Got To Admire Their Pluck
"Pluck It" (Chocolate Milk)
Chocolate Milk, RCA, 1976
Consider it plucked
Prior to Katrina, my friend (who I met through this blog), frequent commenter and contributor to HOTG, Dwight Richards, was going to pick out a cut by his band, Chocolate Milk, so we could do a post on it together. Just before Rita hit, I got the urge to try Dwight’s cell again and check on him, since I hadn’t heard anything from him since the first storm. I got his voice mail and asked him to contact me. As some of you may have read, he checked in via the comments on my Sept. 22 Johnny Adams post, saying he was staying up at New Roads, LA (near where I evacuated for Rita) and had lost everything, including musical equipment, in the New Orleans flooding. I haven’t heard back from him yet; but, last night, I got the urge to put some Chocolate Milk up anyway. We can do another one together later. So, Dwight, if you get to see this, it’s for you and all the guys in the band. Stay safe and sane and get back to music making as soon as possible. If you need anything, or have anything to add, please let me (us) know.
“Pluck It” is from CM’s eponymous 1976 second LP, recorded at Sea-Saint Studio. I chose this rare instrumental track strictly for its groove. Up in the mix, Dwight’s drumming is a syncopated pleasure to hear and move to, start to finish. This is pretty much an ensemble piece, with the only real soloing done by keyboardist, Robert Dabon. While it’s long on funk, the track doesn’t overtly reveal New Orleans roots, as this talented band was reaching for broader appeal and commercial success and adopted a fairly sophisticated, polished style that only occasionally hinted at their origins. Dwight has told me that CM liked to jam a lot and wrote some songs on the spot at gigs or in the studio. This tune is probably a result of that process.
As I recall, Chocolate Milk started out as a jazz band and transmuted to soul and funk. I don’t know exactly how they got hooked up with Sansu Productions (Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn), based around Sea-Saint; but their work there got them signed to RCA, which released their first album, Action Speaks Louder Than Words, in 1975. After the title track charted, they went on to make, I think, three more LPs with Toussaint at the helm, then were assigned to George Tobin for a record, finishing off their run with RCA in the early 1980’s with Allen Jones of the Bar-Kays producing several albums. Throughout it all, they had charting singles, but never quite caught fire with the public. Of course, my favorite period for the band is their work from the home-base. During that period, 1975 – 1979, they were also part of the core house band at Sea-Saint and Toussaint’s backup band for his live gigs. You can hear a cross section of their work on the Razor & Tie "best of" CD, Ice Cold Funk. Action Speaks Louder than Words was reissued on CD by RCA only in Europe, it seems, and can be purchased as an import. I think Blue Jeans, a 1980’s record, also had a European reissue. Galactic has covered two of their tunes, and CM grooves have been sampled. So, if you are interested in hearing more, you got your search clues. Maybe Dwight can add more later.
This was the band line up for Chocolate Milk:
Dwight Richards, drums, lead and background vocals
Kenneth Williams, percussion
Ernest Dabon, bass
Robert Dabon, keyboards, vocals
Mario Tio, guitar
Amadee Castenell, Jr., saxophone, vocals
Jospeh Smith, III, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals
Frank Richard, lead and background vocals
And, by the way, I featured another album track by them back in the early days of this blog.