Box Tops, The


Band members               Related acts

  line up 1 (1967)

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Bill Cunningham -- keyboards

- John Evans -- bass

- Gary Talley -- lead guitar, sitar, bass, banjo

- Danny Smythe -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 2 (1967)

NEW - Rick Allen -- bass, harmonica, trumpet (replaced

  John Evans)

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Bill Cunningham -- keyboards

- Gary Talley -- lead guitar, sitar, bass, banjo

- Danny Smythe -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 3 (1967-69)

- Rick Allen -- bass, harmonica, trumpet

NEW - Tom Boggs --  drums, percussion (replaced

  Danny Smythe)

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Bill Cunningham -- keyboards

- Gary Talley -- lead guitar, sitar, bass, banjo

 

  line up 4 (1969)

- Rick Allen -- bass, harmonica, trumpet

- Tom Boggs --  drums, percussion

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Bill Cunningham -- keyboards

NEW -  Jerry Riley -- lead guitar (replaced Gary Talley)

 

  line up 5 (1969-70)

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

NEW - Harold Cloud -- keyboards (replaced

  Bill Cunningham)

NEW - Bobby Gudiotti -- drums, percussion (replaced

  Tom Boggs)

- Jerry Riley -- lead guitar

NEW - Swain Schaffer -- bass (replaced Rick Allen)

 

  line up 6 (1996-2000)

- Alex Chilton (RIP 2010) -- vocals, rhythm guitar

- Bill Cunningham -- bass, keyboards

- John Evans -- bass

- Gary Talley -- lead guitar, sitar, bass, banjo

- Danny Smythe -- drums, percussion

 

 

 

 

Big Star (Alex Chilton)

- Alex Chilton (solo efforts)

- The Coachmen (Rick Allen)

- Ronnie and the De Villes

- The Fifth Movement (Danny Smythe)

- Flash and the Board of Directors (Tom Boggs)

- The Gentrys (Rick Allen)

- The In Crowd (John Evans and Gary Talley)

- The Maffers (John Evans)

- The Scepters (Swain Schaffer and Danny Smythe)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Letter / Neon Rainbow

Company: Bell

Catalog: 6011
Year:
 1967

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: minor ring wear on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6002

Price: $8.00

 

I guess it's nothing more than one of those odd coincidences, but in February 2010 I was reorganizing some of the 35,000 LPs I own.  Anyhow, I was in the 'B' section and came across my old Box Tops LPs.  For some reason I thought I should give them a spin, so I pulled the whole set out and put them in my 'to-listen-to' pile. Fast forward to March 2010 and Alex Chilton unexpected died.  So here we are a couple of months later and I'm finally going through The Box Tops catalog for the first time in probably ten years ...  I have to admit that it's both a joyful and sad experience to hear these albums again.  The joy stems from the fact there are so many great tunes across these records.  The sadness is apparent.   I guess you can call this my own small tribute to Chilton.

 

  Talley - Smyth (glasses) - Chilton (standing) - Cunningham -  Evans

 

The Box Tops trace their roots to the Memphis band Ronnie & the Devilles/The Devilles.  A white soul group, in 1967 the line up featured keyboardist/namesake Ronnie Jordan, bass player Russ Caccamisi, keyboardist John Evans, lead guitarist Richard Malone, and drummer Danny Smythe.  The group was a popular mid-1960s fixture on the Memphis music scene, winning a number of local talent shows.  With support from Memphis disc jockey Ray Banks the group was signed by Dan Penn's small Youngstown Records, where they recorded a couple of demos, but before anything could really happen, they underwent a major series of personnel shifts with the departures of Jordan, Caccamisi, and Malone.  When the dust settled the line up featured then 17 year old high school student Alex Chilton on vocals, keyboardist Bill Cunningham, Evans now handling bass, former In Crowd guitarist Gary Talley, and Smythe on drums.

 

Concerned that there was already a band working under The Devilles nameplate, manager Roy Mack demanded a name change, and now billed as The Box Tops, things took off when Bell Records executives spotted the band, signing them to Bell's Mala subsidiary. 

