Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jerry Butler

Jerry Butler As an adolescent R & B didn’t have a big presence in my collection. I had proto-metal (Black Sabbath), mainstream rock (Chilliwack, Three Dog Night), singer-songwriter-heartland romance (James Taylor), psychedelic (Hendrix). As I my teen years ended and my adult years began, I expanded into Janis Ian, John Prine, Kate & Anna McGarrigle. But apart from Stevie Wonder, I didn’t have much soul.

Since then, or course, various albums from that era have snuck their way into my collection: Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway.

But no Jerry Butler. The only Jerry Butler album I ever got was The Best Of Jerry Butler, an original Vee Jay pressing released in the mid 60s, and I picked that up in the early 80s at Pyramid. The most striking thing about the album was the incredibly poor sound quality, which seems to have more to do with the pressing of the LP than with the original production. But many of the tracks sound as though Jerry is singing with a pillow crammed over his face, while the band remains locked in the bathroom at the far end of the building.

Punk bands spend years trying to get a sound like that...

Jerry Butler:

He Will Break Your Heart – Maybe he will and maybe he won’t – but it matters not, as Percy Sledge tells us, lovin’ eyes can never see. Jerry, though, acknowledges that he’s lost the girl; one gets the feeling that he’s singing to her after she’s gone. The voice on the chorus sounds like Curtis Mayfield, and it probably is. And the arrangement is very low-key, no horns on this, just rhythm guitar and rhythm section. From the winter of 1960 / 1961. There’s a version of this by Jim Croce, recorded before he became famous, and Tony Orlando & Dawn sent a remake, retitled He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You) to number 1 in the spring of 1975.
Come Back My Love – Waltz time R & B. Come back, he sings, and correct all the harm you’ve done. Not bloody likely.
Rainbow Valley – Come home, he pleads, yet again. Not sure where Rainbow Valley is, or why he’s singing about it…
I’m A-Telling You – Curtis Mayfield up front and centre again. A song about the challenges of everyday domestic life, which he makes sound like a POW camp. From the summer of 1961.
Aware Of Love – On my copy the vocals are barely audible, but I can tell you that there’s a piano and a horn that plays throughout.
A Lonely Soldier – Strings on this. Not to be confused with Mr. Lonely by Bobby Vinton, which is also about a soldier. Same idea, same bathos.
Moon River – Nice MOR arrangement on this with strings and harmonics, but Jerry, whose again sounds muffled, doesn’t sound all that comfortable with this. There are millions of versions of this, and people will think of the original by Henry Mancini, or Andy Williams, but, believe it or not, this version was the only hit version besides Mancini. From the winter of 61 / 62.
Find Another Girl – Maternal advice. Mom was on the right track here, according to statistics. She’d reappear, Mom would, in Only The Strong Survive. From the spring of 1961.
The Gift Of Love – Generic Butler. At least there doesn’t seem to be any sadness on this one, though you wouldn’t know it unless you pay close attention to the lyrics.
Where Do I Turn – Strings up high in the mix, and Jerry voice way down. Sadness throughout.
Couldn’t Go To Sleep – A song that would have sounded good by Bobby Vee or maybe Frankie Avalon, but neither would sound remotely like this.
I Stand Accused – Love as crime, not a highly original idea, even then. From the fall of 1964.
Need To Belong – Longing for love. Hurts to be known as no one, he laments. I guess so. From the winter of 1964.
Let It Be Me – This is the duo of Jerry Butler and Betty Everett. Their remake of the Everly Brothers classic was a hit in the fall of 1964.
Smile – Another duet with Betty Everett. From the winter of 1964 / 1965.
Hey Western Union Man – We are now into his Mercury years, which lasted from early 1967 until mid 1977. His voice is still there, and it’s all generally some form of R & B, but this is so different that you wouldn’t know it was the same guy. The producers get behind the beat, showcase Jerry’s voice in a muscular arrangement , and the results sparkle. From the fall of 1968.
Never Give You Up – I will stay with you, he proclaims, no matter how bad you are to me. I’m not sure what merit there is in that, but ok. From the summer of 1968.
Moody Woman – He likes her, moodiness nothwithstanding. From the summer of 1969.
Lost – A lilting melody and a smooth arrangement. Deserved to do better than number 62. From the winter of 1968.
Only The Strong Survive – Mom’s back, and her advice isn’t all that bad. From the spring of 1969.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Buddy, you got a bootleg copy of that Jerry Butler album. There were a bunch of VeeJay bootlegs in the cutout bins after "Introducing the Beatles".

Locations of visitors to this page