When I Die

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The title track went Top 20 in the summer of 1969, and it is a smooth, soulful, slick, and beautiful pop classic. Nothing else on this decent album comes close to the majesty of the hit single, but the album has merit nonetheless. "When I Die" was written by vocalist/keyboard player/bandleader William "Smitty" Smith and tenor sax/harmonica player/vocalist Steve Kennedy. It has some of the elements that the Free Movement most likely borrowed for their "I've Found Someone of My Own," which went Top Five two years after this in 1971, both bands displaying heavy gospel influences which flavored their respective singles. In the case of Motherlode, the gospel is in the grooves of the album tracks. Although this competent album as a whole is better than the full-length disc by Alive and Kicking, which sent "Tighter, Tighter" up the charts a year later ("Tighter, Tighter" being, arguably, a better song, rose higher into the Top Ten), these "one-hit wonders" did create memorable recordings that brighten up radio years later. "Child Without Mother" is written by Kennedy, Smith, and electric guitarist Ken Marco, displaying fully the marvelous pop/gospel chops by the group, though it tends to jam out a bit much. Producers Mort Ross and Doug Riley had something here, and they should have capitalized on it with more than just this almost filler to surround the hit recording with, although that filler is well-constructed. The brilliant Carol Kay plays bass and "Acc. Guitar" on all tracks except the cover of the Johnny Bristol tune that Junior Walker made famous, "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)." Ken Marco's "Living Life" is another of the almost-but-not-quite tunes here. It's a surprisingly listenable album with strong musicianship, the band's sincere liner notes adding a dimension of charm missing on many discs from this era.

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