Godfrey Daniel: Take a Sad Song...

Godfrey Daniel
Take a Sad Song...
Collectables

 

Even 30 years ago, what would compel anyone to do an album of classic rock songs as doo-wop? We may never know--even who was in the band Godfrey Daniel remains a mystery. The album's cover image, of an abandoned recording studio, and its meager liner notes provide no clues (rumors finger the Amboy Dukes, but more likely it's producer/arranger Andy Solomon). Not that many people are doing much detective work. After a deal with Atlantic records, the group put out this (their only) record in 1972. It flopped and they disappeared. When Atlantic was recently going through its vaults for reissues, they mustered no interest in resurrecting this album.

Like a few other obsessive weirdos floating around at the time (Frank Zappa, Sha Na Na), these guys ignored the distinct possibility that the early '70s was too early for an oldies revival. Pretending that the previous 10 years of rock changed nothing musically, Daniel's sound could have come out of Atlantic studios in the mid-'50s, when the Coasters and Clovers turned out hits. Indeed, a number of artists covered here come from those same Eisenhower-era musical roots: Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and Ike and Tina Turner. Solomon and company embraced harmony-group R&B well enough to replicate the sound (the gospel-derived harmonies, honking sax, rolling piano); they obviously get a kick out of the good-time antics of oldies music, and never sound like a bunch of old-school reactionaries.

That's why "Purple Haze," "Whole Lotta Love," "Woodstock," and "Honky Tonk Woman" work well enough here for you to imagine them as outtakes in some time-warped musical universe. Just like at current Dylan concerts, it can take a minute or two to figure out what the tunes are (even "Let It Be" and two versions of "Hey Jude"). But once they sink in, we're forced to rethink songs we thought we knew so well. You get to hear how these songs really do have a foundation in early R&B, and what the melodies sound like when they're yanked out of the over-familiar high-decibel homes they've occupied for so long now. As far as style clashes go, this lost little nugget is up there with the best mashups.

 
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