1978 Ariola Records SW-50039
A1 Don’t Hold Back 4:23
A2 I Can Tell 7:03
A3 I Love You More 3:49
B1 Why 4:25
B2 Did You Ever 4:33
B3 All The Time You Need 5:10
LINEAGE: Vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
“Chanson” was a project of James Jamerson Jr. – son of the great Motown legend James Jamerson, and who had played with a bunch of Motown bands in his own right, including the 70s incarnation of the Temps – and David Williams, who had played with The Dells. The two standout tracks were released on the single – “Don’t Hold Back,” the manically funky anthem to the 70s philosophy of “if it feels good do it” (actually a lyric in the chorus, shamelessly) with which they had a reasonably big hit and which features a classic breakdown in the middle, and the slower tune “Did You Ever,” which sounds like it might have been aiming for the Quiet Storm radio format. Ollie Brown’s percussion on that tune is some of the most quiet conga playing I have ever heard and the whole tune works real nicely. “I Can Tell” is straight-up disco-funk with lots of conga and a nice vocal from Linda Evans. “I Love You More” is a modern soul number with a funky verse, a pop hook in the chorus, and a tight little flute riff. Side One only lasts about fifteen minutes (the whole album clocks in a half an hour). So at this point you would get up and refresh your drink, powder your nose or whatever other rituals compel you, and when you flipped the record over hopefully you wouldn’t notice that the next song “Why” has the exact same chord pattern as the last tune. Except it sounds more like Billy Ocean or maybe the Doobie Brothers covering a song by Billy Ocean. It’s not bad but at this point you start to wonder if some of this record isn’t a kind of “paint by numbers” modern soul / R+B album. The mellow “Did You Ever” brings things back from the brink and keeps it interesting, and the album goes out on another slow-burner, “Take All The Time You Need”.
The playing is all super-tight and the arrangements are solid but lean, with a live-band sound to all of it even though there are some string overdubs. I particularly like how they favored using acoustic piano over keyboards, kind of an unusual production choice for an album of this kind in 1978. The few synth patches here and there stand out because of that, but in a good way, like in the lead off track. All in all, this group had potential but sort of prove that oodles of talent and tight grooves can only get you so far without the stellar songwriting available to the environment nurtured Jamerson’s dad. The whole thing has a pretty radio-friendly sound, and the first track will stay stuck in your head for days, but the rest of the tunes may need a little superglue or chewing gum. They made one more album, which I have but about which I can literally remember nothing at all. Which leads me to believe this is the better of the two, although I suppose I can dig that one out again sometime.
P.S. – Louis Satterfield of Earth Wind and Fire toots a horn on this record.