While they may have lacked some of the finesse that marked out the masters of the psychedelic soul groove (Sly and the Temps of course, but also Rotary Connection and the Main Ingredient), there's no denying The Chambers Brothers made the most of their moment in the spotlight and cooked up a storm on a series of albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Having cut their teeth as a rabble-rousing gospel vocal group of the highest order, then branched out into folk, the four Chambers boys and their white English drummer Brian Keenan (ex-Manfred Mann) hung out with the electrified and electrifying Bob Dylan long before they stormed the charts in 1968 with the 11-minute opus Time Has Come Today. This was black hippiedom - racially integrated, multi-faceted, hip to the new beat and funky as could be.
Love, Peace and Happiness was the second album of the band's second wave. A double set originally released in 1969, it came with a whole side devoted to the sprawling 16-minute workout on the title track that sets its control for the dark side of the psyche and has a ball getting there. Elsewhere on the first disc a perfunctory reading of the Gibb boys' To Love Somebody sounds out of place, but the call to arms opener Have a Little Faith hits the spot, as does the rousing Let's Do It (Do It Together) - a lost anthem of the era if ever I heard one - and the guitar riffarama of Wake Up rocks like a mutha to light the fuse of George Clinton's Funkadelic.
In the studio they get away with the loose set up and laid back feel that permeate even the most stonking stompers, but the outfit's shortcomings are highlighted on the second half of the set - Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore East. Ragged takes on Wade in the Water and I Can't Turn You Loose are bedeviled by lengthy soloing that may have been de rigeur at the time, but now sound indulgent and fail to serve the song. Perhaps a horn section would have kept it together, but too often where the beat needs to be wrapped up tight it's left flapping around looking for an anchor.
Still, they turn in a diverting take on People Get Ready and a frankly bizarre proto-punk spin on Bang Bang before the close harmonies of the closing medley of Undecided and Love! Love! Love! prove impossible to resist.
The re-mastering has restored the original phase-reversed playback to match the in-phase vocals for the first time, so the album has never sounded better and it richly deserves a place in our affections as an open-hearted, sung to the sky testament to its time.
|Various Artists: Joey Stuckey presents Ladies of the South||Ruth Keggin: Turrys|
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