Terry Cal­lier re­assessed, plus a cou­ple of Wings, Neil Young, and more.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

Terry Cal­lier ★★★★ The New Folk Sound Of Terry Cal­lier CRAFT RECORD­INGS. CD/DL/LP ★★★★★ What Color Is Love VERVE/UME. LP

BOB DY­LAN once spoke of “artists with the willpower not to con­form to any­body’s re­al­ity but their own.” In the art of 20th cen­tury pop mu­sic, some non­con­form­ing prac­ti­tion­ers have suc­ceeded com­mer­cially – The Bea­tles, Aretha Franklin and Dy­lan him­self im­me­di­ately come to mind. Oth­ers were also sin­gu­lar, but for var­i­ous rea­sons aren’t house­hold names. Van Dyke Parks, NRBQ and Alex Chilton de­vel­oped small fan-bases and are of­ten be­nignly re­ferred to as cult artists. Terry Cal­lier be­longs on the lat­ter list. The Chicago-born and bred singer/gui­tarist’s his­tory is as eclec­tic as his artistry. His home­town pals in­cluded Cur­tis May­field and Jerry But­ler of The Im­pres­sions and jazz pi­anist Ram­sey Lewis, and he honed his vo­cal chops singing in lo­cal doo wop groups. A col­lege dorm mate hipped him to folk mu­sic and he be­gan gig­ging in cof­fee houses, mak­ing him a mem­ber of a small but tal­ented group: African-Amer­i­can folk mu­si­cians who were con­tem­po­raries of Dy­lan and Joan Baez dur­ing the ’60s folk ex­plo­sion. Oth­ers in­cluded Richie Havens, Odetta, Len Chan­dler, Jackie Wash­ing­ton, Julius Lester and Josh White Jr. His first al­bum, The New Folk Sound Of Terry Cal­lier, was recorded in 1964, but not re­leased un­til 1968 be­cause its renowned pro­ducer, Sa­muel Char­ters, dis­ap­peared with the tapes for a few years while he hung out with the Yaqui In­di­ans in Mex­ico. (It was the ’60s and he was “do­ing his own thing”.) This un­for­tu­nately ham­pered Cal­lier’s ca­reer, be­cause by 1968 “the new folk sound” was no longer new: acous­tic be­came elec­tric and singers were in­creas­ingly writ­ing their own songs and ceased cov­er­ing Child bal­lads and other tra­di­tional ma­te­rial that had been passed down through gen­er­a­tions. This over­sight by late-’60s au­di­ences and crit­ics was not only Cal­lier’s loss, but theirs as well. The New Folk Sound… is as fresh and dif­fer­ent in 2019 as it was in 1968. (Or 1964, for that mat­ter.) While most of the tracks are tra­di­tional folk songs, Cal­lier added in­ven­tive, con­tem­po­rary chord changes and melodies. He al­tered pub­lic do­main chest­nuts like 900 Miles, Jack O’Di­a­monds and Oh Dear, What Can The Mat­ter Be (also known as Johnny’s So Long At The Fair), ren­der­ing some al­most un­recog­nis­able. Cot­ton Eyed Joe – usu­ally an up­beat fid­dle tune meant for danc­ing – be­came a poignant bal­lad. The hand­ful of then-cur­rent com­po­si­tions on The New Folk Sound… were writ­ten/co-writ­ten by jazz poet Kent Fore­man or folkie Travis Ed­mon­son of Bud & Travis. (The lyrics of Golden Ap­ples Of The Sun are from a Yeats poem.) Cal­lier was a nim­ble fin­ger-pick­ing gui­tarist and, turned on by jazz gi­ant John Coltrane’s dou­bling of in­stru­ments, was solely ac­com­pa­nied here by two bassists play­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously. On Spin, Spin, Spin, Cal­lier and the two bassists cre­ate a novel polyrhythm with each play­ing in dif­fer­ent time sig­na­tures. His de­but al­bum also in­tro­duced his phe­nom­e­nal singing voice. No twee folknik, Trane’s in­flu­ence ex­tends to his high-pow­ered vo­cal de­liv­ery. Even when he’s in­ten­tion­ally un­der-singing a bal­lad, he’s full-throated. His blue-noted and soul­ful sec­u­lar-gospel phras­ing is of­ten rem­i­nis­cent of Char­lie Rich. Cal­lier’s lone­some long­ing and per­fect vi­brato in Golden Ap­ples Of The Sun in par­tic­u­lar sounds like the Sil­ver Fox. After The New Folk Sound… fiz­zled in the mar­ket­place, Cal­lier con­tin­ued gig­ging and, de­spite hav­ing had no orig­i­nals on his de­but, wrote songs for Jerry But­ler’s pub­lish­ing out­fit. After The Dells recorded his The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind), he signed as an artist to Chess sub­sidiary Cadet Records. His sec­ond of three Cadet LPs was 1973’s pop-soul What Color Is Love, pro­duced by Charles Stepney (best know for his work with Earth, Wind & Fire, Min­nie Riper­ton). Any ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion to folk mu­sic was gone, but like many ’60s folkies, by the early ’70s Cal­lier could be more ac­cu­rately called a singer-song­writer, al­beit one with more in com­mon with Marvin Gaye than James Tay­lor. The al­bum is a so­cially con­scious con­cep­tual suite sim­i­lar to Gaye’s What’s Go­ing On, all writ­ten/ co-writ­ten by Cal­lier. Songs such as Just As Long As We’re In Love and I’d Rather Be With You ex­press the al­bum’s sim­ple theme that the abil­ity to give and re­ceive love are key to over­com­ing mankind’s myr­iad prob­lems. And while Cal­lier is mostly re­fer­ring to ro­man­tic love, in Ho Ts­ing Mee (A Song Of The Sun) he makes the case for uni­ver­sal love, pre­sented as an im­pas­sioned plea to God for de­liv­er­ance. In the nine years since he’d recorded his de­but, his voice had gained range and his phras­ing be­came more ex­per­i­men­tal. (It also lost any re­sem­blance to Char­lie Rich – or any­one else.) Stepney’s pro­duc­tion in­cludes jazz and clas­si­cal el­e­ments, such as horns that al­ter­nate be­tween sub­tle and blar­ing, as well as sweep­ing or­ches­tral flour­ishes. Many of the side­men are stu­dio leg­ends, no­tably gui­tarist Phil Upchurch, sax­o­phon­ist Don Myrick and bassist Louis Sat­ter­field. (The lat­ter’s con­tri­bu­tions are vir­tu­osic with­out ever get­ting in Cal­lier’s way.) The sum to­tal of its pieces makes What Color Is Love a master­piece that got away and Cal­lier an over­looked artist. He en­joyed pe­ri­odic re­dis­cov­er­ies dur­ing his ca­reer while drop­ping out of – and back into – the mu­sic busi­ness (see Back Story). Sadly, he died too soon at the age of 67 in 2012. These two reissues are re­minders that Terry Cal­lier not only de­served more at­ten­tion dur­ing his life­time, but that we’re lucky we have these records at all to in­form us of that now.

“Pro­ducer Sa­muel Char­ters dis­ap­peared with the tapes for a few years while he hung out in New Mex­ico.”

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