Lamont Dozier is – of course – best known as a Motown songwriter, in partnership with the two Holland brothers, Eddie and Brian, who penned literally hundreds of iconic generation defining tunes for a huge number of Berry’s key acts, not least the most successful female group of all time, the very mighty Supremes.
However, you know that, right?
He’s less known for his solo releases after the trio fell out with, and left, Motown. The most famous result of that batch of solo albums, 1977′s Back To My Roots is still a massive club classic – deservedly – but comes a from a later and increasingly patchy part of that career, and draws a direct line from the title track of this long player.
By the time this album was released – produced by McKinley Jackson (Jones Girls, Bloodstone, Jean Carn etc) – Dozier had fallen out with his former co-writers too, and left their HDH label setup to sign to ABC where he resumed his solo career (begun pre-Gordy), hence the title.
The huge sweeping influence of the lush proto-disco Philly sound and the key producers of that sound, Thom Bell and most especially Gamble & Huff, is all over this (although it was mostly arranged by Gene Page, Barry White’s partner), but clearly Dozier flexed his songwriting muscles for this and the album is a killer from beginning to end.
The first single, Fish Ain’t Biting, was a mildly political tune, that hardly set the world on fire sales wise (it peaked at 26 in the US). However, despite that it was a standout in a year full of standout soul releases. It was, after all, the era of The O’Jays, MFSB, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin and so much more.
This album arrived to minimal fanfare in late 1973 and turkeyed completely (which was how I found it – in a sale bin) but holds its own as a classic of the era.
The big surprise for many when H-D-H spun out on their own was the pure grittiness and funk of many of the records they released once the Motown polish was removed – remember how Berry Gordy HATED What’s Going On – and this album takes that to another whole level:
Ain’t got no hope / ran out of rope
And livin’ ain’t easy / when you’re black and greasy
Try and imagine that line on a Motown Lamont Dozier production….
An astounding record that’s increasingly hard to find (and has only once been briefly on a Japanese CD as far as I know) in reasonable condition.
I bought this album for a buck almost four decades back and I’ve since worn out three copies.
And best of all, a sublime live (mime) of Fish Ain’t Biting – from Soul Train: