Natural Four – 1970 – Good Vibes

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Rip, research and review by DJ Tren

Posting & additional info’s by Nikos

Good Vibes ! ” is The Natural Four’s first and best album released on ABC records. Born in 1967 in Oakland, California, the group is composed of Chris James, Allen Richardson, AL Bowden and John January (Singer).They will release a total of four albums during their short career ending in 1976. Surprisingly, it’ll take them four years to release their eponym second LP entitled “Natural Four” in 1974. Probably four years used to spread their name and music to finally get signed on the famous Cutis Mayfield label Curtom. The Natural Four is among the best Soul Music groups ever. They bring great voices, amazing harmonies and soulful melodies.” Good Vibes ! ” is a gem for any serious Soul music vinyl collector. It’s their rarest and most expensive LP, but if you’re a lucky crate digger and uncover a copy of it, then, whatever the price is : GET IT !

Tracks
A1.
Why Should We Stop Now 3:17
A2.
I Thought You Were Mine 2:35
A3.
The Situation Needs No Explanation 2:41
A4.
Same Thing in Mind 3:19
A5.
Stepping On Up 2:44
B1.
Hurt 3:10
B2.
Going in Circles 3:21
B3.
All God’s Children Got Soul 3:09
B4.
Blue Velvet 5:53
B5.
Message from a Black Man 3:27

The Natural Four began their quest for stardom in Oakland, CA, in the mid-’60s, landing their first deal with a local outfit called Boola Boola Records. Initially, they had two 1969 releases on Boola Boola — “You Did This for Me” and “Why Should We Stop Now” — that did well in the San Francisco/Oakland area.

Within a week The Natural Four was sequestered in the rehearsal studio of Boola Boola owner and Producer Willie Hoskins and that writer, an avowed doowopper, Lonnie Cook. Ten hours later Lonnie had written and totally arranged “I Thought You Were Mine.” The song was written to rival the likes of The Miracles’ “Choosey Beggar,” which had debuted the year before. As Mr. Cook was not in the studio when the music tracks were laid, his plush arrangement emerged 50% faster than it had been scored.

The Natural Four were elated when their first record was played by Bob White on KDIA, eventually selling 30,000 copies in the Bay Area, and reaching #7 on  the charts. Chris, Pumpkin, Allen, and John were well on their way when ABC Records heard about them and summoned Mr. Hoskins to Los Angeles to talk a deal. ABC had been so impressed with “I Thought You Were Mine” that they insisted it be rerecorded to their satisfaction; as a result it was sped up another 50% and included in their first album. It was again released as the B-side of the second single from the ABC LP Good Vibes.

The first single off Good Vibes, “Why Should We Stop Now,” had also been the second release on Boola Boola in the Bay area. With ABC assuming it’s distribution, the song reached #31 on the Billboard R&B chart on May 24th 1969. 

While awaiting their anticipated stardom The Natural Four was yet gigging at High Schools and clubs in the Bay Area, and they were not ready to forsake their day jobs. The first concert out of the area was a Seattle weekender. The stint with ABC did not do very much for their career hopes. After three single releases they were again seeking major label affiliation.

As true success seemed out of reach, two reluctant members (Richardson and Bowden) expressed a desire to give it up and were replaced soon after their departure by Steve Striplin (recruited by Chris James) and Delmos Whitley, picked by Producer Willie Hoskins.

In 1971, they recorded one single for Chess Records, “Give a Little Love.” When, in 1972, they signed with Curtom Records, another original member, John January called it quits and was replaced by Darryl Cannady.  

The first Curtom release “Things Will Be Better” in 1972 and their second Curtom release, “Eddie You Should Know Better” (a remake from Mayfield’s Superfly album) failed to sell well. The third Curtom release was the charmer “Can This Be Real,” which soared to #10 on the R&B charts in 1974 and cracked the Pop Top 40 at #31. Its successor, “Love That Really Counts,” was so similar to “Can This Be Real” that it became another unsuccessful release.

Leroy Hutson, a Curtis Mayfield protege and replacement in the Impressions, produced the Natural Four on Curtom for several very promising releases.

The Natural Four deserved more acclaim as they had a crisp, smooth lead singer in Chris James. The group needed better material, but were usually at the mercy of producers and songwriters who were obviously giving the best stuff to other artists. Even so, The Natural Four sang some of the sweetest harmony ever recorded. 

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32 Comments
  • Brotherpete
    Posted at 18:56h, 18 February 2012 Reply

    the download link doesn’t work (for now)…

  • myr
    Posted at 20:12h, 18 February 2012 Reply

    yes, the link doesn’t work….

