Together with his writing partner Steve Barri, Phil (P.F.) Sloan effectively invented the concept of the self-contained singer-songwriter (as documented on “Here’s Where I Belong” CDWIKD 277). Sloan & Barri’s songbook was widely plundered for cover versions throughout the 60s and beyond. It’s this side of their work that makes up “You Baby”, the latest in Ace’s songwriters series.
Sloan & Barri’s partnership was forged by producer Lou Adler in 1963, though the guys had each already released a number of sides as performers for a variety of labels, with somewhat limited success. Playing off each other’s strengths, they instantly formed a great working relationship, with Sloan as the more experienced musician and Barri as the studio head. From their surf’n’turf beginnings through era-defining folk rock and beyond, “You Baby” maps out a brilliant and fascinating career path packed with pop standards.
While their best-known early numbers are hedonistic fun-in-the-sun anthems such as ‘Tell ’Em I’m Surfin’’ and ‘Summer Means Fun’, their remit was wide enough to encompass girl group influences in ‘You Say Pretty Words’ by Ramona King and the latin-tinged sounds of Betty Everett’s ‘Someday Soon’.
Meanwhile, they also had to contend with a furious release schedule of their own, recording under a wide variety of guises including the Fantastic Baggys and Philip & Stephan, not to mention their in-demand status as session guys, appearing as musicians or singing backups on many of the tracks compiled here.
Sloan had always been the more performance-oriented of the two and when folk rock hit it clearly affected his modus operandi more than Barri’s. The solo Sloan writing credit on hits such as ‘The Sins Of A Family’, ‘Let Me Be’, ‘Take Me For What I’m Worth’ and, of course, ‘Eve Of Destruction’ put a certain amount of strain on the duo.
Nevertheless, the years 1965 and 1966 were their most commercially successful. Joyous, euphoric pop still poured out of them. Perfect pop gems such as ‘Can I Get To Know You Better’, ‘You Baby’, ‘Where Were You When I Needed You’ and ‘I Found A Girl’ were all major successes and are all featured here.
Inevitably, it couldn’t last. The artistic and commercial pressure they were under – not to mention their increasingly divergent musical paths – forced a premature split. Steve Barri stepped in as replacement for the departing Lou Adler as staff producer at Dunhill, while Sloan’s burgeoning career as a singer-songwriter dissipated, though has recently undergone something of a renaissance.
This marvellous collection of classics and rarities should seal Sloan & Barri’s reputation as key chroniclers of their time.
By Harvey Williams