There was a dilemma with compiling a CD of Darrow Fletcher’s recorded output in that he had two very distinctive periods to his career. The first part was the records he made in Chicago between 1965 and 1970, and then the handful of singles cut in Los Angeles in the second half of the 70s. As he was only 14 when he started recording, the two eras had quite a different feel.
In researching the 70s recordings Darrow made for Ray Charles’ Crossover label in Los Angeles, we turned up a cache of fully produced, previously unissued tracks. These included the complete tape of the unissued “Why Don’t We Try Something Brand New” album. Apart from longer versions of the four titles that came out on Crossover singles, there were five brand new songs. These were mainly from the pens of the Zane Grey and Len Ron Hanks team or Joel Webster; who had also provided the released songs. They were of a similar superb quality to the singles, the best dance track being ‘Secret Weapon’, written by Grey and Hanks with Jerry Butler. ‘(What Are We Gonna Do About) This Mess’ is another high quality groove, while ‘(And A) Love Song’ is a tender melodic ballad. ‘Together’ is a bluesier down-tempo tune and ‘(People Are Not) Wind-Up Toys’ is a pretty mid-paced number with a message, so prevalent in the mid-70s.
I am sure Crossover saw Darrow as a similar artist to Stevie Wonder during his mid 70s pomp; the funkier Joel Webster numbers in particular were in this vein. Although his two career stages were clearly defined geographically and historically, there were similarities. Zane Grey had grown up with Darrow inChicagowhich was where he and his writing partner Len Ron Hanks hailed from. Their first composition was Darrow’s penultimate 45 cut in Chicago, ‘Changing By The Minute’. Several of the Grey and Hanks Crossover tracks were written in Chicago prior to the duo following Darrow out to LA where the songs were cut. Darrow’s 60s fans will find plenty to admire in his later output as the songs are well crafted and produced with no expense spared. Despite the five year hiatus they can be seen as a progression of his maturity since the 60s.
Ray Charles seemed to take young Darrow under his wing and the notes describe a particularly poignant moment when the two appeared on stage together in Chicago. It is a mystery why the album never appeared as the label was quite adept at issuing music in this format, often on relatively little known acts such as Joel Webster himself. Darrow specifically mentioned versions of ‘Sunny’ and ‘Fever’ in recalling his time at Crossover. These tracks were actually cut after the LP and raise the possibility of a second album featuring them, the two Atlantic/Atco singles and other numbers such as the social commentary song ‘Election Day’ and the funky dancer ‘How Can You Live Without Love’.
All of the cherished 70s singles are here. Together with the unissued gems they give more than an hour of top quality modern soul from an artist whose excellent body of work is at last being recognised.
By Ady Croasdell