Many years ago, when I first heard The Ovations album Hooked On A Feeling, I was instantly struck by the likeness of Louis Williams voice to the late Sam Cooke’s. It was almost uncanny hearing the album, and hearing a voice so similar to Sam Cooke. This was even more so, when they launched into a medley of two songs, the second of which was Touch the Hem of His Garment, a classic track of Sam Cooke’s. I was totally mesmerised by then, hooked not just by the similarity, but the beauty of their music. Since then, it’s an album that I’ve cherished and returned to many times. Then, when I was listening to the album the other night I decided that it was time to right a review of The Ovations 1972 Hooked On A Feeling, and tell other people about this beautiful music.
A year before The Ovations released what was their first album of the seventies, they’d signed for a new record label, Sounds of Memphis. Their first single for their new label was “Touching Me“, which reached number nineteen in the US R&B Charts. This success must have pleased Sounds of Memphis owner Gene Luchcessi, who’d wanted The Ovations on his new label, given their previous success with Goldwax Records. Touching Me was the first of six singles The Ovations released on Sounds of Memphis during the next year. The next two singles were “So Nice To” and “Be Loved By You“, neither of which charted. Although none of the other singles replicated the success of Touching You, it was decided that The Ovations should release their debut album for their new label Sounds of Memphis, which would be Hooked On A Feeling.
Tracks A1 Hooked On A Feeling 3.00
A2 I Can’t Be Satisfied 3.25
A3 One In A Million 3.06
A4 Take Is From One Who Knows (A Loser)3.26
A5 Medley: Were You There & Touch The Hem Of His Garment 4.30
B1 So Nice To Be Loved By You 2.35
B2 Touching Me 4.31
B3 Don’t Break Your Promise 2.52
B4 Mr. River 2.14
B5 You’ll Never Know 3.44
When Hooked On A Feeling was released, it featured the six singles that had been released on Sounds of Memphis, three B-sides which were written by Dan Greer and The Soul Stirrers medley of “Were You There? and Touch the Hem of His Garment“. Backing The Ovations on the six singles were the legendary Hi Rhythm Section, who featured on so many great albums on Hi Records, including Al Green, Otis Cay, O.V. Wright and Ann Peebles. They helped create a wonderful Southern Soul vibe, which was perfect for The Ovations vocals. However, the Hi Rhythm Section didn’t feature on the other four cuts that complete the album. Instead, The Trademarks, who all played at another legendary studio, Fame, played on these sessions. Once the album was released, it wasn’t a commercial success. The lack of success puzzled many people at the Sounds of Memphis label, after all, the album was a delicious slice of Memphis soul, featuring some great vocals and talented musicians. Whether the lack of new material on the album put some people of buying the album, one can only speculate. After all, if you’d bought all six singles, you were only getting one new track on the album. Whatever the reason for the Hooked On A Feeling’s failure, it’s still an album full of some wonderful music, which I’ll now tell you about. Hooked On A Feeling opens with the title track “Hooked On A Feeling“, a Mark James penned track, arranged by Dan Greer and Mabon Hodges. Straight away, the track has a really beautiful, uplifting sound and arrangement. Louis Williams soaring vocal sitting atop the lush sounding arrangement which features a combination of chiming guitars, rhythm section and blazing horns. Together, they combine to produce an infectious, hook-laden backdrop for Louis’ joyous vocal. Behind him, Nathan Lewis and Billy Boy Young provide equally joyous backing vocals, singing harmonies. As the song progresses, you’re enveloped by its beauty and brilliance, unable to resist its sweet charms. It’s one of these catchy tracks that regardless of how often you hear it, you just want to hear it again. The reason for this is simple, it’s an outstanding, catchy and uplifting track, with hooks aplenty. Strangely, Louis Williams doesn’t sound as like Sam Cooke on this track as on others.
Having just said that Louis didn’t sound so like Sam Cooke on Hooked On A Feeling, the similarity is apparent on ” I Can’t Be Satisfied“. It’s a much slower track, with an arrangement that has a slightly moody and sad sound. This is the result of chiming guitars, keyboards and the rhythm section combining, before Louis’ vocal enters. Straight away, it’s impossible not to notice the similarities with Sam Cooke. His delivery is slow and heartfelt, while Nathan and Billy Boy provide harmonies, after Louis sings the lead. When the trio unite, their vocals combine perfectly, the result a deeply satisfying and beautiful sound. Meanwhile, the arrangement has a dramatic sound, drenched in sadness, reflecting the lack of love satisfaction in the relationship Louis sings about. This is the result of the slower tempo, and the addition of horns to augment the rhythm section, guitars and keyboards. These horns sprinkle a sense of sadness over the arrangement. By the end of what’s a very different song to its predecessor, you can’t help but be impressed by Louis’ emotive lead vocal, augmented by some tight harmonies throughout the song and an arrangement drenched in drama and sadness by Dan Greer and Mabon Hodges.
The tempo increases on “One In A Million“, and the arrangement builds and builds before the vocal enters. It’s a driving rhythm section, braying horns, chiming guitars and sweeping strings that are responsible for this. When Louis sings, his voice is powerful and joyful, while Nathan and Billy Boy provide sweet harmonies. Behind them, the arrangement is fast and fulsome, with swirling, sweeping strings, rasping, blazing horns and the rhythm section driving it along. The result is one of the best arrangements on the album, one that sweeps along, but is punchy and sounds fantastic. When you combine Louis’ strong, joyous vocal the result is an excellent track.
“Take It From Someone Who Knows” is a very different sounding track from the previous one. It’s a track that’s laden in sadness, emotion and drama, with a much slower tempo. Louis’ voice has the Sam Cooke sound that wasn’t so obvious on both “Hooked On A Feeling” and “One In A Million”. He sings the song dramatically about being a loser in love, while Nathan and Billy Boy augment his vocal with soaring harmonies, while horns drench the track dramatically, and the rhythm section, guitars and grand swirling strings provide a backdrop that can’t fail to tug at your heartstrings. Although a hugely sad and emotional track, it features a beautiful vocal from Louis, made all the better by the soaring harmonies, which combine well with the horns and strings.
It seems fitting that given the similarities between Louis Williams’ voice and the late Sam Cooke, that The Ovations pay homage to him, on a medley of two of The Soul Stirrers songs, “Were You There?” and “Touch the Hem of His Garment“. These tracks are sung in a gospel style with a very understated arrangement, allowing Louis’ vocal to take centre-stage. It’s just the rhythm section, guitars and piano, that accompany handclaps and harmonies from Nathan and Billy Boy. The similarity to Sam Cooke’s vocal is striking, and the medley is sung with emotion and passion.Following The Ovations homage to The Soul Stirrers is “So Nice To Be Loved By You“. It’s a track with a Philly Sound influence as the song opens, the way the drums, piano and horn combine. After that, a lovely combination of chiming guitars, piano and rhythm section combine before Louis’ vocal enters. Again, the Sam Cooke influence is present, while Nathan and Billy Boy add their distinctive backing vocals and harmonies, against a punchy, dramatic arrangement. Later, rasping horns and lush sweeping horns are added to the arrangement, resulting in an beautiful arrangement that sometimes, pays homage to The Sound of Philadelphia. Add to this joyous, passion drenched vocal from Louis whose happy and grateful to be loved by someone special, and the result is an excellent track, that draws its influence from a variety of sources.
When “Touching Me” bursts dramatically into life, it’s a track that promises much. The question is can it deliver? After a dramatic combination of blazing horns, piano, rhythm section and sweeping strings, accompany harmonies from Louis, Nathan and Billy the track opens out, with chiming guitars, joining the slow, dramatic arrangement. Bursts of rasping horns, lush strings and a piano are all key to the track’s success. Meanwhile, Louis has launched himself enthusiastically into the song, delivering the lyrics with a combination of passion and emotion, as he sings about how he’s fallen in love with a woman, who mesmerizes him. He breathes life into Dan Greer’s lyrics, accompanied by a dramatic, moving and emotive arrangement, that helps the song live up to its early promise.