 

One of the tracks the group had already recorded with producer Penn was a cover of Wayne Carson Thompson's 'The Letter'.  Mala quickly tapped it as a single:

 

 

- 1967's 'The Letter' b/w 'Happy Times' (Mala catalog number 565) # 1 pop

 

YouTube has a number of television performances of the song.  The first is an uncredited television performance with the band clearly lip-synching.  The second is taken from the band's appearance on TV horror-host John Zacherley's "Disc-O-Teen" 1967 Halloween dance party.  They don't actually sing the song, but It's almost worth it to see drummer Smythe's discomfort at having to kiss the hand of a female fan.  The third clip looks like it was pulled from a performance on the Mike Douglas Show with an extremely unhappy looking Chilton scowling though the whole segment:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z8RCfnWPOo&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lJgDL11lUk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD9mCp8SifM

 

Within a matter of weeks the single had topped the US charts with the band suddenly an in-demand live act opening for an impressive list of know acts including The Beach Boys, Wilson Pickett, and Carla Thomas.  Success also led to another personnel shift with Evans dropping out in order to enroll in college.  Former Coachmen and Gentrys bassist Rick Allen was quickly brought in as a replacement.

 

Released later in the year, the band's second single also charted:

 

 

- 1967's 'Neon Rainbow' b/w 'Everything I Am' (Mala catalog number 593) # 24 pop

 

Unfortunately, success was followed by another personnel change - drummer Smythe tendering his resignation in order to go back to school.  Smythe's replacement was ex-Flash & the Directors drummer Thomas Boggs.

 

With the band having shown they had commercial legs, as was standard marketing procedure, Mala rushed the group into the studio to record a supporting album - 1967's cleverly-titled "The Letter / Neon Rainbow".  Produced by Penn, the album included the two earlier hits, along with a somewhat erratic mixture of popular pop and soul hits, and new material from local songwriters. Penn was clearly interested in underscoring the band's blue-eyed soul moves with over half of the album falling into that genre and to be honest, those were the tracks that made the biggest impact.  Chilton's craggy and instantly identifiable voice was perfectly suited for the genre.  Unfortunately with Mala management hyper-anxious to get the album in stores, the majority of the set was apparently recorded with Memphis studio players (only 'The Letter' and 'Break My Mind' featured the band), giving the album a distinctly slapdash feel.  On the other hand, since the spotlight and emphasis was clearly on Chilton's unique voice, in the end that didn't make all than much difference.      

 

- No matter what you think of the remainder of The Box Tops' recording catalog, you've got to admit that 'The Letter' is an amazing piece of music.  Literally two minutes of pop perfection, it only took the band 30 takes to nail the song.  There's simply no way that a 16 year old white kid could have sung like this ! Interestingly, producer Penn had to fight to keep the airplane engine sounds on the track.   rating: ***** stars 

- Chilton's voice was so special virtually anything he touched had commercial potential and the bluesy 'She Knows Now' was no excepting.  Perhaps not as immediately catchy as 'The Letter' (it was also penned by Wayne Carson Thompson), this one actually had a better groove - quite slinky.   rating: ***** stars

- So if you could include a jet engine sound in a number one song, why not an array of transportation sounds in an otherwise plodding cover of Burt Bacharach's ''Trains & Boats & Planes' ?  The album's first disappointment, Chilton just didn't sound like he was connecting with this one.  Forgettable.   rating: ** stars

- 'Break My Mind' was one of two tracks that the band actually played on.  Even though it was a country-flavored number, judging by the performance you had to wonder why producer Penn bothered with sessions players.  These guys sounded as competent and enthusiastic as any of the sessions player tracks.   rating: ** stars

- Their cover of Procol Harum's 'Whiter Shade of Pale' won't make you forget original, at least in part due to the fact it sounded so similar to the original.  Cunningham nailed the Gary Brooker organ solos.  The biggest difference between the two were actually the sappy strings Penn tacked on to the arrangement.   rating: *** stars

- The ballad 'Everything I Am' had a slight Gospel feel (thanks to Cunningham's Hammond B3 organ), but just never really kicked into gear.  Way to maudlin and sappy to make a lasting impression.   rating: ** stars

- Yeah, I know it was a big hit for them, but I've never been a big fan of 'Neon Rainbow".  The chorus was great, but the rest of the song was simply to plodding and MOR to sustain much attention.   rating: ** stars

- The first of two Bobby Womack covers (Womack was rumored to have been one of the sessions players on the album), 'People Make the World' was a nice blue-eyed soul performance.  A slow, breezy melody with some entertaining and surprisingly astute lyrics, this was a personal favorite.   rating: **** stars 

