Ramsey Lewis: Mother Nature’s Son LP (Cadet) 1968
The other week I recommended 1990 by The Temptations and spoke about how sometimes records that don’t book for much and are easy to find can often be much better and satisfying than some holy grail, rare shit. With that in mind and as it is still February and Black History Month, I thought we should honour another favourite American son, Ramsey Lewis and in particular his awesome take on The Beatles’ White Album from 1968.
This record is so great, I have had several copies over the years and still play my UK original that I bought a long time ago. It’s not an expensive record and pretty easy to find, as are almost all of Ramsey Lewis records, although the price is starting to inch up, probably as people realize what a good record it is. Recorded at the end of 1968 in the great Ter Mar Studios, Chicago, where countless great blues, soul and jazz records were cut and produced by the Chess/Cadet house producer, Charles Stepney. Just like Norman Whitfield over at Motown, Stepney had the Midas touch and produced so many great records for Cadet. In particular, he was behind the Rotary Connection records that featured Minnie Ripperton on vocals. If any name printed on a record’s jacket should make you pull the trigger and buy, then Charles Stepney is definitely the one.
The record begins with some tasty Moog sounds before the orchestra strings sweep in and pick us up and takes us on our journey through covers of White Album tracks, an album that had barely been out long itself, let alone be covered by another artist so fully. After the title track and a cool Rocky Raccoon followed by Julia, Ramsey and band launch into a great version of Back In The USSR, complete with two wide open drum breaks that used to get producers with samplers in a tizzy. The Moog sounds feature throughout but really shine on the spirited version of Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey, a personal fave of mine, (hey, it references a Monkey). What is also constant throughout the record is the “groove” & “swing”. The drums are kicking, the strings are soaring, the bass lines pump and the keyboard sounds are, as always with Ramsey, on point. This is the type of record that still sounds current today and has kept its charm and should appeal to jazz heads and hip-hop heads alike. In a similar vein is the record by George Benson The Other Side Of Abbey Road, which I highly recommend and also McLemore Avenue by Booker T. & The M.G.’s. They both tackle a Beatles record rather well, albeit a different one but it is Mother Nature’s Son that I find myself going to repeatedly and once you score yourself a copy, I am sure you will feel the same. As I mentioned before, this is not a rare or expensive record but it has pedigree and class and punches well above its weight. Go find one.