  • Lawrence
    Posted at 12:11h, 19 February 2012 Reply

    I Love the 70’s!!! I remember hearing this when it was first released and fell in love with it! The instrumentation, the vocals, the production!!! Masterful!!! Kids today have no idea how great the music back then was!!!

  • MimiSoul
    Posted at 16:38h, 19 February 2012 Reply

    Being a leroy hutson aficionados I really dig their curtom sides and since a friend made me discover this lp I’m looking for it . So it’s nice to find a good rip of it . You’re doing some great work here . A labor of love , let’s spread love . Thanks
    Peace

  • jahcisco
    Posted at 22:37h, 19 February 2012 Reply

    Thank you.

  • Kirk
    Posted at 12:51h, 20 February 2012 Reply

    Such a great group and LP.

  • Janis
    Posted at 19:43h, 20 February 2012 Reply

    WOW, another great posting of the ‘Natural 4’; now this goes back to a wonderful place in my life, that puts a smile on my face.

  • rich
    Posted at 21:45h, 20 February 2012 Reply

    thank u for this post dj tren

    • Dj Tren
      Posted at 12:51h, 23 February 2012 Reply

      You’re welcome my dear !

  • Chris
    Posted at 21:52h, 20 February 2012 Reply

    Simply Amazing album! Thanks!

  • Rod
    Posted at 09:58h, 21 February 2012 Reply

    They were awesome back in the day. I truly miss those times.

  • Michael
    Posted at 13:02h, 21 February 2012 Reply

    One of the Greatest!!! Just Freakin’ me out

  • hooch
    Posted at 14:17h, 21 February 2012 Reply

    i thought that you were mine – northern soul monster – Many thanks guys!

  • Grey
    Posted at 23:56h, 21 February 2012 Reply

    Killer LP. Many thanks.

  • Barry
    Posted at 09:56h, 22 February 2012 Reply

    Definitely one of the forgotten classics. Great post.

  • Zoao
    Posted at 19:44h, 22 February 2012 Reply

    Incredible, as always. Thanks so much for this!

  • John
    Posted at 09:38h, 23 February 2012 Reply

    Thanks for spreading my ears out.

  • Norman
    Posted at 10:03h, 23 February 2012 Reply

    the 70,s was a great time to be a child, growing up with sweet soul music like this!

  • bowlisha1
    Posted at 16:43h, 23 February 2012 Reply

    When I think about the Natural Four the first thing that comes to mind is UNSUNG! If anyone is familiar with this program they know this group would make a fantastic episode.
    Thanks so much for posting them.

  • Greg
    Posted at 10:08h, 24 February 2012 Reply

    Thank you very much – I really like Natural Foul and I am looking forward to exploring this lp.

  • Jake
    Posted at 19:48h, 24 February 2012 Reply

    Love it. Excellent.

  • RevPop
    Posted at 14:39h, 25 February 2012 Reply

    Hello Niklos
    Masterpiece of Harmony Soul.
    A Favorite of the French Forum “Funk O Logy”
    See at this url :
    http://funk-o-logy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=23520#p23520

  • Alexis
    Posted at 11:49h, 26 February 2012 Reply

    I grew up on this music. Real music. YES!!

  • Bob
    Posted at 09:45h, 01 March 2012 Reply

    This is one outstanding album! Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work!!

  • whoknows
    Posted at 03:14h, 02 March 2012 Reply

    Thank YOU, for the history and great music!

  • From Italy
    Posted at 18:39h, 30 March 2012 Reply

    This album is a favorite among my friends and if you like R&B, you really must have it!

  • Philly_Soul
    Posted at 11:46h, 02 April 2012 Reply

    “I Thought You Were Mine” has been personal fave soul side for me for many a year. Cheers for the upload guys. Keep on keepin’ on!

  • SFdoomed
    Posted at 15:59h, 11 December 2012 Reply

    Another Bay Area lost gem! I’m really digging this one. Thanks so much for the fantastic music.

  • thegroove
    Posted at 18:40h, 26 November 2013 Reply

    This sounds so fresh! Another sweet post.

  • Radek
    Posted at 17:42h, 30 December 2014 Reply

    A truly fabulous album, much better than their later Curtom recordings. Thanks a lot!

  • Lonnie Cook
    Posted at 09:53h, 08 August 2015 Reply

    The popularity of the song i wrote [I Thought you were mine] has proven it to be their best. Northern Soul Top 500 at #242.

  • Psychfan
    Posted at 23:54h, 07 June 2018 Reply

    Thanks very much!

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