Nolan Porter ‎- 1972 – Nolan

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Nolan Porter had been through a lot in his short recording career. His records were billed as Nolan, Frederick II, and N.F. Porter, and his producer Gabriel Mekler’s record companies (Lizard and Vulture) closed up shop. Mekler licensed Nolan’s previous Lizard/Vulture recordings and new Nolan Porter material to ABC. It is important to note that ABC never signed Nolan Porter as an artist, but his licensed recordings appeared on the label in 1972 and 1973.

Mekler got Nolan Porter back into the studio in the middle of August 1972. The resulting sessions, which would prove to be Nolan’s last for many years, produced the rockin’ soul classics “If I Could Only Be Sure” and “Oh Baby“, as well as Mekler’s “Work It Out In The Morning” and the reggae/pop tune “Singer Man“.

Tracks
A1 I Like What You Give 2:51
A2 Groovin’ (Out on Life) 3:00
A3 Somebody’s Gone 2:12
A4 Work It Out in the Morning 2:45
A5 Oh Baby 3:07
B1 If I Could Only Be Sure 3:21
B2 Crazy Love 2:54
B3 Singer Man 2:08
B4 Burn Down the Cornfield 2:55
B5 Keep On Keepin’ On 3:07

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Review by RDTEN1

With support from long time friend, mentor, and producer Gabriel Mekler, 1971 found Nolan Porter finally getting a shot at big time success via a recording contract with  ABC records.  Produced by Mekler, “Nolan” offered up a mixture of original material and some interesting cover choices – Van Morrison (‘Crazy Love’) and Randy Newman (‘Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield’).   The collection was a little unorthodox in that it featured a mixture of previously recorded tunes and new studio material.   ‘I Like What You Give’, ‘Crazy Love’ and ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ had  all been previously released as singles on Mekler’s Lizard label.  Similarly, powered by a sizzling slide guitar solo, the cover of  Newman’s ‘Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield’ and the reggaefied ‘Groovin’ (Out On Life)’ sounded like leftovers from the 1970 “No Apologies” sessions recorded with Lowell George and other members of The Mothers of Invention.  The other four tracks were apparently new studio efforts.  

Musically the album had quite a bit going for it.  Porter had a remarkable voice that was surprisingly adaptable – almost chameleon like.   Tracks like ‘I Like What You Give‘ and ‘If I Could Only Be Sure‘ effectively showcased his soul roots and were easily the album’s creative highlights.   ‘Working It Out In the Morning’ underscored his pop ambitions, while ‘Groovin’ (Out On Life)‘ and ‘Singer Man‘  made it clear Johnny Nash wasn’t the only early-’70s American artist to have discovered reggae.  That diversity was also the album’s chief shortcoming.  With the collection bouncing all over the musical map, it was simply hard to figure out what Porter’s real aims were.   Still, by my count the album had four top rate performances and three also-rans.  That’s a pretty healthy batting average.

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 I Like What You Give  is sweet, wonderful summer-ready tune with an easy-going melody that lodged in your hear and wouldn’t leave you alone.  Nice drum break around 1:25.  Pass that Corona and lime over here …  Released as a single the tune should have provided Porter with a big hit. Porter’s ‘Groovin’ (Out On Life)‘ was interesting as an early reggae tune …  not necessarily a good reggae tune, but still a reggae tune.

If you’ve ever heard really bad early-’70s European pop tunes like The George Baker Section, Brotherhood of Man, David Essex, Mungo Jerry, Mocedados, Chris Rea, etc. then there’s a good chance ‘Working It Out In the Morning‘ will resonate with you.  That’s not necessarily a good thing.
Opening up with a sax solo that sounded like it had been copped from a Happy Days episode, ‘Oh Baby‘ was bouncy and extremely derivative …   come to think of it, the song sounded like it would have fit on the Happy Day’s jukebox.

I don’t use the term “lost classic” very often, but ‘If I Could Only Be Sure‘ deserves the tag.  This song had everything going for it – mesmerizing melody; Porter’s silky smooth delivery; great Hammond B-3 solo (wonder if it was Booker T. Jones); killer guitar solo …    One that’s stored in my top-100 listing.  Interestingly, in an interview with Michael Greig Thomas (see the link below), Porter indicated Mekler’s co-writing credit came as a surprise to him.  The tune was released as the album’s third single:

– 1971’s ‘If I Could Only Be Sure’ b/w ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ (ABC catalog number ABC 11343)    For hardcore fans, Paul Weller did a nice cover of the tune on his first solo album “Studio 150”.

