And More Again...

Side one kicks off with Powell St. John’s Marvel Group, with violin squeaking away in the background while St John attempts to enlist the aid of a city full of super-heroes to aid him in whatever quest he’s engaged in. Tracy takes over vocal duties for the album’s first show-stopper, the band’s theme song Mother Earth, cut at the very first session, when Mike Bloomfield mistakenly showed up a day early for a session at the same studio with a different band. For contractual reasons, Bloomfield was credited as Makal Blumfeld which didn’t fool too many listeners since the playing’s unmistakably Bloomfield. 

Coincidence? Unlikely. Bloomfield had known Tracy since the Deep Are The Roots sessions, and had worked with Naftalin in the Butterfield Blues Band. Bloomfield’s fills behind Tracy’s vocals and piano are finger-lickin’ good, and the solo stays in the same territory. Another verse, a piano solo, an around the five-minute mark Tracy’s back into the last verse, kicking into vocal overdrive around 5:29 to indicate that the listener isn’t listening to your common or garden chick singer.

After that thirty-second-spell of intensity, Tracy’s I Did My Part, with tasty R&B horns and The Earthettes riffing in the background and Powell’s Living With The Animals, a poor boy lost in the big freaky city number with tasty harp and Spencer Perskin’s viola sawing away in the background, lead nicely into Tracy’s signature song Down So Low, later recorded by Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, Dee Dee Warwick and Maria Muldaur. 

Recorded at the same session as Mother EarthDown So Low came from Tracy noodling gospel chords and progressions on the piano at home, an intense reaction to the break-up of a relationship with someone who may or may not have been Steve Miller. Slow and soulful with minimal instrumental backing and the Earthettes hovering in the background it’s an absolute tour de force that wouldn’t fit anywhere else on the album apart from the end of Side One.

The lead track on side two, Allen Toussaint’s Cry On, launches us straight back into heartache territory. A lovely sax solo from Martin Fierro leads into the last verse with Tracy hitting the high notes once again. After all the heartbreak there’s a glimmer of hope in It Won’t Be Long, since he’s coming back on the 5:03, before a reaffirmation of faith in Powell’s cover of My Love Will Never Die, complete with honking horns and tasty lead work from Toad Andrews. 


B© Ian Hughes 2012