- 'I'm Your Puppet' was another track that was good, but couldn't really compete with the original Purify Brothers version.  Can't say I was a big fan of the bells.    rating: *** stars 

- 'Happy Days' was the other hidden gem on the set.  Somewhat atypical for the album, this one was an out-and-out slice of top-40 pop,  Showcasing Cunningham's keyboards this one was very bubble-gummy and one of the standout performance.  Would have been a better choice for a single than 'Neon Rainbow'.    rating: **** stars

- The second Womack composition, the bluesy  'Gonna Find Somebody' was another song that was ideal for Chilton's gritty, soul drenched voice.    rating: **** stars

- Another Penn-Oldham composition, 'I Pray for Rain' was an over-orchestrated, schmaltzy ballad that told misused Chilton's gifts.  Gimme a break - thunderstorm sound effects ?  Yech.    rating: **** stars 

 

It was far from a perfect debut album, but given the circumstances including it's rush recording schedule, the overall result wasn't half bad.   

  

"The Letter / Neon Rainbow" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Letter    (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 1:58

2.) She Knows Now    (Wayne Carson Thompson)  - 3:08

3.) Trains & Boats & Planes   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David) - 3:44

4.) Break My Mind   (John D. Loudermilk) - 2:29

5.) Whiter Shade of Pale   (Keith Reid - Gary Brooker) - 4:27

6.) Everything I Am   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:14

 

(side 2)
1.) Neon Rainbow    (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 3:03

2.) People Make the World   (Bobby Womack) - 2:33

3.) I'm Your Puppet   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:50

4.) Happy Times   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 1:42

5.) Gonna Find Somebody   (Bobby Wommack) - 2:59

6.) I Pray for Rain   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:23

 

 

For anyone interested, the Box Tops have a nice web presence at:

http://www.boxtops.com/

 

Talley also has a website:

http://www.garytalley.com/

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Cry Like a Baby

Company: Bell

Catalog: 6017
Year:
 1967

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: minor ring wear on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6003

Price: $10.00

 

 

Recording a sophomore album is almost always a nightmare for a band and that was clearly the case for The Box Tops.  Having gone from unknowns to being one of the world's best known bands in a matter of months, the pressure on them for a strong follow-on must have been unbearable.  Compounding the problem was Bell Record's insatiable demand for a follow-on album before the band had been given a chance to recover from their first album.  Producers and songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham clearly felt the same pressures (check out their attempt to remake 'The Letter' in the form of '727').  As a result, 1967's "Cry Like a Baby" exhibited the same mixture of strengths and weaknesses that marked the first album.  Chilton and company were clearly a talented outfit, but like the debut they were pretty much at the mercy of producers Penn and Oldham who tried to cover all of the musical bases with a hodgepodge mixture of blue-eyed soul (the title track), country-flavored numbers, and more pop-oriented material ('Trouble with Sam').  That also served to intensify frustration within the band (and particular Chilton) who wanted greater creative flexibility.  As on the debut, there wasn't a single band original.  The fact the end result were as good as it they were was a clearly reflection on the band's considerable talent and stamina.

 

- 'Cry Like a Baby' was easily one of the best songs they ever recorded - a fantastic slice of blue-eyed soul that was a near perfect vehicle for Chilton's instantly recognizable voice.  Kicked along by some tasty electric sitar (played by sessions player Reggie Young), it was easy to see why Bell tapped it as a single and why it went top-5.   rating: ***** stars

- 'Deep In Kentucky' was a goof up-tempo rocker that was wrecked by a hackneyed string arrangement which included a totally out of place oboe solo and some dumb thunderstorm sound effects.   rating: ** stars

- Propelled by some pretty Cunningham electric keyboards, 'I'm the One for You' was a pretty ballad that showcased the group's overlooked vocal harmony skills.  One of their lost standout performances.   rating: *** stars.

