Monday, June 02, 2008
The Country Soul of Ivory Joe
Ivory Joe Hunter - Ivory Tower
Avuncular singer and pianist Ivory Joe Hunter is best known for the velvet-smooth mid-'50s R&B ballads "Since I Met You Baby" and "I Almost Lost My Mind," which made Hunter an unlikely rock'n'roll star despite the fact that he'd been recording commercially since 1944 and had recorded a wax cylinder for the Library of Congress in 1933! From 1944 to 1973 Hunter waxed for a wide range of labels, including King, Atlantic, MGM and his own Ivory and Pacific imprints. By the early '60s, however, his smooth stylings were out of place in the pop and R&B marketplace (in the latter case, even 45s for Stax - the great "Can't Explain How It Happened" - and Goldwax failed to make any impression). Although he never reached his '50s heights, Hunter stayed busy, and his embrace of country stylings in his work made him popular in the country music world also, such that the Grand Old Opry hosted a benefit for him prior to his 1974 death.
"Ivory Tower," a 1968 Sound Stage 7 single, shows off Hunter's countrified R&B sound to good effect. Over a gentle rhythm, Hunter woos his erstwhile unavailable love with support at the end from a Nashville chorus. Although the flip, "I'll Give You All Night to Stop," features a country funk groove more suited for 1968 (such groove doesn't really work with Hunter's vocals), "Ivory Tower" is - in all its anachronistic glory - the better side.