Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm Falling in Love Again (Band of Joy song of the week, No. 5 of 12)

Last week's installment in this 12-part series on the roots of the songs on Robert Plant's upcoming album Band of Joy focuses on a tune originally recorded by R&B guitarist and singer-songwriter Barbara Lynn. This week's installment focuses on a song from a group of her contemporaries. In February 1966, she performed on the same two back-to-back episodes of a U.S. television program called The !!!! Beat as the Kelly Brothers. Despite hailing from two divergent areas in their common country and playing different styles of music, both Lynn and the Kelly Brothers shared a long history of performing for years before they gained their short-lived national attention. Similarly, both Lynn and the Kelly Brothers tend to be largely overlooked today when it comes to their contributions to Black American music in the 1960s. Leave it to Robert Plant and the Band of Joy to remedy that.

Brothers Curtis Kelly, Andew Kelly and Robert Kelly formed a five-man gospel group in 1948 with T.C. Lee and Offie Reese in Chicago. They called themselves the Kelly Brothers, and it wasn't until the mid 1950s that they began recording. Their first single went unissued, but other gospel numbers saw release, leading off with "Prayer for Tomorrow," originally issued on the C.H. Brewer label in 1955 and reissued the following year on the Vee-Jay label. It proved to be bad timing for a gospel group on Vee-Jay, as the Indiana-based label was springing to national attention with secular R&B acts such as Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and Memphis Slim.

The Kelly Brothers turned to Nashville for their next recordings, but the Nashboro label produced only two singles for the group in three years. Switching to the Cincinnati-based Federal record label, the Kelly Brothers quickly found much more support for their gospel ambitions, releasing two singles and an LP, Songs from the Good Book, all in 1960. Their output on the Federal label continued through 1962, incorporating religious songs such as "Waiting for Jesus," "I'll Be a Witness There Too" and "Lord, Remember Me."

Then, a sharp change in direction occurred for the Kelly Brothers as the group began to record secular music. To do this, they at first adopted a new name, the King Pins. It was under this moniker that they offered four singles on the Federal label in 1963 and three more in 1964. Success greeted their second single as the King Pins, "It Won't Be This Way Always," backed with "How Long Will It Last." Other titles included "Don't Wait, Pretty Baby," "Monkey One More Time" and "I'm a Lonesome Rooster." (The title of one of their B-sides during this period, "Wonderful One," matches that of a Jimmy Page and Robert Plant single issued 32 years later.)

In 1964, the King Pins again became the Kelly Brothers, when their first single for the Nashville-based record label Sims arrived. It did not, however, see a return to the gospel standards that were a staple of the group's first 13 years of existence; their Sims debut was "Counting on You," backed with "Time Has Made a Change." Soul music was taking off, and the Chicago group was now determined to be named among its front-runners. Ten more Kelly Brothers singles on the Sims label followed between 1965 and 1967. Their last single of 1965 even saw them join up with Booker T. and the MGs member and Stax Records house guitarist Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, who co-wrote the Kelly Brothers' B-side, "Love Time."

"You're That Great Big Feeling" is the group's fifth single for Sims and their first of 1966. It yielded the B-side Robert Plant and the Band of Joy have rerecorded for their upcoming album. The song is called "I'm Falling in Love Again." In lieu of writing about the song, I've recorded my own version of it. With the string arrangement, I was going for the warm kind of feel achieved by the Honeydrippers on "Sea of Love." Obviously, my introduction to this song was inspired by John Paul Jones on a Led Zeppelin track recorded in 1978.

Two episodes of The !!!! Beat from Feb. 16, 1966, included a total of five song performances from the Kelly Brothers, including "I'm Falling in Love Again," seen below. The same two episodes also included performances by Barbara Lynn, twice covering "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles, whose "I Can't Stop Loving You" she had knocked from the No. 1 spot on the R&B charts in August 1962. Not included among her five songs performed on The !!!! Beat is "You Can't Buy My Love," another of the songs to be featured on Plant's Band of Joy album.

In 1970, the Kelly Brothers' sixth single for the Excello label, "Not Enough Action," proved to be their last. In England, the group remained a bit of a curiosity, however, because British listeners who were interested in American soul music tended to import anything bearing a connection to any member of Booker T. and the MGs. A collection of Kelly Brothers songs was released on both sides of the Atlantic in 1996. It was fittingly titled Sanctified Southern Soul.

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