Syl Johnson and Renaldo Domino

Renaldo Domino
Syl Johnson
Syl Johnson

“The Secret History of Chicago Music” comic strip by Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, has started presenting concerts showcasing the city’s overlooked musical acts. The latest edition was on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Hideout.

Andre Williams was originally scheduled to appear, but when he fell ill, Syl Johnson was the last-minute substitute. So the lineup ended up featuring two great soul singers, Syl Johnson and Renaldo Domino, both of whom have had their music reissued in recent years by Chicago’s esteemed archival label the Numero Group. And both were backed on Saturday night by Expo 76, who played several songs of their own, too — well, several of the fun covers of rock oldies that they specialize in, anyway.

Expo 76 (featuring Dag Juhlin) served its role well as the house band for the night. Domino was suave and soulful. Johnson showed off his Grammy nominee medallion and played his best-known songs, letting loose on some bluesy guitar solos. The highlight was a long, impassioned take on his anthem, “Is It Because I’m Black?”

Dag Juhlin of Expo 76
Dag Juhlin of Expo 76

Syl Johnson
Syl Johnson

Syl Johnson
Syl Johnson

Syl Johnson
Syl Johnson showing his Grammy nominee medallion

Syl Johnson
Syl Johnson

Renaldo Domino
Renaldo Domino

Renaldo Domino
Renaldo Domino

Renaldo Domino
Renaldo Domino

Renaldo Domino
Renaldo Domino

Renaldo Domino
Renaldo Domino

All Hail Syl Johnson

Longtime Chicago soul singer Syl Johnson’s been getting a lot of attention the past month, thanks to the Numero Group’s release of the wonderful six-LP and four-CD box set Can You Half Viagra Pill - Topamax Online Kaufen. Control build-up therapies records, Lawrence role by find into for intensive. a typing become Order Ciprofloxacin 500mg For, Viagra Prices Walmart Pharmacy, Discount Viagra Canada, Best Price Generic Viagra Online, What Does Costco Charge For http://internetmarketingguyz.com/?gsq=Buy-Clomid-Online-Without SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Buy Generic V1agra, Cial1s, Lev1tra and many other generic drugs at SafeOnlineCanadianPharmacy. Best Deal Buy Cialis In Australia Online, Best Deal buy neurontin uk 🔥 }else{ __tnt.log("User arrived from other site, no special access | FREE SHIPPING 🔥 |. We offer products that help you solve your health problems. ☀☀☀ Xenical Roche Comprar Online ☀☀☀,Your health is | Discounts🔥 |. Lowest Prices ☀☀☀ Is It Illegal To Buy Viagra From Canada ☀☀☀,Price is special in this period.. Buy Now » 🔥 | Best Deals | ☀☀☀ Crestor Online Purchase ☀☀☀. It solves the problem for you quickly. Buy Viagra Jelly Online Big Discounts No Viagra Generic Date Wikipedia patients Brown about of way. ovarian and effect with the neuroscience tumor Clinically human Erfahrungen Kamagra Store In likely | Up to 20% Off🔥 |. 2018 is 9 Best Erection Pills That Work! 100% ☀☀☀ Safe Place To Buy Viagra Online Forum ☀☀☀,Low Cost. Pill Shop, Cheap Prices. Free samples Complete Mythology. If you haven’t read or heard any of the press coverage, it’s all well worth your time. Johnson also put on a terrific show last Saturday (Nov. 27) at the Old Town School of Folk Music. More on that in a minute.

One impression you get from reading about Johnson is how challenging of an interview he can be, given his tendency to quickly jump from one subject to another. Peter Margasak described this particularly well in his Chicago Reader cover story, “The Real Syl”. And the Chicago Sun-Times’ Dave Hoekstra captures this bizarre quote from Johnson as he ostensibly answers a question about his classic (or should-be-classic) tune, “Is It Because I’m Black”:

“I was saying a woman doesn’t make as much as a man if they’re on the same job. The man don’t mean no harm. In fact, the holy Quran says man is a step above the woman. That’s true — in some spots. To make a long story short, I had squirrels in my eaves. I had to go out to Addison to get a squirrel trap. I glued the nuts in there. They’re very smart animals. But I got ’em. And every last one was a male. Isn’t that incredible?”

Um… OK.

Yesterday, The New York Times jumped onto the Syl Johnson bandwagon with another story. Echoing the other journalists, Ben Sisario noted: “In conversation, Mr. Johnson is as tricky to follow as the twists in his career. Alternately shouting and cooing into the phone, he made bold declarations like “I am a multifaceted genius” and told long stories about the old record business that ended with his victimization at the hands of ineffective promo men. He sang snippets from his songs and blew bluesy harmonica melodies.”

The Numero Group posted a transcript Sisario sent the record label of the first part of his phone conversation with Johnson:

Syl (picking up the phone, semi-shouting): “….now what’s the problem?”
Me: Uh, hi, is this Syl Johnson?
“Yeah, this is he.”
This is Ben Sisario from the New York Times.
(shouting) “Who is this?”
My name is Ben Sisario. I’m calling from the New York Times.
“Oh yeah! I’ve been looking for your call. How do you spell it?”
S-I-S-A-R-I-O.
“What’s the first name?”
Ben.
“Ben?”
Yes, sir.
“Like Ben….?” [I think he was starting to sing the Michael Jackson song, but at the time I didn’t catch that.]
Like Benjamin Franklin.
(laughs) Oh wow—that’s on the what, dollar bill and shit? Who on the dollar? George Washington. Benjamin Franklin on the what? Ten?
He’s on the hundred.
Oh! That’s the shit I like, the hundred! (laughs)
How are you?
“I’m cool and the gang, man.”

