Ben E. King – 1970 – Rough Edges

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This Ben E. King LP on Maxwell label interrupted a string of Atco releases.

Count your blessings if you find an original copy of this rare bird.

Limited sales made it a one-off and King began another string of albums for the Atco family on Atlantic Records. The Bob Crewe production finds the ex-Drifters lead singing with fervor on songs the likes of which he never sniffed at while recording for Atco.

Actually a hodgepodge, lighter efforts like “Little Green Apples” the much-recorded “She Lets Her Hair Down,” and the emoting “Lay Lady Lay” buffer King’s straight-up renditions of the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Wilson Pickett‘s “In the Midnight Hour“. But there’s no attempt to re-create his popular solo or Drifters recordings; that coupled with a weak promotional effort made Rough Edges an early entry in the cutout bins. Scarcity, however, has made the price of a copy in mint condition worth significantly more.

A1.1 She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)   
A1.2 Little Green Apples    
A2   Wishing For Tomorrow   
A3.1 If You’ve Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody
A3.2 Come Together    
B1   One Man    
B2.1 In The Midnight Hour
B2.2 Lay Lady Lay
B3   Don’t Let Me Down    
B4  Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You

By Steve Huey

From the groundbreaking orchestrated productions of the Drifters to his own solo hits, Ben E. King was the definition of R&B elegance. King’s plaintive baritone had all the passion of gospel, but the settings in which it was displayed were tailored more for his honey smooth phrasing and crisp enunciation, proving for perhaps the first time that R&B could be sophisticated and accessible to straight pop audiences. King’s approach influenced countless smooth soul singers in his wake, and his records were key forerunners of the Motown sound.

While still in high school, he was offered a chance to join the Moonglows, but was simply too young and inexperienced to stick. He subsequently worked at his father’s restaurant as a singing waiter, which led to an invitation to become the baritone singer in a doo wop outfit called the Five Crowns in 1958. The Five Crowns performed several gigs at the Apollo Theater along with the Drifters, whose career had begun to flounder in the years since original lead singer Clyde McPhatter departed. Drifters manager George Treadwell, dissatisfied with the group members’ unreliability and lack of success, fired them all in the summer of 1958 and hired the Five Crowns to assume the name of the Drifters (which he owned).

The new Drifters toured for about a year, playing to often hostile audiences who knew they were a completely different group. In early 1959, they went into the studio with producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to cut their first records. A song Nelson (still performing under his given name) co-wrote called “There Goes My Baby” became his first lead vocal, and the lush backing arrangement made highly unorthodox (in fact, virtually unheard of) use of a string section. “There Goes My Baby” became a massive hit, laying the groundwork for virtually every smooth/uptown soul production that followed. Over the next two years, Nelson sang lead on several other Drifters classics, including “Dance with Me“, “This Magic Moment“, “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “I Count the Tears“.

Get all the hits with The Drifters in our back pages here

In 1960, Nelson approached Treadwell about a salary increase and a fairer share of the group’s royalties. Treadwell rebuffed him and Nelson quit the group, at this point assuming the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a solo career. Remaining on Atlantic, King scored his first solo hit with the stylish, Latin-tinged ballad “Spanish Harlem“, a Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector composition that hit the Top Ten in early 1961. The follow-up, “Stand by Me“, a heartfelt ode to friendship and devotion co-written by King, became his signature song and an enduring R&B classic; it was also his biggest hit, topping the R&B charts and reaching the pop Top Five. King scored a few more chart singles through 1963, including velvety smooth pop-soul productions like “Amor,”, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” and the Italian tune “I (Who Have Nothing).” In the post-British Invasion years, King had a rough go of it on the pop charts but continued to score R&B hits. 1967’s Southern-fried “What Is Soul?” was one of his last singles for Atco; seeking to revive his commercial fortunes, King departed in 1969.

