Thursday, July 11, 2013
Baby Huey and the Babysitters - The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (1971)
One of the relatively unknown acts from the late 1960s blues-rock scene in Chicago, Baby Huey and the Babysitters shares some musical similarities with groups/individuals like the Electric Flag and Curtis Mayfield (not surprising as this album was recorded for his Curtom label), and albums like Super Session. It has the driving guitar/bass/organ combination that is characteristic of these blues-rock/psychedelic groups, yet has the horns on an equal level as the rest of the band like Curtis Mayfield and similar soul acts of the day would have done. The album opens with "Listen to Me,"a track that is all organized around the original bass line that sets the foundation for the song. The psychedelic influence seems to show in this tune, as during the verses Baby Huey sings in unison with a distorted guitar. This track also shows influence of horn rock bands of the Chicago area, such as the Ides of March, with the very accented, strong horn sections. This is probably the strongest track of the album, not only for its delivery, but also for its exploration of various styles. "Mama Get Yourself Together," sounds like it would accompany a fast-paced montage in a blaxploitation film and has a lot of similarities to Mayfield's film score Superfly in my opinion, with the prominence of the guitar and horns. To some degree, it is also a bit unusual that an album featuring a singer would have instrumentals, almost suggesting that the instrumentalists are very much like a segue scene in a movie, instead transitioning from one vocal track to another. The next track is a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Going to Come." It is a decent rendition with the main differences from the original being the prominence of the guitar and organ in the mix during the verses and the high energy of the bridges. This track also further demonstrates the eclectic influences of the band with the addition of a gospel cover. "Mighty, Mighty," a Curtis Mayfield tune, is one of the stronger tracks on the album and also gives an example of a recording of the band in a live setting. "Hard Times," is one of the weaker songs in my opinion, mainly because the accompaniment of the song seems to differ stylistically from the vocals. "California Dreamin'" is probably the strongest cover on the album in my opinion, as the melody being carried on the flute with Hammond organ creates a nice texture to evoke a "dream-like" mood. The statement of the chorus with its very warm, high energy brass lines contrasts well with the cool, dreamy flute lines to present a nice arrangement of the tune. The following track, "Running," relies heavily on studio techniques to open the track. While the track is not the strongest vocal on the album by far, it is interesting to hear how the studio techniques are used to create a layered track with some interesting timbres created through distortion. The album closes with another instrumental, "One Dragon Two Dragon," that features flute. The track has an almost bossa-nova feel due to the chromatic nature of the tune, albeit with notable differences in the instrumentation. This is an album that is very hard to classify into any one genre, as placing it into the blues-rock, psychedelic, or soul categories does not necessarily convey the complete style or influence. of the album.