- The first major disappointment, 'Weeping Analeah' was a bland and instantly forgettable country-tinged ballad.  Complete with horns, strings and female backing singers, this one was basically a waste of the band's time and energy.   rating: ** stars

- Another Penn-Oldham composition, 'Every Time' was a perfect example of the band's strengths and weaknesses.  The good news came in the form of Chilton's voice.  Employing his raspy edge, Chilton's performance was great.  The downside was the song itself wasn't all that good.  It could have been, but Penn and Oldham chose to bury it in a needlessly MOR arrangement, complete with irritating horns and female backing chorus.  Shame since it would have been a dynamite performance stripped down to a more basic arrangement.    rating: ** stars

- 'Fields of Clover' was one of those songs that didn't make a great deal of impression on me the first couple of times I heard it.  Chilton's performance was nice enough, but the song was simply kind of blasť.    rating: ** stars

- 'Trouble with Sam' was an okay pop number that was probably a touch too cute for its own good.  Always liked the handclaps ...    rating: ** stars

- 'Lost' was the hidden gem on this album.  A radio friendly blued-eyed soul number, this one had everything required for a hit song - great melody; one of Chilton's toughest vocals, and great backing from the rest of the band.    rating: **** stars

- With Danny Smythe's martial drums featured front and center, 'Good Morning Dear' was a pretty, but forgettable ballad.  Smothered in female backing singers, the song was simply way too sentimental and MOR for the band's own good.    rating: ** star

- Hearing '727' I guess you couldn't really blame Penn and Oldham for trying to replicate the success of 'The Letter'.  The similarities between the two songs were certainly there, though this one came out on the losing end of the competition.  Wonder how come an airline didn't nab it for a commercial ...    rating: *** star  

- The Box Tops were never know for their affinity for hard rock so it was interesting to hear them take a stab at The Vanilla Fudge version of 'You Keep Me Hanging On'.  Slathered in heavy echo, Cunningham's keyboards and Talley's guitar were spotlighted on this one.  Chilton was okay, but overall their molten version really didn't sound all that different from The Fudge.   rating: ** stars

 

Released as a single the title track provided the band with their second biggest American hit and as you can see from the picture sleeves below, the song did well internationally.

 

- 1968's 'Cry Like a Baby' b/w 'The Door You Close To Me' (Mala catalog number 593)  # 2 pop

 

Backed by the hit, television exposure and touring, the album hit # 59 in the States.

 

"Cry Like a Baby" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Cry Like a Baby   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:35

2.) Deep In Kentucky   (B. Davidson) - 2:05

3.) I'm the One for You   (Thomas - Jones) - 2:55

4.) Weeping Analeah   (Folger - Newbury) - 2:53

5.) Every Time   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:27

6.) Fields of Clover   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:45

 

(side 2)
1.) Trouble with Sam   (Dan Penn) - 2:05

2.) Lost   (James - Spreen) - 2:18

3.) Good Morning Dear   (Newbury) - 3:34

4.) 727   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:15

5.) You Keep Me Hanging On   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozer - Eddie Holland) - 3:30

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Non Stop

Company: Bell

Catalog: 6023
Year:
 1968

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6004

Price: $15.00

 

1968's "Non Stop" found the group continuing their partnership with producer/writer Dan Penn.  Even though the group was increasingly unhappy with the limitations Penn and Bell Records were imposing, musically this one wasn't much different than the two earlier studio sets, offering up another mixture of blue-eyed soul ('She Shot a Hole In My Hear'), country-tinged pop ('I'm Moving On'), and an occasional nod to the blues ('Rock Me Baby').  That said, on a song for song basis this one wasn't as impressive as the earlier releases.  In the band's defense, at least part of that had to be a result of their schedule - this marked the third studio set they'd recorded in a little over a year.  Combined with a hectic touring schedule you had to wonder how they'd managed to keep up the pace. Still, this one was well worth checking out.  At least half of the eleven tracks were worth hearing multiple times and the album included one of the band's weirdest, but coolest songs - 'Yesterday Where's My Mind'.

 

- To be honest 'Choo Choo Train' wasn't a great song.  The melody wasn't particularly memorable and the lyrics were clumsy ...  That said, Alex Chilton's vocals had to be heard to be believed.  Literally sounding like he was singing with a mouth full of rusty nails, it was impossible to believe an 18 year old kid could have such a voice.   rating: *** stars

- Their cover of Clarence Snow's 'I'm Moving On' opened up as a straightforward country number.  The performance was fine, but it wasn't until the midsection where the switched gears giving the song a rock feel that it really got interesting.  Nice horn charts and Talley turn in some great work on guitar and banjo.   rating: *** stars

- Penned by Wayne Carson Thompson, 'Sandman' found the band diving into adult contemporary ballad territory.  The song was pretty enough with Talley adding some nice fuzz guitar, but in the end the results found Chilton and company coming awfully close to MOR crooner.  Surprising this one wasn't tapped as a single ...   rating: *** stars

- For my money, the blue-eyed soul rocker 'She Shot a Hole In My Heart' was easily one of the standout performance.  Chilton turned in his best performance with the rest of the band pounding the crap out of the track.  Instantly memorable, this was another one with radio potential.   rating: ***** stars

- One of two Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham compositions, the rocker 'People Gonna Talk' was another one of those songs where you just had to shake your head and wonder how a bunch of white teenagers could sound this gritty.  Amazing tune and another standout performance.  I'm usually not a big harmonica player, but be sure to check out Rick Allen's performance.   rating: **** stars

- Given his reputation as one of rock's true hellions, I've always had to smile when hearing Chilton singing the Gospel-tinged 'I Met Her In a Church'.   Great tune.   rating: **** stars

- There have to literally be thousands of covers of B.B. King and Joe Josea's 'Rock Me Baby', but few are as good as this spunky version.  Chilton showed a real talent and affection for blues on this one and it gave Talley a rare opportunity to show off his slide guitar.   The only problem with this one was that it was too short (unlike the extended version on their next LP).   rating: **** stars

- As far as I'm concerned 'Rollin' In My Sleep' was a slice of pure pop pleasure, but some folks will dismiss it as being vapid.  Great melody and Talley turned in some nice picking on his electric guitar.  Yeah, the orchestrated arrangement at the end of the song was a bit much, but the track faded out just as the strings kicked in.   rating: *** stars

- The lone Chilton original, 'I Can Dig It' was a funky little number that was of interest more as a curiosity than anything.  There really wasn't a great deal to the song and the horns kind of took over, though Chilton sounded great on the song.   rating: *** stars

- The album's weirdest performance, 'Yesterday Where's My Mind' was also the set's coolest offering.  A dreamy, mid-tempo number the song found Chilton employing his deepest, most rugged vocals.  The result sounded a but like Jim Morrison and the Doors had they decided to decamp Los Angeles for Memphis.  Yeah, I know that's a weird description, but this one really did sound a bit like Chilton and company trying to channel Morrison.  Given Chilton and company had actually seen The Doors perform in Texas, perhaps the comparison wasn't without some basis.  Regardless, it made for one cool performance.   rating: **** stars

- The beginning of 'If I Had Let You In' sounded like Chilton trying out his best Bob 'mouth full of marbles' Dylan impression.  From their the song morphed into a pleasant, but somewhat anonymous and over-orchestrated ballad.  rating: ** stars

 

Bell tapped the album for a pair of singles:

 

 

 

- 1968's 'Choo Choo Train' b/w 'Fields of Clover' (Mala catalog number 12,005) # 26 pop

- 1968's 'I Met Her In a Church' b/w 'People are Gonna Talk' (Mala catalog number 12,017) # 37 pop

 

"Non Stop" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Choo Choo Train   (Fritts - Hinton) - 2:46

2.) I'm Moving On   (Clarence E. Snow) - 3:46

3.) Sandman   (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 2:55

4.) She Shot a Hole In My Heart   (M. Bryant - C. Neese) - 2:42

5.) People Gonna Talk   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 4:09

 

(side 2)
1.) I Met Her In Church   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:40

2.) Rock Me Baby   (B.B. King - Joe Josea) - 3:49

3.) Rollin' In My Sleep   (Paul Davis) - 3:15

4.) I Can Dig It   (Alex Chilton) - 2:25

5.) Yesterday Where's My Mind   (John Reed) - 3:28

6.) If I Had Let You In   (Fritts - Hinton) - 3:28

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Box Tops Super Hits

Company: Bell

Catalog: 6025
Year:
 1968

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: metallic cover; 'Lang' printed on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6005

Price: $5.00

 

Clearly concerned the band was losing its commercial audience, Bell management popped out a quickie 'best of'' collection - 1968's "The Box Tops Super Hits".  As far as such retrospectives go, this one wasn't bad, collecting the big hits off the first three LPs and a couple of interesting album cuts.  Six of the songs were off of the first LP; two off of the sophomore set, and three off of the third.   Probably the one to buy if you were just a casual fan, or merely curious what it was all about.  A decent seller, the album hit # 45 on the charts.

