Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Micheal Smotherman- Lost Tracks: Volume 3

Micheal Smotherman has been haunting me since 1982, June 3rd of '82 to be exact, the night I saw him open up for Kasim Sulton at The Bottom Line. It's been almost 30 years, so I won't pretend I remember exactly what I was thinking, but I assure you, being a Robert Palmer fan, I was thrilled to see Palmer's excellent go-to drummer Dony Wynn behind the drum kit, even if this tall, blonde and lanky opener named Smotherman, who I knew nothing about, was about to waste my time. (He didn't.)

Micheal Smotherman's set felt like the most fun I had ever had. Almost 30 years later, I feel like I can confirm that. The short set of music was filled with cajun-soul, or Jamaican funk, something not unlike Robert Palmer, right down to Smotherman's vocal phrasing and stiff but somehow sexy moves. This guy was cool. I wanted the record. I bought the record. I loved the record. I still play the record.

30 years later, session man and songwriter, Micheal Smotherman's 1982 sophomore release on Epic has yet to see the light of the day on compact disc. And worst of all, there has never been a follow-up.

Side One is fine. Both "Green Eyes" and "Matter Of Time" work best. But it's Side Two that just kicks this baby into gear thanks to a rhythm section--the aforementioned Dony Wynn on drums and James Jamerson Jr. on bass-- that would make George Porter Jr. and Zigaboo proud.

I won't say too much, as I've been known to gush, so just listen.

I'd like to point out the following tracks as killers:


(which includes one of my favorite lyrics, "What is this baby/What are them bags/What are them tickets/What are them tags?")


(later, a hit for Cher. No, really.)



(which you can listen to below)

Here is the full album:

And here are the album's original liner notes:

I'm sitting in a patch of sunlight in a corner of a bare livinq room in California. It's the dead of Winter, must be 85 degrees and I can smell the ocean and hear sea gulls. This is a wonderful place. I came from Oklahoma (with a piano on my knee) and I'll bet a dollar to a hole in a doughnut it's not 85 degrees there. I'd like to try and introduce myself and talk a little bit about some of my songs on the record contained herein, hopefully so you will enjoy said songs, purchase said record, ano the faceless monolith of my record company will remand to me my pittance and I can continue to smell the ocean.

The song Fais Do Do (pronounced Fay-doe doe) is about a guy trying to find someone to explain what the hell Fais Do Do is. As our hero wanders from bar to bar, ever searching, ever thirsty, the answer is eventually revealed to him, so I'll tell you all. Fais Do Do is actually a Cajun dance beat which literally translated means "go to sleep." Strange, no? Maybe it's drinking all that swamp water. The song doesn't even have a Fais Do Do beat, it has a beat I made up I just dig the word.

Green Eyes is about a very lovely Southern girl I met when I was hanging out in Tennessee. Her eyes are sea green, two million miles deep, she never learned to frown or speak loudly, and her body is like warm marble. Yow.

I wrote Cold Burn about women who are exploited by men, apparently willingly.

Freedom's legacy is my attempt to try and feel the personal side of what it must be like to kill or be killed by a total stranger (who also has someone who loves him) to preserve or gain freedom. In the movies all the guys look like Robert Redford, but when I realize that the guys who bleed real blood and feel real terror, look like our Dads, it hits home pretty hard. I tried not to relate it to any specific conflict right now and it is not political. It is about love.

Do I Ever Cross Your Mind was written in a loft apartment I was renting above an old colonial house in Nashville, during a gentle spring shower. I feel in my heart that we all have telepathically sung this song to someone sometime.

Crazy In Love was co-written with a buddy of mine who was as drunk as me around his pool in L.A. Man, it sure sounded great around the pool. It also gave me the opportunity to finally use the word jacaranda in a song. I love that word. Jacaranda.

Adios amoebas.

Micheal Smotherman

The vocals were cut at Cherokee.

We mixed at George Massenburg Studios and Westlake, using the wizardry of Mick Guzauski (thanks again, Mick).

Wine for my men.

We mastered at JVC.

We were ably assisted on everything by my able assistant and road manager, Rick Davis.

Thank you Epic Records from the bottom of my heart. We had a hell of a party if I do say so myself.

Special thanks to Gregg Geller, Ron McCarrell, Larry Douglas, Pretty Polly Anthony (check them eyes), Saucy Stephanie Knauer (check that hair) and Sassy Sue Sawyer (check them lips).

Hi Mom, Pop, Amy, and all my friends in Nashville, my second home. I miss you.

God Bless Larry and Frankie and my cohort in crime Darlene Groncki.

Billy Burnette appears courtesy of CBS Records

James Jamerson, Jr. appears courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.

