The Master: Richard Evans
“Listen -Victor Johnson – When You Say You’re Mine – MP3″
I have to start this post off by sending out thanks to my brothers over at Soulstrut, who were a big help in digging up some facts about this record.
Some time back I was casting my line onto the interwebs in search of vinyl, and happened up on ‘When You Say You’re Mine’ by Victor Johnson. Though I’d never heard of Johnson, the single bore a very interesting credit, i.e. “Strings and Horns arranged by Richard Evans”.
Regular visitors to the Funky16Corners blog will already be aware that Evans is one of my musical heroes. Starting out his career as a bassist, Evans went on to arrange and produce a wide variety of simply amazing records for the Cadet label, among them Dorothy Ashby, Odell Brown and the Organizers, Terry Callier and last but certainly not least, the mighty Soulful Strings. Evans’ work at Cadet is visionary, creating a sonic universe at once soulful, sophisticated and (very) forward looking.
When I found the Johnson 45, I was surprised because I had no idea that Evans had done any work for independent labels. A BMI search revealed yet another intriguing fact, that being that the song was written by Ken Chaney (one of the pianists to have played with the Young-Holt Trio) and Monica Chaney (his wife?). This, and the Evans credit confirmed for me that this was very likely a Chicago record.
An inquiry over at Soulstrut brought me some more information. The record appears to date from 1972/73, and Evans did in fact craft some other indie label 45s for the likes of the Sounds of Black, Joyce Williams and T.L. Barrett.
The record itself is very cool in a jazzy, sophisticated soul vibe, with Johnson’s vocal – reminiscent of Billy Eckstine or Arthur Prysock* – flowing over the arrangement. The tune itself has a wonderful hook in the chorus. The arrangement is – for Evans anyway – fairly straight ahead (no kalimba or fuzz guitar), with understated horns and waves of strings.
Interestingly enough, the flipside (actually the A-side) the bluesy ‘After Dark in the Ghetto’ was apparently a local hit in Chicago.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Friday with a couple of interesting cover versions.