Brighter Side Of Darkness – 1972 – Love Jones
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Other than the Jackson Five’s early Motown releases, and the excellent Curtis Mayfield-produced debut by the Five Stairsteps, the Brighter Side of Darkness’ Love Jones is one of the best teen albums ever. Twelve-year-old lead singer Daryl Lamont, like Michael Jackson, sounds like Frankie Lymonreincarnated.
His youthful voice crosses age barriers. “I Owe You Love,” “Can I Come Over,” and the million-selling title track are all must-hear soul gems.
Review by RDTEN1
Sharing an interest in music, Chicago high school friends Ralph Eskridge, Randolph Murph, and Larry Washington started singing at local school dances and talent shows. They eventually attracting the attention of local promoter Anna Preston who took the group onboard, adding then 12 year old Darryl Lamont to the line up and christening them The Brighter Side of Darkness.
With Lamont handling lead vocals the group won a local talent contest, attracting the attention of promoter Clarence Johnson who signed them to a recording deal with his Clarence Paul Productions. He subsequently recorded some demos with the group, subsequently shopping them out to the newly reactivated 20th Century Fox label. 20th Century Fox quickly latched on to the group composition ‘Love Jones’ releasing it as a single:
– 1972’s ‘Love Jones’ b/w ‘I’m the Guy’ (20th Century Fox catalog number TC-2002) # 17 pop; # 3 R&B
The single quickly went gold, leading 20th Century Fox to rush the group into the studio to record a supporting album. The cleverly titled “Love Jones” served to pull together a mixture of early demos and new studio material. Normally support albums don’t have a great deal going for them, but this was one of those rare exceptions. Mind you it wasn’t perfect. Lamont’s pre-teen voice was a bit on the shrill side, especially when he was forced to power his way through a song. Still these guys were actually far more talented than the single would have you believe. On a related note you had to feel a little sympathy for these guys – especially since they were forced to embarrass themselves with a cover photo showing them in matching pink silk outfits … You know they got some abuse from friends for those outfits.
– Anyone who only knew the group for the noveltytitle track hit was likely to be surprised by how good these guys could be. Lead singer Lamont was clearly the focal point of the group, but on the opener he was relegated to a couple of versus showcasing the fact the other three members were all decent singers with far more mature voices. Those tools were well displayed on the steamy opener ‘Just a Little Bit‘. Supported by some funky horn charts and nice wha-wha guitar, ‘Just a Little Bit’ was a great mid-tempo slice of funk and one of the standout performances.
– Far more commercial and radio friendly, ‘Oh Baby‘ showcased Lamont’s pre-adolescent vocals. Lamont actually had a nice voice, not all that different than a young Michael Jackson and the track actually had kind of a breezy Jackson Five vibe to it.
– Personally I’ve always found it kind of creepy to hear really young boys singing about love and ‘I Owe You Love‘ was no exception. Lamont’s voice simply sounded out of place on the track and forcing the arrangement forcec the other members to reach for a mile high falsetto which was patently unfair – I’m not sure who it was, but the poor guy literally sounded like his testicles were being crushed by a pair of pliers. Even weirder was hearing the spoken word segment from a woman that sounded like she was old enough to be Lamont’s granny. On the other hand it was funny to hear them singing the lyric as I.O.U.
– Ah, the song they’re remembered for … The only original on the album, musically there really wasn’t a great deal to this one – essentially a spoken word rap explaining what a love jones was with Lamont and company endless repeating the title in the background. I remember originally hearing this and finding it cloying, though in retrospect it’s actually kind of sweet in a naive fashion. (If you’ve never heard it be sure to check out the Cheech and Chong parody ‘Basketball Jones’).
– ‘I’m a Loser‘ found the group moving back towards a more conventional soul ballad. Nice melody and the baseball analogy was cute, though once again Lamont’s pre-teen vocals were kind of an acquired taste..
– The ‘Love Jones‘ instrumental was basically filler meant to pad the album out. Stick with the vocal version on side one.
– I’ve listened to this album dozens of times and I have to admit thata other than the opening jangle guitar chords, ‘Something To Remember You By‘ is the one track that’s never made much of an impression on me. Another pretty, but bland ballad …
– The instrumental version of ‘Just a Little Bit‘ was clearly another filler, though this one at least had a little bit of a funky edge. It would have sounded okay on a Curtis Mayfield soundtrack album.
– ‘Summer Ride‘ was also released as a single, but to my ears it was pretty terrible. The song itself was kind of clumsy and the group really didn’t seem all that enthusiastic in their delivery which was actually barely in tune. As if to compensate for the subpar performance producer William Johnson buried the track in equally awkward strings.
– Another cutesy reflection on high school love, ‘I’m the Guy‘ was an okay mid-tempo ballad with a pretty melody and funny lyrics. In an era of Blackberries and PDAs its hard to imagine kids sending notes to one another in class today … The song got bonus points in that Lamont didn’t handle the lead vocals.
The album was eventually tapped for two follow-on singles:
– 1973’s ‘Just a Little Bit’ b/w ‘Something To Remember You By’ (20th Century Fox catalog number TC-2021)
– 1973’s ‘I Owe You Love’ b/w ‘Summer Ride’ (20th Century Fox catalog number TC-2034)
Powered by the title track and the resulting publicity, the parent LP eventually hit # 35 R&B.
Not a perfect album (side one was definitely stronger than the flip), but an interesting timepiece that should appeal to old school soul collectors.
Unfortunately things went downhill after that. The details are lost in history, but
Eskridge, Murph, and Washington were fired for unprofessional behavior related to an appearence on Soul Train. Johnson subsequently recruited a new group for Lamont.