Sunday, May 09, 2010

Timmy Thomas - Why Can't We Live Together

The 70’s was a golden era for soul music, as well as for FM radio, which was still a relatively new format at the time. I used to sit in my bedroom with my little Radio Shack cassette recorder (which I also used to create multi-tracked original songs) sitting next to my clock radio and hit “record” any time I heard some cool sounds coming out of the free-form format. I discovered many fantastic rock, blues and soul groups in this way.

Tommy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” is one that I first heard this way and always loved, but often forgot about and never knew the artist. I recently heard this again after what seemed like decades and thanks to the internet, was finally able to discover who did it.

The title track opens the CD and its minimalistic groove still never fails to capture me with cool key sounds and drum machine rhythm. In fact, it sounds like Thomas is playing on some early Casio or something and there are no other instruments. He gets a variety of tones out of the keys and the percussion sounds just like the built-in that the organ would come with. Somehow, this works amazingly well and everything clicks to create a classic soul tune. Of course, his sweet, smooth voice, incredible melody and message of unity pull it all together.

The rest of the album, while also containing the same elements, doesn’t quite click as well, though it is all still immensely listenable. It does come across as a bit “muzac-y” at times, as in the instrumental version of “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. But he manages to meld gospel, soul, r’n’b and blues into his simple concoctions and make a distinctive and unforgettable sound. Still groovy after all these years!