Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Groovin' With The Soulful Strings

The Soulful Strings - I Wish It Would Rain

One of my rules of record collecting is that if the record bears the Chess/Checker/Argo/Cadet/Cadet Concept label, it may be worth checking out. I became acquainted with the Cadet albums by The Soulful Strings by following the above rule.

The Soulful Strings was the brainchild of Chess Records arranger and producer Richard Evans (see Larry Grogan's excellent article on Evans; while you are at it, check out the whole Funky 16 Corners website and then check out its corresponding blog). Although on paper The Soulful Strings sounds like a kitschy project, Evans did a great job using strings in conjunction with the Chess rhythm section (anchored on many recordings by Phil Upchurch on guitar and Lenny Druss on flute) to create albums that were a pleasant mix of AOR, jazz, soul and, on occasion, funk.

Today's selection comes from their "live" album "In Concert." Evans' arrangement of "I Wish It Would Rain" is nothing short of exquisite. Starting out with a steady throbbing bassline, handclaps and percussion follow and then Upchurch's funky guitar work increases the tension until the strings come in to start the song proper. The melody is carried by Upchurch, Druss and a vibraphonist whose name I can't recall since I don't have the album in front of me. It's a cooker and my second-favorite Soulful Strings piece (my favorite is the jazzy, bluesy "The Stepper" from the "Another Exposure" album, which I'll mention in a later post).

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