Funkin' With Johnny
The Tan Canary
"Baby Baby I Love You" (Ronnie Shannon)
Johnny Adams, from Stand By Me, Chelsea, 1976
Ain't no doubt about it
So, sitting here somewhere between oblivion and oblivious, watching the next monster storm track, it’s starting to look like we may have to evacuate for Rita after all. So, I’m going to suck it in and run with what I have ready to go, posting this track I found among some CDs I burned from vinyl years ago to use on my radio show. The album it comes from is boxed up in storage for now; and I can only hope it’s there after the storm passes. Such is life on the edge of disaster.
Johnny Adams’ voice was an under-recognized national treasure; and any fan of New Orleans music should have at least a sampling of his work from the early 1960’s though the late 1990’s, when he passed away. His cover of “Baby Baby I Love You” is from his mid-1970’s LP on Chelsea, Stand By Me, a Senator Jones production, arranged by Raymond Jones (no relation to Senator, I believe). Raymond had recorded in 1973 as Ray J on Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me label and went on to do a lot of arranging for the producer/label owner. Adams did many sessions and quite a few singles for Senator Jones during that decade, recording at Sea-Saint Studios; and most of that was released on Senator’s JB’s label. It is through his Sea-Saint connection, specifically Marshall Sehorn, that Senator Jones got some of his productions released nationally. Besides Chelsea, Adams had another album of material released on Ariola. I featured a funky track from it back on December 14, 2004. These albums and his many singles were not commercial successes, and the singer got very little money for recording them. But having records out allowed him to continue to pick up gigs around the area; and he kept up this recording arrangement until Rounder Records signed him in the early 1980’s and helped revitalize his career and get him some of the national attention he deserved. He recorded for them for the next 15 years; and many of those albums are classy classics.
Much of the material Adams recorded for Senator Jones consisted of uninspired arrangements of cover songs, including country, sung well by Adams, but often half-heartedly. Many of the songs were ballads. “Baby Baby I Love You”, though, while a cover of the song done so well by Aretha Franklin, is an exception to the usual rather humdrum, stock production process, particularly the drum groove, which doesn’t have a straight beat in it. This syncopated tour de force from start to finish reminds me of Zig Modeliste, and, while it could be him, I don’t think he was doing any sessions at Sea-Saint at this time. Smokey Johnson is another good possibility, because I know he had the chops and did play on some of Adams’ sessions in the 1970’s. Rising to the occasion, the bass bounces and rides with the drums, giving this track definite propulsion. Adams digs in and shows off some of his gospel based soul roots, issuing forth some of his spine tingling, ecstatic screams. All in all, I’d rate this one of the funkiest tracks he ever sang on; and it is definitely a cut above most of his other recorded output during the period.
You can find much of Johnny Adam’s early and later material available on CD and probably mp3; and you can hear some of his songs at these links:
Early 1960’s recordings
I hope to be with you again on the back side of Rita. . .
KEEP UP THE RELIEF SUPPORT!