Monday, December 14, 2009

GRT (1970)

GRT (General Recorded Tape) bought Cadet in 1969, which meant they got to put out all of the Chicago talent on this classic soul album - Minnie Riperton, Ramsey Lewis, Charles Stepney, Phil Upchurch, Maurice White. As much as the classic Cadet logo and design has my heart, I have to admit that I also really dig the businesslike GRT logo.

Charles Stepney is one of my favorites. This album carries forward a noticeable soft-psych pop vibe from the Riperton's previous band, The Rotary Connection, but with a strong soul flavor. Overall it's a really satisfying listen, but it veers into moments of saccharine indulgence that I suspect inadvertently capture what was going on culturally at the time. Take for example the opening track Les Fleurs. The opening bars are understated, groovy and downright sublime. The first time I heard those opening 10 seconds of this album, I thought it might be the best piece of music I ever heard. Minnie's famous voice is impressive, but by the time it hits the first crescendo at about 1:30, I'm reaching for the volume knob. Whoa! Let's cool out a minute. The track pulls itself together with a catchy "la-la-la" ending that always sticks in my head. I think this track pretty well sums up what's going on with the big picture of the album. Killer talent, amazing moments of arranging and musicianship, but a nagging feeling that ambition is getting the best of the whole exercise. This is 1970, the 60's are over.

"The 80's will trash the 70's for garbaging the 60's." - Ed Sanders, Fame and Love in New York

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