The mysterious Lou Bond
“Listen – That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be MP3″
I hope the middle of the week finds you well.
Here at Funky16Corners headquarters the holidays continue to be marred by stress. I’d say that I’m a little less fried than last week, but still running with the meters in the red (if you know what I mean).
Still, I got to spend some time with my oldest son (who’ll be four in a month) putting up Christmas lights outside, which was a gas, and we’ve been doing a little bit of Chanukkah here and there which he’s been digging as well. I never thought I’d enjoy hearing ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ sung over and over again quite so much, but I guess shows that when things are tough, life hands you tiny little gems of wonderfulness to remind you to keep on keeping on.
I’m surprised nobody’s chimed in about Monday’s selection.
Is it not hitting you like it hits me?
Hello? Is this thing on???
Well, is that doesn’t grab you, today’s selection, coming from a part of the soul music spectrum light years away from James Barnes & the Agents, might just do the trick.
Lou Bond is one of those cats that I’d heard about for years and never really intersected with in any meaningful way. Until – that is – one of my brethren over at Soulstrut was raving about it as part of a list of newly excavated vinyl, and I discovered that the album was available for download in iTunes.
This fact was in and of itself pretty freaky, since Lou Bond, after recording his one and only album for a little known and decidedly short lived subsidiary (We Produce)of the Stax label*, pretty much disappeared. His self-titled LP is, while not impossibly rare, little known outside of the collector world and when it does turn up it isn’t cheap. That an obscurity of this level should turn up on iTunes is a testament to the good taste of the people running the Stax reissue program, and also to the value/concept of digital music as well.
Stax has reissued a number of titles in digital form only, which serves the purpose of making the music available to a new audience, without the label incurring the bricks and mortar expense of a physical reissue.
Certainly, were this practice to become widespread, the days of the MP3 blog might be numbered, but since I fall on the same side of this issue (i.e. the whole purpose of this enterprise is to get the word out about lesser known music) I would be more than happy to find something else to write about should you one day be able to track down stuff by James Barnes, Lou Courtney or other Funky16Corners favorites on a well-run, DRM free, properly licensed (i.e. money to the artists) commercial download site.
However, since I see the availability of the Lou Bond album as an anomaly, I’m not too worried about my own obsolescence (at least not in this regard, heh heh…).
That all said, if you haven’t heard of Lou Bond prepare yourself for a pleasant surprise.
Bond – who recorded a couple of early 45s that are prized by the Northern Soulies – had a sound that was a unique mixture of ‘What’s Goin’ On’ era Marvin Gaye, with the confessional singer/songwriter types of the day. Though at first glance there might be a temptation to line Bond up along with someone like Terry Callier, I find that Bond was working a slightly more post-hippie topical vibe without any of Calliers jazz edge.
One of the things that make the album so unusual is the fact that Bond’s solo acoustic core is wrapped in an aura of orchestration (courtesy of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra string section) which makes it something of a soulful cousin to the likes of Nick Drake. The big difference is that Bond was clearly an R&B/soul styled singer, his tenor voice occasionally soaring into falsetto range.
Today’s selection is a very unusual cover of Carly Simon’s first chart hit, 1971’s ‘That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be’. I’ve always loved Simon’s original (not something I can say about too many of her records) both for its haunting melody, and for its unbelievably dark message of resignation. It really is something of an anti-love love song.
I mean really:
You say we can keep our love alive
Babe, all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf
I’ll never learn to be just me first
Bond opens the song with a brief spoken passage that acknowledges the sad underpinnings of the song and then takes it at a similar pace to the original. He deviates from the melody slightly in the chorus, but it seems more like a case of interpretation than the limitations of his range (which certainly seems substantial enough to deliver the song).
While Lou Bond may not be for everyone, I really think that his album is something of a lost classic and at the very least deserves a cult of its own.
I hope you dig it.
*The only other artists on the We Produce label were the Temprees and Ernie Hines. We Produce – like Ardent, Hip, Gospel Truth and Partee – was an attempt by the later-period Stax organization to branch out (Ardent and Hip both featured rock bands and Partee was a comedy imprint). Unfortunately these labels came at a time when Stax would have probably been better off consolidating than spreading themselves too thin.