Al Wilson – 1968 – Searching For The Dolphins (plus 1974 – La La Peace Song)
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A wonderful early album from soul singer Al Wilson – a well-crafted mix of modes that really stands out in late 60s pop – and which showed that Al was quite different than most of his contemporaries! The album’s got some very hip production by Johnny Rivers – who was really stretching out his own sound at the time – and arrangements are by Gene Page and Marty Paich, who create a sublime blend of jazz, soul, and strings – plus a slight undercurrent of more righteous modes from the late 60s post-folk underground! In addition to straighter soul, Wilson sings a mix of hip contemporary compositions by Fred Neil, Jimmy Webb, and others – showing a depth of sound that’s really wonderful. Instrumentation’s by a small combo that includes Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knechtel on keyboards, and some especially great flute from Jim Horn – whose sound here really brings some dark moments to the record. Titles include a classic version of Oscar Brown Jr’s “The Snake” – which has gone onto become something of a dancefloor stormer over the years
A1 The Dolphins 3:41
A2 By The Time I Get To Phoenix 3:15
A3 I Stand Accused 3:30
A4 Summer Rain 3:42
A5 Do What You Gotta Do 3:34
B1 The Snake 3:32
B2 Who Could Be Lovin’ You (Other Than Me) 3:05
B3 Poor Side Of Town 3:52
B4 Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)3:13
B5 This Guy’s In Love With You 4:13
B6 Brother, Where Are You 3:42
If you expects to listen 10 replics of “The Snake” in this album, you’re wrong. If you expects a mix of Al Green and Jackie Wilson, you’re wrong too.Al Wilson is more than that. In fact, his debut album has much personality and is very far away from the paths commonly trodden by a lot of other artists.
Much more important is the fact that “The Snake” is a rara avis in the entire LP, maybe because the other songs of the record are much more interesting. Of course, “ The Snake” is a masterpiece danced in countless and endless allnighters, but it’s no more than an effective up-tempo, limited in structure and content. Wilson is away from the easy recipe and he works in more dangerous territory. Luckily though, the result is brilliant. Brillant and happy. The Al Wilson songs flow leisurely, with the certainly of the one that knows he’s doing a good job.
“By The Time I Get To Phoenix” is exciting. This is a happy meeting between Terry Callier and Scott Walker ; the beginning is better than the Jimmy Webb original, placing Wilson in front of Isaac Hayes singing this song (it’s the same in “I Stand Accused”, -sorry Hayes, this time you have a tough opponent) Wilson is shinnes especially when he creates a dialogue amoung the flute, the acustic guitar or the piano. It is in these moments when we can perceive the authentic artist, with spectacular strings arrangements (“The Dolphins” or “This Guy’s In Love With You” are good examples).“Brother, Where are you” is a song similar to “The Snake”, but much better for me ; it’s probably less danceable, but richer in details and nuances.
Make no mistake, It’s in the contents and the delayed pace that Al Wilson proves his strength, rather than in the tempo or the volume. This strength is much more difficult to get in this way, but if you succeed it’s very pleasant and enjoyable.
Searching for the Dolphins is a record to listen to when you are sad and would like to enjoy your depression a little longer, but it’s so a record to listen to when you’re happy, and take pleasure in the joy of happiness. It’s a record to enjoy.
Buy it, wrap it and give it to someone you love. Life is also made of these little moments.
A mix of southern soul and smooth 70s pop soul from Al Wilson – one of a few great LPs from Al in the early-to-mid 70s! Most of the tracks are arranged by HB Barnum, save for a few that were arranged by Jerry Long and produced by Steve Cropper. Johnny Bristol handled the title cut “La La Peace Song”, which is a killer little groover that has that sweet smooth feel that you’d hear in some of Johnny’s own work from the time. Nice, nice stuff!
A1 La La Peace Song 3:22
A2 A Stones Throw 3:04
A3 Medley: I Won’t Last A Day Without You/Let Me Be The One 5:52
A4 Goin’ Through The Motions 3:16
A5 Passport 2:37
B1 I’m A Weak Man 3:24
B2 Fifty-Fifty 3:08
B3 The Longer We Stay Together 4:58
B4 Willoughby Brook 3:43
B5 You’re The One Thing (Keeps Me Goin’)3:07
Six years passed after Al Wilson’s remarkable first album; six years characterized by moments of silence, big successes like “Show and Tell” and other brilliant song. A lot things happened but nothing change in the way he makes us feel the true soul music flowing through our veins.
The sound of the record changed, of course, in parallel with the evolution of the soul sound of this time; it used some funk guitars, wurlitzer pianos, and percussions, while the mix and stereo balance became this time less audacious than in Searching for the Dolphins. Backing vocals have an important role in almost every song of the album; they perfectly fit Wilson’s voice and emphasize it with powerful answers as in the best gospel tradition (“The Longer We Stay Together”, “Willoughby Brook” and “You’re the One You Think” are good examples).
“Passport” is a song that could be a perfect companion for beautiful girls and John Shaft’s. It could be the right soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film with its spectacular wah wah guitars and latin percussions. Another masterpiece that deserves to be better know is the song “Fifty-Fifty” whose the melody hooks you up to the point where you can’t stop humming it.
The Song “La La Peace Song” perfectly summarizes the whole message of the record, a message of peace and search for happiness, something that we have always needed, generation after generation. All I can say is, in these moments of global convulsion, we need more Al Wilson in our lives!
You can also enjoy his 1973 “Show and Tell” LP in our back pages here.