26 June 2012

Strength Of The Single

It’s 1977, The Allman Brothers Band and members of Graham Central Station are standing outside of Studio 54.  Patrice Banks listens as Gregg woefully lament’s over Melissa when the group’s small talk suddenly leads to an a cappella rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights”.  Before they finish harmonizing the hook Larry says, “C’mon man, let’s go someplace and jam.”

The end result of that session would probably sound something like “Diamond Ring”, from The Black Crowes’ By Your Side (Columbia/Sony 1999), a southern blues rock tune doused with powerful elements of southern gospel.

A laid back Hammond B-3 takes you straight to the pulpit when it peppers the verses then gently fades into background when the testifying comes in the hook, which is the heftiest section of the song.

It sports a splashy disco high hat riding on top of the 12 bar blues rhythm guitar riff and bass-y backing vocals with an “arranged by Larry Graham” brand seared all over it.

Production value wise, one of the best choices the producer and drummer made has to do with the tuning of the snare.  If the pitch was one squintch higher or lower the song could easily qualify for an entirely different genre.

Based on the strength of this single I would show up uninvited at Whitney Houston’s church, decline an audition, dive into the alto section of the choir and try to sing my buns off.

- Renée Westbrook 

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