In this musical world where everything seems to be re-appraised with alarming regularity, Lou Bond’s sole album from 1974 is a genuine unearthed curio.
The mysterious Bond came from Memphis. Captured on the cover in full soul troubadour mode walking down suburban streets, he had made a couple of singles in the 60s, and then nothing until these six tracks. The album was released on Tom Nixon’s Stax subsidiary, We Produce, and disappeared almost immediately.
Influenced undoubtedly by Isaac Hayes (producer Nixon had worked extensively with him), folk music and David Van DePitte’s orchestrations for Marvin Gaye, Bond set about creating his own magnum opus. To do so, he worked with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the South Memphis Horns, as well as some sundry Bar-Kays. It is an album that could only have been made in the 1970s.
Bond is a caring, socially aware love man. His version of Jimmy Webb’s Lucky Me, although a little tentative on the high notes, sets the tone: swooning melodies and symphonic settings. Everything is given time to develop: he takes Bill Withers’ Let Me Into Your Life and triples the length of the two-minute original.
The core of the album is protest. Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards looks to solve world conflicts, mentioning Northern Ireland in the same song as North and South Vietnam. Powerful and emotional, Bond ironically sings America the Beautiful, before addressing domestic issues in the US.
Although OutKast sampled it back in the last century, the album’s undoubted highlight, To the Establishment, has been known only to the cognoscenti. It explores family politics over 12 unhurried minutes of expansive soul. It is one of the best songs you’ve never heard.
For something so ambitious to have remained so hidden is astonishing. Lou Bond is Sunday morning, it is sensuality. It’s Terry Callier blended with Nick Drake. People have called it a masterpiece, but as you can see by the wealth of its reference points, it is a little too derivative really to be at that level. But it is a delightful, esoteric find, and an album you need in your life. --Daryl Easlea
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