 

back cover

 

"Dimensions" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Letter   (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 1:58

2.) Trains & Boats & Planes   (Burt Bacharach - Hal David)- 3:44

3.) Break My Mind   (John D. Loudermilk) - 2:28

4.) Whiter Shade of Pale   (Keith Reid - Gary Brooker) - 4:27

5.) She Shot a Hole In My Heart   (M. Bryant - C. Neese) - 2:42

6.) Neon Rainbow   (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 3:03

 

(side 2)
1.) Cry Like a Baby   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:05

2.) I'm Your Puppet   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:05

3.) I Met Her In Church   (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham) - 2:40

4.) You Keep Me Hanging On   (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 3:30

5.) Choo Choo Train   (Fritts - Hinton) - 2:46

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Dimensions

Company: Bell

Catalog: 6032
Year: 1969

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: cut top left corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6006

Price: $15.00

Hum, for their fourth and final studio album (well, at least for the next three decades), The Box Tops seemingly decided to go with the times, growing their hair and judging by Sue Obrant's happenin' and instantly dated album cover, apparently having decided to go wild and psychedelic ...  well as psychedelic as their blue-eyed soul roots allowed - which meant 1969's "Dimensions" really didn't stray far from their earlier blue-eyed catalog.   So if you liked what they'd done up to this point, you were probably going to enjoy these ten tracks.  If you weren't a big fan of the genre; well you might as well stop right here.

 

Co-produced by Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman, this one clearly showed a band, including new guitarist Jerry Riley (replacing Gary Talley), beginning to run out of enthusiasm and ideas.  The performances weren't bad, but the overall feel was less focused and less enthusiastic than the earlier collections.  You got the distinct impression they knew musical tastes were changing and their bread and butter sound was about to become helplessly out of date.  The end result was a collection that actually sounded like it was cobbled together from a mixture of previously recorded odds and ends (including an extended version of 'Rock Me Baby') and several throwaway tracks.  Mind you, they were too talented to simply turn in a collection without some standout performances - 'Soul Deep' was easily as good as anything they'd recorded on the debut.  The album was also interesting for featuring three Chilton compositions - 'Together', 'I Must Be the Devil' and 'The Happy Song'.  

 

- Penned by Wayne Carson Thompson (who had previously written 'The Letter'), 'Soul Deep was a fantastic slice of blue-eyed soul; easily one of their top three performances.  With an instantly memorable melody and one of Chilton's most likeable vocals, anyone who doubted these guys could find a balance between pop and soul needed to check this one out.  Easy to see why it was tapped as one of three singles off the album.   rating: ***** stars

- The first couple of times I heard their cover of Dylan's 'I Shall Be Released' it really didn't do much for me; simply too MOR-ish for my tastes.  Having heard it for the first time in a couple of years I had to admit I found the track far more appealing.  Yeah, the country-tinged arrangement was a bit slow, bit Chilton and company used it as a wonderful platform to showcase their criminally overlooked harmony vocals.  Very nice ...    rating: **** stars

- With 'Midnight Angel' Chilton released his inner demons and his 70 year-old blues singer voice ...  Musically the song was kind of a mishmash of genres including blues, pop, and rock, but it had a great chorus and Chilton's voice was just amazing.  You just had to scratch your head and wonder how a 19 year old could have a voice like that !     rating: **** stars

- One of three Chilton originals (a first for the band), 'Together' was a beautiful mid-tempo number that showcased Rick Allen's keyboards and Riley's fuzz guitar.  With a mesmerizing melody, my only complaint was the horns sounded somewhat out of place on this one.    rating: **** stars

- The first disappointment, ' I'll Hold Out My Hand' wasn't a bad song, but the performance sounded unenthused and halfhearted.  The horn arrangements didn't help much    rating: ** stars

- The second Chilton composition, 'I Must Be The Devil' was a standard blues number made interesting by the autobiographical lyric ...  nice preview of Chilton's forthcoming life.  Riley turned in a great solo on this one.    rating: *** stars

