mix on the other. From what I can see online, the record was never given a general release. I like the mono mix better than the stereo mix:
As for O’Day, who wrote the tune, he waited another year before getting around to his own version of the song. In 1973, O’Day put out a promo on the Viva label: “Heavy Church” b/w “The House On Sunrise Avenue.” As was the case with the Wilson version, I can find nothing that tells me that O’Day’s version of “Heavy Church” ever got a general release. Here’s the promo:
My call? Neither version of the tune comes close to the quality of the Three Dog Night take on the tune, but I’d go with Wilson’s mono mix over O’Day’s effort. (I did not make a video of Wilson’s stereo mix because, well, there’s only so much heavy church work a man can do.)
Anyway, whether they bring you pleasure, add context to your base of knowledge, or just plain help you pass some time, there are today’s Saturday Singles.