Al Wilson

Searching for the Dolphins

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Though Searching for the Dolphins was the title of Al Wilson's first album (in 1968), and though the entire LP is included on this CD, it's something more than a reissued or expanded edition of that record. In fact, the 11 songs from the original Searching for the Dolphins album (presented as the first 11 tracks of this CD) make up only half of this disc, which is augmented by 11 cuts from 1967-1971 non-LP singles. As such, it's the definitive document of the first phase of this minor but interesting soul star's career. The Searching for the Dolphins material is good but a little unnerving in its stylistic inconsistency, including rather lush Jimmy Webb/Johnny Rivers/Fred Neil covers, as well as a version of the MOR standard "This Guy's in Love with You." Yet it was the peculiar, fetching swamp rock-soul of "The Snake" that gave Wilson his first big hit, and a funky cover of jazzman Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Brother, Where Are You" also demonstrated the singer's harder edge. Though none of the non-LP singles were big hits, generally these too went into slightly eccentric pop-soul-rock territory, Wilson's delivery in particular showing more of a rootsy rock edge than most soul singers. His small hit cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi" is a highlight, and also a general indication of the unusual non-soul influences Wilson admitted to his music, though these also included orchestrated pop, jazz, bluesy Southern funk, and a even a bit of period psychedelia. The 1971 single "Sugar Cane Girl" is surprisingly close to a decent soul-shaded CCR imitation, in fact, and a track from the same year ("Falling in Love with You") verges on funky hard rock. In retrospect, it's easy to hear why Wilson didn't have much commercial success during this era, as both his material and stylistic approach was too erratic. However, those very qualities are also what, in retrospect, make this material rather interesting, as it's certainly not run-of-the-mill production line late-'60s/early-'70s soul.

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