“Don’t Break Your Promise” opens with a combination of piano and rasping horns, that accompany The Ovations tight vocal harmonies. The rhythm section and guitars accompany Louis, as Nathan and Billy Boy sings some lovely backing vocals. This they do against a great arrangement, that flows along beautifully, complimenting their vocals. Lush sweeping, swirling strings, rasping horns and piano all play their part in making this such a dramatic, emotive and sweeping arrangement, the perfect accompaniment for Louis, Nathan and Billy Boy to showcase their considerable vocal talents. What makes this such a great track is Louis’ heartfelt delivery of the lyrics, augmented by the emotional backing vocals from Nathan and Billy Boy, delivered against a smooth sounding, sweeping arrangement, laden in drama and emotion.
“Mr River” sees a change in sound and style. It doesn’t have the flowing, sweeping sound of the previous track. Instead, it reminds me slightly of Sam Cooke’s Chain Gang because of the similarities in both Sam and Louis’ vocals and the interplay between Louis’ lead vocal and the harmonies from Nathan and Billy Boy. This dissipates quickly, and the track opens up. As the song opens, it’s a quickly strummed acoustic guitar and chiming guitars that combine, before the rhythm section enter. It’s then the similarities between Sam and Louis are apparent. When the disappear, the strummed acoustic guitar plays an important role in the arrangement, as Louis’ vocal soars powerfully, accompanied by a punchy arrangement and tight harmonies from Nathan and Billy Boy. By the end of the track, you realize how different a track this is from all that’s gone before. However, it’s still a good track, one with an intriguing arrangement and some powerful, soaring vocals from Louis.
Hooked On A Feeling closes with a beautiful track “You’ll Never Know“, that reinforces that The Ovations were much more than just Louis Williams lead vocals. Instead, they were about the three members, with Nathan Lewis and Billy Boy Young’s contributions just as important. Without them, The Ovations wouldn’t have sounded as good. Straight away, when the track opens, I can see a similarity between the sound on this track and that of The Chi-Lites as the song opens. The tempo is slow, with subtle harmonies sitting above an arrangement that features piano, the rhythm section, sweeping, swirling lush strings and rasping horns. Louis’ delivery of teh lyrics is thoughtful, full of emotion and drama. Behind him, the arrangement flows along beautifully as Nathan and Billy Boy contribute subtle, tight harmonies. Meanwhile, a combination of piano, rasping horns and grand, lush strings combine with a slow, rhythm section contributing another gorgeous arrangement, that’s a fitting accompaniment to Louis’ emotive and drama laden vocals. Together, they combine to produce an excellent and fitting track to close Hooked On A Feeling.
Listening to Hooked On A Feeling you’re struck by the sheer quality of the music on it. It seems a shame that the album wasn’t a commercial success on its release. To me, it’s a hidden gem of a soul album, one that’s quite different from many similar Memphis soul albums, because of the really polished arrangements on the album. They provide the perfect backdrop for Louis Williams’ lead vocals and Nathan Lewis and Billy Boy Young’s backing vocals and harmonies. Together, the three of them played equally important roles on this album. Although Louis sung lead on each track, without the backing vocals and harmonies of Nathan and Billy Boy, the music wouldn’t have sounded as good as it does. They seem to compliment each other perfectly, especially on tracks like “Hooked On A Feeling” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied”. On other tracks the similarities between Sam Cooke and Louis Williams is almost uncanny. Play this album to someone who likes Sam Cooke’s music, but hasn’t heard The Ovations, and watch the puzzled look on their faces. They’re wondering is it Sam Cooke or not? However, on certain tracks, the similarity isn’t as noticeable. Two examples are Hooked On A Feeling and I Can’t Be Satisfied. On these tracks, Louis seems to sing in a different style, and sounds very different. Whether it’s a coincidence or not, these two songs are my favorites from the album. “Hooked On A Feeling” is a catchy, hook-laden, uplifting and almost infectious track, and to me, is the album’s best track. It just sweeps you along and lifts your spirits, putting a smile on your face. Overall, Hooked On A Feeling is a great album, one that I’d recommend thoroughly. Should you want to buy it, the best way to do so, is by buying The Ovations’ The Complete Sounds of Memphis albums, which features both Hooked On A Feeling and Having A Party on Kent Soul. Two great albums for the price of one, that will introduce you to the majestic music of Louis Williams, Nathan Lewis and Billy Boy Young, who were The Ovations.