Saturday, October 21, 2017

Little Mack (Simmons) "I Need Love" (Checker, 1961)
Jonathan Toubin's NY Night Train Party Platter

Summer of 1960 saw JFK's nomination at the Democratic Convention, “Psycho” at drive-ins everywhere, the Greensboro, NC, Woolworth's sit-in, Cuba’s nationalization of foreign-owned property, the Cold War heating up after the U2 incident, and “Money (That’s What I Want)” on the radio. During those uncertain times, 1960’s big #1 summer R&B hits were mostly about good lovin’ gone bad, Jackie’ Wilson’s “Doggin’ Around,” Bobby Marchan’s “There Is Something On Your Mind,” and The Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” but Berry Gordy's “Money” pushed romance out of the picture in favor of finance.

“Money (That’s What I Want),” from its subject matter alone, might as well be our national anthem. And like so many of smash hits of the time, a barrage of covers, answer songs, and parodies followed hot on its heels. But “Money” was special in that it continued to be played, and played with, year after year - becoming one of the most-covered and referenced songs of its era. The blurry pen of Chess house bassist/producer/songwriter Willie Dixon didn’t waste time responding that summer, pushing romance back into the equation with “I Need Love.” Dixon’s protagonist acknowledges that “money will make you jump and shout” but… attests that a little bit of good lovin’ will knock him out…

Raised in the King Biscuit harmonica heaven of Arkansas blowing alongside another harp genius James Cotton, Little Mack Simmons was a bright star in the Chicago blues diaspora’s mighty constellation by the time he started churning out exciting sides for Bee and Baby, CJ, and Chess by the end of the 1950s. In August 1960 Little Mack stormed Chess studios with a killer cast of usual suspects - the explosive dual guitars of longtime Little Mack collaborator the legendary Eddie King and the diverse jazz/soul wunderkind Freddie Robinson (later Abu Talib), who was just getting his start with Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf etc, superstar pianist Detroit Junior, Big Three organist Lafayette Leake, backing vocalist Georgia Hinton (who takes the lead on the B-Side) and Chess rhythm section regulars Bob Anderson and Billy Davenport. They plow through “I Need Love,” slamming on a bold kinetic wiggle from the get-go and relentlessly and dynamically pushing though a couple of minutes of the most exciting music ever waxed... This may just be the finest of Little Mack Simmons' dance sides...

You can find this in print on vinyl on Volume 10 of the "Jerk Boom Bam!" compilation series!

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