The Servicemen

Meet... the Servicemen: Classic Soul from Phoenix, Arizona

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Calling Meet... the Servicemen an essential release in the Servicemen catalog is a bit misleading, being that it encompasses nearly all of the mysterious group's entire known 27-minute-and-43-second output, with the exception of their first single. And though it assuredly holds that title, it's a pretty great disc of regional soul sides recorded in 1966 and 1967 by a quintet serving at the Luke Air Force Base west of Phoenix. There are six songs, five demos, and a three-song overlap between them. "Are You Angry," with glorious sunshine horn arrangements (by backing band the LBJ's) and rushing four-part harmonies (by leader James Mitchell) that swoop and dive around one another, found its way to compilations starting in the '80s, and rightly so. On the latter sessions, which include the tunes "My Turn" and "I'll Stop Loving You" as well as doo wop staples like "Right Around the Corner," the backing band features future Muddy Waters and Miles Davis guitarist Pete Cosey as well as future R&B producer Rich Cason. But what strikes one is how fully formed the demo for producer (and Phoenix DJ and promoter) Hadley Murrell is. With only a lone foot keeping time for the band, the Servicemen's voices double each other; offer transitions, fills, and sung horn parts; and periodically come together. It is utterly magical and not corny in the least, its demo reel quality lending extra beauty to the proceedings. On "I Need a Helping Hand," the falsettos blur into string territory. So careful are the demos that they are practically different songs entirely.

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