Saturday, August 17, 2013

B4 3 Dog Nite: Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)

Prolific New Orleans songwriter and performer Allen Toussaint wrote the song “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues),” but did not formally release the tune until he recorded a live version in 1976. In 1973 the song was shopped to several artists, but the first to record it was Sylvester and the Hot Band for their second release on the Blue Thumb label. The album was named “Bazaar” after the magazine and Sylvester James is on the cover in all of his, eh, flamboyant androgyny.

It may be theorized that had not Aretha Franklin been given the title of “Queen of Soul” Sylvester might have been a good candidate. But that was Sylvester – an excellent interpreter of soul, funk, and blues numbers; however, he was unable to sustain his short run of three singles on the Hot 100. His performance on the Dance charts, however, netted him 21 popular dance numbers that included three number one songs.

Sylvester’s dance hits came over four years after he formed and released two albums fronting the Hot Band in 1973. The Hot Band consisted of James Q. Smith on guitar, Kerry Hatch on bass, Travis Fullerton on drums, and Bobby Blood and Chris Mostert on horns. Smith played the slide guitar on the cut which no doubt influenced Mike Allsup’s use of the slide guitar on Three Dog Night’s version – which was a little more imaginative than Smith’s simple slides on the Sylvester’s release.

Following Sylvester’s 1973 recording, other artists clamored to perform the song, and in 1974 – not one, not two, but five versions of the song were issued. Besides Three Dog Night, the tune was recorded by Maria Muldair, B.J. Thomas, James Montgomery, and Frankie Miller. Miller’s version was the only one besides Three Dog Night’s rendition to be issued as a single in ‘74.

Cory Wells sang the lead on Three Dog Night’s interpretation. It was the third single from their “Hard Labor” LP, but it only made it to the #33 slot on the Hot 100. It was the band’s next to the last single to chart and signified their drop in popularity, as musical tastes in the mid 1970s were beginning to change. Here’s the first commercial release of “Play Something Sweet” by Sylvester and the Hot Band from 1973.

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