Natural Four – 1970 – Good Vibes
Rip, research and review by DJ Tren
Posting & additional info’s by Nikos
” Good Vibes ! ” is The Natural Four’s first and best album released on ABC records. Born in 1967 in Oakland, California, the group is composed of Chris James, Allen Richardson, AL Bowden and John January (Singer).They will release a total of four albums during their short career ending in 1976. Surprisingly, it’ll take them four years to release their eponym second LP entitled “Natural Four” in 1974. Probably four years used to spread their name and music to finally get signed on the famous Cutis Mayfield label Curtom. The Natural Four is among the best Soul Music groups ever. They bring great voices, amazing harmonies and soulful melodies.” Good Vibes ! ” is a gem for any serious Soul music vinyl collector. It’s their rarest and most expensive LP, but if you’re a lucky crate digger and uncover a copy of it, then, whatever the price is : GET IT !
A1.Why Should We Stop Now 3:17
A2.I Thought You Were Mine 2:35
A3.The Situation Needs No Explanation 2:41
A4.Same Thing in Mind 3:19
A5.Stepping On Up 2:44
B2.Going in Circles 3:21
B3.All God’s Children Got Soul 3:09
B4.Blue Velvet 5:53
B5.Message from a Black Man 3:27
The Natural Four began their quest for stardom in Oakland, CA, in the mid-’60s, landing their first deal with a local outfit called Boola Boola Records. Initially, they had two 1969 releases on Boola Boola — “You Did This for Me” and “Why Should We Stop Now” — that did well in the San Francisco/Oakland area.
Within a week The Natural Four was sequestered in the rehearsal studio of Boola Boola owner and Producer Willie Hoskins and that writer, an avowed doowopper, Lonnie Cook. Ten hours later Lonnie had written and totally arranged “I Thought You Were Mine.” The song was written to rival the likes of The Miracles’ “Choosey Beggar,” which had debuted the year before. As Mr. Cook was not in the studio when the music tracks were laid, his plush arrangement emerged 50% faster than it had been scored.
The Natural Four were elated when their first record was played by Bob White on KDIA, eventually selling 30,000 copies in the Bay Area, and reaching #7 on the charts. Chris, Pumpkin, Allen, and John were well on their way when ABC Records heard about them and summoned Mr. Hoskins to Los Angeles to talk a deal. ABC had been so impressed with “I Thought You Were Mine” that they insisted it be rerecorded to their satisfaction; as a result it was sped up another 50% and included in their first album. It was again released as the B-side of the second single from the ABC LP Good Vibes.
The first single off Good Vibes, “Why Should We Stop Now,” had also been the second release on Boola Boola in the Bay area. With ABC assuming it’s distribution, the song reached #31 on the Billboard R&B chart on May 24th 1969.
While awaiting their anticipated stardom The Natural Four was yet gigging at High Schools and clubs in the Bay Area, and they were not ready to forsake their day jobs. The first concert out of the area was a Seattle weekender. The stint with ABC did not do very much for their career hopes. After three single releases they were again seeking major label affiliation.
As true success seemed out of reach, two reluctant members (Richardson and Bowden) expressed a desire to give it up and were replaced soon after their departure by Steve Striplin (recruited by Chris James) and Delmos Whitley, picked by Producer Willie Hoskins.
In 1971, they recorded one single for Chess Records, “Give a Little Love.” When, in 1972, they signed with Curtom Records, another original member, John January called it quits and was replaced by Darryl Cannady.
The first Curtom release “Things Will Be Better” in 1972 and their second Curtom release, “Eddie You Should Know Better” (a remake from Mayfield’s Superfly album) failed to sell well. The third Curtom release was the charmer “Can This Be Real,” which soared to #10 on the R&B charts in 1974 and cracked the Pop Top 40 at #31. Its successor, “Love That Really Counts,” was so similar to “Can This Be Real” that it became another unsuccessful release.
Leroy Hutson, a Curtis Mayfield protege and replacement in the Impressions, produced the Natural Four on Curtom for several very promising releases.
The Natural Four deserved more acclaim as they had a crisp, smooth lead singer in Chris James. The group needed better material, but were usually at the mercy of producers and songwriters who were obviously giving the best stuff to other artists. Even so, The Natural Four sang some of the sweetest harmony ever recorded.