Monday, 21 June 2010

Wilmer & The Dukes "Wilmer And The Dukes"

Wilmer & The Dukes

"Wilmer And The Dukes"
( LP Aphrodisiac Records, 1969 )
Catalog # Aph - 6001

A1 - Living In The USA
A2 - Count On Me
A3 - Get Out Of My Life, Woman
A4 - I Do Love You
A5 - Love-itis/Show Me
B1 - Heavy Time
B2 - St. James Infirmary
B3 - Get It (Instrumental)
B4 - I'm Free
B5 - Give Me One More Chance

Distributed by Master Releasing INC. 1790 Main Street Buffalo, NY.

Natives of Geneva, New York drummer Ron Alberts, singer/sax player Wilmer Alexander Jr., and keyboardist Ralph Gillotte started playing together in 1957.
Originally known as Wilmer Alexander Junior and the Dukes, by the mid-1960s the racially integrated band included bassist Monte Alberts and lead guitarist Doug Brown. With a broad array of cover tunes and a couple of originals in their repertoire they'd also become staples on the New York club and college circuit, as well as an in-demand opening act for national pop, rock and soul acts touring the region.
The band's brush with national success came in 1968 when they signed a contract with the small Buffalo, New York-based Aphrodisiac label.
Penned by guitarist Doug Brown, the band debuted with the single 'Give Me One More Chance' b/w 'Get It' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 260). A major regional hit, the 45 also hit # 80 nationally, which was enough for Aphrodisiac to finance a self-titled LP. Recorded in New York City with producer Gene Radice, the cleverly titled "Wilmer & the Dukes" (note the shortened name) served as a nice showcase the band's broad and versatile chops. Apparently meant to capture the group's long standing live act, the collection showcased a mixture of popular pop and soul hits, with a couple of Doug Brown originals thrown in. Alexander had a great voice that was equally at home on pop, rock and soul material while the rest of the band (particularly guitarist Brown and keyboardist Gillotte) were razor sharp - a decade on the club circuit tended to do that if it didn't kill you. Certainly not the most original album of the year, but a pleasant surprise throughout.
- The album opened up with a killer cover of the Steve Miller Band's 'Living In the U.S.A.' Musically it wasn't all that different from the original, though Alexander's vocal was tougher than Miller's and Brown added a slight Hendrix edge to the proceedings. Very nice (would love to have heard in a club setting) and easy to see why Aphrodisiac tapped it for the band's third and final single. rating: **** 4 stars
- To be honest the ballad 'Count On Me' was a little too MOR for my tastes. Alexander's rugged voice was more than up to the song's varied range, but this one sounded like something Tom Jones might have covered. rating: ** 2 stars
- Their cover of Allen Toussaint's 'Get Out of My Life, Woman' offered up a classic slice of driving soul. Supported by some driving horns and a fantastic Alexander vocal (love the opening vamp), this one was probably a pretty good representation of their live act. rating: **** 4 stars
- Imagine what The Dynamics, or Stylistics would have sounded like had they been a self-contained band and you'll get a feel for this one. Had 'I Do Love You' been released a couple of years later it would have been a massive radio hit. rating: **** 4 stars
- Kicked along by a Memphis-styled horn arrangement and Ralph Gillotte's Hammond B-3 organ the first half of medley 'Love-Itis/Show Me' was one of the album highlights. Doug Brown's Steve Cropper-styled guitar playing was merely icing on the cake. The fairly rote 'Show Me' didn't do as much for me, though Brown was more prominent on this one. At least to my ears, part of the problem was that Alexander's vocals came off as flat and raspy giving the song an irritating edge. rating: **** 4 stars / ** 2 stars
- Exhibiting kind of a James Brown vibe, 'Heavy Time' opened side two with a tasty slice of heavy soul. rating: *** 3 stars
- Over the years I've heard dozens of covers of 'St. James Infirmary' and while this bluesy version wasn't anything drastically different, it was better than 90% of the others. Some nice brass arrangements by Artie Schroeck didn't hurt. rating: *** 3 stars
- The Doug Brown penned instrumental 'Get It' served as a showcase for Alexander's sax and Brown's own Steve Cropper-styled guitar. Very Jr. Walker-ish. rating: **** 4 stars
- Injecting a nice soul edge made their cover of the Stones' 'I'm Free' one of the album's standout performance. Gillotte's keyboard solo was perfect. Easy to see why it was tapped as a single. rating: ***** 5 stars
- The third Doug Brown penned track, 'Give Me One More Chance' was also the best song on the album. Killer mid-1960s soul that should have provided the band with an even bigger national chart. rating: ***** 5 stars
Aphrodisiac also tapped the album for a series of follow-on singles in the form of:
- 1969's 'I'm Free' b/w 'Heavy Time' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 261)
- 1969's 'Living In the U.S.A. b/w 'Count On Me' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 262) #114 pop
- 1969's 'Get Out of My Life, Woman' b/w 'I Do Love You' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 263)
A surprisingly impressive one-shot release that you can still find for a reasonable price. Makes you wonder why there was never a follow-up. Well worth looking for.
"Wilmer & the Dukes" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Living in the U.S.A. (Steve Miller) - 3:152.) Count on Me (Andreoli - Bobby Bloom - Vini Poncia Jr. - 2:33
3.) Get Out of My Life, Woman (Allen Toussaint) - 2:35
4.) I Do Love You (Billy Stewart) - 3:15
5.) Love-Itis/Show Me (Scale - Jacobs / Joseph Arrington Jr.) - 5:12
(side 2)
1.) Heavy Time (Whittington) - 2:272.) St. James Infirmary (Joe Primrose) - 5:363.) Get It (instrumental) (Doug Brown) - 2:40
4.) I'm Free (Mick Jagger - Keith Richards) - 2:37
5.) Give Me One More Chance (Doug Brown) - 2:40
The band continued to tour through 1974 at which time the called it quits.
With Alexander in poor health, in 1988 the band (sans Alexander) reunited for a pair of charity concerts. That led to a decision to resume playing as The Legendary Dukes.
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By Celo

1 comment:

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