Week 25: Soul Giants

By: soulbrotha

Jun 17 2009

Tags: , , ,

Category: 1971


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Hi folks.

This week we have two soul giants who came together in 1971 to record a great (and greatly ignored) soul record. Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler’s “One & One”.

Chicagoan Gene Chandler is known for different hits depending on who you talk to. Rock fans know him almost solely for his 1962 doo-wop classic “Duke of Earl.” Soul fans remember him for his R&B hits such as “Groovy Situation” and “Daddy’s Home”. Northern Soul audiences love him for classics like “Don’t Have To Be Lying Babe” and “After The Laughter.” And finally, disco fans will cite their favorite Chandler tracks “Get Down” and the funky “When You’re #1.” All of these songs can be checked out on Youtube. Let it never be said that Gene Chandler was lazy. Yet, even with such a varied body of work and success with Mel & Tim on his own Bamboo label, Gene never reached the level of solo success that his peers Curtis Mayfield (who penned many of his tunes) and Jerry Butler achieved. It’s really a shame because he has a terrific catalog and I strongly suggest that all of you seek out his soulful output.

Although Jerry Butler was  born in Sunflower, Mississippi, he moved to Chicago at the age of three. So I think it would be fairer to call him a Chicagoan. Butler’s career spans four decades(!), from the 50’s to the 90’s. Not many musical acts can make that claim. Recording more than 50 albums, he was given the title “The Iceman,” having one of the most distinguishable soul voices in all of music (much like Billy Ekstine). He and Curtis Mayfield met in church choir and formed a musical partnership and friendship that would last until Mayfield’s death in 1999. Jerry was the original leader of The Impressions ( he was Curtis’ senior by 3 years) before amicably splitting from them in 1958, the year his timeless classic “Your Precious Love” became a hit. By the way, he wrote that song at the tender age of 16. Just a few of Butler’s hits include the classic “Only The Strong Survive”, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” (duet with Brenda Lee Eager), “Let It Be Me” “Make It Easy On Yourself” and one of my favorites, the breezy “I’m Just Thinking About Coolin’ Out.”

So with two soul giants such as these, you would think that that alone would guarantee a hit record. Alas it was not to be. As AMG’s Andrew Hamilton explains it:


Gene Chandler achieved a million in sales with Mel & Tim (“Backfield In Motion”) on his Bamboo label and some minor R&B hits with Simtec & Wylie on his Mr. Chand setup. Both acts were unknown until Chandler’s discovery, yet they made the charts. What would two-name artists do?

That prospect energized this project, which at first glance appeared to be an LP of Simtec & Wylie and Mel & Tim leftovers. (“Mail Call Time” and “I Found That I Was Wrong” appeared on Mel & Tim’s Good Guys Only Win in the Movies album.) But actually, they all pooled their talent to come up with material and production ideas to make Gene & Jerry: One and One a success.

However, other than “Ten and Two (Take This Woman off the Corner),” a minor R&B hit about prostitution and johns, nothing else scored; its subject matter was out of character for Butler anyway. Another single, “You Just Can’t Win (By Making the Same Mistakes),” didn’t bust a grape. Ironically, both Simtec & Wylie and Mel & Tim had bigger hits on smaller labels – go figure. Despite its dismal sales, this is a good album of uptown male duets by two of soul’s greatest.


Now the odd thing about this assessment by AMG, is that I remember hearing “You Just Can’t Win” on New York Black radio stations fairly regularly for awhile at least. So maybe certain songs hit regionally but not nationally, where it counts to be considered a “hit.” It’s a shame because this is some great music that deserved a better fate than it got.

“You Just Can’t Win” is tied with “10 & 2” as my favorite track on this album. I play it once and I have to play it “over and over again” as the song goes. I love Jerry’s punctuating of the chorus with “hallelujah!” Another fave is the second track “The World Keeps Changing,” a smooth track that would have been a great track for radio to play after Obama’s victory. This track made me realize how important Jerry Butler’s voice is. His sound is so engaging and distinct that it draws me in and makes me pay attention to the words. I see why he is so loved by true soul music fans. “The Iceman” indeed.

