Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wilbert Harrison

Wilbert Harrison I had, or someone else had, a K-Tel album, or probably a Syndicate Records album, Syndicate being the precursor of K-Tel, that had Kansas City on it, and it was credited to Wilbur Harrison. So to me, Wilbert Harrison was always Wilbur, and his real name took some getting used to. This is a collection I found recently, in this city, at the library, the one library that was in the paper recently, some letter writer complaining about the paucity of English books, and he’s probably right, there are probably 10 French books to every English one, but it’s a provincial library, and this is a French province. But the CD collection is what it is, and nobody tried to translate Wilbur, I mean Wilbert, Harrison into French. It’s called Kansas City: His Legendary Golden Classics. The CD is called that, not the library.

Harrison, no relation, by the way, to George, had 3 top 100 singles, 1 in 1959, 1 in 1969, and 1 (My Heart Is Yours, which is not here) in 1971.

Wilbert Harrison:

Kansas City – It’s funny how a song can take an ordinary city, and create some kind of extraordinary vision out of it. Kansas City has some claim to fame as a centre of jazz, but it doesn’t seem like that’s what’s going on here. This is just a simple tale of someone heading off to KC to get some loving, and why KC promises more or better loving that any place else must remain a mystery. The song was written by Leiber & Stoller, as KC Loving actually, and it’s been recorded ad infinitum. Little Richard rocked it up, and the Beatles covered Richard’s arrangement. But this was the biggest hit version, reaching #1 in the spring of 1959, and it’s ok, but I’ve never understood what the fuss was about.
Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2) – The first half of this track was a hit in the winter of 1969 / 1970, the second half was presumably on the other side of the 45, and given my druthers, I’d take part 1, it’s all you need. Given the subject matter you could pass it off as a stale hippy anthem, but the truth here is not in the words, it’s in the groove, which couldn’t possibly cut any deeper without causing permanent damage. And that groove brings the truth out of those hippy sentiments. Canned Heat covered this as acid rock, and I like their version too.
Don’t Drop It – I’ll Let You Hold It Tight, says Wilbert, if you promise to hold it tight. Oh my. This is something about virtue.
Stagger Lee – A loping simmering version of this old classic tale, that had been a hit for Lloyd Price, and would be a hit for Wilson Picket.
C. C. Rider – A bit more muscle on this than Chuck Willis’ hit version, but the idea is the same.
Cheatin’ Baby – Blues New Orleans style. Not much more.
The Horse – I guess this is about a dance, though his desire to do it “all night long” is a bit suspicious. Not the Cliff Nobles & Co. hit.
Stand By Me – A rather leaden interpretation of the Ben E King hit.
Since I Fell For You – A rather leaden interpretation of the Lenny Welch hit.
Have Some Fun – You only live once, Wilbert tells us. Still, his delivery here isn’t all that much fun. I don’t think he believes a word he says.
My Love – Not the Petula Clark song and not the Wings song. Nuff said?
1960 – It’s Wilbert’s 21st birthday, and he has plans galore. He couldn’t have known the significance of the 1960 and all that “60s” stuff, could he?
Blue Monday – The Fats Domino hit, given his best one-man-band treatment.
Don’t Wreck My Life – A kind of slow dance, Wilbert Harrison style. The sentiment is fairly straightforward, I would say…
Why Did You Leave – Another ballad.
• Walking By The River – Another song about blues and heartache. We are meant, undoubtedly, to gather some significance from the fact that he is walking by the river. I’m clueless…
Da-De-Ya-Da – A song of dedication. Don’t look for any meaning in the title, it is just a series of meaningless syllables that he sings between lines.
Listen My Darling
Forgive Me
Pretty Little Women – Stepping on Bo Diddley’s toes…
Poison Ivy – Not The Coasters song, believe it or not. Rather violent, in fact.
A Woman In Trouble – I think the title should be A Woman Is Trouble, because that seems to reflect the content more accurately. A different way of looking at relationships, anyway.
It Took A Long Time – Just a blues about how time heals all wounds.
Messed Around And Felled In Love – New Orleans style
Goodbye Kansas City – The sequel. Wilbert found his love in KC and is off to New York. We can only wish him luck…

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