Curtis Knight


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- Curtis Knight (aka Curtis McNear, aka Curtis McNair, aka 

  Curtis Knight Zeus) (RIP 1999) -- vocals,  guitar

 

 

- Charles Fuqua's The Ink Spots

- Jimi Hendrix

- Curtis Knight and Half Past Midnight

- Curtis Knight and the Squires

- Curtis Knight Band

- The Statesmen

- The Titans

 

 


 

Genre: rock, psych

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Down In the Village

Company: Paramount

Catalog:  PAS 5023
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Fort Scott, Kansas

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3516

Price: $60.00

The rock archives are full of artists who deserve to be rediscovered and the late Curtis Knight is certaily one of those entities.  Knight may not have been the most original, or creative artist you've ever come across, but he has a lengthy catalog, including  an extensive history with Jimi Hendirx.  Unfortunately, stretching back to the late'59s, his discography is pretty much a confusing disaster.

 

Produced by Ed Chalpin for his PPX Exterprise label (the same guy responsible for releasing hundreds of Jimi Hendrix albums),  I wish I knew more about 1970's "Down In the Village".  Distributed by Paramount, the scant liner notes are of little utility - they don't tell you where the set was recorded, let alone who the players were.  That's unfortunate since this low-tech collection was surprisingly impressive.  Given the Hendrix influences that cast its shadow over most of these ten tracks, it's a sure thing these tracks were recorded after Knight met Hendrix in 1965.  My guess is the material was recorded in the 1966-67 timeframe when Knight and Hendrix recorded a great deal of material together, but who knows.  There's even a chance Hendrix plays on some of the material.  Again, who knows.   Regardless of whether Hendrix was present, exemplified by tracks like 'Lena', 'Gimmie Your Plenty Lovin'' and 'Goodbye Cruel World' the album should appeal to the legions of fans who worship at the man's alter.  Judging by these tracks, Knight certainly wasn't as talented as Hendrix, but he made the best of his talents and had a good ear for a funky melody and more than his share of guitar chops.  What's the old adage?  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?  That seems to capture the album's overall vibe.  A little weak in the originality department, but consistently entertaining.  Hard to imagine Paramount could have come up with an uglier cover concept.  You almost had to wonder if their goal was to minimize sales.

 

"Down In the Village" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Down In the Village   (Curtis McNear) - 3:17

Even with the overabundance of cowbell, 'Down In the Village' was a surprisingly funky endeavor.  It was also one of the few songs that didn't reflect a Hendrix-inspired sound.  "Do the Indian walk now ..."  Maybe it was just me, but listening closely, it sounded like George Harrison might have borrowed the bass pattern for his lead guitar solo on The Beatles 'Birthday'. 

The song was also released as a single in Holland,  Italy and the UK:

- 1970's 'Down In the Village' b/w 'HIgh and Low' (Polydor catalog number 2050 030)

- 1970's 'Down In the Village' b/w 'No Point of View' (RCA Victor catalog number 1950) 

- 1970's 'Down In the Village' b/w 'No Point of View' (Stateside catalog number 3C 006-91552) 

2.) Lena   (Curtis McNear) - 3:51   rating: **** stars

Darn, wish I could play me some guitar like Knight's work on the blazing 'Lena' !!!  Blues-meets-Hendrix and one of Knight's best vocals.  The album's best performance, this was the track I would have tapped as a single.

3.) Friedman Hill   (Curtis McNear) - 3:00   rating: *** stars

With a raw, bluesy feel, 'Friedman Hill' was a disconcerting tale of drug use gone awry ...  Kudos to Knight for going against the counterculture with this tale of drug induced despair.    Don't do it guys.

4.) See No Evil   (Curtis McNear) - 3:38   rating: **** stars

I'm usually not a gigantic blues guy, but I was quite taken by 'See No Evil'.  Opening up with some nice B-3 Hammond fills and one of the fattest fuzz bass patterns I've ever heard, this was a killer performance that got better each and every time.

5.) Beautiful World, Beautiful People   (Curtis McNear - John Mazzola) - 3:03   rating: *** stars

For a moment the fragile ballad 'Beautiful World, Beautiful People' sounded a bit like Arthur Lee and Love, or maybe Thunderclap Newman.  Those comparisons were underscored by the somewhat dated Summer-of-Love-styled lyrics.   

6.) Goin Up the Road   (Curtis McNear) - 3:57   rating: ** stars

The album's one throwaway performance, 'Goin Up the Road' was a pedestrian, bluesy number that simply didn't sound like it had been finished.

 

(side 2)

1.) Gimmie Your Plenty Lovin'   (Curtis McNear - Harvey Vinson) - 9:45   rating: **** stars

Hendrix, Hendrix, Hendrix ...  yeah, that's a pretty apt description of this extended vamp.  'Gimmie Your Plenty Lovin'' started out with considerable energy and just went off the rails into lysergic madness as it went along.  Admittedly the last couple of minutes weren't really necessary, but it made for one freaked out selection.

2.) Eenee Meenee Minee Mo   (Curtis McNear) - 3:53   rating: **** stars

Sure, Hendrix's shadow cast itself on the goofy 'Eenee Meenee Minee Mo' , but unlike some of the other tracks on the album, this one had more of a soul feel than a Hendrix-ish psych flavor.  Love the big, rolling bass that kicked the tune along.

3.) Hi-Low (Curtis McNear) - 3:33   rating: **** stars

The album's funkiest tune, 'Hi Low' was  worth hearing just for the growling, burping bass line. Shame the album didn't include liner notes telling you who the supporting musicians were.   Awesome tune.

4.) Goodbye Cruel World   (Curtis McNear - John Mazzola) - 2:13   rating: **** stars

Geez, talk about someone having swallowed the Hendrix sound hook, line and sinker ...   Seriously, 'Goodbye Cruel World' found McNear and company putting on their best Hendrix impression.  The problem is this one was rocker totally derivative and Knight simply lacked the vocal chops to compete with Hendrix. I will admit there was plenty of Knight fuzz guitar on this one and the swirling organ sound was kind of neat !!!

 

 

And like so much of Knight's recording catalog, this set's been subject to multiple releases by different labels and in slightly different variants.  No idea which ones are legitimate and which aren't.  Among the myriad of releases I'm aware of are:

  France

  1970's "Down In the Village" (Stateside catalog number 2 C062-92738)

  German

  1970's "Down In the Village" (Decca catalog number SLK 16686-P)

   Italy

  1971's "Goodbye Cruel World" (Stateside catalog number 3C062-92193

  Holland

  1972's "Down In the Village (Polydor catalog number 2441 009)

 

 

 

 

 

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