Various Artists: At the Club
British release. Sleeve notes by Paolo Hewitt & Ady Croasdell
The subtitle is "Where itís AT" and the capitalised AT reveals that this is a collection of Atlantic, Atco and London American-Atlantic singles. It has a picture of the Marquee Club in Soho on the cover, and the slogan "The original club culture in 25 blistering soul essentials from the ultimate 60s label - ATLANTIC."
Track 21 is He Donít Love You from Levon and The Hawks. These British "Northern Soul / Club" albums are serious compilations and meticulously researched. This gives thanks the Atlantic Tape Library staff. It adds surprise information: Supervised by Eddie Heller. then it gives the recording date as 24 Sept 1965. This seemed much later than Iíd imagined, and was when they were already backing Dylan. I checked John Bauldieís Oh, No, Not Another Bob Dylan Book! which lists every concert. 24 September 1965 saw them in Austin, Texas with Dylan. It was the first date where the full Hawks line-up backed him after Forest Hills and Hollywood Bowl with just Robbie and Levon. So the date seems highly unlikely. I canít imagine a morning recording date before such a major new gig. Iíd suspect that the British release date was the likely source of 24 September. The normal date confusion (2/7 is 2nd July everywhere else in the world, but in America itís the 7th February) canít be happening here as the dateís the 24th.
Nominally, He Donít Love You was the B-side of Go, Go Liza Jane, then a short while later of The Stones I Throw. I checked my British copy of The Stones I Throw , and the sides arenít marked A and B. The British single also doesnít have the obligatory soul subtitle (in parentheses) as it does here (on the sleeve) Ö (And Heíll Break your Heart). Discographies add the subtitles (in parentheses) to both sides - The Stones I Throw (Will Free All Men). On my single the subtitle is missing,
He Donít Love You is more exciting than the A side. Listening to the track thirty four years on reveals the Bandís trademarks - space between the instruments and vocal trading are already there. Richard Manuel is lead vocalist. In spite of being relegated to the B-side twice, itís their best track from this era. It shows that they were a cracking soul band right at the very start of the soul boom. This is terrific and has the piano and swirling organ to complement the swampy bass and echoing drums. Only the composerís guitar is strangely reticent. The first reaction is that they were not only one hell of a soul band, but they were also a year ahead of the Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding soul explosion. If it points to anything in the future, it points towards covers from the Bandís stage shows like Donít Do It and Loving You (Is Sweeter Than Ever). Then again, The Band happily mythologized their past in later years - you can bet that their concert favourite Loviní You was hindsight - the Four Tops version wasnít released until 1966.
The sleeve notes give an excellent picture of the British soul scene, pointing out that DJís ignored established track records and delighted in playing new artists. It was also a matter of pride in the era for good British DJís to play the Killer Bís. The result of this is that I often think records from the era were A-sides when they werenít. I spent the autumn of 65 listening to Fontella Bass, Don Covay, Lee Dorsey and donít recall hearing He Donít Love You at my local, le Kilt in Bournemouth. But they played so much Lee Dorsey that it might have slipped in between them . As Levon has said, The Hawks played Lee Dorsey better than anyone except Lee Dorsey. This song is where they prove that.
Atlantic, especially for a white act, was a high-prestige label in 1965. Although Capitol had The Beach Boys and The Beatles, deep soul/R&B fans like The Hawks probably wouldnít have viewed Atlantic as the lesser label. Many American releases were imported in the UK, so itís interesting that Levon & The Hawks got their own British release. Someone somewhere must have seen the potential.
The track is available on The Bandís Across the Great Divide box set (at 6 seconds longer). On the box set the backing vocals sounded like The Hawks with a lot of echo. On At the Club it really sounds like female singers- this is the effect they were aiming at. Richard is singing the lead. Iíd guess that the backing vocal is likely to include Robbie Robertson on the high parts. Iím pretty sure itís the same version, but the remastering sounds different in balance. The bass is smoother on the box set CD, the vocals clearer on AT The Club. I was so puzzled at the difference that I even exposed my precious 45 to more wear by giving it a spin. The compression is obvious, squeezing in from both ends, but it has by far the best bass sound.
This album has a stunning track list and shows Levon & The Hawks in deservedly stellar company. Itís a well-thought out compilation, assembled with love and care. The stuff you havenít heard of is up there with the stuff you have heard of.