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I Just Want to Be Held

Nathaniel Mayer

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Album Review

Although this soul shouter had a few hits in the early to mid-'60s (including the near classic "Village of Love"), it took nearly 40 years for Nathaniel Mayer to release his first album in 2004. While he's probably lost a few steps along the way, this is an explosive release that sounds as powerful in 2004 as it would have in 1964. With a searing, gritty voice somewhere between James Brown and Mitch Ryder and a terrific band that churns out tough garage R&B, this could have been recorded decades before it was released. That's a compliment of course, since there just aren't many contemporary soul discs that attack with this yard dog-styled intensity. Equally impressive is that all but three songs are original, written in the vein of classic Muscle Shoals-era Wilson Pickett without a hint of pretension or sense that Mayer is trying to emulate a long-gone style. There's a loose, natural swing to the music when the band, complete with snappy Farfisa organ and occasional horns, works a sizzling, unstoppable groove along with the singer. "You Gotta Work," "From Now On," "What's Your Name" — just drop in anywhere and the churning funk-dance rhythms slice like the hardest-edged Southern R&B. A blistering, grinding version of John Lennon's "I Found Out" might seem like an unusual tune to cover, but it's one that the Beatle probably would have approved of due to the raw emotion Mayer finds in the lyrics. Just in case you think he's not as lip-snarling as he used to be, check out the lascivious, self-explanatory "Stick It or Lick It." Only the gutsy '50s ballad "You Are the One" interrupts the pace, but that proves Mayer is just as passionate on the occasional slow dance number as on the unhinged tracks that dominate the disc. At a brisk 35 minutes it's almost over too quickly, but hopefully listeners won't have to wait another four decades for its follow-up.

Biography

Born: 10 February 1944 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Nathaniel Mayer is best known for "Village of Love," a 1962 hit for Detroit's Fortune Records, a small independent label run by Jack and Devora Brown. Mayer was only 18 at the time, yet his vocal on this classic track was a worldly and gritty croon, while his backing band, the Fabulous Twilights, exploded behind him with a sort of raw garage soul, making "Village of Love" somewhat of a magnificent lost nugget. A Detroit native, Mayer had a couple other memorable sides to his credit, including "I...
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I Just Want to Be Held, Nathaniel Mayer
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