Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust - Scott Morgan (Easy Action)
Yeah, it's obvious that this has been a long time coming. Compiler and Real O Mind Records chief Geoff Ginsberg toyed with the idea of a Scott Morgan box set and put a version together - as a one-off for friends - many years ago. But now the real deal's here, with the involvement of Ginsberg as compiler and UK label Easy Action honcho Carlton Sandercock as issuer, and you'd be a fool to miss it.
But wait. There's a back story behind the back story and a catalyst for this release to have come about: You probably already know that Scott Morgan is one of American music's best kept secrets with a history stretching back to the British Invasion. He's woven into the heyday of soul and rock in the Motor City. Names like Sonic's Rendezvous Band, the Hydromatics, The Solution, Scots Pirates and Powertrane riddle his curriculum vitae. More recently, the spectre of ill-health (that'd be liver failure) has raised its head. Easy Action had been kicking around the idea of a collection for a while. They heard the news and pledged the proceeds of this box set to help cover Morgan's considerable medical expenses. Proof that good guys don't come last.
Knowing that you're helping someone apart, is this a smart buy? Sixty-two tracks brimful of quality say so. A third are unreleased, a handful more appear here for the first time on CD. Morgan's musical range is as commanding as that of his vocal. The cuts are roughly chronological and span his earliest days as blue eyed soul master for The Rationals through to the dirty soul of his star-studded solo band. In-between, there's a fair sprinkling of unusual gems, hard rock and departures from the expected - including an acoustic version of "City Slang", the greatest single ever recorded. This version won't blow you through a wall into next week like the original or unlock the mystery of Sonic's mumbled lyrics (Scott's always sung his own approximation) but your life will be enriched from hearing it.
Just as no Morgan live set would be complete without "Hijackin' Love", there's a steaming on-stage version presented for your listening pleasure. If you needed reminding what a capable vocalist Morgan is, look no further. Ditto for the quality of his bands with lesser-known outfits like Brothers of The Road and the '90s Scott Morgan Band shining.
The great thing is that Messrs Ginsberg and Sandercock haven't been afraid to search the nooks and crannies to compile this set. The "Cool Breeze" included is a version with muscular keyboard accompaniment that gives it a fresh perspective. There's a storming "Work Together" that's near the best thing in the box and a previously unheard track called "Gypsy Dancer" that would have done any Scots Pirates or Scott Morgan Band release of that vintage proud.
The late Ron Asheton and the (still-kicking) Deniz Tek feature on "1969", a Stooges cover committed live to tape with Morgan's underrated '90s-00s outfit Powertrane. There's some studio and live action from The Solution, the Nick Royale big soul band co-project that broke through commercially in Europe only to inexplicably have the brakes applied when it could have been huge. You even get the impossibly rare cover of Bob Seger and The System's "2+2=?" recorded for a 45 by Powertrane.
The packaging is the usual Easy Action top shelf job (props to Scots graphic artist Les Clark for delivering again.) Early orders come with a fourth disc of unreleased material and you can bundle it with a T-shirt. Both are available separately if you're late or opt that way.
Four decades to become an overnight sensation? You bet.