Baby Huey

The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend

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Baby Huey's only album, released after his untimely death, is titled The Living Legend with good reason. He was legendary in his appearance, a 400-pound man with a penchant for flamboyant clothing and crowned by a woolly Afro, a look that is best illustrated by one of several rare photos included in the Water Records edition that shows our man in a wide-lapeled polka-dot shirt with a lime-green jacket. Beyond his unusual appearance, though, he was graced with a stunning, fierce voice on par with Otis Redding and Howard Tate, wailing and howling one moment and oddly tender and sentimental the next. Nowhere on Living Legend is his range more apparent than the opening track, "Listen to Me," where listeners are introduced to both the enigma of Baby Huey and his diamond-tough psychedelic funk backing band, the Baby Sitters. The high-energy instrumental workout "Mama Get Yourself Together" is worthy of the J.B.'s and a hazy, spiraling ten-minute rendition of Sam Cooke's chestnut "A Change Is Going to Come" confirms that the Baby Sitters could hold their own with Blood, Sweat & Tears. Further lore that catapults The Living Legend from good to great: the production was helmed by Curtis Mayfield, reason enough to make it near essential, and is highlighted by three of his compositions, "Mighty Mighty," which Mayfield and the Impressions recorded a few years earlier; "Running," a classic Mayfield cut that can only be heard here ripped to glorious bits by a band that is trying to let every member solo; and "Hard Times," which Mayfield himself would revisit on his 1975 album There's No Place Like America Today, although Baby Huey's razor-edged reading remains the definitive version -- no small caveat considering Mayfield not only wrote the tune, but could rightfully be considered one of the architects of soul to boot.

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