Singles Going Steady: "I'm Not Ready For Love" by Promise

The Gerldets, later known as Promise

In 1969, four junior high girls from Washington D.C. seemed to be getting their big break.  They were singers in a band dubbed the Gerldets.  Two of the Gerldets had been performing together since they were eight years old.  Back then, one of their mothers was handling management duties and it's safe to say that her tutelage wasn't exactly bringing the pre-teens the fame and fortune they were craving.

But now, four years later, they were a quartet and the future was looking bright for the girls, who up until that time had only played small gigs, dances and private parties. This was because one of them had a serious industry "in."  Her name was Janice Jones, and her father's cousin was Eddie Kendricks, an extremely talented young fellow who sang in one of the best and most popular groups of its time.  

Here are The Temptations.  Eddie Kendricks sings backing vocals on "My Girl," a legendary number one hit of incalculable importance to popular music.

Eddie Kendricks graced the world with his haunting lead vocals with this song—a hit, which Rolling Stone ranked 389th on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 

It must have been something for these girls to be just one degree of separation from a genuine star. Chances are, they were probably fans of his and the thought of him giving them a break probably made them as giddy as, well...schoolgirls.  

And Kendricks did help them.  How?  He arranged an audition for the pre-teens with the most powerful person in all of soul music, Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. It was Gordy who had established careers for pretty much everyone in the soul genre, including the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes...

...and the Jackson 5. 

I imagine a couple thoughts had to cross these girls' minds.  Sure, they could be "the next Jackson 5." But, maybe Gordy would do for them what he did for The Supremes and set up a nationally syndicated Jackson 5/Gerldets television special!  At the very least maybe he'd let the girls provide handclaps and backing vocals to the Jacksons' new hit recordings. There was only one way to find out.  The girls met with Barry Gordy and gave an audition.

It's unclear whether Gordy thought the Gerldets were talented.  What is known is that he rejected them and one of the reasons he did was because he didn't want to manage another underage group.  Still, you can't help but think that if the Gerldets truly had that "it" factor, Gordy and Motown would have gobbled them right up.

But despite Gordy's rejection, the Gerldets carried on.  They changed their name to Promise and released a couple singles.  They never achieved any success, which must have crushed them because they flirted with fame A LOT.  Here are three absolutely legendary performers they opened for:

In 1975, the four members of Promise were no longer girls.  They were 18.  College was on the horizon and each woman enrolled at a school somewhere across America.  I can't tell you that much more than that.  But, I can let you hear what they sounded like.   Here is one of Promise's flop singles: "I'm Not Ready for Love," which appears on a compilation called Homeschooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul, which includes 17 songs by obscure kid groups. 

"I'm Not Ready For Love" by Promise

Music Of The Near-Death Experience


Celestial Soul Portrait by Iasos

In 1978, the Developmental Psychology department at Plymouth State University performed a series of studies on 60 patients who had survived near-death experiences. The goal, Professor Joel D. Funk has said, was to determine which piece of music best resembled what was occurring in people's heads in the moments when they thought they were going to die.  

For his experiment, Funk played a series of recordings and found that the most consistent piece chosen by his subjects was "The Angels of Comfort" by Iasos, an artist who was a pivotal figure in the development of new age music.

It was arguably an appropriate discovery, for Iasos was a product of a near-death experience.  Born in Greece in 1947, his father was a holocaust-survivor; a victim of unbelievable terror at Auschwitz. 

An accomplished musician, Iasos moved to San Francisco and became both blessed and cursed with a colorful creativity that manifested itself as an amazing, never-heard-before music, which occurred only in his head.  In a sensation he described as "wearing headphones but without the headphones," the "radio" inside his young mind was playing what Iasos described as "paradise music."

What's paradise music? According to Iasos, it was "heavenly music that exists on higher dimensions...paradise is a frequency range.  Boredom is low frequency.  Hatred is very low frequency.  Love is a nice, high frequency.  Paradise is a super-high frequency."

Released in 2013 by Numero Group, Celestial Soul Portrait is a 13-track compilation of Iasos's "super-high frequency" paradise music.  It's as beautiful and breathtaking as it is listless and unfocused. Listeners with narrower definitions of "good music" will probably think it's pretentious—and they may be right.  But if you have any "new age" in your musical palette—or even the slightest issue falling asleep at night—this collection is almost essential listening.

My Best of 2013 List (10-6)

best of 2013 -- jamie.jpg

10. Good God! Apocryphal Hymns by Various Artists

In my last post, I cheated when I included Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound on my "Best of 2013 List."  After all, one doesn't really think of 70s and 80s funk/soul rarities when discussing music from this year.  But since I have no one to report to besides my own gut, I have no problem subbing old music released in 2013 for new music released in 2013.

