I hope the new week finds you all well.
The track I bring you this fine day is something very groovy indeed.
The old spiritual ‘Wade In the Water’ has long been one of my favorite songs, whether presented in its original setting, or interpreted in a wide variety of different ways.
There are remarkable versions by Graham Bond, the John Bishop Trio, Ramsey Lewis and countless others, mostly working within a soul, R&B or soul jazz context.
It was only recently that I had my mind blown wide open by a couple of psychedelicized versions from the late 60s/early 70s (you can hear the other one over at Funky16Corners).
I stumbled upon the version you see before you today a while back while searching for info about another version of the song.
The band Clover was already familiar to me as an early stop in the career of none other than Huey Lewis (he played harmonica with them), featured guitarist John McFee (later of the Doobie Brothers) as well as the band that backed Elvis Costello on ‘My Aim Is True’.
What I did not know is that their history went back much further than that.
The band got their start in 1967, signed with Fantasy records in 1969 and recorded for the first time in 1970.
Their version of ‘Wade In the Water’, which appeared on their first album (sans Huey Lewis) and on the Australian EP you see before you.
The basic structure of the song remains intact, with the band adding a dollop of countrified soul, and as soon as the guitar starts soloing, the whole thing takes on that SanFran ballroom, light show, freakout vibe, like a slightly heavier Grateful Dead.
Though the song has a wide variety of interpretations, some purely spiritual, others connected to the Underground Railroad, it has a sound and a structure that are fairly simple, cyclical, and with an element of call and response powerful in an almost physical way.
If you listen to the wide variety of presentations of ‘Wade In the Water’, both religious and secular, it becomes obvious that no matter how it is played and/or sung, it always manages to retain its form, which is why it works as a capella gospel, and as swirling psychedelia.
Clover went on to record a few albums, and after their dissolution, McFee went on to the Doobies, Huey Lewis and Sean Hopper (part of another later line-up) to the News and lead singer Alex Call co-wrote ‘867-5309’ for Tommy Tutone, which probably keeps him rolling in piles of hundred dollar bills to this very day.
I hope you dig the tune (and make sure you check out the version at Funky16Corners) and I’ll see you all next week.