Monday, January 17, 2011

Browning Bryant: Yet One More Reason Why Mary J. Blige Is Overrated


Browning Bryant can sing.

Who?

Browning Bryant.

Check it out:

"Browning Bryant attained success singing folk-pop that was uncharacteristically mature and introspective for a pre-teen heartthrob. In 1969, the first of his several songs to generate international sales was Games That Grown Up Children Play, leading to televised appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kraft Music Hall (10 times), The Tonight Show (December 24, 1970), and a brief Las Vegas career. He was nominated "Best Boy Singer" in a reader poll by 16 Magazine, then a favorite with teenagers.

In 1974, Bryant's last commercial album was released. New Orleans hit-maker Allen Toussaint     
produced the record and wrote most of its songs. It featured backing by the New Orleans group The Meters. Though he was 15 and then 16 years old when the album was recorded, his mellifluous vocals are remarkably mature. His three self-penned songs also belie his age, with one, "Cure My Blues," being covered by blues singer Ellen McIlwaine. (Allmusic calls her version "majestic.") Despite recording in a style drastically different than his earlier work, it turned out that Bryant was well-paired with Toussaint's trademark syncopated funk."


So yeah, Browning Bryant.

I found this record about 10 years ago while searching for anything related to Allen Toussaint. I have to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. It didn't smack me in familiar places the way a classic, New Orleans release would. With both Toussaint and The Meters involved, I had expected it to. Though Toussaint's signature piano is right up front, and the band is tight, it reminds me more of what Stevie Wonder might have done had he recorded outside of Motown with these same people. The songs are strong and often, Bryant's vocals send a chill through me.

Listen to "Losing," one of his three self-penned tunes from the Allen Toussaint produced, 1974 release.

The dude was 16.


LOSING

11 comments:

steve simels said...

That's....remarkable.

Do you have any idea what happened to the kid?

Shriner said...

This sounds *just like* "Superheroes" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

Uncanny!

Sal Nunziato said...

Steve,
A recent bio says he went to South Carolina and still wirtes songs.

Sal Nunziato said...

Shriner,
Yeah. I guess it does.

cmealha said...

I've never heard of him but this is simply beautiful!
You continue to excel.

Mercury Joe said...

Wow - outstanding!!

DeepKarma said...

Does anyone remember a Canadian singer name of Gino Vanelli? take away Vanelli's sometimes grating falsetto and they sound similar to me.

RoodAwakening said...

Browning recorded two albums previous to this one, when he was an even younger teenager. You can find a few tracks from them posted on YouTube. Yes, indeed, he CAN sing, and he still records privately for family and friends.

kingspin said...

this was one of my favorite albums upon release, and the single Liverpool Fool went to Number One in my head and stayed there for weeks. It's been in recurrent for what? 36 years? LOVE THIS RECORD.

Marc Nathan

Nicolas Martin said...

It's a tremendous album. I bought the LP when it first came out, and it has held up remarkably well. The limited edition Japanese CD of "Browning Bryant" is fast becoming a collectors item. A couple of available through Amazon Marketplace.

More on Browning Bryant here:

http://liten.be//DVXAG

Sofia Martin said...

In 2014 Allen Toussaint spoke fondly of the “Browning Bryant” album when an interviewer asked him to mention an artist he had worked with who has been overlooked:

"Well, many years ago there was an album with a young white guy called Browning Bryant. A young white guy from south Carolina. A good looking young chap who played just enough guitar to support his singing. I remember feeling very good about the album but it didn’t do very much at all. I didn’t give very much thought back then to what should happen as I was always on to the next project. But thinking back that was a good one."