Tag Archives: Stax

Happy Birthday, Billy Preston

Murray The K wanted to be the Fifth Beatle, but I think Billy Preston earned the title. Considering the legacy of the band and the state of society in those days, adding Billy Preston as a member of The Beatles might have ended racism in 1970.

Back in the 60’s, it wasn’t unusual for musicians to be all over a band’s album and get no credit whatsoever. Motown, Stax and other labels had crack house bands that made everyone sound great. Most pop acts were noted for their vocal performances while a session band did most of the work in anonymity. Highly paid work, mind you, but still behind the pop culture curtain.

Consider that most people were shocked when The Monkees admitted that other musicians played on their albums, and at the time they were just four actors pretending to be a band! Glen Campbell and Jimmy Page played on countless sessions before becoming famous under their own name, much like many of the classic songwriters (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Burt Bacharach, etc.) figured out that you could make a ton of money behind the scenes but a ton more out front.

Ringo says he can join!

Billy Preston – has he ever not been smiling? – added a great vibe to the Beatles sound. His solo in “Get Back” makes the song what it is, and the track is actually credited to “The Beatles with Billy Preston” – the only time in the band’s career outside of the Tony Sheridan era where another artist shares billing with them. Nice resume, Mr. Preston!

Sadly, we lost him in 2006, three months shy of his 60th birthday. So whether you know him from his long list of guest stints (everyone from Little Richard and Ray Charles to Johnny Cash and The Rolling Stones – the list is almost endless) or his own chart topping hits “Nothing from Nothing” and “Will it Go Round In Circles“, celebrate the memory of Billy Preston today.

Billy Preston on Wikipedia.

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Under The Radar: The Lieutenants

Lieutenants EP

Do you miss The Jam? Do you pine for a band that blends English soul, workingman punk and a dash of pub laced power pop? A streetwise sense of purpose reminiscent of The Clash, but not at the expense of the melody? Then you should check out The Lieutenants.

Guitarist and lead singer Adrian Symcox penned the six tracks on their eponymous EP, and if his vocal on the leadoff track “Burning the Backwoods” doesn’t make you think of Paul Weller, I guarantee you the fluid basslines of Tom Branch will evoke fond memories of Bruce Foxton. Branch is all over the neck like a snake, and his dominant pulse is the backbone of the band’s thick urban sound. You might be thinking U.K. like I did, but the band is based in Los Angeles. Looks like a personnel change has taken place; Jason LaRocca and Joey LaRocca of The Briggs played on the EP but Phil Robles (guitar) and Jordan Bryant (drums) are listed as band members on the website.

As one might surmise from song titles like “Down At The Revolution” and “The Church of Lesser Saints”, the songs rip against commercialism, apathy and the mind-numbing after-effects of trying to fit in where you don’t belong. The lyrical power is supported by the tension in the music, a quality that is consistent no matter what the pace of the song. But the musical highlight is undoubtedly the closer, “Keep On Moving”, a mash-up between anthemic BritPunk and the propulsion of a Stax or Motown track (the underlying rhythm is a direct descendant of “I Can’t Turn You Loose”).

I’m not saying this is a brilliant release, but there’s a lot to like here. Having heard an earlier version of some of the tracks, I think the band is moving in a good direction. I’m anxious to hear their full statement, but for now this very reasonably priced EP is available at their website and vendors like CD Baby.

The Lieutenants website

The Lieutenants on MySpace

Promo video of “Cemetery Life”

The Lieutenants

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews