Sensational this man is, with three smash-hit albums that speak for themselves. The language is all Lou yet the message comes home to everyone who listens. Like it does here. So your lover loves another... well, baby, "Yes, It Hurts (Doesn’t It?)." (So what if you deserve everything you’ve got... gritty-mood Lou’s got the word, he’s passing it on and somehow it helps.)
Hung up on that "Uphill Climb to the Bottom" you are... groping through a night of blacked-out dreams when your love has gone. (Grab those tomorrows in a shower of day dreams... Lou’s carryin’ on and torching lights up the sky.) You’ve no-where to go on a "Dead End Street" ...Windy City’s the place, Lou’s is the monologue cutting words out of Mr. Wind himself... known as The Hawk his words set the scene for Lou’s Chicago-born lesson: get out of that dead end street and never come back.
Talk about a "Righteous Woman" - Lou’s handsome gospel noodling leads into beautiful statements on a beautiful theme, "I Wanna Little Girl" ...not mod, not groovy, just in love. (Sweet-Lou’s soulin’ romances the melody with smooth rhythm lines saying... she’s mine, all mine.) It’s all cool, confident, calling the tune as only one man can: Lou Rawls, that magic-man who’ll pocket your heart with the soulin’ sound of his song.
[Janice May, from the original back sleeve notes of "Too Much!"]
Lou Rawls was an American soul jazz and rhythm and blues singer with extraordinary artistic longevity and great generosity. His soulful singing career spanned over thirty years, and his philanthropy included helping to raise over 150 million dollars for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). He released more than 75 albums, selling about 40 million records worldwide, appeared as an actor in films and on television, and voiced-over many cartoons. He had been called "The Funkiest Man Alive" and his friend Frank Sinatra once said that he had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game".
Born Louis Allen Rawls on December 1, 1936 in Chicago, son of a Baptist minister and a homekeeper, Lou Rawls was raised on the South Side by his grandmother and was introduced to gospel at age seven in the choir of the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church.
As a teenager he developed an interest in the jazz-influenced songs of Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams, whose resonant baritone voices were similar to his own voice. He soon joined doo-wop quartets and sang with the West Singers and the Kings of Harmony, he first recorded in June 1950 with The Holy Wonders. After his grandmother died, he moved to Los Angeles in 1953 and joined the Chosen Gospel Singers.
In the mid-1950s Rawls toured with another gospel group, The Pilgrim Travelers, who recorded for Specialty Records. After graduating from Chicago Dunbar Vocational Career Academy he joined the U.S. Army in 1955 as a paratrooper for about three years. When he returned from military service, he started touring again with the group. One rainy night in November 1958 their car collided with a semi-trailer truck: Eddie Cunningham was killed, Cliff White broke his collarbone and Sam Cooke was hardly injured. Rawls laid in a coma for five days before waking and eventually recovering from the severe concussion, it took him about one year to fully recup.
The accident contributed to the dissolution of The Pilgrim Travelers and Rawls embarked on a solo career in 1959. The group were based in Los Angeles, so Rawls decided to stay there after the breakup. A producer from Capitol Records noticed him performing at Pandora's Box coffee shop and the label signed him in 1961. During the same year Rawls recorded anonymously as an uncredited background singer on Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me", which is considered a classic nowadays.
It took Rawls a while to establish himself as a solo artist, his first recordings were fairly successful. He debuted in 1962 with "Stormy Monday", an album that featured a number of blues and jazz standards chosen by Rawls and backed by the Les McCann Trio.
Lou Rawls, sometimes during the 60s
His 1963 album "Black and Blue", made the pop chart and other four albums followed in just three years ("Tobacco Road", "For You My Love", "Lou Rawls and Strings" and "Nobody But Lou"), but it wasn't until 1966 that he crossed over to major market success with "Lou Rawls Live!". The album was released in April and went to #1 in the Billboard R&B Albums Charts and to #4 in the Billboard Pop Albums Charts. Although it became the first of his several gold albums, Rawls would not have a star-making hit until he made a proper soul album.
The aptly entitled "Soulin'" was released in August 1966, just four months after the success of "Live!". It contained Lou's first R&B #1 single, "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing", which also went up to #13 on the Pop Charts.; with this song he earned his first Grammy Award nomination. Finally, after a few years of struggling, Rawls was reaching white audiences with his smooth baritone.
Produced by David Axelrod, "Carryin' On!" was released during the very last week of 1966, exactly on December 27. Rawls got two mild hits from this album with "Trouble Down Here Below" and "You Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches"; it is also worth mentioning his fine renditions of "On Broadway" and The Beatles' "Yesterday". The production and arrangements were perfectly tailored to his voice, the songs were good, and Rawls sounded confident, assertive, and soulful. "Carryin' On!" went to #2 in the Billboard R&B Albums Charts, to #3 in the Jazz Albums Charts and to #20 in the Pop Albums Charts.
In the midst of Rawls' hot streak at Capitol, "Too Much!" was released on April 17, 1967. It was the first of three albums released during the same year, all of which made the Top 40 in the Pop Albums Charts. The album was superbly produced by David Axelrod and arranged by H. B. Barnum, with Rawls being bluesy, soulful, anguished, triumphant, and resigned. He displayed both a variety of moods and a vocal mastery at its peak. The album features top Jazz and Rhythm'n'Blues musicians like Gerald Wiggins on piano, Earl Palmers on drums, Jimmy Bond on bass, Barney Kessel on guitar, Jom Horn and Teddy Edwards on sax along with Tony Terran and Fred Hill on trumpet.
"Too Much!" contains the following tracks:
01. Yes, It Hurts (Doesn't It) (2:08)
02. It's an Uphill Climb To the Bottom (2:55)
03. I Just Want To Make Love To You (3:29)
04. You're Takin' My Bag (3:12)
05. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (2:32)
06. Dead End Street (Monologue) (1:37)
07. Dead End Street (2:22)
08. Twelfth of Never (3:46)
09. Righteous Woman (Monologue) (2:09)
10. I Wanna Little Girl (2:15)
11. Why (Do I Love You So) (2:45)
12. I'll Take Time (2:05)
13. You're Always On My Mind (2:50)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in February / March 2012, they are available as a single FLAC lossless format file or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 file. Both formats include complete printable artwork as PDF files.
Before you burn this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you will need to convert the original files to WAV format using an appropriate software. Here's an option for FLAC to WAV conversion and one for MP3 to WAV conversion.
As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.
Mostly recorded during mid-February 1967 in Los Angeles, "Too Much!" was #1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart, #2 on the Billboard R&B Album Chart and #3 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart. The album starts with "Yes, It Hurts (Doesn't It?)", a track written by lyricist Ben Raleigh (responsible for a number of major hits by Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Shore and many others, including - of course - Lou Rawls) and arranger H. B. Barnum. "It's an Uphill Climb To the Bottom" follows; this is a strong number written by William Fangette Enzel and brought to success by Walter Jackson in 1966.
"I Just Want To Make Love To You" is a 1954 blues written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Muddy Waters; it has been performed by countless singers and bands including The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Yardbirds, Bo Diddley, The Animals... It is best remembered in the version recorded by Etta James in 1961. "You're Takin' My Bag" and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" were both penned by singer-songwriter John D. Loudermilk, they were included in his own album "Suburban Attitudes In Country Verse" released just a couple of months later than "Too Much!".
"Dead End Street", along with its spoken introduction aptly entitled "Dead End Street (Monologue)", is the most remarkable song on the album. Composed by David Axelrod and Ben Raleigh (with the monologue credited to Rawls himself), it was also released as a single and won the1967 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance. It is said that it helped to pave the way for a singing style that foreshadowed rap or hip-hop. The single was #3 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #29 on the Billboard Pop Chart.
Front cover of the French edition of a "Dead End Street" four tracks EP
Here's the lyrics of "Dead End Street":
I was born in a city they called the Windy City, and they called it the Windy City because of the Hawk: the Hawk, the almighty Hawk - Mr. Wind - takes care of plenty business 'round winter time.
The place that I lived in was on a street that - uh - happened to be one of the dead-end streets where there was nothing to block the wind, the elements, nothing to buffer them for me, to keep 'em from knocking my bed down, you know. I mean really sockin' it to me.
When the boiler would bust and the heat was gone I had to get fully dressed before I could go to bed 'cause I couldn't put on my goulashes 'cause they had buckles on them and my folks didn't play that, they said: "Don't you tear up my bed clothes with some goulashes on".
But I was fortunate: soon as I was big enough to get a job and save enough money, get a ticket, catch anything I split.
And I said "One day I'm gonna return and I'm gonna straighten it all out", and I'm 'bout ready to go back now, so I thought I'd tell you about it.
They say this is a big rich town
but I live in the poorest part
I know I'm on a dead-end street
in a city without a heart
I learned to fight before I was six
the only way I could get along
When you're raised on a dead-end street
you've gotta be tough and strong
Now all the guys I know gettin' in trouble
that's how it's always been
When the odds are all against you
how can you win?
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah Lord 'n' now yeah
I'm gonna push my way out of here
even though I can't say when
But I'm gonna get off of this dead-end street
and I ain't never gonna come back again
No no no
Oh now Lord
Again now yeah
I'm gonna push my way out of here
even though I can't say when
But I'm gonna get off of this dead-end street
and I ain't gonna never come back again
No no no
I ain't gonna come back to this dead-end street no more
'Cause I'm gonna get me a job
I'm gonna save my dough
get away from here
I ain't gonna come back no more
I'm tired of a dead-end street
I want to get out in the world and learn something
Tired of breakin' my back
I want to start usin' my mind
The second side of "Too Much!" opens with "Twelfth of Never", a popular song written by Jerry Livingston and Paul Francis Webster, the tune (except for the bridge) being adapted from "The Riddle Song" (also known as "I Gave My Love a Cherry"), an old English folk song; it was recorded with great success by Johnny Mathis in 1957 and later by other artists including Cliff Richard and Donny Osmond. "Righteous Woman" is another amusing monologue written by Rawls that serves as an introduction to his rendition of "I Wanna Little Girl", a jazz standard composed by Billy Moll and Murray Mencher back in 1930.
"Why (Do I Love You So)" is another classy number credited to James Woodie Alexander, once manager of The Pilgrim Travelers and Rawls' personal advisor and confidant. "I'll Take Time" by John Anderson features a nice horns arrangement and sax solo; it precedes "You're Always On My Mind", the closing track written - once again - by James Woodie Alexander.
Here's the credits and personnel list of "Too Much" as they appear on the back sleeve:
Arranged by H. B. Barnum
Produced by David Axelrod
The backing includes:
Gerald Wiggins - piano
Earl Palmers - drums
Jimmy Bond - bass
Barney Kessel - guitar
Jom Horn - sax
Teddy Edwards - sax
Tony Terran - trumpet
Fred Hill - trumpet
"Twelfth of Never", "Why (Do I Love You So)", "I Just Want To Make Love To You" and "It's an Uphill Climb To the Bottom" were recorded on February 14, 1967.
"You're Always On My Mind", "Dead End Street", "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye", "I'll Take Time" and "Dead End Street (Monologue)" were recorded on February 16, 1967.
Exact recording dates of the remaining tracks is unknown, probably they were recorded around the same time.
Lou Rawls performing at Monterey Pop Festival, 16.06.1967, both photos by Gene Anthony
During the late 1960s, Rawls appeared regularly on TV variety shows and became a show-room figure in the nightclubs of Las Vegas. In 1970 he recorded a single entitled "Your Good Thing Is About To Come To an End," a title that contradicted the success he experienced in the Seventies. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award.
He switched to MGM Records in 1971, "A Natural Man" was the first album he recorded with them. The homonymous single earned Rawls a second Grammy Award in 1972. He released two more albums with MGM but the hits stopped cold...
It took a chance meeting with Weldon McDougal of Philadelphia International to radically alter Lou Rawls's stalled recording career, but this is a story that will be extensively covered at a later date in a different post.
In 1989 Rawls' hometown of Chicago named a street after him: South Wentworth Avenue was renamed Lou Rawls Drive. He died on 6 January, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.
Lou Rawls performing "Dead End Street" on TV sometimes in 1967
"Unless you've heard the song before - even if you know a singer well, it might take a short while to realise just who it is singing, when you hear them on the radio. But with Lou Rawls that doesn't happen – you know it's him at once. So distinctive is his voice and style, there's no mistaking Lou – he was one of a kind."
[Peter Burns, full feature is available here]
If you have any other useful information about Lou Rawls and "Too Much!" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!