I’m surprised no one has sampled the intro of “Sho Is Groovin.” Great bassline. “One Hand Washes The Other” is a great ballad. The drum rolls and horns are terrific. Gene’s vocals ring  out clear and strong on this track, with  great emotion. Too bad the song is so short. “I Found That I was Wrong” and “Mail Call Time” are nice but totally unnecessary, as they do not improve upon Mel & Tim’s much better versions. They’d have done better to give them two more original tunes.

The Motown influence comes out strong with the last two tracks. “Everybody’s Waitin”  made me simultaneously think of “Cloud Nine”, “Get Ready”, and “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”. And then there’s “10 & 2 (Take This Woman Off The Corner)”. The Temptations had just struck gold the year before with “Ball of Confusion”. With it’s fuzzy guitar intro, tambourine, funky bassline, urgent phrasing and social message about prostitutes, they might as well have called this “Ball of Confusion II.” Even with the similarities though, it is still a funky ass track.

There has been no reissue of this album, but you can find several copies of the original vinyl and some of the singles off the album right here!

Now, before you head for the music – check out “You Just Can’t Win” (sampled by Dilla for “Glazed” on his “Donuts” album from 2006)! (Clip borrowed from our pal cHiller)


(Ps. Almost forgot…after listening to the “One & One” album, why not check out Vincent The Soul Chef’s great contrib over at My Favourite Sound – “Jerry Butler introducing The Ice Man’s Band”!)

43 comments on “Week 25: Soul Giants”

  1. Great choice, SB (as always)! Now, please leave a comment – share your opinion on the post and the album with us!

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  2. I am guilty of ignoring this, if only because I didn’t know about it! Thanks!

  3. Excellent post Soul Brotha!!I enjoyed the write up and sample song (which has been sampled by the late great J. Dilla and Madlib to name a couple). Jerry Butler is a favorite of mine………and Gene Chandler together on an lp……is icing on the cake. Thanks for this one brudda! Peace

  4. haha. damn! I need to read the whole post huh. my eyes skipped right past the mention of Dilla! Doh!!!!!!!! 😛

  5. Thanks, just one word for this one – WOW!

  6. Thank you for this strong gem!
    Yous at 4BB are special!
    And thx for the link…

    With family friendship


  7. Nice surprise… wasn’t expecting this at all! This will be on the playlist while I complete my finals for sure.

    Does the Ice Man’s Band play on this one? If so then look out kids 🙂

    I’ll holla later on.

    Peace and blessings.

    Much love Jazzy…

  8. Both artists are, individually, high up on my favourite soul singer list, so I\’m really psyched to get a chance to listen to these gents as a duo – many thanks!

  9. Two greats here Soulbrotha…exceptional choice.
    Might I add, being from the “Durty South”, Gene Chandler could not leave the stage without doing “Rainbow” (every remake and year). That was his signature down here along with his dance step…The Gene Chandler (really The Temptation Walk) LOL.
    Jerry “The Ice Man” Butler……excuse me…I just broke my keyboard…what can I say? Speaks for itself. Frigid…brrrrrrr!
    Can’t wait to give it a listen because I never heard it. Thanks, you are indeed a pro.

    • Thanks Slick. I hope you enjoy it! I didn’t know that about Gene’s Southern fans. Poor Gene. It must have been a real chore for him to put together his set lists for his tours. Prolly had to sing every damn song in his catalog just to make sure everyone was happy. 🙂

  10. Thank you.

  11. Thank you ever so much guys. I have a request guys do you have mel and tims self titled album of 1974. If you could post it, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks anyways.

  12. I Am Anxious To Hear This Album Because At The Time Of This Release Both Artists Were At The Peak Of Their Power & Popularity. Thanx I Am Ready For It.

  13. Here we go folks.
    1st of all, the band jams Chicago style…yeah!
    If I had to choose a favorite from the album, it would be “Sho is Groovin’.”
    I found “You Gotta Give Up…” and “I Found I Was Wrong” to be weak…did noting for me and suffered from bad writing.
    “One Hand…” is vintage Gene seasoned with a taste of Ice…I like-ed it!
    “Mail Call” was their contrib to the bruhs in Nam(thoughtful of them).
    The albums ends up addressing social and vitue development. issues.
    “10 to 2″….all of a sudden, I remember it….I heard thais one before…
    Thanks 4BB’s for keeping it real.
    We may not down with everything posted but, variety is a spice in life…keep it coming. Back to dinner table.

