Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Next Morning - Selftitled (Psychedelic Soul US 1971)

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A wickedly rare phase 'n' fuzz fueled slice of psychedelia circa 1970! - featuring ripsnorting guitar-work by Bert Bailey- these guys were Caribbean immigrants (four from Trindad, one from the Virgin Islands) and they idolized the Who and Jimi Hendrix.

African-American psychedelic groups, and rock bands from Trinidad, were both uncommon items around 1970. The Next Morning fit into both categories, making them an interesting curiosity regardless of their music. The music, however--average 1970 hard-rock with soul, hard rock, and psychedelic influences, particularly from Jimi Hendrix--is not as unusual as their origins. One would not suspect from listening that the group were largely from Trinidad, with the proliferation of heavy, bluesy guitar and organ riffs, and the strained soul-rock vocals of Lou Phillips. They recorded one album, released in 1971, that received little notice before their breakup. 

The Next Morning formed in the late 1960s in New York, four of the five members having come to the city from Trinidad; Lou Phillips was from the Virgin Islands. Jimi Hendrix was a big influence on the band, as were some other hard rock acts of the period like the Who, and rock-soul hybrids like Sly Stone and the Chamber Brothers. The Next Morning were busy on the New York club circuit and attracted attention from Columbia Records, but ended up signing to the smaller Roulette label, whose Calla subsidiary issued their lone, self-titled LP in 1971. Although the jagged guitar sounds of Bert Bailey and some unexpected chord shifts made the album less pedestrian than some efforts in the style, the songs tended toward the long and meandering side, and the material was not as outstanding as their influences. The Next Morning's career sputtered out in the early 1970s, with bassist Scipio Sargeant finding some work doing horn arrangements for Joe Tex and Harry Belafonte.  

I'll be the first to admit a fascination with black 1960s/1970s hard rock/psychedelic bands such as Black Merda, Ernie Joseph, and Purple Image.  With the exception of Jimi Hendrix, these outfits were caught in an impossible Catch 22 situation whereby their music was simply too white for black audiences and too black for white audiences.  How do you get out of that no win situation?  You don't.  That said, here's another little known outfit to add to the list.  

The late-1960s found guitarist Scipio Sargeant having left his native Trinidad for New York City.  Living in Brooklyn his lightening quick guitar began attracting attention, including that of  fellow Trinidadian guitarist Bert Bailey.  Discovering a shared interest in hard rock, the pair decided to form a band, quickly recruiting keyboardist Earl Arthur, brother/drummer Herb Bailey, and singer Lou Phillips. With Scipio switching to bass the quintet began attracting attention on the city's club circuit.  

Almost signed by Columbia, the group ended up with a recording contract on the Roulette Records affiliated Calla label.  Recorded at New York's Electric Lady Studios (one of Hendrix's stomping grounds), their 1971 debut "The Next Morning" was produced by Dick Jacobs and clearly drew inspiration from Hendrix.  

Propelled by Arthur's insane keyboards and Bert Bailey's wicked fuzz drenched guitar, self-penned material such as 'Changes of the Mind', 'Life Is Love', and 'Back To the Stone Age' offered up impressive slices of Hendrix-styled heavy rock.  The comparison was further underscored by the fact that on numbers such as the growling title track Lou Phillips' vocals bore at least a modest resemblance to Hendrix.  Admittedly there wasn't anything particularly original here, but the overall performances were quite attractive, making for a first-rate set that should appeal to all guitar rock lovers. 

• Earl Arthur - keyboards
• Bert Bailey - guitar
• Herbert Bailey - drums
• Lou Phillips - vocals
• Scipio Sargeant - bass, guitar  

"The Next Morning" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) The Next Morning   (Lou Phillips - Scipio Sargeant - Bert Bailey) - 4:53
The title track started out as an unexpectedly jazzy number (maybe a touch of Allman Brothers),  before switching gears into a Hendrix-meets-Buddy Miles-styled rocker.   Derivative, but still quite enjoyable with vocalist Phillips in fine form and Bert Bailey showing off his first rate chops.  Excellent jam and a great way to kick the album off.    rating: **** stars
2.) Life   (Lou Phillips - Bert Bailey) - 2:50
Heavy pop ?  One of the album's lesser tunes.   rating: *** stars
3.) Changes of the Mind   (Lou Phillips - Scipio Sargeant - Bert Bailey) - 5:54
The rocker 'Changes of the Mind' opened up as a showcase for Bailey's blazing fuzz guitar.  Shame Lou Phillips' I wannabe-Jim-Morrison vocals were so shrill and irritating on this one.  It was one of the tunes where his Caribbean accent stood out to poor effect.  Still, the tune got progressively better when Phillips quit singing and the tune morphed into a jam tune.   rating: *** stars
4.) Life Is Love   (Lou Phillips - Earl Arthur) - 5:22
Earl Arthur's jazzy, slightly discordant B-3 opening wasn't very promising, but about a minute in the song took off in a heavy metal jam mode.   Phillips sounded pretty stoned.  Actually the whole band sounded pretty stoned on this one.  Bailey contributed lots of wah wah and fuzz on this rocker.   rating: **** stars

(side 2)
1.) Back To the Stone Age   (Lou Phillips - Scipio Sargeant - Bert Bailey) - 5:15
Wow !   More Hendrix-styled rock and I guarantee  Bailey's blazing fuzz guitar will make your speakers buzz.  rating: **** stars
2.) Adelane   (Lou Phillips - Bert Bailey) - 2:51
If I had to pick a song that had a "heavy" '70s aura, 'Adelane' would certainly be in the running.  Best way to describe this one ?   Molten ballad ...   beats me, though Bailey turned in one of his prettiest solos.  I can't imagine them playing this in a small club.  They would have literally collapsed the place.   rating: **** stars
3.) Faces Are Smiling!   (Lou Phillips - Bert Bailey) - 4:35
'Faces Are Smiling!' found Sargeant and company going mellow ...  well the first three minutes were mellow in an acid soaked and echo drenched fashion.  Kicked along by some powerhouse Herbert Bailey drumming, this was one of my favorite tunes on the album.  The second half of the tune found the band heading off in patented Hendirix-styled jam mode.  rating: **** stars
4.) A Jam of Love   (Lou Phillips - Scipio Sargeant - Herbert Bailey - Bert Bailey - Earl Arthur) - 6:18
The lone group collaboration,  'A Jam of Love' was seemingly their attempt at a ballad ...  well at least the first half of the tune.   The melody wasn't bad and Bailey got to add a bit of jazzy inflection to his lead guitar, but even with a heavy echo effect slapped on his vocals, Phillips simply didn't have the kind of voice to pull it off.  Ballads were clearly not their forte.   rating: ** stars.

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