Eddie Floyd – 1970 – California Girl

With Stax Records, Eddie Floyd has recorded some of my all-time favourite soul songs, like “Big Bird,” “Raise Your Hand,” and “Knock On Wood.”  Those songs were recorded with Booker T. & The M.G.’s though, and the album California Girl merely captures the band’s break-up instead.

There are plenty of moments of zen on California Girl, and that’s because Eddie Floyd works his ass off to try and make each song special.  “I Feel Good” is a soul progression that breaks a few molds.  “People, Get It Together” is a powerful social statement that no one could holler the way Eddie does, “Too Much Love Is Too Little For Me” is a sly sidewinder of a ballad with charm all over the place, and I’ll never complain about having the opportunity to hear Eddie pour his character into a soul classic like “Rainy Night In Georgia“.  There’s a lot of groove to California Girl, and Eddie Floyd is in fine form.  You do catch yourself wondering from time to time  if the albums somewhat weaker moments wouldn’t have been fixed have the entire cast of Booker T. & The MGs been together, but we’ll never know.

For lovers of southern soul, California Girl is a very good album. When Eddie Floyd has a message to deliver, all of hell couldn’t even slow him down.

Tracks
A1 California Girl 3:39
A2 Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) 3:15
A3 Why Is The Wine Sweeter (On The Other Side) 2:28
A4 Rainy Night In Georgia 3:46
A5 Love Is You 3:27
A6 People, Get It Together 3:03
B1 Laurie 4:12
B2 Hey There Lonely Girl 3:33
B3 I Feel Good 4:38
B4 Too Much Is Too Little For Me 2:50
B5 You Got That Kind Of Love 2:52

Eddie Floyd not only remained a consistent hitmaker well after the smashes “Knock on Wood” and “I Never Found a Girl“, he kept releasing consistently high quality music as well, even if his star was waning by the time of the release of ‘California Girl’. 

The title-track, a deliciously arranged mid-tempo ballad featuring angelic backing vocals and subtle strings, was to become Floyd’s last Top 20 R&B hit, and was also one of the last tunes he co-wrote with what had been one of his most reliable creative sidekicks, Booker T. Jones. Jones was not at all enthused with the way things were going down at Stax come 1970, and he would soon leave the label (and the city of Memphis) alltogether. 

Maybe this was a reason for including quite a few covers; Aside an almost carbon copy version of the Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)“, there’s also a low-key rendition of Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl” as well as a mindblowing take on Brook Benton’s immortal “Rainy Night In Georgia”. 

Nonetheless, the Floyd/Jones input still is quite high here. The brooding, resigned and bittersweet “Why Is the Wine Sweeter (On the Other Side)” – the other hit off the album – comes from the duo’s pen, as does the socially charged “People, Get It Together” – driving a ferocious fatback beat reminiscent of one of those funky jams by drummer Buddy Miles -, which shifts the album’s sound more toward Rock. 

A similar soulful rock atmosphere creeps out of the unorthodoxly constructed “I Feel Good“, while “Laurie” is sheer soul brilliance. It’s amazing to me why this fantastic little romp never was released on 45. It’s all here; the thick groove, the swirling horns and strings and a very catchy chorus line. A viciously overlooked gem. 

Then there are the tunes that Floyd wrote either on his own or with other writing partners: “Love Is You” is another one of those craftily composed ballads in the stylish Floyd manner: Great lyrics, beautiful hooks and sparse but effective orchestration. 

There’s a strong gospelish fervour to the wistful “Too Much Is Too Little for Me“, with its churchy organ, while the LP closes with “You Got That Kind of Love“, a fine, hard socking stomper riding a stuttering, tough, brassy groove. 

Another Eddie Floyd album that, as usual, features plenty of sparkling jewels…