Week 46: Highly Harmonic
OK, so we’re into the last shivering minutes of Week 46…so I’d better get my act together and get this post on Mark IV up and running real quick! Still, I’ve got a good excuse for being later than usual – we’ve all been damn busy with the jury duty for the 4BB/Damn! Remix Competition! But hey, now that we’ve picked the 6 finalists, I got some time to spend on an old favourite LP of mine!
This week’s LP is Mark IV’s self-titled debut album from 1973…but this post is really all about the unsung soul music hero known as Roy C (born Roy Charles Hammond, if you want to be exact). Mark IV was Roy C’s act from start to finish – he wrote all the songs, produced the album and (according to the liner notes) the backing is “handled by the Roy C. band ‘The Lovemakers'”.
Still, let’s begin with Mark IV – this all male vocal group with that typical Southern group soul vibe consisted of Jimmy Ponder, Walter Moreland, “Lucky” Antomattei and Lawrence Jones. According to Red Kelly’s investigations at his The “B” side and Soul Detective blogs, Mark IV was originally signed to Roy C.’s indie label Nation-Wide as The Attractions, but when Roy C. moved to big-league Mercury in 1973, he brought them along with him! But Mark IV’s self-titled debut album seems to have been all it resulted in…for the group that is – Roy C. had a string of great albums on Mercury in the following years!
Now, regarding soul man Roy C…for a complete bio, go visit Red Kelly’s The “B” side immediately – a complete write-up if I ever saw one! If you want the short recap version, here’s a snippet from Wikipedia…
Roy began singing tenor with The Genies, a vocal group in Long Beach, Long Island, who were offered a recording contract by the record producer, Bob Shad. Their first single, “Who’s That Knockin'”, reached #72 on theBillboard Hot 100 chart in 1958, with Claude Johnson (later of the duo Don and Juan) on lead vocal. The group then moved to Atlantic Records, with Hammond taking over as lead singer, but their recordings were not released, and he was drafted into the Air Force.
When he returned to New York in 1965, Hammond organised a studio session to record his own song, “Shotgun Wedding”, and released it under the name of Roy Hammond on his own Hammond label, before leasing it to the larger Black Hawk Records under the name Roy C. The record, with its novelty ricochet opening and relatively risqué subject matter for the time, reached #14 on the national R&B chart. It had even greater success when issued in the UK, reaching #6 on the UK Singles Chart in 1966 and #8 when reissued in 1972. His first album was That Shotgun Wedding Man (1966) on Ember Records.
After some unsuccessful follow-ups on the Shout label, Hammond started another new label, Alaga. Working with guitarist J. Hines, he had more success with “Got To Get Enough (Of Your Sweet Love Stuff)” making the R&B charts in 1971. Two years later he signed for Mercury Records, and had another R&B hit with “Don’t Blame The Man”. He also released an album, Sex and Soul, and several more minor hit singles. He stayed with Mercury for several years, until label bosses took exception to his outspoken political stance in songs, like “Great Great Grandson of A Slave”.
Since 1979 he has continued to release a string of soul singles and albums, on his own Three Gems record label, initially based in New York and later in Allendale, South Carolina. Hammond composed most of hisrecordings and has more than 125 titles to his credit. He recorded an album by ex-Temptation Dennis Edwards entitled Talk to Me, and also worked on a CD by Bobby Stringer. Hammond also runs his own record shop in Allendale, called Carolina Record Distributors….
Read the rest of their entry here! It was also on Wikipedia that I found out about a documentary project on Roy C. that’s been in the works for a couple of years now…which sounds like a really cool idea – check it out right here!
All of Roy C.’s albums from his Mercury period in the mid-70’s have a special, often revisited, place in my vinyl collection…with my favourite being his “Sex & Soul” from 1973 – his debut on Mercury from the same year as the Mark IV album. Highly recommended! To check out Roy C.’s complete discography, go visit Blues Critic – where you also can buy some of his music on CD!
Now, back to the Mark IV album! 10 tracks, all penned by Roy C. – including my favourites “Honey I Still Love You”, “I’m A Working Man (Doin’ Work For My Baby)”, “You Black and I’m Black” and “My Everything You Are”! Just listen to the album opener “Honey I Still Love You” and its fantastic harmony vocals, and you’ll become an instant Mark IV/Roy C. fan too:
And while listening, why not indulge in the sweet and positive write-up by Billboard’s Julian Coleman, taken the album liner notes…
“Make room for the Mark IV! I know this seems like a trite statement but a long-time disc jockey friend called me from New York after catching the group’s debut at the famous Apollo Theater.
Two surprising things about the call. First, he paid for the call. Secondly, when discussing other top male groups around the country (my friend’s a die-hard Temptations fan) our conversation ended with ‘Julian, make room for the Mark IV.’
I feel that this album is a perfect example of the magic and excitement Jimmy Ponder, Walter Moreland, “Lucky” Antomattei and Lawrence Jones have been creating in New York, Washington, D.C., Nashville or wherever they appear. And when they come to Los Angeles I’ll be on the front pew. Listen now as the Mark IV sing…”
To lay your hands on the original vinyl, have $24.99 readily available and click here! If you’d rather want to have the out of print, cassette only “The Best of Mark IV” compilation from 1996, including all 10 songs on the album + 3 bonus tracks – click here! (ranging from $15.98 to $145.86)!
To end things off, here’s a perfect quote from Blues Critic’s Roy C bio: “An authentic soul man in an era that has too few”! Damn right!
Mark IV & Roy C. – thank you for the harmonies!
(Ps. If you haven’t noticed, we’re deep into the finals of the 4BB/Damn! Remix Competition right now…go leave a comment on who’s your favourite! The overall winner will be announced this upcoming Sunday, November 22nd!)