January 19th - Groovin' Time
Groovin' Time - The Chambers Brothers, 1968
Part of why I love the Folkways Archive is the sheer uncommercial weirdness of some of the offerings. You see something like The Murder Trial of William Palmer, Surgeon, and you wonder, how many copies of this album could you really sell? How much demand was there for an album that is just field recordings for a summer camp, or testimony from the Watergate hearings? Other albums fit more into the "specialist" niche that Folkways excelled at - not everybody wants an album of sacred indigenous Mexican violin and guitar music, but there's a certain type of person who sees that record cover and thinks, I have to hear that.
That person is, of course, me.
But sometimes you come across an album that just absolutely rocks. There's no need to provide any caveats with Groovin' Time, no need to make sure that everyone else in the room is prepped for something that might be sonically surprising or even uncomfortable. Groovin' Time is 9 tracks of infectious soul, from the slinky Come On In My Kitchen riff Down in the Alley to the chugging instrumental Chain Gang Thang - which is itself a cover of Cannonball Adderley's Work Song. The transition from gospel improv Rough and Rocky Road to the somber Civil Rights ballad Who Lives By The Law shows their incredible range. The Chambers Brothers had one of those careers in the 1960s where they were constantly on the periphery - playing Newport, sitting in on a Dylan recording session - but only broke through with one song, Time Has Come Today, an 11-minute opus actually released earlier the same year as Groovin' Time, in a DEEPLY different style.
The Brothers are still playing shows in the Los Angeles area, in an amended line-up. I'm not sure if they're playing anything off Groovin' Time but if you get a chance check them out.
Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways