Brown Sugar: Freddie Roach

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“It was raining as we arrived at the recording studio. A soft warm rain. Not enough to really bother anyone. Just enough to make the earth a darker brown and polish the streets to a high gloss.

The sounds of the nearby highway mixed with a steady dripping from the roof of the studio on a garbage can roof below. Providing a sort of natural set of drums. I stood in the rain listening. Bap…bap…du bap du…bap bap.”

So Freddie Roach begins the self-penned sleeve notes to his wonderful blues and soul centred fourth album for Blue Note. This set boasts a young Joe Henderson on tenor sax and leaves all in no doubt that this great reedsman knew how to play a low-down rhythm and blues lick when needed- especially on Brown Sugar, the opening track.

The Right Time is a slow simmering blues covered by Ray Charles and featuring more great saxophone from Joe Henderson, before it is time for Freddie to soar on his solo on Have You Ever Had The Blues?

I’m not sure about The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, a Quincy Jones track that verges on, or perhaps even steers headlong into the bland. Probably not the greatest opener to a side of music- even a b side! However, things look up with Next Time You See Me a fine blues which smoulders nicely without getting out of hand.

Then its the grand finale, a sultry blues, brushes on the drums and Joe Henderson laying down some lush, luxuriant sound on All Night Long, truly an exceptional soul ballad.

Its nearly Christmas, so don’t hesitate to seek out and purchase Brown Sugar, a further fine LP from the sadly neglected Freddie Roach. As for me, I’ve still to source and hear his last two Prestige titles and his final Blue Note recording All That’s Good which sounds a ‘bit different’ apparently.

I’m still seeking more info on Freddie Roach (see earlier postings). If you can contribute anything, please feel free to let us hear more below.

The band etc:- Freddie Roach (Hammond organ); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Eddie Wright (guitar); Clarence Johnson (drums). Recorded: On a rainy night in March 1964 (18-19 March). Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Sleeve Notes: Freddie Roach. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4168.

My copy of Brown Sugar is an original Blue Note mono first pressing bought earlier this year from the USA. It was pitched to the ebay auction as being in near mint condition- but that stretches matters somewhat and in reality it should be rightly graded as VG+ though the cover is in fine nick. Despite that it still sounds brilliant, as one would expect of a BN first pressing. Sorry about the ‘orrible badly lit cover photo by the way- I was in a hurry to get this out and will be aiming to do much better in 2014!


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