Thursday, December 21, 2006

Soul Brothers Six Minus Five?

John Ellison - Lost the Will to Live

Willie John Ellison and the Soul Brothers Six joined the incredible list of immensely-talented footnotes in the annals of soul history with their 1967 Atlantic 45 "Some Kind of Wonderful," which just broke into the Billboard Hot 100 (#91) and missed the R&B charts altogether (in 1974 Grand Funk Railroad took a sleek rock-n-roll take on the song to #3 on the pop charts). The group had five 45 releases on Atlantic, with diminishing returns - although good, the uptempo numbers attempted too many times to revisit the "Some Kind of Wonderful" groove, but the ballads were stunning - before moving on to Phil.-L.A. of Soul in 1971, where a handful of unsuccessful 45s closed the door on the group's attempt to reach the big time. A slightly-different take of today's selection was released as a Phil.-L.A. of Soul single in 1974, but this take appeared on the Philadelphia Roots comp billed to Ellison alone. Over a rushed, bare groove, Ellison's high, quivering voice lays out the absolute despair a broken love affair can engender while the Soul Brothers and the horns provide responses. This is real soul - how can it not be with lines like "you were my reason for wanting to live, now you're the reason that I want to die"?

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