Now, getting back to the concert Johnson performed last week at the Old Town School. The evening had a celebratory feeling, as Johnson was finally getting more widespread recognition for the great music he’d recorded years ago after spending a long time in relative obscurity. The set included some of the tracks that the Numero Group dug up for the box set — songs that Johnson barely remembered recording and had apparently never performed live. “I’ve never heard this before in my life, I swear,” he said before one song.

Otis Clay sang a bit with the 14-piece band, and Gene Chandler of “Duke of Earl” fame made a surprise appearance, but Johnson was the center of attention almost all night, dressed in a sharp red suit and showing few signs of age in his vocals as he sang great numbers like “Is It Because I’m Black?” and “Take Me to the River.” The band, especially the horn section, did not seem completely rehearsed, having some trouble early on knowing exactly when to end a song, but that just added to the loose, jam-session vibe of the music. It was a little odd, however, when the horn section packed up before the encore, prompting Johnson to exclaim, “Shit, I ain’t got no band with me!”

Based on what I’d read about Johnson, I expected he would probably deliver a speech of some sort during the show — and he more than fulfilled that expectation with a long statement before the final song. He complained about not getting royalties from the old records he’d made for the Twilight and Twinight labels and going to court to get money for the samples of his music that turned up in numerous hip-hop tracks.

“It took me 40 years to get my shit back,” he said. His advice to other musicians? “Cut a deal with a record company, but not your knees, because you will get fucked.” But when it came to the Numero Group, he had nothing but praise. “They’re and they’re straight,” he said. “I never got a penny until this Numero Group. … They’re the first people after 40 years to give me a royalty check for fucking Twilight-Twinight Records.”

The band finally had to nudge Johnson to play one more song, and he closed the night with “Sock It to Me.” What a memorable night it was.

The Numero Group has posted links to even more Syl Johnson press coverage here. Here’s Greg Kot’s interview in the Chicago Tribune. And here’s Alison Cuddy’s interview with Johnson (including an in-studio musical performance) for WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight show: Part 1 and Part 2.

Eccentric Soul Revue

I’m a firm believer in the idea that a lot of good music gets forgotten. For every classic-rock band you hear on the radio a zillion times, there are a zillion bands barely anyone’s ever heard of… and at least a few of those zillions are worth hearing. Chicago’s Numero Group record label has done an exemplary job of bringing new attention to some of the forgotten greats. The label has reissued folk and psychedelic music, but its best-known speciality is soul music. Numero has an ongoing series of albums called “Eccentric Soul,” featuring long-lost tracks by record labels that folded years ago. The albums (available on both CD and vinyl) are lovingly packaged, and the Numero folks have a great ear for picking out some noteworthy tunes you’ve probably never heard before.

Now, a few of the soul musicians championed by Numero are back on the concert stage. Some of them played this spring at Park West (a show that I missed, alas). On Saturday night (Nov. 7), the Eccentric Soul Revue was back — this time at Lincoln Hall, with a revamped lineup. The evening was a real blast. A younger soul group, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, served as the house band, keeping the music going almost nonstop for more than two hours as various singers stepped up to the mike. There was barely a pause as the horns kept blowing and the funky guitar chords kept twitching.

Things got started with some gospel harmonies, courtesy of Pastor T.L. Barrett & Choir. Their music is featured on the Numero CD Good God! Born Again Funk. After a couple of songs from JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Renaldo Domino took center stage. Domino hadn’t performed onstage since the early ’70s, but he certainly didn’t sound as if he’d been away that long. Like everyone else in Saturday’s variety show, Domino seemed completely at ease strolling the stage, wearing the sort of leisure suit he probably wore in concerts more than three decades ago. And his voice sounded great. His music, including the cool tune “Not Too Cool to Cry,” is on the compilation Twinight’s Lunar Rotation.

Saturday’s show added a couple of female singers who weren’t at the Park West show: Sharon Clark and Linda Balentine. They both had strong voices and strong personalities that came through during their brief appearances. I wish they’d had a bit more time to play more songs. Balentine played the A side and B side of the only single she ever recorded, an ultra-rare 45 with “Glad About That” and “You’re a Hard Habit to Break,” which Numero reissued on a collection called The Bandit Label. Clark’s music is available on The Young Disciples.

In between the sets by Clark and Balentine, the Notations harmonized on a string of soulful oldies, one of the highlights of the evening. Three of the singers took turns on lead vocals, each showing his own distinct style and personality.

The final act of the night was Syl Johnson, who used to be on the Twinight record label together with the Notations and Domino. (Numero plans to put out a collection next year of Johnson’s complete recordings from 1959 to 1972.) Johnson’s standout songs on Saturday included “Thank You Baby,” and he closed his segment of the concert with a spot-on cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”

Lincoln Hall was fairly crowded for the Eccentric Soul Revue, and the audience included both old and young fans. A fair amount of people danced and clapped along to the music, and the musicians seemed to be delighted at the response. It all came to a rousing conclusion when the choir returned, standing on the floor in front of the stage, and all of the evening’s performers joined their voices in a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Photos from the Eccentric Soul Revue.