Lou Johnson – 1971 – With You In My Mind
..which I discovered thanks to the following comment on the post of his debut album here:
“I saw an interview recently where Allen Toussaint was asked to name a favorite song that he wrote for another artist. After naming a few he wrote for Irma Thomas & Lee Dorsey, he said ‘If I was to think of a song that I think the most of in my life, it wasn’t heard by anyone but me and the artist, and that was Lou Johnson, a song called “Transition”… it was on his album [1971’s With You In Mind], of course, but it wouldn’t be one that would be remembered or even heard by most. But that happens.’”
And then I realized I had this LP (lou’s 2nd and final) in my collection. I started played the album and was amazed by the 8.18 “Transition” and the whole album.
Don’t miss this superb album from one of the best soul singer I have ever heard!!
This is a @320 vinyl rip of the original Stax/Volt LP including covers
A1 There Were Times 3:21
A2 Transition 8:19
A3 The Loving Way 3:12
A4 Nearer 2:55
A5 The Beat 2:50
B1 Who Am I 3:57
B2 Frisco Here I Come 2:51
B3 Wrong Number 3:08
B4 Crazy About You 2:59
B5 Living Without You 4:00
Review by Soulmakossa
Produced by New-Orleans wizard Allen Toussaint, ‘With You in Mind’ was Lou Johnson’s last recording effort. And while it would have made sense for him to go bubblegum pop in a last attempt to break out into the big league, Johnson instead created an album that is nothing short of amazing. A ruthlessly creative, haunting, cynical LP, with music and vocals firmly rooted in the Southern Soul tradition, but augmented with a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it a dark, depressing masterpiece.
It aptly opens with the quirky “There Were Times“, a rollicking, gospelfide country church beater sweetened with the slightest amount of strings and backing vocals. Lou Johnson already sounds mighty despondent, here.
But it’s “Transition” that should have sky-rocketed ‘With You in Mind’ to legendary heights. An 8-minute + opus of longing, with Johnson belting out a distraught vocal that evokes visions of a lovesick man steadily going insane. The tune is divided in several musical segments, creating a musical soundscape that features sassy, fatback groove-filled episodes and wistful, lamenting, teary-eyed moments of quiet contemplation – the latter immersed in a dark, brooding stew of sitars, piano, plodding drums and far-off sounding brass. This is, in fact, the ‘A Day in the Life’ of Soul: a mind-expanding audiovisual trip sporting a crazy, Dantesque finale with off-key blasts of horns, that jangling sitar, Johnson’s other-worldly scatting and an acid-drenched orchestra working its way up to a climaxing crescendo.
It’s tough to follow a track as “Transition”, but the album remains steadfast in its addictive, dark quality. “The Loving Way” sounds a trifle more upbeat, with the happy, chirping backing vocals and its persistent groove, but Lou remains in a self-doubting, moody bag all the same. Even more so on the lilting, low-fi “Nearer“, which has Lou singing “…I hope I’m not a nuisance to you”. Beautiful chord progressions here and a devastatingly intense vocal.
Up next is the ominous, dangerous funk vibe of “The Beat“, a ferocious jam that starts off with a short monologue by Allen Toussaint and is infested with super catchy stops and starts. An irreverent track that smells of reclaiming ‘the beat’ for those who set it in motion. “It goes on and on”, Lou wails.
“Who Am I” is set to a strange, but ultra funky little groove, while the omnipresent piano and vibes clothe the song in a plaintive warmth. Check out Lou prolonging the ‘I’ in the title, again evoking the sound of “A Day in the Life”, and marvel over the sweaty gospelfide finale that just struts on.
The only single from this album, “Frisco Here I Come“, also is the most hard rocking. Featuring Duane Allman-styled guitar and a throbbing, deep in the pocket groove, Johnson’s gruffy vocal is especially on the money when that low-down, dirty, descending bass riff comes a’ thundering through.
Toussaint’s delicious piano plunkin’, engulfed by another greasy, gutbucket funk rhythm, opens the lamenting “Wrong Number“. Lou sounds both resolute and supremely cynical here, as if he’s single-handedly pushing the locomotive that propels the groove of this smokin’, sizzling slice of Southern funk. And then, out of nowhere, the rhythm slows down and transforms into a waltzing, delicate, lullabye-esque groove, with Lou adlibbing all the way through. Terrific…
The struttin’ continues on the lazy, relaxed, laidback funk of “Crazy About You“, sporting another ridiculously ingenious bridge. The infectious horn-infested finale needs to be heard to be believed.
Finally, there’s the downhome testifyin’ of “Living Without You“, with Johnson churning out one more pain-riddled vocal. The drums keep crashing on behind him, while angelic backing vocals and staccato strings create a wonderfully dreamy vibe that nevertheless remains desperate in its feel.
What’s more to say about this one… The album cover is spot on, as far as I’m concerned. ‘With You in Mind‘ is one of the darkest, most appealing, beautifully executed soundtracks on heartbreak, longing and despair I have ever heard.
I’d like to thank Raphy who cleaned this vinyl rip perfectly.
His amazing debut album “Sweet Southern Soul” in our back pages here.