Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Song A Day: Union, "Come to My House for Lunch"

JUNE 14, 2017



RELEASED 1970 ON 7” 45

This delightful record exists purely because of Brenton Wood, a Louisiana-born Los Angeles singer who enjoyed fun, danceable hits in 1966 and 1967 with “The Oogum Boogum Song” and “Gimme Little Sign.” He wrote the first and co-wrote the second. Wood was never able to follow up those two songs commercially, but even now continues to write, record, and sing.

In 1970, Wood was concentrating on production and songwriting. To help get his songs out, he gathered a group he called Union. A list of personnel is not definitive or complete, but the lead singer was Gail Anderson, who’d never had a hit but done a good bit of recording. Sterling Smith and George Semper played keyboards, while Al McKay—later of Earth, Wind, and Fire—handled guitar. Phil Kelsey, of garage band Phil & the Frantics, also was involved, probably singing and playing saxophone.

To survive the crowded, trend-conscious Los Angeles music scene of the 1960s/1970s, one had to wear many hats. Most of the above-named musicians had experience arranging or producing records, playing sessions, or managing nightclubs.

The group produced one high-quality 45, which was released in 1970 on the tiny Mesa label, an independent imprint that issued only a few scattered singles. Wood wrote both sides of the record, using his birth name of Alfred Jesse Smith, and arranged them as well.

Both the A-side, “Strike,” and the B-side, “Come to My House for Lunch,” are uptempo jams featuring Anderson’s searing vocals and peppy, soulful instrumentation. While “Strike,” is just fine, I’m featuring the b-side, a steamy but somewhat ambivalent booty call.

It’s ready…it’s hot…the singer’s been “saving it for you,” and she wants you over at noontime, and it’s cookin’ like stew…but at the same time, she’s also serving a salad with “mixed emotions.” Witty stuff, but what exactly is going on here? Lyrical interpretations welcome.

What I do know is the sound is bulls-eye! The thumping drums, crawling bass, and ripping guitars give it equal doses of on-the-one soul, country funk, and rock and roll. The overlapping vocals at the end are a real plus, as is the lean, tight pop-styled arrangement.

The record was barely distributed and sold in minuscule amounts. Original copies now fetch a few hundred bucks. Some record collectors refer to this 45 as “sister funk,” a neologism that seems to imply by its use that women don’t or can’t normally sing funk. Then again, record collectors are kind of weird.

I would like to note that the information on Union’s personnel comes from the website of The Numero Group, a first-rate Chicago-based reissue label which included both sides of this 45 in its essential Eccentric Soul: Omnibus box set. You can learn about the set here. And thanks CO.

No comments:

Post a Comment