Saturday, September 24, 2011
Julius Pittman & The Revival - Live Tonite
I was hoping I wouldn’t like this album. I didn’t even want to listen to it. It says on the cover, just below Live Tonite, “funky southern soul!”. I turned the cover over and there is a photograph of a brick wall full of middle-aged white men in their best blue jeans with their names under each of their visages, “Velpo, Randy, John, Julius, Dave, Audie, Howard and Chris.”
That alone was enough to tick me off. I thought “Funky southern soul my arse! Ray Charles was southern soul, James Brown was southern soul, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, now that is southern soul. I don’t remember one non-African American ‘southern soul’ band that I would give any more than a Texas two-step to listen to.”
The second thing that pissed me off was that it was a live album recorded in a Richmond, VA pub. Richmond, VA! Give me a break. That ain’t the real south. Richmond, VA is closer to Washington, D.C. than it is to Memphis TN or Mussel Shoals,AL. I also know that a small pub recording too often means bad sound and, when it is a live album, the sheer presence of the audience during recording can hurt the quality of the recording
So, great. Here is what I thought I was looking at - fake soul music by a bunch of Mid-East Coast middle-aged white guys, badly produced, played live in a small room before a drunken pub crowd. Like I said, after seeing the cover and back I didn’t even want to crack the cellophane. I chucked the unopened CD into the back seat of my car along with whatever else lurks back there out of sight and out of mind.
One Thursday evening, a week or two later, I was driving in rush hour traffic down the Diablo Valley to an appointment in the Livermore Valley. There was massive road construction and virtual gridlock on the highway. Local hills, power lines and ghost radio stations resulted in fuzzy static on the radio. Even my bluetooth transmitter was useless. In 3 mile per hour stop and go traffic I hastily grabbed at the backseat for one of the legion of CDs that seem to multiply there - ripples if you will. Traffic started to move so I quickly, without looking down, slit the plastic wrap, opened the cover, grabbed the CD, threw the cover into the back seat and popped the CD into the dashboard player. Traffic stopped. The CD didn’t.
The damnedest thing happened. The slickest James Brown-inspired music filled the car with soul horns, rhythm, and an amazing vocal presence that I later discovered was Julius Pittman, a long-haired blonde dude with a Tom Waits visage and the voice of Wilson Pickett.
Wow! I listened transfixed, rather oblivious to the mind-numbing traffic. One great high energy soul and blues track after another pushed me back in my seat. The band played its own songs as well as obscure songs by some famous artists (such as Gloria Houston and Isaac Hayes.) The sound engineering and mixing were impeccable. The crowd was excited, appreciative and unobtrusive. They may actually have made the music better by their presence.
I got into the rhythm. I got into the beat. I got into the whole white southern soul thing. I opened the sunroof and windows. Three guys in a Black Chrysler M300 with large chrome wheels inched next to me in the fast lane. The traffic stopped and they yelled to me,
“Whose that youz listening to there brother?”
I quickly grabbed at the backseat and fumbled for the CD cover. I looked down and saw it was the album for which I had had such preconceived distain. I yelled,
“Ummm, Julius Pittman & the Revival.”
He yelled back,
“Yo, whazza the name of the album?”
I inched forward and replied,
The Chrysler stopped and I inched forward until we were even. The passenger in the Chrysler front passenger seat hung both of his arms out the passenger window and said it all to me,
“Man, those guys got soul!”
Need I say more?
Yup. The album will be released on October 7, 2011. No video is yet available from the new album, but you can listen to a few cuts here.
- Old School