Down Home

The Coasters

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Down Home Review

by Steve Leggett

Although they had charted in the Top 40 ten times between 1957 and 1961, by 1966 the Coasters were desperate for a hit and reunited with producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for a session that produced the delightful and clever (how often do you hear Thelonious Monk name-checked in a song lyric?) "Soul Pad." The song, good as it was, went nowhere. The Coasters continued to work with Leiber & Stoller at sessions in 1967 and 1968, tracking songs like their clattering version of the Dixie Belles' "(Down at) Papa Joe's," and then at a last session in 1971, they cut a cover of "Love Potion Number Nine," which actually reached number 76 on the pop charts that year in what was to be the Coasters' final appearance on the list. In all, the Coasters cut some dozen songs with Leiber & Stoller between 1966 and 1971, and these were originally collected and released as an LP called The Coasters on Broadway (since all of the recording sessions had been held in New York City) by King Records in 1972. This set is simply the King album remastered and renamed Down Home, and for all practical purposes, it should be considered the Coasters' swan song, at least as a viable recording unit (touring versions of the Coasters will no doubt persist into the 22nd century). "Soul Pad" is here, and while it now seems a tad dated, it's still a wonderful recording. Also here is the Coasters' version of "Love Potion" and several serviceable but hardly innovative covers of songs like "Mustang Sally," "On Broadway," "The In Crowd" and "Cool Jerk," as well as "(Down at) Papa Joe's," which has weathered the years surprisingly well. The end result is hardly an essential Coasters' album and is really more of an archival and historical footnote. That said, it's far from embarrassing, and "Soul Pad" in particular is worth seeking out, if only to hear a legendary vocal group sing the name of Thelonious Monk as part of a lyric and actually pull it off.

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