Finishing Off the Whitlock Oeuvre

Orignally posted May 18, 2007

I got ambitious last night and recorded the last of my four Bobby Whitlock albums and then did all the little bits of work for that album and another Whitlock to turn them into mp3s. So with today’s post, I’ve put out there for the world – or at least that portion of it that stops by here – all four of the Memphis-bred musician’s 1970s solo work.

(The first two were posted here and here in January and March*, respectively.)

And because Bobby Whitlock was part of the first concert I’d seen on a trip on my own to the Twin Cities – about seventy miles from St. Cloud – I got to thinking about concerts I’d seen over the years. Some of them – many of them, as I think about it – were available because of the presence of the college (later re-christened a university) in the city and the presence of my dad on the faculty of that college/university.

I guess the first musical notable I saw at the college was Doc Severinsen. This was in 1965, possibly before he was playing in the Tonight Show band, but certainly before he took over leadership of the band from Milton DeLugg (a seemingly square individual who oddly enough, according to Wikipedia, produced the record “Rave On” for Buddy Holly). Severinsen’s program, performed with the university’s orchestra in a standard concert hall, was traditional classical material. I have the program – autographed – somewhere in the boxes of stuff I’ve lugged around for years; I do recall that one of the selections that evening was a piece written around the folk tune, “The Carnival of Venice,” known to many for its lyrics:

“My hat, it has three corners.
“Three corners has my hat.
“And had it not three corners,
“It would not be my hat.”

That wasn’t the last time I saw – or met – Severinsen. In early 1972, while I was a student at St. Cloud State, Severinsen was scheduled to perform at the college, and my music theory professor asked for volunteers to go to the airport in the Twin Cities and drive him to St. Cloud (while his band followed behind on a bus). Severinsen came down the walkway from the jet, dressed in the flashiest clothes 1972 could offer, carrying a small leather bag that held his trumpet. Dr. Barrett introduced me and the other three students, and I told Severinsen that we’d met before, when he had performed in St. Cloud in 1965, seven years earlier.

“I was in sixth grade at the time,” I said.

He looked slyly at me and said, “Well, you must be in at least seventh grade by now.” He grinned and laughed like we’d all seen on TV hundreds of times, and we walked up the concourse and left the airport.

The college actually did a pretty good job in setting up concerts for students, faculty and the community. While I was a student there, I recall concerts by Shawn Phillips (who played St. Cloud State at least once a year, it seems), It’s A Beautiful Day, Leon Russell, John Denver, a double bill of George Carlin and Leo Kottke, and –during the sixth year of my six-year plan – Cheap Trick.

I saw concerts at the college before I was a student there, of course. All it took was a polite mention to my dad, and he called whomever he needed to call to secure me tickets. During my senior year of high school, I saw the Young Rascals and got tickets to see the Upper Midwest band Crow (although I had to skip the concert and sell my tickets for a reason I do not recall.)

But the best year for concerts had to be my junior year of high school. In the fall, just as the single “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” was peaking, the Fifth Dimension put on a good show in the 8,000-seat gym. During winter quarter, the Association came to town.

And in the spring of 1970, just as their second album was rising in the charts, Chicago took the stage in Halenbeck Hall. I had an orchestra concert that evening – I played cornet – and missed the opening act, Illinois Speed Press. I got to Halenbeck and found the seat Rick had managed to save for me during Chicago’s second number, about 9:30. The group played the highlights from both Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago II and then started an encore about 11 o’clock. That encore was still going on at 11:45 when Rick and I had to leave to catch our ride home. I haven’t been to an extraordinary number of concerts over the years, but I’ve seen a few. And I’d have to put Chicago’s 1970 performance in the top five.

Anyway, here are two albums by Bobby Whitlock. There are a few more crackles in One Of A Kind than I’d like, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I thought Raw Velvet was pretty clean.

Bobby Whitlock – Raw Velvet (1972)

Track listing
Tell The Truth
Bustin’ My Ass
Write You A Letter
Ease Your Pain
If You Ever
You Came Along
Think About It
Dearest I Wonder
Start All Over

Bobby Whitlock – One Of A Kind (1975)

Track listing
Movin’ On
You Still On My Mind
Rocky Mountain Blues
Be Honest With Yourself
Goin’ To California
Free and Easy Way (Of Lovin’ You)
The Right Road Back Home
You Don’t Have To Be Alone
Have You Ever Felt Like Leavin’
We Made It To The Moon

A few notes on the records:

Raw Velvet – which has the most gawdawful cover (check it out at Wikipedia) – is a not bad album of southern rock and R&B that has a couple of standout tracks. “Tell The Truth” is Whitlock’s solo version of the song he co-wrote with Eric Clapton for Derek & the Dominos’ Layla. The gospelly “Ease Your Pain,” written by eccentric genius Hoyt Axton, was released as a single in the spring of 1972 but failed to reach the Top 40.

Jimmy Miller and Joe Zagarino produced the album, released on ABC-Dunhill, with one cut (“Hello L.A., Goodbye Birmingham”) produced by Whitlock and Andy Johns. Musicians are Rick Vito – who showed up in the 1987-1991 version of Fleetwood Mac – on guitar, Keith Ellis on bass and Don Poncher on drums. Whitlock plays rhythm guitar and keyboards. A few other musicians evidently played on “Hello L.A., Goodbye Birmingham,” but the notes crediting the guitar and drum players are just sketches of little dominos and the bass player is listed only as “@ friend.” Dominos, eh? Evidently Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon lent a hand on that cut, but the bass player was not Carl Radle. Who, then? I dunno. Those are the only performance credits on the record, which means the excellent back-up singers remain nameless. Whitlock’s tailor, on the other hand is listed; he was John Morgan.

One Of A Kind is a better piece of work with a better groove. Released on Capricorn, it features performances by several members of the Allman Brothers Band, most notably Dickey Betts, whose slide guitar makes “You Don’t Have To Be Alone” into a near-classic cut, and Chuck Leavell, who plays piano on “We Made It To The Moon,” Rocky Mountain Blues,” and “The Right Road Back Home.” Jaimoe plays congas on “Movin’ On” and “Free and Easy Way (Of Lovin’ You),” which All-Music Guide calls “a light an airy masterpiece.” Capricorn stalwart Johnny Sandlin adds tambourine to “Goin’ To California” and “Have You Ever Felt Like Leavin’.”

Produced by Whitlock and Bill Halverson, the record has T.J. Tindall on electric guitar and banjo, Kenny Tibbets on bass and Rick Eckstein on drums. Whitlock plays piano, organ, acoustic guitar, Leslie guitar, chimes and percussion.

*You’ll find the March post about Whitlock here. I didn’t include the January post about his first solo album because the post was essentially a review quoted from All-Music Guide; I had little of my own to say about the album. [Note added April 20, 2011]



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