Lucifer


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1: (1971)

- Paul Beedham - percussion, backing vocals

- Bob Cove - horns

- David Dobbs - sax, keyboards, backing vocals

- John Fautley - keyboards, horns

- Christiaan Kooy - guitar

- Eugene 'Jay' Smith - vocals, guitar, harmonica, conga

- Chris Sydlowski - sax

- Bobby Washington - bass, backing vocals

 

 

- Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (Eugene Smith)

- Eugene 'Jay' Smith (solo efforts)

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Lucifer

Company: Invictus

Catalog: ST-7309

Year: 1971

Country/State: Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG

Comments: minor hiss in places; minor cover and edge wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4598

Price: $30.00

Cost: $10.00

 

I'm always intrigued by weird stuff and this early 1970s obscurity fits the bill.  

 

Here's what I know about the release ...  Singer/guitarist Eugene 'Jay' Smith started his musical career as a member of Ronnie Hawkins' backing band The Hawks.  By the late-1960s Smith had formed the band Lucifer with guitarist Christiaan Kooy and bassist Bobby Washington.   

 

Technically Lucifer may have been a trio, but by the time they signed with Invictus Records, Smith was clearly in charge.  In addition to handling the vocals, he was also credited with writing most of the music.   I don't have a clue Smith and company scored a recording contract with Holland-Dozier-Holland's newly formed company, but they somehow pulled it off.  Produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, 1971's "Lucifier" was simply unlike anything else released by Invictus.  Seriously, if you were expecting to hear the brand of highly commercial pop-soul this label pushed out (think along the lines of Chairmen of the Board, Glass House, or Freida Payne), this was about as far from that genre as you could get.   Propelled by Smith's instantly recognizable, if occasionally highly irritating voice (he sounded like a nasally Tom Waite), the album featured a strange combination of country-blues ('Pearl of a Girl'), the bizarre ('For Kids Only') and Blood, Sweat and Tears-styled jazz-rock ('Don't You (Think the Times A-Comin')').  There were certainly a couple of true clunkers including 'Bloodshot Eyes', but there was also something endearing about the collection's wildly gyrating mixture of genres and Smith's truly unique voice.  Songs such as the ode to the hippie lifestyle 'Old Mother Nature' and the unexpectedly funky 'They Gonna Change Everything' sported catchy melodies that managed to overcome his vocal limitations and even the irritating horn arrangements.   Strange, but engaging.

 

"Lucifer" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Pearl for a Girl   (Eugene Smith) - 2:05

Conventional and rather plodding acoustic blues number that served as a good introduction to Smith's nasal twang.  Yeah I can hear many of you lifting the stylus to hear the second song.   rating: ** stars

2.) Old Mother Nature   (Eugene Smith) - 4:04

As mentioned, Smith''s sharp,  nasally voice was an acquired taste and a lot of folks are never gonna acquire the taste.  Still, this acoustic back-to-the-country piece was surprisingly cool and funky, with one of pop music's great refrains.   Invictus tapped the tune as the debut single and the rereleased it the following year:

- 1971's 'Old Mother Nature' b/w 'What I Am' (Invictus catalog number Is-9094)

- 1972's 'Old Mother Nature' b/w 'Bloodshot Eyes' (Invictus catalog number Is-9413)     rating: **** stars

3.) In a Garden   (Eugene Smith) - 2:33

I'm always surprised at how much I like this bizarre, but sweet mix of BS&T horns and country swing.  rating: *** stars

4.) Don't You (Think the Times A-Comin')   (Eugene Smith) - 4:18

Smith getting laidback, reflective, and almost jazzy (thanks to the elaborate horn charts).  Pretty acoustic tune that built up steamed as it rolled along.  I would have given it a far higher grade except for the fact  this was one of the tunes where Smith's voice got under my skin.   rating: *** stars

5.) For Kids Only   (Eugene Smith) - 2:04

I dread hearing material where an artist tries to be too cute.  That's certainly the case on this one.  The kids chorus may be the song's best attribute.  At least they sounded like they were having fun.  Imagine Arlo Guthrie had his very worst.   rating: * star

 

(side 2)
1.) They Gonna Change Everything   (Eugene Smith) - 6:10

More BS&T-styled horn-rock, though with an unexpected funky edge. It when out about four minutes too long.    rating: *** stars

2.) Bloodshot Eyes   (H. Penny - R. Hall) - 4:26

Another shot at novelty that simply sounded flat and uninspired.  I read somewhere Invictus executives thought this tune was so horrible they slapped in on the 'B' side of the second release of 'Old Mother Nature' to underscore what a great tune the 'A" side was.    rating: ** stars

3.) Have You Heard    (John Futley)- 4:22

Nice enough slice of funk rock with a breezy melody and another nice refrain that would have been even better were it not for Smith's voice - you had to wonder if he was doing that irritating nasal grind on purpose ....   rating: *** stars

4.) Laugh   (Eugene Smith) - 4:42

It may have been one of the more rock oriented tunes, but 'Laugh' was the point where Smith's voice and the horns finally got the better of me.  rating: ** stars

5.) We Gotta Go   (Eugene Smith) - 4:06

'We Gotta Go ' was easily the album's most radio friendly and commercial tune.  Guess that's why the song was tapped as the album' second single:

-1971's 'We Gotta Go' b/w 'Don't You (Think The Times A-Comin')' (Invictus catalog number IS-9108)

 

 

For anyone interested, Smith is still active in music and has a website at: http://www.eugenesmith.ca/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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