Mike Younger – Burning the Big Top Down
This 9-track LP was “lost” & fortunately reclaimed by Nova Scotia-native Mike Younger 20-years later. I always question what the word “lost” means. If you add up all the “lost” LPs I get the impression record companies are disorganized. Maybe a better word would be “shelved.”
That’s what most record firms do when they run into trouble with an LP. Out of $$, marketing can’t promote it, lost interest, management/ownership changes. But “lost” – as in where did it go? Everything is supposed to be cataloged. There’s an investment here.
However, today’s pop music is different. But, in a rock context, this is still ahead. It’s better than many vapid “so-called” rock LPs of today. This has music shaken not stirred. Soul with some tight grooves reminiscent of the glorious Delaney & Bonnie era. Especially “Soulsearching.” A blistering white-soul shake with musical calories. Tighten your belt.
Younger proves his mettle with “Laying Low.” A sincere ballad weaved with rich soulful backup support. Recorded in Jan. 2001 these 9 cuts would’ve been his fifth LP before the label shut its doors. Even with the contributions of the late Levon Helm (The Band – drums) & Jim Dickinson (piano).
When word reached Younger of Memphis’ Sounds Unreel closing he feared the analog tapes would indeed be destroyed, auctioned off, or “lost” forever in a dumpster. But a former employee secured the tapes. She knew where they were.
Younger didn’t have the masters stolen, reps haggled to secure the tapes, a financial arrangement was made & no issues.
Burning the Big Top Down (Independent -Drops Aug 27) with the initial Memphis Jim Dickinson produced (1941-2009) sessions had Mike (guitar/vocals), Levon Helm (drums, 1940-2012), Luther Dickinson (guitar), Spooner Oldham (keyboards/organ), David Hood (bass), Cody Dickinson (washboard on “Ragtime Angel”).
In Nashville, Chad Brown produced some sessions: electric guitars by Bob Britt (Bob Dylan), Mike & Jesse Thompson. Micah Hulscher & Larry Hanson (piano/organ), BGV by Regina McCrary, Lisa Oliver-Gray, & Jeanne Peterson. Horns: Randy Leago (The Beach Boys), Roy Agee (Prince), Steve Herman, & Neil Konouchi, & percussion: Dave Colella.
The songs skim the tradition of The Band (not its rural style, it’s soulful one), Delaney & Bonnie (“Comin’ Home”) with a Stax studios feel. The songs — impeccably recorded retain charm & resonate with solid rhythm, clarity & sanded to a smooth toned finish. There are times Mike’s vocals are borderline blues. Classic with black-intonation that percolates. “Devil’ On the Rise,” exudes this. The horns are mindful of grains of The Barkays (“Soul Finger”), & Arthur Conley (“Sweet Soul Music”) with a lead guitar that is in a persuasive Steve Cropper tradition.
The only blemish? The front CD art. The music deserves better representation. This mess challenges one’s reading ability. Any of Mike’s portrait images would’ve been better.
Color photo: Michael Weintrob. The 38-minute CD is available @ https://mikeyounger.com/