All rights of the manufacturer and of the owner of the recorded work reserved.

Unauthorized duplication public performance, broadcasting and copying of this record is a violation of applicable laws & prohibited.

Epic trademark of CBS Inc. Marcas Reg.

Made/Printed in Holland

(C) (P) 1982 CBS Inc.

33 1/3 RPM



LC 0199

CB 271


FD13NYC said...

I'm with you all the way down on this one Sal. Great music, great show, one that left a lasting impression. I still play the songs, love 'em. I probably still have my ticket stub in a box somewhere. Superb post!!

steve simels said...

Why have I never heard of this guy?

And what ever happened to him?

Sal Nunziato said...

He's alive and well and living in Nashville. (just found that out)

cmealha said...

Being the lazy bastard than I am I have never burned the original vinyl so this is great. I agree that this was one of those amazing albums that pop up from time to time and it's amazing that there was never a follow-up. Hope he's alright!

Ken D said...

I'd never heard of him either... but surprisingly good.

Can't help but think the album cover contributed a bit to the record's failure. The rodeo poster type atop the "alien glamboy" photo—neither of which has anything to do with the sound inside. What were they thinking?

Mr G said...

AAARRGH! I've been looking for this album ever since Do I Ever Cross Your Mind spontaneously entered my head a few months ago, and finally ordered a used copy from someone on eBay. It arrived yesterday, and then you post the whole thing as a zip file today. Ah, such is life.

But...a friend of a friend worked for Epic 30 years ago, and because of that, I got to go to the release party for the album, and actually met him. It was the first time I'd ever seen a "keytar." I also saw Andy Warhol there.

I don't know if you'd call it a follow-up album, but he did put out another album, called Conjure Man, in 2001. It's available at iTunes...and has an updated version of Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.

Sal Nunziato said...

Mr. G, thanks for pointing out the existence of "Conjure Man." That slipped by me.

Jim Della Croce said...

I have known Micheal for a long time and he is well. He is one of the great American songwriters and gents. Ray Charles cut Do I Ever Cross Your Mind and I highly recommend you friend Micheal on facebook and ask for The Faithless Kind or So Little Love In the world...he can be seen on Bob Woodruff's video Bayou Girl--Micheal is a special man--Jim Della Croce....P.S. I too was at that show and recall Andy Warhol shooting MS

Sal Nunziato said...


Thanks! I just finally got around to getting "Conjure Man." What a fantastic record. Micheal sounds as good as ever.


Anonymous said...

Looking for a nice clear copy of "Crazy in Love" for decades, ever since I got rid of my vinyl. Thanks so much! Now, if we can find the video for "Crazy in Love" - no, not the one on YouTube (but that's great also). I'm looking for the one that was on HBO every couple hours in Video Jukebox - but I'm convinced it wasn't the one that you find on YouTube. I think it had "crazy" stuff in it, but it's been almost 30 years... Anyway, thanks again!

lildrummerboy said...

OMG thank you SO MUCH for posting the zip file!!! You just filled an empty hole I've had in my heart for the past two decades, ever since I got rid of my last record player (I still have the vinyl but nothing to play it on!!!) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

Chuck Vaughn said...

Michael Smotherman
I saw Michael on a music show in 1981-'82.I believe it was on a show
called Soundstage. Anyway where I saw him,isn't important,the important thing is I did get to see him.I'm like most folks,I'd never heard of him.The uptempo stuff I liked ok (I was a singer/songwriiter from
Atlanta,Ga.,so I really didn't listen to the uptempo music of the day,but when I heard Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,it was like hearing from an old friend.I remember the white suit,the Band,how well choreographed the whole set was.
But Do I Ever Cross Your Mind is
one of those extremely rare moments when you know that you've just heard something extraordinary.
About 15 yrs. ago I corresponded with a lady,I believe she said that she was Michaels' daughter
she went by the username OTAY PANKY. on AOL
If anybody knows her,tell her I said hello.

Armand St. Martin said...

I completely agree that Micheal Smotherman is truly gifted. I can attest personally to this fact because I was at the Bottom Line in NYC at the performance you are writing about with great zeal. It was indeed a spectacular set and the venue was packed. I was on this Epic Records' tour with Smotherman as his synth player and back up vocals. It was a terrific tour promoting Smotherman's fresh and exciting first album, yes really on vinyl, and is totally unforgettable. Your review is really right-on. Armand St. Martin

Joe B. said...

Wow, I love all the comments. I first heard Michael on the old KBCO here in Colorado and loved it. Bought the cassette which is toast now after many, many plays. "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" is truly a classic.

Joe B. Denver, CO