Listen: I Can’t Turn You Loose / The Chambers Brothers
Right at their commercial peak, when ‘Time Has Come Today’ was pretty big even at Top 40, The Chambers Brothers swung through Syracuse for a concert. I had some of their early gospel singles, was already excited to be hearing them on the radio so frequently and therefore anticipated the live show for weeks. Damn if I can remember why, but I went along with my parents to the airport earlier that afternoon to collect a relative, I’m guessing.
In the 60′s, airports were not full fledged shopping malls with restaurants and bars that would compete for one’s plans on a Saturday evening out. Instead, and especially in the case of the Hancock Airport in Syracuse, it was a lonely, empty building with uncomfortable seating on a good day. But on this particular afternoon, The Chambers Brothers flew in. From afar, I spotted a flock of floppy hippie hats and put two plus two together fast. So I barreled down toward their gate, and walked along with them back toward the outdoor pickup area, enthralled to be talking to these guys who made such raw soul records. I had a ton of questions.
Well the looks on my parent’s faces were priceless. Here their young son had in one moment dashed off toward an arrival gate, and in the next was walking back toward them surrounded by half a dozen black guys twice his height, all dressed in loud prints and colors. My Dad pretty quickly lit up though, figuring it out. He being a longtime jazz fan was forever telling me stories of seeing Billie Holiday and Miles Davis during his Air Force years, and now was familiar with bands like The Chambers Brothers from the music overflow that poured nonstop out of my bedroom. Plus, he was dropping the gang and I off at the show later that night. He held a particularly great conversation with Willie Chambers, this I remember well.
Their version of Otis Redding’s ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ was the highly anticipated followup to ‘Time Has Come Today’. Appropriately housed in a full color sleeve, as all confident followup singles were over at Columbia, it’s shocking to accept the single’s soft landing at #37. The vocal performance so powerful it must have scared off pop programmers. In one way, I’m surprised Columbia didn’t insist on polishing it up for airplay, thereby possibly prolonging their ascent. In hindsight though, I’m glad it was left to rip, despite still being bitter about the band’s commercial profile gradually sagging thereafter.