The tune I bring you today is something I picked upwhilst digging in the New York hinterlands.
While I certainly knew who Merrilee Rush was – i.e. singer of ‘Angel of the Morning’, a huge hit in 1968 – I had no idea that she had ever recorded a version of the Four Tops ‘Reach Out’.
My obsession with Pacific Northwest rock had clued me in that Rush hailed from and had started her career in Seattle.
What I did not know (and what would have explained the AGP 45) is that she recorded ‘Angel of the Morning’, in Memphis with famed producer Chips Moman at the dials, and the American Studios group playing.
Following her hit with ‘Angel…’ Rush signed with Moman and the AGP imprint and recorded a series of 45s in 1968 and 1969, before moving on to Scepter Records.
I picked this 45 up out of curiosity, but was very happy indeed when I finally got it home and gave it a spin.
Unlike the placid pop of ‘Angel…’, Rush’s take on the Four Tops hit seems as if Rush had been marinating in the Vanilla Fudge version of another Motown classic, ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’.
You get the fuzz guitar, organ, a fairly restrained horn section and plenty of busy, Appice-like drumming.
The overall effect seems aimed at the psychedelicized listeners (though the oddly warped sounding organ at 1:54 sounds like a mistake), especially the fact that the track stretches out to nearly five minutes!
I’m inclined to attribute any lysergic effect at the feet of the studious, flexible American Studios crew, who were able to tap into (and channel) the zeitgeist without experiencing any of it directly, i.e. why reinvent Vanilla Fudge when a room full of professionals can whip up a satisfactory simulacrum?
‘Reach Out’ seems to have had some small measure of success, charting in the Northeast and a few other regional markets, but it would be Rush’s second to last hit (with ‘Everyday Livin’ Days’ her last, and much less successful entry a few months later).
Rush would continue to record into the 1970s.
You can get this track, and her other AGP 45s on the Rev-Ola reissue: Angel of the Morning / Comp Bell Sides.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you all next week.