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Album Review

Built around his first hit, A Hundred Pounds of Clay ought to be a major part of the Gene McDaniels album library. The fact that it isn't is a statement of its poorly focused nature, in terms of this artist, and the latter can be attributed to an error — though an understandable one at the time — in judgment. McDaniels never liked the song, feeling it was too pop and mainstream, but it was his breakthrough, and a monster seller in the bargain, and producer Snuff Garrett, quite reasonably, chose to push his artist further in that direction. Thus, instead of exploiting the soul side of his appeal, this album, released in the wake of that hit, was an attempt to present him as a pop artist. So here McDaniels is, doing tame — and, worse yet, unexciting — renditions of "Till There Was You," "Portrait of My Love," "It's All in the Game," and "Cry" (yes, the old Johnnie Ray hit). His voice still has a basic appeal that‘s impossible to ignore anywhere here, especially when he wraps it around a phrase with a lot of feeling and reaches to either the lower or upper part of his register, even if it's being wasted on some of this repertoire — and the dullish tempos and Garrett's production excesses bury some of that allure for the casual listener. Of course, at the time all parties involved were only interested in selling records and not worrying about the artistic validity of McDaniels' releases, or how these would be judged 50 years (or even 50 weeks) later; all of these decisions were being made on the fly, and they just happened to be the wrong ones in terms of making great music. Only on the title song, the jaunty hook-laden "Send for Me," and the bluesy, moody closer, "Make Me a Present of You," does the listener get a real taste of McDaniels' ability. If one doesn't mind the detour out of soul and into mainstream pop, this is an OK record — it just follows the road map established by "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" in the wrong direction.


Born: 12 February 1935 in Kansas City, KS

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Gene McDaniels was one of the more popular artists to emerge from the 1950s R&B scene just as "soul" began to establish itself as a distinct subcategory (and later the dominant sound) of the latter genre. Born Eugene Booker McDaniels in Kansas City, Kansas in 1935, and later raised in Omaha, Nebraska, he was the son of a minister, and gospel music, along with the words of the bible, filled his life early on -- his early idols included the Soul Stirrers and the Swan Silvertones. Before his teens,...
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A Hundred Pounds of Clay  - The Best Of, Gene McDaniels
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