Groovy! That about covers it, but there’s more to this album than that. When this music was originally released, the word “groovy” had not yet become cliché. Especially when spoken or written in reference to music, to be referred to as groovy was a very special thing. Charles Earland is groovy not just for this music but because he was a pioneer. Even now, nearly forty years after this album was first released, this music sounds fresh, alive, and up-to-date. There’s a creativity here and a power that simply can’t be replicated.
Long ago and far away, or so it seems now, a number of progressive musicians ventured into unknown territory somewhere between Jazz, popular music forms, and Rock & Roll, bringing with them a massive dose of soul. These musical innovators included artists as diverse as Isaac Hayes, Bill Cosby [yes, The Cos in his alternate persona as bandleader Badfoot Brown], and Charles Earland. Earland’s Black Talk, with its highly successful translation of contemporary hit music into a creative new style of jazz, was early and influential in the development of this new sound.
Although there are only five tracks on this CD, they bring the listener more than forty minutes of the finest jazz performance to be heard any time, any place. Any one of these songs makes this album well worth the price of admission.
“Black Talk” took the essential shape of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and ran with it, taking the music in an entirely new and innovative direction. With its rhythmic breaks, groovin’ organ, and interplay of sax and trumpet, this song sounds very much of the Sixties, yet there’s also something there that even now sounds fresh and new.
“The Mighty Burner” is a nice little jump jive blues number that would as easily have pleased an audience ten or twenty years earlier. Written for WHAT Radio DJ Sonny Hopson, this song straddles the line between great Jazz and great Rock and Roll.
“Here Comes Charlie” takes a more standard direction, with a feel much like many of the better contemporary jazz intrumentals of the day. Like each song on this release, the song leaves lots of room for the players to strut their stuff, and strut they do.
Before or since, you’ve never heard “Aquarius” played like this. Here’s a long [well over eight minutes], lush, opulent version of this new age pop song. The sound is big and lively with a full-bodied flavour available only in the finest jazz performances.
It may have been a hit record, but I got real tired of hearing the Spiral Starecase song “More today Than Yesterday” repeatedly on the radio so long ago. This was a sickenly saccharine love song that, in my opinion at the time, could have been relegated to the remainders bin. Here I am listening to eleven and one-quarter minutes [I've typed the whole thing out just to give a sense of how really long that is] of this song, over and over again. It’s wonderful. It’s jazzy. It’s, well… groovy.
Players on this set included Charles Earland, organ; Virgil Jones, trumpet; Houston Person, tenor saxophone; Melvin Sparks, guitar; Idris Muhammad, drums; and Buddy Caldwell, congas. Together, these highly talented artists make a joyful noise.
Did I tell you that I like this set a lot or that the music is just wonderful. It’s true. This music is so creative and innovative that, if it came out today, it would still be setting standards for young artists to aspire toward. Now that’s groovy.
This CD includes both Bob Porter’s original liner notes from the 1969 album and new liner notes written by Porter in 2006 plus a brief note from sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who made the masters for both releases. These notes give the reader an interesting historical perspective on this artist and the music he created.
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