Don Covay - Watching the Late Late Show
Don Covay is one of those figures of soul history who never quite "fit in" as well as his contemporaries. Although he had hits of various magnitudes through the '60s and into the '70s, he is known more for the songs he wrote - especially "Chain of Fools," which he also recorded - than for his recordings, which crackle with Covay's eccentric energy. Apparently, although he was known as "Pretty Boy" (and photos from the era do show Covay to be handsome albeit somewhat effete), his limited vocals (overall he sounded like a black Mick Jagger - has Jagger ever publicly acknowledged his vocal debt to Covay?) and alleged poor stage presence (Solomon Burke once said that people would pay for Don to get off the stage!) prevented him from being as big a star as his compadres of the era. Of his recordings, his Atlantic sides of the '60s are arguably the best, ranging from the relaxed groove of "Mercy Mercy" to the Stax soul of "See Saw" to the soul supergroup 45 "Soul Meeting" b/w "That's How It Feels" to the oddball - but actually brilliant - Jefferson Lemon Blues Band sides. In the '70s Covay would record for Janus, Mercury and Philadelphia International, scoring some big hits (especially "I Was Checkin' Out (She Was Checkin' In)") but then fading into soul history by the end of the decade.
Today's selection is my favorite of the Atlantic sides. "Watching the Late Late Show" finds Covay adopting Joe Tex's multi-track harmony effects and country soul groove to good effect before breaking into his more usual style on the bridge. It's a very sweet song with a great story.