Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Box Tops - Cry Like A Baby&Nonstop (1968)









Personnel:
- Alex Chilton - lead vocals, guitar
- Gary Talley - lead guitar, banjo, bass, guitar, vocals
- Rick Allen - keyboards, vocals (1968-69)
- Bill Cunningham - bass, cello, piano, organ, vocals
- Tom Boggs - drums, vocals (1968-69)
- Danny Smythe - drums, vocals (1967-68)
- Larry Spillman - drums (1967-68)
- John Evans - guitar, keyboards, vocals (1967-68)


During their brief lifespan, the Box Tops earned a reputation as one of the best blue-eyed soul groups of the '60s, even if their recorded legacy wasn't as large or consistent as, say, the Righteous Brothers or the Rascals. Today they're remembered not only for their smashes "The Letter" and "Cry Like a Baby," but as the launching pad for singer Alex Chilton, who went on to become one of rock's most revered cult figures thanks to his groundbreaking power pop unit Big Star. In his teenage years, Chilton was an amazingly gritty Memphis soul belter akin to an American version of the Spencer Davis Group's Stevie Winwood. the Box Tops' music also encompassed touches of pop and psychedelia, although the group's own lack of control over it eventually led to their split-up.
the Box Tops began life as the Devilles, a white R&B group featuring guitarists Gary Talley and John Evans, bassist Bill Cunningham, and drummer Danny Smythe. After the band's local popularity blossomed, teenage singer Alex Chilton joined up, and the Devilles quickly caught the attention of songwriters/producers Chips Moman and Dan Penn, who were on the lookout for a Stevie Winwood-type white soul singer. Changing their name to the Box Tops to avoid confusion with a different group of the same name, they signed with Bell Records and began recording at Moman's Memphis-based American Studio. The first single the group cut, "The Letter," rocketed to the top of the charts in 1967, not only spending four weeks at number one but ending up as Billboard magazine's number one single of the year. (Chilton was all of 16 at the time.) With a hit on their hands, Penn began to exert more control over the group; in the wake of "The Letter," he frequently used session musicians on the Box Tops' recordings, sometimes replacing the whole band behind Chilton, sometimes just individual members. Frustrated, Evans and Smythe both left the band to return to school in early 1968, and were replaced by Rick Allen (ex-Gentrys) and Tom Boggs, respectively.

The follow-up to "The Letter," "Neon Rainbow," didn't do nearly as well, but the Box Tops managed another massive hit in 1968 with the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham tune "Cry Like a Baby," which went to number two on the pop charts. Although a couple of minor hits followed in "I Met Her in Church" and "Choo Choo Train," Chilton was rapidly growing dissatisfied with the inconsistency of the material the Box Tops were handed (which was clear on the three LPs the group had released through 1968). As a result, Chilton was chafing at Penn's extreme reluctance to allow him to record his own original compositions. By the time of the Box Tops' fourth and final LP, 1969's Dimensions (an attempt to make a more cohesive album), Penn had bowed out and moved on to other projects. Several Chilton songs appeared on Dimensions, including "I Must Be the Devil," and the group had one last minor hit with "Soul Deep." Cunningham subsequently departed, also to go back to school, and the Box Tops began to disintegrate. When their contract expired in February 1970, they officially disbanded, and Chilton moved to Greenwich Village for a while. Not finding the creative hospitality he'd hoped for, Chilton soon returned to Memphis and joined an Anglo-pop outfit run by his friend Chris Bell; they morphed into Big Star, one of the most revered and mercurial bands in power pop (or, for that matter, underground rock & roll) history

The Box Tops - Cry Like A Baby (1968)


Searching for a hit to follow up the widely successful "The Letter," and at the end of their creative rope, in a burst of inspiration, songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham came up with the title track to this album within hours of the scheduled recording session. The song, a perfect slice of blue-eyed soul, subsequently became a hit for the Alex Chilton-fronted Box Tops. The rest of the album builds off of "Cry Like a Baby," but with less success. Songs like "The Trouble With Sam" and "Weeping Analeah" foreshadow the British Invasion style that Chilton would employ with Big Star, but the melody lines and instrumentation lack the gritty authenticity found on The Letter. And the normally outstanding writing team of Penn and Oldham, responsible for such soul classics as "Do Right Woman" and "A Woman Left Lonely," seem to have softened up their approach in order to make the Box Tops sound more pop. All in all, with the exception of "Cry Like a Baby," an album that could've potentially contained some real gems just doesn't. The 2000 Sundazed reissue adds five bonus tracks: the mono 45 version of "Cry Like a Baby," three non-LP songs from singles, and the previously unreleased "Take Me to Your Heart."

1. Cry Like A Baby (02:34)
2. Deep In Kentucky (02:10)
3. I'm The One For You (03:05)
4. Weeping Analeah (03:03)
5. Every Time (02:35)
6. Field Of Clover (02:52)
7. Trouble With Sam (02:16)
8. Lost (02:30)
9. Good Morning Dear (03:42)
10. 727 (02:20)
11. You Keep Me Hanging On (03:46)
12. Cry Like A Baby (Single A Side) (02:33)
13. The Door You Closed To Me (Single B Side) (02:40)
14. You Keep Tightening Up On Me (02:52)
15. Come On Honey (03:22)
16. Take Me To Your Heart (02:34)

The Box Tops - Nonstop (1968)



The Box Tops -- or more precisely Alex Chilton and producer Dan Penn -- were treading water on the third album to be churned out under the group's name in less than a year. The usual blue-eyed soul dominates the program, without anything on the order of "Cry Like a Baby" or "The Letter," although with "I Met Her in Church," Penn and songwriting partner Spooner Oldham were probably trying for something on that level. Sometimes the moods are a bit on the bluesy side ("Choo Choo Train," "Rock Me Baby"), at others on a gentler and poppier one ("Rollin' in My Sleep"). For the first time Chilton had the opportunity to write an LP track, and with "I Can Dig It," he brought out his most gravelly voice for an average midtempo soul belter. That's nothing compared with "Yesterday Where's My Mind," in which he sounds like he's trying to out-gravel the most sandpaper-voiced white singer of the era, Tim Rose; in fact, the track bears more than a passing similarity to "Morning Dew," one of the songs Rose interpreted on his debut album. "Sandman," a luscious ballad by the composer of "The Letter," Wayne Carson Thompson, is the most interesting little-known cut. Overall, though, this, like all of The Box Tops' albums, is a middling product with its share of filler. [The 2000 reissue on Sundazed adds five bonus tracks: two of them mono single versions (of "Choo Choo Train" and "I Met Her in Church"), the others from non-LP 45s. Those non-LP items include a Randy Newman cover ("Let Me Go") on which Chilton sounds like Paul Jones of Manfred Mann, and another of Chilton's earliest self-penned numbers, the soul-pop ballad "Since I Been Gone.."]

1. Choo Choo Train (02:53)
2. I'm Movin' On (03:47)
3. Sandman (02:57)
4. She Shot A Hole In My Soul (02:43)
5. People Gonna Talk (04:10)
6. I Met Her In Church (02:44)
7. Rock Me Baby (03:49)
8. Rollin' In My Sleep (03:15)
9. I Can Dig It (02:24)
10. Yesterday Where's My Mind (03:28)
11. If I Had Let You In (03:21)
12. Let Me Go (02:50)
13. Choo Choo Train (Single Version) (02:59)
14. I Met Her In Church (Single Version) (02:47)
15. Got To Hold On To You (02:26)
16. Since I Been Gone (03:12)




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