Into Lightnin' - Guardian Angel (Easy Action)
Long spoken of and heard by few, this batch of tapes documenting the short but worthy lifespan of Scott Morgan’s post Rationals band Guardian Angel (later known as Lightnin’) has seen the light of day at last. It’s a righteous addition to a starry back catalogue.
You probably already know the story but it bears repetition: Scott Morgan is one of the greats of Detroit rock and roll and soul. A teenage star of blue-eyed soul, he and The Rationals had a regional hit with “Respect” before Aretha trumped them nationally. Scott went on to innumerable outfits including the legendary Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. This covers the period 1971-72 after The Rationals had faded away and SRB was still less than a glint in cultdom’s eyes.
Michigan’s place as America’s begrudgingly acknowledged epicentre of high-energy rock and roll was ebbing. Would-be success stories like the MC5 and Stooges had shot their creative loads and although ordinary blue collar fodder like Grand Funk Railroad had broken out, the live scene was contracting. A regionally successful act by the name of Bob Seger hadn’t yet gone solo and Mitch Ryder was visiting obscurity. Times would get tougher for most concerned but it was a chilly day nevertheless when Guardian Angel stepped into the arena. The band didn’t make much impact and Morgan moved on (to work with Fred “Sonic” Smith) after a year.
Why the band didn’t make it isn’t clear after listening to this collection. Guardian Angel/Lightnin’ played a tough brand of R & B-derived, soulful rock and roll. Blessed with one of the best voices in America and armed with skilful guitarists in Jeff Jones (lead), Al Jacquez and Morgan, they had a potent batch of originals and killer covers and a formidable engine room (ex Rats bassist Terry Trabandt and Morgan’s little brother David on drums.)
What you’ll hear are the fruits of two recording sessions that book-end nine live tracks from Otis Spann Memorial Field in Ann Arbor in June ’72. Two studio tracks (“Slow Down” b/w “Soul Mover”) were released as a Scott Morgan single in ’73, with overdubbed “Sonic” Smith lead guitar. The unadorned recordings are here with Motown handclaps and prominent backing vocals and sound mighty powerful with proper mastering.
There are 18 tracks and plenty of highlights. “Let’s Work Together” and “Cool Breeze” get steamy studio treatment. The live “Hijackin’ Love” (a perennial Morgan favourite) is a keeper among a stellar concert bracket. The evident re-mix and mastering brings out the best, sonically speaking, in a nine-song live set.
Down the years, Scott Morgan’s worked with a host of great lead guitarists (and is no slouch himself) and Jeff Jones consistently shows he’s no exception. Morgan himself bounces from rhythm guitar to harmonica and piano.
This being an Easy Action release, the package is capped with a picture-studded booklet containing a Ken Shimamoto retrospective. Most of us missed this boat when it sailed the first time but that’s no excuse for being tardy now.