May 16, 2012

Darrell Banks - Here to Stay (1969)

1. Just Because Your Love Is Gone 3:31
2. Forgive Me 2:31
3. Only the Strong Survive 2:42
4. Don't Know What to Do 2:24
5. When a Man Loves a Woman 3:05
6. We'll Get Over 2:34
7. Beautiful Feeling 3:27
8. I Could Never Hate Her 2:08
9. Never Alone 2:44
10. No-One Blinder (Than a Man Who Won't See) 3:01
11. My Love Is Strictly Reserved for You 2:49

I'll quote this guy:

The story of Darrell Banks is pretty tragic... A man possessed with a gutbucket, voluminous, bull-hornesque vocal steeped deep in the gospel tradition, cutting some now highly acclaimed records ("Open the Door to Your Heart", "Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You") only to wind up getting shot dead by an off duty police officer in Detroit in 1970... at the height of his career, Darrell Banks was silenced forever.

But the small legacy he has left behind has enticed Soul fans of all spectres; the Southern buffs, the Detroit lovers and, especially, the Northern Soul groovers.

For Southern Soul addicts such as myself, Banks' 1969 album for Volt (a subsidiary of Stax), is an unabashed masterpiece. Although much of it was recorded in Detroit - producer Don Davis' home base - the feel is decidedly Southern.

"Just Because Your Love Is Gone", written by the 'WeThree' writers at Stax (Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher and Raymond Jackson) sets the tone for much of 'Here to Stay'. A hard socking, mid tempo beater heavy on the backbeat, featuring wailing horns and the tiniest touch of strings.

Producer Don Davis proves his skills as a guitarist on the self-written "Forgive Me", a gorgeous steady groovin' belter with a snappy Middle Eastern-vibe on the bridge.

Banks' gruffy, powerhouse vocal is put to excellent use on a tremendous take on Jerry Butler's classic "Only the Strong Survive" - the arrangement here sounds very similar to the one that accompanied Elvis Presley's version on his 'From Elvis in Memphis' set.

And where covers are concerned, what about a truly melancholy, swooping rendition of Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman". A bit lengthier than the original, it also sports infectious horn riffs. Banks' version, through his vocal, is a bit rougher than Sledge's as well, but I like it all the same.

The brooding, nonchalant strut "Don't Know What to Do" steers thangs into funkier waters; a brilliant horn break and more of those boogaloo, fatback drums.

"We'll Get Over" would later be recorded by The Staple Singers, and Banks' version is a bit more rugged than theirs, but that pleading, crying voice makes this an essential bit of gospelfide testifyin' nonetheless.

The absolute highlight here is the masterfully arranged, simply beautiful mid tempo ballad "Beautiful Feeling" - Don Davis' cracklin' guitar lines and a solitary, weeping flute guide Banks on the verses, whereas horns, strings and passionate backing vocals all come crashing through on the heavy, heavy chorus. Sheer bliss. Should have been a HUGE charter...

The shortest track here, "I Could Never Hate Her" ads a little downhome blues to the funky mix. Another perfect showcase for Darrell's relentless, raspy, full-throttled voice.

"Never Alone" by far is the poppiest of tunes on the album, with its slightly polished, Motown-esque vibe, but the persistent drums and Banks' fierce vocal attack add plenty of grit.

From the gloss it's straight to the FUNK, as Banks' gets down on the frantically stompin' "No-One Blinder (Than a Man Who Won't See)", another great bootie-shaker co-written by Don Davis. That chuggin' groove just won't let up...

But Darrell ends this soulful experience by belting out a quintessential deep, DEEP soul ballad. "My Love Is Strictly Reserved for You" features his finest vocal on the chorus (and that's saying something when keeping in mind the incredibly high quality of the LP as a whole), really ripping things up.

This is a wonderful, funky, gospelfide, smoking tour de force of neatly arranged yet husky and gutsy, raw powerhouse SOUL. Absolutely essential.


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