Thursday 21 February 2013

Lou Bond

Today, I stumbled on to the genuinely, very sad news that Lou Bond had passed away.

In 2010, I was asked to write an album review for Lou Bond's album that had initially been recorded in 1974, for a subsidiary label of Stax Records, but had flown criminally under the radar at the time of its release.  Thankfully, it found itself being reissued by Light in the Attic Records nearly forty years later, and I'm so grateful that it was.

I suppose one of the first things you realise when you're first listening to it is it really doesn't sound like any other soul music that you may have heard from 70s.  That's probably why the album failed to make any mark upon its release - drawing on further influences from country and folk music may have been enough to leave any record label back then scratching their head about how they were going to promote it, but, conversely, there's a specific and concise magic to this record that's inimitable.

There's so much I want to say about him and his life but to do him justice, I should save it for a future post.  It's been a few hours since I heard the news and it was just really important to me to get something out there to support him, his name and his music.  Here's the review I wrote up for the album in 2010 which in many ways says a lot more than I could do now, so I hope you read it, enjoy it, and become inspired to explore his music.

'Lou Bond' by Lou Bond [Light in the Attic, 2010 (reissue from 1974)]

Written by Imran Mirza

The beauty of music is that you can discover it at any time.  Good music is timeless and transcends generations... and I can't think of a better opener to discuss Lou Bond's self-titled album than that.

Hailing from Memphis, Lou Bond became a part of the Stax family, or more specifically their subsidiary label, We Produce, in the early 70s and released his 6-track album under the imprint in 1974.

Stax Records are legendary for their soul offerings from the likes of icons, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Booker T & The MGs, but Lou Bond's release is hardly one that would fit snugly in amongst the Stax catalogue.  Where a huge portion of classic soul music tips its hat respectfully to gospel music, Bond was keen to cite country and western influences almost above those of his church roots.  As a result, perhaps more appropriately dubbed ‘universal soul’, Bond doesn’t waste a second on this release as he uses the album to challenge aspects of society – from senseless wars, untrustworthy governments, unrequited love and failed relationships, but it’s an album filled with hope as much as it focuses on these negative aspects.

Songs like the impassioned ‘Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards’ and the awesome ‘To The Establishment’ are songs with as much relevance today as they had when they were first released, and will more than likely ring true in another 40 years.

Lush orchestration by The Memphis Symphony Orchestra and rich horns by The Horns of South Memphis really elevate the work laid down by Lou Bonds, and his guitar, and deliver an almost folk-ish finish and arrangement that works exceptionally well, but which ultimately may have left Stax with little idea on how to present the product upon its initial release.

As much as quality music purchasers should be applauded, fans are doing themselves a disservice by not picking up a copy of the CD itself as the icing on the cake to this reissue (aside from the previously unreleased bonus track) is really the bonus booklet that comes along with it, which features an incredibly written feature and interview with Bond himself, along with contributions from artists he played with, members of Stax and friends from his childhood.  Reading about Bond's childhood amongst numerous foster homes, and his time living on the streets, makes songs like 'That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be' even that much more significant, and haunting in its own way, as the Carly Simon-penned song muses over marriage and family, and the expectations and disappointments they can bring:

You say we'll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you'll cage me on your shelf
I'll never learn to be just me first
By myself

At the risk of ending with an overstatement – this really is an important release.  It’s been dubbed among several sources as a ‘masterpiece’ but reading that, as a prospective listener, is like being told the twist ending to ‘The Usual Suspects’ or ‘The Sixth Sense’ – the fun is in finding that out for yourselves, and after you’ve heard ‘Lou Bond’ from front to back… you will find that out yourself.  You’ll smile, you’ll think, you’ll probably even be sad, but that’s a rare gift that music that can give you, so cherish it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for cherishing my cousin's (Lou Bond)music! Yes, it was difficult to categorize/promote his music in the 70's. He encouraged me musically and was the reason I became a singer/keyboardist. I and his sister (Kay) were just discussing him the other day. We miss him and his music tremendously! We were
    unaware of his album being reissued.