Van Peebles, Melvin

Band members               Related acts

- Bob Babbitt -- bass

- George Davis -- guitar

- Leopold Fleming -- percussion

- Jerry Friedman -- guitar

- Arthur Jenkins -- keyboards

- Bob Mann -- guitar

- Andrew Smith -- drums

- Warren Smith -- percussion

- Melvin Van Peebles -- vocals

- Harold Wheeler -- keyboards




- none known





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  What the ... You Mean I Can't Sing

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7295

Year: 1973

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 5096

Price: $35.00


I was at a yard sale and was astonished to discover there's a whole collecting sub-species out there that focuses on recordings made by celebrities ...  Their raison d'etre revolves around finding albums and 45s released by such non-singers as Telly Savalas, Suzanne Sommers, William Shatner (okay I won't even mention the Trekkies sub-sub-group).  Which brings me to Melvin Van Peebles.


As an individual Van Peebles is pretty amazing.  He's probably best known as a film director and producer ("The Watermelon Man"), but he's also made a paycheck doing everything from a stint in the Air Force, painting, writing books (La Permission), acting, and directing and scoring Broadway productions ("Ain't Suppose To Die a Natural Death").  Starting in the late 1960s he also recorded a series of quickly forgotten, but highly coveted albums.


1973's "What the ... You Mean I Can't Sing" stood as his fourth collection; his first released by Atlantic Records.  Produced and largely written by Van Peebles, it differed quite a bit from those earlier albums ("Br'er Soul" and "As Serious As a Heart Attack") in that Van Peebles largely abandoned proto-type rapping in favor of actually trying to sing.  The results were pretty wild with Van Peebles surrounding himself with some wild grooves and a mix of political ('Save the Watergate 500'), social ('A Birth Certificate Ain't Nothing But a Death Warrant Anyway') and good time ('So Many Bars') workouts.  Be forewarned the man's singing voice put him on the same playing field as late career Dylan (it'll help anyone with a bad case of acne), but on tracks like 'There' (which borrowed a Stevie Wonder melody) and the funky 'Come On Write Me' you tended to forget that he had a horrible voice.  Imagine Dr. John cross bred with Elmer Fudd had they been born black and truly funky and you'll be in the right neighborhood.  'Course my wife said he sounded like the junkie character Damion Wynans use to play.  To be perfectly honest this is one of those albums that's simply hard to adequate describe without the benefit of hearing it, but Van Peebles somehow managed to capture that unique mid-1970s inner city atmosphere that he rode to success as one of the founders of 'blaxploitation'.   The fact he had an ironic sense of humor certainly didn't hurt.  Elsewhere his cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' simply had to be heard to be believed.  For some reason Atlantic pulled the collection's worst song as a single:


- 'Eyes On the Rabbit (edit) b/w 'Eyes On the Rabbit (LP version) (Atlantic catalog number 45 3039)


Bottom line; well worth looking for ...


"What the ... You Mean I Can't Sing" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) A Birth Certificate Ain't Nothing But a Death Warrant Anyway   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 3:59

2.) So Many Bars   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 4:15

3.) Save the Watergate 500   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 3:24

4.) Superstition   (Stevie Wonder) - 5:06

5.) There   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 3:57


(side 2)
1.) Come On Write Me   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 3:42

2.) Eyes On the Rabbit   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 5:11

3.) My Love Belongs To You   (Melvin Van Peebles) - 10;23 




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