Hollywood: The Crusaders

Richard Nixon can be blamed for a long list of things. He is partly to blame for my interest in jazz and moon rock has a part to play!

Back in 1973 Nixon gave Edward Heath and the leaders of 134 other countries slivers of moon rock, brought to Earth as part of the Apollo Programme. Our bit was put on display in Kensington and this was big news, even in my hometown. A trip to London was organised from my school to view this mysterious substance. Since it offered a chance to see the big city for a second time (I’d already been to a cup final- but that’s another story), I was well up for it.

Once we had marveled at our little bit of the Moon and had a good look around the Science Museum, we were turned loose by the accompanying teachers on the Metropolis and in the time-honoured manner of many stupid teenage boys, we headed straight for Soho. During the course of my wanderings I found Dobell’s Record Shop on Charing Cross Road. I was already smitten by Junior Walker and wanted to take my interest in saxophones further. I’d read in Blues and Soul Mag that there was a version of Way Back Home on a newish Crusaders album and I managed to locate and purchase my copy of Hollywood. I also bought another LP featuring a saxophonist and have just discovered a strange fact about it- but that can wait for another post.

Years later, I’ve still got my original copy, released on MoWest and pressed at EMI’s plant at Hayes (there was also a version on UK Tamla Motown, as you will see). Here’s the cover:-

Crusaders cover-2

When I got my new album onto the turntable of the radiogram at home my adventures with jazz started. Spanish Harlem was a familiar track. I already had the Aretha Franklin version on an Atlantic single but I don’t think I knew that the original was recorded by Ben E King in 1960, or that it was a Leiber / Phil Spector composition. It still sounds superb (despite mangling spins on the radiogram turntable which is landfill somewhere) with beautifully recorded drums and pleasing tenor sax and trombone solos. Try A Little Harder is a bit of a filler, but then comes the title track. On Hollywood Joe Sample tickles a very engaging and soulful tune out of the piano before tenor and sax play in unison and the tenor plays a downright earthy solo, followed by Wayne Henderson on trombone. Thanks to Montysylvano for the YouTube clip

Do Yourself a Favour is a slab of early 70’s jazz funk with wah wah guitar. Its OK but doesn’t excel.

Side two’s opener Cold Duck Eddie has a nice strolling sort of a sound with the trombone out in force. Way Back Home, was familiar to me through Junior Walker’s version and I was a little disappointed with this one at the time as the sax sounds much more restrained and formal within the context of a very tight band. Trawling YouTube, I found this great live version from 2003 (courtesy Horthy66) with a wonderful introduction by Joe Sample. I still love the way Junior did it though!

Papa Hooper’s Barrelhouse Groove never did much for me, while Alekesam is a pleasant sounding track that could have been bland but which is saved by great musicianship.

So there you have it. Richard Nixon, the Moon and the music of the Crusaders. Best of all, the Crusaders are playing at Ronnie Scott’s in a couple of weeks and I aim to tell you all about it. The clip above has certainly whetted my appetite.

The band etc: Wayne Henderson (trombone); Wilton Felder (tenor sax and electric bass); Joe Sample (keyboards); Stix Hooper (drums). No studio details on my copy (maybe someone out there on the net can help us with this?) but it was recorded in 1972 and produced by Stewart Levine.

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