I'm cheating again with Good God! Apocryphal Hymns, which is a b-sides compilation of rare gospel performances released on small labels during the 1970s.  I highly recommend this collection to anyone who has never listened to gospel music or has only listened to Mahalia Jackson or The Dixie Hummingbirds.  It's not typical "scream at the top of your lungs" gospel music.  Rather it's a mellow sermon of church organs, light percussion, electric guitars and Motown-esque vocals that borders on the psychedelic.  Even when the performances are high energy, they nevertheless exist in a pool of quicksand and molasses.  The result is consistently relaxing music—making it enjoyable for believers and non-believers.  It's surreal, but not druggy.  It's clearly worship music singing to the heavens and Jesus Christ.

The music on this collection may not blow your mind—but serious music listeners should take note.  This is definitely worth hearing.

9. No Beginning No End by Jose James

With No Beginning No End Jose James became one of the most-talked about R&B/Jazz artists of 2013.  He hit number one on the jazz charts for the first time in his five year career and he even crossed over onto The Billboard 200 into the not-too-shabby number 91 position.  He'll probably be nominated for a Grammy for this one and even if he doesn't win, the album's 11 tracks are so satisfying that his credibility is 100% self-evident.  James clearly deserves to have the Blue Note moniker stamped onto No Beginning No End's album jacket.  With such stand-out tracks like "It's All Over Your Body," "Trouble," "Vanguard," "Come To My Door" and "Heaven On The Ground," it's also clear that James deserves at least 100,000 more Facebook fans than the 40,000 he has already been blessed with.  

8. Lesser Evil by Doldrums

Before you listen to Lesser Evil by Doldrums, I highly recommend you take a minute to sit and stare at its corresponding album artwork.  Doing so will tell you quite a bit about what cocktail you're about to swallow.

Under the abstract wash of inky, blue, food coloring-like stains and violet flourishes is a human face.  Let's say the face is equivalent to the concept of familiar and agreeable music.  Everything else is a bizarre, sour candy coated, electronic fabric.  Too much of electronic indie rock only gives you the "everything else."  But, sometimes you get the familiar and the agreeable music and the everything else together in one double shot.  This combination is quite addictive when it's done really well.  

Releaesed in February 2013, Lesser Evil is done really well.  Almost perfect! 

If you're going to chill out, you might as well put on some good music and Lesser Evil will more than suffice.  On tracks like "Lesser Evil" and "Lost In Everyone," Doldrums make some of the finest Indie Rock I've heard all year.  Enjoy this underrated masterpiece.

7. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method

Thanks to a recommendation from Paul Pearson of the fantastic and appropriately titled blog  Song Of The Day, I checked out Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method and thought it was terrific.  Then I listened more and more and I thought it was beyond terrific.  Then I listened even more—and look, now Sticky Wickets sits at number seven! After beginning with the title track—which I'll admit is just-okay and nothing special—The Duckworth Lewis Method are off and running with an orchestral pop masterpiece.  There's a lot of Brian Wilson to Duckworth's arrangements and a lot of Todd Rundgren to their experimental humor, but it's very much an album that Ringo Starr would love to have written and crafted—with help from Jellyfish and 2010-era David Bowie.  It's like a swinging circus that takes place while the most visually captivating cricket match occurs on fake grass next door.  What does that mean?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that Sticky Wickets is an odd record that takes many chances and risks and works due to relentless craftsmanship, creativity and, yes, a better-than-average knack for melody.  

Underneath the orchestrations are whispers and spoken-word parts that would sound truly ridiculous if on a record by the less-talented.  But on Sticky Wickets it's charming.  The album's not all straight-up chamber pop.  In fact, on "Out In The Middle," perhaps the best song here, the sticky flourishes lie below an understated, introspective and very moving singer/songwriter ballad.  If it were on Paul McCartney's NEW, it would be the best track.  

Then there's the brilliant "Line and Length," which has multiple choruses and refrains, one being a computer-like spoken word hook and another being  a high-pitched soulful shout.  It's almost a rap song, sounding like Brian Eno was behind the mixing board.  Good stuff.

But, "Good stuff" truly describes most of Sticky Wickets which has received so little attention it hurts.  My blog won't suddenly make it a big album, but hopefully it can serve as a digital tip of the hat to this talented group.

6. Si Sauvage by The Suburbs

A great release from a classic band.  Si Sauvage offers yet more proof that great albums come out of Minneapolis as often as snow falls on the ground.  Having not released a proper album since 1984, this is obviously a different version of The Suburbs than the group that rocked the Twin Cities in the late 70s and 80s.  They're more mature and their real-life experiences, including the death of their original guitarist—not to mention the death of frontman Chan Poling's wife—seem to transfer to the band's new sound.  It's no clearer than on the beautiful and sad "What's It Like Out There?"  

Poling's new-found career of composing musicals, scoring TV shows and jazzing up classic songs with John Munson and Steve Roehm in The New Standards has also added an unmistakable influence to the sonics of Si Sauvage.  But there's plenty of welcome "smart-assery" here that juxtaposes very well with the newfound wisdom.  It makes The Suburbs return to disc-making less like a therapeutic recollection of death and more of an acknowledgement that life is hard, but it still goes on.  Si Sauvage makes a good case that The Suburbs are the perfect band to deliver that message and it's mix of melancholy and exuberance is an excellent musical experience.