Posts Tagged ‘Them Two’

From Link To Link

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

When my pal Rob first told me about the Internet, back in the early 1990s, and explained to me the concept of the hyperlink, I shook my head in amazement. “Man,” I said, “I’d never get anything done. I’d wander from link to link and get lost.”

He nodded. “Yup,” he said. “It can be like that.”

And it can. Indulging in the lure of links can be many things: a great time-waster, a fascinating way to spend a rainy afternoon, a path that leads to an “eureka” moment when one finds that long-sought bit of information or more. It can also be the foundation of a post at a music blog like this one.

I’ve done this at least once before: Select a record lurking in the lower portion of a Billboard Hot 100 and find the record on YouTube. After listening, click one of the suggested links on the right side of the page and listen to that record. Do the same two more times, and – we hope – we’ve heard four records about which something interesting can be said. The selection of that first record, then, is a choice from which all possibilities flow, like the choices we make early in life that might result in our teaching Slavic literature at a prestige university or covering the police beat for a daily paper in Slapout, Alabama.

(And yes, there is a Slapout, Alabama. One of the final ten contestants on this year’s American Idol competition hails from Slapout. She said the name came from an early store owner who would proclaim, when asked about any commodity he did not have in stock, that he was “slap out” of it. It’s a small town, small enough that it would not be the home of a daily newspaper, but never mind; I wanted to use the town’s name, and you got the point anyway.)

So where do we start on today’s four-record links journey?

Looking at the lower portions of the Billboard Hot 100 released on March 20, 1971 – forty-three years ago today – I am drawn to the title “Go On Fool” by Marion Black, sitting at No. 126, three spots from the bottom of the chart’s Bubbling Under section. The sad bit of soul – detailing the rejection the narrator endures at the hands of the woman he brought into his home and whose children he adopted – spent two weeks at No. 126 and then was gone from the chart. (It also spent two weeks in the R&B Top 40, peaking at No. 39.) It was the only single that Black, a native of Columbus, Ohio, got into the pop chart; a number of sites and sources I’ve consulted this morning tell me that the record’s B-side, “Who Knows,” is also a good listen. I’ll check it out later, as we have a link to find.

And about nine spots down on the right side of the page is a link to a record titled “Am I A Good Man” by Them Two. I’d call it deep soul, detailing in a dense and gloomy production the doubts of a narrator whose life sounds very much like that of the man in “Go On Fool.” Check this out:

Am I a good man? Am I a good man?
Am I a fool? Am I a fool?
Am I weak? Somebody tell me,
Am I just playin’ it cool?

You know I love her and I need her,
Even though she do me so wrong.
Am I just too blind to see?
Maybe I been in love too long.

The record made no chart that I can find, nor did Them Two seem to make much of a dent anywhere. The record was released on the Deep City label, likely in 1967, based on the information at, and it’s the lead single on a 2006 compilation titled Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label. The set gets a strong review at Amazon, which notes with approval the “falling-down-the-stairs bassline and . . . gritty guitar from the opening track, the self-doubting dirge ‘Am I A Good Man?’” I should note that numerous sources tell me that “Am I A Good Man” has often been sampled, so it might ring some bells. (Amazon also says that the Deep City label was a starting place for numerous artists, including “Betty Wright, Little Beaver, Paul Kelly, Clarence Reid [aka Blowfly] and Grammy-winning producer Willie Clarke.”)

And over on the right, I see links to records by first William Bell, then Baby Huey, and then someone named Lee Moses. I know the first two, of course, and the third name sounds familiar, so I check the digital shelves and find Moses’ 1967 cover of the Four Tops’ “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” on the Musicor label. The record offered at YouTube is Moses’ take on “California Dreaming” from his 1971 album Time & Place, and it’s a pretty decent, slow-paced reading of the John Phillips song. Moses, says, was born in Atlanta in 1941, and – starting in 1967 – recorded eight singles for various labels and the one album, which came out on Maple Records, but neither the album nor the singles attracted much attention. Moses passed on in 1997.

So we head to the right side of the page again, where we’re directed toward more Baby Huey, more Lee Moses, more covers of “California Dreaming” (including one by Bobby Womack), and finally, the record “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” by Rotary Connection, a group that I mentioned twice here in 2007 and not since. The multi-racial group was formed in Chicago and might be better remember for having included a young Minnie Riperton (“Loving You,” No. 1 in 1975) than for anything else, although the group did have three singles nudge the Hot 100, with two bubbling under in 1968 and “Want You To Know” reaching No. 96 in 1970. The group had some albums reach the charts: Rotary Connection from 1968 went to No. 37, Aladdin, also from 1968, went to No. 176, and Peace, a 1968 Christmas album, reached the Billboard Christmas chart in both 1968 and 1969. “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun” was on the group’s 1971 album Hey Love, and it’s very good, reminding me, perhaps unsurprisingly, of Earth, Wind & Fire and also of the 5th Dimension (which is praise in these parts). Andy Kellman of All Music Guide calls it “the brightest moment in the group’s discography; it’s an ineffable package of grace, grit, and life-affirming spirit (if your knees don’t quake).”