Crazy Love :  I certainly criticize Porter for his taste in material – Van Morrison.  That said, his rote cover added nothing to the original.  In fact, his delivery was a but on the shrill side.   That didn’t stop the song from being tapped as a single.  Credited to Nolan, the song was released as a mono pressing.
– 1972’s ‘Crazy Love’ b/w ‘What Would You Do If I Did That To You’ (Lizard catalog number X-21003A)

Another reggae tune – the ballad ‘Singer Man‘ has always reminded me of something out of the Johnny Nash catalog.   I’ll leave it at that.  ABC may have seen the Nash comparison, tapping the song as a single:                    
– 1971’s ‘Singer Man’ b/w ‘Oh Baby’ (ABC catalog number ABC 11367)
Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield, based on the backing band, I’m guessing this Randy Newman cover was a tune left over from the debut album recording sessions – the sizzling slide guitar sure sounded like Lowell George.  Nice cover – Porter’s voice was certainly better than Newman’s.   

Keep On Keepin’ On‘ closed the album with an unexpected Northern Soul classic.  Kicked along by support from guitarists Freddie King and George Walker it may have been recorded in 1972, but the tune just oozed mid-’60s soul.   Easily one of the best things in Porter’s catalog.

I won’t even try to guess why, but for some reason the single was released credited to N.F. Nolan.  
– 1972’s ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ b/w ‘Don’t Make Me Color My Black Face Blue’  (Lizard catalog number (45-1010)   Funny story, but RCA’s Bernie Binnick wanted a punk band to cover the tune.  His efforts never saw fruition, though Joy Division eventually swiped the guitar riff for their song ‘Interzone‘.

None of the singles sold well and the parent album vanished into cutout bins.  Similarly Mekler’s Lizard label tanked, leaving Nolan to sue him for damages.  By the end of the year Nolan was left without a label, effectively spelling the end of his recording career.  

For anyone interested in learning more about Porter, in 2014 Michael Greig Thomas published a lengthy interview with the artist.  You can read it at:  http://the45sclub.com/interview-with-nolan-porter/

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23 Comments
  • Gary Spendl;ove
    Posted at 14:25h, 03 November 2016 Reply

    If I Could Only Be Sure – for me the standout track, and which was also adopted by the British ‘Northern Soul’ scene in its desire to discover and play more left field sounds rather then the more traditional, stomping beat of Keep On Keepin’ On!

  • Ray
    Posted at 19:46h, 03 November 2016 Reply

    Right on “If I Could Only Be Sure” is a pure classic. No 91 in the Northern Soul Top 500, Written by Kev Roberts, published by Goldmine/Soul Supply Ltd in 2000.

  • rich
    Posted at 20:17h, 03 November 2016 Reply

    thank you nikos

  • NIja
    Posted at 00:34h, 04 November 2016 Reply

    What a horrible album. Except the sample song from youtube. Even the reggae music is horrible. Kind of goofy composition.

  • Ken
    Posted at 09:44h, 04 November 2016 Reply

    Listening now and this is sounding pretty cool. Thanks for another great post.

  • Garbo11
    Posted at 11:02h, 04 November 2016 Reply

    Another brilliant contribution to soul – funk lovers all over the word. Respect!

  • Neil
    Posted at 11:41h, 05 November 2016 Reply

    Thanks for adding!

  • Rose
    Posted at 11:45h, 05 November 2016 Reply

    Super class Northern!

  • A Man
    Posted at 17:02h, 05 November 2016 Reply

    absolutely brilliant… that guitar riff…..

  • Fry
    Posted at 19:47h, 05 November 2016 Reply

    yet another dope discovery thanks to this website and your amazing work !

  • David
    Posted at 16:42h, 06 November 2016 Reply

    Those clips are amazing especially “If I Could Only Be Sure”.

  • Arman Diaz
    Posted at 18:26h, 06 November 2016 Reply

    Great tunes. thanx man.

  • Andres Gamboa
    Posted at 22:13h, 06 November 2016 Reply

    Unknown to me but it looks so good! thank you.

  • Alain
    Posted at 10:23h, 07 November 2016 Reply

    A very enjoyable listen

  • Mecca
    Posted at 22:54h, 07 November 2016 Reply

    Keep on doing what you do! I like this brilliant record.

  • Solomon
    Posted at 10:17h, 08 November 2016 Reply

    Terrific post! I sure am diggin’ this rip!

  • Zen
    Posted at 00:44h, 09 November 2016 Reply

    Thanks a lot for posting the cream of Soul music.

  • Mitchell
    Posted at 12:01h, 10 November 2016 Reply

    Wow! Great find!

  • remmah
    Posted at 17:39h, 11 November 2016 Reply

    Gary Spendl;ove – you do talk fucking shite!

    • The funk surgeon
      Posted at 15:39h, 29 November 2016 Reply

      Oh dear Remmah, you comment so eloquently – an obvious aficionado of soul music!

  • remmah
    Posted at 17:42h, 11 November 2016 Reply

    Ray
    Northern soul top 500??? – Who made that chart up? – get outa here you fucking lemming!!!

  • MudFlapp
    Posted at 18:12h, 16 November 2016 Reply

    Thank you as always, also for those who don’t know there are two records in the download, They are both great. Thanks for both of those classics.

  • Alberto Molaro
    Posted at 19:42h, 12 December 2016 Reply

    Please, repost in EasyBytez. Thanks

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