Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Butts Band - The Complete Recordings (1973-75 us / uk, excellent classic rock, soul, rhythm 'n' blues and reggae tunes, feat. Robby Krieger, John Densmore, Jess Roden)

The 1973 debut of Butts Band, produced by Doors engineer turned producer Bruce Botnick, is -- along with Ray Manzarek's 1974 release, The Golden Scarab (also produced by Botnick) -- the true fulfillment of what Other Voices and Full Circle initiated. A release of Golden Scarab and The Butts Band on one CD would be a good companion piece to the aforementioned post-Morrison Doors releases; it's most likely what would have evolved had the Doors' trio given us a third album in the early '70s. Make no mistake, this is very musical and great stuff, it just had no image, introduced us to new personalities, and was saddled with a terrible name (c'mon, the Butts Band? What was Jimmy Castor's line in "Troglodyte"? "Bertha Butt, one of the Butt sisters." It's just plain silly with the world watching the Doors' legacy). Before Robbie Krieger went on his jazz tangent, this folky blues group may have been a necessary diversion. 

There's none of the Doors' darkness or Ray Manzarek's manic intensity here. It's laid-back, well-played, perfectly recorded music on the Blue Thumb label. What is surprising is that Robbie Krieger was an integral part of the Doors' hit singles. He seems to have put that in the past on these compositions. "Baja Bus," with conga by Larry McDonald, might as well be the Allman Brothers. Side one was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, with Botnick as engineer, while in London for side two at Olympic Studios they used Keith Harwood on the boards, though Bruce Botnick is the producer of the entire package. More of what you'd expect than the follow-up, Hear and Now, which changes all the musicians save the two Doors and completely reshuffles the sound. Gotta hand it to Krieger and Densmore; they can be as proud of this as Ten Wheel Drive's Zager and Schefrin can be of their post-Genya Ravan disc on EMI. That record wasn't Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, but it was competent and worth a listen, as is The Butts Band .

In 1975 John Densmore and Robbie Krieger put together a second version of Butts Band for Hear & Now, which is really bizarre because Roy Davies, Phillip Chen, and vocalist Jess Roden did an admirable job on the first disc's folky blues sound. With Mike Berkowitz brought in as a second drummer, Karl Rucker on bass, and Bobbi Hall on congas, the band is expanded and substantially changed. Add Michael Stull and Alex Richman, both on keyboards and vocals, with Stull on guitar as well, and you may think you have what the Doors were up to on Other Voices. Almost, but not quite. The jazz element is definitely there, but subdued, for this is a soul record, an honest to God soul record by two of the guys who backed up Jim Morrison. 

Krieger and Densmore sound like they are sponsoring Barry White doing the songs of Percy Sledge. "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody" is pure rhythm & blues, as is "Livin' and Dyin'," but it is not Butts Band that producer Bruce Botnick worked with. Sure it is dynamite stuff, but as the first go round for Butts Band had no image, this must have confused the hell out of radio programmers, retail workers, critics, and fans of the Doors. Botnick has been replaced by Jerry Fuller and is truly is the anomaly when it comes to Doors spin-off projects. Heck, even Ray Manzarek's work with poet Michael McClure contains Jim Morrison American Prayer elements, but the quasi-Steely Dan sound of "Caught in the Middle" could be early Lou Rawls cutting his teeth backed by a pseudo-pop band. It's commendable that Blue Thumb allowed rock stars to stretch like this, but no one familiar with Densmore and Krieger could get a handle on where Hear & Now was going. 

What might have been a nice calling card would be to take the Doors' "Touch Me" and let this crew send it up the R&B charts. For two members of a totally established group to create a new entity then switch genres is totally original and quite obscure. Butts Band would have been better off trying to get Towerof Power to do this arrangement of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh's "Get up, Stand Up." Robbie Krieger writes a majority of the songs, and female vocalist Alex Richman has a bit of Kathi McDonald in her for her composition "Everybody's Fool," but it is territory not embraced by most Doors aficionados. Labelmates with the Four Tops, this was moved to the Blue Thumb/ABC imprint (the Four Tops were on sister label Dunhill for their "Keeper of the Castle" phase). Gotta have it for the collection, but Manzarek's The Golden Scarab will get more spins. 
by Joe Viglione 
1. I Won't Be Alone Anymore - 4:29
2. Baja Bus - 4:40
3. Sweet Danger (Jess Roden) - 4:52
4. Pop-A-Top (Jess Roden, Phillip Chen) - 3:22
5. Be With Me - 4:21
6. New Ways (Jess Roden) - 3:55
7. Love Your Brother - 4:53
8. Kansas City (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 4:06
9. Get Up, Stand Up (Bob Marley) - 3:36
10.Corner Of My Mind - 4:36
11.Caught In The Middle - 3:22
12.Everybody's Fool (Alex Richman) - 2:45
13.Livin' And Dyin' (Lydia Tegret, Robby Krieger) - 3:13
14.Don't Wake Up - 4:13
15.If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody (Rudy Clark) - 4:04
16.Feelin' So Bad (Alex Richman) - 4:18
17.White House (Michael Stull) -  - 4:27
18.Act Of Love - 3:05
19.That's All Right - 3:18
20.Lovin' You For All The Right Reasons - 2:32
All compossitions by Robby Krieger except where stated
Tracks 1-8 from "Butts Band " 1973
Tracks 9-20 from "Hear And Now!" 1975

The Butts Band
1973 (Tracks 1-8)
*John Densmore - Drums
*Robby Krieger - Lead Guitar
*Jess Roden - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Phillip Chen - Bass
*Roy Davies - Keyboard, ARP Synthesizer 
*Mick Weaver - Wurlitzer Piano, Organ
*Larry McDonald - Congas
*Allan Sharp - Congas

1975 (Tracks 9-20)
*John Densmore - Drums
*Robby Krieger - Lead Guitar
*Michael Stull - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Alex Richman - Keyboards, Vocals (Track 16)
*Karl "Slick" Rucker - Bass
*Bobbi Hall - Congas
*Mike Berkowitz - Percussion

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