Band members Related acts
line up 1: (1971)
- Christiaan Kooy -- guitar
- Eugene 'Jay' Smith -- vocals, guitar, harmonica, conga
- Bobby Washington (RIP) - - bass, backing vocals
supporting musicians (1971)
- Paul Beedham -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Bob Cove -- horns
- David Dobbs -- sax, keyboards, backing vocals
- John Fautley -- keyboards, horns
- Chris Sydlowski - sax
- Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (Eugene Smith)
- The Majestics (Eugene Smith)
- Eugene 'Jay' Smith (solo efforts)
- Snap, Crackle & Pop
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Country/State: Hamilton, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor hiss in places; minor cover and edge wear
Catalog ID: 4598
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 was part of the trio Snap, Crackle & Pop along with guitarist Christiaan Kooy and the late bassist Bobby Washington.
Re-labeled Lucifer, by the time they signed with Invictus Records, the group had expended to an eight piece, including a full horn section. Additionally, it was clear that Smith was the front man. In addition to handling the vocals, he was also credited with writing most of the music. One of the many mysteries surround the band is how Smith and company scored a recording contract with Holland-Dozier-Holland's newly formed label. 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 Freda Payne), this was about as far from that genre as you could get. One of the album's most distinguishable characteristics was Smith's instantly recognizable, if occasinally irritating voice. To my ears he sounded like Adam Sandler crunching up his face, or perhaps Thunderclap Newman's Speedy Keen with a clothespin on his nose - nasally and sharp come to mund. Musically the album featured a strange combination of musical genres. ''Pearl of a Girl'' and 'Old Mother Nature' reflected the group's dalliances with country-blues. The single 'Bloodshot Eyes', 'For Kids Only' and the Blood, Sweat and Tears-styled jazz-rock 'Don't You (Think the Times A-Comin')' reflected their affection for the goofball. There were certainly more than a few true clunkers here including the seemingly never ending slice of Blood, Sweat & Tears horn-rock 'Time Gonna Change Everything', 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 'We Gotta Go' sported catchy melodies that managed to overcome his vocal limitations and even the irritating horn arrangements. Strange. particularly for the Invictus catalog, but occasionally engaging.
"Lucifer" track listing:
1.) Pearl for a Girl (Eugene Smith) - 2:05 rating: ** stars
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.
2.) Old Mother Nature (Eugene Smith) - 4:04 rating: **** stars
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. Beside, how could you not like a song that included this thoughtful lyric - "Suns out, day's might hot, think I'll settle back and have myself a good old Dr. Pepper pop ..." It is one of those numbers that just screams "hippies livin' in a commune". Invictus tapped the tune as the debut single and the re-released it the following year:
- 1971's 'Old Mother Nature' b/w 'What I Am' (Invictus catalog number Is-9094)
3.) In a Garden (Eugene Smith) - 2:33 rating: *** stars
I'm always surprised at how much I like this bizarre, but sweet mix of BS&T horns and country swing.
4.) Don't You (Think the Times A-Comin') (Eugene Smith) - 4:18 rating: *** stars
'Don't You (Think the Times A-Comin')' found Smith and company getting laidback, reflective and almost jazzy (thanks to the elaborate horn charts). This one was a pretty acoustic tune that built up steam 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 wiry voice started to get under my skin.
5.) For Kids Only (Eugene Smith) - 2:04 rating: * star
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.
More BS&T-styled horn-rock, though with an unexpected funky edge. It when out about four minutes too long.
2.) Bloodshot Eyes (Hank Penny - Ruth Hall) - 4:26 rating: ** stars
A cover of an old Hank Penny and Ruth Hall tune with somewhat updated lyrics, 'Bloodshot Eyes' was clearly intended to be hip and funny. Instead it came off as flat and uninspired. I read somewhere Invictus executives initially thought this tune was so horrible they tried to slap it on a single as a "B" side.
- 1972's 'Bloodshot Eyes' b/w 'Old Mother Nature' (Invictus catalog number Is-9413)
3.) Have You Heard (John Futley)- 4:22 rating: *** stars
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 ....
4.) Laugh (Eugene Smith) - 4:42 rating: ** stars
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.
5.) We Gotta Go (Eugene Smith) - 4:06 rating: **** stars
'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's debut 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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