Jimmy Heath: Smilin’ Billy
From Love and Understanding (Muse, 1973)
Jim Friedman: Aubrey
From Hungry (Jim Friedman Records, 197?)
When I originally posted up two parts of the Heath Brothers’ “Smilin’ Billy Suite,” an informed Soul Sides listener wrote in to tell us that the “Suite” was based on a song called “Smilin’ Billy,” featured on this album. We, of course, rushed right out to find the album and having been successful in our mission, we bring it back to you. The original version isn’t quite as sublime as the “Suite” adaptations but you can clearly hear the main motifs being repeated in all the songs. I still like this a lot – that main melody is haunting in whatever version.
This second song by Jim Friedman is one of those anomalous albums by an anomalous artist that is partly why I love records. Friedman’s not much of a warbler and elsewhere on this private press release, his singing is rather terrible but on “Aubrey,” it all comes together. It’s not like his voice magically turns from schlock to Sinatra but I just kind of feel him on this one, you know? Nice instrumentation too with Tommy Wright on drum taps, Domenick Fiore on bass and Friedman himself manning the piano (elsewhere, he lays down nice Rhodes work).