The Soul Clan - That's How It Feels (Atlantic 2530)
That's How It Feels
An American Single?
In Sweet Soul Music, Peter Guralnick said "...the singers never did get to actually meet in the studio... but instead recorded their vocals separately to a backing track which Covay had put together with Bobby Womack at the Wildwood Studio in Hollywood."
In Nowhere To Run, Gerri Hirshey said "...one session... was actually cut in Nashville in February 1968, yielding... Soul Meeting and That's How It Feels."
Hmmm... although I've never actually featured either side of this awesome 45 here on the site, I have spoken about it a number of times:
An idea that Solomon and Don Covay had been working on for some time, The Soul Clan, had finally begun to take shape in 1967. The idea was for all of these great performers to pool their talents and resources, and become a positive force within the black community. They envisioned things like buying ghetto real estate and refurbishing it, providing jobs, building schools, and creating black-owned restaurant franchises that would knock the McDonald's and KFCs out of the box... the possibillities were endless.
Originally, it was to include Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex, Solomon, and Don Covay. When Otis died in late 1967, Pickett backed out as well saying, "I got my own hit records, I don't need that shit!". They were replaced with Redding's sidekick, Arthur Conley, and former Drifter Ben E. King. Covay put together the backing tracks out in L.A., and each of the artists overdubbed their vocals in turn. The resulting single hit the charts in July of 1968, and climbed to #34. At this point, Solomon Burke claims, "The record was stopped and banned...we were going against the grain of what black entertainers are supposed to do. We were all just supposed to go out and buy red Cadillacs. We weren't supposed to go out and start talking about spending millions of dollars on building and developing... We were supposed to talk about having parties and good times and eatin' barbecue ribs. You know, pork chops."
Don Covay and Bobby Womack had put together the backing tracks for the long-awaited Soul Clan single out in L.A., and Atlantic had each individual artist record his vocals whenever they were available. After Wilson Pickett balked, and Otis Redding went and died on them, they arranged for Ben E. King and Arthur Conley to replace them. Conley recalled that he never even spoke with the other members of the Clan about the record, and that he recorded his part all alone up in New York. The single would go to #34 R&B in the Summer of 1968, and then, according to Solomon Burke, "the record was stopped and banned". He may have been right.
Joe had cracked the top ten with both of his releases (Skinny Legs And All and Men Are Gettin' Scarce) just prior to the issue of the Soul Clan single in June of 1968. He was, arguably, the hottest star on there at that point, and would continue his success on the charts well into the seventies - something his fellow Clan members would be unable to do... In 1981, there were big plans for a Soul Clan reunion, complete with a world tour and a new album. At a press conference in New York in July of that year, Joe told author Gerri Hirshey "It ain't gonna work... We are five different men. Most of us are loners... a soul man is that, singular... As far as I can see, the future of the Soul Clan died with Otis Redding." As it turned out, he was right, the single concert held in NYC that summer was a disaster, and the rest of the plans failed to materialize.
I know we've talked about The Soul Clan before (in our Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, and Arthur Conley posts), but it's important to remember that the whole thing was Don Covay's idea. He was the one spinning the elaborate aspirations, daring to imagine a world in which Black Americans could control their own destinies. According to Solomon Burke, they had initially asked Atlantic for a million dollar guarantee up front, and the project was to include a complete album of material. The Clan was reportedly waiting for Otis Redding to fully recover from minor throat surgery when he died in that infamous plane crash in December of 1967. Covay, more than ever now, was committed to making his dream come true. He wrote and recorded the basic tracks of the single out in Hollywood with (an uncredited) Bobby Womack, and the rest of the Clan overdubbed their vocals as their schedule permitted. Arthur Conley, of course, would replace Otis, and Soul Meeting broke into the R&B top 40 in the summer of 1968. Although a great record, the Soul Clan's moment seemed to somehow already have passed. Whether it was due to a conscious decision on the part of the Atlantic brass (as Covay and Solomon Burke believe to this day) or not, that would be the end of that...
Well, I think we were all wrong.
As I mentioned over on the other side, it has been my intention to continue the work I started with the American Soul mix, and focus on some great singles that were cut at American Sound that may have never gotten the attention they deserve. Like I said in the interview thing with Roben Jones, I continue to discover the work of these amazing musicians on records I've listened to for years, with today's selection being, perhaps, the most glaring example... let's do the math:
If the backing tracks were indeed cut in February of 1968 (which seems about right as the single was released in July, and it probably would have taken that long to get all of those separate vocals on there), that was precisely the period when Atlantic was ensconced down there on 827 Thomas Street, with Tom Dowd cutting both Arthur Conley and Solomon Burke there the following month. Buddy Killen cut all of Joe Tex's records there. Bobby Womack was living in an apartment in downtown Memphis, and had become one of 'the Boys' cutting his breakthrough Fly Me To The Moon LP at roughly the same time. Don Covay, who lived in St. Albans out here on Long Island back then, had been cutting at American since August of 1967.
The Atlantic Records Session Index for 1968 had this to say:
Note the question mark... and
Which would seem to indicate that Covay worked on finishing the project in New York, near where he lived. It certainly seems a stretch to think that both Covay and Womack wound up in Los Angeles right in the middle of all of this...
And so it is my considered opinion, my friends, that this much revered and talked about 45 (with it's way cool intro that puts you in mind of Conley's Burning Fire) was indeed an American Single. What do you think?