Earl van Dyke & the Soul Brothers
“Listen – Too Many Fish in the Sea MP3″
Here’s hoping that everyone’s week is going well, and that you are all digging the grooves already here, as well as anticipating the grooves yet to come.
On that point, I have to say that I got a little bit ahead of myself in regard to stockpiling material for yon blogspot. As a result, it took me a few minutes this morning to make a decision about which tune to post. I carefully perused the CDs before me, weighed the raw funk in one hand, the organ grooves in the other and a couple of wild cards in a mysterious, previously unseen third hand, wet my finger, placed it into the breeze and the magic eight ball said, ‘All signs point to organ grooves’.
Who am I to tempt fate?
Of course this was followed by yet another period of indecision, in which I had to decide which particular organ groove to lay on you. I won’t bore you with the details of that particular quandary, other than to say that I reached into the ether for a vibe, and the record I pulled out was Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers live version of ‘Too Many Fish In the Sea’.
If the name Earl Van Dyke doesn’t ring any bells, you need to start hanging around a new belfry. Though you may not know his name, you’ve certainly heard his work. Starting in 1963, Van Dyke – playing piano and organ – led the Motown house band, better known as the Funk Brothers. During the 60’s the Funk Brothers labored anonymously on countless sessions, piling up scores of chart hits (almost 50 R&B #1 hits) for all of Motown’s biggest artists. They helped to sell literally hundreds of millions of records while working for a relative pittance, eventually going on strike to improve their compensation in 1965.
While they spent most of their time and talent making other people sound good, between 1966 and 1969 they did manage to make several 45s (and one LP) for the label under their own name (sort of)*. Though they were known in-house as the Funk Brothers, Berry Gordy found the connotations of the word “funk” unpleasant, so for their records, the band was re-christened ‘Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers’.
Van Dyke had a very distinctive and lively organ style, which is featured prominently on their recordings, which are among the grittiest sides recorded for Motown (they were actually issued on the subsidiary label Soul). I count cuts like ‘Soul Stomp’ and ‘The Flick Pts 1&2’ among my favorite 60’s organ sides. One of their 45s, ‘6 by 6’ (actually credited to Earl Van Dyke & the Motown Brass) became something of a hit in the UK, receiving many spins with the Northern Soul crowd.
Their LP (which I have yet to score a copy of) was composed entirely of versions of the Motown hits that the group played on.
I encountered today’s selection (which as far as I can tell is the only live recording issued by the group) by accident. I was out doing the garage sale thing, and found a copy of an LP called ‘The Motortown Revue in Paris’. I had never seen it before, and although I suspected that like many “live” soul LPs, it was probably not actually a live recording, the record hound in me couldn’t not buy it, so I put it in my stack and took it home. When I finally got around to playing the record, I was surprised to discover that it was in fact a live recording of a Paris concert. I was especially happy because the LP opened with Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers laying down a smoking version of the Marvelettes ‘Too Many Fish In the Sea’**.
Opening with an introduction in French (“Earl van Dyke et son Sextet!”) , Earl and the band kick into high gear immediately. The recording is actually pretty good, with the guitar, drums and Jack Ashford’s tambourine all coming through clearly while Van Dyke wails on the organ. The only problem is that the whole thing wraps up in a little over two minutes.
As far as I know, the only way to grab this particular track in reissue is a limited edition boxed set of all of the Motortown Revue Live LPs (there were three of them). You’d probably be better of searching the interweb. The various EVD 45s are all excellent and not too hard to come by in the 10-20 dollar range.
* Because they labored in penury at Motown, Van Dyke and various members of the Funk Brothers can also be heard working “on the side” on sessions for a variety of Detroit labels, including Golden World and Solid Hit
** Hammond fans should also be on the lookout for a 45 version of ‘Too Many Fish in the Sea’ by Brother Jack McDuff on Prestige (another personal fave).