Red Hot and Cool Blue Moods
United Records 003
While few remember Tab Smith today, he was flying high with success in the mid 50s, perhaps United Records’ (Chicago) answer to Earl Bostic.
This long player houses most of the instrumental sides Tab recorded for United during the mid 50s and provides a window to a world now mostly forgotten. And that’s unfortunate because artists such as Tab helped bridge the jazz of earlier decades to the music the masses would embrace in the decades that followed. On the other hand, this isn’t part of the wild R&B of this era that clearly welcomes in rock and roll, and it’s not cutting edge jazz, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Tab’s music has been mostly forgotten. It’s not proto-this or proto-that, and that’s often all the masses find interest in exploring. But this is enjoyable music, earthy yet urban, full of tone and focused on feeling rather than showing off. While this lacks the abandonment of much of the R&B from this era, this has more depth than much of the music of the 50s, without ever getting too serious like the innovative jazz of this decade. It’s mood music with some meat.
There’s a sadness that runs through even the “red hot” numbers, and it’s sad that black artists such as Tab Smith aren’t remembered more.
Producer: Mike Stone
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Second set from this Midwest outfit, released October 1979 (US & UK), reached #50 in the US
This band was bit like fellow Illinois rockers Cheap Trick except while Trick had heavy hard-rock leanings, this group leans the other way, sort of a mix of Trick and the Raspberries. While everybody had to mention the Beatles influence, this clearly comes from the Midwest, sounding like they were influenced by many artists, including perhaps the Everly Brothers. Of course, that group came from the early days of rock & roll, and showed elements of their Kentucky home, while this clearly comes from the “present tense,” the urban world of the late 70s. The music is clean as the streets of a new subdivision.
Some of the material leans deep into pop territory, but other cuts have enough to remind you that they were still a rock-and-roll band. A couple of the cuts sound quite a bit like Cheap Trick, and other cuts almost hint back to the Beach Boys, but they have a sound all their own, and when it comes to polished power-pop, this is about as good as it gets. Many bands tried to copycat this sound in the years and decades that followed, but most couldn’t pull it off like this outfit.
The lineup included Jeff Murphy (guitar, vocals, songs), Skip Meyer (drums), Gary Klebe (guitar, vocals, songs), and John Murphy (bass, vocals, songs).