Saturday, 8 November 2014

Hour Glass - The Hour Glass (1st Album US 1967)


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Source: Japan SHM-CD Remaster

Hour Glass was the debut album by the group of the same name, issued in October 1967 on Liberty Records, the first of two by the group that featured the namesakes of The Allman Brothers Band.

The album was recorded by a group saddled by a producer unable to quite realize the group's potential. Dallas Smith, a formulaic producer noted for his work with Bobby Vee, knew the group was from the South. He knew they had formed from the ashes of groups that had performed liberal amounts of blues covers. And he heard soulful qualities in the voice of nineteen-year-old Gregg Allman. Therefore, he referred to them as a "Motown band", much to the chagrin of the group.

The Hour Glass was recorded with an emphasis on lead vocalist Gregg Allman's voice and dispensing with nearly all original material. Of the eleven tracks on the original LP, only one was penned by a group member, Gregg Allman's "Got To Get Away". The remaining ten were written by songwriters running the gamut from Curtis Mayfield and Jackson Browne to Del Shannon and the Goffin-King team. The Hour Glass performed the basic tracks, which were overdubbed by Smith with layers of vocals and instrumentation.

The album was a failure in both sales terms and in properly showcasing the group. On the follow-up, 1968's Power of Love, the group would be given a bigger role in the making of the album.

Chances are that the Hour Glass' two albums would never have been reissued, but for the fact that the group was formed by Duane and Gregg Allman out of the ruins of their first full-time band, the Allman Joys; additionally, its lineup featured future Capricorn Records star record producers Johnny Sandlin on drums and Paul Hornsby on organ and piano. And that would also be a bit unfair, because the Hour Glass were an above-average white soul group -- no Allman Brothers Band by a long shot, at least on their recordings, but an imposing outfit.

Hour Glass Single US 1967
From Elvis in Memphis Originally named the Allman-Act (a pun on "almanac"), they got an audition with Liberty Records with help from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and a recording contract resulted. There was also a name change to the Hour Glass. Unfortunately, it turned out that Liberty was primarily interested in Gregg Allman as a lead singer, and did its best to dress up the group's recordings with layer upon layer of production, including a full horn section and a soul chorus. The resulting debut album didn't sound a lot like the group, although it was polished and often effective white Southern soul, sometimes crossing paths with the sounds later heard from Elvis' glorious Indian Summer period on the From Elvis in Memphis album, which was still two years away. Other moments, such as "Silently," fit more easily into the languid pop-psychedelic spirit of 1967.

Amid this over-production, there wasn't a lot of the actual Hour Glass on the album, and not much in the way of sales success. By the time of their second album, Power of Love, the band's lineup had changed, with Pete Carr, a friend of Sandlin and company from Pensacola, FL, replacing Mabron McKinney on bass. 

This time out, they were given a freer hand in choosing the songs that went onto the new album, which gave it a bluesier feel than its predecessor. the Hour Glass still wielded virtually no control in the studio in terms of how the songs were arranged or recorded, but elements of their sound slipped through. Gregg Allman also wrote a couple of songs during this period, one of which, "It's Not My Cross to Bear," would turn up later on the Allman Brothers Band's debut album. Unfortunately, the Hour Glass' best moments were nowhere near the studio sessions where these two albums had been recorded but, rather, at the long jams they played at the Whisky a Go Go.

They made an attempt to record an album of their own, putting together demos for a proposed third release at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL -- they also cut a handful of tracks, most notably a B.B. King medley featuring Duane Allman out in front which, although not adequate from a commercial standpoint, did show off his playing in the studio better than any records up to that time. Liberty Records had no interest in the resulting tapes or in doing a third album, the first two having stiffed, and the band broke up soon after. Gregg and Duane tried playing in a band with their friend Butch Trucks, called the 31st of February, but Gregg headed back to California while Duane remained in Florida.

Although Liberty rejected the results of the Muscle Shoals sessions, they ended up benefiting all concerned in a far more roundabout fashion. Duane Allman's playing on those tracks led to a contract for session work at Fame, where he got to play on records by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and King Curtis, and was heard by manager Phil Walden and persuaded to form a new band. The rest, as they say, is history.

01. "Out of the Night" (Alex Moore, Bob Welch) - 1:57
02. "Nothing But Tears" (Jimmy Radcliffe, B. J. Scott) - 2:28
03. "Love Makes the World Go 'Round" (Deon Jackson) - 2:42
04. "Cast off All My Fears" (Jackson Browne) - 3:31
05. "I've Been Trying" (Curtis Mayfield) - 2:40
06. "No Easy Way Down" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 3:20
07. "Heartbeat" (Ed Cobb) - 4:52
08. "So Much Love" (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 2:57
09."Got to Get Away" (Gregg Allman) - 2:14
10. "Silently" (Dan Bourgoise, Del Shannon) - 2:48
11. "Bells" (Edgar Allan Poe, arr. Peter Alin) - 2:24

Bonus:
12. "In a Time" (Paul Hornsby) - 2:17
13. "I've Been Trying" (alternate version) (Curtis Mayfield) - 2:35
14. "Kind of a Man" (Composer Unknown) - 3:07
15. "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" (Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman) - 3:12
16. "She Is My Woman" (Composer Unknown) - 2:38
17. "Bad Dream" (Gregg Allman) - 3:37
18. "Three Time Loser" (Don Covay, Ronald Miller) - 2:40

Tracks 1-11 constitute the original album.
Tracks 12-13 are outtakes from the album.
Tracks 14-18 are tracks from aborted 1968 and 1969 sessions by Gregg Allman (present on 1992 re-release only).

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris great post!

Carlos Roa said...

Many thankx. Another fantastic post.