Get all his 60’s hits and more

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A 1970 album on Maxwell, Rough Edges, failed to generate much attention, and King was forced to make a living touring the oldies circuit. In 1975, Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun caught King’s act in a Miami lounge and invited him to re-sign with the label. King scored an unlikely comeback smash with the disco track “Supernatural Thing, Pt. I,” which returned him to the top of the R&B charts in 1975 and also reached the pop Top Five. While he was unable to duplicate that single’s success, King recorded several more albums for Atlantic up through 1981, and also collaborated with the Average White Band in 1977 on the album Benny & Us. After leaving Atlantic a second time, King toured in a version of the Drifters beginning in 1982.

In 1986, “Stand by Me” was prominently featured in the Rob Reiner film of the same name; re-released as a single, it climbed into the Top Ten all over again. In its wake, King returned to solo recording, issuing albums every few years. He also guested on recordings by Heaven 17 and Mark Knopfler, among others. King’s 1999 album Shades of Blue (on Half Note Records) found him branching out into jazz territory, performing with a big band and guests like Milt Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman. The year 2006 saw the release of a smooth R&B album, I’ve Been Around, on True Life Records. A 2010 date titled Heart & Soul featured King with a small jazz group, stretching out on vocal standards. He continued to tour and make special performances, and was also active in the Stand by Me Foundation, his charity dedicated to children’s education. Ben E. King died on April 30, 2015, after a brief illness.

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Conversation for album: Ben E. King – 1970 – Rough Edges

  • Jamal
    Posted at 11:55h, 29 June 2018 Reply

    A very fine treasure to listen to. Million thanks.

  • Moses
    Posted at 01:35h, 30 June 2018 Reply

    Really good stuff! un-hurried,loose and soulful.

  • Gal Mollo
    Posted at 18:07h, 30 June 2018 Reply

    At least we have this music on the internet, since radio stations fail to play this music these days.

  • Don
    Posted at 10:56h, 01 July 2018 Reply

    thank you,I knew this album but never listened to it in full.

  • Adamo89
    Posted at 11:05h, 01 July 2018 Reply

    Thanks for the music and education.

  • Fireball
    Posted at 11:19h, 01 July 2018 Reply

    Brilliant rare gem! Thanks as always.

  • Dimitri
    Posted at 20:23h, 01 July 2018 Reply

    Back when music made sense….

  • Christopher Soulos
    Posted at 00:51h, 02 July 2018 Reply

    Hi Nikos,
    The album up is The Ultimate Collection, not the one you reviewed.
    Thanks anyway!

  • Christopher Soulos
    Posted at 00:52h, 02 July 2018 Reply

    My mistake, ignore the last comment

  • Robert L
    Posted at 08:45h, 02 July 2018 Reply

    Nikos, really appreciate it! keep Spinnin’

  • Elton
    Posted at 09:42h, 03 July 2018 Reply

    I’m always excited about discovering new soul albums. Thanks for the upload.

  • Samara
    Posted at 09:54h, 03 July 2018 Reply

    Wow…I can’t believe how amazing this LP is.

  • Seba
    Posted at 23:44h, 03 July 2018 Reply

    Another cracking Lp, many thanks nikos as always!

  • Ross Dale
    Posted at 11:04h, 09 July 2018 Reply

    Your blog is so amazing. Especially this one i liked it so much.

  • ferer
    Posted at 11:32h, 09 July 2018 Reply

    What a voice, An album that should been MUCH more popular.

  • Mick
    Posted at 11:43h, 09 July 2018 Reply

    wicked stuff, thanx

  • Cavani
    Posted at 12:08h, 09 July 2018 Reply

    damn! well worth the wait for this.

  • Samara
    Posted at 08:52h, 10 July 2018 Reply

    Pure and Beautiful ! Benny has such a rich voice !! He’s one of my favorites !! Thanks for Posting !!

  • Natso
    Posted at 11:58h, 22 July 2018 Reply

    Good old days!

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