Mike and the Censations: Nothing I Can Do
From 7″ (Highland, 1966)

Mike and the Censations: Living a Lie
From 7″ (Revue, 1967)

I first learned about Kirkland as “Mike James Kirkland” and his remarkable song/album, “Hang On In There.” It wasn’t until much later that I bothered to learn about Kirkland’s earlier career, as part of “Mike and the Censations,” an L.A. based band made up of Mike, his brother Robert (who owned the imprint Bryan), their sister, her husband and one or two other players. Their first single, “Victim of Circumstance” came out on Bryan (as did, years later, Hang On In There) but was soon picked up by Highland. That lead to “Nothing I Can Do,” which became a minor hit and that partially helped them get signed to Revue, who released “Living a Lie.”1

Both songs have a classic L.A. lowrider soul vibe to them, straight firme rolas, for real aka ballad-for-sundown-request-line dedications. Maybe it’s because I’m a eastsider again but I love this sound.

If I had to pick a favorite of the two, I’d probably have to go with “LIving a LIe” simply because of how sublimely it opens. The interplay with the horns and guitar is phenomenal.2 “Nothing I Can Do” isn’t slouchy by any means – you have that same, heavy sound strumming throughout.3

  1. Kirkland, I should note, was incredibly prolific; these two songs can’t do proper justice to a surprisingly massive catalog.
  2. That interplay also, for whatever reason, totally reminds me of this INI beat. Pete didn’t sample MIke but the feel of the loop is very similar to me.
  3. I did notice whoever produced “Living a Lie” either had better studio access or just engineered the hell out of it compared to “Nothing I Can Do” which is great and all but doesn’t have the same depth or warmth, acoustically.