Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1972-74)
- Cham Laughlin (aka Robert Chalmers Laughlin) (RIP 2009) --
vocals, guitar, timbales, trombone
- Tommy Laughlin -- bass, backing vocals
- Chuck Page -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Mark Pond -- vocals, keyboards
- Dream (Cham Laughlin)
- Cham Laughlin and Cloned Essence (Cham Laughlin)
- Live Wire (Cham Laughlin)
- Purple Haze (Cham Laughlin)
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Music By Aaron
Catalog: ERS 539
Country/State: Prince Georges County, Virginia
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: textured cover; minor ring wear on cover
Catalog ID: SOLD 4876
Price: SOLD $140.00
Here's another obscurity I'd like to know more about. Unfortunately, there's next to nothing on the web about this short-lived quartet from Prince Georges County Virginia. What little I can tell you comes from the scant liner notes on their album.
Judging by the photos on the back cover of their album I'm guessing that these guys were still in their late teens when they recorded their sole album. Showcasing the talents of singer/guitarist Cham Laughlin, brother/bassist Tommy Laughlin, drummer Chuck Page and singer/keyboardist Mark Pond, 1974's "Music By Aaron" was recorded at Richmond, Virginia's Eastern Studios. Apparently a vanity project meant for distribution to family, friends and sales at local concerts, I've seen at least one on-line reference that says only 500 copies were pressed. Regardless of the actual number pressed, this album is pretty obscure and when it shows up on dealer lists, it typically commands some pretty big prices. Those dealer lists also tend to slap a psych label on the album. Let me warn you that the psych content is pretty low - basically non-existent SO if it wasn't psych, what did it sound like ? Cham Laughlin was credited with most of the nine tracks, though all three of the other members co-wrote material. Musically the set was impressive on at least a couple of counts. First, the album sounded remarkably professional and well produced for such a young band. Heard on quality headphones the album's fidelity matches lots of big ticket productions. The album's also surprisingly diverse. The opener 'Will You Go There with Me' has always reminded me of something out of The Marshall Tucker Band catalog. The mid-tempo rocker 'Lovin' Woman' sported some nice jazzy keyboard and guitar moves. Showcasing some nice harmony work, the ballad 'Like the Season' would have made a nice single. Personal favorites - the bluesy rocker 'You're Coming Down' (though it's too bad they had to split the song between side one and two of the album) and the should've been a hit 'Dreamin''. Yeah, it wasn't the most original set I've ever heard, but track for track these guys were impressive; even more so given their age.
Most hardcore record collections are familiar with Hans Pokora's Record Collectors Dreams reference books. "Music By Aaron" is listed in one of Pokora's books (I think it was in the fifth volume), and while it is certainly hard to find, it deserves to be listed not only for it's rarity, but because it is so damned good. Well worth looking for ... I'm surprised someone hasn't reissued the album.
Aaron" track listing:
1.) Will You Go There with Me (Cham Laughlin) - 4:44 rating: **** stars
Opening up with some tasty phased guitar, 'Will You Go There with Me' showcased the band's sterling harmonies. Kicked along by an insidiously catchy Laughlin guitar figure, as mentioned above, musically this one sounded like Marshall Tucker trying to play a true rock song. Great opener.
2.) Lovin' Woman (Chuck Page - Cham Laughlin) - rating: **** stars
I've always been a sucker for funky guitar and keyboard numbers and that's exactly what 'Lovin' Woman' offered up. Hard to imagine a skinny white guy from Virginia sounding as gritty and soulful as Cham Laughlin did on this number. That said, there secret weapons on this one came in the form of Tommy Laughlin's hyperactive bass pattern and Mark Pond's keyboards. Only complaint with this tune stemmed from the abrupt ending.
3.) Like the Season (Tommy Laughlin - Cham Laughlin) - 4:40. rating: *** stars
Penned by the Laughlin brothers, 'Like the Season' started out as a pretty acoustic ballad. Nice enough, the song actually improved as it went along and more instrumentation was added to the arrangement. For what it is worth, I think Mark Pond handled lead vocals on this one.
4.) You're Comin' Down (Cham Laughlin) - 4:15 rating: **** stars
'You're Comin' Down' was a pounding, jittery, keyboard-propelled rocker. Almost a jam track, the song had a very '70s vibe with lots of space for each member to take a solo. The funny thing is that whereas jam tracks are just plain dull, this one kicked butt. The only shortcoming here was that due to the songs length it was divided across the album's two sides. A bit of better planning would have resulted in a track listing that kept the song intact.
An easy going, breezy ballad, 'Family Circle' was the song that initially did little for me. Other than a nice acoustic guitar solo, the song actually struck me as coming awfully close to MOR radio fodder. So as the saying goes - never trust your first impressions. Over time this one's grown on me and what I initially thought was MOR
2.) Dreamin' (Cham Laughlin) - 4:02 rating: **** stars
Opening up with some nice Pond keyboards, 'Dreamin'' was easily the album's most commercial tune. Imagine a Chicago song written by Robert Lamm without the irritating horn arrangements ... Another catchy melody; great hook, sweet harmony vocals, a killer Laughlin guitar solo ... this one would have sounded perfect slotted in mid-1970s top-40 radio.
3.) I Hear Them Singin' (Cham Laughlin) - 4:08 rating: ** stars
I'll be honest and tell you the mid-tempo ballad 'I Hear Them Singin'' was the one track I could do without. Again, the track was nice enough, but at this point the album would have benefited from another rocker.
4.) Tims (instrumental) (Tommy Laughlin - Mark Pond) - 4:08. rating: *** stars
Showcasing an interesting combination of Latin percussion, cheesy synthesizer, and Uriah Heep-styled organ, the closing instrumental 'Tims' sounded like the band had spent quite a bit of time listening to Santana albums. Quite different from the rest of the album, but very interesting
Cham Laughlin seems to be the member who remained most involved in music, teaching songwriting seminars and operating a sound studio in Prince Georges County, Virginia (Aaron Enterprises) where he produced albums for the likes of Jason Burton and Stephanie Tucker Little. Sadly he died of cancer in January 2009.
Chuck Page also appears to have remained active in music continuing to collaborate with Laughlin as a songwriter.
Odd postscript - I owned a copy of this album for years and sold it about five years ago. I instantly regretted selling it and kept my eyes out for a replacement eventually finding one. The replacement album arrived on January 5th, 2012. By odd coincidence, Laughlin died on January 5th, 2009.
last note - a couple of years ago I got a threatening email from one of the
band relatives who was apparently unhappy with the fact I was selling a used
copy of the LP. The note essentially threatened me with legal
action if I didn't refrain from trying to sell it. After I nicely told
them they had no grounds for legal action, but they were free to sue
... well, big surprise. Never heard back from them.
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