Listen/Download – The Babies – The Hand of Fate
At long last the work week is grinding to halt and we can all get ready to let loose on the weekend.
It’s been a busy week hereabouts, filled with both real world moves and unreal (i.e. records) escapades.
If you’re a longtime follower of the Funky16Corners blog you might remember a few years back when my father-in-law brought me a gigantic stash of 45s that he found when he was out searching for antiques. I spent the better part of a summer going through those records, finding everything from Hammond funk to twee pop.
I was down in the basement the other day doing some laundry and I spied the last few boxes of unexplored 45s up on a shelf and decided to have a sit down to see what I missed on the first go-round.
I managed to pull about a dozen interesting pop/rock discs, and two very cool soul 45s, one of which I bring you today.
When I pulled a disc by a group called the Babies out of one of the crates, I didn’t expect much, but since it was a mid-60s Dunhill release (and had been arranged by the great Gene Page) I figured it was worth a spin, so I put it on the keeper stack and brought it upstairs.
I checked out one side and it didn’t do anything for me. However, when I dropped the needle on ‘The Hand of Fate’ what I got was a very tasty slice of Northern style soul. I set off to the interwebs to see what I could dig up.
As it turns out, the answer was “not much”.
However (again) what I did find was intriguing. It turns out that the Babies tune did in fact have a certain amount of popularity on the Northern Soul scene in the UK. ‘The Hand of Fate’ was released by Dunhill in 1967. In a promotional ad I found (see above) it shows that the Babies were in fact a white group, and that Dunhill tried at least once to tie them in to the success of the Mamas and Papas.
I was able to locate a personal reminiscence of someone that remembered the group. They named one of the members as Rita Hurtzberg*, and said that although she and the other girls in the group hailed from Beverly Hills, California, they worked the R&B side of the street, opening for the likes of Cannibal and the Headhunters and Thee Midnighters in East LA.
The legendary Gene Page was an LA-based arranger who had in fact worked with the Mamas and Papas, but was best known for his work with soul artists like Dobie Gray, Solomon Burke and several Motown artists.
‘The Hand of Fate’ has a great four on the floor beat wrapped in the kind of classy strings and vibes that the Northern Soulies love so much. The lead vocal (Ms. Hurtzberg??) is really quite good, sounding like a slightly deeper-voiced Lulu. The real star of the show however is Page’s arrangement, which is pure, stylish, urban soul at it’s best. Had the record been marketed as such, it may not have been a hit, but it would surely be better known than it is. As it stands, it’s something of a lost classic of blue-eyed soul. The Babies had one other single on Dunhill before passing on into the dark caverns of obscurity.
Thank God for the Northern crowd**, and for the concept of heading back into a neglected stack of 45s. There is definitely something to be said for leaving no stone unturned.
I hope you dig the record and I’ll be back on Monday.
*I’ve found references to a Rita Hurtzberg singing backup on an album by one of the members of Rhinoceros.
**It’s interesting to note that while this record is all but unknown over here, in the UK it’ll run you about $40