Soul Brothers Six
“Listen – Soul Brothers Six – Some Kind of Wonderful – MP3″
I hope all is well on your end (doesn’t that sound like something you’d hear in a proctologist’s office?).
I’ve managed to snatch a pretty nice weekend from the jaws of a crappy week, taking a nice day trip with the fam, getting in some reading and attempting some sorely needed relaxation.
While taking a leisurely stroll through my to-be-blogged folder I grabbed a certifiable classic. ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ by the Soul Brothers Six is a record that I chased for a long time, resisting prohibitive prices patiently until a copy came along I was willing to pay for.
I’m not going to lie to you and suggest that I’ve been on the SB6 tip from day one.
My name is Larry and I’m a child of the 70’s…
As a result, it should be clear to almost anyone that the first time I heard ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ it was hurtling out of the grooves on a Grand Funk Railroad album.
That’s right, Grand Funk Railroad.
To quote the esteemed Homer J. Simpson:
“Nobody knows the band Grand Funk? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drum work of Don Brewer? Oh, man!”
That’s right. Back in the day, when dinosaurs like myself roamed the earth clad in denim and flannel (both stained liberally with beer, pockets filled with what my pals and I used to refer to as “shake”), if you weren’t shaking your long greasy hair to Grand Funk, you were probably already passed out on the basement floor, with the tonearm of your stereo skipping over and over again in the runout groove.
And you know what? I STILL like Grand Funk.
There’s definitely something to be said for a certain flavour of Michigan hard rock, offered up by the law firm of Farner, Brewer & Schacher, as well as the MC5, SRC, Up, Frost, and the Rationals that found its roots growing in a very soulful variety of soil. This is not to say that any of these bands was a “soul” band, but that there was most definitely a soulful vein running through the records they made and the performances they let loose on stage. If you never heard the soul revival vibe on the MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’ album, you need to go back and have yourself another listen.
I have no idea where Grand Funk picked up ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ – though it was a minor hit in 1967 and I can definitely imagine it being played in Detroit. No matter, their version is an ass-kicker of the first order.
The Soul Brothers Six, led by John Ellison got their start in Rochester, NY where they recorded their first (now very rare and costly) 45 for the Fine label (also home to some badass garage punk). They eventually relocated to Philadelphia where they were signed to Atlantic and recorded their best stuff.
The OG of ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ is – if you grew up jamming to the Grand Funk version – a record that takes some getting used to. The locomotive-like slam of the drums and bass is instead a rollicking, soul party in the amen corner vibe. I love the looseness of the guitar and the vocals, led by Ellison are incredible. The SB6 OG sounds as if someone was at bar and just happened to turn on the tape recorder as the band took the stage, and the refrains of ‘Can I get a witness?’, in which the boundaries between gospel and soul were never thinner (or harder to hear) are simply remarkable.
I said before that it took a period of assimilation for me to “get” the version of the song by the Soul Brothers Six, but I have to say that it wasn’t long before it displaced the Grand Funk cover (which I’ve loved for 30 some years) and became my go-to take on the tune.
Following a few, less successful follow-up singles for Atlantic (which are all worth grabbing), the Soul Brothers Six ended up recording some sides for Phil L.A. of Soul, where not long after their record of ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ hit the charts, a cover was released by the Fantastic Johnny C.
John Ellison still performs today.
See you later in the week.