Jimmy Castor

From the Roots

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Before the Jimmy Castor Bunch produced the 1972 hit "Troglodyte (Caveman)," the Jimmy Castor Group struggled to find a following in the dancehalls of N.Y.C. Given their initial big break by Paul Winley, Castor and his band performed in social clubs and the occasional gig at the Audubon Ballroom, mixing their personal brand of soul/rhythm & blues with jazz horn charts and female backup singers. Vocalist/saxophonist Castor was a poor man's James Brown, very similar to peers Little Anthony & the Imperials, and produced this album in 1969 that has now been issued on CD. Though the bandmembers had raw edges due to their lack of seat time in the studio, Castor and his large ensemble produced an enjoyable music good for the times, as boogaloo and go-go were emerging. From the Roots is retro-soul to the max, from the light groove of "Soul Sister" to the talkin' shout-out, shakin' tune "Rattlesnake," the scolding soul-blues parallel to a Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding "It's What You Give," and the downhearted guitar-shanked "Poor Loser." As this group was built for getting down, the rough but faster beat of "It's 'OK'" and "Block Party," with its carefree attitude, identify the style that made this combo eventually popular for the teen set. The slower "A Dream Affair" is the typical ladies' choice couples dance, as Castor sounds more like a crooning Little Anthony accented by a one-note piano, and with a style even more dated out of doo wop. A childish and unfortunate hee haw instrumental version of "Oh Susanna" appears, pure canned corn with a horn chart, hokey whistling, and a cheesy harmonica. But Castor's tenor sax redeems his prowess on the clipped and yakkety sax à la Boots Randolph track "Trudie's Place," replete with twangy guitar, while "Hangin' Out" is a soul-blues rave-up same-sax marriage. The liner notes indicate that some of these selections were copied from the actual vinyl records issued, as the original tape recordings were lost by defunct studios. Where the sound quality remains pretty good, the music itself has a curious quality that remains frozen in time, a reminder of how things used to be in simpler days when fun was not so much at a premium, or at a high cost.

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