  14. Forgot to add this…”Sho Is Groovin” has a Leroy Hutson feel to it. Sorta post Curtis Impressions (Got Myself Together-like) sound to me.
    Did he write this’un SB?

    And Laf…where is spellcheck when you need it? LOL

    • Nope. “Sho is Groovin” writing credits are listed as follows:

      Jimmy Jones, Larry Wade, Billy Butler, & James Blumenberg. They were part of Jerry Butler’s “Writer’s Workshop” that also included Terry Callier, Marvin Yancy and Chuck Jackson.

      As a matter of fact, Jones and Blumenberg released their own one-off single on the Volt label back in ’68-’69 called I “I Forgot To Remember”, which I have linked for you here:


  15. Hehe! Never mind the spelling – we got the message! 😉

  16. Billy Butler = Jerry’s brother
    So he keep the, royalties in the family…..cool.

  17. Thanks for the link Soulbrotha.
    Terry Callier, Marvin Yancy (wonder if he was kin to Rev Melvin Yancy (Natalie Cole’s ex) and Any Day Now Jackson. A good writng stable indeed. Ain’t Understanding Mellow? hehe

    • El Slick, Trakbuv just posted over at Funk My Soul, an album by Charles “Chuck” Jackson (the same Jackson who wrote for Butler) and has clarified that he is not the same person as Chuck “Any Day Now” Jackson. Very confusing indeed. 🙂

      • Just caught this reply Soulbrotha,
        Confusing indeed. Didn’t know there was anotha Chuck Jackson in Chi Town.:-)


  19. Thanks for sharing!

  20. An interesting collaboration and somehow new to me 😉 Thanks for this one, soulbrotha. It’s appreciated!

  21. Much Thanks Soul Brotha!! Never heard any of this one before. I love Jerry Butler. Can’t wait to give it a digital spin!!

  22. damn this one is crazy. i love that wu tang sample too. man you guys always come with the best stuff. thanks again brothers!

  23. Thanks so much. Can’t wait to check it out.

  24. Don’t actually have this one, thanks 4 bros!!

  25. I had to download and listen to this before I could comment on it. I’d never seen or heard anything from it before.

    For me this started burnin’ up with side B. I gotta agree with Slick. One Hand Washes The Other is vintage! In fact it is my fav on here.

    Thanks so much SB for digging this one out for us and giving us all the great biography. Fantastic!

  26. Thanks for this unknown to me lp

  27. Slow to catch this – never even knew these guys knew each other, let alone lived in the studio together. I’ve got Gene’s ‘Without you here’ on constant rotation right now – what a wonderful track, check it out – so this is quite timely for me. Gonna have to come back on this as to how they pair up 2 quite distinctly different vox.

    Whatever, another thoroughly class drop Soulbrotha.

    • Thanks Trakbuv. I checked out that Chandler track you mentioned and it is sweet indeed. Thanks for the tip!

  28. thanks brilliant

  29. Oh no, I think this album broke my funkometer… classic jazzy bluesy Just can’t win, groovin, world keeps changing, be yourself are all gems!!!!! I am convinced all my favorite artists came from chicago

  30. Great stuff! Thank you ! 🙂

  31. Two in ONE great !!!

    Thanks you

  32. Great album. Thanks again.

  33. Thanks for this classic Chi Town music! You know I dig that!

  34. Wow ,what a couple of soul monsters .It sounds really great ,the video is amazing.Thanks for sharing.

  35. Another Chi-town album that fell between the cracks 4 me. These bruthas got it right! I love this stuff. Thanx Soulbrotha and the Brothas!

  36. Hi ,Chi-town turned out some real smooth soul for me didn,t quite it the mark like it was inteneded needless to say still a great album Pedro

  37. links are dead could you please reup

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