JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound – Want More

January 01, 1970





Dozier, and Holland
had “Stop in the name of love / before you break my heart.” Smokey Robinson
came up with “Just because you’ve become a young man now / There’s some things
you don’t understand now.” And Al Green declared, “Love and happiness /
Something that can make you do wrong / Make you do right, love.” But none of
the classic soul songwriters could string words together like Jeff Tweedy when
he wrote, “I am an American aquarium drinker / I assassin down the avenue.”


Wait a minute, you say! What does Wilco’s “I Am Trying to
Break Your Heart” have to do with soul music? It’s a great song, but it’s not
exactly the type thing you’d expect to be played with a syncopated, propulsive
dance beat a la Motown, or sung with the lay-your-guts-on-the-line swagger of a
Gospel-inflected r’n’b shouter. But that’s exactly what JC Brooks and the
Uptown Sound decided to do with it. They took the music of their fellow Chicago residents, and
transported it to a world nobody else could have expected it to inhabit.


JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound are finding their own place
in the soul revivalist pantheon of recent years. Less slavishly devoted to
reproducing what has been done in the past than they are to expressing
themselves within certain conventions of the genre, their debut album Beat Of Your Own Drum was an attention
grabber when it was released a couple years ago. Most notably, the song “Berry
Please” was a stomper of a single, as Brooks conjured up the sound of a young
soul singer in 1962 yearning to become part of the Motown stable.


 “I Am Trying To Break
Your Heart” turned up on a 7″ last year, and became a familiar favorite on a
handful of radio stations (all four of which are thanked in the liner notes of
the new album). Brooks has no problem making Tweedy’s lyrical twists and turns
sound smooth and exciting in their new musical context. In fact, he makes
explicit the emotional convolutions Tweedy left the words themselves to imply.
The sharp snap of the way Brooks snaps off a line like “What was I thinking
when I said hello?” is all you need to hear to feel  the love/hate relationship being described.


As for the rest of Want
, Brooks and the Uptown Sound keep the party rolling with some sizzling
dance grooves, some swooning falsetto vocals, some short and impeccable guitar
breaks, and a whole lot of energy. They could use some more songs as catchy and
intricately designed as the title cut, which is a perfect melding of rock and
soul inflection. It’s probably no coincidence that it’s as complex emotionally
as Tweedy’s song, albeit with more direct language. Some of the more
straightforward songs work fine, too. “I Got High,” is a nifty burner with a
clever falsetto hook line that leads to the closest thing to a baritone growl
Brooks’ tenor voice is capable of achieving. “I Can See Everything” sounds as
though it grew out of a studio jam session, but the tension of the groove
contrasts nicely with the flight of Brooks singing that title hook.


Digging into the crates (or perhaps picking up on another
Chicago institution, reissue genius label the Numero Group who put the original
out on a 45) for an incredibly obscure soul song by a group called the
Kaldirons, Brooks does a fine job with the falsetto requirements of “To Love
Someone (That Don’t Love You).” Other songs on the record provide good times
without sticking in the ol’ noggin very long. Want More delivers some fine goods, but also lives up to the title;
the best songs here leave us wanting more like them.


Trying to Break Your Heart,” “Want More,” “To Love Someone (That Don’t Love

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