Geoffrey Stoner – 1973 – Watch Out

A very rare, overlooked 1973 LP, fet. Philip Upchurch on guitar,  includes the superb ‘Bend Your Head‘,  killer tune with attitude! Never released on CD.

G.Stoner is a singer/songwriter who (with the help of some excellent musicians) gives most of his tracks a soul/funk/r&b-treatment, sometimes with a little psych-edge. The funky “Check Out Your Mind” (with wah-wah guitars and an incredible flute-solo) has been comped on the “Psychedelic Shack Vol.2”, the killer ”Bend Your Head Low” is slower mellow track with tasty rhodes backing, an awesome overblown flute-solo and incredible soulful vocals, reminding of some tracks Terry Callier did. Hard-to-find in Europe!

A1 Back To Georgia 3:25
A2 Brand New Woman 2:40
A3 Delta Lady 3:20
A4 Try 4:30
A5 Shaggy Dawg 3:08
B1 Don´t Cry My Lady 3:18
B2 Check Out Your Mind 3:47
B3 Fire And Rain 3:18
B4 River Song 2:45
B5 Bend Your Head Low 3:58

Review by  

Okay, let’s set aside for a moment that dude has the most awesome name in the world. Let’s set aside the quasi-psychedelic headshot that adorns the front of the LP, which looks like a bargain-bin counterpart to the better-funded, more creative efforts of cover-art contemporaries like Roger Dean and Pedro Bell. Let’s set aside the tiny, indie aspirations of the label this music was released on, where the quadraphonic sound pioneers of Ovation made then-audiophile recordings that would end up being heard by very few…sure it sounds good, but does anybody know exactly what the fuck it is? Who in the world is Geoffrey…heh heh…Stoner?!?

Forget all that, and just listen to the music. This album has the distinct quality of being a “Northern Soul” record with an extremely Southern sound. Though it was recorded in Chicago with legendary studio heavyweights like Phil Upchurch, Louis Satterfield and Morris Jennings, you’d never know it by listening, and if you didn’t have the credits sitting right in front of you, you’d swear it was some amalgamation of Muscle Shoals swampers and Stax session aces, not the architects of the so-called “Windy City Soul” sound. While there is a cover here of Curtis Mayfield’s “Check Out Your Mind” a Chicago staple if ever there was one, it sounds more Memphis that midtown, with the only direct tribute to Curtis being in the wah-wah guitar stabs gliding just above the groove. As for Stoner the vocalist, he has a warm, gospel-soul inflection that suits the material well, something that works to the great benefit of the LP’s continuity and emotional core. Seemingly pedestrian standards like James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain” top 40 fodder/filler when covered by most other early ‘70’s bands, become something else entirely in the hands of the gifted singer, who digs deep into the heartbreak implicit in the lyrics and pulls something out that JT himself missed.

The one anomaly and exception to these generally Southern-sounding proceedings is the spiritual, pre-hip-hop meditation of “Bend Your Head Down Low” the album’s final cut, which sounds like a mix of Gil Scott-Heron-style ruminations and early Earth, Wind & Fire. This is the only point on the entire record in which the Chicago lineage at play here begins to make sense, and my only hypothesis as to why the rest of the music sounds like it does is that the session cats musta been listening to a whole lotta Booker T. & The MG’s, Bar-Kays and Meters at the time.

That’s what makes it all so interesting, hearing musicians so often associated with “uptown soul” gettin’ down, dirty and gritty with some thick Southern grooves.

It’ll take some searching, but y’all need dis shit right here.