Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Outsiders - Time Won't Let Me / Album #2 (1966 us, tight garage roots 'n' roll)

The Outsiders started life as the Starfires, a hard-working popular local band in Cleveland founded by guitarist/singer Tom King in 1958. By 1965, the group had decided to add more vocals to its repertory, adding lead singer Sonny Geraci. Tom King and his brother-in-law, Chet Kelley, co-authored a song called "Time Won't Let Me," and King turned the new number into a rock & roll tour de force. Recording it on their own, the band (under King's direction) melded the group's core sound -- augmented by the presence of Al Austin on lead guitar -- to brass and horn sections, in what was a fairly complex dual-layer arrangement. The group was signed by Capitol Records on the strength of the recording, but the label insisted that the band get a new name. King had been forced to abandon Pama Records, the label for which the Starfires had cut a dozen sides and was owned by his uncle, who accused his nephew of being an "outsider" to the family. 

The name, the Outsiders, fit the new band and the times perfectly, and "Time Won't Let Me" was issued in January of 1966, rising to number five on the national charts soon after. The B-side "Was It Really Real" showed off the unadorned group sound, a lean two-guitar, bass, and drums arrangement with some tasteful, shimmering guitar arpeggios and a gentle, folk-rock style of harmonizing. The group's lineup was a bit fluid at this point, with King, Geraci, and longtime Starfires bassist Mert Madsen comprising the core; with Bill Bruno playing lead guitar and drummer Ronnie Harkai aboard. Harkai left to join the Air Force soon after the debut single was recorded, however, and he was succeeded by Bennie Benson and later by Ricky Baker.

The Outsiders enjoyed a second hit with "Girl in Love," which reached number 21 -- a reflective ballad with a lush (yet not overwhelming) string accompaniment over some restrained electric guitars; it showed off another side of the group's sound. By the time of "Girl in Love"'s release, Capitol was ready for the group to record their debut album and Tom King called up Jimmy Fox, who had been the drummer for a slightly earlier lineup of the Starfires, to play on those sessions. Fox had left the group to attend college, but he came back to play on the album; in the wake of his brief reunion with his bandmates, decided to forego college in favor of forming a band of his own, which he named the James Gang. 

There aren't too many debut albums anywhere quite as strong as the Outsiders' first long-player. The fact that "Time Won't Let Me" is only the most familiar song here -- but not even necessarily the best track on the album -- demonstrates just how firm a footing Tom King, Sonny Geraci, Bill Bruno, and Mert Madsen had in delivering their first long-player. 

The songs here, most of them originals co-authored by Tom King -- which encompass the classic title track and four others that are pretty good (and two better than that) -- and covers, are all fine examples of mid-'60s garage rock with a blue-eyed soul edge, and there's hardly a moment on this album that isn't engaging in the extreme. Indeed, the big surprise to listeners today is how strong the rest of the album -- beyond "Time Won't Let Me" -- is, whether they're covering the Spencer Davis Group ("Keep on Runnin'"), Bobby Day ("Rockin' Robin" -- in a rendition that really does rock), or Buddy Holly ("Maybe Baby"); indeed, the only slack moment anywhere might be a less-than-riveting rendition of the Jay & the Americans chestnut "She Cried"; and they make up for it with a very successful and slightly arty, string-accompanied original ballad in the equivalent position on side two, to close the album. 
by Bruce Eder
1. Keep On Running (Jackie Edwards) - 2:21
2. Listen People (Graham Gouldman) - 2:30
3. Time Won't Let Me (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:59
4. My Girl (Ronald White, William Robinson) - 2:29
5. What Makes You So Bad (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:30
6. She Cried (Greg Richards, Ted Daryll) - 2:22
7. Chase Away The Tears (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:59
8. Was It Really Real (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:13
9. Maybe Baby (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty) - 1:58
10.Rockin' Robin (Jeanne Vikki) - 2:31
11.Girl In Love (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 3:18
12.(Just Like Romeo And Juliet) (Bob Hamilton, Freddie Gorman) - 2:25
13.Lost In My World (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:54
14.Since I Lost My Baby (Smokey Robinson, Warren Moore) - 3:09
15.Cool Jerk (Donald Storball) - 2:38
16.Oh How It Hurts (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:45
17.I Will Love You (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:53
18.Respectable (O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley) - 2:00
19.Hanky Panky (Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry) - 2:24
20.Lonely Man (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 3:04
21.Wine Wine Wine (Billy Joe Shine, David Schwartz, Gene Haufler, Jack Allday, Mario Daboub) - 2:38
22.Backwards, Upside Down (Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:29
23.Gotta Leave Us Alone (Bob Turek, Chet Kelley, Tom King) - 2:20
24.I Just Can't See You Anymore (Bill Bruno) - 2:55
25.I'll See You In The Summertime (Richard D'Amato) - 2:44
26.And Now You Want My Sympathy (Sonny Geraci, Tom King) - 2:49
27.Little Bit Of Lovin' (Ed Fournier) - 2:20
28.We Ain't Gonna Make It (Tom King, Chet Kelley, Turif) - 2:24
29.Think I'm Falling (Group Version) (Walter D. Nims) - 2:36
30.Rock And Roll Heaven (Alt Version) (Alan O'Day, Johnny Stevenson) - 3:27
Tracks 29 as Sonny Geraci
Track 30 as Climax Featuring Sonny Geraci

The Outsiders
*Tom King - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Tenor Saxophone
*Sonny Geraci - Lead Vocals 
*Mert Madsen - Bass, Harmonica
*Bill Bruno - Lead Guitar 
*Ricky Biagiola - Drums
*Ronnie Harkai - Drums 
*Al Austin - Lead Guitar 
*Jimmy Fox - Drums 
*Mike Geraci - Baritone Saxophone
*Tommy Baker - Horns And Strings Arrangements
*John Madrid - Scream Trumpet
*Hank Geer - Saxophone
*Evan Vanguard - Horns