Joe South: A Look Inside/So The Seeds Are Growing (Raven/EMI)

 |   |  1 min read

Joe South: Oprah Cried (2009)
Joe South: A Look Inside/So The Seeds Are Growing (Raven/EMI)

Joe South wrote some classic songs which others took to great heights: Hush (Deep Purple); I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson); Down in the Boon Docks (Billy Joe Royal) and others.

Of his own career he is best known for the terrific Games People Play which was also much covered (in New Zealand by Allison Durban) and the weary Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home Lord. He had a laconic Southern delivery -- when he wasn't going for the whole ballad push.

The first album on this two-fer set of his '71 and '72 period catches him that post-hippie period where there was still some optimism in the air (he covers United We Stand), a whiff of pastoralism, but also the musical experimentalism of the period.

So here are interesting arrangements: a rock band plus flute, stacked up backing vocals and horns, punchy guitar, shifts into a minor key, some real Southern soul and a little Memphis funk. And he throws in a pretty stonking cover of Ray Charles' Drown in My Own Tears, as well as picking up Lady Moon Walker (penned by Mars Bonfire who wrote Born to be Wild) and delivering a raw version of Motherless Children over a stabbing arrangement. 

There is country soul aplenty here but rather overwhelmed by the everybody-in production and South's songs not being quite as strong as those on which he'd made his name.

The '72 album A Look Inside is the stronger, opening with the stripped back and emotionally desolate Coming Down All Alone which, in Keith Richards' hands, could have made the cut on the dope-soaked Exile on Main Street.

His soulful Imitation of Living ("God help me if you can, help this poor imitation of a man") cries out for a rediscovery and everywhere there is a sense of urgency here that makes the album less complacent than so many others at the time. With slewing slide guitar, bluesy moods and Southern soul on songs like It Hurts Me Too, Real Thing and One Man Band it is closer to Leon Russell, the Allmans or drugged-out Clapton.

South's voice can be a little hard to take on A Look Inside because he is in more upbeat soul mood, but the material is uniformly strong (Misunderstanding is black soul in another lifetime, the moody and stoned Misfit really does "cook" as he says and he sounds like an alt.Elvis)

Oddly enough this comes with some bonus tracks -- two from '69, one from '73 and improbably a country ballad from last year (his first studio recording in 35 years) entitled Oprah Cried, a country weeper (tongue-in-cheek I hope) about pouring his heartbreak out on television and which sounds like Merle Haggard. It's an odd one, and kinda funny.

So two albums for the price of one (one pretty terrific) and one priceless song about Oprah. That's a good deal of Joe South. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

The Louvin Brothers: My Baby's Gone 1955-64 (Raven/EMI)

The Louvin Brothers: My Baby's Gone 1955-64 (Raven/EMI)

About 15 years ago (at least) I saw a short-lived Auckland band The Dribbling Darts of Love which was fronted by Matthew Bannister, formerly of Sneaky Feelings. I'd always liked Matthew's music and... > Read more

Belle and Sebastian: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador)

Belle and Sebastian: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador)

One of the must-see acts at Laneway, B&S from Scotland have over two decades quietly built a large fanbase for their gorgeously melodic, cleverly literate and often wry pop-rock which owes... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

ROCK ME AMADEUS by SEB HUNTER: One man's journey into classical music, and out again

ROCK ME AMADEUS by SEB HUNTER: One man's journey into classical music, and out again

For those who have grown up within rock culture, author Hunter is the courageous advance guard into the world of classical music. A self-confessed addict of popular music who buys rock magazines... > Read more

EPs by Shani.O

EPs by Shani.O

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Shani.O. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more