Young-Holt Unlimited – California Montage


Young Holt Unlimited

(Eldee Young, bottom right)


Listen – California Montage MP3″

Greetings, and good mid-week to you all.
This won’t be too lengthy a post, as my ass (and brain) is dragging, and the hour is late.
Today’s selection is yet another trip into the strange and wonderful world of Northern Soul, and sadly an obituary as well.
It was a few weeks ago that I happened upon the news that Eldee Young, bassist for the mighty Young-Holt Unlimited (born, with drummer Redd Holt out of the ashes and inspiration of the Ramsey Lewis Trio) had passed on in early February at the age of 71.
We’ve touched upon the work of the Young-Holt organization here a couple of times over the years, and I was definitely planning on writing about them a few times more. I just wish it didn’t have to be in conjunction with the death of one of the group’s members.
Young-Holt (along with pianists Hysear Don Walker and Ken Chaney, not sure exactly who’s playing on this track) recorded a number of excellent LPs for Brunswick, Cotillion and Paula between 1965 and 1973. Though their earliest work was pretty much a stylistic continuation of their work with Ramsey Lewis, they did move on to record some stylish and funky records (sometimes both at the same time), including their 1968 mega hit ‘Soulful Strut’ (aka the instrumental bed from Barbara Acklin’s ‘Am I the Same Girl’) which is probably – along with ‘Green Onions’ – one of the best known soul instrumentals (hell, soul records) ever.
Over the years, I’ve rarely passed up a Young-Holt 45 or LP when I found it, because they are of a consistently high quality, plentiful, and cheap.
Today’s selection, ‘California Montage’ is probably the only Young-Holt disc that I ever went out of my way to obtain a copy.
While I am in no way an authority on Northern Soul, I am a big fan, and some years ago I read of an obscure Young-Holt side called ‘California Montage’ that was something of a favorite on the Northern Scene (‘California Montage’ was for a time a traditional closing record of sessions at the storied Blackpool Mecca). My interest was piqued – as it often is – and I made an effort to grab a copy of the disc. I can’t remember offhand whether I picked it up in the field or via Ebay, but I do recall that at the time it was not an expensive record (under $10).
I also recall that the first time I played it, I found it to be kind of a strange record (though I’ve come to like it quite a bit)
The tune itself was written by Dave Grusin as part of the soundtrack to the 1969 Paul Newman film about racing ‘Indy’ cars, ‘Winning’. How Young-Holt happened to record a piece of obscure film music is unknown to me. That they did is to their lasting credit, because although it has something of a smooth (bordering on slick) veneer, ‘California Montage’ is a prime example of late 60’s Chitown soul.
The record was arranged by Sonny Sanders, who helped create some of the finest Chicago soul records of the 60’s for both the Brunswick and Okeh labels, including many sides by Jackie Wilson, Gene Chandler, the Artistics and of course Young Holt Unlimited. The main tangent that I’m inclined to draw would go directly from ‘California Montage’ to just about anything by the legendary Soulful Strings. Though Richard Evans sound with the Soulful Strings was – in my opinion – much more sophisticated, edgy and inventive overall (which could be said of the entire Cadet oeuvre), there are elements of Sanders arrangement that suggest that Evans and the Soulful Strings weren’t far from his mind. The song has a strong four on the floor backbeat for the dancers (which along with the string section and sweet, poppy touches go along way to explaining the record’s popularity with the Northern Soulies), and the interplay between the vibes and the strings is sublime.

As far as I can tell, aside from the 45, ‘California Montage’ only ever appeared on the Young-Holt Greatest Hits LP (though it has been included on several Northern Soul comps).
I know that after ‘Funky, Yeah’ on Monday, ‘California Montage’ is kind of a rapid downshift (think of it as a palate cleansing sherbet course), but I think if you give it a few listens, you’ll dig it too (and I promise that the next tune in the lineup will be something with a little more grease, and groove).
So give ‘California Montage’ a couple of “spins”, and remember Eldee Young.


8 Responses to “Young-Holt Unlimited – California Montage”

  1. edfallingleaf Says:

    The first ever “expensive” soul album I ever bought was the Young Holt Unlimited album Soulful Strut on Brunswick (US release not UK) featuring a different take of Ain’t There Something… than the greatest hits version. I Bought it from John Manship in Leicestershire for £8($16) back in 1986 which was a third of my wages then. I still have it and dig it out of it’s plastic sleeve once in a while. Cheers Larry, you’ve made my day.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Oooh, that’s smooth. Thanks, Larry.

  3. Larry Holt Says:

    I too have endearing memories of Red, Eldee & Ramsey emanating for the time I was an adolescent in he early 60s. The Ramsey Lewis Trio used to come to Denver on their way to & from the East & West coasts. To me, my parents and their friends were the In Crowd and they were fortunate enough to befriend the Trio. My adolescent years were filled with the wonder of the Trio’s presence. They came to our house on several occasions for parties performing in our basement. I was told to go to bed but hid-out on the stairway & soaked-up as much of their magic as I could. My parents even allowed my sister & I to go to night clubs for their shows when they were in town. We have the coolest parents. They were never selfish about their relationship with the Trio as their children were always nearby.

    My parents arranged for Red to come to our house one afternoon to teach me some percussion basics and to give me inspiration. I beat those drums to death throughout my teens to each & every Ramsey Lewis Trio album they ever made. I turned the stereo on in the basement with red lights for a nightclub ambience, and I would play drums to the In Crowd, Since I Fell for You and Delilah, etc. Red’s tutelage meant the world to me; it put me on top of the world. Moreover, we had the same last name, and we discussed how we may have been related as our linage was from the southern United States.

    Larry Holt
    (650) 218-7688

  4. Northern Soul, música negra al servicio británico (Segunda parte): BlogOcio Says:

    […] Imagen: Funky 16 Corners […]

  5. Rob From Brooklyn Says:

    Don’t forget the just as funky flipside of the same disc, ‘Straight Ahead’. Man, that was a popular C.O.C.P. club jam back in the summer of ’69.

    • Richard From Houston Says:

      Hey Rob From Brooklyn,

      Remebering the Young-Holt Trio & C.O.C.P. brings sooo many jammin memories, man. I was just talking about the club with a relative who moved to Rochester about those days when we were young. Apparently a COCP social club still exists on Fulton street. Anyone know more about the place at this stage?

      RJ – 713-894-2212

  6. Keith Says:

    where can I obtain an mp3 copy of this track

  7. Keith Says:

    where can i obtain an mp3 copy of this track?

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