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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rotary Connection - Black Gold, The Best of Rotary Connection (1967-71 us, elegant soul jazzy sunny psychedelia, two disc set)

Rotary Connection released a handful of albums. The one that had the most mainstream success was Christmas-themed. Only one song, "Want You to Know," dipped into the pop chart, rocketing all the way up to number 96. How necessary, then, is a 33-track, two-disc anthology? 100-percent necessary. Until this release, the group had one of the most neglected discographies in all of psychedelic soul, or chamber pop, or acid rock, or Midwest hippie folk. 

Ugly two-fer releases and other vanishing reissues have done their legacy, and no matter how many producers and DJs have sampled and talked about their music, Rotary Connection have always slipped through the cracks, admired mostly in retrospect by a select group of crate diggers and open-minded fans of Minnie Riperton's easier-to-categorize (and almost always misunderstood) solo career. Black Gold: The Best of Rotary Connection aptly scans through the strange and unexpected twists taken by the group from 1967 through 1971, and while their inability to be categorized played a significant part in their obscurity, it was one of their prime strengths. 

The remarkable scope is best exemplified by a three-song stretch on the first disc: a steamy, almost unrecognizable run through Otis Redding's "Respect," the soaring "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun," and the impossibly delicate and moving "A-Muse" (also as gorgeous as anything off Love's Forever Changes). The package covers a lot of ground, including the entirety of the all-covers Songs and most of the highlights from the remainder of the albums. "Hangin' Round the Bee Tree" is the only missing highlight; otherwise, this is as good as it could possibly get, short of obtaining the albums in full. In addition to being a long overdue look at a very underappreciated group, the set also covers major chapters in the careers of Charles Stepney and Minnie Riperton, two of Chicago's greatest gifts to music. 
by Andy Kellman

Disc 1
1. Magical World (Sidney Barnes) - 4:24
2. Amen (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 4:03
3. Rapid Transit (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:38
4. Turn Me On (Sidney Barnes) - 3:07
5. Respect (Otis Redding) - 3:04 
6. Pink Noise (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:22
7. I Am the Black Gold of the Sun (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stephney) - 5:49 
8. A-Muse (John Stocklin) - 4:02 
9. Sunshine of Your Love (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton) - 5:07
10.Sursum Mentes (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:44
11.Memory Band (Charles Stepney) - 3:22
12.Didn't Want to Have to Do It (John Sebastian) - 3:14
13.May Our Amens Be True (Sidney Barnes, John Stocklin) - 3:04 
14.Tales of Brave Ulysses (Eric Clapton, Martin Sharp) - 4:32 
15.The Sea And She (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney) - 3:31
16.Hey, Love (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney) - 4:11
17.Song for Everyman (Terry Callier, Larry Wade) - 5:32
18.Love Is (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney) - 5:20

Disc 2
1. The Salt of the Earth (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:59
2. Love Has Fallen on Me (Charles Stepney, Lloyd Webber) - 4:19
3. If I Sing My Song (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney) - 3:41
4. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 3:26
5. The Burning of the Midnight Lamp (Jimi Hendrix) - 4:40
6. Living Alone (John Stocklin) - 2:55
7. Love Me Now (Morris Dollison) - 2:47
8. Want You to Know (John Stocklin) - 3:04
9. I Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster) - 2:34
10.This Town (Stevie Wonder) - 3:27
11.We're Going Wrong (Jack Bruce) - 3:23
12.Life Could (Bobby Simms) - 4:24
13.Teach Me How to Fly (Sidney Barnes) - 3:19
14.V.I.P. (Bobby Simms) - 3:08
15.Let Them Talk (Bobby Simms) - 4:25

The Rotary Connection
*Bobby Simms - Vocals, Guitar
*Jim Donlinger - Keyboards
*Jim Nyeholt - Bass
*Minnie Riperton - Vocals
*Mitch Aliota - Vocals, Bass
*Sidney Barnes - Vocals
*Tom Donlinger - Drums

1968  Rotary Connection - Peace
Related Act
1969  Aorta - Aorta
1970  Aorta - Aorta 2

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