- 'Sweet Cream Ladies. Forward March' showcased the group apparently attempting to blend blue-eyed soul and Beatles-styled psychedelia (the Salvation Army-styled horns were very Sgt Pepper-ish).  Chilton's voice remained instantly recognizable and while it was far from their creative zenith, the song was goofy enough to attract at least passing interest.  Lyrically the song was supposedly inspired by the band's experiences with ladies of the night, though I have no idea if that's true.  Anyone got a clue what it was about?   rating: *** stars

- A straightforward country ditty, 'The Happy Song' was simply lost on me.   rating: ** stars

- Far better, 'Ain't No Way' was an upbeat, extremely commercial pop song that would have made a nice single.  Riley turned in a great guitar solo (though it actually sounded like an electric sitar).   rating: *** stars

- While their cover of the classic 'Rock Me Baby' wasn't bad, you had to wonder why they included a nine plus minute version of the song on the album. That was underscored by the fact the previous release included a far better version that clocked in at just short of four minutes.   Overkill, especially when the tempo slowed down, though Riley acquitted himself well on this one.   rating: *** stars

 

Elsewhere the album was tapped for a couple of singles:

 

 

- 1969's 'Sweet Cream Ladies' b/w 'See Only Sunshine' (Mala catalog number 12,035)  # 28 pop

- 1969's 'I Shall Be Released' b/w 'I Must be the Devil' (Mala catalog number 12,038) # 67 pop

- 1969's 'Soul Deep' b/w 'The Happy Song' (Mala catalog number 12,040) # 1 pop

 

Probably not a must own for the casual fan, but if you're a Box Tops fan, you'll want a copy.

 

"Dimensions" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Soul Deep  (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 2:26
2.) I Shall Be Released   (Bob Dylan) - 2:47
3.) Midnight Angel    (Mark James - Glen Spreen) - 3:18
4.) Together   (Alex Chilton) - 3:20
5.) I'll Hold Out My Hand   (Chip Taylor - Al Gorgoi) -  3:21

6.) I Must Be The Devil    (Alex Chilton) - 3:25

 

(side 2)
1.) Sweet Cream Ladies   (B. Weinstein - Jon Stolli) - 2:13
2.) The Happy Song    (Alex Chilton) - 1:56
3.).Ain't No Way   (Neil Diamond) - 3:01
4.) Rock Me Baby   (
B.B. King - Joe Josea) -  9:16

 

 

And with that things started to fall apart.  Original keyboardist Cunningham bailed early in mid-1969 deciding to head back to school.  He was replaced by Harold Cloud  with Swain Schaffer being added to the line-up on bass.  The revamped line-up managed to release a couple of non-LP single before calling it quits.

 

 

- 1969's 'Turn On a Dream' b/w 'Together' (Bell catalog number ) # 58 pop

- 1970's 'You Keep Tightening Up On Me' b/w 'Come On Honey' (Bell catalog number 865)  # 92 pop

 

Even though the band officially called it quits in 1970, isolated singles continued to appear under the band's name.  All are hard to find and they're apparently even a mystery to the band.  The first reflected their final release for Bell.  The next two were produced by Willie Mitchell on his London-affiliated Hi label; the fourth was released by Stax:

 

- 1971's 'Kings Highway' b/w 'Since I Been Gone' (Bell catalog number 9902)

- 1972's 'It's All Over' b./w Sugar Creek Woman' (Hi catalog number 45-2228)

- 1973's 'Hold On Girl' b/w 'Angel' (Hi catalog number 45-2242)

- 1974's 'Willobee and Dale' b/w 'It's Gonna Be O.K.' (Stax catalog STA 0199)

 

 

Boggs started a career in the restaurant business becoming a co-owner of the Memphis Hueys chain.

 

Chilton reappeared as a member of Big Star and then enjoyed a lengthy, if erratic career.  He died unexpectedly in March 2010.

 

Cunningham turned his attention to classical music, touring the world, before turning his attention to the business world.

 

After serving a tour with the US Army Corps of Engineers Evans focused his efforts on repairing and building custom guitars.  He also kept his hand in music, playing with The Maffers.  In the 1990s he went back to school, subsequently building a career as a computer administrator.

 

Smythe formed The Fifth Movement, before moving into commercial illustration.

 

Talley joined The Sounds of Memphis Studio as a sessions player.  In the early 1980s he moved to Atlanta and shifted his attention to working as a touring sideman and writing and performing commercial jingles.

 

 

 

 

 

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