Lamont Dozier – 1975 – Black Bach
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Lamont Dozier’s sophomore solo effort and second release for ABC … Yeah, the pretentious title probably made some folks snicker, and while 1974’s McKinley Jackson produced “Black Bach” may have been completely overlooked by critics and the buying public, song-for-song it made for a killer set. Not only that, but the un-credited cover art was pretty nifty.
Dozier’s writing prowess was certainly no surprise, but listening to this album (or anything in his catalog) and I’m always surprised to hear what a tasty voice the man had. Southern soul slinger (‘I Wanna Be with You’), country-soul storyteller (‘All Cried Out’), sophisticated love man (‘Shine’), or funkster ‘Put Out My Fire’, Dozier had the skills to take on all of these genres. Good place to start exploring his solo catalog.
A1 Shine 6:08
A2 Put Out My Fire 4:40
A3 Let Me Start Tonight 4:08
A4 All Cried Out 4:36
A5 Intermission 1:04
B1 Prelude 1:25
B2 Rose 5:33
B3 Thank You For The Dream 4:44
B4 I Wanna Be With You 6:00
B5 Blue Sky And Silver Bird 4:54
Who does this Lamont Dozier dude think he is? Releasing an album with a title comparing himself to Bach. Gets even worse if the sleeve rams home the point by featuring a bust of your face in the style of Johann Sebastian? Then again, if you have penned this and this. Not forgetting picking up one or two awards, and scoring numerous other top 10 hits along the way, you aren’t doing too badly are you?. Lamont Dozier was one third of the HDH Motown songwriting team, who are up there with Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Stock/Aitken/Waterman as the giants of twentieth century pop music.
After HDH got bored of Berry Gordy ripping them off they formed the awesome Invictus Records (home to Honey Cone and Chairman of the Board amongst others) in order to have more control over their work. This period of creative freedom also saw Lamont Dozier go solo and release Black Bach in 1974. Maybe after ten years of writing hits for others he thought he’d have a go himself.
The interesting thing about this slightly melancholic and understated album is how removed it is from the uptempo pop numbers he and the Holland boys are renowned for. Black Bach is by no means the greatest album of all time but it’s contemplative, orchestral and, at times, pretty emotional. It’s a perfect chilled out Sunday evening album.
The lush Shine opens the show: all strings and Lamont optimistic that “this love of yours and mine will shine”. The Dude’s has definitely fallen for her. On Fire, he’s well, on fire “burning with desire”. Don’t think this is the same kind of fire the lad from Kings of Leon had a problem with; this is more of a good fire, helped along with some funky guitar licks.
We get some sage advice on Let Me Start Tonite, a bluesy number with great backing vocals and some harmonica thrown in for fun. Lamont ends the tune with a little speech, telling us that if there is someone you want bad enough don’t be too proud to push aside your pride. Wise words Lamont.
The standout number is All Cried Out. Again, unusual instruments for the normally polished and slick Lamont: banjos, steel guitar and fiddle give it a lil bit of a country feel. This doesn’t stop the pure soul of the message coming through: Lamont’s moving on, he’s had his heart-broken but enough’s enough – time to move on. He’s still got good memories though, Thank You For The Dream celebrates the good things about the relationship; he’ll never find another to take her place – awesome layered backing vocals give the song a real spiritual dimension.
The album does not feature hit singles, Lamont had written enough of these to last a lifetime. This is an Album: a collection of themed songs which work well together, are excellently sequenced and impart a mood on the listener. It’s the sort of thing that you won’t necessarily get on a first listen, but after the fourth or five play the understated brilliance of one of the all-time great songwriters shines through.
Buy it and bring some soul into your day.