I grew up with a D.C.-area father who played almost nothing but pre-Beatles-era soul and doo wop sides. There's a very good chance he had some of these singles somewhere in his voluminous collection but even if I didn't know these Gene and Eddie cuts already, I can say that they all rock mightily.
Following on from that recent fantastic Winfield Parker compilation, the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings have now turned their attention to another legendary act from the Washington, D.C./Maryland area. True Enough: Gene And Eddie With Sir Joe At Ru-Jac, out Friday, is a superb set of hard driving, Stax-influenced rhythm and blues of the sort that working bands here on the East Coast made so vital in the Sixties.
Collecting 16 cuts billed to some variant of Gene and Eddie (Gene Dorsett and Eddie Best), this compilation adds in 5 songs from Sir Joe (Joe Quarterman, the producer and partner of Gene and Eddie). The cuts, uniformly swinging, highlight the filtered sound of the giants of the era. There's the shadow of Sam and Dave in "If I Tell You", for example. And over there is the weight of the legacy of Otis Redding shining through "Sweet Little Girl". Still, for all that sort of thing one would expect from any soul artist in that era, these songs are remarkably fresh for what was, admittedly, just a local act in the D.C. area.
Efforts were made to hit it big and Gene and Eddie and the various incarnations of that act did indeed tour with some heavyweights but nationwide success seemed to elude the duo. And that's a shame, really, for stuff like "It's No Sin" from 1970 and "Darling I Love You" hit the same kind of high points that acts like The O'Jays and The Delfonics were also hitting in their songs. If those acts were more successful, at least True Enough: Gene And Eddie With Sir Joe At Ru-Jac puts the record straight and reminds listeners and music scholars that those Philly sound groups were not operating in a vacuum on the East Coast. Elsewhere, there's the monstrous, noisy soul of "If You Give Up Your Love" which positively rocks. Billed to Sir Joe, and perhaps more the work of Joe Quarterman than anyone else, the cut is cacophonous in spots with vocals and backing vocals that sound a tiny bit trippy as the drums and cymbals crash behind them. Part Sly and the Family Stone and part James Brown on a new bag, this was by far my favorite track on this compilation.
Real fans of this era will probably love this set as much as I did and even casual fans of Joe Tex or Wilson Pickett should find a lot to enjoy here as so much of this owes such a huge debt to artists like those giants. And rest assured that the liner notes booklet tells the full story of D.C.'s own Gene Dorsett, Eddie Best, and Joe Quarterman. Of tremendous importance to the full accounting of this region's music history, True Enough: Gene And Eddie With Sir Joe At Ru-Jac should be this week's essential purchase for fans of great music.
True Enough: Gene And Eddie With Sir Joe At Ru-Jac is out on Friday via Omnivore Recordings.