JOHNNY AND THE EXPRESSIONS + BARBARA MASON: HELLO BABIES


Johnny and the Expressions: Now That You’re Mine
From 7″ (Josie, 1966)

Barbara Mason: Hello Baby
From 7″ (Arctic, 1966)

I don’t buy enough 7″s. No, seriously; I never got as invested as peers of mine, more out of laziness than interest. I mean, 45s are great because they’re small and portable and let’s be honest – it’s not often you find LPs where the ratio of great album cuts outweigh the good singles. I’d probably rather tote around Ray Barretto’s “Right On” given the choice between that an carrying Power but let’s also be honest that I’m cheap and sometimes, copping the 45 is massively more expensive than buying the exact same song on LP.

That said, there is an immense pleasure in getting good songs inexpensively on 45; it’s a win-win! That’s how I feel about these two 7″s, both of which (I think) I picked up at Academy Records during my NYC trip the other week.

The Johnny and the Expressions was a real surprise because my only real familiarity with Josie is via the Meters (who recorded their first three classic albums for the label) but Josie had many other acts signed to them, including this sweet soul group lead by Johnny Wyatt. I don’t know a ton about him or the group except that Wyatt, a decade previously, had been part of a doo-wop group in Los Angeles called Rochell and the Candles but neither that group – nor Johnny and the Expressions – ever became consistent national figures. This single, “Now That You’re Mine” is pure sweet soul magic, especially with the background harmonies and Wyatt’s seductive tenor crooning atop a simple but heavy track. Listen to 1:12, when the two sets of voices crossover one another. Butter.

Barbara Mason I was more familiar with – she recorded heavily with the Arctic label, including at one highly sought-after Northern single but “Hello Baby” is easily the best thing I’ve heard from her and it’s about, oh, 1/26th the price of the other single. Again, the background singers pull their weight here, especially with the antiphonal echo they supply to Mason’s own rich voice. I love the happy swing of this but there’s also some subtle melancholy overtones running beneath too (or at least, that’s how I hear it).

Both of these have been in heavy rotation of late; hope you enjoy them too.

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