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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Now playing: Jimmy Smith- In A Plain Brown Wrapper (Verve V6-8800)

Lately I've been going through a bit of a late 60s/early 70s funk/soul/acid jazz kick again...You always hear about Jimmy Smith's Root Down album but you never hear about the one that came out right before it which seems to have just dissapeared from the radar.. Its an odd album with Jimmy Smith singing on all 8 tracks which were all written, produced and arranged by a Larry Williams.. By this point in Jimmy Smith's career one gets the sense that his sales/popularity had sort of peaked...The same could be said for Verve records which was really arguably on its last legs with the few 8800 series jazz lps that remained to be released (four by Smith, one or two by Getz and then a few reissues). This was released in 1971 and according to five of the eight tracks were probably cut July 16, 1971 with the other three unclear.. a year later his live performance of Root Down would be released an also generally ignored..It was only when cratediggers/dj's/beastie boys picked up on Root Down that it suddenly became a very hot item but its interesting that the two albums that sandwich root down are still largely ignored: in a plain brown wrapper and bluesmith which is also a great album.. Anyways In a Plain Brown Wrapper features some real funky jazz songs with some pretty good/appropriate vocals..they are almost speak sung but they work.. the first song is particularly fitting for the current times we live in ("Recession or Depression") if only slightly dated by Jimmy Smith singing about hanging out in the White House with (Spiro) Agnew (then Vice President) and there's even some great Jimmy Smith boasting on "Number One" and some cool female backing vocals in addition to the strings which do not detract from Jimmy Smith's workout...We don't know who the other funky cats where on this although it was probably some other Los Angeles cats as this was recorded at the MGM Recording Studios in Hollywood, California.. the packaging is minimal this probably didn't make much of an impression but its a very enjoyable listen and there are few periods in Jimmy Smith's recording career where he managed to put together three consecutive solid albums as In a Plain Brown Wrapper/Root Down/Bluesmith.. in fact they would make a great soundtrack for a party in that order with Bluesmith being the chill out album.

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