Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Total destruction to your mind

Swamp Dogg... I think the man should be famous, but as it stands he´s just one of many obscure southern soul singers. He´s got a great voice, he writes great songs, but hardly anyone knows about it. Is it because Jerry Williams (his real name) was never your average soul man, with his leftist views and often absurd sense of humor? Because he changed record labels so often? Or is it because he´s not what you´d call a modest guy maybe? In his own words: "I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, July 12, 1942 and was fortunate enough to move away as soon as I became of age. Without any formal training I awakened one morning only to find that I was a genius and could master a number of musical instruments..." 

His choice of cover shots probably didn´t help his career either. The sleeve of his sizzling debut album Total Destruction To Your Mind features a slightly overweight Swamp in his underwear, while follow-up Rat On finds him with his hands triumphantly in the air on top of a big white rat. Anyway, whatever the reason for his obscurity, it can´t have been the music. Swamp Dogg made some fine albums over the years - and he´s still at it - but Total Destruction To Your Mind (´71) really stands out. 

An album that was always near impossible to find, until he finally re-released it himself a few years back as The Excellent Sides Of Swamp Dogg Vol. 1, with Rat On (´72) added on. The title track is an uptempo joyous blast of soul I always hoped one of the second generation garage bands (the Monomen or New Bomb Turks maybe?) would cover, but that never happened as far as I know. Maybe something for the White Stripes? Dust Your Head Color Red is a wonderful psychedelic soul ballad. "Spirit dust your head color red, sparkle your insides pink with pleasure."  What´s he on about? Or better maybe, what´s he on? Album closer Mama´s Baby, Daddy´s Maybe not only has a brilliant title, it´s got a fine blues guitar by one Jesse ´Beaver´ Carr as well. And it´s another song about - possible - adultery (see my earlier post on Don Covay). We find Swamp seriously in doubt if the kid is really his. "Maybe the doctor made a mistake and gave the wrong child away," he ask himself hopefully, but probably against better judgement. "I guess I don´t really wanna know..."

Stop press: I just remembered Eric Ambel (formerly of the Del-Lords, and currently playing guitar in Steve Earle´s band) did a fine rockin´ cover of Total Destruction To Your Mind on his Roscoe´s Gang album (´88). So here you go.

Swamp Dogg - Total Destruction To Your Mind MP3
Swamp Dogg - Dust Your Head Color Red MP3
Swamp Dogg - Mama´s Baby, Daddy´s Maybe MP3
Eric Ambel - Total Destruction To Your Mind MP3

No comments: