Having a string of smash hit albums to his credit, Lou approaches the material in this album with the supreme confidence and self-assuredness of a "star". He knows what to do. He knows he's right. And when you know you're right, you can hardly ever go wrong. And the combining of Lou Rawls with H.B. Barnum's music is a stroke of genius or good fortune (or both) unparalleled since someone at Capitol thought of putting Nelson Riddle together with Frank Sinatra.
There's no comparison intended of Lou to Ray Charles or Frank Sinatra or anybody else. For Lou is not an imitation of anyone. Lou Rawls is his own man. He's himself. But like any great artist, he lifts his voice from roots in a million dim yesterdays. He speaks and sings to us of now, today. But the truth is for always. So the emergence of Lou Rawls is as natural and inevitable as evolution.
The genius of Lou Rawls is that he communicates - to a stadium full of people - to just you two together - on stage or on record. He explodes on an audience with stunning emotional impact. Lou generates an electric excitement, glowing with gospel fervor, smouldering with intensity and gleaming with high good humor.
It's hard to think or talk about Lou without saying "soul" somewhere. I've tried to avoid it because "Soul" has been used, abused and mis-used so much that now it seems to be just a word that some people put on album covers in the hopes of selling some records. But when you come up against the real thing, you don't have to read it or see it or say it. You feel it. And, baby, That's Lou!»
[Jim Gosa, from the original back sleeve notes of "That's Lou"]
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.
"That's Lou" original inner sleeve shows Capitol goodies of 1967...
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.
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.
...and more goodies on the back.
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!" (...available here) 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!" (...available here) 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. "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.
In June 1967 Rawls performed live at the Monterey Pop Festival, a now legendary musical event, which featured a range of performers, from Otis Redding to The Grateful Dead and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
During the same month, Capitol released a new single with two songs Rawls had recently recorded; "Show Business" was placed on Side A backed with "When Love Goes Wrong" on the flipside. The single featured one of Rawls' trademark monologues about the joys and pains of being a celebrity; it was #25 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #45 on the Billboard Pop Chart. Strangely enough, "Show Business" wasn't included on "That's Lou", the new Lou Rawls album that Capitol released in August 1967, which is the subject of this post....
Lou Rawls performing on TV, circa 1967
"That's Lou" contains the following tracks:
01. When Love Goes Wrong (2:37)
02. Problems (2:04)
03. Reminiscing Monologue (1:17)
04. They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes) (2:13)
05. Ear Bender Monologue (1:02)
06. What Are You Doing About Today (2:12)
07. Please Give Me Someone To Love (3:49)
08. Hard To Get Thing Called Love (3:15)
09. (How Do You Say) I Don't Love You Anymore (2:49)
10. Street of Dreams (2:58)
11. The Love That I Give (2:32)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in October 2014 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files. Both formats offer complete printable PDF artwork.
Before you burn this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you must 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.
Produced once again by David Axelrod, "That's Lou" was #5 on the Billboard Jazz Chart, #5 on the Billboard R&B Album Chart and #29 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart.
The album starts with "When Love Goes Wrong", 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 James Woodie Alexander, once manager of The Pilgrim Travelers and Rawls' personal advisor and confidant. The song, which is probably the best cut on the album, also appeared on Side B of the "Show Business" single a few months earlier.
Credited to Rawls himself, "Problems" is all about "being in control of your life, so that you are successful and are doing what you want to do" because "you can only take out what you put in it". This theme is explored all over Side A with two short monologues, a rendition of a Bacharach / David composition "They Don't Give Medals (To Yesterday's Heroes)" - also recorded by Ben E. King (...available here) and Chuck Jackson (...here) - and "What Are You Doing About Today", another song penned by Rawls and J.W. Alexander.
The second side of "That's Lou" is more rooted in Jazz and Blues, and offers slower compositions. The opening "Please Give Someone To Love" is a ballad originally written and recorded by Percy Mayfield, which has been covered by many artists during the years. The original version is available here.
"Hard To Get Thing Called Love" was written by Vincent Poncia and Pete Andreoli: it was originally performed by Tony Bruno (...here...) and Deon Jackson (...here...) in 1966; I'm not sure about who recorded it first... A promotional single of this track was produced for radios, but it was never officially released to the public.
"(How Do You Say) I Don't Love You Anymore" is a song by Al Kooper and Irwin Levine, which was chosen as the title-track of Freda Payne's third album recorded in 1966. The original version is available here.
"Street of Dreams" is an old classic composed in 1932 by Victor Young, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis. It was first recorded by none other than Bing Crosby! You can listen to the original here.
The album ends with "The Love That I Give", a song credited to Rawls himself.
James Woodie Alexander and Lou Rawls, circa 1967
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.
The following clips offer a preview of the remastered album, here's my favourite tracks: "When Love Goes Wrong", "Problems", "What Are You Doing About Today", and "Hard To Get Thing Called Love", enjoy!
If you have any other useful information about Lou Rawls and "That's Lou" - 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!