They rarely make such well dressed albums nowadays as these two blistering, trend-setting long players. And once you have got past the packaging there is that cosmic rock'n'roll sound from another land. Ask Bruce Springsteen about it next time you see him
FRANK GUIDA PRESENTS...
by Cliff White
Gary US Bonds is generally unfairly remembered in Britain simply as a two-hit wonder from the dance crazy days at the beginning of the 60s and/or, depending on your vintage, a brief guest of the Bruce Springsteen/Steve Van Zandt camp in the early 80s. While it is true that these have been his commercial peaks to date, there has been rather more to the career of Gary Anderson (for it is he) than immediately met the UK charts. Leaving aside his unsung period as a formidable songwriter in collaboration with Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams during the late 60s and 70s, Mr Bonds had a substantial six years or so with Frank Guida's Legrand Records out of Norfolk, Virginia, ripe for re-evaluation.
Ace Records, who have already partly illustrated the case with TAKE ME BACK TO NEW ORLEANS (CDCHD 549) - a compilation of forgotten 45s and previously unissued Legrand recordings, now return to basics with this twofer CD repackage of Bonds' original duo of Legrand albums.
As any fule no, the story didn't in fact start with, nor even side-track into, the city of New Orleans, except that was the title and to some extent musical spirit of Bonds' first Legrand single release and hit record on both sides of the Atlantic in November 1960 (US), January 1961 (UK). (Er, hold it-.-possible cause for debate: The New Orleans-based annotator of a recent CD of New Orleans recordings has claimed that Big Boy Myles' recording of New Orleans was the original, not a cover version of Bonds, even though Myles' 45 carried Guida-Royster's writer/publishing credits. Sounds unlikely to me. Anyhow...)
Born in Florida in 1939, Anderson had relocated to Norfolk VA in the mid-50s where, after creating a buzz on the club scene, he was taken on board by local record store owner, DJ, producer and budding entrepreneur, Frank Guida. Guida had already gathered about him a cookin' coterie of the city's hottest R&B musicians, soon to include featured tenor saxman Gene "Daddy G" Barge. Add Anderson's spirited vocals, Guida's unorthodox production slant - loads of double-tracking, into the red zone distortion and back-up rumbunctiousness - plus publicity-grabbing alias for Gary US Bonds, and they were off and running with a unique series of recordings that haven't been replicated to the present day. If Phil Spector subsequently produced a Wall Of Sound on the West Coast with umpteen orchestral musicians, Frank Guida on the East Coast had already created an instant party with his unconventionally recorded little ensemble of raucous rhythm'n'bluesers.
Because Bonds' topside singles - six US hits included here but in total some 25 Legrand 45s - were mostly in ricochet sound mode, his vocal talents were largely overlooked at the time except by those who listened to flipsides or bought the albums. On the doowop and proto-soul ballads, however, this reissue reminds us that Mr Bonds had far more to offer than slapstick. Out of the Clyde McPhatter school of secular sanctifying he could burn your heart when given rein to do so.
With such punchy accompaniment, Gary US Bonds dance-oriented recordings had guts and vigour and a screw-convention rawness that was far more exhilarating than other pop hits of the era-.-on other tracks he was essaying a potential future soulman who perhaps missed his main chance when the climate changed from scattiness to serious. Listen for the voice while brushing up your boogaloo. Ain't nothing but a Church Street Five hoedown with soul sauce on the side the way they used to serve it in Norfolk, Virginia: all of a hot mess and no napkin.