Perfect Album: Louisiana Slim

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Leon Spencer
One of my favorite 1970s Hammond organists is Leon Spencer Jr. Along with Melvin Sparks (g) Idris Muhammad (d) and Buddy Caldwell (cga), Spencer was a virtual house organist for Prestige during that decade. In addition to recording behind Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons, Spencer was on several Blue Note albums by Lou Donaldson.

In between, Spencer recorded a handful of leadership albums for Prestige. His finest album, Louisiana Slim, is perfect on every score. Recorded in 1971 and produced by Bob Porter, the band featured Leon Spencer (org), Virgil Jones (tp), Grover Washington, Jr. (ts/fl), Melvin Sparks (g), Idris Muhammad (d) and Buddy Caldwell (cong). The tracks are Louisiana Slim, covers of Marvin Gaye's Mercy, Mercy Me and the Carpenters' (They Long to Be) Close to You, Our Love Will Never Die and The Trouble With Love. Other than the two pop covers, the other three are by Spencer.

Mercy, Mercy Me is the finest and hippest cover of the soul anthem. Close to You swings hard and you'd almost never know what song it is unless told. And the Spencer originals are have enormous feel and groove. Bob Porter understood this music so well. It was a great move to include the two pop hits and a stroke of genius to let Our Love Will Never Die and The Trouble With Love occupy the entire second side. Bob's production was flawless and he pulled the absolutely best work out of these musicians.

I came to the album in 1971 through Mercy, Mercy Me, when the track became Batt Johnson's midnight theme on WRVR-FM, New York's major jazz station then. I flipped when I bought it and wore out three copies.

JazzWax clip: Here's the entire album...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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