O.C. Smith – 1977 – Together
A must have, an underrated great soul singer.
O.C. Smith began as a jazz vocalist and later moved into country and R&B. The Louisiana vocalist was hired to replace Joe Williams in Count Basie’s band in the early ’60s after cutting some unsuccessful records for Cadence and others in the ’50s. He sang with Basie’s band from 1961 to 1963. Following a period where he sang country and even had a hit with “Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp,” Smith moved into soul. His biggest hit was “Little Green Apples“, which was number two on both the pop and R&B charts in 1968. His other big R&B single was “Daddy’s Little Man“, which reached number nine in 1969.Smith stayed on Columbia until 1974, but didn’t score any more big records.
He moved to Caribou in 1976 and recorded later for Shady Brooks, Family, Motown, and Rendezvous. In 1985 he began to balance his work in the recording studio with his new passion for Christian ministry, but despite the fact that he founded his own church in Los Angeles, The City of Angels Church of Religious Science, he continued to perform and record until the time of his death on November 23, 2001.
The musician, producer and composer John Guerin had played drums on the Hickory Holler session and most of the rest O.C. sessions after that… not to mention the hundreds of other L.A. sessions and tours he took part in during his forty plus years of active playing. In the mid-70s John was also a member of Tom Scott’s L.A. Express, who used to tour with Joni Mitchell. Max Bennett, another L.A. Express player, brought John a catchy, relaxed mid-pacer written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel called Together. John introduced the song to O.C., who liked it, and together with a couple of other tunes they cut it at the A & M Studios in Hollywood.
The company they chose was Caribou Records out of New York, simply because L.A. Express recorded for that company – along with Gerard, James Vincent, Matthew More and later the Beach Boys. Ironically, Caribou was distributed by CBS.
Released in late ’76, Together reached # 62-soul (in the U.K. it peaked at # 25), and it was backed with an ordinary bouncer titled Just Couldn’t Help Myself, composed by Max Bennett, Joni Mitchell and John Guerin. O.C.’s second and last Caribou single was Max Bennett’s lush ballad called Simply Life, which Valdy had cut on A&M in ’73. Come With Me on the flip is a galloping ditty by Max and John. The single went unnoticed.
The success of Together, however, called for an album, and in addition to those earlier tracks recorded at the A&M Studios they went to the Devonshire Studios in North Hollywood to cut some more and complete a new eleven-tracker for O.C. Among musicians you can spot such names as David Foster, Sonny Burkeand Mike MacDonald on keyboards, John Guerin on drums (naturally) and Max Bennett on electric bass,George Bohannon as one of the horn players and Tom Scott and Ernie Watts on woodwinds. Max and John produced, and among arrangers there were Carol Carmichael, Dale Oehler, Jerry Peters, Johnny Mandel and John & Max. There are some familiar tunes like the speeded-up version of You And I (by Johnny Bristol), the gospelly Sweet Lov’liness (by Peggy Lee) and the lush Empty Hearts (by Michael McDonald), which tend to rise above others. Pretending is a tender late-night ballad, whereas O.C.’s own song, I Found The Secret, is aimed at disco floors.