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Chambers Brothers - Love, Peace and Happiness

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 17 / 10 / 2016

Chambers Brothers - Love, Peace and Happiness
Label: Repertoire Records
Format: CD


First-rate Chambers Brothers' 1969 double album finally given a long-awaited reissuee, which with both its studio and live albums on one disc showcases how far ahead of their time this psychedelic soul band were

Firstly appreciation to Repertoire Records for making this album available again; it’s about time the Chambers Brothers were recognised for being the groundbreaking act they were. While they achieved a measure of success in their homeland, they were never afforded the attention they deserved in the UK. It’s been nearly a decade since Repertoire reissued the classic ‘The Time Has Come’ album so most fans had given up on ever seeing this double album ever appearing on a little shiny disc. Possibly beating Sly & The Family Stone and definitely Funkadelic by introducing soul and R'n'B to psychedelia, the Chambers Brothers appear to have been lost in the mists of time instead of being hailed as the innovators they were. Their best-known song is the title track of that aforementioned album, eleven minutes of psychedelic soul that sounded like it came from another planet upon its release in 1967; nearly five decades later it’s lost none of its power. Fusing their gospel roots with elements of not only soul, R'n'B and funk but also with folk resulted in the band being leaders not followers, and unfortunately their huge foresight and talent wasn’t transferred into record sales, this side of the pond at least. ‘Love, Peace and Happiness’ was originally issued as a double album in 1969. One album consisted of studio cuts, the other was a recording of a live set at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East from 1968. One whole side of the studio recordings was given over to the title track, a sixteen-minute opus drawing from all elements of the band's work and the template for much of what was to come from lesser bands. Repertoire has included both albums on one single disc complete with a booklet with liner notes from 'Shindig!' editor Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills. Now, Mills is a respected writer and knows his stuff. His magazine is the most informative, colourful, insightful and passionate of the monthlies you can find on your newsagents shelves but I had to reread his comments about the Chambers Brothers' version of the Bee Gees' ‘To Love Somebody’ on this album a few times. I’m still under the impression I’ve read it wrong. “…as is a decent enough, but clearly filler, rendition of ‘To Love Somebody." Filler? Apart from the original it’s the most soulful cover of the song ever committed to tape surely. It simply drips with emotion and can hardly be considered as filler. Apart from that slight niggle (and, of course, Jon is entitled to his opinion. It’s just in this rare case he’s got it wrong!). Repertoire has done the usual excellent job on this underrated album. Newly restored and remastered to their usual excellent standards by Eroc, this release has, apparently, "corrected the original phase-reversed playback to match the in-phase vocals for the first time"; not having heard this album on CD before I’m unable to comment on that, but the resulting sound is wonderful. The studio album kicks off with a couple of Sammy Turner songs, a guy who knew his way around a tune or two with releases on Big Top and Motown, The emotion-filled, pleading vocals of 'Have a Little Faith' place the song firmly into deep-soul territory in which the brothers' gospel roots shine through. It is one of those songs that leaves the listener breathless and is a brilliant start to the album. This then segues into another Sammy Turner song, ‘Let’s Do It (Do It Together)’, which shows how the band (and songwriter Turner) can move effortlessly from one genre to another, while the vocals are still dripping with emotion. This time the band, who funk it up more than a little while proving that they were equally at home blending rock into their fusion of soul, R’n’B and pyschedelia as they were at delivering classic soul cuts. ‘If You Want Me To’ is another Turner song, another driving rock-infused slice of soul/funk again featuring just what a powerhouse this band was, especially vocally. Even the Marvin Hamlisch, Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha composition ‘Wake Up’, from the 1969 Jack Lemmon/ Catherine Deneuve film ‘The April Fools’, is given the funk treatment. But it’s the side-long title track that’s the real killer. Obviously taking inspiration from their eleven-minute classic ‘Time Has Come Today’, the band are given the chance to expand their sound and highlight every aspect of what made their music great rather than merely good. Two years later Funkadelic released the acclaimed ‘Maggot Brain’, but here’s the proof that the Chambers Brothers developed this strain of atmospheric soul/rock/funk/psychedelia before those more highly respected. It’s an intense piece of work, easily on a par with ‘Time Has Come Today’ but showing that the band had not stood still musically. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of music, including the drum solo as well. The seven-track live album was always going to struggle to match the intensity of the studio cuts but, as live albums go, especially for those not actually at the gig, it’s one of the more impressive. It starts with a ten-minute work-out of the standard ‘Wade in the Water’. We’ve all by now got our favourite rendition of this song and it’s unlikely that, unless you’re the Chambers Brothers' greatest fan, that this cut would top the list but the band add their own unique funkiness to the song; the playing is, of course, exemplary but being pitched against the studio cuts, especially on one CD, the live album was never going to shine as brightly as what had been done before. There are other covers on the live album too although the original, heart-wrenching ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’, with pleading vocals that match the emotion poured out in the studio cuts, is the best example of what the band were capable of on stage. Vocally there were few bands that could touch the Chambers Brothers. Otis’s ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ and Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’ are both excellent versions bringing out the band’s gospel roots once more. They make a fair fist of Joe Cuba’s ‘Bang Bang’ that was also issued as a single and is a prime example of how to get audience participation but again the track will resonate more with those at the show than those who are listening at home. The live side closes with “a little barbershop quartet type sound’ a medley of ‘Undecided' and ‘Love! Love! Love!’ showcasing yet another impressive side of the band. While there is little doubt that the studio part of this album is the one that will get most repeated plays there is a tendency to let the CD continue playing once those songs have finished whereas there’s a good chance that while the original vinyl of the studio songs has turned grey by now the original live album is still nice and shiny. So again, kudos to Repertoire for combining the double album onto one disc. The Chambers Brothers were a band ahead of their time. Maybe now their ‘Time Has Come’?

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