Saturday, April 20, 2013

John Fred & His Playboy Band - Permanently Stated (1968)

John Fred Gourrier was born in Baton Rouge, LA, on May, 8, 1941. Although he excelled in sports like basketball and baseball at Catholic High School, his first love, much to the constant chagrin of his parents, was R&B music, especially that which was broadcast from New Orleans just 60 miles down proverbial Highway 61. At the tender age of 16, he was already heading his own band (a collection of his classmates) and was trying his hand at composing.

About this same time frame a local wholesale grocer (now real estate speculator), Sam Montalbano, himself just 21, and the road manager of native teen idol, Jimmy Clanton, of Johnny Vincent’s (Imbragulio) Ace label of Jackson, MS (“Just A Dream” and “Go Jimmy Go”), had a record shop at 3958 Florida St, M&S (along with partner Joe Messina), and was looking to record area talent. In fact, with his first release on his fledgling label, Lester Robertson & the Upsetters’ “My Girl Across Town,” which became Montel #1001, he scored quite a resounding success, an unlikely feat which encouraged him further. “At that point, I didn’t have a studio yet, so I usually had to go to Cosimo’s [Matassa of New Orleans] for tapings. My first office for Montel [his last name shortened] records was actually in the Fruit Exchange produce company at 100 Government St. Later I named three subsidiary labels for my three girls - Michelle [pop], Debbie [R&B], and Stephanie [C&W],”said Sam, commenting recently on his association with John Fred. In the 10-year span that Sam ran the logo, he had some parochial hits like Buck Rogers’s “Crazy Baby (Montel  #2002)” and Joe Tex’s (Arrington) “I’ve Got A Song (Montel  #934),” but garnered his greatest triumph with the reworking of Don (Harris) & Dewey’s (Terry) “Leavin’ It All Up To You (Specialty #610),” by the duo of Dale (Houston) & Grace (Broussard) on Michelle #921 in 1963, a phenomenally popular disk which soared to # 1 on all the national polls. Their next two efforts, “Stop and Think It Over (#922)” and “The Loneliest Night (#928),” charted as well. Other renowned South Louisiana artists that were recorded by Sam Montalbano were pianist James “Sugarboy” Crawford of “Jock-A-Mo” fame, Van Broussard (Grace’s brother), Jay Chevalier, Mack White, Larry Brasso (Brasseaux), and the aforementioned Boogie Kings. 

John Fred & His Playboy Band - Permanently Stated (1968)

Permanently Stated is an interesting and successful period piece of pop psychedelia. The album seems to be a logical progression of the satire of "Judy in Disguise," the band's number one parody of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." Though it doesn't totally shun the group's R&B base (e.g., "Hey Hey Bunny" and especially "Little Dum Dum"), most of the album explores late-'60s psychedelia. "We Played Games," the great opening cut, seems almost innocent in its lyrical and musical content. By the third number, however, optimistic lyrics give way to the spoken ending, "Send my message to the sky as I begin to die." Musically, "Permanently Stated" is quite adventurous, with various complex horn and string arrangements and vocal choruses. The record is at its most Beatles-esque with "Before the Change," which features string arrangements and distortions that sound straight out of the "I Am the Walrus" sessions. It's difficult to ascertain if the band is trying to be serious in all its musical and lyrical diversity, or is just having fun exploring the music of its day. Either way, the album is enjoyable from start to finish.

1. 01 - We played Games (03:02)
2. 02 - Surprise, surprise (02:43)
3. 03 - What is Happiness (03:16)
4. 04 - Lonely are the Lonely (02:38)
5. 05 - Mary Jane (02:56)
6. 06 - Tissue Paper (03:57)
7. 07 - Hey, hey Bunny (02:33)
8. 08 - Who could Love you (more than I) (02:37)
9. 09 - Little dum dum (02:46)
10. 10 - Before the Change (04:25)
11. 11 - Permanently Stated (02:33)
12. 12 - No Letter Today (bonus) (02:59)
13. 13 - Sun City (bonus) (02:26)

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