Songs of Obsession: The Brothers of Soul

Brothers of Soul: A Lifetime
From 7″ (Boo, 1968). Also on I Guess That Don’t Make Me a Loser.

I don’t use the word “perfect” very often (well, actually, ok, I probably do) but if ever there were a song that should inspire such an honorific – here it is.

I discovered this 45 a few weeks ago, along with my friend Hua – it was some crappy lo-digi-fi copy of the tune but it was still promising enough that we both went out and hunted out the original that evening. Hua got his earlier, digitized that sucker and sent it over. Suffice to say, within minutes, the song quickly became an instant classic in my personal catalog.[1]

Every single part of this song just works: that anchoring piano melody, the background vocals, the rich voice of Fred Bridges singing, “…but I have no regrets” to begin his verses and the changes in the arrangement. The first minute of the song alone makes me want to crawl inside it and live there forever but make sure you get to the end where the sweet soul harmonies of Ben Knight and Robert Eaton come flying in unexpectedly. I tend to throw around terms like “sublime” a bit loosely at times but this song resets the bar and then some. I can’t say enough about it.

Soul Sides’ readers have heard the group before – in a manner of speaking – on my Ruby Andrews post from October. The BKE collaboration of Bridges, Knight and Eaton were discovered by Zodiac Records’ Ric Williams and they ended up one of Andrews’ main producers/composers/arrangers for her first album (Everybody Saw You) while Eaton and Williams produced most of her Black Ruby LP. Unfortunately, though the BoS had a few decent hits on 45, they never became major stars on their own and instead, were more successful working with other artists (a pity). That I Guess That Don’t Make Me a Loser is the definitive (by virtue of being the only) anthology of their 7″s and is well worth checking out just to hear their slim but grand catalog of music. (It includes their $200+ Northern Soul track, “I’d Be Grateful” which is also amazing). Also, please see Soulful Detroit’s long profile of Fred Bridges and the Brothers of Soul, a fantastic resource of information on BKE and their work.

[1] I must give ample credit to Hua here since the version of “A Lifetime” I’m using here was the one he digitized. I had a copy of the song from CD which played “cleaner” in terms of crackle and dust but the fidelity felt muddled and muted whereas the analog brightness of Hua’s version captured the song’s essence much better I thought. Alas, I’m still waiting for my copy of the 45 to arrive in the mail and I just hope it plays this clean.

By the way, Hua’s blog has turned into an informal audioblog, with a ton of goodies (two words: Donovan Carless. Two more: Blvd Mosse). Be sure to check out his cell-phone-vids of Egyptian Lover rocking Brooklyn, platinum pyramid style.