The Exciters – 1969 – Caviar & Chitlins
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I’ve always wondered why The Exciters didn’t enjoy greater commercial successes given their talents. Brenda Reid had an amazing voice – tough, but highly commercial and was more than the equal to scores of contemporaries who enjoyed far more commercial recognition and success. How do you explain something like that ?
1968 found the group signed to their fifth label in six years (which may have at least partially explained the lack of greater commercial success). Signed by RCA Victor, they made their debut with a sterling single that should have burned up the charts:
– ‘If You Want My Love’ b/w ‘Take One Step (I’ll Take Two)’ (RCA Victor catalog number 47-9633)
A1 Blowing Up My Mind 2:47
A2 Give It All 2:39
A3 Fight That Feelin’ 3:00
A4 Always 2:20
A5 You Don’t Know What You’re Missing (Til It’s Gone!) 3:26
B1 I Don’t Have to Worry (No More) 3:15
B2 You Got Me 2:44
B3 Movin’ Too Slow 2:50
B4 If I Could See Into Tomorrow 2:22
B5 A Year Ago 3:01
B6 Turn Me On 2:37
Review by RDTEN1
While it wasn’t a massive commercial success. the song did well enough for RCA management to green light an album – 1969’s “Caviar and Chitlins”. Co-produced by Larry Banks, Paul Robinson, and Herb Rooney the album clearly put the spotlight of lead singer Reid. While Rooney was pictured on the cover, with the exception of ‘You Got Me’ and ‘A Year Ago’ he was notably absent from the performances. With Banks and Rooney responsible for writing all ten tracks, material like ”Fight That Feelin”, ‘I Don’t Have To Worry (No More)’ and ‘Movin’ Too Slow’ was clearly intended to update the group’s sound, adding a contemporary soul sheen to the mix. While it wasn’t quite the psychedelic soul Norman Whitefield was churning out with The Temptations, ‘Blowing Up My Mind’ had a similar adult contemporary vibe, while ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Missing (Til It’s Gone)’ came about as close to outright funk as The Exciters ever came. To my ears the results were simply wonderful – among the best soul albums of the year. You were left to wonder how popular radio and the buying public overlooked the set.
Opening up with some tasty organ, ‘Blowing Up My Mind‘ was a stomping slice of up-tempo soul. Reid seldom sounded as good as on this one, literally slamming the lyrics out with the speed and impact of a 50 caliber machine gun. My only complaint was the song faded out too early. Easy to see why RCA tapped it as a leadoff single.Wrapped in a big horn arrangement, ‘Give It All‘ had a more sophisticated pop sound, but unlike a lot of Motown’s efforts to go ‘uptown’, Reid voice was strong enough to make sure the track didn’t drown in an MOR puddle. ‘Fight That Feelin‘ found the group taking a stab at a bluesier sound and once again, thanks to the strength and quality of Reid’s voice, the results were impressive. To my ears Reid actually sounded a bit lit Aretha Franklin on this one.
Another orchestrated, mid-tempo number, ‘Always‘ came close to crossing the line into MOR territory. Luckily another great Reid performance coupled with an insidiously catchy title track chorus saved the song from itself. Side one’s funkiest number, ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Missing (Til It’s Gone)‘ was a great dance track. Kicked along by some great horns, this one was slinky and seductive with a great call-and-response arrangement between Reid and backing singers Carol Johnson and Lillian Walker.
With a rousing pseudo-Gospel delivery, Reid’s take-no-prisoners performance on ‘I Don’t Have To Worry (No More)‘ made me a believer …Showcasing Rooney on lead vocals, ‘You Got Me‘ showcased one of the album’s prettiest melodies and a near perfect vocal from Rooney. With some of the best female empowerment lyrics you’ve ever heard, ‘Movin’ Too Slow‘ was another highlight. Reid’s biting I’m-out-of-here-loser delivery was the stuff Diana Ross and the Supremes could only dream about.The first disappointment, ‘If I Could See Into Tomorrow‘ fell face long into the MOR swamp. Reid sang the hell out of the track, but it was just too gooey to salvage.
I’d venture to say Rooney was the group’s hidden treasure – he had a great voice and the fact he was seldom featured on lead vocals served to make his occasional performances all the more enjoyable. With a breezy heartbreak melody (I even liked the tropical-tinged flute accompaniment), this one sounded a but like a rouged-up Smokey Robinson pleading for a bit of sympathy. One of few tracks that sounded a bit old school, ‘Turn Me On‘ had a distinctively top-40 melody and one of Reid’s toughest vocals.
In addition to the leadoff single, the album was tapped for a follow-on 45:
– 1969’s ‘Blowing Up My Mind; b/w ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Missing ( ‘Til It’s Gone!); (RCA victor catalog number 47-9723)