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Monday, August 31, 2015

Swallow - Swallow (1973 us, awesome brass blues roots rock, 2010 issue)

Duke and the Drivers had fun living out their fantasy on ABC Records but, under the aegis of the redoubtable Buddy Buie and with help from the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Boston's Swallow were very serious about their craft, and it shows on this collection of understated blues-rock. Vern Miller, Jr. of the Remains, George Leh, and New England personalties Parker Wheeler and Phil Greene (the extra "e" is missing from the legendary engineer's name on this disc) are four of the nine musicians who make up the large outfit. 

On one of the all-time worst album covers -- a green martian hand holding the nose of the man in the moon (presumably, so he can swallow) -- the nine musicians are displayed above a moonscape, their names out of order with the photos. In 1973, the Atlanta Rhythm Section emerged from the remnants of the Classics IV and, with J.R. Cobb and Barry Bailey of that group on this disc, along with B.J. Thomas/Friend & Lover/Billie Joe Royal producer Buie, one would think Warner Bros. would have been more serious about this outing. Most of the titles are by Miller, making the album a statement by the man Danny Klein of the J. Geils Band calls his favorite bass player. Two co-writes by Leh are included, along with two Randy Newman songs, "Illinois" and the often covered "I'll Be Home." Although Buie co-wrote all the hits of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, his magic is not added here, and perhaps that is what is missing.

The record is better than decent -- it is very good -- despite the fact there is no hit to launch it from obscurity. Greene went on to engineer Beaver Brown, New Kids on the Block, and the sessions this writer did with Buddy Guy in 1986, while blind singer Leh developed a following and great reputation performing around the Boston area. "Georgia, Pack My Bags" isn't a hit, nor is "Rockin' Shoes"; perhaps the closest thing to a potential chart climber is "Don't Tell Mama," some kind of answer, not to Etta James, but to Savoy Brown's minor hit from their 1971 Street Corner Talking album, "Tell Mama." At least they showed respect for their elders! There was much potential here; it's too bad the label and/or management mishandled the look of the album, and failed to give this large group a couple of songs their musicianship could work with to reach the masses. But, for fans of the legendary Remains, it is another chapter in the career of Vern Miller and an essential item in order for their collections to be complete.
by Joe Viglione

1. Georgia, Pack My Bags - 3:35
2. Rockin' Shoes - 4:47
3. Illinois (R. Newman) - 2:17
4. I Get My Rocks Off Rockin' (G. Leh, V. Miller) - 2:46
5. I'll Be Home - 4:21
6. Don't Tell Mama - 3:35
7. Let It Roll (G. Leh, V. Miller) - 2:33
8. That's What My Love Is For - 2:56
9. I Was Born To Sit Back - 5:01
10.Helping Hand - 4:43
All songs by Vern Miller except where stated

*George Leh - Lead Vocals  
*Parker Wheeler - Vocals, Harp
*Vern Miller Jr - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*David Woodford - Tenor Sax
*Phil Green - Guitar  
*Mick Aranda - Drums
*Bob Camacho - Keyboards  
*Jay Dewald - Trumpet
*Andy Harp - Trumpet
*Kerry Blount - Sax
*Gordan Kennedy - Trombone

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