Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Competition Ain't Nothin'

Little Milton Campbell - Somebody's Changin' My Sweet Baby's Mind

The late Milton Campbell, aka "Little Milton," should probably be given fuller coverage in a "Soul-Blues Saturday" post, as he may have been one of the very first artists who could truly bear the "soul-blues" mantle. Campbell launched his recording career in the early '50s as a blues man for Sun Records but didn't come into his own as a hitmaker until he started recording for Chess Records in the mid-'60s. Although Milton was a top-rate guitarist, his growling, Bobby Bland-inspired vocals were of interest to the label, and once he hit #1 in 1965 with "We're Gonna Make It," his guitar was all but retired on his Checker recordings. Fortunately for Milton, his vocals were a strong draw, and he had a nice string of soul hits for the label. Milton left the label in 1971 - Leonard Chess had died and Milton felt lost in the shuffle as GRT, owners of the label, were beginning the process of running the label into the ground - to sign with Stax, where he would bring back his guitar work (listen to the classics "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "Walking The Back Streets And Crying" to hear his style in its awesome glory) yet keep astraddle the blues and soul line, a stylistic choice he would maintain throughout the rest of his career.

Today's selection was a hit at the tail end of Milton's Checker tenure. "Somebody's Changin'" had also been recorded and released by Johnny Sayles for Brunswick, but Milton's version (strangely credited in Milton's full name) smothered the excellent Sayles record and broke into the R&B Top 30 in 1970. According to the liner notes to Chicago Cool Breezin', a West Side compilation of Brunswick/Dakar/Chi-Sound material, Sayles was upset by both the fact that the song was a Tyrone Davis reject (it had been written by the writers of "Can I Change My Mind?") and that Brunswick did not adequately promote his product. His gripe is fair, as I think Sayles' version is better. Milton's version, however, is also very good, featuring an attractive rhythm and strings, over which Milton really sells the song.

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