Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1971-72)
- Link Chamberlin (aka Linc Chamberland) (RIP 1986) -- lead guitar
- John Eckert -- trumpet, flugelhorn
- Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (RIP 2021) -- sax
- John Gatchell (RIP 2004) -- trumpet, flugelhorn
- Pee Wee Williams (RIP 2021) -- sax
- Schuylar "Sky" Ford (RIP 2001) -- vocals, acoustic guitar
- Chris Qualles -- bass
- Frank Vicari (RIP 2006) -- sax
- Jimmy Strassburg -- drums, percussion
- The Albert (Frank Vicari)
- Linc Chamberland (solo efforts)
- Maynard Ferguson (Frank Vicari)
- Gas Mask (Jimmy Strassburg)
- Woody Herman and His Swinging Herd (Frank Vicari)
- JB Horns (Pee Wee William)
- Joel Kaye and His New York Neophonic Orchestra (John Gatchell
and John Eckert)
- The Last Words (Pee Wee William)
- The Little Big Horns (Frank Vicari)
- Love Childs Afro Cuban Blues Band (John Gatchell)
- The New York Street Band
- The Orchids (Link Chamberand)
- Maceo Parker and the Roots Revisited
- Dave Matthews Orchestra (John Gatchell)
- Lalo Schiffrin & Orchestra (John Gatchell)
- Ten Wheel Drive (John Gatchell and John Eckert)
- Pee Wee Ellis (solo efforts)
- The Leslie West Band (Frank Vicari)
- White Elephant (Frank Vicari)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Pass the Butter
Company: Natural Resources
Country/State: New York, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: --
One of the first used albums I bought - Blood, Sweat & Tears "Child Is the Father To the Man". One of the first bands I saw in concert - Chicago at the Forest Nationale. So you'd think I 'd be a big horn-rock fan. I'm not and this album by the New York based Gotham goes a long way to explaining my lack on enthusiasm for the genre.
The late 1960s saw an explosion in horn-bands; one of them being New York's New York Street Band. The band featured an eclectic line-up including Ten Wheel Drive trumpeters John Gatchall and John Eckert, former The Orchids guitarist Link Chamberlin (aka Linc Chamberland), former James Brown sideman Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis on sax, second sax player Frank Vicari, singer Schuylar "Sky" Ford, bassist Chris Qualles, and ex-Gas Mask drummer Jimmy Strassburg. By the time they were signed by Motown's short-lived Natural Resources label, the group had opted for a new name - the less than inspirational Gotham.
In addition to being signed by Motown (hardly a label know for promoting horn-rock), one of the album's odder facets was the fact the band were teamed with producer Tom Wilson. Given his successes with folk acts like Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, jazz (Sun Ra) and punk acts (The Velvet Underground), horn-rock didn't seem like a genre Wilson would be interested in - no criticism of his work intended.
Recorded in Los Angeles, the collection featured a largely original set of material with Chamberlin responsible for penning six of the eleven songs. Ellis wrote two tracks, Ford one, and there were two covers. So what can I say about this one? If you are into horn-rock bands like BS&T, Chase and Chicago you were probably going to like this one. Ford had a nice, growling voice that wasn't unlike David Clayton Thomas. Curiously, Ford's lone composition 'They Made Me An Outlaw' was an acoustic Southern-rock flavored ballad. Without any horns, it was unlike anything else on the album and was also one of the standout performances. Almost as good were the tracks where the Strassburg-Vicari rhythm section kept the focus on the rock part of horn-rock - check out the opener 'Sittin On a Mountain' and 'Daddy Left Hom'. The horns were professional with Ellis underscoring his support for James Brown on tracks like the funky 'Use It or Lose It.' With the exception of the brief instrumental 'Moon' nothing here was horrible, but it just wasn't a genre that jumped out at me.
Butter" track listing:
1.) Sittin On A Mountain (Otis Smith) - 3:26 rating: **** stars
The rocker 'Sittin On a Mountain' was one of two covers and while the horns were prominent, the combination of Ford's growl of a voice and Chamberlin's roaring lead guitar made it one of the set's most mainstream and commercial efforts.
2.) Ease My Mind (Link Chamberlin) - 3:56 rating: *** stars
'Ease My Mind' found the band shifting towards a more funky sound. Unfortunately Ford sounded frantic while the horns were pushed into a more prominent role. The song's highlight came in the form of the band's rhythm section - drummer Jimmy Strassburg and bassist Chris Qualles were first rate even if the song wasn't.
3.) Why Doesn't The Sun Shine (Link Chamberlin) - 3:09 rating: ** stars
'Why Doesn't The Sun Shine' slowed things down with the band coming dangerously close to BS&T supper club territory.
4.) Behind The Wall (Billy Vera) - 5:51 rating: ** stars
The second cover tune, Chamberlin kind of kept Billy Vera's pretty, but dark melody, but wrote a new set of lyrics. The flute opening didn't thrilled me, though it served to frame Ford's nice voice. A bluesy ballad, Image a more rock oriented David Clayton Thomas. Unfortunately the song also showcased and Clayton-Thomas comparison; Ford trying to power his way through parts of the song.
5.) Use It Or Lose It (Alfred Ellis) - 3:29 rating: *** stars
Even if you didn't know Ellis had been a member of James Brown's recording and touring band, it wouldn;t have been hard to spit the JB groove in 'Use It Or Lose It'.
Another bluesy ballad, the original focus was on Chamberlin's jazzy guitar leads, but about halfway in the horns came to the forefront. Still, it was one of the album's better melodies and Ford avoided some of his vocal excesses.
2.) Moon (Alfred Ellis) (instrumental) - 1:23 rating: * star
Clocking in at under two minutes, the instrumental 'Moon' came off as more of a song fragment than anything. Almost dischordant, this one was a total miss for me.
3.) They Made Me An Outlaw (Sky Ford) - 2:52 rating: **** stars
Ford's lone composition, the acoustic ballad 'They Made Me An Outlaw' started out sounding like a slice of forlorn Southern rock. Very nice and without any horns it was unlike anything else on the album.
4.) Daddy Left Home (Link Chamberlin) - 2:46 rating: *** stars
Another of the album's more conventional rockers, 'Daddy Left Home' sounded like it had a bit of a Tony Joe White influence. The horn arrangements seemed like an after-thought.
5.) Talkin' 'Bout (Link Chamberlin)- 4:58 rating: ** stars
Back to Clayton-Thomas excesses with horns flying all around the arrangement ...
6.) Gettin High (Link Chamberlin) - 3:25 rating: *** stars
Weird mash-up of hard rock guitar funkier moves and those horns ...
Motown did little to support the album - no singles, no touring though the company apparently financed a sophomore album, the results being shelved where they remain unheard.
The Tim Clark and Rod Dyer cover art is also intriguing. It took me a while to figure it out, but what you're looking at are a pair of heart-shaped pieces of bread enjoying one another's company on an old fashioned bed.
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